Friday, December 26, 2008

The Best Gift

I must have been about seven or eight years old the Christmas of the Barbie doll. My older sister had two Barbies, but I had none. I desperately wanted my own Barbie and hoped to receive one for Christmas.

The tradition in my family was to take turns opening gifts one at a time. That way we knew who got what from whom, and we could all ooh and aah over each gift. With four children in our family, the gifts were heaped under the tree, and it took a little while to open each one. As youngest, I went first, opening . . . something that was not a Barbie doll. Then I waited while my two brothers, then my sister, then my dad and stepmom each opened a gift. Finally, it was my turn again. The next gift still was not a Barbie doll. The process was repeated numerous times, but among my gifts, the one thing I wanted most remained elusive, and my heart was beginning to sink.

I could no longer contain my disappointment when my sister opened a gift containing a brown-haired Barbie . . . with bendable legs! The gifts by now were scarce under the tree, and I was convinced that I would be left Barbie-less. The tears that had been threatening behind my eyelids burst forth in angry disappointment as I exclaimed, “It’s no fair! Why did she get a Barbie doll when she already has two, and I don’t have any!”

In utter disgust my stepmother directed me to look at my last package under the tree. . . . Could it be? Yes, it was my very own beautiful, blonde-haired Barbie with bendable legs and at least two outfits. My shame over that emotional outburst hampered the joy of that moment. She’d been there all along! I needed only to look and grab onto that gift waiting there for me.

Thinking of Christmas and the anticipation of receiving a much-desired gift, reminds me of the many who know about God’s great gift to us--His son Jesus, the Christ, who came to give us an abundant life now (John 10:10) and eventually eternal life with Him (John 3:16)--but for some reason this precious gift has eluded you. Dear friend, I just want to remind you that God’s gift is right there for the taking. Have you been too busy opening other gifts that weren’t really at all what you wanted? Have you doubted that anything so wonderful could ever be yours? Have you lost hope that you’ll ever receive this special gift? The gift is already yours. It came wrapped in swaddling clothes in the little town of Bethlehem in Judea. He’s waiting for you to receive Him, and He’ll gladly come into your life. Why don’t you accept God’s gift to you this Christmas? I promise it will be the best gift you have ever received.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Hope

There’s an irony in receiving Christmas cards and sympathy cards at the same time. One card extols the joys of the season; the next empathizes with your sorrow. The first day it happened (that is, receiving the cards) I thought of it as sardonic humor and felt someone must be having a laugh at my expense. Celebrate Christmas? Now? You must be kidding.

The second day I was somewhat more prepared. I looked at the stack of cards, and with a tinge of bitter sarcasm I thought, Which will it be? We Wish You a Merry Christmas? Or We Sympathize with Your Loss?

Oh Lord, I thought, How do you expect me to do this?

But then I remembered Hebrews 4:15–16; “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

It’s generally accepted that Joseph, Jesus’ adopted father, had died by the time Jesus began his ministry. Surely this was a painful loss for Jesus to bear. When Jesus was at the tomb of Lazarus, we see him moved by great compassion and love; he wept. He understands our pain. Furthermore, the very reason we celebrate Christmas is because of the HOPE he brought us when he came to Earth as a baby.

This Christmas may not be the “happiest” for me or my family, but surely it will hold a special beauty as we reflect on His promise of eternal life and joyful reunions.

Christmas cards for the grieving? How fitting.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The End of the Story

Trusting in God is like watching a movie borrowed from a friend who has told you, “There’s lots of drama and tense moments along the way, but don’t worry, it has a happy ending.” So even if you’re on the edge of your seat, gripping the arm of the person next to you in pure terror, or weeping in sorrow while you watch the movie, you’re also anticipating that happy ending.

Sometimes life gets awfully dicey. We get caught up in the moment and think, “Oh no, this is awful! I’ll never survive this!” We tend to forget . . . there’s more to the story.

God has proven His faithfulness in countless ways. We can look in the Bible and see testimony after testimony of how He delivers His people. We can look at examples from our own lives and see the many ways He has taken care of us, protected us, and provided for us.

No matter what situation we find ourselves in, when we remember how GOOD God is, we can find hope in the anticipation that He will make “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). There will be lots of twists and turns, even heartache and pain along the way, but always remember . . . the end of the story will be beautiful.

God bless you.

Bear One Another's Burdens

The tears started on the way to church. I thought I should just turn around and go back home. I didn’t want to make a scene, but something told me “Go.”

By the time I pulled up to the building, I felt I had things under control. I dabbed my eyes with tissue one more time, put a smile on my face, and went inside and made small talk with a couple of people. Then our pastor’s wife called me to her side and asked me “the question” that brought about a fresh torrent of tears. She put her arms around me and waved aside our worship leader who was waiting for me to come up and “do my thing” as part of the worship team.

When the music started, I moved to the back of the room where I wouldn’t be so noticeable. As we sang one beautiful song after another, I tried to practice what I preach about praising God in the midst of trials to overcome feelings of anxiety, despair or anything else. Time after time, my sadness would begin to lift but then descend upon me again.

I guess the Lord knew I needed help, because when the music was done, I heard our pastor instructing everyone to lay hands on me while he prayed.

So much for not making a scene . . .

And then the most amazing thing happened. I was suddenly surrounded by loving concern and compassion. I felt a rush of calming warmth go through my body within seconds after my brothers and sisters in Christ laid their hands on me. As Pastor prayed I felt as if piece by piece my burden was being lifted from me and placed on each of them -- each would carry just a small portion for me.

I was completely set free from my sorrow that morning. I’ve never experienced anything like it. When I shared with a friend what it was like, she said, “While we were praying, I found myself asking God to give me some of your pain so it wouldn't be so hard on you.” Don’t you suppose the Holy Spirit told her to pray that? That’s exactly what happened!

God has been teaching me about why the church is so important. Little by little I’ve been learning, but this experience taught me something I could never have learned from a book or a sermon. This is the church in action. This is the Spirit of Christ at work in us. This is just one example of how we as His body carry out His work on Earth.

Some people say they don’t need the church, but if you need God, you need the church. The Spirit of the Living God lives in each of your brothers and sisters in Christ, and each one of them has the unique potential to minister to your needs through His Spirit. I hope you will invest yourself in a church where God's people will meet your needs while you do the same for them.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).

Just Do It

When I was a young girl, my dad used to call me “scatter-brained.” Sadly, it’s true. My thoughts flit about quite randomly, and I forget things far too often. Gladly, I can blame Dad, because he’s the one who gave me the self-fulfilling prophecy! (Just kidding, Dad.)

Some things one just should not forget--like all the times I’ve told people “I’ll pray for you” and then forgotten to do so. I have felt so ashamed when I’ve seen someone I previously promised to pray for and am reminded that I never prayed.

But then I met someone a few years ago, and every time we talked she interspersed our conversations with prayers. She never said, “Oh, I’ll pray about that”; she just prayed right then and there! At first it surprised me--I'd never known anyone who prayed so much!--but I loved being covered in that kind of prayer and decided that, considering my short attention span, it was a practice I should definitely imitate.

