Blog

Miracles by Shelley Rivelli

JUNE 2018
 

Important background information: My husband Tom and I married five years ago. I was 39; he was 54. My children were very young and his children were almost all adults. He was in the stage of his life where wants vs. needs were pretty well established. (Tom drives cars that he pays cash for, and everything he owns can fit into two drawers). I was not yet there…I’m still not.  The subject of money was, at best, a nightmare in our relationship.  We fought over everything from buying new sneakers for my boys to deciding to have separate bank accounts. Our fights went from, “You are sleeping on the couch,” to “I want a divorce!” Sigh. Blended families are hard. Blended families with two daughters, (one his, one mine… both ours) in college brings its own set of problems. Equity is challenging. Also, I love spoiling my children, and he is more interested in raising children who would become “financially responsible adults.” I am a “live in the moment” gal; he is a “think about the future” dude… I mean guy. 😉

Behind all of the disagreements feelings were getting hurt, trust was being broken, and the hope that “love is enough” was being snuffed out. To be truthful, there were days I wasn’t even sure that I liked him.  I decided it was time to figure out if I indeed had wrong thinking in the area of finances, and started to research and study what Jesus has to say about money. This was challenging for me because I have been poor most of my life, and I was pretty sure Jesus was going to say, “Sell everything and follow me.” No thank you! Alas, I needed to know.

Over the last year, I have listened to sermons, read books, studied God’s word, and taught a class on what did Jesus say about money? Here are just a few of the things I have learned.

Having money is not evil. Just like everything else in our lives, it has to have its proper place in our hearts and our priorities. The love and desire for money over the love and desire for Christ is an idol and needs to be dealt with. (Jesus hold me.) Man does not provide for our needs; Christ does. Every time and always. Seeking the Kingdom of God first and foremost needs to be the very desire of our hearts. Loving the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and all of your mind sometimes means… your money as well. That would be the loving-your-neighbor part, and taking-care-of-the-least-of-these instructions.  

During my journey toward financial enlightenment, I knew I had some deep-rooted wrong thinking. God was patient and kind as the confusion started to fall away. I spent a lot of time asking God for wisdom, and even more time asking him to change my thinking to align with his and to make my heart soft and teachable.

Many months ago, I humbled myself and went to my husband and asked for forgiveness. I explained to him that I loved him far more than anything that we had fought over in the past five years. Nothing meant as much to me as my marriage did. The amazing part: I meant it. I had been changed. I was getting my priorities right: God first, my husband, my children, and then the other things in my life. I had released all my own intentions, motivations, and wrong thinking to Christ and I was changed. Set free.

However, recently I became anxious again about money. But this time, I went right to prayer. I decided that I was going to walk in faith, and trust the Lord to provide for me. I was going to believe that we are not to look to man but to God for wisdom and help. I wrote my Heavenly Father a letter. I titled it “My Bold Prayer.” You see, I was uncomfortable with asking the Lord for money. I reminded him that I didn’t want anything that wasn’t from him. Because I don’t. When I pray, I always do so with the attitude that God knows best and has a plan that is far greater than I can understand–and I trust that plan. That’s the plan I want. Going rogue–in planning things on my own–has not worked out so well. Also, God already knows what is taking up space in my head and my heart, so I was going to get real and write it out in my letter. I was just going to talk to my Dad about my life.

So, after earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees and completing post-graduate work, I owed roughly $150,000 in loans. Gross, right? I am 44 and have paid a little more than half of it off. Because of large payments, I didn’t currently have a monthly payment. But interest was accruing, and I needed to think seriously about how I was going to resume making monthly payments. Paying off this hefty debt, amongst other desires of my heart, went into my letter. I signed it love, your daughter (because that is who I am) folded it up, and put it away.

A week later, this past Wednesday, I was at work sitting at lunch with two friends and scrolling through my email. I received one from my student loan company stating that the email served as a confirmation of payment for $63,870.25. Obviously a mistake. I reread it 20 times. Finally I asked my friends to read it. They confirmed that it was indeed a receipt for payment. I was speechless. We brainstormed several scenarios, and then I knew that I had to ask my husband. If you didn’t think this was difficult, reread the above. I took a screenshot of the email and texted it to him with a bunch of ????. To which he replied, “Let my beloved come to the garden, and eat its choicest fruits. I love you and thank God he made you and me. Yes, it is paid.” I wept. My girlfriends cried.

