Thursday, August 17, 2017

Baby Eli: A Precious One-Month Smilestone!!

"Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is His reward."
Psalm 127:3
(KJV)

In my last post, I shared two of the many times God has laid a heaviness upon my heart to pray,
even though I wasn't sure for whom or what I was praying.
One of the times I mentioned was the night before I found out my niece, Kristen,
who was expecting a baby boy, collapsed in the ER from a blood clot in her lung.
Many of you have followed Kristen's journey, and you have fervently prayed for her and her precious baby, and you are already aware that last month, God answered our many prayers!

Little Eli was born, perfectly healthy and beautiful and just amazing,
and his sweet Mommy came through the C-section delivery just fine.
Oh, how we have praised our dear Lord for this amazing answer to prayer!!!
He is SO worthy of all praise, and He has proven, once again, that there is nothing too hard for Him.

Recently, little Eli and his grateful family celebrated his ONE-MONTH BIRTHDAY!!!!


Isn't he just a living doll????
What a little sweetheart!!

Also, MORE GREAT NEWS!!!!
Kristen had a CT Scan yesterday, and guess what, dear friends??
The blood clot in her lung is GONE, praise God,
and she was able to go off the blood-thinning shots!!!!
We cannot praise God enough for the amazing miracles He has performed!!!

Precious Eli and his Mommy, Kristen

Every time I think of all God has brought these two through,
my heart just fills to overflowing with praise to the God Who can do anything!!!!
Praise His wonderful name!!!

Kristen, so graciously gave permission for me to share some photos of the little birthday guy
and their sweet dog, Harley!

Be still, my heart!!
This is SO adorable!


Such a happy, little guy!


Have you ever seen anything so cute??


So many times, I have to break down and cry as I praise the dear Lord for the mercy He has extended to my dear family and me.
How we praise Him for the precious, dear, sweet gift of baby Eli, now one month old!!!

I just wanted to share an update on him for all of you prayer warriors who have helped to 
pray us through!!

So many times, I have come here, so heavy-hearted and desperate for God's help,
and I have asked you, dear friends, to pray.
So many times, in answer to my plea, you have taken our burdens as your own,
and you have bombarded Heaven for my family and loved ones and me,
and you have reached the throne of God and touched His heart on our behalf.

It gives me so much joy to share the results of the prayers YOU have prayed!!!

I want to encourage you today.
Whatever you need can be found in the Source of all of our strength.
God is still alive and well, and He is still listening for the prayers and cries of His children.

"For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers..."
I Peter 3:12

I am now working on a post that will be entitled "According to your faith",
where I, once again, delve into the subject of prayer.
I hope to share it with you soon....we have had a lot going on in our family and lives,
and there hasn't been a lot of time for blogging lately.
God knows when the time is right for a particular post,
so, stay tuned!!

May He bless each one of you, meet all of your current needs,
and keep each one of your hearts turned towards Him.

I love and appreciate each one of you,
I cherish each comment you leave here,
and I am praying for every, single person who will ever read these words.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

When God Says Pray, & Why We Should Never Ignore That

"Pray without ceasing."
I Thessalonians 5:17
(KJV)

Before I begin this post, I wanted to ask you to please pray for the family of a young woman who was killed in a one-car traffic accident.
Her little 2-year old son was in the back, unhurt.
I can't imagine the pain in the hearts of this family, and I know they would greatly appreciate your prayers during this sad time.

*****************************************

This is the amazing, beautiful view outside the home of our nephew, David, and his wife, Stacie.
I could literally sit and take in this view for hours.
My eyes...and heart...are drawn to the far, distant hills, and to the God Who created them.

Those of you who have been reading Homespun Devotions for a while,
know that a little over five years ago, God called my mother home to Heaven.

Losing her, and Dad, nearly twelve years before her, has been beyond hard.
I will miss them forever.
Anyone who has lost their parent(s) can attest that there is nothing on earth that can fill that kind of void.

We never had much in the way of money or worldly wealth while I was growing up.
But, even though we struggled, financially, Mom and Dad possessed and passed on something to me that is greater than any monetary treasure they could have ever bestowed.

Mom and Dad taught me how to pray.

Prayer was observed as the first resource in our home.
Through their example, and by means of their normal behavior,
Mom and Dad never made prayer their last resort.
If one of us or another loved one was sick, we prayed.
If we were broke, we prayed.
If we needed food, we prayed.
If the car wouldn't start, we prayed.
When Dad's prospective employer was hesitant about hiring him, due to his health problems,
we prayed.
During the treacherous Ohio blizzard of 1978, we prayed.
If we couldn't pay a bill, we prayed.
We prayed about everything.
We went to hospitals and nursing homes, and we prayed...for people who were sick, lonely, and depressed.
We rarely missed Wednesday night "prayer meeting".
We gathered together in our living room, at the end of each day,
and we all three prayed an individual prayer out loud around our family altar.

I learned, early on, that circumstances were often rearranged when we would pray.
Mountains that seemed to be immovable were brought low and conquered.
It didn't take me long to realize that, within the life of a Christian,
prayer is not just a tool, it is a weapon that, when properly wielded,
will absolutely turn the tide.

