Back to Basics: Sin

Why do I NOT want to write this article?

I suppose it’s because it heaps correction and conviction on my own head. But I don’t shy away from truth just because it hurts. So here goes…

On an average day I think of myself as a “good” person. Overall I obey the scriptures, treat people decently, act morally, and haven’t broken any laws (except possibly speeding and acting selfishly towards my husband). You probably think of yourself in a similar way. Even people who don’t live upright lives often still look upon themselves as good people. We humans can lie to ourselves and deny reality, deny sin.

Sin is a huge issue in our modern society even though society at large avoids the word and the concept of sin. Just look at contemporary politicians and the scandals surrounding them. But let’s not get to feeling all self-righteous. Though we may not have committed the particular sin a politician is accused of in the media, we have committed our own sin. Don’t think so? Just stick with me a bit.

So what is sin anyway? How would you define sin?

commandments-49012_1280.pngWe would probably all include murder, robbery, assault and such things in our definition of sin. We readily agree that anything that breaks one of the 10 Commandments is sin. But then… we back pedal when it gets to some of the “lesser” of the commandments. You know what I mean. “Bearing false witness” – we justify with the unspoken excuse, I didn’t really lie. I just revealed the part of the story that doesn’t make me look bad. “Honor your father and mother” – Oh, but you don’t know MY father, surely God didn’t mean for me to honor him? “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” – I know it’s supposed to be a day of reverence, but we have to… You can finish the sentence. And I won’t even dig into commands 1 though 3 about no other gods before me, no graven images, and not taking the Lord’s name in vain. These 3 have fallen by the wayside with most of  our modern world. But these 10 commandments only scratch the surface of the “what is sin” question.

A quick search in the new testament brings up 1 John 5:17 which states, “All wrongdoing (or unrighteousness) is sin” depending on which version you read. Well that surely broadens the definition!

Our world doesn’t see an action as sin if it is done in self-defense. In this modern world gone crazy, if you do something to me it’s wrong. But if I have a reason for doing the same thing then it’s not wrong. We see that in our teens – How dare she steal my boyfriend? But didn’t you do the same thing to someone else last month? Well that was different, I loved him. We see it in political parties – we criticize another party for loyalty to a candidate who has displayed corrupt behavior, but excuse those in our own party that we want to believe in. We see it in the riots where people are – sometimes rightfully, sometimes not – protesting over a perceived injustice, and then they turn that around and act unjustly to others by injuring, destroying property, and burning buildings of innocent people. Society excuses itself if it feels it has a reason while condemning another whether there is reason or not. Scripture speaks to this societal phenomenon also, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5) Are you justifying your sin yet accusing another? Let’s get the stuff out of our eyes first so that we can see clearly. Sin blinds us to truth many times.

Our world ignores and belittles sin. Most often these days people simply ignore the idea of sin, unless a wrong is done to them personally they (and we) tend to let it slide. These progressive times have yielded progressive thinkers that see sin as an antiquated idea that does not fit in our society. Have we the church let this tendency subtly slip into our thinking? Do we find ourself thinking, “Well that’s not as bad as ____,” or justifying our actions with our selfish reasoning and lame excuses? Have you and I forgotten the principal of  Ephesians 5 that teaches us that sin is improper for God’s holy people and we are to walk as children of light?  Verse 11 of that chapter warns us to “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness.”

Our world today tends to only see it as sin if it’s an action. But God’s word clearly teaches that the sins of the heart are just that – SIN. In some ways sins of the heart are worse, because they are like the seed or the root of sinful actions. Thoughts yield actions. Luke 15:18-19 tells us that “the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person.” Do we regularly inspect the depths of our heart and thought life for that root of sin and weed it out? Do we regularly hold our inner thoughts and motivations up to the light of scripture and allow the cleansing of God’s word to flush out our iniquity?

dangerous-1040641_1280.jpgOften in our struggle against any kind of sin we fall into the trap Joshua Harris mentions in his book Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is). While talking about content that we allow to enter our minds he says, “…Instead of seeing how much I can avoid, I spend my energy trying to see how much I can handle.” (page 118) This is so true. Our enemy lures us into thinking we’re strong enough to play around with things that lead us to sin. We’re like people gathering beautiful stones on the rim of a canyon, getting closer and closer to the edge for more trinkets until our foot begins to slide into the abyss of sin and it’s too late to rescue ourselves.

Susanna Wesley, mother of those godly brothers of the 1700’s John and Charles Wesley, is quoted to have said the following:

“Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.” (Letter, June 8, 1725)

Wow! Even allowing myself to speed because I’ve run late looks like questionable behavior with this thought in mind. My breaking a simple law of the road makes my heart callous to being obedient. If I allow myself to break one law it makes it just that much easier to break another, especially a command that God has given us, but people around us ignore.

So where does that leave us? Do we follow the ways of the world? Or do we stand as beacons of light upholding truth and righteousness while still loving and gently warning of the dangers of sin? Do we give in to little sins because everyone else does? Or do we avoid anything that impairs our conscience and obscures our sense of God? Do we participate in things that leave us in bondage to sin? To each of us scripture says it is our choice each day. “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) The choice is clear; go with God or not. Choose wisely.

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My Story: Underestimated Peace

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.

by Guest Contributor Lisa Greene

Depending on the season of life, my roles have varied from daughter, sister, mother, wife, school principal, teacher, daycare administrator, missionary, pastor’s wife, and business owner. Through all these roles that God has given me, I have claimed Phil 1:20, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.

Those roles are all a part of who I am, but as with all of us, I am sometimes a hidden person on the inside that people never see. Being very blunt, openly honest, I am a naturally negative, sometimes fearful, quite anxious, and a controlling person who has learned some very difficult lessons at the Hand of God. All of these led to a low self-esteem for years, a feeling of never being able to measure up, never being good enough, always fearful that someone might see who I really was on the inside and see how terrible I was. In reality though, it was a sin condition that led to who I was and am on the inside.

It wasn’t until I caught a glimpse of God’s peace that I came to understand how His peace could change my life. It’s what I call God’s underestimated peace. It truly is a peace that is far beyond all human understanding, but it is attainable and absolutely necessary for our relationship with God. Just as we sometimes underestimate the power of God, I believe as children of God, we underestimate how God’s peace can change our lives and deepen our relationship with Him.

