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Apparently Corinth was the kind of city that would feel right at home in the twenty-first century.  It was full of people who love the “good” life of evil vices.  Into this decadence the apostle Paul sends a letter full of instruction and warning to Christian believers.  He challenges them to godliness of character, true love, clean living, and unity among themselves.  Not a bad or inappropriate challenge for us today.  Paul understood that purity of heart and life goes hand and hand with following Christ, in a way that both honors Him and is a magnet for those considering biblical faith.

From Women of Faith Devotional Bible.  Copyright © 2003 (Thomas Nelson, Inc.)  Used by permission.

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In the Midst of Dirty Dishes


Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: . . . whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. —1 Peter 4:9 – 11 ESV

She and her husband had been missionaries for over sixty years and led countless people to Christ. Now she was in her eighties and still serving. My friend Sheli and I were honored to stay with her for a week to minister alongside her.

After traveling thirty hours to her home in Takamatsu, Japan, we arrived late in the evening. She ushered us into her kitchen for a hearty meal, then prayed for us before we all went to bed. When the sun was barely up the next morning, we feasted on an enormous breakfast in her tiny kitchen.

The kitchen was crowded, her appliances old and worn, dishes piled high in the sink from her lavish food preparation — yet the atmosphere felt entirely like home. As she and her husband read Scripture and encouraged us, tears welled up in my eyes, the love of Christ enveloped us; it overwhelmed me.

Immediately after breakfast, she began cooking again, this time for 100 women. She’d rented a banquet hall and invited friends, telling them an American would be speaking and there would be food. We cooked, set up tables for the luncheon, and then I was ushered to the front to speak. Her objective in hosting the event was to build a bridge in hopes that those who came for lunch would come back again for church on Sunday. Many did!

While driving home after the lunch, she told me she’d invited a large group to the house for dinner that night. I couldn’t imagine how we could clean up the mess we’d left behind and simultaneously prepare another meal. How would we get it all done? She didn’t seem concerned. Instead, she was fueled by the energy of what the Lord had done at the luncheon.

There have been times I’ve worried more about my kitchen than how I can serve others. I fret over the size and messiness. But I was inspired as I watched this woman who had no concerns about the dirty pots in her sink. She didn’t let an unswept floor keep her from ministering. She set the table beautifully and welcomed her guests. She and her husband prayed and read Scripture. Hearts melted.

Years have passed since that week in Japan and I think of this woman whenever I have company. Over her lifetime, she has ministered to thousands in her home, and many have come to know Jesus there. Her ministry has nothing to do with a spotless kitchen. In fact, her kitchen was a mess. But whenever God opens a window of opportunity, she seizes it.

I want my service to be like that described by the apostle Peter, grounded in “the strength that God supplies.” I want to long for people to know Jesus more than I long for the perfect kitchen.

God cares more about what’s happening among the people in our kitchen than He cares about the state of it. My missionary friend taught me that it is possible to share God’s love, demonstrate His character, and offer hospitality, even in the midst of dirty dishes.

Dear Lord, show me ways to serve through the resources You’ve given me. Help me care more about people than things like dirty dishes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

REMEMBER
Your kitchen is a perfect place to show hospitality. Don’t wait for it to be perfect to invite guests. God will supply the ability you need to minister in your kitchen, and He will be glorified.

REFLECT
Would you be willing to invite people to stay for dinner if they dropped by unannounced — even if your kitchen was a mess? Why or why not?

RESPOND
Can you think of a person, family, or neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus that you could invite for dinner?  Make a call and get it on the calendar.

POWER VERSES
Proverbs 31:15; Proverbs 31:25 – 27

 Taken from Encouragement for Today: Devotions for Everyday Living Used by permission of Zondervan. zondervan.com

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Patience: The Glory in Waiting


“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Romans 5:3–5

In our microwave, instant-messaging, drive-through-window, cell-phone world, one thing many of us are not great at is patience. More succinctly: we hate to wait. Yet in reality, many hurry up to wait. We want what we want and we want it yesterday!

When going through tribulations, we naturally want our trials to quickly be over and done. But let us learn to go through whatever’s before us (the good and bad) with joy, knowing that what the enemy may have intended for evil, God can and will use it for our good. Glory in the wait with the knowledge that, in the end, something good will come.

