Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us . . . Hebrews 12:1

"Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us . . . " Hebrews 12:1



Almost 18 years ago, life changed in an instant when Steven Sauder sustained a head injury after a car collision. Although there have been many difficulties, God's grace has been clearly evident. The past few years, Steven continued to decline, yet God gave him the strength to "never give up". On May 9, 2011, he reached the end of his journey.



Friday, November 30, 2018


Fire and Brimstone, Yet Swimming in Mercy

When Abraham graciously told Lot to take his choice of the land before him (Genesis 13:5-9), Lot looked and saw that everywhere the Jordan Valley (Plain of Siddim) was well watered.  Before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, it was all like the garden of the Lord (Garden of Eden), like the land of Egypt, as you go toward Zoar.  Then Lot chose for himself the Jordan Valley and traveled east.  So they separated.  Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the Valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom and dwelt there (Genesis 13:10-12, Amplified Bible).  

Five cities nestled in a row, north to south, in this extremely lush area that Lot coveted - Sodom was the most northerly, then Gomorrah, followed by Zoar, Admah, and Zeboiim.  But the men of Sodom were wicked and exceedingly great sinners against the Lord (Genesis 13:13, Amp.). 

Because of his love for Lot, Abraham later rescued these 5 cities when they were sacked by Mesopotamian kings, bringing Lot and all the other captives back, along with all of the stolen goods (Genesis 14:1-24).   Twenty to twenty-six years later, when Abraham was 99 years old, the Lord (the Son of God) and two angels (all in the form of men) appeared before Abraham.  The Lord told Abraham that he was going to destroy the Plain of Siddim "because the shriek [of the sins] of Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is exceedingly grievous.....the cry of it which has come to Me" (Genesis 18:20-21, Amp.). 

Jude 7 (Amp.) says:  "...Sodom and Gomorrah and the adjacent towns... gave themselves over to impurity and indulged in unnatural vice and sensual perversity."  Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, and Zephaniah, in addition to Jewish texts and Rabbinic writings, expand the picture of the cry that reached heaven from these cities: lies, adultery, arrogance, blasphemy, and extreme torture of foreigners looking for refuge and those who would help them.  In spite of all this depravity, Abraham pled for mercy for all the inhabitants, if only ten righteous could be found.  But there were not even ten!

Truly, Lot made a TERRIBLE decision in choosing to allow earthly benefits to take precedence over the fact that his children would be brought up in such spiritual depravity!  Nevertheless, GOD WAS MERCIFUL to Lot!  The two angels warned Lot, "Whomever you have in the city, bring them out of this place, for we will spoil and destroy, for the outcry and shriek against its people has grown great before the Lord, and He has sent us to destroy it!" (Genesis 19:12-13).  In the morning, the angels urged Lot to hurry out of the city with his wife and daughters.  BUT HE LINGERED.  So... "the men seized him and his wife and two daughters by the hand, for THE LORD WAS MERCIFUL TO HIM, and they brought him forth and set him outside the city...and said, Escape for your life!  Do not look behind you or stop anywhere in the whole valley; escape to the mountains, lest you be consumed (Genesis 19:16-17, Amp.).  Lot, however, begged to be allowed to escape to the "little" city of Zoar, which plea was granted.

"Then the Lord rained on Sodom and on Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of the heavens.  He overthrew, destroyed, and ended those cities, and all the valley and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground" (Genesis 19:24-25).  Deuteronomy 29:23 and Hosea 11:8 make it clear that the cities of Admah and Zeboiim were included in the destruction.  Zoar, however, was spared, as Lot asked.

But, sadly, Lot's wife "looked back, and she became a pillar of salt" (Genesis 19:26).  The Hebrew word here for "looked" means "to intentionally look with desire".  Her heart and allegiance were still back in the city, so she stopped running, and the destruction overtook her.  Abraham also "looked" at the burning city, but this Hebrew word indicates just the action of gazing.  Assuredly gazed with extreme horror, as "the smoke of the country went up like the smoke of a furnace" (Genesis 19:28), laying waste the valley that Lot had so much coveted (See Jesus words in Luke 17:32).

Archaeological surveys and excavations have identified five cities situated in a line (running north to south), southeast of the Dead Sea.  The Sodom cemetery was first discovered in the 1960's and then 4 other cities were uncovered in 1973-1979.   Zoar (formerly Bela), Admah (Feifa in Arabic), and Zeboiim (Khanazir in Arabic) have not yet been excavated.  Zoar is the only one of the five cities that did not undergo violent destruction.  It continued on for many years as a flourishing city.  

SODOM (Bab edh-Dhra) and GOMORRAH (Numeira) EXCAVATION.... (aish.com,Biblearchaeology)

·         A thick, spongy ash, ranging from 4 to 20 inches in depth and containing fragments of wooden roof beams, covers the entire area.

·         Numeira is the more well preserved of the two cities.  There, every room was covered in ash and burned debris.  Mud and brick detritus (from the collapse of the city's mud/brick structures) sometimes covered the ash.

·         There is evidence that both cities met their end at the same time.

·         There is also evidence of 2 obstructions about 20+ years apart.