I wish I could say that my journey to attain God’s peace in my life began at my salvation at the age of 12, but it actually began about 15 years after that. During that time in my life I had been blessed with a wonderful husband, two beautiful children, and a church that was supportive and nurturing. God had opened doors and Sam and I were entering full-time ministry on staff at Liberty Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Fl. We were happy, we were following God’s leading in our lives, we were fulfilled. All should have been peaceful, right?

baby-2922564_1920.jpgWhen our children were about 7 and 5 years old, God began to stir my heart to have another child. My husband couldn’t understand this and I will never forget him saying, “We have a girl and a boy, what else could you want?” When I realized he was not going to be a pushover in this area, I became what many of us wives become when we don’t get our way – a nagging, whiny, selfish woman – like the woman that Proverbs 21 talks about – “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a contentious woman in a wide house.” I began to back my husband into a corner, trying to play God. He in turn was not swayed by any of my whiny, manipulative ways! Our home, my heart, during that time was anything but peaceful.

I was discontent, not thankful for what God had already given me, filled with worry that God would not give me what I asked for. Little did I know how much more He wanted to give me, but He knew I had lessons to learn before He could give me more. At around the same time, I was asked to participate in leading a Bible study at our church. The study was on being a content woman of God! You talk about a struggle! Praise God, it was through that study I learned about God in a way that I had never seen Him before. He became my ENOUGH! He became my FULLNESS! He became my ALL! For the first time, I took complete ownership for my relationship with God. Though my husband was the spiritual leader of our home, I learned that I was accountable to God for my own spiritual growth and relationship with Him. Most of all, I learned contentment.   It was during this time that I claimed another verse in Philippians that God used to help me realize that I was worthy and He was enough — Phil. 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

This verse began to affect my relationship with God in a way that made me realize that I had worth, I was somebody in God’s eyes, I had a special purpose. Through this time God taught me that He was enough for me AND I could be enough as I was. I did not need to be controlling of my circumstances and those around me, because He was in control. I did not need to be anxious, because He was the Great Provider! Presenting myself to God as a living sacrifice just the way I was became my first step toward the Peace of God.

When His peace came into my life, it came with a contentment. I began to pray God’s will, not mine, and ultimately I began to pray more specifically, “God, if you want us to have another child, please change my husband’s heart. And Lord, if you don’t want us to have another child, please change my heart and take the desire that I have away.” I prayed that prayer for many months, learning more about God’s peace, and the contentment and the perfect rest that comes with it. You see, it wasn’t that God didn’t want me to have the desire of my heart. It was that He knew I needed to learn to rest in Him and grow in His grace and peace before I could handle what He wanted to give me.

Little did I know how at the same time, God was working in the heart of my husband. One day, out of the clear blue (I had been praying, but not talking to him about it) he came and said, “I think we should have another child!” In March of the following year God gave us a son. Two years later he gave us the daughter that would complete our family of six.

PeaceThrough this time in my life I learned what God’s peace really is. How it demonstrated itself inside of me was life-changing. It is a PEACE that passes all human understanding. It is a PEACE that is possible regardless of circumstances (in us OR around us). It is a PEACE that dispels all negativity. It is a PEACE that comes to those who ask for it and believe. It is a PEACE that produces a rest within us. It is a PEACE that triumphs over fear and anxiety. It is a PEACE that proclaims God’s power and God’s presence.

Just as I have come to learn what God’s peace is, I have come to understand how my worry is an actual affront to Almighty God. Worry is me saying that I don’t think God can handle it! As the Psalmist David said, “Lord, when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.” (Ps. 56:3). Worry is simply being afraid – of the future, of the past, of the present. We can have victory over the worry that often claims us by using the weapons of warfare that God has equipped us with.

In Tony Evans’ book, Prayers for Victory in Spiritual Warfare, he states that we have to put on the shoes of PEACE to combat Satan, and have victory over fear and anxiety. When we trust in Him, He exchanges our fears for His PEACE. We put on the shoes of peace by trusting in His presence and power and seeking Him in the midst of our fear and anxiety. Dr. Evans further explains by saying,

“I put on the shoes of PEACE by humbling myself. I recognize my inadequacy and my lack of control. Much of fear stems from a need for control, but ultimately I do not control anything. Being anxious on an airplane does not keep it in the sky. Being fearful of ill-health does not keep me healthy. Being afraid that my marriage or relationships will deteriorate does not keep them strong. This is because ultimate control is in His hands, and no matter what happens, He will use it for good when we love Him. Humility allows me to acknowledge that He knows better than I do.”

It was a difficult season in my life but one of the most rewarding times of growth in my relationship with God. By humbling myself to His authority, I gained His peace as a companion in my spiritual walk. I can claim I Peter 5:6-7 (“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the Mighty Hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”) as a promise that He has fulfilled in my life. I have lived it, and continue to live it and claim it each day. Some days, some trials, some valleys, are easier to claim it in that others, but through the lessons of the past I am reminded of His promise.

When God closes a door, it is this PEACE that reminds me that He is in control. When I face struggles in relationships, it is this PEACE that reminds me that I am His, wonderfully made and created in love. When financial difficulties come, it is this PEACE that triumphs over my fear and anxiety to remind me that He is my Provider and He has a plan to prosper me. When I lost two brothers last year within six months of each other, it was this PEACE that brought me through the valley of despair and reminded me that I have a Heavenly Father whose loving arms are always open wide.

We have no excuse as believers to not live a life of peace. We have been given every tool we need to conquer negativity, dispel the darkness around us, and defeat Satan. The Word of God has been given to us full of promises that, if we live and abide in them, will lead us into a peaceful relationship with our Heavenly Father where we can rest in His loving arms. David, the Psalmist, in Psalm 4, so sweetly pictures it for us, “I will both lay me down in peace and rest, for thou, Lord, makes me dwell in safety.” By allowing the peace of God to rule our hearts and minds, we are able to present ourselves to our Heavenly Father as believers of faith and love, always confident in His power and keeping.

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I will both lay me down in peace and rest, for thou, Lord, makes me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Priceless!

Whether your day is filled with the traditional turkey and dressing amidst all the relatives or you are sitting alone beside the bed of an extrememly ill loved one eating hospital food…

Whether or you’re in a homey setting on on call at work…

Whether you are alone, with people dear to you, or with a crowd that you wish you weren’t with…

Whether you are living in plenty or in want today…

STOP where you are. If you have time to be reading this, you have time to be thankful. Even in a “worst case scenario” Thanksgiving Day, you are alive, you have the sight and the mind and the ability to read this, you are breathing – so that means God still has a purpose for you, and you are loved by the Father.

