HOPE

Psalm 119:73-96 says God is…

Creator,
a Hope giver,
Faithful,
a Comforter,
a Promise Keeper,
Trustworthy,
Merciful,
a Life Giver,
Savior,
my Help,
Eternal
He knows no bounds.

These words reminded me of a song we sing called “Waymaker.” Click to listen.

green-leafed-plant-on-sand-1438404Do you believe our God is a Good God? Do you believe He will not leave you or forsake you? That God is your Waymaker? Miracle Worker? Promise Keeper? Light in the Darkness when the wicked want to destroy you?

Sometimes this is hard when you feel like you are in a pit that has been dug for you, when you have been waiting a long time for help in a situation. Even when you don’t feel or see Him working, do you trust that He is, and do you Worship Him through it? Sometimes we try to handle the situation that we see on the surface on our own, but we need to remember our battle is not against what we can see, but as Ephesians 6:12 says, “…against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.”

To be strengthen to fight these battles we daily need to take up the Full Armor of God. Part of our Armor is our Sword of the Spirit, (the Word of God) and prayer. I hope you take up your Sword and delight in the words you read. In prayer, I hope you take your situations and struggles directly to God. He is what you need Him to be in your situation. It is all in His timing.

Psalm 40:1-3 says,

“I waited patiently for the Lord, and he turned to me and heard my cry for help. He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and they will trust in the Lord.”

Worship Him because He sees you, cares for you and is everything you need in all situations! Share your Hope with others.  Be a light for someone else in their darkness. Psalm 119:74 says, “May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in your word.” Others see us and how we react to our situation. Let them see evidence of us putting our hope in the Lord.

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Mouth Open and Panting

Are you a dog or cat person? I am a cat person, but for me dogs are just okay. I don’t mind being around dogs, but haven’t ever wanted to own one since I was a young child. This past year, a friend of mine got a new puppy. Can I just say that I would not want to go through what it takes to train a new puppy! This puppy decided I was his new best friend whenever I visited. He was so happy to see me that he couldn’t stop shaking and wiggling. His eyes would get big and his little tongue would hang out panting. You know the look! So, of course, I had to pet him and that would just make him even more excited. Then woops, he would have an accident.  Each time my friend would patiently clean up the mess. Over time my friend began to train him not to have the accidents.  I still have to say, he occasionally messes up, but he is learning.

Well, you might be asking yourself, what is the point to this story. I do have one!

brown-german-shepherd-2695827Just recently, I came across Psalm 119:131 CSB “I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commands.” The Amplified Bible adds “with anticipation” and “eager desire.” The thought of my friend’s puppy came to mind. I could just see him with his mouth open and panting, so excited to see me. This made me ask myself, “Am I as excited to read and learn from God’S Word?” “Do I come with anticipation and eager desire to meet with God every day?” “Am I training myself to form a spiritual habit of having a quiet time even when life gets busy?” “Do I pick myself back up and start again when I fail asking for God’s forgiveness?”  “Am I as patient with others when they fail?”

As this new year begins, may we be like an excited puppy. Eagerly desiring so much for God’s word that we rush each day with anticipation to open our Bibles. As we read may our mouths be open and tongues panting to receive the sweet taste of God’s word as He speakS to us. And when we fail may we pick ourselves back up and ask His forgiveness, knowing that He loves us and is waiting for us to come and meet with him again.

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Throw Away the Measuring Stick

6 Tips for Success for the Godly Woman

(When my church, GFBC, was doing the Rachel & Leah study, by Nicki Koziarz, this fall, I wrote some encouragement notes to the ladies that were going through the study with me.  One of those notes developed into this blog post.)

In the study we took a deep look into the lives of Rachel & Leah and learned how to combat comparisons in our own lives.  The last week topic or truth was “Let the success of others encourage you, not discourage you.”

So how do you measure success?

Do you measure it by the worlds standards of Fame and Fortune?  Do you let the success you see around you discourage you in pursuing your own desires and goals?  Has your road to success become your idol?  We are all constantly taking out a measuring stick and measuring our lives up against those around us.  The problem is, we use the world’s standards as our measuring stick instead of God’s standards.   Here are just a few things to remember when you are looking at your measuring stick:

