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Archive for the ‘salvation’ Category

megaphone-1381104_1920Sharing our faith is tough. We want to be sensitive to our listener, and more than anything, we long to see them experience the deep love of Christ. But so often, our efforts are filtered through a heavy lens of self. This can result in an effort to market God and to love others on an agenda. Today, fellow ACFW member Emilie Hendrix

Are You Trying to Market God? 

by Emilie Hendryx

In today’s media-saturated culture we are in tune with marketing in a way that no one has been before. It’s everywhere we look, whether we’re at the grocery store, mall, bookstore, fitness center, or just driving down the road. We market pretty much everything from objects, food, thought processes, books, people, and faith.

But has this marketing-centric culture negatively affected us as Christians? I think it has, and I’d like point out three things that we can fall prey to when we try to “market God”.

Marketing tells you why “they” think you need it

At first glance this could sound like a good thing. And I agree, we do need to tell others about God! But, how we go about doing that is what’s important here. When we try to “market God” to those around us we can often pinpoint an “issue” (maybe this is an obvious sin etc.) and then make it our job to make sure that person knows why they need God.

The issue here isn’t in the sharing (that’s the good part) it’s in the heart of those who share and how they share. Do we share the gospel from a heart that overflows with love for others? Or a heart that shares in arrogance and condemnation?

Marketing tells why the “product” is the best, but leaves things out

I believe that a relationship with Christ is the only way to heaven. Sharing that is easy and personal. But, part of the difficulty when we try to “market God”, is that we can be tempted to leave out the hard parts. Sometimes it’s hard to stand up for what you believe in, especially in today’s culture. I know there are things I believe that set me apart from others. The temptation here is to gloss over, ignore, or not address these things when talking about the gospel.

Jesus is the perfect example of what to do in order to resist the temptation to “market God”. He took no effort to hide His affiliation with those who were considered unloved, forgotten, despised, or labeled as sinners in His day. But what did He do while he spent time with them? He spoke the truth. Just like when He had a conversation with the woman at the well (John 4). He told her to “go and sin no more” – so, to walk away from her sinful lifestyle – but He didn’t ignore her.

In our culture, it’s almost assured that we’ll be faced with someone challenging our beliefs. Don’t give in to the temptation to “market God” to make Him look “better” or “more accepting” or less “judgmental” just because you’re afraid you’ll make Him look bad (or afraid you’ll look bad). If your faith and understanding is rooted in Biblical truth and you’re speaking from a place of love and peace, then His truth will be conveyed.

Marketing is incentivized

 In our current culture it is almost a guarantee that any major brand you see worn by a celebrity is most likely due to the fact they got it in exchange to talk about/show real-estate-agents-1537461_1920off/or represent that product. I run an Etsy shop and have a Society6 shop where I create bookish products to sell and I choose “Reps” for my brand. These are people who pledge to represent my brand and my products on their Instagram accounts. I don’t pay them to say nice things about my products, but they choose to Rep for me because they like my products and believe in them. This is not the case all the time however. There are many companies who pay people to Rep for them in addition to giving them products for free.

I can’t help but feel a little cheated when I see a celebrity talking about something they “love” only to find out they are getting paid to say those things. Doesn’t it make it seem as if all of their kind words, though probably drawn from real experiences with the product, are tainted?

I think the same can happen with Christians who “market God”. This comes to the heart of it all. To the why of sharing the gospel with others. Are we trying to “market God” because we a) think He needs our help b) think its “the right thing to do” c) feel pressure or guilt to do it d) like the attention we get when we look smart in front of others or e) another answer I haven’t thought of…?

The reasons we should share the gospel (and not market it) come from His commands to us to go and spread the gospel (Matthew 28:16-20, Acts1:8) paired with a heart that overflows with love for our Savior and the overwhelming realization that we cannot keep this Good News to ourselves.