·        Found in the excavations are clay figures of many goddesses, wooden staffs, sandals, reed baskets,   
        pottery, and jewelry, many with Mesopotamian influence.

·         Paleoethnobotany discoveries show wheat, barley, dates, plums, peaches, grapes, figs, almonds, olives, nuts, lentils, watermelon, chick peas, pumpkin, and flax seed in the excavations (verifying the original extensive fertility of the area).

Brimstone (gafrit in Hebrew), or sulfur, was likely a hydrocarbon called bitumen - a highly flammable substance naturally occurring in the Dead Sea area in pits.  All five cities were established parallel to a major plate boundary (or fault line) called the Dead Sea Rift.  The pressure caused by two large tectonic plates in this fault has created a number of past earthquakes in the area.  This same pressure also has the capability of forcing subterranean matter (such as bitumen) to the surface and up into the air.  Some geologists are suggesting that an earthquake along this fault line caused flammable bitumen to be spewed high into the air, ignite by lightening or some other source, and fall back on the four cities.   

25% of the water of the Dead Sea is salt or potash deposits, which is a concentration higher than any other lake in the world, and the Dead Sea has no fish or marine life.  However....scientists are now finding life in springs at the bottom of the Dead Sea!  (Job 38:16 talks about the springs of the sea, but scientists did not know springs existed under the sea until 1977 when hot springs were discovered in the Galapagos Rift.)



This historical account in Genesis of the five cities holds a number of thoughts for us to consider...

 1.  How and on what basis are we making our choices, our decisions - through prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit - or by what looks good in the world's eyes?  What voice are we listening to - the Holy Spirit - or our own flesh and pride desires?

2.  What are we "looking back on with desire" that God has clearly defined as "off limits" for us?

3.  Are there instances in our own life where God has pulled us by the hand and drug us away from temptation, possibly by allowing difficult circumstances in our lives?



Lord, thank You for Your continual redemptive works in our lives, drawing us into closer fellowship with You.  Thank You for Your ongoing mercy when the shriek of our own sins reaches Your ears!  Thank You for showing us, little by little, the absolute truth of Your Word.  Most of all, thank You that Your own blood has saved us from eternal fire and brimstone and instead guaranties us fellowship with You forever in a land where streets will be paved with gold, where every tear shall be wiped away, where death, pain, and suffering shall be no more, and where we shall see You - face to face!  Halleluiah!

Friday, November 16, 2018


UNBROKEN COVENANT

Abraham, born as "Abram" sometime between 2215 and 2055 BC, grew up in Ur, a city that was south of Babylon (now in present-day Iraq).  Archaeological excavations of Ur reveal homes (dated 2047 to 1750 BC) with 10-20 rooms, including a lower floor for servants, an upper floor for the family, a guest chamber with a lavatory, and a private chapel for idol worship.  Ur boasted a school with clay tablets for reading, writing, and arithmetic.

God first called Abraham in Ur (Acts 7:2-4).  In response to that call, Abraham's father, Terah, left their home and land, took his family and a large entourage, along with provisions, and set out walking on a journey of around 850 miles to Haran (Genesis 11:31-32).  After Terah died in Haran, God again called Abraham to "Go for yourself away from your country, from your relatives and your father's house, to the land I will show you" (Hebrews12:1, Amp.).  God accompanied the request with a Covenant Promise of land, a name, blessings, and many descendants who would turn into a great nation.  He also promised Abraham, "In you will all the families and kindred of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:3, Amp.).

The Word of God tells us that "And he [Abram] believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6, Amp.).

So Abraham, at 75 years old, took off again on a long, hard journey - until, about 750 miles later, God told him to "STOP" (Hebrews 11:8).

However, it wasn't long until "righteous" Abraham blew it.  Fear of a famine caused him to flee to Egypt with his wife Sarah (Sarai), where he REALLY blew it - encouraging a situation where Pharaoh took Sarah as his wife.  The Lord, in mercy, scourged Pharaoh's household, so Pharaoh returned Sarah to Abraham (Genesis 12:10-20). 

Abraham continued to mess up...

·         his faith grew weak, and he complained to God (Look... no child! Genesis 15:3, Amp.);

·         he tried to fulfill the Promise himself, by creating a child through sex with a servant (Genesis 16:1-4);

·         both he and Sarah laughed when God (for the 4th and 5th time) again reminded them of the Covenant Promise (Genesis 17:17; 18:15);

·         he repeated the same atrocity that he had fallen into with Pharaoh, only this time with Sarah and King Abimalech (Genesis 20:2-18).

Yet God continued to have patience and mercy and grace.  And, in spite of Abraham's many sins,
GOD NEVER BROKE COVENANT
.  When Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah gave birth to their "promised child" - Isaac, whose name means "laughter"
(Genesis 21:1-7).  Around 400+ years later, the nation of Israel left Egypt for their Promised Land.

God is the same with us as He was with Abraham.  The Ancient of Days has made a "new" Covenant with us.  By the atoning blood of God Himself, He has (like with Abraham) "declared us righteous".  And even though we sin, every day, HE NEVER BREAKS COVENANT with us.  He is still our Abba Father (Galatians 3:13-4:6)! 

