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Reflection

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Reflection - Page Text Content

S: Reflection

BC: When I think about reflecting or seeing a reflection of God, the only thing that resonates with me is that it has to be about love. Knowing God's Love. Receiving God's Love. Dwelling in God's Love. Then SHOWING God's Love. I desire to know God's love and know that in His love for me, He is everything I need. He is patient. He is generous. He is faithful. I also desire to know IT so well that I can't help but reflect it to those around me. I want to be patient, forgiving, generous, faithful. I want to speak the Truth with Godly wisdom. I want people to know God because of the love that comes from me, because I am a reflection of Who is in my life. Christina Mckenzie Youth Ministry/Writer/Mentor/Blogger http://waistintime.blogspot.com | Our lives as believers are living letters which are to reflect God's character to all people at all times in all places. Jesus is the Light of the world, and He has shown His light in our hearts that it may shine out to all. Jesus said that we are the light of the world, as His followers, and we are to let our light so shine that others may see it and glorify our Father in Heaven. The light of Christ's love and truth is reflected throughout these devotionals. Your heart will be encouraged in the Lord as you read them and you will know that God loves you too! Mary Majors Christian Educator

FC: Reflection | Linda Sanders Vought | "O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together." Psalm 34:3

1: Reflection | Linda Sanders Vought “I want the presence of God Himself, or I don't want anything at all to do with religion... I want all that God has or I don't want any.” A.W. Tozer

3: "O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together." Psalm 34:3

4: Jean Creamer A special thank you to Jean Creamer a very dear friend since high school for sharing her talent in photography and to Mary Majors for editing, encouraging and praying with me throughout the writing of this devotional book. May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you both for your love, support and friendship! Mary Majors Photographs by: Jean Creamer Photography Linda Sanders Vought PV's Photography by Vic Schmaltz & Purchased Photos from Photodune.net | Acknowledgments

5: Friends&Mentors | In my friend, Linda Vought, I have seen direct evidence of the miraculous, healing power of God. Although I've seen it elsewhere, it's rarely been with such a stubborn determination to obey the direction of the Spirit. Linda has been gifted with the ability to clearly convey truth, while relating with compassion to the true, often bruised heart of her listener. I am blessed to love and be loved by her! Miriam E. Callahan Community Pastor City Church, San Antonio, TX | I have known Linda Sanders Vought for over four decades. I have watched her in good times and bad times, and have seen her trust God in all times. She is a multi-talented Christ-follower whose passion is to know the Lord Jesus Christ, to grow in Him, and to encourage others to do the same. She is faithful in her study of the Word and has discovered deep spiritual truths and insights that have transformed her life. With a warm smile and much tenderness, she is a fearless warrior in sharing her journey of faith, including her personal struggles. Her strength comes from knowing who she is in Christ and that in Him she is more than a conqueror. Press on, Linda, your time has come! Bruce Williams United Methodist Pastor | We have been blessed to know Linda for more than ten years and have shared with her in many joys as well as challenges during that time. She and her husband Russ are dear friends whose faith, love and hospitality have blessed us over and over again. We appreciate deeply Linda's wholehearted commitment to Christ, her love for the Word of God and her desire to faithfully teach it. We pray and trust her testimony of faith in Christ and genuine care for the hurting that shines through these pages will touch all those who read these reflections for the glory of God and the building up of the Body of Christ. Dr. Mark S. Majors Pastor and Biblical Counselor Mary Majors Christian Educator | I could not ever, ever, ever begin to talk about the “Reflections of God” without thinking about Ms. Linda (aka Momma Bear). There is this unique sense that you just met someone who knows a secret so big and so awesome that it is hardly relatable and yet all she wants to do is share it with everyone she comes into contact with in its simplest form – “There is a God. I know Him. Let me tell you how much He loves you!” WOW! I can never have any interaction with her without coming away from it knowing this amazing and simple truth UNDENIABLY! I am so blessed to know her, to love her and to be loved by her. She is one of the best examples of “love one another as I have loved you.” Christina Mckenzie Youth Ministry/Writer/Mentor/Blogger http://waistintime.blogspot.com

6: Introduction It is my prayer that you will enjoy this devotional book, along with the many reflective photographs. It is my prayer that you will be encouraged in your heart and your soul will be refreshed and inspired to seek after and follow Christ. As Christians, we are to reflect the character of Christ in all that we do, in our attitude and in our actions, for Christ is not an addendum to our lives, but He is our life! Before I came to know Christ as my personal Savior and Lord, I was lost, confused and searching, aren't we all! As the country song goes, "I was looking for love in all the wrong places." I was searching for acceptance, for understanding, and the desire to belong to someone, something. I wanted to be loved, and I wanted to be safe. But then, I was only a child. I grew up in, as is the case for many children in America, a dysfunctional home, in a family that was split, I did not belong, and I was told I did not belong, yet my heart wanted to be part of their family. I desperately wanted to be part of something. I had brothers that lived with my birth mother that I did not know, until my early 20's. I had brothers and a sister that I did live with that I loved more than life itself, but could not express that love, through no fault of their own. I simply did not know how...but then God, soon after I was married, reminded me of the times in my childhood that He protected, guided and watched over me...why? He had a purpose, a plan for my life and He has a plan and purpose for your life. Maybe part of His plan for my life was to write this little devotional book, share it with friends and family...and they then would share it with their friends and family, and they too would come to know Christ. Often times, we as humans, dream about making a difference in this world, and there is nothing wrong with dreams and wanting to make a difference. Maybe we could find a cure for cancer, or invent some ground-breaking energy source that would change mankind's dependence on oil. The list could go on and on...as we daydream about being somebody important in the eyes of man....in the eyes of the world around us. Maybe we would like to be someone like a Donald Trump, a Malcolm Forbes, or even a Bill Gates....but God has a better plan...an eternal plan, one that the world does not understand. You see He takes ordinary people and does extraordinary things...for the Kingdom of God. Sure He can use the rich and famous, and He often does, but He frequently chooses the ordinary people whom we may never know anything about to make a difference in our lives. Some we have heard about, for example Mother Teresa (1910-1997), who at the age of twelve heard the call of God on her life and left her home at the age of eighteen to work in the poorest of slums in Calcutta, and changed millions of lives. She once said, “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

7: Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947) is another example of an ordinary man doing extraordinary things for the Kingdom of God. He as a child was illiterate and as an adult worked as a plumber. Soon after he married, his wife taught him to read the Bible...and then they turned England upside down in preaching the Word, and he is considered one of the "fathers" of the Pentecostal church. He knew A.W. Tozer, Leonard Ravenhill who then mentored David Wilkerson, Keith Green and Steve Hill, and the list goes on Millions of souls are now in Heaven today because this ordinary man did astonishing things for the Kingdom of God. He simply believed in the word of God and He was committed to the calling of God on his life. His actions and attitude spoke volumes about his faith in God. Christ had not become an addendum to his life; Christ became His life. Christ became his plum line in how he gauged everything else in his life. Take this quote for example, "Fear looks; faith jumps. Faith never fails to obtain its object. If I leave you as I found you, I am not God's channel. I am not here to entertain you, but to get you to the place where you can laugh at the impossible." As a young Christian, I read Smith Wigglesworth book, "Ever Increasing Faith" where he unashamedly challenged the reader to trust and believe in Christ even in the most hopeless of situations He inspired me to believe and have confidence in the Power of Christ. That little book changed my life and helped build a solid foundation of faith in Christ that through the years did give me a foundational support where I was able to stand in the worst of emotional, physical and heart breaking storms. Christ was always there, guiding, directing, and comforting me in those times. I knew with confidence I was not alone. If you do not have that same confidence and reassurance that you are not alone, I hope this devotional book will help you to know you too can have a relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ. Man, the human race has made Christianity into a religion; it has been our attempt to be holy and accepted. Christianity was never meant to be a religion; it was designed from the beginning so that you and I could have a relationship with the very Son of God. He did not stay in the glory of Heaven, but came down as one of us, to be an example that we too could live a life that would bring peace to our soul and honor to the Father, God. So, I challenge you to read on, be inspired, be influenced by your faith in Christ, believe His Word, act on it, and "be" what He created you to be....to be a light on a hill...sharing the good news of Christ in this dark and evil world. Linda Sanders Vought

8: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." - Matthew 6:33

9: As a child did you ever play hide n' seek? I did, but the times I remember the most is when I played it as an adult with my youngest son, Joey. When he was about two years of age, I would come home from work, he would hide, usually behind the big brown recliner in the corner of the big family room by the large brick fireplace. It became a game that he and I loved to play. As I came in the door, I would shout out where is my Joey, where did Joey go, Dad? He would hide and try his best not to laugh, but he always did, reassuring that I would find him, because then he knew what was about to happen. When I found him behind the big brown chair, he would then run, making me think I could not catch him, but I always did. I then would pick him up, give him the biggest Mama Bear hug possible and a kiss on the cheek, then tickle him until he could not take it anymore. Then we would both fall on the big family couch and laugh until we both would almost cry. I looked forward to those times and he did too. Life is full of stress; it seems to be even more so for Christians, especially in today's society where Christianity is viewed by the masses, media and the motion picture entertainment world as irrelevant and inappropriate for a modern society. Recently Piers Morgan, of "America's Got Talent" fame, said "Both the Bible and the Constitution are basically inherently flawed." That is the world's point of view. He is applauded by the liberal elite, and we as Christians are looked upon as antiquated and foolish by the populace. However, as Christians we are not of this world (1 Peter 2:11-12, Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 13:14-16); we are only passing through and God has a better plan than for us to worry and fret about what people think of us or what will happen to us tomorrow. If we are not careful we will allow the things of this world, the bad news of a sinking economy, the liberal view of the world, along with just the everyday life of making ends meet stress us to the point where we become anxious instead of trusting and relying on the Lord to help us through. That is why we must first seek him, and he will take care of the rest (Matthew 6:25-32). Now that does not mean that we sit at home, do not work and expect our needs to be met without us being responsible...but what it does mean is that our mind-set is attentive on Him. We realize that we are nothing without Him, and as a Christian He now should be the common denominator where everything else is gauged. He has become our plumb line, the point by which we measure everything else. Anxiety will strip us of our joy, our faith and our desire to serve the Lord. We will give up and walk away if we are not careful because the cares of this world will evaporate our faith into fear, our joy into sorrow. It will happen. We will find ourselves worrying about our life, how are going to pay the bills, our children, our health, the list can become endless. But God says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all things shall be added unto you." God will take care of us; that is a promise. When we seek the Lord, He does not hide from us, as my son, Joey hid from me, but He makes Himself available. He is there where we need Him, ready to help us, comfort us in all things, if we will simply allow Him to do so. After all, He is not the one lost. He made us and from the very foundation of the world He knew us (Psalm 139:13-14), so surely He will take care of us. In Exodus 15:2 Moses wrote the following, "The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation: He is my God, and I will prepare him a habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt Him."

10: This is where Christianity is different, the Lord does not just want to visit us and leave us to ourselves. He created us that we might have fellowship with Him that is a relationship. We are able to pray and talk with Him anytime anywhere, without the need for a pope, priest or pastor. We have direct access and He will help us through each day. No, we are not exempt from pain, heartache and even calamity of storms that may come into our lives, but He promises us that he will never leave us nor forsake us and that "joy comes in the morning." His presence and our joy are new every morning; if we seek Him, we will find Him. He has a better plan for our lives, better than this world could ever offer us; it is His promise to His Children. Other Scriptures to inspire and encourage: Psalm 30:5 Psalm 55:22 Romans 8:28 Hebrews 13:5 Deuteronomy 3:16 | "That world outside there is not waiting for a new definition of Christianity, it's waiting for a new demonstration of Christianity." -Leonard Ravenhill

11: "Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven." John Wesley

12: "The Lord is my strength and my song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him a habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him." - Exodus 15:2

13: Early in my life, I would sing. Even before I was a Christian, I would sing. I was part of the school choir, special voice ensemble and even had voice lessons, but I was far from being a professional singer. There was something about singing that would refresh my soul and seem to actually strengthen my body to go on just a little further. The Word of God tells us that the JOY of the LORD is our strength; without this joy there is no strength (Nehemiah 8:10), and we can easily be deceived and diverted by the craftiness of the Lord's enemy, satan (I choose not to put his name in capital letters). Singing was an instrument the Lord used early on in my life, I believe to keep my spirit connected to Him, even when I did not know Him! Before He became "my salvation,” before that day in June of 1972, I hid the talent God had given me, but the shower was a great place to let go and enjoy. Soon after becoming a Christian I was asked to sing on many occasions and early on I made a commitment that I would never sing a song to entertain, nor would I sing just because it was a talent, but because I wanted to worship my Lord, period. Another commitment I made was that if, when I practiced a song, and it did not touch my heart and bring joy to my spirit, then I would not sing it. If it touched my heart, then I knew the Lord was glorified and had already taken up a "habitation" because in a sense I had “prepared Him a place” and He would then touch the lives of those who would hear the song. Many times when the request came it was without any notice or practice or even being accompanied with a piano or any other musical instrument, I would sing a cappella. One time in particular I was playing the part of a clown at a Harvest Festival in our local church to minister to the children; I was "Joyful the Clown.”. In my Christian experience God has often put me in places where I would be out of my comfort zone. I am normally an introvert, but God from the beginning wanted to change my outlook; "He put a song in my heart" and I was ready to do whatever I could to help in ministry and further the Kingdom of God, and at this time even if it meant playing on the ground with a bunch of children dressed up like a silly clown. “Here I am, Lord; send me,” had become my life's prayer. I was dressed in farmer's overalls, red polka dotted shirt, red nose, face painted white and a full head of hair that I had teased to be fluff up under an old torn straw hat; it was a sight for sure. I would hand out balloons, candy, and talk in a funny low voice that made the children laugh and a few of them cry at the sight of this short fluffy clown with a pillow stuffed in the overhauls for her backside; but it was fun. Later that day an assembly was scheduled in the church, and I was asked to sing. The sanctuary was full; now you have to picture this...a clown, with a red nose in a Methodist church sanctuary full of people, stood up to sing. I looked hilarious and at first I thought of just doing something funny that matched the way I was dressed...but I remembered my commitment to never entertain but to always use the gift God had given me to worship Him. I was challenged to surrender and listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart. Remember, all that afternoon I had jumped around, laughed and talked in this strange low voice...that sounded more like a sick old man than a young girl in her twenties...but there I stood.

14: I could not even look at the people, because I knew they all wanted to laugh but they felt it was going to be a "serious moment." It was obvious the Lord had something else on His agenda; we could sense this Presence fall upon that sanctuary. Thinking about that day still gives me goose bumps! All became quiet as I began to sing in a high soprano voice, Psalm 86:10-12, "For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore." No one was laughing, but they were crying, not because I was off key, but because the presence of the Lord touched a young woman who had been touched by the Hand of God, who stood boldly even dressed as a clown and proclaimed at the top of her lungs that the Lord had done "wondrous things" in her life and He had become her strength and her song. This is the type of relationship the Lord wants you and I to have with Him, one where we know He has become our Lord, our strength and our song. In Psalm 28:6-7 it says this, "Blessed be the LORD, because He has heard the voice of my supplications! The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him." You see the Lord hears us when no one else does; in the quietness of our bedroom, when there are tears on our pillow, and a pain in our heart that no one seems to understand, He hears, He understands and He cares. He wants to put joy in each of our hearts and song on our lips, and if we will let Him, He will come and take up residence. Why? Because we have made a place for His habitation, and we will desire and want to exalt Him for the "wondrous things" He has done in our lives. Why would He do this for us? Because He has a better plan for our lives, better than what the world could ever offer us; as His children we can trust Him. Other Scriptures to inspire and encourage: Exodus 15:2 Psalm 18:2 Psalm 118:14 Isaiah 12:2 Ephesians 2:22 Ephesians 3:17

15: "Trust the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love and the future to God's providence." Augustine | @Vic Schmeltz

16: “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8

17: On July 30, 1956 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a law through which “In God We Trust” became our national motto, with the continued dismay and objection of some secularists from the beginning. But in reality what does it mean for us, not only as a nation but also as an individual, to trust in God? We are to have confidence in Him. Early in life we are taught to be independent, so how can one be independent and still be dependent on the Lord? In Psalm 18:2 it says, “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” It sounds like, in that particular scripture, God wants to be our everything. He becomes our plumb line which we use to measure everything else. I once was told that to trust in God meant to have "faith in, belief in, hope in and to rely on the Lord in our daily walk.” Is that possible? Is it possible that we accept Him as our authority, our salvation, and our hope? We are told in in Psalm 37:5 to “commit our way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will bring it to pass.” This trust literally means we are to hand over our life into the Hands of the Lord and in doing so we will experience joy, deliverance, victory to overcome sin, experience God's goodness, mercy and blessings, and the list of benefits is endless! We, through the act of surrender and submission, are to delegate our life to the authority of the Lord. Is it possible for us to trust in the Lord to be our fortress, our deliverer, our strength? Yes, He is able to hold the universe in his hand (Isaiah 40:12), then surely we should be able to trust Him with our own individual lives. Now I know this is a difficult thing for us to do in how we think with our cultured mindset, because we think we are cultured and sophisticated, but we are not. We are sinful, immoral and arrogant and we are lost without God. We are taught from the time we are able to communicate to be self-independent, make our own way. We are told we are in charge of our own destiny, and to some degree that is true; it is a matter of choice. Our nation has failed miserably in the effort to live by “In God We Trust” because of the choices our nation's leaders and voters have made over the years, as we as individuals also struggle when we make the wrong choices. In the beginning this nation, with its founding fathers set in printed word their acknowledgment of God. They wrote about the “Providence of Almighty God,” and recognized the importance of living the Christian faith. Yet we have learned, especially in the last five years, that to acknowledge and write a pledge for a national motto is one thing but to actually live by that motto is a completely different matter! We are told that faith and trust are not appropriate for today in our secular and self-serving society, that we do not need God in our schools, in our homes, in our capitals, and especially not in our government. But our national and personal motto or proclamation does matter. It matters a lot. What we see happening in America today is decades of the individual human spirit, saved or worldly, not trusting in the LORD, and now we are seeing the effects and the consequences of a faithless society collectively. As individuals we must make a stand. I have heard it said that, "if we do not stand for something we will fall for anything.” We must act on and rely on the Lord and trust Him to make a difference in our nation, but to do this we must let go of a lot of flak, doctrinarian, and mindsets that we have lived by for what seems eons.

