Getting it into Perspective…from mine to His!

What’s Your Outlook?

By Pamela Stephens                                        LilGirlSungl

By Definition: Outlook: n. 1. Attitude; or point of view; 2. Likely future; expectations with respect to a particular situation.

What are your expectations for today?
When you got up this morning—what was your outlook?

Depending on your personality, you may be more optimistic or more pessimistic by nature or somewhere in between an incurable optimist and a total pessimist! Do you sing “Oh what a beautiful morning…everything’s goin’ my way!” from Oklahoma…or quote Murphy’s Law, “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong!”

We can look down in disappointment, around in judgment, within in self-pity or we can look up in expectation and in hope!

When things don’t go our way, we mumble and grumble and have temper tantrums (at least inwardly) and can sulk in self-pity as well as any two-year old! With high expectations, link-by-link we construct a chain of obligation that will bind us in a dungeon of disappointment and depression and put others on a guillotine of guilt if we allow it!

In II Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, hears that a vast army is advancing intending to annihilate all in Judah. Now that is a very bad day! Wisely, Jehoshaphat looks UP! He goes to the Lord, acknowledging that only He is all-powerful and that none will be able to withstand HIM! Power!

Jehoshaphat further pleads to Almighty God that they alone do not have the power to face this vast army, that they do not know what to do, but “Our eyes are upon YOU.” And we see God give his answer, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but mine….You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you; do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out and face them tomorrow and I will be with you!”

Jehoshaphat assigned singers to sing and to praise God and as they did, they saw the LORD set ambushes for those attacking Judah. When they looked over the scene, all they saw were the bodies of their enemies lying on the ground. No one had escaped!

I don’t know about you, but I can begin to look at a particular circumstance and start feeling uneasy, sad, worried, and upset. Looking around for others to blame, taking on false guilt or rationalizing why it isn’t our fault does no good! But when I look up to my God, it puts everything into perspective! We have a very big God! It’s easy to get caught up in our daily lives looking all around at those who may “surround” us! We need to remember to LOOK UP! That is where our Help will be!

Reflect and Respond
1) What was your OUTLOOK today?
2) Where are you looking? Around, within, down? Or UP?
3) Spend a few minutes in prayer, asking the Lord to change your outlook!

Oh Lord, help me to lift up my eyes to You daily to get your perspective! Amen.

Warning Buoys of Shipwrecked Faith

Warning Buoys of Shipwrecked Faith

I Timothy 1:18-19 “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.”

 “Some have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith”…. have you ever suffered shipwreck in regard to your faith? No matter who you are, time, circumstances, and choices can bring us dangerously close to capsizing our boat. If we are not careful, we can drift into the troubled waters of life. But there are warning signs, buoy markers that can keep us from venturing too close, if we are watchful. Do you recognize any of these? Do you know what they are?

Buoy #1

We get shipwrecked when we lose focus; we don’t pay attention to where we are! ( “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”) We can capsize our own boat by steering into dangerous waters. We get stuck on sandbars that keep us from going ahead and they don’t allow us to go back. We can’t move, and so we resolve to stay where we are.

Buoy #2

We get shipwrecked when we listen to the wrong voices– we become complacent and follow whatever ‘sounds right’ to us. We don’t weigh the consequences, or count the cost. When we finally realize where we are, it’s messy. We need someone to rescue us! (His name is Jesus)

Buoy #3

We get shipwrecked when we lean too far to one side, we become unbalanced, and find ourselves not in the boat at all, but in the breakers. The waves crash into us, carrying us away in a direction we never intended to go. We need a life preserver!

Buoy #4

We get shipwrecked when we look at circumstances all around us rather than at the One who is directing us. He may be using the circumstances to move us away from head waters that could bring devastating results had He not changed our comfort zone. We fear the unknown and we need a push!

Buoy #5

We get shipwrecked when we lack a plan. We let life happen, and then respond. We live life by default, rather than by design. We waste time meandering through life, unclear of who we are, uncertain what gifts we’ve been given, or how God could use us if we would only wake up. We need to be alert to life!

Buoy #6

We get shipwrecked when we loaf spiritually. We don’t care to open the Word, we just want to attend church now and then, we “can’t memorize” scriptures (yet we can sing the words to an inordinate amount of tunes on the radio), and we’d never want to intrude on someone else’s life and bring them to Christ. We need to be energized with the Holy Spirit!

Buoy #7

We get shipwrecked when we lose our way– the Way God is leading us: to discipleship, to leadership, to outreach, to ministry. We get busy with the things of life, unable or unwilling to do anything else, lest it would tire us beyond our own capabilities. Perhaps that is exactly what He wants us to get to: beyond our own efforts– so we’d have to trust His Power and His Ways. We need a compass!

At my workplace, there is a thought-provoking saying written on a wall I pass every day, “Are you living a life by default or a life by design?” I have purposed to ask it of myself every time I pass by. It is a good question and a great reminder of my Purpose, not just at work, but in life.

It says in Hebrews 1, that in the past God spoke to our ancestors through the Prophets in many and various ways; but today, God has spoken to us through His Son—God’s final word to us is through His Son. Hebrews goes on to remind us why we are to listen to His Son: He is heir of everything; through Jesus God made the universe; He is the radiance of God’s glory; the exact representation of Him; Jesus sustains all things by His Powerful Word; Jesus provided purification for sins; He sat down at the Father’s right hand in Heaven; He is Superior to angels-the angels worship Jesus; Jesus throne will last forever, His scepter of Justice is the scepter of the Kingdom; Jesus laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens are the work of His hands; and Jesus’ years will never end!

Because of all those things that Hebrews has told us in Chapter 1, we read in Hebrews 2: and so, “we must pay the most careful attention therefore, to what we have heard *(from the Prophets of old and from the Words of Jesus) so that we do not drift away.”

Oswald Chambers (His Utmost for His Highest) says it this way:

“If you do not cut the moorings, God will have to break them by a storm and send you out. Launch all on God, go out on the great swelling tide of His Purpose and you will get your eyes open… we aren’t meant to stay just inside the harbor, always moored. We have to get out through the harbor and sandbars into the great deeps of God…it is then we will know how Great is Our God, and His Faithfulness.”

Stop! You don’t want to be shipwrecked because you missed the signs! Look around you; do you see any warning markers, any buoys signaling ‘danger ahead'; ‘rough waters’ or ‘headed to the falls’? Are you stuck on a sandbar? Need to send an S.O.S? Hoping for a life preserver? Has your G.P.S. failed and taken you down the wrong road? Maybe your battery has died and you need a push or a jump-start? The writing, while it may not be on a wall you are passing every day, is clear. God’s Word has just what we need, but we must Purpose to hear it, be in it, and apply it. He is Faithful, are you?

REFLECT and RESPOND:

Where do you find yourself right now? Which buoy marker did you just pass?

Do you often see the same buoy? Are you land-locked, afraid to launch out into the Deep with God?

