Abide

standard November 8, 2017 1 response

My nephew Jeremiah was barely a month old when I had an opportunity to babysit him for the afternoon. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on him for a few hours and kiss on his sweet round cheeks.

If you’ve ever been around a newborn, then you know that they typically only eat and sleep which was just fine with me because I was ready to do some cuddling.

After feeding Jeremiah, he immediately went to sleep on my chest and his soft breathing in and out lulled me into a state of rest. With each sweet snore that he made my soul became more and more still.  As I soaked in the moment it reminded me of what it means to truly abide.

Jesus tells us in John 15:9:

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.”     

The word “abide” in the original language also carries these definitions: to remain, to dwell, and my personal favorite, to be held.   

When you wake each morning take some time to spend with the Lord. As you do, you will feel that love growing stronger with each passing day. Jesus loves you so fully and completely.

Just as Jeremiah was content to be held and loved on by me that afternoon, allow yourself to feel the love of your Savior.

Just Abide.

Even If

standard October 18, 2017 20 responses

Sometimes you’re walking through life and it all makes total sense. A fall breeze is blowing and you’ve got your windows down and your favorite song is blasting on max volume.

And then there are times when absolutely nothing makes sense. You were minding your own business, but suddenly your legs were kicked out from under you, landing you flat on your behind wondering what in the world just happened.

How could your circumstances have changed so drastically within a 24-hour period? It’s a valid question and it’s one that I wish I had the answer to.

I’m sure Martha and Mary felt somewhat similar when they were just trucking through life in the quiet town of Bethany, enjoying being a part of this new movement called “the Way” that heralded Jesus of Nazareth as the long-awaited Messiah.  When all of a sudden their beloved brother falls ill. And it’s not a “he’ll sleep it off and be better by tomorrow” sort of sick, but it’s evident that he has a life-threatening illness that requires immediate attention. They do some quick thinking and send word to their friend Jesus and ask Him to come on the double!

Jesus receives the message and this is His response: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” (John 11:5-6)

Wait. What??

One of His very best friends is sick, SO He stays put?  What kind of sacrificial love is that? That seems a little counterproductive, wouldn’t you say?

By the time Jesus gets there Lazarus is dead. Not just any kind of dead either, but dead-dead. Like four-day-old-stinking-in-the-grave dead. It’s bad. And Martha let’s Him know it.

Where have You been? If you would have been here, He would not be dead!

Adding to His mysterious behavior, Jesus replies in the most cryptic way. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Umm, yes…I think I do. But my brother’s still dead and I’m beyond devastated.

To say that we believe when life is good doesn’t take much faith.  But we have to be willing to ask ourselves this question when life throws us that inevitable curve ball.

Do I believe this?

Because believing Jesus is the truth is easy enough UNTIL…

your brother dies;

you miscarry that baby that you waited and prayed for;

your spouse confesses the unthinkable to you;

…THEN it’s personal.

But faith is believing EVEN IF…

your brother stays in the grave;

your arms remain empty;

your spouse refuses to come home;

…Trusting in His sovereign plan.

Jesus never said that life would be fair. In fact, He was perfectly straightforward when He told us that in this world we WILL have trouble, but we are to take heart because He has overcome the world! (John 16:33)

He is still the Resurrection and Life, EVEN IF life does not work out the way we thought it would.

Jesus eventually kept His promise to raise Lazarus from the dead with the purpose that God would be glorified through the act (take time to read this incredible story in John 11 if you aren’t familiar with the details). Both Martha and Mary received their miracle that day when their brother was resurrected and reunited with them. However, this was not the case for my sister and me.  Why did God allow Lazarus to live and Jeremy to die? This is a question that I have often pondered and I still do not know the answer to. Nevertheless, I had a choice to make, just as you do.

When He says that He is the Resurrection and the Life and He then asks me, “April, do you believe this?” I answer Him wholeheartedly:

Yes, Lord. I believe You are the One who holds the resurrection power.

I believe You are the only Way to eternal life.

