Sow & Gather

New Beginnings

The Paradox of a Christian Life

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
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Here is a trustworthy saying: ”If we died with him, we will also live with him…” 2 Timothy 2:11 

The Bible is full of paradoxes. Many Old and New Testament stories contain twists and turns, making it important to delve deeper as you read to understand the meaning behind what is happening. That’s what makes the Bible so fascinating-- just when you think you have figured out the true meaning behind a particular verse, God shows you something new. There is not another published work that consistently changes your scope of thought and challenges you to push beyond your limits.  

Paul’s letters to Timothy are two of my favorite books in the Bible because they are chocked full of truths. These words of wisdom were not only true in the time of Paul and Timothy, but they also apply to today’s society as well.  The Bible is full of daily reminders to help us navigate through each day, but sometimes we have to think outside of the box to get at the true meaning. 

An example of one of these great truths lies in 2 Timothy 2:11:  “If we died with him, we will also live with him...” This is true because when we look at Romans 8:10 it says, “But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.” Translation: When we ask Jesus to come into our hearts and take over our lives, we are telling ourselves that we will no longer live the way we did in the past.  Our old soul dies to self, and we become filled with the Holy Spirit.  Our soul is revived in the manner of Christ Jesus. Therefore, because our soul is now washed clean, we can live eternally with Jesus. So here’s the paradox: we die, but because we have faith in Jesus, we have the promise of eternity. 

Sitting in church one day recently, we had a guest preacher who had more one-liners than I could write down.  But one that I did scribble down quickly was what he called the Paradox of the Christian Life, and it went something like this: 

          “To save your life, you must lose it. To live, you must die. To receive, you must give. To                  be made whole, you must be broken. To be filled, you must be empty.”

If you let these truths sink in, you realize how amazing our Lord is. As humans, our first thought is not to give of ourselves but to take back what is “ours.” We need to remove all of the selfish possessives out of the equation like “ours,” “yours,” “mine,” which are indicators of selfishness.  Instead, we need to substitute “His,” meaning all we are and all we have is God’s. When we realize that God created us and holds the universe in His hands, we realize how insignificant we really are. He doesn’t need us, but He wants to include us in His ultimate plan. I feel blessed to know that I am part of God’s plan. I certainly don’t think in paradoxes, but I’m learning to apply those truths in my life...sorry, I meant His creation.

Dig Deeper |

Read of some other paradoxes:  Philippians 3:7-8; John 12:24.

Action Item |

As you study the Bible, look for ways that God uses paradoxes and try to interpret their meaning.  Check your understanding against a Bible commentary and see how they compare.  You might be surprised at what God is revealing to you through your Bible study. 

Prayer |

Heavenly Father, You are so complex but You break things down for my simple mind to understand. Thank You for creating a Book to help me get a glimpse of Your power and glory. AMEN

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Words to Live By

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

Whenever a new year rolls around, there is always talk of New Year’s Resolutions, ideas of change and wanting to start over with a clean slate. Recently, I was asked to pick a word that would describe an area of my life I would work on for the coming year. At first, I thought this was a strange request. How could I possibly pick just one word? There are so many areas of my life that … “Well, let’s just say I’m a work in progress.”  

The more I thought about it the more I wondered if Jesus had a word? Is there one word that describes His ministry and defines what He came here on earth to do? When I looked at the words related to the fruits of the Spirit that Paul wrote in Galatians, the word that jumped out at me was “Love.” The word, “Love,” to us is such a simple four-letter English word, but in the Greek language, the word, Agape, is used to describe Jesus’ love. The Greek word, Agape, is not simple at all but describes a complex, selfless, sacrificial, devoted love. When you look at the verse above, you see that first and foremost “Love” is the first word mentioned and with good reason. Without “love” none of the other words are possible. You can’t have peace without love. You can’t be patient without love. You can’t be kind if there isn’t love. This applies to every fruit of the Spirit.  

In Matthew 22:37 when asked what the Greatest Commandment was, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” When you look back in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy, you don’t see a commandment specifically with the word “Love” written as one of the 10 commandments.  What Jesus meant in Matthew is that “Love” is the basis behind every law of the 10 Commandments. The type of love that Jesus requires of us is not our version of the word love; the superficial, self-serving, non-committed, simple love. The word that Jesus requires of us is the Agape, selfless, sacrificial form of love.   

So, what is your word? I know it’s hard to pick just one to try and live by for an entire year. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve already failed more times than I’ve succeeded with the word I chose and I’m only nine days into the new year. If a word seems too daunting, try just setting a goal to read a daily devotional or set time aside each day to pray and ask God what word He wants you to work on for the day. 

Dig Deeper |

Deuteronomy 5; Deuteronomy 6; Mark 12:30

Action Item |

As mentioned above, try picking out a word to work on for the year; and if you need to simplify, set a daily goal to read a verse in the Bible or just pray and ask God for direction.

Prayer: |

God, thank you for loving me with Agape love that you showed when you sent Your Son to die on this earth so that I may be saved. Thank you for helping me to be more like You and help me to show Your love to others.

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How Do You Know When It’s Time for a Change?

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
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But if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as my dwelling for my Name. Nehemiah 1:9 NIV

Several images come to mind when I hear the following words:  worn, peeling, cracked, stained, broken, tattered, torn, and chipped. Now, let me throw some other word pictures at you: desolate, exiled, burned, buried, ruined, and destroyed. Given a choice between the sentence which decribes a more desperate situation, the second sentence would get my vote every time. You may or may not be surprised to know that these words in the second sentence were used to describe the state of Jerusalem after the temple had been destroyed.  The walls had been broken down, and its gates were burned. Not much was left that could be salvaged, but God had a plan. 

