Friday, December 24, 2010

Mary, the Mother of Jesus

By Bethany Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: Luke 1:30-32, “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High’”. (NIV)

Devotion:I wonder what exactly Mary was thinking at this moment? To become pregnant is amazing, but to become pregnant by the Holy Spirit – now how is that for a Christmas present? The bible tells us “For you [Lord] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13, NIV). God had it all worked out in His plan. He would send His son, Jesus, to walk the Earth, teach His word, spread the Gospel, be baptized with water, save others through baptism of the Holy Spirit, and then ultimately die on the cross to save us from our sins.

And, his mother was to be Mary.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not putting more emphasis on Mary than Jesus. But, I am recognizing how she must have felt. I am a mother. I know God entrusted Clint and I to care for our children and teach them about Him.

Now, imagine your child WAS Him.

We don’t know much about Jesus’ birth beyond what little there is to say in the gospels. Luke records that “Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (2:4-7, NIV) He goes on to say in verses 14-19 “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Mary knew He was special and although she couldn’t guess as to what was to become of her son, Jesus, she did manage to hold these moments near and dear to her heart. I can see Mary as Jesus turns into a toddler, then into a boy, and ultimately a young man – treasuring these little details of Jesus in her heart. Instead of worrying, she trusted. Instead of scolding, she took pride. Instead of being angry, she rejoiced.

I know with all the hoopla of Christmas, sometimes we get distracted with the small stuff. But, this year especially, Mary has been weighing on my mind. Let us try to remember Mary this year at Christmas. Let’s rejoice with Mary, in the delight of her Son, Jesus. Let us proclaim to the world with Mary that Jesus was here – that because of Jesus, we now could live with the Holy Spirit within us. Let us delight in little baby Jesus born in a manger (Luke 2:7). Let us learn from the Boy Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52). And let us mourn with Mary as she watches her Son die on the cross (Mark 15:37). But – let us rejoice with Mary to proclaim, “He is Risen, He is Risen…” (Mark 16:5).

And He was named Jesus.

What a mighty God you are, Lord. How do we ever say thank you? May we all be blessed this Christmas by baby Jesus.

Applications: Celebrate Jesus with your family this week and enjoy the holiday blessings each and every one of us have. Merry Christmas!

Power Verses:

Luke 2:8-14, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (NIV)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Trust and Obey

By Lisa Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” (NIV)

Devotion: There is an old hymn Trust and Obey that I’ve sang over the years. It’s a hymn most of us know and can sing along so easily.

As I look at our grandson, Gram, with his big brown eyes looking up at me, I know he trusts in me with everything I do. He trusts that I will feed him, change his diapers, play with him and continue to make him laugh with peek-a-boo. He has a total TRUST in me that is a safe trust, a caring trust and non-disappointing trust.

When did we learn NOT to trust? Was there an incident in your life that has caused you not to trust people, friends, your children, your spouse, or your boss? Has some fear of things or life experiences caused you to doubt others?

I know when the trust between my parents and me was broken. In high school, some classmates stopped by our house close to Halloween. They wanted some eggs to throw at cars. Trying to be the cool friend, of course I wanted to assist. I didn’t think any harm would come from it, so I gave them some eggs out of an egg carton in the refrigerator.

Well, the boys threw the eggs at a car right outside of MY house. The car stopped and called the cops. I was in total denial to my parents that I had anything to do with it. They had total trust in me to believe what I said to them. Up to this point, they had no reason to doubt me. The cops left and I thought I was cleared of being caught!

The next morning, my Mom went to refrigerator to get more eggs for breakfast. She noticed there were a few eggs missing. Upstairs she came! You know the rest of the story - lets just say the trust was broken.

I knew from that point on my Mom would wonder with a slight suspicion of what I was doing or where I was going. Could I really be trusted? I didn’t like that feeling of her doubting me. I had to rebuild that trust again.

The greatest example in the bible for me of trust is Abraham in Genesis 22: 1-5 in the offering of Isaac. First of all, Abraham is strictly obedient by getting up early. Second, Abraham trusts in God his Father; vs. 5 says “we will worship”. He was praising God during this storm! WOW! Also, in the midst of this offering and trial, Abraham was putting his trust in God for whatever the future held. This demonstrates to me that my relationship with God has to be so close to have that complete trust! Just like Gram has with me.

