Those Held in Slavery by Their Fear of Death

I am afraid to die.

Anyone else in my boat?

I know it’s not the correct thing for a growing Christian to admit. We have a wonderful Savior, the promise of a glorious future, a home in heaven with our Creator for eternity, what could there be to fear? But I am. Fearful, that is.

You see, my life story includes experiencing death first hand as a child. On Valentine’s night 1972, 11-year-old me sat at our kitchen table with Daddy, Mama, and my little brother. We were making Valentines for each other. It is a sweet memory. Three days later, after being admitted to the hospital for some pain, my dad suddenly passed away from a massive heart attack… He was there… Then he was gone.

I don’t understand the psychology of what that does to a child’s mind, but I do understand the ramifications of how those experiences are lived out as a child growing into adulthood. One of the results in me was a feeling of abandonment by my father. Loss so great that I had a physical feeling inside my chest of emptiness. From that time on I have grieved and feared and dreaded any and all death: family, friends, pets, relatives of friends (people that I don’t even know). Death impacts me deeply. It may do this to many people. I don’t know.

I don’t fear death because I don’t have faith of heaven to come or salvation. I fear death because I don’t want to experience that loss again. And I don’t want anyone I know to have to experience that feeling. I sometimes cry to think of what my family will feel like when I pass away; I cry for them and their loss and emptiness.

Recently I found myself in one of those normal stressful times of life where it seemed that each of my four children had something serious occurring in their life at that moment. None of their situations had anything to do with death or illness. Yet, through that time I found myself waking up in the middle of the night with anxious feelings of dread, feelings that stirred that fear of death within me and made me fretful for life.

Early one morning on my deck as I was doing my normal routine meeting with the Lord, I began to journal furiously. My watchword for this year has been surrender. It’s obvious I was not surrendering. I wrote that morning, “I must let go and turn my fears over God.”

That day Hebrews 2:14-15 came up in my Bible study. Now I’ve read the Bible through from cover to cover several times in my life, random years throughout my life and every year for the last 4 years, and I had never “seen” this verse before. Ever had that happen to you? It’s when something so relevant and so profound springs out from the Word of God in your reading and you are shocked how you could have ever missed it. Here’s what those verses say:

black-and-white-cemetery-christ-208315“He [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” 

Jesus himself, by His death, not only saved me and broke the power of death that Satan has, but can free me from being enslaved to the fear of death!

The words overwhelmed me. My Father met me on my deck at that moment with a very specific word for my very specific situation. What hope! What relief! The Father had breathed these words into the author of Hebrews hundreds of years ago as he wrote the first manuscript. And today My Abba brought them to my attention the very moment I needed them!

That verse. That day. That sunny deck. My dark, fearful heart. All those things converged to cause the key to turn in the lock of my heart. The door inched open that day and a crack of light shone in. It has been almost 2 weeks now and my Father God is still holding my hand pulling me out of that dark place into growing freedom.

My childhood fear of loss may always shadow me as long as I walk this earth, but I have a Savior who died to set me free. Free from slavery to sin and free from slavery to my fear of death. Today I choose to walk in freedom, in hope. In the future, when fear rattles at my door and tries to shut me in and chain me up and enslave me, may I remember to claim my freedom from slavery and walk faithfully on.

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Rain

I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. Leviticus 26:4

rain-raindrops-water-110874.jpgThe view out the window is a rainy drizzle here. That got me thinking. We haven’t gotten much rain lately, so this little drizzle is considered a blessing. Right now the Midwest is swamped with days of floodwaters that have overwhelmed and destroyed. In other parts of the world people are experiencing famine due to severe drought. So, is rain good or bad? To a parched, hungry land rain is desperately desired. To the deluged states any precipitation is a curse at the moment.

Now let’s think metaphorically. We Americans tend to think of rain as difficulties coming our way – storms. Storms in life have a negative connotation of trials we don’t want to face. But what does scripture say?

In Deuteronomy 11:17, lack of rain is seen as a punishment from God.

Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain, and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you.

While in Deuteronomy 28:12, the pouring rain is representative of blessings coming straight from the Lord.

The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.

