DEVOTIONALS
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Seasons of Hope

By Lori Schaffer

As summer is drawing to an end and fall is on the horizon, the different seasons have been on my mind.   “Winter, spring, summer and fall, the Lord your God made them all.”  I am sure we have all heard this saying.  I can find something I truly love about each of these God given seasons.  I love the crisp, cold winter air and the way the pine trees glisten after a fresh snowfall.  Spring is a time of beauty as new life emerges.  Trees bloom a majesty of pink and white petals, daffodils and tulips cast an array of magnificent color.  Summer brings warmth and sun, along with spectacular thunder and lightning storms that light up the night sky.  A kaleidoscope of color envelops fall.  Leaves turn to brilliant shades of red, orange and gold as the fresh autumn air ushers in.  

Just as we experience the change of the physical seasons, we will experience different seasons in our life and our spiritual walk.  I will use the physical seasons to illustrate what your spiritual season may look like.   In the winter season you may experience a cold, damp, dark, lonely place.   You may be facing a trial, or experiencing a loss.  You may feel like you just want to climb under the covers and never come out, like a bear who hibernates for the winter.  The season of spring may bring you great joy.  You may experience a new life.  Perhaps  the birth of a child or grandchild; a joyous, life changing event.   Your faith may be strong and your confidence in the Lord is growing.  The summer season may be a time to cultivate, to remove the weeds from your life that sprout up.  The season may seem long, hot, never ending.  Summer is a time for harvest, a time to be productive. You may feel overworked, or stretched too thin.  Finally, the season of fall may bring you great loss and heartache.  You may be facing an illness,  grief over the loss of a loved one, and an uncertainty of what the future holds.  You may feel as if you have nothing left to give.  Just as the trees have lost all their leaves,  the beautiful color that once was is now no more.  You may feel like you have lost everything.  But be assured, new life will bloom again, and a new season of hope is just around the corner. No matter what season we are facing, there is always hope for tomorrow.  

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is a magnificent writing by King Solomon, it states, 

“There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven.  A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.  A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build up.  A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.  A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones.  A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.  A time to search and a time to give up as lost, a time to keep and a time to throw away.  A time to tear apart and a time to sew together.  A time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate.  A time for war and a time for peace.”

 

I love this poem.  It really puts life into perspective.  All things are appointed by God.  Every event under heaven has an appointed time.  Every little thing matters.  It is all part of the Master’s grand plan.   We will NEVER be in a season of pure bliss forever.  Unfortunately, we will all suffer losses, heartache, and trials.  Sometimes, and dare I say most times, we have no control over the season of life we are in.  In a shear instant, things can change from good to bad, happy to sad.  However, what we can control is how we act and respond to adversity, in the season we are in.  We have full control over our perspective and how we see and view things.  We have a choice to make.  Are we going to continue to live a fulfilled life or are we going to live in frustration?   Are we going to seek God, seek His will, pray about what is troubling us and give it to Him daily?  Or, are we going to allow anger, bitterness, and resentment to build up in us?  We all have something to be thankful for.  If you are in a season of despair, think about what you can be thankful for rather than dwelling on what is going wrong at the moment.  

 

The thing that differs between the physical seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall, and the seasons we experience in our spiritual life is time.   Time can be measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years.  We know without a doubt that the physical seasons will change and we can predict when.  However, our spiritual seasons are not confined by duration.  Our idea of time is far different from God’s.   Sometimes what we experience may last for only a short period of time.  Other times it lasts far longer than we like or anticipate.   

 

If I sit and reflect back on my life, I can see clearly the many seasons I have faced in my walk with Christ.  I can recall the joy of being newly married.   The heartache I faced as my marriage came very close to ending.  That was a very trying season in my life, crying out to God to save my marriage, and He did! We just celebrated 30 years of marriage.  The joy that came from the birth of my two children, followed by the season of being an exhausted mother and wife.  Most recently I have endured loss and great heartache.  I have been crying out to God daily, multiple times a day to move me out of this season I’m in.  One morning while praying, I felt God speak to me.  I remember vividly because  it was the first day of spring.  As I begged Him to move me into a new season, God said, “I have already moved you out of that season, you are the one who is still stuck.”  Ouch!  Because my prayers hadn’t been answered yet, the way I am hoping for, I felt like I couldn’t move forward.  Like a big, dark cloud is hovering over my head.  Isaiah 43:2-3 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;  and through the rivers they will not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flames burn you.  For I am the Lord your God.”  I find it helpful to pick a verse of scripture, or something positive to meditate on daily.  Pastor Steven Furtick, from Elevation Church, has this saying, which he turned into a song.   “God is in it with me, He is working through me, fighting for me, God is not against me.”  I like to use these powerful words to help keep my mind centered on Christ.   

 

We are not alone.  If you are struggling right now in the season you are in, I encourage you to choose God.  Choose to trust Him, even if you can’t see a way out.  There is always a purpose for the things we go through and endure.  God will use whatever you are going through to strengthen and grow your faith and trust in Him, if you cry out to Him.  There is also a danger we face in these seasons.  The enemy wants more than anything for you to become angry and to blame God.  The devil will speak negative thoughts to your mind, trying to get you to blame God for your pain or misfortune.  Recognize those thoughts for what they are, capture them, and replace them with positive words from God.  Meditate on His word and His promises.  Try to celebrate and still find joy in the season you are in. 

 

Just as the physical seasons have a purpose, our spiritual seasons we face have a purpose.  Give it over to God, every day, every hour, and pray without ceasing.  Lay it at His feet.  If God has not yet moved you out of the season you are in, perhaps He still has work to do.  While I still can’t see the way out of a situation I am facing, I know God can.  When I thought I finally had the answer to the prayer I have been praying, I was elated.  Then, nothing.  I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me.  Satan got back in my head again.  I became angry and upset, how could God do this to me?  It was like a carrot was dangled in front of me.  Then I had this thought.  Perhaps, it’s not my life that God is trying to work in, but rather, He is using me to further His purpose.  God showed me that we can only see the scribble on the page, but He can see the completed picture.   It’s our job to just remain faithful through every season we face.  We are not alone.  Isaiah 41:10 says, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

 

Think about the season of life you are in right now.  Has it lasted longer than you would like?  Are you angry with God for the situation you are in?  Have you talked to Him and prayed about it?  Can you think of something that you are thankful for right now and dwell on that?   If you are in a season of celebration, celebrate, but make sure not to forget the one who paints the picture.  Learn to be content with only seeing the scribble on the page.  God is the master artist and he knows what the completed canvas will look like. All we need to do is to trust in Him, no matter what the situation is that we face. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”  I will leave you with this final thought.  No matter what season you are in right now, it is always a season for you to put your hope and trust in the Lord. 

 

Be blessed today!

