Revive Me #18–Keep Things in Perspective

A few months ago I shared the photo below on my husband and dog on social media.  Several posted comments like:

“That’s not a dog…it’s a grizzly bear!”

“That dog is huge!  What kind is it?”

“That can’t be a real dog.”

“That’s a wookie.”

“Is that real?  When’d he get so big?  (Your dog, not Neal)”

Chipper does look ginormous in the picture but he’s only a medium sized goldendoodle and weighs about 55 pounds.  Something about the perspective of the shot makes him look a lot bigger than he actually is, especially compared to Neal.

How are you at keeping things in perspective?  It’s easier to see when someone else has trouble because they’re approaching something from the wrong point of view.  We might think, “If only they would change their attitude concerning ______…”  It’s more difficult to recognize in our own life.

Thankfully the Bible is our mirror (James 1:23).  We can look into it and see if we need to make any changes.

  • What causes you to worry?
  • Do you have unresolved issues with someone?
  • Do you wonder what you’re supposed to do with your life?
  • Do you feel like you’re not good enough, your past is insurmountable, or Christianity is too hard?

Satan wants you to struggle and doubt.  He wants to discourage you from ever “getting it right.”  These types of questions can be more easily resolved when approached from a biblical perspective.  When we keep our focus where it belongs, the predicaments of life don’t loom as large.

“Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above…Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

(Col. 3:1,2)

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Study verses that have to do with spiritual priorities:  Luke 12:22-34; Col. 1:10; Matt. 6:19-24, 33; 22:37,38; Luke 10:38-42; Rom. 12:2; Phil. 3:13,14; 2 Tim. 2:22
  2.  List your concerns and pray about them.  Ask God to help you keep things in their proper perspective.
  3.  Consider the quote, “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.”  Have you allowed fear to control your decisions?  How can you strengthen your faith to help you see things God’s way?

Read it. Memorize it. Live it.

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Revive Me #16–Be Marvelous!

Revive Me, Week 16–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Be Marvelous!

“Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, ‘I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.'”

(Luke 7:9)

Reading about something that causes Jesus to marvel catches my attention.  What did that man do to amaze Jesus?  In the beginning of Luke 7, we read about a centurion whose slave was about to die.  He sent for Jesus.  When the centurion heard that Jesus was on the way, he sent messengers to Him to say He needn’t “trouble Himself” to come all the way under his roof.  He said, “Just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (v. 7).  He spoke of Jesus’ authority and power.  Simply put, the centurion’s speech revealed his great faith.

Words can also reveal weak faith.  When the disciples of Jesus experienced a storm, they said, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” Jesus said, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” (Matt. 8:23-26).

Peter took a few brave steps onto the water but then he “became frightened” and began to sink.  He cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Jesus said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:28-31).

What does your speech reveal about your faith?

Is it obvious to those around you that your faith is great?  No matter what life throws at you, you’re quick to speak of the authority and power of Jesus.  You happily turn control over to Him.  You exude confidence and peace because of your trust in the One who can heal the broken and calm the storms.

Or  does your speech reveal a little faith?  You’re a fretter.  You’re easily overwhelmed.  You allow the things of this world to intimidate you.  When you experience a storm, your words reveal your fear.  When you begin to sink, your cries reveal your doubt.

I want Jesus to marvel at my faith, don’t you?

This week, be marvelous!  Create opportunities to declare your great faith.

Suggestions for the week:

1.  Marvelous is a terrific word.  Look it up.  Just reading the definition and its synonyms will make you feel good.

2.  Study the accounts of the centurion and his great faith (Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10).  Also study the accounts of those who dismayed Jesus by their little faith (Matt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8).  What situations did these individuals find themselves in?  How did they react?

3.  Think of your specific storms.  How have you reacted?  Have you allowed fear and worry to weaken your faith?  What will you do and say to show your great faith?

4.  Be mindful of opportunities this week to cause others to marvel at your great faith.

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Revive Me #15–Call on the Lord

Revive Me, Week 15–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Call on the Lord

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”

(Psalm 145:18)

The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

(Prov. 15:29)

I almost want you to skip to the end of this post and read the Homer Hailey quote.  It’s powerful and will renew your gratitude and awe over the blessing of prayer.  Can you imagine your life without prayer?

A “Revive Me” series would be incomplete without a emphasis on prayer.  Every healthy relationship requires two sided communication.  God speaks to us through His Word (1 Thess. 2:13)  and He has given us the avenue of prayer as a way to speak to Him (1 John 5:14,15).  This week consider your prayer life.  Is it weak or is it strong?

