04 Mar

My Strength!

I awoke this morning to the words, “My strength.”  We all learned the scripture as a child that says, “When I am weak You are strong.”  (NKJ II Cor. 12:10) We relied on our parents to help us in areas we could not possibly achieve; opening a locked door, lifting a heavy object, protecting us from danger, defending us when we are falsely accused, or comforting us in time of need.  Their very presence was strength and security to us.  As an adult, many of us search for strength but can not find it.  We lift weights, read books, exercise daily, eat right, ask a friend for help and/or even pray for strength without understanding what the Word of God is telling us.  God wants us to completely surrender.  He is not looking for our help. He is looking for our obedience to surrender our self to Him.

As my husband, Steve and I, continue the process of moving from Minnesota back to Georgia, I realize my strength is not enough.  If any of you have ever made a huge move, you know what I am talking about.  It requires extensive hours of planning, packing, moving, renovating, researching… the list goes on.  It is mentally and physically demanding.  I have had my share of chiropractor visits, massages, Aleve, and heating pads on my back.  I find myself tired at the end of the day and my body grows weak from doing.  Endurance and perseverance does not win.  My emotions sometimes get the best of me when I am tired.  I speak out of turn or maybe say hurtful things, only to go back later to apologize.  My strength was not enough. When God places His Word on something He will give you His strength to accomplish that which he has called you to do.   His strength does not mean some of Robin and a lot of God equals His strength.  It means none of Robin and all of God. 

I ask myself, “How can I do this God?”  Don’t you need my help?  I must do something? Right?  The Holy Spirit gently leads me to His Word.  One of the first people in the Bible I think of who has great strength was Samson. However; have you considered the handmaiden Hannah?  Hannah was barren and bitter that God did not give her a child.  She wept and her anguish overwhelmed her.  She had no strength left but to cry out to God.  It was Hannah’s prayer (I Sam. 2:1-10) that touched the heart of God.  It was her complete surrender and trust which gave her strength and turned her situation around.   Hannah had nothing to offer but God heard her prayer.  She gave birth to one of the strongest men in history – Samson. 

God doesn’t need your help… He needs your obedience. God doesn’t need you to do somethingHe needs you to stand for somethingGod is searching for a people who will surrender themselves completely to Him.  While our move requires great planning, it is God who will be directing our steps.  While our move requires decisions to rent or sell our home, it is the Holy Spirit who will give us direction to make the right decision.  While our move requires help to move heavy furniture, it will be God to bring the people to help us.  While our move requires Steve to drive cross country not once but twice, it is God who will keep him safe and direct his path.  While each day takes great effort to accomplish the task, it is God who will bring us the creative ideas to accomplish it.  When our physical bodies grow tired, it is God who restores and renews us each morning.  Psalm 84:5-7, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca (Valley of Weeping), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

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23 Feb

Journey to Tabitha!

Commencing on January 9th of this year, our church began 14 days of prayer and fasting.  Among other prayer requests, I sought more discipline and intimacy in my relationship with God.  Although we still have 10 children at home, for the last couple of years, I have often struggled with lack of joy and passion in my life as well as a deeper connection with the Lord that would bring refreshing.  I knew it was available because other people spoke about it and I had definitely experienced it in the past.  I had been to the altar on numerous occasions seeking this, but to seemingly no avail.  Yet, I know that God’s timing is perfect.  However, I never considered my answer to this petition to come in the form of another adoption!  During these 14 days, Pastor admonished us to look for “burning bushes” in our daily lives.

After waiting three weeks for confirmation as to whether our “burning bush” was going to continue to burn, I can safely say that God has clearly spoken to us to adopt a young girl from China.  To be perfectly honest, I have not been particularly excited about this.  I was absolutely certain that our adopting days were over and was beginning to see the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” as the youngest seven would be graduating high school this spring.