I believe You are the Truth.

Even if…

(“Even If” by Mercy Me)

An Anchor for the Soul

standard August 8, 2017 2 responses

Summertime is in full swing, as is the air conditioning and the consumption of sweet iced tea.  Here in the deep south, one of our favorite summer pastimes is to take long boat rides down the river, sometimes water skiing for hours on end, and other times fishing until our heart’s content. It is always great fun to slather on the sunscreen and fellowship with friends and family, enjoying the day without a care in the world.

However, I know firsthand that in an instant the weather can change and a severe thunderstorm can appear out of nowhere.  This exact thing happened when I was on a family redfishing trip in the deep marsh off the coast of New Orleans.  One moment we were soaking in the warmth of the sun, and the next we were fleeing to find shelter from the pelting rain.

We raced to the nearest boat dock and hurriedly put our anchor down to keep us from slamming into danger.  And as we huddled together waiting for the storm to pass, we were thankful for the sense of security that the anchor provided us with while we waited and hoped for the sun’s return.

This situation reminded me of the imagery of a sure and firm anchor that the writer of Hebrews gives to illustrate the promises of our faithful God.

“So that…we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope – like a sure and firm anchor of the soul.” (Hebrews 6:18-19)

He lets us know that when the storm rages, it requires more of us than simply to remember the promises of our unchangeable God, but we must also “seize the hope set before us.”  We reach out our hand and take hold of something sure and firm.  Something that is bigger than the wind and the waves. It is hope.

It is hope that centers us.  Hope that keeps us from crashing into the bank.  Hope that keeps our eyes on Jesus instead of our circumstances.  Hope as an anchor for our frightened soul.

The storms of life will undoubtedly come our way, usually when things are moving along just fine.  We may be caught off guard at first, wondering where is God in our time of need.  But then we remember that He has given us His promises as something firm and sure to keep us centered.

He has given us hope to seize.  He has given us Jesus as an anchor for our soul. 

God, You are my refuge when the storm rages. Help me to seize the hope that You have given me and to look to Jesus as the sure and firm anchor for my soul. Amen.

Dear Teenage Girl, Don’t Believe Everything You Read…Teen Vogue is NOT Your Friend

standard July 21, 2017 4 responses

Dear Teenage Girl,

Yes, you, the eleven to seventeen-year-old girl. How are you doing? I mean, how are you REALLY doing?

It’s hard to know in today’s world, isn’t it? You are constantly being bombarded with pressure to conform…which boots should you wear in order to keep the fashion police off your back, what’s the right makeup to apply in order to make your eyes smolder, what are the most beneficial after-school activities to choose in order to boost your college applications? And now, thanks to an outrageous article by Teen Vogue, you are being encouraged to consider having anal sex as a form of pleasure.

Never mind that fact that your actual body is changing at a rapid rate and now you have these things called hormones that are constantly causing your feelings to take you on a roller coaster ride. You obviously don’t have enough on your plate because Teen Vogue thinks it is necessary that you be educated on the “benefits and positives when it comes to anal [sex],” despite the fact that you will undoubtedly come into contact with fecal matter. But don’t worry, Darling Heart, according to the brilliant writers there, “It’s NOT a big deal. Everyone poops. Everyone has a butt.”

Oh, Sweet Girl, please, please, PLEASE do not believe everything that you read in a magazine that only has one objective in mind: to take your money! They could care less about you and this lovely yet fragile time in your life called adolescence.  The media has long been aware that “sex sells” and for years they have been pulling out all the stops, but I would venture to say that this is taking it to an unprecedented level.

I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to be one, but I am smart enough to know that having a penis enter a young girl’s rectum can have serious medical ramifications.  But again, I’m not a doctor.  However, here is a link to the Medical Institute’s take on The Consequences of Heterosexual Anal Sex for Women in case you want to get the hard facts.

But that’s not why I’m writing you this letter, Dear One. I’m writing because I see you and your precious heart.

