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1/30/11

THE BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE

Monday, January 31, 2011 Devotional

As I peruse the writings at Women's Focus Ministries I marvel at the way the Lord is speaking to various authors through their individual experiences and emotions. God is weaving a rich tapestry of spiritual and practical ideas and concepts. These compositions are an encouragement to the readers. They display the love and devotion toward God of the writers. I am reminded of one of my most beloved scriptures. "Then they that feared the Lord spoke often to one another: and the Lord listened and heard it, and a Book of Remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought on His name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." Malachi 3:16:17.


In the early days earthly Kings actually recorded in a book the deeds of those subjects who were loyal to them and performed acts of valor for their kingdoms. These people were rewarded with special favor. In like manner God is observing and listening to His people and creating a registry of the names of those who love Him and think on His name. Our thoughts and conversations concerning the goodness of God are very precious to Him. He delights in us when we share His workings in our lives with one another. As the world ignores or rejects the Lord in pursuit of its own agenda how it must hearten the Heavenly Father to have a people who are immersed in His Spirit. Let us continue to reach out in love to those who need Jesus so as to expand the Kingdom of God and bring joy to our Saviour.


Written by CF

A MIGHTY WONDER

Do you know what The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are? According to Wikipedia, the original list as illustrated here is:


1. Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt
2. Hanging Gardens of Babylon
3. Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
4. Statue of Zeus at Olympia
5. Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
6. Colossus of Rhodes
7. Lighthouse of Alexandria


These were all amazing man-made structures, built in the years before Christ was born. Interestingly, the pyramid is the oldest and is the only “wonder” still surviving intact. The others were all destroyed by either earthquake, flood or fire. And, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon may have never even existed! There have been many updated entries to this list, as well as lists of things such as Natural Wonders, Underwater Wonders, Industrial Wonders, etc.
But we have an even more amazing Wonder, older than all of earth - our amazing God who existed before the world began, then came to earth as a babe and lived among us in order to pay the price for our sins and give us everlasting life.

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

Jesus is a "Great and Mighty Wonder" as one Christmas hymn says. He is greater than any other we could ever come up with in any list! He is worthy of all our admiration and praise and awe... a true Wonder above all others. And the most wonderful thing of all is that he is mighty enough to come down to our level, pick us up in his arms, and carry us home with him!

May the mighty God of all wonders bless and keep you in his arms.


Written by Jan

1/28/11

Seek, Ask, Knock…And Be Prepared

Devotional for 1/29/11

Have you ever found yourself listening to someone ramble on and on negatively about God’s Word? Calling it a “joke”? Spouting off conspiracy theories they got from the internet? Drawing in listening ears entertained by their trivia? And then, caught up in the moment, you lost your ability to draw out of your mind a solid argument because their words were so impressive? Even though you knew they were false?

It’s frustrating and defeating. Many times, I feel that I don’t have solid facts at my fingertips in a moment’s notice, or I at least have something on the tip of my tongue but not enough to even sound intelligent. AHHH!!! Later, I’ll find myself with phrase upon phrase flowing endlessly in my head, but when it’s after the fact, what good does it do?

My friend, these are training moments. We can learn from each and every one of them. When those phrases start plummeting out of your head and through your lips to an absent audience in the privacy of your home, practice them, write them down, and pray over them so that you don’t forget them.

Here’s an example of how to answer someone like that (what I literally wrote out for myself to remember):

“Who are the “they” you refer to? And why would you think that they are trying to stop you from reading those “Gnostic” gospels you refer to? If you think the “they” is the church, I would beg to differ. I am a part of that church, that Body of Christ, and my desire is for all people to know Him, but I’m not going to stop you from reading those gospels.

“If you really want to know the truth, then read them along with the gospels included in the Bible. Compare them for yourself. These excluded gospels are excluded because they’re not endorsed by the Church, not because anyone wants to keep them a secret from you or anyone.

“I would encourage you to do your research, checking carefully your sources to ensure that they are credible. There are plenty out there…good solid, well-documented sources…books that have been around for centuries that give a clear explanation of why some were included and some were not.

“However, I would like to point out that people who spout off what they’ve read from flippant internet websites whose only goal is to stir up controversies because that’s how they get the largest audiences, are usually not really interested in the truth at all. They are instead interested in words that sound fancy and scandalous, and I’m sorry to say, words that are offensive to believers in Christ…and they do it because it’s simply entertaining.

“On the other hand, there are countless cases of highly intelligent, self-proclaimed atheists who set out to prove exactly what you’re claiming. They did it in a way that uses the rules of investigation…gathering solid evidence, utilizing credible sources, and applying intelligence and logic…because they actually cared about the truth.

“These heavily burdened atheists have found the gospels you refer to are indeed false and unreliable, and the ones included in the New Testament stand firm under scrutiny. More often than not, in the end, these atheists have become believers in Christ.”

