Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Facelift

Psalm 96 says, "Sing a new song to the LORD!  Let the whole earth sing to the LORD!  Sing to the LORD; praise his name.  Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.  Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.  Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.  Great is the LORD!  He is most worthy of praise!"

…"Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.  Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.  Great is the LORD!  He is most worthy of praise!"

So…"publish" and "tell" is what God asks of us.  When he does something amazing and glorious…share it!

So, tell I must…God has been amazing me now for 54 years!
  
Recently, I have begun walking 30 minutes each day.  At first, I memorized Scripture as I walked.  Then, after our pastor preached a sermon on "Praise," I began spending that 30 minutes praising God for Who He is and for all He has done.  These 30 minutes of my day have become a refreshing to my soul and spirit.  Psalm 22:3 tells us that "God inhabits the praises of His people."  Our pastor said, "Praise is God’s address!" He went on further to tell us that if we would just begin to praise God, many of us would see miracles happen in our lives…and many would become well as a result of making a habit of praising God.

I immediately began noticing a change in my attitude…in my outlook on life.  If you listen to the news and to people talking about what’s going on in the world, it’s easy to become pessimistic, gloomy, and depressed.  After my first 30-minute "praise walk," it was very apparent how happy I had become.  As I walked and thanked God for all He has done for me…as I thanked Him for all the beautiful answers to prayer He has given me…and even as I was able to thank Him for prayers He answered with a "No," I became totally amazed at what an awesome God He is!
 
During my first walk, God showed me two particular prayers I had fervently asked Him to answer how I wanted Him to answer.  God very clearly showed me how much better it has been for all involved that He answered them, "No!"  It startled me how happy I was to have gotten a "no" from Him!  I began to look back and see many more "no’s" that I was thankful for from the past.  I praised God for His great wisdom.

Over 54 years with my Savior, I have filled numerous prayer journals with prayer requests and God’s answers to those prayers.  I will not go back over them all, but I want to recount just a few from the journal I began in January, 2017:

·        Two financial needs I asked God to provide for me.  ANSWER:  God supplied both needs by taking the needs completely away and providing in another way!

·        I asked God to guide me in another financial decision that was very difficult for me to make.  ANSWER:  Within the week, God took away two financial responsibilities I had, giving me a direct answer of what to do.

·       A ten-year-long prayer for a loved one.  ANSWER:  Out of the blue one day, the answer came dramatically and was answered in a way that gave me GREAT joy.

·         A decades-long prayer for a loved one to return to a life of loving and serving God.  ANSWER:  I received word one day that one of their children came to salvation when a neighbor invited them to church…which led to the renewal of this loved one’s commitment to Christ.  The entire family is now loving and serving God with great delight!

·         Prayer for a friend diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.  ANSWER:  Surgery revealed it to be not what the Dr. thought, but was easily treated and removed.

·       Prayer for a baby born with severe birth defects and not expected to live long.  ANSWER:  This child now prospers in every physical way!  This is a true miracle!

·         I prayed for 9 years for a good husband for a sweet family friend.  ANSWER:  She recently married, and when I got to the wedding, I discovered she was marrying the brother of a good friend of mine!
 
·       Two family members in dire health situations.  ANSWER:  God spared both lives!

·        A sweet friend’s mother had a life-threatening surgery.  ANSWER:  She came through the surgery beautifully!  At the last minute, doctors discovered a situation that would have killed her during the surgery, but God intervened before the surgery.

·       A friend was discovered to have a rare and life-threatening liver disease.  ANSWER:  Upon being sent to a specialist, our friend was told the other Dr. had amazingly discovered his disease in time so that it could be treated!

·       A 5-year-long prayer for a dear young friend a godly husband.  ANSWER:  She’s getting married in June!

·       A 2-year prayer for a loved one with a spot on his lung and a bad cough that needed to be treated, but he was worried about his wife getting her pacemaker put in and those bills paid for first.  ANSWER:  He recently went in for an x-ray and was told, “That spot is gone!  All we can figure is you must have inhaled something and coughed it out!”  And, his wife is doing great as well!  I can’t even begin to tell you how happy this has made me!

·       Continued prayers for our nation and the loss of religious freedoms.  ANSWER:  I was so happy to see the President the other day sign legislation reversing that trend in our country!

·         A 4-year prayer concerning ongoing bullying.  ANSWER:  God so kindly took me out of that situation, taught me huge insights into bullying and how to deal with a bullying person.  Praise God!  He has taken fear from me and restored the joy of my salvation!  God showed me how to forgive and even pity and pray for this person. 

·        I have been praying for my children and God’s provision for them.  ANSWER:  God has been so very gracious to give my children good jobs, where they are appreciated and thriving.  God continues to bless and honor their work.

In a word of encouragement for those of us who pray for God to work in the lives of our children and grandchildren, I was fascinated by a quote our pastor gave us last Sunday:  J. C. Ryle, a Bishop from Liverpool in the 1800's, said, "The children for whom many prayers have been offered, seldom finally perish."  I love that, don't you?

I have written several other posts about prayer, but tonight as I was reading in Psalms, I knew God intended for me to "do" what He tells us to do in Psalms 96:1-4…to proclaim the good news that he saves; to publish his glorious deeds; and to tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:31 to boast in the Lord…we are to give glory to God by proclaiming His goodness. 

How about you?  Will you begin boasting in the Lord…praising Him for His goodness to you?  Praising Him for Who He is and for all He has done?  By "Telling everyone about the amazing things he does"?

I will make you a promise:  You cannot continually praise God and be depressed.  You can’t praise God and not be changed…and that for the better!  If you need a “lift” today, just spend some time being thankful to God.  You will find yourself cultivating a relationship with your Savior that you will look forward to with all your heart!  I don’t enjoy walking, but I absolutely look forward to it now that I spend it praising God and having my spirits rejuvenated!  It’s like a daily “facelift!”  I love it!!!

"Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands."  Psalms 63:3-4

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"RESOLVE TO UN-RESOLVE"

Soooo...have you made any New Year's Resolutions this year?  I'm generally not a fan of them because, actually, I can't remember a single resolution I've made at the New Year that has stuck with me.  Good intentions, always, but the deeply-rooted patterns of my life have always prevailed.

This year feels different...mainly because my "resolution" this year comes at the tail end of a long, progressive series of battles in one particular area of my life which God has been working on.  And I do mean working on!  For years and years. 

Some time ago, God began whispering to me something quite counterintuitive about my problem.  He told me that, rather than focusing on the "problem," I needed to be focusing on "Him" instead.  He said that focusing on the problem all the time kept me "in" the problem, and that focusing on Him instead would take me "out" of the problem...would put it into the background as I brought Him to the forefront.  So, I began to explore what that would look like, and I tried to make changes.

I began to notice that when my heart drew near to God through prayer and reading my Bible, I did "do better." But, my "resolve" didn't last long and I seemingly, "inevitably," soon went back to my "old, familiar ways" and to the sin which so easily beset me.

One night not long ago, as I was mulling over "my problem" and what to do about it, the Lord whispered into my ear:  "What does the Bible say about "the fruits of the Spirit and self control?"  So, I turned the light on, got out of bed, and googled "fruits of the Spirit and self control."  Google sent me to Galatians 5.  If you are a Christian, as I am, God gives you a tremendous gift: Truth.  So, when I hear truth, I know it.  A comforting warmth engulfs my body and settles around me like a soft, cozy blanket on a cold winter's night.  God gave me these words of Truth from Galatians 5:  

"But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us."   

"What is important is faith expressing itself in love."

"You have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters.  But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature.  Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.  For the whole law can be summed up in this one command:  "Love your neighbor as yourself."

"So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.  Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves.  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.  And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires.  These two forces are constantly fighting each other so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.  But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses."

"When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear:  sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these."

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things!"

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in
every part of our lives."

This was all well and good...and I had read this passage many times, but I wasn't gaining the fruit of self-control I was seeking.  I consider myself a Christian truly trying to live a Christian life, but failing to obtain a fruit of the Spirit was frustrating me to no end!

So, immediately I googled, "How do I let the Holy Spirit guide my life?"

These were the phrases and words God led me to in my search:

"Don't accommodate your sin.  Get rid of it!  You can't "manage" sin!"  (This was written in the margin of my Bible as notes I took from my pastor's sermon one Sunday.)  

"Pray"
     
"Read God's Word"

"Obey"

I realized that just "wanting" a fruit of the Spirit wasn't enough.  So, the first thing I did was to begin a new Prayer Journal for 2017.  I labeled one column "Request" and across from it another was labeled "God's Answer."  I decided this year to make most of my requests quite specific so that when God answers I can definitely "see" if His answer is "Yes," "No," or "Wait for My Timing."  I have 40 Requests placed at Jesus' feet in my journal so far.  Request #7 is about my "problem."  I was very specific.  Over the course of time, God has shown me some specific steps I can take to gain self-control in this area of my life.  My request is for God to help me do the things He has shown me to do.  I have asked for Him to make me successful in it.  I am asking God to help me do the things I need to do so the Holy Spirit is free to work in me.  

The next thing I did was to begin a new plan for reading the Bible through in a year.  I'm praying and I'm seeking the Holy Spirit's guidance in my life through God's Word.  I am seeking to not just read, but to obey what I read.  I am placing "my problem" in the background, leaving it in my Prayer Journal and trusting God with it, and I am purposefully bringing God to the forefront of my life through the specific disciplines of prayer, meditation on His Word, and really trying to "obey" and put into action what I'm reading.  I have recently also moved from a position of just "sitting and soaking" in a Sunday School class and am out of my comfort zone, working as a volunteer in our Children's ministry.  I am trying to "express my faith in love" as Jesus teaches in Galatians 5.

Something very obvious has happened.  Soon after I finished my Prayer Journal, I was tempted.  This time, however, instead of just numbly giving in to the temptation with no thought, I heard very distinctly in my mind, "No."  Just, "No."  This happened 3 times in a row, and each time, my mind responded to the temptation with, "No."  You need to understand that this did not come from my own will and I knew it didn't each time it happened.  It was the Holy Spirit guiding me! Tears are streaming as I write this because it was such a breakthrough for me.  I was immediately aware that this was the Holy Spirit when it happened and I instantly filled with great joy and understanding.  I laughed, grinned, and looked up to God and told Him, "Thank you!"  "Thank you!"  "Thank you!"  "I get it!"  Leave the "problem" with you and place my focus on you!

Today I felt God nudge me to write about my experience, so again I googled "How do I let the Holy Spirit guide me?  The article (below) from gotquestions.org came up and is so good!  It repeats what God told me, as He so often does for me when He wants to teach or tell me something important.  I want to share it with you because it explains so perfectly how to overcome "problems" of sin in our lives, and it tells us how we are able to gain victory and let the Holy Spirit work in us in practical ways.

So....this year, I have hope.  A New Year, a new resolve.  I resolve to try as best I can to place God at the forefront...by focusing on Him instead of my problems.  As I do this, the Holy Spirit will be free to work and act in my life to fulfill God's plans for me.  I can trust Him!  My part is easy...focus on the One who loves me best.  I know the more I focus on Him, the more I love Him, and the more I love Him, the easier it is to focus on Him!  "The Problem" has distracted me from Him and taken away my focus on "The Answer!"

God's part is to do the heavy lifting!  Praise God!  God tells us in Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."

