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Archive for the ‘Pondering Biblical Truth’ Category

4th of July

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, I want to encourage you to not overlook the freedom that Jesus Christ offers us, that He purchased on the Cross.

Jesus on cross

If anyone knows HTML, please teach me how to add space between paragraphs and lines! And how to remove the bracket that is not in the source code! 

 

“And you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free”
from . . .

the consequences of sin – Isaiah 1:16-19; Romans 3:24; 1 John 1:9

the power of sin – Romans 7:15—8:2; 1 John 5:3-4

worry about financial problems – Psalm 34:8-9; Matthew 6:31-34; Philippians 4:19

limitations that negate – Isaiah 40:29-31; 2 Corinthians 19:8-10; Ephesians 3:16,20; Philippians 4:13

aloneness – Psalm 9:10; 54:4; 139:1-5; Revelation 3:20

discouragement – Psalm 9:10; 42:11; 138:3; Romans 10:11; Galatians 6:9; Hebrews 11:1

fear – Psalm 34:4; 91; 118:6-7; Isaiah 43:1-5

wondering why – Isaiah 30:20; Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; 4:8-11

wanting to give up – Psalm 27:14; 42:11; Habakkuk 2:3; John 15:5; Romans 8:35-37; 2 Corinthians 8:10-12; Colossians 1:29

feeling inadequate – Psalm 34:9; 81:10; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Philippians 4:13; 2 Timothy 1:6-8

feeling separated from God – Psalm 139:7; 145:18; Romans 8:38-39; James 4:8-10

weakness – Psalm 18:29,32; Isaiah 40:29-31; Habakkuk 3:19

feeling unloved – John 3:16; Ephesians 3:18-19

doubts – John 14:12-14; 16:24; 17:19

inner turmoil and confusion – Psalm 37:11; Isaiah 26:3-4; John 14:27; 16:33; Philippians 4:6-7

impatience – 2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 5:22-23; Hebrews 10:36

uncertainty – Psalm 32:8; 37:34; 119:105; Proverbs 3:5-6; Habakkuk 2:3;
John 8:12; Galatians 5:16; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; James 1:5-8

feeling useless and untalented – Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Ephesians 4:7,11-12; 1 Peter 4:10-11

the power of the enemy – Ephesians 6:10-17; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Peter 5:8-10

sorrow – Psalm 43:5; Isaiah 25:8; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Revelation 7:17; 21:4

not knowing how to pray – Romans 8:26

being down on ourselves – John 17:19; Romans 5:1-2; Philippians 1:6; 3:12-14; Jude 25

feeling like our future is hopeless – Psalm 32:8; 73:22-24; Proverbs 23:18; Isaiah 55:8-9; Jeremiah 29:11-13

feeling overwhelmed by problems and burdens – Psalm 55:22; 68:19; 146:8; Matthew 11:29-30; Romans 5:3-5; 8:31-32; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 5:7

being intimidated by temptations – 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 2:18; 4:15-16

fear of failure – 1 Chronicles 28:20; Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 16:3

defeat – Psalm 118:14; 1 Corinthians 15:57-58; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:8-9

depression – Psalm 118:24; 139:6-12; Isaiah 46:4

hesitancy to give – Proverbs 3:9-10; 28:27; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 2:4; 1 Peter 5:2

rejection – John 6:37; Jeremiah 33:25

unfulfilled yearnings – Psalm 37:4; 107:9; 145:19; Ecclesiastes 5:7; Isaiah 44:3; Matthew 7:7; John 6:35; 7:37-39; 15:5; 16:24; Revelation 22:17

ignorance – Psalm 16:7; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Colossians 2:3; 3:16

fear of sharing our faith – Matthew 10:19-20; Luke 21:14-15; Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:8

never-ending frustrations, struggles, plodding – Joshua 22:5; Psalm 37:34; Romans 12:11; 2 Corinthians 6:4-10

being overwhelmed when our faith is weak – 2 Timothy 2:13

anything else that would put us in bondage – 1 Peter 5:7

Compiled by Marlene Bagnull

If anyone knows HTML, please teach me how to add space between paragraphs and lines! And how to remove the bracket that is not in the source code next to the picture of Jesus on the cross. Meanwhile, this paragraph is supposed to be there but isn’t.

