April 29, 2008

My chains are gone!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

Today’s posting is personal and hits a deep emotional place for me when I don’t focus on truth. I’m going to share because I want readers to know where I came from and where I’m headed. Vulnerability is not something I enjoy but in order for God to be glorified I have to share the bad along with the good so that you can see where He has brought me.

Part of truth is looking to the future and not dwelling on the past. This includes the past of my high school days. I have not attended my high school reunions but I’ve heard all about the people and how they’ve changed for good and bad. I myself have changed from what I was back in the day so much that most of the people I went to school with don’t even recognize me when they see me. You see, in high school I was the quiet, shy, introvert that hid behind the person in front of me when I was walking down the hall, who wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone and stared at the floor when walking into a classroom. I had little self-esteem and had pretty much beaten myself down to the point of truly believing I was a waste of space. A lot of this came from my own emotional issues but I had a lot of help from the comments of your typical school bully. I had come to terms with the fact that I would probably not ever do or be much and so I settled for average within myself. Little did I know what God had planned for my life. (Jeremiah 29:11)

It wasn’t until I was married with two kids that my life really changed. My husband and I moved to North Carolina because of his job and we basically had to start over. We had no friends and no church. It didn’t take long to find our church and when we did God put a woman in my life to teach me truth which changed my life forever.

I began to learn that God had a plan for my life and that in His eyes I was beautiful and wonderful and His precious creation. I discovered that He created me with a purpose and that I needed to be obedient in order to be used as a vessel by Him. Once I began to understand all of this those chains that had bound me for so long finally broke away and I became a new person in Christ. As time passed I began to feel more comfortable in my own skin because my worth was found in my Heavenly Father. I began finding myself talking to strangers and leaving my house to go and do things on my own. Up to that point I wouldn’t even have entered a grocery store on my own. I had a new confidence that came from my security in Christ. Everything that I am and have become is because of my faith in Jesus Christ. Everything I do comes from Him and His strength alone because on my own I am that girl back in high school. I’ve chosen to move forward and to not go back because as the song says…MY PAST IS OVER.

How often do we live our life based on the past? Paul’s final words in Philippians 4:8 says “think on these things”. This is a command from God to us that we are to focus on the truth of His word and to focus on the things of life that are real. Since it has been commanded to us then we must obey or we find ourselves entering into sin. Makes you realize how much work there is to be done.

One of my favorite writers says “Labeling thoughts that are not based on what is true or real as “sin” was a powerful daily motivator…If I want my thoughts to measure up to God’s standard of true and real then I have to accept that my thinking is either based on God’s truth or it isn’t. My thinking is either right or wrong. It’s either acceptable or sinful.”

I have to look at my thinking process in the same way in order to separate truth from lies. The reason for this is because back when my life started to change I remember having a friend share with me about her walk and what God was doing within her life. I walked away from the conversation with a horrible attitude in my heart towards her. I remember thinking that she thought she was godlier than I was. Truth be told, she was. That attitude in my heart was not truth but lies being whispered in my ear by the one who comes to steal, kill and destroy. This attitude led me to gossip about her to others hoping they would see her like I did. WOW!! When you write it all down and read it you realize how pathetic, self-centered and ungodly it all was. As time went on I began to recognize that this attitude was coming from conviction within my spirit. She had said things to me that were truth and I didn’t want to hear it because it meant that I had to change. Oh!! The POWER of TRUTH!! How often do we do that? How often does God use someone to speak to us and we reject them because we don’t want to accept the truth of their message? Praise God for the fact that she walked in truth because she knew that I was not rejecting her but Christ within her and the conviction that my spirit was under. If it wasn’t for her and her forgiveness I would have never understood and accepted that bit of truth.

I could have stayed lost in the past dwelling on my former sinful attitude or choose to think on the things of God and move forward toward the goal that He has set before me and use it to share with others. I chose to move forward.

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:13-14

I think it’s important that we learn from our past and remember the lessons learned and the blessings we may have received from it. We have to understand that He has a purpose for our lives and He uses those events from our past to grown our faith and maturity in Him. We have to know truth and think on those things so that our thought life does not take us back to places that we should not go. Don’t beat yourself up for the time you’ve wasted in your past from self-centered ways. Instead be encouraged by what you’ve learned, move on and focus on the truth of what He has planned for you now!!
"Father, help us to have hearts that are open and receptive to Your message no matter how it is presented to us. Help us to keep our thoughts from becoming sinful so that we do not hurt others. Always break our hearts and make them aware to the things that break Yours. May we walk in truth."

April 28, 2008

Walking in Truth

“Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40

What is truth? Paul wrote that we are to think on truth. We are to think about the truth of God and His word as well as ourselves and others at all times. It is important that we know truth and that we view the world and those in it through the truth of God and not ourselves or our circumstances .

