This past weekend I was able to spend some time in Nashville with friends. While we were there, we had the privilege and fun of seeing The Rolling Stones in concert. Now, some of you may be impressed and some could care less, but I was thinking about a word as I was watching this timeless rock band jam away on stage. LEGENDARY. Whether you are a super fan or not, no one could argue against the fact that they are LEGENDARY. They are widely known across the world, their music spans decades, and reaches the young and the old. 

There aren’t many people that we can truly call LEGENDARY, who have stood the test of time, who have remained faithful to their art, who have created a name for themselves that will stand LONG after they are gone. But I think, if that word existed when Jesus was walking on earth, he would’ve been called LEGENDARY.

Jesus stood up for the lowly, he recognized the ones who were shamed, he loved those who were persecuted, and stood firm against trial. Jesus. Is. LEGENDARY. His name spread throughout the regions, and to this day, it is cried out all over the world. He was praised by thousands and followed by endless crowds. People thought he was “THE KING” who would rescue them from Roman rule. 

And yet, this legendary man, this guy who did things that were utterly amazing, knew there was so much more to his time here on earth than the crowds and the accolades. He IS legendary,  but not simply because of his name, but because of his work on the cross. He is legendary because his power of the cross has spanned not just decades, but centuries, in fact, for all eternity. Jesus faced death because he knew THAT was what was the most important part of his time here on earth. He taught others, he healed others, he prayed for others, but most of all, he rescued EVERYONE. 

So as I stood there watching the band play, I was reminded through this strange avenue to be grateful for the one true legend who walked this earth in order to give us hope, salvation, and eternity with him.

And Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

-John 14:6

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God's Words Are Never Cliche

Writer’s block. That’s what I’m dealing with as I am sitting here thinking about what I want to write to you ladies. And truthfully, everything I start writing sounds too cliche, a “been there done that” situation. 

So, I’m not going to write anything. Instead, I’m going to simply write the BEST words that are out there and pray them over all of you. And I’m going to tell you, you are LOVED, you are CHOSEN, you are HOLY, you are a DAUGHTER of THE KING, you are BLESSED, you are CHERISHED, you are FORGIVEN.

“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made”

~Psalm 145:8-9

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”

~Ephesians 1:17

“So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy.”

~Colossians 1:10-11

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

~Romans 5:3-5

by Cindy Goding

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Falling Short

This month I did a running challenge with a friend. The plan was to run 75 miles in the month of September. Today is the last day of September and I am only at 71 miles. Now, 71 miles is a personal best. I have never run 71 miles in a month before, so I could feel pretty good about that. The problem is, it falls short of my goal.

This morning when I was doing my last run, realizing there was just no way that I could run far enough to make my goal, I was thinking of the things that kept me from meeting my goal. There were unexpected days of busyness. There were some days when I was just too sore from a previous long run, or doing other hard physical labor (you guys, fixing up a house is HARD!). Other times, my schedule just didn't allow time for a run. All the reasons add up to one thing, I just fell short.

Before anyone thinks that I am beating myself up too much over something as trivial as a running goal, don't worry- I can get over it. But the more I thought about it, it felt like an important metaphor for something far more important than running. I was reminded of another place where I have fallen short. Immensely so.

Romans 3:22b-25a

 For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

This verse tells us that all of us have fallen short of the glory of God. We were all born sinners. No matter how much we may set goals to be our best selves, we fall short. Our human nature was set against any desire for goodness before we even had a chance to set such goals. Even at our best, we can not be perfect. And in order to not be a sinner, we must be perfect and holy even as God is holy. Anything less than perfection is falling short of the glory of God.

But praise be to God! There is far more to those verses than condemnation. We all fall short, but we are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus! We are no longer condemned. We don't need to beat ourselves up. We don't need to prove anything. We are sinners, yes, and we have fallen short of God's standard, but by the grace of God, we are forgiven, set apart, chosen by God. We are clothed in Christ's righteousness. We don't need to worry about falling short. His grace and mercy will never fall short- praise be to God!

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love.

II John 3

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His Name is Powerful!

I have a new favorite song that I have been listening to a lot and the lyrics have been running through my head when I'm not listening to it. (I'm someone who can listen to a song over and over and over again when I first hear it, which is not exactly a quality that my family appreciates). It is "At the Mention of Your Name" by Jenn Johnson (you can listen to it here). The lyrics remind us that Jesus is our strength, our anchor, our hope, Emmanuel (meaning "God is with us"), and His name is powerful.

"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Philippians 2:9-11

We are just beginning a study on prayer in our Women's Tuesday Night Bible Study. The power of prayer is not in who we are, special words that we pray or even what we are praying about or for. The power and meaning in prayer is in the One to Whom we pray- Jesus, our all-powerful Savior and Lord. As we pray, we acknowledge that He is powerful and we are not. It is our duty and privilege to humbly bow to the name of Jesus, and give glory to God the Father. By His mercy, He promises to hear us, to be with us in time of need, to go before us and to provide for us. His name is powerful.

