New Hope

1 Peter 1:3-4:  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope (LIVING HOPE!) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade- (NEVER FADE! A hope that is living and always new!!)

I remember a time as a child when I made a not-so-bright choice. I really don’t know how it all started, but I looked down at my feet having noticed I had stepped on something on my way up from the backyard (it was the neighbor's aluminum rain gutter) and it crunched ever so perfectly under my foot. Something caught my curiosity and I stepped on it again and the same amazing flattening crunch happened! So, like Eve in the garden I called my little brother over to join me in this amazing “science experiment!” We laughed and giggled with each hop-crunch, hop-crunch until the entire rain gutter spout was COMPLETELY flattened… like a pancake. Just in time for our dad to come round the corner of the house. Our glee turned immediately to shame as the reality of what we had just done hit us full force.

Now there is no one on earth more graciously patient than our dad. After our consequence was doled out, the day went on. Actually, the rest of that day we spent working on a replacement piece for the neighbor’s home. However, AFTER that day, we moved on.

This incident reminded me of the juxtaposition of the events ending Numbers 14 and beginning Numbers 15. The Israelites were just handed the punishment of wandering in desert for 40 years in chapter 14 due to their doubt in God. He promised to lead them successfully into the Promised Land but they were too afraid to go, doubting the ability of God. However, chapter 15 begins with God giving instructions for when they DO enter the land He would still give them 40 years from then! God in His grace doled out their just punishment and had moved on, just like that.

How often do we get stuck in our past sin (much to the devil's delight) and forget that God has forgiven us and longs for us to move forward with Him? In Jesus there is NEW HOPE every day. He is in the business of making all things new and creating beauty from ashes. If He is making our hearts beat He still has a purpose for you and I, despite our many failings. A purpose in which we can still bring Him glory with our life!

Believe Jesus for this new hope today, and then again tomorrow and then again the next day… YOU CAN NOT, HAVE NOT FAILED TO WHERE HIS BLOOD SHED FOR YOU ON THE CROSS WILL NOT ATONE FOR YOU when you sincerely repent and move on. As my dad would say, “The sun is still gonna rise tomorrow.” Let’s rise with the Son!

Independent Read: Isaiah 43:19, Isaiah 61:3, Psalm 147:11, Romans 5:1-6, 2 Peter 3:8-9, Lamentations 3:21-23

Jeanette Kieffer
Author

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Shine

Seeking to discover purpose in life is perhaps the greatest of all human quests. It is the central thematic backdrop to each stage of our lives.

Our Father hand-crafted the human race on purpose, with significant purpose. As believers in Jesus Christ, coming to a greater understanding of what that purpose is comprised of is vital to the effectiveness of our pursuit in walking with Him. The stage is set and as the encounters of everyday life are writing the script, understand this--your very reflection will lead you into the light of your ordained purpose.

The term “Phototaxis” is the natural instinctto be affected by light sources. Having positive phototaxis means you are attracted to light, while negative phototaxis means you avoid it. At night, insects use natural light sources, such as the moon and stars, to navigate through the world. Bugs and moths have been found to follow the moon to stay upright, fly straight, and remain oriented. It is certainly a matter of life or death. So, in other words, the light IS the very source of navigation.

Light sustains life.

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus is delivering the Sermon on the Mount when He makes one of the most profound statements of purpose to believers everywhere:

“You are the light of the world-like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (NLT)

In a world that aches to feel worthy, it is not simply suggested to shine the light that is created within you--Jesus commands it! Your purpose begins and rests in the image you were created in.

There are no limits to the mission field and your life is your ministry. In an age where we often rely on GPS to ensure our arrival at the next destination, trying to navigate this life without the light of Christ will leave you lost and confused.

The greatest accomplishment is to be mistaken for Jesus Himself. Who needs His light today?

Is it you?

Stefanie Calens
loveSTRONG Ministries

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Spilled Paint

But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded. 2 Chronicles 15:7

Recently I decided to do a few home renovations including repainting the master bathroom. No biggie, right?! However this led to the need for replacing the flooring, after the paint bucket slipped off the potty and landed... upside down. This event led to challenging my application of my knowledge of the fruit of the Spirit.

I took a few deep calming breaths and got to thinking about how that can of paint got to be that nice shade of green (that now covered not only the walls, but my bathroom floor AND toilet). At the store the paint man started with a clear base and began squirting all sorts of colors into it. Then the can was placed into the giant shaker mixer thing that my young kids love to watch do its magic. When it's done being shaken the paint man takes the can out and reveals that somehow all the magic squirts have mixed and made it to every part of the can so that the entire clear base is now the beautiful shade I had chosen! Magic!

Such is like the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We often need to get shaken up in order to surrender and allow the Holy Spirit access to ALL the places in our lives. (Not just the easy parts, like BEFORE you spill the paint.) When we do allow God into EVERY area, we find out that actually God's idea--His color choice--for our lives is actually the most beautiful.

