Recalibrating Your Legacy

By Cindy Allen. This is article six in our Legacy series.
 
Veggie Tales was a big thing when our boys were little.  In fact, I saved all the VCR tapes to show my grandkids.  30 years later I have awesome boys but no grandkids and VCRs are a thing of the past. Makes my want-to-be grandmother heart sad. (Yes, I have purchased some DVDs!!) One thing I remember Bob and Larry telling us is that “Our God is a God of second chances”. Can I get an Amen and a Hallelujah?
 
If you are a believer who has messed up your legacy (and haven’t we all to one degree or another), ask the God of second chances to forgive you and set your feet back on the straight and narrow path. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:19)
 
There may still be consequences, but God will work with your through the mess.  After talking with God, maybe you need to talk with a godly friend or counselor. There are many people in our lives who have such wisdom. In my Connection Group we often discuss how invaluable it is to share our lives with others because it can be so encouraging (to us and them). Also, read your Bible.  There were lots of messy people in the Bible who Jesus didn’t shy away from. What did he tell the woman caught in the act of adultery?  “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)  
 
Recalibrating is a word that I hadn’t heard of ten years ago, but now we all know what it means. We know it is often used because we accidentally made a wrong turn or in the moment, we couldn’t see how to go the way we were directed or we just didn’t want to go down the path we were told.  Sadly, all of these can apply to our Christian walk.  Jesus is there when we veer off and he is more than willing to recalibrate our path and help us get back on the straight and narrow.  Trust him, follow him, seek him with all your heart. 
 

We can still leave a godly legacy, so don’t throw in the towel and just give up. There is nothing our God can’t overcome, just read about Gideon, or Peter, or David. I often wonder when reading the Old Testament why God chose that group of people.  I mean they are some messed up individuals, surely God could do better.  But in those imperfect lives, it is very easy to see God working.  The same is true for my imperfect life.  God is up to the challenge of recalibrating your path and using you for his honor and glory.


Prayer:  Dear Lord, as I walk the path you have for me, I often veer off and go in my own direction.  Forgive me for times when I put my desires in front of yours.  Lord lead me back to your path.  Help me to know that I am still useful to you, nothing I can do can make your plans fail.  Thank you for loving me and forgiving me.  Guide my steps.  In Jesus’ name, Amen 


Scripture: Proverbs 3:5-6, II Samuel 11 & 12, Psalm 51


Response: Ask God for forgiveness and it will be granted. Satan is the one who wants our sins to bog us down. If you have truly repented God will honor that and He is ready to recalibrate your path. Forgive yourself and get going.  Your new legacy begins today. 

 
 
 
 
What is a Godly Legacy?
By Kelly Williams. This is article five in our Legacy series.

 

Who do you have in your life or whom have known that you look up to as a Godly example?  Is there someone that, as a young person, you wanted to emulate? 
 
I have always looked up to Mrs. Pat Quesenbury.  She seemed to me to be the most Godly, beautiful woman I knew.  She looked lovely every time I saw her and she taught me much about how to be the best wife and mother I could be.  I am eternally thankful for all she has meant to my life as a wife, mother, and pastor’s wife.  
 
As I mentioned in my last blog, this topic has been on my mind and heart for almost a year now.  I’ve done some reading and studying on how to leave a Godly legacy, but what exactly does that look like? 
 
Let’s look at the word ‘godly.’  Webster’s Dictionary states the definition is, “religious, pious.” To me that does not say what I believe godly means.  To me it is living a life that conforms to God’s Word, taking on more every day the characteristics of our Savior, Jesus Christ; and setting aside our own ‘rights’ and plans in order to follow God’s leadership through the Holy Spirit.  
 
When I think of my legacy, I don’t think about material things that will be left to my children and grandchildren, but rather the memories they have and the actions they observed in my life.  Will they be able to tell their children “Grammie loved Her Savior above all else and lived her life accordingly?”
 
Scripture: Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:58  (NIV) “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 
 
Respond: I encourage each of you to stand firm each and every day for the Lord.  
 

Prayer: Father, help me this day to have the mind of Christ.  Help me to love those around me, and serve everyone I come in contact with today.  Help me to be mindful of every word that comes from my mouth as I share the Love of the Father. In Jesus’ beautiful name. Amen.




 

 

 

ADD TO YOUR FAITH

By Jackie Ricks. This is article four in our Legacy series.

 

My oldest sister recently passed away and much was said about the godly legacy she left in her children and grandchildren. I began to wonder if the same would or could be said about me someday.  Then I learned that this is the theme for our new WMA year. So, we’re looking at how to cultivate character traits for a godly legacy. There are several scriptures that would work for studying this. But what better than our own WMA motto: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)

 

Notice that faith is the starting point. Without faith, there’s no foundation to build on. Jesus is our foundation. It takes faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior to even think about having a godly character and legacy. That includes not only saving faith but living faith as well. God put a whole chapter of Hebrews (11) in the Bible to discuss how important faith is to us. As Hebrews 11:6 states, “without faith it is impossible to please Him [God].If you haven’t put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you need to do that. If you have, but you haven’t been living by faith daily, then remember that you need to trust Him to take care of every need. Then you will be able to concentrate on developing the character traits you need to leave a godly legacy.

 

What comes after faith? The verse says virtue. This seems to be a logical addition because we struggle to be good within ourselves. In fact, it’s impossible to be good on our own. It’s hard to define virtue, especially in one paragraph (but you don’t want this blog to be a book!). Many people think of virtue as sexual purity, but it’s so much more. It means having moral excellence in all areas. Of course, we can’t attain that by ourselves. Just as the song says, “only the praise comes from Him,” so any goodness or virtue we have comes from God!

 

Next comes knowledge. We cannot live as God wants us to without knowledge of Him and His Word. That means we need to spend time with Him in prayer and in His Word. A daily quiet time is very helpful in this area. In fact, even when my life was much busier than now, I managed better because I had a very consistent quiet time with God to start my day every day before I ever woke anyone else in the house. Sometimes now I rush to do other things and then realize later that I did not have my time with Him. We need that.

 

After knowledge comes temperance. So many times today we think of that only having to do with alcohol. However, temperance simply means self-control, which is a very important character trait to have. We see many people nowadays who have little or no self-control in their actions. Although we call it self-control, it should be called Lord-control. Only by turning our daily walk over to Him can we assuredly walk each step in His path without faltering too badly. We will continue to make mistakes, but God will be right there to pick us up and help us on our way without too much damage done.

 

We need patience to allow God full control in our lives. Some people are more (or less) patient with things and others with people. Then all of us sometimes get impatient with God. One of my favorite songs is “Through It All” where it reminds me that if I’d never had a problem, then I wouldn’t know that God could solve my problems. Faith in God can work wonders in our lives if we let it and help us not be so impatient.

 

Godliness is next. A woman who is godly is devoted to God and also tries to live how God would want. That’s not just thinking WWJD and doing it. That’s also considering if our actions would glorify God and making sure we do nothing that would not glorify Him. As the saying goes, we are the only Bible that some people ever read so we should make sure they get the right message.

 

Brotherly (or sisterly in our case) kindness is the next attribute to add to our faith and all the others. That simply means kindness expressed through our actions. Both the Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible for kindness imply not just the emotion, but the action as well. It’s not enough just to think good thoughts and pray for someone, but we should try to help them in whatever way they need if possible. And remember that sisterly kindness will not expect something in return.

 

Finally, charity (or love) is the last quality mentioned here. This is not just being kind or charitable. The Greek word used is a form of agape. This refers to the supreme love that God has for us or our love for God, or our sacrificial love for other believers. When we have the godly characteristics that we should, we will be able to love others as God wants us to.

 

Do others see these characteristics in you? Are you leaving a Godly legacy that others will remember enough that it will influence their lives for the better? If not, consider adding to your faith….

 

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:5-7; Galatians 5:22-26; Philippians 4:8-9; Proverbs 31:10-31

 

Prayer: “Lord, I want to experience abundant life in You and leave a Godly legacy for my family and others. Please help me to have the faith that I need to add each of these qualities in my life and then use them correctly to help others as I daily live my life. Thank You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Respond: Take an inventory of your life. Are you adding to your faith these characteristics that will help you leave a godly legacy for others? If not, ask God to help you. You may want to do more studying on these as well. Check out the other scriptures mentioned as all of those qualities will also help. You may want to read more. For a more detailed explanation of each attribute, you may want to check out my books Add to Your Faith… or Profiles of Virtue found either on Amazon or by contacting me.

 
 
 
 
BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
By Judy Wallace. This is article three in our Legacy series. 

 

Along with science, my other teaching duties at Bald Knob included a gifted and talented program for the upper grades.  In the high school, the students’ needs were covered with advanced classes.  But in the Junior High the GT classes were more creative in nature.

One of the first assignments I would give my students was to have them write their own obituaries. Some may have thought this was a rather morbid assignment.   I saw it as a way for them to clarify the valuesvisions, and goals they had for their lives.  What did they want to accomplish in their life time?  How did they want to be remembered?  How would they go about bringing these things to fruition?  Whatever their answers were to these questions, they had to plan for and put them into action one step at a time.

Our first step was to define what I was asking for.

 

VALUES: In today’s vernacular, values can be thought of as our worldview.  The Christian worldview is that all men are born with a sin nature. We are headed to hell, which is what we deserve.  But God provided a way to eternal life through our repentance and belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Our values are equated with these beliefs and form the foundation for the way we live our lives. These must be based on the truths set forth in His Word if we are to glorify Him.

What are the standards and beliefs that you go by to build your life on?

 

VISIONS: Businesses and organizations state aims that they want to achieve. An aim is something intended or desired to be obtained, a purpose to be worked toward. These are often given in the form of a Mission Statement that is collaborated on by the parties involved. I had a vision for my life from the time I was in the third grade. I wanted to become a teacher. I think that purpose was planted in my heart by God Himself. Why? It never left my focus and even with my parents thinking I should follow a different path: my heart was set on teaching.

What is the purpose God has chosen for your life? Are you pursuing it?

 

GOALS:  The results or achievements we want seen in our lives are the goals toward which we have worked. Just know our efforts are meaningless unless they have been directed by God and achieved through the strength and direction of the Holy Spirit.  Self-sufficiency and self-reliance will not cut it!  We are helpless without God. 

What is it that you, with God’s leadership, want to accomplish in your life? Are you submitting to God and doing It?

 

What does this have to do with LEGACY?  We must consistently dwell in our Father’s presence, stay in His Word, and obey what He shows us.  Our values will align with His, He will set in our hearts the visions He has for our lives, and will step by step show us the what, when and where of His Purpose for our lives.  If we are to leave a legacy, we must have a legacy. 

Begin now with the end in mind!

 

SCRIPTURE: 1 Peter 1:16; 2 Peter 3:11; Romans 8:28-29; Deutéronomy 6 :1-15 ; Joshua 1 :7-9 ; Philippians 2 :1-11 [Passage of your choosing]

RESPONSE: Using one of these scriptures, write your own mission statement.  What values, visions, and goals for your life can you see in the scripture you chose? How would this scripture, if followed, develop a godly legacy for your life?

PRAYER: Father, I love You and ask that You continuously draw my heart, soul, and mind to You. You know me better than I know myself so “search me and know me and see if there be any wicked way in me.”  You know my sin of self- dependency. Help me to see how often and how desperately I fail. Help me immediately repent, submit and make me right in Your eyes. I pray that at the end it can be said of me,  “She loved God and it showed.”

 
 
 
 
 
 

Walking My Path With Purpose

By Cindy Allen.  This is article two in our Legacy series. 
 
 
As we begin a year of thinking about living a godly legacy, I think we have to realize that there may be some changes we have to make in our lives. 
 
I mean, I am a good person: I go to church, I read my Bible, I attend Bible study. But is that enough?
 

As I look at my life and think about the type of legacy I want to leave for those who will follow behind me, I see some areas of improvement. One of those areas has to do with the lack of intentionality in my Christian walk.  

In Ephesians 2:10, we read how God created each of us for a specific purpose. 
 
But we all also have purposes in common, things God expects all Christians to do. Love the Lord your God with all your heart. Go ye into all the world and make disciples. Love your neighbor as yourself.
 
Get the picture? Most of these things do not just happen, we have to purpose them in our hearts, then in our lives. 
 
If we look at Jesus and his life, we see it was very intentional. In the Great Commission we are told, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations”. (Matt 28:19 NIV) This literally means “as you are going make disciples”.
 
Let’s look at some examples of Jesus as he was going and see how they can apply to our lives.
 
In Luke 19, we are introduced to Zacchaeus. Jesus was going on his way, surrounded by people, and Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see him. Jesus could have just walked on by, glancing around at the crowd, but he took time to really look at the crowd, notice people.  This intentionality changed Zacchaeus’ life forever, and the life of everyone in his household.
 
Do I really look at the crowds around me? If I am honest, I dash through the grocery store, avoiding as many people as possible.  Oftentimes, even at church, I choose the path of quickest escape, not noticing those around me.  Those who might need a word of encouragement or a hug. To live life on purpose means to really look at others and see who I can positively impact, “as I am going”.
 
In John 4, we meet the Samaritan woman. Jesus went out of his way to meet this woman. He took a path no one would have chosen. Imagine doing that in this day and age. I am way too busy to go out of my way to intercept someone who is in need of God’s love. My goodness, I have things to do.
 
But Jesus looked at it differently.
 

Way back at the age of 12, he told Mary and Joseph, “wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49 KJV) Do I have this same attitude?  Am I about my Father’s business? 

 

The story of Lazarus has a different twist. Jesus was intentional, but because of intentionally delaying his visit, his friend died. (John 11)
 
Who would make that choice for a friend? 
 
But as always, Jesus had a purpose.  “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40 NIV) Sometimes the intentional choices we make that honor God bring about hardship for others. Maybe you have a child who has used up all their chances, or a friend who may not wake up until they hit rock bottom. Those situations are hard to be in but if we do what is best for the honor and glory of God, we will always make the best choice. 
 

I want my legacy to be one that points to Jesus.  “As I am going” I want to leave footprints that will show a godly path. 

To do so, I must live on purpose for God. I must make choices, often hard choices, that I may not want to make. I have to go out of my way, get out of my comfort zone. To be honest, most people in my comfort zone love Jesus as much as I do. Sure, I can impact their lives but am I really impacting the world, even my little corner of it? 
 

Sometimes it is scary. Sometimes it is hard. Sometimes it requires a lot of effort. But when we look at Jesus’ life and the difference he made, and consider that we can make a big difference too, isn’t it all worth it?  Can’t we all do better at living our life on purpose for God?

 

Prayer God forgive me for the times I have fallen so short of living a life on purpose for you.  Please Lord, send someone else to impact the people I did not impact that were in my path.  Help me God to be more like Jesus. Open my eyes to the crowd around me, nudge me to go out of my way for your glory, help me to make hard decisions that lead others closer to you. God bless my efforts and move my heart to do better. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Scripture Ephesians 2:10; Luke 19:1-9; John 4:1-42; John 11:1-44

Respond Every morning, pray specifically for God to open your eyes to people who are in need of his touch. Then during the day, keep your eyes open for those people.  Be sensitive to the Spirit as he points you in different directions.  Look at disruptions as opportunities, not interruptions. The world needs love and Jesus charged us to show them love. But they are probably not going to walk up and say, “Hey, I need some love.” We are going to have to look for them, just like Jesus did. 

 

 

 

 

What will you leave behind?

By Kelly Williams.  This is article #1 in our Legacy series. 
 
 
 
Today, I’m feeling every one of my 67 years. 
 
Some days it is just harder to move this old body than others.  Do you agree?  Feeling older certainly brings to my mind that my days on this earth are someday going to come to an end.  Maybe sooner than later.  That thought makes me think about how will I be remembered?  How will my children, grandchildren, friends and family remember me when I’m gone?
 
We all know that day is coming, right?  None of us escapes death.  Scripture says, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 (KJV). We are all going to die but what will we leave behind?  
 
The idea of a lasting legacy has been on my mind and heart for the past year.  As 2nd VP of the National WMA, it is my role to set the theme for the coming year.  So I’ve thought and prayed and read about this for a year.  I have set my heart toward leaving behind a lasting, Godly legacy.  I want my grandchildren to remember me as a woman of the Word of God, who was faithful to her God, her family, and His church.  
 
We will be focusing on this theme in the blog throughout this year.  Our ladies on the resource committee will be writing about the different aspects of a lasting Godly legacy.  We want you to consider joining in this journey to creating that kind of legacy for those who are coming behind you. 
 
Will you commit to reading the blog each week and then praying about how your legacy will affect the generations to come?  Psalms 71:18 (NIV) says, ““Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.” 
 
The apostle Paul, in giving his farewell message to the Ephesian elders said this in Acts 20:24, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
 
In thinking of last year’s emphasis in the blog, will you commit to striving to be CLOSER to our Savior as we daily live mindful of the legacy we are leaving for those who come behind us?
 
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 71
 
RESPONSE:  List the attributes from this Psalm that show what is included in building a legacy.
 

PRAYER:  Father, we pray that as women of God we will be mindful each day of those around us, whether family or strangers, and remind us to share Jesus with everyone we meet, whether in word or deed.  

 
 
 
 
 
CLOSING C.L.O.S.E.R
By Judy Wallace. This is article #48 and our final post in our CLOSER series.  
 
 
 
It was a year ago that the Inspirational Resource Committee began a journey called a blog! The actual definition of a blog is, “a regular feature appearing as part of an online publication that typically relates to a particular topic and consists of articles and personal commentary by one or more authors.”  That has been us!  
 
After getting our feet wet this first year, we want to turn the page on one emphasis and develop another following the new national theme: Leaving a Godly Legacy. Looking forward, our writers will be sharing topics that pertain to pursuing a life that will leave our footprint prints right inside those belonging to Jesus so that ‘those who come behind us find us faithful!’  
 
But we should never get away from pursuing that C.L.O.S.E.R relationship with Christ! We cannot have a godly legacy without it. This acronym has served as a constant reminder that we are to be carrying on a conversation with God throughout our day as we COMMUNICATE with Him through prayer. 
 
Communication is a two-way street.  We must put ourselves in a position to hear from God as we LEARN to study and understand what He is saying to us through Bible study. You may often find He speaks directly to you, answers a question for you, corrects you and always teaches you as you spend time with Him in His Word.
 
The next key component is deciding what to do with those lessons.  The only option is to OBEY! The more time you spend in prayer and Bible study, the more you fall in love with the One who loved us so! Jesus Himself said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15
 
I’ve heard it said that by memorizing scripture you increase the Holy Spirit’s vocabulary in your life.  Have you been in one of those situations that you are not sure exactly what to do and then the Spirit recalls for us a scripture that gives direction?  For that to happen, it must be in there in the first place.  We must STORE God’s word in our hearts! Memorization is hard for me but not impossible.  If I spend enough time on it, I can do it. You can too! “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” Psalm 119:11
 
EVANGELIZE! For some reason the very word brings fear to our hearts. First, we must realize this is not a suggestion from God.  It is a command. Go. Tell. We don’t have problems sharing other things with people.  Don’t you revel in talking about your kids and grandkids?  Aren’t you excited to show them pictures? Why?  You love them so much, their deeds and antics just flow from you.  Why shouldn’t it be that easy to share about the life-giving sacrifice of Jesus? Why shouldn’t His deeds, His life, His constant presence in your life flow just as easily?
 

These disciplines aren’t something we can consider ‘one and done.’ They must be practiced every day. We must constantly RENEW our commitment to Him and our relationship with Him.

If our life is spent in doing the things that bring us CLOSER to God, we will leave a Godly Legacy!

SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 10:22; James 4:8; 2 Corinthians 4:16

RESPONSE: Which of the disciplines highlighted in CLOSER do you struggle with most? Concentrate on the first three [prayer, Bible study and obedience] and the others will come more easily.

PRAYER; Father, every thing we need for a fulfilled, abundant life comes from our relationship with You.  Peace, comfort, joy, the knowledge of Your grace and mercy should keep us strong.  Help me live in constant awareness of Your presence.

 

How very thankful I am to the wonderful ladies on this year’s committee who didn’t sign up to do a blog, yet welcomed the idea whole heartedly. Jackie Ricks, Susie Edgar, and Valarie Fish have faithfully submitted articles through out this past year.  Although Val rotates off the committee, we will be hearing from her again!  Starting next week, we will be incorporating blogs from some new writers who expressed an interest in participating. Welcome Cindy Allen, Victoria White, and Kelly Williams!

*Please pray for Susie Edgar’s family.  Her sister-in-law was killed in the tornado outbreak that ravaged Sulphur OK.

 

 

 

You Need Some Jesus!

By Valarie Fish.  This is article # 47 in our series on drawing CLOSER to God. 

 

The comical one-liner when confronted with a person who is behaving badly, “Oh girl, you need some Jesus!” Overheard in the nail salon while two people shared their latest gossip, “he really needs some Jesus!” The plan of the backslider, “I’ll try to come to church more. I need me some Jesus.” 
 

We know we all need Jesus, but how much Jesus is enough?

When will you know you have reached the fill line of your Jesus tank?
 
Can you have too much Jesus? 
 
One of the more complex gifts God has bestowed on mankind is free will. The ability each person has been given to make choices for themselves. This free will means each one of us is responsible for the choices we make every moment of every day. God can’t force you to make any decision and neither can Satan.
 
 

Free will means the buck stops with you.    

  

A decision is usually made by weighing the options and making a choice to perform some specific action. You have two (or more) doors to choose from, so you evaluate the options, and you make a choice. You decide which door is most beneficial to the outcome you want. I decided as a child I wanted to go to heaven when I die. I decided to accept the payment Jesus made for my sin and asked Him to come into my life. This was the obvious and easy choice based on what was most beneficial to the outcome, i.e. going to heaven when I die.  I didn’t fully understand everything about the choice I was making but God knew I would keep learning and growing closer to Him. My decision to follow Jesus wasn’t the only choice I would make in my spiritual journey, but it was the first step for a lifetime of choices. 

 
Some people have decided to follow Jesus but haven’t committed to follow Jesus. What is the difference? 
 
Commitment comes into play with every set of choices before you. Commitment sees the same two (or more) doors and asks God which one to take. Instead of choosing the door most beneficial to your personal desired outcome, you choose to defer to God’s desired outcome. Instead of weighing the pros and cons of the choices before you, commitment waits for the Holy Spirit to say, “follow me, child.” Then commitment walks through the door confident that even if you do not know what is on the other side, God knows and has a plan!  
 

Commitment takes faith that God is truthful. 

Commitment takes courage to act without a guarantee of the outcome. 

Commitment takes confidence that not only do you need some Jesus, but Jesus is all you need. 
 
Instead of “how much Jesus do you need?” what if you were to honestly evaluate “how much Jesus do you want?” When you want Jesus more than anything else, He will become everything you need for every moment of your life. 
 

Scripture: Luke 9:23-24; Galatians 2:20

Prayer: Father, I need you every moment of every day. Please help me to trust that you know the path set before me and to walk after you without hesitations and without selfish ambition. Lead me where you want me to go. Amen. 
 
 
 
 
 


IN THE VALLEYS AND ON THE MOUNTAINS

By Jackie Ricks.  This is article #46 in our series on drawing CLOSER to God.  

 

 My favorite verse for years has been 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” So many times, we don’t do that. Some only thank God for the good things (if they even remember then). The closer we are to God, the easier it is to remember to thank and praise Him in everything
 
A favorite song of mine is “Through It All.” If you haven’t heard it in a while and can’t remember the words, take time to look it up and read the lyrics. As it states, God is enough in every situation—both good and bad. That’s how we learn to have faith in Him and depend on Him. However, my favorite thought in the whole song is that without the troubles and valleys in our lives, we’d never know just how much God could do because in most of those instances we know that we can’t possibly solve our own problems.
 
Those times in the valley are actually when I’ve felt closest to the Lord because He is the only One I can depend on. He may use other humans to help us work through things, but in many cases those people wouldn’t be in the right place at the right time without Him guiding them there. Let me give you a personal example.
 
