A WORD for the Week | Archives 2

               26. Disconnect by Christine Wentzel

 

My husband and I spent almost a month now playing table top tennis with our cable company. Our internet service is sporadic so we lob the ball in their court with a how-to question and they lob it back with a try-this answer. As I type, it is out again and the frustration mounts...

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               27. I Didn’t Think I Had a Coveting Problem by Julie Luetke

 

I am a very content person. God has blessed me with everything I ever wanted (except maybe a million dollars). In my self-righteousness I honestly thought coveting wasn’t a sin I needed to work on. Coveting was something other people did You know the kind: people who steal things or try to con us out of our money. Children also covet, but not me...

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               28. The Perfect Present by Karen Maio

 

Christmas is over. The tree has more needles on the carpet than on its branches. The decorations have been stripped and shoved back into the basement crawl space. The cards and letters have been tossed, while the photos have been set aside to go into the scrapbook...

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               29. The Master Gift List by Karen Maio

 

I am a list maker. Grocery lists, errand lists, and checklists for appointments...the list could go on! I like to be organized, and I believe a master Christmas gift list could be a helpful tool to utilize all year long to alleviate disorganization or December stress...

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                30. Given to You by Christine Wentzel

 

It's the hunting season for gift-givers everywhere. For some this is a thrill, for others it's a nerve-wracking, guilt-driven chore. But whatever the motivation, the expectations are the same-you are hoping the recipient will love it, like it or at least appreciate the gesture...

A WORD for Women
 

               31. Pruning Is a Good Thing by Julie Luetke

 

A few days ago I pruned my raspberry plants. The berry patch gave us plenty of nice juicy berries this year. So if they were doing so well, why did I prune them? Well, to make them do even better next year! ...

A WORD for Women
 

               32. Me First by Julie Luetke

 

“Pull the mask down firmly to start the flow of oxygen. …..Please secure your own mask before assisting others”

 

Sound familiar? If you have ever flown in a large aircraft you know exactly what I am talking about. By helping yourself first, you are not being selfish. You are no help to others if you are blue and unconscious!ourselves have received from God...

A WORD for Women
 

               33. The Book of Life by Christine Wentzel

 

I have a question for you…

 

If God says He will remember our sins no more (Hebrews 10:17 and Isaiah 43:25), why do we have to have them recounted to us on Judgment Day?

 

That was the question posed by one of our ladies in my women’s bible study class this week. Much to my dismay, none of us had an answer to that. Do you?

 

For our well-learned students of the bible out there, you are aware of the problem in that question. For the rest of us, let me give you some great news. That’s not going happen!

 

Because of the loving shepherding of our pastor, we are able to pull him out of his office on any given late Monday evening for such a time as this. When the question was posed to him, he asked us to turn our bibles to Revelation 20:12-15 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books... and each person was judged according to what they had done…. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

 

Here the Apostle John is talking about unbelievers when he uses the word “dead” (dead in their sins.) Notice that when they were standing before the throne of their omniscient Judge that books (plural) were opened. Why was there more than one?

 

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13

 

For every unbeliever, for everyone dead in their sins, every transgression is noted. A full accounting must be made. God is reading from the books that record all of them.

 

But for those who believe in their Savior’s atoning sacrifice and victory over death; for those who ask to be forgiven there is a loving promise to completely forgive of which our merciful Father assures us over and over again...

 

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out (wiped clean, blotted out, erased!), that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, Acts 3:19

 

So how, you might ask, can a God who knows everything forget our sins? Because He chooses to, because He promises to. Therefore as His redeemed children we will stand with confidence before our King’s throne as He opens one book, the book of Life, and sees what? Only our name…

 

But now, this is what the LORD says…“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

 
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               34. Sing a New Song by Carolyn Webb

 

Television shows often come up with very catchy tunes to represent the show’s theme. If you were to pick a theme song for your life, what would it be? The song that seems to have been adopted at our house is “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me” from the old Hee Haw TV show. For those who are unfamiliar with the song written by Buck Owens and Roy Clark, the refrain goes like this:

 

Gloom, despair and agony on me

Deep, dark depression, excessive misery

If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all

Gloom, despair, and agony on me.

 

On the HeeHaw show that ran from 1969-1992, the song was interspersed with jokes about how something that started out looking really good suddenly turned out to be just the opposite. When our family runs into a string of apparent bad luck, I hear the refrain of this song.

