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A Sense of Purpose by Linda Gleason 1 5/5 (1)

We all desire to be everything we can be for God. This is a worthy ambition. Unfortunately, there are many roadblocks on the path to this goal. Perhaps one of the greatest areas of need in this regard is a lack of sense of purpose.

It’s possible to determine a course of action and work toward that goal until the objective is reached. Paul told the saints at Corinth in, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give” (II Corinthians 9:7). According to this verse, giving that pleases God involves a sense of purpose. If this is true in our giving, I believe it is true in other areas of our lives.

Dreams only become reality when we develop a sense of purpose that translates into action. Ecclesiastes 5:3 tells us “For a dream cometh through the multitude of business.” Our lives are filled with good intentions, but as the years pass we never attain many because of our lack of purpose. Jesus is coming soon, but even if He does tarry, three score and ten is not a very long time. We must make every day count.

Can we accept the challenge of II Corinthians 9:7 in the following areas of our lives?
“Every man as he purposeth in his heart, so let him . . .”

Pray and fast . What a noble desire. However, too often it ends there. Let us purpose to seek God as never before – and then do it.

Read the Word. We have had a goal in our church for several years of reading the Bible through each year. This is not all that is necessary in the area of Bible study but it is a good place to start. Many have never read the entire Bible one time. Purpose in your heart and then accomplish that goal.

Win a soul to God. This needs to be the desire of every child of God. For this to happen, we must take steps to see it accomplished. Give your personal testimony. Let people know what God has done in your life. Teach a home Bible study. Invite someone to the house of God. Pray with people at the altar.

These are just a few of the areas where purpose is needed. Let God talk to your heart about other areas. Your greatest enemy will be procrastination. It steals away our good intent.

My father-in-law, W. C. Gleason, used to quote a poem that packs a powerful punch.

Procrastination is my sin
It brings me nought but sorrow
I know that I should stop it
In fact, I will, Tomorrow!
(Gloria Pitzer)

We must declare war on procrastination! Let the things we have always intended become a reality. Things can be different if we purpose in our hearts to make them different! As a result, we will see many of our dreams for the kingdom of God fulfilled.

Linda Gleason, Ladies Ministries President.
(Information from: SISTERS Military Newsletter – October 2019 – UPCI Ladies Ministries sisters@upci.org)

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What Prayer Produces by Pastor Phillip Hofstetter 1 4/5 (1)

Truth be told, there is a realistic lack of prayer time not only in the church, but in it is leadership. It is not that people don’t necessarily want to pray. It is not that people don’t pray, but it is the quality of the prayer and the time spent in prayer that is the concern. There should not be less prayer, but more prayer. The encouragement needs to come from those who do pray effectively to those who don’t pray very much. The focus is to change the deficit of prayer. There needs to be a will to overcome the tendency not to pray. The busyness of schedules prevents the most needed thing of all…Prayer Time. A mind to pray is what is needed.

There needs to be a purpose for prayer. There needs to be an intentional time to pray. Incentive, Initiation, and Desire, are words that describe what it takes to actually enter into a quality prayer time. A greater prayer life takes time, and is progressive. Start your day with prayer. Set your prayer times to pray and keep it. The results will lead to more prayer.

Some of the things that prayer produces:

  1. A greater relationship with Jesus.
  2. A greater understanding of His will.
  3. A growing sensitivity to the leading of the Spirit of God.
  4. A greater recognition of His presence.
  5. Problems are revealed by the Lord, along with what it takesto resolve them.
  6. A greater understanding (revelation) of who God is and of His Word.
  7. A greater leadership ability.
  8. True effectiveness comes through intimacy with God.
  9. Quality of what is done for the Lord is improved.
  10. Revival in you, your church, and those around you.

Pastor Phillip Hofstetter, Guest Writer
District Prayer Coordinator, Florida District

(Information from: The Praying Life Newsletter – World Network of Prayer – wnopadmins@upci.org)

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Kindness: Naomi and Ruth’s Way by Paula Nilsen 1 5/5 (1)

Growing up in Sweden, I loved receiving visitors in our home. I associated visitors with gifts – boxes of chocolates, beautiful cakes, and flowers. As the recipient it was always such a joy.

My room would be converted to a guestroom as needed. Often guests left gifts. I have fond memories running to my room after they left to find my surprise. I favored the guests by the gifts they left. Their kindness did not go unnoticed.

I am reminded of individuals who did not go empty handed to the ones they loved. Naomi brought an amazing gift with her back from the country of Moab. There were gifts left by Boaz for Ruth; gifts brought to Naomi from Ruth, but my favorite-because I get to enjoy it too-was the gift of peace of mind left for us all by God.

