Put Your Son to Death

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Are you familiar with the story of Abraham and his son, Isaac? If so, you’ll recall the time God put Abraham to an incredible test, by asking him to sacrifice his beloved son. Without hesitation, Abraham readied himself and his son for the trip. You can read the entire account in Genesis 22.

Sometimes, in our world today, we set up certain things that we’ve placed ‘off limits’ to God. Our kids, job, health, marriage; our security. We say, “Have anything you want, Lord, but not this – not ____. This means too much to me, and I can’t let you have it.”

If you know how the event ended, you know that Abraham did not withhold his son, his precious, beloved boy, from the higher calling of obeying God. With a faith that reaches the pages of the New Testament, Abraham exemplified for us, what it means to truly Trust in God, and God counted it unto him as righteousness.

Oh, that we could each display such an all out trust in God!

When we face disappointment and blame God, or suffer through trials and become bitter, we miss out on the Joy of Trusting Him.

We must choose to rewire our thinking. What if through that trial, that burden, that disappointment, that loss, God can display His intimate hand of comfort, grace and provision to us? Would that make it worth going through the heartache?

One of our precious kids suffered a really unjust situation, and was hurting terribly. It was so hard to watch her go through the pain, as she wrestled with the unfairness, and the uncertainty that followed.

We talked for a long time about God’s purposes, why He allows what He does and what He wants from us. I urged her to take a blank piece of paper and draw 5 or 6 lines on it.

“Sweetheart, I’m asking you to go to the Lord, and pray. Tell God that you trust Him, and that you are ready to record some of the wonderful things He is going to bring about because He has allowed this painful thing in your life.”

She looked at me through tears. Fighting back my own anguish on her behalf, I explained. “God doesn’t just bring us from something for no good reason. He has chosen to allow you to leave that place of comfort, where you were happy and content, for His own reasons. And we must trust Him. And now, we must look for what He is bringing you INTO.”

If we are going to follow Him fully, then we must be ready to walk away from good things, where we find our security, and follow Him, who IS our security.

Over the days, as she was reminded of God’s faithfulness, sovereignty and love, we saw her heart begin to heal, and her trust begin to grow. Her situation hadn’t yet changed, but her willingness to see God’s plans through the heartache had.

We were so proud of her, as she wasn’t resentful of the people who had done this to her, and began to express her trust in God. We’d better believe – He WILL reward such a pure faith!

Wouldn’t it be awful to miss seeing God work some marvelous things on our behalf, simply because of our own lack of trust in Him and His goodness?

Imagine! Too often, we are digging our heels in, kicking and screaming to Almighty God who LOVES us, demanding Him to let us have our trinkets, when He longs to give us His treasures! Oh, what a sad forfeiture of potential blessing when we refuse to trust our loving Savior.

I want my faith to deepen, and my heart to be more full of trust in Him. But the only way to do that is to allow room for God to be at work, so we might grow a bit more in our understanding of His awesome might and unfathomable love. What an incredible chance to see the intimate hand of Almighty God at work in my situation and in yours, just by embracing whatever He brings our way, knowing that ultimately it’s for our good and His glory.

Here on Earth is the only place we get to put all of our eggs in the basket of God’s faithfulness. This life is short – I don’t want to miss out on seeing His watchcare over me, because of my own frail inability to grasp that the God who created the entire universe holds me in the palm of His hand, and He loves me, and is more than able to accomplish whatever His will is for my life, if I will only surrender my own weak plans in exchange for His wondrous ones! 

You never know what’s around the corner in this journey called Life. But God does. And He alone holds the roadmap. Will we trust Him to navigate our journey, knowing that He loves us and is working on our behalf?

One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Perfect peace is waiting for those who fully trust God.

What are you holding onto that might be preventing you from seeing God’s love for you today?

Are there things you’ve grown bitter about, not wanting to let God heal, so you can move forward into some marvelous new adventures with Him? 

Let’s talk about it, you know – between friends.

