Summertime Spirituality

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Donna Young shares how she stays connected to connected to God during her summer months. . .

3 easy ways to stay connected to God this summer:

  1. Commit to leisurely read your Bible every day.

If you’re like most people, you don’t equate Bible reading with leisure reading. Reading for fun is more often associated with works written by Nicholas Sparks than the Apostle Paul. I get it. I love a good summer read as much as the next gal. But maybe we’ve looked at reading God’s Word the wrong way: a “have-to” rather than a “get-to”.

What if we tweaked our perspective just a smidge?

Summertime Bible reading allows freedom to read what we want at a pace that works best for us. One chapter a day? That’s cool. One Psalm a day? Cool. The entire New Testament this summer?  That’s cool, too.

I like to pick a book of the Bible and work my way through it, just like I read a novel. I put myself in the shoes of the characters. Try it. The Bible will come alive in a new way. You’ll love it!

On your smart phone, download the free You Version Bible app. Or try BibleGateway.com. I like the New Living Translation for easy reading.

Whatever you decide to read, open your Bible and read something. Read unhurried. Savor the experience. Make notes in the margin. Journal your thoughts. Enjoy a great cup of coffee, or your favorite cold drink. Read by the pool, or under an umbrella at the beach. Read on a park bench while the kids play. Read at a coffee shop, or at lunchtime. Read in the evening before bed.

Just read.

2.  Go to church.

Hold on. Don’t stop reading. Seriously. You need to hear what I’m about to say. Goodness, I need to hear what I’m about to say.

This summer make a commitment to attend church. Why? Because you need it. How do I know? Because I need it, too.

Our enemy knows we need it, as well.  Which is why he’ll throw anything and everything in our path to prevent us from getting there: exhaustion, laziness, bad attitudes, family squabbles, sickness, tardiness, other more “appealing” opportunities, kids’ sports, guilt, apathy. You name it; the devil can dish it out.

When my kids were younger we were never, ever late for school, but we were always late for church. For some reason (hmmm…) we just couldn’t get it together to leave for church on time. Now that they are older, the devil works on me. In fact, I’ve noticed a pattern as I dress for church–a thought, a memory, a worry, a concern–begins to eat away at my inner peace. There have been mornings I’ve had to will myself to go to church because honestly, I didn’t want to.

In moments like these, my “will-to” needs to win the war over my “want-to”. Occasionally, I have to give myself my own “talking to”: “Just go. You want regret it. And you need it.”

Our enemy knows our spiritual commitment, our emotional refreshment, and our psychological resilience gets rebooted through the power and presence of Christ, and His community. The worship refocuses us. The prayer reinvigorates us. The Word refuels us. The people restore us. The experience reminds us of who God is, who we are, and what this life is all about.

We need this. Our souls need this. Our kids need this, too.

Our enemy doesn’t want us to get what we need to stay connected to Christ, which is why he’ll try anything to get us off course. He knows something else, too.

When we disassociate with the people of God we inevitably disassociate with the person of God.

Oh, maybe not at first. But over time, it happens.

Other things seep in and become priorities, and before we know it, our relationship with God has become a distant second. Or third. Or forty-third.

Don’t let this happen to you. Make a commitment to go to church.

3.  Look for an opportunity to serve.

You know those extra summertime minutes you have?  Use them to relax and unwind, but also use them to bless someone else. Nothing keeps us connected to God like serving people in Jesus’ name.

Frankly, sometimes we need to put ourselves in a position to need Jesus. Serving others does that.

It’s easy to live as if Jesus is a nice addition to our life rather than the sustaining force behind it. If I can do everything in my life without giving Jesus a thought, something is terribly wrong. And when I forget Jesus, I flounder.

When we serve, we stretch ourselves beyond ourselves. When we stretch, we grow. When we grow, eventually, we flourish.

So there you have it…three simple ways to keep your spiritual mojo and stay connected to Christ this summer.

Read.

Go.

Serve.

You don’t have to flounder in your relationship with God; you can flourish. Flourish, and make this your best summer yet!