God’s plan included a man named Nehemiah, who was a cup barer to the king. Nehemiah was in a perfect position to be God’s chosen deliverer, and a man who would bring glory back to Jerusalem.  Jerusalem had been through one of the worst periods in its history. It was a city without a temple at its center; it lacked direction. Jerusalem’s people had been sent away, it had no protection and it was completely vulnerable and exposed. The city desperately needed someone to step in and take charge and rebuild the desolate walls of the city. In verse 9 of Nehemiah 1, Nehemiah prays that if God would allow him to rebuild the walls, he would reestablish Jerusalem and God would have a place to dwell because the walls would protect the temple. Nehemiah was a servant to the king and he went before the king to plead his case. Nehemiah turned a desperate situation into divine inspiration. 

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am not physically or mentally capable of building up the walls of any city.  Nor do I have the patience it would take to draw up all the plans and see something like this through from start to finish. But recently our church took on the task of adding on to our existing structure to build a brand new facility dedicated to the teaching of the children and youth of our church.  

Our once vibrant and thriving church was beginning to see the pains of years of wear and tear on our current building. So we did exactly what Nehemiah did in the first chapter of Nehemiah, we prayed. We prayed that God would open the hearts and minds of our members so that we might be able to build on our existing property and create a building that might impact generations to come. 

The more we prayed, the more we felt God calling us to remain at the same location in the heart of our city. It was important to stay and not leave. Many wanted us sell our current facility, and build on a new piece of property. God instead directed us to stay, and He provided the guidance, which was no easy task. There were meetings and building approvals and permits, and inspections, and contractors and equipment and the list goes on and on.   

We just opened our new facility in December of 2017 and I have to say that it has been an amazing experience to see the current families get excited over what God is doing and will do in this new space. I know we’ve all heard the saying “If you build it they will come.” This was certainly true in Nehemiah’s time, as many families came back to rebuild their lives around the gates and walls of Jerusalem. We are hoping at our church that God will bless our obedience and bring new families into our doors and that we might see the impact of our message of Christ reach outside our church walls into the city center and beyond. 

Are you struggling with whether to rebuild and start over in your life or stay the course? It’s never too late for a new beginning. Ask God to help you determine what His plans are for your life. Be willing to accept the challenge and be obedient to his calling. 

Dig Deeper |

I would encourage you to read the entire book of Nehemiah from Chapter 1 – 13.  It’s a fascinating story of how God had a plan and used ordinary people to do the extraordinary. 

Action Item |

If you are searching for answers, pray and ask God to help you overcome your struggles and rebuild your character into His likeness.  He can take a desperate situation and turn it into divine inspiration. 

Prayer |

Please God help me discover what my direction is.  Help me to rediscover Your will for my life. Help me to tear down the walls I have built up and rebuild based on Your biblical principles. 

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It Isn’t Over Yet!

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
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On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. Matthew 2:11 NIV 

One of my dad’s favorite holidays was Epiphany! To celebrate, he would diligently turn on all the Christmas lights in our home exactly twelve days after Christmas. Our house glowed! In fact, it was the only house on the block that still had its Christmas lights on and shining. Personally, I was quite embarrassed. 

But what is Epiphany? 

It is the celebration of the wise men coming to visit and worship the King, Jesus. They had followed a star from a foreign land, inquired of Herod and the people of Jerusalem and finally found Jesus in Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph. And what did they do? They bowed down, worshiped Jesus and gave gifts--actually treasures.  

Now, what about us?  

It’s the New Year, and our goal should be the same--to worship Jesus and give gifts. But Christmas is over! No, it isn’t over yet! In fact, it has just begun. We can begin by giving Jesus gifts of time to pray, study the bible, meditate, go to church or even listen for God. Maybe we can give Jesus our talents and skills to sing at church, encourage a friend with a card, lead a mom’s group or cook a meal for a shut-in. Finally, we can give a gift of money by just developing good financial management skills. 

So, whatever the gift, let’s begin this new year. 

Dig Deeper |

Matthew 2:1-12

Action Item |

Begin the New Year by giving of yourself with your time, talent or money. 

Prayer |

Dear God, Thank you for the example of the wise men. They searched and found You to worship and present gifts to You, the King. Help me to do the same in this New Year. Amen 

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Establish the Work of Our Hands

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
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May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us -- yes, establish the work of our handsPsalm 90:17

“Do you want the job or not?”  

Sitting on my second-hand couch in my small apartment in Irving, Texas, I desperately searched for the answer to this question. I had just finished my student teaching and had been offered a job at the school two weeks before. Unsure of what to do, I had avoided answering, hoping that someone would point me in the right direction.  But here it was: a phone call from an impatient HR representative from the school, demanding my answer.  I requested 30 minutes to think and hung up the phone. 

My husband, who had recently enlisted in the Army, was not around to help me talk through my options. My parents, who often offered wise counsel, wisely directed me to prayer and scripture. At the age of 23, I had prayed about things before and had used the Bible to guide my decisions, but this seemed different. I needed a direct answer, and I needed it now. I was a jumble of emotions. While I had enjoyed my student teaching, I did not feel comfortable taking a full-time position at that same school.  My own father, however, had been laid-off nine months before, and I felt like I was being foolish and picky turning down a real, hard offer of a job after watching him search in vain for one of his own.  What was I supposed to do? What if this was the job for me, and I said no? What if I turned this down, and no other offers came? What if I took the job, and it wasn’t God’s plan? 

