Facebook Friends

Written By: Sarah Walker

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.
(Deuteronomy 4:29)

Isn’t it amazing that the God of the universe asks us to seek him! Not only does he want us to believe in Him and follow His ways, but He also desires a relationship with us!

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)

It’s like Jesus has sent a friend request, and patiently waits for us to respond!

I first met my husband in passing at his church’s Christmas banquet. He was the Lead Pastor of the church, and some friends and I had come to visit the church that day. That evening, I found him on Facebook and sent him a message thanking him for allowing us to “crash” the church’s family dinner. (Yes…I did make the first move!)

He responded to my message and sent me a friend request. From there, dozens of messages were sent back and forth, which ultimately lead to our first date, our brief courtship, our engagement, and eight months later, our wedding day!

Our relationship started with a single message sent, as I nervously hoped for a response. As we got to know each other beyond just messages on a screen, love started to bloom.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-40)

Recently, I went through a devotional by Mardi Collier called “What Do I Know About My God?” She says that, “Because God wants us to love him, and we can’t love someone we don’t know,” we must therefore turn to the Word in search of the qualities and characteristics of God, and when we start to know and understand who God is, our love for Him will blossom and flourish.”

My husband and I spend lots of time talking with each other and spending time together. We intentionally set aside time to pursue our relationship in order to keep our connection close and healthy.

It can be so easy to let the busyness of life, with jobs, kids, sports and hobbies, keep us from spending that necessary time together. We could remain married but our relationship could grow cold if we are not careful.

That same concept is true with God. God wants to be in relationship with us, but it can be easy to say “Yes” to Jesus and start working really hard to follow his ways – but forget that He desires a relationship with us the most!

On Facebook I have many friends. Some of them are just that- “Facebook friends”; my account says that we are friends, but we have no “real” relationship. I might like their status updates or pictures from time to time, but there is no real and sincere connection.

There are times when I receive a friend request and I will decline or ignore the request. This usually only happens when I don’t know that person at all, and I don’t want to let them share in the details of my personal life.

Then there are friends and family whom I “follow” – I continually connect with them not only through message or text but also through real life connections.

Have we accepted Jesus’ friend request?

Is He like a “Facebook friend” to us? Do we stay loosely connected, maybe like what He has to say, but keep a casual distance from Him at the same time?

Or do we “follow” Him? Do we take time to read everything He has to say, replying to every message with the excitement of a budding relationship, and anxiously awaiting the times we get to spend together in His presence?

Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:8)

God promises that as we look for Him we will find Him, because He is eagerly waiting for us to respond to His invitation. He is hoping that we will come to Him, and when we do, He will respond and come near to us! What an amazing promise, and what an amazing God!

Counterbalance

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

Have you ever come up against personalities in life that were just too much to bear?  At every corner those personalities tried to thwart you, attack you, malign you, oppose you.  Have those personalities ever knocked you over and just when you got your footing, they drove you back down?  Again, and again, and again!  Their mandate being to make your life miserable and stressful.

Have you ever wanted to fight back?  Throw them “under the bus” per say.  Expose them for all the wrong they have done you and for all the wrong they stand for.  Have you ever wanted to “do unto others as they have done to you” rather than “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 3:31)?  Just once, giving them a taste of their own medicine or watching them fall like a house of cards.

I have.  And I am sure you have too, to some degree.  We wouldn’t be human if we haven’t.

This has been my challenge, though I am not given to revenge, a few times while living on planet earth and encountering difficult personalities.  The rub between doing what I know Christ would have me do and doing what my flesh longs to do is daunting, often times exhausting.  I sometimes just want to see them flounder, fail, crumble or disappear.  I have found myself wanting to be a part of their demise.  Not terribly flattering as a follower of Christ, but the raw truth!

Recently, when dealing with a particularly divisive personality, a dear friend of mine, strong in her faith, rich in her experience and knowledgeable in the Word, spoke to me incredible words of wisdom on how to handle this individual.  After we shared, she simply stated, and I quote,

“Be sure to counteract every evil move with the opposite godly spirit.”