Halleluiah.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus!! 

God's Gentle Confrontation

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, we see God gently confronting them.  You would think that God would immediately come down hard on Adam and Eve, but Genesis 3:8-13 recounts four calm and loving questions God asks them (even though He already knew the answers):  "Where are you?...  Who told you...?  Have you eaten...?  What is this you have done?"

We see the same gentle confrontation with Cain in Genesis 4:6-9, even before Cain slew his brother:  "Why are you angry?  Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?"

Then God counsels Cain:  "But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

Even after Cain lets his anger take over, violently attacking and killing his innocent brother, God  gives Cain an opportunity for repentance with a gentle question:  "Where is your brother Abel?"

In Genesis 6:5 and 12, God acknowledges the horrible wickedness of ALL living persons (except righteous Noah).  "Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time!...for ALL humanity had corrupted their way upon the earth and lost their true direction."

God explains to Noah that He is going to destroy all mankind by a worldwide flood, but that through an ark that Noah will build, God will save Noah and his family and representations of each kind of animal, bird, and creeping thing.  So Noah (starting at age 480) diligently works away on the ark for 120 years.  About 20 years into the work, Noah's first son is born. 

But notice......all the while Noah is working, he is constantly preaching to the lost (I Peter 1:11 and I Peter 3:19-20).  So here again, we have God gently confronting.  For 120 years, God's patience prevails with these horribly wicked people!!

But, out of possibly 3 billion people at that time, not one repents, including Noah's father, Lamech, and grandfather, Methuselah.  Both have walked with Adam (Lamech was 65 when Adam died), and Methuselah has seen his own father (Enoch) walk so closely with God that Enoch was actually "transferred" to heaven instead of having to die (Hebrews 11:5).  But Methuselah dies the year of the flood, at age 969, without God, and Lamech dies 5 years before the flood, at age 777, also still entrenched in his own wickedness, notwithstanding that their own son and grandson had been God's instrument, for somewhere between 75 and 120 years, to plead for their repentance.

Today, God still gently confronts us, as His own children, through the Holy Spirit Whom He so graciously implanted in our hearts, quietly and lovingly pleading with us to turn from sin areas in our life and walk fully with Him.  Sometimes we listen; sometimes we don't.  But He continually and patiently calls us to "master the sin that is crouching at our door".

Lord, thank you for Your extreme patience with each of our areas of sin.  Thank you for becoming our substitute lamb for those multitudes of sins.  Help us to listen to and obey Your gentle, quiet voice within us.  Teach us to master those sins, bringing joy to Your heart and praise to Your name.

Friday, September 28, 2018


Driveway Cat

My neighbor has an old, old cat, named DC for Driveway Cat, because he's always laid in the middle of the driveway expecting every car to drive around him.  He's mangy looking, missing most the fur from his neck, skin full of gross bumps and warts, hunched over like an old man.  A couple weeks ago, DC adopted me.  The middle of my driveway became his right-of-way.  The rocker in my gazebo became his.  And my front door often showcased DC's mangy old face peering in at me, with his meow music reverberating off the porch and crunching through the glass.  After a couple futile tries of returning him to the neighbor's, and the old cat meandering back across the busy road to re-establish his domain, my neighbor simply brought DC's food supply and deposited it on my front porch.

I've never been exactly a cat lover.  And DC, well....he doesn't make loving cats easy.  In addition to his "less than lovely" appearance, he constantly talks, with a loud, long, twangy m-e-o-w.  He about drove a repairman crazy yesterday.

But little by little, DC is kind of working his way into my heart.  Maybe a little.

I was thinking, we're kind of like DC - covered with all kinds of gross warts of sin, getting old and ugly....
Yakking away, constantly complaining.  Two seconds after God blesses us, whining for another.

But God loves us.....still.   And not "a little."  Enough to lay down on a cross and die for us.  Knowing all we would become.  Knowing all the self in us.  Cognizant of each "ugly", all down through the years.

And unlike me with DC, He is always there for us... on time, all the time. 

Lord, you don't see our ugliness.  Our warts are all covered over forever.... by Your own blood.  You see each one of us as part of the beautiful bride of Christ, adorned in a robe of pure white, betrothed to the Holy One - the Ancient of Days.  Oh Jesus....THANK YOU!!!  

"For God so loved the world....."

(published June 2018 in More Than Survivors)

AND GOD REMEMBERED

In the days of Noah, when the earth was only 1,656 years old (around 2347 BC), the fountains of the great deep broke up and burst forth in great geysers of water raining back down upon the earth.  The windows and floodgates of heaven were opened.  And for 40 days the earth was deluged with water and catastrophic trauma, until all flesh that moved on the earth ceased to breathe, and all birds of the heavens perished.  Only Noah and all in the ark remained alive.  Genesis 7:11-23

However, Genesis 8:1 tells us:  "But God REMEMBERED Noah and all...with him in the Ark..." (NASB).  The Hebrew word for remembered is zaw kar' and means "to be mindful of, to express concern, to act with loving care".  Noah was not "forgotten" and then "remembered", as we would think.  Rather, he was ALWAYS in God's thoughts.  Listen to what His Word says about those who are His.....

