Purify My Heart

“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.” Psalm 119:71 This probably isn’t anyone’s favorite verse, but when you think about it, this is a verse we could use on our hearts all day long. How often do we feel afflicted during the day, by our bosses or coworkers or by inconsiderate strangers, or even by our own families? Granted our afflictions aren’t always as horrible as they feel at the time, but they’re afflictions to us all the same. There’s a phrase I hear a lot from Christians, “The enemies attacking me.” I can’t help but feel like this phrase is backwards to the perspective we should have to our afflictions and almost giving the enemy more power than he really has. Yes, the enemy attacks us, but I can’t forget abut the first chapter of Job, that Satan had to ask God for permission to afflict Job. God loves us and I’m convinced only allows affliction in our lives when it’s for good. How much more productive do you think we could be, if when something bad happens to us, instead of seeing it as the enemy attacking, we look at it as God refining us?

Psalm 66:10-12 says, “For You, O God, have proved us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” When I first breezed over these verses, I thought, ‘That’s not right to blame God,’ but as I read them again it made sense. Everything that’s happened to us, whether we perceive it to be good or bad, was from God, with a purpose: to bring us closer to Him. How quickly might we move past our trials if we accredited them to His working in us, drawing us nearer in love. It won’t be comfortable, painless, or easy, and God doesn’t expect us to bury our emotions when we’re hurting, He says, there is a time for mourning, but we don’t need to be joyful to hold to the knowledge that it’s all for good, we just need to cling to the truth that He loves us. Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The enemy has no power over us anymore, only the power God’s given him to draw us nearer to Him. Our afflictions though painful are the cutting and polishing of precious stones, the refining of silver or gold, the long suffering of a grain of sand being transformed into a pearl in a clam.

Hannah M.

The Things Above

There are times when my life seems overwhelmed by busyness. From the mandatory things I have to accomplish to the discretionary things with self-imposed deadlines, my time and attention gets pulled in all sorts of directions. It can feel like I’m running down a steep hill, picking up speed and not able to slow down. My entire day becomes completely consumed with all the “things” I have to get done. History has proven that if I allow myself to function this way for extended periods my priorities slowly, almost imperceptibly, begin to shift. Then one day I wake up to realize that spending meaningful time with God has slipped from being my most treasured priority to a guilt-filled struggle. Guilt because I haven’t put Him first the way I know I should (the way I desire to), guilt because I know better, guilt because of my repeatedly broken promise, “I’ll be right there Lord…just as soon as I finish this one last thing.” When I finally do set aside time to sit quietly at His feet, my mind is continuously invaded by thoughts of all the things that remain undone. I am bombarded and derailed; trying desperately to fight my way back into the place where His presence brings peace, fulfillment and joy.

Surely this struggle is not unique to just me because in Romans 7:18-19 the Apostle Paul himself describes something similar when he says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” So how do I stop sliding down this slippery slope? It’s actually pretty simple although it doesn’t always feel that way – I choose. I choose to take God at His word and then I choose to act on it. When my feelings tell me that God is tired of my repeated failures, Romans chapter 8 tells me that “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” I do not have to be in bondage to my flesh. I can walk according to the Spirit by keeping my mind on things of the Spirit. Paul reiterates this again in Colossians 3:1-2, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” The mind is a powerful tool. With it I can make the choice to believe and obey, to set aside my deceptive feelings and focus on the things above where Christ is. No wonder Ephesians instructs us to put on the helmet of salvation. In the light of eternity, the importance of all those other competing “things” just fades away.

Jacque B.

Free from Slavery

The Israelites faced Egyptian oppression for hundreds of years (Exodus 1:8-11). Intimidated by their increasing numbers, Pharaoh purposed in his heart to break their spirit with hard labor and affliction. For years, Pharaoh was successful. The Israelites lived in bondage under his rule and that bondage kept them from the promise land.

Today, Christians experience attacks that are intended to break their spirit and keep them from living the life God intended for them. Satan’s desire is to trap God’s children in sin, so that fellowship with the father is broken, leaving us in bondage to sin. Sin weights us down, blinding us from the truth.

The Curse of Sin
“The Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today.” Deuteronomy 4:20

During their time of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites would have experienced, inhumane working conditions, abuse, dehydration and unending work. It’s undeniable how much the Hebrews suffered during physical slavery, but it doesn’t compare to the spiritual slavery a life of sin leads to. Spiritual slavery separates us from God and leads to death.
God hand selected Moses to deliver His people out of bondage. Likewise, God delivered us from the bondage of sin through one man, Jesus Christ. He’s paid the price for our sin and offers us freedom. I pray each of you have experienced that freedom from sin and no longer live in bondage.

