October 27, 2014

A Prayer for the Week, to Prepare

Friends, it is almost November!  That means this is coming up:

Woo-hoo!

I have been working my way through verses that have refuge in them and I am so excited to share observations with you and themes that have emerged.  God's Word is living and active; I am eager to see where He takes each of us personally as we look into His Word over the month of November, specifically focusing on Running to the Refuge.  I am praying for you!


My friend asked for homework to go along with the month's study.  Here's something for you to do this week in preparation.  Meditate on and pay these words from Psalm 16:1,


Keep me safe, O God,
for in You I take refuge.


Write it out on an index card and stick it on your bathroom mirror or dashboard, make it your screen saver or phone display, or find some other way you can remind yourself to meditate and pray over these words.

Ask yourself and the Lord:
  • What does it mean for me to ask the Lord to keep me safe?  From what?  Unto what?
  • Am I taking refuge in the Lord?  What does that mean?  How can I be more in the habit of doing so?

Can't wait to get started on Saturday!  Yet I'm not ready, so it's a good thing I have till Saturday.

Lots of love, dear readers.
Walk in His way!
Heather

October 19, 2014

The Deliverer's Deliverance

As a writer, I love words.  When a word I have not heard much lately pops up more than one time over a short period, particularly in the few hours we gather with our people at Graystone Presbyterian Church on a Sunday morning, I sit at attention.  That occurred this morning.

The 'word of the day' from my time at church this morning is deliverance.

First, it was mentioned during Sunday school in a talk about the sacraments.  Passover's New Testament equivalent is communion.  The pastor talked about how Israel was waiting for deliverance at the Passover, by the blood of the lambs.  We are delivered from our sin by the blood of The Lamb.  Communion is a time we remember, reflect on, and celebrate that deliverance.


Oh, the desperation of Israel to be delivered from slavery in Egypt.
Oh, our desperation to be delivered from slavery to sin.
Oh, the power of the Deliverer who comes to our rescue!


Sweet deliverance.  Thank you, Lord!


Following Sunday school, we headed up to the worship service and in the middle of one of the songs this bridge pops up on the screen:

Healer, Healer; I'm restored by a healer,
Provider, Provider; I am filled by a provider.
Deliverer, Deliverer; I'm set free by a deliverer.
Savior, You're my Savior, I'm redeemed by a Savior.


Did that say Deliverer?


Yep!  There it was again.  Our Deliverer has set us free, we were reminded.  Israel was set free from her earthly captor by Almighty God, foreshadowing the coming Messiah who would deliver all His people from their sin.

Have you considered your Deliverer today?  Have you rejoiced in Your deliverance on this Lord's Day?  Do you know the deliverance that comes from knowing Jesus as your own Deliverer?  If you are searching for freedom, look no further than Christ.


Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
Matthew 7:7


October 16, 2014

November 2014 Series: a Sneak Peek

Hi all and welcome new readers!

Sorry it has been so quiet around here since the end of the last series.  I really would love to be one of those amazing disciplined ladies who have mastered home, family, homeschooling, and writing and (appear to) keep up with it well.  But I am not one of those ladies; I am me!  Nevertheless, I feel like a part of me is dead when I am not regularly writing.  So have no fear - I  know you were losing sleep over my absence around here - I am in the process of cooking up the annual November daily series.  I was working on it this morning.  See?!



Until today I didn't know that this amazing concordance, that Christine gave me years ago - thanks, Christine! - had both a Hebrew and Greek dictionary in it.  So this morning I was able to look up different words that in my New International Version are translated refuge, which will be next month's theme.

Here's a snazzy thingy I made on PicMonkey to go with it!




There was a period this past summer when I kept coming across the word refuge: in personal study, sermons, songs, etc.  My heart took great comfort and courage from the word each time.  Of course the courage and comfort came from knowing that God is that refuge, the only place I can run for sure safety, protection, security, love, forgiveness, and peace.