Naomi returned home from the land of Moab empty handed, destitute, a sorrowing widow, without children, and bitter toward herself. Her husband’s decision to move the family to Moab led her into the darkness. God’s grace led her out and back to Him.

Ruth had heard about Naomi’s God and wanted to know more. Because of this, she was willing to leave behind everything she ever knew. Having lived abroad I know the significance of this move. Ruth’s kindness and loyalty to Naomi brought her to a new home and a new life; her commitment to her mother-in-law and a God she didn’t know is remarkable.

Naomi thought she was returning empty handed but, in reality, she was returning to Israel with what would be the greatest gift known to mankind-Ruth is listed in the genealogy of Jesus, remember?

In the pit of despair, Naomi couldn’t see the plan of God unfolding. She even instructed Ruth to return back to her family, back to her gods, but Ruth was determined to stay on the path that led to favor. It’s a lonely road for those who turn from favor. But Ruth clung to Naomi, sensing deliverance, no doubt. It wasn’t long and God began to shine His light into Naomi’s darkness.

When we can talk of little else but our dark circumstances, it is His hand that lifts us out of troubled waters and places us beside still waters. Often He pairs us with a sister who straightens our thinking, offers encouragement, and gives the strength needed to lift our head to watch God’s plan unfold. There’s no need to go it alone.

Jesus left us the gift of peace of mind and heart. (See John 14:27, NIV.) Don’t go empty handed to the ones you love. Bring with you His grace, His love, His peace, and His joy. Your kindness will be noted.
(Information from: PURE Newsletter – UPCI Ladies Ministries – ladiesconnections@upci.org)

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My Benevolent Author by Jill Fierge 1 4/5 (1)

March 16, 2010, felt like the beginning of the end for me. This was the day my husband sat with me on our beloved porch swing and told me he was attracted to another woman. I will never forget the awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. That day started the battle for my marriage as well as the battle for my soul. Over the next year and a half, I interceded, sought counseling, made changes, all in my desperate attempt to save our marriage. At times we made progress, other times it felt like a step back. I told no one. Who could I tell? Many would label me a fool for even wanting to stay in the marriage. At least I felt like there was hope while he was still there. I was just sure if I prayed enough, was sweet enough, and got thin enough my marriage would make it.

October 15, 2011, was the day my husband moved out. Just when I thought things were getting better and we were going to make it, his emotional affair turned to a physical affair and our marriage was over. He wanted a divorce. Words bombarded my mind, “You are a fool. Why did you even try? You look so desperate.”

In that moment I had a decision to make. Let the voices continue to berate, or look in the mirror and realize only God’s opinion mattered. What did God think of me? I still had many questions: after being involved in ministry with my husband for over 25 years, would there ever be a place for me again? Would my children lose their faith? Would I live in poverty for the rest of my life? Would I be the one of whom people whispered, “I don’t understand. They always seemed so happy.” With dozens of questions in my mind, I sought out the One who has all the answers. One by one, He systematically, methodically and with great purpose answered my questions.

No, I was not a desperate fool who tried unsuccessfully to salvage a doomed marriage. I was simply a woman who loved her husband and was committed to marriage. Yet, I had to realize I could not control anyone else’s choices.
God still loved me. His opinion of me had not changed. His love had never wavered. Since I tried to walk this trial with integrity, releasing all bitterness and anger to God, I felt I pleased Him. I understood the answer to the question, “What does God think of me?”
Would I ever be used in ministry again? This was largely in my control. How did I respond to this trial? If I chose bitterness and anger, my testimony could not be used. However, if I chose to allow God to build better character through this, He can open doors for me to use a very painful experience for good.
Will I always be poor? I may not live with the degree of financial security I previously enjoyed, but my children and I have learned first-hand the unique beauty of God’s provision. Instead of losing their faith, this has increased my children’s faith. Their walk with God has become deeply personal and intimate as they have had to search out things for themselves.
If anyone “whispers” about me, it is with complete concern and compassion. I have felt nothing but total love and care from the family of God. The church has been a safe place for my kids and me. Our choice to stay involved has served us well.
Oct 30, 2013, was the day my divorce was final. It began a new chapter in my life. God is still writing on the pages of my heart, and I am with anticipation watching the direction the storyline takes. This Author can be trusted to take a heartbreaking story and write a joyful end.

NOTE: Jill has been blessed with four incredible children and a beautiful daughter-in-law. Jill enjoys music, reading and day spas! She attends The Sanctuary in Hazelwood, MO, pastored by Mitchell Bland.

Information from: UPCI Ladies Ministries – https://ladiesministries.com/programs/hope/article/-if-i-chose-bitterness-and-anger-my-testimony-could-not-be-used

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He Was There All the Time by Alexa Olson 1 5/5 (1)

He Was There All the Time!
“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20).

