Thursday, November 14, 2013

Book Review: Mysterious Ways

by Deborah H.

While at a recent Christian Writer’s Conference in Albuquerque, I was privileged to meet several writers, editors and agents I’d never heard of before. One of the stand-outs was Terry Burns, an author/agent, who taught several of the classes I attended. He used illustrations from his book, Mysterious Ways, and I knew I wanted to read it. The most provocative thing he said was that sometimes God has a different audience than you plan. When he wrote this book, it was just a story he wanted to tell. He didn’t have any ulterior motives for writing it, but God chose to use it in a way Terry Burns never imagined! God used this as an evangelistic tool in prison populations. Terry said after this book was published he started getting letters from all over, from prisoners who had been saved as a result of reading this book, saying things like, “If this could happen to someone like Amos [the main character in the book], then I thought it was possible it could happen to me.” How could I not read this book?

Mysterious Ways is an easy read. Its premise is brilliant. A con man in the wild west steals a set of preacher’s clothes so he could pose as a man of God as a cover for his criminal activity. The thing is that the town he wound up in was starved for the Word of God and quickly let Amos know they were expecting a lot from him as he ministered to their town. So Amos was in a dilemma. If he left town, they’d know he was the outlaw who’d just held up a stage. They’d be on him in no time to bring him to justice. But if he stayed, he had to keep up this pretense of being a preacher.

Since this is a western, boys, girls, men and women alike would enjoy reading this book. And though there are threads of racial inequality and romance woven into the book, it is pretty tame, considering it gives us a glimpse into the depraved mind of a man who only wants to swindle people out of their money—or does he?

Good reading and a good book to give big, tough men who haven’t yet accepted the Lord. It exposes them to the gospel in an unusually deceptive way—or should I say, in mysterious ways?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Nothin' But a Paintbrush

By Jennifer R.

Have you ever daydreamed about heaven and thought about who you might see there? Some people imagine getting to talk to the Apostle Paul or Noah and hearing about their exciting journeys of faith. Some imagine talking to spiritual heroes of the (more recent) past like John Newton, Charles Spurgeon, or Fanny Crosby and telling them how their lives and ministries impacted their own spiritual walk. Some imagine talking to friends or relatives who died before them and sharing all the ways God used their lives to touch others after they passed away from this life.

But I wonder…

Imagine for a moment that you’re at a movie premiere. You’re watching all the stars come in on the red carpet. Who do you think the paparazzi will be clamoring to get to? The person who played “man on the street #4” or “woman #7”? Not likely. They (and you) will be craning their necks to get a glimpse of the hero of the story… the star. Or maybe they would want to talk to the director or the author of the movie.

As our equipping hour class is reading through the Bible this year, our teacher is constantly reminding us that God is the hero of the story. God is the author, the director, and the hero of our story. So when you get to heaven, who do you think you’re really going to want to see?

Likewise, imagine you’re looking at a masterpiece painting. Would you be thinking, “Wow! I’d love to see the paintbrushes used to make this beauty!” No way! You’d want to meet the painter himself – the one who created the masterpiece.

The best among us are nothing more than bit actors who have to have every line and movement fed to us by the Director. Better yet, we’re like the paintbrush with no control over how we’re used. But in the skillful hands of the Master, we get to be a part of something beautiful and meaningful.

When we get to heaven, no doubt we will see some of our heroes of the faith. I’m pretty sure, though, that we will be more excited to see the real Hero: the God who worked in and through them (and us!) to accomplish His perfect purposes.

What a glorious day that will be!

Re-posted from Reflections by Jennifer.

Monday, July 22, 2013

While the Pastor's Away...

By Jennifer R.

Our pastor and his family are currently enjoying a sabbatical. While they're away, we don't want to forget to continue to pray for them and for our other pastors who will be filling in the gap while they're gone. There is no greater thing we can do for our spiritual leaders than to pray for them! If you would like some ideas for specific ways to pray, here are some helpful resources to get you started:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Quotes on Leadership

By Jennifer R.

The summer men's Bible study begins tonight and is focusing on the topic of "leadership," so our new Quotable Quotes bulletin board is sporting a new set of quotes on this topic. Below are the quotes that are on the board this month.