How do you stay connected to God during the summer?

No Expiration Date

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Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

— Psalm 71:18

Chuck Swindoll once said, “Let’s recognize that age has little to do with ability.” He then went on to point out…

“Ted Williams, at age 42 slammed a home run in his last official time at bat…. Golda Meir was 71 when she became prime minister of Israel…. George Bernard Shaw was 94 when one of his plays was first produced…. And Benjamin Franklin was a framer of the United States Constitution when he was 81.”

If age were an obstacle to achievement, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and a long line of other biblical characters would have never been used to do incredible things for God – Abraham to raise Isaac, the child of promise; Moses to deliver God’s people from slavery; and Samuel to anoint the young shepherd boy David to one day be king.

It was in their twilight years that God called them to one of the greatest tasks of their life – and He gave them the strength to see it through!

So be encouraged today knowing that God’s plans for your life don’t have an expiration date. In fact, His biggest adventure for you may be just around the bend.

Prayer Challenge

Ask God to ignite a new passion in your heart for the road ahead. Pray that He will use your experience and abilities to build His Kingdom and encourage others

Questions for Thought

In what ways may you have put an expiration date on God’s plans for your life?

How could you start fresh today and serve God with renewed zeal?

Beauty For Your Ashes

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Yes, it’s true, life is not always happy. It’s not always easy. It deals harshly sometimes, it seems unfair, and we may wonder where God is, or why He didn’t stop that difficult event or illness from happening.

Job was there too. This righteous man who loved and honored God. Yet he lost everything. It crumbled around him, all he held dear. And he knew without God, he was nothing. And we find him in the beginning of the book of Job, “…he sat in the ashes.” Job 2:8

Daniel was there. He and the people had suffered under captivity, he prayed to God on behalf of his people, that God would have mercy. He repented, and confessed his own sin, his deep need for Him. He knew where true strength and help came from, “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy withfasting and sackcloth and ashes.” Daniel 9:3

Tamar was there. She had trusted and yet was betrayed. David’s own daughter had been taken advantage of, raped, and she was left on her own, alone, with no hope for her future, to pick up the broken pieces of shattered life. “And Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went.” 2 Sam. 13:19

And they may have wondered too…

Where was God in it all? Where is He now? Deep grief, crime, captivity, illness, death of loved ones, shattered hope, and broken dreams?

What Beauty for Ashes Really Means: 

His Truth says this: He was there. In the midst of it all.

And though we may not always see it, or feel it, or even understand it, we can know beyond a doubt, that He is now. Still. He is with us.

“To provide for those who grieve…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.” Isaiah 61:3

For He will never leave us or forsake us, His love for us in greater than we could ever imagine, though we live in a world where we face trouble many days.

Jesus reminds us in John 16:33“In this world you will have trouble, but take courage, for I have overcome the world.”

And that’s the key to the ashes that cover our days in this life. The deeper Truth that shines through every bit of our grief, and pain, and sin, is this, Christ came to set us free. Christ came to redeem. Christ came to bring hope. Christ came to bring beauty from ashes.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Is. 61:1-3

He never intends for us to stay stuck in our sin, pain, or deep sorrow. He heals and restores, He calls us onward, He reminds us that in Him, we have great purpose and hope.

There’s beauty and greatness behind every mark of darkness. The ashes will fall away, they don’t stay forever, but His greatness and glory shine forever through every broken place and flaw we’ve struggled through.

He conquered death. He lives forever. He reigns in glory. And we have victory in Him.

Take courage dear friends who are facing deep battles. He is greater than any enemy we face in this life. We overcome because He has overcome and our lives are hidden in Christ. May God cover you with peace, may He bring healing in the face of hard news, may He bring deep, abiding joy that makes no sense to the world, may He bring comfort and care as He wraps you in His arms. The God of miracles fights for you today, and He is Mighty.

There’s still beauty ahead…straight out of ashes. Christ redeems. Grace.