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Let’s challenge our thinking on those metaphorical rainstorms of life. Can we begin to see even the scary lightning and thunder as signs of blessing? Can we allow ourselves not to fear in the midst of the storm, but to trust that this too will be used for our good? (Romans 8:28)

When my Daddy died while I was a child it did not feel “good.” But because of that we moved to the town where I dated and married my husband of now 38 years, where I was mentored in the Christian faith and given a firm foundation, and where I formed lifelong friendships.

When my husband developed leukemia at age 36, it did not feel “good.” With 4 small children, one a newborn, it felt frightening. I wondered how God could in any way use this horror for good. But over the next 9 months of chemo and healing, I saw that this storm drew me closer to the Father, taught me valuable lessons, and instilled in me a passion and understanding for others.

When a child rebelled, it did not feel “good.” It felt devastating, empty, and overwhelming beyond my ability to bear. But through it I learned the power of prayer. I grew to see the “sinners” and the “least of these” as someone’s child, beloved of God, and not beyond hope. My compassion for those bound up in sin surpassed and killed my judging, legalistic spirit.

May I challenge you to choose to see your storm as a means through which God teaches and grows and blesses you! He uses our circumstances, no matter how tough they seem at the moment, for His good purposes.

Ephesians tells us

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!

If we believe these words of Ephesians 3:30, that He can do “immeasurably more” than all we ask or imagine, then we can trust that He will bring good through our rainstorm. I don’t know about you, but I have a pretty good imagination. And He can do more than that! More than my simple expedient solutions to my stormy times. He provides abundant life kind of solutions!

girl-690327_1280.jpgAs we move through this rainy day, let us look upon these drops as blessings! Even when the flood waters seem to threaten our existence, they are still a blessing! Isaiah 43:2 comforts us with the promise that

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

So, what do we do to learn this perspective on storms? We immerse our minds in scripture. Deuteronomy 32:2 instructs us

Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.

Are we soaking up the water of the word while the floodwaters swirl round our feet?

Isaiah 55:10 reminds us of the usefulness of scripture to our lives.

As the rain and the snowcome down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

bright-environment-flora-1463530.jpgIt tells us that God’s Word provides us with 2 things: seed and bread. Bread for our present daily needs, and seed to plant and grow and bear fruit in our future. Rains cause us to yield fruit and to grow.

The storms of rain we face are God’s provision for us. Those deluges are His classroom that teaches, trains and prepares us. The floodwaters are our faith-tester and at the same time the weights we lift to grow our faith muscle. Heavy rains free us from spiritual dryness, drive us to our knees, and open our hearts to be compassionate toward others. While we may not want to go through stormy trials in life, they are beneficial; they are for our good. Let us seek God’s blessing whatever form it comes in, and clearly see the Biblical picture of the devastation and cursing represented by no rain in our lives.

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.         1 King 17:7

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Construction Zone: Building Inspector

Accountability.

A buzzword that we give lip service to. But do we allow others into our lives to hold us accountable? Could not having accountability open the door for sin to creep in and flourish in our lives? I didn’t find the word “accountability” in the Bible, but the concept is mentioned in Hebrews 10:24-25 where it says

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

And why is that so important?

If you haven’t figured that out in your own life, I’ll tell you from my point of reference. We humans can lie to ourselves. We excuse ourselves. We trivialize the known sin in our life. We play the victim and blame others for our choice to sin. And we’re lazy – we just don’t bother to do the good we know to do, and that is sin. (James 4:17)

how-much-building-inspections-costWe don’t need to be lone rangers only doing self-evaluation. We need each other. We need encouragement, accountability, and open honesty with a few whole-hearted believers to keep each other walking in righteousness and to offer correction and help when we step off into sin. We need a building inspector to come through our spiritual house we’re building and call us out on it when things are not up to code. A building inspector keeps the builder accountable.

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Think with me for a moment about King David, a man after God’s own heart. We know of many noble, godly, victory-filled moments from his life. But we also know of his great failure: his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. Let’s look at that moment of weakness and failure.

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite. “Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant. So, David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. …David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” … In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.” 2 Samuel 11:1-5, 10, 14-15

What are the simple lessons we can draw from his experience?

