That’s One Small Step in Faith, One Giant Leap in Belief – Part 2 of 3

Church in Spain

Church in Spain

Occasionally, Earl and I believe that we know exactly what God’s plan is for us.  So when we determined that retirement from our denomination was our course of action according to the will of God, we submitted our retirement date to coincide with the expected change in the definition of marriage that had been approved by the General Assembly and subsequently ratified by a majority of Presbyteries. That date is June 21, 2015.  We also made it clear to our church that we were not retiring from ministry, but only from a denomination of which we were in disagreement.

But what we gave as the date that God had for us was changed into an earlier date – leaving the church on October 31, 2014 – about 8 months ahead.  We were heartbroken to leave so much earlier than we had anticipated.  We love the people in our congregation.  We had really wanted to help the church to respond more faithfully to the Gospel and to be unified by Christ, not split into factions driven by the sweeping changes initiated by our denomination.

Then to top it all off, during all of these struggles we faced, Earl was informed that his mother had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and that his son was in dire need of his help, support and love.  Yet by leaving earlier than we had planned, Earl has been able to take some time to be where family members needed him the most.  God worked all things – even wrong things – towards the good, (Romans 8:28)  But also confirmed are Isaiah’s words, “The LORD Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.”  (Isaiah 14:24)

We not only took a step of faith by retiring from our congregation, but we took a huge leap in our belief that God and God alone would see us through not only the loss of our church, health and life insurance, income, personal illness, and family illness, but also the sense of a loss of purpose.  Yet, we also knew that God couldn’t possibly be done with us spreading His Word.

After a difficult move back to Georgia, I felt that it would be ideal for Earl to take a year off so that he could decompress, refresh and deal with the family issues that had arisen.  He had been beaten up emotionally and not only was he affected mentally by the challenges that he had faced, but it had also had an effect on him physically.  So, I planned a retirement dinner with close friends and family for him for his very first day of retirement, November 1st.

Happy Retirement

Happy Retirement

Retirement / Friends Dinner

With Friends at Retirement Dinner

 

I also scheduled a vacation  to Spain at the end of December to get his mind on history and begin relaxing him and allowing him to start taking it easy.

Tarragona Spain

Roman Colosseum in Tarragona Spain

 

Earl in Spain

Earl in Front of 1st C Roman Viaduct

 

Earl - Roman Viaduct - Tarraona

1st C Roman Viaduct water flowed by gravity to town

 

Yet within 5 weeks of “retiring,” the Lord called us right back to Charleston and gave us a new church plant and pastorate: the Charleston Presbyterian Church!  (part 3 of this series)

2 Samuel 7:19
And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant–and this decree, Sovereign LORD, is for a mere human!

Charleston Presbyterian Church Website

I am so happy to inform you, that the Charleston Presbyterian Church – a new ECO church plant in Charleston, SC has an official website for you to peruse.  Our official website is:  http://charlestonpc.org/.

I hope that if you are ever in the area, that you will come by and visit us and worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ along side our Christian brothers and sisters.

If you live in Charleston or the surrounding area, please come by and be a part of this wonderful new church.

Charleston Presbyterian Church

That’s One Small Step in Faith, One Giant Leap in Belief – (Part 1 of 3)

Indiana Jones Stepping Out in FaithBack in June, 2014 Earl and I went to the Presbyterian (PCUSA) General Assembly in Detroit, MI.  We left there completely distraught.

Earl has been an ordained minister in the PCUSA for almost 30 years.  And what once felt like home to him has culminated into another world over the past decade with numerous subtle and not so subtle changes in beliefs.  The PCUSA has gradually morphed into what I would personally consider a quasi-religious Unitarian social club that somehow is still attempting to advocate and promote “unity”.  But only Christ unifies a church or a denomination or Christians all over the world.  Outside of Christ, there is no lasting unity.

Back in 2010, I would have gladly walked away from the PCUSA, but because my husband was still a Minister of the Word and Sacrament with them, I felt compelled to worship and teach right alongside him – bringing the truth to those who really wanted to hear it.  In essence, I was one of many remnant people and groups within the church to God’s faithful followers. (Romans 11:5) “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.”

