The Giving Tree has been an adventure with God, learning how to hear his voice, how to love, and how to give from our hearts. Through this blog we hope to bring healing to broken hearts, hope to the discouraged, and to share the love of Jesus with all who would listen,
The Giving Tree goes beyind nominal Christianity to illustrate what it means to be a child of God, depending on our Father for everything and knowing in the depths of our hearts that we rest securely in his love and will never lack for anything.
|Posted on April 5, 2018 at 12:10 AM||comments (0)|
No weapon formed against you will prevail,
And you will refute every tongue that accuses you
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord-Isaiah 55:17
There tends to be a great imbalance of power between the abused and the abuser. Therefore, the abusive relationship is dominated by a misuse of power by the abuser. In the case of abusive husbands, this is a terrible distortion of the servant headship model that Jesus defines in Ephesians chapter 5. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.-Ephesians 5:22-28
When this model is distorted by abuse and misuse of power, it is important to remember that God is always on the side of the powerless, the defenseless, and the voiceless.
Power can be misused in several ways, all of which constitute abuse.
Physical Abuse resulting from the misuse of physical power: the size differential between men and women or between adults and children can lead to physical abuse and harm.
Psychological/Emotional Manipulation which includes shaming, infliction of guilt, threatening to reveal secrets, and threatening of divine punishment. Threatening divine punishment is also spiritual abuse and is particularly harmful. It is this type of abuse in my own life that has had the most profound effects on me as it distorts the image of God as well as the image of the child of God.
Social Coercion: including slander/gossip in both the church and the secular community and family. The goal of this is to cut the victim off from all sources of support, including the Body of Christ. The Lord has a particular hatred for slander/gossip that is all over Scripture and people who do this will be judged for the division caused particularly in the Body of Christ.
Financial Coercion: threatening to cut off from financial support.
If you have experienced one or more of these types of abuse of power, put your hope in God. I always suggest that abused women seek counseling and well as the Lord’s healing through prayer, but your deliverance will ultimately come from the hand of God and from him alone.
Many blessings in the name of Jesus to all who need healing and are reading this.
-Pastor Sherri Falco
|Posted on April 5, 2018 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. And God raise us up with Christ and seated us with him in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-10
I have heard many definitions of the word “grace” over the years, but all of them seem to fall short. The problem is that there is no formal definition of grace anywhere in the Bible. To further complicate matters, Jesus rarely himself rarely mentions grace, he simply demonstrates how to live it.
Grace as an outrageous gift given by an extravagant giver who expects nothing in return and chooses to give to those who deserve exactly the opposite. What I like most about this definition is that it focuses on the merits and attributes of the Giver. God gives us grace because of who he is, not because of who we are. We are saved by grace and seated in heavenly places not because of anything we have done. In fact, we have earned exactly the opposite because there is not one of us who is righteous.
I believe that self-righteousness has turned more people away from the church than anything else. In a world thirsty for the outrageous gift of grace, the church should be the fountain of living water for the thirsty. St. Augustine said that grace is a gift that must be received with empty hands. Thus the doorway to receiving God’s grace is a simple one: we need to recognize our own sinfulness and our need for God’s grace. The distance between us and God’s grace is the distance between our knees and the floor.
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Mow what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap in order to have a basis for accusing him
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, if any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her. John 8:3-8
Grace is a gift that must be received with empty hands. If we are holding stones in them, ready to judge another, then we cannot receive grace because our hands are not empty.
We all need God’s grace in our lives, for salvation, for redemption, for our children, for our marriages, for our finances, for our world.
To him who is thirsty, I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this and I will be his God and he will be my son.-Revelation 21:6-7
If you have never received the outrageous gift of God’s grace in your life, I urge you to do so now by praying this prayer.
Father, I accept your grace as demonstrated through your son, Jesus. I know that I am a sinner and I ask for forgiveness for my sins. I accept Jesus into my heart as my Savior. I believe that he died for my sins and was raised from the dead. I thank you that you seat me in heavenly places with your Son, Jesus. In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.