Spiritual leadership is knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initiative to get them there by God’s means in reliance on God’s power. ~ John Piper

Servanthood does not nullify leadership; it defines it. Jesus does not cease to be the Lion of Judah when He becomes the lamblike servant of the church. ~ John Piper

According to [the Bible], a leader is first and foremost a servant. His concern is not for himself; his concern is not to give orders, to boss other people around, to have his own way. His concern is to meet the needs of others. ~ Wayne Mack

Dwight L. Moody once said that he would rather put a thousand men to work than do the work of a thousand men. ~ Oswald Sanders

A leader will seldom say, “I don’t have the time.” Such an excuse is usually the refuge of a small-minded and inefficient person. Each of us has the time to do the whole will of God for our lives. ~ Oswald Sanders

A spiritual leader will, first and foremost, have a calling from God. His work will not be his profession, but his calling. ~ Zac Poonen

Experience has taught me that the Shepherd is far more willing to show His sheep the path than the sheep are to follow. He is endlessly merciful, patient, tender, and loving. If we, His stupid and wayward sheep, really want to be led, we will without fail be led. Of that I am sure. ~ Elisabeth Elliot

We must truly serve those whom we appear to command; we must bear with their imperfections, correct them with gentleness and patience, and lead them in the way to heaven. ~ Francois Fenelon

The chief occupational hazard of leadership is pride. ~ John Stott

The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve. ~ John Stott

A true and safe leader is likely to be one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of the external situation. ~ A.W. Tozer

It is very rare for the spirituality of a group of Christians to exceed that of its leaders. ~ John Benton

We cannot sit back and wait for the sheep to lead. A few will, but by and large they are looking to us for direction, feeding, and leadership by our stepping out courageously in faith. ~ Curtis C. Thomas

When God’s sheep are in danger, the shepherd must not gaze at the stars and meditate on “inspirational” themes. He is morally obliged to grab his weapon and run to their defense. ~ A.W. Tozer

Leadership training cannot be done on a mass scale. It requires patient, careful instruction and prayerful, personal guidance over a considerable time. Disciples are not manufactured wholesale. They are produced only one by one, because someone has taken the pains to disciple, to instruct and enlighten, to nurture and train one that is younger. Oswald Sanders
Leadership may be defined as the ability…to develop other people’s maximum potential for their own works of service in the body of Christ. ~ Derek Prime and Alistair Begg

The effectiveness of leadership is measured in terms of influence. When you see someone’s influence reflected so profoundly in the lives of other people, you have identified someone who is by definition a leader. ~ John MacArthur

It is no commendation of our leadership if everything collapses when we are not there or when the time comes for us to leave. ~ Derek Prime and Alistair Begg

No man, however gifted and devoted, is indispensable to the work of the kingdom. ~ Oswald Sanders

When I submit to the leaders God places over me, I do so not in trust of them, but in trust of God who placed them. My trust is not that they will always make the right decisions, but rather, that God is able to work in their hearts and in my life even in their mistakes. The bottom line of submission on every level is not “Can I trust this leader,” but “Can I trust God to work in, through, and in spite of this leader?” ~ Eddie Rasnake

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bringing God Glory Through Technology

By Kim W.

After discussing the pros and cons of Facebook, we must examine our hearts and motives on how we choose to use it. We make many choices each and every day... we choose how to spend each moment of the day and we can bring God glory through our choices.

Proverbs 14:1 says, "The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down."

Another Scripture that is helpful is Proverbs 11:22, which states, "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout, so is a beautiful woman without discretion."

Of course, we cannot forget Paul's words to us in Titus chapter 2, where he tells us how to give God glory as a woman who desires to live for Him. What does that look like?

She is reverent, not one who gossips, and is not enslaved to wine or anything that can be enslaving.

What does she do? She is to teach the younger women to love their husbands, love their children, to be sensible, to be pure, to be workers at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their own husbands.

