The Donkey and the Well…and a little Dolly too

I am sure that most people have heard the story about the donkey who was stuck in a well and how he overcame his dilemma in a most interesting way. Whether it is true or not, this story has such a powerful message.

One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well.

The animal cried for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it  just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well.

At first, the donkey didn’t realize what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement, he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down into the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel ­of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing.

He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take another step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off..!!!

If we want to be a success at living a happy life, we are going to have to learn what valuable lessons the donkey can teach us. His message is pretty obvious…life is hard and people are not always going to lift us up or see our value and worth. As a matter of fact, they will throw a little dirt on us occasionally – maybe often!

Let me tell you today that you ARE valuable! You are so valuable that God gave His only Son to die in order to save you.

(AMP) Romans 8:32 He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things?

One thing that I thought was interesting about this story was the very last line where it says that the donkey happily trotted off. He didn’t walk away from his ordeal sad and feeling downtrodden because the farmer and his neighbors had the nerve to try and do away with him. No, when he shook off the dirt, he also shook off the offense. He might have come out of that well alive, but broken (in his spirit) because of what he had gone through at the hands of others.

Let me encourage you today, to shake off the offenses the world lays at your feet. We cannot help or change what people do. It does absolutely no good to try and reason it out saying, “Why did this happen to me?” We may never know the answer to that question. Trying to figure that out only results in you standing still, letting life pass you by, and allowing more dirt to pile on top of you. Let it go, shake it off, it doesn’t really matter why – the important thing is not to get mired down in self-pity. Don’t let one bad experience (or even a lifetime of them) dictate your worth. God has a great life planned for you! Get up, shake off the world’s dirt, and say, “Here I am Lord, I’ll take it!”

This reminds me of a song by Dolly Parton, “Better get to Livin”! I love this song, it has a great message. You gotta love Dolly!

(I shared a Youtube link after the lyrics so you can listen to it too. ENJOY)

Better Get to Livin’

A girlfriend came to my house
Started cryin’ on my shoulder Sunday evening
She was spinnin’ such a sad tale
I could not believe the yarn that she was weavin’
So negative the words she had to say
I said if I had a violin I’d play.

I said you’d better get to livin’, givin’
Be willing and forgivin’
Cause all healing has to start with you
You better stop whining, pining
Get your dreams in line
And then just shine, design, refine
Until they come true

And you better get to livin’.

Your life’s a wreck, your house is mess
And your wardrobe way outdated
All your plans just keep on falling through
Overweight and underpaid, under appreciated
I’m no guru, but I’ll tell you
This I know is true.

You better get to livin’, givin’
A little more thought about bein’
A little more willin’ to make a better way
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Keep your chin up
Just hang tough
And if it gets too rough
Fall on your knees and pray
And do that every day
Then you’ll get to livin’.

The day we’re born we start to die
Don’t waste one minute of this life
Get to livin’
Share your dreams and share your laughter
Make some points for the great hereafter.

Better start carin’
Better start sharin’
Better start tryin’
Better start smiling
And you better get to livin’…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKeulwZ3sGE

God bless you!

Be Thankful for Everything Everyday

We don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving Day to be thankful. The Amplified Bible tells us in Ephesians 5:20 “At all times and for everything give thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus to God the Father.”

Being thankful should be a way of life for us as Christians.

I read a story once about a woman who lived in a third world country. She became very sick and she lived in an area where medical resources were severely lacking. She continued to grow worse and worse until finally she was bedridden and she knew that her illness could easily lead to the worst possible scenario. One day when once again no promise of medical help came, she laid in her bed staring hopelessly out the window. She began to pray, asking the Lord to send the help she needed.

Before long as she watched the white clouds scrolling by, she heard the Lord speak, “Give thanks before you receive!”  That seemed like a strange request to her, but she obeyed the voice she felt certain was the Lord’s.

All that day and throughout most of the night, she laid there thanking God for everything that came to mind. As she began to thank Him, more and more things seemed to come to mind – thanking Him for one thing lead to another and another and a task that she was sure would be a difficult one became effortless and easy.

The next morning, she woke up to the sunshine streaming in her window; without thinking, she jumped out of bed and went to the bathroom. She did not even realize what she had done until she went to the sink to wash her face. Staring at her reflection in the mirror, she suddenly realized she was no longer sick. As a matter of fact, she felt strong as an ox. She rejoiced in the Lord’s miraculous answer to her prayer.

The day before, she had prayed for the Lord to send her the medical help she needed, and He gave her an assignment, “Give thanks before you receive!”

Would she have received her healing if she had not obliged? Possibly… maybe her prayer would have been answered and medical help would have arrived. But, as she began to thank the Lord for everything she could think of, He answered her prayer supernaturally.

Now, I don’t know if God reacts the same way in every situation. He’s a very creative Father and cannot be confined to our limited imaginations. But, I do know that the assignment is the same in every person’s life – God wants us to be thankful, whether the situation we are in is good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant.

I believe there is much to be gleaned from this story. As we learn to live a life of gratitude (even before we feel that we have anything to be grateful for) God will bless your thankful attitude in ways you cannot imagine. The lady in our story only asked for medical assistance, God brought her complete healing.

Learn the habit of being thankful for everything every day. I believe if you do this, God will send amazing, unimaginable blessings your way!  And the practice of being thankful blesses your heart with joy in ways nothing else can.

 

Attitude – Conclusion

If we read on in the Old Testament’s account of the Israelites, we learn that God tried to lead them into the Promised Land. But, they were not allowed in because of their unbelief. Moses had sent twelve spies (one for each tribe of Israel) into Canaan in order to bring back a report about the land and the people who lived there. Here is an excerpt from the conversation in the Israelite camp after the spies returned:

Numbers 13:30-33 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.

31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.

32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.

33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

In order for the Israelites to enter the land, they would have to fight for it and take it from the current residents – who were actual giants (the sons of Anak were a people who were much larger in stature than most – for instance, Goliath was a son of Anak). The Israelites were afraid and refused to fight. Below is God’s reaction:

Numbers 14:26-32 And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,

27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.

28 Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:

29 Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward which have murmured against me.

30 Doubtless, ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.

31 But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.

32 But as for you, your carcasses, they shall fall in this wilderness.

They never lived the life that God had planned for them because they feared the giants. Notice what they said in Numbers 13:33 – “we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight”.

