Christian Living

Life and Legos

Have you ever had assumptions made about you? People are really great at assuming. They assume they know your motives, your reasons, your “whys”. They make assumptions about choices and decisions. These assumptions are often fueled by rumors. Rumors that we are all too quick to listen to and pass along.

These rumors and assumptions can really get us down for we are rarely given an opportunity to defend ourselves.

Have you ever been faced with a terrifying bit of news? Of course you have. Whether it’s an unwelcome diagnosis from a doctor or a piece of news that comes to our ears through a news anchor, we have all had those moments.

These terrifying moments can bring on major fear and anxiety for they make us realize that we have zero control over what happens.

Have you ever been accused wrongly or unfairly treated? Whether it is through favoritism, a misunderstanding, or because of standing for what is right, these moments come to us all.

These unfair accusations can make us really angry, because, well…it’s just not fair!

Have you ever been broken-hearted or hopeless? Perhaps through the loss of a loved one, the betrayal of a friend, or the realization that you will have chronic pain for the rest of your life?

These moments of despair can make us depressed and zap all the joy from our lives because we just don’t feel like going on.

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I just finished reading the *biography of John Bunyan. He dealt with all of these things and more. As a young man, assumptions were made about him because he had been quite the wicked young man. The Lord got a hold of him and radically changed him but people just couldn’t forget the old man. He faced more trouble when his young wife died and left him with four young children to care for. Later on, he received the news of a prison sentence for a crime that wasn’t even a crime by the law of the land. It was totally and utterly wrongful imprisonment. While imprisoned, his precious Mary, his oldest (and blind) daughter passed away. When he was finally released from prison, his rabid opponents tried to stop his ministry through rumors and wrong accusations.

John found himself in a prison cell for twelve years. The religious wars in England at the time were ferocious and the tides turned every which way at any time. But, no matter which way it turned, his young wife (his second wife) found herself up against a brick wall in any effort to get him released.

Now, he could have grown depressed or angry. He could have ended up languishing in bitter disillusionment and unabated fury. But he didn’t.

Instead, he picked up quill and paper and started writing. And kept writing. And then wrote some more. His best known work is called Pilgrim’s Progress and is still a best seller among Christians today!

What was his key? Why could he continue on, despite the ill treatment and the heartbreak in his life?

There’s a small quote of his that shows us how he managed to do this. I have been mulling it over and over in my mind since I have first read it. I believe it is the key for us all–

“If ever I would suffer rightly I must first pass a sentence of death upon everything that can properly be called a thing of this life, even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyments, and all as dead to me and myself as dead to them. The second was to live upon God that is invisible.”

You see, he was putting scripture into practice. Paul basically told us this same thing in Philippians 3:8–

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

And so we must realize that it’s only in releasing our grip on the things of this world that we can experience the peace and joy that God has promised. It’s only in surrendering our sense of fairness, our reputations, our family members, our health, our finances, our futures to God and His Sovereign will that we can conquer our fears, worries, anger, and despondency.

This brings to mind an example of this I saw just a few years ago lived out right in front of my eyes. How well I remember the calm acceptance of my brother and his wife as they faced the fact that her journey on this earth was winding down to an end. It is because they were learning to release the things of this life to grasp instead the bright shining eternal gift of Christ.

As believers, the more we die to self and gain Christ, the more we are victorious in our Christian lives.

This isn’t exactly what most want to hear. In our self-obsessed culture, we want God to fulfill our dreams and pour down blessings.

But the actual blessings we receive from God aren’t all that appealing to the carnal soul.

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The other week, my son came into the house and said, “We have lots of legos!” I was confused and followed him out the door. What I saw sitting in the bed of his truck were 5-6 boxes of varying sizes filled with legos! A customer’s children had grown tired of legos and she didn’t want to bother selling them, so she asked if we wanted them. My son loaded them up and brought them home. Thousands of dollars worth of legos.

When our grandchildren laid eyes on those boxes they grew wide with excitement. As we pulled one off the truck and they saw all of the pieces and parts and potential, they were thrilled. Particularly the oldest, who at six years old, could really appreciate them.

Now, to an adult or a small baby, eh… who cares. Legos are not really their thing, right? Not really considered that big of a blessing. And maybe even a nuisance.

But to a child? Wow.

