Friday, December 26, 2008

His Presence

by Bethany Lashbrook

This Weeks Verse: Luke 11:13, "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"(NIV)

Did you have that one gift that you asked for this Christmas season? I sure did! And, knowing my family, I received it from someone; if not my husband, then my mom. My oldest daughter knew exactly what she wanted! My greatest joy of the season will be watching my two children excitedly open that ONE gift they just HAD to have. This, to me is the greatest “earthly” joy of the season.

Like many other women, I live for my Lord, and I live for my husband, and I live for my children. So it goes without saying that nothing on this earth is comparable to me making them happy. I get an overall contentment knowing that I gave them something they needed. Sure, I give them love every day, but it’s not every day you get love and a present under a Christmas tree!

Unfortunately, many presents opened this season will soon end up in the bottom of the toy box. But as for God’s present – it lasts for an eternity! And for the first time this morning, reading a daily devotion, I felt God get excited about me opening his present! I realize that God gave us a gift when He gave us His son wrapped in swaddling cloths in that manger the first Christmas morning. But, He also gave us the present of the Holy Spirit. This way we are never, ever alone. We never have to face a challenge or a disaster without Him.

Each time we listen to Him, we are using His gift, His offering to us. And not only are we using it, but He is getting excited about it! God – gets excited about me! Say that out loud. God – gets excited about me! Oh what a joy to know that his present to me will never be thrown out with all the other presents I will receive!

Father, thank You for the gift of Your Son. Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Please continue to guide us through You so that we may continue to do good. Lord, thank You for all the presents under the tree, but help us not to forget about the presence of You. Gifts from earth are short-lived, but YOU are forever. Guide and direct us in whatever You do. In Your Son's precious Name we pray, Amen.

Did you find yourself more excited about the presents under the Christmas tree or the presence of God in your life this Christmas season? If you feel like you need a boost, pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to guide you. Just like other gifts, the gift of the Holy Spirit works best when you get it out from the bottom of the pile, and place it back on top!

Power Verses:
Luke 11:9-10, "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (NIV)
Ephesians 2:8,"God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God." (NLT)
John 14:16, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you." (NLT)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Little Broken People

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: Eph. 1:4, “Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.” (MSG, emphasis mine)

Every Christmas when we decorate, I let the kids put out several mixed up sets of those light-up Christmas villages, complete with little ice-skating figures, carolers, and other assorted townspeople. They cover two coffee tables with white batting for “snow” and then get busy creating their Christmas wonderlands. They love putting everything in just the right spot, not caring at all that these beat-up, hand-me-down people are dressed from different eras. Some are wearing Charles Dickens-era Victorian clothing, while others are knicker-bockered in 1940’s fashion. The Victorians also out-size their modern counterparts noticeably. And yet where cultures could clash, the Christmas spirit is written all over each face.

One particular table happens to be mere inches away from my face when I’m in my morning quiet time. I’m eye-level with a country scene that includes a train, a bridge, a barn, and an inviting white farmhouse that appears to be hosting quite a festive holiday celebration. Out in the snow-covered yard children are helping adults decorate trees, boys are sledding, and a few wild animals—such as deer and a fox—co-mingle peacefully with the humans.

Suddenly I notice a little boy in World War II-era clothes who’s fallen onto the ground. Earlier I’d seen that he was placed beside two Victorian ladies on a bench that was much too large for him. But now here he was, helpless in the snow. When I picked him up I noticed his entire bottom legs had been broken off. That’s probably why some caring little fingers had placed him on a bench with the nurturing-looking ladies to begin with.

With no legs below the knees, his condition reminded me of the village scene on the other table across the room where a woman without feet is exiting a toy shop. Fortunately for her, a large cottony snow drift had been lovingly placed around her, allowing her to remain upright.

That’s when I began to notice other imperfections among the citizens of Christmasville. A guy hanging lights on a tree is missing a hand—can you imagine hanging lights without one hand?—and yet he’s happily doing it as a little choir sings encouragement to him as he works. In fact, with the bumps and scratches accumulated through years of being played with, dropped, forgotten about, packed, and unpacked, I’d be hard-pressed to find even one perfect inhabitant. Sound familiar?

And yet not one of these people is discarded or banished to remain in their box. Each is given its own special place. Why? Because I’m not in charge of the citizens of Christmasville; my kids are. And they see each one as a valuable part of the whole scene. They even give special attention to the broken ones so they are equipped to function and contribute to the good of everyone! Within that magical world, each individual—whether broken or whole, scraped up or shiny—experiences the wonderful spirit of joyful unity and peace and love. Oh, that the spirit of God’s mercy would flow through us that way in our world!

May we, like children do, look past the imperfections of the real people in our own Christmasvilles, and be unified in the merciful love of our Savior.

Father, give us Your eyes to see the people around us who are broken. With the faith of a child, help us to obey in reaching out to them, showing them their worth to You and in You, loving them in Your Name, and empowering them to contribute to Your kingdom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Who comes to mind that you consider “broken”—physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, or spiritually? How can you equip them to be made whole through the love of Jesus?

Power Verses:
Ephesians 4:16, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
1 Corinthians 15:43, “Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength.”(NLT)
Jeremiah 30:17, “‘But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD, ‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.’”(NIV)
Matthew 15:31, “So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.” (NKJV)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Weeping Willows Rejoice!

by Marsha Loftis

This Week's Verse: Psalm 56:8, "You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book."

I recently read a wonderful work of fiction. I won’t reveal what the book was in case you haven’t read it. I don’t want to give anything away. If you have read it, you may recognize what I’m about to tell you and you may want to do what I did… Read it AGAIN!

The author suggests that people collect things because they are valuable. Either to everyone, or to the individual. He also suggests that the Holy Spirit collects our tears. That every single one shed is so valuable that God has directed the Spirit to collect each one in a bottle. Isn’t that wonderful?!

I cry in church. There, I said it. Sometimes it embarrasses me. There, I said that too! There are times when I think, “Goodness, Girl! Why can’t you keep it together?!” I don’t always know what makes the tears come. Sometimes, when I close my eyes the church sounds as close to angels as I can imagine. (We are so blessed to have the Praise Band, don’t ya think?) Anyway, the beauty of all those voices brings tears to my eyes. Sometimes, I’ve had a particularly awful week and to be there, in the midst of the beauty and the presence of God brings on the waterworks. There are times that I am so thankful for what God has done in my life, there’s nothing I can do but weep.

This past week, we were in the middle of the song “Offering” when, of course out of nowhere, here come the tears. I thought of the Holy Spirit collecting each one that spilled out of of my eyes. While I sang, “I bring an offering of worship to my King, no one on earth deserves the praises that I sing…” I could feel His presence, and see the other offerings that were being lifted up to Our King… Hands raised high, heads bowed low, arms spread wide... and my tears beginning to fall.

I will no longer be embarrassed by my tears. They are an offering of worship to my King! When I leave the ‘building’ from now on with slightly swollen eyes, wearing less make-up than when I came in and a gnarled, balled up Kleenex in my hand I will feel as though I have been to church! I have been in His presence and I have worshipped at the feet of Jesus!

Fellow Weeping Willows, fear not; your tears are precious! There’s no need to be embarrassed… We are in good company. Remember? “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

Father, thank you for showing me one more way to worship You. Thank you for my tears and the cleasning feeling that they bring. They let me leave it all with you and convince me that when I feel like I'm falling apart that You will be there to put me back together again. Just like the stars in the sky, You count my tears and value each one as a gift given unto You. Blessed Be Your Name, Amen.

Worship was meant to be personal. That's why there are so many ways to do it. Whatever fits your personality and your relationship with Christ. Sometimes it’s hard to express what is in your heart. Whether your tears are born from joy or sorrow, love or laughter, thankfulness or regret, remember that the One who knit you together in your mother's womb sees and records every one. Whatever position you choose to worship… Hands raised, head bowed, kneeling, standing, face down on the floor or crying a river for The King. Be assured, it won’t be wrong. God will honor what’s in your heart, not what position you’re in.

