Worry

A Collection of Thoughts

Today’s post is going to be a bit different than usual. I wanted to cover a few different things that have come to my attention recently. I decided to combine them all in one post. Hopefully it doesn’t get too long…!

First–

Earlier this month, I wrote a post called “Preparing the Sheeple”. A few weeks after writing it I was listening to something and my ears perked up when the speaker talked about the tragedy of calling people “Sheeple”. His thought was that this is a trick of Satan’s to take what God has called us in the Bible and make it look like something bad. I was immediately stricken by this. Of course. I believe this man is right on in what he said. As Christians, we are compared to sheep. Sheep with a wonderful Shepherd. (See John 10.) So to compare us to sheep is really not a bad thing. Jesus makes it clear that this is exactly what we are.

A better animal to use for what we are currently seeing in the world is the lemming. A lemming is a small rodent-like creature that lives in the arctic. There is a long-standing myth that they jump off cliffs en masse and commit suicide. Yes, we are most certainly watching lemmings. Not sheep.

So please forgive me for not catching this before posting it. I’ve already changed that post, but I also wanted to draw attention to this error publicly. I feel rather foolish not to have caught it myself but I am so thankful the Lord drew my attention to this!

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Second–

A dear sister in Christ sent me a post that has had me thinking since I read it. I wanted to touch on just one paragraph of that post as it profoundly impacted me. Just in the case that I am not alone in this, I wanted to share it here with you, too. I’d like to first say that I know nothing about this author or how biblically sound she is. I do trust the sister that sent me this but please don’t view my sharing this as my carte blanche approval of everything the author has written. I am unfamiliar with her so, as always, be a Berean.

Okay, now that that is out of the way, here’s the bit from the post–

It is tempting to grow downcast, discouraged and despondent, curling up into a crumpled heap of despair. Careful: this is also a form of rebellion: Things are not going my way.

OUCH.

Seriously.

OUCH.

Have you ever considered the fact that your depression and despondency and discouragement is rebellion? I had not thought of it in those terms. I mean I knew it was sin but to be outright rebellion? Not me, Lord. But wait, when you put it like that, then: Yes, I have been rebellious.

It makes so much sense, does it not?

Instead of bowing the knee to our Creator, we are sulking. Sadness, frustration, irritability, despondency, anger– when these are a result of our dissatisfaction with our circumstances, these are all forms of rebellion against God and His sovereign will.

What do you think of when you think of a rebel? This doesn’t really fit our definition, does it? But there it is. If we unpack this, we can see that it is true. Oh, that God may eradicate all rebellion from our hearts–even the “acceptable” kind that so cleverly hides itself behind our cultural norms.

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Third–

As we navigate these strange times and recognize (if we are realistic) that the world we have known our whole lives is gone forever and we contemplate the ramifications of this, it is important to take one day–even one hour– at a time.

I can still remember my brother (Pastor Dean) telling me this often throughout his wife’s battle with cancer. As she approached death, he was still saying it. One hour at a time. God’s grace is sufficient. We must take just one hour at a time.

This reminds me of a verse I have memorized–

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34)

Interestingly enough, this verse is preceded by a very familiar verse to us all–

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

These verses show us that our duty is to seek God and His righteousness and then let Him take care of the rest. While we must always act wisely and be smart (as opposed to flippant fatalism), these verses speak to the fact that, truly, we have zero control over anything.

So how exactly do we do we release that worry and anxiety? How do we get to that place of trusting God implicitly? (Just to be clear, I am still working on this myself…) But, as always, we find the answer for this in the Bible. Philippians 4:6-9 shows us–

Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

These verses show us how to beat anxiety and worry–

  1. Make an intentional choice to cast off our anxiety
  2. Give every request–both small and large–to our God
  3. Have an attitude of thanksgiving
  4. Expect God to give us that peace that surpasses all understanding
  5. Think on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report
  6. Familiarize ourselves with what Paul taught; know the scriptures well
  7. Follow Paul’s example as we seek to live our Christian lives

And the God of peace will be with you!

That’s a promise.

I believe we are all getting just a little bit more opportunity to put these verses into practice, aren’t we? This takes on a whole new meaning when you have to trust God because you are forced to quit your job due to a mandate that is beyond your control. It takes on new meaning when you are told you can’t see a family member or friend because you won’t meet their demands. Many of you are facing unbelievable trials right now. Things you never thought you’d face. We are learning to trust God in a whole new way and He is up for the challenge! He is GOD. He is far greater than any problem we are facing and He is faithful! We know this by His Word, by the experiences of past and current believers, and by our own experiences. May we remember His great grace and many mercies as we navigate these difficult days.

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Fourth (and finally)–

A few months ago, I asked you to give me your email address if you’d like to keep hearing from me should I be censored. I have decided to just go ahead and look for a new service, as I recently heard of my current subscription service shutting someone down for saying something they didn’t like. While that has not extended to my type of blog just yet, we do know just how much Satan hates the truth of Jesus Christ most of all. I believe this means it is only a matter of time before anything Christian is shut down by this company. Of course, this will probably extend to far more than just that particular company if the censorship gets that bad but I am hoping to extend the blog’s life just a little longer by moving it to a different subscription service. And so I am actively looking for a new service. (This is no easy task and I appreciate your prayers for wisdom in this!)

