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PRAYERS THAT MALFUNCTION

Where was God? His Word was dust; her prayer life shriveled up.

Adults in Peanuts animated cartoons are only heard by the unintelligible sounds of a muted trombone (“mwah-mwah-mwah”) That’s how Sandy’s family hears her. A believer. Sandy ardently wants to share Jesus with family, but whenever she does, they roll their eyes. Her prayers are not answered. Something is malfunctioning. “Mwah-mwah-mwah!”

GOD SEEMED FAR, FAR AWAY

Sandy shares her story: “This past year has been an ongoing crisis. My daughter had an accident and I ended up being the caregiver, 24/7, for both daughter and newborn grandson. Included was being a nanny-on-demand for other relatives. The pressure never let up. My car went caput. I lost all sense of independence and was at the mercy of others for transportation. In my exhaustion. In the mix was my ex-husband, a constant thorn in my flesh. God seemed far, far away.”

HER PRAYER LIFE SHRIVELED UP

Where was God? Sandy’s life consisted of a constant cycle of exhaustion and anger toward her family, her ex, and her non-helpful church family. The Word of God was dust; her prayer life shriveled up.

THE DESIGN OF PRAYER

Finally, after a year of anguish, God spoke in a way which she did not anticipate. In the midst of her rants regarding her ex, God reminded her of her own sins. Sandy had never forgiven her ex or asked for his forgiveness regarding her own livid behavior towards him. John Piper writes: “God answers prayers for people who believe in his Son and who love each other. Prayer has a specific design, and if you misuse it, it malfunctions. What is the design of prayer? Prayer is designed by God to be the effect of faith and the cause of love. If we try to pray when our aim is not to love, prayer malfunctions.”

PRAYER IS THE POWER TO LOVE

The Apostle John states in I John 3:18-24: We receive from Him whatever we ask, because we keep His commandments. John Piper explains: “Not because keeping his commandments earn answers to prayer, but because prayer is designed to give power in the path of obedience. Prayer is God’s way of making himself available for us when we are pouring ourselves out in love for others. Prayer is the power to love. Therefore, if we do not aim to love, we pray in vain.”

THE 10% RULE

Bitterness had to be knocked off Sandy’s throne. The dam of unconfessed sin broke as God let her glimpse what and who she is: a ragged daughter of God who refused to aim to love. It is said, “If you have confessed 90% of your sin to God but knowingly keep back that 10%, that 10% is the 100% of what is hindering your prayer life and relationship with God.” Sandy gave up the 10%. A miracle has occurred. Her loved ones no longer hear “mwah-mwah-mwah” when she both speaks and acts. Her prayer life has been revived.

THE WAY TO THE PRAYER ROOM OF GOD

Are you holding back any 10% in confession to both God and man? It is humbling to make things right, but untold beauty from God can be yours. “And whatever we ask, we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.  This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. Love is costly, but love paves the way to the Prayer Room of God.

Click for further great info on unanswered prayers.

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WHY GO TO CHURCH?

Church used to be so wonderful for her until the conflicts began.

Becky’s nights were sleepless. Joy was a distant memory. Church used to be so wonderful for her until the conflicts began. She was wounded by both staff and members, but at the same time she also let fly her own sharp verbal arrows. And so, she withdrew from her church family, from corporate worship. Now she only watches church online in the loneliness of her living room. She has drawn away and is a distant spectator.

JESUS KEPT SHOWING UP

As I listened to her story, I thought of all the times Jesus kept showing up on the Sabbath in the synagogue to worship. Rarely was He well received. In his home town they chased Him out and attempted to push Him off a cliff. Yet week after week, Jesus kept honoring God and His command for corporate worship. Corporate means: “formed into a unified body of individuals”. This is the unified body of individuals who worship the true and living God.

NO EXEMPTIONS GIVEN

God doesn’t give exemptions in the fine print of the Bible. It does not say, “Stay home because Mrs. Smith is such a hypocrite. Pastor Smith has been known to occasionally be too blunt. Elder Smith has treated you unfairly. For all these reasons, ditch church.” Jesus rubbed shoulders with some of the worst of the worst in the Temple: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the scribes. The vast majority treated Him unfairly. They didn’t know God; they were just religious. Yet Jesus kept worshipping corporately and obeying God because He loved God. It is a privilege to be able to worship together.

IDENTIFY YOUR FEELINGS

For Becky, some excellent advice would be “turn your focus away from the people involved and the church itself and identify the root cause of your pain, turmoil, and disillusionment. Honestly identify what you are feeling. If you are like most people, here are some possibilities: anger, sorrow, disappointment, rejection, hurt, jealousy, vulnerability, fear, rebellion, pride, shame, embarrassment, or loss.

WHAT IS CAUSING YOUR PAIN?

Find out what is at the core of your hurt—not what someone said or did to you, but what is really causing your pain? Then search the Scriptures to discover what God says about it. Take a Bible concordance and look up each word and read, think, pray, and apply the verse. For example, you may think that you are angry when in reality you feel rejected. What does God say about rejection? He says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5); “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3); and, “Surely I am with you always” Matthew 28:20).” (GotQuestions.org)

THE COMMAND

Note the privilege of worship and the command in Hebrews 10:19-25. We need to: “hold on to the hope that we profess without the slightest hesitation—for he is utterly dependable—and let us think of one another and how we can encourage each other to love and do good deeds. And let us not hold aloof from our church meetings, as some do. Let us do all we can to help one another’s faith, and this the more earnestly as we see the final day drawing ever nearer.

Becky, draw near!!!

For further thought, click to listen to the story of Melody Green

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LOVE LIKE AN EXPERT

Clueless unsaved John didn’t understand what real love meant. He was powerless.

I love watching “The Great British Bakeoff”. Twelve amateur bakers compete against each other to win the title of Greatest British Baker. Each round displays the bakers’ skills as they create roulades, fondant fancies, pavlovas, etc. I watch in wonder. Usually, I don’t understand the vocabulary or the method of what they are doing but I love their skill. Even if I obtained a great copy of their recipes, I could not master them. I am simply clueless (sadly, my family will agree) as a baker. Appreciating a skill set and being able to do it are two different things.

NO EXPERT AT LOVE

I John 3:11-18 was written by someone who previously was no expert at love. Clueless unsaved John didn’t understand what real love meant. He was powerless. Ray Stedman observes about John: “This is not his nature at all. He and his brother James earned from Jesus the title, “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17), because they were constantly wanting to blast back at those who opposed them. It was John and James who came to the Lord when a village refused to have them come in and said, “Shall we not call fire down from heaven upon them?” Luke 9:54). It was John and James who were constantly quarreling with the other disciples. The temperament of this man, John, was not one of naturally showing love.” John’s life was upended by the resurrected Christ. Overnight, he was given the power to love.

TEMPERS AND FISTS WERE FLYING

It is important to note the recipients of this epistle were having a problem with love. John’s readers were going through a time of church schism. Tempers were flaring and fists may very well have been flying.  In the midst of this, John describes the distinguishing mark of the genuine believers versus the false teachers that were invading the flock: love. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 

“ME LOVE”

Before Christ, John only knew what Stedman describes as “me love”, a love of himself. “The love we show as non-Christians is really a love of ourselves. We love our children because they are extensions of us. Our life is related to our father or mother so we love them. We love our relatives (presumably) because they are ours. Of course, we love our dog, our cat, our horse. We love the friends who please us, we love those who help us. Love is always directed to those who do something to, or for, or receive from us. Therefore, what we really love is the projection of ourselves in others. Thus, human love is self-centered.”

A PERSON WHO HAS NO LOVE IS DEAD

John challenges us to display the kind of love that is often uncomfortable, humbling, and puts obedience to Christ above any type of pride. It shows the stark contrast between believers and people who are spiritually dead. If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. (1 John 3:14 NLT) No genuine Christ follower is allowed to be clueless and powerless in displaying sacrificial love.

DON’T BE CLUELESS

John poses the question: are you genuinely saved? He doesn’t ask if you are a nice, kind, or a moral person. He challenges us to lay it all on the line: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”  Only through relationship with Christ can we win the championship of loving other brothers and sisters in Christ such that we “lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Don’t be clueless. John learned to be an expert lover and we can do the same.

Click to read the astonishing love testimony of Jacob Deshazer

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NOURISHED, LIKE THE BABY BIRDS

We may become weak and weary in our faith. Without spiritual nourishment we fade away.

Spring is my favorite time of the year. The first flowers peek through the ground and new buds form on the trees. I know the world around me is coming back to life. In anticipation, I look forward to the warming temperatures after the cold and often dreary winter. The robins get busy digging for worms. The air is filled with the enchanting melodies of the songbirds. My hearts sings along with them.

Many spring seasons we have been hosts to a nest of robins atop the light fixture outside our patio door. It’s a great spot; under the porch roof and high enough for protection from danger. This year was no different. Mother robin wasted no time in building a sturdy nest in which to lay her eggs. We saw her come and go. She often sat on the porch railing to make sure the coast was clear. Soon we could hear the tiny chirps of the hatchlings.

HEADS POP UP, MOUTHS WIDE

If they are alone in the nest, the sound of our door opening quickly prompts their tiny heads to pop up, their mouths wide open. They know that their mama is returning to the nest with food. Without it they will grow weak and die. They trust her for their nourishment to grow and develop.

WEAK AND WEARY IN THE FAITH

In the same way, we need food and nourishment, but even more important is our necessity for the spiritual food that helps us grow and thrive in our relationship with God. Without it, we become weak and weary in our faith. Spiritual nourishment comes from the God’s Word.

INVITATION TO RELATIONSHIP

The Bible is God’s invitation to a relationship with Him. It is inerrant and the final authority on all matters of faith; our guide for living in a way that honors God. He offers this food abundantly and available to us at any time. We need only to open our hearts and minds to receive it. We are commanded to drink it in. “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2). In Deuteronomy chapter 8 we read that God fed the Israelites with manna, “that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”(v3).

SAVOR EVERY BITE

Like dining at a fine food restaurant, we are to savor every bite, taking our time to enjoy it. We are to “chew” on it, to meditate and consider how we can apply it to our lives. We need to relish God’s word, making it a part of us as it strengthens and sustains us.

In the last several days, our baby birds left the nest, but we’ve discovered that there are 4 new eggs in the nest waiting to hatch. I’ll once again be able to see tiny heads pop up with mouths wide open, eagerly awaiting some food.

Are you seeking daily spiritual nourishment, enthusiastically anticipating your food from God’s Word? Is your heart and mind wide open, ready to take in and apply the truths He reveals to you? Without it, believers grow weak and cannot grow. God wants you to grow! Dig in and be nourished!

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NICE, BUT “OF THE DEVIL”

Religion is the death knell for the Mrs. Krebs’ of the world.

I John 3:4-10 is a difficult passage of Scripture for me. It’s personal and hard to observe very nice people (by our human standards) and lump them into John’s summary: “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.”  What about “Mrs. Krebs”, the church “saint”? (Name withheld to protect the non-innocent) Whenever the church puts out a plea for help in the kitchen, she is there. If they need a Sunday School teacher, she responds. No matter if they are toddlers or teens, she has a lesson and a pocket full of M&M’s that meets the needs of any age. Mrs. Krebs serves, regardless.

WHAT IS A SAINT?

I call her a “saint” using the Google definition: “a very virtuous, kind, or patient person”. Mrs. Krebs possesses all three of these qualities. However, the Bible defines “saints” as a group of people set apart for the Lord and His kingdom.  That’s what holiness is: being set apart for God alone.

THE METRIC FOR KNOWING GOD

Growing up in the church, I met a lot of people who love to go to church and participate in all the activities that are offered: Sunday worship, youth activities, baptisms, weddings, and yes, even funerals. We smile and serve year after year, but none of these things are the metric for evaluating an actual relationship with God. That’s the important part: saints have a genuine relationship with God and are set apart for Him alone.

