Thursday, August 20, 2015

What Do You Care About?

What do you care about? The people in your life, right?
The people, the things we care about the most are the people and the things that consume our thoughts. They give us our sleepless nights, worry lines, butterflies in our stomach, an ache in our heart. They keep us on our knees, on our toes, crying for them and mad at them all at the same time, and cause us with humility in our hearts to praise our Heavenly Father that they are in our lives.

Jesus knew what it meant to care about the people He loved. And since He loved all people, He cared about all people.

My Dad and brothers loved to fish. And they had their "fish talk". They were very secretive about the places they fished because they didn't want anyone else to "fish it out" as they would say. They had their collections of rods and reels, tackle, their boat, and in my Dad's later years it became a time to bond with his grown sons.

Many of Jesus' disciples loved to fish, too, especially Peter, James and John. But their fishing was different than my Dad and brother's fishing. They didn't use rods and reels, didn't have the "tackle" my Dad had, but instead, they used nets. Each day they would go out with clean nets, all straight and untangled from the day before, they would stand on the deck of the ship and cast their nets into the water and slowly drag the net toward the boat and hopefully pull up a large amount of fish. The amount of fish they caught in the net was determined by how well the man on the deck of the ship "cast" the net into the water.

Peter used this imagery of fishing and casting his nets to teach us an important lesson on how to deal with our "cares". And since our cares are almost always related to the people in our lives, this imagery teaches us how to handle the stress that is associated with our cares.

Peter said in 1 Peter 5:7; "Casting all your care upon Him, because He cares for you."
For Peter and his fisherman friends, net-casting was an art-form. It was a skill that was developed with use; the more you cast the net, the better "net caster" you became. Casting a good net could mean the difference in a good day of fishing, with food on the table and some to sell in the marketplace, and one that wasn't so good.

As a believer, care-casting is an art-form, too. It is a spiritual principle and discipline that is developed with use; the more we cast our care on Jesus, the better "care-caster" we become. I was asked by a new believer,
"And just exactly how do you cast your care upon Jesus?" And this is what I told her; "Imagine taking into your hand the person or thing that worries you the most, and then imagine Jesus standing in front of you and you hand it to Him". Now, 20, 30, 40 years or more of "casting your cares upon Him" and you'll develop a pretty good casting arm. And the neat thing is, while you're developing that casting arm, your faith level is being developed, too. Your trust in Him to always "catch" what you have "cast" will be absolute....complete. And the more trust we have, the less stress we feel.

So what do you care about? Go ahead, get your "casting" arm all wound up and ready to go and "cast all you care on Jesus, because He cares for you." He can catch any and everything you throw at Him.

Penny

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mercy Please

When you hear someone talk about spiritual gifts, what immediately comes to mind? My first thought is the gift of preaching, and where would we be without good, biblically sound preaching of God's Word? Then I think about the gifts of teaching, healing, (doctors, nursing, care givers. And believe me, I do NOT have this special gift and I am SO thankful for those who do) administration, encouragement and all the others listed in 1 Corinthians 12. But in Romans 12:8 there is a gift that every believer has been given, but sadly, many times it is not developed into the the great gift of ministry that can do so much good for so many people. It is a gift that can often make the difference between healthy and unhealthy self-esteem, good parenting, a great marriage, and even life and death: It is the gift of "Mercy."

Talents and spiritual gifts are not the same. Everyone is born with certain talents and abilities and these are often related to the talents of our parents and grandparents. Musical talent, artistic ability, writing, etc. Much of our talent is inherited.

But spiritual gifts are only given to believers by the Holy Spirit and they are given to edify, or build up the body of believers, the church. And a woman with a spiritual gift that she uses for the glory of God is a woman who changes the world around her. For most believers, our spiritual gifts and talents work together to bring glory and honor to our Lord. But I know of many women who claim no particular talent, but are the most spiritually gifted people I know. Not everyone can be a preacher or teacher, doctor, nurse, or great administrator; but with prayer and a tender heart, ALL believers can be believers who show mercy in every situation.

Simply put, mercy is not saying the obvious; mercy knows when to keep silent; mercy knows when to "do" and not say; mercy knows when a hug, a hand warmly clasped, a kiss on the cheek, a look, a softly spoken word is all that is needed to say, "I am so sorry. I love you. I understand. How can I help?"

If you are a Christian, mercy is there. It may be sitting just below the surface, waiting to be nourished and cultivated, but it is there because you see, mercy identifies us with Christ. Mercy "helps" to explain grace. Mercy defines love as well as any one thing can define love.

