“…all ye who labor and are heavy laden…I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

The picture in my mind is of me carrying the weight of all the chores I have to do and the obligations I have to meet on my shoulders hanging down from one of those yokes they put across cattle.  At this time, how many of us have clung to these words of Jesus, have grabbed them and rubbed them all over our bodies like warm lotion, have taken them deep into our hearts when we feel like we just…can’t…do…another…thing or take…one…more…step?  I know that I have and that I do!

While we are blessed with days of vacation and time away from our daily routine of life, I am fortunate to have time to catch up with many things…with my writing, but more so, with the reading that I long to do.  I just finished reading A. W. Tozer’s amazing book, The Pursuit of GOD.  One of the most powerful messages Tozer gives is the description of what it is that makes us “heavy laden” and how Jesus can give us rest from that.  He says if we examine our burden ,we will find it to be an interior one, attacking our heart and our mind and reaching our body from within!  Have you ever imagined it that way?  I know I hadn’t.

What does it mean to have an interior or internal burden?  Of course, Tozer mentions specific types of interior burdens, but this idea struck my awareness of some of my own individual buried burdens hanging so heavily on that shoulder yoke.  Maybe it’s feeling unworthy and critical of myself.  Or maybe it’s a painful hurt coming as a result of a criticism or comment that someone made to or about me.  Perhaps it’s when I feel I’ve not done something as well as I think I should have.

Jesus wants to give me rest.  In the Bible he wants me to find who I am in Christ…not who I am in this world… but who I am in Him.  Slowly, these beautiful scriptures chip away at that heavy yoke bringing me down:

  • “I am a child of God” (John 1: 12)
  • “I have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) The wood is cracking…
  • “I am not condemned by God” (Rom.8:1) The yoke splinters to pieces…
  • “I am completely forgiven” (Col. 1:14) It is nothing but a pile of wood on the ground!
  • “I am tenderly loved by God” (Jer. 31:3) Hallelujah!

“Here,” Jesus says, “Take MY yoke upon you, and learn of me…and you shall find rest unto your souls.”  (Matt. 11: 29-30) This new yoke feels like thick fleece wrapped around my shoulders on a chilly day; this new yoke fills my heart with smiling joys; my soul’s love runneth over!”  Why?

Our Jesus says, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matt. 11: 29-30)  Wearing the yoke of Jesus gives us rest because it reminds us of how incredibly loved we are by Him and by God.  And…wear it every minute…it NEVER wears out!  Thank you, Jesus.

God Bless you,

Barbara

ASH WEDNESDAY – 2017

SERVICE

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16)

On this first day of the season of Lent, I like to select a theme to guide my study and prayers for the weeks until Easter, the day of Resurrection! This year I am reminded of a Bible Study we did in our small group on our Spiritual Gifts. In this study, the authors divided our gifts into two main categories, gifts of Speaking and gifts of Serving. Of course, both are intertwined in bringing glory unto God, but I have been struck by the gifts of Serving. In recent messages on humility, our pastor has stressed that the true gifts of Service include placing the needs and concerns of others above our own. During Lent, I have pledged to myself to be more aware of others and less into my own issues and wants. What will that look like?

Our “corporate” daughter always suggests we have a “plan” when facing challenges in our lives. I think my plan must be built around a question posed by our pastor, “…are we willing to identify with John the Baptist who said, ‘[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease?’“ How can I increase my Jesus in my life?

When a friend is hurting, more of Jesus will mean laying down my life for her in prayer, in listening, in hugging, in accepting her nonjudgmentally right where she is, in thinking how I can comfort her today as I plan my activities.

When a friend is excited about a new venture or success, more of Jesus will mean feeling her joy, encouraging her future with absolutely no comparison to something great I have done, but that it be all about HER and nothing about ME.

When folks hear me speak, will they hear a humble sinner who is nothing without her God and Jesus? Will they hear an inflated spirit, full of myself or one that is bursting with the joy of the love of Jesus? Whose concerns will folks hear first, mine or my honest interest in each one as a child of our God?

So, I look back and I remember those humble Christians I know and have known who always have affirmed my beliefs and successes first, have asked about my life first thing when we meet, have prayed, guided and strengthened me in the scriptures.