Some questions to consider:

  • Do you know how to pray?  Luke 11:1-13
  • Do you believe God hears your prayers?  Psa. 18:6; 34:17
  • Do you pray in complete faith?  Or does doubt creep in?  James 1:6,7; 5:13-18
  • Does your prayer life consist mostly of routine prayers at meals and bedtime?  Or do you pray throughout the day and make time for fervent prayer?  Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2
  • Do you pray for others and with others?  1 Tim. 2:1-4
  • Do you pray with worldly motives?  James 4:3
  • In addition to petitions, do your prayers contain praise and thanksgiving?  Matt. 6:9; Psa. 95:1-6

“To the believer prayer is a sacred privilege as well as an obligation.  When he prays, solemn thoughts should fill his soul; for the finite creature is before the infinite creator, ruler, and sustainer of the universe.  He is before the Lord of heaven and earth, communing and talking with Him, seeking His fellowship and casting his anxieties upon Him, believing that He cares for him.  It is indeed a blessed favor bestowed upon us when the eternal God invites us to share a joyous fellowship and communion with Him; this is the glory of prayer.”

–From Prayer and Providence by Homer Hailey

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Study Bible characters (like Hannah, Nehemiah, Daniel, and Jesus) who had a strong prayer life.  When did they pray?  How did it help them?
  2. Look up and write down the blessings that come from prayer:  Phil. 4:6,7; Rom. 8:26; Matt. 26:41; Luke 11:9-13; Psa. 145:18,19; Heb. 4:16
  3. Bible-mark “The Power of Prayer.”
  4. Read a good book about prayer (like “The Begging Place” by Becky Blackmon or “Prayer and Providence” by Homer Hailey).
  5. Set aside time each day for private, fervent prayer.
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Photo credit: Michael Hite

Revive Me #14- Speak Tenderly

Revive Me, Week 14– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Speak Tenderly

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).

Death speech:

  • Attacking instead of defending a position with dignity— We are to “be ready to give a defense” (1 Pet. 3:15).  We are to be passionate about the Truth (Jude 3).  But in that passionate defense, we need to make sure we are not neglecting to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
  • Overusing sarcasm– When speaking to or about others, sarcasm can smack of arrogance.  Just because we’re quick-witted enough to use it doesn’t mean we should.  Let’s not be snarkastic (to borrow my husband’s word) when a gentle answer would be more powerful (Prov. 15:1).
  • Making disparaging remarks— When someone is struggling with personal battles, the last thing they need to hear when they show up for worship is, “What?  You don’t own a tie?”  We assume that others are strong enough to bear whatever we dish out but we don’t always know their spiritual state.  Our innocent but thoughtless remarks could cause someone to leave feeling beat down instead of built up.
  • Speaking in exasperation— Since we spend the most time with our families, we can have more moments of irritation and annoyance with them.  Let’s be sure to cherish those relationships by interacting with patience and respect.

If a loved one is the one being discouraged by the words of another, we feel very protective and indignant. We wonder why someone didn’t think before they spoke, why they thought it was okay to be so free with their careless opinion.  We need to feel that same level of protection toward everyone.  We will be held accountable for what we say/ post to or about others (Matt. 12:36).

Life Speech:

  • Building others up— It doesn’t take much effort but oh what good can be done by thoughtful words (1 Thess. 5:11)!
  • Commending/ praising/ blessing others– This is one way we can look to the interests of others (Phil. 2:3,4)
  • Loving others— We’re commanded to love one another (1 John 4:7,8) so why shouldn’t we tell each other we do?
  • Sharing the good news– The best way to give life is to tell about the One who is Life (John 14:6).
  • Expressing gratitude— I don’t think it can be overdone.
  • Encouraging others– Many are quietly serving.  We can encourage them by telling them they make a difference.

To speak tenderly means to speak lovingly and gently.  Let’s determine to speak tenderly in every interaction.  We represent Christ.  Our life-giving words will clearly demonstrate that.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

(Eph. 4:29-32)

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.   Use the power of your tongue this week to encourage:
  • Face to face– Make it your mission to encourage at least 15 different people
  • Social media– 10 posts that will encourage the church as a whole or a specific person
  • Email– send to 5 different people pointing out their strengths
  • Traditional mail– Write to 3 different people thanking them for their service
  • Phone– Call a shut-in to brighten their day

2.  When communicating in whatever form, remember the words of  Thumper.

3.  Focus your personal Bible study this week on the power of the tongue.

4.  Ask God to help you see when you are being thoughtless or careless with remarks.

Study it. Memorize it. Live it.

