Purpose in the New Year

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By:  Hannah Schelling

New Year, New Me –  That’s usually the statement we all hear from one another as the new year rolls back around. Everyone talks about how they’re going to start diets, make better grades, use less social media; and although we might start off doing those things we shortly fall off track as the New Year continues on. We start to cheat on our diets, spend less time studying for our next exam, and find ourselves spending our valuable free time scrolling through Facebook more and more each day. Before we know it, we are half way through the New Year and already at the same place we started at. Simply wishing we could start all over again and be more determined and actually reach our goals.

During 2017 I found myself doing a lot of this back and forth, “I wish I would have stuck with it when I first set out to do it” kind of lifestyle; but as 2017 is coming to an end this year, the saying, “new year, new me” sounds a lot different. It has a more powerful meaning. Usually when I hear it I just let it go in one ear and out the other, but this year it sounds like a fresh start. It sounds like a chance to live a purpose driven life, without delaying my happiness and purpose by fear driven procrastination. My goal is to find myself, find my purpose, and find what drives my life.

How do you find what drives your life you might ask? Start off by thinking about all of the reasons you don’t do something you really want to, or know that God has told you to do. A lot of people would respond with fear, pressure, or insecurity. These three things are the very reason why we stop in our tracks, rethink our decision making, and take a few more steps away from the purpose God has waiting for us. Knowing your purpose gives meaning to your life. It makes your life simpler, less complex, and often a lot less stressful. Knowing your purpose creates happiness and joy for your own life; and confidence in every decision you make. Finding your purpose is what prevents the inability to live your life without constantly having to start over again. If we know what our purpose is, we can determine what we do and don’t do. Without it though, we have no firm foundation on which we decide what choices to make. When we don’t know our purpose, we try to do more than we can handle; but it is impossible to do everything. So, we constantly change directions. We change jobs and relationships trying to find that missing piece, that void that we feel inside because we simply don’t know what drives our lives.

Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.  (Ephesians 5:17)

When we understand what the will of God is, we can practice our purpose a lot easier.  Finding your purpose creates a stronger relationship with God, and a stronger relationship gives hope and a future to what your goals are. Suddenly, the things you set out to do in the beginning are being accomplished. Suddenly you don’t have to become angry at yourself for having to start from the beginning eight times. Don’t let the opinions of others let you miss out on God’s purpose for your life. Let God fill you with ambition and peace, and live the life that he intended for you to live.  No going back this year! No what ifs and what’s next, no questions. Stand firm in what you know God has set out for you, and live it.

You Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

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Surrendering to the Potter

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By: Holly Haglan

Isaiah 64:8 says “ Yet You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay and you are the Potter. We are all the work of your Hands.”

This is a verse many of us, definitely myself, could benefit from hearing. As humans, we have the innate desire to follow our flesh and follow the ways of the world. This is one my biggest downfalls, and definitely an area I struggle with.  I love this verse because it encourages me to surrender myself to the Potter, the Lord our God. It reminds me that I am a product of Him, and not of this world. Because of this fact, we must remain aware and active in pursuing the paths that glorify Him, because as Christians we are a product of the Lord and should represent His Kingdom the best way that we know how. The next thing I love about this verse is that He compares us to clay. A substance that has an easy metamorphosis into anything. With God as our Potter, He can make even the hardest and darkest of souls melt under the touch of his sturdy hand. However, this also comes with a caveat. Since we have the ability to  be anything, it is  easy to fall into situations that are not glorifying to Him, which is where I’m sure many of us have found ourselves a time or two before or maybe even now. I hope to encourage anyone in that rut now to surrender themselves to the Potter. Let Him mold you into what you have always been destined to be. Don’t wait any longer. The Love and Mercy of Jesus Christ has no boundaries, no limits. It is infinite. So no matter how far you think you may have wandered, the Potter is ready to complete His Work in you.

 

Hear My Prayers and Open My Eyes Lord

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By: Roslyn Maglione

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. (Psalm 116:-1-2)

And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)

It is important to remember that God is always there for us. Even when our spouses or friends do not have time to fully listen to our woes or are too caught up in their own problems to give ours the attention we think we deserve, God is always there listening. Our Father in heaven loves us more than anyone can and He is the only one that can transform our circumstances.

