Worry

The Prison of Worry

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I would like to tell you that I am worry-free. But, alas, I am not. There are just so many things that can go wrong! If we are the kind of person that thinks too much, we can tend to be worriers. Am I the only one who thinks there is something desperately wrong if I am unable to get a hold of my child on their cell phone for ten minutes or if I have a strange pain somewhere?

Worry can be so debilitating.

It steals our peace.

It controls our thoughts.

It takes our joy.

And the wonderful reward for all this worry?

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

The time we spend worrying steals our present, yet makes no difference in the future. Worry keeps us locked up in a prison of our own making, far away from the joys and blessings of life.

When I was a young twenty-something, I was positively crippled by worry. I would lay on my sofa for wasted hours feeling sick because of worry. It was so awful. But God rescued me. He taught me to take my thoughts captive. I learned to move my mind from my worry to something else. Oh, the first few months it felt impossible. But it got easier and easier, until it became a habit. Of course, every now and then, a few question marks show up in my life to remind me that I haven’t mastered worry.

Theologically, I have learned that worry is really an affront to God. When we worry, we are telling Him that He doesn’t know what He is doing. That we can’t trust Him.

But this week as I was reading in Luke 12 for the Bible Challenge, I found some very practical and helpful principles for this raging battle with worry and anxiety that so many of us face–

  1. We are loved and valued by the Father. Luke 12:7 tells us that not even a sparrow is forgotten before God and that we are of far more value to Him than many sparrows. We need not fear.
  2. The Holy Spirit will guide us through trials. Luke 12:11 tells us that the disciples brought before magistrates and authorities for the sake of Christ will be given words to answer the accusations through the Holy Spirit. When I read this verse the other day, I felt comforted to know that if (or when) the church faces persecution, we will not be alone. And there are other verses throughout scripture to show us that the Holy Spirit is there to comfort and to counsel us: John 14:26; Romans 15:13; 2 Timothy 1:14.
  3. Worry changes nothing. Luke 12:25-26 asks this: And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26 If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? 
    When things are outside our control, many of us tend to stew and fret and make those around us miserable (if we are honest!) and yet, all that frustration and misery won’t change one thing. That is sobering to think about, isn’t it? Especially for us worriers. How many precious hours have we wasted on this time-sapping activity?
  4. God promises to take care of us. A little further on in Luke we read this in verse 28: If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?  Worry is probably a timeless sin that has affected almost all human beings at one time or another. And yet, Jesus tells us here that we can trust the Father. He will care for us.
  5. Knowing God and making Him known needs to be our first priority. I don’t think it is an accident that verses 34-35 (Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.) follow right after this whole passage on worry. After all, worry is often the result of having our priorities a little out of order. It is much easier to yield our will to the Father’s when we can keep our worldly possessions in perspective or when we truly want to please the Father in all things first and foremost– even before our own health or popularity, before any relationship, or before our reputation. When we really keep God first in our lives and seek His kingdom, it helps us to sift and sort through all of the trivial–and not so trivial– things we worry about.

Of course, all of these principles are well and good, but if you are in the midst of a battle with worry this may feel a little rote to you. And some of you are facing really big struggles right now, with no good conclusion forthcoming. Illnesses, loss of jobs and income, straying kids. There are very legitimate causes for concern in so many of our lives. If this is the case, I encourage you to pray, begging God to help you live out these principles in your life. If you are a true believer, the Holy Spirit is there to comfort and guide you.

Sometimes in the midst of a deep, dark trial that has me captured by worry, I find myself unable to even pray. If you find yourself in a similar place ask a friend or family member to pray for you until you get though the worst of this.

But, most of all, let’s keep our eyes on the Father, the author and finisher of our faith. He will never leave or forsake us. Let’s glorify Him by showing the world that we trust Him implicitly instead of staying locked up in our prison of worry.

 

Face Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why Crime Will Continue to Rise

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

But my question is why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Great is Thy Faithfulness

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A few months ago, we celebrated my parents 50th wedding anniversary. I talked a bit about that in this post, sharing a few bits and pieces of their testimony of God’s faithfulness as they presented it on that day. But this celebration came to mind, once again, when we started Lamentations in our Bible Challenge this week (I am a few days behind, so perhaps it was last week for you). I always love to hear the stories of God’s faithfulness to His people, through all of the stressful moments, questions, and dark places.

And it becomes clear that we Christians don’t lead an easy life, but traverse through the same fallen, broken world as our unsaved counterparts. In fact, many times our lives may be harder because of the hatred that we experience from a world that can’t see the Truth.

