IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL

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The old familiar lyrics are echoing in my mind… “When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.” …or is it?

I have spent some time asking God to diagnose the condition of my soul as I’ve been gleaning from the new sermon series, “Soul Care”. The health of our souls is directly related to our abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus asks, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Matthew 16:26

They seem like such easy questions to answer, but oh, how often we get caught up in the worldly flow of things, spending our time trying to gain what the world offers, or at least gain control of our own little worlds.

My soul, the real me, longs to connect with God, and it’s my responsibility to care for my soul. It’s your responsibility to care for your soul. How do we do that? It makes sense, doesn’t it, that in order to care for the soul we should stay connected to the One who created it, the Source of all life, the One who breathed life into us?

God knows just the right conditions we need in order for our souls to thrive. If we neglect the deepest part of who we are, by neglecting the abiding relationship Jesus is beckoning us to enter in to, then our souls will suffer greatly.

Take for instance, the parable of the sower in Mark 4:1-9. God, the Master Gardener, sows the seeds of His Living Word into souls, desiring for roots to emerge and grow deep and strong to provide sustenance and strength. But the human heart is no easy field to cultivate. Life has a way of making our souls so very hard, much like the soil mentioned in this parable, and the seed doesn’t stand a chance.

I can recall a time in my life when my soul was hard. I was bitter and cynical. People hurt me, life was dark, and God seemed very far away, but He wasn’t. He is so faithful to pursue His children. He sent people into my life who were part of a tilling process.

I entered another season. Seeds were scattered, yet the soil of my soul was shallow. I was apprehensive of His goodness. Could this all be real? Could this Love really be for me? God brought others into my life who came alongside me; patiently and gently picking up stones of doubt, fear, and shame that were littering the surface of my soul. God was sending roots deeper.

Roots Photo with Scripture

(*Photo Credit: Angelee Lapish)

But doesn’t life have a way of getting cluttered if we’re not careful? We can become entangled in worldly stuff, and self, and sin. All that busyness, even the activities being done for the Kingdom, can start to choke and overwhelm us like the thorns of the field, and all that striving doesn’t produce any lasting fruit. Jesus tells us that abiding, not striving, is the key.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Matthew 11:28 (AMP)

So what is the condition of your soul? Are you abiding in Jesus, the True Vine (John 15)? Are you allowing Him to bear fruit in and through you? As I meditated on these very questions, a dear friend, and frequent tiller of the soil of my soul, shared this amazing verse with me, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” James 1:21 (KJV)

Let us not forget, we have been grafted in to the very life of Jesus; we are one. He plants His words in us, and if our souls are fertile and receptive to truth and weeded of any competing loves, God’s word germinates and bears lasting fruit. His Word is a powerful seed… SO POWERFUL! There is so much life and nourishment that flows from Him. He is the Source of our lives. To have His words “engrafted”, “abiding”, “remaining”, and “planted” in us should be what shapes our identity! As we humbly receive and obey the words the Lord of the Harvest plants in our hearts, our souls are saved.

I have realized that this is a life-long journey. He keeps reminding me that He is the God of the process, and I can trust Him.

Yes… It is well with my soul.

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”  ~Jesus

Jenny Gallion

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The Rhythms of Journeying With God

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Life is a challenge.  I think everyone would agree.  The times we live in are ever-changing.  There are things happening in the world that sometimes shock and amaze me.  I read the news via electronic means (no more newspapers) and find something new or outrageous every time I log in.  I don’t necessarily think that is weird.  It’s just the time of the season. The one thing that fascinates me the most is how we get from point A to point B.

Movement and travel from place to place has gotten pretty easy nowadays.  And it seems everyone is in a hurry.  Got to go, now!  I don’t have time to talk to you.  I have to go!  I’ll meet with you later and we can talk.  Ask my assistant to make an appointment for you.  I’m sorry, but that time won’t work.  Can you make it tomorrow?  I’ll have more time then.  I have a meeting to attend and I can’t reschedule.  Life goes on and on and on and on.  Where is there time to stop and take a breath?  Shouldn’t there be times of rest?  Maybe there isn’t time to rest.  Is that normal?  Is that the standard?  I hope not. And Scripturally, we know it’s not.

