Word of Mouth

March 31, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

Why does God teach me the most valuable lessons at the center of my rawest moment? Whether I’m humiliated, embarrassed, ashamed or aching—those are the times He reveals the deepest truths.

For the fourth year in a row, I attended the annual North Texas Christian Writer’s conference held in mid-September. As usual, the workshops offered impressive teachers and valuable information, but what I took away from the weekend had nothing to do with writing tips. God had a bigger revelation for me—that words, often spoken without thought, can construct and create or damage and destroy.

I wish I could tell you I gleaned this pearl of wisdom from dancing out of the conference on a high. However, God rarely teaches me during a happy moment—maybe because I don’t always listen when I’m confident, secure, and delighted with myself.

Instead, He used a disappointing critique with one of the faculty to illustrate how flippant words do more harm than no words at all. Despite how desperate I am to hit the “rewind” button on the little breakdown I had Saturday morning at the conference—a meltdown large enough to prompt a dash out to my car where I could hide until my mascara stopped running down my face—God moved my heart in a major way. Using humility. I hate that word, almost as much as I hate the word patience. I try not to ask Him for either of those lessons. But He always knows what I need.

Being an artist, any kind of artist, makes for an emotional rollercoaster ride. What we write and paint illustrates the essence of who we are, and when other people don’t love our art, it feels as though they don’t love us.

I’m pretty certain I’m not alone on this rollercoaster. We all hold something close to our heart—our job, hobby, skill, talent, our children, marriage, or friendships. I know that as a mom who strives to build my kids’ character nothing pops my balloon faster than a well-placed dart targeted toward my deficiencies as a parent.

Yes, I want to stretch and grow as a person and a writer. In order to do that, my heart must be teachable. Yet, no matter how willing I am to learn, I still ache when someone criticizes my work or dismisses my effort—constructively or otherwise.

Hard work and perseverance will move me toward my goals. Poorly placed criticism can still be useful. There’s always a small truth that I can take away, but I work so much better with encouragement. None of us was made to walk alone. I Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (NIV). We need each other. Having someone push you up the mountain, in the midst of crippling criticism or personal crisis, makes the difference between falling down and re-energizing for the climb.

I choose to take what I learned at the bottom of the rollercoaster and use it as momentum to scale the rise and take another ride. And when I get to the top? I will remember that meltdown in the parking lot and remind myself that anyone can criticize, but it takes a special person to encourage, and that’s the person I want to be.

I challenge you to carefully consider the words of your mouth. Be an encourager, not a destroyer. Open your mouth and spread the love!

My First AA Meeting Shines with Hope

March 26, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Pam Kumpe –

It’s not every day I attend an AA meeting. After I picked up a young lady at the rehab facility for her off-campus day outing, I discovered our first stop was—the AA meeting. I drove about 10 minutes to a white building, tucked near a park, on a dead-end street. Women and men, young and old walked inside taking a seat, some greeting others, while some simply took a seat.

I sat next to my friend on the wall, and I heard the testimony of Tim, a nice looking middle aged man, who spoke of his journey of alcohol and its hold on his life. He shared the victories in his life without the drink, and his discovery of ice tea at restaurants instead of beer. His new philosophy—keep it simple and take it one day at a time—with God at his side.

Larry spoke of attending his son’s high school football game, and going there sober, and of knowing he was going to remember the night with a clear head. He cheered his son on at the game and was confident he’d go to the next game.

Arturo lost everything a few years ago, and he spoke of his divorce and how that personal chapter sent him into despair. He thought, living without the woman he loved was not possible, so one night he ended up on the highway, got arrested and spent some time in a mental facility. He’s taking his recovery seriously, says he’s still lonely, but he is trusting in God with his life, and living in the present, and he’s staying focused and finding support from friends.

Britney shared how she spends a lot of time in the Bible processing what God says, and she mentioned she knows it involves surrendering her all to God, but she’s not quite there yet. She was quick to say she loves God and is working on becoming the woman she was meant to be.

Cliff shared his heart while sitting in his wheel chair. He’s an older man who leans on the group spiritually and emotionally, and is hanging on to his day, always looking for answers.

As I sat there in the room, I noticed a common thread—our need for love, our need for Jesus to be a part of our lives (even when we don’t know this), and how the heart of the broken and bruised is not only found in AA meetings—it’s all around, because we all hurt or feel lost or find ourselves lonely from time to time.

As simple as God’s love is, this bridge of hope can seem so far to the wandering heart. In reality the Lord is near the broken hearted, and in Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

On that morning, I found rest with some friends, and somehow, I needed them more than they’ll ever know. I never expected to cry—I never expected to feel the love—I never expected to find such hope; but when Jesus is at the meeting—grace and mercy rise up and take the front seat of our heart.

Thankful for Bananas & Vacations

March 22, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Kathi Woodall –

Last Thanksgiving I was driving in my van with my then four year old daughter. From the back seat her little voice piped up, “Is Thanksgiving the day we thank Jesus for things?”  I smiled and told her it is.

She continued, “Like grass?”

“Yes, like grass,” I answered.

“And trees?”

“Yes, and trees.”

Her list continued, “For apples and pears?”

“Yep, apples and pears.”

“And bananas?”

“Even bananas.” I began wondering how long her list was going to go.

“For houses?”

“Yes,” I answered aloud while silently thinking, “It’s a long car ride; I can keep this game up awhile.”

“And cars?”

“Yes, thankful for cars.”

“And hotels and vacations?”