On January 11, I casually looked through an email list (unsolicited) of focus children for the month of January; sent from a ministry that advocates for special needs children.  There was no picture, only the name “Sadie” and I thought the location said East Africa, not East Asia, as I impassively perused the list and went on about my business.  Several days went by and I realized “Sadie” was constantly on my mind.  (This in itself should have been a clue since I don’t seem to be able to remember anything for longer than 5 minutes!)  I didn’t mention “Sadie” to Garry for 10 days because I knew what his response would be and I really did not want to consider another adoption.  When I did share with him, what I thought God was speaking, his answer was much as I expected; “If we have to do paperwork for one, we should do it for two.” (That’s my husband, and everyone thinks I’m the crazy one!)  At that point, I contacted “Sadie’s” social worker. Pleading with her to tell me we were too old and reminding her that we had both gone through cancer treatment!  Unfazed, she was very excited that we might consider adopting Sadie. The staff who had met Sadie last summer was so impressed with her and disheartened they had not yet been able to find a family for her.

During the following week, God continued to confirm this call through His Word.  On an almost daily basis, the following scriptures jumped off the pages of my Bible.  Acts: 9:36, which speaks of Tabitha, (often referred to as Dorcas in other versions) meaning “gazelle”, as a woman known for her kind acts. Besides being part of a dance troupe and being described as lovely, graceful, and elegant, our Tabitha is described as always willing to give a helping hand. “Tabitha” is probably not a name I would have selected but since God has always named our children, I know that Tabitha is the name He has chosen for our daughter.  Then I read Psalms 10: 14 & 18, “You won’t let them down: orphans won’t be orphans forever” and “Orphans get parents, the homeless get homes.”

In the meantime, the social worker was going to contact her China counterpart to see what the chances were of them approving us.  By now, I was convinced that God was speaking, but still not sure I liked what He was saying.  Next, I read in Genesis 24:50, in the account of Israel’s servant being sent to find a wife for Isaac. “Laban and Bethuel answered, ‘This is totally from God.  We have no say in the matter, either yes or no.  Rebekah is yours.  Take her and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as God has made plain.’”I could no longer deny that God had made plain what He wanted us to do and our decision was made.

On the 1st of February, we received word from the Social Worker that we had been granted “unofficial” approval from China to turn in initial paperwork, even though we are a combined twenty one years older than their stated age limits for adopting special needs children and both have disqualifying health histories.  This is truly unheard of from China.  The social worker stated, “So, now the ball is in your court.  God has opened the door!”

A very long time ago, we told God that we would take as many children as He chose to bring home and provide for.  I just honestly thought that the ark had reached capacity.  We essentially have no retirement, very little money in the bank, and we know that Garry’s major contract will be up in a year.  But, we also know that God has never failed to  sustain us and bless us beyond what we could think or imagine. Tabitha is said to be twelve and has a repaired cleft lip/palate but will surely require several more surgeries as well as extensive orthodontic work.  

I think it is also important to state that God has more than answered my prayer request made during prayer and fasting by giving me grace to exercise more physical and spiritual discipline, draw closer to Him, and experience renewed passion and joy as we anticipate adding another daughter to our family of “18 “children. I sadly confess that my early reservations were purely selfish and a concern for my own comfort. Nevertheless, whenever I would consider that God might let us off the hook by virtue of China rejecting us, Tabitha’s little face immediately appeared in my mind, as well as the thought, “but what about her? What will happen to her?”  It never failed to bring tears to my eyes and shame to my heart. There is great reward in knowing that God has ordained this adoption and is giving us the privilege of parenting this special child.

On the 17th of February, we received the official preapproval from China allowing us to actively pursue Tabitha’s adoption which is estimated to cost $25,000.  Although this seems like a staggering amount of money, almost none of which we have, we have watched God miraculously provide nearly every dollar needed for our last eight adoptions as He has worked through the hearts of His people to rescue one more orphan child from a life of hopeless abandonment.  We rest in the belief that we will witness this miracle once again.  As a former Sunday School teacher once said, “God always pays for what He orders!”  We covet your prayers as we watch and wait for God to supply the funds to bring Tabitha home and we tackle an almost insurmountable quantity of paperwork.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27 NIV

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01 Feb

Real Life Love Stories!

 

February …Love Month!

“FIRST LOVE”!

Do you remember your First Love? Do you recall what those emotions were like and the neat little butterflies in your stomach and giddy feelings you had? Do you remember what it was like when your “First Love” asked you on that first date? Do you remember? Do you remember?

 As important and absolutely necessary as human love is to all of us, over the next several days I will be posting testimonies of Christians who are remembering their “First Love” encounters with Jesus. These are real life LOVE STORIES written by people just like you and me. Each story or testimony is pivotal in showing how Christ came into a hurting heart and lost life just at the right moment. These are stories of Hope, Faith, Love and Transformation!  My prayer is for these Love Stories to impact your heart as much as they have mine!

