Face Value


I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. It was so unexpected. I was with a fellow Christian that I had known for a long time. We were different ages and in different circles but ended up working together fairly frequently. I had always assumed that we had the same respect and admiration for each other and that our occasional disagreements and debates were viewed as a healthy part of a relationship.

But, on that particular day, I found out that I was quite wrong.

This person did not have the same feelings toward me as I had towards them. In fact, that conversation showed me that they viewed me as a particularly irritating part of their life. There was no confession and no closure. Just a statement that needed no further elaboration. I didn’t really know them well enough to follow up the conversation any further and so I walked away that day with a shocking and hurtful realization:

People can act like they like you when they really don’t.

For many years after that, I found myself just assuming that most people did not like me. I assumed that I was irritating and that most people did not enjoy my company. Even if someone was really nice to me and I thought I had found a friend, I would hear a voice in the back of my head saying: They don’t really like you. They are only pretending. Just like _________.

It would take a long time for me to trust someone and believe that they actually did enjoy my company. After all, a fellow Christian had pretended to be my friend and it had never been true.

Isn’t it amazing how one conversation can change your life?

By my very nature, I am quite outgoing and outspoken (I can almost hear the “amens” even as I write this from those of you who know me!) It is so hard for me to just sit in a room quietly without speaking. I suppose my parents knew they had a problem on their hands when, as a young child, I spoke my unfiltered thoughts about the fat lady walking towards us on the street.

I’ve had a lifetime of trying to curtail my mouth. To learn to think before I speak. To honor God with the right tone, looks, and body language.

And I do think I have made progress, in large part due to God’s amazing grace and the Holy Spirit working in my life. I am not the same person I was. But I do still mess up sometimes. I still–quite unintentionally–make enemies. And I still worry about that. Especially when people are so good at covering their true feelings.

But, recently, I believe that God has been teaching me to take people at “Face Value”. I cannot know anything about a person that they do not choose to share with me. I cannot be responsible for their grudges and unforgiving hearts if they do not choose to come to me with their issues. If someone treats me like they like me, then I should assume that they do. If they are pretending, that is not my concern. That is between them and God. I can’t spend my time worrying about it and I can’t make assumptions that may not be true.

And since that first conversation, I have learned a few things. First, sometimes people are just really shy. It doesn’t mean they don’t like me. It just means they don’t know me. And, second, I’ve learned that moods often determine how people interact with me. Some people just aren’t friendly if they have had a rough day. It doesn’t mean that they have some deep, abiding hatred of me.

Instead of focusing on the reactions and thoughts of others (which are completely outside my control), my concern is to treat people with love and kindness. If there is a truth that needs communicated, then it is to be covered with prayer and spoken with much thought and tremendous grace. If I do these things, then I must let the rest up to God.

It’s been a long journey that I am still on, but I keep learning that I need to get the focus off of me and my feelings and keep it where it belongs– on God and His Word.

If someone doesn’t like me because of my stand for God, then I am okay with that. If they don’t like me because I’ve sinned against them, then, unless they tell me, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. If they do confront me, it is my job to be humble and willing to receive the criticism with an open mind.

Relationships can be so tough. We can make assumptions and we have expectations. When we are disappointed or devastated in a relationship, it can really make a difference in how we treat others for the rest of our lives. But God’s Word shows us how to have healthy relationships. And the first step is almost always putting aside our own desires and thinking of what’s best for the other person. (Philippians 2:2-3). It’s painful. It’s so hard. But it works.


Why Crime Will Continue to Rise


Everyone is so shocked when a shooting occurs in some part of this country. We hear of banks being robbed, young ladies being molested, and drug use abounding. And we are surprised.

But my question is why?

Why are we so shocked? I can think of a number of reasons why we should not be. And why crime will continue to rise in this country–

  1. We have brainwashed our kids in the education system for almost 100 years, teaching them that they are nothing but a bunch of cells thrown together by chance.
  2. We have taught our young people that there is no God to which they are accountable.
  3. Somewhere in the midst of the sexual revolution, the general population started believing there are no absolutes. Something can be right for one person but be wrong for someone else. It just depends on the situation.
  4. The entertainment industry has spewed forth tv shows, video games, movies, music, and books filled with all that God abhors. Violence, sexual perversions, illegal drug and alcohol use, and filthy language are not only portrayed but glorified. Instead of our youth learning to work at a job, they are sitting in front of screens learning how to murder and shoot.

When these philosophies started making it mainstream, did anyone ever consider the devastating consequences that would result? All philosophies have consequences.

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out the consequences of a culture that has decided there is no God and no absolutes. Barring unforeseen revival or some other miracle, anarchy almost has to be the final result.

Because what keeps a desperate drug addict from shooting a store owner? What keeps a sexually hungry man from raping a young girl? If there is no God and there is no right and wrong, then NOTHING will stop them. Their conscience has been completely hardened (Romans 1).

It is a rather frightening thought, isn’t it?

