Letting God Be Your All in All

January 2018

When I was a youth pastor years ago, one of my youth group’s favorite songs was You Are My All in All (by Dennis Jernigan). The song begins with these words: You are my strength when I am weak, You are the treasure that I seek, You are my all in all… We experienced some wonderful times in God’s presence while singing that song, but I don’t think any of us really knew what the term “all in all” meant. It turns out that it comes from 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul teaches about the resurrection power of Jesus Christ and His ultimate victory over evil. He writes, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power… When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:24, 28). This is an astounding passage of Scripture. It tells us that Jesus is still in the process of dismantling the evil powers of this world. The kingdom of God is advancing against Satan’s kingdom and, step by step, it is taking over. A day is coming when the takeover will be complete, when everything opposed to God will have either been removed or redeemed. Then Jesus will hand over to his Father a world without evil and corruption, in which every heart is loyal to Him as Lord and king. And then God will be “all in all”, i.e. He will reign supreme everywhere. There won’t be a nook or corner anywhere in which He is not praised and adored. Seeking you as a precious jewel, Lord to give up I’d be a fool, You are my all in all… While God is not yet “all in all” (because there are many places where His influence is still not known or welcome), we can seek to have Him be “all in all” in our own lives. This goes beyond simply saying that you put God first in your life. It involves continually inviting Him to be king of every area of your life and choosing to submit to His authority in those places. We tend to compartmentalize. We have boxes for the various parts of our lives that are important to us. Typical boxes include school, career, relationship with spouse, relationship with kids, finances, leisure, etc. And then there’s the box for our relationship with God. As Christians we tend to think it’s enough to put that box before everything else. But God doesn’t want to be confined to a box in our lives, even if it’s the first box. He wants to be invited to be Lord of every box. Lord of your career, Lord of your marriage, Lord of your family, Lord of your finances, Lord of your leisure time, Lord of your hopes and dreams, Lord of your grieving, Lord of your fears, etc. He wants to be your “all in all”. And He has earned it. Taking my sin, my cross, my shame, Rising again – I bless your name, You are my all in all… I’d like to encourage you to start the New Year by taking some time to think through the various compartments of your life and then deliberately inviting Christ into them as Lord. Pray that His will would be done in each area, and choose to submit to Him this year. Be earnest about this. It’s been said that “nothing changes if nothing changes.” This just means that old habits die hard and if we don’t do something intentional, and perhaps drastic, to change things, they probably won’t change. Consider spending some time in fasting and extended prayer in the month of January. Try to get together with one or two others for prayer, encouragement, and accountability. I am confident that as we take steps to invite the Lord into every part of our lives (to be our “all in all”), He will strengthen, empower, and bless us. When I fall down, You pick me up, When I am dry, You fill my cup, You are my all in all. 

By Pastor Billy Ford

My Fire Stories

October 12, 2017

Recently, along with so many of you, I have shed tears for Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas . . . And now it has hit here in California. I grieve for those who are losing homes and businesses in my state, some of whom are my own friends.

What can we do in the face of such devastating loss? What is the right perspective? All I can think to do is to repent of sin, pray, and stand in trust, hope, and faith. . . and to try to encourage those who are suffering. I am not sure, but perhaps my personal story may help someone.

Here in California, wildfires are as commonplace as tornadoes in the Midwest. During my childhood, every September and October, my mom made sure she stayed close to home. We lived in a hilly neighborhood of nice homes bordered by a large fielded area with a hill and canyons. In those months, the brush was tall and dry, just waiting for trouble. My mom tried to stay ready.

It’s not surprising that I have had my share of experiences with fire. When I was very young, I remember watching the local high school burn to the ground. On another occasion, I remember gazing out our home’s picture windows one night and watching the San Gabriel mountain range lit up with various fires.

But let me tell you some miracle stories:

On one occasion, I had stayed home from school sick and was in a deep sleep. Suddenly, my grandfather walked in and called, “What is all this smoke?” I saw little flames burning at the juncture between my bedroom wall and the ceiling. My fish were already dead from the smoke. That was a close call. A furnace fire. Thankfully, most of the house was spared and so was I. My grandfather driving up at just the right time to save me certainly seemed miraculous.

One day, when I was older, a home on the hill above us was on fire. People stood around watching, but no fire trucks came. I called the fire department and was shocked to hear I was the first one to call. The fire trucks came in time. That seemed like a miracle.

Another time, Clay and I saw a fire in a nice hillside residential area and drove over to see if we might help in some way. We went to one home on a slope. The homeowner was gone. Smoke was thick enough to trigger the smoke alarms inside. We noticed sprinklers and turned on what we could. When we drove through the area a couple of weeks later, I let the homeowner know what happened. Other homes perished, but his was still standing. A miracle?

There are other experiences, too, like the time in recent years when we evacuated in the night and  slept at our church. But I really want to tell you about the time when, beyond any doubt, I witnessed what I still consider a miracle “of biblical proportions.”

