{Online Book Study} A Dose of Humility

Written by: Megan Kincheloe

Megan011 Corinthians 10:31,Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

I met a woman several years ago who was just absolutely delightful. She was one of those people who captivates you from the first words she speaks. After not knowing her long, I began giving her compliments on how she has raised her family, what a wonderful parent she was, and what a good example she was for other Christian women. Every time I gave her praise, she gave the credit to God. All of it. Every time. So much that at one point my flesh questioned, “Wait a second. Is this genuine?” A short time and many conversations later, I concluded that yes…she was as genuine as they come and she truly believes God is responsible for every blessing and success she has experienced in her life. Sigh…

I wanted to be just like this woman because I absolutely believe God has given me every gift I have ever received. James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (NIV) So what was the problem? Why was I not giving Him the glory for every gift?

Oh. My. Ouch. Wait. What? Apparently I needed a huge dose of humility. Yes I believe God is responsible for all of the gifts I have received and I do thank Him for those…but when it comes to my successes…I wanted the glory. You heard me right. I am a ‘words of affirmation’ type of girl and enjoy being told, “Good job! Good work! Good writing! Good…anything.” The truth is ya’ll, I know the only way I get anything done that is ‘good’ or ‘relevant’ or ‘worthy’ is because of Christ in me.

Luke 14:11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (ESV)
Guys, when I sit down to write this blog each week, if I haven’t prayed and tuned in to Him, my writing is forced and I can barely form a sentence, much less fill a page. There have been times where I haven’t talked to Him about content all week and find myself in tears as I sit down and try to come up with a message that will touch at least one person and represent Him well. And then I take a deep breath and I pray…and He floods me with every word I need to hear and He wants you to hear. It’s like He is saying, “Sweet girl. Why don’t you come to me and trust me before trying to do things on your own? I’m here. Just come to me.” You would think I would learn to stay nudged up close to Him and lay writing at His feet week after week. But if I am being honest, those aren’t always my first thoughts. In “God is Able,” Priscilla Shirer says, “So when we come to Him with our needs and requests, with our aches and our longings, one of the greatest reasons why we can be so confident in Him is because—let’s just say it—God is gettin’ Him some glory when He acts on our behalf. One way or the other. You can count on that.

Friends, it’s all Him. Every victory. Every broken chain. Every gift. Every success. Every redemption. Every chance to start over. Give Him the glory.

To God be the glory. Amen.

{Online Book Study} In The Church

FullSizeRenderWritten by: Melissa Lefevers

Church. The world defines the Church as a building where people gather to worship. Jesus defines the church as the people who make up it up. You and I, believer, are the church- the bride of Christ.

Personally I love the people that make up the church. I long for the body of people totally sold out to giving God the glory He deserves. Going to a worship service and worshipping in spirit and in truth. Going to church and carrying each others burdens. Going to the lost- not expecting the lost to come to them. Being the hands and feet of Jesus, as we are called to be.

I love the church so much, but God loves it way more. He desires to love on His people, show off in their lives, and draw others to Him. Yes, show off and get all the glory. When He does a miracle in our lives it draws others to Himself, and to His church. I love what Priscilla Shirer writes in God is Able:
Among the many magnets that draw people to Christ are the manifold testimonies of work in the the lives of His people. His glory is meant to be shown, not just to ourselves in our living rooms, not just for our own benefit, and personal amusement, but for church wide display.

The things you and I go through have a greater purpose. There is a reason for the suffering, the loss, the ache in your heart. There is a reason God allows certain things to happen in our life. They are for Him to get the glory. Before you start seeing God in the wrong light, let us not forget the joy, love, peace and heart change we get as we learn to trust God in these circumstances. Let us not forget how much deeper our relationship with Christ gets in the process of the miracle. Yes, he wants the glory but sweet friends how humbling is it that he uses you and I to be the vessel.

…to him be the glory in the church. Ephesians 3:21

I am sure your asking, “Melissa, what does this have to do with marriage?” Everything. Maybe, just maybe, there is someone in your church who’s marriage is falling apart. Maybe there is someone in your church who’s stepping out on her man. Maybe there is someone in your church who loves her job more than her marriage. Maybe there is someone in your church who is going through a rough patch and wonders will it end.

