Sunday, May 31, 2020

Boundless Love

Boundless Love

John 13:1-15

How people “feel” will often be determined by how they are “treated.” You Are Welcome Here is more of an attitude than a statement. Every church has an atmosphere that people sense when they enter.  Jesus demonstrates the kind of love that we should feel in His house – a love that focuses on others.

Characteristics of Boundless Love

 I.    It is an Unceasing Love  John 13:1

·         Unceasing love issues from character more than commitment.

·         Unceasing love creates trust.

·         Unceasing love is a drawing love.

Seekers today will belong before they will believe.

·         It is not as we separate ourselves from men that we grow close to God but as we come nearer to suffering humanity.

III.    It is an Instinctinve Love  John 13:4

·         Love “reacts” more often that it acts. 

·         Jesus loved them in an unexpected way.

·         Love does what no one expects to be done for them.

·         Jesus loved the unsuspecting sinner.

IV.    It is a Servant Love  John 13:4-5 

·         Jesus was a servant in spite of His circumstances.

·         Jesus had to get wet and dirty.

·         Jesus was not in a hurry.
Serving others takes time and our attention.

·         It is important to know what it feels like to be served before we truly understand service. 

·         True service chooses to be a servant … self-centered service decides to perform an act of service. 

V.    It is an Overwhelming Love  John 13:6-10a

·         The disciple who will not humble himself to be served is not fit for service.

·         The Demand of Holiness by Christ

Humility is the beginning of holiness.

·         The Desire for Holiness by Disciples

You can do all you can to get right with God – but you still have to humble yourself and let Him wash your feet.

VI.    It is an Christlike Love  John 13:12-14

·         To fail to humble ourselves to serve men is to fail to humble ourselves to God.

·         Christian fellowship is in serving together, not sitting together.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Jehovah Jireh - Our Provider

Friday, May 29, 2020
Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the LORD it will be provided."  Genesis 22:13-14
Jehovah-Jireh - The Lord Will Provide
Throughout the Old Testament we are given many indications that someone’s personal name meant much more than a mere identification.  Bible names have their background in the widespread tradition that personal names give information describing, in some way, who people are.  To explain and give your name was to reveal the central aspect of your personality and character.  This is especially true in the names given to God. 
"The Lord will see and the Lord will provide." That is what Jehovah-Jireh means. Abraham’s trial taught him more of his God than he knew before or could have known in any other way. In fact, it gave him a new name for his God.  Yahweh sees the needs of those who come to worship before Him on Zion, and there "is seen."  He reveals Himself to them by answering their prayers and supplying their wants.
JEHOVAH-JIREH MEANS "THE LORD WILL SEE." See what? He will see our great need. God constantly sees the needs of his children and provides for them.  God’s eye is ever upon us.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. (Psalms 139:2-3)  God is not blind to our need.  Why is that important?  See what happens because He is Jehovah-Jireh...
JEHOVAH-JIREH MEANS "THE LORD WILL PROVIDE."  If God sees our need, his provision is sure.  Because He has come into covenant with us, He is committed to meeting our need.  This is not, “The Lord MAY provide” or “The Lord CAN provide”.  It is the promise of His character...HE WILL PROVIDE!  
JEHOVAH-JIREH MEANS "THE LORD WILL BE SEEN."  He will be seen in the place of trial.  He will be seen in the mount of sacrifice.  He will be seen in the cross of Christ, our crucified Savior.  Go often to Calvary, for there the Lord will be seen.  Your trials may seem severe; but do not despair.  Note that this provision comes when all else has failed.  In your greatest extremity, the Lord will be seen.  
How often we have been taken to a pit of despair only to see Jehovah-Jireh!  How many times, when all seemed lost, has the ram appeared and the provision been made for what God was requiring of us.  He sees our need and is faithful to provide as we follow His direction. 
Faith is not shown to be real until it is tested.  Abraham had to OBEY to see the provision of God. Delayed obedience equals immediate disobedience.  Partial obedience equals disobedience.  Worship is surrender of all we are to God. It is obediently giving Him what He wants and trusting Him to supply whatever we might need. God did not want Isaac's life, He wanted Abraham's heart in full trust of Him. Pray to Jehovah-Jireh today for your greatest need.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Thursday, May 28, 2020

