Encouragement

The Titus 2 Woman

You can’t even read Titus 2:4-5 straight from the Bible without offending someone. Here’s what it says—

“…that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”

As an older woman, my calling from God (see verse 3) is to teach these things to younger women. But this is not a popular thing to teach, is it?

“WHAT? Work at home instead of out in the work force? What a waste of my talent and God-given abilities!”

“WHAT? Submit to my husband? I know as much as him. That is absolutely archaic and unfair!”

But God has good reasons for His design for the family and we can see that when a society doesn’t follow them, there is much destruction.

He knows that children need their mothers. He knows that the home quickly falls into chaos if it isn’t the priority for Mom. He knows that women are more gullible and less rational then men (yes, there are exceptions but you know that, for the most part, this is true) and that men often protect us from bad choices. Of course, this works best when the husband is a loving leader who cares about His wife and her opinion, as she also brings much to the table in decision-making. But the husband, as the leader, is accountable before God for his family. I have always been glad I don’t have that role. I don’t envy my husband for it.

I am not here to tell you the “rules” for women working. I know that sometimes it is necessary. And I am no judge. It is a topic for much prayer.

I was tempted to not even bring this controversial topic up. There are strong feelings about this and pretty much no one touches it anymore. But we must take an honest look at what the Bible teaches. We can’t ignore it just because culture—both world and Christian cultures—despise this teaching.

And so I want to encourage you young women to take a look today at your priorities. God never designed a woman to be career-centered instead of family-centered. God never designed for our precious children to be cared for in daycare centers and public school systems, where God is mocked and denigrated. He never designed for the woman to lead the man. It is clearly true, both from scripture and historically, that families will not be the best they can be if they don’t follow the guidelines laid out for us here in Titus 2.

I also want to encourage us older women. Are we teaching the younger women these things in Titus 2:4-5, both by example and by our instruction as we are given opportunity? How much time do we spend talking about the things that matter with those younger women in our lives? Maybe it is time to lovingly and kindly encourage these struggling younger women. It’s a hard time to choose family over career. It is difficult to keep your children home with you and be criticized for it. May they receive much loving support and godly instruction from us as they choose to follow the Lord in this area!

It is FAR PAST time that we look to the world or even the church for the description of a successful woman. Don’t look to me or to anyone else. For the only thing that matters is: What does the BIBLE teach us about this? If we ask this question with a surrendered and sincere heart, God will hear and He will answer. This is true for all questions we have regarding this life. And He will transform our worldly desires into godly desires. It will be a small miracle right within our own heart. God loves us and is so faithful. We must but submit ourselves to His will and His plan and choose to obey His commands as written in His Holy Word to experience the peace and joy that He has promised. And that is the only “success” that truly matters!

 

Eating and Exercising God’s Way

From the moment my daughter announced her wedding date, my mind started turning. Surely, this would be just the incentive I needed to spur on my weight loss. I grew excited by the prospect of having a really great reason to lose weight.

But week after week after week passed by and I could never go more than two or three days of “eating right” before I’d just cave. I’ve never been skinny but these past few years have really been a struggle, as my age, the craziness of the past two years, and my thorough enjoyment of food are a really really bad combination.

A month or so before the wedding, my goal of being a thin and attractive mother-of-the-bride started to fade from the realm of possible and became the impossible. I told myself all kinds of things, such as: “The day isn’t about me, anyway,” and “so many women my age have this problem” but it didn’t really help with the deep disappointment that reverberated in my soul every time I looked in a mirror that day. And when the photos came–well, as is often the case–they looked even worse than the mirror.

This was just not how I had hoped to look on my daughter’s wedding day.

But, you know, I’ve been thinking about this whole subject for a long, long time. As I’ve traveled along in this world beside both slender and heavy people; athletic-looking and comfy-plump looking; overweight, just-right, and too-skinny people, I’ve come to understand something important in this discussion on eating and exercising–

You cannot tell a person’s relationship with food and exercise by their weight.

We’ve all run into those people who can eat junk food all they want and never gain a pound. Are they more godly because of this? We’ve also run into those people who seem to gain two pounds for each fry they splurge on (you may even feel like that’s you!). Do those few extra pounds indicate disobedience to scripture? What about the people that put fitness ahead of God and their families? Is this good or right? I hope the answers to these questions is obvious.

So this brings us to the fact that we must understand that this question of eating and exercising goes so much deeper than how someone looks. SO. MUCH. DEEPER.

Perhaps some reflection on the questions below would be helpful for all of us–no matter what our weight. There are some things we should all think about when it comes to food and fitness.

I’ve been working through this for what seems like my whole adult life. I have struggled so to find peace. And this has led me to ask myself some really important questions:

What is my motive to lose weight/be healthy?

How does it look to please God with eating and exercising?

 

I don’t actually have the answers to this yet but I have learned a few things (or, at least, am in the process of learning these things)–

In regards to the first question: What is my motive?

• If I want to be thin for my own pride’s sake (to impress, to draw attention, to look better than others), that’s not the right reason.

• If I want to be healthy, that could be the right reason–if I want to be healthy for the right reason.

• If I want to be healthy in order to please and serve the Lord and those He has put in my life–then this is the right reason.

 

I’ve also learned some answers regarding the second question: How do I please God in this area of my life?

• There aren’t good foods and bad foods.

• It’s more about moderation and wisdom than it is about avoidance of certain foods or entire food groups or spending hours on a treadmill or at the gym.

• Consistent self-control and intentionality regarding eating and exercising–day by day, step by step– is so key. The latest fad diet or running a marathon might work…but these extremes rarely yield lasting results that keep us focused on the real reason we want to be as healthy as we are able to be.

 

God doesn’t say a whole about weight in His Word but we can gather a few things about this area of our lives from the following verses (this list is by no means exhaustive)–

Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, Lest you be filled with it and vomit. (Proverbs 25:16)

We learn from this verse that there is nothing wrong with eating sweets– just don’t overdo it!

Do not mix with winebibbers,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags(Proverbs 23:20-21)

So we learn here that we must avoid gluttony (excessive eating or drinking). Some self-examination is probably helpful in determining what excess eating looks like for us personally.

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (I Corinthians 10:14)

This verse reminds us not to give eating and exercising a wrong priority in our lives. (Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 9:24-27 that a physical runner receives a perishable crown, but the race we run as believers yields an imperishable crown. How important to remember that we must keep our spiritual race the priority!)

