Friday, 30 March 2012
Bellows for Christ

When you hear the word “bellow,” what do you think about?

Do you think of it as a verb that states is:
1. to emit a hollow, loud, animal cry, as a bull or cow.
2. to roar; bawl: bellowing with rage.
3. to utter in a loud deep voice.

Or do you think of it as a noun:

1. a device for producing a strong current of air, consisting of a chamber that can be expanded to draw in air through a valve and contracted to expel it through a tube.
2. anything resembling or suggesting bellows  in form, as the collapsible part of a camera or enlarger.

While it can be a good thing to yell sometimes to get the stress relief we need, that’s not what this message is about.  I am referring to the noun version described above.

What is the purpose of a bellows? It is used by blacksmiths and others to increase the flames of fire—to increase the heat to get the desired temperature with which to work on the project.

How does it work? It seems complicated at first glance, but when you read the definition, the idea is simple: It inhales oxygen in one tube by pulling the handles apart and exhales it back out when pressed together.

Now replace the bellows with yourself.  How are we built similar to a bellows?  In Genesis 2:7, we are told “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (KJV).  God has given us breath, but we can choose when to inhale.  What implications does this fact have on our lives?

It means we can choose what we breathe in (i.e. God’s Word vs. the world), but eventually we will have to exhale or we die.  What will we exhale?  We will exhale whatever we have chosen to breathe into our spiritual lungs. 
The old saying “you are what you eat” could easily be changed to “you are what you breathe” in this case.  What you watch, listen to, or read has a great effect on your outlook on life and how you react to situations around you.  What happens when you mix Wordly and worldly together in your life?  In James 3:10-12, we are warned that “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh” (KJV).  We need to choose to have the Wordly mindset; aka things of Christ.
Why is it so important to have the things of God breathed into our life?  God is the blacksmith trying to increase the heat of His children’s relationship with Him.  He tends to use His other children to be used as the bellows.  If we have worldly things breathed into us, all we are going to be breathing onto others is a worldly breath (i.e. man’s knowledge and solutions).  However, if we have His Wordly breath in us (i.e. His Scripture and a strong relationship with Him), then we will be able to be successful bellows.

I don’t know about you, but when God wants to use me, I’d like to be successful.  That way, I know I’m doing my part in building His Kingdom and obeying His Will for my life.

Posted on 03/30/2012 8:35 AM by Jim Fershee
Friday, 23 March 2012
Getting Personal
“That really hit home.”

“I know you were writing this for me.”

“Gives me something to think about.”

These are examples of comments on blog articles written in the last couple of years. In fact, March 23 marks the two year anniversary of the blog on our church website. When I started writing for it back in 2010, I wondered if I could keep it up for six months. I wondered if anyone would read it or even care. Then I reminded myself that if God was in it, then it would continue and it would make an impact. I just had to be faithful in doing my part.

I have to admit that I really like when people make comments, because it encourages me. Many times people who comment don’t do so on the web site. Instead they sometimes send me a personal email to let me know how the message ministered to them. Lately, people have been sharing a link to the web blog on their Facebook page. That is really exciting, because it means they are sharing it with a bunch of other people that I don’t know and couldn’t reach.

Looking back over the various articles (this one will be number 77), some received several comments while others didn’t get any. It seems like the ones that receive the most comments are those in which I let down my guard and shared personal information, whether it be about grief, a heart breaking experience, how I feel I fall short of where I need to be, how my family drives me nuts sometimes (LOL) . . . the feelings and challenges of every day life. These are things we all go through, but it always seems to make us feel better when we know that we are not alone and that we are not crazy for feeling the way we do.

In other words, with God’s help I have been able to establish an intimacy with the readers of these articles. That’s something every writer tries to do. But in order to do so, you have to be open. You have to share your personal space and let people into your heart, and it is easier said than done. I have always considered myself to be a private person. I don’t usually share it all, even with my closest friends. I play things close to the vest. I have tried to be more of a listener for others than one who has to spill her guts about everything . . . that was until I started writing about the things of God and then, for some reason, I became this open book.