What’s In a Name

Thursday, May 28, 2020

What’s In a Name

Then Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.  (Exodus 3:13-15)

The name of God holds an important key to understanding the doctrine of God and the doctrine of revelation.  We cannot separate the person of God from the name of God. It is in his name we find the person, personality, and the character of God revealed.  

The size of your faith can be directly related to your understanding of who God is.

The name of God is a personal disclosure and reveals His relationship with His people. His name is known only because He chooses to make it known.  The truth of God's character is focused in His name.  The divine name reveals God's power, authority, holiness and His relationship to His creation.  To the Hebrew mind, God was both hidden and revealed, transcendent and immanent.  Even though He was mysterious, lofty, and unapproachable, He bridged the gap with humankind by revealing His name.

Before Moses' encounter with God in the desert, God was known generally as the God of the Fathers.  Various names were used for God under this conception, most of which were associated with the primitive Semitic word El. El is a generic term for God or deity.  The word El refers to an awesome power that instills within humankind a mysterious dread or reverence.

One of the most interesting uses of El is its alliance with other terms to reveal the character of God.  Some of these combinations are: El-Shaddai "The Almighty God," El-Elyon "The Most High God," or El-Olam "God the Everlasting One"

Elohim is a plural form for deity. It is a frequently used term and the most comprehensive of the El combinations.  The plurality of this word is not a hint of polytheism. It is a plural of majesty. It is a revelation of the infinite nature of God.  In the creation narrative, we read: "Then Elohim said, 'Let us make man in our image.'" (Gen. 1:26)  God is absolute, infinite Lord over creation and history. The Christian sees in this term a pointer to the trinitarian reality of creation.

The Covenant Name

God revealed Himself to Moses with the name, “I AM WHO I AM” and told Him He was the first to know His name.  The covenant name for God was "Yahweh" which appears in English translations as Jehovah or YHWH.  Israel's faith was a new response to God based on His disclosure. This name was so unique and powerful that God formed a covenant with His people based upon his self-revelation.  Therefore, El was replaced with YHWH.  Hence, Yahweh-Jireh "The Lord will Provide," Yahweh-Nissi "The Lord is my Banner,” etc.

The names of God represent the full character and power of God.  We call on God in prayer for power, deliverance, peace, healing, righteousness, etc. because He IS all of these things.  As we review some of the names of God this week, we will have opportunity to call upon His name knowing that He is able to answer our prayer.

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and
Jesus Christ whom You have sent. John 17:3

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

How Are You Waiting?

Wednesday, May 27, 2020
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!  Psalms 27:13-14

How Are You Waiting?
We all know that waiting is a part of life, and sometimes the season of waiting is unbearable and feels like forever.  Though we know better, it does at times feel like God could have forgotten us, or worse, we may feel unworthy of His rescue or that we deserve everything that is happening to us.

Suffering or waiting can be so long, but your deliverance may be very quick. But deliverance never comes without struggle, and some struggles are harder than others.  The waiting, the struggle, the trials, that is where the value is.  We see this lesson in lots of things like olives.  In the pressing the very precious olive oil comes out.  In pearls – pearls are formed when an irritant gets inside the shell of a mollusks.  They are formed as a defense mechanism due to the irritation. A struggle that produces a beautiful gem. Our struggles can produce beautiful things in our lives if we allow God to work and don’t fight the situation.  But because we are human, we do fight, and whine, and sometimes even waste away because of our struggles instead of looking to God and surrendering to Him to do the work in us while we wait.

