Potential

June 2, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Alan Mowbray –

William Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Or would it? If Donald Trump changed his name to Gladys Smith, would all the prestige, trust, and brand recognition follow him to his new name? Hardly.

Our names are important. They appear to be an empty slate when we are born; yet, when our parents named us, they bestowed upon us part of God’s plan for us—potential waiting to be realized as we grow and learn. Have you ever wondered how your name fits into God’s plan for your life?

In Acts 4, a man named Joseph sold some land and gave all the proceeds to the apostles for the use of the young church. He received great honor and blessing for this act. His name means “he will add.” Prior to this, he had been given the nickname of Barnabas, which, as stated in verse 36 means “son of encouragement.” Was he living up to his name?

Israel sent 12 spies into the Promised Land to scope out the situation. Only two had a positive report upon return. Do you remember their names? Joshua and Caleb.

Joshua means “Jehovah is Salvation.” His report to Moses, if followed, would have permitted a whole generation to see the Promised Land. He saw that the Lord would see them through. Because his report was unheeded, that generation perished in the wilderness.

Caleb, whose name means “dog”(as in tenacious fighter, loyal), yearned to enter the Promised Land as well, boldly asking for the most dangerous lands to conquer—at eighty years of age..

Barnabas honored God with his giving. A couple named Ananias and Sapphira coveted the honor and blessing that Barnabas received and sold some land as well. Their story in Acts 5 does not have a happy ending. Conspiring to steal honor and blessing they lied about the sale total to the Holy Spirit and the apostles. That lie carried a price of immediate death.

The name Ananias means “Grace of God.” He took advantage that grace. And, with a meaning like “Woman of Beauty,” isn’t it sad that such a beautiful name as Sapphira is considered cursed by the world?

So the question is… How sweet is the fragrance of your name to God? Is its scent filled with the vision of provision that God has promised you, or does it stink of defeats, compromises, and lies to the Holy Spirit? Looking at myself, I’m not pleased. There are parts of my life that are flowing great, while other parts reveal weakness, failure, and deception. And still He loves me. Praise God for his grace!

As for the other ten spies, here are their names and meanings:

Shammah – Renowned, or heard of God

Shapat – Judge, to judge or avenge

Igal – Avenger

Palti – Deliverance from the Lord

Gaddiel – the fortune of God

Gaddi – Fortunate

Ammiel – People of God

Sethur – Hidden

Nahbi – also means Hidden

Geuel – Majesty of God

What if each of these men had returned an honest and accurate report instead of doubt?

Would their names be honored like Joshua and Caleb?

What if?

Father God, whose name is the Name Above All Names, I praise you! Thank you for my name. Guide me in fulfilling the destiny to which it is linked. As a child grafted into the vine, I will strive to honor my Father’s name through my actions. I ask for wisdom and draw from your love and strength to release that potential which you have given me. Glorified is your Name! Amen!

Am I a Godly Influence?

May 31, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Nina Medrano –

I woke up one morning thinking about my younger brother, Daniel.  I asked the Holy Spirit, “What about Daniel?  What is going on with him?”

The Holy Spirit’s response was, “Ask Daniel, ‘Are you sharing the gospel of Christ at home?’”

Good question, Holy Spirit.

It’s too early to call Daniel so I sent him a text.

I was mulling over the Holy Spirit’s question, “Are you sharing the gospel of Christ at home?”

If I answer, “Yes,” then the gospel that I share outside of my home should be the same gospel.  If not, then I dishonor God.

If I say, “I’m sharing the gospel with friends but deny sharing it with family,” then what gospel am I presenting?

In Romans 2:23-2 (NIV) Paul writes, “You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?  As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Paul says in Romans 2:28 that “a man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly…No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit…”

I will paraphrase this verse to say that “a man is not a follower of Christ if he is only one publicly…No, a man is a follower of Christ if he is one inwardly and of true circumcision.”

So I asked myself, “Are you sharing the gospel of Christ at home?” It is a question that is loaded with Holy Spirit conviction.

It challenges me to examine what gospel my life demonstrates in the privacy of my home as well as in my public life.