 

If there were a Bible character that had every right to sing this song, it was Job. God permitted Satan to take away Job’s livelihood, his family, his reputation, his health, his wealth, everything by which we would measure success and happiness in this life. Yet in the midst of all his suffering Job proclaimed one of the most beautiful, prophetic truths: “I know that my Redeemer lives and in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25) There are many lessons that can be learned from the book of Job, but the one that I hold tight to is that no matter what happens in my life, I know that my Redeemer lives. God took an event that looked so terrible, the crucifixion of his Son, and turned it into beautiful salvation for all who believer. Doesn’t God do a similar thing with many of the things that look so bad in our lives? “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) I might not always be able to see the immediate benefit of the challenges that God allows in my life, but I can be certain that it will work to my eternal benefit. Whenever the gloom, despair, and agony refrain pops into my head, I want to hear a new song:

 

Sing to the LORD a new song,

For he has done marvelous things;

His right hand and his holy arm

have worked salvation for him.

(Psalm 98:1 NIV)

 

No matter what challenges we face in this life, we always have the certainty of the salvation that the LORD provided for us. We can rejoice in that salvation day after day and remember that nothing can take that salvation away from us. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.

 
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               35. The Training—Encounter 1 of 3 by Christine Wentzel

 

Earlier I had written a devotional about taking Church to the unchurched. How as Christ's ambassadors we might be the only Church someone feels free to enter. Little did I know that letter of encouragement was the early prep work for my recent experiences. It's one thing to cheer us on in our personal ministries, it's quite another to actually do it.

 

I was working a local craft event. The gorgeous low summer temps and incredibly verdant surroundings were in abundance, the buying public was not. That left a lot of time for us vendors to talk amongst ourselves then came time for Church.

 

While making a circuit to see what my fellow creative crafters were up to, I stopped at one tent that held a lot of interest and asked the vendor about her product. While she described it, I noticed the ghost of physical pain hovering over her face. I immediately recognized that old spook for I see it the mirror every day. So with my familiar speak first/ think later compulsions I asked her if she was okay. She paused and scanned me over with her trust radar, I mean, her eyes. That's another familiar facial ghost that haunts me.

 

I don't know what gave her the green light, but she answered in a calm, matter-of-fact tone that she suffers severe pain from a fused spine as a result of degenerative rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. As soon as I heard that, I also heard God's loudspeaker squawking out "Christine, you're up-STAT!"

 

"Yes Sir, I'm on it!" Oh so eager for this assignment! As soon as I assured her I understood because of our shared RA, it was smooth sailing to go from the physical to the spiritual. We were both smiling for the sisterhood of the chronic sufferers, but more notably, for the sisterhood of the chronically saved. We exchanged contact information, and the Lord willing, will see each other again.

 

As I walked away with a lighter step, I thanked God for the evangelical opportunity and then thanked Him for making this experience so easy. Alright! I took Church to the churched, woot-woot! Um, not so fast there Mary Magdalene wannabe, our Teacher just played t-ball with this rookie. The major leagues were next...

 

This turned out to be Encounter #1 called "The Training." Encounter #2 was right around the corner, and it was called "The Rescue." Stay tuned for that intense experience of taking Church to the unchurched...

 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9-10

 
A WORD for Women

               36. The Rescue—Encounter 2 of 3 by Christine Wentzel

 

This is the next installment on the theme of taking Church to the unchurched (Go to Church and The Training.) While working a craft event, I met two women in need of Church. One was already found and the other was still lost...

 

An attractive, well-dressed woman in her 60's approached my tent. She was tastefully accessorized with a floppy-brimmed summer hat, dark fashion sunglasses and long brunette hair that she habitually pulled in front of her face. She picked up a piece of Christian-themed jewelry to examine. I noticed that same ghost of physical pain over her features-a mirror image of the first woman. Then I saw a large black bruise on her arm. I realized God opened another door so stepped through to ask, "Are you okay?"

 

With her head still down she said that no, she wasn't.  She suffered from back pain due to arthritis and a recent fall. De'ja' vu, only this was real.  I quietly showed her my arthritis-ridden hands and hoped she'd believe without words that I might understand her troubles.  I told her I'd like to know more, if she was willing to tell.

 

So she shared how she fights feelings of panic whenever leaving her house and going out in public.  I learned that through a series of life-altering tragedies and this foreign war on her body, she was becoming a recluse gripped by paralyzing anxiety. The onslaught of chronic pain weakened her to the dark thoughts of ending it.  She explained how the positive witness of a friend dealing with his own tragedies brought her perspective and a sense of hope.

