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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

In the Fire



You've probably heard the story in Daniel of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  They were ordered to bow down and worship the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar or be thrown into a blazing fire.   Not only would they be thrown in, but the King ordered the fire to be SEVEN times HOTTER!  

Many of us think if we do the right things and say all the right things, life will get easier.  But this shows us that when we stand our ground for what is right, when we enter a trial or a test, things can get even hotter before we come out of it.

These boys, teenagers at that, refused to turn from God.  They refused to bow down to the nasty King, and they were thrown into the furnace.  They did EVERYTHING right, and yet they still went thru the fire.  

Sound familiar?

Have you been asked to do something unethical at work or risk losing your job? 

Has your marriage gotten difficult and you aren't sure what will happen next?

Is your relationship with your kids struggling?

Are you facing a health issue that doesn't seem to be getting any better?

My cousin suffered a major heart attack 13 days ago.  He is young, in his 40's.  He loves Jesus.  He is a committed follower.  He has 4 children.  He is loved by so many, yet today he is still fighting for his life.  He is still in ICU, not breathing completely on his own.  He's in a FIRE.  He's done everything right.  He's served God, served his community, served his family, yet God allowed him to go into the furnace.

Why?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  There will never be a time in our life when we don't' have stressful situation come our way.   God doesn't keep us from them, but He does walk through them with us, just as He was in the fire with the three boys.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew God would be with them in the fire.  And we have the same hope and confidence in God.  

God is Holy.
God is Good.  

When we ask why, we are doubting who God is.  God will always be Holy and God will always be good.  We doubt this when he doesn't do what we ask.  But, our circumstances don't alter who God is.  We can always say God is good when wonderful things are happening.  But God is good NO MATTER WHAT we are going through.

In Isaiah 41:10 God says:

      Don't be afraid, for I am with you,
      Don't be discouraged, for I am your God.
      I will strengthen you and help you.
      I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.  

We don't have to be afraid, because He is with us!!!

And in the new testament Paul admonishes us in Phillipians 4:5-7:

Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God's presence is greater than our problems.   He has more wisdom than we do.  He has more awareness than we do.

And if He is with us, we can walk through any stressful situation this world throws our way.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Birthdays


20 years!  Wow, it seems like yesterday that I was in the hospital, waiting for this child to arrive.  I was excited, nervous, anxious.  He was not cooperating on coming out - so they went in to get him. 

When I finally saw him, my heart changed shape. It grew bigger.  I knew that I would do anything to protect this child.  

KADEN GARRICK SLOAN

Happy Birthday!

My heart.

My Joy.

My World.

I didn't know it was possible to love another human being as much as I loved him.  

Jeremiah 31:3 comes to mind when I think of my children  "I have loved you with an everlasting love.  With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself".

It hit me as I was thinking back on the day of his birth that God loves me as much if not more than I could possibly love my boys.  It was overwhelming and it brought me to tears.  God loves me so much he sent his son to DIE for me.  Would I do the same with my son?  I'm glad God didn't ask me to do that - I'm pretty certain humanity would be condemned!  

I protected him.  I taught him.  I nurtured him.  I disciplined him.  He grew and matured and now lives away from home - a man finding his own way.   My role as his mom has changed from teacher to advisor.  I listen and give wisdom when its asked.  I cheer him on and encourage.  I tell him how proud I am of him and I sit back in amazement that God gave this wonderful young man to me.  

I have two sons and although today is the birthday of the oldest, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fireball who is my second son.  Kelland Gregory - my comedian, my ball of laughter, my jokester, my very vocal ambassador for Christ.  I've never met a 16 year old who isn't afraid to talk about Jesus to anyone.  I dont' know what I did to deserve my boys, but I thank God for them daily.  The love they have for each other is so awesome.  It's cool to see them grow and become friends (because we all know siblings fight when they are younger - just being real!).  

Today I honor Kaden.  Today I tell you, my friends, that in Kaden you will find a heart that is kind, giving, growing and becoming more and more a Godly man after God's heart.  I am proud and humbled at the same time.   To know God chose me, a small town girl from small town Indiana, to be the mom of a young man who will do great things for God's kingdom, is humbling.  I'm amazed at God's goodness and thankful each day that He let me have the greatest job on earth - 

Being MOM to these 2 boys.

I love you Kaden and Kelland. 


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lies...


We've all told lies.  Its something that is almost impossible not to do.  But, have you ever told so many lies that you begin to believe them to be truth? 

The Bible says in James 3:8, "But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison." The tongue can be the most wicked weapon on earth, so use it wisely and speak your words with caution. As Christians, we shouldn't fill our lives with deceit. We should always strive to leave honest, open lives that are full of trust and love. But, since we are all human, sometimes it is hard to avoid lying.

White lies and small omissions are still lies - we should always remember that. The option to lie should not be a in a Christian's life; we should always think of the truth first. We are not made perfect and we are tainted by original Sin. But no matter how imperfect we are, we should always strive to be good people - and this means not lying. 


Proverbs 17:7  "Eloquent words are not fitting for a fool; even less are lies fitting for a ruler"

What do we do as Christians when we not only find ourselves lying, but watch others being deceived by a lie? or multiple lies?

Do we call out the liar, or do we seek God and Trust that He will deal with the issue?  We've all been there - someone has said a lie about us and it just lights a fire in our bellies.  We want the lie exposed and we want the wrong to be righted.   But is that what we are supposed to do?  Do we go to that person directly and ask them to tell the truth and let them know how much their lie has hurt us?
 
