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Spiritual tips

Renee Ellison's spiritual thoughts for the day.

Spiritual profundities in Les Miserables

Sunday, 23. November 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Victor Hugo’s nearly 1,500 page French tome, Les Miserables, may well have been the most profound novel ever written.  If you have a teenager or young adult, this is a good read.  Here are some thoughts to accompany that reading—to view it not only as a story, but as a parableThe novel is a full discourse of every nook and cranny the soul runs to, to understand itself.  It is saturated with spiritual verities.

Javert epitomizes the law, unbridled and metastasized into a cancerous fever on an insistent hunt for its prey—a universal “gotcha”.  When the law becomes a conundrum even to himself, his soul is confronted with an irresolvable complexity.  Choosing mercy is unthinkable.  Sadly, as seems the case with most people, he must die with his theology intact, even if it doesn’t “fit” and even if it was proven to be incorrect.  Suicide is the only way out of his rigidity.

Juxtaposed to this is a depiction of the very opposite, the low-life; lawLESSness run aground in its own bawdy insatiable flesh.  The flesh even pillages the dead for more stuff, totally blinded to the fact that this IS, in fact, eventually death for him, too—and then what will he live for?  The revolutionaries are the “arm of the flesh” trying to change the hearts of men from the outside in.  Without God as a reference point, without prayer, men are sure to strew the stage of life with death.  As in Hamlet, revenge eats up everything in its path; not a soul is alive on that stage at the end of that tragedy.

Eponine depicts for us the secular humanist who is hunting for salvation in a place where it will never be: a hand-picked lover, who himself is preoccupied with someone ELSE.  She dies in the arms of a transient fulfillment.  Desperate to be sure of her ground, she tells IT how to function, what to say and do, and she clings to it still.

And Jean Valjean?  His thieving habit, he thinks, needed to work his own salvation, still not cured after 19 years in prison (that it was done for a good purpose made no difference), so he tries it again.  He sees no other way to meet his needs—which are many.  But, alas, his trembling confidence is met again with the “lock-him-up”.  Life, for him, now, is a verified endless dead-end.  However, this time his thieving despair is unexpectedly met with the priest’s “Take my silver candlesticks, too”, and Valjean’s habituated impulsive world-view dissolves.  What is this?  Some mysterious abundance that goes beyond my needs? Mercy?  Not only has he now felt it, he also now realizes that he may be the agency of it, too.  His conversion is none other than Christ in the soul—the synthesis of law and mercy.  The halleluiahs break out over his wasteland and he quietly and maturely lives differently—Calvary bound, too.

The story has it all.  It even raises the great universal, cosmic question of “Who Am I?” Am I this thing or the other?  Where do I “come down?”  Where is my core?  What is my zip code, really?!  Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous poem from prison was titled the same: “Who Am I?”  “Am I caring and deferential, as my prison mates imagine me to be, or am I the wild man who thrashes around inside, full of questions?”  Shakespeare’s Hamlet adds to the body of literature, also asking this question.  “To be or not to be? that is THE question.”  And so, too, we see the Psalmist, King David, beg for integration even in his mature soul—far more advanced than most: “May the meditations of my heart be pleasing to thee, Oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  May I not live in shadows.  Deliver me from splinteredness.  Make me “one” before thee, in my inward parts.  Show me to myself.

“Who am I” is a question that really none of us can answer.  Only He who made us really knows.  Self-discovery takes a lifetime; it is really only unveiled as we partake of God-discovery, and even then it is only mincingly understood.  With Bonhoeffer we end up saying, “I do not know, but what I do know is that “I am Thine!”

(For another believer’s more extended foray into this topic, see Bob Welch’s book of 52 Little Lessons from Les Miserables.)

Marriage resources

Wednesday, 08. October 2014 by Renee Ellison

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New insights from good resources can help a struggling marriage survive or a good marriage become better.  There is no downside to receiving enlarging marital wisdom all throughout one’s marital life.