 

This was a perfect opening to bring Church to her, but I confess it didn't flow as smoothly as the first time. We were touching on things I occasionally struggle with myself-- anxiety, panic, and declarations to my Creator Lord that His timing is off; I want to go home now. Her amused expression showed understanding. However, the Holy Spirit made good on His promise to help by calming down my insecurities and giving me the words of my sure hope in Jesus to share.  She gradually stopped the pulling of her hair, took the sunglasses off and finally the hat and accepted my offer of friendship. That's when I found out she bears my dear mother's name (wow).

 

I gave her the cross jewelry and asked her to keep it to remember this moment as a gift of love from her Savior.  She thanked me and said she felt well enough to walk to the grocery store.  Alleluia!  I will call her.  Pray she will come to know the sure Hope of her salvation.

 

The final part of this theme of taking Church to the lost is called "The Lesson." The Lord wasn't through with this mission.

 

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes-I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27

 
A WORD for Women

            37. The Lesson—Encounter 3 of 3 by Christine Wentzel

 

This is the last installment on the theme of taking Church to the unchurched (Go to Church, The Training and The Rescue.) The Lord opened several doors to bring Church to people at a craft event I was vending. With each encounter, the lessons were mounting...

 

After my Gospel encounters with some pretty incredible women, I was relaxing on clouds of spiritual contentment when all of a sudden I found myself on a battleground of wounded pride. Another well-dressed, attractive older woman approached my tent to look over a row of bracelets. She struggled to put one on so I offered to help her. My neck almost snapped off by the quick dodge from her poisoned-arrowed tongue. I was floored by how quickly I jumped into a snarling defensive stance. Instead of a humble and empathic "Are you okay?" I found myself locked and loaded with one of my own poisoned arrows.

 

I watched her taking my measure while a voice inside said this one needs Church too. "Uh-uh, no way. She's acting like a feral cat, and I'm deathly afraid of cats. Lord, where's a whale when you need one? Alright, I'm going in but I don't want to." I offered again to help her for by this time my stringent quality control was reaching its maximum limits with all her pulling and twisting. Zing-zing-zing! She unleashed her whole arsenal. Everyone within 10 feet of her walked away, including me. Without an audience and without fuel for her fire, she quickly gave up. She put the bracelet down and calmly said, "You have beautiful jewelry." Um, thank you?

 

Did I take Church to her? I think the answer to that comes from Proverbs 15:18, "A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel." Perhaps several of us did.

 

That was an exceptional day of taking Church to people. Most days are not that obvious, but perhaps they should be. Every day we are challenged to show our willingness to open our personal doors, put out the welcome mat and turn on the porch Light of Christ. It takes time and effort. It's exhausting, exhilarating, frightening and fun. It's an investment with a high value rate of return. It's a matter of life or death.

 

Lastly, there was one more woman who needed Church and it didn't even dawn on me until I came home. She was right under my nose all day helping and keeping me company, a quiet observer of the day's events-my unchurched family member. What did she think? I'll take Church to her and ask. All I know is that cynical little lady was hyped up for the next show. She told me as we parted, "I had a great time!"

 

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

 
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               38. Prisoners of Sin by Linda McCausland 

 

The Lord is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145: 8-9    

 

The weight of my sin I tend to ignore. It's so easy to do. However, I can't completely ignore sinfulness when I see what it does to others in this life. I'm not talking about the victims. I'm talking about the perpetrators. I see the effects on the people who steal, harm others, use legal and illegal substances, and other criminal or immoral acts. I am a criminal defense attorney. Many of my colleagues get hardened by what they see. I haven't. Why? Let me explain.   

 

Laws are made to help society live peacefully within its boundaries. People will go outside of those boundaries and commit crimes for generally selfish reasons. If you've never been in the criminal system it's easy to think you could have avoided that error of judgment. I'd never do that, one can justify in your head, but if you covet a house, pieces of jewelry, or even a better looking body, aren't I doing the same thing in God's eyes as stealing? Or, someone makes you so mad you hit the person or wish you hit that person, isn't that wrong to God?   As I practice law, I see the effects of what sin can do in our lives. When I see these hurting and hurtful people, I see myself as God must see me. I hurt others around me by my own sin. Man's law holds all of us accountable, if we know it or not. God holds us accountable for His law, if we acknowledge it or not!

