Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Thoughts

Memorial Day is an important day in American history. Originally called Decoration Day, it was intended to honor those who paid the ultimate price in war time by decorating their graves. 

When I was a child, Memorial Day was the beginning of the summer season. It was a day for picnics and badminton, swimming and seeing family and friends. There was no talk of decorating graves, soldiers who died, or war that I can recall. Perhaps because although my dad, uncles and brother all served in the military, they all came back alive. 

My dad and uncles all served in WWII. They were welcomed home as conquering heroes, and are called the Greatest Generation. My brother served in Vietnam. There were no parades when he came home. There was no honor or respect for those brave young men and women when they reached our shores, many of them changed forever. They were called baby killers, spit on, and dishonored for their service. When my brother came home he put the war behind him and to this day has not spoken of his experience there. 

Over the years, America has grown a national conscience with respect to Vietnam, and it seems we have attempted to rectify the wrongs done to those soldiers and now they are receiving the honor they are due. 

My son also served. Part of his service was the United States Air Force Honor Guard and this involved being a part of military funerals. For a number of years during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars he was part of a group that provided the military funeral honors ceremony that included folding and presenting the United States burial flag and the sounding of taps. He often told me that it was an enormous privilege to be a part of these ceremonies. 

On this Memorial Day, I am posting the meaning of the folded flag. May we never forget those who have fought and died for the rest of us; that we might be free. 

The American Flag is Folded 13 Times...

The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.

The second fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.

The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.

The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.

The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, "Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong."

The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States Of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.

The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on Mother's Day.

The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.
The tenth fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.

The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The twelfth fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.

With the final fold the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our nation's motto, "In God We Trust."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Safety Amidst Conspiracies

Today's guest blogger is Linda Rice. Linda counsels at Gateway Biblical Counseling and Training Center. M.A. in Biblical Counseling. Certified by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.  You can read more of Linda's writing here. Today's blog is reposted with permission.   

