Follow by Email

Monday, June 27, 2011

Serve Wholeheartedly

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.”  Ephesians 6:7 (NIV)   
Having previously worked in a public school system for 27 years, I can assure you that each day was an adventure.  To put it mildly, there was never a dull moment!  Some days went very smoothly, but other days were not so enjoyable!  On any given day, there could be stray bats flying down the halls, disruptive children refusing to follow instructions, or an estranged parent trying to remove his/her child from the school with no legal right to do so.  These were days where the dentist office sounded like a better alternative than being at work! 
During moments like the ones described above, there is no doubt of my genuine effort to show love and compassion to others when presented with stressful situations. However, there were other times when my patience would wear thin and my frustration could not help but show.  Perhaps those around me could not see even the slightest characteristic of Christ living in me during those moments. I was not doing my job “as unto the Lord”, but in my own strength.
The scripture referenced above says we are to “serve wholeheartedly." Merriman-Webster.com defines wholehearted as follows: completely and sincerely devoted, determined, or enthusiastic; marked by complete earnest commitment; free from all reserve or hesitation.
This week, determine to devote yourself to others, serving them enthusiastically and earnestly.  Go the extra mile whenever possible.   Show patience, kindness, and love.  Be joyful in the tasks ahead. Above all, remember that Christ living  in and through you brings light to the world. Accordingly, you will be rewarded by God for striving to create this type of environment, whether it be in the workplace, community, or at home. Have a great week!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)
"Fathers do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged."  Colossians 3:21 (NIV)
Tomorrow we will celebrate Father’s Day.  To those dads who love and care for your children, you are to be commended!  The time you are investing in each child will reap many benefits now and in the future. 
There is no higher calling in life than for a father to love God and his family.  By assuming the role of spiritual leader in his home, a father will then strive to live as Jesus did and pass that love on to others.   In his book Emotions: Can You Trust Them?, Dr. James Dobson says the following, "Christian men pass on to their children a spiritual heritage that is more valuable than any monetary estate they could have accumulated.”  How wonderful it is to see a father leave such a spiritual legacy as this for his children.
Whatever the age of a father or his child, a dad occupies a place in a child's heart that no one else can satisfy.  Many children have wonderful memories of a childhood relationship with their father.  More often than not, these special relationships will continue as the children reach adulthood.  A father might then take on the role of a friend/advisor/confidant.  This type of relationship is a blessing that should always be cherished.  
However, not all children can relate to a positive relationship with their father.  Bonnie Gray, a writer for Crosswalk.com says the following:  A person can die lonely in pursuit of a father’s love.”  Sadly, too many children today feel loneliness due to a father who has removed himself from their lives. Other children may be suffering from the effects of a father who is too busy to spend quality time with them because of work or other activities.  Perhaps some fathers fail to show affection or speak words of unconditional love and self-worth to their children.  Quite often, this type of father does not show the proper love that his children need because his ability to be a good father is clouded by his own unresolved issues. Unfortunately, it is the children who bear the brunt of the resulting hurt, leaving them with feelings of rejection.  Any type of neglect on a father’s part will result in issues for the children in their formative years as well as later in life.  There is no doubt that many adults still feel loneliness deep inside because they missed out on a special relationship that only their father could have given them.
For those who might relate more to the preceding paragraph and have not had a desired relationship with your earthly father, please know that each of us has a heavenly Father who will never leave us, who loves us unconditionally, and who will never disappoint us or be disappointed in us.  God always keeps His promises.  He loves us unconditionally and forever.  Zephaniah 3:17 gives such wonderful assurance of God’s love with these words: “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”  (NIV)    
From a personal standpoint, I would like to wish my husband, Ray, a very Happy Father's Day. Without a doubt, he loves our children and grandchildren very much and wants the best for each one of them.  He is always available to help with their specific needs or offer insight--at their request.  Over the years, Ray has modeled his relationship with God for our children and grandchildren and has encouraged them to walk in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He has been a wonderful provider for our family and has always taken that role and responsibility very seriously.  Consequently, we are happy to see that same quality exhibited in our sons and sons-in-law.  How happy we are to observe their love and affection for their children, as well as their strong work ethic in providing for the precious family members God has placed in their care.
Happy Father's Day!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Defining Moments