That is a very revealing statement. Not only were they like grasshoppers in the sight of the giants, but, more significantly, they were in their own sight as grasshoppers.

If we are to fulfill the will of God for our lives, it is vital that we have confidence – not as much in ourselves as in God! When we look at ourselves in comparison to our own personal giants (the problems or issues we are struggling to overcome), we may look and feel a lot like a tiny grasshopper. The problem with this point of view is that, as Christians, we should not be comparing ourselves to the giants in our lives; but rather, imagining how minuscule they are in God’s sight. And every time that grasshopper mentality kicks in and your giant comes to torment your mind, imagine yourself AND God fighting together to defeat it. God is on your side…you are not on that battlefield alone. He is standing with you.

We have an enemy who is daily trying to convince us to get discouraged, to live in fear, that life is not worth living, that it’s just no use, that we are no good, that God could never really love us, and on and on – his list of lies is endless.

The place God wanted for His people was called the Promised Land for a reason – it must be taken and conquered through the promises. God had vowed to take the Israelites into the land. If they had only believed His Words, they could have lived the life of abundance that He wanted for them.

The giants did not even have to pick up a spear or sword; they did not defeat the Israelites…their own fears did.

Our emotions are the BEST and the WORST of life. They can be a source of torment when we are listening to Satan, but when we learn to view life with God on our side, our days can be filled with the courage to try the impossible and to conquer the improbable.

Let’s develop a Caleb/Joshua mentality.

Numbers 13:30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it (the Promised Land); for we are well able to overcome it.

Numbers 14:6-9 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:

And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.

If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.

Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.

Notice how Joshua and Caleb said, “the people of the land are bread for us – their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us.”  They didn’t even call them giants; we need to choose our words carefully in speaking about our problems – don’t magnify them with words, magnify God instead.

What did he mean when he said that the people of the land (the giants) were ‘bread’ for them? What does bread do for our bodies? It nourishes and makes us strong. I think he meant that adversity can be beneficial, because once the swords are sheathed, the spears stashed away and the battle has been won, the lessons learned on the battlefield would prove invaluable. How do we learn for ourselves that God is faithful until we have a problem that only He can help us with? How does our faith grow if it’s never tested?

We will never truly gain confidence and trust in God until we go through the tough times with Him by our side – we will never know how faithful He is until we have been there on the battleground and witnessed firsthand what David said so poignantly, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me…” (Psalm 23:4).

We never learn how present He is until we are presented with a seemingly insurmountable problem. And we will find once the noise of battle is silent and the enemy has retreated that God truly IS faithful. We can then face the next one, and the next with increasingly more trust in Him – this is a confidence that we can never gain without that battlefield experience.

Joshua and Caleb also said, “their defense is departed from them” (Numbers 13:9). We (by faith) have already won before we ever reach the battleground. Satan has already lost. Jesus defeated him for us. Joshua claimed the victory before he fought the fight. Rather than looking at your problems from a grasshopper’s point of view, look at Who is on your side. And He has already won the battle. Let’s claim the victory before (and during) the fight.

In the words of Caleb, let’s go up at once (by faith in God’s Word) and take what has been given to us by Jesus. Satan has no right to keep OUR possession – let’s lay claim to ALL the promises of God (peace, provision, joy, victory, etc.).

Lord, please help us not to see ourselves as grasshoppers, but as groundbreakers and territory takers.

Copyright © 2017 (Sandra J. Briggs) All rights reserved.

Attitude – Part 2

In “Attitude – Part 1” we talked about how the Israelites were punished by God for not serving Him with joyfulness of heart and for their ingratitude regarding the miraculous things He had done for them (Deut. 28:47-48). He caused them to wander around in the wilderness; their lives were spent in futility and trouble. Yet, a land of abundance was only a short journey ahead.

Our Father wants us to live in that abundantly blessed place.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

John 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

The Promised Land (Canaan) was a blessed place which I believe is a foreshadowing of the abundant life that Jesus promised to all who would follow Him. It was a land of joy, fruitfulness, purpose, hope, and peace beyond anything this world has to offer.

However, it doesn’t mean that we will not have problems or pain. We have not been promised a perfect world without problems, but don’t despair….we may experience ‘the blessed life’ in spite of them – and THAT is where our attitude makes all the difference.

Jesus said:

John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me (in Christ) ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Jesus said, you will have tribulations in this life, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. In other words, when life brings disappointment and pain, He urges us to keep a good attitude and maintain our joy in spite of it. We have a choice or Jesus would not have told us to do something that we do not have the ability to do. Notice He says in John 16:33 that IN ME you can have peace. We may not be able to do this on our own, but in Him we can do all things (Phil. 4:13).

When our circumstances are not what we want them to be, it is not natural for us to feel joy and peace, but to worry and fear – however, we may draw on His power (that is in us because He is in us) and call His victory ours.

After all, He did not come into this world to live and die for Himself, but to live,  die, and to triumph over Satan and sin for us. And He has made it possible for us to claim His success as our own! We may trade our defeat for His victory…our sadness for His joy…our worry for His peace…our guilt for His righteousness, and on and on.

Jesus also told us:

John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled…

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

How could Jesus ask us to do this if it were not possible?

Let’s look at how Paul and Silas handled being beaten and imprisoned:

Acts 16:22-26 Then the multitude rose up together against them (Paul and Silas); and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.

Paul and Silas had been beaten severely and thrown in jail (they were in much pain, naked, cold, and in the worst area of the prison), yet they sang hymns and praised God.

It is no surprise that it was Paul who wrote:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Phil. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

It is not wrong to be tempted by worry, fear, despair, or any other negative emotion, but the problem lies in allowing these things to dominate and control us. Temptations come knocking, but don’t invite them in. As Christians, we are commanded to have faith in God. And even while circumstances are still undesirable, we can by faith begin to draw on the peace, joy, and power of Jesus.

