You are my Sunshine

Today, April 4th, 2020, my oldest daughter, My Sunshine Girl, had planned to be married. God had other plans. She and her Sunshine Guy got married a couple weeks early and I couldn’t be happier for them.

But … I tell you what, I miss her like crazy. “Social distancing” is nothing compared to “daughter distancing!”

Emily and I grew up together. When she was born, I was a baby Christian. I didn’t know Christian nursery songs, so I sang, “You are my Sunshine,” to her night after night as I rocked her to sleep. She has brought light and sunshine into my life like no other.

And now that she’s living in another state in the midst of COVID-19 lock-down, I feel like a part of me is missing (and it is), but that little girl was never meant to be the source of my joy or the light of my life. Jesus was.

Look at these references to light in the Psalms:

  • For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness. (Psa 18:28 ESV)
  • The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psa 27:1 ESV)
  • For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. (Psa 36:9 ESV)
  • Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psa 119:105 ESV)

In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jhn 8:12 ESV)  In Heaven, there will be “no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Rev 21:23 ESV)

Would you join me in praying right now?

Father, Help me to be grateful for the good gifts that You have given to me. I pray that I would be a spotlight, pointing people’s attention to You and not to me. I pray that my little light would shine like a city on a hill with nothing hindering it. I pray that you would use each of us as candles shining in a dark world that people would see something different in us, that we would live daily as children of light. I pray your blessings on our children, that they would shine for your glory and that we as parents would not make idols of these precious gifts, but that they would be straight arrows for Your kingdom rather than our own. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

 

Complete Joy

In 1 John 1, Jesus’s beloved apostle shares about his eyewitness experience with Jesus. John is bursting with excitement about having seen, heard and touched the Messiah, the Word made flesh.

John wants others to know Jesus, so they, too, can enjoy fellowship with our eternal God the Father. This is what John says he needs to fill up, to complete, his joy. (See 1 John 1:1-4)

John wants others to know the joy of Jesus. John is not content to just enjoy Jesus for himself. John’s joy is somehow incomplete if others don’t share in his joy.

In 3 John 1:4, John reiterates this idea, writing, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” John’s greatest joy is hearing that those he has shared Jesus with are continuing in the faith.

All too often we as Christians are content to keep Jesus to ourselves, content to hide God’s Word and our personal testimonies in our own hearts, while all around us are people devoid of hope, peace and joy.

In honor of the fifth anniversary of the “Memphis Exalts Jesus” worship celebration, the Kindle version of my book “God is Real: The Eyewitness Testimony of a Former Atheist” is on sale for $0.99 this weekend April 4-6 at Amazon. I hope you get a copy for yourself, and share a copy with a friend. Be encouraged and equipped to share your own testimony of the joy available through faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

As A Receiver of Mercy

Like Paul, “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

1 Timothy 1:12-17 ESV

Of Building Up and Tearing Down

I’m 33 days into my second “40-day Sugar Fast.” Wendy Speake’s book is really encouraging me to see fasting as a spiritual discipline focused on Jesus, rather than merely a dieting mentality.

Over the past 73 days, I am beginning to recognize the stronghold that sugar has been in my life. I’m trying to tear down that wall, to free myself of its grip.

But there are other walls that God has given to us for our good, for our protection.

According to Speake, “Our job is to yield to the good structures that the Lord has protectively placed around us, as we continually invite Him to bring down the strongholds that have held us back…. So often, we tear down the WRONG WALLS….” (pg. 172-73)

Am I building up or tearing down others with my words and actions? (Ephesians 4:29)

Am I building hedges for protection or am I building strongholds for sin?

Am I building my house or tearing it down?

Another word for ME today.

– TWIG

“Fighting Words” | Ellie Holcomb

“I will fight the lies with the truth. Keep my eyes fixed on You. I will sing the truth into the dark. I will use my fighting words.” -Ellie Holcomb, “Fighting Words”

Right now when everything around us is focused on the hopelessness of life, I pray that we would fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. When fear threatens to overcome you, fight back with the TRUTH. Remind yourself of what you know.

God is still on His throne.

He is good. Always.

He is worthy to be trusted.

He is for us.

He has demonstrated His great love for us in sending His Son to die the death that we deserved, and He has triumphed over death, raising from the dead and ascending into heaven.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Romans 15:13 ESV

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Ephesians 6:10‭-‬20 ESV

Continue reading ““Fighting Words” | Ellie Holcomb”

Pay back time

We are told that we deserve death because of our sin. (Romans 6:23) Aren’t you thankful that Jesus took your place?

