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Joy found in a Savior

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Have you ever been the recipient of a random act of kindness? You know the type of thing that happens out of the ordinary for no reason. Maybe someone left you flowers, a cupcake, and a devotional on your porch which you while away. What a wonderful display of tenderness and unselfish love. We might go as far as to call it “counter cultural”.

Jesus’ life is a perfect example of someone who did the unexpected. He loved the unlovable, accepted the rejects, forgave sinners, and the list continues.

Derwin Gray refers to the Messiah as “the counter-cultural king” who brought “a holy disruption.” Jesus was our perfect example to go beyond all worldly barriers and extend hope, peace, and love and in doing so we would experience pure joy of the LORD!

Paul wanted the world to fully know the Joy found in Jesus. He spoke directly to the Philippians and clearly stated ways to adjust one’s state of mind. We find this in the reading of Philippians 4:4-9:

Rejoice in the LORD always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The LORD is near, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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.

Paul knew the joy that would come from living counter-culturally. He also knew the sacrifice it would take and the worldly consequences that would come. Yet, if Paul were among us today, I think he would bear witness to the extreme happiness within a believer when carrying out the father’s will.

Scripture reminds us in Romans 15:13 that we cannot produce joy that comes from God. He alone fills us with unexplainable joy-the kind of happiness that cannot be shaken by circumstances or the horrific events of this world.

In John 16:22, we read about the lasting joy given by God. Scripture promises us that no one can take away this special joy.

I have heard it said like this: “Jesus’s love brings peace even in difficult circumstances, contentment regardless of comfort, and joy in our eternal hope.” WOW! What a powerful statement very applicable to Advent.

This 3rd week of Advent, as we light the Joy candle, may we take time to reflect on the happiness from the birth of Jesus. May we remember-we don’t have to despair in our present world-WHY? – because Christ will come again. AMEN!

Heavenly Father,

This third week of Advent, let our hearts be flooded with your Joy and let us be overwhelmed with rejoicing. We are so grateful for the abundant joy you offer through the gift of Jesus, our Savior and Lord.

May we always remember our joy doesn’t come from this world and it is a gift from you-a present that first Christmas to the world to extend a counter culturally love beyond our imaginations. Help us extend Your joy to those around us.

In Your precious name we pray. Amen

May you be encouraged to focus on the Joy of the Lord and carry out Philippians 4:8:

“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.”

Peace found in a Savior

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Has there ever been a time in life where you lacked peace?

This past week has been a whirlwind-some over the top experiences, amazing memories, stressful busyness, and one big jab to the heart. As things have settled a bit, I realized the unexpected news and what the future holds did not give me peace of mind. There is no doubt I left God’s peace out of the equation. I dare to say you might have been in my shoes a time or two yourself where your life lacked peace.

Somewhere this week I ran across a short analogy that hit home. It simply stated: “During the rush of angry weather, a bird sat on her nest with peace.” (Clearly that wasn’t me this week!) The story went on to define peace as truly having a calmness of heart amid the stressful chaos and trouble. What really caught my attention was the fact that peace was described as a state of mind, not a state of surroundings. This really went against my thinking: peace means to be in a place where there is no noise or trouble-NOT! Why would I need peace if there wasn’t a need for it?

If real peace is a state of mind, not the state of the surroundings, how can it be obtained? Listen, there was no way I could have produced the peace I needed a couple of days ago. However, my mindset was different when I settled down and called on the Holy Spirit’s power living within me. There is no doubt the peace and hope I received were a precious gift from the Father. A complete comfort washed over me when I stopped, focused, and relied on the LORD.  

In John 15:13 we read, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” What peace comes when you know someone has your back, especially God. He is always with us, even when chaos is all around.

“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.”

There is music in these words, spoken by Jesus in John 14. 

I realized this week that I must practice the peace of God. I have to condition my mind to live in the father’s peace. It is essential for me to claim God’s peace within my body and practice what I preach: getting the body into a quiet state and breathing in the peace of God and exhaling the tension. 

