War – The Great Equalizer

americanstory_portrait_168x238Last evening, Tom and I watched a wonderful movie recommended by spiritclips.com for Memorial Day called An American Story aka After The Glory. (By the way, if you have not discovered spiritclips.com, it’s a wonderful site for good family films sponsored by Hallmark.  Check it out!)

The film is about six WW2 soldiers who come back to their hometown in Texas to find unbearable corruption in the town’s political engine.  Wonderful story, but the one idea that struck me was that these six soldiers came from all walks of life: a lawyer, a Mexican, a factory worker, a bartender; but on the battle field they had become best friends–equals–six men battling a common enemy, fighting for their lives!

War–the great equalizer.  When a soldier puts on a uniform and carries a gun, he stands shoulder to shoulder with his comrades.  They don’t worry about skin color, their financial state, or their educational achievements. One goal and one enemy has united them.

As Christians, we too are equal–the ground at the cross is level.  Sin is our great equalizer, knocking down any props of prideful successes we may be leaning on and requiring each of us to kneel at the feet of Jesus, asking for forgiveness and seeking a new life in Christ.  Can you imagine if we could earn forgiveness and the keys to heaven by our own good deeds?  What a mess we would make of things!  Heaven would then become like the Mormon heaven where there are different levels to earn!  Pride would annihilate the humble spirit of “just as I am, I come,” and worst of all, Jesus would have died in vain!  We are all equality guilty and all in need of a Savior.

Our enemy is also the great equalizer.  Satan freely attacks us all, perhaps not in the same way, but he only exists for one reason: to destroy God’s people or keep mankind enslaved to him. We are equal in our battle against him, each holding the fort in our spot on the battlefield, all fighting for the common cause: bringing glory and honor to our Commander!

As we enjoy this opening holiday of the summer season, may we take pause to remember all those who fought and died for our freedom.  No matter how great or small the deed, we remember each soldier  who paid the ultimate price!

May this Memorial Day also serve as a reminder of our fallen comrades who have died for the cause of Jesus Christ!  It would serve each of us well to say a prayer for Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, the 27 year old Sudanese mother destined to be executed if she does no renounce her Christian faith.  The battle is ours, my friend!

War–the great equalizer.  Christian, is there not a cause?

          Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
        ye soldiers of the cross;
        lift high his royal banner,
        it must not suffer loss.
        From victory unto victory
        his army shall he lead,
        till every foe is vanquished,
        and Christ is Lord indeed.
 
        Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
        the trumpet call obey;
        forth to the mighty conflict,
        in this his glorious day.
        Ye that are brave now serve him
        against unnumbered foes;
        let courage rise with danger,
        and strength to strength oppose.
 
        Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
        stand in his strength alone;
        the arm of flesh will fail you,
        ye dare not trust your own.
        Put on the gospel armor,
        each piece put on with prayer;
        where duty calls or danger,
        be never wanting there.
 
        Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
        the strife will not be long;
        this day the noise of battle,
        the next the victor’s song.
        To those who vanquish evil
        a crown of life shall be;
        they with the King of Glory
        shall reign eternally.
 
 

Happy Mother’s Day

Okay, so I’m a little late!  Due to the Writing Process Tour obligation and our son’s college graduation, Mother’s day really got pushed to the back burner.

Usually, I would have all my kids home for dinner, but again, this year’s circumstances made that impossible as well; however, my cup was full of blessings on Sunday: Our oldest son preached on Hannah and did a wonderful job; All our children, including our children-by-choice (that sounds so much better than in-laws) sang with the choir; Our newly graduated son played the piano and sang a solo.  I was showered with gifts, cards and flowers from my children and grandchildren; and I laid my head on the pillow that night full of joy, offering words of praise to my gracious heavenly Father for giving me a quiver full of children who love Him and serve him!

How did it happen?  Why have my children “turned out right” and so many other have walked away from the spiritual teachings that they received from home?  People have written books on the subject of child rearing, so what do I know?  I hesitate to share anything!

As I read the note in my son’s card to me, a phrase seemed to rise to the surface like sweet cream atop fresh milk:  “I would often come out and see you reading your Bible or kneeling with Dad in prayer.  That was normal for me; but I realize that it’s not normal for most families.”

