Followed

Psalms 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (ESV)

When I was a small child, my Southern, Christian church congregation would sing from “Hymns of Glorious Praise”, a power packed anthology of hymns with a brown cover and a cross. Being a lover of words and music, I loved to sing the songs between the covers of this hymnal and later would learn to play many of them on piano while the congregation sang. I learned to comprehend truth from the Bible by singing the lyrics of old songs such as “At Calvary”, “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Surely Goodness and Mercy”. The saints belted these songs which still live deep in my heart as an adult.

I also remember just singing the word “Surely” for years, without even realizing that “Surely” actually would mean “for sure, without a doubt and absolutely”. As I got older in church, I realized that as I sang the words to “Surely Goodness and Mercy“, that it meant God would be with me all the days of my life.

Recently, in church, we sang a modern version of those lyrics called “Psalms 23 (Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy)”. I love the tune and how it reverently wafts into my heart causing me to want to bless the Lord as the verses state the truth in Psalm 23.

God’s truth has lasted now for thousands of years. We find Goodness and Mercy in Psalms 23:6, both of which are emphasized in the hymn and the newer version of “Psalms 23 (Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy)”. Now, I usually view God as guiding me into all truth through His Word and prayer. When I read in Psalms 23 and sing that Goodness and Mercy follow me, I wondered why I am followed by, not lead by them.

As one who loves to study word origins, I decided to dig a little deeper into the original meaning of the Hebrew words that make up Psalms 23:6. “In the original Hebrew, the word for goodness and mercy is “che-sed”. “It is a derivative of the verb ‘chas,’ which means ‘sparing’ and ‘having mercy.’ The contextual meaning of this word is precisely: ‘refrain from killing, injuring, or distressing.’ In today’s fruit of the Spirit, che•sed is translated as ‘goodness.’ God’s goodness is with us to help and guide into truth. ” 1

So, God is sparing us from harm with his Goodness. I imagine that He spares us moment by moment when situations arise that would try to harm, but I also think that His goodness must continue to spare us even after an event has happened that could have brought injury. He is still working on our behalf long after a situation has tried to disturb and hinder our lives.

While walking into a business recently, a stranger, who happened to arrive at the same time as me, spoke some words to me which to him were probably harmless because he was thinking that he was joking. However, as I entered the building, my heart became overcome with sadness that he would have spoken to me in a way that could have been construed as a joke OR as a put down. I’ll be honest, I saw a friend later and told her how his words had jolted me. She gave me a hug and told me he most likely was joking.

Nevertheless, his words continued to ripple in my heart. Like a stone dropped into my heart lake, I sensed that these words would stay with me. And they did. I felt disturbed, irritated and aggravated that someone would use words in such an irresponsible way. After singing the “Surely Goodness and Mercy” song in church two days later and studying the word meanings, I can say that God’s Goodness is protecting me. Even if the person meant the words as a put down, I know that God is sparing me from their effects. He is helping me release the hurt and causing me to appreciate how His “sparing” also helped me to not respond in anger to that person. I am also thankful that he provided a friend soon after this encounter with the stranger to hug me because I really needed it and her words of encouragement.

Goodness and Mercy together are blessings of the Lord and will follow us. “The Hebrew verb translated “follow” pictures these two virtues—goodness and mercy—as actively pursuing David. It can be said that these twin components of divine love are like two sheepdogs that help the shepherd corral his flock. They shadow the flock in order to steer them in the right direction. When the sheep go astray, these sheepdogs bring them back. When we slow down, they spur us on. So it is with goodness and mercy that pull up the rear. They are constantly driving us closer to the Good Shepherd. ” 2

What a great mental picture to see the dogs steering the sheep. Oh, how I need the steering of God in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. It is comforting to know that God is guiding even if from behind because his goodness and mercy will lead me closer to Him, to His Comfort and to His Truth.

After words are spoken to us, God spares and points us into truth. The words that the stranger had issued to me in the parking lot, didn’t define me; only God’s view of me is the truth; Not the view of a stranger. I am thankful that the effects of his goodness and mercy sunk deep into my heart lake causing the ripples of the word stone from the stranger to dissipate and dissolve. Only His truth remains. His goodness and mercy continue to be there, to follow me and rectify the issue.

