Operation Christmas Child Dedication Sunday

This Sunday is the last day for our shoebox collections. Join us as we pray over these boxes before taking them to the drop off point.

Just for fun, watch this special video of Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty as he learns how to pack a shoe box.

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Multiplied blessings

When I subbed at the elementary school last week, I sat with one student in a small reading group while they read a story aloud to each other. The story began with a  land that had good crops and everyone had enough to eat. The eRice-Sack-2015483mperor wanted to be prepared in case if a famine happened so he began collecting a portion of the people’s crops. He took a large portion at each harvest, leaving them barely enough to live on.

After several years of bountiful crops, a famine did happen. The first year, the crops were poor, but the emperor still collected the majority of their crops for the storehouse. By the end of the third year, the people were very hungry and began to say to themselves, “Why isn’t the emperor opening up his storehouse?” But he continued to hoard the stores of rice for something worse. He grew even more selfish, throwing lavish banquets for his own staff and friends, but not giving the people what they needed.

One day while several elephants brought the rice to his palace for yet another feast,  a young girl noticed a hole in one of the baskets and a few grains of rice began dribbling out. She ran over and picked up the grains on the ground and caught the others as they fell out through the hole.

When they got to the palace, she returned the rice to the emperor. He wanted to reward her by allowing her to keep the small handful of rice she had collected. Being wise beyond her years, she said, “No. I would like one grain of rice”. Then she asked that the emperor would double that each day for a month. He thought she was just a foolish child so he agreed.

Of course, you know the end of the story. By the 31st day of the month, she had amassed all of the grains in the emperor’s storehouse and began distributing it to her people. Forgiving the emperor for his selfish ways, she allowed him the amount he needed to live each day.

In many ways God’s blessings are like that. On days when we feel discouraged and burdened down by life’s cares we are like the starving peasants. But when we begin to look around us and to count our blessings,  we only need to find one thing, even if t is as small as a grain of rice, to praise the Lord for. That one praise will begin to lift our sagging spirits and the next day we might find 2 things, then 4 and so on. As we begin praising the Lord our hearts eventually overflow with joy to the point where we cannot contain it anymore  – even in the midst of spiritual and emotional famine conditions!

One national missionary in Southeast Asia was imprisoned for his faith. The living conditions were squalid and dark with no windows in the cell. The other prisoners taunted him constantly challenging him to renounce his faith. Even the guards had fun at his expense, taking him outside several times each week, putting a hood over his head and placing a gun to his temple. Each time he refused to give up his faith, even though he felt rejected and abandoned by God. Each time, he heard them pull the trigger. Then they removed the hood and laughed at the stark terror on his face.

His faith grew weaker each day until he was consumed by doubts. He had no more words to pray, no blessings that he could see to be thankful for. So he sat there and honestly told the Lord about his doubts and fears, even though he had always been taught that it was a sin to doubt. After he prayed, his hope was renewed because he felt that God had heard him.

The next day he was removed to a cell with a window where he witnessed a breath-taking sunset. He focused on that j0428626_microsoft_clip_art_sunset(2)one blessing as it filled his heart and encouraged him that God was still in control . The next time the guards took him for a mock execution, they removed the hood only to find the man’s face relaxed and peaceful rather than full of torment.

Something as simple as a sunset can be a blessing from God to encourage our hearts and fill us with the strength we need to carry on through difficult circumstances. And as we carry on, we build on that one blessing with more answers to prayer and more little blessings until our hearts are full to overflowing!

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The Bible is full of useless information…

UNLESS

1. You read it.

Whether you read it in a  modern, easy to read version or listen to it on some form of 6287240997_53ff1460damedia device, or if you prefer the good old standby – the King James version, God’s word won’t do anything for you unless you open the book!

God went to a lot of trouble to inspire the authors of the various Bible books to write his words because his people needed a textbook to know how to live and to remember the things he spoke out loud through his prophets and teachers.

