Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Highest Praise

As I sit down to write this post, I am aware that so many of my thoughts offered here center around our Sunday morning music. Today is another in that series. :)

I am sure that Pastor Fred is guided by the Spirit as he makes plans for our corporate worship. Whether he bows his head and forms a prayer or not, God is guiding him, I know.

Here's how I know: So many of the songs seem designed just for me. I'm not suggesting by any means that I am the most important person in the auditorium; rather, God's Spirit works among us--in all our spirits--to bring about the worship He is due.

Inasmuch as many of our songs are directed to God, they are really prayers. One recent example that stirred my soul has a chorus that says the following:

            You alone can rescue; You alone can save.
            You alone can lift us from the grave.

As we sang, the faces of loved ones who need God's rescue flashed across my mind, and the song became a prayer not only of worship but of supplication to God to rescue those I love. Then the next two lines:

            You came down to find us, led us out of death.
            To You alone belongs the highest praise!

I long for the day I get to see my dear ones praising God along with me because of His mercy and power in their lives.

Today's song service (May 27) couldn't have been better if I'd designed it myself! The praises directed to God for His blessing and love in the "desert place" and in "the wilderness" as well as when "the world's all as it should be" are powerful reminders that God has a plan, and that His plan is a good one. He is "the Everlasting God" Who does not faint or grow weary; we are all in His loving hands.

Even when tragedy hits or we can't really see any good thing happening, we trust Him, our King, and we sing praises to Him--and those praises are also prayers.

--Sherry Poff

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Be Nice

                                 May 13, 2018

(Before I give my thoughts, I would like to honor our daughter, Gillian Holladay Lopez, who went to Heaven on May 11, 2017. She was a wonderful wife and mother to her husband Ralph and their son Kai. Thank you for your prayers.)

Ephesians 4:32 “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”

“Be nice” - If my dear mother said that once, she said it a thousand times. AND
guess what???? I did the same thing with my son and daughter. In fact, Brant and I spent six months taking a church in Fiji. One of the projects I had there was to stitch quotes for our children. And my mom and I both loved to quote Ephesians 4:32. Such a practical, powerful verse!

What an honor to get to “blog” on Mother’s Day! If this blog were to be totally about my mother, and I told you why so many loved that little lady, you would be excited to meet her in Heaven. She was so much fun, so kind, thoughtful, compassionate, unselfish...

BUT she would say: “Sis, talk about the Lord Jesus.” She would tell you that the verse - Ephesians 4:32 - is NOT an option. “Be kind (be nice), be tenderhearted (be compassionate), forgive others as God did because of Jesus.” Those are not choices but “musts” for Christians who wants to please the Lord.

HOW can we consistently “show” all these remarkable traits? Just look right down from Ephesians 4:32 to the next chapter...Ephesians 5. Read the whole chapter sometime. For now, we will use just a few ideas to help us to “be nice.”

Ephesians 5:1 - Follow God’s example. Study His Word to learn about His character.
                 5:2 - Walk in love as Christ loved us. BUT HOW can we do that? Study the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) for many examples of how Christ walked in love towards so many different people.
                5:8 - Realize you are no longer in darkness but are children of light. Shine for the Lord. Kindness is a way to shine.
                  5:15/18 - Walk circumspectly (I loved to teach Latin...the etymology of this word: “circum” = around/”spectare” = to watch or look), be alert, be careful to use God’s Word and His Holy Spirit to help you to walk the right way.
                  5:19/20 - Be joyful in the Lord. Joy is contagious! Some wise person said:
“Life is too short to live as a grouch.”

Have you memorized this verse?
Ephesians 4:32 “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”
If not, d o it soon. It will help you to “be nice.”

--Maylou Holladay

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Brace Yourself

According to “The Truth About Cancer” people, Louis Pasteur’s contemporaries disagreed with him regarding germs making people sick. They argued that it was people’s inability to resist germs that made people sick. They contended that if people would prepare their bodies for the attack of germs, they would not get sick. This concept can be true for other areas of life.

Years ago, I worked in a local Baptist ministry and endured relentless spiritual
attacks the whole time. The Enemy recognized a good work and schemed to
divide and discourage the staff. Sadly, he succeeded.

After being gone for 16 years, I'm back working there. This time, the Lord has
matured and prepared me spiritually, emotionally, and mentally for the onslaught.
I expect it. I don’t want to be destroyed by the Enemy, nor do I want to be an
instrument in his hands. I bet you don’t either, in whatever your calling is.

Most of us are familiar with the armor of God outlined for us in Ephesian 6, but
do we take it seriously? Do we really believe in principalities and powers and
rulers of darkness?

Verse 12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m not strong enough to face the powers of
darkness. I’m “skeered” to step foot into that arena without God’s armor
protecting me. Have you put on His truth, righteousness, and salvation? Are you
ready to share the gospel? Are you lifting your shield of faith? Is the Sword of
God’s Word strapped to your side? Have you prayed for Spirit-filling? That God
would fill your mouth with His words?

Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom (especially if you’re a stay-at-home mom),
a career woman, or an empty-nester does not matter. Our Enemy wants to
destroy us. He literally wants to kill us.

We must be confident, but not arrogant, in our position in Christ. He chose us.
Restored us. We are His children, saved from the bondage of sin and made holy.
He is our Good, Good Father. We prepare ourselves by learning the truth of Who
He is and what He expects of us. We have faith that God is in control and will
handle our problems according to His good purposes. He is for us. Who can be
against us?

Brace yourself. Expect to be attacked. It's coming.

joyce hague

Sunday, April 29, 2018

My Jar Runneth Over

         The past few years I have been hearing of some neat ways to record God’s blessings in a way that can be an encouragement to your whole family, and I love that! One example takes the idea of a stone of remembrance after the Ebenezer stone. Family members find a rock and paint, draw, or write something on it to remind them of a great blessing or answered prayer. Then, they put it in a decorative bowl or jar for all in the family to be able to remember what God has done.
         The most recent one I heard about is decorating a jar and putting notes in that record the blessings/answered prayers. I love the thought of reading through them when you are discouraged, and even more, I am thinking about starting a family tradition of reading through them on New Year’s Eve or Day to remember all that God has done the previous year as you look to the New Year. 
         As I said, I have been contemplating this for awhile because I know how good and encouraging it is to remember what God has done. And my current circumstances prompted me to be thinking about God’s sweet blessings!
         As Ben and I prepared for Sean’s adoption, Ben ran across a journal entry that he wrote shortly after we picked Sean up from the hospital over two years ago. He recorded that as he practiced the sermon for me, he asked a question about something that I was wanting, and I said, “A baby!” A couple days later, we brought Sean home. I didn’t remember that, but because Ben had journaled it, we had that awesome remembrance of a big answered prayer. 
         Now, as we finalized the adoption, we talked about what our hopes were for a sibling for Sean. We both expressed that while we would be fine with whoever the Lord brought to us, but we both hoped to have a little girl. Fifteen days after the adoption, we got a call for a baby girl! Of course, we don’t know if she is to stay in our home permanently, but it still felt like God was affirming that He was listening and caring about the desires of our hearts.
         We can absolutely see God’s preparation in all these things. I had worried about how Sean would respond to a new sibling, and God had provided a little baby boy that we had been babysitting. It felt like a great preparation for Sean to get used to having a baby around, and it was helpful for us to remember how to take care of a young baby again! Plus, I had already pulled out most of the baby things and done baby laundry. So even though we had only 3-4 hours between the time we found out about Marie and picking her up, we were already somewhat prepared, other than a quick run to Walmart. 
         Later on that same crazy day, we found out my dad was at the ER, initially thinking it was just a bad virus, but they discovered he had pulmonary embolisms in both lungs. Those can be so dangerous, even fatal, if not found quickly. We are so grateful the Lord sent him great advice to take the semi-minor symptoms seriously, and he was out of the hospital in a few days!
         Because of these events, I am keenly aware of God’s goodness and protection, and I don’t want to forget that. I especially will want to remember these things on days when life is throwing harder things my way again to encourage me. 
         So what about you? How do you record and remember what God has done for you, His blessings and answered prayers? Is this a practice you need to start to keep an attitude of thankfulness? God is so good to us in the difficult times and the blessed times, but in our humanity, we often like the Israelites can lose sight of all that God has done. We need reminders of God’s good works in our good and bad times to keep us strong in our faith. Our jars runneth over, but sometimes we need that physical reminder! May you all have a blessed week as you gratefully remember what He has done for you!

I Thess 516 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Psa 78:35 They remembered that God was their protector, and that God Most High was their deliverer.

Psa 77:11 I will remember the works of the Lord.Yes, I will remember the amazing things you did long ago!

Joshua 4:6 The stones will be a reminder to you. When your children ask someday, ‘Why are these stones important to you?’ 7 tell them how the water of the Jordan stopped flowing before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the water of the Jordan stopped flowing. These stones will be a lasting memorial for the Israelites.”

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Battle is Real

The classic novel The Hobbit is about a fictional creature named Bilbo Baggins who goes on an adventure to help reclaim a treasure from an evil dragon. He is a very hesitant member of a party of fourteen on a journey that proves very treacherous and challenging. Throughout the journey, as he encounters trolls,  wolves, and giant spiders, Bilbo often longs for his comfortable chair back home and a nice meal. The group finally makes it to the Lonely Mountain, the home of the dragon and the immense treasure, and after seeing proof of the treasure there, they excitedly talk about all the gold and jewels. However, the excitement is short-lived as they remember the dragon guarding the treasure. The author Tolkien comments, “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”

As I am teaching this book to my 7th and 8th grade English class, I am finding that I am very much like Bilbo Baggins. I like comfort; I’d prefer to stay home and not engage in any adventure that could be frightening. Yet this is where The Hobbit ties in to real life and what the Lord has been teaching me lately. (You’ve been wondering where this is going, right?)