Galatians 5:1 reminds us, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

As believers, the ability to walk in freedom becomes dependent on an individual’s daily decision to walk with Jesus. It’s learning to rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to lead and guide you and resisting temptation when it presents itself.

So, my encouragement to you is to live a life of holiness, be set apart from the things of this world and no longer walk in bondage.

Micah E.

Sing to the Lord

“Sing praises to God, sing praises, sing praises unto our King, sing praises. “ Psalm 47:6
In kindergarten I was chosen to be the milk monitor. The job was to go to the office to pick up the milk for the class. I and a friend decided to stop off in the restroom. I immediately got distracted and started to sing. As we discovered our echo we got louder and louder singing then screaming at the top of our lungs. Well as you can guess, the principal and teachers ran in thinking, something was wrong! We said no, we were just singing…

As Christians one of the greatest joys we have is singing to our God. Sadly it has become apparent that not all believers share the same enthusiasm for singing praises to our King. Have you ever noticed people in church who don’t participate in worship? Who refuse to sing or lift their hands. I don’t understand that. Chuck Smith said, “True praise rises spontaneously from the heart, recognizing God’s goodness and grace” Its when we recognize what He’s done, who He is , and His merciful grace, we can’t help but respond. How do you respond? Don’t you feel like praising Him? Some people use the excuse that they don’t have a good voice or they really don’t like that type of music. When I was on the worship team brothers and sisters in the Lord would come and make suggestions as to maybe play more upbeat music or complain it was too loud, etc. It’s not entertainment nor a performance where the audience just sits and watches.

The word sing is mentioned 121 times in the bible. It is the most recorded of the commandments, to sing to the Lord! There are 50 direct commands to sing. Did you know it is a commandment? Why does God command us not only to praise him but to sing? We can begin by realizing God himself sings. Zeph. 3:17 “ The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty God who will save. He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you by His love, He will exult over you with loud singing” Jesus sang hymns with His disciples. No doubt as Jewish tradition has it, Mary and Joseph raised Jesus singing and reciting prayers in the morning, while washing, before eating, before they left the house and at bedtime.

When my kids were little we made up songs to memorize scriptures. We even sang a melody to learn the order of the books of the bible. We remember patterns in music. In Deut. 31 -32 God gives a song to Moses to help His people remember His words as a constant reminder. In Exodus 15 the Song of Moses and Miriam that the children of Israel sang is recorded. In 2 Sam. 22, David sings a song of praise. Luke 1:46-55 mentions Mary’s Song . In Acts 16:25 Paul and Silas sang hymns while in prison. So many people are mentioned singing in the bible. Lastly in Rev. 5 states we will all be worshipping the Lord in heaven. God delights to hear His children sing to Him.

Are you being blessed? Sing praises to the God! Are you experiencing trials? Sing praises to the God! Are you not feeling like singing? Sing praises to the Lord. Ask God by His Spirit to put a new song into your heart. Sing praises in the car, sing praises at home. Obey Gods command and sing praises to our King!

Zelda D.

Partakers in Prayer

Years ago, one of my sisters in the Lord made a friendship bread recipe that she shared with me; well this recipe made several batches of yeast starter that was easily divided to share with others. Pretty soon the majority of the women at CC Livingwater were baking and exchanging friendship bread. I am not sure how many women made friends, but we all enjoyed talking about how smelly the yeast starter was and how delicious the bread tasted. So we were united in this one endeavor, friendship bread.

Recently the Lord reminded me of how I partake in the lives of my sisters in the Lord through prayer. First, I was given the opportunity to witness answered prayer through two women. I don’t know these women on an intimate basis, but they are my sisters in the Lord. I hadn’t seen them for many months until one day they came back to visit the church, my heart was overjoyed to see. When they shared what the Lord did in their lives– restored marriage, I was so happy and encouraged to know the Father heard my prayers.

Currently I am reading the 3 year “Reading through the Bible plan,” we are in the book of Philippians. This book is referred to as the missionary letter because the Philippians sent Paul an offering while he was in a Roman prison. Paul founded the church on his second missionary trip. Paul had not physically visited the church for three or four years, yet the Church of Phillippi sent an offering to Paul. Thus, this letter is Paul’s response to the offering.