(Robin Shirreffs from Duluth, MN)

I met Jesus in a Bar

It was the summer of 1980, I was 17 years old when I walked down an isle of a Southern Baptist Church and gave my life to Jesus but it was in a dark and dingy bar Jesus found me.  I grew up in the church off and on but during my teenage years this truth became dark to me.  One side of me longed to do the right thing while the other side tasted the waters of drinking, smoking, drugs and boys.  It wasn’t a problem to find entrances to bars even at 16 as long as I had money for drinks they let me inside. During the 80’s dancing and drinking went hand in hand. I was always looking for acceptance in the wrong places through my peers or wrong relationships.  I grew up in a home where my father was not around and my mother was not able to provide the boundaries a young person required.  I often look back on those days and knew God had angels watching over me many nights when I was out til 4 and 5 in the morning. 

It was one late Saturday night; I was sitting at a table in a bar with countless drinks around me when I had a true encounter with myself and Jesus.  Even in the midst of my drunkenness Jesus met me and showed me whose I was.  I recalled kneeling on a hard cold tile floor in a dirty bathroom stall and praying for God to deliver me from this place. The very next Sunday morning, to the song of “Just as I am”, I felt the chains of sin and bondage break in my life.  Yes, Jesus met me in a bar on a cold filthy tile bathroom floor.  In my sin, He wrapped his arms around me and drew me back to Himself.  I have been a born again spirit-filled Christian now for 31 years.  Praise God!

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26 Jan

Five Love Languages

We all have ways we learn as a person.  For me as an artist, I am visual.  I have to see something or picture something in my mind to help me learn but did you know there are different ways we love one another and like to receive love?  Gary Chapman, Christian author of “Five Love Languages”, observed many people and how they respond to love.  His findings of the five love languages have changed our marriage and can change yours too.  I challenge you to read the five love languages below and take a quick assessment to see where your love language is the strongest.  If you need a little help, Gary Chapman has created a quick assessment which takes about 5-10 minutes.  Simply provide your name and email address.  You might be surprised.  This assessment isn’t just for couples; he also designed this assessment for children, parents of teenagers, and singles too.  You might be surprised when you thought your love language was receiving gifts but in actuality you love to receive acts of service. 

The 5 Love Languages

What if you could say or do just the right thing guaranteed to make that special someone feel loved? The secret is learning the right love language! Millions of couples have learned the simple way to express their feelings and bring joy back into marriage: The 5 Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman’s New York Times bestseller!

Words of Affirmation

Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.

Quality Time

In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.

Receiving Gifts

Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.

Acts of Service

Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.

Physical Touch

This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.

 

 

 ** Link to Assessment – http://www.5lovelanguages.com/assessments/love/

 

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17 Jan

The Plans Of God For You Are Grand!

I woke this morning with a song by Jesus Culture entitled “Come Away /Let Me in.” As the Holy Spirit woke me with the lyrics, “I have a plan for you, I have a plan for you, it’s going to be wild, it’s going to be grand, it’s going to be full of Me.” Everyday should be great expectations of where God is leading us.  It is a joy to serve Him!  However; the devil’s job is to create obstacles for you to prevent you from accomplishing all that God has intended for you. Many ask themselves, “How do I know what God wants me to do?” Sometimes we convince ourselves this plan is too big for me.  The greatest danger is knowing the plan but not going where God is directing you.  The Word of God says the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:18, 19 NKJ).  In other words, the plans may require sacrifice, money, sweat and tears but it pales in comparison to the glory which will be revealed in you. 

How do I know what God wants me to do?  This is a question everyone ask themselves at one time or other whether you are a believer or not.  We were all created for purpose before the foundation of this world.  Our steps are ordered but we must pray daily for His leading and if you don’t know – pause, be silent, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you.  I had a friend tell me years ago she wouldn’t get out of her bed before praying God to order her steps and hearing her marching orders for the day.  Know God’s plan for each of us comes in different packages but we are equipped with the same armor; we cannot compare packages.  The Holy Spirit may ask you what is in your hands.  For some hands it may be the vision to see the BIG picture and for others it may come in forms of service or possibly financially.  All are important.  We recently had a neighbor who lost a family member. They had to make a week long trip which would cause a financial strain to their household.  I believe I heard the Holy Spirit tell me to give to this family’s need. I asked for confirmation through my husband (my covering) who agreed and  I was obedient. I believe God used me to give financially to this family – it may not have been a whole lot but what if God placed that in many believers’ hearts.  What a blessing to this family. 

