Joni.

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I just finished reading Joni Eareckson Tada’s book, 31 Days Toward Overcoming Adversity. It is a wonderful book, full of wisdom. She writes about our walk with God, and how we should consider the hard times. Here is an excerpt:

“Okay, so there was the Lord Jesus giving Paul his route. “The road I want you to take, Paul, is the one that’s going to Rome. Keep heading in that direction no matter what. You can’t miss it.” 

 With Jesus Himself as travel agent, you’d expect a first-class trip, right? Not so. For two years on that long road to Rome, Paul faced more than his fair share of bypasses, ruts, hazards, and roadblocks. The journey featured constant trouble, murderous plots, and imprisonments.

 Then there was the long detour when a hurricane tossed him around the Mediterranean for fourteen days. Until his ship finally hit a sandbar. And broke into pieces. After which he managed to swim to an island. After which he was bitten by a poisonous snake. An easy road? Hey, the Roman Road was no freeway. 

 The tolls were unbelievably high. And yet this was the very road Jesus told him to take! Ah, but Paul trusted his Friend. Though the road was rugged — even vicious at times — Paul trusted. If the Lord Jesus had set him on the road to adversity, then he knew that, no matter what, it was the best road to heaven he could possibly find. No matter what happened to Him — smooth passage or storm — live or die — he was completely safe.”

 It took me a long time to realize my life would not be trouble-free as I walked with God. Everyone in this world of sin suffers in one way or another. And as Paul says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:3-5

I take heart in the knowledge that the people of the Bible suffered also and yet found hope in God. He is our only hope in this world.

 

 

Revelation: Death, Jail and Hiding for God’s People.

I am posting chapters from my sister’s book, “The End is near. End Time Bible Prophecy Anyone Can Understand.” by E.A. James, available at lulu.com

Continued from previous post..

After the sixth trumpet probation is closed.  Those who have chosen to be on God’s side are sealed and those who have chosen to side with the beast are also sealed. 

Revelation 18:4 says that God’s people will not participate in the 7 last plagues about to fall, so why will we still be on this planet?  The Hebrews were in Egypt throughout all the plagues that fell, and the faithful followers of God were in Jerusalem when the Babylonians destroyed the city. So, too, those belonging to God will be on the earth during the plagues.  And again, just as the Hebrews were protected from the final plague to fall on the Egyptians by placing marks on the doorposts of their homes and staying safely inside, and the faithful in Jerusalem were marked by a messenger of God so they would be protected from the Babylonian slaughter, so those who receive the seal of God will be safe from the final plagues because they are hidden in Jesus.  (See Ex. 12 and Ez. 9) 

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But there is a drawback to being on the earth after probation closes.  The persecutions against those of us who refuse to worship the image of the beast and to receive the mark of the beast will be awful.  Some will be in jail, some will be in hiding, and some will be killed. 

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But do not fear because Jesus said, …I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Matt. 28:16  Jesus also said,  Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  Matt. 10:28  And, Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great…  Matt. 5:11, 12  It may not seem like it at the time we are going through the persecutions, but Jesus will be with us and in the end it will be well worth it.

 

 

 

A Slow Burn.

I had never heard of Francois Fenelon (1651- 1715) until last week. He was an archbishop in the Catholic Church. I came across a letter he had written to a close friend. I immediately related to its content. For years I used to wonder why God didn’t make me good/perfect as soon as I gave my life to him. I thought my obedience was important to God and I wanted to be good/perfect, so why wouldn’t he do it?

Eventually, I learned from the Bible that our growth in Christ is a slow growth. Jesus said,First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens.”  Mark 4:26

 I concluded that perfect obedience was not as important to God as it was to me. Or, perfect obedience must come through learning and learning takes time.  

I think the reason I wanted to be perfect is so I could be sure of going to heaven. I thought if I sinned I might not be able to go. I had a lot to learn about God and Salvation.

Here is the letter:

“Do you wonder why God has to make it so hard on you? Why doesn’t He make you good without making you miserable in the meantime? Of course He could, but He does not choose to do so. He wants you to grow a little at a time and not burst into instant maturity. This is what He has decided and you can only adore His wisdom— even when you don’t understand it.

