Breaking Out of the Bubble, by Jennifer Harrelson

My family and I recently flew to California to visit my parents. I have flown dozens of times in my life, mostly between the ages of 16 and 22.  From 15-hour overseas flights to 17-seat planes that needed to stop for gas after 45 minutes—I’ve done it all.  I can’t even recall all the flights I’ve taken, but I can remember the excitement of finding out who would sit next to me and the conversations that might take place. I have many fond memories of friends that I’ve met on airplanes over the years. Each was like a God-ordained meeting; sometimes ministry took place, and other times it was simple conversation and shared stories. Where else are you forced to sit next to a stranger for a long period of time? You may as well chat!

My most recent flight, however, was very different. Apparently, a lot has changed since I was 22. I was amazed to see that every seat back had a personal touch screen TV along with various ports and outlets for technology. Passengers could follow along with the flight path by watching the screen’s animated map. Most people, however, chose the “Entertainment” button. This included a variety of free TV episodes, video games, and movies that are still in theaters. You would have thought that the man across from me had won a small lottery when he realized that one of the movie options was a certain Star Wars installment. By the time the snack cart came around, each passenger had been offered a free snack, free drink, and free entertainment. What more could you want?

As I looked around mid-flight, it seemed that almost everyone was watching a movie or engrossed in his or her own laptop, iPad, etc. They were in their own little bubbles. Who would want to leave the comfort of his or her own private bubble to interact with a stranger? Even if there were a brave soul who dared to break the headphone barrier and actually speak to someone, wouldn’t that someone be annoyed that his or her entertainment had been interrupted? I realize that this is probably what people want— individual screens and free movies.  I agree that it’s luxurious and enjoyable; however, it makes it really difficult to interact with others.  As I pondered it, something about this bothered me. Maybe it’s the fact that it mirrors an aspect of everyday life. It can be easy to go about our lives rushing around consumed with our own needs, activities, and schedules with little regard for others. I think life is so fast-paced and busy that it can be difficult to leave room for others. It’s like each of us is encapsulated in a private universe.  I wonder if living like this makes it difficult to “let our light shine.”

St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” Many times it IS necessary to use words. Yes, some will see how we live and be pointed to the Lord by observation. God can certainly use us in this way, but sometimes God places us in another’s path for a reason…even if it’s just for a moment. God has an army of Christians spread out all over the world intermingled with unbelievers. Who will share His love with them if we are too distracted by life? I think we need to do our best to be aware of the Holy Spirit, listen for His prompting, and be on the lookout for God’s divine appointments.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” Romans 8:1— This word is not meant to bring guilt or condemnation, but rather a reminder:  Remember to put on love, leave room for the Holy Spirit, and when necessary, talk to strangers. :)

Peace I Leave With You, by Michael McCant

Don’t ever give up!  When I recently thought of these words, a picture I have seen over the years popped into mind.  It’s the inspirational poster with a crane trying to eat a frog and all you can see of the frog, hanging from the crane’s mouth, is the feet and legs. While being swallowed, the one foot is grabbing the throat of the crane hanging on for life.  This was the picture I saw, as I was thinking about how life comes at us sometimes.  When we are facing uncertainty and discouragement and fearing what tomorrow brings, it is easy to think about just giving up and throwing in the towel.  Maybe it’s our vision and dreams we cannot see coming to pass, maybe it’s the discouragement of an event in our lives that seemingly takes away what we believed to be God’s promise to us and there is a lack of peace. What I heard as I stood thinking about this is, “Don’t ever give up!”  The misunderstanding about peace is that it’s the absence of conflict; this is untrue.  If peace was only obtained through the absence of conflict, then Jesus himself would have never lived and walked in peace; His life was filled with conflict.

Peace (Shalom) means: completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. This word is still used by Jewish culture (and others) today as a greeting and a farewell upon leaving a conversation or someone’s home. Shalom: peace in trusting the God who created the world still cares about what happens in it and to it, peace in knowing He has greater plans for our lives, than we could ever imagine or come up with ourselves. Shalom signifies harmony, health, well-being, fullness and rest no matter what may be going on. If you have a broken relationship and you find it hard to bless them: SHALOM; if you have been hurt and you just can’t forgive: SHALOM; if you wonder where the next meal will come and how the bills will be paid: SHALOM. God speaks the Peace of Shalom into our hearts. The problems don’t always disappear, but when we accept His peace (SHALOM), they certainly take a different perspective in our lives.

