Esther for This Time #10 – Celebrating God’s Goodness & the Feast of Purim

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Esther for This Time #10: Prayer, Reversals, & JOY

Esther and Mordecai Writing the Second Letter of Purim, Painting by Aert de Gelder, 1685

Celebrating God’s Goodness

Do you celebrate God’s goodness? Reflecting on what God has done can inspire you to trust Him more and will strengthen your faith. For Esther and Jewish families, the Feast of Purim is an annual celebration that reminds them how God delivered them from their enemies and continues to do so. Join the podcast today to celebrate God’s goodness and review the many reversals in the Book of Esther.

Reversals Continue

Approximately two months and ten days after the first decree was issued, Mordecai wrote the second edict, empowering the Jewish people to defend themselves against their enemies. The turnarounds were astounding! Today, we share at least 15 reversals and cover these points:

No Plundering (Esther 9: 1-17)

  • To plunder means to steal goods by force, often during a war and with an objective of making profit.
  • In Esther 9, the Jewish people remembered the violation of God’s commands in their heritage (1 Samuel 15) and acted in holy retribution for self-defense but took no plunder for their profit.

 The Feast of Purim Established Forever (Esther 9: 18 – 10: 3)

  • Mordecai and Esther declared two days of celebration in an official decree to be remembered forever.
  • Purim means “lots” or dice which is what Haman used to pick the date for the Jewish annihilation.
  • The Book of Esther, also called the Megillah,  is read twice during the Feast dated according to the Hebrew calendar.
  • Children “boo and hiss” and throw popcorn when they hear Haman’s name.
  • Today, Jewish families celebrate by bring gifts to the poor, giving gifts to each other, and eating fruit-filled triangular cookies called Hamantashens [haa·muhn·taa·shn] or Haman’s Ears. They are delicious! You can pick up a recipe card on my website WRAPYourselfinJOY.com or in my book.

Banquets and Feasts in Esther

  • Esther begins with a banquet and ends with a feast, all with great joy.
  • Four pairs of feasts celebrate the turnarounds and triumphs of God.

The Dream, Memory, and Plot (Esther 10 – 16).

  • Esther 10 -16 , the Deuterocanonical additions A – F,  suggest Mordecai remembers a Dream. It foretold God’s deliverance relating to the main events in Esther. In addition, these chapters add a few details to the occurrences.

The Hero of the Book of Esther is GOD

  • God used the beautiful Esther, caused the sleeplessness of the king, brought down Haman, exalted Mordecai, and gave the Jewish people victory over their enemies.
  • God showed tremendous power on behalf of his people. Almost like fireworks, the reversals came quickly and spectacularly, fifteen in all.

Remembering God’s Goodness

  • The Feast of Purim, still celebrated yearly in the Jewish tradition, helps families remember God has delivered them and will continue to deliver them.
  • Psalm 77 calls us to remember God’s goodness.

Personal Reflection

  1. Do you set aside time to remember, joyously celebrate and thank God for what He has done for you? How can you implement Esther’s example?
  2. Do you call upon God for creative solutions or turnarounds when problems arise? Try it!
  3. Are you encouraging others that God intervenes in history when his people seek him with prayer, repentance, and fasting? Please consider it!

New Podcast Series & Cup of JOY Women™

  • Join my newest podcast coming this summer: Ruth – Finding JOY in Tough Times and Trusting in God’s Goodness.  If you would like to host a weekly one-hour “Cup of Joy Women™ ” study with your friends, email me: karen@WrapYourselfInJoy.com. It’s free and I will send you all the materials you need for the weekly one-hour discussion and study over coffee. You can read more HERE on hosting a CUP of JOY Women or Cup of JOY Gathering small group.

Links

Esther for This Time #9 – Creative Solutions and MORE Reversals

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Esther for This Time #9

Esther Reigns as Queen

Creative Solutions for Esther & Her People

Do you need some creative solutions for your life?  It may look like there is NO way out, but God working behind the scenes can always give a perfect solution. Today, we watch the reversals in Esther unfold through a second edict as many watching Esther and the nation’s deliverance express a desire for conversion.

In this podcast, we will cover the following points.

Mordecai Authorized to Write a Second Edict (Esther 8: 3-8)

  • Mordecai not only acquired Haman’s wealth and property but also his position.  The king gave him his signet ring making him the second most powerful man in Persia.
  • However, there was still unfinished business! If Haman’s first edict issued in the king’s name was not overturned, all Jews would still be killed. Legally, a king’s edict was irrevocable.
  • For the second time, Esther appeared before the king, and using gentle leadership asked for Haman’s decree to be revoked.
  • The king had given Mordecai his signet ring allowing Mordecai to write whatever he pleased.

Reversals: Jewish People Empowered (Esther 8: 9-10, 13-17 & 16: 15-23[E])

Two months and ten days after Haman issued the first edict, Mordecai summons the king’s secretaries and wrote a second edict that counteracted Haman’s edict, empowering the Jews to defend themselves.  At least six more reversals transpired:

  • Haman‘s edict was written and dispatched to kill the Jews (3: 13-15) The Reversal (8: 10-14): Mordecai’s edict was sealed and dispatched to give the Jews authority to attack those who would attack them.
  • Haman‘s edict becomes the law (3: 14) The Reversal (8: 10-14): Mordecai’s writ becomes a decree that all must obey.
  • Mordecai mourns in sackcloth, and ashes (4: 1). The Reversal (8: 15): Mordecai wears royal robes of blue and white, a crown, and a mantle.
  • Mordecai wails in disgrace at the king’s gate (4: 2). The Reversal (8: 15): Mordecai was honored as the whole city shouted and rejoiced.
  • The Jews mourn in sackcloth and ashes with fasting (4: 3). The Reversal (8: 16): They celebrate a time of gladness, joy, and honor with a royal festival and holiday.
  • The Jews were weak and dispersed in the culture (3: 8). The Reversal (8: 17): The turnarounds brought about such fear of the Jews that many Persians converted or said they were Jews.

Personal Reflection

Do you need creative solutions and more reversals? Don’t give up.  Ask our Lord to show you creative solutions for your impossible situations. Invite the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and your ears to what you don’t yet see.   Remember God loves reversals and His solutions are always the best solutions and they will bring JOY!! Principles from Esther to help guide you in difficult times might include:

  1. When God defeats your enemies, they are vanquished.
  2. Assemble with others for increased strength to defeat foes.
  3. God can give gladness, joy, and honor to replace sadness, darkness, and despair.
  4. When people observe reversals and empowerment on your behalf, it could lead to turnarounds, change of heart or conversions.

Links

Esther for This Time #8 – Reversals Begin

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Esther for This Time #8 – Reversals Begin

Painting: Esther reveals Haman’s plot to the King by Jan Lievens, 1623

God Loves Reversals

Do you need reversals in your life? Let Esther encourage you. God loves reversals, and He can make them happen for you.

Three Reversals

Today in our podcast, we encounter three reversals in Chapter Seven of the Book of Esther. This is God’s providence, bringing dramatic changes in circumstances in response to the prayers of His people. It can happen again, and it can happen in your life! Join us today as we cover these points:

God’s Intervention

  • When King Ahasuerus cannot sleep, he reads his chronicles and discovers Mordecai’s service needs a reward.
  • The King asks Haman what he can do for the man he delights to honor.
  • Haman replies the man should wear the King’s clothes, ride the King’s horse, and be proclaimed for service throughout the streets.

A Peripety

  • Haman hates Mordecai and is humiliated when the King tells him to proceed with these actions for Mordecai.
  • It is a peripety – a significant reversal of circumstances or turnaround of intentions written in heaven.
  • When Haman told his friends and wife Zeresh about the Mordecai incident, they warned him: “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not prevail against him but will surely fall before him.”

God Reverses Evil (Esther 7: 1-8)

  • Esther dishes up sweet words to the King.
  • She knew when it was NOT time to speak and when it was time to say her request to the King.
  • She used the exact words from the edict so that the King knew he was hearing the truth.

Persian Culture

  • In Persian culture,
    • Diners eat at a table while reclining on a couch.
    • Men could not come within seven steps of a woman in the King’s charge or harem.
  • Haman approached Esther’s couch to beg for mercy – he had overstepped his bounds by 7 feet.
  • To the King, he was assaulting Esther. So, he orders a face cloth draped on Haman.
  • In the Persian culture, a facecloth covers an enemy of the King so the King would not have to look upon the one he condemned.

The Lord Loves Reversals  (Esther 7: 9 – 8: 2)

  • Harbona, one of the King’s chief consultants, appears to know of Haman’s hatred for the Jews and of the gallows he built in his backyard to execute Mordecai. He suggests Haman hang on these gallows.
  • Oh, how the Lord loves reversals! His divine providence reversed three evil events for today.
    • The gallows built in Haman’s backyard for Mordecai are used to hang Haman.
    • The King removes the signet ring, indicating “a second in charge” position, from Haman and gives it to Mordecai.
    • Haman’s decree is reversed.  Instead of plundering the property of the Jews, the King gives Haman’s property to Queen Esther.
  • What the study of literature calls peripety—an event that suddenly brings a reversal of fortune and dramatic change in circumstances, is what Christians call a miracle.

Personal Reflection

  • Romans 15: 4 reminds us: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” Let Esther give you hope. God can give you reversals too:
  • Which of the following principles do you find most helpful for you?
    1. God can reverse the evils around us.
    2. Gentle leadership with prayer and God’s discernment accomplishes much.
    3. Teachers of drama or literature call a reversal “peripety,” but Christians call it a miracle.
  • What miracle or turnaround do you need today?  Based on what you observed from Esther and Mordecai, how will you pray for one?
    1. Read Psalm 37: 1-5 and notice all the phrases “do not fret” and “trust in the Lord” instead. Which will you do? The Lord will act as you delight in Him and commit your way to Him.
    2. Ask Jesus to bring laughter and joy to your life as you pray for the reversal.

Links

Esther for This Time #7 – God-Designed Comedy

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Esther for This Time - Prayer, Reversals & JOY

Mordecai Led Through the City by Haman by Azor Masters, Painting, 1420 AD, The Hague

God-designed Comedy

God-designed comedy can reverse calamity! Don’t you wish every tragedy turned into a good laugh instead? Sometimes, we think God doesn’t have a sense of humor. Today in our podcast on Esther, we cannot help but see the comedy from the hand of God that reverses a tragedy.

In Between Dinner Parties

In our last study, Esther asked the king and Haman to a festive banquet dinner she prepared. At the end of the dinner, Esther invited the king and Haman to a second dinner the next day. She delayed the real request because her discernment through prayer and fasting told her the timing was not right.  Between the two dinner parties, Haman bursts with pride to family and friends at being asked to dine twice with the king and queen of Persia. However, his joy disappears at the sight of Mordecai, who refuses to stand up in his presence. Today, we join the king, whose sleeplessness, ordained by God, leads to a reversal of circumstances. We cover these points:

The Sleeplessness of the King Results in a Peripety (Esther 6: 1-12)

  • The King can’t sleep, so he entertains himself by reading his annals – large volumes that record the history and accomplishments of a king’s reign.
  • The King’s sleeplessness begins with peripety (pronounced “pe-rip-e-tē”). The term is used in dramatic arts to define a sudden reversal of fortune with a change in direction.
  • In a tragedy, the plot turns a lead character’s fortune into ruin.
  • In a comedy, the reversal changes tragedy into comedy.
  • In Esther Chapter Six, we see both kinds of peripety.

God’s Reversals (Esther 6: 12)

  • The king turns in his annals to an event that occurred five years earlier, only to discover that Mordecai’s service had NEVER been rewarded.
  • Just then, Haman arrives at the inner court after constructing a 75-foot-high gallows for hanging Mordecai.
  • Haman lusts for power and hopes to wear the King’s robe.
  • The ancients attached great significance to wearing a royal robe. It was considered a mark of great favor and honor.
  • Haman tells the king what could be done to the man whom the king wants to honor.

Haman Humbled (Esther 6: 13-14)

  • Haman hated Mordecai and was greatly humbled when he proclaimed his greatness while wearing the king’s robes and crown and riding the king’s horse.
  • God’s hand seems to create a peripety: Haman, once honored as second in power to the king, is humiliated, and Mordecai, in sackcloth and ashes, is exalted in the king’s robe and attire.
  • Haman’s friends and wife Zeresh realize that the Jews worshipped a God, who seemed to be intervening.
  • Haman did not know the warnings of Proverbs 16:18 and Matthew 23: 12.
  • Proverbs 16: 18. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. NRSV-CE or
  • Matthew 23: 12. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. NRSV-CE

 The Greatest Peripety of All (Ephesians 2: 4-6)

  • The greatest reversal of all God planned since creation was our redemption from sin and eternal death through Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.
  • It was the greatest REAL peripety of all.

Personal Reflection

  • In Esther Chapter 6, we see God’s hand at work reversing many situations. Which of the following principles do you find most helpful?
  1.  Wait for God’s timing and guidance: He can intervene in your life with a miracle that changes everything.
  2.  God intervenes in history when His people call out to Him with prayer, repentance, and fasting.
  3.  Jesus Christ is your reversal of fortune—He died out of love for you to forgive your sins and offer you eternal life. Now is the time to accept His forgiveness as His plan for your life.
  4.  I will try to remember these verses to remind me of God’s ability to intervene in the worst of circumstances:
  • Isaiah 59:1. See, the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.
  • Jeremiah 32: 27. See, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me? NRSV-CE

Links

Esther for This Time #6: Pray, Wait and Discern

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Esther for This Time, Wait, Pray, & Discern

Image: Esther before Ahasuerus (1547-48) Painting by Tintoretto

Pray, Wait & Discern

Are you praying, waiting, and discerning? Have you ever prayed in a daunting situation? Were you looking for a quick solution? Sometimes a quick solution is not the best solution. In our podcast today, Esther shows us the value of prayer, but also why it’s important to wait and discern God’s solution.

Esther Puts Her Life on the Line

Esther’s name comes from the Hebrew root “SIT-UR seter,” which means “concealed.” It suggests her identity would be concealed for a time, but the time had come for her to reveal her faith.  Mordecai asked her to go to the king to stop the edict against the Jews, but without an invitation, she could be executed.  Esther finally agreed to put her life on the line for such a time as this. She knew she needed God’s intervention, so she called for three days of fasting from food and water for all Jews, and even her maids. Then she would go to the king with the conclusion, “If I perish, I perish.”  In the podcast today, we will cover these points.

The Third Day (Esther 5: 1-8)

  •  The “third day” in the Jewish faith is significant. A Jewish commentary suggests believed God’s deliverance for Israel would come after prayer on “the third day” (Midrash Raba, Esther).
  • For example, in the Old Testament, Hosea 6: 2 says,  After two days, He will revive us; on the third day, God will raise us up, that we may live before him. NRSV-CE
  • The third day also connects to the Christian faith and Jesus’ resurrection.

Esther’s Gentle-Discerning Leadership (Esther 5: 5-7)

  • Esther “stood” before the king, radiating inner strength and outer beauty from God.
  • Esther 15 (Deuterocanonical): the King invited Esther to him, saying: “Come near. 11 Then he raised the golden scepter and touched her neck with it; 12 he embraced her, and said, “Speak to me.”
  • Gentle leadership characterizes a leader who is kind, compassionate, loyal, and willing to listen to the needs of those around her.
  • A discerning leader prays and waits for God’s direction.
  • Queen Esther was truly a gentle and discerning leader.  She leaned completely on God for strength and guidance.

 Esther’s Discernment and the First Banquet (Esther 5: 9-14)

  • The fasting and prayers of Esther and God’s people changed the heart of the King.
  • On the third day of fasting, Esther abandoned herself in total submission to God, put on royal robes to show her authority as Queen of Persia, and became the leader God designed her to be.
  • Esther asked the king and Haman to a festive dinner banquet she had prepared.
  • At the end of the meal, Esther delayed and again asked the king and Haman to come to a second dinner on the following day.
  • God’s guidance and discernment indicated Esther needed to wait one more day.

 Haman and His Prized Sons

  • Haman boasted to his family and friends (v. 10-12). He had 12 sons.
  • Historian Herodotus says the Persians prized a large number of sons, second only to great courage in war.
  • Haman’s pride burst with pride at being invited to dinner twice with the king and queen of Persia.
  • Only the sight of Mordecai, who would not bow to him, pricked his joy. His wife, Zeresh, suggested he build a 75-foot (50-cubit)- high gallows and hang Mordecai immediately.

Personal Reflection

  • Which principles on prayer, waiting and discernment will you apply?
  • I need to seek God with other pray-ers for support to stand firm in spiritual battles.
  • To become gentler and more discerning, I need to increase my time in prayer, repenting for myself and others, fasting, and waiting.
  • I want to rely more on God’s discernment. I must wait where God has placed me and invite his discernment and leadership.
  • I will try to remember this verse: Isaiah 40:31.“But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” NRSV-CE

Links

Esther for This Time # 5 – Your Mission For Such a Time as This

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Your Mission For Such a Time as This

Do you have a mission for such a time as this? You indeed do, and this podcast will help you!  Join us today as Queen Esther trusts the power of God in prayer, gains needed courage and discovers her mission.

A Passover Turned to Weeping

In Esther Chapter 3, Mordecai refuses to bow down and pay homage to Haman.  Enraged Haman hatred for Jews and cast Purim (somewhat similar to our dice) to determine the date for the killing of all Jews throughout all of Persia. The king agreed, and the announcement for the annihilation of all the Jewish people was distributed throughout the kingdom on Passover—the very day Jewish families annually commemorate the time God delivered them from slavery in Egypt and saved their firstborn.

Now, their joy-filled Passover celebration was turned into a time of wailing. Could you imagine this happening to you, your family, or your church family on a celebration like Easter?

For Such a Time as This is a phrase that comes directly from Chapter 4 of the Book of Esther.

Today, we cover these points:

Sackcloth and Ashes (Esther 4: 1-4)

  • Mordecai heard of the edict, and he sobbed greatly, tore his clothes, and put on sackcloth and ashes. He wailed and wept bitterly on the city square at the palace gate.
  • For all Jews, the happy celebration of Passover with family, friends, traditions, and food quickly turned into wailing, fasting, and prayer. According to Scripture, the Jewish people always linked prayer and repentance with fasting.
  • Sackcloth, made from grain bags, was scratchy and could cut the skin. It served as an act of penance and pleading with the Lord. Ashes, worn on the head or sat in, were a sign of self-humiliation and deep sorrow, often over a national disaster. See Joel 2:12 and 17 to summarize this Biblical purpose for fasting, weeping, and penance.

Persian Palace Life (Esther 4: 5-12)

  • Esther lived in the plush palace environment, but she may have become secluded from the world around her. She was not aware of Haman’s edict.
  • She tried to send clothes to Mordecai. Only when he refused the clothes did she ask what was wrong? Mordecai gave her the evidence of the edict, but she indicated she could not go to the king as he had not called for her in over 30 days. She could be put to death if he did not reach out.

National Fasting (Esther 4: 13-17)

  • Esther called a day of national fasting.
  • Throughout Old Testament history, fasting meant fervently calling out to God with a heart of repentance, sorrow, submission, and supplication to seek his help, protection, provision, and forgiveness. For example, refer to Judges 20, Deuteronomy 9, Joel 1-2, 1 Samuel, and Jonah 3.
  • Every year, according to Leviticus 23, all of Israel fasted on the Day of Atonement, and a scapegoat would be driven into the desert to represent the people’s sins (a foreshadowing of what Christ would do on the cross for us). As they prayed, repented, and humbled themselves, their sins would be taken from God’s sight on the scapegoat.
  • See Esther 13 and 14 for examples of how to intercede/pray for a nation from Esther and Mordecai’s prayers (e.g., praising God’s goodness, repenting for your sins and the sins of your nation, pouring out your heart to God, asking for God’s intervention).

Planning a Fast

  • Fasting is about aligning ourselves with God—drawing close to Him, worshiping Him, hearing from Him, repenting (turning), and changing our ways.
  • Fasting requires planning for most of us, but most importantly, it involves replacing our time spent focused on food and “busyness” with prayer and seeking the Lord.
  • A fast, drinking only water or juice, can last for a meal, a full day, or more. Fasting can also involve refraining from certain foods (see Daniel 10: 2-3). or refraining from distractions like media or television, internet usage, shopping for a certain amount of time, etc.).
  • For the plan, you may want to take five steps: (1) write down your objective, (2) decide how you will fast, (3) schedule time in adoration & personal prayer, (4) read God’s Word & ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you (e.g., John 14 and 15), and (5) believe that God will answer with discernment, direction, and/or a miracle.
  • In Esther’s case, an extreme response would be required for her to safely go to the King, so she called for an extreme fast— three days of abstaining from food and water for the entire nation!

Personal Reflection

Today, our story teaches us:

  • At first, Esther was unaware that God had a mission for her—God planned to use her powerfully. With Mordecai’s help and God’s providence, she discerned her mission but was initially afraid and denied it.
  • Esther needed fellow pray-ers. She asked her entire Jewish nation to pray, fast, repent, and seek God’s intervention. Only after three days of prayer and fasting did she find the grace and strength to proceed in her mission- to be used by God to save the Jewish People.

Application

  1. What is God’s mission for you at your place and time? The Lord Jesus has a mission for you. Ask Him in prayer. Often, it involves bringing God’s love and testimony to those around you. But sometimes, it may be more than you ever thought possible.
  2. Finally, you can pray with St.  John Henry Newman’s Prayer I Have a Place. Start with praying these few sentences:  “I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name. God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me, which He has not committed to another. I have my mission…” The rest is in a free bookmark on my website WrapyourselfinJOY.com.

Links

Esther for This Time #4 – Unwavering Resolve & the First Edict

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Unwavering Resolve & the First Edict

Esther for This Time #4

Esther 3: 8 Painting: “Haman Convinces Ahasuerus” by Masters, 1420 AD

Do you ever have unwavering resolve? In relationships, we use compromise for cooperation and keeping the peace. Nonetheless, we must stand firm, determined, and unshakable in some situations.  Join us today as Esther reveals the importance of unwavering resolve in difficult times.

Persia, 474 BC – Five Years After Esther’s Banquet

Welcome to Esther & Turnaround Joy Episode #4: Unwavering Resolve & the First Edict, where we encounter Esther and Mordecai five years after King Ahasuerus sponsored the beauty contest, crowned Esther as queen and celebrated with Esther’s banquet.

Next, we watch as the providential hand of God becomes more evident. We will see why God put Esther in a position of influence—even before the Jewish people faced the possibility of annihilation.  It’s 474 BC, and we join Mordecai as he stands near the palace gate and overhears a plot to kill the king. We cover these points:

Mordecai at the Palace Gate & Assassination Plot Foiled (Esther 2: 19-23)

  • Mordecai is “sitting at the gate” checking on Esther and likely working in a government position.
  • Mordecai told Esther not to reveal her nationality.
  • While at the gate, Mordecai overheard a plot to kill King Ahasuerus and reported it to Esther, who told the king. He hanged the would-be assassins Bigthan and Teresh.
  • Acts of loyalty like Mordecai’s were officially recorded so the king could reward the hero.

Mordecai is Resolute (Esther 3: 1-6)

  • Mordecai stood firm with unwavering resolve, which means firm, determined, not shakable, and displaying unwavering loyalty. (Vocabulary.com dictionary).
  • Therefore, he refused to bow down to Haman because God had commanded the Jewish people not to bow in adoration to anyone (e.g., Exodus 20: 3-6).
  • Haman was the king’s top advisor and “an enemy of the Jews” (Esther 3:10).
  • Haman was an Agagite, a descendent of King Agag of the Amalekites, who was of a fierce nomadic tribe that made their living by raiding settlements, killing the men, women, and children, and then taking their possessions. They had a “blood feud” with Israel, which demanded total extermination of the Israelites (see Exodus 17 and Deuteronomy 25).

The Pur, the Plan, and the Drink (Esther 3: 7-15 & Esther 13)

The Pur

  • Mordecai stood firm in his faith and obedience to God’s law and would not bow to Haman.
  • Infuriated Haman in April 374 BC cast the purpurim is the plural form.
  • The Purim were similar to our dice and were thrown to help make decisions and choose dates.
  • Esther 3:7 indicates the pur fell on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Aadar, March 7, 374 BC, for destroying all Jews.

The Plan

  • Haman offered the king 10,000 talents or about 375 tons of silver, which of course he hoped to acquire by killing Jewish families and plundering their homes.
  • King Ahasuerus gave Haman his signet ring, his signature used to stamp the wax on an official letter from the king.
  • Haman summoned the scribes to draft the edict on the day before Passover- April 17th, 474 BC (Esther 3:12).
  • The announcement was sent out to the 127 provinces of the Persian Empire on Passover—the day Jewish families annually commemorated God delivering them from slavery (see Exodus 12). The date was chosen to dishearten and terrorize the Jewish people.
  • The Passover celebration with family and friends quickly became a day of confusion and weeping. How ironic! The day of the announcement would fall on a commemoration of God’s deliverance. Could God again deliver them from destruction? It would be only God who could!