My sleep has become so sweet!  No longer do I "mull and ponder" my problem.  Now, I go to sleep after reading His Word to me and, when I do this, I sleep with a smile rather than a frown.  God's got my cares...they're written down and given over to Him in my Prayer Journal.  I can mull and ponder God's goodness to me and I can imagine what He looks like, what all He has stored up for me in Heaven, what adventures He has yet for us to go on together! Peace...sweet peace!

Precious Ones, my prayer for you in 2017 is that you will resolve to give your resolutions over to the only One who can fulfill them for you.  Resolve, instead, to love with all your heart the "Resolver" of all your problems!  I love you and pray God's richest blessings for you in the coming year!


(Here is the article I promised you taken from www.gotquestions.org:)

"Question: "How can I overcome sin in my Christian life?"

Answer: The Bible presents several different resources to aid us in our effort to overcome sin. In this lifetime, we will never be perfectly victorious over sin (1 John 1:8), but that should still be our goal. With God’s help, and by following the principles of His Word, we can progressively overcome sin and become more and more like Christ. 

The first resource the Bible mentions in our effort to overcome sin is the Holy Spirit. God has given us the Holy Spirit so we can be victorious in Christian living. God contrasts the deeds of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-25. In that passage we are called upon to walk in the Spirit. All believers already possess the Holy Spirit, but this passage tells us that we need to walk in the Spirit, yielding to His control. This means choosing to consistently follow the Holy Spirit's prompting in our lives rather than following the flesh.

The difference the Holy Spirit can make is demonstrated in the life of Peter, who, before being filled with the Holy Spirit, denied Jesus three times—and this after he had said he would follow Christ to the death. After being filled with the Spirit, he spoke openly and strongly to the Jews at Pentecost.

We walk in the Spirit as we try not to quench the Spirit’s promptings (as spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 5:19) and seek instead to be filled with the Spirit—that is, to be fully under the Spirit’s control (Ephesians 5:18–21). How is one filled with the Holy Spirit? If sin is what grieves the Spirit and hinders His filling, then obedience to God is how the filling of the Spirit is maintained. We should pray that we be filled with the Spirit, immerse ourselves in God’s Word (Colossians 3:16), and walk in obedience to God’s commands. This gives the Spirit freedom to work within our thoughts and actions.

The Word of God, the Bible, says that God has given us His Word to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It teaches us how to live and what to believe, it reveals to us when we have chosen wrong paths, it helps us get back on the right path, and it helps us to stay on that path. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is living and powerful, able to penetrate to our hearts to root out and overcome the deepest sins of heart and attitude. The psalmist talks about its life-changing power in-depth in Psalm 119. Joshua was told that the key to success in overcoming his enemies was not to forget this resource but instead to meditate on it day and night and obey it. This he did, even when what God commanded did not make sense militarily, and this was the key to his victory in his battles for the Promised Land.

The Bible is a resource that we too often treat lightly. We give token service to it by carrying our Bibles to church or reading a daily devotional or a chapter a day, but we fail to memorize it, meditate on it, or apply it to our lives; we fail to confess the sins it reveals or praise God for the gifts it reveals to us. When it comes to the Bible, we are often either anorexic or bulimic. We either take in just enough to keep us alive spiritually by eating from the Word (but never ingesting enough to be healthy, thriving Christians), or we come to feed often but never meditate on it long enough to get spiritual nutrition from it.

It is important, if you have not made a habit of daily studying and memorizing God's Word, that you begin to do so. Some find it helpful to start a journal. Make it a habit not to leave the Word until you have written down something you have gained from it. Some record prayers to God, asking Him to help them change in the areas that He has spoken to them about. The Bible is the tool the Spirit uses in our lives (Ephesians 6:17), an essential and major part of the armor that God gives us to fight our spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:12-18).

A third crucial resource in our battle against sin is prayer. Again, it is a resource that Christians often give lip service to but make poor use of. We have prayer meetings, times of prayer, etc., but we do not use prayer in the same way as the early church (Acts 3:14:316:413:1-3). Paul repeatedly mentions how he prayed for those he ministered to. God has given us wonderful promises concerning prayer (Matthew 7:7-11Luke 18:1-8John 6:23-271 John 5:14-15), and Paul includes prayer in his passage on preparing for spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:18).

How important is prayer to overcoming sin in our lives? We have Christ's words to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Peter's denial. As Jesus prays, Peter is sleeping. Jesus wakes him and says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41). We, like Peter, want to do what is right but are not finding the strength. We need to follow God's admonition to keep seeking, keep knocking, keep asking—and He will give us the strength that we need (Matthew 7:7). Prayer is not a magic formula. Prayer is simply acknowledging our own limitations and God's inexhaustible power and turning to Him for that strength to do what He wants us to do, not what we want to do (1 John 5:14-15).

A fourth resource in our war to conquer sin is the church, the fellowship of other believers. When Jesus sent His disciples out, He sent them out two-by-two (Mark 6:7). The missionaries in Acts did not go out one at a time, but in groups of two or more. The Bible commands us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together but to use that time for encouraging one another in love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). It tells us to confess our faults to one another (James 5:16). In the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, we are told that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). There is strength in numbers (Ecclesiastes 4:11-12).

Many Christians find that having an accountability partner can be a huge benefit in overcoming stubborn sins. Having another person who can talk with you, pray with you, encourage you, and even rebuke you is of great value. Temptation is common to us all (1 Corinthians 10:13). Having an accountability partner or an accountability group can give us the final dose of encouragement and motivation we need to overcome even the most stubborn of sins.

Sometimes, victory over sin comes quickly.  Other times, victory comes more slowly.  God has promised that as we make use of His resources, He will progressively bring about change in our lives.  We can persevere in our efforts to overcome sin because we know that He is faithful to His promises."



