GODSPIRATION

 

Godspiration is an arts outreach organization dedicated to bringing high quality and culturally diverse performances, workkshops, and projects to schools, seniors, communities, and special needs populations throughout Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia. GODSPIRATION Ministry - We believe that we are each called to respond to God's love by serving God's people.


5 Ways to Grow Closer to God in the New Year

By Cindi McMenamin


Do you have a plan for growing spiritually in the next 12 months?

I had to start writing out a plan every January to ensure I didn't end the year in the same place, spiritually, as I was when the year started. Year by year, we might not notice a lack of spiritual growth in our lives. But you'd be surprised how quickly ten years can pass without having memorized one verse of scripture, without confronting a habitual sin in your life, without having shared the gospel with an unbeliever, without having experienced a point in your walk with God that lit a fire under you and caused you to live differently

Instead of making "new year's resolutions" each year, I sit down with God and ask "How will I grow more in love with you this year?" By being intentional about setting goals to prioritize my relationship with God, I've found the result is growing in my relationships with my family and friends, as well. Setting some spiritual goals for the next year also helps me ensure that there is fruit developing from my life each year instead of being a sponge that continues to soak it all in, but gives little out.

Here are some examples of a few of the spiritual goals that I've set through the years, many of which repeatedly stay on my list from year to year. Try a couple of these, and maybe even come up with some of your own, so that you are one year closer to Christ -- and to those you love -- by the time next January rolls around:


1. Meet with God before anyone else. Do you have a plan, first thing in the morning, to meet with God before anyone else? It's one way of prioritizing Him above anything and anyone. It's also a way of making sure you're at your best, emotionally, by the time you start interacting with your family. My devotional book, God's Whispers to a Woman's Heart, is designed to help you meet with God for a few moments every day and get into the Word at the same time.


2. Get into God's Word every day. If you've owned a Bible for years but have never read the entire book, this is a great time to start. There are several good resources available to help you read through the Bible in a year. Try it in a different translation than you usually read. Or, ask yourself where you want to be in your relationship with the Lord by the end of the year and then set tangible goals for getting there through study. For instance, if you want to know God better, consider a study of his names in the Old Testament and Jesus' "I am" statements in the New Testament. If you need to slow down and learn to listen for his voice, study all the Word says about "rest" or "hearing" or his "voice." If there are character traits you know you need to work on, consider an in-depth study of some or all of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).


3. Participate in a weekly small-group Bible study or lead one among your friends, neighbors, or co-workers. We can grow at a faster rate in community because we are able to share our experiences with one another and hold each other accountable. Find a small group study in your local church or be the catalyst to start one among friends or neighbors or even co-workers during your lunch hour.


4. Record your blessings and answered prayers. Keep a "blessing book" in which you record every blessing that comes your way throughout the year, adding a prayer of thanks or praise. In addition, write out your prayer requests and record the answers as they come. By writing out these types of things, you will not only be more keenly aware of how God is working in and around your life, but you will become a person who is able to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).


5. Pick a 'theme verse' for the year. Say it aloud every day. I guarantee if you do this, by the end of the year - and probably a lot sooner - you will have memorized one more verse of Scripture. Choose from Psalm 90:12, Psalm 119:32, Psalm 119:133, Galatians 5:16, Philippians 1:27, Philippians 4:6-7, or find one of your own. 


Make some of these action points priority in your life this next year and hopefully, by the end of 2015, you'll be not only another year older in your body, but another year older in your faith and walk with Christ.


How will you grow in your faith and walk with God this next year?



 

 

5 Ways to Fight Back with Joy When Life Seems Dark

Margaret Feinberg

Over the last year and a half I’ve been wrestling with a difficult diagnosis. It’s brought me to my knees in pain, anguish, and suffering. Yet I’ve chosen to Fight Back with Joy. It’s been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, but I’ve been discovering that more than whimsy, joy is the weaponry we use to fight life’s battles.

Rather than living like a dark rain cloud, as children of God, we’re meant to cheer our way through the streets heralding the arrival of God’s kingdom, pounding at door of every human heart with hilarity and celebration until the last prodigal crosses heaven’s threshold, the last hardened heart is rend, and the last older brother finally plucks his fingers from his ears.

Here are a handful of the practical tips from Fight Back With Joy book and Bible study on how you can boost your joy today.

1. Smile at the people you see today. A recent study found that smiling can increase our happiness level and make us more productive, but the grin must be genuine. Start in your own home. Smile at your roommate. Your spouse. Your kids. Allow your eyes to light up, your hidden teeth to show. Look each person in the eyes. Remember that you’re beaming the joy of God to them. You’re reflecting the delight of your Heavenly Father.

2. Let the laughter rip. God wired your body to benefit from laughter. A good old-fashioned giggle releases chemicals in your brain that equip your body to better handle stress and pain. Whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert, a quiet person or more of the party-pants type, you can begin laughing more.

