But I am like a green olive tree growing in God’s Temple. I will trust God’s faithful love forever and ever. God, I praise you forever for what you have done. I will speak your name before your followers because it is so good! – Psalm 52:8,9
While growing up I was poor, dysfunctional and very chubby! This awareness did not come to me until I entered first grade. Even at age six, it did not take long to figure out others did not want to be around me so much. It did not take long to figure out that I did not have clothes and shoes as good as the majority of kids in my school. I learned first-hand the pain of feeling less than because I overweight. Often I was the subject of many jokes especially from guys.
I was embarrassed at who I was and wanted to be anyone but me. That thought process followed me around into high school, college and even into my married life and pastoral ministry. I spent a good bit of time and energy trying to hide all my flaws and inadequacies, and over time it wore me out! It stole any joy that I tried to have It ripped away my confidence that God actually wanted to use me. I would compare myself to other pastors’ wives, speakers and leaders, and always came up short. For years I never did anything in the church and hated going to social gatherings. In my mind I was neither gifted nor a sought-after friend.
One day the light bulb came on for me. If I was going to overcome this negative disposition, I had to believe what God said about me. What did His Word declare about my life? The following verses are just a few that revealed how God felt about me.
I knew you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart for me before you were born. Jeremiah 1:5
- I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14
- For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10
- God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6
As I began to repeat and proclaim those verses, I realized that God did not ask me to be anyone but me transformed by His Spirit. BUT, that must be accepted by faith. (But the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. Hebrews 4:2) I must choose to believe that God is, that He made me and that He truly accepts me. That can only be done through faith. If you try to reason it out, you will not be able to accept it. Faith must be mixed with the Word! That which we receive from God is received by faith in God and His Word.
My heart is pained as I see how many people, women in particular, are losing the image of who they are in Christ. As we walk down the toy aisle and see the skinny dolls, or as we stand in line at the checkout and see the airbrushed picture of a “star”, it is easy to feel inferior. Or, if we see that gifted woman, who seems to have it together at home, church and work, it is so easy to sink emotionally when we look at ourselves.
As Christian women we answer to a higher calling than trivial pictures on a magazine. We look to the Lord for our worth, and our acceptance. Here’s the great news: God loves us. He adores us! He created us to be wonderful, different, and nothing like the world’s call to be skinny and perfect. God calls us to be His sons and daughters. The Almighty God loves us – loves you – just the way you are. And you are beautiful to Him!
So today, why not stop and thank God for you!
I got out of my car thinking to myself, “I cannot believe this is happening again!”
My dear friend Amy was visiting me in Birmingham. We were out and about and I received a phone call that needed my attention, so I parked in a space so I could concentrate on the call.. The weather was gorgeous so Amy got out of the car to walk on the sidewalk of the strip mall. After a few minutes, my conversation was over and I could see Amy walking. I pulled out of my space to meet her, and as I drove down the lane of the parking lot, a van backed out of a parking spot, hitting my car. I hated that sound!
In the last two years my car has been hit three times. None of those were my fault. None of those were provoked by me. None of those were caused because of some foolish decision I made. All have caused inconvenience to me. In two of the cases, the people caused me grief by not wanting to take responsibility. It became a hassle to fix the damage from what they had done. But, I did not say, “I’ll never drive again.” I did not throw my car away. I did not scream and yell at the other drivers, and then go home and scream at people who were not even involved. The bumps did not change my faith, my mission, who I am or who God is.
BUMPS! Do you ever have them? You are trying to just go through life, do the right things, be the right kind of person and a bump, not caused by you, hits your life. At times it might be bump after bump after bump. That’s been my year. The reality is bumps will hit every life even if we are Christians, Spirit-filled, anointed, and serving faithfully. The question is will the wreck that we did not anticipate wreck our faith?
I have watched so many over the years quit because a bump hit their lives, and at times the bump was more like a full-blown crash. My mind quickly goes down a list. I think of one person who is completely out of church and has become disillusioned because God did not answer her prayers to allow a family member to live.
Dear friends, it is always too soon to quit. Always! God is with us through the bumps and through the times we are on cruise control. That is what faith is all about. I accepted, by faith, His invitation to be His child. As a result, He is walking every step of my life with me. He will bring me through every bump.
How did the early church handle being beaten, threatened, chased, shipwrecked and all manner of persecution? The following scripture answers that clearly … “We did not give up … our spirit inside us is made new EVERY DAY.” As a result those Christians had an eternal perspective. I pray that in the challenging times in which we live, just like the disciples in Bible days we can proclaim and LIVE these verses.
