Undaunted…Getting Ready

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Happy Fourth of July everyone!
Independence Day… the official start of summer.

As we all enjoy our barbecues, picnics, beaches, and summertime fun….I would like to kick off our “Undaunted” bible study by taking a moment to share a bit of background in preparation for our start on Monday.

This will be the third online study we have offered and we have heard from many women that this format works well. Some have actually said it’s the only way they’d even be able to do Bible study at this stage in their lives. Thank God for modern technology!

It’s also the best way to get, not only our local group of women involved, but lots of other women from across the U.S. and even one international friend.  So, don’t hesitate to invite someone that you think might want to join us, it’s not too late.  For the duration of the study you will receive a blog post each Monday morning and if you decide to join us for our private facebook small group, we’ll be meeting online every Monday evening from 9:30-10:30pm.

So, let me share a little bit about myself.
I am a female pastor, married with three children, two grown daughters and five grandchildren that I adore.  I live in Staten Island, NY and am blessed to be in full time ministry, both at home for my family and for the body of Christ serving with and for women. I love reading, writing, watching movies and everything creative. My passion and calling is social justice, in particular, ending violence and abuse against women.  God has given me the opportunity to live out that passion through our women’s healing ministry,  Fierce Woman Found Ministries, Inc. You can find out more about it by visiting our website at www.fiercewomanfoundministriesinc.com. We’re also on facebook, twitter and instagram. We’d love to have you follow us there and share our links with your friends.

Now, onto the author of our Undaunted study…Christine Caine.  Do you know about this amazing woman?  She is a speaker and author who travels the globe preaching, teaching, and advocating for justice.  She and her husband founded A21, an anti-trafficking organization that fights slavery around the globe.  Click HERE to learn more about here.  She is on facebooktwitter and instagram – you might want to follow her if you are into social media.

Let me tell you why I am eager to begin this Undaunted: Daring to do what God calls you to do study by Christine Caine.   There are several of reasons, really!

  1. I first heard Christine speak at a Willowcreek Leadership Conference in 2008. Her message profoundly impacted and transformed my life and ignited the flame for Fierce Woman Found Ministries to go and be a voice and light to a hurting generation.
    She is sure to ignite a passion in all of us – she does it wherever she goes!
  2. The name of the study drew me in – because I want to live undaunted but often feel as if I life fearful and full of uncertainty.
  3. I want to hear God’s voice about the call He has on my life.  I desire to let His love and grace flow through me more and more to others I come in contact with.  I don’t want to miss what God has for me.  I’ve said for years “I think God has something bigger for me.” Why wait?
  4. An online study works with my schedule and I bet it works with yours, too.

Now, Let’s get started!

Make sure you subscribe to the blog (sign-up is on the top right-hand corner of your screen. You will need to enter your name and email). Once you are subscribed, you will receive the weekly blog posts to your email on Monday. The blog will also automatically post to our facebook page, Going Deeper/Coming Up Higher. If you’re on social media, you’ll be able to read it there. In addition, if you’re interested in becoming part of our private fb small group, you will be able to watch the video sessions as well as print out the weekly study guides. Make sure to print the guides out and study it over the week because we’ll be discussing them during our small group time on Monday evenings.

For both our email and facebook participants, I would love to have your feedback in the comments section of each post.  As you read the book and work through the material, go ahead and comment.  We have learned that with the online format, commenting really helps accountability and builds a sense of community and ignites our passion and purpose.  I will read them all and will love to respond!

It is going to be an amazing 5 weeks of moving toward living undaunted as we come to clearly see what God is calling us to do with our lives.

Remember, this is not merely a ‘book’ study but is intended to cause you to search out the scriptures. So, be sure to carve out some time each day to spend with the Lord in prayer and His Word.  It is precious time where He will make His presence known to you and encourage you.  He will also and give you wisdom and guidance as He reveals the call He has on your life.  I will be checking in later this week!