This leads me back to the friendship bread. I can imagine that many new converts were attending the Philippian church. Some possibly had never met Paul or had a friendship with Paul yet they found themselves encouraged throughout the four chapters of Philippians. In the first chapter, verse 3-11 there is a prayer for them. Paul’s prayer consists of:
• Thankfulness (vs 3)- “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”
• Prayer – vs 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.
• Confident of God’s work in them – vs 5 being confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
• He has them in his heart – vs 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in defense and confirmation of the gospel.
• Partakers – vs 7 you all are partakers with me in grace.
• Prayed – v9 and this I pray,
o Love – that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.
o Approve – approve the things that are excellent,
o Sincere – that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ
o Being filled – being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ.
Paul is our example of praying for the church. There are many women because of life circumstances (work, small children, care takers, illnesses) that don’t have close friendships or are in a different country that need our/your prayers. If you are thinking “I don’t know what to pray for,” Paul’s prayer serves as our example. I have so many friends that live in other countries, states and cities, yet through prayer I am connected to them. So my encouragement is don’t forget to pray for your sisters, you are a partaker in grace with your sisters in Christ.

Elsa D

God’s Got This

Can you remember a time when you felt so weak, so exhausted and overwhelmed that you couldn’t go on? Perhaps it was the result of a physical illness, the death of a loved one, or maybe a time of extraordinary mental stress. I experienced this as George and I started our vacation recently. Our trip started out exciting, we were traveling with my parents, flying from LAX to Philadelphia, and then catching our flight to Venice, Italy. Then I did the unthinkable… after placing my passport in the back of the seat in front of me, I forgot it when we left the plane in Philly. It wasn’t until we were at the next gate, ready to board the plane for Venice, that I realized I didn’t have it. In sheer panic, I ran to the counter to tell the U.S. Air agent and he called the previous gate we were at to check but the plane had already left the terminal, and was flying back to Phoenix. Heartbroken, I listened as the agent said I would not be going on this flight and heard him call someone to have our luggage removed from the plane. I told George to go on without me, I couldn’t believe this was happening. He assured me he was not going to go without me, and we practically pushed my parents onto the plane to leave without us, not knowing if we would be seeing them again in time for our cruise. Watching the plane pull away from the terminal and head for the runway just ripped my heart out. The weaker we feel, that harder we lean on God. We sat there in that area for quite a while, praying that somehow, God would work everything out.
My rubber band bracelet I was wearing caught my eye…it says GOD’S GOT THIS. I needed to remember that God is bigger than anything we were going through, and that I need to trust Him that He will work everything out. In difficult times, God has promised to undergird us with His divine strength whenever we need it. All we have to do is ask.
After making plans to get a passport photo taken and going to the State department to get a new passport in the morning, we got a call from a U.S. Air Supervisor in Phoenix at midnight that said he had my passport and they were going to fly it back to Philly in the morning, and it should arrive about 2:30pm. Praise to You, Lord Jesus! “He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24
Suffice it to say that we did get my passport back, made it to Venice, surprising my parents and the rest of the family. “The Lord is the strength of my life.” Psalm 27:1. You don’t have to wait until your heart becomes overwhelmed to call on Him. He is waiting to hold you up and fill you with inner strength- during bad times and even during good times. Just call on Him!

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Psalm 23 is known as a psalm of David. It is said to be about David’s maturity, but also a remembrance of his youth as a shepherd. Sometimes we don’t want to remember our past, but at times God wants us to reflect on what He has done in our life.

A few months ago I heard a teaching on the Good Shepherd that has stayed with me . I marvel at the length to which the shepherd cares for his sheep. Jesus is our good shepherd. The Lord presented me with a circumstance I did not want to do, or go thru last week. I fought my emotions. But after going thru it, this message has become clear to me that as God took me back to face my past, Jesus in every possible way has been, and still is, MY shepherd. Here are some points how he shepherds. He is a………………………………..

1. Personal Shepherd –Ps 23:1 “The LORD is my shepherd.” This speaks of Jehovah God. Jn10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” V-14 “I know My sheep, & am known by My own.” This speaks of a personal relationship. Do you know your shepherd’s voice? Can you say the Lord is my Shepherd?
2. Providing Shepherd-v- 2 “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters.” He is a guide. The sheep didn’t need to know where provision was; all they needed to know was where the shepherd was. He provides both our physical & emotional needs. He guides us to what we need. He provides from food to peace in our life. We will not be in want.
3. Pardoning Shepherd –v-3“He restores my soul.” He knows sheep are dumb and by nature wander. We too do the same when we get our eyes off the shepherd to what we think is greener fields. He’s a tender, loving God always ready to forgive if we confess our sins. Why? Because He cares. He is interested in every circumstance. We are important to Him. He desires intimate fellowship.
4. Protecting Shepherd –v-4 “ Though I walk thru the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For YOU are with me.”The The shepherd slept at the door so no animal could cross into the fold to get the sheep unless they didn’t go thru him first. Our shepherd never leaves us. Guzik states,”Yet when following the LORD as shepherd, one may still walk thru troubled and fearful times. It is the conscious presence of our Lord as shepherd that makes it bearable”
5. Preparing Shepherd –v-5 “You prepare a table before me.” He’s inviting you to the table as host, cleansing and refreshing you. Despite the dangers , David writes here we can enjoy the richness of our host’s goodness.The psalm ends with assurance that we will enjoy the presence of the LORD forever. In OT times, to eat and drink at ones table created a bond .So to be God’s guest is to be more that an aquaintence, invited for a day. It is to live with Him. Reflect on your life and allow the Lord to show you the numerous times He has guided, provided, pardoned, protected and prepared for you . Praise and thank Him for being your GOOD SHEPHERD.