Mom and Dad's prayerful influence and daily, consistent encouragement to pray
has had a lasting, permanent effect upon the person, wife, and mother I have become.
Prayer is an integral part of who I am.
It is woven through so many fibers of my being that, it seems,
 I hardly know when I stop praying and when I start up again.
God and I are having a conversation the biggest part of the time,
and prayer keeps me in close proximity to Him.
We seldom stop communicating....and even when we do stop talking,
it is there, in the back of my mind.
Always flowing...ongoing.
My prayer life is a precious thing to me, and I say that, not with haughtiness or boastfulness,
but with much love and respect for Jesus in my heart.

Now that I am married, thankfully to a man who also loves to pray,
Kevin and I endeavor to make our home a house of prayer.
In addition to individual prayers, we believe it is vitally important to have regular family worship...
the three of us...together....like Mom, Dad, and I used to do.
A lot of "stuff" comes to the surface during those times of all three of us listening to each other
pray out loud.
One of my greatest desires, as a mother, has always been to ingrain a quality of prayer into the fiber of Zach.

The other night, it hit me how automatic prayer has become in our lives as a family.
Kevin had to work, and Zach and I were on our way to Bible Study.
We started listening to the radio, and all of a sudden I felt a strong sense of needing to pray.
So, I asked Zach if he minded, and, bless his heart, this boy who loves to pray about as much as his Mama, quickly turned the radio off.
He was all in.
We prayed...and prayed...and prayed...nearly the whole 40-45 minutes there.
If he needed to add something, he would pipe up and start praying,
and I would stop, then I would resume again when he was done, etc.
This is something that is happening more often, as Zach grows and matures.
I can't put into words how precious those times are to me.
Not only to have that beyond-dear time with this boy in prayer,
but to be reminded, once again, what a habitual and instinctive force prayer has become in our lives.

There is no way to measure the value and power of effectually and fervently
wielding the weapon of prayer.


If video doesn't load, click here.
Written by Charles & Ira Louvin

In the posts found herehere, and here, I have been talking about spiritual warfare and how important it is to memorize the Word of God, so our Sword stays steadily sharpened.
Prayer is also a vital component of God's strategy for us to win the ongoing battles in this spiritual war.

When the Apostle Paul wrote instructions concerning our need to put on the whole armor of God
in Ephesians 6:11-18, he put strong emphasis upon prayer, after he had named off several individual pieces of armor that we should put on.
In verse 18 he says this,
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints..."

Jesus spent much time in prayer when He was on the earth,
even spending all night in prayer and rising very early so He could be alone to pray.

Wouldn't you have loved to hear some of the heart-wrenched prayers He prayed?
Every, single one of His prayers were fervent, and they were effectual.
I have no doubt.

Jesus Christ realized how valuable it was for Him to stay connected to His Father at all times.
Therefore, He took the necessary time to make sure He fit that communion into His day,
even if it meant giving up sleep, comfort, and ease.
It was just that important to Him.

Shouldn't it be to us?

"And He (Jesus) spake a parable unto them to this end,
that men ought always to pray, and not to faint..."
Luke 18:1

We've probably all seen the plaque at some point throughout life.
"Prayer Changes Things"
If I remember correctly, I think the first time I saw it was on my prayer-warrior Papaw's living room wall.
Papaw prayed more than anyone I have ever personally known.
Each morning, he rose early, in order to find time to spend interceding to God for his family,
the congregation he pastored, and the many needs presented to him by others.
Seeing that plaque on his wall is a vague memory, but the message stuck.

When my sister, Sandi, called and told me my niece, Kristen, who was expecting a baby and also suffering from a blood clot in her arm, had driven herself to the ER and collapsed after getting there, then found out a blood clot was in her lung, I'll admit that not just a "normal" fear, but full-blown terror gripped my heart.
And, what was astonishing to me, at the time, was that the night before this phone call, I had felt an overpowering, pressing burden to pray.
I remember telling Kevin and Zach that I needed to pray, and it needed to be NOW.
I didn't even know who or what exactly I was praying for.
I just knew that someone needed help that only God could provide, and it was imperative that I fervently pray.

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
James 5:16

Not that I am in any imaginable way righteous.
It is only through the precious blood of Christ that I have been redeemed.
It is HIS righteousness working in me that opens the opportunity for me to approach Him in prayer.

Kristen's situation was not the first time I had felt an overwhelming burden to fervently pray, even though I didn't know for whom or what I was to pray.
One other time, in particular, that will be forever embedded into my memory happened on the night of April 30th, 2016.
I remember telling Kevin and Zach that a burden that I could not seem to shake was upon me to pray.
I didn't have a clue who needed help or what was happening, but I knew, without a doubt, that someone desperately needed my prayers, and I should not procrastinate.
I remember that even after I prayed, I could not seem to find relief, and there was this nagging sense of needing to continue to pray.
It just wouldn't let up.
What I didn't know until my sister-in-law called was that just a few, short hours after the crushing heaviness in my spirit, a demonic-controlled, maniacal man, (animal seems more appropriate), would enter the apartment of my dear niece, Victoria, and she would die an agonizingly brutal and painful death, at his cruel and murderous hand.
(If you would like to read more, you can click on these links,
Prayers Needed For My Family,

I can't tell you the number of times I have wondered why my earnest prayers were not enough to protect Victoria or spare her life that night.
At some point in my wondering, God showed me that my prayers WERE heard, and that they were answered, too.
Our Lord was there, incredibly near to her during those final hours.
He was with her...comforting her, as she lay bleeding and dying, and He never left her side.
I will never know how many ways He answered my prayers that night.
Maybe, He lessened the intensity or duration of her agonizing death.
Perhaps, He shielded her from worse...if such a thing exists.

