Sow & Gather

love

How Do You Demonstrate Love To Your Kids?

loveMarci AnthonyComment
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Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Psalm 34:11
 
My first pregnancy was full of surprises as I ventured into territory that was completely new. Words of encouragement and counsel poured in from friends and family and, yet, all of the preparation did not hinder the bountiful moments of astonishment. Everyone told me I would have cravings, yet that late night moment of desperation for ice cream took me by unexpected surprise. The unwarranted tears should not have shocked me, yet they did. My complete and utter disappointment in the lack of flattering clothing should have been a no brainer.  

Again, the image in the mirror threw me a real curveball. None was more surprising than the moment my first born was placed in my arms. Every important person in my life had prepared me for the emotions that I would feel for this little human; however, the flood of love and devotion took my breath away.  This love for my child was the most natural, innate emotion I had ever experienced. That same wonderment was present with the birth of the other two of my children as well.   

It truly should be no surprise that God never has to command us to love our children. God knew we would need the encouragement to love husbands, friends, and enemies; yet, he understood we would by our very nature love these little beings with which he gifts us. 

While this love is so very easy, so very intuitive, demonstrating that love has posed its challenges for me along the way.  Hugs, words of encouragement, smiles, gifts, and superficial acts have come easy, yet determining what actions prove to my children that I so deeply love them and desire God’s greatest plans for them has stumped me at times.   

My oldest recently married. As I was preparing for the moment I let go of the hand that has grasped mine so many times, reflection has encompassed many a moment. That reflection has led me to understand more clearly those actions that truly demonstrated unconditional love to my children.    

Teaching my children about the Jesus of the Bible was a win. In my reflection, I do recognize that there were times that I taught of a Jesus that is not reflected in his written love letter to us. In regret, I know that so many times I taught of a Jesus that condemns, rejects, and only accepts those who are good and righteous.  But, oh those moments, those grace moments, when I partnered with Jesus to share of his grace, mercy, lovingkindness, holiness and, yes, even his judgment all wrapped into one God. Those were the teachable moments of sharing God's word, the real slam dunks. Love demonstrated the gifts of God to my three children through the teaching of this Savior…..AH, what a blessed memory! 

During this love month, I do not encourage you to love your children, as I recognize that the love a mother has for her children is completely innate. I do, however, encourage you to evaluate your demonstration of love. I implore you, as one who has loved superficially at times, to teach them about this Savior, Jesus.  Teach them about his love and grace. Teach them of his plans and his righteousness. Teach them all of Jesus. And yes, at twenty-two years old, they will look to those moments and know you deeply love them. 

Dig Deeper |

Deuteronomy 6

Action Items |

Ask yourself how you are demonstrating love to your children. Make a list of ways that you can teach your children about the Jesus of the Bible. 

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, thank you so much for gifting me with my children. Loving them is so very easy. Thank you for creating in me a natural, innate love for them. Help me as I seek to demonstrate my love for them.  Give me wisdom as I seek to teach them all about you. Amen. 

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The Love of a Friend

loveMarci AnthonyComment
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Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 

I recently lost one of my best friends. She was an amazing friend.  She was an example to me of what faithfulness and grace means in the midst of fighting her own battle with cancer. As one of her friends who walked along side her during her journey, I witnessed firsthand the outpouring of love and support from all of those who loved her.

Friends are one of the most precious gifts God gives us. Human interaction and relationships are at the very core of who we are. Throughout his life, Jesus surrounded himself with people. When you read John 15, you see the picture Jesus is trying to paint for the disciples of a vine and branches. He tells the disciples that they are an integral part of his ministry on earth. He states that they are growing in spiritual maturity and character by continuing to do the work that He started. In John 15:12 Jesus tells His disciples that He loves them.  Then He moves on to say  He loves them so much He is preparing to die for them. As usual,  this information goes right over the disciples’ heads, but Jesus needed to lay the foundation of what the disciples were to continue doing and their responsibility to carry out His ministry.

Though Jesus seemed to constantly be surrounded by people there are times that he needed to be alone. In those times He wasn’t really alone, but talking with God the Father. Jesus is the ultimate best friend, He was loyal, forgiving (think of the way He treated Judas!), loving (we just established that), compassionate, and giving, just to name a few. Jesus was constantly surprising His disciples with acts of kindness and service. When is the last time you did something for your friend?  Not out of obligation, but just to surprise them to let them know you love them. Have you ever sent a hand written note in the mail just because you cared? Jesus did nothing out of obligation; He genuinely cared for everyone and loved everyone so much He was willing to “lay down his life.” 

My friend was a precious gift. I feel blessed to have known her and call her my friend.  She was selfless and joyful. No matter what she was going through she would always ask how I was doing. She listened, she laughed, and her smile could light up a room. Can you think of someone in your life you feel God has gifted to you as a friend?  What traits would you use to describe yourself as a friend? When you think of your close friends what is it that draws you to them? What do you value the most about them? Friends are one of God’s precious gifts. Don’t wait until it’s too late to let them know how much they mean to you.

Key Verses |

John 15

Action Item |

As you read John 15 take an inward look at your spiritual journey and relationships and see where God has planted you. Are you blooming or are you stuck in the weeds?