I’ve changed my ways. Not all of the time — sometimes I still get shy — but most of the time instead of promising to pray, I just do it.

It’s important for us to pray not just for one another but with one another. When someone puts an arm around me or takes my hands and fills my mind and spirit with encouragement from God’s Word and comfort from their love and concern, it’s far more uplifting than what might be (at least in my case!) an idle promise to pray.

So the next time you talk to someone who needs prayer, don’t say you’ll pray for them – just do it!

Galatians 6:2; Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Above All That We Ask or Think

What are you trusting God for right now in your life?

A friend came up with the idea for our women’s study group that each day we should write down something for which we’re trusting God—no matter how small or how big.

Perhaps on a particular day when you’re exhausted, you might need to trust God for the energy to get through that day.

On another day you might need to trust Him for the patience to deal with a difficult person.

Another day might find you trusting Him for beautiful weather in spite of a rainy forecast.

Right now I’m trusting Him for a miracle in the life of someone I love.

Why shouldn’t I believe for a miracle? Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (emphasis mine).

Wow! That’s an amazing verse! I don’t know about you, but I’d be happy if God did just what I asked for or thought of, but this verse says he is able to do exceedingly abundantly above that.

Let’s not forget the end of that verse: “. . . according to the power that works in us.” When we’re born again and have God’s Holy Spirit living in us, we have the great honor of operating in HIS power to believe and trust for every need and even to be used by Him to help bring about those needs.

Let’s not ever limit Him or His power within us.

What are you trusting Him for?

Who's the Enemy?

When a friend of mine came under attack and was falsely accused, threatened and treated maliciously, I did what any good friend would do—I raised my hackles and plotted revenge! That IS what a good friend would do, isn’t it . . . ?

Fighting back is a natural response to unfair treatment from others, and if I’m defending a friend and not myself, it feels like “righteous indignation”— at least until I remember an important principle from Ephesians 6:12.

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."

According to this passage, Satan is our enemy, not other people (flesh and blood). He often uses other people to hurt us, to irritate us, or to offend us; but we must remember that’s just one of his diversion tactics to get us off track—to get our minds off the Lord, to get us thinking ungodly thoughts, to destroy our witness for Christ when we lash out at others.

My friend responded to the attack with far more class than what I mustered; but, as with most things in life, it was another opportunity for God to remind me of how unlike my ways are from His and another opportunity for me to grow. Next time I will remember where to direct my anger!

What If I Stumble?

The band DC Talk performs a song called “What If I Stumble?” The song begins with this sobering message:

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today
Is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips
Then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.
That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

The artist then goes on to discuss his fear of living with the knowledge that the world is watching him, watching his Christian walk (especially as someone in the public eye), and he might stumble, he might fall and let them all down.

Most of us are probably familiar with the saying, “You may be the only Jesus some may ever see.” And that’s true. We all know someone who will never set foot inside a church and will scoff at the idea of reading the Bible. We are Christ’s representatives on Earth. We are His body. The world looks at us and decides whether getting to know Jesus is worth their effort. It’s an awesome responsibility. It makes me sad when my behavior doesn’t line up with who I profess to be in Christ. But it happens.

When I started to write this column, I wanted to say that people shouldn’t look at other people to decide if Christianity is for them; they should look at Jesus and how He lived His life. Only Jesus is perfect; people will let you down every time. This is also true, and I’m struggling to reconcile these paradoxical truths. Unbelievers will watch us and form judgments about Christianity. At the same time, we’re imperfect and we will disappoint them. God does not want us filled with fear or self-condemnation. What should be our attitude here?

What's probably most important is that we're "real" people. If we're willing to admit when we make mistakes, if we acknowledge that we don't always hit the mark, and if we're humble and apologize to others, the world will see that Christians aren't perfect, but we do serve a perfect God.

Believe When You Pray

When my first two sons were little boys, they were part of a kids’ program at church where, among other things, they memorized Bible verses. One evening I helped my oldest son, who was probably about six years old at the time, practice his verses for the week. Among the verses was Matthew 21:22. Because the program used the somewhat antiquated King James Version of “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive,” I wanted to make sure my son understood what he was reciting.

This boy was a whiz kid when it came to memorization, and he easily repeated the verse after me. I said, “That’s great, honey! Now can you tell me what that verse means?”

With his bright blue eyes filled with innocence and sincerity, he said, “It means if I pray, and I ask Jesus for a sister, I’ll get one!”

His faith and the sweetness of his request touched my heart. He really understood!

But did I?

I think it was many years before I noticed the key word in that verse: BELIEVING.
There’s a difference in the way we pray when we really believe that God is who He says He is, when we believe that He will never leave us or forsake us, when we believe that He wants good things for us, when we believe that He loves us more than we can fathom, when we believe that He cannot lie, when we believe that every good and perfect gift comes from Him. . . . I could go on and on!

What we believe makes all the difference in how we pray and in the results of those prayers.

Although my son may not have prayed with completely pure motives (I overheard him telling his younger brother he wanted a sister to clean his room!), he did get his little sister a few years later.

And his mother learned to pray with a whole new confidence.

The Depths of Your Heart Only God Can Touch

My husband must have thought I was crazy when I looked at him and said, “I miss you.”
How is it possible to miss someone you live with and see every day?

Most married people know very well how it’s possible. You live in the same house and speak to this person every day, but you’re not really “connecting.”

It’s the same way with God. We’re aware of His presence and have brief chats occasionally, but we don’t make time often enough for the kind of deep conversation required for intimacy. As a result we experience an unexplained sense of loneliness, a feeling that “something’s missing.”

God puts all kinds of people in our lives, and sometimes we’re lucky enough to establish wonderfully close connections with one or a few of them, but only God is fully able to satisfy our craving to be wholly known. We must come to terms with the fact that in some ways life's journey is a solitary one. There are depths of your heart only God can touch because only He is intimately acquainted with your innermost being.

That is why, just as in marriage, we need to protect and nurture our relationship with God. When I told my husband I missed him, we knew it was time to get back on track: put aside work for a while, turn off the TV, ignore the telephone, and talk to one another.

Take time every day for the One who loves you with an everlasting, unconditional, wonderful love; a love that will satisfy your longing for true intimacy.

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself” (Jer. 31:3, NLT).

Knowing God

I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.
With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself (Jer. 31:3, NLT)

Some time ago I took part in a study called Experiencing Spiritual Intimacy, and the realization that God wants us to know Him really struck home. Sometimes we get stuck in the pattern of thinking of God as mysterious, unknowable, unfathomable—that all we can do is serve Him and hope we’ll find favor with Him in the end. This mindset will surely affect our ability to draw close to Him. How can you have a personal, intimate relationship with someone who’s so mystifying? So distant? But the Lord says, “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God. . . .” (Jer. 24:7, NASB).