THE “CULTURAL CHRISTIAN”

Mrs. Krebs is what is termed as a “cultural Christian”. John says, “No one who lives in him, keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him, or known him?” (I John 3:6).  Mrs. Krebs does good things, but doesn’t know Christ. In secret, she sins and just shrugs it off. People may like a church, grow up in a church, and have an affinity for everything that the church approves of, but they may only be what are called “cultural Christians”. They don’t know Christ or have the heart of Christ. They just have religion; not a relationship.

THE UNSAVED CHRISTIAN

Dean Inserra has written a book called “The Unsaved Christian”. He says, “Like their New Testament counterparts from Matthew 7, they know religion, but they don’t realize that their religion is the very thing from which they need to be saved. I tried to imagine the faces of those calling “Lord, Lord”, when Jesus told them, that they won’t be going to heaven. Their religious resumes were something to admire, yet Jesus wasn’t impressed–He was outraged. Rather than calling them good people, He called them lawbreakers.”

RELIGION IS THE DEATH KNELL

John’s warning is in the present tense. The phrase “continues to sin” refers to a habitual action of defiance and rebellion. People who become Christians will sin, but they will not live as they once did because they know Him. At the moment of belief, His divine seed is implanted in their lives. God’s new life gives both the desire and the power to live a holy life; a life set apart for Christ. We may serve in a lot of wonderful ways like Mrs. Krebs, but religion is the death knell for the Mrs. Krebs’ of the world. She doesn’t have a personal relationship with Christ.

So how do you measure up? Does God define you as a cultural Christian or a genuine Christian? Has the work of Christ alone both saved and preserved you? Has God implanted in you His holiness plus a desire to serve a life dedicated by love for Him? Does “set apart for Him alone” describe your life? Maybe you need to have a talk with Him.

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HOW TO THRIVE

As time has passed, I came to know that there’s no way to dig in, grit teeth, and white-knuckle my way through this sorrow and grief, waiting for the time to be up.

Many years ago, before my husband Frank and I were married, we sought God’s wisdom and direction. There was an important decision that could change our lives. Frank commented that he thought he knew how long the Lord was going to take before He answered. He also said he was not going to share that info with me. Frank knew that I would just be waiting for the time to be up instead of seeking the Lord’s will and spiritually growing while in this difficult place of seeking.

I DIG IN AND GRIT MY TEETH

It was like a gut-punch of truth. Frank understands that I like to know the plan, work the plan, and achieve the goal. I have a tremendous ability to dig in, grit teeth, and white-knuckle my way through challenges.

NEARLY THREE YEARS

It’s been nearly three years since my adult son, Anthony, suddenly went to Heaven. Since that day, I have been exiled to the deepest, darkest portion of the Valley of Death’s Shadow. Initially, I had to talk myself through each breath, then each moment. Just do the next thing. Eventually, I’d mark that I had made it through another day, week, month, and year. One year closer to leaving the pain of this life behind and seeing Anthony again.

NOT JUST SURVIVE, BUT THRIVE?

As time has passed, I came to know that there’s no way to dig in, grit teeth, and white-knuckle my way through this sorrow and grief, waiting for the time to be up. I will carry this loss for the rest of my life. I pray for wisdom on how to keep moving forward but I’m not strong enough. So how do I do this when I know that God wants me to not just survive but thrive?

YOU WILL PROSPER

God, in His gentleness, reminded me of the exiles. The Jewish people were exiled to Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar and had been removed from their families and lives they had known. Living in this foreign land, everything was different from their previous lives in Israel. They mourned the loss of life as they had known it, longing for return to their true home. Yet in this place of captivity, the Lord told them through the prophet Jeremiah, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:5-7)

HOW TO LIVE

This same passage declares God’s good plans for the people’s hope and future. He promises to bring the exiles back to their home one day. Until then, God commands the people to call on Him and pray. God guarantees to listen and be found. He will be with them, even in this place (Jeremiah 29:10-14). He tells them how to live: not to just survive, but to thrive.

I WANT TO THRIVE

Like the Israelites, I no longer have the family and life I had before. I long for my true home: Heaven. Fully, I feel the grief and loss. Although I am not yet able to dance on the grave of my sorrows, I daily do my best to fully surrender to the Lord, call on Him, and pray for increase and prosperity in my new land. I don’t want to just survive. I want to thrive.

Where do you find yourself today? Why not follow Jeremiah’s instructions and continue to call on God and pray as you wait? Seek peace and prosperity in whatever place you find yourself, trusting with hope in God’s plan for your future. Endeavor to not just survive but thrive until the Lord’s promise to take us home is fulfilled.

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LET HIM SETTLE IN

Lord, you have been a guest, and I have been the host. From now on I am going to be the servant.

I didn’t know my grandmother very well. During my childhood, we visited her Sunday afternoon. She was a rather stern woman who enjoyed boxing matches on TV and ruled her household with an iron fist. My relationship with Grandma was superficial. When she died there was not a great hole in my life because the relationship never existed. I did not have an abiding relationship with Grandma. It contrasts with the “remain in Him” phrase in this passage because it means “abide in Him”. I did not abide with Grandma.

MAKING A PERMANENT HOME

“Abiding” in I John 2:28-3:3 is the idea of settling in; making a permanent home. To dwell with Jesus does not mean occasionally stopping by for coffee. It is not superficial, but a constantly deepening and vital relationship with Jesus Christ. Read what Jesus said about “abiding”: If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:23) David Guzik writes: “There are two Greek words to convey the idea of “to live in”; one has the idea of living in a place as a stranger, and the other has the idea of settling down in a place to make it one’s permanent home. The beautiful doxology in Ephesians 3:14-19 uses the word “dwell”, the ancient Greek word for a permanent home. This indicates Jesus wants to settle down in our hearts, not just make a brief Sunday visit. Jesus is ready to park the U-Haul truck and unload his complete household into our hearts.

TRUE COMMITMENT MEANS ABIDING

Allowing Christ to abide is the only way to discover His power to love people through us. In this broken world, Christ’s love is what people long to see. “Many people say they will have nothing to do with Christianity because of all the hypocrites. You see, if there were not some expectation Christians should be different, you couldn’t charge them with being hypocritical. You really wouldn’t go to a nightclub and discover the people at the next table weren’t overtly friendly, didn’t invite you to their home… If you discover one of them was sleeping with a prostitute, would you start talking about hypocrisy? No, no, no, no. In fact, in most of the religions of the world, there is no tie between morals and ethics on the one hand and religious commitment on the other.” (written by Don Carson) True commitment means abiding.

THIS IS A STRANGE LOVE

We aren’t talking about the type of love in Hallmark cards, little emojis, or “likes” on Facebook.  This quality of love goes into the trenches, pursues the unlovable, and spends a great deal of time on its knees. It doesn’t sacrifice so that it will look good or concern itself with “what will people think”. This is a strange love; the same sacrificial love by which Jesus gave His life for us. See how great a love the Father has given us, that we would be called children of God; and in fact we are. For this reason the world does not know us: because it did not know Him.” The world didn’t know what to make of Jesus. It certainly doesn’t know what to make of us when we begin abiding in Him and loving others to the point of being willing to give our lives for them. 

GIVE HIM THE KEYS

What is your relationship with Christ? In “My Heart-Christ’s Home”, Robert Boyd Munger writes: “I saw it in a minute and dropping to my knees, I said, “Lord, you have been a guest, and I have been the host. From now on I am going to be the servant. You are going to be the Lord.” Give Him the keys. Let Him abide. Permit Him to move in, rearrange, and makeover your entire inner life. Say, “Go at it Jesus. I can’t live the Christian life without You!” 

Click link to read “My Heart – Christ’s Home” – you won’t regret it.

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YOU HAVE NOT PASSED THIS WAY BEFORE

Did you ever realize that God rarely ever tells His children the details of the future?

In 1988 our family moved to Illinois so my husband could go to seminary. Homesickness conquered my heart. “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayers were not cutting it.  What kind of spiritual life sustains you in crisis? Afterall, weren’t we “doing God’s work”? At the time, I didn’t realize God would do whatever He wanted, regardless of our personal plans. We had given God permission to do bring pain into our lives.

THE SURPRISES

We experienced lots of surprises. The sale of our house was supposed to carry us through most of Bill’s education. The funds only lasted the first year. Our new home was in Zion, IL and it certainly was not the Zion associated with heaven. We had given away our church home, our close ties with family and friends, and the confidence we had from prior ministries. Pastor Bill now worked as Janitor Bill. Teacher Jacqui who had excelled at working with young children found herself way out of her league teaching middle school and high school students. Our two sons had to build an entirely new world of friends. Life was hard.

DANIEL PRAYED, NO MATTER WHAT

Did you ever realize that God rarely ever tells His children the details of the future? Daniel and his friends knew that God would eventually bring exiled their people back to Israel, but God neglected to tell them that lions, a furnace, and tests would abound. One thing that especially pops out when one reads the Book of Daniel – Daniel prayed, no matter what.

A PRAYER LIFE THAT GREW

The reward for my struggles, in 1988-1991 amidst all the pain, was a prayer life that exponentially expanded into rich and deep conversations with God.  There was nowhere else to turn.  I began, out of desperation, to really focus on my relationship with God.  5 AM marked the time when I commenced going for long walks in the dark, crying out to God and asking for His guidance.  I felt liked the Israelites when they had to trust God as they walked across the Jordan. God commented, “you have not passed this way before.” 

A TIME TO MOVE FORWARD

So, in all the pain you may currently be going through, are you consciously keeping your eyes on God with the expectation that He will direct you since “you have not passed this way before”?  This may involve life changes such as intentionally spending more time talking to God and less time complaining to others about what is happening.  More actions carried out with the courage and wisdom of Jesus and less behaviors determined by your fears.  This is not the time for cookie cutter prayers, this is the time to move forward, deeper into the Christ Who knows “you have not passed this way before.” 

LISTEN WITH AN UNDIVIDED HEART

Ruth Haley Barton in “Sacred Rhythms” writes: “As long as we continue to reduce prayer to occasional piety we keep running away from the mystery of God’s jealous love.” I wanted to run away from this painful love.  Barton continues: “let God’s creative love touch the most hidden places of your being and …to listen with attentive, undivided heart to the inner movement of the Spirit of Jesus, even when that Spirit was leads to places you would rather not go.”  In the dark at 5 AM I began to let God pry my fingers off those things I had previously treasured.  I began to beg God for what He wanted to transpire in my life, as hard and painful as it was.  The floor had been ripped out, the roof blown off. God wanted to build my life in a new closer way. 

I CAME TO THE CROSS

Barton continues: “We come to Him with empty hands and empty heart, having no agenda.  Half the time we don’t even know what we need; we just come with a sense of our own spiritual poverty.”  I just dumped all of it, every awful shaming moment of it all, and came to the cross with bended knee.  It was in the dark in Illinois that I learned to let God do whatever He wanted, no matter the future. I had “not passed this way before.” 

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DON’T BE A SITTING DUCK

You don’t need additional Scriptures; you need to begin taking seriously what you already have.

Have you heard the commercial claiming if you ingest their fruit & vegetable supplements you will “feel better than you have had in years”? Regardless of your existing diet, “you are not receiving sufficient nutrients for optimal health”. By consuming their products, you will obtain the ticket golden for longevity. Bottom line is: YOU NEED MORE for these last hours. They have you pegged as a sitting duck.

DO WE HAVE EVERYTHING WE NEED?

In I John 2:18-27, John gives a warning for believers who think they need MORE. He warns of teachers who tell believable lies. “Even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” Satan aims to get believers off track and useless for the Kingdom. John Piper summarizes the claims of the antichrists’: “We have the Spirit and can tell you some crucial information that you have been missing about Christ.” Their goal is to want us to think that we don’t have everything we need for these days.