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Matthew 6:25 (NIV)
According to the Random House Dictionary 2011, a “defining moment” is “an occurrence that typifies or determines all related events that follow.”  
To apply the term in a spiritual context, Dr. Ray England, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Greenville, Kentucky says, “defining moments” are those times in our lives where God’s preparation and opportunity meet to provide a meaningful God experience for others, for the church, or for ourselves.”
Based on Dr. England’s definition, I would like to relate a defining moment that took place in my life many years ago.  To this day, what happened has continued to shape my life spiritually and has given me total confidence and trust that God is, and has always been concerned about every detail of my life.    
As the parent of a beautiful 12-year old daughter, I struggled to meet my monthly financial obligations.  The school district where I worked paid their employees once a month and I was always careful to spend sparingly. Being extremely conscientious of paying my bills on time, there was very little money left to carry us through the remainder of each month.  
During one particular week, our church had hosted a visiting evangelist for a series of messages. As a result of the week long revival, many people had accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  These messages had certainly brought life and revival into our midst.  The Holy Spirit moved in the hearts of our congregation so dramatically that the result was complete surrender to Jesus.  It was an amazing time that I shall never forget.
 At the close of the service on Sunday night, our pastor announced that a special “offering" would be taken for the visiting evangelist.  I wanted to give something, but was keenly aware of the $20.00 balance sitting in my bank account.  Furthermore, that $20.00 was intended to last until my next payday, a whopping 18 days away!  I also thought of my doctor appointment which was scheduled for the next day.  At that point, I had no way of paying for my visit to the doctor and was already dreading the embarrassment of having to share this news with his office manager.                                                   
Even though I knew what my financial situation was, I felt strongly that half of my bank balance should be given to this offering.  Joyfully and without worry, I wrote a check for $10.00 and never gave it a second thought.
When I arrived at the doctor’s office the next day, the office manager was busy. I concluded that there would be no mention of my inability to pay until after my appointment was over.  My wait time was approximately 20 minutes before being escorted to the examining room. 
Only God could have orchestrated what happened next.  An unbelievable defining moment was about to happen!!
When the doctor entered the examining room, he spoke politely to me and then apologized for the long wait. This certainly was not an unusual amount of time to wait in a doctor’s office. Somehow, it seemed strange that he was apologizing to me. My doctor then turned to his nurse and said the following, “I tell you what.  Since Carolyn has had to wait so long today, let’s take $10.00 off her bill, and she doesn’t have to pay us today.  She can mail her payment in whenever it is convenient.”  With those words I could hardly keep my composure!  Remember, no one in the office had been told that I would be unable to pay for the doctor’s services that day. I walked out of my doctor’s office with a self-addressed envelope in my hand and was told to mail the payment back at my convenience.  Please believe me when I say that I was in total shock and disbelief of what had just taken place.
As far as I know my doctor was not a Christian.  I believe that because of my obedience in giving what little I could as an offering at church, God showed me in a tangible way that He cared about my needs—both large and small.  This was my assurance that He would always provide for me, even in times of anxiousness and uncertainty. Through this experience, I gained total confidence that God is faithful to keep the promises found in His Word.
Saying this brings a smile, because I also think that God loves to surprise us when we least expect it.  When we think there is no way out of our circumstances, no matter what they are, He says to us, “Just watch me!”  “Nothing is impossible for me.”  “Let me give you a defining moment.”  It is in these times that our hearts are impacted in such a way that we desire to tell others about God’s faithfulness.
If asked to do so, could you relate specific defining moments in your life where  God has proved that He cared about your circumstances?  How did He take action to show His love and care for you during this time?  How have you been shaped by these moments when God acted on your behalf?  If you have not thought about this, please take a moment to do so.  I believe that each one of us can find such a moment—or many moments, simply because God is always working on our behalf. He wants to show us His love and bring joy and peace to us until we are finally home with Him.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Light of the World

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Right off the bat I am going to confess that summer is not my favorite time of the year.  A strong dislike for hot weather gives me good reason to be very appreciative of air conditioning, swimming pools, ice cream, ice cold tea and refreshing lemonade.  It seems that I enjoy everything about summer except the heat!
In order to keep the house relatively cool and the electric bill lower during the hot weather, most of the blinds and curtains are usually closed, causing an absence of light.   This absence of light coming into my home is something that I really miss when it’s not there.  There’s just something about the presence of light that seems to give me more energy and alertness.  Some people have no problem sitting in a darkened house; I’m just not one of them.
Darkness is the absence of light, but think about God’s light for a moment.  In John 8:12, we read the following: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  God’s light will never be hidden from the world if we walk in obedience to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is God’s plan for His light to always outshine the darkness.  When we allow the Holy Spirit to become a living presence in us, we cannot help but exhibit the change that has taken place in our hearts.  Others may not know it, but they are witnessing first-hand the light of Jesus shining through us.  Our darkness has been replaced by His radiant light!
Are you sitting in darkness today?  In contrast, are you spreading the light of Jesus to others?  What a wonderful privilege we have to become the hands, feet, and voice of our Savior.  What an awesome responsibility we have to bring His light into the world--a light that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14-16 above).  Be sure to let your “little light shine” as we read the words to the song written by Harry Dixon Loes that so many of us learned as children.