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Say, "What?"

"Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

So, I've always wondered:  "Which exactly is "His will" for me?  Being thankful or the circumstance?

Well...today, finally, I see the answer is..."Yes!"

"Yes" to being thankful.  And, "yes" to the fact that the circumstance is God's will for me!

I came to this answer today as I sat pondering a circumstance that I'm dealing with and have been dealing with for a while now.  It's a health issue that just hasn't gone away.  I've prayed about it a lot.  I've researched it a lot.  I've put into practice several suggestions for it.  I've spoken to my doctor about it - and was even given a clean bill of health - yet the symptoms persist to an even greater degree since seeing him last.  Perhaps I will go back to the doctor; I don't know for sure, but God is using the circumstance in a specific way that is causing me great joy.

Over the years, God has used King Asa in 2 Chronicles 16:12-14 to remind me that my health is more than just a physical issue:  "Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the LORD'S help but turned only to his physicians.  So he died in the forty-first year of his reign."

The "beloved doctor," Luke, traveled with Paul and was very helpful to him, so I highly regard the skill of doctors...and have been blessed many times over through the intervention of medicine and medical staff in my healthcare; however, I have experienced the blessing and miraculous healing God has brought to my life in other ways as well. Just as Jesus never healed two people the same way, God has never healed my body the same way twice.  I do know, though, that God always wants me to come to Him the same way:  His desire has always been for me to acknowledge His supremacy over my life. Then, He directs my path.

I have been searching the Scriptures for passages that might say something about what I'm going through. I have found several and have begun praying them over my situation.

After much seeking Scripture, praying, and soul-searching, the Lord led me to recognize an idol in my life.  I discovered a sin lurking...well camouflaged, but easily identified once my mind was in His Word.  First, God led me to Psalm 103:3:  "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of his benefits - who pardons all my sins, who heals all my diseases, who redeems my life from the pit, who crowns me with lovingkindness and compassion."

The Lord then spoke to me a word from Jesus' healing ministry:  The words, "Go and sin no more," and "Thy faith hath made thee well" were often spoken together when Jesus healed someone.  God very clearly pointed out a sin in my life.  It's something I have exalted over God.  An area of my life that has been taken over by a worldly philosophy, and He wants me to look to Him rather than where my focus has been.  This is a major shift for me and one that will take a lot of faith and trust...and communication with Him daily.  

The research I had done regarding my physical ailment led me to begin walking.  Seeking God through Scripture and prayer led me to recognize my need to begin memorizing Scripture in earnest.  The answers to my deepest need were found in the Scriptures God led me to, and my heart needed to ingest and meditate continually upon them.  God led me to do my walking while memorizing Scripture.  It is absolutely delightful!  It is thrilling to really digest these wonderful verses, praise God, and pray during my walk!  Had my circumstance not brought me to this point, I would never be walking and memorizing God's Word.  I am so very thankful that God brought me to this place!

Yesterday, I was overwhelmed with discouragement as I focused on my "problem."  Today, my focus has shifted from my circumstance to God as I recite Scriptures to myself about who He is, what He does for me, how He feels about me, and about the hope I have in Him...in all my circumstances.

I don't know yet how He is going to handle this situation in my life.  I do know He tells me to forget none of his benefits...that He pardons all my sins, He heals all my diseases, He redeems my life from the pit, and He crowns me with lovingkindness and compassion! That about covers my need!

I actually found myself thanking Him today during my walk for the circumstance I am dealing with.  I am thankful because it drew me close to Him and, because He led me to Scripture, He was able to reveal more of Himself to me.  Because He led me to memorize and really internalize these Scriptures, I sense His love for me all throughout the day.  He is reminding me not to forget all the benefits He bestows upon me because I am His.

So, what circumstance do you find yourself in today?   Is it a health problem?  A relationship problem?  Financial?  Emotional?  Fear?  Marriage?  Singleness?  Work? Family?  A stronghold you haven't been able to beat?  Are you feeling out of control? What exactly, then, is His will for you in it?

May I make a suggestion:  Go to the LORD in humility and acknowledge your inability...your weakness...God LOVES to show off for us!  He wants us to admit He is God and we are not.  He offers to carry our burdens for us.  His desire is always to draw us to Himself.  His desire is a personal relationship with you.  He created you, breathed the breath of life into your nostrils, loves you, and His desire is for you to love Him.  Always, always, God's desire is relationship with you!

Blaise Pascal said, "There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus."  David Jeremiah writes, "When people realize that nothing on earth will satisfy their longing they begin to identify their thirst.  That is when they are poised to come to Christ.  They realize that they are thirsty and He is the living water every human craves.  It is He who fills the empty place that all of us since Adam have been born with."

My prayer for you today is that no matter what your circumstance, you will seek God in it. It has been designed specifically for you.  It is the vehicle through which God is drawing you to Himself...either for the first time, to become His child; or, He is calling you who are already His child to come close to Him again.  He has something of Himself He wants to reveal to you.  Be thankful for the vehicle He has sent.  It is His will for you.  It is for your good and best happiness.  Trust Him with it and let Him lead you.  I pray you will be overtaken with joy when God shows you His will and purpose for blessing you with this circumstance.

REMEMBER to "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits - who pardons all my sins, who heals all my diseases, who redeems my life from the pit, who crowns me with lovingkindness and compassion."

I found it interesting as I searched out "compassion" and found it means "mercy and leniency."  "Lovingkindness" means "acts of kindness, motivated by love."  "Sins, (or iniquities)" are "immoral or grossly unfair behavior."  To "bless the Lord" means to "praise the LORD", literally, "to kneel in worship."  God is "glorified, elevated," when we "bless or praise and acknowledge Him" by giving Him praise, adoration, thanksgiving, and love. This is what we were created to do!

