Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jesus, the Reason for the Season

Let us take the time this Christmas to reflect on why we celebrate this holiday. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and the many blessings he has bestowed upon us. Let us not give in to the business, the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We must not allow it to take over the real meaning of Christmas. We simply need to slow down. We seem to always be in a rush to get somewhere. Let us slow down and pay attention to what is going on around us. Let us look around and be willing to help those in need during these troubling times and show them what the true meaning of Christmas is. Let us show love to others as Jesus did for us and still does to this very day. Jesus is the reason for the season.

Matthew 1:20-25
But after he had considered this an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus; because he will save his people from their sins.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet : The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel - which means "God with us." When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name of Jesus."

Luke 2:5-7
"He (David) went there (Bethlehem) to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

Luke 2:10-11
"But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."

God gave us his perfect gift, Jesus Christ, His son. Let us bear gifts to one another this Christmas and the Christmases to come and remember the reason for the season. The wise men came bearing gifts for Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the hope of all the world. As we exchange gifts this year and the years to come, let us remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas. God has given us so much to be thankful for, let us not forget what he has given us and what we have in front of us.

He came to earth and then he gave his life upon the cross for our sins. Let us not forget the real reason we are here. May we help one another and share with those in need, not only during the holidays but throughout the coming years. God Bless each and every one of you during this holiday season. May God be with you and fill you with his peace and joy. Blessings to all and a very Merry Christmas to you all!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Connecting With God

Connecting with God requires sacrifices on our part. It also requires spiritual discipline. We are to practice spiritual disciplines such as the following: Prayer, Bible study, meditation and extended times of solitude, silence and service. Do we really spend time with God as needed? Do you spend time in God's Word everyday? Do you spend time in prayer each day with God? We must practice spiritual discipline if we want to grow in the Lord and develop a more personal relationship with Christ. It requires a daily sacrifice. We must discipline and train ourselves.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22
"Respect those who work hard among you who are over you in the Lord. Hold them in the highest regard in love. Live in peace with each other. Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and everyone else. Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances. Do not put out the Spirit's fire. Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything that is good. Avoid every kind of evil."

Romans 12:1-2
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -his good, pleasing and perfect will."

I remember one of our youth services as we spoke on sacrifice and spiritual disciplines. We discussed the 3 purposes in life right now and I would like to take this moment and share them with you. This is very vital in our walk with God.

3 Purposes in Life Right Now:
1) Spiritual Formation - connecting with God in authentic ways. We must be willing to be vessels and be obedient to His calling upon our lives. If we are to receive the blessings we must be obedient to the call that God has placed in our lives. We must be willing to step out of our comfort zone.
2) Compassion and Social Justice - caring for the throw aways of our culture as Jesus did. I believe we need to develop the same love for one another that Christ expressed toward others. We must be willing to help those in need, whether it be the homeless or those of lower statute. We are to be Christ like. We are to care for others like Jesus did. It is time we start showing others, including our enemies that Jesus loves them. It takes getting to know them as Jesus did in His days. He was a servant to others.
3) Helping people, especially in the American church, focus on substance over glitz -by discovering and living out God's purposes instead of living a self-absorbed existence. We need to be humble servants of Jesus Christ willing to help others. We need to develop a spirit of humility and not be so full of ourselves.

We must be willing to make the daily sacrifice if want to have a personal relationship with Christ. It requires taking the time to thank God throughout the day for his many blessings, taking the time to say a small prayer throughout the day, and taking the time to spend time in His Word, not only reading His Word but studying it and applying it to your life. We each must do our part to spread the Word of Jesus Christ. We can each make a difference but it takes a sacrifice on our part. May God Bless you and keep you on the right path.

The Storms of Life

Why is it that at this time of year, there are so many people facing depression and have lost their joy? When do we allow the storms of life to take over? Have we truly given it all to God or are we trying to take care of it ourselves? We cannot do it on our own, we must seek the Lord's help. One of my favorite books of the Bible to read is James especially when going through storms of life. It is reminder that God is faithful and that we must persevere so that we may receive the crown of life.

James 1:1-8
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its works so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."

James 1:12
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."

I must say that lately we have been facing storms in our life. It seems that the saying "when it rains, it pours," is holding true but I know we serve a faithful God and he will get us through the storms. We have to remember what Scripture tells us and that is that we are to consider it pure joy when facing trials. That is very hard to do especially when going through trials and they seem to happen one after another. We have to keep pressing in and reading God's Word and be diligent in our prayer. We must believe and not doubt, in other words, know that God will meet our need, have complete faith in God. Romans 12:12 says, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Be joyful always, Pray continually, Give thanks in all circumstances."