I signed the contract for my first teaching position less than a week before I had to report to work. (In spite of trying for months through many applications and interviews!) Since I was moving my mobile home from Austin to Cleveland, Texas. I had many arrangements to make. Those fell through and I had to leave Austin late on a Sunday afternoon with my home still sitting there. The town where I was moving had no motels so I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but my dad told me to go to a certain pastor’s home and tell him who I was and what was going on. I did not know him, but my dad was acquainted since they were both pastors. Arriving at 10:30 at night, I rang the bell. The pastor listened to my story as we carried my bags into one of the bedrooms. He then had to wait for the mobile home’s arrival since I had to work the next day. After many problems, it finally arrived on Tuesday, with a busted hot water heater. However, the pastor went down to the local hardware store and made arrangements for me to pay one off over the course of several months. During the three years I taught in Cleveland, Bro. Grady Johnson, his family and Southline Baptist Church members helped me out several times in various ways. God knew and had them exactly where they needed to be when He knew that I would need them most. There have been many examples in my life of similar things.
 
Another song that mentions God being there for us in all circumstances is “God on the Mountain.” The first verse has a similar meaning to the song “Through It All.” However, the second verse makes it sound like we always have faith in the good times and remember to thank Him in those times. To me, the song makes it sound like we only forget God in the bad times. In my life, I’ve sometimes found the opposite. I remember God easily in the bad times because He’s the only One who can fix the situations. However, I sometimes begin to think that I may have done something to result in the good times. We should never think that. It’s always God. That’s why we should thank God in everything—good and bad. Otherwise, we may try to take personal credit for God’s work.
 

I think the key to thanking God in everything is to remain so close to Him that we always remember that He is the only answer to every situation. We should be in the habit of listening to Him on a regular basis (reading His Word daily) and talking to Him constantly (praying all through the day). Only then will we be likely to turn to Jesus and thank Him for the good and the bad in our lives because God has a purpose for it all.

 

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Matthew 11:28-30

 

Prayer:  “Lord, thank You for Your care over me throughout my whole life: both the good and the bad. I know You have a reason for it all and that I will grow in faith as I stay close to You. Please help me not to stray or to forget that You are the One in control and that I should always thank You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

Respond:  Take time to thank God for the highs and the lows in your life. Check to see if you often ignore one or the other in talking to Him. Also remember to turn to His Word. It will bring you closer to the Lord.

 

 

 

T0TAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART

by Judy Wallace.  This is article #45 in our series on drawing CLOSER to God.  
 
 

Have you heard there was a total solar eclipse across the center part of the United States recently?  If not, where have you been?!  Predictions of increase in traffic, low gas supplies, huge increases in the number of people in your area, and the need for those all-important glasses were all signs of a major event that captured everyone’s thoughts.

 

Though the shadow of the moon obscured the light of the sun for a few short minutes on April 8, 2024, there are other experiences that can be considered an eclipse.  The definition of eclipse, other than the celestial one, includes any dimming or obstruction of light, a reduction or loss of splendor, or being overshadowed by another.

 

It makes me wonder, is there anything that is obscuring the Light in our lives? Jesus declared Himself to be the Light of the world.  He called us to be salt and light. Are we? He took us from the kingdom of darkness and placed us in His glorious kingdom of light. Can others tell?

 

Do others see that Light or is there an ‘eclipse’ of some kind in our lives; an obstruction that prevents the Light of Christ from shining through? What thoughts are you consumed with that prevent you from keeping your mind on Him?  What activities take first place over an intimate time with God? What are you focused on horizontally that keeps you from being focused on Him vertically. Do you depend on His strength to live each day? Are you watching for His soon return?

 

A majestic display of God’s creative power was seen by millions as the moon blocked the sun.  YOU are part of His creative power too! You are His workmanship made to display Him from the countenance of your face, the tone of your voice, the works of your hands, and the interactions you have with every person God puts in your path.

 

Don’t let your own life obstruct His glory.  Don’t try and overshadow Him by depending on your own talents, gifts, and abilities instead of on Him directly. He is, after all, the Giver of all of those things.

 

Many looked to the sky that day.  We should too; longing for the return of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and letting our lights shine so others can be looking for Him too!

 

Response: “Much time was spent by many in preparing for the solar eclipse.  May I spend my time depending on You, Father, to direct and empower my life to do your work through the power of Your Spirit. Keep me dependent on you so that I may never obscure Your light from others but instead light their way to you.”

 

Scriptures: Luke 1:76-79; 11:35; John 8:12; 12:35, 46; 2 Corinthians 4:6

 
 

 

 

 

MAY WE RECOMMEND…

This Bible Study/ Book recommendation is part of our CLOSER series. By Judy Wallace.
 
 

… PSALM 119

We are so blessed to have capable writers that give us various Bible studies that guide our hearts and minds. They help us to ‘shore up our strength’ in certain areas of spiritual growth and in the power of the Holy Spirit as we continue this walk with God toward maturity.

But none are so eloquent as each Bible author that wrote down the words given to them by God Himself. The Spirit recorded the mind of God in the Word of God. The older I get, the more precious the Bible becomes. It accomplishes in my life what the scripture tells us the Ultimate Author does: teaches us doctrine, reproves us, gives us instruction in righteousness and corrects us.

Probably no part of Scripture defines this more clearly than does Psalm 119.  All one hundred and seventy-six verses speak of God’s word in some way except for two.  In fact, this Psalm is a prime, organized study in how God’s Word shows us all the benefits He bestows on us and how we are to apply them.

If you notice, the Psalm is divided into octets of eight verses each all starting with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Young Jewish men were taught from this song and were expected to memorize it!  Wow!  Just think how many minutes this praise and worship song would add to our services!

When studying with one of my LOL (Life-On-Life) groups, we took this song as one to study more deeply.  Taking sixteen verses each week, we would organize the information in each verse into columns.  The first column was for words found in the verses that represent God’s Word. For example, the words statutes, judgments, precepts, commands, testimonies, and instructions etc. are used interchangeably throughout the Psalm.

The second column would be for writing down what it teaches us about God: what He did for us, what He does for us now, and how He interacts with us. The third column would be how we are to respond back to Him, and how we will apply and put into action all we are challenged with as a result of studying the Scripture. When we came back the following week, we would share what we learned and even a scripture we memorized from the sixteen verses of the week.

It took some a while to really understand what we were to do. Soon all caught on and faithfully filled their columns.  Some things to remember:

  • Not every verse will have all three components.  Your columns will have some blank spaces and that is perfectly fine
  • Don’t let this become a simple rote exercise! After you have filled your chart, go back  and 
    • praise Him for His word: how He has protected it through these 2,000 years and preserved every ‘jot and tittle, ‘ so that we could still have it for all future generations.
    • meditate on the benefits from God. Praise Him daily and show the gratitude He deserves. This is more of an ‘application’ Column.  From these verses, what am I to do? What action am I to take? How should I respond?

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 119: 16 verses at a time. [This could be a ten week study.]

RESPONSE:

Get a regular size notebook.

  • Make your columns: Headings horizontal/columns vertical [first will be smaller, other two splitting evenly according the space left]
  • Example:

THE WORD            BENEFITS FROM GOD                    ACTIONS OR APPLICATION                       

Vs. 1 law                           blessed                        walk undefiled, walk in the law of God

Vs. 2 testimonies              blessed                        keep testimonies, seek with whole heart

I pray that some of your ladies’ groups will take on this study. You can see from the very first verses that you will be blessed by it!
 
 

Psalm 119:10,11: 10 With my whole heart have I sought Thee; O let me not wander from Thy commandments! 11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.

 

 

 

In the Eye of the Calm

By Valarie Fish.  This is article #44 in our series on drawing CLOSER to God.  
 
 

The sky suddenly darkens, and the clouds turn a dark shade of gray. 

“I don’t remember the weatherman saying anything about rain.” You muse as you check your cell phone for a weather report. Shelter in place is the plan as the wind whips up and stirs the tree branches into a frenzy.

Storms are scary because, even if you thought you could predict every nuance of the event, every storm is unique. No storm ever follows exactly the path predicted and no matter how close you get to predicting what may happen, you cannot control what eventually happens.

Difficult circumstances are sometimes called storms usually for that same reason – you cannot predict or control what will happen. Most of the time you need to shelter in place and start praying.

Imagine the disciples, (Matthew 8:23-27) tossing around like rag dolls while their Master sleeps through the tumult. We cry out, as they did, for Jesus to save us from this out-of-control, will-I-ever-sleep-again, just-help-me-survive, kind of storm.  

“Please Jesus, calm this storm in my life!” 

“And He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then He got up and rebuked the wind and the sea and there was a great calm.” Matthew 8:26

Now the storm is over! Thank you, Jesus, for taking control of the erratic, miserable, unpredictable, messy, can’t-see-through-the-tears storm. Now that things are calm, I finally feel like I am in control again. Imagine if you were to turn to the Master and say, “You can go back to sleep now, Jesus, I got this.” 

Rather arrogant, don’t you think? Especially when you have no more control over the calm than you do in the storm. You still need Jesus even when the tempest is gone. Just because you can let go of the handrails, doesn’t mean you can predict where the calm might bring you next. It is during the calm when you can sit down next to Him and learn what He needs you to know. To concentrate on Him alone without the distraction of the storms. 

Faith, a solid conviction in the truthfulness of God, is believing God means it when He says “I will never leave you nor forsake you…” 

When the cancer returns and the thunder rolls.

When the boss hands you a pink slip and the water crashes over the boat.

When your teenager gets caught with drugs and the wind whips through the sails.

Or even when you can breathe again without a horrible weight crushing your heart and the sea is calm. When you sleep through the night and the calm brings a cooling breeze.

In all of these – God will never leave you or forsake you. Ever. 

When your everyday faith takes hold of this truth, you will find beauty in the storm – any storm – and grow CLOSER to Him in the worst of the storm or in the eye of the calm.   

Scripture:  Isaiah 41:10; Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Matthew 7:24-27

Prayer: 

Father, thank you for holding me tight through every storm so far. I have confidence you will continue to hold me through the storms that are still ahead. Help me, Father, never to be so arrogant that I forget you when the seas are calm and the road ahead appears smooth. During those times let me remain in your presence and learn from your heart. Amen.   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
WHAT KIND OF EXAMPLE ARE YOU?
By Jackie Ricks.  This is article #43 in our series on drawing CLOSER to God.  
 
 

One day in high school algebra, my teacher made the statement that everyone was an example. Foolish teen that I was, I objected and told him that some people weren’t good enough to be examples because that’s what had always been put in my head that we must be good examples. However, as he pointed out, we are ALL examples: some good and some bad. I’ve never forgotten that, but I haven’t always been a good example. What does the Bible say?

 

Just as Paul encouraged Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12, we should be “an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” The Greek word for conversation meant more like conduct than talk. Just as a child wants to do what he sees his parents doing even if it’s not what they tell him to do, a new believer or an unbeliever will have a tendency to do or say things similar to what they see others do, especially if they think that might be the actions that “get them to heaven.” Of course, we know that it’s not actions, but faith that saves a person. However, our actions could hinder someone else if we’re not careful.

 

So how should we act?

 

The answer is simple. We should follow Jesus’ example. First Peter 2:21 says, “For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.” Jesus is really the only person whose example is appropriate to follow. Anyone else fails miserably because of sin. However, people continue to follow others’ examples anyway. I guess it’s human nature. Although we know that we cannot be perfect, we should still strive to be good examples by following Christ. It’s easier to do if we are close to Him as well.

 

I’ll never forget a time in my life when I wasn’t a good example to my best friend. In the long run, she ended up following me down the wrong path. We both did get our lives back in line with Christ’s example, but in the meantime, how many others did we possibly lead astray? Many people would say that each individual has the right to choose whether she follows another or not. That’s true, but the fact is that often a person would not think of doing/saying something if they hadn’t seen or heard someone else first.

 

I’ve also seen situations where a person’s good example has helped bring others to Christ or to follow Him in their daily lives. This especially seems to be true in the case of a spouse who continues to attend church and live right even when their partner stays home and lives like the devil. Quite often the resulting testimony is that the person would never have come to the Lord if they hadn’t watched their spouse persevere and continue following the Lord in spite of the roadblocks put in their way. The same can work with wayward children. Remember Proverbs 22:6.

 

Paul says it all in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me even as I also am of Christ.” If we live by that, then we don’t have to worry about leading others astray since Jesus never leads us in the wrong way. And of course, you can’t follow Christ if you don’t stick close to Him. In fact, Jesus doesn’t want us only to follow Him; He wants us to abide with Him so that we basically can’t do anything except His will. Of course, we humans aren’t too good at abiding in Him completely.

 

Scripture:  John 15; Philippians 4:8-9; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10

 

Prayer: “Lord, thank You for keeping me close and helping me know how to live as I should. Please continue to correct me when You see me step out of the right way. I pray that, with Your guidance, I don’t lead others astray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Respond:  Evaluate your own life to see if you may have some habits that could be bad examples to others. Don’t just look at your actions at church or outside your home. You are a strong influence even inside your own home. Seek to be closer to God. Ask Him to help you if you are doing some things that might cause others to stumble.

 

 

 

 

    

QUOTES
By Judy Wallace.  This is article #42 in our series on drawing CLOSER to God. 
 
 
I collect quotes.
 

For years I would simply underline them in the book I was reading. Then it dawned on me I could write them in a notebook of their own, title them, and enjoy them repeatedly. I think I have at least four quote books by now.

It is interesting to note that God is involved with this process. He brings the quotes to me that give comfort and direction to whatever concerns me during that time in my life.

Let me give you an example.
 
Four years ago, I had my knee replaced.  Three months later they had to do a sedation manipulation. A year later I had my knee replaced…..the same one.  It kept giving me trouble and we found that I was allergic to the mechanism itself! 
 
During that time, my Bible readings and my devotional books etc. talked about suffering and pain. For instance, one book used the following scripture in its text: “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:12-13) I realize that passage had a different meaning for the original recipients, but it met a need in this recipient’s heart!
 
Then there was a quote from Streams in the Desert on August 15. “Human nature seems to need suffering to fit it for being a blessing to the world.” Not exactly what I wanted to hear but I needed to hear it.
 
Or another from My Utmost for His Highest: “Get to the end of yourself where you can do nothing, but where He does everything.”  My pain and limited mobility put me where the only thing I could do was look up. That quote helped me do that.
 
In a totally different arena of my life, I felt that I needed to confront someone on an issue unrelated to church or family or any of my usual relationship circles.  I fought it big time so I decided to pray and ask God if this was something he had put my heart or just my own indignation.  The next morning, two of my devotional books addressed that very area! Two!! God had given me my answer.
 
There are so many more that I could share; quotes, sayings, verses that God has given at just the right time for just the right occasion. But I have to make myself available and open to hear from Him.  I have to give Him time to speak to me through His word.  I have to ask for His direction, His will, His discernment.
 
That is what CLOSER means.  I pray to Him to direct my steps.  He gives me guidance, assurance, and peace through His Word and even through human authors at times.  That makes me love Him even more and therefore want to obey Him more, meditate on Him more, and renew intimacy with Him even more day by day.
 
Once you pray and ask, then be very alert and look for His message He has for you.  It will come through His Word, through your circumstances, and maybe even through a quote! 
 
SCRIPTURES:  Psalm 94: 18-19/ Psalm 118:5/ Hebrews 5:8/ Philippian 3:10
 

RESPOND: Father, thank you for hearing me. Thank you for answering me. Thank you for caring about the smaller details of my life and using various means to show me that.  I love You!

 
 
 
 
 
What Just Happened?
By Susie Edgar.  This is article #41 in our series on drawing CLOSER to God.

 

I was sitting in my favorite chair relaxing after a very challenging week of ministry; I was trying to run it back through my mind to clear up “What just happened?”
 
 
You know, that’s how it is sometimes in ministry. A lot of “What just happened”?
 
 
My husband has been in the ministry for 61 years this March. We both agree our “What just happened” moments seem to be a norm for us.  “What just happened” is God.  God working in our lives to accomplish His will for His glory. 
 
 

Think about your “What just happened” last week. It’s not just for preachers/teachers/lay people. God wants the same for all His children. Look for God working in your everyday life. He wants to do that with you. Write down every time you see God working in your life.  It may be small at first but as you acknowledge it, He gets bigger. You will be amazed He is working all around us and He is looking for those who will get involved in what He is doing. 

 

My daughter text me last week.
 

Mom! I just got off the phone with Aimee. Her mom has less than a week to live.  Will you pray for her and for guidance for me to show her God’s love and peace. I want to help but I have no idea how. 

*My advice to her was the best thing you can do is pray with her every time you talk to her. Never met anyone who doesn’t appreciate that.  She will love you for it. Always bring God and His Word into the situation. 

*Listening is always a good thing. Listen without interrupting if you can. It brings calmness to the person.  Most people have their “What just happened?’ times also. Talking it through helps them sort it out. 

*When I don’t understand what God is doing, I have to fall back on what I do understand. What I do understand is that He loves me and everything that He allows in my life is run through the filter of His plan and purpose for me. We think temporal He thinks eternal. 

(Ronald Dunn “Don’t Just Stand There- Pray Something!”)
 

 

*Scripture is powerful. He [David] does not say, “my pain comes from the Lord,” or “my tragedy comes from the Lord” he says, my HELP comes from the Lord. God you see what is happening to me. Can you help me?

*Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Isaiah 40: 28-29

*For the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, fear not; I will help thee. Isaiah 41:13

*But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” Isaiah 43:1. 

It’s been said: “If He brings you to it, He will bring you through it.”  He has already prepared the way. 

 

 

 

 

Lost & Found

By Valarie Fish. This is article #40 in our series on drawing CLOSER to God. 

Late again to the gym this morning because I spent way too much time looking for my ear buds. If I get there early enough to claim the treadmill with the best view, I can watch the TV mounted strategically on the wall, but usually the channel is on some kind of sports or infomercial. If I’m lucky, I can catch some news or weather, but I prefer my own device to the flat screen on the wall. With my ear buds I can listen to KLOVE or a podcast or even an episode of some show on a streaming service. Unless I have lost them. Again. 

I lose things all the time. Phone, pen, nail file, ear buds, chargers, mail; if it can be misplaced, I can find a way!  

The thing I don’t lose (very often) is my keys. 

Years ago when I worked a job that required me to always keep my keys secure, I wore them on a lanyard around my neck. When I would get home to my apartment at the end of the day, I had a hook placed strategically inside the door, so the habitual motion was “unlock door, step inside, hang keys.” I always knew where to find my keys when I got ready to walk out the door in the mornings because I put them in the same place every time. Even after I left that job and that apartment, I kept in the habit by installing a hook inside the back door of my new house. Now, when I go looking for my keys (most of the time) they are right there on the hook. 

Now if I could only do the same for my ear buds! 

Sometimes the thing that is lost is not an item you can hold in your hand. Sometimes you feel disconnected, distant, depressed, and just lost. 

When this happens, I sometimes feel like I just need to “get myself together” and everything will fall into place. Here’s the problem – I can get myself together and be organized and efficient for a time. Eventually I fall back into old habits and familiar strategies for coping, and I find myself lost all over again. How can I break this cycle? 

Maybe, like my keys, I need to install a hook where I can keep my “together” in the same place every end of day, ready for the challenges of the next. A specific location where I can know for certain my feelings and emotions and struggles and ambitions will all be safe and secure, maintained and anchored. A refuge, if you will, from the chaos surrounding me. But where in the world would I find such a place? And how can I make a habit of connecting with that specific location at the start and the end of every day?   

There are many examples in the Bible, but I think David the Psalmist says it best and most often – “I cried out to You, O Lord; I said. ‘You are my refuge…” (Psalm 142:5) 

When you are feeling overwhelmed by life, and you can’t seem to “get it all together” perhaps it’s because you aren’t putting “it” in a safe place. Learn how from the Psalmist in Psalm 142 and 143 (as well as many other inspiring and instructional passages) and determine to keep your Refuge in the same place every morning – to give you strength for the day ahead, and every evening – to unload all your burdens and worries. 

Most importantly, when you unload those burdens with your Refuge, leave them there! I promise, He will take them and turn them into something good while you sleep. (Psalm 127:2)

SCRIPTURE: 

Psalm 141, 142 and 143; 1 Peter 5:6-11; Psalm 127  

PRAYER

Father, help me maintain a habit of coming to You with all my problems – big or small – and let You make them into something that will bring You glory. When I am feeling overwhelmed, show me how to pause and run to You for refuge. Draw me closer to You so when the storms threaten, I will have no cause for fear. Let everything I do, and everything I say, point someone to see You. Amen.

 
 
 
OBEDIENCE
By Judy Wallace.  This is article #39 in our series on drawing CLOSER to God.
 
 

“Come to Mama.” These are the words calmly spoken by my daughter, Jill, when she was training her five girls in obedience.  She and husband, Michael, wanted to make sure each of their daughters learned to obey quickly and cheerfully when called. 

 I’ve observed this in action!  If a little one was not coming when called, there would be a practice session.  The sisters would line up with the offender, and one by one Jill would call them by name. They would respond quickly and cheerfully, knowing they were examples to the one being taught!  Eventually, the offending party would be called, “______come to Mama.”  Depending on how self-willed they were, sometimes it took more than one or two times for them to respond properly.  Other times they might respond to the first call, but it might not be very cheerful or quickly! 

 What the girls didn’t know (but their parents did) was this training was for their safety and for the understanding of authority. Their parents knew that learning to obey Mom and Dad would eventually help the girls learn to obey God.

God says to us, “Come unto me…come to your Abba.” Once called, we respond in either one of two ways: we obey, or we disobey. Those are our only choices.  And those choices, made one at a time, set the course of our life.

Scripture contains many instances where Christ called people to come.  We are probably most familiar with His call to the disciples: Mark 1:17 Come ye after me and I will make you to become fishers of men.” The following verse tells us that they immediately left their nets to follow Him.  We find here that it was a quick and probably cheerful response.  They didn’t know where they were going.  They probably had no idea what fishing for people meant.  But here was a rabbi, a teacher that wanted them to walk after Him and with Him.  What an opportunity! There was no hesitation in their obedience to His invitation to do life together.

But there is another passage in Mark that doesn’t end the same way. Perhaps it was because it didn’t begin the same way.  Instead of waiting for Jesus to call him, a young man blusters in, confident that this relationship he was seeking in some way depended on him.  He was wealthy!  He could just buy it.  He was no doubt an upright and moral man. He could just earn it.   “What shall I do that I might inherit eternal life?”  

Jesus answered him in Mark 10:21, “…sell what thou hast, give to the poor…and come take up thy cross and follow me.” There is the invitation! This time Jesus, by referring to the cross, let it be known that obedience to His invitation would come with trials, hardships, and self-denial.  Instead of obeying quickly and cheerfully, the man went the other way sorrowfully. He wasn’t willing to give up all he had amassed or any of his perceived good works. His disobedience clung to his worldly possessions and his confidence in himself.

There is a third passage that calls us to obedience in our life by dependence on Jesus Christ.  Matthew 28:11a…”come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest…” If we have obeyed Christ call to salvation, we have also experienced some hard times and sufferings as a result of that obedience.  We become ‘weary and heavy laden.’ So this calls for another obedience…. go to Him for our rest and peace. And just how does that come about?  Matthew 28:11b “…learn of me and I will give you rest.”

If we obey the call to follow Him, we will have salvation.

If we obey the call, learn more and more of Him, we will have rest and peace.  Do both quickly and cheerfully. 

RESPONSE: Write out the words to the song ‘Trust and Obey.’  As you think about exactly what it says, take note of which parts speak to your heart as to what it takes to truly trust God.  Based on that trust, what does obedience look like in your life? What do you need to do to be more obedient?

PRAYER:  Father, we get it all wrong.  Once saved we tend to rely on self…our talents, gifts, personality, strengths instead of realizing we have none of these without you.  We cannot not earn our salvation, we cannot keep our salvation, we cannot fulfill the purpose you have for each of us, and we will have no peace without keeping our hearts and minds on you. Help me be quickly and cheerfully obedient to you in all areas of my life.

 

 

 

Personal or Group Study

By Jackie Ricks.  This is article #38 in our series on drawing CLOSER to God.
 
 

Several years ago, I was involved in the most rewarding Bible study I’ve ever done. Although it was meant to be a group thing (and we did attend that), the part that I enjoyed the most was the personal Bible study that I did daily as a result of it. At that time, it was only available as a group, with a “package” that came with several student workbooks, a leader’s guide, videos, etc. We met weekly in a home for the group/video part. But I (and I assume everyone else) studied and did the workbook at home daily.

