Jul 31, 2014

Following Your Dream…And God’s Will

How often do we have dreams that appear so crazy, they seem impossible? When I dream, my imagination tends to sometimes run wild as I think of crazy things that I could turn into reality. Those dreams never seem to last very long. In fact, they’re sometimes gone before the sun goes down. But there was one dream of mine that I never gave up on—

Become a published author.

In today’s world, it seems easy to “live out your dream” whether it is becoming a famous movie star, park ranger, or flying to the moon. With technology and school, you can do almost anything you set out to do.

But is it according to God’s will?

Sure, you can do pretty much anything you set your mind to. It may not seem so difficult, but in order to truly succeed and find contentment in what you are doing, you must be in accordance with God’s will.

As I went through my journey to find God’s will for my life, here are some of the steps God showed me along the way.

1.      Humble yourself and acknowledge that God knows best

This may be the hardest of all three! In today’s world, we want to do everything our way and in our timing. Fortunately for us, that’s not the way God does it! He knows us inside and out, better than we do. Why shouldn’t we want to give him the reins and let him control the basis for our lives?


Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” God’s plans are only designed to provide the very best for us, and we should be ready to accept that with open arms.

2.      Commit your dreams to God

So we’ve humbled ourselves and gave God the reins, now we need to figure out why? Why do we have this dream? Is it ultimately to bring glory and praise to God? Are others going to seek him because of it?

Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” When we commit to doing whatever we are doing to the Lord, he will see it through. God wants us to give him the praise, and when we do so, he will make it come to pass.


3.      Have Faith & Work Hard

It’s given to God—this dream that you want so badly, so now what? Now you have faith that God really does know what he is doing and he will make the plans go according to his will and your benefit.


But that doesn’t mean you sit down and do nothing. No! Think of a young queen in the Bible. Esther was a woman after God’s own heart. Because she was a Jew, she and all her people were going to be killed. Esther prayed and prayed to God. She knew that whatever God was going to let happen was going to be in accordance to his will. So after that, did Esther just sit back and let God do everything?

“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16). Esther was willing to work hard and do what she must do in order to save her people. Her dream was to be free and she was able to see it through.

What are some of your lifelong dreams? As you go about chasing or pursuing them, I pray that you will be able to achieve whatever it is and find true happiness following God’s will for your life.

About Rachel:
Rachel is a homeschool graduate who has always dreamed of writing Christian fiction for girls to read that will help them grow in their faith. At the age of 17, her dream finally came true, and she now looks forward to see what God has planned next in her writing journey. You can follow her on her website at www.rachelrittenhouse.com. 

Jul 29, 2014

Verse by Verse [V.7]

We hope you are enjoying these challenges!
This is the 7th week of Verse by Verse. This is how it works.

Every other week we'll post a new verse for memorization along with a background. Instead of having a separate post for a link-up, you may post any reflections below in the comments. Whether that's just a couple sentences or a link to a blog post. We still want to hear your thoughts! Keep memorizing the Word!


Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.






 
We encourage you to add this button to your sidebar to spread the word and the Word.


How can you be aware of this verse in your day to day life?

Jul 25, 2014

FIVE BIBLICAL STEPS TO FORGIVENESS


Forgiveness doesn't come naturally for me.


And I suspect that many of us struggle with it from time to time.

Alexander Pope had it right when he penned these familiar words about forgiveness: "To err is human, to forgive divine."

So how do we forgive when we've been laid low by the thoughtless (and sometimes intentional) acts of another?


1. Through the power of God's Spirit.

Our natural inclination when we, or someone we love, are wounded isn't forgiveness. Instead we want the offender to pay. In short we want revenge. Our hurt leads to anger. Our pride takes over. The only way we can truly forgive others is through the power of God's Spirit. Christ died in our place to pay a debt we never could. God accepted His sacrifice on our behalf. Forgiveness is indeed divine, and flows from God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. We cannot do in our own strength what God intends to do through us.

2. Through prayer.

"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." -Matthew 5:43-45 (NASB)


Jesus' words in the gospel of Matthew reveal the importance of prayer in forgiving our enemies. From personal experience, I can testify to the effectiveness of this God-given communication. God doesn't always change the other person or their hurtful behavior, but He does always change my heart toward them. It's almost like scales fall off my eyes when it comes to viewing my persecutor, and my vengeful heart changes to one of love and compassion.


