Sunday, November 11, 2012

Caleb and Joshua

Today as I consider the Numbers story of Caleb and Joshua, I wonder how often we as Christians back up our faith with courage.  In Numbers chapter 13, we are told that spies were sent to the land of Canaan.  Among those spies were Caleb and Joshua.  After spying on the land for forty days, the spies returned to Moses and the Israelites.

The children of Israel surely were expecting a good report.  They had been delivered from the Egyptians and were ready to claim the land promised to them by God.  Caleb did indeed give a good report.  However, verse 31 says, "But the men who had gone up with him said, 'We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.'"  The congregation then wept.  After everything they witnessed God do for them, they allowed a few men to convince them they could not fight against the inhabitants of Canaan. 

Yet Caleb and Joshua believed in God.  They had faith.  And they were ready to back up their faith with courage.  In Numbers 14:8-9, Caleb and Joshua tell the Israelites, "If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey.  Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us.  Do not fear them."

Caleb and Joshua were ready to go, even though the spies who accompanied them were not.  And when Caleb and Joshua tried to change the minds of the Israelites, they said Caleb and Joshua should be stoned!

The question I have to ask myself after reading this passage is this: would I have the courage to go where God sends me? If everyone around me was too afraid, would I have the courage to trust God and go alone? That's a question we all need to ask ourselves.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Being Vigilant

by Charity Pence

This Week's Verse: "Be sober, be vigilant; because the adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour." 1 Peter 5:8

Isn't it amazing how we can read something in the Bible and get one message, but the next time we read it we get something else? God does this to me all the time, and maybe you've had this experience also. 1 Peter 5:8 is a verse I've long been familiar with. In fact, it is one I have posted on a wall in my house. Every time I've considered that verse, I always took it to mean that we have to resist temptation. And I think that's a fair interpretation. However, this morning as I was doing my "God time," I was shown something else. You see, I'm also very familiar with 1 Peter 5:6-7. However, for whatever reason, I've never associated those verses with the ones following. In my mind I have separated them as if they were two different messages. Cast your cares upon the Lord. Okay, don't worry; trust that God will take care of our needs/circumstances. Be sober, be vigilant. Okay, be aware of the devil's schemes. All that makes sense right? But what God reminded me of was that the devil doesn't just tempt us to separate us from God. He also tries to hinder us, to turn our focus.

This is an area that was causing me quite a struggle recently. The devil was keeping me so busy with negative circumstances that I was keeping my focus on my "worries" instead of on God. But when reading verses 6-9 as one passage, I am reminded that we have to remain vigilant because the devil will try to destroy us with negative circumstances. But instead of giving in, we are to give those concerns to God and be comforted that we are not alone in our struggles. The devil does this to our brothers and sisters in Christ because he wants nothing more than to keep us away from God.

I heard something else recently in a sermon. The devil doesn't mess with us because he wants our souls doomed with him. His true focus is on God, who he hates so much that he doesn't want God to win. To the devil, we are just casualties in his war. Is that what you want to be? A casualty? Or do you want to be one of God's warriors?

Ephesians 6:13, 14 gives us this challenge, "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand, stand." Don't give in. Be God's warrior and fight the devil. Don't let him use you as his pawn in his battle against God.

Dear Heavenly Father, You are so amazing. Thank You for this revelation You have given. I needed this reminder, Lord. Thank You for equiping me to be Your warrior. Please help me when I grow weary. I refuse to become a casualty. I want to be Your warrior. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Power Verses:
Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
2 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Abraham's Obedience

by Charity Pence

This Week's Verse: Genesis 22:2 "Then He said, 'Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." (NKJ)

I cannot imagine what was going through Abraham's mind when he received the command from God to sacrifice his son Isaac. The Bible only tells us that Abraham went. But it could not have been easy for Abraham. That is why I believe we can learn much from this story.

Abraham was an old man by the time he was blessed with a son. Consider for a moment the joy he must have felt when Isaac was born. His faith was already strong, but surely receiving such a seemingly impossible blessing must have strengthened his faith in God. Isaac would be his heir! The descendants promised by the Lord became a reality with Isaac's birth. But then God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as an offering. At that point, I would have said, "Hold up. How are you going to carry out your promise if I kill my son?" The story in Genesis doesn't mention Abraham doubting the Lord. But taking that journey to Moriah had to be one of the most difficult trips for Abraham.

The point is, being obedient to God is easy when His command makes sense. When we understand. But when we don't understand? That's when real faith kicks in. That's when we reveal our true character.