                                        This Little Light of Mine  

This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel? No!
I'm gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No!
I'm gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No!
I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

Don't let Satan blow it out,
I'm gonna let it shine
Don't let Satan blow it out,
I'm gonna let it shine
Don't let Satan blow it out,
I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

Let it shine til Jesus comes,
I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine til Jesus comes,
I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine til Jesus comes,
I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the light of Jesus Christ in our lives.  Help each one of us to spread that Light to others who are in need of encouragement, hope and comfort.  May we always shine for you in all that we say and do.  Lead us as we tell others the wonderful news of your Son, Jesus.   It is in His name that I pray.  Amen.
           
Additional Scriptures for Reflection:
The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”  Proverbs 4:18
 “so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”  Philippians 2:15
Note:  All scripture references are taken from the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Supernatural Victory

 

“Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers—they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing—and they cried: “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!”  And every man stood in his place all around the camp; and the whole army ran and cried out and fled.”  Judges 7: 20-21

During the time of the above-referenced scripture, the Israelites had not been serving the Lord God as He had commanded.  Consequently, they found themselves in circumstances that threatened their destruction.  Because of their disobedience, God had given them up to their enemies for seven years.  In chapters 6 and 7 of the book of Judges, we see that the Midianites were encamped all around the Israelites and were attacking on every side. Because of their vulnerable position, the Israelites ran to dens, caves, and safe places in the mountains to hide.

In Judges, chapter 7, we see a wonderful example of how God worked supernaturally through Gideon—a man who wasn’t the bravest warrior, but who chose to obey God in His instructions on how to defeat the enemies who threatened his people.  Because twenty-two thousand of Gideon’s fighting men had already left in fear of the enemy, there were only ten thousand remaining who were willing to fight.  God then instructed Gideon to reduce the number of men who were to go into battle with him down to three hundred.  Furthermore, God only required three things to be taken into battle by each man:  a trumpet, a torch, and a clay pot (pitcher).  Imagine what the men thought when Gideon instructed them to take nothing into battle except these three things. In them, there was nothing that even remotely resembled a weapon fit for battle.  How much faith would that require knowing they were facing at least one hundred eighty thousand Midianites?

In addition to the three very strange weapons for battle, God told Gideon that he and his warriors were to shout the following phrase over and over: “The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” (Verse 20)  When the three hundred trumpets blew and the men began shouting this phrase over and over, the Midianites became so confounded and confused that they began killing one another.  Those who did not die from the sword of their own men, fled from the scene of the battle.  (Verses 21-22)  

What was God’s purpose in doing this?  God wanted the Israelites to see that it was not because of their strong numbers they had fought and defeated the enemy, but that His strength and power had made the difference between victory and defeat.  With only a handful of men and no “real” weapons available, what a sight that must have been as the battle began and ended with a mighty victory for Gideon and his small band of warriors!

Based on this story of Gideon’s supernatural victory over the enemy, what application can we use from it for our lives today?

Gideon knew who his enemy was in this particular battle.  We are not  able to see our spiritual enemy, but be aware that he is out there.  Satan has come to cause disruption and chaos in our lives.  He will come upon us when we are tired and most vulnerable to his lies. He tries to discourage and keep us down in our emotions and our thinking. He uses our past mistakes and failures in an attempt to make us feel worthless and unworthy of God’s love.  He knows that if we buy into the lies he plants in our minds, then he is able to destroy our joy, our hope, and our spiritual motivation.  The bottom line is that he will do whatever he can to render us useless so that we cannot live joyfully, serve God effectively, or walk in freedom with the Lord Jesus.

The good news is that we have God-given weapons at our disposal to fight our enemy.  God has given us everything we need to be victorious and free from any circumstance that keeps us from wholeness in our life and in our spiritual walk with the Lord.  He has given us His Son Jesus,  the Holy Spirit, His Word, and our faith and trust in Him.  He has also given us others who are available to encourage us during times of difficulty.  Most of all, He has given us His love.  No matter what our situation, we have the assurance that God will never leave nor forsake us and that we are never alone.  He will always fight our battles for us if we will allow Him to. Just as He did with Gideon, God will work in supernatural ways in our lives if we live in obedience to His Word.  There is no limit to what we can overcome when we are walking in the strength and power of God.

                        

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Scripture/Quotes/Music



"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."  Matthew 11:28-29  (NIV)

Great church service today!  It began via video with a wonderful testimony of God's faithfulness from Joe Gibbs, former coach of the Washington Redskins, and now involved with NASCAR racing. 

Scripture reference for today's message was taken from I Samuel 16:14-23, and contrasted the vast differences in David and King Saul.  David was a man after God's own heart.  He was an obedient servant who humbled himself before God.  King Saul was a man after the accolades of men.  He was troubled, rebellious, and did not honor God.  His soul was tormented and he could not find peace within. 