We love to quote verses 22-23–

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

In fact, these are two of my favorite Bible verses. But I guess I never really thought about the context of these verses. The words of God’s faithfulness come after several verses of really hard things that God has allowed. Seriously, go read all of chapter three–even if you aren’t doing the Bible challenge. It’s full of unbelievable difficulty and pain. But then we get to those glorious verses of God’s promised faithfulness.

No, the Christian life isn’t easy, but we are never alone and God provides just the right amount of grace and peace we need to get through the difficult tunnels in which we all find ourselves sometimes. Some of us travel through more tunnels than others. And some are longer and pitch black. But we all have our tunnels of blackness through which we walk in this life.

I finished a book about a small country in Asia this week and it brought all of this so fresh to mind. It was the story of a new church with people who had never heard anything about the true God of the Universe who loved them enough to send His Son. It was the glorious testimony of the difference God’s Word makes in the lives of people, despite the weaknesses of the messengers. But the most noteworthy part of the story was that the people of this village that turned to Christ endured prison, persecution, and maltreatment with songs in their hearts. It was amazing. They counted it joy to be in prison for Christ and although they suffered illness and great trauma, God walked with them each and every step. (As a side note, I do not feel good about recommending this book because, although God’s powerful Word did what it always does, the missionary that brought God’s book to this village seemed to be a little mixed up in His faith, seemingly caught up in some philosophies of men and causing me to wonder if even really understood what the Bible says!)

But this story reminded me that no matter what is ahead of us, God will remain faithful. And, actually, Eric and I were just talking about that the other night as we drove home alone in the car. We can look back and see choices we have made or events that have happened that caused us great fear and trembling. What would become of us? Did we do the right thing? And, yet, through it all, God worked and changed and grew us and now we can look back and see God’s hand through it all.

Reading about God’s faithfulness, talking of God’s faithfulness with fellow Christians, and seeing it in our own lives firsthand are a big part of what makes us stronger as believers. It helps to take the pointlessness and frustration out of the hard times– giving us hope for coming through our present trials stronger and looking more like Jesus.

Verses 25 & 26 of Lamentations 3 aren’t quoted as often, but they, too provide such hope–

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the Lord.

God’s faithfulness is real. It is not a made-up fairy tale told by naive and stupid people who need a crutch of faith to get them through life. It’s real and amazing and incredible! Follow hard after God and study His Word and you, too, will experience it. And that is a promise I feel I can confidently make.

 

The Setting Sun (and a message of hope!)

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We are finally at the prophets in our Bible Reading Challenge. These are the books that gave me the greatest challenge when I was reading through the Bible last year. So far we have read Jonah, Amos, Hosea, and now we are in Isaiah. Prophets are what God used to speak to His people before Christ came to the earth. I do love seeing where each prophet fits chronologically. Isn’t it helpful to see what was going on in Israel when they prophesied? The hearts of Israel and Judah were turned far, far from God. They had sacrificed their relationship with the living God to prostitute themselves with the gods of the pagans. The books of the Old Testament prophets make so much more sense now.

But the prophets can be very hard to read. There are so many predictions of death and destruction and exile. God had had enough and judgment was coming.

And it did come. The sun was setting–at least temporarily–on God’s special people. They had chosen to worship idols and there were grave consequences for this.

The prophets weren’t a bunch of wild, long-haired guys waving their hands all akimbo as they preached to no one in the wilderness. They were real men with real messages from God. They took a lot of heat (and some even paid with their lives) to present God’s messages to the people.

I find myself wondering what it was really like in Israel when the prophets were giving their messages? Were there a faithful few? A remnant who still worshiped the true God? Or was it like in the days of Noah, when only Noah and his family were found faithful?

Unfortunately, if there was a remnant, those faithful few experienced the same judgment that the unrepentant did. They were exiled, they were attacked, they were in the land when judgment hit.

Isn’t this taking on extra meaning, as we enter the strange, new world that America has become? The faithful are shrinking quickly. Those who stand for the Truth are becoming smaller in number, as most fall away through the deception that is so rampant in this land. And while we don’t have prophets speaking to us, we do have God’s Word to show us what is to come. (By the way, if you have never done it, do a study sometime on the fulfilled prophecies of the Word of God–it will remove any traces of doubt you may have about the Bible).

So the discouraging message is that, if the Lord tarries, we will experience persecution against the church and we will also experience the judgment of the wicked. The sun is setting on America and her days are most likely numbered (barring a miracle–which is possible, of course!)

Many of us have been thinking about this in the back of our minds a lot in these past few years, given what’s been going on in America.