You see, the enemy (aka Satan or the devil) will do everything in his power to convince you that you are anything but precious. He’ll say things like:
you’re ugly,
you’re fat,
no boy would ever want you,
your daddy hates you,
you better get some while you can, because life is short,
your boyfriend is going to break up with you if you don’t have sex with him,
you’re just a prude,
EVERYONE else is doing it so why shouldn’t you,
haven’t you heard? Anal sex is now vogue!  

Let me be crystal clear: every single word that Satan utters is a LIE. He hates you and he would love nothing more than for you to hate yourself as well.  He knows that if he can get you to buy into the culture of the world and have you slip further and further down that rabbit hole, then the less effective you will be for the Kingdom of Light (which he hates even more than he hates you).  And before you know it, you find your precious heart surrounded by intense darkness.

But hear this, Love: you have a Fighter! There is someone who is willing to stand up for you, to take the enemy out and beat him to a pulp for talking to you like that.  He is furious that you were made to feel insecure and ugly for a single second and He says things like:
you are beautiful,
you are worthy of honor and respect,
you are captivating,
there’s nothing that you can do to separate you from My love,
I have the most amazing plans for your life,
you’re irreplaceable,
I created the wondrous art of sex and I can’t wait for you to experience it with the one I have chosen for you in marriage.
And He does not think these things only because He wants something from you. He thinks this way about you because HE CREATED YOU!

This is not a fairytale that is too good to be true. Your Fighter (unlike your enemy) does not lie.  But he does want you to know that the fact that He has chosen to protect you from harm comes at an enormous cost.  Yet to Him, the cost is worth it. YOU are worth it. You are worth every drop of blood that spilled from His body. You are worth every bruise He incurred. He endured every brutal blow to His body with your life in mind. Do you believe Him?

Dear Teen Girl, you are going to have to make many choices in the years to come. Some will be easy, like which mascara to use. But some will be harder, like how to say no to mind-altering drugs or sexual activity with a boy you think is really hot. You are going to have to learn how to balance fun with homework. You’ll have to figure out who are your true friends versus those who only want to use you for something. You’ll need to discern what is the best use of your time and energy.

But the most important choice that you will ever make is to take your Fighter up on His offer of eternal life and learn how to walk in the light day by day.

Will it be easy? No, my love, I’m afraid it won’t.  There will be parties that you will inevitably be excluded from. There will be boys who will drop you once they figure out you won’t put out. But will it be worth it to live in a constant state of love and acceptance instead of self-loathing and despair? Absolutely, without a doubt.

So, here’s what I want you to do from this moment forward: I want you to first ask your Fighter, Jesus Christ, into your precious heart you if you haven’t already. Next ask Him to lead you as you learn to navigate how to live IN the world without being consumed by its culture. Ask Him to put His beautiful LIGHT inside of you so that you can shine brighter than any vogue model ever could.  And then tell your friends not to believe everything that they read in a self-serving magazine that says that anal sex is awesome. We all know that’s just a load of crap.

With much love,
April Rodgers
Reflecting Light in Everyday Life
The Lord your God
wins victory after victory
    and is always with you.
He celebrates and sings
    because of you,
and he will refresh your life
    with his love.
Zephaniah 3:17 (CEV)

To Be Known

standard May 31, 2017 8 responses

I recently visited my favorite coffee shop to grab a cup of coffee and work on some writing for a few hours.  I remember feeling adventurous that particular day, so I decided that I would try something new off the menu.  When I reached the counter I had made my decision and thus confidently placed my order, not realizing that I had ordered off the Frappuccino side.  The friendly barista looked sideways at me and asked, “Is this for you, Honey, or are you ordering for someone else?”

I was a little taken aback, but I replied, “It’s for me.”

To which she said, “Oh no, Sweetie.  That’s a frozen coffee, and you like your coffee hot.  How about I make you a Flat White.”  It was a statement, not a question.

Dumbfounded, I replied, “Okay. Let’s do that.”

