What Kind of Love?

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What kind of person can keep on loving and keep on giving while being spurned and shunned?

That’s what we see happening between the Prophet Hosea and his wife Gomer.

That’s what we see happening between God and Israel.

And that’s what we see happening between God and us. 

It’s easy to be critical of Israel and her infatuation with Baal, but isn’t it interesting that we do exactly what Israel did?

We, too, receive good things from God … and then we turn around and offer them to idols.

(Just because we don’t name them “Baal” doesn’t mean they are not idols.)

Our potential idols’ names are:

Money

Home

Career

Garden

Spouse

Children

Computer

Cell phone

All those things – everything we allegedly own – is in reality owned by God.

Not just 10% of it, but ALL of it!

Everything we enjoy!  It’s all on loan from God!

Ironically, though, all of those things can become idols.

Income?  Do we squeak out 10% to give back to Him and feel quite proud of ourselves?

(Read the book Mover of Men and Mountains by R.G. LaTourneau.  It will give you a whole new perspective on that!)

Homes?  Do we use our homes to bring blessing to others or do we withhold our homes because of the idol of “pride”?

It’s too small.  It’s too dusty.  It’s not nice enough, we say.

(Years later, I’m still amazed at our daughter and son-in-law.  For a short period of their lives, they had five young children and one bedroom.  The children all slept in the bedroom, and the parents’ slept in a king-sized bed in the very small living room.  Yet they continued to open their home graciously to others – even having friends over for dinner – in spite of their dime-sized kitchen and tiny table.  They clearly understood the principle of using the gift of their home — small though it was — to bring glory to God.)

What about career? Garden? Spouse? Children?  Do we have a pattern of allowing the pressures of our career and family life keep us from sharing our gifts and from gathering with the body of Christ?

Computers?  Cell phones?  Do we spend more time on them than we do with the God who gifted us with them?  Do we use them to indulge in sinful behaviors?

Heaven forbid that we would allow gifts from the hand of God to be turned into idols!

God created the trees in the forest, placed iron in the ground, and gifted them to man.

He gave man the brains to make an axe and nails from the iron — a gift.

He gave man the energy to cut down trees and the skill to fashion the wood into beams — gifts.

God gave man the cleverness to make a handle from the wood, and head from the iron, and the “know-how” to combine them into an effective hammer.

All GIFTS!

And what did man do with these gifts?

He took the beams, the nails, and the hammer and nailed Jesus to the Cross …

the place where He willingly stretched out His arms and died …

the place where He took the guilt and penalty of our sin …

the place where He restored the relationship between God and man (if man would but believe and receive it).

We are prone to wander away from this gift-giving God.

But, like Hosea … He keeps on loving.  He keeps on giving.

What kind of love is that anyway? 

Oh, that we would capture a fresh new glimpse of His ownership over the gifts we enjoy and use each one to serve Him …

with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our soul. ~Matthew 22:37

 

 

 

Vexed by Thorns!

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Do you feel “hedged in”?  Unable to move forward?  Somewhat paralyzed?  Stuck???  Could it be that God has set up a hedge to protect you from going where you shouldn’t go?

In Hosea 2:6-8, God promised to set a hedge of thorns on the sides of Israel’s path so it would “hurt” whenever she started to go the wrong way.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had literal thorn bushes encompassed about us, preventing us from taking wrong turns?

I don’t like it a whit when God hedges my way!

We tend to think He is against us when we are stopped short of proceeding down wrong paths (which we don’t perceive as wrong paths).

But I’m wondering if we can start looking at those invisible restrictions as thorny bushes set up by our Protector as a shield of security.

While it’s true that gouging thorns vex us and wound us if we try to push through them into dangerous territory … in reality, those thorns are one of the sweetest expressions of God’s love.

Dear Lord, we look to You to hedge up our way with thorns and wall us in when we attempt to move in directions that will do us harm — even if it has to hurt a little.  Amen.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Live Peaceably, if Possible

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There is nothing worse than knowing I have offended someone.  I would much rather be the “offendEE” than the “offendER”!

I like it that this verse says “If possible…”  It is not always possible to mend fences with an offended brother or sister, but “so far as it depends on me,” I want to do all I can to make that happen.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this dilemma.  No two cases are alike.  But here are some general suggestions that may help in certain situations.

