Category Archives: Encouragement

To come alongside another.

Why? Why? Why?

Guest post by James N. Watkins

If you have children, nieces and nephews, or younger siblings, you know that a three-year-old’s favorite word is why.

“Johnny, hold my hand while we cross the street.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want you to run out in front of a car.”

“Why?”

“Because if a car hits you, you’ll be hurt or killed.”

“Why?”

“Because if it’s a contest between a thirty-five-pound boy and a three-ton SUV, the truck is going to win every time.”

“Why?”

“Because the laws of physics state that mass plus momentum equals . . . Just take my hand!”

And on it goes-right into adulthood!

“Why didn’t God heal my friend?”

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“Why do I still have acne at 50?”

I’ve worked up way too much spiritual perspiration trying to answer why my second-grade Sunday school teacher committed suicide, why I was laid off from the perfect job in publishing—twice—or why bad things happen to such good people as you and me.

I have learned that while why is often a futile question, God is more than willing to answer other questions. But, like the popular game show, Jeopardy, the answers are in the form of a question.

What can I know?

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8).

So, while I’ve struggled with hundreds—probably thousands—of questions about God’s workings, I have grown in my knowledge of who he is. While agonizing about an estranged relationship, I burst into tears—for God. I had described to a friend my pain: “It feels like my heart has been cut out with a chainsaw, run over by a logging truck, and then fed through a wood chipper.” If I was feeling this excruciating pain for one broken relationship, how was God feeling about billions of heartaches? It was one of the few times I actually felt I understood God.

I can also find the answer to . . .

How can I grow?

I’ve always leaned into Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

But what is that “purpose”? The very next verse answers: “To be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). So do other verses:

“And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18b).

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1).

That’s our purpose! So ask, how can I grow more like Christ through this difficult time.

Who can I show?

Second Corinthians 1:3-6 has become one of my favorite passages in encouraging me while I’m going through terrible times:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer” (NLT).

The Greek word translated comfort is paraklesis. It is a calling near, summons for help; a prayer, a plea; exhortation, admonition, encouragement; consolation, comfort, solace, refreshment; or a persuasive speech, motivational talk, instruction. And it’s feminine case. No one comforts like a mother.

We offer our best comfort to those experiencing what we have personally gone through.

So, sorry, we can’t always answer the why questions, but we can answer these three.

Condensed from The Psalms of Asaph: Struggling with Unanswered Prayer, Unfulfilled Promises, and Unpunished Evil by James N. Watkins. Browse and buy at jameswatkins.com/asaph

Book Review & a Giveaway:  Hope Prevails

Have you dealt with depression? I have. And that’s why I was excited about getting my hands on this book. But Hope Prevails is so much more than a how-to about tackling the darkness of soul. It also takes a look at the lies we believe, the way we compare ourselves to others, and how worry says “I can‘t trust God to take care of me.”

The author, Dr. Michelle Bengtson is a board certified clinical neuropsychologist with more than 20 years of experience in the diagnosis and treatment of medical and mental disorders. However, Dr. Michelle says her greatest shock came when she tried the same treatment suggestions for her own depression that she typically offered her patients – and they didn’t work. She learned there was another element that needed to be addressed, and that was the spiritual side of depression.

Dr. Michelle asks, “How would you like to be free not only from depression but also from the fear of depression, the shadow of depression?”

To the normal person, this might not seem like an important question. But to someone who struggles with depression, the shadow is a part of daily life. To break free of that shadow would mean you, too, can have a good day when the sun is shining. You won’t look at others and wonder why you’re different. 

Did you know depression is a silent epidemic? Dr. Michelle says 1 in 4 adults suffer, 1 in 8 teens suffer, and 1 in 33 children suffer from this malady. She offers free resources on her website for those seeking to help a loved one and her book is a handbook to the many layers of depression and finding the steps out of it.

We live in a culture that glorifies busyness. Yet, Dr. Michelle says stress, whether good or bad, can contribute to depression. She includes a prescription, prayer, and praise songs at the end of each chapter to guide a time of reflection. Through personal examples, the author doesn’t diminish despair, but shows how she wrestled with it and pushed through it. Dr. Michelle equates depression with Scripture’s reference to a spirit of heaviness. She reminds us that David, too, experienced the pit of depression. Yet he called out to God and found hope in the One who heals our broken and wounded places.

