Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What is Most Important?

I am so ready for some real spring weather. This week, in Kentucky, the weather forecast is for highs in the 80's and for me that is simply perfect!! This has been one wet, cold spring. And when it is warm and sunny, I cannot stay inside, I make it my goal for the day to sit in every chair I have in my yard at least once!!

On Memorial Day weekend, my family, brothers, sisters and their families meet at our home place for a family reunion. With 10 children, (one is deceased) many grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, (I think that is as far as it goes), needless to say we have a crowd. My brothers and sisters and I were fortunate to have parents who valued family above all else and they wanted us to keep the home-place and we did. We gather in at Thanksgiving, Christmas, breakfast on Saturday mornings occasionally, (I make the biscuits, almost as well as Mama did) home-comings and when the weather is nice, to just sit on the porch in the swings and talk. Funny, but when I was a kid, I didn't think the home-place was all that impressive, but now, it is where I want to be, it is where I go when I need to truly be alone with God. In those woods I feel His presence like I can no where else, and for me it is my "Bethel". (Genesis 35:1) It is there that my "history" began and it is there that holds my identity.

The older I get, the more I feel drawn to what is most important, and like my parents, family is most important to me. David and I will be married 45 years this week. Where has time gone? On paper, we should not have made it; 17 yr old girl, 19 yr old boy, 2 years later a baby, height of the Viet Nam war, very different backgrounds, job struggles, but by God's grace and His grace alone, we are here today, and at this stage in life I know it is our faith in God, strong family values, and love and commitment to each other that has seen us through tough times and life struggles.

The thing I hear most from my readers is, "I want to hear more about marriage and making it work." So today, let me encourage you to make your marriage the most important thing in your life, after your relationship with the Lord. I tell my Sunday School class on a regular basis that the most important decision anyone can make is to accept Christ as Savior and the 2nd most important decision is who we marry. Those 2 decisions have more impact on our lives than any other decisions we will make in life. The first one has eternal consequences, and the 2nd determines our happiness, joy, fulfillment, and success.

Here are 3 things you can do everyday to make your marriage a priority; there are of course many others, but for me, these are the most important.

1. Pray for your marriage everyday. And get specific!! If you're mad at him, tell God. If you want him to be more demonstrative in showing his feelings for you, tell God. If you're worried about his health, tell God. If you want him to be a better,Dad, tell God. But.......be sure to sit quietly before the Lord and allow Him to speak to you about areas in your marriage that you can do better. Pray everyday about specific things in your marriage and ask God to help you and your husband to have a marriage that honors Him and sets a good example for your kids and others.

2. Protect your marriage.
Our #1 enemy, Satan, wants nothing more than to destroy your marriage and he will stop at nothing. He has waged an all out attack and war on the family and as our son Kyle so aptly put it, "We have a generation of victims, casualties of the war on the family. Children are the casualties of that demonic war." Protect your marriage by praying for it, but then don't stop there. We protect our marriage by keeping our heart soft toward our husband. If I allow myself to bring up past hurts, if I "build a case against him in my mind", if I dwell on his faults, Satan will plant seeds of discontent and those little, tiny seeds will eventually take root and grow into a monster that will destroy the very fabric of your marriage. Protect it by how you think about your husband, how you speak to him and about him, how you care for him and your home. As women, our instinct is to protect who and what we love. Love your marriage and protect it. Marriage is more than loving your husband; it's loving your marriage as well. And when we love and protect our marriage, our children will not be casualties of divorce.

3. Spend some quiet time together everyday.
When our boys were small, we put them to bed by 8:30-9:00 so we could watch a tv show together, sit and talk, and just have a little quiet time at the end of the day. Now, our kids didn't like it, they often reminded us that their friends stayed up till 10, but I personally believe children still need a bedtime, (amazing how that improves their school work, their personalities, etc) and we needed some quiet time. There are days it will be hard to do, especially as the kids get older, but as often as you can, have some quiet time together, focus on each other, talk things out, show love and respect, in other words communicate every single day...amazing what genuine communication will do for your marriage.