But let me explain why I am even sharing this. I have a subscriber list that is over 1200 people. But most of those 1200 people do not actually open the emails. As with most blogs, only a fraction of the people actually read the posts with any regularity. As I change services, I only want to add those who actually want to be on the list.

Many of you have already given me your email and are on the list already (and there is no need to give it to me again if this is the case). But if you haven’t given me your email address already and you’d like to keep hearing from me, please just respond to this email (or if you are reading this on social media, you can message me) with your name and the email address you’d like me to add.

This is not going to be quick and easy and I don’t know how long it will take until the switch is made. Currently, I am testing a service I came across to see how easy it is to use. It always amazes me how time-consuming these things are!

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Okay, so that’s it for today! Hopefully it wasn’t too long! I know it was a bit more disorganized than usual, but I do hope you were able to grab a nugget or two of truth to hang on to as you go out into the world today.

And remember: Be a light! Share Christ!  May we cast off our worries about saying the wrong thing or what people will think of us. We have the key to heaven and so many are lost. We have nothing to lose of eternal value and the lost person has everything to gain! Have a great day!

 

 

Releasing Our Grip

Who do you depend on?

Most everyone that calls themselves a Christian says “God” because they know that is the right answer. But is it really a truthful answer?

The one thing I find that an easy life breeds is dependence upon self. We don’t really have to depend upon God if we have our physical needs met, our relationships in order, and all aspects of our lives going just as planned. While we enjoy those times, it takes much more effort to be intentional and purposeful at keeping our focus on God and to remember that we rely on Him for even our very breath. Oh, don’t get me wrong–we can most certainly glorify God and grow in the good times. But it’s when we are forced to release our {supposed} control on our lives that the reality of our Christian life has the opportunity to shine with authenticity and to confirm our claims that we depend on God.

There is an old Christmas movie that ends with a little girl in great distress running out of the house and climbing up a tree to one of the top branches. The branch she is holding on to cracks and she knows she is going to fall. The man of the house comes running out and stands beneath the tree with his arms outstretched as he promises to catch her.

“Let go, Zoe,” he says, “you can trust me.”

Zoe closes her eyes, releases her grip, and, screaming all the way down, lands in the strong arms of the man.

In a way, this reminds me of our relationship with God. We are holding on to the world. So. Tightly. And we are doing fine. Even better than fine. Some of us even make a comfortable nest in the tree, not recognizing the frailty of the branch that is holding us. And then the wind starts to howl. Sometimes we can see the storm on the horizon and we have time to prepare or sometimes it comes without any warning at all. But, no matter how it comes, we end up with a cracked branch. And, suddenly, we are forced to recognize our vulnerable state. But right below us is our Heavenly Father with outstretched arms, coaxing us to release our grip and promising to catch us.

All of our failures, our broken relationships, the hard times–God uses each one to release our grip on this world just a little bit more. Some of them send us falling into His safe and strong arms. At least for a little while. But then, if we aren’t careful, we find ourselves scurrying right back up into that tree that represents all of the things of this temporal world.

The other day at the store, the cashier started talking about the state of this world. I sensed that she knew the Lord and I had the opportunity to enjoy a short conversation with her, in which I tried to encourage her with the reminder that none of this is outside of the Lord’s control. She smiled and said, “you are sure right about that,” and then went on to share with me how the Lord had taken such amazing care of her and her husband through the death of her son and then subsequent illness of her husband that brought with it an inability to work. She smiled as she said it and I could see that the Lord had indeed been faithful to her and her family.

But this conversation was a good reminder for both of us, I think. If our grip is tight on this world, then the state of it and where it’s headed is absolutely terrifying. And if our grip is tight on this world, then the changes and the diseases and deaths of those we love not only gets us down but they can potentially shipwreck our faith or, at the very least, eliminate our effectiveness for God’s Kingdom.

Only eternal perspective yields peace.

God has really been working on me in this area. I have so far to go. He graciously continues to teach me that my joy and peace cannot be grounded in the precarious, worldly branch of my choosing but that I must be grounded in the immutable and immovable love of the Father, trusting in His Sovereignty.

As life changes over the years I can feel that, little by little, God is releasing my grip on this world. I think He does this for all believers throughout the course of their lives. Each one of us faces trials and challenges. They are all different for each one of us, but none of us is exempt. Our branches sway and sometimes break and it forces us to fall into the arms of the Father. Most of us keep climbing back into that tree over and over again.

But with each sway in the wind and with each fall, our grip grows just a little looser on the things of this world and it changes how we view things, reminding us of what will really last for eternity. This change in perspective gives us a greater passion for the lost while giving us peace and joy for our soul as we rest in God’s sovereign care for both ourselves and for those we love.

This is a lifelong process–recognizing the reality of our vulnerable, powerless state and the great love and care that we find in God alone. We humans naturally tend to rely on ourselves for our own needs until we are forced not to.

Thankfully, our God is so merciful and His marvelous grace covers our treks up that tree and our subsequent falls when the branch just keeps breaking. His love is not fickle or temporary but remains constant even as we fail. And that is something for which we can be incredibly grateful.

 

Wednesday Wisdom: When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned

When Life

A few years back, I would share some written wisdom of godly men and women here on the blog on a weekly basis. I called it Wednesday Wisdom. I haven’t done this for quite awhile, but today is the perfect day to bring it back, at least for this week. I am sure you will understand why if you keep reading.