But within the denomination there is now a collapse of Christian beliefs in everything from marriage to the Lordship of Christ, and it has created a political and secular body that has stepped outside the bounds of Christianity.  The Church is to be set in the world, but not of the world; a place for people to be discipled in God’s Word and to practice that belief in the world.  Now the world is being preached in the church and people are being discipled as believers in current cultural norms.

Earl and I read the Bible completely each year, we study different books of the Bible in detail and we each have our own personal devotions daily.  We attempt to pray not according to our wills, but according to God’s.  This practice of submitting to God’s will in prayer must be totally alien in a church that demands that God bends the knee to current cultural norms.  God keeps leading us to passages such as Luke 9:5, “And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”  2 Corinthians 11:3, Acts 20:27-30, “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.  Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”  There are many more verses from the Old Testament that proclaim a different message than the PCUSA, including Ezekiel, Chapter 3.

In the midst of all that was taking place within the walls of our own church and within the denomination, many believers individually and corporately were leaving the PCUSA.  When we left Detroit in June, we knew that the decisions we had heard and the direction of the denomination were no longer in line with what Christ’s apostles taught and a vast majority of Christian disciples believe.  It was time to retire from the PCUSA, yet not from ministry.

CPC Cross

Maybe this sounds a little contrived, but during that time of discernment the Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was forever playing in the back of my mind.  One particular scene got stuck in my mind that you will find here.  It is when Indie crosses over the chasm solely through faith and belief in the word.  The elder Dr. Jones is seen telling Indie from behind, while suffering, that he has to believe.  Every time I think of this, I see Earl as Indie and Jesus Christ as the Senior Dr. Jones.  Jesus, in His suffering, encourages His true believers.  Seek your faith in God and believe that He will lead you to take that one, small step that is also a big leap of faith – sight unseen.

We took that one small step of faith – sight unseen – and oh how God has blessed us.

Come, Entertain Me

 

CPC Flower ArrangementThe word come, when read in the Bible about Christ’s enjoining His disciples to follow Him, became their first step in living the Christian life. It is a disciple of Jesus’ first step. Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” In Mark 1:17-18 “And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men. And they immediately left their nets and followed Him.” We do not walk with Christ without following His teachings and direction.
I anticipate worship in a Christian church to be of my Lord Jesus Christ, to ask for forgiveness of my sins, and to take in the whole Word of God. And as I leave the church doors, I fully expect the Holy Spirit to go with me and keep me strong in the faith and use what I heard and learned to navigate through the channels in life. I expect that when I am in fellowship with other believers, I will be comforted, heard, even advised and disciplined by those who know and live the Word of God. I expect that other Christians will use their experiences based upon God’s Word to uplift me and help to direct my life. I pray that I will do the same for them. I pray that I will always comfort others, listen to others, advise and help direct others based upon the leading of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
In a conversation with an individual a year or so ago, after a Sunday service, a comment was made to me that went something like this:
- I know I am a very quiet and non-social person, and I have been coming here for years, but I look around and always feel there are clicks/groups and there is no sense of desire by those clicks/groups to be changed by adding another person to them.-
I wonder how church can sometimes feel like another social gathering or social club. Can we come to be entertained rather than to be taught? Do we turn away from following Christ when we don’t like something we hear from the Scriptures because it is contrary to what our culture teaches us? Doesn’t everyone ask, “Is God trying to speak to me here?” “Don’t I have something to learn if I am following Jesus?” “Could I be mistaken in my beliefs?”
When we are following Christ in church we should react like those who first heard Jesus, “And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” We should come to church to obey Jesus Christ, learn His truths, His ways and how to live His life. To follow Jesus is to get closer to Him, advance towards His will, and to draw near to His holiness and goodness. In doing so, we are changed and Christ changes the world through us. We come to church to worship God and to follow Him, not to be entertained or just because we have friends or family there.
I was reading an article (Entertained to Death? Is seeker-driven entertainment a viable option for Growing your Church? By Eric Barger) about how many;
“compromising leaders help propagate lukewarm “religious” followers with no sense of Godly Biblical standards who miss the awe, reverence and supernatural power of God”. “Perhaps due to shrinking attendance and growing expenses, some evangelicals have slowly adopted the notion of “giving the people what they want” as their church plan. Now seen as “old fashioned”, “outdated” and “negative” are the Biblical ideals of discipleship, doctrine, righteousness, victory over evil and the conquering of sin. At any rate, this is the underlying rational being forwarded by a number of today’s popular growth gurus. Those whose books and teaching have lead the Church away from Biblical thinking have probably done so without overtly malicious intent. Nevertheless, the popularizations of the so-called “positive gospels” have come from a non-historical basis, a mix of bad theology and a “change or die” church growth mentality.”
I have been listening and learning from my husband Earl, a God-fearing man for over 16 years. Earl & Bob BeanHe has been preaching for 29 years. Every time he steps behind the pulpit I expect to hear God speaking to me. And every time for 16 years, I hear this man being used as a vessel by God to bring His Word to me. When I come to church, I expect the music, Bible verses, confessions and offerings all to be about worshiping God, not entertaining me. I’ve delved into the Bible for years. I read it annually and continue to study it in depth. I am given great insight by God in those Words and revelations as He determines. I would be aghast if Earl were to ever “compromise” Scriptures just to satisfy some political base in the pews.
If we watch the clock or are like those participants that “didn’t get anything out of that one, preacher,” perhaps we need to seek God more than we do our lunch. Perhaps that twelve noon kickoff tailgate party with friends was going through our minds, and we missed what was meant for us. Perhaps what was preached was from God to us, but we just didn’t agree with it or like the way it was presented. Jesus never said, “Come and be entertained.” He didn’t say, “If you agree with Me, then you might want to try it.”  Psalm 95 is powerful, and I commend it for reading and devotional study – but in particular verses 6-8; “come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God. And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah.”
Come to the house of The Lord. Come and hear His voice. Come and hear the uncompromised Word of God. Come and bow down to Jesus. Come to Him and expect no entertainment in return. But do expect forgiveness, eternal life, and a new and abundant life in Christ.