18: Allow me to give you a personal illustration. In growing up I lived in what I learned since adulthood to be a dysfunctional and a performance oriented family. That is, if I performed correctly, did what I was told, then I would be accepted. Or at least that is what I thought. The problem with this scenario is the goal line kept moving. I could never make the mark. I wanted to trust in someone to protect, love, and care for me, but it did not always stand true. I know that they probably did their best, but we will disappoint. When we unassumingly put confidence or trust in a person, we will be disappointed and find ourselves frustrated. It is sinful human nature to protect ourselves first; it is self-preservation. It is the “me first” mentality. It is who we are without God. Recently I heard a young man say he was upset that people would not say, “Merry Christmas”; he could not understand why it was difficult for them. My response to him, “Why should they acknowledge ‘Christ’ in Christmas, when they believe they are the only ‘god’ in their life they will ever need?” They are sinners; why do you expect them to act like a Christian when they have no concept of what that means, let alone respect Christ, as the Son of God or His Word, or the Holy Bible? I told him we hear our own President refer to the Koran as the Holy Koran, but not once has he acknowledged the Word of God as the Holy Bible. We cannot expect one who is lost in self, sin, and the secular way of thinking to live and believe in the same way we do; it is impossible. They have no desire, nor do they lose any sleep over their own depravity. In this performance oriented family, psychologists would say we were programed to be perfectionists. As an adult, even into my mid-thirties, I took pride in the fact that I was a perfectionist! In reality I thought it was the only thing I had to hang onto. I was the only one I could trust! It was something my Dad took pride in. He would do it right if it killed him, and if someone thought he did something wrong he would beat himself up emotionally, lose sleep, and work even harder to make it right. Now one might think that it a good attribute to have but when we trust only in our abilities, we will not trust the Lord. There is no room for Him in our lives. It took a very good friend to open up my eyes that reliance on being a perfectionist was pride and it was sin. Sure, God does want excellence, but performance oriented perfectionism is a characteristic flaw in our personalities that puts us in bondage. This new revelation blew me out of the water! I had been saved 17 years, I was a professional woman, part of the administration team at a local hospital, and I still found it difficult to let go of this one thing and trust God with my "whole" life. I was broken, humiliated with this truth, but I did know that I could not go on in my walk with the Lord if I still depended on my own strength and what I thought were my abilities. It is difficult to put into words what this did to me; I did not like my friend very much at that moment, for you see I put more trust in myself than I did in the Lord, and in doing so I was in bondage behind a wall of perfection. I put myself into a “prison” of self-reliance, self-sufficiency, self-preservation, and self-protection. “If I performed correctly then I would be accepted,” was what I thought, but the goal line kept moving; I could never attain my own goal for my life. Do you see the downward spiral, the lies we live, because of what we have been taught and believed? We need deliverance from ourselves!

19: At this point in my life I had a choice to make, either submit to the Holy Spirit working in my life, through the obedience of my friend willing to tell me the truth, and start to live in this new revelation of reality or continue to hide behind the wall I had built for myself, a wall that no one could penetrate. Behind that wall, I actually believed I was protected, I was safe and I did not want to be vulnerable to anyone. I believed that I was the one who had to protect myself because everyone else in my life proved time and time again they could not. I put my trust in "me," and I disappointed myself! What irony. "In God We Trust" is a motto that from that day I have put into action in my life; no, I have not always been successful, and there have been times I wanted to run as fast and as far away as possible and hide behind that wall once again. But God even understands that we are weak; He is strong in our lives. God has a better plan. God has a purpose for my life, and He knew the choice I would make on that day, and unfortunately He also knows the choices our nation would make. I personally chose to surrender. The desire of my heart is to trust in the Lord above all else! Do you have a wall that you are hiding behind? Is it guilt, rejection, lust? It does not matter what we built our wall out of; what now matters is that you have been told the truth, as that friend did for me twenty-six years ago. The choice is yours. Why should any of us commit to the motto, "In God I will Trust"? Because He has a better plan for our lives, better than what this world could ever offer us or what we could offer ourselves. He has set forth a promise for His children from the foundation of His Creation. Other Scriptures to inspire and encourage: Joshua 1:9 Psalm 9:10 Proverbs 3:5-7 Isaiah 12:2 John 14:1 Romans 9:33 | "Genuine faith that saves the soul has for its main element - trust - absolute rest of the whole soul - on the Lord Jesus Christ to save me, whether He died in particular or in special to save me or not, and relying, as I am, wholly and alone on Him, I am saved." Charles Spurgeon

20: "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” - Matthew 6:14 "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions." – Mark 11:24-26 "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ." -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

21: Forgiveness is a wonderful thing, to receive and to give. When Jesus forgave me He blotted out my sin, I was released by His mercy, from every sin I have committed or will commit. When He surveys my life, Father God sees nothing but the Blood of the Cross! It is God's nature to forgive! Unfortunately, it seems we are hard-wired to retaliate and not extend forgiveness. Without Christ in our lives it is almost impossible to forgive. However, for you and me to receive forgiveness from the Lord, we too must forgive! Forgiveness is one of the subjects we obviously have difficulty with, when we have been hurt by someone, usually a family member, co-worker, church member— the list is endless. Christ is our example and being born again, we are to reflect His character. There are many examples throughout the New Testament where Jesus directly forgave individuals who sinned terribly. These examples are life lessons for us all, and if you ever attended Sunday school, you have heard their stories. Briefly, let us examine the story of the woman at the well (John 4:26). In this particular scripture, Jesus never used the words, “I forgive you.” However, He lived out His forgiveness in action. He confronted her sin, she had been married five times and the man she lived with at the time He met her at the well, as the Bible put it, “was not her own.” He never called her a sinner, a whore, an adulterous woman; she already knew those things were true. He simply shared with her there was a better way, and through Him she would “never thirst again.” This truth set her free. He loved her right where she was, and she went back into the village as a changed woman, whose desires of the heart had been miraculously transformed, telling the people to “Come see this man” She was forgiven. Another example is the adulterous woman, (John 8:1-30). She was in serious trouble; the church of that day, the scribes and the Pharisees, were going to stone her to death— that was the law. She was caught in the very act of adultery. I am sorry, but I want to know where the dude was! Then the leaders of that day confronted Jesus to try and trick Him because they wanted an excuse to stone Him as well. I imagine all these men stood in a circle around this woman with rocks in their hand. When Jesus bent down, according to scripture, and wrote something in the sand, we do not know what He wrote. However, what He did say was, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone!” They all dropped their stones, and walked away. The Lord helped the woman get up from the ground, and asked her, “Where are your accusers?” and she said, “I have none.” Then He said, “Neither do I condemn you go and sin no more.” She was forgiven. The next example in scripture is one that all Christians, agnostics or even atheists, should acknowledge as the greatest example of forgiveness. Jesus had been beaten, brought before the church and the government of that day. While He was on the Cross, His prayer was not to wipe His prosecutors from the face of the earth, nor did He spit out words of hate and accusation. He was not hard-wired to retaliate! He did not send down hail and brimstone to punish those who put Him on the Cross, no...no...no!! He lifted His head toward Heaven, after being beat to the point that even His disciples and His mother did not recognize Him. He had nails hammered through His feet and hands; He was mocked by the very ones who a week before had hailed Him as King. He did not pray to the Father get me off the Cross, no...no...no. He prayed to THE Father, God and said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!” He forgave them ALL!

22: After becoming a Christian, we may still want to get even or punish those who have hurt us! That is a battle we face in our process of being sanctified in Christ. We win or lose this battle by the choice we make. He paid the price for us, through the Cross of Christ, and that same compassion that Christ had for us, we should extend to others. We are all born into sin; we are lost as was the woman at the well. She came to the well at noon when no one was there because of the accusations of others in the village. She did not need a finger pointing at her nor to hear the voices whispering about her self-inflicted dilemma. She needed and we need love, acceptance and forgiveness! I know without any doubt that Jesus forgave me, and then I know with that same certainty that He will forgive you and that we need to extend that same forgiveness to others. No, your sin is not too great for Him to forgive. You might be thinking, “But you do not know what I have done, or said.” No, I may not know but Jesus Christ does, and it is His nature to forgive! He has set forth in His Word examples for us to follow to help others to know Him as Lord and Savior! Who am I that I should not forgive? It is the desire of God that all would come to know Him (John 3:16)through His Son, Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing when we consider He has a better plan for our lives, better than what this world could ever offer us; it is all part of His promise to His Children. Other Scriptures to inspire and encourage: Matthew 7:2, 5 Luke 6:35-37 I Corinthians 13:4-8 Ephesians 4:32 I John 1:9 | "Experience has taught me that the Shepherd is far more willing to show His sheep the path than the sheep are to follow. He is endlessly merciful, patient, tender, and loving. If we, His stupid and wayward sheep, really want to be led, we will without fail be led. Of that I am sure." - Elisabeth Elliott

24: "My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God. " -Psalm 62:5-7

25: As Christians we are not exempted from catastrophic problems, incapacitating diseases, financial difficulties or defiant children. Early in the Charismatic movement in the 70's some so-called "evangelist" would go on television or stand in the pulpit during a revival in a local church and say, "If you come to Jesus you will have no more problems." That is a lie! There was a book out not too long ago that was titled, "Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People!" The truth is we are not good; sure we may think our sin is not as bad as someone else's sin. After all, we have not killed anyone, hurt a child, or robbed a bank, but in reality sin is sin. God does not categorize sin from bad to worse. We all fall short of His glory, we all face complex situations and we all sin, including those of us who have received His grace and mercy and are born again. The difference is as a born again believer we do not want to sin. But if we do, we repent, receive His grace and go on. However, this does not mean...we just keep on sinning. If we have that type of mindset we are not a true believer; we may attend church and we may appear religious to our friends and family but in reality we do not have a relationship with the Father and we are not even saved! There is an inner peace that comes when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. He became "my rock and my salvation." Absolutely, I have faced problems, many of them: health issues, broken relationships, disobedient children, financial difficulty. My list is probably no different than yours, but God through it all has been found faithful! No, He did not always pull me out of the problems; oftentimes He would allow me to face each one head on, so that by faith I could see His Hand in every situation. My husband has a debilitating disease; he has Muscular Dystrophy. He was diagnosed with it while he was in the Navy in 1965. He currently is in a wheelchair and is in pain twenty four hours a day. You might be thinking he must be a bitter man, and he is probably furious at God because he has this disease. No, to the contrary he is a man of faith, a man of honor and he loves God. He has been a witness to many people over the years; in fact, I have heard people say, "If 'Brother Russ' can serve the Lord, why can't I?" He has probably witnessed to more people than most pastors and has led many to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. God did not take this disease from us, but He has never been absent while we have been going through it. He has become our rock; He is our defense in the good times and yes in the bad. In Psalms 46:1 it says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." If my husband had not received the Lord as His Savior, however, I do believe he would have been distinctively a different man, probably a bitter man, an angry man, and would not be here today because he would not have been able to handle this disease in his own strength. But God knew this. The VA physicians told him he would not live past the age of thirty. He would have probably taken his own life if he had lived past that life expectancy date. He was nineteen years old when he was told the news that he had Muscular Dystrophy, while confined to a bed at the National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. What horrendous news to receive at any age!

26: You see in the natural there is no hope, and there is still no cure for his type of Muscular Dystrophy, but God made a difference. God through His Son Jesus Christ, turned this man's heart around from being an abusive, prideful and selfish being to being a kind, gentle man whose heart is only to please His Heavenly Father, love his wife and share the goodness of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible! God made a difference; He became our strength. God has proven over and over again to be our help in times of trouble, in times of bad news, in times of sickness, and in times of feeling that we were all alone, God has always been there. Romans 8:26 reminds us that the Lord is on our side, "...The Spirit also helps us in our infirmities: for we do not know who we should pray, but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groaning that cannot be uttered." Picture this, the Bible tells us that Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of God the Father in Heaven, making intercessions for us. He is talking to His Father. God is not surprised by our circumstances; He does not hit himself on the head and proclaim, "Jesus, did you see just what happened to Linda; I did not see that one coming!" No, He knows, He saw and He cares! I am reassured almost daily that God will never leave me nor forsake me. Even before I ever called Him Lord He made a promise to me that He would take care of me. He knew me by name, even when I did not know Him. He will see me through whatever I might have to face and He will walk with you as well, why? He has a plan and a purpose for your life far greater than anything the world has to offer It is a promise to those who seek Him and acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior. I am a witness to his steadfastness, I am a witness to His love and kindness and I am a witness to His faithfulness in my life.... He has never disappointed me, never! Other Scriptures to inspire and encourage: Psalm 94:7 I Corinthians 7:24-25 2 Timothy 4:17 Isaiah 40:31 Psalm 18

27: "The climax of God's happiness is the delight He takes in the echoes of His excellence in the praises of His people." John Piper

28: "Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of your heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil." - Psalm 37:4-8

29: Our desire, as a Christian should be to honor the Lord above all things. Even yet, I believe the Lord wants to bless His creation. The Lord is bound by His Word. He is not a "sugar-daddy" in the sky...dealing out blessings of what we think we might deserve! God is not interested in if we drive a pink Cadillac or wear a $25.000 plus Armani suit. The end result of all His blessings and kindness toward us is that we would be committed to Him, show righteousness, rest in him and do not worry if someone else may prosper differently than we do. He will take care of us. On many occasions, when I pray for someone, or encourage them in the Lord, at the end of my prayer I finish by saying, "May the Lord bless you with the desires of His heart for your life!" Our heart, now that we are a new creature or creation in Christ Jesus in that we are now born again, should be the same desires that the Lord and His Word expresses for our life. The Lord hears us when we pray; when we have a desire that desire should bring Him glory and honor above anything else. The desires of our heart should always essentially line up with His Word and His will for our life! We may have a desire of restoration, healing, salvation for a friend or a family member, or it could even be a practical and tangible desire, and I am pretty sure that "tangible" desire will not be a pink Cadillac. The end result is that people would come to know Him as Lord and Savior. The Gospel is called the Good News, and this same Gospel is supposed to be preached all over the world that souls might be saved, if we preach a message in Los Angeles to the rich and famous it should be the same Gospel that we would preach to touch souls in the jungles of Rwanda, in the frozen mountains of Mongolia, or to a village on the Amazon River in Brazil. If we preach a message of prosperity to tickle the ears of the rich and famous in Los Angeles in hopes of getting a bigger offering, and then change the message in Rwanda, Mongolia or in Brazil, then it is not the Gospel. In the same way, if the desires of our hearts do not line up with the Gospel, the Word of God, that desire would not honor Him. It is only self-serving, extravagant and arrogance on our part. Yes, God does want to bless us and give us the desires of hearts. In 2009, for example, I began working on my family tree. I had found cousins that I knew as a child, but did not know we were related. During this time, I had one unexpressed desire that was close to my heart; I had not shared it with anyone but my Lord. When I was eight years old I met my birth mother for the second time in my life that I remembered, along with my two brothers. Apparently after our parents divorced, she became involved with another man and had another son. He was two years old at the time; it was the first and last time I met this little boy. One morning on my way to work, while thinking about my family tree, I prayed a simple prayer, "Lord, I would love to know where my brother Hal is living." It did not take me 10 seconds to pray that prayer, but I prayed. It was a desire of my heart. Three days later, I received a phone call from my birth mother's husband at the time of her death. He had an email address for Hal, my brother. Later in that same year, I met my brother Hal after 50 years! A family had been restored and reconciled and God was glorified.