How long has it been since you read His word and expected to hear from Him?

Are you part of a small group, cell group, community group, Bible Study group that encourages and exhorts one another when needed?

How can you move from “by default” mode into “by design” mode?

Bible_Isaiah

 

 

This priceless treasure we hold, so to speak, in a common earthenware jar—to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us. We are handicapped on all sides, but we are never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but we never have to stand it alone: we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out! Every day we experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus, so that we may also know the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours. Yes, we who are living are always being exposed to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be plainly seen in our mortal lives.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (J.B. Phillips)

Reading from “My Utmost for His Highest” this morning, Oswald says, “We have to form habits to express what God’s grace has done in us… it is the disagreeable things which make us exhibit whether or not we are manifesting His life. Do I manifest the essential sweetness of the Son of God, or the essential irritation of ‘myself’ apart from Him? The only thing that will enable me to enjoy the disagreeable is the keen enthusiasm of letting the life of the Son of God manifest itself in me. No matter how disagreeable a thing may be, say–‘Lord I am delighted to obey You in this matter.’ There must be no debate! Our circumstances are the means of manifesting how wonderfully perfect and extraordinarily pure the Son of God is. It is one thing to choose the disagreeable and another thing to go into the disagreeable by God’s engineering. If God puts you there, He is sufficient!” 

My circumstances have been less than desirable lately; in fact, you could say they are disagreeable things. I’ve given refuge in response to decisions that were made by one in an unhealthy situation, and for another, to recoup from a financial loss. These were decisions that needed to be made for a time. In light of that, what has been evidenced in me each day? Has it been the sweet spirit of a heart turned over to the Lord, or is it one of being inconvenienced and putout? Is it one of inward thinking that I am deserving of better or expecting more? Regardless of what shows on the outside, what is going on within? I don’t like the answers that come way too quickly.

Has the Life of the Son of God worked itself into my heart enough to show itself to others on the outside? Have I said “I am delighted to obey You in this matter?” I chose to help others and it was a good thing, the right thing. Has my delight evaporated with time and difficulty? Has the presence of others in my home overshadowed His presence? Have I forgotten that He is Sovereign in all things? Have I considered these disagreeable things are engineered by Him? He has put them and me in close proximity, and He is sufficient for even this. What habits have I allowed to overtake the joy of obedience in the Lord? Has a complaining and murmuring replaced singing of His mercies? Have I been putting into practice these habits:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” Phil. 4:8,9 (The Message)

Lord, bring back the joy of full obedience and the delight in trusting You, the Sovereign One who is all-sufficient for me. Open my mouth with singing the praises of my great God!

Reflect and Respond:

What circumstance or situation in your own life is “disagreeable”? Has it manifested sweetness or irritation? Have you been holding a “debate” with God over it?

How does my personal relationship with the Lord reflect Him when I interact with others in a difficult situation or on a “bad day?”

Have I taken into account the Sovereignty of God in my everyday life? How does this fact square with my circumstances? (If He brought it to me, could He not take me through it?)

Am I developing a continuous habit of praise or have I spent more time complaining and murmuring? Spend some time now writing down your thoughts after reading Phil 4:8-9 (above), and decide to put these things into practice!

 

 

 

ImageBilly Coffey’s newest novel, The Devil Walks in Mattingly, is a story of redemption, grace, forgiveness.  However, before we get to the redemptive part, there is a lot of reminiscing about the guilt, the should have’s, the if only’s, the covering up’s and the regrets of lives that didn’t deserve grace and redemption.

Because there’s a lot of looking backwards, the beginning starts with “the end.” Billy weaves a story that takes teenagers with marred lives, and others who make foolish choices,  showing how so many things in the past can ruin and color our lives in the future.  How we treat people affects not only their lives but our own.

But what do we do with the regret, the unconfessed sins? Do we try to fix it by helping others, and working off the guilt debt? Or do we bury those memories only to be haunted in our dreams?

A town’s peaceful life is turned upside down by someone who’s memories have soured them; long held grudges have led them to return for revenge.

It is this horrific crime that will unlock the hearts and bring them to a point of grace and redemption, but is it too late for some?  The town of Mattingly will never be the same.

Thomas Nelson provided this book for review, but I believe you will enjoy this twisted tale of redemption.

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A Treasure Chest of Billy’s thoughts!

It was at a Billy Graham Crusade that I as a child went forward to publicly profess my belief in Jesus Christ at a very large stadium in California. So it is a treasure to be able to have so many of his own words on so many different subjects! Of course, Billy admits all his quotes have their genesis from the Word of God—which never returns void! Do you need to hear words of encouragement for your emotions? Do you wonder about addictions, trials, sorrows, relationships and how you will live without submitting to sadness, depression or just giving up?

Life has its share of joys and laughter—but we also know life’s road is often very rough. Temptations assail us; people disappoint us; illness and age weaken us; tragedies and sorrows ambush us; evil and injustice overpower us. Life is hard—but God is good, and heaven is real!” Billy Graham’s life and his words are a testament to a life of obedience, abiding in Christ, and trusting His Father for the outcomes in difficult times. What a gem to have on my shelf! Billy Graham in Quotes compiles by Franklin Graham was provided by Thomas Nelson, for my review but it was a wonderful book, and I’d have loved it anyway!

Image   Psalm 16:11 “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with the joy of your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Sitting with my girlfriends over lunch, the conversation turned to the struggles currently facing each of us or a loved one. They were all difficult circumstances, not for the faint of heart: an elderly parent whose health brought the family to a difficult decision about living arrangements, the loss of employment and financial crisis for another, the poor choices and consequences for an adult child, and a new chapter of life called ‘a husband’s retirement’ for another. Any one of these can bring fear, trepidation or panic. How do you handle the sticky, prick-lies of life each day? Life can be messy and fear or worry can quickly destroy even the strongest of resolves, leaving us shaking at all the unknowns. It’s been said, “that which terrifies you controls you.” And it certainly can.

As I looked around the table, I knew each one of us had the right perspective. We know and trust the Lord. We know it does no good to worry and wallow about things….and yet, some days we forget and catch ourselves fretting, doing just what we know we shouldn’t. Looking at the waves around us just as Peter did, we focus on the crisis and not the Power and Presence of Jesus. The Lord is the cure for what terrifies us because He is God of the Impossibles of Life! He is trustworthy and faithful; His character is unchanging—always True, always has our best in mind, no matter how it appears during the dark times; the path He leads me on is a good one, with eternal purposes in view.

The Psalmist, David the Shepherd, who later becomes King by God’s choosing didn’t ignore the difficulties of life; He didn’t live in a bubble—in fact, he cried out to the Lord about his: fear of the darkness around him in (Psalm 27), fear of the enemies looking to entrap him and take his life (Ps. 18 & 22), the fear of an unknown future (Ps.37, 16, 102); but by the end of each of these Psalms, David acknowledges the greatness and awesomeness of his God, the Almighty One. David realizes that God’s light will dispel any darkness, His strength takes the place of weakness, and God is his Source for all he needs. David could take God at His Word, and so can I.