To create a counterbalance in the spiritual realm, thus, allowing God to reign in the individual’s life, in the situation and in my spiritual growth.  To counter arrogance with humility; to counter anger with love; to counter greed with generousity; to counter hostility with gentleness.  In essence, cultivating all the Fruit of the Spirit in my life and commanding them to flourish and grow; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control (Galatians 5:22-23).

I put her words into immediate action and it revolutionized how I viewed this person and all that surrounded them.  It gave me a deep peace and a rekindled trust in my Saviour.  It grew in me a love for this individual as I began to see them through the eyes of Christ.  It changed my whole perspective, my attitude and my behaviour towards this personality.  It gave me lightness in my step and a refreshed outlook on how to proceed.

And guess what?

The balance shifted!  By countering every evil move with the opposite godly spirit, it not only transformed me to be more like Christ, it began a change in this individual’s personality and in our ability to work together in harmony!  My prayer is that this change will continue and I will have the honour of bringing this person to full regeneration through salvation.

To God be the glory!

SPEAK LIFE!

Written by: Christianne Williams

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” Proverbs 12:18

I was recently in a very uncomfortable situation.  A comment had been made about one of my children and it hurt me greatly.  My first reaction was to call this person out on the unfair remark and defend my baby, even if the words I spoke were harsh.  In fact, I wanted my words to be harsh.  I wanted to inflict the same feeling that I had just felt.  Remembering an encounter years ago in which I had to apologize for some words that I spoke in the heat of the moment, I decided to remain silent.

Whoever came up with the little verse “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” was wrong.  And it’s definitely not biblical.  The Bible tells us that our words ‘pierce like swords’, and that we can choose to bless or curse someone with what we say.  A word spoken in the moment in the midst of an argument can never be taken back.  Sure, we can apologize, but once it’s said, it can’t be unsaid.  Having the choice, why we would ever choose words that would tear someone down?  We have the power to build them up, we can empower them to reach for big dreams, to encourage them to do something hard, or pursue something that may seem out of reach.

When I was in school I had big plans, I wanted to be a lawyer.  I feel that I would’ve rocked it, I can argue and remember facts like nobody’s business.  This can come in handy, but most times it’s to my detriment because I can also remember most of the nasty things that I’ve heard said to me.  Anyway, I went into grade 7 ready to be saturated with knowledge, yes, I was going to graduate in six years with the biggest brain our school had ever produced.  In our very first homeroom of the year my dreams were shattered when I announced to the entire class that I wanted to be a lawyer in answer to the question posed by my teacher.  The words I heard echoed in my head and caused me to walk away from that, ”You’ll never make it as a lawyer!”  I was embarrassed.  I was hurt.  Years later I can look back on that situation and think that I should not have listened but realistically I think we all value the opinions of people we hold in high esteem and the things they say can influence our thinking.

I want my words to be wise, spoken with love, received with joy.  We should leave each other feeling better than we did when first meeting.  I love it when like minded people get together and spend time encouraging and cheering each other on.  Speaking life into dry places.  Maybe even confirming things that God is speaking into their lives because of the obedience to speak what He plants in our hearts.  I feel even hard conversations that really need to be had can go well if we’re praying for wisdom and reaching for things that heal and not harm.  Bring correction and not condemnation.  Words that inspire change and give life.

Psalm 19:14 says “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer”.  If we keep this verse close in our mind and weigh everything we say by it, being sure that we are speaking from a pure heart with good motivation, we will please God and be a light to people.

Sisterhood Sunday with Julia Bracewell

Written by: Cindy Morrone

Hi, Readers!  You don’t want to miss this interview with Julia Bracewell!!  Her openness, honesty and realness is inspiring and courageous.  Be inspired, as she shares with us, how losing her father at a young age has shaped her faith to now, a young woman with a cause.

Thank you, Julia for sharing with us!!

And here is her ministry contact information:

The Acacia Movement

acaciamovement.com gofundme.com/acaciamovement@gmail.com

 

Community: Better. Together.

Written by: Angela Mercer

God’s heart for community is evident throughout so much of the Scriptures. Psalms 133 says “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”. Then in Hebrews 10:24 it says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another….”

These two verses beautifully represent God’s heart for his children to be rooted in community. I heard it said like this: “community is the intentional pursuit of being intertwined in each other’s stories”. I like that a lot.

