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March 10, 2017

The Pursuit of Excellence

Written by Amber Lawton

Fun. The concept isn’t new. Every generation has experienced a message projected at them regarding the subject. Millenials and Z’ers are no different. One thing that has changed is the clever campaigning. As media, and marketing become more advanced so do their messages. How do they get young people to buy into what they are selling? By spreading the message of fun. 

Interestingly enough as we pursue purpose we should find elements that are enjoyable. We should be filled with joy. Our purpose is interwoven with the nature of who we are, and if becoming who you are supposed to be is drab, then something is off track in our pursuit. 

As Christians we live a disciplined life, that is full of joy. There are elements of fun built in. However, there is a balance we want to reach. Let me explain. I was in a classroom the other day filling in for the assigned teacher. The students were given their assignments, and directives of working together. Each group of students were different. Some chose to do the work, but take their time socializing between questions. Some chose to primarily socialize, figuring they could do the work at home. A few did not select to work in a group, but worked independently and completed a majority of the work before the class ended. 

Observing the students, I thought: “How much could we achieve if we were disciplined, and focused on the task at hand?” Theoretically speaking we can achieve as much as we desire if we were able to set aside our own desires. Take these students, most of them have a relatively good GPA. Of course when the teacher’s away, the students desire to play. As I contemplated this illustration in front of me I considered this: “What would it take to achieve a 4.0?”

I have to ask myself, “when God gives me an assignment am I aiming for a 4.0?” When I am given a specific time to complete a task am I aiming toward excellence? Am I distracted by the idea of fun? Do I fall into the trap of laziness, or complacency? In Luke 9:23 when Jesus said to pick up our cross daily and follow Him, He wasn’t giving us a burden. He was instructing us so that we would give over our own desires to live a better suited life. A disciplined life is selfless, and joyful. A disciplined life causes us to exceed our own limitations. Think about it, if we spent time really assessing how we spend our time, we would not only grow exponentially, but we would excel. We would reach the greater reward. 

I read a quote once that said “What do Bill Gates, Beyonce, and You have in common? They all have 24 hours in a day.” I don’t know about you, but that shook me. I heard the ringing of my friends voice saying ‘play time is over’ as I slowly turned Netflix off. So today, I encourage you to find where there are time wasters in your life. What are the things that are stealing your joy? What are the things that are inhibiting your excellence? What is potentially keeping you from achieving a 4.0+ in your life? Find ways today to say yes to the needful things, and I promise a greater level of joy and fun will be had in ways you couldn’t even imagine. 

March 2, 2017

Immediately

Written by Judy Smith

The past rainstorms here in California got me meditating on Peter and Jesus and when they walked on water. They performed this feat in the midst of high winds and with high waves. Over the years I have studied and learned a great deal from the life of Peter; it seems we have much in common.

Matthew 14:30-31 NIV reads, “But when [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him…” How many seconds lie between the thought of sin and sinning? How many seconds between life and death? It could be a few seconds or less. And here in Matthew we see how even more swiftly Jesus moves in love. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

The word “immediately” has been life and peace to me lately. One moment the disciples are in a storm, and the next moment Jesus was immediately walking on those troubled waters, walking to them in the midst of the winds and the darkness. Immediately, Jesus took Peter’s hand to rescue him!

There are times we endure a storm for a long period of time and the Lord will show us how to navigate the storm and keep our eyes on Him. And there are times He immediately rescues us and calms the storm. Whether we endure the storm for a time, or Jesus rescues us immediately, we witness firsthand that God is faithful and His love for us is unfailing. Our testimony is that He is mighty to save, and that He never leaves us or forsakes us.

Knowing that our Father is good, let’s immediately worship Him! Let’s not hold back our worship until the storm is over. We can worship Him now, He is worthy. Oftentimes we pray, “Lord send confusion into the camp of the enemy.” I believe that we send confusion to enemy when we offer the sacrifice of worship while we are yet in battle. While we are yet in the storm. Imagine: the enemy is doing his best to cause us to blame God, loose hope, and give up. All hell seems to raging, and even so we immediately choose to worship God!