30: I was married in 1969, and soon after Russ and I were married, we found out that we could not have children. All my life I wanted to be a mother. I was broken. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. One reason was because I did not have a consistent mother figure in my life as a child. My biological mother did not want me, and at 18 months I went to live with my Dad. After a few months, my Dad remarried and I was then a step-child. His new wife was only 15 years older than me, and much of a child herself. She had no idea how to be a mother and every time she looked at me she was filled with rage and jealously. So as an adult I was determined to make a difference but it did not work out that way, so apparently God had a better plan. In the first 25 years of our marriage we took in more than 23 children and adopted three children as our own. We could never have accomplished having this many children on our own, unless our last name was Duggar! The desire of my heart was to be a mother, different than the ones I experienced as a child. God heard my prayer and gave me the desires of my heart, far better than I could have ever imagined or physically accomplished in the natural. Other Scriptures to inspire and encourage: Matthew 7:7 Psalm 21:2 Psalm 31:5 Deuteronomy 32:4 | "As we prayerfully expose ourselves to the Scriptures, we begin to understand what God's will is regarding our conduct and character. And then as the Holy Spirit applies His word to specific areas of our lives, and as we are obedient to His promptings, we begin to develop Bible-based convictions. Our values begin to change so that God's standard becomes our delight and our desire." Jerry Bridges

31: "The prayer that prevails is not the work of lips and fingertips. It is the cry of a broken heart and the travail of a stricken soul." Samuel Chadwick

32: "The Lord is near the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit." - Psalm 34:18 I do not believe there is a person alive today, or any that lived in centuries before us that has not experienced the sorrow of a broken heart. We do not live in a "Polly Anna" world. We all have faced grief; we have been overwhelmed by sadness and heartache in our lives. We have encountered and endured these crushing emotional hurts that seemed to be in our physical chest when it becomes filled with brokenness and pain. Have you ever felt like you were going to die, but there was nothing medically wrong with your body? The pain you felt was most miserable because of heartrending circumstances that had fallen upon your life? It could be just about anything: a divorce, loss of a spouse, a child, or a parent or even the loss of a job, or betrayal of a friend. Maybe the brokenness felt in your heart was of your own doing, the life choices you made, the sins committed, or it could be through no fault of your own; it just happened and it was completely out of your control. It has happened to all of us at some time or another in our life and probably this experience will happen again in each of our lives. Maybe your circumstances were different than mine, but the pain, the loss and feelings of being “crushed in spirit,” where there seemed to be no hope has happened to me personally several times. Allow me to share just one of those painful incidents when my heart was broken to the point I thought it was beyond repair, but I want to assure you, my God was there through it all. He was my sustaining peace walking with me every step of the way. It was when our daughter ran away from home; we were devastated. The police could not find her and months passed. She was in her teens and there was no sign of her anywhere. We would pray and drive the streets of every small town surrounding our area, hoping we would spot her on the street and bring her home. We had come to the place that we were almost despondent physically; our feelings, our emotions were numb. All we ever wanted for our adopted children was to let them know they were loved, safe and that we would take care of them no matter what. Yet our daughter seemed to be, even at an early age, determined to challenge us every step of the way. There were holes in her soul that needed to be healed, but she was attracted to people who would only help her live on the edge and the holes only seemed to get deeper over the years. Several months into her disappearance she simply shows up at my place of employment, with a big smile on her face as if I had seen her that morning. She was dressed much older than her age and had more makeup on than comedian Joan Rivers. She no longer had the appearance of an innocent young teenage girl as she walked into my office holding the hand of an obviously older man, and she introduced him as "Preacher." She said that was his nickname; to me he looked more like a bouncer at a night club than a preacher. He was dressed in crisp ironed jeans and a black striped tank top and had on an expensive pair of shoes. She said they really loved each other and they were planning to get married.

33: I froze; my emotions were unresponsive. I sat there with a blank look on my face, but underneath I thought I would be sick. I was nauseated by the way she looked, talked, and I was overwhelmed in knowing she was again headed down the wrong path. I prayed that I would not over react. I did not know if I should hug her or slap her for putting us through such pain, and now she throws her "happy" news at me with no sense of emotion or care for what we had been going through over the last several months. My emotions were already shattered at this point. I wanted so much to take her home, make everything right, but I knew I could not. She informed me that she was safe, and just as quickly as she showed up in my office she was gone. In the midst of all of this pain and uncertainty, if I had not had the assurance of the Word of God in my heart and had not known that my Lord was holding me up, I surely would have failed. I would have given up because of all the pain. If I had not had the guarantee that "He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds," (Psalm 147:3) I would have simply got in my car, drove away and would have never turned back to the pain! I would have not made it through if I had not known that by faith, in every setback in my life, God had always been there protecting me. He had always proven Himself to be trustworthy. He did not always remove the problem that caused the wounds in my heart, but He never left my side even when I did not call Him Lord. He was my strength and my song when I could not go on any further. During these times I needed to stay in His Presence; during those times the Holy Spirit reminded me of the promises of God and that I was not alone. We all have troubles, trials and go through temptations, but we cannot allow these situations to dictate our lives. How we respond to these circumstances will often determine our character. During these times we have a choice to either be bitter and become a victim, or we can choose to be better and become victorious through the battles we face. Can we even comprehend the pain that King David felt when He lost a child, because of his own sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:14-31), but God knew he was man after His heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). Then there was Job who had his world turned upside down as he experienced the horrendous pain of being "sifted like wheat" where he lost everything including his children. I cannot even begin to realize their sorrow and grief. During these times of brokenness, I held onto His promises and even during the darkest times I hungered for His Presence, and His Word became my mainstay and my best friend. I could not get enough. Even in the midst of the pain, I would get up early in the morning to pray and read His Word, and it seemed as if He was already there waiting for me to come to Him. Jesus is our example and in His darkest times of rejection and pain He did not run from His Father, but He ran to Him and prayed continuously.

34: There is one more scripture I want to leave with you; it is found in Matthew and over the years it has touched my very soul. It says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). During our time of brokenness He was there, and He will also be there for you, because God has a plan and a purpose for your life, far better than anything this world has to offer because He is faithful to His children and His Word, “The Lord is near the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit" - Psalm 34:18. “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” -Philippians 4:6 “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.” - Colossians 4:2-3

35: Prayer is a gift from God. It is a way we can communicate with God through His Son Jesus Christ, be it a prayer of praise, a prayer during a time of peril or a prayer in need of provision; prayer is a gift. Prayer is not monologue, but it is a dialogue, between the Lord and His creation. The Lord has designed this provision for us to talk and listen to Him. Prayer, along with the Holy Spirit and His Word, is a threefold cord that when woven together will keep us focused on the Lord and help us to continue to grow in our faith. I have heard people say, even in the church, that they do not want to bother God with their concerns. When we choose not to accept this gift and communicate with our Lord, then we open ourselves up to be defeated, depressed and spiritually dazed. We actually believe that God does not have time for us but my friends, He DOES care about every aspect in our lives. What concerns us also concerns our Father, so why not be free and talk to Him about anything? As a Christian, Jesus Christ should always be our example, and He was faithful in prayer. He prayed often to the His Father; Jesus called His Father "Abba Father." He was talking to His "Daddy." It was personal to Jesus. He knew that His Father listened and cared about what was going on in His life, just like He (God) cares about what is going on in our lives. Think about this truth: He who created the Heavens and this Earth cares about you! He wants you and me to be consistent in prayer and to devote ourselves in prayer, to pray continually. Now hold on— I know what you are thinking, “I have to work, I have children and a home to take care of; how can I pray continually?” Prayer is more than standing in church and reciting a prayer in unison with those around you and that an awesome thing to experience, but that is not the only time we should pray. The Lord has given us an example of how to pray in the Lord's Prayer. It is a prayer of worship, thanksgiving, a prayer of confession and repentance and then forgiveness. Prayer is communion with God; oftentimes, however, when we do pray we say, “Amen” too soon, and walk away without listening to the heart of God. Prayer is communication with the Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ. So what if we are too busy? Let us go ahead and pour our heart out to Him while we are washing the dishes, taking the children to soccer practice, or putting the clothes in the dryer. Let us go ahead and just talk to the Lord and then listen. He will hear us and He listens because He cares, and in times like these He is our best friend! The Lord already knows what you and I need. He knows what is in our hearts and He knows the trouble we may be facing. He just wants us to fellowship with Him. When I pray, I just talk to the Lord! I do not try to sound religious or try to impress anyone; I just share my heart as if you and I were sitting in front of the fireplace in my home, drinking a cup of coffee and sharing. Prayer does not have to be difficult or complicated!

36: A friend of mine experienced the loss of her Dad when he passed away and she was devastated. We had become good friends over the years we worked together, and at the time of her father's death we attended the same church. I felt her hurt, her pain and her loss. Following a morning worship service a week after her Dad passed away, I went to her to give her a hug and just let her know I cared, but I could not speak. I touched her shoulder and the only word that came out of my mouth was, “JESUS!” I simply spoke the name of Jesus, the most powerful name that could ever leave a person's lips, I said, "JESUS" and walked away. The following week she came to me and said, “When you came by me and touched my shoulder, then spoke the name of JESUS that did more for me than any words I had ever heard.” Why? Jesus knows what we need. She needed strength, she needed assurance that Jesus was there in the midst of her sorrow and simply speaking His Name was more than enough. A good prayer does not have to be long and impressive. God knows our every need; even before we speak it, and all we have to do sometimes is just speak His Name—nothing more is needed. There have actually been times, when I have been standing in line in a department store and saw a person where I felt their pain; I could see their hurt. Their countenance was low; it was almost as if a dark gloomy cloud was above them. Often I would simply speak the name of Jesus on their behalf and prayerfully I would speak His name over and over again, and more times than not, that person would turn around as if they heard or felt something. There is power in the Name of Jesus, there is peace in the Name of Jesus, and there is hope in the Name of Jesus. Prayer does not need to be complicated, long or sound religious. Just speak your heart and let God take care of the rest. Prayer is important to our walk in faith; if we become frustrated and discouraged about praying or if we feel we are too busy or if we believe God is too busy to hear our prayer, then the enemy (satan) has won and is laughing in the face of God! You see satan does not care how many people read about prayer if only he can keep them from praying, then he wins! Satan, I believe, actually trembles when the weakest among us pray. Prayer is a one of God's gifts to us, it is available; all we need to accept that gift and believe! If we would merely humble ourselves and just go before the Father in the Name of Jesus and just share our hearts, our concerns, let Him know we are thankful, praise Him with our whole heart, we will be amazed that each time we do pray it will become a part of who we are. We become hungry for more of the Father's presence! He loves us and He wants to spend time with us. When I have felt closer to my Lord, it has not always been in a church worship service, but when I am all alone, driving my vehicle on the way to work and I just talk to Him. I know that He hears me, I know that He cares. He hears and that is all that matters.

37: "One way to recollect the mind easily in the time of prayer, and preserve it more in tranquility, is not to let it wander too far at other times. You should keep it strictly in the presence of God; and being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least to recall it from its wanderings." -Brother Lawrence

38: "Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy." - Ephesians 4:21-24

39: Imagine with me for a moment, a father and his child are at a playground and before the father allows his little girl to go play, he says to her, "Now be careful on the swings; do not swing too high; you may get hurt!" Fifteen minutes has not even passed, and his daughter is on the swing, swinging way too high. He sees her falling, but he is too far away to reach her in time, so he calls out but it is too late. He runs helplessly while his little girl falls to the ground. This is only one simple example of how the human mind works; we are all "hell bent" on doing it our way, no matter the cost, and we start very young! The lesson here is this: we are all like that little girl, "hell bent" on doing it our way, and before we know it we have fallen because we continue to rebel and we cannot get up! We are full of pride, self-assurance and we will desire and seek out darkness! We brag about our self-reliance, confidence and independence. All of these thoughts are contrary to where we should be in our walk with the Lord. This type of behavior will continue, even as a Christian, and before we know it our minds are full of disgust, deceit, and disobedience. We will find ourselves falling, and in our own strength we cannot get up! Our minds must be renewed daily by the Holy Spirit and by the washing of the Word of God. If our hearts are filled with everything that opposes the Word of God, then how can we hear what the Holy Spirit speaks to us? D.L. Moody put it this way, "I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God's law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God. We must be emptied before we can be filled." The Word of God is living water to our soul, and we as Christians should hunger and thirst after Him (Psalm 42:2). If we do not let go of the old worldly sins and learned behavior of the "old man," we will find ourselves powerless, defeated and mentally handicapped. The enemy of the Cross wants to keep us in bondage; he does not care that we say we are a Christian. If he can keep us deceived and make us believe that reading the Word, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives is not necessary, we are then conquered before we even get started. We must "study to show ourselves approved" (2 Timothy 2:15). The Word of God through Jesus Christ is our lifeline to the Father. The Word of God tells us we will overcome (all things contrary to the Word of God) by the power of our testimony. If we feel defeated, and there is no repentance, or forgiveness, then we are only a participating member of a social club with serious eternal consequences. Our old mind is the "stinking thinker," and it needs to be renewed, transformed, and changed into the likeness of the character of Christ. This transformation cannot take place if we "feed" ourselves with the pleasures of the world. The Holy Spirit wants to draw us to the Father, but if our minds are filled with everything the world has to offer, we will never hear Him calling us. Acting religious will not transform our mind; living "right" according to man's law will not get us there. Attending church, singing in the choir and paying tithes will not get us there. But receiving the saving grace and having a relationship with the Father will. We cannot be good enough to win His gift of grace; it is only what Jesus Christ and our acceptance of what He accomplished on the Cross that will put us on the path of being made brand new.

40: We may strive to do good, be good and act right. We may even say, "I am not as bad as so-and-so." However, our efforts are in vain! Remember my confession of being a perfectionist and how I had to admit to myself it was pride and it was keeping me in bondage. I cannot save myself! I remember when I told my Dad, "I accepted Christ, I am now saved!" I remember his response as if it were yesterday; he said, "From what?" You see I was "a good girl” according to the world's standards; I was a faithful wife; I did not drink, smoke or chew! But none of my so called "goodness" got me anywhere without the blood of Jesus and all my sins were as "filthy rags!" We may sound, look and act religious, but religion is only man's endeavor in trying to be holy and righteous. Until we desire to have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, our mind cannot and will not be renewed, changed, transformed into the likeness of Christ, in character and attitude. We must die to the old man, our flesh! The Lord knows us inside and out (Jeremiah 23:24), and in spite of everything, in spite of our depravity and wickedness, He loves us and wants to fellowship with us. He knows who we are and He knows about the "things" we have done, and yet He took them on the Cross on our behalf and rose again on that glorious third day and now sits at the right Hand of the Father, interceding for us! He loves us that much! God wants us complete in Him and the only way to become whole is through the Holy Spirit and the washing of the Word of God to renew our mind. Other Scriptures to inspire and encourage: Colossians 3:10 2 Corinthians 4:17 Romans 6:4 | "I may say with truth that there is only about one in ten who professes Christianity who will turn round and glorify God with a loud voice. Nine out of ten are still born Christians. You never hear of them." - D.L. Moody

41: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” - John Piper

42: Reflection

43: ... | of Christ

44: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:13 Have you ever been stretched to the point you thought you would break? Philippians 4:13 has been a comfort to me over the years. His Word continues to give me comfort, direction and an inward peace that is often difficult to describe. When you know that God through Jesus Christ has your back, there is a humble confidence that you can do all things! I even have a plaque in my family room with an inscription of that very scripture where I am able to see it every day. It is my daily reminder that God is for me and it does not matter what may be thrown my way. A new balloon for example is often difficult to blow up the first time. The elastic is inflexible, but the more it is stretched the easier it is to blow it up. If we are caught up in the things of this world, and if we are focused on our circumstances, we become inflexible. Instead of being sensitive to the One who “strengthens” us, then we become rigid, much like that new balloon; we then will become weary in our calling in the task the Lord has set before us. It is often ironic when I look back on my life, now that I am in what are called the twilight years, where the Lord has directed me to go, do and say something, and where I ventured out in my own strength, and yet He directed my steps and His planned outcome that would bring glory to His Name. Early on in my conversion, soon after I asked Jesus Christ to be Savior and Lord in my life, I made a commitment. It seemed simple enough at the time in my nave way of thinking, but God knew the paths it would send me on, the lessons I would learn, and the people who would come into my life, those who would influence me and those I would impact. My commitment was in a private proclamation during a time of prayer. The statement was, “Here I am, Lord, send me” (Isaiah 6:1-8). I had no idea where I would be sent, what would be required of me when in my zeal to please the Lord I declared my faith in the One who not only saved me but called me to teach His Word. No, I am not ordained, I do not hold a title or a degree from any religious institution, but I knew without a shadow of a doubt early in my walk of faith that part of God's plan for my life was for me to be a teacher of His Word. This is the reason for this devotional book. It is an extension to you of that promise for my life. His Word was never meant to be complicated, and even though it was written thousands of years ago, its lessons are to be applied today. It is not and never will be antiquated and out of style, regardless of what the secular, progressive movement may say or pass through our courts. The Word of God is relevant and needed today in the 21st century more than ever. The people who know me, the ones I have actually allowed into my life, know at first glance that I am introvert, actually a woman of few words. I do not like to shop and I do not like chick flicks. I am private, and I allow only a few into my secret chambers. But God wanted to stretch me, beyond that learned behavior and insecurities of growing up in a dysfunctional family to the point that on more than one occasion I would break. In looking back it was all part of God's plan for my life! He wanted me to break, to be stretched beyond my comfort zone.