I’m sure that when Paul and Silas were in that dark prison, hurting and bleeding, they did not FEEL like singing. In my mind, I think it went sort of like this:

  1. Out of sheer self-willed obedience, they started praying;
  2. Then they remembered the scripture Paul had written about ‘thanking God in all things’ (Eph. 5:20) and they began to thank Him through clenched teeth while wiping blood from crimson stained brows;
  3. The Holy Spirit’s unquenchable joy began to rise up on the inside of them;
  4. Hope showed up to conquer their fears;
  5. Peace began gently flooding their faltering souls;
  6. Soon, in that cold, dark dungeon, in spite of it all, Jesus placed a song in their hearts that they could not help but sing;
  7. And sing it, they did! And God (knowing their pain) heard their prayers and praise and was so pleased that He shook the foundation of that prison to set them free from their bondage.

Satan wants to imprison us in dark despair, fetters of fear, chains of discouragement, in jails of joylessness and dungeons of depression. And it’s so easy to think that God has left us and forsaken us in our dark places. But, I challenge you… don’t STAY there.

The Promised Land is a place where we hold on so tightly to the promises of God that even before the jail cells are unlocked and the doors creak open, our minds and our hearts have already escaped Satan’s oppression and we are living in the glorious freedom Jesus died to give us.

However, if we choose to complain and remain in that joyless place of ingratitude, we may find ourselves (like the Israelites) wandering aimlessly and futility through life – physically free, but mentally and spiritually bound by our unchecked emotions.

It does not have to be that way. You can choose.

  1. Choose to pray at all times about everything;
  2. Choose to believe God’s promises more than your circumstances (find appropriate verses that address your issue and make them your own by rehearsing and speaking them out loud with thanksgiving);
  3. Choose to trust that God hears and that He cares and is working in your life;
  4. Choose to praise Him in spite of the problem;
  5. Choose to sing even though you feel like sighing;
  6. Choose to thank Him when your heart is crying;
  7. Choose to believe that He’s faithful when you feel forsaken;
  8. And you CAN choose to walk (by faith) in the joy and peace that He has placed on the inside of you (through His Holy Spirit Who lives IN you).

You see, we have it so much better than the Israelites did in the Old Testament – we have Jesus on the inside of us (if we have accepted Him as Lord). Jesus had not yet died and had not come to live on the inside of them like He has the New Testament saints.  But, like Paul and Silas who tapped into that power living within themselves as they chose to pray and praise, we too can have the victory over our circumstances and our emotions. There’s something about praise and thanksgiving that sets us free.

Make Steps 1 – 8 above a daily practice. I believe that as we do this, God will rock and rattle the foundations of Hell to release His children from Satan’s grip.

God bless you abundantly my friends!

Copyright © 2017 (Sandra J. Briggs) All rights reserved.

Attitude – Part 1

Exodus 16:2-3 And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Psalm 78:32-33 For all this they (the Israelites) sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works. Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.

God performed amazing miracles in order to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt and out of bondage. They watched as He brought the ten plagues upon the Egyptians, yet they remained untouched by any of them. They witnessed the parting of the waters at the Red Sea. Each day they were escorted by God’s manifested presence in a cloud and each night they were assured of His protection and presence through a pillar of fire. He fed them – angel’s food fell from Heaven every morning. He opened rocks and poured out streams of water in the wilderness for them to drink.

We read these Biblical accounts and we wonder how they could have been so hard-hearted…or should I say hard-headed? How could they have had trouble trusting in God to take care of them after all the miracles they witnessed Him perform on their behalf? For forty years they wandered around in that wilderness. Most of them never got it right – they died there and never saw the Promised Land that God wanted to take them into. Sadly, Psalm 78:33 tells us that “their days did He consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.”

They were certainly guilty of sins warranting a wilderness wandering – worshipping the golden calf, sexual orgies, unbelief, breaking God’s commandments, etc. These sins were easily recognizable; however, there was a less visible underlying transgression that was potentially the root cause of all the more obvious sins. Perhaps we would not even identify it as sin – the Israelites had a bad attitude. They were the most ungrateful, murmuring, complaining group of sojourners to ever set sandaled-foot upon the wilderness sod.

Every time things got a little difficult, what did they do? They whined; they spoke against Moses and Aaron; they wanted to go back to Egypt; they forgot about all the miracles that God had performed; they accused Moses (actually they accused God Himself) of bringing them out to the desert to let them die of hunger and thirst; they were so exasperating that they even angered Moses to such a degree that he sinned and was banned from the Promised Land as well.

Let’s look at a passage from Deuteronomy that I believe expresses just how seriously God considers the attitude of our hearts.

Deut. 28:47-48 Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and He shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until He have destroyed thee.

Deuteronomy, Chapter 28 is a description of the blessings for following God’s laws (vss. 1-14) and then the curses of failing to keep His commands (vss. 16-68). We have now (through Jesus) been redeemed from these curses (Galatians 3:13). However, the law is still relevant in our lives and the passage above clearly indicates how important it is to God that we keep a good attitude and a heart of gratitude.

We often do not view our bad attitude of unbelief, discouragement, worry, even depression or fear as sin. But, it is!

Paul tells us in Romans 14:23 that whatever is NOT of faith is SIN.

Romans 14:23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Unbelief, discouragement, worry, depression, and fear are certainly NOT of faith.

It is a “sin” to allow these things to dominate our heart and life because they reveal an ungrateful attitude and a failure to trust God for His best (ref. Deut. 28:47-48 above). God allowed the Israelites to be overcome by their enemies, to go hungry and thirsty and in WANT (they were never satisfied) simply because they did not serve Him with joy and were not grateful for the abundance of all He had provided.

God’s punishment is reiterated in Psalm 78:32-33. He allowed the unbelieving, complaining, ungrateful Israelites to spend their days in vanity and their years in trouble.

The idea that it is a sin to allow ourselves to be discouraged, to worry, be depressed, or simply to live a joyless Christian life is a foreign concept to most of us. We tend to think that as long as we steer clear of obvious sins like adultery, fornication, lying, stealing, etc. we are doing well – but God is just as concerned about how we handle our attitudes and our emotions.

Could our deficit of faith and lack of joy be the underlying cause of so many downtrodden, defeated Christians in the world today? It is clear from Deut. 28:47-48 and Psalm 78:32-33 that when we fail to trust in the Lord’s goodness and to serve Him with gratitude and gladness in our hearts, He will allow us to be overcome by trouble and vanity all the days of our lives.

To me, these scriptures make it very clear that God expects more from us, and that our ungrateful, joy deficient, unbelieving heart is possibly at the root of the vain, trouble-laden lives we are living?