Remembering how David and others fought their battles, by kneeling before an awesome God, gives me and my girlfriends hope. We have the same Resource David had and that Source comforts, counsels, directs, encourages and sustains us when we call on Him and follow Him.

Sometimes we may borrow a cup of faith from one another and stand in the gap between fear and faith, holding up the arms of our sister whose strength is stretched; other times she allows me to soak in the balm of Jesus’ words she reminds me about as she prays for me.

My lunch-date girlfriends have made all the difference because we made the same personal commitment, we know and love the Lord, we study Gods’ word together weekly and we add another layer of understanding by sharing with one another how we are living out these Biblical principles every day. We hold one another up both in encouragement and in accountability to what we know God’s Word says.

I am thankful for my girlfriends, both these around the lunch table, and those I’ve known who invested their hearts over the years from far away places–for the bonding cords of faith in Jesus Christ that have held us together, making us stronger because we have done battle together on our knees. We have stormed the gates of heaven on behalf of one another. Our lives will be changed and blessed because of these lunches and the lives of those we touch will benefit from the strength we’ve received from our Lord through the friendships we’ve forged because we’ve shared life and its struggles and lessons along the way. The Lord has bound us as forever friends because of His love for us and that is a very good thing!

Reflect and Respond:

How do you handle the sticky and prick-lies of life? Do you turn to the Word to find the answers?

Does it comfort you to know that David also had fears, struggles and trials that he cried out to  God about?

From whom can  you borrow a cup of faith when going through difficult times, and do you also get encouragement from them?

Remember to consult our Resource, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for strength on your knees!

christmas-presentsThe Season is upon us . . . cider, candles, Christmas trees, creches . . . Christ’s birth is at hand.

The Season of: giving, receiving, exchanging. What will we give those who are special on our list? Perhaps we should think about what we would exchange before we shop for them.

Maybe we should exchange . . .

Grudges for a Robe of Forgiveness. Colossians 3:3 says to “bear with one another and forgive as Christ forgave you.” You say they haven’t asked for forgiveness? Had you asked for Christ’s forgiveness before He died on the cross for your sins? Of course not; we weren’t even around then. Yet, He died for those we had yet to commit. He initiated it. Forgiveness needs to be initiated. How? Pray for those who persecute you it says in Matthew 5:44; bless them and don’t curse them in Luke 6:28; and don’t take revenge but leave room for God in Romans 12:14. Jesus said as He hung on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Release them from their debt. Who do you need to forgive today?

Rejection for Slippers of Acceptance. Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another as Christ did to bring praise to God.” Is there someone you have secretly “rejected”? You may be smiling on the outside, but inside you are defiant and aloof. How do you accept a person? Think about what it is that may be rubbing you the wrong way—why are they like that? Is there a reason for their behavior: abandoned by parent, spouse, have they been hurt by someone they trusted? Do they put up a strong facade to hide their pain? Can you accept their greatest fault, knowing that you have been accepted by Jesus, faults and all? We need to separate the sin which we hate from the sinner, whom we need to love.

Critical Spirit for Encouragement. First Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Encourage one another and build each other up.” The odor of a critical spirit can overpower the fragrances of cedar, candles and potpourri. Do you see the negative before you’re able to celebrate another’s accomplishments? The words we speak to others can knock them down or build them up. Ephesians 4:29 says our words should build up so it will benefit the hearer. A patient attitude is another way to encourage someone; not rolling the eyes or putting hands on our hips and tapping our foot! First Corinthians 13 says love is patient and kind. Time spent with others is encouraging and selfless when we consider them more important than we do ourselves (Phil. 2).

Disrespect for Honor/Respect. “Honor one another above yourself” (Rom. 12:10). When you speak about that person, be sure that it is honoring to them and uplifting. Do you have an attitude that shows what you’re thinking long before you say it? Are you venting your frustrations on someone because you aren’t happy or in a good mood? Or do you show honor and respect to them for who they are and who they can be?

Neglect for a Portrait of Memories. First Thessalonians 3:6 says, “We always have pleasant memories of you.” Instead of just through a family photograph, how will they remember you years from now? Proverbs 10:7 says, “The memory of the righteous will be a blessing.” Schedules aren’t always set in concrete, we are not always guaranteed a long life, and time is fleeting both for a young family and for older relatives.

Many years ago I asked my grown children about their memories of holidays at home, and Christmas in particular. Do you know what they remembered? Not necessarily the “events” I planned as great memory makers, like seeing The Nutcracker or caroling. No, their favorite memories were helping me make cookies and getting to do it themselves, taking out each ornament they had made and retelling the story of it. It meant a lot to them to realize I had kept each one and still hung them up because they told me some of their friends’ moms wouldn’t put the homemade ones on the tree or would put them way in the back. Who knew? It was what I would have called “the little things” that made their list. It was making Christmas fruit baskets for families we knew were hurting, and decorating ice-cream cones with styrofoam balls with angel hair and gold trim. Or it was the Advent wreath that we lit every year while we told the story of the angels, the shepherds, the Bethlehem candle, and the Christ child candle.

Gloria Gaither said, “We have this moment to hold in our hand, as it slips through our fingers like sand . . . yesterday’s gone, tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.” Use every moment you can to spread the joy to your family, your friends and community.

When Christmas is over there will be crumbs on the carpet, wrapping paper torn to pieces, tinsel tangled in light strings . . . but the Real Gift, Jesus, will remain eternally. He is the Light of the World, Immanuel, God with us! Bless those you will give gifts to with Forgiveness, Acceptance, Encouragement, Honor, and sweet Memories.

Blessings to you and your loved ones from ours!

REFLECT AND RESPOND:

How do you show forgiveness to those closest to you? Do you wait to hear them ask for forgiveness?

Have you subconsciously rejected someone that you need to exchange for acceptance? If so, how will you show acceptance?

Play back the last 48 hours in your mind. Is there someone who needed encouragement, but you were critical of instead? How can you change that?

What has your speech said about how you honor and respect others? Make a plan to intentionally show respect to those in your home.

Think about this Season. . . . How can you make precious memories that will last? How will you celebrate our Lord’s birth?

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If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

Do you love going through the bookstore reading the titles of the books on the shelf? It’s amazing to me the number of self help books there are! Quite a few of them have titles such as “Selling for Dummies” or “Dieting for Dummies.” It sparked a thought about a totally different subject: The Bible, God’s Word. Would it be just as true to say, “God’s Word– for Dummies”? And insulting as it may be, I think it applies to most of us! Think how many people have lived a good portion of their lives before ever having picked up the Bible, let alone read it or study it. So, unfortunately the title is way too appropriate!

As a young woman with two young children, I began attending Bible studies because I realized that although I had been in church most of my life, I really knew very little about the book I carried into the building. In truth, I had learned by rote a liturgy, answers for a confirmation, but I really didn’t apply much to my life. And so, I qualified to pick up a “Dummy” book on the subject.

