Sunday, November 10, 2019

Eighth Year Blogiversary and A GIVEAWAY!!!

"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever."  Psalm 30:11,12

I can't believe it is now ten days into November!  I'm quite late in acknowledging it here, but we are well into my favorite season, and I couldn't be happier!
Not only are we in my favorite season, but the first day of last month marked the eighth year anniversary of this blog!  

I can't say it doesn't feel like eight years have passed.  It does.  When October 1st passes each year and I think about the birth of Homespun Devotions, my mind always goes back to the circumstances surrounding that time and how God led me to begin blogging.  I look at life then and compare it with life now, and I hardly see any resemblance.  It is near unrecognizable and hard to believe how much has changed.  I am definitely not who I was, and this song that Zach recently introduced me to is one of my new favorite songs.

The saddest difference between life now and life when I first started this blog involves one of my deepest sorrows.  You see, when I first started blogging, my dear, sweet Mom was alongside of me, constantly encouraging me, telling me, "Cheryl, you don't have to be seen to be heard."  Mom didn't understand computers or even what a blog was.  She just knew it was something I was trying to do for God, and she encouraged me every inch of the way.  I miss her and my dear, sweet Dad so much it hurts.  There are no words.

Tonight, I came across this post I wrote shortly after Mom left us.

Sadly, our family has lost others during the life of this blog, too.  AshleyUncle JohnJimmyVictoria, Kevin's Dad, Danny & Vicki (within a few hours of each other - neither knew the other had passed), LDAunt Vaida, and Aunt Cathy.

Life in these past eight years has been chock full of so many other changes, too, and so full of spiritual growth and development.  As I contemplate what caused that growth, it is easy to identify that it has been a steady, ever-increasing surrender to the perfect will of God.  A continual pursuit of endeavoring to align modern-day life to the way Jesus lived His life on earth.  An unprecedented hunger and longing for more of Him and less of me.  (Some of those lessons are documented on our other blog, Biblical Minimalism.)  As my heart steadily yearns for more intimacy with Jesus, His love continually compels me to release every, single thing that is hindering that intimacy.  Though the process has been strewn with self-denial and peppered with so many things that were hard to do, I have been set free from layer after layer of smothering bondage, and today, I walk freer and more happy than I have been in my whole life.

There is such great victory to be found in total surrender to the will of God.  The battle that precedes that victory is intense and hard-fought, but when we are able to reach that place of handing all things over to Him and trusting Him completely and unreservedly, the peace that comes from aligning our will with His is overwhelming and all-encompassing.  It is SO worth the fight.

You know, consecration is an intriguing enigma.  We think we are laying down so much and we are making such extreme sacrifices.  We look at the things God points out in our lives that are hindering our walk with Him, and we think He is asking so much when He tells us to give them up.  The truth is, through it all, we are gaining immeasurably more than we are forfeiting.  In reality, we are trading the bad and the good for the better and His best.  The more we love Jesus, the more the things of this world pale in comparison to Him, and the less we love them.  Loving Him more than we love this world totally transforms our desires and morphs them into His.  Total surrender to God is giving up our life and what we think it should look like and finding a much better life in following Jesus with our whole hearts.  It is taking our hands off and handing Him the reins, allowing Him full control of our every move.  It is saying from the heart, "Not my will, but Thine be done."

This song is my continual testimony and cry of my heart.

This is exactly what Jesus meant in Matthew 10:39 when He said, "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."  Oh, the abundant life we find, when we reach the end of our surrender and completely lose ourselves in Him!  Giving God full control absolves us from the responsibility of figuring out what we are to do next, where we are to live, how we will survive, who should remain and who should not remain in our lives, and when we are to walk forward and when we are to rest.  There is amazing, unbelievable freedom in allowing the precious Holy Spirit to live vicariously and completely unhindered in our hearts. 

Sweet Will of God - Amy Grant

"My stubborn will at last hath yielded;
I would be Thine, and Thine alone,
And this the prayer my lips are bringing,
“Lord, let in me Thy will be done.”

  Sweet will of God, still fold me closer,
Till I am wholly lost in Thee;
Sweet will of God, still fold me closer,
  Till I am wholly lost in Thee.

I’m tired of sin, footsore and weary,
The darksome path hath dreary grown,
But now a light has ris’n to cheer me;
I find in Thee my Star, my Sun.

Thy precious will, O conqu’ring Savior,
Doth now embrace and compass me;
All discords hushed, my peace a river,
My soul a prisoned bird set free.

Shut in with Thee, O Lord, forever,
My wayward feet no more to roam;
What pow’r from Thee my soul can sever?
The center of God’s will my home."

Words and Music by Lelia Naylor Morris

During this autumn season as we near Thanksgiving, I thank God for each one of the friends I have met through blogging!  All of you are dear to my heart.  I sometimes think how we would never have met had I not taken that leap of faith and hit the publish button.  God has a perfect plan, and it was His will that our paths intersect and we become a part of each other's lives.
May He bless each one of you in a special way!
As a way of saying "thank you" for being a part of this journey, Kevin, Zach, and I are offering a GIVEAWAY!  Can anyone say Bath and Body Works Christmas scents are BACK????
These are my two long time faves—SOOOOO.......

I thought perhaps they may be your favorites, too!!!

And, who wouldn't love to give this sweet little angel Christmas mug mat doily a home???

And, to sweeten the deal, we are throwing in a few wintry-type tea bags!!!

All you need is your favorite mug!!!

Picture this—you curled up in your favorite chair, placing your favorite steaming mug/cup on this cutesy mug mat/doily, breathing in the scents of vanilla bean or peppermint wafting past as your hands turn the pages of your favorite book!

To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is leave us a comment!
That's it!
On Sunday, 11/24/2019—just two weeks from today—at some point throughout the day, Zach will randomly choose a winner!
Anonymous commenters will not be eligible since we have no way of knowing who you are.
Offer is for US residents only, due to shipping costs.  😢

Many blessings to each one of you!

A BIG THANK YOU to ALL who currently serve and have served in the past!
We appreciate you, your families, and every sacrifice you have made and are making.
We take what you do very personally and thank you from the bottom of our hearts!!!!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Just Before Jesus Returns

"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 6:12

In my last post I alluded to an article Mom used to refer to often.  It was printed in China many years ago, and it gave a description of how things would be right before Jesus comes back.  I found the words as sobering as they used to be when Mom would read them to me or speak of them through the years.  After I published the post, a commenter asked that I post the full article, and I am just finding the time to grant her request.  

As I said, I did not write this, nor do I know who wrote it.  Since it was printed in China, I am assuming it must have been written by someone in China, or perhaps a missionary to China?  I am almost certain this weathered, tattered paper copy belonged to my Papaw, who was one of the most stalwart prayer warriors I have ever known.  When he passed away, I believe this article was passed down to Mom, and now it is mine.  I wish I knew who to credit for having written it.  All I know is it was published as a prophecy in China many years ago, and anyone with spiritual discernment can see that you and I are watching this prophecy unfold in fulfillment in front of our very eyes.  It could not be more on target in describing the exact conditions of our day, and it truly brings a solemnity over my spirit.  I hope it stirs yours, also, as you read.

(I have taken the liberty of making a few spelling, punctuation, and grammatical corrections.)