Father, help us to find our trust in you again. We want to put our trust in the Lord with all our heart; and not depend on our own understanding. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Applications: Review these 3 areas in your life:

1. Do you have a need to control and can’t trust others?

2. Are you ruled by fear and anxiety causing you not to trust?

3. Do you feel disconnected to friends or family?

~Remember, it is the shepherd’s responsibility to lead the sheep home. The shepherd knows where to find you; you are not lost. The sheep know the shepherds voice and follow him. Put your trust back in the Lord and so you will obey and follow his voice home!

Power Verses:

Proverbs 22:19, “I am teaching you today—yes, you—so you will trust in the Lord” (NIV)

Proverbs 31:11, “Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.” (NIV)

Isaiah 26:14, “Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.” (NIV)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Praise God!

By Charity Pence

This Week’s Verse: John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (NIV)

Ever wanted to throw your hands in the air and give up? If you are like me, the answer is yes. We all have those moments in our lives, moments when we are knocked down before we have had a chance to get back up again. It is times like that when it is easy to lose sight of the Truth. Psalm 35:18 tells us that the Lord delivers us from all of our afflictions. Though the trials we go through may at times be too much for us, they are never too much for God. Psalm 18:6 promises God hears us when we cry out to Him in distress. How often do you cry out to Him? Do you trust Him to hear you? I have learned firsthand that God does hear me. My prayers are not always answered the way I expect. Sometimes the answer to my prayers is the opposite of what I asked for. God has taught me, though, that if I trust Him entirely, He will provide. This lesson was not something I learned quickly. It has taken me many years and many trials to realize that God has my best interests at heart and will make provisions accordingly. And through everything, I have learned another important lesson.

Lifting our hands in praise is difficult to do when everything around us is falling apart. And yet, the Bible tells us we are to praise God always. We are not meant to praise God only when things are good. So when I find myself lying flat on the ground from yet another hit, I praise God. I praise Him because He has always given me the strength to get back up. I praise Him because I know He is with me. I praise Him because no matter how hard this life can be, it will not always be this way.

We sang a song in church recently. “When I call Your name, Lord You reply, You bring Your kingdom and stand by my side.” As I sang these words, I pictured myself standing, surrounded by God and His army. It was an awesome reminder that as long as I trust God, He will fight my battles for me.

Dear Heavenly Father, life is so hard sometimes and it would be easy to give up, to stop trusting in You. Thank You for the lessons You have taught me. Continue to be with us all, Lord, please. Give us the strength to lift our hands in praise when we are too weak to even stand. You indeed are Lord and I will put my trust in You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Applications: Do not let yourself be overwhelmed by the trials you must face. God will not leave our side; He has already won our battle.

Power Verses:

I Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always.” (NIV)

Psalm 50:15, “And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” (KJV)

I Peter 3:13, “And who is he that will harm you, if you be followers of that which is good?” (KJV)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Distress: Do Prayers Matter?

By Melissa Milbourn

This Week’s Verse: 1 Kings 8:49, “then hear their prayers and their petition from heaven where you live, and uphold their cause.” (NLT)

Devotion: Recently, while going through a season of distress, a friend reached out to me. This friend is not in my day-to-day life, so she really had no way of knowing what I was dealing with, or going through each day...but God did.

She reached out saying that God had put me on her heart and that she was praying for me, and is praying for me. This happened about a month or two ago, and God has not changed my circumstances. But what has changed is ME. Through her prayers, God has changed me, and because of that, I am able to handle the situation I'm in much better. I can see and feel the difference, because of her prayers.

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul is talking about a season of distress and what helped him through, and here is what he says:

"8-11We don't want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn't think we were going to make it. We felt like we'd been sent to death row that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he's the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he'll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. YOU AND YOUR PRAYERS ARE PART OF THE RESCUE OPERATION—I don't want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God's deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part."

Maybe you've been praying for yourself, or someone else, and you feel as if your prayers don't matter. Be reminded today, that God hears your prayers, and your prayers make difference. Your prayers are part of the rescue operation. Keep praying!

Dear Father, if a woman reading this needs prayer, I lift her up to you now. Just as you placed my friend in my life to pray for me, I lift these women up to you. Lord, please help us to remain women of faith as You continue being our light, our love, and our encourager. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application: Is God placing someone on your heart? Maybe it is because you are to pray for her. In some circumstances, the Lord will want you to tell her you are praying for her. In others, he might want you to remain silent. Whatever the case, pray for your Christian girlfriends! We all could use some encouragement from time to time!

