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My Heart’s Desire (from 31 Days of Encouragement – Miriam)

“FOR YOU HAVE GIVEN HIM HIS HEART’S DESIRE; YOU HAVE HELD BACK NOTHING THAT HE REQUESTED.” Psalm 21:2

In Psalm 21 David is thanking the Lord for all he has and letting everyone know that it is a gift from the Lord. The psalm is a result of God giving David victory in battle. David had learned the importance of giving the Lord thanks whenever God helped him.

When I look back over my life I see God’s hand on every part of it, and I am so thankful! Not only that, I know that God has given me my heart’s desire. I have a husband who loves the Lord and is the spiritual leader of our home. I have three children who bless my life in so many ways and who have chosen to follow the Lord’s will for their lives. I have extended family and friends who bless my life. God has allowed me to be a part of a ministry where His word is being spread world-wide, and He’s given me a ministry with women and students where I can sing and teach from His word.

However, as I read this verse again recently, it made me think. Do I give the Lord His heart’s desire? If I understand God’s word correctly, His heart’s desire is that I worship Him – wholeheartedly and without holding back anything. Yet, I know that so often I spend more time asking Him for things and expecting so much from Him, but I hold back parts of myself. I hold back areas of my life that I think I can control better than He can. How unbelievable is that? God holds back nothing from me, yet I constantly am holding back parts of my life from Him.

When I worry about my family I am holding back complete trust in the Lord. If I trust Him with my eternal life, how can I not trust Him with my family on a day to day basis? When I am unfaithful in the time I spend in His word and with Him, I am holding back a part of myself from Him, yet He longs for me to come to Him and He is still faithful to me. In II Timothy 2:13 God’s word says, “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful….” Even when I hit the snooze button on my alarm clock instead of getting up to spend time with Him, He is still faithful, but I have missed out on precious moments with Him. In Psalm 119:2 we read, “Happy are those who…search for him with all their hearts.” If that is true, and I believe it is, then I give the Lord His heart’s desire and I make myself happy when I spend time in His word and with Him. I know from personal experience that no matter what a day brings, if I start it by spending time with the Lord, I can handle whatever comes my way.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my relationship with the Lord to be one-sided. I don’t want Him to give me my heart’s desire and I not give Him His. This is the One who gave His only Son for me so I could have eternal life. How about you? Do you hold back anything from the Lord or do you give Him His heart’s desire?

The Waters are Stirring (from 31 Days of Encouragement – Beth)

“THE SICK MAN ANSWERED HIM, ‘SIR, I HAVE NO MAN TO PUT ME INTO THE POOL WHEN THE WATER IS STIRRED UP…’” John 5:7a

It was the spring of 2007. I made my way to Lake Logan Retreat Center in the mountains of North Carolina. I felt in my spirit that the Lord had something special in store for the weekend conference. Many were praying for me and for all the women who would attend.

After the first session on Friday night, I went to bed with great anticipation of what the Lord was going to do the next day. I woke up early, my usual time with the Lord, and made my way out to the sitting area of my cabin, which overlooked a beautiful lake. I was sharing a cabin with the main speaker and several others on the leadership team.

Cynthia, the speaker and my good friend, was already seated, worshipping the Lord in her quiet time with Him. I silently made my way to the other side of the room. After a while she said to me, “Beth, look at the water out there. The waters are stirring!” As I looked, I saw the waters moving rapidly! Cynthia said excitedly, “God is going to show up today. Women are going to be healed!” She then reminded me of the passage found in John 5:7-9:

“When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, ‘Do you wish to get well?’ The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirring up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.’ And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk.”

Later that day, the leaders with whom I shared lodging, invited other women to come to our cabin if they would like for us to pray with them. We had no idea the impact this would have on all our lives. As we knelt to pray with those that came, I felt a tap on my shoulder. A young woman, with tears streaming down her face, motioned for me to come with her. As we walked outside, she told me her friend was in her car and needed someone to pray with her.

We made our way to the water’s edge. It was stirring! This precious woman sat on a bench close to the water, and her friend and I knelt down beside her and began praying out loud for God to move and bring healing to this woman’s life. As I lifted my hands to the Lord, the picture of the man wanting to be healed but not able to make it to the water came to my mind.

The wind began to pick up. It was like “a mighty rushing wind.” The presence of the Lord Jesus was very real at that moment and this woman was healed.