I knew how to pray, and I knew God could speak to me through the Bible, so even though I had no clue how he would furnish the answer in less than half an hour, I prayed out loud and opened the Word. I honestly and earnestly spoke to God about my situation. At the time I was in a year-long study of Moses, and that week I had read his prayer found in Psalm 90. At the end of his prayer, I found mine. It wasn’t a clear directive about my question; instead, it was a way to pray and ask God for direction, and it was a reminder that He is in charge.  After meditating on the verse, I prayed and asked God if I was supposed to take the job. The Holy Spirit quickened in my soul, and I had my answer as clearly as if I had heard it aloud. I called the HR department back and turned down the job. The sense of “Now what?” that swirled in my head was quickly overtaken by the sense of peace that rested in my soul. Gaining an experience of how to listen to and trust the Holy Spirit was a much more valuable life experience than any job I could take. I was unsure of the next step, but I was confident that the Lord would guide it. 

Now, as we approach the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, we must consider what it is that the Lord has established for us to do. While it is easy to make resolutions that will benefit us personally or even our fellow man, our focus should be on what it is that He has for us in the coming year. 

Digging Deeper |

Read all of Psalm 90, focusing on Moses’ reminders that God is big and we are not. 

Action Item |

What plans have you set for next year?  Have you checked to see if they are from the Lord? In what areas do you need direct guidance from the Lord?  Prayerfully ask Him to establish what you do with your life, listening to the “yes” and “no” from the Holy Spirit. 

Prayer |

Dear Lord, As I consider what I am supposed to do with (my job/my family/next year), please establish the work of my hands. Go before me and provide direction.  Help me to remember that you are in charge; you are the creator and sustainer of the universe. Help me to see what you have for me to do, and give me the strength to step out and complete the tasks you set before me.  Let my hands do the work of you, my Father, rather than keep busy with what I think is important.   

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God’s Perfect Plan

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
#sowandgather Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.  Proverbs 19:21 (NIV) 

Are you a planner? Do you love the sight of a well-organized calendar that pinpoints your family’s daily activity list down to the minute? Maybe you’re a list-maker. You can’t wait for the end of the day when you can proudly admire the day’s accomplishments, marked off with the perfect check mark.   

Everyone in one way or another is a planner. As beings created in His image, God has instilled in each of us the desire to be navigators of our own destiny. We may not always make the best choices, but you better believe that the decisions we make are part of a plan, either ours or God’s. 

I love to plan. In fact, I love to plan so much that I became an event planner. There’s nothing more exciting for me than gazing at a blank Excel spreadsheet and then beginning to organize the tasks that will outline the event “to do” list. I pride myself on making sure I think of all the details, big and small. No matter how hard I try, every once in a while one of my events will have an “oops” moment. Usually the “oops” moments are small and undetected by the outsider. However, sometimes the inevitable happens and a small “oops” moment becomes a big “uh oh” problem. The key when this happens is to quickly figure out a solution and be resourceful enough to keep the event running smoothly without anyone being the wiser.  

You may not be a professional event planner, but you are a professional life planner. Your life is one big event after another. Every new day brings new choices and opportunities. We are constantly planning every hour, of every minute, of every day.  Even when we sleep our brains are working. If only we had to concentrate on planning one day at a time. Instead, we are making plans for next week, next month, even next year. Some of us have already mapped out our entire lives before we ever graduate high school.

Is there anything wrong with having a plan? No. God wants us to have a purpose and set goals for our lives.  A problem arises when we put all of our thoughts and efforts into our own plan without ever considering what God’s plan is for our lives. When you look back at your life, at all of the decisions and plans you’ve made, how many of those decisions were driven by your own selfish desires and how many were God-driven? We may think we have the perfect plan for our lives, but as Proverbs 19:21 says, it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Have plans for your life fallen short of your expectations?

Maybe you need to seek out the guidance of God, the eternal life event planner. His plans always succeed and never fall short of our expectations.

Dig Deeper |

2 Corinthians 5:5; Philippians 2:13

Action Item |

This week give yourself a reprieve from planning and allow God to plan your week. Start each day asking God to help you manage and accept His plans for your day. If you are a list-maker, write your list based on the prompting of God.  Be sure that you are running His agenda and not your own.       

Prayer |

Gracious Heavenly Father, help me to allow Your plans to be my plans for this day. Help me to seek out Your will in every situation I encounter this week, and help me to meet Your expectations instead of trying to enforce my will. May my eyes be opened and my heart be filled with the Holy Spirit as You guide me each and every day.  Amen.

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How Can We Rejoice in the Lord Always?

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
How Can We Rejoice In The Lord Always #sowandgather #joy

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; Rejoice! Philippians 4:4 NIV

When is the last time you did something unspeakable? Now I don’t mean something that is illegal or distasteful. I mean something that is completely out of character. Has it really been that long since you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone and done something really outrageous?  

Paul wrote the book of Philippians as an encouragement and support to the church of Philippi. The relationship Paul had with the Philippian church was one of appreciation and affection. Paul’s message was for the people to keep their lives centered on Christ so they might experience true joy.   

How do you express pure joy? I guess a better question might be when is the last time you experienced pure joy? Life is not easy and there are definitely times when it is hard to smile and be happy. But when you keep your life centered on Christ and what he has done for us, it’s hard not to feel joyful.   

According to the King James Bible dictionary the word, rejoice, means to be exhilarated with lively and pleasurable sensations; to exult. I don’t know about you but by definition the word, rejoice, appears to mean more than just a meager hand clap and smile. The act of rejoicing seems to lean more towards an exaggerated outward showing of excitement. I think we could all use a spiritual jolt of excitement every once in a while. 

So, what are you thankful for? Have you stopped to think about all that God has blessed you with? Have you rejoiced in knowing that you are a child of God and no one can take that right from you? You are forgiven and set free from sin because of Christ’s sacrifice. God’s grace and mercy are never ending. His love is overflowing. You will receive an amazing inheritance in heaven and will live for all eternity with your Creator.  

