Archive: November, 2009

25 Days of Giving, By Kelli Zaniel

The Bible’s Great Command is for us to love God and others. When I think of loving others, I am quickly reminded of God’s great commandment which is to GIVE to others and to “DO unto others as you would have them DO unto you.” The words “giving,” and “doing,” are both action words. Words that call us to jump off the couch, get out of the kitchen, leave the laundry, take up our crosses and follow Him wherever that may be. I love the words of Winston Churchill, “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.”
I woke up one morning and was challenged by God to begin a new adventure with Him. He reminded me of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…” God GAVE His only Son to be born in the humblest of settings…an ol’ dilapidated barn in a bundle of itchy hay. A Son who, years later, would in turn GIVE his life as a sacrifice to redeem a lost world. Christ gave EVERYTHING for me, so why wouldn’t He expect me to give EVERYTHING too?
As I was stirring a pot of chicken gravy today for Thanksgiving, I noticed a perfectly shaped floating heart in my gravy! I tried to move it with the spoon to see if it would dissolve. No matter which way the spoon shifted or swirled the floating symbol of love, the heart remained. I began to personalize John 3:16, For God so loved me, that He gave His only begotten Son, that if I believe in Him I will have eternal life. The Bible says that eternal life is to KNOW the only One true God. For me personally, the times when I really “know,” and “experience,” God are the times when I am giving.
The Great Commission is for us to “go,” and to “give.” Go out and give to others the greatest story ever told. We were masterfully designed to show love to others. Heidi and I are pursuing 25 days of “GIVING,” beginning December 1, 2009, and ending on Christmas Day. Won’t you join us?
Our giving doesn’t have to be shoveling out money we don’t have. Our giving can be “unspoken giving.” The kind of giving that requires words if only necessary. What does showing love without words look like? “Go, Give, Serve and Show…”

Go where others will not go;
Serve where others will not serve;
Give to those in need;
Showing love and forgiveness to those who may not deserve our love or forgiveness;
Showing hospitality to strangers;
Let someone go before you in the grocery store line;
Help and elderly person to their car;
Sit down and read a book with your children instead of cleaning the dishes;
Write an encouraging note to a friend
Take cookies over to an unsuspecting friend’s house before her teeth are even brushed;
Experience a joyful attitude when someone cuts you off while driving (if you are like me, that is giving to whoever is in the car with you!); or
Telling someone I love and appreciate you for no special reason.
“True greatness is a passionate love for God that demonstrates itself in an unquenchable love and concern for others,” (Dr. Tim Kimmel). Giving to others gives back to God. It keeps us focused on eternity and gives God ownership of our hearts. “Giving is a joyful surrender to a greater person and a greater agenda. Giving affirms Christ’s Lordship. It dethrones me and exhaults Him,” (unknown).
Lets take this 25 days of giving challenge together so we can become more radically obedient with our time, our hearts, our homes and our earthly possessions. Lets use these 25 days to give God full ownership of everything we have so that OTHERS are “the intended beneficiaries of what He has entrusted to us!”
Heidi and I usually blog once a week but we are stepping out of our comfort zones to post blogs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the 25 days of giving so we can journey through the experience together. Posting blog comments and emailing each other our stories will be a great way to hold each other accountable (I was so blessed by what everyone wrote during our “living biblically day,” weren’t you?).
We pray this will encourage everyone to intentionally pursue Christ this Christmas. We also pray that the Holy Spirit will move and inspire you to share the greatest love story ever known to a world who barely knows He exists.

**Those who post a comment or email me saying “yes,” God is calling me to participate in the 25 days of giving will enter into a drawing to win a free copy of Lysa Terkeurst’s book, “Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl,” (which is our new book for January)!! We will announce the winner in Tuesdays (12-1-09) blog.

Keepin’ a little ole’ turkey in your day!

Happy Thanks-Giving. Lets be thankful today (when we are slaving over hot ovens and stoves with bisquick sprinkled in our hair) that we are His, “workmanship and were created in Christ Jesus to do good work, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” (Eph. 2:8-10). God already had something special in mind for us “in advance,” when we turned our lives over to Him!