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Before we begin, how about answering a few questions to get our comment section going:
1. Why are you excited to take this study?  What made you choose this particular one?
2. What feelings are evoked when you think about finding and doing what God is calling you to do?
3. What does undaunted mean to you?  Not only the definition, but also,  in your life?
What do you think it’s going to mean?

Undaunted – Intro Session

 

Christine Caine awakens the reader in her book Undaunted, to how God works in us in order to work through us.

Using her dramatic life story, she shows how God rescued her from a life of being unnamed, unwanted, and unqualified, so that she, in turn, could rescue others.

She issues a personal, direct call-to-action:

Be the love. Bring the hope. Be the change.

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Starting Monday July 6th, Fierce Woman Found Ministries’ #GoingDeeper/ComingUpHigher online group will be digging into our new summer series with Christine Caine’s book “Undaunted”.
This short summer study is only 5 sessions long and will include:

1. Session 1: “The Call” – Monday July 6th

2. Session 2: “Be the Love” – Monday July 13th

3. Session 3: “Be the Hope” – Monday July 20th

4. Session 4: “Be the Change” – Monday July 27th

5. Session 5: “The Challenge” – Monday August 3rd

The study will culminate with an outreach “challenge” night (date tbd) where we will “GO” and bless and minister to the broken and hurting and dying in order to bring hope and healing.

“…How God anointed and consecrated Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with strength and ability and power; how He went about doing good and, in particular, curing all who were harassed and oppressed by [the power of] the devil, for God was with Him.”
– Acts 10:38

Now more than ever before in the history of our nation and world, we must be Salt and Light.
We must arise and shine in the midst of ever increasing darkness and bring Hope and Healing to this hurting generation.

If you’re ready to be challenged in your faith, if you’re tired of just ‘entertaining one another’ inside the 4 walls of the church building and ready to step out in God’s strength and ability and power to ‘BE the church, ‘Do good’, ‘Be effective’ and “GO”…then gather your bible, ready your heart, stir up your gift, get your copy of Christine’s book here:  “Undaunted” and join us.

See you next week!

~ pastor m, #goingdeeper #cominguphigher #arisenshine

Week Four/Day Three (pt2): “A Fruitful Vine….Olive Shoots Around Your Table”

Yesterday, we began a theme on cultivating oil and wine based on Psalm 128:3.
I shared with all of you some lessons learned from the Olive Tree.
Today, we continue our gardening schooling as we look into lessons from The Vine.

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John 15:1-2 says God is the vinedresser or the gardener. The term “takes away” is the Greek word “airo” literally meaning “to lift up,” which is used to describe pruning). It really means “takes up”. In a vineyard, when a branch is not bearing fruit the gardener picks it up, props it up, supports it. He cleans it, waters it and positions it so that it can get the full sunlight and become able to bear fruit again. God as our gardnerer does this in our lives when we as Christians have reached a place of barrenness.  When you are not in the place you should be in, It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance and positions us back in place to receive full sunlight and life from the Vine.

John 15:2-3:
He also prunes us, to bear more fruit. If a grape vine is leafing out too much it won’t bloom and develop grapes. The same with us. We bear more fruit if the unnecessary fluff and foliage and dead wood is cut away from our lives. The interesting thing about this verse, is that Jesus is talking to His disciples. He is telling them that they are already pruned or cleaned by what He has already taught them by His Words. This teaches us that even as Christians, we don’t just automatically ‘arrive’. Our pruning and fruitfulness is an ongoing growth process.

What do you do, as a follower of Christ, when hardship hits your life?
What do you and I do when it feels like God is allowing, maybe even causing, pain to come into your life?  In John chapter 15, Jesus is comparing Himself to the vine of a grape plant that connects the branches to their source of strength and nutrients: the roots. Let’s look at the two groups of people that Jesus is talking about here:

  • One group is “in Him” but not bearing fruit – i.e., spiritual fruit. This describes a branch that has grown longer than it’s strength could hold up, and thus was being weighed down by the leaves of the branch. Its got a lot of foliage and big ‘leaves’ but is distinctly absent of fruit.

