Real Church. Real Life. Real Celebration.

Posts tagged ‘love’

Enjoying Life

I just returned from a four-day trip to Blue Ridge, Georgia. We went to the mountains to see all the fall colors. While there, we enjoyed staying in a log cabin with the latest state-of-art appliances. I grew up in a generation where you had to wait twenty minutes for the coffee to brew. Now you can have a cup in under a minute. It used to take the black and white tv time to warm up, and if you were lucky, you might get three channels. That is if you could adjust the rabbit-ear antenna with tin foil in the right direction. Now its 1,000 channels, all in high-definition color, 24/7. If you can find something worthwhile to watch.

What changes have taken place in my short sixty-six years of living. We had made reservations to ride a scenic railroad through the mountains. The fall colors were so beautiful. The tracks ran along a river on one side and the mountains on the other. I was taken back in time. Growing up, I used to ride the passenger train to visit my grandparents.

I had a deep touching spiritual experience while in the mountains. Saturday morning I walked out onto the back deck, a cup of coffee in hand. As I was enjoying it, things were quiet. Nothing distracted me from fully enjoying the moment. I began looking out onto the mountains. I was thanking God for His beautiful creation. The vibrant leaves were washed in the early morning sun light.

Some scriptures from Psalms came to mind:  “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy works. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” ~ Psalms 19:1-3

The Lord was speaking His love to me. Allowing me another day on earth. Blessing me with life, health, eye sight, and a mind to enjoy His creation. We serve a glorious Heavenly Father, who loves us more than we will ever understand. He desires an intimate relationship with each of us. He has sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for our redemption. Blessed be His Holy Name forever. Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy. ~ 1 Timothy 6:17

~ Ricky Robinson

Image Credit: Mountain in the Autumn © MARIE JEANNE Iliescu via freeimages.com

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It’s Time to Move!

I’ve been thinking about change since Anessa told the teens at CHOSEN that she hasn’t seen a whole lot of change. To her, it seems like they always come back to the CHOSEN Youth Camp in the same place they were the year before. Even though I didn’t go to CHOSEN, I watched the services online. Immediately I asked myself, “Am I in the same place spiritually that I was last year? Has my change and growth been evident to others?” I hope it is! I hope others can see my growth.

Ever since that question, things have been coming to the surface. Reminders that change isn’t a one-time thing. Surrendering to God is something that happens continually. Every few days I tell God, “I surrender to you. I surrender my need to be right. Whatever you need from me, I am Yours.”

Each one of us needs to do that. And then, to bring everything full circle, Apostle David preached an excellent, timely, heart-piercing word recently about strengthening our joints. He said, “We have strong members (at Gateway), but weak joints.”

While thinking about how God wanted me to write everything that has been bouncing around inside of me, I thought about our physical joints. They become weak when we don’t use them. We lose function when we stop changing positions. If we stop getting up, over time, we won’t be able to get up at all.

I know there are areas of my life that I haven’t let God stretch because it’s painful. But I don’t want to be comfortable while God’s Kingdom becomes ineffective. I don’t want the weeds in my life to choke out the Word of God that is trying desperately to take root in me. I want God’s love to be fully manifested in me. I want His peace to be fully manifested in me.

While reading in Ephesians 4 today, I came across these verses, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts” (NIV).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my thinking to be useless. I don’t want my understanding to be darkened. I don’t want to be ignorant because I have hardened my heart.

Thinking about what those verses are saying. Useless thinking, no understanding, ignorant, and a hardened heart. All of those things cause a spiritual joint to be weak because the person won’t even realize they need to change. They won’t even recognize the need for growth!

We as believers of Christ don’t have to stay ignorant. Thank goodness our hearts can be softened. We can choose to not move our joints and we will get weaker and weaker. We will become more ineffective as the seasons go by. The only remedy is to say, “Continue breaking me, Lord. Continue shaping me. I know I’ve let You shape some areas of my life, but I need more of You. I want to be an effective joint in the Body of Christ, so show me the areas of weakness in me.” If I can’t see the problem, I can’t deal with it.

I know that two areas in me that are weak are my love walk and patience. Way before Apostle David even preached his message, I’d been asking God to increase my love walk and increase my patience. He has given me opportunities to walk in love, but I haven’t done that enough.

