Be a Barnabas

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’m known in this world. Now, I’m not talking about popularity or notoriety. I’m speaking about how I’m known in the circle of my Christian brothers and sisters and to the dark world around us.  My heart’s desire has always been to be a cheerleader. One who encourages others.

In scripture, God shows us such a man. His name was Barnabas. Did you know that Barnabas was born with the name Joesph? It’s true, go look it up. The disciples often referred to Joseph has “Mr. Encouragement.” (Acts 4:36) Therefore his name changed to Barnabas, meaning Son of Help. Barnabas was known as a giving man. In fact, the chapter ends with Barnabas taking the money from the field he sold and laying it at the feet of the Apostles. Can you imagine being so encouraging that people referred to you Mrs. Encouragement? Being so giving that you give of your time and your resources with a generous spirit instead of begrudgingly? 

Truth is, many of you are a Barnabas. God has given you that gift of Encouragement. You may or may not realize it, and you may or may not be comfortable with it, but that’s the gift He has given you. If all of us with this with gift accepted it and acted on it in faith, can you imagine what growth could occur in the church? 

Rather than people feeling judged or inadequate, a Barnabas would encourage others with the giftings they see in them. They would help them understand that except by the grace of God, any of us could have walked down the wrong path. We all have things in our past we would rather people not know. Isn’t it time that we allow others to know they don’t have to be perfect to come to God? That He will love each of us just as we are, yet with that love, He will totally change a person and transform them into a person that is LIKE Him. 

Kindness is contagious. So is Negativity.  What you would rather be known for? Someone who encourages others to be the man or woman of God He has called them to be, or one that discourages and crushes a spirit? 

There is new song out that’s popular in both the Christian and Country music realms.  In this song, I’m struck by the lyrics that state: 

In a time full of war, be peace 
In a time full of doubt, just believe 
Yeah, there ain’t that much difference between you and me 
In a time full of war, be peace 

In a world full of hate, be a light 
When you do somebody wrong, make it right 
Don’t hide in the dark, you were born to shine 
In a world full of hate, be a light 

Today I encourage you to take a spiritual gifts survey, see what your gifts are. I included a link to one for you here: https://gifts.churchgrowth.org/spiritual-gifts-survey/ 

I think we can all agree though that we can be an encouragement in this world, we can all be a light in a world full of hate. Be a Barnabas today! 

Sticks and Stones

We’ve all heard the saying, Stick and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Well, I think it’s safe to say, that’s not at all true. Words hurt deeply. We’ve all been there. Gotten heated and said something in haste we wish we could take back. Or in true social media fashion, we take to the keyboard and let out our frustrations and unleash them on the platform of our choice. Or on occasion we’ve even taken a passive-aggressive approach and said something in “jest” ever to be certain to throw in the, “I’m just kidding” phrase. Let’s all be honest and raise our hands here. Lately though, in true Psalm 139:23-24 fashion, God has had me searching my soul regarding my speech. God’s word has so much to say about this topic.

Psalm 19:14 says, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Man, that one truly convicts me. If I were standing in the presence of the King of my heart, would I still speak the same or would I take a moment and word it so as not to offend the King? If I would do that for Jesus, shouldn’t I do that for my friends and family or even a stranger?

Proverbs 12:18 – “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  Our tongues have a lot of power, and that is confirmed in Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” When I read these verses, I almost want to weep. When I reflect on my days as a young mom, I remember the times I lashed out at my babies because I was stressed and at my breaking point. I often apologized later and told them that Mommy said some mean things that she shouldn’t have said, but the words were out there. I prayed that God would speak truth to their hearts and help me to do the same. That he would be the healing balm to mend their spirits.  

Now when I mention all the above instances, I know the word tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So if you are someone who has struggled with the same things as me, don’t let yourself live in guilt over it. I think the Lord would have us confess it, forget it, and drive on. I know I try not to obsess about the past but instead give it to God and try to be better going forward. I also don’t want to make anyone feel as though they have messed up so much that it’s just hopeless. God can make all things new. Even relationships that could have been damaged because of our words. I would encourage you today though, if God brings someone to mind that you may have hurt or offended, go to them and make it right. God will bless your obedience in that. I do think that God desires all of us to examine ourselves and our speech and ask him to set burning coals on our tongues at times because we are a people of unclean lips. (Isaiah6:5)   

Sticks and Stones may break our bones and words can truly hurt others. Let’s start fresh today and let our words be like honey, not like a thrashing sword that wounds.  

Looking Back on 2020

2020 has become known as the year people hate. I’ve heard so many say they are just done with it and if I’m honest, I’ve said the same. This year has also become a year of division. So many choosing sides over one thing or another. It has brought with it much fear, anxiety, anger, and even hate. It’s so easy to get caught up in the emotions and the rhetoric that surrounds this year.