A “vinedresser” also known as a “vintner”, prunes the branches that have grown away from the vine. These branches may grow long and leafy but because they are growing in a direction away from the root vine (it’s source), they lack the stability and strong connection to the vine to support it’s own weight. A branch that is severed from the vine withers and dies. It may be lying right next to the vine, but it is not obtaining vital life from the vine, because it is not attached.

Its not enough to merely do ‘church things’, we’ve got to be in communion with God for ourselves. If you are not attached to the vine of Christ and you will wither and die. It is a spiritual fact. The vintner must then “take away” or prune the branch back – cutting off length and leaves so that the branch can grow close to the root and its resources are now concentrated into producing fruit rather than exerting energy into strengthening the wayward and fruitless branch.

I love how God so often uses nature to demonstrate what He is doing in our lives.  My husband and I are amateur gardeners.  We have a small landscaped garden in front of our home with delicate willows, pom poms and spiral evergreens. We always feel bad about cutting off growth and trimming the branches.  But the new growth was growing out of control and we saw far too many dead and browning spots in the foliage. We could see that the blooming was poor because of “wild branches and unruly growth.  So, we began pruning back the trees.  Removing some branches completely and others just taking a good bit off of them.  At first the trees seemed a bit bare and small and sparse, but soon, the new growth was visible and greener and flowery and much more abundant.  In addition, the branches were stronger and sturdier. New Life. New Growth, New Fruit.

Pruning is a painful thing. No one likes the pruning. But God’s desire in pruning is not to punish us, but to “lift” us up out of the dirt and barrenness and bring us into fruitfulness. You see, grapes cannot grow where the branches touch the ground. And just like those unruly grape branches, we have to be lifted up, pruned back and reset into our proper position.

  • The other group of people are the ones “doing all the right things.” They’re faithful. They’re fruitful. They’re doing exactly what they were grown to do.

The branches that bear fruit. Well…God prunes those branches too.
The same Greek word (“airo“) is used to describe the vintner’s treatment of the fruitful branch. And the reason? …“That it may bear more fruit.”

Coming up higher

“God prunes us when He is about to take us into a new season of growth and expansion”. – Christine Caine

“Why would God prune the people who are doing the right things? It doesn’t seem fair does it?  But it’s not a question of fair. It’s a question of fruit.

God’s desire for us is that we bear fruit, and then that we bear more fruit. His intentions for us are good! And sometimes God has to take good from us in order to give us best. 

Maybe you’re not being pruned because you’re doing something wrong, but because you’re doing something right. Maybe you’re suppose to go through this pruning for your continued growth, and not because you’re being corrected. Many times, God prunes us when He is about to take us into a new season of growth and expansion. We’ve got to pull in closer and go down deeper before we can come up higher.

The pruning in my life has proven to be painful. There were many tears…a roller coaster of emotions as I’ve had to say goodbye to certain branches that had been in my life for years.  Painful areas where brothers and sisters in Christ slandered our names…not even knowing the whole truth.  Painful moments of loss.

But we have also experienced the beauty of seeing the pruned branches begin to grow. New life shooting forth.  Plans unfolding that God has for us that are bigger and better in the eyes of our Maker.  New roads and new ministry opportunities that I am seeing God open up.  Really, it’s not two separate entities, but two opportunities that are connected and help support each other.  I have seen love and kindness from new brothers and sisters in Christ who have reached out to walk with me on this journey.  Some whom I have never met face to face. Some through prayer and words of encouragement. Some through hugs.  Some who have remained steadfast through it all.

Our family, too, has drawn closer than ever before.  Our children have seen my husband and I lose so much and yet draw nearer to God and nearer to each other more than any other time in our lives. And it has spoken volumes to them. They have grown their own faith through this process. Seeing us weather the storms this way has done more for their own personal faith than anything that had been preached (but never practiced) by those in the pulpit. They have learned to weed out certain things (and people) in their own lives.  Questioning the things they are involved in and whether or not it pulls them away from God or towards God.  Learning to seek God in all areas of their lives.

