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Monday, July 30, 2018

Your Self-talk Matters

What you tell yourself is important. I'm not talking about the woman who's walking along answering her own questions, aloud, in the grocery store. (Don't laugh; I've actually caught myself doing this more than once. "What do I need?" "Oh yes, some lettuce would be good.") Thankfully, I don't think anyone saw me or cared, if they did. At least I didn't notice anyone rolling her eyes!

What I'm talking about is self-talk: what you think about and dwell on. Let me give you some examples.

In the family:
  • You're thinking about something dumb your husband just did. You think he was really stupid. Why didn't he know better? He didn't even think how his actions would affect you. He certainly wasn't loving you when he did that. Your thinking spirals downwards. The second time your husband does something dumb, your negative thinking about him gets piled on top of the first dumb-thing reaction, and you begin to be bitter. Your husband is no longer your friend and partner but the enemy. OR You notice your husband does something dumb, and you remind yourself that sometimes you do dumb things, too. You don't hold it against him, but you renew your love for him in your mind: even though hubby was dumb, I love and respect him. You laugh. He doesn't do many dumb things like that. You give God thanks for a good man who loves you.
  • Your kids are loud and messy. You are on their case day and night. You might even scream at them. Pretty soon, you are resentful. These kids! What pills! OR Your kids are loud and messy, and you pick up one of their favorite books, put one child on either side of you and the baby on your lap, and you calmly read—with different voices for the characters—about Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. The children quiet down and listen. Baby falls asleep, a cuddly little warm person, on your lap. You are loving them and loving being a mother.
  • Your in-laws are impossible. How did you end up with parents-in-law like them? You begin to enumerate their faults in your mind. Actually, you can hardly stand being around your husband's family, especially his parents. You begin to avoid them. OR Your in-laws are indeed difficult, but they are your hubby's parents and you determine to honor them and love them, as Jesus would want you to. Therefore, when their faults pop into your head, what do you do? You dismiss those thoughts and replace them with pleasant memories and what they did to rear your hubby. You begin to praise God for them—and for their son, whom you love.

At work:
  • The conditions you work in are not to your liking. You only accepted this job because it's what you could get. You don't like the grease, the smell of chicken, you despise deep-fried anything, and you hate that the floor gets slippery. OR You can be consciously thankful for having a job, for being able to pay your rent, and for having Sundays off.
  • Your boss is impossible! Seriously, what a grouch and slave driver! Anytime he walks around the corner, he's telling someone to hurry it up. OR Your boss is indeed a sourpuss, but you decide you're going to work as unto the Lord, to the best of your ability. You will treat him with respect, because he's the boss, and you'll even try to befriend him and do nice things for him—without his asking.
  • Your co-workers are lazy boors. They move like snails, are sloppy, and you'd swear they'd never chopped lettuce in their lives before. Their language is a tad colorful, and they have no manners. They don't like you, either. OR Even though you work with people who have less skill than you, you determine to treat them like royalty. You'll help them out, take up the slack, be kind, and encourage them. You want them to become friends. After all, you work together. You need to be a team. Maybe, you could even interest them in your Lord.

Your self-talk matters. It's biblical to exchange negative thoughts for good ones and to be thankful instead of sinful. It's also right to be kind and friendly.

Here's perhaps the best verse in the Bible about positive thoughts instead of negative thinking: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).

Here are a few more:
  • A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
  • And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).
  • And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks (Ephesians 5:2-4).
  • Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves (Philippians 2:3).

When we change our self-talk we actually change our attitude. Then, our actions are more Christ-like, and our relationships improve. Thankfulness is an antidote for many sins. (See the Ephesians 5 passage, above.)

I regularly need to remind myself how to think rightly. How about you? How's your self-talk today?

And remember, don't walk down the aisle in the supermarket talking out loud—unless no one's looking!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

"What Time I Am Afraid"

We taught our young children a song based on this Bible verse: What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee (Psalm 56:3). It doesn’t say if I am ever afraid, it implies when.

The first two verses of this Psalm give us the context for this verse. The title of the Psalm says: To the chief Musician upon Jonathelemrechokim, Michtam of David, when the Philistines took him in Gath. Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me. Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High (Psalm 56:1-2). Here, we see it’s a song from David, when he was in terrible trouble, taken prisoner, with many enemies.

Yet, he decides to trust God--and write a song.

Are you ever afraid? (What a silly question!) Everyone is fearful, sometimes. Do you ever feel like everything and everyone is against you? David did. Do you fear the unknown, changes in plans, expectations? You’re not alone.

Let’s look more closely at this verse: What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
  • It’s addressed to God, a prayer.
  • It’s a statement of choice: I will trust in thee.
  • It’s a statement about habit. What time I am afraid—like whenever I’m afraid, this is what I choose to do.
  • It’s a purposeful trusting. I will trust in thee.
Just so we’re understanding the terms, let’s look at the definition of trust: “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.” Synonyms include: confidence, belief, and faith. If we trust God, that means we have a firm belief in his reliability, truth, and ability. We are turning our fear over to His ability. We actively understand that He knows best—better than we do. His judgments are right and true. We can trust Him.