I think God’s blessings are a bit like that. They don’t look all that attractive to the unbeliever. Forgiveness of sins and peace with the God of the Universe? Eh. Not all that important, as they yearn after the worthless “fool’s gold” of this world. Peace and joy in the midst of trial? But they want promises of NO trials.

It isn’t until we are saved that God’s blessings fill us with awe and appreciation. Because they are specifically for those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation and eternal life.

And so victory and blessing in the Christian life isn’t going to look all that appealing to the unbeliever or perhaps even to the immature believer.

It isn’t until we give up the temporal for the eternal that we begin to understand.

 

I wish I could say I am able to live out the truth of John Bunyan’s statement above. I wish I could say that God’s blessings are always enough for me. But, unfortunately, in my battle with my flesh and my {ever-loosening but still tight} grip on this world, I cannot. I can only write about it in hopes to encourage us all towards this ideal, knowing that God will faithfully continue His work in those of us who are His as we journey together towards the eternal city.

 

for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13

 

 

*A Pilgrim Path: John Bunyan’s Journey by Faith Cook. Highly recommend!

 

A Few Thoughts From the State of Texas

I have spent the past week in Texas, visiting my daughter, Adrienne, and her family. It’s funny how you never really know where your kids will land. I never dreamed I’d make so many trips to Texas!

As we headed to the airport, the weather was overcast and the sky was gray. As the plane lifted up, up, up through the clouds, the gray soon was replaced by clear blue sky and white clouds below. Underneath all of those clouds was a rainy, cloudy world but above them was this beautiful crystal blue made even brighter by the sun.

I couldn’t help but think that we are living in that rainy, cloudy world right now with a new storm on the horizon every time we turn around. But this is not our final destination. And far above all of this chaos is the mansion the Lord is preparing for us. We will fly there someday. I just can’t think it will be long now.

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My daughter had minor surgery and so I was helping her care for her kids a little more than I would usually. One of the things that always had me stumped this past week were when the kids would need a drink. The cups were on a shelf with all of the lids in a bin. I could hardly ever find the proper matching lid. And if I did, I was sure to be confused about what “plastic thingy” to put in the lid–if it needed any at all. But, to Adrienne, this was as simple as…well, breathing. She knew every lid and plastic thingy and cup in that cabinet and she knew exactly what went with what. I did not and I needed her help. There was no shame in me asking for help because there was no way I could possibly know. Now what would have happened if I acted like I knew and put the wrong lid with the wrong cup and got all defensive when the juice spilled all over the floor and she gently told me that that lid doesn’t go with the cup?

I didn’t do this, of course, but are you following my train of thought here? It’s easy to admit you don’t know which cup goes with what lid. Not as easy to admit some other things. Oh, how quick we are to charge right ahead when we should have gotten counsel from those who are wiser than we are. How quick to get offended when someone knows more than we do. About anything.

Instead of humbly admitting we don’t know everything, we tend to act like we do and then get upset when things don’t work quite the way we wanted it to. If someone kindly mentions something we could have done better or even avoided, we get defensive and offended. Whether it’s about our parenting, our marriage roles, our life choices, false teachers and discernment, or anything else, how important to remember that we can all grow and learn. We are never too old, never too knowledgeable, never too wise. As long as we are on this side of heaven, we will have things to learn and lots of growing to do.

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Adrienne and her husband live in a nice housing development that has a beautiful pool and splash pad. The other day we headed down there. It was a lovely morning to swim but only a handful of people were there. Besides a few others, there were three in particular whom we noticed. In one corner was an older woman sunning herself. In the other corner were two twenty-somethings. The reason these three came to our particular notice is because they both had their radios blaring loudly. With two totally different stations. One was country, the other was pop. Or maybe it was rap. All I know is that the two together made a cacophony of displeasing sound to the ear.

Oh, how like this world this trip to the pool was. One side is playing all of the songs of social justice, communism, and leftism. The other side is playing the songs of revival, freedom, and patriotism, and maga.

It’s all so loud. All the time.

Just as my daughter and I sat there annoyed to be hearing both stations all the time, so we Christians find ourselves frustrated by the loud noises on either side of these issues. If you understand that what is happening in the world perfectly lines up with scripture, then you know that both sides are wrong. Neither side is biblical. They are both simply two wings of the same bird that is flying to the same place.