Why would God want us to know Him, to understand Him better? When I pondered this question, I thought of my own need for intimacy—don’t we all long to be known? And in whose image are we created? Do you suppose our innate need for intimacy is a reflection of our Father’s character? Of course it is.

Just as we long for someone who will know us, understand us, and love us; because of His great love, God also wants that kind of relationship. In 1 Corinthians 2:11–12, Paul explains how it’s possible to know Him: “No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit. . . .”

If you’ve accepted Jesus as your savior, His Spirit lives in you and will reveal more and more of God’s nature as you seek intimacy with Him.

What Will Please the King?

Isaiah 61:10: I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

After I read Tommy Tenney’s novel of historical fiction, Hadassah: One Night with the King, based on the book of Esther, I was excited to watch what turned out to be a beautiful movie version of the novel.

There was one scene in the movie that especially touched my heart. If you remember the story of Esther, you know that Esther (her Jewish name was Hadassah) was one of many beautiful, young virgins brought to the palace of King Ahasuerus as candidates to replace the former queen, Vashti. After one year of beauty regimens, each young woman would spend one night with the king, and he would choose one of them as his new queen.

In this scene of the movie, all the queen candidates were brought to a room that held the palace treasures. They were told to choose jewelry to wear for their night with the king. They were also told that they could keep whatever jewelry they chose, regardless of whether or not they were picked to be queen. The young women rushed to scoop up as much gold and jewels as they could carry, but Esther didn’t move from her spot. When Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem, noticed her standing there, he asked, “Don’t any of the palace jewels please you, Esther?” And she replied, “What does it matter if they please me? I want to know what will please the king.”

The Lord has given us all we need to stand before Him as pure, holy, and blameless in His sight. We might grab onto everything the world has to offer only to find it’s too heavy for us to carry. Or we might try to do everything in our own power to make ourselves “look good,” but here stands Christ, holding His perfect robe of righteousness. All we have to do is put on Christ, wear His garment, and throw off our own filthy rags to be found pleasing before our King.

Fear Cancels Out Faith

My friend made an interesting observation when she said, “Have you ever noticed people will spend 20 minutes talking about the problem and 30 seconds praying about it?”

Why is that? Why do we love to dwell on all the sordid details, the symptoms, the diagnosis, the prognosis . . .?

I’ll confess I’ve done this in the past and thought nothing of it. What’s wrong with knowing the details? Won’t that help me pray better—more specifically?

There are two reasons I don’t necessarily want to hear all the particulars of a matter before I pray: First of all, oftentimes prayer requests become nothing more than gossip sessions. For example, “Oh, we must pray for so-and-so; her child is in trouble.” And then begins the list of “troubles”—the drinking, the drugs, the run-ins with the law, and so on and so on. Do we need to know all this to pray for brokenhearted parents and their troubled child?

The second reason not to talk to death a prayer request has to do with how it affects our faith. When I hear things like “hopeless,” “terminal,” “awful,” and “really bad,” fear creeps in. Fear cancels out my faith. Before I’ve even begun to pray, I’m wondering if there’s any hope. And I know that when I pray, I must have faith; I must believe in order for my prayer to be effective (Hebrews 11:1, Mark 11:24, Hebrews 11:6).

My faith must be stronger than what I comprehend with my five senses, than what the situation presents. And that’s hard! I don’t need any help not believing! If I’m going to agree with God who “calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17), please don’t bombard me with what my carnal mind perceives. Just let me know there’s a need, and let me go to my Father who “knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” He knows the details; that’s good enough for me.

Giving Up to Get It All

Luke 4:18; The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. . . .

Because of Jesus . . .
We were poor, but now we are rich.
We were brokenhearted, now we are healed.
We were prisoners, but we’ve been set free.
We were blind, but now we see.

Too many of us are not living and walking in the freedom Christ intended for us. Why?
You say, “I don’t feel rich; I feel financially, emotionally, spiritually bankrupt.”
You say, “I don’t feel healed; my body still aches with my disease; my heart hurts with the pain of life’s disappointments.”

You say, “I’m supposed to see things clearly? Then why am I so confused?”
You say, “I’ve been set free? Then why am I still struggling under the weight of this guilt, this addiction, all these regrets . . .?”

If you know what Jesus said he did for you, but you’re not experiencing it practically day-to-day, ask yourself if you’re truly letting Him heal and deliver you. Is it possible you’ve never really laid down your burdens at his feet and said, “Here, Lord, take them”?

Before laying down your burdens, try laying down your life. When you come to the end of yourself, and you know that you can do no good thing apart from Him; when you say, “Here’s my life, Lord, take it and do whatever you want with it”; when you bow at His feet and lift your hands in humble surrender, you will begin to understand what it means to be set free.

Pray for Our Country and Its Leaders

DELETE. There goes another negative political e-mail forward.

Do you get tired of all the character assassination that goes along with every election? Why spend time reading something that may not even be true? Sometimes I check the accuracy of a forward I’ve received, and nearly every time I’ve checked, the information has turned out false, so reading it really was a waste of my time. (You can go to a site like to see if what you’re sending or receiving is true. Somebody gets paid to check out these things, and you can often get the background of when, where, and how the story originated.)

Out of curiosity, I recently went to the Snopes website and searched for “Sarah Palin.” Just as I suspected, within days of McCain’s announcement of Palin as his running mate, wild stories complete with pictures were circulating on the Internet. It might be somewhat humorous if so many people receiving these emails didn’t believe they were true.

Rumors, especially ugly ones, spread fast. As Christians we need to be careful that we’re not guilty, even unintentionally, of spreading lies about others.

Paul describes what our attitude should be toward our country’s leaders in 1 Timothy 2:1-2; I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

So here’s my plan, and I hope you’ll join me: Every time I receive a forward about a political candidate, I’m going to use the time I would have spent reading that forward to instead pray for our country and its leaders. Regardless of who wins the elections in November, we’re responsible to pray for them, so we might as well start now!

Stop the World!

I told God I wanted one more day a week, and I figured since He’s so very fond of me I should get it (just kidding). I know He made the whole world in six days and had time left over to rest on the seventh, but I can’t even accomplish what I need to in seven days much less six. It’s frustrating, and I keep saying, “It won’t be this way forever. Someday I will cut back.”

I recently heard that the world will end in 2012—it has to do with the end of the Mayan calendar or something like that. I don’t know; I wasn’t paying attention to the details, because I got so excited at the prospect!

Remember the song “Stop the World and Let Me Off”? Yeah, I feel that way sometimes.
The world may or may not end in 2012—I guess we’ve had these predictions before—but I can’t stop thinking about what I would do differently if I truly, truly believed that we had less than four years on this earth. Would I continue to work so frantically?

Sadly, I may never accomplish all that I possibly could in this life.