Luke 10:16
“He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”

Most people who hold back from sharing their personal thoughts and feelings do so because of the fear of rejection. We think that if people know what we are thinking or feeling or going through, they will either laugh or turn away from us. But it is actually the sharing of those personal experiences that bridges the gaps between us and brings us into closer, more intimate relationships.

When it comes to witnessing to the lost about salvation through Jesus Christ, we can’t hold back. I believe that sharing our personal experience with Jesus is paramount to our success in winning the unsaved. It is one thing to tell people who He is – you could relay that in a very informative way that would certainly be educational. But in order to really make an impact, that information has to be coupled with your personal experience. 1 Peter 3:15 says that we should “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”.  How did you come to know Jesus as your Savior? How has He helped you and changed your life? This is the information that is really going to reach people and lead them into a personal relationship with God.

Consider the example of the Apostle Paul (read in detail in Acts 9). He started out as Saul, a well-educated and steadfast Pharisee who saw the early Christians as a threat that needed to be eradicated. Anyone who proclaimed faith in Jesus was arrested and often killed. (Read about the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7.) While on the way to Damascus to round up those troublesome Christians, Paul had his own personal encounter with Jesus, and he was never the same after that. He was so changed that even his name changed! He was a new creature in Christ. And everywhere he went, he preached about Christ and he shared the life-changing experience that he had on the road to Damascus. It wasn’t just about what he believed, but why he believed it.

We have to be the same in our Christian witness. We need to be able to state what we believe, but it is equally important to share why. Fear of rejection or persecution has to be cast aside. Remember the words of Jesus in Luke 10 that if people reject us, they are really rejecting Him and the Father. In Matthew 10:28, Jesus also tells us: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

As Christians, we know that it is our obligation to share our testimony and tell others about Christ. But knowing it and doing it are two different things. Believe me -- I know how hard it can be to try to talk to family or friends. It can be awkward and uncomfortable at times. You try to bring it up in conversation casually or make an upfront, direct appeal, only to get brushed off. But sometimes they listen, even if it is for a few moments. I have loved writing for this blog because I have unsaved family and friends who have been reading it. I can say things to them through the written word that I often don’t get to say in person. And since I know that God’s word will not go and return void (Isaiah 55:11), I know that it is having an impact on everyone who hears it. Accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior has totally changed my life and brought me a peace and joy that I never knew before, and that’s what I want for all my family and friends.

And so I will keep writing and sharing for as long as the Lord directs me. I do it for Him and not for any accolades or glory of my own. I do it in the hopes that something that is written here will open the heart of someone and give them a desire to know Christ. I am bringing in others to write for the blog as well, because God says it is time to do so. They have personal experiences with Christ that are different from mine. They can share those experiences and reach people that I haven’t. I hope that you will read them, as well. Make comments and pass the articles on to others. It’s time to get personal about our relationship with Jesus.
Posted on 03/23/2012 8:27 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 16 March 2012
Don't Worry, Be Happy
Matthew 6:33-34
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

My neighbor called several days ago with a heads up on local gas prices. He wanted to let me know that the price had jumped to $3.95 in the downtown Charleston area, but it was still $3.79 at our local station a few miles away. His purpose in calling was a practical one that I appreciated – he wanted to save me some money. Also, there was apparently a rush on the local station, as people were sitting in line to fill up before the price changed. I had filled up the night before, so I already had a tank of $3.79 gas in my car. A few days later, the prices at our local station did catch up with those downtown.

What surprised me most about his phone call was my internal reaction to it. My heart and mind began to race and I grew anxious about the news. Like a lot of people, we have had some rough financial times. The price on everything has gone up. I just paid one of the largest electric bills we’ve ever had and this was one of the mildest winters we’ve had in years. What would it have been if it were cold and snowy the last few months? An increase in gas prices means having to adjust the budget even more to stretch our dollars. We’ve cut back on so many things – would there be anything left to cut back?