The Drink

  • To Haman and the king, it was just another day to celebrate their power, so they had a drink.
  • Haman’s heart was hardened with generational hatred, so he rejoiced in the genocide of the Jews.
  • Hebrews 4: 13 reminds us: “before him [God] no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.”
  • Little did Haman know that the God of heaven was in control.

Personal Reflection: Unwavering Resolve

  • We witnessed a good example of unwavering resolve with Mordecai. He showed us there are times for unwavering resolve when we must follow God no matter the cost.  We cannot deny God’s commandments ever.
  • Mordecai refused to bow in worship to anyone other than the God of heaven and earth. He followed Exodus 20, “You shall have no other gods beside Me…You shall not bow down to them…”
  • Psalm 119: 2-4 reminds us: “Happy [blessed and joyful] are all who search for God and always do his will, rejecting compromise with evil and walking only in his paths. You [O God] have given us your laws to obey.
  • Unwavering resolve and devotion to God may be met with persecution. However, I can stay strong in the Lord and keep his commandments. 1 Corinthians 16: 13-14 says: Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
  • Ask God, ”Where do you want me to have unwavering resolve?” Henceforth, ask God for help to be resolute. He will give it to you.

Links

Esther for This Time #3 – The Spa & A New Queen

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Esther for This Time #3: The Spa & the New Queen

Esther Bedecked by Aert de Gerder, 1684; The Painting shows Esther about to be crowned & bedecked in an ermine-edged coat

The Spa & A New Queen

Are you seeking attractiveness and favor with others?  On the way to becoming queen, Esther offers us an example of attractiveness, God’s way. Join us today at the Spa, circa 479 BC, and hear how the attractiveness of heart wins friends and favor and witness the providence of God unfold.

Persia, 479 BC

  • Four years have passed between Chapters One and Two of Esther (see Esther 1:3 and 2: 16). According to Greek historian Herodotus, during that time, King Ahasuerus suffered a great military defeat by the Greeks and returned home to consume himself with overindulgence and sensuality.
  • He also missed the lasting relationship with his beautiful wife, Queen Vashti, whom he dethroned at his last party. The king’s advisors suggest a beauty contest with exotic spa treatments to help find a new queen. So today we are off to the spa to witness a new queen’s crowning.

Mordecai Brings Up Esther (Esther 2: 1-8)

  • Mordecai was introduced as a Jew in the family line of Kish (King Saul’s family) of the tribe of Benjamin. (Calling him a Jew repeatedly suggests that he was somehow still a foreigner and not completely accepted into secular Persia.) A person’s family line shows his status in Jewish lineage. When the Scriptures mention Nebuchadnezzar carried away Kish, the verses refer to the Babylonian captivity, with a second forced removal involving King Jeconiah of Judah in 597 BC. Likely, Mordecai’s grandfather and family members were among those taken captive in 597 BC.
  • Mordecai was born in Susa of Persia after the defeat of the Babylonian Empire. He and his family had chosen not to return to Jerusalem when Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return home beginning in 539 BC.
  • Esther was introduced as Mordecai’s younger cousin (Esther 2:7) whom he raised because she had been orphaned. Likely, her parents died when she was young. So it would have been Mordecai who taught her the Hebrew Scriptures and the Jewish faith

Esther & The Spa Treatments (Esther 2: 9-12)

  • The beauty contest was not the usual Persian way to select a queen. Normally, kings took their wives from the families of the Persian nobles, which is probably how King Ahasuerus crowned Vashti. However, a self-indulgent and powerful king could choose any woman he wanted for a wife.
  • In Susa, Esther was given seven servants plus food, probably laden with oils to fatten her up and help her display the Persian ideal of beauty. The women were given oil baths of delicious-smelling flowers and herbs to soften the skin and add a fragrant aroma.
  • At Susa, Divine Providence – God unfolding his purposes – becomes more visible to the spiritual eye, as we notice Esther found favor with Hegai.

Esther is Crowned Queen (Esther 2: 12 -18)

  • After twelve months of beauty treatments, it was Esther’s turn to come before the king.
  • Esther pleased the king, even though we do not know the details or how this happened in one evening. Obviously, the king saw her inner and outer beauty—the first woman that pleased him since Vashti. It was Divine Providence behind the scenes that surely turned the king’s heart toward Esther, even if she was only cooperating with circumstances that were beyond her control.

Esther’s Banquet

  • When King Ahasuerus crowned Esther as his Queen, he. gave another party, calling it Esther’s Banquet. This celebration included both men and women, generous gifts, and even tax relief.

Personal Reflection

Today, our story teaches us:

  • The Lord can turn the heart of a leader. We can trust and pray that He does in our times as well.
  • God is at work even though we don’t see him right away. We can pray to see God active in the scenes of our lives, for he is surely there at work.
  • Ultimately it is God who turns the heart of the king. He gave Esther favor, and her inner beauty seemed to capture the king’s favor and love.

Personal Application & God’s Attractiveness Plan

  • Read Proverbs 31: 30 and 1 Peter 3: 3 to summarize God’s beauty plan.
  • Proverbs 31: 30. Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting, but a woman who fears [worships, honors, and respects] the Lord is to be praised. (GNT)    Obviously, with age, beauty fades, but to worship, honor and respect God creates a lasting attractiveness that appeals to others too.  God blesses all of our attempts to honor Him. So how is your attractiveness quotient when you consider spending time daily to worship and honor God is an important part of any beauty plan?
  • 1 Peter 3:3-4. Don’t depend on things like fancy hairdos or gold jewelry or expensive clothes [outward adorning] to make you look beautiful. 4Be beautiful in your heart by being gentle and quiet [with a calm temper and contented mind]. This kind of beauty will last, and God considers it very special [precious in His sight]. (GNT)  It’s not that God objects to putting our best foot forward, so to speak, or trying to look our best at any age, but His Word suggests an attractiveness plan.
  • Does your attractiveness plan include a gentle, quiet spirit with a calm temper and contented mind or demeanor? Ask the Holy  Spirit to help you. Ephesians 5:  22 says, the fruit of the Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and more in our lives. 

Links

Esther for This Time # 2 – The Queen, the Refusal & the Bad Advice

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
The Queen, the Refusal & the Bad Advice

Vashti Dethroned

Queen Esther ~Refusal of Bad Advice

What can you learn from Queen Esther? Do you need more wisdom and less bad advice in your life?  Today, we will encounter the outrageous King Ahasuerus, who regrets the outcome of his bad decision based on bad advice! Join us as we discuss the true wisdom from God that does not disappoint.

The Party (Esther 1: 1-8)

Welcome to Esther for This Time: Prayer, Reversals & JOY Episode #2 based on my book Esther For Such a Time As This: Prayer, Reversals and JOY.  The Book of Esther in the Old Testament was written so that even 2500 years later, we can still relate it to our culture. We can learn so much from Queen Esther.

Today, we continue in Esther Chapter 1 with our introduction to the pompous and extravagant King Ahasuerus and the opulent six-month party he threw in the capital city of Susa (modern-day Iran) in the third year of his reign. Ancient historians suggest over 15,000 men came to the party, which lasted 187 days. Amid the grand party, the king received and followed bad advice. In the podcast today, we will cover these points.

Vashti’s Refusal (Esther 1: 9-12)

  • Queen Vashti was throwing a grand party herself for the wives of governors, nobles, and officials who came to the king’s celebration when the king called her to appear before an unruly, intoxicated horde of men to show off her beauty.
  • She refused to come for reasons we might guess.
  • When she refused, she did not expect the king’s boiling rage!

The Bad Advice to the King (Esther 1: 13-21)

  • King Ahasuerus’ wise men, led by their spokesman Memucan, advised the king to dethrone and remove Vashti forever. Guided by his wounded pride, with no respect for his wife, the king followed this bad advice and dethroned Vashti.
  • The Scriptures teach women to honor and respect their husbands and men to love their wives (Ephesians 5: 25, 3). But the king was a pagan consumed with pride and self-indulgence who did not know God’s commands or God’s ways.
  • Greek Historian Herodotus records that King Ahasuerus won a great battle after this feast but later suffered a terrible loss to the Greeks during the four years that occurred between Esther Chapters One and Two.
  • The King returned home from battle and likely consumed himself with even more indulgence and sensuality, only to find he missed a lasting relationship with his lovely wife.

Personal Reflection

Where do you need wisdom today? Our historical story teaches us

  1. Be cautious when taking counsel from worldly advisors who stroke your ego or are motivated by a desire for power.
  2. Be courageous and maintain your integrity in difficult situations.
  3. Anger and violence do not demonstrate strength in a husband or a leader.

Application

  1. Read Proverbs 3: 5-7, James 1: 5, and Proverbs 3:17.
  2. These verses instruct us to ask God for wisdom, who promises to give it generously and ungrudgingly.
  3. So, ask God to lead YOU and clear the road for YOU to follow.

Links

 

The Visitation & JOY of Fellowship – A JOY-Filled Advent #3

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Today, we witness the visitation of Mary and the Joy of fellowship. Do you need more JOY in your life? Who doesn’t? Advent is the perfect time to receive and share more JOY with others! Mary and Elizabeth will show us how.

Join us today as we travel with Mary 90 miles to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. We will drop in on a special meeting of hearts to partake in the delight, the prayer, and the JOY of Fellowship.

The Advent JOY Podcast

Welcome to A JOY-Filled Advent Podcast #3, based on my book The Joy of Advent: Journey with the People, Events, and Prayers at the First Coming of Jesus Christ.  Last week, we heard how God supernaturally begot the Son of God in the Virgin Mary and gave an old woman, Elizabeth, past her time conceiving a child. We discovered any barrenness in life can become a breakthrough! “For nothing is impossible with God!”

Advent JOY in the Hill Country

Today, we travel with Mary down the 90-mile road from Nazareth to the Hill Country of Judea, near Jerusalem. We will drop in on Mary’s visit to her old cousin Elizabeth. Both women are expecting, rejoicing over the births to come, and thrilled to see each other.  Join the podcast today as we cover these exciting points:

The Visitation – Leaping for JOY (Luke 1: 39-45)

  • John the Baptist leaps for Joy
  • Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaims words of JOY.
  • Mary praises and skips with JOY.
  • Jesus is always joy-filled—even in the womb!

The JOY of Fellowship – God Knows Our Need (Luke 1: 31-33)

  • Fellowship in the Scriptures is translated from New Testament Greek Koinonia, occurring 20 times in the New Testament.
  • Elizabeth brought out Mary’s JOY, and Mary brought out Elizabeth’s JOY. True fellowship strengthens and encourages faith.
  • Elizabeth praises Mary for believing Gabriel.
  • The Holy Spirit reveals the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb to Elizabeth.

The Magnificat – Mary’s Song of Praise (Luke 1: 46-56)

  • Magnificat was the first word in Luke 1: 46 found in St. Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible (4th-century common language of the people) and it means “my soul magnifies.”
  • The Magnificat is a canticle – a liturgical song from a Biblical text.
  • The Magnificat shows Mary’s love for Scripture. She knew the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) well.
  • The Magnificat reflects themes from many Old Testament Scriptures – the powerful arm of God, His mercy to all, His justice and faithfulness, and His care for the poor and afflicted (e.g., 1 Samuel 2:1-10 and Psalm 34:2, 35: 9, 103: 17, 107: 9, 132: 11, 138: 6).

 Three Months of Sharing Hearts

  • We can only imagine the comfort Mary and Elizabeth must have been to each other. They talked of the Scriptures to be fulfilled because they knew well the promises regarding the Messiah and the one who would precede Him. They shared the stories about Gabriel as his message had changed each of their lives. They would have known of Gabriel’s former visitations and announcements recorded in Daniel 9.

Advent Application

  • We can respond to these verses of JOY shared between Mary and Elizabeth by 1) Asking God for Advent JOY (He wants to give us His JOY), 2) Rejoicing in God’s goodness, 3) Preserving a quiet time for prayer, and 4) Sharing JOY with others, especially during Advent. God has JOY for YOU.

Links

Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy small group study that accompanies one of the podcast series, especially this one:  A Joy-filled Advent: Journey with the People, Events, and Prayers.

Read more on hosting a CUP of JOY Women or Cup of JOY Gathering small group.  For information, please email karen@wrapyourselfinjoy.com

You can download a Bookmark of prayer points from A Joy-filled Advent Podcast #1 at my website: WRAPYourselfinJOY.com.

Check out more podcasts here!

Click here to find the book: The Joy of Advent: Journey with the People, Events and Prayers at the First Coming of Jesus Christ.

Wrapped in JOY and Armored in Prayer – Joyful & Battle Ready #8

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Wrapped in JOY & Armored in Prayer

Pray at Every Opportunity (Ephesians 6:18)

Wrapped in JOY and Armored in Prayer

Is there a way to stay wrapped in Joy and Armored in God? This final podcast of the Joyful and Battle-Ready series focuses on the key to living in  JOY and being protected with armor. So join the podcast today and discover how prayer secures your JOY and activates your armor.  Join us today as we cover these points:

True and Lasting JOY

  • As the Scriptures point out, prayer is the key to staying wrapped in joy and armored.
  • Psalm 16 reminds us that God offers the fullness of JOY in his presence.
  • In John 15 11, Jesus says, Abide in my love…  I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
  • To abide in God’s love means we are always in communication with him in prayer.

Prayer and JOY

  • Essential points covered in the last eight weeks include: 1) receiving JOY from God the Father, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit our fruit bearer of JOY, 2) asking God to increase your capacity to receive His Joy and Love, 3) Praising and thanking God-two of the five forms of prayer associated with JOY, 4) Using the Prayer and Holy Imagery to defeat Joy Busters, 6) Rejoicing to stop worry, 7) Reading and Praying scripture leads to deep spiritual JOY.
  • Prayer is the path to JOY.

Prayer and The Armor of God

  • After the armor message of Ephesians 6: 17, verse 18 says: With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones (NABRE). The NRSVCE translation says: Pray at all times…
  • Interestingly, PRAYER isn’t called a piece of armor but is connected to the armor.
  • There was not any punctuation or separation of sentences in the original New Testament Greek manuscripts, so the need to pray at all times connects to the armor.
  • We have found that each piece represents Jesus, whom we come to daily, and, in a sense, we “put on Jesus daily.” So we put the armor on with prayer.

Pray at Every Opportunity in the Spirit

  • Prayer to Christians is like oxygen to life- live and breathe with prayer.
  • Many Christians say, “All we can do is pray.” We should say, “We will pray. God will hear, and He will change everything.”
  • When prayer is the atmosphere we breathe, and we keep breathing it, the Holy Spirit is released to work in unimaginable ways, and supernatural graces and gifts are poured out.
  • Heaven will even surprise us when we stay connected with the King of Kings and His Kingdom in prayer!

Pray at all times, Aware of His Presence

  • The Catholic Church defines prayer as a “vital and personal relationship with the living and true God” (CCC 2558). It is “Christian…insofar as it is communion with Jesus Christ” – ” a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ”(CCC 2565, 2564).”
  • Prayer is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. In relationship with a living God, we are continually communing with our Savior. God is with us always. He is for us. He is our Helper in all things.
  • Praying at all times means you are constantly connecting with your closest friend.

Praying at every opportunity

  • Praying at every opportunity, as translated in the NABRE, conveys that opportunities arise at various times of every day and evening. We need to pause momentarily and give that event or situation to Jesus.
  • For example, in Nehemiah 6:9, he prayed, “But now, O God, strengthen my hands.”

Confidence in Prayer

  • Praying at every opportunity establishes a deep personal bond between you and your Heavenly Father in everything you do. It is always heart-to-heart with your heart speaking directly to the Heart of Jesus. He hears you.
  • Pope Francis says, “Prayer is more than just a physical, emotional, or intellectual act; it is an inner desire to encounter God with confidence.   God has revealed Himself to us in His Son, Jesus Christ. So, the prayer of a Christian brings us into a relationship with God without any fear or trepidation. One can establish a relationship built on confidence with Him in prayer” (May 5, 2020).

Personal Reflection

  • Remember all that God taught you in Ephesians 6 about standing strong and firm in battle. Read Ephesians 6 often.
  • Visualize yourself putting on each piece of the armor of God—the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, Shoes ready to Proclaim the Gospel of Peace, the Shield of Faith, the Helmet of Salvation, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Lord of God, plus, Praying at every opportunity in the Spirit. Act it out in your mind. Try it!

 Cup of JOY Women or Cup of JOY Gathering

Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy small group study that accompanies one of the podcast series, especially the one that starts next week:  A Joy-filled Advent: Journey with the People, Events, and Prayers.

Read more on hosting a CUP of JOY Women’s small group.  For information, please email karen@wrapyourselfinjoy.com

Links

 

 

 

The JOY of Scripture & Wielding the Sword of the Spirit (Joyful & Battle Ready #7)

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Did you know that JOY is associated with reading and praying with scripture? The Word of God promises a deep spiritual joy in interacting with God via His Word.  Join the podcast today as we cover the pleasures found in the Word of God and how to use the Word as a Sword of the Spirit to protect your mind and emotions from attacks of the evil one.

Join us today as we cover these points:

Deep Spiritual JOY

  • Happy in Psalm 1 (ASRAI in Hebrew) more closely means—a deep spiritual joy (Ross, A. P. (2011).
  • The BENEFIT is the deep, joyous pleasure and satisfaction that will come when you listen to the Lord in verses of Scripture and interact with Him around the verses.

Four Stages of Prayer

  • In The Armchair Mystic, Rev. Mark Thibodeaux describes four stages of prayer, summarized as: Talking at God, Talking to God. Listening to God speak in Scripture daily and Resting in God’s presence,
  • Stage 4 is the goal.

Joy and Healing

  • Another benefit of reading and praying God’s word: HEALING
  • Basil the Great said: “The Holy Spirit composed the Scriptures so that in them, as in a pharmacy open to all souls, we might each of us be able to find the medicine suited to our own particular illness… (Spidlik, T., & Drake, P. (1993).

 WRAP – Simplified Lectio Divina for Reading and Praying with Scripture

  • WRAP is an acronym for reading, praying, and reflecting on Scripture, and it works best if you journal what you hear (from WRAP Yourself in Scripture, a book by Karen & Larry Dwyer, Institute of Priestly Formation,
  • WRAP aims to foster a personal encounter with Jesus in the Scriptures so that the words come alive and you hear God speak to YOUR HEART.
  • It’s a form of Lectio Divina— which the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines as reading to hear God speak to you and meditating on His Words so that it becomes your prayer (CCC 1177).

WRAP Method

  • W: Write down the verse that inspires you or seems to arise out of the passage.
  • R: Reflect on the principles/ ideas the verse is inspiring in you & record your thoughts. (Mull Over, Mentally Picture, Mutter, & Memorize.)
  • A: Apply the principles. Write down your response to the Scripture & how it applies to your life today.
  • P: Pray and praise. Talk with Jesus about what the verse opened in your heart.

The Sword of the Spirit

  • In Ephesians 6:17, Paul calls the Word the Sword of the Spirit.
  • The Roman soldier carried his sword in his belt (or girdle).
  • The Romans employed two types of swords: the “rpomphaia” (Revelation 1,2), a large, long, and broad sword that took two hands to wield, and the “makchaira” ( Ephesians 6: 17), a short 6” to 18” sharp and piercing dagger for hand-to-hand combat.

A Formidable and Sure Defense

  • Hebrews 4:12 describes the WORD of God as “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, …able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
  • The Word brings truth where there is falsehood, light where there is darkness, and joy where there is sorrow. Psalm 119: 11, 105
  • Luke 4: 1-13 shows Jesus using the Word of God in defense all three times.
  • We can speak the Scriptures to help us stand firm against temptations, discouragement, fear, or other attack on our faith.

An Offensive Weapon

  • You can hide God’s Word in your heart to help identify and reject sin and strengthen your inner person.
  • When you share the Word with someone—especially a word that deeply moved you—it is a sword that pierces another’s heart.

Personal Reflection: Sword of the Spirit Declarations

  • You can WIELD THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT with these Declarations from God’s Word:
  1. I will love and read God’s Word daily (Psalm 119: 11, NRSVCE).
  2. The Word of God is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119: 105, NRSVCE).
  3. The Word of God is my defensive weapon as Jesus showed in his fight with the evil one (Matthew 4:10-11, NRSVCE).
  4. When I gently share the Word of God with others, I can be confident that God’s Word is “living and active (Hebrews 4:12, NRSVCE).

  Cup of JOY Women

Consider hosting a weekly one-hour cup of Joy women’s small group study accompanying this podcast.  It’s free! The next opportunity if for Advent JOY.

  • For information, please email karen@wrapyourselfinjoy.com

Links

Stop Worry, Return to JOY and Put on the Helmet of Salvation – Joyful & Battle Ready #6

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Stop Worry, Return to JOY and Put on the Helmet of Salvation

Stop Worry, Return to JOY and Put on the Helmet of Salvation

Stop Worry, Return to JOY and Put on the Helmet of Salvation (Joyful & Battle Ready #6)

Are you ready to stop the worry and return to JOY?  Worry is the big JOY thief that brings on fretting. In only a few dances with fretting, you will be exhausted. Your JOY will be sidelined. Join us today and discover how to stop the worry, return to JOY, and put on the Helmet of Salvation to protect your thoughts and reasoning about what God has done for you.

Join us today as we cover these points:

Do You Worry?

  • You will find that worry is not only a joybuster but also a joy thief.
  • In Matthew 6: 25 34, Jesus talks directly to us about worry.

Worry Defined

  • The Cambridge Dictionary defines –  to give way to anxiety or uneasiness, to allow one’s mind to continually dwell on difficulties and troubles, to think about problems and become distracted.
  • Even Jesus shows the anxiety and distraction connection.
  • Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but there is a need for only one thing (Luke 10 41- 42).

Fretting

  • The Hebrew word we translate as fretting includes firing up rage and kindling anger.
  • The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a fret as a worry, an annoyance, a discontentment that gnaws at you.
  • Fretting eats away at your peace.
  • Psalm 37 advises, Do NOT fret.

Actions Advised in Philippians 4: 4-7

  • Rejoice means to return to joy. Actively be glad, actively pursue joy.
  • In prayer and supplication, make your requests known to the Lord.
  • For every need you express in prayer, offer a thanksgiving about something related.
  • Receive peace. The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

The Helmet of Salvation

  • Ephesians 6:17 says we must “take the helmet of salvation.
  • Pope Francis says the helmet is “not so much that of acknowledging the Resurrection of Jesus — everyone believes in it — but of believing in the resurrection of the dead.”
  • The helmet of a Roman soldier called a galea, was designed to cover the head with thick leather enclosed in beaten metals of iron and bronze, protecting the head from weapons of warfare causing injury.
  • The helmet of salvation shows that Satan’s flaming arrows target our minds and are directed at our faith in Jesus, who paid the price for our salvation with his passion, death, and resurrection.
  • The devil will try to discourage you and destroy your faith.

Personal Reflection: Helmet of Salvation Declarations

  • Take the Helmet of Salvation in defense against the evil one who pushes doubts to divert you from the truth of eternal life in Jesus Christ.
  • Starting today, say the Apostles Creed often.
  • Remind yourself of the Helmet of Salvation Declarations with the truths from Scripture:
  1. Eternal life is in Jesus, and it’s for me (Romans 8: 12).
  2. I will not be anxious about my salvation (Romans 5: 8-9).
  3. I do not need to worry; I can know I have eternal life (1 John 5: 11-13).

  Cup of JOY Women

Consider hosting a weekly one-hour cup of joy women’s small group study that accompanies this podcast, and you can begin anytime.  It’s free!

  • For information, please email karen@wrapyourselfinjoy.com

Links

 

 

 

Defeat Joy Busters & Take Up the Shield of Faith (JOYFUL & Battle Ready #5)

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

How are you at defeating Joy Busters?  Everyone faces those situations that can steal their JOY. But you can develop a plan to stop their impact on your life. You can become AWARE of the JOY Busters, UNDERSTAND their sources, and TAKE ACTION to stop their influence. Join the podcast today to uncover the actions you can take to defeat JOY Busters and learn how to” take up the shield of faith to quench the flaming arrows” coming at you.

JOY Busters

  • Merriam-Webster defines a buster “as a person or thing that breaks up, overpowers, or eliminates something.”
  • A JOY buster breaks up, overpowers, or steals your joy and includes, for example, interruptions to plans, hurt feelings, discouragements, fear, family quarrels, busyness, complaints, and weariness. Today, we will cover these points:

Joy Busting Responses

  • How do you respond to JOY Busters, called JOYBUSTING?
  • Joybusting happens when our emotions take over, and our responses leave us with more negative feelings and challenging relationships.
  • Joybusting includes, for example, angry outbursts, discouragement, fretting, gossip, negative thoughts, overeating, over partying, over drinking, over shopping, profane talk,  procrastination, promiscuity,  more quarrels, bitterness, and more.

Plan to Reject Troubles of the Heart

  • In Galatians 5: 16-26, St. Paul reminds us that to conquer the JOYbusting, which he calls “works of the flesh,” is to LIVE by the Holy Spirit.
  • Timothy Gallagher says each person needs an action plan to reject troubles of the heart (JOY busters and joy busting): (1) Be aware, (2) Understand, and (3) Take action. (The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living, 2018).

