Easter Blessings to You!

May the Lord bless you today as you focus on His sacrifice and the new life He has given to us! He is risen…He is risen indeed!

Happy Easter 2014

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Giving In Secret

Matthew 6 1

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

 So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4

Yesterday was the coldest day of my life! The temperatures here in Erie, Pennsylvania dipped to a 9 below zero. The heat wasn’t working well overnight. When I woke up my house was very cold. Up north we are recovering from a “polar vortex,” a sort of Arctic hurricane. I spent the day reading God’s Word and trying to stay warm indoors. It could have been a life-threatening situation for anyone who went outside unprepared for the negative wind chill factor. I am very thankful today for the physical warmth I feel now that the weather and my house have warmed up. Praise God for the light and the heat!

Being stuck indoors, I was thinking about one of my favorite places to go where I can find solitude outdoors. It is the place pictured above: Walnut Creek on the trails near the Asbury Woods Nature Center. Here you can be alone with nature and feel the presence of God. It is not uncommon to see wildlife scampering through this beautiful outdoor sanctuary. There is hardly a soul there in the fall and winter when it rains and snows. It is the perfect place to praise the Lord for the beauty of creation and to listen to what He has to say to you. Peaceful. Quiet. Serene. No noise and hustle and bustle of the world. A secret escape, if you will.

Contrast this with the online world. Nowadays it seems everyone has acclimated to using social media as a way of mass communication. People have a strong need to share every detail of their lives, and to play the highlight reel for others to see. They receives “Likes” and accolades for everything they choose to write and share. People learn to thrive on the attention they receive from others. They especially enjoy posting everything good or noteworthy they accomplish, so they can have others pat them on the back. It all feels a little dangerous and addicting, and a little narcissistic. The number of your “Friends” are counted, every comment is recorded for you and others to see, and every “Like” is visible. Did you know the word of the year last year was “selfie,” which is a picture you take of yourself to post online for others to see? I believe social media can be used to help feed people the Word of God and bring people to Christ, but I also believe it is a way for Satan to subtly help feed our egos and self image.

It reminds me very much of the Pharisees who would stand in the public square and encourage others to pay attention to them. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that they have already received their reward in full. He instructs us to give to Him in secret, so we won’t be puffed up with pride. God wants us to bring glory and honor to Him and to remain humble. He prefers us to stay out of the spotlight, and to let Him have the stage. Everything we say and do should be done to draw attention to eternal things, not the things of man. I admit that I love using Facebook, and I can get caught up in all of attention too. The Bible encourages humility and maintaining a low profile, which can run very contrary to the world’s way of thinking.

I hope that if you are a user of social media, you will ask the Lord to help you see whether you are being like a Pharisee in any way. Perhaps you might not be active on social media, but maybe you have figured out how to gain applause in your workplace, your classroom, your church, where you volunteer or somewhere else. I encourage you to let the Lord show you how to give in secret. It’s not easy to do in this day and age when you can shout to the whole world when you hit the “Send” or “Post” button. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your couch or favorite lounge chair to make this happen.

I like to picture myself at this creek where you can hear even the snap of a twig in the forest. It feels like a secret getaway. May we remember that it means so much more to the Lord when we give to Him in secret. He made a big point to tell us this over and over again in the New Testament. He had strong names and strong words for the Pharisees who did things for the reward of man, not God. We don’t have to shout from the rooftops every little thing we are doing in His name. Just remember that someday when you stand before God in heaven and give an account for your life He will reward you in a great way for everything you did under heaven in His name. An eternal reward is so much better than an earthly one! Let all of the praise, glory, honor and accolades be reserved for Jesus Christ and the work He is doing in, through and around us to further the Kingdom of Heaven!

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God’s Word Will Strengthen You

Matthew 4 1 4

Have you ever fasted? It is a huge mental, emotional, physical and spiritual challenge. Imagine how weak Jesus must have felt after fasting for so long. The devil tempted Him when he knew he had a golden opportunity. Satan waited for that perfect moment when Jesus was vulnerable and all alone in a harsh and desolate environment. Jesus was human, and He was susceptible to all of the same temptations and sin we face in this life. He was hungry. I’m sure His hunger gnawed at Him day and night, always present in the back of His mind. How did Jesus respond to the tempter?

Both Satan and Jesus knew the scriptures. Satan used the scriptures to try to lure Jesus into sin. Jesus knew the scriptures well, and He found strength within them to overcome the tempter. God’s Word is powerful, active and sharper than a double-edged sword. We all need to fill our bellies with food, but we need to also fill our minds, hearts and spirits with the word that comes from the mouth of God.