Are we living in harmony with God in our everyday lives or do you (like I have seen in myself) find yourself restless or unsettled because you can’t see past the end of your nose, not to mention what is coming tomorrow? This is where Jesus says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow; for today has enough problems of its own”.  Today is enough for all of us to walk in.  Yet, I often struggle with what is to come; Jesus, knowing the nature of man, speaks to us in advance saying, “The kingdom of God is more than food, drink or clothes, just trust in your father because He knows you have need of these things as well”.

We have seen major things taking place in our world this past year (economy problems, job losses, bankruptcies), yet as believers and followers of a God who cares, we do not live under this world’s economy, though we operate daily within it. God’s economy is different, as seen when Jesus declares, “The meek will inherit the earth, the weak will be strong, those who show mercy will find mercy shown towards them and when you give your life away, you will then be able to find it”. These are not just words, but teachings from the heart of Christ on how I am to live each day – trusting that though the day brings hard times, and sometimes I don’t feel I even know where to start, I have a father who knows, cares, understands, guides and gives hope when there is none to be found anywhere else I turn. This is my GOD!

Isaiah 52:12 says many things in just a few short words, but for time sake, look at the fact that though God goes before us, He still guards us from the rear. Seems amazing, but what I see is that God surrounds us; He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death and guards us from the backside so that when the attack comes, our vulnerable side is taken care of as well. We have no protective shield of armor on the back, but God and others we are in true relationship with have our backs.  He is the God of our yesterdays and He allows the memory of those blunders, sins, and times of disobedience or hurts we’ve received to shape our future as we walk with Him.

He is also the God of our now, and He desires for us to trust Him in the now, not just looking at the past or gearing up for the future. He said to Moses in Exodus, “Come up to the mountain top and stay here”.  Moses, I am about to give you something from myself for the entire world for now, the present and the future; so, when you get to the top don’t start planning your trip back down, stay with me. As I look back over this year in my life, I am keenly aware of the many times I have not sat with Him there either on the mountain or in the valley to discover His heart for me. Unfortunately, I have been looking for the next steps or exit route to get back or on with it, yet God has been patiently saying, “STAY HERE”; just sit at my feet and I will take care of you. When the rain comes and the storm clouds grow dark, I will take care of you and by the way, “I love you buddy” and I have plans for you that you can’t yet see but hang on “it’s coming”.  This year has been mixed with sadness, pain, excitement, doubt, wondering, happiness, hurt, confusion, joy, and obedience; through it all “His goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life and I will rest in His house forever”. These are not merely the words of a Psalmist (Psalm 23), but a promise for me and everyone else that chooses to receive it. His goodness and mercy will follow, and I would like to add, they will also be our guide and leader.

Ask Me, by Tabitha Shumate

There was a prayer in my heart for about the past 6 years that I would lose the weight I gained with all of my pregnancies.  I struggled with it because I wasn’t into weight loss programs, counting calories, or eating healthy all the time.  I remember years ago talking with my friend Kylie, and how she lost her weight.  She had a significant breakthrough, and I knew there was something supernatural involved.  She said, “It was the grace of God.”  I knew the grace of God would play a part in me losing what I wanted.  For years, I would say to myself, “I know what to do and how to lose weight”, but didn’t know how to get started.  One year I lost 20 lbs., but then I literally gained it all back the very same year.  After experiencing that, I began feeling stuck and the prayer in my heart began to fade and I was going to let it go.  A couple years later, I was in a conversation with my friend Kim about a friend of hers losing weight.  I wouldn’t have thought much of it, until she mentioned how her friend was involving the Holy Spirit in her life.  She said her friend asked the Holy Spirit how much He wanted her to weigh.  He gave her the amount and He showed her how to do it.  Something in me felt it couldn’t hurt to pray this or ask the Holy Spirit, but I didn’t pray it right then.  I just set it down to wait on the right time to pray it.  I know that sounds silly to wait for the right time, but there was that “stuck” part in me that didn’t want to start thinking about losing weight all the time. 