If you are already a professing Christian and in need of God’s grace, remember that sincere repentance signified by a true change of heart is the doorway to receiving grace. Make sure your hands are empty. For only then can your receive God’s outrageous gift of grace.
-Pastor Sherri Falco
|Posted on April 4, 2018 at 4:10 PM||comments (0)|
Be still and know that I am God –Psalm 46:10
There are times in our lives when we are truly in the deepest darkest valley with no way out. Perhaps it is the result of our own bad decisions. Perhaps it is the evil handiwork of others. In either case, we are faced with a choice, a choice that will determine the ultimate outcome.
The choice with which we are faced is what will our focus be? We can focus on the depth of the valley. We can focus on the height and steepness of the sides of the valley and the fact that we cannot possibly climb them. We can focus on our own stupidity or lack of judgment in getting into the valley in the first place. We can blame others for the actions that have left us in the valley.
WE CAN BE STILL AND KNOW THAT GOD IS GOD.
Have you ever meditated on the greatness of God? He is the Creator of all. Think about the universe and how perfectly it is put together. There are countless galaxies, countless stars in those galaxies, and countless solar systems. God created them all. Within our own little solar system, the earth is placed just the right distance from the sun so that we do not burn up and we do not freeze. Everything is set up just right for us to thrive. God is the Master of the Universe.
By far, though, my favorite illustration is the development of a baby. Did you ever stop to think that the heart is the first organ that develops in a baby. The heart begins beating even before the brain is developed. How is that possible? The heart is the center of all of us as human beings and God made us so that the heart is developed first. How awesome!
When I was pregnant, I had a book that showed the baby’s development every week from the brain to the fingernails and eyelashes. We are complex creatures, yet God planned us so that everything would come together just at the right time. He is the Author of all Creation.
The choice has always been about focus. We can focus on our own helplessness in dealing with our problems or we can focus on the power of God in helping us through them. I have a dear friend who has amazing focus. She says, “God I am your daughter. Therefore, my mess is your mess. That means you will have to clean it up since I cannot.”
When I feel overwhelmed with sadness and powerlessness, I have to step back from my circumstances and reflect on the awesome power of God. This does not make my problems instantly disappear, but it does bring them into perspective. God can bring any mountain down. It is my job to pray and trust him to do it.
Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” –Psalm 46:8-10
In the course of my trials, I am learning to let God be God with my children, my finances, my past, and my future. This has all been learned in the valley. For faith is meaningless on the mountaintop. Faith that God is indeed God is only meaningful in the valley.
On the mountaintop, God may be plan A, but we can always fall back on plan B, ourselves. In the valley when we are out of money, out of resources, out of strength and out of options, there is only one plan—God. In the valley there is no plan B. This is where faith and focus meet.
If you are in the valley, renew your focus and your faith. Step back, quiet your mind and your soul and rest, KNOWING THAT HE IS GOD.
Father, I repent from my heart for my doubt and for relying on my own strength to solve my problems. I want to be still and know that you are God. Help me , Father, to rely on your strength and your power, not on my own. I rest now in your presence…… Then be quiet in the presence of God.
-Pastor Sherri Falco
|Posted on April 4, 2018 at 4:05 PM||comments (0)|
Dear Child Of God
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28-29
Many know the work of Jesus as salvation and they may have Jesus as Savior, but they never really grasp the relationship that opens up with God, the Father as a result. Jesus died so that we could be redeemed and reconciled to God. When we have Jesus as Savior, we are no longer orphans, but are adopted and sealed with the Holy Spirit as sons and daughters of God the Father.
Many of us think of God the Father as distant, disinterested, and perhaps even angry because of our negative experiences with our earthly fathers or we may have even been taught this in the church. Such a view is not borne out by Scripture. When Jesus prayed, he prayed to the Father from a place of intimacy. He prayed as the Son of God.
