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Arise, Shine- A Devotional Message

Monday, November 2nd, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak at the Franklin Baptist Association’s Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer.  It was an honor and privilege to share the Word of God with the women gathered there.  Our theme was: Arise, Shine; when we rise up, He shines through!

I so enjoyed sharing this message with the women at the event, that I decided I would like to share it with more of you!  If you have about a half hour to spare, it will be worth your time.

I pray the Lord will minister to you through the message as He has ministered to me in giving it and as He ministered to those who heard it live on Monday.

God be with you!

Amber

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzALVFfXyGSOb2xyWi1TdzN1alk/view

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Thankful for the Word

This Thanksgiving I was blessed to meet a wonderful, saintly woman.  I learned so much from this dear lady in her mid-eighties.  She is one of those people who exude the presence of Christ in everything they do.  I hope to remember my time with Winnie for many years to come.

I was most amazed by what Mrs. Winnie S. said as we were sharing our favorite Thanksgiving traditions and what we were thankful for this year. Continue reading

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Playing with the Cards You’re Given

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Think about just about any card game out there and what it takes to win. Sure, part of your success in the game relies on your strategy and decisions for game play, but most of your success or failure in the game centers around the cards that you are dealt at the beginning of the game. We’ve all had those great hands that make winning a breeze and have probably been accused of cheating by the people playing with us. We’ve also had those hands that are the worst possible one we could have at that moment and have been tempted to quit before we even start. Think of the sweetness of a win that comes from what started out as a horrible hand. Sometimes we appreciate those wins more because it was hard to get there.

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Saying “Sorry”

A while ago I had a parent ask me for some discipline ideas.  Her daughter got in trouble at school for fighting to be the line leader.  Evidently she had pushed a classmate out of the way in order to be first.  The mother told me she had her daughter apologize to the teacher, but wanted her daughter to have to do something else as well.  I suggested that the mother have her daughter write an apology letter to her classmate and maybe make a little gift to give as well.  The mother thought this sounded like a good idea and decided to give it a try.

kid writing letter

The next time I saw them, the mother told me that they tried it.  Her daughter wrote the letter and was waiting for the first chance to give it to her classmate.  The mother thanked me again for the idea and said it seemed to work well.  I share this story because I think that this “punishment” can be effective in a number of circumstances.  Let me explain: Continue reading

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A Lonely Road

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(I originally wrote this on October 27, 2014, but I just haven’t put it up here yet)

Some say that ministry is a lonely road, and they’re right.  One of the things they don’t bother to tell you while you’re in college, especially in ministry prep courses, is just how lonely the road can be after graduation.  A lot of recent college graduates I’ve talked to have said the same thing.  They just didn’t know how hard and lonely it would be!

Think about it:  The push in college is not only to get your degree so that you can get that dream job, but to invest in wonderful, life-long friends.  But guess what?  When graduation day comes, the friends usually disperse all over as the Lord calls them separate ways.  Sure, we remain friends, albeit from a distance, but what do we do when we find ourselves in a completely new place with no friends and no connections?  Who do we connect with?  Who do we befriend?

Those who walk into ministry as singles face this in an especially potent way.  As the Lord calls us to new territory where we know no one, we can face deep loneliness.  Often times, we don’t have the opportunity to go serve with our best friend or with our closest loved ones.  (Maybe it’s just me, but I think that this applies to others too.  If you agree, can I get a shout out down below?)  Granted, the role of the single adult in the Church and the Kingdom of God are important and vital.  It is a key calling, but it is a hard and lonely one.

Yet despite the loneliness that can come with the calling to ministry, God is always present and always with us.  Even when the loneliness is overwhelming, He IS there!  We are given an opportunity to press into Him in a unique ways and to depend on Him more fully.  The challenge is will we take the opportunity and actually do it?

Here’s the other thing: even though ministry and being a vocational minister is a lonely road, we’re not meant to walk it alone.  I challenge those of you in ministry to reach out to someone in your church or area whom you can befriend.  Share life with them and together seek the Lord encouraging one another in the ministry and in the Lord.  We are not meant to live or minister alone. And though we may feel lonely, we are not alone!

