by Kelly Russell, Encouragement Expert
We have the idea that life should happen the way we want, when we want. Our expectations often exceed reality. A perfect scenario is created in our minds and when life takes a different turn, we lose heart. Jesus said not to be troubled but be at peace (Matthew 16:23). Only God can arrange things in such a way that we benefit best and He is glorified most. As Jeremiah wrote, “Who is the clay to say to the Potter, why are you doing it that way?” God sees us as a finished product, not a work in progress.
Our rough places must be made smooth to shape us into the image of Christ. Our primary calling isn’t to “do” or “go”, but to become. God is more concerned about pure hearts than polished lives.
We can only ever know what God is willing to reveal. He knows the beginning from the end, and He works all things together for good to those who love Him. Knowing God is knowing enough. In Christ all wisdom is found (Colossians 2:3). Why are we not content with this alone? Our human desire is to know more; God’s desire is for us to know HIM more. If we knew what God knows, we would choose His will every time. We doubt what we can’t see and believe what we do see. Jesus said those who believe without seeing are blessed (John 20:29).
God’s Truth is not to be found in our feelings, but always in His unfailing Word. God’s promises are unlimited but we limit them with our doubt and unbelief. Numbers 23:19 says, God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Let these words deflate doubt and undo unbelief. Read it and believe it! We kick out the doubt with faith, which comes through God’s Word.
The solution to unbelief is to ask God for help (Mark 9:23-24). Doubt derails and discourages us. Saturating ourselves in Scripture slams the door on doubt and discouragement. God’s presence eclipses every one of our struggles.
Christ followers are called to the same purpose every day—to take up the cross and lay down their lives. In denying ourselves, we can truly rely on Christ and His resurrection power. If my life is in my hands then the cross cannot be (Mark 8:34). Our goal is eternity, therefore our focus should be the same. It’s not our circumstances we need to be in touch with, but the Savior Himself. On our journey with the Lord, may He become greater while we become less.
Read: Isaiah 45:9; John 3:30; 2 Corinthians 4:18; 1 Timothy 6:6-7
Kelly Russell was raised in a military family, traveling around the world. She now lives in Melbourne Fla., where she and her husband serve in the leadership of their church. Kelly's heart is to encourage people with passion and conviction through the gift of words.
by Debra Neybert, Training Specialist
The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here...” When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. Exodus 24: 12; 15-16
The Lord’s presence meant everything to Moses, in fact at one time he declared, "If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” (Exodus 33:15) A few verses later, he prays, "Please, let me see your Glory" (Ex. 33:18). Moses had such a desire for something more, something eternal. He wanted to behold God face to face, and his desire was satisfied according to Deuteronomy 34:10.
How was Moses prepared for His encounters with the Lord? For a season he lived in the wilderness 40 years when suddenly, one ordinary day became an extraordinary day when... “the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.” And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush. (Exodus 3:2-4)
The book of Hebrews gives us more insight into the relationship the Lord had with Moses. In the eleventh chapter it says, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebrews 11:25-26). The word for “looked or looking” in the Greek, is apoblepo, (away from) and blepo (to look), hence to “look away from” all else. Moses turned his gaze away from everything, and fixed his gaze on a reward that waited for him beyond this present age.
In verse 27 it says, “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.” Moses was able to persevere because “he saw” the unseen real. When our eyes of faith are fixed on the King of all Kings, we will walk by faith, not fearing the kings of this earth, persevering through tribulation and trials because “the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His Glory and Grace.”
Amazing! Moses first turned aside to see, then he chose to look ahead to his reward, and eventually he saw Him who was invisible. When Moses died at the age of 120 years, the Bible says his eye was “not dimmed” (Deuteronomy 34:7).
We naturally gravitate toward the things we set our sight on; and when our sight is set on things above, we ascend!
Moses was invited into the cloud of God’s Glory on the seventh day. The seventh day is when God rested from creating heaven and earth. (Exodus 31:17). It is out of that place of rest...ceasing from our works that the Lord calls us from within “the cloud.” He calls us as a lover calls his beloved. There will always be things to do and places to go, but will we take the time to turn aside and see, look ahead, and behold Him who is invisible? In the seeing we are drawn into that secret place, and there really is no other relationship on earth that fulfills like knowing our Beloved Jesus, the one who “knows us best and loves us most!”
“Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.” Gal. 3:6-7
For Abraham, believing God was, without doubt, the most challenging time of his life. We have read the rest of Abraham’s story, a story of God’s intervention after Abraham was willing to entrust his own son to God.
Yet, Abraham wasn’t able to read the rest of the story. He had to trust in a God he only knew on his own. Think about it; Abraham came before Moses, the Exodus and The Red Sea. He knew nothing of Joshua, of the Walls of Jericho, or of David and Goliath.
This is a man who had to trust wholly in God’s communication with him. And he did.
We usually think of “believing” as a point of agreement or intellectual assent to an idea, as in “I believe you when you say you will be here at nine o’clock.” But for Abraham, believing meant he had to act. He had to take Isaac out of their home, on a journey that he believed could end the life of his precious first-born.
Our “believing God” takes on the same characteristics as Abraham’s. If we walk through the Greek understanding of the word “Believe,” we will see that it means to “trust in, rely on, adhere to.” That’s what Abraham did. And God saw this as righteousness.
When we believe God in our work, in our families and in our everyday lives, we are saying in essence, “We trust in your ways, oh God, even when the lives we lead and the decisions we make aren’t understood by the world around us.”
It is this believing that our clients and patients should see in us; a belief that trusts in God even when we can’t see what the future holds. If we believe, those who come in our doors can catch our trust in God, and perhaps for the first time, see what it means to live a life of faith.
Like Abraham, we believe. And when we do, God turns to His right hand and says to Jesus, “Now there is a righteous one.”
That’s something worth believing in.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
by Jor-El Godsey, President
Ever wonder how the craze that is the “Keep Calm” posters, memes and variations came from? The history is interesting and, actually, relevant for pregnancy help leaders today.
During the Second World War, the British Government entrusted the Ministry of Information (MOI) with the responsibility for publicity and propaganda. In late 1939, after the outbreak of the war, the MOI was appointed to design a number of morale boosting posters to be displayed across the British Isles during the war, the threat of invasion and potential occupation.
The posters were required to be similar in style, colorful and feature the symbolic crown of King George VI along with a simple yet effective font. The first two posters, ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring Us Victory’ and ‘Freedom is in Peril’ were produced by His Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO).
These two were posted on public transport, in shop windows, on notice boards across Britain. The third and final poster of the set was again very straightforward and to the point - it simply read ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. The plan in place for this poster was to issue it only upon the invasion of Britain by Germany. As this never happened, the poster was never released.
At least not until recently. The unpublished posters languished in storage for more than 50 years when they were re-discovered and released. The originals became collector’s items and the theme hit the UK and then the world.
In our own culture war, our traditional values have been attacked on every front. The pregnancy help community, operating with a faith motive and godly imperative, can rightly identify with the first poster, ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring Us Victory.’ Nehemiah tells us (chapter 8:10) “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” It is for the joy set before us that we can operate with courage, cheerfulness and resolution.
The latest battles against religion and, in particular, pregnancy help efforts calls to mind the second MIO poster, “Freedom is in peril.” In a legal sense, our freedom to speak life and proclaim life everlasting unhindered is very much at risk. Our opposition is intent upon diminishing and, ultimately, silencing our message.
Fortunately for the British, the third poster, “Keep Calm & Carry On” as a response to the actual invasion of enemy forces was not needed. Unfortunately, that is not true of our war today. Since Roe v. Wade, Big Abortion has grown increasingly stronger politically and financially over the past forty years. The culture of death has overwhelmed our land and the message of the third poster is especially applicable to us.
Amazingly, in recent years the polls have shown a shift to the pro-life position. More and more legislators are passing meaningful pro-life laws. More lives being saved through innovative and faithful pregnancy help efforts. Keep calm and carry on.
In Illinois, Senate Bill 1564 is raising more than a little concern for pregnancy help organizations. Americans United for Life, in its press release opposing the bill, points out that under SB1564, PHOs would be forced to "participate in potentially conscience-violating services by requiring the provider to refer or transfer a patient or provide information to the patient regarding other healthcare providers who the provider reasonably believes offer the objected-to healthcare service."
Further, Americans United for Life reminds us the bill would force pregnancy help organizations to inform patients of "legal treatment options" and of the "benefits of legal treatment options."
