Bigger and Better

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

*Today's post is by guest writer Sandy Hall*

Many years ago when Bud and I were young newlyweds, we were working with the teens at our church. We planned a YAC (Youth after Church) for a Sunday night and had about 30 kids in our home for fun and food. Bud divided the teens up into teams of 4 or 5, gave each team a penny, and sent them out into our neighborhood to trade that penny for something bigger and better. They could trade up as many times as they could convince people to trade, and they had to be back to our house by a certain time. Off they went! Some very interesting items came back to our home that night! Lots of laughs. I remember a bird cage even. But the one thing that was most exciting to this wife and soon-to-be-mother was a dryer. It didn’t run….but that didn’t stop us. Bud discovered it needed a $7 part, fixed it, and we were good to go. I think we used that dryer for our family of 7 for about 20 years!!

When I was a little girl, I made a trade that changed the course of my life. I traded my sin for the righteousness of God. I traded my plans for my life for God’s plans for my life. I traded my selfishness for God’s love.  And I’m so glad! It was a great trade. Something far bigger and better! This song gives my testimony:

"Trading My Sorrows" by Darrell Evans

I'm trading my sorrow
I'm trading my shame
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord

I'm trading my sickness
I'm trading my pain
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord

And we say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord Amen

I'm pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I'm blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure
And his joy's gonna be my strength

Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning

The  Scriptures give many examples of men and women through the ages who traded for bigger and better:

- Abraham traded the security and comfort of his home in Ur for obedience to follow God to the unknown, believing in the promises of God. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; or he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Hebrews 11:8-10
- Sarah traded barrenness for the strength to bear a child.  “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.” Hebrews 11:11
- Did Moses ever dream he would lead the nation of his people, the Jews, out of bondage in Egypt? Hebrews 11 tells us he traded the passing pleasures of sin for suffering affliction with the people of God; he traded the treasures of Egypt for the reproach of Christ.
“And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:16

And my mind goes to the quote by Jim Elliot, a missionary martyr in Ecuador in the 50’s,  “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

So many godly examples of those who were willing to trade for something bigger and better.
Why then do we hang on tight to the “penny”? What are you hanging on to? Can you not see that God has something bigger and better in mind for you? Trade in that penny for God’s best!

By Sandy Hall
All rights reserved. Please ask permission before copying this article. Thank you. 


The Breath of Life

Friday, November 8, 2013

*Today's post is by guest writer Sandy Hall*

September 29, 2004, 7:02 p.m. - Sarah was born, much to the relief of the dear mother, father, family, doctor/midwife, and friends. As Sarah entered the world, we held our breath, waiting for her to breathe. Come on, little one.......what seemed like a minute or two passed, but was only a few seconds......there it is! A lusty wail was heard as her lungs filled with air, a totally new experience for her. Her eyes opened and her parents looked into them for the first time. Sarah was handed to me as I sat on the bed next to the momma.  Just minutes later, Sarah's sister came forth and the same anticipation occurred. We waited.......come on, baby, breathe!.......Ah, yes, then Mercy cried out. She was okay. We all exhaled. Mercy's eyes were open, gazing about at all the new sights. What a special moment to see the faces of these two new daughters for the first time. Mom and Dad and their five other children welcomed with tears of joy and relief these two new little ones. What a privilege to be there as these babies breathed their first breath of life.

October 21, 2004, 5:30 p.m.
- Bill lay quietly on his bed at the nursing home in Riverview. His eyes were closed; there was no response from him. His wife and I talked quietly to him and to one another. Every once in a while we stopped to listen to his breathing.......shallow.......with between. Several times we leaned over waiting for him to breathe again.......15 seconds passed. Come on, Bill, breathe. There it was........another long, slow exhale. Minutes later, there was a 20 second interval between breaths. We talked quietly on about how wonderful of a man he was, how she loved to serve him and make his life happy.......a long pause again.......20 seconds passed.......then 30......I leaned over to listen for his next breath. I took his hand and tried to find a pulse. No more breaths came, no pulse. He was at rest. Bill entered heaven with joy and rejoicing. The pain and suffering of recent months was all gone; He was seeing his Savior face-to-face. For his wife, a time of sorrow and relief. Losing a husband two times in 5 short years was not easy. What a privilege to be there with her and with Bill as he took his last breath.