Independent Read: Proverbs 24:10, Jeremiah 12:5, Galatians 6:10-11, Galatians 5:22-23

Janette Keiffer
Author

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Throw Off What Entangles

I only run when I'm chased and I've never done any competitive swimming but I know one thing: you're faster when you don't have anything holding you back. Some swimmers even shave their entire bodies just to cut down on the extra friction. Runners typically wear as little clothing as possible-often just skimpy running shorts and their shoes! (Oh, yes, now I remember why I don't swim or run.)

I imagine a scantily-clad runner when I read this verse:

Hebrews 12:1-3 New International Version (NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

I also picture long-lost loved ones being reunited and throwing aside their bag or jacket so they can get to each other faster. Or when a boat starts to sink and all the non-essentials are thrown overboard.

Then I think about what's holding ME back from living my best life for God--the kind where I'm unencumbered by things like bad habits, unhealthy relationships, past mistakes, the clutter of too much stuff or projects that are no longer worth my energy.

I know for me, I can so easily be tangled up in obligation and old ways of thinking. If my eyes were truly fixed on Jesus and I was focused on running MY race, the one marked out for me...there's a lot I could throw off.

All of us are held back in different ways. I know I get distracted by over thinking and busyness. Procrastination prevents me from getting started and perfectionism keeps me from finishing but I love the rest of Hebrews 12:1-3:

...For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

There is joy set before us, too. Jesus endured so much yet never grew weary or lost heart. We can remember that when we feel like we're buried and things will never improve. He is on the throne and in control so I don't have to be. I just need to keep my eyes on Him and keep running, skimpy shorts and all.

Tabitha Dumas
Author

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Flourish Spring Event Top 10 Questions & Answers

1.  What do you get?
  • Giveaways - It's always fun to win a prize and we have fun giving prizes!
  • Catered Lunch - Arizona Broadway Theater is our caterer.
  • Speaker - Cherie Wagner is an insightful author and speaker.
  • Music - Dianne Michelle creates a beautiful atmosphere with her music.
  • Silent Auction - It's fun to bid (and win!) auction items and the money supports the ministry.

2.  What is the refund policy?
We are sorry but unable to refund money for unused tickets.

3.  Can I transfer my ticket?
Yes!  If something happens and you can't go, please just give all the information to another woman.  After March 22 we won't be able to change the lunch choice, however. (Your replacement will enjoy your lunch choice!)

4.  Do I need to bring my ticket?
You sure don't.  When you arrive the check-in list will have your name on it.

5.  What are the lunch choices?
Oh, it's going to be a tasty lunch!  Here are your yummy choices:
Grilled Chicken Salad - Gluten Free Option - Lightly seasoned chicken breast, mandarin oranges, green beans and slivered almonds on a bed of mixed greens; served with a Gluten Free house-made raspberry vinaigrette.

Bacon, Tomato & Turkey Sandwich - Thinly sliced oven-roasted turkey breast, maple cured bacon, green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and mayonnaise, all on a flaky croissant and served with a fruit cup.

6.  What do I wear?
Clothes, of course!  🙂  Casual or business casual is what everyone usually wears.

7.  Is there childcare?
Your littles will have to be cared for somewhere else.  There aren't accommodations for child care.  (You need a time out anyway!)

8.  How old do I need to be to attend?
Any age from 18 years old to ..........

9.  When does registration end?
It absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt ends at midnight on March 22.

10.  Why do I need to register?
It's all about knowing how many tables to have ready, how much food to be prepared, and how many giveaways to have wrapped.

Pray First

I recently heard a speaker teach on what it is really like to tend a vineyard and how it relates to much of what we hear about in the Bible. When I came across this particular passage during my morning quiet time it popped right off of the page for me because of what I just learned. I love when that happens!

In Isaiah 5:1-2 it says…

“My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.
He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.”  

Let’s start at the beginning. First, the planter chose a fertile hillside, dug it up and cleared it of rocks. Sounds like the right thing to do, right? Nope. What I learned is that grape vines need really rocky soil so the roots are made to grow down to a rich water source. The planter did what he thought was right in his own eyes (or what a farmer would do in any other farm field) but it wasn’t right in this situation. He was trying to avoid problems or obstacles in his path. He didn’t consult the Lord.

Next up, he built a watchtower and a winepress as well. He was so sure that what he was doing was the right thing to do that he planned a future around his first decision! That turned out to be a mistake. Don’t we sometimes do this ourselves?

Lastly, he looked for his harvest but only found bad fruit. Why was that? When we don’t consult the Lord in the beginning stages of a decision and instead rely on ourselves, we won’t produce His fruit even though producing His fruit is all we really want in the end, right?

Later on in chapter 9 of Isaiah, verse 21 says “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” I’m not sure about you, but I want to be considered wise in God’s eyes – not my own.

My prayer is that each of us will consult the Lord before we begin so that in the end we produce only His fruit.

Jenn Texidor
loveSTRONG Ministries

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Faithful Love

At 2:00am everything becomes a prayer of deliverance, a challenge, and an excuse to get angry at God.

The dog won’t stop barking. You could stop it but you won’t.

The baby is crying again and you could give her peace so we can both get rest, but you won’t. 

I’m coming down with a cold you could heal me of but you won’t.

 I can’t sleep. I can’t stop worrying or crying. 

