Monday, April 27, 2015

The Battlefield - Ripe for the Harvest

Since becoming a believer, I have been drawn to the stories of missionaries - of selfless sacrifices, leaving family, friends, risking their own health by living in a more primitive land, risking their lives or even losing their lives, to share the Gospel.  Missionaries showing Christ's love through their kind acts of service; building relationships so that those they serve would come to know Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

As I read the above words describing a missionary, I picture another servant - our military.  How great is their sacrifice, some paying the ultimate sacrifice...

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

The battlefield - a mission field ripe for harvest, where young Marines are facing their own mortality every day - without Jesus...

Such an incredible opportunity to reach a Marine in their own mortality...  How great a Gift, to share the Gospel that promises Eternal Life, with a Marine who is willing to die, so that we might live free.

Through my son-in-law's experience in Afghanistan, while he served as a U.S. Marine, the Lord placed a desire on my heart to minister to Marines.

The ministry was born out of a telephone call with my son-in-law as he sat on a hill in Afghanistan.   I remember thinking how incredibly clear the connection was even though he was across the world!  He mentioned the socks that I sent him in a Care Package and how much he appreciated their quality.  He added that he wished that all the Marines could receive these particular socks saying they were the best he'd ever worn!   The conversation then moved on to catching up and just enjoying our time "together".  When I hung up the phone, I began to ponder our discussion about the socks.  It was then that the Lord provided me with the ministry focus - to send an encouraging letter, a Gospel of John tract and a pair of combat socks to a Marine.

In the days that followed, I prayed for direction as I faced what seemed like daunting obstacles.  I looked into 501C charity requirements, but didn't meet the criteria.  With the stringent privacy protocols involving our military, I didn't know how I would even obtain a list of Marines to reach!

The Lord then led me back to an online community I already participated in, MarineParents.Com where I noticed for the first time the The Care Package Project.   I read their mission statement which stated, "The Care Package Project's mission is to support deployed troops by sending care packages with letters and content donated by individuals in communities throughout the United States."  I made contact with a MarineParents' Care Package Project representative where I learned that my ministry could fall under the umbrella of MarineParents.com, solving my 501C issue, AND that they had a list of Marines that would receive the Care Packages!  The Lord had provided solutions to the initial obstacles I had faced!

I did have one further concern.  Would MarineParents.com allow their Care Package Project to be used for sending the Gospel to Marines.  Not only did they allow it, but each person I dealt with involved with the Care Package Project was a Believer!

My next step was to contact Covert Threads, the company where I had purchased the socks for my son-in-law.  I spoke to the owner who is a Believer!!  He was so excited and encouraged by the ministry.

I then contacted the The Pocket Testament League where to my utter joy I discovered that they have special combat Gospel of John tracts with non-reflective paper for the troops safety.

In the weeks that followed, I received brochures and posters from the Care Package Project and Covert Threads to be able to promote the fundraisers.  The Lord was providing everything!!

The Lord led me to name the ministry, the Ephesians 6:15 Sock Ministry.  "And having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace." The verse's description of the "feet's" purpose in the armor of God seemed so fitting in light of the Marines receiving socks and the Gospel through this ministry!


All the pieces were in place!  Now it was time to pray that the Lord would provide the financial gifts through His people.

The Lord moved my own church family to participate.  The Lord also moved several local churches to host fundraisers as well.  We were able to conduct the fundraisers remotely by providing an Ephesians 6:15 Sock Ministry Packet containing a bulletin insert, a poster and brochures.

Since the Ephesians 6:15 Sock Ministry began in 2011, the ministry has raised almost $7000  reaching just about 1000 Marines with the Gospel!   Praising God for how He has blessed this ministry!

I have entrusted the Ephesians 6:15 Sock Ministry into the Lord's hands.  There have been years that the ministry raised a large amount of money.  Other years, when the monies raised were not as much, the Lord was able to multiply the amount of gifts we were able to purchase - like the bread and the fishes.  This past year, however, we only raised a fraction of what we had in the past.  The economy is hitting churches hard which has effected the Ephesians 6:15 Sock Ministry.

I was actually at the point of praying, wondering whether the Ephesians 6:15 Sock Ministry had served what God had intended and whether it was time to end it.  I just wasn't sure how else the money could be raised...

During the week I was praying and considering the future of the Ephesians 6:15 Sock Ministry, I happened to read two blogs, both dealing with ministry.  One blog post dealt with a ministry desire placed upon the heart years ago, but one that the Lord was waiting to launch in His perfect timing; the other blog post encouraged those who are in a ministry to "not grow weary of doing good".   As I read both posts, I felt the Lord was telling me to continue on with the Sock Ministry...