“…whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)  I often think of a negative example when I read this verse, and certainly it contains a warning; however, the joy of this precious promise is true as well.  Is it possible that my actions concerning God’s Word have had an affect on my children?

If there is one word that stands out to me as a beacon on the high hill of recommended ingredients for parental success as Christians, it is obedience.  Perhaps you thought I would say “love,” and indeed, love is the oil that not only fuels the engine of mothering, but it also adds the patience and kindness needed to smooth out the rough places.  I suppose, for me, love is just assumed; however, when we love, we find obedience as natural as loving!

Obedience – do I obey the word of God?  Ah, you thought I was talking about your children’s obedience!  Children learn from our example, and nothing speaks louder than our own relationship with Jesus Christ.  If it is shallow or superficial, can we expect our children’s relationship to be any better?  And when they pass into those wonderful teenage years, the damage that is done by a superficial testimony is overwhelming!

Think about it: Your son grows up in the church.  He hears all the Bible lessons, knows the Bible heroes, and has been told to “read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow!”  He comes home challenged to read his Bible, and you also encourage him to do so, but he never sees you reading your Bible.  What message are you sending?  As he gets older, more and more activities pull at him.  He has never developed that habit of devotions, you have never shared the blessing from your devotions with him, he sees no Biblical impact on your life, so he throws up his hands and says, “Whats the use?  This is nothing but a waste of time.”  And Satan is right there ready to catch him!

Ask yourself, “What needs to change in MY life to make me shine brighter?”  If you seek the Lord’s leading – coming to Him in honesty, ready to yield and obey – you will be amazed at what He shows you! The Christian life is a journey of constant change.  If we ever think that we have “arrived,” it will be a sad day!

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” 3 John 1:4  AND, there is no greater disappointment than to see a child walk away from everything you hold dear! The greatest sacrifice you can make for your children is the sacrifice of obedience.

“That Still Small Voice” or “Lessons From a Trash Can”

One Friday, I was subbing as a secretary at our SMALL local  high school.  It was a bit of a hectic day which ended in a flurry of activity: One of the buses had broken down, which meant that we needed to keep the students an extra twenty minutes – on a FRIDAY!  However, “all’s well that ends well,” and by three-thirty, everyone was on their way home, except me:  I needed to stay until four.

I usually take along my thumb drive, so that if there is any extra time, I can get some of my paperwork done.  That day, I was very pleased with what I had accomplished, but I was looking forward to a quiet evening to finish proof-reading my next book.  What does that have to do with the trash can or a still small voice?

I am habitually forgetting something when I leave: my water bottle, my travel mug, etc. So, I was very careful to look around and gather all my things.  Five minutes before I was ready to leave, a call came in: This woman’s son didn’t get off the bus, but the neighbor children said that he was on the bus.  I’m not sure what she wanted me to do, but when the clock struck four, I was ready to be out the door!

I pushed in my chair and knocked over the trash can under the desk. Perhaps I am a bit too transparent – I really hate to admit this next part: I thought, the custodian will get it.  Nothing spilled out.  It’s not a big deal.  But, that still small voice quickly rebuked me, and as I reached under the desk to get the can, I noticed that my thumb drive was still in the computer!  Had I left it, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of the work that I was dying to do when I got home.  (I have found that I could spend all day and night writing!!)

What a lesson!  What a rebuke!  What a time of rejoicing that my precious Lord was so piteous to me, a filthy rotten sinner!  It wasn’t that big of a deal – it was just a matter of doing what was right; and for that little act of obedience, God greatly rewarded me!

If we don’t listen to that still small voice in the little things, we will totally miss the two-by-four God is sending our way when we are bent on destroying our lives!  Never let Satan deceive you into thinking anything is too small to matter!  Others may laugh , but you will be blessed for your sensitive spirit!

 A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself:

but the simple pass on, and are punished.

Proverb 22:3

How many are left? About 500…

inside stradivarius bestThat’s how many Stradivarius violins still exist today. Born in 1644, Antonio Stradivari is now known as the best luthier (someone who makes or repairs stringed instruments) of all times; and if you plan on buying one, you’d better have several million dollars in your pocket!