If we are a Christian, we need not fear. Many believers before us have gone through awful, terrible times. God has not deserted us, for the Holy Spirit lives within us. He will walk us through these tough times and dark valleys.

If we aren’t a Christian, then these events –like the shooting on an Oregon campus this week–should demand our attention. You need to be asking yourself this question: Where am I going to spend eternity? Because at any moment–at any time–you could be murdered. Instantly, you could find yourself face to face with God. Are you ready? Don’t delay in finding a godly Christian to talk to about this (or feel free to email me at leslie@growing4life.net if you don’t know who else to talk to).

These stories we hear on the news are absolutely frightening. Whether we are believer or unbeliever, may they lead our thoughts towards the eternal.



Lessons from Esther


After reading the prophets, I have to admit that I breathed a big sigh of relief to get to Esther. I have loved this story since I was a child. With this time through, I found it very helpful to see where it fits in chronologically. I did not realize that this story takes place while the Jews are still exiled in Babylon. I guess I just never really thought about the details of the story before.

As I was reading this time around, I was amazed at the practical lessons that we can take away from what appears on the surface to be just another story of God’s miraculous work in saving the lives of the Jews–

1.   Sometimes God uses beautiful and powerful people. We tend to place a lot of emphasis on the fact that God uses the weak and the broken. We sit in our mundane lives filled with financial pressures and family struggles and we enviously watch the lifestyles of the rich and famous, clinging to 2 Corinthians 12:9 and comforting ourselves with the promise that God uses normal people like us to accomplish His will. And He sure does. But Esther shows us that, sometimes, God uses beautiful people like Esther to accomplish His will, too. She, of all of the young women chosen to present to the king, is the one he prefers. God raised her to a place of great power and position and, through this providential placement, saved the Jews. God can use anyone. There are no limitations.

2.  You are where you are for such a time as this. When Mordecai presents the terrible plot to kill the Jews to Esther, he asks her to go to the king. She hesitates, knowing that he could command her execution on the spot (aren’t you glad you don’t live in that kind of world??). Mordecai then reminds her that just because she is in the King’s palace doesn’t mean she will escape death. And then he gives Esther a final and compelling reason: “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Since we know the end of the story, we know that she was put in the kingdom for just that reason. Just as we all are exactly where God wants us to be. We were born at the specific time and place God planned for us. There are no accidents with God. He knew that you and I would be in this world right now–a world that is pushing globalism and one-world everything. A world that is heating up in the Middle East. A world that is dark and lost and needs Jesus Christ–the real Jesus Christ of the Bible– not the fake, feel-good version so many claim to follow. What are you doing for God? What is the eternal reason you are where you are right now?

3.  Keeping ourselves as our top priority hinders our work for the Lord. After Mordecai presents his argument as to why Esther needs to go to the king and beg for the lives of her fellow Jews, she agrees. She asks him and all of the Jews in Susa to fast for her and then says she will fast, as well, in preparation for the fearful duty of speaking to the king. She concludes with this statement: If I perish, I perish.

Esther was willing to put her own safety and well-being aside in her efforts to save the Jews. How convicting is this for us? We don’t even want to give up our comfort and convenience to do good. We don’t go to church for reasons like soccer games or needing more sleep. We don’t visit our elderly neighbors or grandparents because it makes us uncomfortable or we find it boring. We don’t speak up when God’s name is cursed because we are fearful for our reputations. Why is this? Because we are our top priority. Our comfort, our convenience, our desires, our success, our health, our pride– these are the things that often keep us from doing the right thing. Saying no to self and submitting to God’s will is a constant battle but one we can never stop fighting. Esther sets a great example for us.

4. Planning is best. Some of us — we know who we are– are the ones in this world who speak before we think. Instead of thinking and planning, we emphatically present our half-baked ideas in our efforts to fix things. Esther shows us a better way. Instead of going to the king and stating her case with tears and anger, she asks him to come to a banquet, along with Haman; carefully planning her presentation to the king. I have to be honest, reading that this time around, convicted me. She was so deliberate and so tactful in how she went about it. That does not tend to be how I present things. I want to be more like her when I have an urgent situation that needs to be remedied, don’t you?

5. When you live a life of sin, your whole family pays. Haman was a wicked man. His pride and desire for power cost him not only his life, but the lives of his ten sons. I wonder if sometimes we forget about the cost that is involved for our kids when we practice sin? When we can’t make our marriages work, it isn’t just us who pay. When we cheat or lie or steal, our kids are watching. Our pride, our complaining spirits, our grudges–all of these hurt those around us. Sin is not a solitary exercise, is it? Instead it encompasses everyone in our circle of influence, raining down consequences on those we love.

6. God can turn what looks to us like inescapable tragedy into triumph. Instead of the Jews’ enemies being able to eradicate them, the tables were miraculously turned and the Jews were able to rid themselves of many of their enemies through the king’s edict. Verse 1 of chapter nine says that “the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.” Think about how dreadful things looked for them only a few days before– there was much weeping and mourning about their certain doom. And yet, only a short time later, there they were– the victors! Of course, it doesn’t always happen this way, but we certainly do need to remember that anything is possible with God! The same God that saved the Jews in the book of Esther is the God we serve today. He has not changed. What a comforting thought!