But, life is hard and we are not promised that it will be easy nor without its trials and troubles – so how can a just God hold us accountable for these negative emotions when life gets difficult? Aren’t these emotions simply a natural reaction to trouble?

The truth is, even in the midst of trouble and trials, we are called to a higher standard of living. Let’s consider Jesus, Who is always our prime example: during His ministry, He didn’t even have a bed to sleep in most nights; He was ridiculed; He was rejected; all of His friends forsook Him when He needed them most; He was unjustly accused; He was beaten; He died the worst type of death known to man. Yet, even though He was constantly and fully aware of the suffering to come, He experienced more joy than anyone (Hebrews 1:9).

“Well yes, but He was Jesus!” you may say.

But, Hebrews 4:15 tells us this:

For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus experienced the temptation to be sad, to be worried, to be fearful, etc. He was touched with the same feelings and was tempted in all points as we are. He was faced with the same options and the same emotions and every time He chose RIGHT – He chose faith; He chose joy; He chose the correct attitude. Even in the garden of Gethsemane (in view of the cross) when sorrow threatened to overwhelm His soul, He chose courage and finished the work His Father sent Him to do.

We have been given the same options as He. We must CHOOSE how we will react – how we want to feel. We have the power to CHOOSE. And because we are renewed and reborn “in Him” we can choose right. Otherwise, God would never condemn, punish or hold us accountable for unbelief or for a lack of joy and gratitude – it would be unjust for Him to hold us responsible for something we have no control over.

I have much more to share on this in Part 2. Please check back for more.

Copyright © 2017 Sandra J. Briggs

In Christ

There are many scriptures in the Bible that use the phrase “in Christ”, and I found a good verse to illustrate this thought:

Ephesians 2:6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

Below is an excerpt from a post by Mission Venture Ministries about this verse.

“Our seating and reigning with Christ is a position of authority, honor, and triumph – not failure, depression, and defeat. God made the believer in Jesus Christ to be triumphant, because we are partakers of Christ’s victory over Satan.

For the believer, our seating with Christ is part of our inheritance now. The words “raised us up” in this verse is past tense, therefore, our position in Christ is already an accomplished fact.

When we realize our position in Christ, it makes a tremendous difference in our lives and we will no longer feel defeated.

We need to remember, however, that none of these things are possible on our own. It is only through our union with Christ that any of this is attainable. Our victory in the Christian life is dependent on our dependency on Christ and not on ourselves…”

Here is the full-length posting: https://missionventureministries.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/seated-in-heavenly-places-in-christ-jesus-ephesians-26/

So, to be “in Christ” means that we are joined to Him…and it is in that connection with Him that we have what HE has (joy, peace, love, victory, etc.). We have His victory because of our union with Him. We may not feel like we have these things, but we must not attempt to validate God’s Word by our feelings. Actually, feelings may take some time to line up with the truth (the Word). Our feelings can’t always be trusted – they are often the last to get in line with the truth of God’s Word. So, never let your feelings dictate what you believe.

To illustrate this further, here is another verse that tells us that we are indeed “like Christ” in this world.

1 John 4:17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world.

Ephesians 2:6 tells us that God has raised us up and we are seated with Christ in Heavenly places in Him. And 1 John 4:17 tells us that we are (now in this world) the same as He is (in Heavenly places).

Imagine this if you will – God our Father has lifted us up and seated us “with Christ” where He is right now (in Heaven). You are with Him in His place of victory…Jesus finished His work on the cross and took His seat of rest, so we are also supposed to rest in the completed work of Christ. That is kind of hard to fathom, but just think…even though we are still physically here on Earth, in spiritual reality, we are seated with Christ in Heaven. We have already discussed what this means: we are in a position of honor and triumph (not defeat) and we are partakers of His victory over Satan and the world. We share His victory. It is finished – the work is finished and we don’t have to work for it but only to take our place of resting in Him.

These two verses illustrate that we have what He has and that we are as He is. Right now!

In view of this, let’s ask ourselves some questions:

Do I feel righteous like Jesus?

Am I experiencing His joy right now?

Do I feel like a victor over sin?

Do I feel like a conqueror of my emotions and feelings?

If we are honest with ourselves, most of our answers would be a resounding, “No!”

So, how do we mesh the two: The fact that the Bible says we are right now like Jesus but we cannot honestly answer yes to the questions above.

If “in Christ” I am victorious over sin (pride, jealousy, bitterness, etc.) and I am full of the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.) like He is, then why am I not experiencing these things in my life right now? 1 John 4:17 says that I have these things (because Jesus has the victory and the fruit of the Spirit), so why are they not manifested in me and in my life right now in this world as it says?

I heard a well-known preacher say, “The gifts (the good promises) that God has given us must be unwrapped.” In other words, they are not automatic, but they must be unwrapped via our understanding, then we must learn through Christ’s help to walk in them.

When the Bible says “in Christ” we are…etc., etc., it means this is who and what we are in our born-again spirit. What is true of Jesus should be true of us as well. We are a completely new creation in our spirit. But, that does not mean that this is who and what we are in our mind or emotions….yet!

How do we “get there” in our mind and emotions (the fleshly, carnal part of us)?

Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

It is the carnal part of us that causes the problem. The flesh is our fallen human nature (it’s marred, it’s corrupt). In our spirit, we are just like Jesus, but we know in our hearts that we do not always think or act like Jesus – and that’s because the carnal part of us is still very alive.

According to a commentary that I read the word “death” that Romans 8:6 speaks of is not only physical death, but it also refers to all the effects, or wages of sin, which is translated in the Amplified Bible as all the miseries arising from sin (sickness, depression, loneliness, hatred, poverty, fear, anxiety, and everything else that came as a result of sin). So, death in this verse is simply living inferior to the life Christ has redeemed us to experience.

And it tells us that this “death” (emotional distresses; any condition/feeling that is less than what we have inherited in Christ) is caused by the carnal mind.

On the contrary, this verse also tells us that being spiritually minded brings life and peace (the fruits of the Spirit). So basically, to sum it all up, our lack of victory in any area is due to our carnal-mindedness.

We are supposed to walk in victory.

2 Cor. 2:14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ…

Notice this verse says God “always” causes us to triumph in Christ.