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

It is important that we discern truth from error as health and fitness movements sweep over our cultures. Is this practice, routine, fitness philosophy, song I’m exercising to–are these things compatible with being a Christian? It’s too much to get into here, but it is safe to say that much occultism has swept into the homes of Christians through this area of fitness and even in how we eat (see here for an example of how it’s influenced fitness and here for a way it is seeping into how we eat.)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

We know that instead of eating when we are anxious we should, instead, turn to prayer. The answer for anxiety isn’t in food, it’s in keeping our mind stayed on God (Isaiah 26:3). How funny that some of us (me, for example) turn to food when we are anxious–as if that will help at all. Emotional eating is a result of not trusting God fully for the present life we live and the days that lie ahead. It’s a lifelong journey putting this into practice for those of us that struggle with this–but we must keep working at it for it is a command: Do not be anxious about anything. That’s what it says. And so we must learn to trust and pray instead of eat.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (I Corinthians 3:16-17)

Here we see that we are the temple of God. We should treat our bodies as such, eating in moderation and with self-control and keeping ourselves as healthy as is possible. Of course, ultimately, this is in the Lord’s hands so we never want to believe that we can avoid disease and death by doing certain things. While this may certainly help we mustn’t count on this. We all know the healthy runner who has a heart attack or the health nut who gets cancer. These things are in God’s sovereignty and, ultimately, we must surrender our health to the Lord.

 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

and this one, too–

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)

From these verses we women (in particular) learn perhaps the most important lesson of all when it comes to this topic of weight: We don’t want to be consumed with what we look like. If we are known for anything, may it be that we fear the Lord. May it be for our service to Him. Our top priority should always be seeking the Lord.

The world tells us what we should look like. But the Lord obviously doesn’t agree or there would be a verse like this in the Bible about it–such as “Thou shalt be thin all the days of your life” or “May there not be found an overweight brother or sister among you.”

Please don’t hear me saying it’s okay to be an unhealthy weight. The Bible teaches us to take care of our bodies. But, in doing so, it is so important that we have a biblical perspective on this: It’s about balance and pleasing the Lord. It’s not about what others think of us or our obsession with being the best-looking 30, 50, or 70 year old around.

So, yeah…

I obviously struggle in this area of my life. I am still such a work “in progress” and most times I don’t feel like there is much progress. Honestly, this is probably one of the most challenging areas of my life.

I hesitated to share this here…

I know assumptions are made when I share something so personal. Sometimes condescension or ridicule are in the thoughts of those reading, even if they are never spoken. This is a risk I take with this kind of post.

I have chosen to take this risk because I wonder if there is someone else out there like me? Someone who is working through the eating and exercising question. Perhaps today you just need to know that you are not alone. I am right there with you–looking to please the Lord in this area of food and fitness and trying to discern just what that looks like from God’s Holy Word.

 

 

We All Need a Little Help Sometimes

This past Saturday night we were rudely awakened by Macy’s deep bark. She is our Labrador Retriever and even as a rather old dog, her hearing remains fairly sharp. I squinted at the clock and tried to discern if the doorbell I heard ringing was real or part of a dream. It was 2:46am (3:46am on our phones because they had already switched for Daylight Savings). What had caused Macy to bark?

Eric ran downstairs to make sure no one was at the door. When he was assured that the doorbell had indeed been in my dreams he came back upstairs. But instead of getting back in bed, he stood at the bedroom window.

“What are you looking at?” I asked.

“There are car lights. They aren’t moving. I wonder if someone is stuck?”

The temperature was frigid and the wind was brutal. It was causing the snow that had fallen earlier that day to drift in great waves of white across the road, making it impassable.

We both stood at the window watching the headlights of the motionless car. Finally, after a few minutes, my husband turned to me, “Shall I go rescue them?”

Now, I have to say that I hesitated. I am sad to admit that. But what is someone doing out at 3am in the morning, anyway? They are probably drunk, at the very least. The thought of my husband going out on that freezing, blustery night to rescue a complete stranger did not thrill my soul.

But my husband is a born rescuer. If someone needs help, he’s there. He always has been like that, even as a young man. It’s is one of the things I love most about him.

And, so, he was soon dressed in warm coat and boots and headed outside to get his biggest skid-loader to see what he could do.

Forty-five minutes or so later, he was back inside. He had not only rescued the man and the young teen with him (presumably his daughter), who were coming home from a party but had also cleared the road for any others who might need to use it.

The weather made conversation difficult and so Eric doesn’t really know much about the man and the young girl that was with him. He couldn’t really tell if he had drunk too much before leaving the party or if the girl was truly his daughter. We don’t know why Macy even barked at that time. What we do know is that they needed help and Eric had the means to provide that help.

Can you imagine how they must have felt when they saw a skid-loader headed their way to rescue them? They probably felt pretty hopeless as they sat there in the dark, surrounded on all sides by wind and snow. But, for some reason, God had allowed us to be awakened so that Eric could help them, just when they needed it.

I think of how often something similar happens to us. How we are at the end of our rope and feeling so hopeless and then–just at the right time–we get the help or encouragement we need. Someone offers to bring a meal, or they let us know they are praying for us, or we receive a little note in the mail. They may take the kids for an evening or come sit quietly with us as we mourn.

There are millions of ways that God orchestrates to comfort, encourage, strengthen, and, yes, even rescue us. He does this most often through His people, who are His hands and feet, meeting the needs of fellow siblings in Christ, as well as the lost in this world who so desperately need Christ.

Sometimes we get to be the rescuer (as my husband did last night) and sometimes we need to be rescued.

 

It takes selflessness and love to be the rescuer.

It takes humility and grace to be rescued.

 

Oh, may we meet both of these situations in a way that honors God and points others to Him.

NOW… there are some common temptations for us in these two areas, aren’t there? Some common ways we respond that would not be from God–

 

Temptations for the would-be rescuer

“Someone else can help them.”

“It’s just so inconvenient.”

“I don’t have time.”

“It might be dangerous.”

“I just don’t feel like helping.”

“I have more important things to do.”

“It’s too hard.”

 

Temptations for those who need rescued

“What will people think of me?”

“I’m so embarrassed!”

“I don’t need help!”

“I can do this alone.”

“I should be able to handle this.”

 

But–here’s the thing– God has designed us to need each other. He has designed humans to fellowship with one another (I John 1:7); to encourage and edify one another (I Thess. 5:11); to love one another (John 13:34-35); to help gently restore each other when we are struggling with a sin (Galatians 6:1); to be kindly affectionate with brotherly love (we are family!) (Romans 12:10); to meet the needs of each other (Romans 12:13); to rejoice and weep with one another (Romans 12:15).

This gives us a beautiful picture of what being in God’s family should look like. I fear that in these days, it is more often like a bunch of disconnected people going to the same building for a few hours each week –like a big group who would attend a show or a concert but know nothing about one another. This is understandable as we live in a culture where so many of us do not even know our neighbors.

We aren’t going to change the culture or probably not even our churches, so what can we do? What should we do?