Oftentimes, we live our lives flippantly and forget that our lives are no longer our own but His.  If we yield to God, or not, what influence does this have?

I hope that the gospel that I share at home draws family and friends to want to know God.

“Are you sharing the gospel of Christ at home?”

Stay Planted and Grow

May 29, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Candace McQuain –

My pastor is an endless fountain of knowledge. He is consistently sprinkling out incredibly meaningful and thought provoking words. He never ceases to amaze me in what he will come up with next. One Sunday, he told a story about a woman he had seen when he was out and about. She had approached him and told him that she goes to his church.

Well pastor always loves hearing that, so he asked her what sermon she had heard last and what she thought of it. She then told him that she couldn’t remember because it had “been a while” since she had attended. What he then wanted to say to her was, “Thank you, but you don’t go to my church, you’ve been to my church.” What he did say to her though was this, “Do you go to the gym?” She answered, “Yes”. He asked her, “How often?” She answered, “Very often.” He then said, “What would happen if you just went every now and then, or maybe only just once?” She answered with, “It wouldn’t do any good.”

I’m not exactly sure how he finished the rest of the conversation, but I’m sure you see where he was going with that line of questioning.

Building an intimate relationship with Christ is indeed a lot like building muscle tone at the gym. If we want a true and meaningful relationship with Him, just going to church one Sunday and then taking a couple weeks or months off before heading back again, isn’t going to cut it. Just like muscles that aren’t worked out regularly, our hearts and minds can become weak and vulnerable.

As regulars we become planted and when we do, our roots (faith) can extend, thick and strong.

From experience I can tell you that finding the church of your dreams is a lot like finding the man or woman of your dreams. The first time you meet him or her you get warm fuzzies all over and you can’t wait to see them again. Now the date wasn’t perfect, but you knew down deep in your heart that they were the one for you. Finding a church home is the same way. No church is perfect, but God is, and He is behind everything. So if your heart is telling you to attend that church up the street again or the one your sister has been telling you about for months, try it. These are the vessels God is using to get you there or to get you to return.

Once you’re there and you feel those warm fuzzies, because I know you will, let yourself fall in love and become committed.

Stay planted, and let yourself grow.

“They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit”  (Jeremiah 17:8 NIV).

Conceding Christmas Part Two: The Response

May 23, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

I curl up in a ball. Think about that verse from Matthew 11. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Do I believe it? Can I live it?

Release him. Trust me.

Every moment I don’t let go, fear eats away at me. I live in bondage to the terror that Kyle will die and leave me. I can’t hold out any longer on the tugging of my heart.

“Okay, Lord. Okay. Your ways are not my ways.” Deep inside, where I cling to Kyle, I force myself to relax. I imagine picking him up, kissing him softly on his cheek, and walking over to Jesus. It takes me a moment to offer him up and hand him over. His weight leaves my arms and my heart stutters. Kicks into overdrive.

I almost grab him back.

Outside my mind, in the reality of Kyle’s dark room, I tighten my grip on the pillow that still smells like him. “He’s Yours.” I tense. And wait. For the phone to ring. With news that Kyle’s lost the fight and he won’t be coming home.

No sound comes other than the hum of the ceiling fan above me. I breathe a half sigh of relief, knowing the call could come tomorrow. Or the day after that. Or any time during this long battle.

Another quiet whisper tugs at my heart. Something remains. Something I need to do. Will you love Me? No matter what? Even if I take him home with me?

My gut burns. My heart speeds up. I want to yell, “Yes, Lord, Yes.”

But I can’t.

I roll to my back. The fan blades spin around the neon light and throw dancing shadows on the wall.

Let it go. The whisper comes again.

“Isn’t it enough that I gave You Kyle?”

Give Me everything.

Kyle’s Awana verse from last week, Proverbs 3:5-6, flashes across my mind. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

I’ve already come this far—the burden almost gone—but these words are harder to say. Acid rises in my throat. These words may change everything. I close my eyes. Breathe in and out. Find the strength He gives me. “If You take him, tonight, tomorrow, next year, I will still love You.”

