GIFTS- part 1 {7.24.18}

God-given gifts. We all have them. Yes – even you and even me. gifts given by GodSometimes we look at others and recognize their gifts but miss our own. Last night we met up with our cousin and his wife. We had not seen our cousin in years and met his wife for the first time.  It was a great evening getting to know them and share a bit of our lives. They were driving through our area on their way to an art show. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? They are both artists. Great artists I might add. His paintings are fantastic, and she makes lovely jewelry. We had the privilege of seeing samples of both of their arts. Our daughter, son-in-law and grandson were there too. They each have wonderful gifts of their own. I was thinking about that and realized that all of us have been given gifts. Some just seem more “special” than others – in our minds. Not with God though. He carefully gave them to us – specifically, on purpose. You have one (or many).

Can you identify your gifts? I am not musically inclined, and I do not have the gift of painting or making jewelry. But, I do have a big smile. Even though it shows teeth that are not straight and makes my eyes almost close, I have had people tell me my smile brought them joy. Imagine that – a crazy looking smile bringing joy! I think tha a gift. Maybe you have a green thumb. That’s a gift. Are you organized? Can you hit a homerun on a baseball field or make a 3-pointer in basketball? Do you swing a mean hammer? Cook a great meatloaf? Bake brownies like nobody’s business? Are you a great storyteller? Those are all gifts. Are you “tech savvy”? Now that’s a gift I could use! We mustn’t think more highly of ourselves, but we also must not think less of ourselves because our gifts aren’t visible to the multitudes. Maybe our gifts were to be shared one-on-one. Take a minute today to identify your gifts. Then thank God for them.

James 1:17-18 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

gift gods greatest loveBack to our evening with family…

Isn’t it amazing how love can just pop up? We didn’t really know these two relatives but last night love showed up and now we have a love connection as well as a blood connection. That’s the greatest gift isn’t it? LOVE. GOD IS LOVE. GOD GAVE US LOVE. GOD INTENDS US TO SHARE THAT LOVE. We all have that gift and can put it on the top of our list. LOVE. The greatest gift of all.

Circle the Wagons {6.18.18}

It’s probably because I used to watch Saturday morning westerns with my Grandpa in the summer when I was a child, but I still like western movies. This is a good thing since my husband also likes them. We can watch them over and over again – and do. If you have seen any westerns that involved wagon trains, I’m sure you’ve seen and heard the phrase “Circle the Wagons”. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One thing about the pioneers of the Old West, when they traveled in wagon trains, they always circled the wagons. Whether they were just stopping for the night or getting ready to fight off an attack of some kind, they circled the wagons. Have you ever thought about that? Why did they circle their wagons? The wagons formed a barrier to whatever might be a danger to them. It allowed all the people to remain inside, together, sharing good or bad, whatever came their way. It became a defense and a comfort. It was also a time of fellowship and joy in the midst of the trials of their journey. They formed a community. They helped each other.

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

While we don’t live in the Old West and aren’t part of a wagon train, we still need to sometimes circle our wagons. Life is full of ups and downs. Thankfully God intended for us to live in community with one another so that we could love, encourage, help and simply share life together (good times and bad). Do you ever feel like you are being attacked? Maybe it’s a physical attack of poor health or injury. Maybe it’s financial or relationship struggles. Maybe it’s a struggle with demands of our time which we don’t feel we have. Whatever it is, if we “Circle the Wagons” and let others in, they can help share our burden. More importantly, Jesus tells us to give our burdens to Him. He can handle them.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Another thing I like about westerns is that the good guys always win. I love happy endings.

calm - circle wagons
If we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are assured of a happy ending to our life here on earth. In this world, we will have many troubles but glory to God, we have a happy ending ahead. I say, let’s “Circle the Wagons”. We can help each other through the struggles and rejoice with each other in the happy times.  

1 John 5:3-5 “This is love for God to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

The Power of Music {5.17.18}

Music. It’s powerful, isn’t it? It has the power to transport us back in time to a memory of a person or place. When I hear the Beach Boys for instance, I’m immediately transported to summer, windows down in the car and singing along. When I hear Christmas music I’m thinking of the love of God and time with family in a warm cozy house or caroling in the snow. power of musicEighties music reminds me of our children growing up and having fun at the lake or pool. Marching band music takes me back to my school years and marching in parades in our small town. 