Well, that was it…that was what I wrote down. I’m not sure if I’ll remember it in a pinch. Maybe it takes even a little memorizing in order to make myself confident to speak out under pressure, but there’s nothing wrong with that as long as I remember something very important. These situations are always an attack. I have no doubt that my confused mind and inability to recall is not an accident. When these situations come up, the players are not only the non-Christian speaker and the Christian listener with the desire to evangelize. There are usually others around whose hearts are being influenced, and with ears pricked by the topic, they’re ready to hear the truth.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone
Who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect…
1 Peter 3:15

What I need to remember is that it’s not about winning an argument and coming out on top with a bloated head after putting another in his place. That’s not the heart of an evangelist. I may not have the facts of an apologist, but I do have the heart of an evangelist. You can catch more flies with honey, likewise, a kind, loving response will entice hearts and minds to look further, ask more questions, and hopefully give their life over to the only One who is the truth. Tell them that if they truly seek, ask, and knock, they WILL find the truth.

Ask and it will be given to you;
Seek and you will find;
Knock and the door will be opened to you.
Matthew 7:7

Amie Spruiell 1-28-11

1/27/11

Our Purpose

          Devotional for January 28, 2011
 
”(For it is He) Who delivered and saved us |and called us with a calling in itself holy
and leading to holiness,
not because of anything of merit
that we have done,
but because of and to further
His own purpose and grace
which was given us in Christ Jesus
before the world began.”
II Timothy 1:9

It was hard for Jesus to walk to cross. He stumbled. He was mocked. He was laughed at and misunderstood. He must have felt very alone, and it would have been natural for him to have felt discouraged. What I love, though, is that he never gave up. He never quit. He continued on, until his purpose was complete.

At times it will be just as hard for us to “walk out” our purpose in this life. We may stumble, and people may laugh at us. Chances are that we might feel very misunderstood. Perhaps there will be times that we will become discouraged and we may even want to quit. We may feel very alone, even in the midst of others. If we are to continue on in our journey, all the way to completion, we will need to take a closer look at the One who went before us. We need to look at Jesus.

What was it that caused Jesus to continue on in his journey to the cross? I believe Jesus was able to continue because he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this was the plan that his Father had for him. His Father had made his purpose very clear to him, and he also knew that His Father loved him. I believe that above all else, that Jesus’ desire was to please his Father, because he also, loved his Father in return.
Whether we know it or not, it is easy for others to look at our lives and see who or what it is that we love also. Jesus’ love for his Father was apparent for all to see. All that he did in this world was a result of that love. When others look at us, are they able to see that we love the Lord with all of our hearts, or do they see that we are distracted by the things of this world? Could it be that we are seeking after our own ways of becoming “worthy” in this place, either by way of wealth, beauty or status? Have we become too busy trying to please others, or even too busy trying to please ourselves? Have we become so wrapped up in our own ideas and desires that we have allowed them to take the place of our first love?

There is something else that I see when I look at Jesus, and the way that he walked out his purpose in this life. I see that he trusted in his Father’s plan. I see that no matter what it looked like, that Jesus continued to trust his Father. It is plain to see that no matter how many other voices there were shouting at him to be heard, that Jesus chose to listen to and to believe his Father’s voice, above all of the others.

What about us, do we trust Jesus in our lives? Yes, it is easy to trust in him when things are going well, but what about when things aren’t going so well? What about the times when everyone around us is telling us something different than what we know the Lord is saying to us? What about when everything seems to be falling apart at the seams and it looks to us as if Jesus is nowhere to be found? What happens to our trust in these times? Do we continue to trust in the One whom has gone before us, or do we look around us frantically, trying to find our own way out? The answers to these questions are important to us. They will not only show us where our heart is now, but they will determine where we will be in the future. Are we going to trust in Jesus and in the path that he has set before us? Are we going to trust in him, even if we are left standing alone, or will we listen to the voices of others? Will we listen to the voices of doubt that are shouting to be heard from inside of us, or, do we choose to listen to and to believe Jesus’ voice above all else?

The last thing that I want to bring to your attention is that Jesus was passionate about fulfilling his purpose in this life. He simply had to be. It takes passion to propel us forward when fear comes in to hold us back. Some may say that it is courage, but I believe that passion and courage go together. Passion “sees” beyond all reason, and once its direction is set, it is very hard to deter it. Passion comes when we believe in something so strongly that it “sets” itself in our hearts, and totally refuses to be moved. Passion helps to “stir” us up, and to “keep us going” when our strength has been otherwise exhausted. I believe that passion is the “cheerleader” of our cause, always reminding us of why we should continue and always cheering us on. A person without passion is a person without a cause. Jesus cared deeply for others. He loved the ones (us) that he was called to save.