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Revive Me, Week 10– “Long for Heaven”

Revive Me, Week 10– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Long for Heaven

“Are we all just going to stand around in white robes and sing every day forever and ever?”  This young person’s view of Heaven didn’t appeal to him very much.  It certainly didn’t seem like enough of a reward to make him anticipate it.

My reasons for appreciating the hope of Heaven have changed through the years.  As a child, I was scared of going to Hell so Heaven was the safer option.  As I enjoyed the bliss of marriage and motherhood, the idea that Heaven would be even better made me wonder how that could be true.  It must be really grand indeed!  Then as I began to lose grandparents and other loved ones, Heaven became the location of a precious reunion.  And now, now that I’ve lived long enough experience some things, I am strongly drawn to the promise of no fear or suffering.  I’m intrigued by the idea of going without…without darkness, discomfort, disappointment, or death (Rev. 7:15-17; 21:4).

God wants us to long for Heaven.  Our reasons may change through the years, but God in His goodness has given us something to anticipate.  This gift should motivate us.  Consider what awaits the faithful:

  • A home being prepared by the One who loved us enough to die for us (John 14:2-4)
  • New everything (Rev. 21:1)
  • God’s presence and His tender care (Rev. 21:3-5)
  • Nothing evil or false (Rev. 21:27)
  • Eternal life (Matt. 25:46)
  • A city designed and built by God (Heb. 11:10)
  • A changed body (1 Cor. 15:51,52)
  • An unending and perfect inheritance (1 Pet. 1:4)
  • Paradise (Rev. 2:7)

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

Heb. 10:35,36

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…

Matt. 5:12

Suggestions for the week:

  1.  Start each day singing about Heaven:  “Paradise Valley,” “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be,” “Heaven Will Surely Be Worth It All,” “Just Over in the Glory Land,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “Sweet By & By,” “Beulah Land,” “When We All Get to Heaven,” and plenty more.
  2.  End each day with a devotional about Heaven.  Read Scriptures about it, highlight them in yellow, pray about it, and get your children excited about it.  Your week will certainly be great when you begin and end each day with Heavenly thoughts!
  3.  Be intentionally Heaven-minded in your speech, your attitude, and your actions (Col. 3:1,2).
  4. Learn to make Heaven a natural part of your conversation with others.  When you see something lovely in nature–“As beautiful as that is, just imagine how grand Heaven must be!”  When something sad, unfair, or difficult happens–“That’s why we long for Heaven.”  To your wayward loved ones–“I want you to be in Heaven with me.”  And to your husband, your children, your church family– “I can’t wait to spend eternity with you in Heaven!”

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Revive Me, Week 8- Love Your Enemies

Revive Me, Week 8– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Love Your Enemies

Our nation has enemies, “Christendom” has enemies, and the Lord’s church has enemies.   Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” and that sounds so very personal.  It’s easier to claim to love my enemies if I can’t really put a face to them.  But what about the folks who seem to go out of their way to be rude to me?  What about the ones who just don’t like me?  What about the ones I would rather avoid?  And what about the ones who have been vicious to someone I love?

One of my sons deals with an “enemy” on an almost daily basis.  Every time he goes to work, there’s a man who antagonizes him for his faith.  He insulting, sarcastic, and gets in my son’s face.  I’ve imagined various scenarios where I get to give that bully a piece of my mind.  Oh yes, it’s harder to love someone with a face, someone who is going after one of my own.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

(Matt. 5:43-48)

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.  Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is thatto you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

(Luke 6:27-36)

I think I’m doing well enough when I just don’t retaliate, and I’m real proud of myself when I muster up a sincere smile for an enemy.  But “even sinners do the same.”  Jesus calls for more than cool kindness.  Starting with my heart, I must practice genuine love.  Jesus not only commands it, He demonstrated it.  He loved me when I was unlovable (Eph. 2:4,5).  Do my enemies know I love them?

