Blog, God's Faithfulness

Keep Silent…and Renew Your Strength

silouette of man praying with beams of lightExhaustion. That pretty much sums up many of us, including me. I work 40-60 hours a week at my real job (the one that pays me) and still come home to cook, clean, laundry, check on the kids at college, write a blog for the next day, and crawl into bed totally exhausted so I can get up and do it all again the next day. Not to mention the busy and hectic holidays are just around the corner. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love my job and I am humbled that God has called me to begin Wellspring Christian Ministries. Even though I know I am doing what God has called me to do, it can be exhausting.

No matter what God has called us to do, we need to remember that we need to have times to renew our strength so we can keep on serving Him instead of getting burned out, discouraged, and quit. God modeled the need for rest after he created the world. In Genesis, we find that God rested on the seventh day. We also see in the New Testament where Jesus would get alone by himself to rest…and pray. Jesus was fully God, but He was also fully man while he walked this earth and His earthly body became tired, exhausted, just as our do.

There’s a term going around entitled, “Compassion Fatigue” which involves a chronic stress as a result of care giving. Those who work in a field that involves caring for others often give so much of themselves without taking time to care for themselves that they become fatigued. As a result, the world talks about “self-care.” While it’s important to care for ourselves, as Christians, we renew our strength to keep serving God when we come before Him in silence. Isaiah 41:1a says, “Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength.”

When life gets busy we can sometimes find it difficult to take time to just sit in silence before God and allow Him to renew our strength. I have learned to start out my day with time to read the Bible, listen to how the Holy Spirit is speaking to me through His Word and then just sit silently. The silence usually gives way to praising. Praising gives way to worship and worship leads to praying. I have come to value this time alone with God and I get up before anyone else in the house is up so it’s just me and God in the first hour I’m awake. Since, I’ve began starting my morning this way, I can tell the difference in my day. If my alarm doesn’t go off because I forgot to plug my phone up the night before and I wake up in a rush to get to the office and neglect this hour of my morning, my entire days seems to be a struggle. But with this quietness before God every morning, I find the strength to conquer whatever comes in that day.

As we start a new week, let me encourage you to set your alarm clock a little earlier and take time to read His Word, listen for what the Holy Spirit says to you through it and then just sit silent before God. It doesn’t have to be an hour. When I first started this, I probably spent fifteen minutes. But it didn’t take long before those awkward minutes turned into more minutes and before I knew it, I was spending an hour with God every morning…without even realizing how much time went by. If you need a good book to help you get started, try one of these:

  • Before Amen, by Max Lucado
  • Fervent by Priscilla Shirer
  • The Circle Maker & Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson
  • The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz
  • The Battle Plan for Prayer by Steven Kendrick

Together, these book led me on a journey that has changed my prayer life. I hope they will change yours too.

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God's Faithfulness

Jesus is Waiting

Jesus knocking.pngHow far away does God feel right now? As Christians, there are times when we feel God is so close that we can feel His very presence in the room with us. We are able to bask in His glory and we never want to leave that moment.

Other times, we cry out, “God! Where are you?!” We feel that our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling and getting nowhere. We assume that God is not there…not listening. But I want to ask you, have you opened the door…or are you just yelling through it? Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Too often we get so busy and caught up in life that we don’t hear the soft knocking of Jesus at our heart’s door…insistent knocking….as He stands and waits for us to let him in and allow Him to spend our day with us. We miss the soft whisper across our heart as He calls out our name and says, “I am here.” As we wonder why He is silent and He doesn’t respond to our prayers, we continue on with our busy lives. Sometimes, we just need to stop. We need to get in a quiet place and turn our focus to Him. Then we can hear His soft, insistent knocking. With our focus on Jesus, we can hear his voice.

It’s important to understand that Jesus will never barge in like an uninvited guest. He will never be charged with “breaking and entering” the space of our heart. He stands at the door of your heart and knocks. Waiting for you to open the door and invite Him in. Then He will come in and spend time in sweet fellowship. In fact, he wants nothing more than to spend time with you. After all, He gave His life just so He could.

In John 10:7, we see another reference about a door. This time Jesus is referring to Himself when he said, “I am the door.” He is the door that leads to salvation. He is the door that leads to eternal life. He is the door that leads to comfort. He is the door that leads to protection. He is the door that leads to provision. He is the door that leads to joy. He is the door that leads to wisdom. He is the door that leads to peace. He is the door that leads to healing. He is the door that leads to fulfillment. He is the door that leads to ____________ (fill in the blank with what’s going on in your life).