I was months old in the Christian faith and about 21 years old. This was before I met Clay. I had a boyfriend named Joe. The two of us were downtown when we saw smoke out in the direction of my family’s home. We raced down city streets toward the hills. We drove up the driveway in time to see family members loaded in the car with the pets. They were on their way out. My dad, still an unbeliever, shook his head and lamented, “It’s over. There is no hope. Everything is lost. We need to leave.” They drove away.

Really, he felt hopeless for good reason. The fire was raging on the other side of the hills, and firefighters were unwilling to break away from that more highly populated side to help our side. We were on our own with almost no water pressure in our garden hose. I looked and saw an enormous wall of fire coming over the hill toward our home. Between those flames and the house was nothing but 3-4’ high dry brush. Once the flames would get to our fence, there was just more fuel to feed it. Our wooden fence was old and dried out. The property was lined with large ash trees. Layers of dried leaves 6 inches deep lay on the ground all along the house. One spark could ignite the old untreated shake roof (wood) on the house. Yes, things looked hopelessly bad.

Joe and I weren't ready to give up. I got on my knees in the middle of the driveway and cried out to the Lord. As I prayed, I watched the inferno coming over the hill begin to get smaller. Instead of raging, it fell to crawling and then to creeping. We no longer feared it, so we stayed to do what we could. The fire finally reached our fence. Joe had a shovel and swatted a few little licks of flames. Miraculously, though, the fire petered out completely at the fence. I mean, it stopped completely for the entire length of the fence, perhaps 200 feet! It scorched the backside of the fence but did not cross that property line to even scorch the front side of the fence. How could that happen short of a miracle? I don't know why 12 other homes burned down that day, but I know God heard my desperate cry. The insurance company replaced my parents' worn out old fence. My parents came out ahead!

Years later, my mom reminisced and said, “Isn’t it wonderful how Joe saved our house that day?” I was quick to correct her. Joe had nothing to do with saving that house. It was ALL God! Isn’t it sad how so often we forget what God has done and find some other explanation for the miracle? But God DOES do miracles. I’m glad I got to remind my mom of God’s miracle.

A year or two ago, here in California, fires were raging, and Hume Lake Christian Campground was endangered. It looked bad. I was praying and following the progress on their website. I posted on their page that I had seen God come through for Christian campgrounds before and that God had a special spot in His heart for these places. Someone posted an angry retort. How dare I say that God would favor a Christian campground over a non-Christian one! I hadn’t said anything about the non-Christian ones but was affirming what I had seen over the years. All I know is that our prayers for the Hume Lake campground were heard. It was spared like others I have seen.

OK, granted, God loves everyone. Often, Christians suffer along with everyone else. Sometimes, God judges societies, and the righteous suffer, too. Then again, sometimes God spares a society for the sake of the righteous. Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 that God, “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Obviously, I have no easy answers to these issues, and I realize there are none. I just want to encourage others to believe that Jesus still rebukes storms and that He shows special care for His own.

Finally, may I end with the words God spoke to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14: When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

I’D LOVE IT IF YOU’D PRAY THIS PRAYER WITH ME: Dear Lord, so many people are suffering right now. I pray that Your grace will sweep our nation and turn multitudes to You. Thank you that no matter what happens, we have an eternal refuge in You. Truly, Lord, you are the only way, truth, and life. In you, we are never without hope.  Please have mercy on all those who are suffering and agonizing. Show them Your great love. Let them know that You are their answer, their hope, and their salvation. Thank you for the promises of Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Our eyes are on You, Lord. Please send miracles and bring forth many testimonies of Your salvation. Restore us for the praise of Your glory. Jesus, I pray this in Your mighty and matchless Name. Amen.

I look forward to receiving your input and also your prayer requests.

God bless you!!

By Cheryl Ford

What's Your Passion?

I am currently riding bicycles with some friends across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. After a week of riding, I will return home. Hopefully my wife will greet me with some degree of affection and at least try to pretend like she missed me. If not, I am in trouble. If not, she must not think much of me.

What does it say when we live our lives with mediocre attention to the Lord of the universe? Is he worth more than a casual acceptance or belief in existence? It seems to me if he is the holy, all powerful God described in the Bible then I ought to be passionate about knowing Him, worshiping him, and serving him. I should be passionate about sharing him with others. Otherwise, it must seem to him that I do not hold him in very high regard, the honor he deserves.

A scripture that has challenged me a lot this summer relates to this concept. “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11, NIV) This verse is found in a list of short commands for believers. Keeping your spiritual fervor is literally “boiling in Spirit.” We are commanded to make sure we keep passionate about God.

Passion is not my normal temperament. But passion is God’s expectation. Anything less degrades the honor we assign to the living God. So my big assignment is to find out what will keep me passionate about the Lord. Fight off apathy and discouragement replacing it with fervor for the Lord.

What is your passion? Is it consistently obvious? May it be so!

Pastor Ed Owens, HSRM Chairman 

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men?

December 14, 2016  by Cheryl Ford at www.cherylford.com

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:13-14

Last April, Clay became the interim pastor of Coastline Bible Church in Ventura, CA. It’s been a blessed experience. Recently, the choir, including him, sang at the Ventura tree lighting ceremony. One Christmas carol they sang was “I Heard the Bells.” The following Sunday, they sang it again in church. Both times, they did it with all the passion that the song merits. Also, that Sunday, Clay spoke a powerful message related to the song. 