If you have time to eat three meals a day, you have time to spend delving into the rich resources within God’s Word. The Bible will satisfy all of your spiritual cravings and hunger pangs. It will strengthen you in your weakest moments, just as Jesus was strengthened in the wilderness and just as the physical food we eat nourishes our bodies. You will fall into sin if you are not hearing and listening to what God has to say. You will become disobedient. If you spend enough time apart from God, you won’t know Him anymore. You’ll be easy prey for the devil, our enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Perhaps you are in the wilderness today. You look around you, and everything feels empty and barren. You feel helpless and all alone. You don’t know when you’ll find the nearest oasis in your desert. It has been a long and exhausting period full of trials and tribulation. This is the perfect time to nourish your soul with the word that comes from the mouth of God. He will strengthen your weary bones and breathe life back into you. You are never truly alone because God is with you wherever you go. In God’s Word we find hope and the power to overcome our temptation to sin. God will help guide you through the desert, if you let Him. The journey may not be easy, but with the Lord ever present and His promises on our lips, it will be bearable. Praise the Lord today for His wonderful Word that helps us to live each day to bring glory and honor and Him!

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Consider God’s Wonders

Job 37 10

Job was instructed to stop and consider God’s wonders. Have you taken time to do the same? There is something beautiful about seeing snow blanket the Earth. It is so pure, so lovely. It reminds one of a virgin bride waiting to be wed to her groom. It calls to mind the promise that Jesus washes us white as snow and cleanses us from all sin. Anything crimson placed upon the snow reflects the blood sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf.

It is truly amazing to watch the four seasons in all their splendor. God’s creation reminds us of His wrath and great love for us. All of creation cries out to God, and everything under the sun happens at His command. If He knows when even a sparrow falls, then how much more does He care about you? Take a moment the next time you step outside and thank God for the beauty that surrounds you! Stand still and praise God for keeping everything in perfect harmony and for watching over His people.

Job 37:1-18

37 “At this my heart pounds
and leaps from its place.
2 Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice,
to the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
3 He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven
and sends it to the ends of the earth.
4 After that comes the sound of his roar;
he thunders with his majestic voice.
When his voice resounds,
he holds nothing back.
5 God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways;
he does great things beyond our understanding.
6 He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’
and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’
7 So that everyone he has made may know his work,
he stops all people from their labor.[a]
8 The animals take cover;
they remain in their dens.
9 The tempest comes out from its chamber,
the cold from the driving winds.
10 The breath of God produces ice,
and the broad waters become frozen.
11 He loads the clouds with moisture;
he scatters his lightning through them.
12 At his direction they swirl around
over the face of the whole earth
to do whatever he commands them.
13 He brings the clouds to punish people,
or to water his earth and show his love.
14 “Listen to this, Job;
stop and consider God’s wonders.
15 Do you know how God controls the clouds
and makes his lightning flash?
16 Do you know how the clouds hang poised,
those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?
17 You who swelter in your clothes
when the land lies hushed under the south wind,
18 can you join him in spreading out the skies,
hard as a mirror of cast bronze?

Lord of All Creation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REZ5Z-FVus0

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All Things New

Ephesians 4 23 24

Happy New Year to you! A new year is a great time for new beginnings. Let us take a moment to look at some passages in the Bible that focus on all things new. May the Lord encourage your own heart as you reflect of His abundant blessings in your life over the past year, and look forward to the many blessings yet to come.

“’See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.’ Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them.” Isaiah 42:9-10

“’Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’” Isaiah 43:18-19

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’” Lamentations 3:22-24

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 11:19

“’Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!’” Ezekiel 18:30-32

“’This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them. ‘Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’” Mark 14:24-26

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Romans 6:3-5

“For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Romans 7:5-7

“Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

“…and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:24-26

“Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:5-7

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.” Galations 6:14-16

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” Ephesians 2:14-16

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24

“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” Colossians 3:9-11

“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’ But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.” Hebrews 8:5-7

“’For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’ By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” Hebrews 8:12-13

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” Hebrews 9:15

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19-22

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

“…as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” 2 Peter 3:12-14

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.” 1 John 2:7-8

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’” Revelation 21:1-3

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Humbly He Came

Philippians 2 5 8

It has been a long time since I have written a blog! My last blog, “Facing Your Fears” was written the day before my husband Mark and I went to the doctor to find out if God had finally answered our prayers and placed a child in my womb. I was prepared to hear that maybe the baby was in the wrong spot again, as I had experienced twice before. I was very scared that day, and I even prepared a hospital bag just in case I had to hear the words I dreaded: You’re having another ectopic pregnancy.