Asking God to open our eyes to His will and His way is something that all of us need to pray on a regular basis.  When we have circumstances that we do not understand, pray for God to give us clarity in the situation. When our way of doing things is no longer working, we need to ask God to lead us on His path. When things seem to be crashing down around us, we must request that God shows us why we must go through the hardship. In all intervals of life, whether times are easy or difficult, we must remember to look at our situation through “spiritual eyes” and not worldly eyes so we can see our reality from God’s viewpoint.

We ask you God to help us never forget that you are the best listener and please open our eyes to see the actuality in all circumstances and not through our own skewed lenses.

Saving of My Soul

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By:  Shannon Chambers

Too busy building my kingdom to seek His first. Losing sight of the righteousness for which I used to thirst. Willingly walking to the block of the slave.Forsaking the freedom He so generously gave. Through the windows of my soul, all colors perpetually diluted. The activity of all creation indefinitely muted.

Seemingly shining from among the multitude. Secretly confined by self-imposed solitude. Attempting to fulfill the requirements of past obligations. Striving to stay free from the lure of current temptations. Desperately searching for someone who understands life’s unrelenting pressures and never-ending demands.

Then along came a man possessing eternal sight. He alone recognized my spirit to be broken and contrite He offered to tenderly examine the root cause of my direction. I stubbornly resisted His efforts, making every objection.Time elapsed and there was great deliberation. Past hurts argued any need for this divine collaboration. The reality was His presence calmed the turmoil of my world. I relented and received Him as my King, my Peace, my Lord.

The religious and right interceded from far away. Never missing an opportunity to gossip, I mean pray. Yet, in all my filth and fallen state, He lovingly and patiently chose to wait. He masterfully traded my ashes for beauty and my shame for His glory; unwilling to insert a period at that point in my story. He transformed my smile-less mourning into smiling mornings. He turned my world right side up without warning.

I endeavored to learn more about this phenomenal man. Standing still, listening to the intricate details of His plan. He selflessly poured love into the cracks of my foundation; creating intimacy, silencing attacks on my imagination. The depth of who He is called to the deepest of me, daring my innermost to revisit the shaping of my identity. I discovered that to be lost in Him was actually to be found. Surrendered and dying to self, reflections of Christ now abound.

Unrealistic Expectations

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By:  Hannah Schelling

A couple months ago I bought a book called “The Best Yes” written by Lysa Terkeurst. I bought this book because at the time, I was troubled with knowing when to say “no” and when to say “yes” to certain people and certain situations. In the chapter I read last week, Lysa talked about the space between our expectations and our reality. Personally, I always try to see ahead of my current situation and what the outcome or future might look like. It’s a struggle for me to see ahead when making decisions because in my own mind, I have so many different expectations that I get stuck in the midst of it all. I try to decide which expectations are real, which expectations am I basing my decisions off of too much, and how do I let go of the expectations that are just simply unrealistic.

Psalm 23 is a whole chapter on God being the shepherd to his people.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

The word “want” means to lack something, to become empty, or to be without. If the Lord is our shepherd, we don’t’ have to lack, we don’t have to be without, and we most certainly don’t have to become empty. We don’t have to constantly be drained dry by our circumstances and expectations. Expectations of what we wish things could be, but they won’t be. A lot of times I get caught up in trying to live this “perfect” life. Being the perfect student, having a lot of friends, being the perfect Christian, and the perfect daughter. It’s all just not realistic though. If I am already perfect, and if I already am living out this great expectation of myself and my own life than how am I going to be used by God?

Expectations hold us captive, the unrealistic ones anyway. Having expectations and holding on to them, and living off of them will be the very thing that keeps you away from the reality that God has intended for you to live. So, you might ask, how can I know if my expectation is unrealistic or not? Ask yourself, does this certain expectation stretch you past your limits mentally and emotionally? Does it push you to some kind of breaking point? Does this expectation leave you feeling hopeless, stressed, does it feel forced; or do you lose yourself trying to fulfill it? If you can answer yes to any of those questions, then it is an unrealistic expectation. Don’t confuse yourself with the saying, “God won’t give me anything I can’t handle” because although it is true, he also wouldn’t give you such a sticky situation and unrealistic expectations to overcome if it didn’t glorify him. Evaluate your options, evaluate the expectations and don’t let them become something that they aren’t meant to be, because God is always in control not us.