Power Verses:
John 11:33-35, “When Jesus saw her weeping… He was deeply moved in spirit…Jesus wept.” (NIV)
2 Kings 20:5, “This is what the Lord, God of your father David, says: I have heard you prayers and seen your tears; I will heal you.” (NIV)
Psalm 30:5, "The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter." (MSG)
Jeremiah 31:9, "Tears of joy will stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care."(NLT)
Luke 6:21, "You're blessed when the tears flow freely. Joy comes with the morning."(MSG)

Friday, December 5, 2008

So Grateful

by Missy Milbourn

This Week’s Verse: Romans 5:6-8, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”(NLT)

A couple of weeks ago we had a guest speaker at our church, and something that he said has stayed with me. He asked if our church was a “safe place”. He posed these questions…

“If a homosexual couple came to your church, would you welcome them?”

“If a woman who had just gotten a divorce from her husband because she was having an affair with another man (and you knew it because she was the talk of the town) came to church, would you welcome her?”

He went on to say that studies indicate that these people aren’t coming to church because the church is too judgmental. (I think I already knew that.) But it’s what he said next that really got me, and has stayed with me. He said that we (the church) expect people to act like Jesus before they even know Jesus.

He’s right. I’m sorry.

How opposite that is to how Jesus loved people. How opposite that is to the very nature of God. For God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8)

While we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. (Romans 5:6)

I’m so grateful that He didn’t wait for me to get my act together before he reached out to me, or quite frankly…He’d still be waiting.

Father, I’m so thankful that you reach out to us while we are still sinners. I’m thankful that in the middle of the messed up lives that we lead that you love us, and you reach out to save us. Help us to love like you love. Help us to reach out like you reach out. Help us to be a safe place where anyone can come and learn about you, fall in love with you, and experience a new life with you.

Make a mental assessment of how you would receive (welcome) the above described people coming to church, or someone else experiencing other possibly controversial issues. Let’s make a conscious choice to meet people where they’re at and do our best to love them into the Kingdom of God.

Power Verses:
Luke 5:31-32
, “Jesus heard about it and spoke up, ‘Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I'm here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.’”(MSG)
Mark 2:17, “When Jesus heard this, he told them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.’” (NLT)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Are We There Yet?

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (NIV)

You’re familiar with the scene—an hours-long trip in a cramped car occupied by you, maybe another adult, and at least one child. The trees and buildings speed by, but even though you’re making great time, the inevitable question resonates from the back seat: “Are we there yet?” At first you answer a patient, “No, not yet.” You might even smile at the familiarity of the situation. But by the fourth, ninth, and sixteenth times, you’re dangerously close to pulling “this car over!” and making everyone else walk. Been there?

So has God. Consider the prayers He often hears. Can you fix this problem now, Lord? Where’s my healing I’ve been asking for? I need my answer about his job today, God. Are you even listening? No doubt, by the fourth time, He’s also grown weary of the request. He, like you in the car, knows that “we aren’t there yet” and He probably wishes that response would satisfy enough to result in our patience.

But His ways are not our ways—thankfully! Instead of frustrated threats to end the journey, He provides kindness and mercy when we approach His throne, as shown in this week’s verse. When His answer is “no” or “not yet” He wants us to be confident that He will provide the kindness and mercy we need to be sustained. His boundless grace can move us from Are we there yet? to a point of Let’s enjoy the ride together, Lord; I trust Your timing.

And whenever you arrive is just perfect.

God, thank You for providing me with kindness and mercy when I approach Your throne, even when I do so repeatedly, not heeding the answers You’ve already given me. Replace my impatience or boredom with enthusiasm for the ride.

Application: What is an area in your life in which you've been waiting on God? Can you see how the process of waiting might be refining certain areas? Take heart; He's got a plan AND a timeframe for your good.

Power Verses:
Ecc. 7:8
, “Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” (NLT)
1 Tim. 1:16, “But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” (NLT)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Who Needs Anything More

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: Phillipians 4:19, "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

I love listening in on the conversations my kids have in the car. Last week I heard my son express his deep need for a certain toy. His sister replied in her best "big sister" voice, "Now, Skylar, that's not a need; that's a want." Ah. Someone's been paying attention.

While I was happy that she knew the difference, a small part inside me got defensive for Skylar's want. I mean, I don't want my kids to be greedy, but is there anything wrong with wanting stuff too?

I'm so thankful that the Lord takes care of this! I'm grateful that He knows what we need. And what we don't. He also knows what we want, which may or may not be a real need. For example, you may think you need a zippy, cute little red convertible sports car, but you really just need reliable transportation.

You might think you need a frappuccino and biscotti, but what you really need is more rest and wholesome food so you can be energized. (Ouch. I really want that.)

You might think you need those slammin’ blue snakeskin sling-backs, but all you really need is some moderately attractive quality footwear. You get the picture.

And then there are those below-the-surface needs that you may not even be aware that you have. You may need to be taken out of your comfort zone in order to grow. Maybe you need an abundant measure of forgiveness for a sin you didn’t even realize you committed. And you might desperately need a divine touch of joy in a life that has become grayer so gradually that you hardly noticed.

Aren’t you so glad that God knows your needs? All of them—even the ones you’re not conscious of? And He’s so faithful to fill those needs richly. Abundantly. Beyond what you’d hoped. When you trust God completely to meet all your needs, He may even take care of a few wants—such as a 75% off sale on those sling-backs! Or even the toy my son wants making the list of After-Thanksgiving-Day early bird discounts!

But even if we don’t always get what we want, we will always have what we need. And that’s infinitely better.

Lord, You do meet our needs so richly—even ones we're not aware of. Thank You for doing it gloriously through Jesus, so that each time we see a need and even a want filled, our faith increases even more.

As you count your blessings and express your gratitude this Thanksgiving, note the categories those blessings fall into. What obvious needs has God met? What needs has He met that, before, you didn't even realize you needed met? And what wants has He graciously provided?

Power Verses:
Matthew 7:11, "So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him." (NLT)
Psalm 79:8, "Do not hold us guilty for the sins of our ancestors! Let your compassion quickly meet our needs, for we are on the brink of despair." (NLT)
2 Corinthians 9:12, "So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God." (NLT)
Ezra 3:11, "With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: 'He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.' "(NIV)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Trust in the Lord, Not Your Own Understanding

by Darra Strohm

This Week’s Verse: Isaiah 58:11, "The Lord will always lead you. He will satisfy your needs in dry lands and give strength to your bones. You will be like a garden that has much water, like a spring that never runs dry."(NCV)

About a year ago, I committed to faithfully attend “Moms in Touch” prayer group at our church on Wednesday nights. I was in dire circumstances and I needed serious prayer warriors to unite with me in prayer for me and my family. God led me to our group to revive my thirsty soul and give me strength in my bones. I praise Him that He has restored the garden in me and provides the spring that never runs dry.

Communication (prayer) is linked to our Faith. Another word for faith is assurance. Praise God that we are assured that He will lead us and satisfy us if we trust in Him. In my own understanding, my world doesn’t make much sense. But in His world, I have nothing to fear because He has the answers to all my circumstances. This is the reason that I pray (believe) that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. I believe that by my faith in communication with Him that I unleash His power.

Power is an asset of communication with our Father. When Jesus left the earth, He gave us (His family) the power (authority) to rule His earthly kingdom. By Faith, we are commanded to take authority over the earth. It’s our obligation to bring down Heaven on our world by our prayers.

This week’s devotion is an invitation to connect with a group of praying Mommas who faithfully communicate with our Father for families, friends, church, community, schools, government, the universe, and the unloved.

Father, you are Lord. I trust you with all my heart. Thank you for satisfying all my needs and providing me with strength to my bones. I am like a garden that has much water, like a spring that never runs dry. I believe that my circumstances are in your hands and my family is made perfect in your will. In Jesus’ Precious Name, Amen.

Trust God’s sovereignty. Believe in His Will on earth as it is in heaven. Pray for His Power. Live each day with Purpose. Praise Him and thank Him for each day’s circumstances.

Power Verses:

Psalm 32:8, "The Lord says 'I will make you wise and show you where to go. I will guide you and watch over you.'" Psalm 32:8 (NCV)
Psalm 48:14, "This God is our God forever and ever. He will guide us from now on."(NCV)
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Always be joyful. Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Jesus Christ."(NCV)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Would You Like to Pray?

by Debby Craig

This Week’s Verse: 1 Samuel 1:27, “I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him.”