We may never know what would have happened if Abraham withheld Isaac from God. What we do know is that Abraham took those steps, despite how hard it must have been. And he was blessed for his obedience. "By myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand whch is on the seashore, and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies." Genesis 22:16, 17 (NKJ)

Dear Heavenly Father, It's so easy to rejoice and be obedient when things go our way. But when the path you set before us is difficult or doesn't make sense, too often we stumble. Please help us to be more like Abraham. Strengthen us so we can let go of fear and doubt, and so we can continue walking until your will is done. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Power Verse:
Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you." (NKJ)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fan or Follower?

by Charity Pence

This Week's Verse: "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?" (NKJ)

Have you ever asked yourself if you're a fan or a follower of Jesus? There's a big difference between the two. You can like something, or someone in this case, without taking any action. In other words, you can be a fan. However, to be a follower means more than just liking something. A true Jesus follower doesn't just read about Jesus; he or she displays characteristics that Jesus displayed.

It's so easy for us to act contrary to what a Christian should be. We get mad. We hold grudges. We treat those who have hurt as as our worst enemies. But Jesus said, "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." Matthew 5:44 (NKJ) A fan says behaving as Jesus commanded is a good idea. But a follower goes further by striving to be obedient to that command.

Being like Jesus is what being a Christian is all about.

Dear Heavenly Father, So often I act in a way that goes against You and who You are. Please forgive me for being hasty in my anger, for not being concerned as I should be for those who have hurt me. I call myself a Christian, Lord. So please help me to be that. Make me more aware of how I treat others so that Your light will shine through me. In Jesus' name, Amen.

1 Peter 3:8: "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous." (NKJ)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sin's Destruction

by Charity Pence

Proverbs 5:21-23 states, "For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He ponders all his paths. His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin. He shall die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly, he shall go astray." (NKJ)

This passage has long been a favorite of mine, though I'd had to read it a few times before it really took hold. The meaning is clear. Sin leads us away from God. God loves us unconditionally; His love never fails. But that doesn't mean He is pleased when we allow sin to control our lives. When I've allowed sin to hinder my walk with God, I imagine God shaking His head and asking with a heavy heart, "What are you doing?"

We know better, don't we? Yet we partake in sin anyway. We tell a little fib. Take part in gossip. Pass judgment on another. Doesn't that make you just cringe? It's so easy for us to get it wrong, which is why instruction is so important. And where does our instruction come from? The Bible. As Christians, we should make reading the Bible a priority. Reading God's word helps us to draw near to our Lord. And the closer we become to our Heavenly Father, the less enticed we are by sin's destructive ways. We may still stumble, but when we repent God will be right there to pick us up.

Dear Heavenly Father, I am far from perfect; I am a sinner. Thank You, Lord, for Your never ending grace. Thank You for remaining by my side even when I choose the wrong path. Please forgive me for the sins I've committed, and help me draw near to You so that I can follow You and not the world. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Church

by Charity Pence

Let's start this week's post by picturing the church. What do you see? A large brick building with glass doors? A small country church with a steeple and a bell?

Once you have a picture set in your mind, consider the following:

"You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV)

Do those verses match the picture in your mind? Probably not. That's because we are the church. Read the following again: "In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temply in the Lord." I believe that verse means that when we, God's people, join together, we become God's temple. And in becoming God's temple, we become a haven that leads others to Christ. In the temple we help build, people find hope, grace, mercy, and a love like no other. How do we become the church? By recognizing our part. By showing God's love through our actions and words, and by offering forgiveness to those who have hurt us because God has forgiven us.

There's nothing wrong with the church building itself. But without us, God's children, and without His presence, it is nothing except an empty, useless building.

Dear Heavenly Father, You have called us to be so much more than what we realize. We are Your church. And by creating us to be Your church, others can come to know you not just on Sundays but every day of the week. Halelujah!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Something Different

by Charity Pence

Due to my schedule, I've had a difficult time keeping up with this blog. That being said, I'd like to "change it up" a bit. Rather than keeping to the traditional format, I will be varying the posts. Though I will occasionally share a regular devotion, on any given week a post may focus on one of the following:

one verse
a group of verses
a person from the Bible
a group of people from the Bible
an issue currently affecting the church
a prayer...
or anything else I or anyone else feels led to share.

The Olive Branch has been God's tool since this blog was created, and I do not want to interfere with that. This blog has been a spiritual building block for me and everyone else who has taken part in it. So let's continue the work. If you have anything to share, please let me know by commenting or sending an email to I will also welcome any feedback.