I have been thinking about music since last night when I was honored to attend our grandson’s first band concert. I was so impressed with that 6th grade band. They sounded great and it was evident that they love their band director and he loves them. He made music enjoyable and fun for them while at the same time demanding and receiving their respect and attention. It was a glorious time.

I enjoy music so much! I enjoy hearing people sing and play. I also love to sing along but unfortunately for those around me, I do not have the gift of voice. I am one of those mentioned in the Bible that makes a joyful noise (at least it comes out of my heart joyful – not sure it is a joy to those who hear it).  Thankfully, people at church are kind and I sound a lot better with others around me singing in tune. In my car, the radio gives me great accompaniment.

Songs and musical instruments are not necessary to enjoy music though. Music is all around us. We can simply go outside and listen to the birds. They sing a joyful song and always seem thankful for their existence. Even doves in their cooing have a sound that is soothing to the soul.

It seems to me that music has the power to change our moods. It has the power to bring joy, love, happiness, sadness or even anxiety and anger. Just like what we read gets into our minds and hearts, what we listen to does as well. Are the words we are receiving uplifting and positive or hurtful and negative? I’m not saying we shouldn’t allow sadness or grief to enter our lives or even that we should shy from sad songs. What I am saying though is that we should all be very careful what we allow to dwell and linger in our hearts and minds.

After all, music comes from God. praise in musicThroughout the Old Testament we see how important music was to God. He took great care to share His directions about musicians. Songs and sounds from musical instruments lifted to God in praise were a delight to Him. They still are. Even after this life, heaven will be filled with our praises to God! So, why not start now? Among all the other music God has given us to enjoy, let’s make it a priority to honor and praise Him.

Ephesians 5:19-20 says, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I’m going to turn no the radio and sing along. Anyone want to join me?

Fear and Worry {5.11.18}

Fear and worry. They come upon all of us at one time or another. Most of the time I think we deal with them and move on. However, we can become enslaved by them. They can totally consume and immobilize us,fear in jar keeping us from living joyful lives. This can feel like a terrible weight on our mind, body and soul. How about you? Are you fearful and worrisome?

Healthy fear can be a good thing. It can keep us aware and sometimes safe. We need to feel fear when we are heading toward a dangerous situation. On the flip side, we can also let fear control us – our emotions, our actions, our words, and our relationships. This is an unhealthy fear. Often though, we are fearful of something that does not really threaten us. That fear can be overcome.

What about worry. Are you a worrier? Do you know someone who is a worrier? I have a close family member who worries about everything. We hesitate to share news that this person might think is something to worry about because it would consume. Worry can be taken to the extreme where it kind of paralyzes you from enjoying normal things life has to offer. I have found in my life that most things people worry about never happen. Sounds like wasted energy, doesn’t it? Here are wise words we should take to heart and practice: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:6-8

What does God say about fear and worry?fear cartoon I did a quick search and found that God shared in His Word over 100 times these phrases: Do not fear; Do not be afraid; Do not worry. Here are just a few examples. When you are feeling fearful or worrisome, let these verses speak to your soul. Believe them. God’s Word is Truth!

 “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6

“So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6

“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

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we pray, “Abba, Father” Romans 8:15

“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 worry corrie ten boom

“…do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time, you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Matthew 10:19-20

“…do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:11

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Luke 12:22-31

With God’s help, we can overcome unhealthy fear and worry. While we can’t take fear and worry away from anyone else, we can share with them what the God who created us says about it. We can listen and offer positive words. We can pray for and with them. worry - peace

We will all continue to deal with fear and worry in this life but what a blessing it is to have peace as we process it and give it to God. We can’t explain this peace, but we can experience it.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

The Price of Pride {3.22.18}

Pride. It can be a good thing I guess, but it can turn bad quickly. We say or hear “take pride in what you do, etc.” but what we really should say is “take pride in the God who enables you to do whatever it is.” God cautions us to be humble, not proud. It’s a slippery slope and the evil one can make it appear deserved or earned and very inviting.