Joseph waited thirteen years from the time he had the dream of his brothers and father bowing down to him until he was in the position of governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people.  Much of that time he was down in the pit – his brothers threw him in a pit and then sold him to gypsies.  He ended up in the dungeon in Egypt for most of his time there also.  You know he had to wonder where God was!  But all during that time God was still working in his life, and Joseph was working. He did not just go find a corner to sit in and sulk in the shadows.  He worked and proved himself responsible and trustworthy even in prison – and that was part of God’s plan while he was waiting.  God was getting him ready, just like He is getting you ready for something if you are in a season of waiting. Your waiting on the Lord is more for what you will be for others in Jesus name, more than it is for you to get what you want.

The only wat to get to the other side is through.  There is no way around and no shortcut – that will have a good outcome.  Trying to detour around what God has planned for us will never work out to our advantage.  The Israelites wondering in the wilderness are a perfect example for us. 

Christine Caine wrote:
The same can be said of the journey to our promised land. Despite our best efforts to find alternate routes, there’s only one way to get there — through. The Israelites experienced this. Their trek through the wilderness was only an 11-day journey. Yet it took them 40 years because they fought the process — grumbling, complaining, and resisting the work God wanted to do in them.

We all have some version of the wilderness to go through; it’s how God prepares us to be well able to overcome the giants in our lives. It’s never a place we go looking for. But it’s there He is leading, transforming, delivering, and freeing us because His goal for us is freedom—a life no longer bound by the weights of shame’s false guilt and relentless regret, a life no longer haunted by fears and worries.
As hard as it is sometimes to be obedient to God in our times of waiting and struggles, He will see us through if we trust Him and step faithfully.  He always makes a way through.  It may not be the path we would choose, but He is faithful always.  In our waiting He does not forsake us as it feels sometimes.  He is there with us and leading us all the way through.

 Lara Cook

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


Tuesday, May 26, 2020 Some material taken from These All Died in Faith by Van Houser
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1
Heroes In LifeWho is your hero?  It is not a trick question – yes, I know the Sunday school answer is Jesus. But without a doubt God places people in our lives to champion us along the way.  He knows how important it is to have others believe in us and to advocate for us and to encourage and challenge us along life’s path. Do not attribute those special people that cross your path as coincidence. 
Maybe you have many heroes in your life that have influenced you throughout different seasons of your life.  Heroes in our lives are those who believed in us enough to sacrifice something of themselves in the hope that our lives would be benefited.  Teachers, coaches, Sunday school teachers, pastors, family, friends, neighbors, or others we meet in the most random (not) circumstances all can be heroes in our lives.  
Real life heroes care enough to get down into the middle of our life crises and carry us until we can walk again. They are the first call, our go to person when we are overwhelmed and just need to talk it out and find some strength. They are the ones that see clearly when we cannot see the forest for the trees.  They pray for us and with us, they text and call to check on us, they meet us and spend time with us when we need them, and just to be a friend when things are better. They are there for us when no one else could be or chose not to be. Our lives are so much richer for our friends and the people who believe in us. 
Will anyone say I was their hero? 
The requirements for being a hero are more about your heart than your hands. Christ is our example and He stands as our greatest Unsung Hero. While we try to impress the world with our talents, the greatest impression we will make is on those we interact with every day. Now it’s your turn to sit in the class and make sure a child knows the Word of God, to invest your life not just your money in someone less fortunate and to share your resources for the kingdom to grow.
Whose life can you make a difference in? Look around you and see if there is someone you can be a hero to.  Maybe there is someone God has laid on your heart and you are ignoring it because they are not the easiest person to have a relationship with. Do not discard an assignment from God. He does give us assignments and some of them we don’t want, but when we obey Him and invest in the hard assignments He gives us, we will be blessed and changed, and that is the outcome He is planning. Yes, that difficult person we are pouring into will hopefully be touched by God’s hand in their life through us, but we get a blessing too. It is an honor and privilege to disciple, mentor, encourage, and walk beside others. That is as much God’s whole plan for the church as is witnessing to unbelievers, but if our cups are not full, we cannot be effective for Him. Bible study, prayer, and worship with other believers all are part of what fills our cups so that we can keep going, and so we can be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to those He send our way. 
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Lara Cook