I'd like to end this post with this prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, please use me and this blog as Your outlet so that Your light shines to the world. Let it be You that people see, and let it be You that people turn to. Please help me to be open to your leading, Lord. Thank You for trusting me in this endeavor. Sometimes it seems like such a small attempt to reach others for You, but if one person comes to know You, Lord, then it's more than enough. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

God Is Listening

by Charity Pence

This week's post is a bit different from the typical format. And I apologize for the lengthy absence. I certainly didn't mean for a month to go by with no new posts.

Today, I'd just like to share one verse. "Call to me, and I will answer you." Jeremiah 33:3.

Short. Simple. But it has huge meaning. When we call out to God, He hears us. Not only that, He responds. We might not always like the answer, but we can take comfort in knowing that He is listening to us. Isn't that great? I think so.

So with that in mind, don't hold back from God. Whether you are angry, scared, glad, or rejoicing - call out to our heavenly father. He can take whatever we have to say.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Stepping Out In Faith

by Charity Pence

This Week’s Verse: Proverbs 16:20 “He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.” (NKJ)

A good friend of mine recently told me something out of Christian love. She had heard me speak often about wanting children and waiting for the right time. And she’d heard me talk about being faithful and believing what God’s word says regarding blessings of children. However, she thought I wasn’t really trusting God. Why? Because I wasn’t doing anything.

Since I love and respect this friend, I was not bothered by what she told me. I spent the next week praying about that. One morning, as I was praying and considering what she’d said, God told me it was time to step out in faith. You see, I thought I was trusting God and being faithful by waiting. Waiting for God to correct our circumstances, waiting for God to provide what we would need, waiting for God to provide a job closer to home. Now don’t get me wrong; there are times when we need to wait. But I was waiting for things we didn’t really need yet. What I needed to do was move! Though I thought I was doing the right thing and trying to be responsible, I was actually holding God back. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (NKJ)

Seldom does God move without expecting us to move with Him. When God revealed to me that the time to wait was over, I was a bit…terrified. Stepping out in faith is hard, but what better way is there to show God we truly trust in Him? So I am excited to announce my husband and I are beginning the adoption process. This is the path God has brought us to. And instead of standing back, we’re going to step up and watch our Lord move! “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.” Psalm 16:9 (NKJ).

Dear Heavenly Father, You are so faithful in your promises to us. Thank You for always providing for me and my husband through all of our trials. You have given us more than enough reason to trust in You. You are our provider, healer, counselor, and friend. I love you, Lord, and I look forward to the journey you are taking us on. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Do you ever get tired of just waiting? Whatever you’re waiting for this week, pray about it. God might be waiting on you. And if that’s the case, it’s time to get moving!

Power Verses:
Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (KJV)
Isaiah 46:11 “Yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (KJV)
Romans 4:20 “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.” (NKJ)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thou shalt...

by Charity Pence

This Week’s Verse: Psalm 9:8 “He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.” (NKJ)

…not lie.
…not steal.
…not commit adultery.
…not murder.

Sound familiar? They should. Christians ought to have the entire Ten Commandments committed to memory. As soon as we learn them, they become our creed. We live by them. Take a moment to take an inventory. Which commandments have you obeyed today? Now what about this:

Thou shalt not judge.

Hmm. Feeling uneasy? I am.

Sometimes in our eagerness to be “good little Christians” we judge those who do not appear to be as “good” as us. But who are we to judge? Has God appointed us with that task? No. In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (NKJ)

Nowhere in the Bible will you find a ranking system for sin. However, don’t we rank sin anyway? For example, wouldn’t we say a murderer is worse than a liar? But you know what? God views all sin equally. A sin is a sin is a sin. Period. Case closed. So why is it we judge others based on their sins?

Now what about this:

Thou shalt love thy neighbor.

Feeling convicted? Yep, me too!

When we judge others, we show condemnation rather than God’s love. We treat others as if their sin defines them. “She’s a liar.” “He’s a murder.” “She’s an adulterer.” “They’re sinners,” you think. We’re all sinners! Ask yourself what sin you struggle with the most. Do you want your life to be defined by that? Do you want God to judge you for that sin as harshly as you judge others? I sure don’t. Jesus died for every single one of us. As Christians, covered by the blood of Jesus and saved by God’s grace, our focus should be on showing that love and grace to others rather than behaving as if we are better than they are. “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” Luke 6:35-38 (KJV)

How many people do we turn away from God with our hypocritical attitudes? How many people could we save if we were truly obedient? Think about that.