I wish I could get a copy of Hope Prevails into the hands of everyone I know, because the principles go beyond dealing with depression, to learning how to live a victorious life. The next best thing I can do is offer a giveaway!

I am giving away an autographed copy from the author, courtesy of Revell Publishers, to one reader in the continental United States. Leave a comment on my blog (at the top of this post, under the title) and respond to this question, “Have you had any tough times that you are now thankful for?” You will be entered into the drawing to be held five days from today, August 15. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Sally

P.S. Each person who leaves a comment will also receive a free pdf, “What God Says About You,” from Dr. Michelle Bengtson, in Hope Prevails!

Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The Blog About Network book review program in exchange for a fair and honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

BlogAbout Blogger Network

Book Review: In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day

Do you have a lion you’re facing, that project looming larger than life? What about a fear you just can’t tackle? In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day will help you stare down your obstacle with a bravery you just didn’t know was possible. And, yes, it is that good. Mark Batterson has lassoed a beast many of us face, as we seek the courage to dream big dreams with God.

Mark Batterson is the author of a dozen books, including The Circle Maker, and the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. His innovative look at the definition of success will cause you to rethink your view of God’s work in your life.
I promise this book will make you stop in your tracks. Batterson says when we fail to step out of our comfort zones, we rob God of the glory He wants to showcase in our lives. When there is no problem to be overcome, there will be no miracle experienced, because we’re not fully relying on the Lord to do the unexpected. He says we’re called to chase opportunities and take risks for God’s best.
Are there any irrational fears and misconceptions that keep you from God’s best for your life? It’s time to reframe them.
Are there difficult circumstances you’re asking God to get you out of? It’s time to ask Him what He wants you to get out of them.
Is uncertainty rocking your faith? It’s time for your faith to embrace uncertainty. Batterson contends risk taking is at the heart of righteousness.
I chose to read this book because of the tagline: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars. Are there times when you feel like me, an opportunity is scarier than the potential? This book helps with that! Batterson provides tips to develop the skills needed for the path. Get your own copy today and go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention!
Sally
FTC disclaimer: “I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

Book Review: Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering

Sure Mercies

40 stories. 40 witnesses for the work of God through Christ. Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering highlights figures from the pages of history as well as present-day martyrs. Why is this an important book? When you’re hurting, it is a lonely place to be. Suffering feels isolated. The testimonies of others who suffered help us to see we’re not alone. They were victorious through God’s strength and we can be, too.

I started in the back with the Study Guide, and immediately liked Megan Vance’s style of writing. Her voice is easy on the ear, yet polished and carries depth of character. She describes Sure Mercies from the viewpoint of a hurting girl who connected with the cries of a hurting boy in the book of Psalms. She says David didn’t just memorize the Scriptures as a religious exercise, “he believed what they told him about Jehovah.”

And so this work continues to unfold accounts of those who believed God at His word, and stood for Him in unthinkable circumstances. William Borden gave up his family wealth to pursue missions among the Muslims of China. He died of meningitis. Corrie ten Boom came from Dutch descent and suffered in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. Richard Wurmbrand spent years in solitary confinement in Communist prisons. Nate Saint and his friends were murdered deep in the jungle of Ecuador by Auca Indians. Yet, in all of these lives, and more, they resolved to follow Christ knowing a life spared would not be worth a witness sacrificed.

Sure Mercies is a compilation of short stories that are tall on inspiration. They tell the back story of those who are part of “God’s chain of grace” extended across time. And they bring hope! Ever wonder if you would be resolute under trial? Megan prays, “Lord, we need not fear our own inadequacy, but only behold Your Son and His finished work. Thank You that He works as we merely yield our lives to Him.”

The Meditation Prayers lead us to remember our future is not our own. The faithful testimony of those within these pages will encourage us to remain steadfast in difficult times. And, as she remarks about Gracie Parker Rosenberger, “Watching Gracie, it’s easier to believe impossibilities can create abundant possibilities.”