But if we were going to swim, we had to listen to the competing music. Thankfully, we can leave the pool. And if we are going to live in this world, we have to listen to the competing sides. Thankfully, we can retreat to no-noise places.

I believe the world will continue to get louder and more dissonant as it prepares to accept the coming antichrist, who will bring a short time of tentative peace before things get considerably worse than they already were (Revelation 6:1-2).

But this is all a part of God’s plan and eventually we will leave this stormy place for the skies of crystal blue. So stay strong by the power of His might and keep looking up!

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So those are a few thoughts I had this past week while spending time with family. Living life and daily happenings have so many lessons for us if we but open our eyes to see.

 

That Elusive Contentment

I sat at my computer working on one of my least favorite jobs in our landscaping company. It’s not something I have to do often but it is something that needs to be done. I reminded myself how much I hate this job (inside my head) a few times before remembering a conversation I had had with my youngest daughter a few days before.

She was telling me how she thrives on trying new things and pursuing new hobbies but that sometimes there are seasons in life that there is no time for that because there are other priorities. And how important it is to find contentment even when there isn’t the next and new hobby or adventure or experience. She went on to say how sad it is that her generation is being taught to always look for the next “experience” to fulfill them.

And that is what has happened. While my generation was about getting stuff, her generation is about getting experiences. Many of them hop from one to the next. Their contentment is driven by these new experiences.

But it matters not whether we search after contentment in stuff or in experiences. Both are deceiving us into believing contentment can be found outside of God.  In fact, our search for contentment in anything outside of God is fruitless and disappointing.

As I sat there at my computer, I thought about the impatience I feel when I am doing a job I don’t like. Let’s just get this over with and move on. But this time–and maybe for the first time ever–I took a moment to think about why I am telling myself I hate this job. It really is not that bad. God has given me the tools to do it and it’s a small part of my life. And I suddenly recognized the need to be content even in doing this mundane, ordinary job that I don’t like.

This really made me reflect on this idea of contentment. So many of us spend our lives jumping from one stage, one experience, one remodel, or one big purchase to the next. We have been taught that contentment comes with change. And so we are constantly changing.

Our culture has molded us to want and desire change. How often do we find a favorite scent or flavor of something just to find it has left the store shelves never to return? Or we go into the bank and the person you’ve talked to forever has been moved to a different branch? Just because. (That actually happened to me many years ago– my bank at the time moved their employees every three months so you could never get to know any of them. That was when I left that bank.)

But somehow in the midst of the constant changing, we became convinced that change is what it will take to make us happy. If my kid will just reach this stage. Or if my husband would just do this. If we’d just make more money or be able to redo the kitchen. Or if we could just lose weight or get a college degree. You can fill in your own sentence here. We all have our own “next thing”.

But I am learning–ever so slowly–that when that thing arrives that you thought would make you content, it only lasts for a bit and then your heart feels empty again and that next change calls your name. It’s a vicious and never-ending cycle.

So how do we find real and lasting contentment? Where does it come from and how do we get it?

As always, the Bible has something to say about this! Let’s take a look–

 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Before we get to that beautiful promise that God will never leave us or forsake us, we have this seemingly irrelevant sentence: Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. Why would the Holy Spirit direct the author of Hebrews to write that? Perhaps it is because God knows full well that His being with us and never forsaking us is enough. Why do we covet and crave the temporal? We can be content with whatever God has given us at any give time, knowing full well we rest wholly in His sovereign and loving care.

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (I Timothy 6:6-8)

These verses remind us that all of these things we hunger after are just temporary. We cannot take any of this with us when we die. It will all fade away back to dust. Does someone live a fuller, happier life because they have a million dollar house and can buy anything they want? Does someone live a fuller, happier life because they have traveled the world? Well, maybe…but maybe not. Because the Grandma over there who has submitted to the Lord’s will for her life and chosen to obey Him is going to have a much better life than the Grandma that hasn’t, even if they have everything money can buy. The young man who chooses to go into his trade job, joyfully living for Christ, is going to be far happier than the young man who has a prestigious career but follows his own selfish desires.

The choices we make in our lives that bring God glory always also bring us the greatest contentment. God’s plan and workings are both mysterious and quite amazing!

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

These are probably the most well-known verses regarding this subject of contentment. When we read Acts, we recognize that Paul isn’t just writing this out of thin air. He’s writing it out of his own personal experience. He has both abounded and has suffered need. He has learned this the hard way.