To be that Titus 2 woman, it takes a lot of time... it takes devotion... and it takes discipline. How we choose to spend each moment of each day does make a difference and we should be discerning about that. Facebook is something we can use for God's glory. If you would like, you can read through the first post here to be reminded of the pros or benefits of Facebook. But even if it is lawful and fine to be on Facebook, we must ask ourselves these questions:

  1. Is this useful, prudent, or profitable for the kingdom of God?
  2. Is it better at times to not do things that would be perfectly fine and allowed by Scripture, if there is a greater priority involved?
  3. Does it offend others in any way?
  4. Is it the best choice for that moment?
  5. Does it build up others in the faith? Are you using it for that reason?
  6. Is it profitable spiritually for yourself?
  7. Does it give glory to God or yourself?
  8. It is a habit or routine that you are being ruled by? Does it control me? Is my time swallowed up with Facebook because I am allowing it to be my routine?

A final Scripture to consider: 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

What is the glory of God? God's glory is equivalent to giving honor to Him who is completely deserving of that honor. God should receive all glory because of who He is and what He has done. His character, His nature, and His attributes demand that He is solely deserving of all glory. When we think about what He has done for us, we see that He has loved us with an everlasting love, He saved us from our sinful state, He has completely forgiven us as far as the east is from the west, He has redeemed us, and He has paid our debt in full--a debt we could never pay. Yes, He is deserving of receiving all glory from our lives! Every choice we make should be to bring more honor and glory to Him because of who He is and what He has done.

How we behave in this world, specifically on Facebook, should reflect honor to God. We should be women who, first of all, are striving to be that Titus 2 woman through our daily choices... we should be women who have great discretion in a very public venue like Facebook... and we should be women who are wise to see that our choices can build up our home or tear it down. I also think we should be gentle on Facebook, always being careful of our tone and word choices.

I would like to end with some heart questions for all of us to consider. I think it is wise to examine our hearts daily and see if there is anything that we need to repent of and change.

  • Am I using Facebook for ministry purposes?
  • Do I encourage others on Facebook?
  • Do I ever find myself promoting myself and my image on Facebook?
  • Does the time I spend on Facebook take precedence over time that I should be doing more important things?
  • Does Facebook ever cause me to waste time? Am I spending unnecessary time on Facebook doing quizzes and games that are not profitable for me spiritually?
  • Have I ever pushed aside my children or husband so that I could continue spending more time on Facebook?
  • Do my children have to wait for me to get off the computer to have their needs met?
  • Has time on Facebook been more enjoyable to me than time spent with my husband?
  • Has my husband ever said that I spend too much time on Facebook?
  • Do meals, laundry, or housekeeping get delayed because of computer time?
  • Do I secretly like the idea of talking with another man besides my husband on Facebook? Have I ever sought out men to be friends with with wrong motives?
  • Do I put aside my time in the Word to check Facebook?
  • Is Facebook helping me in my walk with Christ? If so, how? If not, what needs to change?
  • Is having a Facebook advantageous to my Biblical calling as a woman?
  • Is Facebook a tool being used in my life to bring glory to God or is it a distraction?

Friday, May 31, 2013

Quotes on Friendship

By Jennifer R.

If you haven't seen the new bulletin board upstairs, here's a picture of it.

We will be changing the topic every month, but this month - since we're focusing on godly friendships in the summer ladies Bible study and in the upcoming fall retreat - the topic is "friendship." Below are the quotes that are on the board this month.

If I take offence easily; if I am content to continue in cold unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love. ~ Amy Carmichael

It’s impossible to have friendships that aren’t directed by the heart. And it’s impossible to have genuine, authentic friendships if what is in our heart is self-centered and self-absorbed. Bad hearts produce bad friendships. Good hearts produce good friendships. (Luke 6:45) ~ Amy Baker

When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly [best friends], I shall love my earthly [best friends] better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly [best friends] at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly [best friends] at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased. ~ C.S. Lewis

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You, too? I thought I was the only one.” ~ C.S. Lewis

A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down. ~ Arnold Glasow

The dearest friend on earth is a mere shadow compared to Jesus Christ. ~ Oswald Chambers

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. ~ Jesus (John 15:13)

I am convinced, by the way, that friendships provide the most fertile soil for evangelism. When the reality of Christ is introduced into a relationship of love and trust that has already been established, the effect is powerful. And it seems that invariably, when someone becomes a true follower of Christ, that person's first impulse is to want to find a friend and introduce that friend to Christ. ~ John MacArthur