First, David set himself up for disaster by not being where he was supposed to be.Kings were supposed to lead their army into battle. This particular spring David did not do that. We don’t know why. Often in my life when I am not doing what I am supposed to be doing it’s because of pride or laziness. I either think I’m “all that” and don’t have to do what I should be doing (which a king could easily think) or else I’m just being self-indulgent and irresponsible (also a likely temptation for a king with many servants).

Second, David took a second look.Sometimes we can’t help seeing a temptation. Satan throws them in front of us to trip us up. Are we wise enough to look away? First David saw her. A temptation. Simple. But then, it says “The woman was very beautiful.” At this point he had to have taken another longer look to determine her beauty. The temptation was not sin, but this second was. I think David did become wise to this after the fact, because in Psalm 119:37, David is believed to have penned these words:

Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

David had learned that his spiritual life hung in the balance when he deliberately chose to take that second look.

The third step in the process – David’s sin went from looking to speaking to acting. After the 2nd look, he asked about who she was and then went on to send messengers and have her brought to him. The sin moved from sinful thoughts to sinful words and then sinful actions. And David’s choice to sin caused Bathsheba to sin as well. Often, our sin rubs off on those around us.

How did this happen?

The fourth thing we observe is that David had not surrounded himself with godly truth speakers.His servants knew what he was doing but didn’t speak. Joab knew of the murder plot and didn’t speak. Why had the king’s advisors not spoken up in the beginning when he chose not to go to war with his army? We don’t know. We do know that at other times in his life he was surrounded by men who offered Godly counsel. Had the king become so great in his own eyes that others feared offering him wisdom? Had he shunned wise friends for a time to do as he pleased?

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It has been said that a wise one learns from others’ mistakes. So, as we inspect the lives we are building, what can we learn from an inspection of David’s failure and then apply it to our lives?

  1. Be where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing.
  2. Resist the temptation to take a second look or dwell on a sinful thought that pops into our head.
  3. Catch our sins and “nip it in the bud” as Barney Fife says, while they are still in the thought stage, before we sink to deeper levels of speaking and acting on them.
  4. Seek accountability. Look for a mature Christian who is willing to speak the truth. Or two or three people. People with whom you will make yourself be totally open and honest. Commit yourself to be more concerned about how the Father sees you than what these people think of you. Share with them your struggles, temptations, and failures. Pray with each other. Don’t isolate yourself but congregate with other believers. And consider how you can spur one another on toward love and good deeds and encourage each other.
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A Word of Hope to Moms

To the mom whose kids are grown and gone and you’re now caregiver for your sweetheart of many years – God sees you!

To the mom who is bleary-eyed and greasy-haired and in the midst of a cluttered house nursing a sick baby – God sees you!

To the mom who is a mother at heart but not physically a mother yet and desperately yearns to be – God sees you!

To the mom of the addict that leaves you fearful to hope, struggling to maintain your faith, and desperate for relief – God sees you!

To the mom of a child put in your care because his own biological mom isn’t allowed to have him right now, who puts in hours of prayer and caring and playing and guiding – God sees you!

To the Spiritual mother of many tender souls, who has a purpose greater than you realize – God sees you!

To the mom whose heart is torn, spirit is beaten down, and fears abound every single night – God sees you!

To the mom of a chaotic houseful, running here and yon and burning the midnight oil – God sees you!

To the mom of a child that struggles with physical, mental, or emotional trials that make your life seem anything but “normal” – God sees you!

To the mom of a grown woman who you worry and fret and pray over, longing for her to come fully into God’s purpose for her life – God sees you!

To the mom who feels abandoned, unseen, forgotten – God sees you!

To the single mom doing it all with a tired body, a tight budget and no real help – God sees you!

To the mom of a rosy pink newborn who finds herself overflowing with joy, but also with doubts and fears she’d never imagined having – God sees you!

To the mom waiting to adopt – longing and choosing and knowing that she is Yours, but waiting for the red tape to make it real – God sees you!

To the mom to many, the matriarch of the family who has seen many changes and ups and downs through the years – God sees you!

