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Posts Tagged ‘Worship’

~ Written by Viki Rife

Running late for an appointment, I approached the train tracks just as the crossing arms came down. With no cell phone available, all I could do was stare through the windshield. A lone snowflake landed in front of my eyes, lingering just long enough for me to enjoy the delicate design before blowing off into the wind.

A moment later another snowflake came down, very different in design. It was followed by another, and I sat entranced enjoying the art show.

Although God designs each snowflake to be unique, one snowflake doesn’t affect our lives very much. But as the minutes ticked by, those flakes added up. By the time the train had passed and I turned on my wipers, there was a nice buildup of snow—enough to make a small snowball.

What a beautiful picture of how God, in His wisdom, created each of us with a unique design! But only together can we provide to the world an illustration of what it means to be whiter than snow. We can be confident that with each of us being our unique selves, we can band together to accomplish whatever God has called His church to do.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

At first glance, things weren’t going well. The once booming church’s numbers had dwindled drastically. The offering plate struggled to provide funds to keep the church’s doors open—though they still were. The elephant in the room was no longer being ignored.

Things had changed. Those changes had come at a great price. But redemption wasn’t lacking when you spoke to the people who remained in the pews. Bitterness which had lined the halls for decades had finally been brought to light and resolved. Unbiblical teaching had been eradicated from the pulpit. Relationship with each other and their Savior was now more important to the remaining congregants than their religious traditions.

They were seeing God more clearly than they had in many years.

Sometimes, change hurts. Every time, no matter how good the changes are, starting anew is scary. However, letting the fear of pain stand in the way of taking the plunge and starting new would be a tragedy. Starting over and being given a new opportunity doesn’t always make sense; nor does it always feel good. The joy of a fresh start is we have a chance to depend on the Jesus who promises to never leave us nor forsake us.

May your New Year be laced with the adventure of depending on our faithful God!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Wonder. I’ve heard that word throughout my entire life in reference to Christmas. I remember as a child seeing commercials showing delighted kids receiving just what they wanted, or being surprised with a superbly decorated tree, and the announcer saying something like, “give them the wonder of Christmas.”

Wonder is a very good word to use in reference to Christmas. But our world has stopped far short of the real wonder of Christmas. And we can miss it, too, as we rush around to make sure everything is just as perfect as what we see on TV or Pinterest.

The true wonder of Christmas is that no matter what my circumstances, I am deeply and truly loved. It is a wonder that the God of the Universe would look at me and say, “I want much more for you than what you deserve.” It is a wonder that God is so wise that He sent His Son as a baby, someone who had to endure everything we do from the start.

Just as we fit trimming our tree and shopping for presents into our schedule, let’s carve some time this season to sit and ponder the wonder of “Christ with us.” And let’s put as much thought and energy into sharing that wonder with the children in our lives as we do in giving them the world’s image of the wonder of Christmas.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I’ve experienced seasons which left me seemingly drowning in hopelessness. I knew my Savior was Jesus Christ. I knew my eternity was secure in Him. I knew the Truth of the Gospel. But despite that knowledge, I felt weighed down, pointless and distraught. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Those were not fun times. They aren’t necessarily seasons I enjoy remembering. However, I still find myself wandering back to those memories and pondering what I learned despite my less-than-desirable emotions and circumstances.

The reality was, my hopeless, and seemingly pointless, season taught me to fall to my knees. The anguish in my heart forced me to not only darken the door of the Throne Room, but to run and fall into the arms of my Heavenly Father. In those seasons of hopelessness, I needed my Creator-Savior in a way I rarely had before.

It’s because of such intimate moments with God that I’ve learned to treasure those hurtful and heartbreaking seasons. I may have lost almost everything I held dear, but I gained the sweetest intimacy of all. I gained a deeper understanding of the faithfulness of Christ. 

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Fourth in a series
By Sharon MacMillan

As a Bible study teacher, have you found yourself running for a notebook so you could write down some golden nugget of truth that would be just perfect for next week’s lesson? It’s a veritable feast as you talk over some new insight that had never dawned on you before with others who love to know God’s Word.

