Friday, December 29, 2017

It's a New Day!

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” — Philippians 3:13

It's a New Day!
It’s amazing how some things never change! As I was cleaning my library, I came across my old journals way back from the 80’s, and read my goals and intention to be a better person. Always the first on my list was to grow in my spiritual walk. Not only that, I listed among my goals to lose weight, learn new skills, and to make a difference before I die. I just have to shake my head knowing how hard I’ve tried to change, how much I strived to accomplish, yet unable to finish what I started.

There’s one great lesson that I learned though. Those things that I aimed to do and wished I could be were seemingly unattainable when I relied on my own ability, talents, skills and knowledge. Desires, determination and self-will were not enough when I tried to rely on myself alone. Five to 10 years from now, if God will give me more years and opportunities, the new goals that I will set now will just leave me oblivious if I don’t rely on the Power greater than anything and anyone else, including myself.

Growing up must be a moment by moment walk with God. It’s holding His hands with stronger grip, letting my Master walk before me, instead of me walking before Him. It’s allowing the Holy Spirit to manifest His fruit in my life. It’s learning to deflate my pride and ego and kneel down in humility, asking God what He wants me to do, instead of telling Him to do the things I planned to do.

It’s a new month again! The past is gone. Today is here, a fresh new day to start anew. The present time shapes our tomorrow. No matter what the future holds, I’m confident that God is doing amazing things in us if we allow Him, even if at times there are valleys and hills along the way.

It’s a new day! My prayer is that we will choose to move forward, instead of looking back and doing the same old things over and over again.

Keep moving on … but forward in Christ.

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

Here’s to new beginning! Gloria Laroza T

Monday, December 25, 2017

Blessed Christmas 2017

Blessed Christmas 2017

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Luke 2:14 (NAS)

Blessed Christmas 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

Love and Reconciliation = Christmas

Love and Reconciliation = Christmas
“Mom, is Santa real,” asked my little boy.

How do I answer that question, I thought. I knew his grandparents (my in-laws) didn’t like the idea of promoting and talking about Santa. But I grew up believing there was a Santa and I turned out okay (I think). God gave me an answer that satisfied my little fella.

“Santa’s the fun part of Christmas, Tim.”

That was all he needed to hear, it satisfied his curiosity. However, I knew I needed to share with him, again, the real reason for Christmas.

As we rush from store to store, elbowing ourselves into position to grab in-store specials, it’s as if we’ve forgotten the reason for this special day.

It’s an amazing revelation when one discovers the REASON for Christmas. In a world dominated with fears of terrorists activities, dwindling IRAs, 401Ks and another retirement nest eggs, and a possible collapse of our automobile industry, it’s easy for us to wring our hands in worry and fear. Many might even posed the questions: Where’s the joy? What happened to ‘peace on earth?’

I propose the joy and the peace has never left us. Rather, we’ve looked for that joy and peace in other places. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 NKJV)

We’ve been trapped by the laws. Do this and don’t do that has been ingrained in us we’ve forgotten the love and graciousness of God. Ultimately, we’ve forgotten the purpose of the Law. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply show us how sinful we are.” (Romans 3:20 NLT) Sin has robbed us of the joy of knowing God. Knowing we can not restore joy and peace for ourselves, God developed this wonderful plan of sending his only son to set us free.

Paul also wrote, “But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage.” (The Message)

To celebrate Christmas is to acknowledge the gift of eternal life given to us by God in the person of Jesus Christ. Eugene Peterson in The Message said, “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” (John 3:16-18)

Hebrews 12:1 says, “... let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us ...” Laying aside sin can only be done through the graciousness of God. There is nothing we can do to earn this forgiveness, it is a gift. Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”

“Mom, if Santa is the fun part of Christmas, what’s left?” His inquiring mind was filled with questions.

“Well, son,” I began. “Christmas is the time we remember that God loved us so much he sent us a gift. It wasn’t a gift we unwrapped. It was a gift of love wrapped in a small little baby . . .”

His little voice interrupted me, “Baby Jesus?”

“Yes, honey, baby Jesus,” I answered softly.

Later that night I heard him singing,

    Jesus loves me this I know
    For the Bible tells me so
    Little ones to him belong
    They are weak, but he is strong
    Yes, Jesus loves me
    Yes, Jesus loves me
    Yes, Jesus loves me,
    The Bible tells me so.

The reason for Christmas? Love and reconciliation. Praise be to God. Judy Doyle

Friday, December 15, 2017

Lonely Street

Lonely Street
Song lyrics paint a clear picture of life; we share tales of love and loss, joy and sadness, companionship and loneliness. Loneliness … just the word makes me want to hang my head. I am unable to form the word loneliness with a smile on my face. Poets and songwriters pen their deepest pain. Craving the presence of one they love, writers share the ache of feeling alone.

It is ironic, we hear it is lonely at the top. That implies that many who reach success and are in the midst of their peers feeling lonely and isolated. Notoriety comes at a high cost. They lose the pleasure of relationships based on trust.

Scapegoats take the blame. Society pushes them away, wanting no association with the guilty. It might be time for me to take a second look at their role. “Aaron will make the Most Holy Place, the Meeting Tent and the altar clean. Then he will bring the goat alive to the Lord. He will put both his hands on the head of the living goat. Then he will confess all the sins and crimes of Israel over the goat. In this way Aaron will put the people’s sins on the goat’s head. Then he will send the goat away into the desert. A man who has been appointed will lead the goat away. So the goat will carry all the people’s sins on itself. It will go to a lonely place in the desert. The man who leads the goat will let it lose there (Leviticus 16:20-22 NCV).”