Marital dilemma, and the way out
A young struggling wife once declared: “The only way out of my bad marriage is divorce or death! And I don’t believe in divorce!”  Many women feel this way at one time or another (men, too, by the way).  They forget (or never knew) that there is another very hopeful “way out.”  It is called GETTING HELP—perhaps through obtaining good Biblical counseling, reading biblical-based marriage books, taking advantage of wise biblical YouTube teaching videos on marriage, and consulting with seasoned wise older believers.  These four avenues can give you staggeringly good and enlarged insights on your current circumstances.  Sometimes all it takes is one new thought, or one new way of looking at a situation, to achieve great resolve and peace in your heart concerning your marriage.  This help can also give you new strategies of coping well in your marriage and/or of ways to gain better conflict resolution with your spouse.

The old timers did not have such helps, but today there is a plethora of help to any eager seeker.  Resources can make even GOOD marriages BETTER, as we have said, so don’t shy away from such help for any reason, or during any season.  Sometimes one new thought for a husband can give HIM an “aha” moment, as well.

Consider these resources:

You-Tube videos:
Mark Gungor…his Tale of Two Brains.  All of his other YouTubes on marriage are excellent, as well…watch all of them!
Drs. Paul and Virginia Friesen’s YouTubes on marriage
Dr. Laura Slessenger…she majors on PRACTICAL marital help.  She is a relationship genius.

Books:
Wise Womanly Ways to Grow Your Marriage/ Renee Ellison
Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free/ Nancy Leigh DeMoss
The Power of a Praying Wife/ Stormie Omartian
The True Woman/ Susan Hunt (help for the abused woman)
Treasures of Encouragement/ Sharon Betters (help for the abused woman)

For men: we recommend only one because it says it all: The Garden of Peace: A Marital Guide for Men Only/ Shalom Arush

Counseling:
Sometimes all a marriage needs is a third set of ears.  To talk in front of a wise third person can help iron out all sorts of problems as the counselor directs the long-range RESULTS of each spouse’s thinking back to the one who voiced them.  A good counselor can give wonderful fresh perspective and direction.  Only seek wise BIBLICAL counseling (not secular psychological counseling) from counselors who have shown results in keeping couples TOGETHER (not dissolving their union).  Ask for references of couples you can contact to see what kind of fruit/results came of their sessions with this counselor.

If you are in the Seattle, Washington area, Ed Park is an excellent marital counselor.  Many couples have gained outstanding benefit from his insights and help—and are currently far happier in their marriages.  Contact him at: Counseling.sanctuarySeattle.org /Ed Park 206-659-5413

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Bible art

Wednesday, 08. October 2014 by Renee Ellison

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There are two delightful color experiences a child can have that are derived from and reinforce the great truths of the Bible.  They are:
    1. Color celebrations around seven magnificent colored displays in the Bible (taken one per day) and
    2. Creating a Wordless Gospel Booklet.

Color celebration
There are seven notable places in the Bible where a lavish display of color is described.  To a child’s delight, he finds that God spills splendor over His truths.  To blend a child’s passion for color AND Bible themes together decks those themes with glory for remarkable lifetime “remembering.”  By DRAWING the simple outlines of these forms for your child to fill in, you DRAW wonderful attention to God!

If you are not so keen on your own drawing ability, you can order these coloring pages from us for $5 (includes postage).  If you do sketch them out, yourself, use an entire page for each drawing, making them quite large.

Children may use paints, colored pencils, markers, or crayons to fill them in.  (For more on that, see our recent blog post on preschool painting and coloring tips.)

Each piece produces a masterpiece—even when the child has very little drawing skill.  All he is really doing is filling IN color stripes or color blocks, while his brain takes pictures subconsciously of the truths contained therein. 

These are the colorful seven:
+ A rainbow
+ Joseph’s coat
+ The tabernacle drapes
+ The High Priest’s breastplate
+ The foundation stones/layers of the New Jerusalem (see Revelation 21:8-21)
+ A crown
+ A gem

Lay them in front of your child, one per day, and watch how MUCH you can discuss WHILE the child fills them in!  You’ll have a captive audience. 


