Listen

The fine art of listening. Everyone is capable of doing it. But do we?

Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

I’ve had many of these times of listening without understanding because I was more concerned about how I was going to respond. Or not listening at all because I felt like my opinion of the situation was way more important that that of the other person.

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 2:2 Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;

Or I may listen but am I going to take it to heart? Is what was said to me opening my eyes to truth and am I willing to take that truth and change? I’ve been here too! In denial of what was being said so I didn’t want to hear it. I was polite enough to listen but it didn’t find it’s way to my heart.

Proverbs 21:23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble

I recognized this one so much so that it became part of my testimony saying, “I’ve learned the more I keep my mouth closed, the louder I can hear HIS voice”. That is a hard one! I sometimes find myself not able to listen because my mouth won’t stop moving long enough to.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

Even in Ecclesiastes, it says there is a time that I simply need to be silent. I did this many years ago when I realized that the world around me was crumbling and my need to be in control (not listening) was out of control. This was in 2005 when I said NO MORE GOD, I need YOU to take this. It was time to be silent and let others speak and me simply listen to Him. My willingness to let go allowed God to work because my voice wasn’t over powering Him. Messing with the minds and hearts of those around me to the point that they could not hear what HE was saying to them.

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Exodus 14:14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

I have had many years of not listening to Him. Being in control or the illusion of control. On the outside I looked the part but on the inside the illusion was eating away at my soul.

Some, I believe, would say that I’m a good listener. But I haven’t mastered it yet. I’ve learned over the last several years that listening is a gift, maybe a spiritual gift, but mainly an emotional gift from God. Because when I began doing more listening and less speaking, my world turned into a more beautiful, peaceful and grace giving place.

Try it, listen more………. speak less.

Lord thank you for being patient with me. Amen!

Success

I don’t even know where to start. Success, that is a BIG word in today’s society. Most would think success to be measured by your bank balance and other’s might measure it by how many initials are behind your name. Some may even measure it by how many material things you possess. While another measurement may just be whether you have a roof over your head. But I’m not sure that I agree with these measurements at all.

Proverbs 16:3 ESV Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

I guarantee we could get as many different answers as the number of people we asked. It’s a good thing that I don’t depend on the correct answer coming from 1 person, 10 people or 100 people. There is only one true source for the answer and it’s measurement is the only True one.

Proverbs 3:5 ESV Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

The problem being is that, we live in this world and in every direction that we turn the influences are abundant. They weigh down on us. They hit hard with their expectations. Our emotions get tangled up in the web of lies that surround us until we break.

Romans 12:2 ESV Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

So who then……… where then, should we look for the measurement of success?

Deuteronomy 8:18 ESV You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

Matthew 6:33 ESV But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

I have one measurement of success and it’s this.

Matthew 22:36-40 (NRSV) “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

I have not always followed by this rule of measurement. I was tangled up big time and it caught up with me in various ways. I first studied about the spiritual disciplines and then simplicity. Now don’t get all freaked out, I don’t live under a tree with my legs crossed and eyes closed, but those teachings have directed me to the scriptures and helped me have a better understanding of God’s view of success for my life. It helped me learn to be more intentional about my relationships and less focused on my surroundings. It taught me about being content because I knew what mattered, WHO mattered.

So I say to you on this topic of success, that if I love God with all my heart, seek out His direction for my life and love my neighbors as myself, then God already calls me a success. That’s all the success I need.

Thank you Lord for calling me worthy. Amen!

Quest Study Bible

I’m so excited to introduce to you this bible. As a Bible Gateway Bible Grid Member, I was given the opportunity to review a copy of the bible Free of Charge through Bible Gateway.

I have to admit that I’ve become a technology neird and do most, if not all, my bible reading, commentary look ups and research online. Rarely does the paper versions of anything slide through my fingers. I won’t say that this is the best way but for me, it’s the fastest. But you know when I received this bible it was exciting to turn those new pages and see what exciting information they contained.