So today ladies, we will choose to be thankful and not dwell on what is NOT, or what we don’t have or can’t do, or the things that we wish weren’t the way they are but we can’t change, or the broken relationships and pain surrounding us. Grab a piece of paper or a paper napkin or open up your notes app, and make a list of all you have to be thankful for. Count your blessings! Name them one by one as the old hymn says.

And meditate on these verse for a bit for encouragement.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:6-8

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Psalm 100:4

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind” Psalm 107:8

“The Lord, the Lord, [is] the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” Exodus 34:6-7

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Celebrate with a Grateful Heart!

 

 

Back to Basics: Bible Reading

It’s that time again! Skip the decaf and go straight for the good stuff! Grab your Bible, pen, and journal, and Wake Up! Today we’re going back to a very simple basic: reading your Bible.

In January we challenged you to pick your favorite Bible translation, find a Bible reading plan, and begin to dig in to God’s Word for 2017.

Did you do it?

Did you start it and not stick with it possibly? (I’ve done that many times myself.) If you started a plan to read the entire Bible in 2017 and stayed the course, you will now find yourself, here in mid-November, having pexels-photo-289689read over 90% of the whole Bible. Nine-tenths! Ninety percent of God’s word full of love and wisdom, peace, history, and instruction. You are a different person now than you were 10 1/2 months ago. I know this because Isaiah 55:11 tells us, “My word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” As you have been reading and feeding yourself on His word this year, He has been changing you, achieving His purposes for you and accomplishing His desired work in your heart! Isn’t that encouraging? You may not see the growth and change when you look at yourself today as compared to yesterday, but think back to a year ago. You may be surprised by what changes you see that God has worked in your life!

Now, for those of us, like me, who are a little behind in what we hoped for this year, it’s time to wake up and re-focus. I have gottten 6 days behind over the course of the year. I know because I keep a list and check it off. I’m lazy if I don’t take measures to keep myself faithful in seeking Him. But I’m not quitting; I’m reading a little extra each day. Not that my goal is to check off a check list, but in pursuit of my goal to know God more intimately and know His word more fully, I press on.

So, if you find you haven’t been as faithful in coming to sit at Jesus feet each day as you wish you had been this year, do you give up and say, “Oh well.”? No. You recommit, dig in deeper, wake up earlier, and read His word more each day. The great thing about the Father is that we never run out of fresh starts with Him.

unnamedWhen you sit down with the Scriptures, pen in hand, if you only read and don’t think or take notes or pray, you won’t get as much out of it. Recently, I have picked up the habit of listening to the scripture as I read it visually. I use the Bible Gateway app on my phone. When you click on the menu icon at the top left you get a drop down menu that has “Audio Bible” as an option. It allows you to choose the version you want to listen to, the Bible book and chapter, and the person reading it aloud. I use Max McLean who has a great voice that helps you hear the meaning.

For the rest of this post I want to give you some ideas for a fresh start at approaching the Word of God. The first one is the one I use, though they are all somewhat similar.

1 – Prayer followed by Observation-Interpretation-Application. Each morning as I open my Bible, I begin by praying that the Father will open the eyes of my heart to see and understand the truths I’m reading that day. This gets my mind engaged and my heart focused on Him, and it let’s Him know I’m ready and willing to hear and obey.

Second, I read a portion of scripture making simple observations: Who is the passage about? What’s going on? What lessons are being taught? What promises are given? What does it reveal about God or human nature or sin, etc.?

Third, I try to interpret the meaning of the passage asking myself what the deeper meaning and implications of the scripture are. How does this portion of scripture fit in with what all I already know about scripture? Does it enlighten me on a deep truth I haven’t understood? Sometimes it expands my understanding of God’s love, mercy, and grace. Without doubt,  it will help me interpret the overall message of scripture more clearly: scripture is the best commentary on scripture.

And finally, I try to see how to apply it to my life. Does it give me a list of practical helps that I can seek to live out that week? Or perhaps it reminds me to walk in faith or step out in service to others or praise him in the middle of our tough circumstances. Does it correct error in me, perhaps in an area of theology where I have followed the ways of the world without ever really considering what His word implied?

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S.O.A.P.

2 – SOAP – Scripture-Observe-Apply-Pray – The SOAP method starts and ends differently than our first method, but has some of the same components.. First you go to scripture. But you don’t just read it, you write out on paper the passage you are reading! (When we write things out we remember them better.) Then you follow a similar path as in the first option, You observe and apply God’s word as instructed above. In this model, you end with prayer asking for God’s wisdom and equipping that you can live out what you’ve learned.

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F.L.I.P.

3 – FLIP – Facts-Lessons-“I need to apply this”-Pray – In this one, you read the Word searching out the Facts: who, what, when, where, why, and how. The you read back through looking for Lessons (promises, principles, instructions, etc.) in that same scripture portion. After that you you consider how I need to apply this to my life. And once again you end with the prayers of your heart.

Whichever method you can remember most easily is probably a good place to start.

Wherever you find yourself in your spiritual journey right here at Thanksgiving, it’s never too late to seek God. Today is the time to start. Whether you are finishing up a year’s commitment to read a portion of scripture or you are just deciding to get started reading scripture methodically, go for it. As you immerse yourself in God’s word you will grow closer to the Father, find solutions to your challenges, understand the world better, and walk in a more Christlike manner. Scripture changes you! So don’t quit. And don’t make excuses or put off starting. Just do it!

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My Story: Scripture Speaks

God writes each of our stories in His own unique way. But we are not just characters, we help write the script as we choose to obey or disobey the Father. There is a power in our stories. The truths of God come through as we look back on how far the Father has brought us. Scriptures come alive within our hearts as we live out the truths they proclaim. The following is the story of a Christ-follower just like you, who has walked through the ups and downs of life with her Father God.

By Guest Contributor Felicia Harris

My Story:

I grew up in a single parent home and lived in a small country town called Thomasville in South Alabama. My mom never married. I attended a small Methodist church that had a census of about 15 to 30 members that attended regularly. I grew up with 5 brothers and sisters in my home, and my mom also raised my cousin when his mother left him in Alabama and continued her life in New York. I had a relationship with my father, but he was married with my 5 other siblings.