Do we love those around us? I mean, deeply love them. Do we love them when they’ve hurt us? Do we love them when they’ve disappointed us? What about when they’ve even turned their backs on us, or perhaps said things about us to others? This is not an easy kind of love. This kind of love comes only from Jesus, and it is he that “works” this kind of love into our hearts. You see, this is part of our purpose, to love those around us, and to love them deeply. The Word says that each one of us is called to be a disciple of Christ. That is our purpose, and in order to do complete this purpose, we will need all of the things that I have spoken about above.

Jesus fulfilled his purpose. He knew that it was he, that His Father had chosen, to become the one perfect sacrifice for all of our sins. He did this in order that we might be saved and because he wanted us to have eternal life. He did this because he loves us. It was not an easy task for him to complete, but he did it anyways. He not only completed all that his Father had called him to do, but he completed it perfectly. He gave up his own life, in order that we might live. I can think of no greater gift or any deeper inspiration in my life than this.

written by Beverley A Napier


You Are Extraordinary

Did you know when you persevere beyond what you thought you could ever do, you are being extraordinary? Yes: unique, special, more than regular; that’s what you are in Christ.

When you patiently listen to your family member cry out about the misery of their situation, and you encourage them to trust God and keep on going – that’s extraordinary.

When you accept your husband back with open arms after he’s hurt you and you show no resentment - that’s extraordinary.

When you return to your family in spite of your mortification and face the truth of your actions/words – that’s extraordinary.

When you love someone and forgive them (again) as God has forgiven you (again) – that’s extraordinary.

When you work two jobs because your husband can’t even work one and you do it gladly – that’s extraordinary. I know, you’re arguing with me already – “It’s not so special to do what I feel or believe I must do. Lots of people would do what I’m doing."

In a culture of superhero’s, superstars, the ultra wealthy, and the ultra popular (reality tv anyone?) it is very easy to start believing anyone outside of a super level is just ordinary.

As women who believe that God loves us, sent His Son to die for us, so that we who believe may have eternal life (as in: live with Him forever in heaven) - we are extraordinary.

So, if we are extraordinary when we choose to do things God’s way – how can we be sure we are indeed doing what God wants us to do? That’s both hard and easy.

First thing to remember is that God loves to hear us talk to Him. Second, He has our best interest at heart. Third, if we pray and believe we know what God wants us to do; find a wise, mature, Christian woman, whose life shows she puts God first and follows after Him. Share what you are thinking and listen to her counsel. If she can show you in scripture that what you are considering is the opposite of God’s word – don’t do it.

Even though I have been a believer for a long time and have studied His word for many years – I still “get Godly counsel” by talking to women who are trustworthy and have already walked through the season I am in. I don’t ask a newly-wed how to love my husband when I am angry. I don’t discuss teenagers with mother’s of toddlers (unless I’m trying to scare them!) I don’t ask a woman who doesn’t stay connected with a group of believers on a regular basis about whether or not I should commit to helping in the Sunday school program.

I Peter 2:9 (AMP)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God's] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Proverbs 24:1-4 (MSB)

BE NOT envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them; For their minds plot oppression and devise violence, and their lips talk of causing trouble and vexation. Through skillful and godly Wisdom is a house (a life, a home, a family) built, and by understanding it is established [on a sound and good foundation], And by knowledge shall its chambers [of every area] be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

To pray for Godly wisdom and to seek and accept Godly counsel instead of choosing what seems right or feels right to you – that’s extraordinary.

Dear Lord, thank You for your patience and for gently drawing us closer to You. Please help us to let go of what seems right or fair in our own eyes and to hold on firmly to Your Word. In Jesus name we pray, amen.

Written by Mary M. Wilkins


A convenient scripture tool for looking up various translations of the Bible: www.biblegateway.com

The ministry work and bible studies of John and Lisa Bevere have long been helping Christians grow and untangle themselves from the snares of the enemy. The thought of what behaviors and attitudes make for an extraordinary life has stemmed from my first week of study in “Extraordinary: The Life You Are Meant to Live.” www.messengerinternational.org  




































1/26/11

Salvation

1 Timothy 2:1-6 
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;  Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
_____________________________________________________________________


Three times in four brief verses (I Timothy 2:1-,3,4,6 ), God states He has planned for the salvation of all. Since He desires to save all men, they must all be given an opportunity for it. It is very obvious from human experience that very few among all mankind have ever heard the gospel or come to the knowledge of the truth.


Verse 6 also says that Christ is a ransom for all, and this will be testified or witnessed of in due time. The way Paul wrote this shows that the testifying is still future. In other words, many had not heard of Christ's ransom for sin, and Paul indicates that he expected many then living and many yet unborn would also die without hearing of it. But it would be witnessed to all in due time because Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven by which men can be saved.