I don’t know you (most likely), so what I say here is largely taken from what I see myself falling prey to. In March on my blog I focus on Marketing and Social Media for writers and authors and, as I contemplated what I wanted this post to be about, I realized that I may do a good job at marketing products and books, but I cannot let that negatively affect my faith.

west-826947_1920I can’t expect to go out “into the world” and arrogantly tell others why they are wrong and need the Lord, but I can share my personal experiences with them and pray for the Holy Spirits conviction in their hearts. I can’t try and make Christianity look “better” or gloss over the heavy issues because I serve a Big God who handles the tough questions. And I can’t have any other motivations aside from desiring to share the hope that I have (1 Peter 3:15) with those around me.

Have you struggled with trying to “market God”? Which of these three things can you relate with most? What other things (positive or negative) do you see that have been influenced by this “marketing society” we live in?

***

Emilie is a freelance writer and photographer living in Dayton, Ohio. She’s a member of ACFW and writes romantic square-mesuspense while dreaming up YA Sci-Fi worlds on the side. She’s got a soft spot in her heart for animals and a love for the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time you can find her designing fun bookish items for her Etsy and Society6 shops all while drinking too much coffee.

Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, follow her on Twitter and Pinterest, and visit her online at her blog, Thinking Thoughts.

 

 

 

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person-1821412_1920For years, I spiraled into self-destruction, ultimately ending up homeless. Well before my eighteenth birthday. I don’t know the statistics, but I do know the probability of one climbing out of that mess aren’t high.

But God.

If not for Him, if not for His grace, and honestly, if not for a sweet woman named Dorothy who shared the gospel with a frizzy haired, poor trailer park kid decades before my life spiraled, I’d still be roaming the streets or Tacoma. Or dead. (Join me for one of our Wholly Loved Conference to hear more of my story, how God pursued me, a woman from the Bible named Sarai, and what it means to live wholly loved.)

These were my thoughts as I read June Foster’s devotion the other day, because I do believe, that afternoon when sweet Dorothy shared the gospel, and when God grabbed hold of my heart, He marked me as His, pursuing me, wooing me, and surrounding me with His healing, restorative, life-transforming love.

Marked With a Seal by author June Foster 

A rewarding way to study the Bible is to select a few verses of scripture and as a Sunday school teacher from long ago said, “eat them.” To devoir every word and see what the Lord wants me to learn.

Recently I did that with Ephesians 1:13-14. I discovered something remarkable.

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” Yep. That’s me. I heard the message and after a few months of stubborn rejection, I received the truth into my own life, asking Jesus to be my Savior.

But what happens when we do that? “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” I could picture myself tightly gripping a deed to a house, a document that guaranteed the dwelling belonged to me. But the Holy Spirit is much more than a deed on a house or a stock certificate. He is the guarantee that proclaims our future home—an eternity with the Lord.For God so loved the world

So then I thought about the seal with which I am marked. I laughed and asked God if He would show me a picture of it. I got the impression He was telling me it is not seen with physical eyes but with spiritual. I called on my Abba, Father and asked, “but if I could see it, what would it look like.”

A beautiful image formed in my mind. It was a golden cross sitting over my heart. Praise God for His deposit guaranteeing our salvation. Something we can hold onto until the day we see Him face to face.

***

Have you heard the following song:

We’re hidden safe. He’s holding tight to us, in the good, the bad, the uncertain–through it all. Rest in that this morning.

For those facing difficult situations, and with them, questions you can’t find answers for, I encourage you to read Julie Aruduini’s guest post on Wholly LovedWhen You Do Everything Right. 

***

june-fosterAn award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. In 2013, June’s book Give Us This Day was a finalist in EPIC’s eBook awards and in 2014 a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards for best first book. Ryan’s Father was one of three finalists in the published contemporary fiction category of the 2014 Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Writing Contest and Awards. Deliver Us was a finalist in COTT’s 2014 Laurel Awards. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day, As We Forgive, and Deliver Us, and Hometown Fourth of July. Ryan’s Father is published by WhiteFire Publishing. Red and the Wolf, a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, is available from Amazon.com. The Almond Tree series, For All Eternity, Echoes From the Past, What God Knew, and Almond Street Mission are available at Amazon.com as well. Misty Hollow is published by Helping Hands Press. June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. Recently June has seen publication of Christmas at Raccoon Creek and Lavender Fields Inn. Visit June at junefoster.com.

lavender-fields-innLavender Fields Inn:

Love grows amid the flowers in the magnificent Rockies at Lavender Fields Inn, but romance can be deceptive at times.