Just Before Jesus Returns

"Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that before the coming of our Lord, there would come a falling away first.  (2 Thessalonians 2:3)  To Timothy, he stated that evil men and impostors would wax worse and worse and there should be perilous times in the LAST days.  (2 Timothy 2:1-13)  It will be noticed in the Scriptures that the apostasy is not concerning education or fine churches or able ministers or large congregations or the progress of intellectual or material prosperity, but the breaking down that is foretold of the visible church is on faith and the denial of the power of landslide in the visible church toward higher criticism which is lower infidelity, and a denial of the supernatural working of God in regeneration, definite answers to prayer, and the revelation of the apostles and their successors.  

We then are to expect great deceptions and delusions deceiving if it were possible the very elect.  We may also expect great advances in a "form" of godliness in the LAST days.  Faith will not only become low thru worldliness and the denial of the Scriptures, but through the "remakable initiative faiths" which will work on in their deceptive power.  A pastor says those movements will become an unseen influence in the air around us, an atmosphere of people with evil spirits and heavy with the depression of HELL.  These evil spirits will do their utmost to injure, mislead, confuse, and depress the children of the Lord.  Our bodies will be afflicted, it will press in our minds and becloud our souls.  All kinds of strange feelings and peculiar trials will come to us.  A surprising lack of desire and energy Godward, a spiritual deadness, a mental heaviness, lethargy of soul, an alarming desire for forbidden things, and a peculiar delight and fascination in any of the world's pleasures.  In liberty and power it will be difficult to give attention to the WORD when it is preached.  It will be very difficult to get in real earnest and continued prayer.  This is the atmosphere in which we must battle as the LAST days darken around us.  Oh, let us be strong in the Lord!  Satan will no doubt bring a mysterious power to bear on our minds and wills, which will make it exceedingly difficult to walk closely with God and very easy to live in the flesh.  We will be amazed at the power he can use against us.  It will become very hard to serve God faithfully and to pray earnestly, and it will seem as if everything without us and almost everything within us has conspired to keep us from following Christ all the way and to influence us to compromise.  We will be surrounded by a worldly atmosphere that will draw us away from God, that will render prayer half-hearted, that will deaden our spiritual senses to the reality of Heavenly things, and that is out of communion with God and harder than ever to keep communication open between our souls and Heaven.

Already we feel the beginning of the influence of the in-rush of those things upon us as worldliness in various forms weaves the ever-expanding power over many congregations.  Things are not only allowed, but are unblushingly organized now which would not have been possible a generation ago, since the craze of the drama and the exciting round of pleasure is catered to in connection with many places of worship, to the destroying of deep spirituality and bringing to an end of revivals and the furtherance of the spirit of compromise, with doubtful things and associations.  There is a terrible decline of faith and true religion all over the world at this moment.  We do not deny that there may be, here and there, a few exceptions, but looking at the Christendom as a whole, it presents a sad picture.  Reviewing these matters, do they not constitute a loud call to the servants of Christ to arise and seek during the intervening short period to make the most of this, the day of opportunity, before their Lord and Master comes to summon them to give an account of their labors at the Judgment seat of Christ?"


God bless the dear soul who wrote this.  It was not by accident that I came across it recently.  It is a timely warning to those of us who are fighting the good fight of faith in these last days and doing our utmost to "dwell in the secret place of the Most High, under the shadow of the Almighty."  (Psalm 91:10)  May we pick up our weapons of prayer and our shields of faith and war against all that seeks to draw us away from living a life in close proximity to Jesus.

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."  Hebrews 12:1,2 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Ten Ways to Have a More Successful, Effective Prayer Life

The other day as I was poring through some papers that belonged to my dear Mom, I came across an article she used to refer to often.  It was written by someone in China many years ago, and it gave a description of how things would be right before Jesus comes back.  I found the words as sobering as they used to be when Mom would read them to me or speak of them through the years.  One of the main subjects the author spoke about was how increasingly difficult it would be to pray as we approach Jesus' 2nd coming.

As I read the words again, I was amazed at the accuracy of this "prophecy" written so long ago.

Does anyone else have as difficult a time entering into intercessory prayer as I do?

It is not that I don't love to pray.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I DO love to pray.  I cannot begin to express how much I love immersing in a time of deep communion and conversation with my Heavenly Father.  Those moments with Him are my favorite moments of all, and without that time of keeping our communication open and fresh, I could not, by any means, maintain the spiritual Christian walk that He enables me to walk day by day.

I have lived for Jesus long enough and neglected my prayer life enough times to come to a full realization that prayer is absolutely essential and imperative to my success in living a Christian life.  I cannot do without it for it is in Him that I live and move and have my being.  (Acts 17:28)  

I have no ability to know which path to take, without consistently engaging in conversation with my Lord.  "O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps."  Jeremiah 10:23  

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in His way."  Psalm 37:23 

I desperately need to continually hear His voice instructing me which way to go, and it is crucial that I do whatever is necessary to draw daily strength and grace from Him to overcome the onslaught of evil that we all have to contend with in daily life.  

"Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Matthew 26:41

"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing."  John 15:51

I know I need to pray, and I know the consequences that ensue when I don't pray as I should, so I determined to try to identify the main opponents to my prayer life.  

Hosea 4:6 says, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge."
What exactly is it that makes praying so difficult in these last days?

Once I identified my biggest prayer hindrances, it was easier to come up with ammunition to combat those deterrents and win!  I hope you will also find these tips helpful as you pursue a more effective prayer life for truly there is no substitute for the amazing power of consistent, effectual prayer in the life of a Christian.

 "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
James 5:16

1.  Pray first.  
Let it begin as soon as you awaken in the morning.  Just get it done!  
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."  Matthew 6:33
On days that I don't pray first, not only does it seem the day falls apart, I also walk around with a continual nagging sense of not having done what I should.  It sets an out-of-sorts tone for the whole day.  Spending those first moments of the day with God in prayer gives a sense of having done my duty and arms me with what I will need to face the unfamiliar challenges of a new day.  As I get older and don't sleep as soundly as I used to, I find that I am doing a lot of praying during the night, too.  There is nothing more comforting to do when you are tossing and turning than to turn your heart Heavenward and talk it all over with Him.  It is soothing to the soul and gives a sense of refreshed peace when you wake up later.

"My mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips: when I remember Thee upon my bed, and meditate on Thee in the night watches.  Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice."  Psalm 63:5-7

"Yet the LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life."  Psalm 42:8

"My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your promises."
Psalm 119:148

Most importantly, Jesus, our example, prayed all night long.

"And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God."  Luke 6:12

The Bible mentions Jesus' prayer life enough times to reveal His prayer patterns to us, and we would all do well to pay careful attention to those details.  If He needed to pray so often and for such long, extended periods of time, do we really think we can run a successful Christian race doing less?  

"The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees."
 EM Bounds

2.  If you can't pray first, pray faithfully.
If praying during the first part of the day doesn't work for you, the main thing is to be intentional about specifying a block of daily time for prayer regardless of the time of day, and then committing to it daily and making it a habit —just like a daily important appointment.  It is actually the most important of all.

3. Establish a designated place to pray.
  Though we can obviously pray from anywhere, it helps to have a particular place to pray. Having a designated prayer spot will associate prayer to that location and become a place that draws and reminds you to pray.  Over time, as you experience God's anointing in that place, you will begin to regard and cherish it as holy ground.  

