Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Treasure Verse Tuesday ~ Family Prayer

This is a scripture that I have written in my Family Prayer Journal.  I love His promises splashing all over us in this passage!  Happy Tuesday! 

"For I will pour water on the thirsty land,

and streams on the dry ground;

I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,

and my blessing on your descendants.

They will spring up like grass in a meadow,

like poplar trees by flowing streams."
Isaiah 44:3-4

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter ~ Because of His Mercy and Grace

 Our family wishes you a blessed,
peaceful, meaningful Easter! 
He is risen!  We are redeemed! 

 "You were redeemed...with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God."  1 Peter 1:18-21 

"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."
Titus 3:4-7

"He has risen, just as He said.
Come and see the place where He lay."
Matthew 28:6

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It Really Has Little To Do With Eloquence

"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power."  1 Corinthians 2:1-5

I love the refreshment beautiful writing and speaking lavishes on an audience.  As I listen to a gifted speaker or read the words of one who has been given the gift of eloquence, I am blessed.  Splashed with encouragement and the comfort of lovely linguistics, I could sit all day and bask in the treasure of eloquent words.      

I have dear friends who have been given from God generous portions of eloquence and the ability to string words together like pearls.  Words aptly spoken like apples of gold in settings of silver come naturally to them.  (Proverbs 25:11)  I admire them and rejoice with them in their God-given gifts of writing and speaking.   Even words of conviction are easy to receive and digest from these gifted friends.  Their blog writings are inspired.  Even their comments sound like poetry.  Greeting card companies could benefit from their gift of eloquence.

Yet, most of us have not received the gift of eloquence.  We fumble through our words, possessing an abbreviated lexicon, or not even knowing what a lexicon is.  Having our foot in our mouth is an unwelcomed past-time and the desire to express ourselves more clearly seems to elude us.

There's good news for us!!  Sharing our testimony about God does not require us to have eloquence or superior wisdom!!  It is simple.  In the passage above, Paul said he resolved to know nothing, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  As a matter of fact, he went with the Gospel message in weakness, fear and trembling.  (I never realized Paul and I had so much in common.)  Here's the best part:  Paul's words were not wise and persuasive, they were perfectly a demonstration of the Spirit's power, "so that your faith may not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power"!  God's power.  God's glory.

And here's more good news!  The Gospel itself is the power of God for salvation!  "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes."   Romans 1:16

God's power.  Through His power, we can be His vessels to share the most important message of life.  We simply share God's testimony in our own lives and proclaim His Gospel (Christ, the spotless lamb, died on the cross as the payment for our sins, He was buried, He was resurrected on the third day).  As we prayerfully share the Gospel message and God's testimony in our lives, He is faithful to bring forth fruit and new life.

I love the account of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.  Jesus chose to travel through Samaria, though it wasn't the most direct route to His destination.  However, His way point was a life-changing encounter with this precious woman.  Through their conversation, Jesus revealed Himself to her, and she instantaneously dropped everything and ran back to her town to tell them her testimony of meeting the Messiah.  I imagine she did not carefully plan her words.  I imagine her barely able to catch her breath after running back to town.  I imagine her pointing back toward the well and piecing her words together while still in awe.  She simply shared from a heart overflowing with amazement and love.  And there between her gasps for breath was new life as she shared her personal testimony of God:   "Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony..."  John 4:39

Paul's words in the opening chapter of 1 Corinthians 2 encourage me.  While I'd love to think that my written and spoken words were always filled with eloquence, wisdom and persuasive speech, they are usually not.  And they don't have to be.  As we share the Gospel and our personal testimony of God's faithfulness in our lives, His power brings new life.  I resolve to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 

Yes, we are to study and know and treasure God's word.  We are to equip ourselves with His truth.  We are to handle the Word of God accurately, reverently and carefully. "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."  (2 Timothy 2:15)  And yet we can simply share the Gospel message. 

If you are feeling eloquent-less, take heart.  God's power through your obedience will bring new life and will bring Him glory as you simply share the Gospel and His testimony in your life.

"I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace."
Acts 20:24

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Award-Winning SerenDIPity 2011 Recipes!

 Here are the recipes for the Award-Winning Dips from SerenDIPity 2011!
Thank you again to Rich and Meg Media for the great pictures!
Thank you Tracy at Open Eye Design for the great SerenDIPity logo!