The Bible tells us that there is no other name by which we are saved (Acts 4:12). This salvation that comes by calling on the name of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:13) is accompanied by "incomparably great power for us who believe," the same power that "raised Christ from the dead" according to Ephesians 1. I say again, His name is powerful!

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You Surround Me With Shouts of Deliverance

Psalm 32:7

"You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance." ESV

This verse has been a special verse to me for most of my life. But my focus within the verse has changed over the last several years. As a child, I loved the verse, because I loved the picture that God is my place of protection. He is the best hiding place. He is a place of quiet and rest.

As I became more aware of the bad things in the world and more anxious about things, I focused on the part about preserving me from trouble. I, like most of us, wanted to believe that this meant that we would be untouched by anything hard, painful or traumatic. Of course this is naive and unrealistic in a world broken by sin. Preserving me from trouble does not been I won't be touched by trouble. I believe it means that I will be preserved for God's glory in the midst of it. God has said that He will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5b-6), even when we are walking through trouble He will be with us and bring us through it.

In the last few years, I have focused on the last part of that verse, that He surrounds me with shouts of deliverance. I was listening to a friend give her testimony a few years ago, and as she shared her story of how God delivered her from some things in her life that she was held captive by, I was struck by the hope that is given when we hear others' stories of freedom and deliverance. As I read this verse, I imagined people who had just found a place of refuge, who had been delivered from their Enemy and they were shouting, "We are free! We are delivered! We have been saved!"

This picture has been so powerful to me, A reminder of the importance of sharing what God has done and is doing in our lives. I need to hear your stories of deliverance, and you need to hear mine. We need to be reminded daily that God is working! This is one way that He brings deliverance and glory to Himself, through our sharing of stories.

I pray that not only would be watching for and experiencing God's deliverance in big and small ways, but that we would be sharing that with each other. In this time of change, we can be comforted and encouraged by sharing what God is doing in us and around us- and He is most certainly working! Let's be watching for, praying for, and shouting about His deliverance!

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Whatever you do, do it for the Lord.

Colossians 3:17

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

Colossians 3:23-24

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

"Whatever you do" - These words cover a lot. And it's reiterated in a single chapter (and elsewhere in Scripture, by the way). This has caught my eye many times before, but I need to be reminded of it. Whatever I do means laundry, dishes, cleaning the bathroom, making dinner, making copies, writing blogs, etc... Everything is covered here, and I am to do all of it in the name of the Lord.

Some things are easy to think about doing in the name of the Lord- praying for people, singing on the worship team, studying Scripture, preparing Bible studies. But I'm beginning to think that where it is really evident that I truly love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength (just "the first and greatest commandment," said Jesus in Matthew 22:37-38), is in these every day ways that I serve my family, friends and neighbors (by the way, second great commandment, according to Jesus is "love your neighbor as yourself," Matthew 22:39).

But I'll be honest. I don't always feel like serving. I didn't always want to get up in the middle of the night with the baby or change their diaper. I've only rarely thought about making dinner for those around my table as the way I serve Jesus. It was always just something I did. And sometimes, the "menial chores" that have made up most of my life as a stay at home mom, have felt like I am not a valuable contributor, dare I say worth less.

How untrue this is! What a lie from Satan! Jesus Himself taught us that serving is true greatness! Washing feet- surely a most humbling job (and kind of icky!)- was a way that Jesus personally demonstrated ministry through practical service (and additionally, a beautiful sacrifice of worship when a woman who experienced Christ's forgiveness served Jesus in this way -Luke 7).

Women (and any men who are reading the women's blog), your work is valuable and a way that you worship the Lord and show His love to those around you! Whether you are VP of a company, a server in a restaurant, a stay at home mom, a nurse, an engineer- whatever! Whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. What a difference it can make if we wake up and think that all of our tasks are ways that we are able to serve the Lord, ways that we can glorify Him and make His Name known. It gives a new importance to sweeping the floor or sending the email or wiping the nose. Whatever you do, do it for the Lord.

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Praying God's Will

Well, the news is out that God has called our family to plant a church in Iowa. Following God is always an adventure, often taking you to places literally and/or figuratively where you never thought you'd go. The "adventure" of following God is not always one that we initially greet with excitement and joy. Sometimes it is with trepidation and tears, a surrender of our will for His. Always, surrendering our will for His is a process that strengthens faith and brings growth, peace and joy, even if it takes time. His will- the will of our good, good Father- is always best.

As we look toward this move (still not knowing an exact timeline), my heart is pulled in many different directions with a burden for the people of MCF who I care for and long to see taken care of in a way that will continue to foster growth, connection and maturity; for my family and the transition that we will go through; and the people we will be ministering to in Lisbon who I don't even know yet, but I trust that God is preparing them. I am praying for all of these people.

