Written by Jennifer Hoyt
Who knows whether you’ve come to the kingdom for such a time as this? - Esther 4:14
Sometimes embracing difficulty and challenges is a tough pill to swallow. We struggle with the obstacles before us and with our heart before God. We are in a rush for God to remove those obstacles, and we get upset when that doesn’t instantly happen. Today, I want to encourage you that as Christians; we don't have insulation from trouble, but we definitely have recourse. If you’re going through a struggle, I’d like to challenge you to look beyond the surface and see with a fresh perspective. Discover not only God’s heart in its midst but also the steps you can to take to accomplish His will and see victory.
In the biblical tale of Esther, we encounter a remarkable story of courage and divine intervention. Esther, a humble Jewish girl, finds herself thrust into the role of queen of Persia after the deposed Queen Vashti’s fall from favor. When a plot to annihilate her people arises, Esther’s cousin Mordecai urges her to intercede with the king, despite the grave risks involved. Esther bravely approaches the king unsummoned, and through a series of strategic moves, she unveils the villainous schemes of Haman and secures the safety of her people. In a twist of fate, Haman meets his own demise on the very gallows he prepared for Mordecai, while Esther and Mordecai rise to positions of power, becoming protectors of their people.
The above-written is a nice recap for the overall story of Esther, but if we dive a little deeper into the nuance, we learn Esther has quite a challenge in front of her. She has to get the king to spare her cousin and the entire Jewish people. Not a simple task, especially if we consider the risks. She not only became queen after the former queen fell from grace, something one can imagine she’d like to avoid, but to make matters worse, in the time she lived in, no one could approach the king, on penalty of death, unless they were summoned. Esther had not been summoned. Mordecai warns Esther, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”
Esther agrees to take on this task, but first she fasts, prays and asks Mordecai to have the people join her. Then she enters the king’s presence, un-summoned. Not only does the king spare her, but he promises to grant her request. She requests to have him come to her chambers for dinner, which he obliges. She asks him to dinner a second time, all while being promised whatever she will ask for. During the second dinner, Esther reveals all. She is a Jew. Haman is plotting to kill her cousin and her people. Not only does the king take her part, but he even hangs Haman on the gallows that Haman built for Mordecai, and then promotes Mordecai to become the prime minister of the king.
I want us to take a few keys from Esther. First key, Esther makes a choice to be obedient. She could have gotten caught up in the trouble and focused on the risk, but she makes a choice to obey and then turns her attention to God. Second key, Esther goes to God. We must decide to obey and then go to God. Third key, God gives Esther a strategy. God will give us a strategy, but, like Esther, it will most likely be out of our comfort zone. <==== friend, read that again! We are going to be pushed outside of our comfort zone! Fourth key, Esther is courageous and despite being outside of her comfort zone, she trusts! If there is anything we can take from Esther, it’s a demonstration of how trusting God, results in victory!
Esther's story reminds us that sometimes extraordinary circumstances place us in a position to stand up for what is right and make a difference in the world around us. God has called us to a purpose amidst our struggles. Struggles suck. No argument there, but we can find comfort in the fact that God accompanies us in walking through them. He offers us His spirit to comfort and direct us, so that we might then become an encouragement to others.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
By Joyce Pelletier
Psalms 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
James 1:3 Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance
I have so many memories of “waiting” for something to take place or an answer to prayer. Most of them reveal my impatience, especially waiting for that one special person to receive Jesus as their Lord. It seems to take forever. I've watched many people hold back, and it can just be so hard to wait. When it does happen, well, that's a time of celebration. The Father of the prodigal son is a prime ezxample of this. When the son came to his senses, the father wasn't waiting with arms on his hips and fingers pointing. He bid his servants to bring on the feast! That was something to celebrate.
Waiting is not my gift. But, I will say that when I trust in God the waiting game is so much easier. When a problem comes up, I want it fixed, here and now.
When Maurice had his heart surgery, I so dreaded that day. Heart surgery is serious stuff. I dreaded waiting in the family waiting area for the surgery to be done. I had books with me, my kindle to keep busy with games, best of all I was not alone. Our daughter was with me. That made the difference because I knew God had allowed that to be.
Here it is eight years later, and Maurice is strong, healthy, still splitting firewood, I would have confidence in his health. Well, we never should take anything for granted. We never know when something will go awry. He now faced hernia surgery. This time my confidence was based on Jesus. I knew we'd get through this, no matter what the outcome. Then...
