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Verse of the Day

2 Kings: Peace Robbed. Peace Found!

"King Joram demanded, 'Do you come in peace, Jehu?' Jehu replied, 'How can there be peace as long as the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother, Jezebel, are all around us?'" 2 Kings 9:22 (NIV) (King Joram was Ahab and Jezebel's son.)
Are you at peace?
True peace is something everyone wants, whether or not they see that it comes from a relationship with God. Something that struck me about the stories of the many leaders in 1 and 2 Kings is that when faced with the opportunity to remove all of the pagan idols, many chose to remove only some. Obedience to God inevitably led to a choice...following God alone or letting idols survive. Many people have cultural roots that connect with practices that involve idol or ancestor worship. These can rob us of true peace. Regardless of geographical location, there are idols (visible or invisible) that threaten the peace of our hearts. It is difficult work towards tearing down all the idols of our hearts; it is, however, something that can be done through God's help. Sometimes, it involves the physical destruction of objects in the home. Sometimes, it requires different choices to be made with actions that show our devotion to God alone. At times, it can even be our words or thoughts that must be changed to show that we are more devoted to God than whatever distraction is consuming more of our attention.
What needs to be removed and/or replaced to have total peace in God?
Let us be like Josiah, who even at a young age knew that all the idols must be destroyed to honor God and to lead his people in the way that was most pleasing to Him. Let us ask for wisdom and discernment to recognize any actions, habits of mind, objects, or anything else that has been set above knowing Christ. Let us be also like Hezekiah who "...did what was pleasing in the LORD'S sight, just as his ancestor David had done. He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it..." 2 Kings 18:3-4
I am praying for you as you courageously ask God, "What are the idols of my heart?" May God be glorified as friends and family see the fruits of peace in your life. It is with no other god that true peace is possible. May our Lord God protect and keep you as you seek to honor Him.



Replacing idols with Truth
When removing idols, replace them with Truth (Words of the Bible) through reading scripture, memorizing, and posting scripture verses in places where you will see them frequently.
Further Reading: 2 Kings 17: 7-38 (click here)
What if you do not know God?
Peace stems from a relationship with God. Although you may have searched elsewhere, nothing will satisfy your soul like God.
*All mankind is separated from God by sin. Sin is making choices like lying or stealing that offend God according to His 10 Commandments. (Exodus 20:1-17)
*A price must be paid for sin. In the old testament (before the birth of Christ) people would sacrifice their best animals and grain as sin offerings. This practice had to be repeated many times during their lifetimes because they would sin again and need to repeat the cycle of sacrifice. (Romans 5:12)
*Jesus Christ, God's son, was born on earth. He is sinless and perfect, the only sinless man to ever live. (1 John 5:1-5)
*He became the one-time sacrifice for our sins when he died on the cross, so that whoever believes in Him will be saved from sin and have eternal life in Heaven.(Romans 6:23)
*Believing in God and receiving Christ as your savior transforms your life both on earth and after you die. The Holy Spirit will be with you and guide you as you grow in your knowledge of God and in your relationship with Him. He is the most loving Father and most devoted friend. He will never leave or forsake you. He loves you. (Hebrews 9:14-15, Deuteronomy 31:6 and 8, and Ephesians 3:16-19)
*Prayer is talking with God. You can speak directly with God. You can ask Him to forgive your sins and receive Christ as the sacrifice to pay the price for your sins. You can talk with Him as your heavenly Father and your friend. Amazing things can be accomplished and learned through prayer! (James 5:13-18)
*Welcome to a Big Family! As a believer in Christ, you have a big, beautiful family that is filled with brothers and sisters of many ages and nationalities. Family will (and does!) pray for you, celebrate with you, laugh with you, cry with you, and grow with you. We are all being transformed in the image of Christ, learning to be more like Him. It is a process that involves patience and sometimes hardship, but it is with joy that we have God and family with us each step of the way. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)




Book a Month Bible Reading: 1 & 2 Kings

If you are new to joining us, we are reading one book of the Bible a month. It is never too late to join in!
January was 1 Kings. February is 2 Kings.
"When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the LORD. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the LORD filled the Temple of the LORD."
1 Kings 8:10-11
This became a diamond verse to me, one shining so brightly that I needed to know more. What does it mean? With help from A. Rowland and his sermon about these verses, I found that they are talking about Shechinah- a bright, glorious light, the symbol of God's presence, often covered by a cloud
God's Presence.
*How can we prepare for it?
*What are the effects of God's Presence?
Borrowing again from Rowland's sermon, he takes it back to the basics:
How can we prepare for God's Presence?
1. Remember memories of God from our youth [and as new believers]
2. Remember the 10 Commandments and obey them (Going back through the 10 commandments was an encouraging reminder and focused my attention more keenly.)
3. Recognize God's Claims "Not the intellectual research, but reverent submission discovers him." A. Rowland There is an incredible joy and peace that comes from understanding more deeply who your Father says He is and then experiencing Him being those traits (Prince of Peace, Healer, Rebuilder, Restorer) to you. Him being who He says He is. The act of Him being and you receiving who He is. How precious. How priceless to know and to experience our Father in this way!
4. Pray Earnest Prayers Rowland says that, for example, the Apostles expected the Holy Spirit, but in order to receive God's promise, "they continued, with one accord, in prayer and supplication..." It follows that praying earnestly is both an individual action and a together with action. Praying individually, with one another, and in groups helps us prepare for God's Presence.
What are the effects of God's Presence?
1.It restored significance to old symbols How can the Presence of God spark back to life the spiritual symbols that are meaningful to the body of Christ? We often recognize brand symbols quickly, but don't always understand symbols that have meaning and historical significance in our corporate bodies. I have enjoyed when our pastors have explained both denominational artwork and symbols as well as widely held, lesser known, symbols of Christianity.
2.It testified to God's acceptance of the new building "True 'consecration' arises from the signs of the Divine presence given to the faithful." A. Rowland
3.It confirmed the faith of some, and inspired faith in others When we hear stories of God's hand in other people's lives, it may spark faith in our own, but when we experience His Presence ourselves, it builds faith exponentially.
4.It proclaimed God's readiness to hear prayer Wow! Knowing that God hears us, can make us all the more likely to pray, and pray often, for the rest of our lives.
"Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live." Psalm 116:2 English Revised Version
What do you think? Would you join me in trying some or all of Rowland's ideas on preparing for God's Presence? We would love to hear your stories of how God meets you. :)