On more occasions that I realize, I know that His mercy has provided the start-over that I needed when I made a mistake. God’s goodness and mercy have spared my life from destruction. I notice that God allows His attribute of being good and merciful to also clean up my messes. He gives us free will and at times, well let’s just say, we blow it. We make mistakes. Thankfully, he not only sees our chosen path but is helping to recover us when we haven’t listened well to Him.

I want to listen to Him so that I will feel his direction as to what to and how to speak and interact with people. His goodness and mercy aren’t just for this generation or the previous one. They are for all of us in each generation both now and forevermore.

Psalms 100:5 “For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.” (NKJV)

I hope you will think about the goodness and mercy that God has provided to all who trust in Him.

1 https://hebrew.jerusalemprayerteam.org/goodness-grace-charity-mercy/

2 https://tabletalkmagazine.com/article/2018/08/surely-goodness-and-mercy-shall-follow-me-all-the-days-of-my-life/

Established

2 Thessalonians 2:16 – 17 ESV
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”

You’ve seen it before on a sign. Est.1988 or Est.2002. Est means “established”. The point of being established is to have a distinct beginning.

On September 30, 2019, our pastor called a special prayer meeting over all of the children in our church. He prayed over babies, toddlers and all other children. He told us to remember the date as the day when God’s Blessing was spoken over all of our children.

God moved on my pastor in mid September to call the meeting for September 30, 2019. God established this date before time began knowing that our duty would be obedience to Him to bring them and have them Blessed. As parents, it is our job to instill the Word of God in the hearts of our children. It is our job as parents to train them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. My husband and I dedicated them back to the Lord when they were babies, then they accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior when they were small children. They love Him so I was thrilled to get the chance to bring them to church for a special night of blessing.

When we see God at work in ways that could only have been orchestrated by His Hand, we will know that the gifts that they have are being stirred up. He mentioned that Paul told Timothy to stir up the gift that was within him and that he received this gift with the laying on Timothy of Paul’s hands.

The elders of our church were called to be positioned in the aisles then every family moved to the nearest elder to be anointed with oil. My children were anointed on the forehead and so was I in the shape of a cross and with the words “In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost” spoken by Joe Cherry. I believe that after we prayed in agreement with Pastor, God accomplished a special calling and purpose in the lives of my family members.

My pastor quoted Scripture.

Exodus 20:13 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Joel 2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.

3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

He prayed for each child to be strong, knowing that greater is he that is in them, than he that is in the world.

We sang and rejoiced in the power of God’s word and Blessing over our children. We agreed together that God has special gifts for each child. It was fitting that we asked God to develop each child’s gifts so that they would choose to honor Him and bring glory to His name.

My prayer:

Let your will be done, Heavenly Father, on Earth as it is in Heaven. The date of September 30, 2019 will forever be in our hearts as a day that my children and I were greatly blessed and highly favored by you, called for your purpose and established for every good work in Christ Jesus.

2 Thessalonians 2:16 – 17 English Standard Version
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

Called

In June of 2019, my pastor started calling special Monday night prayer meetings and originally spoke in June on the Scripture Hosea 10:12 (NIV) “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.“ I blogged in June about praying during this special TIME.

I prayed a lot during the summer, not just on Monday nights, about the direction that God wanted me to go as a writer. School was out and I had special time, set aside by God, to pray, process and ponder. God knows my heart and how I need Him every minute of every day, but especially when I need wisdom on how to proceed with my life.

I believe that God began answering my prayers in late July 2019. When His heart speaks to my heart, the puzzle pieces come together.

In late July 2019, I felt a call to see my writing in my blog as a ministry. This call from God to me came through ministers at the She Speaks 2019 Writing Conference in July and from a minister at Bridge of Hope Church in Greensboro, NC. I had been praying and seeking the Lord to help me in my life, in my journey as a blog writer with a hope to publish a book one day, in my relationships and in my new journey in creating and planning for my new STREAM Studio at school. I was also in prayer for my husband, children, parents, in-laws and friends. As I prayed from mid June to mid July, I was being prepared to receive the words of the ministers and to understand that he has a plan for me. I know I am an elementary school teacher, a wife and mom, but now I can say I am also a minister of the gospel. Here’s my testimony of how He called me.

Before July 2019, I had never viewed my blog as a ministry. I just sort of wrote as I felt the topic develop and flow in my head. I hoped that my words encouraged and blessed others as I applied God’s Word to my life in my writing, but as I heard the minister, Bianca Olthoff, speak at the streaming version of She Speaks Conference on that July evening, the word of God spoke to me like never before. She read Ezekiel 37:1-14. This passage shows us a valley of dry bones. As I visualized this desolate place, I began to see that many people now are in a similar place: lacking the right resources, feeling hopeless, unable to stand and missing their purpose.