Prayer |

Thank God for friends. Thank you for all of the women you have placed in my life to encourage me and lift me up. Help me to be a better friend to those you have placed in my path. AMEN

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All You Need Is Love

loveMarci AnthonyComment
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Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1 NIV 

Love songs, we hear them everywhere. They are found in every genre of music from country western to rap and even contemporary Christian. One of the more familiar songs by the Beatles has a chorus which sounds like this, “All you need is love (dum, da, da, da dum). All you need is love (pause), love (pause), love is all you need.”  

This chorus is true. We all need, want, and desire to be loved. Therefore, we look for love everywhere in things, activities, and people. And our love is fleeting. We may love one thing today but tomorrow not so much. 

When God created us, He desired a loving, personal relationship with us and wanted all our love. (Genesis 1-2) After disobedience and evil came into the world, He continued to love us. And this time He gave His son, Jesus, to die for us and our disobedience so we could live with Him forever. (John 3:16) He gave Jesus’ life for ours all because He loves us. He wants us! 

And every day we can experience this love. It appears through His presence in our life, the blessings He gives, and His strength as we struggle through life’s challenges. And the best thing about God’s love is that it is eternal. It lives forever. It is not like the wind ever moving but is steady and strong. We can be confident God loves us and it will not change. 

So, here is a trustworthy statement: Jesus loves you!! 

Dig Deeper |

Psalm 136John 3Ephesians 3:16-19

Action Item |

Listen to a love song and think how much Jesus loves you. 

Prayer |

Dear God, Thank you for loving and wanting me. Help me to know that you always love me. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

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Loving the Unlovely

loveMarci AnthonyComment
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If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:46-48 NIV 

I don’t remember when I first encountered the phrase, “extra grace required”. I think I first read it in a Bible study book that urged me to love the unlovely and to love people that are unlike us. I’ve since heard the phrase pop up many times at church. To use a cliché phrase, it’s usually used like this: “Bless her heart, she’s just one of those extra grace required people.”   

The “extra grace required” label is usually applied to someone who is maybe a little needy, maybe dominates discussions too much, and maybe is a little socially awkward. It’s the person that you perhaps don’t go out of your way to greet on a Sunday morning. It’s someone whose call you let go to voicemail because you don’t have an extra hour to listen to their un-ending monologue about their problems. 

Here’s the problem though …. we’re all "extra grace required" people. If God only poured His love on the lovely, on the kind, on the worthy, we’d all be left out of that loop. To judge someone else as “extra grace required” means that you may not realize how much grace you yourself require from God and from others.   

Romans 5:8 reminds us, “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” He didn’t love us because we were lovely.  We are utterly unlovely in His sight because of our sin. The astounding thing about grace is that we receive that love even though we deserve wrath and hate.  God loves like that, and we are urged to love like that. “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” It’s a tall order and impossible for us to do in our own strength. But with God’s help we can start to love more perfectly. 

It’s comfortable and easy to love someone who loves you back. But as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 5:46-48, pretty much everyone loved the lovely. The corrupt tax collectors loved people who loved them. The pagans (those with no connection to God) went out of their way to greet their friends.  

We are to be different from the world. How we can stand out from the world is not on how much we love our friends, but how much we love the unlovely. 

In this season where romantic love is celebrated, it's important to remember we are called to not just love our spouses, our families, our friends, our fellow believers, but to love and extend friendship to all…even the “extra grace required” and unlovely. Love sacrificially. Love without condition. Love as God loves you. 

Dig Deeper |

Matthew 5Ephesians 4:1-7 

Action Item | 

Take a hard look at your life.  Are there people you exclude from your circle of friends because they are “extra grace required”?  Ask God to open your eyes to your prejudices and help you love like He loves. 

Prayer | 

Father, I can never be perfect as you are perfect, Help me to see others through your eyes. Let me overflow with your love. Let that love transform the lives of all those I touch. I want to make you known. Amen. 

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Put On Jesus

loveMarci AnthonyComment
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You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22, 24 NIV 

One of the simple pleasures in life is to acquire new clothes, whether they are purchased or received as a gift. And, if you are like me, you can’t wait to wear them. I usually wear my new clothes the day after I receive them. It’s crazy but when I put them on they actually make me feel fresh, stylish and even confident. 

In this verse from Ephesians we are actually commanded to put on new clothes. Really? The Bible is telling us to get new clothes? No! It means we are to take off the old self which is without Jesus and put on the new self with Jesus. It means we recognize that we are evil and need to turn to Jesus for cleansing and forgiveness. We put Jesus on by asking Him into our life and then loving Him and following His ways every day. 

As a result of loving Him, our lives are new. We should pray, study the Bible, and meditate on its verses. We should get into the rhythm of going to church every week and begin fresh relationships with others who follow Jesus. Maybe we could start serving Jesus by helping at a homeless shelter, working with ladies or even children at our church.  

So, as we begin this New Year, let’s adorn those new clothes. Let’s put on Jesus! 

Dig Deeper |

Romans 13:14; Colossians 3: 12; Job 40:10 

Action Item |

As you get dressed this morning, put Jesus on too. 