"Vidalia Onion Dip" by Ronna Phillips

3 cups chopped Vidalia onion
3 cups shredded Swiss cheese
2-1/2 cups mayo
  Mix all ingredients together and place in an oven-proof dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until top is golden brown.
Serve with crackers or bread.

"Crab Mousse" by Kathy Bires

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 8-oz. package of cream cheese
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 cup mayo
6 oz. crab meat
 Melt cheese and soup together.  Dissolve gelatin in 1/4 of cold water and add remaining ingredients.  Pour into lightly greased mold.  Set.  Serve with crackers.

 "Warm Spicy Maryland Crab Dip" by Jennifer Hahn

 1 8-oz. package of cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp. mayo
1-1/2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
3/4 lb. crab meat
3 dashes hot sauce
Garlic power to taste
Old Bay to taste
 Mix together all ingredients, reserving 2 tbsp. of cheddar cheese.  Place in greased baking dish and top with remaining cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned.

 "Cannoli Dip" by Kim Darrah

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 stick butter (softened)
1 8-oz. package of cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 Ricotta cheese
1/2 mini semisweet chocolate chips
 Mix together all ingredients well, except the chocolate chips.  Once well mixed, fold in the chocolate chips.  Serve with pizzelles.

 "Cherry Cheesecake Dip" by Lisa Lohwasser ("Lilo")

Prepare Jello No-Bake Cheesecake mix as directed on box.  Stir in one container of Cool Whip.  Chill.  Top with a can of cherry pie filling.  Serve with graham crackers.

 Chocolate Fountain by Cheryl Shiley

Simply be blessed by a wonderful friend who offers to bring a chocolate fountain and make all the SerenDIPity party guests very happy.
Best Presentation (Dessert) ~ "Tropical Paradise" ~ by Erika Gill

Best Presentation (Savory) ~ "Veggie Display" ~ Tammie Dowd

May your memories be sweet and savory! 

"...refresh my heart in Christ."
Philemon 1:20 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

God said, "Buy your girlfriend shoes!"

"How beautiful your sandaled feet,
O prince’s daughter!"
~ Song of Solomon 7:1

I do love how God moves in our hearts to bless one another.  When He impresses things on our hearts to do to bless and encourage each other, it shows HIS tender care for us in very personal, detailed ways.  He moves in ways to touch our hearts and deepen our faith.  And only He can get the glory through these sweet miracles!!

A few years back during a morning quiet time, God gently spoke to my heart:  "Send Lysa chips."  Really, chips?  Can I send her chocolate or jewelry or something else?  Chips?  Are you sure, God?  He was sure!  Click here to see how He answered Lysa's prayers from her momma heart.

In the Summer of 2008, the Lord placed it on my heart to give Rachel the book "Pierced by The Word" by John Piper.  Click here to see how God used that to speak to her heart about His tender love for her.

Now, did I know how God was going to bless these friends when they received the chips and the book?  These items could have seemed very random to me.  Yet, I know when He whispers to our hearts and we obey, He is up to something very good.

Recently, through a messy relationship sit-u-a-tion, the Lord was speaking to my heart through His Word about my shoes and my feet.  I call these "pedi-scriptures"!  (Smile.)  He was reminding me to wear "shoes of peace" ~ Ephesian 6:15: "For shoes, put on the readiness to preach the Good News of peace with God."  He was gently calling to my attention to always have feet that proclaim peace and salvation and bring Good News.  ~ Isaiah 52:7:  "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation...!"  

During this time of Him faithfully admonishing and growing me in His Word through the messy relationship sit-u-a-tion, I was also going through a difficult time with my mom and some health concerns she was experiencing.

Wednesdays are my Bible study days.  I attend a Precepts Ministry Bible study on Wednesday mornings (Romans), and then I take a 20-minute drive to a study of Isaiah at my girlfriend's home.  I had missed several Wednesdays in a row due to my mom being hospitalized briefly, taking her to doctor's appointments and tests, and also chauffeuring Joshua to orthodontia appointments (only done on Wednesdays).  

A few Wednesdays ago, I had a normal Wednesday again.  I was excited to get back to my studies and to enjoy fellowship with these sisters I had not seen in several Wednesdays.  As I walked into my Precepts study, one of my friends, Robin, approached me nonchalantly, holding something in her hand. 

