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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Jesus, The Gift-Giver | Beth Hall

 
by: BETH HALL

As a child I was required to write “thank-you” notes for all Christmas and birthday gifts. The only gifts exempted were those from my parents and Santa. I even had to write notes to my older brothers who were in college by the time I could write. (Between you and me, I thought this was a little excessive. But I digress.) Until the note was written to my mother’s satisfaction, I was not permitted to play with or use the gift.

Now these notes never reached the level of grand prose, but my mother did require more eloquence as I became older. The crayoned, “Thank you, Grandma,” was not sufficient by the second grade. When I struggled with what to say, my mother suggested telling the giver something I liked about the gift. When I was older, she suggested I think about why the givers had chosen the particular items for me, and thank them specifically for their thoughtfulness and effort.

I’m glad my mother taught me this lesson in expressing gratitude. As a child, it helped me appreciate each gift I received. As I grew into adulthood, this appreciation helped me to become increasingly aware of my indebtedness. Indebtedness to my parents, my family, my home church but most of all, to God and to my Savior, Jesus Christ.

This sense of indebtedness has helped me to understand true humility. How can I help but be humbled when I think about what has been sacrificed on my behalf? Humility comes with understanding there is a big “God” and a very little “me.” And yet despite my smallness, in fact because of my smallness, the supreme sacrifice was made for me: Jesus humbled Himself, left heaven and died on the cross for me. He paid the debt I could never pay. How can I cling to my arrogance knowing that?

We live in an entitlement, rights-oriented world where humility is seldom seen and never held up as an example. Who does our culture worship? The arrogant, the greedy, the self-promoting. Our world values self above all else. How familiar Romans 1:29-31 (NIV) sounds: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.”

Is it any wonder so many have missed the greatest gift from the greatest gift-giver ever? As Christians we know we won’t conform to the world’s standards and that can make life difficult. However, Christ has assured us in John 16:33 (NIV) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” What a promise. What a gift.

Beth Hall is our director of operations. She likes Twizzlers. She's crafty (take that as you wish). She's a super fun Freestyle Table Tennis opponent. And, really, she's just lovely.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Jesus, The Gift-Giver | Rosetta Akers


by: Rosetta Akers

I have received many great gifts in my life and feel blessed to be able to say so. Gifts such as being born in this country with all the freedoms provided us by our Constitution and protected by those who serve in our military, as well as being born into the Johnson family where I learned about God and how to serve Him. Being able to have served those who minister in the body of Christ is another great gift, but all these and the myriad of other gifts I've received pale in comparison to The Gift I received from God's Son -- The Gift of salvation.

Jesus has the unique distinction of being both The Gift that we celebrate during this season and The Giver. The Apostle John tells us that God so loved us He gave His Son so we could have everlasting life (John 3:16). This Gift, when received, gives us access to God the Father, forgiveness of sins and eternal life with Him. Great gifts!

But that's not all.

Sounds like an infomercial, I know.

The Gift Himself also gives us even greater gifts. Jesus promised us to give us peace that the world wouldn't understand (Philippians 4:7). I've known that sense of settled assurance that everything is all right even though chaos was going on around me. He has given me purpose. Individually and corporately as the church, we have a place in His plan to bring the Kingdom of God to those around us. He promised to be with us and to never forsake us, even wrapping that gift tighter by adding that no one would be able to force us from the Father's hand (John 10:28-29).

All these gifts, and so much more, are from our Father God's one gift of His Son. But, I think one of the greatest gifts comes in the promise Jesus gave us when He said, if we will lose our lives in Him, we will find ours (Matthew10:39). If knowing and following Him becomes the focus of our lives, then we will find so much more life. The quality of our lives will improve with deeper relationships, challenging missions and a greater sense of purpose and identity. The amazing thing about The Gift our Father has given us in His Son is that The Gift, though given over and over again, never diminishes. Everyone who receives it receives all of it in great abundance. And it goes on and on and on. Let’s be about the business of sharing this Gift to everyone around us this Christmas season.