But there is also an encouraging message. If we experience persecution and if we are swept into the coming judgment, we are still God’s people. He will not desert us. I was reading the other day in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs of the horrendous atrocities that the Catholic church committed against true believers during the Spanish Inquisition. Torture that we can’t even fathom. And, yet, people sang during their gruesome deaths. They sang!

You may think why read of such terrible things? I read them because I want to be encouraged by their strong faith during such terrible persecution. I read because it strengthens my faith. God is real. And He will not desert us. If we receive a martyr’s death, we will receive a martyr’s crown.

Be not discouraged. He is faithful and will give His people the right amount of grace at just the right time.

I know this is easy to write, but as things start heating up, it will get harder and harder. Are we ready? How do we get ready?

I was talking with a friend the other day and she expressed her desire to memorize scripture because she just wonders how long we will be able to carry our Bibles freely. This is a great way to prepare for what is coming! Memorizing scripture and some of the great hymns of the faith rich with doctrine is a great place to start.

But even as we try to prepare our hearts and minds for what is coming, we can’t stop living our lives now. We can’t spend our hours in fear and worry of what is to come.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

We are in the care of the great God of the universe. We need not live in fear. No matter how this thing ends, we have so much to look forward to– like all of eternity!

So live joyfully! Extend love and grace freely! Share the gospel! And never, ever cower in fear! For we are told in 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Now let’s go live these words!

 

Brief Thoughts on the Supreme Court Ruling (It’s Not All Bad)

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As most of you know by now, the Supreme Court just ruled this morning that marriage can be between any two people, regardless of sex.

This is disheartening, to say the least, but certainly not surprising. With the steep downward decline of this culture, this should have been expected.

So what does this mean?

If means that, as believers who stand firmly on God’s Word, we are going to be called a lot more names, be targeted by government and liberal organizations, and start losing our rights to operate our businesses and churches as we choose (which has already been happening, anyway).

Our churches will eventually be forced underground and our kids forced into public education systems that will brainwash them. Study the histories of Rome and Germany if you’d like some idea of how this is going to end. While we are not a carbon copy of either culture, there are eery similarities that do not bode well for this great nation.

But what else is going to happen?

There are a couple of things about this decision that are positive. Yes, I said positive.

You can be sure that there is going to be a vigorous sifting of believers and those who call themselves believers. The true church will be purified through all of this, because anyone who has taken the Christian label but has never experienced genuine salvation is not going to stick around to take heat for something the world is telling them is normal.

While I am not making a judgment about those who call themselves Christians and believe homosexuality is okay (if they are a true believer, they will eventually be convicted about this and it is certainly not my place to judge each individual), scripture is extremely clear on this issue and this ruling will cause “fake” believers to start falling away.

The other good thing I can see coming out of this ruling is that we Christians will (hopefully) stop arguing about unimportant things. I am sometimes amazed at the debates and fights that take place within the church walls that are so unnecessary. Things that just do not really matter. But can’t you see this unifying our churches? Somehow the little stuff will fall away in the light of losing our right to free speech and the other rights we have so long enjoyed in this country as a church body.

I do believe that this ruling is the beginning of unifying and purifying the true church.

It reminds me of something I once heard Mark Lowry say in a concert. He compared the church to a river of water. When the river is above ground it is wide and shallow and often very muddy. But when it moves underground, it becomes narrow, pure, and crystal clear.

It also reminds me of something I recently heard Jan Markell say:

Things are not falling apart, they are falling into place.

God is sovereign and this did not take Him by surprise. And so, while this wasn’t the greatest news to hear this Friday in June, we need not be devastated because we are not hopeless. We know the Truth and we are on the winning side! But we’d better hang on, because I have a feeling the ride we are on is going to get pretty unpleasant.

 

The View

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(No, this is not my personal view– but it is certainly lovely, isn’t it??)

Our house sits on the top of a hill. It sits down and back from the road, so the view from the first story isn’t anything spectacular, but the view from the second story of our home is a beautiful scene of rolling farmland and small town and distant mountain. Or it used to be.

We moved here almost 15 years ago.  About 5 years ago a developer bought the land to the north on both sides of our country road. We were sad because we knew what was coming. And so we waited. And waited. And nothing happened. Until this winter.

First came the “For Sale” signs in front of an empty field. It wasn’t long before the field was full of beautiful homes. Town is encroaching.

We noticed shortly after the houses started going up that one, in particular, was going to block our view quite nicely–almost as if it was situated in order to do that.

Oh, I know that it wasn’t. Although, if I am honest, we are a bit disappointed to have this large gray object front and center when our eyes look in that direction.

But that’s life.

Things change constantly.

And what is one person’s dream– like a new house in the countryside– can bring another person disappointment. Life is just full of that kind of thing, isn’t it?

