Sympathies and Prayer Requests

The Liberty Crossings family would like to express their sympathies and prayers to

 

Jeff Deneen in the loss of his father.  Memorial service 10:00 a.m. Tuesday at FairHaven Retirement Home – Birmingham.

Stephanie Casterline in the loss of her brother.  Services to be held in Kansas City.

Please keep these families in your prayers.

 

“Snow Day!!!!”

“The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He makes me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,”

Psalm 23: 1-3

Yesterday, my part of the country began making preparations for a snow event.  I don’t know about where you live, but here in the southern United States, when 4 inches of snow is predicted, we shut everything down, run to the grocery store for our obligatory bread and milk, and gas up our 4-wheel drives.  It is an event.

For myself, knowing that schools were shut down as well as the church where I work, I packed up everything I needed to work from home.  After all, I may be trapped at home, but that doesn’t mean I can’t work.  And besides, I would feel guilty for going a whole work day without doing anything.

However, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. this morning and God spoke this word to me.

“REST,” He said.  “This day is a gift,” He said.

Hmmm.  I consider this in light of our study on receiving grace this week.  A day off, in the middle of the week – a gift from God.

As I continue to let this sink into my soul, I can see that God knows so much more about what I need than I do.  The truth is, I did need a day to mentally clear my mind.  I did need a day to just BE.  But I would have never initiated it for myself.  That isn’t what we do is it, friends?  If you are like most people I know, we just keep going even when a day (or 2) is what we desperately need for our own mental and physical health.

I think it’s funny that God can use something like a snow storm to lead me to my “green pastures.”  I think about the fact that my “peaceful streams,” include wearing pajamas and playing with legos.  My God knows me well.  And I have decided to accept His grace today and to receive this gift.  My world won’t end over one day apart from work.  And I most definitely think that my soul will be renewed.

Most Righteous Father,

Praise be to Your holy name.  You are a good parent.  You take care of me, even when I am not smart enough to take care of myself.  I thank You for leading me to places of rest and restoration.  Help me to see the opportunities for receiving Your divine grace, and to accept every one.  For You are my Good Shepherd, and Your plan for me is good.

In the name of Jesus I pray,

Amen

“But I’m Not The One Who Is Broken!”

” The Eternal spoke with me again.

Eternal One: Go and love a woman who is loved by someone else and is adulterous. Care for her and protect her, just as I love the people of Israel even though they’re unfaithfully turning to other gods and selfishly eating sacred raisin cakes in their honor.

So I paid the bride-price for this woman, less than I would pay to own a slave: six ounces of silver, about ten bushels of barley.

Hosea (to the woman): You’re going to live with me for a long time. I didn’t buy you just for my own pleasure, and I’m not going to cast you aside. But I’m not going to let you commit adultery again—in fact, you’re not going to have sexual relations with anyone, not even me.”

Hosea 3:1-3

So here’s the story.  Hosea was a prophet.  He was married to a woman named Gomer.  Gomer left him (and their children,) and became a prostitute.  She is now up for the highest bidder.

We pick up in chapter 3 and see what God is commanding Hosea to do:  Go get her.  Forgive her.  Love and protect her.  Pay the price to to redeem her.

In this week of contemplating what it means to be “free to receive,” one might think that we would focus on Gomer and her ability to receive this gift from the husband she has disgraced.

However, Hosea’s story resonates more with me.  Here is (from what I can tell,) a godly man; a good man.  His wife has embarrassed him, cheated on him, betrayed their family, pretty much everything you can think that would hurt him.

So who is in need of grace in this situation?  The one who has clearly strayed, or the one being asked to forgive?

In my life, the ability to forgive a wrong is certainly a grace from God.  I don’t forgive easily.  I can’t imagine taking my spouse back after an episode like this, or even more so, loving and caring for him.  But as followers of Christ, we are all called to love, forgive and reconcile.

In this manner, I am not the one who is broken.  And I can justify my feelings and actions all day long.  It is easy to tell myself they don’t deserve forgiveness.  And remember in the story, it wasn’t the wayward wife asking for it, this was a command from God.  So much so, that Hosea had to buy her to get her back into his home.  She probably didn’t even say she was sorry.  Who deserves mercy with that kind of attitude?

The moral of this story, for me, is that God isn’t concerned with my excuses.  He calls me to forgive under all circumstances.  He even knows my heart and provides me the grace that enables me to do it. He knows I don’t have it in me to do it myself.   I just have to be open enough to receive it.  I have to be humble enough to stop pointing fingers and examine my own heart condition, even if I don’t think I am the one who is broken.  To call myself a follower with any integrity at all, I have to be willing to let Christ change me in all circumstances.  That is a lifelong struggle for me.  How about you, friends?

Spend some quiet time with God in the days to come and pray this psalm.  Open yourself to His answers and His grace to transform you.  Be blessed by His revelations, not offended by them.  For by these we are led down the paths of righteousness.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

Psalm 139:23-24

“Givers…”

We all like to be givers, especially in the church.  We like to think of our neighbors, to pray for them, to help out in times of need, and to deliver a freshly baked casserole at the first sign of trouble.  It is what we do.

But what we don’t do, so much, is to accept the generous gifts from our neighbors in return.  Why is that?  I will provide a home-cooked meal in a heartbeat to a friend going through a hard time, but rarely will I accept the offer when someone calls me wanting to know “what time should I bring it over?”  My response is always the same, “Oh you are so kind, but we are fine.  Really, no need for you to go to all that trouble.”

