Crushed By Life?

DwonAs I sat this morning, I felt overwhelmed by life, and what it can bring.

I spend a lot of time talking with women, ministering to women, teaching women, mentoring women and counseling women. Over the years that I have been doing this, I have met so many women who have been crushed by life. I am not talking about women with a little problem, but women who have been crushed, pulverized by life.

It can be crushing:
• To have been sexually abused by a father, grandfather or uncle.
• To have been abandoned by a husband who found someone he liked better.
• To not have enough money as a single woman trying to support a family.
• To be hurt deeply by church leaders.
• To suffer miscarriage and infertility.

If you are part of a women’s ministry or a small group, trust me when I say sitting beside you are women who are crushed by life.

Thank God that many churches are now offering groups to help women who have gone through divorce, abuse and other issues.  One friend recently told me of a group she and her husband have begun for people wounded by the church, to help them make a re-entry into the Body of Christ.

Thank God for these things.

As a woman who has known the crushing of life, I’m thankful for every time the Church stepped up to minister to me. Yet, I have learned something along the way. As a woman of God, I personally must learn the Word of God, believe the Word of God and act on the Word of God. The Church can’t do that for me.

Chances are slim that we won’t experience a life-crushing event.  It is part of the rhythm of life.  Yet, never has the intention of God been that we would accept Christ as Savior, sit on church pews for twenty years and remain crushed by life.

We can blame it on our churches. We can blame it on our pastors. We can blame it on our women’s ministries. We can blame our families.  (I have blamed them all, and then some!) It doesn’t really matter from whence came the crushing.

When life comes knocking hard and crushes us, we can cling to God and His Word. We can sing along with our favorite songs of worship. We can confess aloud the promises of God. Like the Psalmist, we can declare that we will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.  Not only can we do those things – we MUST do those things.  When we do this, something supernatural happens. I can’t even explain it because it is SUPERNATURAL. As we sing, as we cry out to God, as we confess His Word, God comes down and touches woes and turns them to wows. It is not always instantaneous, but He does bring healing and hope.

Are you crushed by life? Life will always have seasons where we are hard pressed on every side. Yet in the crushing moments, God’s power will prevail. He is the God who can change water into wine, and He is the God who can change woes into wows.

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8, 9

 

The Applause of Heaven

maxresdefaultAs I got on an airplane in Portland, Maine, I was happy to be headed home. While it was a great, great weekend of ministry, I can still say there is no place like home.

The first leg of my journey was to Baltimore, Maryland, where there would be a brief layover. Just before landing, our flight attendant made an announcement. On board was a young soldier who was returning home after a deployment in the middle east. In honor of his service, he would be allowed to deplane first. After the door of the plane was opened, the soldier was asked to stand and disembark while we kept our seats. None of us knew that the young man was seated in the back of the aircraft.

As he began walking forward, applause broke out on the airplane. The applause continued as he walked all the way down the aisle, with people saying, thank you for your service. Thank you! I will admit a tear welled up in my eye as I watched the young man come by with a tear in his eye.

Then, another tear or two fell, as I recalled that one day I will take such a walk. One day I shall take my final flight, and it will be from earth to heaven. When I do, and as I walk through the portals of glory, I want the applause of heaven. I want to hear, “Well done, Barbara Benton!”

It is my pleasure to serve the Lord Jesus Christ! I am so thankful for the call on my life, and I want to fulfill that call. I love being a wife, mother, grandmother and friend, but my highest calling is that of servant of God.

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ.
One glimpse of his dear face, all sorrow will erase.
So, bravely run the race till we see Christ.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” – Matthew 25:23

Ho Hum – It’s The Monday After Easter

day-after-easterIs Easter over? I mean it is the day after – it is Monday. We’ve packed our churches, hunted Easter eggs, sliced the ham, eaten Cadbury eggs, dressed in vibrant colors, and hailed the resurrection of the Lord as the greatest day in the history of the Church and the world. For many Easter is now over, and it’s time move to the next thing.

How easy it is to move from Easter Sunday to an ordinary Monday, living life as if the resurrection was just an event! We’ll ask others how their Easter was, and then move on to the weather, politics, work, the latest TV show and how irritated we are with people.
Too often we are unaware of the significance of all that we heard and celebrated the previous day. We celebrated a risen Lord who now resides inside of us, giving us power to walk in this life. Yet, too many will continue to fight sin in their own strength, walk through life as if they walk alone, and battle a nagging fear of death and even a fear of life. The resurrection will fade into the white noise of life, making no noticeable impact.