I am awed by what suffering can produce. You and I are nothing without the cross. I agonize and cry when the cross is working within me, but when it is over I look back in admiration for what God has accomplished. Of course I am then ashamed that I bore it so poorly. I have learned so much from my foolish reactions.

You yourself must endure the painful process of change. There is much more at work here than your instant maturity. God wants to build a relationship with you that is based on faith and trust and not on glamorous miracles.

God uses the disappointments, disillusionments, and failures of your life to take your trust away from yourself and help you put your trust in Him. It is like being burned in a slow fire, but you would rather be burned up in a blaze of glory, wouldn’t you? How would this fast burn detach you from yourself? Thus God prepares events to detach you from yourself and from others.

God is your Father, do you think He would ever hurt you? He just cuts you off from those things you love in the wrong way. You cry like a baby when God removes something or someone from your life, but you would cry a lot more if you saw the eternal harm your wrong attachments cause you.

You do not see with the eyes of eternity. God knows everything. Nothing happens without His consent. You are upset by small losses, but do not see eternal gains! Don’t dwell on your suffering. Your over-sensitivity makes your trials worse. Abandon yourself to God.

Everything in you that is not already a part of the established kingdom of God needs the cross. When you accept the cross in love, His kingdom begins to come to life within you. You must bear the cross and be satisfied with what pleases God. You have need of the cross. The faithful Giver of every good gift gives the cross to you with His own hand. I pray you will come to see how blessed it is to be corrected for your own good.

My God, help us to see Jesus as our model in all suffering. You nailed Him to the cross for us. You made Him a man of sorrows to teach us how useful sorrow is. Give us a heart to turn our backs on ourselves and trust only in You.”

Violent Dreams and Revenge.

I had dreams last night that I haven’t had for a long time. Dreams of rape and violence. Dreams of me shooting the rapists. These dreams are always disturbing and I used to feel sad all the next day and sometimes for many days following.

Just as I got out of bed, I heard in my mind, “How can God allow this to happen to you?”  I laughed, and I’ll tell you why I laughed. I recognized that voice. It is the voice of Satan trying to rend me apart from God. But I’ve learned from Joyce Meyer to speak back to that voice in Bible verses. I say out loud, “The Lord is a shield around me, he is my glory, he is the lifter of my head.

The Lord is a strong tower I run to and I am safe.

The Lord is the strength of my life and my portion forever.”

As I quote these words, my spirit is lifted and I look up to God with thanksgiving. Jesus said, “In this world you will have many tribulations. But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Everyone’s tribulations are different. Yours may be financial, and you wonder why God has allowed this to happen. Perhaps you have lost a loved one. Maybe your husband or wife has left you. Quote the Bible, trust in the Lord and do good. We will never understand everything while we are here on earth. But we will understand afterwards.

Jesus once said to Peter, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 

John 13:7

Jesus said about his death on the cross, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.”  John 16:20

 

The Bible says Jesus was, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”  If the Son of God suffered here, why do we expect not to suffer? No, we have “entered into Christ’s sufferings.” Christ has been suffering since Lucifer led a host of his fellow angels, the children of God in heaven, to rebel against God’s government. I can’t imagine what it was like for the Trinity to lose so many they knew so well and loved so much.

 

I don’t mean to minimize the pain anyone is going through. I know the pain of divorce, death and abuse. But I also know that God has sufficient grace, peace and love for us to go through these things. He walks beside us. He will comfort us here, and at the end of time, he will abundantly reward us with a beautiful, pain-free life in heaven. There, all our hopes and dreams will come true. We will be surrounded by love and beauty.

Love as A Sacrifice.

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Lene, over at songofvirginity.wordpress.com  asked me to join a challenge to write about three quotes. This one is the last of the three. Thanks Lene. There is nothing better to write about than love.

“Love is when the other person’s happiness is more important than your own”
– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.”  Isaiah 53:6

Every good parent loves their children more than themselves. I remember the day my daughter, Sandy, was born. I held her in my arms and was overwhelmed by a feeling of love and responsibility. I realized I could not just live for myself any longer.

