Jesus is in the Storm

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What does the storm look like to you today? Is it physical, relational, emotional, financial, environmental, circumstantial? You fill in the _______________________. No matter what the ‘thing’ is, Christ is in the storm. You may be thinking, “What do you know? My __________ is so big, so rooted, that even Christ isn’t in that!”

Let’s look at the words of Paul in Romans 8:35:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 

That storm you’re going through may be BIG! I assume at times you don’t feel the presence of Jesus. Let us examine all the things that CANNOT separate us from the love of Jesus Christ:

~Can tribulation? (trouble, suffering, anxiety) NO!
~Can distress? (extreme anxiety, sorrow, pain) NO!
~Can persecution? (hostility or ill-treatment) NO!
~Can famine? (shortage, scarcity of food) NO!
~Can nakedness? (lack of clothing) NO!
~Can peril? (serious, immediate danger) NO!
~Can sword? (violent death) NO!

Paul covered any and all storms, right? If you’re going to live stronger in Christ, you must not only read those words, but also meditate on them. What is meditating on the Word of God? It is reading the text, looking up any words that you don’t understand, then pondering on what you’ve read. If you look in the parentheses above, you will see the meaning of each word.

As I looked over my notes, I realized that my current storm fit perfectly within those parentheses. I want to live stronger, I don’t want to go to bed at night with a pounding heart and fear-filled thoughts. If Jesus Christ is your Savior, then nothing can separate you from His love. Hard as this life may be, we have the security of knowing that we can rest in Him and His faithfulness. So when you feel like Christ isn’t in your storm, look at all the words above. Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ, you can be confident that He is with you in the storm!

In His love,
Shana

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A Study of Psalm 51:1-7

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Scripture:
Psalm 51:1-7
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Observations: What do I see in this passage?
• God’s love is unfailing.
• He has great compassion for us.
• He blots out our sins.
• Through repentance, we can be washed clean from sin and guilt.
• When we sin, we sin against God.
• His judgement is just.
• We were born sinners, even from the womb.
• God can purify us from our sins, making us clean, washing us whiter than snow!

Application: How can I apply what I see to my life?
Repent of your sins, recognizing your rebellion against the Lord.
Ask the Lord to cleanse you, making you whiter than snow before Him. He is faithful to forgive when we ask Him.

Prayer: Who/What do I pray for?
Pray for yourself, pray for the repentance of your community, church families, and for your family. Ask the Lord to reveal to us how His love is unfailing. As we pray, ask Him to show us how He has great compassion for us and can blot out the sins in our lives, making us clean, whiter than snow.

Posted in Christian Living, Devotional | 1 Response

No Looking Back

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As a little girl, I’d go out in my grandparents’ garden after my grandfather had tilled the ground. When I tried to follow my grandfather’s footprints, I’d get tickled because his huge prints were cockeyed, almost framing the tilled soil. No matter how funny his footprints looked, they were always in a straight path. Now, even though I have a son that’s an active member of the FFA, I don’t claim to know much about farming, and I can barely (or should I say rarely) keep a plant alive. However, I do know the importance of keeping a straight path.

When we answer God’s call to repent of our sins and become one of His children, we accept the path He has chosen for us. Sometimes the path is straight like my grandfather’s footsteps, but at other times, God leads us along a winding road. Either way, Satan is always there to distract us. He tempts us. He sets snares to trap us. He tries his best to make us look back at our old lives.

In Luke 9:62, Jesus tells us, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Once we become a child of God, looking ahead is the only option. My grandfather’s path in the garden was straight because he kept his eyes focused ahead, knowing that looking back would hinder his work. As Christian women, if we look back, our work will be hindered as well. We can’t grow in the Lord if we are constantly looking back at our past.

We must let go of our past failures.
We must let go of past hurts.
We must let go of bitterness.
We must choose forgiveness.
We must choose thankfulness.
We must choose to look forward with our eyes focused on Christ.

So today, Dear Friend, I encourage you to look forward. Whether you are just beginning to step foot on the path God has set before you or you have been on this path for quite some time, I encourage you to focus on Him. When life gets hard (and it will), look to Jesus. When Satan tries to bring up an old sin or tempt you (and he will), tell him to get behind you, that your focus is on being a new creation in the Lord. My prayer for you today is that you will keep your head held high with your eyes, your heart, and your mind focused on Christ alone.

