Holidays

What Was Necessary for Jesus to Dwell on Earth Is Also Necessary for Him to Dwell in You!

 God has many wonderful character attributes for which we should be thankful, and which we should seek to emulate. But the Lord has laid on my heart one attribute that was vital in order for Him to leave the glories of Heaven; to come to earth where He took on the form and restrictions of man and knowingly subjected Himself to suffer humiliation, rejection, and tremendous physical suffering at the hands of mankind; and temporary abandonment from God His Father because He took upon Himself the sin of the world. It is also the character quality that we must possess if we are to receive Him as our Savior and the King of our heart. That quality-- which is greatly undervalued in our culture but of inestimable value in God’s eye-- is humility. 

Have you ever considered where you’d be if God, the One Who created the universe and sustains it by the power of His Word, had not chosen to humble Himself and become ‘flesh and blood’? You—and I—would forever be condemned to death, hell and damnation due to our sin that only Jesus, a sinless, righteous man could remove from us.

 Human reason would say that if God were to humble Himself and choose to come to earth that He at least should have been born into the family of earthly royalty and lived in a palace-- or at least born to wealthy, influential parents. Instead, God chose to humble Himself even further by being born in an obscure town to a young virgin and her betrothed who were of lowly status and of no repute in the world’s eyes. He chose to humble Himself and be born to an ordinary couple in an ordinary city so that all people would know that He is approachable, those who are ‘down and out’ as well as those who are ‘rich and famous’ by the world’s standards. He is the only Living God Who came to save ALL people who choose to believe in Him and receive Him as their Savior and Lord.

Out of all of the character attributes that Jesus could have chosen to describe Himself when He walked on earth, He emphasized His humility:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29 NIV

It is when we are willing to humble ourselves that we will find not only the rest that our souls desire, but we will also discover the joy of our life’s purpose, which is found in humbling ourselves, living in submission to His Word and His will, and having a relationship with Jesus at the center of our lives— worshipping Him and making His name known.

As we approach the celebration of Jesus’ birth, have you ever considered that each of the focal characters in the Christmas story were willing to humble themselves; they were willing to risk being considered fools by others; and that in doing so they lived out the very purpose for which they were created? It takes humility to believe in and submit to the word of someone else when that ‘word’ seems to defy our logic, reasoning, and understanding, and when believing that word and acting upon it will likely result in others thinking we are foolish.

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 Mary, a virgin, had to be willing to humble herself and surrender her ‘understanding’ in order to believe the angel Gabriel’s word to her that she would bear a child who would be the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. She had to be willing to suffer the consequences of telling her family and Joseph about her pregnancy, as well as the humiliation of having the local gossips’ tongues wagging about her becoming pregnant during her betrothal period. Joseph also had to be willing to submit to the word of the angel Gabriel, and to risk having his family and the community think he was guilty of sexual sin, or just plain foolish to go ahead and marry Mary since she was pregnant by someone other than him. (Luke 1:26-55; Matthew 1:18-25) How different their lives would have been and what they would have missed out on if they had refused to humble themselves and obey God, His word, and His instructions to them!

 The shepherds who were in their fields tending to their sheep when all of a sudden they heard an angel joined by a heavenly host declare that a Savior had been born in a manger in Bethlehem had to humble themselves in order to believe the angel’s ‘far-fetched’ declaration. They had to humble themselves, risk rejection and being considered delusional as they left their flocks and went into Bethlehem to find the newborn King, along the way sharing with others the news they’d been told by a host of angels who had appeared to them, mere shepherds who weren’t considered to be a respectable profession. (Luke 2:8-20)

 The magi, highly revered in their eastern country, also had to be willing to humble themselves and subject themselves to criticism as many people in their country and along the way likely considered them foolish for choosing to travel such a great distance in pursuit of a shining star they believed was the sign of a newborn king.  And, especially given their worldly status, once they found Jesus they had to be willing to humble themselves to bow down before an worship a mere baby who was born to lowly parents. (Matthew 2:1-12)

 The devout and righteous Simeon (Luke 2:25-35) and the prophetess Anna (Luke 2:36-38) also had to be willing to humble themselves as they acknowledged that Jesus, although a mere infant born to a couple lowly in status, was indeed the long awaited Messiah. Simeon may have wondered if Mary and Joseph would think he was crazy, but instead of focusing upon himself, he humbled himself before God and obeyed Him by speaking the very prophetic words about Jesus that God gave him to share with Mary and Joseph. Anna was willing to risk others’ rejection of her as she went about sharing her joy of seeing Jesus, whom she claimed to be the Messiah. 