Sandy was so little, vulnerable and innocent. I was not a Christian when that day began, but I became one as I looked on her face. I asked God to help me raise this tiny human. I knew I would mess it up if he didn’t help me. So, it was my baby daughter who brought me to Christ. I’ve always told her this. 

Her, and her sister’s happiness was always more important to me than mine. Sometimes when they were very sick, I would ask God to take their sickness and give it to me. He did that only once and I remember being so grateful to have the pain off of them and put on to me.

When I have sinned and feel bad about myself and guilty, I remember God feels the same love for me as I do for my children and grandchildren. No matter what they do, I love them. 

“Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. 

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”  Isaiah 49:15,16

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”   Hebrews 12:2

What was the “joy set before him”?  It was knowing his suffering and death would save billions of people who would come with him to heaven when he returned. It was joy because he loves people. He loves you and he loves me. He loves us more than he loves himself. 

Jesus was willing to go through terrible physical pain and humiliation. but not only that, he took sin upon himself and the Bible says, “he became sin.” How that felt, we do not know, except that he sweat drops of blood and in his agony, he said to his father, “Why have you forsaken me?” 

His father had not forsaken him, for the Bible says that God was in Christ on the cross. But Jesus felt forsaken – all alone. He did not know if he would see his beloved father again. 

I remember once, my grandson told me that God couldn’t love him because he had done so many bad things. I said, “Craig, God loves you even more than I do.”  He knew the depth of my love for him, and I think he took to heart what I said because he began to pray to God after that.

Our Daily Cross.

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Photo by, “Geralt”, Pixabay User

 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

I’m reading a book called, “God’s Best for My Life,” written by, LLoyd John Oglvie. In it he writes this:

“Love means the cross. God’s mercy was expressed in the cross. He did not condemn the world, but came in forgiving love.”

Then he asks, “What is our cross?”

“We can understand and accept our cross only if we accept the essential meaning of his cross. In his cross he suffered for the sins of the whole world so that mankind might be forgiven. Our cross, then, is forgiving and forgetting what people have been and done.”

“The Christian life begins with crucifixion – our own. Becoming a Christian means  a death-like surrender of our life to Christ. We die to our own rights, control of our life and plans for the future. We will be willing to be made willing to receive, do, go, stay, speak and serve as he wills. Christ comes to live within us to express his loving mercy for others through us.”

“We forgive, because we have been forgiven. People do not need to measure up any more than we have to measure up in order for God to love us.”

“There will be a cross in every relationship and responsibility we encounter today. At the heart of each situation is a point of surrender to seek first the Lord’s will. There will be people to be loved and forgiven. Most of all, there will be a constant flow of opportunities to care for people as if caring for our Lord…To make Christ’s plans our plans will spell a cross of death to self-will…”

“Our cross is people – persons who need our forgiveness… We cannot carry our cross alone. When we dare to be a forgiving person, we need the Lord’s help daily, and many times through the day.”

This was an eye-opener for me and I believe he is right. When I think of Jesus on the cross, why he is there, what was done to him, forgiveness is what he gave that day. People betrayed him, slapped his face, spit on him, beat him up, whipped him, laughed at him, lied about him and hated him,

And he taught us, before that terrible day, that we must forgive those who do these things to us. That is our cross. May God strengthen us to bear it with him.

The Great Sadness.

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I just finished reading, The Shack, by WM. Paul Young. This book moved me as no other. I bought it because I heard Mr. Young on a Podcast at, http://rureal.org/  hosted by, Jon Brandon. As they talked about the book, I was intrigued so I bought it from Amazon.

For me, the story becomes beautiful and inspiring when the main character, Mack, goes to the shack after an invitation arrives in his mailbox. The invitation could come from a prankster, a murderer or God. He isn’t sure so he takes a gun, just in case.

In this book, Mr. Young portrays God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as people he meets. I don’t want to say any more than that. Each person who reads this book will react to these portrayals in their own way. I will just tell you my reaction.

I fell in love once again with the Trinity through this book. How easy they are to be with. How loving, thoughtful and patient they are. How different they are than the picture most people seem to have of God. They are fun to be with, which I’ve always suspected since God gave us all such a sense of humor. Many times I say to God, “Now, that was just funny,” and I imagine he finds things funny too.