Posted in Christian Living, Devotional, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Responses

Change

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In just a few short weeks, my life will be changing drastically.  Preparing for this change for months now will not be an adequate portrayal of how not only my life but the lives of all those around me will be affected.  This will not be a gradual change but rather the kind you’re thrown into some cold water, head first almost forgetting how to swim.  You feel like you can’t catch your breath or keep your head above water.  But all the while, you are adapting to the change so quickly that you don’t even realize that you have had to change what stroke you are swimming or sometimes even just float on your back to keep from drowning.

Having a new baby, a second baby, has definitely been changing my body for the last 8 months, but other than that, my life hasn’t been altered nor my time been divided the way it will be very soon.  Change is a normal part of our life.  We change locations.  We change direction.  Our opinions change.  Our bodies change.  Life circumstances change.  We are an ever evolving people and adapt to how our lives are affected by big or small change.  Sometimes the change comes easy and other times it seems unbearable.

In the midst of my quickly approaching changes awaiting the minute this new baby girl comes into this world, I take comfort and have peace knowing that I have a God who never changes.  God is never caught off guard by what is affecting my life.  His faithfulness never waivers even in the middle of my doubt.  God always keeps promises.  He is not affected by the mountains and valleys of my life or the way my thoughts continually run in circles.

What I have learned recently in preparing for the many upcoming changes is not that God always keeps His promises.  That reminder is not hard for me to understand because I have seen His faithfulness.  However, another trait that doesn’t change for God are His expectations for me.  My perfection must be laughable to Him because He knows my faults so well.  But, even in my shortcomings, He expects me to trust He has my life in His hands.  When I don’t understand, when my worries seem to overcome my thoughts, when I feel like I need a life jacket from the weight of the water around me, He still expects me to believe in faith that He will take care of me.  His unchanging ways allow me to believe that He will still be faithful.  I may not understand how or even witness in this lifetime some of the ways He has been in control of these changes I am facing, but He expects me to acknowledge that His ways are higher than my own and that my faith can glorify Him no matter my circumstance.

Posted in Christian Living, Devotional, Moms, Women's Ministry | 1 Response

Tracks of Low-Self Esteem

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Someone told me something they considered to be true about me.  The words penetrated me to my core—not because they were true. Actually, the words couldn’t have been further from the truth.  (Or is it “farther”?  I can never remember.)

After hearing the words, I gently corrected how I do handle certain situations and continued the conversation.

Truthfully, my mind has drifted back to that conversation—not because of the words.  Actually, the motivation of the would-be informant concerned me.  Why would someone tell someone else something so untrue?

After talking things over with God, He reminded me how a person’s low self-esteem can motivate one to act contrary to God’s ways.  I realized the person lied about me because of low self-esteem.

We compromise who and what God says we are when we do not use His Truth as the plumb line. I have played the victim of low self-esteem in the past, which is what God used to remind me of the symptoms.  I was able to recognize the tracks of low self-esteem.

So, I have begun to pray even more specifically for this person, as well as myself.  God can do more with this situation than I could ever hope or imagine.

Are you dealing with something?  Are you the “something” with which others are dealing?  Give it (the situation) to God. Trust Him to make the ugly, difficult, sordid, chaotic, seemingly unforgivable, or ___________  into something that glorifies Him. (You fill in the blank as needed.)

In the meantime, you get back in step with the Spirit and watch our Great God work!

Here’s to your spiritual health!

~Shelly

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Thanksgiving

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“Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2 HCSB

I know you’re thinking I have my holidays mixed up, but I promise the pregnancy brain hasn’t affected me that much! I just want to take a moment, dear sister, and encourage you to devote yourself in prayer with thanksgiving. It can be so hard to come to the Lord with thanks on our lips when we’re in a time of struggling. But that is when it is most crucial.

When my husband and I were trying to have a child, we cried out to the Lord often. One day in January, He sent me Psalm 37:4 where He tells us to delight in Him and He will give us the desires of our hearts. I knew in that moment I needed to focus on Him and the blessings He has already provided. That’s what He calls of us. We have to stay devoted in prayer, focusing on thanking Him, even during the hard times.