3 Points to Consider:
1) We must learn to overcome and completely trust God. Give it all to Him, simply put, completely surrender it all to Him. Don't let the storms of life take over and consume you.
2) Do not be afraid for the Lord your God is always with thee.
3) Satan can't stop what God put together.

We have to be reminded that Satan has no power over us if we are a child of God and we truly allow God to be first in our lives. We must claim the victory in Jesus Christ. He is Lord and Savior and will see us through the storms of life. We must remain faithful. He walks with us even when it seems He is not there, for He is there. We must seek Him in prayer and listen for what He has to say to us. I love the last point, Satan can't stop what God put together. God created us and designed us in his own unique way. We are special to God and Satan can't stop what God put together. No matter how hard Satan tries, he will not succeed. Keep your trust in God, seek Him daily, remain faithful to His word, keep his commands, and keep His Word in your heart at all times. Blessed are those who overcome for they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

God's Way or the World's Way

Do you often ask yourself the following questions? What is it that I really want to do in life? What are my true passions in life? What are God's plans for my life? Am I following God's will for my life or am I following the world's way in life? Do I consider the material things of this world more important than God? Does God truly come first in my life? Does He come before schooling, my job, my hobbies, my friends and family, etc.? Am I going to college? If so, which college is right for me? Where am I going in life? Where is it that God would have me to go? Do I have a purpose in life? Does God have something for me to do now? I'm sure there are many more questions that others may ask. These are some of the more common questions that others often ask themselves.

As a youth pastor's wife and a youth leader, I have seen so many changes in our youth once they graduate and head off to college, some keep the faith and some drift away from God. After high school, the statistics are very high, students tend to get away from God at this age. How is it that we tend to lose focus at such a young age? Sometimes you feel as though you don't fit in. You are no longer a youth but a young adult but you don't feel as though you fit in. You do fit in, God has a plan for your life. Look at the questions above. Are you going to college? Are you going into something you really want to do and have a passion for? I feel the most important question of all, sometimes overlooked, is "Have you talked to God first?" Have you prayed about the questions that are consuming your mind? Have you prayed to God and given it all to Him? Have you truly taken the time and listened to what God had to say? Do you know the Lord? Have you taken the time to ask Him to come into your heart and forgive you of your sins? I encourage you to take this time and ask Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior by simply saying this simple prayer. "Lord, I humbly come before you, asking you to come into my heart. I know I have sinned and I come before you now humbly asking that you forgive me of my sins. I want to be a new person in Christ. I thank you for all that you have done and all that is to come. You are my true Lord and Savior. I ask that you would help me to grow in your Word so that I may be used as a witness tool for others. Thank you Lord, Amen."

Why is it that we fall so easily into Satan's hand. If we give into Satan and start living a life of sin, then we have allowed Satan to take hold of our lives. We think that partying and having fun is what it is all about after high school. We take that mentality that "everybody does it." We feel as if we are grown up and mature. I know from personal experience as I was one who thought this way and fell into Satan's trap. I will share my personal testimony in an upcoming blog.

Romans 12:2
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Now it is time we make a difference. It is time for that to change! We must put forth our effort to reach out to our youth and college aged students and remind them that God still loves them. We must each do our part in reaching out. It doesn't just end after high school, it keeps going until the day God calls us home. It seems as if our generation wants everything now. We must be willing to work for it and be patient. We must understand that God's timing is perfect. We each have gifts that have been given to us by God and we are to use them according to God's will. We must also understand that sometimes God says "wait." We are to be patient with God and allow Him to work in us. We are to be His servants and He will place us in the right ministry at the right time. His timing is always perfect. We must be ready spiritually and continue growing in the Lord.

Galatians 6:7-9
"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

2 Timothy 3:16-17
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

I would encourage you to read "A Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren. It is a great book and it explains the way in which we can understand and know God's plans and purposes for our life. If you follow God's way, you will come out triumphantly. When you choose the world's way, you will be heading towards destruction and hopelessness. Ask yourself, do I want to draw close to God? Am I willing to do what God has called me to do, even if it is something that you may not really want to do but you know God has been speaking to you about it? Are you putting your trust in the world or are you putting your trust in God?

We learn from our experiences, our failures and successes in life. When we allow ourselves to fall away from God, we give into the world's way. God made us special and He has something special for each of us if we are willing to be obedient and faithful to Him. We must take time to listen to Him. It is time we stop playing games and stop the pretending! Maybe this sounds harsh but sometimes the truth hurts. God knows your thoughts. You may be able to fool others but not God. The ways of the world are not worth it. If we keep our eyes set on Jesus, then we will receive the crown of glory and everlasting life.