To the mom who is on her knees every morning for that wandering, lost child that you fear will never turn back to his heavenly Father – God sees you!

To the mom of teens trying to trust enough, be protective enough, sleep enough, guide them enough, be patient enough… God sees you!

To the mom of that child who has cut you off from a relationship with them and leaves you with more questions thatn answers – God sees you!

To the mom of preteens in the midst of a whirl of emotions that can turn on a dime, and a whirl of technology that you can’t seem to keep up with and protect them from – God sees you!

To the mom outcast, or with an outcast child, grieving for loss and friendship – God sees you!

To the mom watching your child slowly die, feeling all hope draining away as life is draining away. – God sees you!

He sees you.

He knows you.

He loves you.

Jesus loves you.

Yes, you!

“She [Hagar] gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’  for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’ ” Genesis 16:13

“Since ancient times no one has seen, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any god besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.” Isaiah 64:4

“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32

National Day of Prayer

Jesus Himself calls us to be people of prayer in Matthew 21:13 he tells us,

“It is written,” He said to them, “My house will be called a house of prayer.”

Today, on the National Day of Prayer, let us focus on praying – pray alone, pray in groups, pray at your house of worship. Pray for your nation, your state, your county and city, and for your local church, neighbors, friends, and family. Scripture reminds us why to pray, what to pray, how we should pray, for whom we should pray, and even results we can expect.

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. Matthew 26:41 

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:22-25

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16

Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:28

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Ephesians 1:16

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. Ephesians 1:18

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I praythat you, being rooted and established in love. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 3:16-20

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. Philippians 1:9

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:6-8

girl-20878_1280Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ. Colossians 4:2-3

Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 1 Thessalonians 5:25

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 2 Thessalonian 1:11

 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. Hebrews 13:18

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. James 5:13-18

Join us at GFBC to pray. The sanctuary will be open. Tune in to the National Day of Prayer services being televised at 6:30 p.m. on the Daystar Network.

PRAY!

God’s Talking

When my oldest child was just old enough to speak in short sentences, he came out one day with a phrase that still sticks with me these 30 some-odd years later. As we were driving home one rainy day he piped up from his car seat behind me with, “Wook Mommy! God’s tawking!” As I glanced back I could see him pointing up ahead. Following the direction of his fingers, my eyes lit upon a glorious shaft of sunlight streaming through the steel gray rain clouds. Immediately, I knew what he meant. In all his church nursery pictures light appeared to be streaming down on various Bible characters when God spoke to them: Paul, Noah, Jonah, among others. I was delighted that at 2 years old he already knew that God speaks to us. I was comforted that in his adult years he would know he has a Creator who loves and cares for him personally as an individual. Even now, years later, I cannot see rays of sunlight streaming through the clouds without being reminded that God is talking to someone. I sometimes even go so far as to pray for the one whom God is speaking to at that moment.

Ladies, God is talking to you today. Are you listening?

God is always talking. God doesn’t skip days or weeks or months or years and talk randomly to us. He doesn’t forget about us for months on end and then think, “Oh I wonder how ole Deb is doing?” He wants a relationship with us like we have with family or dear friends, a relationship where we chat every day. How often I’ve wondered if He felt hurt those mornings I jumped out of bed and hit the ground running without stopping to even say good morning to Him. Crystal Evans Hurst in the book Kingdom Woman, which she wrote with her dad, Tony Evans, reminds us to stretch our arms toward heaven each morning before we ever get out of bed to offer ourselves to our Lord and to ask Him to show us the most important thing He has for us that day. What if your sweet Jesus, the Lover of Your Soul, were the first person you spoke to each morning?

God speaks through His written word so that we always have a concrete reminder in black and white of His love, His promises, His ways, and His instructions for us. While book-1421097_1280prayer is important for us to speak to King Jesus, reading His Word is equally important because that is how we hear directly from Him.

God will speak truth directly to your situation. Just like those rays of light streaming down from the sky, there are days I’ve felt as if God’s face were beaming down on me as He spoke. How very many mornings have I gotten up to read His Word with something heavy on my heart. Often I was going to His Word out of routine or desperation, not for a holy purpose or because I loved Him so. But even those days when I was 2 weeks behind in my Bible reading schedule, a verse or passage I read would speak directly to my situation and I would realize God Himself had scheduled that Bible reading plan years ago; He had guided me to read that plan that year, and He even knew how behind I’d be when I needed those specific words.