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Seeing the Body at Work

It is a wonderful thing to watch the Body of Christ at work serving and loving in numerous and unique ways.  No act of love, no service, is worthless.  I’ve seen Jesus in people serving meals, in those who sign for those who are deaf.  I’ve seen Him in people feeding those who cannot feed themselves and welcoming people different than themselves.  I’ve seen Jesus in those who clothe the naked, and those who change diapers in the nursery.  I’ve seen Jesus in people leading crafts and teaching music.

Each of us , who are in Christ, has a gift with which to love others.  When we love others with the power of the Spirit, Jesus is evident.  I believe that our Lord is delighted when He sees His children loving each other and others with His love.  Dear follower of Christ, love with the gifts God has given you.  Minister to others through the talents you possess.  Shine the light of Jesus wherever you are.  May others see Him in you and may we see His presence in each other!

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The Changing of Seasons

There are times in our lives when the Lord calls us out of one area or situation and moves us to another.  Like the changing of seasons, heralded by changing temperatures and weather, changes in life come as seasons—here for a while only to fade into the next thing God brings along our way.

This brings a mixture of excitement and sadness—excitement for the season that approaches and sadness for the season being left behind.  Spring brings with it the joy of new life and blooming flowers, while seeing the beauty of snow-cover fields and mountains melt away.  Summer has the excitement of outdoor activities and longer days while the coolness of spring passes away.  Autumn brings glorious colors to trees and cool, crisp air, but the green of summer and warm evenings disappear as the days shorten.  Winter has the glories of snow and time indoors to warm up with blankets and warm beverages, but also brings bare trees and biting wind to replace the colors and air of fall.  So too, our seasons of life bring a mixture of excitement and sadness.

As I come to the close of another season, I find myself all too well acquainted with these feelings again.  The worst part of the closing of any season is saying, “goodbye” or “see ya later” to those I have connected with throughout the season.  But the blessing of being part of the family of God is that no matter where we go, we get to carry with us the unity and bond we have together in Christ.  We may have seasons when we are physically absent from those we love, but in Christ and His Spirit, who unites us, we can be present spiritually.

Whenever I have a season that comes to a close, I carry a piece of that season with me forever.  I can say with confidence that I will carry a large piece of this season with me as God takes me into the next season He has in store.  I will remember you all and the memories I have here with fondness.  Being here for this season has been such a rich blessing and I thank God for it every day.

Thank you, Grace Church, for welcoming me with open arms and letting me be part of what God is doing here for three years.  Thank you for being my friends and a family to me as I have been away from mine.  Thank you for supporting and encouraging me.  Thank you for letting me be a part of your lives and for being part of mine.  It has been a true blessing to serve the Lord here.  Thank you so much!

To Christ Jesus be the glory!  Blessings on you all!

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When the Going Gets Tough…

The saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, is a common one; however, when the going gets tough it can also create opportunities to reflect on our true motivation for doing what we do.

When life gets tough and I’m thrown “curve ball” after “curve ball” and I feel like I’m in over my head, two things tend to happen:  1)  I don’t sleep because my mind tries desperately to process everything. 2) I have several conversations with the Lord which tend to go something like this:

Me: Lord, Why did you call me to THIS?  I can’t do this!

The Lord:  I know.  Trust me.

Me:  But God, I don’t know what I’m doing!

The Lord:  I know.  But I do.

Me:  But God, I’m so incapable of dealing with this.

The Lord:  I know.  But my strength is made perfect in your weakness.

Me:  God, it hurts so much to see what people go through.  Why did you call me to THIS?

The Lord:  Because you love them.  You will them, like I love them.  Because you care for them.  Because they are MINE and you love and care for them because they are mine and because I love and care for them.

Me:  Oh, yeah…

Many times I find that God just calls me to love people, not necessarily to use all the gifts and abilities He has given me.  There are numerous situations that arise which do not fit the skills and knowledge that I have, but God still calls me to those situations to love people any way I can.

I do not have all the answers or solutions for Children’s Ministry or Family Ministry, I have a mind and I have a love for people and a passion to see them walking with Jesus, which propels and motivates me even when I don’t have answers or the going gets tough.

It is the love of Christ which compels me, and motivates me to keep going, through good times and bad,  and to keep saying “Yes” to the call He has placed on my life.  Love which moves me with compassion, which causes me to give of myself.  He has called me because I love deeply and care greatly for those entrusted to my care.  This love is what motivates me and keeps me going.

