Standing In Faith

Barbara ParkerAs we approach Christmas, many of us reach out to others a bit more than usual, perhaps re-connecting with people we haven’t been in touch with lately; perhaps finding ways to help those who are less fortunate; perhaps greeting total strangers with a, “Merry Christmas.” Also, as one year concludes and a new one approaches, we often find ourselves in a self-evaluation mode. We examine what have we accomplished as well as what should we do differently next year, and such a process is scriptural:

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5

I’d like to do a bit of both in this post that doubles as an announcement to the Standing In Faith group on LinkedIn and an invitation to join us, offering first a quick review of our group, and then sharing with old friends and new, the message of hope the Lord has given me.

The Standing In Faith discussion group began as a leap of faith on my part in March 2011. New to LinkedIn and not a big fan of social media, it was quite a surprise when the Lord impressed me to form the group, and from the very beginning He has had full ownership. This is not my group—it is His, and I’m simply His group manager. There have been several times that I’ve wanted to shut it down because it seemed as if it was going nowhere and accomplishing nothing, but His permission for that to happen was never given. Now, in retrospect, I am in awe of what He is doing, and I’m well aware that He is accomplishing His work through the group in ways that I will never be aware of this side of eternity, which is very exciting. Our growth during 2015 has been astounding, and there are new members every day from nations around the world. This is an international outreach such as I never could’ve imagined, and I welcome all of our new members and pray that the fellowship we have here will bless and encourage you in your Christian walk.

From the beginning, the Lord designed Standing In Faith around the passion He has given me for the Body of Christ to live by faith and to operate in unity, and our stated purpose is, “To encourage Christians to live by faith and not by sight, building each another up in the unity of faith that we share in Christ Jesus.”

With that purpose in mind, there are a couple of things about this group that may differ from other groups; things that don’t make us any better or worse, but just different. First is that the Lord has led me to accept everyone who requests membership without any pre-screening, just as He is willing to accept all who come to Him. Second, while we often discuss our differences of opinion, we do not enter into divisive debates or arguments, and no comments are allowed that denigrate the person or faith of another. This can pose a huge dilemma for me as the “referee”, and I must rely strictly on the Lord’s leadership regarding which discussions and comments to allow and which ones to deny, so I would appreciate your prayers for His wisdom in this regard, as well as your understanding and forgiveness if I make a mistake in judgment. I do not agree with everything that is posted here, nor will you, but instead of taking offense and arguing with every statement, please respond from a spirit of love that displays the grace and mercy of the Lord. We are not all “on the same page” doctrinally, but instead of allowing the enemy to separate us as has been done for centuries, we consciously choose to set our differences aside and focus on Jesus in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

As you may be aware, LinkedIn has recently re-designed much in regard to groups, and both the appearance and the function has been affected. Visually, it is easier to quickly scan through discussions, but it is also harder to get the full impact of a discussion without choosing the option for “more” in order to read the entire text of the comments. I would encourage everyone to dig deeper into the “more” of our discussions to get the full benefit of what each person has to say. Also, the space allotted for text has been diminished, so it is more important than ever to try to make a point succinctly.

Previously, the group was open and a request to join received automatic approval, but now every membership request comes to me first. As mentioned before, none are turned away, but any member’s contributions may still be designated for pre-approval if they are deemed to be divisive or off the topic of faith in Jesus; and any individual may be completely banned from the group at my discretion (this has only happened with 3 people whose obvious intent was disruption and destruction). Also, please be aware that with this new system, for reasons I certainly do not understand, LinkedIn is flagging as inappropriate many entries that are fully acceptable, so please be patient if your submission doesn’t appear immediately. I try to turn everything around within 24 hours or sooner, but occasionally that isn’t possible.

Please review the group rules since there have been a few changes to remain in alignment with LinkedIn’s way of doing things. Also, please remember that we do not focus on personal agendas, make political statements, or doctrinal positions; but we discuss the traditional Christian values of the majority. That said, it is difficult to completely avoid the political arena since it has such a huge impact on our lives, but our goal is to approach any such discussions with the intent of illuminating God’s truth and not man’s opinion.

Enough review, and on to our Hope! This morning, the Lord highlighted some phrases to me from Hebrews 3 that are relevant to Standing In Faith.

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession…[who] is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope…Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

Our “today” is a day in which hearts have become hard throughout the world. Jesus warnings of end times events are occurring right before our eyes. His words (Matthew 24:4-14) resonate with what we see and hear daily:

“See that no one leads you astray.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

We are not to despair! Buried in a passage where many accentuate the negative, is one of the most promising phrases in scripture. “See that you are not alarmed,” isn’t just an impossible suggestion, for Jesus would never have advised something we cannot accomplish. In Him we have hope, He is our strength and our refuge, and we need not fear:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-7

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalms 46:1

At Christmas we often hear people saying that Jesus is the reason for the season, and that’s true; but I’d take it a bit farther to declare that Jesus is the reason for every season in our lives. Our very existence here on earth is designed to bring honor and glory to Him, and the fact that we are here “today” is by His design, and He has a purpose for each of our lives.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalms 139:16