We are not sure what the disciples did on the Monday after Easter. Perhaps they stayed together celebrating the news of the resurrection. Perhaps they laughed, worshiped and Easter joy flooded their day. Maybe they kept a low profile in case soldiers or other religious leaders were looking for them. Perhaps they sat around having conversations trying to piece together exactly what occurred. We can’t be certain of anything that happened on Monday, but we can be certain of one thing: their lives were never the same. The men who had been so timid and fearful were now brave and courageous. They became emboldened to preach the good news, live the good news and in many cases, die for the good news. Easter changed their lives!

Let it be the same for you and me! Do not allow the day after Easter to take away the power, encouragement, hope and celebration that was experienced yesterday. The tomb is still empty and no matter what Monday brings, Jesus is still alive! As you face today, this week and the future, keep the empty tomb at the forefront of your thoughts. There is still real power, hope, victory and confidence because of a risen Savior.

As I reflected on Easter this morning, I found myself asking God to make me soil for the resurrected life of Christ to begin to germinate, grow, come forth. Oh God, break up the ground of my heart and plow me deep, deeper than I have ever been. I long to let the power of new life work within me. God, I don’t want Easter to be an just an event in life, but an event that changed my life.

Don’t let today be the Monday after Easter. Let today be the day that the empty tomb empowered you to be a victorious child of God. Easter is not over, and never will be.

“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.” – Romans 8:11 (NLT)

 

God Sometimes “Good Fridays” Our Lives

 Good Friday is the day we commemorate the day that Jesus laid down His life, finishing the course that God GoodFRidayhad set before Him. At the time His disciples did not fully understand what was happening. To them it seemed like “bad” Friday. Some were disillusioned, others were angry, some were afraid. We have the Bible to explain it to us, but they were living it in real time. It wasn’t until later down the line that they understood why it happened, and how God put it all together.

Such is life for us sometimes. When we are walking with God in real time, we don’t always understand what we are facing in the moment. He clearly brought this back to my memory recently. I was reminded of a disappointing event several years back. It just didn’t work out the way I thought, and my real time made little sense. Recently, events have unfolded that let me know that I was right in the center of His plan – not my plan, but HIS plan.  Thank God that He “Good Fridayed” my life at that point.

Some times God has to “Good Friday” in our lives.  He lets something die, or takes it down a path we did not anticipate. In those times it seems like “bad” Friday. God is at work and when we look back, often we see see that bad Friday was really Good Friday.

God Orders Our Steps and Our Stops

Steps stopsI met a woman who lives not too far from me. As we began to become better acquainted, she spoke to me about being a part of a conference of which she was in charge. It seemed good to me, but I asked for a little time to pray about it.  Several days later,  I got back in contact with her, and the offer was off. She had found other speakers and no longer needed me. I could tell she was a bit miffed and felt I had waited too long, but nonetheless the “deal” was off.

I was a bit disappointed because I often travel far from home. Here was an opportunity to travel less than an hour away!

Shortly after that a group in North Carolina asked me if I would come be a part of their conference, and I accepted the invitation. It happened to be the same weekend as the one that did not work in Alabama.  It was only thirty miles from my son’s home, so my husband decided to go with me, and a wonderful thing happened. We, along with the other grandparents, all gathered in the sonogram room, to discover that a grandson was on the way. The smile on my son’s face, and the excitement in all of us was over the top!  We enjoyed a lunch together with lots of joy and laughter.

While I spoke at the conference, Gaylon spent the weekend with Bryan and Sarah. They shopped till they dropped and even bought a few baby gifts. It was a great weekend!

Two weeks later we received a call that Bryan had suddenly passed away, and was now a resident of heaven. One of the thoughts that came to me was gratitude that two weeks earlier we had a weekend with Bryan and Sarah. If I had spoken in Alabama, that weekend in North Carolina would have never happened. God knew we needed that final, happy memory of our son as he grinned about having his own son on the way.

Often our schedules get messed up, or our plans don’t work out the way we desire. I have learned that God is working in my behalf, and He controls my STEPS and my STOPS. I am so glad He does! I am so glad that my last memory of Bryan is with a big smile on his face.  I am so glad that I can tell Tucker how incredibly happy his dad was to see that ultrasound and find out he would have a son.

Trust God with the steps and stops. He won’t do you wrong!

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

Are Some Sins Greater Than Others?

sinsThere are many heated arguments these days as to whether all sins are equal. Too often the argument centers in on one area, or one person wants to dismiss the severity of the sin about which they are arguing.

God said, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  In other words, if living like God desires is the target, then all of us miss the bull’s eye. There is no getting around that fact. Lying, stealing, cheating, sexual immorality, gossip and many others all miss the target. They are sin in God’s eyes.

One writer said, “Every sin is an act of rebellion against God. Any sin, no matter whether it is an angry thought or outright murder, is a declaration of independence from God, a means of saying, “I am going to do this my way instead of your way. I choose my will rather than your will.”