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A few things I have learned, sometimes the hard way, about resolving relational conflict:

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Recognize that time is short and none of us are promised tomorrow. Avoiding the person is not the same as reconciling. Stubbornly ignoring the problem could result in never getting back to a healthy relationship if we won’t take steps now. 🌿

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart…” Hebrews 3:15 

Try to see things from the other person’s perspective. Is it possible that in their shoes, you’d feel the same way? Have you considered how they arrived at their conclusion? Was a word misspoken or an action misunderstood? Communication is key, and simple clarification may resolve the entire thing. 🌿

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility and patience.” Colossians 3:12

We must not squander the gift of being able to ask God to help us. He longs for us to come to Him- He doesn’t want us languishing in broken relationships, and He alone can touch hearts. The first step we take should be that of getting down on our knees to send prayers up to God asking Him to do what only He can: soften our heart as well as the other person’s, asking His favor, grace and healing. 🌿

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” I John 5:14 

Sometimes conflict is the result from being treated unfairly. Is there any lesson to be learned by going through an unjust hurt or trial? I believe so- it helps emphasize our own sin before a perfect and Holy God. It also can be a vehicle to build a deeper trust in God as we wait for Him to work on our behalf. 🌿

“Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord and he will deliver you.” Proverbs 20:22

Recognize that we all have different perspectives and opinions. Non-essentials like preferences should not take precedence over unity, especially between followers of Christ. 🌿

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1

If the conflict is between a believer in Christ and a non-believer, we cannot expect them to hold to our same beliefs. Pray for their salvation, knowing that the work of the Holy Spirit alone can adequately convict a person’s heart. 🌿

“The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” 2 Corinthians 4:4 

Believe the best about the other person. They’re not in our life for nothing. We all have redeeming qualities, as well as weaknesses. Choose not to fixate on their faults, just as we hope they don’t fixate on ours. 🌿

“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” – Proverbs 19:11 

If at all possible, meet in person. Going the extra mile to meet face to face reflects a heart that is eager to seek reconciliation. Texting and phone calls don’t allow the mutual benefit of reading body language and expression, which can go far in helping convey not only repentance, but also sincerity and forgiveness. We cannot underestimate the ability to offer physical signs of affection. Hugs and handshakes offer their own powerful form of healing. 🌿. 

“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20 

Don’t deviate from the main point of the disagreement. Bringing up old hurts that have been dealt with will only cause more damage. Keep the past in the past and your eyes on the task in front of you: resolving the problem before the chasm between you grows. 🌿

“As much as it lies within you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:18

Own our part in the problem and leave room to admit it if we were wrong. Be willing to move into the space of humility and pray that the other person’s heart softens in response. 🌿

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves…” Philippians 2:1-3 

Be eager to embrace the gift of apology. Being a Peacemaker is a beautiful thing in God’s sight. Even if the bulk of the fault lies with the other person, it will not hurt us to be the first to move toward apologizing and reconciliation; in fact, we will be blessed for doing so. 🌿

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9 

Forgiveness is crucial. Do not dwell on what has been resolved. Move forward, grateful to have it behind you, and eager to look for ways to show evidence of a forgiving spirit. 🌿

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if anyone has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 

Nurture what has been newly planted with care and tenderness. If a relationship has suffered, lavish it with gentleness and love, not allowing it to fall into disrepair again. 🌿

“Be kind one to another, tenderhearted and forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

If the other person refuses to reconcile, accept it with graciousness, recognizing that such undemanding kindness may pave the way for a future day. Let them know you will patiently wait for them to be ready. Pray for them. Don’t speak poorly of them. Don’t grow bitter. Use the time while waiting to prepare for the day that hopefully they’ll be ready to talk. Show love and respect, and trust that God will work out the details in His time and His way. 🌿

“A hot tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” Proverbs 15:18

 

Dear Lord, give us teachable hearts, and a commitment to do what is right. Generously pour on us a compassion for those that are also walking this journey of life. May we spill over with forgiveness since we ourselves have been forgiven much. Help us stay steady in trial, hopeful in hurt and anchored in our trust of You and Your plan for our lives. In the matchless name of Jesus, I pray, Amen 🌿🙏🏻

 

 

 

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A bit of Advice to Young Adults

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Pssst! Over here – yeah it’s me- the one who looks like I could be your mom. You’re around 20, right? I just really feel the need to tell you something – something that I think could really help you. And actually, it’s a couple of things- but trust me, it’ll be worth your time to listen.
You know, I clearly remember being your age. Time seemed to stretch out in front of me forever… which was scary as well as reassuring. See, I’ve been where you are, but you haven’t been where I’m at…. truly, I just want to help give you a little advice – a few things I wish someone had told me when I was your age.