Wordless Gospel Booklet
You can also make a little book of full colored pages (with no text) to express the gospel stages in a person’s life.  When finished, these are adorable and the children love to feel them, repeatedly look at them, and carry them around in their hip pockets to show their relatives and friends. 

The ideal size is made using 3X5 cards.  Attach two together with a strip of electrician’s tape or masking tape between them, leaving a 1/8th inch space (so that it folds easily) and continue to add a card until you obtain four interior surfaces (two cards side by side), and the cover and back binding (of a single card, each). 

Once your skeleton booklet is constructed, cover each full page with only one color.  The child may paint the pages, or he may glue colored construction paper to them.  But the most spectacular rendering is to use sticky-backed colored vinyl.  The use of this materials makes the book flash and sparkle with VIVID color.  (Obtain it from a local sign shop by asking for scraps of sticky-backed colored vinyl from the owner’s trash can).  You only need 5 X 6 squares of each in these colors:
+ black
+ red
+ white
+ gold
+ primary bright green (emerald color).  Use this last color for both front and back covers by applying it all in one piece by turning the little booklet face down upon the table to expose both sides of the cover.

Teach the child to memorize and say this little poem AS he turns the pages to show his friends and relatives:

My sin is black as black can be.
It will spoil heaven, said He.

So He covered it up with His own blood red.
He took my place on a cross and bled.

He made me all so clean and white—
Like a star I’ll shine, forever bright.

And go to live where streets are gold—
I’ll be with him for days untold.

And now I grow all strong and green,
Believing in Him whom I’ve never seen.

I feed on his Word to learn what’s right,
and rest in His promises day and night.

A list of the BEST Bible resources for young children

Saturday, 04. October 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Recommendations of the best Bible books for very young children

Before sharing my list with you, here some general comments about reading the Bible to very young children.

First:  You want to create a love of the Bible, not just knowledge of it.  To accomplish this, in the beginning, use the best illustrated children’s Bible versions that you can get your hands on.  Avoid scary or mean-looking versions or the other extreme of fantasy-type-Hollywood illustrations.  If you are deliberating between two versions, pick the one with the best pictures.  The pictures are educating the child’s right brain and hooking his emotions.  What those pictures portray is very important.

Second:  Do not be adverse to dividing the children’s Bible into four parts, and actually taking it apart at the spine and making it into four separate lighter book sections.  You would then take those loose pages to your local printer to have them spiral bind those four littler books with a little wire binding for each book.  This makes it easier to turn the pages, because they will now lay flat as you read them (the book doesn’t continue to flop shut) and enables you or the child to hold less weight in your/their lap.  It is worth it to do this to a book that you will use every day and perhaps over and over again with a number of different children.  If you buy the book used to begin with, the total cost of the book (including the added expense of the wire binding) is not much.

Third:  Consider finding and purchasing used children’s Bibles from thrift stores, second hand book stores, or Bookfinder.com or Abebooks.com online (the Amazon.com links below are just to help you start your search).  If and when you do so and the book is in your hands, try to smell older Bibles to be sure they do not have mold on them from having been in a person’s basement, for example, which makes reading them unpleasant.  Whenever you find a good children’s version, consider purchasing it so that you have plenty of Bibles to give away to children who come across your path.

Fourth:  Read the Bible to your child until he/she is able to read well by himself/herself—i.e. the child has been thoroughly trained in phonics (we offer you excellent resources for that).  Then he can begin to read easy versions and gradually work into more difficult versions over the course of his youth.  Teach him to underline verses in his Bible that strike him, personally.  Eventually he can write down one thought or one verse from his daily devotions in a little notebook that he keeps alongside his Bible.

Here, now, is a list of some different versions, with a note as to the best suggested use for each version.  The first one described below is especially useful if you only have a small amount of time with youngsters (for instance, you get to teach your pagan neighbor’s children and their parents don’t care what you teach them, or you get to spend a week with visiting unbelieving relatives’ children or grandchildren whose parents will let you read anything to them, or you have the opportunity to influence other children for a short duration), pour as much Bible into these children as you can in the time that you have spiritual influence over them.

