Saturday, December 3, 2016

Beginning of Christmas

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in
this way, “When his mother Mary had been
betrothed to Joseph, before they came
together she was found to be with child
from the Holy Spirit.”
                                Matthew 1:18 ESV 

     According to the custom of the day, Mary and Joseph were betrothed. A legally binding contract had been signed and could be broken only by death or divorce. Although considered married, physical intimacy during this portion of a relationship was considered adultery, and the penalty for adultery—death!

     The genealogy listed in Matthew 1:1-17 reveals Jesus’ legal claim to the throne of David. Jesus Messiah would be born of a virgin and raised by an earthly father whose heritage included patriarchs, a prostitute (Rahab) and a King (David).

I cannot imagine the emotional roller coaster of this young girl; from the excitement of betrothal to the unbelievable pregnancy without hope that anyone would believe she had committed no sin. The stares, whispers, and judgment of others who did not know the truth would follow her as she walked through the crowds. Yet chosen by God, she faced her future knowing that this child growing inside of her was a gift of love from Yahweh, Jehovah, I AM.

     As I read these words, written centuries ago, I am reminded of how often we look at another’s situation and make a mental judgment without full knowledge of the truth of their circumstances. And I wonder how much pain we cause others with our less than friendly hello and our fake fellowship.

     It is Christmastime! What better gift could we give our Lord than to love one another with the same kind of love bestowed upon us by our Heavenly Father? I can think of no better way to celebrate Christmas than to spread the love of God throughout our homes, our families, our churches and our communities.

     Today would be a good day to lay aside judgment without knowledge and really begin to love the unlovable people in our lives. It is the beginning of Christmas: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 ESV)

©Joyce Powell

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hope in the Face of Anxiety

Excerpt from "Words of Hope"

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything,
by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds
in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Early this morning my husband and I received an urgent phone call from our son. “I need you to pray NOW, Mom.” My heart sank as I put the phone on speaker so his dad could hear. Police. Student. Accusation. Information. Our children. The longer he spoke, the more anxious I became. He and a team of adults, students, and our grandchildren held a kid’s camp for a church several states away and were ready to start home when the trouble arose. “Please call your prayer warriors, gotta go, call later, bye!” 

My husband and I immediately prayed then began petitioning others to pray urgently for God’s intervention. After an extremely long hour—it felt like three—and acknowledgement from a myriad of pray-ers confirming their petitions to God on behalf of the mission team, our son sent a text informing us they would soon start home although the situation was not yet fully resolved.

After praising and thanking God for His speedy answer and blessing, extending my gratitude to all who prayed, and deep breathing for a few moments, I sat down to write. My title and Scripture for this chapter, chosen weeks ago, reminded me once again of God’s perfect timing. There is Hope in the Face of Anxiety.

The Apostle Paul began Philippians 4:6 with these words, “Do not be anxious about anything…” I cannot honestly tell you that I earned an A on that portion of the test today. I definitely exhibited signs of concern and anxiety. But praise God for the remainder of that verse, “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Can you imagine the seemingly impossible task of never being anxious about anything? So, what do we do with our anxious moments—times of stress—legitimate concerns?

o Pray—Petition God. Make a request. Ask for help.
o Be Thankful
o Praise God

Turn your worry into prayer. Worry Less—Pray More! When you “present your requests to God,” be specific. Yes, He already knows, but remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Be persistent in your pursuit of God. Do not give up. He is not running from you. Psalm 139 tells us there is no place we can go where God is not already there. When anxiety makes your stomach roll and your knees weak, run to God not from Him.

What will happen when you do that? Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” That is your hope in times of anxiety. God’s peace guarding your heart and mind! Shielding your heart from the enemy.

We have lots of cattle ranches in Texas. As you drive along the highways, you often find areas where there is no fence across a driveway to keep the cattle inside the ranch, but rather a series of metal tubes spaced a few inches apart and buried in the ground with only the top of the tubes showing. Cattle will not cross the cattle guards. I like to think of God’s peace doing the same thing for your heart and mine. Peace places a protective guard around your heart making it more difficult for satan’s fiery darts to penetrate.

So, the next time you face anxiety, remember the HOPE! Present your requests to God and allow His peace that—exceeds, surpasses, goes beyond—transcends all understanding to “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” He is your hope in the face of anxiety

©Joyce Powell
Words of Hope-2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

Don't Forget to Look Up

One day satan stood in heaven before Almighty God. The LORD asked satan, "Where have you come from?" (God already knew the answer) Satan replied, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." (Job chapter 1) This is the point that many of us miss. I missed it for years. Job 1:8 says, "Then the LORD said to satan, 'Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.'"

