Monthly Archives: May 2016

Words of Encouragement

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I, the Lord, your God will never ever forget you.
You are never alone!!!
Your earthly family and friends may forget you, but, I will never forget you or forsake you.
I have engraved you in the palm of My hand. (Isaiah 49:14-16)
I have laid down everything for you.
I have been beaten, bruised, cursed, and abused for you. (Isaiah 53:5-11)

Oh, how deep, how wide is my love for you.
You are precious, so precious, my child;
I adore you, I cherish you.
I long to hold you and carry you through every tough situation.
Lean on Me, let Me be the strength and power that you depend upon.
Let Me hold you, let Me carry you. (Psalm 119:116-117)
How beautiful you are My beautiful child.
My love is like rivers covering, surrounding, saturating your very existence.

Do you hear Me, Child???

You are of great value and worth; there is no one like you!!!
No one can even compare to you.
I made you unique and different.
I have gifted you with special abilities and talents.
I am shaping you into a “vessel of honor” that I need and want.
Every detail of you is embedded in My memory.

“Oh the love of the your Father that is being poured out on you.”
Can you compare Me and My love to anything else. (Psalm 89:6-8)
Just as “I AM” incomparable with another, so are you, My love.

Casting Crowns – Just Be Held

Love from your Father,

Tricia

And God said, “Let there be light!”

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In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (Genesis 1:-3 KJV)

The story of creation! What a great story to reveal the wonder of an all powerful, ever present, all knowing God!  We have been looking at the stories we heard as children and developing them into deeper truth God wants to show us as adults.  This week I began reading a book by Bill Cloud, Esau Rising.  Go to billcloud.org for more about the author.  The book is about end time prophecies but I am not going to try to expound on that topic.  (My husband says “1000 words, that’s all people want, 1000 words!) 

Back to the creation story.  In the second chapter, the author begins with a scripture from Isaiah 46:8-10.  “Remember this, and show yourselves men; recall to mind, O you transgressors.  Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure.’” Isaiah 46:8-10

The author sets the stage for his thesis which is that we can’t study the end without understanding the beginning.  So again, we find ourselves going “back to Genesis”.  As I read this chapter, I began to explore and consider as the Christians in Acts 17: 11 who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scripture daily, whether those things were so.”  It is my strong belief that we not take anyone’s word until we have sifted it through God’s Word.  (By the way, I am not perfect in doing this but it is my first rule when reading human authors.)

The idea that God declares the end from the beginning intrigued me. We have been looking at and studying the hidden treasures from God’s Word so I wanted to check out the creation story.

As children, we began the story simply by a day by day look at the first six days of creation.  But there is more to the beginning than what happened on Day 1.  From the book, I would like to give an excerpt from Chapter 2.

“Darkness (choshekh, in Hebrew) was already present when God said, “Let there be light,” and lest we should think that the darkness merely indicated the absence of light, we should note that darkness was created too: ‘I form the light,’ God said in Isaiah 45:7, “and created darkness,….I, the Lord, do all these things” (emphasis added.)   

So I want you to see that in the beginning darkness was present, and out of the midst of that darkness, the Creator called forth the light.   I also want you to see that this initial light is not to be confused with the light of the sun or the stars; those heavenly bodies didn’t appear until day four. But if not the light of the sun and the other luminaries, what is the light on day one?” Esau Rising: Ancient Adversaries and the War For America’s Soul  (Bill Cloud:2016)

In John 8:12a, we read, “I am the light of the world.”  In Matthew we find, “You are the light of the world.”  Then John 8:12b, “Let your light shine so before men, that they may see your good works and glorify you Father in heaven.”

As we look at nature, we find that the sun which gives us the necessary ingredients to live on this planet can be a picture of Jesus who is the light of the world.  Then we see God also made the moon and the stars to illuminate the night.  Scientists tell us the moon is not the light it only reflects the light!  

Are you getting the picture?  Jesus is the light of the world; we are to be the reflection of His light.  The moon in Genesis 1:16 was to “rule the night”.  The moon was to rule the “darkness”.

Are you ruling the darkness in your world? You can only rule by reflecting the true light of the world.  

Be a reflection of Jesus today!

By Freda Reynolds
P.S.  There’s more to come. Is God declaring the end from the beginning???