1 Timothy 6:11-12
"But you man of God, flee from all this (evil), and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith."

James 1:12
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."

Our Time With God

God wants to be first in our life. Sometimes we let the business of our daily life take away our time with God. I know that I am guilty of this and I have confessed before the Lord of this. I have gone before the Lord and asked Him to help me not to let the business take away my time with Him. I have found that by scheduling a time with the Lord each day works best, it can be early in the morning, mid afternoon, or at night, whichever suits you best. If you feel led to start praying or God gives you a Scripture, do it, don’t put it off! God is speaking to you.
We need to make sure we spend time with the Lord each day in prayer, reading the Bible and studying the Bible. The more time we spend with the Lord, the stronger our relationship with the Lord becomes. Take time during the day to write down in your journal all that you did during the day, the hours and minutes used, the time spent on the computer, watching TV, and playing video games. Compare that to the time spent praying to the Lord and reading His Word; include the time spent with the Lord in your writing. How often did you pray? How long did you pray? How long did you spend time reading and studying God’s Word? It is amazing when we take the time and put it in writing how much time we really give to God compared to the time we spend on the computer, watching TV and playing video games. The Lord understands that we have to work, go to school and have other activities going on but He wants us to be obedient and make time for Him. Sometimes we let the business take over and don’t give God any time or if we do, it may be only a few minutes. God wants to have a relationship with each us. He loves us and wants us to draw closer to Him. Our time with God is important for our spiritual growth.
Sometimes in our life, we have to prioritize things in our life. If God is truly first in our life, then we will have no trouble waking up and praying to God that morning. If we awake to a new day, that means that God has something for us, he has blessed us with another day. I encourage you to start your day and end your day with the Lord. Pray continually throughout the day, be faithful and diligent with your time spent with God, and you will see blessings and miracles of God. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God will pour out His Spirit and multitudes of blessings upon you and your family. God’s Word reminds us of His promise. Our time with God is what helps us grow into the person God created us to be.
Psalm 19:1-2
“Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.”

Proverbs 3:13
“Blessed is the man who gains wisdom, the man who gains understanding.”

A Story To Tell

Each of us has a purpose. God designed us for a purpose. We are each unique in our own way. We each have a story, somewhere deep inside us, waiting to come out. If you were to write down each trial and hardship you have been through and then write down how you came through it, there's a story and possibly a witness for someone else. You may have gone through layoffs at work, financial problems, marital problems, divorce, parents divorce, death in the family, loss of a child, miscarriage, overcome a drug or alcohol addiction, etc. Simply keep a journal of what you are facing. Then when you have overcome the trial, write it in the journal. It is a good idea to put the date in your journal. You will have the date that the trial took place as well as when you overcame the trial. How did you overcome the trial? Did you persevere? Did you call out to God for help? Many today take God for granted. Some may go to church because it looks good or simply because it is the religious thing to do. Are you really being honest with God? Do you put Him first above all things and everyone? Do you seek Him daily? Do you spend time with Him and in His Word? Do you truly love Him with all your heart, mind and soul? Take a few minutes and think about each question. Remember, be honest with God and answer each one. God chose us and has a plan for each of us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "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." Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Too many times, we only call out to Jesus for help when we are in trouble or if we are in need of something. When God has met that need or answered that prayer, we go on with our daily routine. God helps us in each trial because He truly loves us. His desire is that we draw closer to Him. He wants a personal relationship with each of us. Whatever hardship you are facing, remember God is always with you. You are not alone, although at times it may seem like you are. Joshua 1:5 says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Acts 14:22 says, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God." Romans 12:12 says, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
When you write down how God got you through the hardship, you will truly see how much He loves you and how He answers prayer. Prayer is very effective and powerful. It draws us into a closer relationship with Christ. It works!!! God wants to be first in our life. I encourage you to start your day with God and end your day with God. It is time we start giving God our very best, not our second best. Give Him everything. Take time to draw closer to Him. God brings trials our way so that we may grow and mature. James 1:2-4 says, " Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." If you are facing hardships and trials, read the book of Job (Job went through hard times) and the book of James. The Word of God is true, ALL of it! We must take the time to read and study His Word in order to grow.
I encourage you to keep a journal of your thoughts and prayers. Then look back on them and see how God has worked in your life. The trials in life come so that we may grow in our faith. Be over comers and persevere so that your faith may grow and you will receive the crown of life in eternity. James 1:12 says, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him."
For everyone has a story to tell, a testimony to share. We must do our part and write it down and be willing to share our story with others. God has commanded us to "Go" and spread the word of Jesus Christ. As you share your story, you will find that others may have similar stories or they may even be going through something similar now.
What a difference you can make in others lives as you share your story and the gospel of Christ. As you share your story, you are sharing with others your testimony of Jesus Christ, "How he came into your life and what all He has done for you." Everyone has a story to tell. Please take a moment and read the following Scriptures. I hope this will encourage you to do what God has called you to do.