Wren Tabor hopes the cool Colorado air at Lavender Fields Inn will heal her aching heart after her former boyfriend betrays her. When she literally bumps into handsome accountant Graham Maier, the painful memories from the past begin to fade. But after she sees Graham kissing another woman, she figures no man can be trusted.

Graham Maier needs to prove to his father he’s as capable as his brother Greg. The Rocky Mountain Anglers’ Tournament at Gold Pan Lake will give him the chance. But he must win first place. After he meets Wren, a woman like the unnamed girl who’s occupied his dreams, he can’t understand why she suddenly won’t speak to him.

Can Wren learn to trust men again? Can Graham understand how valuable he is in God’s sight?

Buy it HERE!

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ID-100201732Scroll through social media long enough, and chances are you’ll read a few (or more) negative posts regarding Christians and Christianity. Some say we’re intolerant, others that we’re hateful, close-minded, or out of touch, or whatever. Find a negative adjective, and I’m pretty sure you can find a statement connecting it to Christ-followers.

Granted, there are those among us who do indeed fit those descriptions, but from my experience, when I step back and truly consider, those angry (or perhaps confused) individuals are the minority. The vast number of Christians I know are doing amazing things. They’re feeding the hungry, adopting orphans, walking beside single moms, bringing clean water to the sick and thirsty, medical care to the ill, and more. So much more.

Yesterday I considered all the ways God’s children have shown up in my life lately, of all the sacrificial giving of time and resources I’ve seen displayed, not by one, not by two or three, but by a large number of believers with whom I have contact.

All this points not to the good of the human heart, nor to the quality of my friends (thoughgirl-1186895_1920 I think they’re amazing) but rather to the power of the Holy Spirit, at work in us. And every act of love displayed by one of God’s children points to His ever-reaching, ever-faithful Daddy’s heart.

Let me explain:

God has called our family to something hard, amazing, beautiful, and frightening. He has called us to help initiate life change and healing, to show the truth and depth of His love, even when–especially when!–that love is spurned.

This in and of itself is not unique to Christians. I believe we all as humans long to make an impact, to help others, and to see our world change. But wanting and doing are entirely different things, and on our own, in our own strength, we lack the power to truly live “all in,” sacrificially, for a significant length of time. 

Let me explain–from my experience. Lately, many have showered me with accolades, saying they view me as giving, loving, and … saint-like. But I’m not. So not. On my own, I’m selfish, fearful, distracted, impatient, ever-viewing the world through a me-centered lens.

And that’s where the tug-push-pull comes in–an inner wrestling of God’s Spirit with mine, and an intimate time where He personally meets with me, changing my thinking, softening my heart, and empowering me to follow, wholeheartedly, His leading.

Here’s how it starts. I’ll step out in love and faith, only to have my love spurned. My natural, human reaction? To get frustrated, maybe even angry, discouraged, and to want to pull back. To self-protect and withdraw–to take the easy route.

But then, in the midst of my selfish thinking, God speaks gently to my heart. Sometimes He’ll remind me of His love. Always, He’ll help me see the situation and the other person through His eyes.

Let me pause here. That is the most powerful, most attitude and heart changing aspect of walking in a close relationship with Christ–being granted the ability to see, truly see, other’s through Christ’s eyes–to catch a glimpse past behaviors and words to the hurting, bleeding heart within.

When that happens, everything changes, in an instant. Anger is turned to compassion. Frustration to peace. Discouragement to hope. Selfishness to love. And suddenly, one is filled with a passion so strong, they cannot not act, cannot not love.