Prayer |

Dear God, It is a New Year. Help me to choose to put on You so that I am righteous and holy. Amen. 

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Loving With Prayer

loveMarci Anthony1 Comment

And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him.  But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher into the middle of the crowd, infront of Jesus. Luke 5:18-19  (NASB)

Just recently I heard a Christian say that they wished they could go to church without having to listen to so many prayer requests.  To be completely honest, I was stunned that such sentiment even existed in the Christian community among believers in Christ.  Only to realize that I am just as guilty when I tell people I will pray for them, but forget the very instant I leave their presence. 

The act of prayer is the simplest and yet most powerful thing we can do to show our love for one another. However, it seems that in our busyness, we simply do not wish to be bothered with the needs of others or take the time to present these requests to Jesus.  I am certain this paralyzed man in the book of Luke would have a much different opinion.   

I can tell you for sure that the qualities I see in this man's friends are the qualities that we would all want in a friend.  They obviously did not let busyness keep them from carrying their friend to Jesus so that he might have the possibility of healing.  They weren't even discouraged by the fact there were circumstances which made the task seem impossible.  They clearly were determined. If there was a chance, even a tiny possibility, then they were going to find a way for their friend to see and experience this God-man who was able to heal the sick and make the lame walk again. 

They had hope that Jesus would do what seemed impossible at the time. 

Even now as I write this, I am overwhelmed with how often I give up much too soon in praying for my friends who don't call Jesus Savior.  Unlike these men, we don't experience problems with crowd control at the throne of Christ, but there are still obstacles. Obstacles like work, family, church, friends, sports, etc. 

Like the friends who had to develop a new strategy to carry their friend to Christ, I must set aside a tile of time, openingan opportunity through which I have the honor and privilege to lift my friends needs into the presence ofChrist Jesus.   

Dig Deeper |

Esther 4:13-16; Acts 2:42 

Action Item |

Discipline yourself this week by setting aside a specific time to pray for the people God has placed in your life. 

Prayer |

O God, we know that without you we could not survive.  Remind us this week to pray for those who need to experience You as Savior.  Recall to our memory those who may have physical, emotional, or other needs so that we can carry those requests to You.  Help us to be determined to find time to love one another in this way.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

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Thick or Thin Skin: Which Have You?

loveMarci AnthonyComment
#love #sowandgather #proverbs The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4 NIV

The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4 NIV

Are words hurtful? Have you ever known someone that could cut another person down with their words? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Wow, thinking about that quote makes me shudder to think how naive we as parents are when we teach that untruth. Sure, it’s ok to tell our kids that words shouldn’t hurt us, but the truth is they do. We can pretend that they’re just letters in the alphabet but many times those letters form words of hurt and deceit.  

How far can words penetrate? I guess it depends on the thickness of your skin. Metaphorically, we’ve all heard the saying, “You need to grow thicker skin.” This refers to how we deal with negative comments and insults. Some of us have built up that layer of “thick skin;” meaning we don’t allow petty arguments or comments to bother us. Some of us are selective in what we allow to pass through our skin. We don’t care about most comments unless they deal with the big three: our families, our religious beliefs, or (most recently) our political beliefs. The last group in this category is the thin skin folks. This applies to those of us whose skin is so transparent; you know what we’re thinking before you say it and your words, when hurtful, deal a crushing blow to our spirits.  

Whether your skin is impenetrable or absorbs negativity like a Bounty paper towel, we need to learn to trust God in times where we need help using our words. Many times when we feel attacked, we want to retaliate without thinking how our words will reflect on the One we love most of all, God. God does not want us to cut others down or prune our friends with hurtful words that will only result in branches that will not reach out to us anymore. Proverbs 15:4 says, “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Using hurtful words cut us off from those we love the most. We lose sight of God’s desires and cease to have any positive influence over those we care about.   

Yes, words are powerful. So what do we do when words betray us or cut us down? Put on your “Holy Spirit skin screen.” You heard me right; I didn’t say “sun screen,” I said, “skin screen.” When you feel put down and angry towards someone or a particular situation, stop and pray or open your Bible to see what God’s Word says. Jesus didn’t retaliate against those who called Him names and beat Him physically. He chose to love. Through prayer and reading God’s Word the Holy Spirit gives us the best protection to cover our weak flesh against the worst comments the world can hurl at us. When we are attacked, we should retaliate with a tongue that is healing and loving, not hurtful.  So take heart, those of you with thin skin, you are protected with the best defense God can offer.  

Dig Deeper |

Proverbs 18:21Proverbs 10:11 

Action Item |

Does your life and your speech imitate God? Do you find yourself wanting to retaliate when you feel wronged by another? Take time this week to write down individuals who have gotten under your skin. Ask God to help you turn the other cheek and apply forgiveness and love instead of retaliation.   

Prayer |

God, it is hard when someone is negative towards me. The desires of my flesh tend to get in the way of what Your will is in my life. Help me to speak love and forgiveness over those who have wronged me. Allow me to plant seeds of hope and life with my tongue and speech.    