3. Through faith.

As our Sovereign Lord, God sees and knows everything while we see only a small piece of the puzzle. So one way in which our faith and forgiveness are entwined is when we hand our hurt and our desire for justice and vindication over to Him. In effect, we say, "God, I'm giving this offense to You. I trust You to do what's right and best for everyone."

Not only do we trust God to do in us what we can't do on our own--not only do we trust Him to be more just and fair than our capabilities--we also trust His timing. Our human side longs for immediate retribution, but God knows what He's doing, both for us and the other parties involved. He is a patient and loving Father, and His timetable is not our own.


4. Through obedience.

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned." -Luke 6:37 (NASB)

While we often chafe at the idea of obedience--primarily because we want to call the shots--the initial steps of learning to forgive deal with obedience. Until we follow through in obedience to God's Word concerning forgiveness, we will continue to struggle and hurt. Put simply, forgiveness is an act of the will done in obedience to God's Word through the help of His Spirit.


5. Through humility.

"So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you." -Colossians 3:12-13 (NASB)

As mentioned previously, unforgiveness often stems from human pride. So it only makes sense that part of the remedy is humility. Even Paul, in his letter to the church at Colossae, recognized the importance of humility in forgiveness. And as followers of Christ, we are to follow in His steps, as someone who humbled Himself through a series of demotions (Philippians 2:3-7).


IN CONCLUSION

Though I still struggle with forgiving others from time to time, these five Biblical steps have been so helpful to me. With God's help through prayer, faith, obedience, and humility, we can arrive at the place where we're able to forgive even the inexcusable.

About Cathy

Cathy Bryant's desire is to write heart-stirring stories of God's life-changing grace. A native Texan, she currently resides in the lovely Sangre de Cristo mountains of northern New Mexico with her minister husband of over thirty years. Her novels--all standalones--explore such spiritual themes as finding true home, stepping out in faith, the riches of God's grace, standing on His promises, and forgiveness. In addition to novels and a recent Bible study booklet, Cathy has also written devotionals for two books, The Upper Room magazine, and various online sites. She also writes devotional posts for her website, CatBryant.com, where you can learn more about her and her books. You can also find her on Facebook.

Jul 24, 2014

Meet Lucinde & A Mini Art Print Giveaway



When I read the Bible there are a lot of verses I would like to memorize. Unfortunately my mind doesn’t always work that way. I love the verse and I want to remember it but a few hours later I’ve forgotten what it said. When I started to realize how often that happened I decided to write down the verses immediately so I could read them over and over again. So when I forgot them I could look back in my notebook and read it again. By now the verses have added up so it almost becomes difficult to find the verse that I was looking for, but you can never have enough encouragements from the Bible ;).




As a graphic designer I had the feeling that I could do more with those verses. I wanted a way to show them in my office or living room so that I would be reminded of them in my daily life. That’s when I started to make art from the bible verses I found. The first one I made was from John 14:27 ’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.’
I made a print from it and it’s still in my office. It took me three years to find the perfect verse I wanted to have in our living room. I wanted something to remind me of everything good that God has given us because I tend to forget it really quick. I will see all the problems in my life and everything I still need to do or everything I would want to achieve and it can overwhelm me sometimes. When I read Philippians 4:8 I knew this would be the verse I wanted. It keeps reminding me of the things I should really focus on. I don’t need to be distracted by everything that went wrong in my life but I need to focus on everything that God gives me, everything that is praiseworthy! So now I finally have my daily reminder for the joy and wonderful things God gives in our living room. 

When I just started making the designs the most of them were Dutch (my native language) but after a while I started to translate them into English so more people could enjoy them.



The giveaway
You can win one of my Mini Art Prints! I have a couple of different designs for my art prints and you can choose the one you would like to have. The size of the print depends on te design but they’re 8” x 10”, 8”x8” or 10”x7”. It’s a gallery quality GiclĂ©e print on natural white, matte archival paper, trimmed with 1" border for framing.

Take a look at the art prints here: http://society6.com/Lucilight/prints And let us know which one you would like!

p.s. If you have a verse that you would like to see on another art print, feel free to contact me!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jul 23, 2014

Valley of Fear



When the pain of loss is deep within; the grief reaches down and grabs your soul. Gray skies, a sun without  rays, too weary to pray. Emptiness whispers silently in your ear, “Your heart’s gripped with fear”.

Look over the valley across the way, the friend you need is right on your

path, soon you will have joy maybe even laugh.