Last week while we were at the beach we met a couple who was spending the weekend with a friend who has terminal cancer. Given only a few months to live, she had gathered some special friends to spend a weekend together. I have always hated the word “cancer”. And over the last few months it just seems like I hear this word more and more. And if it’s not cancer, it is something else. It feels like some painful trial is always lurking around the corner. This is just part of living on a fallen earth.

Are trials different for us, as believers in the Gospel? Yes. They aren’t easier (we still feel the pain and heartache) but they are different. Because we have been saved and are God’s children, He has promised to care for us in a special way and to make all things work together for our good. We have hope in spending eternity with Jesus that the lost do not have. And we have a promise that God will supply the grace, peace, and strength that we need when we need it.

Someone very dear to me who is facing their own trial right now shared this writing by Frank Hall with me. I wanted to share it here as it expounds on this subject of how trials are intrinsically different for believers than they are for non-believers. I hope that this will be a comfort to any of you who especially need it today.

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“We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!” Romans 8:28

(by Frank Hall)

We often find ourselves in . . .

  trying circumstances,
  inexplicable difficulties,
  and perplexing situations.


Experience teaches us daily that life is filled, not with joy and happiness only, but with troubles, heartache, and pain. We prove the words of brother Job every single day of our lives, that, “Man who is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble!” 

Is there consolation to be had in such times of trouble? Indeed there is! If there is a verse of Scripture that ministers comfort to my doubting fearful heart, it is the verse before us. Romans 8:28 is . . .

  help for the helpless,
  comfort for those in trouble, and
  a beacon of light that guides believers on the tumultuous sea of life.
 
My beloved brothers and sisters in trouble and strife, all remains well with our souls.
Not only has the Father elected us unto salvation,
not only has the Son redeemed us from our sins,
not only has the Spirit regenerated us and given us spiritual life,
but God our Father works all things together for our eternal good! God is our Father, and our God is on His throne ruling all things for the glory of His name, and the everlasting salvation of our immortal souls!
 
Who knows? Paul begins this comforting verse with two precious words, “WE know!”  The people of God know,
believers know,
the redeemed of the Lord know,
those who are “the called according to God’s purpose” know.
This is knowledge that only the saints of God have.
They know, not with a bare theoretical head knowledge–but by faith rooted in their hearts.
They know because God has taught them this knowledge effectually by His Spirit and grace.
They know because they believe His infallible word of truth.
They know in such a way as to find solace and comfort in what He has revealed.
 
God’s people are here identified by two distinct characteristics–they love God, and they are called according to His purpose.
 
1. All of God’s people love God! They love His glorious person and rejoice in all of His perfections as God:
  His righteousness,
  His immutability,
  His holiness,
  His sovereignty,
  His wisdom,
  His power,
  His love,

  His grace.

They love . . . .
  His will,
  His word,
  His ways,
  His gospel,
  His Son,
  His Spirit,
  His purpose,
  His providence,

  and His people.

God’s people love God–and all that pertains to God.
 
2. All of God’s people are “called according to His purpose!” They are a particular, distinct, special people, here named the “called.” They have been graciously and effectually called in grace, by God’s Spirit through the gospel–not according to their works, merit, or choice–but according to God’s eternal purpose which He purposed in Himself before the foundation of the world.
 
All things do not work together for the good of ALL men, but for God’s people alone, because their God providentially rules over all things for their eternal good and salvation. God rules . . .
  all things,
  all men,
  all angels,
  all demons,
  all circumstances,
  all events,
  in every place,
  at all times–
and He does so for the good of His people!
 
What do we know? “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!” Things may appear to be against us, but it only seems that way. We should not judge God’s purpose by His providence–but His providence by His purpose. If we judge using the former method, we are sure to misjudge and we will never have peace in this life.
 
All pleasures, joys, and delights are certainly ruled by our God–but that’s only half of His rule. He rules all evil–as well as all good.
All death,
all opposition,
all sickness,
every disaster,
every problem,
all our pain, and
all our sorrow–
are sovereignly ruled, governed, ordered, and controlled by our God–to bring about eternal good for our souls. God does not tells us how He does this–only that He does.
 
Whatever my God brings to pass in time–is the outworking of His purpose of grace–and it’s for my good, whether it be in my little sphere of existence, or in the universe at large.
 
Oh God help me to believe Your word! Teach me not only to submit to your providential rule–but to rejoice and rest in it! Set a watch upon my mouth, that I murmur not!  Arrest my heart by your grace, and give me peace! Keep me from sinning with my lips and complaining against Your all wise, gracious, and adorable providence, for it is good!
 
God controls and directs all things with . . .
  infinite power,
  absolute sovereignty, and

  unfailing wisdom and grace!

Nothing can . . .
  hinder Him from doing His will,
  keep Him from having His way, or
  stop Him from accomplishing His purpose.
 
“We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!” Romans 8:28

Some Thoughts On Hurricane Harvey

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During this past week we watched as a historical hurricane named Harvey released its fury on Texas. In its wake, it left thousands of lives uprooted and topsy-turvy, destroying both homes and businesses with its winds and water. A few precious lives were even lost in this terrible storm. It will take a lot of time and an enormous amount of money as the area works on drying out and rebuilding.