A blessed thing it is for any man or woman to have a friend; one human soul whom we can trust utterly; who knows the best and the worst of us, and who loves us in spite of all our faults; who will speak the honest truth to us, while the world flatters us to our face, and laughs at us behind our back. ~ Charles Kingsley

God's is the only friendship that can really meet all our soul's deep needs and cravings. Human companionship helps us at a few points; but the divine friendship has its blessing for every experience. We never shall be left alone when we have Christ. When other helpers fail and comforts flee—He will ever stand close beside us. When other faces fade out of view—His will shine out with gentle love, pouring its light upon us. ~ J.R. Miller

Good friends are among our greatest blessings – they may keep us back from much evil, quicken us in our course, speak a word in season, draw us upward, and draw us on. But a bad friend is a positive misfortune, a weight continually dragging us down, and chaining us to earth. Keep company with an irreligious man, and it is more than probable you will in the end become like him. That is the general consequence of all such friendships. The good go down to the bad, and the bad do not come up to the good. ~ J.C. Ryle, Thoughts For Young Men

To become another's friend in the true sense—is to take the other into such close, living fellowship that his life and ours are knit together as one. It is far more than a pleasant companionship in bright, sunny hours. It is more than an association for mutual interest or profit or enjoyment. A genuine friendship is entirely unselfish. It seeks no benefit or good of its own. It does not love - for what it may receive - but for what it may give. Its aim is “not to be served—but to serve” (Mark 10:45). ~ J.R. Miller

Christ loves us—not according to our worthiness—but according to the riches of His own loving heart! So should it be with our giving of friendship—not as the person deserves—but after the measure of our own character. ~ J.R. Miller

Friday, May 24, 2013

Guarding Our Hearts on Facebook

By Kim W.

We log onto Facebook and read other people's statuses, and we look through the numerous photographs from our friends and acquaintances... and what do we sometimes conclude?

Everyone is happier than us.
Everyone is more successful than us.
Everyone's husband is more thoughtful or helpful than ours.
Everyone gets to go on wonderful vacations.
Everyone else has children who are perfectly obedient and excel more than ours.
Everyone else has more friends.

Sadly, Facebook can be a miserable place.

It can be a good thing in our hearts, though. Why? Because it exposes something ugly in our hearts - which is hard at times - but we can deal openly with our sin when it comes glaring at us from the pages of Facebook. When we become aware of our jealousy, our grumbling spirit, and our discontentment, we can bring those sinful attitudes before the Lord and ask Him for forgiveness. We should then repent from those sins and move on toward godliness. Sometimes, Facebook should be avoided, and that may be a wise choice...but sometimes God can use this media source to help us become more disciplined in our attitudes toward others.

In regards to guarding our hearts, we must be aware that this goes both ways. We present ourselves in the best light possible. We lie, we exaggerate, and we present ourselves as WE want others to see us. We want others to believe that we are living a life worthy to be envied, and we desire, in a way, for others to applaud us for our perfect and wonderful lives. What is the result of this? A simple conclusion: we all end up trying to be something we are not, but at the same time believing that everyone else has a better life. We try to bring ourselves glory, which is in direct opposition to what God wants for our lives.

I read an anonymous quote that said, "If we only wanted to be happy, it would be easy, but what we really want is to be happier than other people."

What pride and selfishness! I am constantly having to guard my own heart from these kinds of thoughts and attitudes.

The next post will include the conclusion of this series. It is full of good news for all of us! I will discuss how and why we should bring glory to God while we are on Facebook, which should be our heart's desire.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What Is Facebook Replacing in Our Lives?

By Kim W.

If you think about it, all of today's technology has replaced something else. In 2004, when Facebook came into being, it was basically unknown for a while...even in 2006, some of our teenaged children were learning about it, but it was still new and we were just starting to hear the word and trying to figure it all out. But, now it is literally a way of life.

A recent study showed that one-third of women between the ages of 18-34 check Facebook before they go to the bathroom in the morning. That same study also showed that 21% of women check it in the middle of the night and 50% admit they can't live without it. Older adults between the ages of 40-50 represent the fastest growing population on facebook.