I think it is a pride thing.  I certainly don’t want to admit that I need help.  I don’t want to admit that I can’t quite get around to feeding my family today.  And I certainly would never ask anyone to pray for me.  My problems are nowhere as big as some people.  You should save up your prayers for the folks that really need them.  Right??

But I ask all you well-meaning church folks out there to consider something a wise mentor shared with me once.  She said, “When you don’t allow a fellow believer to help you, the you deny them a blessing.”

Think about it.  Especially here in the south, when we show up at a friend’s house during a time of need (with a great meal in tow,) we do feel blessed don’t we?  We feel as if we have helped in some way, and more importantly, that we have communicated our care for them.  It makes us feel good, doesn’t it?

So why would we rob a friend of the same experience?  Are we so self-centered that we are more concerned with our image of being self-sufficient than the feelings of the people who care about us?

And as an addition, consider this.  Most of the time when someone is moved to help us, something is going on with us.  We are probably experiencing some sort of stress that would lead them to take time out of their own busy schedule to offer us a helping hand.  I truly believe that God sends people to help us in our times of need.  We may be praying to Him over our circumstances, asking for help, but then too proud to accept it when it comes.  Never underestimate our God when it comes to answering our needs.  He just sometimes uses the people in our midst instead of divine measures.

So the next time someone offers you a hand, be gracious.  Be filled with gratitude.  Be accepting and be blessed.  It will bring you so much closer to God when you do.

Peace friends.

Good and Perfect Lord,

You know all my needs.  Forgive me when my pride keeps me from expressing them.  Forgive me when I turn away Your divine help in order to protect my self-image.  Create in me a gracious heart.  Create in me a spirit of community and kinship – that I may freely receive as I give.  Help to tear down the walls I have built around myself, so that I might more freely experience all that You have to give me.  And Lord, teach me what it truly means to be a part of Your loving kingdom.

In the name of Christ I pray,

Amen

Join Us For “Finding Peace Through Silence” With Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler on March 21, 2015

For those of you who live in the Birmingham, Alabama area, this will be a wonderful opportunity to deepen your prayer life.  I fully encourage anyone that can to consider going to this event.

 

Grace to you this Lenten season.

 

Join Us For “Finding Peace Through Silence” With Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler on March 21, 2015.

“The Most Important Question…”

Have you ever considered that the most important parts of your life are governed by questions?

It’s true.  Think about these.

“Will you marry me?”

“Will you accept the job?”

“Can we afford it?”

“Do I want children?”

“How will we take care of Mom and Dad?”

“Can I get through this?”

The deepest and most meaningful parts of our lives are driven very much by our responses to questions like these.  Our answers make all the difference don’t they friends?

In this season of reflection, I am pondering over my priorities and calling in this life and I have come to a conclusion.  The most important question that I, or any of you, will ever answer is this:

“Do I Know Him?”

The answer that will determine my happiness, my health, my blessedness, my hope, my eternal life is not found in my:

  • Job
  • Spouse
  • Bank Account
  • My House

or anything else that I hold dear.

The only answer that brings me into an eternal life of love, joy, peace, contentment, and satisfaction is the answer to that question:

“Do I Know Him?”

Of course we are talking about Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.  But let’s be clear.  We aren’t asking these questions:

“Do I know about Him?”

“Have I heard of Him?”

“Have I sung a song about Him?”

“Have I read a story about Him?”

“Have I served Him in mission and ministry?”

My fear is that many people substitute these questions for the real one, and in doing so, miss the point.  Maybe you do all these things faithfully, but it does not mean that you have a relationship with Him.

And that is the most important thing friends, don’t miss it!  We are not talking about a “head” knowledge.  It is easy to know about Jesus.

We are talking about a “heart” knowledge.  We are talking about an intimate friendship that is part of your everyday life.  Your relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important part of your life because this is the relationship that can bring you into all His plans for you.  Everything else will be a disappointing substitute.

So here it is again.

“Do You Know Him?”

How can you tell?  That is a valid question.  How can we have that 100% assurance the we are in communion with Him, that we know Him and He knows us?  I think there are countless ways, and I would be overjoyed to help anyone take that journey of discovery.  All you have to do is ask and it would be my privilege.

But for me, that assurance has always been in the answer to another question, “Can I Hear His Voice?”

I am not speaking about a literal voice (but it is great if that works for you.)  I am speaking about my ability to be aware of His presence (through the Holy Spirit,) and to discern His work in my life.  He does this in many ways for me; through prayer, reading the Bible, singing a song, talking with others, circumstances and how they develop for me, many, many ways.

The way that I know Jesus is that I can see His work in my life and I can “hear” His voice leading me in one direction or another.

Maybe nothing like that has ever happened for you.  I understand that.  Being unchurched for most of my life gives me a lot of clear memories of the time before I was aware of His presence.  I never really knew He existed, much less that He was trying to talk to me.

But it is pretty simple.  Nothing overjoys Jesus like one of His sheep asking to talk with Him.  So let’s pray this prayer together and continue to do so throughout the Lenten season.

Lord Jesus,

I don’t know much about having a relationship with You.  But I want to.  Please speak to me in a way that I can understand.  Speak loudly so that I know it is You, and teach me how to recognize Your voice.  I want to follow You, and I trust that You will lead me.

In the Good Shepherd’s name I pray,

Amen

 

“My sheep respond as they hear My voice; I know them intimately, and they follow Me.  I give them a life that is unceasing, and death will not have the last word. Nothing or no one can steal them from My hand.”

– John 10:27-28 

I have always looked for a reason to share this video.  I just love it!

Happy Weekend brothers and sisters.