Since we don’t do what is right because we want to change something but, rather, because we want to obey the Lord we love, we simply choose to do what is right in whatever opportunities we are given.

This means putting aside our own selfish agenda and unwillingness to give of our time, money, and other resources (that aren’t ours, anyway) to reach out to help; to know the Word so we can encourage and point others to its treasure trove of help and promises.

It means casting aside our ugly pride and to stop worrying about what people think and, instead, graciously and gratefully accept help when we need it.

These things sound so easy, but, unfortunately, they often aren’t. Most of us are not naturally unselfish or humble. It is only by the Holy Spirit working in and through us that we grow in these areas. This is a lifelong journey as we seek to become more like Christ.

Only by casting selfishness and pride away can we be the family of God that He has designed us to be. Only by reaching out, helping, and accepting help when we need it can we be obedient to God’s Word.

May we give our efforts to building up the body of Christ, creating strong and loving bonds with our siblings in Christ. As the world continues on its downward spiral, I believe we are going to need each other more and more. Let’s be building the bonds of love now so that they are strong enough to withstand any storm that comes.

 

 

What Really Matters When Life Falls Apart?

This world is full of so much suffering. The latest we’ve been hearing about (or experiencing, depending where we find ourselves in the world at this time) is the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. There are many different stories, accounts, and reports making their rounds and, as has become the norm for us, we wonder who we should believe. There are so many lies. So much false information.

This is why hearing from reliable, first-hand sources becomes important in these situations. What is really going on? While there is much we can’t know, there is also so much we do know.

We know, with certainty, that the lives of millions of people have been thrown into utter turmoil in just a few hours. Sleep, food, water, gas have all become so much more precious as the Ukrainians strive to survive in the midst of an invasion by a neighboring country. They are sleeping in bomb shelters or corridors in order to protect their lives. Can’t imagine any of them are getting much sleep in that situation, can you? The shelves at the stores are becoming empty and they are starting to wonder how they will get food. If they want to escape the city, they find they can hardly move as they fight their way through all of the chaos and confusion. If you can even get gas, which has become scarce. Overnight, apartment buildings of peaceful citizens have been bombed in several cities, leaving innocent victims without homes in the middle of the winter. If they even survived the bombing…

Some of these struggling people are our Christian brothers and sisters. There is a thriving church in that country. Years ago, I was in Ukraine for a couple of weeks and one of my fondest memories is worshiping with the Christians there. I can remember singing in English while they were singing Ukrainian and feeling our bond in Christ. If we are believers, then we have family in Ukraine. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. And they are really struggling right now.

Last week, my daughter, Jess, sent a couple text messages that are the heart of today’s post. She said something that really made me reflect on what really matters when your life falls apart. Such as what is happening to our Ukrainian siblings right now. At this moment.

Basically, her thought was if your Christianity can’t sustain you through these times, then it probably isn’t genuine. If it doesn’t work for Ukrainians in bomb shelters, Chinese imprisoned for their faith, or Nigerians and Indians under death threats from extremists, is it even real? Or is it, rather, some made-up ridiculousness that has absolutely no value when life grows ugly?

Do you think our Ukrainian Christian brothers and sisters are talking about their dreams or self-fulfillment? Are they sitting around and discussing the feminist agenda or social justice? Do you think getting wealthy is even on their list of priorities?

When life falls apart, none of these things matter. Not even a bit.

What matters are God’s promises to sustain us. To be our shield. To protect and shelter us. To give us peace and joy and comfort. The kind of peace and joy that goes far beyond “happily ever after” because, let’s face it: We all know life doesn’t work like that. It is not happily ever after (at least not in this world) and Christians do die in explosions. They get cancer and heart attacks at the most inopportune times. They lose their businesses and their savings. They get viciously killed by those who oppose them.

Christians are not guaranteed a happy life without problems. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest we are. Christians are not to fight for social justice (a Marxist term, never a Christian one) or to fix the world. We aren’t to be focused on our own selfish agendas or to use God like a genie in the sky to get what we want.

If anything can show us that these types of “Christianity” are false, it is what is happening right now.

What exactly does the Bible teach us about the Christian life? What does it say we can expect?

Yes, we can expect trials and troubles. Rather than avoiding them, the Bible says God will use them to grow us (Romans 8:28-29; James 1:2-4).

Yes, we can expect to be hated by the world, because our own Lord was hated. But we know that this is proof that we are Christ’s own and that the Holy Spirit will help us endure…even unto death (John 15).

So, contrary to much that is taught from “Christian” pulpits today, we cannot avoid these things. There is no magic prayer or sum of money we can give to a {fake} apostle that is going to miraculously make our life wonderful.

But, while we know these things will come (and may already be upon us), we also have the rich and abundant promises of our Heavenly Father to carry us through–

He will never, ever forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

The peace He gives is not like the world; it surpasses understanding (John 14:27; Philippians 4:6-7).

He will walk with us through the “valley of the shadow of death” so that we need not fear evil (Psalm 23).

When we fall, we shall not be utterly cast down for the Father upholds us with His hand (Psalm 37:23-24)

Of course, as we read of God’s promises, we also find in scripture that there is an attitude we must have in order to experience these promises of God to the fullest–

We must keep our mind stayed on God (Isaiah 26:3)

We must trust in the Lord (Psalm 112:7)

We must choose not to worry or to be anxious (Matthew 6:34; Philippians 4:6-7)

We must cast our burden on the Lord (Psalm 55:22)

We must draw near to Him in truth (Psalm 145:18)

We must forsake the world and purify our lives (James 4:1-10)

And, then, after all of this, there is one important thing to remember that helps us to keep all of this in biblical perspective: The true believer knows that their best life isn’t now. It is the one to come!

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:1-4)

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

 

The verses I’ve shared above are just a small sampling of the promises, the hope, and even the instruction that we find in God’s Word for those who have repented and trusted in Christ alone for their salvation. We can experience peace in the midst of the greatest storm. It has been a great joy reading of Ukrainian Christians testifying to this very thing!

I don’t think there are any Ukrainians turning to God’s Word to find out how they can be rich this morning. They are trusting in God to see them through the next day, the next hour…perhaps just the next few minutes.

What kind of Christianity are you hearing about on Sunday mornings? What is your preacher preaching? Is he pointing you to God’s Word as the final authority for the Christian life? Is he interpreting the Bible historically, grammatically, and literally, rather than allegorizing great chunks of it and casting doubts on its authenticity?

These are important questions we need to ask ourselves as the world grows darker. If we aren’t being fed true, biblical Christianity we are at much risk for having shallow roots that will not hold in life’s storms, much less in the chaos and confusion that threatens to consume us in the days ahead. We must be in the Word, both personally and in our churches. If our church is not preaching biblical Christianity, then we should not stay.

