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Monday, March 20, 2017

Guest Post: Fighting for Joy

This young woman’s story will touch your heart. Erica is a beautiful single mother of four. She had to escape an abusive situation. Whoever you are, what Erica shares will challenge your heart.

"I hope this blesses you today, wherever you are in your life. Here's my story about my fight for joy:

Since my divorce, I came across Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, the New York Times bestseller. Reading this book was a turning point in my life in my fight for joy. She tells her story. I learned from her book to take my eyes off the mess of my life and to start counting things I could be thankful for—writing a few things down each day in a notebook with the goal to get to one thousand things and just keep going from there. I started this notebook and I'm almost at my one thousand after two years of writing. A miracle began in my heart as I began to see God in every part of my life by being thankful and grateful, even in the heartache and mess of my divorce. It was something I had to force myself to do (finding things to be thankful for) but then it came easier and easier. I began to find myself automatically thanking God for everything and seeing God in everything rather than focusing on the mess of my life. The result of this was pure JOY! I was amazed at the work that was being done in my heart by just being thankful.

Then I read these verses: 1 Thessalonians 5:18, In everything give thanks [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will] concerning you. I just sat there and said it over and over to myself this is God's Number One Will for me . . . to give thanks . . . give thanks . . . and then another verse, Psalm 100:4, Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Psalm 16:11,
 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. As I meditated on these verses I thought to myself, "Okay, it's God's will for me to give thanks in everything, and as I am giving thanks in all things I am entering into His presence, and in His presence is pure JOY!"

God showed me how to be thankful-grateful in the midst of deep pain and the messiness of life! My life has been forever changed. It has changed my heart not only into a joyful heart, but I found myself content. (I was very discontent with my life—very angry at times with my life.) 
Philippians 4:11, Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am (Yes there are days when I find myself fighting to find things to be thankful for . . . and slipping back into discontentment and frustration . . . when I fall off the wagon, I just have to ask God to help me pick myself up and jump back on.), therewith to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted).
 When I look for it there is always something I can be thankful for, and then my joy and contentment returns. I thank God every day for this miracle He performed in my heart. It's the best place to be joyful and content even in the deep pain and mess of my divorce and seeing my children and what they are going through now—so much heartache! I never thought I'd come to this place of contentment and joy . . . or even thought it possible to have joy even in the midst of so much pain. It's like Paul and Silas when they sang praises to God in the prison. They had joy that came from entering into the presence of God through thanksgiving! It wasn't until three years after my divorce in the fight for joy that I came to this turning point in my life.

I am praying for all those fighting for joy.”

Lou Ann: Thank you, Erica, for sharing your testimony of how you fought for joy. I appreciate your letting me share it with my readers.

If you've been blessed by reading Erica’s story, please comment and let her know.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Three Singles and God

When Jesus walked this earth, he loved spending time with three adult singles who lived together. Now, we don’t know if any of them was widowed, but the brother and two sisters lived in Bethany. Each had a personal relationship with Him. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus (John 11:5).

Let’s look at them individually.

Lazarus was the man of the family. We don’t know much about him personally, but the Bible says that Jesus loved him. One of the few times that the Bible records Jesus weeping was after his death. (John 11:35) We also know that Lazarus followed Jesus before and after he was raised from the dead. Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him (John 12:2b). What did he do for a living? We’re not sure. Jesus’ purpose in raising Lazarus from the dead seems to be that people would believe in God. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me (John 11:41b-42).

Martha was probably the elder of the sisters. The Bible says the house they lived in was Martha’s. Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house (Luke 10:39). We usually find her directing people. She even told Jesus what to do on several occasions. Jesus scolded her, but at the same time, it’s evident he loved her. Martha was a hard-working, service-minded, hospitable, practical, and organized woman. Martha was cumbered about much serving (Luke 10:40b). On a later occasion: There they made him a supper; and Martha served (John 12:2a). She had great faith in Jesus, evidenced when she said, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died (John 11:21b).

Mary is the sister who’s known for her worship. She’s always found at Jesus’ feet, listening, adoring, and worshiping. Jesus praised her, saying, But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her (Luke 10:42). Mary is a role model for every woman who wants to worship Jesus as He deserves.
  • And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his Word (Luke 10:39).
  • Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died (John 11:32).
  • Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment (John 12:3).

What can we learn from these three single adults?
  • Like Lazarus, be Jesus’ faithful friend.
  • Like Martha, have faith and be hospitable.
  • Like Mary, worship. Sacrifice time and money to adore Him.

It’s fascinating that Jesus’ often stopped in at their home. Would Jesus feel at home in our house? Would He feel comfortable stopping by to visit?

Would we take advantage of the opportunity and sit at His feet to hear the Word of God from God Himself?

What would it be like to have such a transparent friendship with the Son of God?

Is it possible today? I believe it is. 

Here’s how we can have this same, intimate friendship with Jesus:
  1. Become acquainted. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life (1 John 5:20). Do you know Jesus?
  2. Invite Him to drop in and see you where you live. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20). Do you have a relationship with Jesus?
  3. Trust Jesus to do what only He can do. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world (John 11:21-27). Do you trust Jesus as the Son of God—Someone who’s all-wise and all-powerful?
  4. Worship Him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment (John 12:3). How do you worship Jesus?