    + The Children’s Discovery Bible: Discovering God’s Word for the First Time (authors: Charlene Hiebert and Drew Rose; Chariot Victor Publishing, 1996) Your goal is to try to familiarize the child with all of the Bible stories as speedily as possible.  To do that, you have to find the easiest and most concise version you can.  In addition, you want to rivet the children’s attention upon what you are reading.  To accomplish all of this optimally, use this version.  Each page is 2/3rds picture and 1/3rd text.  You can cover all the Bible material speedily by dividing the book into the number of days you have with the child, making sure that you keep up with reading each day’s section each day, to finish the book in good time.
    + My Bible Friends (5 volumes; author: Etta B. Degering) This is a five-volume series with extraordinarily good illustrations.  The pictures are bold, very colorful, winsome, and old-fashioned.  Children love this introduction to the Bible.  They will beg you for more stories from it.  Beginnings are so important.  You couldn’t do better to begin introducing your children to the Bible than with this series.  It lays the best foundation possible. 
    + The New Panorama Bible Study Course  (author: Alfred Thompson Eade, 1947; look for a used copy of this one) This is a pictorial representation of the entire Bible that you can walk a child (or an adult) through in about five minutes.  It gives a wonderful survey as rapidly as possible, that one never forgets.
    + The Catechism for Young Children with Cartoons (2 volumes; Vic Lockman) This is an easy way to cover the 100 basic questions about Christian doctrine that need to be a part of every child’s spiritual training.  In the Puritan times instructors and fathers trained first graders with the questions from the Westminster Catechism, in not such a winsome fashion as this. Nevertheless, children learned them and recited them.  These little books simplify the process and are a real gift to modern families with young children who want to raise them solidly in the Christian life.
    + The Picture Bible (Chariot Books) This book is excellent for an older elementary student or a junior high student, on up in age.
    + The Bible Story (10 volumes; author: Arthur S. Maxwell) I have heard of a family who read through this series again and again for a total of eight years.  This special series beautifully shapes any home’s spiritual life.  Illustrators from over 11 different denominations contributed excellent artwork for the series.  The stories are captivatingly summarized.
    + Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories (5 volumes; author: Arthur S. Maxwell) Arthur Maxwell is a master story teller.  These stories are true, and point out some character challenge and victory in a little story the child can identify with.  His stories are gripping and keep the child’s interest at high levels.  They serve to shape the child’s own character in a happy way.

For further Bible reading:
Following all of this good biblical exposure, the child is ready to read a real translation of the scriptures himself, and continue into more and more difficult versions for the remainder of his life.  For an accurate translation, in good English that is accessible to most modern readers, you may want to consider the New American Standard Version.

Junk Fantasy Is Killing Children’s Grip on Reality

Thursday, 10. July 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Here’s the lineup inside a child’s head these days:  Superman, Zoro, Jesus Christ, The Force, The Wizard, The Vampire.  Lazarus was raised from the dead by magic; the tempest was stilled by zapping; a fairy god-mother woke Joseph to tell him to take Mary and babe to Egypt.  Junk fantasy and one’s “take” on a spiritual life are all currently wrapped up into one bailiwick in the modern child’s mind.  The vast majority of children no longer know nor sing “Jesus Loves Me” nor “The B-I-B-L-E” but they can sing “I Can Fly” (from Peter Pan) flawlessly.  They go to bed with songs from Frozen (a movie chock full of homosexual innuendo) and wake up to “trance” their siblings with phrases from “........”.  When asked to sing you a song (you have in mind something like “I’m a little teapot”), the little ones come forth rendering a rock song complete with an exact imitation of the rock star’s breathy sexual voice, and words far beyond their experience base.  When you ask for them to share something from their day yesterday, you get a full discourse on the latest sit-com or movie.  In some homes the children have never seen anyone press the “off” button on the big screen.  Our children may be standing in front of us physically, but psychologically, make no mistake, they are far from having both feet in this reality.  Do we, as parents, want this?  Really?

