Friday, August 28, 2009

How Do I Trust Thee? I Wish I Could Count the Ways...

by Paula Sprigg

This Week's Verse: Psalms 94:19, "When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul."(NIV)

Do you remember the lyrics of this popular song from several years ago? "Anticipation… Anticipation… is makin' me late - is keepin' me waitin' …." They were actually written by Carly Simon, but made popular by Heinz Ketchup. If you'll recall, someone was holding a bottle of ketchup over the hamburger and waiting, anticipating the savory taste of the ketchup on the freshly grilled burger. WOW--sort of makes you hungry, doesn't it ?

Or maybe you recall the days of your youth (mine seem to be getting farther and farther behind me!), and the anticipation of Christmas, or birthdays, or summer break from school. Or possibly you can recall the dreaded anticipation of the beginning of the school year--new friends, new teachers, new classes, lots of homework--the fear and anxiety of the unknown!

Caleb plays football as do several of his friends. One of those friends, Sheldon, lives nearby and so our two families trade rides to and from football. The boys catch a ride to football practice with me, and then they get a ride home from Sheldon's parents. Last Wednesday evening, I picked Sheldon up at the prescribed time and when he got in the car I asked him how he was, if he'd had a good day, etc. I'm sure you've had a conversation like this before, the kind where the adult asks the kid various questions about their day, and the basic answers are yes, no, good, uh-huh, huh-uh. So we had the usual dialogue, and then it was quiet for a short time.

And then the conversation went something like this:

Sheldon: Hey Caleb, are you ready for school tomorrow?

Caleb (giving me an odd, terrified sort of look): HUH????

Me (giving them both an odd look): School doesn't start tomorrow.

Sheldon (with a VERY puzzled look): WHAT???

Me: Today is Wednesday, and school doesn't start until Friday.

Sheldon: Huh-uh….. (continuing to look a little puzzled as the truth sunk in.)

Me: Yeah. You have another day of freedom tomorrow!

Sheldon (with a look of surprise and relief): WOW! I can't believe it. I've been thinking about it, and dreading it all day long! I thought school started tomorrow.

We had a good laugh after that (at Sheldon's expense of course!). And we talked about the fact that they did in fact, have one more day of freedom and how glad they were for the 'extra' day! But as we continued the drive to town, I had to ponder the fact that he had 'worried' about it all day. Something that was beyond his control (school starting, the end of summer break), had worried him, occupied his thoughts and caused him to have a sense of dread all day.

Then I thought about my own life, and how often I allow things over which I have no control to worry me, occupy my thoughts, and cause me to have a sense of dread or anxiety--sometimes for much longer than just a day, sometimes until my stomach hurts and I am physically ill. I worry about my kids, my soon-to-arrive grandbaby, Ruthie and how she'll handle Nate's absence during Basic Training and Tech School, the economy, a job, and the list could go on and on and on. (Wow, sort of makes me feel a little ill.) I try to convince myself NOT to worry, to let God have control and lead. And I will readily admit that I'm not very good at giving that part of my life over to God.

Last week at church, we sang a song about God being "unchangeable, unshakeable, unstoppable... That's what You are… You are God alone… and before time began, You were on Your throne, You were God alone, and right now in the good times and bad, You are on Your throne, You are God alone." And I had chills as we sang this song because at that moment, the reality of God's love and provision struck me very hard (and I need that now and then!) The reality that HE IS in control of EVERYTHING sunk in to the very depths of my soul.

And I prayed that He would protect my family, provide what I need according to His will for my life, give us peace in difficult times, help me feel His presence even when I'm unsure of what's coming next. And at that moment, I had peace and assurance that He WILL provide just what I need, just as I need it according to HIS perfect plan. And today I'm very sure that he holds the future, and I don't have a thing to worry about!

Dear God, help me to give it all to you knowing that you're already well aware of not only my concerns, but also the outcome whether it's tomorrow or years from now. I pray, Dear God, that you would remind me that I must not worry or be anxious about anything--that I need to give it all to you, and if necessary, on a daily basis name my concerns one by one even though you know them already. I thank you for your calming presence each and every day of my life, and pray that I would learn to trust you more and more. Amen.

Are you worried about something? Do you have something that occupies your thoughts, something that gives you a sense of dread or anxiety? Cast ALL of your cares on Him, and He will give you the peace that you need!

Power Verses:
Matthew 6:34
, "Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."(NIV)
Psalms 94:19, "When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul."(NIV)
Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."(NIV)
I Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."(NIV)

Friday, August 21, 2009


by Bethany Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: Romans 15:17, “Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God.” (NIV)

One month ago summer was busy. My family—like most of yours—was in the midst of summer vacations, family reunions, swimming adventures, and of course, good old Vacation Bible School! For the first year, both my husband and I were able to volunteer for a week of fun! We decided to let Stacey, our children’s minister, assign us where needed. Risky? Yes. But we knew there was a great need for volunteers so we were willing to do anything, go anywhere!

It came to be that Clint and I were both needed for drama. Clint’s part came first on that Monday. He was Festus of Augustus. He was a wanna-be-athlete that won the crowd over. My part of Junia was the last night, and it went well as I proclaimed my loyalty to Christ, even as the Roman authorities were shutting down my business for that very fact. VBS was a wonderful experience for us both, and to my astonishment, it didn’t end that Friday.

John Cutshall had written in The Caller (something like) “these children will remember this VBS for a long time and will remember Rome and what it was like to be an early Christian.” I didn’t tell him this, but I was skeptical. I didn’t think that our parts would change anyone, or anything for that matter. Really, what could Clint and I have accomplished in our five minutes of drama?