Power Verses:

Daniel 2:21, “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. 
He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” (NIV)

James 5:16-18, “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn't rain, and it didn't—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.” (MSG)

Genesis 35:3, “Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.” (NKJV)

Friday, November 26, 2010

What’s In A Name?

By Charity Pence

This week’s verse: I Corinthians 13:13, “And now abide faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (KJV)

Devotion: Many people believe God has a plan for them. It should not be surprising then to learn God uses every detail of their lives to fulfill His plan. God certainly has a plan for me. He even had a plan for my name. I have occasionally been asked why my parents named me Charity. When I was a child this question could be answered easily. My dad had an Aunt Hope and an Aunt Faith so my parents decided there should be a Charity, too. No longer is the question answered so simply, though. This is because by being named Charity, I was given more than just a name.

Before explaining, let me ask, what’s in a name? Charity means brotherly love. By studying the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians, I see exactly what love is and how love behaves. By studying this verse, I have come to understand that charity is not just my name. Charity is my God given mission. I am to be patient and kind to others at all times. I should not be envious or prideful. By reading this chapter, I am reminded that no matter what I have, even if I have everything but love, I really have nothing and am nothing. This is a lesson I have to study regularly. I frequently get my Bible out and read I Corinthians 13 to remind myself how God intends for me to be. My mission is certainly a work in progress.

Before you get too curious about your own name, let me ask you the real question: What is your mission? Are you living it? Charity is my mission and should be the basis for everything God calls me to do because without love, my works are nothing. I am to exude charity at all times. I Corinthians 13:13 has always been my favorite Bible verse. When I was younger, I liked the verse because my name was in it. Now I Corinthians 13:13 goes straight to the core of who God created me to be.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to display charity at all times, not for my benefit, but for Yours. Forgive me for not always behaving in a way that allows others to see You through me. Help us all to recognize that you have called us to a mission. Show each of us our part so Your mission can be accomplished. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Applications: Even if charity is not your mission, it is important to remember your mission means nothing if you do not show charity to others.

Power Verses:

I Corinthians 13:8, “Charity never faileth.” (KJV)

Hebrews 13: 1, “Let brotherly love continue.” (NIV)

I Corinthians 3:9, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.” (NIV)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Call Upon the Name of the Lord

By Brenda Pickering

This Week’s Verse: Matthew 7:7-8, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened."

Devotion: When life gets rocky, when you're unsure what the next step should be, or when you feel you have lost your way, where do you turn?

Many times we don't turn to prayer. Instead we turn to our spouse, a friend, a family member or we keep it to ourselves believing we can or should be able to handle it on our own. I know I have. But, in the times that I have turned to God for the answers, things turned out in ways I could never have imagined if I were on my own!

After I had my second child, I knew we were struggling financially already with only two children, and I felt the responsible thing would be to ensure that we would not have any more children to support. So, when our youngest was about 1 month old, I went in to have a tubal ligation. I had this nagging feeling that we were not finished and that I shouldn't have the procedure after all. However, I decided to ask God to make the decision for us. I told God, I will trust You because if you want us to have more children, you can do anything. As we drove to the hospital, I continued my conversation with God. It'd be nice to have a that looks like me, or even one with blond hair, but then, neither my husband nor myself have blond hair, so I would take her either way!

I had the procedure that day, with no regrets, no worries.

I had forgotten all about that prayer until a little over a year later, when I realized I might be pregnant! A test confirmed it, and when I went in for some blood work and they later called me back to ask me to schedule an ultrasound, I was worried. They had mentioned a tubal pregnancy, and they wanted to rule that out. At 10 weeks, we discovered there were two little girls in there! God had answered my prayers two-fold. Our girls are 4 1/2 years old now. One has brown hair, and I think looks a lot like me. The other one has blond hair. God has more than taken care of us since we had our two additions to the family. He has blessed us with a complete family, and since then we have been better off financially than before they were born!

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves when God desires us to ask Him for help? He says if we would only ask, it is ours. James 4:2 states, "You do not have, because you do not ask God."