My church life was different from the norm. Unfortunately, I don’t remember being involved in church growing up. When we did attend church, my mother always told us to say the Bible verse, “Jesus wept” – John 11:35. I didn’t know the significance of the verse until I became an adult. Jesus wept for his friend Lazarus while showing empathy for Mary and Martha. Romans 12:15 says, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” Jesus wept can also be another example of God’s grief over our sin. I was expected to go to church, but participation of the children wasn’t emphasized. I do remember enjoying the different visiting choirs. I have always enjoyed Gospel music and it brings me peace during times of stress or storms. I remember as a child the sprinkling of water for christening. I do remember the feeling that something was missing. My mother did encourage prayer for meals and bedtime. I don’t think prayer was significant in other areas of our lives. I do remember praying as I was growing up for a better life for myself when I became an adult. My mom did work in a factory for a short time, but money was tight in the household. I grew up on government assistance most of my childhood. My father gave minimal support for 3 kids. I dealt with bullying and peer pressure as other teenagers. During my high school years my older sister, Sheila, married and joined a Pentecostal church. She shared her ministry with me and I attended her church several times. I still didn’t feel at home.

I went off to college and my sister was constantly giving me scriptures or prayers to read. I was in college when I started tithing. As my sister explained, “God asks for 10% but He also wants you to give from your heart.” Deuteronomy 14:22-23 (TLB) tells us, “You must tithe all of your crops every year. Bring this tithe to eat before the Lord your God at the place He shall choose as His sanctuary; this applies to your tithes of grain, new wine, olive oil, and the firstborn of your flocks and herds. The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives.” Second Corinthians 9:7 says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” God promises to richly bless us if we are faithful in tithes and offerings. And Malachi 3:10 says, “ ‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try me now in this, says the Lord of Hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessings that there will not be room enough to receive it.’ ” As my salary increased, my tithes increased. The Lord has been faithful and all my needs have always been taken care of.

church-pews-pxb1398784-milt_ritterI continued to attend several Methodist and Baptist churches in the Birmingham area, but I never felt at home. I wanted a church that the pastor teaches from the Bible and not just their opinions. One of my favorite verses in college was “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NLT) Unfortunately, I did make some bad decisions that did affect me later in life.

I had goals for myself: 1) graduate from UAB as a nurse, 2) marriage, 3) child. I did graduate in 1998 and purchased my first home at 25 years old. Marriage and kids didn’t come as planned. I continued to pray to God, but now looking back I realize that I never had a real relationship with Him.

In 2003, I had an infection that medications were not working. I had episodes of feeling good or times that my body felt that I was crashing. It’s true; nurses don’t take care of themselves. MD’s ran several tests to determine the cause. While waiting on the results prayers became more intense. I now believe that I was negotiating with God about my life. I think this is when my relationship with God became stronger. My cousin Keisha and I always tried reading through the Bible, but we didn’t have a clear understanding of the meaning. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and received treatment with oral Metformin. Thankfully I didn’t need insulin injections. Unfortunately, I had a time of depression because I knew the complications for uncontrolled diabetes. I continued to pray and changed my diet and exercise. God blessed me and I only had to take the medication for one year.

My Marriagepexels-photo

I was married September 23, 2006, to Mr. Harris. We attended church regularly and decided to make GFBC our home church, so we joined together in March 2007. I made my commitment to God by being baptized in April 2007. My husband and I attended regularly at first, but eventually my husband’s work schedule changed. Our marriage has had ups and downs. We have faced the issues all marriages face: attending church regularly, tithing, what we wanted for our child and ourselves, and the normal turmoil of any intimate relationship – trust, guilt from the past, selfishness, forgiveness, working through our issues. But scripture has a lot to offer to those of us who are married. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and slander along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” And these verses of comfort for me: Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.” We have been able to overcome, but keeping a marriage strong against our enemy, Satan, takes effort.

pexels-photo-208189My Child

Ms. Felicity Madison Harris was born March 11, 2009. During my pregnancy I prayed for a healthy, happy baby. I was blessed with my happy baby girl, Felicity – the Latin meaning is “happiness” as she recently told me.

I made a promise to myself that my child would have the opportunity to have a relationship with God at an early age. I prayed that she would desire God in her life. Prayer is important to her. I have a video of her praying for her toys, family and “everything” when she was 2 to 3 years old.

Now that she is older, she prays for healing for her father when his gout is active. Her PE teacher told me that Felicity prayed for her when she injured her leg. Felicity and I pray together nightly.

June 2017, Felicity made a commitment to God and was baptized at GFBC. It was one of the happiest days of my life. I was smiling, and I know God was smiling also. Matthew 19:14 says, “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”

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I had my yearly GYN and mammogram appointments. I received a call from my MD that I would need further testing about an area that was seen on the mammogram 2 weeks previously. I had follow-up for a more detailed ultrasound the next week. Of course I felt anxious and apprehensive about the test. But I was abnormally calm during that time. I had faith that God would protect and take care of me. Even my friends and coworkers told me, “You seem so calm.” I know God has a plan for me. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “’For I know the plans I have for you, ‘ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” And Matthew 6:34 says, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (NLT)

My sister Sheila prayed for me and gave me verses to read. Becoming Faith Friends (BFF) Lifegroup ladies were so supportive with texts, emails, and phone calls. I felt the love of my class/church family. Jeremiah 33:6 says, “Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.”

I received the phone call from my MD that it was a benign fibro adenoma and nothing needed to be done! God is a Faithful God!!! I was scheduled for another mammogram in AprilI and a follow-up ultrasound in 6 months, but before that time passed I felt a hard area on my breast at the incision site. So I called and had my appointment moved to an earlier date. I had an ultrasound and thankfully it was only scar tissue. And my MD stated that the area had decreased in size from my previous mammogram in October. Blessing!! God is awesome!

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My Lifegroup has been a blessing to me. They were very supportive after my father’s death, my health issues, my marriage, and Felicity’s illness and surgery. Cards and emails arrive just as you need them. I am active in church, working with worship care monthly in Kids Kingdom, in the blood pressure check ministry and as a prayer warrior for the ladies in our life group. I have grown so much since joining GFBC and I know that God is still using me.

Satan continues to attack me with my job, child, and marriage. I remember that God will not place anything on me that I can’t handle. God will always be with me during the good times and the bad times. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

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Back to Basics: Salvation

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“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’Matt. 7:22-23

Grab your coffee this morning. Relax, and let’s have some serious talk.