The way that they are much more of Jesus than of themselves inspires me in my plan to serve others during Lent. What is your plan? I’d love to know so I can pray for you as I hope you will pray for me!

God Bless you,
Barbara

Celebrate Our Savior

It’s always nice to reach February, the month of Love, Cupid, Valentines and all that great stuff! (It also says to the Northerners that Spring is just around the corner.) Along the theme of Love, Great Love, I’m looking back at Christmas. We received a Christmas card from dear, Christian friends, who have been our mentors for many years. This card struck me deeply so I saved it and am returning to it now to talk about Love. It says:

“His destiny was the cross…
His purpose was love…
His reason was you.

MAY YOUR CHRISTMAS BE A CELBRATION
THE SAVIOR
(DaySpring Christian expressions)

Was your Christmas a Celebration of Our Savior? Mine?
Jesus knew He was destined for the cross; He lived His life in that destiny; He perfectly obeyed His father’s will, even as He asked that it not be so in Gethsemane…He obeyed, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 NIV)

What was the result of that perfect obedience to God? LOVE. Not the Valentine’s Day love, necessarily, but the total, submissive love…the agape love…the love of God the father, brought to the world by His Son Jesus. “God so loved the world…”

Whom did God love? He so loved YOU and ME that He gave His only begotten son so that (WE), who believe in Him, will not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 in my words.)
Jesus’ reason for going to the Cross was Love for YOU!

Maybe it takes a lovely Christmas card to shake us up a bit and make us remember that because of Jesus, we can live this life with hope and joy at our core and the peace that passes all understanding in our very soul.

Maybe it takes a lovely Christmas card to bring us to our knees in constant praise as we once again commit to the will of God for our lives! ”…not as I will, but as you will.” Every morning, in God’s mercy, we can start anew to be totally obedient to God in grateful thanks for His love.

Maybe it takes a lovely Christmas card to raise that warm smile across your face, my face, when we stand in prayer, in the presence of our Mighty God and KNOW, truly KNOW He loves each of us because we are His through our Jesus Christ.

You think that deserves a celebration?? You bet it does!!

May God continue to Bless You,
Barbara

Happy New Year 2017!

Happy New Year!
And a fantastic New Year in Christ it will be!

Back in October, after our pastor preached an amazing message on hearing from God, I challenged our church family to write down when they heard from God! In the days after that they were probably saying, “What ever happened to those papers? Why did she have us do that?” At the time, Pastor Blake asked me the same question, “Now what are you going to do with them?” And…I had no clue…until yesterday!

Let’s start at the top. When you ask if our church folks hear from God, the resounding answer is YES!! Hallelujah!! What did I do with the almost 30 responses they wrote? After placing them on the altar and praising God for speaking to us, I carried them home like little gold nuggets, read them with tears in my eyes and then put them all in a list. Would you like to know what God’s been saying to all of us? There were two main areas where He spoke in our lives. First, was to give us guidance in our life commitments, our need for worship, to center on and share love! Over one third of our lives were guided by God!! Amazing. Second, another third of us heard the name of someone to visit, to encourage, to invite, to comfort and to pray for! Folks, God knows each of us by name and calls others to help us when we are in need. His faithfulness is right in black and white on those little slips of paper. Praises that our family answers His call! Many others were thankful…for joy, for peace, for family. They knew they were to trust, to serve, not to fear, to tolerate, to be strong in the face of illness.

I don’t know about you, but I was blown away by these results. You know why? I can say that I belong to a church family where so many hear from God and answer His call. As we enter into this new year of 2017, I want to challenge ALL of us to make our lives devoted to hearing from God, in every area of our lives. Priscilla Shirer shares Five Ms to knowing the voice of God:
• Look for the Message of the Spirit
• Live in the Mode of Prayer
• Search out the Model in Scripture
• Submit to the Ministry of an Eli (wise, mature, believer)
• Expect the Mercy of Confirmation (God makes sure you know it’s Him)
(Priscilla Shirer. Discerning the Voice of God.)