I have recently heard from Jennie. She continues to walk in newness of life. She has been healed because Jesus showed up that day with healing in His hands. She is healed because friends helped her get to where the waters were stirring.

Do you have a friend or friends who need Jesus? If you have experienced forgiveness, healing, and wholeness, are you doing your part to help others come to the water’s edge to experience the power of Jesus in their lives? God is always at work, my friend. He was obviously at work this particular weekend. Lives were changed, including my own.

Daily Manna (from 31 Days of Encouragement – Laura)

“HOW SWEET ARE THY WORDS TO MY TASTE! YES, SWEETER THAN HONEY TO MY MOUTH!” Psalm 119:103

God fed the children of Israel manna in the wilderness. The manna …“was like coriander seed, white; and its taste was like wafers with honey” (Exodus 16:31). Sending bread from heaven to sustain His children was an act of grace accomplishing the purpose of godliness in His people. “And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3). This bread can be compared to everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD – the Word of God.

The manna was a supernatural gift from God, as are the scriptures.
“Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT’” (John 6:31). They had never seen anything like this truly miraculous manna. In the same way, the Bible is not a human production. It is God’s book! Until we realize and accept the fact that it is a divinely supernatural book, we’ll never understand and appreciate this precious gift. Your view of the Bible will determine its value in your life.

The manna had to be gathered daily, as do the scriptures.
The children of Israel did nothing to earn this miraculous food, but they did have the important task of rising daily to gather it. One Bible teacher said, “It fell from heaven, but it didn’t fall into their mouths.” Moses had instructed them to bring the manna into their tents where they ground it and boiled it in a pot to make cakes. Benefiting from our spiritual food requires some action. God’s Word cannot be consumed or eaten while lying on the bedside table or bookshelf. You must act to gather new manna every morning and devour that precious spiritual food.

The manna that was gathered daily had to be consumed daily, as do the scriptures.
Had the people of Israel merely gotten up, gathered the manna and not ingested it, they would have starved in the wilderness. The amount they ate was sufficient for the day and any leftovers would spoil just as God had said. As long as they were wilderness wanderers, they had manna to nourish their bodies. Do you feed on God’s Word or do you merely read God’s Word? Have you ever been in such a hurry to finish a meal that you felt very dissatisfied afterwards? Enjoying the food as you eat and taking your time brings satisfaction. Reading God’s Word just to finish will leave you dissatisfied, while taking your time will reap great benefits. Jeremiah said, “When your words came I ate them, they were my joy and my heart’s delight” (Jeremiah 15:16). As you sit with the Lord and His Word, let the Holy Spirit take time to speak to your heart. Savor the truths He reveals and enjoy the satisfaction of the spiritual meal. God is faithful and His Word will nourish you spiritually as long as you are a pilgrim in this world.

Will you start a spiritual diet of the rich, sweet, satisfying Word of God? Will you embrace it as a supernatural gift and gather His manna daily? Bon Appetite!

“The Bible is not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.” D. L. Moody

Resting in the Lord (from 31 Days of Encouragement – Miriam)

“THOSE WHO LIVE IN THE SHELTER OF THE MOST HIGH WILL FIND REST IN THE SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY.” Psalm 91:1

Our family took a vacation to Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, one summer for a much needed time of rest and fellowship with family and friends. Just as we need rest from the day-to-day pull of life’s busyness, we also need spiritual rest. When we rest our bodies, our strength is renewed for life’s physical challenges. When we rest in the Lord, we are renewed for our spiritual battles.

Our fellowship was sweet that week. Why? Because we spent time enjoying the presence of people we love. Remember our key verse says, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” When we “live in the shelter” or spend time with the Lord and rest in His presence, the trials that come our way are much easier to handle.

Just before we left on this particular vacation, we had a few “trials” come up in the form of unexpected repairs to our home. In the past I would have been anxious, relying on my own strength to get me through. However, because I had been truly seeking to rest and fellowship with my Heavenly Father more, I was not anxious during this time. Even though I did not expect this trial, my Heavenly Father knew it was coming. He allowed me to rest in the knowledge that He is in control. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus spoke these words:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.”

Jesus wants us to come to Him with our concerns and problems. He is offering to take them on Himself. He wants to lift the burdens that I keep trying to hold and “manage.” I don’t know about you, but I would rather rest in the Lord, fellowship in His presence, and allow His peace to control my life:

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, Whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3

Not only can we rest in Him, but we can count on Him to be there and be strong. Isaiah 26:4 says, “Trust in the Lord always for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.” He’s our Rock! He’s immovable and unshakable. The knowledge that God is trustworthy and immovable allows me to rest in Him without a doubt.