I continued praying...

It then became apparent that the Lord was changing the means in which He would provide money to share the Gospel with the Marines.  I felt the Lord calling me to use my blog, a blog which could potentially be seen all over the world!  It was then that I established a page dedicated to the ministry as part of my blog's website.

I don't even remember how it happened, but somehow I became aware of PayPal's donate button which can be used on websites for fundraising.  Like all the details of this ministry, I believe the Lord led me right to it!

I installed the donate button on the blog a little over a week ago with plans to introduce the ministry at the end of April, just before Military Appreciation Month which is held in May.

Within just days of installing the donate button on my blog, I had a gracious donation from a sister blogger in the United Kingdom!!  I felt like Abraham when he laughed!  I was laughing thinking, "Of course the Lord did that!"  I then had another very gracious donation from someone in the midwest!  And both of these donations happened without me "promoting" the ministry!

The Lord has already done such an amazing work through this ministry over the past four years.  The following is an excerpt from a letter which I received from MarineParents showcasing the enormity of God's blessings toward the Marines.

"The Executive Director of MarineParents and myself were near tears when we saw all the boxes of PERFECT socks that the Marines wear and need...

In closing, on behalf of the Marines and the rest of the staff at the Corporate Office at MarineParents, we are unbelievably touched by the gracious donations of your group...

May you and your Sock Ministry continue to be blessed abundantly by God's Graces, Karen!"

Indeed!  May God continue to do great and mighty things through this ministry; that many Marines would come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

All Glory and Honor to Him!

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MINISTRY UPDATE - August 18, 2015
SOCK MINISTRY NO LONGER TAKING DONATIONS.

It is with great disappointment that I will be suspending the Ephesians 6:15 Sock Ministry until further notice. 

I was notified today by MarineParents that the Care Package Project, our sponsor, stopped accepting donations in July 2015 due to lack of need.  {The staff at Marine Parents normally receives addresses of deployed Marines which in turn would receive the Care Packages.  With the recent draw down and more special operation deployments, MarineParents has not received enough addresses to sustain the Care Package Project.

The Care Package Project will be having one more unofficial packing day to clear out their inventory. Please be assured that the funds you donated through my blog will be used toward the final care package shipment by Marine Parents.

In the meantime, I will be looking into other sponsors for the Ephesians 6:15 Sock Ministry in the hopes of opening up the ministry to donations again.

Thank you again for your past generosity. 

Blessings,
Karen 

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If you would like to participate in the Ephesians 6:15 Sock Ministry, you can use the donate button located at the bottom of this post.

If you think your church would be willing to conduct a fundraiser, please use my email contact form, and I can provide your church with more information and/or an Ephesians 6:15 Sock Ministry Packet.


If you would like to use your blog to conduct your own fundraiser with all proceeds going to the Ephesians 6:15 Sock Ministry, feel free to include a link to this blog post.


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I thank you for allowing me to take the time to share what the Lord has done to bless the Ephesians 6:15 Sock Ministry.  You can read more about the ministry here or visit the Ephesians 6:15 Sock Ministry Facebook page.


"We ourselves feel that what we are doing
 is just a drop in the ocean.  But the ocean would
 be less because of that missing drop."  
Mother Theresa


You might find me on these link-ups:
Grace & Truth Link-upWoman to Woman Ministries,  Growing in Grace Link-up, 3DLessonsLif4eLivefree Thursday,Everyday JesusSDG GatheringInspire Me Monday, Titus 2 TuesdayA Wise Women Builds Her HomeA Look at the Book,  Sunday StillnessThe Weekend BrewSpiritual Sundays, Soul Survival,  Give Me GraceA Little R&RTestimony TuesdayWomen with Intention WednesdaysStill SaturdayGood Morning MondaysTell His StoryBlessings Counter Link-up Party,Faith & Fellowship Blog Hop

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Prayer and a Piano


Sing to the Lord, for He has done glorious things; let this be known throughout the world.
Isaiah 12:5

For the mighty One has done great things for me -- holy is His name.
Luke 1:49


In an effort to help calm my tendency to worry, my mom taught me to pray when I was a little girl.  She encouraged me that I would find comfort in God through prayer.  At that point in my life I hadn't surrendered my life to Christ yet, but when I would recite the rote prayers I was taught, I was filled with a sense of closeness to God that brought me peace.  I never prayed specific prayers for specific things.  Instead, prayer for me was a source of comfort.