45: When teaching the Word, under His anointing and direction, I found myself revealing and teaching the Word of God through my heart, not through the mind of an intellectual or one with a formal impersonal training. The Word was real and relevant to me and I wanted it to be real and applicable to those who attended the Bible Class, regardless of the subject. Dr. Howard Hendricks put it like this, “Teaching that impacts us is not head to head but from heart to heart.” I am to love God with all of my heart— not with all of my head! (Deuteronomy 6:4-6). The heart is the principal part of who we are: our personality, or intellect, or emotion and our will. My heart was what I wanted to hide; I did not want to expose it for all to see, but inevitability my heart was exposed, vulnerable under His anointing. I would openly share my own life experiences, lessons; I would expose my struggles, secrets and successes. God through His plan for my life stretched me beyond what I thought were my strengths, those characteristics I thought defined me as a person and through the years crushed my pride of self-sufficiency. God had to peel away what I had learned and relied on to accomplish what He intends for my life. It is necessary for us to be stretched beyond our own self-confidences for us to mature in Christ. If in your walk of faith you find yourself outside of your comfort zone, then know this: God has your back; it is part of His plan for you through His Word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reminds, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Other Scriptures to inspire and encourage: Psalm 18:31-32 Psalm 46:1 Isaiah 40:29 Philippians 2:13

46: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will." - Ephesians 1:3-5 | "Nobody is born into this world a child of the family of God. We are born as children of wrath. The only way we enter into the family of God is by adoption, and that adoption occurs when we are united to God's only begotten Son by faith. When by faith we are united with Christ, we are then adopted into that family of whom Christ is the firstborn." - R.C. Sproul

47: In our natural way of thinking it is difficult for us to comprehend that we are complete in Jesus Christ. He is our life! As Christians we are truly "blessed with every spiritual blessing." According to the Apostle Paul, who wrote the Book of Ephesians, we as born again believers have been adopted into God's heavenly family with blessings! We have been purchased, we are now His possession and we have a guaranteed inheritance with blessings and responsibilities. We, who are sinful, have been shown favor upon acceptance of His the grace. We have been unconditionally given life through Jesus Christ; we now belong to Him. We have been adopted; that is we have received salvation. Salvation is found in no one else, but in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12), and that gift belongs to us as believers in Christ. We have been redeemed by the Blood that was shed on the Cross. We have received forgiveness of sins, and upon acceptance of this truth our life now belongs to Christ. Our adoption is His act of grace upon our lives and we have been sealed in Him. We have been given favor from the Lord God Almighty! Imagine that! It is a gift we did not earn; it is a gift of grace for which we could not pay ransom, and He planned it all before the foundation of the world. He knew us, called us by name before we were born in our mother's womb. We are now "holy and blameless before Him." It is not that we are holy; there is nothing good in us, but we are now holy and blameless because of the Work that was accomplished on the Cross. We have been set apart; we are now, as adopted children, a legal beneficiary and heir to His spiritual blessings and responsibilities. We are to separate ourselves from the world because we now belong to God. He paid a debt on our behalf and we were bought with a price. God has given you and I favor because of His grace through His Son, Jesus Christ—favor we do not deserve. Think about this, the God who created Heaven and Earth chose us before the world as we know it was even in existence, when the earth was formless, empty and dark, He knew us before the vast Universe came into being. He knew us by name! We have been chosen! What a blessing, what a multitude of blessings! Allow me to put this into perspective so that we might be able to comprehend to some degree the vastness of His love for us. We have three adopted children; all three were chosen and when adopted became rightful heirs. It is as if I had given birth to each one of my children. In each of their adoption papers, there is one legal form called "Final Judgment of Adoption." In this short legal paper is its final paragraph. It names the child by name, gives their date of birth and says the following, "Is the legal child of petitioners, and entitled to all the rights, privileges, and subject to all the obligations of a child born to petitioners." On this document, the “Final Judgment of Adoption," there is a seal, making it legal and binding according to the law of the land. When we adopted our children it was not free; we had to pay a price. I have heard of some adoptive parents paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to adopt a child and give them their name. Our children were purchased with a price, and now have our name, and our children now have a guaranteed inheritance because we chose them. There is not a day that goes by that I do not pray for them and think of them and hope that they are doing well. No, they are no longer babies. They are grown adults with families of their own, but my heart and love for them has not changed, they belong to us, they are family.

48: God loves us so much more than we can really comprehend, much more than I do my own adopted children. He loves us so much that He sent His Own Son to die on the cross and three days later rise again so that you and I could be part of His Family. We are children of God; we have been bought with a price. We now have a multitude of spiritual blessings before us. We are heirs, and He wants us to separate ourselves because we have been given a new name. that is written down in the Book of Life, much like the adoption of our children was written down in a court of law. We are now His possession with a guaranteed inheritance, adopted by His grace. We are adopted into the Family of God. Do you know that God thinks of us every day and He carries our burdens every day (Psalm 68:19)? He looks after us and wants to keep us safe and from anything evil (2 Thessalonians 3:3) and His love never changes (John 3:16). He cares that much for each of His adopted children. We, as adopted children, now have an obligation to honor our Heavenly Father. We have been set apart, bought with a price and our old life does not exist anymore. Now we are to be holy and blameless before Him. I remember growing up I would never do or say anything that would dishonor my Dad, and it just was not going to happen. People knew me as, Glenn Sanders’ daughter, and to me that was an honor. If bad news ever got back to him that I did or said anything that would bring shame to his name, it would have broken my heart. In the same way, now that we are sons and daughters of God, we are to be different than the world around us. We are to praise, honor and obey our Heavenly Father and bring honor to His Name! Other Scriptures to inspire and encourage: Psalm 139:16 Romans 8:14-17 Romans 8:23-30 1 John 3:1 | "To love God is the greatest of virtues; to be loved by God is the greatest of blessings." - Unknown Author

50: "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” - Acts 4:12 | "Salvation comes through a cross and a crucified Christ." - Andrew Murray

51: Around the late 70's there was a popular Christian song sung by the gospel group the Imperials called "Oh Buddha." Today it probably would not even be played on Christian Radio stations, simply because even the "church" tries to be politically correct in fear that may be seen as insensitive, but it has a message that reflects Acts 4:12. The first stanza says, "Well, Old Buddha was a man and I'm sure that he meant well, but I pray for his disciples lest they wind up in hell. And I'm sure that old Mohammad thought he knew the way, but it won't be Hara Krishna we stand before on the Judgment day." "Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and no man comes to the Father, accept through Him." John 14:6. Our salvation, our redemption is found in no one else but in Jesus Christ. In our pluralistic and progressive society where tolerance is expected, even demanded, we who believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation are told we are too narrow minded, and wicked to even think that Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal salvation. I believe the Word of God and Jesus said that He was the Son of God, and He died and rose again on my behalf. I believe He is the only way for us to receive salvation, redemption and total forgiveness for our sins. He has time and time again proven Himself to me and I have found him to be Truth and Faithful! Many argue and speculate that it is wrong for Christianity to make such a claim; their argument usually goes like this, "I am a good person and God won't send me to hell just because I don't live by the Bible. Times have changed! Only really bad people like child molesters and murderers go to hell." The truth of the matter is it does not matter how good we are; it does not matter how religious we are; it does not matter what we do for God, we can never be good enough, holy enough to earn salvation. Salvation is a gift! Salvation is only available through faith in Jesus Christ. The Word of God tells us that the unbelievers are being deceived by satan himself. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 it states the following, "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." Many people believe that all religions are the same, and all lead to God and that is a lie. As Christians we are mocked, criticized and demonized if we should wear a cross, carry our Bible, or pray in a public place. We are told we are old fashioned and the Bible is not relevant for today's society in its liberal way of thinking. But you and I have a mandate to preach Jesus, to share His gospel, the Good News of Christ and let the world know that we cannot save ourselves and that there is Hope in Jesus Christ! Some religions assert that their followers must work their way to salvation, perform righteous acts or carry out religious service in order to become good enough for salvation. In some of their creeds of faith their followers must pray a certain number of times a day in order to be saved. Others believe one must inflict physical punishment and beat their bodies into submission to earn their salvation. Still others say you must kill the infidels to go to Heaven. Christianity on the other hand says we cannot pray enough, give enough, act religious enough to save ourselves and that our only hope for salvation is found in Jesus Christ, the Risen Son of God.

52: In the plan of God before the foundation of all of His Creation, He gave us a free will. He will not make us serve Him, pray to Him, and it is a matter of choice. When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior He becomes our advocate with the Father; our salvation is in Him. Christianity has been infiltrated in part by secular thinkers, and many who attend church sincerely believe if they are of a certain denomination then they have all the answers and surely will go to Heaven. This too is a lie. Let us go back to the song, “Oh Buddha"; in another verse it states, "Well, you can call yourself a Baptist and not be born again, a Presbyterian or a Methodist and still die in your sin. You can even be Charismatic shout and dance and jump a pew, but if you hate your brother you won't be one of the Chosen Few." I have been told over the years that I am bold about my faith; may it never be said that I did not wrap that boldness in love, but regardless of one's opinion of me and or my reason for presenting the gospel boldly to all who would hear, I do not apologize. I challenge you to be bold in your commitment to Christ, nor count the cost for your life now in His Hands. I have asked this question many times of people, "Are you a Christian?" Their response has often been, "I attend First Baptist” or ”I go to church so and so." My response, "I did not ask about what church you go to, but my question was are you a Christian; that is do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?" Some of their responses again have been, "I went up front and shook the pastor's hand," or "I was born in the church; I used to sleep under the pew as my father was preaching when I was a child!" We are to make disciples. People need hope, and they want to see that hope in those of us who call ourselves Christian. We cannot act like the world. People need the Lord—even those who have been deceived by the enemy of the ages. We are to be bold, but with that boldness we are to have a humble heart and reflect His love. We send mixed messages when we stand in picket lines at an abortion clinic and yell hate to one who struggles with life choices. Why not put down the sign, cross over the picket line, give them a hug and show them there is another way and that there is hope in Jesus for He is their only hope, for He is the only one who can forgive, heal, and save their souls! Other Scriptures to inspire and encourage: Matthew 11:17 John 14:6 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 1 Timothy 2:5-6 1 John 2:23 1 John 5:10-12 1 John 5:20

53: "Do not strive in your own strength; cast yourself at the feet of the Lord Jesus, and wait upon Him in the sure confidence that He is with you, and works in you. Strive in prayer; let faith fill your heart-so will you be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." - Andrew Murray

54: So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you." -- Deuteronomy 31:6 There is a wind blowing especially in America today where the majority of the people who call themselves conservative Christians seem to be blindsided by this wind of political opportunity where the secular elite have demanded and have received their calling card to criticize, demonize our Christian faith. It appears that some American Christians are confused and anxious about being blindsided by this wind of change through the political arena. The church for some reason seems bewildered as to why the "secular elite" are promoting their own social agenda, why they are against God, that is the God of Christianity to the point they want to ban the Bible from being used when the President of the United States is being sworn in as President and remove the Ten Commandments from any public building. They impede anyone who speaks against abortion and homosexuality and accuse us of being thoughtless and inconsiderate of others. But we as born again believers must understand this one truth, we are a Christian first before we are a conservative. We shout, we post our American Conservatism on Facebook, and we proudly proclaim we are a conservative and believe that we should uphold the Constitution of the United States. We do not hesitate to voice our opinion about our rights found especially in the 2nd Amendment, but we are a Christians first! Now do not get me wrong, I believe America was founded on Biblical principles and the Constitution of our nation should be followed, that killing unborn babies is an abomination as are the acts of homosexuality, but our battle is not with the political elite in Washington D.C., the people who work at Planned Parenthood or individuals who support Gay Rights, nor is our battle with the President of the United States or the Democrats in Congress. In fact this battle is not even ours to fight; these battles all belong to the Lord. The secular elite, the agnostic, the atheist and the political left voters are not our enemy. God is not surprised by the depravity of our nation's morals; He is not surprised that we have fallen far from the will of God. He is not surprised that we as a nation will not repent and fall on our knees before the Lord nor is He surprised that more families end up in divorce that are in the church than are outside of the church. But one thing I do know: you and I can still make a difference in our own lives and in the life of our nation, if we can simply separate this political mayhem and chaos from our own spiritual lives and focus on the Lord and act on and believe in His Word. We need to rescue our faith from the American dream. Sure we should vote, pray for our leaders, obey the laws of the land, be an example for others to follow, but that is not our calling nor is it why we were chosen by God before the foundation of this world. We are to stand firm in our faith and be brave and not be afraid of the winds that are blowing over our nation.

55: I assure you, I am not trying to make a political statement, but what I am trying to do is get us focused back on the Lord and not get tied up in this ungodly alliance found in national politics and the mindset of exceptionalism. We are not to be "afraid of them" nor are we to be "afraid and panic!" Why? Because our Lord God goes before us and He will not abandon the faithful. We are to be bold when we speak of our faith and we are to lift up the Name of Jesus in all that we do; unfortunately the church in general has become timid and afraid. Our purpose as Christian is not to get caught up in the fray of secular and political arguments, but to preach Jesus! But if we are not walking the walk and talking the talk of our faith, and we act, sound, and look like the world, the world becomes confused when we do speak of our faith. We were called out to be different and not to be of this world. Regrettably, our nation will be judged by the Hand of God, but when that judgment comes it will not be the fault of the secular media, the agnostic, the atheist, or the socialist agenda of the secular elite, but this nation will be judged because of the lack of boldness and faith in those of us who call ourselves Christians. We are to reflect the character of Christ, we are to live with the fruit of the Spirit alive in us, and we are not to be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. We are to be bold and not shake under the winds that are blowing across our Land. A friend of mine a few weeks back came to my office at work, and he started talking about the ungodly political transformation taking place, and he asked me this question, "What will we do if they come into our home and tell us to abandon our faith or be killed or imprisoned?" I said, "We would tell them go ahead and shoot, or send us to jail if we truly know in whom we believe!" Oh that we all would have such boldness in Christ! What would we do if we were put to the test? Here is an example that actually happened while I was on a trip to the Holy Land, Israel. In part of the tour we were going to visit Jordan. When we disembarked off the plane to meet our tour guide we were greeted with tanks and AK47's! We were watched like we were criminals on our way to execution. The Jordan guards pointed their guns at us and motioned for us to get in line, the men on one side and the women on the other; we were all going to be searched. As they escorted each of us to a very small and secluded room we were patted down, searched and made to unbutton our blouses. Once we were finished we were escorted into another room that was larger, and we were told to make a single line; our suitcases were being searched. They opened our suitcases tossed everything out on a table and actually took items they said were considered contraband, basically anything they wanted.