Now we can love others because He loved us first. (1 John 4:19)

We can love others even when they hurt us. We can completely trust God, the only Righteous judge, the only one who is perfectly wise, perfectly good, and perfectly powerful.

A word for me today.

– TWIG

Where does your help come from?

I used to think that faith in God was nothing more than a crutch for weak people.

Now I realize that we all need help, and we’re all looking for help somewhere.

Are we looking for help from our parents, our government, or our own strength?

What kind of idols are we pursuing?

Where are we looking in our time of need? Sugar? Social media? Stuff?

Let’s worship the Lord together, the only one WORTHY, the Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Sovereign Ruler over the affairs of men. HE is my helper, what can man do to me?

Of seeing, knowing and trusting in Deuteronomy

And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear. I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet. You have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 29:2‭-‬6 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/deu.29.2-6.ESV

The Israelites had seen with their own eyes all that the Lord had done in Egypt, the trials and the signs and the wonders. They’d seen the ten plagues that God had sent on Egypt and they’d seen God open the Red Sea for them to escape.

Their eyes had seen it, but the Lord had not given them a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.

So, God led them through the wilderness, providing for them for 40 years, giving them food and water and preserving their clothing, so that they would know that He alone is the true Lord, their God.

God wants us to know Him. God wants us to know that He is the Lord and sometimes that means He has to lead us through the wilderness.

God wants us to see Him in the trials and in the wonders.

Do you know that He is the Lord? Do you trust Him today? If you don’t, will you start seeking Him today? He wants you to know Him.

For more on this, read Deuteronomy 3:21-22; Deuteronony 4:3,9; Deuteronomy 8

25 tips for staying married for 25 years … and looking forward to another 25

This has been quite a year for me. My oldest son got married January 6th and my oldest daughter got engaged November 8th. My in-laws celebrated their 50th anniversary this summer and my husband and I celebrated our 25th this Christmas.

This summer, my dad spent two weeks in the hospital during which we feared he would never recover and this fall my faithful prayer partner’s young adult son passed away unexpectedly. My children’s last surviving great grandparent passed away in his twilight years this spring, while their youth pastor began the hard journey of life on his own, after losing his bride of almost 30 years in a fire last Christmas.

It has certainly been a year full of intermingled joy and pain.

Earlier this week when my husband and I were out celebrating our twenty-fifth with a delicious fondue dinner, our young, blond, single waitress asked us the secret to staying married for 25 years.

My husband shared with her the advice that his recently-departed grandfather had shared at his last anniversary celebration, when he and Bill’s grandma had been married for 70 years. Are you ready for his sage advice?

“Don’t get divorced.”

Yep. That’s it. That’s the secret to a long marriage.

“Don’t get divorced.”

It reminds me of a song from my favorite movie of all time, The Fiddler on the Roof. The main character, Tevye, a dairy farmer, “Do you Love Me?”

Golde has a hard time answering, replying in song, “For twenty-five years, I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow. After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”

Thinking through it more, and with some added prodding from her needy husband, Golde concludes that she does, in fact, love him, singing,

“For twenty-five years, I’ve lived with him, fought with him, starved with him.

For twenty-five years, my bed is his. If that’s not love, what is?”

In our 21st century, me-first, emotion-driven, wealthy American culture, we are losing the basic understanding that staying married is largely about staying committed to the covenant we made before God to remain together through sickness and health, riches and poverty, good times and bad, to love, honor and protect until death parts us.

So, I agree with my husband and his grandpa, that the secret to staying married is, “Don’t get divorced.”

But let’s look deeper into the scriptures, to glean more wisdom from its pages, and consider 25 tips for staying married for 25 years …

