A New Year: Thrive 1/12

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a-new-year-thriveIt occurred to me while writing this piece that every year we make a big fuss…almost in a panic. Oh no?! It’s New Year’s Eve!! How am I going to enhance or improve in my life?

Let’s see: I’m already in church, read the Word…oh wait…only a minute on Sundays during church. (Shhh…did I say that out loud?!) I need to work on doing that everyday.

Ok, what is my New Year’s resolution?

Because I never keep the resolutions anyway, my solution is no resolution. I need to just take inventory of my life, write down what I need to do, should do, and can do.

My plate is always full: kids, relatives, work, errands…my work is never done. Sometimes I need to write a note to find the note that it seems I have lost and can’t find. Sometimes after taking care of what seems like everybody else, I seem to have lost myself.

One thing I’ve learned is a new year is just a new date. If you are serious about getting yourself together you wouldn’t wait until a new year starts. You would say the Nike logo to yourself…JUST DO IT…and move toward change.

We have all been through trials and tribulations. We have all had days when we wish we could pull the covers over our head and hide from the world, or wish we had a magic wand to make everything right.

So, I’m asking you to commit to a 21 day jump start to improving yourself and your life. Choose a devotional plan. Here’s a few examples I saw online that caught my attention: 21 day devotional plan for busy women, 21 days of powerful breakthroughs, a 21 day challenge-Made to Crave, 21 day devotional to beat depression, 21 days with the Holy Spirit, and 21 days of prayer…just to name a few.

Remember, Philippians 4:13 says,

“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”

In Mark 9:23 Jesus said,

“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

Finally my personal favorite from Ephesians 6:11.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

No one is perfect, but YOU must perfect what you want in your life. Here’s to New Year’s solutions for 2017!

Trisha Williams

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A New Year: Thrive 1/11

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a-new-year-thriveThe Smallest Stone

As a child, I remember throwing rocks into our pond to see how big of a ripple it would make when it hit the water. The larger the rock I threw, the larger the ripple. This memory came to my mind the other day while I was all snuggled and cozy in my chair watching a Hallmark Christmas movie. The actress in the scene made a statement that made me pause and rewind the movie (thanks to DVR). She said,

“The smallest stone makes a ripple in the water.”

Hmmm…that statement touched me, and it got me thinking. Because of life’s hardships, trials, family, work, church, etc., sometimes I feel my stone is still sitting on the bank, and I make no ripple. I sometimes think I make no difference at all.

But whatever I may feel, the truth is, I MAKE A RIPPLE. The smallest stone makes a ripple in the water. So, I started pondering, what kind of a ripple am I making?

My prayer for this New Year is that God will use my ripple for HIS kingdom, and HIS glory, and that my life would make a positive difference in each person and circumstance that is in my path. I pray my ripple would reach the other side of the pond’s bank in lasting godly impact.

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

Becky Martin

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A New Year: Thrive 1/10

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a-new-year-thriveTaste and See

While sitting here thinking about what to write, a myriad of verses swirling through my head, the idea of trust keeps popping back up. It’s such a simple word, yet it entails a powerful meaning for those of us in Christ. After all, our lives as Christians began with the act of trusting Jesus to be our Savior.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, Trust is defined as “the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.”

Sounds fairly straightforward, doesn’t it?

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as though I am challenged to practice this thing called trust on a daily basis. Whether it be as a teacher dealing with a particularly rowdy group of 9th graders, as a mom wondering if I am making the best decisions for my family, or trying to figure out how to pay for something else that’s broken on the car, my life is defined by challenges that require me to trust in my God.

So, how does one do that exactly?

This question seems to be asked many times when we discuss trusting God. Exactly, how do you really do that?

The answer I usually give: experience. We trust God’s ability and reliability because we have experienced proof of it. Psalm 34:8-9 says,

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, For those who fear him have no lack!”

Taste and See!

It’s easy to recall times when I have tried to work out my problems without turning to the Lord for help. The result was a “lack” in every sense of the word; lack of peace and a lack of solution. But then I call to mind those times when I turned first to the Lord for His provision.

Maybe for you, it was something big such as bringing you through an illness or providing for a major expense you weren’t expecting.

Maybe as it so often is for me, it was something small like giving an exhausted teacher a little extra patience with that rowdy group of 9th graders. In those times, oh how good He has been!

So today, whatever size challenges come your way, will you “taste and see” how good He can be?

Erica Farmer

 

A New Year: Thrive 1/7

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a-new-year-thriveTwo years after my husband passed away from cancer, I was still grieving . I had known the comfort of the Lord and of family and friends, but that ache cast a pall over everything. It sapped my strength and I felt I was functioning on autopilot. I was living and working in West Africa with people I loved. I loved my job. My son was a soldier in Iraq and my high school daughter was with me. So I had plenty material for prayer.

One morning during my prayer time, I was reading Psalm 84 when the Lord opened my eyes with His truth about my situation. I read verses 1-4:

 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!