Moments later, she carefully handed me the steaming mug of coffee sprinkled with raw sugar. I took sip of the velvety coffee and then looked up at her and said, “It’s just right.”  She nodded and moved on to the next customer, obviously pleased with her work.

I sat down at the table thinking how nice it felt to be KNOWN. It reminded me of the psalm that King David wrote about how wonderful it is to be known by the Creator of the earth.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.

Psalm 139: 1-5 (NKJV)

The phrase “to be known” signifies how a friend or companion would know us, meaning that “God is not confined to heaven…indifferent to human concerns.” [1] Isn’t that an amazing thought?  God knows us intricately, and not just because He formed us, but also because He is our friend.  He knows what makes us feel happy or sad, excited or scared, loved or rejected.  He truly cares about these things, and He wants us to bring our victories as well as our fears or failures to Him.

Which brings us to the next point: God wants us to KNOW Him! You may be familiar with the verse Jeremiah 29:11, but let’s explore verses 12 and 13 as well.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

But wait! It gets even better. The Lord says to Jeremiah in Chapter 33:3:

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

Wow! How is that for an incentive to get to know God better?

Somehow it is easier to comprehend that the God who created all things knows who we are, but it’s a little more difficult to grasp that He wants us to know Him as well. But He does and that’s part of what makes the Gospel so beautiful. The more we know Jesus, the better we know the Father and have access to the Holy Spirit.

So how do we go about knowing God better? Jesus tells us that we only need to ask, seek, and knock, and the door will be opened for us to find Him (see Matthew 7:7-8). Engaging in prayer and reading God’s Word are two ways that we can form and sustain a relationship with Him.

What a precious gift that we get to be friends with the Almighty! It is a divine feeling to not only KNOW Him and receive deeper insight, but also to feel that we are truly KNOWN.

Oh Lord, I call out to You like David did: search me and know my heart! You know my hopes and dreams, fears and failures, and You love me the same. Help me to remember to call on You, knowing that You will listen and answer me. What a reward it will be to gain knowledge of great and unsearchable things! I want to know You better, Lord. Amen.

[1] Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Vol. 5, 208.

 

The Marvelous Cornerstone

standard April 12, 2017 2 responses

Last fall I sat on the Southern Steps in Jerusalem. These steps are remains of the Temple, God’s dwelling place on earth. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I had butterflies in my stomach, sensing the Lord’s presence, knowing that I truly was on holy ground.

(The Southern Steps leading up to where the Temple would have been.)

(Part of the original wall. The first layer is almost as tall as I am.)

(Ruins of the Temple.)

These were the same steps that Jesus and other Hebrew boys would have climbed as a child to sit under the teaching of a well-respected rabbi. They are the same steps where the Jewish Pilgrims would gather to sing the Song of Ascents, moving up step by step as their lips sang the praises of Psalms 120 through 134. And they are also the same steps that supported Jesus’ feet as His authority was challenged by the chief priests, scribes, and elders within days of His crucifixion and resurrection.

Jesus. God in flesh. The maker of heaven and earth who spoke creation into existence. This very same Jesus is now being disrespected on the steps of His very own Temple.

And in response Jesus tells a graphic story of a man who owned a vineyard. The man makes all the necessary preparations in order to have the vineyard succeed and he then leaves the vineyard in the hands of capable farmers. When the man sends one of his slaves to collect a portion of the harvest, the farmers beat him and send him away empty-handed. This happens again and again until eventually the farmers start killing the slaves until the man is left with only his beloved son to send. He thinks, “Surely they will respect my son.” But, of course, they didn’t. They killed him and threw him out of his own vineyard. Despised and rejected.