Practical Application

Troubles, problems, trials, suffering, misfortunes, and evil—tribulations have a way of getting our full attention. But we can shout with joy knowing what may have begun as tribulation, works in us patience, especially when there’s nothing we can do except wait on God. Out of patience comes experience. Experience? Yes, we experience the true meaning of Isaiah 40:31, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” And once experience is gained, we then have hope . . . we have history. And that means the next time tribulation rears its head, we won’t worry because we know what God can do!

Prayer
Dear Father, we thank you that no matter what we’re faced with, we can go through it with joy and patience with full knowledge that you’re with us. Through patience, we’re being perfected. We trust you completely, knowing the love you have for us is shed abroad in our hearts; and no matter what comes along, we’re more than conquerors through Christ.

From Sisters in Faith Devotional Bible, Arise/Self  by Vanessa Davis Griggs. © 2013 (Thomas Nelson) Used by permission.

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The law of the harvest is explained in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. Verse 15 says, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

Now if a gift is that good that it can’t be described, I want to know about it. So what is this gift that the Bible says is indescribable? We don’t have to wonder because the answer is right there in our passage,

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (verse 8).   The gift that God has given to each one of us, the gift that is beyond Paul’s ability to articulate, is the gift of grace. Grace is the doctrine that separates Christianity from every other religion ever known to mankind.

Grace also operates according to God’s laws. In 2 Corinthians 9, the concept of grace occurs in the context of the law of the harvest, or the law of sowing and reaping. When it comes to the harvest, grace has to be accessed. So if you don’t know what grace is or how to access it, then you will not be able to maximize the gift of grace that you possess. Accessing the vertical flow of God’s grace is no small thing simply because grace is no small thing. In Ephesians 2:7, Paul says God saved us “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” The phrase “the ages to come” is a reference to the endless ages of eternity, which means that God will still be revealing new aspects of His grace throughout eternity.

But in order to tap into this inexhaustible supply of grace, you have to access it vertically. Let’s plug this truth of God’s marvelous grace back into our text in 2 Corinthians 9. Notice that Paul’s statement about grace in verse 8 is sandwiched between verses 6-7 and 9-10, which talk about how to access grace in relationship to the law of the harvest:

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, “He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor,His righteousnessendures forever.” Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

These verses relate God’s laws about giving and getting, or sowing and reaping, to a farming context. I refer to this as the law of the harvest. If you understand farming, you’ll understand how to access God’s grace vertically through what you do horizontally.

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Paul wasn’t always the most popular person in the pulpit. That was true with the people of Corinth.  His first letter was firm and forceful. In this, his second approach to the same body of believers, he appeals to them in perhaps a gentler, kinder way. He opens his heart and bares his soul.  He talks of his own pain and struggles.  Here is a saint who wasn’t afraid to be transparent and vulnerable.

He gives us in this book perhaps our best instruction on comforting those who suffer.  He learned the hard way that Christ says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).  That’s a lesson that will carry us through anything and everything we face in life.

From Women of Faith Devotional Bible.  Copyright © 2003 (Thomas Nelson, Inc.)  Used by permission.

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It’s not easy to keep going when you’re tired. Fatigue zaps us of our strength. Weariness wears on your soul like a rung-out dish cloth. How do you keep going when you’re all out of “go?” What’s the secret sauce to getting your spiritual fervor back?

I think it’s different for everybody. You and God are the only ones who know exactly what you have gone through and what you’re currently going through. Even the people going through difficulties with you don’t fully understand because they aren’t you. They don’t have your perspective, history, etc. Your perception and experiences are unique to you.

But let me offer you five strong ways to worship when you are weary. These aren’t magic bullets, but they do work if you work them. Why? Because…

Worship is a weapon.

Worship does spiritual warfare.

Worship is a nuisance to the enemy.

Worship is not just about God. It’s about you. It centers you. It changes your attitude. It awakens you. It stirs up the Holy Spirit inside of you. It makes you more aware of God’s powerful presence.