God created everyone of us as a wonderful and unique creation. He did not create one mold and then destroy it saying that everyone must fit into this likeness. We each are fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Psalms 139:14) our Father who loves each of us just as we are flaws and all. He created each of us with a purpose that He so carefully planned out for our lives. (2 Timothy 1:9) He gave each of us our own unique and special gifts that can be used to serve others and glorify Him (1 Cor 12:7-11) and He loves and accepts us when the rest of the world may turn their back in rejection towards us. This is truth and when other thoughts enter into our mind to the contrary we must recognize the source as coming from the father of lies. We may know what is true about ourselves and be secure in it but suddenly someone walks into our life and we find ourselves comparing who we are to who they are and thus enters sin.

As women we must guard our minds from the overactive tendencies we have that can interfere with our relationships with friends and family. We must guard our hearts and minds by knowing truth in order for Satan to not gain ground in our lives. It is so very easy for us to allow our minds to wander as we try to read between the lines of a conversation or the actions of someone else. Our minds can come up with all kinds of things to justify the behavior of others. Essentially we are playing mind games with ourselves. The question when we head in this direction should always be “is this truth?” Praise the Lord for His truth because without it we would have no hope.

When our hope comes from the Lord it makes thinking on truth easier to accept. Hope comes from being secure in His love and loving others with His love. 1 Corinthians 13 clearly talks about love and what it is and is not. As believers we are called to love one another. Let’s look at this passage and what it means.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-13

Truth clearly states that “love does not delight in evil” and that it “rejoices in truth”. Really read over that passage. When we find ourselves being jealous or keeping record of wrongs then we are not walking in the truth that God has laid out before us. When we question someone’s actions or words or even distort them then we are violating what is required of us to love others as God has commanded. When we read into their words or actions instead of accepting them as they were presented then essentially we are making that person out to be a liar. We must always ask ourselves what is true and what is real.

One of the hardest things to do is to train our minds to not think evil about another person. Trying to not second-guess or read between the lines is so hard because our sinful minds automatically want to assume the worst in people. We as women are very sensitive and emotional and many times take things out of context and lose focus and when we find ourselves second-guessing or analyzing each other we then hinder the opportunities of having healthy relationships with one another. This leads us into Matthew.

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.

Matthew 18:15

In order to have healthy relationships we must obey truth. When someone has hurt or offended us we are to go to them in private and bring it to their attention. This means that we should not waste away our days wondering and worried about what others think about us because truth says that if they are walking in truth then they will bring it before us. Instead of getting hung up on whether or not people are having critical thoughts about you, turn toward God and His word or towards your mentor. Those are the ones who know your heart and your attitude. They do not look at you through judgmental eyes and they will help you recognize or identify wrong attitudes.

The conclusion,

The wicked man flees though no one pursues,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

Proverbs 28:1

Basically, if you’re not guilty, don’t act like it. If you’re walking in truth the don’t allow the world to condemn you and reject you because Christ is living through you. Enjoy the relationships that God has placed you in and don’t hold back for fear of what others think. God places people in our lives for many different reasons and we decide whether they will be a blessing or a burden by whether or not we are walking in the truth of God’s word.

"Father, help me to hide Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against my sister. Help me to always think on truth and to shy away from the tendencies of second-guessing those in my life. May I always take them at their word and remind me to always seek Your approval above all else."

Written by Nicole


April 22, 2008

Sing to the King!!

Praise be to You, O Lord,
God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is Yours.

Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom;
You are exalted as head over all.

Wealth and honor come from You;
You are the ruler of all things.
In Your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.

Now, our God, we give You thanks,
and praise Your glorious name.
1 Chronicles 29:10-13

As we come to the closing of King David's life, he has received plans for the temple from the Spirit of God (1 Ch 28:12) and he has provided the materials needed to build the temple (1 Ch 29:2-3). He now goes before the leaders of Israel and asks them to bring their own gifts of consecration (a solemn commitment of your life or your time to some cherished purpose ) to God. Because of the generosity of the leaders, David offers up this prayer of praise to God (1 Ch 29:10-13) proclaiming that God is most worthy to receive everything that they have because everything in both heaven and earth belong to God.

Have you discovered the worthiness of God? Have you ever been so overwhelmed by His greatness that your heart has overflowed with joy? Praise that is genuine includes both the heart and the mind. It's so overwhelming that it wells up within you until you feel as if your spirit may burst with such exuberant emotion of God's greatness. Praise towards Him comes from our joy and gratitude for all He has done in our life (Luke 10:21). When we praise Him, we draw closer to Him and it brings satisfaction to our soul.