Bumps will come but they should not wreck our faith. I am actually giving you a challenge to write these verses down and put them where you can pull them out every time a bump comes. When you hear a THUD, let the THUD hear you loud and clear:
“We have this treasure from God, but we are like clay jars that hold the treasure. This shows that the great power is from God, not from us. We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed… So we do not give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day. We have small troubles for a while now, but they are helping us gain an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles. We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, 16-19
Have I ever mentioned that I have a granddaughter named Madison Benton? I know, I know – only ten thousand times! Madison has brought me so much joy and has taught me a lot. Out of the mouths of babes!
For awhile, Gaylon’s mother lived with his sister Sheila. One Sunday the whole family was able to be together. All my sons and their families were even able to be there. Madison loves Grandma Benton (Gaylon’s mother)! When Madison walked into the room and saw Grandma Benton, she went over to the chair where Grandma was sitting to give her a hug, and then sat with her for a while.
Grandma Benton, at that time, wore a necklace around her neck that was connected to the alarm system of the house. Should Grandma have difficulty and need help, she could press the button on the necklace which would notify the alarm company; however, the alarm company was the only one who could hear it. Madison was admiring the necklace and none of us realized she was pressing the button over and over, sending out an alarm. The company called to ask if Mrs. Benton was okay. Indeed she was okay, it was just that someone was pushing her button.
Who is your button pusher? We all have people who push our buttons. It can be the controlling boss, the distant husband, the adult child, the difficult co-worker, the parent who can’t let go, the gossip at church that causes division, and on and on. I hate to say this, but there are even times we are “stuck” with button-pushers who will be a part of our lives for a looooong time. We don’t have to allow them to ruin our lives. Grandma did not stop enjoying her family or the day because someone pushed her button, and the reason was: the secure connection she had. Jesus had button-pushers waiting in line for a turn to push His buttons, but He always spoke and reacted based on who He was and to Whom He was connected.
I have watched so many people rant and rave in real life, in church and on Facebook about their “button-pusher.” I am still shocked to see on a social medium, like Facebook, that they identify the button-pusher for all to see. Yet, this does not bring peace. I used to scream at or plot against my button-pushers causing my emotions to get out of hand, ruining my day and the day of others. In some cases that is exactly what the button-pusher wanted. In other cases, it just made me seethe longer and dislike myself. One of the lessons button-pushers taught me was that I don’t have to attend every argument to which I am invited. My peace means more than that.
My name is Barbara Benton and I am child of the Most High God! I have a direct connection with Him. I’ve now learned to allow God to speak peace to my heart, to calm me down. Like the company that monitored Grandma Benton, God is out for good and He will keep me secure. He can calm my spirit when I am agitated. He can touch me where I hurt so deeply. He can help me love myself. He can lead me to relationships that help me grow and enjoy the journey. He can tell me when it’s time to walk away from some people.
So the next time your button-pusher starts pushing, push your own button. Call out to God who is a very present help in the time of trouble. He is a faithful and trusted security company.
Count it as pure joy to know that no matter what comes your way today, your security is in the Lord. Security in the Lord is knowing that you completely trust in the Lord and that He will work all things out according to His will for your life
Hebrews 13:6 – So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
There is nothing like driving a car where you must hold your head just right, tap on the door twice and kick the tire once to be sure the door will open. That’s what I felt like I went through recently. Recently another driver hit my vehicle making my car undriveable. The door was wrecked leaving a gap where rain and other things could enter. I had to drive Gaylon’s car to North Carolina and then two more weeks until my car was fixed.
Gaylon has an older Lexus but it drives great. The door lock system is enough to make a woman speak in tongues of which the Spirit is not in control! The remote won’t open all doors. The key will not open all doors. The back passenger side must be manually done. Gaylon even told me if I ran into a problem to manually unlock the passenger’s side and climb over to the driver’s side. It’s just all messed up. I was afraid to drive Tucker anywhere for fear I couldn’t get him in or out of the car. Finally, I just did everything manually so I wouldn’t have to remember when to kick what!
I was so glad to get my car back, but I ended up laughing at myself. In three weeks I had developed a habit of doing things manually and for a few days, I found myself doing that with my car. I had a perfectly good remote and lock system, but what I practiced for three weeks became a habit in my life.