  1. Choose your spouse wisely and refuse to be unequally yoked. (2 Corinthians 6:14) The best marriages are formed from the union of two people who are both committed to loving the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. This is the most important foundation that can be laid for a successful marriage that can go the distance. If you’re not married yet, recognize that the choice of who to marry is truly the most important decision of your life. Count the costs and choose wisely.
  2. Heed the wisdom of Proverbs 3:5-7, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” Don’t put your trust in your own wisdom, or articles you read on the internet. Put your trust in God.
  3. Pray together with your spouse. Pray for each other. Pray for yourselves. Pray for others. But, pray together. I noticed a big difference in our marriage when we began praying together after being married for almost ten years.
  4. Keep the marriage bed holy. (Hebrews 13:4) The greatest marriage struggles we’ve had have come from issues in this area. Wait until marriage to become intimate. Recognize that God intends for sexual relationships to be enjoyed exclusively in the context of a covenantal relationship between one man and one woman. (1 Corinthians 6:9-20, Ephesians 5:1-6, Matthew 5:27-30)
  5. Recognize that as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are equally important, but have unique roles, so are a husband and wife equally valuable, but have unique roles. As Jesus submits to His Father, and the church submits to Christ, so a wife is to submit to her husband. As Christ loved His bride the church, even unto death, so husbands are to sacrificially love, lead, and serve their wives. This mystery is indeed profound, but marriage displays the glory of God and the gospel in a visible way to a watching world. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
  6. Keep your heart humble, striving to remove the log from your own eye. (Matthew 7:5) See yourself, rather than your spouse, as the foremost of sinners. (1 Timothy 1:5) Remind yourself of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, not as a way of seeing how badly your spouse is failing, but as a way of seeing your own need for a Savior. Put your own name into these verses and see how you’re doing. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
  7. Confess your sins to each other. (James 5:16) Be transparent and honest with one another. Be quick to apologize and reconcile. As soon as you recognize that you have hurt your spouse, go to them immediately and seek their forgiveness. (Matthew 5:23-24)
  8. Forgive each other. Don’t let bitterness take root in your heart. (Hebrews 12:14-15, Matthew 18:21-35, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13) I have often struggled here. I have to remind myself daily of how much God has forgiven me and how important it is for me to forgive likewise.
  9. Maintain a “gentle and quiet Spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1 Peter 3:4) Peter wrote this particularly for women, and particularly for women whose husbands are not following God, but it applies to men as well. In a marriage, we should both commit our lives to the Lord, to trust Him fully, so we can be free to have a meek spirit before Him and each other.
  10. Commandment #10: Do not covet your neighbor’s spouse. (Exodus 20:17) No spouse is perfect. They all have flaws. And so do you! Remember that the glimpses you get of other married couples on social media or at church on Sunday mornings are not full and accurate pictures of their married lives. All good marriages take work. (Ephesians 5:1-6, Colossians 3:5, James 4:2)
  11. In everything give thanks and give thanks in every thing. Trust that God is always, always at work, even in the very hardest of circumstances. Let the sacrifice of praise be ever found on your lips. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:20, Hebrews 13:15)>
  12. Do not give up meeting with other believers. No marriage can thrive without fellowship with other believers. We need our spouse, but we also need others. Get involved and stay involved with a local body of believers. (Hebrews 10:24-25, Acts 2:42)
  13. Find a mentor and be a mentor. Young women need an older woman to train them to love their husband and children (Titus 2:3-5) and young men need an older man to teach them. And this isn’t only for the first 5 years of marriage. Even after 25 years, I still need older women to pull me back from the ledge sometimes. And I have grown so much in my own marriage and faith as I’ve mentored other women in theirs.
  14. Daily remind yourself of Romans 8:28, that God is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. In the here and how, we only see the backside of the cross-stitched work of art full of tangled, knotted threads, while God is creating a masterpiece of interwoven colors. Trust that God is the only God Almighty, a good Father who always keeps His promises. When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart. Choose to believe in the dark what you believed in the light.
  15. Keep a careful watch over your mouth. (Psalm 141:3) “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29) Recognize the importance of bridling your tongue and what terrible fires it can set ablaze.(James 1:26, James 3:2-10) Use your words to speak the truth in love rather than disdain, to build up rather than tear down. (Ephesians 4:15)
  16. Keep an even more careful watch over your heart, for out of the heart, the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34, Luke 6:45) “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2) “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5)
  17. Recognize the spiritual battle that you are in. Have you been born again into the family of God and filled with His Holy Spirit? If not, you’re fighting a battle you can’t win. But, if so, remember that you are not battling against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil, so make sure you have on the full armor of God. (Ephesians 6:10-20) There are going to be times when your spouse hurts your feelings. He will be insensitive. He will forget to call. He will leave the toilet seat up. She will burn the dinner and forget to wash the laundry. Pray and stay alert to the enemy’s schemes and don’t jump into a fight that you’re not supposed to fight.
  18. Sometimes the enemy will win for the moment, but remember that Christ is the final victor. Satan may win a battle, but Jesus will win the war. Satan may be the prince of the world, but God is the Almighty King of Glory. Sometimes your spouse will sin against you. When that happens overcome evil with good rather than repaying evil for evil (Romans 12:21, 17). Take up the sword of the spirit which is the word of God.
  19. Remind yourself that the anger of man will never produce the righteousness of God. (See James 1:19-20 and Matthew 5:22) You cannot nag or argue or guilt your spouse into changing. You are responsible for your actions and your words, not theirs. Entrust your spouse into God’s righteous, Almighty hands.
  20. Recognize from the start that life will be hard and marriage will be hard. There’s never been a perfect marriage because there’s never been a perfect man, except Jesus (and He never married and if He had, His wife wouldn’t have been perfect either). Unmet expectations are joy stealers. Beware of having unrealistic expectations of your spouse. If you want something from your spouse, kindly appeal to them for it, but trust God for the results.
  21. Make God’s Word a lamp to your feet and a light to your path. (Psalm 119:105) Hide it in your heart like precious treasure. (Psalm 119:11) Let the scriptures transform you, trusting that all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness that you may be complete, equipped for every good work. (Romans 12:2, 2 Timothy 3:16-17) Here are a few good places to start: Psalm 119, 1 Peter 3, Colossians 3, Romans 12, Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 13. Read and study and memorize. Have daily drinks, weekly dates and annual days with God, the fountain of living water, the only one able to quench your thirst.
  22. Serve Christ individually and together. Whether at home, at church, or in your community, see yourself as a blood-bought servant of Christ. Serving alongside each other and serving together develops a common purpose and goal in life that helps you stand firm in the storms. As Paul encouraged those who were earthly bondservants, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
  23. Practice the golden rule with your spouse. “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:31) Oftentimes it is easier to be kind to your neighbors and friends and even strangers than it is to be kind to your spouse. Intentionally seek opportunities to serve your spouse. Make him a cup of coffee. Rub his back. Send him a quick text expressing your love. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)
  24. Tell your own soul that love is an action, a decision, a choice, not just a feeling. We can put on love. We can choose to love. The more you choose to love, the more you will feel loving. Like Tevye’s wife, Golde, you can wash the clothes, cook the meals, clean the house, bear the children, and maybe even milk the cow, and end up loving your spouse in the process of serving him. (Proverbs 10:12, 1 Peter 4:8)
  25. Finally, remind yourself of the truth of the gospel, that we are all broken people living in a broken world in desperate need of a Savior, and that Jesus, God’s only Son, the God-man made a way to reconcile us back to a Holy God, by giving His own blood to pay the price for your sins. Trust in Jesus today. Repent of your sins and turn to Him and receive His forgiveness. He died for you that you can live for Him, both now and eternally.