I find myself stuck somewhere between depressed and furious. You could make everything better, but you won’t. 

God is never more powerful than when we accuse him of being unwilling. Luckily Jesus doesn’t let us bully him into giving us our way. We beg God for a break, for rest, for sleep, for peace, for love, for money, for healing. We rage at him about our pain, all the while holding onto it desperately. We rationalize that we are only asking for what we have earned. We refuse to let our earthly demands go and lean on Him for all our needs.  If we actually accepted that God was there during a difficult time, we couldn’t blame Him. So, we start marking up a score card of our own creation, asking God, "Where were you here? Where were you there? Where were you when this happened?" whining about how we did our part, upheld our side of the bargain--a bargain that God didn’t ask for or agree to. We say, “I went to church, I helped, I tithed, I served, I listened, I, I, I. God, you promised but you didn’t come through.”

Our favorite time to go to God is when we think we are owed something, when we can’t see him working in our lives because we haven’t sat down and shut up long enough to notice. But like the most loving and patient parent, Jesus is waiting for our tantrum to end and for our complaining and bargaining to be over so the he can show us that our prayers have been answered.

We didn’t get exactly what we wanted but we got exactly what we needed.
The faithful love of the Lord never ends.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)

Huni McGee
Author

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A Step Above The One Below

Two years ago, I bought a Fitness Tracker that syncs to my phone and records my daily activity.  My tracker runs on a watch battery and is fully waterproof allowing me to wear it 24/7.  The only time I take it off is to move it to my ankle when I’m biking and treadmill walking. I want every step to count!  The difference it makes wearing it on my ankle versus my wrist during workouts is roughly15,000 steps.

A few weeks ago, after I’d completed a grueling two-hour workout, I realized I’d neglected to transfer my fitness band to my ankle. Checking my wrist, I was disappointed to see I’d only recorded slightly over 4,000 steps; a mere fraction of an average workout.  Feeling crushed, it felt as if the last two hours were a complete waste of time – like I’d done nothing at all.

I nursed my anger for a bit until it dawned on me that not having a high number on my tracker in no way negated the work I’d done. My effort was the same with or without an activity number validation. My body benefitted from the exercise just the same.

Not for the first time, I’d been duped by the enemy whose sole job is to negate everything positive in our daily lives.

The enemy likes to minimize the good we do in life while maximizing our faults and failures. He taunts us into believing that our volunteer time is too little; our tithing inefficient or sporadic; our Bible study or daily devotions are ineffective; our prayers too lame or our church attendance irregular. All of these negative signals can make us feel as if our salvation is sketchy at best.

Satan wants us to believe that whatever we are doing for the Lord is all for naught and we are wasting our time.  But I like to say that just because I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast three weeks ago doesn’t discount the fact that my meal provided nourishment for my physical body. In the same way, each time we give to the Lord – be it through Scripture reading, volunteering our time, the giving of our finances or encouraging someone who is struggling -- we are feeding our spiritual body, and God is pleased with us.

So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT)

While we may have a powerful enemy, we have an even more powerful Savior who reminds us that “Greater is He that is in us, than He that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) If you hear the enemy whisper that you are wasting your time with spiritual pursuits, feel free to tell him, “Get behind me, Satan!”  Anything we do for the Lord is a good thing!

Kathy Kurlin
Author

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Wisemen Already Deployed

You are under a curse–your whole nation–because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. Malachi 3:10

Do we really think God would have any trouble filling His home with food?! I’m pretty sure the God who spoke the universe into existence never has to worry about running out of any resource. So, if we can’t rob God in that sense, I've come to think we can rob ourselves out of the blessings He longs to lavish on us.

In Leviticus 12 it says that a burnt offering of a lamb is to be brought to the Lord after childbirth. However, if a lamb cannot be afforded God allowed for two doves instead. Never think what is in your hand is too little to be of value when offered to the Lord.

Now jump forward to Joseph and Mary after the birth of Jesus in Luke 2. It seems they were too poor to bring a lamb and offered two doves. In faith Joseph offered the little that he had. He could easily have rationalized with God… “God I need to raise Your Son! I need all the money I can get and I really do not have much as it is! God You saw He was just born in a stable! I need these two doves to provide! You understand, right God!?!” But that is not what Joseph said. In faith Joseph offered all that he had.

Little did Joseph know that God had already deployed the wise men! How great is our God, right? Matthew 2:11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 

Who would have thought? Only God would/could throw open flood gates of blessing like that! But… it took Joseph stepping out in faith FIRST, trusting that somehow God knew all the details and would provide.

We cannot out-give God…not ever.

Independent Read: Psalm 91:1,4,14-16, Philippians 4:19, Matthew 6:25-34

Janette Keiffer
Author

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JENN TEXIDOR

loveSTRONG Ministries

Jenn was born in New York, but has made her home in Arizona since she was 12.  She is the lucky wife of one hilarious, movie-quoting husband and mom to two amazing kiddos! In her spare time, Jenn loves Pinterest, chocolate peanut butter Haagen Dazs, and blessed quiet time! Jenn also loves to laugh and learn from her mistakes while striving to be more like Christ every day.