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Does Your Life Lack Discipline?

loveMarci AnthonyComment
#sowandgather #love Does Your Life Lack Discipline

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves; as a father the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:12 NIV

Have you ever taken time to look back at your childhood to try and figure out how various circumstances of the past relate to how you handle things in the present? When I look back at my childhood, I realize that most of my reactions and interactions in my daily life today are really an extension of how I was raised as a child. 

I was brought up in what I would consider a fairly strict household. My dad was the son of an Army Colonel and my mom was the daughter of two very hardworking blue collar parents. I was an only child being raised by two very dedicated, hardworking Christian parents. To say my life was disciplined was an understatement. 

Weekly, life consisted of everyday activities like going to school, piano practice, tennis practice, Wednesday night choir practice, and GA’s (mission class). Weekends were for cleaning your room and the bathroom, vacuuming, and working outside in the yard. Afterwards once the chores were finished, I could play with friends. 

Because of my Christian upbringing, there were various activities I couldn’t attend. Certain types of music I wasn’t allowed to listen to and, of course, there were limitations to what I was allowed to watch on TV. 

As I got older, strict adherence to parental rules regarding curfew and dating began to drive a wedge between me and my parents. In high school and college I began to spread my wings and make my own decisions. I decided to charge straight in the opposite direction of my parent’s disciplined lifestyle to a life of chaos, and disorder. I made some very poor and ill-timed decisions not based on anything but my selfish desires. Not only did I suffer the consequences of these decisions, but my lack of discipline found me lost and many times alone. 

I began to realize that the consequences were a result of a lack of discipline in my life. My life had lost its purpose and direction. It was not until I got on my knees and prayed to God asking him to change my path that my life began to get back on track. I made several life choices which started with attending a local church. Slowly, I began to implement God’s truths in my life. I realized that this new disciplined lifestyle was what I was missing all along. 

As I have gotten older and have my own family, I have carried over some of my parent’s ideas on discipline. Other ideas I have let slide as a sign of the times. Most importantly, I always remember to remind my kids that life without Godly discipline is a life without love. God created rules and discipline, not in spite of us, but because He loves us. It took me a long time to recognize that my parent’s discipline was an act of love not an act of punishment. God’s discipline is meant to free us not punish us. It is because He loves us that He gives us His Word to use as a guide.   

Dig Deeper |

2 Timothy 3:17; James 1:4; Proverbs 12:4; Proverbs 22:6 

Action Item |

Take time to read Proverbs 31:10-31. Instead of focusing on the areas you need to work on, make mental checks next to the areas that are your strengths and give God a pat on the back.         

Prayer |

Dear God, I am committing myself to put You first each and every day. Thank you for Your love and Your Word that help instruct me on the areas where I need more focus. Help me to develop more Godly character qualities. Guide me in the areas where I lack experience. Help me to turn my daily stress into lighthearted moments. Amen. 

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After the Wedding: Becoming A Wife

loveMarci AnthonyComment
#love #sowandgather After the wedding becoming the wife Proverbs

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. Proverbs 31: 11-12 NIV

He proposed in the spring. It was a complete surprise, but no surprise he asked or planned a grand gesture or that I said yes. But what all did I say yes to? He picked out the perfect ring. Was my yes to the precious stone and metal? I was the last of most of my friends to get married. Was my yes about finally wearing the white dress? I dreamed of an outdoor ceremony in the fall. Was my yes to a beautiful wedding? These things were some of the first details that were addressed after the proposal. Life for the next nine months was about wedding decisions: cake, table toppers, catering, flowers, dresses, guests, invitations, and the list goes on and on. Over that time, I also had a pulling on my heart. I knew my yes was not about the wedding. My yes was to become his wife. A position I have never had, nor did I truly understand the significance.

Besides spending my life with my best friend, what does it look like to be a wife? Furthermore, to be a good wife. It has only been a few short months that we have been married. These verses speak to how I would like to be my husband’s wife. For I said yes to being good, capable, lacking nothing of value for the rest of my life. That sounds overwhelming, but I could not imagine working towards any other standard of how I can show my love. I want nothing more than to add to the life of my husband. And I just love that God has provided such instruction.

Dig Deeper |

Proverbs 31:10-31

Action Item |

How can you pray for your husband? What can you do to show love to your husband?  Ask God to work through you to bless your marriage.

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father – You are love. Thank you for showing your love. Please guide our actions in our relationships that we may build each other up. Heal where there is hurt, and let your love shine through each of us. 

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Are You A Sweet Talker?

loveMarci AnthonyComment
#sowandgather #proverbs Kind Words Are Like Honey

Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Proverbs 16:24 NLT

The bees buzzed in unison as the big metal vat twirled on its axis. I watched the golden liquid spin free of the comb and drip into a container. Those are the vivid images I have of my father and his buddies extracting honey out of the combs from our personal bee hives. The hives lined the perimeter of our garden and were always active with little yellow and black honey bees. In the late summer, the comb was harvested from the hives and brought into our garage where the honey was separated. 

I love honey. I had honey in Australia that was a deep, dark brown and honey from Tennessee that was light as sun beams and tasted like clover. Honey is flavored by the flower pollen the bees capture in their daily flights. Since bees don't travel more than about two miles from their home hive, local honey will always be flavored by what is in bloom in the bee's flight path.  We now know that local honey is great for combating allergies. You get a little daily dose of allergy medicine with each spoonful of sweetness. 