I know there is, we are not perfect. We may pretend on a Sunday morning, but we are not. I wonder what would happen in our churches if we stopped pretending and we shared? I believe it would open the flood gates of God’s glory and redemption.

You see I was one of those ladies once. I went week after to week to church saying I was fine and on the inside I was dying. My husband and I were experiencing a very rocky time. I didn’t feel as if I could share my pain or I might be judged. The church was so pretty and I was so not. Week by week, day by day, God worked on my husband and I and we were healed. Our marriage was put back together and it is by God’s hands alone. I tell you this not so you see the hurt but that you see the Savior. You see that God can take brokenness and make it beautiful for His glory.

I tell you this so if you were like me that you can share your story. Take a sister by the hand who is struggling and walk  her through it. If you are the one struggling, please reach out, be brave and tell someone so you do not have to walk it alone. God shows up and shows off in these very circumstances.

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20

If we shared this collectively as a church, then oh how it would be a sweet sound in His ears. My testimony, your testimony could be just what someone is needing. Your testimony could be the very thing that God wants to use to show someone hope. Hope that marriage can and will be restored in His name.

Let us be a people who are being the church and not just going to church. Let us be a people who do not rob God of the glory he deserves by keeping our mouths closed. Let us be a people who gather together as one body to give Him all the Glory and praise that he deserves.

{Online Book Study} Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free Card

NathanWritten by: Nathan Hill

I grew up loving the game of monopoly. I can remember rainy summer days playing this exciting board game of real estate deals and collecting rent with my cousin and brother while my parents were at work. (It had to be the rainy days, because if it was sunny we’d be outside.) If you have ever played monopoly before, you would remember the get-out-of-jail-free card. Not huge in value, but enough of a perk to tuck away until you needed it. Easy enough to throw into the attempted deal to swindle Park Place out of your brother…or cousin…but I digress.

Sometimes we treat our faith in Christ as though it is a simple get-out-of-hell-free card, and perhaps this is why there is such a backlash against a literal understanding of hell in some segments of Christianity today. All of this focus on avoiding torment in the afterlife has caused us to give little thought to our present life. To the blessings in our present life. To the invisible spiritual changes that take place in the life of one who is faithful to God. It is far more valuable than a get-out-of-hell-free card. It’s a get-into-abundant-life-now card.

Priscilla Shirer reminds us of a passage in Ephesians 2:6-7

6and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

We have already been seated in heavenly places with God. I am not sure about you, but I’m sitting in a chair in my house right now, and I certainly hope that this is not all that heaven will be like. Yet, at the same time, we have access to something greater than we might realize, certainly greater than we can understand. There is an aspect of our invisible, spiritual selves that is sitting before Christ—right now.

Right now.

For me, that means two things. First, God sees me. All the time. It’s not like you can buy a few extra things and stash them away from your husband, only confessing when he finds them in your closet. No, it’s as though your husband was right there with you in the checkout line when you made the decision to purchase, and he knew right away. It is this dynamic of closeness that we have with Christ because in some mysterious spiritual sense, we are with him right now.

The second thing this means is that we have access to a great mentor and empowerer. The Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as the Spirit of Jesus by the gospel writer John, and we have direct access to the empowering Spirit. Discernment, self-control, the ability to hold it together in overwhelming situations—it’s there. Now, you might sense it more in your prayer closet or in a worship gathering, but it goes with you all the time.

As you consider this chapter of the book study this week, stop often and remind yourself that you are sitting in the presence of Jesus right now. Ask for what you need and he will be faithful.

{Online Book Study} Week Five Teaching

DorettaWritten by: Doretta Zinck

This week we will be reading and studying Chapter 7Tribute.”