Let’s take stock.  Might the sheer magnitude of the imprinting be too large for their little spirits?  How many clear thoughts could you think if the US Navy Band came in and surrounded you and blasted away?  The media is engulfing them, overwhelming them, sinking them.  They collectively are in a tsunami and don’t have the wherewithal to get out, nor want to get out.  They’ve been wined and dined into joining the ranks on the other side…victims of the Patty Hearst syndrome—“if you stay with ‘em (it) long enough—you’ll prefer to live with the enemy.”  Our modern children live on a diet of intense fake desserts all day long, unaware that the content is really gravel.  Children are routinely sucked up into worlds and dilemmas that they will never face in real life, and simultaneously are not given real answers for the things they will face.  They are consummately distracted from learning how to gain real succor from their Maker, or how to engage with fighting the real enemy of their soul, against temptations that will overtake them in their naïveté.  They are distracted from a real chance to perform positive works of righteousness in a very needy world, from taking daily tours of duty right in their own homes, and from exerting hard, strong endeavors in progressive entrepreneurial industry in the larger world.  How can this be a good state of affairs?

But the worst of it—the very worst of it—is that not knowing who Jesus Christ is to them, as distinct from fantasy, is killing the life of their little soul by degrees.  Holiness is a long forgotten appetite, atonement an anathema, the final judgment a fairy tale, His comforts during life’s inscrutable moments unknown to them.  The blurring of who the Savior is to the children of the 21st century is no accident.  It is deliberate, a well-crafted super structure hell-bent on ignoring Him.  A people with no soul are far easier to manipulate, by the way.  And if our children have no soul (but have become mere parrots of Hollywood) would it not have been far better to have never been born?

Think before turning the media switch on.  After this “viewing” where will their little minds run—and how frequently will they return there?  Are they mentally most occupied with God and the Bible, and their real neighbor, consumed with and eager for their real work, or the other?  Where does this lead?  There is a velocity to life.  We’ve already used up our capital with the years we’ve been duped into all of this; how goes the future?  Further, where is the point of no return for our child?  Could we discern it when it happened?  I think not.  This is dangerous, dangerous business.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Polygamy: Impossible for a godly man

Tuesday, 14. January 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Polygamy is a non sequitur.  If it is truly a wife (or even a collection of wives) a man seeks, he cannot attain it in this way. Polygamy shreds to ribbons what the state of having a wife is. Marrying multiple “wives” might be horse-play but it is not a marriage to a wife—any wife or a bevy of wives.  The minute there are two wives there is no real state of love, with either wife.  Here is why.

For there to be real love, there will be jealousy—an appropriate and righteous jealousy.  The Heavenly Father said of Himself, regarding Israel, His one bride, “I am a jealous God.”  It was the one attribute by which He described Himself in marriage.  By HIS demonstration of absolute love, we come to understand that a good man will have a continuing, steady state of an anxious hovering over the state of the affections of his bride, once he has laid down his entire life to win her and to keep her. 

Note that the appropriate jealousy will be from the lov-er to the lov-eeee, not the other way around.  Conversely, jealousies from the lov-eeee to the lov-ER (over what has happened to her husband’s heart), is what polygamy creates. 

A lov-ER is an initiator; a lov-eee a responder.  This is the undeniable psychological case of a true love affair, borne out even anatomically.  So, the one doing the loving all through the beginning, middle and final days of the lifelong love affair must do it totally and single-mindedly, in order to get the most responsive wife possible.  If a woman is constantly being compared to another wife, she will switch from being a responder to being an emotional survivor; she will switch to defensive/protection mode.  Her emotions will shut down, boarded up, closed.  And then the man has no wife.

A polygamist is deluded that he loves.  The very definition of love is total self-sacrifice. He can’t be in a state of love with his wife if he immediately throws her (whom he supposedly loves) into the severest jealousies she could possible experience, by taking on another wife.  And each night that any of his wives are overlooked in preference for a different wife is a night of rejection for any of those wives.  This cannot be love.