The Return

Mimi & Laura

Mimi & Laura

 

Earl and I spent the first weekend in April enjoying a return to the Morrow Presbyterian Church (MPC).  MPC was celebrating its 50th anniversary, and we were graciously invited to attend.  Earl was the Pastor at MPC from October 1999 – March 2006.

Morrow Presbyterian Church was the first church of my personal ministry as a pastor’s wife.  I have good memories of the wonderful Christian fellowship I experienced there.  I learned how to be a pastor’s wife.  I learned how to appreciate God’s many different people.  I learned patience and compassion.  I learned how to love others, but also how to grieve with them.

 

 

The pastor that answered the call after we left has now served for 6 years.

John & Tamara Callahan

John & Tamara Callahan

John Callahan and his wife, Tamara, made us feel welcome.  They opened the doors of the church to former members, pastors and current members.  The church had a Saturday evening of live music and strawberry shortcake and a full Sunday morning worship service with recognitions and a catered BBQ lunch afterwards.

 

 

 

 

 

Earl, Sheila and Allen

Earl, Sheila and Allen

 

The most Spirit-filled moments for me were the hugs, kisses, encouragements and acts of kindness that Christians express to each other.  Though 8 years had passed from the time we left our ministry at MPC, at times it felt like only 8 minutes.  We still knew almost everyone.  We still felt the call to minister and to befriend, and we still felt the love.  We still felt a deep sense of family.

I expressed to many people that Earl and I may have left MPC to fulfill the call of God elsewhere, but we could not permanently leave a church any more than we would leave our families.  We may be called to serve somewhere else, but we never leave behind those whom we love in Christ.  Earl and I still pray for the people, we pray for the leadership of the new pastor and his wife and we pray that MPC will make disciples of Jesus, and that they will follow Him faithfully.

 

Worship Service

Worship Service

 

 

Hebrews 10:24-25 – “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

MPC is a church of good works, habits of encouragement and a church that meets together to stir up one another to love.  My prayer is that all God’s churches are “Reflecting Christ Together” (the motto of MPC).