As I think about this situation it reminds me so much of the Christian life.

When we first come to know the Lord, we are full of excitement and hope because we so clearly understand the freedom and future that we have in Jesus Christ. And our view is amazing!

But then things start to block our view.

Busy days.

Unmet Expectations.

Disillusionment.

Illness.

Death of someone we love.

Demands of Children.

Jobs and Careers.

Disappointment.

Demands of others.

Elderly parents.

Discouragement.

 

And before we know it, we have lost sight of our view because there is so much other stuff in our way.

But here is what we know–

Just because we have a large object blocking our beautiful view doesn’t mean that the view isn’t still there.

Life gets busy and we push off our quiet time. Weeks go by and we don’t spend time in the Word. And then there are the days filled with deep pain and grief, and we don’t even feel like praying. We just can’t. There are days of just getting through and days of trying really hard.

And through it all, God doesn’t move. Our view of Him and His amazing grace remains the same, no matter what is blocking it.

Somehow I find this so comforting. It’s a solid foundation in the midst of craziness. It’s a beacon of light in the hurricane. Something firm to hold on to in the midst of our personal earthquakes.

Oh, our view may change, but the original view is still there, hiding behind the busyness and the frustrations and the unthinkable. Interestingly enough, if we step way back, whatever is blocking our view grows smaller and falls into perspective.

The glorious thing about our spiritual view is that, unlike the view from my house, we have the opportunity to clear our spiritual view by getting into God’s Word, asking God for perspective and to help us turn our eyes back upon Jesus.

It’s never too late to restore our spiritual view. Never.

How amazing is that?

 

In the Storm

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I thought I knew what I was going to write today. And someday soon I will probably write it. But I can’t today. Today I am just too overwhelmed by the grief and sorrow of this world.

Sometimes we can forget about it.

Sometimes.

I enjoyed a wonderful Easter with my family. I feel so blessed. But over the course of the last week or two, several really painful situations have come to my attention. Some of the suffering people I know personally and others are Christian brothers and sisters in different states or even across the world. But they all have one thing in common–they are currently tasting the heart-wrenching, bitter reality of a fallen world.

It all seems so pointless.

And yet–

There is the cross.

I know so many think we Christians are just ridiculous. We are living in a dream world, grasping for comfort where none is to be found. Putting our hope in a man who was nothing more than a prophet, at best, or mentally unstable, at worst.

But you and I know differently, don’t we? Our eyes have been opened, our blinders removed, and we know that there is genuine forgiveness and blessed hope to be found in Jesus.

In our suffering moments, we cling tenaciously to this, trying desperately to keep hold.

And, thankfully, after our walk through that dark, dark tunnel of grief, we can often see the hand of God, working in our lives and growing us to be more like Jesus.

But this thought really doesn’t bring much comfort as we take our own journey through grief– I recognize that even as I write it.

It just helps all the blackness to not seem so pointless.

All of us have black moments. But some seem to have more than others, don’t they? Take, for instance, that first wife of Samson’s (Judges 14-15). Have you ever thought about just how tragic her life was? Just because an Israelite took a fancy to her. She is not alone. Many people seem to be born for tragedy. Like our brothers and sisters in other lands who are persecuted unmercifully for the cause of Christ.

I wish I had all the answers. I wish I knew how to comfort someone who is walking through such terrible darkness. And I wish I knew how to not feel so deeply.

But I keep going back to the same thing– HOPE is found in Jesus and what He did for us at the cross. True, genuine hope is only found there. Hope for now and hope for the future. Hope in the blackness.

How do people survive in this world without it? This is why some are willing to die for their faith. Because they recognize that true hope is only found there.

I was talking with my girls the other day about the hopelessness with which some of their co-workers live their lives. They talk about divorce before even getting married, figuring that the relationship will end sooner or later. They can’t imagine how my girls could trust their boyfriend and husband to remain faithful to them. Or how it is possible to have any fun in life at all without getting drunk and escaping reality as their source of entertainment.

What they don’t realize is the great hope that lies within my girls because of Jesus Christ. Only because of Christ.

Because on that day so long ago, He hung on a tree, bearing our sins, taking our sin and shame upon His shoulders, and then rose again –victorious over death!

True joy and peace can only be found in recognizing this, repenting of our sins, and submitting to this truth.

And, so, in this broken, fallen world, we can only point people to this hope. Other than that, we are truly hopeless and travel from one broken, cursed moment to the next, with a brief respite sometimes given in between where we simply try to forget. Forget that we will soon be mired in grief once again.

I’m sorry.