Soooooo, THAT is where we are going to go on this blog throughout November.  I want to take a deeper look at verses that mention refuge.  I also want discuss how we can take refuge in God in many different life situations.  I cannot wait to see what we can learn by LOOKING at God's Word, by LISTENING to what He has to say, and by LEARNING to Run to the Refuge over next month.

I hope you'll join me.  Bring along a friend!

Walk in His way,
Heather

September 29, 2014

Armor Mondays: The End + Giveaway Winners

Good morning!  Today is the official conclusion of the Armor Mondays series.  I have really enjoyed thinking more deeply about Paul's words in Ephesians six and pray for myself and for you that it will bear fruit in our lives.  It is such a profound reality that God provides for us and equips us to stand firm in the face of all the devil's attacks.  Blessed be His name!

To wrap up the time focused on the Armor of God, let's look at the passage as a whole:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, 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 Lord’s people.

I'd also like to leave you with some review questions to consider today as we move on from here to our next Monday topic.

  • Who is our enemy and what is his style of warfare?
  • What does this passage tell us about God?
  • When do we need to be prepared for battle?
  • Where might we find ourselves engaged in battle on any given day?
  • How can you be strong in the Lord and His mighty power today?
  • Why can we have such confidence in God and the armor He has provided?

You are loved by Almighty God, dear Christian.  You belong to Him.  Be strong in His mighty power today.

Walk in His way!


*     *     *

Now, without further ado, the winners of the lovely devotionals!


Congratulations, Jenny and Linda!
Your gifts will be on their way to you soon.

September 22, 2014

Armor Mondays: Prayer & a Giveaway

This is it!  We've reached the final week of reflection on the Armor of God.  Last week we finished up the pieces in Paul's analogy, but we can't ignore the verse that concludes the section, verse eighteen:

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.

Ah, prayer.


Is it difficult for anyone out there to pray for five minutes, let alone on all occasions or always?*  You are not alone.  But friends, just because it is difficult doesn't mean we should give up.  Commands and reminders to pray permeate Scripture and Jesus prayed regularly.  We need to consider prayer and be pray-ers if we confess Christ as our Lord.  We need to take up our armor AND PRAY.

You'll notice that prayer is not listed as one of the pieces of armor, but certainly it is a weapon that goes hand in hand with our sword of the Spirit, God's Word.  And given that it is mentioned in this section, Paul is saying, Hey, if you want to stand firm in the face of devil's evil schemes, you gotta pray: all the time on all occasions with all kids of prayers and requests!

The servant of God is covered in armor and equipped for the offensive with the Word and Prayer.  If we are not praying, we are not doing battle as God intends for us and we will not be standing in the end.  Our struggle, our real issues, are spiritual.  The goal is to stand and stay standing when the day of evil comes.

The standing Christian will be the praying Christian!
If you want to stand firm, get on your knees.


At this point, guilt might be creeping in about what a "bad pray-er" you are.  You may be feeling the temptation to give up or to pull yourself up by your boot straps and do better this week.  Let's toss aside both of those options for now and simply consider how prayer assists us in battle and helps us to stand firm.

  • Prayer is a life-line to our Commander.  Talking with Him reminds us who He is, who we are, what He has done for us, and that our enemy is weaker than he appears.  We are humbled and strengthened by these communications.
  • Prayer reminds us that we are dependent on God, but also defended by Him, the blood of Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
  • Prayer is often a place we receive our marching orders!  In prayer our hearts are often pricked to God-honoring action.
  • Prayer keeps us alert. The more we pray, the more we remember how awake we need to be and aware of the spiritual war waging around us.  With our eyes stayed on the Lord, we are aware, but not overcome.

I think we fall into the satan-trap of thinking that we need to achieve some level of eloquence or meet some time goal to be a "good" pray-er.  But Paul simply says here, and pray.  Pray!  Whatever you're up to, whomever comes to mind, whatever situation presents itself, whenever the time, PRAY!