 Do you think that those mentioned above who are such an integral part of the Christmas story had some fears about what others might think of them? I would imagine that it at least crossed their minds that others might think they were fabricating a tale and would not be believed…HOWEVER… they were ALL willing to humble themselves and risk being considered ‘fools’ for Jesus’ sake! How did they overcome their fear of what others would think of them—a fear that is always rooted in pride? By humbling themselves and getting their focus off of themselves and instead fixing their eyes and thoughts upon pleasing God! The very God Who had humbled Himself for their sakes to come to earth in human form so that He could give His life as a ransom for them so that they could be reconciled to their holy, Heavenly Father! 

Jesus had to be willing to humble Himself to come to earth to be born a man, and we have to be willing to humble ourselves if we are to come to Jesus. The ONLY way that we can receive Jesus as our Savior is if we are willing to humble ourselves and admit that we need a Savior. We must be willing to humble ourselves and admit our need, and also to humble ourselves and believe what others may consider a ‘foolish word’—that God so loved the world that He sent His only beloved Son Jesus to take on human flesh so that whoever would believe in Him and receive Him as their Savior would have eternal life and become children of God. (John 3:16; John 1:12) 

 Jesus’ focus on earth was never on Himself and doing His own will. He was always focused on doing the will of His Heavenly Father. He trusted that whatever His Father asked Him to do was always for His good and out of love for His Son.  Jesus has left us an example of humility and obedient submission for us to follow. (Philippians 2:1-11) When we humble ourselves, put our faith and trust in God, and walk in obedience to Him--like Jesus and those who were part of the ‘first Christmas’ did—we will receive the blessing of playing an integral role in God’s great plan of drawing people to Himself to save them. And like them, we will realize that the value of our life is not to be found in doing our own will, but in walking in humility before God and even being considered a ‘fool’ by others so that the King of Kings will be magnified and made known to others. We will also have the privilege of sharing in the glory that God has prepared for all who love Him and demonstrate that love by humbly submitting to His will— and His will is that we believe in Him, receive Him as our Savior, and obey His commands that He gave to us for our good (2 Thessalonians 2:14; John 6:29; John 14: 15). Like Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon and Anna, we will realize that the value and joy of our life is found in centering it upon Jesus, the One Who is the center of all of history—better known as ‘His story’— because Jesus willingly humbled Himself for our sakes, so that we might be reconciled to God, have fellowship with our Heavenly Father, and be glorified with Jesus, the ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’, Who alone is worthy of all praise, honor and glory! 

 

What about you? How would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being very humble and 10 being very prideful? How do you think those who know you best would rate you? Is your life focused upon making a name for yourself, or upon making Jesus’ name known? Is pride standing in your way of coming to Jesus and acknowledging that you need a Savior? I encourage you to ask Jesus to give you a heart like His that is humble and gentle, and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. He longs to have you come to Him, and He will never turn you away!  

Lord, help me to get my focus off of myself and help me to fix my thoughts, emotions, and actions upon living for You and your glory. Give me a humble heart that is always obedient to the will of my Heavenly Father. And may I be willing to risk being humiliated, rejected, and abandoned by others as I go forth and share with them the good news of Who You are, why you chose to come to the earth to take on the form of a man, and that salvation is found in Jesus, and in Jesus alone! In your Name I pray. Amen.  

Written by Julie

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Happy Thanksgiving! Plus, Two Thanksgiving Traditions

I love everything about Thanksgiving! I love going to church in the morning, the smell of the turkey roasting in the oven all day, eating it along with the stuffing, sweet and mashed potatoes, vegetables, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream! Most of all, I love gathering around the dinner table with my family to give thanks to God for His immeasurable blessings. After we’ve enjoyed our Thanksgiving feast, we have a family tradition of going around the table from the youngest member to the oldest, and each person shares three things for which they are thankful. We encourage everyone to do their best to come up with something different to thank Him for than what was stated by the person-- or people--who preceded them. You may wish to do this or something similar to this for your family.

