Sow & Gather

Transformation

We Are Called to Serve the Least of These

Transformation, ServeSow & Gather - Tamera B.Comment
#sowandgather We Are Called To Serve The Least Of These daily devotional

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40 NIV

Thanksgiving and Christmas are only weeks away. I can't believe October is wrapping up and the full "holiday season" is upon us.

At this time of year, many start to think about how they can serve others. It might be volunteering at the local food pantry or selecting an "angel" from the donation tree for gifts.

I challenge each of us to not limit what we do for others to "this time of year." Jesus didn't limit his good will and gifts to a holiday celebration. It was a part of His everyday life. As Christ- followers we are called to action. We are called to serve others.

Serving and volunteering alone is hard. Find a way to serve in your community.  There are lots of opportunities to help others throughout the year.  You can make a commitment to get started "this time of year" and carry it on throughout 2017.

On a national level, you can participate in Operation Christmas Child. Their primary collection time is November, but you can be involved with the Samaritan's Purse organization throughout the year.

Consider researching state disaster relief organizations and find out their most pressing needs. From cooking BBQ that feeds work crews to cleaning up after a disaster, there's a place to serve.

At the local level, find opportunities to assist the homeless, women in crisis, and kids that need a big brother or sister.

Remember, we are called to help the least of these.

Dig Deeper |

Matthew 25; James 2

Action Item |

Pray that God will guide you in a way to serve year round. Research one way you can volunteer or serve in your community.

Prayer |

Dear Lord, thank you for being the example of what service should look like. Work within my heart to build the desire to serve others. Help me to implement a plan of service. Amen.

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How Do We Know God Is Enough?

TransformationSow & Gather - Tamera B.Comment
Is-God-Enough #sowandgather #transformation

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. II Corinthians 3:18 NIV  

Eighteen months seems like enough time to transform. How about three years? 40 years? Or, even a 1000 years?  How long does transformation really need to take?  

I sometimes feel like my whole life has been spent trying to transform my body. I try not to, but I've bought into all the negative body image garbage the news media propagates. Thighs are too big; nose is too long; hair is too wavy; ankles are too this or that.  

I've always tried to be health conscious.  About three years ago I did get serious about my diet and joined the "clean eating" bandwagon. It's amazing how many times one person can fall off the bandwagon. Eighteen months ago, I committed to a tough but balanced exercise program. I keep falling off that wagon and occasionally rolling under the wagon and hiding. But, I get back up and get back on the program.  

I struggle every day with my choices of food and exercise. It's mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. While outwardly these struggles look like an issue of willpower or dedication, the true core of the issue is often the heart.   

Every day with every choice I make I'm asking: Is God enough?  

Is God enough to satisfy my longings and frustrations? Is God enough to encourage and support me? Is God enough to love me just as I am today?  

God doesn't love me more or less on days I exercise or eat a balanced diet. I'm not talking about earning God's love because I worked my plan perfectly. I'm talking about a God that loves me every day no matter what.   

God loves me because I am a work in progress.   

Over the last few months, I've read the first 1500 years of Israel's Biblical history. Talk about people that are a work in progress. The pages of the Bible came alive for me as tried to imagine why each person made certain choices. And, why God made the choices He did.    

I just finished reading the Old Testament book of Judges. It was too much. It was too hard. It was a time period when people just didn't believe God was enough. While there are glimmers of heart transformations in Judges, the last verse sums up the time period: In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. Judges 21:25 NIV    

People did what they thought would satisfy their longings or frustrations. They looked for encouragement or support in themselves or others. The Israelites looked for love in something or someone other than God. The Israelites had a heart issue.   

Thankfully, this isn't where the story ends for the Israelites or for you and me. Our transformation continues because of the love of God, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. We don't have to be enough. We don't have to have perfect bodies and live in perfect homes with perfect kids and perfect marriages.   

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, our heart transformation begins in earnest. If you have questions about what it means to "accept Jesus Christ," please explore questions and answers at I Am Second. http://www.iamsecond.com/faith-questions/  

Dig Deeper |  

 Romans 6; II Corinthians 3  

Action Item |  

Ask God to show you one area in your life where He wants to transform you. Write it down.  

Prayer |  

Dear Heavenly Father, today I give my transformation over to You. Amen  

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How Do You Find Exodus?