As you and I read this story from Mark 12, we have the hindsight to know that this exact thing will happen to Jesus just days later and we want to shout to the chief priests, “Don’t do it!! He’s the Messiah! He’s come to save you, His chosen people.” But the actual audience doesn’t get what Jesus is telling them. However, He knows just how to get their attention…by quoting Scripture. Jesus asks them point blank, “Have you not even read this Scripture:

‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

And immediately the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders would have known that Jesus was quoting Psalm 118. It’s a Psalm that they would have known in its entirety. Listen to what it says and allow the magnitude of Jesus’ point to register within your spirit:

This is the gate of the Lord;
The righteous will enter through it.
I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me,
And You have become my salvation.
The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner stone.
This is from the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:20-24, emphasis mine)

How many times have we woken up to a beautiful day and said, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it,“? I know that I’ve used it thousands of times, especially when trying to wake up my children. And on another note, I’ve always wondered why Good Friday was called “good” when it was the day that our Savior was brutally killed and thrown out of His own creation. But I never thought to put the two together. How could the day that Jesus died on the cross be a day worthy of rejoicing?

Sitting there on those Southern Steps is when I finally realized that the day that the Lord has made, the day that was worth rejoicing over, was in fact Good Friday!! Yes, it was the day that the cornerstone was rejected, but it was also the day that salvation came for all people. And it was totally the Lord’s doing. This is so profound!

Jesus Christ alone is that cornerstone, the firm foundation on which we place our hope. The cornerstone should not be your parents, or your spouse, or your kids, or your friends, or your job, because Lord knows they will let you down and your foundation will crumble. There is only One who will never let you down and His name is Jesus. Don’t be like the chief priests and reject the very One who gives life. Put Him at the center of your life and build around Him.

As we prepare to celebrate our risen Lord this Easter weekend, I pray that we will remember the magnitude of the rejected stone who endured so much on that Good Friday. It truly was a day to rejoice and be glad.

Because that chief cornerstone was rejected, you and I have an opportunity to receive our salvation. Because His hands and feet were nailed to the cross, you and I are able to enter through the gate of the Lord. Because of the Lord’s doing, you and I have a reason to rejoice. And the cornerstone that is Jesus Christ is so very MARVELOUS in our eyes!

(A replica of a cornerstone in Jerusalem.)

No Greater Joy

standard March 25, 2017 3 responses

Today’s Reflecting Light is brought to you by my very special friend, Lesli Thomas. Lesli is an AMAZING wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, volunteer, and much more. She makes God’s Word a priority in her everyday life and it shows up in everything that she does, especially in raising her handsome boys. I know you will enjoy her wisdom!

Two years ago I chose to adopt a word for the year – JOY – to dig deep into and find out how God desired that in my life.  Joy means so much to me as I have seen it bless my life by the reality that it is a daily choice… sure there are times that someone blesses my life which brings joy but most days it is a choice to find joy in my circumstances.  Fast forward two years to 2017 and the word of the year became TRUTH.  Then this scripture jumped off the wall at me…   “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  3 John 1:4

My husband and I have two little sports loving, outside playing, lego building, bayou fishing, dirt covered boys.  Most days as parents seem so full with school, sports, homework, playtime, laundry, cooking, baths, bedtime, repeat.  It’s easy to get trapped in the cycle of “life” and wake up days, months, or even years later and feel like what just happened?  How are they already 6 and 8 years old?

This verse speaks such life to me… and so much intentionality!  I desire to experience a life full of joy, don’t you?  And I desire even more for my children to “walk in the truth.”  Then this got me thinking about 2 things: 1) What is truth? And 2) How will my children know truth?

In an effort to answer the question of “what is truth,” here are a few truths found in God’s Word.

Truths about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit:

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in times of trouble.  Psalm 46:1

God is our strength and our shield, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.  Psalm 28:7-8

God is with us wherever we go.  Joshua 1:9

God is our deliverer from all fears.  Psalm 34:4

God is our consoler, the bringer of joy.  Psalm 94:19

God is my helper.  Hebrews 13:6

God cares for me and lifts me with His mighty hand.  1 Peter 5:6-7

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  John 14:6

Jesus is our advocate who speaks to God in our defense. 1 John 2:1

The Spirit of God gives us power, love, and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7

The Holy Spirit comforts us, teaches us, and reminds us of Jesus’ teachings.  John 14:26