 

 

 

 

Libby and Mary

Libby & Mary

Sharon Goza

Sharon

Theresa, Susan and Audrey

Theresa, Suzanne & Audrey

Earl and MaryAnn Warlick

Hannah, MaryAnn and Earl

MPC Commemorative Coaster

MPC Commemorative Coaster

Shiela, Bob, Fred, Helen & MaryAnn

Shiela, Bob, Fred, Helen & MaryAnn

Libby and Jackie

Libby

Georgene and Alan

Georgene and Alan

Pews filling

Pews Filling

Debbie V and Susie G

Debbie and Susie

Frank, Shirley and Virginia

Frank, Shirley and Virginia

Connie MaryAnn Debbie and Susie and all the strawberry shortcake

Debbie, Connie, MaryAnn and Susie – Strawberry Shortcake

Courtney Wall

Clate & Courtney Wall

Bob and Gail Hardy

Bob and Gail

Bruce Steve and Ken

Bruce, Steve and Ken

Arrah and Stephanie

Arrah and Stephanie

The Prayer Journal

Replica of the prayer journal

1 Timothy 2:1&3 “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men….This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour…”

Fifteen years ago upon becoming a pastor’s wife, I determined that the prayer requests coming in from our parishioners were far more numerous than my mind could possibly keep in order and maintain.

An avid reader, I was shopping in a book store, and I found an entire section of journals.  Some of those blank page journals were very attractive to me.  One of my favorites was a red leather journal with the antiqued paper that had the burned look to the edges.  Oh so lovely.  I determined that I had to have one, but was unsure of exactly how I would use it.  It stayed in my nightstand for quite some time.

One evening, when a prayer request came to my attention, I was trying to find something on which to write.  I pulled open that drawer and saw the journal.  Inspired, I knew that my journal should be used for the prayers of God’s beautiful people.  Where I could hold them in my hands, lift them up to God and pray vigilantly for the good, the bad, and the hurt – to ask for God’s answers.

A couple years ago, a wonderful seminary student came through the Sunday receiving line after church services.  He was hurting; he had received a blow in his personal life and reached out, asking for prayer.  I told him I would immediately begin praying for him and would add him to my personal prayer journal.  He asked about it, and I explained to him what I did.  He was extremely grateful to know that I was sincere when I said that I would pray for him.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16

How often do we tell someone that we will pray for them and promptly forget to do so?  It can become routine to tell someone “I’ll pray for you.”  It’s almost an off-the-cuff response by Christians because, well let’s face it, it’s easy and who’s going to know if you actually prayed?  But let me tell you, people know a sincere heart and attitude, and they also know those that are just giving lip-service.

This past Sunday, another parishioner came through our receiving line after services.  Sarah gave me the biggest hug.  She proceeded to tell me that when she heard that I had been experiencing severe back trouble the week before and was incapacitated, she said: “I prayed for you, I prayed hard for you”.  Her sincerity was so apparent, I knew without a doubt that she indeed did pray hard for me.

Several prayer journals later, I have a new favorite journal.  In December 2012, one of my favorite friends gave me a LIFE journal that she had made especially for each member of our women’s Bible study group.  Our circle is named LIFE (Living in Faith Everyday).  Since December 2012, I have been using this journal for prayer offerings to the Lord.

Prayer Journal 2014

Last night a dear friend asked me to pray for her and her family due to some employment issues that have been brewing.  They are being affected emotionally and spiritually, and they want God’s intervention.  I was more than happy to add them to my prayer journal.  I thank God that He has given me the will and the desire to go to Him in prayer for the people in my life that ask me.  I pray also that they will know for certain that I will lift them up to our awesome God.  For we can rest in the promise that God grants us about our prayers –

1 John 5:14-15 “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”

God’s Review of My Spiritual Performance 2013-2014

JIPC Welcome Center

JIPC Welcome Center

I sit here on vacation, on New Year’s Eve 2013, reviewing the life I have led this past year.

Recently, I put in a request for a review of my work as a Controller of a company of which I have been employed for the past 14 years.  It had been three years since my last performance and salary review.  I put together a summation of some of the important issues that I have handled including expense cuts, employee relations, business deals, and the monetary gains that I have accomplished for them.  I highlighted all the good that I felt I had done and the plans that I have for the future.  Needless to say, I did NOT include anything that I felt was a underachievement or loss experienced by the company due to my performance.

The purpose of a review is usually to give some feedback and to plan for what training one might need, what skill areas to develop further, and how one might be better utilized in the workplace.  It is also to evaluate how one’s relationships with the supervisor/boss and fellow employees are going.

