By Envoy Belsy Martinez Bellflower Temple, CA Corps – Southern California Division.
God always answers our prayers.
I was born in Colombia, South America and came to the United States in the year 1998 seeking a better life for my family. I am completely sure that God by his never ending mercy and love brought us to The Salvation Army where we have been serving Him together ever since with my husband Manuel and our daughters Angie and Kelly.
It was always my prayer to God that He would guide us to a ministry where we could serve people in many different areas, meaning not only in their spiritual needs but also through counseling, emotional help as well as material assistance. God answered my prayer, and that is how He guided us to Santa Ana Temple Corps where we were welcomed by the Officers and remained serving the Lord there for 11 years.
I am grateful because Santa Ana Temple Corps has been a place which the Lord has used to equip and prepare Latino believers to serve Him in ministry. It was a wonderful time and opportunity that the Lord allowed so we could get involved in ministry. Not long after, we became Soldiers, and we started to receive training and the opportunity to help in different programs and activities at the Corps.
I still remember the first time I rang the bell as a volunteer; it was a great challenge, but it was the program which the Lord used to make me fall in love with our great Army. When I understood the importance and the outreach of the Christmas Kettles I never stopped helping. Praise the Lord, mission accomplished, soon it’ll be 25 years supporting this great program.
My family also served in different ministries at Santa Ana Temple and through those ministries we were able to learn better the different challenges that Latino families faced. I have been greatly blessed because after our time at Santa Ana Temple, the Lord sent us to serve Him as Ministry Leaders at the Santa Fe Springs Corps and at Bellflower Temple Corps, where we currently serve Him together with our daughters, our sons in law and our four grandchildren. These have been beautiful and enriching experiences in the pastoral ministry as well as in the social service ministry.
As a leader I have been able to help women in a personal way, as a minister, a friend and a counselor. I have been able to witness how the Lord tends to the needs of many families through women who are willing to allow God to use them as an instrument to bring His love, His word and His promises into their homes.
It’s not about providing them with help to fulfill their material needs, but also about listening to their life experiences, learn about their struggles, being aware of their worries and knowing how to guide them to trust in God’s promises. Now I can say that more than 50% of the women in our congregation have been reached through our Social Services programs.
When women come through our doors seeking assistance, I have been able to pray with them, and invite them to join us as volunteers, and later to be part of our women’s meetings. By the grace of God some of them have become soldiers y continue serving God as active members of The Salvation Army.
In the same way, in my personal experience being involved in our social services, I have been able to see day after day God’s hand working in families and individuals. It has been a beautiful opportunity to interact with the community in helping to fulfill their material needs and also help with their spiritual needs. It’s great to see one of our well known motto come to life in giving “Our heart to God and our hand to men” and see the impact it has on people.
I am very grateful to God for bringing my family to serve Him in this great Army as we have been greatly blessed throughout these years serving in all the different communities.
Spring has sprung and this year we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior in April. It is a great time to be filled with joy. Flourishing in the joyful season is the focus of this month’s newsletter.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said…” Matthew 28:5-6
By Lt. Stephanie Philpot Inglewood, CA Corps – Southern California Division
Spring is near, and it is almost time to bring out the spring décor. Floral letters are a great way to bring a pop of color into our homes, and together we are going to create something beautiful. The best part about this project is majority of these supplies needed can be found at your Corps/ Home League closet. If you are unable to find these supplies you can easily find them at your nearest Dollar store, Michael’s, or Hobby Lobby.
Materials Needed ⦁ Wood letter of your choice or if you want you can trace out your letter from carboard/foam board. ⦁ Faux flowers, colors of your choice ⦁ Scissors or wire cutters ⦁ Glue gun ⦁ Ribbon or picture frame command strips
Step 1: Get your wood letter and let’s get started! however if you do not want to purchase one. You can cut out your desired letter using carboard or foamboard.
Step 2: When using faux flowers, it is easy to pop the bloom off the stem, if not you can use your scissors/wire cutter to cut the bloom from the steam.
Step 3: Once all your flowers and greenery is cut, you can start gluing them on to your letter. Using your glue gun place a small drop of glue on your flower and place your flower on your letter, holding it down for a few seconds. I started off with my bigger flowers and then repeated with the smaller flowers, until my entire letter was covered.
Step 4: Once my letter was mostly covered, I went and added greenery in some areas for extra filler.