Philippians 5:6-7
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Fortunately, I realized that I was allowing myself to worry and I needed to stop. Worry and I go way back. I used to be a terrible worrier. I used to worry about everything and everybody. But worry doesn’t get you anywhere. It eats away at your peace and it steals your joy. Back in the late 1980s, Bobby McFerrin had a song on the radio (one of those songs that you can’t get out of your head when you hear it) called “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” One of the lines says, “In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double.” When you worry, it doesn’t help the situation but it adds to it by stressing your mind and your physical health.

Psalms 37:25
I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread.

My friends and I were talking about the gas prices and one of them quoted this verse from Psalms 37. We weren’t going to let this worry us, because we know the One who supplies all our needs, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). When I look back over the last few years and examine our circumstances versus where we are today, I am amazed by the goodness of God. Yes, times have been tough. We’ve had to tighten our belts and make changes to our lifestyle. But even that shouldn’t have been enough to keep us where we are. God has made a way where there didn’t seem one. Whenever we’ve had a need, it has been met. Does that mean that we got everything we wanted? No – but we’ve learned the difference between needs and wants.

Today it is the gas prices going up, but tomorrow it could be something else. One of my parents at work told me that her summer day care provider had raised its rates 50 percent and that she was really going to miss me (our afterschool program, that is). I don’t know what tomorrow might bring, but I am not going to worry about it. I am going to trust in the Lord and His provision. And we will keep doing our part – earning a paycheck and managing the resources we have to the best of our abilities and counting on God for the rest (and having done all, to stand).

“’Cause when you worry your face will frown, and that will bring everybody down. So don’t worry, be happy.” :)
Posted on 03/16/2012 7:59 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 9 March 2012
Father Knows Best
I was reaching my boiling point as I walked through the house picking up dirty clothes and carrying dirty dishes back to the kitchen. “What is wrong with these people?!” I was speaking aloud to no one, except the dog and cats, who really didn’t care.  “These people” are my husband and daughter. “What can’t they put their clothes in the hamper? Why can’t they carry their dishes to the sink? Why can’t they help keep this place cleaner?” I grumbled and pouted and contemplated going on strike.

In the midst of my hissy fit, God reminded me of a conversation we had years ago. Emma was little and I had become a stay-home mom by that time. I was having some health issues and I was afraid I might have heart problems. It turned out to be some other things that were causing me to have rapid heart beat and symptoms that mimic heart problems, and a few simple changes to my diet and medications corrected the problem. However, when I was first going through this, it had me scared. I prayed and asked God to heal me so that I could live to take care of my family and see my daughter grow up. He did and I was happy to get back to being a wife and mother full time. I did everything around the house, inside and out (except for cutting grass). It was often exhausting, but I felt like it was what I needed to do, especially given that I had asked God for the job.

“You wanted to take care of your family,” He reminded me.

“Yes, but I didn’t intend to become the maid and pick up after them nonstop,” I protested. “Surely they could do something!”

“And whose fault is that?” He asked.

I had to stop and think about that one. When I started staying home with Emma, I had all day to devote to taking care of her and taking care of all the household chores. When she was in third grade, I went back to work part time, so I didn’t have as much time to devote to household work. By that time, they were used to me doing it all, and I really didn’t ask for things to change. I was the one who had spoiled them. I was the one who allowed this to happen. I was the one who kept trying to do it all in less time because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do.

Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

The reality was that I was doing them and myself a disservice. By doing it all for them, I was allowing them to become slovenly and dependent. And truthfully, they had also become unappreciative and took the work I do for granted. What if something did happen to me? This place would become uninhabitable within a week! All joking aside, I knew that this was especially bad for my daughter. In less than four years, she will be out of school and off to pursue her life as an adult. Waiting on her hand and foot was not a good preparation for life. I learned that part of “taking care of” her was also teaching her how to take care of herself. So things have been starting to change and I am holding her more accountable and making her do more for herself. She is even learning to cook a little. I spent a lot of years spoiling them, so I know it will take some time to retrain!