Another idea is a twist on that one. It is this: To go around the table and focus upon different aspects of God’s character for which you are thankful. This would be acknowledging God and being thankful to Him for Who He is, not just thanking Him for the gifts He has given to you. A great way to do that might be to go down the alphabet and start by sharing an attribute of God that starts with A, then B, then C, and all of the way down through the whole alphabet. The following is just a sample list of His attributes that you could share.  I encourage you to be creative and come up with as many other attributes on your own as you can. Or, you may just wish to incorporate all or a portion of the list below in your Thanksgiving prayer to God. The main goal is to make sure that we as His children keep our focus upon God this Thanksgiving, the One from whom ‘all blessings flow’!

Thanksgiving Meal

 

A= Alpha and Omega (the Beginning and the End)

B= Beautiful beyond description

C= Compassionate

D= Deliverer

E= Everlasting 

F= Faithful

G= Gracious

H= Holy

I= Infinite

J=Just

K=‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’

L=Love (Loving)

M=Merciful

N= Name above all Names

O= Omnipotent, omniscient

P=Prince of Peace

Q=Quiets our soul

R=Redeemer

S=Sovereign

T=Truth

U=Unchanging

V=Victorious

W=Wise (Wisdom)

X= He “x’s” out—or crosses out all of my sin

Y=Yahweh (‘I Am”)

We would love to hear from you whether you use this way of thanking God to celebrate this Thanksgiving (or even during your Christmas celebration), as well as to hear about any other Thanksgiving or Christmas traditions you have that you’d like to share.

We are incredibly thankful for the gift of you in our lives, and we thank you for supporting our ministry with your prayers and financial support. May your Thanksgiving be extra blessed as you keep your eyes, mind, and heart fixed upon God, the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17)—Who gave us the greatest gift of all—His beloved son Jesus!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, and love in Him Who makes us one,

 Julie and Jamie

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3 Reasons Why You May Be Feeling 'Weighed Down and What to do About It

Below are a couple verses that are found in 2 Peter which are found in a section talking about how God is able to save the righteous while simultaneously destroying the wicked.  These verses give insight on a few things that can 'weigh us down' or oppress us.

2 Peter 2:7-8 New King James Version (NKJV)
"and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked  (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—

Oppressed: to lie heavily upon (the mind, a person, etc…)   To weigh down, as weariness does.  To put down; subdue or suppress, to press upon or against; crush.  dictionary.com

The Amplified Bible says it like this:
2 Peter 2:7-8 Amplified Bible (AMP)
"and if He rescued righteous Lot, who was tormented by the immoral conduct of unprincipled and ungodly men 8 (for that just man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by what he saw and heard of their lawless acts),


1- Who is around you?  Are you keeping good company? 
1 Corinthians 15:33 (AMP)
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’”
We can be oppressed by others’ actions as Lot was due to the people that were around him.  Have you stopped attending church regularly?  Do you seek out Godly friends?  Hebrews 10:24-25 (AMP)
“and let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.”

Hebrews 10:25

2- What do you see?  Are you watching movies, sitcoms, talk shows or more that speak of and do things that are immoral.  Lot’s soul was tormented by what he saw & heard.  What are you allowing your eyes to see? “Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].” Philippians 4:8 AMP

3- What do you hear?  Are you are listening to gossip, ungodly music, other people that are filled with unwholesome talk?  Ephesians 5:4 AMP "Let there be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse [obscene or vulgar] joking, because such things are not appropriate [for believers]; but instead speak of your thankfulness [to God].” What are you allowing yourself to hear?  

The things we see and hear can oppress our souls, they bring about a heaviness that tries to crush us.  Are you feeling a heavy burden? Are you tired?  This Memorial Day check these 3 areas of your life to see if there is a part of your life that you may need to adjust to put yourself in a place of encouragement and not oppression. 