What makes the Stradivarius violin so valuable?  First, it is the quality of the instrument. “His interpretation of geometry and design for the violin has served as a conceptual model for violin makers for more than 250 years.” (Smithsonian, Seriously Amazing) Many luthiers have copied his design, but there is still only one crafter by that name, and that signature is invaluable!

Secondly, there are so few that have been preserved throughout history.  Stradivari himself made around 1,100 instruments, including harps, guitars, viola, cellos, as well as violins.  Whenever there is a lesser amount of anything, the value increases.

So what’s the point?  In Luke 18:8, Jesus asks the question,

“…  Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

It seems like an odd question to us, especially when so many people believing that His return is imminent, including me!  We look around and see “Christianity” all around us.  We hear broadcasts on the radio, read blogs 🙂 , see many churches, and it seems as though faith is plentiful.  Is Jesus returning soon, and will there be a lack of faith when He comes?

Matthew Henry gives us this insight into the verse: “Now, when he comes, will he find faith on the earth? The question implies a strong negation: No, he will not; he himself foresees it.” Those of the faith will be rare when Jesus comes, and I wonder if all that we see labeled “Christian” really has anything to do with Jesus Christ at all? Truly, pure, unadulterated Christ-likeness has already become rare!  In fact, it might be a good idea to describe it:

A man or woman of faith – faith in Jesus Christ:

  1. Places his faith in Christ alone; ie. The church and any actions performed by the church have NOTHING to do with salvation: Christ alone saves.
  2. The fruits of the Spirit are clearly evident:
    1. Love not hatred, prejudice, bigotry, or any other form of the word
    2. Joy not sorrow or sadness, depression, constant moodiness or discouragement
    3. Peace not anxiety, unrest, angst
    4. Longsuffering not vengeance or impatience
    5. Gentleness not boldness, or obnoxious behavior
    6. Goodness not evil, or wicked acts of any kind
    7. Faith not doubt or fear
    8. Meekness not pride, arrogance or assertiveness
    9. Temperance not impatience, indulgence or excess
  3. Even though good character is a quality of a man or woman of faith, good character is not faith.
  4. Every sin is “under the blood,” but constant habitual sin does not characterize a true believer.
  5. Believers love to be with other believers.  When someone tells me that he is a Christian, but he doesn’t like to be with other believers or go to church, I have to wonder.

So much of what is happening in the realm of fundamental Christianity is just the opposite of what it should be.  Many are “jumping ship” and throwing in the towel, tired of the fight that Jesus Himself promised would be ours:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Ephesians 6: 1215418r2Nce819a12e2458523048b8c715c068797

Now to you, dear soldier of Christ, I want to offer this note of encouragement. Stand fast, and you are rare and of great value!  Be strong in the Lord, and your worth is limitless!  Stradivari made great violins, but YOU are made in the image of God! Fight the good fight of faith, and rejoice in the fact that our Lord and Captain will issue the final blow; and when you stand before Him, He will say those coveted words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…”Matthew 25:21

 

My Writing Process Tour

I was asked to take part in the #My Writing Process Tour by Wendy MacDonald at   http://greenlightlady.wordpress.com/.  Wendy is a remarkable photographer and poet, and she does a beautiful job of combining the two talents on her blog. She is in the process of publishing her first book and I can’t WAIT to read it. Take a moment and check her out – you won’t be disappointed!

So, here are four questions that we are to answer:

1) What am I working on?

Right now, I’m in three phases of the writing in process: 1. Because Twelve Smooth Stones is primarily self-published (Kirkdale Press published the ebook edition), I have to do the leg work, if it is going to sell.  I have it in two local businesses and plan to visit several other local spots to see if they would feature my book in their shops.  It is also “traveling” with an evangelist friend of mine, so they can sell it on their products table!  That is very exciting! 2. I’ve written a trilogy on the End Times and have entered it into a contest sponsored by Westbow, the self-publishing arm of Thomas Nelson.  Once I know the results (if I win anything) I’ll get it out there on the market.3. I’m writing a historical fiction about Philemon, which has required a lot of thought and research.  Who was Philemon? When did he get saved?  Was he married?  What sort of business did he run?  Why did Onesimus run away?  I pray that my sanctified imagination doesn’t run too far away on this one!

