Author: Penny Allison

Real vs. Fake //
An All in All Devotional

The years was 1966. I was 16 years old and living with my parents in our house in the Bosqueville area, just on the edge of Waco. Our family enjoyed watching TV together in the evening and in 1966, one of our favorite shows premiered – Mission Impossible. Many people may know about the movie franchise starring Tom Cruise. But before the movies, it all started as a popular television show.

Why the talk of Mission Impossible? Well, the consistent theme is one of trickery and deception. Through elaborately built, fake locations and deftly crafted disguises, the team offered up alternate realities that led people into responding in certain ways. This is how the Mission Impossible team got results and defeated the “bad guys”.

The tactics these fictional teams used are as old as time, since the garden, actually. Read 2 Corinthians 11 and notice one of the themes – believers being deceived. Verses 14 and 15 say, “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness…” The deceiver often sets things up in our world to cause us to respond in certain ways, leading us to defeat and destruction. Those responses may be in the form of anger, jealousy, fear, bitterness, hatred, etc.

Of course, what we experience here on earth is real but not the true and higher reality, which is God and His kingdom. As 2 Corinthians 4:18 says, “we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 

Since we know that we live in the shadowlands presently, how do we stay vigilant in our battles with deception? This is a serious challenge for us.

THROUGH THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT LIVES WITHIN US AND THE WEAPONS PROVIDED TO US, WE CAN WALK IN LIGHT INSTEAD OF DARKNESS AND REALITY INSTEAD OF DECEPTION.

These weapons are familiar ones – prayer, time in the Word, worship, godly counsel, stopping certain activities and embracing others. The ultimate key, though, is living in a moment by moment awareness of the trinity’s presence in our lives. That is reality!

IN RESPONSE:

Consider watching the movie The Shack. Out of unspeakable tragedy, the main character, Mac, encounters a supernatural reality.

By Penny Allison – Women’s Pastor

Living Against the Grain //
An All In All Devotional

“She didn’t see the two young men step out into the road and bring the van to a sudden halt…She didn’t get a chance to answer the question, ‘Who is Malala?’” Shots rang out as Malala Yousafzai slumped into the lap of the friend sitting beside her, shot in the head.”

This scene is described in the book, I Am Malala. Malala’s life is a stunning example of living counterculturally. Born into a Pakistani family that deeply valued education, Malala pursued her education passionately and vocally. Education for women was opposed by many in her country. Ultimately, her stand against much of the culture around her led to being shot. Fortunately, Malala survived, finished college in England and was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2014.

AS FOLLOWERS OF JESUS, WE ARE INSTRUCTED TO LIVE COUNTER-CULTURALLY, TOO.

Second Corinthians 10:3-5 goes to the core of that cultural conflict:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful…”

We live in a constant tension between what happens in our flesh and blood world and what is happening in the spirit realm, where the real action happens. Do we have to make choices, take stands and live in real time? Yes. But, we need to realize our real enemy is not the one staring at us across the dinner table or through the TV screen. Our real enemy is the deceiver and the liar, Satan. He often appears as an, “angel of light” to make things even more complicated. Our own speculations and mental and emotional strongholds can also be our enemies.

So, we are in a spiritual battle at the core, and often that spills over into life on this earth. Make no mistake, though, the victory is found in, “destroying these speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Malala had human enemies, but her real battles were the strongholds and ways of thinking that influenced her society. Let’s choose to live counter-culturally by recognizing where the battle really is and picking up the powerful weapons we have in the Spirit.

IN RESPONSE:

List people you may have conflicts with, and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to move the battles into the spirit where real victory is found.

By Penny Allison – Women’s Pastor

Where the Rubber Meets the Road –
An All in All Devotional

Everyone has experienced the ask – this family needs meals, this person needs a vehicle, this family needs help with childcare, the building program at church needs funds, these people need a place to stay, those people need someone to befriend them, this couple needs marriage help and on and on. All of these are important and valid needs.

The choice before us is either yes or no. We may think, “yes” is the correct answer and, “no” is the wrong one. Unfortunately, it is not that easy.

THERE IS A FOUNDATIONAL STEP WE MUST BE TAKEN BEFORE MAKING A DECISION.

Second Corinthians 8:5 describes that step as this, “First, you must give yourselves to the Lord.” This crucial first step is the key to how we live in every area of life, not just in the area of giving.

In the July 18th entry of her book, Jesus Calling, Sarah Young says it well, “Concentrate on keeping in step with Me. I set the pace in keeping with your needs and My purposes.” Guided by the Holy Spirit, we will know more clearly how and when to give, and we won’t be motivated by guilt, performance or our own good ideas.

