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)