…to Him be the glory…

Is there satisfaction in growing? Absolutely! But as we look back over a storm or trial in our lives, where does our mind go to? Can we see how we got to the other side now that the healing has happened or the breakthrough has come? God allows us to walk through difficulties, all the while growing us even when we can’t see it. Our responsibility with our lives is to show His power and to bring Him glory. We are His character reflected to the world around us. We cannot remain the “walking wounded”; God wants to fulfill His purposes though us, to His honour and for His glory.

We are a part of His church and He brings His church together to display what He is doing in us and through us.

When we realise that we are all broken and humble ourselves before Him the church will come alive like never before, empowered by what Jesus did on the cross. “Glory in the church! And in Christ Jesus!” The fruit of a life that lives by this discipline can impact future generations, effecting what God is doing into the lives of our children and grandchildren. Blows my mind!

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are you growing?
  2. Are you seeing good fruit in your life?
  3. How does your life speak of what Jesus has done for you?

{Online Book Study} Thimble Living

Cindy1Written by: Cindy Morrone

One of my greatest concerns not just for me; but for all of us is that we will not live this life; the one chance we get, to the very fullest. We’ve all experienced a loved one pass from this life into the next and have witnessed what we can bring with us. In the end, it’s a single casket perhaps with small, nonetheless meaningful trinkets and our best dress or suit.

That in our journey we would rely on the weakest of things instead of tapping into someOne so powerful that the miraculous occurs. That we would miss amazing opportunities. Like Priscilla describes in God Is Able, “Trading adventure for what feels to us (deceptively) like complete control. As a result, not only do we miss out on feeling the wind of destiny and abundance in our own hair, we also potentially clog up the pipeline of blessing for others coming up behind us.” (pg. 116)

The weakest of my things are many: My cup of morning coffee after 8 hours of sleep. Being physically able to run. My appearance. Intimate connection with my husband. My daughters’ behavior and achievements. Financial stability. Just to name a few.

Do I depend on these things to give me strength, endurance and happiness? I sure can. Do I rely on these things to empower me? I sure can.

Just let the coffee carafe break before the first cup is poured and my reliance is obvious!

It doesn’t take long though to realize that these things are only weak imitations of empowerment.

They are fleeting; ever-changing and so temperamental. I haven’t gotten 8 hours of sleep in a very long time. My left hip is starting to pain. My appearance tells my age. My husband and I disagree. My daughters’ behavior and achievements are rightfully their own and not for me to own. Our financial stability is certainly not what it used to be.

In their proper place these reliances may help for a time; in a moment but there is so much more available to us!!

Radical living is having a dependence and connection with a power Source that never changes or depletes—God’s power. “And it is from this unending, boundless, limitless supply of God’s power-engrained character that we (yes, you and I) draw our own power.” (Priscilla Shirer, pg. 102)

Relying on God’s power I can have a meaningful and productive day even without the required hours of sleep; I have hope that even as my body ages I have purpose and giftings that reach beyond the physical; I can forgive and love my husband despite our differences; I can pray for and watch the Lord work in the lives of my precious daughters and I can trust that the Lord will provide for all our needs and then some. I can even make it through a morning without a cup of coffee!!

As Priscilla explains on pg. 117 God’s power is readily available to us believers the moment we believed (Ephesians 1:13).

To ‘not yet’ believers this power is readily available, ‘That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ (Romans 10:9). And instantly without payment, cleaning up, being perfect, meeting some religious checklist it’s yours for the taking and using and living.

Radical living!

At the end of my time I don’t want it to be about what lies in the casket with me but who and what fills the room I have left behind. That what is noticed is love that surpasses the trials and tribulations of this life; forgiveness that heals and brings together detached relationships; and an all encompassing hope and peace. That the things that are said in tribute breathe new life into those listening. Not because of this lady but because of what she believed in and how she lived her life. A radical life live-r sourced by her God!

{Online Book Study} Pointless

IMG_6200Written by: Christianne Williams

I was exhausted. I sat on the floor, staring straight into what appeared to be a dumping station but was in fact, my daughter’s bedroom. How had it gotten to this state? Wasn’t it only last week that I had gone in and straightened it all out, organizing everything, giving every little thing a place? Hadn’t I made it easy for her to clean it up again by dedicating bins to specific toys? The exhaustion I was feeling wasn’t physical but emotional, I was feeling drained. Keeping the room of a five-year old tidy is like shovelling in a snow storm, or brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. Pointless.