Although we should not be motivated by what we will receive when we give, we will reap what we sow, according to 2 Corinthians 9:6. More than 25 years ago, our family opened our home to a young woman who lived with us for several months. Today, because of our being open to sharing our space and our lives with her, I have gained a dear friend who recently told me that I will always have a place to stay in her home, if there is ever a need. That was such a gift to this widow!

Be generous! Let the Father set the pace for that generosity, and watch how He uses you as you do.

By Penny Allison – Adult Pastor

Penny serves on our Women’s Ministry leadership team and as an adult pastor.

 

Making Room –
An All in All Devotional

My guess is that the best and worst days of your life had one common denominator – people were involved. This is one of the many paradoxes of life.

WE ARE MADE TO LIVE IN COMMUNITY WITH ONE ANOTHER, BUT WE CAN DEEPLY WOUND EACH OTHER ALONG THE WAY.

People live in community in a variety of ways. Our first taste of community comes in the form of family, which offers an incredible mix of glorious, painful, frustrating and life-giving experiences. What we experience in our families often defines how we interact with people for the rest of our lives – in school, in the workplace, at church, in our social lives, etc.

Second Corinthians 7:2 contains a phrase that is helpful to us as we live life with others. Paul asks believers to, “make room for us in your hearts.” Paul had sent a letter to the church at Corinth about sin that existed in their midst, and they were hurt and angry. So, Paul asked them for grace, understanding and continued fellowship.

Are you hurt, angry or disappointed with anyone to the point that you have shut them out, emotionally or perhaps, literally? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you may need to change your course and repent, just as the people of Corinth did.

MAKING ROOM FOR SOMETHING USUALLY INVOLVES REARRANGING OR DISCARDING.

Do you need to do some rearranging in your relationships? Do schedules, priorities or even attitudes need to be rearranged or discarded in order to make room for someone? Maybe it’s the person sitting next to you at school, the co-worker in the adjoining office, the family member who rubs you the wrong way, or the Lifegroup that would welcome your participation.

Whether making room for others involves repenting or embracing, please pause and consider the rewards waiting for you and others.

IN RESPONSE:

Sit quietly and ask the Holy Spirit to help you determine who you need to make room for and how that should look, practically.

By Penny Allison – Adult Pastor

Penny serves on our Women’t Ministry leadership team and as an adult pastor. 

Have you given your RSVP? //
An All in All Devotional

Around this time of year, invitations fill our mail boxes and inboxes — graduations, showers, weddings, etc. Which ones can we attend? What gifts should we buy? As we continue our summer study of 2 Corinthians, I want to highlight an invitation we have all received more than once –

THE FATHER’S INVITATION TO WHOLEHEARTED LIVING.

In 2 Corinthians 6:4 Paul says, “in everything and in every way we show we are truly God’s servants.”

This invitation to living fully committed to the Father and His kingdom is not for those looking for a continual party filled with laughter, fun, gifts and great food. No. Although those things may be a part of our journey, let’s hit the highlights of verses 5-9 and see what an invitation to this life held for Paul and may also hold for us – beatings, prison, sleeplessness, hunger and character assassination. Are you ready to RSVP, yet?

THE TRUTH IS THAT LIFE HAS BOTH JOY AND HEARTACHE WHETHER YOU ARE A CHRIST FOLLOWER OR NOT.

The acceptance of God’s invitation to live wholeheartedly for Him will not keep us from hard times and pain. That RSVP will, however, give us an indescribably wonderful gift that Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 6:18, “‘you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.'”

IN RESPONSE:

Have you responded to the Father’s invitation? If you have, are you taking advantage of all that it means to be His son or daughter?

Read, mediate on and memorize Romans 8:15-17 –

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons [and daughters] by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

By Penny Allison – Women’s Pastor

Ambassadors in a Foreign Country –
An All in All Devotional

Ambassadors are a country’s highest-ranking representatives to a specific nation. They work there to support their country’s interests. Even though they live and work in foreign countries, they retain citizenship in their home country. Some of their duties include notifying their home country of developments happening in the host country, acting as their home country’s official representative at events and advising their host country in decisions regarding political, social and economic issues.

Guess what? If you are a Christ follower living on planet earth, you fill the above position. Second Corinthians 5:20 says, “We are ambassadors for Christ.” Mull this thought over for a minute.

THIS EARTH IS NOT OUR TRUE OR ULTIMATE PLACE OF RESIDENCE.

Philippians 3:20 says,“our citizenship is in heaven.” So, our words and actions should be motivated by the eternal Kingdom we are a part of, not the temporary place we call home for just a brief time.