Acts 16:25-26 (NKJV) But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.” There is immediate power and freedom in our worship.

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February 17, 2017

I’m Included

Written by Kelly Elders
For more from Kelly Elders please visit: kellyelders.com

GOD IS INCLUSIVE!

One of the many reasons I love God is that He is inclusive. He is always including us into His story. We sometimes believe that God needs us to carry out His plan and purpose. The truth is God is God all by Himself. If He wanted, He could call forth an army of angels and clothe them with skin and they could save, deliver and heal as they spread the Word of God all over earth, yet He included us. He doesn’t even have to subject Himself to our economy, He is a creative God and could just make things appear, but He included us.

God is not limited to us but His desire is to move through us!

He includes us in His vision and invites us to take part. His hope is we will grab ahold of every opportunity set before us and run.

It’s time to partner with Him and carry out His purpose. We need to change our way of giving to get and instead start giving to further His vision. He wants to share heaven, power, provision, favor and so much with us and all we need to do is link up with His plan. We bring our obedience and God brings everything else! For our own lives, we need to link up with Him and step out into whatever He has for us. I no longer have to be focused on the outcome just focused on my obedience. The outcome is up to God. He says one plants, one waters but He brings the increase or growth (1 Corinthians 3:7). We just obey by being available, willing and doing all that He says. Sometimes God isn’t so concerned with the outcome as much as He wants to see if you will do what He asks, when He asks. Don’t get me wrong God is all about increase but wants us to obey and trust in Him no matter the outcome.

I have decided to change my focus from the outcome to obedience. I don’t need to look at the outcome to decide if I have succeeded. I succeed when I am obedient to Him. How freeing is that? Don’t measure your success by your outcome but by your obedience. We tend to measure victory by how many people showed up, by how many people responded, by how much money did it produce but what if it was just about you being obedient?

In Ezekiel 3:11 God instructed Ezekiel to go and say no matter the outcome.

“And go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.”

Ezekiel’s obedience wasn’t based on the outcome but on his obedience to God. God wants us to be included through our obedience. He wants to fulfill His purpose on this earth and He has invited us to take part!

Choose today, to be determined to just obey and let God be responsible for the outcome!

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February 3, 2017

God Is Able To Save Our Children

Written by Lawanda Martinez

As parents, we grieve over the poor choices our children make. But never fear, there is great power in prayer! Know that God draws near to the brokenhearted. Not too long ago my young son was lost in addiction and chose to live on the streets. Yet through the entire journey the Lord was faithful. He steadily comforted me through various passages found in The Bible.

The book of Lamentations 2:19 states, “Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint from hunger at every street corner.” 

This passage spoke directly to my situation as I that parent, crying out through the night for my child. My mind would wonder off imagining if he was hungry or begging for money or food on the street corners. My heart was spent with aches, prayers and tears. In this trial I had to remain confident in the Lord’s ability to save him. It wasn’t about being angry at the Lord for the choices my son made or about putting myself down wondering what I did wrong. I just missed my son, I wanted him home safe.

We live in this world with enemies all around us.  Being able to recognize the strategies of the enemy is important. The enemy was the attempting to take me out and accuse God for my son being gone. Here I am a faithful mother raising my children in the faith and now my son leaves the safety of his home and becomes a prodigal. In times past I may have gotten angry and blamed God but not this time; I had come too far with God to blame him. I had to recognize where the schemes were coming from and make a choice to stand firm in my faith in God rather than blame God. I chose to believe God is good and that He is for me and my son. I didn’t question why this was happening. I chose to wake up and recognize who my enemy was and stand up and fight for my son because he was in darkness and headed for serious trouble. I reminded myself what the book of Ephesians chapter 6 states, “when you have done everything you can to stand, stand therefore.” The position of standing is there for a reason.  It didn’t say quit or complain, it said to stand. It also says the shoes you stand in is the readiness of the good news in peace.  