Its being a part of the highs and the lows together, being hope for each other when needed, lifting each other up, having fun together, working together, encouraging one another, helping each other grow, pointing one another to Jesus.

Once a month on a Wednesday evening we all get together. Sometimes there are 8 or 9 of us, sometimes more. We all stroll in around 6 with food and children in tow and we dig into a delicious meal and cram around our small dining room table. This one particular night our friend made the largest pan of the most delicious lasagna I have ever eaten. I think prepared food is my love language. I think we all felt the nourishment and love that night as we ate.

We all enjoy each other’s company, and if I were to guess, there are some nerves about what the next hour conversation will entail. This group of people, these friends, we’ve been through a lot in the last year or more. There have been car accidents, cancer and few deaths among other things. It has been a difficult and traumatic few years.

After we finish eating we fill our coffee mugs and retreat to the living room for some conversation. Not everyone likes sharing. We try and keep a limit to how much one shares and there is no pressure whatsoever to share. Our last evening together I opened with a thought from Brene Brown from her book “The Gifts of Imperfection”. She talks about how many of us never learned how to lean in to discomfort as children. When stuff happens in our lives we tend to look for ways to “take the edge off” rather then lean into the situation at hand. For some, that could be drinking, for others food or social media or isolation. We would rather add something to soothe our discomfort than deal with the discomfort itself. I encouraged my friends that being in this circle in the first place was a form of leaning in. We all know during supper that this conversation is what follows. It can be very uncomfortable.

But even as an extrovert, I can see no better way to lean into discomfort then by being in community with people you love, and who love you right back and want to encourage you in your time of mourning and questions. The power of the phrase “me too” is so vital in times like these. We need reminders that we are not alone.

I am so saddened by the fact that so many in the church today, as soon as they are going through a very difficult time, isolate themselves from church. They stop coming. This is the very time when being WITH people is important.

I believe we will never reach our highest potential outside of community and God intended for it to be that way. We need each other. And we are better together.

So I encourage you to lean in. Whatever situation you find yourself in. Lean in. Lean in to church. Lean in to friends who love and support you. Lean in to God’s Word.

Community can look different for everyone. There are no rules. There is no right and wrong. It just has to be valued and intentional. It never just happens. So find your tribe and love them hard, let them love you… and lean in.

A Time For Goodbye, And a Time For Hello

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

Seasons are these funny things that provide an inevitable period of time designated for certain things to happen. Where I come from, winter is always a time for snow and cold weather. Summer is a time to relax and hang out by the pool while enjoying the sunshine on your face. Spring is for fresh flowers and new beginnings. Fall is a time for harvest and all things pumpkin spice. Each season has its beauty.

Like seasons of weather, life has seasons as well. This past weekend my family said good-bye to a decade full of relationships, church ministry and a place we called home! While driving the many miles that now separate us, a deep sense of mourning came over my very being. My husband is beginning a new ministry position in just a couple of weeks, and while we are looking very forward to that, I was feeling guilty for feeling caught in the middle of the sadness that plagued me from leaving such incredible things behind and the joy that comes with the plans the Lord has for us right here in this brand new season.

The Lord used a good friend to remind me of the scripture from Ecclesiastes 3 where the bible tells us there is a time for everything. He reminded me that the Lord will give us the strength to embrace the beauty that comes with the new season before us, despite the fact that we are simultaneously muddling through a season of loss.

Some seasons will inevitably be liked more than others, but God has said there is purpose in all of the seasons we face. Are you facing a particularly hard season in your life right now? Ask God to reveal to you the beauty in your current season while also preparing you for the beauty to come in future seasons.

Bless you, sister! Xo

 

Having Faith in School

Written by: Sarah Walker

Just two short years ago, my daughter (our firstborn) started Junior Kindergarten! Of course I had mixed emotions, but I was mostly thrilled! She had been asking to go to school since she was two; she loves independence, making new friends and learning. I had no doubt she would thrive and flourish in her new environment, and I couldn’t wait to watch her grow!