While I am always generally interested in the weather (maybe it’s because I am married to a landscaper?), this particular storm captivated my attention because I have a daughter and son-in-law living in the Houston area. I found myself watching the weather channel to keep track of this storm and then watching Fox News as they started to cover it, as well. Here are a few of my (scattered) thoughts about this past week.

1. I noticed that race didn’t seem to matter at all during these past few days. Whether you were Hispanic, white, or black didn’t matter even a tiny bit as rescues took place and shelters were opened. No one cared. Perhaps this indicates that prejudice is not as big of a deal as the press would like us to believe. Do most people really feel a deep-seated prejudice towards other races? Oh, sure we may not understand each other like we should but do we really feel prejudiced? I just don’t believe that most do. Is it even possible that the press is fomenting racism with their constant coverage that aims to divide?

2. Tragedy brings out the best in people. There is nothing like a historical hurricane to remind you that America is a great place to live. As volunteers and resources pour into Houston, we can see that many Americans still care about their fellow man. It is an encouraging reminder for all of us.

3. I remembered why I don’t watch the news. I stopped watching several years ago now, after I realized that it affected my mood and also that the coverage was so biased and incomplete. I do watch a weekly 15 minute recap of world news by a YouTuber who puts clips together. This gives me a great overview of what has happened in the world over the past week. What I have found is that American news channels tend to be extremely myopic and selective in what they cover and there is so much we never even hear about that is going on in the rest of the world.

The other thing I noticed is that they thrive on debate. I just want to hear the news. I was disheartened to see Fox give coverage in the middle of all of this to a fireman who claimed that “Houston just wasn’t prepared for this like they should have been” and then ask a busy official his response to this fireman’s statement. Really? You would do this in the midst of all that’s going on? This was one of several times I saw something like this. It is my opinion that Fox News is just like every other news channel. They feed off debates and arguments and care far more about ratings than they care about the people they are covering. Sadly, this is what the news has become, no matter which way they “lean”.

4. And, finally, on a more personal note, it was quite challenging to be so far away from someone I love during such a time. As my daughter sent me photos and information about what was going on, I felt so helpless. Moments like these are so completely out of our control and they cause us to run straight into God’s sovereignty. I knew that I had to make a conscious decision to trust God for the safety of my kids and choose not to worry–not an easy task for someone prone to worry. And so I grew a bit in trusting God during this past week. And I was reminded that He loves them far more than I ever could. I once heard someone say something like this– “My kids are much safer in the Lord’s will far away from me than they are if they live close and are outside of His will.” So. True.

So there are just a few unrelated tidbits of thoughts I had about this past week. Let’s continue to pray for Texas (and the other states affected, as well) and offer to help however we can. They all have a very long road ahead of them.

 

Victory Over Sin Isn’t an Event

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When I was a young married woman, I had a big problem. Without going into details, worry was something I battled on an almost daily basis and it was strangling the life out of me. At least that is how it felt. I was able to function normally so I truly doubt most people knew the battle I faced every day.

But God graciously rescued me and He used two verses to help me–

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)

and

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

He used the first verse to show me that I needed to take every thought captive in obedience to my Savior. This included all of my fretful thoughts that started with “but what if…” and I had a lot of those. And He used the second verse to remind me that my fear was a hopeless trap and that I could instead turn to the Lord, trust in Him, and be safe in His sovereign care.

It wasn’t instant and it took a lot of hard work (Philippians 2:12) but it was so worth it! I begged God to give me victory over this sin and He answered! I walked out of my prison of worry and into the bright light of freedom and trust in my sovereign, heavenly Father.

I very naively thought I had beat that horrible sin in my life. But I was wrong.

Fast forward many years. Life slowed down and, suddenly, I had that very precious commodity of time on my hands. My life that had basically been the same for so many years started changing… and changing… and changing. Questions and quandaries I had never really prepared for abounded. And, quite without warning, this terrible sin reared its ugly head and viciously attacked me. Well, let me rephrase that– as that makes me sound like the victim. In reality, I gave it an opening and it rushed in and almost ate me alive.

I am on my way to victory once again but it has been rough. I have struggled to not let the fear and worry control me but it has been quite a battle. And I have tried to understand why this sin came back without warning and with such a vengeance.

As I have thought about it (I know, I know–I just think wayyyy too much), I wonder if it isn’t for three reasons–

First, I believe I may have been so distracted during my very busy years of raising kids and running the business that I forgot I had this struggle. I had few moments to myself during that time and when a rare solitary half hour came I was too excited about it to spend even a precious second of it on worrying. Now that I have so much time alone– which leaves me with far too much time to think–I have found my mind wondering in the sinful directions of anxiety and worry.

Second, I naively (and perhaps proudly) believed that my battle with this particular sin was over. The return of this sin in my life has been a good and hard lesson for me. It has taught me that no sin is ever “conquered”, showing me that I must always be on guard since even “conquered” sins can sneak their way back into our lives if we aren’t careful. Victory over sin is not an event but is carefully maintained through humble examination throughout our lives.