The very first thing I found cool was near the front, it gives you multiple reading plans. Different time commitments, whether you want new or old testament, particular subjects and even a reading through the bible plan with a 3 year time commitment. I may just have to utilize that particular info.

Then it offers a summary of the old and new testament. With each book it gives you a little history and time line. The part that makes this bible unique is that on every single page of each book, it has “important questions” that are usually asked along with the answers to those questions. Pretty much a commentary for each book all in the same bible.

In the back it also has a break down of the Prayers, Promises and Perspectives from the Bible along with the normal index information, charts, maps and dictionary.

This is your trusted NIV Zondervan Study bible with so much more.

Click on this link to purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Quest-Study-Leathersoft-Indexed-Comfort/dp/031045087X/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?keywords=quest+bible&qid=1569331181&sr=8-2-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUE3NDROVEY3QjA1NE8mZW5jcnlwdGVkSWQ9QTA5MjQ2ODIyRVBTS0c2VURWTVRGJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTA5NTkzOTMyVUgwVzRLV1lDRDcxJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==

I’d also like to encourage you to use all your available tools to seek out what God has for you to learn today. Whether it’s technology/internet or paper, His word will change your life.

Click on this link to go to Bible Gateway : https://www.biblegateway.com/

Thank you for taking time to read my blog and I hope you choose the Quest Bible for your new study tool. Please don’t let Satan steal your spiritual growth by occupying your time with busyness.

Lord, thank you for giving me this opportunity to receive a new tool to use to seek you more. Also, thank you for providing me with the blessing of sharing You with others. Amen!

Me First

I remember always wanting to be 1st. The 1st to be chosen for a team mate, the 1st to get an answer right and the 1st to be asked to dance. Many desires to be 1st. Those are the desires of a child but as we age our desires to be 1st get stronger and sometimes even comes with envy and hurtful actions.

1 Corinthians 13:11 (TLB) It’s like this: when I was a child I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I became a man my thoughts grew far beyond those of my childhood, and now I have put away the childish things.

The childhood Me 1st is so innocent compared to the adult version. I think that we’ve forgotten what it says in 1 Corinthians, “when I became a man my thoughts grew far beyond those of my childhood and now I put away the childish things.”. But we haven’t put away those childish things. We’ve simply adopted them into our adult lives. We have grown into a community of “me first” mentality. And our “me first” mentality is far away from an attitude of servant-hood.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Mark 9:35

Jesus is our link to change. Now when I say “Me 1st” , I mean I have given my life to Him and I’m willing to be very last. Now when I say “Me 1st”, that says I’m willing to go, where ever you send me Lord to serve who ever you want me to serve. Self is now not my 1st thought, it’s Jesus.

Lord I praise your name each new day and I am so grateful for all that you have done and continue to do in my life. But Lord I fall short of thinking like you think. I ask you to fill my soul with your presence and give me the desire to rid myself of me and be of service to others. Amen

Challenge

Why Yes, this is me! I won the challenge. NOT!

Why is it that every time I think about “challenge” I’m directed to my “body image”. It might be cause that is one challenge that God hasn’t freed me from. My sinful nature has a hold on me.

Or maybe it’s that my body image is not the most important challenge that God has laid on my heart.

1 John 3:23  (ESV)  And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

This is the one challenge that I’m focusing on. This is the one challenge that God wants me to get right before I go on to the next. And there will be the next. Our whole life will be about more challenges.

As far back as I can remember, I now can see how God was challenging me even during times that I didn’t know God was even there.

As a young child, making the choice to lie about something.

As an adolescent, choosing to walk away from a potentially dangerous situation even though it was seen as weird by my peers.

As a young teenager, making a choice to skip class to go with my boyfriend and do things I shouldn’t be doing.

As an older teen, choosing not to drive drunk.

As a new married woman, choosing forgiveness even though it hurt.

As a young mom, making a choice to allow my kids to see me go against my husband’s wishes.