As I prayed, I did not know the reason for the heaviness in my spirit, but the Spirit of God knew,
and as I entered into that time of prayer, He carried my burden to the throne of grace in an intelligible way that God completely understood.
Later, it all became clear, and I found out who had needed that prayer.
He knew all along.

In these two situations, as in many, many other times throughout life, I have learned to trust that sense of burden that comes over me.
I have learned to drop whatever I am doing and fall to my knees when I feel that compelling call.
I have learned the meaning of Romans 8:26,
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."

This kind of praying is not easy...
not knowing who or what we are praying for,
not even knowing why we are praying,
yet feeling such an intense burden for prayer.
Does anyone else ever feel the temptation to not put forth the energy and effort required for such intercession?

It is a temptation to which even the very disciples of Jesus Christ were not immune.

Jesus faced the most challenging, excruciating night of His life, and He needed support.
Not just moral support, but earnest prayerful support.
When He asked the three men in His inmost inner circle to pray for/with Him,
He came back a little while later only to find them asleep.
They could not seem to muster the stamina required to shake off their drowsiness and intercede on behalf of the One who would soon lay down His life for them.
As a result, Jesus lacked support when He needed it most.
And, as a result, they lacked the necessary personal fortitude to remain faithful to their profession of faith when faced with the threat of persecution.

Sometimes, it would be easier to succumb to the pleasantry of letting someone else do the heavy lifting when it comes to entering into intercessory prayer.
But, I have learned to pay attention...to take heed...when I feel an inward prompting to pray.
I have learned that there is always good reason behind a nudge from the Holy Spirit.
I have learned that if I fail to pray, something, or more importantly, someone, could suffer for my disobedience and negligence.

Mom used to often tell me that "prayer is a long-range weapon".
It reaches as far as it needs to, and even when I cannot be there in person to show support,
I can pray...even when I don't know exactly who needs those prayers.

God is always listening for the prayers of His people.
"For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers..."
I Peter 3:12

He invites us to approach His throne when we are in need.
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Hebrews 4:16

There are times a special burden for prayer is placed upon the heart of a burden-bearer.
When we feel called to such a task, it is of vital importance that we push through the temptation to ignore such a call, regardless of personal cost.
So much is riding on our faithfulness.
God help us to rise to the challenge and be the prayer warriors that He and our loved ones need us to be!

We may never know or realize the scope of the effectiveness of our prayers on earth, 
but I am deeply comforted by the vision John saw and described in Revelation 8:3,4,
"And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.  And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand."

Your prayers and intercessions count, my friend!
They are being carried to the throne of God by the hands of angels!
Don't ever give up on producing your cause before God through the channel of prayer.
"Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob."
Isaiah 41:21

May we ever be mindful of those God-sent urges to pray.
May we press through our weariness, fatigue, and temptation to give up, and
pray on!

To read a sampling of past posts on prayer, click these links:
A Praying Mother's Reward
What If I Don't Pray?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Spiritual Warfare: Ten Things You Need To Know

 "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, 
but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds..."
2 Corinthians 10:4
(KJV)


In this post and this post, I mentioned that God has been teaching me about spiritual warfare.
The training exercises have been intense and unforgettable.
The hardest-learned lessons impart the deepest and most long-lasting learning.
Any wisdom we acquire in this Christian life is worth whatever we have to go through to glean
because it better equips us to overcome and conquer in future spiritual conflicts.
Just as it takes time and experience for a soldier to become seasoned and tempered for combat,
so it goes in the Christian's life.

I shared before that God led me to take on a very exhaustive ministerial endeavor.
What I didn't tell you is that it took me a little while to surrender to what He was asking me to do,
and, when I finally surrendered and said, "yes" to God, it didn't take satan long to launch what has been one of the most fierce, cruel, extreme seasons of spiritual warfare I have battled through yet.
I said "yes" to God's call on a Wednesday, and, I kid you not, the brutal attacks began on Thursday.

Not only do the hardest-learned lessons impart the deepest and most long-lasting learning,
this learning can come by no other means than a first-hand, personal walk-through of the experience.

So, for quite some time now, I have been engaged in what feels like hand-to-hand combat with satan himself.
Aren't we all?
This fight is not unique to me.
If you are a Christian, if you are sold out to God, determined to follow Him whole-heartedly and have made up your mind to live your every moment in alignment with His Word and will,
you are either IN a spiritual battle, or there is one looming on your horizon.
Not to be negative, just telling it like it is.
It is not a matter of if you will be called out to the battlefield, it is a matter of when.

Here are ten things I've learned about spiritual warfare that I hope you will find beneficial.