Gal 2-20verse jpgThis has been my journey lately, a daily teeter totter, and praise God, He has been winning–love has been winning. Not because there’s anything remotely good within me, but because God has proven strong on my behalf. Again and again and again. And through it all, I’ve grown even closer to Him as He overwhelms me with the revelation of the depth of His love for our hurting world.

When I started this post, I planned to share all the ways God’s children have shown up for our family as we seek to obey Him. But as I wrote, it took a bit of a detour, hopefully one that was God directed.

For now, I leave you with this–if you’ve never experienced the love and life-changing power of God’s Spirit living within, today can be the day–the day you quit trying to live on your own and in your own strength, the day you stop seeking temporary fillers to the emptiness within, the day you know what it’s like to be loved deeply, at your core, and held close by your heavenly Father, from now to eternity. (Find out how HERE.)

For those of you who do have a relationship with Christ, I challenge you (and me) to get and stay connected–to Him. Make your relationship with Christ your top priority and to carve out time when you rest in His presence, allowing Him to change your perspective, soften your heart, and empower you to do that which He has called you to do. Because in Him, you have everything you need to live the life He desires.

I leave you with one of my favorite verses:

“By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of 2Peter3-1versejpgthis by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT).

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! What is God calling you to do? In what ways has He empowered and equipped you to do that? In what ways has He revealed His love to you through others? Share your stories with us here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace, because God is worthy of our praise and the whole world needs to know about all the great things He does and has done!

But before you go–an invitation to my Omaha Metro friends. Join me and my sister in Christ, singer Shelly Conn, at Chocolaterie Stam for a fun afternoon of live music, books, readings, and chocolate!

Chocolaterie Signing-page-001

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Susan Aken’s title says it all, summing up our greatest cause for praise:A Call to Praise icon 2

Please Don’t Give Me What I Deserve!

“Hey! I have a right to be in this lane. Get out of my way!”

“Why is my pizza cold? I have a right to receive it hot and fresh. I paid for it.”

Photo by stockimages taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by stockimages taken from freedigitalphotos.net

“Why isn’t my cable operating? I have a right to good service.”

We love to talk about rights in our culture. We feel entitled to many things. We deserve to be happy. We believe we have the right to everything from unhindered access while driving to being first in line at the grocery store to having our family the way we want them. After all, we have the right to life, liberty and the

Photo by Susan Aken

Photo by Susan Aken

pursuit of happiness. Don’t we?

But do we deserve all that? To “deserve” means to be worthy, to have a claim to or be qualified for (reward or punishment), to be entitled to. It implies that we have earned this right.

What have we earned the right to experience?

The Bible says, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Romans 3:10 and “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23a

Since we are all sinners and the wages of sin is death, what we have “earned” the right to is death. What each human being “deserves” is eternal separation from God. This truth is what makes Psalm 103:10 some of the most wonderful words ever written:

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”

Praise God He does not give us what we deserve!

Why not? He is perfect and holy. He has the right to punish our sins.

Instead He chose to rescue us. He sent Jesus, His perfect Son, as a baby who would grow up, suffer and die for us as hopeless

Photo by bela_kiefer taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by bela_kiefer taken from freedigitalphotos.net

sinners. Why would He do that?

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear him.” Psalm 103: 8,11

His great love gives us what we don’t deserve.

I have brief moments when I think I am good. Than in an instant I am filled with envy, jealousy, unkindness or selfishness so much that I know I don’t deserve His grace. My heart apart from Him is wicked.

Those moments help me realize that I don’t “deserve” anything but I am given grace in everything.

That He could love me in spite of knowing what my sinful heart is like overwhelms me.

     Father, thank you for loving me so much you were willing to send Jesus to die for my sins. Thank you that you do not give me what I deserve. Thank you that I am free from the penalty of my sin. Nothing can compare to you! I cling to your grace. I rest in your abundant love.