Bad news, right? Of course. Once again, PHOs face a battle of conscience, ethics and government intrusion into our work.
Yet there is good news.
Looking at the larger picture, let's ask, "Why the attack?"
Tweet this! Looking at the larger picture, let's ask, "Why the attack?" @KirkWalden @PHC_News
The abortion industry may have an agenda that is diametrically opposed to life, but those in the industry are not stupid. They know a threat when they see it. We are that threat, because we shine the light of truth on abortion; on what abortion entails and on the miracle of every human life.
When those who come in our doors see that truth, they choose life far more often than not.
This is the "why" behind this bill. The abortion industry is nervous; their cash cow is being challenged. While we will never see the financial spreadsheets of the industry, all we need to see is what they do. And the industry's tactics tell us all is not right for Big Abortion.
Tweet this! The abortion industry is nervous; their cash cow is being challenged. @KirkWalden @PHC_News
So, they attack. In this case, the attack appears in the deep recesses of a bill being moving through an Illinois Senate committee.
While this bill presents another challenge for all of us, it is also a cause for renewed determination. Through love, through truth and through hope, we are advancing a culture of life. We must be taking ground, or those who oppose us would not be fighting so hard to stop us.
Today then, take heart. When one of us (or in this case, an entire state of PHOs) is attacked, it is yet another reminder that we are moving forward. Life is winning again. If we don't believe it, let's take a look at those who oppose us. Their actions tell us all we need to know.
by Debra Neybert
And Jesus answered them, The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified and exalted. I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains [just one grain; it never becomes more but lives] by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest. John 12:22-23
There is a wonderful truth in this verse....when a natural seed falls into the ground, it dies, and the hard outer shell breaks away, in that breaking, new life comes forth, eventually bearing much fruit.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise" (Psalm 51:17).
Bobby Connor, author and minister, writes in his book, Empowered by God about an experience he had one day while in the deep woods of Texas. He was resting against a massive oak tree and enjoying all the sounds around him when he heard the sound of an acorn falling through the tree branches. It fell softly on his leg coming to rest by his foot. He heard the Lord tell him to pick it up. Then the Lord asked him, "What is that in your hand?" Bobby writes that he was somewhat confused by the question and responded, "It is an acorn." Then he heard the Lord reply, "Strange, you see only a small acorn, but I see a whole forest."
In that little acorn God saw a forest.... for the joy set before Jesus, He endured the cross seeing beyond death and shame to His greatest inheritance, you and me! He gave His life so that in Him, we too might bear much fruit.
Fruit-bearing usually comes after a season of death and pruning.
Tweet this! Fruit-bearing usually comes after a season of death and pruning.
When Jesus descended into the heart of the earth, He went down as that grain of wheat, only to come up, leading a "host of captives." He led captivity captive! He conquered and triumphed over all the powers which would ever hold us in captivity, so that captivity itself was taken captive. (Ephesians 4:8)
As we allow the Lord to take us to the place where we fully submit to the process of becoming more like Him, we ultimately will experience the death of self, that outer shell breaking away so that new life can come forth, ultimately bearing much fruit for the Kingdom of God!
Jesus said, "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples" (Jn 15:8).
The breaking of the outer shell, or brokenness, is surrendering your will to God, knowing that, without Him, you can do nothing. It is a total dependence on Him in every aspect of life. It is a deeper understanding of how much we can trust Him when we really do not understand our circumstances and know that we can fully depend on His unfailing love.
The next time you see a seed, be encouraged and know that God is always at work to fulfill His great purposes in your life!
by Julie Parton, Ph.D.
Like natural earthquakes, moral earthquakes don't just happen! They too, are preceded by secret faults, little cracks in character below the surface that eventually erupt into moral earthquakes. When one of these dramatic schisms occurs in the life of someone we know, or work with, or go to church with, how do we respond?
Of all the groups of people on the face of the earth, Christ-followers have the greatest opportunity to be about the ministry of restoration. We, better than anyone else, understand the pervasiveness of sin ("ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Romans 3:23) and the availability of forgiveness ("If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9). We also understand that there are consequences to be dealt with, and very often folks need help in dealing with those. And besides, who among us hasn't at some point needed a new beginning, a second chance?
Paul gives us three steps to follow to go about all this.
Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. Carry one another's burdens. Galatians 6:1-2
by Amy Ford, President & Co-Founder of Embrace Grace
From my heart to yours, I want to say thank you.
Working with girls with unintended pregnancies, I get to see the fruit of your labor. Whether you are a pregnancy center or a maternity home, I see the transformation that begins to happen in each mothers' life that all started with the seeds you planted at the very beginning of their pregnancy journey.
I work with churches across the nation, providing tools and curriculum needed for them to provide small groups within the church to support and encourage young women with unplanned pregnancies.
Local churches partner with local pregnancy centers by referring girls to each other in hopes that she will get plugged into a church family. Embrace Grace groups are a safe place where they can meet young women going through the same situations as they are and hear about a heavenly Father that loves them so very much.
I see these young women sitting in our chairs with their sweet baby bellies. They are scared and nervous but feel hopeful because of the programs and people that pour into them and tell them, "You can do it. You will be a great mom."
Almost all of them tell me it was because of their local pregnancy center that cared for them at the very beginning, they loved them and gave them hope, is the reason why they chose life. When I ask them what specifically meant the most to them, I hear them say, "They accepted me for who I was." "They told me I could do it." "They prayed with me." "They gave me gently used donations for the baby." "They gave me the sweetest picture of my first sonogram." "They said it was okay to be scared but to be brave too." "They seemed to believe in me even though they had just met me."
"They told me congratulations."
We work with maternity homes as well. They send girls over by the van-full every week to their local church groups. It's so beautiful. They are a family.
Because of you they now have stability, love, food and shelter. Because of you they can dream again. I hear them say, "Since I never really had a family of my own, I learned what a healthy family looks like." "A maternity home saved my life and my baby's life, and as a result inspired me to surrender my own life to God." "I have friendships that will last a lifetime." "I am now confident in myself." "They loved me without judging me, even when I didn't deserve love and inspired me to start loving myself again."
You are saving lives two heartbeats at a time. The generational impact on what you are doing is changing the world. Saying the words, "thank you" seems too simple of words of appreciation when we are talking about saving lives and saving hearts. But when I hear these mommas speak from the depths of their hearts to express how very thankful they are for have chosen life as they look into their babies eyes, I hear them saying thank you – and that is all because of you. Whether you are working with pregnancy centers, maternity homes or in any pro-life area, you are changing the world!
Galatians 6:9 So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.
And Mordecai came again to the king's gate. Esther 6:12
The book of Esther is an amazing account of the sovereignty of God. Although God is never mentioned by name, His hand is seen throughout the account as He uses the lives of Mordecai and Esther in tandem to turn a wicked plan of the enemy on its head!
God knows how to position us for great personal and corporate victory. Mordecai was positioned at the king's gate and Esther in the king's palace. The best and most blessed place to be is positioned where God has assigned you... and one place always stands out, in the gate of His presence, at the feet of Jesus. In the book of Esther, Mordecai is continually found sitting at the King's gate. It is referenced 10 times.
So let's take a look at Mordecai and his role in exposing the plans of the enemy.
In the second chapter of Esther, we find Mordecai sitting at the king's gate when he overheard a plot to kill the king. He told Queen Esther, who reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. (Esther 2:21-22) Acts of loyalty were normally rewarded immediately by Persian kings, but Mordecai would wait about 5 years before the king would honor him; a wait that would prove how God makes all things beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Often God works behind the scenes as we wait. We must trust that all things (not just one event), work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).Mordecai was positioned to hear the plans of the enemy, similar to when Elisha would tell the King of Israel the plans of the king of Aram. "Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard..." (2 Kings 6:12).
Sometimes we're in a season when sudden attacks have come, both in the natural and spiritual realms. When we take the time to come into His presence, He will speak to us. At times that will include a "heads up" on the plans and strategy of the enemy.
Sitting by implication means to dwell, to remain, and to abide. It speaks of intimate fellowship. There is something about being in His presence that changes everything! In His presence is fullness of joy and it is joy that gives us strength to overcome. In His presence we can hear Him singing songs of deliverance over us, and can see beyond our natural circumstances. He is inviting us into the place where He covers us with His wings!