All you have to do is invite him into the depths of your being.

 Jesus will carry your burdens up the mountain, strengthen you

 to climb up this side of the pain. He will never leave you nor

forsake you. His love erasing the marks of anguish from your heart. In him

you can have a new start.

Rise above the darkness, dance in the rain.


Living...Breathing...Laughing

 

About Shameeca

Shameeca Funderburk was born in Philadelphia, PA, as a child she became a ward of the state. Shameeca spent eight years in the Foster Care System. As a small child she was very advanced for her age. At age six she read at a sixth grade level, this is when her love for books began. In order to deal with her pain growing up as an orphan, she used writing as an escape. Throughout her life she has maintained her passion for writing. Shameeca worked as a promotional model for ten years, also worked as a 911 operator. She enjoys writing poetry that's inspired by life. Shameeca is currently writing a poetry book titled Sentiments Misplaced: Poetry from the Heart. Look for this book in Amazon’s Kindle store soon. Connect with her via her blog, Shattered Hearts.

Jul 18, 2014

Sacrifice

There are very few things in my life I have truly been asked to sacrifice.  

I sacrificed my body to carry my three children for a cumulative total of 27 months while they grew in my womb; another 36 months as I nursed them during their first year of life.  During this time my thoughts were not on myself; my cravings or desires didn't matter, what mattered was the baby inside me.  That is what determined what food I ate, what I drank, and how much I exercised.  My body no longer looks like it did before I had children.  It has been stretched beyond repair, with scars and stretch marks that serve as visible proof of my sacrifice.  My hips are fuller now, my tummy much softer, my breasts, once beautiful, now lay flat against my chest.  But honestly, this is a sacrifice I willingly, joyfully made.  Perhaps there are days I look in the mirror and sigh.  But truth be told, I wouldn't change my body for the world, knowing what it has done, what it has brought to life, I hardly consider that a sacrifice.

I sacrificed my career to stay at home with my children.  I went from having 6-8 letters after my name, indicating my importance and my degree, to just three, M.O.M.  I gave up an income that would allow for a bigger house, newer cars, and more giving, to cut coupons and balance a much tighter budget.  But again, this is a sacrifice I willingly chose and I would do it again in a heart beat!  

Why?  Because this is a sacrifice made out of love and one I knew would be returned with love.  Though my kids have never looked me in the eye and thanked me for carrying them in my body, nursing them their first year of life, or giving up my career to stay at home with them, I know these sacrifices were important.  I know my kids appreciate what I have done, even if they don't yet recognize it, and these sacrifices have allowed us to be the family that we are.  They love me; they know I love them.  Any sacrifice I may have made for them I made willingly and would make again.

It's easier to make a sacrifice when you know that sacrifice will be appreciated, when you know it will lead to something good, something worthy of that sacrifice.  It is a whole lot harder to make a sacrifice when you don't know how it is going to turn out, when you don't know if that sacrifice will ever be appreciated or even noticed.

I heard a story of a woman strong in her faith who, when she was out on a speaking engagement, felt led to give a Bible away.  The problem was she didn't have an extra Bible, she only had HER Bible, the one she had written in, underlined, memorized, the one that had gotten her through all the various joys and trials of her life, the one that had the names of her children in it, held her dried tears on the pages.  She was being asked to give THAT Bible away… to a stranger… who may or may not even appreciate it.  Someone who may just turn around and throw it in the trash!  Someone who may not even recognize or understand the sacrifice she was being asked to make!

In an act of obedience I'm honestly not sure I could emulate, she gave her Bible away.  She went home and bought herself a new one, not knowing the fate of her well loved book.  Years later she found out the man had gone home, taken a week vacation from work and sat down and read her Bible cover to cover.  Some time later, the man passed that Bible on to someone else, who also read it cover to cover.  

The sacrifice she made was well worth it, though she didn't know it at the time.  It wasn't until years later that she would see the fruit of that sacrifice.

Sometimes however, the sacrifices we make never are recognized or appreciated.

Jesus made a sacrifice too, only his sacrifice he KNEW some people would never accept.  He KNEW people - many, many people - would never accept, recognize or understand the sacrifice he made.  And he made it anyway.  He knew there would be scores of people who neither appreciated nor noticed what he did, but that didn't stop him.  He made the ultimate sacrifice out of obedience and love. 