God speaks through others. Another uncommon but divine occurence in my life is when a friend randomly shares a verse with me that meets my need. I know in those moments, whether it is by text, in a notecard, or face to face, that God Himself has given them that word of encouragement for me. (If you feel led to text me a verse, please do!)

Sometimes He speaks indirectly and pricks your spirit with the realization of the meaning. I remember the day my college age child was furious with me and shouting at me in our kitchen. In that moment I was trying to speak Biblical wisdom to a heart of rebellion, when said child shouted at me, “Don’t you think I know everything you believe about the Bible!” It was as if God had put the words in my child’s mouth. Immediately my heart calmed down, as God showed me that my kids really did know what I believed and by young adulthood it was time for me to keep my mouth shut and let God do the talking to them in their hearts. I have no doubt that in the middle of the night when I’m not even there, my voice echoes through their minds proclaiming The King’s will and ways.

Similarly, His word planted in the heart speaks for years to come. Those verses sung or memorized in the 3-year-old class are still floating around in us. And they are still bearing fruit. If it hasn’t already happened to you, at some point you’ll have a verse spring into your mind, word-for-word that you never even memorized. God dredges up old sermons, or songs or random verses from the past just when we need them to communicate truth and wisdom to us. I wonder if He puts His Creator finger in our brain and touches just the neuron to trigger just the words we need to be reminded of.

If God can speak through a donkey, he can also speak through secular friends and media. Sometimes I’ve even gotten wise advice through an ungodly source. Yep. I know some of you are thinking, “Well I just don’t believe God would work that way.” Well let me tell you, He does. Late one evening when I was a naive college student I wanted to go to the lake with a bunch of non-churched friends. I was heading toward the car to go when one of the guys said, “You can’t go.” I was like, “Why not?” and his response was, “I know you and your mom. I know what y’all are like. I know what we do at the lake. You can’t go.” And I didn’t go. Who knows what the Lord preserved me from getting involved in.

As the storm clouds roll through today, whether they are literal clouds or those storm clouds of trial, be reminded that your Heavenly Father is above the clouds shining down upon you, speaking words of wisdom, direction, comfort, and peace. Go to His Book. Listen for His words. Seek His heart. Jeremiah 29:12-14 reminds us

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”

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Obedience – In “Seuss”-ical Style

Published in honor of Theodor Seuss (Dr. Seuss) Geisel’s birthday, March 2, 1904. We share this reposting of a the following poem. It is a bit fun and silly as “Seussical” things are. But it has a point. Allow God to pierce your heart.

dr-seuss-hat-clip-art-cat_hat_by_2hello2-d32lileObedience – In “Seuss”-ical Style

I am Sam.

Sam I am.

O Great I Am!

O Great I Am!

I’m not sure I like this, O Great I Am!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Do you like to obey The Lamb?

Do you obey Him here or there? Do you obey Him anywhere?

Will you obey Him in your house? Will you obey Him with your spouse?

Will you obey Him in peace and strife?

Will you obey Him facing death or life?

Would you, could you in a car?

Obey Him. Forgive them, just as they are.

You may like it, you will see, obeying the One who died on that tree!

Will you tell Him, “Let me be!” or will you obey continually?

In a palace, in the desert, in success and in your failures?

At home, at church, at work or play! Could you, would you, just obey?

In the dark? In the lonely dark? Would you obey Him when all is dark?

Would you, could you, in the sun?

Could you, would you when you’re having fun?

Can you, will you in your thoughts? Will you, or won’t you as you ought?

Up on the mountain, down in the valley?

Around the world, or just next door?

Whether you’re rich or whether you’re poor? . . .

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You do not like the word “obey”?

You do not like it so you say.

Try it, try it and you may.

Try it and you may I say! …

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I do so like to obey the Lamb!

Thank you!

Thank you, Great I AM!