I hope you will let me share with you some of my own related thoughts. I think you will find them inspirational!

Here is a bit about the song’s history: It was originally a poem written in 1863 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was born in tragedy. Henry’s wife Fanny died when her dress caught on fire. In his desperate attempt to rescue her, he suffered intense burns to his hands, arms, and face.

Added to these personal sorrows, was that of a beloved nation embroiled in the brutal Civil War with Americans killing Americans. Then, as if things were not already grievous enough, Henry’s son Charles returned home from the war severely wounded. The next couple of years were ones of brokenness and despair for Henry.

But shards of light finally broke through the darkness. The war ended, Henry’s heart began to heal, and hope was reborn. He wrote his poem.

It reflects the despair surrounding him during the war years:

And in despair I bowed my head; 
    "There is no peace on earth," I said; 
        "For hate is strong, 
        And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

It ends, however, with a triumphant burst of hope for peace on earth: 

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 
    "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; 
        The Wrong shall fail, 
        The Right prevail, 
    With peace on earth, good-will to men."*

Today, we live in a time not unlike Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s. Our world seems overrun with evil. Daily, we hear of wars, atrocities, and “man’s inhumanity to man.” 

Looking back a hundred years, 1917 brought World War I. Pres. Woodrow Wilson dubbed it “The War to End Wars.” But since that time, the U.S. has been involved in at least 24 wars and the world in more than 267! **

Unfortunately, Jesus said it would get worse as history gallops toward its climax: You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. . . . All these are the beginning of birth pains (Matthew 24:6-8).

Yet we all crave peace. We love the angels singing, “Peace on earth, goodwill to men. The prophet Isaiah even prophesied that the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would come and be called the Prince of Peace (See Isaiah 9:6.) Where, then, is the peace He came to bring? 

Indeed, Jesus is the Prince of Peace! But there is a problem. Even He could not promise peace to His own land. Luke 19:41-42 explains, And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes (Luke 19:41-42).

So what’s up? Why didn’t Israel know “the things that make for peace?” The answer is here: “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). They rejected the Giver of Peace. Thus, they could not find peace. To know the peace that God had for them, they must receive their King and His rule. While they looked for an earthly Messiah to wipe out the Roman oppressors and bring them an earthly peace, He had another end in view.

When questioned by Pilate about being a king, Jesus indicated that He was (and is). The Apostle John reports it this way:

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate (John 18:33-37).

Indeed, He is King but of another Kingdom, one that is heavenly and not earthly. We enter that realm and find Him to be our peace, both giving and preserving peace -- peace from God, peace with God, the peace of God, and even the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). Assuring us that we could only find true peace in Him, He said, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. . . .I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!" (John 14:27 &16:33).

Oh, but in that overcoming of the world, He also offered hope for that world. His people are His representatives of peace, His agents of reconciliation. When we learn to walk in His peace, we have peace to offer. Walls come down, the love of God draws lost humanity into it, the Kingdom of Heaven impacts earth.

Recently, Clay and I were in an airport shuttle. I began a conversation with the driver. As it turned out, he is a Muslim. He had never heard John 3:16 – that God loves him so much that He gave His Son to bring him eternal life – in his entire life!  For the first time, that Muslim man heard Christmas bells ringing! And THAT is how God brings peace to our world – one soul at a time.

On that first Christmas, when the heavenly host sang jubilantly, Peace on earth, goodwill to men, they extended an invitation to all humanity. That invitation still stands. Every Christmas is meant to remind people that, no matter who they are or how crushed they feel, they can come bow before the manger and find everlasting peace.

For more than 2,000 years, the bells have been ringing, ringing, ringing. All the armies of evil have not silenced their message: The Prince of Peace was born on Christmas day!

One day very soon, we will hear heaven’s shout, The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever (Rev. 11:15). We will live in the full reality of Isaiah’s prophesy, Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end (Isa. 9:7). 

With this blessed hope ringing in our hearts, let’s make a point to share the Good News with a war-ravaged and weary world. Let’s help those around us to hear the heavenly bells ringing, Peace on earth, goodwill to men.

Merry Christmas!!

Cheryl Ford 

Please watch a moving video of Longfellow’s struggle and hear “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZtNlZmnEMU

(NEW: I have two new book releases. See my website (www.cherylford.com) for info. Also, I hope you will visit my new Facebook page, The Pilgrim’s Progress.)

Too Busy? Be happy!

2 Samuel 11. 1

      " In the spring, when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab ... but David stayed in Jerusalem."

     Most of us have heard the familiar story of how David fell into adultery with Bathsheba. Notice that his sinful action sprung from his impure thoughts. And those thoughts took shape when he was relaxing at home instead of busy doing kings' work!

    We all know that there are times when it is necessary to rest. But we were also made to do productive work.

     Once in awhile I get grumpy when I feel I have too much to do! But a little voice speaks to me saying, " You're probably better off busy  then idle."

      Most of us sometimes feel too busy! But as we seek to find God's balance for our lives, let us always be thankful for plenty to do. It is probably safer!

Dr. John Grove, Columbus NJ