And so concludes my lessons in Esther. I am sure there are more lessons there to be learned in this short book. Do you have any to share?

Today is October 1– and that means that we are now in the month that we start the New Testament! If you are still with me in the Bible Challenge, we can now say that we have made it almost 3/4 of the way through! Let’s keep going. Only a few months to go :)

The Red Glasses


I have had the strangest thing happen to me this summer. Not once or even twice– but three times! But let me start back at the beginning.

Earlier this summer, I could tell that my eyes were getting worse. I was sad to admit it, but the bottom line was that I had to increase my magnification in my reading glasses. Which meant I needed a new pair.

A few days later, I was out shopping and came across a cute display of polka-dotted reading glasses. I had a hard time choosing from the fun colors, but finally settled in on the red ones. I don’t usually pick such a bright color for glasses, but since I was just going to be using them at home I decided that it wouldn’t really matter.

The new glasses were quite comfortable and so they quickly became my go-to pair for my summer mornings on our porch swing, as I would spend some time with God, reading His Word and praying.

About a week or so after I got the glasses, I was reading when suddenly I heard the familiar whir of hummingbird wings. I eagerly looked up for my little familiar friend and saw her at one of the ivy geraniums in the hanging basket closest to me. I watched with interest until, quite suddenly, she started flying towards my face. She was about a foot away from me, when suddenly it dawned on me! It was the red glasses! I quickly removed them and the bird flew away.

About a month later, the same thing happened again.

And then, just on Friday, I heard the familiar whirring once more as the bird flew directly towards my head. I really wanted to see how close she would come, but I just couldn’t bring myself to take the chance of having my eye damaged by a hummingbird! I know it sounds silly, but when you are in the moment, it’s such a natural reaction to protect yourself. As she moved closer than ever before–within just a few inches of my face–I removed the glasses.

So why did this hummingbird keep coming towards my red glasses? Well, quite obviously, it was because they were red. If you know anything about hummingbirds you know that they love red flowers. I am assuming the little bird got a little mixed up and thought my glasses were a strange type of delectable flower. Can you imagine how disappointed she would have been if she would have actually tried to imbibe my glasses?

You would think that the hummingbird would have realized that just because something is red doesn’t mean that it’s worthy for consumption.

Of course, we often do the same thing.

We see something that is called “Christian”, it looks like it’s Christian, and we even have the added bonus of hearing well-meaning Christians rant and rave about it. And so we buy it. We consume it. And it changes our view of God.

I am thinking of books like The Shack* or Jesus Calling*, unbiblical books that have no basis in scripture but make us feel really good.

When we read books like this (these are just two of the most popular–there are so many others), we aren’t fed real food, but are instead consuming fake food. And, unlike the hummingbird with the glasses, the fake food tastes pretty good going down. It makes us feel special and gives us a perception of God that we like.

But if we compare it to scripture, we will see that these books do not hold truth.

Of course, in order to do that, we need to know and study the Word. We cannot spot the false if we don’t know Truth. I would guess that biblical illiteracy is the main reason so many of us Christians have such a hard time staying on the straight and narrow today. In this world of outrageous soundbites and instant everything, quiet and routine Bible study seems so old-fashioned and maybe even a little boring to some of us.

Can’t you see how clever Satan is? If he can keep Christians out of the Word of God then he has rendered us quite ineffective. We are like waves tossing to and fro, going one direction, then the next, never really knowing if something is really biblical or not. And because we don’t have the solid rock of the Word beneath us, we fall for books and teachers that are not teaching truth.

Jesus warns us that this is to be expected in Matthew 24:23-24– “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

There will always be — and have always been– false teachers. One of our most serious duties as believers is to study the truth in the Bible and then to use the insight and wisdom gained there to discern good from evil. We do this for all things secular and religious. The label “Christian” should not mean an automatic stamp of our approval, but instead should make us even more wary.

Oh, how I wish that our culture wasn’t filled with so many spiritual land mines. It’s frustrating. It’s especially frustrating when godly Christians defend books that aren’t biblical. Many well-meaning people love the books I mentioned. And yet, if we do any study at all (see below) we will have to admit that these books are not based on the biblical God but, instead, on some man’s imaginations of a warm,fuzzy god that is much more palatable to our rebellious hearts.

“Red glasses” (false teachings) absolutely abound in our culture, don’t they? How critical it is to keep ourselves fed on the truth of God’s Word so that we can discern the false.


*Below are some links for anyone who may be interested in the real truth about these popular books–

The Shack




Jesus Calling




Pressing Through the Storm


Raising kids is hard. Really hard if you want to do it right. It means saying no when everyone else says yes. It means setting boundaries, being consistent, and setting a godly example in all areas of life–at least giving it our best effort and then resting in the knowledge that God will make up for our weaknesses. It requires much prayer and lots of time in The Word.