 TIP: Three QUICK Actions to Defeat JOY Busting

  • You can take three simple actions to stop JOY Busting: thanksgiving, imagery, and persistence.

(1) Thanksgiving – immediately turn to Jesus with genuine thanksgiving

(2) Imagination- use holy imagination and picture Jesus with arms outstretched. You give him your joy buster.

(3) Persist – Persist in praising God and remembering the Thanksgiving JOY.

  • Also, consider getting a prayer partner to pray for more JOY for each other and to defeat JOYbusting.

The Shield of Faith

  • Ephesians 6:16. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
  • Pope Francis, when speaking on this verse, tells us how important it is to take the shield of faith: The devil is a liar; he is the father of lies. And as St. Paul says, we must be girded in the truth, armored in justice.Without faith, you cannot go forward; you cannot defend the salvation of Jesus. We need this shield of faith because the devil does not throw flowers at us but “flaming arrows” to kill us (General Audience, October 30, 2014).

The Roman Soldier’s Shield

  • In Roman history, at the time of Paul, a military soldier held a body shield to about 2.5 x 4 feet to protect himself from an enemy who hurled flaming arrows (dipped in pitch and set on fire) called “plumbata.”
  • Often, the soldiers interlocked shields in a “tortoise” formation – they raised their shields together overhead and in front so it looked like a tortoise.

Faith Defined

  • The word for faith used in New Testament Greek is “pistis,” which means to agree with, trust in, and live out what you believe.
  • Translated belief or faith, it appears at least 200 times in the New Testament
  • Hebrews 11: 1 defines faith, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” and then gives examples, including Noah, Abraham, and Moses.

Jesus is Our Shield

  • The Lord God says he is our shield. See Psalm 28:7, Psalm 33:20.
  • Proverbs 30:5. Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Take Up Our Shield of Faith

1) Read the Word of God every day and keep the Scriptures in your mind and heart. Romans 10:17.

2) Pray that moment. Hebrews 2:2 says.

3) Turn to a Prayer Partner or prayer group – In Tortoise Formation, you lock shields with others.

Personal Reflection –Shield of Faith Declarations

You can take up a shield of Faith against temptations, fear, and doubt.” Call on the name of Jesus and repeat these truths aloud and often.

  • When the devil sends the flaming arrow of fear, you say Psalm 56:3. O Lord God, when I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” or Isaiah 41: 10. [the Lord says] … I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
  • When the devil sends the flaming arrow of temptation and doubts, you say Romans 8: 33-34. Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. He forgives us.
  • When the devil sends a flaming arrow saying you are getting old or God no longer cares and cannot use you, you say in Isaiah 46:4, The Lord says, even to your old age I am he, even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. Or Psalm 92: 13-14. The Lord says They are planted in the house of the Lord…In old age, they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap…

Finally, thank the Lord daily for your joys and for helping you defeat the JOY Busters.

  Cup of JOY Women

Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy Women’s small group study that accompanies this podcast, and you can begin anytime.  It’s free!

Links

Singing for JOY & Slipping on Gospel Shoes – Joyful & Battle Ready #4

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Singing for JOY & Slipping on Gospel Shoes

Singing for JOY & Slipping on Gospel Shoes

Singing for JOY &  Slipping on Gospel Shoes (#4 JOYFUL & Battle Ready)

Are you singing for JOY? Did you know there is a connection between praising God and experiencing more JOY and Peace? Join our podcast today as we cover singing for JOY and slipping on shoes, ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.

JOY and PEACE

When we praise God, we surrender everything to Him and proclaim that He is God, and we are NOT. He has everything in our lives under control, and even when we do not see it, we can trust Him. Even in hardships, we can sing praises to the Lord, and he will comfort us with deep, calming JOY. In addition, we can put on shoes of Gospel peace as part of the armor we wear everywhere we go.  In our  JOYFUL & Battle Ready series, Podcast #4 will cover these points:

The Praise-Joy Connection

  • Are your prayers primarily prayers of petition?
  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) #2644 encourages us to use all five forms of prayer: blessing/adoration, petition with contrition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise.
  • There is a particular link of JOY with praise or thanksgiving prayers.

Enter God’s Courts with Praise

  • Psalm 100:3 says: Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise…
  • Pope Francis tells us to “NOT be formal Christians, prisoners of formality” (January 28, 2020).

A Garment of Praise

  • In Luke 4, Jesus said he was the fulfillment of Isaiah 61: 3- “to provide the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of discouragement.”
  • Jesus can give you a garment of praise, and it comes with the oil of JOY.

Paul and Silas Praise in a Desperate Situation, Miracles Happen

  • In Acts 16, at midnight and in the wretchedness of a Philippian jail, imprisoned Paul and Silas praised God as chains fell off and prison doors were opened.
  • CCC #2639 says, “Praise is the form of prayer…it gives God glory for his own sake, quite beyond what he has done, but simply for who he is.”

A Garment of Praise

  • Praise God with the psalms, instruments, singing, shouting, and clapping hands (Psalm 150, 100).
  • Praise does not have to be complicated. You can tell Jesus you love Him and praise Him …
  • Spend just one minute of praise this week, and it will be life-changing.

The Armor of God – The Battle Shoes

  • Ephesians 6: 15: As shoes for your feet, put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
  • Roman soldiers wore shoes to avoid the battlefield’s rocks, sticks, and debris.
  • Shoes were a combination of heavy sandals and boots with soles of layered leather clenched together with metal studs that could grip the ground for traction.

Peace

  • Isaiah 52: 7 says: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
  • Peace means harmony and tranquility, without inner conflict, even amid chaos and upheaval.
  • In John 16: 33, Jesus said: I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Proclaim

  • In Mark 16:15, [Jesus] said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
  • The best way to start sharing your faith is to share your relationship with Jesus, including His answers to your prayers and your thanksgiving.

St. Pope John Paul II

  • Pope John Paul II in Catechesis in Our Time (1979) said the faithful must proclaim the Gospel message. The Gospel kerygma: – “ the initial ardent proclamation by which a person is brought to the decision to entrust himself to Jesus Christ by faith — is gradually deepened, developed,”  and “channeled towards Christian practice in the Church and the world” (CT 25).
  • Remind your friend how much God loves her and wants her to experience His love and presence.
  • Invite her to entrust her life to Jesus, to give Him their baggage and shame, and to ask for forgiveness.
  • You can prepare yourself with a few words of Scripture about God’s love and how Jesus is the sacrifice for all sin. Invite the person to trust Jesus now.
  • Then, of course, invite your friends to church and keep helping them along the Christian journey.

Personal Reflection – Shoes of Peace Declarations

  • These Shoes of Peace Declarations from Scripture can help you stand firm in peace so that you are “ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.”
  • When the devil tries to make you afraid to proclaim, you can proclaim: The Prince of Peace lives in me. (John 14:23). I have his peace. I will not let my heart be troubled or afraid. I will stand firm in Jesus, my Lord, and my strength, my God in whom I trust.  Repeat John 14:27.
  • When the devil whispers, you are NOT ready to proclaim the Gospel. You say: In Jesus, I am prepared and willing to share the Gospel with anyone. It is what Jesus calls me to do. I am not ashamed to talk about Jesus and my faith with family, friends, or others. Repeat Romans 1: 16.  I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”
  • Finally, remember to praise and thank the Lord -just one minute of praising the Name of Jesus every day can be life-changing and joy-filling. You can find a free bookmark on my website to help you with ways to praise the Lord.

 Cup of JOY Women

Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy Women’s small group study that accompanies this podcast, and you can begin anytime.  It’s free!

  • Pray about accepting this opportunity to engage others and gently evangelize a small group of friends over coffee or tea.
  • For information, email me or go to Cup of Joy Women.

Links

Heaven Rejoices & We Put on the Breastplate of Righteousness (JOYFUL & Battle Ready #3)

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Heaven Rejoices & We Put on the Breastplate of Righteousness

Heaven Rejoices & the Breastplate of Righteousness

Heaven Rejoices and We Put on Righteousness

Did you know you serve a joy-filled God who rejoices over you?  Join us today as we cover the rejoicing of heaven and the songs God sings over you. You will discover how to put on the Breastplate of Righteousness to protect your heart, keep the JOY, and stand firm against the devil’s lies of your unworthiness.

Heavenly JOY

Last week, we defined true and lasting joy, and with that in mind, we prayed with the More JOY Prayer Guide. We pursue JOY,  invite JOY, and pray for more JOY! This week, we start with Heaven’s JOY. Today, we cover these points:

The JOY of the Lord

  • “The joy of the Lord is my strength” is the source of our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
  • God and all of heaven are joyful and want to share it with us.
  • Some think God is a grump; if we follow him, we are destined for a life lacking any fun. That is NOT the truth.

Heavenly JOY

  • The Scriptures call our attention to God’s joyful creation (e.g., Psalm 61: 12-13).
  • The Lord takes pleasure in you and even sings over you (e.g., Zephaniah 3: 17).
  • God is a celebrating God (e.g., Luke 15: 20-24).
  • The angels rejoice when one sinner repents (e.g., Luke 15: 8-10)

Put on the Breastplate of Righteousness Over Your Heart

  • We put on the “breastplate of righteousness ” to protect our hearts (Ephesians 6: 14).
  • In spiritual language, the heart “refers to our inner orientation, the core of our being,” including our “thoughts, feelings, and desires.” (Fr. John Horn, S.J., Heart Speaks to Heart, IPF Publications).
  • Jesus is concerned for your heart (Matthew 15:19).
  • So is the devil, so you must guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23).

What is Righteousness?

  • The Catholic Dictionary of the Bible defines righteousness as “communion in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through which we begin a new life in the spirit –a life in which we live in Christ and Christ lives in us”( p. 743).
  • Righteousness can be summarized as the Right Relationship and Right Living (e.g., 2 Corinthians 5:15).

Jesus Christ, the Righteous One

  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains Righteousness: “Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It was granted us through Baptism. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who justifies us. …It is the most excellent work of God’s mercy” (CCC, 2020).
  •  The Scriptures tell us we do not have to produce righteousness on our own; we can look to “Jesus Christ” (Romans 5: 17).

Personal Reflection: Breastplate of Righteousness Declarations

  • Lies: The devil will whisper lies to attack your thoughts, feelings, and desires, especially saying you are unworthy.
  1. You cannot expect God to keep loving you and helping you.
  2. You should be discouraged and fearful. You do not deserve His help.
  3. You can never be holy; it’s too difficult to follow God and be righteous.
  • Truths: When faced with spiritual warfare, put on the breastplate of righteousness. In the mighty power of Jesus Christ, speak these Breastplate Declarations (inserting your own name in the verse).
  1. In Jesus, I am the righteousness of God. (Repeat 2 Corinthians 5: 21).
  2. I live in Jesus Christ. I am forgiven and free. I refuse to feel discouraged, downcast, or fearful. (Repeat Galatians 2: 20).
  3. I will follow the ways of the Lord because they will bring JOY, not hardship. (Repeat Psalm 19: 9 and 14 aloud.)

 Cup of JOY Women

Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy Women’s small group study that accompanies this podcast, and you can begin anytime.  It’s free!

  • Pray about accepting this opportunity to engage others and gently evangelize a small group of friends over coffee or tea.
  • For information, email me or go to Cup of Joy Women.

Links

 

Drenched with JOY & Armored in Truth (JOYFUL & Battle Ready #2)

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Drenched with JOY & Armored in Truth

Drenched with JOY

Would you like to be drenched in JOY and armored in truth?  Are you willing to put on the armor of God to stand firm to keep the joy, to stand strong against fear, and to put on the armor of God to protect yourself from lies?  Join us today as we cover how to define JOY, receive more joy, and put on the belt of truth.

Heavenly JOY

Last week, we learned that Jesus has complete JOY for you, God the Father has JOY and pleasures for you, and the Holy Spirit produces JOY in your life. So, how do we get more of this JOY?

Today, we cover these points:

A Niagara Falls of God’s Love & JOY

  • Many times, we come to our Heavenly Father—who is a Niagara Falls of Love, and we hold out only a teaspoon to catch it.
  • We must increase our capacity to receive more great love and joy.

Defining JOY

  • After searching many definitions of Joy and primarily based on the teachings of our last three popes, we find a definition of true JOY.
  • We cover the quote from my book, Wrap Yourself in JOY.
  • The definition involves mind, soul, body, and spirit and its Trinitarian.

 

The More JOY Prayer Guide

  • We ask God to increase our capacity for JOY.
  • We receive His Love and Joy daily.
  • We thank Jesus for the JOY Rays.
  • We praise Him with Scripture.

It’s Warfare

  • Ephesians 6 was written when Roman soldiers and guards surrounded Paul in prison.
  • The Holy Spirit likely inspired him as he observed the Roman soldier’s armor.

The Belt of Truth

  • The BELT for a soldier served as a girdle to support his core or loins and stabilize his weapons.
  • Pilate answered Jesus, “What is truth?”
  • In John 14:6, Jesus defined truth: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
  • Run to Jesus, our truth. Let him lead you.

Put on Truth

  • The devil’s favorite lies are targeted at your JOY, happiness, and identity as a Christian.
  • Do not give into deception, diversion, discouragement, or division.
  • In John 17: 17, Jesus prayed, “Consecrate them in the truth. Your [God’s]word is truth.”
  • Fill your mind with the truths of God and His word. Don’t let a day go by without reading Scripture, even for just 5 minutes.

Personal Reflection: Biblical Belt of Truth Declarations

Girdle UP!! Make Jesus your Core.  Do not give into deception, diversion, discouragement, or division. Declare and remind yourself of these truths:

1.     For Deception (Identity), the Truth: I am the daughter [or son] of God. God knows me and loves me. Romans 8:15.“

2.     For Diversion (God doesn’t hear my prayers), the Truth:  My prayers are powerful and effective, and nothing can separate me from the love of God. He listens, and He is answering.  James 5: 16.

3.     For Discouragement (You are fearful- God can’t meet your needs), the Truth: The Lord has not given me a spirit of fear but one of power, love, and a sound mind.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, I can understand His Word and reserve time to pray and read Scripture daily. 2 Timothy 1:7.

 Cup of JOY Women

Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy Women’s small group study for seven weeks.  It accompanies this podcast, and you can begin anytime.  It’s free!

  • Pray about accepting this opportunity to engage others and gently evangelize by hosting a small group of friends over coffee or tea.
  • For information, email me or go to Cup of Joy Women.

Links

 

Embrace the JOY and Stand FIRM! JOYFUL & Battle Ready #1

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Do you find it difficult to embrace JOY and at the same time stand firm in life’s battles? You are not alone. Daily, we all face challenges and fears. Join us today as we discuss embracing true JOY, standing firm, and being strong in the Lord when facing fears and struggles.

Happiness and Joy are Not the Same

About 45% of 12,000 people surveyed say they have not felt true happiness since before the pandemic. Around 25% surveyed say they don’t know, or have forgotten, what it means to feel truly happy (Oracle).  The natural question is this: Are JOY and happiness the same thing? We will find that happiness depends on external circumstances, while true joy is “a gift that fills us from within” and “is to be searched for and shared continuously (Pope Francis. May 10, 2013).   Today, we cover these points:

You Are Made for JOY

  • If you allow God to give you His JOY, it will change your life.
  • It can even change the atmosphere around you!
  • Three Scriptures help you get started in your search for more JOY: John 15: 9-11, Psalm 16: 9-11, and Galatians 5: 22-23. JOY and LOVE are fruits of the HOLY Spirit, the result of the presence of the Holy Spirit living within YOU.
  • Jesus died for your sins and mine. When he arose from the dead, as promised (e.g., John 14: 15-26; John 16: 7), God sent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit wants to produce deep, lasting JOY in your life.

JOY and Love From the Trinity Declarations

  • Jesus, my Savior. You love me like the Heavenly Father loves You, and You want to give me your JOY—complete JOY. Thank YOU, Jesus, I embrace it. (John 15: 9-11)
  • Heavenly Father. You LOVE me and offer me gladness and fullness of JOY in Your presence.  Thank YOU, Father, I receive it. (Psalm 16: 9-11)
  • Holy Spirit. You love me and produce the fruit of JOY in & through me. Thank YOU, Holy Spirit, fill me afresh today. (Galatians 5: 22-25)

It’s a Battle!

  • Now, we move to Ephesians 6: 10-14, where we are told by St. Paul we must be prepared for battle.
  • Therefore, when Paul wrote Ephesians 6, he was imprisoned “in chains” (v. 20) and knew hardships, challenges, and struggles.
  • Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord and stand firm.

Stand Firm, Stand Strong

  • To stand is a military term meaning “to hold a position” and “to resist an impending attack” (Collins).
  • To stand firm as Christians means we are prepared to resist an attack, and we look to our commander, Jesus Christ.
  • “To be strong in the Lord means to rely on God’s strength, God’s power, and God’s courage.

Wiles

  • Paul calls the attacks we face the devil’s wiles (cunning strategies and ensnarement).
  • In the book The Devil You Don’t Know, Fr. Louis Cameli says there are many common wiles of the devil with which you will struggle, including Deception, Division, Diversion, and Discouragement.
  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church (409) clearly speaks: This dramatic situation of “the whole world is in the power of the evil one” [1 John 5: 19] makes man’s life a battle.

Recognizing Spiritual Warfare

  • Recognize if you are in spiritual warfare and facing some arrows or wiles.
  • You may be facing what the Bible calls the devil, tempter, murderer, accuser, liar, stumbling block, and adversary.

Personal Reflection – The Rs to Stand Firm and Stand Strong

  • You can “strengthen yourself in the Lord” and not depend on your own strength to fight against the wiles, using the “3 R’s” to combat the devil in any of your struggles:
  1. REMEMBER and Receive God’s Love and JOY. Daily, declare the JOY and Love from the Trinity declarations.
  2. RESIST the devil, his wiles, and temptations. Don’t let the accuser win. Participate in the sacrament of reconciliation and go forward.
  3. RENEW your mind with Scripture. God’s Word will give you strength to stand firm and resist the wiles and lies. See Romans 12:2.
  • Finally, be strong in the Lord (Ephesians 6: 10). Weakness is no excuse to lay down and be spiritually slaughtered. The Lord wants to be your strength in weakness. Call upon the Name of Jesus. Try to memorize and declare every day this week: Ephesians 6: 10-14. Put your name in the words so you pray with Scripture.

 Cup of JOY Women

Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy Women’s small group study for seven weeks.  It accompanies this podcast, and you can begin anytime.  It’s free!

  • Pray about accepting this opportunity to engage others and gently evangelize by hosting a small group of friends over coffee or tea.
  • For information, email me or go to Cup of Joy Women.

Links

NEHEMIAH & Rebuilding HOPE  #11 – Nehemiah Recaps, “The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength.”

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Nehemiah Finale & Recap: “The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength.”

Nehemiah Finale & Recap, “The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength”

Consider Nehemiah. Do you need more HOPE and JOY in your life? Nehemiah recaps: The JOY of the Lord is Your Strength.” God is waiting for you to come to Him.  Join us today for the finale of Nehemiah where you will be reminded the Joy of the Lord is Your strength.

Moving Day, Dedication & Praises

In our last podcast, covering Nehemiah Chapters 10 – 12, we joined moving day as many Israelites moved back to Jerusalem. Then they signed a Curse and Oath agreement, promising to support the temple, honor the Sabbath Day, uphold a religious marriage, and serve God in everything. After the priests purified the people, the gates, and the walls, they implored God’s presence at the dedication ceremony. Nehemiah appointed two praise processions on the walls. They praised and worshipped with thanksgiving, singing, rejoicing, and trumpeting so loud that all in neighboring towns heard them!

Twelve Years Later

Things change.  After serving as Governor of Jerusalem for 12 years, from 444 to 432 BC, Nehemiah returned to Babylon to serve King Artaxerxes. Sometime later, he “returned to Jerusalem.”  What a shock!  Nehemiah found the people had fallen away from their commitment to God and covenant promises. Today, we cover these points in Nehemiah 13 and the finale of the Book of Nehemiah:

The Falling Away (Nehemiah 13: 6-9, 15, 22, 30)

  • What caused the people to fall away so quickly? They were not reminded daily of God and His ways.
  • When the high priest fell away from God, so did the people.
  • The Bible warns often about forgetting God (see Deuteronomy 8: 13-16)

Nehemiah Addressed Breaking God’s Commands (Nehemiah 13: 1-5, 22-30)

  • The Israelites gave their children in marriage to pagans who did not use the sacred Hebrew language.
  • They stopped obeying the commandments of keeping the Sabbath Day holy and paying tithe.
  • The high priest Eliashib allowed Tobiah to move into the temple storeroom, where the offerings were kept.

Remembrance

  • Remembrance was a theme throughout the book of Nehemiah: The people forgot God again and again, but Nehemiah kept calling them to remember God, his faithfulness, and his promises.
  • Nehemiah prayed: Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and for his service (a common prayer, from Psalm 106: 4-5.)

The Finale

  • It is sorrowful to know that after all the building and recommitment, the people fell away from God.
  • It is good to remember Romans 15:4: For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. God is faithful and we all must return to him again and again. He offers us His strength, His JOY and His hope.

Nehemiah and Hope

  • The Book of Nehemiah has reassured us that prayer changes everything, that every obstacle can be overcome, and that every false accusation can lead to persistence, more prayer, and joyous victory.
  • Declare with Nehemiah: God is with us!  God is for us! God is at work! God has a plan that changes everything!
  • With confidence, we can exclaim: The JOY of the LORD is my strength! (Nehemiah 8: 14).

Personal Reflection on the Book of Nehemiah

Let’s close with some reflection on the principles you can apply from the book of Nehemiah.

(1) Call on your LOVING GOD in the MESSY SITUATIONS (Chapter 1).

(2) SUPPLICATE (Chapter 1).  You can use Nehemiah’s ACTS Model: 1) Adore God 2) Confess sins, 3) Thank God, and 4) Supplicate.

(3) Pray for FAVOR & depend on God to open doors. (Chapters 2-3).

(4) Become a Perfumer; All Vocations are Needed (Chapter 3).  Become a perfumer and help build. Bring the sweetness of God’s spirit and a sweet aroma of prayer to every stinky situation.

(5) Face Opposition & Stand FIRM Against Insults (Chapters 4,  7). Nehemiah showed a 3-pronged approach to defeating opposition: 1) pray, 2) declare the truth instead of believing lies and 3) work together with others.

(6) When angered, step back first (Chapter 5) & Face Slander (Chapter 6): Pray, Speak the Truth, and Persevere. eep the sword of the spirit- the Word of God in one hand and your work tool or skill in the other.

(7) Declare the Joy of the Lord is My Strength (Chapter 8).

(8) Create a personal Prayer BOOTH! in your home (Chapter 8). Your corner of a room is like a spiritual booth where the Israelites celebrated the Feast of Booths to offer praise, and thanksgiving and read His Word.

(9) Remember God Will Never Forsake You (Chapters 9 & 13). After experiencing God’s great faithfulness, the people fell away into sin into the rebellion-revival cycle.

(10) Become a “Praiser” and Read God’s Word (Chapters 10-12). Nehemiah called the people to worship, to praise and to offer thanksgiving to God.

Personal Prayer Response

So, what will you do NEXT? How can you start building now? Nehemiah models personal intercession with the ACTS model.

  • Adore God and praise His greatness and faithfulness.
  • Confess your sins and those of your nation and families with a contrite spirit.
  • Thank God for His blessings and promises.
  • Supplicate or pray with a passionate heart for what you need and for others. Incorporate Scripture, when possible.

Remember: The JOY of the LORD is YOUR Strength!

Cup of JOY Women

  • Why not invite a few friends for coffee or tea every week for just one hour to discuss a one-page study guide accompanying every podcast in each series?
  • It’s called a Cup of Joy Women’s group and is a fantastic way to gently evangelize and encourage others. I will provide all the free resources and even Zoom meetings for facilitators.
  • In September, I start my fifth series called JOYFUL and Battle-ready. It’s a perfect time to form a Cup of JOY women’s group for the 8-week series.
  • For more information, go to my website com, and click under Cup of Joy Women on the menu, or email me: Karen@WrapYourselfinJoy.com

Links

NEHEMIAH & Rebuilding HOPE #10 – Do You Need an Uplift? Nehemiah Calls All Praisers!

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Do You Need an Uplift? Nehemiah Calls All Praisers! Adding praise and thanksgiving to your prayer can increase your faith, lift your spirit, help you recall God’s goodness, encourage you in hard tasks, and add much more joy to your life.

Nehemiah Calls Praisers & JOY Fills Their Hearts

Do you need an uplift? Becoming a praiser could change your life. Adding praise and thanksgiving to your prayer can increase your faith, lift your spirit, help you recall God’s goodness, encourage you in hard tasks, and add much more joy to your life. Join us today as Nehemiah calls all praisers and demonstrates the impact of praise.