I don’t know how I ended up on challenging you all on your churches, but I believe that it is probably a challenge that we all need to hear. So many sit under and are influenced by ungodly preaching these days. May we not be numbered among them.

 

 

Why Should You Study the Bible?

Sometimes I sit down to write a post and I just have…nothing. What can I write that hasn’t already been said? At that point, it might be best to just walk away. But I have found that disciplining myself to write something is a good exercise for me. And sometimes that something ends up being one of my best posts. In fact, it was one of those that went viral a few years back and grew the blog beyond anything I ever expected.

I can’t promise that same kind today, but I have decided to take a few moments this morning to share a few of the ways Bible Study has changed my life and why it is so beneficial and necessary for all believers.

For me it all started back in 2012. We had recently left our church and I felt bereft of ministry. I was talking with a friend and she said if you start a Bible Study I will come. This was my venture into actual Bible Study. Up until that point I was like the average Christian who read a few verses and then the devotional someone had written about it. I was faithful to church and I knew the basic gist of biblical Christianity.

However, I was not all that familiar with my Bible and I had never read it through. I had never just studied a book of the Bible (aside from my years in a Christian college for a grade).

One of the first books I remember studying was I Peter. I was flabbergasted at just how much there was in there to learn. So much I didn’t know!

In 2014, I finally read the Bible through from cover to cover. In 2015, I offered a chronological read-through of the Bible as a challenge to you, my readers. In 2017, I began to offer Bible Reading Challenges every year. While I can’t be sure how beneficial these challenges have been in the lives of my readers, I can definitely say that the impact they have had on me has been tremendous. Because I am organizing and administrating the challenges I can’t cop out when I get too busy. Somehow, I must continue to make time to study the Word. People are counting on me.

Eventually, I got to the point where I wouldn’t want to miss out for anything. I prayed that God would give me a love for His Word and I can see that He has answered that prayer over the course of the last ten years.

I am nothing special. I was reading my pleasant devotionals and desiring to do what’s right. Just like most genuine believers. I had never made time to study or memorize the Word and this was a huge hindrance in my growth as a believer.

I didn’t realize that carrying a Bible or reading a few out-of-context verses or listening to wonderful Bible sermons–while all good and even helpful– was not the same thing as actually studying the Bible.

So why should you study the Bible? What is the big deal?

Let me give you a few things that my Bible Study has taught me (in a general sense). This is not an exhaustive, specific list but rather a general overview of the things we learn when we study the Bible–

1.  We learn about God and His character. There are many, many opinions out there. In fact, some of those opinions hit the bestseller list (such as the heretical book The Shack) and can change how we view God. Our only protection is to actually know who God is from His Holy Word.

2. We learn of man’s depraved and hopeless state without Christ. While the world and apostate church lauds the goodness of man, I am learning through reading the Bible that all men are sinners, lost and without hope of reconciliation to God–except through Jesus Christ.

3. We learn about ourselves. As I read the accounts of the people in the pages in the Bible, I can see myself. I see my own sins and weaknesses. As I read the epistles that contain exhortations and encouragement for believers, I am confronted with my own need for change. The scripture functions as mirror that shows me my true self. But it doesn’t stop there. It also teaches us how to turn away from the sin that so easily besets us. And encourages us with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is with us for guidance and comfort in our efforts to eradicate sin and grow in Christ.

4. We learn to know the real Jesus. Since He is literally nothing like the apostate church (and all other false churches) present Him, this is almost necessary these days to even understand the Gospel. One cannot understand who Jesus truly is without studying the Bible. There is just so much false information out there.

5. We learn of the hope, the grace, the mercy, and the deep love that is ours upon salvation. The promises of God are rich and certain. Give by God to His own dear children, they serve as a source of comfort and strength.

6. We learn to discern between right and wrong. If scripture is where we find the truth, then this is what we must know in order to determine what is false. This becomes increasingly important as deception deepens and grows in this current age we are living in.

7. We learn to stand strong for truth–even if it means standing alone. Through the examples of so many in scripture–Noah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Stephen, and so many others–we learn not only the importance of but also the possibility of standing for and even dying for our faith. God will make a way for us to do what is right.

8. We learn how to face both trials and good times. In the Bible, we are given so many encouraging verses in how to handle all states of life we find ourselves in. God shows us how we can best grow and glorify Him in whatever we face.

9. We learn how all of scripture is connected. It has been an amazing thing to see themes repeated over and over. To read one thing in a book and see it repeated in a different book. It really wasn’t until I finally took the time to study the Word that I understood the significance of the consistency and cohesiveness of scripture. It’s truly amazing!

10. And, finally, we continue to learn (and be amazed at) how true and reliable God’s Word is. The fulfilled prophecies alone are simply awesome. One cannot walk away from a humble study of the Bible and not recognize the impossibilities of these very specifically fulfilled prophecies. Confirmation that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God become more and more evident as one gives time to study.

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And, as we learn these things above, we become so much more confident in our walk with Christ. We feel comfortable sharing the Gospel. We lean alone on God’s Word when calling out false teachers. We recognize that our opinions mean literally nothing. All we stand on is the Word, which is easy to do because we are so aware that it is God’s very Word to us, giving us all truth we need for life and godliness.

And, so, I hope that this might reach some believer out there who has never really studied the Word for themselves. I hope that you will give it a try. If you are looking for a place to begin, I hope you will consider this year’s Bible Reading Challenge (find more information here). My goal for each challenge is for it to be helpful to both beginner Bible Students and Advanced and every student in between. I also try to make it so that one can join anytime throughout the year. Right now is the perfect time to commit to study the Bible!

But, no matter what way you choose or where you start your study of scripture, I hope that you will make it a priority. For the Bible truly is the only source of truth and guidance for the Christian Life.

 

The Power of Distractions

I spent this past weekend in Texas with my daughter and her family. I was joined by my other two daughters although, sadly, my daughter-in-law and mom were unable to join us and so our little circle wasn’t quite complete. But we did have such a wonderful time together.

On Sunday we had a rare treat. My son-in-law had so kindly offered to watch the kids and so we were having a rare girls’ afternoon at a nail salon. Nail Salons in Texas really know what they are doing. I have had many pedicures in my life but the best three, by far, are the ones I’ve gotten in Texas. This one was especially good. They not only honored the appointment time but they treated us especially well and the services were certainly thorough and done right. In fact, it was wonderful.

Except for one thing.

Shortly after we sat down to enjoy our pedicure, a pillow was placed on our lap. I looked at the pillow. What is this thing for?

Well, I soon found out. Soon a manicurist was bringing her supplies over to my massage chair and my hand was in a little bowl of water. She was working on the manicure at the same time as someone else was working on the pedicure.