Finding Thanksgiving Contentment in a Self-Seeking World by Christa Goodrich

The holidays have officially arrived! Immediately, I start to think about giving and getting gifts. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really NEED anything! I can sure think of plenty of stuff that I WANT! Then, when I check out all of the coupons and advertisements, I want more! I see something on sale, which is something that, I never knew I even wanted. It seems like, the more you want, the more, you’ll want more!

My kids are already going crazy over Christmas ads. “I want that car. I want that Barbie.” Even if they get everything they ask for, they’ll soon get bored of those things and desire the next popular thing that comes by. Isn’t that our nature? God drops us a wonderful house. Everything falls into place. We’re so excited, we’re so happy and thankful! Then, we visit our friend’s house, which has a bigger yard or a prettier kitchen, and we begin to desire, that.
Do you ever sense God whispering to you, will it ever be enough? Maybe, He’s really whispering, will I ever be enough?

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

I can imagine that God has His hands out in front of us, ready to give to us. We just put ourselves in the way of receiving what He has for us, because of our selfishness and greed. We should desire more and more of Him, who is the only one who can truly satisfy and fulfill our needs.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

I’ve heard so many times that we should count our blessings. Give thanks, for a house, a car, food, etc. Many people decide to give thanksgiving for these things, especially at this time of the year. However, sometimes they do it, without even recognizing God as the giver of them. Don’t you think that we, as Christians, should dig deeper than that, and really search our heart for God’s work in our life?

1 Thessalonians 5:17-19 Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.

We can dig deeper in thanksgiving by recognizing the beauty of the small things in life, while resting in the awesome big stuff. I’m talking about the mighty works of our Almighty God! The God of the Universe knows us by name and works out a house deal, just for us! The God of the Universe knows us by name and gives us strength to face another day of pregnancy pains, and kick that sciatic nerve! The God of the Universe knows us by name and loves us enough to protect us from the results of wrong decisions.

The God of the universe, loved us enough to GIVE us the ultimate gift of His Son! The simple fact of knowing God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, takes the place of any earthly treasures we could ever dream up.
I’m going to challenge myself and challenge anyone reading this to take time this season to thank God for things He has done, just for you. So, that means, not only thanking God for a house, but thanking Him for His presence in this house or for His guidance in finding this house, or for the family He is growing in this house. This might, even mean, thanking God for the floors of the house, while you’re cleaning them. I’m learning that thanking God in everything, brings true contentment. It’s not all about me. It’s about Him!
At this Thanksgiving season, I want to thank God in every area of life. But, most of all, Lord, thank you for saving me. Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

A Thanksgiving Activity to do with your family, that can last a lifetime…
What you need: A Jar (That’s IT!)
You may be wondering Wow!? That sure is creative! Read on… The creative part of it involves your unique experiences with God.
Some people like to call it a Jar of Blessings or a Thanksgiving Jar. Whatever you choose to call it, I pray, that you will let it be a jar to mark the mighty works of God in your life. You may choose to fill it with rocks, marking a story with a date. Or, you may want to add other things, like a baby bootie, a wedding napkin, or a hospital band, etc. It’s like a scrapbook in a jar!
This is, not only, a great jar of memories for your family, but it’s also a great witnessing opportunity. You may want to place it somewhere noticeable, where a guest may ask, “What’s this?” Well, there’s your perfect opportunity to dump it out and start talking about God’s work in your life.

Message From Renee Swope (from her blog)

I got back from Reno late Sunday night, and it was wonderful!! I absolutely loved the many women I met there. Kelli and Heidi, I am so proud of you for saying yes to God and stepping out in faith to do this conference! And I’m so honored God invited me to be part of what He is doing in and through you!!

Jesus’ presence filled that room and each of us in such a beautiful way this weekend, revealing His heart and His plans to each in powerful and personal ways. I loved hearing the women share with me how God spoke to them individually through some part of the message, and what they were going to do to apply it in their lives. My heart was also so full of joy for two new sisters in Christ who invited Him to be their Savior Friday night.

I came home tired but energized, drained but filled, knowing He is worthy of all that I have and my life is worthy of all the He has for me. It made me want to go into this week laying it down before Him again, and asking Him to live His life through mine.