I find myself choosing not to sleep at night.  Why?  It’s not because I have insomnia or a sleep disorder.  Wait… I do wear a C-PAP mask.  It’s very attractive, just ask my wife.  Seriously though, my time to take a breath at the end of the day is when everyone else is sleeping.  Now, you might say that this sounds ridiculous.  If it’s the only time I have to desensitize myself from the world, why not just put on the mask, settle down, close my eyes, and go to  sleep.  It’s because this is my time to spend talking to  God.  Don’t read into this.  I talk to God all day.  He is on my mind all day.  I talk to Him while I’m walking, driving, sitting at a table.  I talk to Him while watching television.  We just talk.  I even at one point had an old chair on my front porch and that’s where I would go to chat with God.  The chair finally broke and had to be sent to the trash, but I think you get my point. Me and God? We’re in constant conversation.

So, why do I say that ‘at the end of the day I spend time with God instead of sleeping?’  Because as a prayer intercessor, I feel His presence over me.  In the darkness of the room, I see His light.  I feel His touch.  I hear His voice.  That’s my life as an intercessor.  It may not be something that you would do, but this is my life.  I do this every night.  Without fail, I lay in bed and begin to meet with God.  It’s funny.  Just ask some of my friends who get a text message from me after midnight asking them if they are ok.  That’s because I felt the Lord tell me to pray for them.  It’s amazing how God works and my friends tell me that they were really struggling with something and wanted someone to just listen to them.  That time is the most precious to me.

Recently, I have been feeling God leading me into a deeper understanding of intercession along with the deep levels of praying and travailing before God.  I even sense a feeling that God is leading me into a greater understanding of His Throne Room where I can boldly come to Him in my times of need. (Hebrews 14:6)

So you may ask, “What is intercession?”  Well, briefly, it’s ‘a relational time spent in prayer with God seeking His response to prayer for another person’.  Yes, it’s relational.  Prayer is worship and is completely relational.  Jesus demonstrated this clearly in John Chapter 17.  This is where Jesus prays at Gethsemane.  Jesus prays for Himself, but also prays for His disciples and for all believers.  He intercedes.  He fully knew what was ahead of Him.  He knew of the torment and torture He would face.  He knew the Cross awaited Him.  He knew, yet He set aside His needs to intercede for others.  That my friend, is intercession at its deepest level.

That’s what I’m hearing from the Lord.  God gave me a dream the other night of me on a bus.  The bus would stop and go and stop and go.  Over and over again.  The bus was filled with people from the world and from all different backgrounds.  They were waiting to get off the bus at their particular stop.  Finally, God told me to get off the bus.  He said: “Look for the sign with your name on it.  When you find the sign, you’ll find me.”  So I got off the bus and the Lord said to me, “Follow me.”

Friends, my life calling is to pray.  Do I get tired of carrying the loads and circumstances of others so that I can effectually pray?  Sure I do.  But God says this.  “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  (James  5:16)  I’ve decided to take the narrow road into deeper levels of prayer with God.  I don’t know what I will encounter.  I don’t know what the enemy will do to try and stop me… But what I do know is, I must go.  I must go into the deep, deep, realm of prayer.  Isaiah said this,  Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)  I am crying out to God the same answer.  Send me.

If you have a calling for the ministry of prayer, I implore you friend to go deeper.  Go to where it’s only you and God.  Hear His voice and move in obedience.  Your life will never be the same… I’m living proof.

George Leonhardt

AND GOD BREATHED LIFE

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I can remember times growing up where “getting by from day to day” was hard.  I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and our family relied on family.  Back then, gathering together with family was very important.  The love we shared was precious and held great value to us.  We got together as often was we could.  Typically, we would meet and share food, have great fellowship, and enjoy fun on a weekly basis.  We enjoyed it so much that when we couldn’t get together, there was disappointment.  We met for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, new babies, graduations, and also for no apparent reason.  We just loved being together.  Again, we placed a very high value on gathering together with family.

My family, including all of the aunts, uncles, and cousins, was part of my core identity.  I remember thinking, “what would life be without family?”  Of course, mom and dad were always number one to me, but I often thought of my cousins.  I loved being with my cousins.  Some of them were older than me, but we never looked at age differences.  We just got along.  There were arguments of course, but we just set them aside and got along.  As I look back, family was like gold to me. It was my most valuable possession.

So now I think about that and wonder.  Was I placing too high a value on this?  I am not ashamed of my family and how important they were to me growing up.  I think most people would agree with me that family has value.  Family is important! But how much value should we place on things like this?  When I grew older, I began to work and had less and less time with my family. My increasing responsibilities made not having that weekly time with them not so important to me anymore.  I was now my own boss, earning a living, being responsible.  I didn’t give my cousins too much thought anymore.  Mom and Dad remained very important, but thinking about what my relatives were doing never really crossed my mind.  I fell into thinking that I was now the one that was important.  I was all grown up.  I had to be an adult now. Playtime was over.