In Hebrews 13:5, Paul states a promise that was given to Joshua and is true for all Christians. The promise says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Because we can trust God to keep His promises, we can know that He is near, even if we’ve put up a barrier by closing the door. He’s just on the other side. Jesus stands at the door of our hearts knocking and seeking entrance. When we open the door and receive Him as Savior, He then becomes the door that leads to all that we need. As Max Lucado wrote, “Prayer is the hand of faith on the door handle of your heart. The willing pull. The happy welcome to Jesus: “Come in, O King. Come in.” (Lucado, 2014) Will you quiet your heart to hear Him knocking? Will you stop your busy day and open the door? He’s there. Standing. Quietly and insistently knocking. Waiting. Waiting for you to make Him the priority of your day…of your life. Waiting for you to be obedient to what He’s asked you to do. Waiting for you to surrender that heartache you’ve been holding on to. Waiting for you to open the door and invite Him in. Your hand is on the door knob…go ahead and give it turn and pull it open. He’s there.

Lucado, M. (2014). before amen. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

 

God's Faithfulness

Loving God

There was never point in hiding it. Everyone knew it. I grew up a “daddy’s girl.” When I was a little girl, my dad was the music director at church. While I don’t remember the incident, my parents have told me that on one Sunday I could not find the correct page in my hymn book so I walked right up on the stage and wanted my dad to find the page for me. He quickly handed me his book and took mine and sent me back to my seat. Amidst the quiet snickers of the church members, I turned and proudly smiled while going back to my seat. I needed help and I went to the person I knew would help me.

Because of my childhood it is easy for me to see God as a loving, faithful, caring Father who will meet my every need. Just as I ran to my dad when I needed help, I can also run to my heavenly Father. God is always there with his arms wide open, ready to catch me. Ready to meet my needs. Ready to comfort me. Ready to give good gifts. In Matthew 7:11, Jesus taught, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifs to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” The greatest gift God gave us was allowing Jesus to die for us so that as we come to Him in repentance, believing by faith we become a child of God, giving us the right to call Him Father!

When we know we can trust God with every aspect of our lives, we know we can run to him as often as we need to, regardless of the time of day or night, and no matter how big or small our need or problem is. Why, then, do we not have a desire to spend time with him? For many Christians we have been taught that a daily devotion is part of the Christian lifestyle but it isn’t something we truly look forward to doing. It’s an expectation. It isn’t something we look forward to or count down the hours and minutes until our next encounter with God. Instead of anticipating spending time with our heavenly Father,  we too often either skim through a passage so we can put the check in the box for today’s reading or don’t do it at all. Some of us mean to get around to it, but our priorities are out of order and we save the last few minutes of the day to quickly read a passage of scripture so we can avoid the guilt feeling of not doing it.

Isn’t it a shame that many of us get more excited about a sports team than we do spending time with our heavenly Father? We will cheer on our team but only pray when we’re in some crisis mess that we need a miracle to get out of. Otherwise, we reserve a little time for God on Sunday and leave Him behind inside the church as we exit and go on with our lives.

In Matthew 22:37-38 we read what Jesus said is the first and greatest commandment: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.” When we love God this way, the natural outcome is to run to Him. We make Him a part of every moment of our day. We go through life with the attitude of prayer, in constant communication with Him. We can’t wait for those times that we can spend with Him, alone in intimate prayer and combing through His Word longing for Him to speak to us.

If God, the creator of the universe, poured out His extravagant, unending love on us so that “even while we are yet sinners, Christ died for us,” then our natural reaction would be to long for the moments we can spend with Him. Our love returned to Him would be expressed in our everyday lives. In the way we speak to others. In the way we see others who are different than us. In the way we interact with our spouses and children. In how we treat the girl ringing up our groceries. In the way we respond to the driver that cut us off in rush hour traffic. In the way we give respect to our bosses. In the way we pray for our pastors. In the way we forgive a family member who hurt us. Because God was so lavish in His love for us that he sent his only begotten Son to die for us; how, then, can we not love others so extravagantly and lavishly as God loves us?

There is no other person that deserves our love and devotion more than God and yet so many times He gets nothing more than our leftovers. The more I realize just how much God loves someone like me…with all my faults….with all my mess-ups…with all my stubbornness…the more I grow to love Him even more. The more I love Him, the more time I want to spend with Him. The more time I spend with Him, the more I learn about how much He loves me. If God can love even one like me so unconditionally, how can I not love Him in return and want to spend time with Him?

