God is bigger than your Mountain

Never having lived around mountains, they hold a special sense of beauty and awe to me.  So of course, when asked by friends who hiked to join them I immediately said “Yes”.   My friends and I started the hike laughing and pointing out the grand majesty of God’s creation but within a few hundred steep feet I began breathing hard.  Thinking of myself as being physically fit, the strain did not shake my determination to continue up the trail through Camelback Mountain.  Then, I saw the first great incline and I thought, “oh no I can’t go up that!” My loving sisters in Christ came alongside me and spoke inspiration and hope into my heart.  They reminded me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13) and that I just need to take one step at a time.  God’s truths and their encouragement gave me the will to take a breath with each step and not look ahead except to the next rock.   They continued with this pattern of encouragement 3 more times as I faced each foreboding steep challenge.  And at the last 200 feet when I was starting to doubt their truthfulness, a woman on her way down insisted that I not give up because it would be worth the view from the top and before I knew it I was at the top smiling and cheering.

When I was younger, I used to wonder about the future and even wished I could somehow see into the future.   Now I realize that If God had given me that ability, I may have shied away from many wonderful blessings because there were a lot of heartaches to go through before receiving them….just like the hike up Camelback Mountain.  If I had seen those 3 steep inclines from the bottom I may have been discouraged and never tried to climb up thinking that it was not something that I could do.   God is so good like that, He gives us just enough vision ahead to help us focus on the next step but not enough insight into the future so that we will not be discouraged by the challenges that lie ahead.    His word reminds us not to worry about tomorrow.

It is not enough not to know the future, because there will be times in life when what we face seems insurmountable and it may be in our own strength but we are reminded that He even goes before us and He never leaves us or forsakes us.  He also sends us people who are His ambassadors to help guide and encourage us along the way.  People who have received His comfort in the past and therefore can comfort us in our time of need.   We were not meant to live on our own.   God created us to fellowship with Him and others in community.  It is only our sense of pride that makes us think that we can do life in this fallen world on our own.   We need God and we need fellow believers.   When we are strengthened by God and our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we can go out to be salt and light to the unbelieving world.   If we are not filling up with nutrition from the True Vine, Jesus, we as His branches will not bear any fruit to offer those that are spiritually starving.  We will also be more susceptible to attack by the enemy.  Think about Peter, He was so strong when next to Jesus, insisting that He would be willing to die for Him but as soon as Jesus was arrested and he was no longer in Jesus’ presence; Peter denied Jesus 3 times (Matthew 26:31-35 & 26:69-75).  Unfortunately for Peter at the time, he did not have the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit as we are privileged to have now.  Believers have the gift of the Holy Spirit’s guidance, protection and edification available at all times.

 

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

 

 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:4

 

What’s The Occasion?

It has been heartwarming over the past few days to see so many of my friends and family–and their friends and family–share Facebook posts and photos about Easter.  Families dressed up to attend church, extended families gathering for a meal, egg and candy hunts with little ones.  It’s been fun.  And I’ve enjoyed seeing pictures of loved ones far away making new memories together.

I’ve also been blessed by the posts that remind us of the true occasion we’ve been celebrating–the very heart of the gospel message.  Jesus Christ, King of all kings and Lord of all lords, left His home in Heaven to take His place on a humble cross and die for the sins of mankind.  But it wasn’t the end of the story.  On the third day He rose again, conquering death.  And that is cause for rejoicing and extended celebration!

“Then the angel spoke to the women.  ’Don’t be afraid!’ he said.  ’I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He isn’t here!  He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen.”  Matthew 28:5-6

Because Jesus lives we have the promise of an eternity in Heaven with Him when we accept His outstretched hand and trust Him as Savior.  (See John 3:16)

Because Jesus lives we can face whatever tomorrow might bring (even in turbulent political and economic times) when we choose to trust His promise to be with us always.  (See Matthew 28:20)

Because Jesus lives we have the power to overcome sin in our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit–the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead!  Wow!  (See Ephesians 1:19-20)

Because Jesus lives we are so amazingly, incredibly, abundantly blessed!  Not just on Easter, but every day of every year.

So when the colors of Easter fade–when the dyed eggs have all been eaten or tossed, the decorations have been packed away for another year, and pretty dresses are hung back in the closet–what do you do to carry the celebration with you throughout the year?  How will you hold on to the joy of the Resurrection so it doesn’t fade away along with the colors of the Easter holiday?