Susan013Susan Aken is a homemaker, substitute teacher and writer. She lives in Nebraska but was born and raised in Oklahoma. Her greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed her and set her free. Her other loves are her husband and son (she is now an empty nester). Susan enjoys reading, photography, spending time with family and friends and writing. She has a heart for prayer ministry and loves her church! Visit her online at Soaring With Butterfly Wings and check out her inspiring photos at SusanAkenInspiringPhotos

Amazing Hope: Reflections on Hope in the Midst of a Crazy World:Amazing Hope - cover sunrise and sea

This is a 40-day devotional book on the topic of hope. Each day’s devotion includes verses from the Bible, inspirational thoughts by the author, reflection questions and a prayer. The topics include many of the struggles common to us all such as parenting, death, fear, sin, and the futility of daily life. There are also devotions on the character of God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the power of God’s word and other topics. These writings express the hope that gets me through each day and I pray they will also help you.

For those following our Call to Praise Blog Hop Posts, visit the following:

April 2: Marji Laine hosted on Asslyson Carter’s blog, discussing what it means to live anew in God’s grace.

April 4: Susan Aken will visit Delia Latham’s blog to share her thoughts on Psalm103:14, discussing the what it means when Scripture says God knows we are weak

April 9: Carol McClain will post right here, on my blog, discussing God’s sovereignty and power.

April 11th I’ll tie up our series on Ginger Solomon‘s blog, calling each of us to be fully present when we praise.

And before you go, to help us truly appreciate what Christ did for us, fellow Faith, Friends, and Chocolate blogger and biblical fiction writer Carole Towriss wrote a powerful story on the resurrection, told through the eyes of one of Jesus’ executioners. You can read part one here, part two here, and part three here.

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Mankind can be insanely cruel. From political leaders who murder entire races to parents who abuse then abandon their children, it seems there is no limit to the atrocities inflicted upon man by man. And yet, humans can also be incredibly empathetic, looking deep  into the wounded heart of another, a heart that touches their own and moves them toward active compassion.

EleanorGustafsonAs I read today’s post by Eleanor Gustafson, author of Dynamo and The Stones, I thought back to the movie she referenced. I only saw portions of the Elephant Man, but even short blips were enough to break my heart as I imagined what it must have felt like to be that man. Alone. Isolated by the repulsion of others. Nothing stings quite like rejection. To be accepted, warts, deformities, and all. More than that; to be loved. Isn’t that what we all want?

Today, Eleanor discusses a scene from this poignant, though-provoking movie, bringing it home on a deeper level. As you read her post, pause to honestly, prayerfully evaluate your human condition, scabs and all. Then, consider God’s grace. I believe God’s mercy will appear all the more beautiful. 🙂

Note: Eleanor is giving away a copy of her latest release, Dynamo. Winner will be selected randomly from the comments left on this post or at Living by Grace on Facebook

 

Elephant Man and Communion by Eleanor Gustafson

Some time ago, I happened on a TV rerun of The Elephant Man.  Just the thing to set a person up for Communion the following Sunday.

In the Apostles’ Creed, which our church recites on Communion Sundays, is a phrase, “I believe in . . . the communioncommunion of saints.”  As the Communion elements drifted among the pews, I mentally looked around the congregation (head bowed, eyes closed, of course).  Saints?  Mostly sinners here, the whole lot of us, from the pulpit on down.  Yes, of course I know the phrase doesn’t intend what I’m making it out to mean.  I know it refers to the fellowship of believers made righteous by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  But at that introspective moment it seemed that “communion of sinners” might be more appropriate.

My thoughts eased onto “The Elephant Man”.  The film is based on the account of a real person who lived in England around the turn of the 20th century.  His physical deformity led to years of exploitation as a miserable, autistic, sideshow freak.  A doctor, initially motivated by scientific curiosity, befriended him, moving him to a hospital and caring for him physically.  In the process of trying to help him, the doctor encouraged the man to talk and discovered an amazing intellectual capacity.