Everything about this was a miracle. My changed heart. My husband’s changed heart. There is freedom from this debt, and the assurance that Christ is still in the miracle business.

I hemmed and hawed over sharing this story with you, well, because…money. But I believe that the Lord wanted me to encourage you in these truths: He hears you. He knows your struggles and why you have wrong thinking. He sees the miracles that you have given up on and wants you to dig them up. Call those miracles out of the grave! There will be lessons to learn along the way, but Jesus will be there to walk with you. Every step. Get real with your Heavenly Father. Write him a letter and sign it “Love, your [daughter] or [son].” Because that is indeed who you are.

God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. It has always been his heart to heal and redeem. He will provide.

 

One Pair of Yeezys at a Time by Shelley Rivelli

MAY 2018

This week I was hit by a “spiritual Mack truck” moment. During a class Sunday morning, it was brought up that the Gospel (the transformational love of Jesus) was spreading fastest in Third World countries and in those suffering from oppression, like China.  It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out why.

Every one of us has been created with a void that only Jesus can fill. In oppressed people that void does not have to compete with temporary material fixes. Let me tell you what I mean. When a person in Haiti is seeking joy and peace, he doesn’t run out to the local mall or plan a vacation. He is desperate for the Good News of the Gospel. Jesus is enough for him. It should be that way for all of us, but we have a lot of substitutes at our disposal to try to fill that void.

Did this realization cause an emotional unraveling at the altar at family altar time? Yes. Did the man who came down to pray for the sobbing mother think someone must have died? Yes, I’m sure. “Oh, no sir, no one died…I am just failing as a mother, one pair of Yeezys at a time.” 

When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well (John 4:4-42), he explained that he alone could satisfy her thirst. In the end she believed him and laid down the water jug she no longer needed to go to tell others about Jesus. A water jug represents the very thing she was using to temporarily satisfy her thirst. What if the thing we are asked to lay down is a lifestyle of ease? What if I am constructing this very obstacle in the lives of my children?

I love blessing my children. I’m sure a therapist would tell me this is connected to growing up poor. Who knows? What I do know is that I believe with all of my heart that the only way to freedom, peace, and joy is to walk with the Lord: to rely on him and him alone to meet every one of my needs. When we try to allow things of this world to do this we are left lonely, depressed, and searching.

Don’t believe me? Hasn’t it ever confused you why very rich and seemingly successful people are destroying their lives with drugs? Why people you believe should be living the happiest lives, according to the world’s standards, kill themselves? Just like those living in poverty, the rich need Jesus; but they have the means to try to satisfy that need with everything except the gift of salvation.

Are my children completely selfish entitled brats? Some days. And some days…they get it. Fortunately, prayer works, and all of my children have a good work ethic and are generous. They understand that they are blessed…I think. I should check that. I have work to do. I want my children to know who Jesus is, and how he lived his life. I want them to understand that he is the perfect example of how to live our lives. I want to be financially secure and save money for my children’s future, and I want to sell everything we have and help those who will be sleeping outside tonight.  There is responsibility with having enough or more than enough (which is the case for most of us). It’s exhausting. I am asking Jesus to help me make sense of it all. He will. He always does.
 
Ask for Help by Shelley Rivelli
APRIL 2018

In my professional field, we have what is called a prompt hierarchy. This refers to the amount of help a student requires to be successful. It ranges from very little help (a gestural cue or quick verbal reminder) to a lot of assistance (full manual/physical prompting). I have come to realize that I also require a prompt hierarchy in my life–a godly one. Some days I need God’s grace to simply get out of bed. (Full manual prompting…Lord send me an angel.) Other days I need just a visual reminder or a little gesture to help me handle the situation confronting me.