1.  Prepare for war in the time of peace.
The time to prepare is when times are calm...on those precious, ordinary days.
Oh, that we would all learn the true value and worth of an ordinary day!
It is too late to try to prepare when thrust suddenly onto the battlefield.
Use lulls in between battles and moments of reprieve as opportunities to reload, regroup, and to set in motion a game plan for the next attack.
The secret to victory lies in adopting a proven strategy ahead of time and strictly adhering to it, regardless.
"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."
 Benjamin Franklin

2.  Study your opponent.

Who is he?

"And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light."
2 Corinthians 11:14

"In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
2 Corinthians 4:4

"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience..."
Ephesians 2:1,2

How does he operate?

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:  Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world."
I Peter 5:8,9

What have you learned from his past maneuvers?

"And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him."
Zechariah 3:1

When has he been most successful in discouraging you?

"Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices."
2 Corinthians 2:11

Where does he spend his time?

"And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it."
Job 1:7

3.  Be always on guard.
You never know when the enemy will pounce,
where temptation will present itself,
or what channel he will decide to use.

"Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong."
I Corinthians 16:13

Watch and pray.
The disciples slept and later failed when it mattered most.
"Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Matthew 26:41

"Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep."
Psalm 121:4
Unfortunately, our adversary never sleeps, either.
Don't think for one moment that he ever lets up or falls down on the job.

4.  Build a Massive Scriptural Arsenal.
(Read about this, and find 30 Scriptures here and 20 more Scriptures here.)
Learn from Jesus' example.
"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered.
And when the tempter came to Him, he said, if Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
But He answered and said, 'It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.'
Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple,
And saith unto Him, if Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Jesus said unto him, 'It is written again, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.'
Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
And saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.
Then saith Jesus unto him, 'Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.'
Then the devil leaveth Him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto Him."
Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus Christ, our Example, absolutely overcame satan and all of his temptations and tactics every, single time by quoting the written Word of God out loud.
This is how you and I will overcome, too.
Keep your Massive Scriptural Arsenal well-stocked, at all times.
Produce their power by SPEAKING them in the face of satan and his ploys.

"Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee..."
Job 22:28

"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Hebrews 4:12

5.  Be sure to include many praise verses in your Massive Scriptural Arsenal.

The prophecy of Jesus in Isaiah 61:1-3 says,
"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me; because the LORD hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified."

Jesus came to give the garment of praise as an exchange for the spirit of heaviness.
The enemy will not stick around where praises to God are being uttered.

Here are ten praise verses to enhance your arsenal.

"I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies."
2 Samuel 22:4

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ..."
Ephesians 1:3

"The LORD is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation: He is my God, and I will prepare Him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt Him."
Exodus 15:2

"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing."
Revelation 5:12

"But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel."
Psalm 22:3

"Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ..."
Ephesians 5:20

"Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people."
I Chronicles 16:8

"By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name."
Hebrews 13:15

"I thank Thee, and praise Thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of Thee..."
Daniel 2:23

"I will extol Thee, my God, O king; and I will bless Thy name for ever and ever.
Every day will I bless Thee; and I will praise Thy name for ever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable."
Psalm 145:1-3

6.  Memorize every verse in your Massive Scriptural Arsenal.
It sounds like a lofty goal.
It isn't that difficult.
If you are going to be prepared to fight and successfully overcome the enemy the way Jesus fought and conquered him, you are going to have to know the Word of God.
Write Scripture verses on index cards or post-it notes and tape them on your bathroom mirror,
on the dashboard of your car, in the corner of your computer screen, on the back of your phone, 
on your refrigerator or microwave door, or wherever you are most likely to see them.
Repeat them out loud throughout the day.
Let them permeate your personal space and surrounding atmosphere.

7.  Keep a song of praise in your heart at the ready.
When King Jehoshaphat was faced with a battle that he could not, humanly, ever hope to win,
he developed an unusual, but simple and perfectly successful, military strategy.
He prayed to God, and he sent singers of praise out BEFORE the army.

"And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with a loud voice on high.  And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.  And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.  And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten."
2 Chronicles 20:19-22

As a result of the singers going before the army, God fought the battle FOR them,
and they did not have to lift a finger to fight!!

"I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being."
Psalm 104:33

"Sing unto the LORD, praise ye the LORD: for He hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers."
Jeremiah 20:13

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise Him."
Psalm 28:7

"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High..."
Psalm 92:1

8. Study and learn from great warriors.
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us..."
Hebrews 12:1
Think Joshua, David, Jehoshaphat, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Inundate your Massive Scriptural Arsenal with their words and quote them out loud in battle.
Old Testament battles are types and shadows of our spiritual battles in the dispensation of grace.
Think Peter, Paul, John.
Study their battles and the New Testament books they, through Holy Spirit inspiration, penned.
Think a Godly mentor from your past, a hero of the faith you have read about and admire, 
or a current pastor or spiritual leader who lives a holy life.
Read about the saints of old and replicate the spiritual weapons they used and wrote about.
How did they run a successful Christian race?
I guarantee that two common threads you will inevitably find is that they live(d) a life of fervent prayer, and their Scriptural arsenal is (was) abundantly armed.
Emulate that.