 
Original poem by Debbie Stovall. Copyright August 1, 2016.

The Yellow Rose – My Lesson on Discouragement

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

College years can teach us many lessons. And not just through lectures in history, biology or English, but life lessons. Lessons that impact the way we live, such as

Choose your friends wisely.

Be where you should be – whether at class at 7:45 a.m. or not at the bar at 3:00 a.m.

Choices have consequences.

One of the most helpful, life-changing lessons I learned in college was not in a lecture hall, but in my own bedroom during God’s “Life 101 Class.” I don’t remember all the details. I know I was alone in our little apartment on the campus of the University of Alabama. My roommates, three godly young women, had gone home for the weekend. For some reason I stayed on campus alone, which rarely, if ever occurred.

This particular weekend I found myself alone and depressed. It may have been over a guy or a class I was struggling with, I can’t recall. (That’s how depression is –  at the moment it seems like it will never change, but once we’ve gotten past it, we can’t always recall the “whys.”) All I remember were the desperate feelings of failure, isolation, and deep darkness. At that moment I felt life would never get better, nothing would ever change. I was overwhelmed and hopeless. Gloom had surrounded me; pessimism, despondency, and a myriad of negative feelings overwhelmed me.

alone-beautiful-bed-1907444.jpgThat day I struggled to perform. I hardly got out of bed for hours. I ate as a panacea. I was lost in the barrage of the Enemy’s fiery darts that assaulted my mind. Somewhere in the midst of the negative thoughts, a moment of clarity came over my mind. I realize now it was God providing a “way out” for me. But I had to choose to act on it. Scripture tells us that “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

In that moment of clarity I reached for God’s word. Once again I don’t remember much. I don’t remember what verses I read. But in my wanderings through the Word, I kept recalling a favorite elementary school memory verse from my 3rd grade Sunday School class: “Do onto others what you would have them do unto you.” It’s from Luke 6:31. I have no idea what version of the Bible it was from. I can’t locate that exact wording in any of my Bibles today, but that was word-for-word the way I had memorized it probably 10-12 years before that day.

As this mantra from scripture that I knew of as “The Golden Rule” ran through my mind repeatedly, it began to confront an issue I had. (God’s Word does that!) The issue that day was loneliness. I wanted someone to call me or check on me or show kindness to me in some way. I was wallowing in my loneliness and blues. As the verse played almost like it was on repeat through me mind, I suddenly saw a different meaning hidden within it.

I had always had a childish understanding of the verse thinking it meant “don’t hit your brother because you don’t want him to hit you” or some such thing. But suddenly I caught on the words “Do to others.” Do. Do. Not don’t. I wish someone would Do something for me. Do. Call me. Do. Take me out to eat. Do. Bring me a present.

Then came a realization – I had not done any of these things for anyone in weeks! I was told in scripture to Do what I wanted done to me, but I wasn’t doing.

I ceased my sniveling, sloppy crying, sat up from laying in bed, and started mopping my wet and snotty face on my sleeve.

If I wasn’t doing anything for anyone, why was I expecting anyone to do anything for me?

At that moment I made a decision. I would do one kind thing for someone. That meant getting my clothes on and stepping out of the apartment, out of my darkness, but I did it.

beautiful-bloom-blooming-133472Once again I don’t know where the thought came from, but as I rummaged through my brain for something kind to do for someone, a friend of mine came to mind. I knew she was The One. I knew she liked yellow roses. I knew I would like to get a flower from someone. So I put on some clothes, headed to Kroger, and bought one yellow, budget-stretching rose, (any extra is budget-stretching for a broke college student) and then drove to her apartment.

As I stood at her door waiting for her to answer, I realized I had a little smile on my face. Doing something for someone else gave me a bit of joy.

Then the door opened. She stood there with swollen eyes and no smile. In that moment I knew that she was as desperate and needy as I was. I tumbled into her tiny college apartment amidst a flurry of “What’s wrong?” “Are you ok?” etc. Her mood of the day matched mine: discouragement, worry, fear, loneliness, worthlessness… .