Dear Heavenly Father, I am a sinner. I have judged harshly and neglected to show Your amazing love to others. Please forgive me for being a stumbling block to those who would otherwise come to You. Thank You for forgiving me, despite my sins. I thank You, dear Lord, for offering Your grace, which allows me to come to You without condemnation. Continue to convict me so that I can be truly obedient to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

God does not intend for any to be condemned. We are not condemned; we should not condemn others. If this week’s devotion has convicted you, seek God’s guidance. Repent, and God will forgive. Then take the grace God has offered you and share it with those around you.

Power Verses:
1 John 2:10 “He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.” (KJV)
1 John 4:11 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (KJV)
1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.” (NKJ)

Sunday, April 22, 2012


by Charity Pence

This Week’s Verse: Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

“There’s a party going on right here, a celebration to last throughout the years. So bring your good times and your laughter too, we’re gonna celebrate your party with you.

Cel-e-brate good times, come on!”

You know that song, right? It’s often played at weddings and birthday parties. Every time I hear it, I just want to…celebrate. It’s such a catchy tune.

Amidst today’s chaos, finding something to celebrate can be difficult. But as Christians, we should celebrate every day. We have nothing to fear. Isaiah 41:13 says, “For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (KJV) We never have to face anything alone. “The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.” Deuteronomy 33:12 (KJV) Isn’t that worth celebrating? How about this: we have eternal salvation. 2 Corinthians 5:21 assures us, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (KJV) That alone should make us want to dance.

Even on our worst days, we have something to celebrate. We have reason to be joyful. Jesus told the disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11 (NKJ)

So come on ~ let’s celebrate!

Dear Heavenly Father, please fill us with Your joy. Remind us even when our lives seem to be spiraling out of control, we have reason to be glad; our security comes from Jesus, not the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Application: This week, don’t let Satan steal your joy. You have nothing to fear; you are a child of God!

Power Verses:
1 Chronicles 16:31 “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; and let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns.’” (NKJ)
Psalm 47:1 “Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!” (NKJ)
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)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lesson Learned

By Bethany Lashbrook

Today’s Verse: Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

The other day, Clint and I were enjoying a (rare quiet) moment together and we were “discussing” some issues. The issue doesn’t matter, what matters is that Clint and I felt the need to discuss it. We weren’t gossiping, we weren’t talking bad, or making fun. We were just addressing something that someone else was doing and we would never do. For lack of a better word, I would call it complaining. We were complaining. After a long hard day at work for both of us, and supper to follow with cleanup and bedtime routine, we deserved a little complaining, right?

As we finished talking, we had it figured out. We were right. The end. And then I picked up a Daily Bread. It wasn’t even current. It was the January – March one. I flipped it open to a random page and on it was this word: “SLACKER”. Say what? I’ve never seen this word used in devotion.

As I continued to read this devotion, my heart sunk to my knees and I couldn’t believe what I was reading. You know those moments – where you say “Lord, Lord, the world is so BIG and yet you took this small moment to teach me this lesson?” In awe and amazement I showed Clint. He too felt small.

Slacker was termed in this devotion as someone who doesn’t read the bible daily or might slack in his/her prayer life. Slacker was identified as someone who skips church, even if just once a month to sleep in. Slacker was someone who saw a need and walked right by this need as if he/she didn’t see it. Slacker could be a Godly term. It didn’t have to be worldly.

There I sat, a hypocrite, at it’s finest. Yep, I said it. I was being hypocritical. I had failed to remove the plank from my own eye as I was clearly noticing the speck in my brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5). My problem was this. I was on the worldly track of the term slacker.

Television gives me this idea. People give me this idea. Satan and this world give me these ideas. We are to live this way or live that way. But, when I live worldly, I don’t live Godly. I can’t be of both worlds. I am to regard people from a Christ-like point of view (2 Corinthians 5:16).

There I sat, amazed at God’s timing once again in my life. I realized those sayings I spoke like “ I will NEVER do that”, or “thank goodness I do that differently” instead became the Lord referring me back to my ways. I quickly had to ask for forgiveness for not reading the bible that day, but instead caring about what someone was wearing. Forgiveness was needed for getting upset that it took so long in the checkout line when I was grumpy with the cashier. I should have instead been using this awkward five minutes to ask this lovely woman about her day and show Jesus to her.

Jesus presents himself in everyday opportunities. And so does Satan. I am a firm believer of this. This could be a whole discussion in itself. BUT, the point of this devotion is this: We must not be critical of those worldly things around is because they are that – worldly. However, we must remember that the Lord has shown us how to live in a book. The bible reminds us when we are being hypocritical. I know many Christians don’t like this word. But, the shoe fit and I was wearing it. It was no clearer than if Jesus would have been standing in my family room discussing it with me.