Suggestions for the week:

  1.  If you like to mark in your Bible, turn to Matt. 5:43ff and underline “love your enemies” and “pray for those who persecute you.”  In Luke 6:27ff, circle “love your enemies” and then underline all the ways to fulfill that command (“do good,” “bless,” “pray,” etc.).
  2. Focus on one specific “love your enemy” command each day this week:
    1. Monday- Do good to those who hate you
    2. Tuesday- Bless those who curse you
    3. Wednesday- Pray for those who mistreat you
    4. Thursday- Give to everyone who asks of you
    5. Friday- Treat others the same way you want them to treat you
  3. In your personal Bible study, pay attention to how Jesus interacted with His enemies.
  4. Take a few minutes to listen to this excellent message about True Love.

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Revive Me, Week Two

Revive Me–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord, Week Two

Open Your Heart Again

It may be that your heart is already wide open.  You express your love for others daily and look for ways to prove that love with action.  You keep your eyes open for those who are needy or who slip through the cracks.  You are quick to reach out to those who are hurting.

Or maybe you’ve been so overwhelmed with everything going on in your life that the idea of caring for one more person exhausts you.  You’ve been stressed and worried for so long that you find yourself unable to feel.  You’re starting to resent being asked to help someone else.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).  Loving God involves investing in His people.  And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also (1 John 4:21).

It is all too easy to get caught up in our own interests.  When that happens, a heart check is in order.  Some questions to consider:

  • Has your heart become numb?
  • In an effort of self-preservation, have you withdrawn from others or limited your love to mainly those who are in your family?   
  • Have you become indifferent to the prayer requests in the announcements?
  • Does it feel like it takes too much effort to look others in the eye and engage in meaningful conversations?
  • Do you find yourself coming up with more and more reasons to leave right after worship?     

Surely Satan is thrilled when we resist going to effort of loving others.  We serve a God of love (1 John 4:8).  The church is supposed to be made up of loving people (Rom. 12:10-13).  And the world is to recognize us by our love for one another (John 13:35).   Someone said, “Interaction is really where true love is truly expressed.”  Let’s go far in reaching others with God’s love this year.

Suggestions for this week:

  1.  Have a heart study.  Focus on verses that have to do with the heart and what God wants from it.
  2. Jot down names of those who are struggling or hurting.  In addition to praying for them, reach out to them in some tangible way (hug, conversation, card).
  3. Encourage every member of your family (young and old) to make an effort to build up others each time you meet (Heb. 10:25).
  4. When you run errands, be intentional about really “seeing” the people around you.  How can you open your heart to them?
  5. Consider memorizing 1 John 3:18      

Pray it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

Pretty Items by Christian Women

We have some really talented women in the sisterhood.  Just for fun today, here are a few of my favorite (affordable) handmade goodies:

WREATHS by Kristy Woodall (Albuquerque, NM)

They’re not just for the front door.  Kristy’s wreaths are pretty and stylish.  I have a springtime one hanging in my dining room now.  The lavender, jade, and cream colors add new life to our home.  Check out her beautiful creations for yourself (or someone else):

Sophistacreations

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CARDS by Joyce Gillaspie (Albuquerque, NM)

A handwritten note beats a text or email any day.  These cards can only be described as gorgeous.  Each one has unique details, harmonious colors, and a thoughtful message.  I personally love her lighthouse series.  Whether you want to thank a friend or let someone know you’re thinking of them, these pretty cards are the way to go.  They will give you as much pleasure as the one who receives them.

Made from the Heart

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JEWELRY by Amy Clevenger (Greeneville, TN)

Essential oil users, you’re going to love this.  Amy makes necklaces and earrings for diffusing your favorite oils.  The jewelry holds little felt balls (in your choice of neutral colors).  My necklace arrived early this week.  I placed a couple of drops of soothing lavender on the felt ball and wore the necklace all day.  Even my sons enjoyed the scent.  They joked, “People will always feel good when they’re around you!”

Quiet Life Jewelry

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MONOGRAMS by Erin Moore (San Marcos, TX)

From handbags and baby bibs to mugs and aprons, Erin can personalize just about anything for you.  Her work is fun and fresh.  Anyone would enjoy receiving a special gift from her shop.  I have a personalized key chain in a cheerful periwinkle blue that goes with me everywhere and makes me smile.

Stitches and Such

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ART by Amanda Hilburn (Nesbit, MS)

Country fresh and sweet describe Amanda’s paintings.  She uses water colors, acrylics, and mixed media.  I’m trying to decide between two of them for my office (see pics below).  If you are drawn to mason jars, and agree that “Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat” (Laura Ingalls Wilder), you’ll be enchanted by Amanda’s work.

The Little Bluebird Gallery

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I think both of those would look charming in my office, don’t you?

