WALKING WITH GOD May 19, 2015

“…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.               Philippians 3:13-14

“Whatever his circumstances, Paul (the apostle), continually pressed forward in his calling as a disciple of Christ.

May we always remember the essence, the heart, of who we are called to be and what we are called to do as followers of Jesus.”  David Mccasland-writer for Our Daily Bread

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My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for sure where it will end…but, I believe that my desire to please you DOES in fact, please you!

I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing, and that I will never do anything apart from that desire!

I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.

By:  Nicole Shapiro

Philippians 3.13.

SAFELY HOME…May 18, 2015

“Because you have made the Lord, which is our refuge, even the most High, your habitation; There shall no evil befall you, neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.  For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.  They will bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”  Psalms 91:9-12

Driving home from our trip to the mountains, we encountered a mixture of weather; High winds, hail, sunshine, rain, snow, icy roads, patches of fog, and clouds touching the mountain-tops.  At times, it was un-nerving as the truck slid beyond our control.

Although these different scenes of weather were extreme with temperatures and conditions varying drastically, if you looked…you could find God in all of them.  Some were more pleasant than others, I’ll admit, and you didn’t have to search for Him too hard; But even in the dismal freezing cold, and the dark looming storm clouds…if you searched for Him…you WOULD find Him.

It reminded me of how life can be.  At times, the deafening winds of despair howl at our door, and drown out the voice of peace.  Sometimes, we’re in the sunshine, walking on the mountain-tops and feel as though we could almost touch the face of God.  Other times, the storms of life come and we’re pounded and drenched in doubt that overwhelms and fear that freezes us in our tracks!  Every once in a while, we hit a patch of fog in our journey home.  This is the time when our faith kicks in… if we KNOW Jesus.  We can’t see what’s ahead, or behind us…all we can see, is where we are.  There’s no turning back…like the song says, “I have decided to follow Jesus…no turning back…no turning back!”.  What’s done, is done.  All we can do is move forward into the unknown and trust God to keep and guide us until we reach our final destination.

We need to look for God in EVERY situation and trust Him, because He IS there…and He WILL lead us safely home.  He promised!

By: Anita Mondragon May 2015

Bold Generosity Sermon Notes

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What is your relationship to your money?

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Bold expectation is the anticipating that God will abundantly provide by making room for supernatural blessings with open hands and open heart. It is seizing by faith and prayer what God promises to release into my hands.

THE POWER OF GENEROSITY – based on a message from Rick Warren

  1. GENEROSITY PROVES YOUR OBEDIENCE

You will be glorifying God through your generous gifts. Your generosity will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 2 Corinthians 9:13 (NLT) 

Whoever is generous to the needy honors God. Proverbs 14:31 (ESV)

  1. GENEROSITY DRAWS YOU CLOSER TO GOD

The purpose of tithing is to teach you to always put God first in your lives. Deuteronomy 14:23b (LB)

Your heart will be wherever your treasure is. Matthew 6:21 (NCV)

  1. GENEROSITY MAKES ME LIKE GOD  

The greedy always want more, but the godly love to give! Proverbs 21:26 (NLT) 

Purity is best demonstrated by generosity. Luke 11:41 (LB)

  1. GENEROSITY IS THE ANTIDOTE FOR MATERIALSIM

You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them… to be generous and willing to share. In this way… they will take hold of the life that is True Life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

  1. GENEROSITY DEFLATES HATE 

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.You are generous because of your faith.  Luke 6:35New International Version (NIV)

  1. GENEROSITY  DEMONSTRATES YOUR CHARACTER

If you are untrustworthy with worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? Luke 16:11 (NLT)

  1. GENEROSITY BRINGS BLESSINGS BACK TO YOU  

Generous people will be blessed… Proverbs 22:9 (NCV)

Give generously… then because of this God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. Deuteronomy 15:10  


Bring your whole tithe to My storehouse. Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you won’t have room enough for it! Malachi 3:10

  1. GENEROSITY INCREASES  MY HAPPINESS

Jesus said, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving. Acts 20:35 (TEV)

  1. GENEROSITY EXPANDS  MY INFLUENCE

The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy will get smaller and smaller. Proverbs 11:24 (Mes) 

Those who give generously to those in need… will never be forgotten… they will have influence and honor. Psalm 112:9 (NLT)

  1. GENEROSITY COMES BACK TO YOU

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25 (NIV)

You will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. 2 Corinthians 9:11a (NLT)