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day 2020

Monday, May 25, 2020

The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.  Proverbs 10:7 Today is the official Memorial Day holiday, the last Monday of May.  Many people see it as just a 3-day weekend, a time for cookouts and parties. But for those who have lost someone because of war or military action, it means much more than a day off. Every American ought to recognize this day in honor of those who spilled their blood to make America what she is today-free, strong, and a nation worth fighting for. I cannot help but think that this Memorial Day freedom means a lot more to us because our freedom has been compromised by an unseen enemy – a virus.  Even though it was all to “slow the spread”, and to stay safe at home, it was unnerving to have some of our rights as Americans – rights that we take for granted – to be taken away for a short while.  It brings a new perspective on how much freedom we really have when just a little is taken.  It stings.  We are blessed in America and we are blessed because of those who fought to give us what we have – precious freedom.

True Patriotism

Merriam Webster defines patriot as “one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests.”  Note the first key phrase: “One who loves…” Patriotism is an expression of LOVE. Love calls us to sacrifice, and who has sacrificed more than the American Soldier? John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.”

·         In just over two-hundred years more than one million men and women have given their lives opposing tyranny and defending the helpless and oppressed.

·         These patriots have freely and valiantly sacrificed their lives upon the altar of freedom for you and for me.

Because men and women have died for this country, we have the right to
preach God’s word freely; to live at peace in our own homes.
We have the right to pursue peace, prosperity and happiness

The cost of freedom is blood. 

On Memorial Day we give thanks for sacrifice. All the heroic acts on battlefields throughout history have made our country what it is today. We enjoy freedom and wealth that are unequaled. Our freedom and our luxuries have come and been maintained at a great price.  All of us are not called upon to die heroically or sacrificially.  We should never be ashamed that we are alive, yet many abuse the liberty we have received by selfish indulgence on pleasures that weaken the moral strength of this great nation.

The Freedom the Cross Bought

Every day we enjoy and take for granted the freedoms that soldiers have bought with their blood.  We also have another freedom that was bought with blood.  The person responsible for giving us this freedom didn’t wear fatigues; he wore a crown of thorns. He won the war against Satan and sin for us with His shed blood on Calvary. He waged war and fought for us and because of His sacrifice we can be free from the bondage of sin and an eternal prison in hell.  So on this Memorial Day remember the soldiers who have fought in wars over the years.  Think about the way you live, what you have, and what freedoms you enjoy.  We are a blessed nation.  We don’t realize how blessed we are because we do not know any different.  Today, and every day, remember those who sacrificed to give this to you and your family.  Don’t take it for granted.  Many lost their lives so we can live as we do. 

Thank God for your freedom and thank Him for the sacrifice of His son.  Thank Him for freedom from sin and for the gift of everlasting life. 

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Sunday, May 24, 2020

These All Died in Faith!

These All Died in Faith!
Hebrews 11:13
None of us can claim our achievements are the results of our efforts alone but the sacrifices of others on our behalf as well. We are living in an environment created and sustained by others. Who we are is greatly affected by what they have done. Today we pause for a moment to remember those who sacrificed for us.