Whether it is a love triangle duked out between jealous Jr. Highers, an affair with another man or woman gossiped about on magazine covers, or the addition of another wife, the presence of a third spouse will bring strife into a home.  You can count on it.  A Christ-like lover would never do it.  Legalizing multiple wives, through polygamy, doesn’t bring peace to any home.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Keep perspective on your emotions during Christmas

Thursday, 12. December 2013 by Renee Ellison

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Some of you have decided to depart from Christmas after finding out that it has just too many pagan roots for your comfort level.  Others of you still participate in Christmas but try to keep Christ/Yeshua up front and central, while wading through the materialism, somehow, someway.  Regardless of where you are with respect to the holiday in general, it is not hard to observe that there are some emotional expectations during this season that sometimes become difficult to manage.  For starters: no one’s family can measure up to the ideal Christmas family advertised on the billboards and magazines.  Yet we are continually bombarded during an entire month to measure up to some imagined perfect family, lest we become downcast.

So this is just a reminder to wake you up to the fact that there ARE spirits of depression released at this time of year—so stabilize your spirit and your family’s against them.  This is not the time to evaluate your life, for example!  Just put one foot in front of the other and work harder at anything, improve something, sort, clean, organize, create—and think of little ways to give of yourself to others—as you just get through these two weeks.  Think deep thoughts later .  One experiences the same phenomenon when one is sick and gets depressed.  You can’t think straight or see straight when under a fever.  Just get those days behind you anyway you can.  So sometimes we just have to get through holidays—get them and their extended family complexities behind us.

In my immediate family, we always work harder at this time of year.  I always used to work my students harder this entire month in the classroom, too.  My students would skip down the hall with “accomplishment joy” because we did consuming additional projects and learned exciting new things while all the other students moped around and dragged their feet because their bodies were loaded with sugar and their minds with indulgent parties that didn’t change their real lives one iota.  They were, I think, sick of idleness and sick of themselves in such a sloppy daily condition.smile

So remember that the spirits of depression are legion right now over the next two weeks.  Bouts of depression are even reported in the newspapers.  It is part of the pagan satanic design for this time of year, to detract from the Incarnation (even though that probably happened during the Feast of Tabernacles when shepherds were not out in the snow watching their flocks).

The enemy’s modus operundus?  Always paint a perfect family—which no one ever has—and in comparison with which everyone will be depressed.  Conversely, Christ/Yeshua says “I’ll take you where you are, not checking any short week’s worth of naughty list, and will love you deeply and you’ll find all your satisfaction in ME, not in your family.”  Great saints throughout history have discovered this, even in a prison cell or solitary confinement.  Jesus/Yeshua says, in effect, “I can make you immeasurably happy with just MYSELF!”

Only the God of the universe has such true persuasion over the soul.  That is how much spiritual power is wrapped up in HIM.  To make the soul utterly content in all situations is a feat, indeed.  To have a Savior who can deliver us from soulish discontent for all eternity is amazing.  He can lift the soul to ecstasy to the degree one meditates upon Him and His scriptures.  Conversely, Santa Claus makes a furtive dip to the earth on one day and abandons you the day after; he is the consummate master of abandonment.  His demons traumatize people with visions of perfection in everyone else’s lifestyle.  T’aint there.  It is all taunting and jeering.  Ignore it.  You are loved.  You are worth blood.  You are irreplaceable.  Don’t forget it in the midst of torn wrappings and wadded up tinsel, and others’ sometimes impossible expectations.  Operate in the opposite spirit and be a champion of love for “all seasons.”

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Puzzled by non-answers to some prayers?

Wednesday, 25. September 2013 by Renee Ellison

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Our Heavenly Father has demonstrated that He is ABLE to answer all our prayers with a YES, immediately, abundantly, even overwhelmingly.  He showed us that clearly when He gave the Israelites too many quail to eat—too many to even digest—in response to their insistence upon having meat.  In that event He showed us that He can blast us with yes’es.  He can bury us with yes’es.  But SOMETIMES what He is TRYING to do is to train us to TRUST HIS RESTRAINTS.

