Never Losing the Light: Enemies and Pharisees

I am glad you are getting used to having enemies.

I wish there was no jealousy in my church—but you know better by now.

Come, be of good cheer. Don’t become down and discouraged by what you see others surrendering to.

Choice—they have made theirs—make yours.

I have broken your shackles of people-pleasing.

Don’t tell Me you are going to return to that bondage?

Child, jealousy is a fact of life—like gravity. Some will always find it easier to attack what another is doing (or not doing) rather than face themselves—and what needs to change.

Did I not have Pharisees?

Jesus & the PhariseesDidn’t they hound Me and haunt every place I went?

Are you above your Master?

(Child, listen.)

I’ll say it again.

Pray for your enemies.

Love them.

(I know it’s hard.)

Do it anyway!

Do it because you know it is the only way to stay free.

(The enemy of your soul knows.)

He would love to throw you into his dungeon of bitterness and resentment.

Enemies and Pharisees

If you could hear the wailing that flows from that place?

You would never again hesitate to forgive.

Just do it.

Your peace will return.

(I’ll deal with those who decide to be your enemy.)

Philip Yancey quote“But in that coming day, all who are destroying you shall be destroyed, and all your enemies shall be slaves…”

Jeremiah 30:16Jeremiah 30:16
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16 Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured; and all your adversaries, everyone of them, shall go into captivity; and those who despoil you shall be a spoil, and all who prey on you will I give for a prey.

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“Answers From A Cross” (New Song #11)

In all this darkness there is a light,

A song from God, sung in the “night.”

“Where is God!” some men demand.

“Where was His, mighty, omnipotent hand?”

Sutherland Springs Texas

Devastation from stormy blast…

Stricken faces—still aghast.

“Where is God…” their whispered plea.

“Doesn’t He care? Doesn’t He see?”

~~~

“How could He care—and look away?”

“Where was His LOVE that autumn day?”

“Oh God, if You are Love; if You are Light…”

“Where was Your shield; where was Your might?”

~~~

“Dear child,” in whispers soft and low—

A Voice, now speaks, so men will know.

“This evil thing that men have done…

Is why I sent My ONLY Son.”

~~~

“Where is God? you ask of Me.

He’s hanging there—for all to see…

Upon a cross… sent by Me,

To die upon that gruesome tree!”

the price of God's grace

“For every scheme and wicked plan,

Formed and fashioned there by man,

The glory of that cross will shine,

And ‘gold’ from grief—shall be mined…

~~~

If in your deepest pain and loss,

You seek your answers at my cross?

Blood met with BLOOD—shall be redeemed!

Every… EVIL… WICKED… scheme!”

~~~

Broken hearts—now wet with tears,

Covered! Cleansed! Conquered here!

Touched with glory from above;

Sealed forever—by My LOVE…

~~~

So love conquers—death and hate;

So Love—never comes, too late!

My cross is victory’s conquering light!