I listen to people who seem to never grow spiritually. They remain angry, unfulfilled, lukewarm and a host of other things. All too often I have found that they have quit spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, worship attendance, praise and just being faithful to practice what the Word teaches.
I am beyond convinced that the lack in one’s spiritual life is frequently due to letting habits of the faith go by the wayside. I am now using my remote again because I retrained myself to do it, and I am much happier with my driving experience. In your spiritual journey, if you are slapping the door, kicking the tire and just plain frustrated, maybe it’s time to develop some healthy spiritual habits. You might be surprised how quickly they become ingrained in your life.
“So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.” I Peter 1:5-9 (MSG)
Her name was Mary. That’s not really her name but we shall call her that. When I met Mary, she appeared shy, troubled and nervous. As a matter of fact, when I would try to talk with her she could not even look me in the eye.
Mary became part of our church, and said yes to my invitation to walk with me sometimes. Over time Mary began to open up to me. She told a tale of how she had been unfaithful to her husband. He had found out about it, and Mary ended the relationship with the other man.. In just a few weeks Mary realized she was pregnant. The timing raised a question about who the father of the child was. Mary’s husband became enraged and forced her to terminate the pregnancy, and she had never been able to move beyond the guilt.
I began to talk with Mary, sharing with her scripture showing the total forgiveness of God, His love and acceptance. Mary understood what the Bible said. She understood that God had forgiven her. The problem was that Mary had never forgiven herself. Mary felt she should be punished for the rest of her life and that she was not allowed to ever be happy after what she had done. I wish I could tell you that Mary was able to move on, but Mary never could forgive herself.
Many are stuck today because of something in their past. Struggling under self-condemnation is not the way God wants us to live. Stop replaying in your mind the old recording of your sin, which stirs up guilt, but instead replay the truths of God’s Word. God says in Romans 8:1, 2, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” God says in Ephesians 1:6 – “He has made us accepted in the beloved.” Rehearse these promises when the recording in your mind goes off. As you take hold of His forgiveness and release your guilt, you’ll walk out of that jail of self-condemnation into the joy of abundant life.
The story is told of a little boy visiting his grandparents on their farm. He was given a slingshot to play with while out in the woods. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit the target. Getting a little discouraged, he headed back for dinner. As he was walking back he saw Grandma’s pet duck. Just out of impulse, he let the slingshot fly, hit the duck square in the head, and killed it. He was shocked and grieved. In a panic, he hid the dead duck in the wood pile, only to see his sister watching! Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.
After lunch the next day Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen.” Then she whispered to him, “Remember the duck?” So Johnny did the dishes.
Later that day, Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing and Grandma said, “I’m sorry but I need Sally to help make supper.” Sally just smiled and said, “Well that’s all right because Johnny told me he wanted to help.” She whispered again, “Remember the duck?” So Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed to help.
After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s he finally couldn’t stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he had killed the duck. Grandma knelt down, gave him a hug, and said, “Sweetheart, I know. You see, I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing, but because I love you, I forgave you. I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.”
Whatever is in your past, whatever you have done that the devil keeps throwing up in your face (lying, cheating, debt, fear, bad habits, hatred, anger, bitterness, etc.); whatever it is, you need to know that God was standing at the window and He saw the whole thing. He has seen your whole life. He wants you to know that He loves you and that you are forgiven. He’s just wondering how long you will let the devil make a slave of you. The great thing about God is that when you ask for forgiveness, He not only forgives you, but He forgets. You don’t have to be a slave anymore. Be free!
It’s the morning after the election, and I have been very contemplative. I challenge us today to turn the page. It’s where we are in the story. I openly admit I had hoped for a different outcome and I based my vote on a great concern for the moral decay of this country, which is embraced and pushed by a liberal thought process. I base those thoughts on what I believe the Word of God teaches, and the hundreds of conversations I have with people across this country. I have seen what has happened to people as a result of this decline which has gone on for years, not just the last four years. Moral decline has destroyed many nations, or at least they no longer resemble who they once were.
I have seen many Facebook posts, many have been encouraging, some have been discouraging and some have been embarrassing to see God’s people say some of the things they say. The question is: what shall we do now? Most say we need to pray for our country and for our leaders. God’s word absolutely teaches us that in 1 Timothy 2, but we only seem to emphasize the first part. I Timothy 2:1-4:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
Paul is instructing Timothy, who is a pastor might I add, to make sure prayer has priority. Paul said first of all pray, and prayer is “others” focused to bring about change in lives. The purpose as stated in verse four is that all will come to a saving knowledge. In between is that we are to live lives of godliness and holiness. And, it also says this is pleasing to God. I want to be a woman that pleases God.
