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Archive for the ‘Perseverance’ Category

It’s gardening time once again for us northerners and I, for one, am very happy about that.  Nothing is more depressing than my beige house with its beige landscaping during the bleak winter season.  Once spring hits and the red buds burst open its blooms and the crab apples look luscious and the dog woods are just heavenly, I’m ready to plant my annuals and make my home colorful once again.  New life is appealing!  It brings hope and joy and, of course, I’m talking about more than the lovely flowers in my garden.

Who can’t help but be reminded of her new life in Christ when she sees the signs of spring all around?  Every single human being is born dead.  Weird, huh?  But, it’s true.  Every single human being is born dead because of the sin in the Garden of Eden.  That sin continues through all of human kind for all time.  And, because of that sin, Jesus died.  He took our sin upon Himself, He incurred the wrath of God against that sin, He gave His life for His children.  That sacrifice is what now gives us new life.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.                               2 Corinthians 5: 17, 21

This new life isn’t just a one time thing.  We live it out every single day.  As we live out this incredible gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, how do we do it?  How do I live as a woman in Christ?  How do I live as a godly wife?  How do I parent in a way that brings out good fruit in my children?  How do I serve my family when I want to just serve myself?  I can only help my husband, love my children, serve others and die daily to myself when I am abiding in Christ.

Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.                John 15: 4-5

When I bought my new plants, they thrived for a short time on my back patio, but after a few days, they began to wilt and look pathetic.  They needed to be connected to the soil and water, nutrients that would provide them with life.  We, too, need to be connected to our Source of Life.  We are branches, Jesus says.  He is the vine.  He is our life source–remember, we were dead before He died for us and made us new creations.  He caused us to come alive, to be born again, because of His sacrifice.  Apart from Him, we are basically zombies walking around with dead hearts.  Sure, I can do things, but will they have eternal value?  Will they be for my glory or His?  How far does my own glory go?  Basically, until I’m in the ground or people just forget about me eventually after a few years or so.  God is eternal and His glory is forevermore.

As we go about our daily lives, the challenge is to get connected to Jesus.  His Word gives us direction, life, truth.  As I pray, and listen, He re-directs my thoughts and gives me peace that passes all understanding.  When I stick closely with Him, when I abide in Him, I am connected with the One who says He can do all things.  The One in whom all things are possible!  But, if I’m just doing things on my own, John 15: 5 says, I can do nothing.  How about that for humbling?

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.                   James 4: 10

Our God is good, isn’t He?  Now, I must be off to go parent-in-the Vine…

Love, Wendy

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After a long winter’s hibernation (from exercising), this girl has decided it’s time to get serious again.  What used to be a piece of cake now leaves me with aches and pains, unfortunately.  However, I’m determined to persevere and exercise through the discomfort because I know it’s good for me on so many levels.  It’s humbling, though, and this morning exemplified that process.

As I was walking at a slow-moderate pace, and contemplating the extent of my leg and shoulder aches, I heard a rustling noise from behind me.  I looked around and saw a jogger about 50 yards away.  Very soon after, the jogger was parallel to me on the road.  He looked at his stopwatch and realized it was time for a walking break.  Since he was a few steps ahead of me, I decided to examine this person a little more closely.  He was probably in his 60’s or 70’s.  His legs were very strong.  He was obviously a pro at this exercise thing.  During his walking break, he began focusing on his arm strength.  With weights in hand, he contracted over head, he released.  Over and over again, this man was working hard towards good health.  I, on the other hand, was a good 20-30 years his junior and in nowhere as good of health.  Part of me was quick to want to give up.  “I’ll never be back in shape again!”  “This isn’t even fun.”  “How long does it take to get leg muscles like that guy?”  On and on, the excuses started pouring out as I compared myself to that guy.

And, there’s the problem.  Comparing.  After a quick google search, I found that Sir John Fortescue is the author of one of my favorite quotes:

Comparisons are odious.

Odious indeed.  Stinky.  Pukey.  Nasty.  Garbage.

When we compare, we either find ourselves out on top or squashed down below like a bug.  Both are focused on ourselves, so it’s pride either way.  But, when I compare myself with another person, and I’m squashed down below, I want to give up.  If she exercises six times a week, and I only manage two times each week?  Yep, I just give up.  How do you compare yourself with others?  Do you ever compare yourself spiritually with other women?  I’m prone to do that too.  It is completely unproductive and it just ends up with me not liking the other women and me not growing spiritually.

