MARY Christmas

This year I’ve decided to have a MARY Christmas.
I’ve been thinking about her recently . . . and here are some things
I’m learning that I want to challenge you with, OK?

• Mary trusted God for the impossible.
When the angel announced she’d deliver the Messiah, she didn’t understand it. It seemed ridiculous, but her response was,
“I believe. It is as you say.”

This Christmas will you, too, trust God for the impossible?
Is He calling you to do something that seems ridiculous?

Even though you don’t understand and can’t see what’s ahead,
you have the opportunity—like Mary—to respond in simple faith:
“I believe. It is as You say.”

• Mary was obedient. 
Her obedience to God required her to risk disaster.
In her culture, an unmarried pregnant woman was shunned. And unless the father of the child agreed to marry her, she’d probably remain unmarried for life.

If her own father rejected her, she could be forced into begging or prostitution in order to earn her living.

And with her story about the Holy Spirit impregnating her, she risked being labeled crazy as well. It must have seemed as though everything was against her.

But in spite of the risks, Mary responded in obedience: “I am willing.”

In spite of the possible costs, will you be obedient this Christmas? Will you ask God to help you overlook the risks and simply say yes to His holy will?

When Mary said, “I am willing,” she didn’t know about the tremendous blessing she’d receive. She only knew that God was asking her to serve Him, and she willingly obeyed.

Will you react the same way? Don’t wait to see the bottom line before obeying God. Offer yourself as a wiling servant—even when the results of doing so look disastrous.
• Mary allowed herself to be accountable.
She made herself accountable to her spiritually wise and older cousin, Elizabeth.

I can imagine these two women praying and rejoicing together in their godly obedience. Make it a point to share your deepest questions, needs, requests and victories with another Christian who’s solid enough to ask appropriate questions and who’s willing to pray with you.

• Mary never lost faith that God was in control.

When Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, decreed that a census must be taken throughout the nation, it meant that Joseph and a pregnant Mary would have to make the 70-mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

Mary knew the trip wouldn’t be easy, and she could’ve easily begun questioning God’s plans. But she trusted that God was in complete control.

Can you trust that God controls ALL of history—even when you don’t understand it?

Because of the degree of Caesar Augustus, Jesus was born in the very town prophesied for His birth (Micah 5:2), even though His parents didn’t live there. God was quietly working behind the scenes, even though Mary and Joseph couldn’t see His hand.

Like Mary, I want to trust, obey, be accountable and remain faithful.

How about you?

 

Thoughts?

 

 

Embracing Hope When Life Hurts

“Is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” James 1:2-4 The Living Bible).

—James 1:2–4

Last summer—right after she came home from experiencing the spiritual high of church camp—Denise experienced the sudden loss of her 47-year-old brother, Davie.

“He was an alcoholic,” she says. “I prayed and prayed for years and never saw him get saved. “He had been drinking and climbed onto a large lawn mower and started to drive. It soon tipped over into a fifteen-foot ditch and crushed him.”

Denise was brokenhearted over the fact that she didn’t know where her brother would spend eternity.

“I hoped and hoped that he had prayed before he died. I know if he had simply called on the name of Jesus, that Jesus would have saved his soul. But I just didn’t know.”

Denise knelt at the place where Davie died, and she cried out to God. “I didn’t know how I’d continue to live with the loss of my brother and with not knowing where he was spending eternity,” she says.

While praying, Denise heard God’s voice. “Do you trust Me, Denise? Do you love Me?”

“I answered, ‘Yes, Lord. I love You with all my heart. And I do trust You.”

“I’m the only One who knows where your brother is. Leave it with Me. Trust Me.”

Denise was able to leave the issue with God right there. “He gave me His indescribable peace,” she says, “and He restored my confidence in Him. I’ve been at peace over my brother ever since that moment. And I have more confidence in God today than I ever have before. I know my Redeemer lives, and He is trustworthy!”

Just three years earlier, Denise’s mom died. “She was my best friend,” Denise says. “She had an aneurism that eventually took her life seven months later.”