For me:  When the going gets tough, the tough get LOVING!

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On Saying Goodbye

Goodbyes are never easy, no matter how they come, but this is especially the case when it comes to what some may call “the final goodbye”.  Yet when the “goodbye” is directed to someone who has had a long battle with cancer and to a fellow believer, the “goodbye” can become bittersweet.  It seems like that time is near once again for my family as we prepare to say “goodbye” to a beloved uncle.

We grieve, but not as those without hope (see 1 Thess 4:13-14).  No indeed, for we have the greatest hope of all–that because of Christ we will see my uncle again in heaven.  My uncle gets the best part of it because he gets to see Jesus before the rest of us.  He gets to go where God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).

Our goodbyes will not be final, for we will see my uncle again, and when we do, there will be no more goodbyes.  One of my favorite applications for “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”  (2 Pt 3:8) is one that the pastor at our church has said, “no sooner than when he gets there and see Jesus, will he turn around to find us all standing there with him.”  What a glorious thought!  It calls to mind lyrics from an old hymn:  “When we all get to heaven what a day of rejoicing that will be!  When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!”

Indeed, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, death has been swallowed up in victory.  In the words of another song, “The victory is won and the grave is overwhelmed”.  We can have joy, we can have hope because of Christ!  He has conquered sin and death, making a way for sinful men and women to be made right with God.  For this reason, my uncle, indeed all us who are in Christ, may say “‘Death is swallowed up in victory. / ‘O death, where is your victory? / O death, where is your sting?'” (1 Cor 15:54b-55)

Yet even with all of the joy and hope we have in Christ in the midst of this, it is still hard on those who will remain on earth to tarry a while longer here.  Perhaps the death of a loved one is hardest on those who survive them.  They feel a pain of searing loss.  I think that these people are very near to the heart of God.

I consider the cross of Jesus.  God the Father had to bare the loss of His one and only begotten Son.  He had to turn His face away from His own Son because of the sin that Jesus took upon His own shoulders.  The Father bore the loss even as it was the will of God to crush Him (see Is 53:10).  But because of the loss that occurred at Calvary, followed by the resurrection, we can have confidence that my uncle will go to be in heaven with his Lord, Savior, and Master–Jesus Christ.

Yes, I do think that those going through the pain of loss are near to the heart of God.  “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted / and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps 34:18).  For those who survive my uncle, I pray that this will be an overwhelming reality in the coming days, weeks, months, and years.  I pray that God would make His presence evident.  I pray that God would continue to receive the glory in all of this.  Such has been my prayer from the beginning of my uncle’s battle with cancer: that the Lord would be glorified in the process as well as the outcome.

It seems that God has chosen to call one of His faithful servants home to be with Him in glory.  He has fought the good fight, he has run his race well, and he has kept the faith (see 2 Tim 4:7).  He has honored his Lord with his life and advanced the Kingdom of God here on earth.  I hope that in my lifetime I can follow my uncle’s example in following Christ and be more like them both.

I will miss him greatly, as many will, but I’ll see him on the other side.  For this reason, I do not say “goodbye”, but rather, “see you later”.

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Recovery

[Note: I wrote this on 10/2/12 but have not had an opportunity to post it until today]

The conference was amazing and God provided in so many ways!  Not only did He bless me with many contacts, some of which I regard more as friends than simply “business contacts”, but he also provided me the energy I needed to get everything I could out of the conference.  I feel much more equipped to do the task that lays before me.

My weekend rest at my family home was a rich blessing to me as well.  It is always edifying to spend time with them and speak of the Lord’s work in our lives.  It is also a blessing to worship the Lord together!  For this I give Him many thanks and praise His name.

Now that I’m back to school and catching up in classes, I’ve realized how depleted I still am from the conference.  Though I do not feel like I’ve recovered from last week, I know the Lord continues to provide everything I need to accomplish what He would have me do.  This week is proving to be difficult, but I know by His grace I will get through it and bring glory to His name.

I look forward to the weekend, hoping to find time to find true rest that only comes by abiding in Him!  To those of you who also feel exhausted and depleted, know that God will give you strength to get through whatever you’re going through and know that peace and rest can be found when you abide in Him!  Take the time to drink deeply of the Living Water!

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