Count 

WORTHY THOUGHT: Count Your Blessings 

It is impossible to be thankful and at the same time be grumpy.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. -James 1:7

If the birds only burst into a song once a year, we’d all pay attention. But because they sing every morning we scarcely bother to listen.  

We tend to exhibit a degree of thanksgiving in reverse proportion to the amount of blessing’s we receive.
When we are discouraged thinking all is lost count your blessings name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done. -Johnson Oatman Jr. (Hymnal)

~ Angela Lipe-Pattengill 

The Secret Place 

  
It’s what happens in that secret place that puts everything where it belongs. The wounds you think may never heal, the apologies you’ve never been given, the damage that seems irreparable, the false accusations, the love that’s been lost, the confusion, the chaos…all of these things are put where they belong and no longer allowed to take hold when we meet Him in that place. 

 We need not be concerned by what man thinks but rather by being prostrate before the throne…in that secret place that no other man can touch.  

Thank you, Lord, for allowing me in Your presence and for tending to my every need.

                ~Stephanie Gable 

Be Lifted Up 

  
Every Sunday morning before each service our worship, media and lighting teams meet to pray over the morning service. This past Sunday morning Pastor Amy was interceding for the people who would attend and praying over everyone who would be serving and ministering. She began to pray that God be lifted up in us and through us. As I prayed in agreement with her, I heard the Holy Spirit say very clearly, “You have to bow down, before I can be lifted up.”

I was immediately reminded of a song that we used to sing when I was a little girl. The song was based around the scripture John 12:32, where Jesus says “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

In this scripture, Jesus is specifically referencing his coming death on the cross. “Lift up” and “exalt” literally means to take something that is low and raise it higher. However, “lifting up” or “exalting” is also often used to describe praise and thanksgiving. How is this possible? If the name of Jesus is above every name (Philippians 2:9-10), how can we lift the name of Jesus higher? God is called “El Elyon” or “Most High” throughout the Bible and is repeatedly referenced as being above all things. If this is the case, how can He be exalted to a higher place when he is already supreme over all things?

For something to be lifted higher, it is first positioned lower. There is a measurable increase in distance between the starting point and the end point. Praise and thanksgiving when applied to people, raises them in the esteem of others. It can bring power, position and fame. It can lift a person to a higher level. Praise and thanksgiving for people has value as a tool to manipulate the position of the person being praised.

Praise and thanksgiving to God is different. It does not add to God’s worth. He is already worthy of all praise and priceless beyond measure. It does not increase His power; He is all-powerful. Instead, His position is fixed. He is seated above all things. The measurable increase in distance that occurs is between our position as and His position. (John 3:30) Praise and thanksgiving to God is not a tool to manipulate His position, it’s a result of us changing our own position. We humble ourselves, recognizing and acknowledging our place far below Him. We decrease our own importance and power in favor of His. His position is not exalted in relation to all things as a whole, but His position on a personal level, in relation to our own life, is raised up.  

In order for God to be lifted up in us and through us, we must first surrender to Him. Our will. Our actions. Our thoughts. Our hearts. Everything about us, every area of our lives, must be surrendered to Him in order for Him to be seated in His rightful place in relation to us. 

 Jesus described it as “denying yourself, taking up your cross daily and follow Him.” (Luke 9:23) If we are saved – believing Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died and rose again, the Messiah who is seated at the right hand of the Father and our soon coming King – it is mandatory for us to surrender completely to Christ and through Him to our Father, God. Holding back even a fraction of ourselves or our lives from Him is not acceptable.  

Let’s look back at John 12:32. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” 

There are 3 key points that are significant.



There is a choice.
Jesus used the word “if.” “If” is a word of possibilities. It implies that there are options other than the one stated. I will be lifted up from the earth or I will not be lifted up from the earth. Yes, Jesus was speaking of His death and resurrection but He was also speaking about the possibilities when we apply the Word to our lives on a personal level. It comes down to our choices. We either choose to continually yield to God, repenting when we make mistakes, and daily surrendering to Him or we choose not to. This is an ongoing process. The choice for Jesus to be lifted up is one that we are continually making. (1 Corinthians 15:31) For Him to be lifted up, we have to sacrifice ourselves to Him. Holding back from Him prevents Him from being lifted up in us. God left the choice in our hands. Only by choosing to bow down, choosing to yield to Him and acknowledging where we stand in relation to Him, is His position in our lives increased.