If we know an offense has occurred, we can purpose to put on our “big girl panties” and break the ice of unforgiveness.

We’re talking about serious stuff here because we know that a root of bitterness can cause much trouble (Hebrews 12:15); and one of the things God says he “hates” is one who sows discord (no doubt because He knows the harm it can do in relationships within families, churches, and other associations).

The Bible says that a brother offended is harder to win than a strong city. And contentions are like the bars of a castle (Proverbs 18:19).

Even with that bleak prognosis, it is possible to mend fences in many cases.

It starts with a word — a character trait — that we all like to think we have, but, when put to the test, our actions often prove otherwise:

It starts with humility.

One of the strongest urges we all have as human beings is to vindicate ourselves, either outwardly or inwardly.  St. Augustine cried out to God, “O Lord!  Deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself!”

Oswald Chambers says, “Such a need for constant vindication destroys our soul’s faith in God. Don’t say, ‘I must explain myself,’ or, ‘I must get people to understand.'”

How about this:

Let’s seek first to understand, and then to be understood!

And, even after that, we may not completely understand the other person’s point of view … but we can at least accept the fact that it is his or her point of view (skewed though it may be [at least in our opinion]).

This is a good time to use our best listening skills and best non-threatening voice inflection.  If we ask out right, “Did I offend you?,” most won’t admit that we have.

Instead, let’s consider gently saying, “Mary, I have noticed that you seem to be pulling away from me. Is everything okay between us?”

Then listen.  Listen to the bitter end!

And while we’re listening, we should fight the urge to interrupt and explain our side.  Listen with compassion; and, when the person is finished, validate his or her feelings.  After all, right or wrong, it is how that person feels.

Saying, “I am sorry you were offended” is a not an apology. It actually escalates the offense rather than deescalate it.  It is like telling the offended party, “You have issues. Get over it.”

Can we not resist the urge to defend ourselves?  Even if, in our opinion, we are at no fault whatsoever!  The offended party will NOT hear or process what we say until we verbally acknowledge his or her feelings.

Once we have deflected the potential firestorm, we might be able to (in certain situations) gently explain our perspective, but then follow up quickly and gently (there’s that word again) with, “But I can see how my words (or my abrasive approach, or my behavior, etc.) must have made you feel.  Will you please forgive me?”

The One who created us says to agree with your adversary quickly (Matthew 5:25).

Let’s not be afraid to take the blame (no matter how innocent we may think we are) if it will bring peace in the end.

If we are not forgiven instantly, be patient and gracious.  After all, God is certainly patient and gracious with us!

We can at least release our own guilt once we have sought forgiveness.

It’s not fun being the “offender.”  Not fun at all!  But even the most gentle-minded, peace-pursuing person can occasionally offend.

Sometimes the person on the other side of the offense has issues that cause him or her to be easily offended; but sometimes we just flat say or do the wrong thing.

But working to do so less often (and never intentionally) should be our goal.

If … you are snared by the words of your mouth … deliver yourself; for you have come into the hand of your friend: Go and humble yourself; plead with your friend.  Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids.  Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird from the hand of the fowler. ~from Proverbs 6.

It is inevitable that, at some point, we will offend someone.

But when we do, it is our responsibility to act with integrity and personal responsibility

and …

if possible, so far as it depends on us, seek to live peaceably with all.

Beauty Beyond the Blustering Billows

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While sitting in my safe and sunny corner this morning with the Word of God and my “Be Still” coffee cup, I poured out my burdens before the Lord.

So many issues swirling around in my head — deep concerns, serious concerns for people I love!

Concerns that are completely out of my control!

Do you ever feel profusely powerless? What a great place to be!

I can’t tell you what God “did” do in answer to my pleas, but I can tell you what He “didn’t” do! 

He didn’t fix anything — at least not in that moment … BUT … He led me to Nahum 3:1:  “The Lord is in the whirlwind and the storm.”

Through His Word, He told me, “I am in the storm!”  He’s not up above somewhere in the wild blue yonder “watching” us be in the storm.  I will repeat.  He is in the storm with us!  How comforting is that???