Third, I am quite sure I didn’t (probably still don’t) have a proper view of God’s Sovereignty. This is really the root of almost all anxiety, fear, and worry. Every day we hear of the most horrible things that happen to people. Stories hit the news and we talk about them with our family and friends, reeling at the awfulness of them, knowing that the same thing could happen to us. Something I read by John Newton a month or two ago was instrumental in reminding me of one very important fact: Nothing can happen to me outside of God’s plan. Here is what he wrote–

“When believers die–whatever the accident or the illness may be–they are only the means, but not properly the cause of their death. They die because the time has come when He who loves them best, will have them with Him to behold His glory!

Until then, they are immortal. They recover from sickness, however threatening, and are preserved unhurt–in defiance of the greatest dangers! But when His appointed hour arrives–then they must depart. When He will have them with Him–we cannot detain them; nor ought we to wish it, though the flesh will feel the parting stroke.

None of us can be perfectly happy in this poor fleeting world. It is a state in which sin and sorrow will hunt us and pain us to the last step of life! Therefore, though we wish to keep those whom we love with us as long as we can–it is well both for us and them, that we cannot live here always. We are in the Lord’s hands–and He does all things wisely and well, at the right time and in the right manner.

Death is but a temporary separation. Those who are gone before us, are waiting for us. Oh! It will be a happy meeting before the throne of the Lamb–out of the reach of sin and sorrow, to meet and part no more!”

Oh, this is so true!

And as I have reflected on this sin that I thought had disappeared from my life forever, I realized that it had only lay dormant for many years, while I faced many battles with other sins, and then rushed back just when I least suspected.

And so I am back in the Word, re-memorizing the verses that were so helpful to me many years ago and finding new verses to memorize that will help me. And I am working very hard to take my thoughts captive–determinedly turning my brain from the worrisome, anxious thoughts before they spiral downward and out of control.

This is very personal to share this morning. But I share it here because I hope that this will encourage you, my readers, in several ways–

1. I hope it will remind you that our battles with sin are never over. They ebb and flow but we should never think we have beaten something completely. Knowing this will keep us on our guard against it and help us to maintain victory. Victory over sin is not an event but rather a lifetime of watchful maintenance.

2. If you are fighting against worry or anxiety–or any other sin, for that matter–I hope this encourages you, too, to take your thoughts captive. I hope that you will realize that you can win your battle with sin, through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer. And I hope that God may use this post to keep you from throwing your hands up in despair and just giving up.

3. I hope this will remind you of the power of God’s Word in our lives as believers.  God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and it is profitable for reproof and for correction (2 Timothy 3:16-17)–which is exactly what we need sometimes! The Bible is our sword (Ephesians 6:17) and without it we are defenseless. May we remember this always but particularly in our fiercest battles.

 

Now go fight your personal battle with the sin that threatens to overtake you, relying on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit for the strength and the wisdom you so desperately need. And stay watchful, because although the sin may disappear for awhile, it remains there waiting to pounce on you just when you least suspect it. We can stay spiritually strong and be prepared to fight by staying in the Word and walking closely with our heavenly Father–which is always our safest place.

 

 

 

 

This, Too, Shall Pass

1930s

A few weeks ago I went to my daughter’s cello orchestra concert. As I listened to the music, I stared at the old-fashioned screen–a very interesting relic of the past–that was behind the orchestra. It was from the 1930s and had a beautiful, pastoral scene in the middle with advertisements for local businesses around the outside edge. My eyes went from one advertisement square to the next, where I read names that were completely unfamiliar to me. Two of the local businesses advertised had been in their final years when we had moved to the area in the early 90s and so I recognized the names. Only those two–out of the eighteen advertisements–were even slightly familiar to me.

Wow. This really reminded me of just how temporal this life is. We have a small business (as many of you already know) and sometimes we can get caught up in all of the problems and trials that come along with this particular lot in life. Business owners face issues that most people never even think about and it can be quite the challenge. My husband daily faces most of them, as he is in the day-to-day organization of the field work, while I support him and work with him to process some solutions and plans for the dilemmas and situations that come along. We have been doing it this way for thirty years now. And we have weathered a lot. But I have to admit that this year has brought some challenges that were not only unforeseen, but have also reminded us that we can’t rely on our strength alone.

These challenges can potentially be overwhelming if we forget that this is just a temporal calling.

Not only is this business just a temporary thing, but we also need to remember that our hope does not lie in any business! Only God is our hope. It should never be placed in anything else. For us, we can easily place our hope in our business if we aren’t careful. But for some of you, it may be in your family or in the government or some other thing. It is so incredibly tempting to place our hope in things other than God.

When things go wrong, this is when we find out just where our hope lies. If we are assailed by anxiety and fear, we are probably putting our hope in temporal things. Things that won’t last for eternity.

And so–as always–God has used these trials to gently draw us back to a proper perspective. And for that, we are thankful. While the trials are hard and frustrating, it is a good thing to be reminded that this world is not our home and that our affections shouldn’t be rooted too deeply here. It is good to remember that everything is temporal–except for the souls of men.

I don’t think it was an accident that I saw that screen on that day. And while I still experience moments of deep frustration and fear and even sadness at all of the cultural changes going on, I know that God has not deserted us. God has been so faithful to us through the years, answering so many prayers. We know He will continue to walk with us–just as He has for over thirty years now–as we strive to operate a business with integrity. The challenges may be more abundant than we’d prefer, but we were never told anywhere in scripture that life would be easy. So why do we expect it will be?

