Saturday, January 26, 2019

Need Some Reassurance?

by Sylvia Gaston

2019. It’s a new year and a great time to reflect on last year and plot a course moving forward. Without setting goals, the likelihood of forward progress is slim. As I set goals for myself, I reflect on the following pieces and parts:

·     Spiritual – Is my relationship with Jesus getting deeper? Do I know Him better? Am       I on the path that He has set for my life?
·     Physical – What do I need to do to be healthier this year?
·     Professional – What can I do to improve my effectiveness at work? How can I help my company/organization reach its goals?
·     Financial – Am I spending and saving my money as I should?
·     Emotional – Are there relationships that I need to work on? Are there things I need to focus on to be more emotionally mature?
·     Intellectual – As a lifelong learner, what can I do to keep my mind sharp? Are there new skills I need or want to acquire?

Remember to not set too many goals. Success is more likely if you just choose one or two things and remain focused on them throughout the year.

As I was exploring what the Bible says about moving forward, I was drawn to the story of Joshua. Most of us have seen some version of the movie - The Ten Commandments - the story of how Moses led the freed nation of Israel from slavery to the land God has promised them. Moses has died and Joshua must fill some very large shoes as his successor. God, in His infinite compassion, assures Joshua that He is still with them.

God tells Joshua, “’Moses my servant, is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them.  I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you…No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.’”

And as the Israelites moved toward the promised land, they followed the Ark of the Covenant – a brilliant and beautiful chest that contained the stone tablets of God’s ten commandments and other sacred items.

The Lord told Joshua, “Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites. They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses. Give this command to the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant: ‘When you reach the banks of the Jordan River, take a few steps into the river and stop there.’” –Joshua 3:7-8

God gives Joshua specific instructions so that the people can easily and safely cross over into the land that He has promised them.

So, “Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.’” –Joshua 3:5.  Consecrate means: to make or declare sacred; to devote or dedicate to some purpose. Joshua tells his countrymen to prepare themselves and that they are going to see the amazing things God is going to do.

What I love about this narrative is the reassurance God gives to this newly appointed leader, Joshua. Can you imagine the uneasiness Joshua must have felt moving forward? He was being entrusted to lead the nation that had followed Moses for decades and had witnessed the miracles God previously performed through him. God reassures Joshua that He is still with him and that He will demonstrate that fact to the Israelites and to the other nations watching.

The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. –Joshua 3:17

God performed a miracle similar to the one that had previously brought about their freedom (remember the parting of the Red Sea?) by halting the Jordan, a river at high flow, to giving them dry passage. Amazing!

Are you in a place where you need reassurance to move forward? Do you need to know that God is still with you in 2019? You need only ask Him. The God Who created the universe is just waiting to hear from you! 

Take another look at those different areas of your life! Pick one or two goals you’d really benefit from. Then move forward with the reassurance that God loves you, He has a plan for you, and He is ready to lead you just as He led Moses and Joshua – showing you AMAZING things that He will do!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Are You Listening?

by Tim Howard

My wife and I were out to breakfast not too long ago and the waitress who came to our table was bubbly, vibrant and very friendly. After a few moments of exchanging pleasantries, she asked us if we wanted some coffee and what we would like to order. Since I was hungry, I began to rattle of a list of several things. Midway through my request she interrupted me and said: “ I’m sorry, could you start again, I wasn’t practicing active listening.”

I can’t begin to tell you how hard the three of us laughed. I had never heard anyone say that out loud! A person may not be listening but he or she doesn’t outright say it to you!

At times we all have moments when we drift off. We may hear what someone says but aren’t necessarily paying attention. We don’t practice active listening – we consciously or unconsciously choose to turn our proverbial hearing aid off.

Francis A Schaeffer wrote a book titled “He Is There And He Is Not Silent” 

God isn’t silent and He really wants to talk with you! His preference is to talk ‘with’ you and not ‘at’ you because He’s genuinely interested in your feelings, your thoughts, your concerns and your words.
When you speak – He listens! When He speaks, He wants you to listen!

Jesus said: Matt. 4:4 … “It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Having ears that actually hear and listen to God’s voice is crucial – if we want to experience true life.