Lesson learned, Father. Lesson learned.

Dear Father, forgive me for my impatience, my need to discuss issues that aren’t mine, and my human nature of pointing out other’s faults when I have so many of my own. Thank you for your constant forgiveness in my life and thank you for the awesome sacrifice that was given so I can one day meet you in Heaven. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application: Try to remember a term recently you have used like “always” or “never” and refer it back to your own life. We don’t know other people’s circumstances and we don’t know why they have chosen to do these things. Try rephrasing your sentence to “I will try to (fill in the blank)” or “I would rather not (fill in the blank). Redirect your attention to what you will try to do or rather not do in your own life. Clearly focus through God’s eyes on the nature of your own ways!

Power Verses:
Psalm 5:8, “Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies – make your way straight before me.” (NIV)
Psalm 139:24, “And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (KJV)
Matthew 6:13, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. (KJV)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Jesus Loves Us

by Charity Pence

This Week's Verse: John 19:30 "So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, 'It is finished!' And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit." (NKJV)

No matter how many times I read the story of Jesus' death on the cross, I cannot fully wrap my mind around what Jesus did for all of mankind. Jesus' physical walk here on Earth did not last long, but consider the agony He must have felt as He took that final walk. He carried His cross alone for as long as He could. And with each step, He knew what He would come to but kept walking. What love He must have held in His heart for humanity!

Despite all the miracles He performed and the lessons He taught, Jesus was hated by many. But He loved them all in return. "And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgatha, where they crucified Him." John 19:17, 18 (NKJV) By the time of Jesus' death, he'd been betrayed by Judas Iscariot, who was a friend and disciple, and He was denied by Peter three times. He'd been beaten, spit on, had a crown of thorns forced into His head, but He loved each of His offenders. And before giving up His spirit, He made one simple request. "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34 (KJV)

Jesus' love was so great, it's inconceivable. But it's the truth; it's real. Celebrate that this weekend as you celebrate Easter.

Dear Jesus, thank You for dying upon the cross to save me from my sins. Thank You for loving me even when I haven't deserved it. I pray, Lord, that You will help me to take that love and spread it to Your children so that all will see Your glory. In Your name, Amen.

There's nothing wrong with egg hunting and eating chocolate bunnies, but make sure you take time to reflect on everything Jesus went through to give you everlasting life. We, as Christians, bear Jesus' name. So please honor Him today.

Power Verses:

John 11:25-26: "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.'" (NIV)
Mark 15:38, 39 "Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, 'Truly this Man was the Son of God!'" (NKJ)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

If God Leads, Will You Follow?
by Charity Pence

This Week’s Verse: 1 Peter 2:21 “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”

I have been at my current job for three years. To some people, that may not seem like a long time. However, when I began working there my intent was to be there for no more than a year and a half. I was going to go to grad school, but that did not turn out the way I expected. Okay, who am I kidding? I felt like that door was slammed in my face. But I know God has a plan for me, and my current job is just a stepping stone to where God wants me to be. The question is, when God finally calls me, will I be ready to follow Him?

In the first chapter of Jonah, we learn God called Jonah for a particular task, and Jonah went the opposite direction. Jonah didn’t want any part of the work God was calling him to do. A raging sea and the belly of a great fish were needed to convince Jonah that he would be better off serving God. When I read this story, I wonder how often we make things worse for ourselves by doing our own thing rather than what God has called us to do.

In previous posts, I have mentioned that I believe God gave me the ability and desire to write. I have found myself regularly asking God what He wants me to do. Although I have been given the opportunity to do these devotions, I do not believe this is all God has in store. I love to write. I know what I want to write. But what if what I want is not what God wants? Am I willing to trade my plans for God’s?

Have you ever considered how many of the disciples wanted to leave everything they had behind to follow Jesus? “And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed him.” Matt. 4:18-20 (NKJ) The last verse makes the choice seem so simple. They immediately left. If God called you today away from your job, your family, would you go?

At some point we are all called by God to a particular task. But will we answer?

Dear Heavenly Father, my desire to serve you is real. As I seek your guidance, continue preparing me for your work so that when the time comes for me to go, I will go immediately. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Application: God calls each and every one of us to serve Him. But what He calls one to do may not be the same as what He calls the next person to do. God may ask you to leave for a specific destination. Or He may ask you to complete a task closer to home. Whichever the case, continue to seek His presence. If you trust Him, He will prepare you.