Not only do we expect to be rewarded in our work by salary consideration, but we’ve had reviews and expected rewards throughout our entire lives.  Look back to your education, report cards and graduation achievements as well as sports banquets and trophies.

Yet how often do we review how we’ve performed in the past in our Christian life and what goals we have for the future in our spiritual life?

Jesus stated:  “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak”(Matthew 12:36, NLT).

Paul stated: “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body” (2 Corinthians 5:10, NLT).

And Jeremiah stated: “But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve” (Jeremiah 17:10, NLT).

So what kind of relationship do I have with THE BOSS?  How am I doing with the plans that God has for me?  Have I met the goals that He has set for me over the past year?  Is there additional training that I need to go through in 2014?  Have I earned any other praise or rewards from God in addition to the free gift of eternal life?

I pretty much deserved what I received in my work performance review this year.  I did receive a raise! But in my Christian life, I believe that I have failed far more than I should have in the work the Lord gave me to do.  I succeeded in my career BECAUSE I put that first over the past six months due to circumstances.  But in so doing, I have put some of God’s work on a back-burner.  I feel like I haven’t put forth enough effort in personal relationships with my fellow parishioners that I normally do.  And I have felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit within me – knowing I have failed in fully utilizing the gift of hospitality, which God has given me.  I have grieved the Holy Spirit; I feel it in my poor soul.

And yet, I have accomplished some things in my 2013 Christian walk.  I have read His Word daily and read the Bible in its entirety.  I have participated in small group Bible study and Christian fellowship.  I have ministered to Earl as my husband and my pastor as well as to those within the church who have had pastoral needs.  I have visited those hospitalized and in hospice.  I have fed the hungry at the Charleston Shelter and volunteered my time at the James Island Outreach Food Bank and remained a board member.  I became the liaison on the Charleston-Atlantic Presbytery Presbyterian Women’s  Team.

Yesterday, I went with Earl to visit a woman named Libba whom we dearly love from our previous church.  Her husband Floyd passed away in recent weeks.  He was one of the members of the pastor nominating committee that brought Earl to that church in 2006.  He was a dear man, full of the Spirit and a determined follower of the Lord.  Our visit with Libba brought tears to both Earl’s and my eyes.  These are the kind of ministries that I know God wants me to do more.  These personal visits with the elderly are what bring a smile to my soul and bring joy deep within me from the Holy Spirit.

Visiting Parishioners

Visiting Parishioners

I have reviewed my Christian performance for 2013, and I have made plans for 2014.  The elderly are my passion.  Spending more time with people and offering them the love of Jesus is my New Year’s resolution.  I believe my relationship with God will grow a little deeper and a lot stronger as I bend my will even more to His will.  And on that glorious judgment day, I pray that I will hear, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”To each of you –  Happy New Year and may your life be full of the work of the Holy Spirit and the blessings from our God on High!

God on Vacation !

Taking God on Vacation

Earl and I went on a glorious vacation for almost three weeks in June 2013.  We had a wonderful time just being together and seeing 12 of our country’s national parks.

As many pastor families know, taking a vacation is extremely important and necessary.  But usually a pastor’s vacation still consists of phone calls, emails, and texts to and from members of his or her church.  There can even be some stress from not knowing how their flock is doing.  How are those doing who are sick, hospitalized, jobless or depressed?  Will they need spiritual help from the pastor while he or she is off taking a long, 2 week vacation?

In Genesis 2:2, we are very familiar with the creation account that after creating for six days, God rested on the seventh.  But of course this isn’t to suggest that God was tired or needed to rest.  In fact, God never rests.  John 5:17 represents the Father as continually working to preserve and to redeem the created world through His Son. The text in Genesis simply means that God ceased from His creating and dedicated the seventh day as a sacred day for all of us to worship Him, honor Him, and to rest ourselves.   

So while we took 2 weeks to rest out of 52, and vacationed across this glorious country of ours, putting 7,000 miles on the car, entering 17 states (some a couple times) and spending 19 days away from home, we brought God on vacation with us.  Each day we praised God for this absolutely stunning and geographically diverse land that we call our country.  We are very blessed to call this beautiful land our home, and we intend to take the time to eventually explore all our national parks. 