My cross drives back your blackest night.

~~~

Come My child, here, you will find;

Rest for weary heart and mind.

Hope reborn—Dreams anew!

At My cross, Light shines for you.

The answer

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer;

I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33John 16:33
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33 I have told you these things, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have oppression; but cheer up! I have overcome the world.”

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A Closer Walk: Beauty In The Brokenness

We all have something, don’t we? Some fear, or flaw, or brokenness; some insecurity or sense of inferiority that we desperately want to overcome.

(Whether we admit it or not, we all do.)

Sometimes it’s a glaring and obvious failure; something that we believe everyone can see. Sometimes it’s our blind spot; something everyone, but us, can see. And sometimes it is a hidden something, we struggle with all alone, stumbling, falling, getting up again, hoping to conquer it, yet continually falling short of our goal.

We are all of us only human after all, and our weaknesses are ever present, daily reminding us of that fact.

Being weak is rarely admired in our society. We admire the strong. The brave. The people who are considered conquerors. Victorious overcomers. The winners. People who habitually “look and act” successful, and are always, always, admired by the crowd. And let’s face it, we admire them, too.

Yet every “winner” has that something… just ask them (in a transparent moment) they will confess to struggling, too.

We’re all flawed.

Doubt it for even a moment and your weakness will usually pop up somewhere, somehow, to remind you (and everyone else) that you are so much less than what the world admires the most.

the weak things

So why is it, “the strong” that the world lifts up, God looks down on?

The Bible says, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.” 1 Corinthians 1:271 Corinthians 1:27
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27 but God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame those who are wise. God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong;

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Why do we tend to think of brokenness as bad?

It has taken me almost a lifetime to come around to God’s way of thinking about weakness. He seems to specialize in choosing the people we would never think of. And then, to make His point, He sends them off on some monumentally heroic or difficult assignment.

Almost without fail God picks the last guy we would pick.

(Someone like me… or you!)

God just loves showing off through the weak and helpless people of this world.

Beauty shines through

Don’t be surprised if God puts His finger right on that “something” you have, that ONE THING that makes you cringe in fear, or embarrassment, or frustration… that weakness or brokenness that you long to keep hidden, to conquer… yet always seems to be conquering you.

Yeah, don’t be surprised if THAT THING, is “the thing” that He calls you to do.

Someday when you least expect it you may hear God whisper, “Right here, in your greatest weakness and brokenness… this, is where you will serve Me and honor Me the most.”

A Closer Walk

“I CAN’T!”

My child…

I know how difficult and crazy your life has become. You are to press through these difficulties until you get to the heart of the matter.

There will I be.

I AM always with you Sweet Heart no matter what the problem. But you will not discover My presence in your outer stress.

No, My place is in the center of your storm. That is the place of peace. That is were you will find Me and My strength to go on.

You can do this thing you keep saying, “I can’t!” to.

(Press in. I’m there.)

It is your fear that immobilizes—your anger that paralyzes!

Your peace is not in the absence of conflict—it is in Me.

(You know this.)

Arise, My BelovedCome, I AM all you need.

I will bring you through.

Don’t focus on what you can’t do.

Focus on Me.

Did I not create you?

Who knows better than I? Your strengths, your gifts… even your weaknesses are from Me.

(Ah, you thought you were the source?)

I AM a God of balance.

I create the light and the dark.

Your weaknesses gift you.

Beauty in the broken

(Now that one surprised you!)

It’s true!

Listen, I’ll ask you again, “Where does true power come from?”

(… of course.)

And would you come to Me if you were nothing but “strength and gift”?

(We both know that independent streak you have.)

So… the storm and difficulty are for revealing you to you.

And as you see yourself, as you really are, you run to Me!

(I like that.)

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“…keep on doing what is right and trust yourself to the God who made you…”

1 Peter 4:191 Peter 4:19
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19 Therefore let them also who suffer according to the will of God in doing good entrust their souls to him, as to a faithful Creator.

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Real Short Book Review: Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin

Book of Year Winner 2017 Christy AwardI don’t just love Charles Martin’s stories—I LOVE his stories! Long Way Gone is one of his best.