God's Faithfulness

Hurricane Irma

pier hurricane irma 2017On a day when we remember victims who’s lives were stolen from them on 9/11, Florida took a hit from Hurricane Irma. The slow moving storm made landfall at the south end of Florida and traveled up the state, leaving a path of destruction for Floridians to pick up the pieces and start over. The Florida keys and South Florida took the biggest impact as the storm was a category 4 when it made landfall in the keys. It had a second landfall at Marco Island as a category 3 hurricane and then made a track up the state from there.

For us at Wellspring, we live in the Northeast area of the state and our worst hours of the storm were between 2 am to 9 am Monday morning of 9/11. I don’t know why, but it seems every time we go through one of these storms, they come in the dark of night. Many in the state that resided near beaches or rivers were evacuated. We were not in an evacuation zone. However, Brian and I typically wait out any hurricanes with my mom and we did for Irma. At the time we were prepping for the storm, Irma was on a course for a more direct impact to our area and so we prepped and prepped for this one. We moved as many sentimental items to my moms as we could and relocated our pets as well. Our scariest moment came around 3:30 when a tornado warning was issued and we spent 30 minutes waiting it out in our “safe room.” Fortunately, we did not get a tornado. We did lose power around 12:30 am but it was back on by 8 am. As we go to bed tonight, many homes are still without power but our linemen are busy…working around the clock to get power restored as quickly as possible.

Before the storm, we heard on the news that there was some who took advantage of the storm to loot closed up businesses and some were even caught on the camera of one of the news stations. It is such a shame that our world has become so full of selfishness that people would take a time of impending disaster to rob and loot. However, we also heard stories of neighbors helping neighbors and communities coming together. In one story, we heard about a woman who went to purchase a generator because her father needed to have electricity for medical issues. When she arrived she learned that the last one had just been purchased. She started crying and when a man heard her story, he offered her the one he had just bought.

hurricane irma 2017Prior to Hurricane Irma, we had a nor’easter that came through dropping lots of rain. Combined with the hurricane, our downtown area is flooded. This photo from a local news station shows the Main Street bridge across the St. Johns River and the Jacksonville Landing in our downtown riverbank.

Throughout the day, we checked in with friends, family, coworkers, and followed all the news stories about the flooded areas, closed roads, and even a house along the beach that fell off its foundation and is now laying on its side as the beach was eroded. There will be much cleanup and for many, a time of starting over. In some of the bays around Florida, the waters were sucked out with Irma approaching leaving just the dirt at the bottom. While it might have made for an interesting treasure hunt, those waters came crashing back in as Irma continued her path. We saw photos of manatees that became stranded and people rescuing them to get them back into water.

My two younger kids who are in college at the University of North Florida chose to stay in the dorm to ride out the hurricane. The dorm they reside in is the newest dorm on campus and was built to withstand a Cat 5 hurricane. They seriously were safer there than with me. However, the momma in me was not happy with not being able to physically see them and know they were ok. I was able to text and Snapchat with them throughout the storm and they were fine. The college did lose power but had emergency backup power.

After Hurricane Harvey’s destruction in Texas and part of Louisiana, gas prices rose. With much of the state evacuating and heading for other states for safety, gas became scarce with many places running out. Items such as bread and water were bought out, leaving only empty shelves in the stores. We not only stocked up on these items, but also cans of food, cereals, PB&J, and snacks that could be opened and ate without having to be cooked.

Overall, we have been very blessed and are thankful for God’s mercy and protection. We prayed for God’s protection over our home and we found very little damage there as we went to check on it this afternoon. Mom has a few loose shingles on the roof. We did not have to eat any meals without power. At the time we rode over and checked on our house it was without power so we chose to stay with mom another night. We’ll go back tomorrow (Tuesday) and if there is power, we’ll begin moving back home. We know that while we came through this storm with very little damage, there are those who will have to rebuild, start over, and pick up the pieces. There will be those who are without power for days. There will be those who have homes that need repaired. I cannot begin to say why some lost everything while others came out with just a few scratches. What I do know is that God is in control. His promises are true. He does not promise that life will be easy, but He does promise that He will never leave us or forsake us. We can have firm assurance that no matter what we go through in life, He is there with us. He has the power to calm the storm, but when the storms come, we can count on Him to ride them out with us.