Yes, Father, I need to read – again – the verses about patience.

 

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If you were at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference two weeks ago, you probably heard me pray for my five pin oak trees that have bacterial leaf scorch. Yes, I pray about everything! And yes, I believe God can heal my trees!

Of course, I’m concerned about the $10,000 (that we don’t have) that it would cost to take them down. But it’s much more than money that has created such a strong bond between me and trees. The story below was first printed in The War Cry and has been accepted for reprinting by Live.

Embraced by a Tree

Silver maple tree Ken Cook

Two immense silver maple trees in the front yard sheltered the house I lived in until I was fourteen years old. They were my special friends.

When my mother threatened to call the police to come and take me away because I was a “naughty little girl,” I’d run outside and lean against one of my trees. Its branches seemed to embrace me with a love that I never knew from either of my parents.

My father was constantly in and out of the hospital. He seldom talked to me. When he did, his words were like hammer blows to my already fragile self-esteem. The beatings from his large fists often sent me flying. Even more painful than the welts his hand left on my face, was the way Mother (she didn’t like me to call her Mom) never intervened. “It’s all your fault,” she’d say. “If you’d be good, this wouldn’t have to happen.” But it kept happening, again and again.

When my father got a blood clot in his leg, I remember Mother’s warning: “You’d better be good!  If you’re not, if you get your father upset, the blood clot can go to his heart and kill him.”

For weeks I tried to be very good, but I was gripped by the fear that I wasn’t good enough. I often mounted my bicycle, hoping to ride to the far end of the world. Instead, I’d end up at the forest preserve nearby where I’d walk deep into the woods. I never worried about getting lost. The trees of the forest were also my friends. When I heard that girls had been raped and murdered not far from my woods, I was frightened. But Mother knew where I was going and never stopped me. Doesn’t she care if something happens to me? I wondered.

My father died of a heart attack when I was ten. “You can be glad you were a good girl the last few days so you don’t have to feel guilty,” Mother said. But I knew I hadn’t been a good girl, and now it was too late. Perhaps she sensed my remorse.

“Give him a kiss and tell him you loved him,” she urged me as we stood before the open coffin.

I was terrified. “I can’t.”

“You can’t!  What’s the matter with you?”  Her voice and eyes were accusing. “People will think you didn’t love your father.”

“Mother, please. Please don’t make me,” I pleaded.

For the next year I had horrible nightmares. I begged Mother to let me sleep with her. Sometimes she gave in, but it didn’t help. I needed her to hold me and comfort me, but she always turned her back to me. I laid beside her wide awake, listening to her breathing and worrying every time its rhythm changed. Suppose she died too!

Mother remarried when I was fourteen. But life with my stepfather, Harry, was even worse. Why didn’t Mother tell him to leave me alone? But she didn’t, blaming me for the beatings and other abuse. I remember sitting under one of my trees all night, afraid to be alone on the streets and afraid to stay in the house.

On my wedding I had no regrets about moving a thousand miles away. When I became pregnant, I missed Mother. I was sure she’d come when my baby was born, but she didn’t.

A year later Mother was diagnosed with a mental illness. Even knowing that she probably couldn’t help the way she treated me, I continued to be hurt by the things she did.

When my thirteen-year-old half-sister came to live with us because Harry was sexually abusing her, Mother was angry at me for taking her “baby” away from her. She blamed me for breaking up her “happy home.”

When Harry died, Mother was on the verge of another breakdown. She was so confused she couldn’t even lock and unlock the front door of her house. Obviously she couldn’t live alone. I finally convinced Mother to come east. By then she was so mentally unstable that I had no choice but to put her in a mental hospital. Tests revealed that in addition to being bipolar, Mother had an illness similar to Alzheimer’s. Doctors urged me to put her in a personal care home. But I knew Mother could still function, with support, in an apartment. A geriatric counselor agreed and helped me to see what tasks could be done by others so I wouldn’t become consumed by Mother’s care.