In just over three weeks, on April 22, we’ll be gathering together again with our LIFT loved ones.  We’ll rejoice in our shared faith, lift our voices in worship, encourage each other in our lives and ministries, pray for each other, and learn new ways to be effective as Christian women and as leaders.  Kerri Willoughby will bless us this time with lessons on leadership from the book of Nehemiah, continuing on with our 2016 theme of Leading With Love.

LIFT events are one of my favorite ways to continue, and multiply, and  expand on the joy of belonging to Jesus–of knowing He LIVES!  I always come away refreshed and renewed and full of joy.  I hope you will join us.

In the meantime, post a comment here and share with us how you keep the joy fresh in your life.

Blessings,

Deborah Barber

 

 

“As I Have Loved You”

“Equipping and Encouraging Leaders in Women’s Ministry.”  This is our mission here at LIFT, and it’s one we take very seriously.  Our themes for each year and each LIFT event are formed around this intent and with this prayer–that you will go out from every LIFT event encouraged, and with new ideas and tools to help you in your role as leaders of women.

The LIFT theme for 2016 is “Leading With Love.”  At first glance it seems simple and basic, and obvious.  After all, isn’t this the first thing we’re supposed to do as Christians–to love each other?

In our theme verse for the year, 1 Peter 4:8, Peter urged Christians to continue to show deep love for each other, calling it the most important thing of all.  Then in the first chapter of Peter’s second letter he listed this quality of love as the culmination of Christian growth.

Shortly before His death, when Jesus was giving His final instructions to His disciples in the book of John (see chapters 13-15) He repeated this instruction several times:  ”Love each other.”  But He didn’t leave it at that.  His words took it much deeper.

“Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. . . . So now I am giving you a new commandment:  Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  Matthew 13:33-35

Now that’s a tall order.  The greatest ministry leader who ever lived told us to do it like He did.  The One who set aside all His glory to become one of us.  The One who humbled Himself and laid down His life to prove His love.  ”Love each other like I have loved you,” He said.

As ministry leaders it’s easy to get caught up in programs and Bible studies and organizing events.  Things can get hectic when we have busy schedules and lots of responsibility.  We want to do the best job we possibly can of teaching, leading, and nurturing our members and attracting new people.  And so we should.  These are important pieces of ministry.

Still, we all need to stop from time to time and listen again to the words of Jesus.  ”Love like I do.  When you do, the world will take notice.  That’s when they’ll really know that you belong to Me–when you love like I love.”

I hope you make time to be with us at all four LIFT events this year as we examine this theme of Leading With Love.  And I challenge you to take some quiet moments, as each of us should, to look at the way we lead.  Is our ministry method first and foremost a reflection of the love Jesus showed us?

Love and blessings,

Deborah

Soaked or Steeped?

In the well-known devotional “My Utmost For His Highest” Oswald Chambers calls it being “put into soak.”  I’ve often thought about it more like steeping a tea bag.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, soaking means being “immersed until thoroughly saturated,” and steeping is “to infuse or subject thoroughly to.”

Whichever one you want to call it–soaking or steeping–it’s a good thing when it comes to Christians absorbing the Word of God.  And there was an abundance of it going on at our latest LIFT event.

From the words of the worship music, to the scripture-laced teaching by Robyn Bloomquist, to the table discussions of specific verses, God’s Word was opened and searched and absorbed.

As we looked at principles for conflict resolution we referred to the Bible as our “instruction manual” for life.  That’s the way Paul talked about it in 2 Timothy 3:16.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.”

This truth–that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, and authoritative Word of God–is one of the founding principles of LIFT.  We want to make sure everything taught at LIFT is true to God’s Word.  When we base our lives, our ministries, and our interactions on the truths of scripture we are bound together in faith, in purpose, and in love.

And that is a beautiful thing.  God is honored.  Christians are LIFTed up and encouraged.  Ministries grow.

Our LIFT schedule of events for 2015 has come to an end.  This has been a year of growth, blessing, and stretching.  We’ve seen God’s hand on LIFT in amazing ways.  As a team, we are honored to serve with you for God’s glory and the building up of the Kingdom.

Our next LIFT event will be on February 19, 2016.  You can be sure the LIFT team and Board of Directors will be searching the scriptures, LIFTing you up in prayer, and preparing for another awesome year of “Encouraging and Equipping Leaders in Women’s Ministry.”

In the meantime, as you go through the busy holiday season ahead, I hope you make time for some quiet moments.  Maybe you’ll look at a tea bag steeping in a cup of hot water and consider the way God’s Word infuses and changes us.

Soaking our minds in truth, allowing Bible principles to become part of us, we are transformed and renewed–for God’s glory.

Many blessings,

Deborah Barber