Ah, the holidays… For some, the holidays incite a feeling of dread due to family get-togethers that aren't full of peace, but conflict. The elephant in the room sort of experience.
For some, the holidays bring sheer bliss:Decorating, holiday tunes, cooking up special treats, shopping for friends and family, family traditions—all have the ability to transform the mundane into sparkling, magical moments of delight.
Others may experience an onslaught of painful memories of lost loved ones, and once treasured traditions are hijacked by grief. Maybe some are just profoundly aware of the deep loneliness in their souls. Perhaps there is no family or friends with whom to share the joy of the season.
There are many swirling, whirling emotions in the atmosphere. One thing we can remember in this season is that everyone we encounter has a story. We cannot afford to judge others for the brief moment we are sharing space. We need to have grace for one another. Be aware that the stressed out mom behind you in line at the grocery store is trying to manage a load of relatives that are coming from out of town, and she has a house to clean, cooking to do, and her small children aren't cooperating. Be aware that the man that is taking his anger out on the photo lab worker for messing up his order might have just lost a wife and those were pictures of her that he was waiting on.
Be aware of others around you. Look into people's eyes and see them. The Holy Spirit in you wants to show you things: He wants to show you the person nearby that needs a word of encouragement; the person that needs a hug; the person that needs help; the person that needs prayers for peace.
Everywhere we go, we have the ability to release the blessings of the Kingdom. Peace. Joy. Hope. Love. Likewise, everywhere we go, we have the ability to come under some of the swirling emotions that others are releasing. Hopelessness. Anxiety. Anger. Doubt.
Have you ever been in a place where an extremely frustrated individual was being very vocal about his frustration waiting in a long checkout line at a store, and you start to agree with him? You start feeling that same aggravation and irritability? Ever tried staying calm when there are anxious, frightened, or quarreling people all around you? Ever been in a terrible mood and walk into a room of happy, positive people and instantly feel better?
We have to be aware of the atmosphere we are creating and that we are coming under. We have Holy Spirit inside of us to help us navigate this world. He wants to help us overcome the negative atmospheres we encounter in our daily lives. He reminds us that our fight isn't against people, but spiritual powers. I think of them as hijackers. They hijack our atmosphere and bring chaos. They hijack our peace and bring anxiety. They hijack our joy and bring depression.
I don't know about you, but I'm extremely sick and tired of these hijackers. I want to remember who God is, and who I am, so that I can overcome them and release the Kingdom. It's possible. That's the miracle of the gospel. Jesus made it possible for us to overcome these spiritual forces. To not only live in a place of peace, hope, and joy, but to spread it around.
This season, be aware. Be aware of your surroundings.
Are you seeing peace? Joy? Hope?
Or are you seeing the opposite?
If you see the opposite, know that you have a POWERFUL God inside you who equips you to pray against the negativity. To speak to the storm and say, peace, be still.
To end my letter I tell you, be strong in the Lord and in his great power. Wear the full armor of God. Wear God’s armor so that you can fight against the devil’s clever tricks. Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness (emphasis added). We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places. That is why you need to get God’s full armor. Then on the day of evil, you will be able to stand strong. And when you have finished the whole fight, you will still be standing. So stand strong with the belt of truth tied around your waist, and on your chest wear the protection of right living. On your feet wear the Good News of peace to help you stand strong. And also use the shield of faith with which you can stop all the burning arrows that come from the Evil One. Accept God’s salvation as your helmet. And take the sword of the Spirit—that sword is the teaching of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times. Pray with all kinds of prayers, and ask for everything you need. To do this you must always be ready. Never give up. Always pray for all of God’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18, ERV)
Word of the Day:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Holy Spirit, remind us who we are in You. Remind us our struggle is not against people. Remind us to speak life, hope, and love to those around us. Help us look into the eyes of the people around us and see what You see. Help us to respond like You would respond. Fill us with fresh wonder at the gospel message— fresh wonder at the reason for the season. Thank You, Jesus!
Author: Kerri Barfield
You see, I'd like to share my life with you
and show you things I've seen.
Places that I'm going to
and places where I've been.
To have you there beside me and never be alone.
And all the time that you're with me, we will be at home.
Follow me where I go
what I do and who I know.
Make it part of you to be a part of me.
Follow me up and down
all the way and all around.
Take my hand and say you'll follow me.
Oh, that John Denver! He had a way with words. I grew up on listening to John Denver songs, which probably reveals my age, as some of you are thinking who is John Denver? His lyrics so often make me think of Jesus! And lately, my sweet Lord has been speaking to my heart about following Him.