Next time you need to buy a gift or would like to bring some beauty into your home, these lovely Christian ladies would love to have your support!

(I don’t get anything for sharing these links, monetary or otherwise.  I just think they’re grand!)

The Greatest Circle

During worship on Sunday, 70-year-old Janice went forward to put on her Lord in baptism (Gal. 3:27).  As is our custom, we all gathered around into a large circle around the auditorium after worship.  This “welcome circle” is meant to represent Christians all over the world who have put on Christ and are now united.  It represents Janice’s new spiritual family who stands ready to support, encourage, and help her in any way we can.  We sang songs like “God is So Good” and “I’m Happy Today.”  One of our elders prayed for Janice, and then we each went up and hugged and welcomed our new sister into the Lord’s body.  Her shining face was truly a beautiful sight to behold.

But here’s what I really love about the welcome circle:

I love being able to look around and make eye contact with every member.  It’s a treat to be able to look at the faces around the circle and think about my relationship with them, how thankful I am for them, or what prayer needs they may have.

I love seeing the expressions on their faces.  No heart is untouched by a baptism.  Whether young or old, each face reflects emotion.  Everyone is smiling, and many are doing so through tears.  I imagine most of us are recalling the day we obeyed the gospel ourselves.

I love the sense of connection.  In an increasingly disconnected society, I’m especially grateful for the sweet tie that binds us together in Christ.  These relationships are real and everlasting.

I love the joy.  After the circle broke up, I looked around in every direction.  The building was filled with groups of people whose faces were bright.  There were no polite or half-hearted smiles, but genuine teeth-showing grins.  Our hearts were encouraged and our strength was renewed.  This happiness can’t be fabricated or bought or forced.  It’s simply the unique joy experienced by those who love God and love His people.

“And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation” (Psalm 35:9).

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When Loved Ones Fall Away, Part 2

If you’ve had a loved one turn away from God, you may have asked, “HOW?”

  • How do I know what to say?
  • How do I keep from being led by my emotions?
  • How can I make sure my own faith stays strong?

Thankfully, the answers to our questions can be found in God’s faithful Word.  I have a book coming out in February (Lord willing) that deals with what to do when loved ones fall away.  Each week in December I’ll be sharing some excerpts from the book.

From chapter one– KEEP YOUR FAITH IN GOD

God’s love is nothing like man’s imperfect love.  God’s love is perfect and everlasting.  When things are going well, we are secure in that knowledge.  But sometimes when our hearts are hurting, we forget the amazing depth and enduring nature of God’s love.  Could it be Satan whispers doubts in our mind about God’s love?  Like Mrs. Job advising her husband to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9), Satan’s lies begin with God to get us to turn away from Him.  When he tempted Eve, Satan mentioned God’s name three times (Genesis 3:1-5)!  To keep ourselves from ever believing Satan’s lies about God, we need to continually reacquaint ourselves with the love of God.  The Word is filled with the truth about God’s love.  Study it often so its voice will be louder than Satan’s.

From chapter four– SEEK GUIDANCE FROM GOD’S WORD

Emotions, both positive and negative, are powerful, and certainly our emotions are involved when a loved one falls away.  Our society places an emphasis on letting personal emotions guide important decisions.  “I have to follow my heart.”  “Do what feels right to you.”  The world’s mantra is that while rules are good, ultimately one should live by what feels right to them.  But feelings can be an unreliable and unsafe guide. “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9).  When Saul persecuted Christians, he wasn’t trying to be wicked.  He thought he was doing the right thing.  He was following his heart.  He didn’t realize his actions were contrary to God’s will.  He said, “Indeed, I myself thought…” (Acts 26:9).  He was convicted by his feelings.  His conscience never once made him question his actions (Acts 23:1).  Even good people make huge mistakes when allowing their feelings to guide them.  It wasn’t until Saul encountered Christ that he learned to “speak the words of truth and reason” (Acts 26:25).  Wise Solomon sums it all up by saying, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26).  When a loved one falls away, we must be aware of the danger of being led by our feelings.  It can happen without us even realizing it.  The way to safeguard against that is to stay in the Word.  “Let my heart be blameless regarding Your statutes, that I may not be ashamed” (Psalm 119:80). 

Next week’s excerpts will deal with the subjects of prayer and guilt.  I’d love to hear from you…Have you had a loved one fall away?  Have you had to make sure your emotional response stays in line with God’s Word?  What have you done to strengthen your own faith?

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