Most of my life I have regretted not going to college. The reason was dumb: fear. Yep, simple fear. Of what, you ask? I was afraid of not knowing how to navigate my way around a campus. Ha- you laugh, but trust me, it was very real, and I let it stop me. For a long time I have looked at that as one of my bigger regrets in life- but you know, I recently realized – it wasn’t so much missing out on college, although I think I might have been able to learn and do some amazing things if I had gone… It was more the fact that I let Fear stop me from doing something in life. Don’t do that. Don’t let Fear stand in your way of pursuing a dream. You are poised in the doorway of tremendous possibilities – you’re young, healthy, eager and not encumbered yet- this is the time for you to do some wonderful things in life. No, college isn’t for everyone and you can sure build a wonderful life without it. Just don’t let Fear stop you from moving forward in pursuit of some goals.

Next – stay active. You don’t fully realize what a gift your good health is. I know I didn’t. Nurture it, take care of yourself. This is going to sound very Mom-like, but drink lots of water, eat decently and get into regular sleep and exercise habits. Sure take vitamins and fish oil- thats great- but I’m talking about the basics that anyone can afford- sleep, water, regular walks outdoors and a balanced diet like they used to refer to on the Saturday morning cartoons when broccoli and carrots would dance across the screen together…. oh that really is before your time- I was right on the edge of it myself.
Look- basically just take care of your body. It’s the only one you get. Don’t do drugs. Don’t do stupid. God gave you a great start, don’t mess it up.

Let’s see… Oh! This is important- Develop an appreciation for beauty. Yes, I get it that it’s in the eye of the beholder – but I’m talking about appreciating Beauty. It is all around us, but so many people walk right on by without noticing, and it’s not only a shame, I think it’s a loss. Because life is hard. There will be days you are weary or discouraged and even tempted to quit or give up. But the person who has cultivated the ability to see Gods lavishness- his supply, his grace, his very gift of life- that person will be better able to Trust that God has a plan for their life, and it will spur you on in those moments of doubt.

Back to another point before I forget it. You know, you’re old enough now to realize that life can really stink. There are hard things – unfair trials, difficulties and things that just make us shake our heads because they don’t make sense. That’s because we live in a fallen world. It’s not how it began, but with the entrance of sin our world was cursed, and now we have to live with all the fallout from that– heartache and disease, disasters and pain. But don’t buy into the lie that life isn’t worth living. Trust me on this- there will be days when you feel confused and overwhelmed- even despairing- but it Will get better – you keep your head up, and focus on the fact that God loves you and wants to teach us a few things when He allows pain in our lives. Let it grow you into a better person, someone who can empathize with others, someone who allows the journey of life to develop their character and inner strength. God has a plan for you. Keep trusting that, and it will carry you through those hard times.

Another bit of advice – embrace where you’re at. None of us are promised tomorrow. Really squeeze all you can out of today, enjoying it fully, appreciating the good, letting go of the bad, and allowing what you learn to shape you toward the person you will become. Don’t be bitter. Don’t be foolish. Don’t be angry. Be hopeful. Be encouraged. Be who God designed you to be- because I’ve only spent these few minutes with you, and already I can see how special and unique you are with your gifts, talents and abilities – Oh! If only you could see what I see when I look at you! Let God’s plan and purpose for you unfold, and you’ll do fabulous!

Wow… well, there really is so much more that could be said, but I don’t want to put more on you than you’re ready for. We could talk about marriage and children, jobs and money choices–and about 20 other things… there’s a lot ahead for you- but you know; this is enough. For now, this is enough.