 

Through the grace of God, I feel great compassion for these hurting people. If I can feel compassion in my own mind, how much greater, and beyond my ability to fathom, must God look down upon me and my world--all sinners. He must feel grief over my own "stupid" petty desires and how I live my life devoid of His loving guidance at times. My actions are a crime in His eyes. I deserve to hear I am guilty. I deserve prison for my actions. I deserve to die for my crimes. How I blatantly and constantly ignore the laws and guidelines He has given onto me. I am no better a person than those whose crimes are visible and punished by man, but I'm not left in my sin. I have a Savior. 

 

Dear God, through the sacrifice of Christ, you save me from my selfish and petty desires which lead to sin. Thank you for loving me so much and saving me from my sentence of death because of my sins. Please bless the people who are in our jails. Give to them the ability to see your great love and peace which you so freely give to all your children in Jesus Christ's name we pray. Amen

 
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               39. God Sees the Big Picture by Janet Gehlhar

 

Life gets too crazy and confusing for me sometimes. I plan out how things should go, but rarely do they work my way. I’m convinced that my effort to control my day makes God chuckle. But then I picture my brain as the size of a pebble, while God’s brain is as huge as a boulder. How can I even begin to comprehend God and His plan for me? My life is like a jigsaw puzzle where I’m seeing 3 pieces and God sees all 500.

 

Isaiah 55:8-9 states . . . For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

This is one of my favorite passages. When I’m overwhelmed, I read this and remember that I can’t fully comprehend God’s plan, but I can be at peace because He sees the whole plan and He is working things for my good.

 

Today I’m going to go with the flow and see what God has in store for me.

 
A WORD for Women
 

               40. Easter Means You Are FREE! By the staff of A WORD for Women

 

Inspired by the recent Broken Hearted Mother devotions, our ministry is committed to help shine the Light in the darkness of internet pornography on a continual basis. We can't think of a more perfect time to throw out a life line than on Easter when the world woke up in spiritual freedom.

 

If you are sinking in the deep waters of porn, you need to remember Who walked on water and calmed the storm. Jesus' scarred hands are right there to pull you out so grab on! He saved you from drowning by claiming your sins as His own and nailing them into His hands. He knew the devil would use every dirty lie he could conjure to lure you further into the deep. He knew of your need for rescue before time began and planned accordingly.

 

Let the anniversary of our Redeemer's victory declaration, "It is finished." be the beginning of your fresh start. Spit out the polluted water in your heart, confess your weakness, throw the devil's handiwork at the foot of the cross and run to the empty tomb. Meet the rest of your rescued family who welcome you with open arms and remind you that "Christ is risen!" You can shout with joy, "He is risen indeed!" I am FREE!

 

Don't fear the repercussions of your actions. They are nothing compared to the Glory that awaits you! As your spiritual family, we are here to help pick up the pieces. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 

As part of this journey together, we are highlighting a new ministry dedicated to serving you in your struggle. Dear brothers and sisters, you can help by telling us your story of struggle, of victory or of loving a person caught in this trap. You can also help by connecting to this fledgling ministry through social media and linking it in your websites. To keep silent is to let the devil win-we will never give him the satisfaction.

 

Conquerors through Christ is a Gospel-based ministry made up of people whose mission is to give spiritual and practical advice to Christians struggling to overcome adult internet pornography. Take the first step on your road to recovery and go to Conquerors through Christ . In the coming months we will explore the information they have available to defeat this addiction.

 

Until next time, our prayers stay with you.

 

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Romans 8:31-32, 37

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               41. Appearances Can Be Deceiving by Christine Wentzel

 

Recently there was an online news article/video about reporters from TIME magazine talking to a robot telemarketer. It was newsworthy because it was a lying robot telemarketer. A health care exchange company hired a woman to record a script which included a number of responses that could fit any number of questions. They even recorded her laughter to make the robot telemarketer sound real or "live". When I listened to the recording of their exchange with this robot, it was creepy on many levels and my hackles rose up straight at the blatant, scripted lie.

 

What was the lie? The reporter asked many times, "Are you real?"

 

She laughing answered, "Of course I'm a real person-we must have a bad connection."

 

Spooky...anyone remember Hal 9000 from the film, 2001 Space Odyssey?