Continental Divide

Continental Divide

So each day, Earl and I praised and worshiped God by reading scripture and contemplating what it was that God was saying to us through the scriptures.  We each have adopted a reading plan to read our Bibles every year.  Then when I took my Bible out while he was driving and told him that I was going to read my daily reading, Earl asked me to read that he wouldn’t miss his daily reading.  Each day we talked about the scriptures that I had read, and Earl even had me write down some ideas that he felt God had given him to preach.  It’s amazing how God can take a few minutes during your vacation and inspire you.  With His beauty all around us, and His Word permeating our ears, we felt the presence of God with us on vacation.  God doesn’t need a vacation and never takes one.  We do need a vacation, but never away from God.  God is always at work – focusing all His efforts on the preservation and redemption of His world.  And He uses each of us where we are, whether at home, at work or even while on vacation, to accomplish His will.

Never take a vacation from God while you are on vacation!

Rocky Mtn National Park

Rocky Mtn National Park

Big Bison

Big Bison

Earl - Mt. Rushmore

Earl – Mt. Rushmore

Don’t Look Back !

Earl - Sea of Galilee

Earl – Sea of Galilee

Lately I have had a preoccupation with Lot’s wife.  The Bible doesn’t mention her name, though some Jewish traditions indicate that her name was Edith (Adith or Ado).  But I can’t help but wonder, why after being told by the messengers of God, “Escape for your life!  Do not look behind you, ………” (Genesis 19:17), did she still look back?

Reading in Genesis before this event, you get the basic idea of why God was angry with Sodom and Gomorrah.  The cities as God states in Genesis 18:20 states, “And the Lord said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.”  Due to their unrepentant sins, God’s patience was tested to the point where He could not look upon the evil – thus He determined to end the evil by destroying it.

Lot lived there along with his wife and two daughters.  The messengers of God came to Lot’s house and spent the night, but not without the sins of the city affecting Lot’s family and his guests.  Lot pleaded with the men of the city to not act wickedly.  They had demanded to have sexual relations with his guests.  As Lot contended with the men at his door, the men of God reached out to bring Lot back into the house, and they struck the men of the city with blindness.

So Lot, his wife, and two daughters were escorted out of the city and were headed for Zoar.  Once there, God rained down brimstone and fire from heaven and in verse 26 “But his wife, from behind him, looked back; and she became a pillar of salt.”  The more I thought about this story, the more I realized that the same directive from God is given to every Christian.  Don’t look back. 

There have been times in my life where I have looked back on the decisions that I had made, and I’ve cried out to God, repeatedly.  I’ve sat crying, beating myself up for years over the decisions that not only affected me, but others around me – others that I love and adore.  One such time was the decision to divorce my first husband.  Though it wasn’t working for us as husband and wife, my children were put in a horrible position.  My one time decision has affected the decisions that they have been making for 17 years.  I see it, I sense it, and I’ve been told by them that it has.  That hurts!   It’s raw!  It’s life.  We ALL make decisions, but once made, we have to reconcile ourselves with God and ask Him and Him alone, where do I go from here?

My son - Craig

My son – Craig

Throughout the New Testament, we are told not to look back.  Luke 9:62 Jesus states “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”  In Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.”  And look at Hebrews 10:39 “But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” And finally,  Peter 2:21-22 “For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them.  It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A dog returns to its own vomit,’ and ‘a sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire,’”

God pulls us out of our old lifestyle and forgives us and offers us a new life.  He pulls us out of a life that perhaps was controlled by other things that we were sucked into – not knowing how to get out.  The amazing thing is, God has a plan for us.  What He asks is simple.  Don’t look back.

Don’t look back on that sinful past, that sinful lifestyle, those sinful friends, and those bad decisions.  Don’t look back on mistakes made, decisions that affected not only you, but others.   Don’t look back on the pleasures of sin, but rather look forward to the promises of a new future with God.  You can’t be useful to the Lord today if you’re still feeling guilty about the past.  God uses those past hurts, failures, and mistakes to strengthen us to become the people He wants us to be today.