One afternoon, I was driving my daughter, Esther, to her gymnastics class, and I felt an impression from the Lord that seemed more like a question than a suggestion.  He asked me, “So, are you going to ask me?”  It had been a month since I had that conversation with Kim, but I knew what He was talking about.  I was very reluctant because I was afraid of being disappointed – not by the Lord, but by myself.  So, I asked how much he wanted me to weigh.  The Holy Spirit spoke right away with a number.  I thought about it and realized that was the number I was at when I first moved to Cleveland back in 2000.  Then I realized it would be 40 lbs. of weight loss.  I asked the Holy Spirit why he chose that number, and He said, “Because you will be happy with that weight”.  I didn’t know how I would do that, so I let it go. 

Last August was a turning point in my life.  I was about to turn 40, and Jonnie and I were planning a trip to Hawaii for our 15-year anniversary.  I decided to lose 10 lbs. for the trip so I would feel better about myself.  I started working out and slowly quit eating many unhealthy foods.  I began seeing a difference and lost 10 lbs. in a month.  Then I realized I had to keep doing it to keep the weight off before our trip.  I made a decision that I wasn’t going back to my former weight.  My stomach began to shrink because I felt like the Lord told me I needed to cut back on my daily portion sizes.  More weight kept coming off, and I would push myself a little harder each time I worked out.  By the time we went on our trip in November, I had lost 17lbs.  I was actually thrilled about this number and kept focused on keeping the weight off, more of like a preventative measure. 

Last month, I weighed myself, which is what I did every other week.  The scale showed the number the Holy Spirit gave me a year ago!  I was pretty shocked.  I couldn’t have done it without the grace of God and without Him telling me the next step.  Until then, I had forgotten about that conversation with the Holy Spirit.  And He was right, I am happy with this weight.  I am grateful He gave me strength to keep pushing and to stay focused on how He wanted me live.  I have an attitude of eating to live, instead of living to eat now, and I feel like God has corrected my relationship with food, because looking back, it was a little reckless. 

He gave me this passage in Psalm 66:16-20 to share with you: 16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. 17 I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. 18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. 19 But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!

When God hears your prayer, His listening is also His answering and planning your breakthrough.  It has been an exciting journey, and I loved being on it with Him!

Fact vs. Belief, by Lesa McCant

About six months ago, I was having an argument with God when a song came on the radio and caused me to ponder the simplicity of “Jesus loves me this I know,” in relation to fact vs. belief. 

The following is an excerpt from my journal entry on January 12, 2017.

How profound, this children’s song . . . before belief, simple fact.  Jesus said, “I must become like a child to enter the kingdom.”  I realize there are many factors to becoming like a child, but the first one that comes to mind is blind faith, though upon further consideration is it actually blind faith?  Could it be that, as a child, I did not have to believe? I simply knew because I had already been with You?  Your word tells me, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”  So, if I came from that place (knowing my Father) into this world, it stands to reason that I knew Jesus loved me.  Before all the pain and corruption, it was fact! 

But your love provides choice and fact slides into belief. Satan provides a platform to mitigate fact. And the war begins. What a strategy for battle; take them out while they are fresh and fact still exists and cause them to question. As for me, I choose to go back to fact.  Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. 

You love me. Not belief, FACT!  You are good. Not belief, FACT!  Your heart is for me. FACT!  I used to think I had to figure out who I am and what I believe, though, in reality, I simply need to relearn the facts!

Fact:  a thing that is indisputably the case.
Belief:  an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.

 

Freedom, by Neil Thomason

Freedom

This is a life story on how our enemies place life long, generational barriers in families . . .  and the way out. There is hope, and his name is Jesus.

It started with both grandpas. My mother's grandfather committed a criminal act in a drunken rage that left a lifelong family separation for her. As far as we know, he never gave his life to Jesus and repented of the act.  According to my dad, his father beat him at the drop of a hat and abandoned him and the family at a very early age. And so it goes . . .

Dad overcame a lot. He was saved and overcame alcoholism. He was a good man and believed in honesty and hard work. He was a good provider. But he raged . . . bouts of uncontrollable anger, offense, isolation, victim mentality and emotional scarring that he passed down to all his children. This wasn't normal behavior, but it was who he thought he was because he learned it early. All these unresolved anger issues contributed to his health issues. The thief only comes to steal, kill and destroy. He never came to this realization and repented of his complicity in this.  And so it went . . .

I was saved at 9 years old at a local revival. I have tried to live a Christian life. Working hard and trying to be honest were hallmarks of the way my parents raised me, but there was an undertow in my life that only grew as I got older. I became easier and easier to offend until unforgiveness ruled my heart. I continued to isolate my true feelings from others, even people who could counsel and pray with me. The bouts of rage and anger grew. I never hit anyone, but contemplating on revenge is as binding to your heart as acting on it.

