Monday, March 28, 2011

Apply it to Me Monday

Compassion. 

That's the emotion God feels toward us.  Our time on earth seems to be filled with trials and disappointments.  Sure, there are lots of happy things we experience, but no one goes through life without feeling some kind of tremendous sorrow. I reflect on the sense of loss so many have in Japan and Lybia.  I think of the fear of a friend facing medical challenges that threaten to completely turn her world upside down.  I think of the sweet man in our church who today is saying goodbye to his wife of many years until he meets her again in Heaven.  I think of those with financial struggles, just hoping to get through the week without seeing their kids miss a meal.  Our temptation so many times is to think God has somehow forgotten us, or maybe even that He is punishing us, or simply that He sees and doesn't care.  We couldn't be further from the truth. 

Today I have such a sense of God's love for me.  Oh, how I've needed to be reminded of His great love! 

 
Isaiah 54:10 says this:
"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you.


The Hebrew word for compassion is racham and means "to soothe, cherish, love deeply like parents; small babies evoke this feeling."

Having had a couple of babies of my own, I remember well the feeling of holding those little infants close in my arms knowing there is nothing in my life I wouldn't lay down for their safety, protection, or well being.  I remember how amazed I was at how much love my heart could hold especially after the birth of our second child.  I loved the first one so much, I didn't know how I could love another one the way I loved the first, but my heart had so much love it felt as though it could explode at any moment.  I can remember laying them down in their cribs for a nap, yet staying so in tune with any little whimper or cry that I was ready to rush in at any moment to save the day.

That's how God feels about you, and that's how He feels about me.  He stays so in tune with our needs and longings that from the moment we cry out to Him, He's ready to rush in and save the day.  The same compassion we feel toward a newborn babe is the same compassion He feels toward us.  Just let that sink in. 

He is the God of compassion, and He loves you very much.  Our world may at times crumble around us, but His love will never be shaken.  The God of compassion restores and redeems every sorrow we experience in this life.  For that, I thank Him.

Have a blessed week, and may the God of compassion be especially close to you!

~Josh and Jill

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Houston Trip Re-Cap

Last week we had the opportunity to take our intern staff, those studying to go into full-time ministry on a little retreat to the Houston area.  It was a great time to get away and reflect on God's calling and be refreshed in His rest.  We haven't been on here much in the past week due to, well, life.  So we thought we'd share just a few pictures with you of these guys that are working so hard.

This was a beautiful sunset we caught on the beach.
We were able to pray together and worship God in song while the sun was setting.
It was a beautiful moment.


Josh was able to spend some time with his Meme and Papa.
I thought this picture was really sweet.
They were a real blessing to our group.


Three stooges... I mean interns.  JK!
They are tons of fun to have around.



Awesome group of guys!
(left to right) Chase Hunter, Chase Morgan, Steven Burnett
Chad Hart, and Josh Merchant

Studying in an internship is really a growing season for these guys.  One thing I know about growing seasons is that they are not easy.  It's a time when God stretches you, prunes you, and challenges you beyond belief.  I am thankful for the growing seasons He gives us, but I also know those seasons are sometimes emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and even physically draining.  So when you think of these young men of God, pray for God's strength and encouragement on their lives.  It's in these seasons that we can't grow weary and give up!  These are the seasons God uses to bring forth fruit from our lives.

~Josh and Jill

Monday, March 14, 2011

Apply it to Me Monday

Confession.  I feel like I have zero time to blog today.  I have a house to clean that seems utterly destroyed from the weekend, couponing and shopping to catch up on, Bible Study tonight to prepare for, a trip to Monroe tomorrow, then Houston on Wednesday to pack for, and did I mention kids to raise?  No, TODDLERS to raise.  Yes, there is a difference. 

However, I am not complaining.  I am so blessed and love every responsibility I have in taking care of my sweet family and in ministry.  I wouldn't trade any of it.  Since today is so overwhelming, I'm just going to leave you with a scripture to ponder for yourself.  Honestly, it's pretty simple and self-explanatory, yet it speaks right to the heart of one of our biggest challenges in life.  Here it is:

"If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men."  Romans 12:18

May the Lord speak to your heart today, and guide you in mending broken relationships!

~Josh and Jill

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Apologies

I have been away from the blog since Monday really just wanting to focus on being a Mama!  Today I checked through the blog and realized that Monday's post never actually PUBLISHED!  I thought it had published, but had somehow only saved as a draft.  Please forgive me.  Apply it to Me Monday was there on Monday, you just couldn't see it!

So, I hope you will go back to Monday's post and read what God laid on my heart when reading the story of Joseph.  For me, it was a wonderful experience to study Genesis a little BEFORE we started our new study on the Patriarchs Monday night.  I am so excited to go through this study with Genesis fresh on my mind!  I haven't been able to do even the first page of homework on it yet (gasp!) because I've been immersed in a couple of other books this week that have intrigued me.  One of which is called Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo.  It's heaven from the perspective of a four year old little boy who had a 3 minute experience in Heaven.  I cried some real tears through that book.  I would recommend it to everyone... especially if you've ever lost a loved one.
I feel like I know that cute little boy on the cover.
He's got the cutest personality!

Bible study friends, do not worry!  I WILL show up Monday at 6:00 sharp with my five days of homework complete!  I am so ready to dive in.