A Prayer for Beauty from Ashes

Dear God,

Sometimes the way has seemed too dark. Sometimes we feel like our lives have been marked by such grief and pain, we don’t see how our circumstance can ever change. But in the midst of our weakness, we ask that you would be strong on our behalf. Lord, rise up within us, let your Spirit shine out of every broken place we’ve walked through. Allow your power to be manifest through our own weakness, so that others will recognize it is You who is at work on our behalf. We ask that you would trade the ashes of our lives for the beauty of your Presence. Trade our mourning and grief for the oil of joy and gladness from your Spirit. Trade our despair for hope and praise. We choose to give you thanks today and believe that this season of darkness will fade away. Thank you that you are with us in whatever we face, and that you are greater than this trial. We know and recognize that you are Sovereign, we thank you for the victory that is ours because of Christ Jesus, and we are confident that you have good still in store for our future. We thank you that you are at work right now, trading our ashes for greater beauty. We praise you, for you make all things new. We trust You will take all the rubble, ruin and ashes of our lives and transform them into Your unfading, eternal beauty in Christ our Lord, Amen. 

To Love is to Live

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“Start living now! Stop saving the good china for that special occasion. Stop withholding your love until that special person materializes. Make the effort, take the time to love deeper and be more compassionate to all people because that is the very purpose of life itself for all humans. Every day you are alive is a special occasion, worthy of grateful celebration. Every second, every minute, every breath, is truly a gracious gift from God none of us deserve. Please, my friend, don’t waste these fleeting moments of your life, unless you want to wake up one day, old and cranky with painful regrets.”
—Mary Manin Morrissey

The Extravagant Love That Finds Us

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Shana Schutte writes;

One of my girlfriends was lonely and frustrated that God hadn’t delivered her greatest desire: a husband. Never married and 40, she was tired of praying and waiting and waiting and waiting, but most of all she was convinced that her life was somehow less-than. “Being single is not the abundant life!” she stated emphatically. I certainly identified with the sometimes heart-wrenching emotions of feeling like the only girl without a date to the prom. I empathized with her loneliness, her cries late at night when only God can hear and her zillion prayers for a man she wasn’t even sure exists. But the absence of abundant life? Our conversation sent me running for my Bible where I found (John 10:10.)”The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.”The word “LIFE” jumped off the page. I had to look up its meaning. In the definition, I found the prescription for my friend’s sickness of heart: God Himself is the abundant life that both she and I seek—not relationship with a man.” 

The Greek word for life is “ZOE” (the original language) and means:

“LIFE, referring to the principle of life in the spirit and the soul. (emphasis mine). [ZOE is] all the highest and best that Christ is, which He gives to the children. The highest blessedness of the creature.”

Supernatural Life (with a capital “L”). God’s Life inside of me. Inside of you. In the spirit. In the soul. God-given. God-originated. God-fueled. The highest blessing we can have this side of heaven. Christ Himself.

Friends, the first step to developing an intimate (and fulfilling) love relationship with God is to admit that the abundant life He promises will never be found in another person. Instead, as the definition of “zoe” (life) shows, true abundant life is internal and it’s found in Christ alone.

Don’t get me wrong; God created us to experience human love, and romance can add a wonderful dimension to life. But romantic love will never be able to trump an intimate love relationship with God. Frankly, God likes it this way because He doesn’t want any contenders for your heart; He’s jealous for your affection (Ex. 34:14).

Secondly: Accept That a Fulfilling Intimate Love Relationship With God is PERSONAL

Some things with God are so personal, so intimate, that they cannot be described with words, they can only be felt with the heart. This is how true intimacy with God is; we feel that no one else can really understand the special bond that we share with Him because it’s altogether personal.

This describes my relationship with Christ. He has comforted me as I have cried, directed me, taught me, rebuked me, guided me and loved me. There have been times when I have thought that my heart would burst with emotion for Him.

“Who could understand the depth of my relationship with Him but me and my Savior?”

This is true intimacy with God: when we feel that no one else would totally understand, even if we tried to explain, because relationship with God is personal.