I heard God tell Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones in that valley and tell them God’s special message for them in Ezekiel 37:5-6: “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Look! I am going to breathe into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.”

Ezekiel spoke and the miraculous happened. The bones became covered with muscles and flesh. Then, Ezekiel spoke again to them under God’s direction so that breath would enter their bodies and it did! They became as a great and mighty army.

I loved what God finished with in Ezekiel 37:12: “Now give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel.” His purpose in raising the dead to life was to bring them back to his perfect plan for them.

I knew as I processed her message that night that God needed Ezekiel to obey and speak the words of life to allow the people to be more than a pile of bones. I also love to hear from God as he illuminates His Word in my heart and helps me in my life. He needs me to obey and speak words of life and share His truth.

As Bianca Olthoff spoke that night at the She Speaks Conference, I became aware that my writing in my blog should be viewed as one that will continue to speak life and share truth just as Ezekiel had done. I want to obey God, continue writing in my blog and one day publish a book, but NOW at THIS TIME with an understanding that he has called me to be a writer. I am not just writing because I want to; I am writing because I must.

I heard Bianca talk about stepping out in faith and into ministry.  I have often considered my blog as a place to share my faith and about time well spent with God and family.  I realized that I needed to step out and build a new website to house my blog and continue to encourage people.  At my new website, www.lisamaples.net, readers will have a safe place to land and learn God’s Word, its application in my life and how they can apply it to their hearts. I am stepping out in faith and into ministry. I am still a teacher who loves my day job, but in the evenings and on weekends, I write.

On Sunday, the day after hearing the speakers from She Speaks share mighty words of wisdom, I heard Valerie Moreno, the Next Gen Pastor at Bridge of Hope Church, where I was visiting my parents and their church which happens to be the church where I grew up. She reminded me that Jesus told us to go in to all the world teaching whatever he has commanded us.  He wants us to be witnesses of him and to his gospel.  I realized at that moment that my website can go into all the world through the power of the internet. If I will obey, He can use my words on the blog to reach women who I may never meet, but He knows them and their needs. He will carry His message. I must be faithful to proclaim it.

Pastor Valerie’s message focused on the gifting of the Spirit, the working of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit.  She spoke from 1 Corinthians 12:5-11:

“There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  Now to each one the manifestations of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretations of tongues.  All of these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”  

I knew from her message that I must operate as a writer in the gifting of the Spirit.  His gifting has a purpose which is to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit who gives boldness and will carry the message of the gospel.

Pastor Valerie shared Acts 4:29 and 31 where Believers had faced persecutions.  They said, “Lord, Consider their threats and give us boldness.”  They were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke with boldness.

I believe that me blogging through the past few years has given me boldness to speak about how God has helped me.  I can do nothing apart from Him. I recognize that in order to speak and write for the common good, I must ask him to help me speak with boldness in my writing and in person.  

I realized during her message that The Fruit of the Spirit will reveal the heart. We need the Fruit of the Spirit along with His Gifting. Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  Against such things there is no law.”

Pastor Valerie read John 15:5:  “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” She proclaimed that we are alive because we are connected to the source and that I will bear fruit if I stay connected to Jesus. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. When God gifts me with something, I have to be responsible for it and bear fruit. Evidence of Fruit shows that God has nurtured me. 

Wendy Blight, another amazing speaker at She Speaks 2019, declared this:

“I am strong, brave and courageous.  I am entrusted with sacred assignments.  That is my call. I am going out to help women know that they have a call, a purpose, and that they are women of valor.”

I am a woman of valor.  I love this view of women.  We are meant to be helpers in our homes and now in order to share words that God inspires through me, I want to be brave, be courageous and be bold.

The weekend of July 25 – 28, 2019 will always be the weekend where God called me out of darkness into his marvelous light. He made it clear that He wants me to write, that He’ll give me the words and that He will receive all the glory as I abide in Him.

So, after further contemplation, I am sharing my calling from God similar to how Paul shared his calling and purpose for ministry with Titus in Titus 1:1-2.

Who I am in Christ:  I am Lisa Maples, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, redeemed by the blood of Jesus and restored.  I am a teacher, a writer, a wife and a mother.  