A week later, I was having my second Cataract taken care of. This was a different kind of waiting. I’ve been on this surgery road far too many times. It’s different this time, because I know I’m not alone in my waiting. When things like this happen, we just need to watch and pray. Don’t look at the clock because that will deter you towards anxiety. For it says in…
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you on Christ Jesus.”
One lesson I’ve walked away with after each surgery is that the doctors and nurses are our best friends. They see to every need. They make light of what’s about to happen. BUT, they are well trained! They were ready for any emergency. I took the time to listen as they worked to remove my cataract. The surgeon guides the others and keep their pace that caused me to relax and listen. Though I could not see what they were actually doing, I knew I was in good hands, because Jesus was there. I was completely relaxed. That had to be God!
This time I was not anxious! God gave me his servants to care for my need and fix my problem. He trained them all. Some know Him, some do not. They joke around, yet at the same time they are quite serious. That’s when I remember that the Joy of the Lord is my strength. I was awake the whole time, heard everything and in a short amount of time it was over and into recovery I go once again.
Years ago, I knew one day, I may have to face this surgery, and in my ignorance of not knowing what to expect, I had my anxieties. I am somewhat claustrophobic, and what scared me most was being in a small machine to have them work on my eyes. Well I had nothing to fear. Now, after having actually going through it, it was my walk in the park with the God who made me. I’d want it no other way.
Thank you Jesus for being present in the operating room, at church, in my heart, my home, my car, or even in the grocery store. You are there waiting out every minute with all of us. The times of celebration come to us when all is said and done. Keep us ever mindful of keeping our trust in tact, waiting for your solution to any situation. Help us to continue to walk in complete trust, hope and ready for the celebration in Joy!
By Donna Churchill
A long time ago a dear friend gave me a candle holder that said “Every season has its own special blessings.” That is so true.
A few months ago, when we were technically still in the season of Autumn, I came home from running errands one day and stopped at the bottom of my driveway to pick up the mail. As I started to get out of the car, I saw a sight that caused me to sit right back down and reach for my phone. I had to get a picture of this!
At the bottom of our driveway sits a Burning Bush and at that time of the year, it was bright red, but some of the leaves had already fallen to the ground. What caused me to be in awe of this sight was that we had our first snowfall of the season that day and the very white snow was clinging to the tops of the empty branches of the Burning Bush. The sun was also beginning its descent at that time, shining brilliantly on the bush and the sight in front of me was breathtaking! Of course no picture can do justice to God’s handiwork, but I tried.
Later, when I was looking at the pictures, I saw something I hadn’t seen initially. I saw two seasons colliding – dead leaves on the ground, the bright red of the leaves still on the bush and the snow clinging to the bare branches. It appeared that as one season was trying to make a graceful exit, the next season came barging in! One season was trying to scare the other off. I saw a season that maybe wasn’t ready to leave and another season anxious to make its presence known.
I began to see a spiritual application here - as seasons collide in our lives, God works in our hearts to prepare us to let go of one and embrace the other. But, often we are not ready to do that graciously. There are seasons in our lives that we want to hang on to, there are also seasons we desperately try to run from. And then, there are seasons that seem to barge in and we feel totally unprepared for them.
That vacation at the beach...yup, want to stay there; that time of sickness…yup, God, could you just heal me now? That very unpleasant task that needs to be gotten through...yup, can’t wait until that’s over. That wilderness season we are walking through where we can’t seem to hear God’s voice…yup, it’s hard to endure that season with patience.
And yet, in hindsight, I think we could almost say of all of those seasons, there were blessings in each one of them and looking back we can see God’s hand in all of them.
As I write this, I’m reminded of car trips with two small girls in the back seat, who kept asking their Dad, “Are we there yet?” Last year, I was called to jury duty and had to serve on a case that was expected to last four days and I just kept thinking, “I can’t wait until this week is over!” But in both of those memories, I see the hand of God and know these seasons were purposed and blessed.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reminds us:
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.”
It is so comforting to know that truth as I’ve experienced many of these times and seasons over the course of my life, as, I’m sure, have you. In His sovereignty, it is God who determines our seasons. It is God who determines what time it is!
“My times are in your hand;” Psalm 31:15a
Psalm 1:1-3 gives still more insight.
“ Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”
I heard a preacher say one time that the word season here refers to a specific point in time when a series of events occur ordained by God. Our whole lives are like that, aren’t they? Our seasons and times are always sovereignly ordained by God. When we try to rush out of one season and run into another, we may be fighting against the very hand of God and the season He has determined.
The seasons in nature, the seasons of life, the seasons of growth, all of these seasons hold purpose. In His perfect planning and purpose, He ordains one season and then prepares us for the transition into the next season He has planned. And no matter the season, there is blessing.
As I walk out of one season and into another, my heart wants to be able to say with Paul in the letter to the Philippians, “…for I have learned in whatever situation [season] I am to be content.”
Every season does come with its own special blessings. May we find contentment and see purpose and blessing in whatever season God has placed us in at the moment.
Yesterday as I wrote a post about some of the daily challenges I face, I thought to
myself, “well that sounds exhausting, no wonder you’re napping so long on the
weekends. How are you even doing everything that you’re doing?” I penned this
poem in response:
I keep my eyes upon my Savior to tread these stormy waves
To turn away might drown me, but I know that Jesus saves
And He who calmed the waters and the winds so long ago
Will keep me safe upon these waves to walk
And I’ll follow
I could not navigate these channels
without the Light to guide me
To illuminate my path ahead,
to lead me on, or hide me
Rock of ages, cleft for me
You set a table before me in the presence of my enemies
Though my body has been ravaged
by an unseen fleet of savage
microscopic hosted frenemies
I tire easily and I return myself to He
Who can restore my soul
And place my feet upon the Rock
The confession, On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
So I clasp more firmly to His hand
Even as this journey leads me on through valleys treacherous
Even when this world would beckon me towards being lecherous
Ever forward march I onward
Until I, weary from the battle
Put my head down
You fight for me
Maybe you’re in a similar place. You’re navigating at the speed of life holding
onto Jesus like Lois Lane holds Superman when they go up, up and away. “Please
don’t let me fall, please don’t let me fall.” I wonder sometimes if I’m more on the
side of “Oh ye of little faith,” or “I have not seen such great faith in all of
Jerusalem.” Whichever of those you might more relate to, it’s nice to know that
Jesus can still relate to you. Not that Jesus ever had little faith, but that Jesus spoke
and had relationships with those who had great faith and with those who needed
help with their unbelief.
One of the many Names of Jesus is Wonderful Counselor. If you’ve ever needed
counseling, you might have learned there’s a difference between a terrible
counselor and a really good one. Thank God that He offers us free counseling and
keeps all kinds of hours. If you can only meet with him at 8AM, He’s there. If
you need him at 3AM, he’s there. If you need to keep him on call all throughout
the day, you CAN. You maybe even should, as He instructs us to pray without
Life can be overwhelming. Everywhere you look can be overwhelm. Phil. 4:13
says I can do All things through Christ who strengthens me. I wonder if it would
be better interpreted as, I can do everything I’m supposed to do through Christ who
strengthens me. After all, I cannot do a lot of things. But all the things that I’ve
needed to go through, everything I had to endure, I have made it because of Jesus.
There have been moments where I literally felt it was not possible to go on. Yet
here I am.
Whether you know what I mean because you’ve been there, or your trials are ahead
of you, Jesus promised to be with us even to the very end of the age. Rest assured,
He keeps His promises. He is faithful to the end. “But one thing I do: 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.” Phil.
3:13b-14 Jesus may not deliver me from the trials I am facing, but He will deliver
me from my adversary. He will continue to be my trusted Navigation System until
I get to the other side of this life.
In times of trials, learn the habit of clinging to the One who knows not just the first
steps, but the final ones. In fact, if you learn to cling to Him before the great trials,
you’ll have great clinging muscles before you even start a trial. And you might get
to a time where you feel like you can’t hold on anymore. But just as Lois Lane
was held by Superman, even if she wasn’t holding on, Jesus is able to hold onto
you. Ask Him. “Lord please hold onto me, because I don’t know if I have the
strength to hold onto you.”
By Peggie Potter
This I recall to my heart, therefore I have hope
Because of the mercies of Adonai we will not be
consumed for His compassions never fail
they are new every morning !
Were we not rescued from the darkness of sin into
God's brilliant light when we gave our hearts to Jesus ?
Doesn't He offer forgiveness every time we fall into a sin ?
Great is Your faithfulness my God & Savior Jesus Christ !