God has given you His written ‘Word’ as an aid to help you learn how to hear His voice. When you read it and study it – your ears become attuned to His voice like antenna that locks into the right frequency.

He has also invited you to join with a church family of your choice each week to help assist you in hearing. When you set aside some time to meet with others – you practice active listening.

My mother use to say: “ I’m not talking to hear myself talk!” And neither is God. He want’s you Practice active listening. 

He has some great things to share with you. He wants to tell you how to face the challenges confronting your life. He wants to tell you how to dispel the confusion you are currently experiencing. He wants to tell you where to find life and purpose and He’s wanting to tell you why things keep falling apart and how you can make things last. He is speaking good news!

On one occasion a young boy named Samuel was learning to hear God speak to him and a wise priest told him this: The next time you sense the Lords presence say “Speak, your servant is listening.” Too often we are guilty of wanting Him to hears us and we say: “Listen my Lord, I am speaking.” It’s important to remember that it’s impossible to listen when you are talking!

When you speak to God – He listens!
When He speaks to you – do you listen?
Are you positioned to hear His voice?

Do you have a strategy to discover what He is saying, to you, right now?

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Keeping It Wild

by Candace Cortez

One of my favorite things about God is that He never runs out of ideas. Looking at the faces of people as they pass by me in a store or on a street, I am amazed that God has it in Him to design, create, mold, each set of eyes, each different shaped head, and each heart full of layers we can’t fully grasp even within ourselves. God is a wonderous creator. In the unique way we were created, I believe each believer has a specific gifting that delights God when it is used in worship. I believe there is a way that I can worship Him, that nobody else can, and it is delightful to God, while simultaneously I can sing with the angels who will sing “Holy Holy Holy” for eternity. I believe God hears and loves all of those voices. I believe you have something to give to Him that is different, specific, and a sweet aroma to Him. The thing that unifies us, believer and non-believer, is that we were made to glorify Him.

Even though I know and believe all of that, after following the Lord for a while, it’s possible to find yourself in a spiritual rut. Numerous times, I have experienced a distance from God’s perceivable presence, even though I was doing all of my normal prayer, worship, and Bible reading times. This always brings at least an eyelash worth of doubt: is this all real? Is God there? Does it matter?

This morning I read the story of King David in the Bible, in 2 Samuel 6, when the ark of the Lord was on the way back into the City of David. David was so thrilled to have the presence of God back in his camp that he worshiped, danced, praised until his robes fell off. There was no other time in scripture that describes David’s worship exactly like this. There were times he sang, there were recorded times of playing instruments. There were examples of obedience and times of humbled repentance. I believe this dance is an example of how David kept it wild. He did not allow his worship style, habits, or timing to be solely dictated by past experiences, present pressures, or hopes for his own advancement. The recorded nature of David’s praise to God is dynamic, mirroring the dynamics of God Himself.

God has it in Him to listen to the same song on repeat by the angels and make billions upon billions of different faces and spirits. Yes, sing the songs you know and love, but also, take time to intentionally breathe creativity into the ways, postures, and places you give honor and praise to the Lord. Keep it wild! This will not only add some fun to your walk with the Lord, but you will also keep from getting too deep in the rut. Staying out of the rut will combat the doubts and lies of the enemy that sneak in during distant times.

I’m not an expert, but here are some ways to switch it up, if your creative worship wheels are rutted too deep to begin. 
  • Read the Bible outside (Preferably with a view! Hello, mountains! God likes long walks on the beach.) to give a backdrop to the One who made it all.
  • Gather a few friends and sing some songs, pray for each other, and ask some of the more challenging faith questions you’ve had rolling around in your heart.
  • Turn off your phone! Spend a crazy amount of time listening, reading, and writing the things God does when the distraction count is significantly lower.
  • Go to a store with a monetary gift, and pray for someone to bless in Jesus name.
  • Write down your personal testimony. Sometimes we need to think about all the things God has done and actually write those things down!
  • Make something! Anything! God is an artist and likes when we act like Him. This can be a blanket, a painting, a cake, or a plan.
It’s ok to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone, or even our talent zones. Just because you are not talented in a specific way to worship, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it out. The author of 2 Samuel didn’t tell us that David danced well, we read that he danced with all his might. Stay engaged. Remain faithful. Keep it wild!