God's plan, humanly speaking, covers a long time. Like Paul, Peter clearly says that God does not desire anyone to perish. Other scriptures indicate that some will, but it is not God's will that they do so.


The critical factor in these verses is repentance. How can a person repent if he does not have knowledge of the truth, if he does not know the purpose God is working out, of what he should repent, why he should repent, or by what means his sins are forgiven? The overwhelming majority of people who have ever lived on earth fit into this category! These things remain untestified to them.


I Corinthians 15:21-23 adds another important revelation to this mystery. "For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming."


Simply put, God is proceeding according to a plan. All die, but that same all will also be made alive, resurrected in a certain order according to God's plan. Verse 26 reads, "The last enemy that will be destroyed is death"—it has not yet been destroyed! This means that God's plan is still continuing, and in due time the opportunity for salvation will come to all, even though God must resurrect many to that opportunity. Most churches exclude most of this world from salvation because they are not part of their group. Why do people scoff when we point out that God will give all mankind the chance to conform to His image?




submitted by : Annie

1/25/11

God's Amazing Endless Love

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 Devotional

I have an all time favorite,romantic love song that I never tire of listening to called "Endless Love." When I listen to it, I totally immerse myself in the words and the music and get carried away. As I ponder on that song, it makes me think of the love that Christ has for all of us. His love is endless and forever for us and He is wildly, crazy in love with us!

As mentioned in Romans 8:35-39, this powerful passage gives great assurance of God's ongoing present love for us. There are no hardships in this life that can ever possibly separate us from the love of Christ. God's love is solid and intensely deep for us.


I feel secure in God's endless love for me.


Blessings,


Written by Sandy

1/24/11

THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

We are truly blessed to live in California, where the climate is pleasant and relatively mild. Even in the middle of January the past few days have been graced with sunshine. I seemed to be especially conscious of the positive effect the azure blue skies and bright rays of sun have on my mood. Life circumstances just seem to be easier to cope with in sunny weather. There is a feeling of hope and well being which naturally accompanies a beautiful day.


As I pondered the phenomenon of sunshine affecting our mood and state of mind in the physical realm, it came to me that Jesus Christ is the light of the world. Embracing the person of Jesus and His Word brings us light, happiness, and a sense of balance and soundness in the spiritual realm. As we read the Bible, pray, and praise the Lord in Spirit and in truth, we fill our souls with the warmth and glory of. God. The blues melt away and we see life "as it were" through the prism love. There are scriptures which validate these concepts. "The unfolding of your words gives light..." Psalm 119:30 (NIV) Isaiah 61:3 comforts us with "To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair." (NLT) "Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness." Psam 89:15,16 (NIV) "Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Psalm 97:11." (NIV)


We are so fortunate to enjoy the pleasure of a sun drenched day. This gift is an earthly reflection of the brightness of Jesus Christ, the Son of the One True Living God who lights our way and lifts our spirits.


Written by CF

1/23/11

ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

God wants us to be thankful and to show how grateful we are to him in many ways. We can express our gratitude through words and songs, as well as in our deeds:


15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17 NIV


Regardless of what we are going through, it is important to remember all that we have been given by God, and thank him with a grateful heart. Mary's Magnificat gives us an example of ways to express gratitude to God in word and song:


46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name. Luke 1:46-47, 49 NIV


We could also simply make a Gratitude List, enumerating all the things for which we are thankful. Some people use cues for their lists, such as people, places and things, or even A through Z (which can be a challenge!). Make your own list and see how many gifts God has given to you. Try this each day and see how many new things you are able to list by the end of the week. Perhaps you can post your list on our blog!


It may be easy to be grateful for some things. It may be more of a challenge to be thankful for those things in our lives that seem difficult at the time. We can learn to have gratitude for things such as loss of a job, because when God closes a door, He often opens a window on something better down the road. Or we can be thankful for an ailment that perhaps is troublesome, but teaches us to rely on God more. It can also be something we share in common with others whom we then can help through their own struggles, and we can become a good witness to them of God's love. Even a disability can force people to discover new talents or new areas of interest, such as quadriplegics who learn to paint holding a brush in their mouth. So even adversity can be a gift. How many of your difficulties can you include on your list?


The important thing to remember is that we "Let the message of Christ..." enrich our lives as we realize all that God has given us through no merit of our own, but simply because He loves and cares for us through his son, Jesus Christ. Then we also can use all of those gifts he has given us to bring him glory. We can tell others how grateful we are for God's generous gifts, or use them directly to be a witness to others for him. We then can give thanks to God in the name of the Lord Jesus every day, the most precious and undeserved gift of all!

