Author: Penny Allison

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

Waiting

IN LINE, ON THE PHONE, IN TRAFFIC, FOR THE FINAL DECISION, IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM, AT A BEDSIDE, FOR GOD TO MOVE. PEOPLE WAIT. A LOT.

Between the beginning and the end of the waiting process is something called “the middle.” That middle space can last for five minutes, five days, five months or five years. The question all of us have to answer and keep answering is, “What do our ‘middle spaces’ look like?” I have lived long enough to have had many such spaces and often they aren’t pretty!

In 1982, our son, Charlie, was born prematurely and had critical lung issues. He was flown to a neonatal unit at Scott and White in Temple. Between the time of his birth and the time we ultimately brought him home, my “middle space” of waiting was filled with fear, anxiety, tears and anger, with moments of hope, peace and faith. I wish those emotions had been the other way around with the holy response overtaking the flesh response.

Four years later, Charlie contracted meningitis, which has led to the lifetime challenge of epilepsy.

I HAD ALL OF THE ABOVE EMOTIONS BUT PERSEVERING PRAYER BEGAN TO FILL MY MIDDLE SPACE.

This time that waiting period was not days but months that rolled into years. The margins of my Bible are dotted with dates beside Scriptures like Jeremiah 29:11 (1989), Psalm 56:1-4 (1998) and Isaiah 49:24-25 (2000). The prayers expanded from requests for healing and seizure control to asking for a job, a godly, accepting community and spiritual maturity.

In some ways, I am still living in my middle space of waiting because Charlie is not healed. His many medications control his seizures for the most part, but we are still waiting for complete healing. That brings me to the big question.

IN WHATEVER MIDDLE SPACE OF WAITING YOU FIND YOURSELF, WHAT ARE YOU DOING THERE?

Do you view your situation as a place of frustration and disappointment or as a place of rest, expectation, and opportunity to dream with and go deeper with the Trinity? Let’s be honest—we do both, depending on the day. So, my encouragement to you and to myself is to intentionally pursue the intimacy path and proactively resist the disappointment path.

HOW?

  • Gaze upon the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit through the Word, in worship and in creation. Memorize Scripture. Take thoughts captive. Go outside. Be quiet. Listen.
  • Surround yourself with people who will help you do the above and avoid people who pull you into negativity.
  • Focus on the eternal.  For us, Charlie’s full healing and restoration will probably not come until Heaven. Remind yourself that life beyond this earth is our most real life and will last forever. Our current circumstances are not the end of our story—they are only the beginning!

“Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”  Isaiah 40:31 (NASB)

By Penny Allison

Overcoming Earthly Circumstances

On November 14, 2012, Ron, my husband of 37 years, moved to Heaven. I was broken both in my emotions and my body as I struggled with grief and anxiety. Several weeks after he died, I was attending an early morning prayer time and a friend who is gifted in the prophetic came up to me as I was praying and weeping. He told me the Holy Spirit had given him a picture of a room with a recliner in it and that Jesus was sitting in the recliner. Well, the tears really started flowing because what my friend had no way of knowing was that Ron and I had to sleep in recliners due to health issues for the last several years of our marriage. So, that room with the recliner was our bedroom and actually the room where Ron died.

I share this story because that day God reminded me that everything I needed—peace, hope, restoration and joy—has a name. JESUS.

These words we pray over ourselves and others are not nebulous. These needed gifts are found in the Person of Jesus.

Did my outward circumstances change on the day I received the prophetic word? No! I was still alone. I was still grieving. But what did change was the fact that the One who loves and cares for me became deeply real. I had drifted from the reality of my relationship with Jesus and had become overwhelmed by my circumstances. That very week, I bought the Akaine print of Jesus and hung it right above my recliner as a reminder of what and Who is real.

So, if you are feeling overwhelmed by personal circumstances, current events on the national and world stage or what the future has in store, ask the Holy Spirit to make your relationship with Jesus concrete, solid and vibrant. Remember, “greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world.”

In Response:

Take some time to list the circumstances and thoughts you are struggling with. Whether they are huge or minor in your eyes, write them down. Then, take some time to let the Holy Spirit speak His truth over each one. Most often, I think, He will use the Word of God to apply the Truth to our circumstances. You may want to consider memorizing some of the Scriptures that come to mind.

For example, as I began the journey of widowhood, the Holy Spirit highlighted Isaiah 54:5, “For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is His name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer.”