4.  Be comfortable.
This may sound like an odd prayer strategy, but if you are in an uncomfortable position, you probably won't want to stay there long.  Again, as I get older, I find that being on my knees isn't the most comfortable position, and when I start out praying that way, I usually end up moving to my recliner to finish.  It may be just my opinion, but I don't believe God is nearly as concerned about bodily position while praying as He is in fervency, earnestness, and the condition of the heart.  I will never forget how much it impressed me to read about how Charles Stanley arms himself with the whole armor of God before his feet touch the floor each morning.  This lends support to the point of praying first and gives another reason that it is a good idea.  Praying in bed first thing in the morning brings us into the presence of God and insures that He is the first one we face and talk to.  We never leave an encounter with Him unchanged, and after being with Him, we will find ourselves prepared for every other intersection and interaction that will happen throughout the day.

5.  Keep paper and pen near your prayer spot.
One of my main inhibitors during prayer time is becoming so distracted by the onslaught of meddlesome thoughts that continually stream through my mind as I am trying to pray.  I start thinking of phone calls I need to make, emails I need to write, people I need to reach out to and connect with, chores I need to accomplish, what I will cook for my family, and upcoming occasions for which I need to prepare.  So, to beat the enemy at his distractions game, I started keeping a pad of paper and pen close by.  Now, when those distracting thoughts start invading, I start jotting short little note reminders.  This transfers the task from my mind to paper, and I can let it go to be revisited later in the day.  It's a winning strategy that works perfectly and enables me to keep right on praying until I am finished!

6.  Allow for listening.  
The fact that a conversation is two-way also applies to prayer, but an often overlooked part of prayer is allowing space for God to speak.  We want to do all the talking and asking and petitioning, but we rush away from prayer after pouring out what we want to say, and we fail to linger long enough to give Him an opportunity to deal with our hearts and reveal His thoughts.  There is much that He will relay to us if we will make the effort to be still before Him.  Reduce noise, and pray in solitude.  Jesus did.  

"And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone."  Matthew 14:23

"And when He had sent them away, He departed into a mountain to pray."  Mark 6:46

"And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed."  Mark 1:35

"But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer."  Luke 5:16

7.  Pray on.
Though you have an allocated prayer spot and time, it is important to also remember to stay in a spirit of prayer after you finish and as you continue throughout the entirety of your day.  I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to "Pray without ceasing."  We obviously cannot stay in our designated prayer spot and preferred prayer position 24/7, but we can continually call on the Lord and pray unceasingly as we go about our day and perform our duties, keeping our minds in a continual state of communion with Jesus.  He is always there with us, as close as the slightest whisper, and every time we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.  "Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you."  James 4:8  I have found that my daily duties, i.e., homeschooling, cleaning, cooking, laundry, and even errands have become springboards from which prayer wells up, and things that would otherwise be mundane and laborious are transformed into opportunities for deep conversation with my Lord.

8.  Shed toxic influences.
Shed people who continually hinder and dampen the audaciousness of your faith.  Stop listening to those who quench your inspiration.  When Jesus was on the earth, and He was faced with an impossibility to pray through, He sent all doubters away and dispelled hindering spirits from the atmosphere.  They were not allowed access into His inner circle.  In fact, in particular situations and circumstances, Jesus ONLY permitted a select three of His twelve disciples to go with Him.
In the case of raising Jairus' daughter from the dead, He allowed only Peter, James, John, and the girl's parents to stay in the room as He performed the miracle.  (Luke 8:50-55)
When Jesus was going to the mountain to be miraculously transfigured, (Matthew 17:1-2), He only took Peter, James, and John.  When He entered the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His crucifixion, He only invited Peter, James, and John to go farthest into the garden with Him to pray.
There was no place for doubt, fear, or unbelief in Jesus' realm.  When opposing spirits were present, He removed them.  Why?  Because fear, doubt, and unbelief can hinder the miracle from manifesting.  It can also deeply influence and injure the faith of others who DO believe God is going to answer prayer.  If you are praying with someone who does not believe for what you are asking, that spirit of unbelief can absolutely hinder the answer from coming through and can start to cause you to start doubting God's ability to do what you are asking Him to.  Doubt is toxic to faith.  Get rid of it, and shed those who inject it into your prayer life.  It may sound cruel and heartless, but it is just that necessary.

9.  Surround yourself with Godly influencers of faith.
  Surround yourself with those who unfailingly believe that God is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."  Hebrews 11:6
Ask the Lord to send earnest, relentless prayer partners into your life.  Seek out those who speak life into the situations you are praying about.  Abraham had faith in "Him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.'  Romans 4:17
THAT is the God we serve.  He has not lost one bit of His power, and "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."  Hebrews 13:8
Just as Jesus chose those whom He knew believed with all their hearts and placed them in His inmost inner circle, we have the free will to choose the people we allow in ours.  None of us want to hurt another, but when it comes to running a successful Christian race, and knowing the main tool to make that happen is the maintaining of a strong, faith-filled prayer life, it is imperative that the people we permit access to our closest companionship are those who possess a resolute, unshakable faith in God.  It took me a long time to realize the depth of wisdom in expending the necessary effort it took to develop an encirclement of stalwart faith-filled prayer warriors around me.  When a need arises, I want to know that the people I ask to pray will fervently pray and that they will do so with zero doubt in the God they are praying to.
Don't you?

10.  Keep prayer commitments. 
Just as you want to know you and your prayer requests are being faithfully prayed for, be careful to pray for those for whom you have promised to pray.  If you tell someone you will pray for them, honor your word and be committed to keeping your promise to carry their needs to the Father.  I find it is very helpful to keep a prayer book where I record the names of those I have made a commitment to pray for.  Life is busy and full of care, and it is easy for me to become so absorbed in all that is going on in my own life and completely forget to keep my promise to pray for others.  I have also learned to drop what I am doing and pray instantly with/for those who ask for prayer, if at all possible.

As always, if anyone who reads this needs prayer, please always feel free to email me through this site.  When I tell you I will be praying for you, by God's grace, I will keep my word!

God bless you as you pursue an ever-deepening prayer life, and may He send people into your life who will reinforce your faith, support your determination, and powerfully enhance the strength of your prayers.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Letting Go, Burning the Ships, & Walking Away

"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

I find it so interesting that two of the most powerful (in my opinion, but then again, it is ALL powerful!) messages conveyed in the Word of God consist of a total of a mere five words and are tied for being the first and second shortest verses in the whole Bible.

"Jesus wept."  John 11:35
"Remember Lot's wife."  Luke 17:32

(Any ideas on what the two-word and three-word verses are that they are tied with?  In case you don't know, I'll reveal the answer at the very end of this post. 😉)

Knowing Jesus felt such deep compassion for His friends when He saw them weeping that He was actually moved to tears speaks untold volumes about His character.  Knowing "Jesus wept" profoundly reveals the true character of God because "God is love," (I John 4:16) and Jesus is God.