We so often try to forge our own path in life. But the path we need to take has already been forged by Jesus. He has shown us the way to go. He has demonstrated how to get there. He says it's by doing what the Father does (John 5:19). Following God is so simple, yet it can feel so elusive to us at times.
If we struggle with following Jesus and doing what He did, maybe it's because we don't know Him enough. Maybe we need to read and re-read the gospels to see His way of doing life come alive. Maybe we need to sit quiet, heart open, and ask Him what He is doing (1 Corinthians 2:10). Maybe we need to just get out there in the community and practice what we have seen Him do: Heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead.
And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:7-8, AMP)
And if that sounds scary or strange, then maybe just start with being like Him, which is kind, honest, loving, forgiving and openly honest about His hope. There are so many out there waiting to hear and see.
I see lots of moms lately who are checking out. They are medicating, walking away, or just wishing for someone else to do it all. I can understand the urge to be apathetic and have been there a time or two. Honestly, I think we know how to hide really well. Hide from people. Hide from work. Hide from responsibilities. Maybe it's because we are afraid. Maybe we're being selfish. Maybe we're tired. Maybe we don’t know any other way.
Whatever it is, it’s time to come out of hiding and engage in this life we've been given. God promises to be with us and to give us strength. Our children need to witness us making an honest attempt at following God so that they have a visual on how that looks. Sometimes actions speak louder than words. We can tell them all day long to follow God and have them memorize scriptures, but they need to see it, too.
At times, I look at my kids and think, what kind of life will they have one day with all this chaos happening in the world? But that's not a good way to look at things. I should be praying and declaring the promises of God instead. I should be filled with hope and filled with His promise of abundant life—for me and my children. I should be demonstrating a relationship with Jesus, inside and outside the church walls. An intimate, personal relationship with Him that is teaming with His way of life and love.
Everywhere Jesus went, He introduced the Kingdom. The disciples, too, announced the kingdom of heaven is at hand. I think there is something vital for us in that statement. I think we need to announce the kingdom of heaven, not just by preaching it, but by showing people what that looks like. It looks like joy, peace, love. It looks like healing, forgiveness, honor. It looks like salvation, and it's the kind that is available to all through One unending source. We cannot ignore His mandate to follow Him. And the more we know Him, the more we want to follow Him.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21 AMP)
Friends, let’s follow the One who will lead us down the right path. Let’s follow the One who knows the way, walks beside us, and has been down the road before without faltering. Let’s decide now to stay the course, eyes on Him, ears listening for that beautiful voice of truth. Let’s show our children what it looks like to follow our Savior wholeheartedly.
Precious Lord, help us to follow You. We want to know You, and we want to do what You do. We want to look and sound just like our Father in Heaven. Teach us and strengthen us by Your Spirit. In Jesus’ name.
Author: Kerri Barfield
So be happy, people of Zion.
Be joyful in the Lord your God.
He is good and will give you rain.
He will send the early rains and the late rains as before.
If there is one thing we can believe in and put our hope in, it's that the Lord is good. He created us and provides all we need. From the moment of creation, He has provided the created with all it needs. Sun for the plants to grow. Grass for the animals to grow. God hasn't changed. He still provides. But one thing I think we sometimes forget is that He put us in charge of caring for the earth.
Lately, I feel like I'm being walloped by bad news. I look at the news and read about traumatic events such as kidnappings, murders, hunger, war, poverty, school violence. I see lack, dishonesty, addiction, and pain. At times it threatens to overwhelm me because it looms over me like a towering giant. If I'm not careful, I start to slide into a well of discouragement and fear instead of the well of abundant life in the Spirit.
There are at least 66 children in our school that need someone to help provide food for them on the weekends. They would go home and have nothing to eat if it weren't for some pretty special people that collect, fill, and donate bags of food for the students to carry home. That's just one small school. Three grades. There are countless more out there.
Why am I being such a debbie downer? I'm actually not trying to be. I'm trying to flip it around and be the encouraging encourager. God sends the rains. He always has. He provides His creation with all that it needs to survive and even thrive. He sent Jesus to unite us to Himself and to one another. We can make a difference every day if we are willing to carry His kingdom in us and follow His ways.
Recently I watched a video clip of Steve Harvey speaking into a young woman that apparently had fallen into sexual promiscuity. Mr. Harvey looked her straight in her beautiful eyes and told her she was worth so much more. She had value. A future. He took her in his arms like a father should and spoke identity into her. Tears streamed over her cheeks as she listened—as if she were shocked that this was so. This young woman is not the only one who needs to look at herself as worth more than a one-night stand. But Steve Harvey is just one person, and he can't tell every single girl out there. The fields are ripe for a harvest…we need more workers.