In Rev. 5:8 it states, "And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God's people." (NLT) The incense that is so fragrant to Christ is our prayer! We are reading Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala in our life group. On page 82 he writes, "Just imagine, you and I kneel or stand or sit down to pray, really opening our hearts to God and what we say is so precious to Him that He keeps it like a treasure."

Lord, Help us to call upon your name in every situation, good or bad, and throughout our day. Thank you for storing up our prayers like treasures! Amen

Applications: So, when you call upon the Lord, your burdens will be lifted, you are doing what the Lord has asked, and you will be blessed beyond measure! Pray continually!!

Power Verses:

Matthew 6: 9-13, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’" (NIV)

Matthew 8: 19-20, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (NIV)

I Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

James 5:13-15,"Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven." (NIV)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Distress: Painful but Good?

By Melissa Milbourn

This Week’s Verse: Psalm 120:1, “I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.” (NIV)

Here are some definitions of distress:

1. Great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; acute physical or mental suffering; affliction; trouble
2. That which causes pain, suffering, trouble, danger
3. A state of extreme necessity or misfortune

Who likes being in distress? Yuk. It is uncomfortable, unpleasant, and generally never a fun place to be. But as ugly as distress feels, can it be a good thing? Yeah, it can. It is good when it turns our hearts back to God.

In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul says this: "I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don't feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. Now I'm glad...not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss".

Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.

"And now, isn't it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You're more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you've come out of this with purity of heart. And that is what I was hoping for in the first place when I wrote the letter." (2 Corinthians 7:8-13 MSG)

Are you in a tough place? Do you feel that distressed feeling? Allow that to drive you to God, not away. I'm remembering this for myself today, and also encouraging you. Sometimes it takes seasons of distress for us to really stop and sink deep with God. And out of that distress a deeper relationship with God is created, and in addition to that deeper relationship, we are changed from the inside out. As the scripture states we become more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible, and have more purity of heart. This is good.

Dear Father, thank you for the good times, as well as for the times we are in distress. We know that you will work all things to your glory and in your honor. Thank you for drawing us close to you. Only you know us inside and out. As Thanksgiving approaches, help us to be thankful for all the times in our lives, not just the good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application: In your distress, draw near to the Lord Jesus, and even if He doesn't change our circumstances, He changes us, and this is good! When we turn to Him it is all gain, no loss.

Power Verses:

2 Corinthians 12:10, “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (NLT)

Ephesians 3:13, “So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored.” (NLT)

2 Timothy 2:10, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (NIV)

Friday, November 5, 2010

With Open Arms

By Bethany Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: Isaiah 12:2 “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” (NIV)

Devotion: Recently, during our “business with God” time at our church, a song hit home with me. I had a light-bulb moment, as some would call it. My AHA moment was envisioning this: I was running through this gorgeous field of grass (yep, sounds a bit like a movie to me too) and my arms were open. I was running towards God.

It made me think how often that I run towards God in this manner? Do I run towards Him every day? Do I smile at Him? Open my arms to Him? Shouldn’t I always be running towards God with my arms open?

My arms being open states two things: One, I want God to take all that I have, all that I am and rescue me from this world. Two, I love Him and am opening my arms to Him.

Often times I am running, but I don’t know if it’s towards God or away from Him. I also find myself running in front of God, or behind Him. This week, I am going to try to run towards God.

If I don’t practice running towards God in the good times in my life, how will I ever make it during the rough times? Practicing this now means a brighter, more secure future later.

Dear Lord, thank you for helping me seek your will and your guidance in my life. Help these women to do the same. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Applications: Have you ever pictured yourself with God? What does your picture look like?

Power Verses:

2 John 1:9 “Anyone who wanders away from his teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and Son” (NLT)

John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” (NIV)

Isaiah 40:11 “He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” (NLT)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Strength vs. Weakness

By Lisa Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: 1 Chronicles 16:11 “Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually.” (NIV)

Devotion: I attended Women of Faith in Portland, Oregon recently. Shelia Walsh, author and singer stated that talking was one of her gifts, but as a child people would smack her gift. We all got a good laugh but really there is so much truth to that. Why don’t we focus on our own strengths and continue to build on them? Instead, we seem to try to improve our weaknesses.

Gallup Organization, states in 2000 people focused 59% on their weakness and 41% on their strengths. In 2009 people focused on 55% focused on their weakness and 45% on their strengths, just a 4% difference in 9 years.