Now the roles were reversed. I had to give Mother the things she failed to give me—attention, affection, love.

Mother, who signed my birthday card, “From Mabel,” complained about me to anyone who would listen. Unappreciative, mistrustful, she continued to reject me. Some days I wondered why I didn’t take the “easy” way out and put her in a home. Was I being a martyr? No, I concluded, I’m doing what I must do for my mother.

On Mother’s Day I didn’t want to be with her, but I couldn’t leave her alone in her apartment so I took her out to dinner. Mother complained about her potatoes. They were too cold. Her chicken was too done. She didn’t like the salad dressing. Nothing pleased her!

I remembered how Mother’s psychiatrist had recommended that I think of her simply as an old woman who needed my help. “Don’t think of her as your mother; call her Mabel.” His words didn’t help.

Once I visited a friend whose mother had Alzheimer’s. I watched Peggy comb her mother’s hair and give her a hug. Her mother smiled and kissed her cheek. Why can’t it be that way between me and my mother? I wondered.

“It hurts so much,” I told God one evening as I sat on my porch. I looked up at the tree in my backyard and wished I could draw comfort and strength from it as I did when I was a child. I remembered a fragment of a poem I memorized in school—something about only God being able to make a tree.

I thought of Jesus—how His hands and feet were nailed to a tree in order that my sins might be forgiven. He kept reaching for me when I kept rejecting Him, loving me when I was unlovable.

Suddenly I knew that because He first loved me, I could love Mother no matter how she treated me. “Love,” He reminded me “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (l Corinthians 13:7, RSV).

A gentle breeze stirred the beginnings of forgiveness within my spirit. “I want to forgive you, Mother,” I whispered. “I still love you.”

~ *~ * ~ * ~

My concern for trees continued at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference (CDs are available) where the lodgepole pines and aspen trees that were just leafing out were blanketed with 41″ of snow. I thought for sure many wouldn’t survive. But amazingly, the next morning, with the temperature only in the low 40s, they were standing straight and tall free of the snow that had weighed them down. “That’s because they are closer to the sun at the 8,000 some foot elevation,” I reasoned. Then I thought of the burdens that had  been weighing me down. “Stay close to the Son,” I felt Father speak to my spirit. “Then the burden won’t be too heavy.”

Snow CO 2017

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Faith rockThere are surely no coincidences with the Lord!

Well over a month ago, my pastor asked me to teach Sunday school April 23. “I’d like you to look at the issues around Thomas and his doubting,” Pastor Jay said.

Okay. I could do that. What I didn’t know was how much I needed to do that.

It’s taken the better part of today to pull together my thoughts. A good bit of that time I spent online watching videos of the events surrounding Jesus’ death and Resurrection. I felt the disciples’ pain when Jesus said He was leaving and their despair when He died.

Suddenly Jesus stood among them — alive! But Thomas wasn’t there. Despite the exuberant witness of his friends, Thomas insisted that he would not believe until he saw Jesus face-to-face — until he touched His wounds.

Why did Thomas doubt? I suspect he was too afraid to believe. What if his friends were mistaken? The risk of facing the Deadly Ds that had already threatened to destroy him was just too great. The pain of more disappointment, discouragement, and disillusionment was more than he could handle. It was easier to doubt than to believe.

Scripture assures us:

Those who believe in Christ will never be disappointed.
Romans 10:11 TLB

But do we believe it, really believe it?

Doubts are my frequent companion as I struggle to stay on top of the countless details of directing not one but two Christian writers conferences. I feel inadequate and fearful that I won’t be able to get everything done in time. Despite His faithfulness the past 33 years I’ve directed the Philly conference and the 20 years I’ve directed Colorado, I doubt not Him but myself.

Then once again I’m reminded of the first words I ever felt Him speak to my spirit:

Child, I never promised it would be easy to follow Me,
but I have promised always to be with you.

There are days I long to escape to a place where I have everything under control. But there really is no such place — at least not if I’m to follow where He leads. And such a place would be devoid of the joy of knowing His enabling to do what I can never do in my own strength. So I choose to keep on keeping on, fixing my eyes on Jesus my leader and instructor who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.