There are so many other things that we can do to keep the important......important, but maybe these 3 things can be a starting place for you and your marriage. God loves your marriage and He wants you to love it, too. Could it be that more marriages would last a lifetime if we loved our marriage as much as we love each other?

So thankful for spring and all things new; no place like Kentucky in May!!

Love to hear from you!


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Women Who Followed Jesus

I am glad I am a woman. I come from a long line of women who were also glad they were born a woman. My great grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth, was married to a Baptist preacher, had 10 children, and worked hard to raise her family on a small dirt farm. She had a knack for making things grow and her daughter, my grandmother, inherited her same spirit and deep convictions. My mother was also a woman of deep convictions and I am thankful for the spiritual principles she taught me as a child. I am so blessed to have sisters, daughters-in-law, granddaughters, sisters-in-law, and women friends who enrich my life every single day and feed my spirit with truth and grace. And maybe that is why the women who faithfully ministered to Jesus during His earthly ministry, and faithfully followed Him to the cross, then to the tomb, are so interesting to me; their lives were dramatically changed when they met Jesus.

As we celebrate Easter, my mind can't help but linger on the women who followed Jesus to the cross.....
and stayed there when the men left. And to those women who fearlessly came in the dark, cold, damp hours of the early morning to His empty tomb to lovingly prepare that precious body for a proper Jewish burial, I am awed by their devotion. And I am awed that in their world where women were de-valued, Christ first revealed His resurrected body to these faithful women and not the disciples.

Jesus was the first Jewish Rabbi to discuss the Law and the Old Testament with women. He drew them into Bible Study and forever changed their status in society. He healed their diseases and gave women dignity and honor that those of that time and era would never even consider. (check out the opinions of the Pharisees and other religious leaders regarding women)

In John 4, Jesus chose the Samaritan woman, a woman who had been married 5 times and was living with a man who was not her husband, to reveal that He was the long awaited Messiah. (v26)
In Luke 8:43, Jesus, full of compassion for her illness, allowed a woman with "an issue of blood" to touch His outer garment. That was definitely not in keeping with the Law, but she was important to Jesus.
In Luke 10: 39, He allowed Mary of Bethany to "sit at His feet and hear Him teach the word" to the men in the room.

And then there was Salome; I love her! She was all about her 2 sons, James and John, who were called by Jesus to be His disciples. (Matt. 4) Not only did her sons become a part of Jesus' "inner circle", but Salome faithfully ministered to Jesus and was at His side during His darkest hour. And she was standing there at the cross when Jesus asked John to care for Mary. As her oldest son, that would have been His job, but Jesus knew He wouldn't be there in the flesh as Mary aged and He asked His dear friend John to see to her needs. And you know what? I don't think Salome minded one bit!

Joanna. She was the wife of Chuza, who was a steward in Herod's palace. Because of  her husband's prominence, she held a place of honor and wealth. Joanna became a believer and faithfully ministered to Jesus from her wealth and abundance. She, too, was among the women who gathered to make their way to the tomb that first Easter morning. Luke 24:10 tells us that other women were there and maybe Susannah, a woman of great wealth was among the group. Several women named Mary came to the tomb, but then there was also Mary Magdalene. So much conjecture has been written about her, and so much fascination surrounds her seemingly sordid past. All I know and all I care about is that she loved Jesus with all her heart and soul. Whatever else she may have been and done does not deter me for one minute from wanting to meet her in heaven and spend time talking with her about what those days were like.

Were there others? The Bible says there were. Unnoticed, forgotten, sad and forlorn to others, but not to Jesus. He knew and loved each one and in Heaven their love and devotion to Him will be displayed for all to see. But sadly, in some parts of our world women are not valued as Jesus valued them. Many times when the news is on our tv, I get up from my seat and leave the room to keep from hearing the atrocities to women and young girls that are taking place in the name of a pagan religion that still sees women and girls as property to be used and abused and cast away. If only, if only, those same women and girls could sit at Jesus' feet as Mary of Bethany; could touch His garment, like the woman with the issue of blood; could be healed of her demons, like Mary of Magdala; could hear His tender pardon of sin like the woman at the well.
What a difference Jesus makes in the lives of women. Are there women and girls in your sphere of influence who need Jesus? Are they waiting for you to introduce them to Him?