We sat on the couch. I handed her the rose. Tears flowed. From both of us. The rest of the afternoon was spent commiserating – misery really does love company. We moaned and whined and lamented to each other for quite a while. The crying eventually turned into the laughter-through-tears kind of emotion, and smiles crept into the room.

As I left later that day, my mood, and hers, had changed. We both felt loved and heard and needed. I think I had gone there with the rose hoping I could buy her friendship and she would sit and listen to my woes and make me feel better. And I did feel better. We both did. The Life 101 lesson I learned was that when we bless others we in turn are also blessed. When we obey scripture, real answers come from the Father for our problems. As we offer help to someone else, we are actually helping ourselves. This lesson has never left me. Even today some 35 years later, when I am feeling down, my go to question is “Who can I do something for, and what can I do?” Many lives have been impacted through the years, and my life has been rescued from depression and fear over and over.

We should not be surprised at this lesson. In Genesis 12:2-3 God says to Abram, “I will bless you; … and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you.” I believe that these words are just as much true for us today, because in Matthew 25:40 Jesus tells us, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ” When we do something to bless others we are doing something for our Savior and we will reap a harvest of blessing.

A challenge goes with this blog.

Before you go to bed tonight, find someone and do a small kindness for them.

 

Childish Whimsy: Puppies and Kittens

In women’s ministry we frequently read and discuss the stories of Mary and Martha presented in the Gospels. Sometimes I’ve felt proud of the woman I was and at other times I’ve felt judged by the lesson presented. There is great wisdom in studying these two women, each of whom had her own strengths and shortcomings.

But today we will view the principles of this story through a childish lens.

Here’s a little background to set up the article. When I was an elementary school child I thought that all puppies were boys and all kittens were girls. To me, the rough and tumble life of dogs seemed more like the boys I knew, while the prissy, picky catlike behaviors seemed more girlish. (Weird, I know. Don’t judge me.)

So let’s look at dogs and cats for a bit.

Dogs. Man’s best friend. Loyal companions. Rambunctious. Full of life. They come when  they are called, obey commands, and are happy just to be in their masters’ presence.

And then there are felines. They look at you when you call them as if to say, “How dare you disturb my repose?” They sniff at their food and turn up their noses, plop into your lap or onto your computer keyboard at the most inopportune times, and seem to exude an aura that all the world is about them. Cats are caught up in their surroundings. They are in charge and don’t always have the will to come when their master calls, nor do they do his bidding or find all their joy in just being his. Cats are out for number one. If what they want makes their master happy too, then good. But if not, so be it.

English languageday-2But dogs love and obey their master with their whole tail-wagging, tongue-hanging-out being. He is their joy and focus. All their life, their sheer existence is tied up in their master. He (or she) brings them joy. They follow him around, sit beside him or on his lap, and jump and lick and bounce around his feet the moment he gets home. The Master feeds them good things and takes care of their every need. Their whole desire is to be at their Master’s side; their life is intricately tied up with his. Dogs get it: they understand the “one thing” that they have been put on earth for.

This characteristic of dogs is very much like the most vivid lesson to be gleaned from the story of Mary and Martha: Jesus wants us to have a mind and heart focused on Him. In Luke 10 Jesus stated, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary.” Only one thing, Our Master. Is He all that is necessary to us today? Do we simply desire to be with our Master, to know Him and please Him? As women we wear many hats and are pulled in many directions. But to have our hearts firmly settled in Him is the only thing that matters. That alone will bring us peace and give us direction.

We see a very similar lesson in the Biblical account of Mary & Martha, as we can see through the lives of dogs and cats, a focus on the one import thing: the Master. So instead of bringing on thoughts of self-condemnation and judgment by asking if you are a Mary or a Martha, may I ask may I ask a rather innocent question, are you a cat or a dog at heart?

Discipling: A Tribute and a Challenge

Disciples – disciplers. Learners – teachers. Mentees – mentors. We all have these relationships, whether they have been formally declared or not. We all teach many and are taught by many people in life. Those around us display examples before us from the time we are born, and we begin early on to mimic, to follow, to adapt to the ways of these wise, or not so wise teachers, depending upon the family or community into which we were born.