The Spirit guides us in all truth.  John 16:13

The Spirit helps us in our weakness, intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  Romans 8:26

Truths about us:

I along with my children must know Jesus Christ – the way, the truth, and the life – to come to the Father.  John 14:6

To have fellowship with one another and be purified from all sin by the blood of Jesus, we must walk in the light.  1 John 1:7

We must love God and love one another.  1 John 4:21

We are known as children of God when we do what is right, obey his commands, love one another, and bear fruit.  1 John 2:3-6, 3:1, 3:10

We are His hands and feet, the body of Christ.  1 Corinthians 12:27

We are children of the Most High.  Psalm 82:6

We are not our own; we were bought with a price.  1 Corinthians 6:20

We are adopted to the sonship.  Romans 8:15

We are strong and courageous.  1 Corinthians 16:13

We are the light of the world.  Matthew 5:14

We are created by the Lord, His masterpiece, to do good things.  Ephesians 2:10

We are redeemed, summoned by name, the Lords.  Isaiah 43:1

We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.  Philippians 4:13

We are given strength when we are weary and increased power when we are weak.  Isaiah 40:29

We are strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.   Ephesians 6:10

We will soar on wings of eagles, run and not grow weary.  We will walk and not be faint when we hope in the Lord.  Isaiah 40:31

We cannot be separated from the love of God in Jesus.  Romans 8:38-39

Truths about Salvation:

By the gospel you are saved… for what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and then appeared to many.  1 Corinthians 15:1-8

In an effort to answer the question of “how will my children know the truth,” here is where I as a parent find such conviction.  One of my God-given responsibilities as a parent is to teach my children His Word – the absolute truth.  Take a minute and soak that in… that is heavy!  I must be intentional!  I play a part in experiencing “no greater joy.” 

And if 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 holds true, then of first importance is that I teach my sons about Christ and the gospel that saves.  Judges 2:10 is a stark warning to us as parents.  It states that “after that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.”  The Israelites had been rescued out of 400 years of slavery in Egypt yet it only took ONE generation not teaching their children of what the Lord had done for them to not know the Lord.

So, let’s make this practical for our everyday lives.  How can we as moms do our part to make sure that our children know the truth and bless us with the greatest earthly joy?

  • We as moms must be in God’s Word… seeking His absolute truth so that we may know it, talk about it, teach it, answer questions about it, and be confident in His promises. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Talk about God’s Word and promises around the dinner table, in the car driving to practice, when you tuck your kids into bed, and when you send them out the door to school.
  • Make God’s word tangible for your kids, your husband, yourself, and your house guests. Deuteronomy 6:8-9 states, “Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”  Scatter the truth of the Lord around your home… notes on the bathroom mirrors, index cards by their beds, canvas scriptures on your walls… fill your hearts and minds with God’s Word.

If we are willing to seize this awesome opportunity to leave a legacy for our families by patterning a life lived in the light and truth of God, then we are raising up children who will walk in this truth that gives eternal life. There truly is no greater joy!

Serving Up YOUR Gift

standard February 1, 2017 6 responses

If anyone serves, she should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Peter 4:10

This past week I was blessed to use my gift of speaking seven individual times and it was truly one of the most fun weeks of my life. I woke up Monday thinking I would be exhausted, but instead I was invigorated.  It felt so good knowing that I had used my gift to glorify God.

One of my presentations was a devotional for the leadership team of the retreat where I was speaking. Prior to the event we walked through the verses of 1 Peter 4:7-11, establishing our purpose to “Feed His Sheep” because the “end of all things is near.”  When we serve with the gospel in mind, it creates a sense of urgency that Peter intended for us to have. It’s all for the sake of the Gospel!

However, the BEAUTY of serving lies in the various gifts that each of us possesses.  

Peter makes the point that we all have our own unique gift. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” And aren’t we so thankful for that? Because who would really want to attend a retreat where the same thing was being done over and over again? No thank you.