Bravo to Megan Vance on a thoroughly researched, well recorded progression of God’s Message over the ages. It is a timely dose of encouragement for us all!

Sally

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Almost Home

On our return from Africa, our Mission Team flew into Toronto for the last leg of driving home to Jamestown, just south of Buffalo. The 17 hours of flight had only served to make us more homesick, as we longed for sweet sleep in our own beds.

Finally, with luggage gathered, tired bodies accounted for and vans retrieved, we settled in for the three hour drive home.

As we approached the Canadian/US Border, we noticed traffic slowing. And then it came to a standstill. We could see the flags of our own country, but could not advance to it.

photo

In these tumultuous days, we’re watching the effects of sin take a toll on our planet. War, hatred, abuse, the sex trade, people hungry for power, poverty, drought and all sorts of evil in between. And it makes us long for our Heavenly Home. Jesus said we would face trouble. But He also promised His presence would comfort and guide us. This is the time to stand firm and pray. When you hear the news, pray. When you see bad things happen, pray. And when you think you can’t take any more, pray.

Answers in Genesis opened their replica of Noah’s Ark on July 7. One of the first visitors was Bill Nye, who claimed children are being brainwashed. As I scrolled the comments of his supporters, I couldn’t believe the bashing toward Ken Ham (who happens to have the same name as one of Noah’s sons) and his Ark. And I wondered if that was just an inkling of the mocking Noah endured in his day. We are not home yet.

Our Heavenly Home is just over the horizon and our King is on His Return Trip. Stand firm; we’re almost Home.

What helps you stand firm? Leave a comment in the link just under the title, and I’ll send you 6 Tips for Talking to God.

Sally

We are not home yet

Teardrop

“What is home?”

Our class had a variety of answers; places remembered from the past, or an ideal set apart for our families.  But all I could think about was a feeling.  “You know that feeling you get on Christmas Eve?  When everyone’s in bed, asleep, and everything’s done that can possibly be done?  All that’s needed at that moment is to reflect on The Day to come, and gaze at the lights on the tree.”

That’s my picture of “home.”

Anne Graham Lotz talks about our heavenly home in The Vision of His Glory.  She says the glassy streets of gold will reflect God’s glory with every step that we take.  We will not only have access to the Presence of God (as the Israelites experienced through the priest entering the Tabernacle), but we’ll live in the Presence of God.

No, we are not home yet.  But Jesus is preparing it with painstaking detail, just like a mom would get ready for her college student to come home on break.  Anne reminds us that favorite meals would be prepared, activities planned and phone calls made saying, “My daughter is coming home!”

I can’t wait for my heavenly home!

Sally

Originally published at Sally’s Words

When All You Can Do Is Pray

Praying woman hands
Praying woman hands

Ever feel so helpless that you can think of nothing else to do to help a situation, except to pray? I’m task-oriented, and that means a task gives me purpose. But, what if my greatest purpose is to pray? Prayer is hard work. It is a discipline that harnesses the mind and will and channels it to seek God’s will. So, instead of prayer being the last resort, it becomes my first choice. 

Scripture is a great tool for prayer. It mobilizes and empowers prayers. For example, which prayers are more effective?
A. “Lord, bless Nate today.”
B. “Lord, enable Nate to know how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)
A. “Lord, be with Kenzie today.”
B. “Lord, may Kenzie know the truth of Your Word today and be reminded that You will never leave her or forsake her.” (Hebrews 13:5b)
A. “Lord, protect Anna today.”
B. “Lord, may Anna find refuge in You today. Carry her safely in Your everlasting arms. Destroy any evil intended for her.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)
In every A example, I am asking good things for my family. But the B examples help me to feel I’ve really been specific and gone to bat for them. One of the places I learned to be very specific in prayer was through Moms In Prayer, International. Moms In Prayer organizes moms to pray for their children and schools. And they have equipped countless families to build a strong foundation in God’s Word. It helped ours through some tough times, as well. Check out their website for more prayer tips.
As author, Mary DeMuth prompts, May I pray for you today?
“May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:17-19a) Amen.             In the comments section (located under the title), tell me what Scripture you will use to infuse your prayers today!
Sally


The Tweet-able Bible

Bible memory

Do you have a difficult time memorizing passages? I can work and work on committing a verse to memory, then go completely blank when it comes time to recall it. But I’ve found a 5 Step Method that helps me.