It goes downhill for Job from there -at least in the natural- as God allowed satan access to Job in every way except satan could not kill him. He lost his cattle, his children, his home. His wife told him to curse God and die. His friends (I use that term loosely) accused him.

Job had not seen Jesus walk on water, he had not been on the mountaintop with God like Moses, he had not been delivered a child of promise like Abraham, and yet he trusted God. My favorite verse in the book convinces me that no matter what happens in life my God cares.

In Job 19:25 we read Job's statement of faith, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth."

What a statement of faith considering that Job thought God had brought these circumstances upon him. He was not aware of the conversation between satan and God. But he knew that he knew that he knew he was in his God's hands and that was all that mattered to him. I love that.

It is the same for God's children today. It matters not who is in political power. It matters not about your economic status. It matters not that you are not known in the courts of kings. It matters only that your faith remains in God alone. He is our only security in this life. We can lose it all and have Jesus our Savior, God our Father and the Holy Spirit living within us and know that we have everything.

No matter what you might be facing today, dear friend, if you know Jesus you have everything. If you don’t know Jesus you have nothing. Seek Jesus Christ today. If you need help understanding how to ask Jesus into your heart, please message me. It would be the joy of my life to pray with you as you receive Christ. But the good thing is that you don’t need me or anyone else. Right where you are you can speak to God, confess your sin and ask Jesus into your heart. If you do that, I would love to hear from you.

Be blessed today my friends, and don’t forget to look up.

Joyce Powell

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Harvesting Hope Conference

Several of you have asked for an update on the "Harvesting Hope" conference in Monroe, Michigan. I knew you were praying for me-I could feel those prayers. Thank you. There were 53 ladies present with 10 churches represented. What a blessing! God's Holy Spirit touched hearts, and according to comments from the ladies and the response cards there was renewal of commitment to live for our Lord, faith was strengthened, and hearts were blessed. I praise God for those "eternal treasures."

At the end of our time together, I asked the ladies to write their burdens on a card provided in their gift bags, and bring them to the foot of the cross. There, they placed those burdens in a basket and some prayed at the altar. There were forty responses and many of the cards were filled completely. Would you join me in continuing to pray for those precious ladies and their needs?

God is willing and able to encourage, strengthen, comfort, give peace, and bring joy in the midst of life's troubles. May we each commit to give Him our all til the end of our days on earth.

Again, I thank you for your prayers. Keep 'em comin'. I love y'all so much!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Memorial Stones

Memorial Stones

Set up road signs, put up guideposts.
Take note of the highway, the road
that you take.

Jeremiah 31:21 NIV

The words road signs in the NIV and translated waymarks in the KJV mean exactly what they say. The Lord is instructing Jeremiah to inform God’s people that they are going into exile and on the way out they need to set up stones, raised pillars, road signs in order to mark their way home when exile is over.

This weekend, as I have looked over photos and videos of our military grave markers, I have been reminded that those markers are road signs for Americans. As a nation, we have turned our back on God. Our WWI Veterans are deceased and in 2012 our WWII Veterans were dying at a rate of 670 per day. Korea, Vietnam and all the wars and battles since 1945 have continued to take a toll on the emotional and spiritual well being of our nation.

Today, I challenge you to look back across the history of this great nation. Think about the lives lost from the beginning as we struggled for freedom from those who would keep us in bondage—even across the Atlantic. Think about the battle of brother against brother and father against son during the Civil War. Think about the tombstones, marked and unmarked, which are set as road signs across our nation and across the sea.

If we once again fall into bondage, it will be of our own choosing. For just as the Israelites chose to ignore the prophet Jeremiah who spoke the warning issued by God to the Israelites, many of God’s people in America have become comfortable and lazy—choosing to ignore the neon warning signs now flashing across our land.

We prefer sermons on grace, love and mercy over calls to repentance, holiness and obedience. In this entertain me age, we have limited our pastors to twenty minute sermons and taken the blood out of much of the new music. Many of us are no longer fit for duty. We are soldiers in name only.

I challenge you and myself to stop and think! Look at the spiritual life of our great nation. Compare where we are spiritually against where we need to be. Remember the grave stones set as road signs against the landscape of America.

Our freedom has been won and maintained because of the Hand of God. Today, let us choose to raise high the cross of Christ as we turn our hearts back to the God of our Fathers:

God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast,
Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.

From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

(George Warren, 1888)

© Joyce Powell

Thursday, October 20, 2016

What Good is Prayer

Devote yourselves to prayer, being
watchful and thankful.
        Colossians 4:2  NIV 

I urge, then, first of all, that requests,
prayers, intercession and thanksgiving
be made for everyone.
         1 Timothy 2:1  NIV 

     E.M. Bounds said, “Prayer should not be regarded as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty.”