  1. Hold out your hands. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need a physical action to display my inward reality. My tendency to clench, clamp down, and control sends me into a posture of tight-fistedness. Instead of white-knuckling it, open up your hands. Stretch your hands out first thing in the morning and give God full access to your life and heart. This outward action will remind you of your inward, spiritual posture. Breathe in and out as you hold out your hands and release the tension.
  1. Listen and soak up worship music.I have a “personal soak” playlist of my favorite worship songs on Spotify. That’s exactly what I do with it. I sit and soak. I don’t do much while I’m listening to it. I sip on my coffee and breathe while the words and music are sung over me. These songs remind me of God’s true, steady character. If you like to sing, sing along – by all means. Soak your soul in the Spirit. There’s plenty of great worship music out there. Make your own list and soak daily. If you need a great album to start with, check out The Belonging Co: Cover The Earth album. It is so good.
  1. Be still.This is simple enough, but I’m amazed at how many times I reach for my phone, social media, or some other distraction. Say no to distraction and set a timer to be still. Listen to yourself breathe in and out. Be reminded that God is on the throne, and your every breath comes from Him. During this time, if you hear God whisper something, write it down. If you do get distracted and think of something you need to do later in the day, write it down quickly. Then get back to being still. I literally set a timer because otherwise I’ll just “Squirrel!” my way into some kind of activity.
  1. Declare the goodness of God out loud.Maybe you’ve heard this saying, “Don’t tell God about your problems. Tell your problems about your God.” I like that. It sounds like positive mumbo-jumbo, but it’s great wisdom. We can focus on our problem, or we can focus on the power, strength, might, and compassion of God that empowers us to get throughour problem.

Sometimes our bodies forget how good God is.

 

When I was at a women’s retreat a few months ago, I woke up with severe abdominal pain. In that moment I heard God nudge me to play worship music over my stomach; to actually press my phone into my abdomen. “Tell your pancreas that I am good.” What a strange nudge. So I did it, and 20 minutes later, my pain stopped. If you don’t know where to start in proclaiming the goodness of God, pick a Psalm and start there. Psalm 27, 91, 97 or 103 are great for declaring His goodness.

  1. Read a good Jesus-filled book.Obviously read the Bible, but don’t feel guilty if you need something in addition to propel you through your weariness. Find something interesting that will boost and energize your spirit. Find a truth-packed book that refuels you. Make sure it’s enjoyable.

Whatever season you’re in, I pray your soul gets rest and refreshment along the way. I challenge you to worship your way through every circumstance. It will lift your perspective and give you joy.

Joyfully,

Rachel Barrentine

RachelBarrentine.com

Rachel is a Singer/Songwriter/Speaker living in Nashville, TN. She ignites fresh faith through music, speaking, writing, and laughter. Her journey through years of chronic illness has deepened her faith, music, and messages. Rachel lives with her husband Derek, and their favorite old dog, Joey Smiley Wiggle Socks.
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All of us love hearing stories of miraculous healings. Our hearts are stirred when we hear about impossible situations being beautifully restored. We get inspired by people exhibiting supernatural strength and endurance when pushed to their absolute limits.
 
Truthfully, I’m a junkie for these kinds of things. Being a writer, I’m always on the lookout for powerful, moving stories for inspiration and ideas.
 
When we read about the miracles Jesus performed while He walked among us, they fuel our faith and give us hope when things seem hopeless. 
 
But we have to remember that not every miracle was accepted or celebrated. Remember when Jesus healed on the sabbath and got the religious leaders all riled up. And when the disciples carried on His healing ministry, sometimes those miracles got them into trouble as well. 
 
Today I read the story in Acts 14 where Paul and Barnabas healed a man in Lystra who had been crippled since birth. Paul saw in this man’s eyes that he was ready for healing and simply told him to stand. The man immediately stood up and started walking around like he had been walking his entire life.
 
The crowd went nuts! Can you imagine! I mean witnessing that in real life, seeing someone healed on the spot, would truly be life-changing.
 
Yet when the crowd tries to turn Paul and Barnabas into gods because of this incredible miracle, Paul stops them in their tracks and says basically, “Whoa, wait a minute! Yes, this is a miracle, but God performs miracles every single day in your life. He brings rain for crops and blessings every day. You just miss them in the ordinary routines of life.” (Read the story in Acts 14)
 
Paul’s words still ring true for us today, God reveals himself by being extraordinary in the ordinary.
 
God breaks through our lives in the tiny, ordinary parts of our days. He’s just as present in the routine as He is on the mountaintop. God doesn’t wait to show up just for the big stuff. He’s smack dab in the little things as well. 
 