Rebellion-revival Cycle

In our last podcast, we joined the Israelites as Ezra read God’s Word aloud and they realized how disobedient they had been to God and his commandments, falling into a rebellion-revival cycle: (1) Rebellion against God and His law; (2) Warnings from the prophets and teachers, but to no avail, (3) Repentance from sinfulness and calling out to God; and (4) Intervention when God rescues them from the enemy oppressors. Today, in Nehemiah Chapters 10 -12, we follow the people as they sign a new covenant with God rededicating their lives and the walls and gates to Him. Today we cover these points:

An Oath to Follow God (Nehemiah 10: 29-35)

  • The curse and oath agreement meant “they could expect a blessing for obedience, or a correction from God if they did not follow through on obeying His Law.
  • They signed a public agreement promising to pay their tithes to support the temple, to honor the Sabbath by not buying or selling, and to uphold a religious marriage, not uniting with those who worship other gods or idols.

Moving into Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11: 3-35)

  • Nehemiah shares a long list of the people and the vocations of those who moved into Jerusalem, including leaders, warriors, Levites, temple gatekeepers, overseers, and singers.
  • Repopulating Jerusalem was essential because it would mean the more who lived there, the safer the city would be.
  • There was a special stipend for the singers who sang praises daily and led worship in the temple.

Dedication Joy (Nehemiah 12)

  • Chapter 12 opens with more names – but this time the names are those of priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel.
  • Nehemiah is recalling the history and heroes in public record who sacrificed much in returning to Jerusalem.
  • He wanted all to remember these good men as part of their heritage.
  • Nehemiah lists the Levites who were heads of households plus the singers who led praise and thanksgiving with cymbals, harps, and lyres.

Purification JOY (Nehemiah 12: 27-30)

  • It was time to dedicate the walls once they moved into Jerusalem and returned to worship and obey God’s laws.
  • They would seek God’s presence and blessings.
  • The Levites purified themselves, the people, and the walls. See Psalm 24: 3-6

Praising JOY (Nehemiah 12: 30-43)

  • Next, the praisers joined the dedication ceremony.
  • He sent one company of praisers in one direction singing and giving thanks (v. 35). They included the leaders and the young priests playing trumpets while others played and praised with all kinds of musical instruments.
  • Then the other company made up of Nehemiah and half of the people processed in the opposite direction on the walls singing, giving thanks, and playing trumpets too. Finally, they all met at the house of God and sang their hearts out to him. “They offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. The joy of Jerusalem was heard far away” (v. 43).

Offering JOY

  • The last activity of the dedication ceremony involved joyfully offering tithe to God – to support the temple, the priests, and those who led worship.
  • All of Israel gave the daily portions and tithe for the singers, the gatekeepers, and the Levites. The Levites even paid tithe to the priests.

Personal Reflection – Become a Praiser

  1. Have you considered becoming a praiser? So how can you add more praise and thanksgiving to God in your life?
    1. Become a singer of praises to God. Even if you can’t carry a tune, sing with online or CD worship music. Join others in singing praises. As you sing the words from your heart, they become your prayer.
    2. Read Psalms of Praise. You can start with Psalms 145, 146, or 150 traditionally known as praise psalms.
    3. Begin all prayer with thanksgiving and words of praise. Psalm 100:4 tells us to “Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.  Give thanks to him, bless his name.” So the way to come into God’s presence, the king of the Universe and the Savior of the World is to come with thanksgiving and praise. For example, you can say, I praise you, Jesus or  I love you, Lord. Bookmarks for praise are available on my website.

One final point to remember is this.

  1. Don’t forget the power of praise to defeat enemies and negative situations (e.g., see Nehemiah 2 and 3). Remember  2 Chronicles 20:21 when King Jehoshaphat followed the Lord’s counsel and appointed singers to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy splendor. They lead the army into battle. As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the …enemies.., who had come against Judah, so they were routed. .. they all helped destroy one another. The Lord won a fabulous victory as the enemies were defeated and the army never even used their swords.  If you are discouraged, or fearful and have pressing needs, consider praising God often. God will fight battles for you and lift you up when you turn your attention to him.

Cup of JOY Women

  • Why not invite a few friends for coffee or tea every week for just one hour to discuss the one-page study guide accompanying this podcast or others in my last few series?
  • You would be forming a Cup of Joy Women’s group, and it’s a great way to gently evangelize and encourage others. I will provide you with all the free resources. In September, I will be starting my fifth series called JOYFUL and Battle-ready--It’s a perfect time to form a cup of JOY women’s group with that 8-week series.
  • For more information, go to my website WRAPYOURSELFINJOY.com, and click under Cup of Joy Women on the menu or email me: Karen@WrapYourselfinJoy.com

Links

 

NEHEMIAH & Rebuilding HOPE #9 – Nehemiah Says, God Will Never Forsake You!

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
National Confession & Nehemiah Says, God Will Never Forsake You!

National Confession & Nehemiah Says, God Will Never Forsake You!

Consider Nehemiah Chapter 9. Do you feel forsaken by God ever? Always remember this: God is ready to forgive. He is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounds in steadfast love.  Join us today as Nehemiah says, God will never forsake you.

Celebrating God’s Goodness

In our last podcast, we joined the Israelites on Rosh Hashanah and the Feast of Trumpets. Many had stopped celebrating the feast days and gave up their faith because of the brokenness of their homeland, families, and lives. In Nehemiah 8, when Ezra read the Word of God aloud, the people wept loudly, mourning for their sins. Nehemiah and Ezra told them: “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Next, they celebrated the Feast of Booths when each family spent seven days in a   booth remembering God’s goodness, reading the Word of God, praying, praising, and thanking Him to commemorate how God had delivered them from Egypt by parting the Red Sea, and cared for them in the desert for 40 years where they lived in simple huts.  In Chapter 9, two days after the weeklong celebration of the Feast of Booths, the people are together again for a day of national confession. Today, we cover these points:

National Confession (Nehemiah 9: 1-3)

  • The people gather for 6 hours – three hours reading the words of the Torah and 3 hours confessing sin.
  • They were reminded of how far they had fallen from God and His commandments.
  • As Hebrews 4: 12 tells us, the Word of God had pierced their hearts and revealed their sins.

Remembering God’s Care and Praising Him (Nehemiah 9: 5-26)

  • Ezra called them to worship God and recall the ways that God cared for them since Abraham.
  • God gave them the Ten Commandments.
  • For 40 years in the wilderness, God cared for them so they lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell.

Fasting, Dressed in Sackcloth, Dirt on their Heads (Nehemiah 9: 3, 26- 38)

  • The people stood in fasting – an act of penance to show remorse in skin-tearing sackcloth with dirt on their heads –all painful acts showing deep sorrow for their sins before God.
  • They cried out for ” stiffening their necks “and “not obeying the commandments.”

The Four-Stage Rebellion-Revival Cycle

  • After experiencing God’s great faithfulness of God, they fell away again and again.
  • The Rebellion, Warnings, Repentance, and Intervention cycle could be called the rebellion-revival cycle.
  • But before long the Cycle repeated, and the Israelites became “slaves to this day.”

God Did Not Forsake Them (Nehemiah 9: 17)

Verse 17 seems to be a turning point in the chapter: “But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them. God will forgive us when we confess the sins of our generations and commit to changing directions.

Personal Reflection on Nehemiah 9

  • How will you respond to these verses of Scripture?
    • Confess your sins. Nehemiah shows us where to begin when you want to be renewed in your spiritual life: Remember what God has done, confess your sin and the areas where you have fallen away, and praise and worship our glorious God again.
    • Make a Change. True repentance and sorrow for your sins mean you want to change direction. Nehemiah 9:38 says the people made a firm agreement in writing to promise to change direction. What change in direction are you willing to make at this time?
    • Read Scripture. All the chapters in the Book of Nehemiah remind us how essential it is to hear, read, and take the Word of God to heart. How will you find more time to read and pray Scripture? If you do, it will revive your spiritual life and the lives of those around you. Start today with just 5 minutes of scripture and form a prayer from your heart to God that responds to what you read.

Cup of JOY Women

  • Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy Women’s small group study. It accompanies this podcast and you can begin anytime.
  • Pray about accepting this opportunity to engage others and gently evangelize by hosting a small group of friends over coffee or tea. It’s free, and I will help you get started. Go to Cup of Joy Women or email me at Karen@WRAPYourselfinJOY.com for information.

Links

 

NEHEMIAH & Rebuilding HOPE #8 – Need Joy in Your Life? Nehemiah Points to a Prayer Booth!

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Nehemiah and Ezra tell the people: "The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength."Consider Nehemiah Chapter 8. Do you need more JOY in your life? Are you seeking a revival in your faith? Nehemiah will show you the way. Join us today as we cover creating a spiritual “prayer booth” for rejoicing, reading Scripture, recalling what God has done for us, and receiving new JOY.

Wall Completed

  • Nehemiah and the Israelites completed the walls and gates in 52 days (Nehemiah 6).
  • Now Nehemiah begins restoring his beloved people’s faith (Nehemiah 7 & 8).

Fortification and Worship (Nehemiah 7: 1-5)

  • Nehemiah assigned gatekeepers to keep the city free from enemies so the people could worship without threats.
  • He appointed singers to praise the Lord day and night and to lead worship. It nurtured a close relationship with God.
  • He appointed the Levites to watch over all things holy.

Historic Memory

  • God put it into Nehemiah’s heart to register every person.
  • Historic memory is crucial to the survival of any nation or culture.
  • Nehemiah had to remind the people of their heritage and that God was with them as the returning remnant.

The Gathering – New Year’s Day (Nehemiah 8: 1)

  • It’s October 444 B.C., New Year’s Day, called Rosh Hashanah on the Hebrew Civil calendar.
  • The Feast of Trumpets on the Hebrew religious calendar calls for the people to prepare for the holy days to come (Leviticus 23: 23-24).

Hunger for God’s Word and Joy (Nehemiah 8: 2-8)

  • The people gathered to hear Ezra read from the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).
  • The people stood up the entire time from morning to midday, starved and thirsty for the Word of God.
  • It takes only a few fallen-away generations to leave the next ones destitute and ignorant about God.
  • Ezra blessed the Lord. All the people responded, “Amen, Amen.” Thus, they (1) thanked God with their “Amen”, (2) praised God by lifting up their hands, and 3) bowed down in adoration and submission to God.

Weeping & JOY (Nehemiah 8: 9-12)

  • It took hearing and understanding God’s Word to begin the healing of broken hearts and dreams.
  • The Word of God revealed their sin, they were grieved, and they confessed their sins before God.
  • Nehemiah and Ezra told the people: “Don’t be grieved, for the JOY of the LORD is your strength”(v. 10).

The Feast of  Booths – 444 BC (Nehemiah 8: 13-18)

  • The Feast of Booths, also called the Feast of Tabernacles (or Sukkot) was celebrated for seven days.
  • God called the Israelites to recall how they wandered the desert and lived in booths or huts while God provided for them.
  • The Feast of Booths commemorates God’s provision and guidance, and the Israelites must live in booths to celebrate it.
  • They read the Word of God, rejoiced, offered thanksgiving, and worshipped God with their families in huts/booths.
  • God’s Word led them to repent; God’s Word changed everything, and they were filled with much joy.

Personal Reflection – The Feast of Booths Application

  • How will you respond to these verses of Scripture? You Could
    • Prayer Booth. Set up a Holy Place (call it a booth or secret place) in your home where you can pray, praise, read Scripture, and write in your prayer journal. Your booth is your secret place – it’s like a spiritual booth/or hut/where the people celebrate the Feast of Booths. It’s a place to put yourself in God’s presence in your home. You offer praise thanksgiving and worship.
    • Listen. Take time daily to read Scripture and allow God to speak to you. You can ask the Holy Spirit to set the Words afire in your heart and help you understand as you read. Try to record a few sentences in your journal of how the Lord speaks to you.
    • Receive the JOY of the Lord. “For the Joy of the Lord is your strength.” Ask Jesus for JOY as you read His word. (See John 15: 11 & Psalm 1.)

Cup of JOY Women

  • Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy Women’s small group study. It accompanies this podcast and you can begin anytime or choose another of my podcast series (e.g. Finding More JOY).
  • Pray about accepting this opportunity to engage others and gently evangelize by hosting a small group of friends over coffee or tea. It’s free and I will help you get started. For information, contact me, or go to Cup of Joy Women.

Links

 

Nehemiah – Rebuilding Hope #7 – Facing Slander? Nehemiah Responds, Pray, Speak the Truth & Persevere

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Nehemiah - Rebuilding Hope #7 - Facing Slander? Nehemiah Responds, Pray, Speak the Truth & Persevere!

Nehemiah reads slanderous letters from Sanballet

Pray, Speak the Truth & Persevere Always

Look to Nehemiah. Are you facing slander?  Have mistruths been spoken about you? You can overcome the discouragement and discern the lies, deception, and diversion around you! Nehemiah will show you how. Join the podcast today as he shows us to always pray, speak the truth, and persevere. Today we cover the following points:

The Outcry of the People

  • In Nehemiah 5, the immoral and unlawful practices of the Jewish nobles and officials brought many families to poverty.
  • After he stood back in anger, Nehemiah demanded that nobles and officials follow God’s laws, or as a consequence, they would lose their possessions in God’s justice. The Jewish officials made an oath to do this and responded, “Amen,” and “praised the Lord.”

Three Attacks from the Opposition

  • In Nehemiah 6, the enemies from surrounding countries become fearful about losing authority and moneymaking practices.
  • They conspired to stop the building with a 1) Fake Meeting, 2) Slander Campaign, and 3) False Prophecy.

Diversion – The Fake Meeting Scheme (Nehemiah 6: 1-4)

  • They invited Nehemiah to a “fake meeting” in the hills of Ono, a day’s journey away (near Tel Aviv today).
  • It sounded like a neutral place, but he discerned it was a scheme to do him harm.

Division- Lies & The Smear Campaign (Nehemiah 6: 5-9)

  • In an unsealed letter, Sanballat accused Nehemiah of a treasonous plot to revolt and overthrow the king.
  • Sanballat knew that others would read the lies and slander would be spread everywhere.
  • The scheme had worked twenty years prior when the King of Persia shut down the rebuilding (Ezra 4).
  • Nehemiah declared the truth to confront the lies and prayed: But now, O God, strengthen my hands.”

Deception –False Prophecy Trap (Nehemiah 6: 10-14)

  • Tobiah and Sanballat hired Shemaiah, likely a priest and prophet, to mislead Nehemiah.
  • He prophesied that he should seek refuge in the temple and make an offering.
  • Shemaiah tried to use tales of terror and “religious speak, saying the enemies planned to kill Nehemiah.
  • Nehemiah knew entering the temple would be a sin that the enemies would use to discredit him.

The  Completed Wall

  • God blessed Nehemiah, answered his prayers, and helped the Israelites complete the wall in only 52 days.
  • This was a great victory for the people because of opposition from the same enemies over twenty years.

Personal Reflection

  • Today, Nehemiah reminds us how to respond to life’s assaults: Pray, Declare the Truth, and Persevere.
  1. When you are facing discouragement, especially from diversion, division, or deception, pray like Nehemiah, Lord, strengthen my hands! and thus, ask God to help you discern the truth and persevere.
  2. Declare the truth. Don’t be distracted by rumors or slanderous accusations. This is the devil’s way of making you compromise with evil. Instead, speak the truth in love. Declare the Scriptures. For example:
    • Romans 8:15: For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”  Declare: I am a daughter of God!
    • Timothy 1:7: [F]or God did not give us a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of power and of love and a sound mind. Declare: I don’t have a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and a sound mind.
  3. Commit your work to the Lord and stay focused.

Cup of JOY Women

  • Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy Women’s small group study on It accompanies this podcast and you can begin anytime or choose any podcast series (e.g. Finding More JOY).
  • Pray about accepting this fantastic opportunity to engage others and gently evangelize by hosting a small group of friends over coffee or tea. It’s free and I will help you get started. For information, contact me, go to Cup of Joy Women.

Links

 

Nehemiah – Rebuilding Hope #6 – Angry? Nehemiah Says Step Back First!

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Angered While Rebuilding? Nehemiah Says Step Back First!

Consider Nehemiah. Do you get angry easily?  Do you get riled up? Nehemiah shows us to step back before acting. It never works to respond with emotions. In Chapter 5, during their rebuilding, the people face opposition from within their ranks. It seems that if the opposition doesn’t hit us from without, it comes from within. Join the podcast today as Nehemiah reminds us to step back, then stand up and keep focus when facing opposition. Today we cover the following points:

Fight for Your Families

  • In Nehemiah Chapter 4, the people were making progress when more persecution made them fearful.
  • Nehemiah prayed and encouraged the people saying: “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome and fight for your kin, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (Nehemiah 4: 14).

Outcry and Poverty (Nehemiah 5: 1-5)

  • Many were in poverty: inflation had become rampant and taxes were unbearable.
  • In order to pay the taxes, the families borrowed money from others using their own children as collateral.
  • If loans could not be repaid, their children, and even the wives and men, would be sold as slaves..

Step Back & Take Time to Think (Nehemiah 5: 6-7)

  • Nehemiah was very angry with the nobles and officials who took advantage of their kin.
  • Leviticus 25: 35-38 and Deuteronomy 23: 20 instruct them not to charge interest if they lend to the poor.
  • Nehemiah did not show his angst. He stepped back and collected his thoughts.
  • He gives us the first step in resolving conflict from within – step back.

The Symbolism of the Oath & Gesture (Nehemiah 5: 6-13)

  • Nehemiah confronted the nobles who were enslaving their own brethren and children.
  • He implored the officials to 1) repent of their sins and respect the Lord by following His Law, 2) stop charging interest, and 3) restore everything they took.
  • Using the Word of God (Torah at the time) and a conciliatory manner, he spoke the truth.
  • In one dramatic prophetic act symbolizing the solemnity of their oath, Nehemiah shook out the fold of his garment … In this, he emphasized that judgment would come to those who did not keep their oath before God. The assembly confirmed it with a passionate “Amen.” They “praised the Lord … and did as they had promised.

The Governor

  • Nehemiah kept his focus on building the wall.
  • He used his money earned as a cupbearer to support Jerusalem’s poor and suffering people. He worked more for God’s approval.
  • Nehemiah prayed: Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.
  • He was asking God for continued grace in the work and most importantly, for the Lord to remember him when it comes to eternal life and rewards. We can pray with the same words.
  • The Lord promises He will remember you. Hebrews 6: 10—11 says this: God is not unfair. He will not forget the work you did or the love you showed for him in the help you gave and are still giving to other Christians. (Good News).

Personal Reflection

  • Please reflect on the principles that Nehemiah models and we can apply:
  1. Step back. Do not be led by anger. Collect your thoughts. It never works to respond with emotions. Ephesians 4: 26. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.
  2. Stand up. In love, confront Christians with the Word of God when they are sinning against Him. Forgive always. 1 Timothy 5: 20 reminds us:  As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest also may stand in fear.
  3. Focus. Keep your focus on what God has called you to do. Keep building, pray always, and never give up. (Luke 18: 1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to teach them that they should always pray and never become discouraged [give])
  4. Remember the poor. Do not take advantage of the less fortunate. Instead, help them. Psalm 15: 5, Do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent.
  5. Pray with Scripture. Remember me O my God, all that I have done for your people. In this prayer, we also remind ourselves that our rewards are eternal when we choose to follow Jesus and as His disciple, we build up others in Christ.

Cup of JOY Women

  • Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy Women’s small group study on It accompanies this podcast and you can begin anytime or choose any podcast series (e.g. Finding More JOY).
  • Pray about accepting this fantastic opportunity to engage others and gently evangelize by hosting a small group of friends over coffee or tea. I will even join you via Zoom.
  • For information or to contact me, go to Cup of Joy Women.

Links

Nehemiah & Rebuilding Hope #5 – Facing Opposition? Nehemiah Shows the Best Approach for Success!

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Nehemiah 4 | Facing Opposition? Nehemiah 4 Shows the Best Approach for Success! #podcast #christianpodcast #catholicpodcast #nehemiah4

Work with the Sword of God in one hand and a trowel in the other.

Nehemiah 4 Shows the Best Approach for Success!

Have you looked at Nehemiah 4? Do you ever face opposition in the midst of a daunting task? How do you respond to insults or ridicule? In Nehemiah Chapter 4, the people face criticism, ridicule, name-calling, and insults as they try to repair the burned-down walls and broken gates. Opposition happens to all of us. Join the podcast today as Nehemiah shows us the best approach for success to overcome opposition and discouragement.

Family by Family, Brick by Brick,

In our last episode, family-by-family and household-by-household and brick-by-brick the people started to repair the walls and rebuild the gates. The builders worked side-by-side, beyond their own giftedness or vocations to do God’s work and repair the walls and gates of their holy city. Of course, their enemies came to stop the progress.  They face criticism, ridicule, name-calling, and a constant barrage of insults. This can happen to any of us. Today we cover these points as Nehemiah shows us the best approach to overcome opposition:

Anger Turns to Criticism (Nehemiah 4: 1-6)

  • Sanballat and Tobiah mocked the people: “Will they sacrifice” or “finish in a day?” (They are asking, will they call upon their God or how could their God help build anything in a short time?)
  • Criticism and ridicule only added to the discouragement. This sounds just like the devil, doesn’t it?
  • The people were doing God’s work and they did not need the troubling criticism. See John 14: 27.

Nehemiah Responds to Insults with Prayer (Nehemiah 4: 1-6)

  • Nehemiah did not return their insults with insults.
  • He responded with a prayer, likely aloud, as he went into the midst of opposition.
  • Based on Jeremiah 18:23,  Nehemiah prayed aloud- they will face God and what they say will come back on them.

A Guard of Protection (Nehemiah 4: 7-9)

  • The people responded to the opponent’s increased anger with prayer.
  • Then, they set up a guard of protection around the clock to keep the enemy’s efforts from succeeding.

 Nehemiah’s Three-Pronged Approach (Nehemiah 4: 9-20)

  • Nehemiah models how to face the opposition: (1) Pray first, (2) Declare God’s truth, (3) Work heartily.
  • Together with a sword in one hand and a tool in the other hand, they continued to build.

Join Together and Keep Working (Nehemiah 4: 21-23)

  • For Christians, we must join together by praying together, declaring God’s truth to each other, and working together.
  • God can use cracked, worn-out, old tools when we commit our work to Him.

Personal Reflection

Ask God where the broken gates are in your life—spiritual or otherwise. and what weapons you can use to rebuild the brokenness. You can follow Nehemiah’s model in overcoming the opposition.  1) pray, 2) declare the truth of God’s word instead of believing the lies and 3) work together with a sword of the spirit, the Word of God, in one hand and your work in the other hand. Use your prayer journal to record your action response:

  1. For example, pray Nehemiah 4: 14. Simply insert your name for the “I” and “my.” AND Insert the names of your friends and family members in the places of kin, sons, daughters, etc.
  2. For example, declare “God will fight for my family members, my community, my friends and my country.” Speak aloud with the truth of God’s Word (e.g., Romans 8:31. and Isaiah 41:10).
  3. Work together with other Christians. Ask a friend to pray for your needs and for MORE JOY, and you pray the same for them. Use the ACTS acronym to intercede for the needs. *End your prayer time by sitting in silence and receiving God’s love and joy for you.

Cup of JOY Women

Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy Women’s small group study on Nehemiah. It accompanies this podcast and you can begin anytime or choose another podcast (e.g. Finding More JOY).

  • Pray about accepting this wonderful opportunity to engage others and gently evangelize by hosting a small group of friends over coffee or tea.
  • For information or to contact me, go to Cup of Joy Women.

Links

Nehemiah – Rebuilding Hope #4 – Perfumers Needed! Nehemiah Calls for Your Help!

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Nehemiah Rebuilding Hope ~ Perfume-makers needed- Nehemiah calls for your help! This is a podcast of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network and talks about Nehemiah Rebuilding Hope. podcast, christian podcast network, catholic podcast network, Nehemiah

Become a Perfume-maker

Nehemiah Calls Perfumers

Nehemiah calls the Perfumers. All teams need workers from all walks of life with a heartfelt desire to build—even beyond their known skills.  Most importantly, the “perfume makers” provide sweet-smelling assistance, even though their hands are soft and they are not seasoned builders.  Join us today as Nehemiah reveals team-making skills and appoints the perfumers.

Let Us Start Building

In our last podcast, we joined Nehemiah as he secretly inspected Jerusalem at night time. He saw the many ruins but was inspired that God was leading the rebuilding. Although the ruins had accumulated over many years, he inspired the people, and they replied, Let us start building! Today we cover the following points:

Nehemiah Rebuilding Hope ~ Broken Places

  • We all have broken places in the lives of our families, our communities, and our nation.
  • These areas of shame or ruin, physical or spiritual, need rebuilding so Nehemiah will encourage us.
  • In ancient cities, like Jerusalem, the gates were essential to the existence of a people. Gates were entrances to the city and provided military protection. The walls represented strength and defense.

The Gates

  • Outside the gates were stalls like farmer’s markets, where traders sold goods of all kinds.
  • Inside the gates, the leaders met and held court for those seeking justice.
  • If the walls or gates were broken, the loss of protection, commerce, justice, and meeting spaces would be devastating.