It has definitely been a season of heavy pruning.  But I truly believe that this new season coming in, we will see the bigger picture of all that God has before us!  I trust my Lord and Savior.  And I know that all that He does, He does with an intent and purpose to draw us closer to Him.  My faith has grown in leaps and bounds.  GOD IS GOOD!

When difficulty hits, when hard times come, when you feel the pruning – regardless of the source or reason – abide in Him. Remain in Christ. Maintain your faith. Draw near to the “Root” where the strength and nutrients are. Don’t leave God and don’t abandon your faith – “For apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

Stay strong. Endure the pruning. Allow God’s strength to be made perfect in your weakness. Abide in Him.

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The following is a actual list of instructions for growing grapes and tending a grapevine. I believe you’ll see the spiritual parallels as you read them through.

• Do prune your grape vines. As you train your vine to grow, cut shoots that will grow perpendicular to the stem of the vine. The more little branches and buds, the more the vine will be able to sustain the nutrients needed.
• Do provide a support system. Vines by nature are not capable of supporting its own body mass. Having a good support structure and a reliable system for it will help in training the grape vine at the same time protecting them from animals and other weeds that grows.
• Do make good measures in preventing pest in infesting your grapes and grape vines. it is important to have pest-control spray in your vines that will drive away bacteria and fungus. Also during late summer grape buds starts to swell and ripen and birds and insects dwells. Have your vine covered with net to prevent this from happening.
• Do study more about your soil when you are growing grapes, the attributes and the kind of grape vine that will best benefit them.

Abide with your Lord. Learn to follow him & obey him. Fall in love with Him. You will never be disappointed.

Week One/Day One: Where Does My Help Come From?…”Worship on the Way”

Week One: Where Does My Help Come From?
Day One: “Worship along the Way”

Today’s Treasure: “In my distress, I cried unto the LORD and He heard my cry.” ~ Psalm 120:1

As we dive into the Psalm of Ascents, we find a collection of fifteen Psalms.  Many believe that that the ascent has to do with the steps leading up to the temple, that they were to be used in a literal procession up the stairs.  Many others also refer it to the religious pilgrimages to Jerusalem which brought worshipers singing to Mount Zion.

The original pilgrims along this journey were returning from the Babylonian captivity, coming out of exile and returning to their beloved land. Others would embark on this pilgrimage as they made their way to Jerusalem for the Holy Days, the Feasts of the Lord. The people at this time were traveling together down a long arduous road. The roads were hard, the days were long.  I’m sure they were tired, dusty, weary, hungry and thirsty as they journeyed.

I do not know about you, but sometimes I get tired, weary and dusty along this journey. Life can be hard, unfair and oh, how many times have I just wanted to throw in the towel and ‘quit’! My granddaughter told me just the other day, “Granma, when life hands you lemons, just SQUEEZE till all the juice comes out! And I have…believe me.

It’s just that, sometimes, I’d rather drink a nice tall pina colada than lemonade. Can anyone relate?

I think about their group, walking along and singing songs together.  They were heading to the same place, the mountain of God. The dirt road was hard. The path was long.  The journey long and not as easy as they might have liked.

But together they went.

They had the same destination in focus, one thought. one mind. one heart.  And what did they do?

They worshipped.

Doesn’t that make it just a little bit easier to face things in life, when we know we’re not alone and when we’re able to walk the path worshipfully?

Sometimes, in life, we can feel so all alone. We tend to think that we are the only one going through something.

“I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.  Save me O Lord from lying lips and from deceitful tongues,”  – Psalm 120:1-2

Someone was slandering him.  Someone was saying false things and trying to rip his character and reputation to pieces.   Injustice was being done.  Have you ever ‘been there’? I have.  In distress…emotionally, physically, mentally and physically.

But here is what I learned.  I could not refute and fight it, meet it or prevent it, because it was evil and it had an agenda.
All I could do was this: commit it to the Lord.  

“I will lift my eyes up to the hills where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and Earth,”  (Psalm 121:1-2).