Imagine the full circle impact of a bee. First, the beauty and sweetness of the flower's nectar attract the bee, then the bee gathers and circulates the pollen to other plants, and takes it back to the hive. The end result of the cycle is delicious honey that is good for your body. 

I think about my daily flight path and wonder what impact or flavor I impart to those around me. Am I spreading love and kindness or something else? Are my words and actions building others up or knocking them down? 

The Bible tells us that kindness is a sign of the Holy Spirit at work in Christians (Galatians 5:22). This is not something that manifests itself as random acts of kindness, or sending good vibes out into the universe. If you are a Christian, kindness should be an ingrained and intentional part of your daily life. For some people kindness just comes hard-wired. Others will need to work with the Holy Spirit to develop the trait.  

What does kindness even look like? I can't imagine showing kindness without also demonstrating love. Look at the examples of Jesus interacting with children, Jesus eating with those the world considered "less than," Jesus stopping what he was doing to respond to a person in need. Kindness starts first with paying attention to those around you and assessing their need. Their need might be a kind word or help returning their shopping cart in the grocery parking lot. 

Jesus' kindness wasn't random; it was intentional.  

Dig Deeper |

Luke 15:1-10; Acts 28:1-2      

Action Item |

Today be intentional about doing at least one kind act. 

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that Your merciful kindness be for my comfort and for those around me. Help me to listen and observe so that I see the needs of others. Show me how to love those in my path and show kindness daily. Lord, I know that Your truth and kindness will endure forever. Amen.         

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Treasure God's Word--John 3:16

loveMarci AnthonyComment

Is it sweet, salty, spicy, cold, hot? Terms you might not consider when you are reading God's word. God calls us to hide, treasure and taste His word. Join the contributors and readers of Sow & Gather in tasting and memorizing God's word this week.

Memorize It |

For God so loved the world, that He gave His [fn]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

#love #ForGodSoLove #john3:16

Do You Seek Wisdom From Christ?

loveMarci AnthonyComment
#sowandgather #proverbs For Wisdom Will enter your herat and knowledge will ebe pleasant to your soul. Proverbs 2:10 #fathersandsons

For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”  Proverbs 2:10 NIV

The bond between a father and a son is a deep and sometimes troubled relationship. The Bible is full of father/son relationships. Some are great examples for families to follow while others tend to show what not to do.  

The father/son relationship can be difficult, especially when you are both a father and a king. An example of this unique situation is seen between David and Solomon. The Bible does not give us many details about this relationship except to say that Solomon was David’s choice to inherit the kingdom. One important aspect of the father/son relationship is the fact that the son carries on the family name. The success of the family depends in part on the wisdom and knowledge passed from father to son so the son has the opportunity to learn and be successful.   

Solomon’s dad, King David, was a man after God’s own heart. David’s heart got him into trouble when he had an affair with another man’s wife. The woman’s name was Bathsheba and she gave birth to Solomon. David’s heart and sin was passed on to his offspring as Solomon also struggled with women.  

Solomon was a wise man and had riches beyond anyone else in the Bible. The first chapter of the book of Proverbs outlines the purpose for writing the book of Proverbs. Solomon’s primary focus was to gain wisdom. God recognized Solomon as a King who “feared the Lord” and He granted Solomon wisdom and knowledge that surpassed any man that ever lived. Solomon’s hope by gaining wisdom was that he would ultimately gain understanding as to the existence of the world with his ultimate goal being to find contentment and peace in life.  

All throughout the book of Proverbs we note that the word wisdom can become a symbol for Christ. This change would transform the theme of wisdom to the theme of love. Proverbs 2:10 is a great example of this: “For Christ will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”  

Solomon’s problem was that he tried to use wisdom to understand contentment from the world’s perspective. He should have focused on what God could do to fill the void in his life.  

The legacy we leave our kids is one that often keeps me up at night. When I look at some of the stories in the Bible, I cringe wondering if the mistakes I’ve made in the past will continue to haunt future generations. That is why it is important to impart the knowledge of Christ to our kids and to speak the truth in love. Imparting Godly wisdom is the first step to helping our children build a legacy which is not built on the world's desires but on what God desires for them in this world and beyond.  

Dig Deeper |

Proverbs 4:11; Proverbs 5:1; Proverbs 21:30; Ecclesiastes 1:18

Action Item |

Look through various verses in Proverbs. Take time to insert the word “Christ” where it talks about wisdom and see if it adds to the meaning of the verse.        

Prayer |

Dear God, please forgive me when I think that my plans and ideas are smarter and wiser than Yours. Help me to be humble and trust in Your plans, not leaning on my own understanding. Allow me to see Your face when making difficult decisions and seek Your wisdom in trials. Thank You for being my rock. AMEN.

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How Do You Measure Up?

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Proverbs31 #sowandgather

Proverbs 31 – The Wife of Noble Character NIV

Take a deep breath, it’s a new year. A time for new challenges and new experiences and maybe even a new you. The year 2016 is in the rearview mirror and 2017 is now in full throttle. Now is the time to stride boldly into the New Year proclaiming the name of God ahead of any future choices. 