After the death of her mom, both of Denise’s grandparents passed away, her dog died, and then Davie was gone. To add to the grief, two of Denise’s siblings are in jail.

“I lost weight, lost my joy, lost my sense of humor, lost friends, lost a sense of reality, lost my self-worth . . . maybe it was because the grief hit me so fast and so hard that I just didn’t know how to handle it all. I pulled back from people and became distant.”

But God didn’t leave Denise in that dark spot. Through it all, He made His presence known. “Even when I felt I had hit rock bottom, I felt Him,” she says. “I know God was with me. And He was building back my confidence in Him.”

During the darkest moments in our lives, if we have a relationship with Christ, we can still cling to the fact that we have heaven waiting for us!

“There’s a lot I don’t understand,” Denise says. “But there’s one thing I know for sure. The same Jesus who saved me and forgave my sins when I was eight years old, and the same Jesus who has set me apart for His glory, is the same Jesus who has never left me and who has always loved me.

“He has been intimately near to me through every painful moment of the unexpected. He is speaking, teaching, and patiently helping me laugh and love again.”


 

Excerpted from Susie’s latest book:

40 Days to Complete God Confidence: Stories that illustrate the liberating words of assurance from 1 John 5:13-15

 

If you’d like to purchase this book for yourself—or as a Christmas gift—it sells for $8, but you can actually get it cheaper directly from Susie.
She sells it for $5 (plus $2 shipping. ) This is cheaper than anywhere else you can get it.

Make your check to: Susie Shellenberger Ministries, and send it to Susie at: 3128 N. Timber Avenue, Bethany, OK 73008

What a Difference! (Acts 4:13)

(Acts 4:13)

Check this out:

“When the council saw the boldness of Peter and John,
and could see that they were obviously uneducated,
non-professionals, they were amazed and realized what
being with Jesus had done for them.” (The Living Bible)

Last week we chatted about Peter and John healing the lame man who was sitting on the steps of the Temple.

After being healed, he jumped up!
He ran around the Temple courtyards.
He began shouting and praising God.

Can you imagine?
Muscles, tissues, ligaments, sinews that had never worked before—
now suddenly in motion.

Ooops!
All this commotion drifted to the Sanhedrin Council.
When THEY heard about it, they were furious!

OK. Who’s the Sanhedrin Council?
Sort of a “religious supreme court” in biblical days.

They were furious, because they’d told Peter and John—
and the rest of the disciples—not to talk about Jesus anymore.

“He’s dead.
It’s over.
This Christianity thing is never going to get off the ground.
We demand your silence!”

They were used to intimidating the disciples.
They knew the disciples were a
timid
weak
frightened
group of men.

Where were they when their LORD was crucified?
They fled.
They were scared.
They ran for their lives.
(Except for John—who stayed with Jesus’ mother during the crucifixion.)

So the Sanhedrin Council is thinking,
Bring them in again, and we’ll lower the boom.
How should it go down this time?
Should we shackle them first?
Maybe we’ll starve them a few days before confronting them.
Should we bring out the cat-of-nine-tails?
How should we deal with them this time?
But this time . . .
when Peter and John stood before the Council,
they didn’t nervously shift their weight from foot to foot.

Their eyes locked intently into the eyes of the Council.
And when they spoke, it was with such determination,
such confidence.
This time, their words were articulate.
Dynamic.
Filled with power.
They stood with boldness.

There was such a DIFFERENCE in Peter and John
that the Council began arguing between themselves:

“Hey, these aren’t the same two guys we’ve hauled in before.”
“Of course they are! Look at their teeth—they’re still crooked.”
“No, I’m telling you, these are different guys!”
“Nah, they’re the same two. Notice the dirt underneath their fingernails?”
“They’re not the same!”
“Of course they are. They’re uneducated. They’re non-professionals.”

They WERE the same two men . . . but they WEREN’T the same.
That’s because the Holy Spirit had transformed them!
The Holy Spirit had taken a rag-tag gang of fearful disciples
and had transformed them into a godly band of flaming evangelists!