Once I was born again, my prayer life changed.  Through the prayers of the Saints in the Word of God, and hearing believers praying out loud, I learned how to pray - in confession and repentance;  in humility; for God's will; for wisdom; in boldness; without ceasing...

Many of the Lord's responses have been above and beyond what I could have hoped or imagined; others were answered exactly how I had requested.  I've also had prayers that were answered not in a way "I would have chosen" because some suffering came with the journey to the answer, but in hindsight, I could see the way God answered it was perfect, bringing Him Glory and bringing ultimate good for the situation prayed for.  There have also been answers of "no" to my prayers.  Some , that later would become obvious that the best answer was "no".  Still others I may never know this side of Heaven why the answer was "no", but I trust my Heavenly Father's Sovereignty.

Since becoming a believer, there have been three "noteworthy" answers to prayer that I have received which greatly strengthened and shaped my faith in the Lord.  

The first matter for prayer happened when I was a brand new believer.  My husband had been out of work for nine months.  We were facing the final unemployment check as my husband's allotted amount had run out.  With no other income on the horizon, already scaling back our groceries, eating pasta and pancakes just to preserve money, we went to our penny jars and started counting pennies.  We came up with $50.00. We had exhausted all our savings... Bills were mounting...  The end of the rope had come...   Things were about to become desperate...

 I remember going on my exercise bike, pedaling so fast and praying fervently and boldly, pleading our situation to the Lord, asking Him to show Himself to me in a mighty way.

The very next day three answers came.  
  1. We found out that the Government issued another extension for those collecting unemployment.
  2. Our church presented us with a $200 check to buy groceries
  3. My husband was contacted for a job interview and was ultimately hired.
"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy 
and find grace to help in time of need."  
Hebrews 4:16

The next matter for prayer happened a few years into my Christian walk.  It was quite a serious one.  I had discovered a lump in my neck that turned out to be a very large thyroid nodule.  I needed a biopsy.  Unfortunately, the doctor was not able to get enough tissue from the nodule to do an adequate biopsy.  However, the removal of fluid shrunk it down quite a bit.  The doctor remained hopeful.  Within two weeks, the nodule came back and this time it was even bigger!  Another biopsy was necessary.  In the week before my biopsy, my prayer request was that the specimen gathered would be sufficient enough to test AND most especially, that it would not be thyroid cancer.  My entire church was praying for me, and I was on several church's prayer chains.  I had the biopsy, and the doctor was convinced that again he didn't obtain enough of a specimen to do an adequate biopsy.  Because the nodule was so big, he prepared me that if the biopsy was not sufficient, the next course of action would be a thyroidectomy.  And the church continued to pray...

The answer came one week later...

Not only did the doctor have an adequate specimen to biopsy, it was not cancer!  I did not need to have surgery!  Even the doctor said he was quite amazed that the biopsy was successful.  I was able to testify to my non-Christian doctor about the great and wonderful answer to prayer. 

Is anyone among you sick, let him call the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  
And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick...  
James 5:14-15

Again, I say to you, if two of you agree about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.  
Matthew 18: 19-20

The third prayer was actually a result of reading a biography about George Muller.  Let me explain...

George Muller is best known for providing Christian education to children who were under his care.  He established 117 schools which educated over 120,000 children, many of whom were orphans.  George Muller's biography details how he raised the money for these schools solely through prayer.  What struck me the most, was that George Mueller did not share his need to anyone.  The matter for prayer was just between him and God.   Over the years, George Muller's private prayers yielded large amounts of money to build the orphanages.  He also received unsolicited provisions for food and other necessities, always at just the right time.  George Muller's faith was greatly strengthened through seeking the Lord in prayer and expectantly waiting for answers.

I wanted to experience God in my prayer life the way that George Muller did...

At the time, my daughter had recently started taking piano lessons.  We discovered that she was quite gifted at playing the piano.  In order for her to be able to diligently practice, it would have been advantageous to have a piano.  We didn't have the money for such a luxury, and we really didn't have much space in our home for a piano.

Even though a piano was just a desire and certainly not a dire necessity, I set out to pray the way George Muller did, only sharing my request with the Lord, not with anyone else.  I was quite specific in my prayer for the piano, even down to the size, style and color I preferred.  And then I expectantly waited...

The answer came two weeks later...

A friend of mine called to ask if I knew anyone who needed a piano.  As the words sunk in, I felt all the air go out of my lungs as I breathlessly said, "We do!"