So what is really important?  To be living for myself and driving myself to be the best in everything was what I thought was important.  It led me to times of great despair and heartache.  I felt valueless.  How could that be?  I couldn’t understand.  I began to lose everything that I once held dear.  I felt like a failure.  I’m just being transparent.  How could I feel like such a failure when growing up it seemed I had everything?

The Bible asks a very important question.  It says, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”  (Matt 16:26 NIV)  I never thought of my soul much.  I wanted to gain everything.  I gave and gave and gave to attain the most for my “self”… or in some cases, for “my family”.  Sometimes I tried to earn love and respect by giving and taking and giving and taking.  More often than not, no matter how hard I worked at gaining love and respect, the return on the investment was lacking.  My thought process was flawed.  I fell to the deepest of lows. Something inside of me was crying out.  On the outside, I had gone deaf to the inside cries.

My soul was aching.  It hurt so badly and I couldn’t ease the heartache on my own.  I got caught up in “things” that eased the pain but never got to the root of the pain.  I often think of the nights where I felt alone and I just wanted to break free!  I just couldn’t go on like this.  I know now by the grace of God that things didn’t have to be that way.  By God’s grace, through faith, I am free.  My soul has value in the sight of God.  God breathed His life into me.  Understanding this now, I realize my soul defines my entire person.  Inside and out.  I would not exchange anything for my soul.  My soul integrates with God and His eternal purpose for me.  Yes, family remains important to me.  That will never change.  But my soul was given to me by God.  He breathed HIS life into it.  It flows through every part of me.  Battles and desires are won and lost in my soul and it is eternal. It’s no longer, “The devil made me do it.” All sin originates in the soul (Check out James 1).

Friend, what is valuable to you?  Is it outside influences or is it your soul?  Your soul has great value and you should never exchange it for anything.  Before time began, God knew you and was ready to breathe life into your soul.  Do you need to connect or reconnect with God?  Think about it. A healthy soul begins with a healthy relationship with God. Have you been neglecting the care of your soul?

By clicking on the link, Soul Care: Guarding Your Most Valuable Possession,” you will be able to hear a powerful message from Pastor Aaron Taylor on the value of your soul.

I pray that your week is filled with the knowledge that God loves you and that your soul is of great value to God and to you.  God bless you and have a great rest of the week! See you Sunday!

George Leonhardt

Like A Child…

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When we are kids, or even babies, we relied on our parents to help us meet our needs. For example, a baby cannot hold a bottle up by themselves, a toddler struggles to put shoes on the right feet, and a child definitely can’t go grocery shopping and make dinner for themselves. As a kid, it is easy to think that you will have your needs met. There is no question that Mom or Dad is going to make dinner. In that state of being, a child is somewhat helpless: they cannot go to work, earn an income, pay bills, grocery shop, and do all the other “adult-type duties” that parents do to make sure their children’s needs are met. They are completely DEPENDENT.

The concern of “going without” is only an issue when kids don’t get what they want. If this is indeed the case, they will let the whole world know by throwing a temper tantrum. But we all know, kids will eventually get over it. When my mom told me, I couldn’t get all the Barbie Dolls I wanted in one shopping trip, I eventually learned that that was not something I “needed” to live a sustainable life. And it’s probably a good thing I didn’t get all the Barbie Dolls I wanted because I didn’t play with Barbie Dolls too long after that.

Sometimes parents make decisions for us that we don’t exactly agree with and they tell us “no”- like when you really want to touch that hot stove. Sometimes parents set up barriers to protect us from doing something that will hurt us – like a gate at the top of the stairs to the basement. Lastly, parents do things that “hurt” us and we begin to question why they would do such a thing – like getting put in time-out for sassing or “accidentally” hitting our sibling.

Something I’ve noticed on my walk of faith is how God really is MY Father and He plays the role of a parent in my life. Paul states in Philippians 4.19: “My God will meet all of your needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus”. Just like an earthly parent, our Heavenly Parent has given us this promise of providing for us and meeting our needs.

The cool thing is, we can continue to have our childlike faith in Christ just like we did with our earthly parents; we can know our needs will be met. We can trust God to give us a place to live, give us food in our bellies, clothes to wear, and help keep us on our feet financially.

Sometimes, these things don’t happen, however. Sometimes a need, that we believe, needs to be met never gets met, even though we prayed and asked God to provide. So, we start to doubt because what we asked for, and thought we needed, was never given to us. It’s kind of like what I described earlier about our parents not letting us touch the hot stove and crawl down the basement stairs.