With my thoughts and concerns sometimes going all different directions, I am so grateful that I can pray God's word and know that I am praying God's will- for all of these people in different places! When we don't know what to pray, we can always open the Word of God and be assured that we will have guidance in how to pray, even as we are invited to boldly come before the throne of God with our requests.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

And this is how I am praying today:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;"

Colossians 1:9-10

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A time to mourn, a time to dance

Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 "There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven. A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance."

In the past week, I and many of us lost a friend. Her death is a stark reminder of the brokenness of this world- brokenness that we are all touched by, broken by, grieved by. To be born into this world is to be broken by it. And it is appropriate to mourn. I mourn a life cut short. I mourn for those left behind: a daughter, a mother, a brother, friends, co-workers. I mourn that those of us who are left behind wrestle with the questions: did I do enough, should I have done something different, did I show her my love or did I leave something unsaid? These questions torture us and burden our souls.

Near the end of Deuteronomy, when Moses is nearing his death and reminding the Israelites of God's covenant with its blessings and curses, there is a verse that says, "The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 29:29) These questions are questions we will never have answers for, but God in His mercy has given us hope as He revealed Himself to us in Jesus.

In John 11:25-26, Jesus says after the death of His friend, Lazarus, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die- ever." As I mourn my friend, I must turn my heart away from the questions to the truth of the Gospel. I do not mourn without hope (Read I Thes. 4:13-18 for more on this)! I have the hope of Christ in the knowledge that my friend knew and loved Jesus. Yes, she (like all of us) was broken by the world, but when she put her trust in Jesus, she was given a new sentence for her life, one of life not death.

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." Phil 3:20-21 My friend became a citizen of heaven when she put her trust in Jesus. And this past week she took up residence there. She is no longer broken by the world, no longer captive by the chains of this world. She is healed, she is free. And now is her time to dance.

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Grace to You and Peace From God

This week in the church's Bible Reading plan, we started into the book of Philippians. As I began the first chapter, I realized I kind of tend to glaze over reading Paul's introductions. "Grace to you and peace from God," is how Paul begins every one of his epistles. It is easy for us to think of this phrase simply as Paul's usual greeting, but if every word of the Bible is important and true, these words have meaning, as well. I decided to actually spend some time thinking about these words.

Grace and peace are words we use a lot as believers to refer to what we receive from God and what we give and experience with others. Sometimes the frequency of use can make us forget the importance of these words in both the receiving and giving of grace and peace. And yet we should use these words often, and really think of their meanings!

(Speaking of frequent use, you may be getting tired of how frequently I put definitions of words in my blogs. However, I have found that when I start truly thinking about God's word, I need a better understanding of the actual words we use!)

Merriam-Webster defines grace in several ways beginning with these : "unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification; a virtue coming from God; a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance; a disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency."

Peace is defined by Merriam-Webster as, " A state of tranquility or quiet; freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony in personal relations."

As I Iook more closely at these words, I realize that more than just a greeting, it is so important that we truly, consciously and willingly, receive these things from God. He has been so kind and gracious to us in sanctifying us, giving us new life, enabling us to have peace in relationship with Him that gives us freedom and harmony within and without. It is utterly impossible for us to give grace to others and have true peace within ourselves and in relation to others without first receiving and experiencing this from God!

And how can we possibly examine the meaning of these words without a heart of gratitude for God's kindness and love toward us?! He is great and greatly to be praised!

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

Phil. 1:2

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Encourage One Another

What does it mean to encourage each other? To truly encourage each other? Not the passing salutation, or even, "hope you're doing well". But encouragement that is grounded in faith and rooted in the truths of God's word. 

"Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."

-1 Thessalonians 5:11

Paul isn't saying, encourage one another for the time being. He isn't saying, encourage one another only in difficult times. The passage is speaking on being prepared for the day when Jesus returns. He is telling the church to BE READY! Not to be caught sleeping in the dark, because we are children of light. When he speaks of encouragement, he is not merely talking about the present circumstances, but rather to keep our eyes on the goal. The day of the Lord! Paul wants our encouragement to be built on sanctifying each other, on helping and challenging each other to grow in spiritual maturity. Today might be right in our face, problems might weigh us down, doubts might be yelling in our ears, and yet, we are called to ENCOURAGE each other to look past all of that. To fix our eyes on the unseen. To remember that God is sovereign and he WILL be coming again. And we are not to take lightly this responsibility of encouraging each other to be ready! 

So what does that type of encouragement look like? Sound like? I think it begins with honest conversations. Conversations about God's word and how the Holy Spirit is moving and teaching. Conversations on prayers, and what you have learned and how God has answered them. Conversations on where we are struggling. and not looking for vindication but rather asking for accountability to gain victory in Jesus' name. I think it sounds like worship coming from our lips. To sing with JOY even if we feel sadness. To raise our hands in praise, even if our arms feel heavy. To pray with others even if it feels uncomfortable. 

Let's work on encouragement! Building one another up in God's word! I prompt you to meet with another woman of MCF and ask how you can encourage them, truly encourage them.

-by Cindy Goding

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