One of the skills we work on with students is teaching them to ask for help. This skill reduces frustration, interfering behaviors, and the feeling of failure. I can relate. Often when I try to do things in my own strength or wisdom it leads to stress, feelings of failures, and confusion… frankly, I can easily become overwhelmed. I have learned that I need to ask God for help.

When I independently apply a godly lesson or a scripture to a situation, is God pleased? Yes. In my case, he is probably like, “Finally!”  2 Peter 1:5-7 tells us, “For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” In other words, try to live a godly life. But we can’t do it alone or in our own strength. We need grace. We need God’s power. We need to ask him for help.

Now in the case of helping our students, will there be skills that eventually they won’t need our help with? Yes. But in our case–trying to navigate through this difficult life–we will always need God’s grace. Thankfully, his grace is never-ending. It is limitless. He is waiting for you just to ask him for it.

When I have tried to do accomplish things or handle challenging stations in my own strength, I fail. It is exhausting, and furthermore, it steals my joy. When I trust the Lord and ask him for help, his grace wins–every time. That is why it is amazing!

So what are you trying to accomplish in your own strength? What could you ask God to help you with right now? I encourage you to ask and then trust him that his grace will be sufficient, and then carry on knowing that he will indeed help you.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired. Tired of trying to figure this crazy world out on my own. I’m tired of trying to parent and be a godly wife on my own. I’m tired of trying to do just about anything in my own strength. So Lord, help me! God asks us to be strong and courageous. He does so because he is fully aware that his grace is always available to us–all we have to do is ask him for help. Why wouldn’t we then be able to live strong and courageous? His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Count on it, and on him!

 
Warrior Boots by Shelley Rivelli
FEBRUARY 2018

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Esther 4:14

As Christians, we walk through many seasons. Maybe you are being called into a season of rest and restoration. What a sweet season, where Jesus calls you into his presence to be healed and refreshed. Lovely Psalm 23:2: “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.” Maybe you have broken places that need to be healed in Jesus’ loving arms. Do that. Rest. Be still.

Maybe you are in a season of confession, repentance and getting right with the Lord. Acts 3:19 instructs us, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that the times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Be encouraged: correction comes from the love of your Heavenly Father. He loves you far too much to let you stay in sin. Sin leads to death–every time. Death of relationships, death to your sound mind and health, death of peace and freedom.

Mind you, this is not a fun season. Honestly confessing and turning away from your sin is difficult, but necessary. You were created for greater things than to waste your life living in sin and ungodliness. You were called to be set apart for the glory of God. I have walked in this season. Being held to the fire feels torturous, but in the end you walk closer with Jesus in freedom. Closer to who you are created to be.

We are called to be mothers, fathers, husbands and wives, brothers, sisters, leaders, workers, friends and role-models. These are important roles. If you are walking in sin, you are not going to honor the Lord in these areas in your life. This season requires you to ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart. (Psalm 139: 23-24)

Maybe you are in a season that requires putting on your warrior boots. This is the season the Lord has called me into. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’” (Isaiah 6:8) So, my friends, I am in the season of battle. I have replied to the Lord: “Send me.”  My weapons?–the armor of God.

If you are in this season and feel that the battle is against another person–it is not! It never was. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12).

Fighting this battle means praying for those who hurt you. It’s about dying to yourself and your feelings and being obedient to what the Lord has called you to do. We are not going to hate anyone into the kingdom. Did you hear that? We are NOT going to hate anyone into the kingdom. God calls us to forgive and pray for our enemies–NOT easy or my favorite. Hence the battle. When Jesus commands us to love the Lord God with all of our heart, souls and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves, he is not making a suggestion, or referring to only the neighbors who are our friends. This dying world needs a Savior and you know him. With whom are you sharing him?

So, this is the battle: to fight against the lies of Satan. The battle may begin within ourselves. The tools to win are the truths of God’s Word. Spend time searching what the Bible says about who you are in Christ and his everlasting love for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to seal those truths in your heart. Let the truth of who you are in Christ replace every lie that Satan has spoken to you. Then spread those truths as if it’s your job. Because it is.