That is a great description of sin. Sin is sin. That is the truth!

It is also true that not all sin has the same consequences. For instance, stealing a candy bar from a store has consequences, but killing five people has greater consequences. There are consequences on the killer, the ones killed, all the families involved, etc. Lying to your boss about why you didn’t come to work misses the mark, and is sin in God’s eyes. There are consequences such as the company losing the hours of work, or the boss finding out and the employee losing his/her job. An adulterous affair can have more far-reaching consequences.  Sexual sin is missing the mark in God’s eyes, but sexual sins are also called a sin against one’s own body. They destroy marriages and families, leaving seeds of distrust and harm that can take years to overcome.

Even Jesus used a comparative in speaking of sin, “Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” – John 19:11

Is all sin equal in God’s eyes? Yes and no. All sin is equal in causing us to be separated from God, but some sins are more significant because they bring about more serious consequences. There must be a word of caution here! The fact that some sins are judged to be more serious than others must not give us license to evaluate our actions on the basis of whether a certain act is a little sin or a big sin. We are commanded to live holy lives, lives that honor God. The Holy Spirit within us gives us the power to live overcoming lives.

“However, remember that whether our sins are relatively small or great, they will place us in hell apart from God’s grace. The Good News is that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and the sins of the whole world at the cross. If we will repent and turn to Jesus in faith, our sins will be forgiven, and we will receive the gift of eternal life.” – Billy Graham

I’ve Fallen and I Can Get Up!

FalldownverseOften when I need to make phone calls, I will go for a long walk. This enables me to get a little exercise, and make the necessary phone calls. Now, come on, you know that’s smart!

Yesterday, I needed to make a couple of calls, and I knew they would be a little lengthy, so I set out on a walk that lasted forty-five minutes. As the call was coming to an end, I arrived at my house. I began to walk up and down the driveway until the call was finished.

At one point I was close to the shrubs around the front of my house, and I noticed a dead vine was wrapped around one of the bushes. I decided to stick my foot in the middle of the bushy vine and remove it.  As I jerked the vine with my foot, I found it to be stronger than anticipated. In a matter of seconds, I became entangled in the vine and fell hard to my concrete driveway. OUCH!

As I lay there for a moment, the pain was real and it was sharp. I have cuts and bruises to prove this!

Even though it was painful, I knew my only option was to rise up and walk again. There was nothing beneficial about staying down.

This is life, even for the believer. We walk with God. We move with God. We serve God. It’s a great walk, but inevitably there will be falls along the way. Those falls can bring so much pain.

Proverbs 24:16 is very clear: “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again…” This verse tells us that believers are not untouched by the falls of life. Even God’s people will have times when they have problems, failures, disasters, and adversities. We know the pain of sickness, financial woes, broken relationships, loss and more.

If you are in the middle of a fall right now, don’t despair. There is hope! It’s easy to think, “I am done; it’s all over now.” That’s not true. You can’t see so clearly when you’re down on the ground wallowing in the dirt. But, child of God, you will rise up again. The second part of that verse is just as true as the first part! The whole verse is true … there will be times of trouble, but there is triumph in the midst of trouble!

Child of God, rise up! Don’t give up, and don’t give in. God is on your side, and He will give you the strength to walk again, live again and be fulfilled again.  Today, I rose up out of my bed and started walking again.   There’s a little pain in my walk, but this too shall pass.

Circumstances can’t keep God’s people down. As you go through the ups and downs of life, look for the power of God to meet you there. He will be close-by when you are down. He will give you strength to get back up. Yes, you will rise again!

God Has The Biggest “BUT”

but-god1Have you ever been lied about or done wrong, and it seems the perpetrator got away with it?

From a human standpoint, it’s hard to reconcile the fact that one can do the right(eous) thing, and not get the expected result.

Joseph, in scripture, said a resounding NO to the advances of Potiphar’s wife. He said NO over and over, and stated that he would not sin against God by sleeping with another man’s wife. Where did it get Joseph? After Mrs. Potiphar lied about him, Joseph was thrown right into a dark prison cell.

How is that possible? Doesn’t the Bible say, “You reap what you sow?” Indeed it does, but the Bible never gives a time frame on reaping and sowing.

Joseph sat in that jail cell for two long years. It was unfair and incomprehensible. As Joseph sat there, an innocent man, he had a choice to make. He could be mad at life, mad at God, and say, “I’ll never serve God again. What good did that do me?”

Joseph did not look at what was happening at that moment in life, and let the moment define God. He continued serving God, continued being faithful to God and continued trusting God. He even started a jail ministry!

After Joseph was in prison for two years, he got up one morning not knowing his deliverance was about to come. He woke up, brushed his teeth, tidied up his cot, ate a not-so-great prison breakfast and did his regular slave work. BUT GOD! God said, “Today, it is finished!”   Before the sun went down that day, Joseph was living in a palace and was the second most powerful person in the land.