So I positioned myself to stand in the scriptures that brought me peace and comfort, one of which was the parable of the Lost Sheep found in Luke 15:4 wherein Jesus told this parable:  “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the one… ” Jesus is the Good Shepherd and I believe He will go after that one, your special one.

While my son was gone, moment by moment throughout my day the Lord would fill me up with strength to endure this trial and stand. Yes, I missed my son so much. I prayed he come to the end of himself, wake up and come to his senses. I remember creating a private prayer group on Facebook for my son where just certain family and strong believers were invited to pray for him. This platform helped me to write out my prayers. It also provided a place for other to encourage me but more importantly partner with me in prayer to stand for his liberation. As I reflect back on it today I the faithfulness of God.

Though my son was not home, I was able to be filled with hope, faith, joy and expectation. I know our God is good. I believe He is a good Father and He never leaves us. I believe He never forsakes us and He knew where my son was. So during my trial I continued to press into God to know His character. I found certain worship songs that would elevate the greatness of our God and this would encourage me to have more faith. Worship also filled me with the confidence to stop worrying about my son. Instead I held onto God’s promises and celebrated in advance his homecoming. I faithfully attended woman’s bible studies and surrounded myself with believers who actually believed God could save my son. When negative people would speak against my son and his past reputation of failure rather than on God’s reputation of faithfulness, my position to stand for truth was to quickly forgive them and separate myself. I had keep a clean heart to stand strong in believing God could save him. There were moments when my broken mother’s heart would fail yet I had to remind myself God, He never fails. I couldn’t rely on people to build me up if they were not relying on God to build them up. Instead I needed to draw closer to God.

When adversity hits your family, stay connected to God in worship and be filled up and encouraged through scripture. If you’re a parent grieving over the choices of your children, I would encourage you to forgive them for their choices. Forgive yourself for any shortcomings and get realigned with God. Ask Him to forgive you if you had any doubt in His ability to save your children and then strap up in your holy armor and stand in prayer to battle for the lives of your children. Know that there are more for you than against you. God is for you, you got the name of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the blood of Jesus, the keys to the kingdom, angels, the living Word and a company of women who will partner in prayer for your children. 

Today, I am happy to report my son is home safe and serving the Lord. To God be the glory. Great things He is doing and great things He will continue to do. I believe in the God of miracles for you too.  “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:5-7

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January 9, 2017

Position

Written by Amber Lawton

The morning of my niece and nephew’s winter performance at school I found myself circling the neighborhood for parking. After a lengthy trip in one direction I turned around and headed back towards a relative’s car five blocks past the school. I reached a long stretch of street parking that had a set of trash cans positioned in the middle of it. All of the cans were empty so I lined my car up to the part I could park in, but needed a few inches more. I didn’t think anything of adjusting one of the cans towards the others since it was haphazardly positioned in the road. This wasn’t the only house with cans out so it seemed as if maybe the garbage man had dropped it and went about his business. Apparently, I was wrong.

As I was heading back to my car the owner of the home came bouldering out of the front door. With a look of rage he yelled “you can’t park here, I got someone coming.” The space was large enough for two SUV’s and a midsize car. I drive a Honda Civic. You can imagine the baffled look on my face. I responded that I was going to the school performance which would be very short, and the stretch he was protecting is public parking. There are no signs stating parking is not allowed. After a few choice words on his part he positioned himself directly in front of my car and said I would have to run him over if I wanted the space. I was already in my car trying to figure out how to get away from him because the argument wasn’t worth it. I was there to see the kids. He continued on with such a fury that his words began to anger me. He did not own the street. However, instead of rationalizing in my mind how justified I would be to react, I decided to bless him.