As an example, what would you do if your child came home from school with their report card reflecting an A in English, 2 B’s, a C and 1 D in Math? How would this change your conversations? I can bet that every night at the dinner table there would be a question asking, “Do you have your Math homework done? How was Math class today?” Before the child goes to bed, again there is a question if the Math homework was completed. As a parent would you hire a tutor for your child?

However, throughout the night, do you think a question or comment could be made about the English class or the 2 B classes? Would there be a compliment made on how well the child was doing in that field? Would you pursue an outside activity where they could enhance their specialty field? Would you encourage them to be involved in a spelling Bee, Bible bowl, or just be a help to other children in need?

This happened to us when our children were in grade school. One of them was having trouble with Math and we hired a retired schoolteacher to come to the house one night a week. She was a sweet lady and was so beautiful in her interaction with the kids. It didn’t take but just a few weeks and we had a better understanding of the subject. It was definitely worth the investment because it built confidence again in my child. I discovered that my child learned easier from the tutor than the teacher. Maybe that was what my child needed - a fresh face to help understand the subject more clearly.

I can’t remember how much we verbally dwelled on this subject, but I do know it didn’t consume our focus. We dealt with the subject it and then moved on.

But I have to stop and think - did I really pursue their strengths? Sure, Kelli got “Most Improved” softball player, Clint was a baseball pitcher and did well in golf, and they both loved going to Awana. But on a day-to-day basis did I always have their strengths in my best interest or was I always concerned about “improving” their weakness for a well- balanced child?

I know I don’t have any strength on my own, it is only by letting God work through me. The Lord would like to work through you too!

Father, help us to find our strength through you in every aspect of our life! Help us to look at our strengths and dwell on those more than our weaknesses. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Applications: List 5 strengths in your life and share them with others.

Power Verses:

1 Samuel 2:1 "My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in thy salvation.” (NIV)

1 Chronicles 16:11 “Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually!” (NIV)

Psalms 28:8 “The LORD is the strength of his people, he is the saving refuge of his anointed.” (NIV)

Friday, October 22, 2010

All Prayed Out!

By Denise Reed

This Week’s Verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “pray continually” (NIV)

Lately, I have been feeling like I am all prayed out. I pray before every meal. I pray throughout the day if something is weighing on my mind and when God reminds me of something or someone to pray for. I even ask God to help me remember to do things (when I’m not able to write myself a reminder) and He has never failed to remind me! Sometimes when I check my e-mail there is a prayer concern for a friend and I pray instantly. I pray with my children before bed.

Then I sit down to do my ‘serious’ praying and get out my list of prayer concerns. Oh my! The list is long. There is my immediate family to pray for, more further removed family who are struggling with issues, friends, and people who have not asked for prayer, but am praying for anyway (such as their salvation). There is my list of prayer concerns from my Sunday school class, my Life Group, my Mother’s in Touch group, prayers for the ministries I’m involved in, and of course, my own personal needs and wants. And this list does not even include national and global issues, which quite possibly need the most amount of prayer. I guess I think I’m too far removed from those issues that I don’t need to pray for them. Somebody else will, right?

I think, boy, that’s a long list and more are added to it every week. If I pray for everyone, I feel like I’m just going down the list to get it done. So, maybe I should break it up and pray for half the list now and the other half tomorrow. Then I feel guilty for not praying for everyone everyday. How often DO I really need to pray for all these people, especially the people I don’t even know? And how long should I keep someone on my prayer list? With all these thoughts running through my head, my prayer time is stressing me out! Satan knows my weaknesses, so he works on me during my prayer time.

However, when searching the Bible for verses about prayer, I did not find ONE verse where we are told to pray every single day for the same person in order for God to answer our prayer. This gives me encouragement to continue on. James 5:15 says “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.” (NIV). So maybe it’s not about how OFTEN I pray for something, but rather, HOW I pray for it. It’s more a matter of the heart. When I am praying for someone, am I doing it in faith that God can and will answer my prayer? Or am I praying for someone just because his or her name is written down on my piece of paper?

Lord, thank you for your examples and instructions on prayer. Help me block out distractions and other thoughts that try to creep in while we are having a one-on-one conversation. I have faith that you can answer every single prayer request I have, and help me understand if you don’t answer it the way I want. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Application: If you have been feeling all prayed out like I have, take heart. It’s not a bad problem to have. Just make sure your heart is in the right place when you are praying.