A few years ago, after a regular mammogram, I was told there was a suspicious lump and I needed a biopsy. I was given the dreaded news it was indeed cancerous. Arrangements were made and I had surgery to remove the lump.

I had adopted two babies at the age of 52, was a busy pastor’s wife, as well as music minister of our church. I just could not afford to be out of commission for long! So I had surgery on a Thursday before Easter and I was sitting on the organ and leading choir that Easter Sunday of 2012. Only family and church staff knew I had been through surgery. I didn’t want anyone to know. I recovered and went on with my life.

In March 2017, I noticed a lesion on the scar from my surgery. I went to my doctor hoping he could fix it. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Honey, that is cancer!” I said, “The devil is a liar.” He immediately called a fellow surgeon in, and a biopsy was done right there. The labs came back as cancer, but they believed it could be removed. I made an appointment with a surgeon.

As my husband and I sat waiting for the surgeon to come in, I felt calm and that God was in control. When the surgeon came in, she said my breast cancer had metastasized to my bones in multiple places. I was Stage IV, and it had been there about two years. “I am sorry I cannot help you, but you can manage it,” she said. That was it; she and her assistant walked out. My husband and I looked at each other like “what just happened?” But I did not feel fear. I had confidence God was going to take care of me.

My son wanted me to get a second opinion. Through this doctor I learned of a new drug that had just been released. Through a series of events, I was able to receive this new, and very expensive, medicine – free. A miracle! I felt such peace that God was going to see me through. Eight months after taking this drug my tests showed no tumors. My wellness did not happen in an instant, but God orchestrated a miracle and ordered my steps to receive it.

“And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it” (Acts 4:14).

Note: Alexa Olson, along with her husband Rick Olson, pastors Church of Pentecost in Jacksonville, Florida. She is also the music minister and enjoys leading a talented choir. Alexa has four children and three grandchildren. She is one of five daughters of Reverend William R. and June Starr.

(FROM: Ladies Prayer Intl October 2019 – UPCI LM – ladiesprayerintl@aol.com)

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The Lord Directs My Steps by Brianne Buford 1 5/5 (1)

“I’m so sorry, I can’t find a heartbeat.” The room began to spin. I had heard these same devastating words four years prior. Surely this wasn’t happening to us again! We walked to the car, numb, reliving a nightmare we had already experienced. Why, God? We thought this baby was our promise, our rainbow after the storm. Sure, we had two living children to drive home to, but that didn’t change the feelings of loss and grief we found ourselves experiencing for the second time in four years.

Over the next several months, I dealt with the overwhelming desire to have another child. I would dream that I was holding a new baby, then would wake confused and, at times, angry. I experienced feelings of extreme guilt, wondering why I couldn’t just be thankful for the two healthy children I was blessed with instead of longing for another. Then one Sunday night my father-in-law preached. Following his sermon, he told the congregation, “Tell God what you need.” I knelt down that night and prayed a simple prayer; “God, if it’s not Your will for us to have another baby, I need You to take the desire away. If it is Your will, then I need You to make a way.” I immediately felt peace come over me, and God put a verse in my heart that night as I knelt at my pew. “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

A few months later we were shocked to discover we were expecting another baby. Fear and worry overcame me. This was not our plan. How could I go through another loss? How could I face people who would surely think we were crazy for not being content with the two children we already had? I felt God gently nudging me back to the verse He gave to me. “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” I remember where I was sitting in the doctor’s office when I said the words out loud to God, “God, this is YOUR plan. This is YOUR baby. Whatever happens, I will trust You.”

For the next nine months when fear would overtake me, when I would wait for what felt like hours for the nurse to find a heartbeat, when I would lay awake the night before each doctor visit, trying not to let fear and anxiety overtake me, I would quote my verse. “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” Then, on August 11, 2017, our baby was born. The doctor was shocked to find that his umbilical cord was barely connected to the placenta. What should have been another loss for our family was instead a true miracle from God.

I held our baby boy for the first time and wept, repeating the words “God, this is YOUR plan. This is YOUR baby. A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”

Note: Brianne Buford is wife to Brandon and mom to Zane, Zoe, and Zeke. They live in O’Fallon, Missouri, where Brandon pastors The Lighthouse UPC.

*In loving memory
Zachariah Buford 5-27-12
Zion Buford 3-17-16

(From: Ladies Prayer Intl October 2019 – UPCI LM – ladiesprayerintl@aol.com)

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Expect Your Miracle by Khrista Favors 1 5/5 (1)

One of the most beautiful sights, to me, is my precious baby girl resting peacefully, to know she is getting the rest she needs to grow and develop properly. She is not concerned about her tomorrows or what happened yesterday. She simply trusts all will be okay and she will be provided for. In fact, she expects it.