I spent the day with my daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, today. She is married to my son Matthew and is a constant reminder to me of “The Miracle” that happened in our family. Periodically, one of Matt’s old friends will stop by to see them and she listens in awe as stories of his past are told. “This can't be,” she has shared with me. “I don't even know this guy they are talking about.”

He was addicted to alcohol and drugs at an early age. Our whole family lived this horror as he replaced all that was important and precious to him for that next fix. I tried to hide my broken heart, anger, disappointment, guilt, and shame, but frequently I would ask my Sunday school class, our small groups, and the Wednesday prayer service to pray for Matthew. I was always asking others to pray for my son. We are told in scripture to carry each others’ burdens to the Lord in prayer. I began to see God moving in Matt’s life and reported each incident to the people who had spent so much time in prayer for my son and family.

Then about six years ago, Karen Keim bought me a book called Moments for Families with Prodigals. I read it in one night. It was prayer after prayer for my son from the Word. They were my prayers. Then it hit me! I had been asking others to ask the Lord for Debby's most crucial “heart” requests. My heavenly Father longed to hear from me—from my heart—about my pain, my dreams, and lost dreams for Matt. This particular book taught me to pray from the heart in the language of a mother's heart. His language—the Word. I just took a passage of scripture, prayed my heart, and inserted my son’s name into the passage.

I was excited and of course I wanted to share this new found insight about prayer with others. I had never felt like I could pray in front of others before. There had to be other mothers out there, just like me, who were amateurs at praying with others or moms who were at their wit’s end or maybe just mommas who wanted to pray for their children.

So… we put a note in The Caller entitled “Mamas Rise Up” inviting moms to come and pray for their children. Some did! God sent Virgie Pearce, Judy Bucher, and Tomma Lu and for years, once a week like clockwork, we prayed and poured out our hearts for our children and their walk with the Lord or their salvation.

We are still praying together as “Moms in Touch” and have more moms than ever before. The Lord has answered our prayers and blessed us with many miracles. We have many testimonies to share about the battles that the Lord has fought for us and won. We are constantly in awe of His never-ending love for us and His Mighty Power. We also realize that Satan is very interested in our little group of moms who are praising and worshiping and expecting miracles for our children and grandchildren, for he has poked his nose in our business many a time. But once again, we have God and His word to do battle for us.

Unsurprisingly, in 2006 Matthew accepted the Lord Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. He has a brand new heart and it is evident to all that it is a heart for Jesus. He gives God all the Glory for delivering him from his addictions. He says quite boldly and comfortably “I've been delivered.” He prays about everything. He says to me often “Mom—have you prayed about it? Just pray about it!” I feel such great joy when I hear him talk in “God's” language.

The Lord took most of him and replaced it with a new Matt. After his salvation, when he would testify about what the Lord did for him, I was very often left speechless; I didn't know this new person the Lord had put before me. Where was the old Matt? But now, I don't even remember the old Matt. I actually had a hard time pulling together some past memories of the old Matthew to write this. Wasn't that a good problem to have? Praise God! Praise God!

Lord, thank you for opening my heart and allowing me to spill it all out to you in prayer for the lives of my children. Thank you and Praise you for saving my son and the answered prayers of our praying mommas group, and please continue to take care of our dear ones! In Jesus name, Amen.

Understand what you can and can’t do as a parent. Ruth Graham Bell, in Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, stated it very simply:
“We mothers must take care of the possible and trust God for the impossible. We are to love, affirm, encourage, teach, listen and care for the physical needs of the family. We cannot convict of sin, create hunger and thirst after God, or convict. These are miracles, and miracles are not in our department.”

Power Verses:
1 Samuel 12:23
, “As for me, far be it from me to sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.” (NIV)
Matthew 18:19 -20, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (NIV) Cool!
2 Chronicles 20:15, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's.” (NIV) This is what the Lord says to you mommas!
Lamentations 2:19, “Arise, cry out in the night, pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord, Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children.”

(***Editor's note: This devotion, as Debby mentioned, covers one of the many miracles that has resulted from the prayer efforts of the Mommas' Prayer Group. We look forward to sharing more in the future. Next week we'll hear from Darra Strohm.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Be My Bubble

By Marsha Loftis

This Week’s Verse: 1 Peter 5: 8, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (NIV)

Have you ever been the slightest bit ‘envious’ of our pastors? Or the church secretary? Or a teacher at a Christian school? Or anyone in a position where they are for the most part surrounded by other Christians? I have. I have wondered what it would be like to not have to deal with the worldliness of, well, the world.

I used to think that it would be awesome to be able to go to work and not have to put up with the inevitable “potty mouth,” the singles “escapades,” or the “negative Nelly” that it seems is always there. What would it be like to work with people of like minds and like values? It would be bliss!

Then one day, I was blessed with this bliss! Ninety percent of the people I worked closely with were Christians. For over a year, every weekend. It was amazing! Even when one of us was having an off day, we could go in and say, “Hey, would you pray for me?” They would actually ask me the next day if things were any better! They actually cared what was going on in my life and were overjoyed to hear of God working in it!

And then it stopped…

I was really mad! I couldn’t understand why God had taken me out of my safe, wonderful bubble with my loving, caring friends and thrown me to the wolves! (Or the ‘lions’.) The ones that prowl around looking for someone to devour. Why would He not want me to be in a place of contentment? What happened to my bliss?!

After several days, and several tears, and several more complaints, it hit me! The “why” of it all. When we are safe and content and comfortable we get lazy! Spiritually speaking. I know I did. Who was I supposed to witness to when I was surrounded by Believers?! Who was I supposed to be an example to? People who were already living with the same values I had? What would be the point?!

As usual, God knew what He was doing. He gave me a fresh start. A new attitude. And a new “audience” of sorts. It made me take stock in what I did at work, how I did my job, and mindful of who was watching. I love the way He works! Just when I thought He burst my bubble, I realized that He IS My Bubble!! Instead of surrounding me with mere mortals, He is surrounding me with His supernatural power, love and grace!

Being protected by God’s bubble is special. His bubble is permeable, it has to be! It has to be gentle enough to let the “goodness” out and be strong enough to not let the “lions” in.

We all need to gather strength from our loved ones, church family, and other believers, of course. I’m in no way trying to diminish the importance of being with like-minded people. Just remember, when you feel like you’ve been thrown to the wolves, or the lions, you are the only one who can burst your own bubble!

Lord, be My Bubble. Protect my mind and heart from the prowling lions. Let my life be transparent so that others can see You through me. Let them wonder what I’ve got that they need and give the me opportunity and words to say what You want me to say. Allow me to speak to their hearts in that perfect way so they will know it’s You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The next time you’re faced with wondering why God has placed you where you are take a look inside and ask yourself, “Have I gotten comfortable?” He is the King of taking us our of our comfort zone! After you’ve looked inside, take a look around and ask God, “Who am I here for?” or “Am I here to be blessed or to be a blessing to someone else?”

Power Verses:
Psalm 17:8-9, “Keep me as the apple of you eye, hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who assail me, from my mortal enemies who surround me.”(NIV)
John 17:15-16, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.”(NIV)
Mark 16:14, “Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all.”(MSG)
James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (NIV)

Friday, October 24, 2008

To Train A Child

By Bethany Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: Proverb 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (NIV)

When I was growing up, my parents were firm believers in the church, and I grew up in a small country church right outside of Marshall. There I learned what every child learns in church. I grew up rich in the Methodist faith and confirmed my belief by accepting God into my life at age nine at church camp.

By age twelve, I became vastly aware of the world around me. I was interested in boys and what boys thought of me. I liked to wear makeup to change my appearance. Already church and religion were taking a back seat in my life.

By age fourteen, religion was practically gone. I started maturing, therefore, started making my own decisions. I decided God was not needed. By fifteen, I didn’t believe in a godly lifestyle at all. I decided that life was more “fun” without God in my life and I didn’t need a list of rules to follow in order to make it in this world.

The rest of the story is pretty easy to fill in. I went through lots of trials and tribulations the next ten years, and started wanting LIFE again when I fell in love with my future husband and had my first daughter Savannah. After having my second daughter, Gabrielle, in 2005, I decided it was time for a permanent change in my life. Not only was I responsible for my own life now, but for my two children’s lives as well. I was baptized in 2007 to confirm my faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ, and have since strived to be a Christian woman and mother strong in faith.