As a once Prodigal I should know.

But I’ll let Charles tell you in his own words.

Here is his latest email from his website, charlesmartinbooks.com.


Halfway through the writing of “Long Way Gone,” I discovered I’d written myself into what looked like a dead end.  Or a black hole.  It’d happened years before so I tried to press in and listen for the story to bubble up.  Crickets.  I’ve heard it called writer’s block.  It’s the second time in my career I’d come to a stand-still with no way around. The first time ended badly.  That memory echoed.

In desperation, I got up out of my chair, grabbed my Bible and walked out onto the pool deck where I began circling, reading the Psalms out loud.  When I tired of this, I set down my Bible, raised my hands and continued circling.  Christy thought I was losing it.  “Honey do you have a plan B?”

No, I’ve never had a plan B.

Long Way Gone, Charles MartinI don’t know how many times I walked around our pool but the words I kept repeating were, “Lord, Your word is true.  More true than my circumstances.  My circumstances don’t dictate my reality or Yours.  Your Word reveals it.  Help…Please help.”

This continued everyday.  For three weeks.

On normal days, I write anywhere from 500-1000 words.  I used to set lofty goals of 2500 but discovered I prefer quality over quantity so while I can write more, I’d rather write less better.  Somewhere in my fourth week, with a worried wife inside, I had an idea.  Just a glimmer.  I thought, “What have I got to lose?” So, I walked inside sat down and started writing.

An hour in, I had to stop typing because I couldn’t see the screen. Tears make things blurry.  The solution, the work-around, had been there all along.  Hidden. It was as if The Lord had led me by the hand around a blind corner.  “See?”

Ten thousand words later, I closed my laptop.  It’s the most I’ve ever written in a single day.  My fingers sounded like hummingbird wings.

Readers say a lot of praise-worthy stuff when it comes to my stories and my abilities as a writer.  Truth is, I probably sweat and pray my stories more than anything else.  Somewhere in my many laps around the pool, I landed on Psalm 45.  It was true then. It’s true now.  I pray that my pen is used to tell His story and that I am somehow able to make His Great Name known to the nations — so that He might receive praise.

The Christy Awards graciously declared Long Way Gone their “2017 Book of the Year.” When my editor called with the news, I scratched my head and I thought, “Look what God did.”  I certainly did not.  I had nothing.  Saw no daylight.  But then He pulled back a curtain and shared with me the beauty of the love of the father for the son and how, no matter what any of us do, no matter what sin and shame we wrap ourselves in, there is no place on planet earth where the Blood of Jesus can’t reach us.  Nothing disqualifies us.  No gone is too far gone.  He’s still standing on the porch, eyes staring down the road.  All we need do is turn around.  Put one foot in front of the other.  He’s already made a way.  And when He sees us, He comes flying off the porch as if shot out of a canon and smothers our face in kisses.  That picture just shreds me.  Every time.  The God of the Universe kissing my face, the son of squalor, who betrayed Him, rejected Him and said, “You’re dead to me.”  When I see this in my mind’s eye, I come undone.

After the soul-deep pain and doubt I’d experienced in writing “Long Way Gone,” I took a short break and then set about writing a story I’d been thinking of for some time.  It’s the story of a Vietnam veteran with a 45-yr secret.  Circumstances surface which bring him out of hiding and force him to wrestle with whether or not to reveal the truth.  Problem is, if he does, somebody dies.  And if he doesn’t, somebody dies.  It’s a tough place.

I thought that writing it would be easier given the sweat-equity I’d earned in “Long Way Gone.”  That maybe I’d pushed through the blockage.  That the words would flow.

They did not.

What I experienced was twice as bad.  Twice as dark.  Twice as quiet.  I had no words.

To make matters worse, we had moved into a new house — with no pool.

Then The Lord led me to Psalm 84 and, “Blessed is the man who’s strength is in You, who’s heart is set on pilgrimage.”  So, I set down my computer and lifted my arms.  “Lord my circumstances don’t dictate You, Your reality or Your love for me.  Your Word reveals it.  But…I got nothing.  Help.  Please help.”

Time passed.

Then He pulled back the curtain and I cried like a baby.

“Send Down the Rain” releases May of 2018.  

Let me end with this — with pulling back my own curtain and allowing you to hear what really matters.  My conversations with the Lord:  Lord, God in Heaven, I don’t know what you’ll do with me or my stories, but I’m available.  Selfishly, I’d like to ask that the writing of the next not be as tough as the last two.  I could use a little boost.  Either way, I’ll still be here.  Longing for You.  Crying out to You.  From strength to strength — I will appear before You in Zion.  You tell us that if You are lifted up that You will draw all men to Yourself.  I pray my stories lift You up. I pray You increase and I decrease.  And I pray that somehow, through whatever way I am able to string words together, that I might make Your Great Name known to the nations — so that You alone might receive glory and honor.  I ask this in the matchless and undefeated name of Jesus.