If this doesn’t make you want to get up and dance for joy singing praises to the King of Kings, then maybe your spiritual battery needs to be recharged. Rejoice in the Lord today and always. Sing His praises again and again; Rejoice! 

Dig Deeper |

Psalm 105:3; Psalm 118:24; Psalm 122:1

Action Item |

As we take time this month to reflect and give thanks, may we also take time to step out of our comfort zone when praising God. Maybe instead of saying your prayer at the dinner table, you could sing a prayer. Turn your favorite Christian music up full blast at home and dance. Sing at the top of your lungs to your favorite Christian song in the car. If you are really feeling bold, maybe you could lift your hands in the air at Sunday morning’s worship service rejoicing God while singing His praises. 

Prayer |

Oh Magnificent Creator of the Universe, my prayer this week is that I will be on fire for You. Help me to be joyful in all that I do. Allow Your passion to flow through me igniting a fire that spreads to every individual I encounter this week. I will sing your praises and rejoice in knowing that I am Yours and You are my King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Amen. 

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Can We Schedule Divine Assignments?

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
#sowandgather Can-We-Schedule-Divine-Assignments #newyear #newbeginnings

“Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.”  Psalm 95:6-7 NIV

Technology has permeated almost every function of daily living, but thankfully, spiral bound, daily planners with tabbed monthly spreads and daily plan sheets are still available. For those folks who love to make lists (like me) and who like to see their life in big square blocks, the planner is a gift. To some the idea of carrying around a planner and writing every detail and task for each day is a nightmare!   

Whether you are one of those who live to organize on paper or via technology, there is a sense of starting fresh each new year. It is exciting and scary to wonder what the year will hold but the truth is our sovereign God already knows. Those blank pages have already been filled with divine assignments, trials and testing, growth, discipleship, seasons of pain, and seasons of joy.

Thankfully, God does not literally fill in our pages but only allows us to see what we need to see when we are ready to see it. If we knew the plan ahead of time, we would try to reorganize it another way or manipulate it to fit our needs and wants. 

The problem is we don’t always see God working in our lives because we have already filled each day of each month with empty, busy things. We have become the authors of our own story. 

The Psalmist says, “Let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” It is a position of humility that says that there is nothing we can do apart from our Lord. When we bow down, we are to confess our sinfulness and dependence on Him. As someone who can organize one's life down to each hour, dependence can be substituted for self-dependence and not God dependence. Many times the will of self becomes more important than submitting to the will of God.   

Our plans and our desires need to be laid at the foot of the cross. We need to pray that we would “Delight ourselves in the Lord and that He will give us the desires of our heart.” Psalm 37:4 Our desires and our plans need to line up with the ones He has created for us. Only God can course-correct in our hearts to help us delight in what He delights in. 

My new planner is a tool to help me stay organized, but it is also an open book with blank spaces ready and waiting for God to write His assignments. This year my desire is to recognize and praise the God on whom I’m dependent: more God, less self. 

Happy 2017 and Happy Organizing!

Dig Deeper |

Psalm 95, John 3:16–21

Action Item |

Have you already filled your year with empty, busy things? Pray that God will change your desires, your plans to line up with His, and that this year may be full of His divine assignments.

Prayer |

Dear Father, please forgive me when I am dependent on myself and try to control the world around me. Give me Your desires and Your ways so I may walk in obedience to Your will. Amen. 

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How Can We Sing a New Song?

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
#sowandgather #newbeginnings #freshstart He Put A New Song In My Mouth A Song of Praise To Our God Psalm 40:30a

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a  (NASB) 

What a beautiful song of David Psalm 40 is! What amazing imagery of the God who is my Lord. I am completely helpless to even understand my sin and, yet, He tenderly draws me and convicts me of the error in my decisions.   

God's love is so amazing! 

He doesn't need me. He is not incomplete without me. But, I am desperately in need of Him and I am unable to save myself. Pride lurks in my mind tempting me to play a comparison game where I believe I'm better than others. In reality, my thoughts stray and race headlong in a direction opposed to God. I'm a part of humanity and because of that, I don't measure up to God's standard any better than any other person despite what I might portray on Facebook. 

Acknowledging my need and my state as David did in this Psalm, I cry out and plead with God. I know that I am completely at His mercy as to whether or not He will choose to save me. And in verse 1 we see the astounding truth about our Holy, merciful, and gracious God. 

God takes the initiative and bows down to us. 

The Hebrew word indicates that God bends down to us just like you might if you were helping a child. He is the same God who spoke the world into existence from nothing. By His breath He placed every star in the sky and named them. He told the ocean where it's boundaries were and carved the mountains out with His hand. He bent down. He bent so low! He became man and died for me while I was still unaware of my need for Him. He provided my way of rescue.   

Why would God do this? 

He wanted to put a new song in my mouth that would praise Him. A song that David says will cause many people to see and trust in the Lord. Sometimes I think I do things to save myself but that's a lie. I don't have that kind of power.  God, however, does have that power. That's the song I want to sing because it shows my friends that He is capable of saving me and that no one is beyond His power's reach. You, too, can have a new song - one filled with His praise.  Cry out to Him and He will bend to you. 

Dig Deeper |

Psalm 51; Psalm 139:23-24 

Action Item |

Pray to God that He will show you areas in your life that need to be corrected. Ask Him to help you recognize how He met your need and to fill your heart with concern for others that need Him. 

Prayer |

Oh God, thank you so much for having mercy on me and being gracious to me. Help me, Lord, to be merciful and gracious to those who need You. Help me to be authentic in my speech and in my living that others might see Your ability to change them. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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In the Beginning – Pray!