I used to think I had failed my parents because they had “trained me” to live in faith and I did not follow it. Recently, I heard a sermon I found online. This man proclaimed a new way to look at this week's verse, Proverbs 22:6. He said not to think of it as raising a child in church and she will not depart from it, but raising a child to understand fully and wholly whom she is and she will not turn from herself. WOW! So, these personality characteristics of mine that my parents and I really didn’t appreciate are what actually eased my way through those ten years of constant struggle in my life.

I am strong-willed. I am independent. I tell a person how it really is. I can take a beating and get right back up. I don’t get my feelings hurt too often, yet am sensitive to how others feel. My parents raised me to use these characteristics of mine, no matter what situation in life I had gotten myself into. Not only did these characteristics help me stay strong through some of the worst years of my life, but they also led me back to Christ.

They continue to direct me today into such things as having a strong Christian faith, trusting other believers with some of “my story”, asking God to help me heal from situations from my past, writing devotions, and praying with other women for my children in our Mother’s Prayer Group.

My oldest daughter (who is six) and I are already arguers. We have the same personality. I used to think that this would inhibit our growth. Instead, my other praying mama’s and I have used this to enhance our growth. By praying that God uses these traits of hers to His best ability, then she will surely know who she is and who He has intended for her to be. I also pray that I will not get upset at her for having these traits. She is God-made and he did make her in His image and I cannot get mad that He wanted her to be this way. Therefore, even if she goes through a period in her life like I did, she will not turn from herself, but find herself and come back all for the Glory of God.

Lord, Thank you for making me “ me”. Thank you for making my children to better compliment my life. Help me to remember that you have made each of your children in your likeness. You have formed us completely to be whole and to worship you. Guide and direct each one of us. Amen.

*Don’t worry about praying the “right” prayer. Remember, the Lord knows what you are trying to say. Let the Holy Spirit guide your words. If you are having a tough time in your prayer life, try changing your routine!
*Use a list that has the things you would like to pray for daily, weekly, and has room for additional prayer requests during the week
*Find a prayer partner. Start by praying for a half hour a week and see where it leads.
*Set aside time every day for prayer. Prayer does not have to be with your eyes shut, it can be in the shower, on your drive to work, while exercising, or while waiting for your children at soccer practice!

Power Verses:
Deuteronomy 14:1
, “You are the children of the Lord your God.” (NIV)
Matthew 12:30, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” (NIV)
Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” (NLT)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Leaving Smallville

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: Isaiah 65:9, “I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live.”(NIV)

Every time I read Genesis I find myself having a lot of issues with Abraham’s nephew, Lot. During the month of September as FCC read through Genesis, I was convicted that I have issues with him because I’m quite a bit like him. I sometimes put myself first, I want the best portion for myself, and I allow myself to blend into the corruption around me.

(Still, I don’t think I would ever offer up my two daughters to a mob of perverts banging on my door. Oops! There I go again, oozing contempt and judgment onto someone God loved and protected from destruction.)

But another lesson that fell afresh on me as I read about Lot this last time had to do with fear and settling. In Genesis 19:17, the angels are warning Lot and his family to “Run for your lives!...Do not stop anywhere in the valley. And don’t look back! Escape to the mountains, or you will die!”(NLT).

I’m thinking that with the threat of sure destruction looming, I’d listen to the angels’ instructions and high-tail it to those mountains quicker than I could say “Hey, where are my hikin’ boots?” The further away and higher up, the better!

But what does Lot do? He refuses to go to the mountains and asks instead for an easier option. He seems to be afraid of something disastrous there that would result in his death (v. 19). In verse 20 he says, “See, there is a small village nearby. Please let me go there instead; don’t you see how small it is? Then my life will be saved.” (NLT--emphasis mine). Something tells me Lot was thinking small, while God's thoughts were mountain-sized.

The angels grant his request and promise to spare the little village of Zoar if Lot will just hurry up and get there! He does and they do. Whew!

But check out verse 30! “Afterward, Lot left Zoar because he was afraid of the people there, and he went to live in a cave in the mountains with his two daughters.”(NLT). Excuse me, where was that again? Oh yeah, IN THE MOUNTAINS! The place where the angels had originally told Lot to go, but he was too scared to do it! And what drove him there now? Fear of the people of Zoar.

Now before I go off judging again, here’s the same lesson: I’m not so different than Lot. And I suspect many of you aren’t either. When God is pointing us to a mountain saying, “Go up there. It’s where I want you,” how many of us respond with, “Well, something about that mountain looks a little scary, and it’s pretty far away, so how ‘bout I only go half-way?” We settle for something so much smaller, our own little Zoar.

Don’t let fear lull you into settling in Smallville. It looks good and comfortable initially, but it’s not without its own traps and vices, which may very well drive us to the originally planned destination in a much harder, more painful way. Aim higher in the first place. Obey the first time. Climb that big mountain. God will help you get where He wants you, and there you’ll find the life he has planned for you.

Father, how often we act just like Lot! Forgive us for short-sightedness and forgetting that all things are possible with You. Help us to discern the mountains you want us to tackle and grow our faith to rely on Your power to do it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

List one mountain you know God’s asking you to climb. Where are you at on the journey? Until we become just like Christ (which won’t happen this side of heaven), God is always calling us higher. Are you currently camped out in a little comfort zone, perhaps a Zoar? Resolve to leave it today and head for the next mountain God’s pointing out to you.

Power Verses:
Genesis 19:17, “So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, ‘Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.’”(NKJV)
Jeremiah 46:21, “But when their lives are on the line, they'll run off, cowards every one.
When the going gets tough, they'll take the easy way out.” (MSG)
Psalm 19:7, “The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes. God's reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree.” (MSG)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Changing of Seasons

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (NKJV).

I love the changing of each season. I’m one of those annoying people who doesn’t even mind winter because being cooped up with hot chocolate while listening to the howling wind pelt the driven snow against my windows is kind of nice to me in my snuggly warm house. But I also love when the cold days of winter give way to life-blossoming spring. I love when the rainy winds of spring subside to give the sun its day in the…well, sun(!) in the summer. But my favorite seasonal change is when the harsh heat of summer softens and the crisp smell of harvest and cider usher in a season of hayrides and colorful foliage.

As much as I adore certain qualities of each season though, I’m always excited about the approach and promise of the new one because each season gets “old” after awhile.

Do you find yourself in a certain season right now? Is it getting old? Even seasons of joy and harvest can get old, or at least we get accustomed to them, become complacent, or even unappreciative after awhile. What comes next then? Usually a season of humbling or chastening. It’s cyclical (as the Israelites of old so clearly illustrated) and only constant in the fact it will continually change.

Whatever season you’re in right now, whether it’s lean times or abundance, despair or joy, wavering insecurity or rock-solid faith, be mindful of the fact that it will change. Allow that fact to bring you peace as you ponder the truth that God moves us through each season to take us out of the “old” and bring us to glorious “new”.

Father, how we want to be new creatures in You! We praise You for each and every season You take us through, sometimes gently guiding us, sometimes pulling us kicking and screaming, and sometimes allowing us to sail. But always seeing us through. All because You work everything for the good of us who love You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

How do you describe your current season? How long have you been here? What about it has gotten "old"? List any signs you see that this season may be coming to a close in order to usher in a new one…and a new YOU as a result.

Power Verses:
Psalm 1:3
, “They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” (NLT)
Proverbs 20:4, “Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest.”(NLT)
Ezekiel 34:26, “I will bless my people and their homes around my holy hill. And in the proper season I will send the showers they need. There will be showers of blessing.”(NLT)

Friday, October 3, 2008

By Your Side

by Stephanie Neibarger

This Week’s Verse: Revelation 3:7-8, “When I open a door, no one can close it. And when I close a door, no one can open it. Listen to what I say. I know everything you have done. And I have placed before you an open door that no one can close. You were not very strong, but you obeyed my message and did not deny that you are my followers.”(CEV)

During the past few weeks I’ve encountered various circumstances that have left me to question some of the decisions I have made in my life (mostly job related). Did I hear God correctly? Is this the path He wants me to take? Then I remembered He did not promise us that the path would always be easy, but He did promise that He would be there to help us through it: “When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2, NLT)

Recently I was watching the movie Facing the Giants. If you haven’t seen the movie it is about a football coach who implements Christian values in his team instead of winning and losing. In the beginning of the movie he faces criticism from others because he's not winning games. Due to the criticism, he questions if this was the path God wants for him. Then a friend walks into the coach’s office and reads Rev. 3:7-8 to him (this week’s verse, above).