But wait, there is still more to this story!   As my friends were unloading the piano from their vehicle into our living room, I looked in awe to see that it was the EXACT size, style and color that I had specifically prayed for!!

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

But when you pray, go away by yourself and shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.  Then your Father who sees everything will reward you.
Matthew 6:6


The Lord strengthened my faith through each of these very different prayers - a prayer spoken boldly, a prayer lifted up corporately, and a prayer uttered in secret.  Our Heavenly father hears our pleadings, listens when two or three are gathered in His name, and delights in private communion with us.

I hope this post brings to your remembrance the great and mighty things the Lord has done in your own life.  I'd love to hear how the Lord has ministered to you through answered prayer.

Remember the wondrous works He has done, His miracles...  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Blogger Heal Thyself



Since I began blogging just three short months ago, the Lord has been so gracious to me, hearing my prayer, as He guides me through each and every post.  Many times,  the Lord has pressed a scripture verse or lesson upon my heart to blog about, but as I start praying and writing, although the main thoughts I am seeking to convey are still part of the end product, the journey the Lord takes me on to get there is so different than what I had loosely outlined in my mind.  The blog post truly becoming a testament of the Lord working to refine me...

"For the Word of God is living and active...".  Hebrews 4:12

But I have a confession...  I am not "practicing what I blog".  It's not that I think it isn't necessary because I walk in perfect obedience.   Quite the contrary!  I most certainly want to live in obedience to God my Father.  But the struggle is there...  I might say it is more so since I began blogging... 

When the Lord reveals lessons to me through weekly sermons, Bible reading, Bible study homework, and Christian blogs, I become so excited about what I have learned.  I have an overwhelming desire to practice the Spiritual discipline impressed upon my heart - to walk in obedience with the Lord. But then I don't...

"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing..." Romans 7:18-20

Bob Deffinbaugh, writer for Bible.org, states in his commentary of Romans 7:18-20 that "No matter how much we may wish to serve God in our minds, we find ourselves sinning in our bodies.  The Apostle Paul wants to do what is right, but his body will not respond.   He watches, almost as a third party, as sin sends a signal to his body, and as his body responds, 'What would you like to do?'  Our fleshly bodies quickly and eagerly respond to the impulses and desires aroused by sin."

When I read the above commentary notes, specifically about the Apostle Paul, I exclaimed to myself, "THAT'S HOW I FEEL!!!"

My take home message is that it all boils down to SELF, SELF, SELF.

I have modified Merriam Webster's dictionary definition of selfish as follows:  seeking or concentrating on ones own advantage, pleasure or well-being without regard for others{God}.

When I am focusing on SELF, I am rebelling against God with no regard for His commands or will for my life.   I am deciding that I know what is best for me.

"But My people did not listen to Me; 
Israel did not obey Me
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
to follow their own plans.
If only My people would listen to Me
and Israel would follow my ways."  
Psalm 81:11-13

Why would I choose to disobey God, to follow my own plans?  Why would I choose to come outside of the protection of His will for my life - the safest place I could possibly be...

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.   For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law, indeed, it cannot..." 
 Romans 8:6-10

I recently saw the above verse with new eyes.  As I read the verse, it struck me that the mind set on the flesh is actually set on SELF.  With that realization, the flesh {SELF} brings destruction.  When I gratify the desires of SELF, it may "feel good for the moment", but it will bring nothing but heartache ultimately.  Why would I desire ultimate heartache, when the mind set on the Spirit brings life and peace.

When the Apostle Paul shared his struggle in Romans 7, he answered that struggle with these words in Romans 8.

There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  For God has done, what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:1-4

...who do not walk according to the flesh {self}, but according to the Spirit...

I know that I am sealed with the Holy Spirit, that my Salvation is secure.  I know that Christ Jesus has removed my past, present and future sins as far as the East is from the West.

But...  when I continue to walk according to the flesh {self}, I am squelching the Holy Spirit with each transgression to the point of not hearing the Holy Spirit say, "...this is the way, walk in it".  Isaiah 30:21

Yes, the Lord still loves me and no sin will ever change that, but I will suffer the consequences of my actions.

For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child.  
Hebrews 12:6

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"Indeed an honest and humble acknowledgement of the hopeless evil of our flesh, even after the new birth, 
is the first step to holiness.  
 John R. W. Stott


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What the Lord has taught me through this blog post:

Memorize scriptures that speak to my besetting sins.  When I am right with God, when I am seeking Him for wisdom, He ALWAYS brings verses to my mind that are applicable for the moment.  How much more do I need to hear the Holy Spirit bring scripture to my mind, when temptation is on the brink of sin.