I don’t give to get a blessing, I give to be a blessing”  – Pastor Rick Warren

  1. GENEROSITY IS SPIRITUAL WARFARE 

All goes well for the generous man who conducts his business fairly.
Such a man will not be overthrown by evil circumstances. God’s constant care of him will make a deep impression on all who see it. Psalm 112:5-6 (LB) 

  1. GENEROSITY WILL BE REWARDED IN HEAVEN AND EVEN NOW ON EARTH

Use your money to do good… always being ready to share with others whatever God has given you. By doing this you will be storing up real treasure for yourselves in heaven—it is the only safe investment for eternity! And they will be living a fruitful Christian life down here as well. 1 Timothy 6:18-19 (LB)

I tell you, use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven.  Luke 16:9 (NLT) 

A Brush With Greatness

My wife went to children’s hospital yesterday and met a guy named Ryan Secrest. Yes, that Ryan Secrest.

Ryan Secest

The funny thing is my wife is not a fan of television or pop culture and didn’t know who Ryan Secrest was. To be honest I have heard the name and I know he is on “Idol”, but other than that I have very little knowledge of Mr. Secrest. Apparently Ryan Secrest goes to children’s hospitals around the USA and builds small recording studios for the young patients to have fun making recordings and creating strange sounds. This is a great way to brighten the day of a hurting child.

My wife teaches cello lessons and about a week ago one of her young students had a bicycle accident. James is about 11 years old and fell off of his bike. It didn’t seem so bad at first but the pain would not go away. That night his mom and dad decided to take James to the emergency room as he pain continued to increase. There was very little visible damage but the handle bar had swung around and smashed his ribs and punctured several vital organs. A priest was called in to give James “last rights” that very night. It was bad.

My wife, Anna, went to visit James yesterday because his mom had mentioned that James only wanted his cello CDs to be played in his hospital room. Anna asked if she could visit James in the hospital and mentioned that she wanted to play the cello live in his room. When she got to the hospital Ryan Secrest was there and talked to Anna a bit about the recording studio. Anna mentioned that she was going to go upstairs to surprise James with a live concert. When Anna got to James’ room she was surprised at how thin James had gotten in just a week. He was in a wheel chair and appeared gaunt and frail, but was so happy that “teacher” had come visit him and was going to play for him. He even said that he liked this better than a visit from one of his friends!
Anna played through several of the Cello Suites by Bach and some other things and then asked if she could pray with James. She got down on her knees with James and his mom and they prayed that God would heal James.
On her way out of Children’s hospital Ryan Secrest gave Anna an appreciative nod and wave. (I feel like now I should find out some more about who this guy is).
That night we received a call from James’ mom. She shared her gratitude that Anna took the time to go to the hospital to play for James and also that she prayed with them. She said that James might be released THAT NIGHT to complete his recovery at home. Praise God for those amazing doctors and for the times when a miracle is the only explanation! Prayer is a brush with greatness! I think as Anna was leaving the hospital having prayed with this young boy God himself gave an appreciative nod and a wave!

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LET ME BE YOUR WITNESS… May 15, 2015

“Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.”

Mark 16:15

When You stand, and You peer out of Heaven so grand,

And You see tired souls stretch out their hands,

To plead for help…but no one understands,

Jesus…let ME be Your witness!

When You hear them weep in utter despair,

While demon powers fill the air,

And their hearts are so heavy…yet, there’s none who care,

Jesus…let ME be Your witness!

As they wander aimless through the night,

Let me see with Your eyes, and understand their plight;

Then let Holy Ghost Power, shine bright my light…

Oh Jesus! …let ME be Your witness!

Walking through darkness, this weary throng,

Many have waited for so very long

To hear that sweet name that turns despair into song…

Oh Jesus! …let ME be Your witness!

Let me lead them from darkness, into Your glorious light,

By the word of Your power, Your strength and Your might.

Let their sins, tho’ be many, like snow, be pure white!

Oh Jesus! …let ME be Your witness!

By:  Anita Mondragon April 2005

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WE ARE NOT ALONE! May 14, 2015

“When all is said and done, the last word is Immanuel-God-with-us.”  Isaiah 8:10

God loves to look at us, and loves it even more when we look back at him.

Even when we try to run away from our troubles…God will find us, for He is with us, even when we feel most alone or unsure.

God will find a way to let us know that He is with us in these times…wherever we may be!