NOW… that may seem fabulous to someone who values time above all else when going into a nail salon. However, we were not those people and each one of us left the salon a bit disappointed.

Why, you may ask?

Or do you already know?

Put simply, it is impossible to fully concentrate on enjoying something when so much is going on. It was hard to enjoy a foot massage when someone was grabbing your arm and telling you to do this or that. One of the manicurists even told one of my girls she wasn’t allowed to use her massage chair during her pedicure (which sort of defeats the purpose of having one…). There was just so much going on that you couldn’t really enjoy it.

So, I’m not complaining. We know for the next time to either go to a different nail salon or to specifically request separate treatments. And it was a tremendous blessing to be able to afford that little luxury on a warm Sunday afternoon in Dallas.

But it does provide a great analogy and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity.

You see, I think when some of us (like myself) approach our prayer and Bible reading time, we may be a little like I was sitting in that chair. There’s just too much going on. We generally have our phone sitting nearby and we are attuned to every little buzz and ding. We can hardly keep ourselves from picking it up. Even if we don’t have it set for notifications from social media (which I don’t), we somehow are afraid we may miss something in a texting conversation. Or we think of something in the middle of our quiet time and, instead of writing it down, we take the time to look that thing up online right away (am I the only one who does that??) Or some may have the TV or radio in the background, forcing their minds to take in so much at the same time. Because our minds are always listening and struggling to understand–even when we don’t consciously realize it.

But just like that experience at the salon was not fully enjoyed because of too much going on, the same thing is true of our time spent in God’s Word. We can’t get to the place of thorough study when we are constantly interrupted. In fact, I believe the short updates and videos we have grown accustomed to have done grave (and irreparable?) damage to our ability to focus.

Generally, I believe we 21st century Christians have a distraction problem. Which I believe is mostly related to technology. The constant interruptions. The constant distraction. It’s changing our capability for concentration. It’s changing our brains.

Is there a way to change it back?

I’m not sure. But I believe one way to start is to keep my phone and iPad in a different room when I am spending time in my Bible and prayer. To perhaps set a timer or give myself a specific time without looking at my phone.

Isn’t that just pathetic? Seriously. I am embarrassed to even write about this as an issue for me.

But it makes me wonder if it isn’t an issue for some of you, too. (Please don’t comment condescendingly that this isn’t or never has been an issue for you. If that is true, then I am so happy for you. You are very blessed that this is not an issue. Please DO comment if this was an issue for you but you have since gained victory over this in your life. We can all use that kind of encouragement!)

Technology has changed our lives forever and I believe it has much more power than we give it credit for through the avenue of distracting us and keeping us from ever really thinking.

Particularly our smart phones have become a challenge, as most of us hate to be without them. And it’s often not for a silly, time-wasting reason. These little devices give us opportunity to stay in close contact with people we love who live oh, so far away. They’ve offered some good along with the bad. Which makes managing these things much trickier.

But manage them we must. If we are to live a godly and productive life, we need to control our devices and not let them control us. Particularly when we are in prayer and Bible Study.

And, so, that is my challenge to you and to myself today–

Let’s turn off or remove our devices from the area where we are spending time in prayer and in studying God’s Word. Let’s grab a tablet and pen and keep it by our side so that we can write down anything we want to text or research or buy or whatever for later. Perhaps you are someone who needs to just turn off the TV or radio. Whatever is keeping us from fully and deeply studying the Word, let’s commit to making that change–at least a few times each week. Let’s ask the Lord to help us make this important change.

Anyone want to commit to making this change with me?

 

 

An Encouraging Word (and a personal note, too)

Here we are. It’s Christmas of 2021. Last summer we wondered if we’d even see this date. And if we did see it, what in the world would it look like? But here we are.

Oh, the “ship that set sail” certainly hasn’t turned around. We can see and feel that in a thousand small ways: The anxiety we feel about going to under-staffed hospitals; The restaurant that closes at 5pm because they have no workers or perhaps has shut its doors altogether; The rumblings of terrible tyranny going on throughout the world; The censorship and lying by media, government, and the healthcare industry that has become so blatantly obvious.

Oh, yes, we clearly know the ship is still sailing full force towards what is prophesied in scripture. But then again, it always has been, hasn’t it? It’s just picked up a lot of steam as it nears its destination.

Sometimes we can forget as we live our busy lives.

Although, for too many, life won’t ever be quite the same. A chair will be empty at the holiday table this year and many are trying to cope. My heart hurts for you. Far too many are dying. Someone mentioned to me recently that it’s almost like we are getting used to people dying.

And for most people in the past and even now, throughout the world, that was and is the norm. Death was a common occurrence and people expected it. Most of us have lived in a cushioned, unreal way that is really not normal. Many of us have been sheltered from so much awfulness by being blessed with clean water and wonderful healthcare and access to nutritious food and helpful medicines. Particularly here in the United States, the “land of plenty”, we have been spared so much.

I am not sure that this abundance will serve us well going into the future, as it has spoiled us and ripened our hearts and minds to sacrifice our rights in order to keep the “plenty”.

The plenty: Health, wealth, and security. The big three. They’ve become idols in so many of our hearts.

The thought of losing them brings fear and dread. Of course it does. We are human, after all.

There’s only one way to truly overcome that fear and dread and it is to surrender all to God. Our hopes, our dreams, our future, our safety, and, yes, even our health.

Fully surrendering is a long, arduous process and certainly not a one-time decision. But the peace that accompanies our complete submission to God’s Will is truly a peace that “surpasses understanding” (Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:6-7).

I am fully aware that I have become so redundant as I try to encourage us all to keep our eyes on Jesus in this strange, new world and to be ready for the trump that will call us to the marriage supper of the lamb at any moment. The rapture feels oh, so close and yet it could still be a few years out. How long we will need to stay on this ship that is sailing to certain doom is unknown to all but God.

But what we do know with complete certainty is that God will take care of us. These promises are scattered all through scripture and are not given lightly. When God says something He means it.

Of course, this doesn’t mean (as so many are saying in this warped and twisted “Christian” culture) that God will help us fulfill our dreams and life will be wonderful. Scripture doesn’t promise this.

What it does promise, however, is that we will never be alone (Hebrews 13:5), that God will be protect us (Psalm 18:30), that we will be given new mercies each day (Lamentations 3:22-23), that all things will work out for good for God’s children (Romans 8:28) and that we can never be lost if we are saved (John 10:28). There are so many more precious promises for those who have trusted in Christ alone for forgiveness of sin. They are overwhelming in their goodness!

As we approach a new year that is even more uncertain than the last, may we remember God’s great love and care for us. Great is His faithfulness!

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And on a personal note: This will probably be my last post for the year (other than the final part of the story, which will be posted on Friday. I hope you are enjoying it! I know I threw a little twist in there last week that you weren’t expecting!) I have family coming for the holidays (yay!!!) and I will be caught up in all kinds of wonderful activities and get-togethers.