TransformationMarci AnthonyComment
finding-exodus #sowandgather #transformation

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and its leaf does not wither and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:2-3 NASB

One spring Sunday morning, my soon-to-be husband invited me to the church he had been attending since college. I had not been in church for a while (well, maybe in years), and felt a little uncomfortable, and somewhat out of my element.

We went to his Sunday school class where couples were sitting in a large circle. My boyfriend handed me a Bible, and I remember the teacher saying “turn to Exodus.” Frozen with panic, I quickly eyed everyone else quickly turning to this book. I really didn’t want my boyfriend to know that I couldn’t remember where Exodus was in the Bible (it’s the second book in the Bible). Unfortunately, trying to locate the Table of Contents was just as difficult as finding Exodus.

Maybe you can relate to my story. You may have attended a Bible study or even church, but have no idea what the Bible is, much less the sixty-six books that make up the Bible.

This particular incident was one of many that I can look back on and see God drawing me to a saving faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. As a wedding gift, my mother-in-law gave me a Bible with my name on it. I didn’t know where to begin, and to be honest, I was a little intimidated. This began, however, an amazing journey of learning to delight in God and His Word.

Just as Psalm 1 says, I want to be that tree that is firmly planted in God’s Word, and to receive the living water of Jesus Christ. However, if I am to grow strong roots, I must make time to read and study God’s Word daily. It is more than just knowing where each book is located (although that does help), it is about allowing God’s Word to transform, heal, and convict my heart.

Today, I’m one of those “teachers” in Sunday school, and one of my most favorite things to do is teach young girls about the Bible. We look up books together so that no one ever feels like they are the only person that does not know. I will forever remember how I felt that morning trying to find Exodus, but I can tell you, I’ve never forgotten where that wonderful book is located!

Dig Deeper |

Psalm 1:1 – 3, Mark 4:1 - 20

Action Item |

Do you have a desire to know what God’s says? Ask God to guide you to a Bible study or to someone who will share with you His amazing truths. Don’t be afraid or intimidated – God is seeking you!

Prayer |

Dear Father, thank You for giving us your Holy Word for us to delight in. I know it is not about what I know, but a heart that wants to know You. Amen

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Are All Seeds Good?

TransformationSow & Gather - Tamera B.Comment
Why-Are-You-Fearful #sowandgather #transformation

But He said to them, “Why, are you fearful, O you of little faith.”  Matthew 8:26 NKJV

With spring almost here, thoughts of cleaning up the yard, working in the garden, and spring cleaning fill my mind.  It’s the time of year that seems like the earth is waking up and signs of life are everywhere.  People are talking about what kind of plants they want, and it seems like every nursery is having a sale. 

The possibilities are limitless . . . tulips, daffodils, roses, tiger lilies?  They are all so pretty and would enhance any garden.  On the other hand, I doubt any gardener is considering planting ragweed, deer tongue, bull thistle, or even dodder, which are all common invasive weeds. If they did, it would destroy and take over the otherwise beautiful garden they have tried to cultivate. 

All gardeners know they have to work in their garden every day.  They must be ready to pull up any signs of those nasty weeds that are trying to grow in that good soil.  As a Christian, I must do the same thing.  I must spend time with Jesus in prayer, study His word for wisdom, and try to understand His character and who He is. 

I have determined and purposed to cultivate my life so that I will be more like Him.   

Why then do I plant seeds of doubt and fear in my mind?  They can be just as invasive to my life as ragweed or deer tongue is to a garden.  When I allow doubts and fear to grow, it destroys my peace and causes me to second guess God’s promises.  

Just because I spend time with Jesus, talking to Him in prayer or reading His word, doesn’t mean those doubts and fears won’t sprout every now and then.  I need to be watchful and ready to pull them out at the first sign.  How can I do that?  In a garden, it’s easy-- just pull the weed and throw it away.  Fear is sneaky; sometimes you don’t even realize you are being fearful until you have worked yourself up.  Then, what do you do?  You call it what it is…and replace it with the truth of God’s word.  You keep on doing this until that particular weed is gone.   

Don’t let fear overtake you; cry out right now for Jesus to save you!  Jesus can save you not only from your fears and doubts, but also from the penalty of your sin.  In this season of life springing up from the ground, cry out to the only One who can give you new life.  “There is no name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  It is only by the name of Jesus!   