I absolutely love the two-word verse, "Jesus wept," but today I want to focus on the three-word verse, "Remember Lot's wife" because God has so often brought it to mind lately.  It seems to stay in my mind nearly all the time, as my family and I continue to minimize, downsize, simplify, and shed toxins from our lives.  SO often over the course of our minimizing journey that began in 2015 and continues to this day, I have been tempted to "look back," and the Lord has reminded me to stop and remember Lot's wife.  

We all know the story about how God called Lot and his wife and two daughters out of Sodom and Gomorrah right before He sent fire and brimstone from Heaven to destroy both cities.  The angels could not execute the plan of eradication until after Lot and his family were safe.  They were to flee quickly, and they were plainly instructed to NOT look back.  

Maybe I am looking at it all wrong, and God please forgive me if I am, but I have always felt sorry for Lot's wife.  Sadly, I think I can relate to her need to look back more than I should be able to.  I have a very strong tendency to look back.  Even in the smaller things, like when Kevin, Zach, and I have enjoyed a meal in a restaurant, I always feel this need to look back and stare longingly for just a moment at the now-empty booth where we made such happy memories only a few moments before.  I think it is some sort of hang-up and probably has a clinical name, but it is what it is. 😏

Having moved approximately 47 times (no joke) while growing up, I have more than likely done more than my fair share of looking back.  Wishing for the places we used to live, wanting things to stay the same, dealing with my innate strong aversion to change, and being overly sentimental in nature, looking back is a constant temptation for me.  

When the Lord calls us out of a situation that is detrimental to us, the enemy would like nothing better than to persuade us to be drawn right back in to the misery.  For proof, just think about the Israelites.  They were tormented beyond what they could withstand, and God graciously heard their cries and miraculously delivered them from extreme, debilitating bondage to Pharaoh and the Egyptians.  But, soon after the deliverance and at the first sign of adversity, they were tempted to go right back to the misery.  Somehow, in their minds, going back to the anguish was better because it was familiar.

It is very easy to forget the grief we have been liberated from when faced with fear of a new, unknown, unfamiliar challenge.  Looking backward seems like the easiest, most comfortable option.  But, the thing is, God never leads backward.  He is an ever forward-looking God who knows that if we look back, we will remain tethered to the past and will never walk forward into the things He has ahead for us.  

It is hard to let go of the past.  There are so many parts of it that possess the potential to hold us prisoner.  When God called Lot out of Sodom and Gomorrah and told him and his family not to look back, they were being asked to walk away from everything familiar and known to them.  Though the cities had become exceedingly wicked, still, it was home.  I can completely understand why Lot's wife felt the need to turn around and look back, but in doing so, she rendered herself incapable of ever taking another step forward.  She ended up losing her life and becoming immortalized in the form of a pillar of salt to serve as a sobering reminder to every one who would come after her, and the lesson was so profound, our Lord spoke of her all those years later.

We can't relive yesterday.  We can't go back and do anything over.  We are where we are, at this season of time and life, and nothing that has happened heretofore can be reversed.  To try to keep holding on to yesterday and all it contained is a complete waste of energy.  Looking back and wishing for what used to be or what might have been is counter-productive to enjoying life that is right in front of us.

Today, I had to walk away from some things that hurt so much, I cried.  I cried, but the tears didn't stop me from doing what I knew I had to do.  I've had many such moments over the past four years since God began dealing with us to begin our minimizing journey.  I have written a lot more about it over at our other blog, Biblical Minimalism.  You can read there about how God has led us to let go and walk away from so much that was dear to our hearts in pursuit of a higher call and a more intimate walk with Jesus.    

At first, our minimizing was mostly of a physical-possession nature, but as time has passed, God has steadily maximized our minimizing to encompass the entirety of our lives.  In a post called "The Whole-Person Pie," I talk about how Biblical Minimalism encompasses the whole person comprised of eight different parts.  

Each time God asks us to let go and breaks chains and releases us from bondage, it is a painful process.  It is not an easy task to let go of the familiar, but sometimes familiar is no longer a good place to be.  God sometimes has to allow things to reach a certain height of misery before we realize that a change needs to be made.  When we recognize that need, it takes courage to let go, burn the ship, walk away, and never look back.

After I began writing this post, Zach read the following story told by Luke Smallbone of "For King and Country" concerning the inspiration and story behind this, one of my new favorite songs.

"I read a story about an explorer going to a new land. When he arrived on the shore, he calls everybody off of the ships and said, 'Hey let's go explore this land and see what there is to be seen,'" Luke explains. "All the men were terrified of going into the unknown and he realized that even though those boats were grimy, stinky, and small, they wanted to stay on the boats because it was familiar. The next day he calls them out again and when all the sailors were on land, he gives the command to burn the ships because he said, 'We're not going to retreat. We're going to move forward in our lives."
Luke Smallbone - (read entire interview here)

When God has broken chains of addiction or delivered us out of a bondage situation or relationship, it is never His intention we ever return to such, and the reason it is important to "burn the ship" is because it removes not only the temptation, but the possibility, of ever trying to.

Hebrews 12:1,2 has become our life mission.  "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

The chapter preceding Hebrews 12 is referred to as "The Faith Chapter" or "The Hall of Faith."  It tells of flawed, but Godly people who became stalwart heroes of the faith like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Rahab, and many others who fought the good fight of faith without looking back, were valiant warriors for righteousness in their generation, and in the first verse of chapter 12, they are referred to as "a great cloud of witnesses."  I think of them often, and I realize that each one of them were called upon to let go of the familiar and to step out into an audacious, daring, untested realm of faith in order to accomplish God's call upon their lives.  They had to lay aside every weight, put everything they had on the line, and lighten their load to successfully run the race God laid out before them.  When God called Abraham to leave his comfort zone, he didn't even know where he was going.  He just knew he was being asked to go.  He had no predecessor to look back upon and see a victorious outcome.  He had to walk away and not look back with nothing to hold on to except the call of God.  Each one of the life stories mentioned is remarkable and worthy of deep study and consideration.  All glory to God, I not only have them as examples, but God has endowed me with a deep spiritual heritage of my own.  My dear Papaw, who others referred to as "the walking King James," my grandma "Mimmie," my own dear parents, and others have greatly influenced my life by the way they followed Jesus with their whole hearts.  Most of all, we can all look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  It is He who has called us to follow Him, and He is the one I most long to please.

As I wrestle with letting go, burning ships, and walking away from what is besetting me and weighing me down, I often hear His still, small voice.  After another favorite song below, I am sharing some of the things He has been teaching me and reminding me about HIS own earthly journey, in hopes they will help you, too, as you seek a closer walk with Him and struggle with letting go of all that holds you back.

Walking Away - Unspoken

1.  Jesus had to walk away from His old life.  At 30 years of age, He had to let go of whatever He owned or held dear to walk the lonely path of ministry, self-denial, giving and pouring His life into the lives of others, and three years later, walking the anguished steps of the Via Dolorosa that led Him to the cross.  Surely He owned things, He felt deep love and affection for people in His life, and He felt twinges of sadness over a yearning for home and what used to be.  How do I know this?  Because He was tested in every point that we are tested, (Hebrews 4:15), but He never disobeyed His Father's will, and no matter how difficult it was, He did the right thing always.  I don't even want to think about the hopelessness that would have enveloped mankind if Jesus had looked back!

2.  Jesus had to travel light.  He let go and walked away from every hindering element.  He laid aside every weight that would so easily beset Him and loved nothing more than He loved His Father.