But maybe life’s not meant to be a to-do list. Micah 6:8 expresses God’s expectation for us:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Once again I’m reminded that God’s ways are not my ways. Maybe He’s telling me, “Relax, would ya? I love you, and we’re going to spend eternity together. For that reason I’m far more concerned with your character than your accomplishments.”
And in that light, I’ll keep plugging away, doing what I have to do but being ever mindful that it’s my heart God cares most about.

Bible Misquotes

Have you ever been misquoted?

Someone says something similar to what you said, but they change it just enough so that it means something entirely different, and you’re left saying, “That’s not what I said!”

Or they repeat something you said, but they leave out the context in which it was said, and again you’re misquoted. Aggravating, isn’t it?

God gets misquoted too. Years ago a coworker told me, “The Bible says sex is a sin.”
Dumbfounded, I asked, “Do you ever read the Bible?”

She said, “No.”

Well, drrrr. Why would you quote from a book you’ve never read?

Much of what people believe is just what they’ve heard someone else say without ever checking for themselves. For instance, how many people are sure the Bible says, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”? Nope. It’s not there. Or how about, "God helps those who help themselves"? You won’t find that one either—Ben Franklin said it.

I’ll bet you’ve heard people say, “Money is the root of all evil.” Money’s an inanimate object; there’s nothing inherently evil about it. The Bible says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). It’s not money that’s the problem; it’s the love of money and pursuing it—along with anything else—above God that is evil.

People often say, “God won’t give you any more than you can handle,” a very loose paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which is more accurately paraphrased as “God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to escape.” There’s no implication that He’s “giving you” the trial or temptation. In fact, James 1:13 clearly tells us that God does not tempt nor is he tempted!

The point is, God’s Word is a precious gift to us. Let’s at least be familiar with what it says and be blessed!

Can I Get a Witness?

Always be ready to give an account of the hope that is within you (1 Peter 3:15)

Sometimes we Christians can get real uptight about how to “witness” to non-Christians. You know, the “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” part of the Bible? Does that part make you nervous? Maybe you’ve decided you’ll just live a good life and lead by example without ever saying a word about Jesus. Well, living the Christian life is important too, but maybe witnessing won’t seem so scary if we simply share our testimony with others.

Sharing your testimony is basically telling others what God has done for you. It might be how He helped you in a specific situation, but today I’m thinking about sharing with others how we came to know him.

When I wanted to write out my personal testimony, I found a helpful Web site online: There are several such sites on the Internet. You might want to look at others.

This sight directs us to Acts 22:1–16 and 26:9–23. Paul shares his testimony in these passages making four points: (1) I have not always been a Christian, (2) but God showed me my need of Jesus Christ. (3) I committed my life to Jesus, and (4) now my life is different.

Simple, huh?

Your testimony is a genuine, unintimidating way to share Christ with others. Take some time this week to think about your life before Jesus, how you realized you needed Him, how you received Him, and how He has changed your life. Share your testimony first with people close to you, then you’ll feel more comfortable sharing it with others you may not know so well. Write down your testimony to share with future generations. I would love to have the testimonies of ancestors who knew Christ before me!

It’s exciting to hear about how Jesus has changed lives, so consider sharing your testimony for publication in the Faith pages. It’s not exactly “all nations,” but it’s a beginning, and our readers and our Lord will be blessed.

That Which Concerns You

On the campus at Northwestern, I walked behind my son as we headed toward the building where his father and I would attend a meeting for parents of football players while he would join his future teammates for pizza.

I sensed a certain level of anxiety in him: after this meeting we would return home, and he would be left behind to prove himself. The next day the players would be put through a series of physical tests to see how they measured up. He would be expected to bench press an amount that, in spite of faithfully training, he had never been able to achieve. He was concerned about his time in the 40 yard dash; he feared he was too slow. Could he compete at this level?

While I thought about the pressures my son was facing, this verse came strongly into my mind: “The Lord will perfect that which concerns you” (Psalm 138:8).

When our meeting was over, we met our son in the hallway for a final hug and farewell. As I held him close, I said, “The Lord wants you to know that He will perfect that which concerns you. Whatever that means, honey, I’m sure He’ll make it clear to you.”

The following evening my son called, filled with excitement. For the first time ever, he had bench pressed the weight that before had seemed impossible. When he ran the 40, he achieved his fastest time ever. He joyfully exclaimed, “I know God had to have helped me.”

Philippians 4:13 has taken on new meaning: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”—literally!

These experiences, these glimpses of our Father’s faithfulness, need to be remembered. Is there anything too difficult for Him? Is there any area of our life with which we cannot trust Him?

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).

Spiritual Inheritance

Psalm 127:3; Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.

I recently received a family heirloom from a dear aunt of mine who’s in her eighties. I was so touched by her gesture, and I cherish this gift.

This act of handing down something from one generation to the next reminded me of when my husband and I were expecting our third son. We felt that each of our four children was a precious gift and wanted them to have the best life possible, but finances were always a challenge.

As I anticipated the birth of this son, I thought about our humble means and felt God impress upon my heart the truly rich inheritance we had to pass on to him and all of our children. That inheritance would come through prayer that these children would experience the unconditional love of their Creator and that they would return that love as much as humanly possible. And I knew that this was perhaps the only and surely the richest inheritance we could wish for them.

If you’re reading this on Wednesday, this is the day my husband and I move this son I prayed for just a few short years ago into his new living quarters at Northwestern College in St. Paul.

Every parent who’s ever experienced this process knows how hard it is to let them go. But when letting them go is accompanied with the assurance of knowing they are fully equipped to handle life’s challenges because they’ve taken hold of their spiritual inheritance of faith in God, this process will not be quite so hard.

2 Tim.3:14–17 (NLT); But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

Eagles' Wings

Isaiah 40:31; But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

It’s wonderful to imagine rising up on eagle’s wings, but what does this really mean? It gives an image of what a victorious Christian life looks like, but I'll admit there are times I don't feel like I’m walking victoriously. I feel like I’m plodding through a marsh of thick brush, fighting mosquitoes and horseflies along the way. Oh, how I'd love to mount up on eagles' wings every day.

In the mid-nineteenth century Hannah Whitall Smith wrote The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, now considered classic Christian literature. In her book she says, “The Lord has not only told us to consider the ‘flowers of the field,’ but also the ‘birds of the air’”; and she reminds us of Psalm 55:6-8, which says, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest--I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm." Whitall Smith says, “Our souls were made to ‘mount up with wings’ . . . we long to ‘fly away’ from all that so holds and hampers and imprisons us here.”

The secret of our “wings,” according to Whitall Smith, is found in the phrase “those who wait on the Lord.” And, she explains, “The soul that waits upon the Lord is the soul that is entirely surrendered to Him, and that trusts Him perfectly.”

And so I see that waiting upon the Lord is an exercise in surrender and trust, an exercise that will lift us above all earthly problems to “the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6), where my perspective will change to become like His, and I'll be able to “overcome the world through faith.”

Hmmm, sounds a whole lot better than slogging through the marsh with the horseflies!