Power Verses:

Mark 11:24 “Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (NIV)

1 Samuel 12:23 “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.” (NIV)

Romans 8:26 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (NIV)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Strength 101

By Lisa Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: Nehemiah 8:11 “for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (NIV)

What are you passionate about? What makes you joyful? When was the last time you did something you enjoyed? In your ministry, what gives you the greatest joy in the Lord?

Are you passionate about teaching, serving, leading, children, bookkeeping, maintenance, praying, tithing, encouraging or communicating? The list goes on and on. Your strength will be where YOU are at your BEST and that JOY will bring such strength in the Lord and will reflect in all areas of your life.

When you find the activity and passion that you feel strong about, it will lead to performance and action!

When I was in high school, I was a teacher’s aide my junior and senior year. I thought I wanted to be an elementary teacher. God had another idea and lead me into personnel management. My career was coordinating, training and teaching course curriculum to 300 to 700 staff. I would get extreme satisfaction thinking about going into a classroom and providing staff with information that would help them with their careers. I would prepare and try to be creative in my delivery to make a subject exciting! Often times I would have a hands-on activity to help demonstrate the objectives. I wanted learning to be fun!

In my personal life over the years, I have taught different ladies bible study groups, communicated information while volunteering at a Pregnancy Life Center, been a VBS Director and VBS leader, and I am currently leading the Side by Side Sunday School class at 8:30 am. As a mother we are always teaching our children and grandchildren. This is the most rewarding!

Ask yourself this S.I.G.N.:

S = Success. Do you feel effective in your passion and service?

I = Instinct. Do you look forward to this service?

G= Growth. How do you feel while you carry out this service?

N= Needs. How do you feel after – invigorated?

How often do you express your strength? Is it only on Sunday? Wednesday? Every day? I hope you love your strength as much as I love mine! If you are not sure about your strength area in life, check out the website and discover your top 2 life skills.

Dear Lord, thank you for helping me find my spiritual strength. Thank you for making each of us unique so that we may serve you in many ways. Lead those who don’t know you towards you and help those that do know you to discover their strengths in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Applications: Look for opportunities to express your passion with others and share the joy!

Power Verses:

Psalm 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” (NIV)

Psalm 18:32 “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” (NIV)

1 Corinthians 14:12 “And the same is true for you. Since you are so eager to have the special abilities the Spirit gives, seek those that will strengthen the whole church.” (NLT)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hard Work and Dedication

By Bethany Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: 1 Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (NIV)

When I was in high school, I had posters in my room of all the latest models. I liked their flat bellies. I wanted a flat belly like them. So, I worked hard at doing sit-ups and off and on during high school I was able to get a flat belly out of it! But, it came with a price. Each night before going to bed, I would find myself doing hundreds of sit-ups.

Most great things come with a price. When I started attending a new church as a young woman, I looked up to women that I believed maintained the model Christian life. I believed they had it all together – lovely family, nice smile on their face, willing to help others, loving unconditionally. I believed that this came natural for a fine Christian woman.

I have since learned this: it takes work. It all does. These women don’t just rise and shine to a smile on their face (okay – maybe some women do, but not all). They have to do certain things to make it happen. I’m sure they read the bible daily, pray daily, and choose to walk with God daily.

It takes sit-ups to get a flat belly. It takes hours and hours behind the wheel to become a safe driver. It takes reading many books to become intellectual in a subject. It takes many mistakes to become a good parent.

So, why would I think that it wouldn’t take a lot of hard work to become a model Christian woman?

It takes hard work and dedication to read the bible daily. It takes practice to become a good prayer warrior. It takes LOTS AND LOTS of encouragement to proclaim Christ to others. It takes holding of the tongue on many occasions. It takes discipline to remain faithful to Jesus and his teachings.

My husband and I have this saying “it takes time or money”. It seems like everything in this world either takes more time, or more money. I can’t buy Christianity, so why didn’t I think that it would take more time to become a good Christian?

Becoming a disciplined Christian means more than Sunday morning church. It means learning to live life as a Christian every day of the week and every moment of the day. It is a discipline, but a good one!