God Rewards the Faithful

A closer look at Inheritance, Treasure and Stewardship

God laid it on my heart to write about a few topics, together, in one devotion.  I am going to discuss inheritance, treasure, and stewardship, and how the three are closely tied together.  Please know, all of my writings come from personal experience, revelation, and things that God is working on in my own personal life, and boy has he been working. If we are faithful to God, the rewards he will bestow on us are immeasurable.  

The last three years of my life have been difficult and stressful to say the least.  On January 4, 2020, my uncle passed away suddenly, without warning.  I found myself having to make the decision to remove him from life support that evening.  My uncle was the closest thing I had to a father growing up.  He walked me down the aisle on my wedding day, and I had celebrated every holiday with him since I was pretty much born.  His death left a huge hole in my heart and an even bigger mess in my lap.  My uncle was a very wealthy man.  He never married or had children.   I found myself taking the lead role in settling his massive estate.  You see, my uncle was a millionaire, living in an extravagant home with an indoor pool and an elevator,  with a million dollar view, and more carnival glass and antiques than any single person should ever own.  It was utterly overwhelming.  Plus, this was right when Covid first hit, halting everything.  It ended up taking 5 separate auctions, many of which were postponed and rescheduled due to Covid, to liquidate all of his possessions.  I think what hit me the hardest through this journey was the fact that he spent a lifetime accumulating all these priceless treasures, but in a blink of an eye, he was gone, and all of his material things seemed worthless.  Near the end of his life, he became bitter, pushing away those that loved him the most, isolating himself.  I believe he was just consumed by his money and possessions.  He stored up so many treasures on earth, but were there any treasures in heaven?   

Now, fast forward to September 7, 2022, where I find myself in the same boat once again.  This time,  my mom passed away, and now I am left to settle yet another estate.  It was obvious that God had been preparing me for this.  I knew exactly what needed to be done, and in a matter of no time, the auction was scheduled and the house was sold.  There were some major hiccups along the way, but I’ll save that for another time.  Once again, I found myself overwhelmed with the possessions my mother had accumulated.  She was the original queen of QVC.  I uncovered so many things I had never even seen before, packed away in closets.  Things, so many things.  It really hit me hard.  What is the purpose of all these material things?  As my mom laid on her deathbed, I can assure you she wasn’t thinking about her possessions.  We all will leave this world, the same as we entered, with nothing.  All that we have remains behind for others to sift and sort through.   There are some treasured items that we just can’t part with.  Most have no monetary value,  but rather an emotional attachment that we just can’t let go of.  Many other items end up discarded and tossed in the trash, without even a second thought.  If you have ever had to sort through a loved one’s possessions, you know the magnitude of just how overwhelming it can be. 

Now, let’s talk about inheritance. The word inheritance can be defined as the acquisition of a possession, condition, or trait from past generations.  When you hear the word inheritance, what do you think of?  Most people’s immediate response would be “money”.   People dream of a long lost relative passing away and leaving them an inheritance.  Did you know the word inheritance can be found in 200 scriptures throughout the bible?  The bible has a very different meaning for the word inheritance.  1 Peter 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”  Our inheritance in Christ is imperishable, it will endure forever.  It is reserved for us in heaven.  It is unfading.  Everything on earth will eventually fade away and die.  Flowers will wither, life will decay.  Death is imminent.  Our inheritance is undefiled; it cannot be made impure by sin.   Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”  I love this verse!  This means on the very day, the very second you believed and accepted Christ into your heart, you were marked with a seal. You received the Holy Spirit, as a deposit by God, that he intends to take you home with him one day.  Your inheritance is secure. This inheritance into the kingdom of God is worth more than anything that money could ever buy.   

The world tells us having wealth, accumulating money, and possessions is the most important thing.  The more money you have, the greater your value. That the more you accumulate, the happier you will be.  Many fall into the trap of believing this lie.  Money can become all consuming.  We have all heard the saying, “money cannot buy happiness”, and it is so true.   1 Timothy 6:9-11 states, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.”  

 I want you to think about your personal life.  Is money consuming you?  Maybe you always feel you never have enough, always needing more.  After having to clean out two houses filled to overflowing with possessions, it has caused me to take a good look at my own home, and all the things we have  accumulated over 30 years.  Things I had to have.  Things I spent  a lot of money on at one point.  Remember the Longaberger basket craze.  Yup, I had to have all those expensive dust collectors.  I don’t even like them anymore and have donated most to the church yard sale.  My closets are overflowing with clothing, most of which I don’t even wear.   Think about it.  We waste so much money on things we think will satisfy us.  What happens once you get the thing you were after?  I’m sure you know the answer.  There’s always something else to take its place.  Our attention is turned to the next thing, the next big purchase.  It never ends. It’s a vicious cycle. I have made so many purchases which were just frivolous.  Don’t misunderstand me, money is not a bad thing.  However, it’s the importance we place on it that can get us into trouble.  Is it worldly or heavenly?  Are we storing up treasure on earth or treasures in heaven?  Matthew 6:20-21 says, “ But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;  for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.  I 100% want my treasure to be stored up in heaven.  Material possessions will never satisfy.  My new motto is to “simplify” and really pray and think about my purchases before buying.    True fulfillment and  satisfaction can only be found in our relationship with Christ.    

How can we break this cycle of always striving for more, wanting more?  Here’s where stewardship comes in.  Do you understand that everything you have has been given to you by God, and nothing that you have is truly yours?  Now,  read that again and let it sink in.   Everything I am and all that I possess belong to the Lord.  James 1:17 says, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  How are you using the gifts God has given you?  Are you being a good steward or are you wasteful?  Are you using His gifts to help grow His kingdom?  Are you tithing?  Tithing means to give the first 10% of everything to the Lord.  Are you giving him your best, or is he getting what’s left over after you pay all your bills?  Is there even anything left over to give to God?  Tithing is a hard concept for people to understand.  It is biblical, and God wants you to put Him to the test.  Malachi 3:10-12 says, “Bring the full tithe to the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.  I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts.  Then all the nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of Hosts.”   God is saying test him! Take this step of obedience and see what He can do.  If you say you love God and you trust Him, but you aren’t tithing, then you really don’t trust Him.  Money can be a stronghold.  But when you change your mindset, material things lose their hold on you.  Have you prayed about the things you desire?   Ask God to help you be a good steward of all that He has given you.   2 Corinthians 9:6-8 says, “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.”  I want to be both generous and cheerful when I give to God. 

 I have learned so much over the past 3 years.  God has been working and moving in my life in a mighty way.  The biggest thing I learned is to trust in God and that he will reward the faithful.  Those aren’t empty words on a page.  I screamed and cried out to the Lord, begging Him to help me.   I remember feeling hurt and angry at all the work I had to do to settle my uncle’s estate. It didn’t feel fair.  I was exhausted and overwhelmed. In hindsight, these events led up to where I am now. God really shaped and refined me. I learned to fully trust and surrender to him. Not just a small part of me, but all of me. I found my treasure, and my eternal inheritance is secure, the only inheritance that truly matters. 