But God . . . About 6 months ago I completely fell apart in a fit of anger over something very minor. I thought this was who I was. I thought I was just a victim of the actions of others. I had repented of this a thousand times, but I had never taken responsibility for my actions and receiving all of this into my life.

I began to repent of my actions and receiving this spirit of rage and all the offense that went with it. I had to verbally forgive all those people who had offended me. I could no longer use their acts as justification for my place. I repented for the actions of my parents and grandparents and declared that the blood of Jesus breaks all generational chains.

And it happened . . . the Word says that He will forgive you as you forgive others. I am able to walk at peace with God, with others, and most of all myself. I am no longer that angry, hidden, offended person, and I continue to believe and declare that same freedom on my children and grandchildren. It wasn't me. It was Jesus bringing me to a place where I could receive His finished work. I am free of this because He set me free . . . Amen.

Exhortation to Worship, by Greg Holladay

In the past few months, many of you may have noticed that something wonderful has been happening here at Living Word Church. With upgrades to the sound and lighting systems, deeper and deeper levels of worship have begun to emerge. A major part of this is that our worship team has become more and more anointed and intense, drawing out of some a steady increase in the intensity of our worship. At this point, I feel compelled to issue a challenge that should continuously increase the intensity of our worship to amazing levels. of what I like to call “reckless, undignified worship” (King David danced before the people in the streets of Jerusalem with this shouting/dancing/joyful kind of reckless abandon to the Lord…so can we…HE IS WORTHY! )

Psalm 104:4 states that we are to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless/praise His name!” John 4:23 states, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. Can you believe it…Daddy God is seeking us to worship Him!

There are some who think worship with instruments…not to mention with reckless abandon…is somehow wrong. I wonder if they’ve ever read the very last Psalm which states “Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens! Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! ...

I will never forget two amazing experiences I enjoyed during this type of worship. In the first experience, while we were in the midst of an awesome time of worship. I happened to look up and, for a brief moment in time, witnessed a band of angels encircling the entire sanctuary, just below its rather high ceiling. Angels love “entering in” during our worship, even though we generally cannot see them.

In the second experience, we were in the midst of intense worship when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a very tall man on my left side, dressed entirely in white. When I turned my head to get a better look, there was no one there. Then I heard the Lord say, with a distinctly Yiddish accent: “So where did you think they’d want to spend their Sundays? Perhaps you might understand why I believe that, during any given time of worship, we might very well be surrounded by an unseen host of angels.

And now for the challenge: It’s time for a fresh exhortation! Just imagine with me for a moment…if this new intensity from the worship team has begun to draw a few of us into deeper levels of worship, what might happen should we all begin entering into worship with a new intensity, to the point that we begin drawing deeper levels of worship from the worship team…drawing deeper levels from us…drawing deeper levels from the worship team…drawing deeper levels from us…the possibilities are ENDLESS!

Blessing and Cursing, by Evan Cockerham

A few weeks ago during worship, I saw a vision of a book being opened. I heard the Lord say, "I have given Living Word a book". I asked, "what is this book and what is written in this book?" He said, "it is my book of blessing which is connected to my promises. Will you read from my book?"

Every day we have the amazing privilege to read from His book of blessings and promises. In this book, we can see His blessings and promises for our lives and those around us.

His promises and blessings are connected. You cannot separate the two.

However, there is silent accuser, "FEAR". Fear aligns our minds and mouths with curses. Instead of speaking only blessing, which is the joy we have been commissioned to, we align ourselves with fear and speak things that are the opposite of of God's blessing and promises.

Let us choose only to speak "LIFE" and not "DEATH", "BLESSING" and not "CURSING".

Now if we put bits into the horses’ mouths to make them obey us, we guide their whole body as well. 4 And look at the ships. Even though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the impulse of the helmsman determines. 5 In the same sense, the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.