Spread the Gospel and what Jesus did at the cross to those living in this dying and deceived world. They need to know what Jesus told the woman at the well; they need to know that he is the Great I Am. Saturate yourself in his word and then ask him for opportunities to share his chain-breaking, life-transforming truth.

BE PREPARED. Satan does not like to be exposed. He will come against you. He always does. Satan knows that Jesus alone is the answer, so when you tighten your warrior boots he will be watching. DON’T BE AFRAID. You know the truth, you have been in training. You know what 1 John 4:4 says, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” Amen!

Some battle tactics. Pray. Battles are won on our knees. Seek wisdom. Share the Gospel. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.” Luke 4:18.

Give testimony to what the Lord has done in your life. Share your story. “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.” Psalm 107:1-2.  Ask the Lord to be used to further his kingdom. To spread the Good News. Ask for opportunities to share your testimony for his glory.

Every season is preparation for the next. If you are in the battle, put on your armor of God, (Ephesians 6:10-18), grab onto Jesus’ hand, and march on. The God of angel armies is with you.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Head up, soldier! Tighten your boots. It is time.
 
 
 
The Battle by Shelley Rivelli
JANUARY 2018
 
John 10:10. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

 

How is that going for you? Are you taking hurtful things said about you and to you as truth, or are you seeing them as the lies, spewed from the pit of hell, that they truly are?

This is what Satan does. He doesn’t have to be creative. He knows how precious you are, and he comes to steal that away, to kill your confidence in Christ and destroy the very person you were created to be.

Satan doesn’t wait until you are an adult. This destruction often begins when you are a child. Satan can use the very people who are supposed to edify and protect you to destroy you. It can be through a careless comment made out of frustration by a loved one. Unfortunately, that same person can say a million words of love and encouragement, but the hurtful words are placed in the file of truth in your heart and mind to become the repeat button that is pressed over and over. I am convinced that the only way to remove those words is by allowing Jesus to literally come and shut that button off.

I have needed that healing. I know the authority I have in Christ to rebuke the lies of Satan. I know that God has loved me and cherished me from the beginning of time. I am his daughter. Yet there are still words that haunt me. I will not rest until I am truly set free, but the fight to believe that I am who God says I am is a battle.

Ten years ago I was told that I was “useless,” and that I “always had been.”  The person who spoke this to me was an addict and not of sound mind. Do you think that mattered? Not at all. I was crushed. If I allow it, the words can still rattle me. Why do we allow this? Why is it somehow easier to believe that the lies are truth?

When we allow the lies to be the fabric of our thinking, we miss out on being who God created us to be. We no longer have the confidence in Christ to step out and live a life in victory and to help others do the same. Satan’s plan all along.

If Satan can steal the very essence of who you are in Christ, then he can put you on a path of destruction. He takes you, carves out the truth and then you begin to fill that space with anyone and anything that temporarily makes you feel whole again… or at least temporarily shuts the button off. I have filled this space with wrong thinking, bad relationships, self-pity, and poor decisions. What are you filling your space with? In what or whom are you putting your hope, to shut up that voice of lies? More of Satan’s plan. Do you see it? Satan knows the only answer is Christ. HE KNOWS. So he is going to work very hard at making sure you don’t know.

Freedom. The closer I get to Jesus the more I hear his voice of truth over the lies of Satan. Nothing else works. Jesus came so that we may have life, and have it to the full. That’s the life I want. Get out there. Find a church that teaches from God’s word. Join Bible studies. Read your Bible. Talk to other believers. Don’t let Satan win. He’s a liar.

Ephesians 6: 10-17 tells us:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all of this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take up the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.

Would God give us instructions for battle if there wasn’t one? The closer you walk with Jesus and the more you are equipped with God’s word, the better dressed you are for battle. To stand against the lies of the devil. To live a full life in Christ. Let’s do this, and then let’s teach others. I want to be part of the story of leading others to truth and watching them be set free from the lies and the life of destruction. What lies are you believing? What lies are stealing your life from you? Are you ready to be set free?
 