Thanks for listening. I hope you feel encouraged and ready to embrace wherever it is that you’re headed…. and in 10 years or so, if you’re still here, and I’m still here, let’s connect again. I’d really like that- and I’m sure I could fill you in on a few more bits of advice that might help you. Take care, my friend. Praying God’s grace over you. ❤

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Helping loved ones through Grief

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I am still very much in this world…but with the passing of several dear ones lately, it occurred to me that NOW, while I am still alive, I have the ability to do at least some small things that might bring a measure of comfort to the hearts of those I love. Were I to pass suddenly, I might even be instrumental in helping them keep their sights firmly where they ought to remain. Purposefully living, while loving fully…

My Dearest: You are a Survivor.

There is surely pain in the realization, because right now, if you are reading this, you more likely feel alone, abandoned and afraid.

But be assured, my precious one: you are not.

Whatever befell me was simply my doorway into Eternity with Jesus – and you need to draw comfort from knowing with absolute certainty that I am whole, healed and happy – and rejoicing with Jesus! I Thes. 4:13-18

Believe me, I understand how you are feeling – that’s why I am writing this reminder to you – for you to find when I am gone, that it might bring you comfort in your grief.

I love you. You must know that of all the gifts from God’s good hand, that of Family has been the very dearest to me!

And so, at this low point, in this trial, I want to linger a bit with you. I wish I could stroke your hair and dry your tears…but through these words, I pray I might offer help to your hurting heart. Oh my loved one – do not despair! We have such a glorious Hope!

As I write this, my mind fills with memories of happy times, so many days bright with promise…what a marvel, really, that in a sin cursed world there can still be JOY – Isn’t that a remarkable gift from God?? Oh honey: embrace LIFE and all it has to offer! Do not be dismayed, defeated or lose hope…Satan would love to shake your faith. Surely doubt follows pain – but you must remain steadfast in your Trust. You must see the Possibilities – what man sees as tragic, senseless, futile and Final, God in His Sovereignty has already victoriously defeated. So Death, in His hand is just a tool – to build a platform from which we can proclaim His sufficiency, His sustaining Power and His comfort. The truth is that trials and hardships ought to be used (and often are!) as a wake up call to those who have wandered, or have let their faith dim… (Yes, I know I am lecturing now – permit me this small indulgence – now that I’ve passed, it will be my last J)

Where was I? Oh yes – reminding you, my treasured one, that you must make the most of the opportunity afforded you by my passing. You will have no end of those sympathizing with you – after all, such a loss of our loved ones brings out great compassion in people.

Let their affections warm your heart; do not close yourself off from the reach of Comfort. Grieving without hope is left to those who have none – but that is not US – we have Hope!

I guess that is the crux of what I want to say…and yet, while I am still afforded time, I will write a bit more, that the looping figures on these pages might themselves bring a small amount of peace to you…like an old recipe written out by a loved one – not only does the actual dish offer a remembered joy, but the familiar scrawl as well, brings a smile to the one who misses the owner’s hand.

We have shared plenty of conversations through the years for you to be grounded in the knowledge of the Gospel. You must continue the work – the task and joy of sharing the Good News with others who need yet to hear of it. It is every Believer’s obligation to carry on the proclamation of God’s salvation through the cross of Jesus…and we – you and I together – will have Eternity to rejoice and revel in His provision, love and grace.

Together…isn’t that such a lovely word? This parting of ours is temporary – only for a while – oh, what a comfort we can have knowing that Christ bore separation from His Father while on the cross, to make possible the fact that we will be together forever! Amazing!

And so, though death holds us for a brief second, and we grieve its sting, it is a temporary pain, a necessary reminder to the fact that our sin cursed world groans in agony.

Aren’t you so grateful, my dear one, that “we have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep, in the Savior’s love”?!

You’ll be humming that one for the rest of the day, I bet. J

What more can be said? I began by calling you a Survivor – for that is what you are…I like that term – it’s not necessarily ‘heroic’, though it could be. I think I like that within it is the very essence of ‘one who rises above their circumstances’. Life is full of tragedy. Uncertainty and danger lie all around us – human beings have a tendency to try to skirt all threats and snares – and understandably so…

BUT the believer in Jesus has the steadying truth that God is IN CONTROL.