Until the whole world hears
Casting Crowns

Luke 12:7 Fear Not Losing Your Crown of Glory

Luke 12:7  (Companion to Matthew 10:31)  “But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not therefore: ye are more valuable than many sparrows. ”

Lost in a crowd?  Feeling “invisible” as a friend of mine describes it?  Think you are insignificant in the grand scheme of things?  Fear you have missed your purpose on this spinning blue ball?   Got a case of “Garden Syndrome?”  You know, “nobody loves me, everybody hates me, going to the garden to eat worms.”  (January 25, 2016, Fear Not the Conspiracy)   I hear you laughing with nervous understanding!  These are all lies whispered in our ears from the enemy who has but one desire:  keep us believing we are unworthy of love and belonging.  For when we believe this, we cannot live in abundance and in victory.  We will not exercise the authority given to us by Christ Himself to overcome life’s struggle.  We will fail to be all He created us to be for His glory.  Let’s face it, we have ALL had these thoughts at one time or another.

Listen closely to Jesus words as he tenderly strokes your full thick mane or your shiny, bald head and tells you how very much He loves you!  He knows you intimately:  how tall or short, how frail or fluffy, the color of your eyes-blue, brown, hazel, aquamarine, or black.  He knows if you sing like a bird or make a joyful noise.  Is your skin red, yellow, black, or white?  He knows!  He has counted the hairs on your precious head!   He feeds the sparrows, sees them build their nests, knows when a baby sparrow falls from the nest.  Sparrows are small, dull, and “useless birds,” but He gives them MUCH attention.  Jesus said, YOU ARE MORE VALUABLE THAN MANY SPARROWS!  (May 4, 2016, Fear Not, He Cares for You) You are so valuable He has numbered your hair strands.  He updates the number as they fall out.  He feels it when someone pulls them.  Sometimes, he replaces the hairs we have lost.  Ask any cancer patient who has endured chemo.  They not only get their hair back, it is an updated color, texture, and thickness.  This proves He cares for you!  The Word says a woman’s hair is her crown.  I believe the Father thinks the most beautiful crowns are worn by the courageous as they fight and there is not a single strand of hair.

Many or few, the number is uniquely YOU!  And He knows the exact number!

Fear not my virtual friends–we are important, significant, visible, loved, and cared for!  If you still don’t believe me, I DARE you to count the hairs on your own head or of someone you adore.  I bet you cannot do it and keep up with the number as it changes daily!  He knows your name! (Matthew 10:31,  Feb 10, 2016 Fear Not, He Knows Your Name)   He fights for you!  He died for you.  We really commit one of the abominations (Proverbs 6:16-19) when we agree with satan by believing we are unseen, unimportant, unloved.  ‘Cause it is a LIE!  “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He cares for me.” He said so in His Word, and He provides all we need, and proves it by His love in action.

The One Who Sees Me by Gwen Smith

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Sitting on the bottom and watching the bubbles rise,

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Yvonne

Sparrows by Jason Gray

Luke 12:4 The Ultimate Sacrifice

Luke 12:4    And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  (KJV)

Martyrdom.  The definition of a martyr:  a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs; a witness of the faith.   Lions in the colosseum.  Boiled in oil.  Crucifixion.  Beheadings.  Stonings.  Gas chambers.  Starvation.  Firing squads.  Hanging. Burning at the stake. Death by a violent method that may or may not be quick and “painless.”   Jesus is saying, not to fear this because, after death, you can be hurt no more.   Do you find this comforting in light of today’s hostile environment to followers of Judeo-Christian faiths?  Is this the attitude Jesus expects if we call Him “friend?”

This chapter of Scripture, written by Luke the physician, is all about the suffering we can endure as human beings on planet earth and the cost of discipleship.  This is a tough directive.  Bodies created out of dust that feel pain from 20 weeks gestation.  We instinctively guard and protect our minds, bodies, emotions.  Who wants to hurt?  Suffer?  Die?  As a nurse I can tell you the human body FIGHTS to live and often does so despite significant disease, injury, and abuse.

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:62)  NIV

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  (Matthew 16:24)  NIV

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?  (Luke 14:28)  NIV

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.  (Matthew 10:21)  NIV

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.  (Mark 10:29-30)  NIV

Stark admonitions to understand this is not a prosperity gospel, not a name it and claim it theology, not a life of ease and peace but of following Christ even unto death on a cross.  However, Jesus also promises to take note of our sacrifices.

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”  (Matthew 19:29)  NIV

“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  (Matthew 5:12)  NIV

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)  NIV

Matthew Henry’s Commentary puts it like this:

“The power of your enemies is a limited power (v. 4): I say unto you, my friends’’ (Christ’s disciples are his friends, he calls them friends, and gives them this friendly advice), “be not afraid, do not disquiet yourselves with tormenting fears of the power and rage of men.’’ Note, Those whom Christ owns for his friends need not be afraid of any enemies. “Be not afraid, no, not of them that kill the body, let it not be in the power of scoffers, not even of murderers, to drive you off from your work, for you that have learned to triumph over death may say, even of them, Let them do their worst, after that there is no more that they can do; the immortal soul lives, and is happy, and enjoys itself and its God, and sets them all at defiance.’’ Note, Those can do Christ’s disciples no real harm, and therefore ought not to be dreaded, who can but kill the body; for they only send that to its rest, and the soul to its joy, the sooner.