Be open to the creativity of God. He may prompt you to do something specific and concrete as a spiritual marker or reminder of His faithful presence in all of your circumstances, like the print I bought.

For women reading this blog, I encourage you to consider attending Antioch’s annual Women’s Conference November 11th and 12th.  Our speakers will be talking about overcoming earthly circumstances with the reality of Heaven. Register here! The cost is $25 and scholarships are available.

By Penny Allison

More of Jesus Devotional 1: In The Flesh

Welcome to Summer 2016 and to Antioch’s study of the book of Colossians. Hopefully, these brief devotionals will enrich your time in God’s Word and help prepare your heart for Sunday when we’ll study these verses as part of our “More of Jesus” series.

I saw him/her in the flesh” is a common phrase people use to emphasize that they really met or were in the presence of a certain person. Paul, the writer of the letter to the church in Colossae, says in chapter 1 verse 15, “He is the image of the invisible God.” Jesus became flesh and blood, skin and bone! Wow, what a radical act for the One who, according to verses 16-18:

Created all things

Holds all things together

Has first place in everything and

Is the Head of the church

Why in the world would the God of ALL allow Jesus to lower Himself to become a man?  Simple, but mind boggling—He wants for us to see “Him in the flesh,” to have relationship with us, a relationship He had with Adam and Eve and one He aimed to restore. And this was the only way, the Creator allowing Himself to be held by His creation, known as a man, murdered as a criminal and resurrected as the once and for all Reconciler between God and man.

IN RESPONSE:

Click here to read the fascinating story of Akiane, the child art prodigy, who had visions of Jesus “in the flesh” and shared them with us all.

Then, embracing the flesh and blood Jesus in your own mind, read Colossians 1:15-20 and meditate on who He is and what He has done.

By Penny Allison

Wells of Living Water

Holes. Shovels. Holes. Shovels. These two words kept coming into my mind as I was spending time with Jesus a few months ago. I was actually reading a devotional on adversity in Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Lives that morning. Let me share with you what I felt the Holy Spirit was telling me through these two words and that devotional reading.

We all have holes in our lives and as I walked through my memory of what those were for me, I saw holes labeled disappointment, strained relationships, illness, resentment and death. I leaned over the edge of each pit and specific thoughts and emotions came over me. I sensed the Holy Spirit say there were several people who held the shovel that dug those holes. I had dug some myself because of poor choices and poor responses. Circumstances of this fallen world had dug some and our arch enemy, Satan, had dug a fair share, too.

This was not really new information for me but what came into my mind next has revolutionized how I look at the holes of the past and any that will certainly be dug in the future. As clear as can be, the Holy Spirit said, “Penny, you will never avoid having holes in your life.  The question is, will these holes be your grave or your well? Will you fall into them and experience death or will you drink My springs of living water that flow from them?” It is amazing how the Holy Spirit can frame the truth that we know in fresh and creative ways to capture our hearts anew and cause us to look at life from His vantage point.

In Response:

Today, I encourage you to look at your life, your holes, and ask the Holy Spirit to speak as you take a tour of them in your mind.  Have you fallen into some pits and cannot seem to get out, or are you letting the adversity of life be a place you experience Jesus, the Living Water?

Read and meditate on  Psalm 103:4—”[The Lord] redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with loving kindness and compassion.”

By Penny Allison

 

I Lost My Grip: What I Learned Through Grief

Tubes and IV’s were removed, the curtain was pulled and a hand written “Do Not Disturb” sign was taped to the closed glass door. Inside the ICU room, my husband, Ron, and I slept on and off through the night as we never let go of one another’s hands. Occasionally, I would squeeze his hand and he would squeeze back. We were still in each other’s grip. The next morning we returned to Waco by ambulance and three days later, Ron moved to Heaven. I had lost the grip, both literally and emotionally, of the one person I could always count on, as much as anyone can count on another human being.

This began a journey for me of what a friend called “hard grief.” All loss is difficult, of course, but it permeated all of me. My emotions took over my physical body and I began having bouts with anxiety. I took medication for several weeks to be able to get through the days. I was crying multiple times a day and always dreaded going home in the evening. Loneliness took me to some dark places in my mind and emotions. Months turned into a year and then two. Things got better during that time, but it took much longer than I had imagined. Like every journey we go on with Jesus, we eventually come to the realization that He never loses His grip on us, whether we go to the depths of despair or the heights of joy.