By: Nicole Shapiro

FOR THE “GLOBAL” GOOD May 13, 2015

“For God so loved the WORLD, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Going “global”, is nothing new…

It was done long ago for me and for you.

Jesus died for mankind

Upon a cruel cross.

He did it for us…

He suffered the loss.

He loved the whole world,

And the color of skin,

Is not what He died for…

It was the part within;

The heart and the Soul

Of each one here on earth,

Was offered the same…

A new chance…a new birth!

He cared not the color

or slant of the eyes,

His only concern

Was that men would rise

From the ashes of sin

That fettered their minds;

From the chains of darkness,

That cleave and bind.

He wanted relationship,

Communion…a friend.

His desire for us

Was that we would mend

All our broken ways,

Through the blood that He spilt,

As He hung there and died;

He banished all guilt.

Forgiveness is ours…

For He WELL understood,

That His ultimate sacrifice

Was for the “global” good!

By:  Anita Mondragon  June 2012

WHEN WE KNOW HIS CHARACTER May 12, 2015

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“In EVERYTHING give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:18

No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, we can give thanks, knowing that this is God’s will for us.

He is NOT surprised or shocked by anything that comes into your life.  He has allowed these things in our lives for a reason, and His promise is that all theses things will work together for good.

Better yet, He has promised to be with us in the midst of our circumstances.

When we KNOW HIS CHARACTER, we can trust Him and give thanks, knowing He is with us…and for us!

By:  Terry Shapiro

COME THE MORNING May 11, 2015

“…Weeping may endure for a night, but JOY comes in the morning.”  Psalms 30:5

joycomesinthemorning

If you were at The Gathering yesterday morning for worship, you heard Mike (my husband), tell the story about the bird outside our window; but I want to go back a few days and tell you the rest of that story.

We had several torrential rain storms hit our area, and I was very concerned about the birds and their young ones.  Every night, I would pray for them to be safe and dry.  I even gave God some advice on the storms, and told Him that perhaps he should lessen the amount of water He was sending, for although the seeds I had planted were enjoying this down-pour…the animals outside were probably NOT as appreciative!

Saturday night, I got ready for bed and took a peek out my window to see what the weather looked like.  There was a blizzard going on!  I got in bed, and said my prayers, but this time was different.  I said, “Really God?!  You and I need to have a heart to heart…  You’ve gone and drenched these birds for days …are you gonna freeze ’em now?”  I finally fell asleep, totally worried, and a bit peeved that God had not taken my advice regarding the weather situation.

Sunday morning, I awoke to the sound of a bird singing his heart out.  Imagine my surprise when I looked out the window!  I said, “Hon!  Listen to that bird singing out there!  He’s goin’ on and on like it’s a bright, sun shiny day…and there’s at least 8 inches of snow on the ground!  How can he sing like that?  He must be frozen!”  Mike rolled over and said, “Yeah…that’s what we need to be like.  We need to give God ALL our praise…even in our darkest hour!” (That’s the part y’all heard at church.)

We came home when church was over, and Mike said, “Ya know ‘Neat’…you really need to write a poem about that bird.  So, Jesus and me sat down…and here’s what HE came up with.  It’s called, “COME THE MORNING,” and it goes like this:

Come rain, or come shine,

Or frost on his wings,

With voice lifted up,

To the Creator he sings:

“All praise be to Him,

Who lives on High…

Who gave me wings,

To soar and to fly!”

He frets not the ‘morrow,

‘Nor what it may bring…

He leaves that to Jesus;

He just wants to sing!

For singing he knows,

Will make lighter his load;

And the path be made clear,

When weary the road.

” ‘Tho the future’s unknown,

Or the road of tomorrow…

From this present sunshine,

He knows he can’t borrow.

For tomorrow may hold

Skies, cold and gray;

But when he sings to Jesus,

Storm clouds roll away!

All things are temporal…

And hardships, won’t last;

For when comes the morning…

Present sorrows will pass!

So, sing in the morning,

And sing in the night,

For dawn will break soon

With the SON’S glorious light!

Learn from the Sparrow,

And heed his song’s yearning…

Just give ALL to Jesus…

For joy comes in the morning!

By:  Anita Mondragon May 2015

Birds

TOTALLY AWARE May 10, 2015

“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

If we believe in God, it is not difficult to believe that He is concerned about this world, and all of the events on and in this earth.

The most amazing message He has sent out to us in the Bible, is that this SAME God cares so very deeply about us and our identity, as well as the events of our lives!

By:  Nicole Shapiro