You see, my uncle did leave me an inheritance, but one I wouldn’t receive until after my mother passed away. Back then, I didn’t know my mom’s time on this earth was drawing near.  My prayer now is for God to use this gift to further his kingdom, because it’s all His anyway.  And yes, the devil tried to whisper in my ear, “that’s a lot of money to give away, you should keep it for yourself.”   To which I replied, “get away from me!”  There is no way that I would not give tithe to God after all he has done for me.  I want to be a good steward of God’s gift.  Storing up treasures in heaven and the eternal inheritance that is waiting for me is worth far more than anything I could spend that money on. 

 Don’t get me wrong, I still have dreams and desires. My closest friends know my husband and I have talked for  many years about retiring one day and having a house at the beach. Is it a lofty dream?  Maybe, but God is a big God who can answer big prayers.  I pray and  ask God for his will, and in his  perfect timing to provide the exact place for us to retire to.  I’m not sure what our future holds, but whatever it is, I’m trusting and believing in God to provide for it.  Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.”

Reflection:

Do you feel secure in your eternal inheritance?  If not, have you asked Jesus into your heart?   If you haven’t, you can do it right now.   A simple heartfelt prayer is all it takes, and in that moment you will be marked with a seal, guaranteeing your inheritance of eternity in heaven.   Are you overwhelmed with the amount of possessions you own?  Is there a way to simplify?   Spend some time decluttering your home.  Donate unused items to charity.  Give unwanted items away to someone in need.  Be conscious of the items you purchase and bring into your home.  Is it a true need, or just another want?  Are you storing up treasures in heaven?  Are you being a good steward with the gifts God has given you?  Are you tithing?  

Application:

God challenges you to put Him to the test.   See for yourself  the blessings that He will pour into your life when you give Him the first 10%.   Pastor Rick Collins, founding Pastor here at BMCC always said, “ God will make the remaining 90% that you have go further and do more than if you kept it all for yourself.”  I truly believe this and have experienced it firsthand.   It’s a matter of trust and obedience.  Do you trust Him?  

Who Am I?  

By Lori Schaffer

 

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Who am I?”  I have asked myself this question many times over the last 30 years.  Sadly, I have been answering it wrong the entire time.  My answers to that question would have included things like, I’m a wife, a stay at home mom,  a hard worker, and  successful in my career.   What I have come to learn is that the things you do, do not define YOU.  Read that statement again and let it sink in.  Your identity is not found in the role you play.  Here’s why.  In 10, 20, or 30 years from now, you may no longer be working in the same profession, you may find yourself retired,  your children will be grown and off living their own lives, or you may find yourself living alone.  Our circumstances will most likely be very different.  Our identity is not found in the things we do, but rather in the God we serve. 

 

In order to know who YOU are, you first need to discover who HE is.  Who is God?  God is eternal.  We have a hard time wrapping our minds around the idea of eternity.  Eternity is what sets God apart and above everything else.  There is no beginning or end with God.  God is unchanging.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  God fills us.  The gap between sin and death has been bridged.  Jesus came to die for our sins. God is loving.  He IS love.  His love for us is unconditional.  God is faithful and He is good.  God is patient, merciful, and gracious.  God extends his grace freely to us.  Grace is one of those words that I bet when asked, most Chritians wouldn’t be able to clearly define.   Grace is God’s undeserved favor.  We don’t deserve it, but God lavishes his grace on us.  God is Holy.  Revelation 4:8 says, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”  God is omnipotent, meaning all powerful, God is omniscient, all knowing, and God is omnipresent, all present.  God is sovereign.  He is in control of everything and can do as He pleases, He is God.  God is just and God is fair.   Here’s a good one, God’s plans never change.  Think how often you change your mind about something or change plans you have made.  God doesn’t do that, he sticks to His original plan.   This list could continue on and on.  The only way you are truly going to experience for yourself who God is, is by reading His word.  Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  As you dig into God’s word, He will begin to speak to you.  You will never fully know who you are unless you know who God is.  As you learn more and more about God and who he is,  you will discover who He created YOU to be.  

 

 Who you are and what you were created for go hand in hand.  The truth of God’s word reveals your identity and purpose.  Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  In addition Jeremiah 29:11 says, “ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  God knew you before he even created you and He has big plans for you.  His plans for your life are good.  Here’s the burning  question though, are you allowing God to work His plan in your life, or have you taken the reins, trying to work your own plan?  Or perhaps you have allowed the enemy’s lies to take over.  For a long time, I bought into the lie that God didn’t REALLY care about me.  There is a whole world out there, how can he really care about me? I believed that my prayers and requests were insignificant to God,  so why bother even asking. Lies, lies, don’t fall for the devil’s lies!  We need to include God in every detail of our lives.   He cares about us.  No matter how big or small the need, take it to God. Philippians 4:6 says, “ Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Most recently, I almost allowed the enemy’s lies to get me again.  I have been praying every day for God to handle a situation, to move a mountain in my life.  The lie that God is tired of hearing me beg,  I sound like a broken record,  I should just stop asking; entered my thoughts.  Then I read the above scripture.  God wants to hear my prayers.  The word supplication means to beg earnestly.   God will never grow tired of our prayers.  By praying and begging, we are being obedient to God.   Life is so much better when we do things God’s way. 

 

Once you know who God is, you can discover who he created you to be.  God has a purpose for your life.    If you have never read the book, “A Purpose Driven Life”, by Rick Warren, I encourage you to do so.  I am just about finished with it.  When I was cleaning out my mom’s house after she passed, I found this book, which I had given her many, many, years ago.  There was a note inside the cover, dated May 9, 2004,  that I wrote to her.  It read, “Dear Mom,  I am so happy that you accepted Jesus into your heart.  I pray that the words of this book find their way into your heart, and not the junk drawer.”   Well, I’m pretty sure the book did end up in the junk drawer, because I could tell it was never opened.  So, I took my words to heart and began reading it for myself and discovering my God given purpose.  

 

The bible has a lot to say about who you are.  I encourage you to open up the book of Ephesians and read the first 3 chapters.  These chapters will show you how much God loves you and who you are in Him.   The bible is filled with so many scriptures about who you are in Christ.   I am going to list several scriptures that reveal the truth about who you are and how God wants you to live your life.   