 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.

 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Selah

That was it! I so desperately needed the Living God! I imagined myself as that little sparrow nestling up near the altar. I thought, “If I could just stay here and never have to move, I would have everything I need!” But then, I read on.

 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.

 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.

 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion

What? Did I really have to get up and continue the journey? Then I realized I had been in a valley. In fact, the word for valley, Baca, means “tears.” Truly, I had been in a valley of tears. The Lord was saying to me that He would be my strength, that He would make something good come from this valley of tears. He would make it a place of springs (life-giving water). He would give me strength after strength till I see Him face to face.

Alice Statler

 

 

A New Year: Thrive 1/5

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a-new-year-thriveGod’s Blessing of Friendship

A friend loveth at all times. 

Proverbs 17:17 (KJV)

As 2016 is ending and 2017 beginning, I find myself thinking about friends. With social media so much a part of people’s lives, we sometimes forget to pick up the phone and call someone or even send a note of thanks or thinking of you.

Many of us have lifelong friends since childhood, college friends, and professionals we work with. Furthermore, we have neighbors. In today’s society we sometimes do not even know who lives in our neighborhood. Fortunately when our family moved to Temple, we found a wonderful neighborhood with one very special lady who lived next door to us—Beth Sheffield. She always had a smile for everyone, never met a stranger, and would go out of her way to help others. She exemplified how God wants us to treat one another.

As 2017 approaches, I hope I can be the friend to others as Beth was to me. Thirty-two years filled with precious memories of our times together encourage me to pay friendship forward. I encourage each of you to think about how you can be Christ’s example to others with kindness, love, encouragement, and time. Will you choose to be a Christ-like friend in 2017?

Dianne Arwood

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A New Year: Thrive 1/4

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a-new-year-thriveMaking Plans

We spend much time planning for tomorrow. We plan trips, set goals, and strive to “reach the mark.” Planning discussions are rampant and an integral part of our professional and personal daily lives. Yet without goals and dreams, we would wander aimlessly in both arenas of life.

James, the half-brother of Jesus tells us not to boast about tomorrow when he says:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

(James 4:13-14) NKJV

 Because of the context around the verse and in other scriptures, I do not think he is telling us not to make plans. James and other biblical authors urge us to acknowledge God’s role in our planning and understand His plans for us are far greater. His plans supersede any we may have for ourselves.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

(Jeremiah 29:11-13) NKJV

 Where is God in your planning? Do you seek His Divine Wisdom as you make your plans? Are your plans aligned with His plans for your life?

Marilyn Hoeth

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A New Year: Thrive 1/2

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a-new-year-thriveFear and Hope

As we begin another New Year, many uncertainties tend to cross our minds. Some can even cause great concern and fear of what is to come. Let us go to God’s Word for some encouraging words. First, what does Job have to say? He certainly faced many hard times.

“But as for me, I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause, who does great things, and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.”

“He sets on high those who are lovely, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.”

“But He saves the needy from the sword of their mouth and from the hand of the mighty, so the poor have hope, and injustice shut her mouth.”

(Job 5:8, 9, 11, 12, 15, 16 ESV)

Isaiah also had encouraging words appropriate for the New Year.

“But they 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.”

(Isaiah 40:31 ESV).

May the New Year fill you with God’s hope and blessings and may you “mount up like an eagle.”

Kathleen Holland

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A New Year: Thrive 1/1

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a-new-year-thriveWe all have a story and your story matters. Your story tells the history of your journey with Christ and speaks to the beauty of humanity. We engage in sharing our stories because our stories connect us. As the New Year begins, we want to be women who embrace new beginnings. We serve a God of second chances, and what better opportunity than the New Year to encourage one another to risk hoping for a new beginning!

Through the years, God has taught the women at Taylor’s Valley Baptist Church immeasurable truths about Himself and how our connections matter. Our connections often provide the fuel for vulnerability, a trait necessary for new starts. Over the next 31 days you will meet 31 different women sharing 31 different stories. Our hope is that by sharing our stories, we will show God’s faithfulness in our everyday lives and encourage you to look for God in all the new beginnings of a new year.  Get ready to belly laugh, shed a few tears (grab a tissue), and prepare your heart for God to speak through, “A New Year: Thrive.”

Second Chances

“I called to the LORD in my distress, and He answered me.” (Jonah 2:2).

When was the last time you felt the Holy Spirit nudging you a particular direction and your first instinct was to flee? If whatever the task before me requires battling insecurities, my flesh begs me to forgo the fight and just flee.

A few years ago I was asked to serve in a capacity I had only dreamed about in my home church. Almost as quickly as the excitement built at the thought of using my gifts and talents in this area, an equal amount of apprehension overwhelmed my spirit. I reflected on my previous track record with similar tasks. Isn’t that how we evaluate potentially new tasks, through considering and analyzing what we have been able to accomplish in the past?