After attending and studying for some time, I began leading and teaching others. It was a challenge to keep up with my lessons, read, work the homework questions and still be the wife and mother I wanted to be. But, I found that by being consistent in my attendance and study, I was a much better wife and more patient mother. I learned scripture verses, heard guest speakers, and even attended seminars and retreats with girl friends. It helped to listen to the older women (who were probably the age I am now), who had lived their life following God’s Word. They shared how they handled situations biblically, disciplined their children, supported their husband’s in prayer and attitude, kept their homes, and contributed to society and volunteered in various ways. It was a wonderful “support” system of young mom’s too. Together we learned the concept of “co-op babysitting” in order to save on childcare, shared our hearts, cried and laughed weekly! Those gals I prayed with, shared with, studied the Bible with, were a God-send, not only for myself, but for our families as well. Today, we are still great friends.

Over the years since those early days, I have definitely needed a roadmap for life and God’s Word has been what has kept me on the right road. It has maintained my sanity through crises, when I was doubtful it would be possible! Perhaps you have people in your life, as I do– that for one reason or another, have chosen not to follow a Biblical roadmap or ask for directions. There are those who have needed desperately to know the way, needing the direction for life found in the Bible; and I find myself wishing, praying that I could change things for them, yet knowing I cannot; but I know the One who can and wants to do that if they’d just submit and ask.

We all need directions daily; whether it is how to get to a location, or how to use the newest tech-y gadget or how to deal with this thing called life! I don’t know most of you personally, but I can tell you that if you are anything like me, and those I love, we need to follow these biblical instructions found in His Word very carefully. Otherwise, we will end up on a path that leads to wrong thinking, wrong actions, wrong places; in a “nowhere” destination, wondering how we got there. If we can “recalculate” like my car’s GPS voice says it is doing when I get off on the wrong road, we will find the journey so much more beneficial and satisfying! Each of us could say that we have been standing in the “dummy” position from timeto time— but somewhere along the way, by God’s grace, He led us and we followed. Anyone in need of some “recalculating”? It’s not too late to ask for directions and He promises to answer.

James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Reflect and Respond:

Do you have some girl friends who you’ve “grown in the Lord” with? Praise God for them, and the influence on your own spiritual life!

If not, would you like to have to experience a “mentoring” relationship now? (Many churches have a mentoring program–just call!)

Perhaps you need a Bible Study with a group of gals to “refresh” your knowledge and touch your heart with a changed perspective? (There are so many terrific possibilities— Bible Study Fellowship is a great one! Or your church may offer some options!)

If you find yourself too often down the “wrong road” perhaps you are hearing the Holy Spirit’s voice saying, “Recalculating!” (We’d love to help you find your way! Feel free to contact me at: psstephens@aol.com  or call your church office and ask for a women’s ministry leader)

How Do I KNOW?

diamond_stud_earrings_4Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to Me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.” The Message

How do I know God is speaking to me?” she asked me, “And how do I know it is His voice leading me and not just my own desires?”

I remember asking myself the same questions years ago, but as I began to form my answer, it took me back to being a young wife trying to hear God in my own life. How do we learn the answers to these questions? Often we gain understanding from our own experiences, when we are really seeking His will for our life. Sometimes others readily give their logical or practical advice, but it may or may not be quite right. Perhaps our diligently study of Scripture reveals the answers and makes them personal and part of our daily life.

 

 

Knowing God’s will can seem complex to figure out. We may think that it’s nearly impossible to discern His voice among so many others. But consider your relationships with other people. How do you know the cry of your own child? Is there a difference between their cry of anger and their cry of hurt? How do you know when your husband’s ready to talk about something important? Or how do you know there’s something on your friend’s mind that is distracting or bothering her? We recognize their “language” because we know them so well.

 

It’s not any different in our relationship with our heavenly Father. When we take the time to get to know Him personally, little by little we begin to recognize His signature, His voice, His character. Studying and reading His Word gives us insight and understanding into “what would Jesus do.” Knowing the Real Thing helps us to quickly recognize an unfriendly voice, a wrong direction, an attitude that isn’t a “match” to His, an easy decision that will bring uneasy consequences.

 

 

 

The amazing thing is that God wants to speak to us! He loves us and desires relationship with us; He guides us and even warns us because of that love. He speaks to us through His Word, through His servants, and through our circumstances. Sometimes our hearing is deafened because we are not growing close to Him. We could have impaired hearing because we are too busy, too noisy with complaining, or our ears are untrained to hear Him. We can block our hearing by our guilt of unconfessed sin, or by unbelief and rebellion. The good news is all of these reasons for not hearing Him are fixable! Just like cleaning out the fridge or the car, we can eliminate the debris!

You’ll know it is God speaking because:

**What you hear always will be consistent with the Word of God, He doesn’t contradict Himself.

**The Lord’s guidance will contradict the world’s philosophies. ( “Blessed are the poor in spirit” vs. get all you can for yourself!)

**What God teaches will clash with your fleshly desires. (Instantaneous gratification isn’t what God teaches us—waiting is rewarded!)

**God speaks words of encouragement to our hearts. (Take courage, I am with you)

**God’s Word causes you to consider the consequences of your actions/sins and how it affects others. (There are no “private sins” that only involve only you.)

**What you hear contributes to your spiritual growth— (Who are you listening to and what is their message?)

**God’s voice builds faith and brings peace to your life. (As you learn to hear Him, He calms your spirit)

So what can we do right now?

Reflect and Respond:

Ask to Hear from Him- Prayer! (I Sam 3:9 ) Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’  What do you need to know?

Anticipate He will answer! (Psalm 5:3)“In the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” Are you ready to write down what the Holy Spirit is impressing? Do you take notes when you hear the sermon on Sunday?

Acknowledge His voice! (Prov 3:5-6)”In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Do you recognize His guidance during the day? Do you thank Him for all He is already doing in your life?

Act in Obedience! (James 1:22) Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Is there anything He’s already told you to do that you aren’t doing? If so, do it–and He will continue giving you the “next thing.”

                He reminds us so well, “My sheep hear my voice and follow Me.” John 10:27

BB1162-002“I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” Thomas Edison

Can you relate to Edison? Not everything we begin ends well. Perhaps it’s a job that just didn’t quite meet your expectations, or perhaps you didn’t quite meet theirs. Sometimes we begin something in order to meet practical needs, such as paying bills. Other times it fills an emotional need within us, but ultimately it doesn’t really satisfy.

Jacob, in Genesis, had some difficult experiences. He began as a deceiver for a birthright and had to leave familiar territory in order to save his life from a disgruntled brother. He was then deceived by a future father-in-law when the wife he had worked for was replaced by her less attractive sister. Sometimes it takes looking at our own sin, in the face of another, to understand the destructive power we wield when we deceive. We are one of the blessed ones if we wake up and realize we are flawed! Jacob does and makes some changes, because God has graced him. Jacob wrestled with God until He received a blessing that changed not only his name from Jacob to Israel, but changed him from within. Have you also wrestled with God over something?

