Diverse, but not Divided (Part 1)

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If one were to describe today’s societal condition with one word, I think one of the first that spring up would be ‘division.’ Racial division, political division, religious division, generational division… and it’s not just that we are divided; it’s that we seem so harshly divided.

It’s painful to say, but I think we even see harsh division spring up in our own churches. Which ones are traditional and which ones are contemporary? Which ones reach out to millennials? Which ones have the best band, which ones have the best small groups, and which ones have the best outreach? This division is especially upsetting because it contrasts with what Christ calls us to be, which is united (1 Corinthians 1:10, Psalm 133:1, Ephesians 4:3).

We are the body of Christ, and the body isn’t made up of just one part. It is made up of many different parts intended to work together to bring glory to God. If you are a believer, you have a spiritual gift that is unique to you that God wants to use for His will. Maybe it’s teaching, maybe it’s service, maybe it’s leadership – all can be used in different capacities, and all are wonderful.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 – “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.”

1 Corinthians 12: 14-16 – “Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,’ would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?”

Diversity can be a great thing, but I think all too often people fear, and resultantly grow hostile to, what they don’t understand. Diversity can be a result of many different things – generation, personality, culture, etc. It can also be a result of sin. But if our diversity isn’t a result of sin, why don’t we embrace our differences? We put our walls up when we are met with someone who is different or who has different ideas, but just because we are diverse doesn’t mean we should be divided.

Next week I want to focus on, from a millennial standpoint, what I think is one of the biggest dividers in our church is today: the generational difference between the older and younger and how that affects and, in many cases, infects the church. The good news, though, is that the generational difference doesn’t have to be a negative issue. It can actually be a very, very  positive and beautiful thing! I can’t wait to elaborate… ‘till next time. 🙂

Blessings,

Erin

Erin Culleny serves as a Marketing Assistant and Staff Writer. She loves encouraging women through her Victory Calls and finds such joy in praying for her sisters in Christ. Her favorite activities include reading her Bible, encouraging others with scripture, buying new makeup, buying dresses, and eating at the Cheesecake Factory… In that order!

 

 

Living in Community

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The idea of living in community is not a new idea with the push for cell groups, community groups, small groups, home church or care group – all meaning an avenue to live life together in community. The reality of community is manifested in the Trinity from eternity past.

I saw recently a sign, “the unity in community.” One of the keys to community is unity. I’ve heard it called Body life and doing life together.  All of these require an investment of time, energy and sometimes funds.  It requires and investment of self.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Philippians 2:1-2

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,  that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 15:5-6

I could go on and on and on. The theme of community and body life is woven throughout Scripture.  I could have listed the “one another” verses which would have also depicted the idea of community.

By the Holy Spirit, we are called and empowered to live in relationship with God and in relationship with others.

So here is the zinger question that God posed to me last week:

Are you living in community or just visiting?

Are you fully invested in ‘doing life’ with your brothers and sisters in Christ or do you drop in when it is convenient?

Need I go on? I think that speaks for itself.

Blessings,

Diane

Diane Hunt serves part-time on the staff of America’s Keswick providing ministry support from her home in North Carolina. She is also a biblical counselor and women’s event speaker. For more information about having Diane speak at your next event please contact her at dhunt@americaskeswick.org.

Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles Part II

 

 

Those of you who know me know I love learning about the Hebrew calendar and the Hebrew feasts and holy days of the year.  It opens the door to deeper understanding and knowledge of our God and our rich heritage.

The fall is a very important time on the Hebrew calendar.  It is a time to celebrate the Rosh Hashanah or the New Year and the Days of Awe.  In the fall the Jewish people sound the trumpet, wake up, seek the Lord, atone for sin and glorify Him who is worthy of all praise.

In a previous devotional I addressed the New Year (also called: Feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah or Head of the Year) and the 10 Days of Awe.  Today I want to address Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot.