How about you? Are you able to rest in the Lord when trials come your way or do you try to take control? Do you keep your eyes and thoughts fixed on the Lord, or do you get distracted and pulled away by your trials?

Uniquely Beautiful (from 31 Days of Encouragement – Beth)

“I WILL GIVE THANKS TO THEE FOR I AM FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE.” Psalm 139:14

One of the greatest joys in my life is working with men and women with special needs each year during Vacation Bible School. My spirit wells up within me when I see many of my students running into the meeting room. Some of them walk slowly, but enthusiastically, to the room. Other students are wheeled into the room, waving their arms in sheer delight. All of my students have huge smiles on their faces, anticipating the start of our time together. Each person in the room is uniquely beautiful and created in the image of God. They seem to be unaware of their differences. As I walk around the room welcoming my class, they greet me with hugs and kisses like I am their long lost friend.

I always begin our time together by asking all who are able to stand up and sing and dance for Jesus. Once again, my spirit wells up within me as I witness these uniquely beautiful people sing, shout and dance as if they could see Jesus Himself singing and dancing right there with them. They are so unashamed of their love for Jesus and they are totally unaware of their disabilities. I am surrounded by individuals living in the simplicity and purity of the love of Christ. I stop for a minute, overwhelmed by my own pride of self and I quietly thank the Lord that we are all created and made in God’s image, in the likeness of our heavenly Father. Psalm 139:15 says, “My frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.”

Just imagine God’s creativity when He made you. If you read the first chapter of Genesis, you will find that when God created all things he said, “It is good.” Then He made man. Max Lucado said it best: “As a finale to a brilliant performance, He made man. He began with a useless mound of dirt and ended up with an invaluable species called human.”

Have you stopped for a few minutes lately to thank the Lord for creating you? Have you thanked Him for knowing and loving and choosing you before the beginning of the world? Let me challenge you today to thank the Lord for displaying His likeness in and through you.

Inside Out (from 31 Days of Encouragement – Laura)

“AND DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD, BUT BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, THAT YOU MAY PROVE WHAT THE WILL OF GOD IS, THAT WHICH IS GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE AND PERFECT.” Romans 12:2

The beauty of transformation is perfectly pictured in the metamorphosis of the butterfly. The third stage of the butterfly’s lifecycle is called the pupa stage where it is resting and undergoing a complete change from the inside out. It will become a gorgeous winged insect, beautiful in appearance, bringing glory to its Creator.

Similarly, God says we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This renewing is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit through His powerful Word, which is able to pierce and divide the soul and spirit of both joints and marrow and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). This inside transformation will result in an outward expression of beauty, bringing glory to our Creator.

As the butterfly is at rest in its pupa stage, there is a sense that we are at rest as we allow the Holy Spirit to work on our “inside,” our heart, soul and mind. This rest does not mean inactivity. We are growing, trusting, and developing our faith muscles, if you will, as God is at work in us to give us the desire to obey Him. This is such a mystery and is very hard to understand. Faith in Christ to make us like Himself is essential to our spiritual development. He is the power at work within us. Our striving to be better Christians by changing our behavior is a waste of time. He requires surrender to His ways, and He will change us on the inside, resulting in a life that honors and glorifies the Creator- a transformed life!

My lifestyle – the “outside” – reveals my belief system. I can say whatever I want to say, but the way I live shows what I believe. Most of my choices to sin stem from believing lies that the enemy of my soul has planted in my mind. In order to refuse these lies, I must know the truth of God’s Word and apply it to my life. I must change the way I think about sin. My sin grieves God. It saddens Him. Think about the Garden of Eden. Satan has always twisted God’s Word. Eve believed a lie from the serpent about what God had said. Truth is vital to a healthy spiritual life. God’s Spirit has the power to transform us through the truth of His Word. It helps me to think of repentance as changing the way I think about sin. When our belief system is in line with God’s Word and we are surrendered to the Holy Spirit, our lives will demonstrate the fruit of repentance.

Are you allowing the Spirit of Truth to transform you from the inside out? Take time to meditate on the condition of your heart, looking to your Creator and “rest” in His work of grace as He reveals His glory through your life.