When we stray , doesn't He leave the 99 to search for the
one ? John 10:28-29
When we are grieving or in despair is He not our comfort
and our shepherd leading us back into the light ? Psalm 30:5
And despite these dark end-of-the-age days is He not our Hope ?
Isaiah 43:19 & Revelation 21:5
By Joyce Pelletier
Acts 9:1-6 "Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul were speechless; they heard a sound, but they did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground and opened his eyes but saw nothing. He was now blind. Sometimes the word blinded means we refuse to see the truth. Until this encounter, Jesus blinded Saul, so he would later see.
This is not the end of the story, but what if we imagine ourselves on a road with a bunch of men going about murdering Christians, and probably many not understanding why. They were following Saul, thinking it was what they thought they must be doing.
Saul fell off his horse and immediately lost his sight. So bright was the light (of Jesus) that blinded Saul, to get his attention off his own plan and take on the new vision of Jesus Christ.
Romans tells us that Saul’s sight was restored. He knew he had encountered the Living God. God was merciful to Saul. In his old life he thought he was doing good, now his new life was completely turned around.
In Romans, the new man that Saul became, was a completely different person. In his old life He was determined to destroy those who believed, and now, everything was different. He had to experience that he was blinded and lived by his own interpretation of correcting the believers. Now that he was now born again, He was humbled to see the truth. After he got up off the ground, Jesus told Paul what he was to do. He obeyed with uncertainty, and because he needed the help of others, he obeyed what Jesus told him to do.
In this study of Romans, Paul came alive for me. I started to realize that Paul (after his name and identity were changed) traveled to many places preaching the Gospel of Jesus. Before he was judging the Christians, not realizing why. Now, he’s clear-headed and he knew and accepted the truth of God, that Jesus was the Savior and He let his presence be known to Saul. Even his name to Paul. Paul became well known as he began his life as a true Christian.
As I read the first chapter of Romans, I was discovering the man that Paul became. He went to Rome, not to judge them, but to reveal the truth of the salvation story. He guided the new believers back to where they needed to be, rather than continuing to be on the paths they had chosen after their experience on Pentecost. Saul had a new name and a new life. Our new life in Christ is being changed to love not judge.
Paul went to Rome to help these new Christians see how their life should now be. He never judged them. He loved them as Jesus had taught him. I learned that instead of getting angry over negative experiences, I had a choice to move on and reevaluate the way I should handle life’s challenges instead of being frustrated. I’m learning that when I truly love someone, I see things considerably differently. It helps me to be more accepting of others and helps me to forgive myself of the wrongs I do.
For myself, those forty something years ago, as I sat with my best friend, admitting that I didn’t have it all together, I listened to her share the Gospel of Jesus. From that day, my name didn’t change, but my life did. What I read in God’s Word, showed me how to appreciate that Paul wasn’t the only one to not judge, I’m included in that role. It is far more effective to love someone than to point fingers and tell them what they should or should not do. Paul showed them the way.
Coming through this study helped me see the new man, Paul. He’s the one I wanted to know, not the murderous person he used to be. It also showed me how my life has changed, too. I’m sure that most people can relate to our lives changing. We all have unique stories of our conversions. The changes we have experienced shows us how powerful God is. Romans 8:28 says that those who love God and are called in His plan, everything works together for good. There is no reason to fear when difficulties knock on our door.
by Jennifer Hoyt
Have you ever said... “Well, I know what the scripture says in the Bible, BUT…I just don’t agree with it”? If you’ve said the above, believe me, you’re not alone. I’m sure there are plenty of scriptures that rub us the wrong way for our myriad of pet reasons. It’s okay to struggle to understand, or even to 'like,' a scriptural truth, but unfortunately, there is a sobering reality we need to recognize when deciding how to respond. You see, if the response that comes out is to bow up and say “I don’t agree”, then as harsh as it sounds, that response is not only sin; it’s deadly. It was this same mentality that said—I know what God saaaaid about that tree in the middle of the garden, buuut... He must be lying about the benefits of its fruit. Any mentality that exalts itself above God’s word, spoken or written, is trouble. The mentality that says, God might’ve said (fill in the blank), but I don’t agree with it and so I will not follow it—is straight from hell and means we are coming into agreement with Satan’s lies.
Proverbs 14:12-16 KJV There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Even in laughter, the heart is sorrowful; And the end of that mirth is heaviness. The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: And a good man shall be satisfied from himself.