  1. God already has a successful plan mapped out for your life; you just have to be obedient and follow it. When King David was dying he told his son, Solomon, “Do what God tells you. Walk in the paths he shows you: Follow the life-map absolutely, keep an eye out for the signposts, his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; then you’ll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go.” (1 Kings 2:3 The Message) We have to do things God’s way not the world’s. God’s course is always the best, and we will succeed when we follow His plan.
  2. You have to start somewhere. Don’t forget it is your journey. Not your neighbors’, friends’ or the person that is doing exactly what you want to succeed in doing.   Zechariah 4:10 says “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”  If God has called you to do something, don’t be discouraged when you see others succeeding more rapidly in the same task. Their journey may have a different purpose in God’s master plan.  You will never progress on your journey unless you start.  God rejoices when you take the steps of obeying and following His plan.
  3. You have to stay focused on the Goal and know that God is the source of your success. Don’t let the success of others remove your focus from what God has called you to accomplish.  Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”   Don’t look back – keep your eyes focused forward and know that God is the source of “every good and perfect gift (James 1:17)”
  4. Let the success of others spur you on in your journey, not hinder you. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)  “This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone.” ( Titus 3:8 )  “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)  Look in Hebrews 11 to see all that have come before us, to encourage us in our walk of Faith.  We can see how God used each one in his plan, but don’t stop there, look around you and let the success of others encourage you to succeed.
  5. God has gifted you with all you need to succeed. God gifted you with talents when he formed you in the womb.  When you became a believer, He gifted you with a Spiritual gift.  He has already equipped you with all you need to bring Him Glory and become a success in His eyes.
  6. Your Ultimate Goal is for your success to bring Glory to God. Success is knowing that you have done everything you can do, both in thoughts and actions, to become the best that you are capable of becoming.  Colossians 3:17 says “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  When you pull out that measuring tape to measure your success, ask yourself, “Am I doing everything I possibly can to bring glorify to God?”

So throw away the measuring stick with the world’s ideas of success, and pick up your Bible and study God’s idea of success.

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Choosing Joy!

256px-united_states_declaration_of_independenceI recently took my first trip to Washington, DC.  During the bus trip to and from Washington I was reading Dr. David Jeremiah’s book “A Life Beyond Amazing.”  One of the chapters was titled “A Life of Joy.”  While on the trip I got to view the Declaration of Independence.

In this document, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” 

That got me thinking what is the pursuit of Happiness?  And after reading the chapter “A Life of Joy” I had to ask myself: As Christian should my pursuit in life be for Happiness or for Joy, or are Happiness and Joy the same thing?

Your Dictionary online defines the “Pursuit of Happiness” as a “fundamental right mentioned in the Declaration of Independence to freely pursue joy and live life in a way that makes you happy, as long as you don’t do anything illegal or violate the rights of others.”

birthday-bow-box-264771.jpgSo I am entitled to pursue a life of happiness as long as it is not illegal or violates the rights of others.  So what makes me happy?  Things? Friends? Money? Something new? A birthday or holiday? I could say, “I’ll be happy when…” or “I’ll be happy if….” If or when… I get married, have a new house, am healed, have more money, my favorite football team wins… .

Just imagine each Saturday, as YOUR team takes the field to play. You are so excited. You wear your team colors. You plan to watch the game either on TV or in the stadium. You are yelling your teams chant! Your team takes the field. You can’t sit down. Your team scores! You are so Happy!

But how do you leave the game? Do you leave happy, sad or mad? If you team win you are happy. If you team loses you could be either sad or mad? Your happiness only lasted as long as your team was winning. Once things started to change, either the offense or defense wasn’t performing or someone go hurt, or circumstances around you started to deteriorate, your happiness seemed to disappear.  Your happiness was about what was happening to you, how you felt. Happy is an emotion and is dependent on your circumstances, your behaviors, and your attitude.

blur-business-contemporary-811574.jpgSo what about Joy?

Is joy the same thing as happiness? The world would have us believe it is, but the Bible tells a different story. The Pursuit of Joy is about a relationship with a person – JESUS. It’s something we have access to, but it’s also something we must choose. Joy is what we receive when we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. It is part of the Fruit of the Spirit. The Greek word for joy is Chara and it means joy, rejoicing, gladness, enjoyment, bliss. Lewis Smedes wrote: “You and I were created for joy, and if we miss it, we miss the reason for our existence.” Joy is cultivated by the Holy Spirit. Joy makes us strong. Joy has to grow and mature. We must choose to cultivate joy that will remain even when our circumstances, behaviors and attitudes are affected by changes in our life.

Dr. Jeremiah in his book tells the story about a Headmaster at a London Boarding school who was always joyful.

“One day a student would remark he thought the headmaster must go to heaven each night because each morning when he saw him the headmaster had such a wonderful smile on his face. The student figured the only place he could get that kind of joy was by checking in with heaven at the end of each day. When the headmaster was asked about his joy his response was: ‘Joy is the flag that is flown from the castle of your heart when the King is in residence.’ … In other words, joy is determined by whether or not Jesus Christ is at home in your life. … Since our joy is in Jesus and Jesus never changes, the joy of Jesus never changes either. Christian joy is continuous, never-ending, constant joy. In it not hinged on happenings; it is perfected in a person.”