I burst out laughing as her list suddenly took a turn from the practical and necessary to the fun and fanciful.  I knew she’d crack me up eventually and apparently this was her desired objective as her list came to an end at this point. At that time we had no travel plans for the holiday season and her last hotel and vacation experience had been several months previous. However, the idea of a vacation and the fun of a hotel are always forefront in her little mind.

In the Old Testament, the primary Hebrew word translated as thanksgiving does not denote a mere listing of all the things for which we are thankful.  First and foremost for the Israelites, thanksgiving was preceded by confession. Confession, and the resulting forgiveness, overflowed into praise and thanksgiving to God.

I have much to be thankful for this season.  Like my youngest, I am thankful for creation, food, a home, and even vacations.  I could add more to her list as well. Most of all, though, I am thankful I can come before a loving Heavenly Father in a spirit of confession.  I am thankful that when I do, He turns my tears of repentance into tears of joy.  I am thankful for His Son who died to make that relationship possible and who will return again to establish a kingdom of peace on earth.  Finally, I am thankful for His Spirit who guides and helps me as I walk this earthly journey.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving,
And His courts with praise;
Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.
(Psalm 100:4-5 NIV)

A Beautiful Mess

March 16, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Heather Arbuckle –

I am a do it myself kind of gal. In many parts of my life, I simply decide that God needs a little help and I opt to “give him a hand”.  Inevitably, that is precisely when life really starts to get messy.

With my limited perspective, things inevitably get tangled, and before long my situation look ugly. Discouraged and overwhelmed, I must then hand it all back to God and ask Him to fix my mess. Sometimes I picture God, shaking His holy head and nudging Jesus as He says, “Watch this. When will she ever learn? She is such a mess maker!”

Thankfully, my mess is nothing compared my God’s love for me.
He forgives my sin.
Comforts me in my pain.
Assures me all is well.
For He is not shaken by my mess.
In fact, one day this mess shall become beautiful.

Despite my mess, God sees the best in me. Where others see failure, the LORD sees potential. When He looks upon my mess, He sees His Son. Jesus took my mess to the Cross. And because of Christ’s great sacrifice, I can boldly approach the throne and present myself to God. Mess and all.

Even though I will never be worthy, He draws me near with assurance. For “the Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever” (Psalm 138:8 NIV). Since I am His child, the LORD willingly takes my mess. Then, God uses it for His glory.

A Feast to Remember

March 10, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Dianne E. Butts –

Thanksgiving is perhaps the most famous feast in America. As we prepare to celebrate our American feast, you might be interested in a little history and information on the Jewish Feasts. God gave the Jews seven feasts to observe. These feasts are both historical and prophetic, meaning they both remind the Jews of their history with God and point to future events prophetically.

Now, I have called them the Jewish feasts because God gave them to the Jewish people in the Old Testament, however they are actually meant for all people, which is why they are really called the Feasts of the LORD.

Speaking prophetically, the first four Feasts have occurred. Three occurred very close together, then a gap of time before the fourth. Then a larger gap of time passes to the (yet-unfulfilled) remaining and final three in our future. Here are the Feasts of the LORD:

1. Passover occurs in the spring of the year and lasts one day. On the Jewish calendar it is the 14th of Nisan. It corresponds to the Christian Easter, except that Easter is always on Sunday which is why it seems to move around our calendar. Historically, for 1,500 years, from the time of the first Passover in Moses’ day, the Jews killed the Passover lamb on Nisan 14. Prophetically: Jesus, the ultimate Passover Lamb, was crucified on Passover.

2. Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on Nisan 15 and is seven days long. At the first Passover, God instructed the Jews to make bread without leaven. Historically, in the Bible leaven almost always represents sin and Jews spend time in the spring cleaning the leaven (sin) out of their lives and homes. Prophetically: Jesus was the bread that feeds the world without leaven (sin).

3. Feast of First Fruits: begins on Nisan 18, literally within the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Historically it celebrates the first harvest of barley after God brought His people into the Promised Land. Prophetically: Jesus was raised on the third day, the first fruits of the harvest.

4. Feast of Pentecost is the Feast of Weeks, seven weeks of seven days after Passover. Pentecost is on the 50th day. Historically it remembers the Law coming down from God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Prophetically: Jesus, who paid the death-penalty for the breaking of God’s Law, ascended to heaven on the fortieth day after His resurrection. The Holy Spirit descended upon the church on Pentecost.

5. Feast of Yom Teruah, also known as Rosh Hashanah, is the Feast of Trumpets. This is the first of the three feasts in the fall of the year. Historically, this day is known as “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble,” “The Day of the Awakening [Trumpet] Blast,” “Yom HaDin” (The Opening of the Books”), and “Yom HaKeseh” (The Hidden Day). Prophetically: This is the next feast to be fulfilled on God’s prophetic calendar, and many believe the Tribulation will begin on this day in some coming year.

6. Feast of Yom Kippur.  Historically celebrates The Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for those people who believe in, trust in, and love God. Prophetically: Israel calls upon Messiah.

7. Feast of Tabernacles is also known as the Feast of Succoth or Booths. Historically the Jews built booths of sticks to “tabernacle” or live with God. Prophetically: When God/Messiah will come to “tabernacle” or live among us.

The Jewish holidays Purim and Hanukkah also appear on the calendar, but these are not original, prophetic Feasts of the Lord. Purim remembers the near slaughter of the Jews in the book of Esther. Hanukkah remembers the re-taking and purification of the Temple by Judas Maccabaeus in about 164 BC.

This article has been re-posted with a correction: Jesus did not ascend to heaven on Pentecost as the article stated, but 40 days after His resurrection.

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