Conspiracies have been common against leaders throughout history. A conspiracy is a secret plot by a group of people to do something harmful or unlawful. Those in collusion deceive in order to gain an unfair advantage, to defraud another of legitimate position, power, or rights.
King David endured several conspiracies during his reign. Psalm 31 is one prayer he wrote in response. There, we read how it felt to him and how he responded. Among other results, the rumors and slanders sometimes alienated his neighbors and friends. Loneliness must have plagued his heart (31:11-12). He heard the slander. He knew that not just his power, but his very life was in danger. “They schemed to take away my life” (31:13). The cold breath of fear brushed against him.
When even your neighbors and friends doubt you or join the collusion, is there any safe place? Physically, a leader is pretty well committed to what he is doing. But what about his heart? David took refuge in God.
You hide them in the secret place of Thy presence from the conspiracies of man;
   You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues. (31:20)
God does the hiding, but David took refuge in Him. Why would David think that the presence of God is a safe place? It is because he trusted that God is good. He wrapped that secret place verse in blankets of God’s goodness:
How great is Your goodness,
   Which You have stored up for those who fear You,
   Which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You,
   Before the sons of men!
You hide them in the secret place of Thy presence from the conspiracies of man;
   You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.
Blessed be the Lord,
   For He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me in a besieged city. (31:19-21)
In the midst of intrigue and threats to his throne and life, David believed that God is good and would bring all to rights. It isn’t that he went passive and waited for God to do what God has delegated to governing authorities. We know from 2 Samuel that on a civil, legal level, David took wise defensive actions, but he didn’t retaliate for his own glory or because he felt emotionally hurt (offended pride). Nor did he allow sinful responses in his own heart. We don’t see cursing, self-righteous anger, or self-pity. He trusted God and obeyed Him with right attitudes.
Those who plot against legitimate authorities do not fear the Lord. They behave as though they believe “there is no God” (Ps. 14:1), or at least that God is irrelevant or blind to what they’re doing. But God is omniscient. Therefore, while plots might be secret from leadership, they are exposed to God. And while the conspirators cannot see God, He can hide His own in plain sight.
Where is the hiding place? David describes God’s presence as a secret hiding place, also translatable as “thicket.” While the wolves circle, God’s presence provides an impenetrable thicket for the one who fears and trusts the Lord. While the swirling slanders and conspiracies of men bear down with tornado force winds, God’s unseen presence provides a safe storm shelter.
Did David suffer? Yes, though not the kind of destruction that the Lord wrought upon David’s enemies. In the end, God delivered him physically. More importantly, no matter what happened to David, his heart was safe with the Lord.
Who is it that the holy, just God hides in His presence? It isn’t just anyone. After all, sinners will receive His wrath (Eph. 4:3). David narrows the field to those who fear the Lord, those who take refuge in Him.
Very few of us are presidents or prime ministers or kings like David was. The passage can still apply when we reason from greater to lesser. If God can overrule the rich and power, surely he can overrule we who have little power. As to the troubles, although most of us experience nothing as life-threatening as that which King David faced, many have been betrayed or seriously mistreated at some time or another. Pastors, bosses, and other leaders may have actual conspiracies unjustly rise against them. Most of us have been the target of slanderous gossip or of the rivalries of cliques or coworkers. At all levels, knowledge of collusion can tempt a person to worry, fear, resentment, and/or anger.
Instead, those who fear the Lord can follow David’s counsel. We can believe “how great is Your goodness” even when people fire evil words toward us. We can determine to hope in the Lord. Taking refuge in Him, accounting His presence as a safe shelter, is the kind of response made by someone who loves the Lord. In response to his own troubles, David counseled others,
O love the Lord, all you His godly ones (31:23).
Love thinks the best of the other. If we love the Lord, we think the best of Him. We can see in Psalm 31 how David loved the Lord and do the same:
  • Refuse to brood on what offenders say and do. Instead, seek the Lord in prayer (31:1-5).
  • Refuse self-pity. Instead, choose to rejoice in the Lord even while in affliction (31:7).
  • Refuse to retaliate in revenge. Instead, seek the Lord’s grace to continue obeying Him (31:9-10).
  • Refuse to demand relief in your own time. Instead, submit to the Lord’s sovereign plan for us to suffer and His right to choose the time He will deliver (31:14-18).
  • Refuse to fear and imagine the worst. Instead, prayerfully meditate on the promises in His Word and upon His character and wonderful works (31:19-23).
  • Refuse to fear. Instead, discipline yourself to take courage, based upon hope in the Lord (31:24).
God’s goodness is great and His lovingkindness is marvelous. His presence is a safe shelter to those who fear the Lord.
If you or someone you know is the object of slanders, rumors, or conspiracy and threatened with temptations to loneliness, anxiety, or resentment, consider this psalm as a source of counsel. Study this psalm and apply its counsel. Perhaps the bullet points above might help you plan ways to love the Lord in the situation. Here are two examples:
  • Memorize Psalm 31 or at least key verses in it. Then every time you start to brood or worry, repent and prayerfully meditate on the verses.
  • Rejoice. List the attributes of God that David observed and use them in praise to God every night before going to bed.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

One Port In A Storm

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said* to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31

Are you ever so overwhelmed by circumstances that you are nearly paralyzed? I have occasionally found myself there over these last weeks and months. Each time I take my eyes off of Jesus and focus on what is happening in my life, I start to go under from the turmoil in life.

It may resonate with you when I say it is initially so much easier to try and fix things myself than to rely on God when the going is difficult.

This passage is a great reminder to keep our eyes and heart focused on Christ. Peter learned very quickly that he could continue to defy the odds and truly walk on water in the midst of the storm as long as he kept his eyes locked on Christ. We can do the very same thing even in the midst of great storms with trials that want to swamp the boat.