Maybe, just maybe, the God of the Universe that calls all things to order doesn’t think we need this particular thing we are asking for. OR, maybe He is giving it to us in a way we did not expect. It is hard to accept that God might have a better plan for us, but we must learn to trust our Creator and know that He is Faithful when it comes to keeping His promises.

When I was a kid, my sister and my cousin went to the log cabin on Chardon Square for a VBS one fall morning. I was too young to go. When they got back in the car, they brought a cassette with several Bible songs they learned. It was called, “Lord Teach Me To Pray” and it put Bible verses into a memorable song. My mom played it in the cassette player in our mini-van and we headed home. I still remember several of those songs to this day. One of them goes like this:

“And my God will meet all of my needs / According to / His glorious riches / In Christ Jesus / In Christ Jesus / Philippians four nineteen.”

I could sing that song over and over again for hours, but will it do me any good unless I actually believe it? Church, we are called to be a people that trusts the Lord. We are called to be a people who knows, and has faith, that our God keeps His promises. Pastor’s concluding message in the “Habits of Happiness” series is about this very thing! He teaches us the premise and the promise of Philippians 4.19 and the importance of trusting our God with what He has said!

Take a moment after you have listened to this podcast and seek God with childlike Faith.
http://www.painesvilleag.com/painesville-ag-messages/?enmse=1&enmse_sid=2

Have a great rest of the week!
Jenny Bushnell

Hurricane Harvey & Convoy of Hope

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As a faith-based, nonprofit organization Convoy of Hope has helped more than 80 million people throughout the world by sharing food, water, emergency supplies, agricultural know-how, and opportunities that empower people to live independent lives, free from poverty, disease and hunger.

Convoy of Hope does this through: Mobilizing tens of thousands of volunteers each year. Partnering with churches, businesses, individuals and other humanitarian organizations who are intent on doing good work among the impoverished and suffering.

Check out the latest update! If you would like to partner with Convoy of Hope by providing valuable resources to Hurricane Harvey survivors, please follow this link and donate today: https://www.convoyofhope.org/donate/disaster-services-hurricane-harvey-response-2017/

Donation Facts:
$6,000 — the cost to send one truckload of supplies to Texas during this response. This includes the acquisition and delivery of products totaling an average of $48,000 in wholesale value.
$100 — the cost to provide two families with emergency relief supplies for an entire week.

I AM A STUDENT

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After hearing Sunday’s sermon, The Characteristics of a Contented Heart; I have been challenged and convicted. Am I a content person? I would say that I am… well, most of the time. Being content is not my natural propensity. It’s probably not yours either.

As I reflect to recent times when the circumstances of my life were a bit challenging, I’m not sure I was living with a contented heart. I was in the midst of a painful process. Our God is the God of the process, but often I don’t like the processes He chooses for me! Regardless of how I feel, I do believe God uses circumstances to grow us and refine us; making us more like Jesus.

What God has recently revealed to my heart is that even when circumstances are challenging, when the roller coaster of life takes you on a ride you’d rather not be on, He is near. He doesn’t waste our pain and trials. Our Father in Heaven wants to reveal Himself to us as ENOUGH in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in! Paul was writing the book of Philippians, a thank you letter, from prison, for goodness sake!

Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  Philippians 4:11-12

Paul’s admission that contentment was something he had to learn indicates that at one time he did not know how to be content. But as he wrote the book of Philippians, he had learned how to be content, even as a prisoner in Nero’s dungeon.  He remained a learner, a student in the School of Christ, his entire life, and so must we. We are students, and lessons about contentment take time and experience. Are you willing to learn?

Now I must admit, some of the lessons I have learned have been difficult. You might remember the show on TV called “Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” Well, in the School of Christ, more often than not, I feel like the answer is “NO! I am not smarter than a fifth grader!” Sometimes I feel as if I must still be in preschool in the School of Christ! Lessons I think I would have learned by now keep coming up for retesting, if you catch my drift.

The one thing I love about this school we’re now enrolled in is that the Teacher is the best! He is so kind and gentle… so patient with His students. He knows me so well, and He knows exactly what I need in order to learn.

My Teacher has my best interest in mind! Just a few of the wonderful things He desires for me (and you) are: to learn to come and rest (Matthew 11:28), to listen to His voice (John 10), to follow Him alone, and to learn to be content, like Paul.

Paul didn’t beat around the bush when it came to declaring how the learning process was possible. He proclaimed, “I can do all things through Him (Christ) who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13 NIV)

Jesus is the key to a contented heart. He is enough!

Yes, “the secret of being content” Paul was referring to was, and still is, the power of God available to us through Christ Jesus! I love how this verse reads in the Amplified version.

