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After a long conversation today about what church was like when I was growing up, I felt burdened to pen these words.

I remember a church where all were equal. It didn’t matter about our social status, our neighborhood, our bank accounts, or positions any held outside of church. We were “all” equal, not only in the eyes of our Heavenly Father – but in each others eyes as well. We were all sinners saved by grace. Each person was in need of discipleship, encouragement, correction, guidance and prayer. None was thought of to be any more or any less than any other. No matter what age group, there was respect for each and every individual outside of our own. We didn’t question whether or not someone was called by God when someone surrendered their heart to go into a ministry based on what we felt their qualifications were – instead, we trusted in God’s promise that those whom He calls, He equips. It blessed each and every one of us to see those whom we prayed for and cheered to surrender. Those whom were called were humbled and submissive to God in a desire to only please Him and not man. They knew they could not do what He had called them to do without relying on His power and strength. They knew that they were nothing without God.

Today, the contrast we see in churches is often so far from what I remember growing up. Members hardly know the names of other members and rarely interact with other members even though they have all been members for years. This leaves me wondering how a church can pray for each other or encourage each other under these circumstances. There is a disconnect of reaching out when someone is in need of discipleship and counseling simply because of the attitude of someone doesn’t care or has given up on church or faith when they suddenly stop attending after being faithful for so long – an attitude of, “It’s not up to me to reach out to find out what is going on in that person’s life.” An assumption of just feeling as though as though it doesn’t effect the church at all when someone leave in such a manner.

It also seems that outreach is not a part of what concerns some churches today. There is a feeling of fear. A fear of harm coming to ourselves, our children, and our church because we ourselves are not all knowing in all things. We are afraid whom will answer a door; whom will sit beside us on our pews; what backgrounds will come inside the doors of the church. Yet, we are not fearful of shopping in large malls; attending theme parks; going to races; attending football, softball, basketball or soccer games; mingling with thousands at concerts – all the while interacting and sharing the same venue with the very people we are afraid to reach out to and bring into our church.

We have forgotten that God knows all things. We have forgotten that it is God whom chooses whom will hear the gospel – not ourselves. We have forgotten that He has chosen “all”. We have forgotten that our calling – whether we are pastor, deacon, or just member is to reach all – knowing that God will protect if we are faithful to that calling.

The church has also forgotten that we as a body are responsible for helping our fellow brothers and sisters in their times of need without concerning ourselves with the fear of being taken advantage of. We are to show love and charity regardless of our not knowing every detail of why our members are in need – it is up to those in need to answer to God when taking advantage.

It is often the churches response and how it is handled that can make the biggest change in someone’s heart, faith and attendance. We, the church, can bring fellow members closer to God…raising future missionaries, evangelist, pastors, pastor’s wives, teen leaders, Sunday School teachers, youth ministers, prayer warriors and faithful followers…Or we can be their biggest stumbling block…leaving those members to never reach their potential in what God may call them to do.

The choice is ours.

All Good Things

When it seems as all is falling apart –
From the sight in my eyes to the beating of my heart –
My body is saying my youthful days have passed –
Still I know God is with me until the last.

Not a child anymore in my home to be found –
They’re all now young adults, to their own lives bound.
Still caring for elders through my own concerns –
Yet God is still with me through it all, I have learned.

Soon someone else will be caring for me –
As my heart grows weaker and my spirit is set free.
Then all my tears will be wiped away from me –
As I rest in the arms of Jesus for an eternity.

Until then I shall cherish the smallest of joys –
For all good things are blessings sent from God to enjoy.
Each breath and each smile that comes to my face –
God is still with me through the last day of my race.

Beverly S. Harless

At This Moment

At this moment in time my memory is clear.
I understand and acknowledge every word that I hear.
I can pick up the phone and call loved ones so dear.
We can laugh about silly things and at the bad shed a tear.

I don’t know what tomorrow will hold.
For my memory slips away at times, I am told.
When it will happen, I never can know.
So for now I will cherish this moment as gold.

They tell me my future looks different for me.
I may not know your name when your face I see.
It will be hard for you for I won’t remember most things.
So, keep these words in your heart and let them sing.

Everything that we shared is a part of me.
It’s the joy that shines through in spite of this disease.
It’s the smile that spreads upon my face.
And the giggle that slips when I am in a daze.