 

Hope by Shelley Rivelli

 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12)

I consider it a blessing and an honor to meet people who allow me to be part of their story and in return become part of mine. I have met many people who suffer with anxiety, depression and despair. There is a common thread amongst my new friends… hopelessness. They have lost hope that they will beat their addictions, get out of their financial hardships, or have their marriages restored. They have lost hope for their own healings or the healings of loved ones.

For many years of my life, I was the President of the “where are you, God?” school of thought. I also kicked in the “if you even exist” footnotes, with a side of “if you are a loving God how could…” Now when I meet people who live there, I love them instantly. I see their disappointed heart and I want them to know I understand. Recently, my 14-year-old son was injured. He quickly said, “Jesus could have protected me and He didn’t.” I hear you kid. I’ve been there. I can’t be upset with his thinking. I have found joy in watching my children navigate through their relationship with the Lord. Jesus understands their hearts and loves them too much to leave them in their wrong-thinking. I trust God with their lives and minds. It wasn’t pretty, but everything I have been through has been worth the relationship and trust I have in Jesus. I want to protect my children from making the same mistakes along the way, but sometimes it is in the mistakes that a real relationship with Christ is born.

It has been quite a journey. I now live in the “God is the only hope” school of thought. I have seen Him make a way when there wasn’t one. I have seen His goodness. I used to go through a difficult situation doubting God’s love for me and then once through it, look back and say, “Ok, I see what you did there.” Many of the times, it was for my own growth. Now when things get messy, I say, “I don’t understand what’s going on but I know you do and I trust you.” He always sustains me through the difficult times. God makes a way, heals me, restores me, changes my situation and changes me. I often feel joy and can’t explain why. He is the lifter of my head and allows me to walk in peace as I trust Him with my life.

AND don’t even get me started on Jesus. The more I get to know Him, the more I like Him. Keep in mind, I’ve been a “Christian” my whole life. If there has been a sermon, I’ve heard it. It can get a little chaotic in my mind. My walk has swung from living rogue under Grace to legalism under the law. What a mess! Now, I want to just know Jesus. I want to know how He lived. I want to know the heart of The Father. I want to walk this life out with them…it is an awesome adventure.

Because I know the joy of my salvation and the hope in Christ, I want others to know this as well. I love reading His words and experiencing His promises and I want others to know His transformational power. The more I know Him, the more I want to know Him. He is my joy… my everything. So, when I see someone suffering I want to hug them and tell them “Jesus sees you”. He wants to be your personal Savior and then change you and your life for the best. Everything other than seeking His will for your life, resting in His mercy and grace and walking out in the truth of His love is temporary and empty. The world needs Jesus. I want to be part of that story.

I want to encourage you to be part of that story as well. Your neighbors feel hopeless. They feel trapped by the things of this world. They need truth, healing… God’s goodness. You may be just the person that speaks that into their life. Maybe you can be the one who tells them that Jesus came to heal the broken world… to heal their broken world. We may not understand why things happen, but we can share our testimonies. We can listen, encourage, and be the hands and feet of Jesus in their lives. We can remind them that they are precious and we can love them with God’s love.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
 
 
 

WAVING THE WHITE FLAG

By Shelley Rivelli

“And your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.” Isaiah 54:13

“For the amount of time I pour Jesus into my children and parent them, I should have better children.” These are the exact words I spoke to my mother earlier this week. I know I can’t be alone. We teach them about Jesus, take the time to explain character and integrity, shape their behavior, try to be good models, communicate our mistakes and correct them when needed (one thousand times a day). I should be celebrating my parenting awesomeness and alas I am not. I am hiding in the bathtub praying for grace and wisdom, pleading with the Lord that the promise of Isaiah 54:13 is truth and comes quickly. Come quickly!

“Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you.” (Psalm 55:22) Currently, my burdens are 14 and 9 years old. My feelings towards them swing like a pendulum, from wanting to ship them off to a Third World country to gain perspective, to wanting to nominate them for the Nobel Peace Prize because of their hearts for others. It is quite maddening. I want to hug them, strangle them, swoon over them and run from them–often all at once. I want them to grow up so they can acquire better life perspectives but I also want to freeze time and capture every waking second with them.