We have been remiss. Looking back on this year of Back to Basics articles, we seem to have skipped over the most basic of all basics: salvation. In a recent sermon Pastor Kevin brought up something about salvation that really got me to thinking. He wondered aloud what we in the congregation might say if we were asked to explain salvation. That got me to wondering too. Is there confusion over salvation? Could it be true? Could faithful church members who have lived upright lives be confused about salvation? I pondered my own story and the many conversations I’ve had with women over the years, and I realized that “Yes,” even dedicated church members can suffer from skewed teachings in their past and confusion over the Gospel. Pastor Kevin explained, “Many people in the church … not outside the church, but inside the church … many church folk think salvation is by God’s grace plus good works.  Wrong!! If we could work our way to heaven then the cross at Calvary was a tragedy.” Woah! That is a stop-us-in-our-tracks comment.

So let us stop in our tracks and examine ourselves. Would you be able to tell another person how to be saved? Can you explain salvation for yourself: what it means in your life, how you know you’re a child of God, what steps a person takes to be saved? Can you say what salvation is and what it is not? It seems simple, yet so complex. If you were saved as a child, you may sometimes wonder, like I used to, if you did it the right way. Do you? Do you ever doubt your salvation because you prayed as a child, but don’t see much growth in your life right now, and so you wonder, “Am I really saved? What if I’m not?”

When we were younger, we may have gotten the message at church that we had to be perfect. We may have confused healthy admonitions to live a moral life with what it means to be saved. We have seen that people change after they encounter Almighty God, and the enemy or our souls may have twisted that to make us believe that a change in behavior or doing good works equals salvation. But it doesn’t.

What is salvation?

That is such a “churchy” word. But what does it mean? According to dictionary.com salvation is “deliverance from the power and penalty of sin; redemption.” And BillyGraham.org says that salvation is “an act of God. It is initiated by God, wrought by God and sustained by God.” And our own Pastor Kevin reminds us that, “There is only ONE way to the Father and that way is through His Son, Jesus Christ! There is no forgiveness of sins apart from the substitutionary, perfect, sinless, shed blood of Jesus Christ! It is God’s grace plus nothing, minus nothing!!”

Salvation. From the root word “save.” We are being saved from the penalty of our sin we said. But salvation is much more than avoiding punishment. Salvation is coming into relationship with our Creator, Father God. Yes, I will be saved from the penalty of my sin, but it is oh so much more than that. I will have a perfect father. A rescuer. A friend. A guide through life. A healer. A comforter. And I will become His bride, his friend, his daughter, his beloved, a new creation, a chosen one, a forgiven one, a work of art crafted by the Master Craftsman’s hands.

But how does that happen? How do we come into that relationship with God? He is drawing us. He loves us and wants us to come to Him while we are still wallowing in our sin, while we’re still in our selfishness, our addiction, our drunken reveling, whatever. He takes the initial action – He loves us. These verses say it all.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins…. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:10,19)

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Let’s take a look at the facts of salvation.

So the first step of salvation is realizing that God loves us, even with the mess that we are. In fact, He loved you so much that He was willing to give His only son as a sacrifice for your sin to take the punishment you deserved upon Himself.

The next step is to understand that we sin and to repent of that sin (turn away from it), and ask forgiveness from God. We are sinners. Sin is simply missing the mark. Jesus set a high standard; he lived a perfect life. That is the mark; anything short of that is sin. Murder? Yes, of course. Lying. Yes. Immorality, greed, hatred, jealousy, selfishness? Yes, yes, yes, it’s all sin. We are each and everyone guilty and in need of someone to rescue us from the punishment we deserve because of our sin. The book of Romans has lots to say about sin. Chapter 3 tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Chapter 6 reminds us that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 3:23 and 6:23) Sin demands a penalty payment, death. But that penalty has already been paid!

Third, we must realize that Jesus’ death and resurrection is the only thing that makes it possible for us to be made right with God. Jesus Christ is that sacrificial lamb, that sacrifice that paid the penalty for our sin. Romans 10:9-10 tells us that, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

And that’s it, we come to Jesus bringing nothing. We let go and give Jesus authority over our life to do with as He will for the rest of our days. We raise our white flag in surrender. He redeems our mess and makes us into His new creation. It’s all on Him. He does the saving and the changing, His precious work of grace.

When we realize our sin and brokenness and our need for a savior, we have a choice. We can choose to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, or we can choose to reject His gift of salvation and try to fill up our broken places by our own means. Jesus is tenderly waiting with open arms.

Have you done that? Have you accepted His love for you, realized and repented of your sin, believed that He is the only way to be made right with God, and given up the authority to rule your own life to Him? If not, now would be a good time. If you’re not sure what you did as a 6-year-old, now would be the time to make sure. All you have to do is pray.

We at Priceless would love to hear from you if you have given your life to Christ today. We encourage you to pray, begin to read God’s word each day, and find a local body of believers (church) near you to meet with. We’ve included a simple video below and The Bridge Illustration that express the truths of salvation in slightly different formats.

3 Circles Video

Bridge Illustration from The Navigators.

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Why Through Pain, Lord?

By Guest writer Angelia Hendon

July 7, 2012. I woke up early on this Saturday morning with all my plans for the day running through my head. Little did I know, God had different plans for me that day.

My husband got up and asked me what I had going on that day. I impatiently went down the list. “Quick” time with the Lord and breakfast, go to the gym, rush home, shower, dress and head to Jasper for a baby shower. Then back home, to work on plans for our daughter-in-law’s baby shower the following week. His next words would come back to me later, and I would never forget them. “Do you think you could have some time for me today?” My reply… maybe when I’m finished. I saw the hurt in his eyes, but I was a woman with a plan, and that plan could not slow down or be altered!

So, off to the races I went! Everything was going according to schedule, until I ran through the den on my way to leave for Jasper an hour away. I passed my husband, Greg, sitting in his recliner. He had been to the gym and was covered in sweat. My first thought was, keep going, don’t stop, just yell goodbye. But, for the first time that day, I listened to the Holy Spirit say, go kiss your husband and tell him goodbye.

So, I stopped, put the baby gift down, and went to the den. That is when God revealed His plans for that day. As I bent over to kiss my husband goodbye, I noticed his lips were clammy, and he was very pale. I asked, “Are you okay?” He opened his mouth, but couldn’t get any words out. I once was a nurse, so I immediately went into Supernurse mode! Also in God’s divine provision, I had just completed a course on CPR and stroke awareness for our business.