As a wife, choosing not to place myself in a situation that most likely would have ending my marriage.

As a Christian, choosing love for others, over myself.

Oh, and so many more in between.

He was with me so long ago and walked each step with me, challenging me to seek Him in my choices. Challenging me to challenge His love for me.

You know I did do that. I challenged Him in 2006 to fix my life, my marriage, my family and He did. But with that challenge I had to choose to let Him guide my life.

So in any challenge that we find ourselves in, we must let Him be our guide.

His challenges are for our Good and to bring HIM Glory.

Take the Challenge!

Lord, thank you for challenging me to be better each day.

Service – Where to Start

I was recently asked to speak at a Ladies Day where I previously attended church for 25 years. This is the church where I “grew up”. Not grew from child to adult but from “believer to follower”. And that growth continues still.

My talk was to be on my acts of service while I was there. And mainly concerning one specific area of service. It was interesting as I started typing that in about 3 minutes or less I could say what I had to say about me and my service but when I started adding the part that God played in the process of my service, it became much more.

The bible is very specific and shows many examples of people doing service. But if we’ve never even read the bible or been taught then where do we start? 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 is a good place!

2 Corinthians 9:12-13 (ESV) For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.  By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

If we want to glorify God and we know that He placed us here on earth with a purpose and prepared us before we were formed with His gifts, then we must start! There is no better time to start than now!

I would like to share with you, what I shared with my friends and sister’s in Christ about my beginning in service.

Hi, I’m Rhonda Gould.  I attended Friendly Ave for 25 years and moved from NC to KY, 7 years ago.  For those of you who know me, bare with me. For those you who don’t, here’s a little about me.   I moved to NC from TX in 1986 and began attending Friendly Ave, I came with a husband and a 2 yr old son.  During my time here I had another son and divorced after 10 years of marriage and remarried a year and ½ later.  Many of the women in this room raised their children along side of me. Many of the women in this room have seen me and my family in joyous times and in some, not so joyous.  Many of the women in this room have seen me soar with the Lord and have seen me back slide.  I am a rather normal woman.   God created me a very shy and introverted girl but has shown me that if I’m willing to say “YES” then He will give me the power and the courage to follow His lead.
Nicole asked me to talk about my time here and in what capacity I served this church family.   I have served in many different capacities at Friendly, some were more behind the scenes and some more up front.  The one that I’m going to focus on today is my service with ERLTC, if you don’t know what that is, it’s Eastern Region Leadership Training for Christ, which is a youth ministry for the Eastern USA.  I won’t go into all the details of the program because the leaders here now can share that with you, but that role was where the growth in me started through the leading of the Holy Spirit. 
Now for a little history, Friendly Ave was involved in a program called Lads to Leaders for years. That is where I began my journey in service as an adult.  Initially, I was a co-leader for a puppet team.  That’s it!  A far behind the scenes role and that is what I liked.  The leaders of the program at that time were moving out of state and they needed someone to head up the whole program for Friendly.  One day, 2 ladies came to me and encouraged me to take that role.  Their words I fully don’t remember but I do remember them saying, “I believe you can do this!”.  Yes, me a behind the scene puppet coach moving into a role of leader of the whole program.  Now, I really wasn’t of the same heart as Isaiah, saying “here I am Lord, send me”.  Initially I said, “No way can I do that”, but after praying about it (and honestly probably not much of that), my spirit was encouraged and through them the Holy Spirit pushed me to say “Yes”.  That was the beginning that lead to today.
I did take the role and got to work.  I used the gift of administration that God had given me.   Boy was I scared!   Public speaking…… NO way!  But I said “Yes”!   We rolled along for about 2 years and several of the parents came to me and asked that I look into the LTC program out of Texas.   I did and after many meetings it was decided that Friendly Ave would begin the LTC program.  Because of the way LTC is structured, LTC for the Eastern Region had to be created from the ground up.  So, we had a meeting with several eastern region Churches of Christ leaders and leaders of the Texas LTC program and wyaalaa the Eastern Regional LTC was born.  During that meeting of the leaders, which was the beginning of a Board of Directors, it was said that someone had to be the Board Chairman and they all pointed to me.  Yes, the behind the scene puppet coach was now being asked to head up the Eastern Region.  YIKES!   But at this point my initial “YES” several years prior, placed me in a position of being all in.  So off we went.  I and another leader flew to Dallas for a quick training and then had our first ERLTC convention in 2004.   I served as board chairman for that program for 9 years and happily, but sadly, passed it on to another capable leader when we moved to Kentucky.
I served through several roles in these ministries for over 14 years.  Part of that time my children were involved and part of it they were not, because they had aged out.  My husband was not involved but he supported me wholeheartedly.  There were times when the ministry took more of my time than others but the 1 thing I had to always remember was that God put me here to serve my husband and my family first and then others.   As long as my husband knew that he was a priority, he supported me in whatever I felt I needed to do.  That can be a challenge at times in the church because we can feel like it’s our spiritual duty to serve others and it is, but not at the expense of our families or our own sanity.  Self-love, family love and then other love.
 
 Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
 
Were there challenges?  Sure!  Did each one of those challenges push me a bit more towards being who God created me to be?  Sure did!  Let me tell you what I’m not.  I’m not the perfect wife, mom, friend or church goer.  I’m not an educated professional.  I’m not a bible scholar or trained speaker.  I’m simply a child of God who decided to say “Yes”.
I’m just ordinary.  Nothing special.  Just willing.
There are many ordinary people in the bible, God told Noah to build a boat, Job was tested by God, Moses lead God’s people out of Egypt, David killed Goliath and became the second king of Israel, Daniel slept with Lions, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego danced in fire with Jesus, Ester went before the king and saved her people and Peter healed many.  They were just ordinary people.
In each of their specific services or roles on their path, I’m sure there were challenges, but they knew that God sent them, and he would carry them through.
Acts 4:13 says, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished, and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
 
I definitley didn’t handle each challenge perfectly every time.  But I can tell you that each time I forgot that my strength and courage was coming from God and not myself, is when I tripped up.  Now 20 years or so down the road, I’m learning to trust in Him, pray to Him and wait for Him more. 
I want to reference Nehemiah.  He was a Jewish cup bearer of the King of Persia. He was part of a group of Jews that was carried away into captivity by the Babylonians. Nehemiah asked a friend what had happened to the other Jews and what was the condition of the city of Jerusalem. What he learned saddened him. He tearfully poured out his heart to God confessing the sins of his people and asking for deliverance. Not long after, while Nehemiah was serving the king, the king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness. Nehemiah was struck with fear when the king inquired about his sadness. However, He immediately prayed to God about the matter. From that point on, Nehemiah found the King to be very accommodating in his sympathy and support for him. What started out as an ordinary day, ended up with the king providing Nehemiah the permission, the passage, the materials, and the help to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the city. Through this process, Nehemiah was able to plan the project without interference, put the right people in the roles that needed their specific expertise and skills, and maintain his humility as servant by praying for his wayward brethren and himself (Nehemiah 13:29-31).
 
Point being, he was an ordinary man, with an ordinary profession, who loved his people and was saddened by their disobedience and he felt deep fear.  First thing he did was “cry out”, pray for them, asked for deliverance and he saw change and was provided for.    
 
This is what I feel like is key to leading a successful ministry.  Understanding that those serving beside you are simple, ordinary people.  Love them so deeply that their weaknesses sadden you and you cry out to God for them.  Remember that you also are ordinary and extend GRACE in heavy doses to all involved.   Continue to cry out, pray, to God as it says in Nehemiah 13:31 “Remember me, my God, with your kindness”.
 