Humanity can almost be said to be divided into two classes: those who live the full, rich life, and those who die to make the full life possible for others.   
None of us can claim our achievements are the results of our efforts alone but the sacrifices of others on our behalf as well.  .
There Are Heroes of Freedom John 15:13
May we never abuse the liberty we have received by selfish indulgence on pleasures that weaken the moral strength of this great nation.
To show true honor is to be willfully and emotionally grateful and individually humbled by their act, gift or person.
There Are Heroes of History Philippians 2:3-4
For some, the sacrifice of pleasure, freedom, position, or wealth was itself a type of dying for the sake of a principle or the good of those who followed.
There Are Heroes of Faith Hebrews 11:15-16
There Are Heroes of Life  - 2 Timothy 1:5
Heroes in our lives are those who believed in us enough to sacrifice something of themselves in the hope that our lives would be benefited. 
Real life heroes care enough to get down into the middle of our life crises and carry us until we can walk again.
Memorial Day should take us to the graves where gratitude can be shown by honoring their lives with our memories.
Heroes of Tomorrow - Hebrews 12:1
“Will anyone say I was their hero?”
The requirements for being a hero are more about your heart than your hands.
Dealing with the Loss of Our Heroes  2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Separation is one of the greatest fears man faces.
The truth is that the loss of one we love is at best a temporarily debilitating experience. 
Grief is the one pain that heals all others.
Remember what these have done and who they were.  Never forget!
God’s grace is sufficient to meet our every need.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Four Things to Remember in Times of Trouble

Friday, May 22, 2020

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses.  He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.  Then they were glad because they were quiet, so He guided them to their desired haven.  Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men!  Psalms 107:28-31 

This is a devotional written by Brother Van years ago, but I decided to post it again instead of something new. There is such a great and simple message about what we can do when we are shaken up by a storm, and we all know that life is full of storms.  I also love the message of how we as parents and grandparents can give our children and grandchildren tools they can use and sweet memories to comfort them. 

The Tornado and Grandma by Van Houser
Oklahoma is known for its rapid changes of weather.  Will Rogers, whose memorial I visited several times in Claremore, Oklahoma said something like, “If you don’t like the weather here just stay around for an hour and it will change.”

Growing up I learned the value of a storm cellar when visiting my grandmother.  Awakened out of a deep sleep and then running across the street in the rain at night into the neighbor’s cellar was not an uncommon event in Perry, Oklahoma.  When the storm would pass, we would move back to our beds and the next morning all would be well.

It was when I was not at Grandma’s house and the sirens sounded I remember the most.  She was visiting and all the reports seemed to point to a tornado coming close to our house.  Dad was not at home, so it was just my mom, grandma and us three kids.  We were scared!

That is when she went into action.  While I am not aware of all that happened, these things are vivid in my memory:

  1. She carried us to a safe place in the small hallway of our home.
  2. She drew us close to her and spoke quietly to us.
  3. She prayed.
  4. She sang songs of faith with us.

Of all the times I was in the midst of a storm, this one remains vivid in my memory.  I remember feeling so secure and at peace.  I can almost feel her presence even today. 

I learned a lot that night.  The lessons of the tornado and my grandmother’s response are embedded in my life.  I’ve been through a lot of storms since then and learned that her response is the best.  When you are in trouble...

  1. Find a safe place and be still.
  2. Draw close to God and let Him speak words of assurance in His quiet voice.
  3. Pray.  Tell God what your need is and how you feel.
  4. Sing songs of faith from your spirit until the storm passes by.

Songwriter Mosie Lister said it this way:

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.  You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.  Psalms 32:6-7

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Salt and Light – Again - Because Right Now the World is Desperate for Salt and Light

Thursday, May 21, 2020
Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.  Galatians 6:9-10

Salt and Light – Again - Because Right Now the World is Desperate for Salt and Light

Today we are talking about salt and light again, because right now the world needs us to be salt and light more than ever.  Some days it does seem that the lines of division between “us” and the world get wider and wider.  We are in the world but not of the world and as humans, it is natural for us to stick to those who are like us.  But this is not what Jesus expects of us at all.

Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.  “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:13-16 MSG

These are Jesus’ words from The Sermon on the Mount. I love this translation from The Message because it lays it out for us very clearly; Our purpose is to be salt and light to the world!

