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!"


If video doesn't load, click here.

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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To read other
click the links below.

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

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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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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Introducing....Baby Eli!!!!!! All Glory To God!!!!!!!

"Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, you are very great! 
You are clothed with splendor and majesty..."
Psalm 104:1
(ESV)

For months I have longed to write this post.
And, now, dear friends, here it is!!!!!
I wish I had a larger font capability to say,
PRAISE GOD!!!!
Only HE could do what has been done!

Remember this little guy?


So many prayers have been prayed for him over the course of the past several months.
This morning, our dear Lord answered those many prayers, and He allowed him to make his grand entrance into this world...perfect and beautiful and more precious than words!

It is with great praise and honor and glory to God that Kristen and Mike introduce to you....
Baby Eli!!!!!!!!!!!

Just look at that sweet, beautiful face!!!
I tell you, my heart is so full of praise and gratitude to the dear Lord, I hardly know what to say!!!
Sometimes, all you can do is cry!!!!!!
There are just no words.

Zachary says that God has very BIG plans for Eli.
The name Eli means - "High, ascended, my God!"
And, how we glorify our great God this morning!!!!!

Seeing the look on my dear niece's face and the sweet, little bundle of joy in her arms fills my heart with a gratitude that can not be expressed in mere words!
The picture above surely speaks for itself.
To see how God has moved into the scene of this situation and allowed Kristen to go full term without premature labor and to watch how He spared both of their lives and permitted little Eli to be born healthy is what a modern-day miracle looks like.

My heart is deeply humbled by the overwhelming outpouring of prayers, love, encouragement, comfort, and kindness each one of you have extended to and upon behalf of my dear niece, Kristen, Mike, and their precious, precious baby boy, Eli.
I wish I could somehow convey to you all that is in my heart, but words fail me.
Every, single prayer you have prayed has been so deeply appreciated by all of us, and it has been heard and answered by our loving Father in Heaven.
I know some of you have even given up food to add fasting to your prayers, and I cannot begin to express how much this has moved and touched our hearts.

You are the body of Christ, His hands and His feet,
and you are very dear to me.
"Thank you" seems to sound so inadequate.

You have faithfully and tirelessly shared in the carrying of this burden, 
and now, today, I invite you to rejoice with dear Kristen and Mike and their brand-new, miracle baby boy, Eli!!!

And, dear friends, I ask you to please bear with me in asking for your continued prayers for Kristen in the days to come, as she will remain at risk for another blood clot for the next three months.
BUT, God!
He is still on the throne, as He has so vividly demonstrated this morning, and we know that if He can do what He just did, He can do ANYthing and everything that we ask.
Truly, He has, once again, fulfilled His promise in Ephesians 3:20.
He has done "exceeding, abundantly ABOVE all we could ask or think"!
Praise His holy name!!

I could NOT wait to share this news, and it feels like a thousand pounds has been lifted!
This trial has seemed never-ending, but, oh, the end result!!!!

"THANK YOU, DEAR LORD, from the bottom of my grateful heart for what You have done!"

"For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods."
Psalm 135:5


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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Time Draws Near - PLEASE Keep Praying!

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
2 Timothy 1:7
(KJV)


Happy 4tof July!
I am SO grateful to God for being born in this amazing land of the free.
It is with deep gratitude that I observe this Independence Day and reflect upon the many brave souls who have given their all to preserve that freedom and hand it down to you and me.
My own dear Dad was a brave soldier, and Kevin's Dad is one of the few still-living World War II veterans.
God bless each one who has served or is actively serving and selflessly putting their lives on the line each and every day to protect the liberty we hold so close to our hearts.

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

I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done and given in response to the Cooper Family's need.
It is SO deeply and genuinely appreciated.


There are no words to express gratitude for your prayers, kind words, and generous giving towards Megan's funeral expenses.
If anyone feels led to contribute to the remaining balance owed, you may do so, by clicking on this link.
To all of of you who have donated through the youcaring site or sent funds directly to the funeral home or to the family,
we cannot thank you enough.
My heart is deeply touched and moved by the love and compassion of God's people.
It is a beautiful, precious thing to see.
May the dear Lord bless each one of you in a very special way.
Please do continue to keep this precious family in your prayers.

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

I also want to thank you for every prayer you have prayed for my dear niece, Kristen,
through her long and very hard ordeal.
I can't believe it is down to just one more day of waiting!!!!!
Lord willing, she will give birth to her precious baby boy at around 9:00 am tomorrow,
Wednesday, 7/5/2017.

These past several months have felt like an eternity.
I can't even imagine how hard and long they have been for Kristen.
Fear has been a continual and ever foreboding opponent.
So many times, I have fallen to my knees and, from a heart filled with fear,
 begged the dear Lord for mercy upon Kristen and her dear baby.
And, each and every one of those times, God has so graciously extended that mercy.
He has brought her through so many ups and downs, and now we near the time of the grand entrance of this little guy for whom we have all so diligently prayed.


I am glad God doesn't turn away from us because of our fear.
I am ever grateful that His love for us is unconditional,
and He steadfastly keeps every promise He ever made, regardless how faithless and unbelieving we can be sometimes.

Seeing what God has already done, watching Him come on the scene time after time,
feeling the presence of His comforting Spirit, and being a witness to His answers to prayer 
gives me faith to believe that all will go well with both mother and baby tomorrow.

Since Kristen had to stop her blood thinning medication to prepare for the upcoming c-section, they are telling her that she is at high risk for another blood clot from now until 48 hours after birth.
Then, she will go back on blood thinners and will still remain at risk for the next three months.

I am so thankful to know that God is bigger than all of our risks.
He holds this universe in His mighty hands, and He is ever in control over everything that happens in our lives.
Our eyes are upon Him for continued healing, protection, and mercy.

"My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth."
Psalm 121:2


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I am believing God that the next time I post here, it will be a post of praise to our dear and loving Lord for the way He brought Kristen and her baby through!!!
Tomorrow is the day!!!!!!
My family and I deeply appreciate your prayers at this time.