Written by Jan Andersen, with a grateful heart

1/21/11

Daddy's Truck

Devotional for 1/22/11

Often while out running our errands around town, my 2-year old, Wesley, will find in his view a blue Chevy truck and become excited thinking (but not sure) that he's seeing his Daddy's truck. He will exclaim "Daddy's truck," and then turn to me (someone who is more experienced at determining such things) and ask, "Mama! Daddy's truck?" At this point, I will respond, "No, Wes, that's not Daddy's truck, it just looks like it."



One afternoon, while sitting in a parking lot down town, my son, from the back seat, very excitedly, yelled out, "Daddy's truck!" This time, he did not ask for my clarification. Instead, he clapped uncontrollably, laughed loudly, and continued to shout "Daddy's truck!" I'm sure he would have been jumping up and down if he were not buckled in his car seat. I quickly turned to catch a glimpse of my husband driving by. The blue truck had a toolbox in the back and pipes sticking out over the tailgate. From the angle, I could clearly see the driver proving without a doubt that it was his Daddy's truck, and my son wanted the whole world to know.

Those moments are amazing when we know without a shadow of a doubt that we are truly in the presence of our heavenly Father. They will bring such joy, it is no surprise to witness uncontrollable clapping, shouting, even leaping and laughing since we want the whole world to know that it's our Father passing before me.

O clap your hands, all peoples; Shout to God with the voice of joy.
Psalm 47:1

Amie Spruiell August 1999

1/20/11

Blooming in the midst of Heartache

Devotional for January 21, 2011


“It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice even with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the excellency of (Mount) Carmel and (the plain) of Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty and splendor and excellency of our God.
Isaiah 35:2
(amplified bible)

One of the first things that caught my attention this morning was a plant that I have sitting out on my back porch. The thing that surprised me was the big bright pink bloom that was hanging on it. Now mind you, we happen to be in the winter season and it is very cold outside.

This bright pink bloom actually looks startling against its cold stark background. The other plants that I have outside are looking pretty naked right about now. In fact, they appear to be as determined as I am at fighting off this “cold” spell that we seem to be experiencing. All of these things seemed to speak to me in a deeply personal way. I know that this is not an accident.

I believe that the Lord wanted to speak to me about the “coldness” in my own heart. You see, I have been hurt, and I am angry. It seems as if my first instinct is to close off my heart in an attempt to lessen the pain. I recognize and feel the “coldness” of disappointment as it begins to roam around inside of my heart, looking for a place to settle itself. I can also feel the “burning” of anger as it seeks to consume more and more of me. It seems to be screaming “An eye for an eye” as it continues on in its quest to find more and more fuel to burn.

In the midst of all of these conflicting feelings that I am experiencing on the inside of me, the Lord decides to get my attention by showing me a beautiful pink blooming flower. In spite of how silly that may sound, I seem to be hearing Him say to me that He understands how I am feeling inside. To me it is as if He is reassuring me that He knows and understands that I am fighting against this “winter” season that is going on inside of me as much as this little plant is fighting against its own “winter” season on the outside. It is almost as if I can hear Him saying that He just wants me to continue to bloom, and that He will take care of the rest.

Is that possible? Can I continue to “bloom” with the things that He has placed inside of my heart, despite the “coldness” of the situation around me and the harshness of what I am feeling on the inside of me? I don’t know, but I know that I will try. I will try to trust the Lord yet once again, because I can feel the warmth of His love and the comfort of His understanding. I can feel the strength in Him as He directs me to continue on in my season of blooming. I can hear the truth inside of me that says that nobody or nothing can ever stop what it is that He is doing, or what it is that He has planned. No body and nothing. Not ever.
Everything inside of me wants to be like that little plant that I have outside. I want to continue to bloom in spite of whatever it is that happens to be surrounding me right now. I want to choose to let the Lord have His way in my life, and to continue to ask Him to have His way in the lives of those around me. I even want to be the one to “startle” those around me who would expect to see a different response from me right now.

What “season” is it that you find your self in right now? Are there things in your life that are making it hard, or even seemingly impossible, for you to bloom? If so, then I want to encourage you. There is nothing that I have on my own to encourage you with. The only thing that I have is the Lord, but it is He that is everything. It is He that is my encouragement. It is He that is my strength. He is my Savior, and my Defender. He is my safety, my shelter and my hope. It is He that “covers” me so that I can do what He has called me to do. He knows that there is a “roaring lion” out there that would love to destroy me… or you. It is only the Lord that protects us and causes us to grow in the midst of our enemies.

I want to thank you Lord Jesus, for being you. Thank you that it is you that shows us the way, even when, and especially when, it is the very hardest. Thank you that you are so creative, and that your ways of speaking to us are endless. Thank you that you love us, and that you also understand us. Thank you that it is your desire to help us to “bloom”, in the very midst of the starkest of our situations. Thank you that you give us the direction and the strength that we need, in order to do this. In your very precious and very powerful name we pray, Amen.