We are all called to make sacrifices.  Some of them will be easier than others.  Some of them we know will bear fruit.  We know good will come of them and though it is a sacrifice, we know it is well worth it.  Others sacrifices will be a risk, we may not know how they will ultimately turn out, if they are appreciated, if they bear fruit, but we make them anyway.  These sacrifices can be harder to make, but they are even more important.  They take a bigger leap of faith, greater trust.  And then there are the hardest sacrifices of all, the ones you know will go unnoticed, unappreciated.  We are called to make these too.  These are the sacrifices that are just between you and God, and oh, so pleasing to him!  Because he knows EXACTLY how much they cost you.  And though they feel worthless at the time, trust me, they are not!  

Whatever it may be that you are being asked to sacrifice right now, I encourage you to do it!  Make the sacrifice!  

Trust.  Obey.  Sacrifice.

Jul 14, 2014

Verse by Verse [V.6]

We're excited about how hungry you are for the Word!
This is the 6th week of Verse by Verse. We'll be continuing these challenges but in a new way.

Every other week we'll post a new verse for memorization along with a background. Instead of having a separate post for a link-up, you may post any reflections below in the comments. Whether that's just a couple sentences or a link to a blog post. We still want to hear from you and want to keep memorizing scripture!

We encourage you to add this NEW button to your sidebar to encourage participation.





 

This weeks' verse comes from Philippians 1:21. Paul's words from jail to the church in Philipp.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

download this to your iphone


What does this verse mean to you?

Jul 11, 2014

Meet Angele & Enter to Win a Beautiful Angel Wing Necklace



After a rewarding career in corporate marketing, Angele traded the boardroom for the playroom.  For the last 10 years, Angele has been blessed to spend her time being a wife and raising her 3 sons.  She has embraced this season of her life and is proud to add Domestic Engineer and Household CEO to her resume.  Though the days are still full with housework and homework, Angele has found some time to continue her education in psychology and Christian Counselling at Liberty University.  Adding to the every changing world of life and motherhood, Angele recently became an American expat living in Europe.   During this time of great transition, she created Angel Dancing, a place to connect with others and stay grounded in her faith as she write about her experiences and willingness to surrender and let God take the lead.  


There it was, one sunny afternoon, my 9 year old son asked the dreaded questions, “Mom, what is the worst thing you have ever done in your life?”  Like a speed train racing through my brain, my mind thought of all the things I wish I could do over again – but the thought of sharing this with him was certainly not something I was about to do.

I chuckled and replied, “Oh honey, mommy was a kid once and certainly did things I wish I hadn’t.”  All you need to know right now is that you will make some mistakes in life (we all do), and you will learn from them.  Do your very best to make wise choices and ask God to guide your path every step of the way.”
What I really wanted to say was thank God Facebook or Twitter didn't exist when I was growing up or my cyber footprint would haunt us both for years!
For the rest of the day, I was weighed down by his inquiry.  Knowing the temptations he will face and decisions he will have to make, I went to my Heavenly Father in prayer.  As I laid my burdens down, the Holy Spirit dropped an image in my mind from my own childhood. 

Growing up, I would spend hours in my dad’s workshop (a small room off our basement where he would create all types of art).  God has continued to bless his hands as he is always being creative and artistic; however, when I was young, he began working with stained glass and creating all sorts of beautiful pieces.  It was amazing to see these tiny, often broken, pieces of glass transformed using precise craftsmanship to create a masterpiece.


It was if I felt the Holy Spirit remind me that we are like those pieces of glass crafted together over time by our Creator into a work of art He is designing.  Yet, because of the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, our glass is unstained.  Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice to pay for our sins and sinfulness.  No one is perfect!  God knows we will fail Him (often daily), but His love for us never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8), because He chose us (John 15:16), died for us (Romans 5:8) and will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5).  We are redeemed through Christ!  Hallelujah! 

The reality is, we all will stumble, but nothing is without purpose.  As believers, we do not live in the spirit by accident.  Each and every day Christians must make the decision to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Trusting that God will manifest a Christ-like spirit and strengthen our character can sometimes feel like a great challenge (and often a lonely road traveled) as we live in a fallen world.  Daily, we are faced with choices and encounter human experiences and relationships.  What we do with those experience can help us grow in the most important relationship of all…our relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Perhaps when you begin to think about it, every one of us is a part of a greater pattern in God’s master plan.

Have you come to a place in your life where you have accepted your shortcomings, mistakes, even failures or do you carry the heavy burden of dwelling on the past?