Sunday, August 12, 2018

A Prayer for Resting on God



           Do you feel weighed down with the weight of this world? Do you need to remember that God is in control and that He alone satisfies? May this prayer, written centuries ago, be a blessing to you as you recognize in it the truths of Scripture and hear the heartfelt prayer of a fellow believer calling out to the Lord.

O God most high, most glorious,
The thought of thine infinite serenity cheers me,
For I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed, 
            but thou art forever at perfect peace.
Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfillment, 
            They stand fast as the eternal hills.
Thy power knows no bond,   
            Thy goodness no stint.
Thou bringest order out of confusion, 
             And my defeats are thy victories:
The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
I come to thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows, 
             To leave every concern entirely to thee, every sin calling for Christ’s precious blood.
Revive deep spirituality in my heart;
Let me live near to the great shepherd, 
             Hear his voice, know its tones, follow its calls.
Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth,   
             From harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.
Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities, burning into me by experience the things I know.
Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel, 
             That I may bear its reproach, 
             Vindicate it, 
             See Jesus as its essence, 
             Know in it the power of the Spirit.
Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill; 
              Unbelief mars my confidence, 
              Sin makes me forget thee.
Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots;
Grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to thee,
              that all else is trifling.
Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy.
Abide in me, gracious God.


Bennett, Arthur, editor. The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

A Life-Giving Journey

            How do you summarize a life-changing journey? Several of our ladies at Grace, including myself, bravely took this journey this past year. Most of them participated in a Walking Worthy class here at our church building. A couple of us who needed a different time participated in another WW class at Woodland Park, and some of our men participated in a men’s Walking Worthy group. Some of these ladies have contributed their thoughts to this article, and one lady succinctly summarizes, “Walking Worthy has helped me understand my past and how it affects my present so I can have a better future in and with Christ and walk in freedom.” I can’t say it any better than that, but perhaps I can flesh it out for any of you who are potentially interested or don’t even know it is what you need. I would like to do this by telling a bit about my story.
            Through the first half of last year, I became aware that I was not thriving but more surviving life. Some of the weaknesses that I had always coped with seemed to be taking over my life, and I felt like I couldn’t get it together. A large part of these weaknesses were poor ways of coping with grief that had resurfaced and grown stronger as I dealt with my miscarriages. Years ago, I had previously been through a couple of shorter, somewhat similar processes to Walking Worthy, and I had a feeling it might help surface and deal with these issues that I didn’t seem to know how to ‘fix.’ 
            So, I talked to Ben about it and signed up. I walked into a roomful of women I didn’t know except one and knew that we would be sharing our lives and hearts. I saw a variety of emotions on their faces including nervousness and hopefulness. Even though I love getting to know people deeply and long to be real, it is still intimidating, but I relied on my previous experiences to remember that it is well worth it. 
            Sure enough, this group of ladies became a safe haven every week for 26 weeks. When the process was over, we didn’t want it to end, so we have been meeting twice a month (as many as are able). We have a group text in which we send each other our prayer requests and check up on each other. I am blessed to know that I can share anything with this group and to know it will be kept confidential and will be received with love and encouragement, not judgment. 
            So what did we study for 26 weeks, you may wonder? Walking Worthy curriculum covers many of the key difficulties in life, including understanding your family of origin, dealing with trauma, healing and dealing with difficult relationships, shame versus guilt, depression, rejection, communication, forgiveness, addiction, marriage and family relationships, and much more. There is also wonderful information on how the brain works, and most importantly of all, everything is undergirded by Scripture. I love the way one woman describes her journey with WW: 
“Through Walking Worthy I have experienced God giving me the gift of awareness and the ability to name and identify wounds, emotions, areas of my life that I have believed the enemy's lies so long that they became my identity. God is teaching me Who He Is…and who I am in Him and His thoughts towards me - my true identity. I learned how to identify what I was wrestling with…and then know how to bring it into alignment with Truth and to actually resolve and heal some things I have struggled with for years that had me paralyzed, keeping me from moving forward victoriously in Christ. It is a life changing, life giving experience for me.”