As this year comes to a close, I did want to take the time to thank you for reading this blog. Someone said to me recently that people aren’t really reading blogs anymore. And, honestly, I’ve noticed that, if I’m honest. Most don’t really click on links from Facebook or take the time to actually read something unless it’s very eye-catching or extra-fascinating. And, let’s face it, this blog certainly doesn’t specialize in either of those categories.

But God has shown me, at least for now, to keep going. And that is through many of you who have kindly reached out and encouraged me–usually at just the right time. Your emails and messages of encouragement never go unappreciated. If you’ve sent something to me and I’ve not personally responded, please know that I am filled with gratitude. I do try to respond to every email I get but I know that things get missed on occasion.

There is one other item I do want to bring to your attention. Several months ago now, I asked you all to email me if you’d like to stay on my mailing list. I have kept that list and am compiling it. I do plan to make a switch to a different subscription service sometime in the new year so if you’d like to be on that list so that you continue receiving Growing4Life updates, please email me and let me know. (You don’t have to email me a second time if you have already emailed me.)

I hope that you can thoroughly enjoy the holidays, knowing that God is still on His throne and, if we are His, then all is well! Merry Christmas!

 

 

Trends (and when not to follow them)

For years now, my family has been giving me a hard time because I choose to put colored lights on my tree. It’s been an ongoing conversation since my husband and I were married. Early on, we settled on white lights outside and colored lights on the tree. But as time has gone on, colored lights have gone more and more out of fashion. Currently, the trend is definitely not colored lights. I really don’t feel that strongly anymore, although I do love colored lights. Something about those bright colors twinkling and glowing. I always did love colorful things. That love doesn’t just disappear when the trend changes, as out-of-style as it may be.

Trends can be demanding things. Even pushing us towards things that we don’t really care for or outright despise. But because we want to look or be like everyone else, we do them anyway. Trends change constantly, making most anything new we buy “out of style” within a few years. Trends can even function as prison bars when “keeping up with the Jones’ ” becomes an obsession.

There is nothing, in and of itself, wrong with following a trend. Many of you prefer white lights. They happen to be on trend. Perfect. Sometimes we like what’s “on trend” and that’s easy. The not-so-easy part comes when we choose not to follow the trend. This is particularly true for those who care a great deal about what people think.

Of course, then there are others who rebel against trends and do everything to not be like the rest of the world.

And then there are those who just don’t care.

However you view the trends of home style, fashion, and any other thing really doesn’t matter too much–unless it leads you into sinning before God. For example, choosing to dress immodestly because you want to follow the fashion trend or choosing to go in debt to buy new “stuff” because the trends are so important to you.

But there is one place trends really matter. There is one place that we have no luxury to follow or not follow any trend.

And that is in biblical interpretation. How we interpret the Bible can never be about a trend and must always be about what does it actually say?

I realize that most of you probably believe that you aren’t touched by the current trends in Christianity (although I believe you are touched by the people you choose to read and listen to much more than you know). You probably don’t realize the sacrifice one must make to actually stand up and say they believe in a future for Israel or a literal Revelation. You see, this belief is definitely not on trend.

What is currently on trend regarding the future of the world?

There are three really popular trends regarding the future of the world in the Christian realm. First, there is Amillennialism which teaches that we are currently in the millennium now and awaiting Christ’s final return. Second, there is Replacement Theology, which believes that the church has replaced Israel as the recipient of God’s promises. And, third, there is Postmillennialism, which teaches that there will be a time in the future where the entire world will be converted to Christianity and usher in the Kingdom of God.

Now, I am not going to take the time to explain why these views are clearly wrong if we examine them through the light of scripture. All I will say at this point is that I have done quite a bit of research–especially on Amillennialism and Replacement Theology, as this is what most of the reformed world believes. Many godly men and women believe this. This is what intellectual Christianity teaches. And if you choose not to believe this, you are viewed with condescension and even ridicule in those circles.

Postmillennialism is pretty much reserved for those in the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) camp. I do believe, however, that this belief of God’s Kingdom coming to earth will be critical in ushering in the antichrist’s kingdom, so it is definitely worth understanding what it teaches.

But, as Berean believers, who search the scriptures, we want to remove ourselves from the trends and find out what scripture actually teaches. After all, the above views aren’t innately wrong because they are on trend.

And so I want to take a few moments to point out just a few reasons why I believe there will be a future for Israel and why there will most definitely be a literal Revelation.

First, it is clearly what the Bible teaches. If we would come to the Bible as a simple peasant and simply read the Bible from cover to cover (something I highly recommend to come to truly understand God and His plan for all mankind), this will be the view that we come away with. It isn’t until we start reading outside sources that our thinking may be swayed. Let me add here that the early church believed in a literal one thousand year reign (called Chiliasm). It wasn’t until the third century that Augustine, in his fervor to remove the church as far away from Jewish beliefs as possible, came up with allegorical approach to the prophetical scriptures. Interestingly enough, one has to literally do hermeneutical somersaults and backflips to come to an amillenial belief. Oh, they will intimidate you with their intellectual arguments and complicated terms. But when we take scripture as it is written, it is clear: There is a future for Israel and there will be a literal Revelation.

Second, it is the only view that aligns perfectly with God’s character. It wasn’t until recently that this started to especially resonate with me. Many times throughout scripture we read of God’s everlasting love for Israel. We read of His promises of blessing and prosperity to this special people group. We find this throughout the Old Testament. We also find this in Romans 9-11, the passage God used to solidify my belief and understanding that there is most definitely a future for Israel.

Imagine a God who makes these promises and then churlishly decides that the Jewish people haven’t behaved in the way He wanted so He has decided to “transfer” these promises to a group of Gentiles called the “Church.” Is that the kind of God you want to serve? A God who doesn’t keep His promises? A God’s whose “everlasting love” isn’t actually everlasting? I don’t think Amillennialists truly understand what they are saying about God’s character.

Third, history proves this. I challenge you–if you have any doubt regarding a future of Israel–to do a study of their modern history. The fact that they are even still a cohesive people group after being removed from their land and scattered throughout the world is an absolute miracle. The fact that they make up like .2% of the world’s population and have produced 20% of the 900 Nobel prize winners and are responsible for so much innovation and technological advances in this world seems more than some strange coincidence. The fact that the Balfour Declaration issued in 1917, which promised of a Jewish Homeland, coincides, to the very day, the date set specifically by Daniel and Haggai is astounding. These are just three in a long list that show that the Jews are a very special people–God’s chosen ones whom He has certainly not forgotten and will never, ever stop loving with His everlasting love.