However, her going to school brought new concerns: Who is she making friends with? What she is learning? What she is observing? For the first four years of her life, my husband and I had been her main teachers and influencers, and she had been shielded from things that we wanted to her protect her from.

For the Spirit that God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

It could be easy to fear for her while she is out on her own, but Scripture says that God’s Spirit within us doesn’t make us fearful. Just the opposite – the Holy Spirit gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Instead of worrying about her each day, I am brought to my knees in prayer with new passion and purpose.

“Prayer projects faith on God, and God on the world. Only God can move mountains, but faith and prayer move God.” (E.M. Bounds)

At the Last Supper, Jesus knows that Peter is about to deny Him three times. But instead of condemning him or judging him, Jesus says to him, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

I like that Jesus prayed for Peter’s faith. He knew Peter would stumble, but He wanted Peter’s faith to remain secure even in the midst of failure, and that when he “turned back” from his failure, that he would be a source of strength to others. In Luke 18:8, Jesus asks, “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?” He doesn’t ask if He will find perfection; He is looking for faith.

Faith is what I need as my daughter heads off to school again for another year: faith that God will be with her, will protect her, and that He will use school to teach her and form her into who He wants her to be! Fear tries to creep in for what might happen, but faith is there to push fear back and say, “God is bigger!”

I will boldly be praying for my daughter, and praying for her faith – that her faith would remain secure, and when she falls she rises up stronger than before. I pray that she stays safe from the evil one, that she develops an understanding of how important her light is, and that she will remain a godly influence wherever she goes in this world!

And in all of it, I will trust that God will be faithful to hear the prayers of a praying mom, and that the God who moves mountains is more than able to take care of her each and every day!

Listening Before Speaking

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

In my many years working with people, both in our ministry and in my career, the art of intrapersonal communication has always fascinated me. My family too is a place of intense interest as I watch its members dance the dance of communication with one another; sometimes resembling a beautiful waltz and other times dancing a disjointed modern ballet. On the whole, I am a people watcher and there is nothing I love more than to go to the mall, not to shop, but to watch human interaction take place in all its bluster and glory.

The one thing I have learned through all my observation, and from personal experience, is that most people speak to be heard, seldom listening to understand others. I have been guilty of these countless times in my life; just ask my husband for I am sure he has many examples to share.

This, however, flies in the face of scripture and how God would want to us to communicate with one another. James 1:19 states, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to LISTEN, slow to SPEAK and slow to become ANGRY.” Further, Proverbs 18:13 enlightens us that, “Those who answer before listening – that is their folly and their shame.” These are strong words spoken to warn us against falling headlong into our own rhetoric and speaking unintelligibly before we know the facts.

And even when we begin to learn to listen to others before we speak, we are often listening only to formulate our response, never really giving the other person our full attention. Many of us listen through a biased filter or with predetermined expectations or perceptions. Other times we are listening more to ourselves talking and not to what the other person is saying. And we have all been guilty of selective hearing.

But, effective listening, effective communication, requires us to control the conversation in our own minds when we are engaged with others! Note that both scriptures above are filled with verbs, action words on the part of the reader. QUICK – to listen. SLOW – to speak. SLOW – to anger. ANSWER -before listening. All verbs! We are challenged by God’s Word to control the ongoing dialogue between our ears. Easier said than done, but essential when interacting with others.

By controlling the constant dribble in our minds, we can more effectively respect others by giving them our ear. And that’s it. Our ear. Just our ear. Further, when our minds are turned off and our ears are open, then the Holy Spirit can fully direct any words that do eventually make it out of our mouths. How very powerful that is for the sake of those we interact with!

Daughters, I encourage you today to steer clear of the traps I have personally fallen into.

  • Jumping in mid-sentence to share my thoughts on a topic
  • Giving unsolicited advice
  • Intellectualizing or spiritualizing a topic at hand
  • Interrupting or making it about me
  • Rather, I encourage you, and myself along with you, to follow the principles below.
  • Pay attention without interrupting
  • Put yourself in the speaker’s shoes
  • Acknowledge the speaker’s feelings
  • Find out what is most important in the moment to the speaker
  • When pauses occur speak back what has been spoken to you, showing that you are listening

Learning to truly listen to others can be as difficult as learning a foreign language, but we must learn to do so in order to grow closer to others and to God. It takes practice and intentional action on our part and becomes easier in time. I will leave you with this final quote on the topic and let’s together become better listeners, fully engaged in the moment with our ears attuned to those around us.