Written by Jamie Shaver

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Happy Mother's Day & 6 Things to do if it's not 'Happy'

Happy Mother’s Day: 6 things to do when your Mother’s Day is not ‘happy’

For many women Mother’s Day is a time of joy and celebration, but for some, Mother’s Day can be painful.  Perhaps your mother was not loving or kind.  Maybe like my friend, your mother disowned you and the two of you do not talk anymore.  For others, Mother’s Day is a reminder that your mother is no longer here and you still have a deep longing for just one more phone call or lunch with her.  I know my own mother struggled with Mother’s Day because my brother (only 2.5 yrs. old) died just a few days before and that memory every year made Mother’s Day hard.  To my many friends who have had miscarriages, struggled with infertility, or simply have not married yet and are wondering if you will ever be a mom, Mother’s Day can be challenging.  Lastly, Mother’s Day may be a day of unfulfilled expectations as some mothers expect that somehow their family is going to fulfill something deep within our hearts that only Jesus can truly fulfill.  Maybe your family did not do something in the way in which you expected.

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If Mother’s Day is challenging for you, here are several things you can do:

Serve: Focus on serving someone else.  Write a card, deliver flowers, cook a meal for a single mom with young kids, or someone that is going through a rough situation. Whenever we take our pain and use it to help others we are blessed.  “In everything I showed you [by example] that by working hard in this way you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed [and brings greater joy] to give than to receive.’”  Acts 20:35 AMP

Write: Write a journal entry about the things that you learned from your mother and how they are living-on in your life, so future generations can know your mother’s legacy and how she impacted you.

Pray: Spend time in prayer asking the Lord to search your heart and help you to have gratitude for all that He is in your life.  “For this reason I am telling you, whatever things you ask for in prayer [in accordance with God’s will], believe [with confident trust] that you have received them, and they will be given to you.”  Mark 11:24 AMP

Share the Gospel: If you have never had children or are finding that pursuit to be unfruitful at the moment, praise God that you are able to bring forth life in other ways by sharing the gospel and knowing that you can be sharing the truth which ultimately brings forth everlasting life to others!  “For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 AMP

Praise God:  When we worship God for all He has done and IS doing for us everyday we will find that through our praise we find joy.  [ Come to Me ] At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth [I openly and joyfully acknowledge Your great wisdom], that You have hidden these things [these spiritual truths] from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants [to new believers, to those seeking God’s will and purpose].  Matthew 11:25 AMP

Show Gratitude: Thank God for your children and find ways to show your children what            you are thankful for about each one of them.  I’m writing each of my children a short letter letting them know the positive character traits that I see and appreciate in each of themand that I’m thankful to be their mom.  Let there be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse [obscene or vulgar] joking, because such things are not appropriate [for believers]; but instead speak of your thankfulness [to God].  Ephesians 5:4 AMP

This year I’m choosing to celebrate motherhood differently.  I want to be intentional and be grateful for all the work it entails and that I am capable of doing it.  To my friends that are hurting on Mother’s Day, you are in my prayers and I’m praying that God meets your every need in a way that only He can.

With Love,

Jamie Shaver

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Christmas: Illuminating the Need for a Solid Foundation

Christmas is my favorite time of the year-- as I’m sure is true with many of you. I love the music, the lights, the decorations, the special foods, all of the traditions, and most of all gathering with family and friends to celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord! One of our family’s favorite traditions for the pat 24 years has been putting up our 14-foot artificial Christmas tree on which we string over 3500 lights and hang up almost1000 ornaments.  This year, however, our tradition almost came to a halt.

 My husband Craig went to our Christmas closet where we store all of our many Christmas decorations. He had brought out the garland that I hang on our stairway, our numerous snowmen, countless angels, the village that goes on our mantel, and a plethora of nativities. He had brought up the first of two boxes of branches that we individually fluff each year and place into the main stem that goes into our Christmas tree stand. We started getting ready for the major ordeal of our tree decorating—a process which takes around 12-15 hours-- and begins with my fluffing each branch, involves his inserting the branches into the tree stem and then stringing lights on each individual branch, and then comes my favorite part-- hanging up of the ornaments. Each ornament holds a special meaning to me as they represent a friendship, a special family vacation or memory, or a past Christmas. As I hang each ornament—which come in an amazing variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and conditions, fragile ‘costly’ ones as well as treasured homemade ones from our four children, I am reminded that just as each ornament holds a special and unique place in my heart, every person God has created is uniquely made in His image and is precious to Him, regardless of their shape, size, color, or perceived worth to others.