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13) Parents, let’s write this promise on the walls of our hearts. I don’t know about you, but I do have fears. I fear that the world will influence my sons more than I do. I fear that they will learn lessons the hard way. I fear that they will turn to temporary things of this world to fill the places that only Jesus can. I fear that they will not become the men that they were created to be. I fear that I am not a good enough mom to assure that these things won’t happen. The truth: I am not. My friends, we can’t be. We were never meant to do this hard thing alone and I for one am going to stop trying.

My mother is an amazing woman. She is my role model and often the voice in my head. Raising five children in poverty while married to an alcoholic man was not easy. Rather, it was a daunting task that often brought her to her knees, and it was from that position where the majority of her parenting occurred. The time she spent in prayer for all of us was immeasurable.  When asked how she raised five children successfully, she always gives glory to the Lord. She lovingly refers to it as the “Jesus factor.” Well, my children and I need a lot of “Jesus factor” these days.

I pray for my children. You know, for health, protection, guidance… soccer game victories. But now I am all in. I am going to speak life from the word of God over them in prayer. I am going to fight this battle on my knees. Don’t get me wrong, I am still going to raise them in Christ, pour Jesus and who He is all over their lives, but I am going to spend more time holding the Lord’s hand through it all. I am going to trust that He knew what He was doing when He gave me Christopher and Benjamin. It is the desire of my heart that they become who God created them to be so where better to go than to their creator and His living and powerful word.

I have started to speak scripture in prayer for my sons. I have included some of my prayers here. I encourage you, if there is an area in your child’s life that he or she is struggling with, find scripture that addresses the struggle and pray God’s word over your child.

I am waving my white flag. I am turning to my Heavenly Father and asking Him to be their Father as well.

Some of my prayers: (derived from writings by Bob Hostetler)

  1.  Salvation. “Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (Isaiah 45:8, 2 Timothy 2:10
  2. Respect. (for self, others, authority) “Father, grant that my children may show proper respect to everyone, as Your Word commands.” (1 Peter 2:17)
  3. Courage. “May my children always be strong and courageous in their character and in their actions.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
  4. Joy. “May my children be filled with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
  5. Perseverance. “Lord, teach my children perseverance in all they do, and help them specially to run the race marked out for them.” (Hebrews 12:1)
  6. A servant’s heart. “God, please help my children develop servants’ hearts, that they may serve wholeheartedly, as if they were serving the Lord, not men.” (Ephesians 6:7)
  7. Gratitude. “Help my children to live lives that are always overflowing with thankfulness and always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 2:7)
  8. Peace-loving. “Father, let my children make every effort to do what leads to peace.” (Romans 14:19)
 
 
 
MORE GOOD NEWS
 
Have you ever thought that something you have done or the way you live your life now disqualifies you from what the bible tells us in Romans? :-“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8 38-39.

 

Maybe you are believing the lies that the saving Grace of Jesus is not for you. If this is the case, my friend, pull up a chair… there is a man I would like to tell you about. His name is Saul. Schooled as a Pharisee, Saul made it his job to persecute Christians in the early church. Believing that the teachings of Jesus violated the Mosaic Law, he jailed those who followed these teachings. Basically, he hated Christians and Acts 7:58 tells us that he was present when St. Stephen (the first Christian Martyr) was stoned to death. At the end of Acts, Chapter 7, it reads, “And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.” 

After the death of Stephen, Saul launched a war against the Church. He entered homes, scattering believers, sending many to prison. He brought terror to those who loved and followed Jesus:  Men. Women. Children.

Pretty horrific, right? So, what was it that you did again? What disqualifies you? Why could God never love you or use you? Why could it never be possible that God has good plans for your future? (Jeremiah 29:11)

Back to Saul. On a journey to Damascus, to carry out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples and hoping to imprison those who belong to Jesus, Saul met the very man he was persecuting: Jesus. It was here that Jesus proclaims, “Go! This man is a chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles, and their kings and before the people of Israel.” 9:15 (Read about Saul’s conversion in Acts chapter 9).