3.  Jesus had to shed toxic relationships and move on to those who would accept Him.  When Jesus returned to His very own hometown, the people there verbally abused Him and thought He was crazy.  Their hatred for Him was so intense, they wanted to kill Him!  Talk about toxic!  They "rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong."  Luke 4:29  No wonder He said, "A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house."  (Mark 6:4) and "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.  For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."  (Matthew 10:34-36)  He had to make the tough decision to shed relationships with those who would deter Him from His purpose and walk away from His past and move on to a people who would receive and accept Him and His word and who would recognize who He was, what His true gifts were, and who would appreciate and honor Him.  "But He passing through the midst of them went His way, and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. And they were astonished at His doctrine: for His word was with power."  Luke 4:30-32

4.  Everything we lay down, let go of, and walk away from for His sake and the sake of the Gospel will bring hundredfold blessings - not only in Heaven, but in this life, also.  "And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."  Mark 10:29-30

As you have read this post, has the Lord brought anything to your mind that you may need to let go of?  Any ships that need to be burned?  Any situation, possession, or relationship that you need to walk away from?

Today is a new day.  A fresh start.  A wonderful opportunity to purge what is toxic.  A chance to lay aside everything that is unlike Jesus and that keeps us from being like Him.

I pray you find the courage to follow Him with your whole, undivided heart.

Did you happen to think of those two verses I spoke about at the beginning?
The answer for the two-word verse is "Rejoice evermore."  I Thessalonians 5:16, and the answer for the three-word verse is "Pray without ceasing."  I Thessalonians 5:17.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

What a Wasp Taught Me About the Love of God

"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him."
I John 4:9

Not so long ago, during a time of prayer, I told the Lord that I longed to feel His love in a greater capacity.  When you have been in such severely fiery and multi-faceted trials for such a long, extended period of time, you can start to feel like a lost child—even God-forsaken.  You can start to listen to the lies satan keeps whispering in your ear.  Lies like, "God doesn't love you.  He has abandoned you.  Your failures and shortcomings have caught up with you, and you are being punished.  God has turned His back on you.  You will never make it through this.  God may have helped you in the past, but this time will be different."  On and on and on he drones, and it is very easy in those moments of exhaustion at wit's end corner to start to see some probability in what he is suggesting.  In your heart, you know God's love is never-ending.  You know that Jesus promised to never leave you alone.  You are well-versed on the facts, but what is fact and what is "feeling" starts to overlap, and the lines start to blur, and you begin to lose clarity of vision.  So, in one of those vulnerable moments, I cried out to God, and I asked Him to please let me "feel" His love in a bigger way.

Looking back, I feel guilty for asking such a thing.  He has been SO good to me.  ALL.  MY.  LIFE.  He blessed me with the two best parents I could have possibly ever had, and they taught me early on to trust Him, to pray and seek His face with my whole heart, and to make Him Lord over every part of me.  Their unwavering love for me lasted until the moment they took their last breath of earthly life, and I could count on them always.  He brought the most patient, loving man into my life 32 years ago, and he has stood by my side and is the best husband in the whole world—hands-down.  He miraculously opened my barren womb and sent us the sweetest son after 12 1/2 years of marriage, and this dear boy blesses our lives in countless ways every, single day.  He has given me the best, close-knit, most loyal four siblings that a girl could ask for who, when the chips are down don't count the cost or think twice, knowing I will always do the same for them; precious aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins who feel like siblings; a multitude of the truest, most faithful friends there could ever, ever be; a loving body of Christ to surround and uphold with authenticity and prayer support; and innumerable other blessings besides.  On top of all, He DIED for me.  Laid down His life and shed His precious blood so I could avoid the Hell for eternity that I deserve.  He has always looked out for me and there is no way He could be a better or more loving Father to me, but in my weak and weary exhaustion, I just wasn't "feeling it," and I needed to.  Very badly.  So, I presented that request to Him and then forgot about it until a few nights ago when I found myself admitted to the hospital and facing yet more medical issues.

As I sat there, looking out the 2nd floor window, watching the traffic below, He reminded me,   "Remember when you asked Me to let you feel My love?"  My mind instantly went back to that prayer, and I replied, "Yes, Lord."  He then began to peel back the purpose for my present distress, and a short time later, He sent an angry looking wasp to my hospital room window.  I sat and watched as it continued to pound itself against the thick glass over and over and over again.  It even flew away for a span of time, only to return again several minutes later with seemingly intensified determination!  Oh, how it wanted to break through the glass and get to me!  It was like it was there on a mission to do anything it had to do to penetrate and inflict harm.  It was downright menacing.  How thankful I was for the thickness of that glass because I knew that no matter how hard it tried to carry out its desire and plot to sting, it was NOT going to happen.  There was no way I was in any danger, so I could sit there and watch and not feel a bit of alarm.

I think you probably know where I am going with this.  The precious Holy Spirit began to open my eyes and speak and make me see that my current circumstances, however unpleasant and terrifying, were presenting Him a bigger opportunity to demonstrate His great love for me by protecting me IN the trial, and no matter how hard satan tries to destroy me and get to me, there is a huge, thick barrier of protection between me and the enemy, and I do not need to feel one bit of alarm.  "Just like I close doors that no man can open, I also close doors that satan cannot open," He went on.  "No matter how hard he tries to penetrate through the protection I have around you, he will never be able to do more than I allow."

Talk about feeling God's love!  Oh, it blessed my soul to sit there and watch that angry, persistent wasp!  To sit there and watch him struggle with all his might to break through something that will never be broken by the pounding of wasp wings yielded a profound and unforgettable spiritual lesson.  Peace washed over my spirit as I waited for results from the MRI I had only moments before.  I KNEW in that moment that even though God has allowed some hard, hard trials, He has continually lavished His love and favor upon my little family and me over and over again.  When He gave us the word "favor" as our 2019 word of the year, favor is exactly what He meant.  Not absence of trials, but HIS LOVE demonstrated in such observable, tangible, undeniable ways.

If life were a bed of roses and trial-free, how would He ever show His protecting power?  How would we ever really recognize His love if we were so accustomed to perpetual bliss?  Would we even feel a need for God at all?  Would we ever know the slightest extent of the deep-settled peace and springing joy that comes from spending an hour in His presence?  Would He ever have the opportunity to reveal what true favor means?  What kind of communion or intimacy could we ever share with Jesus Christ if we never shared in the drinking of His bitter cup?  How could we experience healing if we never needed it?

In my last post, I talked about how satan came before the Lord and asked His permission to test Job.  If there is any doubt in anyone's mind concerning whether or not spiritual warfare is real, my unsolicited advice would be to read Job 1:6-12 and Job 2:1-7.  It reveals two of the most remarkable conversations you will ever read—God and satan speaking directly to one another, having two straightforward conversations about a man God described as "blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."  Can you imagine how it would feel to have the God of heaven speak such words and realize He was talking about you?

In Luke 22:31-32, Jesus said, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:  but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."

In Zechariah 3:1-2, we read, "And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.  And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee."

In each of the examples above, there was a very real and intense spiritual battle going on.  God's faithful ones versus satan himself.  Job underwent extreme torture at the ruthless hand of satan's evil, Peter was satan's target, and Joshua the high priest stood before the Lord with satan standing at his right hand to resist him.