Step 5: Once complete and everything was dried. I cut some ribbon to my desired length and glued it to the back of my letter. This step is optional since you can hang your letter, or have it propped up and if you do not want to use ribbon you can also use command stirps for picture frames.
By Lt. Melissa Jones Seattle, WA Social Services – Northwest Division
On a recent trip to New York City very early in the Spring, I went to one of my favorite gardens in Central Park. However, I was a few weeks too early to see the garden as it began to bloom. Yet as I sat down, I began to notice that the buds on the trees had just a hint of green in them. From a distance they could appear dead and lifeless, but the trees, and plants and flowers were all very much alive. They were simply being prepared to properly bloom. In the same way God uses the various seasons of lives to prepare us for the full lives he intends all of us to live. When God chose us as His children he always intended for us to grow and develop into the fullness of all He has for us and the Church. In Ephesians 3:14-19 we find a beautiful prayer by Paul for the development of the church body. While he sent this prayer to the churches in the city of Ephesus and the southern region of Asia, this is a prayer we can all pray and take note of for ourselves and the global church.
Paul’s Letter to Ephesus The book of Ephesians is one of Paul’s many letters to the churches he planted and discipled throughout his ministry. While Paul never met Christ, his conversion experience was so powerful that he became a primary apostle, church planter, and disciple of the early church. Most of the books or letters in the New Testament were written by Paul, and he played a major role in the development of the early church at its theology. His letters were often for encouragement, discipline, or to address a specific issue within the church, but Ephesians was very general. Although it was specifically titled to the church of Ephesus, most scholars believe that the letter was intended to be passed around to all of the churches in the region surrounding Ephesus. Ephesus was a major hub of the Roman Empire, similar to a major city like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York, and had a major influence on the surrounding areas. So sending this letter to such an influential place was very strategic. Paul also knew that the people of Ephesus and the surrounding areas would need this letter and this prayer so that they could withstand both the external and internal struggles that they would face. Please take some time now to read through Paul’s prayer for the church so we can begin to discern what it means.
Paul’s Prayer – Ephesians 3:14-19
Read through Ephesians 3:14-19 once. Then read it again taking careful note of words, phrases and ideas that stand out to you.
Write down the parts of the prayer that stand out to you, give you hope, or resonate with you the most.
What does Paul do before he begins this prayer?
There are two major parts to this prayer, but before Paul begins, he does something very significant, he bows his knees before the Father. There are many prayer positions that are mentioned in the Bible. Many Jewish prayers take place standing up, while others are mentioned lying prostate on the ground in full surrender, and David is seen dancing and praying before God. Daniel, who prayed three times a day to the Lord while in Babylonian captivity, also knelt before God each time he lifted up a prayer. In The Salvation Army you may find our members and soldiers kneeling before the Lord at the mercy seat as an act of surrender and repentance, and that is likely what Paul as doing here. Before bringing his petition before God, he knelt in surrender acknowledging his power and majesty. Paul also mentions that the Father is the source from which every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, to reiterate that Salvation is for everyone.
Paul’s Prayer – Ephesians 3:14-19
Read through Ephesians 3:14-19 once. Then read it again taking careful note of words, phrases and ideas that stand out to you.
Write down the parts of the prayer that stand out to you, give you hope, or resonate with you the most.
What does Paul do before he begins this prayer?
a. Paul first prays that – according to the riches of God’s glory that we may be strengthened in our inner being with power through the Holy Spirit. The main thing he asks is for the church/people to be strengthened in power, but how is that accomplished? First, we can see that the power is according to the riches of God’s glory. Think for a moment about how powerful, vast, all knowing, and all containing God is. Imagine everything God has created and spoken life into. This is the same power that God is strengthening us with. Second, we are strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third part of the trinity and has always been present, but until the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we could not be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. And now Paul is praying for this power to fill us and strengthen us to do mighty works for the Lord.
i. Have you experienced the power of the Holy Spirit? ii. Read Acts 1:8 to hear Christ speak of the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit.
b. Secondly Paul asks that Christ may dwell in the hearts of believers as they are rooted and grounded in love.