If you haven’t ever committed yourself to a personal relationship with Him, it’s not fraught with difficult requirements and religious duties. He doesn’t ask that you change yourself before you commit yourself to Him; He just asks that you come as you are, confess your sin to Him, recognize your need to have your sins forgiven and accept His gift of forgiveness that He has offered to you through His death on the cross (Matt. 27:1-66, 2 Cor. 5:21). After you have done this, you can begin a life-long conversation with Him which is part of the abundance of “zoe.”

Lastly, remember that just as developing intimacy with another person takes time, so it is with relationship with God. As you grow to trust Him and believe what He says in His Word more and more, your love affair with Him will become increasingly fulfilling and the abundance of “zoe” will grow inside your spirit and soul, encapsulating your entire being with a supernatural sense of joy and fulfillment you’ve never had before and can’t explain, but it’s very real. 

As you do this, God will give you the faith to trust Him to bring the right person in your life at the right time. You won’t get so frustrated with God, but trust Him in a much greater way because you know His plan is perfect. You will experience a deeper sense of His peace & joy today & for your future. “Zoe” (God’s Life) will animate your entire being.

This is the extravagant love we don’t have to keep looking for because it has already found us! This is the perfect, unconditional love that comes from our Father and revealed to us at the cross of Jesus Christ His Son for us. Let His love embrace you today and trust your tomorrows, and all your prayers, for a future spouse in His loving, all-powerful hands. He has not forgotten you. 

The Juggler & the Diamond

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The Juggler & the Diamond

He was born in Italy but came to the United States as a young man. He studied juggling and became famous throughout the whole world.

Finally he decided to retire. He longed to return to his home country and settle down. He took all his worldly possessions, booked a passage on a ship to Italy and invested all the rest of the money in a single large blue diamond. He hid the diamond in his stateroom.

While aboard ship, he was showing a boy how he could juggle a bunch of apples. Soon a crowd had gathered. The pride of the moment went to his head. He ran to his stateroom and got the diamond. He explained to the crowd that it represented his entire life’s savings. He started juggling the diamond. Soon he was taking more and more chances.

At one point he threw the diamond high into the air and the crowd gasped. Knowing what the diamond meant, they begged him not to do it again. Moved by the excitement of the moment, he threw the diamond even higher. Again the crowd gasped and then sighed in relief when he caught the diamond.

Having total confidence in himself and his ability, the juggler told the crowd he would throw it up one more time. This time it would be so high that it would be out of sight for a moment. Again, they begged him not to do it.

But with the confidence of all his years of experience, he threw the diamond high into the air. It actually did disappear for a moment. Then the diamond returned into view sparkling in the sunlight. At that moment, the ship lurched and the diamond dropped into the sea and was lost forever.

We all feel terrible about the man’s loss of all his worldly possessions. But God compares our soul as more valuable than the possessions of the whole world.

Just like the man in the story, some of us are juggling with our souls. We trust in ourselves and our own ability and the fact that we have gotten by before. Oftentimes there are people around us begging us to stop taking the risk because they recognize the value of our soul.

But we continue to juggle one more time…never knowing when the ship will lurch and we will have lost our chance forever.

The Bible says, “Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation.”

The Bible teaches we can’t come to Christ anytime we want to, only when the Spirit of God is tugging at our hearts. To put off our decision to surrender to Christ is as dangerous and risky as that foolish juggler we just read about.

“How about you?” 

If you would like to invite Jesus Christ into your life and know you have eternal life and have total assurance your sins are forgiven —- please pray this prayer aloud; 
✝️
“Dear God, 
I know that I am a sinner and I know I need Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ today. I believe Jesus died for my sins on the cross and was raised from the dead on that first Easter morning. I want all my sins forgiven and I want to know I have eternal life right now. I am willing to turn from my sins, with Your help and turn to Jesus with all my heart. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart now and take control of my life. I will follow You from this time on as Your disciple. In Jesus name, Amen.” 

If you prayed that prayer, please message us. We would like to encourage you in this all important decision to follow Christ.

God bless you richly! 
David Crews