Jesus Christ is our only hope, He is our only "port" in the storms of life. We must keep our eyes fixed on Him, He is our refuge and strength and an ever present help in time of need.

How do you make this practical? Fill your mind with the Word, immerse yourself in the Psalms, pray without ceasing, be thankful for all the Lord is allowing to take place. Rejoice, He is sovereign and in control!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Trusting God in Tragedy: Elizabeth Prentiss

Today's guest blogger is Susan Verstraete. Susan is a children’s Sunday school teacher and leader of a book discussion group at Faith Community Church in Kansas City, North, where she also serves as church secretary. Susan and her husband Michael have two adult sons, Patrick and Christopher. Susan's book, Your People: Stories from Church History is available from Amazon. Find more articles by Susan at This post appears with the permission of the author. 

It was an awful thing for anyone to watch, but especially difficult for a sensitive eight year old girl. Elizabeth’s father was in great pain as he suffered with tuberculosis. First it was the constant, wrenching cough. Then his stamina failed and he had to give up preaching. Finally Edward Payson was confined to bed, and they knew that the end was near.

In all this, Payson’s faith never wavered. He trusted God’s plan for his own life and for his family. In fact, by the end he said he had no will at all in the matter of living or dying. He wrote, “There can be no such thing as disappointment to me, for I have no desires but that God’s will be might be accomplished.”

Just a few days before Elizabeth turned nine, her father died. She did not react with the calm acceptance that he modeled. Over the next months, Elizabeth had terrible temper tantrums. She resented people who tried to help, misbehaved and tried the patience of her grieving mother.

As Elizabeth grew older, she longed to trust God as her parents did. Her romantic personality, given to extremes, caused her to believe she loved God more than life at one moment, and plunged her into deep despair about her standing with Him at the next. 

Elizabeth married a minister like her father, Rev. George Prentiss. They had a happy marriage and loved each other deeply. By 1852, God had blessed them with a daughter, Annie, and a son named Eddy. Elizabeth was expecting their third child when Eddy got sick.

At first, the doctor didn’t think it was serious, but he was proved wrong. Today, doctors would diagnose meningitis—they called it “water on the brain.” Elizabeth showed unimaginable courage in preparing little Eddy for death, telling him stories about what Heaven would be like and urging him to trust Jesus.  He died on January 16th. At the funeral, the choir sang the hymn, Thy Will Be Done. Elizabeth wrote, “It was like cold water to thirsty souls. This was all we had to say or could say.”

Just three months later, on April 16th, little sister Bessie was born. She appeared the picture of health, but on May 18th, Bessie suddenly became desperately sick. She died the next day.  The family lost two children in five months. “My faith has staggered under this new blow,” Elizabeth wrote, “and I blush to tell how hard I find it to say cheerfully ‘Thy will be done.’…Oh how I do wish, do long to feel an entire, unquestioning submission to Him who pities while He afflicts me.”

Elizabeth grieved deeply, but trusted God through these two heart-wrenching losses. Unlike the little eight-year-old version of herself, she would not rail against God in her grief. But why not? What had Elizabeth learned that caused her to accept this difficult providence with faith?

There is purpose in suffering. “We can’t understand it,” Elizabeth counseled a friend, “but I have been thinking that this [suffering] might be God’s way of preparing His children for very high degrees of service on earth or happiness in heaven.” Elizabeth learned to be deeply sympathetic with other grieving parents through her own losses; comforting them with the comfort she received (2 Cor. 1:4). She wrote a book titled, How Sorrow was Changed into Sympathy, that was widely distributed as a help to those who had experienced the same kind of loss.

God is good, and sovereign over all things. After Bessie died, Elizabeth was understandably overcome with grief. She preached to herself constantly, repeating over and over, “God never makes a mistake. God never makes a mistake.” She knew that the same God who watched over the sparrows (Matt. 10:29) watched over her children with tender care.  She compared God to a master gardener, who intentionally plucked her children as a gardener might pluck a beautiful blossom from a flower bed.