i. Read John 3:16, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and Luke 10:27 – what do these scriptures say about love? ii. Why is it important that Christ Dwell in our hearts? Before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the presence of God only dwelt in a physical temple. During the reign of King Solomon in the Old Testament the temple, or The Tabernacle was built according to instructions from God so that His presence could dwell there. When King Solomon built the temple, the Spirit of God powerfully descended upon the temple, filling it and even overflowing out of it. But God’s presence remained in the physical building accessible to only a select few. God is now offering us this same gift and presence. When Christ died the curtain that separated us from the presence of God in was torn in two, and it became possible for Christ to dwell in all of us. We, both individually and the church body, are now the temples or Tabernacles where God dwells, representing God here on earth. But we must be prepared for Christ to dwell within us, offering Him a Holy and surrendered place. iii. Do you feel as though you are offering Christ a holy place to dwell in? If not, what changes can you make in your life to help you get there? (Ephesians 4:17-5:5 has some suggestions if needed) iv. Why do you think it is important for the church to be rooted in love? Do you think Christians show love like we should?
Part 2 – Ephesians 3:18-19
Read Ephesians 3:18-19 – slowly and sit and bask in the depths of God’s love and power.
This is the second part of Paul’s prayer and in it he illuminates the majesty, power, might and glory of God. Why do you think it was important for the church fully comprehend, experience and know the breadth, length, height and depths of God’s love and power?
Earlier it was mentioned that Paul wrote this prayer to help strengthen the church from both internal and external factors that would come against it. Ephesus was a major influential city in the Roman empire, and it was also a center of Pagan worship. Ephesus was deemed the guardian of the temple for the pagan god Artemis, and many of the converts to Christianity used to practice some form of pagan worship. Which meant that they purchased icons and statues, and spent money on other forms of worship. And when they stopped buying those items, the people that profited from their sin became very mad. So mad that an angry mob chased Paul out of the 25,000 seat stadium in the temple for Artemis several years before he wrote this letter. While Paul left, the churches and Christians who had converted had to remain in this hostile environment every day.
In addition to the people in and around Ephesus, Paul knew that the church would also have to live through the persecution of the Roman government. Paul was writing this letter while sitting in a Roman prison for preaching the gospel, and many other Christians had already been tortured, imprisoned, and even killed for preaching the gospel. The Romans saw themselves as gods, and any devotion that came before devotion to Rome was a threat to them and Pax Romana, or Roman peace and control. And the Ephesians and south Asia would not be spared from their violent rule.
Lastly, Paul prayed this prayer so that the church might be unified where there once had been discord. Paul was called to preach to the Gentiles, but many Jewish people had converted to Christianity and were not always welcoming to the Gentiles. Prior to Christ there as a lot of hostility between the Jews and Gentiles and this did not disappear once they were converted. Some Jews thought the gospel was just for them, while others expected Gentiles to continue to uphold strict Jewish rules and principles in order to become Christians. Paul had to remind them that they were one in Christ, brothers and sisters under a new Covenant. They were under one God and one Church, and that the old had to pass away as they became a new family.
And this new family, this new church of believers needed a prayer and a reminder of the all powerful, all knowing, expansive God that they served. They needed to know in their minds and hearts that their God was bigger and more powerful than any human or pagan god could ever be, and that they needn’t worry about these earthly attacks. There was no government authority, ruler or business person that could stand a chance against their God. They needed to live and breathe that truth from the depths of their being so that they could withstand the trials and tribulations they would face. They also needed to deeply know and experience the love of Christ in a way that would make every division amongst them fall away. Because when you act out of the overwhelming love of Christ it changes you. Paul reminds them that the love of Christ is so vast that we will never understand it, but we must try. Especially when it concerns our brothers and sisters in Christ. And Paul reminds us that we can and must pray for these things.
What are some of the issues facing the church today? How can this prayer help them?
Take some time now to contemplate the vastness of God’s power and love. Sit in it, reflect upon it, experience it in a mighty way. Let it overcome and overwhelm you until it cannot be contained. Let this love be your driving force as you grow deeper and deeper in Christ.
Questions for Reflection & Summary
As you read through this prayer again, what one thing stands out to you the most?
After reading this prayer, have you realized areas in your life that need to change? Have you been influenced by the world too much lately? Are you letting outside forces weaken your faith? Are you upset with another brother or sister? How can you take these to God in prayer?
How can you pray specifically for our country and the Church to be more loving and kind, more filled with the power of God, and a true place for Christ to dwell?