Written by Beverley A. Napier

Pay It Forward

I like that phrase. It makes me think of the movie (based on a book) of the same name. It’s a moving story that reveals human nature in both its beauty and its ugliness. The idea of doing nice things for someone because someone else did a nice thing for you is a great concept. Can it be done? Here is an example of how it played out in my own life one morning.

“Lord, I can’t forgive them for this!”

I hear “Yes, you can,” firmly but softly in my heart.

I am in my room with the door shut. I am so angry that I want to yell, rant and accuse. But this week I have made a commitment to walk away and pray when I get angry. Why am I angry? My child has lied to me. Again.

Sitting on the side of my bed I am crying and raging at God that I cannot possibly forgive my child. Immediately I hear in my head, “Yes, you can.”

“No,” I answer emphatically, “It’s too big of a lie; it’s too bad of a lie.”

Again the words come, “Yes, you can.” An awareness of my own sinfulness and God’s patience and forgiveness towards me brings a blush of remembrance across my face. Sighing with understanding, my heart says, “Okay” as I give in.

My heart opens and I feel myself accept God’s peace. I am better but wishing I didn’t have to deal with this. With a little self-pity, I conclude, “Yes, I will forgive my child. But it’s so hard, Lord, to have a child who lies.”

God is silent. The irony of what I have said to my Father in heaven is not lost on me. I have just complained to the Living God about my lying child when I am God’s own lying child. No matter how long I walk with Him, every day I need God’s forgiveness.


For if you forgive others for their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you
But if you do not forgive others,
 then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
Matthew 6:14-15 (NASB)

Written by Mary M. Wilkins

1/19/11

Transformation Power Of God

My God never seizes to amaze me what He can do through His power. I have recently been taking a class on, "in a nutshell" having a healthier relationship with Christ. It has been a wonderful class and incredible to watch what God is doing in myself as well as each person in the class.


God is in the business of transforming our life so He can be given the glory and others would be drawn to Him as well. One particular gal in our class started out withdrawn,sullen, oppressed and extremely discouraged. Little by little, week by week, month by month there has been a dramatic change in her life. You see Carol was desperate for God. She was a believer but not embracing what God had for her. She began to allow God to change her heart as she began to seek His face and cry out for help. She was willing to forgive and release past hurts and open her life more fully to God. She chose to daily renew her mind by the word of God and have that mind of Christ. Carol chose to obey God's word and walk in His ways and fellowship with God. Rather than stay isolated and dwell on the negative, she chose to dwell on God's word and immerse herself with God's people.


The Lord has transformed Carol's life dramatically. Only God can do that. In Romans 12:2 it says, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." I am so thankful for God's transformation power!


Blessings,


Written by Sandy

1/18/11

Discouragement


The Devil's Most Prized Tool

"Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord…"
Psalm 25:15

There's a story about the devil auctioning off his tools. He had a high price on pride, laziness, arrogance, hate, envy, and jealousy. But there was one tool that had a sign under it: "Not For Sale."

Someone said, "What is that tool? Why isn't it for sale?"

"Well," he said, "I can't afford to get rid of that one. It's my chief tool, discouragement. With this tool, I can pry open a heart and once I get in I can do most anything I want." Do you want me to tell you why you get discouraged? I'll give it to you in a nutshell - you've taken your eyes off God!

Are you discouraged? If not, praise God! Then find someone who is, so that you can give them the encouragement they need in Jesus Christ. Maybe it's your next-door neighbor, maybe it's a co­worker, maybe it's your spouse. 

A bruised reed he will not break,
And a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 
he will not falter or be discouraged
 till he establishes justice on earth in his teaching
the islands will put their hope.” 
This is what God the LORD says— the Creator of the heavens,
who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth
with all that springs from it,  who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
Isaiah 42:3-5

But my mouth would encourage you;
comfort from my lips would bring you relief.
Job 16:5

Shared by Corinne Mustafa













1/17/11

SEEKING GOD'S GUIDANCE

O.K. I'll admit it... I have a private food stash in my bedroom. Our waterbed frame has drawers conveniently built in underneath the mattress. So for quite some time I have used one of those drawers to store such treasures as mini diet coke cans, chocolate chips, and 100 calorie pack cookies. These treats are not really that decadent, but I want them for myself...exclusively. If these items were left in the kitchen cupboard I would be sorely disappointed when a craving hit. I justify the existence of this hidden cashe by also stocking it with nuts, crackers, and other healthy snacks. These I ration out into the kitchen for all family members to share. "It's for their own good, really" I tell myself. Long story short, my concealed goodie drawer is a delight...comparable to having my own private hotel mini-bar without having the exorbitant tab at the end of the week.