I didn't read Psalm 103, the 4th verse, (Psalm 103:4) until I was writing this.  It says, "He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle's!"  ...Yes!  Praise you, Oh God, for this lovingkindness...it's just what I needed to hear today.  I love it; thank you for this!

"Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."



Friday, May 6, 2016

Unabashedly Poliltical: Beware!

I want to remind Christians of the story of Jehoshaphat:

The Bible tells us in 2 Chronicles 17:3:  "The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the example of his father's early years and did not worship the images of Baal. He sought his father's God and obeyed his commands instead of following the evil practices of the kingdom of Israel.  So the LORD established Jehoshaphat's control over the kingdom of Judah...He was deeply committed to the ways of the LORD.  He removed the pagan shrines and Asherah poles from Judah.

In 2 Chronicles 20, Scripture tells us that Jehoshaphat (1) begged the LORD for guidance, (2) looked to God for help, (3) urged his people to believe in the LORD their God and that because of this, all the surrounding kingdoms heard that the LORD himself had fought against the enemies of Israel and the fear of God came over them.  So Jehoshaphat's kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.  (2 Chronicles 20:29-30)

Then, 2 Chronicles 20:35-37 stuns us:  "Some time later King Jehoshaphat of Judah made an alliance with King Ahaziah of Israel, who was very wicked.  Together they built a fleet of trading ships at the port of Ezion-geber.  Then Eliezer son of Dodavahu from Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat.  He said, "Because you have allied yourself with King Ahaziah, the LORD will destroy your work."  So the ships met with disaster and never put out to sea."

God clearly showed me that it is extremely important to whom we give our allegiance...with whom we ally ourselves.  Let us not be deceived, Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  "Making deals" politically is very serious.  And,  Christians allying themselves with wickedness in any form is dangerous business.  I see this happening around me right now in the Christian community as fear and anger has gripped our nation in a way I have never witnessed before.  God repeatedly tells His children, "Fear NOT!" Do not let fear drive your actions.  It can make you form alliances you would otherwise never make.

Sweet Child of God, I urge you to calm yourself...get back to your roots.  Remember to whom you owe your allegiance as a child of God.  Remember we are to be set apart and different.  We should not be choosing whom to vote for based on "at leasts" or "the lesser of two evils" when given two evil options.  We always have a "best" option:  Trust God! We should trust God and pour our hearts out to Him.  "Humanly speaking it is impossible.  But not with God.  Everything is possible with God." (Matthew 19:26)

Maintain your godly principles and trust God!  Small compromises are what the enemy has used to get us to where we are in our country today.  Do not let yourself compromise and make deals with the enemy of your soul.  "Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you.  Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left.  Then you will be successful in everything you do.  Study this Book of Instruction continually.  Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it.  Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.  This is my command - be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:7-9)

Let us ask ourselves, WWJD?  In the New Testament, did Jesus compromise with evil? Did he align himself with any political camp in order to perhaps get some of what he wanted done?  Rather, I see Jesus staying in constant communication with His Father and teaching faith in order to accomplish His Father's will.  Brothers and Sisters, in your heart of hearts, question yourself to the bone and see if, perhaps, you have been tempted to "side" with one camp or another in this political season because you are fearful.  Look to see if this is causing you to compromise your convictions.  If it is, remember Jehoshaphat. He started out well.  But compromise took him down.

Do you really want your work destroyed?  I have lived long enough now to be witness to the fact this is a principle.  Small compromises - or big ones - over time lead to a downward spiral of failure.  "Don't be misled - you cannot mock the justice of God.  You will always harvest what you plant." (Galatians 6:7)

Remember:  Humanly speaking, this might look impossible, but with God, everything is possible.  We must just remember to do it His way and let Him work.  In His way.  In His time.  Ours is not to jump into the fray like petrified rabid animals.  Ours is to trust in God...not in a political party and certainly not in a frail human.  "Don't put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.  When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them.  But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God." (Psalm 146:3-5)

Where have I placed my trust?  For a Christian, there is only one answer.  It does not matter if we are a pastor or if we are the newest Babe in Christ.  I, for one, have found that I have had to literally rip myself away from "belief in" and "trust in" the Republican party which I have stood with practically my entire life.  I had to come face to face with the fact that I have been putting my trust in a political party to make my life good and easy for me as a Christian.  This has been good for me.  God has meant this political cycle for good for me as His child.  He has reminded me Who is in charge.  My faith in Him has been renewed.

Fear has gone...joy has returned...

I pray this peace for those, my Brothers and Sisters in Christ who, like me, have seen what has taken place during these political primaries and have been horrified by those scenes.  Return to your roots...give your total allegiance once again to the One of whom Scripture says, "He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings."  (Daniel 2:21)

My faith has be be strong enough to believe that God can work...Even.  If.  I.  Don't.  Vote! Imagine the blasphemy!  I once believed my vote was the most important thing in the country!  Today, I am Second.  God is First!  Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven..."

...Today God has given me a refreshing season of freedom.  A season of laying myself down and lifting Him up.  A season of giving my patriotic burden to Him and letting Him carry it for me.

God has a plan.  God has a work He is doing.  I can trust Him with it.

Is God perhaps asking you to test your faith as well?

Regardless of circumstances, God would have each of us answer this very serious and important question:

Deep down, where truly do I have my faith placed?



Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Forgive Me.

It's over.

The dream I had for America having another godly president.  The vision I had of God bringing America back to its godly roots.

Indiana voted and America has sent a message loud and clear.  The America of my past is gone.  I have experienced a forced paradigm shift.  I feel as though in an instant of clarity I have been transplanted onto foreign soil.  I have become a "foreign missionary" in my own country.