"I will praise You as long as I live,
and in Your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you."

Psalms 63:4-5


When our heart is full of love for God, it can not keep quiet. Whether we are in pain or praising Him, our heart needs to express the passion within it. God is worthy of all of our praise!! Jesus said that "the stones will cry out" (Luke 19:40) if we keep silent. We were made to praise Him, love Him and worship Him!! When was the last time you fell upon your face in total abandonment just worshipping and praising the Maker?


God has done so much for us and given us more than we deserve. He has forgiven our sins, He has redeemed our souls, He has crowned us with love, He has renewed our lives, He has satisfied our souls and He has given us His Son. All of these are such great and mighty things and it is worthy of our praise!! Praising Him brings Him honor and it pleases Him and when we worship and praise Him, we come into His presence and are blessed by His greatness.


Allow the wonder and the majesty of who God is to permeate your heart and soul. Show God your total adoration of Him through the posture of your body. Fall before Him or dance like David. Worship and praise Him in a way that you never have before because HE IS WORTHY!!!


"My heart is steadfast, O God;
I will sing and make music with all my soul.
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise You, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of You among the peoples.
For great is Your love, higher than the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the nations,
and let Your glory be over all the earth."

Psalms 108:1-5

Written by Nicole

April 21, 2008

True Worship

What is worship? How do we define our worship of God? Do we allow the views of others to inhibit the way in which we spend intimate time with the Lord? Our worship should express reverence and awe and praise to our God. True worship is personal and it has many different styles of expression.

I love to read about David and how he worshiped before the Lord. He worshipped in ways that many people felt were undignified and irreverent. David removed his royal robes and danced "before the Lord with all of his might" (2 Sa 6:14). I love the fact that He is not concerned about how others will look upon him. His dance is nothing put beautiful and joyous unrestrained praise to his God. Now it must be noted that David's own wife, Michal watched him and despises him "in her heart" (2 Sa 6:16). She was only concerned about how it looked for a king to be acting in such a manner.

When we enter into a time of worship do we look to see who's watching? Do we find ourselves wondering what others will think about us if we respond in a certain way? Nothing speaks to my heart more than the very words of Jesus himself.

"When He came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"
"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
Luke 19:37-40

How do we find ourselves responding when someone criticizes how we worship? How should we react when we feel pressured by critics? Let me just say that I will not allow the rocks to cry out in my place. I will not allow others to keep me from worshipping and praising the God I love. I too will become undignified if it means that dancing and singing with all my might will be how I express the passion I have for my King. John 4:23-24 says that "a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth."

When we worship, it is not our own honor at stake but the honor of God. Your worship time may offend or embarrass others but what people think of you and how you worship is irrelevant. Our true focus should be on God and when we fear what others think we rob ourselves of the intimacy that comes from true abandonment to God.


It reminds me of the story of the sinful woman and how she cleaned the feet of Jesus with her tears and her hair. For her, this was an act of worship as others looked upon her with judgement. Her act of worship was completely misunderstood by those watching but not Jesus. She was so intent and focused on Him that she didn't notice those around her scoffing at her act of worship. Worship is a time of intimacy between you and your God. Seeking the approval of those around you will only prevent you from totally offering your loving abandonment to God and in turn missing out on the opportunity to experience Him in that moment.


We must realize that the style of worship is not the real issue here but that of the attitude of the heart. True worship is an encounter with God. It's meeting Him and allowing Him to love you while you praise Him for who He is. It's done with a heart that is seeking after Him and wanting to meet and be with Him. He is honored and glorified in those times because He sees into our heart and knows our true intent.


How do you worship? Do you lift your hands in praise to Him? Do you dance? Do you clap your hands? Do you fall on your face before Him? Do you shout out praises to Him? Think about how you worship and what is most comfortable to you. Now, step back, turn on some praise music and in the privacy of your own home, dance before the Lord. If you tend to be quiet and reflective during worship, take a deep breath and just dance before your Lord. If you usually sing and shout praises to Him then take a step back and experience the peace of reflective worship. Hebrews 13:15 says that we should "continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess His name." Offering a sacrifice to God requires that you sacrifice your own ideas of worship and the ideas of others so that you may hold God above all else. Worship from the heart honors God regardless of how it may appear to those around you.


"Father, help us to recognize that worship is our expression of reverence and awe to You. May we worship You in spirit and truth and not be fearful of those around us. Help us to hold nothing back when we come before You in praise. May we experience true worship and joyful, loving abandonment to You."