Do you remember my quote, “Do not worry…God has already measured out all the days needed for you to get done whatever He has called you to do, so take time to do things well, and as unto Him.”?  Well, I thoroughly enjoyed each day measured out to me, with the pleasure and joy of walking my journey with YOU, my treasured family by my side.

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” II Tim 4:8

I love you. May you always know how deeply thankful I am to God for giving me the gift of you! I could fill pages more with a steady flow of praise for you! (In fact, be sure to read my journals, the baby books where I related many wonderful stories that you’ll want to remember and pass along – oh and my prayer journal, and the basketfuls of cards and notes and letters…I’ve left enough material for you to be reading for months. J)

I only hope that your discovery of this letter has brought you some healing, my darling… There is a delicious little thrill in my heart knowing that this awaits your discovery. I seal it with a prayer that you find great comfort in this, our final time ‘together’ on this side of Heaven’s Gate.

Know that I’ll be looking for you when your time comes ~ and we will delight together, forevermore! Now dry your tears ~ LIFE Awaits you! And it’s a wonderful Gift from our Father’s loving hand! Live it out fully, for Him and you won’t regret a moment…

All my love,

Sarah

Wife, Mom, Daughter, Sister, and Friend, but mostly,

Follower of Jesus Christ, my Savior

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Hope for the Hurting!

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Life is complex and complicated; evil flourishes, and trouble comes swiftly. The problems of today rarely resolve, but rather, they multiply, muddying the waters even further.

Thousands of mega problems crowd our daily newsfeed: what is the solution for the starvation crisis in Venezuela? What to do with the refugees fleeing war-torn countries? How to stop horrific sex trafficking, the drug epidemic, or the threat of worldwide terrorism? Is there an answer for abortion, corruption, or abuse; political disunity, bullying, or flagrant rebellion of authority in our nation? And what to do about vicious dictators of nations who misuse their power, bringing tremendous suffering on their own countrymen? Which battles to fight? Do we have some responsibility to fight for the plight of the weak and helpless, or is it all just too much? Compassion demands some sort of action, and yet… what to do?? … The endless list of twisted and tangled gargantuan issues leaves one reeling!

Sifting through all of these impossibly massive “macro level” problems, while coping at the same time with “micro level” problems – the individuals we each know who are languishing in their own personal agonies – battles with cancer, grief of familial suicide, loss, pain, disease, heartache and despair. How to walk alongside the many who are facing such overwhelming challenges?

And what about the more “minor” struggles – even for those not facing persecution, or poverty, death or disease, what to do with the heartache of errant children or loss of a job? Stress from bad relationships, or pain from the past? Disappointed hopes, dashed dreams or searching for significance?

The fact is, our entire world is groaning under the weight and curse of Sin, and there are no “simple solutions” that will automatically fix the consequences of it.

Overwhelm: to defeat completely; bury or drown beneath a huge mass.

So, is that it? Are there no answers to be found? Or is there some hope to escape the immense fallout from the depravity of sin and its devastating consequences?

Thankfully, yes!

Satan’s strategy is to leave us feeling overwhelmed, powerless and alone, but God’s solution has already been set into motion: the victory won by Jesus Christ when he sacrificed his life on the cross for All the sins of All of humanity for All time…and then rose again, victorious over death. Jesus conquered for us what we could not win for ourselves: Victory over death, and over the pull of sin on our lives. (I Corinthians 15:55-57)

Because God loves people so much, He made a way out from the bondage of sin and the hopelessness that every human being faces – Don’t believe the lie that all roads lead to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

We all like sheep have gone astray, we have turned – every one- to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

So for the person who puts their trust in the finished work of Jesus, there is a precious hope, and a peace that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:7, Isaiah 26:3) More so, we are no longer bound by sin, and sin’s curse, but can live abundant and joy filled lives, despite the pain that surrounds us, knowing that God is working all things together for good for them who love Him and are called according to His purposes. (John 10:10, Romans 8:28, Galatians 5:22-23)

Our hope lies in a future place as we await Christ’s return, sharing the truth of this Good news with others while there is still time, and using every opportunity to show the love of Jesus to a dark and hurting world. (II Timothy 4:6-8, John 9:4)

If you like me, have put your faith in the shed blood of Jesus for your sins, but still find yourself struggling with the heartache of the consequences of sin (which we won’t fully escape until Heaven), I pray you find wonderful encouragement from this poem I published in my book, Still She Speaks:

What do you think when you see the plight

Of our fellow humans who suffer the blight

Of this earth and her troubles? Of pain and distress

Of disease and poverty, anguish and death? 