It’s the things that we shared when I was full of life –
That God gave to help me through my strife.
So, think again on the memories you hold.
For mine are alive in the memories of “your” soul.

Beverly S. Harless

What does it take for us to really hear something? You know, the kind of hearing that makes you remember it and take it in? – the kind of hearing that makes you think about it over and over that becomes a part of you usually happens when it touches us not by just understanding with our brain because it makes sense. I am talking about truly hearing.

Most people think about hearing having to do with their ears. Ears however are a catalyst making it possible for us to hear. We hear millions of things everyday – most of which we forget.

Some of the things we hear that becomes our memories are good. Our children calling out for us in the middle of the night, the first time someone says “I love you”, words of encouragement and praise – all of these are spoken things we hear. These things become a part of us.

There are other things we hear that become our memories: a soft shoulder to cry on that is just there and doesn’t speak a word, the scenery from a mountaintop as the sun breaks over the distant mountains piercing through the morning clouds, the gentle caress of our parents holding us when we were young. These things also become a part of us.

Regardless of whether the things we hear are from the spoken word or from the experience of witnessing something amazing, it is with our heart we hear these things – not our ears.

These things become so much a part of us because of our desire to hear them because they are important and meaningful. Some of these things we are aware we desire such as the ones we love acknowledging their love for us. Others, such as the witnessing of the mountain sunrise, there is an underlying desire to experience simply because of its beauty and its ability to take us by surprise – leaving us breathless.

Reading God’s Word and building our understanding and faith through His Word is much the same way. We can read it or hear it from the pulpit. We can listen to it on the radio or television. But, until we listen to it with our heart – instead of our ears – we aren’t really hearing it. With our heart we get understanding that we can never gain with only our ears. It doesn’t become real and personal until we allow our heart to hear, allowing it to become personal and meaningful to us. 

We must develop a desire, a need, a longing….a love for God’s Word and for God to be able to allow His Word to speak to us fully. Once we touch God’s heart with our love toward Him built on our desire to hear Him, I believe that He will touch our hearts in a way we can’t imagine. Then…God’s Word will become a part of us and not just something we have learned.

I read articles or hear everyday how groups want symbols of Christmas taken down, done away with, etc. I hear everyday, “Why don’t Christians fight back?” As for me, Christmas isn’t about the Black Friday shopping or even the presents. It isn’t about the Christmas Trees or decorations. It isn’t about whether or not nativity scenes are on display in city venues. These things are nice. They make the Christmas Season festive and serve as reminders. But, it is our actions and the way we live our lives that truly display Christ. After all, Christmas is only about Christ.

God uses the silly things of this world to confound the wise. We, as Christians, are constantly ridiculed and made fun of because of our love for Christmas. To nonchristians, all of our “religions” symbols are silly.

A thought crossed my mind that I thought I would share. We all know that Christmas isn’t about any of the things that are “so called” religious symbols, yet a war is being waged against us in taking away of anything that is religiously associated with Christmas.

In reality, Christians have gotten away from the real meaning of Christmas by falling into the worldly traditions of Christmas: having to buy the newest and most expensive things for presents, or receiving those things, in order for us to have a wonderful Christmas; all the sales that we “must” go to in order to not be left out on the great deals, just to find ourselves miserable by fighting the crowds and the frustration that comes with either the late hours or early hours of these sales. I could go on and on about all the things that we get caught up in that actually take away from Christmas. But, I think you get the idea.

Some may ask when reading this if I decorate my house. All you friends here know that, yes I do. But, if I were to have it all taken away, it would still be Christmas regardless. Many people around the world don’t have the resources we enjoy here or the money to use on such things, but for those who believe in Christ, it is still Christmas for them nonetheless.

I guess I just look at things differently sometimes. You may agree and you many not….but here goes.

Remember it is the silly things of this world that confound those who think themselves to be wise. We must remember that it is our charity, our love shown towards others, our contentment in all situations, the peace and joy in our hearts that come from the true meaning of Christmas; in other words, it is our Christ likeness that is truly thought to be silly in the eyes of those who think themselves to be wise. Yet, these are the very things that “the wise” can not take away. In summary, it is we Christians, who are the ultimate symbols of our religion. We should diligently, continually be building and perfecting ourselves in Christ likeness for monuments for Christ.