She knew God personally through the Bible and experience.  Elizabeth wrote, “We have to read the Bible in order to understand the Christian life, and we must penetrate far into that life in order to understand the Bible. How beautifully the one interprets the other!” As a result of this combination of learning and experiencing, Elizabeth could say, “My heart sides with God in everything, and my conception of His character is such a beautiful one that I feel He cannot err.”  

Suffering did its work in Elizabeth’s life, causing her to have a steadfast faith in God, who carried her through every difficulty (James 1:2-4). Her trust in the God she knew so well inspired her to write her most famous hymn, More Love to Thee, which included the following lines:    

Let sorrow do its work, come grief or pain;
Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Copyright © 2011 Susan Verstraete. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Heart of Impatience

I have been practicing being thankful these past days. Each day I have made it a habit to run through my day and thank God for all the things that I can think of that happened. It flows from another habit I have of praying the Scriptures.

This week I am concentrating on Colossians 1:10-12 with the emphasis on 11-12

May you be empowered with every sort of power that is in keeping with His glorious might that with joy you may fully endure and learn to be completely patient, thanking the Father... (CCNT)
I am on the learning curve... I am a rather impatient person by nature. God has sifted much of this out of me over the past decade through various means that are common to man (1 Cor. 10:13) The sifting has not been without pain or loss in any area! The whole idea of sifting or skimming the dross or separating the wheat from the chaff...all these imply pain.

I suspect that is why Paul prays we would be empowered with every sort of power in Him. This is tough stuff and hard work. It would be impossible to endure these changes without the power of God actively working in and on our hearts. I have been most recently learning to fully endure and be joyful, patient, and thankful in the midst of difficulties.

I so often want to grumble and complain about my circumstances! My heart is still so self oriented that I simply want what I want and NOW please. Paul says that patience, like contentment, is a learned quality. This is why so much of our lives and so many of our trials involve waiting. Our extended stays in the waiting room of life bring to the forefront all the ugly stuff that is in the heart and enables us to learn how to deal with it biblically.

Impatience is a difficult companion. It brings anger, rage, frustration, lusts of the flesh, deception, and even physical violence along as side kicks. How our flesh fights against responding biblically when the word is once again, "WAIT." Our preference is to rage against the circumstances and manipulate what we can to effect the change we want to take place.

God is building in us complete patience during our trials and our love-response to Him is to be one of thanksgiving in spite of how we may feel. Certainly we can point to the Word and find Scripture that commands us to be patient and thankful, however that is nothing more than behaviorism. In Psalm 51 David says, For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. God is not desirous of our rote performance, He is after the HEART!

Bringing your heart in subjection to the Lord in this area may be very challenging, but because of the power you possess in Christ it is not impossible. If you are an impatient person, struggling with God's timetable in your life in any area you may want to make application of the following principles to your heart and watch them overflow into your life.

Confess to the Lord your pride in refusing to submit to His sovereignty. Impatience is an aspect of refusing to bow the knee to Him. He is perfectly in control of all the events taking place in your life, and has known before time began how this would all work out and when.

Develop a thankful heart. Thank God for everything, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus, that you be thankful in all things! Confess your ingratitude to Him and your lack of appreciation for what changes He is making in your heart through all of this.

Determine that you will bring Him glory in spite of your own wants, perceived needs, and desires. Determine to respond biblically. Refresh your heart and thoughts with His Word, letting its truth and declarations of love wash over you daily. Reminding yourself often that He does not bring us into things without purpose.

Accept what He is doing, willingly and graciously. I will remind you again and again that He is completely in charge of every timetable of every person on the planet. There is no need to fret or panic or be overcome by terror or fury. God has it all under control. Rest...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Mind/Body Connection

Today's guest blogger is Suzanne Holland. Suzanne is a grateful follower of Jesus Christ, wife to John, and mom to two grown up boys. She is a Certified Biblical Counselor with the IABC, offering the hope of the Scriptures to those who are hurting. Suzanne writes on her blog, Near to the Healer, and has a special emphasis on ministering to those who suffer with ongoing physical pain. Her blog is reposted with permission. 

