Above All, Christ

sky-1209077_1280By Carey Helmink

Colossians 3:1-4,11

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

As I was praying about what to share today, the phrase that kept popping into my head was the “preeminence of Christ.” It almost makes me laugh because that is something that should pop into the head of a super smart person, and I am really not that. But it has been a reminder to me of the fact that Jesus surpasses everyone and everything in life and that his name should be on my lips in every situation.

When Catastrophe strikes – is his name the first name I speak? The first person I call out to for help? The one who is my place of refuge and my firm foundation?

When days of Celebration come – is his name the first name I speak? The first person I thank? The one I rejoice with and give credit to?

And maybe most importantly, on Common days – is his name the first name I speak? The one I ask for guidance and instruction? The one I share my thoughts with?

I don’t know about you, but often I need to be reminded of the preeminence of Jesus. That He is above all and over all and in all and through all. May the words to this prayer by William Barclay help to remind you of Jesus and his preeminence over all of life.

“O God, our Father, we remember at this time…how the eternal Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

We thank you that Jesus took our human body upon him, so that we can never again dare to despise or neglect or misuse the body, since you made it your dwelling-place.

We thank you that Jesus did a day’s work like any working-man, that he knew the problem of living together in a family, that he knew the frustration and irritation of serving the public, that he had to earn a living, and to face all the wearing routine of everyday work and life and living, and so clothed each common task with glory.

We thank you that he shared in all happy social occasions, that he was at home at weddings and at dinners and at festivals in the homes of simple ordinary people like ourselves. Grant that we may ever remember that in his unseen risen presence he is a guest in every home.

We thank you that he knew what friendship means, that he had his own circle of men whom he wanted to be with him, that he knew too what it means to be let down, to suffer from disloyalty and from the failure of love.

We thank you that he too had to bear unfair criticism, prejudiced opposition, malicious and deliberate misunderstanding.

We thank you that whatever happens to us, he has been there before, and that, because he himself has gone through things, he is able to help those who are going through them.

Help us never to forget that he knows life, because he lived life, and that he is with us at all times to enable us to live victoriously.

This we ask for your love’s sake. Amen.”

Sisters through Prayer

IMG_4998Tuesday morning we heard from one of our prayer groups in the Selah class. Together, these women  have an authentic dynamic and their stories are a testament to how God works among us here at Equip Her. I encourage you to focus on their God stories as they share how Equip Her, the Selah class, and their prayer group have been an encouragement in their lives.

Joy Armstrong

I was at a prayer group leader gathering the other night and during our share time two things were said that really struck me:

  • There are no bad prayer groups.
  • You never know how God might be at work.

I can think back to times and people who have been in my prayer groups over the years. It is really neat to be a part of their story because what might have seemed like a “dud” prayer group at the time actually turns around, and you get to be a really cool part of someone’s story. Its awesome when we see that through God’s eyes.

I feel like it’s a miracle that I am even here in Selah this year because God just orchestrated all of it. I actually hadn’t been a part of Tuesday mornings for a really long time. I homeschool my kids and thought that Tuesday mornings were off the table for me as my kids got older. But this year, I put it out there that I had this need for someone to come and help my kids with school while I came to Bible study. God put this amazing girl in our lives who was free to help with homeschooling on Tuesday mornings. Just the other week my boys told me that they wished she was their mom! So, you know, I think I got a good one.

The first week I came to Selah, I didn’t really feel a connection with my prayer group ladies. I went home thinking, I was so excited to be here that I wasn’t really even thinking about my prayer group. I knew it would be fine, though. Then the next week, we got into discussion groups and I just really felt these ladies’ honesty, their open hearts to God and a spirit of gratefulness in our group. That moment really set the stage for all of our subsequent discussions. This was the key moment when I was able to open up and so were they.

Wendy Bowman

When I look at our group, the thing I think about is Revelation 7:9-10:

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”

If you look at our group, it is kind of obvious, we come from many different lands here. These verses stand out to me and leave me feeling thankful. God has blessed me with this picture of heaven. I get a little glimpse of what eternity will be like: praising God with people from every tongue and nation.

In Selah we have been talking about the Lord’s Prayer. One part says, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Every week when we come together, not only are we seeing a picture of what heaven and eternity will be like but also discussing how we live out God’s kingdom values on earth, right now. We all come from different perspectives, backgrounds and childhood experiences. It has been fun to discuss together how we can live out these Kingdom values right now.

Iba War

First of all, I would like to thank God. When I come on Tuesday mornings, I feel that it is like a feast. We feast our hearts and spirit, and we feast with each other. I love to cook and so I think of it as a table where we are all sitting together and eating. I thank Stacey and Renee for putting this beautiful study together. There is so much thought, prayer and love that is going into this book that I can’t even keep it to myself. I’m sending it to everyone. All my friends in India and in India they are sending it to all their friends too. The Word of God is spreading because it is so well put together. Thank you so much Renee and Stacey for your love for God, your time and obedience. This study has challenged me not to just do the appetizer or the dessert but to go into the main course, to dig into God’s Word and to grow.

Jacci Sarkar

I am 42. I know, it is kind of weird to start like that! In my twenties and thirties, I really sought out healing because I had been through so much horribleness the first 20 years of my life. My twenties were shaky and my thirties were, I don’t know what. I began to think that there was no such thing as healing for me. So God just isn’t going to heal me and when I get to heaven, I will be whole. I didn’t think healing would happen in this life and that’s okay. I can live with that. I can learn to live the way I am.