So, who is this Saul? Get ready….He is The Apostle Paul. You know the guy who wrote 8, possibly 13, of the books of the New Testament. Saul was transformed by God from a persecutor of Christians to the apostle Paul, preacher for Christ. Murderer to messenger. He preached for Christ throughout the Roman Empire. Remember the scripture, from Romans, that I opened this writing with? He wrote that. The man who hated and persecuted the Gentiles, became known as the apostle to the Gentiles. He led people to Jesus.

Friends, there is nothing that you have done or are currently doing that is too much for Jesus. He came for you, to invite you into relationship with Him and to show you a better way. Once you welcome Him into your heart and life you become a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away, behold new things have come.” Old things passed away…sounds like more good news to me.

Shelley Rivelli Nov 2017
 
 
BIG CHILL REFRIGERATOR
By Shelley Rivelli Young

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well 

(Matthew 6:33).
I have spent most of my life believing “all these things” meant “all the desires” of my heart. That somehow if I was a good enough Christian I could earn the desires of my heart. The undoing of this belief has been, how do I say this? confusing and painful.

want 
a beach blue Big Chill Retro Refrigerator. And not in my house in heaven. I want it now, in the land of the living, on Hill Street. I do. I have for quite some time. I have researched it, dreamt about how amazing it will look in my kitchen, and tried to bribe my husband, “but Hon, what if I forgo Christmas and birthday presents for a decade?”

Here’s the thing, I also want there to be an end to human trafficking, hate, poverty, and injustice. This is where it gets tricky. I love Jesus, study how He lived, want desperately to share Him with others, help people to be set free by knowing Him and His love and I want a $4000.00 refrigerator. I may actually think about all of those things equally. Lord, help me. Not joking, in church this morning, the Pastor was speaking about the reality of human trafficking and one second I was thinking about how I could get involved and the next I was wondering if maybe I liked the orange refrigerator better. Stand behind me Satan.

I am currently facilitating a class that focuses on the book 
Falling Free
, by Shannan Martin. The first day of class I told the group that although I had read the book months before and more than once, I was along for the ride with them and that I didn’t have the answers. Sorry gang. We have been unpacking the book, as well as scripture, to dig deeper into how Jesus lived and how He calls us to live. It is challenging and frankly, if I wasn’t the “teacher” I would probably bail. Kidding…kind of. With topics about living with less, holding on loosely to our time, plans and money, surrendering to God’s will always, and loving our neighbors as ourselves, we have had some real and honest conversations. I am growing. I am asking God to align my heart with His and to break my heart for what breaks His and then to walk out in faith. I am praying for the opportunity and courage to share His love and truth with others. I am learning that there is quite a difference between want and need and I believe that He meets all of my needs and often does give me the desires of my heart. So often.

Over the summer, my daughter Haley asked me “What does Jesus think of money?” I was so moved by the sincerity of the question and also ashamed that I really didn’t know the answer. I said, “I believe that Jesus feels that if you have two shirts and someone needs one you give him one… the nicer one.” Now I am beginning to believe that if you only have one shirt, you give that away fully believing that the Lord will provide you with a different shirt. Jesus teaches us how He wants us to love others. There are amazing lessons in Matthew 25 as well as the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:36-40.  Actually, just read the entire New Testament. I have always believed that when you see a person in need, you help. Now I am beginning to see that as a Christian, I should be looking for the need. It’s not enough to answer the call. I need to be fighting for those who can’t, and looking for where I can be the hands and feet of Jesus. I need to hold on so loosely to my own plans that I am at the ready to follow the Lord’s plans whenever He calls. His plans are always so much better. I will be the first to tell you that a year ago I told God, “Your will not my own.” Since then my life has been fun, rewarding and blessed. I was scared when I said it then and only a bit less scared now. However, imagine if we all lived this way. What world problems could be changed? If I have enough money to buy a fabulous refrigerator, even though mine is perfectly fine, then I have enough money to give away to a cause that will bring freedom to others. Our lives our not our own, dear Christian friends. They never were. They were bought with a price. Let’s live out our lives for the One who paid the price. I am right there with you, trying to figure it all out. I want answers and will be asking the Lord to teach me through His word. Let this journey begin.