Written by Nicole



April 18, 2008

Obama vs Clinton

We live in a time of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina, a time of the Columbine and VA Tech massacres. We wonder why God allows such things and even blame Him at times. We sin and allow 46 million abortions to take place a year. We tolerate lifestyle choices that clearly go against the Word of God. We vote to remove God from our schools, money and our Pledge of Allegiance. We have kicked God out of our country yet call upon Him when devastation arises and then we call to Him in prayer and count it suddenly acceptable when it may benefit or save us.


We are quickly destroying what our forefathers fought so hard and gave their lives to give us. This means now more than ever that we as Christians must turn toward Truth and seek out a candidate who most reflects that Truth. It is our responsibility as Christians to vote not so much on the candidate but for the platform for which they stand. It is critical to our faith and the future of this nation with respect to our Christian heritage.


It us up to us as voters and Christians to dig and do legitimate research on each candidate and their past voting positions. We must research the "core" issues for which they represent and not just those of health reform and tax cuts. We need to look at core issues such as their stand on abortion, who they claim God is and where they stand on our support of Israel. These issues should strike a chord within the Christian community and be the determining factor in who will receive our vote.


1. The right to life: Proverbs 6:17 says that God "hates the hands that shed innocent blood". In my opinion there is nothing more innocent than that of the defenseless unborn. If a candidate supports or embraces abortion (for whatever reason) then he or she is not accepting biblical truth.


2. Who God is: One only needs to watch the reference to Oprah in this blog to know that the new age philosophies are becoming more politically correct and gaining much popularity. It is so important as Christians to know what we believe and why and be ready to give defense to our faith. Candidates that vacillate on the sovereignty of "The Lord thy God is one God" and/or the divinity of our Saviour is a dangerous candidate from a Christian's perspective. If a candidate won't go on record and say that he or she believes that Jesus is the Son of God (for fear of offending others or because they truly do not believe it) then this too should raise serious red flags.


3. Israel: God's chosen remnant. The nation of Israel was restored in 1948 and subsequently reconciled to the Holy City of Jerusalem in The Six Day War in 1967. Since that time, they have and will continue to be despised by the majority of the rest of the world as fulfilment to biblical prophecy until Armageddon. It is in our best interest to fully support God's chosen people until the end of the age. If a candidate is not clearly pro-Israel in providing political and military support (if needed)- then beware of this candidate. (see Revelation 7:4, 14:1 and 14:3)


It's time to wake up and no longer stay quiet to the deliberate defiance of God's truth. It's time we take a stand and no longer accept the tolerance of ungodly behavior in our country. We as Christians must be the voice that says we will not tolerate untruth and rejection of our God any longer.


As the election time approaches, seek God's wisdom as to who stands for His truth. Search out the one who most reflects the values and beliefs of His biblical truth.


"Father give us wisdom and guidance as to who will most lead our country in bringing You honor and glory. Help us to hold strong to Your biblical truths and no longer accept that which this world calls us to tolerate. Help us to seek out truth and find strength in You to stand against that which wants to cast You out."


"It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible."

George Washington





"The whole inspiration of our civilization springs from the teachings of Christ and the lessons of the prophets. To read the Bible for these fundamentals is a necessity of American Life."

Herbert Hoover




"In regard to this great book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man's welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it."

Abraham Lincoln




"Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet-anchor of your liberties; write its precepts in your hearts and practice them in your lives. To the influence of this book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this we must look as our guide in the future. Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people."

Ulysses S. Grant





Written by Nicole

April 16, 2008

Appetite

Chocolate. Not so much hot chocolate or even milk chocolate, but dark chocolate. Pure solid dark chocolate. I have an appetite for it. The more I consume it, the more I crave it. Instant potatoes, dried milk, canned ravioli. No, I’d rather the real lumpy potatoes, the fresh milk and the homemade meatballs. The real stuff. When you’re consistently exposed to the “real thing” you develop an appetite for it and want less of substitutes or fillers.

We were created with natural appetites. An appetite for food is perhaps the most obvious appetite we have, but we were also gifted with the natural appetite for knowledge (the Word, literature, etc.). Besides food and knowledge we have appetites for entertainment, the arts, exercise, and relationships to name a few.

Speaking of appetites and training them, Sally Clark referring to Philippians 4:8,9 says, we ought to train our children (and ourselves) “not only to be discerning but to desire: whatever is true, rather than counterfeit; whatever is noble, rather than common; whatever is right, rather than just acceptable; whatever is pure, rather than corrupted; whatever is lovely (and beautiful), rather than base and ugly:; whatever is admirable, rather than just different or clever.” We should “prefer excellence over mediocrity and praiseworthiness over market-worthiness”



Do we have an appetite for what’s true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable? Or do we have the same appetites that the world has? How do our appetites measure up when it comes to our thoughts, conversations and entertainment? Are we used to feeding ourselves the same way the world feeds itself? Are we satisfied with what satisfies everyone else? Is our appetite for comfort and approval or for what pleases the Lord? Do we truly long for more than what the world has to offer? Is our appetite reflective of Christ in us?