Let’s be like Lazarus, Martha and Mary!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Do You Have Issues with Trusting God?

Do you have any issues with trusting God? Does it come hard to really, truly put your life in God’s hands? Is it a daily struggle? Do you succeed sometimes and find it difficult at other times?

I believe there are two very important reasons why we struggle:
  1. We may not have entrusted our lives to Jesus for salvation.
  2. We may want to keep control. Basically, we fear what might happen, if we completely trust God.
They’re legitimate. Let’s face it, if you don’t know the Lord, there’s no way you’ll trust Him. And, if you’re scared, you won’t trust.

Let’s take these one at a time and see what Scripture says. 
  1. Jesus loves us so much that He paid for our sins on the cross with His own blood. He said, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). Jesus also said, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already (John 3:16-18a). How can you be saved? For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). Have you believed? Have you called upon Him for salvation, trusting Him to wash your sins away? Have you asked Him?
  2. God really wants the best for us. Jesus said, I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10b). And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). He even knows what the best is. The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him (Nehemiah 1:7).
I love these verses: Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct (make straight) thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I know you’ll enjoy reading these Bible verses about trust. They’re only a selection of the many in the book of Psalms:
  • The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower (18:2).
  • As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him (18:30).
  • O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee (25:20).
  • In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness (31:1).
  • Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! (31:19)
  • How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings (36:7).
  • Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass (37:5).
  • And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him (37:40).
  • Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust (40:4a)

Just like the psalmists, we can trust God for His leadership and protection. We don’t need to fear. Since God is God, He sees everything—and without time limitations. He sees past and future and present. He knows our needs and promises to meet them. He is all-powerful, too.

When you need to know how to trust, turn to the Psalms and read a few chapters. They'll challenge you to trust more fully and with a better understanding of our great Lord.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Why It's Not Time to Boycott Disney

Social media is alight with calls to boycott Disney. “Disney has crossed a line,” they say. I certainly understand the sentiment. The “special relationship” between the new Beauty and the Beast’s Le Fou and Gaston and their same-sex kiss mark a first for a Disney movie.

But, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it’s a first for Walt Disney Company. Since 1991, Walt Disney World has held “loosely organized” Gay Days every single year.

Hollywood has been cranking out gay-friendly movies for many years. Brokeback Mountain may have smashed stereotypes with its gay cowboys, but little gay-friendly moments, even kisses, have made their way into Hollywood fare for many years—going back to the early 1900s. Has anyone called for a boycott of Hollywood films? I haven’t heard it. Did Christians boycott Oscar Awards night? I have no idea, but I didn’t hear anything, though many of the films up for awards feature gay relationships.

Let me propose a different idea. It’s not a boycott of everything Disney. Rather, it’s switching from harmful Disney to the Disney that’s fun, moral, and wholesome. For most, this means going back a few years and enjoying the classic films, those that actually teach something positive. (We could start with Pollyanna. Who can forget Haley Mills’ blockbuster performance and her “Glad Game”?) Some of these are better than others, but all of the following Disney movies are basically clean and entertaining.* (Dates shown are the dates of release. They’re listed in order.)
  • Snow White (1937)
  • Pinocchio (1940)
  • Dumbo and Bambi (1941, 1942—both sad for little people)
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
  • Treasure Island
  • Cinderella (1950 Walt Disney’s personal favorite movie, and one of mine, too)
  • Alice in Wonderland (1951)
  • Peter Pan
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • Davy Crocket, King of the Wild Frontier (1955)
  • Wild Frontier (1955)
  • Lady and the Tramp (1955)
  • Old Yeller (1957—sad for little children)
  • Darby O’gill and the Little People (1959)
  • The Shaggy Dog
  • Kidnapped
  • Toby Tyler
  • Swiss Family Robinson
  • The Parent Trap (1961)
  • The Absent-Minded Professor (1961)
  • 101 Dalmations
  • In Search of Castaways
  • Big Red (1962)
  • Son of Flubber (1963)
  • Miracle of the White Stallions (1963)
  • The Incredible Journey
  • The Three Lives of Thomasina (1963)
  • The Moon-Spinners (1964)
  • Mary Poppins (I love this one! Ask my kids.)
  • The Ugly Dachshund (1966)
  • The Happiest Millionaire (1967)
  • Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar (1967)
  • The Jungle Book (1967)
  • Never a Dull Moment
  • Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968)
  • The One and Only Genuine, Original Family
  • The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968)
  • The Love Bug
  • The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes
  • Robin Hood (1973)
  • Herbie Rides Again (1974)
  • The Strongest Man in the World (1975)
  • The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)
  • No Deposit No Return
  • Gus (1976)
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
  • Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977)
  • The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again
  • The Fox and the Hound
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)

I firmly believe that if Disney found that no one was buying their new films and that many people were looking for the old ones, they would produce more family-friendly movies. Demand is important! We can make a difference!

By the way, that goes for Hollywood, too.

 Prove all thingshold fast that which is good.
 (1 Thessalonians 5:21)


*Disclaimer: I have actually seen the movies on this list at some point in my lifetime. I remember them as “good,” though there may be elements that are not, especially dress choices, drinking of alcoholic beverages, smoking, etc. This is by no means an endorsement of every movie, only a list of suggestions. Please read good Christian reviews before ordering.