No longer can I assume that my beliefs are "normal."  No more do I feel "safe" espousing my views freely.  America has changed.  No, it hasn't happened overnight...but, the reality of it has suddenly dawned upon me.  I've been fighting the truth.  Fighting and dog-clawing my way back to the way it used to be.  And, my prayers and my staunch beliefs to make it so have not made it so.

Barack Obama infamously stated that America is not a Christian nation.  I didn't believe him and it incensed me.  We were founded on Judaeo Christian principles.  But Americans by and large are truly not "Christian" if by Christian we mean belief on Jesus as the one and only Son of God, of whom we ask forgiveness of our sins and thereby become children of God.

I had an epiphany today.  I can no longer live my life in the blessed luxury of ease...the cushy knowledge that my beliefs are safe here and that I should be understood.  No, now I see clearly that I am living in a hostile land and I should not be shocked and surprised when my views are mocked and perhaps even litigated against.  I see a deep need to take my Christianity much more seriously.  My grandchildren will need to have the backbone of a firm Christian foundation to traverse this terrain that feels so foreign now to me.  They will need to really know what they believe and why or they will soon be eaten up by this culture.

I see my place in society completely differently than I did yesterday.  It's freeing in a way.  I have been shoved out of my comfort zone...out of my cozy Christian life in my cozy Christian country in my cozy Christian community and my cozy Christian home.  I have been cast out into the world as a missionary of my belief in Jesus Christ.  That's how it's been all along...it just looked different to me yesterday.  Yesterday I tried to believe I lived in a safe haven.  Today I see I am different and my world is not safe.  Christ has always been my refuge.  Yesterday I knew that.  Today I cling to it.

Christian ethos in my era could almost be "caught," as it was taught in school and its principles were lifted high.  In these days of men and boys in women's and girls' restrooms and dressing rooms and school locker rooms and boys "becoming" girls and girls "becoming" boys and society ensuring "sensitivity" for the few at the cost of the many, where men marry men and women marry women and babies are born and parents are not allowed to tell them what gender they are but rather let them choose, and when robots are being built to be full-time child caretakers and when baby "parts" are being sold as a commodity and evil is espoused as good and good as evil - when right is wrong and wrong is right - the only thing being "caught" is confusion.  It makes my mind spin and my heart race.

No wonder so many in our society today are eating and drinking and medicating and exercising and entertaining themselves to death and are whirling as furiously as they can at any and everything trying to escape and numb their brains.

The enemy of our souls has us right where he wants us.  Away from the source of our peace and sanity.

This evening as I was wallowing in my sorrow over a lost America and as I was feeling a kindred spirit with Georg on the Sound of Music as he was sorrowing over his lost Austria, God spoke very clearly to me...

"Ted Cruz is not your King.  I am your King."

Silence...

Point taken.

To heart.

Peace.

Thank you, King Jesus.  Forgive me.

A rough road ahead?  Undoubtedly.  God has told me again that even in the midst of judgment on this country, He knows how to keep His own.  In 2 Peter 2:7-10, God tells us once again about this truth:  "God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and turned them into heaps of ashes.  He made them an example of what will happen to ungodly people.  But God also rescued Lot out of Sodom because he was a righteous man who was sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him.  Yes, Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day.  So you see, the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials, even while keeping the wicked under punishment until the day of final judgment.  He is especially hard on those who follow their own twisted sexual desire, and who despise authority."

Ezekiel 16:48-50 states:  "As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, Sodom and her daughters were never as wicked as you and your daughters.  Sodom's sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.  She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen."  I don't know about you...but, I was quite surprised by what God considered Sodom's sins.  In the past, I have remembered only one of them...

I have a Savior.  I have a Heavenly King.  He is the one in whom I place my trust. America has crowned her "Saul."  God has reminded me I belong to a Heavenly Kingdom...that until Christ comes again, my citizenship is of another world.  "Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.  For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.  They are headed for destruction.  Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.  But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.  And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.  He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control."  (Philippians 3:17-21)

Today I realize I have not "lost" my America.  One day it will be redeemed and perfect. Through this election process, God has indeed returned me to "my roots"...returned me to His Kingship.  And in that realm He has work for me to do.  He tells me my burden will be light, and I can rest in Him.

Thank you, King Jesus.  "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty - the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come."  (Revelation 4:11)

  


Friday, April 8, 2016

When the Past Flashes

I told my daughter, Molly, about something today that has been deeply troubling to me. Surprisingly, she has been going through the exact same experience...and neither of us realized the other was going through it...

For many, many months...perhaps even a few years...I have been having what I've come to call "my life flashing before my eyes."  It has been disconcerting to say the least.  I have thought maybe it's just an age thing...because I am getting...well...older.  At first I thought maybe I was going to die so God was letting me "get my accounts up to date with Him." Each time a memory cropped up and I realized how badly I had handled a situation in the past, I always asked God to forgive me for it and I would shake my head in disbelief, wondering, "How could I have said or done such a thing?!"  When these events continued playing off and on...and I hadn't died...I thought maybe the enemy was just toying with me...keeping me sad or upset or feeling guilty.  So, I have been quoting Romans 8:1-2, "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death."

Honestly, these memories of times where I've done or said something that make me cringe now to think of them haven't been just a few.  I have been startled by the vast multitude that keep coming.  Especially recently.  It's been interesting, too, because these aren't generally memories of times where I've purposely said or done something to hurt someone.  Usually, they're just instances of "stupidity" that happened in the course of daily events at the time, but looking back on them, I am sorry for how the situation was handled. I think to myself, "Had I just been more mature"...or "If I had just thought about it"...or "What was I thinking?!"..."How could I have...?" And, these revelations have piled up over time until they've made me feel terrible about myself.  I've apologized to God for each one (at least once!) and I have sincerely made an effort to "change" so that I never have to add more of these situations to my "list" that will just "come back to haunt me one day!"