Another woman wisely said, “You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken.” In the busyness of life, it is too easy to never evaluate what we are doing and why we do it. Therefore, we continue in the same broken patterns and habits. Walking Worthy helps shine the light of God’s truth on the reality of our past and how it is affecting our present, and then gives us the tools to make new choices, patterns, and habits. As the same woman testifies, “God has used Walking Worthy to make me aware of wounds (encumbrances Heb. 12:1) and sin that Satan had used to blind and defeat me. God has brought spiritual and emotional healing and continued to show Himself in ways I've been unable to see Him before.”
            Is this an easy process? Definitely not. There are issues that arise that are painful and heavy, but oh, it is so worth the momentary struggle through the emotions or memories. The freedom on the other side, the new tools, the deep relationships, the healing, the new depth of your relationship with God, the hope – all of these results are beautiful treasures that are worth going through this journey. 
            Do you come out completely fixed and problem-free? Of course not! We are still sinful humans in a sinful world. However, I love the way another lady describes it, “[Walking Worthy is] a class about heart transformation (processing the past and the present) in order to move forward in our walk with Christ and with others. It helped me identify areas I was stuck and… helped me to better understand other people in my life (who may or may not be stuck too) and how we all affect each other. Finally, I think it helped me grow in my relationship with Jesus, and learn to appropriate His grace…not perfectly of course, but more consistently.”
            I don’t think I can emphasize enough the blessing of knowing the Lord better through WW. Another participant said, “Walking Worthy helped to make things I have known all my life become real to me. Phrases like "God loves you" and "I'm a child of the King" became much more than just words.” Even though I wasn’t raised in a very legalistic church, it amazed me to realize that I still struggle to picture God looking at me with love and grace, but more of an impatient, frustrated parent who wants me to change. Walking Worthy does an excellent job of reminding us who God is, how much He loves us, and who we truly are in Him.
            Even if you don’t consider yourself to have deep wounds, I believe every person can benefit greatly from Walking Worthy. I hope you will consider and ask the Lord if this a journey that He wants to use to bring you more freedom and healing. Feel free to talk to me or anyone else you know who has been on this journey, or check it out at www.walkingworthyjourney.org. The new classes for the fall are not up yet, but keep checking. We are working to offer a couple here at Grace. 
~Judith Graham

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Precious Death


One of my friends died last week. Even in her 80s, she was vivacious, as energetic as her weakening body would allow, and ferociously faithful in her trust of God. In events 30 years apart, she had lost both husband and son in missionary endeavors. Her trust never wavered. In very recent years, she had suffered significant injuries when her neck was broken in a car accident, when she was attacked by a house cat (!) and after a fall down a hill. In her pain, her trust never wavered.

Sometimes we think it is so sad when a lively and loved person dies. What does God’s Word say about that? The Psalmist tells us, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” Ps. 116:15.  We do not often think of death as “precious.” Maybe we should, since God does. Maybe we are short-sighted, seeing only this side of death--the deterioration of age, the end of talent or service or potential, our loss. God must see something else, for Him to call that “precious.” He tells us, knowing we will not understand the significance or the details.

There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory, it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.  I Cor 15: 40-44.
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Cor 5:1.

He paid for that transition. Everyone who responds to His offer gives Him joy. The change of the dying body to the forever living body is precious.


---Lynda Shenefield

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Changing Your Prayer Life


Recently, I've been thinking about when and how I pray.  Having grown up in Christian school and in church every time the doors were open, I'm especially familiar with not only the Lord's Prayer, but also the ACTS of Prayer(Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication).  I now understand both the Lord's Prayer and the idea of ACTS were meant to be examples to help us and NOT formulas. But, as a teenager, I internalized there must be a right way and wrong way to pray. A simple "Help!" prayer must have a spirit of Adoration, Confession and Thanksgiving surrounding it in order to be heard. A prayer of just supplication would be frowned upon before the throne of God above.  There was a right and wrong way to pray in my mind...no one ever taught me that.  But, in the black-white way I viewed the world, I took away that unless I did it right, my prayers would not be heard and therefore would not be effective.