Hmm, just what I needed to hear! I was letting others’ criticism cause me to question the door God had opened for me. This criticism was reflective in my attitude as well. I was letting other people’s action towards me determine my attitude. I had let their negativity creep into my own life. I have, in essence, let them determine my level of happiness. Jesus tells us in John 16:22, “Therefore, you too have grief; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”

The movie also mentioned that the phrase “Do not be afraid” was in the Bible 365 times. Hmm, that’s one for each day of the year. Reassurance to face each day without fear. We can face each day with confidence knowing that God is right there along side us to help us through the day (Deut 31:8 – below).

Father thank you for always being with us through every situation in our life. Please help us to focus on you instead of our circumstances in times of trouble. Help us cling to Your promises so our attitude would reflect more of You.

If things don't always go the way you would like, do you get upset? If we depend on other people or cirucmstances to keep us happy, there will always be something to steal our joy. Don't let other people or circumstances determine your happiness; God's your true source of joy.

Power Verses:
Psalm 94:13,
“That You may give him power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked.”(AMP)
John 16:22, “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”(NASB)
Hebrews 10:35-36, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”(NIV)
Deut. 31:8, “The Lord Himself will go ahead of you. He will be with you. He will never leave you. He’ll never desert you. So don’t be afraid. Don’t lose hope.”(NIV)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Do I Trust You, Lord?

by Marsha Loftis

This Week’s Verse: John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

If you haven’t heard about the “stuff” going on at TRW then you must live in a cave just outside of town. It might even be next door to mine. That’s where I usually am. In my cave, safe, protected, “in the dark” sometimes, but I do love my cave! Since I’ve worked thirds or the overnight shift a lot of my life I’ve grown used to the cave and even fond of it. Most of the time it’s just me and my daughter here. I kinda like that part. One of these days she will want to exit the cave, I know, but for right now, she likes being here with me as much as I like being here with her.

Last week I found out my shift would be "dissolved". Which, when translated to ‘cave-talk’ means: “Uh-oh.” So, I did the three things I always do: #1) I freaked out; #2) I prayed; and #3) I called my mom. (These aren’t always in the same order. The line-up varies with every situation. And yes, they can overlap one another, and often do.)

During “Freak Out” Mode, I called my mom. I had to leave her a message. Not always a good thing while I’m in this ‘mode’. I forgot to tell her that I had a chance at another position on another shift. Whoopsy! My bad! She picked up my daughter and told her what she thought was going on… I was losing my job. Then, being from the same cave, my daughter naturally went into “freak out” mode too.

We were both still in the same mode when I finally got the chance to talk to her and get things straightened out. I found myself comforting my daughter by saying things like, “You don’t have to worry about this…It’s going to be okay…You’re going to be fine…I love you and I’m gonna take care of you.” I was thinking ‘parental’ and it seemed natural.

Then I heard my favorite still small voice saying to me, “You don’t have to worry about this, it’s going to be okay, you’re going to be fine, I love you and I’m gonna take care of you. You call me ‘Father’ every day; why won’t you let me ‘parent’ you?”

Whoa! Talk about freaking out! It wasn’t exactly audible, but I clearly knew who was speaking to me and what I supposed to do. Trust Him. Then I prayed. I prayed first for forgiveness for not praying in the first place. Then I prayed to accept the comfort He, My Father, was offering me.

I kept thinking My peace I leave with you over and over again. That was all I could remember, but it was enough to get me through ‘til I could get to my Bible and look it up. It’s from John 14:27 and that’s not the only thing it says. It reads, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Later on, in the next paragraph it says, “…so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”

Whoa. I take that to mean: NOW, not only can I NOT freak out, but I better not let anyone else see me freaking out! So that the world, or cave translation, The People I Work With, know that I love God and I trust Him. Oh, and my daughter too!

To make a short story long… When times are tough we are to be a witness to those around us. The ones far away and the ones so very close. My human-ness wants to sit around and cry and say “Uh-oh” and run around like a chicken with my head cut off thinking now what am I gonna do? My one-ness with the Holy Spirit wants me to fall on my face and say “I trust you” because I know that His peace is with me.

Father, let me always come to you first. Help me to put my trust and faith in You and You alone. Help me to filter out all the other voices in my head and concentrate on only the still small One. Your peace is with me now and forever. Help me to accept the gifts and promises You willingly give. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

It’s okay to spend a little time in “the cave,” but when you come out remember: The world is watching. What will they see?

Power Verses:
2 Samuel 22:30-32, “As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried. He is a Shield to all those to take refuge and trust in Him.” (AMP)
Jeremiah 29:11, “I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out--plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (MSG)
Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (NIV)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Keep It Simple...

by Bethany Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (KJV)

As we are most all aware, as soon as our children become “school-aged” the evenings quickly disappear. Our evenings are filled with soccer practice, games, and gymnastics for the kids, and meetings, church activities, and home chores for the adults! In between the running is healthy meal choices, homework, the dreaded “bath nights” and hopefully a good amount of time to sit and just talk and hang out with our children. Which shamefully, at this young age, does not happen daily. Some days become so hectic after school I wonder what the meaning of all of it is. Somehow, in the midst of this running, something like a red stoplight upsets me. I become rushed, upset, and frankly sometimes just downright ignorant with how I handle these situations.

And then, I am reminded of a saying that an eighth grade teacher taught me years ago. He would say K.I.S.S. – an acronym for “Keep it Simple Stupid”. Funny. Charming. Whimsical. True. It’s that easy.

There are many verses in the bible that remind us to keep it simple. I have recently picked up a small book that fits in my purse called One-Minute Pocket Bible for Women. It is filled with verses for every occasion. A lot of these verses are just one-liners, but it is these I cherish most. Here is a sample of these wonderful verses that keep me level-headed during my “red-light” moments.

When I wonder if I can undertake a task—such as soccer practice at five, and gymnastics in Paris at six: “For the Lord will be your confidence” (Proverbs 3:26a).

When I feel restless—which lately seems to be every night of the week: “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him” (Lamentations 3:25).

When something (anything) has upset me: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

When my youngest daughter is playing in the toilet—something she did this week: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3).

When I start to doubt—questions like am I raising my children to become children of the Lord: “Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes’” (Mark 9:23).

When I am sitting with the other parents during all these practices, and my ears hear a bit of juicy gossip: “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).

There are many books out there that contain messages such as “How to…” but I must remember, there is already an instruction booklet for me. It is even available in different versions that may suit me best. It is available to me at almost every bookstore. It’s old – yes, but trustworthy. It’s long, but it has many short chapters and verses so I don’t have to feel overwhelmed while reading it. And best of all – the messages in this book, the Bible, help me to keep things simple in a life that’s becoming increasingly more complex.

Lord, thank You so much for providing us with a book we call Your own. Thank You for its God-breathed words, its truth and its ability to help me at any given moment in my life. Lord, open my eyes to see Your message, my ears to hear Your word, my heart to let the holy spirit guide me and my mouth to spread Your word. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

*Are you trying to keep things simple, or do you find yourself in a jumbled mess? Open the Bible, find some key verses, and begin calming yourself by posting these verses in spots where you see them often such as a bathroom mirror, your car radio, or in your purse.
*Pick up a small Bible or an easy read for your wait time at your children’s practices. This calms the spirit and the mind and is a wonderful refresher for days gone badly at the office!

Power Verses:
Ephesians 6:17
, “Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (NLT)
John 15:7, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (KJV)
Psalm 19:7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” (NIV)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ya-Hoo in the To-Do

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: 1 Cor. 10:31, "Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God." (NLT)

Rolling out of bed this morning, did every task of the day infiltrate your thoughts? Did your to-do list overwhelm you? Or did it cross your mind what a drag it can be just keeping up with the daily grind? It's so easy to feel caught in a rut since the details of life can seem menial and sometimes meaningless.

