Wednesday, February 13, 2019

When Darkness Seems Impenetrable

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it."
John 1:5
Recently, while traveling, we ate breakfast in our hotel dining room.  We knew the minute we walked in that the room was charged with a negative tone.  Everyone was frowning.  Even the breakfast employee had an angry scowl on her face.  The room was crowded—probably about 20 to 30 people coming and going, as I meandered around and made my way through the crowd to fill my plate. I tried so hard to make eye contact. With someone.  Anyone.  I had a huge, beaming smile that I so longed to share with any person who would look at me.  Many were seated at tables, some tapping phones, some seated across from loved ones who weren't looking at each other.  There was not one person in that room who seemed happy or joyful.  Everything in me wanted to make a positive difference.  I wanted them to know that there is a way to find real, true, authentic joy.  I wanted to show them how much it bubbles up inside me and how it forces a genuine smile, even when I don't feel like smiling.  I wanted them to see JESUS—I so wanted them to see Him through a live, physical demonstration.  But, not one person would even give me the opportunity.

After I made my way to and was seated at our table, I sat there, puzzled and perplexed. There was such a pervading cold, unfriendly vibe that seemed to hang like a thick, foreboding cloud in that place, and it frustrated me to no end that I was unable to penetrate it with kindness. Then, I looked down at the t-shirt I was wearing, and a thought crept into my mind. Softly enough for only those at our table to hear, I whispered, "Maybe it's my t-shirt?" Zach bought it for me for Mother's Day, and I love its message. It is such an amazing witness.

An amazing witness, yes, but could those who don't feel the same way about Jesus that I do find it offensive?  Whether the message on my t-shirt had anything to do with my inability to connect with anyone or not, the thought of the possibility got me thinking about how our society is permeated with such disdain for Christianity.  There is a powerful spirit of antiChrist that has infiltrated our world.  
(And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.  I John 4:3)  It started when our Lord was here on the earth, and instead of lessening, all these years later, it has strengthened and become more emboldened, it seems.  It saddens my heart because the light of the Gospel is the only message that will ever make a difference in the lives of those who are unhappy.  It is the only thing powerful enough to break through the steely walls of darkness that have become such a stronghold in our world.  It is up to us to share God's love through the kindness we show and to disprove any misconceptions about who Jesus really is, but when we are around those whose minds are closed and we aren't given an open door to demonstrate who He is, how will we ever make them see?  

Alas, the three of us left that dreary dining room with my mission to make a positive difference completely unaccomplished. I felt so vexed in spirit as we walked down the hall talking, each of us discussing the gloomy atmosphere we had just left. It is still bothering me, all these days later.

It is bothering me enough to cause me to become more determined than ever to keep trying. To not give up just because I failed the last time I tried. To be kind, in spite of who rejects that kindness. To minister, even when the sacrifice is unappreciated or even unnoticed. To love, even when I am despised in return. To smile, even when no one makes eye contact or chooses to return that smile. To verbally compliment one good thing about the person who is so incredibly rude. To speak a word of encouragement to every person I encounter throughout the day. To make sincerely empathetic eye contact with everyone I chance to meet. To reject the thought that I am just one person and what I do will never make a dent in the hate-filled, mean-spiritedness that pervades our society. Isn't all of this what Jesus did? What His Divine nature within us cries out to STILL do?

What if we dared to press through the overwhelming, unprecedented resistance and made up our minds to choose Jesus' path every time? How different would our world be? Sure, there will be those times when it feels like we walk away and leave evil-charged atmospheres the exact same way we found them, but is that reason to throw up our hands and pre-judge every future circumstance we find ourselves in?

I want to challenge you to continue to press through whatever evil resistance you encounter, and choose goodness, in spite of what you see. Be the one to bring the light of Jesus' love into every darkened corner that comes across your path. Choose to keep overcoming evil with good, even when you feel the complete opposite of an overcomer. Do the right thing regardless what everyone else is doing.

Light will always dispel darkness, and darkness can never extinguish light. They thought they ended goodness when they laid our Savior's blood-soaked, tortured-beyond-recognition, lifeless body in the tomb. But, praise His wonderful name, He proved them all wrong three days later, and He came out of that grave alive, never to die again! The power that raised Him is inside each one of us, as believers who are filled with His Spirit!