Do you have the spiritual gift of mercy? Yes Ma'am you do. How do I develop it? You can't. The Holy Spirit gave it and He will develop it as we listen to His voice; as we follow His leadership; as we earnestly pray to be a woman who shows more mercy.

Here is the mercy test; how should mercy respond in each situation?

1. Your friend's husband looses his job and they have 3 children, school is starting, no income.
No mercy responds with; "What are y'all going to do? How will you pay your bills? Glad I'm not in your shoes. What did he do to loose his job?"

Mercy responds:

2. A lady in your Bible Study class just found out she has cancer.
No mercy responds with;  Avoiding her. (Or) Asking her, "Are you still smoking?"

Mercy responds:

3. Your friend's son was arrested for a DUI;
No mercy responds: "I told you he was running with the wrong crowd."
"I knew this would happen when you turned him loose with his own car and those friends."

Mercy responds:

You see ladies, mercy doesn't say the obvious thing in any and every situation. Mercy doesn't judge. Mercy doesn't seek revenge. Mercy doesn't shame or hurt someones self esteem or their feelings. Mercy doesn't take advantage of someone when she is hurting. Mercy isn't hateful, sarcastic........mean.

Do you want mercy? Give it. Mercy is one of those spiritual gifts and disciplines that the more we give mercy, the more mercy we receive.

So today ladies, let's look for opportunities to show a little mercy please.

Love you. Have a great day.
Penny

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why Wait?

I don't like to wait, do you? Whether it is in a doctor's office, the line at Wal Mart, or an answer to prayer, waiting is not my strongest point. I inwardly fume (and sometimes outwardly) as I stand behind someone in the check out line as she balances her checkbook. And David and I became very upset as we were waiting for our dinner at a restaurant and saw a couple who were seated after us, get their meal before us; can you imagine, the very idea......we were here first.

Is it "the times we live in" with fast food and gadgets for everything, or are we just so caught up in wanting it now, that we have to have it now and we refuse to wait?

Maybe you're like me and there are things that you've been praying for, for a long, long time. You may even be discouraged and have given up, thinking, "what's the use, if God hasn't answered by now, maybe He won't answer at all."

Waiting isn't a new thing. Sarah waited over 75 years. Rebekkah waited 20. Rachael waited, Hannah did too, and Elizabeth knew what it meant to wait on God. And you may waiting. And you may have heard it said many times from well meaning friends, family, pastors and teachers; "Don't stop, don't give up, keep praying, keep believing, keep waiting, God will answer." And I believe He will. I know He will because He has promised. And He keeps His promises.

2 Peter 3:8; "But beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day."

Of all the important things we need to remember, Peter tells us to remember this one thing; one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as one day. I've read that verse many times, but today it was as if I read it for the first time and I realized with a new awareness:
God, the Creator of the universe, does not run this world on my timetable. What seems like a long, long time to me, is not a long time at all to God. So why does He make us wait for something we need, something we are desperately seeking?

To deepen my faith, to enlarge my world and expectations, to teach me to trust, to teach me the truth of Luke 1:37;
"For with God nothing is impossible."

While you are waiting, praise Him.
While you are waiting, trust Him.
While you are waiting, forget about time and remember His promise:

1 Peter 3:9; "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is patient toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."

Penny

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

It Matters What We Wear

I grew up in a time when kids didn't have a lot of "say-so" about what we wore. Almost everything I wore was hand made, but, many of my friends from school wore clothes their Mom made for them, too, and clothes weren't the issue then like they are today. Yes, they were important, and yes, the girls enjoyed shopping, buying and wearing them, but our Mom was the final authority on what we wore, and she set the example. I have a friend whose Mom was such a skillful seamstress that I, nor anyone else knew but that her clothes came from one of the many retail stores that were prevalent in our town back in the 60's and 70's. Then came the mini-skirt and my great act of rebellion against my Mom's authority was that as soon as I got out of sight of our house, walking to the school bus, I rolled my skirt up at the waist band!! It wasn't a mini by any means, but it was shorter than my Mom would have allowed me to wear it!! Every generation is the same; there is always that "daring" that need to be provocative, to catch the eye of a man and cause him to take a second look. A short skirt, a revealing shirt, a way of presenting ourselves that cries out, "look at me."

Clothes are a big deal for women. Most of us actually love clothes and we love to shop. We feel good when we wear something new, and clothes get us noticed more than our hair, make-up or even jewelry. The Bible tells us in Genesis that clothes are important and God made the first garments for our first parents Adam and Eve. The Bible also tells us that Sarah, Rebekah, Lydia, the woman in Proverbs 31 and others had beautiful clothing. And I believe God has placed within the heart of women a desire to look good. But this post is not about that; this is not a post for women who are unbelievers; this post is not about what we wear to the beach, mowing the yard, or just hanging out at home. This post is about what is appropriate for Christian women to wear to church. Because you see, I believe with deep conviction that when we dress appropriately for church, it will be a natural thing to dress appropriately when we go to Kroger, when we go to our kids soccer game, when we have friends over, when we're at home and when we're on vacation, even at the beach.