All of those 700 billion minutes a month from 2010 are coming from somewhere. Time spent on Facebook is being taken from somewhere else. Have you considered that?

What could it be replacing in our lives?

Time in God's precious Word?

Time in prayer?

Time with our family?

Could it be that Facebook has replaced real face-to-face conversations? Are we tempted to say "Happy Birthday" on Facebook and neglect sending a thoughtful card or having a lunch together to celebrate? Do our words on Facebook somehow remove the need to see people? Has sending a private message taken the place of meeting in homes or getting together for coffee?

Facebook can cause us to be removed from people's lives. Our physical presence can easily be missing from those who need us there face-to-face.

Facebook should not take the place of real life relationships. It should supplement them. It should enhance the relationship and make it richer. We need to look at our time on Facebook and make sure that real relationships are a priority. We should make sure that we don't allow Facebook (or anything else) to replace that blessing.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Pros of Facebook

By Kim W.

It was a joy to recently share with the ladies ways that we can walk worthy in the area of technology use, such as Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, etc. We are commanded to do all things for God's glory, and this would include our use of these modern day indulgences. It is literally a way of life now, and as women, we need to be aware of the pros and cons of Facebook and other forms of media.

Tim Challies has a blog post entitled 700 Billion Minutes, which is the amount of time active Facebook users spent on Facebook in 2010 in ONE month. Yes, that means for the 500 million active Facebook users in that year, they spent 1.3 million years on Facebook in one month...they spent 18,000 lifetimes on Facebook in 30 days. Unbelievable! Today, there are about 1.6 billion users of Facebook, so we can do the math and figure out how much of our precious time is spent on just Facebook alone. Those 700 billion minutes were taken from what? For the most part, these minutes came from time from our everday lives. What has Facebook replaced? Interesting question to think on. I will address the answer to that in a later post.

There are some benefits to Facebook and it can be used for God's glory. I would like to begin this series on the "pros" of Facebook. Please notice as I list them, that all of the pros are others-focused.

Other- and God-focused pros of using Facebook:

  1. We can have instant information so that we can know better how to minister to others.
  2. We can know very quickly how to pray for others...we receive immediate prayer requests on Facebook - some of them very urgent - and we can stop what we are doing to pray. Along those same lines, we can know specifics on the trials and difficult times other are going through. Also, we can rejoice with others and praise God for good times, answered prayers, and joyful moments.
  3. We can encourage others. I especially appreciate those who encourage others on Facebook by using Scripture. We can build others up in the Lord with encouraging words. Proverbs 16:24 tells us that "Gracious words are like a honeycomb...sweetness to the soul and health to the body."
  4. We can share information, which could involve upcoming events.
  5. We can share biblically-based quotes and Scripture to cause others to focus their hearts and minds on the Lord. I appreciate how a couple of my friends always begin their day with quoting Scripture on Facebook. I also am thankful for another friend's thought-provoking quotes that always draw my mind to God.
  6. We can stay in close contact with others. It might be family that lives far away. Grandparents can easily see pictures of grandchildren...relatives and friends can find out what is going on in the lives of those they miss. We can stay in contact with friends who move away.
  7. Facebook allows for us to be exposed to more biblical teaching and allows us to link to good teaching for others to read...links to excellent sermons, edifying articles, and blogs that teach biblical content. But with that, we also need to be cautious and discerning. Not everything that is linked to is what we need to be reading. Have a discerning mind.
  8. On Facebook we have an opportunity to be an evangelist. We are an example, and everything we write or link to can be a tool used by God to draw others to Himself. We should gently and intentionally share about Christ and His gospel on our Facebook. We never know how an unbeliever's heart can be affected by us. Nowhere else do we have a captive audience like be an example of Christ's gospel--be an evangelist.

A question to leave you with that I will address in the next post:What could Facebook be replacing in your life?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hospitality in the Real World

If you weren't able to make it to the Treasures of the Heart & Home event last Friday, or if you just forgot to pick up a handout, here are a couple of the handouts that were given.

A Helping of Hospitality with a Smidgen of Space

From Ham Sandwiches to Cordon Blue: Taking Hospitality to the Next Level

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Review: Lit!