A lot.

Last week, Clint and I were swinging on his grandma’s front porch when a scooter came whizzing by. Perched on this scooter were a father and his son. As soon as this boy saw Clint, he yelled “OLYMPIAN!!!” Three weeks after Clint had played Festus, this boy remembered who he was! This made my heart skip a beat!

Maybe Clint and I did make an impression on these children. Maybe they do understand the hardships of early Christians in Rome. Maybe God placed Clint and me where we were needed in order to impact at least one child, if not many more! Maybe this VBS will be remembered and Clint and I will look back on it in many years still smiling because our part in it was so fun and adventurous! Maybe, just maybe, God didn’t just change these children, but he changed Clint and me.

Often times, when we do something to bless someone else, we are the ones receiving the blessing.

This one moment, sitting on the front porch swinging, affirmed everything I believe in. My Lord, My savior loves me and wants to bless my life in big ways, in small ways, and in unexpected ways. And I’m so grateful for that.

Dear Lord, thank you for sending this child to remind me we are all needed and called to further the Kingdom of God. Thank you, Lord, for our ministers who work so hard to reach out to these children. Thank you for the many volunteers that make each year’s VBS so special. And of course, thank you for the wonderful children you send to each year’s VBS so we may teach them about you! Amen.

Is the Lord calling you to do something, but you are scared? He will stand by you. Like many, you might not quite understand the Lord’s will, but He will reveal it to you if you follow His lead.

Power Verses:
3 John 1:4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (NIV)
1 Corinthians 14:12, “Since you're so eager to participate in what God is doing, why don't you concentrate on doing what helps everyone in the church?” (MSG)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Love, your basic, all-purpose garment

by Melissa Milbourn

This weeks verse: 1 John 4:12 "No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. (NLT) emphasis mine.


As a Christian, I’m amazed by God. I’m amazed by his power, his omnipotence, his grace, his mercy, and I could go on and on…but mostly I’m amazed by his love.

I’m amazed by his love for me…but what really amazes me is how He loves through me. How he will lay someone on my heart, and cause me to love them. The love I feel in that situation is unlike any love I’ve ever felt. The best way I can describe it, is to use words that I heard Henry Blackaby say, “It’s as if God lays His heart over my heart.” When I love like that, His love for that person consumes me.

Paul and Epaphras understood this. In Colossians chapter one Paul is talking to the church of Colosse and He’s commending them, among other things, on how well they’ve loved, as he says this, “He (Epaphras) has told us about the love for others that the Holy spirit Has given you.” (NLT) Yes, the Holy Spirit causes us to love others, and when He does…it is powerful.

But love is also a choice we make. It’s a lifestyle we choose to live. It’s an attitude we choose to take. In the letter that Paul writes to the church of Colosse, He says, “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it". Colossians 3:12 (MSG)

When God is loving someone through us, that is awesome!! But when we don’t necessarily feel that, we need to choose it anyway. We need to grab the garment of love and clothe ourselves in that. That’s the basic all purpose outfit that we need to wear daily…never be without it.

“Father thank you for the times that you are literally loving someone through us…I love that. I love the fact that you give us a glimpse of your love for others. And Father let me tell you, that your ‘glimpse’ overwhelms me. But Father, in those times when it’s hard for us to love, help us to choose love anyway. Help us to clothe ourselves with it daily, and then walk in it daily. Holy Spirit I need your help in that…Father I submit myself to you, lay your heart over my heart…in Jesus name…”

Application: Remember this…love is a choice, not a feeling. Make the decision to love. Here’s some ways to know if we are choosing love (based on 1 Corinthians 13) (Lord help me :-)

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Power Verses:

1 John 4:19 "We love each other because he loved us first". NLT

Ephesians 5:1-2 "Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that." (MSG)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Reservations, Please

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: Colossians 1:4-6, "For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News."(NLT)

Several years ago, Shane and I loaded up the kids and headed to Western Illinois. We were making a circuit, visiting folks from that general large area that we'd not seen in several years. Since we weren't exactly sure how long each visit would take and where we would end up at what time, we didn't make hotel reservations. I mean, spread out over many counties, there would surely be no problem getting a hotel room somewhere along the journey, right?

Normally, that would probably be the case. But on this particular weekend in the largest town between point A and point B (a town that had multiple hotels) there just happened to be some kind of major tournament going on that brought in people from the far ends of the earth. Every hotel in town was booked. And guess what. So were all the hotels in neighboring towns. We ended up back tracking one small burg at a time and finally, hours later, we were able to get our sleepy kiddos into bed after 2:00 a.m.!

What a difference a reservation would have made! A reservation--a spot held just for us, guaranteed upon our arrival because we'd called ahead, agreed to the terms by providing credit card information, and committed to following through. Making a reservation would have ensured rest and refreshment on our journey to the final destination.

What about our final, eternal destination? According to this week's verse, God has prepared a place--already reserved a spot!--for His faithful. With your name down in the book of life (Rev. 3:5) you can set hopeful eyes on the rest and joy completely beyond comprehension that He has waiting upon your arrival there.

No more road weariness, no more uncertainty of the next stop. It's all taken care of.

Father, thank you for preparing our places in eternity with you! We're already homesick and long to make good on the reservation. If there's anything keeping us from being recorded in the book, please open our eyes and hearts to it so that we can rejoice with you for all eternity.

Application: If you are unsure about your heavenly reservation, cry out to God for his direction. Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and visit this link:

Power Verses:
1 Peter 1:4-5, "...To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."(KJV)
Psalm 61:5, "For you have heard my vows, O God. You have given me an inheritance reserved for those who fear your name." (NLT)