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Probably the biggest difference that I can see is my use of scripture: I use A LOT of Bible verses in my books. As the wife of a fundamentalist Baptist preacher, I’m very concerned with providing books that will strengthen the reader’s faith and walk with God, perhaps even lead an unbeliever to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  I like my books to be entertaining, but entertainment is not the main focus–Jesus Christ is the main focus.  My words may entertain and even inspire; His Words will change lives.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Did I just answer that?  🙂 1. Bring glory to my God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 2. Grow my reader’s understanding of God and the works of His Mighty Hand in our lives. 3. Teach my readers about either an historical event (in Twelve Smooth Stones, it was the Holocaust and the birth of Israel as a nation), or teach them about the Bible. (Strong Delusion is a trilogy about the End Times and will hopefully put some reality into the promised future events. Philemon will put some “meat” on the skeleton story about Onesimus, the run-away slave.) 3. Keep my readers spell-bound with a great plot!  I love a great story with a surprise ending!

4) How does my writing process work?

Each book has been a gift from God. It starts with a tiny seed-thought.   For example: What if a young Jewish girl had a locket decorated with twelve stones, each representing the twelve tribes of Israel?  What if that locket somehow became the object which “connects the dots” from her Jewish heritage–twelve tribes of Israel, to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ–the twelve jeweled foundations of heaven?  That was the seed-thought for Twelve Smooth Stones. 

Strong Delusion Trilogy is the product of my burden concerning 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” As our Lord’s second coming draws closer, I see more and more false doctrines affecting God’s people.  One of the most dangerous teachings is that a person who has rejected the truth about salvation will be able to be saved after the Rapture.  Strong Delusion Trilogy deals with this in three books: A Moment in Time, set as a flashback and dealing with a pastor’s daughter who is playing the Christian game but has never truly been born-again;  Angel of Light covers the first three and a half years of the Tribulation; and Thy Kingdom Come covers the last half of the Tribulation. THESE were exciting books to write and I can’t wait to get them out there. I’m just waiting on the Lord’s leading on how to proceed.

Once the thought has been established, it seems as though I can’t think about anything else! While I’m doing the mundane tasks of washing dishes or driving, my thoughts work out the plot so that when that moment comes for me to write, I’m ready!

By far, the main ingredient in my writing is prayer.  When the plot stops and I’m not sure where to take it, I pray.  God has answered those prayers in such awesome ways!  At times, as I reread my manuscript, I am amazed that I wrote it!

As a pastor’s wife, my writing always seems to be on the back burner.  Writing is a full-time job, and unfortunately the writing part, although the most enjoyable aspect, is the part that takes the least amount of time! (I submitted Twelve Smooth Stones to Christian Manuscript Submissions and Kirkdale Press found it; however, because of the amount of time it takes to find a literary agent and learn to understand the marketing world of books, I’ve chosen to self-publish at this point with createspace.com .   It is also a lot of work, but I enjoy creating the cover and writing the synopsis of the book.  In the end, it’s all my work–a very fulfilling experience.  Also, I’m not out to sell a million books, although that would be nice.  I suppose every Christian writer hopes to be the next Jeanette Oke or Beverly Lewis!  I just hope to encourage some, influence others, and bring praise and glory to my dear Heavenly Father!!

 Unfortunately, three writers I invited could not do this, but I really wanted to participate anyway.  Not sure how it works, but I don’t think the whole process will desist because of it! However, Rebecca Davis consented, and she is definitely an expert in the field.

Rebecca Davis is a writer, teacher and storyteller who lives in Greenville, South Carolina, USA. She has written several books for children as well as magazine articles for adults, and loves to speak about the Lord. She and her husband, Tim, have four children.