I don’t know what you’re going through, beloved. But I do know that we have a loving, personal Father who wants us to draw into a deeper relationship with Him. When we enter His presence with thanksgiving, we allow God to change us from the inside-out. I pray that we go to Him with thanksgiving in our hearts.

Lord, thank You for transforming us. Help us to come to You with thanksgiving. In Christ we pray, Amen.

~Lauren Ray

Posted in Christian Living, Prayer | Tagged | 1 Response

As long as there is Life there is Hope.

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One of my sisters, before she went home to be with the Lord in February 2015 gave me this framed quote.  “Hope – Just as the lily brings new life.  We’ll build our lives anew.  With Hope and Trust the clouds will pass and Faith will see us through.”

As we face the challenges in life, trusting and having faith in God and having hope is most essential.  There are 159 references to hope in the bible; many found in the book of Job.  There are 236 references to faith.  As we face the uncertainty of life itself, the only hope we have is in Christ Jesus and Faith can make us whole!

I write this as we hope and pray with faith that God’s infinite wisdom, abundant grace and mercy will intervene as we wrestle with family illness, social injustice, and natural disasters that are plaguing our nation and the world.

As long as there is life there is hope!  1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1 NIV

As we focus on hope and faith, keep in mind, we are not alone, God hears our prayers, and this too shall pass.  Be mindful, our circumstances do not predict our destiny.  How we adjust and handle our circumstances determine our life.  Our attitude determines life (Prov. 23:7)and life and death is in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21).  One thing we can be sure of is Change, whether we embrace it or not; change is inevitable.

As we hope and pray with faith knowing God is in control over everything that concerns us.  Therefore, praise Him in the midst of our circumstances.

My baby sister is battling cancer, she is the epitome of what praise looks like in the midst of illness.  Her faith will make her whole; her praise as it glorifies God will continue to lift her spirit and give her hope.

No matter what you may face know that God is with you and as long as there is life there is hope.  Let us continue to pray for one another, our country and this world that God’s spirit will pour out on all flesh!  We stand in the need for God’s Spirit of Hope, Unconditional Love, Joy, Peace and Good Health!

If you need a reminder of faith and hope, I encourage you to read Hebrews Chapter 11 for faith to be renewed!

 

 

Posted in At Home, Christian Living, Devotional, Ministers' Wives, Moms, Prayer, Uncategorized, Working Women | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Responses

A New Name

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“The nations will see your righteousness, And all kings your glory; And you will be called by a new name Which the mouth of the LORD will designate.” Isaiah 62:2 NASB

Last week, we were thrown a gender reveal party. We found out that we are expecting a little boy! We are overjoyed and excited for the little one the Lord is blessing us with.

When we found out we were pregnant, we searched for names for both boys and girls. As we discovered the perfect names, I reflected on how God gives us a new name when we become His. It’s truly amazing how He changes us on the inside AND blesses us with a new name. We are called to “lay down our old shame and take up our new name!” [Casting Crowns]

Praise the Lord we have a new name! We have a new life in Christ and we are free from our burdens! I am blessed when God reminds me of how awesome He is in little moments, like name choosing.

Now that we know we’re having a boy, we’ve elected to call him “Elias Walter” which means “my God is Jehovah the ruler of the armies.” And boy, my God sure is!!!!

Lord, thank You for giving us a new name! We are humbled by Your amazing grace, mercy, and love. Thank you for Your blessings. In Christ we pray, Amen.

~Lauren Ray

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Mindful of Me

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I love sunsets and sunrises, ocean and mountain views, pouring rain and drifting snow, sunny days and foggy mornings.   Nature is beautiful. More importantly, it is a reminder of two things:

1. God is awesome and creative.
2. God makes amazing things.

Psalm 8:3-4 says, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained, what is man that you are mindful of him?”

As we consider the work of the Lord’s fingers, we are in awe.  No two sunsets or sunrises are the same.  Each are unique in their colors. There may be many clouds, a few, or none at all.  And consider the power of thunderstorms, how dramatic the thunder and lightning can be or the peacefulness of it all.

God has placed the sun, moon, and earth in their proper places.  Consider if He’d placed them slightly differently, maybe just a few miles closer or further apart.  That would greatly impact life on earth.