But for the last few months, I have been asking God what it is that he is trying to tell or show me. Knowing that nothing comes to me that isn’t first sifted through the Father’s hands makes me understand that he knew everything that was ahead. The question is, how have I responded to it? Have I been salt and light to this world or have I been a reason for others to turn away? Have I shown Jesus or I have just shown my flesh? A few scriptures the Lord has given me lately are:

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

Proverbs 18:1 An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

And the one that really gets me:

John 13:15  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Have I followed the example Christ gave me? Have I served with humility? Have I been a witness by sharing the good news of Jesus or has my flesh been louder to the world than the love of God? The Lord has been telling me that they are watching, they are seeking. The field is ripe for the harvest, but am I destroying the crop by being rotten fruit?

I love a line in the song from Casting Crowns, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.” It says, “they don’t know what we’re for, only what we’re against when we judge the wounded. Let’s put down our signs, cross over the lines and love like you did.”

To sum it all up, I pray as 2020 comes to a close and for the rest of my days, that people see Jesus when they look at me. I pray I show love and that I always point others to Christ. May the World know we are Christians by our love.

Covid 19

Life before Covid 19 is something I think we all took for granted.

Many of us griped about our jobs. We didn’t like some of the songs we sang in church. We didn’t like what that person wore or how someone looked at us. Our lives were so busy, we didn’t stop to even have dinner around the table with family. Ballparks, ballet/dance, gymnastics, softball, soccer, tennis, pageants, football, travel ball; we were convinced we could do it all and we did.

Now, we’ve been ordered to stay home for 14 days. That’s it, 14 days and it seems like a lifetime to us. I understand it could be longer, but we really don’t know what to do with ourselves. How do we handle all of this downtime?

gratitude-1251137_1280I honestly think that in the midst of all of this chaos and uncertainty, God is calling us to intimacy with him. Yes, we have religion. We go to church, we read our bibles, we sing the songs (even if we don’t like them), but do we do it to check things off a list or is it because Lord is the absolute love of our lives?

Revelation 2:4 says, “Yet I hold this against you. You have left your first love.”

I pray we all get alone with God each day and ask him to search our hearts. Ask him to forgive us for not making him our first priority and letting other things get in the way. I pray we find our first love again. That we live our lives with enthusiasm, passion and purpose just as we did when we first came to know Christ.

We are getting closer and closer to the time when Christ returns and I pray we all are found spotless before Him. If you are one of those who have that intimate relationship with Christ, I pray that through FaceTime, Facebook, text messages or what have you, that you find someone to mentor and help them along the journey. I pray that once this is over (and it will be over one day), that we all understand what an honor and a privilege it is to get to attend church, to have a job, to be able to take our children to their activities and to have sister in Christ that encourages us and builds us up. I pray our children will see the fire we have for the Lord and they will want to know him and live for him. I pray we all come out of this stronger than we went in. Until Christ returns, may we all press toward the mark of the high calling of Christ Jesus. May we forget what is behind and Press on for that prize!! Philippians 3:12-14

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A Rough Christmas

Christmas has been a little rough for me for the past several years.

I’m not sure, but I think it started with the loss of my oldest sister. She loved Christmas, although she got anxious about gift giving. She made the most delicious fudge, and we spent days together making goodies.

Another reason it was rough is because my kids grew up and lost the “magic” of Christmas, so it became like routine to me. Just going through the motions of celebrating.

A few years ago, we lost my brother-in-law way too soon and again, Christmas changed. We always looked forward to being with him and all the sudden, he wasn’t there…

Christmas had become a time of grief. My heart ached each year, and I began to buy gifts because I had to. There was no joy in it. people-walking-in-the-street-2009905

This year has been much the same. Little money to buy gifts. The busyness of the season and always being gone. Never getting to spend quality time with family because each one is somewhere different.

I have a dear friend battling cancer and she is fighting for her life.

This year, we also have the added grief of divorce in our family and my grandchildren will have to leave on Christmas afternoon to spend time with their Dad. Again, I had lost the joy of it all.

This past Wednesday, I had the privilege of watching my oldest granddaughter and her friends perform various Christmas songs for us. Each song mentioned Jesus and the real imagesreason for the season. As I watched her sing, watched her face light up as she recited scripture of the Christmas story, listened as she loudly and proudly sang, “Go Tell It on the Mountain” at the top of her lungs, hearing them sing away in a manger and resting their sweet heads on their hands,… my heart began to melt. The joy began to return.

Why? Not because of a 3-year-old, but because of the God who used that 3-year-old to proclaim his message to me once again. “Perhaps Christmas you see, doesn’t come from a store. Perhaps Christmas means so much more.”

Today, if you are searching for that Christmas Joy, just remember the savior born in Bethlehem and the Joy he brings to the world and to your heart.