“The first service that one owes to others in fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as the love of God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of the love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Life on Purpose: Drop the Expectations

Written by: Emily Pelley

I have spent an inordinate amount of time in my life grappling with expectations; expectations I have for myself, and expectations that people have of me- of my behaviour and my achievements. As the church, we so easily slip into this “expectations” model, setting impossibly high standards that keep people in prisons of inadequacy and defeat. Even though we know that Jesus died to put the law in its place- that our salvation is by the grace of God requiring only our acceptance- we hold tightly to our set of rules, demands, restrictions and expectations. And this robs us of the joy and peace that Jesus has made available to us.

As followers of Christ, we know that it is not by our own goodness that we are saved. In fact, if it were, none of us would make it, because all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23). So when we put Jesus at the centre of our lives- our imperfections, our issues, our mistakes all get swept under His perfection and love towards us. It is a beautiful picture- this Amazing Grace.

According to Isaiah 61, followers of Christ are meant to be a reflection of Him to the people in our community, in our city, in our country. It goes on to say that those who have the Spirit of the Lord in them will be called oaks of righteousness that God may be glorified (verse 3). This shifts the focus away from us to the God we serve. All we do, all the Spirit of God equips us to do, comes back to the glory of God.

Living life on purpose requires us to re-examine the expectations we have heaped on ourselves and on those around us. Why? Because if our purpose is Jesus, than our lives do not have room for anything that does not point back to Him.

It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, what you do, where you’re from, because the one thing that sets the church apart on the planet is the grace of God extended to anyone- ANYONE- who would believe. We have Good News to declare to the poor- that Jesus has paid the price- we get to walk in all the strength and power that is His because He is our Father (Rom 8:15). Wow.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me  to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the broken-hearted and to proclaim that captives will be released, and prisoners will be freed. Isaiah 61:1

Position of Victory!

Written by: Christianne Williams

“Finally, be strong in the lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the ruler, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground and after you have done everything to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-13

This has been on my heart for a while now. It gives us a very quick view of what is really going in the world around us. How many times in the course of a day do we observe this very thing? People attacking one another, when really the enemy is looking on laughing. People losing hope in a situation because they blame God for their circumstances instead of the one who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy, leaving them hopeless and worn out.

I’m a mom, which is just another name for referee some days. I have four children and there are days when I feel like going back to bed ten minutes after I get out. There are times when my offspring wear me out with their bickering and nit picking; its like they can’t get along with each other for five minutes. Not everyday is like that, I don’t know if their behaviour is affected by the moon or not, all I know is that if everyday were like those days, I may resign my position. In all seriousness, those days wear me down; they leave me feeling drained, and in some cases, depending on how many of them are involved, I wonder how we can go on like this.

I believe that’s what the enemy tries to do to us. He wants us to experience an intense battle, one that leaves us believing there is no hope for rest, or for God’s plan to come about in our lives. A slanderer that has us pointing fingers at the person across the table as the source of our problems instead of at him. A deceiver that makes us forget there really is no power struggle because he wages war from a position of defeat and when we place our faith in God and His mighty power we come from a position of victory. You see, we have to remember that the illusion the Father of lies projects is that he is an equal with God, and that’s a lie we cannot afford to accept.

Ephesians reminds us that even on the worst days, our struggle is not against those around us, it’s against the devil, and he is already a defeated foe. We need only stand in the truth of God’s power, being sure that he is our defender and there really is no struggle. I remember one lady telling me once that she feared the devil because he had real power… but let us never forget that our God is Almighty!
When you find yourself in the midst of a battle, remind yourself of this: the real enemy is one unseen, and one who has already been defeated. So, put on the armour, stand your ground, draw your Sword, raise and lock your shield with comrades. And pray for Holy Spirit to give you courage, boldness, and confidence knowing that you don’t fight from a position of defeat, but from a position of victory!

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, lord, have never forsaken those who seek You.” Psalm 9:9-10