“It’s too big for me; I don’t know where to start,” you may think.  First, let me say if it wasn’t bigger than you, God wouldn’t be in it.   Jeremiah 29:11 declares, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  My husband Steve, and I are about to embark on a big project to move back to Georgia.  We didn’t just decide one day to pack up our family and move. We heard from the Holy Spirit, we fasted and prayed, we received confirmation prophetically and then we prayed some more – daily.  Moving requires many details which in the natural can be overwhelming.  However; when God tells you to move, He will order your steps.  My husband, Steve, has a gift to take on large projects as he listens to the Holy Spirit who gives him the details step by step.  It might be your big idea requires others to assist you.  My job is to sort and pack while Steve’s job is the bigger picture of co-ordinating the process and helping me as well.  Both are important but one without the other will not get the job done.  Sometimes you must pray and ask God to place people in your path to help you. 

The greatest danger is knowing the plan God has for you but not obeying.  What will you do when the Holy Spirit is whispering,”who are you going to serve today?”  We must be prepared for a response.  Are you going to serve the Father or are you going to be self-serving?  The answer is up to you.  We all have been born with a will to do good or evil.  God in His mighty power gave us the power to choose.  When the people crossed over to the promise land it was God speaking through Joshua prophetically saying.  “I sent the hornet before you which drove them out from before you, also the two kings of the Amorites, but not with sword or with your bow.” God didn’t require their help just their obedience.  The Word goes onto say, “I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.”  God did this for His people!  Joshua continues to place the questions before the people, “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt, Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, (Choice) choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, to whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:12-15 NKJ).   God blessed His people but still gave them a choice to serve. 

God is equipping His saints through the help of the Holy Spirit and the strength of His son Jesus Christ.  These plans may come in various packages but the same armor to equip each one of us.  All plans should come through asking, praying and fasting, and confirmation.  He orchestrates the universe in its splendor and every living thing He has created.  He has purpose for you and me.  I know they are grand beyond measure!

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17 Jan

When You Feel Like It Does Not Matter *

There’s NOTHING like a good dose of encouragement and hope sometimes to get us on the right track in our thinking and realizing that each of us have something very special and unique to offer to the Body of Christ.  The following posting was one I discovered today written by Stephanie Bryant, a co-founder of (in) courage. It was such a neat posting that I’m sharing it with all my Sheila’s Heart friends. Hopefully, it will help to “re-charge” your heart and thinking to know that we all have need of the gifting within each other! BE ENCOURAGED this day that it REALLY DOES MATTER.

The easiest way to get you to stop pursing your passion, your ministry, is to convince you that it doesn’t really matter. 

The voice might sound something like. . .

“I’m sure someone else has already thought of it and would do it better.”

“That’s your dream? It’s not big enough.”

“Everyone else is so successful. Why would your voice, your art matter?”

“It will sound RIDICULOUS!”  

You may say, “what if all the good dreams are taken?” 

“What if God’s Kingdom isn’t big enough for my dream plus her dream?”

 Strange and almost comical questions to some, but in your head it seems so real.

Lies can seem like the truth at times. Sometimes you have a tendency to think where one succeeds there’s suddenly less room for you and your future.

And really, quite the opposite is true.

Through Paul, God asks you to “Be honest in your estimate of yourself, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you.”

You assume this means to work harder on being humble. That maybe God is trying to point out the pride-log in your eye. But what if God has given you great faith, a large amount that has been pressed down and overflowing? Yet, you are not honest with yourself and estimate yourself not good enough, strange, or not yet ready.

“Just as your bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body.” We are all part of His one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us has need for the other.

God has given us the ability to do certain things well. So . . . if God has given you the gift to teach, speak out. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously.

Then, don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. . . Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.

Be glad for all God is planning for you.” {Romans 12:3-12}

And know that you and your art, your business, your writing, your ministry . . . it does matter and it is very important . . . to all of us and the Kingdom.

