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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.

2014 Moldova Ladies Conference

On October 17, 2014, we set out for Chisinau, Moldova, for the 7th annual Moldova Ladies ConfTeamerence. This is was the 3rd year that One Purpose was able to be part of this wonderful event. In addition to Beth, Laura and Miriam, our team included Claudia Gandy and Susan Stamper. We were in-country until October 26th. One Purpose had the opportunity to sing for the Doxa Deo Church worship service on Sunday evening then on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday we sang for three mini conferences in the villages of Rezina, Anninii Noi, and Budesti. In these same mini conferences, we each did shorter versions of our teachings for the Moldova Ladies Conference later that week. The topic of this year’s conference was “Becoming a Woman of Excellence”. We noticed in the villages many of the women taking notes. That was such an encouragement to us.

On Wednesday evening we met with Domicella, a group of young women from Doxa Deo Church. Laura talked to them about purity and One Purpose sang. On Saturday, the Moldova Ladies Conference was held at the CCI Moldova Missionary Training Center. We praise God that over those five days we had the opportunity to minister to approximately 220 women. Many of the women shared at the end of each day how God had spoken to them through the teaching.

We are excited that we have been invited back this coming fall. Please pray for us as we begin to look at what God would have us teach and sing.

Visit our Photo Album to see more pictures of our time with these precious women.

Getting It All Done (Excerpt from 31 Days of Encouragement – Miriam)

“I BROUGHT GLORY TO YOU HERE ON EARTH BY DOING EVERYTHING YOU TOLD ME TO DO.” John 17:4

Do you ever have those days when you feel like you just cannot get everything done that you set out to do that day? I often get to the end of my day and wonder where the time went. I get frustrated at only getting half of the things checked off of my “To Do” list.

Notice in our key verse that Jesus, when He was speaking to the Father, said He had done everything “you told me to do.” I led two of the women I disciple through a study called Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. In it she tells us that Jesus focused on God’s agenda and not His own. That statement really struck a cord with me. How often do I focus on my own agenda and not give a thought to the Lord’s? I get so distracted by what I want to do or what everyone else wants me to do, and then I get frustrated when I cannot get it all done.

The truth is that I have time in every day to do what God wants me to do. That’s why it’s so important for me to spend time with Him each day so I’ll know what He wants me to do. In Psalm 32:8 the Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” What an awesome promise!

You may be saying, “I spend time in God’s Word, but I don’t hear Him telling me what to do.” I’m not saying that you will get an audible answer from the Lord for your daily “To Do” list. Notice again in our key verse that Jesus says, “I brought glory to you here on earth.” Ultimately, our main purpose here on earth is to glorify God, so as long as what you are doing accomplishes that, you are doing God’s agenda. He will sovereignly guide us as we spend time in His Word.

Psalm 1:1-3 says it very well:

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers.
But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants;
day and night they think about his law.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season without fail.
Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper.

I don’t believe this scripture is saying that as long as we do what God wants we will never have any trouble. I do believe it is saying that when we focus on the things of the Lord and earnestly follow His Word, we will prosper as far as God is concerned. Jesus accomplished everything God had planned for Him to do, and He did it in 33 years.

How will you spend your time? Will you focus on your agenda or God’s?

A Vessel for Honor (Excerpt from 31 Days of Encouragement – Laura)

“BUT THIS PRECIOUS TREASURE – THIS LIGHT AND POWER THAT NOW SHINE WITHIN US – IS HELD IN PERISHABLE CONTAINERS, THAT IS, IN OUR WEAK BODIES. SO EVERYONE CAN SEE THAT OUR GLORIOUS POWER IS FROM GOD AND IS NOT OUR OWN.”
II Corinthians 4:7

Perishable containers, jars of clay, weak earthen vessels. Paul uses these phrases to describe us. The mystery is this: God places His precious treasure, His light and power in us. For what purpose? So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and not our own.

Talk about grace! We have been given something we most definitely do not deserve. God’s presence living in us. Throughout scripture Christians are compared to vessels. In the book of Job, God says that we dwell in houses of clay, referring to our physical bodies. Paul admonishes Timothy, “If you keep yourself pure, you will be a utensil (vessel) God can use for His purpose” (II Timothy 2:21). Without Christ, we are powerless, purposeless clay vessels, unclean and useless. When we are filled with Christ (the treasure) we become holy and set apart for His purposes. Paul explains that the purpose of
the treasure is to show God’s all surpassing power.

At our house, we have a pitcher (vessel) used only for sweet tea. Empty, it is of no use, but filled with sweet tea, it becomes useful and fulfills its purpose. There’s nothing as refreshing on a hot summer day. God’s purpose in creating you was to glorify Himself. We honor God by bringing Him glory therefore fulfilling our purpose. “Christ is the One through whom God created everything in heaven and earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see…everything has been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). You were not created for yourself. You were made by God and for God to be a
blessing and refreshment to others. “I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them” (Isaiah 43:7).

God’s presence takes up residence in you when, by faith, you trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sin. We are empty vessels. God draws us to Himself by showing us His love. Paul tells us in Romans 5:8 that His love was shown on the cross where Jesus died and shed His perfect blood to wash away our sins. When we accept, by faith, what Jesus did for us on the cross, He picks up the dirty, empty vessel. He washes us with Christ’s blood and fills us up with the Holy Spirit, His treasure. We become useful to the Master Potter.

God has specific purposes in mind for you. How has He designed you to bring Him glory? Take time today to listen to Him through His Word, praise Him for the honor of shining His light and power, and bless Him for the privilege of being His vessel for honor.

A Bright Sunny Place (Excerpt from 31 Days of Encouragement – Beth)

“BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART, FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD.”
Matthew 5:8

One of my favorite places to sit with the Lord in the early hours of the morning is at my kitchen table. It is a bright sunny place overlooking a small pond in my backyard. A few weeks ago, as I sat in this place with the Lord, I could barely see through my own tears. My spirit was broken and my heart was hurting. The day before, I had left the special Bible that my mother gave me on the kitchen table. This particular Bible was so special to me because my mother had written love notes to me and highlighted special passages as she read through it the year before she gave it to me. I enjoyed using that Bible during my quiet times with the Lord for over four years. It was one of my most precious possessions. My heart sank when my family and I returned home from church the day before to discover that our new puppy had shredded and half-eaten my special Bible. When I saw the Bible scattered and torn all over the kitchen floor, it was as though the breath was knocked right out of me. I fell to the floor, weeping and trying to gather all of the pieces. The Bible could not be salvaged.

The next morning, as I sat in my usual sunny place, my spirit felt dry and empty. This beautiful sunny place suddenly became a sad, dark place for me. I wept many times over my loss. I battled an empty feeling for several days as I sat in my special place. My emotions began to consume me as I grieved for my Bible. It was during one of these times with the Lord that I sensed Him speaking to me. In a voice as clear as the words on this page, I heard Jesus say to me, “My precious Beth, you have been worshipping the time and routine of spending time with Me. I want you to worship ME.” My choked response was, “Lord, what did you say?” Again, the Lord said to me, “I want you to worship Me in spirit and in truth.” I fell on my face before the Lord that morning and confessed my selfish heart. The words of Deuteronomy 8:5 rang true that “you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.” At that moment, the dry and empty place within me began to warm up and become sunny again. This was a life changing moment for me.

According to scripture, those who worship the Lord “must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Friend, are you worshipping the habit of meeting with the Lord or are you worshipping HIM? There is a significant difference between the two ideas.