It’s Time for Christmas!!

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By: Shannon Chambers

Do you remember when there was space between Labor Day and Christmas? I miss those days. This year, the pressure to put up a tree fell on the heels of the last summer swim. Christmas décor and scarecrows lined store shelves alongside jack-o-lanterns and candy corn. Autumn somehow triggered an unspoken countdown and the world started racing breathlessly to the year’s end. The hurry is hard on a slow southern girl like myself. I am more suited to do one thing at a time. Combining multiple holidays and deadlines into one big jumbled mess stirs a little anxiety in me. For a ‘season’ that is theoretically devoted to the celebration of gratitude and the living manifestation of Peace on Earth, it’s unfortunate that the hectic pace of the year’s 4th quarter leaves little room to reflect on either.

Resist the temptation to fast forward through the rest of the year in a sprint for 2017! Savor each minute, each hour, each day between now and then. Find joy in the journey. Choose to live in the NOW! The God of the NOW, the “I Am,” lives in and through you. He is the Lord of time. One day with Him is as a millennium; because in eternity, where He exists, time is nonexistent. Fall into the peace of Christ that supersedes the demands of any clock and every calendar. Appreciate the seasonal work of the Holy Spirit in your life because He has truly made everything beautiful in its time. May you find rest in Him today and every day, especially when the pace of your progress doesn’t meet the expectations of others during the holiday hustle and bustle. You are right on time because His timing is perfect!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that man cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 – AMP)

Great is Thy Faithfulness

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By: Dawn Ashley

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. (Lamentations 3:22-24)

I have been in a season where I have been praying about a situation in my family life that I needed God’s intervention. I needed Him to make a way where there seemed no way.  I needed hearts healed and softened. I needed God to replace a heart of stone for the heart of flesh just as He did  in .  I was holding on to the hope that I know lies in Christ when it seemed hopeless at times. Time often seemed to stand still. Many times it went from bad to worse.  I had to continue to press in and believe God is faithful. I will be honest, often believing was a conscious choice, not a feeling.  Many times it was hard and came with anguish and countless tears, but I held on to hope because I know that I know God is faithful . He has shown Himself time and time again and always comes through in His perfect timing and His perfect way.  Then slowly,  I began to see small signs that God was at work and I went from feeling hopeless to completely undone with utter amazement at the faithfulness of God in showing up once again. I began to see my child’s heart beating once again with the soft, humble,  compassionate flair that always made him stand out and what made him so loved by all that know him.  I began to watch God heal him right before my eyes and watched him begin to set his life back on course in a way only God could do.  God literally breathed on every dry bone and made them come alive again just as he did in Ezekiel 37:1-14. I sit back now and wonder how I could ever doubt Him. God is so faithful.

My friends I don’t know where you are holding on to hope by a string in your life but, I assure you God is moving even when we don’t see it and when it is time for God to unveil the masterpiece He has been painting behind the curtain it will utterly take your breath. He doesn’t leave a work unfinished.

This Thanksgiving let’s really try to reflect on the faithfulness of God and all He has done for us. Look back through an old journal or reflect on the answered prayers in your life. Think back to how far God has taken you in your life and the countless blessings you take for granted every day in the simple, ordinary, average day.   Don’t let the holiday season overwhelm you with all the tasks at hand. Don’t let the hopeless situation in your life rob you of the joy of this season, because with Christ nothing is hopeless.  With Christ we always have hope and because of that we can give thanks this season in all things, all circumstances.  Stop and reflect this Thanksgiving on all the ways God has blessed your life  and then give him thanks in advance for all those unanswered prayers that you know He is working on right now. In this place  my friends you will find peace and joy in a season often met with anxiety and stress.

This Thanksgiving I encourage you to simply live out  this scripture.  Bring your requests before God, let go of the anxiety and trust God with the rest.  Pray with thanksgiving already in your heart for you know for those that love God, He works all things together for good  (Romans 8:28) When you do this the peace that only God can provide will guard your heart and mind.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7)

 Never stop believing, God’s compassion is new for us every morning. He is faithful, He is your portion, wait on him….and in the wait this Thanksgiving give him thanks for He is faithful.  I close with the chorus to the old hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”.

Great Is Thy faithfulness,
Great Is Thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me!

What is Love?

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    By: Holly Haglan

    The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. (Lamentations 3:25)

    My whole life I have craved love. I still remember when I was in kindergarten and I was head over heels for this boy in my class. While most girls my age thought boys had “cooties”, I would chase after them on the playground.  I always wished that they would notice me the way I noticed them.  In middle school I finally got my wish. I had my first boyfriend and  I really thought I was in love. Looking back now I laugh that I felt that way, but hey we’ve all been 13 before right?  Then came the high school years, during my freshman year in high school I experienced my first heart break and I decided I wasn’t ready for a relationship for a while.