Mordecai and Esther ultimately uncovered the plans of Haman (a descendant of Amalek, and an enemy of Israel), who had it in his heart to not only destroy Mordecai, but to annihilate all the Jews. (Esther 3:8)
When Haman saw Mordecai sitting at the king's gate unwilling to bow down and honor him, he became enraged. (Esther 5:9) When the enemy sees us positioned at the gate of His presence, he sees his defeat coming. Our praises are a weapon! And as the song proclaims, "Let our praises rise like a weapon in your hand, let our praises rise, Oh God."
When you spend time positioned at the gate of His presence, you are changed from Glory to Glory. You begin to look like Him, sound like Him, and your walk aligns with His purpose for your life. Mordecai and Esther were assigned a place for a season. Their role and position had great significance because together they shifted the destiny of a nation! And in the midst of that shift, through their obedience, they walked into their new identity. "When Mordecai left the king's presence, he was wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen." (Esther 8:15)
Be encouraged, as Mordecai remained positioned at the king's gate, he uncovered the strategy of the enemy, was instrumental in the deliverance of his people, and became all God intended him to be. We have been called for the same purpose, for such a time as this!
by Anita Keagy, JoyShop Ministries
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear ... but seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:25 & 33
I will never forget the day when Jesus got my attention as I cried out to Him for abundant life. Up to that point I was living the lifestyle of a hamster running on the ever-spinning wheel! I was tired of worrying about my life, my husband's and children's spiritual lives, as well as keeping up with all the responsibilities that continually filled my day. It was one big burden!
As I looked to the heavens and asked God for the abundant life promised in John 10:10, He immediately brought Matthew 6:33 to my mind. I heard His whisper over my anxious heart, "Anita, you have been living life backwards for many years. Every day you wake up, your day is about you and all you feel you need to get done. You are always trying to squeeze some time with Me and reading my Word into your busy schedule and it's not working. Every day your first priority is to be Me! Time alone with Me and My written Word should be the most important accomplishment for the day. Plan your other activities and many responsibilities around our time together! If you live a lifestyle of seeking Me FIRST, then you can be sure that all the things that you are worried about will be taken care of by Me!"
All of a sudden I saw the truth of how I was living. My daily focus was on all I had to get done that day along with worry and anxieties over the future. But God was asking me to change my focus to seeking intimacy with Him first and then leaving the future to Him.
But what does it really mean to seek first His kingdom? To answer this question I grabbed a dictionary and looked up the key words of this verse.
To "seek" means "to look for, to search intently for, to want to find"! I had to get honest with myself and ask the hard questions: Am I really looking for God? Do I take the time to search for Him? Do I really want to find Him?
Next I looked up the word "first." It is defined as, "Earliest in time or order, foremost in position, rank, or importance." To seek God first means that I will either do it first thing in the morning before I start my day or that I will organize my day around my time with Him! What part of "first" do I not get? First is first!
The word "kingdom" is defined as "a realm where the king's word has full sway." What the king desires is what happens. Every time I open my Bible, I am putting my heart under His sway where my King can get what He desires from my life!
For me, choosing a lifestyle of seeking God FIRST means that every day I am given the gift of waking up, I'm going to begin my day with Him. He is all that matters!
Tweet this! I'm going to begin my day with Him. He is all that matters!
Everything else will fall into place. I want to know Him, find Him and keep seeking intimacy with Him. I have been actively living a lifestyle of seeking God FIRST since that day. This simple discipline has brought the abundant life of Christ and His joy back into my heart! Only one thing is needed: order your day around intimacy with God!
Anita Keagy founded JoyShop Ministries in 2006 with one simple mission: To get people to spend time with God every day through Bible reading and prayer. Since then, she has traveled nationwide and internationally, sharing her message of seeking God first each day as the key to abundant life and joy. Thousands of people have heard and responded to her dynamic message at conferences, retreats, schools and churches.
With a compelling story of how God used a very difficult situation in her life for His glory, Anita shares candidly how she became pregnant as a teenager – all the more “scandalous” because she was a preacher’s daughter – and made the difficult choice to place her daughter for adoption. With tremendous support from family, she heroically bore her child and made an adoption plan. Anita never stopped yearning to know her first-born daughter, even as she married and had four more children. Through a file of letters and the help of her adoption agency, Anita finally met her firstborn 21 years later. God used Anita’s own desire to know her child to impress upon her how much He wants to know His children – us! With that knowledge, a ministry was born that is now thriving and impacting lives every day.
Discover more at www.joyshop.org.
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