There is a result.
The scripture says that if we make this choice and lift Him up, there is a result from that choice. The result is that all men will be drawn to Him. All men being drawn unto Him is contingent upon Him being lifted up.  
John 14:6 says that Jesus is the only way to come to God. In John 6:44 Jesus says that “no one can come to Me unless the Father draws them.” When God is lifted up in us, He draws the hearts of those who witness it. The only way for all men to be drawn to God is for Him to be lifted up. He must be lifted up – on an individual level, but it important for it to be in each and every one of us. It is imperative. 
Yielding yourself to God is important for your own life and relationship with God , but there is more at stake than us simply making a choice for ourselves. There is more riding on your sacrifice to God than just yourself. Your surrender to God can determine the hearts of those around you being drawn to Him. Your surrender to God has the potential to be a catalyst for the salvation of others.
The consequence when we hold back from God is that He is not lifted up in us. The people around us will not be drawn by His light and life through us. Fortunately, we aren’t usually a person’s sole source of seeing the light of Christ. The grace in being a many membered body of believers is that there are those that will continue to draw others to God, even when we may fall short. However, by not choosing to die to self, we are impeding the work of the Spirit of God.  

Our choice either allows or denies the Spirit of God an opportunity to work in someone else. It is much easier to see light in a dark room when there are multiple sources. A dozen candles shine a lot brighter than just one. If there is just one candle, much more is left in darkness and the light is harder to see. The more candles there are, the easier it is to see the light. It’s the same with our lives as followers of Jesus. His light is more plainly seen when it is shining brightly from more than one location. It’s harder to deny Him when evidence of Him is all around you, drawing you to the Father. We have a responsibility, not only to ourselves, but to people we care about and even people we may not even know, to choose the path of Jesus every single day.

Are you believing for God to save someone you know and love? Be faithful to the Lord. Surrender yourself completely. Repent when you fall short. Your life is an example and sermon. Your spirit is a witness of God’s goodness to people around you. Your obedience to God is an opportunity for salvation through Jesus.

There is a reward.
Jesus said that all men would be drawn unto Him. This means more than just compelling the hearts of men to turn to Him. The definition of “drawn” is to move or guide something in a specified direction. When Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all men – this includes you – unto Him. When you humble yourself before God, the Word says that He will elevate you. (James 4:10)  
In this scripture, Jesus was also telling us that when we humble ourselves to Him, He will draw us to Him. He will take us from our position of humility and elevate us to His position as Son. Our reward for our obedience is not only seeing others turning to Christ, but experiencing the fullness of a relationship with God as His child. Our daily sacrifice and humble attitude of servitude results in a correlating response from Christ, to lift us to His level. Jesus taught us that in order to walk in the full benefits and blessing of what He brings, we make a daily choice to come fully under His Lordship. Only under His Lordship do we experience His righteousness, His life, His authority, and His nature is manifested in us.

When Jesus is lifted up, He in turn lifts us up. There is no higher position than His, seated at the right hand of the Father and He raises us to share in it with Him. The righteousness and honor and worthiness belong to Him alone, but He allows us to share in His glory. When we die to ourselves, our rights, feelings, desires and preferences are dead to us, and His plans and purposes take precedence. He begins to live His life through us and transforms us into what we have been called to be. The children of God.

I encourage you to lift up the name of Jesus. Make Him known in every area of your life. Choose wisely and follow the path that He has set for you. The Bible is full of promises He has given to those who follow Him. Promises not only for you, but for those you love and those who haven’t yet accepted Him as their Savior. Lift Him up so that others might come to know Him and accept Him as Lord. Lift Him up and watch how He will raise you up. His blessings and benefits are more than you can contain and He is able to do more than you can ask or imagine. He will prove Himself to you and you will experience the awesome power and majesty of the Most High God. 

It all starts when you choose to bow down.
                   ~Dana Smith 
We tried to find the song mentioned above but only found the slide with words set to music so today for Song Sunday you get to sing along to the slides and music here 

Thank You 

  
Oh how I thank You for understanding our fleshly abilities, failures and weaknesses. You the high Exalted One are not impressed with the positions people hold. You show no personal favoritism. You have no regards for any; the rich, the poor, the famous or unknown, high rank or low rank, handsome or homely, for any race or culture above any other. 

