An Encouraging Word to Those Under Pressure

from Tom Gaddis

Ever feel like a crushed grape between the toes of someone? That’s tribulation! And Jesus in this verse tells us the truth: You will have tribulation! He does not allow His followers to live in private fiction about the way things really are.

Tribulation is that external and outward pressure upon your soul. It is an equal opportunity employer—we all experience pressure. We all have found ourselves at the end of a day feeling treaded down! 

These pressures can come from any one of a number of sources: the devil, the consequences of our choices, or the circumstances of life. And the truth is that if pressure on the outside of us is greater than the strength on the inside of us, we will  collapse. 

But Jesus brings hope! In John 16:33, Jesus points out that his victory over this world with its pressures is shared with his followers. His victory is our victory. In Christ the weak can be made strong. Through Christ we can be stronger on the inside than the pressures, troubles, and problems are on the outside.

Today ask Christ to give you:

  • strength equal to your tasks,  
  • inner peace stronger than outer storms,
  • hope on the inside when there is only defeat on the outside.

The victory is ours to claim!  

An Encouraging Word 10

An Easter Devotional by Jeanette Morris

He Has Shown Thee

“As for you, you meant evil against me, {but} God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20 NASB). 

Thirty years ago, I woke up on Easter Sunday morning weeping bitter, guilt-laden tears.  My three children scurried around the house hunting colored eggs, but had no idea of the true meaning of the celebration. My husband of six years didn’t even know I was a born-again believer. That day, I promised God and myself that the Easter bunny wouldn’t be back in my house, ever again, and that my kids and I would be in church from then on. 

I kept that promise. I needed to create strict boundaries for myself in this and several other areas of weakness, so old habits could be taken into captivity and new ones established. I also stopped observing Halloween. My kids were unhappy about my hard-line stance on these holidays. They felt like they were missing something fun. I did my best to replace the cultural celebrations with something equally exciting, and they survived. 

Since that time, my perspectives and my Christian worldview have broadened and solidified, so I don’t feel threatened by cultural celebrations.

What the Lord requires of me now is to obey the call of his purpose for my life in humility of spirit and in love (Micah 6:8).  Jesus met people’s needs wherever they were…and I guess that could be at an Easter egg hunt as well as in a sunrise service. 

Christ died for sinners. I’m in that group, with or without colored eggs. 

Prayer Focus:  Believers who have fallen away.

April 2021 Heart 2 Heart INVITATION

Hello dear ladies! Please mark your calendars for our April Heart 2 Heart which will be on APRIL 11 (the Sunday following Easter) at 3 PM. Our pastor Lori Barrow will be speaking, and you won’t want to miss what the Lord has given her to share with us. SEE YOU THERE!

An Encouraging Word 8

Just Your Presence

Scripture: For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority (Colossians 2:9-10 NIV).

In 2001, I began a short-term mission ministry to Russia. At the time, excessive striving muddied my Christian worldview. I perceived my purpose in going was to bring biblical truth to new believers by teaching Bible studies. Several trips later, I realized that Russians were more interested in the why than the what of my presence among them. So my “work” there transformed into what to some might seem rather ordinary—holding a new baby of HIV positive parents, encouraging a recovering addict, laughing with a new friend, crying with another in her loss—but that is the beauty and the message of Christian mission. 

Paul tells the Colossians:  “God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentileswhich is Christ in you, the hope of  glory” (1:27).

In chapter 2:10, he further explains that in Him—in Jesus—we have been made complete. In other words, we already have everything we need to share who Christ is with others. We have it just in our presence. 

People are so hungry to see Jesus and to have the hope that we have. It isn’t likely these hungry ones will ever knock on our doors or enter our churches. Jesus told his disciples (and we are among that group) to “go.” The hope of glory is within us—and people will see it—see Him—if we simply go.

Prayer: Here am I. Send me (Isaiah 6:8 NIV).