56: There were several women ahead of me; I was soon to be next. When I got off the plane I had my Bible under my arm, and after I was searched in the secluded room, I placed the Bible back under my left arm and stood in line for my turn. I did not even think about the consequences of such an act. I stood, ready to see all my personal belongings thrown out for all to see, when the man checking pointed at me and looked me square in the eyes and said in broken English, "Are you a Christian?" My response without considering the possible penalty or the cost, I said with confidence, "Yes sir, I am a Christian!" His response was simply, "You are okay, I will not check anything, and you go through" as he pointed to the door entrance. I have often wondered what might have happened if I had not been so bold about my faith? What would have happened if I had said, “No, I am not a Christian!” This act of boldness should be a normal characteristic of our faith in Jesus Christ. We have a calling on our lives, we have a job to do, so be "strong and courageous" and do not be "afraid and panic" about what is going on in our nation's capital, but go and live out the gospel of Jesus Christ. So what if they call us insensitive, or a bigot? Be an example that others will want to follow; people need the Lord! May I challenge all of us to go and preach the gospel, be an example that others will follow. We have a job to do...let's go do it! Other Scriptures to inspire and encourage: Joshua 1:9 I Corinthians 16:14 John 16:33 | "Let us not be surprised when we have to face difficulties. When the wind blows hard on a tree, the roots stretch and grow the stronger, Let it be so with us. Let us not be weaklings, yielding to every wind that blows, but strong in spirit to resist." - Amy Carmichael

57: "Beloved, your troubles are not unforeseen accidents. No matter what you are going through, no matter how deep your hurt, God is right on target and right on time." - David Wilkerson

58: "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me will not remain in darkness." - John 12:46 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." - Matthew 5:16

59: It was my senior year in high school during semester exams, and I had to pass the physical fitness aspect of my Physical Education class by swimming two laps in the school's Olympic size pool. I was eighteen years old and I could not swim, but a few weeks prior to the exam another senior classmate taught me enough to pass the test. I passed the exam swimming in five feet of water. I was confident and a strong swimmer as long as I could see the bottom of the pool and the water was clear. I finished early and it was suggested that a group of us girls go to the deep end of the pool and dive in. I thought, no problem—I just swam two laps and passed; I can do this. I jumped in without hesitation, but then I became terrified that I would drown. I panicked and I am not sure the time that elapsed, but I went down twice before I heard the voice of another classmate that persuaded me that I was okay and could reach the side of the pool. There was a fear that crippled my sense of orientation of where I was in the pool, and for moment darkness seemed to invade my soul; that feeling that day haunted me for months. On that day I experienced something far more cynical and diabolical, I heard a voice as I was going down in the water that seemed to sneer, and it was mocking me with a laugh! The voice said to me, "It is okay you can touch bottom!" I believed I had to touch the bottom of the pool some 12 feet down to be safe! I went down a second time, trying with all I had to touch the bottom of the pool. On that day, I faced a reality of a cold dark horror that seemed to put a snare around my very soul. That day I knew if I had drowned I would have faced eternity lost. For months I thought about my experience and I knew without a shadow of doubt that I was bound for hell. Darkness had taken up residence and I knew my soul was lost. In Romans 5:8 it states that even while we were lost and in our sin, Christ demonstrated His love for us. You see God loved me anyway, even when I did not know Him, during those months of struggling with feelings of death, dying, drowning. I believe now that I do know the Lord, that He revealed Himself to me on more than one occasion, where He had my back! He had my back on that day in the pool, when He used my classmate to help me focus on where I was in the pool. He reminded me there were other times when I faced death, or a fear that crippled me where He showed up and protected me—one time in particular, again it had to do with water, this time it was dark, cold and very deep. I was five years old. My dad worked at a sawmill in south Pinellas County, Florida. We lived on the grounds of the saw mill just a few hundred yards from a manmade lake that workers used to float logs in and then maneuver them toward the mill. We had free reign to swim, fish and play in the lake on the weekend when the saw mill was closed. This day in particular the Lord reminded me, as I struggled with the void in my soul thinking about the voice in my head that had tried to persuade me to touch the bottom of the pool, that another voice spoke to me. This one did not have a sinister laugh; with this voice I felt peace, "Do you remember when....?" I thought back to that day at the lake behind our home. My stepmother was fishing; I was leaning over the dark water, looking at my reflection in the water. She said, "You are going to fall in if you are not careful!" It was only a matter of time, when my small clumsy frame fell as my feet slipped in the fine white Florida sand, and in the water I fell. The voice again spoke to me as I thought back to that day, "Do you remember what happened that day, and I was there with you!"

60: I would remember back to that day; there was no fear and yet I could not swim, but something happened I will never forget. A large gentle Hand appeared in the dark murky water that tenderly pushed my small frame through the water until I was safe on the other side of the lake. The darkness I felt on that day at the pool and the months that followed is a true illustration of the same darkness that hovers, haunts the human soul. The world is full of darkness, wickedness and unbelief. Christ is the Light that will cast out all darkness. The reality of this darkness is that the world is blind to the reality that they are lost in sin, because to them Jesus Christ may have been a prophet like Mohammad but surely He is not the Son of God. They believe a lie; they are numb to their own corruption. The enemy of the Cross has penetrated their soul, and as he whispered to me that day, "it's okay you can touch bottom!” they too hear that same voice, filled with lies, deceit and darkness. No, they are not aware of their condition, because they have not yet seen the Light. Now for another true narrative, this time it involves the Light. I was eight years old; it was dark and I was all alone in my bedroom. This was unusual because having four children in our home while growing up usually meant we shared a room. This time I was alone, crying in the darkness of night, and what I experienced that night prepared my heart for what was to come many years later. My heart had been broken, and in the darkness of that room I knew I was not wanted, that one person in particular did not want me living there and the rage of their jealousy spun out of control. In the darkness of that night something happened, the darkness of the night was consumed by a bright light that lit-up at the foot of my bed, and I was not afraid. At the foot of my bed was a silhouette, a shape of a person who looked like the picture of Jesus that I had seen in a church Sunday school class, but His face was not visible. Around this silhouette was the brightest Light I had ever seen, brighter than the hot Florida sun, but it did not hurt my eyes, and from that Light penetrated a Voice that spoke to me and said, "I am your Friend, be not afraid, I will take care of you!" I have been in darkness. I know the emptiness of the holes in my soul due to the lies I believed. I have experienced the Light, and I have been set free from the darkness that haunted my soul for years, and now that I have tasted the Light and found that it was good, all I want to do is share that Light to a lost world full of darkness. This is our mandate; we are to be a light in the world. We have been given life; why would we not want to share this Truth with others? Other Scriptures to inspire and encourage: John 1:4-15 John 1:7-9 John 3:19-21 1 John 1:5-7 1 John 2:8-10

61: "May not a single moment of my life be spent outside the light, love and joy of God's presence and not a moment without the entire surrender of myself as a vessel for Him to fill full of His Spirit and His love." - Andrew Murray

62: "What [others] most need is to see in you a reflection of what God is like and of the transforming power of the Gospel. Your life can create hunger and thirst for God in others' lives and can be a powerful instrument in the hand of the Holy Spirit to draw their hearts to Christ." - Nancy Leigh DeMoss

64: "And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." - Matthew 28:18

65: It was all over the news in North Central Florida where a young man tried to rob a group of ladies attending a jewelry party at their friend's home in Lake City. It was said the robber came in an open door had a gun and was planning on using it, when the owner of the home stood up and said, "In the Name of Jesus Get out of My House!" He stood there and told the owner he was going to shoot someone, and she again with more boldness said, "In the Name of Jesus Get out of my house!" This time something happened—the other ladies in the group did not panic, did not run, did not cry; they all in unison spoke the Name of Jesus out loud and continued to repeat His Name over and over again, and the robber turned and ran out of the house! There is power in the name of Jesus! There is power in the Name of Jesus. At the Name of Jesus I was set free from my past, my sin and I have been forgiven. Because of that act of faith I know that even in times of difficulty and pain, there is comfort, peace and joy in the Name of Jesus! I have faced storms where the rivers in my life reminded me of the Red Sea during the time of Moses and the enemy was behind me prodding and enticing me to be a prodigal daughter and go back to my old life before my conversion. It was as if the Pharaoh and his army were pushing me toward a cliff, but instead of falling to the deception of the enemy, I called on the Name of Jesus...and He stood between me and the storms...and the rough seas in my life would became calm. There is Power in the Name of Jesus. There have been times when the struggles were more than I could bear. I could not even pray; it was as if I could not even form a sentence. In those times I would only speak His name and I knew without a doubt I would make it through. It is difficult for me to adequately describe the peace that would fall upon me during these particular times; the only illustration that would even come close is the experience of a child safe in their Father's arms! The world around us may mock us, want to make fun of us as Christians, and say our "religion" is not relevant for today's society, yet I have even seen people who call themselves atheists, ask for prayer during their struggles. Captain was what we called him; he was an intellect, highly educated, and a world traveler. He was very well read and read the Bible through several times. After a few years of being our friend, he started to soften—not to the point he would acknowledge that there was a God, but he was warming up to the idea and would listen more and argue less. He was diagnosed with cancer, and he called us one day, asking, "Would you pray to your God, on my behalf He seems to listen to you." He recognized in his own way, in the latter years of his life, that there was a God and that his atheist views were wrong. When we would pray for him he would often weep and he would say, "Why is it I can sense your prayers?" There is power in the name of Jesus. Another example is of a friend of ours who does attend church but did not believe in healing, discernment, knowledge or any of the other gifts of the Holy Spirit that are available to believers today, as in the 1st Century church. He and a couple of his buddies took a day off and went fishing. While fishing our friend experienced terrible chest pain and apparently had a heart attack! The two men with him began to call on the Name of Jesus, prayed for healing, and the pain was gone. When they were able to get him back to shore and to the hospital there were no signs of damage to the heart. Our friend is now in his eighties, and every time he talks about his experience that day while fishing, he too begins to cry and says, "I do not have what those two men have, but on that day I know without a doubt that God touched and healed me on that fishing boat when I thought I was going to die!"

66: On more than one occasion, I have had people pray on my behalf—for direction, for children, for wisdom, and for healing, and I have prayed for others and knew the Hand of God had touched them. There is Power in the Name of Jesus. In my mid-thirties, for example, I was experiencing a severe physical pain in my abdomen. After going to the doctor and having a sonogram completed it was determined that I had a growth about the size of a large grapefruit. It was very visible in the sonogram, and so I was scheduled for major surgery. We along with others were praying. The morning of surgery the surgeon wanted to be confident about of the location of the growth and to see if it was attached to any vital organs so he ordered another sonogram. The same technician performed the test on the same sonogram machine. The results were amazing; there was no growth at all, no scar tissue, and it was gone. The doctor did minor laparoscopic surgery to make sure there was no residue in case it had ruptured, which would cause a major infection. Following the minor surgery, my primary physician called to see if I was improving and to make plans for my discharge from the hospital. I told him they found nothing, and he said in his broken Philippine accent, "You have lot prayers go up for you, I not tell you to have surgery if you not need to. God is good!" There is Power in the Name of Jesus. As Christians we are not exempted, as I have said before, from troubles, and it is important that as Christians we understand that when we proclaim the Name of Jesus we are actually telling whatever may be in front of us—be it trials, tribulation, or feelings of anxiety—that in any situation the Spirit of God is in us and He is greater than anything that may come our way! "Greater is He," Jesus, that's in me than he that's in the world (1 John 4:4). When we call on the Name of Jesus, it activates our faith, and we realize that we really, "can do all things through Christ who strengthens” (Philippians 4:13). We are not alone; there is Power in the Name of Jesus. The Lord is not surprised when calamity comes our way. He will see us through—no, He may not take us out of it, but He has promised He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6-9, Hebrews 13:5), and when we invoke the name of Jesus we are telling our enemy that, “No weapon formed against" me "shall prosper” (Is. 54:17). Yes, I have been hit from all sides, from every frustration, pain, discomfort and temptation, but as it says in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, I have been "struck down but not destroyed." My God has been faithful each and every time, and I know that there is Power in the Name of Jesus! Other Scriptures to inspire and encourage: Matthew 18:20 Mark 9:41 John 14:13-26 Philippians 2:9-11

67: "Prayer turns ordinary mortals into men of power. It brings power. It brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God." - Samuel Chadwick

68: "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." - 1 Peter 1:15-16

69: Growing up I attended a holiness Pentecostal church usually on Easter and Christmas; there were a few times I actually attended Sunday school classes when I was about six years old. The preacher seemed nice enough and the people were kind. They sang with much enthusiasm usually about the "sweet by and by," and a song called the "Good Old Gospel Ship" seemed to be one of their favorites. I did notice they were different. They dressed different. The ladies had long hair usually tied up in a bun and never wore make-up. The men wore long sleeve shirts, usually with the top button of their shirts buttoned, and most of the men did not wear a tie or suit unless they were the pastor or one of the deacons. The pastor preached about that they were called to be holy and be different or set apart from the world. I enjoyed the way the congregation would often respond to the pastor's preaching with a loud "Amen," "Hallelujah," and they would all pray at the same time, often in a language I did not understand. During singing there was freedom to clap their hands, stomp their feet and they even had a drum in the sanctuary. I loved it! Later in life I actually became a member of a Pentecostal church for more than 25 years, and I would call their "holiness" mandates an example of "clothes-line religion." Early on in attending this church, at least the first 5 years, it was very traditional—a lot like the one I visited as a child—in the way the people dressed, the long hair, and no make-up for the ladies. The women never wore slacks, always a dress, but never a red dress, because to them red represented sin. To become a member you had to actually sign a card that you would not go to movies, smoke, drink or swim with the opposite sex, and I can understand their logic behind their request. There were even times a deacon would approach a man who came to visit and was not aware of their "religion's" requirements and were told that "their kind was not welcome"—sad but true. When I would hear of these things, it would break my heart. Early in my relationship with this church, they had a community sing-along where other churches were invited. I would often sing at these events but one night I came in wearing a pair of slacks, and I was told I was not allowed to sing since I was not dressed properly. We are to reflect the character of Christ, so why don't we throw off these manmade traditions and simply preach the Word of God and be about our Father's business. Where would we be without His forgiveness? No one should be turned away. Love them all and preach the Word of God, and He will take care of the rest. Sure we are called to be "fishers" of men, but God never told us to clean them; that is His job! Please hear my heart. I am thankful for my Pentecostal roots, and even though I became a Christian while in the Methodist Church, I have a deep love for the Pentecostal people and thankful for the Word that I was taught. I have had many doors opened for ministry, especially to women, married couples and children over the years. I am not bashing their traditional views; I can understand reasons behind their beliefs. It is obvious that one cannot actually have a lifelong ministry like Mother Teresa and dress and act like Lady Gaga; the two just do not mix. We do need to be different. We do need to stand out in our faith, kindness and in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). I sincerely believe when our Lord spoke about holiness He was referring to our inner heart and not so much the color of a woman's dress. When our inner spirit changes then it will change us on the outside and we will be different.

70: Many churches today in America, both Catholic, Pentecostal, and even Protestant churches, have forsaken the traditions of their particular denomination of years gone by and now advertise progressive, contemporary services where flip-flops, shorts, drinking coffee in the sanctuary are all okay. Even many pastors get tattoos so they can relate to their members who have tattoos. Why? The services now run the gamut from what appears like a rock concert including the multi-color strobe lights or even the scheduling of a Super Bowl Sunday night service where the congregation will watch the game with popcorn and cokes included. Why is it that the modern day church has to be like world to preach the gospel to those who are lost and need a Savior? There has to be a balance from the old traditions to the modern motivational services found in the churches in America. If the gospel is preached, then people will be saved and their inner man will change. In my opinion we do not need to add our traditions to the gospel of Christ. I am not trying to formulate or argue any doctrinal statements from any particular denomination; however, mankind's attempt to appear holy or even acceptable to the masses is not what our Lord intended when He called us to be holy. We were created in God's image (Genesis 1:26-27). There is more that God expects of us when He called us to be holy. We are to reflect His character in all that we do and say now that we have been set apart and we have taken on His name. As His adopted children, no longer are we to worry, fret, or be filled with hate and envy. It is difficult however sometimes to see the difference between those who attend church and those who do not. I read a statistic the other day that said one in three women will have an abortion by the time they are forty-five years old and seventy-eight percent of those women are in the church. The figures for divorce in the church are no different than that outside the church. It also has been reported that forty-five percent of all pastors have been unfaithful to their spouses and fifty-one percent are addicted to Internet pornography. Something is seriously wrong with the church in America. Either the majority of the churches and that includes all denominations, are not preaching the Word, or the people in the pews have become insensitive to the Word and are being deceived. The church has become politically correct instead of preaching Christ and believes they should look like and act like the world so people will feel accepted and not offended by the gospel. The gospel does offend. It is against everything that is sinful, and we all fall short of the glory of God. I understand human nature; we are flawed and selfish, yet as Christians we are called to be holy and not be like the world. We are not to behave like some chimpanzee swinging from a tree because we also believe we have evolved from apes even though we are faithful church attenders. We are to take on the attributes and characteristics of Christ. That is, we are to put off that old sinful nature which controlled us before we became a Christian (Galatians 5:9-25), and put on a new nature in Christ. When we do this we will walk as the Lord in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and in our self-control, we will become holy. Yes, we will be different, set apart for His good work!