*Stephanie Bryant, is a co-founder of (in) courage. She is quickly becoming known as a Creative Mastermind at S. Bryant Social Marketing. She’s a courageous big dreamer, lid lifter, & visionary.

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08 Jan

Providence

 

Have you ever stopped to consider if you are in God’s providential care? You better.  Providence is the protective care of God.  You and I need God’s protection! 

A Child may ask: “Who protects me from bad guys?”

A New Christian may ask:  “When do I see the results of God’s destiny for my life?”

An unbeliever may ask:  “How can I find this safety people speak about?”

A Business man may ask: “What does it take to receive a benefit package?”

An Atheist may ask:  “Why do I need God’s protection?”

Everyone at some point in their life says, “Who is going to protect me?”  As children we turned to our parents in hopes of security or protection.  However, you see broken homes every day whose parents or caregiver can not or will not be this protection for their children. As a caregiver to the elderly it is the number one question on their minds as they see all their friends dying and their children busy with their own lives.  They don’t want to be a bother but they desperately want to know who is going to care for them as they grow older.

As a new Christian, I recognized I had to give up “the world” inside of me.  I stopped going to places where I knew would dishonor God.  I desperately wanted to save my friends but many weren’t interested.  I soon discovered change was occurring and at times it was an uphill battle.  While I understood Jesus forgave me of my sins, it took time for me to forgive myself and others.  I needed God’s providential caregiver – The Holy Spirit.  As a new believer I was hungry for things of the Lord but my number one question was, “When will God reveal my destiny or purpose?”  How do I know He is protecting me as I make these changes in my life? 

A popular song which leads many unbelievers to the altar is “I Need Thee Every Hour”.  We need God’s providential care.  Our spirit longs for providential care every hour on the hour.  It is not to just save us from hell but for a greater purpose.  To know we were not created to just breathe in and breathe out but we have a purpose in this world.  An unbeliever will turn to drugs, sex, hoarding, false religions, computer websites,Hollywoodidols, sports, etc., the list grows each day, where one is longing for security or identity for their life.

We all have worked in some capacity or another whether it is in the marketplace or home.  I can hear a mother’s cry with her hands lifted high saying, “What does it take for me to find protection and security for my family!  A Business man whose business is failing finds himself doubting, asking himself, “What does it take to succeed?”   The economy and governments today are scrambling, brainstorming and meeting asking, “What changes need to happen for people to find security?!”

The atheist may tell himself/herself that he/she doesn’t believe in God.  I don’t need anyone’s protection.  I can take care of myself.  This self deception is from the pit of hell.  While many are fighting to remove God from classrooms, monuments, government, and even churches, they are still seeking for acceptance.  It is built within their spirit man whether they acknowledge it or not.  We all want to be loved and protected.

As I consider the above dilemmas, I must ask myself what the world would look like if I did not have God’s providence working in my life. Isaiah warns us in 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (KJV)  This is the world we live in today. Without God’s providential caregiver (The Holy Spirit), how would I have spiritual discernment?  Knowing God is ordering my steps is an act of faith which will produce great fruit for your life.  According to Proverbs 20:24, a man’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way?  I take courage when I pray knowing the Holy Spirit will direct me, if I listen.  I count it all joy when I raise my hands to worship to know my Heavenly Father is watching over me. The World today grows darker in every aspect of life.  You and I need God’s protection!  The good news is God’s providential care is to all those who thirst and hunger after Him.  We are in the world but not of this world.  God’s protection began before we were even born. 

Psalms 91: 1-4 (NKJ) He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress: My God, in Him I will trust.” Surely He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence.  He shall cover you with His feathers. And under His wings you shall take refuge;…if you are looking for answers of how much God loves you and how he will protect you,  keep reading this chapter; it will confirm there is safety of abiding in the presence of God.

Psalms 139: 1-18 O Lord, You have searched me and known me.  You know my sitting down and my rising up.  You understand my thought afar off.  You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.  For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.  You have hedged me behind and before.  And laid Your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.  Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, An Your right hand shall hold me.  If I say, “surely the darkness shall fall on me.”  Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You.  But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.  For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, An that my soul knows very well.  My frame was not hidden from You.  When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.  Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.  An in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.  How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!  How great is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.

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16 Dec

Increase Your Faith, Love and Forgive!