9.  Set Ebenezer stones to mark places of victory.
"Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us."
I Samuel 7:12
Set your own Ebenezer stones in place.
Look back on them later for encouragement.
Start an Ebenezer stone journal.
Read it when faced with a new spiritual challenge.
The same God Who brought you through before will bring you through again.
You can trust Him.
He never changes.
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever."
Hebrews 13:8

10.  Keep your armor on.
Don't ever take it off.
"Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:  Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints..."
Ephesians 6:11-18

God has provided for ample protection, if only we will pick up our armor, put it on, and never take it off.

2 Peter 1:10 says, 
"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall..."

May God bless each one of you and keep you ever faithful at your post of duty.
God has placed you where you are for a Divine purpose.
I don't know what your individual battle entails, but I do know that God is with you always.
Through Him, you are more than a conqueror.  (Romans 8:37)
Since God is for you, who can be against you?  (Romans 8:31)
Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.  (I John 4:4)
There are more with us than be with them.  (2 Kings 6:16)

Be courageous in your battle, and know that God is ever on your side!
As the song below says, "we must soldier on!"


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Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Inner Views of Barronelle Stutzman

"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
2 Timothy 3:12
(KJV)

Some of us have heard and read the above Scripture most of our lives.
We have heard it, and we have shied away from it, because the very word "persecution" automatically strikes a dart of fear into the heart of a Christian and presents images of martyrs and past saints who have suffered immensely, many of them giving their very lives for their refusal to deny Christ.
We not only shy away from 2 Timothy 3:12, but we also have a tendency to pass it on to Christians who live in countries where they are not legally permitted to walk out their faith in an open arena.
We never think it could happen here...to us...in the land of the free.
After all, we live in a country in which the Word of God is its Constitutional core.

It is hard for me to imagine or wrap my mind around the fact that Christians are being targeted, not only in those distant, far-removed countries that are hostile to Christianity, but they are facing persecution right here, in the United States, on American soil, by the very government that was founded upon the tenets of God's Word.
How could this be?
How did we get here?
The thought is beyond alarming.
If our founding fathers were to have the opportunity to come back and see what is going on,
they would not recognize this as being the United States of America.

The dear lady I am interviewing today is one of the sweetest, most soft-spoken people you could ever meet.
She is genuine and sincere to the core, and she loves Jesus with all her heart.
Zach and I recently had the amazing privilege of being a part of an event sponsored by Concerned Women for America, during which we were so blessed to meet her face-to-face and hear her and her attorneys discuss the persecution she and her husband Darold are going through, simply because they are taking a firm stand to defend God's definition of marriage.
We left that encounter saddened and stirred in spirit, yet inspired, and determined to help pray them through this most difficult season of severe testing and trial.
Perhaps you are familiar with her story.
I am grateful and humbled that she so graciously consented to share an interview with us here, and
I know you will be blessed, deeply moved, and challenged as you read her heartfelt words.

Barronelle and her husband, Darold Stutzman

The
of
Barronelle Stutzman

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself.

Barronelle:  I was born in Springfield, Missouri, but soon after our family moved to California because my dad got a job working at Alcatraz. (My family actually lived on the island, even though I don’t remember much about it as I was just a toddler.) Later on, when I was still very young, we moved to Richland, Washington. Soon after our family arrived in Washington, there was a dust bowl, and I remember living with my mom, dad, sister, and our collie dog in an underground basement.

I had really good experiences growing up; however having my parents divorce when I was 13 was difficult. I remember when my mom told me they would wait to get a divorce until all their bills were paid off, and I thought, “Well, that’s not going to happen—there are lots of bills.” But plans must have changed because they divorced anyway.

I have lived nearly my whole life in the Richland area. For several years, we lived in Connell, Washington, which is a small town of about 800 people outside of Richland. I loved Connell. Everyone knows each other as you are constantly seeing each other at the store, post office, or gas station. It’s a great place to raise kids, and often the best entertainment was found with community games and events. In fact, one of my favorite pastimes was playing softball, and if I weren’t so old, I would still be playing.

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about your Christian testimony.  How old were you when you became a follower of Jesus?  What life events led to that decision?  What are some of the most tangible ways becoming a Christian has transformed your life?

Barronelle:  I was raised in the church, and my mom sang in the choir. I misbehaved in Sunday School so much that I should have been kicked out. So for any Sunday School teachers reading this, please know that there is hope for even the most challenging kids!

My sister and I were supposed to sit in the front pew, with our little white gloves and patent leather shoes, and be quiet. We’d get the stern look if we got out of line.

Growing up, I always thought that being a good Christian meant going to church, praying, reading your Bible, and following the rules. But there is a big difference between being a “token Christian” and being a follower of Christ, which is the true definition of “Christian.” But I didn’t understand the difference for years, and I just lived and behaved like most everyone else.

You see, when we truly believe that God is our life, we change. Instead of living for ourselves, we want to be obedient and faithful to Christ. But because I am full of sin—I have nothing to offer Christ except my sin—I needed the grace of God to save me. I prayed that God would take away my ego, my pride, and give me a childlike faith, that I may do whatever He has set before me.