72: "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Galatians 3:26-29

73: During the past seven years I have been involved extensively in researching my family heritage. While doing research I found there was an extensive cast of characters that symbolized our family name--some good, some not so good. In my exploration of records, census, certificates, historical military records, muster rolls and family records, I found my family had people from all walks of life: farmers, land owners, coal miners, stone masons. Some were revolutionaries or explorers, some fought for American's freedom in several wars. One family member even walked the Trail of Tears (when the Cherokee Indians were driven from their land to Oklahoma). Others married into the Cherokee Nation. I found pastors, seers, adulterers. Some spent time in prison. Others found themselves on a chain gang for running moonshine during prohibition and some were even slave owners. Most were average county folk that worked hard and believed in family--people whose word was as good as a written contract. Most were honest men and women who came to America and believed in the American dream. Historians who traced my maiden name, Sanders, found our lineage is from Ireland and Scotland by way of England to America. Our name was traced all the way back to Alexander the Great; in fact, the name Sanders means "sons of Alexander". According to these same historians and genealogists, we had at least two family motto's: “Spec Mea In Deo” meaning “My Hope Is In God” and “Genitum Secredere Mundo” meaning “Born of Heaven.” A family name at one time meant something, but as generations of people grew up in America, we lost touch with our roots or would rather forget our heritage. We do not explore what our name may represent, who we were and who we might become. For the Sanders name to represent "My Hope Is in God!" as a motto is something we should be proud of as a family. For example, in the Old Testament names usually described who they were but also how they were blessed and used of God. Elijah's name means "The Lord is my God". Isaiah means "Salvation is God" and "The Lord helps"! Sarah's name was changed from Sarai to Sarah once she believed God. Sarah means Princess, while Sarai means one who is dominative, superior or haughty, one who was in control, prominent and influential. Abraham’s name changed as well when He believed God. He was originally called Abram, meaning "Exalted Father" and later Abraham, meaning "Father of Many Nations." As a Christian, we have taken on the Name of "CHRIST" in that we are now called CHRISTIANS. We were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:19-26) when Barnabas (Barnabas means "Son of Exhortation") went looking for Saul ("One Prayed For") who became Paul ("Small, Little and Humbled") and taught many people for more than a year at Tarsus which is in present day Turkey. 1 Peter 1:23 says, "For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." Our new name should mean something to us; we are called Overcomers, more than Conquerors in Christ Jesus. We represent a new heritage in CHRIST that will set the captives free, help the crippled to walk, the blind to see and will set those who are possessed, oppressed and depressed free!

74: I am thankful for my earthly family--for the principles and good work ethic I was taught early in life. I am thankful that my Dad taught me to respect both adults and authority and to stand by my word. I am thankful that my Dad was a kind man who worked hard to take care of his children. But all of this could not make me right with God--only a relationship with Jesus Christ could ensure that my name was written down in Heaven, in the Lamb's Book of Life. I have a heritage that I must proclaim from the mountaintops, all the more reason I must understand who I am as a child of God. Who am I in Christ? Who are you? We are to reflect the character of Christ, but we seem to have difficulty being an example for others to follow because we do not understand with our hearts who we are in Christ Jesus. We may even be able to quote many scriptures...but what we really think is that those scriptures are for someone else--that is for the pastor, teacher, or evangelist. Even as a Christian we have a poor self-image. We have been inundated by the world's view of what or who we are supposed to imitate. We do not hunger and thirst after the Lord. The truth is that we are now part of the family of God and we are made new in Christ. No longer is the world our example to follow. We are now His disciples, His sons and daughters! As children of God, we were chosen before the foundation of the world. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and God says that we are friends of God. We are His workmanship, His dearly beloved and we are also forgiven! We have been rescued from the curse of the law and we have been set free. Now that I am a Christian, I am a new creation. I am now dead to sin and alive in Christ. We have been adopted as children of God, and now our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Are you convinced yet about who we are as part of the family of God? No? Well, let me continue to share with you who we are IN Christ. Christ bought us with a price, we are complete in Him, and would you believe we are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6)? The word of God gives us great and precious promises and because of His work on the Cross, we now share His divine nature and escape the world's corruption (2 Peter 1:4). The promises of God continue to let me know that He will never fail me or abandon me. I no longer should have the spirit of fear or timidity, but now in Christ I have power, love and self-discipline. As part of the family of God, you and I are joint heirs with Christ. We are the victor not the victim of circumstances. Do you know who you are now in CHRIST? YES! | "Your children should love the Lord, work hard, and experience the joy of trusting God. More important than leaving your children an inheritance is leaving them a spiritual heritage. If you left your children money they didn't need, and if they were thinking correctly, wouldn't they give it to God anyway? Then why not give it to God yourself, since He entrusted it to you?" Randy Alcorn

75: "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life." Proverbs 4:23

76: Romans 8:5 states, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” This scripture is a reminder to us as Christians that we must focus on the Lord, and basically the things we focus on, think about and consider will either bring us closer to the Lord or they will divide, deceive, and discourage us in our walk of faith. We must guard our hearts with all diligence! We are spirit, soul and body and from the very beginning of our physical existence there is a spiritual void that must be filled. Now, because God gave us the ability to choose Him, He will not automatically fill that void. I refer to that emptiness as holes in our soul. Every day we have choices and decisions to make, and as Christians we should set, focus and fix our minds on things above not on things of this earth (Colossians 3:2). We are often blindsided by the things of the world, especially if we are not focused on the Lord. It is easy for us to lose our direction with the stresses of life that we face every day; our children may be sick, we just lost our job, or the month is longer than the money in the bank account. Stuff happens, the car breaks down, a tornado just blew through your community and you lost everything, your family is falling apart and now you may be facing a divorce. Our focus becomes worldly quickly when we face any of these types of trials. Any of these things could happen to us, and if they did what would we do? How would we act? Have you ever faced a personal heartbreak, a tragedy where you thought you would never get over it, and find happiness, peace on the other side of your pain? I am sure you have. I know I have and in every step of the way, even with my own decisions the Lord and His Word did not necessarily sanction, the Lord understood my heart and loved me through it anyway. I was not abandoned by my Lord; I was for a season discarded by my church family, simply because they did not understand. If I had any advice to share with the church in general it would be we should learn to not be so critical and so quick to judge and throw away an individual who was once in fellowship but now is hurting, struggling and going through a personal crisis. Compassion, prayer and reconciliation would be my recommendation. In 1987 I asked my husband of nineteen years for a divorce. By the way, this is not something I would recommend as an alternative to heal your heart. Yes, we both were Christians, born again and loved the Lord with all of our hearts. Yet the stress, the pain of rejection, fear, betrayal could not continue. I either had to leave or I was going to die. Then to experience the rejection, judgment of Christian "family" hurt even more. I was alone, vulnerable and ripe for the enemy of God to fill the emptiness in my soul. I was exposed to things of the world I had never even considered before. I had a choice to make. I chose God! My Lord was faithful. Even during the time of feeling defenseless He had a plan and brought total healing of the holes in my soul, and three years later He restored my marriage.

77: During this time of being vulnerable, I had made a commitment, a verbal decision out loud not only to myself but in a prayer to the Lord, in what I thought would be my spiritual wilderness. I made the determination I would set my affections on the things of the Lord, even if I was a divorced Christian woman. I was unwavering and determined to set my mind on the things above and not on my hurtful circumstances, not on my own personal tragedy. It is a good thing I made my declaration of faith, that I would remain faithful to the Lord and the sanctity of my marriage. You see I could have easily fallen in the traps that were set before me. I was hit on every side of my emotions. People told me I was young, beautiful and deserved better. I was reminded that I was a successful manager of a large hospital chain, a valuable part of their administrative team and I should go on with my life and not hide away at home alone. I was exposed and vulnerable to the world and what it had to offer. To the world's way of thinking I was divorced so why not date; I could find someone who loved me in another relationship, find another family and walk away from the one that brought so many years of sorrow. I could not walk away from my Lord. I made up my heart that I would be faithful, even during the years of isolation. My determination, my proclamation of faith and commitment put a drive in me that wanted the Lord more than anything else, and I wanted to reflect His character. The Lord kept me from failing and falling into the snares. It was not easy; if I told you it was, I would be lying. There were times I wanted to run. Who would care, who would know? There were times I wanted companionship, someone to talk to, someone to love me, someone to hold me. Yet I knew all of these thoughts and emotions were traps, a trick of the enemy to make me focus on things the world and "friends" said I deserved! I had set my mind on the Lord, and with everything I had to shelter my own heart. My God was faithful during my those three years and my heart was healed during those years of self-banishment, and during that time a love grew for my husband that I had never experienced. Jesus Christ was my Advocate, my Companion, and my Friend. He protected me through His Word, when I woke up in the morning He was there. When I walked through the halls of the hospital where I worked, He was there protecting me. When I was in my home all alone He reminded me that He loved me and even opened doors in the darkness of my wilderness to be a witness for the Glory of His Name. God is faithful and I was to remain faithful not only to my Lord but to my husband. The Lord kept me from falling, sinning and walking away from my commitment to Him. 1 John 2:15-17 became my mainstay, a warning to me not to fall into temptations regardless of how harmless they may have seemed at the time. "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." I could not get enough of His Word; He became my everything; nothing else mattered. I was in His Hands.

78: "For the word of the LORD is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness." Psalm 33:4 | "The safe place lies in obedience to God's Word, singleness of heart and holy vigilance." -A.B. Simpson

79: Recently I noticed a post on one of those social networks that said, "I believe every word of the Holy Bible and I don't care if you think I 'm an idiot because of it!" We are narrow minded, old fashioned and out of touch if we should believe in the Holy Bible! The writer of Hebrews states in Hebrews 4:12 that, "The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." The world around is controlled by the father of lies and confusion, satan, and he will do anything to corrupt and deceive us to not believe in the Holy Word of God. Another one of his tricks is that if he cannot make us bad then he will make us busy, too busy to read, too busy to pray, too busy to listen to the direction of the Holy Spirit. He is a master manipulator, and he wants to strip us of our joy and steal back our very soul. Throughout my walk with the Lord, the Word has brought me comfort, peace, direction, hope. It is pure, incorruptible. The Word of God is inspired, infallible, and powerful, and it is health to my soul. It is living and Jesus Christ is the Living Word, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it" (John 1:1-5). The world around us is in darkness and that is the very reason we are called idiots, bigots, and intolerant, because to them it is foolishness for us to believe in the Word of God. They are sinful, and the flesh does not accept or grasp anything of the Spirit. It is foreign and irrational to them. It is by faith and through the Holy Spirit that we as Christians understand and walk according to the Word of God. There have been times in reading the Word, I actually felt like I was being washed, cleansed. It has brought me direction and confirmation. The WORD is NOT magical, but can be mysterious because we cannot comprehend all of WHO God is as mere humans, but I assure you we will find our purpose within its pages. All scripture is God-inspired; that is, it is God breathed and profitable (2 Timothy 3:16). We should read it, meditate on it and respond to its instruction. It is good for teaching, reproof, and correction. It is important that we keep the Word of God in our hearts. In doing so we will find answers to prayer, we will be victorious over sin, and we will respond more directly to the Holy Spirit. It sets our hearts on the Lord God. There is wisdom and hope found within its pages. It is not some hocus pocus tool for us to use to conjure up an answer to our life's problems, or to use to justify our behavior, but it is our guidebook to living life abundantly through healing and restoration of our soul.

80: One of those times, when I felt like I had been washed by the Word, was after an incident where for the first time in my life I experienced an anxiety attack. I could not sleep; my mind would not shut off. I worried, I fretted over a situation where people I loved were being torn apart by malicious pride and religious jealousy of several other people who once loved us both. I was torn and in my efforts to try and bring consolation and reconciliation to the injustice, I was verbally sent to the cleaners. Then satan started in on me, and I was crushed when my motives were misunderstood. One of the desires of my heart was that I wanted the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart to be pleasing to my Lord (Psalm 19:14), and I had failed and I could not even see the light of day. Have you ever read where satan is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10)? Well he was doing a good job on me. During this attack I literally felt worthless; the situation was hopeless, and I wanted to throw in the towel. I wanted to just quit life. I needed help. I could not pull myself out the dungeon. I did have at least the presence of mind to call another friend and told him of what was going on and how I was feeling. Right away he understood the attack and I could not fight the battle any longer! My friend and his wife loved me, prayed for me and my spirit started to heal. When I got off the phone, picked up my Bible and went to one of my favorite gospels, the Book of John Chapter 14, and read the following, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Even now writing these words brings tears to my eyes and a joy to my heart. I was being washed with His Presence, His Comfort and His Peace and by His Holy Word. On many occasions the Lord Jesus has revealed Himself through His Word, and I knew I could not throw in the towel, I knew I could not walk away, because I had tasted the goodness of God (Psalm 34:8). Nothing else matters when you know that God has your back. He is the only one who could bring reconciliation to my heart and soul. Other Scriptures to inspire and encourage: Hebrews 4:12-13 2 Timothy 3:16 Matthew 24:35 I Peter 1:25 John 1:14 | "Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace... If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you know what His will is." - Amy Carmichael

81: "But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." - Matthew 19:14

82: She was five weeks old when I first laid eyes on her; she had brown hair and the biggest brown eyes I had ever seen and she weighed only nine pounds and six ounces. I was asked to take her home, she was abandoned by her parents at birth, and then an older couple had adopted her, but because of disability issues they decided to give her back to family services. She was beautiful and I knew I had to bring her home, only if it were for a few weeks. She had already captured my heart. Children have a way of melting my heart; they always have. Even as a child, I was fascinated by little babies, and their willingness to love even when the adults in their lives did wrong. I was the oldest child at home while growing up; my Dad and step-mother had three other children. We were typical siblings; we would play outside for hours, usually cowboys and Indians. We would get into fights, do things to get our parents’ attention and tell on each other. We would all act out and often mimic our parent's behavior, as children often do. We did things we should have never tired as children and we would all get into trouble. My two brothers and my sister grabbed my heart. When they were older two of them came to live with us as teenagers, but the youngest brother really captivated my heart. I was twelve years old when he was born and we became inseparable. He was only six when I married and I remember that he did not understand why he could not go with me; he ran after our car when we drove off for our honeymoon. Thinking back, I probably should have stopped and let him know just one more time that I loved him with my whole heart. I am not sure he has forgiven me yet! Soon after I married I was informed by my gynecologist that I would not be able to have children because of a deformity apparently caused by being premature. Born at seven months and weighing only three pounds and three ounces, I was not fully developed. I was barren and my dreams were shattered, but the word of God says in Psalm 113:9, "He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!" It was all part of God's plan since my husband was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, and if we did have biological children they would possibly have inherited the same dreadful disease. Over the years we took in almost twenty children, some for only a few weeks, and some for several years. Three were adopted, and this five week old baby girl was one of several foster children. This little bundle of five weeks old lived with us for six months. When we were asked to bring her home, I had nothing in the way of furniture and clothing, nor did I have any money to buy formula and diapers. I needed help. I called a friend that attended the same Methodist Church and told her of my problem. When I completed the necessary paperwork and called my husband about what was going on, I headed home a couple of hours later. I arrived home, with this beautiful little baby girl and there in the middle of our large family room was a baby crib, clothes, sheets, diapers, formula and everything a new born baby would need. My church family had once again embraced another one of our foster children and believed with us that the Lord wanted the holes in their soul healed.