As an ambassador of an everlasting Kingdom, our roles take on eternal significance. Just as a government ambassador notifies his or her home country about developments in their host country, so do we. Daily prayer is our line of communication to the King of our permanent residence.

As we act as heaven’s official representative on earth and advise people here on issues facing them, we find ourselves having to take stands that may challenge the status quo – standing for life, for justice, for truth and for mercy.

WE CAN STAND WITH CONFIDENCE THOUGH, KNOWING THAT OUR KING AND HIS KINGDOM ARE PERFECT AND ETERNAL.

When our assignment in our host country, earth, is done, we receive the ultimate promotion, life eternal in our true home – Heaven.

Check out this video, and meditate on our true home.

By Penny Allison – Women’s Pastor

What is your Terroir? –
An All in All Devotional

I learned a new word recently—terroir.  It is a French word that refers to the set of environmental factors that impact how crops like wine, coffee and chocolate grow.  Think soil, amount of moisture, farming practices and temperature.  All of these factors make up the character of the crop—the flavor of the coffee, the aroma of the wine, the texture of the chocolate, etc.

We humans are impacted by our terroir as well.  As we look at pursuing a life of holiness—a life set apart and dedicated to God—a look at our personal terroir is important. Obviously, we are not in control of everything that impacts us, like our family, our innate abilities, physical disabilities, etc.  We can make many choices, though, that can change the trajectory of our lives.

AS BELIEVERS, OUR DESIRED PATH IS TO MOVE FROM GLORY TO GLORY, BEING TRANSFORMED INTO THE IMAGE OF JESUS. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

That holy transformation has more to do, perhaps, with what we run to than what we run from.

The word holy in Hebrew means to be “set apart.”  Of course, it is important to set ourselves apart from the pits that the world, the flesh and the enemy dig for us (lust, pride, greed…), but our primary goal is to fill our days with what Jesus is doing.

Where are you spending your time, your energy, your daydreams and your resources? This lifestyle is impossible to live on our own, but thankfully, we have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of us, giving clarity, motivation and wisdom.

SO IF YOU WANT TO LIVE HOLY, RUN TO JESUS AND PLANT YOURSELF THERE IN HIS PRESENCE.

May we live in the terroir of the Kingdom, setting ourselves apart for Him and setting ourselves apart from the things that pull us away.

Check out this song and be moved closer to Jesus by the power of His spirit.

By Penny Allison – Women’s Pastor

Sufficiency in Suffering –
An All in All Devotional

The beeping of the alarm rouses me from a deep sleep. As I open my eyes and stretch and remember, reality crashes in. It has been about two months since my husband of 37 years died of congestive heart failure in this very room. The pain I awaken to has many faces—loneliness, palpable sadness, fear of the future and anxiety that is impacting not only my emotions but my body. These are dark days of the soul, a kind of suffering I have not known before.

Fast forward five years. As I reflect on that period of my life, I can affirm Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 that say, “God is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction.” At my lowest point, when I was practically paralyzed with grief, I knew that my Father was holding me. I imagine that everyone reading this blog has been in that place in some fashion, but you may or may not have sensed the comfort of God in your suffering. I would like to share three things from our 2 Corinthians study that, hopefully, will be helpful as we encounter suffering.

First, it is unavoidable. This may not sound very helpful, but I think embracing the fact that we all suffer is a real part of living on planet earth and is a vital part of our healing process. Understanding this universal truth helps us not to blame ourselves for the emotions we are feeling because they are part of our human experience. A healthy theology of suffering is an essential component of our journey with the Trinity.

THE KEY IS NOT TO AVOID SUFFERING, BUT TO LIVE THROUGH IT WELL.

Second, the Father promises He will not leave us. Hebrews 13:5 says, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” He goes further in 2 Corinthians 1:10 by declaring that, “He will yet deliver us.” The Father is so faithful to remind us of His presence and care whether it be through a timely phone call or text, a much-needed word of encouragement, a hug, a dream or supernatural encounter with the Holy Spirit.

Third, as we experience freedom from our seasons of suffering, 2 Corinthians 1:5 tells us that we are to start becoming instruments of comfort to others. After Ron died, my friend, Margie Atwood, was a tremendous help and comfort to me. Her husband, Darrell, had died six months earlier and she was gracious enough to be an instrument of healing for me even as she was on her own journey.

So today, regardless of where you are experiencing suffering, please know you are not alone. God is at your side. Be attentive to His voice as He comforts you as only He can and as He leads you to others who need to receive comfort through you.

IN RESPONSE:

Pause and listen to this song, and let it be an encouragement to you.