WHAT WE HAVE BEEN GRANTED

The Apostle Peter writes: “For His (Christ’s) divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world on account of lust.” (II Peter 1:3-4) Note the verb tense: “has granted”. This action has already taken place. Everything you need is offered by God Himself. When people have no theological depth and have not submitted to Christ working in their lives, they are sitting ducks for the antichrists. Do you know what a sitting duck is? Someone or something very easy for an enemy to shoot or attack.

EASY PICKINGS FOR FALSE TEACHERS

During the 1,000 years, before the Protestant Reformation, average men and women had very little clue as to what the Bible said. They were sitting ducks. Without copies of Scripture in their own languages, the people had to totally rely on their local priest to tell them what they should or should not believe. They were easy pickings for false teachers.

God brought to the scene a man by the name of William Tyndale. Tyndale translated the Bible into English so that common people could read the words of God. When a bounty was put on Tyndale’s head, God brought another man, John Rogers, who rescued Tyndale’s translation. Rogers further edited it so that we could eventually have the Book we today may carelessly disregard.

DANGEROUS WORDS

Why were both Tyndale and Rogers murdered? Because they put “dangerous” words into the hands of everyday people. They didn’t give people new words of God; they gave them something ancient which could powerfully change their lives since it was now available in their own language.

TAKE SERIOUSLY WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE

Your Bible has the words of God. The Apostle John refers to “anointing”. Ray Stedman explains, this as “an illumination of the mind and the heart, and a deep persuasion from the Holy Spirit. It involves intense powers of persuasion, it is a compelling thing, but it is not an impartation of knowledge. It is not a case of the Holy Spirit giving information which is not recorded in the Bible; it is a taking of the Scriptures and confirming them.” You don’t need additional Scriptures; you need to begin taking seriously what you already have.

DON’T BE A SITTING DUCK

As for the bestselling supplement’s claims for additional health benefits? Their ads changed when lawsuits popped up. The website’s disclaimer currently states that the product “isn’t intended to treat or cure any diseases.” In contrast, God’s Word treats and cures our diseased hearts. Don’t be a sitting duck. We don’t need extra revelations by teachers who claim new and additional words from God. Regularly ingest what’s already graciously been given by God Himself. Pull down that ancient Book and begin reading it today!

For extra encouragement read about Tyndale and Rogers.

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WRITING TO HEAL FROM TRAUMA

Yes, she’s had a long history of traumatic life events, but shouldn’t those scars be completely healed by now?

It is the perfect storm which seems to come out of nowhere. Yes, she’s had a long history of traumatic life events, but shouldn’t those scars be completely healed by now? The experiences that caused her so much pain now appear to be on a loop tape. How does she keep running into the same circumstances encountering the same people as the last time? It seems that the only thing that changes are the peoples’ names.

THE REARVIEW MIRROR OF THE PAST

At this point of her life, shouldn’t those memories be long in the rearview mirror of her past? Of course, it has not helped that recently life around her has seemed like one bad nightmare of a circus. She feels helpless.

NEVER BETTER?

Some days just the thought of getting out of bed takes more energy than running a marathon.  There is just no more energy to give. Weighed down, 100 lb. weights tied to her ankles. Will it never get better?

This is life dealing with trauma.  It locks you down and freezes you into place. Sandra Marinella recalls: “I learned this as I sat on the edge of the black velvet chair in the chalk-white, sterile office. My heart clenched as I waited for a doctor I did not want to meet. The door swung open, and a chalk-white radiologist entered and motioned me to sit back. I began to choke, and tears of nervous anticipation flooded my eyes. And then it seemed as if we were trapped in a black-and-white 16mm movie of my life, a scary, surreal film — the kind of strange avant-garde ones Andy Warhol used to make in the ’60s. There was no sound but the ghostly doctor mouthing the words, “You have cancer.”

IS MY STORY REPAIRABLE?

In Warhol style the film, appropriately titled Cancer, was projected onto dark walls — and it was showing my story. Then the projector clicked and sputtered and went silent. Suddenly my story seemed to have slipped off the spool and was cascading to the basement of my mind as ribbons of unwound, damaged film. Can this film — my story — be repaired?” (The Story You Need to Tell: Writing to Heal from Trauma, Illness, or Loss)

Is your film, your story, repairable? Yes, oh yes!  What are some steps toward healing?

  • Experience your pain and grief
  • Break your silence and find your voice
  • Accept and piece together a difficult or broken story
  • Find meaning or make sense of your event or story
  • Rewrite your story and find ways to reconnect with your health: physical, spiritual, emotional and mental

Take a pen and begin to write. Don’t be concerned with spelling or grammar, wondering if your writing is “any good”, or succeeding or failing, I challenge you to play around with a writing prompt this week. Begin by writing one or more statements that follow this form: “I want to…but I can’t because…” Examples are: “I want to move, but I can’t because I don’t make enough money.” “I want to find a find a friend, but I can’t because I suffer from shyness.” “I want to undertake a new challenge, but I can’t because I believe I am too old.”

Connect your statement with a dilemma currently face. Then answer these questions:  What is my dream? What obstacles are making it hard to accomplish my dream? How can I face this challenge? Write from your heart. Tell yourself the truth. It may be surprising what you learn. Ernest Hemingway wrote: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down with paper and bleed” Similar, but not the same, is my earlier post “Writing Your Story and Changing the Ending”.

Try learning to write (or sing) to the Lord a new song. It could be quite refreshing. Please let me know what you learn.

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DROWNING IN REMORSE

Just because one sinks to the depths doesn’t mean one has a truly repentant heart.

It is hard for me to believe; six months and out the door. Sue (name changed) and I had lunch to discuss her recent marriage and upcoming divorce. Her groom quickly broke his wedding vows. Sue professes being a believer. Prior to the marriage, Sue disregarded her counselor who strongly urged Sue not to get married. Her fiancé is not a Christ follower. Now Sue drowns in a sea of remorse. I mention some Scriptures that might help and Sue adamantly says, “How can Scripture help? After all, we know that the Bible is made up of a lot of fables. Take Jonah and the whale for instance.”

THE SAME WRONG MINDSET

Jesus does not have the same attitude about Scripture as Sue. He references the account of Jonah as literal in Matthew 12:40-41. It’s interesting that Sue and Jonah share the same wrong mindset toward the sanctity of God’s Word and commands. God has told both Sue and Jonah to turn right and they run in the opposite direction. Sue runs into a disaster of a marriage and Jonah takes a ship to nowhere. Regardless, Sue wants God to make her happy again, even though she rejects His Word. Jonah wants to again breathe on dry land.

REMORSE VERSUS REPENTANCE

Sue and Jonah share something else – a lack of repentance. Remorse is quite different than repentance. Sue regrets her unhappiness and Jonah regrets his lack of oxygen. Remorse is a sadness or disappointment over something that has happened. Repentance is to rearrange your entire way of thinking, feeling, and behavior in order to forsake that which is wrong. Sue regrets losing her marriage. She is not interested that God has a good plan for her life. Jonah regrets not being on dry land. They share remorse but not repentance.

THE SCREAM OF ONE DROWNING

A truly repentant heart is expressed by David: Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.   Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. (Psalm 51:2-9 NLT) Contrast this with Jonah’s prayer in Jonah 2. Do you hear Jonah recognizing his rebellion; owning up to his sin? Does he confess the enormity of his disregard of God? Or is his prayer a “hail Mary”? The kind of prayer you utter when you have used all your lifelines. It’s the scream of one drowning.

ANGRY AT GOD’S COMPASSION

Jonah purposely turned the opposite direction from God and ends up being been cast into the sea. Our merciful God rescues Jonah but lets him flounder around in the insides of a fish for three terrifying days. Yes, Jonah ends up going to Nineveh and fulfills the original command given by God. Yet if you look at Jonah 4, Jonah is angry at God compassion. Jonah throws a tantrum when the shade tree he sits under wilts. God addresses the real heart disease of Jonah in 4:10-11: Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”. I wonder if Jonah ever comes to terms with God?

SINKING DOESN’T MEAN REPENTANCE

I still wonder if my friend Sue ever accepts the God Who knows what is right and can be trusted. Will she repent of her heart attitude? Does she recognize her rebellion? Does it haunt her day and night? Just because one sinks to the depths doesn’t mean one has a truly repentant heart. Maybe your heart needs a checkup on its own relationship to God. Has sin taken up residence? Don’t be a Sue and definitely don’t be a Jonah.

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WRITING YOUR STORY AND CHANGING THE ENDING

Your story needs to be told

Everyone has a “I don’t believe this is happening to me” story. The story that makes you feel as if you are drowning, not even sure if you will survive. The experience that has sucked the air out of you and made you feel as if you are going under. This is your journey.

YOU NEED TO FIND YOUR STORY

Sandra Marinella writes: “When things happen that are unexpected, unwelcome, challenging, disorienting, or traumatic, we survive, but the storyline we were following is shattered. Untold stories don’t go away; they morph into volatile emotions, into flashbacks and anxiety, into behaviors we don’t understand in ourselves, things we wish we didn’t do — lash out, hide, avoid, get depressed, become lethargic, unable to go on. Untold stories cause ruptures in relationships, ill health, and spiritual or religious crisis, and contribute to a growing sense that our lives are disintegrating into chaos.” You need to find your story.

WRITING FOR NON-WRITERS

Why not try writing? Maybe you’re not a writer. You don’t have to ever show anyone your writing, and it will still work on your heart and mind to reorganize your life. Maybe you don’t have time for this. Ten minutes a day? Really? That’s way shorter than a Facebook minute. Possibly it’s scary to think of putting your life-breaking moments into words. This is your safety net. Are you ready to live a more resilient story? You can get through a crisis. You can survive grief. Repeat: find your story.

THE SAGA OF JANET

A key is finding the place that lies between our hopes and reality.  For example, let’s share the saga of Janet. She is the parent of 2 adult children, Sandy and John. Janet had always imagined that she would have a close family where her adult children deeply loved Christ and nurtured that same love within their own children, Joyce’s grandchildren. She imagined Sunday dinners, like a scene from the TV series “Bluebloods”.

However, Janet’s reality is that she has 2 adult children, only one of whom she feels even remotely close to. As for sharing a same love for Christ, that isn’t even on the table at this point in her children’s adult lives, let alone if they actually provided Janet with grandchildren. The only Bluebloods family dinners she experiences is if she watches a family of actors on TV. Janet’s heartbreak is daily and drains her from finding any joy. Could Janet rewrite her story?

FIND YOUR PLACE AND STYLE

  • Begin by finding a comfortable spot to write. If you want, bring your water bottle, coffee, or tea.
  • Choose a journal, notebook, or computer.
  • Forget about rules — grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Just plan to write.
  • ​Choose a prompt, put your pen to paper (or your fingers on your keyboard), and write for at least five minutes. If you write more, congratulate yourself! If a prompt fails to connect with you, try the next one.
  • Write as often and as much as you dare. Give it your best.
  • ​Then reread and reflect on what you have written. You may be surprised at the stories or thoughts you hold within.
  • ​Work to develop a personal writing practice that works for you. Every writer is unique, and by finding how you write best, you will grow your words and your voice.

This Week’s Writing Prompt: The Tragic Gap

Start by creating “tragic gap statements.” Do this by writing one or more statements that follow this form: “I want to…but I can’t because…” Here are some examples: I want to move, but I can’t because I don’t make enough money. I want to be an actor, but I can’t because I suffer from anxiety when I try to perform. I want to undertake a new challenge, but I can’t because I believe I am too old. Choose a dilemma you are facing. After you write this statement, answer these questions as best you can: What is your dream? What obstacles are making it hard to accomplish your dream? How can you face this challenge? What can you change? Open and close each writing period in prayer.

Freely borrowed from: Sandra Marinella. “The Story You Need to Tell: Writing to Heal from Trauma, Illness, or Loss” Highly recommend this book!

