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Archive | Trials and difficulties

Saying Goodbye to My Childhood Home

HomeI watched as the last of my parents’ belongings were loaded on the moving truck and began the long journey from Louisiana to Tennessee. Except for a stray roll of packing tape and a few water bottles all the rooms are empty. Well, not really empty. Each space holds memories. Every corner echoes with days gone by.

I know. I sound pretty melodramatic. But I’m feeling really sentimental, so maybe you can humor me for just a few minutes?

My parents lived in that home for almost 50 years. They raised two children. Hosted countless youth and church events. Endured dozens of slumber parties and probably hundreds of sleepovers. Our home was truly open to everyone. My mother was always the life of every party. I think my friends came to see her more than they did me. My dad was the most patient and giving man I’ve known.

Some memories stand out from the others. Like the 4th of July when a firecracker ignited a gas leak by the sidewalk and the fire department closed off our entire block. And when I backed over the mailbox and wedged it under the car. And when my heart was broken and my mom hurt with me.

All these and more are part of me. The house on Dianne Street was center stage. It was home base for our family and a training ground for faith. Our parents purposefully and consistently shared Jesus and the things of God with me and my younger brother, both verbally and by example. They lived a life of faith that made me want it too.

They have also loved well. We never had to doubt their love for each other or for us. And although circumstances are very different today, they still love each other well and their affection is still obvious.

Life is difficult for my folks right now. Leaving their home was a necessity, not a choice. That makes the empty house even more bittersweet. But we will do our best to love them well. We have had fine examples.

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Terror Attack Prayer Guide

Terror Attack Prayer Guide Yesterday – exactly one year after the deadly terror attack in Brussels – terror struck in London.  Although the details are still unfolding, British officials have officially called the attack in and around the Parliament building an act of terror.

Hours after the Brussels attack last year, I wanted to spend some intensive time in prayer, but wasn’t sure exactly how to pray. As I sat with my Bible and journal, God brought very specific prayers to mind. Afterward I shared those prayers here in a guide.

Although the situation in London is not active, many of these requests would still be appropriate. And although I pray we won’t need it again, this guide can be printed and put into your Bible for later use. (Link to PDF printable.)

Terror Attack Prayer Guide

“Lord, hear our prayers!”

Pray for Law enforcement:

  • Good, solid intelligence and information
  • Plenty of manpower and resources
  • Good coordination between agencies, including international
  • Physical stamina

Pray for Medical Personnel:

  • Physical and emotional strength
  • All the human resources, equipment and supplies needed
  • Wisdom to quickly assess individual situations
  • Steady hands and calming presence

Pray for the Injured:

  • Provide the help they need quickly
  • Surround them with believers who will pray and encourage them
  • Overwhelm them with Your peace and ease their fear

Pray for the Families:

  • Comfort for the families of those killed
  • Support for the families of those injured
  • Peace for the families of those waiting to hear
  • Good communication about the situation to all families

Pray for World Leaders:

  • Leaders around the world would rise up against this evil
  • Ability to set politics aside
  • Receive wise counsel from wise people
  • Leaders around the world would unite in a global effort against terrorism

Pray for Rescue workers and First Responders:

  • Protection from further violence as they work
  • Physical strength, emotional stamina
  • Good coordination and communication in the efforts
  • They would provide a strong, calming presence to those they encounter
  • Sustenance, like food and water, they need to keep going

Pray for the Terrorists:

  • Any left alive involved in this attack would be caught
  • Those on the fringe would give information to authorities
  • Any other related plots would be exposed
  • For God to convict them and bring them to repentance
  • For God to draw them to Jesus

Please feel free to add your prayers in the comments below.

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The Case of Mistaken Location

FamilyI’ve basically been living out of a suitcase for the last year. If I added up the days at home and the days away, the days away would probably win. A death in the family, the arrival of two grand babies, our son’s wedding, and severe health struggles for my parents have kept me on the road.

This last week was no different. I left home last Wednesday and drove to my parents’ home in Shreveport to meet my sister-in-law. We spent several days packing and preparing for my parents upcoming move from Louisiana to Tennessee.

Then Saturday afternoon I made the 4-hour drive from Shreveport to our second daughter’s new home in Denton, Texas. Sarah and her husband moved from a rental to their first home that morning and I went to help with the baby for a few days so she could unpack and settle in.

