Well Digging

Seven years ago our family began a remarkable journey.   Being called into the ministry, my husband felt led to finish his college education.  He was 30 years old.  At the time we had been married 10 years and our children were small.  During this journey we have moved 6 times in three different states, sold two homes, sold our embroidery business, and homeschooled our three children.  Dana has been a wonderful husband, devoted father, spiritual leader, sole-provider, protector of his family, pastor and friend to many.  Today, after 7 years, the children and I sat proudly as we watched him received his Masters in Ministry degree from Tennessee Temple Seminary in Chattanooga, TN.  I thank the Lord for giving him the grace and strength to finish the task that was set before him.  Our family recognizes that it is our Heavenly Father who deserves all the glory. 

Dr. Ken Ham, from Answers in Genesis, was the commencement speaker this morning.  He blessed our hearts as he spoke on digging wells.  “For all the wells which his father’s servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth…. And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them.  (Gen 26:15, 18)

Dr. Ham made a striking comparison to today.  Our founding fathers built this country upon the Word of God.  They dug deep wells that sprung forth life-giving waters.  This water is Jesus Christ himself.  Over several generations, the “Philistines” have stopped these wells using public education, secular colleges, the media, Hollywood, and false preachers and teachers.  They have filled the wells with lies and have stopped the flow of water.  Dr. Ham charged the audience to go out into the world and, like Isaac, re-dig the wells that have been stopped.  In addition, we need to be about digging new wells that bring forth life-giving water.  But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:14)

 So dearest husband, I want to thank you for working so hard all these years.  And while your degree is quite an accomplishment, it is nothing compared to the work you have done “digging wells” all these years.  Your family has seen it.  Many times we have been there right along with you, handing you a shovel, wiping the sweat from your brow, or fixing you a refreshing drink of water while you work.  And we look forward to many more years of well digging with you.

With all our love, Kimberly, Aaron, Abigail, and Andrew

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The Dogwood

Living in the middle of a national forest has its advantages. Driving home from town the other day my husband stops the car. He gets out and walks over to a dogwood tree, jumps up, pulls a flower off, and brings it to me. The children and I take turns smelling the fragrant aroma and discussing its beauty. During the drive we were able to enjoy the sight of several dogwood trees. I commented that I would love to have one in my yard. Later that evening my boys rushed into the house and said, “Mom, come here! We have something to show you!” They brought me over to my bedroom window and opened the shade. To my surprise there was a tiny dogwood tree planted right outside my window. It was beautiful! Of course, it was just a large branch that they stuck into the ground. We all knew that our “tree” would not last. But the motive behind my boy’s action was that of eternal splendor. My boys wanted to please me and the desire came from their love for me.

Last night as I was reading in I John, I came across a verse that made me think about this story again. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous,” 1John 5:3. God’s commandments are not burdensome! Our obedience to our Lord should be from a heart’s desire to please Him, not because we have to obey but because we want to! Just as it was in no way burdensome to my boys to show their love for me in action, so should it never be grievous or burdensome for us, as God’s children, to show our love in obedience. Will I always obey with pure delight? No! But I will say this. The only time the commandments of God become grievous to me is when I am doing them in the flesh. When I am walking in the Spirit, His commands are joyous. My obedience flows from a love I have for my Father because of His great love for me. So the next time I look at a dogwood tree it will serve as a reminder of God, His love, and His blessed commands.

A few knives and a “mazooka”

A few weeks ago we were sitting in the car waiting on my husband to come out of a store. Our next stop was to have pictures made for our passports. The children were talking about them and our upcoming trip out of the country. They were asking if we would be fingerprinted. I told them, “No, we just need pictures taken”. To which Andrew responded with, “I don’t care if they take my fingerprints. I have nothing to hide!” He paused for a moment and then said, “Well, maybe a few knives and a mazooka…”

This statement made me think. How many people go through life with things to hide? How many things do I try to hide? As a child of God, I believe in being sincere and true in all that I do. But even then, there is a part of me, deep within, that I want no one to know about. There are thoughts, worries, fears, and sins of my heart that only God knows. Like the Psalmist I often pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” Psalm 139:23-24. I am so glad that I can go to the Lord, for He is more forgiving than mankind. “O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee,” Psalm 69:5. There is great peace in knowing that nothing is hidden from God. Even with all my faults and failures, God knows my motives. He knows my heart. He knows my deepest desire to please Him in all I do. In confidence I can truly say to Him, “I have nothing to hide!” Thank you Lord for that!