But God desires joy for you even in those ruts. In fact, you can bring Him glory there. As today's verse indicates, what you do sometimes matters much less to God than how you do it.

Anyone can wipe down the kitchen for the third time in one day, but not everyone does it while rockin' a praise song.

Anyone can re-do a project at work because the boss gave the wrong instructions the first time, but not everyone does it without grumbling.

Anyone can go elbow deep in the toilet to work on a rust stain, but many aren't willing to do it at all, much less happily.

As undignified or “un-fun” as some tasks seem, they can bring glory to God if you approach them with a servant's heart. Remember Jesus illustrating this to the disciples by washing their filthy feet? And yet He was happy to do it.

Now you—purposefully chosen you—are being used to bless others who might not even show appreciation. But dear one, rest assured, there's One beaming down at you, pleased at your willingness to do all things for His glory. Can you feel His pleasure?

Dear Lord, come with me as I tackle my to-do list today. Help me to see each task –even eating and drinking—as an opportunity to glorify You by being content and self-controlled. How I want to feel Your pleasure as I submit all I do to Your glory.

What’s on your to-do list that bores you to tears? What on it do you dread? Write down ways you could bring glory to God in doing those tasks, then put them into practice.

Power Verses:
1 Peter 4:9
, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”(NIV)
Ecclesiastes 5:20, “He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”(NIV)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Worth the Wait

by Kathy Lay

This Weeks’ Verse: Rev. 22:20-21, “The one who is testifying to these things says, ‘Yes, I'm coming soon!’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! The good will of the Lord Jesus be with all of you. Amen!” (GW)

Were your parents ever late picking you up from school or some other event when you were young? As the minutes crept by and you watched the other kids get picked up one by one, you began to feel uneasiness sweep over you. As more time passed, you were overtaken by a horrible feeling as you imagined the worst: what if they forgot and are at home waiting for me? Or what if they were in an accident?

But finally as the familiar car approached, you felt the weight lifted from your shoulders as you realized that your caretakers, the ones you relied on for everything, were just fine. You rode home together happily as they reassured you that they'd never forget you, they'd simply taken a little longer than expected.

If you're at a point in your life where you're growing restless watching others being picked up and tended to in the expected timing, take heart, precious Sister. The Lord promises that He will be coming soon, and at just the perfect time. Take your eyes off the others as you watch for His coming—not only for all eternity, but until then—in your life every day.

Close your eyes and envision the One you rely on for everything riding in and taking you on the ride of your life. He will, you know, if you're up for it—both here on earth and in eternity. In His perfect timing. Isn’t that worth the wait?

Father, I confess the sin of my impatience when my prayers aren't answered in my way or in my timing. Help me to wait on You, clinging to Your promise that You are coming soon. I wait in expectation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

What are you waiting for? In what areas of your life does it feel like God isn’t doing what He “should” be doing? Resolve to wait, focused on Him, knowing He promises to come soon, at the appointed time.

Power Verses:
Zechariah 14:6
, “What a Day that will be! No more cold nights—in fact, no more nights! The Day is coming—the timing is God's—when it will be continuous day. Every evening will be a fresh morning.” (MSG)
Micah 7:7, “But me, I'm not giving up. I'm sticking around to see what God will do. I'm waiting for God to make things right. I'm counting on God to listen to me.”(MSG)
Hebrews 12:2, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”(NLT)

Friday, August 29, 2008

It's Our First Anniversary!

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: 1 Chronicles 16:24, “Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.” (NLT)

Happy Anniversary, Olive Branch! In August of last year, the Women’s Ministry at First Christian Church took this week’s verse to heart and launched a blog dedicated to “publishing his glorious deeds.” We can’t let the occasion pass without giving God major praise and thanks for all He’s accomplished through it.

Sara B. sums it up very nicely with the following:

It's really been 1 year??!! How incredible is that! To God be the Glory!

I can't think of a single devotion from the Olive Branch that hasn't been a blessing to me. It's comforting to know that we all experience so many of the same things. The details may be different, but the challenges are similar. It's so helpful in gaining perspective when someone else has shared their experience. I love being a part of the Body of Christ!

I'm excited to see the new devotion each Monday morning in my email in box. What a great way to start the week. I love it that we get to know the hearts of our sisters in Christ through their words.

I hope that more of our sisters will take a leap of faith to write a devotion. We have a safe place for any one of us to express how God has worked through our lives.

God has blessed us so much! I can’t wait to see what He has in store for us!

As Sara mentioned, we began emailing the devotions at the beginning of ’08. They’re still posted on the blog every Friday, and then emailed out Sunday evenings so that you’re greeted with them Monday morning. We currently have 80 ladies on the email list and welcome more.

I would personally like to give major props to our devotion writers. Besides myself, Sara Boyer, Karen Keim, Bethany Lashbrook, Marsha Loftis, Missy Milbourn, and Stephanie Neibarger also shared in obedience what God had placed on their beautiful hearts. Thank you, Sistas! Thanks for using your talents for the kingdom!

Also as Sara mentioned, we would love to see our team of writers expand. Many of you have experienced wonderful God stories that need to be told. As we look to the year ahead, please pray about whether God may be calling you—yes, YOU!—to share your own devotions on the blog. If he is, just email us. We may even offer a one or two-time “class” on how to write your story if there’s interest. God wants His great works told.

It has been a great first year! Please join us in praying that in the blog’s second year, more and more lives are touched and encouraged by what they find here.

Father God, your faithfulness astounds us. Thank you for a platform from which we can share You and Your glorious works. We ask your continued blessing on this blog and the devotions, that as we embark on our second year, You use it to bless the women who need it. Your word never comes back void, so we thank you in advance. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application: Go to the archives on the right-hand side of the blog and click through past devotions. It’s so neat to go back and see—not only through the devotions, but also through the comments—the glorious things God has done over the past year.

Power Verses:
Isaiah 45:25
, “In the Lord all the generations of Israel will be justified, and in him they will boast.”(NLT)
Philippians 4:4, “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!”(MSG)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Infinite Word, Personal Savior

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: John 1:1-4, “In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make. Life itself was in him, and this life gives light to everyone.” (NLT)

Make no mistake—there is no greater authority than Jesus Christ, the Word, who existed with God before He created a single thing. When the apostle John established this “bigger than we can imagine” aspect of our Lord at the beginning of his gospel, he was leading up to the ultimate irony: that so many who were eagerly awaiting their Savior did not accept him when he came. The Word made flesh was even rejected by many of His own people.

On a much smaller scale, that’s like saying, “Tom, I’ll pass on the Mercedes so that I can see what’s behind door number two.” And behind door number two is a toaster.

It’s like brushing off a child’s sweet curiosity with an abrupt “Um hmm” because you’re busy checking email.

It’s like missing the majestic splendor of a vivid winter sunset because the guy in the car in front of yours isn’t driving fast enough.

It’s about the sting of missed opportunity, missed blessing. We don’t want to miss a thing, do we? There’s never been anyone like Jesus and there never will be again. God sent His Son to earth once for all time and for every sin.

All you have to do is accept Him. Accept Him as your Savior, yes. But far beyond that, accept Him into every minute of your life—submitting each one to His awesome, eternal authority—as His true child.

Lord, I confess that I often overlook your infinite awe-inspiring “big-ness”—maybe in part because it’s difficult for me to fully grasp. Instill in us a deeper sense of wonder as we discover new aspects of your divine nature in our daily, sometimes ho-hum lives. We don’t want to miss a single opportunity that you have for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application: Read John 1:1-14 and try to wrap your mind around the infinite depth and wonder of The Word made flesh. He’s so much more than we often allow Him to be. Is there anything He doesn’t see? Is there anything that He can’t handle?

Power Verses:
John 1: 14
, “So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.” (NLT)
Mark 6:4-5, “Jesus told them, ‘A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.’ Jesus wasn't able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that's all. He couldn't get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching.” (MSG)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Body of Christ

by Sara Boyer

This Week’s Verse: Romans 12:5, “…so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (NIV)

Recently my father-in-law, Jim Boyer, passed away. He was an incredible man. He was gifted, loving and one of the most compassionate people I have ever met. He loved Jesus and served Him. When he was in the hospital, we called out to our church family and friends for prayer. They answered, as they always do. People came to the hospital to see us, feed us, pray with us and encourage us. After he passed away, we were showered with love. We were lifted up and our burden was lighter because our church family shared it with us.