 "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are blameless toward Him..."  II Chronicles 16:9a, Amplified.

"Fear not, for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you..."  Isaiah 41:10, Amplified

"...for He Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support.  Not.  Not.  Not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down [nor] relax my hold on you!  So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be seized with alarm'...".  Hebrews 13:5b, 6, Amplified

A little over four weeks ago, my grandson, Gabe, was in a terrible collision, where the car he was driving went partway underneath a steel panel truck and had to be cut apart with the jaws of life to free Gabe to be flown to emergency care.  But God had not forgotten Gabe.  Rather, He had placed His hand at just the right time, in just the right place, to angle Gabe's car in just the right way, to keep it from going any further under the panel truck.  Otherwise, Gabe would have lost his life or been severely brain injured.

In our own collision, God did not stop my husband's severe TBI, but still, He had not turned His eyes away from Steven.  Rather, He kept both of us alive, and capable, equipped, and strengthened to do the exact Kingdom work, in His time, that He had ordained for us.  And He carried us, through the collision aftermath and all the years following.  Likewise with each of you.  God REMEMBERS you.

Five weeks ago, a Menzi Muck operator was almost finished removing the blockage in our drainage outflow ditch (through a special exemption from governing environmental officials).  The operator, however, needed an immediate change in the exemption plan, for the imminent safety of both the operator and the machine - requiring an exit that had previously been expressly forbidden by the environmental officials.  In God's absolutely perfect timing, a senator's staff just "happened" to call while I was on the phone with the operator and the landowner, to see if help was needed with getting an exemption for the blockage.  Not having time to even take the call, I emailed the situation back to the senator's staff.  By the time I reached the appropriate environmental official, the senator's legal staff had already talked to the head of the environmental agency, and orders were coming down to the official who needed to give the ok!  God's eyes were on the situation.  He "remembered".   His timing was perfect, to the second.

Lord, open our eyes to SEE that when we are afraid and think we are forgotten and forsaken, we are still "remembered" by the One Who loves us so much.  For, even before we were born, Your eyes saw us down through the ages, Your thoughts "were mindful of" our sin, and You "acted with loving care" to choose to hang on that cross, that Your atoning blood might be poured over the alter of sacrifice...for us.   

(published May 2018 in More Than Survivors)

Monday, January 8, 2018

See "Our Journey", above, for brochure.


Published a few months ago in "More Than Survivors"........
A couple nights ago, I was awakened out of a sound slumber at 1:00am by a neighborhood dog.  The animal was obviously in great distress, for he was howling - almost shrieking or wailing - non-stop.  (It somewhat resembled ear-shattering "surround-sound" on my FL wetland acreage). I went outside to try to determine which direction the sound was coming from, and it seemed to be issuing from the direction of my friend's home.  I knew that her husband was away from home on business, so I went back inside, dressed, and hopped in my car to go check the situation out.  When I arrived at the end of my lane, the night suddenly resumed its peaceful quietness, with only the normal sounds of the wetland stirring the darkness.  Still concerned, I drove the short distance and pulled in front of their locked gate.  There were no alarming sounds coming from the homestead; however, as I sat there, a tiny pinpoint of light traveled across their property and then went out.  I sat there trying to make a logical, wise decision on whether or not to call my friend, possibly waking her up. 

End result.....I decided to go back home and email my friend to call me as soon as she got the message.  Figuring I would also call her first thing in the morning, I tried to go back to sleep, but uncertainty about my decision made that a little difficult.  As it turned out, she was fine and had slept through the whole incident.   Obviously, the problem was not with her dogs.  Perhaps the "terrified dog" was a wild animal in the wetlands, but we aren't certain of that, and we still have not figured out an explanation for the light, either.  In hindsight, the decision was probably the right one, but it could so easily have been the absolute wrong one - especially if that light represented an intruder on the property with malicious intent. 

The evening before, in our Bible study, we had discussed the first verse in Jude, where Jesus' half brother, Jude, writes to those who are "dearly loved by God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ."  It struck me how vast was the difference between how I loved my friend and tried in a very small way to keep her safe - and how the Father dearly loves me and keeps me! 

I guessed at a decision with my friend that turned out ok but could have been disastrous.  God never guesses concerning me.  He knows my life from beginning to end, before I ever came to be (Jeremiah 1:5).  He knows my coming and going (II Kings 19:27; Psalm 121:8) and all the incidents and their results that I will come into contact with throughout my whole span on earth (Psalm 37:18a).  In fact, every single one of those incidents must go through His hand of permission before it can intersect with my life (Job 1:9-11, 2:6; I Corinthians 10:13).  He only allows what will in some way work together for good for my spiritual walk and for the Kingdom of God (Romans 8:28).  The whole concept of evil, free will, and God's sovereignty is too difficult for our finite minds to have a complete grasp on, but that inability to understand the fullness does not take away from any part of the truth of Scripture (II Timothy 3:16).  Nor can our finite minds even begin to get an indication of the true and complete scope of being so "dearly loved" (John 3:16) and "kept" (Psalm 61:3, Psalm 91) by the Creator and Ruler and Sovereign of all the universe. 