In the Light

Psalm 139:23–24; “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

There’s a reason I don’t own one of those magnified mirrors with the little light bulbs all around it. I’d just as soon shave my legs with a wood plane as see my flaws brightly lit and magnified. If I see the flaws, won’t I have to do something about them, like invest in Biore strips and electrolysis? It’s easier to slap on some makeup, stand way back from the mirror, and say, “Good enough.”

Sometimes I’d rather not face my faults and have to deal with them.

I recently told my brother that I get awfully tired of my petty, foolish, stubborn flesh. He responded by saying that he rather enjoys being aware of his faults; it helps him see how far he’s come and how far he has to go. His weaknesses help him gauge what God has done and will continue doing in his life.

Now why didn’t I think of that?

I have a friend who likes to remind me that the closer we are to the light, the more evident our weaknesses will become. So when we see our failings, we should be glad that we’re actually growing closer to our Lord, which reveals His perfection and our dependence on Him.

Go ahead, step closer to the light. We don’t have to fear what the light might reveal, because Jesus has become “our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Flaws? There may be plenty right now, but remember, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6b).

All About Me

Southbound on Interstate 35 en route to St. Paul, the face of an ecstatic young man smiled down at me from a billboard proclaiming in bold letters: IT’S ALL ABOUT ME!

The billboard was an advertisement for a college, and I chuckled out loud for two reasons when I saw it. Number one, “it’s all about me” seems to be the catchphrase for what’s always getting me in trouble; and number two, even though that same phrase gets all of us in trouble, it’s undoubtedly a very appealing and successful slogan for a college trying to attract new students.

We love “all about me.”

Human nature tends toward self-centeredness, yet that mindset leaves us miserable. Why?

Jesus’ entire ministry was all about other people, not Himself. If He is our example, we see we’re called to a life of sacrifice (Mark 10:45; For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many), a life of dying to self (Galatians 2:20a; I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me), a life of putting the needs of others before our own (Philippians 2:3; Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves). And since there’s no true joy apart from God’s will, when we’re self-centered, demanding our rights, and putting our own needs ahead of others, we easily become angry, depressed, dissatisfied people. I know it’s true in my life. I’m never more miserable than when I’m focused on myself.

While it’s true that self-centeredness comes naturally (think of an infant bawling to have its needs met), as we grow up in Christ, we can set aside self and live joyful, contended lives for Him.

Philippians 3:8; What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

Power of Praise

If faithfulness is measured by how one responds to adversity, my friend Mary is the epitome of that term.

As matriarch of a family that’s seen more than its fair share of adversity over the years, and especially in the past six months, her husband’s recent death might have been the blow that finally knocked her off her firm foundation of faith in God. But four days after the love of her life died, she was in church lifting her hands in worship to her God, singing praises to her Savior through her tears. And as I observed this friend whom I love so dearly, I realized that she knows what so few of us understand: there is power in praise.

Psalm 22:3 says, “God inhabits the praises of his people,” and the more we need to experience His presence, the more we need to praise Him. Praise in the midst of trials isn’t going to come naturally for most of us. How do you praise God when you can’t stop worrying about your circumstances? How do praise Him when you’re drowning in sorrow? Who could possibly think about praise when you’re filled with fear?

You can go to the Psalms and make David’s prayers of praise your own. Listen to worship music and sing along until the words penetrate your soul. Talk out loud to your heavenly Father, affirming your love and trust in Him. Remember that as God’s child, you have every reason to be filled with hope.

No matter what your circumstances, choose to give praise to God. This visible display of faithfulness will transform you, lifting your spirit above the circumstances into the heavenly realms where all-powerful, all-loving God will ease your anxiety, your pain, and your fear; and you’ll be able to say like my friend Mary, “I’m at peace.”

Layers of Nonsense

In one of my favorite lines from Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town, the stage manager says, “Wherever you come near the human race, there’s layers and layers of nonsense. . . .”

Isn’t that the truth?

One of the most nonsensical things some of us do is walk through life being offended by every little thing. I have come to the conclusion that if I wanted to, I could probably find at least one thing every single day over which to be offended.

People are thoughtless. People are rude. People are insensitive. People don’t act the way they should, and they don’t do the things they ought to. I might be offended by your language, by the way you dress, by the way you eat, or by the way you drive!

Yes, there’s plenty of room for offense, but Proverbs 19:11 says, “A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”

If you’re a follower of Christ and you find yourself often feeling offended, heads up! We have an enemy who absolutely delights in stirring up trouble by causing hard feelings and division, especially among believers. We have to make the choice to exercise wisdom, walk in patience, and overlook offenses. If we don’t, we play right into the hands of our enemy, the devil, and we make ourselves and all those around us miserable in the process.

1 Corinthians 13:5b; “[love] keeps no record of wrongs.”

Gather Together

People go to church for all kinds of reasons. I suppose some go because they feel guilty if they don’t. Some go because they love the music. Some anticipate a wonderful message from God’s Word. For some, church is a social event, and they get to see their friends. Some have problems (financial, emotional, physical, etc.) and need prayer. Some expect that it’s the place they can most count on to experience God’s presence. Some are lonely and need hugs.

I suppose almost all of us go to church to get something, but do we also go to give something? (No, I’m not talking about putting money in the offering tray, although that is one way to give.)

Too often we fall into the trap of thinking of “church” as only a place to go to get something. But when the body of Christ is operating as it’s intended, each of us will go expecting to also give something. We’ll give our worship to God through singing and praise. We’ll speak words of exhortation from the Bible. We’ll offer expressions of support to those in positions of leadership and those who simply need encouragement. We’ll take the hands of those needing prayer and gladly bow our heads together with theirs. We’ll give hugs good enough to last the whole week!
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Luke 6:38).

This week before you go to church, ask the Father what He would have you give.

Voice of Our Father

Have you ever thought about your response to a loved one's voice? Doesn't that voice give you a sense of warmth and calm? When you answer your phone, don't you smile with gladness to hear that voice on the other end? We respond emotionally and even physically to the voice of one we trust and love. My husband's voice may not sound lovely to anyone else, but because he's mine, his voice is sweet to me.

We can know our Heavenly Father's voice in this way when we have established the level of intimacy we have with those special people in our lives whose voices we love. When we fully realize "I am my Beloved's, and He is mine" (Song of Songs 6:3), committing ourselves wholeheartedly to knowing Him by spending precious, quality time with Him each day, hearing Him speak to us will not be unusual. Habakkuk 2:18 says, "What's the use of an idol. . . . a god that can't even talk!" Isn't it wonderful and exciting that our God speaks to us? He says, "My sheep listen to my voice" (John 10:27). I Chronicles 28:9b says, "If you seek Him, He will be found by you." When we seek Him and find Him, will He be silent, refusing to communicate with us? Of course not! When God sent Jesus to us, the veil that separated us from experiencing His presence was torn in two. God wants to communicate with us! "Remain in me, and I will remain in you" (John 15:4). Think of it: Here we are—Christ in us—and He is saying . . . NOTHING? No! He has much to share with His children. Be encouraged. The God who loves you wants to instruct you, encourage you, caution you, guide you, and tell you of His love.