In closing, it is my honor to share a few of the actual words of my brothers and sisters in Christ that really touched my heart and gave me some ideas about where our church will be heading this new year!

“It was good to be in the House of the Lord today.” Let worship be a priority!
“I Love to tell the Story.” Get out there and share Jesus with everyone we know!
“I feel the Holy Spirit filling this sanctuary! Amen.”
WOW! It just doesn’t get any better than THAT!!

These folks are truly amazing and I love them all!
Happy New Year! Listen for His Voice! Barbara

The Heart of Christmas 2016

In just a few days, when you wake up, it will be Christmas Day. Will your life be different? Will mine?
Will you be a completed person if you open your new IPOD, IPAD, IPHONE, I Whatever or tackle Darth Vader in your Star Wars Forever Video game? Will your life, my life, be different, …
because a little baby was born in a manger in Bethlehem… WHO IS GOD?

YES – GOD born in rough straw in a lowly manger…
YES – GOD who loves you SO much that He sent this little one, HIS OWN SON to be, Emmanuel…GOD with us!
YES – GOD who sent this precious baby boy to die on a cross for us and to give us NEW LIFE in HIM.
NOT a life whose WIFI will fail, or signal will be weak or batteries will dry up and die…
A life of joy…true, life changing joy…on a journey to be glorified with God in Heaven for evermore.

In his reflections on Advent, my favorite theologian, Henry Nowen, writes how he wants HIS life to be different because of Christmas Day:

• He wants Jesus to speak within Him…this baby to rule his Heart
• He wants his thoughts to be the thoughts of Jesus…to rule his Mind
• He wants Jesus to act from within him…to rule his very being.
• Nowen prays, “JESUS, LOVE OF MY LIFE, help me see the world as YOU see the world and act as YOU would act.”

That’s what CAN happen, folks, because God was born in that manger in our Jesus Christ… our Lord and Savior!
Picture with me now, as Nowen does, sitting in our living rooms, with our kids, wherever we are… our Christmas being blessed beyond belief by this amazing birth in Bethlehem as we:

• Feel Our hearts so full of Jesus that we will be a blessing to all our family

• That Our minds will be so full of Jesus that we will hear HIS voice and feel HIS love!

• That We will Know peace by our actions being so full of Jesus that we are humble, unselfish, loving

• That We Watch that mighty love of Jesus help us to hear folks crying, to see folks starving, to hurt for those in pain, falling on our knees in prayer.

THEN our lives will be new and different because of Christmas Day.
I hope you will join me in trying to live THAT picture THIS week and EVERY week until we see our Jesus face to face!

But Best of ALL…because of Christmas Day:
We will shout with the great company of the heavenly hosts and the angel of the Lord:

“Glory be to God in the Highest and Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards Men.”

Merry Christmas in Jesus Love!
Barbara

LET’S PRAY TOGETHER:

Our Heavenly Father, we as a family in you, want to welcome your son into this world and into our hearts this Christmas and every day after. We praise you and glorify you that YOU love us so much that you sent your son, to be born in that lowly manger so that we would know humility, servanthood and total trust in you. You sent your son to be crucified on that cross so that we would be pure and clean in your eyes, and sent the Holy Spirit to live within us to love and guide us until that glorious day when we will see you face to face and be with you forever. Hallelujah, Lord.
Let us remember all those who are ill this season…those who are hungry…all those who are grieving… those in the pain of missing a loved one…all those who are discouraged and disappointed, Lord…and those who hunger and thirst for you. Be close to them, Lord Jesus…there is room in their hearts for you!

We thank you and praise you for all that you are and all that you do,
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Hallelujah! The Light Has Come

Hallelujah! The Light Has Come!

DARKNESS: absence of light, moral or spiritual destitution.