 

  • I am alive in Christ  ~ Ephesians 2:15
  • I am complete in Him who is the head over all rule and authority – of every angelic and earthly power  ~ Colossians 2:10
  • I am holy and without blame before Him in love ~ Ephesians 1:4
  • I have the mind of Christ ~1 Corinthians 2:16
  • I have the peace of God that surpasses all understanding ~ Philippians 4:7
  • I am called to live a holy life by the grace  of God and to declare His praise in the world ~Psalm 66:8
  • I am saved by God’s grace, raised up with Christ and seated with Him in heavenly places ~Ephesians 2:5-6
  • I am greatly loved by God ~ John 3:16
  • I am an ambassador for Christ ~ 2 Corinthians 5:20
  • I am chosen by God, forgiven and justified through Christ ~ Colossians 3:12 & Romans 8:33
  • I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works that He prepared for me to do ~ Ephesians 2:10
  • I have everything I need to live a godly life and am equipped to live in His divine nature ~ 2 Peter 1:3-4
  • I am chosen by God who called me out of the darkness of sin and into the light and life of Christ so I can proclaim the excellence and greatness of who He is ~ 1 Peter 2:9
  • I am the righteousness of God – I have right standing with Him – in Jesus Christ ~  2 Corinthians 5:21
  • I am redeemed – forgiven of all my sins and made clean – through the blood of Christ ~ Ephesians 1:7
  • I press on each day to fulfill God’s plan for my life because I live to please Him ~ Philippians 3:14
  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me ~ Philippians 4:13

 

This list is only a snapshot of who you are in Christ.  There are so many more verses, too many to list.  It’s truly amazing when you begin to understand who God is and what He created you for.  Your entire outlook on life, your purpose, your view of each day will change.  Fear will lose its hold on you because you will be living in a new found freedom in Christ.  Worries and life’s problems will no longer consume you, because you will learn to give those worries over to God.  You will begin to live your days “on purpose”,  seeking ways in which you can bless others.  I just read this phrase in the book, A Purpose Driven Life, “Even if you only bring 1 person to Christ in your lifetime, you have fulfilled your calling and purpose in this life.”  

 

I encourage you to dig deep into God’s word.  Discover for yourself who God is and who he has called you to be.  Read the above “I am” statements daily.  Begin seeing yourself the way God sees you.  You are loved, chosen, forgiven, redeemed,  and adopted.  God does not see your flaws,  He only sees who he created you to be.  Your identity is not found in the job title you hold or the role you play.  Those things will constantly change throughout your life.   Your identity needs to be rooted  in Christ, and that identity will never change.  Hallelujah! 

Filter Out Fear &  Funnel In Faith

By: Lori Schaffer

We live in a world filled with fear. Bad things happen every day.  You can’t even turn on the news without being bombarded by all the awful things that are surrounding us in our world today.  We just survived a global pandemic which resulted in worldwide fear and chaos.  Just think about the fear that COVID created.  Natural disasters like earthquakes and floods seem to be commonplace nowadays.  Political and racial strife is at an all time high.  Those are just a few examples of fearful circumstances that inundate us.  Now, think about all the instances in your personal life that may bring you fear: sickness, loss, pain, fear of losing a job, not making enough money to make ends meet, fear of being alone, fear for your children’s future, the list is endless.  We all have our own situations and circumstances that may cause us fear.  Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  God commands us to “fear not”.  He will carry us through, if we trust in Him.  The only way you can overcome fear is by strengthening your faith.

 

 Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines fear as: an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger, anxious concern, profound reverence and awe especially toward God, or reason for alarm.  I believe our fear of anticipating something bad happening can sometimes be far worse than if it actually really did happen.  Read that statement again, and let it sink in. Fear is a very real emotion that we experience.  If we are honest with ourselves, there probably isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t experience the emotion of fear.  I believe “fear” is one of the devil’s greatest weapons used to attack us, and more importantly, our faith.  Satan plants that seed of fear in our minds, and before we know it, we are dwelling on it, feeding it, causing it to grow. Fear is like an all consuming fire.  When we experience the emotion of fear, it’s important that we recognize it right away, and immediately redirect our thoughts.  If a fearful thought is running rampant in your mind, replace it with God’s word.  There is no better way to attack the enemy than with the Word of God.  Pull out a scripture verse and recite it, over and over again, until you have replaced your fear with a greater faith. You may need to do this quite often until you overcome your fear. Don’t expect to just say it one time and for the enemy to flee.  The devil is persistent, which means you need to be that much more persistent in fighting him off.  James 4:7 says, “Submit therefore to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

God does not want you to be living in fear.  Many people live their life in fear, based on past experiences they may have had.  Fear will steal your joy.  Perhaps you are facing an illness, dealing with loss, divorce, fearful of how you are going to pay this month’s rent; whatever it is that makes you fearful, recognize it, and give it over to the Lord.  You may need to do this multiple times a day, every day!  It takes courage to persevere.  Joyce Meyer said it best, “Courage fueled by faith is not the absence of fear, but the ability to withstand it.”  1 Peter 5:7 says, “ Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you.”   God cares about YOU!  

A direct result of fear is anxiety.  Many people survive their days by taking anxiety medications to calm them.  I was one of those people.  I didn’t even know that what I was experiencing was anxiety.  I thought I was having an issue with my heart.  I felt like I was walking around with a brick on my chest, having trouble breathing. Medication  controlled  my anxiety for nearly 3 years.  There were times when I was able to stop taking the meds, but as soon as I became fearful and stressed, my anxiety would flare right back up.  I am happy to say that I am now completely free of the need for any medication.  My anxiety, brought on by fear, has been overcome by strengthening my faith. Now, I am by no means telling anyone to stop taking their medication.  I am just using myself as an example of how overcoming fear can also overcome some of the health issues that it may cause.  

I titled this writing, “Filter out Fear and Funnel in Faith.”  Think about what a filter does.  I’ll use the example of a coffee filter.  Most of us love a nice hot cup of coffee.  Can you smell it now, the aroma of a fresh brewed pot of coffee?   Without a filter, the pot of coffee would not be drinkable with all the grounds floating in it; but with the filter, the coffee tastes just as delicious as it smells.  The filter traps the bad stuff, only allowing the good to flow through.  A funnel is used to pour something directly into something else, without spilling. God’s word is like the filter.  As you read his Word, all the goodness will be funneled in while all the junk will be filtered out.  The more you dig in, the greater your faith will become.  The idea is to filter out the fear while funneling in a greater faith.  

Faith is defined as a belief and trust in, loyalty to God.  I feel like the word faith gets thrown around a lot.  We say we have faith, but do we really?  Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”  Faith doesn’t just magically happen.  It requires action on our part.  You need to grow and nurture it.  If you plant a seed and never give it water or sunlight, you would never expect it to grow.  The same is true about faith.  You can’t just say, “I have faith.”   If you are only friends with God for 1 hour on a Sunday morning, and forget about Him the other 6 days of the week, you are opening the door for fear, and inviting Satan to slip in.  If you are not reading God’s word, filling your mind with his goodness, your faith will never grow.  God calls us to, “ walk by faith, not by sight.”  If we want to live a life free from fear, we have a decision to make.  Are we going to trust God by giving our fears and problems over to Him, or are we going to allow fear and worry to consume us?  The answer seems pretty easy.  You may be thinking to yourself, “That’s easy for you to say,  you don’t know what I am facing.”  No, I don’t, but God does!  What I do know is what I have gone through and how God has completely turned things around for me.  The answer was simply found in the pages of His word.   As I began studying His word every day, something happened.  Those things that brought me great fear and anxiety, really didn’t seem so worrisome anymore.  Having  faith that God is in control, that I can trust God to take care of me, has totally changed my mindset.  God’s got it, and I don’t need to be fearful!  We can experience freedom from fear by developing an abundance of faith.  If God can do this for me, I know he can do it for YOU!  Hebrews 11:6 says,     “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