Picture with me if you will, the sojourners traveling to Jerusalem for the feast, as they went, they would see the mountain tops in the horizon.  I am sure the majestic beauty of them peaking made them gasp with awe, much like we do when one travels out west and sees the Rocky Mountains for the first time against the great blue skyline.  The sight is breathtaking.  I have to wonder if, as the worshippers walked towards the mountains, their soul burst out with this song, “Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord.”  

See sometimes when we face problems,  we look to see the resources that we have around us and deal with ‘the thing’ right then and there.  That’s the flesh part in us. But, then the Spirit says, “Wait, look, go up a few degrees, ascend and see what the Lord has in store. Where does your help come from?  Do not look for help right around you, but look to Him!”

So…are you ready to be challenged friends?  In order for us to persevere, we need to lock arms so that we can stand and face all that we face, even as we lift our eyes to the hills.

As you read this, would you consider these questions below? I would love to hear your heart as you journey with us!

1. Principal Question:
What five tones or words would you choose to describe the psalmist’s state as he approached God?

2. Personal Reflection Question:
Based on all you’ve experienced with God, what excites you most about your next adventure with Him?
What scares you most about your next adventure with Him?

 

The Journey…It starts with a Cry. It begins with a Choice.

It starts with a Cry…

The Psalms of Ascents begins with a pilgrim crying out to the Lord from his or her distress.

Psalm 120.1-2

I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me.
Save me, Lord, from lying lipsand from deceitful tongues.

I Call to the Lord in my distress

I Call to the Lord in my distress and He answers me.

 

Pilgrims on their way up to Jerusalem for the Feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles likely sang the Psalms of Ascents found in Psalms 120-134.

Jerusalem was the highest city in Palestine, so all who traveled there spent much of their time ‘ascending’. We know Jesus traveled with his family to Jerusalem for the feasts from an early age. The ascents for the pilgrim were not only literal but also a metaphor for life…

…life lived upward toward God—advancing from one level of maturity to another.

In this world of high-speed internet and microwave mentality, our need to do everything our way and have everything NOW has short-circuited the discipline of slow and steady. ‘Journeys’ and ‘Pilgrimages’ are too long, too dusty and too much work. Eugene Peterson in his book on discipleship based on the Psalms of Ascents, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, writes:

“One aspect of world that I have been able to identify as harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once.  We assume that if something can be done at all it can be done quickly and efficiently. Our attention spans have been conditioned by thirty-second commercials.” – Eugene Peterson 

As I think about this, I begin to reflect about the journey God has brought me on over the last twenty years.
In my own life and ministry, I see how change comes not with a quick fix but with small daily choices to follow Jesus.  We do not become more compassionate, kind, or patient by getting up one morning and declaring, “Today I will become more compassionate, kind and patient.”

Instead it is seeking to walk faithfully on a daily journey with Jesus.

"If you want to know where your heart is, look to where your mmd goes when it wanders."

“If you want to know where your heart is, look to where your mmd goes when it wanders.”

It begins with a choice… 

Who am I listening to?
Who am I following?

The Psalms of Ascents provide a necessary antidote by directing people of faith to remember who we are and where we are going. Just as these pilgrims did not make the journey to Jerusalem only once, we too must come back to these questions.

As we prepare to begin our journey for these coming weeks, think on these things :

WHO will I listen to? 
WHO will I follow? 
WHO will I cry out to in my distress?…

If the answer is Jesus, then you are surely on the right path in this pilgrimage….and if not, then maybe this journey has come for just such a time as this….for you to let God pull you a little closer. Take you a little deeper. Come up a little higher.

It’s Time. To Step Up. Ascend. And come to know Him more.

The choice is yours.  As for me….I choose CHRIST!

Don’t forget. This Sunday, we launch our new series, “Stepping Up…A Journey through the Psalm of Ascents” by Beth Moore. Our Facebook launch party begins at 9pm on our Going Deeper & Coming Up Higher fb page.