It’s easier to remember the context of a verse when you boil it down to the foundation. And that’s what happens when you tweet the text. Twitter allows 140 characters, your take on the passage is condensed to fit, and voila! You’ve got a Bible passage that’s planted in your heart and mind because you’ve taken it apart and applied it.

Here are some of my favorites:

True worship = total surrender. Romans 12:1-2

There is no flaw in God’s Word! Psalm 18:30

Am I once muddy, always muddy? No! I am washed, set apart & proven right in God’s sight! 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

And this, from a sermon my Hubby preached:

The 5 Step Method:

  1. Take the subject and verb, look for the affect they have on the topic.             God’s kindness leads us toward repentance. Romans 2:4
  2. Is there a cause & effect? Highlight that.                                                               When I put God first, He takes care of the rest. Matthew 6:33
  3. Can you bring out a formula?                                                                           Godliness + contentment = great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6
  4. Look for lists, characteristics or benefits.                                                              Sound judgment & discernment = life, safety, stability, lack of fear & sweet rest. Proverbs 3:21-24
  5. Is there a command, instruction or promise?                                                         Speak up! Proverbs 31:8-9

When a verse speaks to your heart, it becomes a beacon to a great truth the Lord wants to spotlight. Your task in tweeting it, is not to rewrite the verse, but to whet the appetite of your readers so they will want to read it for themselves. Add a link to the verse so it is easily accessible. I like www.biblegateway.com; others use www.bible.com. Have fun with it; it will bring light to your time with God in a refreshing way!

O Father, draw me! John 6:44

Sally @SallyJFerguson

Originally published at sallyswords


Bible Study Expo

Check out the Bible Study Expo on Thursday, August 20, featuring 12 authors:

– Liz Curtis Higgs with “It’s Good to be Queen”

– Pam Farrel with “7 Simples Skills for Every Woman”

– Sara Hagerty with “Every Bitter Thing”

– Kimberly Sowell with “The Thin Red Line Series”

– Danette Crawford with “Total Turnaround”

– Sheryl Pellatiro with “Fearless Faith”

– Stephanie Olson with “Jesus is Passing By”

– Mindy Ferguson with “Moses”

– Jessie Seneca with “Joseph”

– Kathy Howard with “Embraced by Holiness”

– Carey Scott with “Untangled”

– Marnie Swedberg with “Flow Through Vessel”

The Expo is 100% free and online, catch it while it happens, or come back to dig in later. I have found this exercise to be very helpful in picking out resources for our study groups, as well as for networking.

How about you? Are you looking for your next study for Fall?

Sally


Book Review: Your Family in Pictures

Your Family in Pictures

Me Ra Koh has successfully documented a way to equip moms to capture timeless moments. Photography was a catalyst for healing in her own life, and she advocates it as a way to empower women as they carry camera in hand. Me Ra says, “To impact a mom’s life is to impact the whole family.” (p. ix)

Not only does Me Ra Koh bring in tips for setting up photo ops with active kids, she cultivates family connections. She says to avoid a photo pose, (“Refuse to say cheese.”) and instead, look for a moment to capture. Her examples are so personal and practical, the reader takeaway is immediate. The author answers the question of “What’s in it for me?” with tips for individual shots, lighting recipes and aperture settings. Me Ra Koh gives hands-on advice for setting up a photo and locking in the emotion of the moment.

As a writing mom, I appreciate the journaling prompts provided. They jumpstart memories that later translate into scrapbooking slogans, adding to the legacy of that family moment captured in time. Koh also spins a tale, as in capturing the magic of bedtime: “…day’s adventures finally come to an end and dreaming begins.” (p. 46)

Wonderful book. Visually appealing. And great life applications found within!

Sally

 Disclaimer: “I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”
Get your own copy!

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