Yet, when we have operated in one way for most of our life, regardless of our own change, those around us may still be living out the effects of all the years before. Jacob’s sons, jealous of a younger brother, Joseph, deceive their father about his demise, selling him into Egypt. They were paying attention to all the lessons of deception and had learned very well.

But God had a plan, which had been working in all these details and circumstances in order to bring about His perfect purpose. Joseph, in Egypt, was being blessed also. He’d been put in Potiphar’s house, and made second in command there, and later through some dreams became second in power next to Pharaoh. When a famine came to the land of Canaan, where Jacob was, he sent his sons to get food from Pharaoh. God had placed just the right young man in charge of food—Joseph!

Through God’s plan, Jacob’s family was not only restored, but saved from the famine—because Joseph was placed in the palace, where he was able to feed his family and bring the people of Israel through a difficult time. Jacob and Joseph were reunited and the brothers were forgiven and restored—and God used the faith of Jacob and Joseph to save the nation of Israel. Yes, He used even the flaws, failures, and poor choices of the brothers to bring about His good for His glory.

Joseph’s words to his brothers show us how to look at our difficult circumstances, no matter how they have come about. Joseph said, “What you intended for harm, God intended for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20, NIV). What perspective Joseph received! Not only did Joseph save his own family, but because of God, he was able to protect the line of Jesus in this way, saving many, many more—us! Jacob and Joseph trusted God to keep His word. They finished well, indeed.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20

What is happening in your life right now that God has intended for good, to accomplish His purpose in you? Rather than becoming exasperated by your situation, why not consider the words of Joseph. It really isn’t all about the people around you, or the difficult circumstances; what is God doing to work change in you? Or in someone else around you? Or to provide just the perfect provision? Let’s ask God to give us His perspective, to open our eyes to His bigger plan … after all, you may be a Joseph!

Reflect and Respond

1. If you can relate to Joseph’s story, what does God want to teach you in your situation? If you don’t know, ask Him.

2. Is there a particular “flaw” of yours that others may be “imitating” in your house? Ask God to help you change that.

3. Where did Joseph get his wise perspective? If you want to be wise, spend time with God in His Word.

4. Who needs to hear you say “What you intended for harm, God intended for good”? Forgiveness begins with us!

_240_360_Book.879.cover copyDo you believe in Magic? The town of Mattingly, Virginia has one week to find out if little Leah Norcross has a divine touch or is touched by devilry.

Leah’s birthday gift from her parents brings her artistic voice to the attention of all of Mattingly and turns the town and it’s people upside down—even the town’s preacher.

How will her father’s lack of faith be affected by his own daughter and the Rainbow Man? How have the lives of so many been brought together and changed to reveal their true hearts?

Time is running out for the town of Mattingly—the dark wings of Mockingbirds approach and their cries are deafening!

Thomas Nelson Publishers provided this book to me, but because I was very familiar with Billy and his writing, I couldn’t wait to read it!  Billy’s blog has captivated me for a long time and his first book, Snow Days was terrific.  Billy Coffey’s novel, When Mockingbirds Sing holds your attention from the very first page—it has been said he is a minstrel—and he is—singing a riveting story of faith vs. doubt. Which side are you on? (Visit his site right now and get 30% off the purchase price!)

_140_245_Book.803.coverAnd Another One Down!

Mia Quinn’s colleague at the prosecutor’s office is the victim of an apparent “hit” while talking with Mia by phone—and she takes her last breath.

Mia is teamed with Charlie Carlson to investigate her friend’s murder, but Mia has all she can do to keep her life together at home. Her husband’s recent death, a mountain of bills and his newly discovered secrets are occupying her thinking; let alone her troubled teenage son, keeps Mia from feeling too confident about anything these days.

When she learns this is the second murder in the prosecutor’s office with similar M.O.’s Mia begins to suspect she could be next if she doesn’t watch her back.

Lis Wiehl has a knack for making her characters believable and so familiar and knowable. A fan of her Triple Threat Series girls, this debut of Mia Quinn promises to be a welcome addition to my library shelf! Thank you, Lis!

**though Thomas Nelson sent me a free book to review, this was no effort to like, regardless!

get-attachment-1Today would be my dad’s birthday, April 12th (1927).  These photos are ones that are my favorites of him as a young man.  But, they do tell you much about my dad!  The first one of him on the steps to his grandparent’s home: he was a meticulous dresser; dapper and stylish–yet a slightly mischievous attitude!  His hair was always “just so” and definitely not to be messed with!

My dad was raised by his fully Polish grandparents on Altgeld Street in South Bend, Indiana.  Though his mother was alive, she didn’t live with them; she was divorced from my dad’s father when dad was only six months old.  She visited home and brought various friends home to meet her parents and son.  My dad loved his grandparents and had a great relationship with them.  His grandma was always slipping him a few dollars and his grandpa taught him how to maintain a home and yard.

Dad, George Wade Lushbaugh, was called Junior by his grandparents, or Georgie, but his mom always called him “sonny” which he never liked.  He was an only child, which he didn’t like but he had a cousin named Jack who was six months younger than dad, and they were probably as close or closer than a brothers would be.  Dad had many stories about Jack and their escapades; he loved hanging out at Jack’s house and riding bikes together.  Jack’s dad, Virgil Marriott, was good to include my dad in family events.

My dad wasn’t educated in college, in fact, as an adult I learned that he quit High School to join the navy during WWII.  However, that isn’t to say he wasn’t intelligent.  Eventually, after moving our family to Arizona, and then California–dad went to work for Howard Hughes at Hughes Aircraft in California.  He worked hard, enjoyed what he did, and was proud of the fact that he was part of the Surveyor Program–a satellite system that circled the earth.  He taught himself math, trigonometry and calculus.  He was good at what he did.

Perhaps because he was so good at math, when I was learning math in elementary school and wasn’t getting it—that is why he was so frustrated with  why I couldn’t understand it! We spent many an evening going over and over times tables, etc.  My forte was English, spelling and all the other subjects!  Sorry, dad!  (I don’t struggle so much anymore, but it still isn’t my cup of tea!)  Thankfully, my husband is great at figures!

My dad loved working in the yard and ours was always the best yard on the block!  Looking back on it now, I am sure it was therapeutic for him after long hours and overtime at work with complex issues involving aerospace!  I loved it when he let me help him in the yard! But dad never wanted anyone to cut the corners where the grass (dichondra) would meet the sidewalk on their bike..so if you were the kid that he saw do it, you were going to get told!  The dichondra was as thick as a carpet, and it was very soft and inviting!  So my friend and I loved to spread a blanket under the tree and page through Teen Magazines while my dad was at work!  I was regrettably amazed that after putting away  the blanket, the impressions of our young teen bodies were still visible on the now “scrunched” dichondra!  Dad wasn’t too pleased about that when he got home either!  But mom pled my case–“George, it’s just grass!”  The next time I wanted to spread a blanket in our yard, I learned that I could use the leaf rake to nearly eliminate the evidence!