     In his letter to the church at Colosse, Paul admonished his brothers and sisters in Christ to devote themselves to prayer. The Greek word for devote conveys the meaning to join, to give attention to, be faithful to, to spend much time together.

     Prayer is not a solitary action. Although we often talk about being alone in prayer, it is always alone with God, the two of us spending time together discussing faith, friends, family, life… As we worship, we can feel His presence. As we confess our sin, we can realize His forgiveness. As we bring our requests to God, we recognize our dependence upon God and become thankful for His goodness, mercy, love and grace. As we wait and listen for Him to speak, He teaches us and pulls us into relationship with Him.

     Prayer draws us close to God. Prayer is our place of power as God hears and answers. Often the change most wrought by prayer is in me as God carefully shapes and forms me into the likeness of Christ.

     Prayer is a delight. It is like wiggling your toes in an icy spring on a hot summer day. It is like a drink of fresh cool water after an extended walk on a dusty trail. It is like the first glimpse of spring flowers after a long gray winter, or first sight of a loved one not seen in years.

     Prayer humbles your heart before God and energizes you for the day’s journey. Time spent with God reassures you that you can make it through the trials of life, joyfully. Through prayer you find the peace that passes all understanding. Through prayer your disappointments become an assurance from God that He is working all things out for your good.

     Prayer allows you the privilege of a glimpse through that heavenly portal into the throne room of God—into the place where God’s glory shines too bright for your human eyes—“a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty.”

     What good is prayer?

© Joyce Powell - repost

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

When I Saw the Cross

May I never boast except in the cross
of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which
the world has been crucified to me,
and I to the world.

Galatians 6:14

When a Christian sees a replica of the cross of Christ, whether it is hanging in a church or around someone’s neck, it serves as a reminder of the price paid for our salvation, our freedom, and our hope. We have a small white cross, a gift from a friend in The Cross Ministry, hanging on the fence across the front of our property. We also have a metal cross hanging on the gate to our driveway.

One morning I looked out my window and saw a young man sticking his fingers through the chain link on the gate; testing out the temperament of our dog. A young woman stood behind him on the edge of the road. Still in my pajamas, I cracked the door open enough to ask if I could help them.

He replied that their car battery died and he needed help charging it and asked if I had any jumper cables. I did not see a car so I asked where it was, assessed the situation, and prayed a quick prayer for wisdom and after dressing and pulling the jumper cables from the trunk of my car, I asked them to get in.

As we drove the short distance to the house where their car sat, Jason began telling me his story. The huge gash across the top of his nose and the slight bruising on his face was enough to convince me he was telling the truth.

He and his girlfriend Katie were homeless; living randomly with whoever would give them a place to sleep. All their belongings lay strewn inside the trunk and across the back seat of the beat-up small red car. He explained that he was jobless and awaiting trial on a felony charge. He extolled his innocence and discussed how the other two involved in the crime made a deal to blame him in exchange for their own freedom. He could not leave the area until after the trial but was anxious to get back to his hometown because “everyone here is evil.”

He told the story of being recently beaten up and having his phone and wallet taken. Katie appeared nervous and said nothing.

After his car started, we talked while waiting for the battery to charge. He explained how he tried to get help from the neighbor. “She came to the door but would not open the screen!” He understood that he looked pretty rough and that she could have been afraid. So Jason and Katie began walking down the road trying to find someone to help. I don’t know why, but his next statement surprised me, “When I saw the cross, I knew you would help me!”

I asked if I could pray with them. He said yes, but she was not excited about hearing anyone pray as she sat inside behind the steering wheel. He told me she was evil. I knew they needed Jesus. Finally, on the verge of tears, she joined us and I began to pray. The first thing I asked my Heavenly Father was to help them see Jesus and invite Him to be their Savior if they had not already done that. I asked God to meet their needs and thanked him for the opportunity to help.

Before we parted, I invited them to visit our church, gave them my phone number and a hug. For the remainder of that day and many days after, I prayed for God’s mighty intervention in their situation.

I will probably never see Jason and Katie again. I will probably never discover the resolution to their situation. But there is one thing of which I am sure—they came to me because of the Cross. No matter how little I might have impacted their lives, I have never forgotten Jason’s words which impacted mine, “When I saw the cross, I knew you would help me!”

Later in the day, as I told the story to my sweet husband, I could see the look of anxiety spreading rapidly across his face. “Honey, don’t you think that might have been a little dangerous,” his protectiveness raised the decibels of his voice. I responded with a “maybe” but…

Two crosses on our fence proclaim to the world that we believe in the Christ of Calvary. Those small symbols speak volumes. Just like Jason, I know there is hope and help at the Cross.

© Joyce Powell