See [by comparison] how great a forest is set on fire by a small spark! 6 And the tongue is [in a sense] a fire, the very world of injustice and unrighteousness; the tongue is set among our members as that which contaminates the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life [the cycle of man’s existence], and is itself set on fire by hell (Gehenna). 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and sea creatures, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the human tongue; it is a restless evil [undisciplined, unstable], full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. 10 Out of the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. These things, my brothers, should not be this way [for we have a moral obligation to speak in a manner that reflects our fear of God and profound respect for His precepts]. 11 Does a spring send out from the same opening both [c]fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. - James 3:3-12 (AMP)

The Love of a Father, by Darrell Martin

I was thinking about the story of the prodigal son when this thought came to me: the father could have kept the son from leaving by withholding the inheritance, but the father knew that the son's heart had already left. Without the son's heart being present, it would be the same as the son being gone anyway. The father wanted more than just the physical son. He wanted the whole son. Having the son without the son's heart would be like us having the car without the motor. After all, it's from the heart that the issues of life originate (Proverbs 4:23). The heart is what moves us. To keep from losing the whole son, the father enabled the physical son to be where his heart was. I know, you're already thinking that in doing this, he lost the whole son anyway. But that's where the wisdom of the father becomes very visible. The father had faith that when the son learned that nothing was as fulfilling as being at home with the father, he would return, bringing his heart with him. And that's exactly what happened. We don't know how long it took, but that speaks volumes about the patient love of the father.

How many times have we wanted something more than to be with the Father—wanted to be moving around instead of resting in His presence. In His patient love, He allows it, however long we need, until we learn that what we REALLY want is to receive everything we need from His presence.

It didn't matter where the son went, what he did, or who he ran with—the father still loved him and kept an open heart toward him. The Father feels the same way toward us.

If we need it, really need it, it's in the Father's presence. If He doesn't have it, then we don't need it and we'll better off without it.

One more thought: when the son returned, the father restored.

He is There, by Betty Blackwell

He is There

Yesterday during praise and worship we sang a song with the words, “This is my confidence He has never failed me yet. . .”

I wish I had a record button to instantly record the things I see. In thinking about these words as I sang them, I began to laugh because my confidence in God and who He is has been formed by the things I have experienced.

The following are pieces of a vision I saw and a little bit of dreaming with God:

He is as sure as the sun in the sky. Though there be clouds that cover its light, the sun is still there riding high and shining bright. Even if the storm rages heavy and dark through the day and into the night, the sun is still there in its place reigning high.

He is like the oceans waves in and out; the waters of the earth flowing deep even in drought. We may not see the rain come down and only the desert dry sands for a time, but we know the water is there underneath and He is able to spring up and refresh us.

Though there are times I have not known what He was doing or the why of all that was going on, He has always been constantly present. He was right there like the air, like the sun, He was like the water under the earth that is not seen until we tap into it with a well.

He is like the sun.

He is in the shadows even if we cannot see clearly.

He is in the troublesome times sight unseen.

He is.

When I have walked through the darkness of pain, fear, sickness, disease, cancer, heart attack, by-pass surgery, divorce, indebtedness, broken-heartedness, defeat, rejection, exhaustion, and discouragement of life, He was always there and remained close until I could see Him. I learned a lesson . . . He had been there all along. The next time I went through the desert, I knew He and the water were there . . . out of sight, but just as sure as the sun was above, He was there. When my next storm comes, He and the sun are as sure as light. They remain with me, just out of sight of my natural eyes.

So to choose to see with the Spirit and remember what He has taught me in every situation is the key.

Jesus never fails.

He will never leave me nor forsake me.

He will be with me until the end. He is the great I AM.

I AM . . . whatever you need.

 I AM . . . wherever you are.

I AM . . .  I was, I will be, for I AM.

10 Things For a Very Bad Day, by David Gray

I'm going to give you some solid counsel and wisdom right now about some do's and don'ts for when multiple things hit you all at once. 