It only took Joseph THIRTEEN years to arrive at the palace. Thirteen years of faithfulness in less than stellar circumstances. Thirteen years of right(eous) decisions in less than stellar circumstances. Thirteen years of serving God with no expensive suits, no pricey chariots, no beautiful wife, no book publisher, no cool worship band and no television program. Just a man who chose to be faithful to the One He loved, and the One who loved him.

Don’t give up doing the right(eous) things in this life! We serve a God who is a “BUT GOD” kind of God. He is not limited by what is happening in your life at this moment. This “BUT GOD” that we serve has the biggest “BUT” in the room! He is at work in your life. He has the final word.

Never give up on God, for He never gives up on you!  One day, you will look back, and this will be your song:

“He’s been faithful, faithful to me,
Looking back Your love and mercy I see,
In my heart I question if You’re there, and I fail to believe
But You’ve been faithful, faithful to me.”

“You intended to harm me, BUT GOD intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” – Genesis 50:20

I Wasn’t Called To Fit In

Fitting inI’ve had a few sets of eyes rolled at me in my day. I’ve had venom spewed at me on Facebook a few times. I’ve been called out-of-touch, unrealistic, behind-the-times, judgmental and other great things. Why am I called these things? Because I refuse to compromise what I believe the Word of God says.

The pressure is on all of us as believers to be quiet, be accepting of everything, don’t offend anyone and just fit in. After all Christians are to love. What a ridiculous definition of Christian love! In order to show that I love, I must keep quiet and embrace what society is embracing. God never called me to fit in, but He did call me to stand tall and be a woman of the Word.

In the book of Daniel is recorded a story of three Hebrew men who would not bow to the king, which would mean compromising their devotion to God. God was the only one to whom they bowed and gave worship. As we read their story, we celebrate the deliverance of God. We shout, “Hallelujah!” That is certainly warranted.

Let us remember that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were living it in real time. Going into the fiery furnace, they confessed ahead of time that they did not know what the outcome would be. The outcome had nothing to do with their decision to stand for God. They were not concerned about fitting in, getting a position in the King’s palace or being popular. Their greatest concern was living a life that honored God.

While I am certainly not a hell-fire and brimstone preacher, I refuse to bow to a cry from a culture that says you have to fit in, that says you aren’t loving if you call anything sin. I want to live a life that honors God and His Word.

You see, I understand that I was called to preach the Good News that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He is the way to the Father and eternal life in heaven. Oh, that’s not a popular message either. It’s okay! I’ll preach it anyway because I was not called to fit in!

“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” – Daniel 3:16-18

Comparison-itis

CoverI was to be the speaker at a conference in a city where I had been before. Much hard work was put into the conference, and anticipation was building. As I spent time with God and in study, I was excited about what He was showing me in His Word.

There was a woman who heard about the conference and was gung-ho to attend. She started talking it up with others, saying she had heard me teach before and “people would love it.” Her anticipation fed my excitement.

Later, after seeing my picture, the woman realized that I was not the woman she had remembered, so she was no longer interested in coming. That took the wind out of my sails a bit!

She made it known who she thought would be speaking, and it was a speaker with whom I was somewhat familiar. As I thought about the other speaker, I began to talk to myself. “She’s a better speaker than I am. She’s slimmer than I am. What do I have to say that anyone would want to hear? Why would anyone want to pay money to attend a conference just to listen to me? My gift is not good enough for me to travel across the nation?”  Negative thoughts assaulted my mind.

I had a flare-up of a disease called “comparisonitis.”

Comparisonitis can be a chronic, debilitating disease. It goes into remission when we’re happy, when we’re stroked by others or all is going well, but all too often, the moment something doesn’t go the way we want it too, it flares up.

I remember going to God  and telling Him why I couldn’t continue. Surely He had missed it when He called me, or maybe I even missed what I heard. As I wiped my tears and quieted myself before Him, it was almost as if He spoke audibly. “You are fearfully and wonderfully made. YOU – Barbara – YOU.” God did not try to convince me. He did not argue it with me. He just stated His truth and His opinion.

The Bible has quite a bit to say about being happy with who God made us to be. One of the most freeing verses that I have found is, “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” – Galatians 6:4.  That verse just shouts, “FREEDOM.” This tells me that all God wants and asks is that I give my personal best to whatever He has called me to do. I can be secure and satisfied knowing that God is pleased with me, and I don’t need to compare myself with anyone else. That is THE truth.

Do flare-ups of comparisonitis try to find their way into my life? Yes. What’s the best thing to do for it? Be me! If you feel yourself coming down with this disease, what’s the best thing you can do for it? Be you!