2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Moses was inspired to create a written record of the history of Israel from the time of creation until they stood in the wilderness on the verge of entering into the promised land. And then he read that record to them to remind them of the things their God had done. He challenged them to read it to their children as well so that future generations would know and worship God alone. When Israel failed to read and remember God and his word, they  got into trouble – EVERY TIME. We have to read it!

2. You embrace it.

How many times have you read a book only to put it down afterwards and promptly forget what you read? That happens when the words don’t engage our hearts.  On the other hand, when you read a book that captures your imagination and emotions, it stays with you forever.

In elementary school I read Madeleine L’Engle’s  book, A Wrinkle in Time. I remembered that story because it had stirred things in my heart. I could relate to the main character; the insecure, glasses-wearing Meg with a big heart that wanted to help others but didn’t know how.

For years I wished I could read that book again, but I couldn’t remember the title no matter what I did. However, as an adult I ran across the book by accident and as soon as I began reading it, I knew it was the beloved book I’d read as a girl. Even without knowing the title, my heart remembered the story.

In the same way, when the Bible engages your heart, it becomes more than just words on a page. It becomes embedded in your heart.

Psalm 1:2-3 The Message ..“…you thrill to God’s Word,  you chew on Scripture day and night. You’re a tree replanted in Eden,     bearing fresh fruit every month, Never dropping a leaf,     always in blossom.”

3. You live it.

Psalm 119:11 The Voice   “Deep within me I have hidden Your word
so that I will never sin against You.”

Because of newly diagnosed heart issues, I’ve had to begin making lifestyle changes: watching my sodium intake, diet and exercise (yes I hear those collective groans!). The medication  is helping to manage things, but in order for it to be most effective, I have to live differently each day, actually doing what the doctor says. It’s not enough to read about heart disease or to  know I have to make changes. I just have to “DO” it in order for it to be most effective.

In the same way, as Christians, it’s not enough to read God’s word or to know we need to make changes because we feel conviction when we read the Bible. We must do what it says to get the most benefit from our faith.

The Bible might be foolishness to those who never bother to look inside it’s covers, but to all who read it, love it and live it, God’s Word brings life  and health.

Joshua 1:8 The Voice   Let the words from the book of the law be always on your lips. Meditate on them day and night so that you may be careful to live by all that is written in it. If you do, as you make your way through this world, you will prosper and always find success.

The

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Congratulations!

This week we want to extend our congratulations to Deena and her new baby!

Little Caylynn arrived November 2nd at 1:58 am.
She’s 7 pounds & 2oz and 19 & ¾ inches long

                        All those who saw her photo on Facebook will agree – She’s a little sweetheart! Be sure to pass along your good wishes to Deena when you see her!

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The invitation to intimacy with God

God said to Moses, “Climb higher up the mountain and wait there for me; I’ll give you tablets of stone, the teachings and commandments that I’ve written to instruct them.” So Bald Eagle in FlightMoses got up, accompanied by Joshua his aide. And Moses climbed up the mountain of God.   Ex 24;12-13  The Message

It seems I’ve tried to live healthier most of my adult life. I’ve gone through spurts of dieting,  exercising to improve my physical health, and  spurts of intense daily Bible study/Prayer to improve my spiritual health.  Usually, I’ve been able to keep up with these regimens with for a while.  But ultimately, I get frustrated or busy and end up quitting.  Then I have to get motivated again before plunging back into the battle for my spiritual and physical health.

During the winter of 1996-1997, we lived in northern NY where the winters seemed especially long and gloomy. When we moved there, I left my counselor and emotional support system behind that had sustained me during the beginning of my healing journey. After the move, I felt lost, like I was floundering and I wasn’t sure what to do to regain my spiritual equilibrium.

That January, I prayed about making resolutions for the year.  Of course, my spiritual life and physical health topped the list. I committed to a daily regimen of praying and scripture reading,  but because of the snow and extreme chill weather-wise, I really couldn’t walk outdoors to take care of my physical body. As I prayed, I felt a nudging by God’s Spirit to walk indoors – after all, the church we pastored was right next door and the sanctuary was large enough to easily walk a mile by going around inside several times. It was a perfect place to commit to both the physical and spiritual regimen I needed.