So what is Paul’s key to this contentment? First, we see from verse 13 that he recognizes that contentment comes from Christ alone. That it is Christ who strengthens us in all circumstances and that turning our eyes upon Jesus and taking them off of our circumstances is the key to this contentment.

But I think we can also gain a little insight into this contentment of Paul’s by turning back a few chapters in Philippians–

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. (Philippians 3:7)

It is here that we recognize that Paul was able to find contentment because he understood that earthly gain matters not a bit. Christ was his center. Christ was the source of his contentment. To live is to live for Christ alone. To die is to be with Christ for all eternity.

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And so scripture reminds us that true and lasting contentment isn’t found in changing our circumstances. Rather, it is found in changing ourselves through the power of the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:12-13).

May we turn to the Word as we seek after contentment rather than turn to the world with all of its empty promises and fleeting feelings. The world might make fabulous promises but they are barren and hollow. The Bible, on the other hand, not only makes promises, but God keeps every promise He makes. True contentment only comes through trusting and obeying God.

 

 

 

A Trip to the Zoo

The monkey spotted something interesting. It jumped down and came over to the window to investigate. It moved its hand towards the window, trying to grab the food that was so enticingly being lifted to the mouth of my grandson on the other side. It stared for awhile. Almost like it was thinking, “How can I get that food?” Of course, the thinking was worthless because he could never get it. Not without some help from the zookeeper, which was about as unlikely as a 100 degree day in Alaska in January.

After awhile, he gave up and moved back from the window. Meanwhile the baby monkey’s antics entertained us. Trying to hang on to the rope as she grabbed bits of what looked like zucchini from the floor, she made us laugh. She was just like a toddler, learning to do all of the things her elders already knew how to do with ease.

On that same day, we had had the fascinating opportunity of watching a giraffe drink from the stream right in front of us. Have you ever seen that? It is an amazing feat of dexterity. She spread her front legs wide apart as she leaned her long neck down to take a drink. Then she’d lift her head high, seemingly to let the cool water flow down her long neck. And then back she’d go for more.

Of course, I just love flowers (which you probably already know!) and so I was not only interested in the animals but also in the many lovely flowers throughout the zoo. Especially gorgeous were the large camellia shrubs in full bloom. If you know anything about plants, you know that camellias thrive in warmer temperatures and are not normally found this far north. Apparently, there are some zone 6 varieties (which I need to hunt down. It’s one of my favorite flowers.)

The zoo is such a great place to be reminded of God’s awesome creation. How can one walk around a zoo without awe for our Creator? The variety, the colors, the incredible capabilities and designs, and the sheer beauty all literally shout that there is a Creator.

Some flat out deny that there is a God. The Bible has something to say about  these people–

The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1a)

We also know that all people know full well that there is a God, no matter what they say. In fact, the wonder of creation tells us–

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and [g]Godhead, so that they are without excuse, (Romans 1:20)

But there are far more people who give lip service to believing in God that live like atheists. While they might talk about Him creating the animals or go to church on Sunday, their day to day life is lived without Him. They are practical atheists, living as if God doesn’t exist. Uninformed and indifferent to what the Bible says about how we should live; uninterested in pleasing God, they passionately follow their own hearts and desires.

Which brings us back to that monkey and the snack he couldn’t get. Living life for our own selfish gain and to fulfill our own self-focused dreams has us grasping at the air, trying to reach the impossible. And if the impossible happens and the zookeeper actually allows us to have that “snack” , it doesn’t satisfy. It never does. It just makes us long for something more. Something different. Something better.

The things we so long for in this world are so very temporal. Not only do they not last but they just can’t satisfy. Power, popularity, wealth, fame… they are fleeting and do not fulfill.

I often think of this when I see movie stars from my era. No one cares much about them anymore. They have become yesterday’s celebrities and most have sunk back into insignificance. When you read the stories of these stars, they are generally sad, sad tales filled with the consequences of compromise and sinful choices to “make it to the top.”

Even in this current day, I watch so many who claim Christ make deep compromises in order to be popular. Can they be happy?

Compare these to the godly 90 year old who led a simple life loving and serving the Lord without compromise who dies with the hope of life eternal.

Which of these lives actually brings more peace and joy? Which do you want to be?