    When my junior year rolled around it was as if  a switch turned on again inside me  and all of those desires I used to have about love came flooding back, but now with a greater intensity then every. I began to think something was wrong with me. I had never had a date to the dance. I had hardly dated and it seemed most girls my age had a new boyfriend every month.  I hadn’t even kissed anybody in two years. So I began to work really hard to get a boyfriend.  What I discovered was once I had the boyfriend I was still left with this emptiness. I still had this desire to be loved.  I didn’t understand.

    My senior year rolled around and I met someone that  quickly became my entire world and he made me his whole world. I found someone that soon knew every single inch of my soul, as I knew every single inch of his. I was in love.  I had never felt so deeply for another person. I didn’t think I had that much love to give someone and after all the years of being single, I certainly didn’t know that someone would have that much love to give me. But it did not last and our  break up devastated me.  For the first few months it felt like my heart was literally being ripped out of my chest. I could not wrap my head around the fact that my best friend, my love, my world was gone and  now completely out of my life forever.

    I was furious at God.  Why would He took this love away from me? God knew I always wanted to be loved and to love.   So how could He take it from me? As time passed God began to show me that He was not who God had for me, and I was not who God had for him.  He began to show me the emptiness I felt while I was  in a relationship was because God was the one that was to come first in my life and the one who wanted to love me and wanted me to love him.  I had been seeking a boy/man since I was a little girl when all along God was wooing me to Him.  I had to learn to put him first and let him love me before I could wholly love anyone else. I had to let Jesus love me first.  I had allowed “man” to take the place in my life that was meant for God.  The Bible tells us God is jealous God. He was jealous for me. God Almighty wanted me to love Him and wanted to love me.

    For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24)

    What is love anyway?  What kind of love is this God wanted to bestow upon me? God tells us in 2 Corinthians and I needed to realize this is love.

    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  (2 Corinthians 13:4-8)

    The world has love distorted.  It is more than a feeling.  My last relationship started out okay and seemed to line up with this scripture, but as time went on it became the antithesis of everything mentioned here.  I wasn’t strong enough to end it, but God was. God wasn’t being mean to me by ending it, he was saving me.  He loved me that much!

    If you are looking for love or trying to decide if the relationship you are in is the one God has for you, I challenge you to see if your idea of love aligns with God’s.  God has someone for me that will love me well and love Christ even more . God promises us that  “love never fails” it’s forever, it’s eternal. This gives me peace knowing that we serve an all-knowing and loving God. With everything He has to keep up with, and all the more pressing problems in the world, He saw where my life was headed and intervened. He will do the same for you.  Our peace lies in the fact that God promises a love that satisfies every word in 2 Corinthians 13:4-8.

    Don’t push your timing, your desires and your needs… wait on Him.  I am.  I can now say thank you, God for carving out a path in my life exactly the way you want it carved. Thank you God for removing people in my life that hinder me from growth, and for giving me people that build me up. Thank you God for the heart break, I wouldn’t know what it would be like to stand with You and You alone and to experience your love. Thank you God for the precious gift of the past, present, and the promise of a future.

The Armor Of God

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By: Dawn Ashley

God has had me in a season where He has been teaching me more on the armor of God and how we are to cloth ourselves in it daily.  It is as important as dressing in the natural.

We have to realize the battles we are fighting are not battles of the flesh. When we fight them in the flesh we are left feeling hopeless, afraid, weary and wondering God where in the world are you. The reality is He is right there with us, but we are fighting the battle all wrong.  God has equipped us with the armor we need and He has taught us how to fight. So let’s follow Him.  You are not alone.  We are all fighting some kind of battle, but it is a spiritual battle and in that we have to fight differently to gain victory.   The devil is going to come at as because as believers we are not on his side.  Paul tells us in Ephesians we are to us every piece  of God’s armor to resist the attacks of the devil and stand true to our God in the midst of it.

So when you “stand” the Word of God says we are to stand firm, with the belt of truth buckled around our waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this He says to take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.  (Ephesians 6:14-20)

Let’s break this apart:

  • Belt of Truth: Satan will attack you with lies. Sometime his lies are easier to believe then truth, so you must wrap  God’s Word secure around you so when Satan lies to you, you won’t be led by your emotions, instead  you will stand firm in the truth of God’s Word.
  • Breastplate of Righteousness: Satan goes after our hearts.  This is where your emotions are, your self-worth, and your trust. You need to remind yourself who you are and whose you are and the length God went to draw you unto himself and call you his daughters.  He gave his very own son for us.  He calls us righteous, blameless.  Know this and protect your heart with this truth. Don’t fall for Satan’s lies.
  • Feet fitted: Be ready to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Satan wants to tell you that you aren’t spiritual enough or don’t know enough about the Bible or that you have messed up too much and are not equipped to share the gospel. God equips the called, He does not call the equipped. Your mess is your message, your test is your testimony and somebody needs to hear it.
  • Shield of Faith: Satan tries to set us back, tempt us, remind us of our shortcomings and failures. Your faith is your shield.  As Christian’s it is what protects us from these flaming arrows – these lies – Satan says about us.  The victory is ours!
  • Helmet of Salvation: Satan wants us to doubt God, Jesus and our salvation.  Satan causes a battle in our minds and this helmet of your salvation that cannot be taken from you . It protects your mind from doubting what God did to save you.
  • Sword of the Spirit: This is the only weapon you have that is of offense. Every other weapon defends/protects you.  There are times when you will need to take a stand against Satan. When you are tempted trust in the truth of Gods’ Word that never changes.  Fight back the enemy with the Word of God and the Spirit of God that is within you.