Begin making a laugh list today. Who are your favorite comedians? What televisions shows make you laugh the hardest? Who in your life reminds you not to take yourself or life too seriously? Be intentional about spending time with lighthearted people and good clean comedy that help your body heal. Remember the wisdom of Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (NLT).

3. Hum, sing, or belt out a song. In Philippians 4:4, the apostle Paul instructs us: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (NIV)”

Much like laughter, God designed singing to have a profound physiological response within us. When we sing, our bodies release endorphins and oxytocin which is known to help relieve stress and alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression. Turn up the radio. Select your favorite song on your iPod. Pull out a timeless CD with some of your favorite worship songs. Allow God’s joy to flow in and through you.

4. Discover the joy that waits in the mourning. Sometimes we lose our sense of joy because of a loss, hardship, crisis, or great adversity. Denying the pain often makes it worse. That’s why mourning is so important. The Psalms provide a model for mourning in the lament. Psalms 10, 13, 38, and 55 provide prime examples of processing grief with God. Consider writing your own lament to the Lord.

Begin with a few sentences describing what your feeling. Elaborate on the problem and its implications. Then pause to ask God his perspective on the situation. Re-word your complaint and frustration through the lens of how God revealed himself. Then write a concluding statement of who God is in the midst. Include a word of praise and close with a declaration of trust in God.

As you grieve and process pain, you’ll find joy reawakening in your heart in a deeper way.

5. Sometimes to get joy you’ve got to give it away. Write a note of blessing to someone you love. If you need a fresh infusion of joy, then bless someone else. Grab a notecard and start jotting down all the things you appreciate about the person. Feel the gratitude well up in your heart. Then, pop that notecard in the mail and spread the joy.  

You can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose your response. May you experience joy even in the midst of challenging times.

Margaret Feinberg is a popular speaker and author of Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears.

 

Reasons Not To Worry

Ryan Duncan

It’s hard not to worry. As someone who frequently struggles with anxiety, the urge to worry can sometimes border on addiction. It can start with anything: your health, your finances, your family, your job, and suddenly this factor becomes your entire life. You try to go about things like normal, but terrible thoughts still manage to creep into the background. But what does God have to say about our fears?


Kevin DeYoung of The Gospel Coalition knows what it’s like to worry. In fact, his latest article opens with several scenarios many Christians might recognize. To help readers who frequently feel overwhelmed, DeYoung offers seven pieces of advice, including the following,          


“God cares about you (Matt. 6:28-30). God makes the wild flowers grow. Why? Because he wants to. Because they’re pretty. Because he’s creative. Because he likes beauty. Because he wants people to enjoy them. Because he cares about flowers. And he even cares about grass. The grass is going to die. Your lawn will be brown. It will be cold, frozen, dead–probably is already. But in a few months, it will all come back. And you won’t have anything to do with it. Maybe you’ll plant some more seed. Maybe you’ll get a lawn care specialist out to help make things super great. But even if you do nothing, the grass will come back. Because God is God and he likes green grass.”


“Do you see what Jesus calls worriers? He calls us ‘little faiths.’ Our worry is an insult to God’s character. When we worry we are not believing the truth about God. We are doubting that he sees, that he knows, that he cares, that he is more than able. Faith is more than a vague notion that Jesus existed and we are going to heaven if we ask him into our hearts. Faith is a practical way of looking at the world. Biblical faith extends to all of life, not merely to the salvation of our souls. When we worry, we are telling God, ‘I don’t trust you to run my life. I don’t think you’re really in control. I had better worry about these things. I need to do everything to take care of myself, because I’m not sure you will.’ But think about it: God takes care of wild animals. He takes care of wild flowers. He even takes care of grass. Why wouldn’t he take care of you?”


This can be a difficult message to accept. Like I said, the urge to worry can be addicting, and just because God loves us does not mean that bad things will never happen. Still, it should encourage Christians to know that they are not alone. God does not ignore or dismiss our fears, but knows them rather intimately. As DeYoung stated so adamantly, God cares about you!


I’d like to close with a familiar Bible passage that has helped me in times of distress, I hope that it reciting it will give readers the same peace it has often given me.    


"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." - Psalm 23


May God bless you, and keep you strong in your times of worry.

 

 

 

 

Reasons Not To Worry

Ryan Duncan

It’s hard not to worry. As someone who frequently struggles with anxiety, the urge to worry can sometimes border on addiction. It can start with anything: your health, your finances, your family, your job, and suddenly this factor becomes your entire life. You try to go about things like normal, but terrible thoughts still manage to creep into the background. But what does God have to say about our fears?