I entitled this post, “The Great Sadness,” because along with the beauty and fun there is tragedy, which the author calls, “The Great Sadness.”  I immediately related to that because I was sexually and physically abused by my father when I was quite small up until I was around 11 yrs. old. Even when I was an adult, he could be very crass and exposed himself to me a few times. Of course he always said it was an “accident”. I know about “The Great Sadness.” Every person who has been abused as a child knows it.

The author himself was sexually abused as a child. He knows “The Great Sadness.”  If you are one who also knows it, I hope this book will help you. The author said it took him 11 years of therapy to understand what his character, Mack, understands over a weekend; so although this book may not heal all your pain, it is a good beginning. It is a long road to recovery and there is so much to learn. Joyce Meyer helped me through this too and so did many books on why God allows pain, from Philip Yancey to C.S. Lewis. All these authors helped me. I owe them a great debt.

The last few chapters of this book shook me to the core and seeing the love of God through it was something I was grateful for. The God in this book is a God everyone can love and feel at home with. He is the God of the Scriptures; he called himself a servant when he was here. A servant. Imagine that.

Everything is Beautiful.

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Photo by: Jolanta Dyr


“He has made everything beautiful in its time.
   He has also set eternity in the human heart;  yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11

For a believer in God, everything can be beautiful. No matter what our situation, he is there and makes it beautiful. 

 “Life exhibits a changing succession of weeping alternating with laughing, war with peace, and so forth. For each of these God has appointed its time or season, and in its season each is good. But man does not recognise this; for God has put in his heart an expectation and longing for abiding continuance of the same, and so he fails to understand the work which God does in the world.”    Ellicot’s Commentary
The world doesn’t understand how God can make everything beautiful. There is so much evil in the world; how can God make it beautiful? 

Joseph was hated by his brothers, sold as a slave, falsely accused of rape, sent to prison. How could God bring beauty out of that?

“But Joseph replied to his brothers, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you?You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  Genesis 50:19,20

Most of us don’t understand why bad things happen to us or other people. Apparently, we don’t have to understand. When Job complained bitterly to God about his life, God didn’t come and explain to him why it was happening. He did however say this, “Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” Job 38:2-4 God was saying he wasn’t a mere man, he was the God of all creation and he knows what he is doing.

“Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?”   Job 40:7,8

What was the beauty that came out of Job and Joseph’s suffering?  It was a witness to the world, the angels and the universe that a man can stay true to believing in God even when he has terrible suffering. Is this important? Yes, very important, because Satan is not just an accuser of the brothers and sisters in the church, he is an accuser of God. He tells us God is cruel to let us suffer, and many believe it. I used to believe it myself. He doesn’t want us to know it was he himself who brought suffering to this world and is the prince and god of this world. Humans chose Satan, and because of freedom of choice, God must give Satan freedom to rule this world. But Jesus bought us back with his death. We now have a choice to choose Evil or Good. We can choose who will rule over us.

When Christians were being burned at the stake by the many thousands during the dark ages, the Christians said, “Our blood is seed.” They said this because as they suffered from persecution, other people saw it and were impressed by their courage and beliefs. The more believers died, the more were converted. God did bring something beautiful out of being burned alive, out of being thrown in prison, out of losing all your children. 

I read recently about a man who was with some Christians when ISIS took over a city. ISIS soldiers told the Christians they must renounce Christ or they would lose their heads. The Christians said they would not renounce Christ. A man who was not a Christian was standing by watching. He walked over and said, “I am also a Christian.” He became a Christian in a moment of time when he saw what the Christians were doing. He probably knew about Christ; but now he wanted Christ.” They were all beheaded. 

An instrument of torture, the cross, has become beautiful in its time.

God spoke to my heart once and said, “You have need of endurance.” Yes, I did. I wanted out of this ugly world. But after months of praying about this I have come to see my life as beautiful. It was the pain in my life that led me to God. Without it, I would have gone my merry way being happy but hurting others; thinking only of myself and wanting my own way all the time. In my opinion, that is what a life without God looks like.

“Paul said,  “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:7-10

I never thought I could delight in my weaknesses and hardships. But I do delight in them now; because when I realize how weak I am, it is then I am strong.