By Becky A.

As a book lover, I was immediately drawn to this book when I saw it advertised very inexpensively as a Kindle ebook. After downloading it, I sat and devoured it.

I love books from a lot of different genres, but have struggled with how to process and justify fiction books or even "self-help" books when there doesn't seem to be enough time in the day for good Christian books. This author addressed almost all of my questions and then some. He answers the "whys" of reading and then even talks about "how to read a book." Never again will I feel guilty for breezing through a book that didn't need to be chewed on. And I now have met a respected Christian author who feels the same way I do about reading right before bed -- NOTHING HEAVY! My brain is so tired, I can only process fiction.

He even shares the benefits of reading fiction and classic literature. He is very specific about what it gives to our Christian walks.

The pages on distraction in this media driven world were a real help to me. In implementing some of his suggestions, I have found myself enjoying my books more and gleaning more from my time spent in them. There are things that I will be changing even in my homeschooling in order to help my younger kids fight against the constant barrage of distractions that hinder them from succeeding in reading their school work. This will also help them enjoy their pleasure books, too.

The author gives great help in finding and making time to read each day -- even when your life is filled to the brim with running around. He shares personal illustrations that I found helpful and similar to mine. I loved that!

One of my favorite chapters in this book was about marking up the books you read. I write all in my books so I LOVED this one! My father has a library that I have loved smelling, touching, browsing, and choosing books from since I was a child. I still love going into his office because I know he will share with me the latest book he is reading and why he loves it. If he has an extra copy, he will even give me a copy. When he picks up a book to show me, I usually see sticky markers sticking out of the pages. I know there was something at that point that captured his attention. Then when the book is opened, there it is. What I love seeing: red marks, yellow highlights, my dad's neat print in the margins. It's like taking a personal peak into his personal walk with the Lord. And I know why I write in my books. One day my kids will, hopefully, feel this way about my books -- the way I feel about looking into his books. Maybe they will better understand me.

Anyway, back to the book.

Lastly, he gives parents and pastors helpful tips to cultivate readers in our homes and church families. I was pleased to know that homeschooling for 12 years has given me the opportunities to do a lot of what he suggested. We still sit around the living room in our comfy chairs each morning, reading the Bible together. Then the kids listen to me read a classic.

This book is well-worth reading. It won't take long. The 186 pages are easy to read and kept me wanting more. I think I was highly motivated because I thought he was going to tell me, for sure, how to read more books in a year!

He did!

And I'm going to try it. :)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Praying for Your Children

By Vivian E.

For about the past month, the Lord has really been convicting and encouraging me concerning my prayer life. One Sunday during our parenting class, the teacher challenged us to write down ten things we are praying for our children. On Wednesday night of the same week, the women's Bible study leader taught a lesson on prayer which impacted my heart deeply. The Lord used these things, along with my friend Kimberly Wagner's blog posts concerning prayer to convict my heart and shake me into the reality of just how imperative it is for me to pursue a fervency and consistency in my prayer life!

Since I have been immersed in Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians over the past year through Precept studies, key phrases from Paul’s prayers immediately came to mind, along with other Scriptures I have prayed for them.

  1. That they would love the Lord with all their heart,soul,mind, and strength! (Mark 12:30)
  2. That God would unite their hearts to fear Him.
  3. That they would set their affections on things above, not on things of the earth, remembering that this world is not their home, but their citizenship is in heaven! (Col.3:1-3 and Phil. 3:20)
  4. For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; (Colossians 1:9-11)
  5. That they would hunger and thirst after God and His Word.
  6. That they would have such an understanding of the holiness of God that their lives reflect that (their speech, entertainment choices, etc.).
  7. that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

    Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
    (Ephesians 3:16-21)
  8. Humility (Philippians 2:3-4)
  9. That they would be awed by the Gospel and never get over God’s amazing grace in their lives!
  10. That they would be sensitive to sin and live a life of repentance.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Why We Should Rejoice When God Blesses Others

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Romans 12:1

Why is it so hard to rejoice when God blesses others?

