Not by the Sweat of our Brow

August 9, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

We’re a “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” type of people. We take great pride in a job well done, an obstacle conquered, and a goal reached. Self-help books frequent the best-seller’s lists with titles like, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Act like a Woman, Think Like a Man, and The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, and yet, society as whole, has not changed.

Not to say that there hasn’t been progress. Better health practices, iPhones, and wireless Internet has made life easier. But morally, for the most part, we’re the same. At least from where I’m sitting. Some say we’re worse. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but I don’t see the euphoria that all those self-help books and documentaries should have created if they worked.

As a writer, I spend a great deal of time studying others, and once I make it past the outward smile or the teeth-gritting stick-to-it-ness, I begin to see some very dark and lonely hearts. And although I am limited to the study of those with whom I am in contact with, from where I sit, it seems like those who frequent the self-help section the most are often some of the most miserable.

They’ll make progress for a while. They’ll read books, post notes to their mirrors, doorframes and cupboards, but over time, their best efforts fizzle, sometimes even leaving them worse than they were before. Where is the progress the five steps promise? Ah, but we’ve found the solution. We’ll just try another book, and then another, and then another. And if we try harder, and commit, next time will be different. We’ll find the perfect relationship, lose those pesky twenty pounds, eradicate our insecurities, and suddenly gain the confidence to feel comfortable in our skin. And so the never-ending cycle continues. Our drive for perfection, fueled by our momentary successes, until our lives are enslaved by goal sheets, to do lists, and frequently chanted affirmations.

Others seem to float through life on a perpetual cloud of peace. While some marriages fail, theirs deepens. While bitterness consumes others, they are filled with joy, peace, and increasing love. Not a love of convenient reciprocation, but a genuine love that bubbles from within, coloring all they see and do. And so, we raise them up onto our “self-help” pedestal and make an analysis of what they do, focusing on their outward behaviors instead of what drives them. We run for another rag and spruce up the outside of our cup, leaving the inside, our inner selves, untouched. Because stick-to-it-ness can only take us so far, and its effects will last but a moment. Life changes, real life changes, the kind only the Father can provide, last forever.

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus calls us to surrender our burdens so we can relax in His arms. “Come to Me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yours souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus calls us to stop striving, grasping, reaching, and performing. He bids us to come to Him so that we may rest. And as we grow in Him, He takes care of all the rest.

Signs of the End Times? Mass and Vast Communications

August 4, 2020 by  
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By Dianne E. Butts –

In January, we started looking at Biblical prophecies God predicted as the End Times approach—prophecies that might come true right before our very eyes. The first prophecy we looked at was Israel is back in the Promised Land—just since 1948, and some people from that generation are still living today.

Other prophecies seem to imply that mass communication—visual, not just audio—will need to exist for them to be fulfilled. Today we have radio, television, and the internet. These things did not exist much more than a century ago.

Here are two examples of prophecies that might show world-wide visual communications are needed in End Times prophecy, visual communication that only became available in recent decades:

Revelation 11:7-10: “Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.”

Revelation 17:8: “The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.”

It’s true these events might be shown on the evening news or carried “Live” as breaking news. But did you know that you can watch events in Israel live right now?

Currently live web cams broadcasting 24/7/365 overlook the Wailing Wall, also known as the Western Wall, in Jerusalem. You can also view live footage from other areas around the Temple Mount, such as Wilson’s Arch. You can find the link on the internet if you do a search for kotel cam.

Kotel is the Hebrew word for the Western Wall or the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, which is a part of, or all of, the western wall of the ancient Jewish temple that was destroyed by the Roman, Titus, in 70 AD.

Isn’t it fascinating that today, through computers, laptops, tablets, and even smart phones, we can watch live in real time, at any time we want to, what is happening at the foot of the mount of the very Temple in Jerusalem we’ve read about in our Bibles?! Will we, or those who are alive at the time, gaze upon the two dead bodies of those prophets via internet? Will unbelievers see the Beast on their smart phones?

What do you think? Is this prophecy in preparation to be fulfilled right before our very eyes?

Endurance Training

July 27, 2020 by  
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By Jennifer Slattery –

A few years ago, I underwent intense training in order to compete in a triathlon. Having a defined goal to shoot for encouraged me to push past laziness, run through drizzle, and fight against my self-justifying tendencies. I had a two part-goal: To develop endurance and to train muscle memory. Muscle memory is when your body responds as if by instinct, allowing your body to work more effectively.

Endurance comes through repetition and consistently pushing your body one step, one hill, one mile farther. They call this “brick-workouts” and like the cement blocks that hold a house aright, these long training sessions carry the athlete through the bulk of their race. They in turn have a two-part function: to develop an “I can” mind-set and reduce the amount of fatigue an athlete experiences during a race.

In our spiritual lives, trials and disappointments often serve the same purpose. They take the sting out of many of life’s events, enabling us to press through without giving up. The first trial might leave us sore and trembling, like a first work-out does, but over time, it gets easier. In fact, we develop “spiritual memory.” Our actions, like responding in love when we’ve been wronged or biting our tongue in a tense situation, become more natural, and soon turn into habit.

And like with running, the mental component here is equally important. Everything is more manageable when we face it with the right mindset. If we have other “brick-workouts” to look back on, suddenly our current training session doesn’t appear so daunting. In fact, we know we can make it through because we’ve done it before.

But like with any training, the minute we take our eyes off the goal—the minute we quit moving forward, we start slipping backward. This leads to unsightly flab. It’s easy to spot the physical flab. It encircles our mid-section, widens our backsides, and creates less than appealing jiggles in diverse areas. Spiritual flab is often equally apparent—quick tempers, apathy, selfishness. To truly battle the “bulge,” we need to take our training seriously. Otherwise we give in to comfort more often than not, and choose the path of least resistance.