Kevin DeYoung of The Gospel Coalition knows what it’s like to worry. In fact, his latest article opens with several scenarios many Christians might recognize. To help readers who frequently feel overwhelmed, DeYoung offers seven pieces of advice, including the following,          

“God cares about you (Matt. 6:28-30). God makes the wild flowers grow. Why? Because he wants to. Because they’re pretty. Because he’s creative. Because he likes beauty. Because he wants people to enjoy them. Because he cares about flowers. And he even cares about grass. The grass is going to die. Your lawn will be brown. It will be cold, frozen, dead–probably is already. But in a few months, it will all come back. And you won’t have anything to do with it. Maybe you’ll plant some more seed. Maybe you’ll get a lawn care specialist out to help make things super great. But even if you do nothing, the grass will come back. Because God is God and he likes green grass.”

“Do you see what Jesus calls worriers? He calls us ‘little faiths.’ Our worry is an insult to God’s character. When we worry we are not believing the truth about God. We are doubting that he sees, that he knows, that he cares, that he is more than able. Faith is more than a vague notion that Jesus existed and we are going to heaven if we ask him into our hearts. Faith is a practical way of looking at the world. Biblical faith extends to all of life, not merely to the salvation of our souls. When we worry, we are telling God, ‘I don’t trust you to run my life. I don’t think you’re really in control. I had better worry about these things. I need to do everything to take care of myself, because I’m not sure you will.’ But think about it: God takes care of wild animals. He takes care of wild flowers. He even takes care of grass. Why wouldn’t he take care of you?”

This can be a difficult message to accept. Like I said, the urge to worry can be addicting, and just because God loves us does not mean that bad things will never happen. Still, it should encourage Christians to know that they are not alone. God does not ignore or dismiss our fears, but knows them rather intimately. As DeYoung stated so adamantly, God cares about you!

I’d like to close with a familiar Bible passage that has helped me in times of distress, I hope that it reciting it will give readers the same peace it has often given me.    

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." - Psalm 23

May God bless you, and keep you strong in your times of worry.

 

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New Year 2015

New Year, new resolutions. With a new calendar, most people make goals to enhance their life. Ambitions range from losing weight and giving up bad habits, to spending more time with family. Some desire to eliminate debt, while others resolve to become a volunteer.

These intentions are good, but they forget one person - you. What are you going to do for you this year? How are you going to become the best version of yourself? If you want to improve your life, the best place to start is in improving your inner man.

Give yourself a break

You will make mistakes this year. Things won't go according to plan. Let it go. Forgive yourself.

Search the Bible, the only perfect person was Jesus Christ. Everyone else had flaws, made mistakes - huge ones. The key to their success was in forgetting and forgiving the past, and pressing on to the future. (Philippians 3:13)

Jesus bore your guilt and shame on the Cross. Let go of the mistakes you made in 2014. When the woman caught in adultery was freed from condemnation, she was able to go and sin no more. (John 8:11) Addictions and bad habits often stem from an inability to forgive one's self. If you want to kick the habit, be gracious to you.

Give others a break

Yes, other people will make mistakes too. Family members, friends, even complete strangers will cause you pain. Rather than allow frustration and anger to get the better of you, be merciful. Forgive those who hurt you. Stop carrying the weight of bitterness and offence. We all need compassion.

Peter thought himself generous by forgiving seven times. In God's eyes, seven times was laughable. Jesus answered, "Not seven times, but seven times seventy." He went on to relay a parable of a man who was pardoned a huge debt himself, yet refused to exonerate a small account in others. You and I have been forgiven much, it is our duty to forgive (Matthew 18:21-34). Give grace freely in 2015.

One thing is necessary

Luke 10 tells of an occasion when Jesus visited the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha busily worked in the kitchen, while Mary sat and spent time with Jesus. When Martha complained of her sister's lack of assistance, the Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

There are many things we need to do. Family, career, friends, ministry, church, all place demands on the twenty-four hours of our day. Only one thing is essential - sit at the feet of the Master. Make it your priority. He loves and longs to embrace you. When you spend time with him, everything else falls into place. Jesus will give you clarity and wisdom to complete your daily tasks, and the strength to persevere in every circumstance.

Draw closer

Jesus didn't go to the home of Mary and Martha for the food. He wanted to spend time with both of them. Jesus wants to spend time with you. You are his precious child. You are worthy of his love, because you are righteous through his blood. Your hard work will not make Jesus love you any more, and your failure will not make him love you any less. Martha tried to impress Jesus with her ability. Mary had his gaze simply being with him.

Earlier in the book of Luke, the Bible tells us that a certain woman anointed the feet of Jesus with perfume and tears. Jesus explained that she loved much, because she was forgiven much. Mistakes did not drive her from Jesus, instead it inspired great love. She experienced amazing grace, and could not get enough.

So what if you fail? The love of the Father is unconditional. Come closer to him, that he may reveal the depth of his love. Nothing can separate you from the love of the Father (Romans 8:38-39).