Sharon, I wanted to get you something to encourage you.  I have missed you at Bible study and have been praying for you, but I wanted to get you something tangible.  I asked the Lord what I should get for you and He kept impressing the same thing on my heart:  "Get her shoes." He kept whispering to my heart, "Buy Sharon shoes."  When I pulled up in front of DSW, He confirmed it in my heart again.  "Buy your girlfriend shoes."  I wasn't sure of your size or what kind of shoes you would really like or need right now, so, here you go...I got you a gift card to DSW.  You can pick your own shoes. 

Tears bubbled over and splashed down my face.  A lump formed in my throat.  I was the recipient of His grace and goodness. 

God wants me to have shoes.  Shoes of peace.  Shoes that have in them feet proclaiming peace and salvation, bringing Good News and good tidings.  Those are the kind of shoes God wants me to have.  Those are the kind of shoes I want to wear. 

He confirmed through the kindness, generosity and obedience of Robin the message He has been speaking to my heart about shoes and feet.  With obedience comes the blessing of seeing God at work.  Robin heard God's still, small voice.  She obeyed and was part of God's work in another person's heart.  How sweetly humbling for me to receive such a beautiful gift.  How encouraging for Robin to know she had indeed heard and obeyed.

God said, "Give Sharon shoes."  I love how God was speaking to my girlfriend about me!!!  And I like how He speaks to me about my girlfriends!  I love His divine assignments and am eagerly listening for the next one!!  I wonder if He will tell me to buy a friend a new purse or a gift certificate to a spa!  They are biblical gifts after all: 
Esther 2:3 ~ "...bring these beautiful girls...and let beauty treatments be given to them."   
Luke 12:33 ~ "Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out..."

Thank you, Robin, for being His vessel to tangibly remind me to wear His shoes of peace...or, in this case, wear cute sandals of peace!  My new pair of stylish Rocket Dog summer sandals will be a constant reminder of His goodness through you.  And I promise to wear them with a heart that is pursuing peace.    "Seek peace and pursue it."  Psalm 34:14

My prayer for Robin and all my girlfriends and family....may His blessings be poured into their laps!

"Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."Luke 6:38   

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

If I Could Pick A Miracle...

"Jesus said to the servants, 'Fill the jars with water'; so they filled them to the brim.  Then He told them, 'Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.'  They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.  This, the first of His miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him."  
John 2:7-9, 11

The other evening as I did devotions with Joshua and Gabrielle, we were reading about Jesus' first miracle, which occurred at a wedding feast in Cana.  After reading the passage in John 2:1-11, we talked about how the servants obeyed Jesus and then were blessed with the privilege of seeing the miracle and knowing Jesus more deeply.  He revealed His glory and the scriptures say His own disciples put their faith in Him.  The beautiful fruit of His miraculous signs.

From this passage of scripture and the devotion, the kids and I talked a lot about how our obedience ushers us to a more intimate walk with the Lord and, at times, He will even give us the gift of seeing His miracles first hand and thereby knowing Him more deeply.  He gives us hearts and eyes to see His wonderful deeds all around us.  This truth really impacted their young hearts.  "They saw the works of the LORD, His wonderful deeds..." Psalm 107:24

Just like the servants at the wedding feast in Cana, we, His servants, were chosen to know, believe and understand Him. "You are...My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He."  Isaiah 43:10

Yesterday morning as the cherubs were getting ready for school, Gabrielle followed instructions well and I commended her on her obedience with some encouraging words.  She replied with hope:  "I was obedient, Mom.  Will I get to see a miracle today?"

Dropping the lunch boxes I was packing, I went over and kissed her noggin.  "Mom, do I get to pick a miracle to see?  Because if I could pick a miracle, I would pick for Daddy's uncle to be healed of cancer." 

Tears streamed down my cheeks.  Cancer.  Our children's first (and prayerfully last) reality of a family member having life-threatening cancer.  Gabrielle's caring heart wants to pick the miracle of healing for her great uncle. 

This past Sunday, we visited Jim's uncle who was diagnosed with cancer just two short months ago.  The cancer has progressed terribly fast, and the prognosis is not good.  Because he is undergoing aggressive treatments, we prepared the children during the car ride that his physical appearance has changed, that he wouldn't have a lot of energy and may not be able to speak well. 