Mark and I went back into a room with the ultrasound tech and the ultrasound machine. I laid on the table, and the tech began to look for the baby on the ultrasound monitor. Within a couple of seconds, she found our baby! It was in the womb. It was in the right place! It had a strong heartbeat, and it was moving around! The ultrasound tech, who knew all of the crazy odds against this miracle happening, began to cry. We all cried and rejoiced right there in that moment. It was the most amazing moment of my life! Mark and I had waited more than three years for that wonderful experience. God had answered our prayers! My long and painful journey through pregnancy loss and infertility was coming to an end.

The next few months were filled with cautious excitement. Slowly we started to tell our family and close friends. After all of the morning sickness had subsided, and I made it past the first trimester, we made an official announcement to all of our family and friends. I am blessed to be well enough again to blog. I am now in my 16th week of pregnancy, and it a real blessing to watch my belly grow with the life God has placed within it. A life that God has created in His image. A life that I sincerely hope will reflect His glory and be given over to Him in service. Our baby is due in June (unless God wants him or her to come sooner), which will be exactly four years since we asked God to help us start our family.

As a think of this wonderful gift within me, I can’t help but think of Mary and Joseph. How exciting and scary it must have been for them to know that Mary was carrying the Son of God in her womb! Jesus could have come in many forms down to Earth. He left the heavenly realm, and He could have come down with all the fanfare in the world. He could have made it clear from the moment He stepped foot on soil that He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Instead He chose to enter Earth in the womb of a woman. He chose the most humble and helpless of ways to make His grand debut. He quietly entered a dark womb and waited to born. What an amazing God we serve that He would send His own son to Earth to live among creation and to die by their hands 33 years later. We can have hope everyday knowing that Jesus rose from the dead, and we have eternal life. It is all because Jesus was willing to sacrifice His own life in our place. What a gift it is to us that we have Jesus Christ as an example of true love and how to live our lives!

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Philippians 2:5-11.

Here in America, it is Christmas Eve and tomorrow will be Christmas Day. People are so caught up in entertaining guests, buying the perfect presents for family and friends, and wondering whether or not they’ll have snow to blanket the Earth and make it a white Christmas. It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season. Let us all remember that Jesus Christ is the greatest gift of all to mankind. Jesus is the reason for the season!

Merry Christmas Facebook Cover

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Facing Your Fears

Isaiah 26 3

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

It is easy is be afraid of something or someone in our lives. We all struggle with fear from time to time. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of shame. Fear of injury. Fear of loss. You name it. You know the areas in your life where you struggle with fear. Fear is not described as a Godly trait in the Bible. Yes, we should have a holy and reverent fear of the Lord, but this is not the fear I am describing to you. The kind of fear I am describing is the kind that the enemy will try to use in each of our spiritual battles to bring us down, keep us there and to ultimately destroy us. It can make us feel like a prisoner in our own skin. It can hold power over us until we learn how to properly address it. It is the kind of fear that can keep us from accomplishing God’s plans to work in and through our lives. This fear can keep us from honoring and glorifying the Lord in all we say and do.

When we are afraid, all kind of questions, thoughts and worst-case-scenarios flood our minds. We grow anxious, shaky and weak. This fear seems to override everything else going on in our lives. It robs us of joy and peace. It steals from us the blessings set out before us. If left unchecked, it can be a great weapon for Satan. He can use it to keep us cowering in a corner, immobile, weak, powerless and useless. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” John 10:10. Thankfully, our road map–the Word of God–repeatedly asks us to focus on and trust in the Lord when our minds are filled with fear. He is right there with us, and we can cast our fears upon Him. Only then can we live life to the full!

TRUST IN THE LORD; HE WILL HELP YOU

“They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.” Psalm 112:7

“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.” Psalm 29:25

“You who fear him, trust in the LORD–he is their help and shield.” Psalm 115:11

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose words I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” Psalm 56:3

“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

“The Lord is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

THE SPIRIT OF GOD GIVES US POWER AND LOVE

“For the Spirit of God does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

“He gives strength to the weary, and to Him who lacks might He increases power.” Isaiah 40:29

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears in not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:5

“He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” Proverbs  21:21

“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 3:20-21

WE CAN HAVE PEACE WHEN WE FOCUS ON GOD

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Proverbs 12:25

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

The Bible tells us that we can replace anxiety with peace, weakness with power and strength, and fear with love and trust. We just need to come to that place where we lay everything aside and completely surrender our fears to God. May the Lord help show you the areas in your life where fear is holding you back and help you to boldly give them over to Him once and for all. “For we are all God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:10. The Lord has so many wonderful ways He wants to use your life to win souls to Christ and bring glory to His name. Don’t let fear stand in your way any longer. Surrender and trust in the Lord today!

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