Being an influence for good in the workplace is hard. It’s really hard if you want to not only be a good influence, but a godly one. It means forsaking popularity. It means that you may be teased, harassed, and targeted. It requires lovingly telling the truth when no one wants to hear it. And standing apart from the crowd, being lonely, and loving difficult people.

How about being a godly spouse? Or a blessing to your church family?

These are things we know are God’s will. We are supposed to be godly parents and spouses. We are supposed to be working for God’s glory in our church family and in our workplaces. But sometimes it’s just downright hard. We try so hard to do the right thing but it doesn’t always work out like we hope. People don’t like us. Or they get in the way of the good things we are trying to accomplish. Sometimes very intentionally. We are hurt. We are attacked. We are afraid.

It is at this point that many–if not most–of us cave. The storm rages around us and we grow frightened. We lose any bit of courage we may have had and we tuck our tail and run.

We go into hiding in our workplaces, staying quiet as a mouse when the subject of God comes up. We laugh at the dirty jokes and gossip by the water cooler. Anything to keep from standing out.

We stay at the fringes of the church family. Never really knowing anyone. Or offering to help in any ministry. It’s just easier and much less painful.

We become ineffective (or even negative influences) in our homes. We let our screaming toddlers and rebellious teenagers do whatever they want. We give up on our spouses and we stop praying for them. We become tired and hopeless.

But yesterday, as I read Ezra 4 for our G4L Bible Challenge, I realized anew the importance of pressing on through the storms of life. When the Jews were sent back to rebuild the temple, there was a group of people who plagued them constantly. They tried to discourage them, to frustrate them, to keep them from building (Ezra 4:4-5). And, yet, they kept on plugging away. At one point, they were required to stop working because of a letter filled with lies that this group sent to the King. But they didn’t give up hope. And, sure enough, they were back working at the temple years later.

God wanted that temple re-built, and so it was going to be re-built.

No man can stand in God’s way.

But that was then. And this is now. Those were God’s chosen people living that story and we are Americans living a world away and thousands of years later. If we don’t need to build a temple for God then what does God want for our lives? What is His will for us?

Perhaps we are supposed to be temple-building, as well–

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.(I Corinthians 6:19-20)

Our body is a temple– the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Our calling as believers is to keep our temples pure and holy, obeying and glorifying God. We are to be confessing and eradicating sin. We are to live apart from the world and shine as bright lights of hope.

Building our temple is giving our whole-hearted efforts to our roles as spouses and parents. It’s building up the church and being a godly example at work. As we build our temple, it will change every area of our lives.

When we grow scared or angry, we have to keep working on our temple. We weather through powerful storms with scripture study and prayer. We do this for the sake of our marriages, our kids, our churches, and for the lost who live and work beside us. We can’t become ensnared in human drama and give up. Like the Jews in Ezra, we need to keep building, placing one brick at a time until, one day as our eyes close in death, we can see the temple we have built before us– A lifetime of service to the one, true God!

Sure, we may be given a mandatory pause due to illness or some other unforeseen circumstance but then we get back at it again. And if it’s in our control, then let’s not pause for too long. Because when we stop using our muscles we atrophy. Our bodies grow weak and useless. And because kids don’t wait. Before you know it, they have grown and there is no more time for Bible memory verses or family devotions. And because people die and move away. And tomorrow, that co-worker may no longer be there.

We need to keep our eyes on the goal and let the rest go. Just let it go. The storm may howl around us. The winds may blow. But, through it all, we keep building, remembering what’s important–

To know God and to make Him known.



Choosing the Hard Floor

IMG_8322I spent the last few days at the beach. I decided to take a break and not worry about the blog for a few days. Which is why there was no Monday post this week. I enjoyed my time away, but –as is pretty normal for me– I kept thinking of things to write about even while on vacation.

Briefly, here is one of them–

A few weeks ago I bought this wonderfully over-stuffed dog bed. The thing is humongous and takes up a lot of room. However, since I placed it on the floor at home, our lab has spent much of her time there. Seriously. She loves it.

So when we went to the beach, I decided to give her a special treat and bring it along. As you can imagine, space in a camper is at a premium, but after thinking about it a bit, I thought we could make a place for it on our bedroom floor. We’d have to step around it (or on it) but we could make it work. I cheerfully picked up the big, fluffy bed and carried it to the camper, really thinking I was doing my dog a big favor.

Yeah, right.

On our first night there, I placed the bed on the floor. Imagine my surprise when Macy walked right past it and flopped on the hard floor. Whaaattt?? How strange. My little Cavachon, Belle, climbed into it and made herself at home. I chased her out (she usually sleeps on our bed–so I wasn’t being mean– honest!) and called Macy over to the bed, patting it’s soft welcoming cushion.

She was completely disinterested. I decided not to belabor the point. Belle climbed into the comfie bed with Macy tucked up on the floor beside the bed for the duration of the night.

Now why didn’t she want to sleep in that bed? I still don’t have any idea.