Romans 5:1-8, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Ephesians 2:1-10 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

1 John 4:9-11 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

If the Almighty, Perfect, Sovereign, Creator-God of the universe, can take on flesh, coming to earth as a humble baby and die a criminal’s death on a cross in my place to save me from my sins, then by the power of His Holy Spirit at work in my heart, I can say no to sin and yes to Jesus, forgiving and loving my spouse, like God in Christ forgives and loves me. Apart from His saving grace and power, I can do nothing good. And apart from His saving grace and power, neither can my husband. We are both nothing more than two forgiven children walking hand-in-hand down this narrow road that leads to eternal life. That’s the true secret to a joy-filled marriage.

Want to join us?

A Word of Truth and Encouragement for a Hurting Sister

God has called you.

God has purpose for you.

God is with you.

God has placed His Spirit in you.

God has given you wisdom and faith.

God has delivered you and redeemed you.

God has made you a new creation, the old is indeed gone and the new has indeed come.

God sees you and knows you. He sees your hidden thoughts and deeds, and still He loves you.

God loves you with an everlasting, unfailing, eternal love.

God has demonstrated His overwhelming, boundless, undeserved love for you, a sinner, in sending His very own Son from the glory of heaven to live a humble life and die a painful death in your place.

God will never leave you or forsake you.

God will never take His Spirit from you.

God wants always and only for your good and not for your harm.

God’s commands are always and only for your good, because God is all-knowing and all-powerful and all-good.

We can always, always trust Him because He always, always keeps His promises.

God is our refuge and strength, our ever-present help in time of need.

Come, praise His name with me.

Come, take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God with me.

You are not alone.

Almighty God is with you in this good fight of faith and so am I.

Related scriptures:

  • Psalm 46
  • Psalm 139
  • Isaiah 41:10
  • Romans 5:6-11
  • 2 Corinthians 1:20-22, 5:1-21
  • Ephesians 2:5-22, 3:14-21, 6:16-17 (better yet, read all of Ephesians)
  • 2 Timothy 1:7-9
  • Titus 1:1-3, 2:11-14, 3:4-7
  • Hebrews 13:5-6

TWIG

How can I help you in this good fight of faith?