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
#sowandgather #prayer I-Call-On-You-O-God-For-You-Will-Answer-Me-Give-ear-to-me-and-hear-my-prayer psalm 17:6

I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer. Psalm 17:6 NIV

It has arrived!!!  Happy New Year! 

2017 is upon us and the days are already beginning to speed by in a flurry. I can’t believe it has come, and I still have various holiday items hanging around my house: a few bows, leftover ornaments, stale cookies and of course, Christmas cards.   

As I started to gaze upon each card with all the color, glitter, Bible verses and family or friend’s pictures and names, I was warmed by their love for me. I began to ponder how I could ever thank them or return their love.  

At that moment I decided I would pray every day to Jesus for everyone who sent me a Christmas card. I will look intently upon an individual card and pray for Jesus strength, joy and love in the lives of my family and friends. I want them to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is for them.” Ephesians 3:18. And, I know that if I call upon Jesus, He will answer.  They will truly experience His love this year. 

However, I have decided this activity of praying should go one step further into this New Year. Not only will I pray over each card, but I want to begin to really concentrate on praying every day and throughout the day for various people and activities in my life. I want to practice the verse In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which commands us “to pray continually.” I know this will be a challenge, difficult to say the least, but I also know that He will listen and answer. And most importantly, my love for Jesus will also continue to grow.  

Let’s get praying. 

Dig Deeper |

Dig into the book of Psalms. The Psalms are prayers to God from various individuals and groups. 

Action Item |

Take the challenge; try praying continually. 

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, thank You for 2017. Thank You that it is a new year and we can begin new undertakings in our lives. Help me to pray to You throughout the day this year. I want to know You better and love You more. In Your precious name, Amen. 

Join Us | 

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post.

Let Me Hear You Shout!

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
#sowandgather Shout with joy to God all the earth@

“Shout with joy to God all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!” Psalm 66:1-2 NIV

When was the last time you shouted? Maybe you shouted today in your car at the driver who pulled in front of you without using a signal. If you’re like me, you shout anytime you have to use one of those automated voice answering services over the phone. My kids like to laugh at me as I fumble through the options yelling “CUSTOMER SERVICE,” over and over until I’m blue in the face and a live person answers my call for help! 

Ok, so there are many examples of negative shouting we can think of, but when was the last time you shouted for joy? Could it have been as recently as last week at your kid’s game when they made a great play? Was it in the privacy of your home when your favorite sports team won the big game?  

The word “shout” is found in 28 verses, 18 chapters and 13 books of the Bible. It is obviously an important word, used throughout scripture. More significantly, it’s a verb that communicates action. In this particular verse, the word “shout” is used in conjunction with the word “sing”. The author of this chapter is communicating his words through loud singing.  

Do you take time to stop and pray, giving a shout out to God and thanking Him for His amazing grace, and giving Him praise and glory for positive outcomes? Have you ever lifted your voice in song to God, praising and thanking Him for what he has done for you? 

We sing for joy all the time at church (some of us sing a little louder than others), but those songs the worship minister chooses each week are meant for us to use as our praise to God. Too often we tend to sing for our own glory so that others see our participation. Really the reason for us to lift our voices in song is to praise the One who allows us to sing His praises. We should be shouting our praises to God on Sunday morning, not worrying about what others around us will think. 

Have you ever noticed how when you sing your mood changes? Many times we can’t help how a certain song makes us feel. When you sing, you are not only listening to the song but now you are an active participant. God wants us to participate in praising Him. He wants to hear your shouts of joy. He wants you to sing His praises and most importantly, He wants you to make His praise known over all the earth. Let me hear you shout...AMEN! 

Dig Deeper |

Psalm 47:1; Psalm 35:27; Zephaniah 3:14

Action Item |

Give God a shout out or sing out. Give God the glory for all that He does for you. When you attend church or listen to the radio in your car, sing out to God praising His name.       

Prayer |

Most gracious Heavenly Father, You are awesome! I shout Your name above all other names. You alone are my Creator. I lift You up and praise Your name. You are Great and I stand amazed in Your presence. Thank You for Your grace which overflows. Amen.

Join Us |

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How Can I Learn To Dwell Well?

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
#sowandgather How Can I Learn To Dwell Well? #newbeginnings

How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:1-2 NIV

Have you got all your home improvement projects on the list for 2017? Is it time for new paint, new furniture, or a few fresh throw pillows? I don't care much for decorating, which can become a problem when I'm frustrated with my home. There are times when I feel like I can't "dwell well" in my house.  

I tell myself if I'm not feeling relaxed and comfortable at home it must be because something needs to be "fixed" or re-arranged at the house. Sometimes that is the case. Removing clutter and unused items from where we dwell can help us free up mental space as well as space in our house. One of my goals for the New Year is to remove one box per week of unused items from my home. The box can be big or small. It's a matter of tackling the beast of stuff. In my mind, getting rid of things will help me "dwell well." 

Here's the deal, I know that getting rid of unwanted/unused items is a good thing. But, I also know it is not the best way for me to "dwell well."  I need to do some spiritual cleaning out and re-focusing. 

You see, where we dwell is more than where we reside. Where we dwell has as much to do with our thoughts, focus, and passion as the address on the mailbox. King David, who wrote many of the Psalms, spent a lot of time dwelling in caves and living on the road. For years he was hunted by a jealous king who did not like that David found favor with man and God. Kind David's focus on dwelling was all about where God dwelt. David yearned to be with God and to be in God's presence. David knew that if he was in the presence of God, he would "dwell well." 

This year, will you join me in the practice of yearning to be in the presence of God?  