Dig Deeper |

2 Corinthian 9:6Philippians 4:6-7Hebrews 13:6Psalm 131:1

Action Item |

In what area of your life are the seeds of fear and doubt growing?  Will you cry out to Jesus today and let Him save you? 

Prayer | 

Lord Jesus, help me when I am fearful to run to You.  Show me the areas in my life where I doubt You and give me more faith to trust You. 

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The Lord Is With Us

Transformation, ExodusMarci AnthonyComment
The Lord Is With Us #transformation #sowandgather sowandgather.com

After leaving Succoth, the Israelites camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13: 20-22 NIV 

Have you ever had to move or change living locations from one familiar and comfortable place to a strange new undesirable one? I have! And, I did not want to leave the beauty of my newly remodeled house, the familiar streets, restaurants and schools and of course, my awesome friends and family. I wanted to stay, but we had to move and relocate to this new place. A place where we knew no one and everything was totally and completely unfamiliar. I had no friends, no family and couldn’t even find a grocery store. I couldn’t believe God had brought us to this place and we had to begin again. 

The Israelites experienced a similar situation. For 400 years the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and were treated unjustly and harshly before the LORD liberated them. Since they had been enslaved for many years, they were thrilled to leave. However, as the Israelites begin to encounter new places, food, and people, they begin to grumble. Just like me, they despised the new. 

Yet, the LORD was with them. He was in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, never leaving His place in front of His people. He was with the Israelites in Egypt and now He was with them as they started anew. 

And, just like the Israelites, the Lord was with me in my new, uncomfortable place. I began to see Him in my current surroundings. He was leading me through the streets, to tasty restaurants and to engaging new friends and even a grocery store. I actually began to like this new place and enjoy this fresh new start because God was with me. 

Dig Deeper |

Exodus 13-16

Action Item |

As you struggle with a new activity or a new place, walk confidently, knowing that God is with you. 

Prayer |

Dear God, You are a God who is with me. Thank You for never leaving me alone especially when I begin something new. Amen. 

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Where You Go I'll Go

TransformationMarci AnthonyComment
Where You Go I Will Go. Ruth. #transformation #sowandgather sowandgather.com

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.   Ruth 1:16

I recently turned down an opportunity to return to a company where I used to work so that I could work on my dream job. This job would be part-time, good pay, and I would get to do what I love to do. But something about the job just didn’t feel right anymore. You’re probably wondering why anyone would turn down this seemingly great opportunity. My head told me that the logical choice was to take the job, but my heart just wasn’t in it. Sometimes in life we have to step out in faith and trust God, just like Ruth did in verse 16. 

The book of Ruth is an amazing story of how a daughter-in-law chooses to honor her mother- in-law instead of choosing to return to her homeland. If you’ve ever made a move to a different city or town, you know what that feeling is like. You leave the comfort of your current home or situation and move to what’s unfamiliar and uncertain. What I find amazing about Ruth is her incredible faith. In the midst of an uncertain future, Ruth steps out in faith and puts her hope, trust, and future in a God with whom she is unfamiliar. 

One of the biggest obstacles I face daily is that word, “trust.” I have to ask God daily to help me turn my day over to his control. I had to trust that God’s plan was better than even the dream job that was dangling in front of me. Ruth had to place her trust in her mother-in-law and ultimately in God to provide for her needs. When we trust God, he always delivers. 

Stepping out in faith and trusting God for me is never easy. I want to take control of every situation. But I’ve found that when I surrender control to God, I am happier, less stressed, and blessed by the outcome. So now what am I doing for work you ask? Well, I had this other great opportunity to be a writer for this amazing blog called "Sow and Gather." You might have heard of it. What a blessing it is to be able to follow my other passion, writing. What’s holding you back from stepping out in faith and trusting God to do something amazing in your life? 

Dig Deeper |

Deuteronomy 31:6: Proverbs 3:5-6 

Action Items |

Ask yourself, what areas of your life do you need to trust God? 

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, Allow me to turn each day over to Your control and trust You in all areas of my life. Help me to listen to Your prompting where I need to step out in faith and not become comfortable in my circumstances. 