Look at Paul, he spent a lot of time in prison, but in Philippians 4:4 he says “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!” Paul faced many difficulties and chose to rejoice even when he faced the worst of circumstances.  In Acts 16:25 we find Paul and Silas at midnight “praying and singing hymns to God” after being beaten and severely flogged. They chose Joy! We also have to choose Joy when things are at their worst. Joy is knowing that Jesus will see us through.

In Luke 6:22-23: Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” And Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 1:6 “you yourselves became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit.” We have to choose Joy when we are persecuted and mocked for our faith! Joy is knowing that Jesus also faced what we are going though.

Rob Morgan said: “We may not be able to rejoice in our load, but we can rejoice in our Lord.  We may find no joy in our situation, but we can rejoice in our Savior.”

The Declaration of Independence may give us the right to pursue Happiness, but I don’t want to settle for a temporary happiness that is here then gone based on what is happening to me or around me. I want to choose a life of Joy that is constantly maturing as I become more like Jesus. Joy that will be there even when life circumstances might be loading me down. I want people to see the Joy that I have in Jesus radiating through the storm clouds of my life.

So are you just settling for Happiness or are you choosing JOY?

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God Doesn’t Make Junk – Only Masterpieces!

Have you ever seen a masterpiece in person?

One of the things on my bucket list is to go to Italy a see some of the great masterpieces done by Michelangelo and Leonard da Vinci (the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, the sculpture of David and The Last Supper just to name a few).

Grant_DeVolson_Wood_-_American_GothicA few years ago, some friends and I went to Chicago for a few days. One of the things I wanted to do was to visit the Art Institute of Chicago to see the famous painting by Grant Wood titled “American Gothic.” Unlike our own Birmingham Museum of Art, which has free admission, the cost to enter the Art Institute of Chicago is $25.00, unless you are viewing a special exhibition. My thinking was that it would be worth it. We were going to be seeing a famous piece of art. So we made our way through the museum to the place where the picture was to be displayed. When we arrived, there on the wall was a picture of the famous painting and a sign with the words, “This piece has been loaned out.” I had missed seeing what some consider to be a great masterpiece.

So what makes something a masterpiece? Merriam-Webster defines a masterpiece as “a work done with extraordinary skill; especially: a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement.” A masterpiece doesn’t have to be a piece of art, it can be anything done with extraordinary skill. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Some Bible versions use the word handiwork or workmanship. Each one is saying the same thing. We are God’s work of art. He created and is continuing to create us in His image.

Psalm 139 tells us that God knows every single thing about us, and nothing was or is hidden from him. God doesn’t make mistakes and He doesn’t make junk. You are God’s piece of art. We don’t view or value ourselves as masterpieces that have worth. In today’s world we are so quick to compare ourselves to other around us. We focus on the negative in our lives. Don’t view yourself through the eyes or standards of others, see yourself as God’s treasure.

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We may make our lives messy at times because of our sin, but as believers, God’s word tells us he is creating us anew. God has a specific plan for us and we have to let him keep working on us. Isaiah 64:8 says “God is the potter and we are the clay. We are formed by His hand.” We have to let God continue molding us and shaping us and putting us through the fire. It is not an easy process. It takes time. It can even be painful at times. We have to be willing to let Him work. In the end, God will create and mold us into a beautiful piece of art that will display Jesus to others.

One of my favorite skits done by the Skit Guys is called “God’s Chisel” or “God’s Chisel Remastered.” It tells of God chiseling away at the sin in our lives so that when others see us they see Jesus, and when we see ourselves in the mirror we see Jesus. God is creating us into His masterpiece. He is working on us and chiseling out the sin, worry, ugly attitudes, and anything holding us back from being all God wants us to be. So why don’t we let Him work and not fight him. I think some of the reasons are fear, guilt, anger, bitterness, and laziness.

Today, why don’t you turn loose of the ugly sin and let God work on you. When you stand in front of the mirror don’t be disappointed. Don’t plaster a picture or image up of what you want to look and be like and loan yourself out to Satan to beat you down and conform you to this world. Instead, see yourself as the Masterpiece God created you to be. Be open to him chiseling and molding you into His image. Start by letting Him renew your mind into what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2) for your life.

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Changing Your Perspective

A few weeks ago my GFBC BFF lifegroup got together to paint wooden front door hangers. Our instructor was Tammy Westbrook of Two T’z in a Pod. She provided us with everything we needed to complete our project. Our only effort was to paint our chosen door hanger, either a bird or flower arrangement. As about 30 of us got together that night to work, the constant theme was “I am just not good at this” or “yours is a lot better than mine.” We each were judging our piece based on how the other artwork around us looked.  We were in the comparison mode, but the truth is we all left there with a finished hanger, and they all looked great. It was just when they were being compared to each other we all felt like ours lacked in some way.