“Cease striving and know that I am God….” Psalm 46:10

Yielding My Plans to God’s Plans (from 31 Days of Encouragement – Miriam)

“MY THOUGHTS ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FROM YOURS,” SAYS THE LORD. “AND MY WAYS ARE FAR BEYOND ANYTHING YOU COULD IMAGINE.” Isaiah 55:8

Did this scripture ever ring true for me the summer of 2007! On June third, fifteen minutes before I was to sing a solo at my church, I fell and broke three bones in my ankle. Instead of singing, I headed to the closest hospital and had surgery that afternoon. A few days later, after getting out of the hospital, I found myself lying around the house thinking something along the lines of our focal scripture. “These were definitely not my plans for the summer. I guess God’s plans are just different than mine.”

You see, my plans did not include having to depend on someone for several weeks to do almost everything for me. It was not my plan to sing from a wheelchair at my nephew Jeremy’s wedding six days after I fell or to have to cancel a long planned trip to the beach with One Purpose. I didn’t plan to sing standing behind my walker at another wedding later that month or to sing for 45 minutes at a concert with One Purpose perched on a stool with my ankle dangling the whole time in a cast. I definitely did not plan to go to the Bahamas on a mission trip at the end of June hopping behind a walker, unable to put any weight on my ankle. My husband, Jim, and I were supposed to lead a team of 65 on this particular mission trip on behalf of Crossover, the ministry where we serve on staff.

The Lord used my fall to teach me a big lesson in yielding my plans to His plans. Although God did not cause my fall, He was not surprised by what happened. The Lord reminded me through these changes in my plans that I am not in control. This is probably one of the things I struggle with the most. It is my desire to give God complete control of my life, but I so often fail and try to take back that control.

However, that summer, as I learned to yield my plans to His, I experienced the joy of letting others help me. I am usually the one helping others. However, I learned that with God’s help I could sleep for nine nights on an air mattress on the floor of a church with little or no air conditioning in the Bahamas and be able to get up the next morning even though I couldn’t put any weight on my ankle. He gave me opportunities to share with others His faithfulness in my life that I wouldn’t have had without that crazy ankle and my “friends” — the walker and the wheelchair. I saw Him provide two nurses on the team [of 53] from North Carolina who we were leading; they checked my incisions every night. I could tell you story after story of how God used what I thought was a definite road block in my life, and making it into something He could use for his glory.

When you yield your plans to God’s plans, you never know what might happen and what you will learn. Would you like to give it a try?

Walking the Ancient Paths (from 31 Days of Encouragement – Laura)

“THIS IS WHAT THE LORD SAYS: ‘STAND AT THE CROSSROADS AND LOOK; ASK FOR THE ANCIENT PATHS, ASK WHERE THE GOOD WAY IS AND WALK IN IT, AND YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.’” Jeremiah 6:16

To God be the glory, great things He has done! Those are the best words I have to express my trip to Israel. First of all, it was a gift for me to be able to take this trip. God provided a ticket for me and I know it was a gift from Him. We walked the ancient paths all over Israel, from Dan in the North to Beer Sheva in the South. I floated in the Dead Sea, went swimming in the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) in the dark, waded in the Jordan River, dug through ruins to find pottery handles, sang in Hezekiah’s tunnel and many other places. I also prayed with shop owners and shared Christ with Nazmi after purchasing a bag from him, sang to Henry on the streets of Jerusalem, wept at the Garden of Gethsemene, and prayed as I walked on the Northern Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. I climbed up Masada where the Jews refused to be taken captive by the Romans resulting in the choice to end their own lives, hiked down the Wadi Qilt and saw where David went to be refreshed in the wilderness, and climbed up to lush waterfalls at En Gedi where David hid from Saul. I took tons of pictures, enjoyed fellowship and prayer with precious believers, witnessed God answer prayer over and over again and took communion at Christ Church in Jerusalem. I could go on with countless ways I experienced my sweet Lord’s Land.

His presence was very strong with me the whole time I was there and I had extreme peace. I will never read the Bible the same again even though I have visited Jerusalem before. This time I experienced God in Jerusalem, and He renewed my heart for the world as I walked where He walked. He reminded me that I don’t worship the land but the God of the land. I kept hearing the refrain, “He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives – He lives within my heart.” The tomb is empty and Jesus is alive and living in me! May His life through me bring glory to His Name.