In each case, there was a powerful demonstration of God's love that caused Him to rise up in strong defense of Job, Peter, and Joshua.  They were His children, and He would NOT leave them to the will of their arch enemy.  Think about it.  When you hear that someone is coming against your child, what rises first?  Is it not the deep, abiding love you have for them?  What could ever stop you from defending them because of that love?  Wild horses can't stop the love of a parent, and if we then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto our children, how much more shall our Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?  Matthew 7:11

God's love is stronger than satan's tactics.  God did allow Job to be sorely tested and tried, but he did not allow satan to touch Job's life.  In the end, God blessed Job with twice what he had before satan attacked him.  Jesus informed Peter that satan wanted to have him and sift him as wheat, but He went on to say that He, Himself had prayed for Peter.  Peter went through a serious testing period, but in the end, he emerged victorious.  Joshua was resisted and tormented by satan, but the Lord Himself rose up and rebuked satan on Joshua's behalf.

"When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him."  Isaiah 59:19

After a total of six medical tests, I heard such wonderful words of life the other day.  They sounded something like this, "Everything is clear!  You can go home!"  Oh, Thank YOU, Jesus!!!  I lost count of the times I have praised Jesus in the presence of medical staff over the past few months.  I wonder how many times they hear that, and more importantly, how many times does our precious Lord hear it?  I don't ever want to be like the nine lepers whose lives were totally transformed without the slightest word of thanks to the One Who turned their whole world around.  I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that things could have turned out so, so differently SO many times, not only for me, but for my dear husband and son.  I truly have NO words to praise Him for His great, abiding, deep, overwhelming, reckless love for me, yes, even undeserving, unworthy me.  Oh, how I praise Him!

"Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me,
You have been so, so good to me.
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me,
You have been so, so kind to me.

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine.
I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away,
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah.

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me,
You have been so, so good to me.
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me,
You have been so, so kind to me.

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine.
And I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away,
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah.

There's no shadow You won't light up,
Mountain You won't climb up,
Coming after me.
There's no wall You won't kick down,
Lie You won't tear down,
Coming after me.

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine.
And I couldn't earn it, I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away,
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah!
Songwriters: Caleb Culver / Cory Asbury / Ran Jackson

ALL glory, honor, and praise to our dear and loving Lord for ALL He has done for me.  I am beyond undeserving, and yet He loves me anyway.

"Thank You, dear, precious Lord, for orchestrating the meeting between the wasp and me.  Thank You, for your endless mercy upon one who has failed you so many, many times, yet who loves you with all the love in my heart!  I raise a hallelujah in the presence of my enemies! Thank You, Jesus!"

Raise A Hallelujah - Bethel Music

Praying for you, dear readers, and grateful beyond words for your continued prayers and loving encouragement.  I love and appreciate you all so very much!  "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD."  Psalm 118:17   Praise GOD to be alive!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Huge PRAISE REPORT - Thank You, Jesus!

"Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people."
I Chronicles 16:8

When my family and I started out this year, seeking God about His word of the year for us, we found that the word was to be "favor."  I wrote about it HERE.  At first glance, the word "favor" brought wonderful things to mind, and I envisioned a year full of blessings and void of trouble.  How carefree 2019 would be!  We would glide along and everything would fall right into place, right?  Surely favor meant no worries and fun times all around.

It didn't take long to come down out of the clouds and realize that I had it all wrong.  Favor meant nothing of the sort.  Deep trials descended one right after the other, and it felt like satan had pulled out all stops and unleashed a rampage like we'd never before seen.  The fiery darts were coming thick and fast from so many directions, I could barely keep up.  The job outsourcing that happened in early February of 2018 turned into months-long loss of income, Kevin's health problems escalated rendering him unable to work, Zach's and my health issues worsened, things we had counted on staying the same started falling apart, carefully laid plans crumbled under our feet, and we reached the utter end of our own ability to fix anything at all.  God had told me in 2015 that HE wants to be our all in all.  Funny, but I thought He was, and if I remember correctly, I told Him so.  As I look back over the past 4 1/2 years, I realize that we were far from the position of God being our all in all.  Gradually, He has stripped us to that point, and quite frankly, it has been a painful process.  (Read more about it HERE.)

BUT, back to our "word of the year," even though God has allowed us to be severely tested spiritually, physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally, ALL THROUGHOUT each fiery trial, He has extended unbelievable and miraculous FAVOR upon us.  Over and over and over again, every time it looked like we would go completely under, He miraculously answered prayer, and HERE CAME JESUS, right on time.  

"They sent for Jesus, your friend's about to die,
But tarried He still on behind,
So, they laid Lazarus in a tomb, and said their last good-bye,
But coming down the road was Jesus right on time.

Just hold on, my child, because He's not too far away,
And He knows your need before you pray.
So, when your feet are weary, from the mountain you have climbed,
Look ahead, here comes Jesus right on time!

I've struggled through life's deserts, they were so hot and dry,
'Til it seemed all hope was gone, and I would die. 
I wondered where was He, is He still a friend of mine?
 Then coming down the road was Jesus right on time. 

Just hold on, my child, because He's not too far away,
And He knows your need before you pray. 
So, when your feet are weary from the mountain you have climbed,
Look ahead, here comes Jesus right on time."
Written by:  Charles P. Bosarge

I have been walking through some of the darkest, scariest health situations of my life, and this week has been brutal.  Honestly friends, I did NOT know how I would make it through.  It has felt like a 1,000 pound cloud has accompanied my every step for so long.  On Monday, came a long-dreaded biopsy that ended up being worse than even the dreading ahead of time, and before I could get any answers concerning the biopsy came another medical test yesterday.  Physically, I have been pretty uncomfortable, but the waiting is the absolute WORST.  The mental anguish and torment has been unbearable.  As I waited, still groggy from anesthesia yesterday, the doctor walked up to the side of my bed, and I could not hold back the tears as his words dispelled the lies satan has been screaming for so long.  How I praised God right there in the presence of everyone within the sound of my voice!  One hurdle down, but what about those biopsy findings?  Unanswered questions hung over my every move like a lead balloon.  We returned home to a phone call from the surgeon telling me he wanted to see me to discuss the biopsy results.  Can anyone say full-blown panic?  If it were good news, wouldn't he just want to talk to me over the phone?  Why ask us to make the drive there to get the answer?  Let's just say fear took it to a whole new level.

This morning, Kevin and I sat in the surgeon's office, and as he sat across from me, he spoke these glorious words, "Everything is good.  Everything is BENIGN.  Sorry to worry you.  I just like to tell my patients in person."

BENIGN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The word we have been pleading to God for and pounding the doors of Heaven about for so long.  There it was.  Handed to me like a most precious gift.  Oh, that word!!!!!!  THANK YOU, JESUS innumerable times over and over again!!!!!!  I do not know how relief could be felt any stronger than what washed over me in the seconds following the hearing of that six letter word.  Several hours later, I am STILL in total AWE of our awesome GOD and the abundant mercy He lavished on me today.  I know, and I told the surgeon so, that this could have turned out so differently.  But, GOD, rich in mercy!  Today, He spelled favor —B-E-N-I-G-N, and I feel like He graciously and so kindly handed me a new lease on life.  How I thank Him!