And honestly, I think I gave up on it for awhile. If I didn't have time to use all the right language and insert scripture into my prayers, were they even worth anything?  Was God up there grading my prayers and only listening to the ones that followed the formula? I knew I needed to pray, but I didn't.  I wanted to pray.  I wanted to speak to Jesus like he was a friend.  I wanted to converse with God in the intimate way I could hear in other people's voices, but I felt like every word I uttered needed to pass the editorial board before it could be heard.  

My dad has always said that having children will "change your prayer life," and I believe it has definitely been in the last several years that I have begun to glimpse the power of prayer for which I had longed.  First of all, I am already holy. When I asked Jesus to be my Savior and received the Spirit, that was it. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  I am no longer a slave striving out of fear, I am an heir with Christ.  Therefore, I should live as a daughter of the King, walking in confidence and not in fear. 

For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.  Romans 8:15-17

So, when I speak to my Father, I can cry "Abba...Daddy" the same way I can with my own Father.  I have not only the Spirit to bear witness with me, but I have a High Priest in Christ who understands each and every prayer I pray. 


Having then a great high priest, who hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need. Heb 4: 14-16

And my dad doesn't insist that I follow a formula for speaking with him.  He doesn't ask that I only speak to him at certain times of the day.  He loves me.  He wants to talk to me whenever I call. If my earthly father loves me like that, how much more does my heavenly father? Prayer is an important part of our faith. It's something we GET to do.  I get to talk directly with the God of the Universe whenever and wherever I want.  I need to pray in the same way I want to tell my daddy about big news in my life, or ask his advice on what I should do in a situation.  

Prayers do not have to be perfect. I do not have to strive to be perfect. In my Father's eyes, I am covered with the blood of Jesus and I am already made holy.  The process of sanctification is not to work "for" my salvation, but as Paul says "work out [my] salvation" in the process of fixing my eyes on Jesus and becoming more like him in the everyday mundane.  There is nothing I can do or not do to make God love me any more or any less.  Prayer is the working out of our salvation as we learn to rely on Him instead of a formula we try to do ourselves.

"I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God. It changes me." -C.S. Lewis
--Gabrielle Haston








Sunday, July 15, 2018

Anticipating


Did you get to see the sunflowers?  I enjoyed them on Friday with one of my daughters and a three-year-old granddaughter who was more interested in running around under the large leaves and digging in the dirt than she was in looking at the stunning display of color and large blooms raising their eyes to the sun.

That's ok. We had a good time and took the obligatory pictures. But the golden memory of those forty acres still glows in my mind, and it makes me wonder about the glory and majesty of heaven. I've seen other pictures of fields of color--tulips, daisies, lavender--just magnificent!

Revelation describes heaven as a place filled with color and light. Check out the twenty-first chapter. I confess to not longing for heaven as much as I perhaps ought to. But I've been to three funerals in the last two weeks, and a common theme of all three was the feeling that heaven is more real and precious with loved ones there. 

Certainly, each saint who goes on before us adds to our anticipation. Still, I don't think we can possibly grasp the splendor of the place itself.  God's beauty and creativity will be on display unspoiled and without blemish. If God made such gorgeousness as I saw on Friday for this passing world, what must He have prepared for our eternal home?

Most glorious, Jesus, the Light, will be there before our very eyes. We will need or desire nothing else. Until then, I love the hints and tiny previews we get in fields of flowers.