Will you commit to shake off the old, worn, or even unused parts of your heart and spirit and focus on dwelling with God?  

No longer do we need to travel to the tent or tabernacle to dwell with God. He is with us always.  

Dig Deeper|

Psalm 84; Ephesians 3:14-21

Action Item |

Donate one gently used item that you no longer use. Spend five minutes meditating on the word "Dwell." 

Prayer |

Dear Most Gracious Lord, how lovely is Your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, to dwell with You. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Amen. 

Join Us | 

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post.

How can this year be different from last year?

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
How Can This Year Be Different? #sowandgather

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord:  and He delights in his way.”  Psalms 37:23

2016 is gone, and it is 2017!!!  How did that happen?  I can’t believe how fast the year has gone.  As I look at all the possibilities this new year holds, I can’t help but think about all that I had intended to do in 2016.  You too?  The reason most didn’t get done is just one…I didn’t set my mind to do it. I wasn’t intentional.  I looked up the meaning of  "intentional".  The google dictionary says “done with intention or on purpose; intended.”  That can make 2017 different.  I can be intentional about what I do and what I don’t do!  

Psalms 37 has always been a favorite of mine.  It talks about having true joy and peace. Something that I want and need.  This Psalm even tells me how I can have that, but I will need to be intentional, to purpose to do what it says--every day.  There are four things mentioned in Psalms 37:1-7 that I can purpose to do:  Trust, delight, commit, and rest.  These are all things that I can control and do.  I may not be able to control my situation, but I can control how I respond. 

Trust:  “Trust in the Lord in do good” v. 3.  Even when things seem to be falling apart I need to remember that God is in control, He is working out His perfect plan.  I need to trust Him that He will work “all things together for good” (Romans 8:28).  There is something else I can do.  I can choose to do good!  Smile even when my day might be a little hard.  Look around and see how I can do “good” to others. 

Delight:  “Delight thyself also in the Lord and He shall give thee the desires of thine hear” v. 4.  How do I “delight myself in the Lord”?  What does that mean?  It means to choose to enjoy the Lord, love the things He loves and hate the things He hates.  When you do that, your heart’s desires will change to what the Lord desires. 

Commit:  “Commit thy way unto Him” v. 5.  This means I need to seek Him and continually go to Him. 

Rest:  “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him…” v. 7.  Rest.  Just that one word creates such a longing in me.  I need rest, and so do you.  Where am I resting?  Is it in material things, my bank account, my family?  God is telling me that I need to rest in Him.  Don’t worry about it, rest in God’s perfect plan. 

If you were to take the first two words of this Psalm and add the first word of verses 2-7, you can have your purpose for 2017…”Fret not, trust, delight, commit, and rest in the Lord.”  That is a guarantee for a great year!! 

Action Item |

What changes will you decide to make in your life this year?  The slate is clean and the opportunities are endless. 

Dig Deeper |

Matthew 11:29; Psalms 62:5; I Peter 2:2-3 

Prayer |

Lord, help me to seek You and Your ways, to trust that Your plan is better than my plan. 

Join Us |

Gather with us by sharing your prayer by clicking on the comment link at the top of the post. 

What is Lighting Your Path This Year?

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
Thy Word Is A Lamp Unto My Feet #sowandgather #newyear #pslam

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105 KJV

Psalms is a beautiful collection of songs or poems speaking directly and capturing the heart- thoughts of the Old Testament people of the time. They are songs of praise and songs of sadness. The Psalms were written by several authors, so you are able to read and feel the different emotions felt by the different authors. For the month of January, the contributors of Sow & Gather are drawing inspiration from the book of Psalms.

Music transcends all generations. Many of the songs we hear in Christian music today are taken straight from verses in the Bible.  Many of the songs that I grew up singing in church were taken straight from the Scriptures.  I didn’t realize at the time that I was actually singing God’s Word!  What makes music special is how a particularly meaningful song takes you back to a memory of a time or place. It’s as if you’re transported to that moment and time stands still. 

I can remember growing up before Christian music became popular, listening to Amy Grant sing the words to “Thy Word.” For all the years that I have belted out that song, I never gave much thought to the actual lyrics or how it ties back to the actual verse in Psalm 119:105.  

This particular chapter is the longest in the entire Bible. What is unique about the chapter is that it is a poem about God’s law. Now, I don’t know about you, but singing about rules and ordinances is not my idea of poetic beauty. However, when you listen to the words of the entire chapter you understand that this is not merely a list of rules to follow, but it is a beautiful tribute to God and His protection over us as His people. 

Psalm 119 verse 105 describes how God’s instructions are a lamp shining on our feet, helping us as we navigate various daily decisions. His word is our flashlight guiding us down life’s path, and without Him we would be wandering around in total darkness, unable to find our way.  We would be lost. 

Like the lyrics in the song Thy Word by Amy Grant, “When I feel afraid, and think I've lost my way. Still, You're there right beside me. Nothing will I fear As long as You are near; Please be near me to the end.” With God as our guide, lighting our path through His word, we have nothing to fear because He will be walking right beside us. 

Dig Deeper |

Proverbs 6:23; Psalms 27:1; 1 Corinthians 4:5;  

Action Item |

Listen to the song, Thy Word, and think about how God’s word is your light.        

Prayer |

Dear God, thank You for Your Words of truth that help to keep us grounded and moving in Your direction for our lives. Thank You for lighting our path and keeping us safe. We have nothing to fear because You are walking beside us each and every day. AMEN.

Join Us | 

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post. 

How Do We Put God First in the New Year?