I was getting ready to start fluffing branches and was anticipating the end result of our tree decorating when I looked around our family room and noticed that the tree stand that gets bolted into the two I-beams which altogether form the vital foundational support to the tree was missing. My husband and I both knew we couldn’t do anything else without the tree stand since the stem of the tree must first go into the stand before any of the branches can be inserted. Without branches, there could be no lights or ornaments. Everything else we had out was virtually useless without the tree stand as its solid foundation.

 Our unique and heavy-duty tree stand

Our unique and heavy-duty tree stand

My husband immediately went back to search again in the closet, as well as every other possible place—and even seemingly impossible places that it could be because we knew we could not  'build' our tree without the stand. However, his search was unproductive. We were both befuddled because we always put everything in the same spot—the storage closet-- and everything else we needed for the tree and our Christmas decorations was there except the crucially important stand.  Then my husband remembered that because of flooding in our basement last Christmas, we had to have everything in our basement moved out and put into a storage facility while the necessary reconstruction occurred. So he called the company that had moved everything out and stored our belongings. The head of the company said he didn’t hold out much hope but he would look for it and call us by day’s end. We didn’t hear back from him that day, and as the planner in the family I began considering our options.

Since our tree is very unique: very large, extremely heavy, and ‘old-fashioned’ in that individual branches are inserted into the stem, I knew it would be a challenge-- if not impossible-- to find another stand for it. I looked on Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and several other websites and saw nothing that even came close to the dimensions and weight of our stand. My husband reached out to where we had purchased it but they said they didn’t have any more trees like ours and hadn’t for many years. Trees I saw that appeared to be of the same quality as ours would cost over $2500—something we definitely didn’t have the money or desire to spend.  I must admit that I was somewhat distraught thinking that this family tradition of ours was looking like it was coming to an end, particularly because our missionary daughter who is particularly enamored with traditions had just informed us that she was unexpectedly going to be able to come home for Christmas. I wanted this to be such a special Christmas for her, as we have no way of knowing the next time she’ll be home for the holidays.

 Knowing we were without the foundational support for the tree and that nothing could be done without it, I said a prayer and asked the Lord to reveal to us where the stand could be or to miraculously give us an idea for a substitute stand.

Shortly thereafter my husband received a call from the man at the storage company who said that much to his surprise they had found our one-of-a kind tree stand! We were overjoyed! Our prayers were answered! Once he brought it to us, we began the process of our traditional tree erecting and decorating.

Out of this ‘almost loss’, came several great blessings:

·      God reaffirmed my belief that He cares about that which concerns us, whether a ‘big’ or ‘small’ prayer concern; He is always faithful to hear the cries of His children!

·      The Lord brought to my remembrance the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost or ‘prodigal’ son found in Luke 15. My husband and I were overjoyed that what was priceless to us and had been lost was now found, and I knew that the man who had our stand was also overjoyed to be a part of making us joyful that our Christmas tradition would continue. I was convicted to be more fervent in sharing the gospel with others, knowing that our joy in the return of our tree stand pales in comparison to the joy Jesus and all of heaven experiences when a lost soul discovers the truth of God’s great love and realizes that all of their ‘wellsprings’ are found in Him!

·      I realized that just as our unique tree stand is the foundation piece to our tree and without it the branches, tree lights, and ornaments are truly meaningless, Jesus is the foundation of my life and without Him I am and can do nothing (John 15:5); my life is meaningless and built on sinking sand without Him as my foundational Rock. (Isaiah 43:7; Matthew 7:24-27)