One morning,  several weeks after my mother passed away, I was getting ready to work out.  It  was about 4:15am.  I was trying to get my Apple Fitness app to play, and instead, a song began to play, out of nowhere.  God began to fill me.  I sat on my exercise mat, with tears flowing from my eyes, hands raised in complete surrender, as the words, “All fear be reminded, my future is secure.  My father has spoken, and He keeps his every word.”  The song was titled, Morning By Morning, by Pat Barrett.  It’s an absolutely beautiful song and literally every word spoke to my heart.  I had never heard this song before.  God, in His perfect way, made that song play on that particular morning.  I was struggling immensely with fear.  Think about those words and just how powerful they are.  It says ALL FEAR be reminded, my future IS secure.  My Father has spoken and He keeps his every word.   If we have accepted Christ into our heart, we have NOTHING to fear!  The price has already been paid and our salvation is secured.  Since then, I  have listened to this song most days.  You know why, worship is a powerful spiritual weapon against the enemy.  I feel when I sing these words, the enemy flees.  Use worship as a way to defeat fear and to flood your thoughts with God’s words.  Most worship songs are taken directly from scripture.  By singing these words, you are getting God’s word in your heart.  Most importantly, you are chasing the devil away.  Psalm 71:23 says, “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You; And my soul, which You have redeemed.”

Living by faith is a decision you must make daily.  Fear will come knocking, but you don’t have to let it in.  Don’t run from your fears, instead,  give them to God. Filter out the fear and funnel in a greater faith.  John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly.”  Begin today to live the abundant life God has for you, and remember, fear has no hold on you.  There is nothing that faith cannot conquer. 

Reflection: 

What fears do you have?  Identify them.  Write them down.  Do you find yourself dwelling on your fears, feeding into them?  How would you describe your level of faith?  Be honest with yourself.

Application:

If you are experiencing fear, then you need to filter it out and funnel in faith.  Faith will overpower your fear.  Begin by recognizing your fear and giving it to God.   On a daily basis, read your bible.  If you just replace 15 minutes of wasteful scrolling on social media with 15 minutes of reading your bible, you will be amazed at what God can do.  I encourage you to take a step of faith, a step of obedience, and be blessed.  Get a journal and pick a scripture verse and write it down daily.  This is a great way to memorize scripture and chase away the devil and his fearful thoughts.

Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

By: Lori Schaffer

Has God ever told you to do something you just didn’t want to do?  Did you listen to him or did you stomp your feet and do what you wanted to do instead?  If so, how did that work out for you?  I’m sure I can guess the answer.  We all do this at times.  When we ignore God’s prompting in our lives, things usually end poorly for us.  We would be much better off if we just followed God’s lead.  God will use these instances to help stretch us, mold us, and move us.

 

A few months ago, on a Sunday morning, while I was getting ready for church, the soft, gentle whisper of God told me he was going to make me comfortable with being uncomfortable, and that I serve an audience of one.  I knew I had to get up that Sunday morning and speak at church.  I stomped my feet the day before and threw a fit.  I did not want to do it.  I felt like I had nothing of value to say.  I really dislike being up in front of a large audience.  I had all the excuses; but God had other plans for me.  I knew I had to get up and speak even if I didn’t want to.  I prayed about it and God gave me the words to say when I was certain I had none. Here is where true obedience comes in.  I am at a point in my faith, that if God is calling me to do something, then I just need to get out of His way and allow Him to work.  I need to step out of the boat.  I may still throw a hissy fit, momentarily.  That’s the flesh, our human nature at work; but ultimately, I need to follow the Spirit’s lead.  Where He leads I will follow. 

 

Is there something in your life that God is calling you to do, but you are hesitant? Sometimes we say, “No God, I am perfectly fine right here where I am.”  Things are comfortable and familiar, and we are fearful of the unknown.  What you may not realize is that by saying no to God, you are saying no to the blessings He may have for you.  It’s time to get uncomfortable.  God requires us to grow and mature in our faith.  Both of which are not always easy.  Sometimes we go through situations in our life that we don’t like.  If you keep your eyes on the Lord, he will use those instances to grow you.  Growth most always brings with it some discomfort. Spiritual  growth requires obedience.

 

There are a few areas God has laid on my heart that you may be struggling with. This is a big one for new believers: Have you been baptized?  Baptism is a giant step in obedience.  It is an outward display, your personal proclamation, that you are a follower of Jesus Christ.  Yup, your hair will get wet and everyone at church will be watching.  Guess what?  You serve an audience of one, God.  No one else.  It doesn’t matter what anyone else may think; your only concern should be being obedient to what God is calling YOU to do.  (If you were baptized as an infant,  I encourage you to open your Bible and discover the biblical meaning of baptism for yourself.)  Perhaps God is calling you to become a member of the church.  Oh, but it’s much more comfortable just coming to church each Sunday and being a spectator.  Becoming a member of the body requires serving.  You were created to serve God.  This is your purpose.  God has given each of us different strengths, talents, and abilities, but when used together in the body of Christ, His purpose is glorified.  Think about what you enjoy doing.  What are you really good at?  Can you use those talents to serve in the church?  I bet you can!  Ephesians 2:10 says,     “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works.”  Maybe God has prompted you to volunteer in children’s ministry, but you are fearful that you don’t know enough about the bible.  This is where God will grow you in your biblical knowledge and use you to help the littlest ones come to know Him.  Don’t be fearful.  Perhaps God wants you to lead a small group bible study.  Do it!  Take that step of faith.  Step out of your comfort zone.  Whatever it may be that God is prompting you to do, I encourage you not to let your fear of being uncomfortable win.  If God is calling you to do something, then do it.  You may feel you are not qualified or equipped.  Let me tell you something.  If God is calling you to do it, then he will equip you.  God qualifies the unqualified.  I just love how God does that!   

 

In January of 2022, I made a career change.  A position opened up in another building within the school district that I work for.  I interviewed for it and was offered the job, which I accepted.  This was not an easy decision for me.  I loved  my coworkers in the building I was at.  I enjoyed working with the little kids, and I wasn’t too sure about junior high aged kids.  I was comfortable where I was, but God was nudging me.  Starting over was hard.  Not knowing anyone or having my closest friends with me was scary.  God knew this new position was what I was going to need in the year to come.  Just a few months after I started my new position, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.   Had I stayed in my previous job, I wouldn’t have been able to handle the stress of that job and the stress of my mom’s illness.  It would have been too much.  God knew that.  I’m fairly certain I would have ended up needing to take a lengthy leave of absence or just quitting.  He knew exactly what I needed and provided for me during this time.  I am so thankful that I took the leap of faith.  In addition, I now feel like I can have the greatest impact working with this age group of students.  While I may just be the building secretary, my God given job is to be a light to these students.  There are so many kids who are hurting.  I am drawn toward those kiddos who are having a rough home life, who just need someone who understands, or a listening ear.  If you read my article titled, “Fill Your Cup,” you will understand how my own childhood trauma would draw my heart to those children.  God has me right where he wants me, but I had to allow myself to be uncomfortable for a little while.  