There is a battle raging. There is a dragon afoot.  And I can’t stay in the comfort of my couch and a warm meal, oblivious to the battle or pretending it doesn’t exist. I have been reminded of this as I, along with many women at Grace, am participating in the Bible study on the Armor of God. In this study, Priscilla Shirer is challenging us to open our eyes to the battle, to be on the alert, and to be prepared against the enemy’s attacks. The study centers on Ephesians 6 where the Bible tells us about this battle that we are in, against whom we are fighting, and what we should do about it.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (vs. 11-12)

This is battle language; Paul is warning all believers to stand firm and stay on the alert, realizing that our enemy, though unseen, is very real. This enemy is Satan, along with a host of evil followers. Of the three enemies the Bible tells us about (Satan, the world, and our flesh), Satan is the one I overlook in my personal life. I’m very aware of the sin I battle in the flesh as well as the world’s temptations, but I do not stay on the alert against Satan’s tactics.  Yet First Peter tells us that he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” This is serious. Tolkien’s statement above applies well here: “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”

Recently I was talking to Kelly about some fears I’d been dealing with in my mind that had really overwhelmed me. He gently said, “Amy, that is not God’s voice. That is the enemy; he knows where you’re weak and is attacking you in that area.” Wow; that gave me perspective. I didn’t have to listen to those feelings or fears; I had to fight against them with the truth of God’s Word. Up to that point, I hadn’t seen it as a spiritual attack. Yet, I believe that is what it was. The spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places were battling for my mind, my thoughts, trying to get me to take my eyes off God. We must be on the alert.

Yet, sisters, here is the good news. The best news. God has already won this battle! The dragon knows he will not win. He will be defeated. And in the meantime, as we live in this fallen world and must fight against Satan and his spiritual forces, God has given us armor that works. We too can be victorious! May we be on the alert, arm ourselves for battle, and keep our eyes fixed on the One who always leads us triumphantly in Him.

--Amy O'Rear

Sunday, April 15, 2018

How Does Your Garden Grow?

There is a Mother Goose book full of happy rhymes, one of which says this:

            Mistress Mary, quite contrary,
            How does your garden grow?
                        With silver bells
                        And cockle shells
            And pretty maids all in a row.

For the Christian woman, her garden is not full of silver bells or cockle shells but rather beautiful, fragrant, cultivated graces of kindness, selfless generosity, and useful actions. Hers does not grow unprofitable weeds which sap nutrients from her plants.

Wintry blasts cannot kill her garden of graces. She desires--even longs for--visitation from the warm south winds to comfort and blow on her garden. She cannot endure to be unproductive or unprofitable in her graces.

She prays even through the bruising of life's trials. The power and plan of her Savior waters her garden with fresh blessings. Jesus himself finds comfort in her poor, feeble graces.

In the corner of my guest bedroom, now my makeshift painting studio, I have a rocking chair, a lamp, Polly's Portrayals, and Bible books. Each morning I pray, sing, and sometimes cry with tears of gratitude to my Heavenly Father for His everlasting graces to nurture my garden. May I be fragrant with blossoms of faith, love, patience, hope, and joy surrendered to the sweet hand of the Faithful Gardener.

Blow warm winds upon our gardens, Dear One!

--Polly Kettenring

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Confound It!

Confound: to perplex or amaze, especially by a sudden disturbance or surprise; bewilder; confuse.

The Bible tells us in Genesis 11 that the people of the earth, all of one language, wanted to make a name for themselves and did not want to be scattered on the earth. The idea did not please God, so He said, “Let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.” The result was the scattering of the people “upon the face of all the earth.”

For 15 years or more, a few Grace members have been dealing with the confusion that God instituted, by trying to help people from all over the world learn English. I often think He could hardly have thought of a better plan to scatter people. It’s a lot of work to try to learn a new language. It’s a lot of work to try to communicate when we don’t know each other’s languages. It takes patience, kindness, perseverance and a lot of other qualities we don’t want to work on.

The other day as I tried to give a devotional talk at English classes, I was stopped cold by a student who misunderstood what I said and refused to accept it. She objected vigorously and loudly. She thought I had said something untrue about God and she would not let it stand. I was proud of her for standing up for God! We tried to clarify, and the rest of the talk substantiated her view, so I hope she was satisfied. But we never know whether we have gotten our point across.  On the way home, I told God, with tears, that He has to get us through this mess He made. We need Him to give understanding of our English words as well as of spiritual truths.

My husband’s niece, Judy, spent her young adult years in Europe, smuggling Bibles into “closed” countries with Brother Andrew’s organization. She learned several languages and later married Peter, a Swiss man who also knew several languages. But they had no common language! After Judy’s mother, Peggy, had visited the newlyweds in Switzerland, she told us that each time Peter and Judy spoke to each other, they finished their communication with, “Do you know what I said? Do you understand what I mean?”

Peggy wisely observed that all marriages would be better if we all asked these questions when speaking to our spouses! Maybe we all should say those things to our friends, our children, our co-workers – and our other-language friends.
Let us be careful in our use of our own speech, patient in our reception of other people’s word usage and diligent in trying to understand the true meaning of God’s words.

--Lynda Shenefield