But here’s where the trap comes into play.  Sometimes we start comparing our gift against our sister’s gift and we believe the enemy’s lies when he tells us, “Your gift isn’t special. It’s not nearly as good as hers is. You don’t have anything to offer so you might as well stay home.”  Don’t believe that for a single second! Without you faithfully administering YOUR gift, the blessing for those present will never be as great as it could be.  Remember that Comparison is the Thief of Joy.  Step up to the plate and play your position.  You are essential to the successful administration of God’s grace!

I witnessed true beauty this past weekend. Each woman came with her own gift and she served it up faithfully.  One had the gift of leadership.  Another brought her gift of painting.  There was an interpretive dance to “King of My Heart” that brought tears to my eyes.  The women on the cook team brought their A-game (talk about “feeding the sheep”)! And so many more gifts contributed to this wonderful day of worship.

The women also accepted the challenge to take their gift of service to the next level when they resolved to do it in the “strength that God provides.”  I think that’s the biggest difference maker in how a Christian woman serves. No matter what the venue (a Christian event or not), we always have the opportunity to serve in His strength and not our own.  I can always tell when I’m trying to serve in my own strength because I will start to feel overwhelmed and little things will begin to irritate me.  But when I hand those reigns back over to the Lord, my strength is renewed.

Lastly, in order to serve effectively, we must be willing to give the glory to God.  When the retreat is over and the last of the decorations are put away, offer your praise to the One who made it all happen.  Scripture says, “so that in ALL THINGS God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” I am not suggesting that every single thing will go smoothly (it won’t!), but praise Him anyway and ask Him to reveal any necessary changes that need to be made for next time. He deserves our praise in ALL THINGS.  Praise is always the appropriate response!

And that’s how you serve up your gift, my friend.  It’s not rocket science, but it’s not elementary either. Service requires preparation, but the cost is always worth it. Bring your unique gift and serve it up in the strength that He provides so that His saving grace may be administered to others and then give Him all the glory.

To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Make a New Year’s Reflection Instead of a New Year’s Resolution

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Happy New Year!

It took willpower but the final crumbs of the cheese straws have been thrown in the trash and all the Christmas candy has been consumed. And praise the Lord the kids are finally back in school!  So now it’s just me and my double chin hanging out, ready to make some New Year’s Resolutions.

But really, what exactly are new year’s resolutions and how did this tradition get started? In 1813 a Boston newspaper ran an article where these three words were first mentioned:

“And yet, I believe there are multitudes of people, accustomed to receive injunctions of new year resolutions, who will sin all the month of December, with a serious determination of beginning the new year with new resolutions and new behaviour, and with the full belief that they shall thus expiate and wipe away all their former faults.”

Yeah. I’d say that’s pretty much on target.  Merriam-Webster seems to be in agreement with the above writer and says that the word resolution actually means “the act of determining.”  With all that determining going on, some serious changes are about to be implemented and faults magically erased.

Yet, if you happen to say: Hey Siri! How many people achieve their new year’s resolutions? A disappointing answer of only 8% is given.  What?! How could that be with all that determination we set out with on January 1st?

I am no psychologist, but maybe it has to do with our mindset and the way we go about trying to achieve our goals. Perhaps we should try a little New Year’s Reflection instead.

The word reflection is defined as “consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose.”  Hmmm. This definitely seems a more thoughtful approach of goal-setting.  Reflection allows us to celebrate and continue what is working and implement strategies to improve what isn’t working. Let’s explore some scenarios.

Resolution: I want to lose weight in 2017.

Reflection: It is important to be healthy for myself and for my family and even though I’m not a big fan of sweating, I like how I feel after I work out. I also feel better if I don’t eat large quantities of sugar. Therefore, I am setting a goal of lifting weights every Tuesday and Thursday and adding cardio activity 3 times per week. I will also fast from sugar for 21 days and then eat it in moderation, tweaking it week by week.

Resolution: I want to have more money by the end of 2017.