Christmas time is meant to be a time when family and friends come together to celebrate the birth of Christ. However, many find themselves angry, depressed, lonely and weary. All are marks of the enemy.  I guess it should not surprise us as Christians that the enemy wants to raid us with the material things or thoughts of this world to take our eyes off the purpose of Christmas. However; when these emotions come we need to learn to stop them and prevent them from growing.

Anger is an emotion that leads to self destruction which can be thwarted.  Where does anger come from? It comes from an offense, a remark, a photograph, a memory. How do you rid yourself of it?  Repentance and forgiveness is the way to get rid of anger.  What if I forgive and the hurt is still there? Repent and forgive again.  What if I’ve forgotten the offense and weeks later it is brought back to my memory?  Repent and forgive again.  What if the other person doesn’t forgive me?  Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.  How does it go away for good? Stand on God’s Word, pray and forgive again.  The Word of God is clear on forgiveness.  It is not a maybe you should or won’t you try to….it is a command by the Father through His son.  Matthew 6:14-15  For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (NIV)

Anger unchecked may cause a bruise.  In the natural, a bruise may cause internal bleeding and is normally caused by blunt trauma.  You hit your arm against a shelf, you hit your head on the ground, or my favorite is you cut a corner too short and you run into a sofa or chair.  While we all have received a bruise at one time or the other in the natural, your spirit can also be bruised.  Each time you touch it a twinge of pain comes to the surface. Many people live with past hurts and unforgiveness in their heart which can cripple and bruise.  It can settle in so fast that the internal bleeding of your spirit man may bring you to a complete halt in your spiritual walk. 

Luke 17: 3-5 So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”  The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”  (NIV)

Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

Christians should know and practice this foundational principle of forgiveness every day.  During this Christmas season, give the greatest gift of all… love and forgiveness.  Love is for the person but forgiveness is for you.  Jesus said tribulation will come.   An offense may come at any moment.  It might even sneak up on you.  The Word of God tells us to increase our faith!  As forgiveness becomes second nature to us, the gift of the Holy Spirit will become more powerful in our lives.  This gift includes love, peace, faithfulness, joy, goodness, gentleness, patience, self control and kindness.    It is His Word which will lead you to the answers you are seeking.  It is your praise which will give you the release from your depression.  It is your prayer which will give you the peace beyond your understanding.  It is giving and loving others which will remove your loneliness.  It is repentance, love and forgiveness which will remove the anger.  Increasing your faith requires stepping into areas you didn’t know were possible and forgiveness is God’s command that we love one another.  So let’s step into the realm of possibilities as we learn to walk in love and forgiveness.

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04 Dec

What Happens to the Fruit?

What if God told you to do something but you never saw the fruit of it?  Was it God? This happened over and over again in the Bible.  We see it throughout the Bible where great men of God were given assignments from God but did not see the fruits of their labor.  Today, pastors diligently seek God and sometimes pour their heart out in front of faceless congregations only to learn later that many did hear and are walking out the message today.  Men and women of God who walk silently behind the scenes who are faithful to plant seeds for God’s Kingdom may produce the greatest harvest.  The fruit of our labor is not measured in who you are. It is measured in your obedience.  The benefits are not always instantaneous but may be held in eternity for the moment in time God decides to release it.  

Think of all the prophets in the Old and New Testament who walked in obedience yet they were not alive to see the fruit of their labors. Abraham was called the Father of many Nations which is still growing with believers today.  We are still walking in his inheritance.  Moses led the people out of the wilderness but was not able to enjoy the fruits of His labor in the Promise land.   Ruth chose to stay with Naomi which we know today was God releasing her fruit… which was a part of the heritage of the coming Messiah.  Isaiah spoke of the coming Messiah. Isaiah never saw but had a knowing a Messiah would be born.  John the Baptist spent years in the wilderness proclaiming the Kingdom is at hand. He only saw a glimpse of the Christ upon baptism.  AND…John didn’t see all the miracles Jesus would later perform. 

Pastors who shepherd people day in an out may not always see the fruit of their labor.  He or she may prepare and give a message to what he/she thinks is a deaf congregation only to find out this message changed the world.  Billy Graham saw thousands come to the Lord but it is impossible to see or know all the fruits of this labor.  Reverend Martin Luther King gave his heartfelt sermon which lives on today…. “I have a dream”…and it is still being recited every year in his honor.   Many pastors are proclaiming and spreading seeds of God’s Kingdom in small and large churches who may never learn that hundreds were won for the Lord because one sermon touched their life.   

