Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Greater Love Hath No Man

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30

I don’t know about you, but I love Easter, even more than Christmas. Perhaps it has something to do with the purity in celebrating the resurrection versus the almost total commercialism Christmas has become. (Though some have sought to do the same with Easter.) Maybe it’s because I feel the renewing of my spirit as I celebrate Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, much like nature is reborn each spring.

Easter is a time for Christians to explore whether their lives conform to the image of Christ. How do we do that? By embracing the fact that it’s our destiny.

God has predestined us to fellowship with Him and do His Kingdom work. But how is this possible, when sin and our own self-focus often interfere? There’s only one way—through the cross.

Jesus’ earthly life and ministry culminated on the cross for our salvation. This was the central focus of everything He did. He loves us that much! (John 15:13). One could say His destiny was the cross. Yet, in order for His death to mean anything, He had to choose it.

God created us with free will to choose our own path. Once we encountered the cross and became Christians, we were no longer our own. Because of this, every decision we make reflects Christ to the world.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 

Christianity means living much deeper and broader than ourselves. We must never forget what an awesome and enormous responsibility it is to carry the name of Jesus.

The cross was costly. When Jesus was resurrected, an enormous price had been exacted on Him. He bore the wages for our sin. This Sunday, when we celebrate His resurrection, take a moment to consider that cost. It’s easy to become complacent in the politically correct society we live in, when faced with moral and social issues, and forget the price of our redemption. We have been “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

Are we willing to take up the cross of Christ and the cost it encompasses? Consider these thoughts from Jim Elliot, a martyred missionary:

“We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the twentieth century does not reckon with. But we are "harmless," and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are "sideliners" -- coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh, that God would make us dangerous!”

Amen!

When you analyze your life, does it resemble the world or the cross? For Jesus, it was all about the cross. As we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior on Easter morning, can we say the same?


It was all about a man
It was all about a cross
It was all about the blood that was shed
so I would not be lost
It was all about the love
That was bigger than a life
It was all about a freedom that was given
through your sacrifice
'Cause you would rather die
than to ever live without me
(by Jody McBrayer)

If you have a prayer request, leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you. Would you take a moment to lift up those who leave comments, as well as those on our prayer list at the top of the blog? Thanks! J

I pray you all have a beautiful Resurrection Sunday.

Shalom,
Laura

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

©Laura Hodges Poole

Cross image courtesy of luigi diamanti/freedigitalphotos.net 

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Precipice: When Everything We Know Ends - Author Interview

Today, I have the privilege of welcoming fellow Christian author, TC Avey, to discuss her newly released book, “The Precipice: When Everything We Know Ends.” I hope her honesty and passion about Christianity and where we’re headed spiritually and as a nation will inspire you. Information on how to order her book is at the end. Having read the book as her editor, I consider it one of the most eye-opening books for Christians on the market today. A collection of short stories with futuristic settings, most are plausible in our current world situation. Following each short story is a list of discussion questions and reality checks to help the reader explore their own belief system. This book would make a great small group or Bible study resource.

Welcome, TC. First, I’d like to ask what led you to write “The Precipice?”

One day I sat in church and wondered how I would react if someone threatened my life if I refused to recant my belief in Christ. Honestly, I’m not sure how I would react. I’d like to think I’d be brave. Men and women die for Christ every day, but I’m not so sure I’m that strong. Living in America, I feel safe. But I cannot assume I will always have the right to “freedom of religion.”

What would I do?

That question plagued me. Especially as I read more and more news stories forcing me to believe such a reality isn’t as far fetched as many would like to believe. With these thoughts in mind, I sat down and wrote my book.

Your book leaves people with a great deal to mull over. What do you hope people will take away from reading your stories?

I hope they realize life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not guaranteed. Not for Americans or citizens of any nation. The only One who can keep such a promise is God.

2 Cor 3:17 tells us, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

God does not lie. Therefore, it is imperative people build their lives—hopes, dreams, everything—upon Him. A shallow relationship with Him will have difficulty standing when the winds of adversity blow like a tornado (Matt 7:24-29). Only those with deep roots will thrive (Matt 13:1-22).

One must begin today to place their trust in Christ alone.

Why do you think some Christians are hesitant to discuss ‘end times’?