Power Verses:
Matt. 9:9 “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” (NIV)
John 12:26 “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me, and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” (NKJ)
Romans 11:29 “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (NKJ)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

For our followers (and anyone else who comes along)...

...many apologies sent your way for the recent lack of devotions. I had to have my hand in a brace for several weeks due to some inflamed tendons and wasn't able to type well. However, my hand is now pain free and you should start seeing new devotions posted soon. (I'm hoping by this weekend!)

God bless!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Just Rest

by Bethany Lashbrook

Today’s Verse: 1 Peter 5:10, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (NIV)

This past December, I was exhausted. You know the bit. The type of exhaustion from Christmas programs, special events, work parties, girlfriend’s parties, holiday get-togethers, church gatherings, hanging of the greens, decorating the Christmas trees, making Christmas crafts, and did I mention shopping for presents? AND, top onto all of this, my job (as in my physical job where I have a title) and MY JOB – ya know, the one where I cook supper most every evening, read bed-time stories, do dishes, clean house, keep up on laundry, play a game every now and again and get everyone to and from their schedule (on time, mind you). And, don’t forget my quiet time; that time that I need to relax, spend time alone with the Lord, read the bible, say my prayers, and reflect on God’s blessings. Did you notice how this came last on my to-do list for the craziest month of the year?

And, in all this – I heard the Lord tell me several times (okay, I’ll be honest – LOTS of times) to slow down. “Slow down. Enjoy. Relax. Let the small things slide. Choose your battles. Come to me. Sit beside me and pray. Quit trying so hard. You should only care what I think, not others. Remember what this time of the year is for.” All month long, I tried to listen to the Lord telling me to take it easy, but there just wasn’t enough time to relax. I even sent out a prayer chain for my girlfriends to cover me in prayer so I wouldn’t get the flu that each of my family members had received.

And then January came; a time to relax, right? Not quite. I could go through the to-do list that I had in January, but I’m sure you are all aware that “getting back in the swing of things” is almost as hard as the actual holiday season. This year, the holiday season left me more tired than rejuvenated. Family squabbles, doctor appointments, unexpected news, going right back to work, no snow days – I just didn’t get that time to rest.

And February came with a bang. After two months of me ignoring the Lord telling me to slow down, it happened. I got sick. Not just a little sick. But, a lot sick. The list kept growing of what was wrong. First it was a fever; then I couldn’t swallow. My muscles ached. I couldn’t get out of bed, literally. I became dehydrated and laid in bed for 3 days. I couldn’t think, eat, cook, drink, or take care of my family, my business, or my job duties. I know the Lord didn’t cause me to be sick. But, I do know that getting sick was an indirect response to me ignoring the Lord’s suggestion of rest.

After I woke, my thought was to apologize to the Lord for not talking to him while lying in bed. I went 3 days without a word to the Lord. I felt horrible, yet, I didn’t hear the Lord rebuking me for it. Instead, he adjusted my thoughts to his restoration of my body. Since then, I’ve been looking in the bible of God’s healing touches, his restoration to all men. Jesus healed the blind and those with disease (Luke 7:21 and Luke 6:10). I am reminded in 1 Peter 5:10 that the Lord will renew my strength and place me on a strong foundation. And, I know that many times, the Lord had compassion on those who didn’t listen to Him (huh, sounds familiar) and restored their lives (Zechariah 10:6). He can restore every bit of what he made because he is LORD, he is our Jehovah Rapha – our eternal Healer.

So, I woke up from my sickness with a renewed sense of who the Lord wants me to be. Basically, I need to smell the roses. Catch my drift? I am healed and for that, I am grateful, but I believe the lesson in this one went a bit deeper than anticipated. The Lord restores my soul and I am glad!

Lord, thank you for your healing touch in my life this week, both outward and inward. Thank you for the reminder of WHO is in charge. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application: When was the last time you took some time to smell the roses? This week, make it a point to sit down at least once and just soak in God and his presence in your life, whether it’s with a good book (perhaps the bible), a romance movie, or just playing a game with the kiddos. And – enjoy it!

Power Verses:
Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (NIV)
Malachi 4:2, “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. (NLT)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Two Women, Two Wells

by guest Josephine Collett

Wells gush forth throughout the pages of the Bible. Like many natural features, they are both functional, providing people with water to drink, utilize, claim and fight over; and symbolic. Wells signify God’s provision, life, health, prosperity and cleansing. In passages dripping with a prophetic signature, Jacob rolls a stone away from a well’s mouth to water the sheep (Genesis chapter 29); and David thirsts for water from the well at Bethlehem (2 Samuel 23). Biblically speaking, wells also have a lot to do with women.