Something else I believe with strong conviction is that many women who are new believers simply haven't been taught about modesty and dressing appropriately when they go to church. That's where Titus 2 women come in and lovingly, patiently and with grace mentor her in modesty, discretion, etc.; not ridicule her behind her back or be un-Christ like in what we say, but in a spirit of grace and mercy and by example teach that new believer what is appropriate. But I also believe that if a woman is a Christian, she will feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit and she will not dress inappropriately for long. She will want to please her Heavenly Father.

So let's start with the basics and it doesn't get any more basic than this; my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God lives within me. I take Him with me everywhere I go and I dress Him every day. Because you see, as Christ lives out His life through me, it means His influence and life are represented by how I dress, by how I present myself. What people see of me, they see of Christ.

It seems that this summer, more than any other, I have heard concerns about the suggestive clothing that women are wearing to church, even women's ministry leaders. And though I am writing this at the risk of being misunderstood and labeled as "old fashioned" and  "out of touch", I still feel it must be said. I cannot control what anyone else may do or wear but me, and there have been times when I, too, have worn something that was inappropriate, but my prayer is that you will read this with an open mind and heart and allow the Holy Spirit to guide your thinking. And as always, I love to hear your responses to the blog. You are always welcome here to express your feelings and concerns, even if they differ from mine.

I believe going to church is a special privilege, not to be taken for granted, and the focal point of our week.. Church is the one place that Christians should be able to gather and not have to worry about the influences of the world, especially in the way women dress. Here are a list of questions that will determine if you are appropriately dressed for church. I'm sure there are others, but this gets us started.

1. Does what I have on say, "I am going to church"? I enjoy dressing for church and as Dr. Charles Stanley often reminds us, "do your best, look your best, be your best." How we dress when we go to church conveys to others how we feel about the house of worship. How we dress for church shows our level of respect for our church, our pastor, our teacher, friends, co-worshippers, but more importantly, ourselves.

2. Before you leave the house ask your husband: Are you comfortable with what I am wearing? Does this draw attention to areas of my body that might cause a man to lust? When husbands love their wives as Christ loves the church, he will not want her (or his daughters) to be the object of other men's comments or lust.

3. Can I bend over in what I am wearing to pick something up without revealing my backside or my front, or.....go to the altar in prayer, on my knees and get up gracefully without displaying anything inappropriately?

4. Is strapless appropriate? If your answer is yes, why?

5. Is a plunging neckline conducive with worshipping in the Spirit?

There is a class, dignity, self-respect, submission to the Holy Spirit that is evident in a woman when she allows God to dress her for church. And that brings me to this question:

6. Why? Why wear to church those things that draw attention away from our face, away from our identity with Christ, away from intimacy with a Holy God Who deserves our best? The answer may not be what we want to hear, because many times the answer is......I like the attention of men; it feeds my ego; I am more concerned with the attention I get than I am in truly worshipping a Holy God. In other words, "It's all about me."

Be brave dear sister in Christ and ask Him if what you are wearing is acceptable to Him, appropriate for His house, and something He is proud of. Trust me, if you ask Him, He will tell you.

Our enemy Satan works tirelessly to place "stumbling blocks" in the path of unbelievers, as well as immature believers. As unbelievers gather in our sanctuaries this Sunday, will they be distracted by how we are dressed and miss the message of the Word? I hope not. God is so good, He is so faithful, He deserves our best. What you wear to church reveals your level of spiritual maturity and submission to the Spirit.

Please check out Life Way women's newest blog post; Teaching Modesty to our Kids. Well worth the time to read it. One more question and I will put this to rest:

7. If you are wearing strapless, short, and sheer, what will your daughter wear? What will she think is appropriate to wear to church? What one generation tolerates, the next generation embraces. We are daughters of the King. We represent His kingdom. We are called to "come out from among them and be ye separate." (2 Corinthians 6:17. Please read this verse)

Ladies we are role models, the younger women in our churches will take their cue on what to wear from us. Be appropriate; be modest; dress for God and your husband.

I am finished and climbing down from my soap box. We may discuss "booty shorts" in another blog. Come on girls, really? Do you think they are appropriate for a Christian lady...especially at church?

Love you!

Penny

Friday, May 29, 2015

Do You Believe in Prayer?