Dear Father, thank you for giving us your word so we may learn more about you, and try to become the way Jesus was – caring, loving, forgiving, full of joy, and peace. Help me to show the fruits of the Spirit so others may see You in me. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Application: *Are there women that might be looking up to you, watching you, wanting what you have? Make sure to share what you know about FAITH with them. We need to be on-call 24/7 for others who want to know more about what we have that they might not have.

*Do you find yourself wanting what someone else has that you just can’t quite get? Well, ask her how she got there. Ask her about her study habits and disciplines she has picked up through the years. Most women would love to share her story of how that smile got on her face!

Power Verses:

1 Thessalonians 5:12 “Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance.” (NLT)

Galatians 5:22-23 “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (NIV)

Titus 2:3-5 “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” (NASB)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rummage Giveaway

By Bethany Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: Matthew 25:40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (NLT)


I like definitions. So, I chose to look up the title of this week’s devotion. To rummage, according to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, means to discover by searching or to examine minutely and completely. Giveaway means the act of giving something away free.

This Saturday, October 2, First Christian Church in Marshall is hosting its second annual rummage giveaway. It is designed to help those who could use some extra clothing, children’s items, or household items to make it through the winter.

The response is overwhelming. Donations are piled up in the hallways. Volunteers spend countless hours preparing. And as those who come to the giveaway line up, the joy is incomprehensible.

Although this act is selfless in nature, the term rummage and giveaway put together remind me of the most selfless act ever in history. Jesus.

Jesus gave away his life for us. And, he chose to do it for free. Because of him, we can lay our sins at the cross and ask for forgiveness. He bore our sins for FREE. How amazing is that?

And we must rummage to find him. We must discover Jesus in our lives. Yes, he is there from the beginning. But, he gives us the free will to find him, to follow, and to listen for his words. We must examine minutely and completely his word and relate it to our life.

As the date approaches for this year’s rummage giveaway, pray with me for those who enter our church to find the one free gift that Christ paid for all – our salvation in the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Dear Father, we thank you for the ministry of believers who have chose to give sacrificially and selflessly. We ask for those who enter the church to be blessed beyond our own human awareness. We thank you in advance for those lives that you will touch. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application: If you find yourself in need, please come to the rummage giveaway on Saturday. If you find yourself in need of giving, please pray for all those involved with this event. If you would like to give your time, an extra pair of hands is always helpful!

Power Verses:

John 19:29-30 "a jug of wine was standing by. Someone put a sponge soaked with the wine on a javelin and lifted it to his mouth. After he took the wine, Jesus said, "It's done...complete." Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit." (MSG)

Galatians 6:14 “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (NIV)

Hebrews 12:2 “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NKJV)

Friday, September 24, 2010

It Will Only Cost You a Hat

By Bethany Lashbrook

This week’s verse: Psalm 18:30 “As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” (NKJV)

I recently saw a commercial that caught my attention. It went something like this.

Girl picks up hat in department store. Girl looks at beautiful hat. Then girl starts to dream about this hat and how wonderful she looks in it. Then girl thinks, “Awe, perfect husband with this hat. The perfect family with this hat! Awe, perfect life with this hat.” Then, she places the hat in the cart. And the man with the deep voice says: “and only for $15.99”.

Wow! If I would have known I could have the perfect life for only the cost of a hat – I would have went to that department store years ago. I would have bought more than one too! I wonder if I could switch the perfect hats for a different type of “perfect” life? Ha!

The Bible tells us “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” 2 Samuel 22:33 (NIV) We can’t get caught up in the perfect home for our children, the perfect life we will share with our spouses, the perfect family we will raise, or the perfect clothes we will wear. But, we can rely on the perfect God to show us our paths!

The bible also tells us "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Matthew 26:41 (NIV) Temptations surround us day in and day out. All we have to do to be tempted is log on to the net, watch a little T.V., or listen to the radio. Lies will be told. But, we know the Truth, and we know the answer. We are armed with the word to fight these temptations.

As we go about our lives, running our children to and from soccer games, fixing our families their suppers, driving to and from work – let’s try to focus on the way, the truth, and the light. (John 14:6)

Dear Lord, thank you for giving us the word, which enables us to distinguish between the truths we hear and the lies. Thank you for sending your perfect Son to die on the cross so that we may be forgiven of our sins and spend eternity with you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application: Have you been listening to the lies of this world? This week, try to stay focused on God and His Word, rather than what the world has to tell us about keeping our perfect lives together.