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/April-Bible-Study-scaled.jpg25601920Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2023-03-06 09:50:292023-03-06 09:50:32April 2023 Bible Study: Living in the Fullness of God
By Captain Aimee Docherty Retired Officer’ Representative & Order of the Silver Star – Southern California Division
I know I’m not alone in this. I know I’m not the only one who took on some sort of new activity during the Pandemic because we were home all the time. While some took on running, or cleaning the garage out, or perhaps even knitting…I took on gardening. I took these little seeds, lovingly germinated them in the Instant Pot and planted them in the freshly toiled soil in my raised garden bed that my husband built for me. I took great pleasure in watching my baby plants sprout. It was a process that took patience. Every day I would stroll out in the morning with my cup of coffee and watch for signs of the little green sprouts which would become my cucumbers, beans, peas, or my favorite…a perfect little pumpkin. I gently tugged any weed out that threatened my baby seedlings. Faithfully watering them throughout the long dry Summer. Allowing the water to seep deep to the little seeds, even when I wasn’t sure what was going on under the ground and whether they had survived the planting process. I was intentional and careful with my “plant babies” watching them grow and flourish with a happy heart, and then harvesting my precious garden with so much care. It was so satisfying and joy giving.
And then a whole year passed, and this Summer arrived, and things have changed again. The pandemic has seemingly gone away, and we are no longer home all the time together. Instead, we are busier and our hearts are distracted by all of the things in our lives that have so easily snuck back into our lives. So, what of my garden this year? Well, it’s not so lovingly tended any more. I’ve no seeds that I’ve germinated planted with care. I’ve not planted, visited, watered, and lovingly tended. You would imagine that my garden might be barren, empty, and full of weeds. And it might be so…
However…All the work I invested in my garden last year has allowed seeds that I didn’t purposely plant to spring back to life. My marigolds, which last year I had planted to prevent pests, came back in full bloom all over the whole garden making my garden a lush wonderland! The strawberry plants which had failed last year came back to thrive! We have gorgeous strawberries to eat without investing a moments work! I even have one little pea plant which has made its way back all on its own, sprouting and growing, and maybe it might even produce some yummy peas in time. Of course, the weeds made their way back too, so I’ve managed to spend a few moments weeding here and there. By investing those minutes in weeding I’ve been rewarded with a flourishing garden that has allowed my heart to flourish as well.
As our hearts and lives get busier with post pandemic life, what will we allow to take root and flourish in our hearts? It’s surprisingly easy to fall back into that distracted state of busyness. Lack of focus in any one area because we are busy in all the areas. God falls into the back seat because we’re too distracted to notice. Our hearts become hardened, and the weeds pop up taking root. We’re no longer intentional in caring for the garden of our hearts. Worry, anxiety, anger, frustration, disappointment begin to take root and flourish. But, just like my surprise garden, God is there. Working. Waiting. Seeking our attention. Calling us by name. When we stop and look to see what He has to whisper into our hearts we will discover the joy and love that He has for us. The words of His love are like those strawberries on the plants I didn’t tend, waiting to be harvested. The beautiful Marigolds like the work of His hands are blossoming everywhere in front of my eyes, but will I stop, rest, and soak in their beauty? Will I stop to recognize the work of His hands? He is inviting us into His presence. He is calling us, come to Him so that He can fill our hearts with the joy that we seek so that our heart will flourish in His beauty.
In John 7: 37-38 Jesus extends an invitation to our dry gardens “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
Let’s take a deep drink and allow the waters of His love to refresh our soil, bathe our dry roots, and restore our wilting hearts. Let’s take a deep drink and find healing and wholeness where we feel dry and distracted, let’s take a deep drink and find love blossom in replacement of anger, let’s take a deep drink of His water and find Salvation take root and grow in the unlikeliest places. Let’s take a deep drink and allow our garden to blossom and bloom so that others can see His work in our lives and might know His beauty.
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/j-k-2j8X-RpB1sM-unsplash-scaled.jpg17072560Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2023-03-06 09:28:322023-03-06 09:28:37April 2023 Devotional: Planted in Joy
By Major Nancy Halverson Denver Citadel, CO – Intermountain Division
It was 4:31 a.m. on January 17,1994 when the scariest “storm” of my life jolted us awake. It was an earthquake that caused a lot of damage throughout Southern California, and a lot of damage to our sense of security. As we felt the shaking and heard the groaning of the house, for a moment, I was scared we weren’t going to survive. For days we felt the effects of that earthquake with numerous aftershocks, it was a scary time that affected us emotionally and mentally. Luckily, the physical cleanup at the house was not too hard for us, but the emotions and fear left behind was harder to sweep away. We had to turn to our faith in God to walk us through the aftereffects of the “storm”.