Her first book, With Daring Faith: A Biography of Amy Carmichael won the C.S. Lewis Gold Medal for Outstanding Christian Juvenile Literature. Her new series, Hidden Heroes (including the books With Two Hands: Stories of God at Work in Ethiopia and The Good News Must Go Out: Stories of God at Work in the Central African Republic) is named for the great Christians whose names are not household words. These books provide stories that she, as a member of the South Carolina Storytelling Network, loves to tell to children in churches and schools.

 

My Very Own Jacob’s Ladder!

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.        John 18:36

The above quote contains the words that Jesus spoke to Pilate as the man questions Him about other’s claim that He was a King. Indeed, He is a King: the King of kings, and yet He is the King of an unseen kingdom; nevertheless, it is as real if not more so than this world in which we live!  Our lives are bombarded with other-world themes in books and movies.  Topics dealing with the spirit world are of major interest to this generation.  As I recently looked over the books on display at our local high school’s book fare, I was amazed at the number of books that dealt with the dark side of the spirit world: zombies, vampires, and witchcraft.  Even the Lord of the Ring rage and Narnia are set in other worlds or times in this world that don’t exist on our timelines.

His Kingdom: Nine times in the New Testament, the Bible speaks of His kingdom.  Here’s a quick outline of what each passage says:

  1. Not everyone that says “Lord, Lord,” will enter in to His kingdom (Matt. 7:21)
  2. The “sheep” at the Father’s right hand will inherit His kingdom (Matt. 25:34)
  3. Jesus said that He would not “drink…of the vine” until in His Father’s kingdom (Matt. 26:29)
  4. After the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples that they will “eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
  5. We are considered workers of the kingdom of God (Col. 4:11)
  6. We are “heirs of the kingdom” who are “rich in faith” (James 2:5)

In Matthew, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a farmer, a grain of mustard seed, a treasure in a field, a net cast into the sea, a man hiring labors for the day, a prince’s wedding, and ten virgins and their lamps.

There’s not much description in the Bible about heaven, or God’s kingdom!  It’s been said that the Bible doesn’t say much about heaven because we wouldn’t be able to understand it!  We know it’s beyond our wildest imagination.  Revelation twenty-one probably gives us the most information about heaven: streets of gold, a river, the Tree of Life, twelve foundations of gems, twelve gates made of pearls.

Whatever you think about heaven, the fact is that as born-again believers, we will someday
enter that kingdom – “the joy of the Lord” (Matt 23:21); and although every religion in the world offers heaven to its followers, Jesus Christ–the ONLY Son of God–alone has the “keys to heaven” and purchased that right with His own blood.  Please don’t be duped by your own fancies or others tales into thinking that you are on your way to heaven if you haven’t followed God’s simple plan of salvation. Jesus said, “Ye MUST be born-again.” (John 3:3) (For more information, take a look at “What is Salvation.”)

How often to do you stop and think of your heavenly home?  How hard are you working for that kingdom?  Think about your day.  Is it packed full with this kingdom’s focus?  Yes, we are living in this world.  We need to care for our homes and families and business; but our FOCUS should always be on HIS kingdom–our future home.

Think about it:  We get seventy or eighty years here on earth to live this life, and then for more years than even an evolutionist can imagine, we will be in the presence of God, living and serving and worshiping Him!  What will we actually be doing?  I don’t really know. But Jesus is very clear about the reality of heaven and His return for us in John fourteen.  “…I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3).

Eternal vision keeps God constantly in our peripheral vision.  When I’m at the store, I’m thinking about others, trying to be kind, giving a word of encouragement here or there, giving the cashier a Gospel tract.  When at home with my children, I’m praying over their boo-boos, reading the Bible and Bible-related stories to them, I’m seeing God’s goodness in my life and readily sharing it with my family.

My husband often says that our home is a little corner of heaven here on earth.  How beautiful!  This world truly is not our home–we ARE just ‘apassing’ through! But snatch a little of heaven and put it in your pocket! Carry it with you and all the cares and worries of this life will truly grow strangely dim! It’s like having your very own Jacob’s Ladder, where God’s Spirit freely joins you and your family as you live your lives for the Savior!  Imagine God’s angels, coming and going as they please, and they ARE pleased to come to your house!  What a blessing!

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? Hebrews 1:14