Comparison is a constant theme I am hearing and studying about lately.  I have been reading a book by Nicki Kozariz titled “Why Her? 6 Truths We Need to Hear When Measuring Up Leaves us Falling Behind” along with doing the Bible study she wrote on “Rachel and Leah: What Two Sisters Teach us about Combating Comparison.” (You can read Rachel and Leah story for yourself in Genesis 29-30.) Since I have not finished either one I will refrain from giving a critique; however, it has gotten me to thinking about how many times a day I compare myself to those around me. I have to say it is a constant stream of thought going through my mind. I want to share with you some insights I have gained.

I looked up the definition of comparison on dictionary.com and found the first two definitions were: the act of comparing and the state of being compared. Or another two words are envy and jealousy. Isn’t this so true during our day we are either constantly comparing ourselves or being compared by others. So how do we break this act of comparing?

belly-black-and-white-body-42069.jpgFirst, we have to be aware of the comparison. I am constantly comparing, grading and measuring myself against other people. Comparison is not something we can avoid in life, but it is something we can be aware of and take note of how we act and react. Social Media is our worst enemy in the comparison game.  I look at other people and judge myself against what others post. I am sure you have all heard something about someone and thought or said “well it must be nice,” and the comparison, envy, jealousy, and coveting begin popping up again.

A year or so ago my friend, Debbie, started posting about the realities of life.  I have another friend that posts Marriage Chronicles of the things she is discovering about being a newlywed. When we stop and really look, things are not really how they seem. Not everyone I know is always hopping off to a great vacation somewhere or buying the latest and greatest thing.  I have to change my perspective and see things like they really are. Others’ lives may have some good things happen in them, but the reality is, most of them have junk in their lives just like me.

Secondly, I have to learn to combat the comparison and realize I have done nothing wrong.  When the coveting and comparison rears its ugly head, be it a friend getting married for the second or third time (and I am still single), or those having babies or grandbabies around me (and I am still Single), or a husband and wife celebrating a wedding anniversary (and I am still Single),  or going on dates (and I am still Single), I have to learn to focus on what is truth in my life. I have done nothing wrong. It is just not God’s timing for me to be married. Will it every be? I don’t know, but I’d rather be single than be in a relationship not ordained by God.  Then I’d just put myself in a mess and the comparison would be worse. Cause I would be wanting to know why my marriage was not like hers. One of the quotes in the book Why Her? is “We have to find contentment with who we are without becoming complacent in who we are becoming.”

We have to find contentment with who we are without becoming complacent in who we are becoming.

Thirdly, I haven’t loss anything, by those around me gaining something and I can’t become discourage by the success of others. Just like in the story of Leah and Rachel. Rachel had not lost Jacob’s love even when Leah was having babies. 2 Corinthians 10:12  (CSB) says, “For we don’t dare classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. But in measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding.”

Nicki has the “Bless Her” Prayer in the book Why Her? She says that “anytime the enemy starts to slip in a lie of lack in your soul as you’re looking at someone who’s gaining, as you’re beginning to feel like you’re losing, there is something you can do” pray for both you and her. Her gain is not my loss and I have to keep doing what God has called me to do.

So the next time you are struggling with comparison, try to say the “Bless Her Prayer” and change your perspective.

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God, today I’m praying for _____ (insert their name).   I am grateful You have gifted her with the ability to _______ (insert their gift/opportunity).  You are a good God who gives each of us good gifts.  I pray that today would be a good day of increase with the ability to use those gifts in her life.   Help _____ (insert their name) to use her time, resources and gifts wisely today.  Surround her with what she needs most.  And bless her greatly.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

“Bless Her Prayer” by Nicki Koziarz.  Excerpt from Chapter 9 of Why Her? 6 Truths We Need to Hear When Measuring Up Leaves Us Falling Behind. Find her book at you local bookseller or on Amazon.

 

 

Chirp…Chirp…Chirp…Where Are the Batteries?

We have all experienced it.  It can drive you crazy.  The sporadic chirping of a dead smoke detector battery.  I bet the sound is going through your head right now and you are remembering back to the last time your heard it.  They never seem to go out at a convenient time.  For some reason it always seems to be in the middle of the night.