The doctor began introducing his patient to friends, showing off this great scientific find.  He dressed him as a gentleman, took him to his home and to other social gatherings, with gratifying response from this cultured audience.  (Never mind that his protégé had become a freak of a different order.)

The drama turns on a scene in which the Elephant Man, in the privacy of his room, begins to indulge in posturing pretension, rehearsing erudite phrases and poses.  At last, he feels, his innate gifts, so long-buried, have gained him social acceptance.

In this moment of pride, a disgruntled “sideshow” huckster, hungry for the fast buck, breaks into the room with his clientele of bar patrons and whores.  Their “fun” lies in observing the shock effect of this monstrosity on women.  In an ultimate act of cruelty, the entrepreneur holds a mirror for the Elephant Man to see his face for the first time. This act totally destroys him, and shortly after, he lies down to die.

mirrorfreflectionCommunion is a mirror.  It reminds us from whence we have come, of our wretched state under that robe of righteousness.  No room for posturing here; we are brought face to face with the enormity of sin.

“Communion of sinners” does seem more appropriate here than “communion of saints.”  We must not forget this dimension of our human condition.  But it’s not the entire picture.  There’s more to the creed than that one phrase.  The whole thing is set to rights at the end with the breathtaking declaration that “God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” grants us “. . . the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.”

Here indeed is grace and hope for all us elephant people.

 

Dynamo:

dynamoCOVER_FB2Jeth Cavanaugh is searching for a new life along one of Pennsylvania’s mountain ridges when he stumbles upon a stable of show jumpers owned by Rob and Katie Chilton. Throw in a volatile gaited stallion named Dynamo, and Jeth will do anything to work there. Jeth earns his living by training and showing Rob’s jumpers, but Dynamo is his primary passion.

Everything changes when God enters his life—in the unconventional form of a hard slap by an old girlfriend—and ignites a new, greater passion within Jeth. But along with fervor comes fear at the undeniable evidence of God’s hand on his life. Inexplicable events, both good and bad, make him moan plaintively, “Why does God do this to me? I get the feeling I’m being set up for something.”

He is, indeed. Jeth’s life is anything but predictable, much like the God he serves. The real Dynamo and his ultimate trainer emerge out of an excruciating mix of disaster and brokenness, which are never beyond the reach of redemption.

This story is God in your face: Who is He really? What does He ask of us?

Eleanor K. Gustafson began thinking up stories when she was five or six. When she started to read, God drew her to Himself with, yes, a story. Her fascination with story continued, but after reading early written attempts, friends and even her mother told her straight-out to stick to music as a career. She pushed manfully along, however, and began publishing both fiction and nonfiction in 1978. Dynamo is her fifth novel and builds off her lifelong love of horses. Her previous title with Whitaker House is The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David.

A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, Eleanor has been actively involved in church life as a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. Additional experiences include gardening, house construction, tree farming, and parenting—all of which have helped bring color and humor to her fiction. One of her major writing goals has been to make scriptural principles understandable and relevant for today’s readers through the undeniable power of story.

Readers can find out more about Eleanor on her Web site, www.eleanorgustafson.com.

***

Let’s talk about this! Grace is amazing, and it’s important we live in LivingbyGracepicgrace, forgetting what is past and moving toward that which lies ahead. And yet, I also think it’s important that we remember where we came from–who we were when Christ grabbed hold of us and where we’d be without His grace. This is humility–recognizing our utter need for God. This, my friends, is what brings us to and keeps us on our knees.

With my book, Beyond I Do’s release approaching, I’ve been preparing for interviews and such, and in so doing, I’ve been contemplating my past–where I was and all God’s done. It can be painful to remember the pit I’d gotten myself into, and yet, it’s also immensely beautiful because it reminds me afresh of God’s radical love, power, and grace. (You can read more about my grace-saturated journey here.)

What about you? Pause to reflect your sin in light of God’s grace. What kind of responses does it evoke? Have you had an “elephant man in the mirror” experience? If so, tell us about it. Not just that moment of self-revelation, but whatever grace God showed you after. Do you believe your experience of that grace was deepened by the revelation of your depravity? How so?