Recently, I was asked about a Bible study for a newer Christian. I couldn’t get that previous study out of my head, so I just decided to look online and see if anything similar was still available. Imagine my surprise to find that you can actually get the same study with workbook (and even a book if you desire) and connection to videos on demand without having to be part of a group. I immediately ordered two books and workbooks, including the video access since I had told my friend that I would do the Bible study alongside her just in case she had questions while she was doing it.

What is this study? It’s “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God” by Henry, Richard, and Mike Blackaby and Claude V. King. It has been updated some. The original was written by everyone except Mike. Richard is Henry’s son and Mike is his grandson. It is published by Lifeway Press. I know it’s available from Lifeway, Mardel and Christianbook.com. It may possibly be bought other places as well. The cost is reasonable. If you can get only one thing, opt for the workbook with video access. At Christianbook.com, it was only $21.99. (Mardel happened to be the same price that week, but they were out of stock in the store.)

Blackaby tells many personal experiences that relate to the point he is making at the time. Each day’s work involves scriptures (including some memorization), response questions about the readings, and also some personal questions about how God is involved in your own life at the present time. This is a 12-session Bible study with video access. Each session involves 5 days of work in the workbook with a summary of the week and video at the end of the week.

How much time does it take? You could probably go through the day’s lesson in 15-20 minutes, but it can also take as long as you need to allow the Spirit to work in your life as you absorb what God is trying to teach you that day. Although the ideas make complete sense, they are not something that most people would have thought about on their own. For instance, we usually think that God should spell out our future for us before we proceed. However, think about Abraham. God simply told Abram to go where He led. Abram/Abraham did and God blessed him greatly.

Often we believe that God needs us to carry out His work in this world. Actually, it’s the other way around. God could accomplish everything without us at all, but we can’t achieve anything without Him. We must abide in Him to produce fruit. Without Him, we can do nothing. So if you’re looking for a great Bible Study, check out “Experiencing God.” You will be blessed.

Scriptures to read: John 15:5; John 14:6; Matthew 6:33-34; John 5:17, 19-20

Prayer: “Lord, help me to know how to study more about You and what You want me to do. Help me experience You working in my life and allow me to join You in what You’re doing. Please show me how to have enough time and quiet to make my study time worthwhile. Thanks again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Respond: Make a special time in your day to spend with the Lord. No matter what you’re studying from the Bible, make sure you give God your full attention during that time. Your life will be richer for it.

 
 
 
 
May We Recommend…
This Bible Study/ Book recommendation is part of our CLOSER series. By Val Blackmore.
 
 
 

the Following God Bible Study Series.

 

[As listed in our WMA guidelines, my job as third vice president is to promote regular, systemic Bible Study. Also, I am chair of the Inspirational Resource Committee whose task it is to recommend good books and studies for Ladies groups across our work.  For almost a year now, we have stressed through our blog the theme of CLOSER:  C= communicate with God through prayer; L= learn to study and understand God’s Word; O= obedience; S= store God’s Word through memorization; E= evangelize; R= renew daily.  This method encourages studying the Bible itself in our quest to increase our intimacy with God as we learn to apply the disciplines represented by this acronym.

 

We have often been asked by some groups to suggest studies that they can use in regular meetings.  With this article we hope to begin incorporating suggestions for this very thing. Your group is invited to share information through this blog about excellent studies you have used.

Our guest contributor this week is Val Blackmore. Val is a member of Celebration Baptist Church in Haskell, Arkansas. She has been involved in the WMA work for decades and is an avid student of God’s Word.]

 

Are you searching for a good study book for your Ladies group? I would like to recommend the Following God Bible Study Series published by AMG Publishers.  This series is suitable for group or individual study.  These Bible studies take you to God’s Word and help you make application in your own life to the truths that you will find there.

 

 

A special feature of these studies are the sidebars on most every page pertaining to historical, contemporary, and archaeological information.

One is titled, Put yourself in their shoes, which explains about the lives and culture of the people in the passage being studied.

 

Our ladies have just finished a study in the Following God Discipleship Series.  This series gives Life Principles for Worship from the Feasts of Israel.  It focuses on these feasts’ fulfillment in Jesus.  In this study, Rick Shepherd wants to remind us that He is represented in each feast. Knowing, loving, obeying, and worshiping Him is the goal of each one.  There are eight lessons broken down into five-day segments that examine the seven feasts as presented in scripture with questions and personal applications for each day.

 

Another very good study is the Following God Character Series.  In the study titled, ‘Joseph… Beyond the Coat of Many Colors.’  Mary Englund Murphy, author, takes you beyond the story we learned as a child to see Joseph as you have never seen him before.  It is an eight-week study in the same formats as the Following God Discipleship Series.  It offers hope; encouragement, and practical answers to life’s problems such as dealing with blended families and broken and betrayed relationships.  She touches on understanding depression, shattered hopes, and implement challenges.  It offers leadership for churches and businesses as well as a guidebook for handling peer pressure and instituting moral purity, grace, and forgiveness.

 

Our ladies found that this study opened a lot of positive class discussion which was beneficial to all and healing for many.

Val Blackmore

Celebration Baptist Church

Haskell AR

 

(If you would like to critique a study and share it with others, please send your suggestions in the form of a write up summary to Judy Wallace, jwallace18@earthlink. It may be included in future blogs.)

 
 
 
A Calling
By Susie Edgar.  This is article #37 in our series on drawing CLOSER to God.

 

Have you ever wondered what your calling is? Most people struggle with

the answer. Even though I was raised in a Christian home many times I followed from

afar not understanding the struggles that came in life.

 

Here is what God told Jermiah.

“ Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou comest

forth out of the womb I sanctified you and I ordained thee a prophet to

the nations.”   Jeremiah 1:5.

 

I am called. If you are one of God’s children, so are you. But

called to what? If you play the piano or sing or have a certain talent

it would be easy to suppose that is your call. But what if he calls you to

something you know nothing about.

 

The Lord doesn’t need talent… He wants commitment. He has all the money

he needs, talent he needs, wisdom he needs, and everything else he needs

to accomplish his will. He can do it with you or without you, but the

Almighty chooses to do it with you. How awesome is that for a plan!

Even the disciples were an unusual lot but they were handpicked

by the Lord to accomplish what He came to do and look what they

accomplished!

 

We are his hands and feet here on earth to accomplish his will. That is

a calling. We may have a plan how our life should go but God is looking

for those who will get involved with what He is doing.

 

Accepting Gods call to salvation will be your first call. Willing to

tell others about Him is your next calling. Be ready. Don’t be afraid.

He will supply all you need.

“But the Lord said unto me, say not I am a child: for thou

shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee

thou shalt speak.“  Jermiah 1: 7

 

We must share the gospel. We are all called to do that, but how shall we

speak of things we know nothing about. Spending time with the Lord is a

must.   Ever notice when you spend time with the Lord how clear things

become. We need direction.

 

John the Baptist was a called man.  He was the cousin of Jesus. He may have lost

his parents at a young age and spent most of his life in the desert

eating locust and wild honey. Why John went there we do not know, but

John seemed to know his destiny; a deep feeling of what he was supposed

to do.

In those days came John the Baptist preaching in the

wilderness of Judaea, and saying, repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven

is at handLuke 3:1

 

“John went out into Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round

about Jordon. And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh

after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear he

shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.

And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:

and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God

descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.  And lo a voice from

heaven saying, this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

From Mark 1:5-11

 

John seemed to understand who he was and who he wasn’t.

John told the people he was not the Christ from the beginning so when

they came and told him that Jesus was increasing in popularity, he was

not surprised. After all he was to make a way and allow Jesus to be

Christ.  This is what he said to their questions.

 

“A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.”

He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the

bridegroom which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of

the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must

increase, but I must decrease.”  John 3: 27, 29, 30

 

It is my calling to accept Jesus’ sacrifice.

 

Book Recommendations:

Ordering your Private World by Gordon MacDonald. This book has a

profound impact on people from all walks of life. It shows how to

organize your private life with God to reflect in your outer life we

live in today.

31 Days of Praise by Ruth Myers: This book puts things into perspective and

Who is actually in charge?  He is the Great I Am and I am who he says I am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s About Time!

By Valarie Fish.  This is artivle #36 in our series on drawing CLOSER to God.  
 
 

My ladies group started a new Bible study this past week and, in my preparation, I learned a new descriptive word for God. We know God is omni-present (present everywhere), omnipotent (all powerful), and omniscient (all knowing).  

God is also omni-temporal.

Omni meaning “all” and temporal meaning “relating to time.” I have heard people talk about how God is outside our time but really being omni-temporal means He is present in every moment of time as we know time as well as before there was time and after time ends. He is not bound by or limited by our perception of time. 

How do we get our perception of time anyway? Time is determined by the rotation of the earth on its axis and the revolution of the earth around the sun. One rotation equals one 24-hour day. One revolution around the sun equals (approximately) one 365-day year. Ancient people would have observed the cycles of the sun and moon and seen consistent patterns which would have defined for them seasons and eventually months. Without the sun and moon, we would not have the system of time we know and understand. 

In the beginning, God created everything. On the first day He created light and separated light from the darkness. Genesis 1:5 says the evening and the morning were one day. But then on day 4 God created the sun, moon, and stars. That means up until day 4, time as we understand time, did not exist! We know there was evening and morning because there was light and darkness, but the celestial bodies were set in their places on day 4 “to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:” (Genesis 1:14) 

Our perception of life is ruled by the passage of time. We each have a personal timeline that intersects with the personal timeline of others. Your personal timeline is a short section on a general timeline of the world. The timeline of the world began in Genesis 1:1 and God decides when that timeline will end. This is how we perceive time.

But because God is omni-temporal, He can see every moment in time all at once! There is no past or future in God’s perspective, everything is in the present. He sees every timeline and how each one intersects with another. He can see the moment the part of Him that took on flesh – Jesus – took the sins of all mankind on himself as well as the moment when you bowed your head and asked Him to let that sacrifice cover your sin, all at the same time! 

God’s omni-temporal characteristic is why He chose Jesus to be “a lamb without blemish or spot… foreordained before the foundation of the world.” (1 Peter 1:19-20) 

This same quality of character is why God can hear the prayer of a young heart and know how this decision would affect the entire timeline of his or her life. If you prayed a prayer as a child but never let the power of the Holy Spirit within you transform you, then your prayer may have been just words. The danger of repeating a prayer and announcing to a person “now you are saved!” is that they may never know the whole truth – salvation is a gift which begins a life of faith, not a pin in the timeline to look back and point to as your ticket into heaven.

Too many people try to claim comfort at a funeral because someone remembers the deceased “got saved” when he or she was a little kid, but they have no memory of a changed life. God sees every moment of that life from beginning to end. He sees a life drawn daily closer to God, the deathbed confession that comes at the eleventh hour, or the final breath with no real repentance anywhere to be found. 

Repeating the words of a prayer isn’t a magic wand that automatically opens the door of heaven and eternity for you. Genuine repentance brings a lifetime of obedience that draws you closer to the God who is the Author and the Finisher of your faith. 

Scripture: Hebrews 13:8, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Isaiah 43:18-19

Response: Draw a timeline of your life so far. Pay attention to events on that line which give evidence of your repentance. Are you a new creature? Does your life so far give any evidence of genuine repentance? Pray and ask God to let the Holy Spirit work in you to make you who He purposed for you to be. 

Prayer: Father, thank you for all the wonderful things you have done throughout history as well as the mighty works you still have in store. Please use my time here on earth to the benefit of your eternal kingdom. Let me fulfil the purpose You designed for me and prepare me to show someone else Your path for them. In Jesus name, Amen. 

 

 

 

FORGIVE AND FORGET?

By Jackie Ricks.  This is article #35 in our series on drawing CLOSER to God.

 

Have you ever wondered why you don’t feel like God is as close as you’d like Him to be in spite of reading your Bible, praying, going to church regularly, etc.?
 
Maybe it has to do with not obeying Him as we should.
 
Of course, we all know about sin and what we should or shouldn’t do. After all, the Bible says “If I regard iniquity [sin] in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” (Psalm 66:18) Maybe you think you don’t have a problem with any of that. However, I know from personal experience that there’s one area of sin that I have a tendency to forget about. It’s forgiveness.
 
The Bible has quite a bit to say about forgiveness.
 
Obviously we know that God has forgiven us of our sins if we are believers. But we do need to continually ask Him for forgiveness of our daily transgressions. Even after salvation, none of us is perfect. Thankfully, we can claim 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
 
The problem is often that we don’t forgive ourselves. We continually bring the old sin back to mind and worry about it.  If God Himself can forgive us for what we’ve done or failed to do, who are we NOT to forgive ourselves? He’s the only perfect One.  Ask God to help you forgive yourself and then forget the sin. I know it made a difference in my life.
 
There are other types of forgiveness with which we can struggle. We may have trouble forgiving others.
 
Remember after teaching the model prayer to His disciples, Jesus told them, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
 
Perhaps that’s why we aren’t as close to God as we need to be.
 
Several years ago, I loaned money to some friends and they were to pay it back a little at a time. I hardly had the money myself, but I did have a credit card for the store where they needed to buy something. They agreed they could pay a little each month so I didn’t worry about it. However, months and years went by with no payment from them. I long ago paid the full bill with never receiving a dime from them. It took a long time to forgive them although we remained friends.
 
The problem wasn’t so much between them and me as between God and me because I resented them for the longest. I had to ask God to take it away from me.
 
That doesn’t mean that I learned my lesson.
 
I don’t have so much problem with that now unless someone wrongs one of my family members. I’ve realized that I still have unforgiveness in my heart for those people sometimes and I have to again ask God’s forgiveness and find a way to get past it.
 

Hopefully you don’t have this problem. But maybe you know someone who does and you can help them understand what they need to do.

 

Scriptures to readMatthew 18:21-35; Colossians 3:12-15; Luke 6:37-38; 17:3-4

 

Prayer: “Lord, please help me to remain close to You. You know how often I sin and sometimes I fail to ask Your forgiveness as quickly as I should. You also know that I have trouble forgiving myself. Thanks for reminding me that You have already forgiven me and if You, in Your holiness can forgive me, then I should be able to forgive myself. Thanks for giving me the ability to forgive others when they wrong me in some way. Help me to forgive and forget as I should. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Respond: Take time to think about different areas of your life. Are there sins in your life for which you have failed to ask forgiveness? What about situations with others that you haven’t forgiven? Ask God to help you forgive and forge
 
He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot.  You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19 (ESV)

   

 
 
 
RENEW
By Judy Wallace.  This is article #34 in our series on drawing closer to God. 
 
 

Part of our state got snow this week.  We might have seen a flake or two but mostly it was just a slushy, cold rain for us.  As I watched pictures on the local news station of the beautiful floating crystals drifting down onto the already covered ground, my mind went to the scripture in Isaiah.  “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18

 

NEW! White! Clean! That is what we are when we accept the fact that we are helpless sinners and can do nothing about it on our own.  We must come to Jesus, repent of our sin, and believe that Jesus Christ came into the world to be the sacrifice needed for our sin and ask Him to save us! That relationship brings us NEW life, a NEW birth, a NEW outlook, purpose, passion.  It gives a NEW direction for our life and a NEW love for God and others.

 

But as with many things in life, there seems to sneak in a fog of apathy…one of passivity that slowly descends on us, causing us to drift away from a close dependency on our Savior. It is time to RE-NEW .

There are many definitions of this word. One means to take up again as with an acquaintance. It means to replenish, revive, reestablish, recover what was lost, to restore to a former state. Do any of those definitions describe what needs to happen in your relationship with the Lord?  We know He is always there so we also know the one who must have moved. It’s us!

 

Life gets in the way.  Problems arise but we think we can take care of them ourselves.  We pridefully try to handle anything and foolishly think we must sign up for everything. All the while we are neglecting the most important thing we need…a close, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. 

 

Go back to the second paragraph.  Remind yourself of what it took to become a child of God: total helplessness in self, total trust in Christ.   If you look carefully, you will realize that what it took to make you NEW is exactly what it takes to help us RENEW! We must accept the fact that we are helpless sinners with a nature that is always trying to pull us away from God. So we must do a 180, repent and turn back to Jesus realizing that we are hopeless on our own and must depend on Him totally.

 

So…what is it you need not do so that Christ can do it through you. Which definition best describes what you need to do in your life right now for renewal?

SCRIPTURES TO READ/RESPOND:

Do you need to ‘take up again’ in your relationship with Jesus? Proverbs 3:3

Do you need to establish a daily time in the word? 2 Corinthians 4:16

Do you need to replenish your spiritual energy and strength? 1 Peter 5:7

Do you need your own personal revival to reestablish your closeness with God? Psalm 85:6

Do you need to recover what was lost and restore it to the former state? Psalm 51:12

Do you need to fall in love with our awesome, omnipotent God all over again? Jeremiah 31:3

 

PRAYER: “Father, I definitely get it all wrong. I’m the one who breaks our fellowship.  Help me put you first in all that I do, from the first part of my day to the last thought that comes to my mind each evening.  Help me open my eyes to the opportunities you give me and help me take advantage of each one.  When my neat, written plans for the day don’t mesh with Yours, then turn mine topsy-turvy so I have to look to You.  Give me a craving for Your Word and a deeply devoted heart that is for You alone.  Renew a right spirit within me.  Renew my fellowship with You.”

 
 
 
Hope For the New Year
By Susie Edgar. This is article #33 in our series on drawing closer to God.   

 

What is your plan compared to God’s plan for the new year?
 
Our world could use a little uplifting. A little more kindness, a little more compassion, love, understanding. Shall I go on? We all have our lists. 
 
The Lord’s plan for you.
 

*My son, attend to my words, incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them and health to all their flesh” Proverbs 4:20-22

 

The Lord has His lists (promises) of what to do in the new year…

*Say to them that are of a fearful heart, be strong, Fear not; behold, your God will come with vengeance even God with a recommence; He will come and save you. Isaiah 35:4

*Isaiah 41: 10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. 

*But now thus saith the Lord and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. Isaiah 43:1 

* When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. Isaiah 43: 2 

*I lift mine eyes to the hills; from where does my help come. My help comes from the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth. Psalms 121:1-2 He does not say, “My pain comes from the Lord,” or “My tragedy comes from the Lord, “He says, my help comes from the Lord.”

* Our question will not be Job’s question: “God why are you doing this to me?’ but rather. “God, see what is happening to me? Can you help me? 
 
 
The end of each year is a time to look back on all we’ve seen and experienced and on how God has so faithfully sustained us each day along the way. Being thankful for his blessings no matter how big or small. 
 

Praise and thankfulness bring blessings from the Almighty.  You will find God is delightful to know. What a privilege it is to know Him and the more you glorify the Lord the more He will refresh you and deepen your experience to Him. 

May God richly bless you this coming year for your good and His Glory.

 

 

 

 

 

He’s Here with Us

By Valarie Fish. This is article #32 in our series on drawing closer to God. 

 

The Creator among his creation – the way it had been at the beginning in the garden when God had walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. (Genesis 3:8) That day when the couple chose disobedience, they lost their home, their immortality, and their innocence; but I believe the greatest loss was their ability to enjoy God’s presence – to stroll together and ask questions, to delight in one another’s company. 
 
Just after the Exodus God planned again to dwell among His children. He gave Moses the specific designs for a tabernacle where He would “meet with the children of Israel…” He promised to “dwell among the children of Israel” and “be their God.” (Exodus 29:43,45)
 
Besides the common definition, the word “meet” in Exodus 25:43 also means “to betroth”. God had in His plans a way, not just to get together occasionally, but to commit to each other as in marriage. In Old Testament times, a betrothal was as binding as a marriage but without physical intimacy. God wanted to make such a commitment to his people that would bind them with His love until the day when we would physically be in His presence.
 
We know from history that the children of Israel chose again to be separated from God by disobedience. God tried to call the people back to himself through prophets and judges, through kings and through captivity. Still, they did not hear his voice and so for 400 years after the last of the Old Testament prophets, God remained quiet. When He finally broke His silence, He sent a messenger to a young girl – God would once again come down to be with us. He would follow the physical laws of birth that He himself designed and be one of us, so we would have a chance to be one with Him again. 
 
He would be Immanuel – “God with us” or “with us is God”. Notice that it does not say “God was with us” or “God will be with us” or “God has been with us”. 
 
The people rejected God in the garden, and they rejected Him during the time of the prophets. This time God would be forever with us through the power of His Holy Spirit. If you choose to reject Him in this life, there will not be another chance. Either you choose to have God forever with you or you choose to be forever separated from Him.
 
Accepting Him is not about a one-time prayer – it is receiving Him to forever be with you, to be your Immanuel. You cannot truly have the presence of God with you and not be forever changed. Not just at Christmas or whenever it is most convenient for you. For every day that you live, acknowledge Him as Immanuel and actively demonstrate He is right here with you.  
 
We like to think of Mary holding a sleeping Jesus and feeling the intense bond of motherhood. The only thing closer than a newborn and mother is a soon-to-be mother! Those weeks when a mother is constantly aware of the baby and every decision and action is made with the knowledge of how they affect the growth of this life inside. Once outside the womb, mother and child are separated. A mother holds her baby as close as she can but as the baby grows, the separation gets bigger. 
 

Perhaps the presence of the Holy Spirit inside a believer is God’s gift of eternal connection with Him. No more separation! Always here with us. 

 

Scripture: John 1:14; Luke 1:26-35

 

Prayer: Father, let me always be aware of your presence in my life. Let me make decisions and live everyday conscious of how my actions affect our intimacy. Bless those who read these words and let them know how close You are to them and how close You want to be! 

 

Respond: As you go through your day, ask yourself if you are aware of His presence in every action and decision you make. How does His presence affect the places you go and the things you do? 

 

 

 

MY BEST FRIEND

By Jackie Ricks.  This is article # 31 in our series on frawing closer to God.  

As I drove home from the grocery store today, I heard a song by the Gaithers called, “Old Friends.” It got me to thinking about my friends and friends in general. Having moved many times in my life as a PK, I had to make new friends every few years. I usually tried to keep in contact with the former friends by mail. (I know that’s a rare thing in today’s world.) However, I eventually lost touch with most of them. I was excited a few years ago when I found many on Facebook. However, now, due to someone hacking my account, I am no longer on Facebook and again have lost touch with many friends.
 
 
Friends come and go through the years. Some stay only a short while and may, actually, not be true friends. Or possibly circumstances get in the way and contact is lost. I’ve had one special friend for almost 50 years now. Her name is Sharla.  It doesn’t matter how long it’s been or where we are, she and I still manage to stay in touch and it’s like we’ve never been apart when we get together, other than the amount of talking we have to do to catch up on each other’s lives and families. We can tell each other anything and not worry about whether it will remain in confidence. We also can ask for prayer without having to explain the situation in advance. I know Sharla will always be there and support me and she knows the same about me.

 

 
However, I have an even better friend than Sharla is and He’s been around longer. No, I’m not talking about my husband. He’s my friend, but he’s not been around as long as Sharla has and definitely not as long as this special friend. No, this special friend has been there all my life, but I didn’t really realize how great He was until March 9, 1957 when He became my Lord and Savior. I was excited and knew that Jesus had saved my soul, but I didn’t realize at the time just how important He would be in my daily life. He really is my best friend.

 

 
The Bible says “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). I sometimes disagree and maybe even argue with my actual siblings, but Sharla is like a sister to me without the arguments, but we do sometimes disagree. Even greater, Jesus loves us at all times, even when He may not be happy with what we are doing. He’s better than anyone here on Earth. In Matthew 11:28-30 we learn that He will take all of our problems and carry them for us if we will only let Him.

 

 
Best friends can tell each other anything. That’s how it is with Jesus. We can go to Him with any problem or any celebration. Of course, He already knows them, but He listens anyway. He is also free to tell us anything. Sometimes it comes through His written word or through the Sunday sermon. Maybe He sends us a message through circumstances. Or, He simply uses our conscience or brain to sort out what He wants us to know. We can trust Him better than any person to keep a confidence and not steer us the wrong way.

 

 
Sometimes earthly friends hesitate to tell us the truth when we have a hard lesson to learn. Jesus isn’t that way. He always shows us the truth and teaches us the lesson we need no matter what. Also, friends here sometimes mess things up by giving the wrong advice or trying to jump in and figure out a solution that may not be right. Jesus, on the other hand, knows the best solution to our problems and also knows exactly how we should accomplish His will. Check out Proverbs 3:5-6. I’ve learned to rely on this often. In fact, a plaque hangs in my bathroom so that I am reminded daily that God is the One to turn to in every situation.