I had seen the new house once before they moved in, but still needed to use Google Maps to find it again. I drove into the neighborhood and spotted what looked like their home on the next corner. As I turned onto the street in front of the house, Google announced “You have arrived at your destination!” Great!

As I parked on the street in front of the house I took note of the cars in the driveway. I didn’t recognize either of them, but since friends and family had been helping them move earlier in the day, I surmised they belonged to them.

Since I didn’t want to cause more work for them, I got all my stuff out of the car and up to the front porch. Now, you need to understand that when I travel by car, I don’t travel lightly. I had a suitcase, a shoe bag, a snack bag, my rolling briefcase, and two king-sized pillows.

As I got the last of it on the porch, I knocked on the door and looked around. Although it looked just like the house I’d visited before, there were a few things that gave me pause – the potted plants, the door mat, and the multiple dogs that began barking at my knock.

Hmm. Could I possibly be at the wrong house? I texted Sarah. “Am I at the right house?”

I heard a woman’s voice inside talking to the dogs, just inside the door. “Who’s out there guys?” It was not my daughter’s voice.

I envisioned the home owner looking through the peep hole. What did she see? Unknown middle-aged woman with baggage.

What should I do? What would she do?

About that time Sarah texted back. “No.”

My fear was confirmed. I was at the wrong house.

Okay. Well, I decided that when the woman opened the door, I would explain my mistake with a laugh and apologize.

But the woman didn’t open the door. She must have thought I looked too dangerous. Or crazy.

Either way, it was time for me to go. I wanted to run and not look back. But I needed all my baggage. And it took two trips to get it all back to the car. I wondered if the woman watched out the peep hole the whole time.

Sarah’s house was exactly one block to the south. Same corner. Same layout. But the residents were much more friendly. They even helped me haul in my bags.

I love how God works. In the midst of a chaotic time in my life, he used a case of mistaken location to give me a laugh and to remind me not to take myself too seriously.

I just wanted to share a little bit of what my life has been like recently. God has me in a unique season. But He is growing me and I’m leaning on Him. What has YOUR life been like lately?

 

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6 Things You May Not Know about Apostle Paul

Apostle PaulI thought I knew him. I’ve followed his ministry. And over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time reading his writings. But recently, I realized I didn’t know as much about the Apostle Paul as I thought.

While studying Paul’s life for my latest Bible study, I discovered several “new” things about the apostle of grace. Of course they were there all along; I had simply overlooked them. Maybe some will be new to you too.

6 little-known facts about Paul

  1. Paul didn’t jump right into long-term ministry (Galatians 1:13-18) – In my mind, Paul met Jesus on a dusty road, spent three days fasting in Damascus, regained his eyesight, then jumped right into ministry to the Gentiles and never looked back. But a closer examination of Scripture tells a little different story. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote he “went immediately into Arabia (Galatians 1:17).” In fact, he didn’t return to Jerusalem for three years (Galatians 1:18). What did Paul do during all this time in Arabia? Many scholars feel this may have been a spiritual retreat for Paul, a time to reconcile everything he knew from the Old Testament Scriptures with his new reality in Christ. In Arabia, Paul could immerse himself in the reality of his Savior and focus on learning and growing in preparation for ministry.
  2. Paul’s nephew saved his life (Acts 23:12-35) – After Paul’s arrest by a Roman commander in Jerusalem, 40 Jewish men bound themselves in an oath to not eat or drink anything until they had killed Paul. The Jewish leaders agreed to help them by petitioning the Roman commander to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin for questioning. The assassins planned to attack Paul during the transfer. But the son of Paul’s sister heard of the plot and reported it to Paul at the Roman barracks. When Paul told a centurion, the Roman commander ordered a detachment of almost 500 guards to move him to Caesarea under the cover of night.
  3. Saul’s name was not changed to Paul (Acts 13:6-9)– During the biblical account of Paul’s first missionary journey, Luke writes: “Then Saul, who was also called Paul…” (Acts 13:9). From this point forward, Luke only refers to the apostle as “Paul.” This shift does not reflect a name change, as has often been said, but rather a conscious decision on Paul’s part to use a name he already had. Since Paul was a Roman citizen, he would have been given three names at birth. The third – Paul’s Latin name – was a better fit for the predominately Roman environment. “Saul the Pharisee” chose to be known as “Paul, citizen of Rome.”
  4. God gave Paul more than he could handle (2 Corinthians 1:8-11) – Paul and his companions suffered such extreme pressure during a particular situation in Asia they “despaired even of life.” Scholars aren’t sure what event Paul referred to in these verses, but it was a situation so dire Paul believed he and his companions might die. He saw no way out of the life-threatening situation. And indeed, without God’s miraculous intervention, they would have perished. When all human hope was lost God delivered them by His grace through the prayers of the believers (2 Corinthians 1:11).
  5. Paul visited heaven before his death (2 Corinthians 12:1-10) – God gave Paul a glimpse of heaven during his early years as a believer, perhaps during his time of spiritual retreat in Arabia (Galatians 1:17). Paul didn’t know if he had been physically transported or was there in spirit. But he saw and heard “inexpressible things.” Pride would be the natural sinful response to an experience like this, but pride and conceit have no place in God’s servant. Therefore, God allowed something into Paul’s life to foster humility – a “thorn of the flesh.”
  6. Paul felt deserted by everyone but God (2 Timothy 4:9-18) – Throughout Paul’s ministry he suffered trials and persecution for the sake of Christ. He was stoned, beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and betrayed. He often went without food, sleep, and shelter. During his Roman imprisonment, he also felt alone with no other person to support or defend him. Demas left him because he loved the world. Alexander did him “a great deal of harm.” Yet through it all, the Lord stood with him. Paul was comforted and strengthened by God’s powerful presence.