Honestly, I can get caught up in the dramatic. I want the big, miraculous reminders that God is in control, the “this can’t be explained any other way than God” kind of moments. I’ve had some of those in my life, and they’ve been truly life-changing. When I share them at events, years later I am still moved to tears as I think about how deeply I was moved by the presence of God.
 
But, and this is a very big but for most of us, what about the presence of God in our daily routine? What about the repetitive parts of our lives that seem to have no eternal significance? What about the mundane?
 
The Good News of the Gospel is that there is extraordinary in the ordinary waiting to be discovered by each of us.
 
As I look out my window and see all the snow, instead of thinking about how tired I am of winter and how annoyed I am by the cold, I realize there is a miracle waiting for me to behold. The snow is nourishing the ground and providing water for the grass and flowers that I so love in the summertime. The snow is paving the way for the miracle of spring.

As I look at my dogs sleeping at my feet, I am amazed at their extraordinary love for me. They bring so much joy to the ordinary, mundane parts of my life.
 
As I reflect on some big dreams that my husband and I are anxiously awaiting some answers on right at this very minute, I realize that God will be there in the yes or the no. However this situation turns out, whether in a miraculous yes or a disappointing no, God will not be absent. He is ever present, and He is there to be praised and obeyed.
 
Yes, let’s believe in miracles! Yes, let’s continue to trust that God can and does heal in mighty ways! Let’s absolutely continue to pray for impossible situations to be turned around! 
 
But let’s not forget that miracles are present in the everyday routine of our lives as well because God is with us, and that’s a miracle in itself!
 
When we choose to look at life through that lens, it will enable us to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary!
 
Hugs and love,
 
Jill
 

Find out more about becoming a Women of Faith Ambassador.

A living “Energizer Bunny,” Jill has a zest for life that is contagious! With humor and honesty, she shares her personal struggles and how God showed up in the midst of them. Through her songwriting, speaking and writing, she is simply a friend telling her story, hoping it will touch your heart, encourage you in your struggles and inspire you to keep reaching for your full potential. Her spiritual insights are relatable, insightful, and can be practically applied to your life. Jill is a Nashville recording artist and recently released her 6th CD entitled “Twelve, the Freedom Soundtrack.” She has opened for the legendary Loretta Lynn and Brian Littrell (of the Backstreet Boys), performed a duet with NewSong, and sang the national anthem for President Bush and 11,000 people when he was in Sioux City. Jill has also performed at the legendary Bluebird Café in Nashville. Jill realized a dream when she was named one of the new Voices of Women of Faith and will be serving the organization by leading worship, speaking, and writing. Jill is also a certified speaker, coach and teacher with the John Maxwell Team and has written the first ever theme song for the John Maxwell Team. Jill also writes a weekly blog and has written her first book, “Grace Finds Wings – A Journey in Song.” In her book, Jill shares the stories behind the songs on her CD, “Grace Finds Wings,” and finds ways to touch your heart and help you discover grace in things like infertility, adoption, divorce, financial struggles, marital infidelity and loss. Jill and her husband, John, have four grown sons and live in the cornfields of Iowa with their two male rescue dogs. Jill is anxiously waiting for some daughters-in-law and grandbabies so she can get a little estrogen in her family!
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Choose Faith

Hebrews 11:1, 6  “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

They say that faith is believing without seeing. In the book, Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts, My sister Sara said that she believes that faith is believing without seeing, but it is also believing without feeling.  It’s believing in those moments when our hearts ache and our tears betray us by spilling over when we know better but feel the pain anyway.

It’s not about always being in a happy place, as much as we should try to live there. It’s about believing even when the happy place isn’t ours to have. It’s about those times when we can’t see or feel the promise, but we believe in the promise anyway.

Faith isn’t a feeling. It’s believing despite our feelings.

And I do.

The bible tells us in Matthew 24:35; “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” And in 1 Peter 1:25, “The word of the Lord endures forever…”

Faith is trusting God’s word, which never changes.

There are many things in life that will change…our health, friendships, jobs, homes…kids grow and move away; loved ones pass away. Some of these changes can bring us joy, but along with joy are often feelings of loneliness, sadness, and brokenness.