Meet the Workers (Nehemiah 3: 1 -8)

  • The high priest Elisheba with his fellow priests rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They started the example for repair plus they consecrated the doors and an entire area to God.
  • The men of Jericho came a long way to build and were included with everyone living nearby.
  • The Tekoites made repairs, but their nobles with status and pride refused. Keep building!!
  • The perfumers [perfume-makers] made repairs but had no building skill; they likely brought some sweet-smelling perfume. Making life smell good is an important skill too. Sweetness or perfume in attitude, speech, and effort is an essential contribution in itself.

More Workers (Nehemiah 3: 12-32)

  • Hallohesh, the ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs with his daughters offering an example of involving the family in rebuilding.
  • Anaiah and others made repairs beside their homes as they wanted their neighborhoods to be safe.
  • Merchants rebuilt the walls and gates, likely taking days off from their own work to build the community.
  • Nehemiah Chapter 3 lists those who answered the call to rebuild the brokenness. One by one they tackled all the gates in the city, repairing doors and adding bolts and bars.

Teamwork: Everyone’s Effort Needed  ~ Nehemiah Rebuilding Hope

  • Teamwork was essential.  The builders worked for the glory of God—for the place of worship, for the people of God and not for pay.
  • Hebrews 6: 10-11.  For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones- his people. We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, NABRE

Gates

  • Nehemiah mentions the names of each of the gates that were repaired.
  • There is symbolism for Christians in the Sheep Gate, Fish Gate, Dung Gate, Fountain Gate, and most other gates too. (See bookmark on my website for more meaning of the gates and symbolism.)

Personal Reflection

You can reflect on the principles that apply to your life. In prayer, using your prayer journal, consider these questions:

  1. Where do you have burned gates or broken walls in your life (or family or nation) that need restoration?
  2. For example, burned gates are open portals of darkness into our lives. They can include addictions, uncontrolled imaginations, extreme fears, emotional hurts, lack of forgiveness, unholy media, pornography, unrestrained tongue, or other sinful habits. God wants to heal you and help you rebuild gates or walls that need rebuilding. Ask Him.
  3. Where does God want to strengthen you and give you joy? Ask Jesus to help you change hopelessness, discouragement, or procrastination attitudes into hopefulness and joy.
  4. Become a perfume maker! If you feel you lack giftings, become a perfumer and set your mind to building anyway. Bring the sweetness of God’s spirit and a sweet attitude of prayer to every stinky situation. 2 Corinthians 2: 14-15: God uses us to make the knowledge about Christ spread everywhere like a sweet fragrance. For we are like a sweet-smelling incense offered by Christ to God, which spreads among those who are being saved and those who are being lost…

 Cup of JOY Women

Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy Women’s small group study on Nehemiah.  It accompanies this podcast and you can begin anytime.  It’s free!

  • Pray about accepting this opportunity to engage others and gently evangelize by hosting a small group of friends over coffee or tea.
  • For information or to contact me, go to Cup of Joy Women.

Links

Nehemiah & Rebuilding Hope #3 – Need Favor? Let Nehemiah Encourage You!

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Nehemiah Inspects the Rubble in Jerusalem at night

At Night, Nehemiah Inspects the Rubble in Jerusalem, James J. Tissot (1896-1903)

Need Favor?

If you need favor, let Nehemiah encourage you.  When you pray for favor, you are asking God to give a powerful person sympathy or judgment supportive of your needs or for help to turn a bad situation around. After Nehemiah prayed, God gave him favor with the king, and the king gave him everything he asked for.  Join us today to discover how to trust God more and ask for favor when approaching challenges.

From Susa to Jerusalem

It’s about two to five months after Nehemiah left the king’s presence, due to the time it took him to make the 500-mile journey from Susa to Jerusalem. King Artaxerxes of Persia granted his request to return to Judah and rebuild his city. Nehemiah said, [T]he king granted me what I asked, for the gracious hand of my God was upon me [also translated as “the favor of my God was upon me.” Today we cover these points:

Governors Displeased (Nehemiah 2: 8-16)

  • The land surrounding Judah was controlled by enemies of the Jewish people.
  • Sanballat the Horonite was governor of the province of Samaria and a native of Horonaim, a city of Moab.
  • Tobiah the Ammonite was the governor of the province of Ammon in Transjordan. Both were positions under Persian rule.

God Gave Him Favor (Nehemiah 1: 11, 2: 12)

  • God put the desire in Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2: 12).
  • God gave him wisdom and discernment as he went into the midst of opposition.
  • He prayed: Give success to your servant today and grant him mercy in the sight of this man! (Nehemiah 1:11). This man was the KING, and God gave him mercy and favor with the king.
  • Psalm 84: 11-12 encourages us to pray for favor: For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly. 

Encouragement (Nehemiah 2: 17-20)

  • Nehemiah first had to encourage his discouraged people and inspire them to rebuild.
  • The joy was infectious, and the people said, “Let us start building!” So they committed themselves to the common good.
  • Sharing what God had done in his own life motivates others to trust Him too. Calling others to come alongside you in partnership inspires them to work together and do God’s work.
  • The people had lost their identity as a people of God. We must remember our identity as children of God.

Obstacles & Opposition (Nehemiah 2: 17-20)

  • Sanballat, Tobiah, and later Geshem opposed a restored Jewish province, for it threatened their trade and authority.
  • The enemies confronted the people with lies, but Nehemiah refused to answer the lies. He stood his ground.
  • We too must stand our ground. We must seek the Lord first, pray, and do his work. God is with us. Romans 8: 31 says: If God is for us, who is against us?

Personal Reflection

Be inspired to ask God for these requests that Nehemiah has demonstrated. Write the answers in your prayer journal.

  1. Ask God to put His desires into your heart as he did for Nehemiah.
  2. Ask God for favor this week for a needed solution to your needs. God gave Nehemiah favor with the king and the king gave him more than he could imagine.
  3. Ask God whom you can inspire with hope and joy this week. Nehemiah shared his testimony of how God was with Him, helped Him, and called him and his people to this work.
  4. Use the ACTS acronym to aid in the elements for personal intercessions as Nehemiah displays.

Cup of JOY Women

Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy Women’s small group study on Nehemiah.  It accompanies this podcast and you can begin anytime.

  • Pray about accepting this wonderful opportunity to engage others and evangelize by hosting a small group of friends over coffee or tea.You can choose from among my four podcasts (The Joy Series, Advent JOY, Esther & Turn-around JOY or Nehemiah: Rebuilding Hope and JOY).
  • For information or to contact me, go to Cup of Joy Women.

Links

NEHEMIAH & Rebuilding HOPE #2 – Procrastinate or Supplicate? Nehemiah Teaches Intercession!

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.
Nehemiah - Rebuilding Hope & JOY: Procrastinate or Supplicate? Nehemiah Demonstrates Intercession!

Nehemiah Demonstrates Intercession (St. Takla.Org)

Procrastinate or Supplicate?

Do you procrastinate or supplicate when you face a broken situation or difficult task? To procrastinate means you put off doing something often because you don’t know where to begin. Do you feel stymied because something beloved to you seems shattered and you don’t know what to do or where to begin? Join us today as Nehemiah shows us how to supplicate to our God for restoration and new hope.

Intercessory Prayer

Nehemiah teaches about interceding for a people and a nation. Nehemiah demonstrates powerful intercession. The prayer of Nehemiah starts the process of bringing great solutions to great difficulties and a broken nation. Today, we cover the following points.

Five Forms of Prayer

  • There are at least FIVE forms of prayer. “The Holy Spirit is the one who teaches the Church and recalls to her all that Jesus instructs in the life of prayer, inspiring new expressions of the same basic 5 forms of prayer:” 1) blessing, 2) petition, 3) intercession, 4) thanksgiving, and 5) praise” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2644).
  • Intercession is simply “asking on behalf of another—it knows no boundaries and even extends to our enemies” (CCC #2647).
  • Nehemiah’s prayer in Chapter 1 is foremost intercession, but it also brings in the other 4 forms of prayer.

The Themes of Intercessory Prayer

  • The four themes of Nehemiah’s prayer teach supplication.
  • The themes model personal intercessory and fit the ACTS acronym.

The ACTS Guide for Intercession (Nehemiah 1: 5-11)

  • A = Adoration. Nehemiah praises and adores God first (v. 5). Praise God’s greatness. Begin prayer with adoration. (Psalm 100: 4: Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!)
  •  C = Confession. Nehemiah deeply loves and is devoted to God, yet he confesses his sins. He confesses his nation’s and his family’s sins as if they were his own (v. 7).
  • T = Thanksgiving. Nehemiah prays with gratitude for God’s mercy and promises (v. 8-9). (Philippians 4: 6: Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.)
  •  S = Supplication. Nehemiah asks God for his needs and for the needs of his nation and family (v. 11). In the process, he is changed.

Nehemiah’s Supplication to God is Answered (Nehemiah 2: 1-8)

  • Nehemiah’s four months of prayer, fasting, and waiting on God paved the way for God to make a way.
  • No procrastination. By grace via intercession, Nehemiah courageously made requests to the king.
  • The king was sympathetic because the King of Kings had opened his heart. King Artaxerxes gave Nehemiah favor, granted his request to rebuild the brokenness, and even gave him supplies and assistance.

Personal Reflection

Consider the following aids for increasing personal intercession.

  1. Keep a prayer journal (e.g., a small, inexpensive notebook with lined paper).
  2. Prepare to intercede: WRITE concerns, LISTEN to God’s desires, and include SCRIPTURE.
  3. Use the ACTS guide with your prayer journal to record your personal intercession and answers.

Cup of JOY Women

  • Consider hosting a weekly one-hour Cup of Joy Women small group study. It accompanies this podcast and you can begin anytime. Contact me for free materials and help to get started.
  • Pray about accepting this wonderful opportunity to engage others and share your faith by hosting a small group of friends over coffee or tea. For information, go to Cup of Joy Women.

Links

Spiritual Cleaning

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Spiritual Cleansing podcast from A Few Minutes with GodSpiritual Cleaning ~ Episode 259

When was the last time you did spiritual housecleaning? In this episode, we will explore why many of us struggle daily and the unnecessary burdens we carry around. Many of these can easily be trashed.

Thanks to Media Angels, the sponsor of today’s episode. You can visit MediaAngels.com for books and classes. Many products are available for immediate download.

The Lord gives us such an amazing compacity to feel. We are blessed with five senses, and we use these in our daily lives, often without thinking. However, it is those senses that can get us into trouble. It is time to take stock of our lives and get rid of the trash that does not belong. We can do this in several ways.

The first is to look hard at our lives and happiness. If we are in need of spiritual cleansing, we may feel a burden or heaviness. This is the first sign that something isn’t right in our lives. Before we cast the blame on someone else, let’s look interiorly first and see what we can change. This is not an easy task and may take some serious introspection. It also takes time, a commodity many of us do not have.

By identifying why we carry around specific burdens, we can hone into the issue and then figure out the remedy with the help of prayer. Some baggage is too hard to remove on our own and may take a Christian counselor or therapist. We are blessed to have the Wholeness and Holiness Podcast and Margaret Vasquez on the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

For most of us, it may be a matter of identifying an issue, such as turning to food when we are stressed or bored. Watching inappropriate shows or reading inappropriate books. Or a host of other things we do that can lead us into sin and guilt.

The God we serve is the Creator of the Universe, and we tend to forget that! David said it beautifully in the Psalms, and in Psalm 19:1-2 we read…

Psalm 19:1-2
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day, they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

If even the heavens declare the glory of God, shouldn’t we? This righteous God leads us clearly in His word to avoid evil, yet evil can be so tempting. Many of us have John 3:16 memorized. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

But what about John 3:17? “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

And what do we need to do? John 18-21 (read on air).

And that is why spiritual cleaning is needed. We often need to tune up our faith and belief that God is a righteous, fair, and honest God, but we must believe in Him to have everlasting life with Him and believe He is the redeemer worthy of honor and praise.

John 3:19 goes on, (read on air).

How stark and scary! Jesus is the light, and Jesus came into the world for those chosen by God — the chosen ones of God were the people of Israel. Their leaders were interested in keeping their power rather than opening their eyes to Jesus – who was the fulfillment of prophecy. We are blessed to have the Bible and many Bible studies where we can see this so clearly. The Old Testament and the New mess together, and we see such evidence of this. Yet those people, the Israelites who the Almighty God took out of Egypt and slavery, continued in their slavery, their sinful ways> These religious leaders denied He was the Christ and hated light. Why? Because of the fear that their deeds would be exposed. Not all of them, we learn later that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council (John 3:1-2) were the ones to take Jesus’ body and place it in a tomb.

John 19:38-42 (Read on air.)

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night.

So while not everyone denied that Christ was the Redeemer and Savior, their fear kept them from acting. Thankfully we know the end of the story and Jesus rose from the dead, but still, this miracle is denied by many today. If we deny God we can do whatever we want, in theory, but the burden of sin rests on the human soul, and that is what causes the guilt.

Who can hide from God? None of us. He sees all that we do, He knows our hearts and our motivations, and while we can fool ourselves, we will never fool God. When our kids were younger, my husband used to explain to our children when they were denying they did anything wrong that what they were doing was lying to themselves. I thought that was such a great analogy.

When we lie to ourselves, we make excuses or deny that our actions are wrong. Things like, “I’m not that bad compared to other people.” or “I would never do the things that this person or that person does.” We consider that if we work hard enough, we can earn a ticket to heaven. And, while works and faith go hand in hand, they are not exclusive. You can not love God and act in sin; you can not act in sin and say you love God.

Spiritual cleaning is so important to root out those sins that take over like weeds when we are not watching or aware of what is happening in our lives. And like those vines with the tenacles, I have them in my yard; when I pull one stem, five more come up with them. It reminds me to take stock of my life and examine my conscience from time to time.

Take the time to look at your life, if you need some help, I have several podcasts on this topic that may be helpful:

  1. Examination of Conscience here.
  2. Reexamine Your Conscience here.
  3. Avoiding Sin here.

As the scripture says, the reason we don’t want to look into our sinfulness is because then we have a fear of being exposed. But as John 3:21 states – “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

No matter if we fear it or not, it will come out in the end. This life is fleeting, and we consider the ramifications of sin because of our eternal life. Taking the time to clear out unhealthy habits, whether stress eating or binge-watching a show instead of doing something worthwhile, can make us lighter and happier in the end. I don’t know anyone who felt good after overeating, and there is a reason for that! These things while minor (after all, if you are listening to this podcast, you are on the road to seeking a closer walk with God), yet we all need to be an encouragement for each other!

Confession is good for the soul, and I pray that you take stock of your life this week and throw out the trash that has you burdened!

 

 

Nehemiah & Rebuilding Hope #1 – Messy Situations? Studying Nehemiah can help!

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Messy Situations?

Do you have messy situations in your life? The Book Nehemiah will remind you of God’s presence and power to transform brokenness and disappointment. You can overcome the fear and discouragement. Join our podcast today and allow Nehemiah to teach you to walk with God in new hope and joy.

Inspires Our Faith Today

I hope you were able to listen to my last podcast series – Esther and Turnaround JOY. If you enjoyed the book of Esther, I know you are going to love Nehemiah.  The Book of Nehemiah speaks to our faith today, even though it was written almost 2500 years ago. It will inspire you and your family in times of discouragement, trouble or worry in the face of life’s difficulties.  Nehemiah reminds us all how God’s presence and power are with us and can transform lives. Today we cover the following points.

History

  • The Book of Nehemiah is considered a historical book in Scripture meaning it is part of recorded history. It details the third return of God’s people from the Babylonian captivity, that occurred around 605 BC.
  • In 478 BC, during the reign of King Ahasuerus, Esther, and Mordecai, through God’s providential hand, helped save the nation of Israel from annihilation. The Book of Nehemiah follows the time after Esther.

 Meet Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1: 1-3, 11)

  • Nehemiah lives and works in Suza, the winter home of the Persian kings. He was the cupbearer, who tasted every drop of wine and morsel before the king could consume it. We might call him a professional wine taster and food connoisseur in our culture. However, this position is much more. If the cupbearer dropped dead or would not eat in fear of poisoning by the king’s enemies, the king would know not to eat it either!

Talk to God First (Nehemiah 1: 4-6)

  • Our lesson here is that Nehemiah talked to God. The first thing he did in great emotional pain over the destruction back home was to turn to God. He took his emotional pain and heartbreak to God in prayer. He did not immediately try to fix the problems.
  • Nehemiah knew only GOD could bring solutions to such devastation so he worshipped the creator, the great and awesome One, the Holy One, and the loving faithful One. Nehemiah knew the situation was the result of the nation’s sin – it was not God’s fault.
  • In verse 5, Nehemiah gives us this example: Adore and Worship God before you intercede for a problem. Jesus taught us the same. When the disciples asked him to teach them to pray, he said, to pray like this, Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be the NAME.

Four Names for Praising God

  •  “O LORD (v. 5) is the first name.” In the Hebrew, the word is “Yahweh.” Yahweh is the divine personal name that God gave in love for the people of Israel to use. Yahweh is the Lord God, the self-existent one who is always present. You can say:  O Lord you are with ME. O God, You love me and never leave ME.
  • “O Lord of Heaven (v. 5).” In Hebrew, of Heaven is “Elohim” which refers to God, the creator of the heavens and earth and the judge of the universe. He reigns throughout all eternity and is unlimited in strength and time. You can say: O Lord of Heaven, the Mighty One, you are MY Creator.
  • Great and awesome God (v. 5).” In Hebrew, the word translated great is “Hadol” which refers to the magnitude and importance of God. Psalm 48:1 uses this word in praise: Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.  The word ” Hael ” translates as ” awesome” in Hebrew, meaning awesome and holy reverence expressed to God, whose deeds are Magnificent.  You can say: God is MY great and awesome God.
  • God who keeps covenant and steadfast love (v. 5). In Hebrew, the word used is “Chesedh” and it means the God who guards His covenant relationship by keeping His promises of steadfast love and unchanging devotion to His people.  “Chesedh” is used in Psalm 40: 11: Your steadfast love and faithfulness keep me safe forever! You can say the Lord God keeps ME safe forever. He is MY loving, devoted God. (Note: Hebrew words are from Zodhiates Word Study Dictionary, 1992, #3069, #430, #410, #2617).

Personal Reflection

  1. Which of the names for God that Nehemiah uses would you like to use more in your prayer?
  2. How will you spend a few minutes adoring God with these praises?

Cup of JOY Women

       If you would like to host a weekly one-hour “Cup of Joy Women” study on Nehemiah with your friends that accompanies this podcast, email me: WRAPYourselfinJOY7@gmail.com.  I will send free materials and get you started.

Links

 

Esther & Turnaround JOY #10 – Celebrating God’s Goodness & Purim

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Are you looking for encouragement and JOY? Esther will help you celebrate. <yoastmark class=

Are you looking for encouragement and JOY?  Esther will help you celebrate God’s goodness. When you recall and celebrate what God has done,  your faith is strengthened, you are inspired to trust Him more, and you are encouraged with hope. For Esther and all Jewish families, the annual Feast of Purim celebration helps them recall that God delivered them and will continue to deliver them. Join our podcast today to joyously celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness as we review the many turnarounds in the Book of Esther.

Reversals Continue

Approximately two months and ten days after the first decree was issued, Mordecai wrote the second edict, which empowered the Jewish people to defend themselves against their enemies. The turnarounds were astounding! Today, we share at least 15 reversals and cover these points:

No Plundering (Esther 9: 1-17)

  • To plunder means to steal goods during a war for your profit.
  • The Jew people remembered the violation of God’s commands in their heritage (1 Samuel 15) and acted in holy retribution for self-defense but took no plunder for their profit.

 The Feast of Purim Established Forever (Esther 9: 18 – 10: 3)

  • Mordecai and Esther declare two days of celebration in an official decree to be remembered forever.
  • Purim means “lots” or dice which is what Haman used to pick the date for the annihilation.
  • The Book of Esther (also called the Megillah) is read twice during the Feast (the date in March is based on the Hebrew calendar). Children “boo and hiss” and throw popcorn when they hear Haman’s name.
  • Today, families bring gifts to the poor, give gifts to each other, and eat fruit-filled triangular cookies called Hamantashens [haa·muhn·taa·shn] or Haman’s Ears. They are delicious! You can pick up a recipe card on my website WRAPYourselfinJOY.com or in my book.

Banquets and Feasts in Esther

  • The Book of Esther shows us joy; Esther begins with a banquet and ends with a feast.
  • Four pairs of feasts celebrate the turnarounds and triumphs of God.

The Dream, Memory, and Plot (Esther 10 – 16).

  • Esther 10 -16 or deuterocanonical additions A – F suggest Mordecai remembers a Dream. It foretold God’s deliverance relating to the main events in Esther plus the chapters add a few details to the occurrences.

The Hero of the Book of Esther is GOD

  • God used the beautiful Esther, caused the sleeplessness of the king, brought down Haman, exalted Mordecai, and gave the Jewish people victory over their enemies.
  • God showed tremendous power on behalf of his people. Almost like fireworks, the reversals came quickly and spectacularly, fifteen in all.

Remembering God’s Goodness

  • The Feast of Purim, still celebrated yearly in the Jewish tradition, helps Jewish families remember God has delivered them and will continue to deliver them.
  • Psalm 77 calls us all to remember God’s goodness.

Personal Reflection

  1. Do you set aside time to remember, joyously celebrate and thank God for what He has done for you?
  2. Do you call upon God for creative solutions or turnarounds when problems arise?
  3. Are you encouraging others that God intervenes in history when his people seek him with prayer, repentance, and fasting?

New Podcast Series

Join my podcast this summer, Nehemiah-Rebuiding HOPE.  If you would like to host a weekly one-hour “Cup of Joy Women” study on Nehemiah with your friends, go to:  https://wrapyourselfinjoy.com/ or email me: WRAPYourselfinJOY7@gmail.com.  I will send free materials to help you get started.

Links

Everyday Prayer

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Did you know that our lives can turn into everyday prayer? We can turn a life of struggle into a life of rejoicing with the idea that we can hold onto the joy of a truly spiritual life. #podcast #christianpodcast #afewminuteswithgodpodcast #everydayprayerEveryday Prayer ~ Episode 251

Did you know that our lives can turn into everyday prayer? We can turn a life of struggle into a life of rejoicing with the idea that we can hold onto the joy of a truly spiritual life.

Once again we have a wonderful sponsor for our network and that is a math company for kids of all ages. Visit CTCMath.com a math curriculum from the comfort of your home with self-paced lessons. This is one not to miss. Share this with a friend and thanks to CTC Math as our sponsor.

Years ago a good friend of mine discusses how she prayed all day long. She had nine kids at the time and I could not believe she had time for so much prayer. In my mind the only people who prayed like that were in a convent somewhere and had the time for an immersion of prayer. But us regular folks? Not so much.

We are busy with all of the things we do. I always thought, as a young mom that I would have so much time when my kids grew up, in fact I worried that I would be bored or not know what to do with all of my time. Now I don’t know where my time goes! Sure, I work from home in my own business and I have some time set aside for the projects I want to tackle, but my days are still filled and busy.

Many of us waste time and this can be something we look at and chose to do something about. How can you pray everyday? Easy. As my friend with the houseful of kids says, “Jesus is always on my lips.” She said she’d pray while folding laundry. As she was folding a particular child’s shirt she prayed for them. While cooking dinner, she prayed for her family, while vacuuming, and even she said while going up and down the stairs. She said instead of asking the kids to retrieve something she forgot upstairs she’d use that time to pray.

Living a life of prayer can be a choice. It doesn’t have to be anything drawn out or inspired, but it should be heartfelt. Can we pray by reading the Bible? Yes! Can we pray while listening to praise and worship music in the car? Yes! And we can pray as my friend does while doing laundry.

Prayer, like faith, is a gift and it is a choice. We can love one another as God loves us. John 13:34-35 [Read on air.]

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This calls to mind something my mother use to say, “How do you act when no one is watching?” God sees all things, he knows our hearts and he knows our motivations… and when we pray we do it for ourselves since God is God and nothing we can do earns us salvation, nor does it change God. Yes, our salvation should be worked out through fear and trembling in Philippians 2:10-12 we read so that at the name of Jesus  every knee should bend,     in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess  that Jesus Christ is Lord,     to the glory of God the Father.
What I am saying here is that praying changes us. It makes us focus on what is right and just and what is important. We trust in the Lord to hear us and we praise Him in all things. We can live lives that are joyfully worshipping Him or lives that strive only for selfish purposes. This past 40 days of Lent – the days before Easter were probably the hardest but the most fulfilling than any other time of my life. I had a specific intention and was praying daily for it – and the truth is I struggled as I was worrying about my son in the Army Rangers Program (he passed in 62 days without recycling, meaning doing the challenge again which was a miracle). While praying I learned to trust in the Lord, I learned to journal faithfully daily and keep the Lord as the focus of my day.
It is amazing how we can focus on what is important when there is a need. But what about the times when there is not an immediate need? Sure we always need prayers for something in our life but when it is not major we tend to slack off.
Praying daily is keeping the Lord as the focus, it is concentrating on what we can do for the Lord not what He can do for us. It is sacrifice yes, but it is freedom from slavery and sin, because when we are in His Word, and focused on living lives that are pleasing to the Lord who always sees us at our best and at our worse that we can begin to grow. Divine light is given to us in prayer, it illuminates our minds and our hearts. Praying in our daily lives as we walk the dog or take out the trash is a sign of spiritual growth.
Currently, I’m taking care of an elderly dog and that means accidents. I am praising God for the fact that I have tile floors and thanking Him for the blessings of the chore. Do I want this chore? Of course not! When we are filled with grace and the love to serve others, even an animal it is a selfless love that we can pass on and in this way show others the love of God. We can’t do this unless we are filled up to the brim and that means praying in the mundane and the daily struggles and joys of life.
Everyday prayer transforms a mundane life into a life of joy. We see this in the lives of the saints. We read about St. Therese of Lisieux, who has many life changing quotes. Here is a link to a page that has more, but a few are:

“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice here by a smiling look there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” She didn’t say all for God – but we know that God is synonymous with love!  She also said, “Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.”For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

Mediate on these quotes and think about the truth in her words. She was a simple nun, living out her life in extreme poverty yet her life contained riches beyond compare. How can we live our lives? Let’s start with everyday prayer. That is your challenge for this week, how can you infuse everyday prayer into your daily walk with the Lord? While doing your chores and those things that no one else sees but are important nonetheless. In our simpleness, we will find the grace to live holy lives. Praise God, now and forever!