Henry Beecher aptly stated, “Fear not the stormy tempest that is at this moment sweeping through your life. A blessing is in the storm, and there will be a rich fruitage in the ‘afterward.’”

Do we not appreciate the beauty of the landscape after a rainstorm passes through the valley? I surely do!

So why not just lean into it and trust Him to “have His way,” knowing that beauty lies beyond the tempest.

He didn’t say it would be easy, but He did say it would be possible (in Christ).

So let’s believe Him! Let’s just buck up, ride the storm, and remain faithful. What else can we do?

Let’s take a lesson from the eagle.  What does it do when it encounters a fierce storm? It takes advantage of it and actually uses the blustering billows to buoy itself up to higher heights! (That is one smart critter!!!)

And so … rest … for the Lord is indeed in your storm … and there is beauty beyond!

I’m taking that to the “bank” — my Bank of Hope — and I’m depositing it!

Right here. Right now!

And I’m hoping you will too!

Glory to His Name!

Amazing Love

 

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Upcoming Women’s Bible Study:

I would love to have you join us online if you are unable to attend in person! We have a FB group and an e-mail group where I will post recorded video snippets of the study, as well as an occasional PowerPoint and other study helps.  You may access these at your convenience.

Please private message me on FB (WarrenandMichele Snyder) or comment below if interested.  I hope to hear from you!  🙂

My Testimony – 40 Years Later

Desiring to celebrate my 40th anniversary of walking with Jesus, I revisited the place where I had first met Him.  I had planned to sit on the steps outside the church and talk to Him, but serendipity awaited! The door to the building was OPEN and the muted resonance of friendly voices drew me inside.  Consequently (and Providentially), I was able to visit the exact spots where the Lord had convicted me about my sin, and where I had responded to His offer of forgiveness (all pictured below)! My friend Dala, who had witnessed my new birth 40 years prior, just so “happened” to be there at a women’s Bible study the night of my impromptu visit, so she was able to celebrate with me (along with all the other women who were there).

Isn’t God GOOD!!!

Getting inside the church that birthday night (at precisely the same time I had been there 40 years earlier) was a gift from His hand!

But, as good as that was, it wasn’t as good as that FIRST Gift He gave over 2000 years ago — His only Son who died and bled on the Cross to buy my pardon! Glory to His Name!!!

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This marquee was not there 40 years ago, but this is the church where it happened.

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This was the view from my vantage point the night I responded to God’s invitation to trust in His Son.  My first pastor, Floyd McElveen, had been standing at the front presenting the Good News of Jesus (the Gospel), and the Holy Spirit had convicted my heart.  I remember sitting in that pew and raising my hand, acknowledging that I was a sinner in need of forgiveness.

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This was the exact pew in which I had been sitting when I acknowledged my need for a Savior, and this is my friend Dala who was there “that” night — the night of my salvation and the night I revisited the church 40 years later.  We had been a couple of young women with babes at our knees and our whole lives before us.  We have been friends ever since, walking this earthly journey together … and we will spend eternity together, dancing around God’s Throne, rejoicing in Him!

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This was the very spot where the most important conversation I’ve ever had took place (except I had a chair back then).

Fortunately, the pastor didn’t just have me raise my hand and then send me out the door.  Had he said, “Talk to somebody before you leave and tell them what you did,” I would have walked out the door, would have talked to no one, and would have never realized the significance of my decision that evening!  (I know this because I had taken this step multiple times in my past and still had had no clue of my inheritance!)

But this dear pastor was a shepherd!  He had pressed and required me to step up and identify myself.  With heart pounding and palms sweating, I found myself standing.  From there, I was invited to a room — the very spot where I am sitting in this photo — where he talked to me one-on-one.

Pastor Mac didn’t preach to me or talk “at” me.  He asked me questions.  He let me express myself to discern where I was coming from — and then he made sure I understood what had taken place by taking me through some of the basic salvation (and assurance of salvation) verses.  A week later, I was baptized, and then found myself sitting at a microphone in a radio studio, telling “the world” about my conversion!  Wow!  (It makes me chuckle to think of that!  How I wish I could hear a recording of that conversation today!)