Romans 12:3 “… Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

pride

We all have or will struggle with pride at one time or another. It’s one of the temptations put before us. Pride doesn’t just happen with those who don’t know or follow God. Pride can sneak up on us when we are right in the middle of loving and serving God. Such was the case with Moses. God spoke to Moses. He spoke to him in a burning bush. He spoke to him “face to face/presence to presence” as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11). They had a close relationship. However, pride crept up on Moses and he found himself missing out on the promised land because of it.

We find the details in Numbers 20:1-13“In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community, so they and their livestock can drink.” So, Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebel, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the Lord and where he was proved holy among them.

We see at the beginning of these verses that the Israelites looked to Moses, not God. They asked why Moses brought them to the wilderness. No mention of God. Moses and Aaron humbled themselves when they went in before God. They fell facedown before Him.humble But, somewhere between God’s instructions and the gathering of the people, pride set in. Oh, how quickly it can come upon us. He did not honor God by obeying God. He put his own twist on it. They still got water but, Moses paid a price for his pride. He never got to enter the promised land. He only got to see it from a distance. Consequences. Always consequences. If we would only consider them before speaking or acting instead of grieving over them afterwards.

This story of Moses really makes me consider my life. When I reach a goal, do I feel pride in myself or simply thank God for the ability and power He gave me to do it? When I do something good for someone else, do I fill up with pride knowing I did a good thing or praise and thank God for letting me see and act on what He put before me? Something to think about.

1 Corinthians 1:31 “Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Red Rover, Red Rover {3.16.18}

Red Rover, Red Rover, send [insert name] right over.

Did you ever play that game when you were a child? It seems to me that we played it a lot during recess at my elementary school. Two lines were formed after selecting teams. These lines faced each other with a fair amount of space between them (allowing for running speed). Then the team members locked arms and called someone from the other line/team “over”. That person had to run and try to break through the linked arms of the opposing line of people. red roverIf they broke through, they could take one person back to their team/line. If not, they became part of the opposing team’s line. On and on it went. However, I couldn’t remember how it ended. Maybe the team with the most people at the end of recess won. I’m not sure. But, for some strange reason, I was thinking about that game the other day. So, I just did a little on-line research and found this for how the game ended:

Play Red Rover until one side has all the team members. (With this method of ending Red Rover, note that all the children are winners, because they all end up on the same side.) If time is short, the team with the most people wins.

I don’t remember that we ever ended up with all members on the same team, but it sure sounds great, doesn’t it?

That’s what God’s goal is for all of us (His creation) – that we all end up on the same team/ same side – His side, Heaven bound, saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12 “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”

Unfortunately, God has given us all free will and many will not choose Jesus. By the time their life ends, they will want to change their minds, but it will be too late. God tells us there are two paths (teams) – one is a narrow path, leading to life (fulfilled life here and eternal life in Heaven after physical death) the other is a wide road, leading to destruction (self-destruction here on earth leading to full-time, eternal torment in hell). www.thebookofrevelation.net

Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” 

If we want our loved ones, friends and neighbors (and yes, even our enemies) to have everlasting life with God in heaven, we must play the game (or run the race) in a way that leads others to Jesus and onto God’s team. 

Acts 20:24 “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”

I will never think of that game the same way again. I want to be ready to share the hope I have in Jesus to those people God places in my life.  Like God, I want them on His Team. So I say… red rover line

“Red Rover, Red Rover,  Send Unbelievers Right Over!”

True Fulfilling Fellowship {3.5.18}

Fellowship is mentioned 94 times in the Bible (NIV version)

Old Testament – 85 times, except for Psalm 55:14, each time refers to a fellowship offering

New Testament – 9 times, relational with each other, fellow believers and with God – 1 John 1:3-7 ”We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make your joy complete. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

I quite often fall asleep talking to God. Likewise, I usually wake up and tell Him good morning before getting out of bed. However, while that’s a good thing I’m the one doing all the talking. When God wants to get my attention, He usually does it in the middle of the night. It’s dark and quiet. Nothing is going on to distract me from listening. Last night was one of those nights. I woke up about 2:30 a.m. Wide awake. Then God started taking me through my day yesterday and all that led up to that day. While it may seem insignificant to many, to me it was an “a-ha” moment yesterday in our Sunday school class. And, in the middle of the night God gave me a glimpse of what He has been doing in and with us for the past couple of years (maybe 3, I haven’t kept track). Yes, sometimes it takes time.