My current exercise schedule is a perfect example. Now that I’m not training, I find it increasingly difficult to stay on task. My rest days grow more frequent and I don’t approach my work-outs with the same intensity. Break a sweat? I’d rather not. Feel the burn? Maybe tomorrow. Or Friday. Better yet, next week. The result? A little more cushion around my middle and less endurance to carry me through the day.

I think our spirituality is a lot like that. Without goals and intentionality, we’ll muddle through, never quite breaking a sweat, and thus, lingering near immaturity. But God has called us to more. He’s called us to excellence—to run after Him with everything we’ve got. Why?

The Help

July 22, 2020 by  
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By Pam Kumpe –

When the movie “The Help” popped on my radar, I found myself drawn to the story since the premise of the film portrayed a group of black maids sharing their stories in a book about life in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962.

Some of their stories appeared scandalous, while others sad, and yes, plenty sounded like they were going to be downright hilarious.

In the movie trailer, I saw the maid Aibileen who cared for children and offered her lap, her heart, and her hugs to a little girl, Mae Mobley.

Minny, the sassy maid, offered sarcasm, shined with her wit and she had a knack for making fried chicken and pies.

I had to see the movie especially since the script offered seeds of change. And if there’s one thing I think we all need, it’s stories that make us think, those that require change in us.

The first time I bought my ticket and popcorn, the theatre was packed, and I found myself sitting on row three. Row three is too close and dizzy spells ensued.

I missed plenty of points and illustrations since I spent most of the time swirling in my seat and tilting my head up to see the screen.

So after my first viewing, I had to go back. This time I watched with fresh eyes.

I’d love to play Aibileen since she’s brave and gentle and she’s constantly reminding the toddler Mae Mobley, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.”

Imagine children growing up hearing, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.”

In Ephesians 2:10, it tells me that we’re God’s masterpieces or handiwork. And yet, we often stop there, but the second part to that scripture reminds me to do good works.

We may at times forget to take our masterpiece self into the day with the idea of doing good works, or taking joy with us, or offering kindness and encouragement to someone else.

After all, when life is hard—thinking you are smart, kind, or important would be the last thing on your mind.

This is why I expect plenty of folks may see themselves as Minny who is quite outspoken, a perfectionist in her chores, and who hides her private pain behind the pies and pieces of chicken fried in Crisco oil.

In one scene Minny holds up a can of Crisco like it’s her best friend—saying it holds the answers to everything—nearly.

Now the racism in the movie is painful to watch, but it’s the sort of story that I believe needs to be seen, because it challenges us to do better in our walk with our neighbors.

When Skeeter (little miss straight out of college journalism major) embarks on this writing journey with the maids, it’s the words of her own beloved maid (who is missing) that I’ll never forget, “Ugly is something that grows up inside you.”

I have had ugly things growing inside of me—at times. And I’m not terribly proud of their existence. It’s like the ‘ugly’ can stick to us like crust and we find ourselves stuck in the frying pan of life surrounded by Crisco oil and other pieces of chicken.

We can’t find our way out of the past—or the pan—and the fried stuff that coats our hearts and weighs us down only gets crunchier.

However, when you put certain people together like Aibileen who feels invisible, when you mix in Minny who refuses to be invisible and Skeeter the journalist—these three women push past the icky stuff that separates folks—and hope rises up.

This movie is the best thing since fried chicken because everyone, all of you—‘is’—smart, kind and important—worthy of pie, of living with joy and being loved—you are not invisible. Your voice matters. And on days when Crisco doesn’t make life better, try soaking in God, He’s the Crisco to our hearts.

Living a Colossians 3 Life

July 16, 2020 by  
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By Candace McQuain –

God’s Word provides believers with precise instructions on how to live as Christ-like as we possibly can. Why is it then, we seem to pick and choose when and how we apply those instructions in our everyday life? Why is it we think there are acceptations within our own circumstances that give us permission to side step around His truth?

The “why” my friends is actually a “who.”

Satan does not want us to follow any of God’s commands as they are written. He puts in our head that our situation doesn’t match up with what our Father is asking of us. He feeds our minds with lies that our situation requires a different set of rules. His rules.

If it were up to Satan our relationships, our homes, our work lives and well, every aspect of our life would be in constant turmoil. His hope is that, this constant “turmoil” which we allow him to create, will eventually lead us into a very long season of sin. Then he’s got us.

Believers, we need to keep a vigilant eye on the enemy’s approach and we must fight back.

In Colossians 3:12 (NIV) we are reminded that we are chosen and we are “holy and dearly loved” by God. That right there should stop us in our tracks and force us to take a long look at ourselves and our relationships, and correct everything we are doing that would not be pleasing to Him. Our heart should feel convicted to make changes, to incorporate that “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” which God has instructed us to “clothe ourselves in.” The truth is, we typically only correct a few minor things and conveniently, with enemies help, we ignore those larger issues that are still looming in the distance.

Our God deserves so much more than that. He deserves unconditional obedience. He deserves to see His children, at the very least, be cordial and forgiving to one another.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:13-14 NIV).

That grudge we have been holding on to, that apology we owe someone, or that genuine connection we just can’t seem to make with a loved one, those are all spiritual strongholds that are all pulling us farther and father away from God.

I know it’s a painful process to put ourselves out there in order to ask for or to grant forgiveness and ultimately love unconditionally again, but I can say from experience that when we finally get over ourselves and put God first, He will change our hearts and tender healing, will replace the grudges and the anger that have been on our hearts for so long.

Let’s start living that Colossians 3 life that the enemy is so afraid of!

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