"An Unforgettable Weekend" by: Heidi Avery

Well our long awaited Renee Swope event has come to an end and it was far more wonderful and God filled than we could have ever imagined. Renee and Leah flew home yesterday to get back to their lives and now we have to do the same. I don’t know about you, but I’m still tired. It’s a good tired, restful and it makes me realize that God gives an assignment and then he gives us rest. He knows just what we need.

I can’t help but think today of the domino effect of women saying yes in obedience to God. All of this started with God placing a burden on Kelli’s heart, one she could not shake, one that she felt the urgent need to move on and so she did. Then one by one we all said yes too.

Who can stop God? No one.

Thursday night we had, what seems to me now, a pre-celebration of what God would be doing over the weekend to follow. We hung lights that truly did shine his glory throughout our beautiful church. We ate and laughed… no giggled in deep anticipation of what He would do. We rejoiced in Him and knew without doubt that God would show up and show up big. Why? Because we believe in Him and we just knew that we were acting in His will. Let’s not ever forget that feeling… we can know the feeling of being inside of His will… it’s beautiful, a place we want to dwell in always.

Friday, was restful because we were ready. We checked Renee and Leah in to their hotel and off to church to get the last minute loose ends tied up. Plugged in all the lights, opened the doors and with everyone in position we began to welcome God’s guests into our lovely church. It wasn’t long before we heard the sweet sounds of music from Anita and the praise team inviting us to the beginning of our evening. The music was beautiful and worshipful and I do not believe there was a woman (or man) there that wasn’t perfectly prepared for the message that God laid on Renee’s heart for us. I also do not believe that there is one of us that will not be looking at Christmas differently this year because of her act of obedience in sharing that message with us. I think we’ll all be trading our bucket of naked barbies in for His presence and not just for Christmas, but forever.

In our give-away we gave a bible away to a woman that did not have one… a prayer answered. And even more, God’s beautiful invitation given by Pastor Joe welcomed two sweet women into the arms of our Jesus. Who really knows how many women that night breathed in that breath of life prayer… only God. Praise His name! It was a Spirit-filled evening that we will not soon forget.

Saturday morning, I personally walked into our darkened lobby and sat and praised Him for the evening before and asked him to be there again… and no sooner did the words leave my heart, I knew full well that He would indeed be there with us. And, of course he was.

Renee’s talk on the “Purpose Driven Mom” inspired us all to go mining for gold in the hearts of our children. Her ability to relate with each of us in our places of motherhood captivated us. We not only experienced sweet conviction, but we left refreshed and ready to be “yes moms” continuing on in our mission to raise up little disciples for Him.

Afterwards the lobby was all a buzz with plans of spray-painted gold stones and fish bowls and spoken words of encouragement to one another. As we cheered each other on we felt a renewed sense of responsibility for our little ones lives. It was wonderful.

Kelli drove Renee and Leah to the airport on Sunday morning and on the way Renee told her that she’s heard from several women that attended the conference on Facebook already! They have been touched and expressed gratitude for her message filled with biblical principles and life application. Awesome!

God is awesome and we are all blessed and filled with joy to be walking with Him and to be in fellowship with each other over Him. When I think about that burden that He laid on Kelli’s heart I wonder, what if she would have said “no?” What if, when she called me with that burden, instead of encouraging her, I said to her… “you are crazy!” I look back at our bible book club and the friendships that have sprung to life and think about all of the sweet blessings we would have missed out on along the way.

What blessings do we miss when we say “no” to God’s prompting? We won’t know… but we would miss them that’s for sure. Anyway, for today we can rejoice in the blessings we’ve received for saying “yes” this time and I think you’ll agree with me, I am motivated to say “yes” again. God could lay that initial burden on any one of our hearts next. What a blessing it is that He’s given us such a wonderful support system in each other for when that happens. We need to be not only encouraged by that, but we should each be empowered by it. Any one of us could be given His next assignment, think about that! When you feel that burden, you’ll know it and we’ll be here to tell you… “you’re not crazy” and we’ll come along side you, cheering you on and supporting you throughout the entire process. Together we’ll see His plans come to life again, together we’ll experience His blessings again and together we’ll be warriors for His Kingdom. Let’s all pray without ceasing and see where God invites us next, okay?