Cheryl:  Who, in particular, do you credit as being your strongest Christian mentor?  How has this person strengthened you in your walk with Christ?

Barronelle:  When we were dating, Darold, (now my husband), asked me about my relationship with Christ. I was insulted.  “Why would he ask me about my relationship with Christ—can’t he see I’m a lovely, angelic woman?” Eventually, I figured out that he had actually asked me a good question. Even though I was a “token Christian,” I didn’t have a relationship with Christ. I am so thankful that God put Darold into my life.


I used to be very naïve about Scripture, even though I had read the Bible. I was naïve about what it meant to be a child of God, to have spiritual responsibilities. I didn’t know what godliness was all about.

Cheryl:  How did the Lord lead you into the florist business?  What part of this line of work do you enjoy the most?

Barronelle:  My mom bought a shop, and she asked me if I would deliver flowers after I got off work. I didn’t like to deliver flowers. Still, I slowly branched out into many other parts of the business. I learned how to keep the books, and I even started learning to make arrangements. Over the years, I have received training from some excellent floral designers, and I have attended several classes.

What I most enjoy about my business is working with God’s beautiful creation and bringing joy to others through designing. It is such a blessing to create with flowers—it’s art at its best!

Cheryl:  Please share with us about the persecution you are currently facing.  How and when did it start?  Living in a country that proclaims religious liberty, how has what is happening most surprised you?  How has it affected your life?  What will your next step be?

Barronelle:  Washington State passed its same-sex marriage law in 2012. And we were told that this was a matter of “live and let live”—those who disagreed with the law would not be affected. A few months later, Rob, one of my favorite customers, came in to talk about his floral plans for his upcoming marriage with another man named Curt. For years, I knew that Rob was gay. He always came in and picked out unusual vases, described the theme he wanted, and told me to just “do your thing.” I loved the freedom Rob gave me to custom design floral creations for him. He loved my work, and I loved doing designs for him.

Before he could get too far into discussing the details of his wedding, I gently put my hand on his and said, “Rob, I’m sorry. I cannot do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.” He said he understood, and we talked for a few more minutes. We hugged each other, and he left. I thought all was fine, and we parted as friends who respected each other, but disagreed over a very important issue.

Within a week or so, without a complaint being filed by Rob, the attorney general sent me a letter explaining that I had to make custom floral arrangements for same-sex weddings. Otherwise, I would be sued. I turned down his ultimatum. Then, the ACLU also got in contact with Rob and Curt, and they also filed a lawsuit against us. Both the state and the ACLU are suing us personally and corporately.

We did nothing wrong. We just have a different view from the state and Rob on what marriage is. We believe it is a union between one man and one woman that signifies the relationship of Christ and his church. Evidently, in America, you can’t act on that belief in the public square.

We received death threats, and people threatened that they would contact all our wholesalers and put us out of business. We notified the police, installed a security system, and have even changed the route I take to work. Still, on the good side, we have had lots of support from all over the world—we have heard from people in 68 different countries.

We have presently lost at two courts, the latest one being the Washington Supreme Court. We are planning to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear our case.

Cheryl:  Your forgiving spirit is SO inspiring and moving to me and to so many others.  How have you found it in your heart to forgive when you know that you stand to lose everything...your business, your home, your life's savings, etc.?  How does one come to a place of such forgiveness, even compassion and love, for the very ones who are bringing about such severe persecution and hurt?

Barronelle:  I sin all the time, and yet Christ continually forgives me. So, it is my responsibility to forgive others, including everyone who has filed and pursued this lawsuit against us. Also, even though we have received a lot of hate mail and calls, we do not harbor any spite or animosity toward any of the folks who have sent hate our way. Amidst all the difficulties that this lawsuit has brought into our lives, Darold and I have complete peace about our situation.

We may lose all we own: our business, our life savings, our retirement. We have spent years saving and working to leave our children and grandchildren something. But it is not ours. We must offer our lives to God—that He would use them for His glory. What do I have that is not from His hand? What do I own that is not already His? All I possess in this life is His, and I offer it all back to Him.

Cheryl:  Throughout this ordeal, how has your personal relationship with God been affected or changed?  Have you felt abandoned, or have you felt His presence more intimately as you live out what it truly means to suffer for His name's sake?

Barronelle:  My relationship with Christ has grown stronger and deeper, but I still have a long way to go. I have to rely on Him because this case has brought such a big mess into our lives! Even still, it is exciting to see what He is going to do through all this. We have seen miracle after miracle happen during this case. God is really in control!

God says to count it all joy if you are persecuted. In America, we have faced a softer persecution than people in other parts of the world face. But I am still facing threats to remove me from the public square because of my religious beliefs. Now, more than ever, it’s time to stand and bear witness to the truth.

Cheryl:  Has there been a particular moment that you have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit ministering to you in a very individual and powerful way?  How did He assure you that you were not walking alone?  

Barronelle:  I especially felt God’s presence when I learned that I had breast cancer a number of years ago. I really wanted to be an example of how to lean on Christ. After I found out, we got our prayer group together, and we bowed in prayer. The room was filled with God’s presence.