Dear friend, you and I, in our warm, safe, loving homes, where most of us have never known abuse, may feel helpless to change the lives of frightened, abused women in another part of the world, but our God can. May I give you a challenge? It will cost you nothing but a broken heart, tears of compassion, a love that reaches around the world, and a small amount of time. As we celebrate our risen Lord this Easter week of Passover, will you join me each day in prayer for our sisters in Christ and those who still do not know Him; will you help me pray for their deliverance from a life of shame and abuse, will you hold fast to the promise in Jeremiah 32:17?
"Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heaven and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm, and there is nothing too hard for You."

I can promise you this; as your heart grows more tender, as you see new reports of slave trading, and as you look into the veiled brown eyes of those desperate girls and women, you will find yourself praying for them and their plight with an intensity that surprises you.

Women are important to Jesus. And my heart is so thankful that He set the standard for how women and girls and children are to be treated. You my friend are important to Jesus. There is no situation that is hopeless, no devastation that He is not the Master of.

That same resurrection power that was first displayed on that first Easter morning is available to you and to me to conquer every fear, every doubt, every hurtful situation in our lives.
"Oh death where is thy sting, Oh grave where is your victory?" Nothing is too hard for Him, claim that promise as your very own because, dear sister, it is. And pray; pray that the plight of those precious women and girls enslaved in the name of religion will soon know freedom in Christ.

Happy Easter, Happy Resurrection morning.    Penny

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Don't Hide Your "Talent"!!!

I love the parables of Jesus. Each one is definitely in a class all by itself. The parables make me feel good; they fill me with hope and promise and an awareness that Jesus really does care about me and everything about me is important to Him. People are healed in the parables. Health is restored, troubled minds are freed from demons, relationships restored, and grace and mercy triumph.

As a child sitting beside my mother in church, I vividly remember the first time I heard the story of the Parable of the Talents. As I listened wide eyed to the preacher, I honestly thought a talent was well....a talent, like singing or playing a musical instrument. Growing up in a family of musicians and singers, that was naturally what I thought the parable was about. And I can remember being horrified that Jesus would take the one talent (I thought it was singing)  He had given to a servant and give it to the servant He had already given five! I soon learned that the "talent" in the parable was a term for measuring in ancient times, but I still remember my childish indignation that the person with only one talent had it taken from him and the person with five, was given one more.

Beginning in Matthew 24, the disciples are seated at Jesus' feet, and verse 3 tells us they asked Him "in private" to explain to them what He had preached publicly in the Temple about the "end of the age." And for the next 2 chapters, every single word that Jesus spoke is devoted to teaching His disciples (you and me) deep, rich, life altering spiritual truth about His eternal kingdom. And in verse 14 He teaches them the Parable of the Talents.

v14: "For the kingdom of Heaven is like a man traveling into a far country."

The master of the house was preparing to take a long journey and he called 3 of his most trusted servants and gave them explicit instructions as to the overseeing of his affairs while he was gone. To one servant he gave 5 "talents", to one he gave 2, and to another he gave 1. The master knew his servants well, and he knew how much responsibility and wealth each one could handle. He promised he would return and when he did, each servant would give an accounting to the master for the talents he'd been given to invest.

We aren't told what was being measured, but if it was gold, then it was definitely a fortune, especially in their day, because 1 talent of gold would have been $29,374.50. Of course today, a talent of gold would be considerably more, but that's still a lot of money. Multiply that by 5 and the first servant had a small fortune to invest for his master. So for the sake of this post, we'll say each talent was a measure of gold.

In v16, how did the servant with 5 talents oversee his master's gold?
In v17, how did the servant with 2 talents oversee his master's gold?
But in v18, what did the guy with 1 talent do?

His gold may not have been worth as much as the the other 7 talents, but it was worth it to the master. If it wasn't as important to the master, he wouldn't have entrusted it with the servant, he would have simply given it to one of the other servants. Maybe the 3rd servant felt undervalued, not as worthy or important, and maybe he felt that gave him the right to disregard the master's trust in him and just go bury it somewhere and use the excuse that he was afraid of the master.