Well about a month ago, I got an early morning, and I mean early, text from my brother.  He stopped by on his way home from work to check on my grandparent’s place and do a few loads of laundry.  He was not amused when what greeted him was the chirping of a dead smoke detector battery.  Our text exchange at 4:30 am went like this:

His text:  “Next time you come down bring a lot of 9-volt batteries.  Smoke detectors are driving me crazy

Of course, I inform him where he could find the replacement batteries at the house.

His text:  “ LOL ok I’ll check. They are all going out at once.” … “They [batteries] were there.  I’ll hang them back up instead of smashing them. Lol

He claims that there were at least six smoke detectors in the house and all of them were beeping at the same time.  I think he is exaggerating just a little.   He said it was like walking into a game called “Let’s Find the Smoke Detectors.”

So have you felt like this?  Are you walking through a maze of smoke detectors?  You know… stop one chirp and another pops up.  It is like you can never get ahead.  You feel like you don’t get anything accomplished on your “to do” list.  You are run down and running on empty.  Frustrated.  Something is always pulling you back, getting you down.  You worry, have fears. You get irritated. It’s driving you crazy and you feel like smashing something.

So what do you do? Do you give in to your pity party or do you calmly put out the chirps?  Are you spending time with Jesus recharging your batteries or are you letting everything build up until you just want to smash something?  Really, what does smashing something accomplish?  It may satisfy you for a few minutes, but in the long run not only do you end up hurting yourself, you hurt those around you, and you hurt your witness as a lover of Jesus Christ.  Plus, you have to go out and buy new smoke detectors which takes more time, effort and money.

pexels-photo-586340.jpegIs this how you are feeling?  Are you hearing the warning chirps?  Is your battery running low? Batteries can only last so long.  They are easily drained by over use.  Just like a cell phone has to be recharged every day. You need to plug in and recharge. Every day.

Today, let’s take some time to plug into our POWER source.  Maybe put on some PRAISE music and sit down with your favorite beverage and God’s Word.  Below is just a few verses to get you started.  I am sure you can add more.  Now spend time with the source of your power, pouring your heart out to him in prayer, letting him fill you up and recharge you.

Joshua 1:8  This law must not leave your lips! You must memorize it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it. Then you will prosper and be successful.

Isaiah 40:31  But those who wait for the Lord’s help find renewed strength;
they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, they run without growing weary,
they walk without getting tired

Psalm 55:6  I say, “I wish I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and settle in a safe place!

Isaiah 43:2  When you pass through the waters, I am with you; when you pass through the streams, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not harm you.

Matthew 11:28-30  Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”

Isaiah 14:3-4  When the Lord gives you relief from your suffering and anxiety, and from the hard labor which you were made to perform, you will taunt the king of Babylon with these words: “Look how the oppressor has met his end! Hostility has ceased!

As your time of recharging comes to an end, I pray that you start your day with a fully charged battery ready to face the fiery darts you know the enemy will be sending your way.

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More Than Just a Name!

I am one of those children that was gifted with a very uncommon unusual name.  It was not a popular name. It was not a family name. It was not in a baby book of names when I was growing up.  I couldn’t go find cute little items with my name on it.  I had to have a company research my name for the meaning, and I still have the card I received.  My name is often mispronounced, and even I could not pronounce my own name when I was little.  When I was young, as the story is told by my grandparents, I would call myself BI (bee-eye) and would argue with them that they were not saying my name correctly.

I asked my mother how she came up with my first name when I was thinking about writing this blog post, and she said she came up with it one day in church.  I wonder if the preacher was preaching on Berea in Acts that day? My middle name was still up for grabs. When I was growing up I came across a piece of paper where my mother was trying out middle names. On the list was Ruth – one of my favorite books of the Bible and part of my Dad’s mother’s name, Emma Ruth.  The story from my Dad was that he wanted to name me Angela.  Mother settled on Angelique after she heard the name in a movie. But she didn’t like the spelling.  So my given name is Brea (bree-uh meaning – noble, strong, virtuous, hill), Angelic (Ahn-zhay-Leek meaning – of the angels). I am often called Bree or Baria.  I finally came to the point I would answer to anything close.

black-white-1444737_640The naming of a child is a very important task for parents.  This name is heard by the child their entire life, unless they get it changed in court.  Nowadays many parents spend hours/days/months picking out the name their child will carry.  Many look in baby books for the meaning.  Some chose family names.  Some choose popular names. Some take names and spell them differently.  Experts believe that the name of a child will play a major role in a child’s life.  It will shape their future, character, success in life and personality.  Jabez in the Bible went around with a name that meant affliction or pain.  Naomi wanted to be called Mara which means bitter. (Ruth 1:20) Asher means happy or blessed. (Genesis 30:13) Esther means star.