We think Why didn’t he bless me like that? Why didn’t he give me a nice a house? Why did he answer their prayers and not mine?
Cain winced when God blessed Abel.  Saul ground his teeth when the people shouted, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”  When the Pharisees heard the people praise Jesus, they seethed.  Contrast with John the Baptist.  When crowds thronged to Jesus and John’s followers dwindled, said, “He must increase and I must decrease.”

It should be the most natural thing for us to rejoice when God blesses others because he’s crowned us spiritual billionaires. We’re joint-heirs with Christ. He’s our great treasure and all his riches are ours. God himself dwells in us, guides, protects, cares for us. An eternity of joy in his presence looms before us.

When we don’t rejoice when God blesses others it shows we don’t appreciate all he’s has done for us. 

It shows we treasure material and temporal things more than our great salvation and treasure, Jesus. We’ve taken our eyes off the one who blesses and forgotten how generous he’s been with us. We’re self-centered and aren’t looking to the interests of others.

In heaven we’ll be glad to see God bless others.

We’ll even rejoice when God honors others above us, for there’s no envy in heaven. There’s no sin in heaven, only love.  In heaven we’ll rejoice to see others rewarded, even when they get more rewards than we do, because we’ll be filled with love for Jesus and others.

When we rejoice with those who are blessed it shows we consider God to be gracious and generous.  

In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard the master paid those he hired last the same as soon as those he hired first. When those he hired first grumbled he said, “I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 20:14-15).  If those who had been hired first had thought about it, they could have expected the master to be generous to them in the future.

A friend shared a story about two couples in his church who were best friends. One couple had prayed for years to have children but had never been able to. When their friends decided to try to have children they conceived immediately and nine months later had a beautiful baby. My friend said he was blown away when he saw the wife who had not been able to have children rejoice with all her heart with her best friend when she first saw her baby.

Let’s ask Jesus for grace to rejoice when he blesses others. Let’s do now what we’ll do forever in heaven.

Originally posted by Mark Altrogge on November 12, 2012, on The Blazing Center blog.

Monday, January 7, 2013

No Resolutions, Just Prayers

By Becky A.

2012 is gone. Past. Over.

2013 is staring me in the face. All 365 days of it.

The new year usually finds me writing down my list of "resolutions" or "goals." This year, however, I am writing down prayers instead, asking God to do things in my life and heart.

But there's something weird about this year. I am being less specific. My requests are more general. I find myself leaving the specifics to Him - for He alone knows exactly what I need. He knows me better than I know myself. He is the Giver of good gifts. He is my Abba Father. He desires to give me His best.

He WILL give me His best.

And I can never imagine how He will bring those gifts to me.

The last year and a half have been some of the most difficult months of my life, but I can look at the circumstances that made them difficult and see how they were "answers" to some specific prayers in my life. They just didn't come wrapped up like a beautiful gift ready to be opened. Some of them felt like a hand grenade.

But they were still answers to my specific prayers. And I find myself saying "thank you" to a heavenly Father who really does know, hear, care, and answer.

So as I think through what I think I see in my heart that needs to change, I am just going to ask God to do a few things. A few general things. I'll let Him decide what specifically needs to happen.

Lord, would You:

  • Grow my faith. (Mark 9:24)
  • Increase my hope in You. (Ps. 146:5, Psalm 147:11)
  • Make my heart more quickly convicted of sin. (Ps. 34:18, Ps. 51:17, Is. 66:2)
  • Show me how to love You more and love others more selflessly. (Matt. 22:37-40)
  • Remind me often that though I can't always see You working, You are always doing thousands of things in my life and in the lives of those around me. (Piper)
  • Open my eyes to see You in the difficult times by looking into Your Word often. (Ps. 119:18)
  • May I experience and exhibit Your joy each and every day, no matter what I am facing. (Phil. 4:4)
  • Make me forever grateful. (Eph. 5:20, I Thess. 5:18)
  • Make me zealous to do my part in edifying the body of Christ, especially in my home church body. (Eph. 4:12-16)

Lord, bring into my life whomever You wish. May I see each one as a gift from You.

Purify my heart and life. Be gentle but thorough.

I trust You. Help me when I fail to trust You.

Thank You that YOU are the reason I can anticipate a new year with great joy and excitement. May You do a mighty work in, through, and around me.

Help me to honor You.