As you walk through the second week of Advent, I encourage you to allow the Almighty God to touch the depths of your soul with His peace. Ask Him to fully disclose the meaning of what He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Please know His presence alone can deliver peace over any issues in your life. May He empower you with His peace and fill you to overflowing.

Hope found in a Savior

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The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in him!”

Lamentations 3:22-24 (NLT)

Welcome to Advent season. The Refining Ministry is excited to offer an online study this year to devote intentional time focusing on the hope, joy, peace, and love found in Christ Jesus. Our kickoff began last night. We will continue this study for the next three weeks on Sunday afternoons at 4:30 p.m. (CST).

Have you ever had a time in life when you felt hopeless? Maybe after a loss, accident, broken relationship, or completely spent because of life. During these times, we desperately search for a sustaining solution. We cry out for something beyond encouragement-we need hope within our soul to give us a glimpse of better days ahead.

Not much has changed in over 20 centuries-humans continue to have problems. In fact, I would dare to say the advancement of technology has increased the numerous issues for society. However, regardless of the challenges we face or not, each one of us need hope-a hope beyond what the world can supply.

Prior to the birth of Christ, the world waited expectantly for a redemptive King, one who would impart a resolution for their craving of nourishing hope. They never imagined Emmanuel would enter the world during a wintry darkness let alone as a baby in a humble manager. BUT GOD-He fulfilled all needs and delivered an enduring gift which would rescue everyone from sin and unrighteousness.

The Messiah came to provide hope, joy, peace, and love through His redemptive gift of salvation. God’s exceedingly great love embodied in Christ Jesus extended a way for us to be with God now and forever if we so choose. Emmanuel, being fully God, became fully human, to live among us, and die in a humiliating fashion as a sacrifice of love. Wow-what amazing hope we have because of the price Jesus paid.

Derwin Gray describes Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as the greatest gift—God’s presence on the tree. I cannot think of a grander act in all the world that can truly supply enduring hope than what was displayed by our sacrificial King. For all who believe, Christ is a vivid ray of hopefulness. We have so much to look forward to-the second coming-eternal life with God.

May your confidence in the Lord grow this Christmas season. Through His presence and promises, may you find great expectations for better days ahead. Let the hope found through the gift of Jesus deliver strength to face any issues at hand. Together, we pray for God to fill our hearts with optimism and encouragement as we journey through daily life.

Let us end with a prayer of Hope:

Heavenly Father, thank you for being our living hope. As the Advent season begins, we come to you in need of hope. Lord, we need your endless hope for many areas in our lives. Lord, we have feelings of sorrow, depression, anxiety, fear, health concerns, and so much more, but today, we intentional pause and lay these issues at your feet. Help us to cling to your unfailing love.

Father God, empower us with your hope. Fill us to overflowing so we may reflect Your hope for the world to see. We are so grateful for you being our only hope. May we always remember You are our hope-yesterday-today-and forever. We love you LORD. Amen.

Happy Birthday Jesus

Bringing our Best for You Lord!

Hey Friends! Merry Christmas to each of you and your family. I pray your day has been a joyful time filled with peace and love. May you have time to reflect on the gift of Jesus and the hope born for us on that first Christmas.

We had a turn of events on Christmas Eve and spent the majority of the night and early morning in the ER with one of our parents. As I watched our family gather, I experienced joy among the concerns. The peace in each heart was a reflection of the Lord working within. This is the joy that is always present regardless of the life circumstances. Although there is surgery tomorrow and several months of rehabilitation ahead, everyone is filled with hope because of their faith in God.

A few members of the family were able to gather briefly today for our Savior Celebration. We completed the advent candle and my husband read the Christmas story. After lunch, we presented ourselves to the Lord by choosing a different colored candle. As we each placed our candle on the cake, we thought about the gifts given by the wise men. Our focus was to give our best to the Father as each of our candles were lit. I could hardly hold back the tears when we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus!

This Christmas was another learning (Refining) experience in my journey. God is teaching me to exercise my faith and know that He doesn’t waver although my world does. I am growing in wisdom and staying disciplined in worshipping the Father although my heart is broken for my sweet mother-in-law. God’s love changes my perspective when I surrender to His will and trust in His plans.