An Encouraging Word: Taking Hold

Several years ago, I was challenged in a post by my pastor to examine what “success” looks like as a follower of Jesus. The gist of the post reminded me that my focus should not be on “doing more” to complete my God-given purposes, but to “take hold” of the Christ of the Gospels and “be more” like him in my relationships with others.  

All too aware that God sends me to the other side of the planet to shine for His glory, I’m incapable of shining when I’m striving without the right heart—his heart. I can’t “take hold” of Jesus when I’m hyper-focused on appearances, meeting expectations (mostly my own), and worrying about disappointing someone with my inadequacies. 

                                                                                                             

The Jesus of the Gospels always had time to listen to people’s needs and fears, to touch, to care, to heal, to pray, to laugh, to tell stories. He moved seamlessly through all levels of society and spoke what he heard his Father saying; he did what his Father asked him to do. Nothing more–nothing less.  

I’m longing for this kind of success. How about you? 

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, I do want people to see more of you and less of me.  Help me to follow your example to listen to the Father and do as he lovingly commands. Show me your ways, that I may walk in love. 

— Jeanette Morris

An Encouraging Word 6

2 Kings 6

Those Who Are With Us

Once the king of Syria sent a great army to capture the prophet Elisha. During the night, the Syrian army surrounded the city where Elisha was staying. When Elisha’s servant “arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’” (v. 15). Confidently and calmly, Elisha answered: “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (v. 16).

The servant might have said to himself, “What is he talking about? Where are they? We have no army in this small town.

Perhaps the confused look on the servant’s face encouraged Elisha to pray: “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see” (v. 17). The servant didn’t understand this prayer. What was he not seeing? His eyes WERE open. Who else was there to see other than the great enemy army? Then “the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (v. 18)

This episode helps us understand how God expresses His providence on our behalf, even though we cannot see it because we are spiritually shortsighted—and sometimes even blind. Without faith, the unseen things that are all around us will remain unseen, and we will remain insecure.

Interestingly, the only thing that happened to the Syrian army was that they became blind following another prayer of Elisha’s. The horses and chariots of fire demonstrated God’s active care of Elisha, who could see them (by faith). And because of his prayer, his servant saw them as well. But only they needed to see it. The Syrian army didn’t see it, and was there to experience the effect of God’s hand, but interestingly, also His great mercy later on. (See 2 Kings 6:19-23 for the rest of the story.)

Our human senses cannot capture anything beyond what is in our material world, yet much happens in the supernatural realm, which we “see” only with faith. What we see with our eyes is not the big picture, just as our perspective about our circumstances and the behavior of others is incomplete. As believers, “those who are with us” are always greater than we perceive.

—-Jeanette Morris

An Encouraging Word 5

Read Jeremiah 29:11-13

God Wants to Lead

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. 

-Psalm 16:11 (NIV)

 A dilapidated bridge dangles from one end of the canyon to the next. Seventy-five feet below lay sharp jagged rocks, yet the guide assures everyone secure passage to the other side. Trust me he says. My eyes give me good reason to doubt him.

When I read, “I trust in you, O Lord . . .” (Psalm 31:14 NIV), I wonder, do I really? Do I see God as the foolish guide who wants to lead me across a tattered bridge? How apt am I to trust God when life looks like a pile of jagged rocks? Do I look upon my expedition with God as exhausting rather than exploratory?  

Dwelling too long on the path enmeshes me in confusion and consumes vital energy. Did God say cross that bridge, or not? What did He say I would do when I get to the other side? When I spend too much time figuring out my “genuine” purpose, I become shortsighted. I misplace my trust. I neglect pressing forward to occupy and bear fruit for God’s kingdom.

But when I relax in God’s leading and His knowledge of me, I can let go of demanding to know God’s will. When the journey is bumpy and unpredictable, which always raises questions, God’s wisdom will guide me. He assures me that my times are in His hands (Psalm 31:15 NIV). He will guide me safely, even across that dilapidated bridge, if I just let Him lead. 