You weren’t meant to become empty, dried out, and disappointed and when you get to that point, you weren’t made to stay that way. You were made to rise up, to live in truth and peace. It’s never easy to understand the expectations you had aren’t realistic. They aren’t easy to let go of. Having an idea of what your life should be like, what your relationships, and friendships should be like will waste all of your energy trying to make them reality. Nobody is perfect, and not everyone has it all figured out.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:2-3)

If Jesus is our shepherd, we can be at peace knowing that he will lead us towards good things. His reality is better than any of our expectations.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

All of the things that we try to fix and make happen by our own hands and in our own time just won’t work, because the God had his own expectations for our lives and he will continue to complete his good works in us until it is finished.

Forever God is Faithful

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By: Dawn Ashley

This morning I did not make it to church, instead decided to do “church” at home with the girls.  That may sound a little bizarre but that is what we needed today.  I am not discounting going to church because that is important but this is where God had us today and God spoke these two truths to me about it:

Now the LORD is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

So we gathered in His name and The Spirit of the Lord was with us and there truly was freedom.  We worshipped together and prayed together and read Gods’ Word together.  He literally put our service together and the girls got to see God do it – just for us.  This morning I want to share a little of that with you and pray that God can use where I am at to minister to you where you are at.

I am at a place where I have been “waiting” on God and yet not feeling his strength.  As we sat in Olivia’s room to do “church”  I looked up to these words that are on her wall.

Those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV)

I smiled and said okay God let church begin.  I am “waiting” on God in some areas of my life and have seemed to lose my strength. I feel weary and find myself losing hope.  I find myself wondering how much longer will my prayers go unanswered?  Then God reminded me:

“With God one day is a thousand years and a thousand years is one day.” (2 Peter 3:8).

God spoke to the depths of my heart through Isaiah and literally renewed my strength. I could feel my hope rising.  This strength from the Lord comes in trusting that  “His Love Endures Forever and Forever God is Faithful, Forever God is Strong, Forever God is With Us, Forever and Ever (which the girls and I sang over and over again). This morning we Sang Praise. In singing and proclaiming and reading this truth it overshadowed my circumstances and  the hope and strength that God speaks of in Isaiah 40:31 began to be renewed in me.  Where do you need your strength and hope renewed today?

In Isaiah 40 these events that are spoken of are the events Isaiah said would  occur after the captivity, to include releasing the remnant captives and allowing them to return to Jerusalem after Babylon was conquered.  What in the words of Isaiah 40 do you need to hear? What is God wanting to set you free from?  We can have confidence and hope in the future.  Where do you need to cry out from your desert place like I did this morning?  Where do you need to be reminded that God can raise up every valley and make low every mountain, make level every rough ground you walk and all the rugged places plain?

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

God has great plans for you and for me and we will fulfill the call God has on our lives regardless of the dessert we walk through today because God is faithful. Our voices matter because we carry the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” (Isaiah 40:9)

God has not forgotten us. He can’t we are his children and God carries all his work to completion, that includes his work in us.

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:11)

Look up my friends at the beautiful canopy of stars on a clear night.  Who created all this?  He brings out the stars one by one and calls each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing (Isaiah 40:-25-26)  If God is this deeply involved in the stars and their creation what do you think He thinks of us? How well does He know us by name and do you not think for a moment He would take his eye off us and let us go missing?  We are not forgotten by God.  God gives us strength and power to face the days while He is completing his work in us and while He gathers us in his arms and comforts us.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. (Isaiah 40:29)

So as we walk through our current circumstances let’s remember the truth of who our God is and the truth of who we are to Him and walk forth in His power and His strength. Let’s give him praises in the dessert because when all else fails around us our God will never fail us, forever God is faithful, forever God is strong, forever God is with us, forever and ever. This is something this Thanksgiving we can be thankful for. We may face adversity but we will always find God’s comfort as we face it.