You see friends, as a part of my mind renewal process a few years back I decided that no matter what, I would be mindful in what I say about or towards another. Coming from a place of negative thinking and victim mentality this way of responding has helped in the way I see people and my circumstances. Do I get it right every time? No, but I do my best to control my tongue. Words aren’t always necessary, but in some instances they are  a knee jerk reaction.

Sitting in my Civic, facing a man provoking me to hit him with my car, I felt the words escape my mouth: “I hope you have a very blessed Christmas. That regardless of how you have acted towards others, this holiday season I hope you experience the love of God and He tremendously bless you.” His face was astounded. He got quiet. As I backed up I confirmed it with “That’s right, God bless you.” Then, as if I cursed him, he began yelling again as I pulled away. Heading back toward the school, unsure of where I was going, a parking space had opened in a much closer spot.

The occurrence of that morning reminded me of Luke 6:28 (AMP) “bless and show kindness to those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” How difficult this instruction is  when an opportunity of seemingly justifiable revenge presents itself. How easy it becomes to forget that we are to show kindness to those who curse us. We want to clear our name, when the Lord says vengeance is His. What would have happened had I continued to argue with the man? I could have fallen into the trap of anger and told him off. Or worse, I could have actually hit him with my car! Had I done those things I would have put myself in a worse position, and missed the favorable parking space ahead.

There are times when people position themselves against us for whatever reason they choose. Sometimes they have claimed ownership to some position, person, or thing illegally. Our job isn’t to fight with them or remove them from the place they have unrightfully claimed as their territory. We are to bless them. We are to pray for them. We should trust that our Heavenly Father will do a work within them to open their eyes and change their hearts. We must also trust that what He has for us is for us. No matter the improper positioning of another, as long as our heart is pure before Him, He will reward our faithfulness to Him with great favor. “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”

Proverbs 3:34 NIV

November 17, 2016

Just One of Them Days

Written by Lawanda Martinez

How often do we look at the circumstance around us but forget to look for the Lord in it. Have you ever had just one of them days? You know those days I am referring to, the ones where it seems like nothing is going right.

Back in my BC (Before Christ) days, I used to like this R & B song called “Don’t Take It Personal” by Monica. A portion of the lyrics states

Just one of them days

That a girl goes through

When I’m angry inside

Don’t want to take it out on you

Just one of them days

Good new, God has a good plan for your life and for times when you’re having just one of those days. Jesus knows about those days and He has provided a prescription for us, in Jeremiah 29:12-14 NLT.

He says in verse twelve In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.  I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

How reassuring it is to know that when you have just one of those days, the Lord is ready to listen to you and you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart.

Also did you notice He said in those days when you pray I will listen. He already knows that we are going to have one of them days. Notice that God said He will listen. That right there should comfort you because most of the time all we really want is for someone to listen to us I mean really listen to us and not interrupt.

When you’re having one of them days, just vent to Jesus.

I have been in the office and have seen and heard of people who have had a bad day. As they are filled with so much frustration they declare this is the day from hell. They begin to praise the enemy with songs of disaster stating, “first I locked my keys in the car, then my son bumps me and I spill coffee all over my dress, I have to go inside to change and the button pops off my blouse, then my daughter forgets her backpack in the car so I have to turn around, then when I arrived at the school if that wasn’t bad enough the teacher comes out to tell me how my child is not working to her full potential, was using a cell phone in class, fails to turn in assignments timely, OMG. Then when I arrive at work, someone just cut me off and stole my parking place; can you believe the nerve of these people, so I had to find parking elsewhere and walk half a mile to get here, and of course I’m late.”

Heaven is not at all surprised at what has happened to you today. There is no frustration in heaven. In those days let’s not give the devil any place by saying this is the day from hell. Because hell cannot create anything. Remember what God’s word states “This is the day the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it.”  Remember what James says to Count it all joy. When? When you are in various trials and situations.

Instead of saying, “why this happening to me?” a better questions to ask would be to ask the Lord, “How do I count it all joy?”  The question “How” invites Holy Spirit into the situation to create destiny and possibility.