In God’s word we see this concept of discipleship being held up as an appropriate way to live out the Christian life. Jesus himself tells us in Matthew 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you….” 

He didn’t just instruct us to go share the Gospel, but to go further and to teach and guide. Later in the New Testament, Paul instructs Timothy in the same way. He tells him to be both a disciple and a discipler. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul writes to his young mentee:

“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 

To be able to say those words as Paul did requires that we have learned how to live so that we may honestly and in good conscience say to others in essence, “You can trust what I say. I base it on God’s word. Follow my example.”

mentor-3563661_1280.jpgAs a girl I was blessed to have had this kind of people in my life. I was discipled by many wonderful Christian friends and mentors.

The Kirkleys, a man and wife who were my choir director and Sunday School teacher, taught us more than just music and random Bible stories. They systematically taught us behavior altering principles upon which to base our life, and they lived it out. They weren’t perfect people, but even in the ups and downs they taught us impressionable young people how to walk through even hard things in a godly manner. They showed us what a beautiful marriage was and how to serve humbly and effectively.

Then there was Laura, a generous-hearted older girl in our youth group. She was off in college by the time I was in high school. She was being discipled through the Navigators, a Christian organization active on her college campus. In turn, she chose to invest in us entrepreneurship-3822492_1280.jpgyounger girls. She faithfully came home every weekend to attend church and while there would meet with our small group of chatty girls to walk through scripture and help us answer the questions we had and build a foundation for life based on God’s word. Even today some 40 years later, I refer back to those Design for Discipleship books, the verses and illustrations they contained, and the principles they taught me.

Then there was my iron-sharpens-iron friend, Joan, who was, and is still to this day, the  godliest woman I know. I was mouthy, flighty, and immature. She was a rock, full of fun, yet grounded in godly wisdom. She walked beside me as a friend my age going through similar circumstances and always shining the spotlight of God’s word on what was going on in life.

There were many others. Mr. D, a favorite school teacher and deacon in our church who opened his classroom each day for Morning Watch and acted as a role model and the Heavenly Father’s guide through those tumultuous high school years. Mrs. Latham who taught me in 3rd grade and started me on the path of scripture memory, and her daughter Fran who invested in us in college and challenged us to live pure, holy lives as she was doing herself. Marcie who challenged this anxiety-filled teenage girl to memorize an important scripture verse with her (Philippians 4:6-7 because we were volleyball-team-1586522_1280both worriers.) And there are a string of others too numerous to mention. What would I have turned out to be without their wisdom and guidance? Every teen in our youth group at church was impacted by these people. Today, those grown up youth from the 70s are pastors, teachers, moms and dads, doctors, engineers and god-fearing members of society in many other fields.

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You have probably had similar people pour into you. As an adult, you are now aware of and thankful for the impact of these people upon your life. But what are you now doing with what you were given?

As society has progressed the world has changed. Commitments, electronics, busyness, as well as work and hobbies among other distractions have morphed us into people who are less connected and therefore have less influence for good on the world around us. Are you today offering the same kind of discpling and teaching to younger Christians around you that you were given growing up? It is so easy to not get involved, to not teach, not disciple because of our lifestyle, and to choose to leave it up to someone else.

As 2019 is dawning on us, I challenge you today to start fresh and make these words of Paul a cry of your heart this year. “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Take what you have been given and pass it on. Invest in the next generation of Christians. Grow. Multiply. Share. Invest. Do it intentionally.

help-2444110_1280What do we teach them?

God’s word.

How to live it out.

How to study it.

How Jesus would have us treat others in these volatile times.

Open your heart and life to those coming along behind you, and let them learn by watching you live. It is the most generous, life-changing gift you can give. You’ve been issued a challenge. Do you take the challenge?

“Find Us Faithful” by Steve Green

We’re pilgrims on the journey
of the narrow road,
and those who’ve gone before us
line the way.
cheering on the faithful,
encouraging the weary,
their lives a stirring testament
to God’s sustaining grace.
O may all who come behind us
find us faithful.
May the fire of our devotion
light their way.
May the footprints that we leave,
lead them to believe,
and the lives we live
inspire them to obey.
O may all who come behind us
find us faithful.