The mind/body connection is an amazing thing, isn’t it? Those of us who suffer with issues of chronic pain and disease know that mind and body are both at work here, and this is a very important factor in our coping with whatever physical affliction the Lord has sovereignly appointed for us. My own experience with this has been of epic battle proportions at times. Whenever a new symptom appears, the fear escalates and tries to steal away the sweet peace that the Lord has wrought in my heart.

The process is very familiar by now, and I really ought to see it coming. But, for whatever reason, each time it happens, it seems I am right back at square one in the process of learning to think biblically about my situation. It goes like this: A new symptom appears, and I panic. My mind races with the possibilities of what it could be. Though I have learned not to google things (this inevitably increases the anxiety), it doesn't stop my mind from thinking through, based on the knowledge I already have, all the terrifying possibilities. I can go from, “Hmm, that’s odd. Don't think I've had that before,” to “I will probably be in a wheelchair soon,” all in about 30 seconds. Even with all of my biblical counseling training, and a fair amount of experience with this scenario, it still takes only a twinge and a moment for me to start that downward spiral of fear and anxiety.

Now, the Lord has been quite gracious to me in helping me to deflect unbiblical thoughts, and most of the time, I don’t get far down the spiral. But there are still times that I let my emotions win over truth.  What I hope to think through with you today is the “why” factor. Why, after all I've learned, and after all the countless times I've been here, do I still have this response? Why I am so easily led to a place of fear and panic when I know that, in reality, I have nothing to fear?

I think, at least for me, there are a couple of reasons. The first one that comes to mind is the deeply ingrained thought patterns that were set in my mind long before I became a Christian. I was saved later in life, so my unbiblical ways of thinking and responding were firmly set patterns when I met Christ. Though my relationship with Him has completely extinguished some old, sinful thought patterns, this one is really hanging in there.

Another reason this one is particularly tough is that it seems to be relentless. As I have gone through this trial for the last 6 years, it seems the physical issues have stacked up. Just as one issue is being resolved or dealt with to restore functionality, another comes up. In my less holy moments, I find myself saying, “I can't catch a break here!” While I know that this thinking is unbiblical, I find it to be persistent nonetheless.

There are probably many other reasons that this battle is so tough, and I’d be willing to bet that you can relate, and could add a few of your own. But the bottom line is, this thinking is unbiblical and does not glorify God. So, should we feel guilty about it, and beat ourselves up over it? No, I don't think that would glorify Him, either. After all, He died to pay the price for our sinful thinking, and that was enough! We don't need to add self-flagellation to His finished work. Confession is all that is necessary on our part. The Spirit will grant us the grace we need to repent of this thinking, and to start again.

I think what we really need here is preparation. If we're calling this a battle, then we are soldiers, and we need to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18, AMP).

10 In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides].

                Remember who you are in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).

11 Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil.

                Remember that the Lord’s protection is freely yours (Psalm 34:19).

12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.

                Remember Job (Job1).

13 Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place].

                Remember that God is for you (Psalm 118:6; Romans 8:31).

14 Stand therefore [hold your ground], having tightened the belt of truth around your loins and having put on the breastplate of integrity and of moral rectitude and right standing with God,

                Remember God’s promises (Matt. 11:28-29; Is 40:29-31).

15 And having shod your feet in preparation [to face the enemy with the firm-footed stability, the promptness, and the readiness produced by the good news] of the Gospel of peace.

                Remember the Gospel (John 3:16).

16 Lift up over all the [covering] shield of saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked [one].

                Remember the faith of those who have faced fear and won (Hebrews 11).