Reflection: I would really like to have the financial freedom to be able to buy our dream home in the next five years so that our family can enjoy it before the kids are grown. Therefore, I will continue to systematically save a set amount each month. I will download budgeting software and will keep track of areas where we can cut spending, evaluating it on a monthly basis.

Resolution: I want to grow closer to God in 2017.

Reflection: I absolutely love how my relationship with God has flourished this past year by making the commitment to rise early and meet with Him daily.  I know that reading His Word and praying makes me a better wife, mother, friend, employee, and daughter of the King. Therefore, I will continue to practice this discipline, and I will put forth the effort to attend a routine Bible study with other women who seek Him first.

I like the purpose-driven nature and sustainability that a New Year’s Reflection provides rather than a New Year’s Resolution, don’t you? Whatever your goals are in 2017, my friend, I pray the Lord will bless them and that you will resolve to make the only real reflection that matters: to let your life be a reflection of the Light of Christ.

As water reflects the face,
so one’s life reflects the heart.

Proverbs 27:19

Giving Thanks with a Happy Heart (ICM Trip to the Philippines)

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As we move into the month of November, our minds naturally start to anticipate the holiday season.  We’re thinking less about our exercise routine and more about pumpkin pie, caramel corn, and the obligatory roasted turkey.  It’s also a time when we are counting our blessings, and as Americans they are many!

I was the recipient of an immeasurable blessing this year when I was asked to attend a mission trip with International Care Ministries (ICM) to the Philippines.  ICM focuses on serving the ultra-poor in the Philippines, meaning men and women that earn $.50 per day or less.  You may be wondering, how is it even possible to support one person on $.50 per day, much less an entire family?  The answer is: it’s not possible. Thus, the extreme poverty.

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However, ICM has developed an ingenious program that they use to treat the serious problem of poverty that ransacks this beautiful land, and they call it Transform.  Transform is a 12-week program that addresses the needs of those in ultra-poverty on three levels:

1. Values: ICM works with a local pastor to find those who need the most help in the community and when they gather weekly the participants are taught the Word of God by the pastor and are presented with a chance to hear the gospel.  (I’m sure by now you know that this is HUGE to me and one of the main reasons why I am so attracted to ICM!)img_3871

(The Pastor bringing the Word out of Matthew 12.)

2. Health: This part of the Transform program focuses on the family’s wellness and sanitation. One of the leading causes of death in the Philippines is diarrhea.  Such an easy illness for us as Americans to remedy, but dangerously lethal for those living in poverty.  ICM gives health solutions and teaches the Transform participant how to guard against such tragedy.  They also administer Manna Packs (a fortified rice and soy blend) which can provide the family with several nutritious meals for the week.

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3. Livelihood: You’ve heard the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  This is precisely what the Livelihood portion of the Transform program seeks to do. The goal is to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among the participants so that they can have a sustainable source of income, whether it be by baking banana cakes and selling them in the marketplace or forming and participating in a savings group amongst themselves.

img_3870(A local savings group is being formed with the help of ICM.)dsc00058(ICM helps the Transform participants start and maintain a garden.)

At the end of the 12-week program a graduation celebration is given for those that participated in ICM’s Transform Program and it is a true reason to rejoice.  Not only are the graduates learning to fight poverty, but almost always new friendships have been formed within the group and the once unbearable weight of hopelessness is replaced with feelings of belonging and HOPE for the future.

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Proverbs 14:21 states, “Whoever shows kindness to the poor will be happy.”  

I love this promise in God’s Word for many reasons. One being that our happiness is directly dependent upon ourselves and the kindness that we give to others.  But also because kindness shown to the poor creates a perfect triangle of happiness between us, those that we choose to bless, and our Creator.  

This Thanksgiving it’s all about giving thanks with a happy heart.  We have so much to be thankful for and showing kindness to the poor is one way that we can spread happiness and hope.  Will you join me in partnering with ICM as they work tirelessly to provide serious solutions to serious poverty in the Philippines? If yes, then click below and allow your kindness to make you, others, and God happy!

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