Imagine the day when God's voice is no less than that of our most trusted, beloved, confidante. Picture how it will be when your relationship with Him is that close, that intimate. This intimacy will be attained by our devotion to spending time in His Word and in deep, meaningful prayer. As we learn the benefits of studying God's Word, and as we continue to grow in our prayer lives, let's often encourage one another. Ephesians 1:17; I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.

Surprise Me, God

When we’re looking for it and paying attention, it’s amazing to see how God reveals Himself to us in small, sometimes miraculous and sometimes downright funny ways. Best of all, it’s good to know He cares about every detail of our lives.

The other day while working at my computer, I grew so exhausted I could no longer keep my eyes open. I decided to allow myself a brief nap so that I could continue working refreshed. As I lay down I decided 20 minutes would do the trick. Looking at my clock, I saw it was 12:40 and said, “Lord, don’t let me sleep past 1:00. I only want to rest for 20 minutes.” I soon dozed off, and in no time at all I heard the whine of a mosquito in my ear. I thought, “Oh no, I just fell asleep; I don’t want to wake up, you stupid mosquito!” When it landed near my ear, I slapped myself awake and looked at the clock: it was 1:00 – time to get up. I laughed and said, “Thanks, Dad, you have a great sense of humor!” as I smashed His little messenger against the wall so it wouldn’t be waking me up again that night.

Now you may think it’s odd to ask God to be your personal alarm clock; surely He has more important things to do, right? But I’ve been learning that talking to Him about every little thing brings me into a closer relationship with Him. As I learn to trust Him for little things, like waking me up, I’m being prepared to trust Him for the big things that will come up in life.

Are you convinced that God cares about the details of your life? Read Psalm 139:17; “How precious are your thoughts toward me, O God. If I could count them, they would outnumber the sands by the seashore.” Some versions say, “How precious are your thoughts to me,” but either version would be true. He looks upon you as a father with great love for His child. He’s ready to help you in any situation. Seek Him with the expectation of finding Him.


Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:7-8).

I have a confession to make: there are some people for whom I just don’t feel love. I used to feel so guilty because 1 John 4:7-8 says if we do not love, we do not know God. But I do know God, and I love Him very much; it’s just people I have trouble with. . . .

One day while talking to a friend and spiritual mentor, I explained my dilemma: How can I call myself a Christian and not love everybody? Am I a hypocrite? She reminded me that my born-again spirit was perfect and pure and did love others. If someone I didn’t like was lying wounded in a ditch, would I stop to help? Of course I would.

Stop putting so much stock in your feelings, she told me; they’re just feelings. You choose by your will to walk in love, to treat others lovingly whether you feel love or not, and God honors that. One of the fruits of the Spirit is love; you received that when you received His Spirit; now trust what God’s Word says about you instead of how you feel!

Such great advice, and the best thing I’ve discovered is that oftentimes when I choose to walk in God’s love, my feelings do eventually follow. It’s not hypocritical to behave in accordance with God’s Word even when we don’t feel like it; it’s just smart!

Be sure to read Pastor Dickow’s article, “I feel like a fake; I feel like a hypocrite,” to see what else God has to say on this issue.

A New Kind of Fast

Proverbs 23:7, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."

Nineteenth century Englishman and contemplator James Allen wrote, “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you. . . . Whatever your present environment may be, you will fall, remain or rise with your thoughts, your vision, your ideal. You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration.”

Having never observed the tradition of "giving up something for lent," this year I eagerly jumped on the opportunity to take part in a new kind of fast—a fast from Wrong Thinking, which lasted the 40 days of lent. I signed up to be part of the fast and each day received an e-mail from Pastor Gregory Dickow describing the type of negative and unbiblical thinking of which most of us are guilty at least sometimes. Thoughts that reflect a victim’s mentality (“I never get a break), self-defeating thoughts (“It’s no use, things will never get any better”), wrong thoughts about God (“praying isn’t working”), and thoughts such as “I can’t help it, that’s just the way I am” all serve to stifle our relationship with God and cripple our potential for joy.

The beauty of the fast wasn’t in the decision to no longer think in certain ways; the beauty was in replacing those wrong thoughts with the truth of God’s Word. And so I’m very excited to tell you that we at the Voyageur Press have received permission to print articles from Pastor Dickow’s present teaching, From the Inside Out: Fasting from Wrong Thinking. I hope you'll enjoy this addition to the Faith pages.

See to access archives of Pastor Dickow's messages. Good stuff!

Blessings, Lisa

Lavish Love

In this week’s article by Pastor Bob, he encourages us to remember that God desires an intimate, loving relationship with us as His children. If we truly comprehend our standing in Him as one of a child to its father, it’s going to change the way we think about Him, and that will change the way we relate to Him.

I know the church sometimes struggles between a liberal, feel-good, easy belief system; and a dogmatic system of rules and regulations to “keep everyone in line.” I speak only from my own experience of coming to understand the Father’s love and how it changed my life.

I’ve believed in God pretty much my whole life, but I didn’t always understand that He loved me not because of anything I did or didn’t do but because of who He was and what He did for me through Jesus. Even though I believed in God and wrong and right and Heaven and Hell, that didn’t stop me from doing a lot of stupid, shameful things. Oh sure, I worried that if I died I wouldn’t make it to Heaven, but that fear didn’t motivate me to change my ways. Eventually, my frustration with failing at “being good” led me far away from God.

I now understand that whether I’m good or bad, God’s love doesn’t change one iota. But this understanding has not given me a “license to sin.” Rather, it’s revolutionized my relationship with Him. It wasn’t until I came to see God as a father who loved me unconditionally and without merit that I fell so deeply in love with Him that obeying and pleasing Him became my highest priority.

Read everything God has to say in His Word about His love for you. I promise it’ll melt your heart and make you want to honor His love with your life.

“We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19; NKJV).

Child of the King

Do you have one of those “I can’t believe I did it again” kinds of sins in your life? That pesky, tenacious “thing” you do that you keep promising you’ll never do again? And do you ever feel that surely the Lord must be sick and tired of hearing you say, “I’m sorry, Lord. I did it again”?

I love the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–24) for its beautiful picture of the Father’s acceptance and forgiveness, but something else about that story recently occurred to me: that young man never stopped being his father’s son, an heir to his father's estate, a much-loved child; but he got into trouble when he forgot who he was, whose he was, and where he belonged.
When he turned his back on his father and walked away from him, he was still his father’s son. When he was out squandering his father’s wealth on “loose living,” doing despicable things, he was still his father’s heir. When he was caring for pigs and nearly starving to death, he was a still a member of his father’s family. His father never stopped loving him and waiting for him to come back home.

This made me wonder; do you suppose that sometimes we struggle with sin simply because we forget who we are, whose we are, and where we belong?