PS: I know we all left Friday night wishing we had that wonderful poem that Renee wrote and read to us… well, I was able to find it online! Enjoy…

The Manger of My Heart
This Christmas, Lord, come to the manger of my heart.
Fill me with your presence, from the very start.
As I prepare for the holidays, and gifts to be given,
Remind me of the gift You gave,
when you sent Your Son from Heaven.
The first Christmas gift, the greatest gift ever,
You came as a baby born in a manger.
Wrapped like the gifts I find under my tree,
Waiting to be opened, to reveal Your love to me.
This Christmas, Lord, come to the manger of my heart.
Search me and know the most intimate parts.
Reveal to me if I have ever hung a sign within,
Claiming it off limits, implying “no room at the Inn.”
Restore to me the wonder that came with Jesus’ birth,
when He left the riches of Heaven
and wrapped Himself in rags of earth.
Emmanuel, God with us, Your presence came that night.
As angels announced, “Into your darkness,
God brings His Light.”
“Do not be afraid,” they said, to shepherds in the field.
Speak to my heart today, Lord, and help me to yield.
Make me like those shepherd boys, obedient to your call.
Casting distractions and worries aside,
to You I surrender them all.
Surround me with Your presence, Lord,
I long to hear your voice.
Clear my mind of concerns and all the holiday noise.
Slow me down this Christmas, let me not be in a rush.
In the midst of parties and planning,
I want to feel Your hush.
This Christmas, Jesus, come to the manger of my heart.
Invade my soul like Bethlehem, bringing peace to every part.
Dwell within and around me,
as I unwrap Your presence each day.
Keep me close to You, Jesus.
It’s in your wonderful Name I pray.

"MARC It," By Kelli Zaniel

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us very great and precious promises so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires,” (2 Peter 1:3-4). Our growth in Christ is not because of who we are but because of whose we are. We don’t have the resources or the strength to be truly godly on our own. We require God to equip us by pouring his divine into our mundane.

Through God’s promises, he allows us to “participate in the divine nature,” so that we can resist temptation and live our lives totally sold out for him. Lets take a microscope to the second half of this verse. Verse 4 says that through God’s glory and goodness, we are given his very great and precious promises. Because we are given these promises from God, we can then participate in the divine nature. I am ready to participate in the divine nature and escape corruption in the world, aren’t you?

As I sat Indian style in my closet and allowed these verses to soak in, I began asking the question… “What are some of God’s, ‘great and precious promises,’ that Peter is talking about?” I decided to “MARC” it!

MEET… the Requirements God sets forth
ACCEPT… the responsibility
RECEIVE… God’s promises
CLAIM IT for your life!

God’s Holy Word pours out the truth of His life-giving promises to us. Below are some of God’s promises to us.

1. “My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 4:19).

2. “Whatever you ask for in my name, I will do it, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” (John 14:13).

3. “And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work,” (2 Cor. 9:8).

4. “Those who obey His commands live in Him and he in them,” (1 John 3:24).

The Apostle Paul explained that God spoke the promises and Christ fulfilled them. “For every one of God’s promises is “yes,” in Him (2 Cor. 1:20). I understand this to mean that if we obey God’s Word and do what is says, we will be given full access to all of God’s heavenly promises.

It is easy for us to consider that once we become a Christian, we have been awarded a free ticket to all of God’s promises. Sometimes, however, these gifts of grace come with a fine print or stipulation. Below are examples of God’s promises and His expectations of us, the recipients of those promises.

One example is, “If we honor Him, He will honor us,” (1 Samuel 3:20). The scripture reveals that God will only honor us if we honor him by following his commandments.

Another good example is found in James 4:8. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” The scripture says that if we draw near to him, He will reveal His presence. But in verse 8, it also states, “cleanse your hands, sinner and purify your hearts.” We must first ask God to cleanse us of our unrighteousness before we can draw near to Him. We must have complete abandon to our will and be utterly surrendered to His before we can see, hear and experience the true Holiness of the, “Shepherd and overseer of our soul,” (see 1 Peter 2:25).

The last example is found in Matthew 6:14. This one is tough. “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” The stipulation is unless we forgive other people for their sins against us, our Heavenly Father will not forgive us of the sins we have committed against Him. When someone sins against us, we have to trust that God is just and will, “pay back trouble to those who trouble you,” (see 2 Thess. 1:6-7). We as Christians are to extend out our hands of mercy to others as Christ has done for us.