That’s the difference the Holy Spirit makes in our lives.

God is not into recovery; He’s into complete restoration.

He wants to sanctify us wholly to live holy lives.

Yes, Peter and John had been with Jesus.
And the difference in their lives was so astonishing that even the Sanhedrin Council noticed.

But it wasn’t simply being with Jesus that made the difference.
It was the Holy Spirit’s power being released in every area of their lives.

It was the fact that Peter and John had completely yielded to the authority of Christ. They had “died to themselves” and were genuinely living in the power of the Holy Spirit.

That same mighty power—
the power that healed a lame man
and caused the blind to see . . .

The same mighty power that set the stars in the sky
and placed the entire universe in order—

The same mighty power that raised a dead man to life . . .
is YOURS to live in every single day of your life!

Yes.
You may be a Christian.

But are you living in this kind of power?

 

 

 

 

 

He Wants YOU to Participate! (Acts 3:1-10)

It’s a fascinating account.
Peter and John are on their way to the temple to praise God and to worship.

They see a lame man sitting near the temple steps begging for money.

That’s the only way handicapped people could earn a living in Bible days; they held out a tin cup.

When he saw both Peter and John approaching, he got excited thinking, Great! There are two men. I’ll get double the amount.

But Peter gave the classic response (that you’ve probably had memorized since Vacation Bible School days): “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have, give I thee.”

In other words, “We don’t have any money. But we have something  much greater! We know the Creator of the universe. We’re on a first-name basis with Him. His name is Jesus Christ. He was crucified, but He conquered death and is alive right now. He has the power to forgive sins and grant you eternity in heaven with Him. Would you like to receive salvation?”

YES! The man excitedly accepted the apostle’s invitation to pray. And then—to the man’s surprise—Peter and John . . . in the authority of God Himself . . . healed the man.

Scripture tells us that he went leaping and screaming praises to God! He ran all around the temple courtyard.

We would, too!

Imagine: Muscles, limbs, ligaments, which had never worked before—now in fluid motion!

He could walk.
He was completely healed.

I love it.

But here’s what amazes me:
Jesus passed that man several times.

How often did Jesus go to the temple?
A lot!
The man had been there for years.
Year after year, his loved ones had carried him to the temple steps.
This was his spot.

Jesus walked right by him.

Why?
Jesus healed so many during His time on earth.
Why not this man?

Could it be . . . that Jesus simply wanted Peter and John’s participation?
Could it be that Jesus was saving this miracle for these two disciples?
Perhaps to strengthen their faith?
Maybe to remind them—after He had ascended into heaven—that His authority and power really DOES inhabit His disciples?

Jesus knows all.
He knew the exact time, moment, date . . . that Peter and John would approach this man.

He granted them the authority and power
exactly when they needed it.

I’m learning more and more that Jesus wants US to participate in what HE does!

He wants to USE us.

Sure, He could simply do each miracle with the blink of His eye,

But could it be . . . that He’s saving some things for us?

We are His disciples.
We have His authority.
We live within His power.

Are we using it?

Are you participating in all that God wants to do through you?

 

 

 

I Need a Break

I love what I do.
I’m an ordained evangelist.
That means God is allowing me to speak and write fulltime.
I travel 42 weeks/weekends every year opening God’s Word
to a variety of groups.
And though there’s absolutely nothing I’d rather do more . . .
sometimes I get physically tired.

So He has helped me discover a way to “take a break”
and still do what I love to do—talk about Him!

I have put together a Christian ladies cruise.
I’m calling it “Girlfriends, a Giant God and a Really Big Boat!”

The dates are next May 28—June 4, 2016.
Lots of laughter,
swimming with dolphins,
growing together spiritually.

I’m so excited, I can’t stand it!
And I’d love for you to come WITH me.

Maybe you, too, need a break from the pressures,
deadlines
and chores of life.