Advent, New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
Put-God-First-New-Years-Resolution #sowandgather #newbeginnings #freshstart

And whatever you do; whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 NIV

As the days after Christmas tick by, we inch nearer to a new year of promise and prosperity. The previous year is filed away as a mere memory and before we are able to ring in the New Year, we are confronted with that all too familiar question, “What are your New Year’s Resolutions?” If you’re like me, you need a couple of months to settle down from the hectic pace of the Holidays before thinking about your goals for 2017.

Retailers and health clubs are two of the biggest offenders of trying to make us feel guilty about not having resolved to do anything prior to January 1st. I love to work out but I avoid my health club like the plague for the first few months of a new year. It seems as if all of the equipment and classes are full of “Revolutionaries,” people who join a gym in January committing to get healthy and exercise only to quit a month later.  

Retailers are the second offenders, for they advertise even bigger sales after Christmas trying to recoup any lost revenue from the holidays. Retailers want your first thought after the holidays to be about that one gift you didn’t get for Christmas or about that newer model that wasn’t available until after the holidays. It’s as if they think we forgot about the gifts we had just opened three days earlier. Of course, there are those individuals that whatever you give them goes back to the store to be exchanged for something else. I call those people "the after Christmas opportunists." 

Yes, the New Year is full of opportunity, so with all of the choices of where to spend your time and money, how do you decide what you’re going to resolve to do this year? I have a thought the answer might seem obvious but perhaps rarely considered when thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. Pray. That simple word should be our first thought any time we consider action. Yet, it’s the one word we often forget. Colossians says, “And whatever you do; whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” We just spent the last two months thanking God for all of our blessings and celebrating His sacrificial gift of His Son, so why, when we are looking at the year ahead, do we suddenly leave Him out of the equation?  

What if, during this year, we resolve to put God first before making a decision?

I wonder what our resolutions would look like if we involved God in each and every choice. How many of our resolutions would we actually commit to follow through with versus falling short and quitting? This year allow God to guide your decision process and see what you are able to accomplish in 2017.

Dig Deeper |

Ephesians 2:10; 1 Peter 2:10

Action Item |

Whether you like to make New Year’s Resolutions or not, this year in all of your decisions commit to praying. Ask God what His goals are for 2017 instead of asking for your own plans. Make a list of all the areas God wants you to change; things He may bring to mind that He wants you to accomplish this year and keep it by your bible. As you go through the year, look back at the list and see how God has worked in your life.

Prayer |

Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessings and hardships of 2016. Thank you for allowing me to participate in yet another year and help me to be present and willing to follow your direction for my life. Allow Your will to be ever present in my daily living and help me to see areas where I need improvement. Amen.

Join Us |

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post.

God’s Word Nourishes

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
God's Word Nourishes #sowandgather #newbeginnings

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.  1 Peter 2:2-3  NIV

There is nothing more precious than watching a new born instinctively search for their mother’s milk which God designed perfectly for them to thrive.  

Spiritual milk is the sweet word of Christ in which believers also instinctively search for and grow in grace in their walk with Him. The word “craving” or “desire,” in other translations, means to yearn, intensely crave, earnestly desire and long after.  

Just as milk is physical nourishment for a baby, God’s Word is spiritual nourishment for the heart and mind. In Proverbs 4, it says that “God’s Word is life to those who find it and health to a man’s whole body.” 

If I am to grow in my walk with Christ, then I need to fill myself with His truth daily. I need God’s Word because it is living and active and it penetrates my soul and spirit, joints, and marrow (Hebrews 4:12). 

There have been many times I have desired worldly nourishment and not the life-giving water found in Christ. My supply never lasts and always leaves me feeling unsatisfied, weary, and longing for something else. 

Having tasted the goodness, kindness, and graciousness of the Lord, His Word not only fills me, but leaves me yearning for more of Him. I pray that above everything else, I would earnestly desire Him. What are you craving today? 

Dig Deeper |

1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrew 4:12Hebrews 6:4-5

Action Item |

Ask God to give you a desire for His nourishing Word daily. 

Prayer |

Dear Father, thank you for Your Word that nourishes my heart and mind. May my cravings only be for You. Amen. 

Join Us |

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post. 

One Year Of Sow & Gather - Online Devotionals for Women

encourage, harvest, New BeginningsSow & Gather - Tamera B.Comment
sow-and-gather-womens-devotionals-online-free #sowandgather

God gave the Women's Ministry at First Baptist Grapevine a vision for Sowing God's Word and Gathering Women's Hearts via online devotionals --- a blog. What started as a small seed of an idea over three years ago, has blossomed into a gathering place for women of all ages to share in nuggets of God's word. 

As I curate the devotionals each month, I am awed and inspired by how God is using this core group of 7 to 10 women to write such powerful words for His Glory. Be assured, each devotional comes from deep within the woman that put pen to paper. We do not take our calling to this ministry lightly.

I love that Sow & Gather allows talented women a creative outlet to express God's message. If spreading the love of Jesus via an online platform sounds like your calling, there's an opportunity for you to be a part of this ministry.

Our core group of contributors and editors are members of First Baptist Grapevine. That's where we started, but that's not where we end. This is an open invitation to any woman who acknowledges the Statement of Faith to contact us for more information on becoming a volunteer contributor or assisting us with out grass roots social media team.

May God bless you and keep you,

The Sow & Gather team

Jesus Makes Us White As The First Winter Snow

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
we-are-washed-white-as-snow-sowandgather.com

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1:18 NIV

How would you describe yourself? Are you a summer girl, winter girl, or somewhere in between? I am a summer girl through and through. I love sandals, summer dresses, sunglasses, hot weather, cool, icy beverages, and especially not having to wear a heavy, bulky coat. In fact I like summer so well if winter never came I would be thrilled. I just despise winter and everything with it and especially the snow.

