Wednesday, November 26, 2014

True Horizon, by Melissa Driggers

Photo by Melissa Driggers







You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16, MSG)



My parents and I vacation every October on a very secluded and sparsely populated section of the Gulf Coast, about 25 miles down a long, narrow beach peninsula, far away from everything.  We don’t mind the sacrifice of a long drive to civilization and basic necessities for the pure, unobstructed views up and down the beach and out into the horizon.

I’ve always been so fascinated by the mystery of the horizon. As my father (a former commercial saltwater fisherman) has explained to me many times over the years, the “true horizon” is the actual point at which you can no longer distinguish where the earth ends and where the sky begins.   On most days, if you fix your eye on the clearest, sharpest part of the line, you will see a beautiful halo effect coming out from it.  Where the halo is, the "true horizon” is.  I’ve often thought that if I tried to draw a picture of what eternity looks like, it would be that beautiful halo.
 
On one of our visits, with an impending tropical storm out further in the Gulf, we experienced very high winds and therefore, very rough water and high waves.  I was fascinated to observe that the true horizon never disappeared regardless of the dark sky, lightning, or raging wind and waves.  Even the halo remained visible.  It was right there, amidst the angry water, wind and rain, just as it was on the previous days when the ocean was calm and as smooth as a big sheet of glass.  Regardless of the circumstances of the weather or waves, that mysterious, magical line was there and visible.  And always beautiful.

That same “true horizon” line at which Earth meets Heaven is in me, too.  Some days, I'm the trusting, loving smooth-as-glass girl.  On others, I am one scary, raging-rough-water-lady.  Now, let’s be real here … I am pretty sure that my halo shines brighter on some days than others, and I’ve often quipped that my metaphoric angelic halo is “a little bent”.  Much like Peter, many times I focus on the storm and not God’s faithfulness.  Yet regardless of what circumstances may be swirling around us, in that place where we let go and disappear into Him, the promise found in the beauty of the “horizon-halo” is there.  In us.

You see, if we really believe what we say we believe as Christ followers, then we become that place where the lines between Earth and Heaven meld together, because His spirit dwells in us.  Like the horizon line between ocean and sky, we too are a place at which the beauty of His Creation disappears into the deeper and eternal beauty of Heaven.

The place where the truth of hope and healing found in the Lord heals the brokenhearted.
    
The place where the richest, most unexpected blessings are found in the midst of the deepest of suffering.
  
The place where the heavenly angels become our dance partners as we celebrate His blessings, presence and love.
 
The place where the peace that passes all understanding miraculously overtakes the things of this earthly life that seem impossible to bear.
 
The place where we end, and He begins.      


Melissa is an itinerant speaker/teacher, blogger and author residing in the South.  She is single (although she prefers the term “unclaimed treasure”) and lives with her two children, Henry and Hannah, who are “technically” canine (ssshhhh… they don’t know they aren’t human).  Her vision and passion for ministry is to shepherd others to the grace, hope, healing, and restoration found only in Jesus Christ!  Through her own life journey, God has transformed her heart, and she has experienced the true meaning of “beauty from ashes”.
You can connect with Melissa through her web site, at www.infieldsofgrace.com.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thankfulness, Veterans of the Faith & Heroes by Cheryl Laurenza



Hebrews 11

This is a great time of year to think of what we are thankful for. I am especially grateful for my Dad as it’s his 86th birthday on Thanksgiving, he is a veteran of the Korean War serving in the Air Force, and was my first hero.

When I read Hebrews 11 God reminds me of all those who "by faith" followed and believed, though they had not yet received what was promised, only believed, and kept marching on. Life can be so hard and confusing at times, and we wonder where God is in all of it. It's important to have "heroes" that we can look back at, read their stories, and be encouraged. It's a good idea to look to those who've struggled but remain faithful, but real, not denying their journey, but trusting that God has them in His hand.

I have had quite of few of these folks throughout my faith journey for these last 30 years. Some are Pastors, Sunday School teachers, leaders etc; but a good number are just regular folks who love Jesus, people and me. They lived their lives consistently like they did when alone. 

I am thankful for Hebrews 11 people I can read about, but also for those in my own life and pray that I am more and more becoming one to others coming behind me.  We may never have monuments erected or holidays named for us, but we have something far more precious and rare: we bear His name and get to join Him in blazing trails and taking ground.

It is a battle isn't it? It does not matter what branch you serve in but that you are faithful to carry out what your position requires with honor and integrity. 

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving


Cheryl Laurenza, LCMHC, LPC, NCC
The Refuge Counseling Center, LLC
155 Main Street
Salem, NH 03079

Friday, November 21, 2014

By Faith We Experience Grace ~ by @ShelleyHendrix



32And what shall I say further? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets,(U)
33Who by [the help of] faith subdued kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promised blessings, closed the mouths of lions,(V)
34Extinguished the power of raging fire, escaped the devourings of the sword, out of frailty and weakness won strength and became stalwart, even mighty and resistless in battle, routing alien hosts.(W)
35[Some] women received again their dead by a resurrection. Others were tortured [g]to death with clubs, refusing to accept release [offered on the terms of denying their faith], so that they might be resurrected to a better life. [I Kings 17:17-24; II Kings 4:25-37.]
36Others had to suffer the trial of mocking and scourging and even chains and imprisonment.
37They were stoned to death; they were lured with tempting offers [to renounce their faith]; they were sawn asunder; they were slaughtered by the sword; [while they were alive] they had to go about wrapped in the skins of sheep and goats, utterly destitute, oppressed, cruelly treated--
38[Men] of whom the world was not worthy--roaming over the desolate places and the mountains, and [living] in caves and caverns and holes of the earth.
Hebrews 11:32-38 (Amplified)


When we read Hebrews 11, we have the opportunity to observe how men and women of old, who trusted God, were able to experience a life that most people cannot even begin to imagine. We see that our trust in God is the very proof of His existence. We see that there were those who saw God move in mighty ways as they lived by faith, rather than by sight. We can take note of what this means for us today—in the 21st Century—when so many have decided God is a has-been from our uneducated past as a human race.