The word He kept giving me was “fellowship”. Of course, I had my own idea of what that meant. Getting together with others in a social setting. Usually food is involved or some type of activity. Something (sporting event, concert, charity) or some person (birthday party, anniversary) is usually the center of attention or the reason for the gathering.

  • Wikipedia: NOUN: friendly association, especially with people who share one’s interests:

fellowship growthHowever, God showed me what true, fulfilling fellowship looks like. In true fellowship, God is the gracious host, guest of honor and center of attention. All focus is on Him and we share together for His glory.

  • Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary: Bond of common purpose and devotion that binds Christians to one another and to Christ.

Several years ago, I was part of a Bible study group that met one evening a week. It was a really good group and we enjoyed the studies. However, it was hard for some to come to an evening meeting. So, we decided to move it to a Sunday school class instead. Of course, we now had only one hour instead of one and a half so it might take more than one week to complete a lesson. But, that was ok. Our group started out small but has grown over the years to more than double it’s original size. That’s a good thing but the really good thing is how we have all grown together in the process. We decided to give ourselves a name “Ladies Learning Together”. We knew that we were all on the same path (narrow road) and none of us had all the answers. We were literally learning together. We knew that God would teach us through His word. What I don’t think we realized though was how much God would grow us through our fellowship in these classes. He has a plan for us and He had some work to do in us before His plan could be revealed and implemented. God showed me last night what true fellowship means. It is the learning and growing together while openly sharing our lives with one another. We truly love one another and we have allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and transparent, not only before God but with each other. When we humbled ourselves and looked to each other’s best interest rather than just our own, then…God could work in us. We have shared sorrows and blessings, heartaches and joy, ups and downs. We have encouraged each other and when necessary, held each other accountable to God’s Word. But, God really got a hold of us when we started to pray. He led a lady in our church to begin a prayer team ministry. Then, he led our class to study and participate in prayer (we actually did three Bible studies on prayer and I would recommend them all – “War Room”, “Battle Plan of Prayer and “Fervent”). We just finished a study titled “Called and Accountable”. That one was really eye opening, personal and pointed. We learned a lot about ourselves and grew in our understanding of God’s call on our lives and the consequences of not obeying His call. One important thing we learned was that a “call” does not necessarily mean a call to pastor, go on the mission field, something high profile or what we might deem important. It could mean the encounter with someone at the grocery that God orchestrated so we could encourage them. It might mean the encounter with a neighbor who is cranky and just needs a friend. When we allow God to open our eyes, the opportunities are always there. We just need to see them and seize them.

Okay, now to what really got me excited… As our class is getting ready to begin a new study, we realized that we had a financial need – a DVD player and projector. We have a couple of them at our church but others need them as well and we can’t hog one every week. So, we brainstormed ideas on how to raise the money. We came up with some good ideas but that’s not the exciting part. The exciting part is that we are dreaming big (our God is able) and are now brainstorming what we can do with the extra money we raise by serving our community. communityWe have so many ideas that we ran out of time before we could post them all on the chalkboard. That’s what God showed me in the middle of last night. He has been preparing us these past few years to be ready and willing to go forth and share His message and His love with others. Joining together with like minds, in unity, we can now make a difference together in our community. It’s exciting and I think it’s going to be contagious! I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us. It’s such a humble honor and blessing to serve Him, especially with my “fellowship partners”.

Thanks for allowing me to ramble on. I’m still excited and I want to encourage you to persevere. Sometimes, like with us, it takes time. True fellowship comes with like-minded people truly sharing life and all its ups and downs together with Christ in the center. What a joy it is to get together with friends not just for food and social events, but to share what Christ is doing in our lives. That’s the most exciting fellowship there is aside from the personal relationship with Christ.

Who might we encounter today that needs a touch from Christ’s love – through us?