Let’s live our lives, not in self-condemnation and guilt, but always keeping before us the truth of what God says about us. Truths like, I am God’s child (John 1:12); I am His workmanship, created for good works (Eph. 2:10); I have been seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6); I am an heir of God through Christ (Gal. 4:7).

When you remember what worth, what great value you have in God’s eyes, the next time you’re tempted to fall into the same old sin, you might just find yourself saying, “No, that’s just not who I am anymore. I am a child of The King, and that is beneath my royal dignity.”


During tough times I have always taken comfort in the knowledge that nothing stays the same; change is inevitable. No matter how bad things may get, if you just hang in there, the situation will eventually turn around. A person can withstand a lot knowing it’s only temporary.
However, the same principle applies during good times – nothing stays the same.

One of this year’s graduates is mine, and I’m looking at a change that I don’t necessarily want. It’s like I told my husband, “One day you have a house filled with four beautiful children, and you like those kids – you don’t want them to leave. But in no time at all, you’re sitting in a quiet house with all the kids off on their own. Well, excuse me if I don’t like it! I think the whole business of children growing up and leaving their parents is a very BAD idea.” (By this time the tears are flowing, and Hubby is laughing at my emotional outburst.)

What can I think about that will make this transition easier?

Isaiah 43:18–19 says, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

Watching my children grow up has been an amazing adventure and beautiful blessing. I’m so thankful to be their mom. But God is the God of new beginnings, and as I continue to trust in Him I know He has more adventures and blessings in store for me. There will be college graduations, new careers, weddings, first homes, and best of all . . . grandbabies!

OK, maybe it is all right if they leave home!


Love Lists

One of my favorite people in the world e-mails me “Love Lists” – lists of things she loves. We had a huge rainstorm last week, and the next day I received this from her:

I LOVE . . .
  • fresh clean air
  • thunderstorms
  • wonderful soaking rains
  • green grass
  • day lilies
  • bubble wrap
  • laughing kids
  • mud puddles
  • rain hitting my skylight
  • planting seeds

I usually try to respond with a list of my own, but she’s far better at it than I. You see, I have so much to learn about gratitude, and I am sure that is why God has put this friend in my life to remind me of His goodness in the simple, everyday things. I’ve saved her love lists, and altogether there must be hundreds of items there. I love that she can find so much in life to love!

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17a). Listing those “good things” and “perfect gift[s]” is such an easy way to remember and acknowledge what our Father has done for us.

So I’m challenging you to try it: Compose a letter or an e-mail, or make a journal entry, or tape a list to your refrigerator of what you love. Maybe you can think of only nine or ten things today, but maybe you can add more to your list each day for several weeks or even months. Before you know it, you could have a list of 100 things (or more) you love, and whenever you look at that list and remember that everything there represents a gift from your Father who loves you, well, won’t that just make you smile and love him a little bit more?


Purple Bracelets

Did you buy your purple bracelet yet?

If you haven’t heard, there’s a man named Will Bowen who’s pastor of Christ Church Unity in Kansas City, Missouri; he’s developed a concept for combating negative thinking. It’s called “A Complaint Free World.” What a wonderful idea. Wouldn’t we all love to live in a society where we wouldn’t have to listen to people whine? Probably most of us need to take inventory of our own negativity and try to overcome it.

Bowen’s “cure” for complaining involves the purchase of a purple bracelet, which you can buy from his church. You place the bracelet on your wrist and every time you have a negative thought or you catch yourself complaining about something, you switch the bracelet to your other wrist. The goal is to go twenty-one days (the amount of time it takes to establish a habit) without needing to switch the bracelet. People are very excited about this “revolutionary” new concept – over five million bracelets have been sold thus far.

But wait, what’s wrong with this picture?

Jesus says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Mat. 12:34, emphasis mine). If the words of my mouth are negative complaints, are my words the problem or is my heart the problem? Can I change my heart by changing what I do or say, or must it be the other way around?

Oh, I think we’re awfully funny sometimes. We chase after all kinds of new ideas in the pursuit of self-improvement; we honestly believe a purple bracelet is the answer. But as always, God has the answer right in his Word. Do you need to change? Read Romans 12:2; “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Change comes from the inside out. When we change (renew) our mind by developing an intimate relationship with our savior through prayer and studying His Word, we’ll find that negativity just isn’t a part of who we are.

God bless you as you continue to pursue Him and experience true transformation.


Ready for the King

Have you ever received an unexpected phone call announcing you would be getting company in 30 minutes? Have you noticed at times like that your house, which seemed fine minutes ago, is now obviously unsuitable for guests? I don’t know about you, but I rush around, hollering for my family to “help me get this place cleaned up!” I take quick inventory of my refrigerator and cupboards to see if I have anything acceptable to feed guests, and I make a pot of coffee. Sometimes I need to change my clothes, brush my teeth, and comb my hair! We want things nice for company.

Why do we do this? Why do we care? I know I have been guilty of concern with what others will think of me, but lately I’m more concerned about the comfort of my guests. Go ahead and take off your shoes; your feet won’t get too dirty on my floors. Sit anywhere you want; all the chairs are open and inviting you to relax. Are you hungry or thirsty? Let me get you something to eat or drink. My table is cleared of clutter and freshly wiped. Now we can forget about everything else and just enjoy one another’s company. Ahhh . . .

We want our guests to feel welcomed, but do we always provide a welcoming environment for the Holy Spirit in our lives? Are you ready to receive Him, or is your life too cluttered to make room for Him? How often do we sit down, forget about everything else, and just spend time with Him like a dear friend? Even though He takes up permanent residence in believers, let’s not ever take this “guest” for granted.

Eyes on Him

There’s a beautiful song we sing by Leeland Dayton Mooring and Marc Byrd. It’s called “Beautiful Lord,” and the first lines go like this:

When the storm is raging all around me,
You are the peace that calms My troubled sea.
And when the cares of this world Darken my day,
You are the light that shines And shows me the way.

I love this song because it reminds me that in the midst of all the craziness of this life, our Lord stands like a beacon, offering us shelter and guidance.

In Matthew 14:25–31 we see Peter stepping out of a boat and walking across water to get to the Lord Jesus. It was a miracle! As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked on water.
But the next thing that happened to Peter is just what happens to most of us: Peter got distracted by the storm around him, he grew fearful, and he began to sink.

Have you ever felt like you were being swallowed by your circumstances? Have you ever been so overwhelmed by your situation that you felt you were drowning? I have, and as soon as I feel myself “going under,” I know I’ve lost my focus.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” What does this mean?

After Peter took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink, Jesus said, “O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

There are times we need to have tunnel vision where we direct our gaze only on Him, not on what we can see in the physical realm. It’s not a response that comes naturally for most of us, but when we learn to walk in that kind of single-minded faith, we’ll be amazed at the storms we can walk through unscathed.


Love Like Joseph

I hope your Easter celebration, if you had one, was blessed in every way.