Examine the wells in the Bible and there will often be a woman nearby. Women would congregate daily at the local well to collect water, socialize and keep an eye out for anybody new in town. Wells seemingly provided an acceptable place for young men and women to meet and greet one another.

Consider Rebekah in Genesis 24. An opulent- looking emissary and his entourage arrives in town. Rebekah comes to the well with her water jar, generously volunteering to draw water for him and his ten camels, no slight task. This offer is the specific answer to the prayers of Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, sent to find a wife for Abraham's son, Isaac. Rebekah is of the correct kin group, pretty, kind, hard-working, adventurous, and a virgin - a desirable wife to be sure.

Rebekah happily received the gifts of jewelry presented to her and eagerly set forth to marry an unknown stranger. God led Eliezer to the place where Rebekah was waiting, and guided Rebekah into His plan for her life, as she was to play an important role in the foundation of the nation of Israel.

Wells can symbolise sexuality in the Bible. It’s been suggested that the enclosed spring and sealed fountain (fountains and wells being sometimes used interchangeably) described in Song of Songs chapter 4 refer to the anatomy of a virgin. Married couples are advised to drink water from their own well (Proverbs 5) and for those contemplating adultery, Proverbs 23 reminds us that “a wayward wife is a narrow well,” not likely to be a source of delight for very long.

In John’s gospel, chapter 4, we discover another well, one of only a few references to wells and springs in the New Testament, and another woman, the celebrated “Woman at the Well.” This unnamed Samaritan is a very different lady to Rebekah. She too approaches a compelling stranger. His friends have left and he's alone and tired.

The place may be of significance also, for Jacob’s well, back in Genesis 33, refers to a site where Jacob took an easy option and camped near to the Canaanite city of Shechem, resulting in the subsequent rape of his daughter Dinah by the son of a Shechemite ruler, the first rape mentioned in the bible.

The Samaritan woman at the well is no innocent virgin. She sounds intelligent. She discusses spiritual concepts. She was probably beautiful – she certainly had no trouble attracting men. But she’s been around. She wouldn’t ever be seen as a desirable wife. No social life for her. She’s an outcast, gossiped about, likely as not to seduce a husband. She makes the trek for water alone in the afternoon sun.

There’s a man who wants a drink. What thoughts might have run through her mind? Maybe, like Rebekah, she was looking for a different life. What could he offer her? He will even drink from her cup, Samaritan pariah that she is. What does he really want?

Go and get your husband, says Jesus.
I don’t have one.
No, you’ve had five.
I see you’re a prophet.

It’s an interesting exchange. Why did she call him a prophet after he stated the number of “husbands” she’d had? He knew all about her. What’s more, she knew he knew. He knew how many, when, who. Maybe she’d been sexually abused in the past. Maybe she just made bad choices. Maybe she was now looking for number six. Who knows? Jesus did.

Jesus proclaims himself the Messiah to this hurting woman, offering her “living water”. An amazing transformation occurs. For the first time she’s invited to feel clean on the inside, freed from a life of bondage and sin, and in a lasting relationship with someone who loves her unconditionally, faithfully and respectfully.

The outcast is transformed into an evangelist who witnesses to her neighbours. She becomes one of the most well-known characters of the Bible, her story ministering through the centuries.

In any given group of men and women there will be those whose sexual history is uncomplicated and joyful. For others there may be great sadness over a record of wrong choices, or no choice at all. Rebekah and the unnamed Samaritan women may seem worlds apart. Yet they are united in demonstrating that in all circumstances God loves and esteems his created people and is in the business of redeeming their fallen lives.

God has a plan for every person who desires in repentance and faith to be in relationship with Him. As a shepherd, He will lead each one into the life that He has planned. He is the true lover of our souls, our Creator, Saviour, Counsellor, and so much more. Praise Him.

"To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life." Rev 21:6

Sunday, January 29, 2012

God Our Motivator

by Charity Pence

This Week’s Verse: “For the Lord will be your confidence.” Proverbs 3:26a (NIV)

I was talking to a writing buddy of mine earlier this week, and he mentioned he was not feeling very motivated to work on his writing project. He was looking for reinforcement to know he wasn’t wasting his time. And I realized something. We all lack motivation at some point.

Our daily demands keep us running, and it’s difficult to come up with the energy to put forth in something when we’re not seeing any positive results. In Deuteronomy 5:32, God tells the Israelites, “Therefore you shall be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” (NKJ) But maybe you’re tripping on stumbling block after stumbling block. Or perhaps you’re working on a task God has called you to do, and you have an expectation for how it will turn out, but it’s becoming nothing like you imagined it would be.