(1) Don't fuss and complain. It helps nothing. In fact, it usually just raises your level of anxiety, frustration, pain, whatever. (BTW - sharing with a trusted friend or loved one who can encourage, guide, pray, etc. is different to me than fussing and complaining).
(2) Don't play the victim. Everybody has junk that happens. Look around. Sure there are folks a lot better off, but there are tons of folks worse off. Both issues are irrelevant. They're not running your race. You are. 
(3) Don't compare and especially don't use Facebook as the measure of people's lives or happiness, nor use that to measure your own. It should more appropriately be called "faux-book" because it's not real life. You only see what others want you to see. Some folks only put positive out there. Some folks do not nothing but point fingers, gripe and complain. It's fake, folks. It's only one small part of the story. Doesn't matter - what they have and do has nothing to do with you. [#2 & #3 really go together].
(4) Don't over-react.
(5) Don't get overwhelmed. Slow down - look at your situation. Break it down into bite-sized pieces if needed. Handle what you can. Look and ask for help if needed. 
(6) Do pick yourself up, brush yourself off and face reality. Yes,I know it can be overwhelming at times, especially when it all comes at once, but all you can do is...deal with it.
(7) Do learn from your mistakes. You have to evaluate. How did I get here? What part did I play that brought me to this current situation - or all of these situations? Sometimes you did nothing. But, you can still learn from your current situation - how do I avoid landing here again?
(8) Do make the necessary adjustments to handle your junk - maybe one item at a time. 
(9) Move on with life. Your life wasn't all sunshine and roses before, and it probably wasn't all misery either (hopefully). Nor will it be either of those things going forward. Some things will get better and you'll have reasons to rejoice. Other junk will happen and you'll have reasons to be frustrated, discouraged, whatever. welcome to...life. Deal with it. Embrace it. Live it. Love it.
(10) Embrace the positive! It is there. You might have to look for it, but it's worth it. This is what brings life, hope, and joy.

Finally, for me, trusting, believing and praying to God is my greatest asset. End of "rant."

Innocent In His Eyes, by Darrell Martin

What brings fear to the forefront of your thoughts? What circumstances in life cause you to think you won't make it? Most of us as adults fear lions, tigers and bears. But a newborn baby who has no input regarding these things is not afraid them. Are they dangerous? Yes, but the baby does not know it because he has no experience to tell him otherwise. He is innocent regarding the threat. Many of the fears we have are the result of the input in our lives. Our experience has caused us to forfeit our innocence. Adam and Eve had no fear in the garden because of the innocence they had with the Father. However, the same sin that made them guilty before God also made the things that once caused no fear to be dangerous.

So how do we regain the innocence that God intended us to enjoy? The answer is in the blood of Jesus. The reason for their innocence was that they had no sin. 1 John 1:9 says that when we confess our sins God forgives us and then CLEANSES us from ALL unrighteousness. In other words, THE SIN IS GONE! There's no record of it. Colossians 1:22 (NLT) says we are holy and blameless and stand before him without a single fault. This explains how a perfect God is able to love imperfect people without any conditions on His love. HE SEES US AS FAULTLESS OR PERFECT! The bad news is sometimes we struggle to receive His love because we don't see ourselves as faultless or innocent. The good news is He always sees us this way and graciously and generously pours His love all over us. His decision is to see us as innocent because of what Jesus did on the cross. When we see ourselves as God sees us, we are then in a position to receive His perfect love (1 John 4:18) which expels fear.

As I reflect on my history with God I see nothing that tells me He will ever let me down. Instead I see that time and time again He has come through with everything I ever needed. I can face life head on with confidence knowing that my Father is protecting His innocent child and helping me grow in spite of the challenges to love that I face on a regular basis.

The challenge to each of us is this: To renew our thinking to the word of God. To make the choice to see what He sees. To enjoy a relationship with a Father who chooses to see our innocence instead of our sin.

You Don't Cry Alone, by Bob Bevan

Every Tuesday, we meet with a group of our pastoral staff and leaders.  This particular week, a few of us had things going on that brought tears of joy, frustration, pain and empathy.  I was reminded how God does not leave us to experience the joy and the pain alone.

Do you believe that God understands and identifies with your heart and emotions? Look at this verse.

“When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”
John 11:33 NIV

Mary and Martha were friends with Jesus and their brother Lazarus had died. Jesus could have come sooner, but he didn't arrive until after Lazarus had already passed.

Sometimes we get the idea God is distant and unfeeling. We sometimes believe he is indifferent to our emotions, and it leads us to kill our emotions because we come to the conclusion we are alone in this and feeling the highs and lows is too much to bear.

Jesus knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead in ten minutes.
He could have said, "Hey just calm down everyone, don't feel, don't grieve; I've got this. Just give it ten minutes – it'll be fine!"

Instead, He saw their emotion and identified with them where they were at. He wasn't just interested in "getting the job done." He felt with them; he hurt with them and cried with them. Tears wasted?

No. Mary and Martha would never forget the day Jesus raised their brother from the dead and how he wept with them and comforted their broken hearts.

Truth is?

One day He will come and take all who want to be with Him home for eternity, and everything will be more than all right forever. Does He tell us to not hurt, to not be angry or cry when we suffer what will prove to be temporary pain?