Fourth, current events confirm this. For many years, we wondered how a Revelation 13 scenario could possibly take place. Oh, we believed it would, but many things remained a mystery. But, suddenly, particularly over the past two years, many of those mysteries have been solved. As we continue to march into the world’s uncertain future, the one thing that is most certain is that there will be a literal Revelation.

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I have made the choice to not follow the trends when it comes to the Bible and Bible prophecy. I have made this decision because I believe with all of my heart that the trends are definitely NOT what the Bible teaches. If you are in doubt, being swayed by so many these days who would move you with their intellectual arguments, I encourage you to just read the scripture, particularly the prophets and the book of Revelation with an open heart and mind. I encourage you to read of the incredible history of modern day Israel (I only touched on the many miracles and “coincidences” surrounding the birth and ongoing presence of this nation. There are so many more!) I encourage you to view what is happening in the world through the view that Revelation will be fulfilled literally.

I believe that these other wrong views of eschatology are distracting true believers from seeing what is happening right in front of their very eyes. It is disheartening to see how many can’t see that the end is near and the return of Christ is truly imminent.

Now I do realize that I can’t change your mind nor am I trying to. I am simply writing what God has revealed to me through the reading and studying of His Word and also through my study of history and current events. It all fits together so perfectly that is hard to believe people can’t see. The confirmation of the Bible throughout all of history and especially in this current day is truly astounding. And so I choose to believe in the literal interpretation of scripture–no matter what the current trend.

 

 

What Will Heaven Be Like?

How do you picture heaven? Do you imagine a place full of white, fluffy clouds, harps, and snow-white robes? Do you wonder if you will get bored floating around in this ethereal place for the rest of eternity? I know these were some of my thoughts before God, through His Word, started to slowly open my eyes to the reality of what’s ahead for all those who trust in Christ as their Savior.

It was “nutshelled” for me yesterday when I went to hear my brother, Pastor Dean Good, as a guest speaker at a Bible Study in my parents’ community. His topic was heaven and it was very insightful. He gave me permission to share here today. (The points will all be his but what is written will be my own expansion of those points, much of it drawn from what he shared but put into my own words.)

We have to come to grips with the fact that life is short. Dean shared his own story about losing his wife after twenty short years. Many of you will remember that happening, as I shared about it here on the blog. But he also reminded us that death will happen to everyone. We always act so surprised and, yet, everybody dies. And the minute you die nothing we fretted or stewed over or strove for on this old earth matters a bit. Only one thing matters: Do you know Jesus Christ?

If we can say yes, we definitely do know Christ, then death should not be something we fear because we know with certainty where we are going.

But many of us still feel uncertain and nervous because we can’t really know what it’s like. Well, that’s true. The Bible doesn’t tell us too much about heaven. My husband has often said over the past two years that we probably have no idea how awesome heaven is. In fact, if we realized what is ahead, we probably wouldn’t want to stay on earth. I love this verse that expands on this thought–

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  I Corinthians 2:9

And so we know that heaven will be incredibly awesome! From this passage and others. Today, we will specifically look at Revelation 21:1-8 in our efforts to understand a bit more what heaven will be like and who will be there.

First, let’s see how heaven is described.

All things will be new. The old will have passed away and all things will be new (Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 65:17f; 2 Peter 3:13)

It will be a physical place. We will walk around and eat. There will be economies, vineyards, governments. We won’t be hanging around bored somewhere in the clouds (see the end of Isaiah 65 for just one evidence of this).

The New Jerusalem will be a holy city. It is hard to think of a city that is perfectly holy. Since the beginning of time, cities have seemed to be where sin and wickedness congregate. Corruption, tyranny, prostitution, gambling, human trafficking, the selling of illegal substances, and crime often begin and flourish in cities.

But this will be a city without evil. It will be perfect with no sin or corruption of any kind. Isn’t that so hard to imagine? It will not only be beautiful but it will be perfectly safe.

The New Heaven will also be perfect. No presence of sin, no more curse, no death, no sorrow or tears or pain. We will have no fear because there won’t be anything to fear. Can you even imagine??

Here on earth we sometimes expect perfection but why? Why do we expect things to go according to our plans when we live on a fallen, sinful earth? But in heaven, we will be able to expect (and we will receive!) perfection. That’s actually hard to comprehend, isn’t it?

Second, let’s look at the certainty of Heaven.

Revelation 21:5-7 says this–

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said [b]to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

And He said to me, “It[c] is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes [d]shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

Notice the words “for these words are true and faithful.”

Last night, my husband and I watched another couple of episodes of the series Against All Odds (link below). It is the story of the birth and life of modern day Israel. Watching that makes it clear that Israel is only there for one reason: God has ordained it. In fact, God had promised it in His Word long ago. This reminded me how true and everlasting God’s promises are. Which reminded me of how true God’s Word is.

God will fulfill His promises and His words are true and faithful.

Which leads to the final and third point: Who will be in heaven?

If God’s Word is true regarding Israel; If His prophecies have come true at the rate of 100% throughout history; If He is truly faithful–well, then we know that what He says about who will be in heaven is absolutely true, as well.

Verse 7 says that those who thirst for living water will be given the fountain of life. Those who have repented and trusted Christ as their Savior are the only ones who may enter. The evidence of their salvation are their good works but that is not the means for their ticket to enter. Only those who realize that they are utterly destitute but for the atoning work of Christ will enter heaven.

Verse 8 of Revelation 21 tells us who won’t be there. But that is only if they continue in these sins. Christ’s sacrifice has wholly covered these sins by His blood if we but repent and turn to Him! It is not too late to submit our rebellious heart to the One, True God who longs that no man perish but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

I know that this is a tough truth for so many of you who have loved ones who just don’t seem to get salvation. It is so tempting to “save” those who are living in sin who may have made a “decision for Christ” as a kid. But, as Dean has said–there will be many who made a “decision for Christ” who won’t be in heaven. The Bible is so very clear that true salvation yields fruit. This is throughout scripture: Those who are saved desire to serve and obey Christ. It is a hard truth to face and it costs much. But that doesn’t change that it is true.

This truth should compel us to share the Gospel and challenge our status-quo self-absorbed loved ones who think they are going to heaven. While we can’t know if any soul is truly saved (only God knows this), we can and should earnestly pray and have the hard discussions.

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As we move into these last days, it is hard to imagine that anyone can’t see that what is happening is of biblical significance. But, as I told my husband last night, if someone can ignore the true miracle of Israel’s rebirth, then I guess they can ignore anything. When Israel became a nation, the final hour of this age began. While we should never set specific dates, it seems foolish to live as if everything will return to normal. We are so obviously in the last days. Heaven is closer than ever for those who love God!