By the way, the “mazooka” my seven year old owns is made by Nerf and “the few knives”…well, that’s another story.

Faith – a verse-by-verse study through James

The second book in my Living Out the Word series is finally finished!  Faith – A verse-by-verse study for women through the book of James.  The proof copy is on its way.  If all goes well we can expect it to be available to the public within a month.  I thank the Lord that He has allowed me to finish this and I pray that He receives all glory.  Below is an insert from the introduction.

 You could summarize the book of James in one word, “FAITH”.  Just what does it mean to have faith?  Every day you demonstrate great faith.  Even now, wherever you are sitting, you have placed faith in your chair to hold you.  Chances are you sat down without a bit of fear or worry that you would be held up.  You are relaxed and confident in the ability of your seat.  We demonstrate faith when we ride in an elevator, when we get in a car, when we fly in a plane.  We demonstrate faith in our doctors and the medicines they give us.  We even demonstrate faith in our own bodies when we first place our feet on the floor each morning to take a walk.  We demonstrate faith in restaurants when we eat food someone else has prepared. We demonstrate faith in our husbands, in our children, in our friends and family. If you pay attention you will find yourself demonstrating great faith throughout any given day.  Faith means to believe in something or to have trust.  But, what does it mean to have faith in God?  Is it enough to just say, “I believe in God”?  No, for we will find out later in James that even the devils believe and they tremble.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  And in verse six it tells us that, “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  Jesus spoke of faith often.  He spoke of those with little faith and those who had great faith.  He said that it was because of their faith that many were healed, that they were made whole, and that they were saved.  Faith moves mountains. 

In the book of James we will learn that faith endures trials, faith understands temptations, faith gives us wisdom to pass the tests given, faith obeys the Word, faith produces doers, faith harbors no prejudice, faith displays itself in works, faith controls the tongue, faith acts wisely, and faith gives us the ability to resist the devil and draw nigh to God.  

So, what exactly is faith?  My husband often gives a very simple and easy definition of what faith is.  It is simply having confidence in the trustworthiness of God.   As you study through the book of James remember that simple definition of faith.

                     Faith is simply confidence in the trustworthiness of God.                          

In other words, faith is having complete assurance that God will do what He says He will do.  So the only way to build our faith is to know God and His Word.  It is through His Word that we learn of His trustworthiness and through His Spirit working in our lives that our confidence is built.  As we study the book of James, that will be our goal – to study His Word, verse by verse and line by line in order to know Him better.  By doing this, our faith will continue to grow. 

My Precious Nephew

Those who know me know how anxious I have been about the birth of my only sister’s first child.  Landon Paul was born on March 1st weighing 8lbs 5oz.  He is precious.  You have seen as much of him as I have, for this picture is all I have.  We live hundreds of miles apart but my heart and prayers are with them all.   And I long for the day I can hold him.

At a prayer meeting this week some of the ladies were talking about how they only needed one or two children.  “That was plenty!”  they said.   I asked, “Ladies, if God’s blessings were a million dollars how many would you like to have?”  To which they all responded with, “As many as God would give us!”  Truth is, God has told us in His Word what He considers blessings.  Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them Psalm 127:3-5a        

 Sure we’ll gladly take tangible blessings (money, clothing, riches, homes, etc.), all of which will soon be gone.  But we don’t want the eternal blessings – a godly heritage.  Eternal blessings are the only ones that will matter.   “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man…”  When Psalm 127 was written, arrows were hand crafted.  Life and death depended upon the careful molding and shaping of these valuable instruments.  They were then launched out of the hands of the warrior to fight the enemy.    That is why the rest of Psalms 127 says,  “they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate” Psalm 127:5b. 

