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Only Five Loaves of Bread and Two Fish by Miriam

“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered. (Matthew 14:17 NLT)

Sometimes I struggle getting past what I see, which may not seem like enough to me, and seeing how God can take what I see and make it enough and then some. I’m often like Jesus’ disciples who only saw “five loaves of bread and two fish” and knew that would not be enough to feed the crowd who had gathered to listen to Jesus.

Whether it is “five loaves of bread and two fish” or the last $100 in our checking account, God can take little and make it much. As Jim and I have trusted the Lord for almost 17 years to provide for our needs through His people as we are 100% supported through the ministry Jim is on staff with, we have seen Him take what seems like “little” to some and do great things with it. However, I still struggle at times when something happens and there doesn’t seem like we will have enough to take care of whatever it is. I was having one of those days when I read this very scripture and it stopped me in my tracks. 

I had to confess to the Lord that I was struggling to see past the little I saw for the big task ahead of us. God faithfully provided — not at all how I expected — and I am so thankful! Just like the disciples who had been around Jesus and saw Him perform many miracles, yet struggled to trust Him to take their meager offering and feed the multitude, I can do the same. I’ve had years of trusting Jesus, and I have story after story of how He has been faithful, yet I can still have times of doubt. However, I’m learning to take those doubts to Him more quickly and trust Him to take what I have, bless it, and distribute what he wants to through me. (Matthew 14:18-21)

Do you struggle to trust the Lord to take what little you have and do immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine? (Ephesians 3:20) Then my prayer for you and myself is we will remember He is able.

Peace in the Storm by Beth

One of my favorite times of the day is very early in the morning before the sun comes up. You will find me sitting with the Lord, a cup of coffee in one hand and my Bible in the other.  On this particular morning, as I was about to begin my quiet time with the Lord, I began reflecting on the promises of Jesus. As I reflected, I remembered taking a picture of the Sea of Galilee while in Israel. The day was beautiful with little to no wind. The thing is, the picture depicted fairly calm waters, the sun shining, etc. However, we know from scripture that often a storm would arise, “…for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.” (Matthew 14:24) The winds and waves would toss the boat back and forth causing great fear among those on board. These were strong, seasoned fishermen who became fearful. They were also disciples of Jesus!

On an occasion they found Jesus sleeping in the stern. They woke Jesus up saying, “Don’t you care if we drown?” Y’all, this sounds like me! “Jesus woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (Mark 4:35-41)

Oh friend, may you know the peace of Jesus today. The wind and waves still obey his voice!!

With One Voice by Laura

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”– Romans 15:5-6

This benediction brings to mind my two beautiful friends and ministry partners. Beth, Miriam and I have been singing together as One Purpose for over 27 years.  This one fact is in itself amazing and rare. Three unique women with very different personalities and backgrounds, we have the most important life goal in common. To glorify God in all we do. We have had many discussions as to why we have been blessed by this longevity in ministry and we know that it is only by God’s grace.  God has truly granted us to live in harmony with one another as we have made it our purpose to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our voices are very different yet when we sing, we are often asked who is singing what part of the harmony and some have commented that when singing in unison we sound like one voice. We have definitely spent many hours over the years practicing, but sometimes I sense the Lord just gives us one voice!  What are some of the ways we live in harmony with one another?  Prayer binds our hearts together.  There have been few times when we get together that we do not pray for each other.  We have shed many tears in prayer. Tears of joy and sadness. The Holy Spirit has knit our hearts together into a precious sisterhood. God’s Word is our guiding truth. Each of us has a deep devotion to Jesus!  We read and study the Bible individually and we share often what the Lord is teaching us when we are together.  We are not ashamed of the gospel and seek to live in accord with Christ Jesus. Music is our common love and we are so grateful to have had the privilege of expressing worship to our Lord in this way.

What about you? Think about those with whom you minister. Be reminded of all the relationships you have in the body of Christ. Ask the Lord to reveal truth to you concerning how you are relating to your brothers and sisters. Maybe He will call you to a change of attitude or maybe He will confirm your attitude of harmonious living.  Do whatever He tells you trusting His leading. He grants you this grace!