Tagline:  My ministry is to speak life by proclaiming Christian faith to women and to share truth so that others may know it and live godly lives. I savor moments spent with my family and friends knowing that God gives us all things to enjoy.  

Key Benefit:  The purpose of my calling is to encourage other Christians to know the truth found in God’s Word, to deepen and strengthen the confidence that believers in Jesus have and to be a witness of Jesus and his gospel message of transformation which brings hope and is for the common good.  As I spend time reading God’s Word and praying, His Holy Spirit will reveal the heart and mind of God. It is my desire for my words which are inspired by God to inspire and help others to bear fruit in the kingdom of God.

Check out Paul’s words in Titus 1:1-3:

V.1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. V.2 This truth gives them the confidence of eternal life, which God promised them before the world began – and he cannot lie. V.3 And now at the right time he has revealed this Good News, and we announce it to everyone. It is by the command of God our Savior that I have been trusted to do this work for him.

I loved how Paul described who he is and why he has been sent which is to proclaim faith and to teach people to know the truth which shows them how to live godly lives. In addition, he sensed that God had entrusted him to reveal Good News at the right time and announce it to everyone.

God gave Paul specific directions. His Word spoke to me this past summer after a month of praying and also gave me specific directions. I have studied the Bible and am placing Scripture References below which have also touched my heart and shaped my perception of God calling me to see my writing as a ministry.

Acts 1:8 You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.  You will be my witnesses in Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

Acts 2:4 The Holy Spirit came on them with tongues of fire.  (My prayer is for God to allow me to speak as He gives the utterance, just as they did.)  

1 Corinthians 12:5-11 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  Now to each one the manifestations of the Spirit is given for the common good. 

John 15:26 When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.

Joel 2:28-29 I will pour out my Spirit on your sons and daughters and they will proclaim the truth/prophecy.

Ezekiel 37:10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

John 8:31-32 If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

I want people to read my words and hear the truth of God so their lives will be transformed with hope.  I want to savor moments in his Word and feel so full after being in His presence. I am wanting to share moments from my life because this is what I have done on my blog and know that God has moved mightily in my life to rescue, redeem and restore. 

I am working on transforming my new website to an even better version of itself. I hope it will be revealed in the next few months with the new name of www.SpeakLifeShareTruth.com. The new website will have a brand new look and will be an inviting place for my readers to reach my faith based blog, teacher blog and some Freebies that I am creating! I just felt that today, as we are transitioning from Summer to Fall, I wanted to testify and share the words that God used to help me see that He needs for me to share my writing through the lens of ministry. He is with me and will guide me into all truth.

May God receive all of the glory as I speak life, share truth and savor moments. 

Filled

After reading Colossians 1:9 this week, I wrote it in my journal the way that Paul had written it when he composed it. Then, I decided to start praying it from a first person point of view; in fact, it was from my point of view. I have shared it in this blog post by placing it in a picture.

I am praying for God to fill me with the knowledge of His will so that I may live a life worthy of him and please him in everything. This first line is one that I am repeating over and over. I want to know His will for my life. I am a teacher and love enriching the lives of children. I also know that God has given me a desire to speak life and share truth with others through my writing. I am working on new writing projects and desire to know His will for how to proceed as a Christian writer and as a teacher.

I have also been praying to bear fruit in every good work, to grow in the knowledge of God and to be strengthened with all power from Him. Colossians 1:9 proclaims the truth that we will have great endurance and patience once the Holy Spirit strengthens us. I look forward to how God will help me.

Finally, I am praying that I will give joyful thanks to my Heavenly Father for all of His Blessings. I know that His provision is like no other. His love reaches to the heavens. His faithfulness reaches to the skies. I depend on God to fill me and answer this prayer.

I invite you to also pray and invite God to fill you with the knowledge of His will so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way. Take a look at the prayer that I placed in the picture in this post and join me in praying it.

I also invite you to visit my new website at http://www.SpeakLifeShareTruth.com for more encouragement.

Covered

I gripped the steering wheel for two hours as I encountered blinding, torrential rain at dusk on that humid August night in N.C..  My hazard lights blinked furiously to alert the other interstate drivers that I could barely see them. After safely arriving at my parents’ home that Monday evening in anticipation for my dad’s open heart surgery on Tuesday, the phone rang around 9:00 p.m. and my dad’s surgeon explained that the surgery for the next morning had been postponed.  The monster hail storm had knocked out power to the hospital and they were running on generators.  