Such were the experiences I had just three weeks apart that fall. As I drove home after Bill had died, the words of the verse in Genesis 2:7 came to my mind, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breathe of life; and man became a living being." I had watched Sarah and Mercy breathe their first air; I had watched Bill breathe his last. Yes, the babies were very much alive in the womb with their needed oxygen coming through the placentas from their mother's blood, but seeing them take in air for themselves for the first time was amazing. Who tells them to do that? Think of all the physiological changes that must take place for this to happen. And for Bill, who told him to breathe his last? Why at that moment? "For it is appointed unto man, once to die....." God! He is the answer to the first and the last breath we take. He is the source of all life. He gives it; and He takes it away. And as many have said through the centuries along with Job, "...the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21b

Obviously, if you are reading this article, you are breathing. You probably don't even remember your first breath of life at your birth, and most of you were not conscious of your breathing throughout today.....unless you felt out of breath chasing two toddlers all day! When will your last breath be? At this point in time, only God knows. Are you ready? Will you be ready when your last breath comes? Do you know what will happen to you then? The Bible tells us in Hebrews 9:27 that " is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." If you have acknowledged your sin to God and asked Him to be your personal Savior, since He has already paid the penalty for your sins on the cross, you can be absolutely assured that you will be with Him. If you are not sure what will happen to you when you breathe your last, please read the following verses from the Bible:

Romans 10:9, 10, 13 "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.....for 'whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'"

From our first breath to our last....."Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow" (Psalm 144:4). Because of that, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord" (Psalm 150:6).

By Sandy Hall
All rights reserved. Please ask permission before copying this article. Thank you. 


Harold and the Purple Crayon

Friday, October 18, 2013

*Today's post is by guest writer Sandy Hall*

Are you a Harold trying to draw life with your purple crayon? In the children's book "Harold and the Purple Crayon", this little boy gets into one scrape after another. And what does he do? Cry to momma for help? Sit down and think about it? Pray? No, he draws himself out of his troubles. He encounters a dragon, but draws himself out of the fear. He is independent, a problem solver, fearless, triumphant. All he needs is his purple crayon and he's good!

As I browsed through this little book, Harold's self-reliance jumped out at me in bold purple images. He is in control! Aren't we like that? We want to be in control. And even if we can't control the circumstances, we can control the least we think we can. And then something comes along that reminds us we are not in control. 9-11, a heart cath, an accident, a hurricane, a loved one's death. We are not in control and we know it deep in our heart of hearts. But we want to be a Harold with our purple crayon, drawing our way out of trouble.
A few years an adult Sunday school class at our church had studied the book of Daniel. My husband, Bud did a wrap-up lesson teaching us that the theme of Daniel is that God is in control and Daniel KNEW it. Despite all the trials of Daniel's life in Babylon, he didn't pull out his purple crayon and draw his own release from captivity, his rescue from the lion's den, his dream-come-true of Jerusalem being rebuilt. He trusted God. Period! Yes, he prayed - as had been his custom since he was young - but he trusted God to pull out the "purple crayon" when He saw best.

So put that purple crayon away. Break it, melt it, pitch it. And trust in an eternal, loving God Who is in control!
By Sandy Hall
All rights reserved. Please ask permission before copying this article. Thank you.


A Conversation With Grace

Friday, September 13, 2013

Imagine sitting down in a coffee shop for a conversation with Grace.

“Hey Christian, how have you been lately?”

“Not so good,” you respond, head down. “I’m trying to live a life that honors God...but it’s just so difficult in this world. Temptation comes from every side. My heart still contains so much filth. I want self-control, I want righteousness. I know I was made to represent God in this world, but I find myself more in sync with the culture around me. I go after the same things my unbelieving neighbor pursues. I lust after the things my television tells me to lust after. I chase dreams my college professors tell me to chase. I commit the same sins as any ol’ heathen. Why, just the other day I lied to my parents because I wanted to hang out at my friend’s house after school. Just the other day I blew up at my husband and my kids after a long day. Just the other day I lingered in lust at an image and sinned against my wife and my God. To tell you the truth, Grace, I feel like a complete failure.”

Grace responds, “That’s not the way I taught you to live.”

“You’re right,” you say, “And I just don’t know how I can change.”

Grace smiles, places a hand on your shoulder, and points behind you. “Christian, remember when I first appeared to you? You were hopeless, dead in your sins. Waiting for the righteous wrath of God. Then in the nick of time, Jesus rescued you. He gave Himself for you on the cross. He completely forgave you! He took you just as you were and He made you a treasured child of God! Do you remember that glorious day?”

You nod your head: “That was the greatest day of my life. I’ll never forget how Jesus rescued me.”

Grace turns and points ahead. “Here’s another happy thought: In a little while, the Coming One will come and will not delay. He’s just beyond the horizon. Jesus will appear in all his glory to once and for all rescue you from this wicked world. Isn’t that a happy thought? Won’t that be a great day?”

You’re overwhelmed with gratefulness. "But I don't deserve any of this."

"I know" comes the reply. "That's why they call me Grace."

Your heart is encouraged. “Grace, that’s some great motivation to keep on going. The gospel is enough. The glory of God is enough. Jesus is enough. I’ve got better things to do than waste my time on the passions of this world. I’m ready to keep moving! I’m ready to do some good works for God’s glory!”