It all starts with acknowledging the Creator. Recognizing that God created the world. And then understanding His plan for mankind, which can only be found in the Bible, and submitting ourselves to Him, repenting of our sin, and accepting His wonderful gift of salvation as we recognize the utter impossibility of being right with God without Jesus Christ.

His transforming love and power then change us. He makes us a new creation (2 Cor 5:17); He gives us the strength to serve Him abundantly (2 Cor 9:8); He gives us joy and peace (Romans 14:17); He guards us from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3); He guides us (Proverbs 3:5-6); He works all things out for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28-29); He promises us eternal life with Him that is far beyond anything we could even imagine (John 14:1-4; I Corinthians 2:9).

Really reflect on these abundant blessings that we receive upon our salvation. Is there anything in this world comparable to these? Do you really think that a few years of popularity or some money can even compare to these blessings? Why do we get so caught up in the temporal?

Even we genuine Christians can struggle with this. As I write this out, I realize how silly we must look to God with our mixed-up priorities–chasing after fame and fortune (or hobbies or entertainment or having control) when we have what is really important right in front of us, freely given the instant we are saved.

But we are human. And the age-old battle still rages within us. The desire to be popular, rich, to have control, to be engrossed in things that are irrelevant and unimportant–these idols die hard.

However, the more we are in the Word, the more we see these for what they are– snacks on the other side of the glass that are often unreachable and always unsatisfying.

Oh, may we have the wisdom to take delight in the eternal and abundant blessings that are ours if we belong to Jesus Christ as we appreciate the beauty of creation that surrounds us each and every day.

 

 

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.

 

 

Considering Our Legacy

The other day I was paging through an old photo album. I got to the page which held the sepia-toned likenesses of my great grandparents. I took a moment and stared at those eight faces. All but two of them were gone before I was born. The two that were alive died when I was a young child. Those eight people are strangers to me. I have little recollection of them nor did they have any input in my life.

Or did they?

They must have. For they shaped the grandparents that would shape the parents that would shape me.

But two generations later they are simply photos to those who come after them. There aren’t even memories to warm my heart as I look at their photos.

I think of this as I consider the children of my grandchildren. I will most likely not have any great impact in their lives. If God would so bless me then, for sure, that blessing would end by the time the great-great grandchildren came along. You see, we are always just a couple generations from being forgotten.

I was struck by this same brevity and insignificance as I have been reading Daniel. As God gives Daniel prophecies of the things to come, it brings to mind just how small I really am. It is both humbling and important to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around me. Most of us will die less than a hundred years after we are born and the majority of us will go unremembered in the annals of history.

But there is much we can do to bless future generations. We are given this precious opportunity to shape our children who will then shape their children who will then shape their children and on and on it goes.

So often, godly heritage is lost as the following generations go on a downward spiral. Whatever you choose to do, your kids will go just a step further, and on and on, until the future generations are lost to worldliness and immorality.

While we surely can’t stop this from happening, we can do our best to keep it from happening.

And I am reminded once more of the critical nature of following hard after God. We get lazy and we think our choices to not study the Bible or to remain prayerless for weeks on end affect only us. We somehow believe our choices to sin or to compromise are personal choices. But these choices echo into the halls of eternity through those that come after us.

Our daily choices are, by God’s very design, affecting future generations.

In light of this, we are led to a very important question–

Am I living life in a way I want my children and grandchildren to emulate?

So many people are just living for themselves these days. It’s the way of the world. As believers, we need to set a much higher standard. We need to not only live for Christ, we need to strive to be like Him. We must be intentional and single-minded in our submission and obedience to God.

Of course, we are reminded of God’s marvelous grace when we remember that some of you have been plucked right out of your worldly, ungodly families to be saved for God’s glory and His purposes. How awesome is that? You actually get to be the beginning of godly heritage for those future generations that come after you. What a privilege!

And, while setting a great example is of utmost importance, let’s also remember the critical nature of passing on the baton of godly heritage through communication. Let’s talk about the things that are of eternal significance with our kids and grandkids. Let’s point them to the Word, explaining why it is our only true anchor in this life.

We also can’t underestimate the power of prayer as we consider the future generations. Many years ago now, I started praying that the generations after me would grow stronger rather than weaker. It has been an awe-inspiring thing to watch God begin to answer that prayer as my kids grow–and that despite the many weaknesses and sin struggles of their parents. I didn’t realize until recently that my mother has been praying the same thing for her kids and grand-kids for many years. Prayer is an invaluable blessing, given to us by God.