Lying is more perilous than it seems. It's more Satan-like than Christ-like. Jesus referred to Satan as "a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). By contrast, Jesus declared himself to be the Truth (John 14:6).


I decided to do some online research into lies.  On Christianity today I found an article entitled "The Seven Levels of Lying".  Eye opening and so true.  When I read it certain people came to my mind - people who had started a small lie and then progressed thru the levels at alarming speed.  Whats sad is that its apparent to some outsiders but not the person his or herself.  Below are the seven levels:

1. You lie.
A single lie can become a match that lights a bonfire. Unless we confess the truth about our lie, we are probably on our way to Level #2.
2. You self-protect.
That is, you lie about having lied. If you lie about one thing, it is likely you will lie about another.  "Lies are weaklings; they need bodyguards."
3. You develop a habit of lying.
A liar at this level might, just out of habit, lie about something trivial for no benefit.
4. You self-deceive.
You now believe the lies that you are telling others. We can lie so effectively that we even lie to ourselves. We self-deceive.
.
At Level #4, a person enters into denial. He stops looking at his internal moral compass and therefore ceases to feel guilty anymore.
5. You rationalize.
Now you not only believe the lies are not lies, you justify the lies as a positive good. Now the lying is not just part of normal life, but a virtue—it helps the company grow, it saves jobs, and so forth. 
Level #5 lying is especially tempting at the leadership level. One of my mentors warned me to be careful in taking on the deanship at A. W. Tozer Theological Seminary. He said, "The higher up you go in an organization, the harder it is to tell the truth." A lot of times the lie is justified for the sake of the institution or some other larger good.

Level #5 lies happen in the personal realm too: "You don't understand," says the adulteress. "My husband and I never had a real marriage. We have had 30 years of cohabitation and child-rearing, but nothing like what I have with my new lover. He and I are experiencing love for the very first time. This is not adultery. It is love."
6. You develop your technique.
The main technique is to compartmentalize. You start isolating statements, ignoring what was said in other contexts. Level #6 liars are often found in the upper echelons of bureaucracy. A Level #6 liar might smoothly move from one constituent to another, saying each of these things, swearing in each instance that he is telling the truth:
"This institution is going to stay true to our stated core values."

"Core values reside in people. It really doesn't matter what is stated on paper."

"Don't let those stated values stop you from giving; it's long been public knowledge that I myself disagree with three or four of them."
  
7. You see it as your duty to lie.

Level #7 lying flips duty on its head, making lying mandatory. For example, in a dysfunctional family that operates at Level #7, grown siblings might kowtow to a parent for the sake of keeping dark family secrets hidden. In organizational life, Level #7 executives repeat corporate lies and say to their lieutenants, "Beware of self-anointed whistleblowers; they are critical and self-righteous."
Level #7 liars stone the prophets (John 16:2).
Because people are created in the image of God, we can't simply lie without trying to seem truthful in some way. That explains why Level #5 liars take pains to rationalize their thinking and Level #7 liars assume the pseudo-upright posture of being dutiful.

When we lie, we violate our relationships.  Not only with those we lie to, but with God.  God is truth - to lie is to go against God.  In order to stay out of the levels of lying, we need to have someone we can go to who will hold us accountable.  A person we can confess to when we lie.  If we do that, we will not risk getting to level 2, 3, etc.  Its hard not to lie, but when we do and we are convicted by the Holy Spirit of our lie, we need to repent and turn from it.  We are a broken and sinful world, and God does not expect us to be perfect as He is.  But He does call us to righteousness and a life of STRIVING to be like Jesus.  

When you catch yourself lying, pray the following verse:

 "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23-24).

Then confess your lie and ask for forgiveness.  Trust me, confessing is easier than continuing down the levels of lying.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Searching


A full moon.

A clear sky.

A cool morning.

A heart searching for direction.

This was my morning...I vowed not to cry.  It makes my eyes puffy and tired.   I told God I wouldn't cry.  Then I sat down, bowed my head, and began to sing:

God you are my God
And I will ever praise you
Oh God you are my God
and I will ever praise you.

I will seek you in the morning
I will learn to walk in your ways
and step by step you lead me
and I will follow you all my days.

I didn't make it.  I cried.  A Lot.  My soul feels empty.  As barren as that full moon.  Why?  Why have I lost my footing?  Where is God leading me when I feel as if I'm not moving?  

Have you ever felt that way?  As if you are stuck in your circumstances and you see no way out?  You pray and seek God, you face the difficulties, the loneliness, the dwindling finances and mounting bills, the sickness, the heart break - and you wonder where He is in the midst of all of it...

Its where I've been for a while now.  I started 2014 off with a bang.  The year of Stacie.  Nothing was going to take my eyes off of my goals and what God wanted me to do.  Then something and someone did.  I got derailed and I've been unable to get back on track.  Has that ever happened to you?  What do you do in those circumstances? 

I have found all I can do is bow my head and be open and sincere with my Father in Heaven.  I pour out my feelings unabashed.  I feel no shame in my fear, in my discontent, in my sorrow...for He has been there too.  I have gotten off track and yet I know He is still  with me and hears me.  I know that in my failure there is meaning and a lesson to be learned.  In my waiting, I must choose to grow closer to Him.  

I share this today- being completely vulnerable to you - because I know I'm not alone.  I know others feel the same at times.  I know that God is leading me places and I don't know how to get there.  I have to rely on him completely.  

Surrender.

Trust.

Belief.

God will use this time of uncertainty for His good.  In His time.

Until then - God you are my God and I will EVER praise you!