"...having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come."  Ephesians 1:18-21 (ESV)

"And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by His own power."  
I Corinthians 6:14 (KJV)

"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us..."  Ephesians 3:20 (KJV)

Same Power ~ Jeremy Camp

You've got His power, so, keep shining His light!
Allow the power of the Spirit of Jesus inside of you to have full access and control.
Yield to His nudges, and boldly do everything He prompts you to do.
Even when it doesn't appear to be making the slightest difference, press on.
Keep trying.  Keep persevering.  Crucify your flesh and feelings.  
Don't let past defeated missions dissuade you from setting out on new attempts.  
As the old saying goes, Christians are the only Bible some people will ever read.  
What are they reading when they peruse our behavior?  
If we were put on trial for being Christians, would there be enough evidence to convict us?

"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
Galatians 6:9 (KJV)

Thursday, February 7, 2019

A, B, C's For Successful Christian Living & A Sweet Birthday Dessert

"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Hebrews 4:12

My biggest goals here at Homespun Devotions are to encourage you in your walk with Jesus and to say only what He wants to be said.  Today, I felt led to compile a list of Biblical, practical A,B,C's that will hopefully give you a boost in your Christian journey.  As I was writing this post, I asked Kevin and Zach the question, "What do you think are some of the most important things we need to do in order to live a successful Christian life?"  They gave me some amazing answers, and I incorporated them throughout this post.  There are no words to ever express the deep love and gratitude in my heart for my dear husband and son.  They are, without a doubt, two of the most Godly people I know.  I love them with more love than my heart could ever hold.  Thank You, Jesus for answering my many prayers and blessing me with two beyond-precious people to walk through life with, and thank you, dear Kevin and Zach for your continual help, support, encouragement, and love.
And, thank you, dear readers, for reading!  You are such loyal, kind people, and I love and appreciate you from the bottom of my heart.  Many of you have become such dear friends, and it is such a blessing to walk this Christian/blogging journey with you.  If you have never reached out to let me know you read these posts, I would absolutely love to hear from you!  Sometimes blogging feels like a one-way street.  Encouragement is a two-way street, so why not leave me a comment today and introduce yourself?

And, now for those A,B,C's, along with two accompanying Scriptures for each letter!

Ask God for what you need.
"Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."
John 16:24 (ESV)
"If ye shall ask any thing in My name, I will do it."
John 14:14 (KJV)
Be who you say you are.
"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good."
Romans 12:9 (NASB)
"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."
I John 3:18 (KJV)
Cast your cares on Jesus.
"Casting all your care on Him; for He cares for you."
I Peter 5:7 (American KJV)
"Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)
Don't worry.
"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Matthew 6:34 (NASB)
"Worry is a heavy burden, but a kind word always brings cheer."
Proverbs 12:25 (CEV)
Encourage everyone.
"But encourage one another every day, while it is called today, so that not one of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."
Hebrews 3:13 (Berean Literal Bible)
"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." 
I Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)
Forget the past.
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:13,14 (KJV)
"And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
Luke 9:62 (KJV)
Give bountifully, freely, and wholeheartedly.
"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."
Luke 6:38 (KJV)
"He answered and said unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise."
Luke 3:11 (KJV)
Hold fast to the faith without compromise.
"Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."
2 Timothy 1:13 (KJV)
"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip."
Hebrews 2:1 (KJV)
Intercede, and stand in the gap for others & our nation.
"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."
I Timothy 2:2 (KJV)
"And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none."
 Ezekiel 22:30 (KJV)
Jesus first, always, in all things.
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Matthew 6:33 (KJV)
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."
Colossians 3:1-3 (KJV)
Kindness matters.
"Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
Ephesians 4:32 (KJV)
"A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself."
Proverbs 11:17 (ESV)
Laugh often—it's so good for you.
"A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones."
Proverbs 17:22 (American KJV)
"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.
Job 8:21 (ESV)
Meet faithfully to worship with other Christians.
"And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near."
Hebrews 10:25 (New Living Translation)
"Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens! Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!"
 Psalm 150:1-6 (ESV)
Notice your blessings and what God is doing for you.
"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits."
Psalm 103:2 (KJV)
"I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips."
Psalm 34:1 (CSB)
Open your heart and hands to those in need.
"Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will reward them for what they have done."
Proverbs 19:17 (NIV)
"But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his heart of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him?"
I John 3:17 (King James 2000 Bible)
Pray faithfully and continually.
"Pray without ceasing."
I Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)
"Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Matthew 26:41 (KJV)
Quit doing the things Jesus wouldn't.
"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 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 sweet smelling savor."
Ephesians 5:1,2 (KJV)
"As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
I Peter 1:14-16 (ESV)
Read God's Word.
"Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth."
2 Timothy 2:15 (American KJV)
"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success."
Joshua 1:8 (KJV)
Speak life.
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof."
Proverbs 18:21 (American KJV)
"For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned."
Matthew 12:37 (King James 2000 Bible)
Trust God with all your heart for all things.
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding."
Proverbs 3:5 (American KJV)
"Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass."
Psalm 37:5 (KJV)
Unite with other believers.
"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."
Ephesians 4:3 (NIV)
"I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." 
I Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)
Volunteer your time, gifts, and full availability to God.
"Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."
 Matthew 20:28 (KJV)
"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
I John 3:16 (KJV) 
Wait for God's timing.
"Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD."
Psalm 27:14 (KJV)
"Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him: fret not thyself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth."
Psalm 37:7,9 (KJV)
Xerxes, the King, required that no one enter his throne room without an invitation.  The great news is God has already extended a perpetual invitation to His throne to us!
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Hebrews 4:16 (KJV)\
"All that the Father giveth me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out."
John 6:37 (KJV)
Yield to God's will in every part of your life.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Romans 12:1,2 (KJV)
"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." I Corinthians 6:19-20 (KJV)
Zeal is important. Keep it alive.
"Do not let your zeal subside; keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."
 Romans 12:11 (Berean Study Bible)
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
Galatians 6:9 (KJV)