In truth, Jim's uncle's condition is worse than we wanted to expect.  It was a tearful and emotional visit.  Gabrielle sobbed and buried her sweet head in my side much of the time.  Her heart was broken for her great uncle.  Joshua kept a strong, respectful and hopeful posture during the visit, but inside his heart was aching, too.  Jim read John 3 to his uncle.  We held hands with Jim's uncle, knelt and prayed for him. 

The harsh reality of human mortality is penetrating our lives within our extended family.  It's a painful journey, but one from which we can't protect our children at this age.  Rather, we have the responsibility and honor of equipping them.  With God's wisdom and grace, we are opening His Word with them and reminding them of His mercy, His compassion, His unmatched love, His everlasting life and ultimate healing in Him.  "I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life."  

We are praying for Jim's uncle.  Indeed, we have been and will continue to pray for a healing of the cancer.  

Truth is, Gabrielle's sweet petition of belief, faith and hope to the Lord reflects all of our hearts.  The miracle of healing is our family's daily prayer and personal choice of miracles God can do.  If we could pick a miracle right now, it would be for God to heal right here on earth those we love who have cancer or a chronic illness.  We would choose for our hearts and eyes to see those we love so dearly whose lives are touched with physical infirmities to be healed and perfectly healthy in every way.  We would pick the miracle of healing.  

For His glory and so that many would believe.

If you could pick a miracle today, what would you pick?

"He sent forth His word and healed them;
He rescued them from the grave."
Psalm 107:20

"The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
   because the LORD has anointed me
   to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
   to proclaim freedom for the captives

   and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
   and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
   instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
   instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
   instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
   a planting of the LORD
   for the display of His splendor."

Isaiah 61:1-3

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
John 3:16  

Friday, April 1, 2011

Further Still

“And He went on further still,
and fell on His face, and prayed….”
Matthew 26:39

Have you ever felt God calling you “further still” with Him? It is those times when He is ministering to you so personally and so deeply, and gently calling you to go further in your relationship with Him.

These Gethsemane seasons of “further still with God” are places where it’s just you and Him as He beckons you to step into deeper levels of intimacy and trust. As you pray and search His scriptures, you listen for and hear His still, small voice. During these “further still” seasons with God, He matures your faith, broadens your trust, and reveals intimate treasures from His heart to yours. It’s a beautiful time when you crave less of the world and more of Him.

Extended time in prayer with our Heavenly Father brings clarity and comfort during these seasons.  Just as Jesus was called further still with God, He labored in prayer.  "The betrayal and arrest of Jesus was preceded by an extended time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  As He stepped out of the garden to present Himself to His enemies, Jesus had been alone praying and agonizing for hours."  Anne Graham Lotz 

I have been in those “further still” seasons with God. He calls me out of my comfort zone into unfamiliar, but prepared and safe places. Whether it is presenting myself to my "enemies" or charting new ground with the Lord, He calls me to bravely trust Him and His perfect plan.

During those seasons, He tenderly lifts my head so I fix my gaze upon Him alone. My husband lovingly gives his counsel to me, and my sisters in the Lord pray on my behalf. I am so thankful for my husband and friends, yet I know that as God calls me “further still,” I am the one who has to continue stepping forward with confidence and trust in Him. No one can do that for me. He reminds me to look to Him alone, to seek to please Him and not people.

It is a time of His refreshing and necessary cleansing.  In his book Reflecting His Image, KP Yohannan writes, “You see, when it is only God and you, you are more apt to face your pride and your sins. With everyone else we argue these things away and look wonderful and smile. But when we are all alone before God, we face ourselves, and the cleansing and purification will take place. We become less phony the more we are with the Lord.”

Is God calling you further still today? Our Heavenly Father is completely faithful and entirely trustworthy. He stands with His strong and loving arms opened wide beckoning you to take steps of faith in your walk with Him. Though the place you step may be unfamiliar, remember He has gone before you. He wants you to see more of Him – His flawless character and His amazing love. He has a heart full of treasures to unearth for you.

"For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid...for I myself will help you,' declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel."
Isaiah 41:13, 14

© 2011 by Sharon Sloan. All rights reserved.