Well, today Molly and I took a road trip (because my favorite shoe store is an hour and a half from where we live!).  During the course of our conversation, I mentioned to Molly about this crazy phenomenon that has been happening to me.  You can only imagine my shock when she replied, "That's been happening to me too."  Well, Molly is not old... and I consider her to be very measured and sure in her responses to others - perhaps this phenomenon was something other than "preparing for the end!"

After a brief silence Molly said to me, "I wonder if that's something that comes along with grief, too?"  My daughter is extremely insightful...she has the spiritual gift of discernment, and I have learned to really listen when she speaks.

I write this blog so that someone who might be going through something similar to what I've gone through might be helped by my experience.  Maybe you've had this happen to you and don't understand it either.  I pray the insights Molly and I discussed will bring some peace into your experience as it has for me.

One of my first blogposts addressed the issue of "side dishes" that come along with death. In it, I express the fact that many of these dishes are quite ugly.  Until my husband died, I had no idea what other issues could rear their ugly heads along with the already-excruciating pain of the death itself.

This year around Christmastime was the 10th anniversary of my husband's (Molly's dad's) death.  I've put up nine other Christmas trees with "our" special ornaments and, while it's been a sentimental time and I have felt the pain of missing him, I've felt the very same way every year:  I experience the pain of the loss of my husband, then I move on and enjoy Christmas!  I've processed through all the stages of grief and I've dealt with my sorrow.  I came a long time ago to the place of acceptance and have achieved great peace and happiness.  I've dealt with God about it and I came fairly early on to accept and have joy in the knowledge that God is Sovereign and He knows and does what is best for me.  He promises in Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."  And Genesis 50:20, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good."  I especially love Jeremiah 29:11:  "For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD.  "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."

This year was markedly different from the past nine.  As we put up the tree together as a family, with the same ornaments, I experienced a much deeper sorrow over my loss than I had any previous year...

At the same time I also noticed another change...

I love to watch romantic comedies, but since they always end "happily ever after," I would normally get wistful and think to myself, "I wish I had what they have.  Why can't I have that anymore?"  I have always talked to God about it and am fine in the end.  But, this year while putting up the tree, my thoughts - though deeply sorrowful - were not about my "losses."  Instead, a deluge of memories swept over me and I thought, "Look at all I've had!" I experienced the deepest sadness I've had in ten years this Christmas, yet at the same time I began to experience the most beautiful, loving, memories!  Over the past ten years, I couldn't even watch family videos or look through photo albums because it was just too hard.  The memories were too painful.  I haven't looked at any for 10 years! The first thing I did after getting the tree up this year, though, was to run to my closet and pore through all thirty of our family photo albums!  What a joyous experience it was! When I watched romantic Christmas movies this year, I found myself saying, "THAT'S WHAT I HAD!  I was so blessed to have love like that!"

Two kinds of sorrow with two completely different perspectives.  One focused on my "loss."  The other focused on "All I've had!"  I discovered this year that my pain had turned to gratitude.  Slowly...subtly.  It had slipped in quietly and unexpectedly.  It seems strange that it would take ten years for such a drastic pivot in perspective to take place.   Especially when I have been so grateful to God for all He has done for me in the years since Paul died.  I have grown to love Him with all my heart and to appreciate Him in ways I never would have had I not gone through what I can now call a "rich" journey of grief. This change of view startled me this Christmas.

At the same time...these crazy "bad" memories just keep on coming!

..."I wonder if that's something that comes along with grief, too?"...

Molly and I had a very interesting discussion this afternoon about it all.  We decided that these memories are coming from a place around the time of Paul's death where we were catapulted into new and strange and scary transitions.  There was no time for thinking and planning and calmly deciding.  Our entire family was thrust into hazardous territory. Decisions had to be made quickly.  New normals were being worked through.  It's as though our brains...our memories...moments frozen in time...are just now "shuffling" into order.  It's like our brains are "rebooting" and all the memories that had to be "stored for awhile" during our grief are being organized.  With these stored-away "screen shots" are coming sweet, precious memories as well as very difficult ones, and we're now having to deal with them.  Graciously, God is sending them back into our consciousness little by little so we can handle them all!  It's amazing how gentle God is with us.  I think if it wasn't for the "shock" stage of grief God provides us, we would self-destruct in the aftermath of a traumatic event such as the death of a loved one...or any significant loss in our life.

I remember distinctly one evening...it might even have been a couple of nights...as Paul lay in ICU.  He began to call out sequences from his life and people he had known throughout his lifetime.  He wasn't really "coherent" to the casual observer, but the things he was recalling were readily understood by me.  He called out times and people in his life he'd never talked about much.  Many of the times I knew had been painful to him. At the time I felt that his life was flashing before his eyes.  I remember there was a man in the same hospital in a faraway room doing the same thing.  He was loudly replaying scenes from his life.  Exactly the same.  The nurse told me the man was dying.

A friend of mine was recently in town from Washington state and we enjoyed time catching up on one another and our families.  She was in Dallas for a spiritual conference.  As she was about to get out of the car to catch her plane she mentioned something interesting. She said, "God told me it's time to open the door marked, "John."  She said that during the conference a speaker quoted someone from centuries long past: "Our hearts are like a giant castle, and in that castle are many doors. We open these doors and let God into some of the rooms.  Others, we are afraid to let Him into.  But, we need to make each door available to Him."  My friend had lost her husband, John, the year after I lost Paul. She told me it was time for her to explore that room. She's stayed super busy these past several years and has yet to let God into that room.