Well, the personal storage bin has worked out famously except for the seldom but occasional invasion of ants. This usually only happens in extremely cold weather or when I carelessly leave a snack bag unsecured or drop some crumbs onto the floor of the drawer. Such a devastating mishap occurred this morning. A slew, herd, mass, or whatever you wish to call it, of tiny black creatures swarmed the drawer and sent me into a tizzy. "Oh no!" I thought. There's nothing I dread more than cleaning up such a mess. Why me?" I whined. Then two thoughts quickly came to mind. First of all, " And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them." Roman's 8:28 (NLT) I realized at this point that I could somehow incorporate this minor misfortune into my weekly website writing. I now had some new material to work with on my entry. The situation suddenly had some redeeming value, as the scripture says. The second idea which occurred to me was that these poor little creatures thought they had hit pay dirt (and for a short season they had) until the massacre ensued. As soon as they were discovered, the party was over and they had to be obliterated. So it is with we humans. We may encounter an opportunity which on the surface appears promising, either spiritually, socially, or even financially. However, if we fail to seek the Lord's permission and guidance in the matter, our participation may prove in the end to be unprofitable , even detrimental.

The ant is touted in the Bible as wise. Indeed this creature is prudent in regard to its work ethic. Proverbs 6:6-8 (NLT) states "Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and be wise! Even though they have no prince, governor, or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter." However, the ant doesn't have the privilege of asking for direction from the Heavenly Father in prayer. We are so fortunate to be able to bring our thoughts, ideas, and plans to God to discern His will and His ways in these issues. James 1:5 declares "If you need wisdom - if you want to know what God wants you to do - ask Him and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking."(NLT) There are numerous scriptures concerning the Lord's guidance in our lives. Just a few of them are as follows: "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel and watch over you." Psalm 32:8


(NIV) "His God instructs him and teaches him the right way." Isaiah 28:26 (NIV) The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighteth in his way." Psalm 37:23 (NIV) "And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy they soul in drought, and make fat thy bones:and thou shat be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." Isaiah 58:11 (NIV) How pleased the Lord is when we seek Him initially in regard to our endeavors. How much more successful, safe and pleasant will be our outcomes as we first bring our pursuits to Him in prayer.


Written by C.F.

1/16/11

FEELINGS

We all have feelings, some stronger than others. Our feelings are driven by what we believe and think and say to ourselves. For example, if someone points a gun at you, it is likely that you would feel fear. What is the cause of that fear? The gun? The person holding the gun? Or you and what you think about the situation? Most people would probably experience at least some fear, but that is due to their knowledge and/or experience that guns can be harmful or deadly and the thought that they could easily be shot. But what if you believed the gun was just a toy and you believed the person holding it was just joking? Your feelings would probably be quite different.


I was held up at gunpoint when I was in college. I was walking down the sidewalk outside the university library at 3:30 in the afternoon when I passed a young man walking the other way. He spoke first, greeting me with a friendly "Hello" and I responded "Hi" without even looking up at him. The next thing I knew, he was pointing a gun right in my face and demanding my purse. It surprised me, taking me entirely off guard due to the time of day and location, but also because it was a chrome-plated gun. It had the same appearance as the toy guns we had played with as kids, so I immediately thought it was a joke, and that it was a toy gun! I said nothing, and never even saw his face as I stared at the gun, and he grabbed my purse as he turned and ran around the corner to his get-away car and accomplice. The next thing I felt was frustration and anger, thinking of the photos in my purse that only had meaning for me, and that he only got $3.00 cash. The only thing I said was "Oh, man!" as I picked up what else had fallen out of my hands when he yanked the purse off my arm. I went into the library to call the security office, and then it finally hit me, the adrenaline coursing through my blood, making every inch of my body shake with fear. So I experienced a wide range of emotions in a very short period of time, all because of what I was thinking at each of those different moments. The gunman didn't cause my fear, I did based on what I believed and thought and told myself!


We can choose how to feel about something by choosing what we believe about it, how we think about it, and what we tell ourselves about it. This applies to all our emotions, such as anger, anxiety, fear, sadness, shame, guilt, etc. Our immediate response may be difficult to control, but how it continues to affect us afterward is our choice. It is not necessarily easy to change negative feelings into positive ones, but we have help:


"I can do all things through him who gives me strength." Phil. 4:13


"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." I Peter 5:7


"Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed, Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41b-42a


So, what is that "one thing" that is needed? It is faith in God that He will care for all our needs, that He has our future handled, that our life is in his loving hands. This is our basic belief on which we can focus our thoughts and internal talk. We can pray that God would help us to change those feelings that are causing us difficulty and strengthen our faith in him. Then we can move forward with confidence in the Lord!


Written by Jan Andersen

1/15/11

The Defense of a Good Reputation…a Good Name

                                                             
                                                   “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,                                                     
                                                                     There’s just something about that name.
Master, Savior, Jesus…
like the fragrance after the rain.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…
let all heaven and earth proclaim.
Kings and kingdoms
will all pass away,
But there’s just something
about that name.”