In just the same way, the names of God are important. God’s names tell us about his character. This past fall, Pastor Kevin preached a 12-week sermon series on the Names of God. Some of his material came from Tony Evan’s book The Power of God’s Names.  He suggested we get a copy to read if we wanted to dig deeper. So I did. And I read right along each week with the name Pastor Kevin was preaching on in the series.  There were so many nuggets of insight and revelation about the character of God in the book and through the series, but Pastor Kevin couldn’t cover all the names listed in the book.  So I have taken the time to go back and read the ones that he didn’t cover.  The book ends with the name Immanuel (God with us).

Elizabeth (“my God is abundance”) and Zechariah (“Yahweh remembers”) and Mary (“sea of bitterness, rebelliousness, wished for child, loved or beloved”) and Joseph (“he will add”) didn’t have to wonder about what to name their new little babies. God, through an angel announcement, gave Zechariah, Mary and Joseph the names to use.  When it came time for Zechariah and Elizabeth to name John (“Yahweh is gracious”), their friends and relatives had their own ideas.  In Luke 1:57-63 you can read the story.

Mary was told in Luke 1:31-33 “Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.”

christmas-crib-figures-1060059_640Joseph was told in Matthew 1:21-23 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us.’”

When Jesus was born that name was very common.  Jesus is the equivalent of the Old Testament form of Joshua. The meaning of the name is “Yahweh saves.”  The angel gave Mary and Joseph a more detailed description of who Jesus would be:  Great, Son of the Most High, He would be seated on a throne, reign over the house of Jacob forever, his kingdom would never end, He will save HIS people from their sins, He would be Immanuel – GOD WITH US.  In Acts 4:12 we are told by Peter “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”

Jesus is more than just a name. He personifies all of the character of GOD in human form. Do you think that Mary and Joseph remembered the prophet Isaiah foretelling about Jesus in Isaiah 9:6?

“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

Tony Evans looks at these descriptive names of Jesus in the last chapter of his book.  The names in Isaiah 9:6 give us “insight into His character and mission” and “puts on display everything there is to know about God.”  Jesus also has other names – Redeemer, Deliverer, Good Shepherd, King of king and Lord of Lords and more. He fulfills the names of God:  Elohim, Jehovah, Adonai, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Tsaba, Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Rohi, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Mekoddishekm, Jehovah Rapha, Jehovah Tsidkenu, El Elyon and El Shaddai.

• Wonderful Counselor – Jesus “perspective is infinite.  His resources unlimited.  His experience includes a lifetime on earth enduring the same trials and temptations we face.”  Jesus is the one we should turn to when we need perspective on what we are dealing with in life.  He is the counselor that has all the answers.  There is nothing we will face that he can’t see us through.

• Mighty God – “Jesus never fails.  He is faithful.  All the power of creation stands behind His promise to provide and to care for us…Might is more than strength.  Might is the ability to use strength strategically for the good of others.”  Jesus is all God.  He is Immanuel God with us.  All the power behind the name of God can be used by Jesus.

• Everlasting Father – “Jesus is Everlasting.”  In Revelations 22:13 he says “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”  John 1:1 tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 17:5 “Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with that glory I had with you before the world existed.”  In John 10:30 Jesus tells us “I and the Father are one.” Jesus is eternal and if we are saved and acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Savior we will live with him for eternity.

• Prince of Peace – We “believe that peace is the absence of conflict. Yet Jesus gives us so much more.  He promises peace that transcends our circumstances.  It invades the inevitable conflicts that naturally arise in a sinful world.  It makes perfect sense to be at peace when all is well.  But Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace, promises us a peace that transcends understanding (Philippians 4:7).”  We all desperately want the kind of peace Jesus offers.

One of the popular worship songs we sing in church is “What a Beautiful Name.”  Listen or read the words and rejoice in what a beautiful, wonderful. and powerful name the name of Jesus truly is. It is more than just a common, popular name.  It is the Name above all Names.  In Philippians 2:9-11 we read we should have the same mindset and attitude as Jesus

“Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity.  And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

There has never been nor will there ever be a name greater that the name of Jesus – our SAVIOR.  His Name is above all Names and everything is under his feet.  It is at the name of JESUS every knee will bow.   So who do you need Jesus to be for you today:  Your Peace, Your Shepherd, Your Messiah, Your Savior, Your Healer.  He is waiting to be these and more for you.  Just call on HIS NAME!

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CD’s of Pastor Kevin Hamm’s sermon series on the Names of God can been found in the GFBC Encouraging Word Book Store.
“What a Beautiful Name” words and music by Ben Fielding and Brooke Ligertwood.