Many times, God sends us just the right people to encourage us. They tell us their stories, their trials, and they give us the tools to comfort, listen, and just hug. Hugs are the best part.

Cheryl:  It is one thing to talk the talk of a Christian and feel a sense of boldness in times of support and lack of resistance.  It is quite another to walk the walk and stand in firm defense of God's Word while staring straight into the face of opposition and hostility.  When faced with such a situation as yours, it would be so much easier to recant and conform to what is politically correct..to not make waves...to not put one's own interests in jeopardy.  Please share with us about any inward struggle you experienced when you were asked to do something that contradicts the Bible and your personal convictions.

Barronelle:  I struggle with God’s Word. There are things that God says that I don’t like—like watch your tongue! But he gives us the Scripture for our own good. And when we choose to ignore it, we get in trouble. We’d all save ourselves a lot of heartache if we’d just obey the Bible’s teachings.

Cheryl:  How is God turning your and your husband's test into a testimony and a ministry to strengthen and inspire His people?  What doors has He opened for you to be able to share with other Christians? 

Barronelle:  We have been privileged to share our story with so many and encourage people to stand for religious liberty. Some of my favorite moments have been getting to encourage those in the church to stand for God’s truth. And we have been so blessed with the people who have come alongside us to affirm and encourage us. I am still surprised, however, whenever people refer to us as “heroes” or “saints.” The truth is that we are just simple people. You might say that God picks the most unlikely men and women to serve Him and further His purposes, and I suppose that’s why He picked us.

Cheryl:  What would you identify as being the greatest threat to religious freedom in our current culture?

Barronelle:  Our greatest threat is when Christians don’t stand for the truth, out of fear of punishment. Too often, we fear losing revenue or our jobs. The fact is: none of this is going away any time soon. Don’t think that it can’t happen to you.

Cheryl:  We recently heard you speak, and my heart was stirred when you mentioned how much you appreciate the way so many have stood behind you, and you asked that we not only stand behind you, but that we stand WITH you  Please tell us how we can most effectively stand with you in the fiery trial you are walking through?  What are some of the things we can do to support and encourage you?

Barronelle:  People always tell us they are standing with us. We cannot fight this battle alone. The future of our Constitution and our freedoms are at stake—our freedom to live out our faith in the public square is at stake. So talk to your congressman, get involved with your school board, or run for city council. Whatever you do, don’t stay silent.

Cheryl:  In Luke 9:26 Jesus says, "For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels."  As Christians, we would all like to think that we possess the necessary courage to do the right thing, should we be faced with a situation like yours...that we would not be ashamed of Jesus and His holiness, regardless of personal cost.  In that crucial moment of decision, how does determined faith overcome fear?  Having walked and still walking the difficult path of being the one who stands to lose so much because of your stand for Christ, what advice would you offer to the Christian who may feel a desire to follow your example, but who feels paralyzed by the spirit of fear?

Barronelle:  We all experience fear. But God will not ask you to do something for which He has not prepared you, and you can always be sure that He’ll walk with you through it all. We never thought we would be where we are today.  But here we are, not smarter, or braver, or bolder—just normal people, with a mighty God.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you?  Are there specific petitions you would like us to help you lift to the Father?

Barronelle:  There are so many things for which we need prayer. Pray for Rob and Curt, the two men who are suing us. Also, pray for Alliance Defending Freedom and its legal team. What a godly organization that is representing us pro bono! 

Photo by Zachary Smith 
Barronelle with Matt Sharp, Senior Counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom

We pray that the U.S. Supreme Court would take our case. And pray for our pastors, that they would stand for biblical principles. And for Darold and me—that we would not fail in our task. Pray for all the persecuted Christians around the world (many of whom face things far worse than we do). Through their examples, God has taught us to be bold and shown us that there is a price to pay. Freedom is not free. Christ died for us; what are we willing to do for Him?

Very good question, Barronelle.
What are we willing to do for Him, dear friends?

The Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Barronelle and Darold, legally.  

Just a few days ago, they asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case.

I am copying a quote from ADF here...

"When some of our Ministry Friends heard about Barronelle’s situation, they immediately responded with a $2 million matching grant to help with the huge expenses of taking her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. This means that any gift you make will be doubled, dollar for dollar, to go twice as far to defend Barronelle and others like her.

Her case could make a big difference to the religious freedom of all Americans."

If you feel led to contribute to this cause, please click HERE.

At the end of one of Barronelle's responses, she said this,
"Don’t think that it can’t happen to you."

Barronelle and Darold's story could be your story...or mine.

We can no longer afford the "luxury" of sitting on the sidelines, refusing to take a stand.
Religious liberty for ALL of us is at stake and more in peril than it has ever been in our country.

If you aren't already doing so, please remember Barronelle and Darold in your prayers,
praying specifically for the requests shared in this interview.

Thank you ever so much, Barronelle, for taking time to share your heart with us!
We are so thankful for you and Darold, and we stand united with you in this battle.

"If God be for us, who can be against us?"
Romans 8:31

"Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."
Romans 8:37

On a side note, Zach was asked to photograph the event where we met Barronelle.
 This one is my favorite.