But it did make me think about how we can be like that as Christians–

We come to Christ and are surrounded by His grace, mercy, and faithfulness. We feel invincible for we are on the Lord’s side! We trust Him implicitly. In a nutshell, we are at a great place spiritually.

And then we move out of our routine. Something happens to throw us for a loop. Or perhaps we get busy. Or complacent. And we step outside of that close relationship with Christ.

And sure. We do fine. We are a bit uncomfortable–  like my dog on the hard floor–but we are okay. However, how much smarter it would be to choose the best way rather than to just make do. To choose the soft, comfie bed rather than the hard floor.

And, just like Macy, the best way is right there–within reach–if only we’d give it a little effort. Crazy, huh? And, yet, we all do this sometimes.

And that’s just one of the things I thought about over the weekend. That’s it for now. Talk to you Thursday.

The Making of a Hero


What makes someone a hero?

Is it their strong muscles or shapely body? Is it that they can keep a crowd entertained for a couple of hours or more? Maybe they are extra-good at making baskets or touchdowns or home runs?

Ummm… no.

Just because our upside down culture labels beautiful actors, entertaining musicians, and skilled athletes as heroes does not mean that they actually are heroes.

I have my own definition of a hero. Here it is–

A hero is an ordinary person in unordinary circumstances who responds in an extraordinary way.

Like Daniel and his friends, for instance. Here are four boys — probably in their late teens– who are removed from their homes, families, and culture. They are taken to the palace of another kingdom and prepared to be servants of the King.

Now put yourself there for a moment. You are seventeen. You have no parents or adults looking over your shoulder and telling you what to do. Would you have had the fortitude and integrity to do what’s right?

While each of these boys had the opportunity to step up and prove themselves to be true heroes a little later on, they got their feet wet right when they arrived in the new kingdom. The king’s servant wants to feed them delicacies and wine. Daniel, because of their strong convictions, asks for he and his friends to be excused from eating this and to be only given vegetables. (That makes me think that the delicacies probably didn’t contain too many vegetables! Not that I’m surprised!)

Four boys are given the opportunity to eat really cool food and drink alcohol. Mom and Dad are not watching. Their Jewish culture has been left behind. What kept Daniel and his friends from following the crowd?

We can see that they were willing to stand apart and do what was right, even when no one was watching or would ever find out.

A little later on, we see that Nebuchadnezzar requires these same boys to do something they cannot do if they serve the Living God. We have to remember that this King is an angry king. If something happens that doesn’t suit him, he starts executing people quickly and indiscriminately. There was little bargaining with him.

First, in chapter 3, we see that this King requires all his people to bow down to a giant gold statue or they will be thrown into a fiery furnace. Some busybody makes sure the king knows that Daniel’s three friends refuse to bow, and, quite suddenly, they become ordinary boys in unordinary circumstances who respond in an extraordinary way.

And so they are thrown into the fire. Nebuchadnezzar is so angry that he makes the fire seven times hotter than usual (Daniel 3:19). In fact, it was so hot that it killed the men that threw the boys into the furnace (Daniel 3:22). But God saves the three boys and they are unharmed.

A few chapters later, Daniel faces his own opportunity to step up and be a hero with a different king. We are all familiar with his time in the Lion’s Den because he refused to stop praying to the One, True God. This all happened because a few rulers were jealous of him and his good standing with King Darius and concocted the whole scheme. They felt confident that this would be an effective way to get rid of Daniel. But God had other plans, didn’t He?

Because these two accounts are part of God’s story of redemption and the sweeping history of the Jewish people, things end really well. Daniel and his friends are miraculously saved in an incredible way.

But do you realize that throughout all of history there have been believers who have stepped up to do what’s right and were not saved by a miracle? They gave their lives in Roman amphitheaters, village gallows, castle dungeons, and concentration camps. In fact, they are still giving their lives in dank, dirty prisons and hostile village squares.

But not all heroes are martyrs. We don’t have to give up our lives to do something extraordinary. Sometimes we are faced right here at home with unordinary circumstances, aren’t we?

What do you do if you see–

~Someone stealing a wallet from a pedestrian on the street?

~A toddler wandering away from his mother at the beach?

~An elderly lady lying in distress on the sidewalk?

~An extra twenty dollars in your hand because the clerk didn’t know how to count change?

You see, true heroes step up and do what’s right. They aren’t worried about their schedules, their reputation, or their own selfish agendas. At that moment, when it matters, they are worried about doing the right thing.

How important it is to teach our kids the definition of a true hero. Don’t let them turn worldly movie stars or selfish athletes into their heroes. Okay, yes, I know. There are a few exceptions. Some of these stars are doing really good things. But I am still not sure that this would qualify them as a hero. If you give one million dollars away but still have twenty million in the bank, does that make you a hero? I think it makes you a nice person. But hero might be stretching it.

I believe that we are going to have more and more opportunities to step up and do what’s right in this country. We will either cower in fear or we will rise with courage. What will you do? What are you going to teach your children and your grandchildren to do? If you can’t step in and help an elderly woman in distress when it’s inconvenient, then what makes you think you will stand up for God when it counts?