The greatest blessing that I have had in the areas of service that I do, is watching others bloom.  I simply do as those 2 ladies did for me and recognize other’s gifts and skills and ask them to be involved.  Don’t be afraid to allow others to soar higher than yourself and don’t make it a race, let it be a journey. That is key!
 
In his book, “If you want to walk on water then you must get out of the boat”, John Ortberg says, “There is always a changed life. Those who say yes to God’s call don’t walk the walk perfectly – not by a long shot. But because they say yes to God, they learn and grow even from their failures. And they become part of His actions to redeem the world.”
 
I have been blessed far beyond anything I could have imagined just because I was willing to say “YES”.

As a new Christian I had a women that loved me enough to walk with me in the area of service by serving with me. And from there God grew and blessed her efforts by placing me in positions to grow.

Where to start? Here & Now and Bring someone along with you.

Thank you Lord for placing people on my path to encourage me and thank you for giving me the courage to say Yes to service.

Testimony

Your testimony is an outline of your experiences and how God has used them for HIS plan of salvation for this world. Make this one life count!

In 2013, I wrote my first testimony. As I shared my story, my life was outlined with experiences that had shaped me. How actions of others had shaped my thoughts of myself and led me down a wide path of sin, shame and guilt. It was a story of how I had overcome with a splashing of how God had played a part.

This picture of the rocky covered grounds meeting up with the softness of the waters just to find that once in those waters they too can become rough, tossing me around, perfectly represents my life. As I’m sure that most of you could say it represents yours too.

Testimonies are funny things. They never stop evolving because life never stops evolving. When I wrote my first testimony, it was like a badge of victimization and shame. Writing my story was a way to break down those barriers of anger, guilt and shame that I so long had buried within. Now several different versions and 6 years later, it has become a badge of honor to me. A way to express the gratitude I have to God for redeeming me, rescuing me and releasing me from my past.

Here’s a snippet …..

I’m here to share with you how Jesus made this “broken life”, BEAUTIFUL in spite of myself. I just thought I had worked through it but God had so much more he wanted to reveal to me. This is a story of love, grace, redemption and restoration. Jude 1 “keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” and Romans 3 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”.

There are so many experiences that shaped me, that played a part in my life testimony and ultimately led me down a path to a closer walk with God, a greater appreciation for what Jesus did for me and the role that the Holy Spirit plays in my life today. My experiences may have shaped me but I know WHO formed me and that knowledge is what gives me hope and smooths out the rocky and turbulent parts.

Psalm 139:13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I was a mess. I didn’t realize it till I was hit head on with so much pain that God seemed to be my last resort. I hate to say He was my last resort but I wouldn’t be honest if I said He was my first. I learned early on that I could sway the direction of the wind by acting certain ways or saying certain words. I felt like I could conquer the world, that is called codependency and I seemed to be a master at it. In my world, that was being the master at fixing everyone else’s problems while mine were imploding around me. Till I finally couldn’t stand on my own 2 feet and allowed God to hold me up. I dropped all that baggage that I’d been carrying around, some mine and some others, and allowed HIM to free me of it.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Here’s a snippet…….

I gave up the fight in 2005! I knew for years that my God was there
but I never reached out for Him. So I boldly called out…… ”God, I’m handing this over to you for 1 year, then I’m done”. I was ready to meet the God that Hagar speaks of in Genesis, “The God who sees me”. As that year passed, I saw change in me, change in my husband, change in my children and it gave me hope. Hope to hold on.

This one life of mine has had it’s bumpy and winding roads but it has also shown me who God created me to be. He was just waiting for me to ask Him to show me. I can boast now all the more gladly of my weaknesses, because I know that the power of Christ rests upon me.

1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

So I type all this, to let you know that when I sought after HIM, He was found and I learned that His eyes always saw me, just as He is the God that sees you too!

Here’s a snippet……

Never underestimate, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE, what He can do through you!

Use your story, your experiences, your testimony to bring HIM glory.

Lord, thank you for allowing me to walk this journey and to share this journey with others so one day we will be with You.