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Most people think of January 1st as a time of new beginnings and fresh starts filled with resolutions and possibilities. For me, fall (or more realistically late summer when school is starting and ministries are kicking off) is my prime time to take an inventory of my life and my commitments and see renewed vision and passion for the year ahead. The beginnings of things are so exciting, aren't they? It is very easy for "yes" to roll off my lips before I give an opportunity the thought and prayer I should.

A need for a teacher in the youth area? Hmmm, maybe I could do that. The choir is short on altos this year? Well, I really love to sing and praise the Lord. A Bible study for women? What could be better than to study God's Word and fellowship? WAM could use some extra help this year? I have the skills for that. More hands are needed in the nursery? My babies are not babies anymore and I sure would enjoy taking care of little ones again. EVERYTHING sounds like a great fit for me.

Knowing that I need to seek God’s will for my life and that He calls ALL of His followers to serve Him, I have often lamented that if only God would send me a supernatural email with instructions it would be so much easier to be right where He wants me. I am missing the point with my desire for a divine "to do" list.

Ephesians 2:10 says:For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago(NLT). Jesus tells us in John 10:27: My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (NLT)

As a follower of Jesus, there are works planned for me. For ME! As I follow Jesus and my relationship with Him deepens, I will know His voice and hear Him more and more clearly. As I seek Him, the Holy Spirit leads me and guides me and will make my paths clear. It is when I rush off ahead of Him and do not wait for His leadership that I go astray. God doesn't want to send me a to-do list. He actually wants to walk with me and talk with me and lead me personally. I am so amazed and humbled at that. That is also His desire for you. Can you even believe it?!?

What does it look like to seek God's will regarding my commitments? How do I know when NO is the right answer? When is a resounding YES the best thing? I have found if I pause for the "P's" I almost never get way off track.

The first P is prayer. When an opportunity arises that I think may be a yes, I have learned to pray over it. I ask God to make clear the direction I should go. This seems so simple and obvious that it almost seems silly to point it out, but surprisingly it is the step I am most often prone not to take. This is especially true when it comes to ministry opportunities because I tend to assume it is an automatic yes. That simply is not the case, however. When I don't seek the Lord's specific will for me, I run the risk of running off and away from His best for my life.

The second P is partner. As one who is married, for me this means I need to talk about it with my husband. As we are joined together as one, what each of us does affects the other as well as our family. It isn't an issue of seeking his permission, although as the head of our family his role is to provide leadership. He sometimes sees things I do not—and vice versa. It is important to our unity that we both be on board as we choose where to invest our lives both as individuals and as a couple. If you are of a young age and still under your parent's authority, then they would be your partner at this step. If you are neither married nor a child or very young adult, I would strongly suggest you speak with a trusted friend/mentor/advisor.

The third P is priority. I take a look at the commitments I already have and the priorities specific to my own life and responsibilities and calling. A dear friend of mine and her husband have developed a mission statement for their family and they revise it each year. This is so wise! It gives my friend and her family the vision for the year ahead and makes it easier to spot those GOOD things that aren't the BEST things on which to spend their limited time resources. God has already given each of us responsibilities in our families, with our jobs, and also callings within His Kingdom. We can't do everything. If the Lord has given me a calling to minister to women, it may not be the best use of my ministry time to teach a preschool Sunday school class. There might be a ministry opportunity that is more in line with my calling. (However, God can and does certainly give us assignments that can seem outside our gifts, abilities, talents, and leanings. Please don't hear me say to automatically dismiss anything outside your "calling." The Lord may very well be calling you to a brand new thing!)

The fourth P is peace. I have discovered that while I may be nervous or feel unqualified for a thing, if God is bringing me to it, I will have peace. I will KNOW it. It is the same when I have an opportunity before me that He is not leading me to accept. I may be hesitant or apprehensive about saying no (not wanting to disappoint anyone), but if I focus on pleasing the Lord and not men, I will have peace. I will KNOW it is the answer.

For me, those "P's" have made a difference in how I make decisions about long term commitments whether they are to ministry or to any other thing that will take up time in my life on a regular basis. I have sometimes had to say no when it was very difficult for me to do so. There are occasions when I really want to do something, but if the "P's" are all coming back with NO then giving the answer and moving on has been the very best thing I could do. There are times when I haven't wanted to do something, and the "P's" result in a YES that I also know is the best answer. In fact, very recently I had both a no and a yes that I really would rather have had reversed; however, the peace and joy that come from seeking out and walking in God's plan for me far surpass any temporary emotional gratification I would have had following my own paths.