Storms, trials, struggles, are a part of life that we all experience. Do you hold onto your faith through them? Do they make your faith stronger for the next storm? Are you walking through a storm right now where you need to put your faith into action?
As a Christian God is deeply invested in your spiritual growth. He uses the storms of life to wean you from dependence on yourself. He’ll intentionally put you in situations where you need to trust Him more fully. Consider three passages from Matthew as you consider how God is trying to build your faith through the storms of life.
1. Faith that Follows where Jesus leads
As we grow up, the best way we learn is by following the example of someone else. In many cases that is our parents. When we learned how to tie our shoes, or cross the street safely or to cook, we likely didn’t do it on our own, but followed closely as they showed us what to do. In this text the disciples are learning and growing in their faith by following where Jesus leads. They followed Jesus as he led for three years, but in this instance, it was into a storm.
Read Matthew 8:23-27
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Jesus led the disciples onto the boat. At this point they believed in Him, and they obviously trusted him to lead them, otherwise they would not have followed. It is one thing to believe in something, it’s another to trust and even more to obey. We need all these to follow Christ. We must be willing to trust and obey Christ as Lord of all things in our lives. Our faith is built up when we follow where Jesus leads no matter where that takes us. Sometimes it is into a storm, but our faith tells us that Jesus is there with us in it. In this passage Jesus was asleep on the boat. This is an example that we can live by.
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
Is there somewhere right now you’re afraid to follow Jesus because it might be into a storm?
2. Faith that Follows when Jesus Tells you to Go
The beginning of our faith journey is like learning to walk as a baby. We depend a lot on our parents to help us, pick us up and keep encouraging us to try again. When we’ve been walking in our faith for a little while we become like teenagers. As a teenager, sometimes we just need to listen to what we are told to do because it’s what’s best for us. Now we look at a time after the disciples have been walking with Jesus for a while and He sends them out without Him.
Read Matthew 14:22-33
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Jesus MADE the disciples get into the boat without Him. He knowingly and purposely sent them into the storm, it was no accident. They could have refused but instead they obeyed the word of the Lord. During this storm they did not have the luxury of waking Jesus to help them because he wasn’t there. He let them struggle in the storm for hours in their own strength before he came to them on the water. When he showed up, he did not explain anything, he just offered his presence in the storm. Here he showed them his power over creation and control over chaos not just from within the boat but outside the boat as well. When they realize that it was Jesus, Peter makes a bold move and asks to meet Jesus in the tumult. Jesus tells him to come but doesn’t calm the storm for Peter. In faith and obedience Peter walks on the water, but then he becomes scared by the wind. He takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to sink. Jesus asks Peter why he doubted, He does not question Peter’s faith, for he stepped out of the boat and obeyed Jesus’ words.
Here, Jesus is stretching and growing Peter’s faith through his obedience. The disciples are slowly learning to trust when Jesus is with them in the boat AND now when they are unaware of his presence in the storm. This story holds the promise that Jesus comes to us during the storm and reminds us we need not be afraid because He is present with us. We need only to trust and obey.
This is the story of every Christian. Our story too, as we move back and forth between doubt and faith, sometimes focused on the storm and sometimes focused on Jesus.
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
In what situation in your life do you need to put your faith to work and step out in obedience?
3. Faith that is Tested
How do we know when we’ve truly learned something and grown in our knowledge of a subject? In school we had tests to determine whether we were learning and growing in knowledge. Sometimes we did well and sometimes we did not. Do you recall a time when you did not pass a test?
So, too, as we grow in our faith, we will be tested in many circumstances. The disciples faced many kinds of tests of their faith during their time with Jesus. As they’re nearing the end with Jesus, they will face one of the biggest tests of all.
Read Matthew 26:31-35
31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’[a] 32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” 34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” 35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
The disciples had been growing in their faith as they travelled with and served alongside Jesus. Peter’s walk of faith is shown throughout the gospels as he tries, learns, and fails. In this Scripture portion we see his confidence in himself, but he seems to forget that on his own he is weak. We, too, must learn to trust God’s strength for help in every situation. Our faith is consistently tested as we weather the storms of life. We can be confident only when we look to Him for our strength.