And, I know this will seem like a bit of a rabbit trail, but I guess I just have to add one more thing regarding this. I believe that the expectation that life will always be easy–that somehow it is greener on the other side of the fence if we can only get there–is part of why there are so many divorces, failed businesses, and church-hoppers. Years ago, we were taught to live by this sentiment: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” but now that sentiment could be replaced with something like this: “When the going gets tough–or unpleasant–or we just don’t like it– it is time to walk away.”

How thankful I am to be married to one of those rare guys who doesn’t walk away from trials and challenges but, instead, rises up to meet them. Oh, how we need more men (and women) like this!

To tie it all together–you knew I could do it :) — not being surprised by trials and challenges (and then sticking around to see them through) and having an eternal perspective by placing our hope in the Lord (and not in temporal things) both go a very long way in keeping us at peace. When we can accept God’s sovereignty in our life, always trusting that He knows best, we can experience the joy and peace that is promised us in scripture. We may not always know why. We may not always understand. But we can courageously face our trials, knowing that He will always be faithful.

The trials of this life shall soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ shall last.

May we face the battles of life bravely while keeping an eternal perspective. May we remember that there are lessons for us to learn and people, desperately lost in their sins, who need to see us live out our Christian lives in the tough times. And may we remember that all of this life’s trials pale in comparison to the glory that awaits us in heaven!

 

A few verses that came to mind while writing this post–

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[d] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

I Peter 1:20-21 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

James 1:10-11 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass[c] he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Isaiah 40:7-8 The grass withers, the flower fades
    when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
    surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever.

 

Beyond the Clouds

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No matter what weather is going on down on earth, when a giant, silver-winged plane soars beyond the clouds, the sun soon appears. Have you noticed that, too, when you have had the opportunity to fly? Above all of the black clouds or fuzzy gray fog, we always–without fail–will find the sun.

I have often thought that there is a very similar spiritual parallel to this. As you may already know, I am a Bible Study leader. Currently, we are studying Philippians and I have been struck–as I usually am in this epistle–by Paul’s focus on joy. When you really think about all of the pain and suffering Paul endured (much of it because he was standing for truth), it seems almost incongruous, doesn’t it?

How in the world could Paul have been content and joyful through all of these hardships? And yet, we read in Philippians 4:11-12

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.

And he wrote this in 2 Corinthians 7:4

Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.

So just how did Paul learn to be content in all circumstances? What was the source of his joy?

It is generally agreed that the key word for Philippians is the word joy. And that is most definitely the main theme throughout the book.  The Greek noun or verb form of the word “joy” is found over a dozen times. But I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Paul mentions Christ 50 times in this short epistle. John MacArthur puts it this way in his introductory sermon on Philippians

The theme of these chapters is joy; Paul mentions it at least 16 times in these four chapters.  He also mentions Christ 50 times.  And that is because his joy is found in Christ, and so is our joy.

I think that last sentence is worth repeating–

Because his joy is found in Christ, and so is our joy.

Now think about this with me for a moment. Is your joy found in Christ? Because I can tell you right now that this is a huge struggle for me. Instead, I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for happy circumstances and personal comfort and convenience. And when all is lined up just perfectly, then I claim to be joyful. But is this really joy? Or is it rather just a temporary state of well-being that I am calling “joy”?

You may be wondering by now what all this has to do with an airplane and clouds and the sun…

Well, I am glad you asked!

I wonder if we are so desperate for sunny skies and carefree living that we forget that Christ is always there–working through all of our circumstances–whether we can see Him clearly or not. And I wonder if our finite and temporal view of things makes us distracted and forgetful? Are we so focused on the here and now that we lose sight of the big picture?

If we can only see the clouds and forget what is beyond them, we can become embroiled in grief and depression and despair. Without proper perspective, we become unhappy, thankless, selfish people who live just like the rest of the world.

But if we, like Paul, can remember that our joy and, in fact, our very lives, are wrapped up in the Person of Christ, then we become a joyful and peaceful person that not only stands through the storms of life, but who can also boldly testify to the strength and power and faithfulness of Christ’s love through those storms.

For He is always there.

The winds may blow, the skies grow dark, and the rains pour down but Christ will not move. He is the constant that our whole world revolves around.  And He is always there, working in and through the shadows and storms for His glory and our good.

Paul says it best in Romans 8:28-29

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.

I guess joy and contentment will always be a battle for most of us. It will be something that eludes us as we focus on ourselves and on our temporal situations. But when we turn our focus to the Lord Jesus, the temporal will fade a bit. Oh, it never fades completely, of course, but it fades a bit. And as we become more and more mature in the faith, we become more and more content. And contentment yields greater joy and peace. Isn’t this a most wonderful thought?

Change is in the Wind

weather vane

My daughter walked out the front door, ready for her first day of soccer practice. It all seemed quite normal, except for one thing that kept running through my head: It’s her last first day.

After having three weddings within 13 months, I was quite ready to settle into normal again. Of course, it was a drastically changed normal, but it was a normal. And somehow over the past year, I have gotten used to having only one kid around. Things are quieter and so much more laid back. There is much less laundry and I spend a lot less money on food and clothing. The kids come to visit and it’s fun and loud and crazy and then they go home and we are left with just the three of us once again. It took me a while to get used to this new normal. But I realized the other day that I think I am okay.