 

 

Have you discovered Jesus as your best friend? I’ve always known He was there and I turned to Him often. But, I didn’t always turn to Him first or utilize His plans the way He wanted me to. Just as it takes a while to learn to trust a new friend, we have to learn to trust Jesus in everything. He always knows what’s best for us, but we won’t realize it if we aren’t close to Him. That takes turning to Him first in every situation, even the simplest of things. Let Jesus be the One to give you advice and show you what to do. Don’t rely on yourself or on other people. Go to your best friend first; go to Jesus. Or if you don’t know Him, read some of these other blogs and learn how He can become your very best friend. Specifically, read all three “Seed Flinger” articles and the one on “Witnessing.” These will give you scriptures that will show you how to trust in Jesus so that He can be your best friend, too. Or find a believer who can help you.

Scriptures to read:  John 15:13; Matthew 11:29-30; Proverbs 3:5-6; 17:17; 18:24

Prayer:  Lord, thank You so much for being my Savior and my best friend. I know that I sometimes don’t come to You first with my problems and victories. Help me learn to come to You first so that I can remain as close to You as possible. I know that people become distant when we don’t see each other or communicate. Help me to stay close so that I don’t have to wonder if You want to hear from me. Thanks again for all You do for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Respond:  If Jesus isn’t already your Savior and friend, then make every effort to trust Him now. If you already know Him as your friend, then learn to go to Him on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be anything formal. Just tell Him “Hi” throughout the day and turn to Him each time you have a need. You will find that He is always there and will meet every need better than you could ever imagine!   

 
 
 
 
A ‘MARY’ CHRISTMAS
By Judy Wallace. This is article #30 in our series on drawing closer to God.
 
 
By now you are probably in the throes of the season. There are emptied tubs waiting to be taken back to the attic.  The fake green needles and glitter that adorn the floor are waiting for your attention and a pile of unwrapped presents stare back when you stare at them!
 

Things were much different during the time of Christ. 

Though His birth basically went unnoticed by the world, angels announced it, shepherds rejoiced in it, God fearing kings eventually came to worship and offer Him gifts, and three different women named Mary had their lives turned around by Jesus’ birth, life, and death. Let’s look at each to see what it takes to have a ‘Mary’ Christmas.
 
 
MARY THE MOTHER OF JESUS                                                                                                                  I don’t think we realize what Mary went through in order to be obedient to God. She was, after all, engaged to be married! In those days a betrothal was as binding as a marriage and here she was pregnant.  It wasn’t just shame and ridicule she would have to endure, but if the Old Testament law was to be followed, she should be stoned. And then there was also her confused, wounded, heartsick fiancée whose trust in her would have been shattered.
 
But submit and obey she did! How?  
 
She believed in God’s promise.  A Messiah had been promised from the beginning of creation and throughout the history of the Jewish nation. The teachings of the prophets assured His people a Deliverer would come.  She believed in God’s power.  She knew He was the Creator of all and had all power to do what He willed. Even though she was a virgin, she knew of the birth miracle that was true of Abraham and Sarah and that ‘nothing is impossible for God.’ She believed in God’s purpose. Mary knew if God purposed it, He would perform it.  So instead of being self-willed and stubborn, she submitted and obeyed.  What a glorious blessing she would have missed if she hadn’t!
 
 

MARY MAGDALENE

We hear her name and think ‘harlot,’ but the Bible never says this about her.  Instead, she was a woman that had not one, two, three, four, five, or six but seven demons! Totally bound, chained, tormented by these evil oppressors; her life was not her own.  But then Jesus saved her, forgave her, released her and she lived free. Mary Magdalene never forgot what she had been and what she was now because of what Jesus had done for her.  That’s why she lived faithfully.   She was with Christ as He ministered to others.  She was with Christ when He suffered on the cross.  She was with Christ when it came time to anoint His body. She was the first to be with Christ after His glorious resurrection. Her life was lived centered on the Lord Jesus Christ because of what He had done for her.
 
 

MARY THE SISTER OF MARTHA

When you hear the story of Mary and Martha, do any of you feel like Martha got the raw end of the deal? I confess, I‘m a natural born ‘Martha.’ For me to be a ‘Mary’ it takes intentionality, discipline, and dedication. I can see myself delegating assignments, letting Mary know if she would just come and help we would finish more quickly and then both of us could enjoy His teaching!

But even then, Martha was more concerned about how her house looked while Mary was more concerned about how her heart looked.  You see Mary had a molded mind…totally attuned to Jesus’ and always drawn more and more to His teachings. Mary also had AAnointing spirit and humble Attitude. Whenever we see her in scripture, she is sitting at the feet of Jesus…learning, worshipping. Mary also had a Responsive heart.  She didn’t just listen to what Jesus said, Mary Yielded to it. She chose to sit at His feet. She chose to listen to His Word whenever and wherever she could.  She chose to be teachable and trusting. 

Martha was diligent in her duties.  Mary was diligent in her devotion.

Martha was distracted by the preparations.  Mary was attracted to Jesus’ presence.

Martha was quick to her feet.  Mary was quick to Jesus’ feet.

Mary chose the better thing.

 

So, are you ready to enjoy a ‘Mary’ Christmas?
 

Are you submissive and obedient to God’s will for your life? Do you believe in his promises? His power? His purpose for your life? Do you ponder on Him?

Do you live a life of freedom and faithfulness being ever aware of all that Christ has done for you?

Do you have a [M]Mind Molded by the words and ways of God?

Do you have an [A] Anointed spirit that worships Him with attitudes and actions?

Do you have a [R] Responsive heart that listens and obeys what you have been shown in His Word?

Do you have a [Y] Yielded life that chooses to sit at His feet?
 
SCRIPTURE: Luke 1: 37, 8: 1-3 and 10: 38-42
 
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord…” Luke 1:38a
 

 

 
 
 
God Gives the Increase
By Susie Edgar.  This is article #29 in our series on drawing closer to God.  

 

We were preparing for our yearly revival at church and after selecting our Evangelist (Brother Larry Markin from Arkansas) we were excited to hear what the Lord would send through our revival. 
 
The first night there were only 10 more than our usual attendance, but Larry preached with much vigor and anticipation. I couldn’t help but enjoy what the Lord had to say that evening.
 
On Tuesday night there were 20 more in attendance but Larry as he had done the night before preached a very uplifting and encouraging message.
 
Wednesday came and Larry was having dinner with us before the service. With our normal dinner conversation, I put the question to Brother Larry, “Do you ever get discouraged driving so far just to preach to under 50 people?”
 
 He replied “Oh no, I prepare to preach to 500 every time I preach, then I am ready for as many as show up.” 
 

That was a great encouraging time in my life because from then until now when I prepared to speak, I prepare for 500 and I am ready for ever how many show up. It’s amazing the feeling you get by just being ready for whatever God is going to do. If few show up and you see nothing happen don’t forget the promises in I Corinthians and Isaiah:

*So then neither is he that planteth anything neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 

We see from eyes on earth He sees from eyes with a view of heaven and His glory.” I Corinthians 3:7

 

*So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth it shall not return unto me void. But it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing wherto I sent it” Isahiah 55:11  

 

The Lord has a message. It’s not our message.

 

We are called to speak and He shall accomplish that which He pleases with it and it will not return to Him void. It will prosper.

 

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

Why should I feel discouraged, Why should the shadows come,

Why should my heart be lonely, And long for Heav’n and home,

When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

 

Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,

And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears,

Tho by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise, 

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

 

When song gives place to singing, when hope within me dies,

I draw the closer to Him; From care He sets me free;

 His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He cares for me;

Chorus: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He cares for me.

I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free

For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. – Lyrics by Civilla Durfee Martin.

 

 It’s so important to read His word.  It contains a map for us to follow. God is a communicating God speaking words to me as I am attentive to Him. He is available at all times and He is unchanging. Sounds to me like a safe person to follow. 

 How many people do you know that are unchanging, accessible at all times, and died that you might live?  

By studying His Word, we learn to recognize His voice and His patterns for living and serving. We develop deeper faith and confidence and it changes us more and more into His image from one degree of glory to another. 

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119: 11

May I be a joy to you Lord.

 








 

 

 

 

I Believe in Thanks-Living

By Valarie Fish.  This is article #28 in our series on drawing closer to God. 

 

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. No matter how you try to commercialize it, the day is about giving thanks. Necessary to give thanks you must acknowledge there is Someone who deserves your gratitude. 
 
It’s one thing to say, “thank you” and another to live thankful.
 
Think of it this way – imagine that you must have a vital organ transplant. Without the transplant you would not survive and yet for you to live someone else must die. 
 
The day comes and you get the call that a young person was in an automobile accident, and you are a match. The surgery is scheduled, and all goes forward without any complications. 
 
After your hospital recovery the doctor asks if you would like to meet the parents of the donor. They stand in your room and relate the story of what a wonderful person their child was and how, even in their sadness, they are glad their own loss gave you a chance to live. 
 
Would a simple “thank you” be enough? Of course not! You would want to honor them and show respect for their gift for the rest of your life! It would be minimally reasonable for you to respect their sacrifice by taking care of your new organ so that it will last a long time. 
 
That’s what it means to live thankful: to make life choices in such a way that it honors the one who gave you life. 
 

Paul understood the concept: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, because of the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

 

I am physically alive today because of the mercy that God shows to me. If He were to do to me what I deserve then the lightning bolts would land right here. Truthfully, if God were not so merciful, there would be a lot more lightning bolt judgments. But He is merciful, and He wants us to be thankful – not afraid.
 

Spiritually speaking, I am alive today because of a heart transplant. Jesus took my place and died on the cross so that I would have a chance to live. When I acknowledged and accepted that sacrifice, I got a new heart. It seems only reasonable that I live my life in a way that demonstrates my thankfulness. I could try to perform a variety of good deeds to pay Him back for His generosity but all He really wants is for me to live thankful – not just the third Thursday in November but every day. It’s the least I can do for all that He has given me.

 

Scripture: Psalm 100:4 

 

Respond: How does thankfulness bring you CLOSER to God?

 

How do you show your gratefulness for God’s daily blessings? 





 
 
 
WITNESSING
By Jackie Ricks. This is article #27 in our series on drawing closer to God. 

 

One of the areas where I fail is evangelizing.
 
There was a time when I thought it was enough just to live life to serve as an example to others and I didn’t have to talk about it. I don’t know if I was too shy (can anyone imagine that?) or what, but I didn’t really tell others about salvation. Oh, there had been a time when I was first saved at the age of eight that I tried to tell everyone, but then somewhere along the line, I had stopped.
 
I had no problem teaching a Sunday School class, WMA, Sunbeams or GMA, but I just didn’t talk to anyone one-on-one unless that person specifically asked me how to be saved. Then I heard a preacher say that if we lived the life but never told anyone about Jesus, others would think we were just a “good person” and never know why we were who we were. That hit home.
 
At one point, I went through Evangelism Explosion (EE) and even became a trainer. However, I still always preferred someone else to lead out in it. We don’t have a regular program at our church now and I am back to my old ways most of the time. Are you like me? What can you do to improve?
 
First, pray regularly.
 
Pray that the Lord will show you the people whom He has prepared already to hear His Word. It’s best not to walk up to perfect strangers and ask them if they’re going to heaven. It’s better to get to know something about them and their interests.
 
Gradually bring up the subject of church or God. If you can work in your own testimony, then that helps. (Of course, that means you might want to think about it ahead of time and decide what is important in your own testimony.) Then once they are more comfortable with you, ask them if they know where they would spend eternity if they died tonight. Hopefully, that will open the door for further discussion.
 
There are many different approaches to sharing the gospel, but the main points stay the same.
 
One of the most important points is that salvation is a free gift, offered to all. (Romans 6:23) A person cannot be saved until he is first “lost.” In other words, he has to realize that he needs Jesus in his life. So stress the fact that everyone, including yourself, has sinned. (Romans 3:23) Be sure that the people realize that God is love, but He is also just and will punish sin. (1 John 4:8; Jeremiah 31:30) By this point lost people may think that it is impossible to make it to heaven. That’s when you explain the good news that God sent His son Jesus to pay our sin-debt. (John 1:1, 14; 1 Peter 2:24) And, finally, you must help them to understand that faith in Jesus Christ alone is necessary for salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Don’t forget to take them through making a commitment if they are ready for that. If not, then make sure to follow up again later.
 
Obviously, this is not the only way to present the plan of salvation. I used the EE plan because that’s what I’m most familiar with, and I explained briefly because this is not a long blog. The course actually takes several weeks and includes going out and actively witnessing while you learn. The BMA Theological Seminary in Jacksonville, TX teaches an evangelism course with EE certified trainers, requiring it for many of their degree plans. I assume that people could possibly audit the class as well, but I’m not sure. I don’t think it would be possible to do it online, however, because of the hands-on witnessing during the sessions.
 
There are other ways to present the gospel. You may be familiar with the Roman Road, which uses mainly scriptures from Romans. Or you may have used a Gideon Bible and the scriptures in it, with the plan in the back. Four Spiritual Laws are often given on a handy tract that you can give to people and discuss. There’s even a hands-on approach with the Evangicube. No matter what method you use, be sure to include the fact that salvation is secure. No one, not even the person himself, can do or say anything that can un-do what Jesus did for us. (John 5:24; Romans 8:35-39)
 

Hopefully, you didn’t really need this blog other than as a reminder of what we all need to be doing. If you haven’t been witnessing, then let this encourage you to get back to it. Don’t be like me and reach the point where you think of the wasted years you have had without being close enough to God to do what He intended for us to do.

 

Scriptures to read: Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8

 

Prayer:  “Lord, help me to remember to tell others about what You’ve done for me and how they can have that assurance as well. Don’t let me use anything as an excuse for not doing Your will. Thank You for giving me the courage, the knowledge, and the ability to say what I need to say at the right time. And please send the Holy Spirit ahead to prepare the person with whom I will be speaking. Thank You for saving my soul and allowing me to share with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Respond: Think about your testimony. It’s not like anyone else’s. What were you like before you received eternal life? How did you receive it? And what does it mean to you? Be brief, but emphasize the positive to gain anyone’s attention of their own needs. You may even want to write it out and go over it a few times to help you remember what you might want to say when you’re on the spot.

 
 
 
SEED FLINGER PART 3
By Judy Wallace. This is article #26 in our series on drawing closer to God.
 

Three weeks ago, this blog may have been somewhat different. Between then and now I was able to attend a training called Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship led by Eliezer Semedo from the Missions Department.  I have for years been burdened about discipleship.  It started with a Downline Conference in Memphis, Tennessee.  Then being able to participate from the beginning with our BMA’s Disciple Way, a strong conviction was placed on my heart. I was not fulfilling the commission Jesus had left for ME to do.  I was not going and I was not discipling. I was not obeying Him. His final words and instructions before He ascended had not been my priority. It should have been just as it should be yours.

Three weeks ago, I would have simply shared some well-known ways to present the gospel to people.  They would have included the Roman Road, Evangelism Explosion, Before and After Three Word Testimony, Good News/ Bad News, two diagnostic questions, and the Draw- On-A-Napkin method using Romans 6:23.  Each and every one of these methods are good and powerful and effective…only IF the soil of a person’s heart has been cleared, cultivated and is ready for the seed.

You see, what I realized is that every person that I encounter or start a relationship with is at a different place in their lives when it comes to spiritual things.  Some won’t even believe in One True God.  Some don’t know what sin is or believe they are guilty even if you explain it. Some believe there are many ways to heaven. Some don’t believe in absolute truth.

By using what is called the Engel Scale, it can be better determined where a person might be in their knowledge of God and then we can go from there. 

“A strength of the Engel scale is that it helps us to realize that our approach to evangelism can be informed by and adapted to how much understanding or interest a person has in the Christian faith.  Consequently, if we can try to gauge where a person is on the scale it becomes possible to contextualize our conversation or message in a way that will hopefully be more effective.” (www.eauk.org)

We often assume that the people God places in our path know about the Biblical story: Jehovah God is creator of all things and has made a covenant with man; Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan and chose to give in to what he offered rather than obeying God, and on through the thread of redemption that weaves through the Bible.  But people just don’t know these things! Most will, however, admit to a hole in their heart that they have tried to fill with any and everything but find that all their efforts are vain.  That’s because the only One that can fill it is God. 

Three weeks ago, I learned a way to assess where a person might be spiritually by using eight basic gospel concepts. 

(1) God     (5) Christ

(2) Man    (6) Cross

(3) Sin      (7) Faith

(4) Death (8) Life

SCRIPTURE: Spend this week solidifying these important concepts into your hearts and mind.  Find scripture that serve as basis for each and then try them out on a new acquaintance or an old friend that is still not a believer.  Life gets exciting when you ask God for opportunities. Just be sure you keep your eyes wide open so you will recognize them when He sends them your way. 

RESPONSE: Father, we get it all wrong!  We stay busy doing things that we think are for You when first and foremost you have commissioned us to go and make disciples.  Bring across my path people you want me to interact with.  Then help me to discern where they may be on the road to understanding Who You are and what You have done for us in the giving of your Son.

Side Note: The week after the training, God placed two opportunities in front of me.  I was able to share with one that the thing I did for her originated with Jesus.  She profusely thanked me and then left.  Looking back I think I could have taken the discussion further if I had tried. I’m still learning! The next day I interacted over the phone with a client I had met the week before at our local pregnancy resource center.  She called the center and asked for my contact number.  I spent at least 30 minutes with her with my Good Soil workshop manual in my lap and she came so very close to trusting Jesus but backed out at the last minute.  I don’t know what God will do with that conversation but I do know I left her with much to think about.  Pray with me that she will take the next step of repentance and trust.

Thank you, Eliezer and the Missions Department for making the training possible.

 

 

 

Prayer Changes Things

By Susie Edgar. This is article #25 in our series on drawing closer to God.  

 

One of my favorite stories about preachers’ kids was told this way. 

 

One Sunday morning the preacher’s wife could not be in service so the pastor took their 4-year son and had the little one on the second row. 

The pastor got up to preach and the little boy started to wiggle.  The pastor gave his son, “the eye.”

The little boy settled down. So, the pastor went on to the second point. The little boy started to wiggle again.  By the time the pastor got to his third point he said, “Folks, I’m sorry but I have to take care of something.”  He takes his little boy, throws him over his shoulder and heads for the nearest exit. As they were walking toward the exit the little boy looked at the congregation and said; “Dear people pray!” 

 

Now that boy knew how to pray in a crisis!

 

There are many ways to pray. We have tried most of them in our lifetime but the first instruction on prayer came from Jesus to his apostles when they asked, 

“Lord, Teach us to pray.”

Jesus said: 

“After this manner therefore pray ye:” 

Pray like this

 

Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Father in heaven, holy is your name 

 

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

We pray for your kingdom to come, your will to be done like it is in heaven

 

 Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: 

Give us our daily bread, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

 

For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever 

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. 

Amen.   

 

How is your prayer life today?

What does it mean to have a lifestyle of prayer; to be in continual prayer and 

to have a regular time of prayer?

 

I will not incorporate something into my life as a normal part of my life unless I feel it is necessary.  I have discovered that about exercise.  I don’t really like to do exercise but the older I get, the more I can see that it is necessary. 

I am convinced that the same thing is true about prayer. We will not make a prayer life unless we believe it is a necessity for our lives.

 

 If you have not come to the conclusion that prayer has to be a way of life or a necessity for life, your prayer life will suffer.

 

Why is it important to have a prayer life?

Because we are commanded to pray: 

I Thessalonians 5:17  

 Pray without ceasing   

Luke 18:1

 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray and not to faint;   

Phil 4: 6-7 

 Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 

I Chronicles 16:11

Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.

 

 I have become convinced that when God commands us to do something it is because it is necessary for us to have joyful lives.

 

Our success in prayer is because of many hours spent practicing the art of prayer. Hours alone, speaking with the Almighty, practicing how to be in the secret place with the Lord.  Our public performance is defined by our private practice.

The goal of prayer should never be the roaring approval of the crowds but rather the approval of our Father in heaven. What will God say about your prayer life when you stand before Him? 

Remember, God is still on His throne and prayer does change things. 





 

 

 

Bring on the Buffet!

By Valarie Fish.  This is article #24 in our sereies in drawing closer to God.  

My daily reading brought me to a passage I had memorized back in college. Not too long ago I got a new Bible, and the familiar verses haven’t been highlighted yet. At first, I was frustrated with my new Bible because I can’t find verses like I used to. I can tell you what color the highlighter is and where on the page the verse is in my old Bible even when I don’t know the reference. Now I am finding that when I read a familiar passage it is almost like I am reading for the first time. 
 
So, it was when I read Psalm 37 the other day. It helps that my new Bible is a NEW King James Version and the other was a King James Version. The words are sometimes different but not too different that I can’t recite the verse from memory once I get started. 
 
“Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.” Psalm 37:3
 
I had never thought of feeding on His faithfulness before. My KJV says “…and verily thou shalt be fed.” I know God will take care of me when I trust Him and that I will be fed. However, there is something about feeding on His faithfulness that strikes a whole new chord in me. Possibly the words would have brought another image to mind for the original readers of the Psalms. 
 
You see, in the history of the nation of Israel there was a significant period – just over forty years to be exact – when God supplied a unique diet for the people who wandered the wilderness. It was called “manna” and it literally meant “what is that?”  
 
God sent the manna from heaven every morning except on the Sabbath with the instruction to only gather enough for one day at a time with a double portion just before Sabbath. He told Moses specifically how much each person should take, and he told him why – so that “…you will know that I am the Lord your God.” 
 
The manna God sent every day was proof of His faithfulness. Every morning when the people woke, they found proof of God’s faithfulness all around them! Every morning they were able to feed on His faithfulness!
 
How often do you take advantage of His faithfulness? God provides spiritual nourishment for you every single day in His Word. Are you content to snack every now and again? Wouldn’t you like to scoot up to the table and just feast? Well, you can, and He wants you to enjoy the buffet!
 
Scripture: Psalm 81:10
 

Response: Do you ever skip meals? Do you ever forget to eat for days at a time? What causes you to need sustenance? Have you ever thought that the difficult times come because those are the times you seek God more intentionally? 

How could “feeding on His faithfulness” bring you CLOSER to God? 


 

 
 
RAINBOW OF BLESSINGS
By Jackie Ricks.  This is article # 23 in our series on drawing closer to God. 

 

Have you ever planned for something and anticipated it so long that when the time actually came, it didn’t live up to your expectations? Well, that happened with this year’s vacation: an Alaskan cruise.
 

Everyone said it was the best cruise to take. We love to cruise (even if we don’t get to do it often), but we had never really cared about going to Alaska. Then two years ago, my husband and I both independently began to think about it. When I heard him mention it to someone else, I decided it was time to plan the Alaskan cruise. We put it off for two years because I knew I was having both knees replaced last year. We were really hyped up for this and everyone told us how great it would be.

 

However, from the beginning things weren’t exactly what we planned.

 

From delayed flights to foggy, rainy weather, to engine trouble on the ship, to a missed port ,to more delayed flights home, it was definitely NOT what we had planned for. On the day we were supposed to go to the best port, I sat at breakfast lamenting what a disappointment my vacation had been. The ship was rocking back and forth from the weather system that prevented us from going where I had planned to get the real Alaskan-made souvenirs. I could see nothing really good about it. Then…

 

I glanced out the window through the rain and fog and saw a beautiful rainbow!

 

Suddenly, I felt bad that I had been complaining about God’s beautiful creation and everything that had been happening. After all, it could have been worse! We could have missed the trip altogether. Or the rain could have prevented us from even getting off the ship in the ports we did get to see. If the engine had not been fixed quickly, we might have been stranded for days. And, later, we definitely needed the rain in Texas that delayed our returning flight; we certainly wouldn’t have wanted the plane to fly in such bad thunderstorms.

 

God knew what might have been if He had not intervened; I didn’t. He brought about the best in the circumstances.

 

The colorful rainbow reminded me of God’s promises and His many blessings. I thought of how many times I complain when I should be thanking Him for providing what I do have and preventing me from going through crises that could be worse than the small inconveniences which occurred on my vacation. Thankfully, God got my attention. I listened and my thinking turned around.