He is (in some celestial way) hard at work, sweating, tinkering, engineering a very delicate story here, of which we know not all of the variables.  If we are ungrateful, we could be like bulls in His china closet.  We COULD be loudly stomping our foot, while He is in the very act of fine-tuning the radio dial for a frequency perfect for us.  We simply can’t now SEE all of the angels that strut before Him, amassed in His courtroom, that He is proving things to, for all time, VIA his dealings with His saints on earth (2 Chronicles 18:21, Job 4:15).  We can rest assured that He is ROUTINELY working with far more complexity than we are.

Psalm 106:15 hints that we COULD have our yes—every time—if we insist upon a lesser story.  “He sent the answer to their request, but sent LEANNESS to their soul.”  And He, in effect, asked several kings, “Why did you blow it?  I gave you everything and `if that were not enough I would have even given you MORE’” (2 Samuel 12:8).  The YES isn’t always the issue, and the story was over HERE, not over THERE where you thought it was.

So far from us being frustrated with God, He, at times, could be a bit frustrated with us, waiting for the hour when we, at last, acquire a posture of praise.  Remember that He is “sure benevolence” with every fiber of His being.  “He who did not spare His own son but freely gave him up for us all, how will He not ALSO freely give us all things” Romans 8:32.  If He gave the greater gift, it is implied that He gave ALL lesser gifts.  He is now permanently, always, in pre-set “Yes-mode.”  “All the promises of God are `Yes’ in Christ/Yeshua” (2 Corinthians 1:20).  Therefore, if something different is happening, we can be pretty sure that He is WILLINGLY muzzled “for the time being”—ON PURPOSE.  Make no mistake, we are in the hands of a divinity of all love and wisdom.  His restraints mean more riches.  Being able to trust HIM is the equivalent of soaring on eagles’ wings.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Grappling with seemingly unanswered prayer?

Wednesday, 28. August 2013 by Renee Ellison

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We’ve all had times when prayer seems to be to no avail.  Circumstances reverse, babies die, crops languish, etc.—in spite of prayer.  What might be going on at such times?  There may be something more at stake here than prayers that appear to be unanswered.  Two verses help us to see a bigger picture.

Habakkuk 3:17 (NIV):
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord.”  Couple that with Job’s famous rejoinder, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15, KJV).

And Hebrews 11:13 (NIV):
“All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them [note: that implies the answers had to exist somewhere in the spirit realm] and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”

Some surmising…
We’re told in Scripture that the ancient saints’ faith was credited to them as righteousness (see Romans 4).  Credit means we will collect it at some point.  It is very possible that we’ll see some sort of compounded blessings in the Millennium for promises that we unwaveringly stood on here and now.  There is a difference between unbelief, a weak faith and a strong faith that includes a confidence that at times there is a Job-style glimpse of some dynamics beyond the prayer that necessitate it not being answered now.  Divine restraint is, no doubt, in the prayer mix somehow, for higher ends.

The big test for sure is “Do we believe in His character?”  Do we know deep inside that He desires these things for us—and do we believe it, come hell or high water?  Do we trust that it is in His nature to bless and bless when we are in covenant with Him?  When He loved us unto the point of shedding blood, we must infer that He has certainly given us everything lesser.  (“He who did not spare His own Son but freely gave Him up for us all, how will He not ALSO, along with Him, freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32, NIV).  He eventually gives us all things—but in a package somewhere downstream from shaping our character first.  We must believe that, in spite of the bad press the enemy insistently suggests to us and in defiance of our own questions/ our own small and paltry reasonings and “what gives” wanderings.  (As the old hymn goes, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the One I love.”) 

‘Tis a big, big, test going on here.  No doubt, He examines us continually, to see what is in our hearts, as is indicated all over in the Psalms.  Stay the course.  We shall believe only and steadily that He is wonderful.  This is the gold of the universe—the stuff He is after in us.  “All of His promises are YES in Yeshua” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Somehow, in some way, we will see it.  1 John 2:28 says we shall not be ashamed at His coming—ashamed neither of the object of our faith, nor of its rewards.