Guess what? There will be more opportunities for me to strengthen those weak areas. By His grace, I will become a strong joint, which means I will be able to minister to those in need.

It’s all about His Kingdom. There are so many people who need God’s love in their life, but we have to be mature, strong joints before we can help them. We know what to do. Now we have to do it!

~ Madison Sanders

Image Credit © tatlin via freeimages.com

The Love of No

A toddler had on a shirt that read, ” My name is no no.”  I laughed, understanding the meaning of the phrase.  No is a word children hear many times. It is not used to deprive them. It is to teach them and sometimes to protect them as well.

We recently celebrated a grandson’s birthday. He was specific about the gift he wanted. Two states and seven stores later, the requested toy was found. We were excited when the time came to present it to him. However, if he had asked for another toy a week later, the answer would be different because we just bought him a toy. We have to love him enough to say no. Because of the relationship we have built with him, he would accept this. He trusts that we know best.

A friend came to visit me from out of town. I told her the type of work I would like to find.  She called a few days later to tell me there was an opening for this kind of job in her area. She knew the person hiring for the position. We were sure this was the will of God for me. The interview went well. I was even shown the living quarters my husband and I would be using once I started.

Days passed with no word. I later learned that someone else had been chosen. I felt the pain of rejection. I was hurt that God didn’t consider how important this was to me.  Later, I was able to look back and realize that I wasn’t as prepared for the change this job would have brought as I had thought.

Trust is a big part of any relationship. As we grow in our faith walk, trust in our Heavenly Father is expanded. That experience was almost twenty years ago. I have grown since then. I have learned to wait when God answers me with the love of no. I realize that He knows what is best for me. I know He will answer accordingly.  My husband and I now live in a different town. The Lord gave us both an area and a home that we enjoy. We are part of Gateway Believers Fellowship. We love our church and our church family. I am thankful that God loves me enough to sometimes answer no. It is the path that led me here today.

~ Connie Robinson

 

Image Credit: All Smiles © Crissy Pauley via freeimages.com

Sharp and Ready

 

I read something in a book called God Calling a few weeks ago, and I wanted to share it with you. This book is written as if God is talking to you, so keep that in mind while reading.

It says, “You must pray. The way will open. God cares and His plans unfold. Just love and wait.

Love is the key. No door is too difficult for it to open.

What cause have you to fear? Has He not cared for and protected you? Hope on. Hope gladly. Hope with certainty. Be calm. Calm in My Power.

Never neglect these times, pray and read your Bible and train and discipline yourself. That is your work—Mine to use you. But My instruments must be sharp and ready. Then I use them.

Discipline and perfect yourselves at all costs. Do this for soon every fleeting thought will be answered, every wish gratified, every deed used. It is a fearful Power, a mighty Power. Oh! Be careful that you ask nothing amiss—nothing that is not according to My Spirit.

All thoughts harmful must be turned out. Miracle-working power can become witchery in wrong hands. See how necessary I have made the purity of your own lives to you. That is why. Soon, very soon, you shall ask and at once it will come. Welcome the training. Without it I dare not give you this Power. It would do harm.”

Preparation time is not wasted time. We have heard that phrase, but help it sink deep into our hearts. Lord, help us to not neglect spending time in Your Word. Purify our mouths. Cleanse us from all filth. We admit we have let other things take priority over you. Help us to put everything else aside because we know You have need of us. Help us remember that it is a process – one that can’t be hurried. The pain is a necessary part of the sharpening.  We want to be sharp and ready so we can be used effectively for Your Kingdom. A dull knife never did anyone any good.

~ Madison Sanders

Image Credit Carving Knife © Bob Knight via free images.com

– See more at: http://www.gatewaybelievers.com/articles/sharp-and-ready#sthash.yzSjImys.dpuf

 

The Hotseat

“So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ.” Romans 10:17

I had a dream a few days ago.

