by Stephanie P. | Apr 14, 2020 | Uncategorized
The heartfelt counsel of a friend
is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9 NLT
I didn’t know I needed a friend like her, but God did.
I liked her as soon as I met her. Fifteen years older than me and married with children, Marilyn was a charming woman who smiled with her eyes, not just her mouth.
I was out of school, single, looking for a full-time job in biology, and trying to get involved in a new church. I wasn’t sure how well I knew who God was, even though my parents reared me in a Christian home. It was confusing being told most of my life to be good, wear the right clothes, act godly, go to church, and watch my language. None of these helped me have a relationship with Jesus.
God sent Marilyn into my life to show me who Jesus was and how much He loved me. She was an excellent teacher and godly woman. She loved Jesus, and her love for Him rubbed off on everyone she knew.
Her way of teaching drew me in when she and her husband began instructing our Young Adult Sunday school class. The old stories came to life as she gave me a new understanding of the book of Daniel and Isaiah, and her teaching on Spiritual Warfare showed me I could be victorious in this life.
Most of all, she opened my eyes to a Savior who wanted a personal relationship with me. His love for me was not based on my works, but on His. Jesus wanted to be my friend. No one had explained Jesus was interested in me—in my life. He wanted me to talk and walk with Him. Jesus really loved me!
Marilyn and I laughed, cried, and prayed together. She was always there for me and so patient when I showed up at her house unexpectedly during dinner.
Although Marilyn and I don’t live close anymore, she is still my spiritual mom and friend.
Have you had someone be like Jesus to you?
Today, more than ever before, our world needs men and women with the heart of Jesus. It’s what our teens, college kids, and young adults need. Like us, they desire to have someone love them for who they are, to come beside them, and walk out life with them.
No judgment, no criticism; just acceptance and love.
It’s what Jesus did.
I pray my children meet someone like Marilyn one day; someone who will model the character of Jesus to them.
This culture is so different from the one I grew up in during the late 70s and 80s. Our teens and college students need direction, love, and the truth of Jesus and His Word in their lives.
Jesus’ desire is for us to do as He did; make disciples of all the nations.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
God may never call us to another country, but making disciples in our families and right in our own backyard is the perfect place to start. You may be the friend who is as sweet as perfume to someone in need.
Who are you discipling?
The heartfelt counsel of a friend
is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9 NLT
by Stephanie P. | Mar 17, 2020 | Devotional
Have you ever been in a difficult or dark time when you felt all alone?
Did it feel as though everyone you knew had forsaken you? Maybe it was a crisis in your family or marriage and your friends didn’t know how to handle it. A difference of beliefs or conviction can drive a wedge between people and leave us feeling heartbroken and isolated.
Jesus experienced dark days near the end of his life. The men he had spent three years of his life with abandoned him when trouble arrived.
Heavily armed guards sent by the chief priest and scribes arrested Jesus after He prayed all night preparing for the upcoming universal battle between life and death. His disciples saw Him walk on water, feed thousands of men, women, and children, heal the sick and give sight to the blind; they even saw Him raise the dead. Yet, they deserted Him.
Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’” Mark 14:27 (ESV).
Years ago, my husband and I shared a friendship with four other couples. We attended the same church, dined at each other’s home, shared life, worshipped and studied God’s Word together. I loved these people as though they were my flesh and blood.
I was preparing to teach a Revelation study I had written for our class. One day during prayer, the Lord warned my husband the Bible study would come under attack.
We prayed and asked our friends to pray for the study and us as well. Halfway into the study, a division within our ensemble of friends developed. The split was not because of the Bible study but resulted from one couple walking away from their faith and God. No one knew what to do, so they ignored it. As a result, it divided us.
Because I wanted to fix it, I reached out to my pastor for advice—my friends viewed that as disloyalty. I was a snitch.
Those once close friends now treated my husband and me as if we no longer existed. It was horrible. Not only had a great friend walked away from the church and God, but our other brothers and sisters ostracized us for seeking help outside our group.
I was miserable while I continued teaching my study without them. My family sat alone during Sunday services while the remaining three couples of our once tight-knit group filled a separate row.
God did not leave me; He moved in closer.