Love you all & pray you have a blessed beginning of a weekend!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Apply it to Me Monday

This morning I was reading the story of Joseph in Genesis 41.  Joseph's brothers had been so jealous of Joseph that they sold him to a group of Ishmaelites and from there he ended up serving Potiphar, an officer to the Pharoah.  To make a long story short, (and please stick with me through the details to get to the point) Joseph ends up in prison through the deception of his master's wife.  While there, God makes everything Joseph does prosper.  Because he rightly interpreted dreams for some in prison, he was asked to interpret the dreams of the Pharoah, thus being put in charge over all the land of Egypt.  The story goes on and talks of Joseph being given a wife, and the children he was blessed with.  The names he gave his children in verses 51 and 52 really caught my attention, and they are what I want to share with you this morning.

"Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: 'For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father's house.'  And the name of the second he called Ephraim:  'For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.'"

What a praise!  God has caused me to fruitful in the land of my affliction!  Joseph experienced affliction that was completely undeserved for him.  His affliction came because of the favor of God on his life as well as the favor of his father. 

Many times in our lives we find ourselves in a place of affliction.  Hard times and painful circumstances are inevitable as long as we live on this fallen planet.  God seems to have this amazing history of taking those hard circumstances, those painful experiences, the times of affliction, and bringing about good for the righteous who love Him.  I see it over and over again throughout the Bible, especially the Old Testament.  Matthew Henry says it like this:  "Light is sometimes sown for the righteous in a barren and unlikely soil; and yet, if God sow it, and water it, it will come up again."  I'm no expert when it comes to gardening, but I know enough to know that if you plant in bad soil, you will not produce a good crop.  Sometimes we go through things in our lives that are just like that bad soil; we think nothing good can come out of.  But God.  He makes abundant fruit grow from our greatest hurts and trials.

Looking back at verse 51 reminds us that God not only brings about fruitfulness in our times of affliction, but he brings a forgetfulness to the wrongs we've been given.  What a miracle for Joseph to be able to forget the way his brothers devastated his life and his precious relationship with his father.  We see later in Genesis that Joseph is restored to his brothers, and he treats them with kindness.

That's exactly what God wants for us.  He wants to bestow a grace in our lives that forgets the wrongs that caused our affliction in such a way that we can bestow kindness on those who have wronged us.  Out of that our affliction will bear abundant fruitfulness for our lives as well as those around us.

Two things I notice from verses 51 and 52:
  • Joseph forgot the wrongs before there was fruitfulness.
  • Joseph's fruitfulness was not just for himself, but affected the entire land of Egypt.
My guess would be that is typically the order in which it happens.  The fruitfulness comes after the forgetfulness.

If you are in a place of affliction today, I do so hope this encourages you.  If you need to ask God to give you the grace of forgetfulness, don't hesitate in doing so!  It will be not only for your benefit, but it will affect the world around you.

Be Blessed!  We love you with the love of Christ!
~Josh and Jill

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Comments, Please!

Our blog is such a connecting point for us to so many of you.  We want to keep in touch with those who live in Shreveport that we see several times a week as well as those of you who are part of our lives from a longer distance.  We feel that the blog gives you insight to what's going on in our lives and more importantly, our hearts.  We'd love for you to give us insight into your thoughts as well.  On many of our posts, many of you would have so much to add whether through a correlating scripture, wise thought, or just a funny way to say hello and let us know you're reading the blog. 

SO... we want you to know that you can now leave a comment without having any kind of account or "following" the blog.  There are so many of you who read our blog who are not bloggers and just are not into signing up for another account.  We changed the settings just for you... cause we want to hear from you!

So, go ahead.  Take the plunge.  Leave a comment!  Can't wait to hear from you!

~Josh and Jill

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy News

Monday nights are always a special time for us at Gateway Church.  We have a couple of classes at 6 pm, one of which is our Womens' Bible Study.  LOVE it!  Then at 7 pm we enjoy good food and fellowship with our Real Life service for young adults following.  It's a packed evening of God's Word and presence.  This past Monday I took my camera just for fun, and I was so glad I did.  I was able to get a quick pic of a few of our women in Bible Study right after Tara gave her heart to Jesus!  It was such a holy and special moment that I believe was ordained of God for her.

Here is the sweet picture of some sweet ladies.
They couldn't all be there, but they are an amazing group of
women.  When someone can't be there, we all miss them like crazy!


If you look at the top row in the center, there's Tara. 
Brand new in Jesus Christ! 

There are two things that excite us in ministry more than anything else.  They are when someone enters into a relationship with Jesus Christ for the first time, giving their heart fully to him, and when someone falls so much in love with the Savior they want to spend their lives in absolute obedience to His calling.  We have three incredible interns who have done just that!  One of these interns is Chase Hunter.  He has served Gateway Church for close to two years now, and has now received his credentials as an official minister in the Assemblies of God denomination.  He has worked hard, and studied hard.  We are so proud of him and all that God is accomplishing in his life.


Chase and Josh sitting on the stage in our youth facility.



When you think of Tara and when you think of Chase, make this your prayer for them. 
"Lord, I ask you to give Tara and to give Chase your guidance and direction for their lives.  Deepen their knowledge and understanding of your Word as they deepen their walk in relationship with you.  Grant your covering of protection over their lives, and grant wisdom beyond their years.  Give them strength to be overcomers, and give them joy in times of uncertainty.  We ask all this in Jesus' precious name!"

We are so excited to watch the journey God will lead both of these precious people through.  The cool thing is knowing He is with them every step of the way.  He is with us every step of the way.  He is willing and desires to be with you every step of the way in your journey as well!  All it takes is a willing heart to obey what He asks of you, and a simple trust that He watches over you!

~Josh and Jill
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