The wonderful news is that all of God’s promises are accessible to us as Christians seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. His door is always open. He is never closed for lunch. He stays up late. There is no excuse for not claiming His promises. His heavenly finger will graciously point us in the right direction. The Bible is here to speak the living Truth and to reveal the “how to’s,” for unearthing God’s perfect treasures… His promises; our inheritance.

Lord, help me to look for you with a questlike attitude, be satisfied with you, discover your commands, meet all your requirements, be held accountable, receive your promises and claim it for my life. Help me to discover my own personal love story with you. You are my heart’s true desire.

"Fluttering Butterflies" by: Heidi Avery

Falling in love is truly spectacular isn’t it? I remember when I met my husband; at the time I swore it was love at first sight. I was immediately taken in by him, completely swept away. My every thought was on him, I was starry –eyed to say the least! I would dream about all the creative things I could do to make him happy. Poetry was literally dripping off of my finger tips. My tummy was filled with sweet fluttering butterflies, it was wonderful.

I was in love!

I think it was oh, 2 years later that while I was still in love with him I noticed that the butterflies had quietly flown away. We all experience this and once the butterflies are gone, a veil is lifted and things are more serious and far less romantic. The story is the same for all lovers.

Saying goodbye to the butterflies is sad, but there are many wonderful advantages that come with a love that has matured. A beautiful trust is built providing comfort, security and true genuine intimacy… things that just can’t exist for us unless love has matured.

Even though the advantages of true mature love out weigh the feelings of new love we still have a tendency to desire that spectacular old feeling that accompanies new love. We still long for fluttering butterflies, don’t we?

Well, what if I told you there was a love that comes packaged complete with never-ending fluttering butterflies and all the beautiful advantages of mature love right from the start, plus more! It’s true, it exists. I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I wasn’t experiencing it first hand. I have fallen in love again and, no I’m not having an affair! I am in love with the One who is love himself, God. I am really getting to know and experience Him in ways I never imagined and I never want to go back.

I’ve been learning about God all these years, reading the bible, praying and thinking I was experiencing him, but feeling like there should be more. I realized that I “knew” a lot about God, but I hadn’t truly “experienced” him for myself. Henry Blackaby explains it perfectly in his book Experiencing God… “There is a world of difference between knowing something to be true in your head and experiencing the reality in your life.”

So true!

Don’t get me wrong, He’s been working in my life and I have truly been transformed over the last 10 years of my Christian walk. I have loved him, but from an unknowing distance. I didn’t realize that I could have such an up-close and personal relationship with Him. The reasons will be different for everyone, but for me I hadn’t completely surrendered my life to him and didn’t really understand how to. Also, I didn’t really believe HE could love me. I have such insecurity that runs so deep that I have a difficult time believing anyone could love me, especially a supernatural God. I was wrong.

God is calling us ALL to not just know about him, but to really know him and experience him in our lives. It’s for us, yes, but ultimately it’s so we are able to obey him and go out and do the work of the kingdom. If we truly love him then we want to experience him this way too. The best part about all of this is when you are in love with Him, obeying him is a blessing. His ways may still be different then ours, but because we are in love with him we will want desperately to please him and that becomes our reward.

So, how do you go about falling in love with God?

“Believe” that He loves you! John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” and Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

“Surrender” your life! Give up your plans for your life and confess that his ways are best… Matthew 16: 24,25 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

“Pray” for it! pray for him to allow you to experience a true deep love and intimacy with him and he is faithful to deliver. Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” And Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

“Obey” him! If we truly love him we will want to obey him and obeying him is our way of showing him that we are in love with him… John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

“Receive” his blessings! 1 Corinthians 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”

Father, we each seek to fill our tummies with sweet fluttering butterflies over you. We have tasted your goodness and it has both satisfied and made us thirsty for more. We long to experience you intimately, to be lost in love with you so much that obedience is no task, but a blessing to our hearts. Help us to move all that we know about you in our heads into the believing parts of our hearts so we may experience you in ways we never imagined. Equip us to do the business of the Kingdom out of our love for you and so that your Holy name will be glorified.