Anyone who believes in Jesus is also a son or daughter of God. Therefore, we need to step into who we are because of what Jesus did and pray from a place of intimacy with God the Father.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15
The intimacy in the meaning of the word “Abba” is scarcely captured by the English translation normally rendered to it of Father. Father implies distance. Abba is deeply intimate, such as Dad or Daddy. When we pray, we should not pray as orphans, but as sons and daughters of the living God.
I am keenly aware of the effects abuse has on self-image for I have been there. My former husband treated me as though my existence did not matter. He treated me as a non-person if you will. Even worse, my heart has been broken as I have been continually subjected to threats by my ex-husband’s attorney to declare my children “emancipated” (i.e., fatherless) so that their father would no longer be financially responsible for them.
In spite of all of this, or perhaps because of it, I have come to deeply appreciate my status with God—I am his beloved child. I also know that no child, including my own, will ever be fatherless. They are beloved children of God.
No matter what your circumstances, no matter what anyone else has ever told you. No matter what you have ever done, there is one truth that will never change--you are a beloved child of God.
If you are a Christian, I urge you to cast aside any fear of judgment and simply repent for any sins, knowing that you have been justified. Then take the radical step of intimacy and cry out to Abba/Daddy God, your father in heaven who loves you dearly. Christianity is about a personal God and a personal relationship with God. If you have not embraced this, then you have not embraced all that Jesus did at the cross.
If you have not accepted Jesus as Savior and desire the personal relationship with God that comes through Jesus, you can do that now by praying this prayer.
Father God, I desire to know you. I ask that you forgive me for my sins. I accept Jesus in my heart and I believe that he died for my sins. I ask that you come into my life and my heart so that I can be a child of God. I thank you in Jesus’ s name. Amen.
-Pastor Sherri Falco
|Posted on April 4, 2018 at 4:05 PM||comments (0)|
Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10
Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and, therefore, one of the hallmarks of being a Christian. Many of us, however, struggle with a chronic lack of joy because of the troubles in our lives.
Remember that joy, unlike happiness, should not be dependent on our circumstances. Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and, in fact, one of the names of Holy Spirit is “Oil of Joy”. I have often wondered myself, at times, why I seemed particularly devoid of this particular fruit of the Holy Spirit. As believers in Christ, his joy is our strength. Without joy we are weak.
If we need to be strong, then we must renew our joy of the Lord. It is possible to recover the joy of the Lord even in the most dire of circumstances through practicing the art of thanksgiving. When we consciously choose to bring to mind what God has done in our lives and the people and things for whom and for which we can be thankful, the joy in our souls will start to rise.
Thankfulness should be a Christian discipline that is constantly a part of our prayer time and a part of our lives. Being thankful draws our attention back to the goodness of God, for every good gift comes from him. The rough periods of my life have taught me to be thankful for all things, great and small. The loss of money has caused me to be thankful for every dollar I have, for my medical insurance, and for the roof over my head and the food on my table. The loss of friends has prompted me to nurture the friendships and thank God for the people I do have in my life.
Rather than storing up my thanksgiving for my prayer time, I have learned to thank God throughout the day. The first page in my prayer journal has a picture of my children on it and a list of all of the things God has done in my life. When I feel my joy slipping away, I call to mind all God has done. The story of the five loaves and two fishes is included in all of the gospels. Rather than focusing on the lack of food, Jesus simply thanked God and trusted him to do the rest.
“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand. Mark 6:38-43
The lesson in this story is that thankfulness can unleash the power of God in our lives. No matter how hopeless your situation seems, I urge you to step back from your circumstances and take a closer look at the blessings that you have in your life. Those blessings could be your children, your friends, your parents, finances, your health, your safety, your salvation, etc. Start thanking God for what he has done and watch your joy arise and, with it, your strength!