 

The Master of Lies uses every trick in the book to deceive. We have to keep up. God knows this and warns us to stay alert. Edited stories, altered photos and now computerized "people" help create a composite of ideologies to replace reality. What a perfect way to shape our "perception = reality" culture!

 

No doubt the devil of no new ideas will use these refurbished old tricks to cause our human eyes and ears to war with our spiritual ones. God alerts us to what's ahead in Matthew 24:23-25, Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.

 

The consequence of sin means we still have to walk through a world turned over to satan so we need to keep our discernment sharp through the knowledge of Scripture.

 

Now breathe, we don't go it alone. The Shepherd is guarding His flock, and His Flock has strength in numbers so stay close to the herd. We can lead alert lives in holy peace even among the wolves in sheep's clothing because the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, knows it all, sees it all and has control of it all.

 

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance. 2 Thessalonians 3:2-5

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               42. Our Worst Enemy by Christine Wentzel

 

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

 

Romans 8:38-39 are some of the most well-remembered bible passages. This powerful testimony from Paul speaks for all of us in the family of Christ who find ourselves backed up against a hard surface. Turn around, and we'll find our backs are actually pressed against this awesome big Brother. He's looking over each of us at our enemies reminding them with a look of blazing holy light that they lost this war once and for all. They can't enslave us and they can't keep us. So we can shout these verses of victory with joyful thanksgiving!!

 

But what about those times we're backed up against nothing coming at us? Like when broken bodies won't follow the orders of untethered minds. Untethered minds don't grab the controls of fickle hearts, or when fickle hearts can't be bothered with the anchor of holy Love. Who needs outside forces pushing against us when we can be our own worst enemies?

 

Ok go back to that "wall." We're still pressed up against our Kinsman, our all-power big Brother. Turn around, look up and follow those beautiful eyes of molten love as He sinks down to His knees to look directly into our eyes of pain and fear. He gently brushes back the hair falling on our tear streaked faces knowing exactly how many strands He just moved away. His arms embrace our broken bodies to His own that was mutilated by the wounds of sacrifice and raised from death to eternal life. His all-knowing Spirit speaks to our spirits' moans when our minds tangle up all the words. His Love conquered those inner enemies too.

 

NOTHING can separate us from a God who loves the fearfully wonderfully you and I He deliberately created!

 

Dearest Abba, thank you for the incredible lengths You have gone through and continue to go through to keep us free from eternal harm. You are in control of everything-You sent your Son, our big Brother to fight and conquer the evil of all time and harness its ability to run unchecked. While it can have a broken and doomed world, it cannot have Your family who lives in it. May your Holy Spirit keep us secure in the knowledge of our protected state to help us fearlessly and joyfully press on no matter what tries to trip us up. Taking each step in the name of Jesus. Amen.

A WORD for Women
 

               43. Flags of Faith by Julie Luetke

 

I love to see a big flag of my country waving in the wind. It reminds me that I love my country. Soldiers are encouraged when they see their flag during battle. In movies we hear lines like, "Rally around the flag!"

 

Flags come in all sizes; so does faith. There are flags larger than a bed sheet that wave so high they can be seen from a great distance. Many are encouraged at the sight.   A large flag may be like the faith of a pastor or strong Christian friend or parent. We see them looking to God in every part of their lives. We also see and hear them tell others that Jesus is the Savior of all from sin and death in hell. We draw near them as they give us the good news of Jesus' love and forgiveness. We grow stronger by seeing them confidently trust in God.

 

At a parade we see little flags waved by people in the crowd. That is like smaller faith but still true faith. A small flag can get knocked out of a person's hand and fall to the ground much more easily than a flag on a well-mounted flag pole. Our faith gets challenged and tested. If it is not held tightly it can fall. Suppose you are nearly out of money. It is faith in God that helps you calmly go forward without worrying.

 

Matthew 6:27 "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

 

Even though you have a flag of faith, you may need to seek out a person with a larger flag to show you God's promises in the Bible. Don't hesitate; flags are made to be waved!

 

Sometimes children wave flags with great enthusiasm and big smiles. They don't really understand much about their country but they recognize the flag as important and want a flag of their own. Seeing a cute little boy waving his small flag on a stick makes us smile and be proud of the fact we are waving the same flag. Children can love Jesus. Children can have strong faith (big flags).

 

Jesus said in Mark 10:15 "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive {have faith in} the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

 

A flag by itself is only cloth in a particular pattern. The only flag that matters in battle is the one that is held up in victory. Jesus Christ is like that flag. His death and resurrection proved him to be the Victor!