I want this to be an encouragement to all of us women who are “side by side” with someone to whom we are comparing ourselves.  Instead of sizing one another up, let’s build one another up.  If you’re a stronger exerciser, help your friend who is struggling to maintain any exercise routine.  If you’re a more experienced pray-er, help your friend who has never prayed before and doesn’t know how to begin.  If you find yourself to be the weaker person, ask the stronger person for help…in whatever area it is.  It seems  I’ve almost always found that someone else is usually very willing to help me grow when I’m open to it.

As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.  Proverbs 27: 17

Love, Wendy

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Several months ago, a sweet friend of mine shared with me that she and her sister were fasting and praying on the first of each month.  The prayer request that drove them to fasting and praying on this regular basis was so earnest that I determined to join them.  Recently, during the appointed fasting day, I realized that the requests that I was praying were downright impossible ones.  Nothing about the requests were humanly do-able.  I can’t change a person’s heart.  I can’t heal an incurable disease.  I can’t make a person stop loving his sin.  I can’t peel off scales of deception.  I can’t fix a mental illness.  Have you ever prayed such impossible prayers?

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!  Amen.  Ephesians 3: 20-21

What a relief to know that the God that we serve, the God Who is hearing these impossible prayers, is the One True God.  There is no one else like Him.  And, Jesus tells us that “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Jesus was telling His disciples how it was possible for anyone to be saved; only through God.  His answer applies to many other prayer requests we lift, though, too.  In fact, the answer to all of our prayer requests is:  “With God all things are possible.”  Who knows how God is going to work in our lives?  It is not up to me to try to figure out God’s ways (see Isaiah 55: 8-9), but I can turn over every single concern and trust that He is a good God whose thoughts towards His children are thoughts of peace, not of evil, and His plans are to give us a future and a hope.  Certainly this is bound to look different than our plans and I pray that we can all determine to believe that God is indeed working all things together for good to those who love Him.

Are you praying impossible prayers?  Or are you giving up before believing that with God all things are possible?  The Ephesians passage reminds me that God can do so much that I cannot even measure His works, not by anything physical like a measuring stick nor by anything in my mind, like a really vivid imagination.

Let’s access His power that is at work in us and ask those impossible prayers.  May God be glorified in us and in the Church forever and ever!

Love, Wendy

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Sin.  Why is that word so taboo?

Facebook has opened up another avenue, a tremendous avenue, of public discourse.  Before this social arena, of course, we had opinion columns and letters to the editors in our newspapers, and even before that, we had speakers on park corners spouting notions about one thing or another.  This is good.  Our country’s founding fathers found it to be so good and so important that they even included the concept in our nation’s constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  (U. S. Constitution, Amendment 1)

I am very grateful for the opportunity to live out my faith in Christ, to speak about anything, to gather with others peaceably and to even write a letter to my government officials about my concerns.  United States citizens, myself included, take this freedom for granted.  Too many of us are either unaware or callous to the fact that much of the world does not share those same rights.

So, because of this liberty, each and every person on Facebook, just for example, is able to write a post or a comment regarding personal beliefs.  Again, this is all good.  However, the problem arises when we resort to acting like third graders on the playground in our responses to others’ comments and beliefs.  Assuming the worst in people, grouping all people into one stereotypical category, name-calling, running on emotions…this is what we grown-ups need to rise above.  For people who deny Jesus Christ and live with a secular worldview (meaning that the natural world guides their understanding and wisdom about everything), if you happen to be reading this, please understand that Christians live with a biblical worldview.  We believe that the Bible is infallible, inerrant and the absolute standard of Truth.  It is our Rock.  Truth does not shift from one decade to the next.  Truth does not apply in one circumstance, yet change in another.  God guides us and He is a good, omnipotent God.  And, Christians, let’s remember that people who deny Christ will say things that are not biblical.  They will do things that are not biblical.  So, as we are commanded in the Word, let’s show them Christ.  How?  They will know we are Christians by our love.

Love is not all “touchy feely, anything goes, let’s just be happy”, though.  As the song goes, sometimes “love hurts”.  But, when love hurts, let’s be sure that the hurt comes from the realization of our sin’s offensiveness to a holy God and not from my rude behavior and snarky words.