God did not promise that we would not be sorely tried in 2019.  What He did speak is favor.  Though we are called to suffer, and the full healing has not yet come, we are alive, praise His wonderful name, and this song has become my anthem.  

"But God, rich in mercy
You came to save me
Now I'm alive!
My God, strong and mighty
You reached down for me
So I could rise.
Now I'm breathing in, breathing out
I was in the grave, but God you called me out
Now I'm breathing in, breathing out
I was in the grave, but God you called me out
Now I'm alive!"
Written by:  Zach Williams

When satan went before God and asked His permission to test Job so severely, God put limitations upon what satan could do and told him he could not touch Job's life.  I am SO thankful we serve the same God Who is in absolute control, and satan cannot do anything that God does not allow.  How comforting to know that our dear Lord walks before us and winnows our path, and HE decides what to leave in and what to take out.  "And the LORD, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed."  Deuteronomy 31:8

I want to thank each one of you for your faithful prayers, loving friendship, encouragement, emails, cards, and gestures of kindness through our many struggles.  I cannot begin to express what it has meant to us, and I trust God will richly bless each one who has helped to pray us through these trials.  One of you has given up meals and fasted for me this week, and I tell you, that just humbles me and touches my heart more than I could ever put into words.  THANK YOU seems so inadequate.  I am so very grateful to God and to all who prayed.  

Whatever you are going through, God is there.  You do not walk alone.  I am praying for each one of you, also, and trusting God to pour out His richest and best blessings upon you and your life.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen to Good People?

But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  
(Matthew 5:44,45)

Recently, a dear friend, asked me to write an article exploring the question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people.  I must say, when she first asked, I was stumped because it is a question I have personally wrestled with for many years.  In response to my wondering, the Lord gave me some thoughts that I felt led to share with you today.  I hope they will be an encouragement to you in whatever struggles you currently face.

"A mother of four returns home from church to find her husband’s mangled car, just a block from home.  As she enters her house, the phone is ringing.  It is the hospital telling her to come quick, that her husband has been in an accident.  She asks, “How bad is he?” only to have the nurse on the other end of the line insufficiently cover the receiver while asking another nurse, “Shall I tell her?”  In that moment, she knows he is gone.  She struggles wondering why he wouldn’t stop drinking, how she will tell her children their daddy is gone, and how they will ever make it through.

After the ending of a tumultuous relationship, a sweet, kind-hearted girlfriend takes him back just one more time.  She gives him everything he asks for, including the money in her purse, only to have him return a few hours later to ruthlessly and repeatedly stab her face and body, leaving her lying in a pool of blood.  She is found, arms folded, eyes turned Heavenward, dead, on her apartment floor.

She and I stand beside my mother’s/her great-grandmother’s casket as she begins pouring out her heart.  Addiction, abuse, and bad lifestyle choices have caused her to lose custody of her three children, and the only way she could attend the funeral was by obtaining a special pass from rehab.  She tells me how she has made up her mind to change, and I tell her how proud of her I am.  Just a few weeks later, she is released from rehab and everyone thinks she is finally turning her life around. Then someone makes an offer she can’t refuse, and she decides to go back for one more fix.  Something goes terribly wrong, and her Daddy finds her dead the next morning, lying on his bathroom floor.

This stuff isn’t made up.  This is real life.  Each of these are true and have touched my life and the lives of those I love in a deeply personal way.  I could go on and on.  There are plenty more stories.  You could probably share many of your own.  The human condition is something we all have in common.  Everybody hurts.  We all cry.  Things touch our lives, and we are left reeling, sometimes to never fully recover.

So, the question is, why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?

Why does God look on while such things happen?  How can a loving God allow such pain to be inflicted upon His creation?  We hear of horrific happenings every evening on the nightly news, and we find ourselves asking the age-old, still-unanswered question again and again.  Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?

In spite of the frequency and number of times it has been asked, the question remains unanswered because to answer this question one would have to be able to see into, know, and fully understand the mind and reasoning of God.  We know from Scripture that God is high above us, and His thoughts and ways are beyond what we have the capacity of comprehending.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8,9

“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him?”  I Corinthians 2:16

“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!  Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”  Job 38:1-4

From these verses, we conclude that we can never fully answer the question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people, but as we look at a broader view of Scripture, we can see that God’s original and never-faltering nature is and always has been purely and entirely good.  Our hearts cry, “Why, God?” when bad things happen because deep in each one of our spirits, we believe that God is good.  We believe He is sovereign, that He is in complete control, and that He can prevent bad things from happening.  So, why doesn’t He?

This world, when first created, was a perfect place where nothing bad ever happened and all was ideal.  Even the concept of “bad” did not exist.  God created Adam and Eve and placed them in a perfect paradise and named it the Garden of Eden.  God said that everything He had created was good, and He gave them one command, “Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  They made the conscious choice to disobey that one command, choosing evil over good, and when they did, they performed the very first exercise of free will.  The choice they made was a bad one, and for the first time, the reality of “bad” was introduced.  In the beginning, “bad” was never a part of God’s plan.  His intentions for His creation were and always will be, all good.  If Adam and Eve had obeyed and stayed in the center of God’s original intentions, “bad” would not have been introduced to their world.

Accompanying disobedience to the command to not eat from that one particular tree, was a consequence.  If they ate of that tree, life would forever change for them, and instead of living forever in an Eden on earth, they would die.  Not just a natural, physical demise, but also a spiritual death.  Their sin would separate them from God and create a barrier to their fellowship.  Because of their disobedience, they were driven out of the utopia God had prepared for them into a world where Adam had to earn his living by the sweat of his brow and Eve had to bear children through agonizing pain.  We can see that their punishment was self-inflicted and caused by their own unwise use of the free will God gave them.  It certainly wasn’t God’s “fault” at all.  He gave fair and ample warning as to what would happen should they use their free will to disobey.

Adam and Eve lived out the punishment for their sin, but their errant actions didn’t just affect them.  How wonderful it would have been for the human race if the repercussions had stopped there!  In reality, because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, each one of us is born with what Bible scholars call the Adamic nature.  The nature of Adam.  The propensity to sin and perpetuate the bad choice and disobedience that started in that garden all those years ago.  No man is an island.  Just as their actions affect us and every other person ever born, our own actions, whether good or bad, affect other people.

Free will is not selective.  It is universal and innate.  Free will when mishandled breeds bad choices.  Bad choices generate bad consequences and repercussions that spill over into the lives of others causing never-ending ripples that affect not only the present but future generations.

In all of the three examples I shared, we can see that unwise use of free will caused the suffering of others.  In each of these situations, God could have intervened.  He could have prevented the grief and heartache of the sufferers and victims, but in order to do that, He would have had to override the free will of another person.  He gave us free will, He CAN override it, but if He did, it would no longer be unbridled and authentic free will.  God obviously did not want to fill the role of puppeteer over our lives.  He created us with a unique will and the power to choose, and He will not revoke that decision or forcefully control our actions.

In situations like the ones I’ve mentioned, it isn’t hard to see what caused bad things to happen to good people.  But, what about the young wife, Sophia, who dies of a congenital heart disease?  What about another young wife, Melissa, who dies of cancer just months after her wedding day?  What about the Christian blogger who suffers horribly from Rheumatoid Arthritis?  We are always looking for a cause, aren’t we?  When nothing makes sense, and we aren’t able to reconcile what is happening, our first impulse is to blame the One Who could have prevented it.