Stephen the first martyr of the early church understood this as we read in Acts 7:54-60:

“54 When the members of the Sanhedrin (the established “church” leadership) heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (May 5, 2016, What Did Stephen See, by Freda)

57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

These are the same two statements made by the Lord Jesus as He hung on the cross.  (Luke 23: 34,46)

Thomas Paine said,  “THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”  This description of being an American patriot could be used to describe being a follower of Christ in the Kingdom of God.

May we be found faithful “to live a life worthy of the calling we have received.”  (Ephesians 4:1)  NIV

This is a fear not for the days ahead as we draw ever closer to the return of the LORD for he said:

“Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.  (Matthew 24:4-14)  NIV

Father, thank you for the lives lived before us who stand as a testimony of Your faithfulness even in persecution and death.  May we be willing to take up our “cross” whatever it may be and follow you all the way, never looking back, having counted the cost and deeming our eternal life in Your presence worth whatever the cost.  No looking back!  For our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer even in this very moment we ask in Jesus name for their courage, peace, and strength to endure.  May the imperishable crowns of righteousness, glory, life, and rejoicing we will offer to You be all the reward we seek.  Use any persecution we face to further Your kingdom here on earth.  Shine your light through the broken, bruised, and battered to reveal the risen Savior.  In the holy and matchless name of Jesus we pray.

No Turning Back, by Brandon Heath

Yvonne

Jonah and the BIG Fish

Jaws Theme Song

Jonah and the Big Fish

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The last two stories have involved God using animals to reach man with His message.  Whether or not Paul was actually riding an animal when the Lord caught his attention is debatable.  But God used a donkey to speak to a hired prophet.

Today we are going to look at the story of a man who ran from God and fell into a big fish.

Why did Jonah run away after God told him to go to Ninevah?

Was he scared?

Jonah was a prophet!! Prophets are not scared to speak the truth no matter what the consequences.  His ministry is mentioned in II Kings 14:25.  Jeroboam II was ruling in Israel and was evil in the sight of the Lord.  Jonah prophesied that Jeroboam would restore much of Israel to the coast. According to scholar John MacArthur, there is unverifiable Jewish tradition that says  Jonah was the son of the widow of Zarephath whom Elijah raised from the dead.  If this is true, Jonah probably was not afraid of a lot.

Why the rebellion?

To understand why Jonah thought he had good reason to rebel against God we need to know a little about Ninevah.  The Ninevites were a cruel, cruel people.  Ninevah was known for flaying people and hanging their skin on the city’s walls. They were long time enemies of Israel.

Jonah knew God! He knew God’s heart for the lost! He knew the people would repent and they would be an example to Israel of how far they were away from God and totally in need of repentance themselves.

Jonah in his heart knew God would forgive and save these awfully cruel people! Where was the justice of God?  The God that he served should know how bad these people were!

It’s not fair!!!!!!!!!!

Do we ever hear that said today?  We want God to be the judge of others not ourselves!  We want a God of love and mercy for us and be a hammer-slammer for those we don’t think are as worthy as we are.

This must have been a terrible realization for Jonah.  The God he had served and to whom he had been faithful in carrying His message to the people was now going to send him to his enemies to give them a message of hope and salvation. On top of that Jonah knew they would repent and become children of God just like him.

No, Jonah wanted to run away!  Far Far Away!

Now one of the fascinating points I gained from this story is how God stops speaking to Jonah and allows him to get on a ship.  Jonah was free to follow his own path; Jonah was letting his disappointment and anger with God skew his thinking.  He knew God would be wherever he went. But in that moment, he put that out of his mind!

Do we ever do that???  Ever put God on mute?

BUT GOD!!!!!

Let’s travel away a moment to Romans 1:18-20.  In these verses, Paul tells about how all of creation tells of God’s invisible attributes.  The entire creation tells of “his eternal power and Godhead so that they are without excuse.” (KJV).  In Luke at the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “I tell you if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” Luke 19:40 (KJV)

I want us to see today that God speaks to Jonah in creation.  When Jonah will not listen to his voice, God gets his attention with all of creation at his beck and call.

In Jonah–

  • 1:4 — God sends a great wind and storm at sea
  • 1:17–God sends a great fish to swallow Jonah
  • 2:10–God speaks to the fish to vomit him just where he wanted him
  • 4:6 — God prepares a gourd to grow for shade
  • 4:7 — God prepared a worm to devour the shade
  • 4:8  – God send another “vehement” wind and a hot sun to kill the gourd.