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4
-Pastor Sherri Falco
|Posted on April 4, 2018 at 4:00 PM||comments (0)|
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15
Many Christians do not understand that forgiveness is a command, not an option. Unfortunately, we live in a world where some people will use their freedom of choice to hurt others. Some husbands who have taken a vow at the altar in marriage “to love, honor, and cherish” will choose instead to commit acts of violence with their words or their fists to the very wife they vowed to cherish. Others will choose to emotionally neglect their wives until all of the life slowly drains away.. To make matters worse, some of this abuse will be done by Christians.
We need to understand that believers are told to forgive, no matter how horribly wronged we have been. To extend forgiveness is to extend grace. Many do not understand that, at the point that we judge someone else, we call judgment onto ourselves. I for one, need grace in my life, in my family, and in the church. I need grace in order to forgive the terrible wrongs done to both me and my children. In order to receive grace, though, I must sow it by forgiving those who have wronged me,
We must learn to ask the Lord to give us grace in order to forgive and release those who have wronged us. It is only by his power and his Holy Spirit that complete forgiveness can be achieved. Biblical forgiveness includes blessing and praying for our enemies. Many stumble at this point, but I am convinced that forgiveness is never quite complete without it. These prayers are not prayers for judgment which can lead to a hardened heart, but for God’s blessing on the individual—not on his actions.
I simply do not understand Christians who are full of hatred and bitterness. There is no room in the Church or in a believer for hatred of any kind for any reason. God is love.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
I am convinced that the totality of the Christian journey consists of learning how to love. God loves us all equally. There is nothing we can do to make him love us more and nothing we can do to make him love us less. Some believe that we have to change to get God to love us, but the Bible teaches that it is his love that changes us.
In forgiving those who have wronged us, we release them to God for his justice. In addition, anything owed to the victim of injustice will be paid back by God himself.
Here is a sample prayer of forgiveness. Please pray from the heart:
Father, I come before you in the name of Jesus and I ask for your grace in helping me to forgive____________(person that hurt you) for all of the hurts he/she has inflicted on me including_______________(name the deepest hurts. I also ask that you forgive me for judging this person and I release both of us from those judgments I have made. I ask that you cleanse my emotions and I bless _____________(name of person) to be all that you would have them be. I release the debt owed to me and ask that you would recompense me according to your perfect will. I thank you Father for this forgiveness. In Jesus” name I pray. Amen.
-Pastor Sherri Falco
|Posted on February 17, 2016 at 1:55 PM||comments (0)|
I just want to thank God for my new car. About a year ago, a friend of mine had a dream that a car was coming from the clouds down straight to me and I asked her, "What do you think that means?"
She said, "I think God's going to give you a new car, Allison!" Well, I prayed about it a few times but I have to admit I didn't really have the faith that God would give me such a big gift.
About a year later in the spring of 2015, I was in a prayer group with two other women and one of the ladies turned to me and she said, "God said He's going to give you an extravagant gift, Allison. But you're going to say no but you're supposed to say yes." And right away I thought, Oh man I really need a new car. It would be so great if it was a car. The other lady also thought that it was a car. But again I didn't really have the faith that God could give me such a big gift.
Well, about a month later a friend of mine called me and said that she was going to by a car for her family but instead she wanted to buy me a car as a gift. And I couldn't believe it and of course I said no, I couldn't accept such an extravagant gift and I hung up the phone with her. And I remembered my friend's dream and I remembered what my friend said to me about God giving me an extravagant gift and that I was supposed to say yes. I called her back the next morning and I said, "Yes, thank you very much and I would like to receive that gift."
And I just want to thank God so much because I could have gotten a second job and maybe, you know, saved enough money and eventually somehow gotten a new car. But at the time I was working for the church and I was really trying to serve God and I didn't have much money. I just am so amazed that God is such an incredible provider of such extravagant gifts. I really just want to thank Him for my brand new car.
I remember thinking Oh it would be so cool if I got the car and it had about 70,000 miles on it because 7 is such a great number for me and when I drove the car to the church for the first time at our food pantry (I volunteer at the food pantry) the odometer read 77,770 miles. So praise God for that. Thank you.