While I’m not one to make a lot of New Year’s resolutions, I do try to pick a few character flaws to work on throughout the year.  Notice I said a few character flaws-- if I tried to work on all of my flaws, I would probably get too bogged down with self-pity and depression. I would never get anything done! 

One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is found in Proverbs, specifically the section entitled The Wife of Noble Character. What I love about the Proverbs 31 wife is found at the beginning. Proverbs 31:10 states “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” Even in today’s society this is a meaningful and positive comparison. When I begin to assess those flaws I need to work on, I remind myself that as a child of God, I am worth more than earthly riches.  

So many times throughout my day I feel like I am being pulled in many different directions, and I feel totally overwhelmed. It’s in these moments that I remind myself that God has created me to fulfill my daily duties. God has provided each of us with the resources and experience to accomplish whatever may come our way. The Proverbs 31 wife arises early, works with her hands, prepares food, takes care of her family, is mindful of her budget when shopping,  does not overspend, but invests wisely, working from sun-up to sundown.  

One of the areas I am constantly challenged with is in the area of service. Every year I try to pick an area of focus-- it may be a local shelter, church mission or disadvantaged group. There are so many service organizations that need assistance. Once again, Proverbs 31 addresses this in verse 20, “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”  

Sometimes in life we take things too seriously. Consequently, this year one of my focuses is to have fun, laugh more and enjoy life. I love those shirts that say “life is good.” Sometimes I feel that we forget that God created this world for us to enjoy. We need to stop the stress and “laugh at the days to come,” as stated in verse 25. 

My last challenge for this year is to remember and memorize verse 30:  “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” So, how do you measure up? Instead of trying to compare yourself to the Proverbs 31 wife, why not focus on verse 30 and put God first in 2017. 

Dig Deeper |

2 Timothy 3:17; James 1:4; Proverbs 12:4 

Action Item |

Take time to read Proverbs 31:10-31, instead of focusing on the areas you need to work on, make mental checks next to the areas that you are succeeding in…give yourself a pat on the back.       

Prayer |

Dear God, I am committing myself to put You first each and every day. Thank You for Your love and for Your Word, which helps instruct me in the areas where I need more focus. Help me to develop more Godly character traits. Guide me in the areas where I lack experience. Help me to turn my daily stresses into lighthearted moments. Amen.

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Let’s Make Honey - Sweetening Our Speech

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Are My Words Sweet? Proverbs #sowandgather #love

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 NIV

How would you describe your communication skills, especially your speech? Are your words sassy, loving, kind, aggravating, harsh, pleasant, abusive, good, cruel, or maybe, excessive?  

Throughout my life, my speech has often been described as direct or even blunt. I usually tell others, including my friends and family, exactly what is on my mind and give them my opinion in a very concise, direct way.  I really have no intention of hurting anyone, but the words just fly out and, before I know what happened, I have offended them.  I immediately know that I have said too much. 

Two people arrived in my life to help me solve this directness. When I married my husband, he began to gently inform me of the times I crushed others with my speech. At first I was defensive and I didn’t believe him, but as I started to watch others as I spoke, I knew he was correct. Now he just gives me a quick glance with his blue eyes and I know it is time to close my mouth. 

But, the person who has had the greatest influence over my speech is Jesus. From His love and His words in the Bible, I have learned that my speech needs to be sweet, pleasant and healing. And, when I talk, the words should be wise and careful. I should be “quick to listen and slow to speak.” James 1:19. Sometimes it is best to choose silence, just as Jesus modeled when He was tried and convicted before His death. Matthew 26-27  

So, are your words like mine? Try speaking with love and kindness as Jesus did and let’s make some honey! 

Dig Deeper|

Proverbs 25:11; Proverbs 13:3; Proverbs 12:18 

Action Item |

Evaluate your speech. 

Prayer |

Hello Jesus, Thank you, I am able to communicate with You and with others. Help my words to always be loving, kind and caring. Amen.  

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How Can I Help Stop Human Trafficking?

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Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18 NIV

Recently, I attended the Passion Conference in Houston, Texas with 20,000, 18 to 25 year-old's as a leader for our college group.The conference burst with energy, bright flashing lights, and loud powerful music. In addition, the nationally known speakers imparted such wisdom and insight about Jesus that I felt like a sponge soaking up all their words. It was awesome!

During one of the sessions, the speaker began to share about human slavery in the world. It is estimated there are 20-36 million people trapped in slavery where they are forced to work without pay, unable to walk away, subject to violence or threat of violence. They are literally under the control of another person with no way out. How is this possible? People in every country are enslaved!

So, how can I help to end it? First, I am able to give financially. I was provided with the web address www.enditmovement.com which details how I can give to a coalition of 16 partners who work to end slavery. Secondly, I am able to pray. James 5:16 says, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." With prayer slavery can end. Finally, I can support the "end it movement" by shining a light on slavery to those whom I connect with on a daily basis. On February 25th I will draw a red X on my hand, take a selfie, and post it on social media using #enditmovement for all my friends to view and question.

So . . . will you join me in ending slavery?

Hands Up! Let’s look at the red X and chat.