                                      "The Lord my God illumines my darkness" (Psalm 18:28b)

God was right on top of that situation with my friend.  He "had her back" - and her front and all around her (Psalm 34:7).  He would not even consider allowing harm to my friend that was not in His perfect plan for her life.  God's love is a "walk in there and confront the evil face to face" kind of love, "even if it killed Him" - WHICH IT DID.  At the cross, He confronted Satan and all Satan's cohorts face to face for you and me, and DIED in that confrontation with the world's evil (including my own evil and your own evil).  But, three days later, He rose in victory over all death and over all evil for all eternity and, after 40 days, ascended to the throne.

Lord, open our eyes a little bit more to the vastness of the scope of Your "dear love" for us and to the  overwhelming peace that should come in the knowledge of Your "keeping" us (and each of our loved ones) through all situations on our journey through life.    

       

Friday, September 16, 2016

Two Choices


Two Choices

Acts 7:51-53 tells the conclusion of Stephen's recital of Jewish history to the Sanhedrin (right before Stephen's stoning).  Luke tells us that Stephen, talking about the actions of the religious leaders, says, "You are always actively resisting the Spirit..."  A few verses down further, after the Sanhedrin become extremely angry at Stephen and call for his death, Luke gives us a bit of insight to Stephen's reaction to the Sanhedrin's out-of-control anger:  "Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit...." (Acts 7:55)

"Full" (in the above quote) comes from the Greek word, "pleres", and means replete, covered over, or, by analogy, complete.  Pleres is derived from "pletho", which indicates to fill, or literally, influence or supply.  Thus my Amplified Bible translates this, "Stephen, full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit".

So there we have the bottom line - two different motivations that can send our minutes, our days, our life in totally different directions.  The question:  This minute, am I actively resisting the Holy Spirit's whisper in my life?  Or am I full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit?   

What are we "full of and controlled by?  Our own comforts and desires?  Our ambitions?  Our fears or worries?  Our pride?  Our past?  Our unforgiveness or bitterness?  I'm afraid that with so many of my minutes, I "actively resist the Spirit", allowing something or someone other than the Holy Spirit to fully control me. 

Lord, thank you for forgiving our not listening to You, over and over, as we make decisions, say words, allow  thoughts, act and react, in ways counter to what Your still, small voice is telling us to do.  We ask today for overcoming power over the pull of self, Satan, the world.  Teach us to be constantly controlled by the Holy Spirit - that we may bring joy...to You, to ourselves, to those around us.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The "I AM" Is In Control of Your Storm


I wrote this article in March, 2016, but after realizing I hadn't published since the Oct., 2015 article about coming problems with my floor, I'm sending this as a follow-up.  We are now 5 months past the installation of the new floor, and, praise God, no problems yet.
The "I AM" Is In Control of Your Storm 

Recently, our pastor, Greg Lester, gave a sermon on Matthew 14:22-33.  Greg's words are in bold type, used with his permission.....      

Jesus had just miraculously fed 5000 men (plus wives and children) with a few loaves and fish!  He  directed the disciples to get into the boat and set out before Him, while He sent away the multitudes and then went up into the hills by Himself to pray.  A terrible storm came up at sea.  Around 4:00am, Jesus came walking on the sea to the disciples!  Terrified, they thought it was a ghost and screamed out in fright!  But Jesus instantly reassured them:

Take courage!  I AM!  Stop being afraid.

Peter (seeing Jesus control of even the wind and the waves!), in great faith and with Jesus' permission, scrambled out of the boat and began walking on top of the water toward Jesus....until he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink.

We all have storms in our lives.  Sometimes it seems like they will overcome and destroy us. 

The last few months have brought chaos and storm into my own life.  My new floor throughout the house was ripped out, and the mold that was under the floor flew everywhere, leaving gaping holes in the slab that then had to be filled and diamond ground and reworked.  Nothing was covered by insurance.  Two contractors told me it was impossible to fix.  "Just sell it to an investor and get out of the situation. "  Nevertheless, I now have a new tile floor throughout.  However........ there is legitimate doubt that what we may have not "fixed" the situation, and it may have to be done all over again.

 So I go back to the five points of the pastor's sermon, "when in a storm, remember"........

1.  He (the I AM) brought me here.
I ask myself:  Did He deliberately direct me TO this place (w/ choosing a contractor who did not put in a correct moisture vapor barrier under the wood floor, and now possibly another contractor who took wrong steps again)??  Do I trust Him?

I remember:  there is no safer place to be than in the center of His will.  For the disciples, that was in the middle of the lake, in the middle of a storm.  For me, it is here, in this storm.

2.  He (the I AM) is saving us. I remember the coping abilities that God has given me through this.  And how He has carried me (and carried Steven) through so many other storms in life.  And how He is carrying the persecuted church around the world through much greater, even so much more horrible storms. 

3.  In the storm.... Jesus is on the right side of God - advocating, interceding - for us  (think about that!)
I remember Isaiah 43:2. 
When you pass through the waters, He is with you - all the time. What are you afraid of, Vic?  What seems to be taking you under?  He will give you a way of escape.    He will give you minute by minute grace and wisdom and strength.