On another note—
We are celebrating my dear husband's birthday, and I wanted to share what I made for him.
We talked about getting a Dairy Queen ice cream cake, like Zach chose for his birthday back in December. Then we talked about me making him a huge, homemade-from-scratch chocolate chip cookie. I've been so sick for several weeks, and I am not able to do much without having to sit down every few minutes, so my kind, thoughtful, ever-concerned husband decided he didn't want me to attempt something totally from scratch. SO, he mentioned that he would like cupcakes made from a cake mix, so we decided on that. I wanted to add my own something special to them, so this is what I did.

I started with this store-bought cake mix and store-bought icing.

Helpful hint😀 I always add 2 Tbsp. of mayonnaise to store-bought cake mixes to make them more moist.

Then, after I baked, cooled, and frosted the cupcakes, Zach crushed three Butterfinger bars for me,
and I placed some on top of each cupcake. Then, I put a Hershey's chocolate kiss in the middle of each one.

And, here they are!

In the background, on the left, you can see the most adorable coffee pod display case my sweet niece, Kristen, sent to us for Christmas. Is this the cutest, neatest thing you have ever seen?

To take the photo below, I temporarily moved it over beside the corner shelf my dear Daddy made for Kevin and me years ago. We display our collection of white pitchers on it. I love the simplicity of a white pitcher sitting on a white doily!

Kristen's gift pairs perfectly with the tin coffee sign I received when I participated in
Stephanie's Ornament Exchange in December.  I just LOVE it!

I felt so bad that I didn't get to do a special post to link with Stephanie's Reveal Party, but we were gone for several weeks and weren't home for me to open the package and take pictures. Here's a picture of everything that was in the box.

Aren't these primitive Christmas ornaments so charming?

In closing, I am including a few songs that are encouraging us right now.  I hope they do the same for you!  I don't know what you are going through, but everybody's going through something.

Everybody's Going Through Something ~ Karen Peck & New River

This life is full of trials and tribulation, just like Jesus said.  Whatever you are going through, remember this.  Everything is better with Jesus.  I just want to remind you that He is going through your pain WITH you.  He will never leave you, and He is always on your side.  It is safe to put your trust in Him.  Maybe you've prayed for many years over something, only to find that your situation hasn't changed at all.  Keep trusting for your breakthrough.  Maybe you just haven't seen it yet.

Haven't Seen It Yet ~ Danney Gokey

God has never failed us yet.  We've seen Him move mountains SO many times, and I believe we'll see Him do it again!

Do It Again ~ Elevation Worship

The God of the hills and valleys is with you, my friend.  Through all of life's changes, He remains steadfast, faithful, and the same.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other, and keep moving forward.  God isn't finished with you yet.  You still have work to do.  Hold on.  Lift up your head.  He'll get you through this.

Lastly, the song below is the cry of my inmost soul.

God bless each one of you, and may His presence be especially near to you in this very moment.