Look at what James has to say on this. James 1:2 NLT Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. The NIV translation of James 1:2 states: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. How do we consider it pure joy? Have you ever thought when you’re having just one of them days to consider it an opportunity for great joy. We should then look at a definition of joy.

Joy is defined as cheerfulness, i.e. calm delight — gladness, greatly, (be exceeding) joy(-ful, -fully, -fulness, -ous). Remember when you have one those days,  that this is the day the Lord has made, you are empowered to walk in calm delight.

Let’s turn it around and recount the events of the day with joy:

The events of today have greatly opened my eyes to see that I need to slow down and take more time for the people and things that matter in my life. God thank you for changing my outfit and redressing me today, for showing me to slow down,  that my mind is all over the place and I need you to trust you. I have been forgetful and busy. I see your grace by showing me that my busyness & forgetfulness is transferring to my children. I am so glad I was able to get my daughter her backpack that she forgot. Today, I was able to learn some of her shortcomings in class. I know you will show me the way to handle this situation with her, with understanding and grace instead of guilt shame and ridicule. I really needed that front parking and I was upset because that person took it from me.

Lord forgive me for allowing my anger to get disproportionate to the situation and allowing these little things to ruin my day. This is not the day from hell, this is the day you have made and I will rejoice and be glad in it. I am glad that you care for me and that you have so much grace for me even when I am so hurried and making a mess. I am glad that I could cast all this on you and trade this frustration for peace and calmness. Calmness is joy, I delight in you. Lord Jesus, I am glad for the things you’re showing me. Bless the person who stole my parking, and help them slow down to see you in their morning. I am glad I was able to walk that ¼ mile and get some extra steps in on my Fitbit and get some exercise in.

That unplanned walk sure did me good because it helped me spend time with you and give you all this stuff, this time alone, you trained my tongue. I would have been a hot mess coming into work cussing and stuff. You oh Lord are able to turn this day around and you are bigger than anything the enemy would throw at me. Help me Lord to be better prepared tomorrow and to allow more time to enjoy you and the goodness all around me.

Remember, when you are having one of those days, Pray! He promised to listen. Also, stop and look for Him, wholeheartedly, and you will find Him. He will restore you and bring you home again to your own land.

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November 3, 2016

Small Foxes

Written by Amber Lawton

Secretly I have an affinity for cats. I can’t say that I am a total cat person. I am definitely a dog person. Yet, I can’t escape the little furry face of manipulation when a cat wants a good petting. Seriously. The creators of the animation ‘Puss in Boots’ got that face and response down to perfection. Who can resist those sad eyes? I surely can’t, and I absolutely should. As much as I have a liking to cats I also have very bad allergies to the little fur balls.

Recently I was invited to cat sit for a friend. My response was an immediate yes. No question about it, I was sure I could do the job without any reaction. Unfortunately I was wrong. In just a few short hours I found myself at the whim of this little creature. She literally mewed and sad eyed her way into my heart. What started as a light pat turned into minutes of petting. I walked away, and washed my hands. As the first sneeze hit I looked down, and saw one hair on my shirt. Just one hair! Then I noticed a cluster of hair on my pant leg where she sat next to me. After showering and changing I still had congestion, and itchy throat, and eyes. Not one for allergy medicine I sat waiting for the symptoms to subside.

If only I had stayed away from the cat. I knew the end result. On the other hand I have done an incredible job over the years of staying away from cats that I hadn’t considered how easily affected I would be. Nor did I think that one hair would set off a chain of events like this. That is until I remembered “the small foxes.”

Song of Solomon 2:15 says “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.”

This scripture is making reference to the small things that could harm the love of the bride and bridegroom. In a precautionary way the bride is being protective of her love for her groom, by asking for the foxes to be caught. Foxes are sneaky little creatures that can get into much trouble quickly.