If you have engaged in the celebration of Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and the Days of Awe you sounded the trumpet and sought the Lord and are now ready to embrace The Day of Atonement.  This is not a feast day but rather a holy day to fast and humble yourself before our holy God.  This comes on September 30th on our calendar this year.  It is a day to confess your sin.  For us we have the wonderful blessing of placing our sins under the blood of Jesus and have the assurance that we are then fully forgiven and restored to God and His purposes.  Is. 44:22 says, I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud, and your sins like a heavy mist.  Return to Me for I have redeemed you!!  What a blessing!!  So on September 30 I would encourage you to take time and confess whatever sin the Lord reveals to you and be forgiven.  (If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. — 1 John 1:9 NKJ)

 Now you are ready for the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot  (see Leviticus 23:34-43). This feast on our calendar starts on Oct. 5th and ends on Oct. 11.  Many Jewish people go and cut down palm or leafy branches and build a temporary shelter or tabernacle called a sukkah.  God told His people to live in a tabernacle for seven days to remind God’s people that their ancestors lived in tabernacles when He brought them out of Egypt.  The Feast of Tabernacles is a celebration of God’s glory.  It is a time to enjoy the Lord, to celebrate His goodness, to give Him thanks and praise.  Leviticus 23:40 says, to Rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. Deuteronomy 16:14-15 says Be joyful at your feast for the Lord your God will bless you and your joy will be complete.  I am not suggesting you have to build a sukkot but I am suggesting that you set aside time over the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles to give thanks to God.  Thank Him for your salvation.  Thank Him that He is with you and will never forsake you.  Thank Him for your provision. Have fun praising God together with family and friends.   If you have children it may be fun to build some kind of tent or sukkah.

We are not under the law.  We do not have to celebrate any of the Hebrew Feasts or holy days.  However, if you choose to engage in them, you will be blessed.  It will set you up, if you will, for the New Year.  I know our New Year is in January, but September always feels more like a new year to me.  The summer has passed and it’s time to get back to school and a full work schedule. May I encourage you to start fresh this school year.  Start it having been awakened, standing in awe of our God, cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and glorifying His holy name with thanksgiving and praise.  What a great way to start anew!!  Go for it!!

Blessings to you and yours,

Pat

Rev. Patricia Wenzel is the founder and director of a state-wide prayer ministry, PRAY New Jersey Inc., since 2002.  The ministry is committed to praying for and blessing those serving in authority positions in our state, particularly in government.  The ministry is also committed to equipping the saints to pray for those serving in government.  The vision and ministry is guided by the Word of God, in particular, 1 Tim. 2:1-4 and Is. 61:11.  Pat is thankful for the ministry of America’s Keswick.  She graduated from Women of Character in July 2008.

When Hope Rains Down…

Hopelessness is probably the worst thing that can happen to a person. Without hope, there is no light. A discouraged heart without any hope of reason, purpose, or salvation, can lead to death – not only physical death, but emotional and spiritual death as well.

Paul tells us in Romans that our Father will not always shield us from difficulties because we need them to grow spiritually. We are assured that these difficulties work for us and not against us. James tells us that our trials produce patience. Jesus tells us that each day has enough evil of its own. But, WE HAVE HOPE!

As believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, we have an eternal hope that carries us through this earthly sojourn. Because of what He did on the cross for us, we are free from judgment. Because He is coming for us to share His word with us, we are free from discouragement. Because His Spirit lives in us, we are free from defeat. Because He intercedes for us, we can live fear-free. We cannot be separated from His love (Rom. 8:38&39). We are more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37; Rev. 12:11). We are not like those who have NO hope (1 Thess. 4:13). We have our King’s commitment that He has hope and a future for us (Jer. 29:11). We have strength for today and hope for tomorrow (Lam. 3:22-24).

1 Peter 1:3-5 says this:  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! (notice the exclamation point!!!!) In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a Living Hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

WOW! As my good friend says, “If that doesn’t get you fired up, your wood’s wet!”

There are many who are hopeless who cross our paths each day. Maybe at the mall, the Shop-Rite, the drug store, in church…yep, in church. Consider sharing the HOPE that lives inside you with someone today…you may never know this side of heaven how very much they needed it!