So what does this have to do with Standing In Faith? Go back to the Hebrews passage from which the Lord spoke to me today, for this is the re-affirmation of our purpose:

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

May our Lord be with you all, may He bless and keep you throughout this and every season, and may He make you a blessing to others as you all are to me. Merry Christmas to all, along with my prayers and best wishes that in the year to come each person will find their strength in Him and will learn to stand in faith as never before. My prayer for each of us is from Hebrews 4:

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…Let us hold fast our confession…Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

 

 

The Fall Season of Life

IMG_2528It’s an unusual day for me! I’m up early and out on my patio at the crack of dawn with my Bible, journal and, of course, my morning latte. This is not my normal mode of operation because I’m much more of a night owl than an early bird, and to get my head on straight before 10 AM is a challenge. But this morning I was wide awake an hour before dawn with lucid thoughts of things I need to write chasing themselves around in my head.

So here I sit, enjoying the break of day, as many others do regularly (I must admit to occasional jealousy of their internal clocks). For me, this is a special treat as my senses soak up the sights, sounds and feel of another new beginning. And what a treat to wrap up in my long, soft, warm robe for the first time in months, a favorite garment that has hung unused and seemingly abandoned throughout a seemingly endless Southern California summer. Today though, there’s finally a cool, brisk feeling of Fall, a gentle breeze and a freshness in the air.

As I contemplate Fall, I think not so much of the seasons of the year but of the ever-changing seasons of life, and I reflect on my own. I look at the first preschool pictures of my adorable twin grand-daughters; can it really be only 2 ½ years since they were tiny preemies in the NICU? I think of my son taking his son to kindergarten; can it really be 30 years since I was dropping him off? Or even more astounding (or painful!), can it really be 60 years since my own first day of kindergarten, a memory so fresh it could’ve just happened. And my parents, part of my life for so long; can it really be over a year since Mom died, and 5 ½ years since we lost Dad? It is certain that God’s word is true, and life is brief.

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)

It is also certain that there are many seasons in life, and each has its appointed place.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

So here I sit on my patio, enjoying a wonderful Fall day while contemplating the Fall of my life, and I know that it’s a season full of promise. When I was just twelve years old, I knew that there was a ministry call on my life, but other seasons intervened and forty years of seasons passed before I began to even have a glimpse of what my ‘calling’ might look like. But then there was a long season of struggle; it was my own, personal dark night of the soul; the season in which God took all that had come before and placed me in His furnace to be refined for His purposes. So now, having gone on Medicare, I guess I’m officially a senior citizen, though I don’t really feel like one inside. It’s a time when many retire to play golf, take extended vacations, and relax; and yet I’m busier than ever, for the Lord has given me a task and there is still much left to be accomplished. It actually seems rather humorous that as a grandmother with two completely separate careers behind me, I’m finally stepping into assignments He planned for me before I was even born.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:16)

Though I have surely entered the Fall of my life, it is a season that feels as new and fresh as this wonderful Fall morning. Yes, my body is aging, a fact quickly proven by a quick glance in a mirror, but it seems that my spirit is just beginning; and there is still much to do.  Psalm 92:12-14 has been a prayer of mine for some time, but my logical focus has been on physical endurance. Today, my sense is that this promise is as much about spiritual strength and productivity as it is physical.

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

As I face my Fall season, I have another prayer as well:

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. (Psalm 71:17-18)

And also a declaration:

That is why we are not discouraged. Though outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly we are renewed day by day. Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)

How Shall We Pray?

BibleWhen Jesus walked the earth, his disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, and He responded by giving them the Lord’s Prayer.

Today, God still shows us how to pray, and such direction may occur in many ways; it may be a still small voice, an impression, a thought, a dream or vision–whatever way He chooses to speak to us.

This morning, I got up pondering a dream I’d just had in which it was obvious that someone was plotting against me.  As I prayed about what it meant, the Lord quickly showed me who it is and what is happening.  I asked Him how I should pray because He is the only one who could possibly intervene in the situation, and I remembered that in my dream there had been a reference to Psalms.  I knew then, that I was to pray as David prayed, and was led to Psalm 35 and 59. I wrote the prayer in my journal:

Lord, I choose to bless this person who is coming against me, for You have told us to bless our enemies.  But Lord, I now pray your scriptures:

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! Psalm 35:1

Kill them not, lest my people forget;
make them totter by your power and bring them down,
O Lord, our shield!
For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips,
let them be trapped in their pride.
For the cursing and lies that they utter,
consume them in wrath;
consume them till they are no more,
that they may know that God rules over Jacob
to the ends of the earth.  Psalm 59:11-13

As soon as I finished writing, The Lord impressed me to go back and pray out loud the entire text of the two chapters.  I did, and almost immediately I heard these slightly re-arranged words from Psalm 23 :

Your rod and your staff,
they comfort me in the presence of my enemies
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

As I pondered what had just happened, the Lord also impressed me that these are the prayers I am to offer for our country tomorrow, the National Day of Prayer.  It is a welcome instruction, because to say that our nation needs God’s intervention ranks right up there with the biggest understatements ever made, and I’ve about run out of the words to pray.