Greg is a diabetic, so my first thought was his blood sugar is low. I ran and grabbed a spoonful of jelly and stuck in his mouth. Nothing. No change! Then I remembered the stroke protocol. I got aspirin and gave it to him screaming, “Chew it, chew it!” I went into the bathroom to call 911, afraid he wouldn’t approve.

Up until this point , I was calm, cool, and in charge! After I called 911, I called my daughter. She was supposed to be working, caring for foster children that day. I didn’t think she could help, but called anyway. As soon as I heard her voice I broke down, and tried to tell her what happened. Again God’s provision, she had been called and told not to go to work. She said, “I’m coming. Wait for me!” Relief! Help was coming. What I didn’t see at the time was that my help was already there!

I went back to Greg, held his hand and told him I had called an ambulance; they were on the way. I knew in my heart he was having a stroke, but couldn’t believe it. It was like a cruel nightmare, and I was just dreaming all this.

It was only a few minutes and they were there. They came in, took his vital signs, and said, “Your husband is having a stroke.” I knew it, but when they said it, I lost it again. My neighbors, whom I had only met, came in saying they worked in the medical field, and helicopter-flying-medical-float-65943asked to help. They began telling me to get his medications and his wallet and send with him. The medics had decided to fly him to either Birmingham or Huntsville. They were taking him on a stretcher out the door, and said, “We’ll let you know which one.”

How was I supposed to know where to go, they didn’t have my phone number! This could not be happening. They’re taking my husband somewhere in a helicopter! What is happening, God? This was just an ordinary Saturday!

The helicopter landed on an empty lot by our house. (God provided a landing pad!) As they rolled him in, they yelled, “Your husband wants to go to Huntsville, meet us there!”
My daughter had just gotten there, so we got in her car and headed to Huntsville, neither of us knowing where the hospital was.

We rode in silence, praying. I was begging God to let my husband live. That’s when I remembered his words, “Could you have some time for me today?” Please God, don’t let that be the last words he says to me!

We made it to the hospital and found him. He seemed ok. At some point my daughter had called our pastor and told him what was happening. In a few minutes, in walked in our former youth pastor and close friend. He had been at the hospital visiting someone, and had heard about Greg. Again God’s provision. He began joking with Greg, as usual. Greg started smiling and laughing. I knew then he was ok.

A few days later, they sent him home.

medicine-2361046_1280We followed up with his neurologist. At this visit, we walked in, sat down, and he pointed to some X-rays. He said, “This is your brain. You’ve had 2 small strokes in the area that controls speech. You should recover completely. But…” What he said next, I wasn’t ready for. “You could have another one any time. You might not survive it. I’ve had 3 patients this week, younger than you, who didn’t. There’s really nothing you can do, go home, reduce your stress, and enjoy your life.”

It was like being punched in the gut, hard! I couldn’t breathe! Somehow we managed to walk out of there. I turned to Greg and said, “We’re getting another doctor!”

While I went to get his records at the hospital, I left Greg in the waiting room. He was very weak. When I returned, our pastor was sitting there with him. He “just happened” to be at the hospital in Huntsville visiting someone. We tearfully told him what the doctor had said. He prayed for us, and tried to encourage us.

When we got home, I sat in his lap, and we cried out to a God. What is going on?! We had no answers, only fear and discouragement.

The next morning I got up early to pray. God spoke to me that morning. He gave me a verse of hope. It is marked in my Bible, July 16, 2012, God is fighting for Greg! Nehemiah 4:14-15. God said, Angelia you and your children are to fight for your husband and father! On your knees! I have frustrated the enemy’s plan! My faith grew that day, as I trusted that He would heal my husband.

And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work. Nehemiah 4:14-15

That was 5 years ago. I would face many trials after that, some I wasn’t sure I would survive. But, God is faithful! Ps 33:18-22 says, “The Lord’s eye is upon those who fear Him, who wait and hope in His mercy and loving kindness. To deliver them from death, and keep him alive in famine.”

Yes, Lord, it is through pain I have learned to trust You! May I know You and the power of Your resurrection and the fellowship of Your suffering! (Philippians 3:10) My hope is in You alone!

We never know what God has planned for us sometimes, but it is for our good and His glory!

Never forget – Always kiss your husband goodbye, and have some time for him! It could be the last time.

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Back to Basics: Doing a Topical Study

Grab your coffee! It’s time to learn to do some Bible researching. It’s not hard! Don’t panic!

Ever been at the office or out with friends and a subject comes up that gets uncomfortable for you? Maybe it’s a hot topic from the news that has spiritual overtones, or perhaps a spoken opinion on a moral issue that goes against what you believe. Whatever it is, it pricks your heart, or conscience. You feel internal distress. You know you disagree with what is being promoted, but you can’t pull up the scriptural principles you need to be able to support your point, so you sit in tacit agreement even though you know you disagree. Most likely, we’ve all found ourself in this position at one time or another.

Fast forward 2 hours. Dinner is over and you’re home mulling over your regrets about not speaking up. What do you do?

May I suggest doing a topical study of the subject in scripture? You may have felt a bit like you failed because you could not or did not speak up. But as my sweet husband says, those failures or problems are just creative opportunities. So NOW is your opportunity to make sure you are never caught in that place again (on that subject, at least)! Let this “failure” move you to take action, and take an hour to dig into the Word of God to see what it has to say, so that the next time you will be prepared.

Topical studies are easy-peasy! Here is the scoop:

  1. Grab your Bible, a pen & paper, and a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, either paper or online.
  2. Jot down on the paper key words related to the topic you want to discover more about.
  3. Look up each word in your concordance and jot down the scripture references that use this word.
  4. Take time to read each scripture on your list.
  5. As you read a scripture write down facts you learn. (Realize that these may support what you believe, or they may not. In the latter case, they may cause you to change your belief.)
  6. Pray over what you have learned and tuck away those ideas for the next time you feel challenged to speak about what you believe on this subject.

Example:

At a wedding shower yesterday you found out the bride-to-be has been living with the groom-to-be and they’re not married yet. You were always taught this was wrong, but you know it’s very acceptable in today’s society. You feel tongue-tied, can’t really remember why you believe what you believe, and it’s not the place to speak up anyway.