And then I watched my last child head off in her car to soccer practice. It is her senior year of high school and I can smell change in the wind again. My heart sinks a little to think of it. What will life be like with just my husband and me? Will my baby be okay in her new life? What will I do all day? Questions assail me if I let my mind dwell there.

Reminds us just a bit of this upcoming election, doesn’t it? Change is in the air. We can feel it. No matter who wins, this is a historical, unprecedented election. Neither candidate comes with a stellar reputation. Neither seems to have the qualifications or integrity necessary to lead a nation. And questions assail us. What is going to happen? How is this nation going to survive? And what does it mean for us personally?? Will our normal continue or will it be forever changed?

Clips of the unrest and starvation going on right now in Venezuela haunt those of us who understand what socialism really does. We hear about pastors being arrested in Canada for speaking out against homosexuality and can feel that change making its way south. Isis threatens the innocent and unsuspecting across the globe. Natural disasters like floods, wildfires, and tornadoes have uprooted thousands of lives here and throughout the world.

And we are going to have WHO leading this country??

But here we are. And it is what it is.

Now may be a good time to remember that we are just aliens passing through. If we are saved, our citizenship isn’t here.

Now may be a good time to remember that we have had it SO GOOD. So much better than any Christians in any other place or any other time on this earth. We must be thankful for what we’ve had and prepare as best we can for the changes that are coming.

Now may be a good time to thank God for the freedom we have right now on this day. Let’s be sharing the Gospel with that friend or neighbor–while we still have the freedom to do so.

Now may be a good time to stop complaining. As of right now, we can still go to the store and buy almost anything we want to. We can still stop for ice cream. And we can still gather together for worship on Sunday mornings. Life is still mostly good for those of us in western countries and we dare not forget that amidst the fear and doubts that threaten to overtake us.

And now may be a great time to turn our eyes to the One who never changes. He never rests. He is our strength in times of trouble and our refuge amidst the storm. He not only knows what is going to happen, but He controls what will happen. We are safe in His arms.

Life may change but our God never changes. Of this we can be 100% certain–no matter what chaos and craziness swirls about us.

 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Malachi 3:6

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father
of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

God is not human, that he should lie,
    not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
    Does he promise and not fulfill?
Numbers 23:19

Misplaced Confidence

kayaking

Over the weekend, we had a lovely time by the bay. Well, most of it was lovely. There was about an hour that wasn’t so lovely. Oh, the hour started out beautifully. My friend and I thought we would take a little ride in the kayaks they had brought along. I got into the kayak, completely confident that our ride would be uneventful and peaceful. An hour later, I got out of my kayak, drenched and declaring that I would never get in one again.

So what happened?

I started out with a confidence I should not have had. The bay was pretty choppy and I was a novice at kayaking. We were just at the point where we planned to turn around. One second I was in my kayak and the next second I wasn’t. I have absolutely no idea what happened. In talking it over later, we concluded that I must have been horizontal to the wave. Instead of putting the point of my kayak into the wave, I just rolled over with it. I didn’t even know anything about that. Whatever happened, I landed in the water and in my efforts to get back into the kayak, it ended up completely filling with water. There was absolutely no possible way I was getting back in that kayak. As I bobbed around the boat, trying to hang on to whatever I could, I could feel the panic welling up in me. I looked at the shoreline–which looked so far away– and felt quite hopeless.

My friend, in trying to help me, ended up in the bay with a boat full of water, as well. I can laugh about it now. What a sight we must have been! But at the time it wasn’t a bit funny and extremely frightening. We just started paddling toward the shore. At one point we decided to just rest a bit and as we did, my friend let out a little scream of delight. She had felt the bay floor beneath her. Somehow it felt so much safer to have the earth beneath our feet. We continued walking to the shore, pulling the water-filled boats behind us.

I won’t go into detail about how we finally got the water out of those boats and back down to our campsites, but I can tell you it would have been quite entertaining to watch! When I was finally back in the kayak (thanks to some help from my hero–my friend’s son who had walked down the impossibly rocky, uncomfortable shoreline when he noticed we were having trouble!) I found myself just longing to have my feet back on dry ground. What had brought fun and happiness when I had started out, now instead brought fear and dread. When we finally rowed (is that the right word when you are in a kayak?) into the boat launch area, I looked like a drowned rat and was quite shaken up. I also felt like a stupid idiot. Who capsizes in a kayak?? Seriously.

But while I was having my own little traumatic event, much more was going on in the world, wasn’t it? As it always is. Floods, forest fires, shootings, broken families, liberal agendas, the popularity of false teachers, earthquakes, death and disease. These things seem to be increasing and sometimes it feels a little like we have capsized into a swirling ocean, doesn’t it? Like we are paddling hopelessly, wondering where we are going to end up.

If you think about it, there are many analogies in my kayak story to what we are all experiencing in this world. Slowly the things we had confidence in are being removed– our freedom of religion and speech, our confidence in being able to travel or run errands without fear of being shot, and, very possibly, our freedom to bear arms.

And just like I had complete, albeit unwarranted, confidence in my kayak, so, we, too, have placed confidence in the comfortable life that we have known in our western world. But as things change and the horizon grows darker, we find ourselves becoming stripped of these things that have made us feel safe and secure. And we, too, are left paddling in the ocean with only a life vest.