Through all of these feelings, God’s word never changes. No matter how we feel, we can choose to surrender our life to God knowing and having faith that His word never changes.

There have been times in my life that God has seemed far away. It is during those times that I choose to surrender to Him and remind myself to trust and have faith in His word. His word tells me that His love is unconditional. That His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:1 “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.”

Choose Faith, my friends.

Laura Pederson

choosejoyfoundation.com

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Secrets to Staying on Target with Your Goals

Have you already fizzled on your goals for the year? You’re not the only one! In fact, there is actually a day in mid-January officially titled, “Ditch Your Resolutions Day,” because it is generally assumed that most people have given up their goals by then. It’s good to know we are not alone, right? But why do we tend to give up on our goals? Often the reasons are quite simple. Most people tend to:

  • Set unrealistic goals
  • Set too many goals
  • Forget about their goals or lose interest

Let’s consider some practical ways for us to get back on target and stay there. Here are three simple secrets:

  1. Review at the First of Each Month. It’s difficult to keep the momentum going in September for goals you set in January, so consider revisiting your goals at the beginning of each month. I recommend setting monthly goals instead of yearly goals. Make an appointment with yourself on the first day of the month to set your objectives and think about what you need to accomplish.. Write your monthly goals on index cards and place the cards where you will see them often, or add them as an alert on your phone. You are much more likely to remember your goals if you see them in front of you on a regular basis. Keep your goals realistic and achievable, but stretching and challenging as well.
  2. Reduce the Amount of Goals You Want to Achieve. A plethora of goals can be overwhelming and set you up for failure, so I suggest that you reduce your monthly goals to simply three. Setting three monthly goals helps you narrow your focus and feel less scattered, plus they are easier to remember and keep at the forefront of your mind. Don’t confuse goals with new habits you may want start. Goals should be specific and measurable with an end in sight, while habits are routines that you put into action on a continual basis.
  3. Record your Progress.As you review and refresh your goals at the first of each month, take a look at how you did on the former month’s goals. Write down your accomplishments either on your calendar, phone or your index cards. Celebrate your achievements and revisit the areas that need improvement. Consider the factors that distracted you from your goals and then make wise adjustments for the next month.

When it comes to goal-setting, one of the most important questions to ask yourself is, “What will it take for me to accomplish this goal?” Write some of your action steps underneath each of your three goals. We set goals to help us improve, grow and be more productive. Our end goal should be to use our God-given gifts and talents to honor God and bless others. Let’s be thoughtful and prayerful as we continue to press on toward the goal of our upward call.

Karol Ladd

“Goals give you the specific direction to take in order to make your dreams come true.” Bob Conklin

 Karol Ladd is the best-selling author of over 35 books including The Power of a Positive Womanand Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive. She is a popular keynote speaker for conferences, retreats and events. Karol is the founder of Positive Life Principles and the director of Engage Positive Parenting Initiative. Her most valued role is that of wife to Curt and mother to daughters, Grace and Joy.

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A PRAYER FOR BREAKTHROUGH

DEAR JESUS,

You are the Breaker that goes up before me.

You are at the head, leading the way.

You open a door for me that no one can close.

No matter what strength I have,

You keep Your Word, and fulfill Your promises.

You make waters in the wilderness,

And streams in the wasteland.

You trample upon serpents

and shut the mouths of lions.

You are my Light and my Salvation.

Whom shall I fear?

Every place the sole of my foot treads,

You have given to me.

Great deliverance, victory, and mercy are mine

Through Your loving-kindness.

Open the floodgates of heaven.

Pour out your storehouses of blessing.

My cup overflows.

I can do all things through Your strength.

I overwhelmingly conquer because You love me.

You have fatally wounded the enemy.

I WILL NOT GIVE UP, GIVE IN,

OR GIVE WAY TO A LESSER DESTINY.

Now break through every barrier and obstacle.

Let’s scale the walls of impossible together.

IN JESUS NAME,

Amen.

Verse References:

Revelation 3:8, Micah 2:13, Is 43:19-20, Joshua 1:3-4, Psalm 18:50, Psalm 91:13, Daniel 6:22, Psalm 23, Psalm 27:1, Philippians 4:13, Romans 8:37, Joshua 6, Ephesians. 2:10, Jeremiah 29:11

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