83: Children have innocence about them that we as adults could learn from. This little girl had been betrayed twice by adults who were supposed to love her and take care of her, and now here she was in our home. I already had one foster child living with us and she was a handful. I remember like it was yesterday. I was sitting at our dining room table crying. I did not know what to do; to put it bluntly I was scared. I felt ill prepared. I wanted so much to make a difference in their lives, but I knew my skills were inadequate. My own birth mother did not want me. After she and my Dad divorced, my step-mother did not want me. She probably did the best she could, but she was often filled with rage and jealousy because I reminded her of my birth mother. So it was obvious I did not have a good example to follow. I prayed, I prayed a lot! I asked the Lord why these two little girls were now in my home and how I could help them to heal, and in that moment a still small voice of confidence spoke to my heart and said, “You were once where they were and now you will be able to take care of them.” So over the next six months, I began to love this little girl in a manner in which I would have wanted to be loved. When she came to live with us, she was very non-responsive; she did not react to any voice, she did not laugh or cry. In fact she was no trouble at all. So over the months, when I dressed her, gave her a bath, or rocked her to sleep, I would sing to this angel, and in time she started to respond to my voice. She began to laugh, followed my voice when I spoke. Yes, we made a difference in her life, and during those six months we even named her and ended up in the hospital with her when she had to have surgery on a closed tear duct. She grew and was in the high percentile for her age on the day she left when she was adopted out to a Christian family in Pensacola, Florida. There were other children. James I:17 states that "every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above." Each child was a gift from God, even the difficult ones. There was Douglas and Michele; they apparently at one time had gone hungry, and little Douglas had a voice like "Frog" on the "Little Rascals." He would go around the house and repeat over and over, "Eat, Eat!" in his deep baritone voice at the age of three. I would simply give him a piece of bread that he would never eat but hold in his hand all day long or until I gave him another piece of bread. It broke my heart. We picked up four week old twins from the hospital and brought them home. Their mother was mentally retarded and they had fetal alcohol syndrome. Their names were Jamie and Johnny. Johnny was the most critical; he was partially blind. I would sing to him too! His little body seemed to never relax. Jamie was on the night shift and Johnny on the day shift, and for 16 days I did not get any sleep, I camped out in our family room, and used large wicker clothes baskets for their beds. The only time that Johnny's body did seem to relax was when I would sing to him. Even though he could not see very well, he would try to focus in the direction of my voice. It broke my heart.

84: "Only God Himself fully appreciates the influence of a Christian mother in the molding of character in her children." - Billy Graham | There was another Douglas, a ten year old boy we picked up for months on the weekends from the Florida Sheriff's Boys Ranch, because his own parents simply dropped him off and never came to see him. There was a five year old girl named Kay, who had been sexually abused by an uncle who had just received 25 years without parole for his ghastly deeds to such a little child. She had already been in several foster homes, and none could handle her acting out, so they gave us a call. As always we said yes. She too was a handful. She would over react in minor things; if she did not have a towel handy, for example, when she took a bath, she would scream at the top of her lungs. We thought many times she had fallen and was hurt. But if she did get hurt there was no emotion at all. The first night she stayed with us she wet the bed, and in the middle of the night we heard this frightened little voice cry out, "Hey You! Hey You, I wet my bed!" When we went into her room, she said, "I do not know you, so I did not know what to call you!" It broke our hearts as well. Then there was Candace and Michael, the last two foster children we took in from the state foster care system, and they lived with us more than two years. They were from Cherokee Indian heritage, beautiful children with big dark black eyes. They also captured our hearts. It was more than six months after they left our home, where I could not go down a baby food aisle in a grocery store and not cry because I remember how excited Michael would get because he knew he would get something to eat! No, we were not perfect parents, and not all the children brought us joy. Some had to go to other homes because they would hurt the smaller children. We made mistakes as parents, maybe because we had issues of our own, but our hearts were to train up each child to honor and love God (Proverbs 22:6). The Lord did not leave us helpless. Through those years He was always faithful, directing us, helping us and teaching us how to be parents. God showed us grace and mercy every step of the way. We loved each and every child with our whole heart as if they were our very own and tried to teach them godly principles. We prayed and believed God that the holes in their soul would be healed, and that one day they too would serve the Lord and understand the grace and joy of His forgiveness.

85: "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives" - 1 John 1:8-10

86: It is a good thing that God is God, simply because I would have given up on me and the human race a long time ago. But God who is rich in mercy loved us even while we were sinners and far from having a relationship with Him. Before the foundation of the world He was already making plans to reconcile us to Christ, the Son of God (Ephesians 2:1-10). I have heard that funerals will bring out the best and the worse in a family, and when my Dad passed away in 1983 there were a lot of differences of opinion on how things should have gone. Several members of my family got their feelings hurt. Everyone's emotions were already on edge and regardless of what I did or said they were angry and upset over just about everything. What relationship we did have as a family seemed to blow up and was thrown away. Several years later after a long silence my sister called one afternoon and said, "Why are we not talking?" I wish I could tell you that I was the one who called my sister after five years of silence but I was not the one. My sister and I talked, and I told her why we were not talking. With my sister's sense of humor she said, "Well, in that case, I would not be talking to me either!" We talked for hours and then she said, "I realized I was missing something; my sister for one and my children did not have their 'Aunt Linda' in their lives; how can we make it right?" We made it right that day. We were reconciled one to another, and we have been best of friends ever since. In 2009 I attended her oldest daughter's wedding in Pennsylvania. We are family once again. Our relationship was broken and it needed to be fixed. It needed to be made right. In the same way our relationship with God is simply put kaput because of our indulgence and fondness to sin. We are enemies of God. He is Holy and we are not! Our relationship with Him is broken from birth. The only way we can ever be reconciled to God is to accept His Son, Jesus Christ, and what He accomplished on the Cross. We are all sinners, born in sin and not one, not even the best among us is good enough to be reconciled with our Creator without the Cross of Christ. In Proverbs 22:15 it states that, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child,” and in Genesis 8:1 it says, "That the intent of a man's heart is evil from his youth!" Without Christ, to say the least, we are broken, lost and need a Savior and His Name is Jesus Christ. Our human nature, the old man before we came to know Christ, is corrupt; we will indulge in anything and everything that is ungodly. We are disobedient and full of lust and our appetite is only to please ourselves. Ephesians 2:1-3 states, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest." It is clear that we are born in sin, and we need a Savior. Now that we have been reconciled and converted to Christ, we are to no longer act or behave like the world. However, just because we are Christians now, it does not mean we will not sin or fall. But when we do Jesus is there to pick us up and forgive. God is faithful to forgive us when we sin, but that does not give us a license to go out and sin and dishonor God now that we bear His Name.

87: Have you ever watched a child, even a baby as young as six months old? At a very early age we human beings are already developing our own personalities, and how we will perform and conduct ourselves as adults. A baby, for example, wants a bottle and if we do not move fast enough to get that bottle to them, what will they do? Right! They will cry, scream until they get what they want. I have seen children ten and twelve years old act out in a store and literally pitch a fit, stomp their feet, and demand their mother give them that one-hundred dollar game for the X-Box! We are "hell bent" on doing it our way, because we are bound to sin and we move according to the "prince of the power of the air." We are corrupted from the inside out, and we start very young, and if God is not allowed into our lives, we will only become masters of manipulation, corruption and live according to our flesh! If you do not believe me, just go to a Mall, buy a cup of coffee and sit down on a nearby bench. Simply watch the people go by, their demeanor, their attitude and even their dress all spell rebellion, and rebellion according to the Word of God is the same as witchcraft! In 1 Samuel 15:23 it spells out plainly that rebellion is the same as witchcraft and that stubbornness and presumption is as bad as worshiping idols. The world around us is full of rebellion, stubbornness, divination and insubordination; all is from the flesh. We are all guilty. We all fall short of the Glory of God...we are lost, undone, broken and need to be reconciled to our Creator! The holes in our soul will not be healed until we do. When we were children and we disobeyed our parents there were consequences to our disobedience. When we disobeyed our parents there was always a price to pay. When we are disobedient to the commands of God, we have sinned, we have rebelled and there are consequences to our rebellion. There is a price to pay. But God through the Cross of Christ loved us while we were still lost in sin (Romans 5:8). Because of the Cross of Christ, the shed Blood of His Son, who died on the Cross and rose again on the third day, and by us accepting Him as Lord and Savior, no longer does God count our sin against us. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says, "That God was in (through) Christ reconciling the world to Him, not counting their trespasses (sin) against them (us), and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation." Our sin is far as the east is from the west! (Psalm 103:12). We are forgiven and reconciled, that is brought back to our Lord and Savior, our Creator. God through the Cross has made us new. He has refreshed our spirit, redeemed us and restored us unto Himself! Think about that, we are free from our sins and right with God, not because of our merit, not because of our goodness, not because of our earthly heritage, but because of WHO HE IS! Do you know Christ? If not why not? He is waiting for you, and He will take your sins and wash them all away. You can be forgiven and reconciled to God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

88: "Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables." - 2 Timothy 4:2-4 | The phone rang and it was three o'clock in the morning; earlier a man had shown up after a Sunday church night service and he needed help. He was troubled, he was in bondage, and he needed release. It was my husband on the phone. He requested that I get in touch with two other pastors from our small town and request that they come and assist him and the pastor of the church in helping this man find freedom and healing. He also requested that I come to the church and be praying. The man's eyes were wild, blood shot, atrocious and anxious. I walked in the door, praying out loud and speaking the Word as I entered, and a voice came from that man that seemed to be from the dungeons of hell itself which said, "Not you too!" The Word of God is powerful, and it needs to be preached, spoken and proclaimed. That night the man was set free, accepted Christ, was washed and made clean by the Power of God. The Word of God should be alive in us. Over the past 41 years since my salvation experience I have attended many church services, scheduled revivals, Christian concerts and gone to see "well-known" preachers of their day. I have never preached a sermon in a pulpit, but the leaders of the church where I attended opened doors for me to teach the Word of God to multiple ages from kindergarten, youth, women's groups, to young married couples. It became a passion; there was a hunger in my soul to seek out the heart of God through His Word and teach in such a way that the Word of God became relevant, real and applicable in their lives. It was not just a Bible story for a simple Sunday school class, but it was truth, necessary for them to live a victorious life in Christ. It was important to me and I wanted it to be important and relevant to them.

89: That night when the man needed healing, I did not preach the Word in the sense as a sermon from a pastor to his congregation, but I spoke the Word, proclaimed the Word. Sometimes I think "preach" in 2 Timothy 4:2, should be "speak" the Word; then maybe we as laity would speak more and not always wait to experience the Word until we attend a church service and hear it from an ordained minister. We who are not ordained professional pastors and ministers often forget we too are to "make disciples." The call of God to "preach" the word is not just the responsibility of the pastor, priest, or pope. We, as born again believers, also have a calling and responsibility to reflect the character Christ, as someone said, "You may be the only Bible that people will ever read." Another myth found among many Christians today is that those individuals sitting in the pews are supposed to be spectators and not participators in their own faith. The congregation is sitting in the pews, soaking up the word week after week, and yet there seems to be no spiritual growth. That is not the fault of the pastor if in fact he is preaching, proclaiming and speaking the Word. We are responsible for ourselves to study the Word. Please believe me, I thank God for pastors, their calling, and their commitment to the body of Christ. I have witnessed their passion for the Word, their commitment to the church family and the hours they spend in prayer on our behalf. God bless them all! The end result, however, on how we grow in Christ falls on our own shoulders. In 2 Timothy 2:15 it states, "Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Several years ago I shared with a pastor that his preaching did not determine my spiritual growth, that what he preached should confirm what the Spirit of the Lord was already revealing to my heart. He was a little taken back by my comment, maybe because he was young and he was adjusting to being a senior pastor at the second largest church in the community and of the district of that particular denomination, but he will not stand with me on Judgment Day. I will stand alone and must give an account for my own faithfulness to the Lord and the calling of God on my life. The truth is this: as born again believers when we are facing the Judgment Seat of Christ, we cannot blame our pastor or Sunday school teacher if we are found unfaithful. It will be my fault and no one else will be responsible! However, I do encourage the pastors not to "tickle" our ears with motivational speeches with "three points and a poem," or water the Word down so much that it is a politically correct sermon. But please preach the word, speak the word, proclaim the word, and most of all live the word before the parishioners God has placed in your care as the under-shepherd.

90: What does the popularity of an individual have to do with reflecting the character of Christ? There are pastors and ministers today who are very popular with the media. I could name them and so could you. They have mega churches of thousands of people; they show up on popular television shows from "The View" to the Oprah Winfry Network, and are "loved" by the masses. They are followed around like a pop star by the paparazzi; that concerns me. My question is if they were truly preaching the word, would they not be offensive to the masses, and especially the liberal media and television networks? God is able and does open doors for us to share the Word of God; after all, that is one of the avenues for us to "make disciples." I also truly hope they are not proclaiming a "word" that will keep them in the limelight where they seem more like a politician on a campaign trail. I have often wondered in the mega churches if they took away the "rock" style worship, the contemporary praise songs, the coffee shops, the Christian book stores, and stripped all the accessories of a modern worship service, and the WORD of God was simply and unashamedly preached, what would happen? If the pastor stood in the pulpit without all the fanfare and proclaimed Christ and Him Crucified, and that we are only saved by the Blood of the Lamb, would it still be a mega church or would the people leave only to find another church they are "comfortable" in attending? What do any of our manmade methods of "presenting" the Gospel of Christ have to do with reflecting the character of Christ or preaching the Word? What does our ability to be tolerant or politically sensitive in a church service have to do with proclaiming the Word? What do our likes and dislikes in a church service, be it traditional or contemporary, have to do with the Gospel of Christ? All of our efforts are called "religious practices." It has been this way since the first century, but Christianity was never meant to be a religion where man can corrupt as with the "established" religion at the time of Christ. They surmised He was starting up a new religious sect for people to follow, that He would set up His Kingdom, a church on the corner of Jerusalem Road and Jericho Way, right downtown across from their century old establishment. How could He? So the Sanhedrin (John 18:19-24; Matthew 26:57) sent Jesus Christ to Pontius Pilate to be crucified for stepping on their religious toes! The Sanhedrin wanted to look, act and sound religious and all their efforts were futile and our efforts today are no different. It is all rubbish, seen as being self-important where one religion tries to outdo another. Please just preach the Word of God and people will be saved, filled with the Holy Spirit and LIVE for CHRIST as an example for the world to see!

91: In reality the religious population of that day could not see nor could they understand that following Jesus Christ was not another religion, but it was about having a relationship with the Son of God. Christ today wants the same thing for His followers to spend time with Him, fellowship with Him as the Living Word and be set free from the bondage of sin, hell and the grave. He, Jesus Christ, gave up His life on this earth and rose from the dead on the third day. He now sits at the Father God's Right Hand and is interceding for us. Upon His ascension to Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit, the Holy Comforter to guide and direct us to the Cross. No one sent Jesus Christ to the Cross to be crucified. He willing went to the Cross. He could have called twelve legions of angels to protect Him! (Mathew 26:48-53) [Twelve legions of angels could be at least 72,000 angels.] He did not call for the angels, He did not make a case for Himself and He freely gave up His life to set us free. No religious zealot or governor put Him on that Cross. He freely, I believe even after He was beaten beyond recognition, crawled to the Cross on our behalf! What love, what amazing love. | "It is either all of Christ or none of Christ! I believe we need to preach again a whole Christ to the world - a Christ who does not need our apologies, a Christ who will not be divided, a Christ who will either be Lord of all or will not be Lord at all!" - A.W. Tozer

92: "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." - Ephesians 5:1-2

93: The nightly news and our local and national newspapers are full of reports where someone committed a crime, did something to harm another human being and then their defense is usually, "It was not my fault!" or "I was spanked as a child," or "I was molested," and then again, "It was my father's gun and it was loaded!" The world around us is full of fallen people who are bitter, want revenge and will not take responsibility for themselves. There have been national trials and cases where prominent men from senators to coaches have been either sent to jail or are facing a trial for horrendous crimes against children. The other night there was a report where an attractive thirty something blond "bomb-shell" killed her boyfriend because she was jealous. She did not just kill him; she stabbed him several times and then cut his throat. The defending attorneys argue that it was a crime of passion and after all it was not her fault; he was the one being unfaithful. Another example lately in the headlines is an ex-policeman and ex-Marine, who is being hunted down by hundreds of FBI agents and the LAPD police department because he felt he has been "done wrong" and he is out for revenge because in his opinion he was lied about and fired. He is out killing cops, and even their family members, all for what he perceives as injustice spelled out in a rambling twenty page manifesto. Revenge and bitterness are nasty emotions that usually only "kill" the person it affects until it is taken so far where bitterness becomes murder. Bitterness erodes everything that can be good in a person's life. As human beings, will we ever be responsible for what we do? Sure, parents make mistakes with their children, spouses will be unfaithful, there may be injustice at work, but we as Christians should respond differently than the world does at such injustices. The world around us is eroding and getting more evil than the year before. They do not want to change, and do the opposite of what was done to "them." Often the attitude is, "I will get even!" It is the natural fallen nature of a person to hurt someone when they have hurt you, as a person once told me, "I thought I was hurting my own mother through my rebellion to get back at her for introducing me to drugs, and all the time I was cutting myself!" Bitterness will devour, destroy a human soul and it will only become more dangerous as it germinates and takes root in the human heart. As a Christian we must let go, be imitators of Christ and allow God to heal us! It appears that the mental health agencies have come up with a diagnosis for individuals who are full of bitterness; the term is PTED, or Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder. The fact is our world is full of people who have been hurt, on purpose or because another adult may have not been responsible, and they too were full of hate and bitterness. I learned a long time ago that people who are hurting hurt other people. Bitterness is a cancer to the human soul!