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Don’t Look Back

(Photo by Roman Bintang on Unsplash)

Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking. With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:14-17, 23-26

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Lot’s wife. I’ve been trying to imagine myself in the midst of all the sin she was surrounded by and the feelings of anxiousness I might feel. I would want out, and fast. I would want my family protected from all of that.

God, with his amazing mercy, allowed them to leave the land before he destroyed it. This was it! This was her chance to flee, to take her family to a better place. What relief. She was given one command, “Don’t look back.”  Seems easy enough, right? I mean it was horrible there, I’m free to leave and rescue my family, so why in the world would I look back?

Yet, as she was leaving the land, human nature was more than she could bear. She turned and looked back.

Why? I have several assumptions… We can never really know, because she was turned into a pillar of salt, so no one can get her thoughts. There was no interview to be had because, well, she wasn’t able to speak. My mind could only imagine a few reasons why she may have looked back.

Maybe she was afraid of the unknown. What she was living in was horrible, yet she knew it. She knew what to expect, and she may have gotten comfortable with the sin around her.

woman-looking-away-1493398138zofMaybe she was afraid for the people left there.

Maybe she made relationships and she didn’t want harm to come to them.

Maybe she was hoping God would change his mind and give them one more chance.

Maybe Satan said to her, much as he did to Jesus, “Did God really say he would destroy them?”

Whatever the reason was, I’ve often thought about how many times in this life I’ve looked back.

There are times in my life when I’ve wondered if I made right decisions, questioned myself when I knew I had heard God, looked back and wondered why I took that new position or why I moved to a certain place. Was it me making those decisions? If God spoke to me and told me to do these things, would I have trials? Would it be this hard?

Friend, we have to make the decision today to stop looking back. He never said everything would be easy if we followed him. In fact, he said we would encounter trials along the way, but to consider that Joy because our faith would be stronger. Whatever you hear the Lord telling you to do today, do it. Don’t look back. Even when you are tempted to question, keep your eyes focused on Christ and the prize laid before you. Don’t be a pillar of salt, be salt and light to the world. Keep moving forward with Christ in the lead.

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Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

God, Where Are You?!

by Guest writer Beth Rogers

An amazing Christian family is under attack and loses custody of their child, a 19-year-old with her whole life ahead of her is killed in a car crash, a young teacher with 2 young children loses her life, your teenage girl is unwed and pregnant, another woman struggles with infertility and miscarriages, your child leaves home and doesn’t have any contact with you. Our world seems to be crumbling. In these times, it is so easy for Satan to deceive us and make us think God has left us. The enemy twists things around in our head and makes us think that God has just forgotten us, and that something we did caused all of this to happen. He must be mad at us. He must think we are not worthy of good things. He’s given up on us. There are times when we shake our fists and ask God why He let this happen or we scream and ask, “God, where are you?” The enemy would also have us to believe that we are the only ones this has ever happened to and that somehow, we are failures.

The enemy would also have us to believe that we are the only ones this has ever happened to and that somehow, we are failures.

I want you to remember what scripture says about our enemy. John 10:10 says, “The Thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.” First Peter 5:8 says, “Your enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” John 8:44 says, “He [Satan] is a liar and the father of lies.”

Go back with me to a time when there was this couple who had it all. Life was perfect and glorious. Adam and Eve only had one rule to obey. God told them not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They had everything else at their disposal. Everything. Satan came along and twisted things around and asked, “Did God really say?” How many times has that crazy enemy whispered that same thing in your head? “Did God really say he loves you?” “Who do you think you are? Do you really think God would do that for you?” Adam and Eve allowed Satan to twist their thoughts and they were lured to sin. They felt ashamed and tried to hide from God, BUT GOD went searching for them.

Go with me to a time when God gave the enemy permission to oppress his faithful servant Job. He was stricken with the devastating loss of his family, his wealth, his livelihood and his health. His wife asked him to curse God and die, yet Job remained faithful to God.

monks-path-sunset-landscapeGo with me to a time when a father’s son asked for his inheritance and left home. He wasted everything he had. He ate with pigs. His father never heard from him. One day the son went back home. The father had every right to turn this child away but instead, he ran to his child and threw a welcome home party!

My dear friends, God is not going to leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) He says to us to count it all joy when we encounter trials and tribulations (James 1:2) for when our faith is tested, we will come forth shining as gold.

Satan would have you give up, throw your hands up and surrender. God wants you to surrender everything you have to Him, to trust Him with the tiniest of details, to say, “no matter what, even if He slay me, yet will I serve him.” (Job 13:15)

Where is God you ask? He’s as close as the mention of His name, my friend. Say the name of Jesus today and allow him to calm your fears and dry your tears and wipe away your pain.

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