While I was in the process of writing this, I was praying about my out-of-control emotions and I felt the Lord say in my spirit: “You are tempted to feel angry, you are tempted to feel hurt, you are tempted to feel depressed, etc.” In other words, these things (these emotions) come to us as a temptation and we fall prey to them just like we fall prey to sin. But, to me the beautiful thing about this revelation was, if they are temptations, then I can refuse them – and as I resist them the Lord will make a way for me to escape them.

This was very freeing to me because I had been feeling hopeless regarding my emotions. I thought I was helpless to do anything about my feelings – “they just are what they are”, I reasoned. I felt incapable of changing them. And they are often just the natural/carnal man’s response to whatever is going on at the time. But a temptation is different; if I am being tempted, God will help me to overcome temptation (1 Cor. 10:13).

Every feeling begins with a thought (often temptations come from Satan as a thought). Thoughts reside in our minds. When our carnal mind is in control, we think corrupt thoughts. We think wrong, hurtful, angry, depressed, bitter, lonely, hopeless, etc. thoughts. So, the key is to change our minds.

We must learn to be spiritually minded rather than carnally minded according to Romans 8:6 to find the life and peace that Christ promises (we don’t have to accept the wrong thinking which leads to wrong emotions).

Gal. 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

If we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh – in other words, this is how we overcome temptation (e.g. the temptation to think, feel and give in to wrong emotions.)

I heard a Bible teacher say that living in the Spirit simply means walking in the Word of God.

So, the way to change our feelings is to change our thoughts and we change our thoughts is by changing our minds (from carnal to spiritual). And it is through the Word of God that our minds are transformed.

John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth (makes alive, transforms); the flesh profiteth nothing: the “words” that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

The Bible describes what our life is supposed to look like in Christ and the victory that He’s promised. We must study to get a revelation of what our lives should be and then begin to claim and believe what the Bible says (It will teach us how to think spiritually) rather than what our carnal mind is dictating to us – thereby corrupting our feelings.

I have added a new static page to my blog that contains Bible verses that illustrate who we are and what we have been given in Christ and through Him. Please check out the page I have entitled Who I am “In Christ” – My New Identity” on the sidebar menu. For each verse, I have paraphrased the main truth and enclosed it in parentheses underneath (this is a suggested declaration of faith) to be spoken out loud.

Each day during my prayer time, I try to speak what I have been given in Christ (my list is not as extensive as the one on my blog page – you may add your own favorites to it and/or just pick and choose the verses that mean the most to you).

This practice will help us to begin to understand what our lives should look like in Christ and as you say/pray them out loud in faith (according to Romans 10:17 faith is activated by SPEAKING and HEARING), I believe they will soon become a reality in your life. Your wrong thought patterns of defeat, sorrow, hopelessness, depression, futility, anger, etc. will begin to transform. And you will develop the new mind, heart, and life that Christ died to give us – a life full of joy, peace, hope, victory, fruitfulness, and purpose!

In closing, there is one very crucial point I need to make – we are totally dependent upon Jesus.

John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.

We can do nothing without Him, but we can do all things through Him.

However, we do have a part to play in gaining the victory:

  1. Learn who you are IN HIM, (please see the page mentioned above on my blog sidebar menu).
  2. Partner with Him in prayer and through continual dependence on Him (don’t look at your own frailty and shortcomings, but focus on Who you have living inside of you – you have His power, His peace, His joy, His love, His victory, etc.).
  3. Learn to walk in this new-found knowledge (your identity in Him) via growing your faith by speaking out (declaring) who you are and what you have inherited In HIM,
  4. Thank Him for the amazing gifts He’s given.

I wish you abundant blessings in your journey my friend!

Copyright © 2017 Sandra J. Briggs

Perfect Peace

Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

As the soft pillow cradled around my head, I heard myself utter one last desperate plea, “God help me; I just need You Lord…I just need You!!!”

I had taken some medication to help me sleep, but nevertheless, I woke up only a few hours into the night. As expected, the war that had been raging in my mind for several days returned to its former fury once more. But then, there came a momentary hush (as though God Himself had uttered a stern, “Shhhhhish! Be still!”…) and I heard these words in my spirit, “Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.”

Is that You Lord,” I remember asking.

No reply came, but I knew in my heart that it was a word in due season from a voice I had learned to recognize. Only the Holy Spirit can whisper a message so loud and clear without the assistance of audible words.

I began to recite this verse over and over again.

At some point, still mumbling the verse, I drifted off to sleep. That morning I woke up – to complete quiet! All the things that had troubled me now seemed so far away. It sounds strange, but I even had a hard time remembering what I was so upset about. I believe that simply reveals the awesome and amazing power of God’s perfect peace.

What had happened? I wondered. This is what I felt the Lord revealing to me: His Word is so powerful that repeating His promise to keep me in perfect peace had actually created the peace it promised.

Isaiah 55:11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

His Word performs the specific thing that it promises. If it promises peace, it creates peace. If it promises joy, it creates joy, etc. As the above verse (Isaiah 55:11) says, it prospers or produces the thing that it was sent (or promises) to do. Isaiah 26:3 promises peace, so repeating that verse created the peace (the thing God sent it to accomplish) that I needed.

This verse says, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth”. The Bible, God’s Word, came from His mouth (through His Spirit) to the prophets and apostles who wrote it down. So, it all came from His mouth. And when we say what God has said, it’s still the Word that came from His mouth.

Even though at that point, it’s in our mouth, it’s still the same word that came from His mouth and “it shall prosper and accomplish what He intended”. His spoken word will not return to Him void or without accomplishing its purpose. The Word accomplishes itself! It has creative power in it because it came from God’s own mouth; when God speaks, things happen. And when we speak His Words, things happen (because they are still HIS creative, never-to-return-void words).

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

That night, I heard God speaking Isaiah 26:3 to me in my spirit and I began to ponder and meditate on it… and as I spoke those words over and over, a miraculous thing happened, the power (the Spirit, the life) in them manifested and became a reality in me. The peace that they promised was accomplished.

So, can we just say something enough and bring it to pass?

No, it is only faith in the right thing that will produce results, and the only thing that we can truly base our faith on is God’s promises. So, did my just saying this verse over and over create the manifestation of peace? Well sort of, but at some point, faith had to be mixed with the Word.

Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

This verse tells us that faith comes by hearing (the Word of God). So, simply hearing (the act of hearing) the Word of God will produce the faith needed to believe that specific word or promise. When we hear the Word, as I did that night, it (the Word Itself) produced faith in my heart to believe. And then when I began to mutter and repeat it, the God-breathed life contained within that promise produced genuine peace within.

The Word of God has everything within itself that is required to produce the needed results. It’s a self-contained, self-activating miracle just waiting on a voice to speak it out.

Find the Word from the Bible (the promise) that you need for your particular situation. Then speak that promise – as you do, two things are happening:

  1. Those Words are producing faith in your heart to believe what they promise.
  2. They are (by His Spirit contained within them) creating the peace, the joy, the deliverance, the freedom, the healing, the restoration, etc. that you are speaking forth.

Why do we need to speak them?

  1. Because we need to hear them in order to produce faith (faith cometh by hearing the Word).
  2. Because this is how God Himself created the world. In Genesis 1 as God was in the process of creation, the Bible says, “Then God said” nine times. He spoke words to create the world. It should not seem strange or unusual for us to follow His pattern. Even when accepting Christ as our Savior, we were told to confess (our belief in Him) with our mouth.

Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

(With our mouth, by speaking, we sealed our salvation.)

So, with our heart, we believe and with our mouth, we say what we believe.

Actually, many people believe that receiving God’s promises as a reality in their lives is such a difficult thing to accomplish, but the Word essentially does it all. I once heard a pastor say, “The Word works; all you have to do is work the Word!” Find it, speak it, hear it, believe it, and receive it! It really is that simple.

If what you are experiencing in your life right now does not resemble the precious promises God has given us in His Word, then what you are experiencing is subject to change. The Bible is a blueprint for the life He has in store for you. He’s given us the tools to create our world anew.

Too often, we work hard to complicate what He has made so simple. He couldn’t have made it any easier. Each faith-producing, power-filled promise contains within it everything required to bring itself to pass.

Copyright © 2017 Sandra J. Briggs

The Loaves and Fish – You Have Something to Give

Mark 6:38-44 KJV 38 He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? Go and see. And when they knew, they said, five, and two fishes. 39 And He commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. 40 And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. 41 And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, He looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided He among them all. 42 And they did all eat, and were filled. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. 44 And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.

Jesus fed five thousand men, their wives and their children with only five loaves of bread and two fish and had twelve baskets full of leftovers; and what He had leftover was more than the amount He started with. If each man had a wife and they had two children each (which would be a very small family for those days) that would equal 20,000 people.

As I read this, verse 41 emphatically stood out to me. First, Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, He looked up to heaven, He blessed the food, He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to distribute, and then He took the fish and divided them between all the people.

  1. First of all Jesus surveyed what He had to work with. He found that it was a very small amount considering what was needed to feed a crowd of that size. But not to worry, it was in the hands of the Miracle Maker. It does not matter how much or how little we have to offer in the Lord’s work (actually, I believe that He prefers that we have ‘little to offer’ – that way all doubts are doused that the extraordinary outcome is anything but divine).

So, never think that you or your talents, gifts, etc. are insufficient for kingdom use. It does not matter how meager or how inadequate we feel our talents or gifts are, when we place them in Jesus’ hands, they become more than enough. When we are willing to use what we have and hand our fledgling abilities and insufficiencies over to Him, He can work amazing things through us.

It is not about what ‘we’ can do, it’s about what ‘He’ can do through us. The disciples could not do one thing to increase those five loaves and two fish and we cannot bring the increase in our lives either. Give what you have to give, do what you can do, but leave the increase to Jesus.

For instance, if you have a gift of “speaking”, you can use that gift to glorify the Lord, but even though you possess that gift, it is not sufficient until you place the productivity and the fruitfulness of it in His care.

You can utilize your talent, but you can’t do the miraculous – and you may be very talented, but until the Master gets involved, it will fall fruitlessly by the wayside. There can be no real success without His intervention and blessing (we will talk more about this).

  1. Secondly, Jesus looked up to heaven. We must know where our blessings come from. They are not ours – He has provided them. We each have a special ability or gifting to use for His glory. This is His plan to give our lives meaning and purpose.

We all need a reason to get out of bed each morning, if not, life becomes dull and unfulfilling. I believe that each of us has a desire to feel that we can make a difference in this world. In order to do that we must look to heaven and know that our Father has placed us here for a reason – and then to believe that He will guide us in each step of our journey, enabling us to complete our divinely appointed assignment.

  1. Thirdly, Jesus blessed what was offered. When we offer Him what we have (money, an ability or gifting, etc.) for His use (to benefit others), He blesses it. This is the process by which our gifts are multiplied. They are what they are (five loaves and two fish – not sufficient) as long as they remain in our hands. But when we use them for His purposes, He places His blessing on our efforts and that’s when the miracles begin to happen.

When we place our little in His hands, it becomes much – it grows and multiplies to touch the masses – it suddenly becomes more than we ever hoped or dreamed it could be. In the Master’s care, our ordinary lives become exciting and new. We will leap out of bed with an “I-can’t-wait-to-see-what-God’s-gonna-do-today” attitude each morning. Life is transformed from mundane to miraculous when we place our little in His hands for the blessing.

  1. He broke the loaves and divided the fish. When we truly give our lives to Jesus to be used for His purposes, we may find that He often starts with brokenness before we see the multiplying and the miracles begin.

He had to break the bread before He could use it. Unfortunately, that may be true of us as well. We must learn to trust Him during this breaking period – He’s doing a work in us, but if we get discouraged and give up, His work can never come to fruition.

The key at this point in the process is to rest in His hands and allow Him to break and tear away all that would hinder our usefulness for His kingdom. This is the place where many fail through disillusionment and lost hope. Fight through this trying time and believe that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it (Phil. 1:6).

Remember, the breaking took place before the miracle. Don’t give up on Jesus just before He performs His greatest work in your life. There is a multitude out there who needs what you have to offer.

So, you are still not convinced that you can make much of a difference – you may not see how you can help a multitude. It’s okay, start with one. Jesus gave to one, then another, then another and each time He handed one a piece of bread and fish the multiplication was taking place.

Reach out to one person at a time; it’s like throwing a stone into a pond, the ripples move ever outward. You can never know how many lives Jesus (the Master Multiplier) will touch through an act of kindness that began with you.