Will 2015 be your greatest year yet? Will you achieve your absolute best? The first place to start is in your heart. The outside will come right, when the inside is at its peak. Spend time in his presence, demonstrate grace to others, and yourself. You may make mistakes, when you do, draw nearer to God. The launching pad to an amazing you, and an incredible year, is in the grace of God.

Sarah Coleman is an Australian author and communicator. Her books include Single Christian Female and Make Yourself Amazing. She is passionate about the Kingdom of God. She also loves being a wife and mother to two boys. To read more of Sarah's thoughts go to sarahcoleman.com.au.

 

 

 

7 Ways to Survive the Transitions of Life

by Fiona Veitch Smith

As a writer who makes her living by sending off proposals and waiting for responses from editors, publishers and agents, I know what it is to wait. As a mother of a young child who feels her own dreams and aspirations are so far on the back burner that the gas has almost gone out, I know what it is to wait. As a church member, yearning to see growth and the fruit of outreach into the community, I know what it is to wait. As a child of God who is being led on a journey through hard times and good times and sometimes losing sight of the Father, I know what it is to wait. However, I have learned that there are some things that can help us through our waiting times. Here are a few of them:

1. Be prepared to let go of your dreams

Dreams are wonderful things. They give us hope, they give us direction, they suggest a future where we are fulfilled and God’s plans are working in and through us. What more could a child of God want? But sometimes our dreams are distorted, a product of our own desires, rather than God’s best for us. When the door keeps closing, consider that God might not want you to move forward just yet. Or perhaps he might want you to let go of something before you do. The waiting time is a period where we can discern which it is. It can be a painful time – letting go always is.

2. Seek Godly counsel and support from friends

The waiting times can be greatly helped by the support of family and friends. Sometimes though, our friends can be a little bit like Job’s comforters, not quite understanding where we are and what we are going through. But a wise friend or leader will help you talk through what’s going on in your life. They may be able to suggest a way forward or simply give you the opportunity to offload. I always feel better after I’ve poured out my confusion to my pastor or a good friend.

3. Waiting is learning to rest

“Come to me all you who are weak and heavy-laden and I will give you rest” (Mattew 11:28).

The shalom of God – that wonderful gift of peace, rest and rightness with our Creator – is something we all desire, but to experience it is sometimes so elusive. We need to learn to rest. We need to know what it is to abide in Christ, to walk with him, to allow him to take control. We need to be prepared to “waste time” just being with him. These are all hard lessons to learn and ones that we are unable to grasp when we are rushing forward doing whatever it is we feel called to do. So that’s when the waiting times come in. That’s the gift of this fallow time although it may only be seen in hindsight.

4. See what God is doing in the little things – now!

Every day is a gift from God: every moment, every second. When we are so busy looking towards the horizon we fail to see the beauty of what is at our feet - the snail making its trail, the wild flower pushing its way through the crack in the pavement.  There’s an old hymn that goes, “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” When I’m frustrated with the waiting time and chomping at the bit to move forward into bigger and better things, I take my journal and write a simple list of things to be grateful for now. A phone call from a friend, a chance to help someone reach something on the top shelf at the market, the picture my daughter painted at school …

5. Look back on what God has done before

I have kept a spiritual journal since I was 19. In it I write out my prayers to God. I write out my frustrations and my celebrations. I confess my sins and my confusion. I write out scripture verses that have touched me or something in a sermon I heard that has a particular application to my life. When I sense I’m going into another waiting time I get out my old journals and re-read what I went through the last time. I’m comforted to see how God led me through that, and it gives me hope that he will lead me again. I see patterns of behavior that I recognize as happening again. If you don’t already keep a journal, start one now – it will help you not only to process what is happening now, but to be a guide for the next time it happens, too. Yes, there will be a next time!

6. You can’t see around the bend, but God can

“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

I hate not being able to see where I’m going. I hate not being in control. I get stressed when I’m going somewhere in the car as a passenger and I’m not convinced the driver knows where he’s going … It can be the same with God. But I have to remind myself that God does know where he’s going. He knows what is around the bend. When I doubt this I turn to the Bible and pray through the many verses and passages that assure me that God is in control.

7. Allow hope to rise again

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).


Sometimes we’ve been waiting so long that we’ve given up on ever moving towards our dream. Sometimes we’ve let go of our dreams and are enjoying resting with God, finally content with where we are. But don’t be surprised if that’s exactly the time God will stir something in you again. When he does allow the hope to rise, be brave enough to risk moving forward again. You may be surprised that it’s the same dream, resurrected, with you now just in a better position to follow it, or it may be a new and better dream that you could not grasp while you held onto the old. Learn to recognize the seasons of your life: there’ll be a time to wait and a time to move on and then a time to wait again.