The Mountain and the Man

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." -Ephesians 3:16-21
Should my focus be on God's Strength or my weakness?
Each time life get challenging, and even when an opportunity beyond my abilities is placed before me, I am also presented with a choice. I am offered the chance to choose to view the overwhelming situation or opportunity logically, and to
A. measure my human failings against the mountain I've been asked to climb
B. become more aware of my shortcomings and freeze up, or
C. look at the God of the universe and what I know is true about Him: 
God, our Father, has immeasurable resources.
He is faithful.
He is Truth.
He can be trusted.
He doesn't change, nor does His love.
He will help us out of the stores of His glorious riches.

We all face some mountain or another; we also carry difficulty, pain, and human shortcomings. We can stop now...at the beginning of the climb...never to scale this mountain to its peak. Or, we can Trust God and His sovereign, great plan, submitting to His power to transform our inabilities by His abilities, the glory going to the Creator and perfecter of our faith, the master designer of both the mountain and the man.



Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!

Around now--mid to late January--you might find yourself slipping up on those ambitious resolutions you made while watching the ball descend one more time in New York City. 

Recently,  I found New Year’s Resolutions that I had made when I was in my early 40’s.  Reading over what I had written then was, well, enlightening.  There were a dozen “challenges” on the list   The first item was the determination to lose weight.  Imagine that!  That was a flop and has been for the last several decades since. Half of the other items had to do with my performance in various roles:  better parent, better wife, better friend, better teacher....  You get the idea. 

Only one of the remaining items was related to my spiritual life.  I was struck by the clear and distinct focus on myself. 

Remember those greedy sea gulls in the movie Finding Nemo?  “Mine!  Mine!  Mine!  Mine!”  Well, that’s what came to my mind when I read over my resolutions. 

It was all about me becoming a better me.  

I have given up writing resolutions for obvious reasons.  Rereading over old ones is painful.  However, I have recently found an old quote by Charles Wesley that has triggered a new resolve in me:   

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” 

These are words worth changing for, worth living for, maybe even worth dying for.  I’m done with writing resolutions, and I’m grateful to Wesley for writing this.  I’m claiming it. 

Instead of “Mine.  Mine,  Mine.  Mine,”  it is “His.  His.  His.” 

A one-fits-all-forever resolution.



Don't Miss the Beautiful

My devotion this morning revolved around the phrase, "Don't miss the beautiful."  

The writer described an experience of being completely undone by God's goodness and beauty as she drove through the mountains of North Carolina at the peak of the autumnal leaf change season.

As I read her words, I sat on a couch with the gray of winter out the window.  I sat in the midst of extreme sleep deprivation after two weeks of sickness ravaged our household, entailing countless nights spent awake, holding children.  Through my weary and bloodshot eyes, life wasn't feeling particularly beautiful.

And then he reminded me: Sharing in his suffering is always beautiful.  

It doesn't always feel beautiful.

It doesn't even look beautiful most of the time.

But what sweeter gift than to have fellowship with Christ because we share in his suffering.

When I think of suffering, I generally think of persecution and severe hard times, the kind people notice and the kind for which friends send sympathy cards.

Being a tired mom hardly feels worthy of categorizing as sharing in his suffering.

But Jesus was tired.  Jesus stayed up to pray all night.  Jesus was poured out in serving others.

And so whatever your trial looks like today, whether it's the fatigue of full-time parenting or the wear of the daily grind; whether it's mundane or magnificent; whether you've received sympathy cards or no one even knows; whether you're isolated in your silent suffering or you're spending far too many hours in hospital rooms, may you pick it up as a sweet offering to the Lord.  May you be more deeply united in fellowship with the Lord of the Universe because you are sharing in the same suffering he endured.  

And in my exhaustion, I saw it was indeed beautiful.  It's not pretty-leaves-in-autumn-beautiful.  It's a different kind of beautiful.  It's a red-eyed, worn down, poured out beautiful.  May we learn to walk in this beauty, draw closer to the One who has suffered for us all, and savor the sweetness of fellowship with him.

Let's pray for women who are walking in this place right now to be lifted up closer to the Father.  Pray they would see their efforts as sweet offerings, something beautiful.  Pray we would speak truth and life into their lives whenever the opportunity arises.  Pray that we would be known as those who point others back to the Source of all Life and pour out his love.