I love each of you and pray for each person who reads the blog. Thank you for enduring the ramblings God places on my heart. 2019 has brought changes and direction beyond my wildest dreams. I cannot wait to see what He has planned for 2020! Merry Christmas my sweet friends. Love to all and to all a good night.

Advent Week Four: LOVE

Pure amazing love…Song lyrics flood my mind when I think of God’s Love.

You Loved me FirstWhen I was wandering, when I was hiding, Jesus, You found me and You loved me first. God of full mercy, take all the glory. Jesus, you found me and You loved me first. You loved me first!
Love came down at ChristmasLove will be our token, Love be yours, and love be mine. Love from God to all of us, Love for plea and gift a sign.
Give Love on Christmas DayWhy don’t you give love on Christmas Day, even the man who has everything would be so happy if you would bring him love on Christmas day. No greater gift is there than love.
How Deep the Father’s Love for UsHow deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure.
O Holy NightTruly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Your Love never failsThe wind is strong and the water’s deep, but I’m not alone here in these open seas. Cause Your love never fails. The chasm is far too wide. I never thought I’d reach the other side but Your love never fails.
Some Kind of LoveWhat kind of love goes into the darkness and pulls you back when you’re on the edge. What kind of love finds you when you’re hopeless, and gives you another second chance.
The Proof of Your LoveIf I sing but don’t have love, I waste my breath with every song
I bring an empty voice, a hollow noise. If I speak with a silver tongue, convince a crowd but don’t have love, I leave a bitter taste with every word I say.
Love Came Down and Rescued MeLove came down and rescued me. Love came down and set me free. I am yours Lord I’m forever yours. Mountains high or valley low, I sing out and remind my soul. I am yours, I am forever yours

And the list continues in my head…

Where would we be without the love of God? Christ gave the gift of His own life because of His unmeasurable love. I cannot seem to wrap my head around a life sacrifice of someone completely free of sin in order to pay the price for a guilty sinner like me. He gave us the flawless depiction of a modest servant yielding it all.

What defines love? Love is a gift given away. To me, there seems to be a sacrifice when it comes to selfless love. Relinquishing talents, gifts, time, selfish needs, etc. The love of Christ in us and through us brings change to circumstances, gives hope to the despair, and heals hearts. I believe genuine love is evident when a total submission to God’s will is present. When we yield to His calling and share His love, we acquire a marvelous love and discover a satisfaction like nothing else in the world.

Have you ever volunteered to feed the homeless, worked several hours for a women’s shelter, delivered food to the poor, visited a nursing home, offered your time to help others? Did you walk away with an unexplainable love in your heart from the Lord? This has been true for me personally. Even when I felt I had nothing to offer and was at an all-time low, a simple act of showing God’s love saturated my soul with goodness words cannot explain. The more of God’s love I give away, the more He seems to bestow.

When I ponder God’s love Becca Stevens, founder of Thistle Farms, comes to mind. She says, “Love is the most powerful force for healing and change in the world.”  She began an amazing global program for hurting woman due to various matters such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, addiction, and human trafficking. Thistle Farms gives women a chance to heal and become economically independent. Stevens has surrendered to God’s will and extended the gift of His love to a hurting world. There are countless women around the globe testifying to the transformation God’s love has made. Stevens’ dedication is contagious and inspiring on so many levels. I encourage you to read more about the program.

https://thistlefarms.org/pages/our-mission

Locally, I can think of several individuals illustrating the love of God. Milton Jones, president of Christian Relief Fund (CRF), who oversees a mission to provide food, clean water, education, healthcare, spiritual training, and disaster relief internationally. Jena Taylor, executive director of Faith City Missions, an organization reaching out to locals who are homeless, addicted to alcohol/drugs, or just in need of shelter, food, clothing, and God’s love. Eveline Rivers, founder of a thirty-year project dedicated to providing coats, the joy of Christmas and literacy promotion. Elia Moreno, founder of Living Intentionally Ministries and co-executive director of Texas Christian Community Development Network. Their mission statement is based on God’s incarnational love through Jesus Christ in order to extend hope and healing. The list continues of a mass of local individuals empowered by God’s amazing love.