Over the course of the last few months I have found temptation to pop up in unusual ways. These temptations were all minor judgement calls. Nothing that goes outside of the will of God, yet options that could definitely be a distraction. With each distraction a bigger adverse reaction could be around the corner. At this time of my life I have made the decision to fall wholeheartedly into relationship with the Lord. I am determined that nothing can be bigger, or stand brighter than His love for me. My vineyard is growing, and beginning to bloom. So, as I looked down, and sneezed at this one piece of hair on my shirt, I was reminded of the foxes. As funny as this sounds some of the greatest lessons are in the simplest of moments. Go there with me for a minute. Here I am, knowing I am allergic to cats, and yet I am pulled into a pit of empathy for this creature that wants attention. Then I give in for one brief second, sure that I can stop after a second, without experiencing an allergic reaction. Of course, when that time has passed I am still standing there thinking of a good time to walk away. Once a reaction hits then it’s time to move on, but by then I can’t control the negative reaction. Plus, I have the residue of what caused the reaction all over me.

Therein lies the reason the little foxes- distractions and temptations- need to be caught. If we allow our eyes to be diverted, even momentarily,  our vineyard will be ruined.

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October 7, 2016

3 Things About Marriage

Written by Kelly Elders

 

Recently, we celebrated 29 years of marriage and it’s been eventful! We have had the opportunity to grow through some hard times whether it was financial hardship or staying committed we came through stronger and much wiser. I thought I would share some things I tell my daughter about marriage and things I wish someone would have told me when I got married.

 

Never Marry Someone’s Potential

 

So many times I may hear a person talk about how much potential someone has and though I believe everyone has potential I wouldn’t recommend you marry their potential. The problem is that not everyone will fulfill their potential. When you choose to spend forever with someone you have to accept them for who they are in that moment. It’s funny how men will marry a woman and never want her to change and a woman will marry a man hoping they will change. Ask yourself, if they never changed for the better would that be okay? Do you love them without trying to fix or repair them? You cannot always be the hero of their story. I married at the young age of 18 (which I don’t recommend) and thank God we were able to grow up together and accept the changes and the unchanged. Neither of us had any idea what our changes would look like or what areas would stay unchanged but one thing both of us had was commitment even though it was shaky at times. Our commitment first to God helped us never give up and here we are  29 years later and I am grateful for the good and even the worst of times. It’s made us stronger and much more appreciative and it helped me to learn to be a protector of our marriage. You will protect what you value.

 

Love & Forgiveness

 

I had this understanding that marriage was all about staying in love and if you had love you would always be together. Every romance movie gave the impression it just works out in the end with no morning breath and a beautiful sunset into happy ever after. No one mentioned the many opportunities to forgive and the perseverance marriage takes. There is no greater relationship to learn to forgive than marriage. It’s not only because of the love you are able to forgive but the choice to forgive. If you can’t forgive the one you should trust the most in this world then you need more understanding of the fullness of God’s love. Things will be said that you can never take back, you will be disappointed at times and even wonder if it’s worth it but if both people can keep a servant’s heart, I guarantee it will be worth it. I wish I would have been free to love and be loved without holding back. Always testing the boundaries, not believing I could be loved forever and believing something bad was just around the corner seemed to hurt our relationship. It took many years to believe he would never leave or that he really could love me with all my flaws. So many of us go into relationship with abandonment and rejection issues that we begin to sabotage our relationships and then when they don’t work out we use it as proof that we are not worthy of love. You are worth being loved so much so that God even told husbands how they treat you is important.  

“In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 NLT

God loves you so much that He cares how you are treated! Can you believe He says this? He won’t even answer some prayers if you are not treated well by your spouse. I believe this goes both ways. In this time and culture women were not revered by men so He highlights it for the men but I am sure God would also tell the women that our prayers can be hindered if we mistreat our husbands. So be vulnerable to love knowing God cares about how you are loved.