Let’s practice in the little opportunities that we get each day. Let’s be ordinary people who respond to unordinary circumstances in an extraordinary way!



Is There a Wrong Way to Pray?


I saw the movie War Room on Friday night. While I sat watching the big screen in front of me, I found myself contemplating my own prayer life and the great need for growth in that area of my walk with God. While there are a few things in the movie to concern the biblically discerning viewer (I’ve listed them at the end of this post), I think it does remind people of a very important principle of the Christian life that we often forget:

We need to fight on our knees.

Oh, how often we get caught up in our daily lives, barely squeezing in a chapter or two of the Word and a few sentences of prayer each day. It is interesting to reflect on just how much this world would change if we Christians would pray longer, more often, and more sincerely.

But one of the things that worries me is, while I do think it is a good idea for Christians to pray more, I am also very concerned that Christians– moved by this movie to create their own War Room– will pick up unbiblical resources on prayer. And, oh, there are so many of them! This subject of prayer has been hijacked by the enemy and it’s one of the quickest ways for him to gain access to our hearts.

One of the most popular ways to pray right now is called Contemplative Prayer. This prayer focuses on saying the same word or sentence over and over and then being still and “emptying and opening” your mind for God to speak to you. However, prayer is never described in this way in the Bible.

Many people use Psalm 46:10 to promote this type of prayer. And yet, to do so would necessitate taking this verse very much out of context. If we read the whole chapter we will see that the verses before verse 10 are focused on God’s help in our time of storm. It is clear to see that when  we get to this phrase “Be still and know that I am God” that it is referring to resting in the Lord, even in the raging storm, because God is still in control. This is a great example of how damaging it can be to take a verse out of its context.

There is a short, very helpful article over at gotquestions.org on this topic of Contemplative Prayer. I really encourage you to read it, so that you will be able to better discern the information you read or hear about prayer. But let me share a paragraph of that article here–

Contemplative prayer, by design, focuses on having a mystical experience with God. Mysticism, however, is purely subjective, and does not rely upon truth or fact. Yet the Word of God has been given to us for the very purpose of basing our faith, and our lives, on Truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What we know about God is based on fact; trusting in experiential knowledge over the biblical record takes a person outside of the standard that is the Bible.

The pattern for prayer that we are to follow was given to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in Matthew 6:6-15. As we read through the Lord’s example of praying, we will notice that He gives us no indication whatsoever that we are to sit still for hours, waiting for God to mystically speak to us, neither before we start speaking to God or after we are done speaking to Him. In fact, there really is no mention of this anywhere in the Bible.

And if we do just a little research, we will find that this practice of emptying and opening our minds for supernatural messages comes straight from false religions and has nothing to do with biblical Christianity.

So, yes, there is a wrong way to pray. And we need to be very careful. As I’ve mentioned so many times before, Christianity today is full of land mines. We need to constantly keep our guards up and be looking for red flags. Not in a “witch hunt” type of way, but in a concerned and prudent way, comparing everything that comes across our path to what the Word of God says.

If you are truly interested in strengthening your prayer life, as I am, then where can we turn for some good biblical resources on this subject of prayer? Unfortunately, we have to go back a few years to find the best resources. If you’ve never read some of these classics, I highly encourage you to do so.

Perhaps you say to yourself, “I just can’t read stuff like that.” Well, then, let me tell you a little story. I was right where you are. I felt the same way. I found them dull and dry and could barely get through any nonfiction book, much less an old, musty one written by a guy who lived fifty or more years before I was born. But, one day, I simply made the decision to push through the book Humility by Andrew Murray. And that book changed my life. Not only with what was written within its pages (which is excellent, by the way!), but by showing me that I could not only read those books but also that they would be a great asset to my growth as a Christian. Yes, it was work to get through the first book like this and sometimes I had to read a paragraph three times before I got it, but, oh, it was so very worth it! And the good news is that it grows easier and easier with each one. You are never too old to train your mind.

So did my little story convince any of you to pick up one of these books on prayer? I hope so! I asked my brother, Pastor Dean, for his favorite books on prayer. Here is the list he gave me–

A Call to Prayer by J.C. Ryle (this one is more of a booklet and a great one to pick up first)

A Privy Key to Heaven by Thomas Brooks

Prayer by John Bunyan

A Method for Prayer by Matthew Henry

I’ve already downloaded A Call to Prayer and have read the first couple of chapters. Prayer is a very important topic and we can’t treat it lightly. I hope that this list will help to get you started in a stronger, deeper prayer life.


Issues and concerns from the movie War Room for the biblically discerning viewer–

  1.  There is a scene where the old lady tells her would-be attacker to put down his knife “in Jesus’ name” and this just magically stops him in his tracks. My first thought was how ridiculously naive that was of her. And while in the movies that might work, in real life she probably would have had her throat slit. I surely hope no one tries that one at home. I am not even sure why they had that scene in the movie. It wasn’t necessary.