This verse highlights something we all know deep down in our hearts, there is no genuine happiness in turning to our own ways. Sin may seem pleasant for a season, but it never lasts. Eventually, the reality of where we are before God sets in and our hearts betray us. You see, a defiant and self-directed path is identified in scripture as backsliding. Proverbs is a warning to good people that this mentality comes from our attempt to take satisfaction from, and be filled by self, instead of God. Some of us are probably thinking “oh good, this doesn’t apply” to me, others are thinking “oh man, I really don’t want to face this”. I get it, but if we want to seek the truth, we need to do so honestly. So let’s take a deep breath, and jump in to explore this with some practical examples:
I know what God said about forgiveness in the Bible, but you don’t understand what this person did to me. This one is all too common. We all struggle with it at some point. If we try to justify it though, instead of repent of it, that’s when we find ourselves in trouble. You see, according to Matthew 6:14-15, a person who doesn't forgive others will not be forgiven by God. Yikes, I need forgiveness from God, don’t you?
I know what the Bible says about tithing, but I believe churches shouldn't be run like businesses because humanity is wicked. We ignore the fact that in Malachi 3:10 it says that tithing is the one time in scripture God encourages us to test Him through our obedience.
I know what God said about divorce, but no one has tried living with my spouse. We ignore the word when it tells us that marriage is an important relationship God uses to sanctify His bride (that’s us) Matthew 19:8-9.
I know what God said about adultery, but I think this other person is my soulmate and the spark isn’t there anymore with my spouse. We come up with every reason to excuse so many verses, including Exodus 20:14. “You shall not commit adultery.”
I know what God said about sex before marriage and remaining pure, but people probably wrote that based on the times back then. Why should three hundred-year-old dead guys from a different culture dictate how I live my life now? We conveniently forget that the men who wrote the Bible simply transcribed the inspired word of God, as it says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. The word of a God that is the same, yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
Before I tackle this next part, please note: Nothing that I will write here negates our duty to love people regardless of their sin. “I know what the Bible says about homosexuality, but love is just love, right? If two people love each other, God is the author of love, end of story.” In our ‘tolerance’ we conveniently gloss over 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. It says, “do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” The approach that fails to warn, is not love, no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves that it is.
I know what God says in the Bible about God creating Male and Female, buuut, today there are: women, men, non-binary, transgender and let’s not forget: agender, cisgender, gender fluid, gender queer, intersex, and nonconforming. I mean, we can’t leave out this entire group of people that have never felt right in their body, can we? Perhaps God made a mistake? Or maybe it’s just fine with God for people to express themselves how they feel. Culture has changed. We insist, as we desperately distance ourselves from the call, to not conform to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
I know what God said about fear, anxiety, worry, gossip, stealing, obeying my parents, loving my neighbor as myself, lying, drugs, idolatry, and not accepting His forgiveness, healing, grace, and direction (and on) BUT…
I could write the longest blog post ever seen (and possibly get run out of town for everyone I’ve offended) if I tried to cover all the areas where our sinful heart tries to dilute the word of God. Is it any wonder that in Matthew 7:13-14 it says: “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. Only a few find it!! Read that again. Next time you go to church, look around. Only a few find it!! Think about all the people you know in the world—only a few find it!! Which gate do you intend to enter?
If you’ve been reading along, lips pursed in grim distaste, just waiting for that moment when I hit your pet, I know what God said BUT… so that you can shut me down. Perhaps you're thinking that maybe I had too much caffeine today because clearly I’m wound up and spicy. Let me share with you why this is important, as though that last scripture that says broad is the gate to destruction and only a few find the road that leads to life isn’t terrifying enough.
James 1:14-15 says: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then, when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death. When we see the word lust, we think only in terms of sexual, but it really just means desire. In fact, other translations say, “we are drawn away by the desires within our heart.”
What happens next? When we are tempted with the desires that exist within our heart, (Jeremiah 17:9-10 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?), and we mix our agreement with that temptation, it results in sin. See sin is a lot like the conception of a baby. You need the sperm (the idea or desire) and the egg (our agreement with that idea). That’s why temptation alone isn’t sin. It’s when we get into agreement with the idea/desire that it becomes our little sin baby. And when sin is finished, it brings forth death.