The outpouring of love we received overwhelmed some family members. They had never experienced people truly being the hands and feet of Jesus. It was an awesome witness for who Jesus really is and what it means to follow Him.

It was brought to my attention that there are people we sit next to on Sunday morning that have never experienced that kind of love. There are people who are part of our family that we don’t know. Either we have been so wrapped up in our own little world that we haven’t seen them, or they have isolated themselves from the body. There are people that are hurting and we have no idea that they are in pain. There are people who are wandering in the wilderness and want desperately to ask someone for directions. There are some people who simply need a hug.

If you are someone who is going through Sunday morning with blinders on, take them off. See the beautiful family that surrounds you and reach out a loving hand. If you are one who is hurting, don’t sit quietly! Ask someone to pray for you and with you. These connections are vital! Share your triumphs and your tragedies with your family! Take off the mask and let us see you for who you really are and know that you’re are loved. There are none of us without blemishes and scars from our past. Let us pray together, let us lavish His love on each other and let us praise and worship our Abba Father together.

Abba Father, Thank you so much for our church family. You have gifted each of us to be a vital part of the body. We know that your plan is perfect and we are so blessed when we live in community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us embrace each other with the love and compassion that you have taught us. Amen.

Get involved. If you don’t belong to a small group or a ministry team, choose one and get started. It is so important to make connections with your church family.
If you have a burden, ask a pastor, elder, deacon, or Sunday school teacher to pray with you.
Send a card or email of encouragement to a brother or sister. Reach out to someone that you have known and also a new member or guest to the church.

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 12:26
, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all of the parts are glad.”
Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”
Ephesians 4:3-6, “Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit and bind yourselves together with peace. We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. There is only one Lore, one Faith, one Baptism, and only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all.”

Friday, August 8, 2008

Confident Dependence

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: Hosea 13:6, “…always live in confident dependence on your God.” (NLT)

Remember that team-building exercise that was all the rage for awhile at everything from corporate workshops to summer camps? You know the one—members of small groups were asked to take turns falling backwards into the arms of the others in their group. The purpose was to address trust issues, thereby fostering more cohesiveness and unity within the group.

Though I was never asked to participate in that experience myself, any time I’d heard others talk about it I always wondered what the big deal was. I thought about the people I’ve worked with, played with, lived with, worshiped with, and generally “done life” with, and I don’t think I’d hesitate for a second to fall back, trusting them to catch me. (Hmm…maybe I’m TOO trusting?!)

But what I realized is that even though I might fully trust them to not let me hit the ground during a pre-planned, artificial scenario, I may have trouble trusting them not to let me down in real life. Can I really trust so-and-so to get such-and-such to me by that deadline? Will so- and-so convey the message in as detailed a manner as necessary? Are the kids going to remember to feed and water the dog as they promised? It’s those kinds of areas where I have trust issues. I guess I question others’ follow-through.

But you know who always follows through? I mean, always? I’ll drop a few hints—he’s crazy in love with you. He sings and dances over you. He desires to spend forever with you so much that he became flesh so he could die for you, but he’s such a gentleman that he leaves the decision up to you. If you choose him, he works miracles in your life whether or not you realize how perfect they are for you at that moment.

Now that’s someone we can trust. I loved the phrase from this week’s verse the moment I read it. Confident dependence on God…that’s what I want to always have. I want to wholly depend on him and be 100% confident that He’ll come through. I believe it in my head, but when it gets down to the daily ins and outs of life, do I live it out from my core? Do you?

Let’s depend on God with such confidence that we don’t hesitate for a millisecond to fall back into His big arms. He’ll never let us crash when we do.

Father, sometimes it’s just so tough to trust your timing or accept your will and yet you always follow through with mercy and grace when we ask you to. Help us to trust in full confidence that we can depend on you for everything that’s best for us, when it’s best for us. Help us to confidently depend on You. By all the authority in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Whether it’s falling backward, taking a leap of faith (off a cliff, sometimes!), or running hard, trusting God fully usually requires some action on our part. What steps have you taken recently to put your faith into action? What steps do you need to take to show God you’re confidently depending on Him in a certain situation?

Power Verses:
2 Timothy 1:7
, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (NLT)
James 5:11, “…From his [Job’s] experience we see how the Lord’s plan finally ended in good, for he is full of tenderness and mercy.” (NLT)
Psalm 44:3, “They did not conquer the land with their swords; It was not their own strength that gave them victory. It was by your mighty power that they succeed; It was because you favored them and smiled on them.” (NLT)

Friday, August 1, 2008

O Jealous Heart

by Marsha Loftis

This Week's Verse: Psalm 18:2, "The Lord is my rock, my protection, my Savior. My God is my rock. I can run to Him for safety. He is my shield, my saving strength, my defender." (NCV)

I recently attended funeral services for a wonderful man. A man that will be missed terribly by his family and friends. I know, because although we were not that close, his life made an impact on my daughter, and about a thousand other people. I sat in the service, listening to the pastor speak of what a great man he was, a good husband and dad, and an exemplary grandfather. He promised that this was not "Goodbye," just "See ya later." He reassured the family, each one by name, that they would see their loved one again.

This was all overwhelming for me. There were so many people! So, much loss, loss of years and events and time and many, many tears shed. At one time or another, I tend to wonder if I am truly a Christian. This was one of those times, albeit a bad time, but there I was... thinking. I always think I could do more, know more, pray more, live more, be more thankful, more patient, more obedient, listen more... MORE, MORE, MORE! I was clearly only present in body, not in mind. Then I heard the pastor say, "...'cause there's Someone on the other side standing there, with outstretched arms, saying, 'Welcome home'."

There, sitting between the two most important people in my earthly life, I felt the tears begin to tumble. I wept. Oh, I was sad, I was feeling loss, thinking about what a great man he was, and thinking about what a horrible person I can be, but more than anything I cried because I was jealous! He got to go home and I didn't! He's being welcomed into Jesus' arms right now and I'm not! He's not feeing anymore pain and I still have to face.... tomorrow!

Now this was not me; this was not rational, not 'normal' for me at all! I'm scared of dying! I don't want to leave this place, this life, this child, my mom...! I'm not done here! There's too much left for me to do, to say, to teach, to fix, to create, to love... I'M NOT READY. But there I was, sitting between my precious daughter, and my beloved mother thinking, I wanna go home! Oh, I've heard it before, "This place is not your home, it's only temporary." But my earthly ties are strong... or should I say, were strong. I think this is the first time in my life I've felt like a "true Christian." Or a term I like a little better, "Christ follower." I know Jesus. I believe that He died for me. I believing He's coming back. But, NOW, I'm actually looking forward to it!

Although we were not close here on earth, I will see Big Bill again, for we are truly brother and sister in Christ. I get to tell him that he not only made an impact on others with his life, he did in his death as well. Had I not been at his funeral, I would probably still be living for the dot and not the line.

Father God, help me to not have a jealous heart for I know that You are with me. I pray that Your Holy Spirit will continue to guide me through this earthly life and will set my heart on course so that I may live for the eternal and not the temporal. Help me to know and to teach and to live as though this is not my home. I can't wait to see Your outstretched arms! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

I know it's hard to think of leaving loved ones behind, even harder to let them go. If there's anyone that you aren't sure that you will see on the other side, start praying now, if you haven’t already. That's what I'm going to do! Pray for courage to approach them, and hearts that will receive the most important thing you can ever pass on. More than morals, and a good work ethic, more than being kind and appreciative. THIS is your legacy. If you are the legacy, pray that those who are lost will somehow find their way home!

Power Verses:
2 Samuel 14:14, "All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead He devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from Him." (NLT)

1 Thes. 4:13, "First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word...Archangel thunder! God's trumpet blast! He'll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise... Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master... then there will be a huge family reunion." (MSG)

1 Thes. 5:4 & 9, “But friends, you're not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard in any of this? You're sons of Light and daughters of Day… He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we're awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we're alive with Him!" (MSG)

Psalm 18:30, "As for God, His way is perfect! The word of the Lord is tested and tried; He is a shield to all those who take refuge and put their trust in Him." (AMP)

Friday, July 25, 2008

All Bibled Up

by Marsha Loftis

This Week's Verse: Psalms 119:11, "I have hidden your word away in my heart that I may not sin against You."