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LOVE TRANSFORMED

He shakes the sand off his feet and goes on to the next problem he will solve.  Afterall, he knows the answers…

Sam is saved, redeemed and sits in the front row of his Bible classes so that he will not miss a single word of the professor. At last, he knows all the answers to how to minister! And then comes the weekend. His sister Katie visits. She is a believer, struggling with hurts suffered from other believers. She opens up to Sam. He immediately jumps at the opportunity to straighten out his sister; to give her the prescription he has carefully memorized. Surely his love has been transformed?

Yet, things don’t go as planned. Katie takes afront to him and clams up. Sam has just dumped on her the truth and she has not listened. The brother shakes the sand off his feet and goes on to the next problem he will solve.  Afterall, he knows the answers…

THE GUY WHO WANTED TO CALL DOWN FIRE

The author of I John is the same disciple who wanted to call down fire from heaven upon those who rejected Jesus. (Luke 9:52-55) Sam’s behavior toward Katie is akin to the Luke account. However, disciple John featured in the Book of Luke and the John writing the epistle of I John are as different as night and day. The mature version of John has learned the love that makes every effort to conform to God’s mindset toward believers, even the prickly ones who have gotten a little lost in the shuffle. John’s love has been transformed.

HOLY SPIRIT TRANSFORMATION

Transformed love described in I John 2:7-11 is not a new love. The commandment existed from the beginning but there is new energy when a believer begins to live and obey the word. The Holy Spirit transforms us, enabling us to have the same love Jesus extended to His “besties”, the disciples.

TRANSFORMED LOVE IS NOT OPTIONAL

This is foundational to the gospel message. John Piper writes: “For John, the commandment of love belongs to what people should hear from the beginning. It is not an optional stage two in Christian growth.” The gospel contains not only the commandment to trust Jesus, but also the commandment, by the power of that trust in Christ, demanding transformation into a new loving person.

SAM, THE PHARMACIST

In that living room, Sam never listened to Katie, never shared her pain, never waited for the nudging of the Holy Spirit in the conversation. Sam considers himself the pharmacist, the one who dispenses the medicine and goes on to the next patient. He does not beg Christ to change him into a loving person who can walk alongside his sister, helping her to heal.

NO LOVE = NO TRANSFORMATION

It is costly to walk alongside someone who is hurting. Jesus spent three years walking alongside 12 men whose spiritual growth was often negligible. Yet, He endured, nudging them toward maturity.  John commands that this type of love enter the life of every believer. It is not optional. The Apostle John pretty much says, “If you don’t want to love, then you have not been changed.” Sam missed the boat by not bending to the command to fully and humbly love his sister. Is your ability to love transformed by the power and wisdom of Christ? Can Katie safely come knocking at your door?

For further inspiration regarding transforming love, watch the testimony of Gracia Burnham

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THE POTHOLE

Feelings of dread filled out hearts. This was definitely more than a bump in the road.

We visited the eye specialist thinking it would be an easy fix, like changing my husband Bill’s eye prescription. Earlier that week, Bill admitted that when driving, the single car approaching him on the right now appeared as two separate vehicles.  Not good.  The doctor talked to him for about twenty minutes and immediately scheduled Bill for an emergency deep tissue brain MRI. Feelings of dread filled out hearts. This was definitely more than a bump in the road; this was a giant pothole.

MORE THAN A POTHOLE

Bill is claustrophobic and it took 3 tries before they were able to get him into the narrow tube for the 45-minute-deep tissue MRI.  The technician told us Bill had a brain tumor.  It was Friday, which meant a very long weekend until the appointment with the neurologist Monday morning.  The irony of the situation was that Bill, just a few weeks before, had decided to take a huge step of faith and resign from his ministry position and to become open to wherever God wanted him.  This was bigger than a pothole.

Monday came.  The tumor was a benign pituitary tumor pressing on the optic nerve which was causing the double vision.  It was inoperable.  Hence, the doctor prescribed drug therapy to shrink the tumor.

THE TERROR OF POTHOLES

My husband is not one to jump into decisions (whereas, I often just want to know which particular cliff to jump off of) ……So, in the car, I told Bill I was okay if he wanted to reconsider his previous decision to step out on faith regarding his ministry career.  I still remember the certainty and strength in his voice when he replied, “No, I’m still going to obey.”  That my dear friends is faith.  Stepping into the unknown, especially when the unknown is unfathomable.  Sometimes potholes are terrifying.

OUR TRAVELING COMPANION

Psalm 91 kept going through my head.  “He would dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”   When Daniel’s friends were in the fiery furnace, it wasn’t like God said “Oh, my goodness!  How in the world did that one happen?!”.  Jesus walked with them through the flames.  God was not walking Bill and me around the fire, God was accompanying us through the fire and through the pit.

FOCUSING OFF THE FIRE

We had to choose to get our focus off the fire and look up to see the face of our Traveling Companion, Jesus.  “The person who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”  Amen and amen!

Have you invited Him to not only join your journey, but to also lead the journey, regardless of the potholes? Listen to the true story of George Whitefield, one who ran through the potholes.

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THE JESUS SWAGGER

When Jesus could have healed Lazarus, but God tells Jesus to pause.  Lazarus died.  What good friend lets another die?

He was 6’4” with a long, lanky body. Viewing his early films of the 1930s, he looks very stiff and a bit awkward. Slowly but surely, he learned to move in a very slow, deliberate way. The gait of John Wayne, the actor, “was slightly tipsy, slightly off-balance looking, rough, tough, and rugged”. He chose his walk, his trademark swagger.

WHAT IS THE JESUS WALK?

Jesus’ walk is also unique. What does it mean when John writes: By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says that he remains in Him ought, himself also, walk just as He walked”?  What is this Jesus walk? Earlier in the passage, there is a connection made between behavior (how we walk) and knowing Him. “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (I John 2:3-6)

CHEERS OR JEERS?

What were Jesus’ commandments? Read the Gospels. Jesus doesn’t conduct Himself according to the cultural norm. The disciples find this a wild unpredictable ride. Daily, Jesus spends time with His Father and follows the Father’s instructions for that day. This can lead to the unusual. One day the disciples find themselves taking a boat to visit a demoniac and another day visit a scandalous woman who belongs to “those people”; a group which good Jewish people do not associate with. The 12 never know if the next town will bring cheers or jeers.

Remember that occasion when Jesus could have healed Lazarus, but God tells Jesus to pause?  Lazarus died.  What good friend lets another die? Mary and Martha are none too pleased when Jesus shows up late to the funeral. Jesus often does not meet peoples’ expectations. He doesn’t play by the rules of the Pharisees or the Sadducees. When they condemn to death the woman caught in adultery, Jesus kneels and scribbles in the dust. They expect Him to launch the first stone.  Instead, He forgives her.

JESUS WOULD NOT GET A GREAT JOB EVALUATION

Let’s be honest, if you were Jesus’ employer and had to give Him a job evaluation, He would not excel on the spectrum.  For example, you would give Him negative points for planning. He spends hours speaking to thousands of people and after the fact (seemingly, off the cuff) asks the 12 to supply lunch. Jesus doesn’t even use hand sanitizer when He touches the lepers.

He is disruptive and uncooperative with local commerce and causes a big scene at the Temple. When an employee should be fired because of betrayal, Jesus welcomes him back with open arms and appoints him the leader of the group. In other words, by our standards, Jesus would be fired and His walk would be exiting out the door.

ONLY ONE BOSS

Jesus is not a good employee of mankind because He only follows one Boss, His Heavenly Father.  He came to do His Father’s will. That was and is His pattern every day of His life. Maybe you are a little stiff and a bit awkward with this whole concept of walking as Jesus walked. Is your aim to learn to move in a deliberate way that only aims to please Him? Do you let go of your schedule and with open hands accept Jesus’ priorities, uncomfortable situations, and the upheaval which He can bring to your life?  Have you learned to trust Him?

LEARN THE SWAGGER

Yes, your Jesus walk might at times appear slightly off-balance, rough, and not blend in with everyone else. But, “whoever says he lives in Christ [that is, whoever says he has accepted Him as God and Savior] ought [as a moral obligation] to walk and conduct himself just as He walked and conducted Himself. (I John 2:6).  It’s the only walk that glorifies Christ. Learn the Jesus swagger.

Suggested further study: George Whitefield, a Christ follower who God used to shake the world with his footsteps

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WHEN ALL YOU HAVE LEFT IS GOD

The encroaching darkness was frightening.  Her body had betrayed her

Over the years, Sandy ministered to many people.  She was a nurturer and she mothered people and pointed them to Christ.  An outgrowth of her job was helping to take care of the employees from Central America.  Sandy had a big heart.  One time she took on the local justice system when one of the workers wound up in jail.  If Sandy thought something was wrong, she would go to great lengths to make things right; she was a tigress. 

THE SHOCK

It was quite a shock when what Sandy was diagnosed with breast cancer.  The doctor at first thought it was just an infection, but after an unsuccessful course of meds further testing was done and she was given the diagnosis of cancer.  Sandy had a mastectomy and then started the dreaded chemotherapy.  She would have a course of chemo, get quite ill, start to feel better and then have to go for more chemo.  The chemo was followed by radiation. 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ALL THERE IS LEFT, IS GOD?

During the course of these therapies, Sandy’s lovely red hair fell out and her skin developed nasty painful rashes.  She had always been strong physically and now found herself imprisoned in a sick and alien body. Through the relentless progress of the disease, Sandy endured.  That final summer of her illness we discussed the question: “What happens when all there is left, is God?”

JEREMIAH IN THE PIT

Have you ever thought about Jeremiah of the Bible?  The dumped him in a slimy stinking mud of a cistern.  It had not been a winner season for him.  A look at Jeremiah 38 bears witness to a most disheartening progression of events.  As a preacher, Jeremiah faced a audience that didn’t pay any attention to his message.  God turned up the heat on Israel with an invasion by the Babylonians. Falsely accused of being a turncoat, Jeremiah was beaten and imprisoned in a dungeon for a lengthy period. Then came the terrible cistern.  The narrative tells us that he was so mired in the mud. When finally released it took thirty men pulling on ropes to lift Jeremiah out of the mud’s suction.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ALL THE LIGHT IS GONE?

What did Jeremiah find in that dark cistern?  Stuck and in the dark, all he heard was the dripping of water. All light fades.  During her final weeks of life, Sandy found her sight deteriorating because the cancer had spread to her brain.  The encroaching darkness was frightening.  Her body had betrayed her and the only place of safety was in the arms of the Savior. 

WHO IS WITH US

Psalm 46 paints a picture of a world in which the mountains are quaking, the seas are surging, and the earth is giving way.  Everything depended on in the past falls away.  Yet, verse seven says, “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”  It is one thing to consider God as with us and quite another to consider God as actually being our fortress. 

GOD IS ENOUGH

In that dark cistern, what did Jeremiah find ?  What did Sandy discover when her eyes lost sight?  Stability has flown the coop.  All constants disappear. One thing remains: God. In that moment, God is enough.  Ask God to open your eyes to His fortress of love.

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WHAT IS YOUR JOY LEVEL?

He was a new convert. As a newbie to anything Christian, the handbook for him might as well have been written in Swahili.

Ahh, the delights of the Student Handbook. It was a freshman’s first required reading years ago when I began Bible College.  Contained within were all the rules which would ensure a “happy” college existence.  The list of prohibitions was long and infractions were harsh. Included in possible “crimes” were attending movie theaters, guys’ hair extending over their shirt collars and girls’ skirts to not touching the floor (if the girl was kneeling). For many of us (including me) it was a culture shock. 

I met Carmen, a new convert. As a newbie to anything Christian, the handbook for him might as well have been written in Swahili. Carmen was recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and clearly not prepared for the rulebook. What he desperately needed to learn was what fellowship with the Savior was all about. Carmen was unable to find the joy of the Lord.

TO LOSE JOY IS A GREAT LOSS

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “If any of you have lost the joy of the Lord, I pray you do not think it a small loss.” Spurgeon believed Jesus’ promises regarding joy. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11) But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves (John 17:13) If joy is not found in a college rulebook, where can it be found?