·      As I pondered the reality of Jesus as the foundation of my life, the Lord brought to my remembrance the Ephesians passage below, as well as the wonderful hymn ‘The Church’ that I remembered singing so often in the church of my childhood. Both the scripture and song reminded me that just as the individual branches on my tree are joined together by the same stem and same foundation to make my Christmas tree a thing of beauty, we as His church are all joined together ‘as one’, built upon Jesus as our foundation, a ‘holy temple in the Lord’, beautiful to Him. While we are in the process of ‘building’ our Christmas tree, an onlooker could see it and think we are foolish to think it will every amount to anything beautiful, but my husband and I know what the finished product will look like so we persevere till the last branch is added and the tree is ready, completely finished. Similarly, many may look as the hymn states with ‘scornful wonder’ at the Church that is ‘sore oppressed’,  ‘by schisms rent asunder’, and ‘by heresies distressed’ and wonder how the Church can ever prevail, but Jesus is not discouraged because as the Alpha and Omega Who knows the ‘beginning and the end’, He knows that His Church is ‘altogether lovely’ (Song of Songs 4:7) and will be His radiant ‘Bride’ when the Father says He is ready for Him to return to take us home ‘on high’. What hope, courage, and peace we can have knowing one day as His beautiful, completed Bride we will rule and reign with Him ‘forever and ever’! So this Christmas, we can rejoice knowing that our sure foundation is Jesus and His Kingdom—and therefore ours as His ‘branches’ and His Bride-- shall ‘stand’ secure, and unlike even the best of Christmas traditions, will have no end!

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  Ephesians 2:19-21 ESV

 The tree in the process of being completed; 

The tree in the process of being completed; 

 The finished tree!

The finished tree!

                                             The Church

                                           The church's one Foundation
                                           is Jesus Christ her Lord;
                                           she is His new creation,
                                           by water and the Word;
                                           from heav'n He came and sought her
                                           to be His holy bride;
                                           with His own blood He bought her,
                                           and for her life He died.

                                           Elect from ev'ry nation,
                                           yet one o'er all the earth,
                                           her charter of salvation,
                                           one Lord, one faith, one birth;
                                           one holy Name she blesses,
                                           partakes one holy food,
                                           and to one hope she presses,
                                           with ev'ry grace endued.

                                          Tho' with a scornful wonder,
                                          men see her sore oppressed,
                                          by schisms rent asunder,
                                          by heresies distressed,
                                          yet saints their watch are keeping,
                                          their cry goes up, "How long?"
                                          And soon the night of weeping
                                          shall be the morn of song.

                                           The church shall never perish!
                                           Her dear Lord, to defend,
                                           to guide, sustain, and cherish,
                                           is with her to the end;
                                           tho' there be those that hate her
                                           and false sons in her pale,
                                           against the foe or traitor
                                           she ever shall prevail.

                                           'Mid toil and tribulation,
                                            and tumult of her war,
                                            she waits the consummation
                                            of peace for evermore;
                                            till with the vision glorious
                                            her longing eyes are blest,
                                            and the great church victorious
                                            shall be the church at rest.

                                           Yet she on earth hath union
                                           with God the Three in One,
                                           and mystic sweet communion
                                           with those whose rest is won.
                                           O happy ones and holy!
                                           Lord, give us grace that we,
                                           like them, the meek and lowly,
                                           on high may dwell with Thee.

                           Lyrics by Samuel John Stone, who lived from 1839-1900

Blog Written by Julie Van Gorp

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How Do We Thank God?

Happy Thanksgiving!  We are so thankful for you and pray that this Thanksgiving is a sweet time of sharing and making memories with loved ones.  

At Thanksgiving dinner our family will share 3 things that we are thankful for as a way to hear the hearts of our family members.  As I was reading the Bible this week I came across these verses in Hebrews below and it was something I realized that I have never thanked God for: a kingdom that cannot be shaken!    

Hebrews 12:25-29 ESV “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Bold added for emphasis).

How do we thank God?

Offer to God acceptable worship with reverence & awe - This type of worship takes into account God’s holiness and his position as a judge to whom alone worship is due. (ESV study Bible) 

When we live in a way that pleases God we are worshipping Him with our lives.  Below you can see the verses that follow the passages above which list ways in which we may make an ‘offering’  or sacrifices that are pleasing to God.

Sacrifices Pleasing to God - Hebrews 13:1-9 ESV

“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;

I will not fear;

what can man do to me?”

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.”

The world systems and sinful mankind can only provide that which is irregular, trembles, can easily fall, brings confusion and the mixing of logic and all kinds of ‘truth’; making nations; economies; families; and our entire lives unsteady.  It is in Jesus alone that we find our rock, the solid ground, the firm foundation , the One who is truth and testifies to the truth; the One who never changes, and it is in His name that we pray and we thank Him today for our brothers and sisters in Christ and for an everlasting Kingdom that cannot be shaken!