As a grandfather, my dad loved coming up to our home in the mountains at Christmas time.  It was pretty much a certainty we’d have snow, and he loved to play Santa for my girls!  One year, we Santa left them a cocker spaniel puppy named Cookie!  I remember lying in bed, way before dawn, hearing whispers coming from my kids room (where Grandma was sleeping with both kids in a double bed!)  Just then I and they heard, “Ho, Ho, Ho Merry Christmas!” along with sleighbells!  There was no staying in bed any longer, the girls were up in no time, as were all of us! but it was a terrific Christmas!

Though there were some years when I was in high school that dad and I had a tough time, mostly because he was stressed and drinking, and I was a teenager who wanted to express her opinions, I always knew my dad loved me.  Teenagers pretty much are all about themselves and I am sure I was no different.  I didn’t understand much of my dad’s background (both his parents had basically left him) and I am sure he was lonely much of the time, for companionship, friends and nurturing from other than his grandparents.  Sometimes, when we feel “empty” we try to fill it up with other things to compensate.  It was years later when telling some of these things to a trusted “mentor” that through her eyes, I began to see what may be causing his “drinking” and how I could change my own attitudes, and my unforgiveness of him because of it.  I’ve always been thankful to have had that conversation!  When we can dig into the “facts” and feel the emotions of how they affect people, it gives us compassion and understanding for the other person.

When I began to be interested in the history of our family, my great grandmother Lily Lushbaugh, and her daughter Grace made my research much easier!  They had written down many things, many stories, dates, names and even “traditions” about the Lushbaugh family that I have been able to put actual documents to, in order to prove them.  But, because of my asking questions about the family—I was able to find out some background that even my own dad wasn’t aware of.  You see, my great-grandmother, Lily would have my father over for the day and unknown to him, she would also invite her son, George William over (my dad’s father, whom he never saw after the divorce when he was six months old).

The picture below of my dad on a pony was just such a day.  Lily paid for the picture to be made of my dad sitting on the pony.  There were many photos like this taken in my dad’s day…my mother has one of herself on a pony…and even I, myself, have the same photo!  This day, Lily’s son was introduced to my dad as a friend of the family—but it was really George William, father to my dad.  He got to enjoy seeing his son and watch the whole day unfold, but my dad had no clue.  Years later, as I said, I began asking some questions about why they were divorced and why didn’t my grandfather want to see his only son?  I asked that of my great Aunt Grace, Lily’s unmarried daughter and High School English teacher.  She told me that he had remarried to a Catholic woman and in those days, if they knew you’d been married before and divorced, they wouldn’t let you marry in the church, you’d be excommunicated.  So, in fear of that, his new wife made him promise never to tell anyone about his first marriage or his son.  Unfortunately, he went along with it–though his family thought it wrong, they stayed out of it.  He evidently regretted having agreed to this almost immediately.  He and his new wife lived an hour or so away in Chicago for many years, and so it wasn’t often that he returned to his mother’s home in South Bend during the early years of his new marriage.    When my own mother would send my great grandmother Lily pictures of me, they would secretly share them with George William.

The wallet George William carried all those years before his death, had our pictures in it…mine, my dad’s and my children’s.  When I was able to read the letter I received from a family member related by marriage– about all of this, my dad cried.  It was a very healing thing for him to know that his own father, though he really never knew him, was asking and being made aware of his son’s family, and then my family.  It’s a very sad story, and one that didn’t need to be.

My dad, George Wade Lushbaugh would have celebrated his 86th year today, but he passed six years ago.  However, I know I will see him again and he and my mama are together.  Thank you, Lord.  And I love you, Dad–Happy Birthday!

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Finding Contentment

ImageJust reading the title above, “Finding Contentment,” makes it sound like a treasure hunt! Is it hard to find? If we look around us, we’d have to say it is more rare than we’d like. Do we recognize it when we find it? Sometimes it wears a disguise. I’ve heard something about the “secret of contentment” so it must be elusive, hidden, and made only for a select few to discover? Have you found it? Have you lost it? Why even bother to look for it?

Well, here are some reasons to pursue godly contentment:

  • God commands us to be content (Heb 13:5 “be content with what you have.”)
  • It is a valuable and priceless treasure (I Tim. 6:6, “godliness with contentment is great gain.”)
  • A contented spirit shows humble submission to God’s will (I Pet.5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”)
  • A contented spirit is one who trusts God (Ps. 62:5 “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.”)
  • When our heart is content we are at peace. (Prov. 14:30 “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”)

How do we find contentment?

  • Allowing God to open our eyes so we can see the bigger picture, beyond ourselves.
  • Giving up always waiting for things to happen tomorrow, next week, next year, and living today with joy!
  • Taking the “self” out of our desires, our will and thinking with an eternal view.
  • Stepping out of the daily to do list, and seeking to help meet the needs of others.
  • Emptying our expectations of life and asking God to fill our lives with His.
  • Building a deep relationship with God, so that we know what is pleasing to Him.

You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13

What will be the result of finding contentment?

  • We will know Him better
  • We will see more clearly from His perspective
  • We will know His Word better
  • We will find joy in service to others because of Him
  • We will be thankful and praise Him
  • We will rest in His plan because He is Sovereign

So, are you ready to begin the search? Are you prepared to “see” the trials, and circumstances as opportunities for Him to mold us into the image of Christ? We ask Him to grow us up, and then when He does–through difficult things– we quickly tell Him to stop. Contentment may be elusive, but it is worth the investment! And it will be a treasure to you. If you are His child, Jesus wants you to find it in Him.

When our perspective is tuned in to His, the panorama of our outlook will be opened, seeing more and more of the “big” picture. When we observe His character, and attributes we cannot do anything else but praise Him for His mercy and goodness to us—bringing contentment to our hearts, and awe for all He is doing! He can eliminate our discontent, and bring thanksgiving! He is the God of the impossible!

Reflect and Respond:

Ask God to open your eyes and allow you to see the lesson to be learned in your situation.

Look for the joy in your schedule today, and the opportunities to share Him with those you encounter.

When you find yourself inward focused, lift up your eyes and see those around you; be an encourager to them.

Ask God what He’d like you to accomplish today, and for Him to interrupt you if necessary.

Spend time in prayer and in His Word today.

Florence Littauer, Author-Speaker: “I have known Pam for over 29 years…she has been my right hand at CLASS for 17 of those where she assisted me up front,  was part of our faculty and led a small group.  She will engage you with her voice, her style and her heart, while challenging you to live life with a higher purpose and calling!  I love her dearly!”