A sweet lady told me this week that she wouldn’t want to bring more children into this cruel world.  She was already concerned with what her children and grandchildren would have to face.  I’ve thought about that since then.  The reason the future looks so dim for my children is because God’s people, for several generations now, have refused to do the hard things necessary to bring up a lasting heritage of the Lord.  Consequently, we should not be surprised when the enemies overtake us.  The Muslims birthrate averages 8 children per woman.  The unwed birthrate is overwhelming.   The ungodly have plenty of children.  Where is the God-fearing Christians who take God’s Word as Truth?  Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them – they shall not be ashamed.

Here is my prayer, “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace: That our garners may be full… Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD” Psalm 144:12-15. 

Why am I sick?

Even as a small child, sitting beside my father and mother in church, I noticed a pattern in prayer request.  It seems as though times have not changed much.  Almost every time when a prayer is mentioned it is for someone who is sick.  On occasions a dear saint might ask for the salvation of a lost family member or someone might ask for prayer for their family or for our country.  But I have noticed that most prayer request are for the sick, dying, and grieving.  When someone would give a testimony of praise it, as well, usually involved a healing from a sickness.  What is it about sickness that consumes so much of our prayer life?  As believers, why are physical concerns our only concerns?  Why are we not praying for our lost family members, friends, neighbors, and church members?  Why are we not praying for our missionaries as they battle in this spiritual war waged against them?  Why are we not praying for those who are destroying their own lives by living in sin?  Why are we not praying for our church families who are falling apart at the seams?  Why are we not praying for the immature, babes in Christ to grow in grace and knowledge?  Why are we not praying for the faithful mature believers to remain strong and true?  Why are we not praying for a spiritual hedge of protection upon our church?  Why are we not praying for God to raise up godly men who are willing to do the hard things necessary in our churches and nation?

 Perhaps it is the personal aspect.  Unfortunately, even children of God tend to be self-centered in our prayer life.  These types of prayers are hard to pray.  It takes a spiritually mature child of God to deny self and pray earnestly for others.  It takes hours and hours upon our knees to pray as we should.  It takes a rejection of this physical world to place our thoughts and affections upon spiritual things. It is easy to ask prayer for Brother So-and-so when he is sick, but it is a lot harder to pray for Brother So-and-so who lives in bitterness, strife, and constant sin.  It is a lot easier to pray for Sister So-and-so who is having surgery than to pray for Sister So-and-so who struggles with gossip. And it is a lot easier to ask prayer for ourselves when we are physically afflicted than to ask prayer for ourselves when we struggle and our faith is weak.  You see, it is easy to pray for the physical things but these are not the most important things.  It is only the spiritual things that will matter in eternity.  It is not our sickness that will matter as much as how we deal with our sickness.  When we become sick do we allow God to work in our lives, molding and shaping us into Christ’ image?  Do we see the hand of God working to draw us closer to Him during these times?  Do we see His perfect will being wrought in our lives and the lives of others?  It is these spiritual things in which we should pray.

 However, since sickness does acquire so much attention in our lives, it is important to recognize the different types.  Whether it is our sickness or others that we are praying for, God is sovereign in it all.  I believe that a child of God who diligently seeks the Lord and His face can petition God to reveal the purpose for the sickness.  In Scripture, I have found at least four reasons.

 The first and most apparent is the sickness unto death.  “And as it is appointed unto men once to die…”Hebrews 9:27a.  “For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23a.  We are all under the curse of death and there comes a point in our lives, as a result of sin, that our physical bodies will die and return to the earth.  “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” Genesis 3:17-19.  Therefore, from the moment of birth we begin to physically die. The statistic is accurate.  Ten out of ten people die.  It is a part of life.  We should seek wisdom from God to know when we should stop praying for healing and begin praying for grace.  “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15.

 There is also a sickness due to testing.  Job is an example of this.  “And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown” (Job 2:6-7).  There are times that God will send a sickness for no other purpose than to test our faith.  A mature believer can learn to be thankful for these times of testing.  For it is in trials that our faith grows.   “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” James 1:3-4.    