Written by Jamie Shaver

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Freedom!

I enjoy gathering with family and friends for food, fellowship and fireworks on the 4th of July holiday, and I imagine you do too. As I participate in the festivities, I’m reminded that our founding fathers and their families paid a tremendous price in order for us to enjoy the freedoms we have in this great nation, freedoms that we all too often take for granted. Although they had security as far as the world measures it, each of the signers of the declaration valued liberty more than their belongings, even their lives. They pledged the following to one another:

“For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Many people are unaware of the sacrifices they did in fact make. The British captured five of the signers during the war, including Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, and Arthur Middleton, and George Walton was wounded as well as captured. Richard Stockton was captured and never recovered from his incarceration by British Loyalists and he died in 1781. John Adams received a letter from Thomas McKean who wrote that he was "hunted like a fox by the enemy - compelled to remove my family five times in a few months." The British captured two of Abraham Clark’s sons during the war.

The homes and property of eleven signers were destroyed. Francis Lewis's home was demolished and his wife was taken prisoner. John Hart's farm and mills were destroyed when the British invaded New Jersey, and he died while fleeing capture. Carter Braxton and Nelson lent large sums of their personal fortunes to support the war effort, and they were never repaid.

The reality is that freedom is never free.  There is always a cost.  And as much as I am grateful—and I truly am-- for the sacrifices of our founding fathers who were willing to give up their property, their safety and security, and even their lives to establish our nation, I am far more grateful to Jesus Who was willing to lay down His life to secure the greatest treasure I will ever have--freedom from the power and penalty of sin. And that was the costliest purchase ever made. My freedom—and yours—could only be bought with the price of Jesus’ blood. Our Heavenly Father had to be willing to sacrifice the life of His blameless, Beloved Son Jesus in order to redeem my life and yours. If you ever wonder how valuable you are, remember the great price that God was willing to pay for you and your freedom! You are treasured by Him! He was willing to exchange a perfect life for your sinful one in order that you could be set free from your sin.

My husband and I are going through a challenging period in our lives right now that has made me keenly aware that because I know and trust in Jesus, I have been set free from all fear! When we received what many, if not most people in the world would have considered devastating news, we immediately reminded ourselves that although it may have caught us by surprise, it certainly did not catch Our God ‘who is able to work all things together for our good and for His glory’ by surprise. God is still on His throne; He is Sovereign over our circumstances, and we trust completely in His good and loving nature and know He not only WILL NOT fail us, but He CANNOT fail us as we look to Him and lean upon Him rather than our own understanding.

(Proverbs 3:5-7)

Despite our circumstances, my husband and I are flooded with peace…the peace that truly ‘surpasses all human understanding’. (Philippians 4:7) How can we be filled with peace, and even have joyful anticipation thinking what the future may bring? Because we are resting in the sure knowledge that ‘our redeemer lives’, and we firmly believe that He IS always at work-- regardless of our circumstances or our understanding-- to bring about our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28) It is one thing to believe those words with your head, it is another thing altogether to be in the midst of the storm and know beyond a doubt that you believe them with all of your heart! What a joy it is to know we have been set free from fear! Free because our trust is in the One Who was willing to give His very life to purchase our freedom!  If Jesus was willing to give us His very life, is there anything good He will ever withhold from us? (Romans 8:32)

So as you celebrate the 4th of July this year, I hope you will thank God for our founding fathers who valued liberty more than security so that you can have the liberties you enjoy in our country today.  And I especially hope you will take the time to thank Jesus for being willing to give up all of the glories of heaven to come to earth to be born a man and give His life in exchange for yours, so that you can have ‘peace on earth’ and spend eternity with the One Who was willing to pay the price for your everlasting freedom! Let us walk and rejoice in the freedom that Jesus has purchased for us!

I'm no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God

I am surrounded

By the arms of the father

I am surrounded

By songs of deliverance

We've been liberated

From our bondage

We're the sons and the daughters

Let us sing our freedom

 Lyrics above from No Longer Slaves by Bethel

Written by Julie Van Gorp

 

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