 

As they wander and ponder the meaning of life,

Observe all the scandal, partake of the strife, 

They can glimpse of the beauty that lies all around

But have no understanding, no footing, no ground

  

They persist in the cycle, but long to be free.

What must they think of you and of me,

When they see that true joy can exist in this place,

Despite all the trials and chaos and waste?

 

Are we fragrant? Inviting? Attractive? Or no?

Do we carry deep sorrow, and reek of the woe

That they long to escape? I must ask this dear friend:

Does your life reflect hope for a better end? 

 

Do we bask in God’s goodness despite earthly pain?

Trust that our Savior has a perfect plan?

Keep our eyes trained on heaven where eternity dwells?

Are we offering hope while the world offers hell? 

 

This world’s pains are hard, prolonged and deep,

But for those without Christ, it’s the best they will see.

Are we sharing our faith while there is still time? 

Or getting bogged down in the muck and the grime?

 

Are we resting in Him when the storm swirls around?

Clinging to Him when our enemies hound?

Running to Him when lonely and scared?

Praying and soaking our mind in His word?

 

Storing His scriptures away in our hearts,

When the enemy comes with his fiery darts?

Do we thank Him –yes, thank Him for allowing us pain

That would tether us to Him again and again?

 

This is difficult – no- an Impossible task –

Except we have Jesus to whom we can ask

To carry our burden and fix our eyes,

So our load becomes his   ~ he’s our fortress and prize!

 

Rejoice in the gifts that his love has bought!

Oh friend – this is big – has your heart been caught? 

We have The Answer, the Hope and the Key~

Are we sharing with prisoners that they can be free? 

 

Bondage and heartache should not be the plight

For the child of Jesus who is offered delight –

Yes – delight that our troubles though hard and so deep,

Are temporary afflictions – they will not keep!

 

Our hope lies in a future place

Where pain does not live, where sorrows cease.

Where tests and tears do not abound,

Where heartache and death cannot be found. 

 

Where His will is done and perfection reigns,

Where right does rule, and joy remains!

This place does exist and it’s free to the one

Who would come to the cross and believe in the Son

Who has paid all the debt we owe for our sin –

Impossible, yes – but not for Him! 

 

He’s building a mansion – working details out –

And soon He will come back with a shout!

And take us home to be with Him there –

Can you picture it friend? Are you fixing your stare

Toward the place we’ll reside forevermore?

 

No more death, or mourning, or crying or pain!

Where glory goes on and on and on.

Rejoice in this truth! And share it with men 

Who need to hear it again and again!

 

So I ask once more time: What does your life say?

Are you trusting in Jesus, or throwing it away?

Let’s get our eyes off our troubles, and our knees on the floor –

Seek Jesus – we’ll find Him…His grace ~ and much more! 

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Being a Truth Teller

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It doesn’t always matter what you think.

Do you believe that? That there are some things not up for ‘debate’?

For example, wouldn’t it be foolish to argue against the fact of gravity? Although there may have been a time where people couldn’t explain how it works, or have an actual word to ascribe to it, nonetheless, gravity exists. Wouldn’t it sound ridiculous to hear someone say, “I don’t believe in a natural pull that causes mass to fall towards the earth, and keeps us from flying off into space”? Yes, it would. Some things are simply factual.

But what if that person were to say, “but that’s what I believe. You can’t question my opinion. It’s how I feel”? Would we rush to accommodate their belief, to try to make them feel that their “opinion” on the subject held value; or would the loving thing be to tell them the truth, “It doesn’t matter what you think about it, the fact is that gravity does exist, whether you want it to or not. You need to change your way of thinking.”

We would want to move toward that person, and share truth with them, desiring them to come to a place of understanding, wouldn’t we?