My prayer is that God will continue to pour out His endurance and encouragement on us and that as we pray together, looking to His Word for guidance, and sing with one voice for His glory, He will grant us many more years of ministry! May He do the same for you!

The Joy The Baby Brings – by Miriam

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Luke 2:10-11

If you have ever had a baby or have a family member or friend who has, you know what joy comes from the birth of that sweet child. My husband, Jim, and I have been blessed with three children and five (soon to be six) grandchildren. Babies truly do bring much joy! However, we all know they can bring out many other reactions as well. Our newest granddaughter, Annie James, can create quite a loud noise if it is time to eat and you are moving too slowly to feed her.

However, the baby born in a stable over 2,000 years ago brings us a different kind of joy. Our church choir sings a song at Christmas called “Ten Thousand Joys” (by Karen Dean and Don Marsh). It is one of my favorite songs. I’m especially encouraged by the chorus:

Ten thousand joys—sweet Son of God, You came to me. And my heart sings because I know that You are mine. In You I find ten thousand joys—enough to last through all the years, and joy to shine through all my tears—ten thousand joys.

You see, only Jesus can bring us joy that can carry us through good times and difficult times. Only Jesus can help us rejoice in the midst of suffering. The joy that Jesus gives “is for all the people;” however, it only comes to those who have a relationship with Him.

Do you know Jesus—really know Him—as your personal Lord and Savior? Has there been a time in your life when you acknowledged Him as Lord, believed in Him as your Savior, and confessed your sins to Him? If you have, then you have this joy available to you as the Holy Spirit lives in you. If you haven’t, I pray that you will make the decision to have a personal relationship with Jesus. There is nothing like the joy that comes from knowing Him in a real and personal way.

In the Secret Place by Beth

“When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place…”
Matthew 6:6

Do you have a secret place where you daily meet with Jesus? A place where you put all aside and simply listen, talk, and commune with Jesus? This has been such a vital part of my walk with the Lord. It has changed my prayer life.

God does not hear us because we pray earnestly or in secret. He hears us solely on the basis of redemption. Prayer is not simply getting things from God – prayer is coming into perfect fellowship and oneness with God. For me personally, it is in the secret place. It is a place that it’s just me and Jesus. Psalm 139:3-4 assures me that God is already intimately acquainted with me and all of my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue He KNOWS it! Wow! He knows my every thought. He knows the deepest longings of my heart and my deepest fears. He knows, and cares.

Oswald chambers writes, “Having a secret stillness before God means deliberately shutting the door on our emotions and remembering Him.” God is in secret, and He sees us from “the secret place”. He does not see us as other people do or as we see ourselves. This secret place is where I weep before the Lord and know that as I weep and plead with my Father, Jesus is at His right hand interceding for me. It is in this place He reminds me I am a child of the Most High King–the One whose very breath is in my lungs. It is here He reminds me I am His. It is here He reminds me Jesus is interceding for me and those who are in Him. All the while Satan (whose name is the “accuser”) is accusing us, pointing out our sins and frailties before God. But the accusations fall upon deaf ears in heaven, because ‘Jesus work on the cross paid for our sin debt in full; therefore, God always sees His children in the perfect righteousness of Jesus. Amen!

When we enter into “the secret place,” we will find that God was right in the middle of our everyday circumstances all the time. I can remember specifically entering into this secret place with Jesus when I was on my first mission to Maisome Island, Tanzania. The Lord knew my fear of the unknown. I had said “yes” to Jesus way before I knew the details of this particular trip. Fear began to creep in. Let me say here, because I had been dwelling in the secret places with Jesus–sometimes multiple times a day–I knew exactly what to do when fear began to plant itself in my mind. I cried out to the Lord and He heard me! Jesus began to overwhelm me with thoughts of Him doing battle for me. He reminded me that I live from a place of victory already won. He reminded me, “I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind” 2 Timothy 1:7. I praise Him!

Do you have a secret place that you daily meet with Jesus? Let me encourage you to find this place. It does not necessarily have to be a physical place. A secret place can simply mean being still before the Lord. Deliberately shutting the door on our emotions and remembering Him. Cry out to Him; call on His name with the assurance that He hears the prayers of those who seek Him and seek Him with all their heart. (Jeremiah 29:13).