Never Losing the Light: Comfort Flows From Here

Oh, the comfort that flows from you now!

And… where has that comfort come from?

Was it born in the sunshine of soft green meadows?

Or, was it born with the wind and the rain of some holocaust whipping and tearing at you?

(We know.)

Many in My church have become rich, spoiled, and pampered. They like ease and pleasure. They have come to believe it is their right.

(Not you child.)

Do you hear Me?

I have plans for you and they don’t involve getting comfortable. That is not where comfort flows.

You are My spokesman to the hurting and hopeless. You will never find the comfort they need lolling around soft green meadows.

(I know.)

Yes, I allow resting places.

You shall always have those.

(I am a Faithful Shepherd.)

Never Losing the LightBut, you shall also always have storms.

(Not exactly what you wanted to hear.)

I have My way in the whirlwind and the raging storm. (Nahum 1:3Nahum 1:3
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3 Yahweh is slow to anger, and great in power, and will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. Yahweh has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

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) Selah.

Your storms make you who you are. They bring expanse and magnification.

You are Mine. (Isaiah 43:1Isaiah 43:1
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43 1 But now thus says Yahweh who created you, Jacob, and he who formed you, Israel: Don’t be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine.

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)

(Selah, Sweet Heart.)

Comfort, oh, comfort my people…

(Come, I hear the sound of a mighty rain.)

Philip Yancey quote

“Comfort, Oh, comfort my people, says your God.” Isaiah 40:1Isaiah 40:1
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40 1 Comfort you, comfort you my people, says your God.

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Living In A Simple Uncomplicated Truth

living in a simple uncomplicated truthThis is the season where “giving thanks” is on everyone’s mind. But, as I was contemplating Thanksgiving I thought, “Isn’t this the simple and uncomplicated truth we are to live in every day?”

Isn’t this to be our daily reality?

I’m not talking about standing on street corners, making loud and boisterous noises for others to notice and applaud, saying, “Here I am. Come and LOOK and SEE how thankful I am.”

No.

I am talking about a much deeper inner reality.

Let me explain.

First, when I think about what Jesus Christ has done for me; what He has accomplished on my behalf, and given to me simply because HE LOVES ME? It fills my heart with gratitude, and the inner words that flow from that inner understanding, are like a continual and quiet flowing stream of thanksgiving.

When I look around at all that God the Father has created for me to enjoy; to gaze upon in simple wonder?

When I remember that He “saw me” in eternal ages past, knew who I would be, what I would do, how I would fail Him, and yet He chose me anyway, and said, “This one will one day be Mine and will belong to Me forever.”

When I think of Him sending His only Son, to sacrifice on a cross, to lay His perfect sinless life down for me?

Oh, the thanksgiving that flows from that place!

Then there is my Beloved Best Friend!

He is “The Alongside One” who is ALWAYS with me, will never desert me, no matter the outer calamity or inner failure. He is my Comforter. My Teacher of all Truth. He never lies to me. He never abuses me. He never betrays me.

He is Faithfulness itself, bequeathed to me, how could I receive all of that, and not be full of thanksgiving?

This is my simple inner reality.

living in a simple uncomplicated truthIt is as quietly constant as breathing is for my lungs when they nourish my body with oxygen.

Giving thanks, is the spiritual air I breathe.

It is not an outer show—done for impressing others—or myself?

It is living in this simple uncomplicated truth.

God created me—for Himself—and then chose me to be a child of His forever.

Jesus Christ saw me, for what I was, and still He loved me and chose to die for me; to redeem my life from the clutches of the enemy.

All this was done so that The Holy Spirit could come to me, to comfort me in every distress, to open Truth to me so He could teach me, and He will be constantly in me, with me, and upon me all the days of my life.

living in a simple uncomplicated truthKnowing all of this?

That this uncomplicated truth is not dependent on my moods, or my behavior, or what others think they know about me?

It is here I live in a quiet inner reality.

Here my spirit is breathing in hope, and breathing out thanksgiving.

 

In The Silence of The Heart You Speak

You rule the oceans when their waves arise in fearful storms; You speak and they lie still. Psalm 89:9Psalm 89:9
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9 You rule the pride of the sea. When its waves rise up, you calm them.

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acceptance with joyMother Teresa said, “In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you… souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