He was saying to them, “The harvest is abundant [for there are many who need to hear the good news about salvation], but the workers [those available to proclaim the message of salvation] are few. (Luke 10:2, AMP)
Mr. Harvey stepped on the platform God granted him and spoke life. He spoke life into a drowning soul, pulling her up to the surface for a breath of air. Everyone has a platform of some sort. Maybe it's just encouraging a check-out clerk at the grocery store. Maybe it's helping provide food for the needy. Maybe it's speaking to young men and women, informing them that human trafficking is real and what to look out for to avoid being sucked into that world. Maybe it's fostering or adopting an orphan, or helping a widow. There are countless ways to release the Kingdom of God on this earth. You carry the Spirit of God inside you! With power you can release His peace, His love, His joy!
Our body, be it one under Christ the head, needs to start working together. We need all parts doing their part and working together. If you feel like you are just a thumb and have less impact or less importance, think again. God created the body perfectly. He created it with purpose and intent. It really doesn't matter if you are the thumb or the knee or the shoulder or the spine. Every part is necessary and influential.
There are so many needs in our communities and there are so many reasons we want to close our eyes to them. But we need to start opening our eyes! We cannot afford to shrink in fear. We cannot afford to do nothing. We have to start living as a community and working together to bring God's Kingdom to earth. Light and love and beauty could spread like wildfire if we would begin to believe in His goodness and share our hope and resources with those around us.
He sends the rains and the rains nourish the earth. His goodness is our hope. His salvation is coming. Will we be the one that invested our talents and doubled them? Or will we be the one that buried them?
Oh,Spirit, come and fill us! Come and lead us in the way we should go. Give us power to take back what the enemy has been stealing. Give us power to make a change and take a stand. Give us strategies to see where you've planted us and how we can invest in the lives of those around us. Show us who we are and what we're meant to do. You said we should follow You, so show us where and how and when.
Author: Kerri Barfield
It was dirt roads and wide open spaces. It was riding ponies with my sister, cousins, and a girl up the street—no saddles. Up and down the empty roads…across the fields… a glorious sense of freedom. Our horses' powerful legs pounding steadily over the ground, manes blowing in the breeze. The sun was on our shoulders, and the air clean in our lungs. We felt larger than life upon the backs of our trusted equine friends.
Our senses have a way of transporting us back in time, don't they? For me it's the smell of freshly mown fields or a sunrise spilling over a tree line that causes the morning dew to sparkle. It's John Denver songs that have me sitting at my dad's feet all over again as he strums his guitar and sings, "Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong…"
This morning, it was the wind. It reminded me of the way it felt when I rode my horse
and the wind would blow in my ears. My chin quivered and the tears rolled as I sat in quiet reflection. It made me think of the family farm where I grew up and about my family and the physical distance that now separates us. It made me think about simpler times, about the loss of my dad, and about how I got to where I am now.
My tears did not flow from a place of unhappiness with my now, but simply out of a nostalgia from the sweet memories of my then. Time has moved me onward to new places, but the past is carried along within, reminding me from where I came.
We learn from the past. We see what worked and what didn't. We see what formed our beliefs or even tainted our thought patterns, which then influenced our choices. Not all the memories of my youth are pleasant ones, as I'm sure you can probably relate. There were some hard things, too. There were moments of wounding and personal failures that made scars across my heart. I carry those, too, though they don't hurt like they once did. I lived them, and I learned from them. I learned to forgive, and I healed. Mostly, I encountered a living, loving God that helped me find the freedom and healing I didn't even know I needed.
Painful experiences have a way of drowning out the positive ones. I'm convinced that we have to begin looking at the past through the lens of forgiveness in order to move forward. We need forgiveness of self and forgiveness of others. Our pasts don’t change, but our perspectives do.
Without forgiveness, we are in danger of living in a seemingly unrelenting past, and I don't believe that's where God wants us to live. The deceiver spins his web of lies that can take over our thought life. We start thinking things like, that person hurt me, so I won't trust again, or, I won't try again because last time I failed. We end up being led around by fear, anger, or hopelessness because we believe the lie that our past dictates our future.
What I once thought were irretrievable possessions, irrevocable mistakes, or immovable mountains, God began to show me were restorative, forgivable, moveable. The giants that seemed so huge were no longer giants but were brought back down to scale. Just as David sang in Psalm 124:2, "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side…" I'm with David! I can attest to the saving hand of God. I can recall moments from my past where I might have been lost for good, had He not rescued me and protected me.