 

Think about the word uncomfortable.  It means discomfort.  Sometimes when we experience discomfort, we experience physical pain.  Maybe you are in a situation right now where you are experiencing physical pain.  1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  No one wants to go through trials.  No one wants to experience pain and suffering, but we all will.  It’s a part of life that we will never escape from.  Nothing may grab your attention more than pain.  God may be allowing you to experience suffering so you will be able to help others.  Oftentimes, it’s those people who have experienced the greatest suffering who are able to bring the greatest comfort to others.  James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  This verse is a tough one for me.  It’s hard to be joyful when you are in pain or going through a trial.  The refining process hurts.  Fire burns.  Proverbs 17:3 says, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests hearts.”  This is where faith comes in.  No matter what comes our way, what trials we face, our faith must remain strong.  Keep your eyes on God, no matter what.  Philippians 3:14 says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  I encourage you to press on. 

 

If you are angry with God right now about something in your life that isn’t going according to your plan, you have fallen into Satan’s snare.  He has you right where he wants you, in his corner.  No matter what situation you are going through, God is your healer, your provider, your strength, and your refuge. Run to Him, not away from Him.  His arms are always open.  It doesn’t matter how many times you have turned away from the Lord, he is always waiting for you with open arms.  Let Him be your comfort. 

 

Comfortable being uncomfortable, what is God calling you to do?  If you already know, answer His calling.  Take that step of obedience, and trust Him.  If you aren’t sure, ask Him, and then listen.  If I hadn’t been obedient to getting up in front of church that Sunday morning, I would have missed out on what God was calling me to do.  Am I qualified to be writing these words?  God qualifies the unqualified.  If He has called me, then He will equip me and give me the words He wants on the page.  He will do the same for you in whatever area He is calling you.  Seek Him for guidance.  Pray and ask Him to help you.  Then, be bold in your faith and see where He leads you.  You may discover a new level of comfort with the Lord that you never experienced before.

 

Reflection

 

Is there something God is calling you to do that you have been avoiding?  Are you serving in the body of Christ?  Think about what it is that you really enjoy doing.  Pray and ask God how you can use your talents.  Maybe you are a great baker, or you love to sing, or you are a gifted artist, or you have a green thumb and love gardening; whatever it is, God can use your talents for His glory.  

 

Application

It’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Don’t be fearful of trying something new.  If God is calling you, he will equip you.  

Scripture Verses to Remember

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Ephesians 2:10

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Peter 4:10

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the multifaceted grace of God.

The Armor of God

By Lori Schaffer

Many months ago, on the day before my mother passed away, God spoke to me and told me to prepare for a battle.  I immediately allowed fear to take over. I had already been through so much, I couldn’t bear the thought of more.  I walked beside and cared for my mother through her terminal illness.  I was stretched further than I ever thought possible.  At one point, I was even praying for God to just take me!  In hindsight, I now treasure this time I had with my mom.  Caring for her, taking care of her wounds, and just showing her the love of Christ.  I had the privilege of praying for her, reading scripture to her, and ultimately laying hands on her and praying over her as she entered heaven’s gates.  So after all of this, God tells me to prepare for battle.  Wasn’t this the battle?  I literally felt like I was kicked in the stomach.  I didn’t want to hear it.  Picture a small child with their hands over their ears screaming, “I can’t hear you!”  This was me.  I immediately  began thinking of the worst-case scenarios.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to endure what was facing me.  I let fear take over and I was just a big mess. WHY do we do this to ourselves?  This is the enemy attacking us.  I then began studying the armor of God.  Every day I would read Ephesians; and everyday I would pray for God to protect me with his armor.  Isaiah 54:17 says, “ No weapon formed against you will prosper.”  Notice, it doesn’t say that the weapons will not form, they will!  It says they won’t prosper. 

As a Christian, you have probably heard the phrase, “Put on the full armor of God.”  But what does that really mean?  Why do we need the armor of God?  In your life, you will face many attacks.  The enemy will do his best to distract you, tear you down with lies, and to draw you away from God.  His number one objective is to cause you to doubt your faith in Christ.   Spiritual warfare is very real

Ephesians 6:11-17 says the following, “ Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.  Stand firm therefore, having belted your waist with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having strapped on your feet the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

This section of the bible is speaking clearly about being prepared for battle: spiritual warfare.  The attacks of the enemy are very real.  Oftentimes, the battles we face in life just seem to keep coming.  We feel like our life is spinning out of control. However, God has given us clear instructions on how we are to prepare.  Now, we are not going into our closet and putting on a full suit of armor.  Rather, we are arming ourselves with the spiritual weapons God has given us for our own protection.  We are to put on the FULL armor of God.

I am going to discuss each key piece of armor that God has given us and how it benefits us.  First, is the belt of truth.  It protects God’s will.  The enemy fights with lies, deception, and falsehoods.  If you are a believer in Christ you have God’s truth.  Strap on that belt knowing you can stand firm in the truth of God’s word.  Next, is the breastplate of righteousness.  A breastplate is used to protect our most vital organs.  Satan will try to attack your heart through your emotions.  You can stand firm in the truth that you are forgiven by God.  Your feet are strapped with the gospel of peace.  God wants you to be ready and able to tell others about him, to spread the good news.  He desires for  you to experience the peace that only He can give.  The shield of faith is used to protect us from the enemy’s attacks.  Envision the devil shooting flaming arrows at you; but those insults, temptations, and lies are extinguished as soon as they hit your shield.  The helmet of salvation protects your mind.  The enemy will try to attack your mind with lies.  You can rest assured that salvation is freely given to you.  All you need to do is ask God into your heart.  Satan has already been defeated.  Finally, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God: God’s truth.   I believe the greatest weapon we can use is reciting scripture.  Speak it, claim it, believe it!  Take note: the armor of God begins and ends with God’s truth.  All the weapons that we need, to be prepared for the battles we will face, are found in His Word.  All we need to do is open up the book.  Get your bible out.  Let His Word speak to you, change you, and transform you.  

Arming yourself with God’s weapons will prepare you for the battles ahead, or the battle you may be facing now.  The word “battle” is mentioned in 174 verses throughout the bible.  If something is mentioned that many times in God’s Word,  then you know it is important to God.  He wants you to be battle-ready. You need to have a plan of attack.  It’s key that you recognize you are facing spiritual warfare.  Put on the full armor of God.  Seek God for instruction.  He will guide you.  Conduct every step in full faith.  Do not allow fear to take over.  Satan wants you to be fearful.  Ephesians 4:27 says,  “Do not give the devil a foothold.”  Stand in full confidence that you are capable of fighting.   