In His grace and grip,

Carol

Carol Tirondola is on staff with the Partner Care team at America’s Keswick. She and her best friend, Mario, have been married for 35 years. They have 2 sons and 2 daughters-in-law that they call their “BFFs.” They also have 7 precious gems called grandchildren. Her family has savored many memories of the heart made at Keswick over the last 35+ years and she is thrilled to serve on staff!

 

Irrevocable Justification

…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a giftthrough the redemption that is in Christ JesusRomans 3:22-24; Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. Romans 5:9 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Romans 8:33 (underlining mine)

Our salvation is 100% a work of God.  We cannot embellish or add to it. We cannot improve it.  We cannot earn it or merit it. It is all Him.  Justification (an act of God declaring one righteous) is a result of His choosing, His action.

When Jesus died on the cross, all our sin was future – though God knew ALL of it.  We don’t know what sins we will commit tomorrow or next week or next month but God already knows every single one.

When God wooed you to Himself and saved you (For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9), He rescued you from ALL your sin, not just the ones you already committed.

At the moment of your conversion – that instant when the Spirit of God breathed life into your dead spirit, when Father drew you out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Light – in that instant God justified you (and a lot of other things) and He did that knowing all your past, present and future sin and the blood of Jesus Christ was applied to it all. PAID IN FULL – stamped across your ledger.

No future sin you can commit will catch God off-guard causing Him to “change His mind” and revoke His justification. What peace and rest comes from knowing our salvation is secure because although WE may be caught off guard by our sin, God is not.

God will never find something out about you that He didn’t already know that will cause Him to bounce you out of the family, disinheriting you and sending you back to the kingdom of darkness.

Please read that again:

God will never find something out about you that He didn’t already know that will cause Him to bounce you out of the family, disinheriting you and sending you back to the kingdom of darkness.

Your justification, eternal salvation, and redemption are irrevocable.  You are safe and secure in Him, not because of you but because of Him.

Rejoice, rest and be glad.

Blessings, Diane

Diane Hunt serves part-time on the staff of America’s Keswick providing ministry support from her home in North Carolina. She is also a biblical counselor and women’s event speaker. For more information about having Diane speak at your next event please contact her at dhunt@americaskeswick.org.

Powerlessness

About 10 years ago, I traveled to the Philippines with my friend and her 3-month-old son. They are the only people I know there. And my friend, who at the time struggles to speak English after only 4 years in the States, is my only translator. Without her I’m lost.

We travel to her home province, which is almost 2 hours away from Manilla, the capital and perhaps the one place where I can expect a good amount of the population to speak English. Her family speaks a little bit of English, but virtually no one else in the province speaks or understands much of what I say.

I am completely reliant on her to take care of me. I don’t know when others are talking about me. She orders my food, helps me shop at the store, and rents our car. She is my guide and mouthpiece. I just stand there, nod my head, and smile. She could have ordered me ground up pig snouts and ears for lunch and I wouldn’t know any better. (Actually, she does do that without my knowledge, but that’s a story for another day!)

It is a scary, uneasy feeling at first, but she’s my friend and I trust her. So I decided to let go and have a good time.

This past week in Higher Ground we talked about Step 1 of the 12 Steps in Christian Recovery. It reads:

“I admit I am powerless over the effects of my separation from God — that my life is unmanageable.”

The entire notion of admitting powerlessness is only meaningful when it rests on the recognition that you are utterly dependent on God in every aspect of your life… because within yourself there is no ability to do any good apart from Him.

Romans 7:18 says I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

Like my dependence my Filipino friend while overseas, you are to be dependent on God for your survival and growth every single day. In life, the Lord takes you on a journey of transformation for which He alone is your guide and mouthpiece, for which He alone is responsible for the results.

To this point, living your life for your own accomplishments and insisting on your own will has likely caused an unnecessary amount of stress and pain. Your life is one big roller coaster. The ups and downs are nauseating. The bends and turns set off your vertigo. And somewhere between the sleeplessness and migraines you realize you have no other alternative but to admit you need Him and that you are powerless over what your life has become.