17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword that the Spirit wields, which is the Word of God.

                Remember that Christ Himself is the Word of God (John 1:1).

18 Pray at all times (on every occasion, in every season) in the Spirit, with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty. To that end keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding in behalf of all the saints (God’s consecrated people).

                Remember to pray thankfully, without ceasing (1 Thess 5:16-17).

I’d like to invite you to meditate on this passage, and really think through its applications to your own battles with default responses to your pain. One of the main messages I get from it is the importance of prayer. Often, in times when I’m feeling physically functional and well, I forget to pray for protection from my own “stinkin’ thinkin’,” and then I’m surprised when it comes up again. We need to be in prayer for more grace, more strength, and more patience in these moments. By the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, we can overcome even the most deeply rooted thought patterns and fears. By His grace, we will have victory:

But thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumph [as trophies of Christ’s victory] and through us spreads and makes evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere…

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Purple Rose for the Grieving Mother

Another Mother's Day is now in the history books. For some of you it was a day of breakfast in bed, cards, flowers, and loving appreciation. For others it was a day of sorrow and grief; not because your child has died but because your child has disowned or forgotten about you. 

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8 NIV) 

Many mom's live with deep regrets about their parenting. They also live with the consequences of their choices. 

Take for example a woman I will call Jackie. When her kids were little Jackie used drugs and drank to excess. All too often she missed important school deadlines for projects and permission slips, and more often than not her kids were the only ones who didn't have a parent present at school functions. Because she spent most of those years drunk or high her kids learned how to function without her and left home before either of them finished high school. 

Jackie has repented of her substance abuse and has lived without using drugs or alcohol for over 10 years. She's repeatedly reached out to her children who live just in the next town. While they are polite, the kids have given her the message they are not interested in a relationship with her. So, Mother's Day is a painful reminder of what she squandered. 

Ana tried for 10 years to get pregnant. When she finally conceived she faithfully ate properly, took her vitamins, and kept every appointment. In her 5th month she learned that her baby girl would most likely not survive after birth. She had a rare chromosomal defect that the doctors told Ana made her daughter unable to sustain life outside the womb. They recommended an abortion. Ana chose to continue the pregnancy and pray for a miracle. When her little Jewel was stillborn, Ana knew that she had done what was right and rejoiced in that knowledge. Her heart breaks every Mother's Day for the child that will never present her with a handmade card or a hand full of dandelions as a gift.  

Hannah is a woman who spent the first decade of her parenting angry. She was angry all the time and frequently took her anger out on her son in rage-filled tirades. She physically abused him, cursed at him, and belittled him. The little boy lived in constant fear of her next explosion and suffered deep emotional pain from her abuse She got help for her anger, repented of her sin and began living rightly before God and her son. Despite this, her son was remote as he grew up and that did not change in his adulthood. Their contact is infrequent and there is no depth to their relationship. Mother's Day is a painful reminder of her past. 

Patty got pregnant when she was 20 years old and single. Her boyfriend didn't want her to have the baby and threatened to break up with her if she kept it. Her parents urged her to abort the baby because they wanted her to finish school and get on with her life. Reluctantly, she went ahead and had the abortion at 10 weeks pregnant. Instantly, Patty realized her mistake and even while laying on the table in the abortuary began screaming for her baby to be put back.  She was inconsolable for weeks after the abortion, and didn't even notice when her boyfriend stopped coming around. A year later, Patty is a shell of who she once was. Mother's Day is a reminder of what she's done. 

Each of these women wish Mother's Day was erased from the calendar. They dread it, they grieve over their failings, and they wish with all they are that they could go back and do things differently. 

God has compassion on you, Christian sister, and He will not turn His back on you because of His Son. 