God allows testing because He knows we need trials to deepen our roots and our relationship with Him. If things are easy, we are quite content to just drift along. We go to church, pick up our Bible now and again, and hang out with others who call themselves Christians. We consider ourselves strong, mature, and a prize among God’s saints. However, our roots are actually shallow. Unless we are tested, they will remain shallow. If you talk to people who have been through great trials, they will often tell you how much their faith grew during that time. When they were at their weakest, they had to trust most fully. And that is when they found the Lord to be most faithful.
Recently, I experienced a time where my faith was tested. May of 2020 my husband and I were told that we would be moving to a new appointment. It was in the beginning of COVID, in the height of uncertainty and fear. I asked God over and over to change this situation. When moves were announced nothing had changed, so we began preparing to move, yet hoping that God would change the outcome. I had to either accept that God wanted me to walk in obedience and faith on the path that lay ahead of me or step out of that path toward something else. It was a decision we struggled with and though we accepted that path we continued to struggle with the decision. I’ve felt like a caterpillar during these past two years. I’m in the cocoon where I’m supposed to be but struggling with the process before turning into a butterfly. I feel like I’ve been battered a bit by this storm, but God continues to work in my life as we go through it. He has shown His presence in it and I’m thankful because I couldn’t do it without Him.
Peter went through a serious testing as Jesus was taken away. He had been so confident that he would never desert Jesus but when the time came, he gave in to fear and denied the Lord. Peter wasn’t the only one who faltered that night. The other disciples ran away. This test of faith was a hard one, but it brought the disciples to even greater faith that would lead them to do great things for the building of God’s kingdom and the church. Even when we fail, God is there to restore us when we come back to him. As long as we don’t turn our backs completely, if we repent, God will restore us and our faith will grow stronger through the storm.
Song #498 in the Salvation Army songbook talks about different aspects of faith. Verse 4 says:
“The faith that cannot fail, That makes salvation sure, Anchored within the heavenly veil, The faith that will endure.”
Can you think of a time when your faith was tested? How did you hold up, did you fail or come through it stronger?
No matter what storms you might be going through, hold fast to your faith that cannot fail. It is a faith that will endure and will be strengthened by the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. With God, your faith can tackle any storm, nothing is impossible with Him.
When I think of tests and trials and those who’ve overcome them, I think of people like Helen Keller, a blind and deaf author and champion of the power of the human spirit. C.S. Lewis, who overcame atheism. Tim Tebow, prejudiced for being a Christian, Carrie Underwood who’d suffered through many miscarriages, and Stephen Baldwin who overcame his addiction to drugs. What do they all have in common? They’re Christians. Some grew up in the faith, and some became born again. All overcame great adversity and flourished in their fields.
But what about “ordinary” folk like me? Can I overcome my trials and go on to flourish? The simple answer is, yes! Mark 10:27 explains that with God anything is possible! There are so many beautiful, frustrating, difficult, and loving examples in the Bible. Moses stuttered and was afraid to lead two million enslaved Israelites out of Egypt, one of the most powerful nations of that day. But he listened to God and God gave him the strength and help to accomplish just that. Deborah, the only female prophet and judge in the entire Bible, went to war with the warrior Barak, at his insistence. John the Baptist, cousin to Jesus, was tasked with spending his entire life in the wilderness. He persisted and successfully baptized thousands into the kingdom of God. There are many more – Jeremiah, Esther, King David, Joseph, Sarah, Job, Gideon, and the thousands of people who approached Jesus for healing.
The Hebrew words for “flourish” are revive, blossom, and sprout. Psalm 92:12-13 say, “But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.” Palm trees are strong and last a long, long time. Cedars can grow up to 120 feet high and up to 30 feet in circumference. They’re strong and immovable. King David is talking about us and our faith. If we have faith and believe that God will get us through, how much more can we accomplish in His Name?
As I write this, my own trials surface, constantly repeating in my mind, swirling like great hurricanes seen on radar screens. My oldest son declared that God doesn’t exist, because if he did, he wouldn’t have dropped us down here on earth to figure it out for ourselves. I found myself thinking . . . “What am I going to do?” Why do we forget to go to God first before thinking something like this? Because our trials are here, are real, and often, very scary. When we’re afraid, we tend to panic and forget there’s a real, loving Father right here by our side.
Some time ago I was driving my van and it started to rain, hard. Once again, I’d forgotten to get my windshield wipers replaced. Yep, you guessed it, I had to drive like I was 3 feet tall and 100 years old. I was so close to the windshield so I could see, that my body turned along with the steering wheel! While comical, that was a stressful test of my own doing! Is God responsible for that? No. But if we neglect stuff in our lives, they add to the stress we may already be under and can become frightening.