Power Verses:

Psalm 40:11 “Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord; Let Your loving kindness and Your truth continually preserve me.” (NKJV)

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (NLT)

Deuteronomy 32:4 “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are” just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (NIV)

Ephesians 6:13-15 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (NIV)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lover of My Soul

By Debby Craig

This Week’s Verse: Song of Solomon 5:10 “My lover is dark and dazzling, better than ten thousand others!” (NIV)


*He stops whatever he’s doing & listens to every word when I say, “let’s talk”.

*He loves me even when I am being a brat.

*He is always there for me any time, any place.

*When I feel unwanted, he gently reminds me of how much I am worth to him.

*He is my provider for every one of my financial needs.

*He makes sense when I don’t.

*When I look at myself in the mirror and see “old, wrinkled, chubby and gray” he still calls me the "most beautiful one".

*He really, really loves me just like I am.

*I am so lucky he chose me.

I am talking about my husband.

A few months ago as we heard the sermon series on marriage & dating, I jotted down a few notes and couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the way I feel about my husband & the way I feel about God.

When I was lost and didn’t know the Lord, I thought I had to do it all. I thought I had to fix everything and depend on my own smallness to solve all the problems and mistakes that I had accumulated in this life. Once I found Him it is all changed. He is my soul mate.

The Lord has sent me someone to help provide for my needs. He has sent a man who isn’t scared to take care of me. And, I am not scared to accept his willingness to do so. This is God’s natural way for me to depend on my husband for the earthly things in our relationship. These include (but are not limited to) comfort, financial stability, self worth, loving kindness, gentleness, and peace.

I love feeling this way about my husband and I love knowing that I can also curl up into our Lord’s arms any time I want. Because of this, I feel blessed.

Dear Lord, thank you for being my provider, my caregiver, my healer, my comforter, my friend, and my Father. Thank you for sending me a wonderful husband who also loves to care for me and loves me just the way I am. You know my heart inside and out. Thank you for giving me just as I need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application: How long has it been since you have written a love letter? Try writing one this week to either your Father in Heaven, or your earthly love.

Power Verses:

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.” (NIV)

1 Corinthians 7:4 “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.” (NIV)

Ephesians 5:25 “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.” (NLT)

Friday, September 10, 2010


by Denise Reed

This Week’s Verse: Matthew 9:37-38 “Then He said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few’. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (NIV)


I don’t know about you, but harvest season stirs something inside me. When I see that first combine out in the field I get excited. It means the farmers will finally reap what they have worked so hard to plant (maybe replant), spray, fertilize, and check up on for the past few months. There is something so satisfying about getting the crops out of the field and into storage.

It also brings cooler evenings, gorgeous leaves, and campfires with s’mores, radiant mums and football.

Seeing the first signs of harvest this year brought all these warm, cozy feelings back. However, God reminded me of HIS harvest. God’s harvest is more than just how many bushels per acre your corn and beans made. It is a matter between eternal life and eternal death.

God’s harvest is SO plentiful. Think of how many billions of people live on this earth. That’s how many plants God has in his ‘field’. God has called us to nurture each other with the Living Word and encouragement, just as fertilizer does for crops. WE are his workers. Once the harvest is done, it’s done – no second chances.

God’s harvest is not one of warm, cozy feelings, but one of urgency. Am I fertilizing God’s crops like I should so God has a bountiful harvest? Or have I failed to prevent weeds from growing up, therefore stunting the growth of the plants around me? Have I stopped gossip and negativity when I have heard it? Or did I sit back and listen to it, even without joining in?

As this week’s verse says, the workers are few. We must stand out and be bold under God’s authority. We must take responsibility of informing others about eternal life or eternal death to the plants around us.

Lord, I thank you for the beautiful harvest season I see around me. Your creation is magnificent. Help me to open my eyes and see YOUR harvest. Help me to reach out to those who need nurturing and prevent weeds to stunt my own spiritual growth and the growth of those around me. Amen

Application: As you drive along and see the farmers’ harvest this year, think about God’s harvest. Feel the urgency to go out and be the best workers you can be.

Power Verses:

John 4:35 “Do you not say, “Four months more and then the harvest”? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (NIV)

James 5:20 “Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (NIV)

Acts 11:23 “When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord.” (NLT)