JOY IS IN A PERSON

Joy is in a Person. In I John 1:1-4, the Apostle John makes sure every reader vividly knows exactly Who Jesus is. Jesus is not some vague historical figure, but Someone who John and hundreds of others heard, saw, touched, testified about, and knew. The believers formed a holy family circle with the Savior. Even 2,000 years later, this circle is open to all believers. The individuals in the circle do not have all the same skirt length, haircut, or even choice in entertainment.  What we gather around is the very Word of God, Jesus Christ.

WE LONG FOR CONNECTION

As believers, we long for connection. Jesus offers fellowship with God Himself. Christians tend to loosely throw around the word “fellowship”. God’s usage is not a church’s potluck. a high school lock-in, or a good old fashion hymn sing.  This is a deep connection with God which aims to flood our being to its very core.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 

JESUS’ HAIRCUT WAS NEVER AN ISSUE

How does one gain fellowship with Jesus Christ? By agreeing with Him. Christ functioned on this earth always in deep fellowship with God, agreeing with the Father. They never disagreed.  Jesus’ haircut was never an issue; the will of the Father was.

HE LONGS FOR YOU

Agreeing with God and taking action on what He actually says in His Word brings joy. There is a place setting for you at God’s table and He longs for you to dine with Him.  Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

Sadly, Carmen was unable to follow the college handbook and was kicked out in the Spring of his first year.  He never learned that fellowship with God is not created via manmade rules. If only someone would have drawn him into the circle of fellowship with Christ and what His Word actually said.

THE LITMUS TEST

Maybe this week, take some time and begin making a list of what is keeping you from having deep fellowship with God.  The litmus test may be the questions: “What is your joy level? What is preventing your joy in the Father from being full?” God longs for you. Do you long for Him?

For further reading on vital fellowship, clickhttps://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/1-john/life-with-father

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MY REPAIR SHOP

God pulls me out of myself, my own worries and upheavals into the Universe where He rules.  God speaks to me the best when I shut up and listen.

I am addicted to a British TV show called “The Repair Shop”. The show’s premise is that everyday people bring in family heirlooms which are then repaired and resuscitated for their owners by experts with a broad range of specialties. No one is charged for the work and people are jubilant to see previous pieces which have been mangled over the years, restored to beauty. I love to see beauty brought out of brokenness.

MY SOUL’S REPAIR SHOP

In my living room exists my own unique repair shop. In a corner sits a recliner which is not a family heirloom. It was a Costco special. Next to it is an adjacent couch, also not an heirloom. What makes the recliner special is its daily use.  I sit there and picture Jesus on the adjacent couch. The regular conversations that take place at my recliner have been golden. Beauty is created from brokenness.

THE TOOLS

To the left of my recliner are the tools:

  • My journal
  • Prayer Point” (a Bible reading guide published by Samaritan’s Purse)
  • Open Doors World Watch List 2024 (the top 50 countries I need to be praying for regarding persecution)
  • Valley of Vision” – a collection of Puritan prayers that are a great jumpstart for the days when I feel my prayers are rather dusty.

THE MOST VALUABLE TOOL

But the most valuable tool is my battered and marked up Bible.  I’ve run a lot of miles with it; written notes upon notes in the margins regarding things God has pointed out to me when I’m reading it. 

THE QUIET OF THE SHOP

I’m one of those people who need to have relative quiet while I’m at the shop. Total concentration is necessary. It’s not all about me. God voice needs to be clearly heard. Some days it is difficult when I’m wandering through Leviticus – it may seem dry as dirt (often a match for my soul).

God pulls me out of myself, my own worries and upheavals into the Universe where He rules.  God speaks to me the best when I shut up and listen. 

THE PLACE WHERE YOU MEET GOD

If you are already a believer (you have trusted Jesus Christ alone to make your life new) then having a Soul Repair Shop is one of the best things you can do. Your shop may look different than mine – better furniture, location, or it may even take place in a parked car.  Wherever, this is the place you meet God and implore Him to do His work. 

VISITING THE SHOP CAN BE PAINFUL

Just a warning, work in the Repair Shop can be a little painful. There have been numerous times where God has told me in no uncertain terms to repent, to eat humble pie, and to let go of prized projects. I have to keep remembering that He is the restoration expert, not me.

For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And not a creature exists that is concealed from His sight, but all things are open and exposed, and revealed to the eyes of Him with whom we have to give account.(Hebrews 4:12-13)

KEEP THAT DAILY APPOINTMENT

Except for the Word of God, the tools God uses in your Repair Shop may be a little different, but the main thing is to consistently permit Him to do His work.  That’s why it is vital to keep that daily appointment.  Do you want your broken parts made beautiful? Is it possible for God to make you clean?  Perhaps you also need to get addicted to “The Repair Shop”, but not the BBC version – God’s version.

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EVERYTHING CHANGED!

In an instant, death had arrived

A young man filled with great promise.  Lots of friends. Star of his basketball team. I can still remember the anguished wailing of his girlfriend. At the prime of life, in a second his life ended in a car accident. Sam was now laid out in a casket.  Everything changed.

HER CRIES FILLED THE AIR

In John 20:1-18, everything changed for Mary Magdelene.  She witnessed the darkness of the last moments of the Savior hanging in agony. Humiliated, tortured, and executed, He breathed His last breath.  “It is finished.” Her anguished cries filled the air. Everything changed.

DEAD FOLKS DON’T DO ALOT FOR THEMSELVES

Now is the time to pay her respects and give her beloved Rabbi the funeral He deserves. Tom Lynch, writer and undertaker, wryly comments: “As a general rule, dead folks don’t do a lot for themselves.  They can only have things done TO them.” But she discovers the stone sealing the tomb is rolled away! One heartbreak after the other.  Will it never stop? Mary cries, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

An odd duo races to the scene. John, the disciple who Jesus entrusted to care for His mother Mary.  Then there is Peter, the coward who denied ever knowing Jesus.  At the tomb the guys see the strips of linens the body had been wrapped in. Someone must have stolen the body!

THEY DIDN’T GRASP THE RESURRECTION

Ray Stedman comments, “One of the striking phenomena of the Gospels is the deafness of the disciples to the consistent revelations of Jesus concerning his resurrection. He had great difficulty convincing them that He was going to die in the first place. It was only as they saw the opposition closing in on Him that they realized His words were true. But even then, none of them seemed to grasp that every time He mentioned His death He also added that He would rise again on the third day.”

Mary Magdelene, overwhelmed with grief, peers into the tomb. An angel asks her why she is crying. She sobs: “Because they have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have put him!” Resurrection has not entered her thinking, regardless of what Jesus taught.

Amidst her tears, Mary then hears the voice of the One Who she thought was the gardener.  He whispers her name, “Mary.” Everything changes.

NOTHING REMAINS THE SAME

Mary turns and cries, “Rabbi!”  She sees the risen Christ. The empty tomb is the monument which displays the victory over sin’s curse.  The final enemy has been conquered. Nothing remains the same.

ACTING AS IF GOD IS DEAD

So then, how do we choose to live? It’s easy to forget everything changed. “Martin Luther once spent three days in a black depression over something that had gone wrong. On the third day his wife came downstairs dressed in mourning clothes. ‘Who’s dead?’ he asked her. ‘God,’ she replied. Luther rebuked her, saying, ‘What do you mean, God is dead? God cannot die.’ ‘Well,’ she replied, ‘the way you’ve been acting I was sure He had!’(recounted by Ray Stedman)

ARE YOU STILL MOURNING AT THE TOMB?

“Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!”  Is this how you choose to live each day with the Savior Who has risen?  Or, do you choose to be the one mourning at the tomb, all your dreams dashed with no power to face another hour? The good news of Easter is: everything has changed! The victorious risen Christ offers to share His life with you.  Your wailing can be turned to joy.  Everything changes with the risen Christ.

Want additional inspiration? Click for the testimony of Jerry Dugan

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MY FROG EXPERIENCE

Life was a mess but I didn’t realize that gradually I was being robbed of my ability to cope.  I just wanted the pain to stop.

In the middle of one of the darkest time periods of my life I had absolutely no hope that resolution would come quickly, or that it would ever come.  My car was approaching a busy intersection.  My light was red.  The thought quickly entered my mind, “Why don’t you just press the gas instead of the brake? If you get lucky enough, you just might be able to end all your pain in one fatal accident.” I didn’t hit the gas, but it did finally enter my brain the deepness and seriousness of my depression. 

FROG COOKING 101

How had I gotten to that point? There is the old story of how to cook a live frog. You place it in a pot of cold water (if you suddenly turn up the heat and bring the water to a boil, the frog will jump out immediately to escape the danger). However, if you begin with lukewarm water and gradually increase the temperature, the frog won’t perceive the danger.  It will remain in the pot, unaware, and eventually be cooked to death.

THE SAD NEW NORM

That’s the way it can be with depression.  It enters one’s story, but gradually becomes such a normal part of one’s life that this becomes the new norm. That was me driving through that intersection.

DEPRESSION ROBS

Depression slowly makes gains day to day.  It commits the crimes of robbery of wonders such as joy, peace, sleep, or the ability to just cope with regular life.  I was that frog in the pot – life was a mess but I didn’t realize that gradually I was being robbed of my ability to cope.  I just wanted the pain to stop.

DEPRESSION ISOLATES

The problem for many people who are massively depressed is that they don’t have someone true and faithful they can confide in.  Someone who will not only listen, but can be trusted to be upfront when the truth needs to be told but loving at the same time.  The only person I knew who I could confide in was stuck in the same mess as myself.  Depressed people are lonely and the depression just intensifies the isolation.

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK

So what is the challenge for this week? Avoid traffic intersections!!!! (Just kidding) Ask God for a friend.  Not just any old friend, a friend who loves Jesus totally and will extend to you the same grace that Jesus extends.  To find this friend (or friends) may mean you will have to get out of your comfort zone.  You may have to volunteer somewhere, begin attending a church, engage your neighbors in more than the “Hi” “Bye” typical conversations, or maybe make a phone call to someone who you used to be able to connect with.  Possibly none of these will work out for you – but what have you lost by trying???  Begin every day with the prayer, “Lord, please help me to begin being open to people and also lead me to someone I can help.”

DON’T STAY IN THE POT!

Try it and please let me know what happens. Don’t just stay stuck in the pot.

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FREEFALL INTO PAIN

And then it happened. I bend over to pick up a pair of shoes from the floor and out goes my lower back.

How did I get myself here? An everyday work day, beginning with my ‘to do list’. Feeling the joy of accomplishing anything I wanted to. One of those goals was small: to have an afternoon winter nap, warm under a layer of heated covers, with my cats nestled up against my backside. Add a meal for a full tummy, a binge on YouTube of brainless scrolling and my checklist would be complete.

THE FALL

And then it happened. I bend over to pick up a pair of shoes from the floor and out goes my lower back. Holding on to the bathroom sink, I use all my strength trying to keep myself from falling. I try lowering myself down to my knees. My back muscles scream in pain. I let go of the sink. Fall to the bathroom floor. I have been in this fetal position before. With great reluctance, I attempt moving into a yoga position known as child pose to relax my muscles. My body is in a freefall of pain.

PLUMMETING BACKWARDS

On the floor, the spasms don’t allow movement of my legs or back. Yet, less than one foot from me is the young lady I came in to support. Did I mention that I am a caregiver? I find myself more helpless than her. My life is plummeting backwards over a cliff.

WHAT CAN I BE THANKFUL FOR?

Immediately I attempt switch to my gratitude list for my own sanity.  What can I be thankful for? Aha! There is another coworker within the area. Calling for help, I remind myself to just keep taking deep breaths. It takes everything not to shout at the top of my lungs: “Lord, take me to heaven now!” However, yelling out in pain could traumatize my client, so I suppress the cries welling up within me. My life is in freefall.