There is also a sickness for no other purpose than God’s glory.  Do you remember the story of Jesus healing the blind man?  Jesus and his disciples passed by a man who was blind from his birth.  The disciples asked, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:2.  Jesus responded that neither the man sinned or his parents but “that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”  Do you remember the story of Mary and Martha sending messengers to Jesus about Lazarus’ sickness?  “When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” John 11:4.  I have heard story after story about a person who had cancer or some other fatal illness.  But then God in His mercy answered prayers and healed this person.  It was the sickness that revealed God’s glory to the world.

 The fourth cause of sickness is due to unconfessed sin in the believer’s life.  The Corinthian church was taking the Lord Supper unworthily and bringing about condemnation. “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” 1Corinthians 11:30.  Many times God will chasten His children with an illness to bring them to repentance.  “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” Revelations 3:19.  God loves His children too much to let them remain in sin.  What would we think of a father who knowingly allowed his small child to play in the street?  We would think of him as unfit at best or even uncaring and cruel.   Why then, do we think that our Heavenly Father allows His children to play around with sin in the streets of destruction?  He is holy, perfect, and just, therefore, He corrects His children.  There are many backsliding believers who are under the judgment of God.  They need to humbly confess, turn away from their sin, and turn back to God.  James 5:14-16 gives us the remedy for someone who is sick due to sin.  “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

 Why am I sick?  I do not believe it is wrong to ask this question.  Seek the Lord for the answer.  Whether it is a sickness unto death or as a test of faith let it be as a witness for God’s glory.  If it is a sickness due to sin, confess your sins and “despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” Hebrews 12:5-7.

 

Counting Chicks!

Driving home from a Valentine party the children were in the back seat discussing the weather. They were thrilled at the prospect of having snow the next day. Living in south Mississippi, one rarely sees snow. However, the weather forecasters had predicted four to six inches beginning that evening and continuing on through the following day. “Children,” I said, not wanting them to be disappointed if they were wrong, “you can’t count your chickens before they hatch.” We made it home and I gave the conversation no further thought. And sure enough, it started snowing during the night. By 6 a.m. the ground was covered. It was a beautiful sight!

Andrew, my youngest, was the first one up. He immediately ran to the door. “Mom, there are four to eight chicks out there!” He excitedly proclaimed. “What are you talking about son?” I asked. “My chicks! They hatched!” he said proudly.

The day consisted of playing in the snow, building snowmen, and having snowball fights. As I watched my children play with their friends, it took me back to a simpler time in life. I was taken back to a time when my only concern was if my fingers would fall off from the cold or how long it would take for the snowmen to melt. Time sure does pass quickly. Before I know it my children will all be grown. They won’t be running in and out of the house anymore. I won’t have to remind them to blow their nose or take off their muddy boots. They will have children of their own and my house will be quiet. But, I’m not there yet. My children are still young. They still have time to play. I still have time to enjoy this stage of life. I guess I shouldn’t count my chickens before they hatch!

When Bible Study is Wrong

Humor me a moment as I describe my perfect morning. After a good nights rest I would get out of bed by 5:30 a.m., pour a cup of coffee and sit down in the living room with a blanket, my Bible, and prayer journal. When I first wake I like it quiet. Don’t talk to me. I want to spend a few minutes slowly waking up and preparing to start the day. I like to write in the mornings. I like to read my Bible and pray. Therefore, the first hour is mine.

 On this perfect morning, an hour or so later, I would receive a phone call from my prayer and accountability partner who is a pastor’s wife in Arkansas. For the next 30 minutes to an hour we would talk about scripture, share burdens and encourage one another. Then slowly my children would wake up and we would begin our morning routine. I’ve spent many mornings just like the one described above. However, there is one thing wrong with the above picture…..there is no mention of my husband. I realize that there are some men who are perfectly content with being left alone in the mornings but not mine. He gets up early and wants to talk about the day. He wants his coffee and a companion to share it with. He wants a hot breakfast of biscuits, gravy, sausage and scrambled eggs. So, what’s a girl to do?