No – He hurts, cries, and feels with you. Maybe the next time someone hurts they don't need you to tell them to how the story ends and to pack up those feelings. Maybe the best thing to do is just cry for a moment.

#goodfather
#notalone
#abobwelldone

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NIV

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
Romans 12:15 NIV

Psalm 23:3 - He restores my soul, by Bob Bevan

This world has a way of taking a bite out of our soul.

From the time sin entered the world with Adam and Eve in the Genesis chapter 3, we have never been whole since. Sin is a word we don't use much these days, but it just simply means doing things our way instead of God's. Have you ever tried to use a tool, an appliance, or anything for that matter, to do a job that it was not meant to do? I have broken many things that way.

Sin breaks things. When we do things our way instead of God's, it leads to a self-centered course of action that breaks things. From the moment sin entered the world, it damaged the first marriage relationship and has been damaging every relationship on earth from that point.

The fallout from that problem daily takes bites out of our soul. Look at the condition of families and the current state of our nation. Take a minute and reflect on your own heart and soul. What are the unsettled places? What got broken inside while dealing with people that never was properly reset to heal? What are the things that you mull over and over and cannot seem to shake? All of those things bring angst, worry, fear and anger to our soul (mind, will, emotions).

How do those knicks, bumps, bruises and broken places in our soul get repaired? We attempt to numb or deal with the pain with distractions, diversions, entertainment or any form of self medications. The same Creator that formed you inside your mothers womb knows how to restore and bring healing to your soul. Revelation 21:5 says that God makes all things new. He created you to be healthy and whole. Go to the Shepherd today and let him know what is broken. Invite him to come and do what only he can do by restoring your soul.

"Father, you alone can mend the broken places in my heart, my mind and my desires. I'm got you now to come and restore what is broken and what I cannot heal on my own. Thank you for hearing and helping." 

The Three C's, by Molly Allen

Over the last month or so God has really been speaking to me more in depth about the word “covenant.” It seems to be something that God has impressed on many lately. With all the events happening in the world this summer, I think more and more we need each other. We need to be together, share our thoughts with one another, pray for one another, and simply be there for one another. I have always considered my church my “family” since we were transplanted to Cleveland, but now I think that we, as a body, are moving into a deeper commitment and covenant with those whom we are connected. What came to me is that there is a progression in this connectedness; what I’m calling the three “C’s”: Communion—then Covenant—and finally, Community.

When I hear the word “communion,” I immediately think of the Lord’s Supper. The word “communion” is taken from the Latin word communio, which means “sharing in common” and the French words com- with and unis- oneness. Our modern definition is simply“intimate fellowship or rapport.” When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we express our intimate fellowship with Jesus and God our Father. As we draw near to Him in intimate ways—through prayer, worship, or taking communion, we are experiencing communion in the deepest sense. Most of us have felt and sensed God’s presence in tangible ways, but our cry is that we want more of Him—this comes by pursuing intimate communion with Him.

The more we experience this intimacy, the easier, I believe, that it is to establish a covenant relationship with others. As we have heard, there are many examples of covenant. God established covenants with the men of the Old Testament, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others. Then the New Covenant was established through Jesus’ death and resurrection. “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who though the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:13-14 NASB). Only as we become healed through our own revelation of the Father’s love, can we truly embrace what this New Covenant means for us. Then another example of covenant is, of course, the marriage covenant. Most marriages suffer because of not truly understanding what “till death do us part” means. One of the results of the societal breakdown happening today is the breaking of this sacred vow or covenant that husbands and wives make between themselves. So, a covenant can happen in several places, whether it’s between you and God, you and your spouse, or you and others through the Body of Christ.

We establish covenants through others, I believe in two ways—either through our family, our blood relatives, through our local body of Christ, or through the body of Christ as a whole. This is where Community comes in and we have a long way to go. We know that in the book of Acts when they “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer,” not only did they experience “many signs and wonders,” but they also “began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breading bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47 NASB).

In our modern society today, living like this seems too radical, but there actually are several religious sects around the world that do take these scriptures literally. I’m not suggesting that we do this, but as we know, in our own country it has been said that if the church would do its part in giving to others, there would be no need for a welfare system. To me there also seems to be a connection between experiencing the signs and wonders and the close-knit unity that the early church fostered. As others see the church in action, revival will automatically happen. My prayer is “Lord, show us how to truly be true covenant believers. We want you, we need you, we need each other now more than ever.” The world is seeking truth and justice. The body of Christ can provide this only by His strength, grace, and wisdom.