I would love to sit down with Paul and hear all his stories, find out all those things not recorded in Scripture. Perhaps he would recount all the Gospel victories and tell me more about the suffering he endured for the name of Christ. Pain and struggle may have marked his life, but God’s lavish grace sustained him every moment.

Was one of these facts about Paul new to you? If so, which one? Do you know any other little-known facts about Paul?

This article first appeared on www.Crosswalk.com on July 15, 2016.

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Is Your Past Pointless or Purposeful?

purposefulWhen you look back on your life, do you feel it to be full of things and events that are pointless or purposeful? Is it all just random or is everything in some way relevant?

Our lives are collections of life experiences, education, relationships, griefs, trials, wins, losses, failures and successes. We may see some – or much of it – as a waste. Pointless. But nothing in our lives that we may see as a twist, turn, or detour was a surprise to God.

God doesn’t waste anything. What we may see as “bad,” God wants to use for our good. What we may see as a difficult random road to nowhere, God sees as a purposeful path. A purposeful path He has forged to lead us into the future He has for us.

When God saves us, He doesn’t merely save us from our sins and an eternity separated from Him. He also saves us into a purposeful life serving Him.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10

He works in and through everything in our lives to shape us, equip us, and prepare us for His purposes. For instance, God uses all our trials and difficulties of life to refine and grow us spiritually. He works through them to make us the people He can use for His glory. (See 1 Peter 1:6-7.) He uses our background, education, experiences, and passions to shape us into the tool He needs for the works He has prepared for us.

No matter how random your past road may look to you, it’s God’s purposeful path to His future for you. If you aren’t sure what God wants for your life now, look back. Review see where He has taken you and what He’s allowed into your life.

Your past can bring clarity to your future. Do you see it?

 

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My Favorite Bible Story

My favorite Bible story Mark 5I love all of God’s Word. Even the hard parts. But I do like some parts more than others. And like many of you, I have a favorite Bible story. In fact, one particular miracle of Jesus captivates my attention. Every time I read it I get goose bumps. Literally. Although action and edge-of-your-seat suspense pack the story, what it teaches me about Jesus enthralls me.

The event occurs right on the heels of a full day of teaching and what the disciples considered a near-death experience during a furious squall on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). While the storm terrified them, it was Jesus’ demonstrated authority over nature that left the disciples shaking in their sandals.

Jesus versus Legion

Still reeling from that experience, Jesus and the twelve were greeted on the opposite shore by a character straight out of a horror flick. Possessed by demons, no one was strong enough to subdue or control him. People had tried, but he tore chains and broke apart the iron bonds.

Now he lived among the tombs in the hills, crying out day and night and cutting himself with stones. He was helpless and hopeless. Tortured and tragic. Then he encountered Jesus and everything changed.

The demons within the man immediately acknowledged the power and authority of Jesus. Based on the fact they called themselves “Legion,” there could have been 6,000 plus demons in residence, but they knew they were no match for the Son of God. (See Mark 5:1-20 for the full story.)