But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth. Psalm 86:15 (NASB) 

Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. Psalm 103: 13 (NASB) 

If I had the ability, I would visit with you and bring you an armful of purple roses as a reminder that your heavenly Father does love you. He does cherish you, He loves you despite your failings and your deep and grievous sin. His desire is you repent if you are in the midst of behaviors and activities that are sinful, and turn to Him. If you have repented, remember that your sin is as far from you as the east is from the west. 

Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away. John 6:37 (NET)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Digging Deeper Rather Than Running

Today's guest blogger is Karen Gaul. Karen has been a biblical counsellor since 1994 and is certified by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). She is dedicated to bringing the Word of God to light in the lives of his hurting children.  She considers it an awesome privilege and honour to be able to walk with brothers and sisters in Christ to find healing, contentment, joy and peace in the Lord. This material was originally posted October 14, 2014 and is reposted with permission by the author. You can find this post and more of her writing here

Life in our little worlds often gets really messy. Relationships are not easy.  People are not always who we thought they were when we first met.  That can be true for a friend or your spouse, a co-worker or a “pew-mate”.  It means that conflict always has the ability to be on our horizons.
Spouses change and no longer meet our expectations, or no longer do the things they once did. Things that once drew us together now have the potential to drive us apart.   Of course I never change.
Our friends can be insensitive and distant and we surmise things are changing and that the relationship will no longer be the same.
We can have disagreements with our “pew-mates” and rather than being ok with our differentness we begin to distance ourselves from them and maybe even from church all together.
We have concluded that the problem is with them and not within us.
Relationships take time, they take work, they take honest evaluation, they take prayer, they take persistence, and they take pursuing a common goal. As believers that goal is always unity.  As believers that goal must always be unity.  Jesus came to bring reconciliation and unity.  His prayer for us was that we, you and I, would be unified just as the Trinity is unified.
As the Trinity is unified, as They enjoy each other in their differentness, as They work together for a common goal, as They love and serve each other perfectly that is the goal for our relationships with other believers.
We are too easily offended and slighted. We are too quick to walk away.  It seems right to place blamewhere we think blame needs to be placed and then excuse our own behaviour.  We are absolutely convinced that there “is no working things out”, we have decided that things will never change.
We come to God almost the same way making requests based on what we see as wrong in either the situation or the other person. It’s easier than doing the hard work of digging deep into our own hearts to see what is really going on there.  We then don’t get the desired results mostly because we are not asking the right questions.

How to Zero in on a Biblical Agenda

Let’s look at Ezekiel 14:1-5. The leadership came to inquire of God through the prophet Ezekiel.  But God sees that something else is wrong with them.
What is God’s summarization of the problem these people face? What was it that Ezekiel didn’t see that God did?
God will speak about one thing.   God saw idolatry.   He has only one agenda–what is that?  God’s agenda is always the heart before Him. (Our Thoughts and motives)
Why is that God’s biggest concern? Because we live out of our hearts and they say much about what we believe to be true about Him.
We so easily walk away from relationships when they aren’t what we want them to be but maybe God wants to do a work in “me”.
It means digging deep inside myself not in a “beat myself up process” but with the intent of seeking to see what God may be wanting to show me about myself and my thinking, attitudes, desires, and purposes. He wants me to mine the riches of His truth for my life.

Questions to ask when in a rough situation:

  • What is going on with my reactions? What is coming out of me? (anger, silence, fleeing, fear discouragement, _________)
  • Do I have all the facts right? Do I even have all the facts?
  • Am I listening to the other person and hearing what they are saying?
  • Can I be convinced that because I am still sinful that what is going on is my perception of things? (things are not always as they appear)
  • How can I be thinking like Christ and not be a reactor who is ready to explode?
  • What is going on in my heart?
  • What do I want so badly that I am willing to spew all over this relationship?
  • What do I desire that I am willing to run away from going deeper?
  • How is my reaction to this person not working toward unity and oneness?
  • What might God want me to learn?
  • Am I willing to do good (Romans 12), to “repay evil with good, in love” (1 Peter 3:4) to live with a quiet and gentle spirit, (Phil 2:3,4) to put the needs of others ahead of my own, to be reconciled, to pursue sorting this out as long as it may take for the sake of Christ?
  • Should love cover this one?
  • What does love even look like in this situation? (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Whatever is going on in my heart will exercise inescapable influence over my life and my behaviour
In other words whatever desire or demand or want or passion is dominating my heart will influence my words and my actions. If I want relationships to look a certain way and they don’t I will get angry or loseheart if and when they stop giving me “the certain way” look.
We will most certainly have people who rub us the wrong way, who disappoint us, who sin against us but we need to remember we are all sinful people who still need some maturing and growing up. Maybe God wants to do a maturing work in both of you through this particular conflict.
Don’t lose heart, keep pressing into Him who wants to recapture (Ezekiel 14:5 a forceful seizing) your heart and make you more like Him.

We need to remember that Jesus who brings us all together be it marriage, or friendship or co-worker or “pew-mate” is greater than the forces that would desire to tear us apart.

Torn up relationships who profess Christ, sheep that scatter, all give the world a picture of God and His power to work in His children, or lack thereof.
What kind of picture are we showing our neighbours, our family, our cities?  Relationships as I said at the beginning take work, hard work and time.
I pray that God would take me deeper into understanding my own sinfulness and bring change into me so I can enjoy better relationships with those around me and also a deeper walk with Him.

Monday, May 11, 2015

What Happens When I Sin?

I am frequently asked about when we make bad decisions and bad choices (when we sin); do our choices affect God’s relationship to us? I ask that question the reverse of what you are most likely used to for a reason. I believe that it is important to realize that we have that relationship with God because HE wanted one with US. Here is some wonderful news for this beautiful new day: because of our position in Christ, God the Father never sees us any differently in spite of the good or bad choices we make in life.

We love (Him), because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

So the question has to be asked in that way to reflect our helpless state in securing our own salvation and relationship with God. It begs to reason then, that if we cannot do anything to gain a relationship with God what can we do to maintain that relationship with God?  

I could not love Him until He loved me, and I could not be saved until He called me. How much of “me” contributed to being in this relationship? My relationship with God in Christ is not like a marriage, where he asks and I agree or decline. The theology I hold says that God chose me in eternity past (Eph. 1) to be His child and because He chose me it was a given that I would at some point in my life respond.

Obedience is asked for and in some cases, obedience is commanded. We see this in the imperatives in Scripture. All of the “One Another’s” are imperatives- love one another (John 13:34), be like-minded toward one another (Rom. 12:16), care for one another (1 Cor.12:25). Other verses such as, be holy as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:16), submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5) and wives respect your husbands (1 Peter 3:1)  are not just suggestions, they are commands. Another imperative is that we “walk worthy of the calling we have received.” Eph 4:1. A natural step toward walking worthy is to obey the Word of God.

We obey because we desire to glorify God, not because we fear what will happen  if we don’t. Far too many of the Christian women I know obey out of fear and a desire to avoid guilt, not out of love or desire to glorify God. Sadly, love for God is often an afterthought. We often “do for God” out of a desire to gain approval, be safe, avoid problems…

Are those the motives and actions found in a loving relationship? Are they the desires of a heart that wants to glorify God? Friend, is it God’s desire that you live in fear and terror of Him? Is it right that you obey and make right choices on the outside while your heart is rebelling against Him? What is more important to the Lord?

…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b

For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17

Our feelings of guilt are a consequence of when we sin and make bad choices. Although God gives grace that overflows, I am still are aware of guilt when I sin. Guilt is intended to remind us of the cross, to remind us of our need for Christ, of His grace and mercy, and to remind us that what Romans 6-8 say is true!

Jesus Christ combats our sin with His mercy and grace, not shame and banishment! His love for us is perfect and complete. Be careful not to ascribe the tendencies of mere humans to an amazing God.