Putting Together the Pieces

My grandmother has always loved to work jigsaw puzzles.  I have many fond memories of us spending hours in front of a puzzle working well into the night to finish the picture.  Even today at the age of 91 with her being almost completely blind and dealing with Alzheimer’s, she still sits for hours working puzzles.  The puzzles may have become fewer in pieces, but she still loves fitting the pieces together.  When she completes a puzzle she is always excited to show it off, to let you see what she has accomplished of taking all the pieces and fitting them together to reveal the complete picture.

51ktrzbp0il-_sx326_bo1204203200_That is what we are doing when we study God’s Word.  We are taking each piece of knowledge we receive from reading God’s Word and placing it in its proper place to see God’s story being revealed.  We are becoming more Bible literate.  Jen Wilkins in her book Women of the Word: How to STUDY the BIBLE with Both OUR HEARTS and OUR MINDS gives her definition of Bible Literacy: “Bible literacy occurs when a person has access to a Bible in a language she understands and is steadily moving toward knowledge and understanding of the text…Bible literacy stitches patchwork knowledge into a seamless garment of understanding.”

I need to be up front and say I do not have it all together and I am not perfect!   It is not easy trying to be diligent and faithful in spending time in God’s Word on a daily basis.  Let’s be honest, it is a struggle for me and I am sure for many of you.  I get in a routine and then something comes along and messes it up.  One day becomes two and before long it has been a week.  One thing I do know is My God is faithful to forgive me and prompt me to spend time with him.

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The other thing I struggle with is how to approach the study of God’s Word.  No book, study plan, or Bible study book can replace just digging in and reading God’s Word and letting the Holy Spirit direct you.  That being said, I am always interested in seeing, hearing and reading how other people approach the study of God’s Word. Are you one that reads the Bible through once a year or do you select a book at a time?  Do you follow a daily devotion or reading plan?  Do you write verses down and meditate on them?  Or do you just let the Holy Spirit lead you in your reading.  Do you use Iva May’s approach in Chronological Bible Teaching reading the Bible Chronologically?  How about Jen Wilkin’s 5 P’s of Sound Study approach in her book: Women of the Word: How to STUDY the BIBLE with Both OUR HEARTS and OUR MINDS?  In Angie Smith’s study Seamless she streams all of the major stories in the Bible together in one thread.  There are so many ways to approach the study of God’s Word, but what are we doing with our knowledge and understanding?  Are all the pieces of the puzzle fitting together?

51jyryn98ul-_sx366_bo1204203200_As we start 2018, do you have a plan?  Did you make a New Year’s resolution to Study God’s Word more?   So how is it going?  No matter what plan you use, make sure that you are seeing God’s complete picture.  Don’t shy away from the things you don’t understand?  I have many times written or said to God, “I don’t understand this passage.”  You know, it is usually not long before I hear someone preach on the same passage or read a book where the verse I don’t understand is revealed to me with more understanding.  As Women of the Word let’s be more intentional in becoming more Bible Literate this next year.

Lord, may we make a commitment to spend more time in your Word.  Not just to gain head knowledge, but to gain understanding so that when the end of 2018 comes around we may be able to see each piece of your Word revealed as a beautiful picture of YOUR LOVE for us from Genesis to Revelation.

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Becoming a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit

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I am a person who likes to read.  I usually have two or three books going at the same time and more stacked nearby waiting to be read. However, I have a problem:  I don’t always finish the books. Something always gets in the way.  It seems I get about ½ way through a book and we start a new bible study or life gets really busy or sometimes I lose interest when something better comes along.  Are you like this?  I admit it:  I AM A QUITTER.  I start things and can’t seem to get them finished.  I can also be a procrastinator or start something and wonder why I agreed to do it.  What are you thinking about quitting?  What have you quit, given up on?  Is it something small like a project, book, or bible study?  Or is it something big like your marriage, your job, or your New Year’s goals?  Did you even set a New Year’s goal?  Have you already quit?  Well, I 51ceqnhm8el-_sx322_bo1204203200_recently read a book called A WOMAN WHO DOESN’T QUIT: 5 Habits From the Book of Ruth by Nicki Koziarz.

Yes, I read the whole book.  You can’t stop reading when you are trying to find out the habits of a person who doesn’t quit.  There are several reasons why I read the book, but here are two of the biggest: (1) I could relate to the title. We have already discussed that I can be a quitter and I can procrastinate; (2) The book of Ruth is one of my favorite books in the Bible.  Who can pass up a love story when you are single and still waiting on your Boaz.  However, one thing I do know about Ruth – she was not a quitter!  In fact, Ruth over-excelled.  What can Ruth teach us all about not quitting?  This I had to learn.