Grace smiles and extends a hand.

“One more thing, Christian.... Stay with me. Don’t ever turn your back on me. Even on your best days, you need me. Apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

Jesus takes your hand. And you press on, step by step with your God and Savior.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)


"I Can't Overcome This Sinful Habit!" (part four)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

In part one of this series we were reminded that in order for lasting change to happen in your struggle against addictions, your entire being – mind, will, and emotions – must be affected by God's truth. In part two we considered the role of our minds. (Remember the truth of your identity - you don’t have to sin anymore!) In part three we focused on the role of our wills. (Act on the truth of your situation - you’re in a war!) Today we will consider the role of our emotions in the fight against sinful habits.

With your emotions you must delight in the truth of eternity - sin cannot give you ultimate joy. 

What is it that you really want?
You say, “I want to change” 
… really? Do you really want to change?
Do you really want to leave your sin behind, forever? Do you hate sin, or just the consequences of sin?

Perhaps you'd admit: I want change, but I want to have change without having to break a sweat.
I want change, but I can’t say goodbye to something I love.
I want change, but only because it will make my life a little easier or save me some money or maybe it will restore my relationship with my ex-wife.
I want change…but only sometimes.
I want change…but not until tomorrow.
You will not desire real, lasting change until you desire God more than anything. Until you delight in him over all the temporary pleasures of sin.

Isaiah 55:1-3: Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live!     
Open your soul to hear this invitation to partake in the joys of God! You don’t need to keep drinking sewer water - you can quench your thirst at clear, cool streams! You don't need to keep eating that gross moldy bread – you can have the good stuff fresh out of the oven! Don’t you want this more than anything?

The most effective motivations are positive motivations, because ultimately people will do what they want to do. So, what is it that you want the most?

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23)
“You have been set free from sin.” Addiction feels like slavery, doesn’t it? And sin is a cruel master. But sin is no longer our rightful master. “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin… [but] if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36). God has redeemed us, and He is now our master. And he gives the gift of life and the fruit of holiness.
The choice between God and sin is a choice between life or death. Let the significance of that choice sink in. The stakes are incredibly high! Today you can experience distance from God by turning to sin. Or you can experience life by walking with God and focusing on the joy of eternity to come.

Titus 2:11-13: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age waiting for our blessed [happy] hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Grace teaches us to renounce sin in light of something infinitely better - our “happy hope” – the glory of Jesus!
One day Jesus will return in glory and His people will be with him forever. He will usher in his glorious kingdom and defeat all enemies of joy and righteousness. Everything evil will come untrue. The fight with temptation and sin will be over as you become perfect in holiness.

Isn’t this what you desire most? In those moments of fierce temptation, when it seems nothing else matters but gratifying your desires, grace reminds you to desire the best joys, to wait for your happy hope. Don’t sacrifice what you want most for what you want now! Sin cannot give you ultimate joy, only Jesus can. God doesn’t want to keep you from pleasure, He wants to give you the greatest pleasures!
Do you believe this?
Your ability to turn from sin and obey God is in direct proportion to your ability to believe God’s precious and very great promises of joy.

So get to know God’s promises. Get to know God. Worship Him. Sin is nothing other than misplaced worship! In order to leave your worship of sin, you must replace it with worship of the one and only true God.
It could be that you want sin more than you want God because you don’t really grasp just how good and glorious and gracious God is. Any plan to beat addiction must include a plan to know God better. Familiarize yourself with His beautiful, perfect character. He is great, He is glorious, He is delightful. Worship Him. You are not going to break free from your sinful habit without worship of the one true God.

Maybe you read this series of posts hoping for a simple, easy solution for your addiction. One simple answer. One magic pill. I'm sorry to say that it doesn’t work that way. Sin is complex, and breaking a sinful habit is complex. Getting into your addiction took time, effort, and practice, and breaking your addiction will take much more of the same. But here’s the good news: Your gracious, loving Savior is the great physician. He gives us just the right combination of healing medicines and strengthening exercises in His Word. More than that, He gives us Himself. We don’t just get the prescription, we get the doctor. We don’t just get the life ring, we get the lifeguard. We don’t just get the salvation, we get the Savior. We get Christ.

So run to Christ!
While there’s life and while there’s Christ, there’s hope. Repent today! Return to the Lord. He loves you. Remember how horrendous sin is, then remember how good God is and go to Him. He invites you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.... Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:8-10)

Run to Christ! Cling to Christ! Stay with Christ! Don’t shrink back from Him in shame. He loves you - He died on a cross to prove it. The cross has made a way! His arms are open to you.
Even when we’re faithless, He remains faithful – He cannot deny Himself.


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