  2. There is a scene where the main character moves throughout her house shouting at the devil to get out of her home. But I can’t find anywhere in scripture where we are ever encouraged to have a conversation with the devil. I believe that God will take care of that for us. He fights for us and we can rest in His hands. Getting into that shadowy world of speaking to Satan and demons is dangerous and unbiblical business. Here is a great post on this topic if you’d like to study this further.

  3. I think this movie may have the possibility of leading us to the grave danger of treating our heavenly Father like He is our own personal genie, waiting to do our beck and call. While I understand the dilemma presented in this movie for the producers–they had to show the mighty power of God and how He can work and so we needed a happy ending–I would hate for anyone to think that God is just going to make life perfect if they just start praying. The truth of the matter is that many women pray for years and years for their husbands to be saved. If you read last Thursday’s post, you will remember that my friend prayed for 32 long years before her husband came to know the Lord. Just because we get on our knees and pray does not mean we will get the answers we want in the time frame we desire. Prayer is not some magical formula that puts all the puzzle pieces of our lives together. Now, can God work? Oh, my goodness! Yes! I have seen Him do marvelous things! But does He always choose to? No. And the fact that this wayward husband turned to the Lord so quickly, while making for a nice happy ending, was pretty unrealistic. If you are a wife who was convicted to pray for her husband by this movie, please, please don’t get discouraged if things don’t end up like this. It might take years. It may even take a lifetime. I remember reading once of George Muller’s prayer list of five unsaved people. In his lifetime he watched three of those people come to know the Lord. But the final two never got saved until after he died. We need to keep praying, even when we don’t get the results we want. And that may be the hardest thing of all.

Practicing Joy When It’s Hard


Sometimes the world around us seems so hopeless. We watch the news on TV, we age and our bodies grow weaker, and we hear so many stories of brokenness and tragedy. We come face to face over and over again with the hard reality that we live in a fallen world in a body headed for death.

These tough truths also come to light in the books of the Old Testament Prophets. These men of God predict the sword, famine, and pestilence on God’s chosen people. They have turned their hearts to idols and God has decided enough is enough. How would it have felt to be in Israel during that time? What would it have been like to live with the knowledge that the wrath of God was coming?

Could it be a little like right now? Oh, I know we aren’t Israel. And I know that the wrath of God fell hard on them in a way that will probably not be repeated until the Tribulation. But don’t you sometimes wonder how long the wrath of God will tarry for a nation that kills its babies at a rate of 2000+ per day? Or a nation that has declared God to be null and void and prefers to give credit to the ludicrous and illogical theory of evolution? How long can a nation last that lives like there are no moral absolutes? What can we expect when we turn our back on God’s chosen people, Israel? (Genesis 12:3)

I don’t tend to get dragged down too often by the state of this nation, but every once in awhile it just hits me. This is not the same nation it was. It is changing so fast it sometimes feels like it’s hard to catch your breath. And in the back of my mind is always this question: what will it mean for the faithful? What is ahead for us in a country that is becoming increasingly hostile towards anyone who follows the Jesus of the Bible?

This week, while I was thinking a bit about this, the Lord brought to mind my dear friend, Bea. It’s not often that you are good friends with someone who is 35 years older than you are, but we are a glorious exception. God has blessed our family tremendously by knowing her. She has functioned for many years as my kids’ third grandmother and as a source of godly wisdom for me.

I decided that I would ask her her thoughts on finding joy when things are looking dark. She has a lot she could be discouraged about. Her health is starting to fail and life is very different than it was even ten years ago. Looking to the future doesn’t bring much hope, as her body will probably continue to grow weaker. And yet when I stop in she always has a genuine smile on her face. A smile that comes from her heart. I asked her how she finds joy in the midst of discouraging days.

She had some great thoughts and I know that you will benefit from them as much as me. As always, her practical wisdom is so helpful. When I asked her how she fosters joy in her life, she gave the following thoughts–

1. Count Your Blessings.

She went on to share just how good God has been to her through the years. She prayed for her husband’s salvation for 32 long years and God answered that prayer. And now this husband treats her like a princess, loving on her in a way that wasn’t possible in their busy, younger days. She enjoys the more relaxed, living-in-the-moment that they are able to do now. And she looks for even small improvements in her health or other situations. She says there are always plenty of blessings to be remembered.

2. Talk to God a Lot.

She elaborated here and told me she talks to Him all the time. She asks for strength to get through the day. And to help her find a lost earring. She talks to Him about her feelings of discouragement. And she prays for others. Instead of just (or perhaps along with) one designated prayer time for the day, she keeps a running conversation going with God all day.

3. Choose to be thankful.

This kind of goes with the first one, but it is a bit more intentional. She thanks God for her good days. And for the healing that is taking place despite her aging body. She thanks God for the blessings that are in her life. Even the smallest blessing is worthy of gratitude.