“I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]” (Phil 4:13 AMP)

Supernatural power is accessible to all who will surrender to, and cooperate with, Jesus. He will reveal Himself powerfully and personally to us as we trust in His sovereignty. Trust in His process, and He will infuse you with inner strength and a confident peace in all circumstances.

Contentment is one of the precious flowers of Heaven, and if we desire it, it must be cultivated. It will not grow in us naturally, for it is the new nature alone that can produce it. Yet even then we must be especially careful and vigilant to cultivate and maintain the grace God has sown in us. ~Charles Spurgeon

For the full podcast, “Characteristics of a Contented Heart,” click this link: http://www.painesvilleag.com/painesville-ag-messages/?enmse=1&enmse_sid=2

 

Still learning… fellow student in the School of Christ,

Jenny

“What? Me Worry?”

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Wanted: Worry. Looking to accumulate more worry as I am currently out. Please contact me as soon as possible.  Thank you.

Could you imagine a “wanted” ad that looks like this? There is no possible way that anyone would ask for others to send in their worry. Yeah. It’s possible. It could be me. There have been times when it seemed that I was looking for more things to worry about. That sounds freaky. But it’s true. Years ago it appeared to others around me that I was actively looking for things to worry about. It could be anything. It could be something that I read in the newspaper, or heard on TV, or just something that others might be facing. I wondered, “what if I were in their situation?” Ridiculous! How could anyone live like that?

Let me share with you a little story about worry. When my son Brandon was about 8 years old, he wanted to play soccer. All of his friends played and he asked if he could sign up and join a team. I said, “Sure, Brandon.  That’s great!” Then I thought, what does Brandon know about soccer? What do I know about soccer? Well, to the latter question, the answer would be nothing. I knew nothing about soccer. I began to think, what if I were to try to help Brandon and taught him something wrong? I worried that his coach would see something wrong in what Brandon was doing. So, I volunteered to be an assistant coach of Brandon’s team. Yup, the guy who knew nothing about soccer was now going to help coach a team. It was as if I couldn’t just let Brandon have fun. He was only 8 years old. The happy ending to this story was that it didn’t matter what I was worrying about, the 8 year old boys were all having the time of their lives. None of them knew everything about soccer. They knew how to have fun and the result was an undefeated season and the league championship. Brandon was overjoyed. Dad was proud of his son and all of his accomplishments that year. As “Mad Magazine’s” slogan says, “What? Me Worry?”

Worry can get you so upset that you feel paralyzed. You don’t know what you should do or, even worse, it can make you physically sick. I have heard stories from friends and family that had medical issues such as ulcers, high blood pressure, and other ailments because of worry.

Doctors have defined worry as: “feeling uneasy or being overly concerned about a situation or problem. With excessive worrying, your mind and body go into overdrive as you constantly focus on ‘what might happen.’” WebMD says this about “worry”: “In the midst of excessive worrying, you may suffer with high anxiety — even panic — during waking hours. Many chronic worriers tell of feeling a sense of impending doom or unrealistic fears that only increase their worries. Ultra-sensitive to their environment and to the criticism of others, excessive worriers may see anything — and anyone — as a potential threat. Chronic worrying can affect your daily life so much that it may interfere with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and job performance. Many people who worry excessively are so anxiety-ridden that they seek relief in harmful lifestyle habits such as overeating, cigarette smoking, or using alcohol and drugs.”

Whoa! Worry is not good.  It really serves to affect us in so many negative ways. I guess this is why the Bible says in Philippians Chapter 4 and verse 6, “Don’t worry about anything…” (NLT) Worry takes us into a place void of peace. If I were to write another “wanted” ad, it would look like this:

Wanted: Peace. I am currently out of peace and would like to replenish my stock. Please contact me as soon as possible.  Thank you.

Friend, worry seems to be easy to obtain. Peace, not so much if our eyes are on the problem and away from the giver of peace. The giver of peace is Jesus Christ. We have someone who cares about everything that happens to us.  Jesus came so that you may have an abundant life. He is always there.  He desires to talk to you.  Yes, Jesus desires for you to let loose of all your worry and place it at His feet. You can’t get rid of worry yourself. You may cover it up for a while, but in my experience, worry will come back unless you submit yourself and your worry to Jesus. It is in your weakness that He is made perfect.  So perfect that He will lead you out of worry and into His glorious peace.

Click on the link below to hear a powerful message from Pastor Aaron Taylor entitled, “Habits of Happiness: A Prescription for Worry” – http://www.painesvilleag.com/painesville-ag-messages/?enmse=1&enmse_sid=2

I pray you have a blessed and worry-free week.

George Leonhardt,
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