With every loss in life, the time must come when we "do business with God" about it.  We must finally come to the understanding that God is good and has our best in mind. Always. Until we come to a point of acceptance about what He has allowed to happen in our lives, we will continue to live "mad" at Him and we will not enjoy peace.  Nor will we be able to move on.  When we become mad, resentful, and bitter over a loss, we ultimately realize it's God who could have changed the situation "if He just would have."  That is the starting point.  Go to God with it.  He can handle your anger, your sadness, and your grief. "Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later." (Romans 8:18)

God can show you, in time, reasons it was better for you to lose "it" than to have "kept it." Keeping yourself shut off from Him, however, will keep you from seeing the good. Charles Stanley says, "God will never take what is ultimately for your best and He will never give you what would ultimately be bad for you."  That's a hard saying, but I have seen it to be true over and over again in my own life.  I have cried buckets over situations that felt like a "death," only to realize later how blessed I was that He said "No" to my fervent prayer. God never takes something from us without in turn giving something good to us.  I've witnessed Him, time and again, giving me something I treasure even more.  Ask Him to do that for you.  He is waiting with open arms and He wants to comfort you and show Himself better to you than you can even imagine in your loss.

My friend made a statement that resonated with me.  She told me she has had "pain aversion."  She has locked a door in her heart that says, "I refuse to be hurt again.  That door must remain shut."  Then, the statement that froze me in my tracks...

The speaker, she said, went on to say, "The way you lock others out is the same way you treat God."

I thought about this a lot.  I, too, had been thinking that I was putting up barriers.  Some barriers had been thrust upon me with Paul's death, but pretty soon it became so easy to make barriers a way of life.  It was so much easier, I thought, to erect an island with an ocean encircling it entirely so nothing and no one could reach me.  Looking back, I see very definitely it was a coping mechanism...a way to control something, anything, when so much in life became so out of my control when Paul died.

There comes freedom when you give control over to God, the One who says, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light." (Matthew 11:28-29)

As Molly and I talked and reminisced over the events of our lives we realized that at this 10-year mark, though the most painful so far, we both had also come to a good place...a place of happy memories that were no longer too painful to touch.  We were at a place of rest and peace.  And the Lord was speaking to me about barriers.  As I have begun to let more barriers down, a flood of wonderful memories has come pouring through.  Along with the release of memories has come an entirely different surge of recollections...the ones finally being "shuffled" into order in my brain.  Memories of times where I wouldn't really have done anything differently because, at the time, I was doing the best I could.  Along with this deluge of memories of events surrounding Paul's death, I am also having memories of random times throughout my lifetime.  More shuffling...

Today I came home and googled "life flashing before my eyes."  This quote came up, and it describes so perfectly what Molly and I have both been experiencing:


     "Most things were pleasant to see, some things made me very embarrassed.  In fact, revulsion and guilt took away any good feelings, making me so very sorry for certain things I had said or done.  I hadn't just seen what I had done, but I felt and knew the repercussions of my actions.  I felt the injury or pain of those who suffered because of my selfish or inappropriate behavior."


So...

I have opened that heart-door marked, "Memories - Good and Bad" and I am enjoying with all my heart the many, many, beautiful memories God has given me.  The memories that come and give me reason to condemn myself, I give over to God.  I ask Him to forgive me for my either purposeful or ignorant responses and I remind myself what He says to me:  "There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death." (Romans 8:1-2)  And, I thank God that He has led me to this point.  Truly, He has led me on a spiritually-rich journey through grief.

Loss is loss.  The death of a loved one is not the only loss common to man.  Any traumatic experience can trigger us to erect barriers.  As I've discovered, these barriers hold us prisoner much more than they keep pain out.  And, in erecting barriers to keep pain out, we succeed only in keeping the One out Who alone is able to ease our sorrow and make all things new again.

Dear One, Trust Him and breathe.  Rest in Him and in His never-failing love for you.  I don't know who God had me write this for.  I am one, but I know there is another He wants to speak peace to.  Talk to Him about your walls - the barriers you've erected - those doors you've locked and nailed shut. Tell Him you don't want to shut Him out. I didn't realize it was what I was doing, but I do know I haven't been free to use my own spiritual gift in His service for a long time because it meant I would have to let others "in."

Today as Molly was putting gas in the car for our road trip to the shoe store, I looked ahead and saw an elderly man struggling to get gas into his car.  At the same time I saw his license plate, partially obscured by a piece of his trunk falling down over it. To the left of the plate number was a Purple Heart.  I felt an urging to go talk to this brave soldier.  I debated with myself for a while, but I clearly felt the Lord telling me to speak gratitude to him for what he did for our country.  I asked him if he was the one who received the Purple Heart and he told me he was.  I asked him about it and he told me he was wounded by the enemy two separate times and he had earned two Purple Hearts. We spoke briefly and I thanked him through tears for what he had done.  I went back to the car and told my grandkids about him and what he had done.  The man finished, turned and looked at me and, smiling, waved before getting into his car.  He is the first one I've "let in."  He was the first one I've felt free enough in a long time to encourage at God's behest. It felt so good again to hear God ask me to use my spiritual gift of encouragement! It felt even better after I had done it.  I pray it made this man's day brighter as I asked God to bless him.

The barriers I erected are being torn down.  Memories - good and bad - are flooding in.  I welcome them and feel free.  I am finally able to really, truly, enjoy the lifetime of beautiful memories God has given me and I can at last understand that with the washing in of the beauty of life, through Christ and His work in my heart I can also have peace with the ugly memories and put them to rest.  They are all a part of His story in my life and I won't hold them prisoner any longer.

Do you have a door in your castle that is locked nice and tight?  What is written on that door?  I urge you to let God into that room and trust Him to make all things new again for you.  It's time to experience the freedom God has for you!

"Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)