In the first several verses of this passage, we read some of the heroic and mighty deeds God performed for everyday people with extraordinary trust in God: blessings, subdued kingdoms, seeing dead loved ones raised to life, shutting the mouths of lions, etc. When we read things like this, it encourages us, even makes us get excited about stepping—or leaping—out in faith, doesn't it? We all want to see God move like this in our lives, don't we?

Consider this, though: Although we all desire to see these kinds of things happen, we must also realize that each coin has two sides. Jesus made it clear that in this world, we would have trouble (persecution, tribulation, etc.)* When we speak of faith moving mountains and faith bringing us to a place of promotion, you'll find a whole lot of people jumping on board. But when the whole truth is taught—that life is hard and we will all face those dark nights of the soul—it's a little more difficult to get excited.

You might find a small percentage of people, when you look throughout our human history, who are willing to suffer or possibly even die for a cause (whether real or a delusion). But when we look through the Scriptures, pages of history, and even today's news, we are faced with a reality that can't be ignored: Those who follow the One True God have suffered in unimaginable ways and have paid an enormous price—many even sacrificing their own lives rather than deny the truth they have embraced. 

People have been imprisoned, beaten, scourged, sawn in two!, tortured, bribed, left destitute… you'd think a large percentage of these would have renounced their "traditions" or "belief systems" and that would make sense if that had been all their faith amounted to. For someone who has experienced the Truth Himself—Jesus Christ—and Jehovah God, there is no renouncing Him. It would be like trying to get a mother to deny her child was hers or a husband denying his cherished bride.

In the Gospels, we read of two different men who walked closely with Jesus and who both came to a crisis of their faith. One betrayed Jesus. The other denied him. The first was Judas. The second was Peter. I heard a powerful message by a man named Bill Thrall who stated that as people who have been given a brand new identity when we accepted Christ as Savior, we can never be guilty of Judas' sin, we can only be susceptible to Peter's. We can never betray Christ—that would be to declare that He isn't who He says He is. It would be to choose to deny Him as the Savior of the world. Peter's sin was to deny knowing Him—and for this, Jesus offered grace, mercy, love, compassion, and a second chance.

God is not looking for perfect performance—thank Him for that!—He is looking for hearts that are perfect toward Him. Hearts with a desire to trust Him and know Him. These are the kinds of people Scripture says that the world is not even worthy of.

But these kinds of people aren't just in the pages of history. You can read about the many Christians who are suffering persecution throughout the world even today through ministries like the Voice of the Martyrs. You can even 'follow' them on Twitter @VOMC and get many reminders of ways to pray for those who are part of our family who are suffering even now as a result of their refusal to deny Christ. These people truly are heroes and need our prayers and support.

May we all be people who live with intentionality and purpose, choosing to make it our life's top priority to know and trust God. Who knows? Perhaps, together, we really could change the world!

*John 16:33

Shelley Hendrix is the founder of Church 4 Chicks as well as Shelley Hendrix Ministries and the co-founder of a new ministry collaboration called Team Redeemed (a ministry to those whose lives have been impacted by infidelity). 

You can find Shelley's website, social media links and more at www.ShelleyHendrix.com but you'll typically find her sipping coffee, scrounging for chocolate, and petting her dog while hovered over her laptop.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanks-Living By Cheryl Lutz







NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD
“Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.” (This beautiful hymn was written by: Martin Rinkart (1586-1649) for his children.)





I believe Thanksgiving is a time to pause and reflect. Reflect upon the blessings God has bestowed upon our lives. Every year we can look back on gut-wrenching trials and hardships.  But, if we look at the overarching theme of our lives, we see God’s sustaining grace. 

As a teenager and young adult, I was headed for destruction.  FAST.  However, life seemed to come to a screeching halt when I learned my mother had terminal cancer and was given six months to live.  Her death brought me to new life.  “From my mother’s arms, he indeed blessed me on my way, with countless gifts of love, and still is mine today.”

I contemplate what “wondrous things He has done” and I indeed rejoice.

“Now thank we all our God” for my salvation.
“Now thank we all our God” for a godly husband.  
“Now thank we all our God” for four beautiful children.
Yes, I wish my mother was on this earth to see “the countless gifts of love”: Yet I rejoice that we will all spend eternity together.

What does Thanksgiving mean to you: turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, football?  I LOVE all those things!  But I encourage your family to pause and reflect.
Take the time to count your blessings.  "Lift your hearts, hands, and voices."

“All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given;
the Son, and him who reigns
with them in highest heaven;
the one eternal God,
whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.”



Cheryl Lutz is passionate to teach women how to tear down strongholds and find freedom in Christ. A pastor’s wife for twenty-five years, Cheryl possesses a vibrant love for teaching the Word of God. She is the founder of Securely Held, LLC, where she works as a trained and experienced lay counselor and speaker. You may contact Cheryl through her blog at:www.securelyheld.com Twitter: @clutz40
Facebook: www.facebook.com/securelyheld