Join the conversation here, in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

 

 

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bethlehem-star-remix-2-695143-m

I’m the queen of distraction. I easily get caught up in the tinsel and carols and cinnamon smells of the season, but this year God used a squirrel-like husband and a box of old ornaments to center me in Him and the essence of Christmas. You can read more about that crazy yet emotional morning here.

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 (NIV)

Before there was time, the God-head envisioned His creation, a universe filled with radiant light as millions upon millions of stars glimmered throughout infinite space. The earth, now but a vision in the mind of God, would soon abound with life.

Ice-capped mountains would glisten in the sun and gently flowing streams would weave through flower-filled meadows. Jay Larks and Robins would fill the air with song while newborn cubs tumbled over grassy plains.

But the crown of His creation? The creature that brought a song to the Creator’s lips and tears of anguish to His face?

Man. Humans, just like you and I. People that would fight against Him at every turn and ultimate drive Him to the cross.
God made man, knowing man would betray Him. Knowing man’s rebellion would result in His death. And yet, He created humans anyway, molding flesh from a mound of earth, breathing life into a lifeless body.

The first man to be created was named Adam. In the beginning, God and Adam enjoyed sweet fellowship, an intimacy unparalleled by any other creature roaming the face of the earth. An intimacy that penetrated to the very depths of the soul.

Fear was unheard of.

Loneliness was unknown. Everything was bliss, like a melodious love song echoed in united hearts.

But then something happened and this heavenly union was shattered. The creature God had created, the creature God loved infinitely and immensely, turned on Him, and the perfect love-bond was broken.

Suddenly the child created to rest in His arms fought against Him, spurning the very love scream-924206-mthat would save Him.

In the depths of man’s heart, bitterness took root, weaving its entangling web around everything that was once good and pure and lovely.

And all the while, God watched with breaking heart, knowing the day of total restoration would come.
But it would cost Him everything.

His cross-church-1386416-mvery life.

Merry Christmas, my friend! And as you and your family unwrap your Christmas, pause to remember the Christmas story, from beginning to the glorious, victorious end.

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TeresaPollardCroppedWatching your daughter fight for life must be unbearable. Hearing her gut-honest questions–questions that appear to have no answers this side of heaven–is unfathomable. So how did Teresa Pollard answer the heart-wrenching question–why do bad things happen to good people? Not with words, but with love. Today, after her daughter’s death, she addresses the question again. Not with anger or bitterness nor a raised fist at God, but instead, with the answer that can only come from surrendered faith.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

By Teresa Pollard

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character, and proven character, hope.      Romans 5:3-4

There are several important themes in our novel Not Guilty, but possibly the main one is:  why does it seem sometimes that bad things rain on good people like monstrous thunderstorms, while (at least for a time) bad people keep getting away with their malicious and evil deeds?  Candi Pullen and I both lost our daughters at very young ages, so it’s a theme that’s become extremely important to us even though the novel was actually written before either death occurred.

When my daughter, Kara, lay dying of cervical cancer, 1100587_hospital_handthis was the question she kept asking me.  She wanted to know what she had done to deserve such an early death.  She knew she was saved and had a home in heaven, but she had a young son who needed his mommy, and she didn’t want to leave him.

I didn’t really have an answer for her.

All I could do was tell her I loved her, and that I knew that God loved her too.

I think one of the first songs I ever learned as a small child was Jesus loves me.  When Kara was born, her daddy sang it to her in the delivery room while the doctors worked on me.  She believed that Jesus loved her, but she didn’t really understand why a loving God would let cancer happen to her.  I’ve spent a lot of time over the last six years pondering the same question.

The Apostle Paul pondered it too.  He was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, hungry, thirsty, in danger from all directions, and in great emotional distress.  Was he some kind of a super Christian who could endure things that just aren’t possible for us normal folks?  No.  He was a man just like we are.  He admitted weakness.  In fact, he said if he had to boast about anything, it would be his weakness, because he knew that it is in our weakness that we find God’s strength.