He is there.

This is the first lesson I have re-learned in the last two and a half years. I have also learned that

we will go through grief and come out more whole if we let others in the Body of Christ come alongside.

They will be the hands of Jesus to grip us when the pain is overwhelming. Don’t isolate out of pride or fear. Press in to the community our Father has provided for us here on Earth.

Another lesson I have learned is that the Word of God is REAL medicine for the soul.

Quoting Scripture literally got me from point A to point B at times. This living Word changes perspectives and atmospheres and emotions. Let God’s Word grip you and hold you, wherever you are.

Finally, I have learned that sometimes we need to stop gripping some things.

I am a worrier — always have been. Yes, I know that it is sin and I have repented and relapsed hundreds of times. When I lost my physical grip on Ron, though, the Holy Spirit helped me to loosen my grip on worry, which I think, at least in my case, is a form of control. I could not control the outcome of Ron’s disease and God used that to show me that I really can’t be in control. Period.

So, despite the loss of Ron’s hand in mine, the Trinity has given me some new things to grip—a deeper sense of community, a more intimate appreciation of the Word of God, and a freedom to release my grip on things that I cannot control anyway in exchange for the Grip that never lets go.

 

In Response

We will all experience grief in this life. Take some time to sit with the Lord and bring your grief before Him. Let Him remind you that He is with you, speaking grace and mercy over you. Find a friend and let him or her know you are hurting. Open the Word of God and find Scriptures that will encourage and strengthen you. The Psalms are a great place to start.

By Penny Allison

Why We Serve

Through the years, I have served and volunteered in some wonderful and crazy ways, from flying to Afghanistan by myself to helping install a bathroom at a football field! But before we talk about why we serve, let’s take a little multiple choice quiz.

I volunteer because:

a)  My spouse/roommate volunteers for me
b)  There is a desperate need and I feel guilty
c)  There are some cool people involved and I would like to be friends with them
d)  I feel God has given me a passion for this particular need
e)  I am bored and need something to do
f)  All of the above

If we answered honestly, I think most of us would pick “all of the above.”  Motives vary from season to season.  When we were parents of young children, my husband Ron and I worked for years in the childcare area at church because there was a need. Did we hear a clarion call from Heaven? Probably not. But we did hear crying and laughing children who needed someone to look after them; as part of that spiritual family we stepped up. My goal as I write this blog is not to dissect all of our motives for why we serve. Rather, I would like to look at three reasons for us to consider as we evaluate this area of our lives.

Matthew 20:28 says, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” In Luke 22:27, Jesus says “I am among you as the one who serves.”

As followers of Jesus, we are to fundamentally have our minds and hearts positioned to serve.

Of course we know that, but can we say serving is a daily focus?  The big ways of serving are often more clear than the small.  We want to give our lives to share the Gospel, to transform Waco or to turn the tide of human trafficking, but do we help someone who is struggling with opening a door, yield our parking space to another in the parking lot of HEB or pay for a a friend’s meal at Jason’s Deli?

Jesus commands us in Luke 8:18 to, “Take care how you listen.” As our Good Shepherd, He goes before us and we follow Him because we “know His voice” (John 10:4).

Do you know the voice of the Holy Spirit lives inside you and is constantly speaking affirmation, comfort and direction?

As believers, we are on a journey to hear His voice more clearly  until we reach Heaven. We won’t ever do it perfectly but it is a worthy lifelong pursuit.  This sense of hearing the Holy Spirit is crucial to how and where we serve.  The Father puts gifts and passions in each of us and He is delighted when we ask for and listen to His thoughts on how He wants us to use them!

Finally, I would submit that a crucial element of serving is wrapped up in the word “legacy.”  Young or old, married or single, male or female, rich or poor, we are all leaving a legacy.  What will be passed down to your family and friends because of the choices you make, the life you live and the way you serve?  In our household, volunteering and serving is a way of life.  This mindset was given to both Ron and me by our parents and hopefully, we have instilled that in our now-grown children.  So, as you consider if you will serve, why you serve and the attitude you embrace while serving, consider the legacy you are passing along to future generations.

Be excited today! The Father has let us be His hands and feet in the earth.  Focus, listen and leave a legacy that declares the love and power of Jesus.

In Response:

How do you serve?

Is God prompting you to serve in a new way?

What is the legacy you are passing along to future generations?