There’s no simple answer to this. Each person is different. But in general, I think part of it is fear—few like thinking the world is going to end—and part is lack of knowledge. The Bible has numerous Scriptures about the End Times, but there’s no formula for cracking when it’s going to happen. The Bible says only God knows the hour He will return for His children.

Also, there’s great debate within the Christian community about WHEN Christ will call His children home—how much pain and suffering we will endure at the hands of the anti-Christ.

Despite all this, I believe it is vital Christians acknowledge the world will one day end. I have no clue when that time will be. But I can trust God and follow what I believe He is revealing to me in His Word. Each person must read His Word, not trust someone else to tell them what it says. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter when He comes, all that matters is that His Bride is ready and carrying out His work—the Great Commission.

We need to stop worrying, and arguing, among ourselves about issues such as pre-tribulation vs. post-tribulation and focus on sharing the Gospel with the Lost.

Our lives are not our own. We were purchased at a price. It’s time Christians begin realizing this and go about their Father’s business.

How did you research the Reality Checks in your book?

The Reality Checks are short summaries of Modern Events transpiring around the globe. Some regard technology, while others focus on infringements of people’s rights, and others tell about persecuted Christians.

I have a few sources I trust and read on a regular basis. But I don’t take what they say at face value. I try to have two-three sources back up any story. I especially like when I can get sources from opposing “sides” telling a story, not only is that interesting, but it paints a more complete picture.

The references I used are at the end of my book. If you go through them, you will discover even more references and newer stories about these events.

Knowledge, technology, civilizations, and news stories are ever changing. One must make an intentional effort to stay up-to-date or they will be swept away by others who are “in the know” and are navigating the winds of change to their advantage.

The only thing that never changes is God.

How can people get more involved with current events?

Be intentional. Few have the time, or desire, to be informed about the world around them. Also, it can be VERY difficult to know who to believe. Media bias and flat out lies can make it confusing and frustrating. I encourage people to find someone in the media they trust and listen/read that person. When they discuss something you find interesting, don’t just take off with it. Make the effort to look into it further. At least, get it backed up by one other source.

How do you recommend people do research?

As I mentioned above, take the time to read a story from a few different sources. When stories provide links, follow those links. Go back to the original source whenever possible. Like the Bible, you must go to the source and not let anyone else interpret something for you. When reading a history book, whenever possible, read the original (or as close to it as you can get) documents and not a publication that professors have built upon year after year—slowly and gradually distorting original meaning.

TC Avey is a Christian devoted to God, family, and friends. She is passionate about encouraging Christians to live a life dedicated to Christ as well as helping them understand the importance of preserving our national freedoms through knowledge and love. She blogs at Wisdom of a Fool. You can also follow her on Twitter. Her book, The Precipice: When Everything We Know Ends, is available for $2.99 on Amazon. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Chaos, Troubles, and a Promise

“Troubles surround me, chaos abounding, my soul will rest in You, I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm, my help is on the way, my help is on the way…Oh, my God, He will not delay, my refuge and strength always, I will not fear, His promise is true, my God will come through always, always.”~Kristian Stanfill, singer/songerwriter (from the song “Always”)

I’m sure many of us could claim this as our theme song. Troubles around me, but I will not fear the storm. My help is on the way. I love that thought. Or as the Apostle Paul said, God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

Chaos is defined as complete disorder and confusion. Storms and trials come, and my schedule gets disrupted on a daily basis, but regardless of how busy my life is, one thing I detest and try to avoid is chaos.

We don’t have to give in to confusion and disorder the enemy tries to create in our minds and lives. It’s possible to have troubles and still have spiritual peace. You’ll find this peace residing inside God’s will through prayer and Bible study.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

This past week was one of those times when chaos tried to invade my life, though my reaction to the specific adversity was tame in comparison to my college classmates. I’m in the midst of training for a medical coding certification, which is tough in and of itself, given the ever-changing healthcare environment. Toss in a major revision for a new diagnostic code system, ICD-10, by the World Health Organization, and it gets interesting. The certification track I’m on is the first to train strictly on the new codes. Millions of dollars have been spent by the healthcare industry to make the switch.