 

1 Corinthians 15:57 "Death has been swallowed in victory."

"Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

 

The more we look to the victorious Jesus, the larger our flag of faith will grow. Rally around the Savoir and wrap yourself in the furls of His love. As Jesus looks down on you, give thanks you are part of His kingdom.

 

Revelation 11:15 "...and He will reign forever and ever."

A WORD for Women
 

               44. One Approachable Guy! by Lori Malnes

 

Immanuel - God with us. What a profound statement and mind boggling! And here's a thought I never really contemplated until today. God not only became one of us, but He came as a very approachable person. Never once in the Bible does it ever mention someone being frightened of Him. He touched people and people wanted to touch Him, children came to Him and parents wanted Him to bless their children, and people followed Him everywhere, even inviting Him into their homes. Though evil spirits were afraid of Jesus, nowhere is there even a hint of one person being afraid to come near to Him! Some misunderstood Him, or were envious of Him, or mocked him. But even those who believed Him to be the Messiah were not afraid to touch Him - He was not too holy or too divine. Amazing!!

 

This big God, this holy God, this creator God left His heavenly perfection and comforts and came to earth and was one of us - not as a "superior" being - lofty and too good for our company. No, He was (and is) that guy who is comfortable around anyone and whom anyone is comfortable being around - He never rejected anyone nor does He reject anyone who comes to Him - in fact He wants us to come to Him! Wow!!

 

And this is the same Jesus we share with others. Who wouldn't be attracted to Jesus?! As I celebrate the birth of Jesus this year, I am so very thankful that my God, the God of the universe is such an approachable God! Thank you, Jesus! And may I continue to share the real Jesus with others so that so many more people can approach Him and get to know Him!

 

Matthew 1:23: "The virgin is going to have a baby. She will give birth to a son. And he will be called Immanuel." The name Immanuel means "God with us."

 

My Immanuel, thank You for putting aside Your divineness and becoming one of us. You are God yet You not only put up with a kooky crazy sinner like me, but You want me to draw near to You. Thank You for not rejecting me - thank You for even having a plan and a purpose for me. What an absolutely wonderful time of year this is - celebrating Your birth - Your entry into our little world! LORD, may many others this Christmas season be introduced to the real You - the approachable You - that they, too, may get to know You! Thank You, Jesus! Thank You!

A WORD for Women
 

               45. Where's My Rose Garden? by Carolyn Webb

 

Like everyone, I have those times in my life when I need a little attitude adjustment. Recently I tried reading a book that claimed if we just had the right attitude, God would bless us in this life beyond our wishes. A positive attitude will bring about God's blessings - it didn't feel very true to me. Sure God says "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7), but did that mean life would be a bed of roses? Then, as I was washing dishes and thinking about the difficulties our family was facing, the following popped into my head:

 

"I beg your pardon; I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine there's got to be a little rain sometime."

 

Some of you may recognize these lyrics from a song written by Joe South and made a hit by country singer Lynn Anderson in 1970. I was just a kid when that song came out and I hadn't thought about it in years. While it was written as a love song, now I was hearing it as a call back to reality, leading me to look into what God really says about the tough times of life.

 

God didn't promise life would be a rose garden. He created this world to be a perfect garden, but that was ruined by Adam and Eve's actions. Now we all work hard, deal with illness, disappointment, and death. It's all part of life. Life is full of troubles. So what does God say about troubles?

 

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)

 

The troubles of this life are only temporary and they work to bring us closer to God and prepare us for eternal glory. If this life were perfect would ask, seek, or knock? Would we look forward to spending eternity with God in heaven? Not likely. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13 NIV) That is the comfort that keeps me going day to day, not the promise that this life will be a rose garden.

 

God of all comfort, comfort us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. Amen

A WORD for Women
 

               46. Stuck on a Plateau by Christine Wentzel

 

I am 5 lbs. into my weight loss regimen and I already hit the dreaded plateau. You know, the period when the army of fat cells refuses to surrender the battle. This standoff came quicker than normal. I can think of lots of reasons: age, hormones run amok, my allergic reaction to exercise-whatever. It's discouraging to stand on the No Progress Plateau.

 

However, while hanging around my discouraging thoughts, it occurred to me that my faith can stand on this same plateau. Again I can think of a lot of reasons: too tired, too distracted, in general allowing everyday life to dictate my priorities.