If you are reading this and you are dealing with the destruction of Irma or Harvey, our prayers are with you. Our hearts go out to you. For those who saw little damage, take time to thank God. If you are able, find a neighbor that needs help and offer what you can. Now that the storm is over, its time for us to put into practice the command that Jesus gave: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you are able to help, find a way to help. Maybe all you can offer is a sympathetic ear or a hug. Maybe you can offer a hot meal. The Florida Baptist Disaster Relief team will be going out into the hardest hit areas as soon as it is safe for them to do so, but the damage and those needing help will far out reach the volunteers that give to serve on this disaster relief team. Other organizations and people from other states have already arrived (some before the storm even came through) to help. Yet, still there will be needs and there will be many organizations looking for volunteers to help. If you have the means to come to Florida to help, please check for highway closures and such as some of our expressways have been closed due to downed trees and power lines and flooding.

Just twenty-four hours ago we sat in the dark without power, listening to a battery operated radio as a storm raged and howled outside. Over and over two songs came to mind and I sang them in my head: Praise You In the Storm by Casting Crowns and In the Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson. Tonight, it is calm and quiet and I am thankful that God surrounded us through the storm and even when huddled in a “safe room” waiting out a tornado warning we can find our peace in Him. Tomorrow, we’ll continue to clean up, try to return to a normal life, and as the floods recede and the extent of damage continues to be reported, we will trust you Lord, for You are in control, the anchor that holds us when our sails are torn.

God's Faithfulness

He Calls You Friend

by Julie Bruce

John 15 15Did you know that Jesus calls us (Christians) his friend?

In John 15:15, Jesus says to his disciples, “I have called you friends…” Before salvation we are slaves to our sin; but at the moment of salvation, because of His grace and forgiveness, He brings you into His most intimate circle and calls you friend. When we accept Christ, He removes the title of slave and we are no longer His enemy, separated from God. Just what kind of friend is Jesus?

Generally, we have friendships on different levels. He isn’t an acquaintance that says “hello,” shakes your hand and says, “Nice to see you,” then goes their way without another thought about you until your paths cross once again. He isn’t the friend who sees your number on caller-id and silences the ringer because he doesn’t have time for you right now. He isn’t the like the friend who never tells you what is going on in their lives. He isn’t a social-media friend that likes or shares your posts, but has never met you. He isn’t like a Facebook-game friend that sends you all your requests so you can advance in the game called life. He is not an impersonal friend.

The Greek word for friend in John 15:15 is philos which can mean dear friend and gives the idea of being fond of a person (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). He’s the kind of friend that pulls you in for a big bear hub no matter how long it’s been since you last connected with Him. He’s the kind of friend that lets you in on His plans and he hides nothing from you. He’s the kind of friend you lean on when life gets tough and you don’t know what is going on or which direction to take. He’s the kind of friend who is always there regardless of the time of day or night and always there to listen as you talk through all your anxieties. He’s kind of friend who waits with open arms no matter how you may have hurt Him or walked away from Him. In fact, His incredible, unfathomable, steadfast love for me never runs out. His mercies are new every morning. It is impossible to out run or out sin God’s love and mercy. (Lamentations 3:22-23) Psalm 139:7-8 says, “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.

He knows each one of us personally, by name. Isaiah 43:1 says, “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you… “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” He calls your name and He is just waiting to spend time with you. James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” In Revelation 3:20, we read the words of Christ, “Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Yes! He calls us His friend and longs to spend time with us so that He can reveal His truth to you. Hebrews 10:16 — “I will put my laws on their hearts and write them on their minds.” 1 Timothy 2:3 – “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

As your friend, He wants to give you strength when you feel weak, and to calm you fears and anxieties. Isaiah 40:29 reminds us, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” And 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.

He also knows everything about us. What we are going through. Our hurts and sorrows. Our joys and accomplishments. He knows the things we think we can’t get through and the moments when we are soaring through life. Nothing escapes His notice. In Psalm 139:1-4, David writes, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.” Even though he knows all that about me, he still loves me and calls me friend! In verses 17-18, David goes on to write, “How precious are your thought about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!”

My friend, no matter what you face today…bad news, anxiety, illness, a difficult decision …Jesus is with you. Proverbs 18:24 says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” So even if it feels as if everyone around you…friend, family, coworkers, church members…turns against you, Jesus is there with His arms wide open. Run to him and feel His embrace!