So, to return to my opening sentence, why is “sin” such a taboo word in our culture today?  The other day, as I was talking with my friend, I thought of an illustration that may help explain.  If you’ve ever had a problem with cussing, you may relate to this illustration.  Let’s say you find yourself with a bad habit of swearing like a sailor.  Your friends swear, the TV shows and movies you watch are filled with curse words, it’s just commonplace to your ears.  But, you have victory over this habit of swearing and begin to surround yourself with people who aren’t cussers, you stop filling your ears with the coarse words and pretty soon you rarely hear such words.  Then, one day you decide to watch a movie that you enjoyed back in high school.  You remember all the fun parts, the songs, and you want to re-visit this great movie.  After the first five minutes, your ears are about ready to bleed because it is filled with cuss words and “f-bombs”, but the funny thing is that you don’t even remember that being an issue back when you watched it years ago.  Well, you had been de-sensitized to the cussing the first time you watched the movie.  But, now, it’s a different story.  The coarse words are hitting you like a brick wall.  Now, the word “sin” is the same way.  If you go to a church where sin is rarely talked about, where everyone is accepted just as they are with no exhortation to confess sins and repent and follow Jesus, or if you are in the world and sin is never ever discussed, then whenever a Christian mentions that something is called a sin by God, the brick wall hits you and you recoil at the word “sin” like I recoil at an “f-bomb”.  It’s like a “sin-bomb”!  Yet, if you go to a church that is faithful to present the gospel in its entirety, showing us our sin and leading us to our Savior from that sin, then you are familiar with the word “sin”.  When someone, in great love, comes to you and challenges you to see your sin and reject that sin, you don’t recoil or yell at them or make excuses…you hear them and go to God in prayer.

Christians, we must be faithful to the Word of God.  We must be bold to proclaim what is sin and what is not sin.  We must not compromise with the world and begin to change the gospel of Christ to be more palatable.  Sin is offensive to God.  And, it can be very offensive to us to hear about our sin.  But, we must get over ourselves if we want REAL happiness, or joy, and if we want REAL peace, and, most of all, if we want eternal life and not eternal condemnation.

Is this a little fire and brimstone?  Yes, probably so.  But, I’m finding that it’s becoming such a blurred line between Christians and the world that we must ask God for the courage to stand firm on His Word and not step into the shifting sand of our culture’s relative truths.  Christians, be bold.  Open your eyes and ‘see’ the mighty warriors of angels standing all around us, ‘see’ the crowd of witnesses who have gone before us, ‘see’ Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, interceding on our behalf, and stand firm!

Love, Wendy

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Have you ever said something that you later regret?  I’m sure I’m not alone in this.  In a world where someone is always talking…on the news, on reality shows, on the internet, maybe even in our heads…it’s rare to truly get some peace and quiet.  Not only is it all very noisy, but in all this talking,  there is also much sinning.  How do I know this?  The Word of God tells me so.

In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.  Proverbs 10: 19

As a former speech therapist, may I use some medical jargon here?  If you are “verbose”, instead of “telegraphic”, in your speech, then you are probably prone to a lot of sin.  I don’t know about you, but I, unfortunately, fall into the former category.

The other day my mouth opened up and sin poured out.  I was in a group of Christian friends and my comment was sort of/kind of/a little bit funny.  Yet, something didn’t sit right with me after I said it.  Have you ever been there?  You know you’ve just sinned, but you’re in the midst of friends…Christian friends!…so you just blow it off.  You justify it.  “Oh, they know I love the Lord…no big deal…surely they knew I wasn’t serious…I’m really blowing this out of proportion…”

Then, as I was reading the Bible, I was struck by this verse:

But among you (dearly loved children of God), there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  Ephesians 5: 3-4

I was convicted.  Now what would I do?

How do we respond when we sin?

The Lord wasn’t letting me go.  He would not give me any peace in my excuses.  The Holy Spirit kept bringing up the need to confess and repent.  There would be no satisfaction until I took care of business.  “But…it would be embarrassing to bring this “little thing” back up again.  But…I’m just going to stir the pot and look stupid.  But…they’re just going to think I’m over-the-top; everyone sins; they understand!  But…what if they’re mad at me and won’t accept my apology and won’t forgive me?”  The enemy certainly does not want us to be restored with God through confessing our sins.  The enemy desires us to be causing others to stumble through our unconfessed, and excused, sins.  The enemy lives to accuse me and torment me through his lies.  If I confess, then I’m bringing the truth to light…and he hates that.

Yet, God loves that.  And, He is so glorified.  Regardless of the other person’s response, we must be quick to see our sins and acknowledge them.  We must be humble and confess them.  We must be open to God giving us repentance.  We must fight our sins and walk out in victory over them through the power of the resurrected Jesus Christ.

We all sin every single day so every one of us can apply this post to our lives right here and right now.  Are our hearts soft enough to see our sin?  Are we humble enough to confess them and ask for forgiveness?  Are we believing that God is powerful enough to give us victory over our sins?  Will we press on and fight our sins day after day after day?  I know that I need fresh strength every new day to cooperate with any of this…God is so good to give this to us!