So what if you don’t have kids? Does that give you a free pass in this legacy stuff? We know it doesn’t. There are young people around you that need a godly example. You can support godly parents of children you know by confirming what they are trying to teach their children. You can come alongside a child or teen that sadly lacks a godly example in their lives. How many people have been affected by godly men and women who are unrelated to them because that person reached out and gave them the gift of time and wisdom?

God will give all of us ample opportunity to build our legacies, if we will just look for the opportunities.

I don’t know how long we will be on this old earth but, for however long it is, may it be our deepest hope and ongoing prayer that the generations coming after us desire nothing more than to know Christ and to make Him known. May they stand firmly on the Solid Rock, be full of faith, and be bolder, stronger, and wiser than we are.

Because, as we watch the crumbling world around us, it’s pretty clear they will need to be.

____________________________________

Praise the Lord!

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
Who delights greatly in His commandments.

His descendants will be mighty on earth;
The generation of the upright will be blessed.

Psalm 112:1-2

 

 

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.

 

 

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?

 

 

Self or Truth? (It can’t be both)

I came across this quote yesterday–

He who loses his temper in argument has begun to care more about himself, and less about the truth. (Alfred Plummer)

What an interesting thing to reflect upon in this age of strong opinions and thoughtless, angry words. There is no dearth currently of harsh judgements, often accompanied by flaring tempers.

Even if we Christians struggle with losing our tempers at home on occasion, most of us have learned (or are learning) the importance of not allowing that to happen in public. We understand the damage that does to the cause of Christ.

But the losing of one’s temper isn’t the only thing that shows one cares more about oneself than about the truth, now is it?

I believe there is another very acceptable way that Christians show their priority of self over truth. It’s lauded even. And this is a problem.

You see I think for most believers the temptation isn’t to talk too much but to talk too little. The temptation isn’t to prove the rightness of a point as much as it is to not speak up when it’s important.

And this can be confusing. After all, doesn’t the Bible teach that we are to be slow to speak (James 1:19) and that he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19). It sure does! So then it is important we interpret these in light of other scriptures (Mark 16:15; Philippians 1:13-14; I Thessalonians 2:4; Titus 2:1 and others) that encourage us to speak up.

You see, it isn’t so much in the speaking that we run into problems. What God knows (and what we quickly learn about ourselves) is that the sinful issues arise when we speak without thinking first or we talk before we actually listen to what the other person is saying.

It’s obvious that the Bible can’t mean to never speak up, given it’s many verses (and also the examples of godly people) encouraging us to do that very thing. But so many believers cling to those verses as if that gives them God’s permission to never speak the truth–even at the most opportune moments.

I guess each one of us struggles with this in one way or another. We all struggle with loving ourselves more than loving the truth. Whether it is exhibited by the relentless desire to prove we are right (and smarter than the other person) or it is by staying quiet so as not to draw unwanted antagonism or ridicule, both show the ugly love of self.

Only we can know why we are choosing to speak up or not to speak up. Only we can examine our hearts as to why we are responding as we are in times of opportunity.

James 3 reminds us just how dangerous the tongue is. It is an important reminder! There is so much potential to cause tremendous amounts of damage with it. But when we read the end of that chapter we begin to understand that it isn’t in the speaking but in the motives when we speak that the sin lies.

James 3:14-18 puts it like this–

But if you have bitter envy and [h]self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Bitter envy and self-seeking in our hearts are the proof that we are using earthly, sensual, and even demonic wisdom. When we speak up with these things in our hearts and minds, no good fruit can result.

But when we use the wisdom from above, then all is changed. Speaking up becomes about our dedication to the truth. It’s about being willing to admit we were wrong when necessary, it’s about being willing to yield on issues that are not of biblical import. It is peaceable and gentle.

I like how the ESV puts it: “open to reason”. This means are willing to have a loving, thoughtful discussion. And yet we must always go back to the Word of God as our standard and guide. This is our foundation for any opinion that truly matters.

God gives each of us many opportunities to share the Gospel and to point people to His Word. The question is do we love that other person and truth more than we love self so that we willing to speak up? And, if so, can we remove our love for self and our need to be right from the conversation?

 

Do we love truth more than we love self?

It is a very important question for any sincere follower of Christ.

 

 

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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