If you haven’t gotten your book yet, go on over to Lifeway.com   or Amazon.com
S
ee you on Sunday!!

Thirst Quencher!

“For I satisfy the thirsty person and feed all those who are weak.”
~ Jeremiah 31:25
thirsty
Ever noticed how no other ‘drink’ quenches your thirst like ice, cold, refreshing water? Well, just as Jesus told the woman at the well that HE was the only ‘drink’ that would satisfy, He tells us today, that no one and nothing else will quench our thirst. May you drink of Him this morning and be ‘filled’ ~ ms, 

“Can you think of anything you’ve worked hard to attain that ultimately failed to bring you the satisfaction you expected? We can easily be led into captivity by seeking other answers to needs and desires that only God can meet. Perhaps we each have experienced an empty place deep inside that we tried our best to ignore or to fill with something other than God.

A crucial part of ‘fleshing out’ our liberation in Christ means allowing Him to fill the empty places in our lives. Satisfaction in Christ can be a reality. He can make us feel complete. I’m not talking about a life full of activity…I’m talking about a soul full of Christ!” – Beth Moore, Breaking Free

Never Forsaken

As we begin our weekend, let’s give thanks for the “Bondage Breaker” who came to set the captives free! ~ ms, 

“The LORD will not forsake His people or abandon His Heritage.”
~ Psalm 94:14

yoke
Anything passed down to us through our family heritage that inhibits the full expression of freedom we should have in Christ qualifies has bondage. These yokes can be caused by severed relationships, lives left in ruins because of a loss or tragedy, or ancient family arguments and inheritances of hate. We need to examine areas of devastation or defeat that have been in our family lines for generations. 

But be assured that the cross of Calvary can set you free from EVERY yoke. His Word can make liberty a practical reality, no matter what those who came before you left as an ‘inheritance’.

….Got Warfare??

…Got ‘warfare’?
If you’re pressing in to walk with the Lord, know that the ‘dark’ will always press back. No matter what, Don’t forget in the dark what HE has promised you in the light. Trust in the Lord. HE is our Trouble-Shooter! ~ ms, 

darktolight“Who among you walks in darkness, and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the Lord; let him lean on his God.”
~ Isaiah 50:10

We cannot escape the warfare of the Christian life. Satan doesn’t take time off for good behavior. Every day can bring trouble, but every day we have a blessed Trouble-shooter.

Satan seeks to disgrace us, accuse us, and condemn us. We must daily set our faces like flint on the face of Christ and follow Him step by step to victory. Yes, you and I will still veer periodically from the path, no matter how obediently we want to walk. We are pilgrims with feet of clay. But no matter how long the detour has been, the return is only a shortcut away, because His light will always lead us right back to the path.

No Yoke too Great

As I read this devotional, I feel as if I could’ve written it myself. Take heart today knowing that no matter WHAT the yoke, CHRIST has come to break it! ~ ms, 

“…He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives.” Isaiah 61:1

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When I think of bondage, I most often imagine yokes that come from some area of childhood trauma or victimization, because the yoke formed in my childhood has been the primary area of captivity I’ve had to combat. Most of us unknowingly limit our perceptions of captivity to those bonds we’ve personally experienced.

But Christ came to set the captive free “no matter WHAT kind of yoke” binds them. He came to bind up the brokenhearted no matter WHAT broke their heart. He came to open the eyes of the blind no matter WHAT veiled their vision. ~ Beth Moore, Breaking Free

Engraved!

“Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.” ~ Isaiah 49:16I once heard a Christian child psychologist discuss the necessity of some conflict and power struggle with teenagers. He explained that a certain amount of difficulty must naturally arise as children become young adults, or parents would never be able to ‘help them’ out of the nest and on to independence. He said, “If the bond we had with them as infants did not change, we would never be able to let them go.”

All our lives, however, God retains the strong feelings toward us that infants evoke in their parents, because He never has to let us go! He’s not rearing us to ‘leave home’, but to “come home”!

Excerpt from: Breaking Free day to day

 engraved