I have sat watching her sleep and wondered if that’s how God feels when I simply rest in His ability, when I trust and expect that everything will be okay? As a new mom, it can be hard to fully trust God. I have found myself wanting answers, looking for solutions, or driving myself crazy doing research.

My daughter, Kinsey, has had many difficulties in her short little life. Twice, she’s had minor surgeries in her mouth for a very restricted tongue that hindered her ability to nurse properly and get the nourishment she needed, as well as causing me tremendous pain. She is also on medication for severe reflux and has a dairy and soy sensitivity which, for her sake, limits my diet considerably.

It would be so easy to ask why. But remembering that little eyes are watching everything I do, with the help of God, I redirect my focus and ask another question. I ask Him to lead.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way” (Psalm 37:23).

God knew I would be restricted in the activities I can be a part of because of my daughter’s needs and restrictions. He knew I would feel like I’m not doing my part to help pioneer this new mission field. However, this is the path He has chosen for us to walk, and I can trust Him in it. He also knew that through and because of these difficulties we would make friendships and connections we would not otherwise have made.

Do I enjoy seeing my baby in discomfort? No, but I know who holds our tomorrow. I know from experience, in relationship with Him, that He is faithful. Because I know His character, I too can rest peacefully knowing my heavenly Father is in control and desires the best for us.

“For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11).

While I wait, expecting her miracle of physical healing, my prayer is to allow these circumstances to form His image in me. I desire to be changed, to go deeper than ever before, so I can be a better mother, one who teaches by example and not just words.

Note: Khrista Favors was raised on the mission field in La Paz, Bolivia, and spent five years in Barcelona, Spain with her parents pioneering the church “Los Pentecostales de Barcelona”. She and her husband are currently pioneering the first apostolic work in the nation of Luxembourg. She feels blessed that her daughter will also have the privilege of being raised on the mission field.

(Information from: Ladies Prayer Intl October 2019 – UPCI LM – ladiesprayerintl@aol.com)

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Jesus Loved Judas by Crystin Latta 1 4/5 (1)

“Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9…)

When considering difficult people, we must be careful to distinguish between truly dangerous people (who wish to destroy us) and those who are merely “different.” Culturally speaking, I have been called a godsend in some places and a nuisance in others. If we are honest, cultural differences can sometimes be deemed “difficulties.” But what does the Bible teach us?

Sometimes the only thing that makes a person difficult to us is the way we perceive them. If someone does not carry themselves in a way that pleases us, we may immediately dislike them. This may cause division and blindness toward their gift and purpose in God.

The Bible says we must esteem one another as better than ourselves. Humility will help us have patience. (Read Ephesians 2:1-8.) Pride can become a wedge between believers. Demanding that others conform will stifle the beautiful diversity of gifts and abilities. Everyone comes to the table with something different to offer. We need wisdom in dealing with souls; we are, after all, fishers of men.

First Corinthians 13 speaks of love. It also says we must believe all things and hope all things. Every commentary I’ve read said that means to believe the best about people. It doesn’t mean we ignore their sins. It means we have faith the same God who started a good work in us is at work in their lives as well.

The Bible teaches God looks on the heart, while man only sees the outside. Many people have been hurt by those who claimed to be able to discern what’s wrong with other people. I’ve done this too. Discernment was given to judge between false teachers and God’s teachers. We can only judge the fruit. I’ve observed people who were considered difficult in one setting flourish and thrive elsewhere. People miss our growth and blessings when they only want those who are like them around.

Laban was a truly difficult person with evil intentions. A great man of God hit the nail on the head when he said, “The greatest lesson of Laban is don’t be that guy.” Rather than trying to control the Labans around us, we must be sure to not be him.

The three Hebrew boys and Daniel didn’t try to overthrow the oppressive government they served. They didn’t protest or rise against them. They just kept on being godly.

Lastly, Jesus didn’t gossip about Judas to the other disciples. He didn’t laugh at him behind his back. Jesus (like most pastors I know) kissed his Judas. Loved his Judas. He even covered his Judas.

Don’t worry about exposing everyone who does you wrong. There is purpose in the pain. Faithfully and patiently walk through each season, bearing one another’s burdens. Try not to make a habit of judging everyone else, but look to God and seek after wisdom in changing yourself. Once you make it through to the other side, the seemingly difficult ones will separate themselves from the wolves. And they will come under your influence willingly. Keep Christ at the center of all you do, and God will build you up in Him.

Love without agenda. Love without seeing people as a means to an end, then see how your perspective of them changes.

Crystin Latta, is wife to Darius Latta and mama to Kaiya and Cady. Crystin and her husband are both licensed ministers with the UPCI and her husband is also a sailor in the US Navy.

Information from: PURE Newsletter – UPCI Ladies Ministries – ladiesconnections@upci.org)

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