“The Why? in Suffering”

cloud-of-missoryMy Sunday school class is currently studying, the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7.  As a matter of fact, my pastor-husband Earl, is doing a 4-part sermon series at Charlestons Presbyterian Church on the Sermon on the Mount, as well. As many know, the beginning of the sermon starts with what are referred to as the Beatitudes, which means “exalted happiness.”  Declared as blessed are the poor in spirit, those who  mourn, the gentle, those who hunger and thirst, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who have been persecuted – those that have been insulted and accused falsely.

But here are listed human frailties as well – people who are suffering in one form or another.  This crowd of people, who because of their gentleness or humbleness, those who were merciful toward others, those who tried to stay pure and make peace, could also be ridiculed and thought less valuable by many people.

Recently, a fellow employee at the company in which I work asked me why there is suffering.  She was watching the death of someone she cared about and could not fathom why he must suffer and why family and friends had to endure the suffering of someone they loved so deeply.  Upon his death, she told me she was asked to give the eulogy. She was wondering what she could possibly say. aged-woman

The question of suffering is not a new one.  It has been pondered by humans in every generation.  But I did offer her an answer that has allowed me to somewhat better accept the suffering of my fellow man and lay all my hope in God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I tried to offer her a little of God’s comforting presence by allowing her to see God’s promises through His Word.  I told her that her faith in knowing Him would allow Him to help her become closer to Him and to understand suffering.

According to Genesis, we came into being because God created us.  “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).  In knowing this, I know that my soul (the living being within me, that makes me animate), living in this shell called a body, belongs to God.  And God has every right to have us returned to Him.

I’ve learned in my sorrows, and that without them, I would be less than human, not more.  Without human sorrows, we haven’t loved enough, felt compassion enough or been in a relationship with other God-breathed sisters and brothers.  Without sorrow, I wouldn’t be like Christ, Who wept at the death of Lazarus, (John 11: 1-36).  And Jesus promised Martha concerning Lazarus, “your brother shall rise again.” John 11:23.

In our seeking out God due to the suffering we face, we are calling out to the Great Comforter.  We are mourning the loss of someone we love.  We are showing to others our compassionate spirit and that God dwells within us.  We show that we have feelings and that we are not apathetic or stoic or spiritually dead on the inside.

Praise God that He uses our suffering to offer others the extreme privilege of showing compassion to others.  Without suffering, we would never know deepest love and compassion.  If no one ever suffered, no one would ever learn to help those who are less fortunate or in need.  Jesus was surrounded by those who suffered, and He showed them all God’s compassion.  We are to be like Him.

crosses-of-golgathaJesus suffered immensely on the cross even while His mother suffered at the foot of the cross.  But Mary knew Who Jesus was and knew His suffering was for the good of all mankind.  Suffering can bring Christ to His lost sheep – touching the very souls of those who are afflicted by turning them to Jesus Christ Who had compassion and love for all people, and Who died that they might all be saved and be granted eternal blessedness.

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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!

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.

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.

Submissive Christian Wife

Ephesians 5:21 ” Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Recently, I attended a wedding rehearsal for a couple of which my husband, Earl was going to marry the next day.  The bride was stunning, and she was the daughter of a wonderfully gentle and kind couple that are members of our church.

Rehearsal Dinner

Rehearsal Dinner

At the rehearsal dinner, after finishing a delectable meal, the groom’s parents stood and toasted the couple and asked if anyone else had anything to say.  Family and friends stood and told stories and wished them the best, and then a lovely young woman in her mid-twenties stood and offered the couple some advice.  She said that the Bible has the answers to all life’s questions and whenever she needed to know something about marriage and relationships, she looked in her Bible.  For instance, if she wants to know about love, she reads 1 Corinthians 13, and if she wants to know how God created a man for a woman, she reads Genesis 2: 21, and if she wants to know how the marriage relationship between a man and woman is supposed to be, it can be found that a wife is to be submissive to her husband from Ephesians 5 and that a husband is to love his wife and give himself up for her.  I was genuinely pleased by her public stance and her commitment to her friend (the bride) to help her see what God calls for in a marriage relationship.

Many women get their backs up whenever this topic is broached.  But surely it is only because they don’t really understand the profound spiritual nature of what being submissive really means.  Being submissive does NOT mean being a doormat nor does it mean to simply being subject to the passing whims of her husband.

The New Testament teaches that marriage serves as a symbol of the relationship of Christ and His Church.  In the marriage relationship, it is the husband’s privilege to portray the headship of Christ over the family by his loving and sacrificial leadership.  It should be in this case, be the wife’s privilege and high calling to submit to her husband who represents the head of the household  and together to be submissive to the Lord Jesus Christ as the church Head.

Read Ephesians 5, but read the entire chapter, not just the section about the wife’s role.  Ephesians states all the character traits that the husband must work toward in order to even begin to come close to what Christ desires for his as the head of the household.  For the wife, there are perhaps two requirements in the whole chapter, to submit and to respect.  Submission is the voluntary surrender of our rights and self-interest for the benefit of others and for the glory of God.  Paul indicates that Christians, without exception, are to “be subject to one another.”  In this regard, if husbands are truly subjecting (submitting) themselves to the will of Christ in their lives and are leading their family in a Christ directed manner, then wives should not try to deviate from that path nor be an obstacle in her husband’s pursuit of that goal.

One must respect and honor a husband that is walking in step with Christ.  But the husband has a directive in this as well, beyond all that is stated in Ephesians 5, the Bible states, that he should seek her advice, as Elkanah and Abraham did (1 Samuel 1:23; Gen. 21:12), and yield to her when she is right.  A wife, who is wise, will give wise counsel and tell her husband how she feels and what God may be placing on her heart.  A husband should take his wife’s counsel to mind before making decisions for the family and then once a decision is made, the wife should honor her husband’s Christ-led decision.

I am very headstrong and opinionated, but I can tell you this, I have a husband that takes his life and lays it down for the sake of Christ.  He walks the walk and talks the talk.  He studies and prays hour upon hour every day.  I love him, trust him, respect him and most of all, will follow him in any and all major directions that he feels called by God to make.  This is not only being Biblically submissive on my part (which I did have to learn by the way) but a very, very wise move.  For I know God has called me to be a helpmate to Earl (Genesis 2:20), to walk beside him in his ministry, and minister to him, to serve him and to care for him as he helps lead others to Christ.  Therefore I gladly surrender, sacrifice and serve under Christ’s authority through my husband over this house for I see him daily doing the same under Christ and for our ultimate good.

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