And if those dates don’t work for you?
I’m involved in another Christian cruise January 16-21, 2016.
I’m not running this one, but I’ll get to speak.
It will have a completely different feel than the ladies cruise.
The January one is for men AND women,
and it’s a Southern Gospel cruise.
Lots of good music and preaching.

The prices for both cruises are amazing!
If you need a break . . .
or if you’re wondering what to get a loved one for Christmas . . .
send me an email with your complete mailing address,
and tell me which cruise you want more information on,
and I’ll send you the brochure.

Let’s take a break.
Together.
I need one.
And I’d love to take it with YOU!

 

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him”
(Psalm 62:5).

 

susieshell@comcast.net

I’m Stuck on This Copycat Thing . . .

I know. I know. I know.
I’ve been rambling on about imitating Christ for the past few weeks.
But I can’t help it.
It’s where I am.
It’s what God is teaching me.
And I want to share it with you.

I’m still stuck on the apostle Paul.
We already looked at what he said in 1 Corinthians 4:16:
“I urge you to imitate me.”

Let’s also look at what he said in 1 Corinthians 11:1:
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (NIV).

And in Acts 20, Paul encouraged the new believers to
emulate him,
to watch him,
to listen to him,
to be like him.

Could it be that Paul knew something we’ve forgotten?
That we’re not simply called to speak the gospel—
but that we ARE the gospel!

Even though Paul was tortured,
shipwrecked,
misunderstood
and jailed,
he was living in the kingdom of God.

His eyes weren’t focused on his situation.
He looked past the pain
the discomfort
the hatred . . .
and focused instead on simply being Jesus.
And acting on earth as he would act in heaven.
He was living in the kingdom of God—
while he was on earth.

Father, help me to live in Your kingdom
right here
right now
regardless of what I’m experiencing.

Help me to imitate You.
Help me to live the kingdom life—
on earth.

Oh, Paul!

At first I found myself in awe of the apostle Paul
as he said, “I urge you to imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:16).

But I have to admit . . . later, I began to feel frustrated with him.
I mean, after all, Paul wasn’t perfect.

After his conversion, he determined to the “the great voice”
to the Jews. But they hated him. And almost every time they
heard him preach, they tried to kill him. The disciples had to
pack Paul in a basket and lower him by ropes over the city wall
at midnight just to keep him safe.

But Paul kept preaching to the Jews.
And he kept getting death threats.
And being persecuted.
And causing all kinds of division.

Finally, the disciples said, “Hey, Paul. We know God has called
you to preach. And that’s exciting. And we know He’ll use you.
But He’s just not using you here. I mean, can’t you see it?
It’s obvious that God has something else for you.
This isn’t working! Please leave and wait for God’s direction on
your ministry.”

The disciples said that!
It’s kind of funny.
It was like Paul just kept banging his head against the wall:
“This SHOULD work. It CAN work. It HAS to work.
I’m the right person for this job!”

But it wasn’t working!

If Paul could have only seen into the future:
If he could have known THEN that God would use him to bring
the Gospel to the Gentiles . . . and that he would write most of
the New Testament . . . that his ministry would be talked about,
read about and preached about for centuries . . .

Maybe it would have been easier to stop what he was doing
and move on. And wait for God’s direction. For God’s open door.
For the new ministry God wanted to give him.

After leaving the disciples and spending about a decade making
tents and waiting for God’s direction, Paul finally realized his ministry was to the Gentiles. And look what God did through Him!

Two things stand out to me:

  1. Paul wasn’t perfect. But he WAS so united with Christ, that he was able to say, “Imitate me.” God would use the Holy Spirit to seal up the cracks . . . so that when people DID watch Paul’s life, what the Holy Spirit allowed them to see was Paul’s obedient side.
  2. When God tries to shut down something we’re involved in, why do we often keep trying to force it to work?

Let’s ask God to:

  • help us live in such intimacy with Him that we’re able to say,
    “Imitate me,” because I’m copying Christ.
  • give us discernment to know when to move on and trust Him
    to open a new door.

    Thoughts?

Serious About Copycat!