4.  He uses the storms to help us grow. With the disciples, Jesus was praying for their faith to increase. They had not gotten the picture.  They needed to be shocked into "getting" Who He is.  They were not looking for Him - did not have their hearts set on Him.  Remember:  Jesus should be the first One we look to, and for, in the storm.    

Many of David's Psalms start with despair and crying out for rescue - but all end with praise
David was God's chosen.  We are God's chosen.  God wanted from David and wants from us:  submit our heart to God in contrition and obedience
.  He is trying to teach me this contrition and obedience and trust.   I remember how He has drug me and flung me down to sacrificial praise - and how it has lifted me up and carried me through the next turn of the storm. 

The results of going through the storm for the disciples:  Peter was changed.  The disciples said, "Truly You are the Son of God."

5.  He (the I AM) will see you through the storm. We must remember:  Don't take our eyes off Him and think of other possibilities for chaos.  Snuggle up to Him. 

The disciples were called to a ministry that only they could do; you and I are called to a ministry that only we can do.  I remember the opportunities that God has placed before me in the floor situation - through all the chaos (continually) of the storms - many awesome opportunities to witness. 

And I remember.....
 
  that the Great I AM loves me with a love so immense and all-consuming
 that He gave His life for me,
       that He holds all the power of the universe in His hands,
             that He absolutely and unquestionably knows what is best,
                   that all that comes to me through the palm of His hand is for a good purpose.
 

And I remember that He said, while calmly stepping into darkness and lightning and thunder and atrocious winds and waves higher than His head.....

                      Take courage!  I AM!  Stop being afraid.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Fruit Bearing and Pruning


After installing a new wood floor throughout most of my home in 2013, I am now having to tear it out again and replace the whole thing, due to water vapor emission from the slab (which insurance doesn't cover).  In addition, I have a nasty mold situation under the wood flooring. 
Searching for some discipleship materials, I came across the following article that I had written for MTS back in November of 2013.  It fit my current situation so well that I thought I would share the article with you......
So many times reading a verse of Scripture, the Holy Spirit will open up a deeper understanding of the verse than we have had before.  That happened with me a few days ago with John 15:2b:  “He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit.” 

The verse doesn’t say “He prunes us so we will bear fruit.”  Rather, it says, basically, that if we are bearing fruit, we will get pruned.

Obviously, you and I want to be in that classification of “fruitbearers”, but…….with that calling comes cleansing and repeated pruning – in other words, suffering, struggles, problems, pain, persecution – repeatedly, continually.

The last part of the verse gives the reason:  “to make me bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.”    It’s like a cycle – suffering and struggles = bear more fruit = more suffering and struggles = bear richer fruit = continued suffering and struggles = bear richer and more excellent fruit……and so on.  We can’t have one without the other.  He says so.

Sunday in church the pastor was talking about the burial of Joseph’s father Jacob and how all the officials of Pharaoh – a huge entourage of nobles and elders and guards – went with Joseph and his family to Canaan to bury Jacob.  There, at the threshing floor of Atad, they mourned loudly for a whole week.  (Genesis 50)  Listening to the pastor talk about mourning in our own lives, I suddenly started to cry and had to really struggle to stop.  Life had been tough for a long time, years and years and years, seeming like an endless barrage of problems and pain and rough situations.  Just the last month alone had included a nasty flood (including a new wood floor) when bathtub plumbing broke, evacuation of my commercial building because of a gas leak, a broken foot, unfixable AC condenser, etc.  Pruning….pruning….and more pruning.

But then came Monday noon.  I had been praying much Sunday about a specific situation, asking God for a very specific thing.  And Monday noon He answered that prayer in an unbelievable,   awesome, truly miraculous way!  And so quickly!!   My mourning turned to dancing as He lifted me up in glorious praise to my God!

And this week has been one of truly unexpected opportunities to witness for Him – opportunities just falling into my lap – and more reason to praise.

As I stopped and thought about the years of tough things, I realized that all during these tough times He has been continually pulling me back up to praise with His love gifts - to show He is there, involved in my life second by second, loving me intensely and totally and unconditionally.

 “I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness (suffering), and I will speak tenderly and to her heart and make the Valley of Achor (troubling) for her a door of hope and expectation.  And she shall sing there….”  Hosea 2:14-15          

 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What have you done with my time?


In our Women’s Bible Study last night, we studied Genesis 2, the awesome account of the creation of man and woman.  We read how God placed them in this unbelievably beautiful garden, where the wild animals were all frolicking around together, weather was perfect, there was no disease, no death, no suffering.  But best of all, God walked in the garden with them!!!   He talked with them FACE TO FACE.  I imagine for Adam and Eve, it must have been like it was for Moses:  “The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend…”  Exodus 33:11-13.   We  talked about what it really means to “walk with God”, as the Scriptures also say Enoch and Noah and Abraham did, and how we need to determine to make our relationship with God the number one priority in our life.  Following is a poem God gave me 30 or 40 years ago concerning that priority that you might like to think about in your own life.  It still convicts me...….           

            TO MY CHILD
Don’t tell Me you have no time for Me;
Don’t tell Me you have no time to put My Word into your heart.....
  To listen to Me,
  To converse with Me.....              
 FOR THAT IS WHY YOU WERE CREATED!