Please consider how the Lord wants you to pray, and join with others across the nation and around the world to pray for the USA.  We need Him desperately!

Honoring My Mom on Her First Mother’s Day in Heaven

Mom's Final Slide

My mother went home to Heaven on August 18, 2014.  In her honor, as we approach Mother’s Day 2015, I’d like to share one of the last things she experienced while still here with us.

About a week before Mom died she saw a party going on.  It was a heavenly celebration, and she described everyone there as being very excited and happy. As we questioned her about the details, she described decorations—like banners or balloons—and recognized faces of loved ones who had gone before.  I asked what the party was for, thinking she would say it was a welcome-home celebration for her, but her answer was quite a surprise!

“It’s a big party for all of the people who were saved today, and I’m going!”

Well, she didn’t get to go for about another week, but her vision of the spiritual reality confirmed the scriptural truth that:photo 4.10.53 PM

…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  Luke 15:7

A Picture of Forgiveness

 

page15colorHe was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth.  Isaiah 53:7a

Walking barefoot through my bedroom, my foot touched on a wet spot and I reacted quickly in anger toward Sheba.  There she was, as usual, staring up at me with those big, beautiful, innocent-looking brown eyes—but this was no time for me to be forgiving or nice!  I grabbed her and sternly put her outside and closed the door, paying no attention to the confused, “what-did-I-do?” look on her face.  I yelled too—even though she was completely deaf at this stage in her life and couldn’t hear a word I said, I was sure she got the message.

Next, I hurried to grab some towels and dry up the spot on the carpet.  Wait—this spot wasn’t yellow—it didn’t have a bad odor—in fact it smelled nice—what was going on?  Further investigation revealed that a few moments before I had carried a plastic container of wet cleaning wipes through the bedroom—the lid was loose, and some of the scented water sloshed out on the floor.

So, did I feel bad, or what?  I immediately let Sheba back inside, held her and petted her, and apologized profusely (you’d think she could hear me).  And she was so happy to see me—immediately right back at my feet—her curly little pug-tail wriggling with delight—her beautiful big brown eyes sparkling with joy—no grudges or resentment—just pure, unadulterated love; as always.

God is like Sheba—we may hurt him, we may accuse him unjustly; we may shut him out; but when we re-open the door to our life there he is, happily waiting to come back inside, not holding the slightest grudge, for “…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1)

A New Day is Dawning

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Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.        Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV

Never has the fulfillment of these words felt as imminent to me as it does now.  My sense that our God is on the move was enhanced a few nights ago when, after confronting evil all night both while awake and in my dreams, I finally fell into a restful sleep and dreamed of righteous change. When I awoke, I knew deeply within my spirit that whatever is on the horizon is a move of God that cannot be claimed or labeled by any ministry, denomination or other group.  He simply cannot be contained!

Much that I see in the physical realm is confirming my sense of the spiritual, as indicated in God is On the Move in Southern California and I Had a Dream of the Triumphant Church.  In my own life and ministry, change is in the air, with new opportunities beginning to appear on my horizon after several years of pulling back and waiting on the Lord.

So, with only 3 weeks until 2015 arrives, I’ve begun preparing for whatever the Lord choses to bring during the new year.  The first change I’ve made is to make my first three books, Pug Parables, I’m Still Standing and Richard’s Story available as free downloads.  Secondly, I’ve updated my blog site to become my ministry website as well, and it has a whole new look.  Within the first few weeks of January my old domain of http://www.standinginfaith.org will be directed to this site, http://standinginfaithministries.com

Certainly, we live in a time that confirms the truth of Jesus’ words in Luke 21.  Men’s hearts are failing them for fear because of all we see occurring in our tumultuous world with wars, commotions, hatred, persecution, and natural disasters surrounding us.  Yet His encouragement to seek Him first stands.

And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. Luke 21:28 KJV

Ultimate Worth

IMG_1422Out of curiosity, I googled self esteem, and in 0.38 seconds had 46,000,000 results. More articles, books, conferences, classes, and multi-media presentations advising us how to build positive esteem in ourselves and our children than one person could ever digest. I skimmed through the offerings of the first 10 pages of hits, and not one of them was biblically based, so I’d like to recommend an alternative and recommend the best book I’ve ever read about building self esteem from God’s perspective, Ultimate Worth, by my friend Russ Llewellyn, an amazing Christian who is also a clinical psychologist. In his words…

“God allows but one path to permanent worth: love through humility. We build our self-esteem only on the things which God values. We recognize that apart from God, any esteem we give ourselves will crumble and scatter like dust swept away by the winds of time.

Our ultimate worth, our self-esteem, comes through humility. In humility, we learn to receive all of our personal worth from God. We learn to love and worship God, as well as love and respect ourselves and others the way God does.

God made you out of spirit, the same essence as He is. He made you for a noble purpose, to be and live on earth as sons and daughters of the Most High. You have a birthright, a kingly inheritance from God alone—ultimate worth.”

Russ can be contacted for further information and/or to place an order at DrRussLlewellyn@aol.com