While I sat on my parents’ back porch on Tuesday, I prayed. A Scripture in Luke touched my heart in Luke 1:35:  “And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy  – the Son of God.” The Power of the Most High God came over Mary and overshadowed her allowing her to be filled with the holy Son of God!

Just as Mary was trying to understand how it could be that she could have a child, I was trying to make sense of why my dad was having to go through a massive ordeal with having his heart surgery and now the delay of surgery.   I decided that whatever God had planned for my father and family, we needed to go into it by asking His Holy Spirit to cover and overshadow my father to allow us to accept His perfect plan.  When God is preparing you for the purpose that he has planned, He provides His Presence.   

Later that evening, I shared Luke 1:35 with my parents then I prayed.  I asked God to come on my dad and overshadow him and the whole process with His Holy Spirit.  He had transformed the insides of Mary and I trusted Him to transform the heart of my dad through surgery.  On Wednesday morning, the surgery happened and lasted nearly seven hours. As we waited, we trusted God to overshadow and protect my dad. 

Sitting in a hospital waiting room with my husband who had driven two hours that morning to be there, my parents’ pastor to Seniors, his wife, and two life long friends, we kept waiting for the call from the operating room that surgery for my dad was over.  The operating room had called at 12:45 p.m. stating that the surgery would take a bit longer than expected. We thought it would conclude around 2:30, but it was almost 4:00 p.m. and the open heart quadruple bypass surgery was still happening. Having friends sitting and talking with us gave my mom, my husband and me support and comfort. Just after 4:00, the surgeon shared that the surgery had been successful, although there were some difficulties, but my dad had survived!

We had prayed for God to come and overshadow my dad the night before his surgery.  The next 24 hours allowed us to see my dad wake up from the surgery, walk through the Heart Intensive Care Unit with a walker and sit in a chair.  Each day, he made more progress, left ICU and a week later, would go home. This life changing surgery will take many months of physical therapy to learn how to move now that his sternum has been opened and wired together, but I believe that my dad and his amazing nurse, my mom, have had and will continue to have a supernatural overshadowing by God.  I am praying that whatever the challenge, the Holy Spirit of God will overshadow and help them both.

On Thursday of that week, the day after my dad’s surgery, I travelled back home by a two hour road trip, conducted my daughter’s planned birthday party and went back to work on Friday then the first day of school happened the next Monday.  I knew God hovered close throughout the whirlwind of events. I appreciated all of the prayers of our friends which God heard and granted. I also couldn’t have been ready to host a party at my home without the wonderful support of my mother and father in law and my daughters!

On Saturday evening, I returned to the hospital two hours from my home and chose to spend the night in my dad’s hospital room so that my mom could rest at home with my family who had also come for a visit.  Laying on the hard hospital recliner, I sensed that my dad’s recovery would be a way for God to reveal His covering on my father. I slept very little but knew God was preparing me to trust Him even in the details.  My prayer shifted for God to help my dad in every single detail of his recovery.

God promises that we can experience His Presence as we dwell in His shelter and abide in His shadow.  As Mary was overshadowed by the power of God to allow His purpose to be produced, Mary was prepared and protected.  In our lives, we can pray for Him to overshadow us and our families as we embark on new challenges.  It may not be open heart surgery, but believe me, there will be something to cause an uneasiness and questions.  When disruption arrives on your doorstep, invite the Presence of the Most High God to come on you and overshadow you.  Count on Him, my friend, to come and cover you like only He can do.  

His power will produce His purpose for you as you are prepared and protected.

I have also been inspired by Psalm 91:1 (ESV) to build on my understanding of God’s Covering:  “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” The King James version says “secret place” instead of “shelter”.  I have learned that the original Hebrew word for “secret place” means a cover, covering or protection while “shadow” in this Scripture means shade, overshadowing, hovering.  I love how as Believers in Jesus we can live in His covering and be overshadowed by Him. It is my hope that we can all ask the Most High God to cover us and shade us from the frenzy around us, whatever it may be. There will be disruptions to alter our plans, but our God is great and mighty, a shade and a cover for us.  

I learned about the original Hebrew from Psalm 91:1 from this site:  

https://www.fromhispresence.com/3-ways-to-stay-under-gods-overshadowing/

For more encouragement, visit http://lisamaples.net