 

Same Love, Same Team

 

“Let love make you serve one another” Galatians 5:13 (TEV)

Sometimes we can forget that we are on the same team. There’s no winner unless both win. If you are so set on always winning then you truly love yourself more than anyone else in the relationship. Marriage is all about serving one another and meeting each other’s needs. You can be the best volunteer in church and serve every Sunday but if you don’t serve your spouse you might not understand servanthood. Serving starts in the home. If both husband and wife lived meeting the other’s needs you will have found the secret to a happy marriage. It has to start with someone so why not you? Remember, you are fighting for the same thing, a healthy marriage. Somehow we need to get rid of the feeling that we are going to get misused or it’s never going to work in our favor. That would be manipulation if you are only loving for something in return. The scripture says, “Perfect love casts out fear” 1 John 4:18. If you still carry some fear to freely love your spouse then you need to grow in God’s love. No one is keeping count on who loves who more and shows it more often. Sometimes we just need to realize we love each other differently and accept love differently. The best way we learned to understand our love languages was when we read the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. I was loving the way I wanted to be loved instead of loving the way my husband needed to be loved. He was showing me love the way he desired to be shown love. When we have a heart to serve we will go to great lengths to learn to love in their language.

Whether you are single, married or starting over it’s never too late to improve your relationships or future relationships. Be Loved & Love Freely!

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September 30, 2016

Pray It Loud

Written by Remaliah Evans

It’s been said, “if we really believed in prayer, we would pray a lot more.” Each time that I hear this I am convicted because I realize that there are times when I don’t pray because I am not fully convinced that praying will solve the problem. This thought is false because James 5:16 in the Message Version tells us that the prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. The New King James Version reads that the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

We know that prayer is powerful but what kind of prayer? Do we need to pray out loud by verbalizing our prayers, or can we pray silently? I’ve been asked this question several times over the years and while I believe that we have the liberty to pray silently within ourselves, I have found that verbalizing prayer is more effective. Praying out loud increases our faith when we pray using scripture.

Romans 10:17 Then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Therefore, as we pray the word of God, our faith increases. It is entirely possible to pray without faith. We might pray something like, “Lord please help me, I really need your help right now. I know that You are able and that You are willing.” The words here are fine, yet it is more effective and it will build more faith to pray the scriptures out loud.  Instead, we can pray “Lord I am asking You for help because You are my strength and my refuge and a very present help in times of trouble (Psalms 46:10) and You promised that You never leave me or forsake me so I say boldly that You are my Helper, I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:5-6) Father God I know that You are faithful to help me because You perfect that which concerns me (Psalms 138:8) and I know that You will give me wisdom to handle this situation because in James 1:5 You said that I can ask for wisdom and You will give wisdom to me liberally.” When we pray the verses out loud we are building our faith because we are hearing the word of God.

            There are many voices that influence us – our spouses, parents, friends, children, pastors, mentors, God, bosses etc. Of all these voices there is one voice that we believe the most, our own voice. Others may have great influence however it is our own voice that we hear most. What we say within ourselves, and what we say out loud shapes our lives. Proverbs 18:21 death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it shall eat it’s fruit. Praying and speaking the word of God releases life.

What we say aloud also reveals what is in our heart. Luke 6:45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. When we consciously listen to what we think and what say, we will hear faith or we will hear doubt, and we will also hear who we believe God is and what we believe God will do. Many times we hear doubt and we hear ourselves accusing God of failing us or not keeping His promises. This is another reason why praying aloud is critical.

            When we pray the scripture out loud daily, we build our faith and begin to believe what we are saying. In doing so, our thoughts start to align with the word of God. Praying out loud makes it easier to recognize when our thoughts, beliefs, or words contradict the truth of God. When we recognize this misalignment we can cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, according to 2 Corinthians 10:5. A preacher once said, “you don’t replace a thought with a thought. You replace a thought with a word.” We must verbally declare the word and/or pray when our thoughts are incorrect.