Rosetta Akers is our Senior Pastor Assistant (and all-around awesome woman). In addition to all of us, she also likes golfing and Kit Kats. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thankful Me | Jessica Saunders



Thankful Me 
by: Jessica (Stone) Saunders

When I start to think about everything I’m thankful for, I always start to think about the little things. Pretty soon the little things add up to create bigger things, landscapes of gratitude, mountains of grace—so many things to be thankful for that this heart of mine can’t process it all through clear eyes. There’s breath in my lungs. A structure to call home. Loving husband. Supportive family. Loyal friends. Quiet Saturday mornings. Grace after tough conversations. Sunshine. Rain. The ability to see, hear, taste, touch, smell. I could go on and on.

A beautiful element of being thankful is that it’s contagious. Thankfulness breeds thankfulness. There are plenty of times I’ve not felt thankful, but felt the opposite: bitter, negative, cynical, ungrateful. (And those qualities all breed more of themselves too.) It’s in those times of gunk that being thankful is the most crucial. Being thankful forces me to look through a different lens than my “to-do” lens or my “nothing’s going right” lens. It is impossible for me to be truly thankful and bitter or cynical at the same time. One will eventually win. How I view my life—my circumstances and situations—completely affects whether I am thankful me or bitter me.

I can choose an anxious, overwhelmed, grumpy, bitter me. And too often—honestly, transparently—I do. That me is the easiest, most convenient me. It comes naturally, from the fleshly, human part of me. It doesn’t require discipline, or anchoring to a greater Source. But this me also misses out on the beauty of the little things, the precious, treasured moments and details that come from the gracious Hand of our Creator.

Really, thankful me comes down to two things: choosing to be thankful and shifting my perspective. It takes a conscious effort, a deliberate decision to recognize and give thanks for the blessings—and the not-so-blessings—all around me. It isn’t necessarily an easy choice to make, being thankful; but the more I choose to be thankful, the easier it becomes. In choosing to be thankful, I choose to change my perspective. Instead of focusing on the mountain, I notice all of the beauty during the climb and thank the Creator for those glimpses of hope along the way. Rather than throwing a fit about the waves crashing down all around, I respond in faith and thank the Calmer of the storms for an opportunity to trust Him.

Thankful me may not be the easiest, but it is the boldest, most humble, most positive me. Thankful me is the best me I can be. It’s the me I choose to be.

Jessica Saunders was an associate in rbcstudents before being called to Tennessee. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Thankful Me | Whitney Lett



Thankful Me
by: Whitney Lett

“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” (I Thessalonians 5:18).

As the leaves begin to change and the air turns brisk, I begin to think about what I am thankful for. The above verse is one I learned as a child, and it remains one of my favorites. Recently, I realized I wasn’t really embracing what it says. I’m a pretty thankful person for the most part, but there are those two little pesky words that were tripping me up, "in everything."

It is easy to fall into the woe-is-me attitude during the child-raising years. We’re tired. Our schedules are crazy. Every day is made up of the same wash, rinse and repeat cycle. Before we know it, we are in a perpetual state of discontent with everything and everyone around us. Eventually our ungratefulness spills over to our entire household. What’s an overwhelmed momma to do?

Begin by putting on your own oxygen mask! When I’m at my worst I’m not reading Scripture. I’m not lifting my situation up in prayer. And I’m certainly not encouraging my family to do the same. When I find myself in this situation here are the steps I take:

1. Read the Word. Not the easiest thing with little ones, but if you get creative, you can make it happen. There’s always the get-up-before-the kids method, but I fail miserably with that. Try keeping Scripture handy, like a New Testament in the bathroom. I’ve become quite skilled at reading and brushing my teeth.

2. Listen to Praise Music. It’s hard to be in an ungrateful state when you have praise music on. If crazy is reigning supreme at your house, just crank up the music.

3. Be Still. Nap times and early bed times were made just for tired mommas. Take advantage of them. When the kids go down, you slow down too. It’s the perfect time to just close your eyes and talk to the Father. Don’t worry about the endless tasks that need to be done. They will still be there when you open your eyes.

When I diligently pursue these areas, my focus begins to center on what is important. And what is important is that Christ has taken upon Himself every wicked thing I’ve done and replaced it with life everlasting. He has chosen me to live the life I’ve been given, craziness and all, and I can choose to be thankful in everything.