In the thirteen months between the diagnosis and Kara’s actual death, I shed countless tears.  I ranted at God, and I prayed and begged Him to spare her life.  He said “no.”  I was helpless.  I would have given anything to be able to save my daughter’s life, but all I could do was entrust her to the Lord’s keeping.  And that’s where I found strength.  That’s the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian.   We have hope.

This earthly life isn’t the end or even a large part of our existence.  It’s a tiny speck of time.  But it’s the speck that determines where we will spend 248782_carnations_pink_2eternity.  Not only that, but it also determines our rewards in that eternity. One of Kara’s last deeds before she became too ill to go anywhere was to take 300 carnations with messages of hope to patients in the hospital where she had spent so many of her days.   The Bible tells us that God even rewards a cup of cold water given in His name.  I wonder what the reward is for 300 carnations given by a dying mother to bring hope to patients in great need of that hope.

In Psalm 73:3, Asaph said, “I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”  Then God gave him a vision of how the wicked will end—an eternity of destruction.  On the other hand, I know I will see Kara again someday, and we will spend eternity together in heaven.  If you haven’t read Randy Alcorn’s Bible study on heaven, I highly recommend it.

Why do bad things happen to good people?  God isn’t finished with me yet, and I still don’t have all the answers.  I know we live in a fallen world.  I’m still not to the point where, like Paul, I can “exult” in tribulation, but I do know God promises in Romans 8:28 that “all things,” both the good and the bad, “work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”   I can understand that somehow they’re for my good and for the good of others.  What we don’t really understand when we’re in the middle of things is that it’s not really about us at all.  It’s about Him.  It’s about the kingdom.  If even one person spends eternity in heaven instead of hell because of our suffering, isn’t it worth it?  Suppose that one person were your son or daughter?  Wouldn’t it be worth it then?

NotGuiltyFrontCover3x4-5Not Guilty by Teresa Pollard and Candi Pullen:

It’s 1974 and Carrie Shepherd, daughter of the minister at Windspree Community Church, is a college senior with plans to be a missionary in Africa. Raped by a masked assailant, Carrie is so traumatized she tells no one until she realizes she’s pregnant. Refusing to have an abortion, she must find the courage to face her family, her fiancé, her friends and a gossiping, angry congregation, which may include her attacker.  Can Carrie find the strength to cope with the secrets, silence, and shame?  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1938708067

Teresa Pollard is from Richmond, Virginia, and was saved at a young age. She has a Masters degree in English and Creative Writing from Hollins College, and has served as a Sunday School teacher and children’s worker for most of the last forty years. Married for forty years, she was devastated by divorce and the death of her youngest daughter, but God has blessed her with a new home and another grandson, and she now resides in Dacula, Georgia.

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I love the song, Blessings, by Laura Story.

In it, she sings about some of our greatest blessings coming through pain and trials. I’ve never lost  a child and can’t imagine the pain those who have must feel on a daily basis, but I have experienced trials. And I’ve found, it is often during my moments of greatest pain that I sense God the most. And it is often following intense periods of struggle that I experience my greatest freedom. But more than that, when I look at our world with all it’s pain and suffering, I’m reminded, and grateful, that this is not my home. No, God has something much better planned for those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. But while we are here, through trial and triumph, what He longs for most is that we point others to Him and His life-saving gospel. For this time is short, and often wrought with pain. But eternity? That will be glorious, my friend, if you know the Lord. For those who don’t? Well, there’s still time to send out invitations. 🙂

Let’s talk about this. Are you or a loved one going through a difficult time right now? How might your response to pain reveal the depth of your faith? And what might that say to a watching, hurting world? Pause to think of what Teresa’s daughter did, shortly before her death. She used every last possible moment not to grow bitter or isolate, but instead, to reach out with the love that had taken hold of her, to spread hope.

Share your thoughts and stories in the comments before or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

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