Would you ever tell someone to
watch your lifestyle and imitate
all that you do?

Think about it:
Your words.
What you watch on TV.
How you spend your money.
Your reactions.
How you vote.
What you choose to fight for.
Your reading material.
What you post on social media.
Every part of your life . . .
being imitated by others!

That’s exactly what the apostle Paul
told the Corinthians to do.

Check it out:
“I urge you to imitate me”
(1 Corinthians 4:16 NIV).

I URGE you?
Isn’t this a bit arrogant?
Ephesians 5:1 tells us to imitate God!
Paul tells us to imitate him.

Do you get it?
Paul lived in such union with God
that imitating Paul would be like imitating God.

Oh. My. Goodness.

As sold-out disciples—
people who are living in radical obedience
to the Lordship of Jesus Christ—
shouldn’t we be able to say the same thing?

What if we could say this to our teens:
“Hey, I know life is tough. I realize you’re trying
to follow Christ . . . that you don’t understand
all the Bible is telling you . . . you’re still navigating
your way through Christianity and you’re wobbling.
So to make it easier, just copy me. Can you do that?
I’ll live the life of Christ right in front of you, OK?
Though you don’t understand all of Christianity yet,
just keep watching me and imitate everything I say and do,
because I’m imitating God. So as you copy me, you’ll actually
be copying God Himself.”

Oh. My. Goodness.

THAT’s what Paul was saying.
Why aren’t we saying the same thing?
Is it because we’re not living in radical obedience to Christ?

I don’t know about you . . .
but I want to be a godly role model.

I want to be like Christ.
So . . . in His strength . . . I’m not going to be “one more Christian”
who falls.
In His strength . . . I’m not going to be “one more Christian”
who causes others to question their faith.

When I’m on vacation—and no one knows who I am
or what I do—I’m not going to release words from my mouth
that I normally wouldn’t.

I’m not going to order a drink when no one’s watching.
I’m not going to pick up a cigarette and take a few puffs.
I’m not going to enter a place of entertainment that I don’t
usually frequent.

Because if I did, I’d be saying, “Imitate me when I’m in public and
when I’m at my best. But when I’m alone, don’t watch.”

What would happen if we could be parents, teachers, pastors,
role models, disciples who can say with ease,
“I URGE you to imitate me”?

All the time.

Will you join me in this goal?

Copycat!

I loved playing copycat when I was a little girl.
I’d mimic and repeat everything a friend said until I drove her nuts.
Not many people enjoyed my game.

 

Now that I’m older (I’m 92 now) . . .
(OK, not really. I just wanted to make sure you were still reading!)
Now that I’m older, I find myself yearning to copycat Someone else.
And He loves it!

 

Ephesians 5:1 says, “Be imitators of God.”
Though I often fall very short, I deeply yearn to copycat my heavenly Father.

 

I want to be like Him.
Act like Him.
Smell like Him.
Make choices like Him.
Respond like Him.

 

I’m discovering that the more time I spend with Him,
the more His Spirit works within me to mold me
shape me
remake me
and define me
in Him.

 

What would it be like to be defined by Christ?
Think about it: Michael Jordan = basketball.
Tiger Woods = golf.
Serena Williams = tennis.
(Your name) ____________ = Jesus.

 

Wow.
That’s my desire, Lord.
Thank You for never giving up on me.
Please keep working, re-working and breaking me
until I look like You.
Amen.
How do you see God working in your life to make you more like Him?

 

How’s your imitation coming?
Go ahead.
Play copycat with your Father!

The Master has Big Dreams…

Have you ever felt unworthy—as though God can’t use you?

If so, you can relate to Matthew.

He was in a less-than-idea vocation, but Christ saw his potential.

He knew what Matthew could become.

Christ sees the possibilities in you as well.

He dreams big for you.

 

When the Master Artist invites you inside the canvas, it’s for eternity.

 

(From Susie’s latest book Masterpiece. Don’t buy it from Amazon. Susie sells it cheaper. Email her for info on how to get it directly from her: susieshell@comcast.net)