Jesus freed the man with a word. In an instant everything changed. This prisoner of evil had been released by the Holy One. This man who had been feared and shunned by his community could now return to his family. Everyone had given this man up for lost. Everyone but Jesus.

This story demonstrates not only the power and authority of Jesus but also His grace and compassion. Jesus doesn’t merely have the ability to work in our lives, He also desires to work in our lives because He cares for us.

What Jesus did in this man’s life, He can do in our lives. Our Savior is loving and kind, but He is not wimpy. He is able to accomplish what He desires to do in your life.

Is there a stronghold or problem in your life you’ve given up on? How can reflecting on Jesus’ compassion and power renew your hope?

 

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5 Reflection Questions for 2016

2016 ReflectionWith a new year just days away, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the year just ending. But why bother to look back? Shouldn’t we forget the past and focus on what lies ahead? After all, we cannot change what has already happened. We can’t go back. We can only move forward. In fact, didn’t the apostle Paul tell us to forget what is behind? Here’s his words from his letter to the believers in Philippi:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

Paul did not mean we should never reflect on the past. In fact, earlier in the chapter, he had done just that. (See Philippians 3:4-6 and check this post for more.) His point in verses 12-14 was that he refused to allow anything in his past to foster a false sense of “arrival.” Dwelling on past spiritual “accomplishments” would only lull him into inactivity. Instead, he committed to continue moving towards spiritual maturity with determination.

Reflecting on what God has done in our past can help us see His continued path for us. The clearer picture we have of what He has been doing, the better sense we can have of where He is taking us next.

5 Questions for Purposeful Reflection on 2016

  • What trials and difficulties has God brought me through this year that He may want to use to comfort and encourage someone else who will go through similar circumstances?
  • What learning or training experiences did God bring into my life that could be His preparation for future areas of ministry?
  • What new people have crossed my path in 2016 that God may want me to develop a relationship with?
  • What major life change or event occurred in 2016 that God may want to use as a crossroads for a new direction?
  • What has God taught me about Himself this year – Who He is and how He works – that needs to impact my relationship with Him and others?

My 2016 has been full of significant life events – some joyous and some painful. My husband Wayne and I have already done a lot of reflecting, talking, and praying about how it all impacts what God wants to do with us in 2017. Some major changes seem to be coming in the near future. (Stay tuned!)

I pray God will give you insight and wisdom as you take time to reflect on the past 12 months. May He also grant you clear direction for the year ahead. Happy New Year!

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Broken Christmas

Broken ChristmasEver wonder if this year will be the year of your perfect Christmas? You’ll find that impossible-to-find toy. There won’t be any arguing around the dinner table. And the turkey will not be dry.

But no matter how hard we work, how hard we hope, something always goes wrong. Not everything is the way we want it to be. In fact, some years things are worse than merely imperfect. Sometimes they are truly broken beyond repair.

Our world is full of brokenness. Broken families. Broken bodies. Broken futures.

Sin’s devastating effects are all around us, constantly impacting us. Illness and disease. Evil and violence. Lust and greed. Pain and loss.

Scripture says that all creation groans under sin’s weight (Romans 8:20-21). Even God’s children feel the burden and long for the day that Christ’s redemption will be fully realized:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:22-23

Yes, Jesus came to bring salvation. His death and resurrection brought victory over sin and death. But the last effects will not be wiped away until Jesus comes again.In the meantime, we groan.

Sometimes Christmas only magnifies our groaning. We are expected to be joyful and hopeful. Yet it is easy to allow our circumstances to overshadow joy and hope.

But here’s the Good News. This Christmas may not be perfect. Indeed, it may be shattered. But believers have an unshakeable joy and a sure hope in our Christmas yet-to-come. When Immanuel comes again, He will make everything right. Everything broken will be whole again.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

A broken Christmas does not have to be joyless and hopeless. While we wait for the Christmas yet-to-come, we cling to Christ’s love (Romans 8:38-39), we depend on God’s strength (Philippians 4:13), and we rest in the Father’s grace (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

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3 Reasons for Thanksgiving Even When You Don’t Feel Blessed

ThanksgivingThanksgiving is just 3 days away. Are you dreading it? It may not be the cooking and the cleaning and a house full of people. Perhaps you are dreading the thought of trying to be thankful when you don’t feel blessed.