Well, this week's devotional comes straight on the heels of VBS. If you were involved, thank you. You did a great thing for a lot of wonderful kids. If not, there's always next year! VBS is a five day program that teaches kids some of the basic Bible stories. It also teaches the parents, if they're late Christian bloomers like I was!

During a conversation with my 11-year-old daughter, she was trying to convey some information to me regarding the parents of our two bilingual volunteers and wondered if they spoke another language too. She said, "You know--Mary and Joseph!" I had no idea who she was referring to. Then it dawned on me... Mary and RICH, Kash! I laughed that she automatically put those two names together! Her response was, "I guess I'm all Bibled up this week!"

All this week I've been thinking what that means. My conclusion is that it must mean to be so full of the Word that it is the first thing that comes to mind. It's automatic. So, I tried to come up with some practical application of being "all Bibled up" that might be said or heard in 'normal', everyday situations.

In the morning, when you and your family are getting ready to start your day....You might say, "Take your bath!" But think He has washed me whiter than snow. If you say, "Don't forget your coat and hat!" You could think Put on the full armor of God, the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation. When you take care of your own hair, think of how Mary wiped Jesus' feet with her hair after pouring out her expensive perfume.

At work, depending on where you work, you might hear or say any number of these things...."Receiving, you have a delivery." You can think, Ask and you shall receive. You may say, "The boss is upstairs meeting with the board members" and think, Jesus is in the upper room with his disciples. It might be "Did you hear about so and so?!" Your next thought could be I need to avoid godless chatter, so that I may not become more and more ungodly.

In the car, if you are a woman, you might have to stop and say, "I'm lost and I need directions" and think Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. If you come to a place where you can turn either way, think of how many times a day we choose the narrow path, the one less traveled, instead of the wide one that's been trampled by all the people making wrong choices in their life.

Around the house, if you hear someone ask, "Please pass the salt," you can think about what it means to be 'salt to the world'. And if you've turned off the bathroom light five times in the last half hour, like I do, remember that we are to be light in the darkness, every time! Even five times in a half hour, especially to the ones leaving on the light! You may peer into your closet on Sunday morning and think I have nothing to wear. Think about the story in Matthew where Jesus tells them not to worry about what to eat, what to drink, or what to wear. God clothes the grasses of the field, will He not clothe you?

Meditate on the Word as it applies to all your situations. Let's get all Bibled up!

Lord, be with me in every situation, every circumstance, every conversation. Help me to think of You and Your Word first, to put Your Word on my heart and in my mind. Help me to have a desire to do this daily, that I may meditate on it day and night. Thank you for Your Love Letter to my heart. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Read some of God's Word every day. If you are just starting out, a daily devotional or a flip calendar is good way to begin disciplining yourself. Ask God to give you the desire to this with a willing spirit.

Power Verses:
Deut. 11:18-19, "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds...Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home, walking along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."(NIV)
Psalm 19:14, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."(NIV)
Col. 4:5-6, "Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don't miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracioius in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out."(MSG)
Matt. 24:35, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."(NIV)

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Spiritual Gift

By Bethany Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: Romans 12:6-8, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."

This past week in Sunday school class, we talked about these verses. Afterwards, I was desperate to find what was my “gift” that I contribute with, or could work on. I came home and first thing Monday morning, I was on the computer doing a Spiritual Gifts Inventory Sheet that had been emailed to me long ago.

Was I the Teacher? Did I have the “Spirit-given capacity and desire to serve God by motivating other’s to action by urging them to pursue a course of conduct”? I love teaching the smaller children at FCC. I work at a handicap day camp during the summers with children. I have children of my own that I am teaching! Surely, I am a Teacher.

Or, was I a Server? Did I “desire to serve God and render practical help in both physical and spiritual matters”? I love helping others. I try to help older and younger ones in the church. When something is needed – just ask me – I will help! Surely I was a Server!

Was I the Giver? Did I have a strong “desire to serve God by giving our material resources, beyond our tithe, to further the work of God”? I was sure this would be at the top of my list! I love to give. OR I LOVE TO THINK ABOUT GIVING EVEN IF WE CAN’T AFFORD IT! I love to help others in time of need. I try to support local missionaries in their field. I just love the feeling of giving! Surely I was a Giver!

Nope. Nada. What appeared at the bottom of my screen was a word that I just barely gave a thought to…it was THE PROPHET. Can you believe it? I am classified as a Prophet, with “the Spirit-given capacity and desire to serve God by proclaiming God’s truth or the hell-fire-brimstone preacher who points out sin”.

The preacher what??? How could I point out sin to others when I have sinned so much myself? It all boils down to this. The Lord gave me a story so I could tell it to others. The TRUTH is that I have lived through a lot during my short time here on Earth. Some days it’s amazing to look back and think that I am even alive, let alone thriving in my Spiritual Life with a husband, two beautiful children and a wonderful supportive family behind me.

TRUTH is that God told me “Bethany, use your story to help others and if that means pointing out sins, then point them out.” I guess I just feel blessed to have sinned (as silly as that sounds) so that I can say loud and clear to others “YES I have sinned,” and if others know that and recognize that – maybe they can come to Christ just as I have. So, today, I will continue “prophesying” and asking God to help me further understand the spiritual gifts he has laid upon me to help others reach him.

Second on my list was Serving – thank goodness!

Lord, help us to fully understand our spiritual gifts given to us specifically by you. Help us to let the Holy Spirit guide us daily with these gifts, so that we may serve you better. Guide us and direct us in all areas, all gifts, and all walks of life. Lord, clarify to us what you want us to use our gifts towards and help us to attain our goals for your satisfaction and glory. It’s in Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

*Discover your spiritual gift(s). Go to All you have to do is read the directions, click which “number” fits you best and find out what gifts you have.
*Pray about these gifts that God has given you. We are each powerfully blessed with them, but just because they are God-given doesn’t mean we don't sometimes slip into misusing them for our own glory and satisfaction. Make sure to use them wisely.

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 12:4-6, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men." (NIV)
Joel 3:28, "Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. You old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions." (NLT)
Acts 15:8, "God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us." (NIV)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Serious Berry Pickin'

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: Hosea 10:12, “I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of my love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’”

Blackberry bushes line the perimeter of our yard and this time of year we’re usually out reaping the harvest. These are wild bushes; we didn’t plant them and yet we’re able to enjoy their luscious fruit.

There is a small price to pay for the bounty though. The thorns on the bushes can make berry-picking a painful experience if we’re not careful. Most of the time, we just stick to the outside berries—even though they’re usually smaller—so that we don’t have to endure being poked and pierced. We usually take the easy way out.

But while I was doing the “easy” picking last year, I spied through the leaves and branches a fat, full, succulent cluster of berries. They were so much better than “the outside berries”—so plump and huge.

I weighed my options. I could lean straight forward through a lot of thorny branches, tough it out, grab the blackberries, then deal with the consequences later. Or I could try to find a way in from the back, decreasing (only a little!) my exposure to the thorns, but increasing (a lot!) the time invested for the berries. With the heat and bugs pestering me, I opted to get right to business and leaned through about three feet of prickly hell. But I got those berries! And it was so worth it when the kids and I had dark juicy stains on our lips!

How like berry-picking is living for God. He graces us with blessings we don’t deserve (we didn’t plant those bushes), but then our will comes into play as far as what we do with them. We could ignore them altogether. We could randomly pick at them as we speed past on the lawn mower of life. We could make an intentional effort, but merely settle for small fruit while playing it safe on the outside.

Or we could sacrifice ourselves and go deep, seeking the biggest and the best waiting for us.

Lord, put a longing in our hearts to keep our eyes on the prize—the best fruit for Your kingdom. Put a yearning in us to go beyond our comfort zone and sustain us to persevere. Even if we get pierced or hurt along the way, help us to remember that You, Jesus, did it first. And thank You for that.

Power Verses:
Philippians 3:14, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”(NIV)
Mark 8:34, “Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?’” (MSG)
Jeremiah 45:5, “’And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,’ says the LORD. ‘But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.’” (NKJV)