Many countries worldwide have adapted since the 1993 mandate. Yes, you read that correctly. This has been in the works for more than twenty years, and most of Europe and other parts of the world have made the transition. Of course, not the United States, where everything is delayed ad nauseam due to bureaucratic red tape. Each time a deadline is set, lobbyists and the government find a way around it. This time, with only six months to the switchover, Congress inserted a one sentence delay into a 3,000-page bill a week ago Friday, the Senate passed it last Monday, and the President signed it into law on Tuesday. Ironically, I don’t recall a time in recent history when they’ve acted so quickly on anything. Those of us on the ICD-10 track will have to back up and learn ICD-9, if we want to obtain our certification and find a job within the next two years. No one knows exactly how this will play out logistically, because of the confusion created on so many levels. One thing perfectly clear is added expense and time for everyone industry-wide.

I’ll admit spending more money, being in class through most of the summer, and dealing with government interference were not at the top of my fun list. Especially when my overload meter has been pointing red for a while now. But I take comfort in the fact that God knows all. Nothing that happens in my life catches him by surprise. “His promise is true, my God will come through always, always.”

I don’t have to let troubles turn my life into chaos. That is a conscious choice. I only have to lean on God’s strength to see me through. He’s never let me down yet. I don’t anticipate him doing so now.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7

Praise God!

What adversity are you dealing with today? I’d love to pray for you. Please leave a comment so others can pray, as well, or e-mail me confidential requests. 

Prayer request from Betty: Her Uncle Jerry has been fighting cancer for months. A couple of weeks ago, he found out his liver had no sign of cancer, but he then had to be hospitalized due to leg swelling. The cancer has spread to his bones, and he is going downhill fast. Betty is not sure of his spiritual state. She wants prayer for his healing and salvation.  

While you’re here, would you take a moment to pray for Betty's request and lift others up in prayer? The permanent prayer list is at the top of the blog. Thanks! J

God bless you all,
Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole

Coming Friday: An interview with Christian author T.C. Avey. Among my recent projects is a book I edited that T.C. wrote. “The Precipice: When Everything We Know Ends” is a collection of short stories with futuristic settings, though most are plausible in our current world situation. Following each short story is a list of discussion questions to help the reader explore their own belief system. This book would make a great small group or Bible study resource. This Friday, she’ll discuss the book and some of the impetus for it. Meanwhile, why don’t you check out her blog, "Wisdom of a Fool," as well as her book on Amazon? If you enjoy reading her work, will you consider showing your support by purchasing her book? Thanks!

"The Precipice: When Everything We Know Ends," available for $2.99 on Amazon.

“World” image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Stormy weather” image courtesy of dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Sweet Sunset” image courtesy of samuiblue/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“The Precipice” courtesy of TC Avey

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Beside Quiet Waters

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Psalm 23:1-3 

I discovered something recently. A clock ticks louder in a quiet room than in a room bustling with activity. J Not really. It only seems that way when I lie down to take a nap. You see, my office is in our guest room. I often nap there because it’s convenient. The clock on the wall is battery operated, and while I’m working, I don’t hear it. As soon as I lie down, the noise is deafening.

Dixie chilling
Do you ever think about God’s patience for humanity? In particular, his Christian children? I know there are probably times when he sees me rushing about from one commitment to another, always busy doing something, and wishes I’d slow down. I purposely carve out time in my schedule to spend in prayer, but is it enough? Sometimes I kind of feel like my dog, Dixie, who’s gone on to her perpetual rest. J She used to lie in the grass, with the wind blowing through her fur, enjoying the sounds of nature and life bustling around her. Eventually, her head would sink to rest on her paws as she snoozed on a sunny day. But the minute we threw a ball in the air, she’d be up on her feet, back in the fast lane chasing balls.

I’ve noticed when I’m chasing balls, I don’t hear the clock tick. I miss God’s quiet voice in the stillness of the day. How often does he whisper, “Be still, and know that I am God.”? Psalm 46:10a

But even more disconcerting is when we feel God’s silence when we seek him. Going through trials can be quiet, agonizing, and seemingly create distance between God and us.

Whether you’re rushing around, missing a chance to experience God’s refreshing stillness or yearning to hear his voice in the midst of your pain, never doubt his presence. Within the quiet place of our soul—where our deepest hurts lie—God meets us. And sometimes, we experience his greatest gifts while dwelling with him there.