I experienced a more intimate relationship with Him than I had never known. God healed my hurt and my wounds as I forgave those friends. We no longer see each other, but I hold nothing against them and have told them as much.
Jesus forgave His disciples, too. He restored them and used them mightily in the days that followed. He never left them nor forsook them.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14 (ESV)
Will you forgive those who have left or betrayed you? It doesn’t matter whether they are sorry or have asked you for forgiveness.
God knows your pain and can heal it.
He will free you, if you ask; I promise.
Jesus came to mend the brokenhearted.
[Jesus] heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 (ESV)
by Stephanie P. | Jun 10, 2019 | Devotional
Are you a dog or a cat lover? Maybe you love all animals; most of them anyway.
I love animals. People who have been to my house and met my two dogs, six ducks, chickens, and three goats, know this about me.
My family especially loves German shepherd dogs. They are so easy to train and are loyal, protective and lovable.
Many years ago after the death of my beloved Nadia, a white German shepherd, my husband and I went looking for the perfect family dog. Our kids were only 6 (twins) and 4, so we knew we wanted a puppy. We found a German shepherd we fell in love with. She was about twenty-three pounds when we brought her home but my kids wouldn’t go near her at first.
We named her Agape. You may know it’s a Greek word which means unconditional love. Little did we know how she would fulfill her name.
After two days, they lost their fear of her and did not let her out of their sight.
Nor did she let them out of hers. She loved her pack (children).
My son, Matthew has cerebral palsy. Once Agape got a little older, she recognized something different in Matthew. She became protective of him. Not in an aggressive sense, but she stayed with him everywhere he went. If he fell, she let him grab ahold of her to get back on his feet. If he was sitting down in the grass, Agape lay down next to him until he moved, then she moved with Matthew.
We have four and a half fenced-in acres of land with a long winding driveway. She followed my children all over it. One time, all three kids and Agape were at the end of our property down our driveway. I called to Agape to feed her. She looked at me but refused to come.
Now, Agape was a well-trained dog. She knew to listen and obey. But she was not leaving her kids. Once I called the kids, she followed them to me.
Every day during the school year, she trailed the kids down the driveway where they waited for the bus. She stayed just inside our gate watching them get on the bus and continued to stay there until the bus was out of sight. Then, she made the trek back to the house.
Another time, all five of us were walking around our property. Agape always took the lead. As we walked, Agape saw a hole where a drain had been. After putting her nose in it, she looked up at Mike and me, then put her nose back in the hole and looked up again. She stood over that hole until we had all passed her and then took the lead again.
Agape’s attention to detail and sensitivity amazed me. I wondered how far she would go to protect my kids.
My husband returned from work one warm, sunny day. This time Agape was not next to the kids. As he pulled up the hill to our house, Agape ran from the garage out in front of his car. He almost hit her. Our children were on that hill but she didn’t know Mike had seen them. She put herself between his car and our children.
He was a little shaken, but it made us realize how special this dog was to our kids and us. She would have given her life for them.
We serve a God and Savior Jesus Christ who also loves us with agape love. He does not base His love on what we do or have done. If it was, it would not be unconditional. He does not just love those who love Him, but even those who do not. That’s unconditional love. You can do nothing to earn it.
He is also a friend who will never leave us nor forsake us. He goes with us throughout our life even in the mundane comings and goings.
Agape spent her thirteen and a half years outside within our fenced in property protecting us and our animals from predators. It didn’t make her less loved because she was outside. She was family. She was a protector.
But she loved it when we came out first thing in the morning. It was as if she waited all night for us.
While we sleep, Jesus is the ultimate protector. He guards our hearts and minds. He protects us physically, spiritually and emotionally.
Have you ever considered that Jesus cannot wait for you to wake in the morning? He looks forward to time alone with you.
Jesus gave His life for us. His agape love allowed Him to die a lonely and excruciatingly painful death for us. He did what He did to keep us from spiritual death and an eternity without us.
I thank God for animals, pets, and dogs like Agape.
But I can’t express how thankful I am that He loves me unconditionally. There is no condemnation. We cannot surprise or disappoint Him. He is all-knowing. He sees your past, present, and future and He still adores you.
Isn’t He worth knowing? Do you want a friend who is closer than a brother or a dog?
His name is Jesus.