by Debbie Altman

I’ve been a Christian for 37 years now, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express enough, how thankful I am to Jesus for who He is, and for the life He offers us.

Like all of us, I have a little bit of junk in my trunk!   Given up for adoption at birth, then alcoholism and divorce in my family.  That sums up the basics without too much gore!  I grew up with a taste of God from Catholic church on Easter and Christmas.  I had never been a REALLY bad girl, at least in all the outward appearances. But like all of us, there was a big ache, a knowledge of my true self that made me dissatisfied, aware of my own inward sin, and hungry for something more.  When I was introduced to a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus just after high school, my whole world opened up!  Boy, did I get MORE!

I love the Psalms because the writer is so brutally honest about the tough stuff of life, yet he is always trying to express how amazing God is and how much he wants to praise Him!  I can relate!  I have wallowed with David in “the pits,” but in spite of that, (and sometimes because of it…), I identify with how much he loves and appreciates God, and wants to shout it from the mountaintops!

“You thrill me Lord with all you have done for me!”  Psalm 92:4

“How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying His commands.  Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed….Light shines in the darkness for the godly.  They are generous, compassionate and righteous.  Such people will not be overcome by evil.  Those who are righteous will be long remembered.  They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them…Their good deeds will be remembered forever.  They will have influence and honor. “  Psalm 112

Serving and obeying God brings such tremendous benefit to our lives!  Seeking after God and His ways brings light to our darkness, and the healing passes to the lives of our children and grandchildren, and the world around us!  He brings us out of brokenness and obscurity to a place of influence and honor!  I want to shout it from the rooftop!  The Lord is good!!!   And even through the hard times, He brings blessing and honor on a life lived for Him! 

I know that the struggles in life can beat us down and tempt us to doubt God.  But I plead with you today, “Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due time, you will reap a harvest.”  (Galatians 6:9) Stay the course with God.  Do not turn to the right or to the left.   Keep the end in mind!  The rewards for your life are too many to count!

Lord Jesus, I cry out to You today for anyone reading this who feels weary, or who is fighting the pull to wander away from You.  Wrap Your big arms around them and hold them close and whisper in their ear how much You have in store for them.  Give them the strength, courage and vision today to go on with You to the end. Provide for them and show them Your tender goodness.    In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading and the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games.

 

by Terri Blanchard

Tuesday’s blog described what was going on in my life 13 years ago. Today blog is more about where I am today. While I was in a very dark place back then, I can honestly say that is not the case today. Now there is light and life in my life. My life has changed because of what God has done. Psalm 103 describes just a few of those reasons.

(1) Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name.
(2) Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.

Today, I can praise the Lord with my whole heart because of all the good things He did for me then and what He continues to do now.

(3) He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.

Actually, I could stop here because that alone is more than I could ever ask for. Not only did God forgive me for the years of mistakes, poor choices and bad decisions I made (and still make!), He has healed me and continues to heal me physically, mentally and spiritually. But wait, there is more!

(4) He redeems my life from the pit
(my deep dark pit of despair – see Tuesday’s blog)
and crowns me with love and compassion,
(5) He satisfies my desires with good things
so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(6) The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
(8) The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
(9) He will not always accuse,
nor will He harbor His anger forever;
(10) He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
(11) For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His love for those who fear Him;
(12) For as far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
(13) As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him…
(17) From everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him,
and His righteousness with their children’s children.

What about you? Can you praise Him for any of the things in Psalm 103 that He has done for you?  What is He doing in your life now? Why not stop and take a minute to thank Him for all He’s done?

 

Terri Owens Blanchard is very happily married to John Blanchard. She is also a mother, a Mimi to her granddaughter, a Mary Kay Consultant, and a small group leader for the Military Wives group. She loves to shop, travel, and shop as she travels! She also enjoys spending time with family, friends and her crazy pets. She can be reached at t.blanchard1@yahoo.com 

by Terri Blanchard

Psalm 40

2) He lifted me out of the pit of despair, the mud and the mire… 12) for troubles surround me – too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. My heart fails me.

Thirteen years ago, I found myself in a deep, dark pit of despair. My life of sin and mistakes were too many to count. Years of poor choices and bad decisions slowly dug a hole in which I would surely fall into. Guilt and regrets caused me to sink deeper and deeper. Slowly I was sinking like quicksand into the depths of despair. My heart was distressed and my soul was depressed. In my hopelessness and desperation I cried out to God.  

13) Please, Lord, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me.  11) Lord, do not hold back your tender mercies from me. Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.

In tears of brokenness and desperation I cried out to God, “Please, help me Lord, I need You! I can’t go on like this anymore. I am done trying to do this on my own. I have made a mess of my life. Only You can fix it, only You can save me. I give everything to You, and I mean everything. Father, please forgive me of my sins through the blood of Your son, Jesus and deliver me from myself.”

 1) I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. 2) He lifted me out of the pit of despair, the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.

I could not reach up, but God’s hand reached down from heaven into the lowly pit of my pathetic existence and set my foot upon the Rock. He held my hand and steadied me, baby step by baby step. I had to face truth, make changes and work hard to walk on this new path he had set me on.

3) He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God; many shall see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.