Dig Deeper |

Matthew 25:34-40

Action Item |

Visit the enditmovement.com website to determine how you can be involved in stopping human slavery.

Prayer |

Dear Father, It is so hard to imagine so many people are enslaved throughout our world. Help me to be sensitive to their plight. Help me to support and pray for them. I desire all slavery to end. I want every man, woman, boy or girl to be free. Not only free from other men but, also, free in you. Amen.

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Dreaming of a White Knight

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…behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True… Revelation 19:11

What girl at some point in her life hasn’t dreamed of being rescued by her “knight “riding in on a white stallion? If you belong to Christ, this is your “happily ever after”! Revelation 19:11 tells us “. . . behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True . . . ” Christ is our Faithful and True Savior. He loved us and died to redeem us, to make us His own. Now that we are saved, “He lives to make intercession for us.” Hebrews 7:25

Whether you are married, widowed, divorced, or single, if you are saved, you have a husband; for you are the bride of Christ. Isaiah 54:5 tells us, “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of Hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” February seems like the month of sweethearts . . . love is everywhere it seems. Regardless of your circumstances, you are loved with an everlasting love that cannot be matched in a mere man. He tells us, “I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in loving-kindness and mercy.” Hosea 2:19. Jesus will never disappoint you or let you down. He is the perfect husband!

Did you know that God rejoices over you with singing? He is the Faithful and True One who serenades you with His love. “The Lord your God in the midst of you is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over you with joy; He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17. In this month of “love”, don’t forget that you are loved by the Almighty God who loves us with a perfect love.

Dig Deeper |

Read Ephesians 2:4-5; Romans 8:37-39; and John 3:16

Action item |

Are you lonely or feeling all alone? Jesus is right there with you, draw close to Him and He will draw close to you.

Prayer |

Lord Jesus, thank you for your love for me. You love me with an everlasting love; it is too much for me to understand. Help me not to put anyone or anything before You. Thank You for showing me Your love in so many ways.

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How Do We Love During Grief?

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Lord-The-One-You-Love-Is-Sick sowandgather.com #love #grief

Lord, the one you love is sick. John 11:3 NIV
 
Cancer. Bad news. One week ago today I heard those words about a dear friend. Today I sit on an airplane flying home for her funeral. She was only 52. She was only sick for a few weeks. How? Why? Questions we will never know the answer to this side of heaven. Questions I hope I will not care about on the other side of heaven.  
 
Weather has been a nightmare. Re-routing airplane trips around the snowpocalypse has left me frazzled and worried I'll miss the visitation and funeral. Worried I'll miss the grieving and remembering not just with her family, but also with my own family. We will miss her dearly and grieve heavily for her surviving family. 
 
Death is a reminder that this life and this earth are temporary. We are not designed to be here forever. I just wish we were here long enough. Long enough to see children grow up, graduate college, get married, have grandbabies. And then see all of our grandbabies do the same. Long enough to retire and have lazy days - or busy days - with our spouses. Long enough . . . we just need to live long enough.   
 
I find myself following "long enough" with "if only." If only we knew the number of our days, would we live differently? Would we love people more or squander relationships because we have plenty of time left on the clock? 

I think of how much I love my friend. How much more and differently I love my husband and my child.  And, then how much Jesus loves me. Jesus is the perfect example of love. I used to see Jesus as this stoic example of love. The older I get and the more life I live, the more I can see the passionate Jesus. The man who hugged his disciples; the man who cried with his friends; the man who suffered for me and you. God in heaven loves each of us passionately. He hugs and weeps with us. He holds us as we sob quietly or shout in anger. 

If I quiet my soul I can hear Jesus whisper, "You will be on earth until you've completed what I have planned for your life. I've placed you right where you need to be, doing just what I have designed for you." If I listen and obey, I know that "long enough" and "if only" are worldly concerns, not Godly concerns. I still have those questions and perhaps I will for a long time to come.  
 
As the plane descends over the newly fallen snow, I give thanks for the life and love of my friend and most of all for the life, death, resurrection, and love of my Savior.  God's peace I leave with you. 

Dig Deeper | 

John 11:1-45; Acts 17:26-28 

Action Item | 

Call, write, text or email a friend from your youth. Reconnect or enrich a relationship that God established for you in your past. 

Prayer | 

Dear Loving Heavenly Father, please bring comfort to those who have lost loved ones. Please help them to understand there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Lord God, help us to accept the comfort You have for each of us and to know that Your love is perfect. Amen

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What Will I Sacrifice for Love?

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what-will-i-sacrifice-for-love-sowandgather.com #love #redbandana

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

Standing in the 9/11 Memorial Museum was an emotional experience for me. The graphic images of the war-torn buildings and media coverage reminded of the day and where I was when the tragic event occurred. There were amazing stories of heroic men and women who gave their lives to attempt to rescue those that were stranded in the buildings. One such man, Welles Crowther, carried with him a red bandana every day, a practice he had learned as a small child watching his dad get ready for church. The bandana became a symbol of his close relationship with his father. 

On the day of the attacks, Welles helped twelve people to safety and sacrificed his own life trying to get more out. Those rescued only knew him as "the man with the red bandana.” One of his bandanas is now on display in the museum as a reminder of his selfless acts. 