 

So what does all of this have to do with getting closer to God?

 

It’s a by-product. When we get closer to God, we are more aware of when He tries to get our attention. We’re more in tune to listen to Him when He speaks to us, whether through His word, others’ words or actions, or His beautiful creation. Am I so close to God that I hear Him every time? No, but I did this time, and it’s made a difference in my outlook. You know how you can almost read someone’s mind or know what they’re about to say when you’re close to them? That’s what it’s like when you’re closer to God; you are more aware when He’s trying to get your attention.

 

In looking back through the photos that I took, I realize that I enjoyed myself more than it sounds like when I tell someone about this vacation.  Now when someone asks, I try to emphasize the positive instead of the negative and to tell them about God’s blessings.

 

Scriptures to readPsalm 119:2; Philippians 4:11 & 19

 

Prayer: “Lord, thank You for our vacation being exactly as it was. It may not have been what I expected, but I know it was what You intended. Help me always to see the good, not just in people, but in circumstances as well. And, especially, keep me close to You so that I can hear You when You have to nudge me back to reality and make me realize that life isn’t intended to be all rainbows. It takes the rain to make the rainbows. Thank You again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

Respond: Look at your life. Do you see only the storms and the rain or do you also see the rainbows? Make sure you’re close enough to God to hear Him and see His many blessings in your life. If you aren’t, then correct that today by spending some time in His word and talking to Him in prayer.
 
And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down.  Without the rain, there would be no rainbow. – G.K. Chesterton

 

   

 

 

 

SEED FLINGER (Part 2)

By Judy Wallace.  This is article #22 in our series on drawing closer to God.

Have you been doing any seed flinging? 
 
Remember this was a command of God that as you go through your day, you need to plant the seed of the gospel and then be able to clearly share the good news with others of what Jesus Christ can do in their lives.
 
But in the parable of the soils found in three of the gospels, it is made clear that not every one will be receptive to the seed.  In this scenario, only one in four of the soils took in the seed and allowed it to be nourished and grown to produce fruit.
 
Let’s zero in on some scripture that will help us know about how to prepare ourselves to become a better sower.
 
Luke 8:5  ”A sower went out to sow his seed.” What a great first point! The goal, mission, and work for the sower that day was to sow seed. He didn’t question it.  He didn’t argue against it.  He didn’t make excuses for not understanding all there was to know about planting, germination, and the care of fruit.  He simply knew that this was the task his Master had given him to do. So he arose to face the day and intentionally sowed seed. He purposely went out; he didn’t stay cooped up at home but specifically went out to sow.  
 
Application: One excuse I hear often and that I have made myself is that we don’t know any lost people. Isn’t that silly when they are actually all around us!  Jesus said in John 4:35, “Look on the fields for they are white to harvest.”  Look! See the need. Go where people are.  Eat lunch at the Senior Citizens Center and stay around and play checkers.  Talk about their families.  Listen for where they might be hurting. For the younger whipper snappers, go to your local coffee shop and get a medium blended Samoa no whip.  Get to know the baristas.  Call them by name. With every order, find out a little more about them.  If you go at the same time on the same day, you will find that others customers have a similar schedule and you can strike up conversations. [FYI: I am definitely a young whipper snapper here!]
 
Bottom line: GO OUT PURPOSEFULLY TO SOW!
 
Matt. 4:19 “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” What a great second point! Simply follow Jesus. Study His life. How did he go about His day? He went out among the people.  He went to the market place.  He went to the synagogue.  He went to where the crippled, poor, and needy were found.  He went to a well to meet one on one with a hurting, hopeless lady. It was in these various places that he met various needs, the greatest one being a knowledge of Him and His salvation. Then through repentance and belief many became His own.
 
Application: Jesus is our example in all things.  God’s purpose for us all is that we be conformed to the image of His Son.  
 
Bottom Line: STUDY JESUS AND DO WHAT HE DID!
 
Matthew 28:18 “All power is given into Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore …” Acts 1:8  “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me…” What a great third point!  Our ability to do this comes only from the power God has given us through Jesus Christ.  The moment we were saved we were indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  He gives us direction, strengthens our faith, and bolsters our courage to seek opportunities to share the good news.  Ask Him to keep you consciously aware of the coordinated circumstances He places in your path to help you share Him with others.
 
Application: We cannot do this under our own power.  We must rely on the One Who promises to be with us always.
 
Bottom Line: RELY ON GOD!
 
Scripture: What do Proverbs 11:30 and Daniel 12:3 tell us about soul winning?
 
Response: Determine in your heart with God’s help to intentionally go somewhere different, do something different for the express purpose of making connections that may open opportunities to share the gospel.  Also, no matter where you go, pray each time that God would open your eyes to the opportunities He places right in front of you.
 

“Maybe it’s time to slow down and open our spiritual eyes to see if there’s someone you can help. God places opportunities all around us but if we’re not looking, we’ll miss them.” Charles Stanley

 

 

 

By Faith Enoch

By Susie Edgar. Article #21 in our series on drawing closer to God.

 

By faith Enoch was translated that he could not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him. For before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. Hebrews 11:5

 

Enoch has this testimony, that he pleased God.  Enoch did not have this testimony for himself. It was God’s testimony of Enoch.
 
Did you ever think that God has testimonies of His people? Based on the example of Hebrews 11, God has a testimony of faithful men and women. 
 
One goal of this series is to ensure that God has a glorious testimony about each one of us.
 

What a commendation God gave to Enoch, “He pleased God”! Enoch crossed the line that ended his life with not a perfect life but a perfect testimony. Not a bad thing for God to say about Enoch. Not a bad thing for God to say about any of us.  I would like to hear God say some day, you pleased me, you made me smile when you did that. 

 

So how did Enoch do it? Let’s look in Genesis 5:21-24 (21) And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah; (22) And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: (23) And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty-five years. (24) And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

 

Verses 22,24 Don’t miss the four-word testimony: “Enoch walked with God”. 
 

That’s all we have to do to please God. Walk with Him. God wants our company. And the only way we can walk with him is not by sight but by faith. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. Hebrews 11:6

 

Notice that the Law of Moses did not exist in Enoch’s day. Enoch clearly walked by faith, and faith is the evidence of things unseen.
 

In a cold desperate world Enoch had a desire to follow God. Somewhere along the way Enoch took seriously those old stories handed down through the generations.

 

Enoch apparently walked for a while by himself before he walked with God. The Bible does not say. Genesis 5: 21-22 may mean that Enoch was 65 years old before he started walking with God. What changed? 
 
Maybe he and the Mrs. had Methuselah. Either the birth of this son made him sentimental and serious about the meaning of life, or Methuselah was such a fright that he scared his daddy right into a relationship with Jehovah! I’ve seen God use a number of children to drive their parents to Jesus. These are the ones who would make James Dobson cry!
 

No matter what took Enoch there, the relationship took. Enoch walked with his God for 300 years until, one day, God just walked him home. Apparently, they didn’t pass a cemetery on the way.

 

We had a dog once named Scooter. He dearly loved my husband Wayne and went everywhere with him. If he lost him somehow during the day, he would come home and wait at the front door until Wayne came home. He also loved to ride on the four-wheeler and when he saw a rabbit, he would dive off the four-wheeler and just go rolling and skin himself up all over.
 
I wonder. Is our walk with God like that? Do I constantly chase rabbits instead of staying on course. Do I keep jumping off his plan for my life and acting like He didn’t notice? 
 
We jump ahead and do wonderful things in the church when God didn’t tell us to.
 
We try so hard to be a good Christian by doing good things for the church. Surely God will bless that? Wait on the Lord to speak a direction. He will never run out of work to do. 
 

I Corinthians 2:9  But as it is written, Eye had not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

 

The only way we will have an earthly experience with God that is more than ears have heard, eyes have seen, and minds have ever imagined is to walk with Him. He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. 

If we persist in our own way, we will walk ourselves right into a place we may as well call “less-than-land.” 

  

When we choose to walk with God rather than off the path to handfuls of other options, we find His perfect will for our lives. We find our promised land.
 

Scripture: Ps 139:7-10 (7) Whether shall I go from thy spirit?  Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? (8) If I ascend up unto heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. (9) If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;(10) Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. 

 

We have only one turn on this green earth. We will never get to do this again. What we need is eyes on the goal.

 

Kate Wilkerson says it well in her song 

Seeing Only Him

May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.








 

 

 

Breathe without Ceasing

By Valarie Fish.  This is article twenty in our series on drawing closer to God. 
 
 
 

My body clock woke me up about an hour before the other campers.

 

Once dressed and ready I decided to take a walk through the retreat’s prayer garden. Stepping out into the cool brisk air I took a deep breath. Ahhh, how I love the smell of an early autumn morning! 
 
 
Along the gravel path I stopped to read a few of the scripture signs posted along the way. The first couple of turns were leisurely – and prayer came easy too – as I meditated on the beauty around me. Breathing in, my spirit praised such a marvelous Creator. 
 
 
About halfway through the trek the path turned and wound its way up a mountainside. Not too steep but enough to cause me to breathe heavy and thank the Lord I have been exercising a little every day! As I climbed, I determined not to turn back although I did have to stop more than once to catch my breath. 
 
 
I started thinking that prayer was a lot like breathing. When facing something difficult you will breathe heavier. When facing a difficult circumstance or obstacle isn’t that when you consciously turn to prayer? And the moments when I purposefully breathed in the fresh brisk air; those were the moments when I was so acutely aware of God and His presence and conversation came easily.
 
 
My early morning adventure had me silently talking to myself too as I walked. “Glad it’s too cold for snakes. Wonder if they have a snake problem in the summer? Now that’s a cute spot to put a bench. Do I try to make it up the hill or should I turn and take the easier path? Oh Lord, why did I think I could climb this? What if I fall and no one knows where to come look for me? I should have told someone where I was going. Am I on the right path anymore? Oh, there it is, scared myself for a minute.” 
 
 

So, I wondered – does everybody have this kind of internal conversation going on?

 

If I am speaking these thoughts inside my head so only I can hear them, can’t God hear them too? What if what the experts call “self-talk” is actually your spirit trying to communicate with God’s Spirit? We turn it around so that we think we are talking to ourselves but there is another One who hears. Maybe He created all of us to have this kind of ongoing conversation with Him that is as natural as breathing. This is how we “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) 
 
 
Prayer can be an intense, conscious necessity when facing a mountain. You may need to stop frequently and make the conscious effort to pray just as I had to stop to breathe. But most of life isn’t mountains. Sometimes we just walk along a simple path, and we aren’t conscious of the natural process of breathing. When you recognize your inner conversation can be directed to the God who designed your spirit to need Him just like your body needs oxygen then you will know what it really means to pray without ceasing.
 
 

Respond: Do you have a time of day set aside for prayer? Are you aware when you are conversing with God? Pay attention to the time of day when you pray and what is going on around you when you choose to pray.

Prayer: Father, help me always be aware of Your presence. Let me be ready to listen when You are ready to speak to me. Amen. 

 

 

 

Oh, the Places!

By Valarie Fish. This is article nineteen in our series on drawing closer to God.  
 
I love to travel to new places. Just about everything on my bucket list includes going somewhere new and exciting! 
 
I’m working on a new Bible study with my ladies on places in the Bible and their significance. In my study I found several intriguing passages where God references “the place where I record my name.”
 
Add that place to my bucket list! 
 
In Exodus 20 God is giving Moses instructions – including the ten commandments – and in the last half of verse 24, the King James Version says “In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee and I will bless thee.” 
 
My amplified Bible says “In every place where I cause My Name to be recorded and remembered (through revelation of my divine nature) I will come to you and bless you.” 
 
Books can be written about the names of God – Yahweh, Jehovah, Adonai, etc. But when I looked up the Hebrew for “name” I found the word “shem” or as some say “Hashem” which means THE Name. The “shem” was a mark or memorial of individuality, an appellation or a descriptive name or title. When you speak the name there is an acknowledgement of the character attached to the name. 
 
There are names of people and things that are associated with specific character traits in specific cultures. For example: “sly as a ______” or “wise old _____” are common to our western culture and we know the answer is fox and owl. Folks of different cultures might have different answers or be completely unaware of the character trait we readily associate with those 2 animals. 
 
God had some specific requirements for dealing with His Name among His chosen people. They would be called by His Name and they would represent His Name.
 
No wonder God wanted them to be set apart from the rest of the world!
 

The instructions He gave Moses in Exodus repeatedly reminded them not to worship any other gods because no other god carried His character traits of mercy and justice and grace and faithfulness and so many more. To misrepresent His character was to take His Name in vain! 

 

In the Old Testament, God chose to place His Name on His chosen people as a nation and specifically on the Tabernacle and later Solomon’s Temple. This was the place where God placed His Name. But even the prophets knew the buildings were temporary. Ezekial records the glory of God leaving the temple sometime before it was destroyed in 586 BC and there is no record of His presence returning to either the second temple or Herod’s temple.

The next time God would enter the temple was when He sent His Son to earth. Jesus found the place where God was supposed to dwell with His people so unrecognizable He called it a den of thieves. 
 
Jesus also told the Samaritan woman that God had chosen a different place to put His Name than a building. He wanted those who would love Him to approach Him in spirit and in truth. He would write His Name on each heart who would repent and invite Him to take the throne of their life! 
 
When you accept Jesus as the payment for your sins, you are inviting God to place His Name, His character, and His holiness, on your life forever. 
 
You see, you don’t decide where God will place His name – He decides. And he will place His name in a heart willing to submit to His plans. In a heart ready to give Him the glory He deserves. And where He places His name, he will come CLOSER and He will bless! 
 

Scripture: Deuteronomy 12:5-14; John 4:19-24; James 4:8-10

Prayer: Father, help me always surrender to You and Your plan for my life. Help me to draw closer to You by recognizing your amazing gift of salvation. Write Your Name on my life and use me to shine a spotlight on You so others can see what an amazing God you are. Amen

Respond: Think about this statement – “You are as close to God right now as you want to be.” You may want to reject the thought, but this statement is so true! You can be as close to God as you want to be!  What do you need to be as close to God as you want to be?

 
 
 
MAKE A PATH
by Susie Edgar.  This is article eighteen in our series on drawing closer to God. 

 

When I taught school, I learned that the students would remember something better when they reviewed it daily. Now, that didn’t mean that we went over everything they learned each and every day. However, we would continually go back over some basic skills for a few minutes at the beginning of class. Yes, even in Algebra 1, I would periodically give the class a short five minute basic operations drill because if they knew the basics, they could concentrate better on the newer concepts.
 

 

You may not think that applies to our spiritual life, but it does. We need to renew ourselves daily and remember what’s important to God. That will help us stay closer to God as well as be prepared to witness or help others along the way. Just as we grow fat and lazy if we don’t discipline ourselves with our diet and exercise, we grow slack and lack the ambition to continue if we don’t study God’s Word regularly and communicate with Him on a daily basis.
 

 

The explanation that made me realize I needed to keep the basics in front of my students regularly was that of walking the same area across grass. If you walk several times a day for a few days, a path might begin to show, but it will disappear if you quit walking the same path. However, walking the same path daily and continuing it regularly will cause the grass to stay off the path where it is clearly visible. The same happens to us as we read God’s Word. If we study for two weeks and then quit, it doesn’t stay with us. However, if we continue to study on a daily basis, we will retain it better as well as draw closer to God.

 
 

I read my Bible daily every morning and try to have some quiet prayer time as well. However, that schedule may not work for you. Find what does. The important thing is to continue on a regular basis until it becomes a habit. That’s not to say that you should simply read and pray because it’s the thing to do at that time. You need to crave God’s presence and desire to meet with Him. But it may take a few times of making yourself do it to begin to realize just how much you are getting out of it.

 
 

Put in some extra time studying what a particular passage means. Did you read enough to get the entire context? Don’t just read one or two verses and take them without checking what comes before and after. What do the original words mean? I know that the English language has changed greatly just in my lifetime. It certainly has changed since the King James version was translated. Besides checking other more modern versions of the Bible, you may want to check what the original Hebrew or Greek meant.

 
 

Make time for God. After all, He made time and gave His only Son just for us. In fact, He gives us all the time we have, so use some of that time to take a daily walk with Him in His Word. Renew your relationship with Him through prayer. Create a path that doesn’t go away.

 

Scriptures to readIsaiah 58:2; Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:18

 

PrayerLord, thank you that I can come to You at any time for any reason. We don’t have to wait to be in church or on our knees or for a certain time of day. You’re as close as a thought. Help me to remember to call on You at all times, whether it be to thank You, to ask You for help, to intercede for someone else, or simply to remain close to You. I want Your will done and for You to be glorified in everything. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Respond: Make a special time today for God. Even if you already meet Him every morning or evening or whenever, take a few extra minutes to meet Him at a special time. Ask Him to help you remember to come to Him daily (even if you already do, because our lives do get busy sometimes and we forget). Then DO IT.

 

   

 

 

 

SEED FLINGER

By Judy Wallace this is article seventeen in our series on drawing closer to God. 

I saved as many seeds as I could. 

One set had come from the sweetest, juiciest watermelon we had tasted all summer.  It was a verified Cave City, Arkansas, melon and had the stickers to prove it!
 
Next were the seeds I saved from a Candy Kissed cantaloupe.  My oh my!  There couldn’t possibly be a sweeter, more delicious variety than these and they were found at my closest Sam’s club.
 
And then there were the peaches.  Bought almost weekly at our local fruit stand, these are my favorite fruit. Even though the seeding and growing process for them is more difficult and won’t produce fruit for many years, I still saved the pits determined to give planting a try.
 
Three different kinds of seeds now sit in the windowsill of my utility room.  All three have differing requirements on how and when to plant and care for the seedlings.  But plant them I must if I want them to bear fruit at some point in time. And realize I must that even with my best efforts, the actual production of the fruit is totally up to our Creator God.  Fruit is the goal!
 
Evangelism is very similar.  Cited as one of the most difficult of the spiritual disciplines to develop (the other two being prayer and memorization of scripture), sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ seems to bring anxiety, fear, and guilt for not obeying His direct command to be a witness for Him wherever we go.
 
The analogy only goes so far but differs in the fact that the spiritual seed doesn’t change.  It is the gospel of Jesus Christ given to us in His Word.  But the soils are different.  The time of germination is different.  The result may be different but the end goal in each and every situation is fruit.
 

Why do we make this so difficult? What are our excuses?

  • “I don’t know what to say?’
  • “What if I say the wrong thing?”
  • “What if they ask me a question that I don’t know how to answer?”
  • “I don’t really have any opportunities to witness.”
I think we wrongly feel like if we don’t ‘seal the deal’ and make it all the way through to a prayer of repentance then we have failed.  That is just not so.  Instead we must realize that our lives and words are to be those of a ‘seed flinger’: one who interjects God into our conversations as much as possible and always shows Him in our lives.
 

Does the interaction with a stranger bring up the topic of weather? Then state, “I’m so glad I’m not in charge of the weather. The Lord knows what He is doing.” I’ve had responses all the way from “Yes He does” to “I’m not so sure”!  But seed was flung!

 

When you sit down for a meal at a restaurant, before you ask God’s blessing on the food, tell your waitstaff what you are about to do and ask if there is anything that you can pray about for them.  Those answers? “No, I’m good.” “My dad had a stroke,” “My sister is in a bad place.” “My little girl is starting kindergarten and I’m anxious about that.”  One girl just fell into my arms and ‘big cried’ because a patron had just chewed her out.  Seed was flung.
 
Maybe there is a person in a wheelchair at the store that is trying to reach an item and you get it for them.  They will almost always say thank you and then you can simply say, “That was from Jesus!”  You may get some odd stares but seeds were flung!
 
 
Take a moment and listen to the song, Fifteen
 
What if this is the case? What if it does take fifteen times of seeds being planted in a person before they have hearts soft enough to really hear the gospel?  I know that is an arbitrary number.  Some accept Christ the very first time they hear about Him and what He has done for them.  Some have been raised in church and heard the gospel three times a week for their lifetime until one day they realize that message is for them! Christ died for them!  What if you have the privilege to be just one of those seed flingers in a person’s life that helps prepare good soil for the planting of God’s Word?  What a blessing.
 

What if you are number fifteen?!?! What if you do have the privilege of taking someone through the plan of salvation? Does that stir fear in your heart?  We will cover that in my next blog. Until then, meditate on these scriptures and respond to them.

SCRIPTURE:

  • Matthew 28:18-20
  • Acts 1:8
  • Matthew 4:19
  • Acts 22:15
  • Romans 7:4b
  • Proverbs 11:30
  • Daniel 12:3
  • Luke 8:1-15

What convicts, instructs, or encourages you from these verses?

RECOMMENDATION:

God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally by Doug Pollock

I highly recommend you get this book and read it.  You may not agree with everything he says, but I do think you will walk away with a wider view of evangelism and less fear.

“We are not responsible for a single conversion, 

But we are responsible for every single conversation.”

(I first read this quote in the God Space book but I am not sure if this is where it originates.)

 

 

 

God’s Voice/ Satan’s Voice

By Susie Edgar.  This is articke sixteen in our series on drawing closer to God.  

 

As I sat thumbing through my trusty worn Bible, I found this yellowed-by-time piece of paper.
 
It contained a bit of advice given to me from a dear elderly lady many years ago. I had asked her, “How do you know when you receive a word that it’s from God or from Satan?”
 
She looked me in the eye and smiled, took a piece of paper, and began to write this list.
 
It was so simple! 
 

Isn’t that just like God to make it simple enough that even the least of us can understand.

I pray God’s voice becomes clear to you at this very moment in your time of need. 

God’s Voice: stills you, lead you, reassures you, enlightens you, encourages you, comforts you, calms you, convicts you                                                                 

Satan’s Voice: rushes you, pushes you, frightens you, confuses you, discourages you, worries you, obsesses you, condems you                                  

                                                                                                 

PRAYER: Thank you, Father, that I am a member of Your body and a dwelling place of Your Spirit.

SCRIPTURES: John 10:27; 1 John 4:1; Psalm 143:8

 

 

 

Climb Every Mountain

By Valarie Fish.  This is article fifteen in our series on drawing closer to God.

The sign at the bottom of the wooded path said the hike would be strenuous.
 
Just a few feet further and another sign gave the option of a hike around the base of the hill or a hike to the top. The difference between the two listed clearly – base trail – moderate, summit trail – strenuous. 
 
This day I had my mind set on the summit trail. 
 
Ten markers along the way measured a hiker’s progress. At about marker 5 a bench waited for climbers already weary of the journey. Although not an easy climb so far it had not been too bad. 
 
I suppose at about marker 6 when the dirt path changed to marked boulders, I should have reconsidered the rest of the trek.
 
By marker 7 I had serious doubts about my own sanity.
 
At marker 8 we would have turned back except I figured we had come too far to turn back now.
 
By the time we reached the summit we had only about 90 minutes of daylight left and more than a little concern about whether we would make the descent before the sun set. 
 
Finally at the summit I had two thoughts. First, if I ever meet the guy who marked the trail as “strenuous” I will give him an award for his gift of understatement. Secondly, if I had known how hard the path had been before I started, I probably would not have made the climb and I would have missed this wonderful view before me. 
 
There are many times I wish God would reveal to me what might lie ahead.
 
I want to ask, “Why?” I want to know how my current trial will bring glory in the future. Truth be told, there are some obstacles I would probably rather not face. If I were to know what stood in the path ahead, I might decide to turn back and never make the climb. Because my Father knows this about me, He doesn’t reveal the future to me, but He did promise that He would make the climb with me every step of the way. 
 
On the way down the mountain my husband stayed right ahead of me so that I could lean on his shoulders and have the security of his strong arms during the most treacherous parts of the descent.
 
I know God can see the path ahead; He will not leave me as I make my way over another mountain, another obstacle, another difficulty. When I stand at the top, I can be sure “…that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
 
I still have a bone to pick with the person who understated the difficulty of the climb, but I can say now that the mountain did not destroy me. I may have moved like a very old woman for a few days afterward, but I made it to the summit, and I am confident that if I needed to climb it again, I could do it knowing I wasn’t climbing alone. 
 