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness…”  2 Corinthians 12: 9

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3: 22-23

Love, Wendy

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Recently, while reading the account of Jesus sleeping in the boat while a great storm surrounded him and his disciples, I was struck by the application to my own life.  This narrative of the disciples freaking out while enduring a ferocious storm on a lake always seems to cause people to be astonished by the minimal faith these men possessed.  We read it and say things like this:  “But, Jesus was with them!  How could they have been scared?” or “How many times did they need to see Jesus perform miracles before they figured out that He was going to take care of them too?”  We’re all guilty of being astonished by the disciples’ lack of faith…yet, sometimes, God really speaks to our own souls and our own lack of faith too.

After a day of intense difficulty with homeschooling (wait, I think I meant to say ‘after a year…’), I lay on my bed and silently cried out to God, “Please, give me strength that I do not have!”  I begged for a relief from the arguing.  I pleaded that God would change my circumstance because I didn’t feel like I could go on like this.  My thoughts began to go to the “What if–?” realm.  Fear crept in as worst-case scenarios about my children’s futures bombarded me.  The fact that Jesus was with me, and has promised me that He always would be with me, became merely intellectual as my emotions began to carry me away.  Later, when reading Matthew 8 (and Mark 4), God spoke to my heart as I began to point my finger at the disciples’ lack of faith.  He showed me that my situation with homeschooling was my own “boat in the storm”.  I was crying out to God, yet my anxiety and fears were dominating the situation and preventing me from truly trusting in Jesus, Who was with me all along.

Who among us isn’t suffering at some point in time with fear or anxiety?  What situation in our lives can begin to take over our intellectual belief in God and cause us to act as if we are atheists (not believing He is there with us and powerful to handle this)?  May we learn from Jesus’ response to the disciples, “Why are you afraid?  You have so little faith!” and cry out to God when we, too, are full of fear from the overwhelming storms in our lives.

Father God, You are almighty!  Fill us with greater faith in You.  Give us the courage to face our storms with peace because You are our Protector and our Comforter.  Truly, You are our rock and our salvation, our fortress.  We will never be shaken.

Love, Wendy

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I hadn’t realized how long it had been since last posting on this blog.  I try to write every Thursday or Friday, but my most recent post was December 2012!  As you can figure, January was a very busy month for me.  It was actually a very exciting month for me.  My childhood dream of visiting the United Kingdom finally came true at the end of January.  We visited London, the English countryside and Wales; it was exactly as I’d imagined it to be!  While there, I enjoyed noticing the little differences in the English language, such as “Mind the gap, or mind the stairs” instead of “Watch your step” or “Give Way” was the instruction on the road sign instead of “Yield”.  For me, saying something differently causes me to stop and think rather than just ignore the same familiar statement or warning that I am used to seeing.

Years ago, when my husband and I were discussing the concept of the “sinner’s prayer”, he said something that bothered me at first.  Instead of focusing on the need to say a prayer for salvation, Dave commented that he did not like that idea because the journey of salvation was a daily “yielding” of his life.  He understood the concept of justification, but he also was comprehending sanctification, and better than I had been at the time.  See, our conversation consisted of the many people in our lives who had prayed “the prayer” (sometimes with us!), but whose lives did not reveal any changed fruit.  They weren’t living for God, but for self.  After hearing some sermons on the importance of following God all the time and not just getting your “Free Get Out of Hell Card” after saying a prayer, I was deeply challenged by the fact that sometimes the sinner’s prayer was used as an ‘insurance’ of getting into Heaven and nothing more.

I began to dwell on Dave’s comment about “yielding”.  What did that mean?  Yielding what?  And, to whom?  Many years have passed since that initial conversation with my husband and God has been faithful to show me time and time again what I must yield (all of me) and to whom (Him).  Romans 6 and Galatians 2 have been instrumental in helping me visualize what it means to yield my life to God.  I am no longer–I have been crucified with Christ.  I am raised from this death by the glory of the Father so I can walk in newness of life!  Everything must change.  There can’t be any coddling of former sin; I must hate it and ask God to give me repentance.    Does this happen overnight?  Sometimes.  But, oftentimes not.  And, in that process is our constant yielding.

So, while I was in England, and my poor husband was attempting to drive on the wrong side of the road (for us Americans, anyways), the signs that said, “Give Way” caused me to think in a different way about the word “yield”.  Of course I know it means to give way.  But, I began to imagine this in regards to my relationship with God.  Was I giving way to Him when I was full of anxiety about flying?  Was I giving way to Him when I was frightened about a possible medical diagnosis?  Was I giving way to Him when I was jet-lagged and super grumpy?  Or was I standing firm, not budging in my sins of anxiety, fear and rudeness?

Lord, may my commitment to walk in Your ways be firm.  But, may I be quick to “give way” when my ways, my flesh, want to take over.  Only through Your Holy Spirit am I able to walk as a child of the Light.  I lean on You today for that very thing.

Love, Wendy

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