 

 

Restless For God

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Is your soul restless for God? How can you tell? In this episode, your host, Felice Gerwitz, discusses how we may be unhappy and dissatisfied and the key that may be missing in your life. #restlessforgod #afewminuteswithgodpodcast #christianpodcastRestless For God ~ Episode 250

Is your soul restless for God? How can you tell? In this episode, your host, Felice Gerwitz, discusses how we may be unhappy and dissatisfied with life. And she discusses “what” may be missing in our lives.

Visit CTCMath.com a math curriculum that is one and done for all ages. All from the comfort of your home with self-paced lessons. This is one not to miss. Share this with a friend and thanks to CTC Math as our sponsor.

When was the last time you prayed, picked up the Bible or just sat in the presence of the Lord and felt relaxed and complete? This happens, yes, but for many of us it is difficult to quiet our minds long enough to hear from the Lord, let alone feel any type of comfort and peace.

Why is this? Why are we restless? Why is it that the minute you pick up your Bible, or focus on a prayer that your mind wanders? You want to jump up and send an email, a text or maybe even fold laundry. Why can’t you just focus?

We can easily lay blame at the enemy’s feet. But there is more than temptation at stake here. And, that is what I’d like you to think about today. Why are you restless? Why are you thinking about all of the things on your to-do list rather than about God?

If we dig deeper we can add the following questions to the list, why are we dissatisfied? Why do we think there has to be something more? Or, that we are not doing enough or not pleasing God for the other side of the equation.

I found myself restless not that long ago and I had to take a hard look at the questions I just posed for you. Part of my restlessness stemmed from a lack of control over my life situations. I was unable to fix things or make things right. I was in fact required to place all of my cares into the hands of a loving and waiting for God. Yet, I was too upset and frustrated to stop and do the very thing I knew would bring me relief.

I felt like I was carrying the world on my shoulders, and in the midst of prayer, I was in the trenches so to speak not wanting to give up one tiny bit of ground to the growing chasm in my soul. That may sound melodramatic but it is true. I felt lost and I felt forsaken.

When we are in the depths of despair there is only one place to look and that is up. We can turn to the right and left but nothing but God will bring us the peace we crave. I knew this in my mind. Like many of you listening I spend time in prayer and stand in the gap so to speak for family members and friends in need. While my faith is strong that does not mean that my faith doesn’t falter in battle. Truly when we are in deep prayer we are in a battle, often for souls. Faith is a gift and while we accept it freely it comes with responsibility. However, that does not mean we take on the cares of the world to the detriment of our own well-being.

I realized that I could not carry the burden of praying for others on my own shoulders and I had to release them to the Almighty only then did I hear a whisper in my mind that said, “I never expected you to carry this burden – it was not for you to carry.” And, then relief as if a weight was taken off my back.

We can only be happy when we are with God not only in our prayers but in releasing our will to His perfect will. Our world is looking for happiness and pleasure in all of the wrong places. We know this, but we are only human.

Psalm 73: 23- 26 [Read on air.] Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel,    and afterward you will take me into glory.25 Whom have I in heaven but you?    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.26 My flesh and my heart may fail,    but God is the strength of my heart    and my portion forever.

When we are stuck we can go to the Scriptures and find relief. When we are stuck we realize that nothing, nothing will satisfy us but the love of God. Perhaps you can’t feel that love or you feel you are unworthy (news alert: we are all unworthy except for the saving power of Jesus Christ). But if you know it in your head, ask the Lord to feel it in your heart.

John 6:27 reminds us of the fact that while we feel that restlessness and we look for a solution to our problem we look in places that will not give us rest or happiness. [Read on air.] Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

What is the root cause of the restlessness we feel? Do you know? For each of us this answer may be different, but for most of us, the solution is the same.

Have you heard the saying, You have made us for yourself, O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in You. This is a quote from Saint Augustine which he writes in his Confessions. (More of the quote here and here.) Our hearts long for God because we were made (our spirits and souls) in the image of God. We were created as we learned as young children to love and honor Him, and when we don’t we flounder.

Our hearts and in essence, our spirits and souls will only rest when we rest in God. We crave this love that we are missing in our lives and therefore we become restless. Psalm 116:7 sums it up perfectly in a few words: Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

Until we realize that our restless is because of our desire to know God better, to have a deeper communion with Him, a deeper relationship with Him, and only then can we feel that satisfaction that comes from the Lord who is always waiting with open arms. If you read the life of Augustine you will find that a great sinner converted to Christianity many believe due to the prayers of his mother (which gives all parents out there hope for their children). His story is one of redemption and grace and it is a story not only for him but for all of us.

This week examine the restlessness in your life, and determine to make a change, a change in your relationship with God which is always a change for the better! May God be blessed today and always.

Challenge After Easter

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

What is the challenge after Easter? Do we lose that Easter glow and forget about rejoicing daily? It's time to remember He is Risen! #afewminuteswithgodpodcast #easter #easterchallenge #christianpodcastChallenge After Easter ~ Episode 249

What is the challenge after Easter? Have you even considered this a question? In this episode, Felice explores the idea of embracing each day with the remembrance of the Resurrection and living our lives as true Christian sons and daughters.

Thanks to our sponsor CTC math! Visit the website at CTCMath for more information about a great math curriculum.

Before Easter, many of us take the time to seek God in a deeper way as we consider His ultimate sacrifice. This time is called Lent, and it is the 40 days before Easter. Jesus spent 40 days in prayer in the desert before what is called his public ministry. It is an amazing example to us. Jesus spent this time in preparation, and He was tested.

The Easter season is always special, especially if you practice fasting, almsgiving, reconciliation, or confession. We examine our lives and look for ways to improve. Maybe we realize there are sins in our lives, and we make a point of changing for the better. Lent is practiced widely in the Catholic Church and begins on Ash Wednesday, a time of receiving ashes on the forehead at church with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.” This a reminder that we do not live forever, and while God is merciful, He is also just.

Perhaps you focused before Easter on prayer, journaling, or made a concentrated effort to renew your relationship with the Lord. This time is beneficial; if you did not have time to do this in the past, there is always today to begin. It is never too late to increase your faith and your time with God. Each day is a new beginning, and with it comes new hope! I love the word hope – it is inspiring and gives me the confidence that all will be well. Maybe not as I will it, but as the Lord wills it to happen.

During Easter, we celebrate the fact that God has conquered death and opened up a way to heaven and that we, as His followers, have a path ahead that is an invitation. Easter day may include worship, attending church, and celebrating by sharing a meal with friends and family. It is a wonderful time of connection.

What about after? Do we lose that Easter glow? Do we forget about rejoicing the day after HE has RISEN? Unfortunately, that is a yes for many of us. Each day after, we continue on with our lives and forget what God has done for us. However, the challenge is to remember Jesus daily.

Here are a handful of ideas to keep the Lord front and center:

  1. Praise and thank Him each day for the simple things. In a future podcast, I will discuss everyday prayer, but for now, know that our lives can be used as a prayer. If we dedicate our concerns to Him, the burden is often lifted. Maybe not totally, but in some way, we know we are not alone.
  2. Meditate on one scripture each day. For example, Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Think about the words, and focus on what impacts you. The overarching theme here is that God’s protection for those who follow Him will not overwhelm us. It does not mean life is easy, only that He will give us the grace to handle it. By meditating on this concept, we will be renewed.
  3. Realize that you are not in this life alone. As a follower of the Almighty God, the King of the Universe, you are never alone. John 14;25-27  “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate,[a] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. Again an amazing verse to ponder.
  4. Use song as a prayer. Praying through the verses of your favorite Christian songs helps us to be placed in the midst of God. Praying through song is considered by some, praying twice. Here is a podcast I created sometime back on Christian music and using it for praise, here.

Can you add to the list above? What are some ways to keep God the focus of your life? Take some time and consider this question, maybe right now but afterward. We have different ways of worshiping God, but keeping God at the forefront of our lives takes work and a concentrated effort. Our lives would be so much better if we could remember to do this, and not just during the Easter or Christmas season but all year long.

For many of us, our lives are divided into compartments. There is work time and family or friend time; there is time for recreation, whether it is social media, a book, the television, or an online source. There is time for worship which may be one or more days a week. However, if we include God in all we do, if we did this, our lives would not only be richer but more in the sense of keeping us from sin.

When we get busy or our focus is on the wrong thing, we stumble, and we fall. In trying to do our best or make everyone else happy, we discover that we have lost something of ourselves. Many of us are “other-focused,” which means we place our family and friends above ourselves. This is not a bad thing, but we forget to fill up our own tanks with the hope that Jesus is the only important thing and that His life, death, and resurrection give us hope of eternal life. This is the essence of the Easter message. Understanding that God made us for Himself and that our dedication and prayer to Him daily is for us, not for Him. Nothing we can do can earn us salvation, but in the same way, we should give Him our very best. By doing this, we can release the burdens that keep us tied down to Him in the midst of worship.

How will you keep the Easter season alive in your life? Only you know the answer to this, and I pray that you are motivated to make take the message to heart; you are loved so much, John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Amen and Amen.

 

Feeding Your Spirit and Soul

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Feeding Your Spirit and Soul | Are you feeding your soul? What is your spiritual health and how can improve upon it? In this episode we dig deep. | #chrisitianpodcast #podcast #catholicpodcasat #feedingyoursoul #christianpodcast #christianliving #afewminuteswithgodpodcastFeeding Your Soul ~ Episode 248

We feed our bodies, but are you feeding your spirit and soul? Everything we put into our bodies affects our physical health, but the same happens with our spirit and soul. Who do you surround yourself with, what do you read or watch, and how we engage with others? In this episode, we discuss ways to feed our souls that benefit our spiritual health.

Check out One More Child on the Media Angels shopping cart, along with a free journal. Be sure to sign up for our mailing list to receive your prayer journal.

Have you heard the saying “Garbage in, garbage out?” I’m sure you have, yet we don’t consider it means anything else than the food we eat. If we are careful about eating well to feed our bodies, why are we not careful with our spiritual being?

We know from the beginning of the creation of the world that God meant for us to live a life of abundance. To live in a garden without sin and to live essentially forever. We are created in the image and likeness of God, we are told. Genesis 1:26-27 God wants a relationship with us and is there waiting. We are the ones avoiding Him. Sin, at its root cause, is an issue of relationship. Relationships that are broken, harmed, and sometimes destroyed.

We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are made up of spirit, soul, and body. We know what a body is, but what about our spirit and soul? While we have a spirit, we are not spirits in the sense of Heavenly Ages or the Holy Spirit. The spirit is the entity we have that connects with God; it is the “relationship” part. It gives us a sense of longing; we long for God, who has made us for Him. If we are unaware that this longing for happiness is essentially a longing for God, we are unhappy and unfulfilled.

People try all types of things to become happy. Whether it is eating, friends, drinking, or shopping. Have you heard the term “retail therapy”? That is a term that refers to shopping to make you happy when you are sad, as if new clothing or some other purchase can take away the sadness that is rooted in brokenness. Let me ask you – have you ever thought, “I would be perfectly happy if I had…” (Fill in the blank.) Whatever that need is, and again if you get that thing, you want, it will be a temporary fix. Money does not buy happiness, only God.

The spirit is also the reservoir, if you will, of faith. It is important for the life of the believer. Once again, it is that God connection, that belief that you know that you know, beyond doubt, that the Almighty lives and He cares for you in an intimate way. Not as some afterthought but designed purposely for this life. That craving is not for chocolate; it is for God!

Our souls and spirits are connected. The soul is shrouded in a body; it is called the “life principle,” all living bodies have a soul; if they do not have a soul, they would not live. Every living thing has a soul; however, man is unique. Why? Because we have rational powers, that makes us different.

Luke 12:19-20 states  (Read online.)

Our souls are where our selfish and sinful nature resides, and our souls are part of our bodies that leave our physical selves at the time of death. In Genesis, we read about the death of Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob. Genesis 35: 18 (Read online.)

Our soul and spirit combined are where our emotional experiences reside. The soul can refer to the entire person, whether we are alive or have passed on. So shouldn’t we feed our souls with all that is good and pure? If our consciences are well formed, we will know when something is not right, when we shouldn’t watch, listen or be around something we know isn’t good for us.

We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (Read online)

And in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, (red online.)

So now what will you do? How will you feed the part of yourself that is tempted by sin or the part of you that wants a closer relationship with God but does not have the time? My challenge will surprise you. Sure, reading Scripture, praying, keeping a prayer journal, reading a good Christian faith book, and works of charity, all these are wonderful and can indeed fill your soul with nourishment. But there is more. Feeding your soul means working on your conscience. This means making an effort to do what is right. Just like forgiveness, making an effort means making a decision and doing it. Is it easy? No. Is it worthwhile? Yes, and yes.

Feeding our souls means taking the time to put our decisions in alignment. What road do we travel as Christians? The road that is less traveled. Giving into sin may seem like the easy way, but like our diets, eating what is good for our bodies, so too, filling ourselves with what is right and will be a blessing. Think of the people you hold in high regard. Is there a time when you saw someone fail? How did that make you feel? I know I’ve felt let down, especially if this is a person you care about. With all of the scandals going on in churches across our world, people have lost faith in God. That is a shame and truthfully not warranted. Yes, we can be heartbroken, but our eyes should never be on the pastor, the choir, or the Bible teacher; our eyes should only be on Christ because He will not fail us.

A very popular Christian author, speaker, and associate pastor left his faith behind when an extreme scandal at his church came crashing down. While he had nothing to do with this on the surface (maybe he could have done something or not turned a blind eye), the point is he allowed this tragedy to take him away from God. But what else happened? It was a domino effect because he had led many people toward God with his writings and sharing about relationships. We have his books on our own shelves. His downfall came from placing the wrong emphasis on the wrong people. Did God fail him? No. Did man. Yes.

Almighty God gave us life and gave us a chance to do things right. This is the only life you have, so live it well, and that means not in the sense of selfishness. I hear the words, “Live your best life,” as if anyone would purposely live their worse life — yet sometimes, while living your best, you live a life that is devoid of putting others first. Or, maybe if you are a parent, you put everyone else first but yourself and then find you have nothing left to give.

Not surprisingly, last Sunday, our pastor talked about the soul and its need to be considered. He is the same pastor who often talks about sin being a broken relationship with God. He shared that filling our souls in repairing that relationship with God and with the important people in our life. It does not mean we ignore others, we should have Christian charity, but it does mean we do not lose sleep over what people think about our walk with God. Many times people care about what people think of those who are unimportant in their lives.

When God is not a factor in our life, the evil one gets in and causes havoc to our souls. So decide today–what will you do? How will you fill your soul? How will you encourage that sense that nothing is fulfilling in your life (because it can’t be without God as the focus), and make an effort to change? Do you think you need to change, or are you content with your life as it is now?

I pray you to take this idea of feeding your soul to heart and find a way to make it happen. Only you can decide, and only you can create that effort and dedication to place God first in your life and lead by example, which is your challenge this week.

 

 

 

Fruits of Prayer

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

The fruits of prayer |The fruits of prayer are all around us. This is a challenge to not only enjoy the fruits of your prayer life, but ways to pray for others| #prayer #fruitofprayer #christianpodcast #christianliving #afewminuteswithgodpodcastFruits of Prayer ~ Episode 247

The fruits of prayer are all around us, and we should be encouraged, right? Yet we walk around carrying the burdens of the world on our shoulders. No more! This is a challenge to not only enjoy the fruits of your prayer life, but ways to pray for others.

Check out A Few Minutes with God, a novel sure to bring your tweens and teens closer to God.

In the Holy Bible, fruit is the symbol of many things. It is the symbol of good faith; it is the symbol of avoiding (such as the tree of life and the tree of good and evil), it was the apple that symbolized temptation because of what it represented.

Good fruit is also a sign that we are on the right path. Matthew 7: 17-20 (read on air).

This is important because in Salvation history and throughout Scripture we are shown again and again the sinfulness of mankind. Bad choices are made, even those selected by God, fall into sin. Yes, we should accept the Lord as our God and Savior, as my pastor calls it, and I love it, the “Fundamental Option.” Yes, Lord I repent, I believe, I will sin no more and follow you. But… there is always a but! We must show our decision by our fruits our decisions, and constantly be in prayer.

I love learning new things, and I appreciate this because it is the only way I can grow in faith. I was talking to one of our pastors after church and asked him some specific questions. Finally, he said to me, when you pray think of the Holy of Holies. I knew what he meant, the Bible refers to this place, as I remembered in the Old Testament.  We read in Leviticus 16:12 (Read on air.)

There are other references in Scripture, but the point is envisioning this place, the Holy of Holies… can you picture it? It is a quiet place that is filled with goodness, light, and grace. It is where the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit reside.

Then, he asked me to think about bringing God into my problems instead of bringing my problems to God. Wow – think about this. It is such a beautiful analogy of allowing the Lord into our hearts, and that is truly a blessing. Do you see the difference? Bring our prayers to God, or bring our God into our lives and thus into our prayers!

When we think about the fruits of prayer, we consider how God has answered what we want, our prayers, and our petitions. Our happiness often hinges on what God has done for us. When you think about it in this way, it sounds awfully selfish! But it does not have to be, especially when we begin to thank and praise God for our past blessings and what he has done for us.

Can you make a list? What has God done for you in the last year? The last few months? The last few weeks? How about today? Stop this recording, or come back to this question later. The fruits of prayer are, in essence, our life. Our ability to live each and every day, for some it is difficult, especially if you are ill or caring for someone in need. We all have something to be thankful for, and early on in this podcast, I shared the idea of a journal that was filled with thankfulness for what the Lord has done for you.

The fruit of prayer is thankfulness and awe, and wonder. The Creator of the Universe cares for you and for me in a powerful way! Even in our darkest times, we can be thankful for the sun that rises and warms the earth, the glistening of the raindrops, or the gentle breeze that cools us off on a hot day. The fruit of prayer is contentment. That joy that surpasses all understanding, as I paraphrase Philippians 4:7 – one of my favorite scripture verses: And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The Fruit of Prayer Joy – Peace – Contentment – Satisfaction – Understanding

No matter what is on your list of feelings you may have when your prayers are answered, it truly gives us a sense that God is with us, but not only that, it is a sense of hope. 2 Corinthians 5-7 – For we live by faith, not by sight. Or “We walk by faith and not by sight.” helps us when we do not feel his presence. Out of obedience, we say, “Yes, Lord,” daily.

The hope that God gives us is the understanding that no matter what, He is with us—a personal story on the air.

This is the fruit of prayer, a turnaround, and a change of heart. We want our hearts to be on fire for God, but often we can only consider our needs or those of the people we pray for daily. Instead, consider how you fall short, and make a turnaround. A turnaround to do better, to try harder, or to do something differently. When something does not work out well, why do the same thing expecting a better outcome?

Peace, joy, and contentment are wonderful, but a change of heart is even better. It helps us on our journey, and we can consider the prayer, “Thank you, Lord, for all the blessings you give me; I need nothing but you.” If we can truly say that with conviction, we are on the road to healing of mind, heart, and will. Our will is being given to God the Almighty!

This week I would love you to join me in prayer and acknowledge the fruit of our prayers. Consider what God has done for you, the good fruit in your life, and praise Him in all things.

 

 

Prayer Warrior

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Prayer Warrior | What are soldier prayers? The military raises leaders and those who have physical strength, stamina, and endurance in their physical lives. #podcast #christianpodcast #catholicpodcast #prayerwarriors #soldierprayers #christiansoldiers #christianpodcast #afewminuteswithgodpodcastPrayer Warrior ~ Episode 246

Are you a prayer warrior? The military raises leaders and those who have physical strength, stamina, and endurance in their physical lives. How can we apply this to our spiritual life? Are we spiritually tough?

Visit MediaAngels.com for books and information that will help you in your spiritual journey here and here.

As I’ve shared, my son is in the military and currently in Ranger School, trying for the Army Ranger Tab. This is a grueling sixty-day trial of body, mind, and spirit. It causes good men to dig deep, and it helps if they have a deep relationship with the Lord.

This Lent, I have traveled a path of praying alongside my son. I have journaled consistently, searched the Sacred Scriptures, and been on my knees in church praying for his needs and the Lord’s provision.

I have learned from talking to him during one of his brief breaks after passing the first section and moving on to the second that he has never prayed so much in his life. Being sleep-deprived, sleeping outdoors, eating freeze-dried foods, and not having enough to eat really wreaks havoc on a person’s physical and mental well-being.

Yet it has taught me that we can apply what a soldier goes through to our own prayer lives and become prayer warriors! Soldiers must endure, sacrifice, persevere, and be brave when facing danger.  They continue onward when many would call it quits. There is no choice but to continue forward; that is a lesson for all of us. When times are tough, we continue on, and we ask the Lord for His help. We can endure with our Lord’s help. Sacrifice, such as fasting, brings us closer to God. If we persevere through our anguish, we will find hope on the other side, and as for danger? We must pray that our minds are open so that we can recognize and avoid it.

Prayer Warrior Tips

Here are some things I find helpful.

  1. A blank personal pocket book. I purchased small little lined books that I keep in my purse and clip a pen to the book. On the back of the book, the last page or the cover, I list the people I want to pray for each day. This can be for specific prayer requests, deceased loved ones, or those needs that are dear to your heart. That way, I can flip to the back of the book daily to pray.
  2. A consistent prayer time. These are things you do each day. If you pray first thing (before or after a cup of coffee or tea), or maybe on your way to church, at church, and maybe a few minutes afterward.
  3. Fasting along when seeking the Lord for His will, or when in prayer for a special intention or for a need.
  4. Keep familiar scriptures in your mind that are encouraging. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:10-12 ADD MORE HERE
  5. Never quit. We know God is faithful; we know He is there for us even when things seem hard or problems are insurmountable. We must persevere in the face of hardship while acknowledging that while our feelings are legitimate, we must look for the greater good.

When we think about being prayer warriors, we should also consider praying the right way when someone asks. If you have a friend who is having surgery or struggling with a personal issue and asks you to pray, stop and pray immediately. If you do not have time, a simple “Jesus, please provide for her needs.” And then, when you have more time, be intentional in your prayer.

  1. Send a text message with a prayer.
  2. Send an email message with a prayer.
  3. Send a card and tell them you are praying.

Prayer warriors also put on the armor of God. We protect ourselves from the enemy with prayer. We get our strength from God, not from ourselves. When we pour into others, we become depleted, but if we are connected to the Holy Spirit, living water flows through us.

If you have time, become a prayer warrior – ask your family how you can pray. Join a prayer group, or online prayer support chain. Start one yourself. We started a text prayer chain for my son with our immediate family. I even called it Mike’s Prayer Warriors. (f you listen to this podcast, you know Michael’s voice; he does the introduction to this podcast as well as what we call the outro – so please join me in praying for his safety and those of our military and first responders.)

We can be first responders for the Lord. Our strength is in God. Our hope is in God, and our prayers are the result of our repentance from sin and the hope in Christ. Jesus, I trust in You!

 

 

 

 

 

Overcoming Blocks to God’s Love

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Overcoming Blocks to God's Love: This week Margret Vasquez shares that despite the fact that God loves us infinitely and intimately, sometimes the experience of it is distant. #cahtolicpodcast #catholictherapist #faith #catholicpodcast #christianpodcast #God's love #overcoming

Overcoming Blocks to God’s Love

Overcoming Blocks to God’s love is important, but God’s love is key to the spiritual life.  As we’ve discussed in the past couple of shows, He loves us infinitely and intimately and sent Jesus to reveal His love for us, to make it manifest to us in a real way we could see through the incarnation we celebrate at Christmas.  Yet, despite this fact, many times we can struggle to cling to this notion, and sometimes the experience of it is distant.

In simple terms, we can divide the blocks to God’s love into two categories: internal and external blocks.  Predominately, the external blocks tend to be associated with a lack of human maturity, and the internal ones are related to a lack of spiritual maturity.