So I began the mission to try and recover order and peace to this territory of disaster. I was crying a little at the task that loomed ahead as my 14-year old came in and began to help. It picked up my spirits a bit to have a partner in crime. He worked alongside until the whole room was back to its organized state. I smiled at him and thanked him for helping me without being asked, what a blessing that had been. I still had time in my day to work on other things and a tiny bit of my sanity had been saved. How wonderful it is when someone steps in to help you out of difficult situation!

I feel in life that we approach things like that. We begin feeling overwhelmed, like we must do it all on our own. For some reason we’re afraid to ask for help, maybe because we fear rejection. Perhaps we feel God is too busy. Whatever the reason, we miss out. We serve a God who has no end to His power because it’s part of who He is, part of His very being. ‘This means the vast ocean of His power has no bounds. It knows no limits.’ I had to stop and let that sink in. We struggle through not because we have to but because we choose to. It’s not God’s will for us to go it alone.

I’ve found something else to be true also. It’s much easier to believe that God’s power is able to work in someone else’s life rather than my own. I can believe that God is working things out for good for my friends and family but I find it awfully hard to believe sometimes that God is concerned and active in my own circumstances. Haven’t we all been there? A friend or acquaintance comes to you with a request, it’s a big one, and we agree to pray and believe that God will intervene, that He will bring about an end. We believe it with all of our being, we can picture God performing great feats to make this happen. Yet, when we’re faced with something in our life we feel as though we’re bothering God by asking for His help. We feel too insignificant to come before our all powerful, all encompassing God to ask for His divine intervention. We seem to believe that His power is available for others but not us.

I sat alone in a room, trying to find the energy to get a job done that seemed overwhelming, but my son saw my need of help and came to intervene. I look at this and see that so many times we sit alone, while God is there with us, more than willing to help, more than able to empower us to do more than we could ever hope to do on our own, yet we never ask. Instead we tire ourselves, we become discouraged, we lose hope, and all the while He’s just there, trying to show us His love and care. Moving over into the fast lane, opening ourselves to God’s never failing power, will change us, for the better, forever.

{Online Book Study} God Is ENOUGH

image1 2Written by: Ashley Sigrest

Five years ago I was struggling in every area of my life it seemed. Though it appeared I had many people in my life, I always felt alone. Every relationship felt strained from my marriage, to my family, to my friends. This overwhelming feeling finally caught up to me one day as I was stuck in traffic. In fit of anger and frustration I yelled at my radio about a particular relationship that was bugging me that day.

Yep. The radio. I guess if you’re going to have a tantrum being alone in your car is a good place to be. It wasn’t the radio that answered back to my outburst. In the midst of my sobs God gently asked me, “Am I not enough for you?

Yes, God! You’re more than enough!” I knew this to be true, but instead of soaking in His presence each time the weight of loneliness was too much to bear, I would find a physical comfort to soften my hurt. Food, television, music, a book, writing, a friend. These seemingly innocent things became my substitute source of comfort. What I didn’t realize at the time was I had made them into idols that could never satisfied my need to belong.

My heart broke when I heard God ask me that question. I felt ashamed and convicted and in that moment I repented. His presence filled my car with peace and comfort. I began dealing with my loneliness by seeking Him first, but I also had to search myself to see what fault I had in other relationships that might be causing me to feel alone.

I wish I could say I never again turned to physical things when I felt hurt, but sadly I have. The more we seek Him each day and spend time with God in His word, in prayer, and worship, the stronger we become in His Holy Spirit. That longing we have to be loved and cared for was filled the moment we gave our lives to Christ. We cannot let our human feelings blind us to the truth of Whose we are.

Nevertheless, I am continually with You;
You hold my right hand.
You guide me with Your counsel,
and afterward You will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:23-26 ESV)

I don’t know what you’re going through in this season, but friend I pray you know that God is right there with you. Call to Him in this moment and do not delay. He is enough.