4. Press on through the discouragement.

When I asked if she had anything more, she added this final thing. And perhaps this may be the most important of all. We have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, continuing in the service God has for us, no matter what the task. Bea’s tasks have changed considerably over the years and she now finds herself in a place where she can’t do that much physically. But she can still pray and she can still encourage others. She can still cook and do some things around the house. And she can still love her husband and her family. When we are tempted to stop walking in our difficult places, our focus turns inward and we withdraw from life if we aren’t careful. We often end up in a fog of depression and misery, oftentimes curled up in a ball in our beds or zoned out in front of the TV. Self pity doesn’t make things better. It makes things much worse.

Instead we need to keep pressing on through the pain and the discouragement, remembering the future that is in store for us if we are saved and always prepared, with hope, for the return of our Lord and Savior. Isn’t it just wonderful to contemplate a life without pain and without sorrow? It seems almost beyond the realm of our comprehension. But that is what we have been promised if we are God’s! This life is not the whole picture. It’s just a tiny part of the whole.

I guess you can tell how much I love my dear friend. She has been such an inspiration and godly example for me. And not only has she been a great role model, but she has always been willing to share her struggles and her heart with me. Ladies like this are rare and I consider it a great privilege to have her in my life. I want to keep learning from her as long as possible and continue mining the treasure of her 80+ years of experience.

I hope this post has inspired you to find joy in the hard places! But I also hope it has inspired any of you who are women to find a godly woman whom you can talk to and learn from. One who is willing to be open and honest and who has years of experience and can help you avoid some of the pitfalls we tend to make as wives and mothers.

And, as I write this, I find myself encouraged that perhaps it’s not so hopeless, after all. Sure, the world isn’t going anywhere great, but we can’t quit. We ordinary women can make a difference by building into the lives of others and sharing the things we have learned from God’s Word. Oh, we probably won’t change the world, but we can help the people that God places in front of us. And, according to Titus 2:3-5, perhaps that is what we are supposed to be focused on, anyway.

A Punch in the Gut


It felt a little like being punched in your stomach and getting the wind knocked out of you.

I had glanced over and had seen someone I knew from a former time in my life. There was that moment of recognition. I started to smile a hello. But the other person turned away.

Like they didn’t even know me.

Only both of us knew that they did know me.

I’d like to say this doesn’t hurt. But it does. I was never best friends with this person, but we had been friends at one time. And then there were choices followed by insidious lies. And somehow we came out on the other side as The Enemy, with never an opportunity to even defend ourselves.

And, yes, it still hurts.

Why do I share this here? It’s embarrassing. It’s painful. It’s not the stuff we like to talk about.

But it is real life.

I can’t imagine that some of you haven’t had similar experiences at one time or another. As much as we would wish it, life is not wrapped up neatly into a little box tied with a beautiful bow. Happy endings are for another world. True forgiveness is a rare treasure and second chances don’t come around often.

It is what it is.

These kinds of moments always make me think of one of my very favorite verses–

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18)

What does this mean exactly? I am not going to give the deep theological meaning. I am going to give the very practical, applicable meaning in my life at the moment that the above encounter took place.

It means that I very purposely walked up to the other person, ignoring the pain, the fear of rejection, and the awkwardness, and said a friendly hello. It means I asked them about things in their life, trying to be genuinely gracious and kind as I did so.

I didn’t do this out of spite or manipulation. It wasn’t to say I’m better than anyone else. In fact, I didn’t want to do it at all. At all. So why did I do this?

I did it out of pure obedience. I did it because of this verse.

As believers, we are required to love our enemies. To bless those who curse us. To pray for those who persecute us. To do good to those who hate us. (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27)

Many are the times I have failed in doing this. It is so much easier to just walk away, adding more bricks to the wall already between me and someone else. But this one time, I think I did what would have pleased my Savior.

When I do take that tentative step of obedience, I can walk away knowing that I have done everything I can do to be at peace with that person who doesn’t like me, which brings that wonderful peace between me and my God. And I can honestly say it also helps to change how I feel about the other person. I’m not sure how or why, but it removes some of the bitterness that may be building in my heart, replacing it with grace and love towards the one who has hurt me. As this defies human logic, I have concluded that this must be God working in the obedient heart.

Oh, how I wish I could be so obedient all the time but, alas, I fail so often. There are few things more painful emotionally than rejection or broken, messy relationships, and working our way through them in a way that honors God is so difficult. But when we can make the choice to love our enemies, we grow in our faith and in our capacity to love. It is not a void decision that makes no difference, but instead fills us with love and peace and the knowledge that God is enough. Sure, one conversation doesn’t make that big of a difference, but it is sure a step in the right direction.

I have no idea what you are dealing with today. I don’t know if it’s a relationship within your family or perhaps your spouse’s family that is causing you great pain. Maybe it’s friends (or people you thought were your friends) at work or school or church. Whoever it is, do what’s right before God and “kill them with kindness.” As true soldiers of Christ, let’s commit to showing His love and grace, no matter what the response is from the one who is causing us pain. And in responding in such a surprising way we will not only grow stronger in our own faith but we will shine brightly and offer a choice of hope and love for the hurting, bitter world around us. We will show that Christ does make a difference in the life dedicated to living for Him.