Suddenly, we see the problem we face. Either we believe God loves us and His word for us is good, or we don’t, but the truth we find in the gospel isn’t a fence we can straddle. The death spoken of here might not be physical, but even more grievous, is when that death is spiritual. For those of us who want to quote John 10:28, which says that God gives us eternal life and no one can pluck them out of my hand—I have this news for you: It never said you couldn’t walk away, so why chance it? In Revelations, there is a warning to a church it calls lukewarm. In that warning, God says he will spit them out of His mouth.
I’m going to leave you with these last two things:
Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’…
Who does it say enters the kingdom of heaven, BUT… (notice that God also has a BUT), only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. If you are hearing the word of God today—do not harden your heart like they did in the rebellion (Hebrews 3:7-8). Repent. Repent of deciding that you know better and allow God’s word to be the plumb line for your life. The thing you measure yourself against. Not just the things that feel good or the things that you agree with, but Proverbs 3:7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD [with reverent awe and obedience] and turn [entirely] away from evil.
I once heard a powerful sermon given by a baptist preacher who said: “Some of you have designed your view of God around your worldview. And then you cry and complain that God never answers your prayers and it's almost as if He doesn’t exist. News flash: That god doesn’t exist. You made him up! Any God that is defined by your worldview isn’t God. God is in the business of defining your worldview—not the other way around.”
The good news is that God warns you of these things not because there is no hope, but because there is! We have the opportunity to repent, turn from our sin, and God will not only forgive us and heal us, he will welcome us with open arms and transform us by the renewing of our minds. We serve a loving God and because He loves us; He directs and corrects us. All scripture is profitable… we have to choose if we want to profit from it spiritually. It’s worth it.
By Rebecca Vickery
Not every moment is a mountaintop moment. Mountaintop moments, you feel the light of the Lord on your face, your faith is revived, renewed, restored, and you leave with a glow. These are the high times, the times in which we soak in the rays of the Son. Mountaintop moments matter. They are important. But maybe what happens in the Valley is more so.
I have seen more valleys than mountains in recent years. The moments I have come to know His presence in the midst of my deepest hurt, I have found to be even more precious than mountaintop moments. God is faithful in the valley. His peace is so perfect and healing. His presence is a balm to my soul when nothing else will remedy or satisfy. He is a refuge, a safe harbor, a strong tower; all the things He has promised to be.
We can lose sight of this when our lives are full of so many distractions. Good distractions. Bad distractions. They all pull away our eyes from the One who loves so fully. I have known people who walked away from the Lord in the times of hardship. Life is hard enough, how could I do it without His presence? How could I walk away from the One who will never walk away from me?
The last year has been on of the most physically challenging years of my life. I’m not sure how much longer my frail flesh could have held on without a diagnosis, and finally treatment. But treatment itself has stretched my threshold for pain and discomfort. When I didn’t know there could be more pain, there it was surprising me with more.
Catching up with a close friend on the brokenness and sorrows contained within the year, we spoke of the faithfulness of God throughout it. We connected over a verse that has ministered to both of our hearts over the years. After the people around Jesus got upset with him for sharing some hard truths, some of them decided they weren’t going to follow Jesus anymore. “Jesus turned to his disciples and asked them, “Do you want to leave me too?” Peter responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”” John 6:67-68
My friend expressed that this has been his anchor verse for all these years. It has been the same for me. When times have been tough, as Jesus said that they would be, I have held firm to the Anchor of my soul. Not the anchor of a boat that may or may not hold firm, but to Jesus. And to my Daddy. My Abba. For he has not given us a spirit to be slave again to fear, but his Spirit, by which I may cry Abba (Daddy), Father. (Romans 8:15) He is a Heavenly Father who is perfect beyond even the best that our earthly fathers could provide. He wants to be in our presence, or more importantly, He wants us to be in His.
This may be a stretch for some of us who have fathers who are less than perfect or even absent. But imagine the most perfect father in the world. Perhaps he is a composite of all the tv dads that you’ve seen and thought, that’s what a good dad looks like. Our heavenly Father is better. He is abounding in love. He is patient. He is slow to anger. He is long suffering. And He quiets us with his singing. Sometimes I ponder this verse and I say, “Lord, I want to hear you.” I want to have my heart so inclined to my Father’s love that I can hear him singing.