Peter experienced joy as he preached to the crowd at Pentecost in Acts 2. After he had identified who Jesus was and what He did, Peter saw 3000 people respond to the message, becoming believers in Jesus! If you had been the one giving the message instead of Peter, what would have been in your mind as you watched people from all over the inhabited world bowing their knee to Jesus at that moment? Peter may have had joy in watching new believers coming into the fold, but he did not respond with pride or self-adulation after the painful lessons he had learned from Jesus a few months before. He knew that Jesus had called him to feed God’s flock. And obeying Jesus in answer to His call was his only desire.

Jeremiah’s experience as a message-bearer of God presents a contrast to Peter’s. Sometimes there is no joy in being the messenger for God. He had been appointed and prepared to relay a message of coming judgment to disobedient Israel. Instead of a joyful embrace to God’s offer of mercy, the people came against Jeremiah with angry red faces and eventually put him in a pit to keep him quiet and away from them. God didn’t relent. When Jeremiah tried to hold back speaking the message of gloom, doom and judgment, the words would burn within him. You can read about this conflicted prophet’s testimony in Jeremiah 20. God needed Jeremiah to warn Israel to turn from their adulterous ways so they would not be destroyed. The result was not blessing for Jeremiah, but suffering.

What is common between these two men? Both had been prepared to receive God’s message so that it could be delivered effectively: Jeremiah’s mouth had been cleansed and Peter had been filled with the Holy Spirit. Both knew that obeying God by giving His message was their first priority no matter what the results. Both knew their God and knew the messages were truth.

We Must Remain True to God’s Word
Beth Moore’s chapter on “Calling all Teachers” from Mercy Triumphs helps us understand the role of the teacher, which explains why not many should be teachers. The teacher must not compromise from giving God’s message of truth to God’s people, even if suffering is involved. A few chapters later in Acts we see that Peter didn’t always have an adoring audience and he ended up in prison. One thing cannot be disputed: To be effective, a teacher must teach God’s Word with no apologies and no compromise. We know that in the last days, days that are similar to ours, people will have itchy ears, wanting to hear pleasing messages, not necessarily convicting ones. But we must continue to teach the Word without watering it down or softening the message so that conviction can take place. We, like Peter and Jeremiah, must teach out of an uncompromised heart in our love for God.

We Must Teach Out of Godly Character
Referring again to Beth Moore’s, “Calling All Teachers,” her comments on James 3:1 regarding teaching are welcome words of wisdom to the one who wants to take this calling seriously and desires to be effective. She calls us not only to teach without compromise, but also to not allow ourselves to be affected by praise or criticism. Both can make you motivated or unmotivated with wrong motives.

The teacher must not be lazy – there is no substitute for the hard work of study so that God can interface with the teacher. What a waste of words if we end up teaching our own ideas! We would be taking others down Misleading Avenue or become misled ourselves. Both will incur God’s judgment instead of the blessing He wants to give. In learning new things from the Lord we are at risk for both pride and humiliation. Neither one of these should be allowed to rule over the life of a teacher. We must teach from a sincere heart (James 3:17). We should be eager to let God do His good work of disciplining and chastening so that we are in sync with Him, teaching the message as a faithful messenger.

Our Hearts Must Be Nurtured by God
Oswald Sanders, author of Spiritual Discipleship, tells us what God is after to make teachers who are able to teach His powerful Word of truth. We need a transformed life where the heart is burning with passion for God and for His people. Jesus taught, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; love your neighbor as yourself.” How can we possibly teach the truths of God if He is not the LOVE of our hearts? He knows the process by which transformation can take place.

How does God nurture those called to teach? He reveals Who He is in His holiness so that all desire is turned towards Him as we spend time in His presence. In a most holy moment (Exodus 33:11-23), God unveiled Himself to Moses for our viewing. What was the result of revealing His glory? Moses bowed to the ground and worshipped. We will find ourselves responding to God in the same way as He reveals Himself to us. Our sin will be magnified; our need of Him will cause us to fall before Him in thankful adoration for His grace, mercy and love. The cross of our Savior will become all the more precious to us.