You have something that someone else needs today. In verse 38, Jesus asked the disciples what they had to give. He could have made bread from the stones on the ground; He could have called fish down from Heaven. He didn’t need anything from them. He could have fed that multitude all by Himself. Why does He want to partner with and involve us in helping others – I think it’s because He is aware that few things bring more joy than knowing that we have made a difference in someone’s life. So, as you give, His work is two-fold: He’s meeting kingdom needs and increasing and multiplying your own joy.

And notice in verse 43 that He did not waste one crumb – they picked up twelve baskets full of leftovers. As you give your little, He is also providing for the future. He took what the disciples had (which wasn’t enough), used it to help others, then added to it, doubled it, increased it multiple times, and they all received back so much more than they brought. The disciples (twelve of them) had given what they had. The number of brimming baskets of leftovers they collected totaled twelve. I don’t think that was a coincidence – they each went home with an arm load (and a heart full) of blessings.

Copyright © 2017 Sandra J. Briggs

Hannah – “13 Reasons Why”

I recently watched a Netflix classic miniseries entitled “13 Reasons Why”. Selena Gomez served as executive producer of this series which is based on the best-selling novel by Jay Asher regarding teen suicide.

Hannah Baker was a high school sophomore at Liberty High (fictitious name) in the town of Crestmont (the book never mentions what state). As the series starts out we learn that Hannah has tragically committed suicide. But before she did, she made a succession of cassette tapes describing the thirteen reasons for ending her own life. The thirteen reasons are actually thirteen people that have neglected or hurt Hannah in some way.

As I watched episode after episode, I saw how Hannah became increasingly more and more desperate and injured by the people she trusted. And one by one her friends moved out of her life. Feeling invisible and alone she withdrew into a place of isolation and hopelessness.

Clay Jensen, the one classmate that truly loved her was too shy to tell her about his feelings. In view of all the rejection and abuse she had suffered, she felt she was not good enough for him, so she inadvertently pushed him away as well – no doubt, she reasoned, to save herself the pain of his eventual abandonment.

The series begins with Clay receiving the cassette tapes that begin with Hannah explaining why she committed suicide, stating, “If you have received these tapes, you are one of the reasons.” Of course Clay, being the straight-laced, honor role, person of character that he was could not fathom why he would be on the tapes. After all, in his mind Hannah was the love of his life. (We do learn in the end that the only thing that Clay had been guilty of was not having the courage to tell Hannah how he felt about her.)

Most of the people who hurt Hannah had secrets, insecurities, hurts or fears of their own that caused them to react to her the way they did. And “yes” some of them were simply vile, selfish, despicable human beings.

This was possibly the most disturbing series that I’ve ever watched. And I think that the reason that’s true is because this stuff actually happens way too often in today’s society. (I would like to caution you who plan to watch this series, it does have a lot of teenage jargon, so there is quite a bit of foul language to go around and even more importantly, some of the scenes are graphic in nature.)

In the 12th episode, Hannah said (via the tapes) that she had died before she ever decided to commit suicide. Throughout the show, when someone was kind to her, you could see the sparkle of hope in her eyes…but then, when they disappointed her, you could see it fade away a little bit more each time.

As Clay listens to the tapes one by one, he learns how he and twelve other people wounded Hannah’s soul. He had been the second to the last person in line to receive the tapes – so eleven other classmates had already heard the tapes and knew about everyone else’s injustices toward Hannah as well as their own. But Clay was, by far, the most disturbed by them.

He wanted to right all the wrongs and it almost destroyed him as well.

On the day before Hannah killed herself she made an appointment with Mr. Porter, the School Counselor, as a last ditch effort to save herself. During their conversation, Hannah explains her thoughts (that were clearly in-your-face suicidal) to Mr. Porter. He asked her what had happened to cause her feelings of desperation. “It has been one thing on top of another,” Hannah replied. She briefly described the incident that had quenched her last spark of hope. However, Mr. Porter essentially tells her that she needs to “move on” with her life and let all the negative things go. She leaves his office muttering to herself, “I know what I need to do – I just need to move on… I just need to move on.”  She pauses in the hallway, waiting, hoping that Mr. Porter will come after her – but he doesn’t – and that evening, she does as he has suggested – she sadly moves on …from this life.

Clay confronted Mr. Porter about that conversation with Hannah, accusing him of not taking her obvious cry for help seriously. Mr. Porter said, “Clay, you can’t love someone back to life!” What he meant was that Hannah had it in her mind to kill herself and that no one could have stopped her.

Clay told Mr. Porter, “We could have stopped her, just one of us could have saved her!” Looking back at Mr. Porter as he turned to leave, he said, “We have to get better at taking care of each other!” He walked down the hall and saw Sky (a girl that had no friends) standing at her locker.

“Hey Sky”, he asked, “would you like to hang out sometime?”

“Sure”, came her surprised response, “When?”

“How about now?” answered Clay.

I’m so glad that the series ended this way. And I loved Clay’s statement: “We have to get better at taking care of each other!” He was determined to be the change that he wanted to see happen at school. In order to see a difference, we must first be the difference; we must be the friend that rescues the next desperate soul.

What can we take away from this? Here are a few things I’d like to comment on:

The first is Mr. Porter’s statement – “Clay, you can’t love someone back to life!” He couldn’t have been more wrong. You can’t once they are physically gone, but Hannah said she had died long before her suicide. If she had only had one friend that stood by her, I think the outcome would have been different – that’s what Clay meant when he said, “We could have stopped her, just one of us could have saved her!”

Of course Hannah’s story was fiction, but I read a true story about a boy in school who was truly a troubled soul in need of a friend. He was walking home from school one day intent on hanging himself when he got home. On the way out the door some students ran into him and knocked his books out of his hands. Another student (a football player) saw what happened, helped him with his books and invited him to play football the next day. He did and they became fast friends. At graduation the teenager told his story of how he had already determined to commit suicide that day and it was his newfound friend that had saved his life. We may be the only link between another person and eternity. We truly ARE our brother’s keeper.

Secondly, we never know what a person is going through – we cannot know the torture hiding behind the smile. Some of the students that hurt Hannah only hurt her because they were hurting in some way. That does not excuse it, but it does prove that often people hurt other people because of some insecurity, fear or pain of their own. The Bible teaches in Romans 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. Don’t pass on the pain – but remember (in many cases) that the most unlovable person is the one in the most pain.