“It is in the quiet crucible of our personal private sufferings that our noblest dreams are born and God’s greatest gifts are given in compensation for what you’ve been through.”~Wintley Phipps

How can you see this manifesting itself in your own life? Do you need more quiet time to fellowship with God—or more God in your quiet sufferings? Either way, he's there to comfort and dwell with you. He will refresh your soul and answer your prayers according to his perfect time and will.


Wintley Phipps - It Is Well With My Soul (From Bill Gloria Gaither Live)

How may I pray for you? Please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. While you’re here, would you lift up those who leave comments, as well as those on the prayer list at the top of the blog? Thanks! J

God bless,
Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole


Stream image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/mapichal. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Doing The Rarest Thing In The World

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”― Oscar Wilde

It’s not every day you’ll find me quoting Oscar Wilde, but in this instance, his words make perfect sense.

I’ve blogged before about my approach to life and how growing up in a large family, where perhaps death and tragedy seem more common, has a lot to do with my sense of urgency toward life. I over commit, have trouble telling people no, and loathe wasting time. To merely exist is unacceptable. Is this necessarily a bad thing?

I have six siblings, so my parents’ home overflows when we’re all there at the same time with our children and grandchildren. My dad has fourteen siblings, so an extended Hodges family reunion has well over a hundred people, though empty spots exist from each generation. My aunts and uncles are well into their 70s and 80s (one just turned 90), yet many passed away young, and the trend has remained into my generation.

Cemetery on my return visit in 2011
My earliest childhood memory is trudging through a cemetery in the late 1960s, my little legs straining to keep up with the adults and older children, as infant twins were buried in tiny coffins. I hadn’t even started school, and the enormity and finality of death were thrust upon me. Life is so different now where parents go to extremes to shield their children from the natural process of dying. We’re doing our kids a disservice.

But I digress.

My point is that as I’ve watched the young and old alike pass from this world to the next, I’ve often heard the phrase “life is short.” And it is. Just in the past decade the number we’ve lost in my family is in the double digits, most relatively young, some my age or younger. We treasure our reunions and don’t take a single one for granted. We understand when we hug each other good-bye, it may be for the last time.

My dad and his siblings
(George in background)
My cousin George, a pillar of the Hodges family, and his wife Sabrina have hosted the reunion for years on their sprawling property graced by a beautiful wood home with a porch that wraps around the entire house. It’s a serene environment that bustles with activity for the day and then winds down to a quiet evening for the handful staying overnight. My husband, kids, and I have been in that handful relaxing on the porch, watching the sun set, and eating peanut butter pie. One year, we enjoyed a thunderstorm after sunset. We reveled in the thunderclaps and rain since we were in a severe drought back home in South Carolina.

George talking with Josh
(Sabrina in red shirt in background)
George once spent more than an hour at the end of this long day talking with my son Josh about being a police officer. A couple years later, Josh shared that he’d chosen to become a firefighter instead. George and Sabrina listened with rapt attention and asked questions about his training and future. I’ve encountered very few people who listen like that, especially to kids. They have a passion for kids, evidenced by the fact that George was a school resource officer for years until he retired last year, and Sabrina is a school principal.

Playing a water game in the hot
July weather in Florida
Hodges are headstrong and often set in our ways but passionate about our beliefs and how we treat others. As apparent is the urgency with which we live. So after New Year’s, the family starts anticipating the reunion on Fourth of July weekend in Hilliard, Florida. The family is so extensive and spread out around the country that this year we even have a FB page to make sure no one gets left out. 




The reunion was part of my exchange with George on my birthday almost two weeks ago on Facebook. 

A little more than twelve hours later, George began suffering strokes and was airlifted to a hospital in Jacksonville in critical condition. I was dumbfounded when I heard. This was unfathomable. I couldn’t believe it, yet at the same time, I could. Life is fragile. We fool ourselves on a daily basis by thinking otherwise.

Yet, we know who holds each day in His hand. Nothing dumbfounds God or catches Him by surprise. We simply have to make the most of each day in service to Him, and trust Him for the future.

No one holds the golden ticket to immortality on this earth. Our only hope for living forever into eternity is through the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Each week I ask if you have a prayer request you’d like to share. This week, I’d like you to pray for George and Sabrina, his elderly mother, siblings, and children. Pray specifically for George’s recovery and wisdom for his medical team as they make decisions for his future.