The little church where I attend is shepherded by a wonderful pastor who has that gift of helping us see how God’s Word correlates to our lives today. One of the things that really registered with me from this week’s sermon taken from the book of Luke was the picture of Joseph of Arimathea caring for Christ's body after He was crucified. There was Jesus – beaten beyond recognition, stripped naked and hung on the cross to die – a spectacle for curious onlookers. This was the most humiliating death one could imagine. Jesus had been abandoned by those who claimed to love him – alignment with Him had become too dangerous.

But Joseph took the Lord’s body off that cross; he covered Christ’s disgraced and forsaken body and placed it in a tomb to await proper burial preparation. This was a selfless, loving, and bold act.

Do we reflect the same concern for His body today?

Today the church represents the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). When we see a brother or a sister in Christ humiliated, beaten down, defeated, how do we respond? Do we enjoy his misery? Do we turn away, too ashamed to be associated with her? Or do we cover him with selfless love and concern? Do we treat her with respect and tend to her needs? Do we care for him as if we were caring for the Lord Himself?

When those in the body of Christ are at their weakest, their most vulnerable, Joseph of Arimathea shows us how to respond.


Jesus, My Hero

“Mrs. K., isn’t it true that Jesus didn’t have to die, but he chose to die? So isn’t that like suicide, and isn’t suicide like a sin?”

The student’s question came out of nowhere when I was teaching high school English. We were in the media center working on research projects, and as I meandered about the room checking on their progress, I apparently interrupted some sort of religious debate between two students. I was caught completely off guard. First of all, the concept of Christ’s death as “a suicide” had never occurred to me. And second, this was public school; what could I say without getting in trouble?

Honestly, I was flustered. I didn’t handle the question as well as I could have, but when I thought about it, the answer was simple: When a soldier jumps on a live hand grenade to save the lives of his comrades, we don’t call him a suicide, we call him a hero. Jesus didn’t take his life; He gave his life so others could live. The fact is he didn’t have to do that; motivated by pure love for you and me, he chose to do that. Wow, Jesus, my hero.

This Sunday is Easter, and church attendance will increase dramatically. That’s fine. That’s lovely. But considering Jesus died for those of us who had not yet even been born and those who would never love Him as He loved them, and considering the magnitude of the burden He took upon Himself, why don’t we celebrate this greatest of all heroes all day, every day?

Just a thought.


Mind Transformers

Pastor Johnson’s article last week (“Find the ‘Ditch’ Lately?”) reminded me of how subtly wrong thinking creeps into our minds – how quickly we grab onto wrong ideas and how destructive that kind of thinking can be if left unchecked. In his case the thought was, I am in control. I have it all planned out.

How many of us can identify with that?

I’ve been taking part in a 40 day fast from wrong thinking, so this topic has been on my mind lately. The key, as you probably know, lies not in determining to quit thinking in certain ways but to replace those wrong thoughts (lies, really) with the truth of God’s Word. So “I am in control” comes into my mind, and I replace it with something like, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go. . . .’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. . . . Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13–15), or "But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him (Jeremiah 17:7). You get the idea.

Here’s an area where we can help one another (“encourage one another and build each other up,” 1 Thessalonians 5:11). Brandt’s article presented a simple, godly truth – a good reminder for all of us. And that’s what we’re looking for in the Faith pages. You don’t have to be a theologian to contribute. Do you have an example of wrong thinking that got you in trouble? If you let others learn from your experience, you might spare them the same trouble.

Send me an e-mail with your story!



I’m an eclectic. Eclectic means “composed of elements drawn from various sources” (Merriam-Webster). One who is an eclectic uses this approach to life. If you ever come to my house, you’ll see nothing matches. Please don’t ask me my favorite color, movie, flower, or song; how can I possibly choose just one? Eating out?—I get really excited about combo platters.

When John shared his vision for a new Faith Pages section that would incorporate many voices from our communities, this was obviously something I could embrace. We may go to various churches, and we may disagree on certain elements of our Christian faith, but when the common denominator of our lives is Jesus Christ, we are called to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). These pages provide that opportunity for you to encourage others in their faith. Whenever I hear of someone’s answered prayers, or how God worked in their lives, or another’s insight gleaned from the Word, I am encouraged. We all have such stories; let’s share them. I hope you too will embrace the vision of a section in our paper where you can turn, see familiar faces, and read testimonies of our God’s love.

Please contact me with your stories and leads to contribute to these pages. “Drawing from various sources” is what will make this section of the paper something to joyfully anticipate each week.

Oh, were you wondering about my title Eklektikes? Well, you know how all the good preachers say things like, “This word comes from the Greek . . .” Right? So “eclectic” comes from the Greek eklektikes. After all, these are the Faith Pages!


The Column

My original intent in starting a blog page was to post my columns, which I write for a local weekly paper. I write for the Faith pages, usually about 300 words. Posting them will give me an easy format to save and share them with my friends. I've written an awful lot of them in the past nine months. When I began, I wondered if I would be able to come up with enough material to get me through the first couple of months!

When the owner/publisher asked me to write, I was nervous/hesitant to put myself out there. I was afraid of what people would think of me. Would they think of my writing as a display of spiritual pride? Would they think my ideas were stupid? What if I said something that someone disagreed with? Could I endure public criticism if it came to that?

On the other hand, I've wanted to bless the Lord and hopefully others through my writing, and that opportunity was being handed to me. Was this something He wanted me to do? I wanted to know God's will. I prayed, of course, but I just wasn't sure.

I called a friend/spiritual mentor to ask her advice. She told me, "Lisa, if it's God's will, you'll have something to write about each week, and you'll find it pleasant and fulfilling. It's possible that this is not God's will. If it isn't, you'll probably struggle to come up with writing material each week, and you may find it a stressful thing that you don't enjoy. That's OK. Sometimes we all miss the will of God. But if your only reason for not doing this is your fear of man, that is no reason to pass by this opportunity."

That was more than 9 months ago, and each week the Lord gives me something to share with my readers. I am thankful God has given me this ministry opportunity. I will begin uploading columns written since March 2008. I hope you enjoy them. Please post comments on any that especially speak to you.


Welcome to my Inseparable Love blog space. This is a brief explanation of why I chose Inseparable Love as my title.

Two days ago I was sitting in a funeral home with my brothers and sisters and stepmother. The day before that we were at my father's side as he took his last breath after a battle with gall bladder cancer. Perhaps I'll talk more about that later, but that day in the funeral home we had decisions to make. If you've ever been through this, you know the surreal, hideous experience of making such plans--time, date, location, hymns, musicians, pallbearers, obituary, vault, coffin . . . enough to make you want to throw up, really. A small detail upon which we got hung up was what to have printed inside the cards handed out to funeral guests. We had many choices from which to select, but an idea from Romans 8 wouldn't leave my mind, and eventually these verses were decided upon:

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? . . . No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

And so you see I begin this blog with a heart that is weary and broken yet hopeful, because I know that even in this valley of the shadow of death, my living Savior's love enfolds me, and there is nothing, nothing, nothing that will ever separate me from that love. I am so thankful.