            Growing up my parents always told me that I was smart. I honestly believe that I did well in school simply because I believed my parents. As I grew older and entered the workforce I encountered many situations that required me to learn new skills quickly. Years ago I was promoted to operations manager in a sales company, and I had to learn operations, sales, office management, and contract negation simultaneously. I was overwhelmed and then I began to pray Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I would pray this verse everyday and say it several times per day when needed. God answered this prayer by sending me co-workers who graciously trained me and helped me whenever needed.

            Later I began managing two locations. Again, I was overwhelmed and consumed with fear of failure. I kept praying Philippians 4:13 and I also began praying Daniel 1:17 Lord I thank You that You have given me knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom, and You have given me understanding in all visions and dreams. The funny part about this prayer is that when I first started praying this verse I was not concerned about understanding dreams and visions, but then I started thinking that it would be nice to understand dreams. For years I have prayed Daniel 1:17 and the Lord has faithfully helped me learn many new things, including interpreting dreams.

            Job 22:28 instructs that we shall declare a thing, and it will be established for us; so light will shine on our ways. When pray the scripture out loud we are declaring. Likewise the Lord says in Isaiah 55:11 that His word that goes forth from His mouth, it shall not return to Him void, But it shall accomplish what He pleases, and it shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it. There is power in praying the word. In Romans 10:9 we see that we receive salvation by confessing with our mouth.

            Dilemmas and conundrums will arise, and when they do we must choose to pray the word of God out loud despite peril or disillusionment. Last November my doctor told me that I could not get pregnant under any circumstances. I was 32 years old with no children. At that moment fear and sorrow consumed me. What if died before I could marry and have kids? What if no one wanted to marry because I could not have kids? Why was this happening to me? It was a horrible moment and I cried…until I remembered what God had promised me through the Bible and through prophetic words. I remembered that He promised me health, a husband, and children. I still had to make a decision though, and I needed to make it quickly. I chose to trust God and pray the word. I see my doctor regularly and follow her instructions as I pray and trust God for my health and my children. I have not had a baby yet. Even so, I continue to pray the word aloud and declare life to my body because I know that the Father will fulfill His word and His promises to me.

In Genesis God speaks the world into existence. We are made in His image, and He also gave us the ability to speak life and change into existence. We speak life and change into existence by praying the word of God out loud. 

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September 15, 2016

Through It All

Written by Judy Smith

Through it all I have learned to trust in Jesus. Even so, adversity comes, and we and usually to find ways to avoid opposition. Our search for an easy life is nearly impossible, and this searching masks our need for Jesus. Instead of avoiding adversity we can allow Christ work in us as we walk through it.

 As the Lord directs our steps, He teaches us about Himself and we become more like Him. He empowers us to live on a supernatural level by depending on Him. When we are weak, we can encounter His strength. As we trust in Him we begin to understand that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. We will face situations that are literally beyond our ability to handle on our own. The reality of our inadequacy is not something we should try to avoid. We can’t. When we face our inadequacy and weakness, this is the perfect place to encounter God’s glory and power! Because at those moments, we know He is moving on our behalf.

 Watch Him working on your behalf, as you rest in the shadow of His almighty presence! Psalm 91:1 says: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” We take refuge in His shadow when we abide in His secret place. He towers over our problems, and is strong comfort in our sorrow.

 In the busiest of times, issues whirl around me so quickly they become a blur. I quietly whisper His name recognizing He is still with me, all while maintaining my activities. I find strength and peace through praying His name. Later, when the issues that I faced have run their course, I talk with Him in depth. I show Him gratitude for bringing me through and express my thankfulness for all He’s done.

 Let’s learn to accept each day as it comes and not to waste time and energy on wishing for a different set of circumstances. Instead, let’s trust Him enough to yield to His design and purposes. Remember, nothing can separate us from His loving presence. Say daily: “I am His and He is mine.” Rejoice with heaven. Revelation 19:1 says: “After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!”

 It will be worth it all!

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