Admitting defeat is your only option. You must accept the reality of your condition. That to continue to over-spiritualize your salvation prevents you from recognizing what you truly need is transformation — a transformation that can only occur when you drop your disguises and stop making excuses for your behavior.

God remains in the business of miracles. Perhaps you can be His next. Admit you are powerless and trust Him.

Diera Shaw-Mendez is thrilled to be part of the team Barbara’s Place, and also serves as worship leader and youth leader at New Beginnings Worship Center, Pennsauken, NJ. She is wife to Chaplain Juan Mendez and mama to Olivia Joy and Sage Grace. She enjoys graphic design, event planning, and cooking. Diera is a God-fearing, Starbucks loving, tech junkie (…in that order!) who simply wants to remind women of God’s unchanging, healing love.

 

Gospel Victory

The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). Faith in God incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ revealed in the Gospel results in eternal life.  We know this.

We also know that the Gospel is not just for salvation but also for spiritual growth and maturity.  From the time we are new babes in Christ until we are with Jesus in heaven the Gospel needs to be a part of our everyday life.

We never move on from the Gospel:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures… 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Galatians 3:2-3; Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

How do we take the Gospel and apply its truths to our personal life and struggles?

You notice in Matthew 4, when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert, He used specific Scripture to combat the enemy’s lies.  He didn’t just throw some generalities at Satan but rather targeted truth at the specific temptation.

Jesus was speaking truth to Satan (Matthew 4: 4, 7, 10). In our situation, we need to speak truth in faith to ourselves, to our hearts and minds, to mount an offensive against the world, the flesh and the devil.

We are leaky sieves and need regular reminders of truth.  This is not a one-and-done exercise.  Every time we are tempted with a lie or to seek comfort from an idol, we need to recall targeted truth. We need to preach the Gospel to ourselves.  I don’t mean simply saying “Christ died, Christ rose again, and Christ is coming again” and then on to the next thing.  I mean targeted Gospel truths.

Permit me a hypothetical example:

Let’s say I struggle with love of money. It finds its way into my life in so many ways. It causes arguments in my marriage because I want to save and my husband wants to spend, or vice versa. I like the pleasures and leisure I can buy with money.  I like the feeling of security a padded bank account gives me.  It shows itself through anxiety when I see it shrinking or when the market crashes and we lose a sizable portion of our savings.

In this illustration, as I give serious thought to my situation, God reveals to me that I have a love of money.  I am trusting money to fulfill my desire for – control, pleasure, security, peace and rest.

To have Gospel Victory – in the moment, (or actually many moments), I need to speak targeted truth to myself.  What Gospel truth does my heart need to hear and believe?

Diane, “I am never really in control and my knowledge is limited so my control is limited, faulty and probably self-serving. There is only One who is sovereignly in control; He is good and knows all things so His control is perfect and good. [i]  It is in Him that true pleasure is found and enjoyed.[ii]  He alone is trustworthy and my true security, able to deliver.[iii]  As a child of God, I am in Christ and can rest in Him and in His finished work on the cross.[iv]  My peace is not because I have ‘enough’ money but because Jesus is my treasure, my greatest treasure, and He supplies my needs. [v]

There are many other verses that I could add to my Gospel arsenal but I think this gives you a practical illustration of how to embrace the victory Christ already accomplished on the cross on our behalf.

Blessings, Diane

[i] Hebrews 2:8 Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. Romans 11:33-36Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

[ii] Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

[iii] Psalm 9:10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you; Isaiah 30:15 In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength;  And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

[iv] 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 And because of him[e] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

[v] Psalm 16:5-6 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance; Galatians 3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith… Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

 Diane Hunt serves part-time on the staff of America’s Keswick providing ministry support from her home in North Carolina. She is also a biblical counselor and women’s event speaker. For more information about having Diane speak at your next event please contact her at dhunt@americaskeswick.org.