<p><a href="http://vimeo.com/48010674">Florence Littauer</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/user10464291">Lois Evans</a> on <a href="http://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>
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Some of the CLASS Staff: Ann Downing, Betty Southard, Florence Littauer in the middle, myself, and the late Fred Littauer

Some of the CLASS Staff: Ann Downing, Betty Southard, Florence Littauer in the middle, myself, and the late Fred Littauer

The Great House of God

_140_245_Book.764.coverMax Lucado has done it again!  The Great House of God uses the Lord’s Prayer as a base, and moves us through all the rooms of our “house” in order to make very real the very presence of our God in every spot!  Reminiscent of “My Heart Christ’s Home” by Robert Boyd Munger, which I loved, this book thoroughly had me hooked in a very new way!  You will not want to miss the poignancy of each page, which properly applied takes us  to the very heart of our relationship with God!  Loved it!  Thanks to Booksneeze, Thomas Nelson for my copy!  Included with the book is a study guide in which we can ponder, prepare, and pray in order to let all the teaching sink down into our hearts!  Thanks, again Mr. Lucado!

Miracle Camp Facilities

In September, I’ll be speaking at Miracle Camp, in Lawton, Michigan.  2miracle%20camp%20arial

Here’s a promo video of their facilities:

Max on Life–My Review

 

MaxonLife

 

Pastor and teacher Max Lucado probably needs no review to promote interest in his books. Because he is a pastor, he’s received a fair share of letters with questions from both readers and church attenders looking for his view.

 

He answers questions on: who is God, hurts, conflict, prayer, scriptures, second chances, sex, disagreements, why church, who goes to heaven or hell, etc.

 

Max handles these with simplicity and understandable concepts for beginners as well as the mature questioner.

 

If you’ve had times you’ve wanted to get the ear of someone like Max and fire away questions on life, God, relationships perhaps your answers are here in Max’s book. You will find it a good read, even if you may know some of these answers!

The Final Summit by Andy Andrews publisher: Thomas Nelson

In this sequel to The Traveler’s Gift, David Ponder is called to a Summit Conference with the other Travelers on a quest to find the one principle that will save humanity from the destructive path they are spiraling down.

FinalSummitThe historic figures who are the Travelers are called by the Archangel Gabriel to come up with just two words that will prevent their ultimate destruction as mankind. Catching up with David Ponder at age 74, each of the Travelers lend their wisdom, leadership and analytical minds to try to solve their impending dilemma before the sands in the heavenly hourglass run out. There are so many great take aways here, its difficult to choose the best one, but I loved this definition of wisdom: “Wisdom is the ability to see into the future, the consequences of one’s choices in the present.”

Andy’s historic Travelers to name a few: Winston Churchill, Christopher Columbus, President Lincoln, Anne Frank, King David and a Civil War soldier, Joshua Chamberlain made me want to pick up the biographies of all of them and read more about them. Andy, to quote Dave Ramsey (author) is a “life whisperer” indeed! What a storyteller, for sure, but stories that have an eternal purpose!

Loved it!

Thomas Nelson Publishers gifted me with this book, but they wouldn’t have needed to do that to get a great review and the applause for Andy Andrews The Final Summit to do it!

SandiPattySandi Patty blessed us with her voice over the years and the Via Del LaRosa has to be one of her best!  In her book, The Edge of the Divine, Sandi tells the story of her battle with weight and some of the emotional reasons she’s dealt with it over the long years of her adult life.

Her journey toward a medical solution for her weight was difficult for me to read. She shares the lessons learned along the way which are poignant and sincerely written, but the subject matter isn’t one that excited me to read further with expectation. Maybe it’s because there have been so many similar testimonials such as this that I couldn’t work up a desire to finish it with my typical speed.

I am happy that Sandi found help and that it worked for her, and I have always been blessed by her singing. Her points about choices were well done and the spiritual references were good but I just couldn’t get into this book, it took me quite awhile to finish it because I kept setting it aside to do other things. This isn’t the kind of review I like to write, but it is an honest one. Sorry, Sandi.

The book was sent to me to review by Thomas Nelson free of charge, but my opinion was not based upon their generosity.

Knots on the Rope!

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Tie another knot in the rope and hold on!” That was the advice I received many years ago when the drama and traumas of life made me feel as though I was at the end of my rope, and even the rope itself was fraying and unraveling. I don’t even remember now what that particular cliff-hanger was about, but it was advice that was timely and proved to be just what I needed.

When I began tying the knots, I realized that the quality of the rope I used would either be my undoing or my lifeline. A very wise mentor sent me in the right direction—The Psalms and they became very precious promises which have been invaluable to me! Let me share them with you:

Knot #1: The Lord is near to me.

Psalm 16: 8 “I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Psalm 91:1 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (And so, I have nothing to fear!)

Knot #2: The Lord is Sovereign (in control) over all.

Psalm 33:10-11 “The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”

Psalm 47:7-8 “For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.” (And so, I will not second guess Him!)

Knot #3: The Lord is a good God.

Psalm 34:8-9 “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.”

Psalm 100:5 “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (And so, I will not question His choices for me!)

Knot #4: The Lord watches over me.

Psalm 121:7-8 “The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

Psalm 1:6 “For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous..” (And so, I will not stumble!)

Knot #5: The Lord triumphs and wins.

Psalm 18:2 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Psalm 18:32-36 “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me victory and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn…” (And so, I will not lose the battle, He has already won it!)

Have you ever felt you were at the “end of your rope”? Have you had any frayed edges of fear, frustration or futility? Then you know the very real need we all have to be encouraged! Perhaps more than once you have cried out, “Stop, I want to quit!” If you are a parent, you may have wanted to turn in your badge and resign. Perhaps you just don’t have the strength or courage to keep going on in a marriage that seems doomed. Maybe its been the uncertainty of finances, a career or the disaster of the economics of our times? Have you wondered whether God has forgotten you or if He has misjudged how much you can take before falling headlong over this “cliff-hanger” in life?

No matter what you are struggling with right now, stop! Pick up your Bible and a pen, and examine the knots above on your own. It will be time well spent and it will give you just the encouragement you need to hold on! Help is on the way!

Reflect and Respond:

What is your greatest fear right now? How does Psalm 91 speak to that?

How is God showing His Sovereignty in your situation? He is working on our behalf, even if we cannot see it right now! Is anything too difficult for the Lord?

Reflect on the goodness of God to you in the past, will He not also show His goodness now?

God is the God who sees us, cares for us, watches over us; how have you seen His hand and care in your life?

Who is fighting the battle? If it is just us, we are doomed, but for those walking with Him, we have a great defender!

Praise Him who is able to do much more than we can ever imagine!

Two Trees and Two Roads

Tree of Life

You may freely eat of any tree in the garden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you shall eat of it, you will surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17

 

How quickly we forget all God has given to us and done for us! Adam and Eve had been given a gorgeous garden setting to live in, with every tree for beauty and food, except one. They had an intimate relationship with God, who walked with them in the garden in the cool of the day. They had no secrets from one another. Theirs was an honest, open communication both as husband and wife and as the created children of God.