I know that God has placed certain people in my life especially in the last two or three years. I remember when I first came to MUMs and was listening to the other women talk. Their words made me realize that I am not the only one. It is easy to feel isolated when you are a stay-at-home mom. In Selah this year, as we have shared together and opened up as a group, I began to believe that what God says is true when He says confess your sins one to the other so that you may be healed. Its not like I am confessing my sins to these women, but I’m saying that this is who I am. This is where I am. God has just really used that as a balm. Hearing their stories has just been a balm for my soul. I didn’t think healing was for me, but hey, I’m 42. Lets do it!

Another thing that has really settled with me is something Renee shared with us. She said that she tried really hard to be Jesus to her kids because if you are the perfect mom then your kids will turn out okay. Right? When she said that, it was such a relief! I don’t have to be perfect. I can be the broken mom that I am. What is most important is that I am real with my children and show them the grace of God. That God is pouring into my life every day. My desire now is that when my children walk away, when they are 18, or whenever that is, they can say that we saw God at work. I want them to be able to say that for their own lives too.

Joyce Dykema

From the very start, our group was just really transparent with one another. That, I think, is what cemented our bond together as a group. I’ve been here for about 7 years. I’ve been in a lot of prayer groups. I’ve been a prayer group leader. That is really the key. If you are able to open up to your group, you bond much more quickly. You dive deeper into the study. You see God work. It’s great when you can step beyond yourself, out of that fear zone where you can feel safe to be vulnerable with other people.

The Selah study has really helped me in my role as a mother. It’s great to be around other women with kids who are a little bit older and a little bit younger than yours because you can get a grasp of the normal struggles that moms tend to battle. You also get to hear ideas from other women on what they do to encourage their children in their own faith walks. The community has been really important for me.

Lakshmi Mehta

I am so thankful for having this opportunity to share how God has revived my heart and given me a deeper desire to pursue Him since joining Selah.  I came out of Hinduism as a teenager.  It was then that I was introduced to the gospel of grace, that all can have a personal relationship with God our creator, not based on religious works, as in Hinduism, but through the atonement paid by Lord Jesus on the Cross. Though I understood that salvation is by grace, I did not really understand how to stand in that grace on a daily basis.

For several years now, I have been struggling to have a consistent and quality time of fellowship with God in prayer. Even with my best intentions, I wasn’t able to keep up with Bible reading and prayer time regularly for more than 2 weeks.  My thoughts were more along ‘I ought to pray’ rather than ‘I want to pray’. Though I went to church and attended bible studies regularly, doubts filled my mind about God’s love for me.  I often thought I wasn’t holy enough for God to hear my prayer.  Little did I realize that I was walking out of His grace and was basing my worthiness on my obedience rather than the obedience of Christ on the Cross.  Many things could have driven me to that point in my spiritual walk:

  1.  Trying to meet expectations of others around me in both the spiritual and natural realm.
  2. Allowing self-accusatory thoughts in my mind –  you don’t have this/that to be useful in God’s kingdom, your faith is in vain as even non-believers seem to have more joy than you, thoughts of shame/blame for past failures
  3.  Letting circumstances, thoughts and feelings be a measure of God’s love for me.
  4.  Finding difficulty in fully forgiving someone when wronged.  I knew I must forgive, I did so with my lips, but my heart wouldn’t align.

Though I knew about grace, I fell prey to lies in my mind and ended up taking blame and shame for missed expectations, my circumstances, my failures and lost much of my joy. I started to fear new relationships as I was afraid that I would be rejected for not being joyful.  I think God allowed me to experience life without grace so that I recognize my need for ‘His Grace’.   The Selah study was rightly named – “The Call of Jesus” and God helped me answer that call once again! But this time I understand “grace” not just for salvation but for my present life! God doesn’t want my plans or my perfection.  All He desires is my humility and for me to know that He loves me.  I can trust Him when the world fails, when I fail, when circumstances fail. I can worship Him freely now!

I think in all the years of being a Christian, I have not recognized the beauty of the garments of righteousness in Christ and I have been satisfied with just a small patch of it on my old garments. No wonder there was little joy and my yoke was not easy as Jesus said, nor my burdens light!  Living under grace is letting that hidden beauty of Christ manifest through me by getting out of God’s way – by yielding my will to His will moment by moment. I needn’t be worried that I am not good enough for God to use me because it’s His Spirit through me who does the real kingdom building. The enemy too can’t accuse me if I am facing the battle in Jesus’s strength rather than my strength.

My hope when I joined Selah was that my life would turn around and that I would meet a few honest and real believers in Christ. God has answered my prayer completely. I found my table to be a safe place with authentic Christian ladies who accepted and valued me.  I also understand His grace a bit more, which has allowed me to extend that grace to my husband, my kids, my friends and myself when failure knocks. It’s my prayer that God will continue to show Himself to everyone of us here in a deep and special way so that we may not grow weary in glorifying Him. I praise Him with all my heart! Thank you!

Arlette Gar-Reck

Hello. My job here today is to pray. My native language is Spanish. Even though I am fluent in English, I have always just prayed in Spanish. I think it is because to me it has always been something so personal that I can only express myself in my native language. So I have been praying in Spanish with my group. These ladies in my group wanted me to close our time by praying in Spanish. You can bow your heads.

[prayer in Spanish]

For those of you who like to use the monthly prayer verse as wallpaper for your mobile devices, here is this month’s image:

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