Begin your day standing, looking and asking for the good way. The Lord will show you through prayer and His Word exactly where to walk. As you walk through your day, though it may not be down Israel’s roads, be reminded that the ancient paths are the good ways. The examples in scripture of how Jesus walked this earth obediently adjusting to His Father’s will are ours to embrace and follow. By His grace and our surrender we will find rest for our souls. Are you ready for today’s journey?

It’s not a Retreat, It’s Advance 2015

OP at the Cove 2015 headerWe wanted to share about the amazing ministry time we had at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove March 27-28, 2015. We were so honored to once again lead worship for Joy of Abiding’s 2015 Advance. This is something we have done for over 10 years now.

Delaine at the Cove cropThis year’s teaching was entitled, “Created by God to be ‘Life-Givers’” and the theme verse was John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Delaine Blackwell once again brought truth from God’s word as she taught each session — Friday evening, Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon. As so often happens when we are ministering somewhere, God spoke to each of our hearts as well as the rest of the women in attendance.

Miriam Rocks smallEach year the ladies who attend the Advance are given a rock on which to write one thing the Lord spoke to their heart about. It’s wonderful to look back at our collection of rocks and be reminded of the things the Lord laid on our hearts each year.

The secret of being a life-giver is first of all being a child of God — confessing your sins to Christ, asking Him to forgive you of your sins, and placing your faith in Him. From that point on, the life of a believer is lived best by abiding in Christ (see John 15:1-11). During one of the sessions of the Advance, Delaine asked, “What does abiding look like? Obedience!” If you struggle with being obedient to Christ, most likely you have a problem abiding.

We wish you could have been with us. It was a great 36 hour event! Here’s the good news: next year’s Advance is March 4-5, 2016 at The Cove!

 

Visit the Photo Album to see more pictures from Advance 2015.

The Day I Met an Angel (from 31 Days of Encouragement – Beth)

“THEREFORE, ANGELS ARE ONLY SERVANTS – SPIRITS SENT TO CARE FOR PEOPLE WHO WILL INHERIT SALVATION.” Hebrews 1:14

It was spring of 2006. I was making my way down a mountain in the foothills of North Carolina. I was unsure of the route I needed to take to get back to the interstate. I had just spent a wonderful weekend leading worship for a women’s retreat. As I was listening to praise music and singing loudly with the windows rolled down, I suddenly came to a dead end sign. Surely this was not possible! I could not remember having made any turns off of the road I was following! I turned off the car engine and sat facing the huge side of a mountain.

I cried, “Lord! Where am I? What am I to do?” I slowly and carefully turned my car around and began driving. I was scared. As I retraced my path down the road, I came upon a small red truck moving very slowly. While my windows were still rolled down, I began waving my arms and flashing my car head lights for the man in the truck to stop. I wanted to ask the driver for directions. The man finally noticed my frantically waving arms, and stopped his truck right in the middle of the road. I jumped out of my car, tears streaming down my face and literally ran to the man. Standing before me was a large elderly man with a full white beard. I still remember the cracker crumbs sprinkled all over his beard and shirt. I explained my situation and he spoke with a deep southern drawl. I heard him say to me, “Missy, I am headed that way. You just follow me.” As I ran back to my car, I remembered that I was running low on gas. I turned and yelled, “I am so sorry, but I need gasoline.” Once again, he said, “Missy, just follow me.”

As we made our way down the mountain I began crying and thanking the Lord for sending this man to help me. I saw the truck pull over as we approached a small gas station. As I was filling the gas tank, the man got out of his truck and walked toward me. He said, “Missy, the interstate is five miles to your right.” I stopped what I was doing and gave this man a huge hug. I told him that I believed the Lord had sent him to help me find my way home. He quietly got back in his truck and went back up the mountain. I met an angel that day.

The apostle Paul writes in Colossians 1:16, “For by Him were all things created, that are in Heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible.” Hebrews 1:14 calls angels “ministering spirits.” They do not possess physical bodies, although they may take on the form of physical bodies when God appoints them to do a special task. That day on the mountain, I met an angel, a “ministering spirit.”

Let me encourage you to read the “eye opening” experience that Elisha’s servant had when Elisha asked God to open his spiritual eyes so that he might be able to see the host of protective angels that were present with them. This account is found in 2 Kings, chapter 6. Let me encourage you as well to ask the Lord to open your spiritual eyes so that you too can see an angel or “ministering spirit” that He may send your way today.