You have regard for all who are humble in heart. Thank You Lord for not looking at our human qualifications. You Lord use people who the world calls foolish and weak, poor and insufficient, and You oppose those who exalt themselves. You exalt those who humble themselves by freely giving them Your gift of grace. You are full of mercy and compassion towards us. You know our limitations and You understand that we are dust. We praise You Lord for You are greater than our failures. 

You are my potter. You’re able to mold and remold me. You are the Master artist. You are able to take the darkness out of my life, my wounds, my scars, my sins and blend them into your beautiful light. I praise You for Your grace. My every victory and accomplishment comes from Your all prevailing power and not from me. 

God, rich in mercy, Thank You for Your great love. You loved us, even when we were dead in sins, and have quickened us together with Christ. You saved us and have raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  

Thank You that You have given us everlasting consolation and good Hope through Your grace, You comfort our hearts and establish us in Your every good word and work. 

Thank You for this beautiful day that once again You have gifted us all with. Fill our heart with gratitude for all You do for us. Speak to us Lord on this day, guiding, guarding and providing because we trust in You and You alone. 
                            ~Michelle Smith 

    

Unwanted Houseguests

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Tis’ the season. OK, I’ll be brave enough to just say it. Yes, it’s that time of year when you get UNWANTED HOUSEGUESTS. It happened to me. They showed up unexpectedly a few weeks ago. That’s early by anyone’s standards of coming for the holidays. But I kicked them out! Yup! It felt GOOOOOOD! Let me tell you how and what happened:
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were in the house alone, but then, just as quickly, we weren’t. All of a sudden, this uninvited couple showed up at the door. They were sly and managed to slide in really quickly before we could get the door shut on them. I don’t think either my husband or myself intended or ever implied that they were welcome. They certainly didn’t call before and ask if they could come, we surely would have said a resounding no, but yet, there they sat on my couch, grinning.
Just like pushy in-laws sometimes do, they weren’t content to just BE at my house. They wanted more. They intended to move in and get comfortable, to stay awhile. As for us, we were too shocked at their boldness to tell them “No!” Not wanting to “put us out”, they pushed on in and insisted we just continue what we were already doing. My husband and I had been talking. He was catching me up on his week and I, him on some issues that were going on with one of our kids. I sat dumbfounded as they interrupted us and happily chimed in, helping twist the parenting issue into something bigger and much more ominous. One involving ultimatums and the angry words “always” and “never”. I was mad and confused as I sat on my side listening to them and thinking “Who do they think they are? What just happened here? How long are they staying? Can I boot them out now?!” I’ll bet by now you are wondering who they are- these unwanted houseguests of mine? Well, you will probably recognize them by the names Offense and Hurt Feelings.
Offense grew bolder and came to sit by my husband on the couch. The more they talked, the more they agreed and the stronger the bond between them grew. Hurt Feelings patted my shoulder, gave me a tissue and offered to listen to my side because I was, obviously, the injured party. Soon, my husband and I weren’t the cohesive unit, they were. He and Offense. Then, me and Hurt Feelings. The sympathy from them felt good…and the distance between me and my husband felt…right somehow. Neither my husband, nor I could understand what had just happened to drive the wedge so quickly, but our houseguests just smiled and immediately started making themselves more at home. They asked which room was theirs and began unpacking their junk.
BUT, THEN….
I was with some friends a few days later and heard Graham Cooke speak. He talked about refusing to accept someone as an enemy. A man had approached him with offense and enmity in his heart. Graham’s response to the man was shockingly Jesus-like. “No. Sorry. I’m not in the market for enemies. You can’t be my enemy unless I receive you as one.” What? Are you serious? We get to say that??? Yes! We do! We can!
I don’t know about you, but I seem to spend so much time on reacting to whatever the devil throws my way, via people I come in contact with. I feel like the little silver ball in a pinball machine some days. What should my response be to this person because they’ve said this? How do I get along with them when they are doing that? The list goes on. I am an introvert, by nature. When I take a verbal “hit” from someone, I get really quiet. I tend to spend a lot of time rehearsing and rehashing things in my head that are always better left alone. Thankfully, when I submit myself and my problems to Jesus, he helps me stop that cycle and find my voice. And, unlike what happened with my husband and our unwanted houseguests, the presence of Jesus’ voice in my home and in my conversation always brings peace. Jesus has given me the choice to just refuse to buy into or go along with whatever lie, scheme, plan or whomever the devil tries to send to hurt me. Jesus’ power is always greater. I can respond from the goodness of God and the constant presence of Emmanuel, God with us. Deep, cleansing breath here.
One of the questions I tried to mull over after hearing this new approach was: “How do I respond to this ugly situation with the sheer goodness of God?” So the first night, I concentrated on God’s goodness and how I could show that to my husband. Suddenly, it was easier to serve my husband in love without complaining and being hypocritical. I was determined as I tried to think of ways that I could go the extra mile to show him that I did not, would not, receive him as my enemy. It was easy with God’s help -kind of fun, even, when it started messing with his head. OK – I never said I was perfect…LOL.
As I put my foot down and stopped feeding Offense, he grew hungry and became angry and threatened to cause a scene. Yawn. Hurt Feelings got her feelings hurt (of course) at being ignored and threatened to leave. Excellent. Buh-Bye! I prayed for more help and Jesus provided Peace and Love Never Fails as my armed guard escorts to watch my unwanted guests pack their things and leave our house. As they left, they made one last grab at Peace, but Love Never Fails quickly overwhelmed them.
This season, you will have many opportunities to let these two thugs into your house. Be careful, they might show up using different aliases, such as “You Always” and “You Never”, but know them for what they are: Offense and Hurt Feelings. You have the choice. You don’t have to let them come in. If they’ve already wormed their way into your house, respond to them with the overwhelming goodness of God.
Please understand that I’m not saying don’t answer the doorbell when it rings this season. I’m just saying, look through the peephole first, say a prayer for wisdom, and then decide. OK, stop that! I saw you smiling! Yes, you! If it’s your in-laws, yes, you have to let them in! Really!