So you go home with these thoughts nagging at your brain. You drag out your commentary and Bible. (This is step 1.) You write down general words having to do with the topic: marry, marriage, wife, husband, and virgin. And then you think of more specific words and Biblical words: sex, unfaithful, chaste, fornication, etc. (Step 2) As you go to the Strong’s you find L-O-N-G lists of scriptures. You notice that the Strong’s also gives you a phrase beside each scripture reference so you can get the gist of the meaning of that verse. The phrases that don’t seem to relate directly to your topic you skip over and just record the most pertinent ones. (Step 3.) Then you grab your Bible and paper and notate that a man and wife become one flesh (Matthew 19:5-6), that there should not be any impurity or any hint of sexual immorality in our lives (Ephesians 5:3), and that in Ephesians 5:22-33 husbands and wives are seen as a picture of Christ and the church – and you are very aware that Christ would never be seen in an immoral act like sex before marriage. (There are many, many more scriptures on this subject area, but these give us a view of what steps 4 & 5 might look like.) You end your study with prayer for wisdom, prayer for your own strength of character to obey in this area, and prayer for the bride and groom-to-be that triggered your interest in this study. (Step 6.) Notice that there is no “Step 7” that has you go back and bash-with-scripture the people who disagreed with you earlier. You are NOT their Holy Spirit. But you are now better equipped in this area to speak your beliefs in love if the appropriate opportunity arises in the future.

So I challenge you, as you drain that last sip of cafe-au-lait out of your cup, dig into God’s Word in areas where questions have come up in your daily life. Do topical studies. Try it! Today even. Don’t wallow in your ignorance as my grandmama used to say, but take time to learn and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) We don’t grow in knowledge to be able to correct others or put them in their place. That mentality comes from a heart of pride. Rather, we grow and learn to know God more intimately and to become more like Jesus Christ, thereby being lights to the world that draw people to Jesus like a moth to a flame.

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Back to Basics: Faith

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“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. … By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. … And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:1,3,6 NIV

It’s coffee time! Or tea! Or chocolate milk! Or… whatever. Grab you favorite morning treat and sit back, read, and sip.

I’ve heard it said that we tend to judge others based on their behavior, but we judge our self based on our intentions. I have found this to be true of myself. I intend to exercise and eat right every day, I intend to save more, spend less. I intend to write cards to people more often than I do. The reality is I often find stray cards around my house that have been half written in and never mailed. So I imagine I’m falling short in other areas too.

I intend to walk in faith when tough times come, too. I consider myself a woman of faith. Maybe you want to think of yourself as a woman of faith, too. You know the Word of God, you want to have faith, you intend to have faith, but when a crisis hits… hmmm. Do you walk through it in faith? Or do you find yourself so overcome with the tragedy or the unknown or the fear that faith flies out the window? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gone to church and heard people say in response to the turmoil, “I’m praying. Trust the Lord. He’ll get you through this.” And you walk away thinking That’s easier said than done!

It’s always much easier to say things than to walk them out. But we want to become women who “Walk by faith not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) So how do we do that? How do we have faith when we don’t have faith in that moment? If we dig in scripture and make a careful observation of God’s word we get some help.

pexels-photo-259027Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” What do you put your confidence in? Some things I have chosen to put confidence in over the years are my husband, a job, finances, doctors, my “good”-ness, truth, family – and these are just a few. Have these ever rescued me? No. I guess they’ve made my anxious heart quit racing a little at times, but they have never had the answer or the final say. There is only One worth putting our confidence in. Only one that we can be assured has the power to rescue.

Do we truly believe what Hebrews 3:11 says? “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Or is this another of those things that we want to believe? If we truly believe in the depths of our being that God formed the whole universe out of nothing, then, mercy, what could there ever be to worry about? The one who made it and spun it into motion is in control! Perhaps that’s our core issue. Because we can’t reason it out, we struggle to believe it.

436b8212d90f6d298b44b1df8e16a243-whirlpool-galaxy-black-holesI see articles on faith issues being “proven” by science. I know these are meant to calm our curious mind and help as we struggle with unbelief. But in reality, faith and science are on opposite ends of a spectrum. Science is based on what can be observed by the senses. But faith… what does it say? It is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV) Totally unobservable by the senses. Faith is based on nothing physical, but on everything spiritual. It goes against our rational 21st century technologically leaning brains. Faith is believing in the unseen, not the observable. But we will see the results after we walk in faith.

In the Gospel of Mark there is a story of a young man who was mute and had seizures. In desperation his father had brought him to the disciples to be healed. The disciples prayed over him, but to no effect. Cue the heralding trumpets… and our rescuer, Jesus, appears in the story! He has come to save the day, as He does. But not without a quick lesson. His first words are not words of healing, but a gentle rebuke, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?” He chastises them for their unbelief! I wonder what He would say to me in many of my trials and unbelief (that I like to call “weak faith,” it sounds nicer).

But today I’m going to call it what it is: unbelief. In their unbelief the disciples wanted to heal the boy. In his unbelief the father brought the boy and “hoped” he could be healed. In our unbelief we come to Jesus and say the exact thing this father said, “But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (Mark 9:22 KJV) We desperately want Christ’s intervention in our life. We pray for His help, but we come to Him many times on shaky faith-feet just like this father, wondering if He really can.

possible-1060212_1280The story goes on… “And Jesus said to him, ‘ “If You can?” All things are possible to him who believes.'” (Mark 9:23 KJV) Jesus tells us flat-out, all things are possible! The condition on that possibility is belief, faith, trust in God that it WILL happen, not just that it CAN. In the next chapter of Mark, Jesus tells His disciples that “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” And Luke 1:37 says it the other way around, “For with God nothing shall be impossible,” (KJV) or as it says in the NIV, “For no word from God will ever fail.” Why are all things possible simply by our believing? Because we are a believing in a God who never fails.

And then comes the part of the story that we need to focus on to strengthen our faith. “Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.'” (Mark 9:24 KJV) The father realized Jesus’ power, and he realized his own frailty, his lack of faith. This is where I live. I go for days or weeks at a time living life under my own power, doing the routine things that do not require the supernatural. (We can do that, you know? Live from day-to-day without the influence of God.) And then a storm, or trial, or problem comes along where I need God. And it takes that moment for me to realize God’s omnipotence and my insignificance and poverty of soul. At that moment I fall before Him in prayer confessing my total lack of faith and my inability to make myself believe. I believe Lord! Help my unbelief!