I had to come to the end of myself so God could give me a new song in my heart. Not one of despair but of praise. Today, I praise Him for what He has brought me out of, where He has brought me to, and where He is taking me; from a pit of despair to a new fulfilling life to an exciting future.

17) my God, you are my help and my deliverer.

Out of my despair came my deliverance. Only when I surrendered and cried out to God is when He could deliver me. I pray you would know that what God has done in me, He can do in you, too.

 

Terri Owens Blanchard is very happily married to John Blanchard. She is also a mother, a Mimi to her granddaughter, a Mary Kay Consultant, and a small group leader for the Military Wives group. She loves to shop, travel, and shop as she travels! She also enjoys spending time with family, friends and her crazy pets. She can be reached at t.blanchard1@yahoo.com   

by Kristin Bonham

I love looking through Psalms and Proverbs in my Bible because so many verses are underlined and highlighted.  I have notes written off to the side; there are dates and names of family members and friends I have prayed for. It’s like a prayer journal that I keep adding to over and over.

One of my favorite chapters is Psalm 93.  It’s short compared to most, but has spoken so strongly to me over the years. 

God is King, robed and ruling,
God is robed and surging with strength.
And yes, the world is firm, immovable,
Your throne ever firm – you’re Eternal!
Sea storms are up, God,
Sea storms wild and roaring,
Sea storms with thunderous breakers.
Stronger than wild sea storms,
Mightier than sea-storm breakers,
Mighty God rules from High Heaven.
What you say goes—it always has.
“Beauty” and “Holy” mark your palace rule,
God, to the very end of time.
(The Message)

Can you picture God as King robed and ruling? Stronger that wild sea storms?  He is Almighty, Conqueror and King.  He is Beauty, Freedom, Holy and Whole.  He is my Shield, Savior and Sovereign.

When circumstances are stressful or struggles come, it is easy to focus on the “sea storms” in life.  It takes a conscious effort from us to shift our focus back to God. He tells us who He is all through His Word.  He encourages us and lifts us up if we will look to Him and Psalm 93 is a great place to start!

So here’s what I do:  Whatever it is that is causing me to be anxious or that I am asking for an answer to, I say it.  I tell God what it is (as if He doesn’t already know).  And then I declare everything I can about God back to Him. “God, You are good, you are faithful, you are healer, you are my help, you are my strength, you are magnificent, you are mighty, you are more than enough, you are the answer, you know the beginning and the end, you are my defender, you are my deliverer, you are high, you are with me!”  I could go on and on!

God has proven to me over and over that when I do this and put my focus back on Him, I see more clearly, I gain hope, my faith increases, and I am able to release those things to Him and receive peace that is beyond my comprehension.  I still may have to walk through some tough things, but I have confidence that God is able to do way more, way faster, with way less effort than I can, and I would much rather let Him be in charge than rely on my own strength or resources.   

 

Kristin Bonham is a pastor’s wife and the Women’s Ministry Director at Grace Family Church. She’s been married to Chris for 24 years and is mom to Taylor, Abby and Casey. She loves the beach, New York City and traveling with Chris to anywhere tropical. She collects books and reads some of them. Her favorite part of the week is Sunday lunch with family and friends around the table.

by Dani Catherine

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

Within the storms of life that may cause me to be open to the enemy, Proverbs 4:23 is one of my favorite verses. What does it even mean to “guard your heart” and how do we guard it?

The heart represents our center; our heart takes in emotions, our deepest desires, and passions. If biblically, we are reminded to guard our hearts, then it’s quite possible that at times our heart goes unguarded, which means we are open to attack from the enemy.  To guard, means to protect against danger. I can remember a few times where my heart went unguarded. I was letting society speak truth into my life rather than the word of God. I was surrounded by the wicked ways of the world, which left my heart open to all forms of temptations, sin and hurt. I was under attack by the enemy because I wasn’t guarding my heart.

So, how do we guard our hearts? We have to dig into God’s word and remain attentive (verses 20-22) and become disciplined about what we say, what we think and our actions (verses 24-27). God tells us to keep our mouth free from what is untrue. And in Matthew 12:34, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” it reminds us that eventually, whatever is in the heart, will come out. We are called to fill our hearts with thoughts that are pure, loving and honest. We are then told to keep our eyes looking forward and not get distracted by the things to our right and to our left. To me, this means to fixate my eyes on the number one goal; to glorify God with my life rather than glorifying the world. In the times that my heart went unguarded, I was all about glorifying the world.

Lastly, God calls us to consider where our feet carry us, because whatever sin our mind is contemplating, we will speak about it, and once we speak about it, we will begin to look for it. And when we begin to look for it, we will be compelled to fulfill that desire and start running towards sin and temptation. We must turn our feet to the cross, not the ways of the world. Speaking from experience, it leads to self-destruction, guilt and shame. But God wants us to be joyful and covered by love.

When I first experienced Christ and the gospel, my heart changed. Once my heart changed, I continued to pray about the protection of my heart and continued to seek His word. I pray that you are also on guard to protect your heart, for you deserve a life filled with God’s love and blessings.

 

Dani Catherine loves to bake, paint, snap photos and spend time with her loved ones. Dani enjoys leading a table at Beautiful Monday nights and loves to volunteer as much as she can at Grace Family Church.