What if you’re in the midst of some trial or difficulty or heartache right now? Can you still join in the Thanksgiving celebration with joy or will you just be going through the motions?

The writer of Psalm 118 knew trouble. His life had not been easy. He had been betrayed and attacked. And he had felt caught in a hopeless and dangerous situation with no way out.

3 Reasons for Thanksgiving in Times of Trouble

But in the middle of those trials, he also experienced God’s personal intervention on his behalf. In Psalm 118:8-14, the psalmist testifies to God’s deliverance and expresses his gratitude. In this passage, we find 3 reasons to thank God when we face times of trouble:

  1. God is our refuge – When storms are raging all around us, we can always find safety in God’s presence. He is our shelter from the storm. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Other people may not be fully trustworthy, but God can always be trusted. Other people may not always be dependable, but we can depend on God in any and every situation. Like the psalmist, when we’re in the midst of trouble, let’s thank God that He is our refuge. When we hide ourselves in Him, He will be our shelter!
  2. God is our protector – When people and circumstances fight against us, we do not have to wonder or worry about victory. God Himself goes with His people and fights for them (Deuteronomy 30:3-4). When the psalmist was surrounded and swarmed by his enemies, victory came through the name of the LORD. Do you ever feel “swarmed by enemies?” Call on the name of the LORD. Thank Him that He is your protector!
  3. God is our strength – “The LORD is my strength, and my song; He has become my salvation” (Psalm 118:14). God saves! He will deliver us through trouble with the strength of His might. He is our reason to sing, so let us lift a song of praise and thanksgiving to the God who is our strength!

God is our refuge, our protector, and our strength! If you can name no other blessings in your life today, you can thank God for these. Let’s thank Him today, especially in the midst of trouble.

How else can you thank God today? Express your gratitude in the comment section.

 

 

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4 Things to Remember No Matter Who Wins the Election

Presidential ElectionTomorrow is the Big Day. THE election. In less than 48 hours the American people will have a new President Elect. Some of us may celebrate, some may mourn, and some may not care very much.

But the outcome will affect all of us.

A new president will bring new policies. New influences on Congress. A new agenda for his or her administration. We may agree with the changes or we may not. But the changes will impact the direction of our country, the economy, our nation’s security, our lifestyle, our bank accounts, and more. Some effects may be positive. Some may be negative.

These potential changes can easily create concern, worry, and maybe even fear in many of us. What’s going to happen? What will the country and the world be like for my children and grandchildren? Maybe I should just move to Canada…

But, oh believer! We don’t have to allow the circumstances of this world to dictate how we feel. We don’t have to be consumed by anxiety even over potentially very real, negative affects caused by a change in the White House. Our God is bigger than all that! We sometimes simply lose sight of this marvelous truth.

4 Things to Always Remember to Never Forget

No matter what happens tomorrow, we can stand firm on God and His glorious truth. Review the 4 truths below and hold them close. When worry threatens to overtake you, remind yourself of what is true.

  1. God is still – and always – in control – The Bible tells us again and again that our sovereign God is the One who raises up leaders and takes them down again. He alone decides who, when, and for how long. No one takes a worldly position of power without God’s approval. No one. (See Daniel 2:21, Daniel 4:17, Acts 17:26, and Romans 13:1.)
  2. God works through all world leaders to accomplish His purposes – Chaos, greed, and even violence may seem to reign supreme across our planet. But our all-powerful God can and does work through and in all that to bring about His will and ultimate plan for the world. (See Isaiah 45:1-5, Romans 13:1-5, and Acts 17:24-28.)
  3. God’s character – Sometimes we forget just who our great God really is. He is good and just and faithful and loving and trustworthy and powerful and kind. We can rely on Him, His character, and His ways no matter what the circumstances of the world look like to us.
  4. God’s Kingdom is not of this world – The kingdoms of the world are nothing compared to the Kingdom of God. His Kingdom reigns supreme and eternal. And if you have been born again through a saving relationship with Jesus, you are citizen of His Kingdom. His Kingdom trumps all other kingdoms (Did you see what I did there? Pun intended). When all other nations and countries have passed away, God’s Kingdom will remain! (See John 18:36.)

Let’s be honest. There’s a lot at stake tomorrow for the United States of America. I’ve caught myself wringing my hands over what lies ahead. I wrote this post as much for me as for you. I am choosing to stake my future on God and His truth. Not on the oval office. What about you?

 

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