Sometimes we satiate our appetites with nutrition-less junk food that only feeds our immaturity rather than our developing maturity.

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for his is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Hebrews 5:12-14

Let us not fall into the trap of settling for less, and accepting substitutes that don’t measure up. Let us not be satisfied with milk, but instead long for the solids. Let us intentionally attempt to get out of the habit of being spoon fed and instead learn to search for nourishing growth inducing food. Let us also be aware of what we’re feeding our minds and spirits. I heard in a sermon once “junk in, junk out.” How true! We must be diligent what we feed/let into our hearts (conversations, media, literature, Internet, etc.).

"Lord, I pray that you stir a burning need in us to want more than what the world has to offer, and not only that but to want more than milk. Create in us an appetite for Your word that’s even greater than the appetites we have for food (Job 23:12). I pray that our hearts and the hearts of those we encourage will strive for spiritual maturity and not settle for being spiritual babes. Help us to guard our hearts and to only allow truth into them. Have us wanting more than a packed delivered sermon. Give an insatiable desire to discover the life giving truth of your Word. And in our filling, give us discernment to know the difference between feeling full (with busyness or spiritual check lists) and being satisfied (spiritual maturing). I pray that through this posting and the others on this blog that those reading it are encouraged and challenged to dig more into your word and to know you more."


Written by Stephanie

April 15, 2008

Is our commitment to Christ in focus?

Billy Graham stated that “it takes 5% effort to win a person to Christ and 95% effort to keep him in Christ and growing to maturity”. There are two reasons for this, the first reason being that sometimes as Christians we fail to count the cost that was paid in order for our salvation. We fail to understand the commitment involved in our relationship with Christ. (Luke 14:26-33) The second issue is the fact that we fail to recognize how our attitudes or social calendar pertain to the Kingdom of God and eternity. Because of this, Christians can remain immature and shallow in their faith and never move on to the “solid food” that leads to spiritual maturity in our faith in Christ. We think that attending Sunday service and Sunday school is enough for the truth of God’s word to take root in our heart when in fact it’s not. Our lives become so full due to our interests and activities that we neglect to prioritize correctly and so the most important relationship in our life, that with Christ, is neglected. Our minds become focused on too many things and we begin to push Him to the side and off the throne of our lives.

Our generation lives such a fast pace life that it makes our commitment to Christ incredibly difficult. We live in a time when we have been taught that our days belongs to us and that our calendars should be filled with activities and events. We are taught by the secular world that if our children are not involved in every extra curricular activity out there that they are being deprived and will suffer as adults. How many of us have bought into that lie?

We rush through life trying to please ourselves and earn our worth and significance. Consequently, like every other day, we are all guilty of hurrying through Sunday morning services, quiet times, bible study groups, God appointed conversations etc because we have birthday parties to attend, games to watch, a road trip to start, kids to put down for a nap, lawns to groom or special lunch dates. We check the Sunday service off the list and keep moving. Do we really think that is how God intended for His day to go? There is someone who is thrilled with our busyness and checklist commitment to Christ. He has filled our head with the satisfaction of productivity and our focus is then taken off of the One who gave us life and the time that we try so meticulously to manage/budget. To think that the system our Creator designed to bring Him glory ends up being the system we end up serving! It’s the system we use with good intentions but becomes the obstacle that places us back on the throne. Please understand that we’re not saying that extra curricular activities are bad. We should be involved in them, and use them to serve and honor God in the way in which He has called each of us. We are to be good stewards of everything in which the Lord entrusts us. However, we are cautioning against over commitment and/or misaligned priorities ….. busyness that keeps us too tied up to hear when the Lord is speaking to us.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of His great love for us God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:1-5

We are indebted to God for all He has done for us and our commitment to Him should not be distracted or overshadowed by the things of this world. We should not be swept up into the rhythm of this world which leads us serving the ruler of this earth. Before Christ entered our lives we were self-centered people who craved sinful and ugly things. We lived our lives for ourselves and focused on our own happiness. Once Christ came into our lives, He gave us life and peace when we chose Him over all else. When we finally understand this commitment and personally accept it, our lives change. Then, we have a sense of devotion and longing to follow Him and commit every part of our lives to Him. Once we have found this there is a peace and calm in our spirit, and we are able to be still before Him.

Where does your commitment stand? Do you place your relationship and commitment with Christ on the same level as that of your spouse, your children, your friends, your work, your obligations? How does God fit into your social calendar? Or is there even any room? If it were possible to take a picture of your life what would be in the front and focused and what would be in the background out of focus? Would your commitment to Christ clearly be the focus of your life?