MY BODY IS STUCK

Medical treatments begin my very slow recovery. I get my winter nap, but not the nap of my dreams. From my seated vantage point, I longingly see my bed. I don’t dare get into the bed; I would not be able to get out of it. I sleep three weeks in a lazy chair with my legs elevated on a heating pad. I cannot bend over to touch my knees let alone my toes, and I cannot bend side to side at my waist. My body is stuck. I’m not falling, but I’m also not moving.

BEFORE….

Before all of this, I was doing so well with exercise class and keeping busy with church activities. Now, all progress has ceased. So many steps backward, from making headway in building a life that isn’t comprised only of my job.

1/2 STEP FORWARD?

Arthritis racks my lower spine and hips. I prepare myself for my first exercise class in a month. Maybe I can make 1/2 step forward? I am scared but this is my start. I will try, then I will rest. I will not push. I will not try to fix my body in one hour. I will continue to build the pieces back of the life I was slowly envisioning.  Maybe the results will be better than I imagined?

MY DECISION

Will I have another freefall? Maybe, but I also have a promise. ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’. (Jeremiah 29:11) Even though I am afraid, I am deciding to trust.

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IS THE INEVITABLE ACTUALLY EVITABLE?

Hopelessness does have to be your deadend.

It’s no use.  I didn’t succeed before.  Nothing’s changed.  Why should I expect anything different? It’s inevitable. All of us have at one time or another had those thoughts run through our hearts.  It might have been for an hour, a day, a week, month, or even years.  There is nothing that Satan would like more than to convince believers that there is no hope. That is often a major component of depression.

HANNAH OVERTON’S STORY

Hannah Overton had given up hope. Her story is beyond “compelling” (a little nod to the podcast company).  Falsely accused of killing her 4-year-old foster son, Hannah was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.  This mother of six had to transition from being a homeschooling mother of six to being a resident of a maximum-security prison.  It became her new home address for seven years.  So many times, especially at the beginning, she was filled with resentment, depression. She became suicidal.  Most would think she was entitled to exiting this painful life. 

JOSEPH’S STORY

That’s probably exactly the same thought that tempted Joseph in the Book of Genesis when he was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, became a prison resident, and given a brief glimpse of hope (which was quickly shut down).  He spent thirteen years before the tide changed.

GOD NEVER FORGOT HIM

The most important thing about Joseph’s story is that even when he was in darkness, God never forgot Him.  That is the reason why day in and day out, even in the most challenging circumstances, Joseph behaved in a way that honored God.  He didn’t resign.  Joseph chose to make God the ruler of his life, rather than the slave owners and the prison warden.  He decided on hope.

GOOD OUT OF BAD?

The Joseph’s attitude is found in Genesis 50.  In a miraculous chain of circumstances, h rose to be the 2nd most powerful man in Egypt. Upon the death of their father, the brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery so many years ago were afraid that Joseph would seek revenge on them.  Joseph’s response to his brothers’ terror is, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

ANTIDOTE FOR HOPELESSNESS

A life-preserver is only of use when a person grabs on to it and holds on for dear life.  The Savior can only save those who grab hold of Him and choose to keep holding on. The central attitude adopted by Joseph regarding the betrayals of his brothers was, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” (Gen. 50:15-20) He chose to cling to the best antidote to hopelessness: God’s truth. That is eventually the same decision that led to Hannah not taking her own life while in prison. She held on to God’s faithfulness, even in the midst of great darkness.

THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE

Challenge for this week – start taking regular time to develop God’s viewpoint on your current circumstances. I have found planning spend a day without any electronic media – no Facebook, TV, movies, YouTube, no world news, etc. is extremely helpful. It’s a vacation day for your spirit. Take time to carefully read, listen and reflect on His Word and let it saturate your view of your personal circumstances.  Here are a few passages that might be helpful: Psalm 91, Psalm 31:3-5, Psalm 34:17-20. Write down those verses that speak to you and try to commit them to memory. Hopelessness does not have to be inevitably permanent.

Please let me know if your spirit’s vacation day helps bring some light. It might be the rest your soul needs right now. Both Hannah, Joseph, and I have found it extremely beneficial. Break the chain of thinking, “Why should I expect anything different? It’s inevitable.

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IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT ME

What have the recent crises in your life, your country, and your world, demonstrated about your love for other believers?

I was giving birth to our first son.  Labor was going into the 2nd day and I had enough.  At that time, Bill was working fulltime, going to college and also leading a ministry.  He normally was wiped out.  I remember screaming at him when he had the nerve around hour #20 of my labor to begin nodding off in exhaustion.  After all, it was all about me and not him.  Right?

HE TOOK CARE OF MOM

Then we come to John 19:17-27, the passage about Jesus’ last hours.  It should have been all about Him, not anyone else.  Right? Jesus is arrested, deserted, tortured, betrayed, listens to religious hypocrites lie through their teeth. Furthermore, he’s forced to drag through the streets the cross on which he will be murdered. He is hanging there with nails through His wrists and feet, the crowds jeering at Him, and the soldiers are deciding who will get His clothes. What does Jesus do? He takes care of Mom.  I think I would be thinking about everything that has just happened to me and the further agonies to come, yet, He takes care of Mom. It’s not all about His own pain.

THE BOND DEEPER THAN GENETICS

Does he entrust this task with his biological half-brothers? No, He totally entrusts this with His friend, John.  In Luke 8:19-21, Jesus makes clear that there is a bond deeper than genetics.  My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. If there is anyone who will faithfully take care of His believing mom, it would be the disciple who showed up at the cross and did not look away – the Apostle John.

WILL HE PROVIDE MORE FOR US?

Why is this an important distinction? John Piper writes: “Those who hear and do the Word of God have an even greater claim on Jesus’ care than she (Mary). If he took care of her, will he not much more provide for all your needs? If Jesus could provide for the needs of his own in a moment of his deepest weakness and humiliation, how much more can he provide for your need in his present power and exaltation!”

THE FAMILY BEYOND FAMILY

This is both a huge responsibility and benefit for those who are part of the Body of Christ, the church. Our needs are met when we have left everything to follow Jesus. Paul said in Acts 20:28, Christ purchased the church of God with his own blood. Piper continues: “Therefore, one of the gifts Jesus gave to us from the cross was the church: a loving, caring, sustaining, encouraging family beyond family. And it is a great encouragement to our faith that he illustrates the meaning of the church the way he did in the relationship between John and Mary.”

TO CARE FOR THEIR OWN

A ground breaking prayer that Jesus prayed for both His disciples and believers in the future is recorded in John 17:20-23. He prays for complete unity among His followers, something that would shake the world.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. The product from such unity is the same type of care which Jesus on the cross entrusted John with regarding Mary.  This is what the church is supposed to do better than any other agency on earth – to care for their own.

CRISIS SHOWS WHAT WE HAVE BECOME

So, the question is, if you profess to be a believer, how are you caring for other believers? Bishop Wescott wrote, “Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards, they simply unveil them to the eyes of men. Silently and imperceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or we grow weak, and at last some crisis shows us what we have become.” What have the recent crises in your life, your country, and your world, demonstrated about your love for other believers? Is it sacrificial love, the kind that will run to the very end? It is not all about you. It is about Christ.

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OVERCOMING DEPRESSION #101

There is hope, even if you don’t feel like hope is a part of your experience anymore

Do you remember that those first holidays during COVID?  High hopes that COVID would be over by Thanksgiving and Christmas that year. But no, the holidays came and went. Isolation.  I vividly recall the shots of the vehicles outside the hospital in NYC.  Bodies were being stored there because there just wasn’t enough time or resources for funerals.  Merry Christmas.

THE RABBIT HOLE

Then came daily news briefings by our State’s Governor (just in case no one had noticed the State of Emergency).  News was never good.  Along with millions of others I was depressed. It wasn’t the first time I ever went through depression and it certainly has not been the last, but this was memorable. Many peoples’ mental and emotional states of health accompanied me down the rabbit hole. 

NOT THE OCCASIONAL DOWN DAY

Depression is not an occasional down day, a minor bump in the road.  Rather, depression is a visitor that overstays its welcome.  Eviction notices are necessary. There are many symptoms, but one may lose interest in doing what was formerly enjoyable, energy goes down the drain, a general sense of hopelessness pervades the atmosphere and life stinks. 

THE DARK HOLE

It is a dark and lonely place, especially for a believer in Jesus Christ.  The hole is so dark that all hope of rescue evaporates. This condition is especially a rude awakening if one has never previously experienced it. It may seem to come out of nowhere. One feels locked in. What does a person do if they feel like there are blindly trying to find their way out of a sealed room?

YOUR INVITATION

Depression has been an unwanted houseguest in my life since childhood.  Yes, COVID amplified it, but I was abundantly acquainted with depression way before any virus entered the picture.  Beloved friend, please walk with me these coming weeks as we explore possibilities in finding better healthier ways of coping with depression. We will be exploring possibilities for discovering hope in the next few weeks in the blogs I publish on Thursdays.

ABUNDANCE IS POSSIBLE

I want you to know that there is hope, even if you don’t feel like hope is a part of your experience anymore. My goal is that you would gradually discover your way toward the abundant life you had envisioned. Have to tell you that what God may define as abundant life and what you had planned as abundant life may be totally different scenarios, but I know from my own experience that God’s plans are extraordinarily good.

Assignment #1

Read “Martin Luther’s Shelter Amid the Flood of Depression”.  You may appreciate by beginning the paragraph headed “Plague, Sickness, Depression”. It spoke to me. Break out your songbook for this one. You are not alone in this.  Depression has haunted the ages but let’s begin to kick its butt.

Please write to me more questions, comments, and stories. We are in this together.

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THE PRICE

What merits being burned at the stake for simply translating the Bible into English?

And what merits being burned at the stake for simply translating the Bible into English? For William Tyndale’s “sin”, in 1535 he was convicted of heresy and executed by strangulation, after which his body was burnt at the stake. The Catholic Church had found him a dangerous threat to their existence.

WHAT WAS AT STAKE

In practice, the Catholic Church refused to allow the Scriptures to be available in any language other than Latin. Everyday parishioners could not question the priests’ teachings. Few people other than priests could read Latin. The Church could not get away with selling indulgences (the forgiveness of sins) or selling the release of loved ones from purgatory if people were able to read the Bible in their own tongue. Without these sources of income, the church’s power would crumble.

THE PRICE PAID FOR THE ENGLISH BIBLE

Furthermore, understanding the contradictions between what God’s Word said, and what the priests taught, would set people free from the grip of fear held by the institutional church. Salvation through faith, not works or donations, would be understood. For this “heresy”, Tyndale was martyred. He gave his life to help produce the English Bible, a version of what may be gathering dust on your bookshelf.

OBEDIENCE ALWAYS CARRIES A PRICE

Obedience to God always carries a price. Each time I read the tortuous account in John 19:1-16, I hear the agony which paid for my salvation.  Every tear, scream, and mockery of justice, propelled Jesus Christ toward the cross. Jesus chose to travel through a week of hell. The events in this passage are horrifying to read. Under Pilate’s authority, the soldiers are permitted to use Jesus for a punching bag, scream obscenities into His face and grind a crown of thorns on His head. All of this took place in the lower room of the home of the Chief Priest, the head of the “religious” Jews. They were out for blood.

Pilate, the head of the local Roman government, seems to be scratching his head when he responds to the demands of the Jewish officials, I find no reason to crucify Him. A paraphrase of his following response to them could be, “Do it on your own time. I can’t do it legally.”

Jesus of course, is of no help to Pilate in coming to His own defense. Jesus reminds Pilate, You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. 

THE AGENDA: TO MURDER JESUS

The Jews threatened Pilate. If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar. Pilate knows that kind of talk can lead to his personal demise.  He is only there by the appointment of the Roman government and if word gets to Rome that Pilate has allowed an insurrection in Israel, Pilate is toast. Pilate gives in to the pressure, sets up court, and ends up handing Jesus over to be crucified.  Understand that the Jewish religious leaders hated being under the rulership of Rome, except they made an exception when it was convenient to their own agenda, which was to murder Jesus.