Whew! And it’s not even Thanksgiving yet! ~Debbie Bouckley

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. -Psalm 119:165

Heavenly wisdom centers on purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, and other good fruits untainted by hypocrisy. The seed that flowers into righteousness will always be planted in peace by those who embrace peace. -James 3:17-18

You may think that the situation is hopeless, but God gives us more grace when we turn away from our own interests. That’s why Scripture says,God opposes the proud, but He pours out grace on the humble. So submit yourselves to the one true God and fight against the devil and his schemes.If you do, he will run away in failure. Come close to the one true God, and He will draw close to you. -James 4:6-8

But the Eternal’s goodness is not exclusive—it is offered freely to all. His mercy extends to all His creation. -Psalm 145:9

My children, you have come from God and have conquered these spirits because the One who lives within you is greater than the one in this world.- 1 John 4:4

The Thankful Challenge

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This time of year Facebook gets filled with people doing the Thankful Challenge. Each day for November people will post something they are Thankful for.

I have never done this challenge myself because I have made this practice a lifestyle change for me the last several years.
(oh how I wish my diet and exercise were as consistent!)

I read the book “1000 Gifts” by Ann Voskamp a few years back. I also saw a quote or post about what if we were only given today what we were Thankful for yesterday. I was out with my kiddos on a walk ( I recall this moment so vividly in my memories) I asked my twins to name 10 things they were Thankful for. It seemed so easy but instead it was hard. We could name a few but getting to 10 proved more challenging. At first we thought they had to be really big things but then we started listing … Thank You God for nice weather, and for time together, and for our health, and for this walk, and for good shoes, and sunshine, and birds…. We kept listing on and on things big and small we were Thankful for. So that year for Christmas I bought us all spiral notebooks and new pens. We started listing our Daily 10 Thankful’s into our journals. When we are away from home we do it in the car or wherever we are. We go around listing our Thankful’s. I am not quite sure how or when it happened but our family atmosphere shifted. Our hearts began to expand and we could recognize all the wonderful things big and small that we are so blessed with each day. I have filled almost 4 journals now. I keep listing them each day. I challenge you to get yourself, your children, your friends and love ones, a journal. Start your own practice of Thankfulness. It will enlarge your heart and transform your life. ~ XXOO Michelle Bollom

Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; ~ Ephesians 5:20 WBT

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever! ~ Psalm 118:1 AMP

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.~ Colossians 3:15 NLT