I just want to give a few thoughts.
- I have seen so many people post: we need to pray for the USA and our leaders. Posting is not enough. We must actually pray daily, and at times, hourly based on what we see happening. Will you turn the page?
- Will you make a sticky note or index card and put within your vision and pray for the leaders, the nation, godliness among God’s people and the salvation of those we agree and/or disagree with?
- Can we honor God by no longer using derogatory terms to describe those in office? Even if we think it’s true, when we use the world’s language and attitude, we often stop the process of getting to verse 4 – that all will be saved. I am not saying embrace that which should not be embraced. I am saying all of us can speak the truth in love, speak it firmly without wavering and yet use language becoming to a child of God. Trust me how often I have to pray like David in Psalm 141:3 – “Take control of what I say, O LORD, and guard my lips.” I even deleted some comments I made on Facebook posts last night because I asked myself, “Is that becoming to God?”
- It is not enough to pray, though we pray we must. Faith without works is dead. It is time to evangelize and disciple instead of just praying, just reading the Word daily, just enjoying good services, etc. We must be patient when God places people in our path. They need the Lord and they need time to grow up in Him.
- It is time to stop accusing each other of not being “Christian enough” for how someone voted. I understand where people are coming from, but God is the one who will judge people’s vote.
- Things must fall in place for end time events. I don’t know the timeline, but I do know things will go downhill before the coming of the Lord. Read the book.
- Take time to read the stories in the Old and New Testaments. God’s people were constantly in hostile environments, yet they thrived in the Spirit. They aw miracles, God’s divine intervention and people added to the Church. It’s a time to thrive in the Spirit if we truly say God is on the throne, He is in control and He is our King. God will come upon us through His Spirit to do great exploits in difficult times. Think of Moses, David, Paul, and others. Daniel was the poster boy for a bad political environment, yet God heard His prayer and allowed Him to used greatly. They thrived and did great exploits without having the world’s approval or a good political climate.
So my question is: Will you turn the page today? Will we take our anger, disappointment and discouragement to the Lord? Will we allow Him to encourage and refill us? I want to be like Isaiah and say, “Even in the year when Uzziah died, I ALSO saw the Lord.” As a woman who lost a son, which is so painful I can’t even describe it for you, I can say, “Even in the year Bryan died, I ALSO saw the Lord.” I saw that He is high and lifted up. I saw that He is still on his throne. His train was so big it filled the temple. In other words, “His robe was way bigger than any other king’s robe.” He is the King of kings. He is big. He is on the throne.
Today if you are disappointed or discouraged, I hope you will take a look at Him again and see how big He is. I pray you will turn the page because the story is not over.
As of midnight, the year 2012 will be in the books. It will be history. The Bentons will never be able to forget the year 2012. At the beginning of the year we rejoiced at the news that two grandsons would be joining the family. Each of our sons would now have their own child and each was happily married. That is so fulfilling as a parent – to see your children happy and productive! Then, the bottom seemed to fall out. The call that would change our world came on the morning of February 11, 2012 when we learned that our middle son Bryan had passed away suddenly and the cause was unknown. Talk about a world crashing down around you! We will never forget the year 2012 when we added two precious grandsons and lost a son. The height of joy and the depth of pain.
I have used our life experience throughout the year to encourage others. That is/was sincere. While the pain has been severe and real, God’s strength has been amazing. With new meaning we sing the song, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Yet, I have written little about the days and nights that gave no peace and no rest. There were plenty of those. Sometimes when we speak of the strength and peace of God, we say it as though we have no pain, sleeplessness or anxiety. I am honest enough to tell you that has not been the case for me. There have been buckets of tears. There is the ongoing pain of Bryan not meeting and enjoying his beautiful, active son. There have been times the pain of loss, and the overwhelming heartache of watching my whole family suffer was almost more than I could bear. Has that changed my testimony? Not for one minute! My testimony has not changed and my faith has not been shattered. I am here to testify! I am here to testify He is with me. I am here to testify His grace is sufficient. I am here to testify that He is still God when I have no answers and no solutions. I am here to testify that He has never left me nor forsaken me. I am here to testify that His provision has been with me. I am here to testify!