It’s done.

Peace fills me. Everywhere. Not the kind of peace that comes from knowing nothing bad will happen, but the kind of peace that comes from knowing you are shielded even if the very worst does happen. The peace that passes understanding.

Exhausted, I let my eyelids close and drift mercifully off to sleep.

The next morning, Alek and Maddy sit on the barstools at the island in the kitchen eating pancakes and drinking orange juice. I unload the dishwasher and turn to clean the sticky syrup off the counter.

The phone rings. I hold my breath. It’s my husband—with news I didn’t expect. Kyle will be home for Christmas.

God has handed him back to me. At least for now. The fever gone, the blood counts rising. I slump against the island in relief. “Thank you, Jesus.” Happy tears slide down my face. I grin at the kids and pull them close. “Let’s get ready for Christmas. Who wants to bake cookies?”

Conceding Christmas Part One: The Call

May 21, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

December 2004

3 AM

I burrow deeper under the covers, the bed large and lonely. Thirteen days until Christmas, but I’m not planning a celebration.

Arranging a funeral seems more likely.

My husband stayed at the hospital tonight with our ten-year-old son. This time, Kyle struggles with fever, low blood counts, and multiple infections—staph in his central line and fungus in his left lung.

The neighbor’s Christmas lights shine through my curtains, pulsing red and green. An ache sets in around my temples. I’ve been lying here for hours, watching the numbers on the clock glow and change, trying to ignore God tugging at my heart.

Give Kyle to me.

My chest squeezes in response to the words. “Lord, let me sleep.”

Your burden is too heavy. Take mine instead.

“Why are You doing this to me? I’m not ready.” I fight against the call, bury my face under the pillow. But He won’t let me rest.

With a heavy groan, I kick off the comforter and leave the warmth of my flannel sheets. The cat sleeping on my legs follows me down the short hallway. I peek inside Maddy’s room. A tiny glow shines from a Tinker Bell nightlight on her wall—it quenches her fear of the “black.” Sprawled sideways across the bed, her feet hang off the edge. Blond hair falls over her pillow, covering one side of her face. I settle her back and kiss her cheek. She smells like grape jelly and apple juice.

Soft snores drift down the hall from Alek’s room. He sleeps on the top bunk and I can’t reach his cheek, so ruffling his hair will have to do.

Kyle’s room is next, right at the top of the stairs. I always worry that he’ll fall down them on his way to find me in the middle of the night. For years, a gate stretched between the banisters, keeping him safe. If only a gate would keep him safe now.

I flip on his light and the fan begins to spin. A blue neon light underneath the blades throws off an eerie glow. I maneuver around a Lego battle scene, a stack of books, and a pile of video games. I reach his bed and sink onto his Spiderman comforter. Many nights, over the last four excruciating months, we’ve snuggled here together. Clinging to each other.

Fighting the leukemia.

I want to call the hospital. Hear his voice. But it’s the middle of the night. Instead, I roll over and trail my fingers along the rough bumps on the wall, until they hit a collage of pictures hanging over his bed—pictures of our family and his friends in the days before cancer.

Most of his buddies have stopped coming around. I know little boys can’t comprehend the gravity of cancer, but my heart aches anyway. Kyle doesn’t understand why they aren’t the same friends they used to be.

I breathe deep into his pillow. Comforted by Kyle’s smell, I curl into a ball.

Give him to me.

“Lord, where’s Kyle’s healing? His miracle? Haven’t I begged enough? It’s the only Christmas present I want.”

Let him go.Take my yoke and you will find rest. My yoke is easy and my burden light.

I recognize the words from Matthew 11 as He writes them on my heart. But I can’t give Kyle away. Tears drip down my face, onto my neck, into the pillow. A shallow puddle forms where I rest my cheek. “What if You heal him in Heaven instead of here?”

Trust Me with Kyle.

“But if he—” Tears soak my face. I can’t even think the word, “—how will I go on with a gaping hole in my heart?”

My breath catches. Knots form in my stomach and I agonize over the verse God has laid on my heart.

Can I really let him go?

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