So I got up early in the morning, went next door,  put on some worship music and walked. It didn’t take long to realize that as I walked and praised the Lord, he was right there walking with me. I found I could talk to the Lord about anything, honestly and openly. And he would answer me.

For me it had become an invitation to intimacy, to “climb higher up the mountain,” as I walked and talked with the Lord each day.  The hour spent walking, praying and praising each day soon became my favorite time of day.

I wish I could say that those lifestyle changes became a permanent part of my life. But like Moses, I eventually returned down the mountain to “real life.” As spring rolled around, life got busier and  more things claimed my time and attention each day. Physical exercise took on a different form as it moved outdoors to include gardening and walking the dog. My spiritual exercise became a shorter morning devotional reading and prayer time.

But the lessons I learned about worship and  intimacy with God during that wintertime walk stayed with me.  It was there in the quiet sanctuary, walking and talking with him that I heard the beating of God’s heart. He became more real than  he had ever been and I learned to know his ways like Moses, rather than just knowing him for his acts like the people of Israel did. I am so thankful for his intimate healing touch in my heart.

Committing ourselves to obedience, allowing God to do what he needs to do for us in this healing process ultimately leads to an invitation to intimacy – an invitation to “come up higher” where we can know God for who he is, not just what he does.

I’d love to hear how you have experienced this in your healing process.

Have a blessed day!

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Committing to the healing and growth process

Moses came and told the people all the Lord’s words and all the case laws. All the people answered in unison, “Everything that the Lord has said we will do.” Moses then wrote down all the Lord’s words. He got up early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain. He set up twelve sacred stone pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. He appointed certain young Israelite men to offer entirely burned offerings and slaughter oxen as well-being sacrifices to the Lord.  Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls. The other half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the covenant scroll and read it out loud for the people to hear. They responded, “Everything that the Lord has said we will do, and we will obey.”

 Moses then took the blood and threw it over the people. Moses said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord now makes with you on the basis of all these words.” Exodus 24:3-8 CEB

????????????????????????????????????????????Quick, get the Germ – X ® hand sanitizer!   I thought to myself as I saw two boys making a “spit promise.” Though it totally grossed me out as an adult, I knew they were dead serious about the pact they just made. While it remained to be seen whether or not they could actually keep that pact, their intent was to fulfill their promise to each other.

When we think of the word, “covenant”, however, it carries far more weight than these boyhood promises. It is generally a contract or legally binding agreement, initiated by God. It may be between  between God and man (or a group of people such as the nation of Israel)  or made by God as a promise of how he will act toward man.

In this case, God had already shown the Israelites his power of protection and provision in the miracles he had performed in the early days of their journey. Moses had written down an account of all these things along with answers God gave him  to the many difficult disputes which had arisen among the people (chapters 21-23). He also included the promises of God to be with them as long as they obeyed God’s words. Now, he challenged the people:  “You’ve already seen what God can do. Will you trust him and continue to walk with him?”

It was time for the people of Israel to make a decision and commit themselves to it. Would they respect and obey the things God said; the laws he gave them? Had they learned to trust him enough to commit to the process of healing and growth?

In our healing journey,  we will most likely pass through a similar wilderness experience. There God will show us his provision and protection in some mighty ways. We should get into the habit of journaling about the things God does and how he leads us one step at a time through the lives of those he sends to help us and by the miracles he performs.  And we need to reread the journaling about those events often to help us remember what he’s doing when the things get a little rough.

Ultimately though, there will come a time when we must stop and make a solid commitment to the journey. You see, unless a person wants to grow and heal from the effects of abuse, unless they commit to move forward after a great loss, they won’t cooperate with the work God needs to do to bring about that healing. A spiritual and emotional healing involves hard work and a deliberate commitment to the process.