"Father, I pray for discernment in our lives. Help us to see the difference between what’s of You and what is for our own gain.. Help us to seek holiness and obedience in all that we do and never settle for anything less. Let us not fill our living with good things and good tasks that lead us to neglect what You have set before us. I pray that our hearts long after You and that we become consumed with an unadulterated commitment to You and Your purpose for us. In that choosing let us not be self righteous, prideful or legalistic, but humble, gentle and true. Show us the true importance of the life You’ve given us and make clear those things that hinders us from being obedient. And, in our doing (however big or small it may be), I pray that our lives be a reflection of You to the world around us."

Written by Nicole

April 14, 2008

Barack Obama vs Hillary Clinton

This question was sent to the blog email address this afternoon. We will post a response at the end of the week.

Nicole & Stephanie - I was wondering if either one of you caught the Compassion Forum at Messiah College last night with H. Clinton and B. Obama? I along with my husband and 4 20-something young adults gathered around the kitchen TV to witness some rather unusual Q & A moments. (by the way McCain didn't show up). The young adults asked "who are you all voting for" to which I replied "not sure yet". I was floored by 4 specific questions.

To Clinton - Why do you think God let's people suffer? to which she replied "I don't know, but I can't wait to ask Him." (safe)

"Do you agree with abortion" to which she answered "I do but rarely." WHAT!

To Obama - What are your views on scientific evolution? to which he answered "I believe that we have evolved from something."

Do you believe God created the universe in 6 days? to which he answered "I believe the 6 days may not have been 24 hour days as we know them."

How do we as Christians decide on who to vote for when both candidates answer questions that leave us questioning our position as voters. I don't want to start some political debate but wanted to get your biblical view on the subject. This is the first electoral year I am at a stalemate on who to vote for. I'm not asking you to tell me who you are voting for, but just for some biblical guidance.

April 11, 2008

The company we keep

As I was studying through the book of Esther I was impressed by the lesson that was offered on friendship. As the King’s second in command, Haman was a close confident to King Ahaduerus. The King trusted Haman and was influenced by him. In fact because of his close relationship with Haman the King inadvertently allowed an evil decree to be passed that nearly annihilated a nationality of people. It wasn’t until after Haman’s true intentions were revealed via Esther that the King understood the character of his close counsel.

Many verses exist in the bible that cautions us in our relationships. Such attention should be paid to this topic because we are swayed by those with whom we associate. The Lord says two are better than one (Ecc. 4:9-12). Our relationships should spur us on in our race of life and grow us so that we mature spiritually in our Christian walk. In Proverbs (12:26) we are admonished that "The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray."

He who walks with wise people will become wise himself, but that he who keeps company with fools will he himself be destroyed.
Proverbs 13:20

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.
2 Corinthians 6:14)

Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits. Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God.
1 Corinthians 15:33


Have you ever caught yourself adopting some of your friends’ sayings, mannerisms, fashions or even habits? Would you deny that you can be influenced irregardless as to how strong you think you are? It’s so so so important that we prayerfully handle our relationships. The issue here is not whether or not we should befriend non believers. I believe that we should so that we can draw them to Christ. The issue here is to whom we should yoke ourselves.

“Lord help us in our relationships to have discernment. Help us to be wise in choosing our close counsel. I pray that we have hearts that long after you and that it’s reflected in the close friends that we choose. Help us have the courage to modify the relationships that are harmful to our spiritual walk and help us also to be the type of friends that other Christian can be in relationship with. Help us in our struggle against the tendency to please man and thus be influenced by him and instead let us fear you and act in ways that please you.”

Written by Stephanie

April 9, 2008

Star

This is a story of a Jewish orphan who became queen. One of a woman who played a role in saving a nation of people. It’s a story of beauty and humility. Esther is the story of patience and boldness, favor and faithfulness, obedience and bravery, and
of trust and victory.


It’s one worthy of reading. The lessons in it can speak to anyone. Although much can be surmised from several of the characters and their positions in the story, we will concentrate on Esther in this posting.

In Persia during the reign of King Ahasuerus, there was a young Jewish girl who had been orphaned and raised by her cousin Mordecai. Her name which was eventually changed to Esther when she was crowned, meant star. She was chosen as King Ahauerus’ queen after the former Queen Vashti was banished. Her promotion to this prominent position (as Ahasuerus was King over the greatest empire in that day) was after she had undergone a “beauty treatment.” It’s interesting to note that this beauty treatment which was typical for those whom a king would consider for the position of queen could last up to twelve months. In Esther’s case, the bible says she received six months of oil and six months of perfume. Oil in the Old Testament represented the Holy Spirit. I’d venture to say that she was not only beautiful physically but also inwardly. To say the least, the king was awe struck at her beauty when he took her for his queen. He did not however, know of her Jewish decent nor of her relationship to Mordecai her cousin.