Pilate again asks, Shall I crucify your king?

The chief priests answer, We have no king but Caesar. So, we have torture, lies, betrayals, a death sentence and a Messiah Who doesn’t call down fire from heaven. How does one process that?

THE PRICE OF OBEDIENCE

That week was a lesson in total obedience that led to the payment for our sins on the cross and Jesus’ resurrection.  Obedience is the unique mark of true followers of Christ through the centuries. Are you willing to pay the price? To sacrifice your comfort zones and let God plan the agenda? Tyndale paid the price for people to have the Bible in their own language. Jesus gave up His life willingly in the midst of chaos so we can be made new creatures in Christ. Take the challenge: begin to discover what real obedience is by carefully reading that Bible and learning the truth. Afterall, this is the book which so many gave up their lives for you to read.

For further information, strongly suggest listening to “Introduction to the Marian Martyrs” from the podcast, Men Who Rocked the World, by Steven J Lawson

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WHILE YOU ARE WAITING

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire.

Image of woman waiting

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.

Image of person in mudpit

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.

Image of Jesus walking alongside

He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 

Image of music

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.

Image of many worshipping

Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)

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UNRAVELED

Strength is scarce. I don’t know what to do with this weakness I feel.

Having lost my beloved job and all that went with it, my life – and I – fell apart. I experienced a four-year dark night of the soul.  My persona, the identity that I’d built to compensate for the inner sense of brokenness, crumbled. I began to look more deeply, mostly because there was no other option. I had to face the pain of my difficult and sometimes traumatic childhood. Whilst often desperate for some relief or solution, it became clear that this was a process of unbecoming, of unravelling.”  (shared by Fiona Robertson)

CHANGE IS PAINFUL

Have you ever felt that you are also becoming unraveled?  Maybe you knew that an upheaval process might eventually prove for the good, but in the back of your heart have you doubted? Change is painful. Maybe the worst type of change is when the rug is pulled out from under you and you didn’t even realize the rug was loose. In the process, we may actually need to be unraveled; to be taken apart at the seams.

THE “FEAR OF SCARCITY

I wondered why I become unusually upset during seasons of change. I came up with a term which seems to fit: “fear of scarcity”. When something is scarce, there is a shortage, a famine, a drought. In my life there are times when I have asked for help, resources, or even love from believers and the supplies offered (or not offered) have been scarce. I adapt to such a life by trying hard not to ask for “too much”.  This fear of scarcity in asking help from people can color how I also view God.  I believe that God loves the world, but hey, couldn’t He be just too busy or short-staffed to personally have time for me? 

LOSING RESILIENCE

Then begins my unravelling.  With the tumult of circumstances, I come to the end of my own resources.  Maybe because of age, maybe because of yet another major change, I lose my resilience.  Strength is scarce. I don’t know what to do with this weakness I feel. I’m on the path to nowhere. I need God to unravel the knots I am in. Have I presumed that my God is too small?

GOD BREATHES TRUTH

Despite my fears of scarcity, God breathes truth into my soul. His perfect Word states: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. (Psalm 147:3-5) Regardless what my heart may feel, God sticks around for the hard work of reworking my life. He truly loves the unlovable and redeems the unredeemable. No matter what I think or how I feel, there is no scarcity with God. He has the strength, the love and the resources to unravel the largest knots which clutter my life.

HIS RESOURCES ARE ENDLESS

Do you also need to be unraveled? Are you tangled up in knots of fear? Please know that God has plans and knits together the most beautiful creations. You need not fear scarcity from the Father. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. Call on Him; His resources are endless. Allow Him to unravel at will – He can be trusted. Fear no more.

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MY WAR STORY

The rubber was about to meet the road, so to speak. No more “weekend warriors”, as the National Guard were often referred to. This was the real thing. We were advised to get our financial and legal matters in order.

Iraq invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990. I was seven months pregnant with my first child. My husband was serving in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard at the time, so news such as that was more than just a front-page headline; it was cause to take notice. As the crisis unfolded, it became apparent that the question was not if my husband Mike would be activated to serve, but rather, when.

UNCERTAINTY LOOMING OVER US

The last months of my pregnancy were overshadowed by the uncertainty looming over us. The rubber was about to meet the road, so to speak. No more “weekend warriors”, as the National Guard were often referred to. This was the real thing. We were advised to get our financial and legal matters in order. I was barely holding it together. Praying that the situation would get resolved quickly; knowing that it was not as simple as that. I turned to God, knowing that I could not do this on my own. I did not have enough strength to get through it.

TURNING POINT IN MY LIFE

This was a turning point in my life, and in my faith in God and His provision. I leaned into God like never before, asking Him to give me the strength that I needed. With a great deal of hope and more than a little anxiety, I tried to keep my focus on managing one day at a time. As I did, I began to see God work.

I PRAYED

In the early months of the crisis, they called other military units. Mike’s unit didn’t receive the call. Home for the birth of our son in October, Mike was called to service late November. His preparation for deployment took place at Ft. Indiantown Gap, so he came home on the weekends leading up to his departure. We were blessed to be able to celebrate Christmas together. Shortly after New Year’s Day, Mike left for the Middle East. I prayed with confidence God would take care of him and all involved.

STRENGTH I DIDN’T KNOW WAS POSSIBLE

I knew that God had it all under control. God carried us through this, even though I couldn’t see the future. In ways I never experienced before, I saw God’s faithfulness and care for me. I developed a strength I didn’t believe was possible. God gifted me with visits, phone calls and offers of help from family, friends and neighbors. Admitted to the hospital for gall bladder surgery in April, God worked out everything for me and our newborn. My mom moved in and took care of the two of us. Through the times of loneliness and fear, I felt deeply loved and cared for.

HIS FAITHFULNESS IS A SHIELD

In the book of 2 Samuel, we read David’s story. Thought greatly blessed by God, David fell into grievous sin. Confessing those sins, David didn’t take God’s forgiveness lightly. Even as he experienced the consequences of his sin, David never lost his belief in God’s love and faithfulness. 2 Samuel 22, David writes, The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior…. And in Psalm 91:4, He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

YOU NEVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH LIFE ALONE

God is trustworthy. He is faithful. He is working on your behalf in every situation you face. You never have to deal with anything in this life alone. God will be with you, always. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

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HOW TO LOVE YOUR BETRAYER

“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there. But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there,  Will you forgive me?”

How does one forgive a betrayer? In 1947, just two years after her liberation from a concentration camp, Corrie Ten Boom recounts that she came from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. “When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.” And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward through the crowd. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush this man had been a guard at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp where my sister and I were sent.

WILL YOU FORGIVE ME?

Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!” And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course–how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? “You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there. But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Will you forgive me?”

FORGIVENESS IS NOT AN EMOTION

I stood there with coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.” And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. As I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!” For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”

THEY WERE ALL BETRAYERS

How does one love betrayer(s)? In John 13 we have more than the infamous and unrepentant betrayer (Judas). It is easy to forget the disciples who skedaddled off the Mount of Olives when the soldiers arrest Jesus. Then there is out-spoken Peter, who uses his oratorical skills this time to announce to everyone in earshot that he was not one of Jesus’ followers. All betrayers.

THE MOST DIFFICULT LAW

Jesus knew what was to come in the next few hours before the betrayals. After Judas leaves the room, Jesus gives His remaining disciples one of the most difficult laws in all Christianity: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

FAMILY TALK

This is family talk, a command from the Heavenly Father to His beloved children on how they are to relate to other believers.  How does one forgive their betrayer? Corrie recounted, “I forgive you, brother! With all my heart!” This type of love is the mark of the true believer that shouts louder to the world than any bumper stickers, t-shirts or emojis.

SINCE I HAVE LOVED YOU…

How do we love one another? Ray Stedman writes: “In this passage, the Greek, literally, says, ‘As I have loved you in order that you might love one another.’ One is the cause and the other is the effect. As in many places in Scripture, the word ‘as’ here can better be translated ‘since’: ‘Since I have loved you in order that you might love one another.’ Here our Lord is saying that his love for us will stimulate and awaken within us the ability to love other people.”

ONLY THROUGH CHRIST

This love was the cause and the identifying mark of Corrie Ten Boom’s love for Christ. Only through Christ could she stretch out her hand to her former enemy. Has Christ’s love stimulated and awakened within you the ability to love other believers, even your betrayer(s)?

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AN INCONVENIENT MEETING

The Savior Who could be anywhere else in the world, sought to be with the broken.

Jesus meets the serial adulteress in John 4:1-42. If there was TikTok in His time, this would be trending news. Jesus was exhausted and sitting on the edge of the village well. The sun was beating down. Often Jesus had dined with tax collectors and sinners, but here He extended Himself beyond the religious, social and economic barriers of the time. He befriended a woman, an outcast who repeatedly made wrong choices and had born the price.  Despite the opinions of His disciples, Jesus loved outcasts.

THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER

One commentator calls this event the Gospel of John’s version of the prodigal son, but this is with the prodigal daughter. Everything valued in this culture she had lost – her good name, reputation, stable home and loving family.  She received a flood of contempt from those who knew her.

NOT IN THE “GOOD PEOPLE” SECTION

I remember years ago traveling to the Deep South and saw 2 different signs over the water fountains at a garage.  One said “White” and the other said “Colored”. I had no clue what the 2nd sign meant, except that I did wonder what color the water was. In John 4, we could group the individuals into the “Good People” and “People Who Can Only Obtain Their Water In the Middle of the Day So That They Won’t Contaminate the Good People”. This woman was not in the “Good People” section. In fact, because she was a woman, she was on a rung further down the social scale.

DROWNING WAS IMMINENT

Yet, Jesus specifically sought her out.  He went out of His way to have a conversation, just with her.  Why? Because the God of the Universe loved this woman deeply.  God wanted to have a relationship, despite all the barriers blocking such a possibility. It was no surprise to Jesus that this woman was unclean, impure and heretical. The Jews considered the Samaritans as half-breeds. Years previously, the Jews in this region had intermarried with the heathens and produced a religion which was a curious mix of paganism and Judaism.  Yet, God still sought out this Samaritan woman. She was “everyman” (her name is never mentioned).  She stands for each of us who have succeeded in getting deeply lost under the oceans of life; drowning is imminent. Jesus sought her.

HE SOUGHT TO BE WITH THE BROKEN

She was the most unlikely person for Jesus to seek out in a village of people who were all hated by the Jews. All her confusion about the encounter, all her attempts to divert the conversation elsewhere, all her sin, Jesus met head on.  He engaged in friendship with her. The Savior Who could be anywhere else in the world, sought to be with the broken. As a result, Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One truly is the Savior of the world.”

GOD WANTS TO TALK TO YOU

Jesus calls us to minister to the broken, the most hated, the unlikeliest people to receive the message.  So, whether you are a man, a woman, or a “half-breed”, the God of the Universe wants to talk to you. Sit down…this may take awhile.

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THROWING DOWN MY FEAR

When fear is taking a holiday in your life

I remember climbing the Zion National Park’s Angels Landing Trail (pictured above). The entire hike, I was terrified that my foot would slide on some gravel and take me over the edge. Possibly a wind gust would come and blow me over. During the climb, I hugged the wall and looked up. But, coming down, hugging the wall was of little comfort, as the whole panoply of cliff & valley almost sucked me over the edge. I’m sure I was feverishly praying the whole time but the fear was so great that I don’t remember what I was thinking. To this day, I have never fallen off a cliff (or even a ladder), but the fear of heights can immobilize me.

IMMOBILIZED BY FEAR

The Israelites were immobilized when they were caught between the Red Sea and Pharoah’s Army. Moses wrote, “They were terrified and cried out to the Lord” (Exodus 14:10 NIV).  They imagined the worst and assumed that God could not take care of them. They wanted to take the first bus back to slavery in Egypt. No way did they want to move forward, as God had planned. Their imaginations were in overdrive.  Fear (along with Satan) was having a holiday.