I encourage you to join me in armoring up and being ready to stand against the attacks of the enemy victoriously by fighting Gods’ way. Lay down your weapons and pick up Gods’ armor.  And as the rest of this message says, pray on all occasions, meaning throughout your day. Pray as the Lord puts people, situations and circumstances on your heart. Lift them to the Lord. Some may be long prayers and some may be a 30 second prayer. Just pray as God leads. We live in a world where people need God and we have the power to influence our world with prayer.  Praying for all the saints simply means pray for all believers and the church.  We need to know others are praying for us.

I close with this.  Paul wrote Ephesians from prison my friends, from prison.  He remained undiscouraged and undefeated and he wrote these letters of encouragement while he was in chains.  He did not ask the Ephesians to  pray his chains would be removed.  No, he asked that he would continue to speak fearlessly for Christ in spite of them.   Wow right!  No matter what we are going through God can use us if we listen to the message God is sharing here through Paul.  It will change us from the inside out.  Maybe we need to stop asking God to remove the chains in our lives and ask Him for the power to speak, and do what He calls us to in spite of them.  God can use us in any of our circumstances to do his will.

Armor up with me my friends and let’s not only pray for a change in whatever circumstances we need God to move in within our lives but also that he would accomplish his plan through us right were we are.  God has an eternal purpose for it all.

True Friendship is Worth It

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By: Roslyn Maglione

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Three weeks ago I went to Chicago to visit my sister. She moved to Chicago four years ago and I had yet to visit her at her new home.  This was also my first trip back to Chicago in thirty years.  I was so excited to see my sister because it had been nine months since we were last together.  We had a wonderful visit and it was such a blessing to spend time with her over those four days. She and I had time alone together to enjoy each other’s’ company and seeing the city together.  It was like when we were younger and were more than just sisters; we were friends.

A month before the trip I reached out to my best friend from high school to see if we could get together during my visit as well.  I had not seen her since she was in my wedding twenty-three years prior.  I was very anxious about seeing her because I felt like such a bad friend.  After she was in my wedding, we talked some, but she lived in Chicago and I lived in Charlotte.  We were both starting careers and I was beginning a family.  My life became wrapped up in my own problems, goals, wants, and needs, so our conversations and letters became fewer and fewer until after a while we had no contact.  Every once in a while she would text me to say a classmate had married, had a baby, or died, but no real meaningful conversation.  I knew her life story and the problems she faced as a result of her parents’ divorce when she was seven years old and her mom’s addiction to pain medication; so the guilt of me letting our friendship wane was heavy.  Once I arrived in Chicago I texted my friend and received no answer.  I gave it two days and texted her again.  She finally answered saying that she was available, but only on the day before my departure.  I had a feeling that our meeting would fall through because she had some other obligations before she could meet and she was not exactly sure how to get to my sister’s house.  I had decided in my mind that maybe it was for the best if the meeting did not work out. The reality is I thought maybe then I would not have to face my guilt.

As it turned out, she was able to come to see me.  When she pulled up and I saw her the tears began to flow.  I could not believe after twenty-three years that I was seeing my friend. The one I told all my hopes, dreams, problems, and disappointments.  She was standing in front of me and did not look a bit different than when we were seventeen years old.  She was also crying. We embraced and held it for minutes.  Just thinking back to that moment makes me tear up now.  I thought of all the wasted time and guilt I had for not reaching out to her sooner. God began to show me his conviction moved me to make that call.  The enemy was trying to hold me in bondage of guilt and fear of rejection.  I told her how ashamed I was for not giving her more support throughout the years.  She said she felt the same way for not making more of an effort. It was like we picked up right where we left off as juniors in high school and we talked non-stop for fourteen hours straight, not going to bed until after 3:30 in the morning.

God is amazing that way, true friendships are like Jesus’ love for us, all can be forgiven when your life is shared and given to that person and there is confession and acknowledgement of your mistakes. Guilt is not of God, it cripples us into not moving.  Busyness is one of the enemy’s biggest distractions for us as well.  It crippled me for years.  Conviction however, although it may not feel like it is a true gift from God because it moves us in the right direction.  It doesn’t paralyze us. Don’t be like me and wait twenty-three years to reconcile a friendship God has given you.  Don’t let guilt or the business of life paralyze you.  Let God’s conviction move you.  Call that friend, confess, acknowledge your mistake and ask for forgiveness. True friendship is worth it.

If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (Ecclesiastes 4:10)