Overcoming External Blocks

Examples of external blocks can be things like preoccupation with worldly concerns, and lack of focus on the true purpose of this life.  We can be so consumed with coming and going to and from work and tasks of the day that we forget the goal of this life is really about our relationship with the Lord.  It can be easy to forget Him if we don’t make a concerted effort to keep Him central.  He is invisible and doesn’t often speak audibly, so it requires tuning our senses to a spiritual setting, like switching a radio from one of human transmission to spiritual transmission.  As we learn to see Him in the tasks, relationships, and gifts of the day, to hear Him in the leading of His “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-13) we grow in human maturity and become more available to the experience of Him being Personally present to us in the day-to-day.

 

Internal blocks can come from woundedness that causes us to doubt His goodness or the fact that He loves us deeply and cares for us intimately.  He wants to touch every area of our lives and our being and draw us into union with Himself.  Hurtful messages we received from painful relationships or situations can leave us doubting this or walled off in a misguided attempt at self-protection.  We may also have a lack of appreciation for God’s love.  We might assume the time where God was involved with people ended after the Acts of the Apostles or is only in the rare exception like in the lives of canonized saints.  The truth is that the Lord’s love is always present to us and He longs to bring us ever more deeply to a place of living in the full joy, and peace of that reality.

 

May the Lord give you peace!

 

Integrity and Faith

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Integrity and Faith ~ Episode 221

How can we pray in an effective manner? And where did integrity and faith go? So few people have both! Listen in to learn more about how we can pray for our family, our pastors, our church, and those in the world in a powerful way.

Thanks to our sponsor CTC Math – for a math curriculum that is geared to teaching children K-12 visit CTCMath.com our sponsors help keep this show and our network on the air.

What has happened to truth, justice, integrity, and faith? The core issue is that God is removed as much as possible from our lives beginning with our children. The long game by the evil one required the abolition of God from the schools. What better way to change a generation? Begin with the children. Even Christian schools that take government dollars find that they have a specific way they must teach and act, because – you know, you don’t want to offend the non-believers who attend Christian schools.

Why are children disrespectful to authority? It would take me an entire podcast to share my take on this as a past educator, with a degree in Elementary Ed and Early Childhood, but let me share that it is a multi-generational issue. For one thing, parents don’t follow through and teach children that obedience is required or there will be consequences, the second is that children don’t trust authority figures because they have been hurt. If we want to have respect it must be earned. It is not, “do as I say but not as I do.” And that is a major problem.

Christian children don’t know their faith, they are not taught the Bible and they do not know how to pray. If they pray it is often, “please God give me the following”, rather than beginning with praise and thanksgiving for what the Creator, the Almighty, has done for us.

Once we took God out, secular humanism crept in with all that entailed which was a skewed look at humanity with all its depravity. The job of faith was then left to the parents, where it should be. However, parents were overwhelmed with work, home, and raising kids. Many mothers were forced to go to work to help provide for their families.

Then this job of teaching the faith was left at the door of the church, which often was not attended by the very people who needed faith the most. And, let’s face it our pastors and hierarchy of the church have let us down. I was sharing with my son the other day that the evil we see unleashed on this world would not be happening if the clergy stood up in force and united against the push from evil men who want money and power. It use to be the Catholic church that stood up against evil in so many instances throughout history. And with the revision and rewriting of history, we see blame rather than praise where it was due. I don’t normally go on about the evil in this world, because I like to focus on the good and the graces that God gives, but I feel we are at a tipping point. I believe there is more good than evil in the world, but that saying about good people doing nothing rings true today due to fear tactics by the enemy. Think red background, need I say more?

As my son asked, “So what are we supposed to do, pray and do nothing?” My answer? “Absolutely not.” Sure, we could throw up our hands in defeat with the thought that there is nothing we can do but that is not true. Just as I shared in the last podcast on planting the seeds of faith, it is with prayer that we can be led forward and encouraged in what we should do.  What does that mean? It means the connection to our Lord and our prayer life is so important more than in days past.

If I could make a wish list of what I would like to see happen in Catholic, Christian, and other faith communities it would be the following:

  1. Band together in prayer for the end of this hostile takeover of the good in humanity.
  2. Prayer for those who are confused about their own worth in the eyes of God and fall into what the scriptures call Sodom and Gomorrah.
  3. Focus on our own sinfulness and not point figures toward others.
  4. The motto, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord,” throw out anything that is contrary to a strengthing of your soul toward good.
  5. Live a life of integrity and faith. Do not allow the love of money and it’s lure of evil. Money in and of itself is not evil, it is the love of money that is the root of evil.

By living an example each day for others even if it is for your own family, people at church, your neighbor, and the checkout person at the grocery store, you are doing your part. Some years ago a friend was visiting and asked me to bring her to the local variety store to get a few things she forgot. We decided to get coffee when we arrived at the coffee shop and since we only needed a few things, we decided not to get a cart. Well, a few things turned into more things and both of us had full hands by the end. So, she stuck a small container of deodorant in her pocket. Yes, that’s right, she forgot to remove it to pay until we got home. So, in the next day or so, we headed back to the store to pay for the deodorant, and it took forever. First, she had to explain to the returns that the receipt with her purchase did not include the deodorant (and yes this girl was shocked) then the girl had to call her supervisor – same story, same shock. Finally, it was all sorted out and my friend made the payment and we left. It was an ordeal but one that I believe blessed people’s lives, because yeah, that just does not happen. That is integrity that goes hand in hand with faith.

So, friends, this week let’s join together and pray for all humanity that the shining light of Christ is renewed in each person’s heart. We will do our part in our own corner of the world to make it a better place, to vote responsibly, and to be silent no more. May you be blessed by the love of God today and always.

God’s Word Revealed

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

God's Word Revealed | We often read the Bible and are left unmoved, but through the words of scripture, God's word is revealed. | #christianpodcast | #podcast | God's WordGod’s Word Revealed – Episode 220

We often read the Bible and are left unmoved, but through the words of scripture, God’s word is revealed. Why is that? What are the tools you need to get you into the right frame of mind before praying and delving into the scriptures? Stay tuned and find out.

We are so appreciative of this wonderful company and our sponsor CTC Math – for a math curriculum that is geared to teaching children K-12 visit CTCMath.com our sponsors help keep this show and our network on the air.

When was the last time you read the Bible or listened to the Bible read to you in church and found your mind wandering or the words had less of an impact than you hoped? God’s word teaches and instructs us and it can reveal truths to us that will help us in our daily lives and we are taught are good for our eternal soul. What is revealed in God’s word is more than can we usually unpack on our own and that is where the commentaries are helpful.

A quick guide to reading scripture.

  1. Pray to the Lord for the forgiveness of past sins.
  2. Ask the Holy Spirit for a blessing upon you to open your mind to the words the Lord wants you to hear.
  3. Close your eyes and pray thanksgiving for all the Lord has done for you.
  4. Put on the “mind of Christ,” and pray for understanding.
  5. Open your Bible and read!

As I was preparing this podcast I thought about some of the highlights of which there are many but these were earth-shattering revelations about the sovereignty of God.

God revealed His name in Exodus to Moses in the burning bush – we learn that it was a miraculous event, the bush was not consumed in fire and by the power of God, he sustained it, and revealed Himself with the promise of liberating the oppressed people.

Exodus 3: 1-8 [Read on air] The bush was sustained by the power of God and in this passage, God revealed His name. I AM. What a miracle and one that we wish was happening today – a miracle to set His people free those of us who are believers who are crying out to the Lord for help. Not as I want my God but as you want for me. That too is takes a miracle of faith to trust in God and His insight and knowing what is best for us.

The Lord revealed His plan of a Savior through his prophetic word, and even through Mary. We may not consider the Mother of Christ sharing a prophetic word but she did and we know this because we read her prophetic word in what is known as the Magnificat, in some translations I read Mary’s song but I feel that falls short of the magnitude of her words: Luke 1:46-56 Please read those words and think about them, friends.  My goodness, when I read … my soul magnifies the Lord we should pray for that blessing and grace. To trust as Mary trusted what a gift! Sure, she was visited by an angel of God, but we all know that the punishment for an unwed woman in those days was death. I’m sure she was afraid but still, she went to tend to her cousin, Elizabeth and we further read the baby in Elizabeth’s womb lept for joy. That baby was the future John the Baptist.

I think that is why so many of us feel so strongly about abortion that we never know who the future child that will be born is, and all are gifts from God and created in God’s image. Again, we have to suspend our thoughts and put on the mind of Christ as the scriptures teach.

And another prophetic word by Zechariah – the father of John the Baptist. Because he did not believe the word he received from the Lord when he was in the temple offering the sacrifice of the people, he was struck mute. Yet once his wife Elizabeth argued about the name that should be given to their child, the Lord gave him his voice back. Luke 1:67-80 (this was soon after Mary’s words).  His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied that his son would be a prophet called by God the Most High. The miracle next to that of Elizabeth being barren, and old and still giving birth to a healthy child.

Those prophetic words and the many that the Bible contains are not just for your neighbor, your friend, or the people down the street, no. These words are for you and for me! There are prophets of today some are sound and teach truth and others I believe want to sow fear in our hearts. We do not need to have a spirit of fear but we must be of sound mind and that comes from putting on the armor of Christ!

Your challenge this week is to pray to discern God’s Word in the scripture and to pray to only hear the truth and discern when it is not of the Lord. May you be blessed today and always.

 

Thank You to our Network Sponsor – CTC Math!

Plant Seeds of Faith

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

AFMW - Planting Seeds of FaithPlant Seeds of Faith ~ Episode 219

Do you plant seeds of faith or do you keep all those wonderful blessings for yourself? It is easier than you think and the good news is that not the Lord harvests and not us! In this podcast, Felice Gerwitz shares the joys of faith planting.

Visit our sponsor CTCMath.com for information about award-winning math classes for children K-12. Our sponsors help keep this network running!

When I became on fire for the Lord, Christian I was so good at sharing about the Lord, yet I also wanted to see the fruits. I had to learn early on we plant, God reaps! I’m not a very patient person and that was a hard lesson to learn, but learn I did. How many times are we are asked to pray and never hear the end of the story? But, that is okay for one reason it encourages us to remember the people and pray for their intentions.

We are called to pray for each other and to share the good news: Mark 16:15-20

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

The Lord gives us the gifts we need when we need them. Sometimes it is that friend who picks us up when we are down, other times it is the person we least expect, and other times it is the Lord who speaks to us through His word. I think that is why when you are filled with the graces that God gives you, you want to share the good news with the world. But what happens when you are rejected? What if you are so filled with the love of God that you want to share it with someone who is close to you and then learn that they don’t want any part of what you have to say? How does that make you feel? We can’t take this as a personal rejection although I am sure that is hard to do, it is not a rejection of us, it is a rejection of God.

The issue is that when we are excited we want others to be excited, but that too is a grace from God. It is freely given but some refuse to accept this gift and would rather rely on their own understanding and their own ability. Because let’s face it, to an unbeliever faith is considered a weakness. They may believe that a Christian can do anything by asking God for help or intercession. But little do they know that calling out to the Almighty is a recognition of that which is greater than us and in humility, we cry out to God in an act of thanksgiving, love, and hope. Faith by its very nature is hope.

When we think about the Lord and how he planted the seeds of faith, we recall Mark 4 – The Parable of the Sower. I will read a portion to you, Mark 4:3-8 and Jesus said:

“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

But when reading further we find that the apostles were puzzled.

13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

And that, dear friends, is how we are as well. We as Christians can be so excited when things are working out for us, and other times we fall short because things are hard. Once we received the word with joy we hear, but the roots were too shallow. Maybe we have heard the prosperity gospel that teaches among other things that if you are a believer only good and blessings will come to you. Yet, we know that is a shallow root because what happens when bad things happen to “good” people? We blame God, we shake our fists and say things like, “God, I’ve always followed you and this is how you treat your servant?” I know this first hand because sadly I’ve said that more times than I care to admit. The good news? We can repent and start again, each day is a new day with God. God does not hold grudges, and God is in the present moment as are we, however, we think about the past and it still has a hold on us.

What about the seeds that fall upon the thorns? The Lord teaches that they fall on those whose lives are filled with the goal of wealth and the desires for other things that don’t allow that person to grow in faith, that “choke the word” and become “unfruitful”. Look up the word fruit on any Bible app and you will find many, many references. In Matthew 21:43 we read: “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.

The production of good fruit is through the grace of God, again freely given but not accepted by some. Lastly, we learn there are those seeds sown on good soil, and those who hear the word accept it and produce crops. The crops are as Matthew declares the fruit of faith. This fruit must be shared. But I want to caution you to wait upon the Lord.

As I shared earlier in this podcast, I was ready to share the good news with everyone and yet it was met with resistance. I think I was at fault in that I was doing this under my own power, my own idea of what the person should hear, and without the grace of God. Because we can plant seeds the best by the way we live our life. And where do you begin? With your family and then with a nudge from the Lord. We know when we should say something and we don’t. You have that feeling that you should say something and you let the moment slip away.

One of our pastors shared that when people would share jokes that were inappropriate, he would say he didn’t want to hear it or walk away. His example to others that as a man of God he was held to a higher standard, but he also shared that often it made a difference and the joke teller would apologize. How we stand up for our faith is a way that we plant seeds. A car weaving in and out of traffic or speeding with a Christian bumper sticker that says, “God Saves,” or “Christian on Board,” or something similar, needless to say, would not be a good example.

Pray about what the Lord wants you to do, and the best thing is to listen in the quiet without the distractions of the world. I know, my mind wanders too, start by reading the Bible, and allow the words to fill your heart. I challenge you this week to pray and seek the Lord and ask Him to bring you people so that you can share the Good News, as he leads you to share. May you be blessed this week and always.


Thank You to our Network Sponsor – CTC Math!

Word of God

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

AFMWG - Word of GodWord of God ~ God Speaking To Us – Episode 218

When we think about the Word of God we consider The Holy Bible as the source, as we should. But what about internal thoughts or feelings that God is with you? In this podcast, we will delve into the Word of God not only

Visit our sponsor CTCMath.com for information about award-winning math classes for children K-12. Our sponsors help keep this network running!

The Great Commission ~ Word of God

Does God talk to you? Think about this. He promised not to leave us orphans, He promised to be with us always until the end of time, and he asked his disciples in what is known as the great commission to make disciples of all nations. Matthew 28:16-20

Many of us go to church weekly at the minimum, and some daily. We hear sermons and we listen to the Word of God read to us as well as reading the Scriptures in our own quiet time. Yet, how often do we stop and reflect on the words we are reading? Do we consider our life a journey? That we are just passing through. When we look at our life as Christians we are elevated to a place that is beyond this world. And having this perspective puts us in the frame of mind to believe.

What do you believe? I believe that God does talk to us. To begin with, we start with His Word and go from there. As we read the Bible and a specific passage, what are the words that resonate with you?

There are so many glimpses of God’s love for humanity, first with the creation of the world, then with the trials of humanity when in opposition to God. I read something that said quit trying to find out God’s will for you and just live your life as a godly Christian. That is a nice meme on social media, but God’s will for our life happens whether or not we are in tune with it, everything in our lives happens not only because of our free will but because God allows it. That is hard to take in, especially because of our own sinful nature and that is why we turn to faith in times of great need and turn our backs when all is going well.

In learning to obey the Word of God we are taking that first step, that action to do God’s will by learning and loving God as He loves us. We can never compare with the love of the Father, Son, or Spirit for us.

Jesus spoke to God the Father and we read about it in John 17:20-26. It is a moving passage and it gives us an example of how we should pray.

Jesus Prays for All Believers ~ Word of God

What resonates with you? Which of those words touches your heart? Write down those words in your own journal and underline phrases that have an impact on you. I love the words, “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

What more can we ask for in our life than to have the love of God within us?

Some Bibles have the words of Jesus highlighted or in red. He spoke so clearly in many places and in parables or stories in others. Write down the verses that touch your heart and meditate on them.  You will be filling pages and pages in your journal because you can not help but be touched and changed by His Word.

The Bible is filled with Salvation history but it is also filled with a call to action and to change for the better.

In the book of Hebrews verse 4:12, we read For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

God’s word changes us. It makes us strive to be the best we can be. When I read the Old Testament I am heartbroken by the choices that many of our ancestors made. Think about the Garden of Eden, think about Moses, think about the Israelites, and think about the call of Jeremiah for change. Now, fast forward to the New Testament and we see that evil man are in power and that the people are crying out to God for relief.

Now, look at today. Evil men still try to rule the world and still try to bend the will of the people. Yet, we know the outcome because of the difference between us and those who lived within the Old Testament time is we have a Savior and His name is Jesus Christ!

We must repent, believe and change for the better, but we must do it with a Christian foundation. We have all been chosen to serve and it is no accident that you are tuned in today. God is not going to leave us stranded and we have His Word. Let me leave you with this thought, Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Thank You to our Network Sponsor – CTC Math!

Transformed Family

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

AFMWG Family Transformed

Family Transformed – Episode 217

Are you ready for a transformation within your own family? How about a challenge for a transformed family? This is a follow-up to the last episode of Heart Transformed 

Thanks to our sponsor, CTC Math a wonderful math curriculum for kids K-12

Why is it we can see the faults in other people so much easier than we can see the faults in ourselves? Did you know when we focus on ourselves first (the opposite of what we have been taught), and get our own spiritual house in order, the rest of the family will see the change and want to be a part of what you have? If you didn’t catch the last episode, Heart Transformed  be sure to check it out.

St. Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:1-4 [ Read on air]

When our family is at peace, when we are serving the Lord as a group, we will all get along so much better. I taught my children that God put us together as a family on purpose. There are no mistakes in Lord’s plan for family life. Each person was selected to be together because of what they could learn from each other. It is a beautiful thing when it works the way God designed. If we focus on the things above we are so much happier.

The best teacher is the example we set If we want our family to read the Bible, we need to read the Bible. If we want our family to pray, we need to lead in prayer. Years ago I wanted my husband to be the spiritual leader of our home, and he is in so many ways, but not in the way I wanted him to be. I wanted him to lead the Bible studies and the prayer sessions we had as a family and while he contributed to these, he is not a leader. So we became co-leaders, I would initiate the studies and he and I would contribute to the discussion. We can become upset or bitter because things do not go our way rather than take on the leadership ourselves if that is what God leads us to do. Don’t box yourself in with your own ideas, but rather what works best for your family. Never, never compare your family to other families. That will surely set you up for failure. Many people put up a good front when everything is falling apart. So don’t judge by exteriors.

Here are some simple things to do, for yourself if you do not have a young family and with a family, if you do:

  1. Start each day by giving thanks. By doing this we are giving God all the glory (Colossians 4:4 – When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you will also be revealed with him in glory.”) That is enough for us to rejoice daily.
  2. Family prayer. Begin each meal with thanks to God. Keep it brief. Have a nighttime routine that includes prayer.
  3. Encourage each member of the family to have their own time to pray.
  4. Participate in helping. Whether it is each other or contributing to the family needs. Meals, cleaning up, helping when needed.
  5. Participate in ministry outside of the home. Volunteering, visiting the elderly (neighbor), etc.

Talk to your family members and add to this list. As the children grew and left home we had a big gap in our lives, and my husband and I found we were no longer praying together because our nightly routine was changed. Even when our children were younger, the two of us would pray each evening together. This habit changed as our lives became busier. For anyone who has children, you always think you will have so much time when the kids grow older, but soon find that our lives just change and often become even busier. We must make the time to pray together.

If you are alone in your home and have a good prayer life, that is wonderful, now invite a friend. I pray with my friends often. Sometimes it is in church, sometimes it is a friend in need. I am part of several email prayer groups that send out prayer requests. I set up a Facebook group – A Few Minutes with God years ago for prayer requests. It was used to help people who needed prayers and also to post their praise reports.

And that is really the crux of the transformed family, and that is you will have so many praise reports! A praise report is where we thank God for the blessings in our lives. My son was hit by a falling object that was large and metal off of a single-story roof. The injury could have been so bad, but it turned out that while it bled profusely, the damage was minimal and mostly a scrape. That was a miracle. No swelling, no concussion, no brain damage, or worse! So thank you Lord for your blessings. If you think about it each day you can come up with so many things to thank the Lord for and to praise His Name. But, it takes time to stop and think.

What do you do when you enter a church? Is it a time to be social, or is it a time to listen and pray? Can we pray and be social? Of course! But I feel that often church is used as a social outlet rather than a time of worship. Going to church for me is a time to get on my knees, for as long as I am able, and begin by thanking and praising God, asking His forgiveness for the ways I have offended Him, and petitioning Him in prayer. However, you serve to worship it is an individual choice.

This week I challenge you to work within your own family no matter how big or how small and make positive changes. Small to begin with and grow as your family grows and adapts to a time of prayer, worship, and growing closer to the Lord. I pray this is a blessing to you and your family.

Thank You to our Network Sponsor – CTC Math!

Heart Transformed

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

AFMWG - Heart TransformedHeart Transformed In The Lord ~ Episode 216

Is your heart transformed in Christ? In the past few episodes, we’ve looked at ways to grow closer to the Lord, with an at-home Christian retreat, looking at nature and seeing the hand of God, serving the Lord, and renewing our faith. But how do you have a heart transformation?

Thanks to our sponsor CTC Math – for all your math curriculum needs.

The heart knows what the heart wants and sometimes that isn’t for our spiritual well-being. In the past months on this network, I noticed that many of the podcasts are focusing on renewal and getting closer to the Lord. I think we all feel that our hearts need to be focused on above and not within. Definitely by turning off the television and turning to your Bible and prayer.

Do you have a list of go-to Scriptures that are helpful when you want your heart transformed?

Psalm 109:26 Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love.

and Mark 9:23-25 – [ Read on air] Help me in my unbelief – this is the scripture about the Lord casting out the demon from a child.

Psalm 23 – The Lord is my shepherd – that is a wonderful joyous scripture. This is one to have memorized. [ Read on air]

When we want a perspective of not sweating over the small stuff look no further than 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 – [ Read on air]

We are made for heaven, what a wonderful truth we can hold onto, and yet we hold on to the things of this world. Even when they like us will turn to dust!

What is it that you need? Do you need to be uplifted? Do you need to rely on the Lord for all things? Do you need to feel that you are not alone? Turn to the Bible. Our Bibles are the best resource we have to be filled with each and every day. In our lives, we often have things upside down. Man (in general, not you) strives for power and control, greatness and notoriety, and love of self above all others. And does that them happy? No. Money as we know can not buy happiness.

Think about a time when you were the happiest. For most of us, it is when we are surrounded by family and friends. Sure we can be happy when we have a sense of accomplishment in completing a goal or reaching a level that we thought we’d never reach. But it is not the same. One fills our hearts with love that is overflowing while the other is satisfying but different. Even the children’s stories got it right, think about the fictional character the Grinch. He stole Christmas and he realized that the people still sang and were happy. He realized the truth, that the real gift is not the tree and the gifts, it is faith, family, and friends. So, the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day. Of course, then he returned everything.

Oh for our hearts to grow to be transformed in Christ. We can be a new creation 2 Corinthians 5:17 – So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! Giving our lives to Christ one time is great, but giving our hearts to God daily is that transformation we all need. Anger can’t stay with us, disappointment can’t stay with us, and judging others can’t stay. Not if our hearts are aligned with God. Acts 8:10 – All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, ‘This man is the power of God that is called Great.’ and Luke 9:48 – and said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.’

So, friends putting others first is wonderful but if our hearts are not filled to overflowing with the love of God we can’t serve others. If we are a dry well and there is nothing how can we give? I know there are tons of blogs and articles about self-care, and that has unfortunately created an entitled society. But where there is some truth in taking care of yourself in your walk with the Lord in order to serve others. For me going to church daily is the way I fill up.

Let’s face it, some of those God-called saw amazing things. Moses with the burning bush, Elisah, and Elisha with the chariots of fire being taken up to heaven, and the apostles after the death of Christ seeing Him walk among them in the flesh. And, while they were fearful they were not afraid of God. I think sometimes we fear what we don’t know. We are afraid to lean on the Lord because if we do we fear what He will ask of us. The fear of the Lord means awe and reverence for God’s power and might. So, when we are overwhelmed we can lean on the Almighty and hold on to the joy that comes from knowing, loving, and serving Him. We need to pray daily for the Lord to fill us up with fear and awe for Him!

This world needs more reverence for God. It needs more humility. And the wonderful news is we can begin with ourselves! This week fill yourself up with the words of God in the Bible and make your own go-to list of Scriptures that will encourage you in those times when you need it the most!

 

Thank you to our Sponsor

 

Serving the Lord

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

AFMWG _ Serving the LordServing The Lord ~ Episode 215

Serving the Lord is something we are all called to do yet so few answer His call. Surprisingly most don’t realize it begins at home. Are you blessed with a servant’s heart? Are you ready to spend time in witness to others by God’s love for them? Join Felice Gerwitz as she explores this topic in today’s podcast.

Thanks to our sponsor CTC Math – for all your math curriculum needs.