{Online Book Study} Power Up

Megan01Written by: Megan Kincheloe

Twice in my 39 years of life I got the bright idea that I was going to be a runner. Not only was I going to start running, but I was going to run two half-marathons to add those to my list of accomplishments in life. This wasn’t something God was calling me to do. Honestly, this was about the shiny medals someone would drape around my neck at the end and the excitement of being able to put that 13.1 sticker on the back window of my car.

I started training for the first race the week before I was scheduled to run. No, that is not a typo. Exactly one week prior to running 13.1 miles, my longest distance of walking/running was 5 miles. Not wise, my friends. The excitement from my two running mates and the energy from the other 15,000 runners pushed me right through those first six miles. Then the adrenaline was present and pumping over the course of the next three miles which made that part of the run bearable. On mile nine, I called on God. “Please God, give me the strength to get through these last 4.1 milesI can’t feel my legs and my lungs feel like they are going to collapse.” This was the conversation I had with God during this phase of the second half I ran too. “Please God, get me to the end.” He did. And I have the shiny medals to prove it. But I left both of those races thinking, “Why in the world didn’t I call on Him sooner? Why didn’t I ‘power up’ with God from the beginning?” In addition to the poor training prior to these races, I wasn’t using the One source who could push me through. In “God is Able,” Priscilla Shirer says this, “But I know from the testimony of God’s Word that ‘power’ is one thing we should never feel short on. Even if we do get tired, exhausted even, we don’t need to feel impotent. God’s power doesn’t negate weariness; it just enables us to press through it with an uncommon persistence. No matter how tall our challenges are, His power in us is greater still.

Shew…

We recently had a quick scare in our family and as I am in panic mode trying to think of what to do next, our daughter goes immediately to God in prayer. She didn’t wait one millisecond before lifting our situation up to our Heavenly Father. Why? Because she trusts in His power. She knows it is limitless and readily available at all times.

Ya’ll, I try to do ‘it’ on own my own way more often than I care to admit. And ‘it’ encompasses many things.

Whether ‘it’ is an issue at work, a troubled child, a friend in need, a desire to eat healthy and exercise, or a plethora of other things, sometimes He is my defense rather than my offense. We all do things to ‘power up’ before our day.

Some have coffee. Some go for a run. Some take a shower…hopefully all take a shower☺. Friends, none of those things are going to give us lasting power to get through all of the hours in the day. But He will. If He can make the sun stand still, He can give you the power to get through every single thing you may face in this world. Call on Him and flex those muscles. You’ve got the Lion of Judah inside, beside, ahead and behind. Now that, my friends, is the real deal.

Joshua 10:12-13,Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies.

{Online Book Study} Power

FullSizeRenderWritten by: Melissa Lefevers

I got out of my car and walked up to the door. I took a deep breath and smiled knowing that the meeting would be sweet and full of laughter. I opened the door and slowly walked in breathing in the familiar smell of coffee. I decided to try something a little different and walked over to a corner of the coffee shop where I have come for almost four years now.

I smiled as I saw a sweet college girl and hugged her neck with the anticipation of the other girls who would soon follow. I have had the unique privilege of meeting with these four girls regularly for almost four years now. We have walked through much of life together. There have been tears, laughter, heartache, anger and lots of fun. Mostly though, a lot of Jesus.

We chatted for a bit, catching up. But then it was down to business. I asked about how life was and how they were growing in their walk with Christ. That always opens up the flood gates and makes way for an overflowing of conversation. School is about to start again and there is some uncertainty of the aid that will be given. That is a huge burden for these girls.

One of the girls has even thought about maybe changing her major because of the expense or some time off to work and then finishing. Y’all, it was like light bulbs started lighting up my mind and I got all excited. All I could think about is how good God is to bring me to, “Turbo”, Chapter six in Priscilla Shirer’s God is Able at that very moment. I was quickly reminded of how Priscilla talks about tapping into the power we already have in the Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit is working in us and God so wants to show off in that.