So, too, the world can be very frightening with the ever-growing identity crises of our young people, attitudes of instant gratification, disrespect of authority, “do what feels good” attitude, and lack of moral absolutes (it’s wrong for you but not for me), just to name a few. Circumstances of life, tests and trials are exacerbated when we already feel the stress the world’s troubles cause. I know God doesn’t want us to feel this way, so what must we do?
Get to know God by reading the Bible. No kidding, right? If you’re like me, you may need to read a study Bible and keep a Bible journal asking honest questions to understand its message more thoroughly. Be sure that you’re talking to others who share your faith in Jesus. They may not have the answers, but conversations can sometimes lead to answers in other areas of your faith. Get involved in a Bible study and ask questions, even if you feel they’re silly. You’d be surprised at how many others are thinking the same thing! Read trusted and well researched online Biblical websites.
Pray. In fact, turn your worries into prayers. Pray all the time, everywhere as if you’re talking directly to God, there in front of you. Be honest. Write your prayers down in a notebook or journal. Ask God to teach you through your own circumstances. Listen to God’s answers. He speaks to us in some of the most unusual ways sometimes!
Recently, I attended a conference where the speaker talked about the book of Jude, a tiny, short letter just before the book of Revelation. It was written by the brother of Jesus who reminds us of what we must do to keep our faith strong. Verse 23, “Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgement. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” By the glorious words of God through Jude, I know my path. God was speaking to me and giving me comfort at the same time. I know my Lord is there with my son, and I know, because of His Holy Word, what I must do. Through it all, I will flourish because I have His Word and promises to keep me firm in my faith and sure of my steps. With these tools and wearing the armor of great faith, you can’t go wrong. In fact, like the cedars of Lebanon, you’ll stand strong and flourish!
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/march-devo-scaled.jpg25601707Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2023-02-16 08:48:002023-02-16 08:49:04March 2023 Devotional: Flourishing in the Tests and Trials Season
When I think of “Flourishing in the tests and trials season” two things came to mind, the first was a flower breaking through the winter snow. It fights so hard to get through the snow and to show off it beauty. The second thing is how God can take the brokenness that we experience through tests and trials and turn them into something beautiful. So why not combine the two and create something beautiful to remind us that God can create something beautiful through our trials.
Garden Mosaic Tiles are actually very easy and inexpensive to make. And the great thing is that no two are alike, just like us.
Stones or White Plaster Mix
Shape or mold to hold plaster
Something hard to set the mold on while it hardens
Large Ziplock Bag
Pieces of tiles. Size will depend on the size of the shape or mold you use. You can also go to a Thrift Store and buy dishes to break into pieces. Thus, the need for the Ziplock bag and hammer.
STEP 1: Decide what design you want to use with your tiles. It is helpful to draw out your design on a piece of paper. You will use this for two things. The first is to use this pattern to trace onto the plaster. The second it to help you lay out the tiles to figure out any pattern you wish to use. Make sure that your design is not bigger than the mold or shape you will be using.
STEP 2: Mix plaster per directions. It should have a batter type consistency, you don’t want it to be too runny. You will need enough plaster to fill the mold or shape.
STEP 3: Pour plaster into the mold or shape. Tap it gently on a surface. This helps to evenly spread out the plaster. Once it is level, set it aside to allow it time to begin to harden. Place on a hard surface that you can easily move.
STEP 4: Trace your pattern into the plaster.
STEP 5: If using precut tiles, begin placing them around your paper pattern. This gives you a chance to play around with colors and shapes of tiles. If using dishes from a Thrift Store, place them into the Ziplock bag and break into pieces with the hammer. Then when you have the desired sizes, begin placing them onto the paper pattern.
STEP 6: Continue arranging the pieces onto the paper pattern until you have a design you are happy with.
STEP 7: Begin transferring the tiles one at a time from the paper into the plaster. You can either use your finger to press them into the plaster or the popsicle stick. Continue until you have transferred all the tiles into the plaster.
STEP 8: Tap gently on a surface once again to make sure all the tiles are securely into the plaster. The plaster should come right up to the top edge of the tile to make sure they don’t fall out.
STEP 9: Set aside for approximately 24 hours to allow time to fully harden.