Haman, King Ahasuerus’ second in control, who loved his power, opened the gates for Esther to rise up to the plans the Lord had for her. When Mordecai, Esther’s cousin (although unknown to the King and Haman) and respected person in the community, refused to bow to Haman, Haman became enraged and in his selfish anger and pride he began to plot the execution of not only Mordecai but of all the Jews in the Persian kingdom. He did this deceitfully by convincing the King (without offering specifics and with a bride which was not accepted) that a people were in disobedience to the King and that they should be terminated.

Esther heard of the decree before it was passed and was grieved by it. Mordecai admonished her (4:14) stating that she had to do something about it and that if she “remain[ed] silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the royal position for such a time as this.” Wow! He told her if she didn’t do something to help, the Lord’s plan of deliverance would still come but that she and her family would die. Have you ever been in that place where you were told by the Lord to do something that you were afraid to do? You knew that He didn’t really need your help, that His will would be accomplished despite your part in it, but you had the choice to be blessed in the obedience or die (maybe not physically) in the lack of it. That’s where Esther was. She had to have been scared!

For three days, after learning of Haman’s decree to kill the Jews, she fasted. Then she approached the throne, and not once, but twice (Esther 41:2; 8:3). She did so knowing that approaching the King’s throne without invitation could result in death but each time she requested the King and Haman to join her in dinner. Patiently she sought the King’s favor and waited on the Lord for the right time to speak of the decree. At the second dinner, after the King again showed his favor, Esther asked that the King spare her life and that of her people. Boldly and honestly, in the presence of the King and Haman, she identified Haman and his deeds. It was at that time that she revealed her nationality and relationship to Mordecai. In her approach she fairly gave Haman a chance to defend himself and to offer a rebuttal if he had so chosen.

When the King realized the true nature of Haman (deceitful and self serving), he put Haman to death. Mordecai in turn became second in command and the Jews were spared. Esther knew the truth of 2 Peter 1:3-4, that the promises of God are given in advance of all our needs and that they are our provision for life.

When I think on the story of Esther I’m reminded of fear. Sometimes we fear doing what the Lord has called us to do because we think we may fail, be mocked, rejected and/or persecuted. Our consuming fear though should be of the consequences of not doing what He’s called us to do (Luke 12:5) It’s funny how many things we fear that never really come to pass. Even Esther, the queen of a mighty kingdom, feared something that did not happen - being put to death because she approached the throne without invitation. We must not easily be persuaded to give up our stance for what we know is right because of how we think people may perceive us or resist us. We must persist when we know the will of God is at stake. The consequences of doing otherwise are far greater than being rejected by man.

In the face of fear Esther prayed. She prepared. She petitioned the king after receiving favor, and a nation was saved. She was a light in a dark time in Jewish history. We should model our actions after hers – praying, preparing, being patient, acting and in turn being a light to the world. In her situation, Esther found that God's timing was perfect. His timing is always best. When we learn to wait on the Lord we avoid the dangerous of leaping to soon.

Here are a few valuable lessons we can learn from Esther:
What appears to be a bad situation is indeed very much under the control of the Almighty God who ultimately has the good of His people at heart
One person can make a difference irregardless of his/her background
True beauty comes from the Holy Spirit
There’s strength in obedience
We should approach obstacles with good attitudes, humility and determination
In our times of need we should pray, prepare and wait on the Lord
When we have the Lord’s favor we usually have favor with others
God works in His own time
What ever advantages we have we must use them for the Lord

I encourage you to read Esther from start to finish. Maybe you’ll make the same pledge as I have – that if I have another daughter her middle name will be Esther : ).

"Lord, in all our comings and goings help us to lift our eyes to you and to know your voice. Steady us when we’re scared and use us as your instruments to further your kingdom. I pray that we devote ourselves completely to you and are obedient despite our circumstances. Use us in mighty ways so that the world can see your goodness and faithfulness. Mold our hearts so that we fear you and not man and so we become more concerned with eternal matters and less concerned with physical ones."

Written by Stephanie

April 4, 2008

The church of Oprah

None of the information you are about to hear is new but it is crucial to be reminded of the influence and following of Oprah. Please pray for Oprah and for this country. May God's light shine and the Truth of His word permeate the hearts of those who need to hear.
Please click on the link below.

April 3, 2008

Discontent

This was sent in an anonymous comment and I thought I would share it in case you don't read the comments of this blog because it is definitely worth reading. I thought the message was right on and speaks to everyone of us out there. In order to know peace and contentment we have to know and walk with Christ. He must be our focus and our commitment.