If you are not familiar with the story of Ruth.  Stop right now and grab your Bible and read the book of Ruth in the Old Testament.  Or better yet go to www.Biblegateway.com and read it on-line.  It is a very short book with only 4 chapters.  But WAIT!  Don’t be a quitter and forget to come back and read the rest of this post.

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Now back to the book, Nicki gives 5 habits we should apply to our lives.  You will need to read the book to learn the habits.  Yeah, I know the easy way is for me to tell you, but that doesn’t accomplish our goal – to finish what we start.  In the book she uses practical applications combined with Biblical truth to make her points.  It is an easy read.  What I liked the best is that each point has a current relevant example from Nicki’s own life and in the next chapter she uses the story of Ruth of make the same point, contrasting someone prone to quit with Ruth, one who didn’t quit.

Nicki was convicted by the verse in Luke 16:10 when she wrote the book:

He that is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much: and he that is unrighteous in a very little is unrighteous also in much.

Some quotes from the book that really stuck me were:

“A committed woman learns to choose what she wants most over what she wants now.” (i.e. set goals, don’t think you have to have everything now)

What is important to you?  What is important to God?

“Thoughts become words.  Words become actions.  Actions become reality.”  This is so true!

“Refinement becomes redemption when we fulfill our responsibility to wait in expectation for the Redeemer to carry out HIS plans.”

Are you in a time of refinement?  Romans 8:18 says: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” Where does your dependency rest during times of refinement, on yourself or God?

“Living under the covering of God means we are asking God to ‘see over’ our lives.” 

Am I open to the movement of God in my life?  How can I share what I have not experienced?  Am I living under God’s covering?  Am I open to him “overseeing” my life?

girl-3047297_1280One of the excuses I usually use to either to quit on my commitment or not do to something is “I don’t feel like it.”  Do you use this excuse too?  Well Nicki convicted me on this.  Just remember these are Nicki words not mine: (1) “Commitment has nothing to do with feelings; (2) My defeat comes from my thought and actions.”  Wow!  She continues on with “We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control our reactions.”  Isn’t this so true in life.  We are always reacting with our feelings.  We let our feelings take over allowing bitterness and anger to build up when things don’t go our way, or when something happens to us over which we have no control.  How about when someone else doesn’t fulfil their commitment.  How do you react? Do you get mad or angry, or become bitter?

The Bible has a lot to say about bitterness and anger and how it can affect our lives.

Job 10:1 “I am disgusted with my life. I will give vent to my complaint and speak in the bitterness of my soul.”

Acts 8:23 “For I see you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by wickedness.”

Ephesians 4:31 “Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice.”

Hebrew 12:15  “Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and defiling many.”

Proverbs 14:16  “A wise person is cautious and turns from evil, but a fool is easily angered and is careless.”

Proverbs 15:18 A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but one slow to anger calms strife

James 1:19-20 “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.”

I am the only one that can control my reactions.  I want my actions, reactions, and feelings to reflect my commitment as a follower of Jesus Christ.

I have had Philippians 4:11 posted on my desk for many years.

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.”

board-928392_1280So the next time you can’t make a commitment to do something, are thinking about quitting on something you have commit to do, feel like procrastinating or letting your feelings control you, or are showing apathy.  Ask yourself, Why?  Why are you quitting?  Why are you reacting this way?  Why are you anger at that person?  Take a really hard look at why you are making these decisions. Appreciate what you have and give it some time and prayer before you react.  Are you acting as the world would have you act?  Or are you fulfilling your commitment to do what God has called you to do even when you don’t feel like it?  Do you jump into a commitment due to the pressure of others?  Are you allowing yourself to become defeated when you don’t commit, spiraling down into a world of defeat so you don’t even try?  Don’t be a quitter.  Be a Ruth.

Ruth committed to going with Naomi.  She fulfilled her commitment even when things around her looked bleak.  She could have let feelings keep her back, but she moved ahead in faith.  She didn’t allow anger and bitterness at her situation to keep her from going out and finding food, working tirelessly.   Ruth was not in the ideal situation but she kept herself open to God working in her life.  She stayed the task even when Naomi gave her some crazy things to do.  She met the needs of others around her even when she didn’t have much herself.  She kept moving forward in faith that she could accomplish what she started.  She learned to be content with the life she was given which allowed her life and situation to improve as well as Naomi’s. And in the end, God approved and gave her a husband and child.

So grab Nicki’s book and read it for yourself.  Let God speak to you.  Don’t live in defeat as a quitter.  Excel in the commitments where God has planted you.  As you read:  Let your thoughts become words, your words become actions, and your actions become reality.  Think in the long-term not in immediate gratification.  Remember:  “Refinement becomes redemption when we fulfill our responsibility to wait in expectation for the Redeemer to carry out HIS plans.”

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