STEP 10: Using the sponge and warm water, wash off the tops of the tiles to remove any unwanted plaster.
By Major Deborah Greene (Retired) Intermountain Division
God always supplies what I need just when I need it. There is an idiom which says, “Into every life a little rain must fall”. But God is my umbrella who protects me from the downfalls, discouragements, and trials I face. As I was thinking about sharing words of encouragement regarding the “Tests and Trials, in the Seasons of Life” a song came to me “You’ve Got a Friend” by Carol King. It’s a secular song but to me it speaks of Jesus.
[Verse 1] When you’re down and troubled And you need some loving care And nothing, nothing is going right Close your eyes and think of me And soon I will be there To brighten up even your darkest night
[Chorus] You just call out my name And you know wherever I am I’ll come running To see you again Winter, spring, summer or fall All you have to do is call And I’ll be there You’ve got a friend
As I take my journey through the winters, springs, summers, and falls of my life, I always find my friend, Jesus. When I am down, I try to stop, close my eyes, and think of Him being near and ready to brighten my circumstances. This past year has been a challenge and opportunity to experience God’s presence anew and afresh.
I share with you the winter journey in my life. As a 71-year-old retired officer I never dreamed I would again oversee a Salvation Army unit. But as things happen in The Salvation Army, a breakdown occurred four hours from where my husband and I retired. One day, after Home League, I heard from my Corps Officer that a change of officers was necessary in our division. Regular moves had already occurred, and the Intermountain Divisional Headquarters were at a loss to find a replacement. I went home and said to my husband, “We could do that!” So we called the Divisional Commander and said if they needed us, we would be willing to go. The Divisional Commander responded with “I shall get back to you”. Shortly after our conversation ended, he called us and said, “You are an answer to prayer. We shall send the necessary paperwork and you are to report August 4th”.
We were sent to the St. George Outpost to continue the beautiful work the Lieutenants began 3½ years before. They had been assistants at our home corps, and this was their first appointment in charge. Having retired eight years ago I did not realize how overseeing a Salvation Army Unit has changed. In the first few months I experienced feelings of frustration, bewilderment, and exhaustion. Technology is way above my pay grade! “Smash Lab”, a business across the street from the St. George Outpost, has axe throwing. When I saw that I said to my husband, with tongue in cheek “That’s what I need, axe throwing to relieve my stress.” However, I went for the tried-and-true method of calling on the name of Jesus, running to Him, and He came as He promised. He has my back. Our God is a God of miracles! As I trust in Him, He provides strength, encouragement, and wisdom to complete any task I am given.
The greatest blessing of this appointment is the loving people who attend for worship. They are a family. Every Sunday we have Praise and Prayer time. The congregation is a mixture of homeless individuals and working people and I am amazed the way our “family” steps up and helps with projects. My husband and I had to be away for Easter because of the death of our son-in-law. Two women stepped up, offering to oversee the Sunday activities. My husband asked the gentleman who collects the Sunday offering to preach. He accepted the responsibility with no reservations.
The springtime of my life was our appointment out of Training School. As our Commissioning Day approached, my husband and I conferred with each other and said we would go anywhere but our home division, Southern California. We did not want to raise our children in the hustle and bustle of the area. Our Training Principal asked what we saw as our ministry in The Salvation Army. My husband said we would like Harbor Light Ministry. Commissioning Day arrived. We saluted and were given our assignment, “You are assigned to be Youth Team Leaders for the summer to the Southern California Division.” What?! It was where we said we did not want to go. We did not consider ourselves as musically inclined to supervise four teenagers and conduct meetings in ten different Corps.
At the Santa Monica Corps we met a wonderful soldier who sang a song for us “The Hornet Song.” This song helped us to realize that God “does not compel us to go ‘gainst our will, He makes us willing to go.” During our tenure in Southern California, we discovered corps we would be willing to serve in. By the end of the summer, we were willing to stay. But God had other plans. Our 34+ year career covered three other divisions, but not Southern California.
Our tenure as officers has been challenging, rewarding, and sometimes discouraging, but never dull! My encouragement to you reading my testimony is, no matter what season of life you are in, remember your calling. God has called you and He will equip you.
“The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24, NIV
Always trust God.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6,NKJV
May God’s peace and blessing attend all your seasons.
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/march-story-scaled.jpg17082560Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2023-02-16 08:47:332023-02-16 10:47:15Flourishing Story: God's Blessing in the Seasons of Life