The stars in the skies have been placed in the heavens for specific purposes as well.  Many explorers have faithfully used them to navigate.

Yes, nature is amazing because God is amazing.

And God created us as well.

God is as mindful of us as He is of nature.

We are each unique.  Although we may have the same weight and height, our hair and eyes are different. Our appearances are different. Our personalities are different.  No matter how alike we are, we are different.

But God is mindful of us.

He cares for us in ways that are specific to our differences and needs.  He provides for us in ways we could never imagine.  He loves us tremendously, which is proved  by the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

We all have times we get down on ourselves.
I’m  not pretty enough.
I’m not athletic enough.
I’m not talented enough.
I’m not rich enough.
I’m not……..enough

Let’s take today to look at how God is mindful of us…..
For instance,  maybe God provided a friend at just the right time.
Maybe God provided an answer to a prayer.
Maybe God said no to a prayer and it was the best thing.

My challenge to you today is to look at how God is mindful of you.

Look for what makes you unique and praise God.
Look at what you enjoy and praise God.
Look at your family and friends and praise God.
Look at your job and your home and praise God.
Look at the cross and praise God.

I promise…..if you look, you will see how God is mindful of you and only you.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.  You are not the same as anyone else. When my cousin was going through her chemo treatments, she said that several of them were comparing their treatments and would become upset that they weren’t getting the same treatment. The nurse had to stop the discussions and remind them that their diagnosis were different, that they couldn’t have the same treatment plan.  And we can’t compare how God provides for us with how He provides for someone else.  We have different temperaments. We have different sins. We have made different decisions in life.

We are different because God loves us that much.

How has God been mindful of you?

 

***This post was originally posted on my personal blog in 2016.***

Posted in Christian Living, Devotional | Tagged , | 1 Response

Choose to Celebrate

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Today is my 40th birthday.  Let me be honest: I’ve thought a lot about this day and the number 40. I know women who’ve stressed out and flipped out over turning 40 years old.  I’ve seen women go through their midlife crisis by purchasing sports cars and a younger, hipper wardrobe.  But as I think about this number, this age, I just want to say that I feel blessed.

I’m thankful for what I once was – a teenager, a college student, a young wife, a young mother, a young career woman.  I’m thankful for the mistakes I made, the obstacles I overcame, and the choices that led me to where I am now.

 

I’m thankful for where I am now in my life: a mother to 3 sons, a pastor’s wife and military spouse, a teacher, and a writer.

 

I’m thankful for where God is leading me. I have no idea what His plans are for me, but over these forty years, I do know this: God is good and wherever He leads, I’ll go!

 

My first forty years have not been perfect.  I’ve struggled to be the daughter, sister, and friend I’ve been called to be.  I’ve failed to be an A+ teacher.  I’ve lost my temper with my children, and supposedly, one time I even stuck my tongue out at my husband.  During my first forty years, I’ve experienced financial difficulty, sick children, health scares, miscarriage, and deployment.  I’ve been hurt by those I’ve loved. I’ve been accused of doing things or being someone I’m not.  But in all of those valleys, God has proven His faithfulness, His goodness, and His mercy.

 

Y’all God is so good!  That’s why I’m celebrating.  I’m celebrating how He chose me and created me for a purpose. I’m celebrating how He has worked miracles in my life. I’m celebrating how He has used me to further his kingdom.  I’m celebrating that He isn’t done with me yet.  I am so unworthy of God’s love and grace, yet He bestows it upon me anyway.  I’ve failed the Lord so many times in so many ways, yet He has remained faithful and true.

 

I refuse to allow Satan to convince me that turning 40 is the end of the world.  I know differently, because I know Jesus!  And with that, I’d like to give you a gift.  I’m giving you scripture that should encourage you, lift you, and remind you how wonderful our God is.  So, whatever birthday you will be celebrating, whatever season of life you’ve found yourself in, remember this: This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Psalm 118:24.

You are complete in Him. Colossians 2:10

 

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. Philippians 4:11

 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart;
I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
Psalm  9:1-2

 

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

 

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. Jeremiah 29:11

Posted in Christian Living, Devotional, Women's Ministry | Tagged , , , | 1 Response