Even as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I have pressed deeper into my relationship with the Lord. My reliance on God has increased my trust. Every time I choose to trust Him, he continues to show his faithfulness. “Lord of Hosts, you’re with us, with us in the fire, with us as a shelter, with us in the storm, You will lead us through the fiercest battle. Oh, where else would we go but with the Lord of hosts?” (Shane and Shane, Lord of Hosts) Lord, where else would I go? You alone have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. Mountaintop or valley low, He is with us. And He is good.
by Judy Merchant
I have heard the simple metaphor that makes the distinction between sympathy and empathy. Where sympathy is standing on the shore and throwing a life ring out to the person who is struggling in the water. Every decent human being would do that ( at least I would hope). It’s automatic, almost flowing out of our adrenaline.
Empathy however is much more of a risk. Empathy is diving into the water and thrashing around in the cold choppy waves with that person to bring them to safety. Not everyone does that. It’s rare enough that the people who do jump in are called heroes.
Hero is a term that I’ve heard our family described as. Honestly it never sits well with me when it is spoken. Though spoken with best intentions I find myself immediately deflecting the statement and praying for humility for myself and my family.
God uses our family, our community to reach those in the water who need someone to come alongside them and help them to find solid ground again. I truly believe this is the calling on our lives, on our family unit.
Reflecting upon our sermon series of LoVermont I am able to draw on many connections between reaching our neighbors and caring for those directly around us. James 1:27 states “Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Children and families in foster care are in distress. Their entire worlds are flipped upside down and suddenly everything they knew is turned on end. I truly can’t imagine the feelings that engulf these families. Here is where our family comes in. We become the hands and feet of Jesus caring for these children and parents; sowing seeds along the way.
Sometimes there are success stories, sometimes those seeds land on fertile ground. Sometimes they do not. God is in control.
2 Corinthians 5:7 states ``For we live by faith, not by sight.`` We try to live everyday showing these families unconditional love. To shower them with the love of Christ.
To be quite honest with you, most days it truly is a thankless job. We pray everyday that God will equip us for what's ahead. Most of the time although we play an intricate part in helping these families find solid footing again they often retreat away from us. Leaving us with only memories and hope that someday we may see them again. Hope that we have pointed them toward the love and acceptance of Jesus. Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”
My thoughts are all over the place while writing this. I apologize. My desire to share is rooted in the connections our family has personally had with this particular sermon series. We truly believe that God has called us to help in this way. That for while these children are here in our home we are to love them and cherish them as the blessings from God that they truly are. Some hurt more than others when they leave but all occupy spaces not only in the hearts of our family but the hearts of those around us who walk together with us to help raise these children and support their families in the name of Jesus.
My prayer is that these children will feel the love and acceptance of Jesus while they are with us and that somewhere in their hearts they will store up those treasured moments and lean into them as they travel their paths and know that they were and are loved unconditionally by the most high.
by Mary Spence
Isaiah-9-6 NIV For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
As I sit here basking in the glow of my Christmas tree sipping coffee with my purring cat warming my lap I find myself reflecting on how different Christmas is for me now. I have two grown children who no longer live at home. They have blessed us with four beautiful grandchildren. We celebrate Christmas on a different day than the actual day so my grandkids can enjoy the day at home. When mine were growing up we spent too many years racing here and there trying to please everyone and see each of our parents. I don't want that for them. However its different at my house on Christmas now. If you are feeling this too let me assure you that different isn't bad. I've had time to reflect on the reason for the season. I've been able to enjoy relaxed time with my church family, my child who is still at home and my husband. I've reflected on the new year approaching. I've decided to approach this new year as a fresh start. I have a new perspective this year. As I've aged I have found God becoming more and more the center of my life. I think first of Him when I wake up and last of Him before sleep. I've learned that I am His favored one. That His love for me has a depth and width that I will never understand. And as I walk through hard stuff today I know that I am not alone. God is with me in every single minute. I've been blessed in so many ways. This is a year of renewal for me.
So if you are also experiencing different this year, I encourage you to look around. Spend time with your Father. Read the word. Embrace a chancevto move closer to God. Look for the reason for the season. He is all around you.
Thank you father, For loving me deeply and unconditionally. I am so grateful for the opportunity every day to try again. That no matter what you will never stop loving me. I am thankful that you are teaching me each day to rely upon you alone, for my safety, my joy and my peace. If it comes from you nothing can shake it; not disappointment or loss or pain. Nothing. I love you Lord, with all that is within me and I am grateful. Amen