Response: Have you been through difficult situations and wondered why? God doesn’t mind when you ask questions because in your questions the Holy Spirit can lead you to the answers. Determine if your situation has come upon you because of your own choices, because of the choices someone else made for you or if God purposed it for you. In all these circumstances, God can turn it around for His glory and use your greatest pain for the good. 
 
Prayer: Thank you Father for taking each step of this journey with me. For never leaving me alone even when the difficulty may have been the result of my own choices. Father, bless the person reading this prayer and let them feel Your presence no matter where they are in the journey. Let them come to You with all their questions and listen to the Holy Spirit lead. Amen.
 
Deuteronomy 31:8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be wuth you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
ARE YOU HUNGRY?
-by Jackie Ricks. This is article fourteen in our series on drawing closer to God.



It seems people are always hungry for something: food, money, love, sex, free time, friends, etc. But how many times are we hungry for God’s Word and fellowship with Him?

 

You know, if you’d never tried chocolate (or some other food that you now enjoy), you’d never be hungry for it because you wouldn’t know it was so good. But once you tried it, you became hungry for it. One of my grandsons is like that about brisket or meatloaf. He didn’t want to try them the first time, but now he begs for them all the time.

 

The same is true about God’s Word.

 

If we don’t spend time in His Word, then we don’t know how good it is and how much we want it. We find Mary of Bethany understood that. Apparently, she had possibly helped serve Jesus on His previous visits to Martha’s house where Mary lived. During that time, she must have heard His teaching and wanted to hear more. That’s probably how she came to sit at the Savior’s feet when He came to visit her and her sister and their brother Lazarus in Bethany. (Luke 10:38-42) She couldn’t pull herself away long enough to help Martha serve the guests because she was so enthralled with His message. Even Jesus Himself said that Mary had chosen the “good part” (listening to Him) that day.

 

We need to learn to listen to what the Bible says so that we may be closer to God. As a result of listening to Him, then our actions also help draw us closer to Him. Mary put her faith and love into action in John 12:1-8. No one told Mary to anoint Jesus’ feet. In fact, some tried to prevent it and criticized her for doing it. However, the Lord said it was preparation for the end of His life. She didn’t know that, obviously, but she followed God’s leading. The closer we are to God, the more we are aware of what He wants us to do. 

 

Are we hungry for God’s Word? Do we really want Him to be involved in every aspect of our lives?

 

I’m afraid some of us want Him there only part of the time because we aren’t doing what we should and we’re afraid He will reprimand us. Or maybe we’re afraid God might ask us to do something that we don’t want to do. None of this should matter because the only thing that will bring us true joy is being in God’s will. Reading and studying God’s Word daily is the only way to stay in His will. That’s time well spent with God.

 

Do you have a favorite passage or story in the Bible? Check it out and really study it. You may find something that you hadn’t noticed before. God may also send you a message with an answer to something you’ve been praying about or a direction of something He wants you to do. Try reading the scripture in more than one version and also using a commentary to help understand something new about the passage. Stay in the Word daily.

Scriptures:  Luke 10:38-42 and John 12:1-8

 

Respond: If you don’t already have a Bible app that contains a concordance, several scripture versions (including original language versions), commentary, and other helps, find one such as Bible Hub or Logos. Both are free but may also have purchases available within the apps. If you aren’t tech savvy (and you don’t have to be much to use either of those), then at least invest in a thorough concordance or other helps. There are also many good commentaries, but it can get expensive to purchase books so you may want to check out the library. Your church may even have some as well.

 
 
Prayer:  “Lord, help me use my time wisely so that I may study Your Word and spend time with You. Show me what You want me to do; then give me the strength to do it. Draw me closer to You, Lord, and help me stay close to You every day. Thank You for guiding and directing me in Your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
 
Psalm 63:1b ” O God, You are my God; I shall seek you earnestly; my soul thirsts for You…”
 
 
 
 
 
THE YOKE
-by Judy Wallace.  This is article thirteen in our series on drawing closer to God
 
The young ox had watched the process for a long time. He was fascinated that the older oxen
came directly to the Master as soon as they were summoned. They knew exactly what to do; it
was as if they were directly connected to Him. He would come forward slowly, speaking gently
to the them as He approached. They responded accordingly.
 
 
The Master brought a yoke with Him. It was plain. Rough. Massive. Most viewed it as a symbol
of slavery, subjection, and servitude as with it came images of heavy burdens and long, hard
hours of labor. The juvenile calf also thought it to be a thing of dread and despair. But the
older animals showed no sign of fear, nor did they cower as He lowered the yoke: first fitting it
over the shoulders, then around the neck.
 
 
What came next was hard to fathom. Instead of choosing a second animal to harness to the
first, the Master Himself went under the weight: the lowly ox on one side, the knowing Master
on the other. The beast shifted its body to adjust to the fact that the load seemed suddenly
lighter, more manageable than before. The command was given to move forward and instead
of a clumsy lurch that would have been expected, a slower, more purposeful gait was taken.
The calf found itself watching only the Master instead of the ox that was with Him. With each
step forward, He was constantly interacting with the animal. With each step forward, He was
giving instructions, pointing out pitfalls. With each step forward, He was explaining the goal
and constantly calling the animal to follow His lead and learn from Him. The ox still had the
same load, the same burden; but it seemed not to notice since it was now a shared load. The
fact that it was watching closely, listening carefully, and engrossing itself deeply in the wise
words it was being given, thoughts of self and the burdens it carried were no longer dominant.
The emphasis now was on learning about the Master and from the Master. With the
concentration on His instructions, attributes, and characteristics it dawned on the calf… that
was the true yoke! It wasn’t an instrument to be feared after all, but one that kept the eyes and
the heart where they should have been all along…only on the Master. Now the ox became
humble, teachable, at peace.
 
 
The calf continued to observe thinking that the sooner he matured, the sooner his time would
come to take up His yoke. But then the truth became very clear; the sooner he humbled
himself to take up His yoke, the sooner he would mature.
 
SCRIPTURE:
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you
rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find
rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
 
What are the three commands?
What are the two characteristics of Christ mentioned here?
What is said about the yoke and the results of taking it on?
 
Philippians 2:5-9  5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6  Who, being in the form
of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7  But made himself of no reputation, and
took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men 8  And being found in
fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the
cross. 9  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every
name”
 
What is the command?
List all the examples of what could be considered Christ’s yoke given in this passage.
How did He respond to these?
Go back to the command. What is the key to emulating these characteristics?
What do you learn from the first word, ‘Let’?
 
RESPONSE:
LEARN CHRIST! TAKE ON HIS YOKE DAILY! HE IS SHARING THE LOAD WITH Y0U!
RENEW yourself in Christ daily.
RENEW by being in the word daily.
RENEW by meditating on the characteristics of Christ daily.
RENEW by worshiping at His feet daily.
 
PRAYER:
“Father, help me to learn You! Not just about you or of You but learn You! Help me
focus on how you acted in your daily walk; how you interacted with those closest to you; how
you responded to all the people around you. Help me be humbled before you, compassionate
toward others, and keenly aware of the opportunities you place in my path and then help me to
take them.!”
 
“Behold Him! Look at Him! Just be occupied with Him!…Come to the Word for one purpose and
that is to meet the Lord.” Norman Douty
 
 
 
 
 

The Kneeling Christian.

(Recommended Book by Susie Edgar)

“A traveler in China visited a heathen temple on a great feast day. Many were the worshipers of the hideous idol enclosed in a sacred shrine. The visitor noticed that most of the devotees brought with them small pieces of paper on which prayers had been written or printed. These were wrapped up in little balls of stiff mud and flung at the idol. He enquired the reason for this strange proceeding and was told that if the mud ball stuck fast to the idol, then the prayer would assuredly be answered; but if the mud fell off, the prayer was rejected by the god.

We may smile at this peculiar way of testing the acceptability of prayer. But is it not a fact that the majority of Christian men and women who pray to a Living God know very little about real prevailing prayer? Yet prayer is the key that unlocks the door of God’s treasure-house.

It is not too much to say that all real growth in the spiritual life—all victory over temptation, all confidence and peace in the presence of difficulties and dangers, all repose of spirit in times of great disappointment or loss, all habitual communion with God—depends upon the practice of secret prayer.

This book was written by request and with much hesitancy. It goes forth with much prayer. May He who said, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint, teach us to pray.” (Author’s preface. Author, An Unknown Christian. Credited to Albert Ernest Richardson. The Kneeling Christian. Zondervan books.)

 

Incredible Promises

In our Lord’s last discourse, he said; “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you. “ John 16:23 KJV.

 

Do we really believe this?

 

We must if we believe our Bibles. Do we really desire to do God’s will? Do we really believe His promises? If so, will it not lead us to spend more time on our knees before God?

 

Do not vow to pray so much a day. Resolve to pray much.  The writer states he is quite certain of this fact. God wants us to pray.

 

The question is, are we willing to pray?
 

SCRIPTURE“And he said unto them, when ye pray, say, ‘Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.’” Luke 11:2.

 

PRAYER: Gracious Savior, pour out upon us the fullness of the Holy Spirit that we may indeed become Kneeling Christians.
 
 

RESPOND: As you read this book, the writer most earnestly implores you not to read hurriedly what is contained in these chapters. Much—very much—depends upon the way in which every reader receives what is there recorded. For everything depends upon prayer. (Purchase the book in the link. We do not recieve compensation from sales, we are not affiliated with Zondervan of Amazon).

Billy Graham was asked If he had a system in which he used to study his Bible. He replied;

“Yes, I do. I read a gospel a week. Matthew/Mark/Luke/John/Acts. While I am reading and when I sense the Spirit speaking, I stop there and listen. “ 
 

When we pray, we must not only pray but listen.

 
 
 
 

The Songs I Cannot Sing

-by Valarie Fish. This is article eleven in our series on drawing closer to God.  
 
For several months now I have been fighting with my vocal cords. A polyp has grown which affects my voice when I speak and especially when I sing. I really, really love to talk and I really, really, really love to sing! 
 
 
I’m one of those weird people who wake up in the morning with a song in my head pretty much every day. From the time I open my eyes I am humming or singing something – until now. I attempted to demonstrate to my Sunday school class what the polyp has done to my singing voice. One brutally honest new student – who has never heard me sing before – laughed and said it sounded like the honk of a goose. Hurtful but accurate. 
 
 
This morning when I woke up, the song in my head said “I love you Lord and I lift my voice…”  
 
But I cannot lift my voice.
 
 
I think Satan is using this ailment to try to defeat me. He whispers dark and depressing statements into my thoughts about permanent damage and never being able to sing again.  
 
 

The second verse of the old hymn “Sunshine in my Soul” by Eliza Edmunds Hewitt says this: 

“There is music in my soul today, a carol to my King; 

And Jesus, listening, can hear the song I cannot sing.”
 
 
I am reminded there are people who have never been able to sing, whether because of ability or disability, so there must be a way to lift my voice without actual vocal cords.  How do you lift your voice when you have no voice? 
 
 
Perhaps we should define “voice” in a broader sense.
 
 
We know the dictionary definition includes words, tones, sounds, frequency, and pitch. All those are under the heading of voice as a noun. As a verb, to voice something is to make a thing to be heard. So far, nothing is making me feel any better. I still need my vocal cords to make this happen. 
 
 
Unless there is a way to “make a thing to be heard” without words?  I suppose it depends on what you are wanting to “be heard”. If you are “lifting your voice” in worship, can you let that worship be heard without sound? Can you praise without sound? 
 
 
Now we need to define what the words worship and praise mean. Looking at the Hebrew dictionary “worship” means “to bow down, to prostrate oneself” and “praise” means “to hold out the hand, to throw at or away, to worship with extended hands.” 
 
 
Neither of those definitions require a voice! Now we are getting somewhere. 
 
 
Worship and praise both have indicators of humility and reflection away from self.
 
 
When I stop thinking of what I cannot do (sing) and place the focus on what God is doing, I bow to His plan and His authority. My worship and my praise do not need to be heard by anyone else because God can hear the cries of my heart. He can literally hear the songs I cannot sing. Those tears running down my face – they are my voice. My hands lifted in adoration and gratitude – they are my voice. My surrender to His will for my life – with or without the ability to sing – this is my act of worship. 
 

Scripture: “Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies (dedicating all of yourselves, set apart) as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship.” Romans 12:1 AMP

Prayer: Father, thank you for giving me the opportunity to praise you with or without a voice. Let my surrender be my act of worship. Let me lift my voice to You and hear the songs I cannot sing. Use this blog to encourage someone to praise you with their whole heart and worship you in spirit and in truth. Amen 

Respond:  Look past your perceived handicap, instead of seeing it as an excuse, identify how you can worship in spite of it. Pay attention to what Satan has been whispering to you that keeps you from surrender. Is he saying you aren’t good enough or smart enough? Maybe he is placing emphasis on what you cannot do instead of what you can do!  
 
“Without worship we go about miserable.” – A.W. Tozer
 
 

 

 
 
I Can’t Stand the Noise!
-by Jackie Ricks. This is article ten in our series on drawing closer to God.

 

 

I’ve never liked noise.

All of my life I have avoided vacuum cleaners (Thankfully, I have wood and tile floors!), mixers, hair dryers, etc.—anything that makes noise—unless I absolutely have to use it.
 
 

Well, today I had to.

And it was the ultimate noisemaker: an MRI. I’ve had several during my life, but this one seemed louder than any other. It was also longer than most, and was made even longer by the machine throwing glitches into some of the pictures. However, thank God I survived!

 

How? The same as always. I sang hymns to myself; I prayed; and I quoted scriptures, especially during the loudest and longest sections. After being in church all of my life, the hymns came easy. So did the prayers, since that’s just talking to God.
 
 
But, actually the verses did as well. Why? Because I had memorized many verses as a child and some even as an adult.
 
 

It’s not too late to memorize even now. I’ve memorized several as an adult. You may choose your version of the Bible to learn. I’ve tried various versions, but always have to memorize the King James because that’s what I heard for so many years that I get mixed up if I try memorizing anything else.

 

Let me give you a hint of something to use to help you learn scripture.
 
 

There’s an app.

I have it on iPhone, but I’m sure you can probably get it on any phone. Just check the App Store. It’s called Bible Memory and has a photo of an open Bible. You may choose various versions of the Bible (although I think all except the KJV costs extra).

 
Then you pick what verses you want to learn. There are several choices that you can make about how to learn.
 
Although you may use voice in the app, I prefer typing. You may type the whole words or just the first letter of each word. To begin, you see the verse. After a few tries, you have only some words showing. Then, finally, no words are there. Even though I type only the first letter of the words, I’m saying the words in my mind so I’m learning the verse. You may also combine verses together to learn a whole passage.  It’s a great activity to use while you wait in line at school or at the doctor’s office.
 
 
Why memorize verses when you have your Bible handy all the time, especially with one available on any phone or tablet?
 
 

Well, just as I did today, I could not take anything into the MRI with me. But those verses were a comfort and helped keep my mind off the noise!

 

That’s not the only reason, though.

What if you’re talking to someone in the yard or at the grocery store and they need some comfort or advice on something? It’s handy when you can just pull that verse from your head without having to look through a Bible or concordance.
 
 
How about leading someone to Christ?
 
 
I know that some young people have been led to the Lord at Daniel Springs Encampment swimming pool. Now, you don’t have your Bible or your phone in the water!
 

There are many instances where it comes in handy to know many verses. I often think of scripture as I’m driving down the road talking to God. He will remind me of something in the Bible that I need to know for the particular situation that concerns.

 

Knowing scripture and memorizing it helps to draw us closer to the Lord.
 
 
It can keep us on the right track and help prevent us from sinning as much. Sin puts up obstacles between us and God, thus making us farther from Him.
 
Scripture breaks down those barriers. Satan doesn’t want to hear us quoting God’s word, but God loves to hear it. 
 

Scripture: Psalm 119:11 

Prayer:  “Lord, thank You for giving us Your word to guide us through life. Thank You especially for bringing it to my mind at just the perfect time to help me through my day. Help me to learn more scripture so that I will have it readily available when I need Your perspective of some situation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Respond: find one verse that you can learn today. If you can’t think of anything else, memorize Psalm 119:11.
 
“The Bible in the memory is better than the Bible in the book case.” – Spurgeon
 
 
 
 
SHIPHRAH AND PUAH
-by Judy Wallace.  This is article nine in our series on drawing closer to God.
 
 
Who are these people?  Two of David’s mighty men?  Leaders of enemy kingdoms that Israel faced during their long history of battles?  They were neither but they were mighty warriors and they were leaders that God used in a mighty way in an enemy kingdom. In the first Chapter of Exodus, we are given the amazing story of two common women who participated in a very uncommon and important event that God used in a mighty way.  Shiphrah and Puah were the midwives that attended Jochebed at the birth of Moses.
 
THE PROBLEM
 

At the end of Genesis, we see that Jacob’s family had grown to seventy people. Now over four hundred years later, they are called the children of Israel.  God had made them fruitful, increased them abundantly, made them exceedingly mighty, and now filled the land of Egypt with them.  Yeah for Israel!

But it was not so ‘yeah’ as far as Egypt was concerned. Instead, there was a problem.  Many generations had passed since Joseph had died and the new Pharoah knew nothing of him and cared nothing for these people.  Instead, he had grown fearful of the increase in their numbers and was concerned they might join other nations in a war against Egypt. The problem now for the new Pharaoh was to figure out a plan to not only reduce their numbers but to basically destroy their existence.

PHAROAH’S PLANS

His first try was given to us in Exodus 1:11-14. “ 11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens…12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. 13 And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage… all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.”  The term rigor means harshness, severity, or cruelty and comes from a root word meaning to break apart or crush.  But during this harsh persecution, the Israelites flourished and grew in numbers. Now Pharaoh had to go to Plan B!  His Plan B became Shiphrah and Puah’s problem #1! The king called these two women in and told them when they assisted the Hebrew women at their time of delivery, they were to kill all the boy babies but could let the baby girls live.

THEIR POSITION

They were now put in a position where they had to make a decision. This could have proved a huge problem for these two ladies but evidently not.  The head of the country was certainly to be feared and he had given them orders to take the lives of all baby boys.  But they had a greater fear…”17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.”  When Pharaoh asked about this, they told him the Hebrew women were strong in their delivery.  Some say they lied.  We don’t know that!  It could have been the Israelite women were more physically strong and of greater fortitude than the Egyptians. Whatever the case, they followed God and God responded!

GOD’S PROVISION

God never leaves obedience unrewarded.  ” 20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.21 And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.” In this case, he made the midwives’ houses. This term ‘houses’ may have meant children of their own because midwives often took these jobs because they were childless.  It could also have been actual, physical homes.  Either way, they obeyed under difficult circumstances and He blessed them in response.

But also, the Lord used these women to help bring Moses into the world: the very same Moses that would be the great deliverer of the Israelites from the land of Egypt. They knew God!  They feared God! They obeyed God! Their actions helped the lineage of our Messiah be protected!

SCRIPTURE:

Acts 4:19  “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.”

Acts 5:29 “ Then Peter and the apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than man.”

Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.”

Proverbs 9:10  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”

Daniel 11:32b  “…but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”

RESPOND: Two common ladies doing a common job but in a mighty warrior kind of way.  How?

  • They feared God and the scriptures say the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
  • Because of this they knew they ought to obey God rather than man.
  • People that know God shall be strong and do exploits.

What problem, what hard decision are you facing? Keep your thoughts and efforts on knowing God and obeying what He shows you.  There is no telling how you will be blessed and be a blessing to others.

Use the meaning of these ladies’ names to describe what obedience can mean to ourselves and others.

Shiphrah: fair; to make beautiful; to adorn

Puah: splendor; to glitter; brilliant

 

PRAYER: “Father, you may call us into situations where we don’t know what to do: times when our faith is challenged and You test us with problems and decisions that are hard.  Help us keep our efforts on staying CLOSER to you, knowing You better and obeying at all cost.”
 
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” -Corrie Ten Boom
 
 
 
 
It is Well with My Soul
-by Susie Edgar.  This is article eight in our series on drawing closer to God. 
 
Horatio Spafford, a Chicago attorney, had already suffered great loss in his life, when in 1874 his wife and four daughters boarded a ship for England. Just off the coast of Ireland the ship sank. Stafford received a cable from his wife. It read; “Saved alone”.
 
As he traveled to England he penned the words, whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul. 
 
About that time as a nation, we had come through a deep division in the Civil War. How people needed to be reminded that God was still Sovereign and in control of their lives and destiny. 
 

In the trials and heartaches we face today, never doubt God is still Sovereign and God is still in control. Never doubt He sees and He will repay your faithfulness. 

 

It Is Well with My Soul

When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well it is well with my soul

 

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come 

Let this blest assurance control, that Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed his own blood for my soul

 

My sin, Oh the bliss of this glorious thought, My sin not in part but the whole

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise, praise the Lord, oh my soul

 

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll, the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, “Even so” it is well with my soul. 



Scripture: I Thessalonians 1:3; Galatians 2:26
 
Prayer: Pray back to God what He has said to you
 
Respond: Write out the verses to this song meditating on each phrase
 
 
 
 
 

All the Lonely People   

-by Valarie Fish.  This is article seven in our series on drawing closer to God.

(This was written in 2007 after a mission trip to Asia, recently updated)

     We barely made the last shuttle bus of the evening from the airport to our hotel. After 20 hours of flying, I was ready for a bed where I could stretch out and get some sleep. My body wasn’t made to stay awake for more than 30 hours straight.

 

     As I write, my best friend and I are in Hong Kong for a retreat. We are going to meet with women who are working as missionaries in various Asian countries. It’s hard to believe the planning and excitement of our trip now culminates in this overwhelming exhaustion.

 

The shuttle bus driver swerved through the crowded narrow streets with expertise. Sitting up so high we watched the scenery through large, tourist-friendly windows. Not much to see at 1:00 in the morning until we got into the city proper.

 

From the safety of my tinted windows, I watched people. Couples walked hand in hand: one young woman proudly holding her bouquet of roses. I realized that crossing the International Date Line we have missed Valentines Day. An older man on a bicycle threaded his way through with sacks of goods on the handlebars. He looked tired. One street corner had five or six teenage boys with their hair spiked and their pants riding low, smoking cigarettes. I looked at them and saw babies trying to be grown-up. In front of us a public city bus stopped to let a young woman off. She walked resolutely from the motor vehicle and as she passed my window she started to cry.

 

Here I am half-way around the world, and I see the same emotions that I would find in my own neighborhood. In this case the wearers are clothed with different colored skin and cultural features, but they are still the same. Infatuation, fatigue, emotional pain, and adolescent bravado – all are universal.

 

I wonder if anyone will tell them that Jesus loves them? That’s because the answer to all the pains of life is also universal – to know the love of the One who created you for a purpose. Our Father gave us all unique life experiences and placed us in our families and homes for a reason. In Acts 17:24-27 Paul talks about how God made the world and gives life and determines the seasons and the birthplace of every precious soul on earth. Verse 27 states the reason for this. “So that they should seek the Lord… and find Him though He is not far away from every one of us.”

 

I don’t know why He chose for me to be born in the US and another woman to be born in Hong Kong and another in Russia or Kenya. I do know He saved me and led me to know Him so that I may introduce Him to others I will meet. God designed these universal emotions to emphasize the gaping hole in a heart that tries to live without Him. Maybe I will get a chance to see the lady from the bus, or perhaps God has ordained that task for someone else who can offer comfort for her pain. Maybe you have been privileged to lighten the load for someone else. I pray some kind word or smile from one of His children will open the way for someone to know the love of Christ.

 

You have been called and destined to be the hands and feet of Christ to all you encounter. Without embracing such a divine purpose, your journey will be in vain. You are not a tourist. You are a commissioned ambassador to a lost and lonely world. Wake up! Remember why you are here, and watch God open the windows of opportunity.  
 
 
 
 
 
In a Minute, Lord
-by Jackie Ricks.  This is article six in our series on drawing closer to God.
 
 
As a parent and as a former teacher, I considered obedience very important. However, I remember as a child growing up, I often didn’t obey when my parents asked me to do something.
 
Oh, I didn’t willfully NOT do what they asked. What I did was delay my obedience, often because I was busy reading a book that I thought I couldn’t put down. Just one more page, one more chapter. I’m almost done; it won’t hurt to finish this first. The work will still be there. Those were my thoughts.
 
My parents, on the other hand, had other ideas about not obeying when they asked me to do something.