So there you have it one of two keys to having faith: ask God for it! So simple. Just ask God, “I choose to believe Lord, help me when I can’t make myself believe.”

pexels-photo-208278And the second key to having faith? It is found in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (NKJV) Our faith comes by hearing His Word. When my faith is weak, I go to His word and read it. And just lately I’ve begun reading it out loud because of this verse. If the Bible says “faith comes by hearing” then I want to literally hear it with my ears as well as hearing it in my mind when I read silently. And at the same time our enemy is hearing the scripture I’m building my life on, and he’s getting the message to “back off” because this is where I stand!

The other verse quoted above from Hebrews 11 reminds us that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” If we want to please God, we must choose to have faith. Do you desire to be a God-pleaser? Then it’s time to make a choice and act on it. My sweet husband says that faith is like a muscle, the more we exercise it the more it grows and develops. I’ve found that to be true in my life. As I’ve learned to take a good intention of having faith and turned it into a choice I act on to believe God in any situation, my faith has grown. God proves Himself true by the results, and walking in faith becomes easier year by year as my faith muscle grows.

So ladies, there you have it, some simple keys to faith: 1) Acknowledge our belief and ask God to help our unbelief. 2) Hear the word of God. 3) Choose to believe and act on faith. To believe or not to believe, that is the question. It’s your choice. Will you be a God-pleaser? As Joshua 24:15 says, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

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Back to Basics: Worship

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It’s coffee time! And worship time! For me these two go hand in hand. Sound strange to you? Read along and maybe you’ll join me.

As a church attender for fif-… ah… many years, I’ve attended many “worship” services. You too?

If so, you’ve probably noticed the similarities and the differences. You’ve felt at times as if the worship ushered you into the very presence of God, while at other times you wondered why this particular meeting was even labeled a “worship service.” You’ve most likely worshipped with tens, hundreds, or thousands at time, and hopefully you’ve found your deepest worship with just a close few, maybe friends, likely family, definitely a spouse, and hopefully one-on-one just you and your Abba. Through singing, preaching, praying, instrumental music, in your own living room, on a mountain peak, or in a huge arena, you’ve worshipped. You have perhaps worshipped through grief that seems it will bury you, and at other times, through joy and ecstatic delight. You may have found yourself worshipping alone even though you were in a crowd, or more sadly, alone in a crowd of worshippers when your heart and mind were far away.

So what is worship? What do we need to know that will draw our hearts to be true worshippers?

As I’ve studied Revelation chapters 4 and 5 lately, I’ve seen true worship in its ultimate, eternal character. Worship in this heavenly scene involves:

cross-sunset-humility-devotion-161089Bowing down. Throughout the New Testament the word translated “worship” is proskuneo. This Greek word refers to kissing the hand in reverence or of bowing down, kneeling, or prostrating oneself. Here in Revelation 4 and 5 the elders and 4 living creatures are falling down before the Father and The Lamb in worship. Their reverence and awe is evident. How long has it been since you knelt to worship or lay flat on your face worshipping Him in reverence of His holiness? I remember hearing of a preacher who left indentations in the floor boards beside his bed because of his faithful kneeling to pray day after day. Wow! To be that faithful in prayer and worship!

Speaking. Revelation 4:8 says,

And the four living creatures… day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’ ”

They never stop saying it. Never!

The 24 elders then join them, also speaking in worship of God. (4:11) They say,

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.”

In chapter 5, we read of their worship of Jesus:

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

And in Revelation 5:11 thousands of angels join the proclamation, reciting,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

And by the end of this heavenly panorama in chapter 5, EVERY creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea join these worshippers around the throne in saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Ascribing worth to the one being worshipped. Everything these worshippers said attributed worth to God or Jesus. The Father was worshipped as the creator. The son was worshipped as the Lamb slain to ransom people for God, for being The Redeemer. Jesus was also worshipped as the only one worthy to carry out God’s redemptive plan and His judgment on the Earth. How often do we appeal to God or His son Jesus about our wants and wishes, but quickly go away without admiring their glory, acknowledging their love and power, or simply sitting in awe of their majesty and holiness?

Humility. If you didn’t pick up on this, let me say it straight out: Father God, the Lamb of God and the Spirit of God are the only ones who are worthy of our worship! We need to lay down our will, our desires, our image, and our pride when we come before God. That’s what prompts us to fall to our knees or flat on our faces, the realization that we are nothing and He is all that matters. If we don’t choose humility, it will one day be thrust upon us. Make no mistake, “Therefore God has highly exalted him [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11) Every knee. Every tongue. Not just those knees and tongues who chose to follow Him. But the knees and tongues of those “under the earth” who reaped a different destiny because of their pride and rejection of Him. 

worship-cambodia-church-public-domainSinging. There is music in Heaven and music in our worship here on earth as well. There are trumpets and loud noises and singing. A song of redemption sung by the redeemed! I am a trained music educator. To those who say you can’t sing, and therefore you don’t sing in church, may I free you up? A baby can’t talk, but it doesn’t learn how by not trying. A 5-year-old doesn’t know how to read, and they never will if they don’t try. Everything you do in life, at one time you didn’t know how, but you tried and you learned. It’s the same with singing. Just do it. When we first married, my dear sweet husband sang out of tune because he had been raised in a house that had an out of tune piano. But years of singing in church has turned him into quite a singer. So I encourage you, bring that sacrifice of praise! The sacrifice you may be making might just be sacrificing your pride and not worrying about what people around you at church think about how you sing.

A Last Word.

Before you go to a church to worship this week, try worshipping alone. My personal worship time each day, from the time I started having kids until today, has almost daily involved a cup of coffee, a snuggly blanket, His Word, a pen and a notebook. Also, it often involves a combination music and dance, speaking and quiet meditation, reading and praying, writing and interceding, tears and joy, questioning and listening, confessing and crying out to Him, praise and love, bowing-sitting-falling facedown, and a huge dose of humility or humiliation depending on the condition of my prideful heart.

When you do congregate with your brothers and sisters this next Sunday at our Father’s house, examine yourself. Are you going through the motions or going before the very throne of God to honor and praise Him? Are you worshipping Him in spirit and in truth as John 4:23-24 tells us to? It’s quite easy to “get in the spirit” in an exciting musical “worship” setting, but are you truly worshipping? It’s not just the clapping or hand raising or the feeling of euphoria. Are you humbling yourself? Ascribing worth to God? Bowing down? Speaking or listening? Singing? … Dig into His Holy Word; get to know Him more. The more we know of the truth of who He really is, the more our hearts truly worship Him in spirit and in truth.

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