Despite reciting scriptures encouraging me to trust God’s promise to enable and empower me to complete the task ahead, I stalled and filibustered when pressed to confirm. I was hesitating to step into leadership though I knew God was calling me to that specific purpose.

As God would have it, the next few weeks’ worth of sermons covered the book of Jonah. Though I was familiar with his story, Jonah’s experiences with second chances washed over me in a fresh and powerful way. Jonah flat out refused to obey God’s command to preach to the Ninevites. God could have used another prophet to preach His message of coming judgment, but He loved Jonah enough to punish him, leading Jonah to repentance.

Our God gives second chances. He delights in our steps toward the right direction. Furthermore, when He calls us to a task, He will empower us. Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” This verse speaks truth in the face of apprehension. Not only does God work in me to accomplish the task, He also enables me to desire to complete it.

So if God is calling you to a specific role, task, or purpose, and you are hesitating to obey, know God delights in your steps toward His calling. Know He will birth the desire to complete it, and above all, He will work it through you for His good purpose and glory.

Love,

Sara Burt, Director of TVBC Women’s Ministry: Thrive

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It Isn’t Too Late

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easter picPlease share this post. Someone needs to hear it isn’t too late.

I did not plan on posting today, but during my run God would not let go of me until I wrote this down.

Tomorrow is a colossal celebration. I have planned our menu, the kids’ meaningful gifts, and ultimately planned to protect our family time. Why? Well I can tell you it isn’t so my children can gorge themselves on candy from an Easter basket. I want my children to know this Sunday is different than all other Sundays. I need to be reminded this Sunday is different than all other Sundays. While every Sunday we celebrate Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week, tomorrow is a monumental Resurrection Sunday.

Over the course of the last few weeks, several fellow believers have suggested their family does not historically celebrate Easter as they do Christmas. “I mean, we celebrate, but it isn’t as big a holiday.” I wish I was shocked. The truth is the influence of culture is an obnoxious indoctrination, commonly leveraged undetected.

Without a doubt, we would not have a Saviour without His birth. However, without the resurrection, we don’t have Christianity! My faith in my future resurrection and eternal life is based on the resurrection of Christ.

Indeed, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

His resurrection means what I do now matters! It means my past, present, and future relationships matter for eternity (Galatians 6:7-8).

Maybe if we spent the weeks and months in between Christmas and Easter reflecting on the cycle of human rebellion and God’s grace that has existed since the garden of Eden, then just maybe Good Friday and The Resurrection Sunday would be “as big a holiday.”

I know who I am without Christ. I know He is ALL I have to boast in (Romans 15:17; Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:3). Brothers and sisters, Christ’s resurrection is my only hope. If He had merely been born only to die on a cross, my life would be meaningless.

But His death was just the beginning. We have cause to celebrate tomorrow!

At Christmas we make less of the North Pole and more of the Manger. For the love of Christ, tomorrow make less of the Bunny and more of the Empty Tomb! It isn’t too late!

 

Christ is risen from the dead!

Trampling over death by death!

Come awake! Come awake!

Come and rise up from the grave!

(from “Christ Is Risen” by Matt Maher)

 

An Easter Anthem

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The mercy and grace bestowed upon us is overwhelming. Tucked deep in the book of Job is a verse revealing the magnitude of God’s mercy in light of our sinfulness.

“I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light” (Job 33:27–28 ESV).

In this passage, Elihu is describing a hypothetical man and his response to God’s great mercy. We relate. We see our testimony in this declaration. Our broken world reeks of sin. Our fleshly natures long to be fed with that which the world offers. We have been tempted and we have fed ourselves. We have taken the gifts of God and perverted them to fulfill our own desires. And yet we are forgiven.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11-12 ESV).

Paul tells us in Romans 5:8 Christ died for us while we were still sinners. We were in mid-perversion when He went to the cross to redeem us from the pit. As my husband has diligently preached through the years, we do not bathe to come to Christ…He is the bath. Glory! What an incomprehensible, amazing love! What does this man do in response?

He sings (Job 33:27).

And Can It Be

And can it be, that I should gain

An interest in the Saviour’s blood?

Died He for me, who caused His pain

For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! How can it be?

That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Amazing love! How can it be?

That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Verse 2

‘Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies:

Who can explore His strange design?

In vain the first-born seraph tries

To sound the depths of love divine.

‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,

Let angel minds inquire no more.

‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,

Let angel minds inquire no more.

Verse 3

He left His Father’s throne above,

So free, so infinite His grace,

Emptied Himself of all but love,

And bled for Adam’s helpless race:

‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;

For, O my God, it found out me!

‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;

For, O my God, it found out me!

Verse 4

Long my imprisoned spirit lay

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

Verse 5

No condemnation now I dread;

Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!

Alive in Him, my living Head,

And clothed in righteousness divine,

Bold I approach the eternal throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Bold I approach the eternal throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Amazing love! How can it be?

That Thou, my God, should die for me?