 

It wasn’t until I was grown and actually a grandmother that I heard a sermon speak directly to me that delayed obedience is, in fact, disobedience.
 
Now, as a parent and teacher by that point, I had drilled that message into my children and students, but for some reason it didn’t hit home until that sermon. I realized how disobedient I had been as a child with my parents, and also as an adult in doing God’s work.
 
That message has come back to me recently through a song that I heard, “Keep Me in Your Will,” by Jessica King. The idea is that if we aren’t in God’s will, then we may be in His way while He’s dealing with our lives or someone else’s.
 
Obviously, if we aren’t in His will, we are not as close to Him as we need to be.
 
Just as obedience in our children can be extremely important to their safety, we don’t know just how important our obedience might be to our own or someone else’s life. If a child doesn’t learn to stop when a parent says “Stop!” he might run into a dangerous situation such as a moving car or a hole or a dangerous animal.
 
We as Christians may also run into critical situations if we don’t heed God’s commands to us.
 
How many times have we said, “Just a few minutes on Facebook, Lord, and then I’ll pray and read my Bible”? Or maybe it was, “Lord, I’ll talk to my neighbor about You next week. Both of us are busy today.”
 
Or perhaps we said, “It won’t hurt to miss church today. After all, an opportunity like this ________ (game, concert, etc., fill in the blank) doesn’t come around every day.”
 
Any time that God is nudging us to obey Him in something, we should obey without putting things off. We never know what may happen to prevent our obedience later.
 

Just as we all feel closer to children when they are obedient, so does God feel closer to us when we are. In turn, we will feel closer to Him as well. Don’t we all prefer to snuggle in His arms rather than feel that furrowed brow frowning on us as we attempt to make up for our disobedience?

 

Scripture: Psalm 119:60; James 4:17
 
Prayer: “Lord, thank you for having patience with me even when I have delayed in obeying You. Help me to do better. Remind me to listen carefully and then to obey when You want me to rather than when I find a ‘convenient’ time. I want to do Your will and not be in Your way. Show me, Lord, what You want me to do and when to do it. I know that even my ability to obey comes from You. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
 
Respond: by listening for God’s instructions for your life and obeying immediately.
 
If you’re not familiar with the song “Keep Me in Your Will” by Jessica King, check it out here. It has a great message!
 
 
 
 
 
DON’T (just) READ THE BIBLE!
-by Judy Wallace.  This is article five in our series on drawing closer to God.
 
 
Let me explain. Probably at some point you, like I, have determined to follow a ‘read- through-the-Bible-in-one-year’ plan. Then you get to Leviticus. There is the peace offering, the guilt offering, the sin offering, the trespass offering, the grain offering etc. That is when you start to read the Bible, scan the words, and simply let your eyes go over the text so you can mark off that box for the day.
 
For the Bible study discipline of our CLOSER theme, it states: Learn to STUDY and UNDERSTAND the Bible. Reading through the Bible in a year is a wonderful goal. I think everyone should do that at least once in their lifetime. But instead of just reading your Bible, study and strive to understand it.
 
As an example, let’s do a word study on the word “study”! This word ’study’ is translated that way only twice in the New Testament and both times they are found in the letters Paul wrote.
 
To the church at Thessalonica he said, “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands as we commanded you,” (1 Thessalonians 4:11). Then, in 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul writes,  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
 
The interesting thing about that is, the words used in these two verses are not the same word!
 
The word used in Thessalonians means to “strive earnestly, make it one’s aim, to move into action by a love of honor.” That particular word is used two other times in scripture and is translated both as ‘strive’ and as ‘labor.’ Paul wanted this church to know that it should be their aim to live out an honorable life of service, equipped with their own God given gifts, and motivated by love to obey these commands.
 
The word used in Timothy means “to hasten and exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence.” As his mentor, Paul encourages Timothy to put in the time and effort to know the scripture as a way of honoring God and being confident in sharing the truth. 
 
Each word for “study” is best suited for each situation and recipient. I didn’t know the difference and would have assumed they both meant the common meaning of study and gone on. But when you take the time to dig just a little, what a blessing is ours to see that our Almighty God inspired each word to give an exact message to the writer to pass along!
 
Now you see why I say, don’t just read your Bible. Study to understand it and see how the message God had for those people at that time has application for us as well.
 
SCRIPTURE: John 16:13; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Psalm 119:105
 
PRAYER: “Father, without your word I would be clueless. Thank you for writing it! Thank you for preserving it throughout the millennia. Thank you for allowing the precious Holy Spirit to live inside of me. Who better than the author Himself to lead and guide me into all truth? May I never take it for granted. May I never neglect it. May I always hunger and thirst after righteousness. Time spent with You in Your Word is what fuels my life. Speak to me each day as I search for guidance and enjoy Your presence.”
 
RESPOND: Do a word search in a Bible concordance from a verse that you read this week. Download a Bible app that contains several helps for your study. There are many good ones! I use the Blue Letter Bible. It is free and offers a concordance and commentaries, it tells you all the other verses that contain that word, it will read the passage to you if you learn best by listening, and it offers several other helps.
 
“Without spending time in God’s Word, we tend to forget what matters to Him.” -Charles Stanley
 
 
 
 
 
For Such a Time as This
-by Susie Edgar.  This is article four in our series on drawing closer to God.
 
 

“Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”  (Esther 4:14)

God has placed His children, wherever we are at this moment, in the midst of a battle: a huge conflict involving good versus evil. Esther was faced with such a time and her decision became an example for us to follow.
 
Esther, a Jew, was raised by her cousin Mordecai after her parents’ death. When she was made Queen of Persia, she had no idea that God would give her the opportunity to save her people.  Her Jewish nation had been put into a position to be killed by the Kings degree.  Mordecai told Esther, “Who knows if you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this. “
 
The first thing she did was fast and pray, then she asked all the Jews to do the same. What a great first step!  They were very grateful for Esther’s response to Mordecai’s plea to think not just of herself but her people as well. As a result, she glorified God, and many lives were spared.
 
When God asks us to do something, we stand at a crossroads, a crisis of belief. We sometimes believe we are not able to accomplish what God has ask us to do. The question is, will we do it or will we refuse?  Often, we have only minutes or maybe seconds to decide our direction before the opportunity is gone. God will find someone to do His will if we don’t.  If we choose to allow God to work through us, the blessings will be above and beyond our imagination. Our faith will increase and God will be glorified.  That’s the goal.
 
How many souls can be spared in our culture when we choose to step up and do a service for the Lord?  Don’t give up on our nation. Remember, we have God on our side. We must pray, fast and humble ourselves before our God for deliverance. Never doubt God is in control.  
 
Since God has chosen to work through his people, we have been given all we need to accomplish great things for His glory.  God is always working around us. He invites us to become involved with what He is doing. Listen carefully to His voice. To miss a kingdom assignment because we’ve become too caught up in our own personal kingdom is one of the greatest tragedies we could ever face.
 
Never forget. God sees and God will answer!
 
Lord, help us to be willing to obey and glorify you when we sense your direction. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.
 
 

 

Are You Listening? 
-by Valarie Fish.  This is article three in our series on drawing closer to God.
 
 

When both my boys were toddlers they would often not pay attention to me when I would give an instruction. Especially an instruction they didn’t want to follow right at that moment. Sometimes they would respond, but I knew they weren’t really listening. The parenting books all agree when talking with children you should get down to their level. “Look right here, at my face,” I would say and then make eye contact. Often I would make them repeat what I said so that I knew they understood.

Early on toddlers also learn “face time” means you are listening to them. If I were distracted they would get up in my face sometimes to the point of holding their little hands on each side of my cheeks and looking me right in the eye “mommy, you have to listen!”

God took on human flesh as Immanuel – God with us – so He could come down and get on your level. He says “Look right here, at my face…” and He gives clear distinct instructions. Sometimes He waits for you to repeat the instructions back to Him so He knows you understand.
 
“I love the Lord because He has heard my voice… because He inclined His ear to me…” (Psalm 116:1-2)
 

Each day, if you take a few moments to commune with your Father you can be certain He hears you. The above passage says He inclined His ear, which means He leans in and gives you His undivided attention! If you have ever experienced this then you understand why the Psalmist wrote the next phrase – “Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” When you really know God is listening you will learn to take every concern and every care and crawl up into His lap to talk to Him. 

Even as my children got older giving too many instructions at a time could be a problem, so with my youngest son we started what we called “practice listening.” I would give an instruction and say “now, practice listening” and he would reply with “so what you are saying is…” and repeat back what he understood the instruction to be. Finally, the most important step is following through with the instruction given. This is how I know my son really heard me – when he follows the instruction!
 
Be doers of the Word and not hearers only… James 1:22 says.
 

Sometimes God takes this approach with you and me. He has given all the instructions. He wants you to read them and then practice listening! Repeat back the instruction so He knows you understand. This is what makes studying the written Word of God so important. You have to read it to hear it. You have to understand it to be able to follow. You have to follow through to prove you heard the instruction in the first place.

Beloved, are you listening?
 
 

 

PRAYER
-by Jackie Ricks.  This is article two in our series on drawing closer to God. 
 
 
One of our goals this year is to draw closer to God. In the acrostic CLOSER, the first letter
stands for “Communicate with God through prayer.” Prayer is the main thing that has carried
me through life. Just as one wants to talk to her best friend, husband, child, or whomever, she
should want to talk to God in the same way. I know when something exciting happens, I
immediately want to share it. By the same token, when problems arise, I need to discuss
matters with someone. Although I love to talk to my loved ones, God is the best One to talk to
in either case. God already knows exactly what has happened, but there is a comfort in
thanking Him for the good things and asking for His help to discern what to do in any situation.
Psalm 145:18 states, “The Lord is near unto all those who call upon Him, to all who call
upon Him in truth.” The more I talk to God, the closer I feel to Him, just as I would to anyone
with whom I communicate.
 
Many times driving down the road I talk to God aloud. People driving near me may think I’ve lost my mind, but the truth is I’m finding peace and comfort in my quiet time with my friend, God. (Obviously, don’t close your eyes when you do this!)  Some conversations with God are long, but some are as short as “Thanks” or “Help!” Quite often I simply think of a situation where I say, “Lord, Your will.” There is no correct formula for prayer.
 
However, with that being said, let me tell you something that I came up with years ago as I was writing Sunday School literature for Baptist Publishing House. It has helped me many
times to remember not to monopolize God’s time by only asking for help or by not
acknowledging that He will take care of everything in His own will. Since I love acrostics, I came
up with this one for PRAYER. Maybe it will help you as you draw closer to God through prayer.

Scriptures to Read:
Praise: Psalm 107:31-32
Repent: 1 John 1:9
Ask: Matthew 21:22
Yield: Matthew 26:39-45
Expect: 1 John 5:14-15
Rest: Matthew 11:28

Prayer: “Lord, that You for being there no matter what time or day or night that I come to You.
You listen faithfully to everything I say or think. Since I don’t have to talk aloud, I can pray even
in the midst of a crowded room. Please help me to remember to come to You first whether it’s
to rejoice or to cry. Show me, Lord, what You would have me do and how to be more faithful in
bringing You all of my hopes, dreams, and desires as well as my troubles. Thank You, again, for
being God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Respond: to God in prayer every chance you get today. Learn to communicate with Him on a regular basis.
 
 
 
 
CLOSER
-by Judy Wallace.  This is article one in our series on drawing closer to God.  
 

Our purpose in life is to pursue a closer, more intimate relationship with Christ under the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit through the development of spiritual disciplines set forth in the acronym, C.L.O.S.E.R.

It was a long engagement: one year and two months to be exact.  Tommy was in Bald Knob farming and I was finishing my senior year of college by student teaching in Ft Smith. It was hard to stay connected but we certainly made the effort. 

There were no cell phones and to call long distance cost extra. So instead, we wrote letters.  The letters were not just occasionally, they were daily! We ‘talked’ on paper and shared our daily activities.  I would often beat the mailman to the mail box and received the precious writing straight into my hand.  Immediately, I opened each letter knowing it was from the one who loved me deeply and wanted me to spend the rest of my life with him.  It was how we stayed CLOSER while apart.

This year the Inspirational Resource Committee wants to post weekly blogs to our website all for the purpose of helping you draw CLOSER to our God.  Our responsibility as a group is to recommend godly resources that help you grow, mature, and continue to pursue a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  What better resource for this than the Bible! It is God’s precious letter to us.  It is from the one who loves us deeply and wants us to spend the rest of our lives with Him! It is the source and foundation of many disciplines we need to pursue.

This year we will be using the acronym C.L.O.S.E.R.* to guide our writings and more importantly to encourage you in incorporating these spiritual endeavors into your daily lives.

C = Communicate with God through prayer

L = Learn to study and understand God’s Word

O = Obey

S = Store God’s word in your heart through memorization and meditation

E = Evangelize

R = Renew daily

Your writers will be our committee members: Valerie Fish, Susie Edgar, Jackie Ricks, and myself, Judy Wallace.

Join us weekly. Pray for us daily. Incorporate these disciplines regularly. It is what He has called us to do!

Scriptures to Read: James 4:8; Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 119:10; Matthew 5:6

Prayer: “Father, You are our Rock, our Shield, our Redeemer, Savior, and Friend.  You are Lord of all, our Creator, our Shepherd, and Your presence is always with us.  Even Your names bring peace into our lives. Plus, there is the wonder that You loved us enough to send Your Son to die for us as unworthy as we are.  How is it that You invite us into Your Presence? That You long to fellowship with us?  That You want us close to Your heart and partakers of Your Spirit’s power?  How is it that we would dare refuse Your invitation to draw closer; to take time to study Your word, hide it in our hearts and minds, and seek Your face as a daily True North to follow? We cannot follow Your words unless we know them so help us on this journey to draw CLOSER each day to You and Your path for our lives.  Help us love You more so that we may obey You fully.  In Christ’s precious name, Amen.”

Respond to God with your own prayer from what you have read today.

[*C.L.O.S.E.R. Was developed by Rob Gallaty in his discipleship series Growing Up, Firmly Planted, Bearing Fruit.]
 
 
 
 
 
 
THE YOKE
-by Judy Wallace.  This is article thirteen in our series on drawing closer to God
 
The young ox had watched the process for a long time. He was fascinated that the older oxen
came directly to the Master as soon as they were summoned. They knew exactly what to do; it
was as if they were directly connected to Him. He would come forward slowly, speaking gently
to the them as He approached. They responded accordingly.
 
 
The Master brought a yoke with Him. It was plain. Rough. Massive. Most viewed it as a symbol
of slavery, subjection, and servitude as with it came images of heavy burdens and long, hard
hours of labor. The juvenile calf also thought it to be a thing of dread and despair. But the
older animals showed no sign of fear, nor did they cower as He lowered the yoke: first fitting it
over the shoulders, then around the neck.
 
 
What came next was hard to fathom. Instead of choosing a second animal to harness to the
first, the Master Himself went under the weight: the lowly ox on one side, the knowing Master
on the other. The beast shifted its body to adjust to the fact that the load seemed suddenly
lighter, more manageable than before. The command was given to move forward and instead
of a clumsy lurch that would have been expected, a slower, more purposeful gait was taken.
The calf found itself watching only the Master instead of the ox that was with Him. With each
step forward, He was constantly interacting with the animal. With each step forward, He was
giving instructions, pointing out pitfalls. With each step forward, He was explaining the goal
and constantly calling the animal to follow His lead and learn from Him. The ox still had the
same load, the same burden; but it seemed not to notice since it was now a shared load. The
fact that it was watching closely, listening carefully, and engrossing itself deeply in the wise
words it was being given, thoughts of self and the burdens it carried were no longer dominant.
The emphasis now was on learning about the Master and from the Master. With the
concentration on His instructions, attributes, and characteristics it dawned on the calf… that
was the true yoke! It wasn’t an instrument to be feared after all, but one that kept the eyes and
the heart where they should have been all along…only on the Master. Now the ox became
humble, teachable, at peace.
 
 
The calf continued to observe thinking that the sooner he matured, the sooner his time would
come to take up His yoke. But then the truth became very clear; the sooner he humbled
himself to take up His yoke, the sooner he would mature.
 
SCRIPTURE:
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you
rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find
rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
 
What are the three commands?
What are the two characteristics of Christ mentioned here?
What is said about the yoke and the results of taking it on?
 
Philippians 2:5-9  5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6  Who, being in the form
of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7  But made himself of no reputation, and
took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men 8  And being found in
fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the
cross. 9  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every
name”
 
What is the command?
List all the examples of what could be considered Christ’s yoke given in this passage.
How did He respond to these?
Go back to the command. What is the key to emulating these characteristics?
What do you learn from the first word, ‘Let’?
 
RESPONSE:
LEARN CHRIST! TAKE ON HIS YOKE DAILY! HE IS SHARING THE LOAD WITH Y0U!
RENEW yourself in Christ daily.
RENEW by being in the word daily.
RENEW by meditating on the characteristics of Christ daily.
RENEW by worshiping at His feet daily.
 
PRAYER:
“Father, help me to learn You! Not just about you or of You but learn You! Help me
focus on how you acted in your daily walk; how you interacted with those closest to you; how
you responded to all the people around you. Help me be humbled before you, compassionate
toward others, and keenly aware of the opportunities you place in my path and then help me to
take them.!”
 
“Behold Him! Look at Him! Just be occupied with Him!…Come to the Word for one purpose and
that is to meet the Lord.” Norman Douty
 
 
 
 
 

The Kneeling Christian.

(Recommended Book by Susie Edgar)

“A traveler in China visited a heathen temple on a great feast day. Many were the worshipers of the hideous idol enclosed in a sacred shrine. The visitor noticed that most of the devotees brought with them small pieces of paper on which prayers had been written or printed. These were wrapped up in little balls of stiff mud and flung at the idol. He enquired the reason for this strange proceeding and was told that if the mud ball stuck fast to the idol, then the prayer would assuredly be answered; but if the mud fell off, the prayer was rejected by the god.

We may smile at this peculiar way of testing the acceptability of prayer. But is it not a fact that the majority of Christian men and women who pray to a Living God know very little about real prevailing prayer? Yet prayer is the key that unlocks the door of God’s treasure-house.

It is not too much to say that all real growth in the spiritual life—all victory over temptation, all confidence and peace in the presence of difficulties and dangers, all repose of spirit in times of great disappointment or loss, all habitual communion with God—depends upon the practice of secret prayer.

This book was written by request and with much hesitancy. It goes forth with much prayer. May He who said, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint, teach us to pray.” (Author’s preface. Author, An Unknown Christian. Credited to Albert Ernest Richardson. The Kneeling Christian. Zondervan books.)

 

Incredible Promises

In our Lord’s last discourse, he said; “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you. “ John 16:23 KJV.

 

Do we really believe this?

 

We must if we believe our Bibles. Do we really desire to do God’s will? Do we really believe His promises? If so, will it not lead us to spend more time on our knees before God?

 

Do not vow to pray so much a day. Resolve to pray much.  The writer states he is quite certain of this fact. God wants us to pray.

 

The question is, are we willing to pray?
 

SCRIPTURE“And he said unto them, when ye pray, say, ‘Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.’” Luke 11:2.

 

PRAYER: Gracious Savior, pour out upon us the fullness of the Holy Spirit that we may indeed become Kneeling Christians.
 
 

RESPOND: As you read this book, the writer most earnestly implores you not to read hurriedly what is contained in these chapters. Much—very much—depends upon the way in which every reader receives what is there recorded. For everything depends upon prayer. (Purchase the book in the link. We do not recieve compensation from sales, we are not affiliated with Zondervan of Amazon).

Billy Graham was asked If he had a system in which he used to study his Bible. He replied;

“Yes, I do. I read a gospel a week. Matthew/Mark/Luke/John/Acts. While I am reading and when I sense the Spirit speaking, I stop there and listen. “ 
 

When we pray, we must not only pray but listen.

 
 
 
 

The Songs I Cannot Sing

-by Valarie Fish. This is article eleven in our series on drawing closer to God.  
 
For several months now I have been fighting with my vocal cords. A polyp has grown which affects my voice when I speak and especially when I sing. I really, really love to talk and I really, really, really love to sing! 
 
 
I’m one of those weird people who wake up in the morning with a song in my head pretty much every day. From the time I open my eyes I am humming or singing something – until now. I attempted to demonstrate to my Sunday school class what the polyp has done to my singing voice. One brutally honest new student – who has never heard me sing before – laughed and said it sounded like the honk of a goose. Hurtful but accurate. 
 
 
This morning when I woke up, the song in my head said “I love you Lord and I lift my voice…”  
 
But I cannot lift my voice.
 
 
I think Satan is using this ailment to try to defeat me. He whispers dark and depressing statements into my thoughts about permanent damage and never being able to sing again.  
 
 

The second verse of the old hymn “Sunshine in my Soul” by Eliza Edmunds Hewitt says this: 

“There is music in my soul today, a carol to my King; 

And Jesus, listening, can hear the song I cannot sing.”
 
 
I am reminded there are people who have never been able to sing, whether because of ability or disability, so there must be a way to lift my voice without actual vocal cords.  How do you lift your voice when you have no voice? 
 
 
Perhaps we should define “voice” in a broader sense.
 
 
We know the dictionary definition includes words, tones, sounds, frequency, and pitch. All those are under the heading of voice as a noun. As a verb, to voice something is to make a thing to be heard. So far, nothing is making me feel any better. I still need my vocal cords to make this happen. 
 
 
Unless there is a way to “make a thing to be heard” without words?  I suppose it depends on what you are wanting to “be heard”. If you are “lifting your voice” in worship, can you let that worship be heard without sound? Can you praise without sound? 
 
 
Now we need to define what the words worship and praise mean. Looking at the Hebrew dictionary “worship” means “to bow down, to prostrate oneself” and “praise” means “to hold out the hand, to throw at or away, to worship with extended hands.” 
 
 
Neither of those definitions require a voice! Now we are getting somewhere. 
 
 
Worship and praise both have indicators of humility and reflection away from self.
 
 
When I stop thinking of what I cannot do (sing) and place the focus on what God is doing, I bow to His plan and His authority. My worship and my praise do not need to be heard by anyone else because God can hear the cries of my heart. He can literally hear the songs I cannot sing. Those tears running down my face – they are my voice. My hands lifted in adoration and gratitude – they are my voice. My surrender to His will for my life – with or without the ability to sing – this is my act of worship. 
 

Scripture: “Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies (dedicating all of yourselves, set apart) as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship.” Romans 12:1 AMP

Prayer: Father, thank you for giving me the opportunity to praise you with or without a voice. Let my surrender be my act of worship. Let me lift my voice to You and hear the songs I cannot sing. Use this blog to encourage someone to praise you with their whole heart and worship you in spirit and in truth. Amen 

Respond:  Look past your perceived handicap, instead of seeing it as an excuse, identify how you can worship in spite of it. Pay attention to what Satan has been whispering to you that keeps you from surrender. Is he saying you aren’t good enough or smart enough? Maybe he is placing emphasis on what you cannot do instead of what you can do!  
 
“Without worship we go about miserable.” – A.W. Tozer
 
 

 

 
 
I Can’t Stand the Noise!
-by Jackie Ricks. This is article ten in our series on drawing closer to God.

 

 

I’ve never liked noise.

All of my life I have avoided vacuum cleaners (Thankfully, I have wood and tile floors!), mixers, hair dryers, etc.—anything that makes noise—unless I absolutely have to use it.
 
 

Well, today I had to.

And it was the ultimate noisemaker: an MRI. I’ve had several during my life, but this one seemed louder than any other. It was also longer than most, and was made even longer by the machine throwing glitches into some of the pictures. However, thank God I survived!

 

How? The same as always. I sang hymns to myself; I prayed; and I quoted scriptures, especially during the loudest and longest sections. After being in church all of my life, the hymns came easy. So did the prayers, since that’s just talking to God.
 
 
But, actually the verses did as well. Why? Because I had memorized many verses as a child and some even as an adult.
 
 

It’s not too late to memorize even now. I’ve memorized several as an adult. You may choose your version of the Bible to learn. I’ve tried various versions, but always have to memorize the King James because that’s what I heard for so many years that I get mixed up if I try memorizing anything else.

 

Let me give you a hint of something to use to help you learn scripture.
 
 

There’s an app.