I’m reminded of a couple of verses in Proverbs: 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 thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.

What’s your biggest concern today? Are you fearful? Trust in the Lord.

Make it a habit.

Don’t “believe in yourself,” as many would tell you. Trust in the only One Who's always reliable. 

As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried:
he is a buckler to all them that trust in him (2 Samuel 22:31).

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Unpardonable Sin

Many years ago, a troubled mother approached my husband. In tears, she told him she thought her child had committed the unpardonable sin. (By the way, her son was only nine or ten years old.) My husband tried to encourage her from the Bible.

What is the unpardonable sin?

It’s blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation (Mark 3:28-29; also in Matthew 12:31).

What does that mean exactly? Lots of people blaspheme. Many use God’s name in a horrible way and say things about Him they don’t mean and might not even think about. Others consciously curse God. They may do it in a moment of anger, or it might be when they’re disappointed in life. Some curse God when they’re depressed, drunk, drugged, or in pain.

Does this mean those people, because of something they say, are beyond salvation?

Of course not. Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God (Isaiah 59:1-2).

Why should we be encouraged? Jesus died to pay the awful price for the sins of the whole world. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

When is it too late? 

Only when we die. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Until a person has either said a final no to the Holy Spirit or has passed into eternity without Christ, he has the opportunity to respond and be saved. Not receiving Jesus’ gift of eternal life is sad indeed. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:9, 12).

Someone who rejects what Jesus did for him on the cross has committed the worst sin of all. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29)

Can any other sin be pardoned? 

Of course. That’s why Jesus came into the world. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15a).

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Any sin can be pardoned by the Lord. The church in Corinth was full of people with a sinful past. In fact, every church is full of forgiven sinners.

The Lord is … not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (from 2 Peter 3:9).

There’s always an opportunity for salvation until a person is unconscious or dying. If a person can respond, he may respond to Christ and accept his gift. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). God extends this gift to everyone. Have you received it?

I love the simplicity of this passage: And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life (1 John 5:11-12).

Do you have the Son? He offers forgiveness to all. No matter what you may have said about Him or how you might have sinned, He loves you and wants to save you. 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 (John 3:16-17).

It’s up to you.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Fiction Review: Candle in the Darkness

Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin is Book 1 of her Refiner's Fire Series. It is probably the best book I've read in a couple of years. It's strongly Christian yet not preachy. This is historical fiction but not pedantic. It is amazingly written and researched. It moved me to tears—not my usual reaction to a book and not exactly because it was tragic. It's amazing!

The setting is in the time of the U.S. Civil War in Richmond, Virginia, where I grew up. I could easily imagine the scenes of this book. When I was a child, I often played with my brother on the earthworks at Drewry's Bluff at Fort Darling. I know Richmond, the James River, and so on. But, even if you aren't acquainted with the setting, this book will delight you—whichever side of the Civil War you identify with. This is by far the best Civil War story I've ever read.

Caroline Fletcher is a lovely young woman who lives on a plantation in Richmond. Her parents are delighted to be having a new baby, but sadly, the baby boy dies shortly after birth. Her father doesn't understand his daughter and has a difficult time communicating with her, though he loves her dearly. Caroline's closest friends are her mammy, Tessie, who's about fifteen years older than she is, servant Eli, her father's manservant Gilbert, and Grady, Tessie's little boy.

As a young teen, Caroline gets acquainted with her cousins. A visit to Hilltop, her aunt and uncle's plantation, is an eye-opener for her. These people treat slaves as if they were animals. Caroline gets busy helping sick slave children and ends up sick herself.

Caroline's mother is expecting again. After a long labor, the baby is stillborn, and shortly afterwards, Caroline's mother takes her own life. Caroline's father is desolate. Her Aunt Martha comes for the funeral and invites Caroline to go back to Philadelphia with her. There, Caroline meets the Reverend Nathaniel Greene, who heads up an anti-slavery group in the north. They become friends. In the meantime, she seeks comfort and friendship from her cousin Robert, who adores her. He's her savior at social events.

After some time, Caroline returns home and meets a most infuriating man with blue eyes—and one of the handsomest faces she ever saw. Oh, how he makes her mad. She never wants to see him again. Of course, she does, and they argue every time they're thrown together. Soon, she realizes he is Sally's brother, a member of the notable St. John family. She can hardly believe it, and her feelings for this man are beginning to change.

Caroline is also growing in her faith. Her convictions are the same, but she is learning to follow God—no matter what dangers she faces. Her spiritual mentor is Eli, the pastor of the slave church.

In order not to spoil the story, I'll let you read Candle in the Darkness for yourself. Whether you are black or white, whether your ancestors fought on one side or the other, you will love this book. I only wish all historical fiction was this good!

I must read the next book in this series. Candle in the Darkness easily gets five stars.

Candle in the Darkness contains one "white lie" that's not corrected, non-graphic descriptions of war casualties, a storyline about master-slave sexual abuse and implied adulterous relationships. There are no explicit scenes or details. I would recommend this book to older teens and adults.