As we approach 2013, I invite you to lean upon His omnipotent arm. “You have no need which from His infinite supplies cannot be met. There is no stone of difficulty in your pilgrimage which His might cannot remove. You have no burden which His arm of power cannot bear, and no perplexity which His wisdom cannot guide. In a word, you have no condition to which Christ our ever-present God is not equal. In faith and humility make practical use of your Savior’s divinity; and when all that is merely human has failed, broken like a rope of sand, dissolved like a passing vapor; or has pierced your hand like a shattered reed, then take hold of this precious truth, and say, “My Savior God is with me in all the boundless resources of His Godhead, why then should I fear?”
And to that I am here to testify!
I definitely have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. On the one hand, I love having the ability to quickly get in touch with old friends, new friends and family. On the other hand, I am not a fan of the endless boxes of sayings causing Facebook to now look like a field of billboards.
However, the thing that drives me silly crazy at times, are posts that are continually re-posted as fact and are fiction. Rather than take the time to dig a little and see if the things are true, people just mindlessly repeat what they have been told by another. Below are a couple of examples, but I won’t put the whole post to save space.
- To all my FB friends, I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you. However, with the recent changes in FB, the public can now see all activities in any wall. This happens when our friend hits “like” or “comment”, automatically, their friends would see our posts too. Unfortunately, we cannot change this setting ourselves because Facebook has configured it this way. Only you can do this!!! …. FALSE
- EVERYBODY SHOULD READ THIS!!!!!!!!! WARNING: Some knew about the red light on cars, but not Dialing 112. If an UNMARKED police car pulled up behind her and put his lights on dial 112 to check authenticity. I never knew about the 112 Cell Phone feature. Speaking to a service representative at Bell Mobility confirmed that 112 was a direct link to State trooper info. So, now it’s your turn to let your friends know about “Dialing, 112… NOT TRUE and might actually cost you valuable time or harm. In the USA you must dial 911.
I could go on and on with amber alerts, toxins in your refrigerator, posts about the First Lady, etc. The interesting thing is that once in a while the claims are true. So how do we know what is true and what is not? It simply takes a little digging.
This so translates over to the Christian realm. Over and over phrases, words and slogans are passed off as truth from God’s word and they aren’t truth at all. We are living in serious times and we need to know what the Bible says. How do we separate truth from fiction? It takes a little digging ON OUR OWN and not just repeat what a preacher or friend said.
Romans 10:9-If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Philippians 4:19-And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:37-39-No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
How do I know these words to be truth? Because I did a little digging and found that God Himself had the words penned for my benefit and my victorious living. Stop depending on others to break it down for you. Yes, there is a time to listen to a sermon, read a devotion or read a book, but that must never replace digging for truth ourselves.
In the above reference about dialing 112, the sad thing is if a person is in danger and they follow this, it could cost them valuable time or even their lives – all because people continue to repeat what is not true. Too often we believe the lie rather than dig a little to find the truth.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6 SELAH
I have been to Arizona and California many times. While on those trips I drove through some real deserts. While in Egypt I traveled through one of the largest deserts I have ever seen. I know there are some people who love the desert but I am not one of them. It is desolate, dry, sandy terrain, and hot, hot, hot! This goes on for miles and miles and miles and miles! Did I say it goes on for miles? Amazingly at night, cold winds will often blow. One can enjoy snakes, scorpions, lizards and all kinds of lovely creatures. Ah, the desert – such an appealing place! Not really, but on my journey to a destination I found myself in desert places.
Some of us are walking through the desert right now. Oh, we are not literally walking on hot sand and encountering snakes and scorpions, but we still are in a desert place. Perhaps you are in a dry, hot place with occasional cold, miserable winds. It goes on for miles and miles and miles and seems to never end. It can be such a lonely place.
In the Bible there are many who experienced the desert or wilderness including Jesus Himself. I seriously doubt any of them volunteered to be there! Yet, over and over, these great men and women of faith allowed their deserts to become defining moments in their lives. God spoke to them in the desert! God sustained them in the desert! God provided for them in the desert! God used the desert to prepare them for even greater use! The hard place became a God adventure for them.
Do I want to be in the desert? NO! But, God certainly allows it from time to time. When we find ourselves there, trust Him that it will become a God-adventure, a place where He will meet you, a place where He will speak. Trust Him to make it life changing and spiritually empowering. Allow the Holy Spirit to make it a defining moment of growth.
You will walk out of the desert one day. How do I know? The Bible says “They were not thirsty when he led them through the desert. He divided the rock, and water gushed out for them to drink.” He led them THROUGH. He did not leave them there.
“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11