 

 

 

Have You Not Seen His Hand? by Chuck Broesche

A word of encouragement from me today. Yesterday, I was arguing with God about how a situation should be handled. He is telling me to wait and be obedient and I have a solution that would take care of the situation almost immediately. At the point that I had just about convinced myself that I was right, God said "Have you not seen my hand?". At that time, all the things that he has brought me through flooded my mind. How foolish of me to think that my ways in any way compare to His. I am overwhelmed by His love for me. His never ending patience for teaching me time and time again, that if I will wait on him, and am obedient, that He will take care of me. When I give it to him, I don't have to stress, I don’t have to worry, I don’t have to rely on my wisdom and resources. I am truly a blessed man. Have you not seen His hand?

Covenant - In It to Win It, by Bob Bevan

Recently, the Lord has been highlighting covenant relationship to us.  There are a few examples of covenant in the Bible with some of the main ones being the Noahic Covenant in Genesis 9, the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 12, the Mosaic (Old) Covenant and the New Covenant offered through the life and death of Christ.  There are also other examples of covenant such as the marriage covenant between a man and a woman (Genesis 2) and the covenant between David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18.

Covenant is something we are not as familiar with in our time.  We are more familiar with the idea of a contract which is largely drawn up to protect and benefit oneself in a transaction.  Covenant is something much deeper.  Covenant is a pledge and life-time commitment of mutual support and benefit.  In Genesis 15, God made a covenant with Abraham that involved a sacrifice signifying two parties joined together. It alluded to the ultimate covenant that would come through Christ and us being made one with Him in covenant relationship.

Covenant is a promise to give the best of me and a promise to find the best in you.  Covenant is a promise to stay when others go.  It is a promise to give my all and to give my best.  It gives and it receives but it also requires because it has purposed to cultivate the best in each other.

Pastor Evan said this recently, "Covenant relationship doesn't look for an upgrade."

We live in a day of "upgrade".  When the latest iPhone comes out, we want an upgrade.  When a better opportunity in business comes up, loyalty takes a back seat for an upgrade. When a marriage relationship gets difficult and someone else shows up, it is too often a chance for an upgrade.  Covenant doesn't look for an upgrade.  Everything you need is provided in the covenant relationships God has provided whether it be family, marriage, or the body of Christ.

Those who have been born again are in covenant with God.  That is a little different from a covenant between people because we don't require or push Him to be better than He already is.  He is offering His best and drawing the best out of us.  Ideally, our birth family is supposed to a covenant type relationship.  There is a commitment to love, support and sacrifice for one another but we also encourage those in our family to reach their potential.  Marriage is another form of covenant that was established by God in Genesis 2 when he said a man would leave his father and mother to be joined to his wife.  Marriage is designed to make us more whole and effective that we could be alone and to reproduce and bear fruit (offspring).

 Most people never reach their full potential because it requires more than they want to give.  For example, how fast can you run a mile?  At this moment it may take you 30 minutes to walk a mile, but could you go faster?  Of course.  With consistent effort, your time to complete a mile would drop until you reach your potential.  An average time for someone in good physical running condition is between 8-10 minutes.  The top 1 percent of runners in their age group run a mile between 6-7 minutes.  Would you want to guess the world record time for running a mile?  The world record time is 3 minutes and 43 seconds by Hicham el Guerouj.  That is nothing short of a super human feat of endurance that was realized through much personal hard work, but also with coaches, training partners and other world-class runners that put a demand on him to go faster than he or anyone else had ever run a mile before.

Have you ever noticed that world record track times are set in a race with others? Someone is there encouraging, challenging and pushing them to be their best.

It is the same with you and I.  There is God-given potential inside of us to reflect and represent Christ in the earth to see His kingdom come around us.  There is no limit to the gifts and potential of God in each of us.  Covenant relationships encourage and challenge you to go further and be more than you could ever be on your own.  Covenant relationships will provide benefits on the surface, but they eventually will require us to deal with the character issues in our heart that eventually put a ceiling on our ability to grow and be fruitful in an area of our life.  Covenant eventually requires personal responsibility and growth instead of blame because you have bound yourself to be a part of the solution for both parties involved.  There will be relationships you have that are temporary for different reasons, but there are some relationships God has given that are meant to be long-term for the purpose of being more than either party could have been alone.