 

Yet even in this perfect environment, there came an Enemy. One who would disguise himself as a bejeweled creature, a serpent. He spoke to Eve with cunning and enticing words. He made her doubt what she knew God had said when he hissed, “Did God really say . . ?” He appealed to her pride, her intellect, her love of beauty, her desire to obtain knowledge. And she ate, and gave some also to her husband, Adam. Instead of eating from the Tree of Life, they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and their eyes were opened.

 

In that one moment, they lost everything. Their innocence was gone, the fellowship with God was broken, and their own relationship as man and wife was marred. They realized right away that what they did was wrong; they felt guilt and shame, hiding themselves from one another and hid in the trees, from the One that knew them best. It didn’t take long to submit to the temptation and disobey God. Even though He had provided everything, the serpent focused their attention on what God might not be letting them have, raising the dissatisfaction in Eve. She wanted it all—surely this too would be “good.” Isn’t that true of us? We are so sure we need more, and more, and more. Satan still appeals to our lust, our pride, and our desires. He is good at what he does, and has had lots of practice.

 

Adam and Eve were the first ones to disobey, but they have had company ever since. Because they sinned, it is in our DNA also. None of us has escaped from the original sin, no matter how good we think we are. God sought them out in the garden, and had to deal with their disobedience by banishing them from this perfect place and set in place curses for the earth, the serpent, and brought a change for mankind in childbearing and working. Yet, in His grace He provided a promise of a cure for sin, the Seed (Jesus) which would crush the head of the serpent (Satan). See Genesis 3:15– When Jesus went to the cross, that promise was fulfilled for those who accept Him.

 

We are still presented with temptations by that sly serpent daily. We can choose the tree that leads to life, or we can choose the tree that leads to death, spiritually. Jesus also spoke of the choices we would discover along the road of life— “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14.

 

Which road are you on? Is it wide and easy to find, or is it narrow with not so many travelers? Maybe it’s time to stop and ask for directions and get back on the right GPS coordinates! Here’s an address for you: Jeremiah 33:3,  Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

Almighty God is always ready to answer the call of a repentant person who wants to renew their life and relationship with Him, and turn from the wrong road to the right one. In fact, He may be calling for you now, “Where are you?”

 

Reflect and Respond:

 

  1. Think about the last time you were tempted; did he use the same methods as he did with Eve?

           (disguise, doubt, appeal to emotional, physical need, power and knowledge)

  1. When you give in to temptation, how does it affect you? What about your relationships? How do you feel about God and prayer?
  2. Confession cleanses us from the guilt, shame and heaviness that sin brings. Take a moment to go before Him, with a contrite heart and ask for forgiveness. Write a thank you for this provision of forgiveness and healing that Jesus brings.
  3. If you have never made the decision to follow Christ, perhaps this is the day to do it. Tell Him that you want to surrender your heart and life to Him, and then tell a friend what you’ve done. Be sure to let the community pastor know also! He can provide information for your further growth! Get into His Word and attend a Bible study.

 

READ the Chapter, (from Pam’s chapter in “Getting Along with Almost Anybody” by Florence Littauer) here:  Personalities in the Garden *

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Want to know about the Care and Feeding of the Personalities Further?  Click here for Understanding of Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic and Melancholy Personalities—Slides about the 4 Personalities:      PS_ISO-8859-1”Presentation

The Bible“Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him.” 2 Samuel 14:14

Lord, please devise a means of keeping my child from evading Your grasp. Please devise a means of turning her from the broad road to the narrow one. Please devise means of convicting her of sin and guarding her from Satan. Devise a means of intervening as necessary to keep her from harming herself and others. Devise a means of bringing her into fullness of the victorious Christian life—

Nudge her, God—

Poke.

Push.

Spur.

Prod.

Goad.

Induce.

And inspire good changes in my child today. Amen.” (Moments for Families with Prodigals,” Robert J. Morgan.

After many, many years of terrible heartache, tears and prayers, I began to apply the words of others who had traveled the same path we were on, such as this one above, by Robert J. Morgan.

While there is no “special formula” for successful prayers, this method became therapeutic for me as the pray-er. Reading heartfelt words and thoughts of another hurting parent who had a child (no matter how old) exercizing their free will to be a prodigal was strengthening, encouraging and comforting.

During this time it was reassuring to read the words of the Heavenly Father talk to His prodigals who too often chose their way instead of His, suffering painful consequences. After all, He had two children raised in a gorgeous garden setting who still chose to go their own way, even in a perfect world! He certainly understands my pain and hurt.

When I prayed that the Lord would devise a means of keeping her from evading His grasp, and make her a captive, imprisoned in His loving arms of protection, little did I know how He would accomplish this, but accomplish it He did.

And so Lord, in that spirit, I continue to come before You asking:

“Give my child

Discernment

Discretion

Discipline and Diligence

Direction in Life

Devotion to Christ and

Delight in Your Word.

In Jesus Name, Amen. (also by Robert J. Morgan)

SailboatHebrews 11:8 tells us that by faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to “go out” into a far off land and receive a blessing and inheritance.  He didn’t know where he was going, but he believed the God who was calling him.  He leaned upon the Promiser, not just on the promises.  Abraham had unwavering confidence that true to His Word, he would arrive safely.

Do I “go in obedience, not knowing”?  What is my focus? Is it on the daily struggles or seeming trial I am going through, with little evidence of the outcome?   Or is my focus on the One who holds my future?  The One who appoints my course?  During the era of World War II, war ships from our coasts left the docks under sealed orders.  No one knew for certain their destination ultimately.  They sailed believing they had an appointment somewhere “out there” of great importance, which was awaiting them; perhaps to be heroes and face the enemy at sea, or be the support for others awaiting them to rescue them!

Our Spiritual lives are like that in a way.  Standing on the shore, God calls us and we have answered his call; we have asked him into our heart.  Now he will lead us and direct us.  We may be of the opinion that WE have a plan for our lives and how it will go, but after we have set sail, we realize that HE has a plan for us; it may be entirely different than we had imagined it would be.  In effect, we have set sail on our journey with God, “under sealed orders.” We know our Captain, but not the route.  We must release our own plan; edit it, add to it, or perhaps even tear it up, and start from the beginning again.  Sailing with God’s plan means trusting Him and resting in the fact that He can get us safely to our destination without our interference.

Lord, You aren’t done with any of us, yet!  We are in the process of becoming what you’d have us to be.  You designed us and the specific plan for our life.  We can squirm, and struggle to avoid and escape the pressure or pain of the “process.”  But when we realize, it is the very hand of God upon us to mold us and “finish and complete us” we must stop squirming and trust you to bring about Your desired end.  Often we just want to stop the discomfort, the difficult circumstance and the emotional pain that it can bring.  Lord help me to endure with joy and expectation what you are working out in my life, even when it just looks dark and bleak.  Help me to see your hand and be thankful; lead me to praise you every day, no matter what color the sky looks at that moment and wherever you lead me! Amen!

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