I grabbed that sweet girl’s hand and said, “Don’t— not yet.” I urged her not to give up on the dream God had given her because of hardship. I urged her to pray and cry out to God to do a miracle in her life. I also encouraged her to ask God if maybe if this particular hardship was His leading her in another direction. Most importantly I asked her to pray that God would give her peace with it her decision and the courage to follow through.

She smiled and said, “Ok I will.” We continued with the rest of the meeting and it was spectacular. I drove home full of thoughts about everything we talked about. Even after I got home, I continued to think about those sweet girls and thanked God for the relationship that I have with each one of them.

I was reminded in that prayer time how, just like that sweet girl, our plans in life often get rocked and we don’t know what to do. God interrupts our plans and we get scared, confused and we forget. We forget that we have His power in us —and we quit. We have the Holy Spirit and His powerful strength working in us. It is not wimpy sort of strength but the same powerful strength that raised Christ from the dead. Wow! That power is working in us so that we can experience God in a way that is unthinkable.

I don’t know about you but that truth gets me excited. It gets me excited that my thoughts about my marriage do not match up to reality. (You know those irrational thoughts have happened to you before) But it’s going to be ok. We have the power to love our spouse even when we feel he is unlovable. We have the power working in us to help us when our marriage gets rocky. We have the power working in us to comfort us in time of troubles. We have all we will ever need working within us.

Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Let’s allow that power to work and watch our great God give us mercy in our time of need. Our God is truly Able.

{Online Book Study} You’ve Got the Power

NathanWritten by: Nathan Hill

I can remember just over a decade ago when I was a newly credentialed pastor and all I wanted for my ministry was to see students come to faith in Christ, have lives healed at my every prayer, and to lead congregations into fantastic times of worship. I was a pastor now, and I was accustomed to doing well at whatever I did—and so I determined that these things were going to take place in my ministry.

Six months into ministry, however, it seemed that the opposite of what I anticipated was taking place. A young girl passed away on my first weekend as a pastor, despite my prayers (and the prayers of many others). Two students confessed faith in Jesus at a Thanksgiving rally but did not embrace the walk of faith that characterizes such a confession. And, it turns out I was the only one in the youth worship band—I did not find that fantastic at all.

How far away from the power of God operating in my life and ministry did I feel at that point? Quite far. In fact, I can recall one evening in my church office where I browsed the Internet to see how easily I could course correct my career—just one more year of study and I could have a Bachelor of Education and teach high school biology! It seemed quite appealing at the time, and I reasoned that I would still be making a difference in the lives of teenagers.

I never did leave pastoral ministry because—despite the powerlessness I felt—I knew that God had called me to this place and that if I endured I would get to participate in whatever great things he was doing in the lives of the people around me.

Fast forward a dozen years, and I am at a youth conference with a group of teenagers. It is the time when we are supposed to pray for the students, and yet I feel quite unprepared for this task. I am a little too wrapped up in my own prayers and petitions in that moment, and I confess that I wish we would perhaps linger in personal/individual worship instead of corporate prayer with and for one another. Nevertheless, I fulfill the role that I have been assigned, and so I lead the leaders in praying for students.

In that moment I simply said to God, “Well, I’ve got nothing up my sleeve. You play your cards and I’ll follow your lead.” In the next hour I was prayed for and prayed with many students and young adults. I delivered several distinct prophetic words that I feel God placed in my heart in the moment. Several students had dramatic experiences with Christ, and I pastored them through what God was possibly doing in their life right then. And, I watched leaders take their lead from me and minister in the same ways. It was a fantastic night.

As you read this chapter and go through your week, I want you to consider where you can take the pressure off yourself and hand it back to God. It’s his gig after all. You just need to show up and follow his lead.

But don’t forget to follow. Perhaps the most challenging statement in the chapter this week was the idea that our lack of embracing God’s power does not only affect us—it may just hold up someone behind us whose heart is ready to follow God.

God is the engine, and you are the vehicle. Allow the engine to rev and idle as it chooses, and be ready to move when the engine says go.