I have it on iPhone, but I’m sure you can probably get it on any phone. Just check the App Store. It’s called Bible Memory and has a photo of an open Bible. You may choose various versions of the Bible (although I think all except the KJV costs extra).

 
Then you pick what verses you want to learn. There are several choices that you can make about how to learn.
 
Although you may use voice in the app, I prefer typing. You may type the whole words or just the first letter of each word. To begin, you see the verse. After a few tries, you have only some words showing. Then, finally, no words are there. Even though I type only the first letter of the words, I’m saying the words in my mind so I’m learning the verse. You may also combine verses together to learn a whole passage.  It’s a great activity to use while you wait in line at school or at the doctor’s office.
 
 
Why memorize verses when you have your Bible handy all the time, especially with one available on any phone or tablet?
 
 

Well, just as I did today, I could not take anything into the MRI with me. But those verses were a comfort and helped keep my mind off the noise!

 

That’s not the only reason, though.

What if you’re talking to someone in the yard or at the grocery store and they need some comfort or advice on something? It’s handy when you can just pull that verse from your head without having to look through a Bible or concordance.
 
 
How about leading someone to Christ?
 
 
I know that some young people have been led to the Lord at Daniel Springs Encampment swimming pool. Now, you don’t have your Bible or your phone in the water!
 

There are many instances where it comes in handy to know many verses. I often think of scripture as I’m driving down the road talking to God. He will remind me of something in the Bible that I need to know for the particular situation that concerns.

 

Knowing scripture and memorizing it helps to draw us closer to the Lord.
 
 
It can keep us on the right track and help prevent us from sinning as much. Sin puts up obstacles between us and God, thus making us farther from Him.
 
Scripture breaks down those barriers. Satan doesn’t want to hear us quoting God’s word, but God loves to hear it. 
 

Scripture: Psalm 119:11 

Prayer:  “Lord, thank You for giving us Your word to guide us through life. Thank You especially for bringing it to my mind at just the perfect time to help me through my day. Help me to learn more scripture so that I will have it readily available when I need Your perspective of some situation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Respond: find one verse that you can learn today. If you can’t think of anything else, memorize Psalm 119:11.
 
“The Bible in the memory is better than the Bible in the book case.” – Spurgeon
 
 
 
 
SHIPHRAH AND PUAH
-by Judy Wallace.  This is article nine in our series on drawing closer to God.
 
 
Who are these people?  Two of David’s mighty men?  Leaders of enemy kingdoms that Israel faced during their long history of battles?  They were neither but they were mighty warriors and they were leaders that God used in a mighty way in an enemy kingdom. In the first Chapter of Exodus, we are given the amazing story of two common women who participated in a very uncommon and important event that God used in a mighty way.  Shiphrah and Puah were the midwives that attended Jochebed at the birth of Moses.
 
THE PROBLEM
 

At the end of Genesis, we see that Jacob’s family had grown to seventy people. Now over four hundred years later, they are called the children of Israel.  God had made them fruitful, increased them abundantly, made them exceedingly mighty, and now filled the land of Egypt with them.  Yeah for Israel!

But it was not so ‘yeah’ as far as Egypt was concerned. Instead, there was a problem.  Many generations had passed since Joseph had died and the new Pharoah knew nothing of him and cared nothing for these people.  Instead, he had grown fearful of the increase in their numbers and was concerned they might join other nations in a war against Egypt. The problem now for the new Pharaoh was to figure out a plan to not only reduce their numbers but to basically destroy their existence.

PHAROAH’S PLANS

His first try was given to us in Exodus 1:11-14. “ 11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens…12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. 13 And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage… all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.”  The term rigor means harshness, severity, or cruelty and comes from a root word meaning to break apart or crush.  But during this harsh persecution, the Israelites flourished and grew in numbers. Now Pharaoh had to go to Plan B!  His Plan B became Shiphrah and Puah’s problem #1! The king called these two women in and told them when they assisted the Hebrew women at their time of delivery, they were to kill all the boy babies but could let the baby girls live.

THEIR POSITION

They were now put in a position where they had to make a decision. This could have proved a huge problem for these two ladies but evidently not.  The head of the country was certainly to be feared and he had given them orders to take the lives of all baby boys.  But they had a greater fear…”17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.”  When Pharaoh asked about this, they told him the Hebrew women were strong in their delivery.  Some say they lied.  We don’t know that!  It could have been the Israelite women were more physically strong and of greater fortitude than the Egyptians. Whatever the case, they followed God and God responded!

GOD’S PROVISION

God never leaves obedience unrewarded.  ” 20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.21 And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.” In this case, he made the midwives’ houses. This term ‘houses’ may have meant children of their own because midwives often took these jobs because they were childless.  It could also have been actual, physical homes.  Either way, they obeyed under difficult circumstances and He blessed them in response.

But also, the Lord used these women to help bring Moses into the world: the very same Moses that would be the great deliverer of the Israelites from the land of Egypt. They knew God!  They feared God! They obeyed God! Their actions helped the lineage of our Messiah be protected!

SCRIPTURE:

Acts 4:19  “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.”

Acts 5:29 “ Then Peter and the apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than man.”

Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.”

Proverbs 9:10  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”

Daniel 11:32b  “…but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”

RESPOND: Two common ladies doing a common job but in a mighty warrior kind of way.  How?

  • They feared God and the scriptures say the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
  • Because of this they knew they ought to obey God rather than man.
  • People that know God shall be strong and do exploits.

What problem, what hard decision are you facing? Keep your thoughts and efforts on knowing God and obeying what He shows you.  There is no telling how you will be blessed and be a blessing to others.

Use the meaning of these ladies’ names to describe what obedience can mean to ourselves and others.

Shiphrah: fair; to make beautiful; to adorn

Puah: splendor; to glitter; brilliant

 

PRAYER: “Father, you may call us into situations where we don’t know what to do: times when our faith is challenged and You test us with problems and decisions that are hard.  Help us keep our efforts on staying CLOSER to you, knowing You better and obeying at all cost.”
 
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” -Corrie Ten Boom
 
 
 
 
It is Well with My Soul
-by Susie Edgar.  This is article eight in our series on drawing closer to God. 
 
Horatio Spafford, a Chicago attorney, had already suffered great loss in his life, when in 1874 his wife and four daughters boarded a ship for England. Just off the coast of Ireland the ship sank. Stafford received a cable from his wife. It read; “Saved alone”.
 
As he traveled to England he penned the words, whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul. 
 
About that time as a nation, we had come through a deep division in the Civil War. How people needed to be reminded that God was still Sovereign and in control of their lives and destiny. 
 

In the trials and heartaches we face today, never doubt God is still Sovereign and God is still in control. Never doubt He sees and He will repay your faithfulness. 

 

It Is Well with My Soul

When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well it is well with my soul

 

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come 

Let this blest assurance control, that Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed his own blood for my soul

 

My sin, Oh the bliss of this glorious thought, My sin not in part but the whole

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise, praise the Lord, oh my soul

 

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll, the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, “Even so” it is well with my soul. 



Scripture: I Thessalonians 1:3; Galatians 2:26
 
Prayer: Pray back to God what He has said to you
 
Respond: Write out the verses to this song meditating on each phrase
 
 
 
 
 

All the Lonely People   

-by Valarie Fish.  This is article seven in our series on drawing closer to God.

(This was written in 2007 after a mission trip to Asia, recently updated)

     We barely made the last shuttle bus of the evening from the airport to our hotel. After 20 hours of flying, I was ready for a bed where I could stretch out and get some sleep. My body wasn’t made to stay awake for more than 30 hours straight.

 

     As I write, my best friend and I are in Hong Kong for a retreat. We are going to meet with women who are working as missionaries in various Asian countries. It’s hard to believe the planning and excitement of our trip now culminates in this overwhelming exhaustion.

 

The shuttle bus driver swerved through the crowded narrow streets with expertise. Sitting up so high we watched the scenery through large, tourist-friendly windows. Not much to see at 1:00 in the morning until we got into the city proper.

 

From the safety of my tinted windows, I watched people. Couples walked hand in hand: one young woman proudly holding her bouquet of roses. I realized that crossing the International Date Line we have missed Valentines Day. An older man on a bicycle threaded his way through with sacks of goods on the handlebars. He looked tired. One street corner had five or six teenage boys with their hair spiked and their pants riding low, smoking cigarettes. I looked at them and saw babies trying to be grown-up. In front of us a public city bus stopped to let a young woman off. She walked resolutely from the motor vehicle and as she passed my window she started to cry.

 

Here I am half-way around the world, and I see the same emotions that I would find in my own neighborhood. In this case the wearers are clothed with different colored skin and cultural features, but they are still the same. Infatuation, fatigue, emotional pain, and adolescent bravado – all are universal.

 

I wonder if anyone will tell them that Jesus loves them? That’s because the answer to all the pains of life is also universal – to know the love of the One who created you for a purpose. Our Father gave us all unique life experiences and placed us in our families and homes for a reason. In Acts 17:24-27 Paul talks about how God made the world and gives life and determines the seasons and the birthplace of every precious soul on earth. Verse 27 states the reason for this. “So that they should seek the Lord… and find Him though He is not far away from every one of us.”

 

I don’t know why He chose for me to be born in the US and another woman to be born in Hong Kong and another in Russia or Kenya. I do know He saved me and led me to know Him so that I may introduce Him to others I will meet. God designed these universal emotions to emphasize the gaping hole in a heart that tries to live without Him. Maybe I will get a chance to see the lady from the bus, or perhaps God has ordained that task for someone else who can offer comfort for her pain. Maybe you have been privileged to lighten the load for someone else. I pray some kind word or smile from one of His children will open the way for someone to know the love of Christ.

 

You have been called and destined to be the hands and feet of Christ to all you encounter. Without embracing such a divine purpose, your journey will be in vain. You are not a tourist. You are a commissioned ambassador to a lost and lonely world. Wake up! Remember why you are here, and watch God open the windows of opportunity.  
 
 
 
 
 
In a Minute, Lord
-by Jackie Ricks.  This is article six in our series on drawing closer to God.
 
 
As a parent and as a former teacher, I considered obedience very important. However, I remember as a child growing up, I often didn’t obey when my parents asked me to do something.
 
Oh, I didn’t willfully NOT do what they asked. What I did was delay my obedience, often because I was busy reading a book that I thought I couldn’t put down. Just one more page, one more chapter. I’m almost done; it won’t hurt to finish this first. The work will still be there. Those were my thoughts.
 
My parents, on the other hand, had other ideas about not obeying when they asked me to do something.

 

It wasn’t until I was grown and actually a grandmother that I heard a sermon speak directly to me that delayed obedience is, in fact, disobedience.
 
Now, as a parent and teacher by that point, I had drilled that message into my children and students, but for some reason it didn’t hit home until that sermon. I realized how disobedient I had been as a child with my parents, and also as an adult in doing God’s work.
 
That message has come back to me recently through a song that I heard, “Keep Me in Your Will,” by Jessica King. The idea is that if we aren’t in God’s will, then we may be in His way while He’s dealing with our lives or someone else’s.
 
Obviously, if we aren’t in His will, we are not as close to Him as we need to be.
 
Just as obedience in our children can be extremely important to their safety, we don’t know just how important our obedience might be to our own or someone else’s life. If a child doesn’t learn to stop when a parent says “Stop!” he might run into a dangerous situation such as a moving car or a hole or a dangerous animal.
 
We as Christians may also run into critical situations if we don’t heed God’s commands to us.
 
How many times have we said, “Just a few minutes on Facebook, Lord, and then I’ll pray and read my Bible”? Or maybe it was, “Lord, I’ll talk to my neighbor about You next week. Both of us are busy today.”
 
Or perhaps we said, “It won’t hurt to miss church today. After all, an opportunity like this ________ (game, concert, etc., fill in the blank) doesn’t come around every day.”
 
Any time that God is nudging us to obey Him in something, we should obey without putting things off. We never know what may happen to prevent our obedience later.
 

Just as we all feel closer to children when they are obedient, so does God feel closer to us when we are. In turn, we will feel closer to Him as well. Don’t we all prefer to snuggle in His arms rather than feel that furrowed brow frowning on us as we attempt to make up for our disobedience?

 

Scripture: Psalm 119:60; James 4:17
 
Prayer: “Lord, thank you for having patience with me even when I have delayed in obeying You. Help me to do better. Remind me to listen carefully and then to obey when You want me to rather than when I find a ‘convenient’ time. I want to do Your will and not be in Your way. Show me, Lord, what You want me to do and when to do it. I know that even my ability to obey comes from You. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
 
Respond: by listening for God’s instructions for your life and obeying immediately.
 
If you’re not familiar with the song “Keep Me in Your Will” by Jessica King, check it out here. It has a great message!
 
 
 
 
 
DON’T (just) READ THE BIBLE!
-by Judy Wallace.  This is article five in our series on drawing closer to God.
 
 
Let me explain. Probably at some point you, like I, have determined to follow a ‘read- through-the-Bible-in-one-year’ plan. Then you get to Leviticus. There is the peace offering, the guilt offering, the sin offering, the trespass offering, the grain offering etc. That is when you start to read the Bible, scan the words, and simply let your eyes go over the text so you can mark off that box for the day.
 
For the Bible study discipline of our CLOSER theme, it states: Learn to STUDY and UNDERSTAND the Bible. Reading through the Bible in a year is a wonderful goal. I think everyone should do that at least once in their lifetime. But instead of just reading your Bible, study and strive to understand it.
 
As an example, let’s do a word study on the word “study”! This word ’study’ is translated that way only twice in the New Testament and both times they are found in the letters Paul wrote.
 
To the church at Thessalonica he said, “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands as we commanded you,” (1 Thessalonians 4:11). Then, in 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul writes,  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
 
The interesting thing about that is, the words used in these two verses are not the same word!
 
The word used in Thessalonians means to “strive earnestly, make it one’s aim, to move into action by a love of honor.” That particular word is used two other times in scripture and is translated both as ‘strive’ and as ‘labor.’ Paul wanted this church to know that it should be their aim to live out an honorable life of service, equipped with their own God given gifts, and motivated by love to obey these commands.
 
The word used in Timothy means “to hasten and exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence.” As his mentor, Paul encourages Timothy to put in the time and effort to know the scripture as a way of honoring God and being confident in sharing the truth. 
 
Each word for “study” is best suited for each situation and recipient. I didn’t know the difference and would have assumed they both meant the common meaning of study and gone on. But when you take the time to dig just a little, what a blessing is ours to see that our Almighty God inspired each word to give an exact message to the writer to pass along!
 
Now you see why I say, don’t just read your Bible. Study to understand it and see how the message God had for those people at that time has application for us as well.
 
SCRIPTURE: John 16:13; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Psalm 119:105
 
PRAYER: “Father, without your word I would be clueless. Thank you for writing it! Thank you for preserving it throughout the millennia. Thank you for allowing the precious Holy Spirit to live inside of me. Who better than the author Himself to lead and guide me into all truth? May I never take it for granted. May I never neglect it. May I always hunger and thirst after righteousness. Time spent with You in Your Word is what fuels my life. Speak to me each day as I search for guidance and enjoy Your presence.”
 
RESPOND: Do a word search in a Bible concordance from a verse that you read this week. Download a Bible app that contains several helps for your study. There are many good ones! I use the Blue Letter Bible. It is free and offers a concordance and commentaries, it tells you all the other verses that contain that word, it will read the passage to you if you learn best by listening, and it offers several other helps.
 
“Without spending time in God’s Word, we tend to forget what matters to Him.” -Charles Stanley
 
 
 
 
 
For Such a Time as This
-by Susie Edgar.  This is article four in our series on drawing closer to God.
 
 

“Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”  (Esther 4:14)

God has placed His children, wherever we are at this moment, in the midst of a battle: a huge conflict involving good versus evil. Esther was faced with such a time and her decision became an example for us to follow.
 
Esther, a Jew, was raised by her cousin Mordecai after her parents’ death. When she was made Queen of Persia, she had no idea that God would give her the opportunity to save her people.  Her Jewish nation had been put into a position to be killed by the Kings degree.  Mordecai told Esther, “Who knows if you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this. “
 
The first thing she did was fast and pray, then she asked all the Jews to do the same. What a great first step!  They were very grateful for Esther’s response to Mordecai’s plea to think not just of herself but her people as well. As a result, she glorified God, and many lives were spared.
 
When God asks us to do something, we stand at a crossroads, a crisis of belief. We sometimes believe we are not able to accomplish what God has ask us to do. The question is, will we do it or will we refuse?  Often, we have only minutes or maybe seconds to decide our direction before the opportunity is gone. God will find someone to do His will if we don’t.  If we choose to allow God to work through us, the blessings will be above and beyond our imagination. Our faith will increase and God will be glorified.  That’s the goal.
 
How many souls can be spared in our culture when we choose to step up and do a service for the Lord?  Don’t give up on our nation. Remember, we have God on our side. We must pray, fast and humble ourselves before our God for deliverance. Never doubt God is in control.  
 
Since God has chosen to work through his people, we have been given all we need to accomplish great things for His glory.  God is always working around us. He invites us to become involved with what He is doing. Listen carefully to His voice. To miss a kingdom assignment because we’ve become too caught up in our own personal kingdom is one of the greatest tragedies we could ever face.
 
Never forget. God sees and God will answer!
 
Lord, help us to be willing to obey and glorify you when we sense your direction. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.
 
 

 

Are You Listening? 
-by Valarie Fish.  This is article three in our series on drawing closer to God.
 
 

When both my boys were toddlers they would often not pay attention to me when I would give an instruction. Especially an instruction they didn’t want to follow right at that moment. Sometimes they would respond, but I knew they weren’t really listening. The parenting books all agree when talking with children you should get down to their level. “Look right here, at my face,” I would say and then make eye contact. Often I would make them repeat what I said so that I knew they understood.

Early on toddlers also learn “face time” means you are listening to them. If I were distracted they would get up in my face sometimes to the point of holding their little hands on each side of my cheeks and looking me right in the eye “mommy, you have to listen!”

God took on human flesh as Immanuel – God with us – so He could come down and get on your level. He says “Look right here, at my face…” and He gives clear distinct instructions. Sometimes He waits for you to repeat the instructions back to Him so He knows you understand.
 
“I love the Lord because He has heard my voice… because He inclined His ear to me…” (Psalm 116:1-2)
 

Each day, if you take a few moments to commune with your Father you can be certain He hears you. The above passage says He inclined His ear, which means He leans in and gives you His undivided attention! If you have ever experienced this then you understand why the Psalmist wrote the next phrase – “Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” When you really know God is listening you will learn to take every concern and every care and crawl up into His lap to talk to Him. 

Even as my children got older giving too many instructions at a time could be a problem, so with my youngest son we started what we called “practice listening.” I would give an instruction and say “now, practice listening” and he would reply with “so what you are saying is…” and repeat back what he understood the instruction to be. Finally, the most important step is following through with the instruction given. This is how I know my son really heard me – when he follows the instruction!
 
Be doers of the Word and not hearers only… James 1:22 says.
 

Sometimes God takes this approach with you and me. He has given all the instructions. He wants you to read them and then practice listening! Repeat back the instruction so He knows you understand. This is what makes studying the written Word of God so important. You have to read it to hear it. You have to understand it to be able to follow. You have to follow through to prove you heard the instruction in the first place.

Beloved, are you listening?
 
 

 

PRAYER
-by Jackie Ricks.  This is article two in our series on drawing closer to God. 
 
 
One of our goals this year is to draw closer to God. In the acrostic CLOSER, the first letter
stands for “Communicate with God through prayer.” Prayer is the main thing that has carried
me through life. Just as one wants to talk to her best friend, husband, child, or whomever, she
should want to talk to God in the same way. I know when something exciting happens, I
immediately want to share it. By the same token, when problems arise, I need to discuss
matters with someone. Although I love to talk to my loved ones, God is the best One to talk to
in either case. God already knows exactly what has happened, but there is a comfort in
thanking Him for the good things and asking for His help to discern what to do in any situation.
Psalm 145:18 states, “The Lord is near unto all those who call upon Him, to all who call
upon Him in truth.” The more I talk to God, the closer I feel to Him, just as I would to anyone
with whom I communicate.
 
Many times driving down the road I talk to God aloud. People driving near me may think I’ve lost my mind, but the truth is I’m finding peace and comfort in my quiet time with my friend, God. (Obviously, don’t close your eyes when you do this!)  Some conversations with God are long, but some are as short as “Thanks” or “Help!” Quite often I simply think of a situation where I say, “Lord, Your will.” There is no correct formula for prayer.
 
However, with that being said, let me tell you something that I came up with years ago as I was writing Sunday School literature for Baptist Publishing House. It has helped me many
times to remember not to monopolize God’s time by only asking for help or by not
acknowledging that He will take care of everything in His own will. Since I love acrostics, I came
up with this one for PRAYER. Maybe it will help you as you draw closer to God through prayer.

Scriptures to Read:
Praise: Psalm 107:31-32
Repent: 1 John 1:9
Ask: Matthew 21:22
Yield: Matthew 26:39-45
Expect: 1 John 5:14-15
Rest: Matthew 11:28

Prayer: “Lord, that You for being there no matter what time or day or night that I come to You.
You listen faithfully to everything I say or think. Since I don’t have to talk aloud, I can pray even
in the midst of a crowded room. Please help me to remember to come to You first whether it’s
to rejoice or to cry. Show me, Lord, what You would have me do and how to be more faithful in
bringing You all of my hopes, dreams, and desires as well as my troubles. Thank You, again, for
being God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Respond: to God in prayer every chance you get today. Learn to communicate with Him on a regular basis.
 
 
 
 
CLOSER
-by Judy Wallace.  This is article one in our series on drawing closer to God.  
 

Our purpose in life is to pursue a closer, more intimate relationship with Christ under the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit through the development of spiritual disciplines set forth in the acronym, C.L.O.S.E.R.

It was a long engagement: one year and two months to be exact.  Tommy was in Bald Knob farming and I was finishing my senior year of college by student teaching in Ft Smith. It was hard to stay connected but we certainly made the effort. 

There were no cell phones and to call long distance cost extra. So instead, we wrote letters.  The letters were not just occasionally, they were daily! We ‘talked’ on paper and shared our daily activities.  I would often beat the mailman to the mail box and received the precious writing straight into my hand.  Immediately, I opened each letter knowing it was from the one who loved me deeply and wanted me to spend the rest of my life with him.  It was how we stayed CLOSER while apart.

This year the Inspirational Resource Committee wants to post weekly blogs to our website all for the purpose of helping you draw CLOSER to our God.  Our responsibility as a group is to recommend godly resources that help you grow, mature, and continue to pursue a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  What better resource for this than the Bible! It is God’s precious letter to us.  It is from the one who loves us deeply and wants us to spend the rest of our lives with Him! It is the source and foundation of many disciplines we need to pursue.

This year we will be using the acronym C.L.O.S.E.R.* to guide our writings and more importantly to encourage you in incorporating these spiritual endeavors into your daily lives.

C = Communicate with God through prayer

L = Learn to study and understand God’s Word

O = Obey

S = Store God’s word in your heart through memorization and meditation

E = Evangelize

R = Renew daily

Your writers will be our committee members: Valerie Fish, Susie Edgar, Jackie Ricks, and myself, Judy Wallace.

Join us weekly. Pray for us daily. Incorporate these disciplines regularly. It is what He has called us to do!

Scriptures to Read: James 4:8; Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 119:10; Matthew 5:6

Prayer: “Father, You are our Rock, our Shield, our Redeemer, Savior, and Friend.  You are Lord of all, our Creator, our Shepherd, and Your presence is always with us.  Even Your names bring peace into our lives. Plus, there is the wonder that You loved us enough to send Your Son to die for us as unworthy as we are.  How is it that You invite us into Your Presence? That You long to fellowship with us?  That You want us close to Your heart and partakers of Your Spirit’s power?  How is it that we would dare refuse Your invitation to draw closer; to take time to study Your word, hide it in our hearts and minds, and seek Your face as a daily True North to follow? We cannot follow Your words unless we know them so help us on this journey to draw CLOSER each day to You and Your path for our lives.  Help us love You more so that we may obey You fully.  In Christ’s precious name, Amen.”

Respond to God with your own prayer from what you have read today.

[*C.L.O.S.E.R. Was developed by Rob Gallaty in his discipleship series Growing Up, Firmly Planted, Bearing Fruit.]