By Penny Allison – Women’s Pastor

Isaiah 9:6 // The Promises that Never Fail

God does not do things like we do. His ways are upside down to us. That may be one of the reasons the season celebrating the birth of His Son captivates people. A child born in a barn.  A child who comes into our lives low. No legions of soldiers or loyal subjects at His command. He introduces His upside down Kingdom from the beginning. Don’t be fooled, though.

THE BOY-CHILD MAY BE WRAPPED IN FLESH, BUT HE IS WHAT WE NEED, WHAT WE MUST HAVE.

Seven hundred years before His humble entrance, God told us who He was and what He would offer to all of us. Isaiah 9:6 gives us details because human beings have a lot of questions— Who can I talk to? Who is really in charge? Is there anything more to life than what I am experiencing right now? Where is peace in the midst of the chaos that I see around me? The God of the universe addressed these questions. Instead of just giving answers, He gave a Promise/the Promise of Isaiah 9:6. You have seen the words of this verse during the Christmas season on cards, marquees and posters, or you have heard them sung during Christmas concerts.

“For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

Messiah, the Promise, carries with Him the answers we need. He is the One who always offers the best advice for any situation. He is our Wonderful Counselor.

He is the One who is in charge. He is the Mighty God and He will always have the last word. The government of nations and of our lives rests on His shoulders.

He is the everlasting Father. No, this life is not all there is. There is an everlasting life option of Heaven if we make the choice to trust in the Messiah. He wants us, but we must choose Him and then we can have a Father who never fails, disappoints or leaves.

AND, WE DON’T HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL HEAVEN TO EXPERIENCE THE FATHER’S LOVE.

He is the One who brings a deep peace to every circumstance of life. The promise is not that the winds of life won’t sometimes blow furiously, but that He will always be the peace who holds us in the midst of the gales.

IN RESPONSE:

Take a few minutes to read this verse out loud and let the promises capture and comfort you. Then, using the links below, worship the Promised One by listening to portions of Handel’s “Messiah.”

By Penny Allison – Adult Pastor and Women’s Ministry

The Survivalist’s Guide

Climbing a mountain without ropes. Trekking through the desert without water. Diving into the depths of the ocean without oxygen tanks. Doing any of these things would be foolhardy! Yet, thousands of people who claim to be Kingdom-minded, Jesus followers do these very things every day in their spiritual lives. Many people think attending a Sunday service and/or a small group during the week gives them all they need of the Word of God. They are trying to climb mountains, cross deserts and survive the depths with nothing more than three feet of rope, a bottled water and goggles.

Let’s be clear. In the battles of life, the Bible tells us to put on a suit of armor (Ephesians 6) and the only offensive weapon mentioned in that passage is “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.”

SO, WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD WE STEP ONTO THE BATTLEFIELD WITHOUT A WEAPON?

Here are a few reasons we come up with—not believing the battle is real, thinking we are too busy to read and study the Word, struggling to understand what we are reading. The list could go on. We can always come up with excuses for anything we don’t want to do or don’t feel we need to do. This blog post will not change your mind.  What will change it though is the Holy Spirit’s presence and power “leading [us] into all truth.”

SO, IF YOU CHOOSE TO BEGIN OR CONTINUE THE JOURNEY INTO MAKING THE WORD OF GOD INTEGRAL TO YOUR LIFE, HERE ARE SOME THOUGHTS FOR YOU.

First, read Psalm 119, all 176 verses, and make a list of all the things the Word does that David mentions. An example would be verse 24, “Your testimonies are my counselors.” Take several days to make the list and meditate on it. Now, with a deeper understanding of the power of the Word of God, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to the resources that would help you begin to mine these truths and apply them in practical ways. Talk with Jesus followers you trust and get their advice. Go to a Christian bookstore or the bookstore here at Antioch and browse and pray. Do some resource research on the web and pray as you do.

Finally, start memorizing specific Scriptures. We fill our minds with all kinds of information like, sports stats, song lyrics or current events. Why not be intentional about transforming our thoughts and actions with something eternal?

IN ASKING FRIENDS HOW THEY GO ABOUT MEMORIZING VERSES AND PASSAGES, SEVERAL METHODS SURFACED.

  • Use a flip chart to write the verses down and read them over and over
  • Put verses in places where you live life—the car, a kitchen cabinet, mirrors or the computer
  • Write the verses out multiple times
  • Record the verses and listen to them
  • Get a partner and help each other
  • Say verses out loud until they flow out of you naturally
  • Begin using verses in your prayers for yourself and others
  • Keep asking the Holy Spirit what you need to know and start your process over again and over again

The key is to have the Truth of God flowing into you and then out of you.

You will be changed and the power of God’s Word you deliver to others will change them, too! Be a survivalist. Be a prepper, for things eternal.

By Penny Allison