The question to consider today is, "Who are you most like--David or King Saul?"  May all of us be like David and seek after God's own heart.  When we do, He will find favor in us and give us the desire to serve others with humility and love.

Three quotes I liked from the message today:

"During times of adversity, when we feel that our circumstances are a nightmare, Jesus bids us to focus on him."  Pastor Danny Forshee.   See Matthew 11:28 scripture above.     

"Oftentimes we trade our vacations at the sea for a life in the slums."  C. S. Lewis

"The devil is still God's devil!"  Martin Luther

Enjoy the two songs posted below that blessed us in our church service today.  

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing with Lyrics Chris Rice

Matt Redman - You Alone Can Rescue

Friday, June 3, 2011

What the Cross Really Says to Us

Am I loved?
Am I wanted?
Am I worthwhile?

And the cross answers back...
You are loved, really.
{Psalm 103:11}
You're valuable, truly.
{Matthew 10:31}
You're chosen, always.
{1 Peter 2:9}
The cross is the final answer on who we really are...
the exclamation mark at the end of God's declaration of love!

Holley Gerth, DaySpring Writer, May 16, 2011
For more hope and encouragement, visit Heart to Heart with Holley. And to receive free devotionals for women from Holley, subscribe by e-mail.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Scripture

"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, "to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." Jude 1:24-25 (NASB)

Hillsong - At the Cross - With Subtitles/Lyrics

Majesty - King of Kings and Lord of Lords! - Delirious?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Going In Circles

“Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:23  (NLT)
During my early years at home, it was a well known fact that my daddy rarely planned a family vacation or road trip outside of our county.  He was a man who simply liked to stay at home.  However, on rare occasions, daddy would break out of his comfort zone and make the decision to travel to a neighboring state in search of fresh peaches.  My siblings and I knew that these trips would result in bushels of peaches being purchased and brought home for our mother to prepare for later use.  Once a summer date had been set for our little excursion, it was no wonder that we children continually dreamed of peach cobblers and fried peach pies!  
Since daddy hardly ever ventured out into “city’ traffic, I cannot think of anything that made him more nervous than encountering what he called “traffic circles”, or roundabouts as they are more commonly called.  If traffic was moving rapidly, daddy would sometimes go in circles until the adjustment into the desired lane had been made. Due in part to his nervous concentration, more often than not he would end up in the wrong lane, which left no choice but to take an exit that was never intended.  Once that mistake was made, time was spent going back around the circle until the correct exit was taken.  Since the final destination was the most important part of the trip, arrival was always more enjoyable for all of us if daddy stayed on course, experienced fewer distractions, and arrived with less wear and tear from the journey.  A good navigation system would certainly have been a great benefit, but such a thing had not yet been invented!
In the scenario mentioned above, there are some spiritual applications that caused me to write this article.  Unfortunately, it was easy for me to see that many times in my own spiritual life, I have been the one going in circles--not quite getting it right; making wrong turns and having to turn around and go back to the place where I could start over and head in the right direction again.  In these times, I failed to completely follow what I knew to be God’s perfect navigation system—the Bible.  God’s Word had been implanted into my heart at an early age; yet at times, I failed Him, others, and myself.  These times in my life always caused great sadness and discouragement.
In spite of my past failures, it gives me great joy to tell you that this story has been re-written for me.  It is God’s story of unconditional love, forgiveness and grace upon my life.  It is now the story of an unshakable reliance and faith in Jesus Christ and a passionate desire to follow Him at all cost.  In me, He has created a sincere willingness to serve rather than be served and to tell others about the One who has brought me through this transformation. 
Through hardships, I have discovered that trials do make people stronger and am so thankful that because of my faith in Christ, I don’t have to continue going in circles. I am at rest and peace, knowing that God loves me enough to correct my course when I make a wrong turn or have an attitude that is not pleasing to Him. His forgiveness is something that I will never take for granted.  I have always found my heavenly Father to be faithful, even at times when I was not. 
Are you at a place in your own life where you feel discouraged?  Do you feel that God could not ever forgive, much less love someone like you because of your past failures?  Do you find yourself going in circles, feeling as though you are accomplishing nothing for the Kingdom of God?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, please hear me when I say that God loves you with an everlasting love. There is nothing about you that He does not already know.  He wants a relationship with you through His Son, Jesus Christ. He wants nothing more than to give you peace and comfort for your soul.  You are loved.  You are loved.  You are loved.   And that, my friends, is an unconditional love that will always remain the same. 
Additional Scriptures for Reflection:
"There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins."  Ecclesiastes 7: 20 (NIV)
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness."  Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)
"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-to the glory and praise of God."   Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV)
"Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."  Romans 12:9-11 (NIV)