That is what our response should also be toward people who deny the existence of God, or the fact that He has a standard of righteousness, by which all who are not found in Christ will be judged. Those of us who have put our trust in Jesus stand in his righteousness, not our own.

Psalm 14:1 tells us that, “the fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’” God calls the person who refuses to accept the truth of His existence, a “fool”.

Rather than rushing to affirm them and make them feel like their ‘belief’ holds value, it ought to cause us to lovingly correct their incorrect thinking, pointing them to the truth that a loving God created them, with a glorious purpose and value. But our own sin has separated us from Him.

The rebelliousness in human hearts is called sin. The refusal to look at things God’s way: sin. Choosing corrupt life patterns: sin. Seeking to come up with alternative methods to Heaven outside of His revealed plan: sin.

What hope has anyone, to break free from the grip of sin? The only way that God provided: through the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, for us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 That is the Good News of the Gospel! God sent hope for sinners into the world – and his name is Jesus!

Are we lovingly sharing with hurting people the fact that Jesus loves them, and died for sinners, so that those who put their faith in him can escape the coming judgment of God’s wrath? Those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus must use our time well, sharing the truth with men and women who need to hear this Good News. We need to be praying that hearts will be convicted of sin, minds be opened to understand truth, and souls have their eternal destination changed.

We don’t change the standard; we ask God to change the hearts of those who don’t yet understand the truth.

Paul instructed Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

Are we prepared with the message that offers life? Its a privilege to share in the ministry of the gospel that brings salvation to all who hear and are changed by it’s message… let us be about our Father’s business, and tellers of the truth, while there is still time.

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The Fruit of the Spirit in Action

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In this red-hot environment of political debate, both “sides” have fallen into pits of self-righteous indignation, having ‘clays of opinion’ that quickly harden, without allowing outside thoughts to permeate that might soften the jagged edges that have formed.

The subject matters are more numerous than there are Olympic sports; stretching from Immigration, Abortion, Taxation to National defense, Cabinet picks, Supreme Court justices and beyond. Everything’s up for battle.

The methods of dissemination vary as well: protests, arguments via volatile comment threads, op-ends, Facebook posts, Twitter jabs, late night TV skits, University rallies and, far too rarely, discussions over cups of coffee. (Best not choose Starbucks for now)

Worn and stale labels are slung like so many horseshoes, each side hoping for a ringer, while both are guilty of assumptions of understanding, without actually communicating anything fresh.

But the truth is, no one understands fully the vast majority of the problems that beset us. The issues have become far too complex and complicated; cloaked in controversiality and beyond human reasoning.

Oh sure- I can say that I stand on God’s standard when I stand against such a thing as abortion. (And frankly, I do believe that). But my friend, with equal claim to the grace of God through the blood of Christ, stands just as adamantly for the legitimacy of organizations such as Black Lives Matter, citing past wrongs that caused the formation of such a group to begin with.

Who is “right”, and who is “wrong”? And who gets to decide? And what to do with the umpteen other topics, some that intertwine like bowls of spaghetti, confusing and chaotic? On principle I believe we all have the right to our opinions on many matters if based on the framework of God’s Word. But where does that get us as far as actually persuading anyone?

Certainly I would like to think that every human being could agree that a recent example, a woman, a teacher of pre-schoolers, no less, who was recorded screaming racial epithets and demanding that “all white people give up their @!$& homes and money and give it to black people now!” would be unanimously given a thumbs down. That it wasn’t is highly disturbing, and a clear sign of our times.

The fighter in me wants to insist that “the liberals had 8 years of policies enacted that conservatives had to cope with, and it’s our turn to show them the wonderful good that conservative principles can do for all, if only given a chance.” However, that just inflames the already heated atmosphere.

The weary part of me wants to pass along non-controversial pictures of funny pets and dinner recipes, and hide away from the raging debates. But if Christians won’t engage in the public discussions, are we ceding our voice of reason, and the ability to fight against our nation’s cultural and moral decay? Passivity and apathy are avenues to usher in tragedy, as seen in plenty of world horrors where good people did nothing to fight evil.

But, I wonder if there is another option?