~~~

God speaks in whispers.

Whispers that are barely audible—most of the time.

Whispers that you can hear only with a heart that leans in.

What do I mean by that?

A heart that leans in is a heart that is hungry for, searching for, something MORE.

It is thirsty and desperate.

It is not afraid of silence.

It is willing to be still and wait.

It is wanting to listen and listen hard.

A heart that leans in, wants more than the empty chaos and noise this world offers…

More than its own heart’s futile thoughts and opinions.

A heart that leans into the unseen world—waiting and listening for something more?

That is a heart that seeks.

That is a heart that finds God.

Confident Hope

You rule the oceans when their waves arise in fearful storms; you speak, and they lie still.  You have cut haughty Egypt to pieces. Your enemies are scattered by your awesome power.  The heavens are yours, the world, everything—for you created them all.  You created north and south! Mount Tabor and Mount Hermon rejoice to be signed by your name as their maker!  Strong is your arm! Strong is your hand! Your right hand is lifted high in glorious strength.

Your throne is founded on two strong pillars—the one is Justice and the other Righteousness. Mercy and Truth walk before you as your attendants. Blessed are those who hear the joyful blast of the trumpet, for they shall walk in the light of your presence.  They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation and in your perfect righteousness.  You are their strength. What glory! Our power is based on your favor!

Psalm 89:9Psalm 89:9
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9 You rule the pride of the sea. When its waves rise up, you calm them.

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SEEDS FOR TRUST #4 Mother Teresa

A Closer Walk: In My Suffering Just Give Me Jesus

The God-given-value of suffering is not a very popular subject, is it?

I remember once, when I was the editor of the newsletter for my church’s Women’s Ministry, I submitted some samples for a series of articles on the subject of suffering.

I wanted to use much of Isaiah and Jeremiah’s writing as an encouragement to the many women, whom I personally knew, were going through tough times.

(The idea was soundly rejected.)

Our leader at the time said, “We don’t want to hear about this stuff. Write about happy things.”

I thought at the time, “Hear that Isaiah? Just like your crowd who said, ‘speak to us smooth things’ even though Isaiah knew what was coming, and was trying to warn them; prepare them.

We’re not much different.

The subject of suffering is definitely not popular. Yet, look around you. This poor world is bleeding like never before. (And think of what is to come.) Do we not have an obligation to teach all of the Bible’s truth?

To help the hurting see the deep value of their suffering?

Not for sufferingI know our hearts and minds recoil at the idea, but don’t we do people a greater disservice, and perhaps even harm, to spoon feed them only “a saccharine-gospel” with heaping amounts of nothing but the syrupy sweet stuff piled on?

When is the last time you heard a sermon series on Jeremiah or Isaiah?

(I’m not talking about the once-over-lightly-touch.)

I mean an intense study of their books. When is the last time your pastor did an in-depth-series, on the life-transforming-power of suffering—from God’s point of view?

For myself, my answer, not once in the last thirty years!

And, you know what?

I am profoundly sick of all the sugar.

Sugar and sufferingI know sugar is very popular. (Oh, yeah.) Walk down the aisle of any Christian bookstore and the titles shout out to you from shelves (usually at eye level!) about a God whose love is demonstrated by giving you health, wealth and a painless journey.

Really?

(And what about the next time the bottom drops out of your life?)

Sugar and ashes?

Not a great combo.

Definitely, not!