What about you? Will you give Him your doubts and step out in faith to do what He is calling you to do?

Lord, when doubts fill my mind,
when my heart is in turmoil,
quiet me and give me renewed hope & cheer.
Psalm 94:19 TLB

P.S. Tradition says that Thomas travelled to India where he established churches and was martyred for his faith. Click here for several powerful scenes from The Life of Jesus, The Gospel of John.

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They had believed He was the Messiah.
Leaving everything behind,cross-1448946__180
they followed Him.
The Kingdom of God
had seemed so real, so near.
He healed the sick,
fed the hungry,
calmed the storm at sea –
and in their hearts.
His words had given them life
and hope and purpose.
But now He was dead.
How could they have been
so mistaken, so misled?

Hiding in the room
where He had broken the bread
and passed the cup,
hopelessness and despair
closed in around them.
They laughed –
a cold, hard, bitter laugh –
when Mary said she had seen Him.
People didn’t come back to life
after dying on a cross.

Suddenly the darkness shattered
Jesus and Thomasat the sound of the familiar voice.
“Peace be with you.”
Jesus stood before them
not dead – but alive!
Light filled the room
and the darkness in their hearts.
Everything He had taught them
was true.
He was and is and shall be
alive – forevermore!

Christ is risen.
He is risen, indeed!

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Only Love

Jesus on cross

Despised and rejected.
Forsaken – it seemed,
even by His Father
who turned His face away,
Jesus writhed in agony,
His hands and His feet
nailed to a tree.

“They’re not worth it,”
Satan must have taunted.
“Come down from the cross.
Give them what they deserve.
Death – now
and for eternity!”

All of heaven’s armies
stood on alert – ready
to obey the Son’s command.
Would Jesus choose
to save Himself – or men?
Would He endure to the end?

Only love kept Jesus on the cross
knowing only His blood
could set men free.
“It is finished!” He shouted.
Sin and death no longer reign.
Christ has won the victory!

Marlene Bagnull

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No Other Way

Jesus in Gethsemane

But Father,

is there no other way?

I can go to the Cross,

yet there is no guarantee

My sacrifice will make

any difference.

Even though I pay the price for sin,

and offer the gift of eternal life,

men are reticent to change.

They may reject the gift I offer.

I may suffer in vain.

And yet, Father, if there is but one

who will come to You

as a result of My shed blood . . .

Father, I give myself to Your plan

for the redemption of mankind.

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Today we remember how Jesus rode into Jerusalem as the crowds cheered, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Yet less than a week later they shouted “Crucify him!”

Jesus entering Jerusalem

None of this caught Jesus by surprise. Indeed, we’re told in Hebrews 12:2 (TLB) that “He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards.”

Have you stopped to consider that you are the reason for His joy?

Years ago my pastor’s wife told me that if I was the only person on this earth, Jesus still would have come and died just for me.

We know that He is coming again but that He tarries because He does not want even one to be lost. And so He is calling you, He is calling me, to “Get His Word Out.”

An outline of this message – really a Bible study that I’ve given several times as a keynote – is available online. I hope you’ll download it and make time to prayerfully consider the passages. This week as you focus on Jesus’ passion, ask Him how He wants to use you to share His love with those who do not yet know He loved them enough to go to the cross.

Our story – One of the most powerful ways to reach those who do not yet know Jesus as Savior and Lord is through stories of our encounter with Him. If you live in the Lancaster, PA, area I encourage you to come this Tuesday morning to the workshop I’m teaching on “Writing the Personal Experience Story.” It’s also available on CD.

PE wksp


Reminder 
– The price for the May 17-20 Colorado Christian Writers Conference increases April 16. I know the Lord will meet us on the mountain and encourage and equip us to “write His answer.”

2017-co-banner-pines-and-mountains


Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference, July 26-29
 – 
I am rejoicing for the 52 agents, editors, and authors that Father has called to serve on the faculty. I’m beginning the process of updating the website and hope to open online registration April 17.

2017-gp-banner-to-use

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