We can communicate with our Commander at any point in our day.
His omnipresence permits and His Spirit assists!

Trouble remembering to pray or getting in the habit of prayer is not new.  Paul was always reminding His readers to pray!  He often included prayer in his final instructions in His letters.  Jesus pleaded with His disciples to stay awake and pray!  We're in good company in our human nature.  But because the Spirit lives in us, we can grow in this area and see God work in new and exciting ways in our hearts and our lives and the world around us.

I'll close with a challenging section from the New Bible Commentary (then announce the giveaway!):

Theological grasp of the gospel that does not result in prayer, like Paul's for the readers in [Ephesians] 1:15-23 and 3:14-21 is a dead carcass.  Prayer warriors with no real grasp of what the gospel is about, (the gospel of peace and cosmic restoration in Christ), may be spirited, but not more useful on the field than a soldier without weapons.  Spiritual understanding of the gospel combined with an alert prayerfulness is the combination Paul seeks.  p. 1244


Rejoice always,
pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


*     *     *     *     *     *

I have a couple of Armor of God devotional guides to give away!  I went through it years ago and loved the daily readings.  My mom gave me a new copy last week and I was going to give it away.  Then I discovered that I, too, had a extra copy.  So I have two to give away to two lucky winners!  Woo-hoo!!

The cover
What a day's devotion looks like

These are small books with two months worth of daily readings with associated Bible passages all related to the Armor of God.  I have worked my way through three of Selwyn Hughes' books and benefited from and enjoyed each of them.  I hope you will experience the same if you're one of the winners!  This would be a great way to continue thinking about things discussed throughout this series.


How can I enter? you ask.  Here's the scoop; you will receive one entry for each thing you do below.

1. Leave a comment here that you'd like to win.  (I'll ship it to you, so don't be concerned about proximity.)
2. 'Like' my Facebook page for the first time.  (I post all my blog links there and sometimes some extra things throughout the week.  Sometimes.) 
3. Share this post on your FB wall, Twitter, and/or with a friend.  (Just let me know you've done that in your comment!)

I think that gives you plenty of opportunities to get your name in.  One advantage of the small-time blog is that you have a much higher percentage chance of winning in a giveaway.  :)  Just get your name in before next Sunday night (Sept. 28) at midnight.  We'll choose the winners on Monday morning; my kids love getting to pull names from the bowl!




* If you want a book to jump-start your prayer life, please get your hands and eyes on a copy of The Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, by Paul E. Miller.

September 21, 2014

Altar Call, It's for You

This morning in worship, we had the privilege of hear our associate pastor, Bill Milligan, preach his final sermon.  He retires from his position today and we will be joined at Graystone Presbyterian Church next Sunday by our new associate pastor and his family.  Bill and his lovely wife Edie will continue to minister at Graystone - it's in their blood, because they love Jesus - but no longer in an official capacity.

If you had one last chance to stand before a congregation of people to share a final message, what would it be?  I'll tell you what Bill shared.

Bill, in his calm, gentle way, delivered what is of first importance to him.  It is the same message that was of first importance to the apostle Paul and he preached using some of Paul's words, Galatians 1:1-5.
Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters with me,
To the churches in Galatia:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
After some introduction to the passage, Bill shared with us the glorious message that Jesus came to rescue sinners like you and me.  He rescues us from sin.  He rescues us from the world, the flesh, and the devil.  And He rescues us from bondage, whatever variety we find keeping us in chains: legalism, substance abuse, pornography, money, etc.

Bill reminded us that all we need to do is cry to Jesus and surrender to Him.
And we will be rescued.

Bill quoted James Montgomery Boice who said, we find deliverance from the power of evil and the values of the present world system through the power of the risen Christ.

Jesus is alive, y'all!

Bill issued the call, an altar call, to come to Jesus, to trust Him with all your heart, to turn to Him and be rescued.  Bill also reminded us that the power of God's grace is greater than the power of sin!  Perhaps you can understand it better as an equation:

power of God's grace > power of sin

That's Good News math, my friends!