My Daughter - Maddie

My Daughter – Maddie

My decision and my cry to God eventually brought a new life to me.  I have not looked back since.  God gave me the great gift of forgiveness, which not only was granted from Him, but also from my children.  He gave me one of the greatest of gifts – Earl.  He is my spiritual leader even as my husband.  I will follow him anywhere because I believe God directs Earl, and Earl always responds with trust in Him.   I have to believe that perhaps Lot’s wife was looking back with regret, for having to lose a lifestyle that she enjoyed.  Why else would God turn her to a pillar of salt?  Perhaps she had no remorse.  Perhaps she had not asked for forgiveness.  Perhaps she had turned away from God’s call in her life.  God told Abraham that He would save anyone found righteous in the two cities.  I believe that out of all those people, only three were righteous in God’s eyes.

And He was Grieved by Their Misery

I hope you are experiencing a year of Bible study with daily devotions or a one-year Bible reading program.  As I’ve previously quoted in Be the One in Ten Christians That Have , only 1-3 in 10 Christians have ever read their Bible in it’s entirity. 

Everytime I read the Bible, important messages pop out at me and some I’ve never heard.  It’s like listening to Earl’s sermons every Sunday twice, (I stay for both services).  Sometimes I completely miss something the first go-round and pick up on it the second pass.  I used to just think that I was at fault in some way – was I not paying attention?  But no, that is not so.  Let me share with you how God works through the Holy Spirit to enlighten us, and even when we need to hear it!

God the Father created, Jesus saved, The Holy Spirit enlightens, directs and guides.

Mother's Day 2013

Mother’s Day 2013

On May 12, 2013, Earl preached the sermon, How to Recognize the Holy Spirit .  I wanted to share that sermon with you via the link, because I believe it will enlighten all who read it about the exact relationship The Holy Spirit has with us – if only we would listen and be led by Him.

Part of The Holy Spirit’s obligation to us is to help us know God better.  The Holy Spirit came after Jesus ascended into heaven and as promised by Christ, The Holy Spirit came to remind the desciples of all that Jesus had done and said and this is where we get the words of the New Testament.  When reading the Bible, The Holy Spirit will reveal or enlighten us to what we are supposed to hear at that time in our life.  He guides us in our learning of our Creator and our Savior.

So getting back to my daily Bible reading….long way around, I have experienced sadness and grief over the illnesses of folks in our church and the passing of some very young people that the loss is far too hard to comprehend.  I have had conversations with people who blame God, other folks that cannot comprehend how a loving God could possibly allow such things to happen.  They are angry, and some individuals that I know have even turned their backs on God. 

While praying and asking God for help in these extremely difficult cases, I asked God for guidance in how to bring His peace to grieving people.  Was there anything that I could say or would I make it worse?

My God, who created me, also gave me a Savior in Jesus Christ, so that I don’t have to pay for my sins.  God then gave me His Spirit to help me as I traverse along this life on earth with all His other created beings.  But we all have choices to make about where we go, who we have as friends and what we do – and a myriad of other choices.  All these free choices can sometimes bring us friends or enemies, peace or consternation, wellness or illness, good or evil.  And the entire fall of creation brings with it dire consequences even when we are obeying God.  Jesus said we would always have the poor and hungry among us – that there would always be wars and natural disasters.  Even Jesus being perfect, suffered hunger and terrible storms in His life due to the sin of the world.

But as I was reading Judges 10:15-16, I found a message that the Holy Spirit used to speak to me. “But the Israelites pleaded with the Lord and said, “We have sinned.  Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.” “Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the Lord. And he was grieved by their misery.”   Not only is God with us in all that we go through in this life, but when we admit our sinfulness and repent, God grieves for us.  He may even step in and remove the consequences, but even if He chooses not to do so, He will help us through it.  He will lead us to where we have to go to do our Father’s work.  We can be strong and courageous in this life when we rely on His presence to pull us through the seemingly inpossible.  We can give Him praise and glory for the pit we’ve found ourselves in, not just resentment, anger and dismissal of His love and will for us.

So as I pray for people who find themselves in such difficult times, and as the Holy Spirit gives me opportunity, I will remind them that God grieves with us in our misery.  Maybe they will feel the presence of God surrounding them, uplifting them and holding on to them.  I pray that they will feel Him pulling them through the hardships with all the tenderness of His tears and the strength of His love, leading them and guiding them to a fuller and stronger life in Christ.

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