Last, but not least, Hannah felt utterly hopeless. As Christians, we are NEVER without hope. Jesus can turn any situation around. But even if He doesn’t for the time being, He is the God of all comfort and He will never fail to walk with us through our darkest valleys. Pain and heartache comes to ALL of us, Christians and non-Christians, young and old, rich and poor – no one is exempt. A few years ago, I had something tragic happen in my own life and I became disappointed and disillusioned with God and I stopped talking to Him. After spending the most miserable week of my life, I finally decided, “Well, I have a decision to make, I can go through this WITH God or without Him!” The choice was really no choice at all – I knew I could not make it without Him. It has not been an easy journey, but I can tell you that my Savior has been faithful every step of the way. Don’t walk through your valleys without Him.

Isaiah 43:2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

Matthew 28:20 …and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

Psalm 23:4  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

When we walk through our darkest hours, Jesus is there with us (if we allow Him to be) and He is the One who can save us. Hannah cited thirteen reasons why she gave up all hope – Jesus is the one reason we shouldn’t. He will never let us down!

Copyright © 2017 Sandra J. Briggs

Cranford Miniseries – Neighbors and Friends

I recently watched Season 1 and 2 of the miniseries “Cranford”. It is a BBC (British Broadcasting Channel) production set in the 1840’s based on the novels written by Elizabeth Gaskell. Cranford is a fictional village in the county of Cheshire, North West England.

This tale focuses on five friends in the town. The main characters are two sisters Matilda (Matty) and Deborah Jenkins who live together; neither of them ever married. Mary Smith from Manchester comes to visit them and they immediately set about teaching their new house guest how things are done and what is expected in Cranford – where appearances are foremost and doing things in a “proper” fashion is expected.

Deborah and Matty have three close friends: Octavia Pole (the town gossip), Augusta Tomkinson, and Mrs. Forrester (and her best friend “Bessie” the cow). They have another friend named Mrs. Jamieson (a widow of substantial breeding who is rather pretentious). They are all very ‘proper’.

As you can imagine, there is much gossip, pomp and circumstance wherever the ladies gather. The series is a drama with a comedic twist.

This is a little different than any of the posts that I’ve done previously. But as I viewed this miniseries I quickly picked up on a valuable teaching idea. And I wanted to give you a little background and set the stage for the teaching point.

Even with all of the ladies’ faults and idiosyncrasies, you would be hard pressed to find better neighbors and friends. You might judge them snobbish, rigid, and set in their ways to a fault, but never uncaring or neglectful of those in need.

For instance, in one episode, the town doctor needed to perform surgery but found himself without candles with which to perform the needed operation before morning light. (Candles were a luxury and a scarcity in Cranford – and very costly indeed. So they were much set by and one did not use them lavishly. Deborah and Matty restrained themselves to spending their evenings by the glow of a single candlelight.) However, when the doctor needed candles, all the ladies dug deep into their secret stashes to provide them joyfully and without restraint or remorse – even though for them it meant poorly lit parlors and that evening entertainment would be limited to conversations by firelight.

In another episode, Deborah and Matty’s neighbor dies and her sister (Jesse) is left alone to take care of the arrangements for the funeral while her father is away. In Cranford there were rigid rules of etiquette and one of those rules was that a ‘woman’ could never attend a funeral. It was simply not done. However, Jesse felt strongly that she must attend or else there would be no family member attending her sister’s funeral. Deborah tried to talk Jesse out of going, but to no avail – Jesse was determined to do right by her sister and endure the dishonor and disgrace from the townspeople. Now, Deborah Jenkins was a stickler for keeping the rules of etiquette in Cranford, but when Jesse walked the main street of Cranford in the funeral procession, it was Deborah that quietly, determinedly donned her black lace veil and trudged each reprehensible step by her side.

One more example – Deborah dies and Matty is left alone. In her grief, she finds that the bank where she has placed her money has gone insolvent and she has lost all her savings. Her friends and neighbors have a secret meeting to discuss Matty’s plight. They make a pact with one other to secretly fund Matty’s income without her ever becoming aware of their benevolence. They spared Matty’s self-respect by soliciting the bank’s manager to tell Matty that there had been a mistake in calculations to explain the sudden ‘reappearance’ of her funds.

There were many other examples of their compassion and kindness. The point that I wanted to make is that their benevolence went beyond casual kindness. They showed selfless compassion even to their own detriment.

The Bible speaks about this type of kindness:

Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

How often do we go out of our way, dig into our own beloved treasures, or give until it hurts in order to help someone else?

James 2:15-16 says, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doeth it profit.”

It is easy to say that we care about the needs of others, but how often do we actually do something to help even to the point that it costs us something – money, time or personal convenience. Words mean very little without action to accompany them. I once had a wallpaper on my computer at work that said, “Love is a VERB!

In the Cranford miniseries, the night before Deborah Jenkins decided to break all the rules of etiquette and walk in the funeral procession along with Jesse and risk the ridicule and shunning of the townspeople, she spent the entire night in her room sitting on the side of her bed praying to the Lord for guidance and perhaps courage to do the right thing.

Like Deborah, let’s be much in prayer for guidance. Let’s ask our Father to show us a person in need, how to minister to them, and to give us the generosity to do it sacrificially.

I believe that the deeper we dig and the more it costs us personally (in time, money, inconvenience, forgiveness, kindness, etc.) the greater joy it will bring to us as well.

Here is a poem by Helen Steiner Rice that portrays this thought so beautifully:

An Old Chinese Proverb…
There’s an old Chinese proverb that, if practiced each day,
Would change the whole world in a wonderful way..
It’s truth is so simple, it’s so easy to do,
And it works every time and successfully, too..
For you can’t do a kindness without a reward,
Not in silver nor gold but in joy from the Lord.
You can’t light a candle to show others the way
Without feeling the warmth of that bright little ray..
And you can’t pluck a rose, all fragrant with dew,
Without part of its fragrance remaining with you.
~ Helen Steiner Rice

Ask God how you can be a blessing to someone today. It may be something as simple as a smile. Whatever you give away, whether it be candles or kindness, will bring warmth to your own soul as well.

Copyright © 2017 Sandra J. Briggs