Moses built an altar and stood before the people to read all of things he wrote down on this “covenant scroll.”  When the people agreed to  live by God’s laws, the promise was sealed with a mass sacrifice.  Moses poured some of the blood on the altar to sanctify the altar and sacrificial gifts before God, and reserved the rest to sprinkle on the people to seal the deal. Not only had God committed to helping them, they had agreed to let him do the necessary work.

Will you commit your life to God and let him take control of this healing process? It won’t be easy as we shall see in the lives of the Israelites in the chapters to come. But the emotional health and spiritual rewards we gain by letting God control the process are well worth it! And one thing is for sure, when God makes a covenant promise to heal and guide, there is no doubt whatsoever that he will keep his end of the bargain.

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Overcoming our fear of the Father

All the people, experiencing the thunder and lightning, the trumpet blast and the smoking mountain, were afraid—they pulled back and stood at a distance. They said to Moses, “You speak to us and we’ll listen, but don’t have God speak to us or we’ll die.”

Moses spoke to the people: “Don’t be afraid. God has come to test you and instill a deep and reverent awe within you so that you won’t sin.”

 The people kept their distance while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. Exodus 20:18-21

Child developmental psychologists tell us that a young  child  learns who he is through ???????????family interactions. By the time he’s 4, he has formed a fairly concrete image of himself through relationship with his parents. If his parents have done the best they could in meeting that child’s physical and emotional needs, he will usually have a pretty stable self-image as well as a sound sense of family.

But if a parent has neglected, physically or emotionally abused that child, the building blocks for future problems have already been stacked against him, including the development of his God-concept which happens between 6-8 years of age.

When I was a young child, I got mixed messages in my relationship with my father. He said he loved me as he showered me with  improper affections. But in the next breath, he threatened me saying  bad things would happen and I would be to blame if I ever told anyone what he did to me in the guise of that love. Because of my fear of his words, I kept silent well into adulthood. I stuffed my fear down deep inside and put on the happy face of a child in a model family.

As I grew up in Sunday School, I learned that God loved me too, but I had difficulty shaking the idea that his love was conditional, based on my performance. I always felt like I was hanging onto a string, suspended over hell’s fires. If I messed up, God might just decide to let go of that string. Just like I feared my earthly father, I had a deep-seated, almost unshakeable fear of my heavenly Father. I strove to be the best Christian I could, putting on my Martha personality mask while secretly worrying that I wasn’t doing enough.

I was much like the Children of Israel at Mt. Sinai here in this passage.   From the time they were infants in Egypt, they learned that their parents couldn’t protect them from the heartache, death and pain of slavery. Displays of power by their captors were generally followed by death and an increase of hardship as their enemies attempted to create fear and compliance in the hearts of the Israelites.  This kind of emotional brow-beating had been going on for 400 years, spanning many generations.

In the wilderness God had showered them with love. He protected them and provided for them. But they had been conditioned through the centuries to believe that their God couldn’t or wouldn’t help them. In fact, they believed this display of  God’s power in the wilderness was sure to be followed by an increase of death and hardship, just like it always had with their enemies. No matter how many times God  performed miracles to teach them that he was there for them, it was difficult to overcome their  sense of fear. It’s no wonder they hung back and wanted Moses to deal with God for them. If they dared to seek after God themselves, who knew what God would do to them?

As we approach Father’s Day this month, consider your relationship with your father and your heavenly Father. If you were hurt by your earthly father in the past, it may be difficult to trust your heavenly Father now. God’s displays of might and power toward you, designed to encourage your faith and  “instill a deep and reverent awe within you,” can easily be misinterpreted to be harsh or intimidating. Maybe you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop in your relationship with Him.

Ask God, your heavenly Father,  to help you break those cement blocks of fear which were laid in your formative years so that you may receive his love and encouragement. He wants and deserves your worship, your praise and your deepest respect and awe. But it’s not his intent that you should cower in fear before him. Or that you should keep your distance from him, waiting for others to tell you what he wants.

Father, help us to be fearless as we  come to you, to know you and to have a relationship with you. Help us to see for ourselves who we are in relationship with you so we can heal and grow into mature followers – true children of God! Amen.

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