The greatest gift I have ever received is the Love of God. He rescued me and opened doors to extend healing, protection, and a true Father’s love. I am astonished by His love shown and I cherish a growing relationship with Him. I am forever grateful for His sacrifice. When He directs me to carry out His will and calling, I pray my answer will always be YES LORD! I find myself fighting against my human, selfish desires and continually disciplining myself to stay under His authority. It is far from easy and I fail often. Yet, our Heavenly Father accepts me and loves me despite my shortfalls.

As Advent begins to come to an end, how will you continue to fill your mind and heart with God’s love? What will keep you modest and under His authority? How will you remind yourself of the significance of God’s gift of love? Where will you serve in 2020 to spread God’s mercy and grace to others?

May we never forget the best four-letter word…LOVE, a gift from above

Advent Week Two: PEACE

The glorious sound of the ocean’s ebb and flow brings an inner peace to my soul. It takes me to a world without the hustle and bustle, everyday trials, and earthly demands. Renewal and restoration seem to wash over me with each wave swooshing upon the sand. This is my happy place.

Earthly peace is offered to us in various forms without a lasting promise. The best it has to offer is a temporary state. Scripture reminds us of true peace. In John 14:27 we find a different type of tranquility; “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.” Our Heavenly Father sent the Prince of Peace. The Son of God came into the world to bring reconciliation for us all. Freedom through Christ’s intercession offers us peace beyond comprehension.

Charles F. Stanley maintains we can abundantly encounter “a peace which surpasses all comprehension” (Philippians 4:7) when we are entirely committed to the will of God. Christ tenders a supernatural calmness as we walk in harmony with Him and allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. God transports His peace within us regardless of what life is throwing our way: depression, anxiety, death, health issues, troubled relationships, stress, hopelessness, … Psalm 29:11 declares “The Lord gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.”

Oh Lord thank you for the freedom from earthly strife and circumstances through your amazing peace. Your love affirms a tranquility and stillness far from our understanding. Father, teach us to surrender all that we are and have to you. Give us your supernatural strength to carry out your divine plan and let your peace wash over us. May we rest in your presence and hold tight to the calmness you bring.

During this second week of Advent, help us be more aware of the serenity we find in you. We are so grateful for the Prince of Peace. As 1 John 5:11 states we are eternally thankful for abundant life given to the world through Jesus Christ. Let us embrace Immanuel (God with us) and share this precious gift to those who are unaware of salvation. Draw us closer each moment. We love you precious Lord.  

PEACE ON EARTH

Advent Week One: HOPE

Most dictionaries will define hope as an expectation or desire for something to transpire. The Word of God provides followers hope which exceeds anything the world can promise. Our Father offers steadfast truth shown to be reliable and trustworthy. We are reminded of this in scripture.

In Hebrews 6:15-20 God’s Word states:  And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

God has proven over and over that His Word is dependable and unswerving to establish hope beyond a mere wish. Hope by God’s design surpasses any earthly classification or meaning. Our God has clarified the hope He gives through His track record of fulfilled assurances. He promised and furnished salvation to all through the gift of Jesus Christ. Our Father goes above and beyond any human guarantee. The Lord does not waver. In Numbers 23:19 it states:  God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

What are you counting on in life? A career, spouse, family, friends, stock market, co-workers, paycheck, self, material items, . . .  Where is your hope?

Psalm 62:5-8

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

First Sunday of Advent Isaiah 9:2, 6-7:
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

Dear Father, Thank you for your offering of hope through your son, Jesus Christ. You, O Lord, are our hope and we are dependent upon you for all our needs. May your precious gift of eternal life ring out from our hearts for the world to hear of your sweet love. Let us walk out our salvation by strengthening our relationship with you. Father give us pure hearts, humble spirits, and strong faith. We are forever grateful for your astounding hope. Amen.

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