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God's Love is Everlasting

TransformationMarci AnthonyComment
I-have-loved-you-with-an-everlasting-love sowandgather #sowandgather #transformation

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt. Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful.  Jeremiah 31:3-4

Winter, one of my least favorite words. The season is dominated by a lack of sun, frigid temperatures, hibernation, and clothes that cover too much! Just when I know I can’t take it anymore, the smallest of green begins to bud on the trees. It happened this weekend.

On Saturday, I woke up as normal. Got my favorite large mug and filled it with a drop of cream and the best tasting brew. I looked outside to once again see the sticks on all of my trees. No leaves were present and all was dry. Truly, the very next morning I woke up and did my drill. With the brew in my hands, I looked outside to see the smallest glimmer of green sticking out on one of my trees. The sticks were still present. The cooler temperatures still lingered around, but the hope of spring shouted from my tree in the form of a bud.

The life of a woman can reflect that very same scenario. One such woman, who lived many years ago, was named Gomer. The book of Hosea in the Bible tells the story of this woman who spent a long time in the drab winter of her life. Living as a prostitute, she was rescued one night by a man named Hosea. He married her and they had some children.

The rescued woman lived in a safe home, she was inexplicably loved by a good man and for awhile she was a good mother to her precious children. All was good … but she left. She went back to her life of prostitution. Time passes by and God tells Hosea to go find Gomer again and take her back into his home. He knew he would have to buy her as now she had been sold into slavery.

Can you imagine what Gomer must have been thinking? She left all that was good to go back to what was familiar, what was apparent freedom. She was now a true slave. She was lonely. I imagine she felt that all of the life had been sucked out of her. She had left her children and her husband. Gomer experienced that dark, drab, cold season of winter. As she walked up to the selling block, that familiar voice had to spark something deep within her soul. With the remnants of winter lingering, a small bud of hope began to grow. The spring was surely coming for this woman.

As I am noticing the coming of spring in my very own backyard, I wonder if possibly you are coming through a time of winter in your life? Has life felt cold? Have you been lonely? Are you having trouble feeling any life inside your soul? If so, your creator speaks your name today. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I will rebuild you.” With the battle scars of winter still present, hear HIS voice today and allow hope to spring the smallest bud. Hope is before you.

Dig Deeper |

Hosea 1-3

Action Item |

Memorize Jeremiah 31:3-4. If you need this verse today, quote it over and over. If you don’t, keep it tucked into the deepest part of your heart, for you will at some time need it to spring hope in your life.

Prayer |

Jesus, thank you that you have loved me forever. Jesus, I need your rebuilding. Spring hope inside my soul this very morning so that with all of the dead parts of winter lingering, I can proceed with an eye on the future. Amen.

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Our Confidence Comes From Christ

TransformationMarci AnthonyComment
Our-confidence-comes-from-Christ sowandgather.com #sowandgather #transformation

Being confident of this that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NIV

Be confident…sometimes these two words seem so unattainable. As women we can sometimes struggle with this idea not knowing who we are or who we’re supposed to be. I have to daily remind myself to look at the person staring back at me in the mirror the way God sees me not as the world sees me. In Philippians 1:6 Paul writes that we should be confident in ourselves because the God of the universe is at work in our lives.

The second part of the verse states that “He who began a good work in you…” This says that God has a plan for each of us. When we are walking in his footsteps with Him as our guide, we have nothing to fear. I don’t know about you, but this gives me hope. God not only has a plan, but that plan is good!

I love the last part of this verse. It says that God will carry this good work until completion. You see, He already knows when we have so much going on in our lives that we can’t possibly handle anything else. What we don’t realize is that all of these “things” that we have going on are not necessarily God’s agendas. These “things” may be the world’s idea of what we need to be doing in our daily lives. I am comforted by the fact that God is in control of my destiny.

I get goose bumps just thinking about the amazing things that God can do in my life if I let him. When I allow that thought to wash over me, I am struck with the realization that I have nothing to fear or be anxious about. When I look back over my past, I can already see his influence. No matter what poor choices I may have made, he has turned them into golden opportunities for me to succeed now and into the future.

Be confident, put away all worldly agendas and gaze fondly in the mirror lifting your head high with the assurance that God has a plan for your life and it is good!

Dig Deeper |

Psalm 138:8; Jeremiah 29:11; Hebrews 10:35

Action Item |

What areas of your life are you unwilling to let God control? Ask God to help you accomplish His goals for your life and have confidence that He is in control of every situation.