Do you believe in prayer?? I recently read about a church that had a "prayer chain" ministry set up through their email, facebook, and text for their church members who had a need for prayer. And what I thought was so great is that when a prayer need goes out, the person in charge of the "prayer chain" always signs it, "Prayer Works!!"

I believe prayer works and I believe in the power of prayer. Whether it be a group of people, all agreeing in prayer (read an earlier post, Agreeing Together in Prayer) or one desperate person, totally humbled and on her knees before God, I believe in the power of prayer. But I also believe there is a difference in believing in the power of prayer and knowing the power of prayer. Most people, whether they are Christians or not, will say they believe in prayer. But only a person who has experienced the power of prayer, knows the power of prayer. And ladies, when we know the power of prayer, we aren't content to just believe it.

I learned many years ago that if I want to know the power of prayer and pray in a more powerful way, then I must do four things;
1. Pray scripture based prayers.
2. Pray in God's will.
3. Pray in submission to my Father.
4. No matter the answer, agree with God.

You may be a new believer and wonder, "And just how do I do that?" Or maybe you've never known there was any other way of praying than those safe, simple prayers at bedtime or mealtime. And oh what you've been missing!!

Hope you have your prayer journal (that's in another post, too) and pen ready; here we go:
Pray scripture based prayers.
There is supernatural power in praying God's word back to Him, but in order to do that, you must be a student of the Word; can't do it any other way. I love to pray Colossians 1: 9-14 for my family. I call each family member by name, (mine, too) and I read each verse and insert a family member's name. Example;
v9; "Lord, I pray that "David" will be filled with the knowledge of Your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding", then I go through the other verses inserting his name and I do that for all 15 of us. It takes time to pray scripture, but the rewards are worth it. Facing a difficult conversation? Pray Psalm 141:3; "Lord, set a watch before my mouth, and keep the door of my lips." Afraid? Pray Psalm 27:1;
"Lord, You are the Strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid." Use your Bible concordance or get a good Bible program for your computer and when you have a need, look up or type in that word and every scripture you need will pop up in front of your eyes. Ladies I'm telling you, praying the Word is supernatural power!!

Pray in God's will.
All of us have experienced that feeling; Lord, what am I supposed to do?
1 John 5:14, 15; "This is the confidence we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if (since) we know He hears us, whatever we ask we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him."
We get a "yes" each time we pray in His will. But how do we know His will? We ask Him.
"Father, should I take this job? I want to do Your will, and I know that You will give me whatever "petitions" I ask in Your will. What do You want me to do?" And then.......sit quietly. If an answer doesn't come immediately, stay in a "quiet" state of mind before Him, even as you go about your busy life........ listening. I have discovered that noise and "stuff" can drown out His voice. (Psalm 46:10; Be still and know that I Am God.) And I must confess, there have been times I have avoided the quiet and actually enhanced the noise because I didn't want to hear Him. Elijah learned the power of God's still, small voice (1 Kings 19: 12,13) and knowing His will is in the listening. God does not want His will to remain a mystery; He loves us too much for that and He loves us so much that He wants us to naturally come to Him as a child naturally comes to his mother. Answered prayer builds our faith and He is all about building our faith. Seek His will, then pray with confidence. Learn to listen for I have learned that He speaks, just after the stillness.

Pray in submission to the Father.
Rebellion closes down communication. Rebellion erects a wall between me and God. Before we pray it is important to confess any known sin that might be standing in the way to answered prayer. When sin is forgiven, submission comes easily. When submission comes, our heart is soft and pliable in the Father's hand and He can form it any way He chooses. (Romans 9:20,21) And He always chooses what is best.

No matter the answer, agree with God.
There it is in a nutshell; powerful praying comes when we say, "Lord, whatever you choose, You are right. I agree with You." And what, dear sister, do you think God will do when we agree with Him? He will allow us to experience an intimacy with Him that surpasses human thinking and understanding, because you see, to agree with God in prayer expresses an abandoned faith and trust that defies human reasoning and pleases Him in a way that nothing else can. (Hebrews 11:6). As you see God working in your life and the lives of those you love, say those words: "Lord, I agree with You and what You are doing in my life." It changes everything, and gives us life from a spiritual perspective. No matter the answer, agree with God.

When our heart is focused on praying His Word, when our heart is praying for His will in our lives and in the lives of those we love, when our heart is in submission and we agree with whatever answer He provides, we have stepped into that unseen realm of communion with the Creator of the universe, our Creator. And that, my friend, is supernatural prayer. It is a place where absolutely nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1:37) It is the place where we know the power of prayer because we have experienced it.

I'd love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions.

Have a blest day and listen for the stillness.

Penny

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!

Penny