Let’s Talk About Salt -

Salt adds lots of flavor to our food. I crave salty and crunchy foods much more than sweets. Not everyone feels that way, but a bag of chips is great temptation to me. Salt also heals wounds, cleanses bacteria, preserves, and can even get rid of stains. In Jesus’ time, salt was used to preserve their food because they didn’t have refrigeration. Salt was rubbed into meat and fish to keep it from spoiling before it could be eaten.  Jesus wants us to be salt to preserve the world or stop it from going bad as much as we can. Christians will be salt to the world by influencing the world for good, the way salt enhances the flavor of food. We should be a positive influence, ministers of Christ to a broken and sick world.

Let’s Talk About Light –

Light dispels the darkness, the dark shadows, the pitch black of night.  Light illuminates, exposes, and shows the way.  Light helps us find things. As Christians, Jesus says we are the light and we are to shine His light to the rest of the world, showing them the way to Him.  We are not to hide away from the world. We are not to hide our faith or neglect to reflect Jesus when we are called to do so.  Light penetrates and we are to penetrate the darkness of this world and lead them to hope.

It is true that we are just passing through and we are not of this world, but we are on assignment.  Jesus didn’t say go find salt and go find light.  He said we ARE the salt and light. We are to be separate from the world, while we make an impact, and penetrate the world, just as salt and light penetrate. If we blend too well with the world, we lose our saltiness, our witness becomes tainted, and non-believers will not listen to us if we live the same as they do.

Right now, the world needs hope.  They need a message and a promise that their tomorrows are going to be ok. Although we cannot promise everything will be ok for everyone, we can promise them someone who holds their tomorrows, someone who loves them enough to die for them.  We can promise them that they can trust Him because He is completely trustworthy. Go and be salt and light to the world.  Love people and care for them and in doing so God’s light will shine through you, and they will know the flavor of God’s love that is better than anything they have ever known. 

Lara Cook

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

How to Regain God’s Control of Your Life

Wednesday, May 20, 2020 Some material taken from Didn’t See That Coming by Van Houser
So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot with him. Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. He went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord. Genesis 13:1-4

Spiraling Back
Have you ever felt like you are spiraling out of control?  Or maybe you have been out of control for a while and you are wearing thin. Anytime we move away from God, we will start spiraling and it will wear us out eventually.  That is when you realize how far away from God you have gotten and that something has to change.

How can we dig ourselves out of a hole?  How can we spiral back to God?  There is no way we can do this in our own power so relinquishing control back to God and surrendering to Him is the first step.  The next step is to turn from whatever you have followed after that has brought you to where you are. Turn around and go the opposite way.  Shift your focus back on God - taking just one thought captive can shift all our thoughts and get us back on the right track – the one that leads upward.

This past Sunday, Brother Van told us about how Abram (later to be named Abraham) spiraled out away from God’s will for his life for a while. From Abram’s story we can learn some good steps to take to regain God’s control in our life:

Abram was called by God to basically pick up everything and go and God would show him where later.  That must have been very hard to just pick up all your family and possessions and go – but you do not know where you are going, but Abram was faithful and obedient. God had a vision for Abram and He made Him three promises – I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you and make your name great, and I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. Everywhere they stopped along the way, Abram built an alar to the Lord and called upon His name. They got to Egypt and Abram was afraid that they would kill him to take Sarai (later to be named Sarah) if they knew he was her husband, because she was very beautiful. So he asked her to lie and say she was his sister. Sure enough, Pharaoh took her for his wife and treated Abram well for her sake.  But the Lord sent great plagues on Pharaoh’s house because of Sarai.  Pharaoh found out that she was Abram’s wife and told Abram to take his wife and go.

Abram started out great, but he got off track like we all do. He decided that God must not know what He is doing because Abram didn’t understand, so he took control. Now he had to make some different choices to regain God’s control of his life.

How to Regain God’s Control of Your Life

·   Retrace Your Steps – Go back and see where you lost the vision for your life. Abram had to back up to where he started this spiral.