Photo by Zachary Smith

Barronelle stood, hand-in-hand with another persecuted brother in Christ, Kelvin Cochran,
as many pastors gathered around and prayed over them.
Such a beautiful sight, and the presence of God was SO real in that room!
I will never forget it.
This picture speaks a thousand words!
Two precious children of God, standing in front of the flag that represents the freedom our ancestors bled and died to preserve!
A flag that represents "one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for ALL."
Dear Lord, help us!
How have we drifted so far?


Photo by Zachary Smith
Barronelle & Darold Stutzman

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
I Corinthians 15:58


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Sunday, July 16, 2017

What A Miracle Looks Like

"He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles."
Job 5:9
(KJV)

I just want to praise God and report that Kristen and baby Eli are doing very well!!!!!
Oh, this little guy is so precious, and he just grows cuter and sweeter day by day!!
What a blessing from God!
(To read first post about Baby Eli's entrance into this world, click HERE!!)
We cannot stop praising Him for this amazing miracle.


Isn't he just adorable?????

And the look on the faces of his dear, sweet parents just melt my heart!!!


Have you ever seen anything so precious in your entire life?
This is one loved and cherished little baby boy!!!!!

I tell you, I look back over the last several months and all of the worry and fear and trauma my dear niece has endured, and I just feel like I could never, in a million years, praise God enough!
The outcome is exactly what we prayed for and believed God to provide.

"Then touched He their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.
And their eyes were opened..."
Matthew 9:29-30

We would still appreciate your continued prayers that God will keep them both safe and well 
and not allow any more blood clots or complications.
Our family is so appreciative of every prayer you have prayed and ways you have reached out to us during this awful trial.
We love each one of you so much and praise God to have such an amazing support system.
May He bless each one of you abundantly!!!

Dear friends, I do not know what you may be going through today or what type of heartache
you may be called upon to bear, but I just want to encourage you.
God is still on the throne.
He still loves you.
Your life may not be void of problems, trials, sorrow, hurt, and disappointment,
but He is WITH you, through it all.
We live in a fallen world.
We suffer.
We are betrayed.
We cry.
We question God and ask Him why.
We struggle, because even in our most doubt-filled moments, we still know and believe that He has the power to prevent hard things from coming into our lives, and that is one of the main causes of our confusion and disillusionment.
We believe that God is in control, and He has the ability to stop bad things from touching our lives,
so why in the world doesn't He do that?
Why does He permit such?

I do not, nor do I claim to, have the answers.
I ask the same questions more often than I care to admit.
I don't know the mind of God.
His thoughts are so far above mine, that the two cannot, nor will they ever, be reconciled.
But, this I do know.
God never promised we would not go through difficult things, but He did promise to go through them with us.
And, He does.
Even when it doesn't feel like it.
Even when we cannot sense His presence.
Even when things seem to only get worse when we pray.
He is there.
"...lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
Matthew 28:20

I do not know why my dear niece had to go through the anguish she has endured,
but I do know this.
When I look at this picture, I see the end result of her suffering.


A perfectly-formed, completely healthy, happy, contented, precious baby boy
who makes this face when his Mommy kisses his nose!

"...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
Psalm 30:5

Oh, PRAISE GOD!!!!!

There is a beginning and an end to every trial, my friend.
Your morning will come.
The end result will be beautiful.
God is now working on your behalf.
Even though this season my be beyond difficult, this too shall pass.
Please keep encouraged, always, and let me know how I can pray for you.

I want you to know that as I compose this post, I am praying for every, single person who will ever read these words.
You are loved.
Don't ever forget it.

************************************************

And, in case you haven't noticed in the upper right sidebar,
I also wanted to let you know that the goal has been met for the Cooper family to pay off the remainder of Megan's funeral expenses!!!!
Thank you, thank you, thank you to each one who made this happen!

The family would like to share this message with you.

"We, the family of Josh and Megan Cooper. would like to thank EVERYONE who helped in any way with Megan's funeral expenses. There are no words in our hearts that can express how thankful and blessed we are for everything that everyone has done for us through this time of sorrow. We truly appreciate the many prayers for the family, especially for Josh and little Sierra, the acts of kindness and sympathy, food, flowers, donations, cards, visits, phone calls, and kind words spoken to our family.  We truly appreciate it very much!!  May God bless each and every one of you."
    The Family of Josh and Megan Cooper

********************************************

And, speaking of prayer, I now leave you with a very special picture and story, followed by a beautiful song sung by my all-time favorite singer, Ricky Skaggs.
I first heard him sing on Moon Mullins' bluegrass program when I was 14.
You just remember moments like that.
Mom and I were parked in front of Dad's work, listening to the radio while waiting to pick Dad up,
when this voice came on the radio.
It was the kind of voice that just makes you stop and pay attention.
From that moment until this, he has been, and will always remain, my favorite.

Several years later, Kevin and I fulfilled a lifelong dream when we went to Nashville for our honeymoon.
While there, Ricky Skaggs was filming a "Hee Haw" episode, and we were so blessed to be able to attend as members of the live audience.
After the show, he was kind enough to stop and talk to us and give Kevin time to take this picture.


The day Kevin and I met my musical hero, Ricky Skaggs

Let Ricky's song remind you that somebody's prayin' for YOU!!


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