One that invites differing opinions to be heard in an arena of open, respectful discussion; where labels are prohibited (as well as name calling and nasty language). Where thoughts are presented, with the underlying belief that everyone participating has our nation’s best interests at heart, and that one’s allegiance to and love of Jesus Christ isn’t debated, even if perspectives might be challenged, with kindness and cordiality.

That such a board of banter and thought, diverse yet fraught with – dare I say it?: Love, could exist, gives my heart a tug of hopefulness.

Perhaps, by adding a “water” such as Love to our clay, our opinions may form more gently, giving a chance to smooth those jagged edges away with which we have been slashing at one another, preventing the cuts that wound deeply, and instead, helping one another arrive at conclusions based on truth, justice, respect and love, as well as a willingness to wait patiently and prayerfully for one another as we walk this journey of life together. In fact, evidencing the fruit of lives that are controlled by the Holy Spirit –  of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

In this age of rages and rants and rampages, imagine how much better it would be, how mutually beneficial and edifying (let alone, providing a model for our children!) to come up with a better way to conduct public discourse that is solidly built on a platform of respect, kindness and love.

Is it possible? I don’t know… but I am willing to try it and see.
I Corinthians 13:1-13

What do you think? Let’s talk – you know – between friends.

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Broken by pain, mended by God

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Her confession that came to my ears delivered a crushing blow to my gut. Unsuspected. Unforeseen. Unbearable.

I was devastated.

Where could one even go from there? Where to find any hope? Any healing? 

The beginning of that journey brought me to my knees, renewed my trust in my Savior, and caused me to cling all the more to His Truths. Journaling was cathartic. And, it turned out, became the nugget at the core of a work of fiction, borne from our pain.

Still She Speaks, my first published work, was wrought from the discovery and the journey of healing that we went through with our precious daughter. God’s faithfulness surrounded us during those dreadfully dark months; my heart wavered between lamenting, and rejoicing. Some days, grief flooded hope. Other days, hope won. Pride toppled as I learned that even Love cannot forbid entry to sin. As a parent, I had to rethink the foundations of my trust – they’d been built on a flimsy platform of thinking “that couldn’t happen to us” and “my kids are doing great”. Truth came crashing in that day. And with it, the walls of pride fell down around me.

Oh – but HE is faithful! And together, we rebuilt my understanding of what it means to be a “Good Parent”. Instruction? Yes. Love? Certainly. But more than that – more than my modeling as best I could; more than serving and helping, praying and providing… Going deeper with God was a must. Trusting in His sovereign hand became my lifeline.

As I learned what it means to cling to Jesus, our daughter was also on her journey of healing and growing, and taking ownership of her own faith. As much as I wanted to – ached to! – have my ever deepening faith grafted into her own heart, I could not. It was something she was going to have to embrace on her own, and for herself. Thankfully, she did.

My journal sat on the shelf, successful in it’s initial goal of bringing me a sense of therapeutic healing. But in my spirit, I wondered, “Does God have a greater purpose in bringing us through this heartache? What if someone else can glean some encouragement from hearing this story?”

And so began the work that eventually became Still She Speaks. Overall, it is a work of fiction; certainly I draw a few things here and there to add the personal touches that make it mine; but mostly, it’s fiction. Excepting the core, the nugget that sits nestled in the middle of the story, poignantly reminding me that for all it’s highs and lows, characters and plots, joys, tears and sorrows – really, I guess, just like the timeline of life itself… we have a Hope, that the hurting world cannot understand. And His name is Jesus.

I pray that you are blessed hearing the back story of how this book came to be; and that you find tremendous blessing in reading my book. If you do, would you take a minute to share a word of how it ministered to you? Reviews left on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com are extremely helpful and very much appreciated! Thank you!

And if you have a word to share, or a journey you’ve been on that you have seen God’s faithfulness – let’s rejoice together! Or if you’re in the middle of a season of hurt, and need prayer – please leave a comment here – it would be my privilege to lift you up in prayer. (I won’t ever publish any comments that people prefer remain private – just mention it when you post)

May you be blessed, as we walk this journey of life, together. And let’s talk- you know – between friends.

 

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