How could we ever impart the knowledge about the Almighty God without our own encounter in His Presence? We are to be emptied of our own speculations, our own intentions, our own resources to make room for the powerful Word of Truth and the Presence of His Holy Spirit within.

The veil used to cover Moses’ face becomes a symbol of what happens when we are face to face with God. When the people of Israel saw Moses after He had been with God, his face was so radiant he had to use a veil. Every time the people saw Moses with the veil, he was a stunning reminder that God had been with Moses. They could learn from Moses’ radiance alone that God is gloriously holy and yet approachable if we follow in full obedience. Moses was able to speak face to face with God. The words he shared with the people were not his own words but God’s.

God ‘s Teachers Must Be Tested
James teaches what God’s goal is for His teachers. He wants them to come to maturity, to be complete, lacking nothing. He wants teachers that have been taught by God Himself. How would God bring this about? He brings Father-filtered trials that develop our perseverance or endurance. He will not let up on the process until we receive the promised crown of life, which He delights to give to His beloved people. In the process we will have been transformed into His likeness. Through these trials, disciplines will be established that will be useful for effective teaching. Dependence on Him will be taught so that we will not teach from our own wells but from His. He will become more precious to us than we could ever have dreamed. And that will be a priceless thing to impart to others. What an honor to represent God and His truth to His people!

So if we are to be teachers we will be led into his Presence, we will be tested so that we can learn the truth of His Word, we will become so in love with God that nothing matters but doing and teaching what He has given to us to teach. “I will be with your mouth” is just as true for us today as it was for Moses. Believe it! And let all else go!

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Yesterday my husband and I had lunch in the home of friends who are refugees from Nepal.  Odell has helped them in numerous ways as they have navigated the complexities of banking, finding jobs, learning to drive, and getting drivers’ licenses in America. Their most recent request was for a Christmas tree. So Odell found a pretty little Fraser fir, bought a stand, and took several extra strings of lights and gold balls from our collection and helped them set up their tree.

The grandmother is Hindu, but the mother and father came to faith in Christ in Nepal. There are also two children, a 5th grade girl and a 3rd grade boy. Unfortunately, since the parents’ work schedules don’t allow them to attend church, the children have little exposure to spiritual things. So we took them a gift: a special ornament for their tree, a stable with Mary, Joseph, and the baby in the manger. We showed the daughter where to find Luke 2 in their Bible, and read to them the story of Christ’s birth, explaining that this is the reason we celebrate Christmas.

This morning I spent longer than usual sitting in the glow of our own Christmas tree, reflecting on that miraculous birth 2000 years ago, and thanking God for His gift that brought salvation to all mankind. Such a great gift requires a response, and these words by Charles Wesley express it so beautifully:

Father, our hearts we lift,
Up to Thy gracious throne,
And bless Thee for the precious gift,
Of Thine incarnate Son;
The gift unspeakable,
We thankfully receive,
And to the world Thy goodness tell,
And to Thy glory live.

Jesus the holy Child,
Doth by His birth declare,
That God and men are reconciled,
And one in Him we are;
Salvation through His Name
To all mankind is giv’n,
And loud His infant cries proclaim
A peace ’twixt earth and Heav’n.

 O might they all receive,
The new-born Prince of Peace,
And meekly in His Spirit live,
And in His love increase!
Till He convey us home,
Cry every soul aloud,
“Come, Thou Desire of nations, come,
And take us up to God.”

Merry Christmas to you. I pray that the beauty and wonder of God’s gift of love will fill your hearts with great joy as you celebrate His coming.

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With Thanksgiving just three days away, I’ve been pondering what to write in this blog. I am thankful for so many things, but I wanted to do more than list the good things that God has given me. Then I thought of Paul’s words to the Christians in Thessalonica who were experiencing persecution: “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18).