Acts 20:24 (Paul speaking)
"I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has give me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."

Matthew 7:14
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock."

Matthew 28:19
"Therefore go and make disciples among all nations."

Genesis 26:24
"Don't be afraid for I am with thee."

Stop the Religious Game, Get on Fire for God!

Wow, talk about a wake up call. This message was given to me about a year ago and God clearly spoke to me concerning this message. I was to speak one evening in front of our youth group. For those who know me, I do not like to talk in front of people, kids are fine, youth and adults are a different story. I kept praying about this and God made it clear and opened the door for me to speak. I shared this with our youth group last year and wanted to share it with you. It gets right to the point. I call it God's way of speaking to us and our generation. I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone.

Revelation 2:3-4 (To the church of Ephesus)
"You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love."

Revelation 3:15-16 (To the church of Laodicea)
"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other. So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot or cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth."

The church of Ephesus had lost their deep love and compassion they once had for Christ. They were lacking in their personal relationship with Christ. They had fallen spiritually and required repentance. While the church of Laodicea was lukewarm, meaning neither hot or cold. They were no longer on fire for God. They claimed to be christians, yet in reality they were spiritually dead. God is simply telling us, "It's time to stop playing the religious game and get on fire for Him."

Ezekiel 33:31-33
"My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words, but do not put them into practice. When all this comes true - and it surely will - then they will know that a prophet has been among them."
The people were listening to Ezekiel but they were not obeying his words. Their hearts were still far from the Lord. Their attitudes and lifestyles had not changed. We must be true worshipers of God, not entertainers.

God is knocking on the door, saying "Hello, I am here." We have to be willing to listen to God. He is our Lord and Savior. We should want to praise Him extravagantly. He desires our praises. He simply wants us to "Stop playing church and get real with Him. He wants to be first. Stop seeking your will and start seeking His will." There's something wrong with our relationship with God when we put things above Him and we put Him last or on the back burner. God is simply saying to us, repent and draw near to me. We are to be careful not to be like the church of Ephesus who had lost their first love for Christ (the personal relationship with Christ). We are also to be careful not to be like the church of Laodicea and not become lukewarm. They were no longer on fire for God. We are to be on fire for God. For we know not when the day or hour will come, so we must be ready. We have to live as though each day were our last day. God has given us each a gift and it is time we use that gift to its fullest. We must start with ourselves, examine our own heart and seek God for wisdom, guidance and direction. If we want to change, we must make daily sacrifices.

About 2 years ago at youth camp, we had a speaker who spoke on "Six Steps Sacrifice." He reminded us that when we run into roadblocks we must be persistent in prayer and God's Word and continue to move on no matter the consequences or what lies ahead. If we are to remain on fire for God, it takes sacrifice and a daily commitment.

Steps to Stay on Fire for God:

* Personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
* Seek God daily through prayer and Bible study (very important for spiritual growth).
* Requires a daily sacrifice.
* Put God first - above all - above everything and everyone.
* Be a witness to others - share Christ with the people you come in contact with.
* Be imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5:1).
* Examine your heart daily. Keep your heart on the right course. Guard your heart for it affects eveything you do.
* Be real with God (do not be a fake) and be real with others. One example of this in found in Ezekiel where the people chose to listen to Ezekiel but were not obeying his words. Another example of this is living one way around church family and friends and another way at school or work. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." We are called to be different, to be set apart from this world. God knows our hearts and our minds. He knows everything about us.

If you follow these steps, you will develop spiritual growth and stay on fire for God. We have to reach out and ask God for help, we cannot rely on our own strength. We have to fully depend on God. We have to learn to give Him everything. Seek Him before making any decision whether it be a job or a college you are considering; look to him in prayer first. It takes a daily sacrifice. God wants us to be real and be on fire for Him. James 1:22 says, "God's people must not only hear God's Word; they must put it into action and do what it says." We are to listen to what God is saying and act upon it. Be willing to make a difference!

Welcome to "Women of Faith"

Hi, my name is Cindy. I have been blessed with a wonderful and godly son and daughter-in-law and a beautiful and godly daughter and  son-in-law. God has blessed me with a wonderful family, church family, and friends!

I hope you'll join me as I blog about God, family and life. Comments are always appreciated. I love hearing from my readers, and getting to know them!

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