Immediately after that night, I was taken through several weeks of discipleship classes where I received a thorough grounding in the basic tenets of the Christian faith. (I am thankful that it was done that way!)  God had also placed some wonderful believers in my life who helped me through those first wobbly baby steps.  Dried up old sponge that I was, I bombarded them with a myriad of questions about this new life and what the Bible said about it!  (Thank you Pastor Mac and Virginia [both with Jesus now], DeWayne and Georgie Wageman, Mickie and Bob Amen, Tom and Dala Walton, Bruce and Flo Walters [my beloved Flo is also now with the Lord], John and Bonnie Meyer, and Pat Barnes!)

Sometimes I wonder if we as followers of Jesus have become “careless” in presenting this Wonderful Gift that is available to our friends.  I fear that we’re not making salvation clear to people and that we are leading them into a state of “easy believism” and away from experiencing the power of God in their lives.

Salvation in Jesus is far more than parroting a prayer and then walking out the door and going back to life as usual. 

Salvation is not continuing in sin that grace may abound.  “God forbid!” as the Apostle Paul says.  True salvation results in fruit and in a growing desire to know Him and walk with Him.

May God help us to present the Good News accurately and thoroughly … to identify the need … to expect a visible response … and to take our responsibility to disciple new believers seriously.

Thank you to all those who followed the Matthew 28 mandate to disciple me … and thank you, Lord, for John 3:16, John 1:12, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:9-10, Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5-6, 1 John 5:12-13, and so many others!

And thank you, Lord Jesus, for dying for me on the Cross of Calvary, and for taking the punishment that I deserved.  Thank you for preparing a home for me in heaven.  And thank you for giving me purpose as I finish the race on this planet.

And thank you for changing my life forever! ❤

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Marked by His Grace

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Here is Bekah’s reaction to the incident I wrote about last week.

We got home yesterday to the mess that we were in the middle of on Wednesday. Charlie had cleaned up the blood and had the refrigerator back in place (and anchored), but aside from that, everything was just as messy as things get when you’re in the middle of life and have to leave abruptly. I swept Wednesday’s dirt off the floor, loaded Wednesday’s dishes into the dishwasher. I did everything else possible to avoid doing what I was in the middle of when the accident happened. I had been in the middle of changing over the kombucha when Hadi asked me if she could put the juice away. I said yes and kept going with my process. She said there wasn’t room, so I told her to go ahead and put it in the new fridge. Immediately, I saw a picture of the fridge falling over. So I put the kombucha down, and went and opened the door myself, all the way, making sure that it wouldn’t actually fall. When I saw that it was stable, I returned to my process, my back to my babies, and heard the crash.

So as I picked up where I left off in the process yesterday, I had to really question myself–“okay, was there any thought or picture that just came into my mind that I need to heed before continuing on in this busy-ness?” The night we had in the hospital, I was so tormented. Any time I was about to drift off to sleep, an image of the fridge falling and crushing both Hadi and Jonny came in my mind.

I prayed every time, Phil 4:8, asking God to show me what was true, honorable, etc… and fix my mind on that. And He was so fast to answer that with a picture of two angels–one catching the fridge on his back, absorbing most of the weight and blow that would’ve landed on Hadi, and another one that scooted Jonny out of the way. Her new left hand is going to be the most beautiful thing about her now–she is forever marked with the graciousness of God, His mighty, powerful, loving and saving hand.

Just two weeks ago, I was sideswiped on the interstate, and I came away from with with only a few dents and scratches to my car. No doubt God had angels there, too–but I’m able to forget about that, or even dismiss it, because I didn’t have to see just how close I actually came to real harm.

So, to answer my question– I probably will have more warnings in my heart that I’ll be willing to risk in the name of getting stuff done. I pray I let that voice get louder and my drive for “powering through” chills out, but even if it doesn’t, we are so cared for and protected by a loving God, who, in spite of our absolute ignorance, will keep us safe until our actual time has come. ❤️

Thank you so much to everyone who has prayed and called upon other people to pray for us. We are so well taken care of.

~Rebekah (Hadi’s mama)

Back to me now (the grandma):  Hadi saw her hand for the first time since the accident, as her fingers were being re-dressed today.  She looked at her fingers and mused aloud, “They aren’t that short.”  What a beautiful little spirit!  She is already magnifying the Lord and impacting lives through her experience.  Hadi is indeed “Marked by His Grace.”