When we get to this point, we often question ourselves. Is this worth it? Am I doing something wrong? Should I do something else instead? And that’s where Satan gets us. Rather than listening to the devil and his lies, we need to focus on God. “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” Psalm 37: 3-5 (KJV)

The fact is, what God asks us to do is not always easy. And we are human. We get tired, discouraged, scared. But Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (NKJ) And that’s the truth.

Dear Heavenly Father, sometimes I get tired, and I wonder if I’m wasting my time. Forgive me for when I haven’t trusted in You as I should have. Strengthen me; help me to tune out the world so that the only voice I hear is Yours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Don’t let the devil convince you to quit. Trust God and God alone. He will be your strength and assurance.

Power Verses:
Zechariah 4:6b “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (NKJ) Psalm 121:1, 2 “I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (NIV)
Romans 5: 3, 4 “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope:” (KJV)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Are You Robbing God?

by Charity Pence

This Week’s Verse: Deuteronomy 8:18 “But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” (KJV)

What do you think of when you hear about tithing? When the offering plate is passed around at church, do you just throw in a few dollars, believing that’s enough? Malachi 3:8 says, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, in what way have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings.” (NKJ) Basically, this verse says we are robbing God when we do not tithe. To tithe means to give God ten percent of what we have. And I don’t think God is asking much from us.

It’s easy to make excuses for not tithing. Maybe we can’t afford to. Or maybe we think giving of our time is enough. But God’s word makes clear that we are to give ten percent of our money to Him. Not only that, He has promised blessings to those who are obedient. God even tells us to test Him! Malachi 3:10 goes on to say this, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this, If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”

Imagine what God could do if we were more obedient in this area. We would be blessed, and we’d have more to offer to God, which would further His kingdom. Look at it this way. The more you give to the church, the more money the church has to feed the poor, to bring the Gospel to those who have never heard it, to give shelter to the homeless. And the list goes on. God doesn’t give us money so we can buy ourselves material objects. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t believe God wants us living in poverty. And I don’t believe it’s wrong to have nice things, provided we give to God first.

Proverbs 28:22 warns, “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.” (KJV) So what are you doing with your money?

Dear Heavenly Father, I have learned the hard way what blessings we miss out on when we do not return to You what is Yours. Please forgive me for the times I have held back what I owed to You. And show us how we can be more obedient in this area. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you are not currently obeying God’s command to tithe, search your heart to determine why. What do you gain by holding on to your money? Give to God that which is His, and watch Him move!

Power Verses:
Proverbs 28:20 “A faithful man shall abound with blessings, but he who makes haste to be rich [at any cost] shall not go unpunished.” (Amp)
Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (NKJ)
Proverbs 11:24, 25 “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.” (NKJ)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Called By God

By Charity Pence

This Week’s Verse: James 2:26 “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (NIV)

Have you ever taken time to consider what God has gifted you with? I’m not talking about material gifts; I’m talking about spiritual gifts. God has designed each one of us with certain characteristics that make us who we are, and we are to use those characteristics to further His kingdom. Romans 12:4 states, “For as we have many members in one body, but all members do not have the same function.” (NKJ) Chapter 12 goes on to list specific gifts that God has placed within His people. I once took an assessment ranking my gifts. The top three were serving, having mercy, and teaching.

Writing has been a passion of mine since junior high. When I first discovered my joy for writing, I never considered it was from God. But now I know it is my God-given desire. And when I agreed to take over this blog ministry, it was my way of putting together what God has equipped me with. I do not like speaking in front of others. I get nervous and trip over my words, become embarrassed and then more nervous. But I love to write, and I believe I can. And I enjoy being able to serve God by teaching others through this ministry.

I say all this because I have had something stirring in my heart for a long time. I have this feeling that something big is coming. Sometimes it’s hard to remember there is a spiritual battle taking place right now because we can’t see it. But Satan is working overtime. 2 Timothy 4:2-5 states, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (NKJ) These verses remind us that the time to act is now, not tomorrow or the day after. That being the case, we need to make sure we are doing our part to reach others for Christ. And we need to keep working even if we can’t see the results because God is working, too.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for the gifts you have instilled in me. Help me to use those gifts for You and Your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Applications: So what is your gift? If you don’t know, review Romans Chapter 12 and seek God’s guidance so He can show you the work He has called for you to complete.

Power Verses:
Philippians 4:9 “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” (KJV)
I Corinthians 7:17 “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.” (KJV)
James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (NIV)