But let’s not forget! We, of all people, have the one and only life vest that will always hold as we swim in this mass of chaos. The Holy Spirit comforts and helps us as we go about our lives here on earth. In fact, perhaps we are finally being stripped of the confidence we had in the things of this earth and turning towards God, the only One in whom our confidence should ever rest.

We will probably never find sure footing until we reach the shores of heaven, but aren’t you so thankful for the life vest that you have on, if you are a genuinely saved child of God? And aren’t you also thankful for the respites God gives us to rest in our efforts for a moment or an hour or a day, as we vacation with family or smell a rose in the garden or help someone in need? They are a little earth to walk on for just a few moments that renew and restore us and energize us once again.

God is so good. Sometimes it is hard to see that in the midst of all that is going on. And, yet, I was reminded as I looked up at the nighttime sky over the weekend and saw millions and millions of stars, of just how small I am. I know nothing. How can I — a tiny speck on the timeline of history–dare to judge what is good and what is not good? How thankful I am to be able to rely on God and His Word in this sea of life. It is only by placing our confidence there that we can know that our souls are safe and that we will accomplish God’s purpose for our lives, whatever that may be.

And, so, I hope that something good came out of my weekend adventure. I am still not interested in getting in a kayak again, although my husband tells me I must try again. I doubt he will take no for an answer, so you may be hearing more kayaking adventures sometime in the future.

Have a great Monday!

 

Lessons from a Snowstorm

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To say my weekend turned out nothing like I planned would be an understatement. It started off with a phone call on Friday morning that forced me to change my plans for the whole day. As I drove home on Friday night the snow was coming down much earlier than had been forecasted and the weather reports seemed to be raising the amount of snowfall expected. Our landscape company does snow removal, so I knew we were definitely in for an interesting weekend.

As the snow fell on Friday night everyone gathered at our house and we turned on a movie. But it was not a normal relaxed movie night as my husband, son, and son-in-law kept their eyes on the weather and wondered how they were going to handle such a huge storm.

Three days later, it is mostly over. Although as I sit here at my laptop, my guys are still clearing snow in their efforts to get normal life back up and running for folks. Oh, how I respect and admire them for this. I don’t think I could do it. They have been going nonstop since during the night on Friday with just a few hours of sleep. I don’t know about you, but I know that I couldn’t do that. I am so thankful for the men in my life!

My job is to take the inevitable phone calls, which is always an adventure. One of our secretaries made it into the office this morning, so I am finally getting the opportunity to sit down and write on this Monday morning. My thoughts feel a little scattered, so I am going to try to pull them all together.

The weekend was full of interesting stories and tidbits, but instead of relaying everything, I thought I’d just summarize a few lessons that I learned (or was reminded of yet again)–

1. God is faithful. I never fail to be amazed at how God works out all the details when these days come. We have breakdowns and we have problems, but God is there in the midst of it. Without question. I know skeptics call this coincidence. But really–is there such a thing?

2. Most people are still generally nice. At least that is what I experienced yesterday. Because of the huge amounts of snow, we had run into the unusual circumstance of our normal snow equipment not being adequate for all of our jobs. This meant contracting subcontractors with bigger machines. But most people were patient and very kind when they called to ask about their driveway.

3. Some people are not so nice and they are the ones who remind me that I still have such a long way to go in the sanctification process. At one point, one lady called to complain about something. Her complaint was certainly legitimate, but it was made with such anger and accusations that I had a very difficult time holding on to my temper. I did manage to do so, but I got a little sarcastic and felt quite a bit of glee informing her that I was one of the owners when she demanded to speak to one of them. It is people like this that remind me that I still have such a long way to go in loving others–especially the ones that are selfish and unkind.

4. God answers prayer. In the midst of the weekend, we ended up having quite the crisis. Without going into details, I felt so helpless and really had to reign in the worry and fear that was rising quickly inside me, threatening to overtake me. I learned again that when I am faced with circumstances far outside my control, that I am not that spiritually mature, after all. I enlisted a few people to pray and God answered in an amazing way. We feel undeserving but offer our deepest and most humble thanks to Him!

5. A thank you in the midst of something like this is like a balm to the soul. This morning, before I switched the phones back to the office, I answered a call from a local business that we plow for. As most calls are usually negative, I prepared for the complaint that was sure to come. Instead, they had called to thank us for doing such a great job. Wow. What a blessing! Just a simple phone call, so easy to do, and yet so many of us never take the time to do this. I am thankful that this man did so. It means so much to our guys to hear words of praise once in awhile. We are always so quick to complain but most of us rarely offer a thank you. This phone call reminded me of the importance to express my gratitude to others.

6. I won’t die if I can’t leave my house. One of the things I have had to get used to is being the last one plowed out. Even now, my driveway is full of snow and drifts. This used to really get to me and I would grow a little angry. But as I have gotten older, I have realized that it was just my selfish desire not to be stuck here that drove my anger. Now I just try to be patient and not to be an extra burden that my husband has to worry about. When I feel a little claustrophobia rising in me, I just remind myself that I have people who could pick me up if there was an emergency!

 

These are just a few of things I learned this weekend. I am sure I could come up with more, but I need to go get busy and see if I can get my life back to some semblance of order! Hope you have a great day!

 

 

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