There was an activity called “The Hotseat” that our youth group did a number of times back in the day. It consisted of one person sitting in a chair at the front of the room (or top of the circle) and everyone else giving them positive affirmations. No one was allowed to say anything ugly and EVERYONE had to take a turn. The comments couldn’t be anything shallow, like “I really like your shoes.” All the comments had to be sincere about what we truly appreciated about that one person. Some days were more challenging than others. Some people were more challenging than others. But we all did it and it made a huge difference.

In my dream, I was sitting in the “hotseat.” I was sweating. I was nervous. My heart was pounding against the walls of my chest. I could feel tears streaming down my cheeks in the dream. Why would I feel such a way when faced with such a positive affirming activity? Well, it’s because I always found this activity to be challenging. Not because people said ugly things; there were only good things said about how I excelled in what I was doing and what I did for others. Nope, it was because I had to hear people say nice things about ME. I had believed so many lies about my self-worth – that I was unworthy to be loved, that I was too damaged and too broken to be anyone of importance, that others were better off without me – it was challenging to hear anyone say anything besides the lies.

Most of the time my internal turmoil made it difficult for me to hear the actual words that came out the other peeps’ mouths. More importantly, I couldn’t hear God’s word and that stalemated my faith and I found it a challenge to obtain it’s life. My friends knew this so they did whatever they had to do to shake me up & get my attention when it was my turn to sit in ” The Hotseat.” While some told me things like “You inspire me to love people & life as deeply as you do” and “I admire your unwillingness to compromise what you believe in,” others said “If you get out that chair, I will hit you so hard Ann will feel it” and “I don’t care if you sit there and cry all day, you’re gonna let us love you; you’re gonna hear us say these positive things to you because you need to know that we don’t believe you’re the abandoned, “piece-o-trash” you think you are.” And that’s what used to happen & that’s what I did in my dream – I sat in that chair, cried and listened as they told me everything EXCEPT the lies I’d told myself. It made all the difference in my young life – my faith increased and it gave God, Christ and Holy Spirit the access they needed to begin healing me.

When examining my own testimony, I’m reminded that our society today is in serious need of healing in the “self-worth” department. Some of us were abandoned by our parent(s) and/or loved one(s). Even if they were there, some parents & guardians weren’t emotionally available to us. And, maybe for some, years of neglect & abuse took its toll. No matter what the trauma was, self-worth was damaged and it changed how we saw ourselves. We even add nicknames, like “The Outsider,” that continue to echo the damaged self-worth and our ability to hear is compromised.

In the name of transparency, that is my walk of faith with God: to tip the scales daily by trusting & accepting His words MORE than the lies. “The Hotseat” interrupts the cycle of feeding ourselves lies and provides opportunities to replace them with God’s word, truth & agape love. I’m so grateful for those people who sat in those circles years ago. Those words, even echoed in a dream, have been such strong reminders to increase my faith and strong motivators for me to continue being healed, especially when I find myself in faint-hearted cycles.

There are 101 lessons to be pulled out of this Sustah’s dream. For now, I would just like to say: look in the mirror, put YOURSELF in “The Hotseat” today, receive more words of Love & life than the lies you’re accustomed to! I promise you, despite what lies you may believe about yourself, you’re not the worthless, abandoned, “piece-o-trash” you think you are.

~ Vickie Bowman

Image Credit: Spotlight Chair © deafstar via freeimages.com

– See more at: http://www.gatewaybelievers.com/articles/hotseat#sthash.ViMCOsEh.dpuf

Honorable Mention

We at church have been focusing on preparing for the prodigals to return to the house of God.

You can find the story of such a prodigal in Luke 15:11-32. It is a true picture of the Heavenly Father’s love. We are praying, expecting, and believing for many such people to return to God and fellowship with other believers.

There is a character in the story of the prodigal who gets little more than an honorable mention. He could have played a vital role in this story of redemption and restoration. His focus on self kept him from doing so. The part each individual plays in this process is left up to them.

The one who had stayed home became upset about the the attention given to the lost brother’s return. He had an issue with the fatted calf. I am sure he had enjoyed many such meals while his brother was away. He was welcomed to share in this feast as well.