Do you ever feel that you aren't important? Do you look at other women who seem to have it all together and feel, well, less than......Do you ever wish you looked better, felt better, had more money, had a better marriage, better kids, yada yada yada? I bet (and I don't bet) if every woman was honest, she would admit to feelings of less than.....

Today, your "talents" are every thing the Master has entrusted into your capable hands.
On this cold, snowy, stay in the house and make snow cream kind of day, drying countless wet snowsuits, socks, gloves, hats, and refereeing countless fusses and squabbles, it's easy to dig a hole and hide the talent. But all the Master is asking us to do, is to take what He has given us, invest it wisely, give it back to Him, and watch Him multiply it for our good and His glory.

Marriage is worth our investment, raising kids who love God and serve Him, is a wise investment, serving Him by serving others is worth it. He doesn't expect you, or even ask you, to be like anyone else; He just wants you and me to be who He has created us to be.

Did the servant with one talent feel less valued than the other 2? Maybe. But he was important to the master.
Look at the "talents" the Master has given you; if you start right now investing in those "talents", how much would each of those "talents" be worth when the Master returns? And that is what this parable is saying; the Master will soon return and we will give an accounting of the "talents".

You're the one God has chosen to raise those kids. You are the one God has chosen to be a wife to your husband. You are the one God has chosen to teach that Sunday School Class, take care of sick patients in the ICU, lead a Bible Study on Wednesday night, teach those rowdy kindergartners, prepare those lunches in the school cafeteria, read to those dear elderly saints in the nursing home, and be an intercessor in prayer for those suffering around the world. And nobody can do it like you. Be proud (a God given proud) of those "talents" and invest yourself in each one, refuse to compare your "talents" to any other woman, and watch those "talents" double and multiply!

Revelation 22:12
"Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every person according as his work shall be."

I love the parables of Jesus!!


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Stronghold of Fear

A new year holds such promise and hope and if you're like me, you've promised yourself that you're going to work on "some things" this year. And as I "turned the calendar" as my Mama used to say, I knew it was time to stop talking about it and actually do it.

There will always be lots of room for improvement in my life and I've identified several areas, spiritual and physical, where I see lots of need for improvement. (there will always be those everlasting 10 lbs, right ladies? Funny how they always seem to be there every Jan. 1!)
And spiritually, I have identified several areas where my enemy has a really good "stronghold" on me.

In an earlier post I defined a stronghold as "an exalted thought in our mind." (2 Corinth. 2:10). And while Satan cannot know us intimately, as God knows each of His children intimately, he sure does know our weaknesses and he tailor makes a stronghold that attacks us at our most vulnerable point.

Back in the 60's there was an expression that became a popular way for someone to explain away their unusual behavior. If someone didn't like flying in an airplane or getting into an elevator they would simply say,
"I have a "hang-up" about that." Well, ladies, a stronghold is an exalted thought that we get mentally hung up over. It becomes an obsessive way of thinking that influences our behavior, and literally does what it says;
it gets a stronghold on us and often a very destructive hold on us.

In a previous post I dealt with the stronghold of unforgiveness and I received some really good feed-back on that very destructive stronghold, and promised we'd expose another stronghold soon. One faithful reader reminded me a few months back that I hadn't done that, (so sorry, no excuses) and what better time to do that than the beginning of a new year.

Like most women I know, I have struggled all my life with fear; the fear of "what if." Maybe you struggle with it, too. What if my child gets an incurable disease? What if my husband gets sick, looses his job, can't take care of us? What if something happens to me or my husband, who will care for our children? What if my parents become unable to care for themselves? What if a tree crashes through the ceiling in my bedroom while we're asleep? What if, what if, what if???