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Purifying our purity as married folks in the workplace

Thursday, 11. July 2013 by Renee Ellison

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Though you as a homeschool mom are most likely focused on your home setting, your husband’s work environment is most likely out in the world.  So, it is a matter of concern for both you and him to uphold high standards of moral conduct out there.  The foundational truth here is from Proverbs 2:11: “Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you” (NIV).  To purify our conduct in the workplace, we must begin with a core understanding, that the thing that is at the heart of all affairs is attentiveness.  When a person finds it pleasant to talk with someone of the opposite gender, looks forward to kibbitzing with them, finds it enjoyable to swing by their desk (whether it be once a day or many times a day), agrees to participate in an office lunch (when that extra-interesting office mate is in that crowd), picks their commercial aisles to go to in a place where they work, follows their routes home, chooses pews close to them at church, chooses to be outside at a time when they habitually walk by, thinks about their dilemmas, grows concerned for them, tries to problem-solve for them, attentively listens to them, and—after all that—locks eyes with them,  that person is engaged in defrauding his/her spouse, even if he/she has been doing so unthinkingly.

A good question to keep asking oneself privately in all of our conduct towards members of the opposite sex is “Would I talk this way or act this way if their spouse were in this room with us?”  Therefore, a good attitude is to always be mindful of that person’s spouse invisibly standing at that person’s side.  The more you attract his/her mate to you, the more comparisons are made in that person’s mind (they can’t be helped, they will happen), and the more their emotional bonds begin to subtly shift to you.  What we find is that our kind ways are actually (at their root) unkind.  They nick at the other person’s marriage.  A pattern of this behavior incrementally slows their marriage.  In the end, it may turn out to have been just a delusion that we “meant no harm.” 

Why is dating “out” and courtship now the “in-thing” amongst serious young believers?  It is because we have finally added up that the “picking a mate process” is all about treating the future spouse in holiness.  We came to see that dating defrauds that person’s future mate.  Would I hold hands with someone else’s pouse?  Or lock eyes with them?  No, I wouldn’t think of it!  Then, as a single person, I shouldn’t do it before they are married.  Taking liberties with someone else’s future mate is not loving behavior toward the future mate; it is selfish.  It is what I want, to satisfy me, now.  In 1 Thessalonians 4:6 the Apostle Paul warned about this: “See to it that you do not defraud one another.”  And in 1 Corinthians 7:1: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”  Many godly people in the older generation now understand that dating was massive defrauding, over and over.  So, too, the workplace has often become the scene of multiple defraudings in every direction.  It can fall into a kind of emotional adultery.

We must remember that attentiveness breeds responsiveness.  Attentiveness creates in the other person an eager “looking forward to” those increasing interchanges.  A social addiction takes place in the heart.  There may even be emotional butterflies.

Consider how the bar has now been raised among the young men who are serious believers.  (It always existed among the Brethren, Mennonite and Amish.)  Now, in some Messianic circles, young unmarried men will not even talk to young unmarried gals, so no responsiveness can grow.  This new behavior tends to make young gals mad!  They can’t get any attentiveness out of a holy guy!  So, guess what happens in their hearts?  They can’t grow any affection there.  They stay pure.  The ball of holiness is in the man’s court, in the way he conducts himself, before and after marriage.  What he finds is that it is the same dynamic: the control he learns before marriage, he will be called upon to exhibit time and again after marriage.  This is not unreasonable, or un-doable.  We are commanded in the scriptures to possess our vessels in holiness.  Holiness always takes effort.  It is the tougher route.  It shows deliberateness.

To avoid this tendency to create responsiveness in someone else’s spouse, we need to learn to become like a socially refined Texan. He/she has learned the art of swinging by you with the cheeriest of goodwill, tipping the hat, waving, and smiling brightly, but breezing right past you.  You never get beyond the hello.  Such a refined politician, sophisticated social butterfly, artful CEO climber, never asks a thing about your life, yet remains well-liked by everyone because he/she looks good (well put-together), acts confident, and is friendly.  Yet, there is no mistake in his/her deportment that he/she is aggravatingly unavailable.

As we are overly kind to people of the opposite gender in the workplace, in the church, or in the world, we may be guarding our hearts, but there is no guarantee that such a governor exists in the other person’s heart.  “Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16; all verses are NKJV).

Filed Under: Spiritual tips