I have watched many people who are faithful cleaning churches, teaching children, praying for people or attending a parking lot  who work behind the scenes. They may never see the fruits of their labor, but God does.  I am 48 years old and sometimes look back on my life and think how simple it is.  I worked in the market place for over 30 years but now I am a caregiver to a precious saintly woman of God who is 82 years old and legally blind.  I am honored to serve her but I wonder at times how God is using me?  I don’t touch thousands or hundreds of people each day but I am planting seeds where I walk.  I am serving my mother-in-law during her last years of life.  My heart is to please the Lord  and to walk in obedience.  I may not see all the fruit of my labors but I pray God does.  

A harvest is not produced with one seed but many.  Some seeds will never make it because they were planted out of season and some because it was not watered.  Some seed will fall on rocky soil and not hear; however, some seeds I believe are held in the heavens for God to release in His time. So, I would have to say YES, God does send people to serve where they might never see the fruit of their labor on earth.  Let’s keep planting!

Jesus said, “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.”   Matthew 13:3-9 (NIV)

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15 Nov

God Calling

This weekend I had the opportunity to speak at a Woman’s conference in Atlanta.  It was a wonderful time of relaxing and spending focused time with God and other women seeking God as well.  (Always a worthwhile investment of time!)

When I woke up in my hotel room Saturday morning the Lord had put on my heart to read 1Peter. I am sure that I have read 1 Peter before, but in terms of knowing the specifics of that book I was drawing a blank. This notion of waking up with something specific on my heart to do or read has been happening for a few years now.  I used to question whether it really was the Holy Spirit or just me. Then He starts telling me to read books in the Bible that at the time I couldn’t even pronounce! In those readings there was always something that answered a specific need or question or dilemma I was struggling with at that moment. I have come to very much look forward to those crystal clear instructions from Him.

When I read 1 Peter Saturday morning, there were several great nuggets of insight but there was one verse that really jumped out to me as something I was suppose to share with Veronica the organizer and hostess of the event, which I did. I didn’t think much more about my 1 Peter reading the rest of the retreat.

As I spent time with all these wonderful women the natural direction of the conversation was talking about our ministries and what God was doing and what were our plans. As a recovering control freak, this is usually a topic where I start recounting my A, B and C plan and then the contingency plans for each scenario.  But this time was different, I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere in the last few months, I have truly abandoned my plans and have come to realize I am just along for the ride!

Whatever God is doing in me and however He is using me is His plan, not mine!  Every time I start to make plans it only serves to stress me out and things start feeling waaay too difficult.  This is an odd place to be for a girl who’s used to planning her work and working her plan!  I really don’t know quite what to make of it.  The Bible tells us to make our plans – just hold them loosely and trust God for the results. Any plans I seem to make right now, just seem pointless. It is so clear to me that I am on Gods plan, so I am doing the only thing I know to do – listen and obey – which by that definition; I’ve been extremely busy with my plans! For as much as it is so odd to answer, “I don’t really know” when people ask what’s up with Flip-Flop Ministries, I have more confidence than ever that I am “on plan”!

All weekend and even before the retreat the Lord had been impressing on my heart the verse about waiting on the Lord and trusting Him to exalt you in due time. I couldn’t remember what book it was from, but it really has started to become my mantra, much like Joel 2:25 has been my mantra the last year or so, “I will restore the years that the locust has eaten”. (Yes, leave it to me to find such verses!)

I won’t go off on a Jerry Springer tirade, but I know there are things the Lord is dealing with regarding the condition of my heart. This whole notion of “due time” makes sense to me. He is working on getting my heart, and many other things “right”. I trust His timing.

Fast-forward to this morning…that whole “wait on the Lord to exalt you in due time” is running around in my head again and I decide this time to finally look it up.  Guess what book it is from?  1 Peter! I must have kind of looked over it in my Saturday morning reading. I was using a new Bible with a different translation than the one I was used to, but there it was, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6.

I am so thankful for these God callings where I can see His work in my life so clearly.  He must know who and what He is dealing with in me to make things so very clear and plain.

Thank God!

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