94: I could have been one of those bitter adults with PTED! I could have easily pointed my finger and blame the adults who abused me, abandoned me, and to the world justifiably so. As a child at least up to the third grade, I did a lot of verbal acting out. I would talk, talk, and talk in school, and my conduct and grades were always unsatisfactory. My behavior, my actions, my attitude did not reflect my Dad's instructions. He was embarrassed if any of his children ever got into trouble, and he expected us to act in a manner that would bring honor to his family name. When I was eight years old we lived in Alabama for a time and then moved back to Florida. If you can imagine what an eight year old girl can do to get in trouble, well I did it! Some of it was just being a kid, but looking back now, most of my acting out was either testing the grounds just to see what I could get away with or in response to the trauma in my life. I got into trouble for lying, talking back to my step-mother, stealing vegetables from the family garden, and setting up a vegetable stand with the neighbors’ kids to sell the cabbage, tomatoes, and cucumbers on an old dusty Alabama clay road. I dug a tunnel under the house to make a fort and the old house almost fell off its pillars. The neighbors’ kids and I would jump out of a two-story building onto a box spring and mattress, hollering at the top of our lungs, "Geronimo!" There were things that happened that changed that once talkative, extroverted personality to an introvert, an over-achiever where I learned not to make any waves; it was best not to be seen or heard! I never shared my fear as a child with any adult, especially my Dad. He would have killed the people involved; then he would have been in jail and I would have been all alone, abandoned once again. They were my dirty little secrets. Humanity says I have the right to be mad, angry, and bitter, but I am not that snotty nose eight year old anymore, so as an adult I can chose not to have PTED. As a Christian I chose to have what I will call PTDF or Post-Traumatic Determined Forgiveness! Forgiveness is a choice, and I chose not to be bitter and not to allow a critical, negative, unforgiving spirit to have control of who I am IN Christ! Jesus Christ forgave me of all my sins, and believe me I had my share. I was guilty and lost without Christ, so who am I not to forgive those who have sinned against me? I do not have the right for such judgment! Forgiveness as I have said before is a wonderful thing, and now that I am a Christian, I can no longer act as the sinful, evil world around me. I am to conduct myself in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel of Christ (Ephesians 4:1-16). May it never be said of any of us who are called a Christian to act in such a way that would dishonor our Father in Heaven, but unfortunately we all have but it should never be!

95: "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." - C.S. Lewis | If we truly love God with all of our heart and soul (Matthew 22:37-39), there will be no root of bitterness in us! We will not act out as the world does because it would break our hearts! If we truly have died to self, sin and the flesh (the old man before accepting Christ), then we will not want revenge or be filled with hate, but we will pray for their healing and if possible reconciliation. As Christians our actions should honor the Lord. I sincerely believe when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior our spirit is one with His Spirit. It is a process, however, of dying to self, the flesh and the devil. When we are faithful in praying, reading God's Word and allow the Holy Spirit to direct our lives, we will begin to change and notice a difference in our language, our attitude and behavior. Where there was once hate, fear and judgment now stands love, joy and peace. It is obvious we all struggle with our old sin nature, all the more reason we must take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10: 5) and be imitators of Christ because we should no longer live as the world lives regardless of our circumstances, in spite of what others have inflicted on us. We are called to "come out from among them" in 2 Corinthians 6:17, and as a Christian we should never be a person full of hate, bitterness and revenge...God has called us to His higher plan and purpose.

96: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” - Isaiah 41:10

97: Even as Christians, it is easy for us to become anxious and fearful living in a world that is full of evil and conflict when we are not focused on who we are in Christ! It is easy for us to fall into the traps set for us by the world, the flesh and the devil when we do not believe that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives. Somewhere along in our walk of faith, from our point of salvation to living it out, we have become indoctrinated to believe Christianity is about rules, doctrines, and works. It may encompass all of those things, but it is much more than rules set by man through a denomination. Christianity is about living out our relationship with Christ; He has become our life. It is about changing on the inside and reflecting that change on the outside! We have become new; we are not the same persons we were before our conversion experience. Society today does not respect human life. They say there is no heaven or hell, we just live and die, and there is no purpose. But we, all of us, were created in His image! If you are an atheist, agnostic or Christian, it does not matter; we were all created in His image! We were not created to just survive and then one day die with no purpose or plan for our existence. We are to live in such a way that all that we say, do and become will bring honor and glory to the Lord, the One who created us. We were created to worship Him. People are hurting, searching and need a Savior and His name is Jesus Christ, and they need to see Christ in us! The Word of God tells us we now belong to him and we are no longer our own. We have been bought with a price for a purpose, “For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1Corinthians 6:20). Then again in 1 Corinthians 7:23 it states, “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.” It is for that purpose we were created! “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” Philippians 2:13. I do not believe I have the words in my vocabulary to adequately share with you how I felt deep in my soul when I realized soon after I became a Christian, that God had a plan and purpose for my life and He loved me and that His love did not change; it is unconditional! I must admit I do not comprehend all His love for me, but I do know that fear of rejection was gone and I now belonged to Christ. Nothing can take that away from me! My spirit inside of me settled in; there was a determination deep in my soul that I now had a purpose. I was resolute in my faith to walk in a direction to fulfill His plan for my life and by doing so I would influence others in Christ. Allow me to explain it to you in this way, I remember when our number three foster child came to live with us, we already had two foster children; one was two years old and the other five weeks. He had just turned four years old. He was very shy, timid and his little spirit was unsettled. In his eyes there was fear; he had already been in several foster homes through the state foster program after his dad was shot and killed by a local farmer.

98: One day we were both in the bathroom. He was brushing his teeth and I was combing my hair. He looked at me and said, "Why have I been in so many places?" I looked back at him, and said, "They needed you then and we need you now!" I also told him that the two little girls in our home had lived in other homes as well, and they needed a family just like him. Something happened that day to his spirit; he changed. He settled in when he found out that we picked him out just like we did the other two foster children. He was not an outsider, but he now belonged to our family. A few years later we adopted two of those foster children to be our own. He belonged, he was loved and that made all the difference in the world! I knew at my point of conversion at the age of twenty that I belonged, I had a purpose and God had a plan for my life. However, it has taken the rest of my life to live out that truth! It was not a onetime revelation, but a life of growing, failing, and working through my own self, flesh and worldly desires. But that discovery made all the difference in the world when I understood that I belonged to something bigger than myself! We belong to God; He created us for "His good pleasure!" Unfortunately living in this sin sick world, we often grow up believing lies about ourselves, especially if we grew up in a dysfunctional family where one might hear that they are a nobody or that they will never amount to anything, or that they are ugly or stupid. When one finds out those statements were all lies, and that they are truly loved and they do belong and have a purpose in life, it will change one's whole perspective about life; it did mine! There is a verse in the Book of Exodus where Moses and the children of Israel were in the wilderness and camped in front of Mount Sinai. Moses went up to God and the Lord called to Moses from the mountain and told Moses to say the following, starting in Exodus 19:4-6, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to MYSELF. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priest and a holy nation: These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” I know this quote is in the Old Testament, but it is relevant for today. He saved us unto Himself; He will strengthen us, help us, and uphold us with His right hand. As a Christian we were saved unto Himself! We were not saved to a church denomination, or even to a nation, or family, but He has sought us out and brought us to Himself on eagle's wings, to HIMSELF! Think about that, we have been bought with a price, we are now His “own possession” we belong to Him. That is what makes us different!

99: "He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge." - 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 | Sure we all fall short and we all make mistakes, but we must believe that our purpose is greater than any of our mistakes or the lies we believed about ourselves! Christianity is life, and since we were bought with a price He has now become our life; that is, our life is now in Christ. If Christ truly lives in me, then that is the essence of Christianity, and we are to reflect that essence, His character in our everyday living and touch the world around us!

100: Christ came to seek out and save the lost. He knew before the foundation of the World that He would come to earth, give His life and on the third day He would be restored back to life and then ascend into Heaven and again sit at the Right Hand of the Father, but when He left this earth He did not leave us alone and helpless. He sent the Holy Spirit of God to direct us, comfort us and guide us into all truth! The Holy Spirit is a vital part of our Christian experience; in fact we would not even be saved or called a Christian today if He, the Holy Spirit, had not drawn us unto Christ. The Holy Spirit was given to us so that we would have a God consciousness. He came to us to take up residence in us and seal, assure, and help us to walk out our faith in Christ. In John 16:7-11, Jesus Christ is telling His disciples that it is in their own good that He leaves them and in doing so He will send the Holy Spirit, the "Helper," who will convict the world of sin and be the Comforter for those who believe in Christ. I know without a doubt that early on in my life the Holy Spirit was drawing me unto my Creator. No, I was not aware of who or what then, but I know now that in several situations He had His hand on my life. He became my Comforter, my Helper, and He Sealed me unto the Lord...early on, but not until I was twenty years old did I accept His direction and accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. Growing up I did not attend church regularly, but when we did it was in a Pentecostal fellowship where freedom of worship and expression of love for the Lord was encouraged. On more than one occasion while attending church I felt a drawing, a need to belong. I wanted a family but never would surrender to His leading. One Sunday night service in particular when I was about twelve or thirteen years old, the pastor was what we could call a "fiery" preacher. Even though He could not read a word, his wife would read the scripture to Him, and right before he preached she would read the scripture reference for the sermon for the congregation, and he then would preach the Word. On that night Pastor Holly Mock gave an altar call for those present to accept Christ. It was the end of the service and I was going to sneak out the door and wait for the service to be over. I had no intention of going to the altar and praying about anything, but apparently God had a better plan. Now this is true and I am not taking any "literary freedom" for effect! I simply got up from my seat about three quarters back from the front of the church and headed to the back door, but I found myself at the altar. Now I do not know how I got there, or how long I had been there, but I was there; it was the strangest feeling I ever had, but what I do know is that it was a God thing!

101: During high school, as I have already shared with you, God protected me on more than one occasion from death itself. This time it was a little different. I was a junior in high school in the great state of Montana. We lived in a small town about fifty miles from Missoula Montana, and the speech class had to present a memorized dissertation in the auditorium filled with students and parents. Please remember, I did not attend church and I was not a Christian. I was a sixteen year old girl searching apparently for her own identity. My dissertation was from Billy Graham's book, "Peace with God the Secret to Happiness," and I memorized the entire third chapter of the book, "What is God Like? Who is God? What is He Like? How can we be sure He exists? When did He begin? Can we know Him?....." God I believe was calling me unto Himself! He had a purpose and plan for my life, and He was preparing the soil of my soul to accept him a few years later, all part of His plan, and in the right time of my life! The Holy Spirit will come alongside of us as believers! The Holy Spirit will convict us of sin (John 16:8-11); He will transform us, help us (John 14:26) and will lead us to live a holy life (Galatians 5:22-23). He will impart to us spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-7) for the edification of other believers, and because of His work we are guaranteed eternal life with God. This guarantee is not because of anything we have done; it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. If I am to go to heaven it is because of the Cross of Christ, period! I sincerely believe every human being, regardless of how evil, degenerate and immoral they may be, has a God consciousness; they know what is right and what is wrong. If they did not have this consciousness, they would not do what they do in the darkness of night! They know when they sin, and they know when it is wrong! Why? It is because we were created in the image of GOD. We must allow Him to fill the hole in our soul! We are called to be the light of the world, because His Spirit now lives inside of us. He goes alongside of us teaching us, directing us to be that light! Think about your life, the times you know something happened that was supernatural; it was a God thing! Things happened in your life (like me going to that altar but not in my own strength) that as you look back you know without a doubt it was the Lord, through the power of His Holy Spirit, setting a path to your redemption! God loves us so much that He has given us every opportunity to accept Him as Lord and Savior. He knows He is the only one who can fill the holes in our soul because He is the one who created us, and He is the only ONE who can save us from ourselves. We live in a sin sick world, we have been taught and have believed lies that try to keep us away from the Lord, and now it is time to submit to the truth! God loves you and YOU were created in His image...to honor and bless Him. We are to reflect the character of God in our lives...what better way than to be a light that others want to follow.

102: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:1-4

103: As Christians Jesus Christ is our example of how we should live and behave! He is the “Light” that shines in the darkness! As born again believers we are not to blend in, hide behind or act like the world. We are to reflect His light! We may want and try to find favor with man and the world, but in reality it is God who places us in authority, who increases our territories and promotes us in our jobs! The world and mankind will reject us; they rejected Jesus Christ and they will reject us because the Light in us is repulsive to them. Let me put it this way, as a Christian we should stand out in a crowd! People need to know that we love the Lord and that we will stand according to God's calling and purpose in our lives. Why do we believe what we believe? If we stand in the midst of the crowd and act like the crowd then we are only part of a herd of people, but if we stand up then people may follow us and desire to know more about who CHRIST is in us! Sure, none of us probably will ever be on television or be a well known Bible teacher or evangelist, but if we are going to live for Christ then we must stand out in the crowd. People need to know that we are a Christian. There were people I mentioned in my introduction letter; these men of God inspired me to walk more straight, with more strength and by the Holy Spirit. They spoke the Word and their commitment to Christ touched my heart and soul and they helped me to find my purpose and passion; they stood out in a crowd. I have been told many times over the years that I am not a typical woman; I do not like to shop or talk a lot. I am a woman of few words. The desire of my heart, my passion is to hear the Lord through the Word of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit and to teach and disciple other Christians to count the cost, take up their cross and follow after the Lord with everything that is within them. The roads I have traveled since 1951 have not all been smooth; some were more difficult and hurtful than others. Some were full of joy and some brought me to my knees in prayer. Some broke my heart, but in the midst of all those paths I have traveled I have found that my passion above all else is to know Christ and to make Him known. I want to stand out in a crowd. I do not get excited about playing games, board games, cards or even computer games, nor do I like attending “girly” parties or watching "chick flicks," although I enjoy going on vacation with my family and taking pictures of old farm barns and beautiful landscapes. I also enjoy sitting down with a friend, drinking a cup of coffee and talking about the Lord and how He has touched ours lives. I even enjoy watching a football game when my favorite college team is winning (Go Gators!), going fishing and walking in the Great Smoky Mountains on a cool crisp fall morning.

104: In reality I also enjoy watching little children learn how to walk and talk, seeing how their curiosity gets the best of them as they wonder at all the fullness of life around them. I enjoy the smiles on the faces of little children who run up to me after church services and give me a big hug. I smile every time I hear my grandchildren call me “NanaBoo!” I like coming home from work, usually late in the afternoon, and our family dog greets me in the driveway. He barks and wags his tail as if I could understand, because he knows “Mama” is home and some food is on the way! I take pleasure in the touch of my husband's hand and the smile of our teenage son; I have much to be thankful for. Yet, all these wonderful life things pale in comparison to my Lord. I am nothing without Christ, without Him I would be lost and alone. The years in management and working in the corporate and retail business means nothing; all things fade in comparison to my desire and the passion that burns within me to know the Lord, personally, intimately! I want to stand out in a crowd. My passion is Christ; my joy and inner strength is found in knowing Him as Savior and Lord. I find joy in a smile of someone who was once in darkness but now is walking in the light of forgiveness! I have seen over the years young men and women who were lost in darkness, burdened down by sin, guilt and shame. The look on their faces often displayed their pain, their hurt, but once they have accepted and received forgiveness and have been restored back to their Creator, I have seen the transformation take place. Joy returns to their hearts and faces, they almost seem to glow; they even become more handsome or even more beautiful than they once were. It is remarkable, it is powerful! My desire is to be a light in that world of darkness, to be an instrument of hope and love for those who are searching for their own purpose and passion. Again, my friends in the Lord, we are not to blend in, but I believe God wants all of us who call ourselves Christians to stand up and stand out in a crowd so people will know of His love, His acceptance and His forgiveness. No, we are not perfect, we are forgiven, we are now joint heirs and He has called us unto Himself! We were once in darkness, full of sin and corruption, but now because of the Cross of Christ and our acceptance, we now belong to Him. What is your passion? What are your heart's desires? Do they include Christ, the Son of God Do you as a Christian stand out in a crowd?

105: Linda Sanders Vought 6754 County Road 248 O'Brien, Florida 32071 lsvought@windstream.net www.reflectionconnectionzone.org | "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

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Linda S Vought
  • By: Linda S.
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About This Mixbook

  • Title: Reflection
  • Inspirational devotional to encourage the heart and soul!
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  • Published: over 3 years ago

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