We also know that all these things shall come to pass; everything that has to do with God will be ridiculed, the ones who believe in Christ are to be ridiculed, anything to do with our religion will be taken away. We need to remember this; these are all signs of our redemption is drawing near, it is all fulfilling the Words of the Bible; it is the actions of “the wise” in doing all these things that will confound in the end.

I choose to not have anger concerning the things of the world concerning these things. Instead, I choose to pray for those who know not what they do in their own wisdom. I choose to rejoice in this Christmas season knowing that Christ is coming again and that God has given us eyes to see the truth through our faith in Him. One blessed day, we will have Christ everyday – for we shall forever be with the Lord. This is Christmas.

You decide…silly?

I’ve been writing blogs in various venues for several years now. I’ve had a lot of critics through out that time. Most often I seem to run across two reactions from those who find out I write. They either are very verbal about what I write and constantly ask about what I am writing or posting.

But, I find it interesting that some, after finding out I write, get very quiet about voicing their opinion or ideas about anything when I am in the conversation or when I am in hearing distance of their conversations. I guess I can understand the latter group’s response. After all, writers are constantly looking and searching for something interesting or different on various topics on every and any subject the majority of the time.

The only reason this response baffles me is; most people who voice their opinions to others are wanting their voices to be heard and their opinions taken into consideration. They want to be heard. But, for some reason it seems that even those who constantly voice their opinion don’t want to have anything to do with their opinions being made any more public than within their own private conversations.

I certainly understand their desire for their opinions on private matters being kept confidential. Most writers would never include such conversations within any of their writings where it be in a blog, short story, novel, poetry or whatever.

We are only writers – nothing more. We write from our own points of view – no one else’s, regardless of what someone else’s opinion is on any given matter. Don’t be afraid to interact with writers as you would anyone else. You may find that your opinion on things -other than private matters – will find a voice.

Back to the first group who are constantly asking about what we write about – wanting to know if we were able to use anything you contributed during a conversation in our blogs, etc.  Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. Don’t let it discourage you when we say we didn’t. Instead, let it encourage you to do exactly what we do – write!!! Pick a venue and get down your thoughts. Yes, you will have critics just like we do. But, it is the criticism that makes you grow. It either changes your prospective on a matter or deepens your convictions. But, the wonderful thing about writing is; you then have the opportunity to change someone else’s prospective or deepen their conviction on matters.

Remember, that writers are no different than any other. It is our words that matter. They can be used to build up or to tear down. But, please also remember that whether you are a writer or not – it is not only the written words that have this power; spoken words in private conversations flow from one person to another much faster than the written word ever can. Written words can bring criticism to the one who pens them and invite opportunity for accusation of being wrong, but spoken words can can have the same results for the one who speaks them.

In summary, we should guard our words and choose our conversation whether in the presence of writers or non-writers alike.

It’s that time of the year that usually gets me reflecting on Christmas past. I have always loved Christmas. People seem happier. They smile more. They over all personality seems to lighten up a bit.

I have to admit, I’ve always wondered why these changes in people seem to slip away right after Christmas has ended. Is it because the excitement of the festivities has ended and we are back to our normal life and routine? Is it because we have received all the things that we were hoping to receive by changing our personalities in order to receive them? 

After all, we have been taught from young childhood that the nicer you are the more you will receive. We all know the childhood Christmas song lyrics from Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, “He’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice..” It’s not only Christmas that makes us change our personalities though, it’s before birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, etc… any time we can profit from gift giving this seems to happen. I suppose this is a part of human nature.

The other end of the spectrum is, people are more willing to give what others desire during the Christmas season. Some go overboard and obsess about giving the perfect gift or gifts. Some see it as their chance to prove how much they care and to gain appreciation from the one they are giving to.

There are those, however, who just really have a heart for the true meaning of Christmas whom are just filled with Christmas joy that comes from knowing Christ. Christmas is their reminder of the gift that was given to them by God. A gift that they received without doing a single thing to deserve it. They are once again humbled and their spirits are lifted and renewed by remembering their receiving the gift of Salvation. These are the ones whom carry Christmas with them well into the next year until the time comes once again for them to be reminded of their wonderful gift that changed them forever.

It is wonderful how God gave us a gift that never changes; never leaves; never breaks, never corrodes, but instead gets more precious as the years go by – and we don’t have to change even temporarily to be able to receive it. We can rejoice int he fact that it changes us.

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of love and of power, and of a sound mind.”