All of time is given to you to learn to know Me.....
  To receive My love.

If you think you have no time,
  Then there must be one thing.....two things.....
  That you can cut out and discard from your life.

I, an all-wise God, would not create you to love Me
  And learn to know Me
  And then not give you the time to do so.

Search your life and see.....
WHAT HAVE YOU PUT THERE
       IN PLACE OF YOUR TIME WITH ME?        


All your busyness, all your service, all your successes,
  They are as nothing to Me;
  I want YOU.

I want to talk with you and listen to you
  And teach you to love Me
  In preparation for the eternity we’ll spend together.

Don’t tell Me you have no time for Me.
I gave you the time;
It is mine to take back.

You were created to love Me and to receive My love.       
What have you done with my time?

 
                                                    All My love,
                                                    Your Father

Friday, January 9, 2015

jonah


For my time in the Word one morning, I was on my way to Colossians and somehow got stuck in the little book of Jonah.  Reading it through, I noticed an interesting fact:  after they finally chucked Jonah overboard (at Jonah’s insistence), everyone on the ship became a follower of the One True God!  The hour of Jonah’s greatest distress – being dumped into a violent sea with no hope of ever seeing daylight again – was also the hour of salvation for the whole ship!  “So they took Jonah up and cast him into the sea, and the sea ceased its raging.  Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.”  As Jonah finally gave over his will to God’s will, the hearts of those watching the drama also turned to God.

What really struck me was that God actually took Jonah’s SIN (fleeing in the opposite direction instead of preaching to Ninevah as commanded) and used it for Kingdom glory!  In the same way, He uses not only our troubles and trials and tribulations for His glory, but He also uses even our mistakes and, unbelievably, our sins.  THAT is how big and awesome God is and how perfect and interconnected and all-knowing His plans are!

While I was reading Jonah, I got a call about a signature-required delivery coming in a few minutes, with a replacement for a leaky kitchen faucet.  So I prayed that God (as He used Jonah’s disobedience to save a shipful of people) would use the hassle of a leaky faucet for a Holy Spirit work in the heart of the deliveryman.  When he came, I told him how the timing of his delivery was an answer to prayer for me.  He answered with, “Yes, it’s a wonderful world, isn’t it?”  - not the answer I was expecting.  I couldn’t think how to pull the conversation into sharing the Gospel from there.  So I signed the paper, and he went down the steps.  The Lord, however, kept him at the back of the truck for a good 5 minutes rearranging packages, and then gave me a swift kick out the door.  I went tearing down the steps calling out, “One more thing…..it’s a wonderful world if you have Jesus as your Savior!”  That opened the door for a “divine appointment” with the deliveryman, whom God had already brought from being an atheist to believing there probably was a God – but a God Who only deserved his anger and contempt.  Quite a bit later, he left with a “Why Me, God” brochure in his hand and a new understanding.  But you see, the awesome opportunity to meet this man at his point of need in his journey toward God would not have come to me if not for the leaky faucet (a small tribulation).

When Jonah was in the belly of that big fish, He prayed:
…“For You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me;
all Your waves and Your billows passed over me….
the waters compassed me about….even to the extinction of life,
the abyss surrounded me, the seaweed was wrapped about my head…”

The last 3 years of my life have sometimes felt like that, with one calamity after another after another.  And the 18 years before, dealing with Steven’s TBI, often brought both of us close to despair.  I imagine many of you have felt and still do feel that same way – sometimes every day, day after day.

But listen to the end of that same prayer of Jonah’s – before deliverance - still spoken from the terrifying, stinking belly of the big fish:
“But as for me, I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving!
I will pay that which I have vowed.  Salvation and deliverance belong to the Lord!”

As we proceed into 2015, we can go with the assurance that (1) no matter what circumstances God brings into our life or allows to stay in our life, (2) no matter how many times we fail, and (3) even in spite of our sin failures that will come in 2015......... God is still big enough and great enough to not only carry us through each circumstance, but to also use each of those circumstances for our good and His glory.  Like Jonah, we need to remember to give the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise, right in the middle of those hard times to come.  And we need to try to walk with an air of excited expectancy for how He is going to use those tough situations.

Have a new year daily filled with His peace and the sense of His presence.  

 

 

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Heavenly Choir


Last week a dear, precious friend walked into glory with the Lord, after struggling for over 30 years with numerous kinds of cancer.  A few weeks before the Lord took Bob home, a group of us had gone to Bob and Lillie’s.  Bob wasn’t very strong.  He was struggling to breathe, because the cancer was in his lungs.  But the minute I walked up to him to give him a hug, he pointed to the other room and said, “The piano’s in there.”  After we ate a little food together, we all went in to the piano, and I was told to “play that” – “it’s Bob’s favorite song”.  “That” was “The Lord’s Prayer”, and it was in a very difficult version, with timing changes 3 times and notes all up and down the piano – way out of my capability.  My eyes bugged out.  But Bob desired it; so I played.  We were all singing, and I was struggling through the playing (doing an atrocious job!) when we all heard the most precious sound coming from the corner of the room where Bob sat.  Bob was singing his heart out.  It was hard to keep on singing, because we were all in tears. 