I chose this definition of the word darkness because on some days, our world seems to be a pretty dark place. During Advent this year, we need to lift thanks and glory to God for the birth of His Son into this shattered world. What a difference Jesus’ birth has made.
Life has often been said to be a battle of Kingdoms…The Kingdom of the Earth and The Kingdom of God. Beth Moore’s says that Jesus knew in His time of temptation that if He gave into the Earthly Kingdom, He would never experience the Heavenly Kingdom. Praise God that the Light has pierced the darkness, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light!” Because Jesus rose from the grave, we don’t have to live in the darkness of the Kingdom of the Earth! Because Jesus is the light of the world, we can cling to Him in the storms, quoting my friend Sue, “we can hold Him tight and life will be glorious through it all!” Because Jesus’ light shines, with our arms around His neck, we can see our Jesus face to face!! Have you seen the Light lately?
The Light has come! “Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!” When you sang that familiar hymn on Easter, did you breathe in this incredible truth? Our National Minister, Rev. Jim Barnes, wrote, “As I sang that verse yesterday on Resurrection Sunday, I was reminded that not only has Christ been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, but one day, we who have died IN CHRIST will also rise – immortal, imperishable, incorruptible to live FOREVER with Him in the Kingdom over which He will rule eternally.” The joy and glory of Easter morning is really just a foretaste of the personal resurrection each one of us in Christ will enjoy! There is no darkness at all in this Heavenly Kingdom. Can you feel that amazing love?
Our EA Board Secretary, Rev. Dubbs, writes, “…and what a joy it is to be counted among those who are called the Children of Light.” Yes, folks, that’s us!! WE are the Children of Light…in OUR lives there is no darkness at all because Jesus, the light of the world, lives in us. Does your light shine SO brightly that folks can barely look at you? Beth Moore reminded us, that when we shine with the light of Jesus Christ, we shine like the stars and the angels in Heaven look down and see a great light.! Then, seven thousand women each turned on a small flashlight and in that stadium there was NO DARKNESS AT ALL. Hallelujah!
Brothers and Sisters, as we await His birth on Christmas Day, lets claim our light from Him and let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!
Pastor Barbara

Jesus is the Key

JESUS IS THE KEY

Our church in Easton, Pa., has been blessed with an amazing pastor, Rev. Blake Heffner, who continually inspires us to grow in our faith as he preaches the Word of God. Pastor Blake loves the Lord with all his heart as you will read in the passage below. He has given me permission to post this segment from his incredible message on Heaven. Be blessed as all glory and honor be unto our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Barbara

“The only questions you and I will be asked at the pearly gates are: Do you have the Son? Is Jesus Christ your Savior and the Lord of your life? Have you been washed in the blood of the Lamb? Do you have a personal relationship with the Good Shepherd?
Jesus himself prayed: “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3). To know him is to know that he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – that he died so that we may live. He came to seek and to save the lost – that includes you and me, friends. On Good Friday, he appeared to tragically lose the struggle with the powers of this world, but on Sunday morning, he rose again in victory over death and sin and evil. And now he is seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven, just waiting for the right time to come again in ultimate triumph!
My friends, to know Jesus Christ is to love him. Do you love him? To love him is to obey him and serve him. Is that your aim in life? And when we serve him, when we suffer with those around us, we begin to long for him to come again and fix what is broken with this world. And, if we have the Son – that is trust him and love him and serve him, we are assured of sharing in his victory. When he comes, the Bible declares we shall see him and be like him, and we shall reign with him!
Is this your story? Is this your song? I love how it’s expressed in the old gospel hymn: “Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.” Let’s sing the refrain together: This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long; This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.”