For a decade before my accident, I had been listening to a steady stream of sermons made of candy-apples from cotton-candy churches. It all sounded so good—until I was living out my own private nightmare.

Then, I desperately needed substance—big heaping handfuls of tough-as-leather-hopeso I could grapple with my daily realities.

Sorrow & SufferingBecause, in the ashes?

Eyes swollen shut from tears?

Guts falling out on the floor?

Confusion and pain tearing your heart to pieces?

Trust me, you do not want sugar!

What did the old song say?

Oh, yeah… “Just give me Jesus.”

Why?

Because Jesus was on very intimate terms with sorrow and suffering.

And He’s on intimate terms with me—in mine.

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I SEE IT ALL DEAREST

Little One…

Do you think I don’t know what is happening in that heart of yours?

Child, come.

(…a little closer.)

Suffering & HopeI see it all Dearest, your pain, your confusion, those tears you think you hide (but not from Me.)

Oh, yes, a heart can weep. Your soul mourns.

I see it all—your suffering.

You wonder at My silence, don’t you?

How can I know about your pain, and seem, not to care?

(Is that about it?)

Ah, Dearest Child… your greatest growth comes through these times of silence and suffering. You come to Me. Search for Me… in your days of gladness. (Yes, I know.) But, never with the intensity; the fervency, that your suffering leads you to do.

When you hurt, ahhhh, then how you run to Me! How you seek Me out! How you grow, in depth, compassion, and understanding. Your repertoire of comfort is expanded, and therefore, you are a greater comfort to others.

(I know the cost is high.)

Worthwhile things are always born out of suffering.

(Think about it and you will see the truth.)

Suffering always precedes comfort.

Pain is always the price of purity.

How could you have the encouragement, without darkness, silence, and fear?

(I promise you.)

When suffering has polished, perfected, and purified?

Then, will come rivers of blessing for others.

(Is this not what you asked Me for?)

a closer walk

“Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed…”

Isaiah 41:10Isaiah 41:10
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10 Don’t you be afraid, for I am with you; don’t be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.

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A Battle With Head and Heart

I have no idea who “R” is but this guy nailed it when it came to the battle that was often going on inside me.

My faith seems to reside in the “think and be logical” part of my head, while my trust, it lives in the “tender and vulnerable” places in my heart.

All is well, until, they both meet up with “Mr. R” which is a perfect illustration for the troublesome addition of RISK.

When a decision that involves risk comes into play, then the conversational quote from above becomes my inner dialogue—and the battle ensues.

Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, then we must admit that much of our lives and our choices are bound up in risk.

Taking chances.

Going for the gusto.

I have always liked Luci Swindoll’s, “Give it the Koo-tash!”

Whatever language you like to couch it in, RISK and FAITH and TRUST are all bound together, like it or not.

But, who doesn’t want to love wildly, passionately, and fearlessly? The rewards are tremendous, yes?

Ah, but so are the risks. Just ask the guy who has crashed and burned and is trying to put the shattered pieces of his heart back together again! Ask him to “trust again” and what sort of answer do you think you will get?

He may have a real battle getting his head and heart to sync up again.

Walking by faith. Taking a bold leap. Both are impossible without risking the heart and trust.

So what are we to do?

ignore your headThe world says you can break all the rules and follow your heart. It will all work out.

But our faith says that though risk is an essential part of living a full and rewarding life, breaking the rules God has put in place for our protection, will definitely break us!

And that is a truth that I can testify to.

Yes, we are to walk by faith, but soberly. We are not to check our brains at the door! Proverbs has a great deal to say about the fool and the wise man.

wisdom from ProverbsGod wants us to bring our decisions to Him, seek His wisdom by trusting His word, and wait for clear direction.


Confident HopeSeeds of Trust #3:  To find true hope you have to go the distance between the head and the heart.

Emilie Barnes, A Cup of Hope

© 2017 Martha (Molly) Gibbons blog text. All rights reserved.