That was the last time that I saw Bob responsive.

For the memorial service, Lillie wanted me to play “In the Garden”, which was no problem since it is a very simple-to-play hymn.  Through various circumstances, I also ended up playing “The Lord’s Prayer” for a soloist and also “I’ll Fly Away” for a family of six little children singing. 

Even though I practiced and practiced “The Lord’s Prayer”, and although it sounded fine when I played it at home – I blew it royally playing for the service.  And I didn’t find the children’s song in the key they needed until just a few hours before I needed to leave for the service, plus I had only the chords and one note of melody, had to play it an octave lower, and hadn’t practiced that version with the kids.  So I kind of blew that one, too.

I was devastated.  All of the rest of the service was so perfect and so beautiful, including the taps played at the end because Bob was a navy veteran.  However, I felt that I had royally ruined my part of it.  There was such a heavy weight on me.  I couldn’t go to sleep until the wee hours of the morning, and then I woke up after just a few hours thinking about my mess-up.  It was two-fold:  I felt so bad for Lillie and her children, for my ruining of the beautiful service that was their last memory of Bob; and I was exceedingly embarrassed.  My pride was stomped on.

The morning of the service, God had so encouraged me by Ephesians 1: 17-23.  There, He talks about “having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so you can know and understand:
  1.  the hope to which He has called you,
  2.  how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints, and
  3.  the immeasurable & unlimited & surpassing greatness of His POWER in & for us who believe
as demonstrated when He raised Him from the dead…”

At the time, I thought, “Yes, Lord!  Only your great and awesome POWER is enabling and will enable me to play this extremely intricate song!”

But it didn’t exactly work out that way.

This morning, I cried to the Lord to lift that burden of despair from me.  And you know what?.....He reminded me to get up and go to the piano and sing a praise song for Him.  He also reminded me about “reverse praise” – a little technique God had taught me years ago, as follows: 

  When somebody does or says something that hurts you or angers you or upsets you, or when having a hard time dealing with the regret or shame of your own failures or sins, stop and make a list down the left side the page of everything that’s bothering you.  For example, your boss may have criticized you unfairly, or your grown child may have acted very unwisely, or someone may have lied to you.  Or you may have spouted off to your best friend, hurting her feelings.  Then, on the right side of the page, list the opposite of that characteristic.  For example, the opposite of unfair criticism would be perfect judgement.  The opposite of unwise actions would be acting with total wisdom.  The opposite of telling a lie would be only and always telling absolute truth.  The opposite of thoughtless, hurting words would be carefully thought out responses, full of wisdom and love.  Now look at each of those things on the right side of the page, and you have a list of attributes of God, which you can begin to praise Him for immediately.  Believe me, nothing works better for getting rid of despondency than turning to praise.

So….it was easy to see the opposite of my goof-ups and to begin praising God for His absolute perfection.  Not so easy – but necessary and do-able - to keep on doing it every time Satan brought up the memory of my failure.

When I went to the piano, God took me immediately to an old gospel hymn, “Follow Me”, which talks about how a discouraged Christian says, “the burden on my weary back had bowed me to despair”.  In the song, Christ answers, “My feet were also weary upon the Calvary road, the cross became so heavy, I fell beneath the load.  Be faithful weary pilgrim, the morning I can see – just lift your cross and follow close to Me.”

And then just 2 pages over the song:  “God Can Do Anything But Fail”.

How perfect, when I fail and when I’m discouraged, to fix my eyes on His perfection and on the burdens He carried - for me.  A messed-up piano playing…….so much of a NOTHING aside of what Christ had to deal with for my sake.

Then, I got to thinking about that POWER that God promised me yesterday, and I realized that He HAD “delivered” on His part.  This morning, he had given me the power to overcome despair through praise.  And…He is also able to enable Lillie to remember the good in Bob’s service instead of the mess-ups!

Right now while writing this article, I just got a call from a tenant in my commercial building that I had another flood inside the building.  It’s apparently from a new drain pipe that plumbers put in just two days ago (to correct another problem that they had created by choosing to put in too few downspouts with the newly installed roof).  I’ve just ordered water remediation (for the third time in just a few years), since everything is soaked.

So…..perfect time again to use the POWER that God has given me over despair and anger – power to turn it back into praise to Almighty God – a praise that my friend Bob knows all about right now.  He is praising God FACE TO FACE!  You know, I think that when I was messing up “The Lord’s Prayer”, it didn’t matter to Bob and the heavenly choir.  They were joyously singing along in full harmony, filling in all the notes I missed, adding more to somehow blend and raise up my broken melody in a great symphony of praise to the King of Kings!  And that symphony is still going on today, as I choose to praise Him! 

Over two thousand years ago, the world got a little foretaste of the awesomeness of that great heavenly choir.  Shepherds, living out under the immense open sky, watching over their flocks one night, were treated to an army of heavenly hosts praising God and rapping out, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” 

Halleluiah!  Lord, in this Christmas season of remembering your birth, grant us the power to keep our eyes focused on joining the heavenly choir in praise to You.  In the turmoil of life, mine keep straying.