When I realized all that the Lord had done for me I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. I was ready to hit the road and begin evangelizing to anyone who would listen. There was one major issue, and that was I was a mom with small kids. There was no way I could do this and not neglect my family. There is a season for every ministry and I realized (by God’s grace) that my first ministry was to begin at home.

How did my children view me? How did I show them godliness and how did I parent? These few things are important in regard to how my children see Christ represented in me. If we hope to have a family that follows the Lord we have to be the example and oh, how hard this is during different seasons of our lives. It was during such a time that I prayed for a family scripture one that I could hang on the wall and point to and look at for strength. The scripture I loved was found in the book of Joshua.

Joshua 25:15 is a verse many of us have memorized, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” This is one of my life verses and I even have a wooden plaque prominently displayed in my home with the verse. But, what does it mean? To me, it means that nothing entering my home is going to be against what the Bible teaches. And, one step further we will not pollute our minds with the filth that is passed off as television programming. Long ago my husband and I decided if our kids couldn’t watch it we couldn’t either. What we put into our minds can help or hinder our spiritual walk.

It also is a scripture that points to being service minded. How are we to serve others? Not all of us can go to soup kitchens to feed the poor but we can participate in food drives and donate to these causes. Our church has a bin right near the front doors where we can bring in canned and packaged foods to donate. There are poor boxes set up as well for our donations that go to a specific charity set up for the poor in our town. Our church is also known to help people from time to time with their bills, everything from utilities to mortgage payments and more.  We are blessed to have a large parish that is service minded, and best of all the message is solidly Biblical and faithful to the teachings. [More on audio]

The success of the removal of God from the schools was the first step to a pagan culture – the culture that you and I live in today. So, we are called to pick up our cross and follow Him. The road is narrow, it is treacherous and it is not for the fainthearted. How will we share the good news with the unbelievers? Well, let’s start by asking the Lord how He wants to use us.

Years ago I had all of these ideas on how I wanted to serve the Lord, and then I’d meet other people who were already serving the Lord in that capacity way better than I ever could! I would pray to the Lord and thank Him for having such capable people at the helm, but I would also lament, “Lord you don’t need me.” I soon fell into a pity party and felt unneeded by the Lord, until He reminded me that I was telling Him how I wanted to serve instead of asking Him. And here we are today, with a podcast network that spreads the good news, not only for this podcast but for others.

One of our pastors gave a teaching beginning with the words, “Can you imagine being called by God on your worse day?” He was referring to the book of Isaiah and in particular Isaiah 6 where the prophet sees a vision and realizes his sinfulness. 6:3 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’” This is known as the “holiness, sinfulness, grace and service,” chapter. Only after we recognized the Kingship of God can we recognize our unworthiness and then in humility God can use us. God uses the humble of heart not those who think they know all the answers, and for me, this is a wonderful thought because there is hope for me! We see this with the apostles that Jesus called to follow him. Andrew, James, and John were given the experience of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. They realized their limitations and even around the Lord and witnessed miracles they still doubted.

Only after we have acknowledged our own sin, our own unworthiness, can we follow God’s call. We as Christians have a vocation, first to serve in our capacity in our job. Are you a mother, a father, are you a son or daughter, are you a single sister or brother? It is our duty to discern our vocation and to follow as we are led. Where is your gifting? Remember we all begin small and grow as the Lord asks us to grow. Your ministry can begin at home, at church, with a neighbor or friend, at a soup kitchen, or volunteering in some other capacity.

Maybe someday you will have your own podcast (Fill out a form to apply for a podcast here).

One thing I want to warn you about, the enemy always wants to remind us that we are not worthy and can not do it and that we are undeserving. Rebuke this and remember that we are all of those things without God’s calling and grace. If God calls us he will give us the strength the fortitude and the charge to continue on, and hopefully we will persevere. When I began this podcast I had a steady eight downloads, and I think at least half were one of my friends (thank you, Gerry!) But now some episodes are in the hundreds and thousands and thousands over the years. Can you imagine if I had stopped with one? Not too long ago, I was praying about the number of times to release new episodes, I had started with one a week and then dropped back to replays and two new ones a month. I started feeling less than, and why would anyone listen to this show, and I truly felt I was dried up there was nothing else to say. I prayed and prayed and within the span of a week or two I received two different emails that were so encouraging. I showed that yes, the Lord was touching people’s lives through the words He gave me.

Think of the Bible and we are in good company, we are in with the unworthy, the sinners, and those who were humbled by life. Yet we too are given this commission to make disciples of all nations, and in this day we are needed more than ever. You are never too young or too old to share the good news.

And I pray that you too want to serve the Lord in all that you do. And I ask that this week you pray for the Lord to lead you in some way. I pray that you are transformed by faith and do not be afraid! God is with us.

Thank you to our Sponsor

God In Nature

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

AFMWG - God in Nature

God In Nature ~ Episode 214

Have you ever looked outdoors and thought about God in nature? When we take the time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation we are astounded at what we see. In fact, on most cable networks there are several shows that feature nature and the workings of our world and the creatures God created. When was the last time you watched the birds in your yard or took the time to study the clouds? Our Almighty God shows us each day that He loves us and has created a vast universe to show his handiwork!

Thanks to our sponsor CTC Math – for all of your math curriculum needs.

One of my pastors, a family friend use to go on and on about how he saw God in nature. He would explain sitting on his back porch and just feeling the presence of God. He would watch as the birds nested in the trees, or the wind blew through the leaves. And the look on his face was one that is difficult to describe. Suffice it to say that he looked like he was in the presence of the Almighty.

I thought I would try it myself, but I’m often distracted by what is happening around me. Does your mind race when you are trying to be still and pray to God? I decided to start with something simple, a prayer as I walked around my backyard, and then I sat in the quiet. It was not successful and I felt that I was trying too hard.

I believe that when we try to force our faith or copy what someone else does, it sometimes falls flat. Instead, I decided to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation and ask the Lord to help me to see Him in the beauty of the outdoors. As I’ve shared with you many other times, when I find myself stuck I ask the Lord for help and He never fails me. All of a sudden it was as if the glory of God’s handiwork was revealed.

As I was driving I saw the most amazing cloud formations in the sky, or flocks of birds swarming and re-swarming on the highwires of the traffic lights. [More on audio.]

We become so complacent in our lives that we ignore the signs of an amazing God that is all around us. We get bogged down with the events of the day and wonder why we feel a heaviness we can not discard. In Ephesians 2:10 we read, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” But, first friends before the good Lord can use us we need to let go, and allow the Lord to use us.

The point I am trying to make is that the way we perceive the world shows us a microcosm of our own outlook. We can either see the beauty in God’s creation or dwell on the ugliness. we have this choice each day, and in our lives. We can focus on the beauty of the sky, even when a storm and lightning is flashing. The area in which is prone to hurricanes from time to time. Have you ever looked at the vastness of a hurricane, especially over land? It is awe-inspiring as well as deadly. It is a time to take shelter, and carefully prepare. We see the danger coming and can make provisions for our life. It is a warning.

Just as we prepare for a hurricane or lightning storm, we prepare for our spiritual wellness. In 2 Corinthians 5 we read, “…for we walk by faith, not by sight.” Our faith is in God and in God we see the greatness of his creation in the world He gave us. The new movement has made a god out of creation and the elements, with talk of forces and auras and other counterfeits. Yet, we need to take back authority to speak of creation as seeing it as His handiwork. The creation is good, not bad. Man has turned his back on God and therefore sin entered the world. How do we know that the world is created good? We read it in the book of Genesis as we read about the creation of the world. Genesis 1:31 sums up God’s creation, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.” God said it was good – very good. Why wouldn’t it be good if it was God who created it?

The vastness of the universe is also a sign of God’s immense greatness. Have you ever stargazed on a clear night? Another awe-inspiring look at nature. The universe makes us appear like a micro-speck or insignificant. Psalms 8:1-4 [Read on air.]

God created us in His image and learned men throughout time have tried to understand exactly what that means. We can again see God’s handiwork in the marvel of the human body, a single-celled organism is not simple at all it is highly complex. And think of the human body with trillions of cells.

What an amazing God we serve! So, friends, rejoice. When you are down look outside, look at the beautiful world that surrounds you. This week, look at the creation of the universe and praise God in everything! I pray the Lord blesses you and infills you with joy and the peace that surpasses understanding.

 

Wrap Yourself in Joy Podcast

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

SUBSCRIBE HERE:

Wrap Yourself in Joy with Karen Dwyer podcastAre you looking for more joy? Join award-winning speaker, teacher, and author Karen Dwyer as we search for joy together.

We will explore how to find true JOY, awaken JOY, defeat JOY Busters, and create a JOY-filled prayer life – from a Christian perspective and a Biblical perspective. We will focus on God‘s love, truth, and what we can do to be filled with more JOY.

Join our journey and discover how to:

*Receive a greater capacity to accept the JOY and the love of God.
*Awaken to joy from our JOY-filled God, who wants to share His joy with you.
*Develop a plan to resist the JOY Busters of fear, worry, anxiety, discouragement, anger, busyness, and more.
*Stand strong in adversity.

In your quest for true joy, you will not be disappointed!

NEW!  Karen offers Cup of JOY Women™ or  Cup of JOY Gathering (for men and women) to accompany each WRAP Yourself in JOY podcast. Karen will send you the FREE small group materials when you sign up.  STARTING in FEBRUARY: The Cup of JOY study accompanies Esther for This Time: Prayer, Reversals & JOY. 

Karen’s Website: https://wrapyourselfinjoy.com/

Get a copy of Karen’s Books here.

About Karen:

Karen Dwyer is an inspirational speaker and an award-winning college teacher specializing in helping students and adults of all ages conquer their public speaking anxiety.

Karen is the author of 10 books, including WRAP Yourself in JOY: Find the JOY & Fight the Fear, WRAP Yourself in Scripture,  Esther for Such a Time as This: Prayer, Reversals & Joy, Nehemiah—Rebuilding Hope & Joy in Your Life, The Joy of Advent—Journey with the People, Events &, Prayers at the First Coming of Jesus Christ, and iConquer Speech Anxiety.

She has been a guest on EWTN’s The Choices We Face and several Catholic radio programs, including programs on Spirit Catholic Radio. She is the founding Coordinator for Magnificat-Omaha, founder of the Heart of Jesus Prayer Groups, a Council Member of Pentecost Today USA, and has served on the Board of Directors for KVSS Spirit Catholic Radio and the national Mission Advisory Council for the Institute of Priestly Formation (IPF).

Karen says, “The Lord Jesus Christ wants to share His joy with you (John 15: 11).  He is the One who sustained me through great tragedy and gave me His JOY.  Our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, our Savior, and the Holy Spirit want to give YOU more JOY. “

Karen and her husband Larry are active members of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish.

Pro-Life & Family

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Pro-Life Family | Education in the pro-life family with the expert in this movement. In this episode, we are going to discuss the history of the pro-life movement and why we need to learn the importance of the ministry. | #Christianpodcast #podcastPro-Life and Family Episode 26 with Special Guest Fr. Frank Pavone

Education in the pro-life family with the expert in this movement. In this episode, we are going to discuss the history of the pro-life movement and why we need to learn the importance of the ministry for life and what we are up against. Secondly, in the next podcast, we will discuss what we can do become more involved why now is the time that our voices are needed in this important movement.

Visit Fr. Pavone at his website:

About Father Pavone – Father Pavone is one of the most recognized pro-life advocates. He is also the President of the National Pro-life Religious Council, and the National Pastoral Director of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and of Rachel’s Vineyard, the world’s largest ministry of healing after abortion.

We will discuss the history of the pro-life movement as well as ways to get involved (in the next episode).

In 1973, the Supreme court legalized abortion throughout pregnancy in the United States by its decision Roe versus Wade. And right after that pro-life efforts began there. In fact, there were some pro-life efforts that began before Roe V Wade. But the movement really began to grow as people said, children in the womb need protection. We need to do something to reverse this policy.

During that time, Pavone was in high school and became aware of abortion of the pro-life movement.

  1. In 1976 Pavone went to Washington DC on the first annual March for Life. He was impressed by the crowd, by the diversity of it, by the determination of these people, by the fact that even though they were confronting a very tragic and sad reality, they were very joyful and positive and prayerful.
  2. Began to get involved in local pro-life activities. And at the same time I felt the call to the priesthood. Long story short, I ended up getting ordained and through all my seminary years and into those first years of the priesthood, abortion was always front and center.
  3. Fr. Pavone preached about it frequently as a new priest. And then I came to a point where I experienced what I can only call a call of conscience. I was very happy doing the work in the parish and doing some teaching as well. But pro-life work became the dominant alarm going off in my mind. And I came to the point where I said, Lord, I, I need to devote myself to this full time.
  4. Felt the need to give his focus to defending the unborn. Cardinal John O’Connor of New York gave him permission to do that in 1993 as the first full-time director of priests for life. And I’ve been doing it ever since.

Pro-Life & Family – There is so much pain for those involved.

People become so emotionally volatile because there’s so much pain involved. Everyone is hurting from one for one reason or another by abortion either because of direct involvement, indirect involvement or just because of the fact that it’s happening all around us. It’s very painful.

  1. So we have to acknowledge that pain.
  2. We have to let people know that we are on their side.
  3. You know, we’re not judging them.
  4. We’re not condemning them.
  5. We’re not against them.
  6. We’re not their enemy.

And if we can convey that by our words and by our tone and by our actions as that should be done first, calm others down. This isn’t personal. You know, this is, we were trying to discuss an issue here.

What is the Pro-Life Issue?

  1. The last thing that abortion supporters want to talk about is abortion.
  2. They talked about the right to choose. Well, that’s not a discussion about abortion. Now you’re talking about who has the right to choose something.
  3. But you have to start by talking about what the something is you, as you’re talking about, obviously the right to choose abortion
  4. Start by talking about what an abortion is.
  5. That cuts through the fog and the distraction and the slogan.
  6. The good news about asking that question is we don’t have to figure out what it is. We just have to read the medical textbooks on how you do abortions or the public testimony of all kinds of doctors and nurses and physician assistants and others that have taken part in an abortion.
  7. When people get right down to it – they do not agree with the abortion procedure.

The strength of the other side comes from their despair, they’re scared.

  1. The of the pro-abortion side has always used the courts to advance their agenda. Starting with Roe V Wade itself, this has never sprung from the will or the vote of the people.
  2. On the other hand, the pro-life movement has always used the legislature’s, including in the States to advance the protection of the unborn, even in the light of Roe versus Wade.
  3. What’s happening now, thanks especially to President Trump and his administration is that more and more pro-life judges are being put in place all across the country.
  4. The other side is saying, “Hey, we want legal abortion. We’ve always wanted legal abortion all throughout pregnancy.” And it’s the courts that have protected that. If the courts are moving now in the wrong direction according to them the wrong direction, we’re going to have to see what we can do in those legislatures that are controlled by Democrats because they are the party that favors abortion without any limits.

Norma (from Roe vs. Wade) was a friend of Father Pavone and he had the privilege of not only getting to know her, he received her into the Catholic church back in 1998. In the early seventies, the lawyers that wanted to change the laws on abortion recruited her. She was pregnant for the third time, didn’t know what to do. And they basically promised her that they would help her. And for her, that meant they would help her, not that they would try to change the law for the whole country. So she was used, they never did help her. She ended up giving birth to the baby and placing the baby for adoption. But meanwhile, in her case, Roe vs. Wade ended up striking down the laws protecting babies. And when she found out about that by reading the Dallas morning news, she learned she was technically the winner of the case.

She wasn’t happy. She was devastated. And, and, and she always was ambivalent about abortion. And, and even in those early years when the pro-abortion groups said to her, Oh, you’ve got to tell the world who you are and write a book and they championed her. Even in those days. She was uncomfortable with abortion. And then as time went on, she became more and more pro-life until the point that n 1995, she got baptized as a Christian. Fr. Pavone started working for the pro-life group. Three years later she decided to become a Catholic. She spent the rest of her life working against abortion. And she, she passed away a few years ago, but was very, very committed to overturning the decision that bears her name.

  1. Abortion is becoming less and less popular, but it’s still happening at alarming rates.
  2. Even though those rates are going down, people have to work hard together to save lives.
  3. In the meanwhile to change the laws and policies, we must become educated.
  4. Join the winning team and save more lives.
    1. Equip yourself with knowledge of the issue, not only how to talk about it, but how to actually do the things that do save lives.
    2. Do things that change the laws and public policies. Because we have the opportunity now to do that. More and more people are waking up realizing how bad our abortion policy is, realizing how bad abortion itself is. If we don’t seize this opportunity now, things could get harder later on if the political winds change again in the wrong direction, or if people forget.
    3. Elect pro-life candidates
    4. Get involved in the movement. Everyone can save lives. And here’s the thing I always say is that everyone listening to us has to understand there are certain lives that only they can save, certain people only they can reach. And so life literally depends on it for us getting involved in this great movement.

 

 


Thank you to our Sponsor – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Movie!

Tom Hanks portrays Mister Rogers in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, a timely story of kindness triumphing over cynicism, based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod. After a jaded magazine writer (Emmy winner Matthew Rhys) is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about kindness, love and forgiveness from America’s most beloved neighbor.

Season of Hope

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Season of Hope | Five Sure Fire Ways To Avoid Stress | We are approaching a season of hope! Here are five things to really help you to reduce the stress, make a quick plan and get rid of those things that cause you to feel overwhelmed. Get ready to enjoy any season, with these five easy to answer questions. | #podcast #holidaystress #holidayplanning #christianpodcastSeason of Hope Episode 23

We are approaching a season of hope! Here are five things to really help you to reduce the stress, make a quick plan and get rid of those things that cause you to feel overwhelmed. Get ready to enjoy any season, with these five easy to answer questions.

I was never a big planner until I got older, and the reason was self-preservation. I would just plain forget if I did not plan things out. The older my children were the more planning that was necessary, in fact during the phase of sports we had a shared digital calendar so we could plan family events around their sports schedule. Sound familiar? Maybe you kids don’t play sports but have other lessons to attend, and once again the family is pushed in this direction or that.

Then, when you turn the calendar there is a collective gasp as you realize we are in the countdown mode – the countdown to Thanksgiving or Christmas. So, then what happens? Panic.

We can choose to be joyful, but that is harder to do when we are up to our eyeballs in meals, laundry, and kids. We can play praise and worship music (that always makes me happy) – or we can just pray our way through the day.

I have some experience at parenting…my oldest was born in 1980, and I have five kids. So, if you do the math I will be logging in 40 years of parenting and still going as of 2020! So, in my experience, I have learned to examine my stress factors that take away my hope and my peace.

Ways To Combat Holiday Stress! Remember this is the Season of Hope!

  1. What is making me stressed – write these down.
  2. What things on my list can I cross out?
  3. What things on my list can I delegate?
  4. What things on my list can I do today?
  5. What things on my list can I do – and here is the date/due by.

Do I have a plan? The next podcast will be about planning and how you can make any holiday, event, and schedule in a way that is manageable.

Recently I saw a preview of the upcoming Mr. Rogers movie – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and I cannot share details but let me say it is a life-changing movie. I will share more about things I learned (without any spoiler alerts) in upcoming episodes as well – so be sure you subscribe to this podcast to receive new shows.

Through the struggles of the characters, we learned nuggets about life. And, truthfully our hope is not in the things of this world – our hope is in the things that truly matter.

List those – what are those things that truly matter to you? Take a few minutes to do this now, or plan a time later this evening before bed, or when you wake up in the morning or at lunchtime… but do it!

For each one of us, those things look different depending on our station in life! I remember as a young mom thinking that just a few minutes of quiet, or getting the laundry washed, folded and put away in one day was important. Now that my kids are grown, the house is quiet and you guessed it – I can do many loads of laundry in one day and get it put away! Those things are no longer important.

Upcoming is a season of hope – Thanksgiving is coming, then Christmas. It is a time of fall harvest, going to visit a pumpkin patch, enjoying fall leaves (think of me when you do it is the only thing I miss about living up north), or sipping apple cider, or hot chocolate while bundled in a blanket watching a campfire. These things are special, the upcoming celebration of the birth of Christ is special – these things bring us joy they bring us hope and they lift up our faith.

Friends, be sure to look at this season of hope and take the time to stop and enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of the season. Take time with your family, snuggle up with a good book, and be sure to tell those you love how thankful you are of them!

Next week mega planning! Be ready.

 

God’s Timing

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

God's Timing | God's timing is perfect, this is something we hear about all the time but in reality, when we ask something in prayer we often expect immediate results. In this podcast, we discuss how our time is so different to God's time and ways to let go! | #podcast #christianpodcastGod’s Timing – Episode 110

God’s timing is perfect, this is something we hear about all the time but in reality, when we ask something in prayer we often expect immediate results. In this podcast, we discuss how our time is so different from God’s time and ways to let go!

Thanks to our sponsor, Media Angels and the books A Few Minutes with God and One More Child. You can find more information about both titles on Media Angels or Amazon.

We are a society of immediate gratification. We don’t have to haul our water in from the well or farm our own food or any of the things that in the not so recent past our ancestors had to do. My own parents had a garden, and I grow herbs – okay, not quite the same thing, but I buy a plant and plant it – I don’t even use a seed!

So why does it surprise us that when we pray to God we want instant answers? God’s timing is not our timing and His timing is perfect! Yet we lack patience, faith, hope, and we become anxious! How does this happen?

There is a reason our prayers do not have an instant answer. What is it – I don’t know. I’m sure the reason is different for each one of us. Our job is to keep focused, continue to pray and to read your Bible! Stay grounded in God’s Word.

When we become anxious and stressed over God’s timing it is usually because we want the Lord to answer a prayer about a difficult situation or perhaps we are ill and want to be healed. Believe me, I get it!

Does God not know about your situation? Does he not understand. Of course, he does.

Psalm 18: 20 As for God, His way is blameless.

Psalm 31:14-15

We must surrender our needs to him, and we can learn through the waiting. Sometimes the lessons we learn are so much more effective in growing our faith!

Jesus Stills the Sea  —  Mark 4:35-41

Can you imagine what the apostles learned from the calming of the sea? I have a picture in my living room to the right of the TV that depicts this Scripture verse. It is a reminder to wait on Him – on His timing.

And, I want to leave you with a thought. As we are waiting for the perfect timing for the answer to our prayers, please let’s not forget to be thankful in all the prayers He has answered. Take out your praise and thanksgiving journal and write in it — go back and read it, see? He has answered prayers in His perfect time.

Let’s Pray

Dear Lord, Your timing is perfect. I know that you have everything in the palm of your hand. That you know the time and place of everything that we worry and stress about, and I ask that you help to let to go and let God into my life in a deeper way. Thank you for fulfilling all of my needs. Thank you for giving me my daily bread. Thank you for giving me the very things I need, just when I need them. You are the God of perfection and I ask you to allow me to rest in You. Thank you for providing for all I pray for today … I know you have the perfect time to answer all of these prayers, and I pray this in Jesus Name. Amen.

Christian Hope

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Christian Hope | What is the difference between hope and Christian hope? Do we hope in what we want, or do we hope in God's will for our life? We explore this theme today. | #podcast #christianpodcastChristian Hope – Episode 109

What is the difference between hope and Christian hope? Do we hope in what we want, or do we hope in God’s will for our life? We explore this theme today.

Hope in Christ – it is already accomplished – God’s will has been done, it is finished. So we can go on with our lives and not worry about anything. Don’t you wish it were that easy?

Our hope is that our “will be done” that God answers our prayers the way we want our outcome to be. Just think about this – it is humbling. We “hope” things go our way.

The Garden of Gethsemane – Matthew 26:36-46

How do we hope in a seemingly hopeless world? How do we hope when we are depressed – lonely – or feel abandoned?

Some pastors teach that if we pray it – believe it – it will come. And if the prayers are not answered, we then lose hope and think the Lord has abandoned us!

Christian Hope – is different. While we hope for the Lord’s will in my life – yet not as I will, but as You will.”  We still hope for the best possible outcome.

As I record this it is 9-11 and it is a horrific time in American history when we had a terrorist attack on American soil. As I listened to reports of what was expected in the death toll from the Twin Towers, the estimates for 14-15K because of the number of people believed to be in the building.

One death is too many, but the numbers were way, way less than was predicted. We read so many miracle stories. We see the hand of God, we see that even those who went to rescue the fallen were never the same.

Yet we continue to believe. We continue to hope.

We read in Psalm 121. 

Romans 8:24-25

We don’t know the answers, but … we read in Isaiah 38:18 New International Version (NIV)

For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness.

Yet then we read in Lamentations 3:17-20 New International Version (NIV)

Romans 8:23-30

Christian hope is when we read about what God has promised within the pages of the Bible—within the knowledge that God is never changing, within the trust that God never lies—His word is inspired, true and without error.

1 Peter 1:13-16

Let’s Pray!

Lord thank you for Christian hope and the knowledge that when we trust in you our trust is secure, we are confident you hear our prayers and you will answer them according to Your will for our lives. We know we will mess up and only you are holy and worthy of every good thing, yet we love you Lord and we do hope in you. where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth and I am glad and praise Your Name for this promise. Dear Lord, please hear the prayers we ask now and those in our hearts… and I pray this in the hope that is in Christ. Amen.