A Broken, Useful Vessel by Laura

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (II Corinthians 4:7).

You are useful to your Master Potter because of
His presence within you!

1. YOU HAVE PURPOSE AS A BROKEN VESSEL

As jars of clay, designed by the Master Potter, cracked in many ways, but mended by the grace of Christ, we are indwelt by the precious treasure of the light of the gospel of Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of showing that our power belongs to God and not to us.

What a purpose!! To be a vessel for His honor… A jar of clay for His glory… A cracked pot for His garden. Bringing God glory is our purpose and that never changes! God said, “I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them” (Isaiah 43:7).

You not only have purpose but you are useful

2. YOU ARE USEFUL AS A BROKEN VESSEL

God has good works for you. Uses for you. Just you. In your uniqueness as He has designed you. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

So, as we listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit through His Word, He speaks, He guides, He enables us to discern the specific works, uses (ministries) He has prepared for us to walk in. These will change and look different in every season of your life.

At my house, I have a pitcher (vessel) used only for sweet tea. It has a specific use. I don’t use it for anything else. When it’s empty…it’s of NO use. But on a hot summer day, when I pour out that sweet tea over some ice in a glass with fresh squeezed lemon juice…there’s nothing more refreshing!

You will be a useful vessel only as you are emptied of self
and filled with the Spirit.

One of God’s specific uses for you is right where you find yourself today! In the specific role He has called you to fulfill. You are in His plan for your life. But there is a decision to be made. A question to be asked each and every day!

“Will I choose to be emptied of self and filled with the sweet Holy Spirit who will refresh me and in turn refresh others through ME?”

You are useful to your Master Potter because of His presence within you!

Take some time to pray and think about your head, heart and hands.

Your perspective (what you think in your head) will affect your attitude
(how you feel in your heart) which will determine your actions
(what you do with your hands).

Head – Your goal is to think Biblically! So, in the context of your everyday life, I want you to know that you are commissioned by Christ and empowered by the Spirit. 2 Cor. 5:20 says, “We are ambassadors for Christ.”

Heart – Your goal is to let Christ rule your heart (rule over your emotions).
Col. 3:15 says, “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… and be thankful.”
I want you to feel thankful for the blessing of being useful to Christ.

Hands – Your goal is to serve Christ. I Cor. 10:31 “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  I want you to do whatever Jesus tells you. John 2:5, “His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.'”

You are useful to your Master Potter because of
His presence within you!

Wilderness Wanderings – A Devotion by Miriam

“Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.” Nehemiah 9:19-21

Do you ever feel like you are in the wilderness?  Maybe it is because of relationships, finances, your spiritual life, or some other reason. There have been times in my life when I have felt like I was wandering in the wilderness and was wondering when the Lord would choose to bring me out.

Sometimes the Lord leads us into the wilderness to test us (Deuteronomy 8:2). Other times you may be in the wilderness because of your own doing. Whatever the reason you are in the wilderness, if you trust the Lord and make the decision to follow and obey Him, He will continue to guide you while you are in the wilderness.

In my time with the Lord recently, I was reading in Nehemiah 9, and the words in these verses just seemed to jump off the page of my Bible. Our family has had some financial struggles lately and I’ve felt a bit like we’ve been in the wilderness. The Lord is so gracious to use His word to remind me He hasn’t abandoned me, He is always providing for me, and we truly lack nothing we need.

Are you in the wilderness right now or have you just come out of the wilderness?  If you are in the wilderness, won’t you trust Him to see you through?  If you have just come out, why don’t you encourage someone in your life who may be in the wilderness.

Remind Yourself – A Devotion by Beth

You know, sometimes you just get in a funk. You can be in the middle of doing something you love, with people you love and be blah. You really can’t put your finger on it. It’s just a blah-ness. I get it.

I love Jesus. I love life. I love people. I am passionate about so many things. Then why do I sometimes feel a sadness come over me? A feeling of disparity thinking, “Nothing is going to change. I’m forever going to be stuck in this feeling!”