How may I pray for you? Please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

God bless you all,

Laura


©Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Escaping Life's Superficial Trap

“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young.” Psalm 84:3a   

How do you like the photo of my little friends on the left? Their mama and daddy built this nest anticipating their arrival. The nest was intricately constructed with beautiful flowers, moss, grass, and twigs. It’s in a precarious place atop my porch light, but apparently, the birds feel safe because they return every spring to make a new home. Only when the front door opens do they flee, shrieking in terror that “something” almost got them. 
 
The birds start singing every morning around 3:00 a.m. when they imagine the first hint of daylight. I say imagine because it’s still pretty dark to me. 

“In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3

One of the first things I realize upon awakening is the blessing of another day. I envy the bird’s ability to sing this to the world each morning. Often before I’m even fully awake, I began to talk to God about the day ahead. 

Sometimes humans dwell in an apparent safe place. We’ve created our perfect nest lined with beautiful things, content until something threatens our earthly trappings. While we shriek about superficial terror, we often hit the snooze button when it comes to spiritual threats.

Which would matter more?
     If my electricity were off for 24 hours or my access to God denied for 24 hours?
     If I lost my car keys or lost my Bible?
     If I were denied a promotion or a family member refused salvation?
     If the baseball game I attended went to extra innings or Sunday morning church service ran late?

The things we consider important in this temporal life are often nothing more than superficial security blankets. In fact, they may even have us in bondage. Just like the birds, we often repeat our mistakes while believing "this" time we'll be safe, when the only true security we have is inside the will of God.

The bird’s nest, which was so beautiful in the spring, deteriorated after it served its purpose. By autumn, it no longer existed. Likewise, our only lasting treasures are stored up in heaven for eternity (Matthew 6:20).

What earthly thing or situation has you trapped? Or perhaps is threatening the work God has called you to do? God already knows about it. He’s just waiting for you to ask for help.

If you have a prayer request, leave it in the comment section below or e-mail me confidential requests. My contact info is under the heading marked “Talk to Me.” I’d love to pray for you!
 
God bless,
Laura
 
©Laura Hodges Poole

Revised post from archives—originally published June 6, 2012.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Are You Turning Stones to Bread?

“The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Matthew 4:3 

In our quest to faithfully serve God, the danger is in becoming too involved in worthy causes that detract from our individual ministry purpose.

Feeding the hungry is a good thing, but has God called you to spend several hours a week in a soup kitchen? Serving the homeless is a noble cause, but has God called you to volunteer at a homeless shelter?

After Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness following his baptism, he was hungry. The first thing Satan tempted Jesus with was food. Turning stones to bread would have not only solved Jesus’ hunger but many others. Surely he was sympathetic to the needy in his community. Yet Jesus refused Satan’s offer.

Jesus didn’t lack empathy for the hungry. Throughout the Gospels, we see examples of Jesus feeding thousands rather than sending them on their way after he preached. But eradicating hunger in the world wasn’t Jesus’ ministry.

Satan will present service opportunities, which are charitable, yet divert from a more important ministry in that moment. If we’re not careful (or prayerful), we’ll jump at every opportunity to serve, even if it diminishes our capacity to fulfill the role God called us to.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.” Matthew 13:24b-26 

The flower on the right is a daucus pusillus or, in lay terms, Wild Carrot or Rattlesnake Weed. According to legend, it can be used as a poultice for a rattlesnake bite. Weeds serve as food in the animal kingdom. Like many weeds, this one produces a beautiful flower.

Weeds can be beautiful or even beneficial while at the same time destructive. Left unchecked, they choke out vital crops for man. The same is true when we participate in activities, however worthy, when we’re called to do something else for that season in our life.

The purpose of the enemy sowing weeds is to reduce the Kingdom harvest.

Are you busy turning stones to bread while the enemy sows weeds in your ministry field? Is the Kingdom work you were called to do getting your leftover time and talent?

If you feel overworked, overcommitted, or stressed, ask God for clarity in your ministry. Perhaps you’re right where He wants you for spiritual growth. Perhaps not. He might point you in a different direction.

How may I pray for you today? Please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. My contact info is under the heading above marked “Talk to Me.” While you’re here, would you lift up those who leave prayer requests, as well as those on the prayer list at the top of the blog?

God bless,
Laura

© Laura Hodges Poole 

Stones image courtesy of suphakit73/freedigitalphotos.net. 

Post from archives—originally published May 29, 2012.