Joseph in the Old Testament was ruthlessly betrayed by his eleven brothers, sold into slavery, forced to move to a foreign land, falsely accused of a crime, thrown into prison, completely cast aside, and forgotten.  At the end of his suffering, God elevated him to the position of 2nd in command in the nation of Egypt.  When he faced the traitorous brothers who were the cause of his deep trials, and they feared severe retribution from him, he said this, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God?  But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”  Genesis 50:19,20

All along, God had a plan and was in the process of orchestrating it in and through the life of Joseph.  The fact that Joseph could not see that plan through eyes behind prison walls did not negate the fact that God had and was executing said plan.  God always has a plan.  Romans 8:28 says, “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.”  This doesn’t say that all things will BE good, but it does promise that all things work together for good.  Not just the good things, but the bad things, too.  It is like a jigsaw puzzle.  When you open it and lay out the pieces, you see bright pieces that instantly make perfect sense and are immediately recognizable.  A fuchsia colored flower, a puffy cloud, a fallen leaf.  But, there are also many ugly pieces that seem to make no sense and seem completely out of place and unrecognizable.  As time goes by, you put the pieces together, piece by piece, only to see that the ugly pieces had purpose, too.  What looked like a black, pointless piece turns out to be a gentleman’s hat or a hinge on a garden gate.  Its purpose is crystal clear once the pieces are fitted together.  The beautiful, identifiable pieces sitting right next to the ugly, mysterious pieces in perfect harmony, just like the puzzle maker intended.  When the last piece falls into place, you stand back and look at the full effect, and then and then only, does it all make perfect sense, and you realize that every piece was a part of the plan all along.

I don’t understand why the young wife with a congenital heart disease had to die, was never afforded the opportunity to live out life with her husband, have babies, or grow old.  What I can say is that before she died, she asked him to promise her that he would pursue a musical career.  He faithfully kept that promise, and it opened the door to a ministry that is blessing people all over the world.  In the aftermath of his deep loss, he wrote a book called, “Hope in Front of Me: Find Purpose in Your Darkest Moments” and started a homeless ministry in honor of his wife, Sophia, called "Sophia's Heart", now known as "Better Than I Found It."  His name is Danny Gokey.

I don’t understand why the young wife had to die from cancer, why she was never given the opportunity to live out her dreams or why God chose not to heal her and spare her life.  What I can say is that her young husband drew deep inspiration from his pain and wrote a book called, “I Still Believe: Discovering Hope and Healing in the Midst of Life's Deepest Valleys” and songs like, “There Will Be A Day” and “He Knows.”  I hear they are making a movie about his life that will, undoubtedly touch the lives of millions.  His name is Jeremy Camp.

Joseph Scriven’s first love & proposed bride drowned the day before they were to be married.  He moved from his home in Ireland to Canada, fell in love and became engaged a second time, only to endure the heartache of her death just a few weeks before their scheduled wedding.  His sorrow propelled him to pour his life into helping the handicapped and destitute.  When his mother became ill, and he had no funds to return to Ireland to be with her, the immense anguish in his heart became the birthplace of “What A Friend We Have in Jesus.”

After Horatio Spafford lost his young son to pneumonia, much of his business was destroyed in the Chicago fire, the ship that carried his four young daughters collided with another ship, and all four of their lives were lost, he wrote the song, “It Is Well With My Soul.”

Maybe instead of asking the question why God allows bad things to happen to good people, we should be watching to see what happens afterward.  Maybe we should start looking for the good things that were birthed from the point of pain.  Countless survivors of bad things have overcome their circumstances to go on and share their stories and let others know they are not alone.  Their testimonies have resonated with millions who have found hope in the midst of their own heartache.  My Daddy always told me that character is forged in the crucible of pain.  He spoke from places of deeply hurtful personal experience and was one of the most humble, kind-hearted, giving, unselfish, compassionate people I have ever known.  When faced with life’s challenges, we are given the choice of allowing the anguish to make us bitter or better.  My Daddy chose the latter, and it resonated through everything he ever taught me about life.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”  2 Corinthians 1:3,4

From this verse, we can conclude these things:

Our God is the God of ALL comfort.  His comfort extends to every possible bad thing that can ever happen.  We do not walk alone.  Whether it be divorce or painful separation, the death of someone dear, the loss of a job, a stifled or unfulfilled dream, the loss of a pet, disappointment, embarrassment, shame, betrayal, abuse, shock, financial distress, depression, addiction, anxiety, despair, suicidal temptation, abandonment, ex-communication from a denominational sect, slander, or any other life event, His comfort covers it all and is equally effective in every situation.

Our God is the Father of mercies!  He is merciful to us.  The love of God comforts, it doesn’t condemn.  He doesn’t blame us for the bad things others inflict upon us.  He doesn’t shame us for being victims.  His mercy is a healing balm that will wash over every place of brokenness and open wound, if we will only stop blaming Him and open our hearts to His healing.

Once a person has received comfort from God in any particular area of life, they are automatically endowed with a deeper capacity of compassion in that area.  Once someone has walked through divorce, they are much more sensitive, non-judgmental, and understanding toward others who find themselves in that position.  After walking through the valley of the shadow of a mother’s death, a person is far better equipped to empathize with the friend who just lost her Mom.  The recovering addict whose family left due to his out of control cocaine use is far less likely to ever cast judgment on the teenage junkie he meets ten years down the road.  It is amazing how God places specific people in each of our lives who are going through identical pain to our own.  This is not by coincidence or accident but is Divinely-appointed providential care both for us and for the person who is suffering what we have already gone through and survived.  It holds a lot more weight to look a suicidal person in the eye and say, “I’ve been there.  I’m still here.  I made it, and you will, too” than to just be able to say, “I’m sorry you are going through this.  I can only imagine how you feel.”  Bad things prepare and qualify us for authentically compassionate outreach in our own areas of experience and expertise and make us far more effective as we offer that same kind of comfort to someone else.  “that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”  See how that works?  As you look back over your life and recall the bad things that have happened to you, it is very likely you will therein unearth the area of calling God has placed upon your life.  When you were suffering most and felt God-forsaken, He was furnishing you with the very tools He would one day empower you to use to help and minister to others.  There are few things more gratifying than to witness the power of God’s redemption of your own sorrow and to see how He takes what was bad and transforms it into the impartation of good.

The words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Rainy Day” hold much wisdom and truth.
“Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.”

These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. “  Jesus (John 16:33)

Because of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden, we live in a fallen world where “bad” has been introduced.  To think we will walk through life unscathed by tribulation is unrealistic.  It is all in the overcoming.  Because Jesus overcame, so will we.

Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?  While I don’t feel we can ever fully comprehend the mind of God and our finite thoughts can never be reconciled with the infinity of His, could the answer to this question lie in the fact that God knows good people will use the bad to become better?

Full disclosure – Many of the thoughts I share were born out of a deep, late-night conversation with our dear son, Zach, and he greatly contributed to the thoughts I am presenting here.  Thank you, dear Zach, and may God ever bless you for the continual blessing you are to your Daddy and me.