I focused my heart and mind solely on God.  I began praising my way through this battle.  By drawing near to God, I began to feel a complete sense of peace.  Truly giving control to God is a hard  thing  to do, especially if you are the type of person that likes to be in control.  It requires trust. We must trust God with our problems and circumstances.  We must trust that he has a plan for our lives and that it is good.  The hardest thing of all, is that EVEN if things don’t go the way we plan or pray for, is trusting that God’s plan is GREATER.  Every day, lay it at his feet and ask him to work.  After a few months, I felt God speak to me again.  This time he said, “I would not call you into battle to abandon you.  I will go before you and fight for you.”  I rejoice when I think of this.  God is in control and He has this!  While the battle is not over, my battle is.  The battle belongs to the Lord.  Hallelujah!

Reflection:

I am in a situation where I cannot do anything BUT to trust and give it to God. There is nothing I can do in my own power to resolve it.  Maybe you can relate. Is there a battle you are facing right now?  What have you done to prepare?  Have you put on the full armor of God?  If not, what are you waiting for?  Don’t try to do it alone.  Allow God to walk by your side. Ask him to guide your steps and direct you. You may just be amazed at what He does and how He works. 

Application:

Scripture verses to remember – get God’s word in your heart

Ephesians 6:10-17 

Armor of God

2 Corinthians 5:7

I will walk by faith even when I cannot see.

Psalm 18:39

You armed me with strength for battle, you humbled my adversaries before me.

Psalm 28:7

The Lord is my strength and my shield.  In him my heart trusts.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

Fill Your Cup

By Lori Schaffer

How full is your cup?  We have all heard the saying, “Is your cup half empty or half full?” If you are an optimist, you would say your cup is half full.  Pessimists will believe their cup is half empty.  I have ALWAYS viewed my cup as half empty.  I have even been known to say on numerous occasions that I don’t even think I have a cup.  I’ve always struggled with seeing the good in things, but have no difficulty in seeing the bad.  I am excellent at envisioning everything that can go wrong.  My mind has always been this way. It’s time for a change in my mind, my perspective, and my outlook on life. 

 

Why have I always looked at the negative?  I think it stems from the trauma I faced as a child.  Some people know my story, others do not.  Growing up, my home was filled with anger, abuse, fighting, and screaming.  I lived in fear as a child.  I could never have friends over and sleepovers were completely out of the question.  My father was physically and mentally abusive to my mother.  I witnessed this from a very young age.  Someone who suffers from abuse has a very hard time breaking free.  My father would not allow my mother to just leave him.  I can still remember that day: November 15, 1985.  My parents were having a huge fight.  It already began in the morning before I got on the bus for school.  When I came home, they were still fighting. My dad was drunk and had smashed  everything.  My mother was beaten. The floor was covered in broken glass.  I was trying to help my mother, by distracting my father away from her.  I screamed and cursed at my father, something I would never dare do.  He immediately turned his attention to me and came after me.  I tried to hide in my bedroom closet.  Trying my best as a twelve-year old little girl to hold the sliding doors shut so he couldn’t get me.  My mother yelled, drawing  his attention back to her, and I was able to escape out of the house.  I ran about a quarter-mile down the road to my grandparent’s house for help.  My grandfather called the police.  My next memory is of me running back home.  Darkness had set in.  The driveway was filled with flashing lights from the emergency vehicles.  Fear filled me. I remember crying uncontrollably.  I was certain my mother was dead.  I can still remember being outside, screaming, trying to get in, when a police officer held me back and told me my mom was okay.  My mother chose to stand up that day, to protect herself and her children.  She shot and killed my father in an effort to save her own life. The sense of relief I felt in that moment, when I found out he was gone, is indescribable. It was over!  I know in my heart that if she didn’t defend herself, she would have died that day.  My mother was charged with 1st and 3rd degree murder.  She spent a short time in prison before being released on bail.  She stood trial, and to this day I can still remember testifying in that big courtroom.  My mother was acquitted of all charges.  She was the first woman in the state of Pennsylvania to be acquitted using the Battered Woman Syndrome defense.  (Please do not view my story as being insensitive.  If anyone from my dad’s side of the family is reading this, my intention is not to cause hurt.   I understand a life was lost that day.  A day I wish never happened.  A day that forever changed me.)

 

How does my story affect my cup?  I guess, in my mind, bad things always happen,  so I have always looked at what could be the next bad thing to happen to me.  Boy, have I allowed the devil to use my story for his benefit.  For nearly  thirty-eight years,  I have allowed the first twelve years of my life to shape my thinking.  Well, I am changing that right now!  Somehow, I completely overlooked all the “good” things that have happened in my life.  I met my husband at the age of eighteen and first came to this church with him.  I got saved and was baptized here on my twentieth birthday.  God provided me with the family I never had growing up; a stable home, and two children who have parents that love each other and them.  This right here is all God.  I often think: “Wow, my children have no idea just how good they have it.” We will be celebrating our thirtieth wedding anniversary this year.  God has blessed me immensely.  

 

So why was my cup half empty?  Here’s why… I wasn’t filling it.  I knew God, but I wasn’t consistent in spending time with him. Let me repeat that: I wasn’t consistent with spending time with God.  I served, I went to church on Sunday,  I led ministries, and listened to praise music.  Guess what?  All these things are great, but if you aren’t digging into God’s word on a consistent, daily basis, your cup will dry out.  Plus, think about how you pour out of your cup.  Sometimes our cup can be empty because we just keep pouring out.  You pour into your family, your children, and your work.  There are so many things that require your attention.  You need to be filling yourself back up. If we are not filling our cup with God’s goodness, how can we overflow with His joy?  The number one thing you can do to fill your cup is to establish a daily time with God.  This is the BEST thing you can do for yourself, for your life, for your peace of mind, and for your family.  If you take the time to spend with Him, reading His Word, praying, journaling, everything else in your life will begin to fall into place. I know all the excuses you have.  “I don’t have time in the morning. My schedule is too busy.  I get up so early for work and I need to exercise.  I don’t have time to read my bible.  I don’t even understand what it says.  I hate reading.  My kids require all my time.” Excuses, excuses.  I had them all.  You will never have time for God’s Word if you don’t make Him a priority.  Nowadays, I will not even come down from my bedroom in the morning until I spend time in the Word.  You wouldn’t dare leave your house without brushing your teeth or combing your hair.  Well, you shouldn’t dare run off and start your day without spending some time with God.  Since I committed to starting my mornings with God, I have not missed a day.  And better yet, I now yearn for my time with the Lord.  I look forward to studying His Word and hearing His voice.  I spend time with Him now, not just in the morning, but throughout my entire day.   You know what they say, practice makes perfect.  It takes practice to develop a routine. 