My Gratitude List usually includes my family, home, and church, God’s gifts of salvation and His Word, Women of Grace and those who support its ministries, the diverse yet unified Board of Directors God has brought together, and much more. But Paul said to give thanks in all circumstances.  All means  everything in life – past, present and future, good and bad. Minor annoyances and major tragedies. Difficult people, challenges, criticisms, times when God seems distant, things that rock me to the core. Circumstances that test my faith or threaten my family, my health or my life.

Why be thankful in all these circumstances, not just the good ones? Well, the first reason is simply because God said so. That same verse says it is God’s will, so giving thanks is an act of obedience. God wants my gratitude in every situation.

Giving thanks is also an act of worship. Hebrews 13:15 admonishes us to continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise. A sacrifice that is pleasing to God, such as thanksgiving, flows out of a heart of worship. When I thank him, I acknowledge that He is God, my sovereign Lord, and has a purpose for everything that He allows in my life. And when I worship and obey Him, He opens my eyes and my heart to a deeper understanding of His ways.

What have I learned about God and His ways in the midst of this difficulty? How have I seen His faithfulness and provision? How have I learned to know Him better? How has the situation opened doors for me to talk with others who don’t know him? What have I learned about myself? What am I thankful for about this circumstance that I would not otherwise have experienced or learned?

Today I think of several people who have been walking through hard, hard situations but are finding reasons to thank God. One was treated for leukemia last year, one has cared for a spouse with Alzheimer’s, one recently lost an infant granddaughter, and one was in a tragic accident that resulted in paralysis from the shoulders down. Each one is a living example of obedience to God by giving thanks every circumstance. Each one has learned to know God in deeper ways as they have experienced His faithfulness, comfort and strength in their times of weakness, confusion and fear.

This week my Gratitude List will include the many positive, good things in my life. But I’m also going to include circumstances that have been hard, the ways God has used them and what I have learned about Him because of them.

What will be on your Gratitude List?

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Picture this scenario: You arrive at the committee or board meeting, the chairman has placed copies of the agenda on the table, each person takes an agenda and goes to their seat, and the chairman calls on someone to lead in a quick prayer before starting on the business to be done. The meeting includes, among other things, discussion of critical financial concerns as well as personnel issues. There are differences of opinion, voices are raised, agreement is elusive, and the meeting drags on, problems unresolved.

 

Or picture this scenario: You arrive at the meeting, copies of the agenda are on the table, each person takes an agenda and goes to their seat. The chairman then puts the papers aside and turns to a passage of scripture or the words of a song, and for the next 15-20 minutes the group quiets their hearts before God and worships Him. “Be Thou my vision” is their prayer as they intentionally put aside the personal agendas and concerns they brought into the room with them, and prepare themselves to hear God’s voice during the meeting.

 

Business proceeds according to the agenda, but when a sticky problem arises and there seems to be no ready solution, someone says, “We need to stop and pray about this,” and they do — placing the matter before God and asking for His guidance. The meeting continues, following this same pattern: discussion punctuated by frequent pauses to hear from God. An attitude of humility, unity, and openness to the Holy Spirit is present in the room. As the meeting ends, you realize that not only were problems resolved, but business was finished on time and a spirit of love prevailed.

 

Which of these scenarios have you experienced? I’ve been in both situations and seen firsthand the difference when we begin with a focused time of worship (not just the expected prayer or “devotional”) and pause for spontaneous prayer throughout the meeting. Were those prayer times on the agenda? No. But someone sensed a need to quiet our spirits and focus again on hearing God, and wasn’t afraid to say so.

 

Why don’t we take more time for prayer and worship in our board meetings? Do we think we have too much to do? Do we think a quick verse of scripture and a perfunctory prayer are sufficient? What does God think of our attitude about doing His business? Is He pleased that we barely acknowledge Him or ask His opinion?

 

What difference would there be in our church boards, committees, and organizational meetings if we first took time to worship God, to confess wrong attitudes, and acknowledge Him as Lord of our hearts, churches, and ministries? Do we have to choose between work and worship, or can we (and should we) do both?

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