 

The great news is that if we find ourselves here, we don't have to stay. Thanks to the Holy Spirit we have an ever-present help, indeed! His work of separating us from our bad habits and sinful tendencies is non-stop. He delights in leading us to green pastures and teaching us new habits. You can recognize His work immediately when you see the fruits of His labor in the virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control [yes!]. Galatians 5:22b,23a

 

Weight loss experts say when you hit those plateaus it's because your body adapts quickly to routine. They suggest changing your routine from time to time, and getting a buddy to help keep you on track. Kind of like keeping the fat cells on their toes so they can't figure out what your body will do next. It's interesting how well this can apply to moving along a plateaued faith.

 

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Galatians 5:16

 

Look at your spiritual growth routines, note the room for improvement and change things up. Are your eyes glazing over the print of your bible or study materials? Stop reading and try something in audio or video. Does your mind drift when sending up your prayers to the Lord? Check the time of day and the environment around you. Or instead try reading a psalm or sing a worship song with your loved ones in mind. Talk to a buddy and see where you both can help each other get on a diverse track of healthy, active spiritual habits.

 

The amazing results from increasingly strong, Godly virtues are the effects they have on all the avenues of your life. With the help of our divine Trainer, we can be better fit, spiritually, emotionally and physically, to run through and even avoid all kinds of No Progress plateaus, including the weight ones, yeah!

 

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:24-25

 

I'm ready to change things up, how about you?

A WORD for Women
 

               47. New and Exciting! by Karen Maio

 

It's that time of year again-fresh boxes of sharp crayons, pages and pages of clean, empty notebooks waiting to be filled, the latest pop culture character emblazoned on backpacks and t-shirts.  School is back in session!  There are new supplies, perhaps a new teacher, and in my son's case-a new school with new friends.  Such an exciting time!

 

Sigh. So, why do I feel a little like the post-Christmas (or wedding, party, performance) "blahs"?  The only new thing on my plate is a construction-riddled school route during peak traffic time.  Ugh!  Time to turn to the Word!

 

What does God have to say to me?  A search of the word "new" had this passage speaking to  my heart: "...put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

 

"Put off...put on". Here God is telling us to actively change our actions and our behavior, just like we change our clothes.  It's similar to how we act and feel more professional when we don a business suit rather than our old comfy jeans or sweats.  When we change our conduct, our attitude will start to change, as well.  We will think and act more Christ-like.  We can do it only with the Holy Spirit's help. "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10

 

We sometimes refer to our "old self" as the "old Adam", that is our sinful human nature. This isn't something we put off for a little while, but rather, in Christ, our old Adam dies, or back to our clothing analogy, we don't take it off and hang it in the closet; we take it out back and burn it!

 

That means we get new clothes!  We put on the new self, which is the way God created us to be-holy and righteous.  He made us in his holy image, but we lost it through sin.  Jesus was crucified for those sins and now, through faith in him as our Savior, his righteousness becomes our new clothing!  Out of love for everything our Savior has done for us and our salvation, we want to change and put on the new self!

 

The fourth chapter of Ephesians continues listing some of the ways God wants us to act-Don't lie, gossip, slander, fight, steal, or be anger, bitter, or vulgar.  Rather, we are to-Be truthful, kind, compassionate, and forgiving, and make yourself useful so you can give to others---just like Jesus!

 

It's amazing how being in the Word can chase any "blahs" away.  God has pointed out that I do have something new.  I have a whole new self!  How exciting!

A WORD for Women
 

               48. Hospitality on the Fly by Julie Luetke

 

If your summer went like mine, you have been both guest and hostess.  My summer also included "stranded traveler".   I learned a few lessons from that experience.

 

God commands us to be hospitable. Share with God's people who are in need.  Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13.

 

When stranded hundreds of miles from home, the hospitality of others becomes your focus.  God knows travel is tiring. The man Jesus certainly tired from travel and appreciated the hospitality of others.  Jesus also felt the hurt firsthand of having hospitality refused Himself and His disciples.

 

Our Savior was also a host, and the greatest example of showing hospitality.  In Matthew 14, we learn that Jesus had compassion on the 5,000, healed their sick, and fed them.  John 13 tells us that on the night Jesus was betrayed, He washed His disciples' feet.

 

I offer the use of the washing machine to my overnight guests, but a recent host did me one better.  My host offered, then did my laundry: washed, dried, and folded it. That was a humbling act for both of us.  A bit like feet washing.