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, As I examine my life, help me to be confident in knowing that You are in control. Help me to put aside my selfish ambitions and focus only on Your clear and perfect will.

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From Death To Life

TransformationMarci AnthonyComment
if-it-dies-it-bears-much-fruit #sowandgather #transformation

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

Standing in my 12x12 garden, my thoughts weave together past memories of planting with my present experience. As I lay the kernels in the ground, my mind's eye pictures my dad's hand guiding my little fingers to place each seed in a furrow. I remember the excitement of seeing the plants emerge. It still thrills and surprises me even now when I see them push through to the surface. Same as then, I feel the hope that if I care for these plants, they will most likely yield me something in return. 

So what has changed? Well, my dad often has said that the garden is one of life's greatest teachers about God. Though when I was little, I could not understand comparisons between growing plants and spiritual things of God, I do now. There are many lessons from the garden, but the one that came to mind on this day was John 12:24, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

As I laid the seed in the ground, I knew that it would have to die in order to become what God had created it to be. From one seed would come many plants. 

It is difficult to give up being concerned about what people think of me. If I'm really honest with myself, I like accolades. I like it when my children are perfect (or at least look that way). I like it when people think I have the perfect marriage. I like it when people like my house. I really just want to do what I want. But, my life is not perfect. I am so often a mess! My home, marriage, and kids all have struggles. 

When I surrender to the Master Gardener's hand, I begin to see that these struggles help me die to my own personal desires. Then I am often surprised and thrilled to see Him working in me. He is making me into something far greater than I could ever be by myself. There is a hope that does not disappoint because that which has been dead in me can be brought to life through Christ. It speaks to my weakness and His greatness multiplies life through death. 

Dig Deeper |

Mark 13:1-23 

Action Item |

What is one thing God is asking you to give up in your life? Practice giving it up and filling that space with something God wants you to do. 

Prayer |

God help me to deny my own wants and give me the strength to be yielded to Your will. Use me to tell more people about You so that they too may know the hope of Your saving grace. In Jesus name, Amen. 

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The Good Soil Bears Fruit

TransformationMarci AnthonyComment
the-good-soil-bears-fruit #sowandgather #transformation

But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. Luke 8:15 NASB 

Some of my favorite things to do in the spring are shopping for flowers, plants, and walking through gardens. It inspires me to get my own flower garden and pots ready for the spring. I’m a wanna-be-gardener who has grand plans, but I’m happy just to get my pots filled and for a few plants to survive. 

Over the years I’ve learned to trust certain nurseries that purchase from local farmers who use organic materials and good soil to grow plants. Those plants have a longer survival rate, especially in Texas heat! 

Before I add my new plants to my old pots, I make sure that the potting soil is ready for my new plants. When you take the plants out of their container, the soil is rich and the roots are strong. For that new plant to survive, it needs to be surrounded by good, rich, nutrient-filled soil. There is nothing like the smell of pure, rich, composted dirt and mixing it all together with your hands! 

Planting reminds me of this verse which is a perfect picture of the heart, and the seed is the Word of God. This verse comes from a parable that Jesus told, and He was using soil as a metaphor for the heart. Some of the seed fell on a hard-packed path and it was trampled on, some fell on rocky soil so the roots could never grow deep, some fell among the thorns, and the thorns choked it out, and then some fell on good soil that grew up and produced a crop. 

My heart has been hard, my heart has been shallow and my heart has been full of weeds. God is the sower and His Word is the seed. When I open up His Word, the Bible, I need to make sure that my heart is ready to receive His seed. I need to humble myself before Him, pour out my sin, and ask that Jesus prepare my heart. I do this so I can hear His Word, and so that His Word can take root in my heart. 

How is the soil in your heart? Is it hard? Is it full of things that keep the roots from growing; are there any weeds that are choking it out? 

Create me in a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 

Happy planting! 

Dig Deeper |

Luke 8:4-15; Mark 4:10 -20 

Action Item |

How is the soil of your heart? Is it ready receive the Word of God? 

Prayer |

Dear Father, You are the great Sower. I’m so thankful that you turn over the soil in my heart and prepare it for receiving Your Word. I want Your Word to take root in me and to produce fruit for Your kingdom. Amen 

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