--Sherry Poff


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Lessons From the Blueberry Farm


There is something I REALLY like to do every summer. I like to visit the BLUEBERRY FARM in Lafayette, GA. My husband Brant likes to pick but I need to weigh him before we leave. J
1. At the blueberry farm, I am reminded that BLESSINGS FROM GOD ARE THERE FOR THE PICKING. Sometimes picking berries is very hot and hard…then God sends a wonderful breeze or He gives me a tree that has berries hidden under the shade.
 Look around - family, friends, creation, God's Word, music... I Timothy 6:17 says “God gives us RICHLY all things to enjoy.”  Many times the tiny berries are very sweet surprises, but we might have to look for them. That is life very often!

2. At the blueberry patch, I have learned that OTHERS HAVE PREPARED THE WAY FOR ME. Someone planted bushes…maybe even birds helpedJ. The owners have provided a bucket to put on my belt, water, a clean outdoor “facility,” clear paths to get to the “trees.”   
BE ENCOURAGERS...  The word “ENCOURAGE” means to “give support, confidence or hope to someone.”  
Paul said in Philemon 1:7, that “the saints were REFRESHED” by Philemon. How wonderful to have your name in the Bible, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit, that you had refreshed others!! You can be someone’s CEO - CHIEF ENCOURAGING OFFICER.
Life's problems go down a bit better with the "blueberries with milk and sugar" of encouragement.  
3. At the blueberry farm, I have learned THAT CIRCUMSTANCES WILL TRY TO KEEP ME AWAY FROM PICKING BERRIES. We must watch for circumstances that would keep us from our goals. Sometimes bees, mosquitoes, even a busy schedule will try to deter a berry picker. Also SOMETIMES THE BEST BERRIES ARE HIDDEN A BIT.  We rush to our Bibles on a busy morning and "pick the berries right up front" so to speak...familiar verses... but we also need to have times of really digging into God's Word  Lack of self-discipline and organization will keep us from being the people we should be in our spiritual lives, our homes, and jobs. We must FOCUS on what is important. Hebrews 12 is very familiar: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus,”
4.  I can share the fruit with others – fresh or preserved,
Some berries I share with people who would never go picking. Some I like to give just because I love them and want them to enjoy the berries. OH THE SWEETNESS of pulling out those berries a few a day and putting them on a bowl of cereal, or using frozen berries for waffles!
This reminds me of meditations written in my journal so I will remember later...
Like meditating on a blessing God has given me before,
Or a phrase from my devotions that helps me and I can share with another...
Or writing a note to encourage a friend...emails, texts, messaging...all good...BUT NOTHING like a proper card in the mail.
 Or setting aside time to take care of a need, or giving a witness to someone I have befriended.
Blueberries...those little, round blue things...I hope they remind you of God’s blessings and encourage you to share those gifts from God with others today!
--Maylou Holladay


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Glorious Pomegranates!



Is your favorite portion of Scripture where God gives Moses instructions for building the Tabernacle and designing the priests' garments? I bet it’s not. I force myself to read that tedious stretch of Scripture. But yet, God gave it to us for a reason, right? I’m sure there is much symbolism found in the specifics, but today I focus on pomegranates. God told Moses to have pomegranates stitched to the trim of the priests’ garments. You may also remember that when the spies scoped out the land, they returned with a single cluster of grapes that took two men to carry and samples of figs and pomegranates. Later, God would decorate His Temple with pomegranates. They are mentioned several times in Song of Solomon – luscious and inviting. In the book of Joel, with God's judgement, they dry up along with the grapes, figs, and the people’s joy.

Intriqued by these references to pomegranates, I researched the health benefits of eating them. They help the cardiovascular system which impacts the heart and blood pressure. They improve memory and reduce inflammation and fight cancer; they’re rich in anti-oxidants. In the Bible, pomegranates seem to symbolize health, well-being, and bounty (Shalom). After learning these things, I bought some pomegranate powder and add it to my Greek yogurt and smoothies. I want a little Shalom in my life, don’t you?

“Thank You, Lord, for the hidden treasures within your Word. I appreciate Your desire to give us good things. May we never take it for granted.”

joyce hague