By Denise Woodliff


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Did you notice one of the latest headlines from the New York Times,

Russia and Turkey Vow to Repair Ties as West Watches Nervously

MOSCOW — Against a backdrop of rising tensions between Turkey and the West, Presidents Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey pledged on Tuesday to repair relations after nine months of open antagonism.

You can read the rest of the article just by giving it a google, but for believers and for Israel the headline alone would have caused one to stop and investigate. What? Turkey and Russia cooperating? Who would have thunk it! Then...

When you team that news with the additional headline:

Putin encourages Iran to join Russia-led Eurasian alliance

Russia Sends Bombers to Syria Using Base in Iran


...It appears that the events of the recent days in the Middle East are indeed conforming to the prophecies we have in Ezekiel 38-39. The prophecies we have recorded for us in Ezekiel are chronological, with Ezekiel 38 falling somewhere between the prophecy recorded in Chapters 36-37 (which describe the re-birth of the nation of Israel, 1948) and Chapters 40-48 (which are descriptive of the Millennium).

The coming war against Israel which is described in Ezekiel 38 can be narrowed in time frame to somewhere between 1948 and the beginning of the Great Tribulation. Ezekiel prophesied that God would use this battle against His people to turn His people back to Him and complete the return of all of the Jews back to Israel, never to leave again. For God will intervene against this coalition and destroy them and win the victory.

When this battle occurs we will see a coalition that includes Russia, Iran, and Turkey. It appears this coalition is coming together right before our eyes, with Iran constantly and consistently threatening to invade and destroy Israel. They boast that they can destroy Israel in eight minutes. (Yes, we do seem to be making it possible and even easier for them to produce nuclear weapons). And all of this appears to be happening while some in this new Eurasian alliance are striving to convince the world that Israel is safe and not at risk.

While they are saying, " Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:3 (NASB77)

Some scholars believe this battle against Israel will occur right before the rapture of the church. Some say it will happen during the transition between the rapture of the church and the beginning of the Great Tribulation. Others believe it will happen at the end of the Great Tribulation or somewhere in between the beginning of the Great Tribulation and the end of the Great Tribulation. As for myself, I see this event happening right before the rapture of the Church or right after the rapture of the church.

According to the Scripture no one can know the day or the hour of the coming of the Lord for certain.

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Matthew 24:36 (NASB77)

The same Scripture tells us that we should be aware of what is happening all around us.

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 (NASB77)

Could the rapture of the church be upon us? I’ve never been one for setting seasons and expectations but teaming these events with the prophecy of Isaiah 17 (the destruction of Damascus, Syria), (we see that happening right now) and the change of tone in Saudi Arabia towards Israel, headlined recently in the Israeli Times, which reports of the Saudi’s seeing a need to fight against anti-Semitism, in a change of attitude towards Israel, August 18, 2016. (On a side note, usually, when the media starts to emphasize a topic geared towards the general population it is in preparation for what is going to flow from the government of Saudi Arabia).

When you add the possibility of the fulfilling of Ezekiel 38:13 which records the protest of the Saudi’s to the battle of the coalition against Israel and the protesting of the taking of a “spoil”, which is the motive behind the Coalition led war...

“Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all its villages, will say to you, 'Have you come to capture spoil? Have you assembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil?'"' Ezekiel 38:13 (NASB77)

...well...there is a lot going on in the Middle East right now that has been given to us prophetically in the Word of God.

What does that mean for us? Get are saved, right? If not, this would be the time to change that. Stay alert...keep our eyes on Jerusalem. Let’s not be surprised. Stay focused. We don’t live for this world. We live in this world for the Lord God and His glory. Stay excited. It’s going to happen someday...and we’re one day closer for sure. Stay motivated. Do the best you can in all that you do...for the Lord. Stay spot on. Love God and Love People. Share and live the gospel at every opportunity, by word and by deed. Stay assured. Everything is going to be OKAY, God is in control. Stay informed. Read the Bible...and you just might want to note what God is doing in the world...and pray...Maranatha.

Sometimes, there’s more to headlines than meets the eye. This is one of those times and there will be more to follow.

By Pastor Ralph Sawyer


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