The Captivity Of Discontent
by Jon Walker

“I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret [of being content]—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.”
Philippians 4:11–12 (HCSB)
The Apostle Paul, who was blessed with great privileges – but also beaten and stripped of everything he had – taught that true contentment must be learned: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12, NIV) He teaches that God gives us strength to be content. This is an important spiritual truth to learn because if wealth, good looks, or the seemingly perfect spouse brought lasting contentment, then Hollywood would be filled with some of the most content and happy people on earth.

But it’s not.
What does this mean?

Don’t compare yourself to others – When you compare your life with someone else’s, the only place it can lead is discontent. There will always be people who appear to be better off than you, but you don’t know their real circumstances.

I recall counseling a husband many years ago, who said he wished his wife could be more like so-and-so, and he named a woman in our congregation. What he didn’t know was that the woman was an alcoholic who was causing awful heartache and stress for her family and her husband. That’s why the Bible says it is unwise to compare ourselves with others or even with ourselves! (2 Corinthians 10:12)

Be grateful for who you are and what you have – Learning to be content requires that you stop any “when and then” thinking – “When I am ___________, then I’ll be happy.” (You fill in the blank.) You may actually be content for a little while but then someone else or something else will come along and drain the contentment from your life.

But listen – you are unique. God created you to be like nobody else, so why would you want to be anyone else? God is perfect, and you were his perfect choice to be you! Understanding that is a huge step toward being content with your life.

And then look at all the things God has given you. So often we allow what we don’t have to dominate our focus to the point we forget the many, wonderful things we already have – not only material things, but far more important blessings, such as family and friends.

Give yourself to others – If you will begin giving yourself to others, sharing what things you do have, sharing your time and your talents, you will find yourself learning to be content. Helping others will give you an appreciation for what you have and who you are but, more importantly, you will find yourself growing in contentment. Why? Because God designed us to serve and share with others and until we do that, we will feel great discontent.

Focus on things with eternal value – The real secret to becoming content is to focus on the things that have eternal value. It may be a familiar teaching to you, but Jesus said we should store up our treasures in heaven, and not on earth “where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19–21, NIV)

Think about the things in your life – What will last forever? What will last at least for your lifetime? What will last only a few short years, or months, or days? Based on eternal value, what things are most important in your life? Where – and with whom – should you invest your most time and energy?By reorganizing your life around eternal priorities, you will find yourself growing in contentment, as you live according to God’s design and purpose.


April 2, 2008

Thorn in the flesh

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I have always had chronic headaches and pretty much struggled with them until the pregnancy of my fifth child in which they disappeared. This past year, they returned and returned with a vengeance. They actual reappeared when I began this blog. They have caused me a lot of pain and sleeplessness and I’ve spent much time praying for them to leave me as they did before but it has not happened.

For me, I refer to them as my thorn in the flesh. (2 Corinthians 12:7) Now don’t get me wrong, I would never compare myself to Paul and the afflictions that he suffered but I do believe that Satan uses things to distract us from God and His will for our lives and for me, this is my distraction. It's what Satan uses in hopes that I will walk away and give up on what it is I feel that God is leading me to do.

I spent many days praying for relief and waiting for some kind of an answer. Now I know God has heard me because in the mean time, He has clearly answered several other requests that I have laid before Him so here is what He is teaching me at the moment.

To wait on Him. His ways are not my ways and His timing is not my timing. He does not always answer prayers when we would like them answered. He allows all things so that they may bring glory and honor to Him.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

His grace is enough. I have had to learn the importance of Corinthians 12:9-10. He has become my strength because on my own, I can not accomplish the things He has set before me. My writing has continued amongst the pain of my headaches because I am doing it through His strength and not my own.

Be thankful always. I have learned to be thankful for the circumstances in which I am placed. He has a will for my life and if this is part of His plan then I can surly endure the pain of a headache if Christ had to endure the cross for my salvation.

Be joyous always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1Thessalonians 5:16-18

What would you consider your “thorn in the flesh” to be? What distracts you from experiencing God? Is it chronic pain, a broken relationship, a hurtful past or a difficult decision you have to make? Satan will always throw things at us so that our eyes are diverted from the One who has a plan for our life. There is nothing that he wants more than to see us focus on ourselves and the “pain” that we are in at the moment but when we turn our eyes upon Christ and totally rely on Him, we then experience a rest and peace that comes from knowing His strength.



"Father, help release me of the distractions of this world so that I may not give up on what it is You have me do. Help me to recognize Your will in my life and that my temporary pains are nothing when compared to a life spent in eternity with You. Keep me focused on the road You have set before me and teach me rejoice in every circumstance."
Written by Nicole