And with this recognition should come a deep burden to share the Gospel. Heaven is a wonderful place. And those who are saved will go there. But Revelation 21 says that those who aren’t saved–those who insist on rebelling against God and living in sin–will go to hell–

 But the cowardly, [e]unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

I don’t especially like this doctrine and I can see why people try to reason it away. But it’s there. Not only in Revelation 21 but all throughout scripture. May we remember this as we seek to reach the lost and, particularly, those who think they are saved but may not be.

Heaven will be a wonderful place for believers. Of that we can be sure. While we may not know a lot, we know enough. May we passionately share the Gospel so that more people can experience this amazing wonderful place. But, more importantly, that they may avoid an eternity in hell.

 

 

*Against All Odds is currently free (with ads) on Tubi. Find it here. I highly recommend!

 

 

The Road Trip

A few days before we left to see family it became clear that a dear friend of mine wasn’t going to make it. I agonized for a whole night over the fact that I was going to miss her memorial service and then, finally, just surrendered it to the Lord. I couldn’t change my trip dates and I couldn’t change the date of the service. It was out of my control. For some reason, God didn’t think I needed to be there.

A few days into our visit, we were told the date of the service. We would be able to make it –if we’d do the 19hr drive home straight through. We aren’t particularly “straight through” kind of people and generally like to take our time and make stops as needed. But these were special circumstances and, so, at 4am on the day before the service, we crawled out of bed, threw some clothing on, hugged our family, and headed out into the night.

Things went pretty smoothly for the first few hours. Until we got to Tennessee. South of Chattanooga we ran into horrendous traffic. It was around 4pm on Friday evening. We stopped completely. Waze offered no tiny accident symbol so we couldn’t figure out what was going on. I nervously watched our waze “arrival time” creep in the wrong direction. Finally, we breathed a sigh of relief as traffic started to crawl toward the city. I had to use the restroom something fierce and was feeling discouraged about that, as well. I felt like I was going to burst when, in God’s perfect timing, a rest stop appeared. I know this sounds foolish but if you have ever had to go to the restroom when you are in a traffic jam you will know the joy I felt at seeing that sign!

We continued to crawl after that stop and then gradually started to move at a more lively pace. But it was short-lived as we ran into more traffic on the north side of that city. Again, we sat. And crawled. And then sat again. Losing more minutes, we were both pretty discouraged. The drive was long enough without this. We continued to crawl towards Knoxville. This pattern continued on the other side of Knoxville.

We had had no traffic issues on the way down and were a bit puzzled. It was Friday evening rush hour but this seemed much worse than usual. I finally remembered the popular attraction that the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area is in the autumn. I can’t help but think that perhaps people were traveling there for the weekend. But that is just a guess.

We started to travel along again and then, suddenly, came to an abrupt halt. This time there was a little accident symbol in the waze app along with a tiny red line running up the left side of the app and this discouraging number: 1 hour and 30 min. 

We could expect to be sitting in this traffic for an hour and 30 minutes. I was downright frustrated at this point. And pretty discouraged. I hate staying up late at night and determined in college, actually, that 2am was my limit. I learned pretty early on that 2am was the latest I could stay up and actually function the next day. Our original time to get home was around midnight. Our arrival time was already showing after two and now we were stuck in this accident traffic.

I stewed and stewed and stewed. And then I finally just surrendered. This was in the Lord’s hands and He knew what was going on. And how thankful we were not to be the ones in the accident. There is always something to be thankful for.

I sent out a few texts asking for prayer that we would stay awake in those wee hours of the morning as we sat there waiting to get going again. I didn’t know how this would all work but I was just going to trust God.

When the traffic started moving again our arrival time had crept to after 3:30am. We realized that we should grab supper soon, as it was already after 8pm and restaurants would start closing. When we stopped I also grabbed a large cup of coffee and stuck it in the Yeti cup I had brought with me on the trip. The cup was a last minute, unplanned thing to grab that morning we left and, oh, how thankful I was for it now.

Around 10pm, Eric laughed and said we only had a trip “to see my brother” left. He lives about 5 1/2 hours away. That was pretty discouraging but we were happy to be moving along at a good pace and so we laughed and kept going.

Around 11pm, the coffee was working pretty well so I told my husband I would drive for a bit so he could rest his eyes. I turned on a radio drama of The Prince and the Pauper that I had on my Music app but had never listened to and sipped on my coffee as I drove into the night.

I was surprised to feel pretty wide awake and drove until 1am while my husband slept. I know that it had to be those prayers that had been lifted for us. My husband took over the wheel and the rest of the night was uneventful. We pulled into our home driveway just a bit before four.

So in the midst of that frustrating day, I was reminded of a few things and wanted to share with you here.

First, God was so good to allow me to be at my dear friend’s memorial service. Just when I had resigned myself that I would have to miss it, He made a way for me to be there.

Second, He provided small blessings that just wouldn’t have been necessary. A perfectly placed restroom and a travel coffee cup that was a last minute grab reminded me that God cares about the little stuff. The King of the Universe cares about the littlest details of our lives and I am always so amazed by that.

Third, It wasn’t until I finally just yielded my will to God’s that I felt any peace in the midst of those traffic jams. I think this is true in little stuff like road trips, as well in the big stuff of life. I always remember this profound statement by Elisabeth Elliot: With acceptance comes peace. That is just so true. While we fight against God and His will, no matter what the circumstances, we will be in turmoil. It is only when we surrender that we experience the “peace that surpasses understanding” that God has promised His children.

And, fourth, when we started moving along again, I had a moment to reflect on the frustrating hours behind us. In the past, those hours would have been filled with an irritated and short-tempered couple snapping at one another. We don’t tend to fight a lot but those kind of circumstances usually bring out the worse in us. Imagine my surprise when I realized that we hadn’t fought even once. Oh, we came close a time or two but we both restrained our tongues and our tempers in ways never before. God used that opportunity to show us that we are growing in Christ. We are actually changing and growing. It was an encouraging realization that we would have never noticed or become aware of– had we not run into those problems on the road. Our true colors generally don’t show themselves until we are put under some form of heat. We had been in a bit of heat and we could see growth. God is changing us!

This post may seem rather inane and silly to some of you. Who cares about a road trip, anyway? But I feel like this road trip is a microcosm of all trials and what we learn through them.

 

No matter what the trial, God is good.

No matter what the trial, God pours out His mercies (both small and large) on us.

No matter what the trial, we must surrender our will to God’s will.

No matter what the trial, we experience the opportunity to examine ourselves spiritually in light of our responses.

 

Life is full of troubles and trials–both great and small. But if we are Christ’s own, we are not alone. God walks with us, supplying us with His sufficient grace and mercy. No matter what the trial, they are all within His Sovereignty and He is using them for His eternal purposes and for our good.

 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Romans 8:28-29

 

 

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