 

Here is a little hospitality survey:

 

1.  I'll make an excuse so I cannot help.

2.  I will be nice and invite them to dinner, but I won't like it.

3. We'll get through it and it might even be fun.

4. Let me do whatever is needed, because Jesus said that showing love to others is showing love to Him.

 

Invited guests are a joy to have.  We call that entertaining and we get the glory.  Hospitality is different.   Hospitality is an act of kindness and the glory goes to God.

 

Have you been asked to go to the airport in the middle of the night to pick up an uninvited guest?  I recently asked someone to do that and it helped me see how much I was asking.  A relative came to my aid, but would I love a stranger that much?

 

Jesus asked through James, "If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?"

 

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:12. Next time someone needs your help, take a deep breath, ask God for the right attitude, and embrace the occasion.

 

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40

A WORD for Women
 

               49. Thankful for the Thorn by Christine Wentzel

 

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it [the thorn in his flesh] away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

 

This is my go-to section when I'm feeling low dealing with daily chronic pain for the past 40+ years. When I read this section I think of Paul's thorn, Jesus' crown of thorns, Jesus' cross, my cross ( Matthew 16:24) -it all harmonizes.

 

I am reminded the pain is there for a holy reason. If it serves no sanctified purpose then God is just an all-powerful bully and my faith in Him is false. But that would contradict everything His Spirit reveals to me through His Word, and every blessing so lovingly given to His adopted child.

 

Just like me, the Apostle Paul pleaded to be out of the pain. Just like me, he experienced frustration physically, emotionally and spiritually. Just like me, he thought the Lord's work would be better served without it. But God knew we were both wrong. Without the reminder of physical limits, without it reminding our weakness is Christ's strength, would we still focus on Jesus? Paul says it was to keep him from being conceited. I have said many times that if it weren't for my "thorn", I shudder to think where I'd be today.

 

Paul goes on, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

I marvel when I meet people like Paul. Christians who radiate the power of peace (and joy!) in the face of loss, life-threatening diseases, or persecution; It's impossible for me not to stand in awe watching the Light of Life blazing through the cracks made by their thorn. So if Christ can demonstrate His strength in my weakened flesh to reveal His face to someone in need, praise God!

 

At the end of the day I want to confess like Paul in Acts 20:24: 'However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace."

 

Heaven is my Home. Thank you Lord for gift of a thorn given at the precise time I need it to keep me on the narrow path that leads me there. Amen.

A WORD for Women
 

               50. Life Interrupted by Christine Wentzel

 

As I gaze into the face of my 23-week old great-grandniece, my spine tingles with knowledge of witnessing a miracle. Every part of her I can see is a vision of miniature perfection. As soft chimes go off, a nurse instructs the startled mommy not to stroke her little baby because she thinks she is still in the womb and is not used to being touched. So as mommy gently speaks to her little one in soothing tones and you can see her jumpy vital signs settling down.

 

I stand at a distance watching this tender moment. Soon my eyes drift to all the other tiny children waiting to be strong enough to go home. Unbidden thoughts rise to wonder about all those other babies who don't even make it this far because of intentional interruption. If only those women debating that fateful decision could be here now.

 

For them, both believers and unbelievers alike, the common denominator in their plight is fear. Satan uses one of his easiest tricks to crowd a woman's mind with self-absorbed, fearful scenarios of her pregnancy, "I can't face this!", and motherhood, "What will I do?"

 

Anyone focused on his lies of hopelessness will find the justification they think they need to forever change their circumstance. Unless, that is, a friend of Christ steps forward and interrupts her life in a God-loving way and asks her, "What do you fear?" and assures her, "I will help!"

 

We can let her know we relate to fear. We can also relate to how a loving and merciful Father kept His promise and helped us conquer that fear of hopelessness.

 

The LORD'S lovingkindness indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." Lamentations 3:22-24 (NASB)

 

We can let her know or remind her about the One who loves her with an everlasting love intentionally created her and her child.

 

"Your hands shaped me and made me...Did you not...clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews? You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit. Job 10:8, 10, 11-12

We can let her know that their God-gifted lives have purpose.

 

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;...For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 1:5, 29:11

 

And in all situations with her we can rest in the peace that surpasses all understanding that our faithful Shepherd is still in control: "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this it God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18   

A WORD for Women

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