These are two of my favorite verses in the Bible. It seems as though each time I come back to these two verses, I get something new out of them each and every time. When going over these two verses again, this is what I gained from them.

For a long time I worried about God not loving me as much when I did something wrong.  Later I realized that God knew what he was getting when he died upon the cross and purchased me. It wasn’t a blind purchase of thinking he was getting one thing and actually getting another. He knew me before I was born and he knew my heart, even back then, knowing what a sinner I would be after I was born. He knew all the mistakes I would make because he knew me so well. Naturally, I came to the conclusion of the fact that if God loved me so much then, that there is nothing I can do that will make God love me less. Just as scripture says in Romans 8; nothing can separate me from His love.

I must also admit that for a very long time, I worried about not doing enough for God. I did this in fear that not doing would somehow effect the other end of the spectrum – God not loving me more than he already did. Of course after some time of struggling with this issue as well, I once again came to the conclusion of the fact that nothing I have done, can do, or will do can effect or cause God to love me anymore. He loved me a perfect love when he died on the cross.

Therefore, it is impossible for God to love me less and it is impossible for God to love me more. I am no more special or any less special than anyone else God loves.

One might ask, “Why then do anymore for God if it doesn’t effect how God loves you?”

We do what we do; our ministries, our writing, or witnessing, our evangelism, for these purposes – because of a pure, desiring heart that loves God and strives to please Him. We do this to honor God for loving us first. We do it to show others our confidence in our hope which is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We hold on to the promise that is no fear in doing the things we do because fear does not come from God – only power, love and a sound mind.

The Battle

It doesn’t matter how hard I have tried –

Disappointment bombards from every side.

It tries to discourage from following God’s will –

So, I can not proceed based on how I feel.

Negative words and acts sent to give dismay.

Things that go against the Words that God did say.

As these things try to penetrate against my fortress walls.

My God gives me strength to still stand tall

As my enemies try to tear me down –

I drown them out as to not to hear their sound.

I stay focused on my God above –

Since He has for me a never failing love.

When will they learn they do this to no avail.

As long as I stand on God’s Word they can not prevail.

But, I will fight these battles with the armor He provided for free.

Knowing all the while the war has already been won when He fought for me.

Written by Beverly S. Harless

I was told when I first decided to give my life to Christ the bad news, that I would lose some friends. But, I was also told I would gain friends as well. This is exactly what I have seen happen throughout time. Sad to say, I have lost many friends. I have gained some lifelong friends who are like minded, in the process of losing others.

It was hard losing those friends I thought I was so close to. Every friend that I have made since that time have the same universal experience as I. But, there is something that I have found even harder than losing those I knew before coming to Christ.

Occasionally I will make a new friend with a brother in Christ. We seem like minded. But, as time passes, I find that slowly; just like some of the friends I used to have, a distance grows within these friendships as well. As I grow in Christ and become more focused on the Word of God, only a few encourage and follow the same path. I guess you could say that when not willing to go against God’s Word, even for a friend, I have not much worldly good as according to those who pull away.

At times this is very discouraging. The standards we as Christians, all of us as Christians, should not be our own standards, but God’s standards. Even though we strive daily to stand upon God’s standards, we will fail in some things. We will all make some mistakes. When we do, we are to pray and ask for forgiveness, and with God’s help, we are to turn from the things that make us fall.

The Bible tells us that when we see others fall; we are to rebuke and encourage, disciple and give a source of accountability. When we do this, we are not being self righteous. We are being very good friends and showing love to our brothers in Christ. A lot of times, in doing this, is taken as we are being judgmental. Many fail to remember that it is not we who are judging what wrong  is, but God who has already judged what wrong is.

The love we have been shown by Christ included doing these very things. He has rebuked us by pointing out to us, through His Word, what things we are not to do, encouraged us through the writings of Paul to continue running our race and made us accountable to Him by dying on the cross for our sins. He has shown us that we are to pray asking for forgiveness and made it clear that we are to turn from the things that pull us away from Him and return to Him.

We as Christians are to desire others, whom we know that are strong in Christ and the knowledge of His Word, to do the same for us when we fall or go against God’s standards – also without judging those who come along side us to remind us of those things God has already judged as wrong. We are not to see them as being self righteous. When we have the wrong mindset when others rebuke us, we come across as seemingly being so self righteous ourselves for anyone to point these things out to us – and it ruins otherwise lifelong friendships.