·   Return to The Previous Victory – Remember what God has done for you and through you. Review the promise and vision given.  Remember where you started from.

·   Renew Your WalkAbram we He went back to his altar. He is now a different man in his faith. Recommitment to God's plan occurs when we confess our prideful activity and humble ourselves to His desire for our lives and His design to bring it to pass.

What can we learn from Abraham? Abram’s choices didn’t get him what he wanted.  Only having God in control of his life got him the vision and promise that was intended for him. No matter how much we don’t understand what He is doing at the time, taking the control away from Him and managing our own circumstances will never get us the outcome we think we want. Trust Him with the path that He has laid for you and you will never be disappointed.

Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.
Psalms 27:14

Lara Cook

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Uncomplicating Your Life by Shifting Your Focus

Tuesday, May 19, 2020
So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision - you'll see it yet!   Philippians 3:15 msg
Uncomplicating Your Life by Shifting Your FocusUncomplicated minds can solve many complicated problems because they don’t clutter their minds with extraneous detail.  Shifting our focus can change everything for us.  When my mind is cluttered with a thousand different things – worry, anxiety, finances, trying to solve all the problems - I definitely have trouble focusing on anything else.  These objects of our focus keep us up at night and drive away the peace our most capable Heavenly Father desires for us. We focus on what consumes us – or what we focus on will consume us if we are not careful.  
Satan will always be striving to distract us in any way he can, and his whole goal is to shift our focus off Jesus. In truth, it is much easier to focus on the negative things in our lives because they cause us such misery; they consume us. The flip side is that if we can focus on Jesus, they won’t cause us such misery!
Many things can cause us to lose our focus on Jesus. When troubles come up in my life, I have trouble staying focused sometimes because I am desperately trying to solve the problems myself.  My mind is going a million miles a second, figuring out all the things I could do to fix all the things - the people, the finances, the broken hearts, the relationships, and whatever comes up next. It sounds so caring, but the Lord did not equip me to fix these things. It was never His plan. Instead, He promises to take the yoke and burden for us. He is equipped to handle all these things, and He longs for us to trust Him, to lean on Him. Learning to let go of things beyond our control is the best lesson anyone can learn. 
Some things that can cause us to shift our focus off Christ are:
News/Social Media - The media has proven themselves to not only captivate us during this pandemic, but also to produce facts that at times seem to conflict with other credible sources so we don’t really know who to listen to anymore! Most of us are finding that not listening to the news at all is the best answer.  Instead of focusing on something that will fill our hearts with fear, we need to shift our focus to our Lord who is in control of everything. 
People - their behavior towards you and others - Sometimes people in our lives can shift our focus off Jesus and on themselves. Some may not mean to do this, but others know exactly what they are doing. Some use their behavior to cause us to fear.  We can become so caught up in their turmoil that we can become upset to the point we cannot focus. (If mama ain’t happy - no one is happy) We can turn them over to God and ask Him to help us focus on Him and what His word says to us. His promises are true. 
Addictions - We get caught up in addictions many times because we want to forget the things that are going on in our life that we cannot deal with. Consequently it also shifts our focus off the One who can help us through anything.  There is no substitute for our Heavenly Father and numbing ourselves only causes more problems that we have to deal with.  
Trials - When trials come our way, many of us panic first, fall apart, and then pray.  This is perfectly normal human behavior, but we have Lord and Savior who never leaves us and never forsakes us. He can handle every problem that comes our way far better than we can.  We have to get into the habit of praying first. Give it to Him, focus on Him and His goodness and all the blessings He has given us already.  
The challenge is to focus on Christ, even in the midst of all that threatens to shift our focus off of Him. He has been faithful.  He is all powerful, all sufficient, and has our very best interests at heart. If we focus on Him, He will lead us through all that comes our way, never leave our side, and gladly take our burdens. He carries it all for us so we can trust in Him.  
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:29-30

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