Did he favor this calf over the others? Maybe he spent time and energy caring for it? His loved one’s safe return should have been more important. What would this calf represent to you today? A project you have worked hard on? Could it be your favorite place to sit in service? How about your convenient parking spot? What part will you play in the return of a prodigal? Will you be content to just be an honorable mention in the story of restoration? We must keep in mind that we are to build the Kingdom of God. We can only be successful in doing this when we realize it is not about us.

The father also placed a robe on his son. To me, this represents a covering. We are to cover others with our prayers. They also need to feel our love and support. Only a mature Christian will be willing to pour themselves into another’s life this way.

There was also a ring placed on his finger upon his return by the father. A ring represents covenant. Covenant is an agreement or promise. Apostle David reminds us that our church body can only be as strong as the relationships within it. God doesn’t take covenants lightly. Neither should we. The prodigals are returning.  Praise God! They will be welcomed and celebrated by us. We as a body are excited. We are preparing. I don’t want to be just an honorable mention in this process.

Maybe you are a prodigal. If so, you can be assured that you are loved. You are missed. You have an important place in the Body of Christ. You matter more than you realize. Come on home. We are waiting. Let the celebration begin.

~Connie Robinson

Image Credit Laid Table © Roger Kirby @ via freeimages.com

– See more at: http://www.gatewaybelievers.com/articles/honorable-mention#sthash.vtvDBUnS.dpuf

Simple Things

1 Corinthians 1:27 “….but God has chosen the simple (foolish) things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong…”

I often say that I am a simple woman. Not that I’m ignorant or dumb. Only that I don’t require much to be satisfied. A friend of a friend of mine and I had a brief dialogue via FB messenger. The content and conversation was short and to the point, but in the midst of exchanging words, the use of the word “merely” arose. “Merely” is a word I use synonymous with “simply.” I like it. Because I believe what enables us to be “good” at anything, to include relationships in general, are SIMPLE things. Our society and norms now-a-days are riddled with making SIMPLE things very COMPLICATED.
Simple things – Faith. Asking. Listening. Loyalty. Honesty. Integrity. Love. Forgiveness. Repentance. Trust.

We allow “complicated” to be our “scapegoat,” the just cause of not acting on simple things. You know what I’m saying:

our justification for NOT doing the things we know to be right,

our justification for wasting time on our fruitless thoughts, well-intended plans, lusts and desires,

our justification to disregard others and live solely for what we want, feel and find convenient,

our pathetic justification to waste time & energy on the things we cannot control,

our justification for lacking self-discipline with the things we don’t want to control, glorifying rebellion & being renegades,

our justification for remaining stagnant when we’re afraid or uncertain,

our justification for not living the word of God,

our justification for holding onto things we should release.

The real “misnomer” is that we want “simple” to be synonymous with “easy” and, the truth is, it isn’t. Not in all cases. Especially not with relationships, growth, maturity and the intangible things that create strong relationships. I haven’t arrived in all areas of my life. I’ve learned and AM LEARNING that keeping simple things simple in the midst of truly complicated matters is a challenge. But it is also the conditioning I require, knowing that choosing SIMPLE will enable me to move forward, stand upright for what I know & believe to be righteous and gain strength from it.

I am not misleading you. These simple things require work. They require appropriate boundaries. They require time. They require passion. They require a sharing – a give & take. They require commitment & discipline. They aren’t always popular, but they always draw you closer to those – God, Christ and others – you want to be close to, creating a bond that’s not easily broken.
I’ve made up my mind that I won’t let “complicated” rob me of the strength, relationships & victories SIMPLE brings. And I don’t need recognition for it. I don’t need a popularity vote. I don’t need notoriety. I don’t need everyone’s approval. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be valued and honored, only that it doesn’t require a parade. See, SIMPLE things SHOULD BE the norm!

What this Sustah needs AND what you need is to keep SIMPLE THINGS SIMPLE . . . and I bet we’ll all grow stronger together.

Have Faith in yourself, God & others. Ask. Listen. Be Loyal. Be Honest. Have Integrity. Love. Forgive. Repent. Trust.
What about you? How well do you keep SIMPLE THINGS SIMPLE?

~ Vickie Bowman

Image Credit: Easy Street © Andrew Bierele via freeimages.com

– See more at: http://www.gatewaybelievers.com/articles/simple-things#sthash.wCRWkXnz.dpuf

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