I’m not trying to be so depressing. But I just feel so sad and scattered in my thoughts. Trying to sort my way through the deep grief and questions I am feeling this morning. Trying to piece it all together with the gospel. And I keep coming to the same conclusion–

Our hope isn’t here.

It’s not in this world, or the things of this world. But, instead, rests fully in Jesus Christ and His promises to us, written in His Word.

Life is hard. Sometimes really hard. But we have a Savior. We have a Hope. Let’s cling, unwaveringly, to this as we are tossed about on the sea of life. It’s the only thing we have.

 

 

What Kind of Advertisement Are You?

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Have you ever seen an unfit, overweight personal trainer? How much confidence would you have in them helping you reach your goals? I am reminded of a shop I was in that had a prominent display for some magic weight loss formula sitting on the counter. Staring up at me were photos of smiling, super-fit people and words that held incredible promises for a changed body. My eyes inevitably swung to the shop owner.  It seemed to me that if this wonderful weight loss product worked miracles, this owner would be living proof. But that was not the case.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it rather undermined my confidence in trying that particular product.

And I guess that is exactly how it is when we Christians try to tell people how wonderful Jesus is, all the while standing in a filthy mire of our own making. We don’t trust, we don’t forgive, we love the world, we worry, we use foul and crude language, we walk away from distasteful and unpleasant situations, we lie, we cheat, we quarrel, we envy, we betray, we complain incessantly, we have a bad work ethic, and our entertainment choices are just like everybody else’s. In other words, it would appear as if Jesus just doesn’t make a bit of a difference. Why would we expect someone to want what we have?

Of course, sometimes Christians fail. That is a fact of life. There are lovely, godly people who are divorced, who have spiritually lost their children, and who have had abortions. I am not talking about the past. And I am not talking about the flesh that continues to plague us even after salvation. We do slip in our language sometimes. We go to a movie and realize half-way through that this was definitely a wrong choice. We struggle through forgiving. But the key word is struggle— sincere believers are continually fighting their sin.

What I am talking about are the patterns of sin that are so ingrained in us, we aren’t even aware of them.

What kind of advertisement are we for our Savior? Seriously. Let’s stop for just a minute and think about our last 24 hours. If someone saw where we went, the words we spoke, the entertainment we set before our eyes and ears, and the food and drink we consumed, would they give evidence that we are a follower of Jesus Christ?

There is so much talk about “God looking on the heart”– and so he does–but that doesn’t excuse sinful actions, for out of a pure heart comes a holy life. We certainly do not need works to be saved but our works our evidence that we are saved. (See I John 2:3-6; 2 Peter 1:5-9; Matthew 7:16-20)

You can have righteous actions without a right heart, but you cannot have a right heart without righteous actions. It’s impossible.

I hope and pray that I am a good example of a believer. I mess up so often– especially at home. Many times I don’t even feel qualified to be writing. And yet God leads me on and continues to nudge me to keep writing.

I just know I don’t want anyone to wonder at my funeral whether or not I was a believer. I don’t want any “I think so’s” or “she said a prayer when she was little but…”

Instead, I want people to say with confidence that I was someone who followed hard after God. I am certainly far, far from perfection. Each day brings me deeper and fuller knowledge of just how far, but I want to be going the right direction, without question and without wavering.

I hope that you want the same to be said of you. Because it is only through this that we can make any difference at all. After all, what good are we if we look just like everyone else? If our decisions are made from our feelings and emotions, just like everyone else? If we don’t handle life’s tough situations differently, if we don’t bring integrity to the work place, or love and kindness to our relationships, then we are like that shop owner. We are advertising something that obviously isn’t working.

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom: Sovereign Over Us

Sunburst in natural Forest - Autumn

If you follow my blog, you will be aware of the fact that I haven’t had a Wednesday Wisdom post on here for a very long time. I decided to focus on a few other areas of writing instead. But a friend who is going through some very deep waters sent me the following lyrics. I had actually heard the second half of this song recently and had wanted to look them up and, lo and behold, this morning my friend sent them to me in an e-mail.

I am sharing them with you today, with the awareness that someone else out there in the “blogosphere” may need to read this today.

SOVEREIGN OVER US

There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You’re sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You’re teaching us to trust

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand Your ways
Reigning high above the Heavens
Reaching down in endless grace
You’re the lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
And Your promises are my delight

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us
[x2]

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good
You turn it for our good and for Your glory
Even in the valley, You are faithful
You’re working for our good
You’re working for our good and for Your glory
[x2]

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us
[x2]

You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

 

Written by Aaron Keyes, Jack Mooring, Bryan Brown

Performed by Michael W. Smith

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