Often, we act like spoiled children with our Heavenly Father. We want Him to take care of our problems and work everything out for our good with very little or no effort on our part, but thankfully our Heavenly Father knows best. He knows that it wouldn’t be good for us if He did everything and we did nothing. We would never learn anything and we would never grow. We would become spiritually lazy and eventually become stagnate. But if we step forward in faith, working through our problems with God and in a Godly manner, God will see and honor that. He will work things out for our good.

For example, let’s say you wanted to buy a home and you prayed and asked God to find you a perfect home – great location, ideal amenities, and affordable price. Do you then sit home and wait for a realtor to call you? Sure it could happen like that, because we know that all things are possible with God. But more than likely, you are going to have to start looking at real estate listings or perhaps find a realtor to help you search. You trust that God will be with you and guide you through the process, but you have to take the first step.

Here’s a more spiritual example. Let’s say that you want more of God in your life. You want to have a deeper understanding of His Word and grow stronger in your spiritual gifts. Do you plop down in front of the television and just wait for that to download into your brain and your spirit? God also wants you to have that deeper understanding and relationship, but He isn’t just going to snap His fingers and it is done. You are going to have to invest your time in prayer, fasting and studying (not just reading) of the Word. When God sees that you are making that investment, He will give you what you are seeking.

We have to quit treating God like He is the genie in Aladdin’s lamp. It makes us unappreciative and we take Him for granted. Philippians 2:12 tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. James encourages us to be doers of the word and not just hearers. Ephesians 6:13 says that having done all, we should stand. God does have our best interests at heart. He does have a plan for our lives and works things out for our good. But we cannot just sit around idle. We have to do our part in this relationship with Him. And when we have done all (and done it in a Godly way), then we can stand in faith, knowing that God will take care of the rest.

Posted on 03/09/2012 7:27 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 2 March 2012
Change is In The Air
On Friday, Feb. 24, 2012, at 1:21 a.m., I was walking into the house, just back from staying with my mom until my brother got home from work, when I heard something that surprised me. It was the sound of frogs. That sound was a sure sign that Spring is on its way, that change is about to take place, and that some change has already begun.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Although the leaves are beautiful, Fall has such a sadness about it to me. Everything that once was beautiful and alive is dying. The sap goes out of the trees, the leaves fall, the flowers die, and a depression creeps around. Then in comes Winter, where the snow blows, the days get shorter, and it’s cold. This is a time to rest, because you cannot get out and do very much. Sometimes we get cabin fever, as they say, from where we have to stay in so long. Thankfully, this winter has not been very bad. I am not saying that I do not like some of the Fall and Winter because I do. I enjoy Christmas because we rejoice in the Savior’s birth and Jesus is “the Reason for the Season.” However, from that point until Spring, time seems to go so slow. 

Then finally, you see and hear signs that Spring is on its way. You begin to see signs of new life. I know my neighbors have had robins in their yards, and we have heard frogs and birds singing their praises unto their creator and our Savior. Gone is the feeling of depression and in its place comes hope. Gone is the feeling of death and in comes life.  Change is taking place. Change is in the air, along with the fresh smell of rain and flowers. Even though we have a hard time letting go of the old dead things in our lives, God has a whole new world for us to explore and be apart of. When we come out of our slumber, doubt disappears and renewal enters. Oh, to be able to just breathe in deeply and be able to know that God has kept us through yet another season in our lives is so wonderful.

When we trust God with everything in our lives, we see healing for our families -- spiritual, emotional, and physical. We find the strength through Him to take another step.  We hear Him telling us which way to go and all God asks from us is to trust and believe in Him. The winds of change are blowing in our lives and in our church. The dead things have been shaken off, we have been pruned, and God says, “Now is the time for New Growth, His Growth”! May He find us praying for the winds of change to continue within us so we can be what He wants us to be to the church, our neighbors, our family and our friends.  Also, we need to be reaching out to the unwanted and the rejected, giving them a new hope and helping them to receive their renewal in Him. Remember it is not about us but about Him and His will for our lives. Be blessed!

Written by Melinda Smith, Minister of Music at Spirit Life Fellowship.

Posted on 03/02/2012 10:12 AM by Melinda Smith
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