Twice God speaks to Jonah and asks, “Is that anger helping you?”

Do we ever think, “I have a really good reason to be angry?”

In Hebrews 3:15, we read, “As it is said, Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

If you listen, you can hear God speak. I have not heard him in an audible voice, but I know when I hear him in my heart.  God speaks to his children everyday and sometimes he has to speak through nature’s call.  I believe Jonah got the message; but the book of Jonah does not say how he responded.  It leaves it to us to answer the call.  Will we go to those who are not like us? Will we take Christ’s message to the city where we live?  Will we be bold enough to reach out wherever God sends us?

By Freda Reynolds

Luke 8:50 Fear Not Delays

Luke 8:50  “But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, Fear not:  believe only, and she shall be whole.”  (KJV)

Jairus’ daughter is DEAD.  Gone.  Silenced.  Jesus is too late–deterred by another in need.  Jairus never misses synagogue.  We call it being “at church.”  He is a leader in the synagogue:   An elder, a deacon, a trustee.  He is a loving and devoted father to this his only child.  So much so, he has bowed to this Nazarene.  But, this woman who deterred Jesus has not seen the inside of a worship service in twelve, count them: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12 years!  And who cares what the excuse is?  Like bullets from a machine gun these thoughts ricochet off Jairus’ mind as he hears the words, “She is dead.”

Jesus reads the thoughts scrolling across the ticker tape of his grimaced forehead,  feels the rupture of Jairus’ heart breaking, understands the frustration of being detained, and MEETS him WHERE HE IS:  the point of desperation turned resignation and grief.

Jesus speaks tenderly,  “Fear not.”  FINALLY!  Jesus says it for Himself.  Not an angel.  Not Moses.  Not Joshua.  Not Isaiah.  Not Jeremiah.  Not David.  JESUS!

Then, He says, “believe only.”  This is all that is required.  Believe and she will LIVE.  Belief the conduit through which miracles flow.  In fact, Jesus cleaned out the clogged pipeline by kicking out ALL who laughed, scoffed, and doubted!  He then led Jairus to his daughter’s bed, took the hand of the daughter of Jairus lying ashen, cold, and lifeless and spoke renewed life into her!

“Thanksgiving precedes the miracle,” but will thanks overcome skepticism?  Thankfulness refocuses our attention to all God has given but, if we doubt,  will He work on our behalf or is the channel of blessing totally occluded?   Makes me wonder how many times I’ve plugged my own or another’s pipeline?   Should Jesus have kicked me out of His way so He could bless and bring new life to another?  Sobering questions.

Jesus only asked Jairus for one thing.  BELIEVE.

Do you need a miracle?  Clear out the doubts and the doubters.  Thank the Father for all He has done and will do, then, wait on the LORD.  Will you get the miracle you seek?  Only God has the answer to this question.  His ways are not our ways and He is not a genie in a bottle granting us our three wishes just as we demand.

When the officer and gentleman was fighting for healing from cancer, he truly believed God for healing and today He is with the LORD fully healed but this was not the healing we sought.  The reality of Jairus’ daughter’s restoration of life just minutes after death; the reality of Lazarus restoration of life after four days in the grave; and the restoration of the life of the widow’s son on his last procession to the cemetery is this:  They all died again.  If, my officer and gentleman had been restored at some point he would have had to face death again.    If I could sit down and have dinner with any Biblical character it would be Lazarus.  I want to know what he was thinking when Jesus called him back?  Did he come out asking, “What on earth are you doing?  I was FINE where I was! Do I not get a vote in whether I want to come back or not?  You want me to go through that again?  Ok, tell me again, WHY?”  (that would be me, just sayin’)   Or did Lazarus thank Jesus for using his life to teach a lesson and prove who Jesus is?  Was he thankful to have a chance to live fully for Christ?  I got some questions!!!  (My apologies to English majors!)

These characters: Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus, the widow’s son were instruments in the hands of God to introduce the world to Jesus, His ministry, His power, His life giving redemption.  All Jesus asked of the others was to BELIEVE.  Jairus believed.  Mary and Martha believed.  The widow believed.  In the face of no hope, they believed in the only One who could offer hope.  When they believed they had no guarantees.  It is not a formula.  It is the sovereign will of Almighty God.

As I write this, so many are hurting, facing death, praying for healing. or preparing to bury those they love.  Jesus still says to our broken hearts:  Believe.  Believe not just that He can but that He will.  As long as we are breathing and even after the last breath is taken HE is our HOPE!  For of this we who are in Christ can be sure:  we will ALL RISE!

All Rise by Babbi Mason  (if you don’t get chills with this one—–!)

In Loving Memory of Cody Webb and in Honor of the Senior Class of

2016

Yvonne