 The “whitewashed feminist” in me screams out that “I need my time too.” But, is this the correct Biblical response? As a child of God and my husband’s help meet what kind of example would I be if I neglected him in order to study the Bible? I remember the day clearly when God convicted me. My husband never said a word. He just went to the kitchen and started cooking breakfast while I sat on the couch with my Bible in one hand and the phone in the other. All of a sudden, I did not feel very spiritual. Bible study in itself was not wrong, but my attitude sure was. So I got off the phone, put up my Bible, for a later time in the day, and with a repentant heart began to serve. Am I saying that cooking breakfast is a more spiritual work than studying the Bible? Yes, in this case I am because God is always concerned with the heart.

Sunday

Throughout the week not a thought was given

Of the One who died and then was risen

So it was no surprise when Sunday came

That this day would be about the same.

A hectic morning, rushing to and fro

Hurry up! To church we must go!

Where’s the Bible, it hasn’t been seen all week.

Not once have we read of Christ so meek.

Nor prayed to God or our sins confessed

Yet on to church, we want to be blessed!

Beautiful songs rang with words so true

But the meanings of them no one knew

A few words spoken, empty prayers said

Mere ritual from hearts that were dead

The God of Heaven saw no contrition

Looking down only man’s tradition.

So He search below to see if He could find

A people who loved with heart, soul, and mind

Those who seek Him every single day

Who feast on His Word and faithfully pray

One day a week, worship is not done

But daily from rising to setting sun

Then on Sunday, fellowship sweet

With brothers and sisters they will meet

With one accord praise rise to the sky

In thanksgiving worshipping Him on High.

True confessions made from deep within

The cleansing and purifying of their sins.

Fervent prayers bringing fire from above

So encompassing and deep is His great love.

Next Sunday, they looked forward with glee

For no other place they would rather be.

Excuse me…..Is that your husband?

 If I was given the choice between going to the Lowes and the mall, Lowes would win hands down nearly every time. Our family likes to go just because. The boys head for the lumber and hardware departments. My daughter and I head for decorations and home improvements. One particular day after looking at lighting we started hunting my husband and boys. We saw them, as we rounded a corner, at the end of an isle. It was then that I was approached by a woman saying, “Excuse me, Is that your husband?” I looked over to where this woman was pointing. There was my husband talking to my oldest son. He was listening intently as his father was teaching him the difference between certain types of nails. My youngest son, at his daddy’s feet, was looking up at his father and brother wishing for the day he could be big and strong like them. I said to this lady, “Yes, that is my husband,” wondering why the inquisition. She was an employee at Lowes and proceeded to tell me the story of her pushing a heavy washer down the isle. My husband, seeing her stuggle, asked her if he could help. Astonished she replied, “No sir, I work here. It’s my job.” “Well,” he said, “if my wife was having to move that washer I would hope someone would offer to help her.” This lady with a voice of gratitude said to me, “I just want you to know how much that meant to me. You have a fine husband.”

I’ve thought about that day often. Not because it was a rare occasion for my husband to show honor because he often does. But that day I realized, for perhaps the first time, how few women see it. When women do see men being chivalrous they almost do not know how to take it. When my boys were little their dad taught them to honor women and the elderly by holding open doors. Not too long ago my oldest son opened the door for me at a store and two young men stepped in front of me and went through the door. My son just shook his head at their rudeness. The shame in it all is that those young men probably did not have a man in their life to teach them manners. And they, as well, will proabably not teach their children either.

Those who know me know that I am not physically weak. I could, and have many times, moved a heavy appliance. But, the point my husband was trying to make is that a wife (and women in general) should be showed honor as the weaker (more precious) vessel. (I Peter 3:7) My husband does this in many ways. One way he does this is by never having me pump gas. I’ve pumped gas a thousand times in the past but for the past 4 or 5 years he always does it. If I am going on a field trip with my children the next day and the gas tank is low he will drive to town and get gas that evening. I’ve never asked him to do it; it’s just a way he shows honor. There are lots of ways a husband can honor his wife. I believe one of the greatest ways and probably the most effective way is by not expecting her to take on man’s curse given to Adam; the woman has her own.

It’s really sad when Christian men have their prayers hindered because they simply do not show honor to their wife? Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (1Pe 3:7) I pray we can teach our sons and change one family at a time.