Because of this fact, my friends will contact me when it snows and remark how beautiful the snow falls and tease me about my dislike of this cold, icy stuff. However, these comments began to make me think about my dislike of winter and I decided I would pray asking Jesus to show me the beauty of snow and winter.

Well, guess what? This winter after our first snow and ice I saw it sparkle and glisten and it was so clean, crisp, and white. Snow is beautiful!! My next thought was “Oh my, something is wrong with me. I thought snow was beautiful. ”

But in that very moment, Jesus placed this verse into my mind and I realized my life was the same. I disobey Jesus and His commands and do what I want to do. I rebel and I am sinful and my sins are like scarlet and red as crimson. However, Jesus is so loving and so full of grace that when I confess my sins, He is faithful and just to forgive my scarlet sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9) He makes me clean and white just like snow, beautiful, lovely snow.

Dig Deeper |

Psalm 51

Action Item |

When was the last time you confessed your sins? Begin now and when you confess, do you feel cleansed and purified? Remember, Jesus has completely forgiven you.

Prayer |

Dear Savior, I confess my scarlet sins to you right now. Please forgive my sins and make me whole again. Thank you for your grace and your forgiveness. Help me to know I am truly forgiven and walk in this truth in peace. I love you. Amen.

Join Us |

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post.

God Will Begin Something New In Me

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
God-Will-Create-Something-New-In-Me-sowandgather.com

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

Many years ago my entire extended family sat around a large dining table and shared our New Year’s meal together. My father announced that the annual reading of the year-end report would take place; a report that my father compiles including all of the details from the year. After we reminisced about the year’s occurrences, my father asked each of us to make a commitment for the year. Each of the family shared important life goals, some deeply spiritual, bringing many of us to tears.

It came time for my young son to share what his deep felt commitment would be. I beamed as he began to share. My pride quickly dwindled as I heard his pronouncement. He said, “This year my commitment is to quit biting my fingernails.” I know, this sounds like a good goal; however, there was one problem with the commitment: HE HAD NEVER, EVER BIT HIS NAILS. His response, “I just want to make sure I can do what I commit to.”

I sit here this year at 50 years old and I am tempted to venture down the same path as my son. It would be oh so easy to make a public commitment that sounded so very life changing when I am actually already doing it. At least my self-esteem would be improved.

How precious that the God of the universe does not have the same attitude. As I reflect on that very first chapter in the Bible, I am astounded that in the beginning of time, God spoke, created, and blessed. This pattern continues throughout the Bible. All the way through God’s word, the incredible God of the universe sees a need. He speaks a solution. He creates something new. And yes, then he blesses the ending.

The year 2016 is a new beginning yet again. In my own weak power, I can tell you before it even begins, that I will probably fail at most of the huge goals I make for myself. I will commit to losing weight, probably won’t. I will commit to being organized, probably won’t. I will commit to richer experiences and much more patience, probably won’t happen. BUT God, who sits on his throne in heaven and yet still walks with me every moment, will begin something new in me. HE WILL see my need. HE WILL create something new in me. HE WILL bless me.

Oh this indescribable gift of a God who begins again with me every year.

Dig Deeper |

Genesis 1

Action Items |

Avoid the draw to make unrealistic goals for the year. Instead commit yourself to the God who will begin for you and in you. Is there an area in your life that needs improving? Resist the urge to work on it alone. Ask God to see you, create in you, and bless you.

Prayer |

Dear God, you are the creator of all. God, you can see all and I thank you for seeing me. God I ask that you see my heart. Lord, examine my motivations and thoughts. God, I ask that you see my need and create something beautiful in my life in spite of my weak, insecure self. Thank you Lord, in advance, for the new beginning you will create in me in 2016. Amen.

Join |

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God Trains Us For His Service

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
Discipline-Is-Good- Hebrews 12:11 - sowandgather.com

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 ESV

Run-A-Mile-For-Time. That was the assignment on the board. What? People actually do that?

I've never run a mile nor do I desire to run a mile. I have many fitness and health goals but running isn't on the list. I grabbed water, sunglasses, and my GPS app. And we were off. My three friends were gone and I was sloggin' along dragging up the rear. I actually jogged the first quarter mile then had to switch to a fast walk.

My friends passed me on their return from the half-mile mark with encouraging words of "you can do it" and "good job." It was a beating. I knew I could finish in under 15 minutes just walking. It's not so much about my short little legs as it is my heart and lungs. See, those two body parts are not in shape to sustain jogging more than a quarter mile.

For six weeks I have attempted to jog a quarter mile twice a week. The quarter mile mark is where my gas gave out because I have not trained to run any further. Just as I have to train all my body parts to work at a greater capacity over longer periods of time, I also have to train my faith for the long-haul -- a quarter mile at a time.

My faith is all about training my heart and lungs, too. Making sure I'm not shallow breathing and missing out on a full, deep, refreshing breath to restore myself. Or sprinting on an ounce of faith when I should be going slower and deeper into the word of God to completely refuel my spirit for the race.

There are days when we just have to do faith sprints. Days where we just have to dig in on what spiritual fuel we have and go for it. If every day is a sprint, we will never recharge our body, mind, or spirit for the long-haul of life. Each day we dig deeper in the Word, we become stronger. God shapes us and trains us for His glory and kingdom-works one quarter-mile at a time.

I finished my mile in 13 minutes and 8 seconds. I was done. All used up. Two days later I ran my quarter mile - it was easier.

Dig Deeper |

Hebrews 12

Action Item |

Take a walk today and thank God for all he has provided you. Give praise for the coming year.

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, you are with me on the sprints and marathons of life. Renew my body, mind and spirit this year. Amen.

Join Us |

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post.