This story pierced me because as I stood there I began to think of another Father who is an example to me. Even though I cannot see the battle raging on around me every day, I know it is there. Spiritually war-torn, in need of a Savior who is our only hope; I know the selfless act that my Father performed at the cross. And yet, how many times have I said, "Tomorrow I will share."  "I’ll have time later."   

Those phrases are so simple, but they carry with them the fact that I am unwilling to sacrifice my reputation. I don't want to rock the boat or offend anyone.   Truthfully, it is an indication that I don't understand that any moment might be too late to tell that person about Jesus. Oh, when will I be willing to wrap myself in the Gospel for the sake of those dying around me? To have the courage to offend and to be hated for those that may come to know Christ. Will I be brave enough or love enough to sacrifice for those I call friend? Will I, like Welles, decide that those dying are worth the cost of my own life? Like him, it doesn't really matter if they know who I am, but only that they know who He is.  For He is the only way to truly live. 

You can learn more about Welles Crowther via this short documentary.

Dig deeper  |

Mark 8:35-38 

Action Item |

Who has God placed in your life for the purpose of sharing the Gospel?  Pray that God will give you the opportunity to tell them the "good news”.  Be bold and speak the truth. 

Prayer |

Father, please give me the courage today to be a messenger of the good news.  Let me lay aside any selfishness and fill me with Your love for those who are in need of a Savior.  Give me eyes to see them as You do Lord.  May I wear the Gospel in a way that it speaks of my relationship to You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

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Jesus Is Our Valentine

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Jesus-Is-Our-Valentine-Sowandgather #love

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 1 John 3:11 NIV

One of my favorite holidays is Valentine’s Day, or Heart’s Day. Valentine’s Day brings the colors pink and red, vibrant sweet-smelling flowers, ornamental lace, conversation candy hearts, romantic greeting cards and of course, chocolate. Hearts full of chocolate are so delightful!

But Valentine’s Day brings so much more: it is a day where we have the opportunity to send greeting cards stuffed with encouragement and love. There is such a variety of cards to choose from which provide an assortment of thoughts and verse. After selecting the perfect cards, I grab my Christmas list and begin to address and write cards to my friends and family. This is my favorite part.

It is my chance to clearly and boldly tell each friend and family member I love them. Throughout the year, I express my love to my family with regularity but, my friends? Well… I do not speak these words nearly enough, as it can feel slightly awkward. Valentine’s Day gives me this opportunity.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus, wrote and spoke love to the believers in various churches in his letters to them. Specifically, to the church in Philippi, Paul says he has love for them in his heart. (Philippians 1:7) He even exhorted the Roman believers to do everything in love. (I Corinthians 16:14)

And my best friend, Jesus, also states that He loves me and will show Himself to me. ( John 14:21) In fact, Jesus has shown Himself and expressed His love to me by giving up His life on the cross and rising again just for me. He loves me so very much!

So this Valentine’s Day I will once again send those lovely heart-shaped cards which will distinctly declare, “I love you!”

Digging Deeper |

Psalm 103 especially verse 8

Action Item |

Speak love to a friend this month.

Prayer |

Dear Father, You are the God of love. You loved me so much You gave Your life for me. Thank You. Help me to express my love to my family and friends this month even though it may feel strange or difficult. I truly want them to know how much I love them. I love You, Father. Amen.

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How Do We Develop a Unified Spirit With Our Spouse?

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a-cord-of-three-strands-is-not-quickly-broken-sowandgather.com #love

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

Looking back on twenty years of marriage, life with my husband has been an adventure. Some adventures have been easier than others. Jobs have come and gone, houses on both coasts have bought and sold, children have been raised up, and storms have been weathered.

During one particular season, my husband was offered a job that didn’t give me a feeling of peace. I had strong opinions about what was the right decision thus causing great dissension in our marriage.

Thankfully, he and I were plugged in and sharing life with other couples from our church. During one of our meetings, our leader challenged my husband and me to begin praying together and asking the Lord to unite our hearts and spirit to Him.

At first, praying with my husband felt awkward and uncomfortable because I had been fighting unity in our marriage. Honestly, I had built up a wall that I didn’t want to take down.

But then I began to ask God to “search my heart and test my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23), and to unify my heart's desires with His.

It was then that God revealed my pride and rebellious will. My heart needed to fully submit to the Spirit and to my husband. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21

I’m not going to tell you that all was well overnight, but I kept praying with my husband together on our knees and confessing our sins. My submission to the Lord and to my husband freed me from the pride that was holding me back.

In the end, my husband took the job. Three months later, he was let go from that job.

This verse is a reminder that “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken,” and neither was my marriage. God had prepared us and our marriage to withstand the storm together, unified in Him.

Dig Deeper |

Ephesians 4:2-3, Mark 10:6-9

Action Item |

What is keeping you from being unified with your husband? Ask the Lord to show you the walls you have built.

Prayer |

Dear Lord, I know that when I confess my sins, you are faithful and will forgive my sins and purify my heart. Please protect my heart, my marriage, and unify my heart together with Yours. Amen.

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