Beautiful lyrics about a beautiful Name…a powerful Name…a Name that has been lifted up and glorified for centuries, and will forevermore be the Name above all Names.

I find names to be extremely significant…specifically the meaning behind them and the reputations they hold. This subject’s come up in our family recently. I suppose we should’ve done more teaching on the matter prior to an incident occurring, but never the less, we’re working on it now.

The event was an accusation, one that’s not proven true, one that hurts and is feasible only because of a scarred reputation. It was directed toward one of my sons and it’s not the first time for this charge. However, the charge has always been by the same person and with no witnesses. Three times, this child’s been accused by the same person for an act he claims he didn’t do. Other than the fact that this young man has been caught lying about minor offenses in the past and caught in the act of some not-so-minor offenses, there’s nothing to indicate that he’s guilty of this one. In fact, his behavior around this one child and other children, as well as the behavior of the accuser around my son, leads us to believe that these accusations are false. So, basically his past lies make him untrustworthy, but his behavior around others don’t line up with the claim. What’s a parent to do?

The first two times, we handled the children separately and I witnessed my son, in the safety of his home, in the safe of presence of his mother, passionately deny his guilt, but yet was willing to accept that its one person’s word against another’s, and with two different stories, we can’t know for sure the truth. However, the third time came up and the parents decided to confront the children together with all four adults present. Although my son still denied his guilt, it was not with the same passion as previous denials.

His blasé response led me to believe that one of two things was happening here. Either he really is guilty and has been with each incident, or he felt backed into a corner and defeated thinking that after an already scarred reputation from being caught in other offenses, there’s no way he could convince anyone of his innocence, so why even try.

I myself have been in a situation where, regardless of my innocence, the evidence was stacked against me, so I gave up the fight. In fact, not too long ago, my daughter also found herself in a similar situation which cost her job and her reputation. And so my heart began to break as I considered a pattern in the Spruiell family.

I prayed over this and stayed up at night thinking about it. I’m not the kind of mother who naively believes her children would never do anything wrong. On the contrary, I’m the first one to believe that they’re capable of all sorts of sin. After all, why would I believe that they’re any different than myself, and I know I’ve done some pretty bad things, so my mind usually jumps to “guilty until proven innocent.”

The truth is, I’ve felt conviction many times by the Holy Spirit for this attitude, but when that comes up, I usually justify my thought process by stating what I’ve just said, that no one can call me a naïve mother. But this time, the conviction broke through my stubbornness and I knew that my son needed to hear that I believed him, and that his mother knew that he was a better person than that. I wanted him to know that I was on his side. Our conversation brought his passion back. I saw his frustration and anger that we were revisiting the issue and he tearfully proclaimed his innocence. That’s when the topic of our conversation changed to the reputation that his name holds.
My son knows of his own sin nature. He knows the areas where he struggles in temptation. He knows that he is known as the assertive, risk taker whose first inclination is to lie when he gets caught. He knows how, over the years, his parents have contended with his strong-willed nature, creatively and consistently disciplining him, and he knows how we’ve invested countless hours training him in what’s right and wrong. We’ve even discussed reputation in the past, but this is the first time he’d suffered the consequences of a bad rep.

So this time, I associated a reputation with a name…the family name of his earthly father, the family name of my earthly father (his first name is my maiden name), and the family name of his heavenly Father. I explained to him that his first and last name was given to him at birth and he should wear them respectfully and not give them a bad reputation with persistent bad behavior. My husband and I asked him what he wanted others to think about when they heard his name, when they heard the name Spruiell. We asked this question to all of our boys and received a variety of good answers. But I also explained to my son, that if he wants to carry the name of Christ, if he wants to carry the name, Christian, he can’t give it to himself. It has to be given to him by others. It’s based on how he lives his life and how he’s seen by the world. He can call himself a believer in Christ, a new creation in Christ, but to be called a Christian, or Christ-like, he has to allow others to give him that name and it will hang on his reputation.

Now of course, I know that we cannot successfully change ourselves unaided, the Holy Spirit must do the work in us, but there still has to be a will in us to change. So, time will tell if the conversations we’ve had with our son has given him the will to change, but I do think that he realizes more now than ever before that our actions affect many parts of our lives including the name we carry.

Now, I know that our Lord was falsely accused and it was in spite of His righteous living, and if we ever have to face that kind of persecution, I pray that we have the strength to endure. In the meantime, there’s no reason for our behavior to fuel a false accusation. I’m sure that the rhetoric of the importance of our name will come up more often in our household. Although we all call ourselves believers in Christ, I pray that others will call us Christians and our Christian behavior will be our defense in times of need.


Amie N Spruiell 1/14/2011