Before inviting people to come forward and give their lives to Christ, Bill concluded with these words:


We all need the Lord.



What stirred in me as I listened to Bill's message was the fact that though I know the Lord, I still let myself get caught in bondage.  Lately it has been paralyzing fear and guilt that I am not getting anything right - I'm blowing it as a wife, mother, teacher, friend, neighbor, Christian, etc.  Satan would keep me there in bondage.  But today's sermon reminded me that God's grace > the power of sin and the power of the risen Lord is mine!  There is freedom from this bondage and today I'm claiming it.  Period.  Hold me to it?

Thanks.

Now, the main reason I share this message is because, like Bill concluded and the Bible says, we all need the Lord: those of us hearing this message of freedom in Christ for the first time, and those of us who have been wandering church halls for our lifetimes.  I want to offer you the opportunity today, like I had this morning, to surrender what binds you to the Lord and let Him set you free.

Are you bound by sin?  Turn to the Lord and be saved!
Do you know the Lord but find yourself stuck in some specific bondage?  Turn to the Lord and be set free!

We all need the Lord.  He's ready for us to come to Him.  Be free today!

September 15, 2014

Armor Mondays: the Sword of the Spirit

We've made our way through the armor and have reached the final piece.   A couple of weeks ago we talked about taking up the shield of faith.  Today, we'll discuss what we need to take up in our other hand:

"... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."


A sword is an offensive piece of armor, not meant to protect but to allow the soldier to attack.  Sometimes Often, in the face of satan's attacks, I easily let him have the upper hand, not taking up the weapon God has provided me to use to attack him.

Jesus, our Lord and Savior, did no such thing. You may remember the account of His temptation in the desert from Luke's gospel,  (If you aren't familiar with it, you can read it here.)  Jesus came back at satan each time with the word, bringing a quick end temptation!  After three attempts, satan slinked away and Jesus began His ministry in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14).

God's word is powerful.  By His word, He spoke creation into being.  By His Word, He redeemed mankind.  In the armor passage, His word is called the sword of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit, who lives in us from the moment we put our trust in Jesus, helps us to use this sword and reminds us to take it up when dealing with the devil and his evil schemes.

But you know something?  The Spirit cannot call to mind things that we have not been planted in our heads and hearts.  I appreciated something Jerry Bridges said this this effect in a book I read years ago.  The sentiment was that if we wanted to grow in the faith, we had to give the Spirit something to work with, i.e. we need to be reading our Bibles and getting God's word in our hearts!

I am often surprised by how the Spirit calls a random verse, or part of a verse, to mind.  Usually I have to open BibleGateway.com to type in the phrase to find where the verse is in the Bible, but it is years of reading and being connected to His Church that make those moments possible.  Almost every time, it is exactly what I need to hear and need to meditate on!  For example, this fall I am facilitating a Bible study group with some ladies.  I like to have a verse to pray for them as we go through the eight weeks together.  God brought to mind the phrase, Your word is truth.  After a quick search, I found that the verse comes straight from Jesus' prayer for believers that He prayed before His trial and crucifixion.  Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.  John 17:17  Throughout the study, this is what I am praying in offense for myself and the ladies.  God's word, His truth, is powerful and cuts satan deep.

What I love about God, the Son, and Spirit and the word is that they are full of mercy and grace, tenderness and compassion.  It is never too late!  I grew up in the church and *should* know more, but I didn't spend my younger years taking as much advantage as I could of the wonderful things offered to me.  The last decade of my life has been spent getting to know God and His word better because He loves me, not because I feel guilty.  And I am amazed at how regular time in the sword, so to speak, builds and grows and the Spirit makes connections in unlikely places and times.

It is never to late to get into the word and grow your offensive against the devils schemes!

The devil will keep coming at you, but God's word will always prove to be a powerful weapon of destruction to him.  Take up your sword today!

Sanctify us by the truth, Lord; Your word is truth.  Amen.