 

Now, back to my cup.  It is no longer half empty and it is not half full; and yes, I do have a cup.  Guess what happened?  My cup is now overflowing.  Doesn’t that sound amazing?  Who doesn’t want their life to overflow with God’s goodness and joy.  God did that!  As I pour into his Word, He is pouring into me.  I am no longer thinking of all the bad things that can happen.  When a bad thought pops into my mind, I immediately rebuke it in Jesus name.  God has changed me.  I look to the future with anticipation of what God is going to do next.  Philippians 4:8 says,  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  It doesn’t say to dwell on all the bad things in your life.  The good far outweighs the bad, yet we tend to overlook it.  The enemy has a way of doing this to us.  Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  God will transform you, as you dig into His word.  Each day, pray for God to renew your mind.  He will.

 

If you haven’t committed to a daily time with God, I challenge you today.  In fact, I double-dog dare you.  You need to be filling your cup.  American author, John C. Maxwell says, “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.  The secret to success is found in your daily routine.”  I encourage you to make yourself a designated area in your home specifically for spending time with God.  For me, I have a nice comfy leather chair with an ottoman in my bedroom, with a reading lamp.  All my tools are right next to me: my bible, journal, devotions, books I’m reading, pens, and highlighters.  Think of this sort of like the coffee station you may have set up in your kitchen.  You have your Keurig with a carousel of assorted coffee flavors and your best coffee cups.  You can set up your station in a bedroom, dining room, office, or study. It needs to be a place where you can have some quiet time with the Lord.  The kid’s playroom will not do.  Make it cozy and comfortable.  This is where you and God are going to get real!

 

Allow God’s word to fill you.  He can transform your mind, your heart, and your life.  God wants us to have an abundant life. Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  I don’t know anyone who would say “no” to being filled with joy and peace, and overflowing in hope.  To overflow, think about that. God wants us to be overflowing.  When we overflow, people will take notice.  They will notice that there is something different about you.  That overflow will lead to opportunities, opportunities you may have never thought possible.  If you would have told me six months ago that I would be writing devotions, I would have said you were absolutely CRAZY.  You know why, because six months ago I was empty; and today I am overflowing.  Allow God to fill your cup.  Take the step in obedience, and see for yourself how He can pour in your life.  

 

One final thought: all this talk about your cup, maybe treat yourself to a new coffee or tea cup.  One with a beautiful scripture verse on it, and use it as a reminder that your cup needs to be filled.  A friend gave me this beautiful cup for Christmas.  Little did she know the impact this cup would have on me. 

Reflection:

How is your cup?  Are you filled, running on empty, or are you overflowing. Evaluate the time you spend with God.  Is there room for improvement?

Application

What steps can you take today to begin filling your cup? Make a commitment today to spend 15 minutes each morning with God.  Commit to doing this for the next 30 days.  At the end of the 30 days, ask yourself: “How is your cup now?”

Verse to Remember

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit

Voices in My Head
by Lori Schaffer

Have you ever wondered about the voices in your head?  What are those voices, and where are  they coming from?  Is it your own thoughts?  Is it God’s voice?  Or is it the voice of the enemy? 

 We often hear people say they “heard God’s voice.”  What exactly  does God’s voice sound like, and how can we recognize it?  Is it a loud, audible sound, or is it a soft, gentle whisper in your mind?  First, it’s important to understand that it is NOT about what the voice “sounds” like, but rather, what that voice is saying to you.  God’s voice does not speak of negativity, self doubt, harm, destruction, or condemnation to you. All those negative thoughts running rampant through your mind are not of God. Those are the attacks of the enemy – Satan.  

We are facing a very real battle. If you have given your life to Christ, you can be assured that you are going to face attacks.  All it takes is for the devil to plant one small seed in your mind of doubt, and, before you know it, that seed has grown.  Negative thoughts are overtaking your mind, spreading like wildfire, beginning to consume you.   So how can you extinguish those flames right away?  2 Corinthians 10:5 says,    “We are destroying arguments and all arrogance raised against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” How do we take every thought captive?  First, it’s key to recognize the negative thoughts  right away.  Ask yourself, is this thought speaking life and encouragement to me?  If it’s not, it’s not from God, but from the devil. You need to be able to recognize that it is just another one of Satan’s schemes.  Your mental health is so important.  There is so much mental illness, anxiety, and depression in our world today. The attack of the enemy on our minds is real, and it has very real consequences.  The only way you will ever become effective at taking your thoughts captive is by drawing near to God.  

God the Father wants a relationship with you.  He doesn’t want five minutes.   He doesn’t want your leftovers. He wants ALL of you.  We live in a world where busy schedules, activities, jobs, children, sports, laundry, scrolling on social media–all vie for our time and attention.  Where does God fit in? Does he EVEN fit in?   You will NEVER have time for God if you are not willing to put Him first.  God needs to be your  #1 priority  on your To Do List EVERY day.  It takes discipline and practice. Start by establishing a daily time in the morning to read your bible.  Read one chapter of Proverbs every day.  There are 31 chapters, one for every day of the month.  Proverbs is filled with wisdom.   Also, check out the book of Ephesians.  It’s only six chapters, but those six chapters will transform your life.  It teaches all about “who YOU are in Christ.” Develop a daily routine.  Allow your mind to be Christ centered. Listen to praise and worship songs.  Sing along, belt it out, let the tears flow.  I promise  you will begin to be transformed into the image of Christ.  While taking a walk, you could be  listening  to a sermon.  While working out, blast the praise music, and just allow God to minister to you.  Spend time in prayer; and by prayer, I don’t just mean asking God for “things.”  Come to the Lord in prayer, with a thankful heart.  Tell him all the things you are thankful for and praise him.  He did those things for you!  Praise him, for he is so worthy.  Ask for forgiveness because, let’s be honest, we all do something each day that we shouldn’t do–whether it be a bad thought about someone, gossip, a harmful word spoken; ask God to forgive you.  Pray for your family, for needs you may have, for mountains you need moved.  Ask God to order your steps each day.  Ask him to give you opportunities to bless others. 

Now, I can assure you, as the sky is blue, that if you begin to do all these things, God WILL speak to you.  It may not be a loud, audible voice, but rather, a soft gentle whisper in your mind. Listen for it. Seek it. If you are too busy to listen, you may never even hear it. God wants ALL OF YOU.  But do you want ALL OF HIM? 

Reflection 

 Be honest with yourself, because God already knows the truth.  We can’t hide from him.  Are you making space for God in your life?  Do you take the time to listen to what he may be speaking to you, or is your mind swirling  with negative thoughts?  

Application

What changes can you make to your daily routine?  How can you include God in your everyday life?  Where does he fit in?  Can you give him fifteen minutes in the morning?  Can you change the station  in your car to praise and worship?  Can you start praying earnestly?  You don’t need to start big, unless you want to!  It doesn’t need to be overwhelming, and God doesn’t want to be a “chore” for you. I encourage you to seek Him, and if you do, you WILL find him.  

  

Jeremiah 29:13 

 And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.