THINGS WE CAN BE AFRAID OF

What does God say about fear? The Bible certainly does not deny the existence of many things we can or will be afraid of. Jesus began his conversation with the disciples (as recorded in John 16:1-33), “I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God… Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning. I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows.

FEARS APPROACHING

In this important last conversation with his students, Jesus had given them a litany of things that were approaching which would directly impact them. And then He comes to the grand conclusion: But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone… But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

IMAGINING THE WORST

When I was climbing Angels Landing Trail, I imagined the worst. I would fall to my death, my children would be fatherless, and my wife would be left a widow. None of those things had yet to happen as I began the climb, but I considered them as vivid possibilities. Maybe the wisdom of climbing the trail was debatable.

GOD IS WITH ME

However, no matter where I am, the Word of God commands: Cast all your cares upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will not let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22) God was there on the Angels Trail, in the midst of my worst nightmare. I still can’t believe I challenged that fear. Thank you, God that with every step into the unknown, You are with me.

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AN ABUNDANCE OF LOVE

It’s hard for me to believe that I don’t have to consider God as lacking anything in His toolbox of love and care.

I was blessed to grow up with food, clothing, education and housing.  Both my parents were exceptionally hard workers (I learned my work ethic from them).  However, over the years I have tried to make sense of the emotional silence which permeated our home. Love was hard to come by in our emotional desert.

LOSING A MOTHER

Recently I read John Eldredge’s book: Resilient: Restoring Your Weary Soul in These Turbulent Times.  A paragraph brought light on spot in my heart which I have always failed to understand: “Losing a mother, never having a mother, or living with a mother who in many ways could not offer the mothering we needed is simply devastating.” My mother fit that last category.  Emotionally damaged in many ways, it was not possible for her to offer the kind of love we children needed.  She didn’t purposely choose to be that way; it just was.

MOTHER DESOLATION

Thinking this through, I have begun to understand that as an adult very often my reactions to life has demonstrated I lacked the “assurance of abundance” as a child. Eldredge writes: “Are my actions and emotions proving that I received utter assurance that my needs matter, and that they will be met, and met joyfully? You could call this the category of “mother wounds,” but I think a far more accurate description is mother desolation. The soul is meant to receive profound nourishment from our mother—physically and emotionally, nourishment in absolute abundance. When it doesn’t, the soul experiences a famine of the most serious kind.”

THE FAMINE EXPERIENCE

That famine experience has carried over to my relationship with my heavenly Father. I ask Him: “Do my needs matter? Will You meet them joyfully?” I find that God’s love is far different than my famine experience. 

NEVER FORGOTTEN!

What does His love look like? God is unable to forget us. “Even if mothers were to forget, I could never forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15) Burn these words into your heart: “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close” (Psalm 27:10). Contrary to all those childhood experiences, God is NEVER going to forget me.  God will never push me away. 

GOD’S TOOLBOX

“Mother desolation” is part of my bio.  My mother died years ago and it took years for me to forgive her for lacking the qualities that were never in her toolbox as a parent.  It’s hard for me to believe that I don’t have to consider God as lacking anything in His toolbox of love and care. God WANTS to carry me in His arms, to hold me, to converse with me, to attach with me. 

A NEW ATTACHMENT

I don’t understand such attachment and have trouble trusting it.  God is working on that. He offers to mother us — to come and heal our souls here, in this essential place. Eldredge writes, “God yearns to bring us the assurance of abundance.” God wants to deeply attach to us. “Salvation is a new attachment, the soul’s loving bond to our loving God.”

ALWAYS ROOM FOR YOU

Maybe as you walk through 2024, you may want to rethink the quality of your attachment to God. Try attaching to God in 2024. He always has room for you. There is an abundance of love.

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GOD IS IN THE HOUSE!

This new inhabitant would send shock waves across the world that would exist for centuries.

At the end of our block is a sign which says, “Apartment for Rent”, advertising the unit below us.  The tenant moved away Thanksgiving weekend. In the entire year she lived under us, we never heard a peep.  She moved in a complete stranger and stayed a stranger.  One day I asked her name but she only told me her first name.  Our lives were not rocked by her entrance or exit.

What if instead she had been a co-tenant with us? Lived in our apartment, shared our furniture, our utilities, our conversations, our life.  Her arrival and departure would have affected our lives.  We may have either wept or rejoiced, but our lives would have shifted. 

THE NEW NEIGHBOR

John 1:1-14 describes someone whose entrance into the world rocked the existence of mankind. This new neighbor is referred to as The Word. If The Word had to fill out an application to live with us, John would write “The Word’s previous address was the universe, from eternity.” As for previous housemates, John would write, “The Word was with God.” He might also have written in parenthesis: (by the way, The Word was God).  This new neighbor, announced by John, was not going to be someone unseen, who would silently go about his business. This new inhabitant would send shock waves across the world that would exist for centuries. In other words, The Word is Immanuel, “God with us”.

HE’S NOT A LONG WAY OFF

The Old Testament tells us about another situation where God lived in the midst of people. The Tabernacle and Solomon’s temple both contained the “Holy of Holies” – the Glory of God. This was called by Jewish rabbis the “Shekhinah Glory”; “the visible presence of God among men”. God decided to room among a people who rarely loved Him or fully devoted themselves to Him.  In the Book of John, God is announced as again pitching His tent, but this time the Tent was in human form, “Immanuel”; God with us. Spurgeon warns us about our attitude about the new neighbor, Immanuel, “Do not let us live as if God were a long way off.” 

LIVED WITH US IN ORDER TO DIE

Immanuel did not come as judge and executioner. All of us already were guilty before Him and were doomed to everlasting punishment. John Piper writes: “The Word, the Son, who is God, became flesh to reveal a divine glory that is “full of grace and truth.” The Word of God became flesh to be gracious to us.” “Grace” is “God’s favor toward the unworthy”. In His grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us abundantly, in spite of the fact that we don’t deserve to be treated so well or dealt with so generously. Piper continues, “The Word became flesh so that this graciousness to us would come in accord with God’s truthfulness. This is a righteous, God-exalting, costly grace. It led straight to Jesus’ death on the cross. In fact, this is why he became flesh. He had to have flesh in order to die.”

HE WILL LIVE WITH YOU

God has come close to you in Jesus Christ. He is Immanuel. You don’t have to struggle to make a connection with this new Neighbor, just invite Him in. He will come to you. God is in the House! This Neighbor has rocked my world.  I will never be the same.  He lives in my apartment, my heart, my soul.  He has promised to never leave me or forsake me.  I don’t have to go searching for someone else. That sign announcing room for rent has gone down, because God has made His Home with me for eternity.   

In case you want to read further about this New Neighbor, click Revelation 19:11-16

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GIVING GOD YOUR DREAMS

It took a long time for me to be able to look at anything to do with babies without my heart going to a dark place.  How could I trust God? 

It was my first miscarriage.  We had been helping out at a summer camp and were hours away from home.  I ended up losing our baby in a strange hospital without any friends or family (other than Bill). The wounds were raw.  It took a long time for me to be able to look at anything to do with babies without my heart going to a dark place.  How could I trust God?  We were faithful followers of Jesus. How could this be part of God’s plan? It was not my dream.

THEY WERE BOTH VERY OLD

Maybe this is also what Zechariah and Elizabeth wondered: how could they trust God?  When we are introduced to them in Luke 1:5-25: they were both very old. In other words, one foot in the grave.  Over the years how many births of friends and neighbors had they repeatedly participated in celebrating? Zech and Elizabeth would then return to their own home where their cradle just gathered dust, season after season. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive. When was the day they finally gave their unused cradle to another family? Or did they chop it up for firewood?  I think I may have done the latter.  It is hard to let go of dreams.

GOD WAS HEARING EVERYONE ELSE’S PRAYERS

It may have seemed God was hearing everyone else’s prayers except the prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Yet they chose to trust God and maintain a spiritual life that was: righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.  They were not only outwardly good, but decided to continue to follow God with all their hearts. In spiritual terms, this is the season where the battle is either won or lost.  The victory is when genuine faith becomes a conscious decision to continue to cling to God, regardless of the circumstances. Zech and Elizabeth still clung to the goodness of God, whether or not their cradle was filled.

It is understandable that Zechariah had a problem comprehending the message from the angel. At his age, it’s a wonder he didn’t have a heart attack when the angel appeared to him with the message: God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. At the back of Zech’s mind, maybe he was saying, “Yeah, sure, it’s about time…”

THE TWILIGHT OF THEIR LIVES

In the twilight of their lives, Zechariah and Elizabeth were going to experience great joy and gladness.  This long-awaited baby would be everything they had ever prayed for: filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.  Their son John’s mission would be the ultimate answer to the prayer that any believing parents ask for their children. John would not only give them great joy and gladness, but he would also be a godly man, great in the eyes of God, and he would prepare the hearts of his fellow countrymen for the coming of the Messiah.  What more could a parent ask for?

GOD HAD NEVER FORGOTTEN

God had never forgotten the prayer of Zechariah and Elizabeth. He felt their grief all those years, especially when the prayers of others were answered. He heard their laments. Psalm 5:1-3: Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help,  my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;   in the morning I lay my requests before you    and wait expectantly. It may have seemed that God’s timing was off regarding Zech and Elizabeth, but it fit perfectly into God’s perfect calendar for humanity.  God was with them even during the darkest times.  Our Father understands all about empty cradles. Are you waiting for the God Who can be trusted? He may not answer in the way you are expecting, but He is the God Who is good. How about giving Him your dreams?

For further encouragement, listen to the story of Loryn Smith

KICK BUTT AND TAKE NAMES, JESUS’ WAY, OF COURSE

Why is stepping out in faith so hard sometimes? Even if you feel the nudging of Jesus, it’s just terrifying.

Why is stepping out in faith so hard sometimes? Even if you feel the nudging of Jesus, it’s just terrifying. If you are like me, stepping out in faith can be frightening. Whether stepping out in faith with your job or your new enterprise, it is hard, especially when you want to control every aspect of your life. I knew God was calling me to step out in faith to expand my small business and start selling at another store, but doing it was entirely different.

I STRUGGLED

I had a million ideas, questions, and concerns running through my head. Will I make my rent? Will people like my stuff and what happens if not a single one of my journals or stickers sells?

If I’m being 100 percent transparent, I struggled to see how everything would work with the new shop. I had faith, but the number of sales wasn’t that same at my other store. 

STEPPING OUT WHEN IT IS TERRIFYING

One day, as I struggled to figure out how everything would work out, one of my stickers sold. It’s one of my favorites, and it’s perfect to share with you today. The sticker reads, “Kick butt and take names, Jesus’ way, of course”. Translation: defeat someone or something decisively, but only by the power of Jesus. Stepping out in faith requires relying on God and not ourselves. It requires us to step out even when it is terrifying and we can’t see the road ahead.

THE STORY OF RUTH

Someone who could not see the road ahead was freshly widowed Ruth in the Bible. She stepped out in faith, left the town she knew, and went to an unknown location. Ruth told her mother-in-law: “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” (Ruth 1:16) 

Ruth decided she would follow God and travel to the unknown. The trip carried her to Bethlehem, her mother-in-law’s hometown. Ruth trusted, believing the Lord would provide, and He did. Because of her faithfulness, Ruth met her husband, Boaz. This remarkable man is noted in Jesus’s lineage.

RUTH’S DECISION

Sometimes, we don’t see in the beginning how our faithfulness will play out. Ruth didn’t either. She didn’t know how choosing to follow Jesus and leaving her town would end, but she did it anyway. Ruth followed my sticker, she “kicked butt and took names, Jesus’ way, of course”. You can step out in faith. It’s a choice.

For an inspiring testimony of active faith listen to an interview with Gracia Burnham