God demonstrates movement through His word. The woman that was caught in adultery and brought before Jesus comes to mind. After that whole exchange before her accusers, she was left alone with Jesus with no one left to condemn her. Jesus told her to go, and sin no more. The accusers left because they saw they had no right to judge her with the knowledge of their own sin fresh on their minds, thanks to Jesus. And when Jesus released the woman, He simply said “go and stop sinning.” It was movement out of the past and into the present. Permission to drop the condemnation and shame and move forward with her life.
Ultimately, I think we need to find a way to move out of our captivating past and begin living in our present. It starts through forgiveness. What does that look like? The testimony of Jesus paints the purest picture of forgiveness one could ever dream up. He knew no sin, yet took all sin upon Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21). He carried our sin straight to Calvary. He saw the joy set before Him.
...we should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fall. We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy he could see waiting for him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne. Think about Jesus. He patiently endured the angry insults that sinful people were shouting at him. Think about him so that you won’t get discouraged and stop trying. (Hebrews 12:1-3, ERV)
Lord Jesus, You knew what needed to be done, and You did it. You are our perfect example to set our sights on. Encounter after encounter, You showed forgiveness. The woman caught in the act of adultery…the disciple that disowned You…the mockers that scorned You…the criminal that hung next to You... the list goes on and on, story after story. Forgiveness is a legacy for us to take hold of and a heritage to pass down to future generations. Thank You for being so kind and so good and so steady. Amen.
Author: Kerri Barfield
"He sent His word and healed them, and rescued them from their destruction."
This is one of my favorites. A verse that speaks volumes to my heart. The Lord had me insert my name in this verse to remind me that His truth is for me—and for all of us who receive it. He sent His word and healed Kerri, and rescued her from her destruction. You should try it, too. Personalize it, because scripture is personal. God is speaking through His word to each one of us. What is He saying to you?
Sometimes we need to see our story within The Story. Then things start to make sense. He starts to reveal the mysterious plans He has for us…plans for a hope and a future. We start to understand ourselves a little more, accept ourselves a little easier.
We begin to see that if He could forgive us, maybe we should forgive, too; if He loves us, maybe we should love each other; if He served instead of being served, maybe we should be serving others; if He healed all the sick, maybe we should be laying hands on the sick—believing His heart to heal is the same today as it was then. Believing Holy Spirit is in us. Jesus said in John 14:12, “I can assure you that whoever believes in me will do the same things I have done. And they will do even greater things than I have done, because I am going to the Father."
When the Good Shepherd sought me out and brought me into His pasture, I began to feed on His word. And I had a big appetite! It was as if I had been literally starving without it. Out of that came a fierce devotion to the Word of God…to know His truth. I wanted to know what He was doing...what He was saying. I wanted to know His story. I wanted to understand what I was experiencing…this overwhelming love and peace and joy.
I knew I was different because of Him. But I didn't really know Him yet. So God asked me to carry His word inside of me, like He instructed the Israelites to write it on their hearts, door frames, and gates.
Always remember these commands that I give you today. Be sure to teach them to your children. Talk about these commands when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road. Talk about them when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them on your hands and wear them on your foreheads to help you remember my teachings. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
Let the spoken word of Christ have its home within you [dwelling in your heart and mind—permeating every aspect of your being] as you teach [spiritual things] and admonish and train one another with all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16, AMP)
His Word creates, teaches, corrects, heals, transforms, equips, protects, comforts, and saves. It gives us life. It holds all things together. It reminds us who we are and where we came from. It reminds us of our heritage. It reminds us of our finish line up ahead. The word is a companion as we journey through this life, teaching us who we were made to be, where we were meant to go.
In the same way, my words leave my mouth, and they don’t come back without results. My words make the things happen that I want to happen. They succeed in doing what I send them to do. (Isaiah 55:11)
God wants to speak to you and nourish your entire being. Feed upon His word like a sheep feeds upon the grass of its pasture. Begin by asking the Holy Spirit to guide you. Understand that God adores you and has plans for you to be a part of His story. He sent forth His Word to heal and rescue you. Jesus was the Word made flesh (John 1:14). God sent Jesus to heal and rescue. Jesus did His job and ascended into heaven, leaving His Spirit with us and in us. What does He want you to do with that? Just start a dialogue…He loves to talk to you!
Jesus, You are amazing! You were sent to heal and rescue Your sheep, and You did everything You were sent for. We need only receive and believe. So today, renew our commitment to You. Help us delve into Your word and drink from the living water that gushes out. Ignite a fire in us to consume Your truth as if our very lives depends upon it. For it does! Father, fill our hearts with joy as we see Your plans unfold and begin to see the things we were created for. Thank You for bringing such meaning and purpose to our lives! Amen!
Author: Kerri Barfield