Rev. Dr. Blake R. Heffner
St. John’s Church on Morgan Hill

Hope That Never Fails

“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4 NIV

God’s word always seems to clarify life for me. It seems the older I get, the more I need that clarification! Do you find that when we believe His word as truth, events and journeys begin to make sense? So it is with holding on to our constant hope during times of testing. Perhaps you are in one of those seasons of life right now. I have to say that I have certainly been there and will be again and again. Situations raise questions in our hearts and an emptiness when we realize that the hopes of this world…for a raise, a job, healing…are quite empty when compared to the hope we have in Christ Jesus who has died so that we might live in Eternal Life! It’s a pretty clear message…wonder why we don’t get it all the time. Humanism, perhaps?
When we hit life’s uncertainties, we want them resolved so that we are comfortable and in control again. When we are lost, we want to be found and be secure again. When we are in new and even exciting circumstances, we think about and long for “the old days”…that old pair of slippers. Have you felt lost, uncertain, insecure? Our hope can only lie in the reliability of our God! We know that God’s power and goodness knows no end; His love for us never fails. Are we open to this magnificent source of strength and comfort when we are amidst the sufferings Paul mentions in our Scripture?
I am more and more convinced that through all of life’s transitions and trials, we will only reach an ultimate peace when our hope and trust is so totally in God and the matters of the Spirit that we no longer desire the shallow, fragile things of this world. Obviously, the crucial word here is TRUST…our mantra has to be “Thy will be done.” In the darkest hours, He is with us and He is in control. Hallelujah!
Over the years, I have had those flashes of sheer fright…cold and alone. One such time was when our daughter was in her mid-twenties and received a cancer diagnosis. How could this happen to someone so very precious to me? It took time, but it was only when I was able to truly say, “Thy will be done,” that I could find peace and strength to go on. Thanks be to God, our daughter is healed, but at the time, I had to accept whatever outcome it was God had in store.
This is why Paul says we are to rejoice in our sufferings. These dark moments make us grab onto that Hope in God and Trust in Him so that our faith grows and deepens to the point of knowing our real purpose in life: to grow closer to Him, to become one with Him, to put our hope in Him until we enter His Eternal Home.
In what area of your life do you need God’s hope that never fails? Our God can and will use our hope in His promises to guide us and empower us to live for Him each and every day. I encourage you to live your life in endless Hope as you grower closer and closer to Him. The Word of God is all about the promise of hope in Him. Devotionals share the words of folks whose hope in Jesus powers and drives their lives. Make time for reading, learning and praying about the amazing hope we have been given and receiving the joy of life with Jesus Christ.
Let’s pray together:
Father, we love you. We praise you and adore you. Please strengthen our hope in you so that we might ever grow in your sight. Let us shine with our Hope that Never Fails, thanks to you, Father. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

God Bless You,
Barbara

Blessed Beyond Belief

Barbara Duncan, Blessed Beyond Belief

“I love to laugh. It’s good for you.  I enjoy nothing more than telling some silly story and laughing hysterically with my friends.  It feels great! Humor has certainly helped me out of quite a few tough spots on my journey.  With all the troubles that Satan kicks up, what a joy it is to laughs with friends!
Writing is my greatest passion, but cooking has to be a close second.  I’m fascinated with all the different combinations of flavors, new techniques to learn and the joys of creating a dish without a recipe!  My husband, Jack is certainly my biggest culinary fan and very bravely greets each new dish with a smile.  He even tells me the bombs are good!!  My favorite cooking activity is what I call “cleaning out the fridge.”  I pull out the veggies, leftovers, etc. and think up something new for them which will always include the universal “bonding element” in every dish I make…cheese!  (Occasionally, Jack will ask, “Can we have something without cheese tonight?”)
All that fun aside, I’d have to say that the most important words to define who I, Barbara, am, is a child of God who enjoys sharing my Christian faith with other folks. I am the wife of my husband, Jack, for 46 years, the mother of two amazing adult children and grandmother to six precious kiddos! I am also a licensed pastor serving in a small Pennsylvania church ,  a retired high school English teacher who has been researching, studying and preaching on the foundations of the Christian faith for well over 15 years.  Precious Pearls of Faith, my second published work, was born out of my desire to share thoughts on faith with those who might have the same questions that I do and the same desires to explore our beliefs in Jesus Christ.
This All Glory and Honor Ministry has been on my heart for quite some time.  As I was praying for God’s lead for my future writing, a friend referred me to a Christian Blog, and I was hooked.  This is what I wanted to do…write short, strong devotional-type messages that busy folks could read, and hopefully, be blessed by God’s word.  Why this ministry’s name?  I have a more than dear Christian friend, and she and her husband are our true family in Jesus.  I love when Ken prays before our meals together…such a heart for the Lord.  Do you know how Ken begins every prayer? “Father.  All glory and honor be unto You, oh Lord!”  Hallelujah!  There’s no better way to begin our journey in this ministry together.  I am so anxious and blessed to be traveling with you!  Hop on!
Barbara
(www.preciouspearls88.com)