Imagine the streets of Jerusalem. Jesus is led to a hill outside of the city; the sin of the world is placed on Him. In loneliness, He asks why the Father abandoned Him. He dies in our place. The Father who gave Him, offering the way to receive eternal life loses Him from the grave! He tasted loneliness and reaches out to us with His hand; we never walk alone. PamFord Davis

Friday, December 8, 2017

Love for Others

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. ~1 John 4:11

Love for Others
“Ma’am, do you work here?”

The young man stood at the children’s check-in counter at church, looking a bit lost. He was covered in tattoos, sporting a pair of baggy shorts and a white t-shirt. His cross necklace was in context, but the size and length of both the cross and the gold chain necklace it hung from were more apropos for a rapper’s music video than a church service.

Surely he wasn’t talking to me. I knew this for certain because a) I am most definitely not old enough to be a ma’am (in my head at least); and b) I didn’t work there, although the volunteer shirt I was wearing made me look like I did.

Oh, and also knew he wasn’t talking to me because c) he wasn’t someone I would normally talk to.

“Can you help me?” he asked. Oh, dear, he was talking to me.

“Sure,” I replied outwardly, while inwardly groaning because he was keeping me from getting into church service.

He waved a slip of paper in front of his face. It was the tear-off slip from the bulletin for prayer requests. ”I can’t find a pastor or anyone to give this to.”

I looked around. The information desk was all closed up; the pastors were all in service. I was going to have to handle this. ”I can take that for you. I’ll get it to the right place.”

“Thank you,” he said. ”I just … I just need …” He started to cry. ”I just need someone to pray for me.”

With that, he began to talk. And I listened. He was 21, had just returned from active duty in Iraq. He told me about his worries about his girlfriend. He talked about church, and how he wanted so badly to find a church where he not only fit in but where he could convince his girlfriend to attend with him.

I was totally, utterly, completely ill-prepared for this encounter. I have a heart for serving others, but most of my ministry involves others who look like me. I’m comfortable with other moms of young families. I deal well with young women who I can mentor.

But this man – this young, young vet who has already seen much more of the world and war and violence and killing than I hope I ever have to – was not like me. And if he hadn’t stopped me, if he hadn’t reached out, I would have ignored him.

And I would have missed the opportunity to be blessed. Not bless someone. I was blessed by the opportunity God gave me to be his ears, to listen to one of his children cry out. Even if his child didn’t have one single thing in common with me.

It’s difficult to reach out to those who don’t look like us, who don’t think like us, who don’t act like us. We let race and gender and age and stage & station in life build a wall we can behind. Yet God calls us to love everyone, not just the people we choose to love. He calls us to minister to them, to be a blessing to all we encounter.

To let ourselves be blessed by the opportunity to serve him. Amy Ragland

Dear Lord, let me serve you today. Give me the right words to say to someone who is hurting, or scared, or lost. Help me to overcome my own shyness or inabilities. I want to be a light for you, not just among those who look like me. ~Amen.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Love and Grace

Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give. (Proverbs 25:14)

Love and Grace
We attend a rather large church. Not a 'mega church', but we have to have two services to fit everybody in. A GOOD problem. But I think I can safely say that most of our members are quite familiar with the 'Who's Who' population.

By that I mean that when you've been around for awhile, you know who you can go to for certain things, or if someone asks 'who does this ...?', you just KNOW! For instance, if someone askes me about childcare, I would say 'see Pastor Neal', our children's minister. If someone needs prayer, it's 'Talk to Miss Pam. She has a direct line to God!' If someone knows someone who needs help financially, it would be Mike K., who is a great advisor. Or if somebody needs help with a party or dinner, then it would be Chuckles ... my own hubby!

Now, that being said, just because certain people are known to excel at certain things, that in and of itself does not mean that they are 'boasters'. Not at all. What it is, at least in these cases, is that these people are leading by example. And because of their willingness to be that example, many others are stepping up and lending a hand when and where they can. And by doing so, they are learning valuable lessons about loving others. Those who lead, do so by God's wonderful grace.

'What would Jesus do?' Well, He would do what true servants do ... serve others. And He would not have a need to brag. He was being the example. So if you do a good deed, and other than obtaining whatever help and assistance you may need to accomplish it, you do not make it a pointed effort to be 'seen', then there is no bragging. If you are noticed along the way, and someone compliments you for it, accept it, but make sure you do nothing more with it. Oh, you may offer to help that person to get involved in some way too, but if you just let it lie for it's own sake, then there will be no thought that you boasted. Which is another way God gives us grace.

Remember, The Father sees what we do quietly; but He will reward us openly. There He is, showing love to us when we are being humble and simply serving. And when we serve others, we are serving Him. When done with a pure and humble heart, and with no complaining, then we are warming the heart of God.

If people do good deeds, and then make a point of announcing it to everybody and their brother, then they are indeed like the 'wind and the rain'. And they are giving gifts to nobody but themselves. And what does that profit them in the Kingdom of God? Nothing.

Love ... it is in many forms, in many actions, and in many hearts. Make sure the love in your heart is presented to those who need it. Serving others with a heart of love is made possible for us because of the GRACE that our Heavenly Father shows to us. Loving others is a form of grace, which can only be from Him. Lili Richey Willard