-Zelda

Unchangeable

Hebrews 13:8 was painted on the sanctuary wall of the church I attended as a child. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” In a world where it’s difficult to keep up with the changes that impact our lives, it’s comforting to remember that our Lord Jesus Christ does not change. Unlike my cell phone and car, a new improved model will not be coming out later this year.

Do you recall when God revealed Himself to Moses? God wants to reveal himself to you. He doesn’t change, He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.

Do you recall when God comforted Hannah’s broken heart? God wants to comfort you. He doesn’t change, He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.

Do you remember when God delivered Israel from captivity? What’s holding you captive? God wants to set you free. Remember, He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.

Do you remember when God fulfilled His promise and gave Abraham and Sara a son? What has God promised you? Do you believe God is faithful and that He’ll fulfill His promises? Let me remind you God doesn’t change, He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.

Do you remember how God protected Noah and his family during judgment? God wants to protect you from the judgement that is yet to come. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Do you remember that God didn’t leave Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego alone in a burning fiery furnace? God desires to be with you through your trials because He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

The more I learn about who Jesus is, the more I want to know Him. I know He’ll never disappointed me, because he doesn’t change. I’m amazed at how Great our God is. He’s Faithful. He’s Loving. He’s Forgiving. He’s Kind. He’s Gentle. He’s Righteous. He’s Our Defense. He’s our Comfort. He’s Our Deliverer and so much more.

Today, my encouragement to you is to know God. Spend time in the Word of God and ask God to reveal Himself to you. I’m confident you’ll learn that, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

-Micah E

A Healthier Faith

Lately I’ve been learning about healthier eating. I wouldn’t say that I am dieting because I’m really against diets. I’m not into depriving myself of things I love. I started this year realizing that the way I was eating was causing health issues and something needed to change. So I started the “anti- diet” instead of taking away foods that I enjoyed eating I began adding fresh fruits and vegetables to each meal. It was a small step in the right direction. At first I still ate a lot of things that weren’t good for me, but I was adding healthy things to my meals as well. A couple months of the “anti-diet” and I started noticing that my eating habits had started to change naturally. My sweet and salty cravings were being taking care of by the good things that I was eating. I was filling up on fruits and vegetables and there just wasn’t room for the junk anymore.

In our spiritual walks we can sometimes fill up on junk, and just like when we fill our bodies with junk it causes health issues. We become tired, grumpy, achy and lazy. We need to fill up our spirits with the things that can satisfy and build it up.

2 Peter 1:5-8 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As you make an effort to add to your faith and have a healthy spiritual walk you will begin to notice that the cravings for the unhealthy things will start to subside and you will hunger and thirst for more and more of The Lord. Don’t settle for “ineffective and unproductive” fill up on the fruits of the spirit and spend time in His Word so that you can be strong and healthy in your walk with Him.

-Kim

Comfort

I recently went through a deep sadness in my life, a sense of hopelessness as I watched the lives of the prodigals in my life. In my heart I cried out to the Father with this sense of hopelessness just wanting to know when they would return home. I was especially saddened because in my attempts to witness to my family, my words came out harsh and unloving which started a cycle of guilt feelings, the “ I should haves.”

Through this trial I sought comfort from a friend whose own child once was a prodigal; this comfort was a simple prayer by text message. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says Blessed be the God and Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Through her prayers I was comforted; He also provided comfort through a teaching that reminded me to draw near to Him and to pray for the prodigals in my life. These words encouraged me to stop striving but to pray without ceasing. One day I will be with my family worshipping the Father together, this is the hope and promise He provides.

So my encouragement to you sisters is to seek out others to pray for you to give you encouragement and comfort. Remember to pray without ceasing for the prodigals in your life.

Elsa D.