Listen to me friend; yes, there are days our feelings can get the best of us. Feelings are so fickle. Remind yourself of your position in Christ, “God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). Remind yourself that as His children He has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). Remind yourself that you are loved with an everlasting love. Remind yourself that your relationship with Jesus is not based on how you feel. It is based on the Person of Jesus Christ. Period.

Often we can hide behind our social media profiles and everything seems all good all the time.  It’s not so.  Joy is a daily choice. Let’s just keep pressing into Jesus. Let’s let Him do our worrying and heavy lifting today. Remind yourself, He’s a good, good Father!

Dependent Prayer – A Devotion by Laura

“The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.”
(Psalm 34:15).

For many years, I have been amazed by prayer. How about you? Has the mystery of prayer ever sent you searching to God’s Word? It is a mystery to me that God is sovereign over all, yet He tells me to call on Him in prayer, to pour out my heart to Him. Prayer is communication with our Father! It begins with His prompting by the sweet Holy Spirit. We cry out to Him and He hears. He responds to our requests and gives loving guidance as we pray for others. It’s as if prayer is the conduit between heaven and earth and we are the vessels He uses for this connection. Prayer is most surely a dialogue. I have pondered two extremes concerning prayer. One extreme is, ”I’m going to pray and it all depends on me. If I don’t pray then nothing will happen.” This is fearful praying, many times with selfish motives and in reality, filled with pride. The other extreme I have pondered is, ”God, I believe You are sovereign and You know my heart so there’s no need to pray… have Your will! It all depends on You.” This is ignoring the command to pray, mentioned many times in scripture and seems indifferent. Extremes are dangerous.

God has done His decisive work…yes, He is sovereign; yes, He will accomplish His will; yes, He will receive glory and yes, He is in the heavens and does as He pleases (Psalm 115:3). But I have dependent work to do…I trust Him, love Him, surrender to Him, walk by faith and not by sight, totally depend on Him. One of these dependent works is prayer. Apart from Christ, I cannot pray! His blood shed on the cross gives me entrance to the throne of grace as the writer of Hebrews says, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). I am dependent on Christ in prayer.

The Old Testament priest spoke to God on behalf of the people while the Old Testament prophet spoke to the people on behalf of God. This dialogue describes prayer! The people were dependent on the priests and prophets to engage in this dialogue. Today, Jesus is the Great High Priest and God’s Prophet all in one and we depend on Him as we pray.

Have you been thinking that prayer depends on you? It only depends on Jesus!! Take time to pray today in whatever posture you choose, remembering that the most important posture is that of your heart; your dependent heart!

Be an Imitator – A Devotion by Miriam

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (NLT)

If you have been around children for any time at all, you know they are big imitators of the life going on around them. We have had many laughs over the things our granddaughters say which they have heard one of us say. Thankfully, nothing too terrible. It does remind us to be careful. It also makes us realize we need to be sure we are imitating the Lord so they will see Him in us, and therefore, imitate Him, too.

As a believer, you and I should be aware that our actions and our words are being imitated, or at the very least, watched by those around us. Therefore, we need to be careful to imitate Christ in everything we do. The scripture above says, “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.” Christ loved us so much He died for us. Do we live sacrificially as we go throughout our days? Do we think of overs and their needs, before our own needs? That is definitely one way to imitate Christ.

Another way to imitate Christ is by spending time with the Lord. Mark 1:35 says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” When we spend time with the Lord each day — reading His word and praying — we will be able to imitate Christ in a more sincere way. As we read His word, asking the Lord to apply it to our lives, we will begin to look more like Christ each day, and that’s our goal as believers, to grow more and more like Christ. One day when I was taking care of our twin granddaughters, I was spending time with Jesus and they walked in the room and wanted to know what I was doing. I told them I was reading God’s word — the Bible — and talking to Jesus. They immediately wanted a Bible so they could read it and talk to Jesus.

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, neighbor, student, or friend, someone is watching you today. Will you imitate the Lord? Do your actions point others to Christ? Are you putting the needs of others above yours? Ask the Lord to help you do this and He will.