Although there is no scientific data to back this up, I personally believe that all women are wired with an extra chromosome that men do not have; I call it the worry chromosome and it can be vicious. It is a fear that begins to build in the pit of your stomach and moves up into your chest where a panic begins to build and your heart begins to race and your breathing becomes shallow and you think you will pass out, and it causes us to do, act, speak, and think in ways that as believers we should not. ( I doubt this sentence is grammatically correct, but it makes the point I want to make)

I recently heard of a woman who received a devastating report from her doctor. She immediately went home and started getting pictures ready for display at her funeral. (I'm not kidding) She bought a new dress, pearls, the whole outfit, and planned her funeral right down to the number of songs. Her family and friends were heartbroken, she was a mess, went back to her doctor for another test and he told her the problem was gone, she was fine. Panic and fear can cause rational people to become irrational rather quickly!!

Do you have a teenager? When they are 10 minutes late coming home, where is your mind? I've stood at my front window many, many nights watching for those headlights to come around the curve with a heart racing so fast, imagining all sorts of things, and nearly in tears by the time they pull in the driveway. And where was David? Sound asleep because he doesn't have the chromosome.

Well ladies, I know that as long as we are women, as long as there are people we love, we will have many opportunities for worry and fear. But......I do know that fear does not come from God, and within each believer He has given us the power to take authority over the very thing we can get so hung up over.

Here's a good verse to commit to memory and to pray back to Satan each time he intrudes our thoughts with his fear and panic:
2 Timothy 1:7: For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
Declare to him that you have a sound mind and you will not fear.
But as good and perfect as that verse is, I still struggled with fear of the unknown. I still worried over silly things, still obsessed, still felt seasons of panic.

I don't remember exactly when I began to do this, but I do remember it was during a recurring fear in my life. One day as I was praying, begging God to do this particular thing in my life, I said, "But Lord, whatever You do, I agree with You. You are right, and I agree with whatever and however you choose to answer my prayer."

Ladies, those words, "Lord, I agree with You", were burden lifting words. They:
1. Took the panic away.
2. Put the responsibility where it belongs, on God.
3. Changed my perspective. I'm not in control, in charge, He is.
4. Said, "He is always right, will never allow anything that is wrong for me, always has good in mind for me, and always has a good and perfect purpose for my life in any and all situations."
5. Allowed me to experience freedom and a closeness to Him that I have never known.
In other words, I truly experienced what it meant to trust. Not just say I trust Him, but to experience it.

Do I ever panic and feel afraid? Oh you better believe it. Do I ever wonder what I'll do if.........? Oh yeah.
But when those thoughts and feelings and emotions invade my heart and mind, I may wrestle with them for bit, cry awhile, but the Holy Spirit always leads me back to, "I agree with You, Father. You are right, no matter what happens."

Dear friend, fear is what is produced when there is no trust. Don't live with that fear and panic that builds and builds until you feel like you are about to "bust". Agree with God and allow His peace to fill your heart and mind and experience an intimacy with Him that is beyond all words.

I would really love to hear from you. I hope this post will be a blessing and a help as you grow in your relationship with the One we can always agree with.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

MOPS and Snow!!

This has been a very busy week in the Noffsinger household. My mother-in-law, Mayme Nell Noffsinger passed away Monday. She had battled dementia, had a stroke, and recently suffered with pneumonia. But she was a fighter and had been all her life. She raised 5 children, worked hard, and for those who knew her, she was never "still a minute." She left us with many good memories and she will be greatly missed by her family, friends, and church family.

I was blest this week to speak to the MOPS group at 1st Baptist Madisonville. They are great Moms doing a great job. We talked about patience and how to have more of it and that patience is an act of the Holy Spirit in our lives and a Fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22,23) We also talked about how we can keep from comparing ourselves to other Moms and we learned a lot from Hannah's example. Here are a few pics of the day and thank you so much Madisonville MOPS for the privilege of being with you and being a part of your day.

This is Haylee, their MOPS coordinator, and me. Thanks Haylee for inviting me to speak to your group!!

One reason I enjoy MOPS so much is all the good food!!

And for our readers in the southern hemisphere who often ask me about our Kentucky weather, we had a beautiful snowy night and are still enjoying it this morning. (hope it's the last one this winter!!)

Hope you have a blest day and a great Lord's Day tomorrow. Look for my next blog post soon.