I have hidden your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  Psalm 119:11

Keeping a short account with God.  I find that as I spiral in sin throughout the day, I separate myself from God so much that I won't come to Him in prayer, feeling unworthy, which leads me to sin even more.  I need to confess my sin to Him as the conviction comes knowing that...

If we confess our sins, He is Faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  
1 John 1:9

Be more intentional to serve others.  When I am wrapped up in my own life, you guessed it, I am wrapped up in SELF which leads to sin.  Yes, my life is very busy right now, but even the smallest gestures could be very significant to those I reach out to.  That is not to say that I shouldn't also serve as the following verse describes:

Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.  Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in Spirit, serve the Lord. 
 Romans 12:10-11

Become more involved in getting to know the body of believers in the new church that I attend.  In the last six months, we started attending a new church.  Unfortunately, it is about a half hour commute and with busy schedules, it is hard to be as involved in the church as I would like.  I can see a direct correlation with my struggles with sin with not spending time with fellow believers.

As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 27:17

Make an effort to do at least one selfless thing a day.  Inevitably, some situation arises every day, where there is an opportunity for me to sacrifice what I want for someone else's desire.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in
humility, count others more significant than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3

Laziness is selfishness.  When I become lazy in the activities of life and especially in practicing Spiritual disciplines, self takes over, yet again, and sin abounds.

"So lets not get tired of doing what is good.  
At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up." 
 Galations 6:9

I hope to be accountable to all those who read my blog - that future posts will reflect the Holy Spirit's continued work in me to walk in obedience bringing Glory and Honor to God so that I might say with the Apostle Paul:

"I have disciplined my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.  
Otherwise, I fear after preaching to others, I might be disqualified."  
1 Corinthians 9:27 NLT

You might find me on these link-ups:
Grace & Truth Link-upWoman to Woman Ministries,  Growing in Grace Link-up, 3DLessonsLif4eLivefree Thursday,Everyday JesusSDG GatheringInspire Me MondayTell His StoryTitus 2 TuesdayA Wise Women Builds Her HomeA Look at the Book,  Sunday StillnessThe Weekend BrewSpiritual Sundays, Soul Survival,  Give Me GraceGood Morning Mondays A Little R&RTestimony TuesdayWomen with Intention WednesdaysStill Saturday

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Amazing Love


Christ the Lord is ris'n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav'ns and earth, reply, Alleluia!
Charles Wesley

When I was a little girl, this was my favorite hymn to sing on Easter Sunday morning.  Even at a young age, I could sense the joy in the church as the congregation lifted their voices singing, Christ the Lord is ris'n today, Alleluia!  Although I had not yet been born again, I was always so drawn to the Easter story...

For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.   In love, He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will - to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.  Ephesians 1:4-6

Today, Easter Sunday, my daughter shared with me a timely blog post written by her friend, Tori, from Exploratorifashion.blog, regarding Jesus crucifixion.  The insights Tori shares bring to life the Words quoted above ...which He has freely given us in the One He loves....  As I read the words from this sweet young mama, I was so very blessed and encouraged.  I would like to pass the blessing along to you by sharing Tori's blog post What Easter Means to this Mama.   

As I have shared in previous blog posts, I tend to struggle with grasping God's love for me, and instead focus on my besetting sins and a feeling of "unworthiness".   The manner in which Tori shares about the crucifixion from the Father's perspective was an "epiphany" to me...  

When reflecting upon the crucifixion, I would always focus on Jesus and His incredible sacrifice for me.

 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down His life for his friends."  John 15:13.   

 But after reading Tori's insights from the Father's perspective - a father's perspective, it became more "tangible" to me to "grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know the Love that surpasses knowledge"  Ephesians 3:18-19   because I was putting myself in the place of a father seeing his child suffer and die.  I could not even comprehend knowing what God the Father knew would happen to His Son and that He watched it happen to His own Child - FOR ME!.  AMAZING LOVE!

 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  John 3:16

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 As a young mama, Tori is going through the unfathomable right now in the terminal diagnosis of her precious baby, but she is choosing "joy in her pain" bringing all Glory to God.  You can read more about her story in her blog post I Choose Joy in Pain.

May we all choose Joy from this Resurrection Day forward.

HE IS RISEN!!!  ALLELUIA!