Prayer

Father, help me to look into your eyes where no storm or dark shadow dwells. Cause my heart to trust in you. Amen.

Thought of the Day

You can breathe a deep sigh of relief because God knows the way across the broken bridge, and he knows you.

Prayer Focus:

Those questioning God’s will.

–Diane  Ramirez

March Heart to Heart 2021

Our ability to gather (safely) once again is such a blessing! Please plan to join us March 7 for our women’s fellowship afternoon.

An Encouraging Word 4

by Frances Judge copyright 2020.  Used by permission from the author.

The Image of His Heart

Frances (Francy) Judge is an inspirational illustrator and author of “Randy’s Steps” a middle grade novel and an award-winning poet published in Clubhouse Jr. and several anthologies.  She is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and lives in Long Beach, New York with her husband and five children. You can learn more about Francy on her website:  www.francesjudge.com

An Encouraging Word 3

God’s Still Small (but not Silly) Voice

Early last year I was purchasing some small gifts to hand out at our ministry planning retreat. The theme I had decided on was personal care items. With the lotions, face wipes, etc., the idea popped into my head to buy hand sanitizer. But when it came time to go to retreat I had second thoughts. It seemed silly … who would want hand sanitizer as a gift? So I returned them.

Then the pandemic hit and everyone needed hand sanitizer. I hurried to our local store hoping to buy those purse-size hand sanitizers again … but no. All the stores were sold out. How could I possibly have known what was about to happen? 

For the rest of 2020, my lack of listening to that still small voice went round and round in my head. God put the idea there, but I didn’t recognize his voice because it seemed silly. Instead, what a timely and God-directed gift it would have been if I had just followed through with what I had heard. 

We’re told in Isaiah 1:19 that if we’re willing and obedient we’ll eat the good of the land. My hope is that next time I’m more willing and obedient.

God’s voice may be small, but it’s not silly! 

–Carolyn V Watson

February FUNd-raiser


WHO DOESN’T LOVE COOKIES! Especially the ones someone else bakes for you WITH LOVE.

And that’s what’s coming up on Sunday, February 14. Just show up at church and look for the smiling ladies selling cute bags of Valentine yumminess. You will be blessing someone (or yourself) with delicious, homemade treats, plus blessing our church women’s ministry with funds that allow us to host amazing events throughout the year as well as provide partial scholarships for our fall retreat.

Wow! That was a mouthful. Well, just getting you ready for February 14th!

An Encouraging Word 2

Read Hebrews 12:1-3

… for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

— Philippians 2:13 (NIV)

As I consider the work of an author—creating, writing, re-writing, and editing until every word is shaped into a cohesive manuscript, I think about Jesus as author of my life. Jesus, the Living Word, entered in and took residence as the Author and Finisher of my faith. What a remarkable deposit of power and desire to see me prosper!

Jesus, as the author of my faith, writes his truth on my heart. In difficult times, he writes it again to encourage me. When I repent, he deletes my sin. He inserts the fellowship of believers, which sharpens my faith. By the power and authority of his Word, he edits out the enemy’s lies and deceptions that try to creep into my mind. He expands the vocabulary of my circumstances, either to test the placement of my trust or faith in his “I AM” and “I CAN.” With wisdom, he inscribes his words on my heart, line-by-line, until faith is established (finished) in me.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV). Today, as you run the race of your Christian faith, contemplate that Jesus is authoring and finishing (or perfecting) your faith. Allow this to free you from all striving. You can be “…confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion …” (Philippians 1:6 NIV). 

                                   

Prayer:

I’m forever grateful, Jesus, that you are my faith giver. I don’t have to muster faith on my own, for you dwell in me to perfect me to the end. Amen.

Thought of the Day:

When I said I believed, the Author of faith came in. Faith reigns in me. 

Prayer Focus:

Pray for the weak and weary to look to Jesus, the Author of Faith.

                                                                —Diane Ramirez

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