Thursday, August 14, 2014

Enduring clear through to the end...


It's a rare thing when words fail me.  I love words.  For goodness sake, my favorite translation of the Bible is the Amplified Version, the wordiest translation possible!  But with all that is happening in our world right now, it's been hard to put my words together, hard to know what to say or how to say it.  What I don't want to do is make this about me by comparing my bout with depression some years ago with the darkness that took Robin William's life, by comparing some small amount of suffering I may have gone through as a Christian with the horrific persecution going on in Iraq, by hopping into the conversation about what's going on in Ferguson, Missouri like I've got some inside track, some wisdom about what's going on there, and you all are just dying to read what I have to say.

What I've wanted to do is to just be quiet for a while and try to hear what Jesus is saying about this whole mess.  What I'm hearing in my heart is a deep awareness that the American church is not ready for the days ahead.  We have watered down the gospel and made it so self-centered that we haven't told people the truth.  We've told them that Jesus will make them healthy and wealthy and haven't prepared them for the possibility of suffering and persecution.  We've promised them heaven on earth and haven't taught them that they may have to lose their life to gain it, literally.  

Until the recent news, it was relatively easy  for me to say I would willingly lay down my life rather than to deny Jesus.  When I read the current news coming out of Iraq, it was the first time I was faced with the horrible possibility of having to chose between denying Christ or watching one of my children or grandchildren be abused or killed.  This is the reality Iraqi Christians are facing and it sickens me and makes me ashamed of my spoiled American Christian life. 

I know that blogging about home decor and thrifting and cooking isn't wrong, and in fact, it is a modern day way of  encouraging other women in homemaking. But, the past couple of days I just didn't have any desire to share such a post when Iraqi children are being beheaded, west Africans are facing the threat of ebola, alarming numbers of nations, businesses and individuals are embracing an anti-Semitic point of view,  and here in America unrest, disunity and strife seems to be at an all time high.

What I do want to say is, won't you take the time to read, re-read, then read again the words of Jesus in Matthew 24?  We often get focused on trying to understand the book of Revelation, then get overwhelmed, frustrated and give up, thinking we'll never figure out all of this end time stuff.  Or we embrace   one verse in first Thessalonians and pin our whole end time doctrine on it.  What if we started by focusing on the spoken words of the Lord Himself?  Perhaps that's the place to start. Perhaps it would put some perspective on what we are seeing on the evening news.

A quick overview of Matthew 24 reveals that...
-there will be great deception and many false christs
-there will be wars and rumors of wars
but the end is not yet
-nation will rise against nation
-there will be famine and pestilence and earthquakes
all these are the beginning of sorrows
-they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you and you will be hated for His name's sake
-many will be offended, will betray one another, and hate one another
-many false prophets will rise up and deceive many
-lawlessness will abound and the love of many will grown cold
-the gospel will be preached to all the world (that's good news!)
-a great abomination will happen in God's temple in the holy place
-there will be great tribulation
-false christs and prophets will do signs and wonders to deceive
immediately after the tribulation of those days the Son of Man will come on the clouds with power and great glory and gather the elect

I don't want to be one of the offended ones, one whose love for God grows cold when these things begin to happen.   I think the American church has, by and large, set up our people for that to happen.  If famine, pestilence, earthquakes, tribulation, persecution, or even martyrdom happened in America, would we still burn with love for God, or would we deny Him because He didn't rapture us before we had to go through things that many in the rest of the world are already going through?  Would we fall for some "promise us the moon false christ" because he promises us the self-centered prosperity preached in many American churches?  I propose we start training ourselves, and those of us in leadership who teach, train, mentor and disciple others, start training them, to stand strong in the face of the worst case scenario.  How do you do that without being the most depressing person or the most depressing church in town?  First of all we teach them the truth about the steadfast, unshakeable love of God for them.  We must all become so deeply rooted in the love of God, that no trial or test can separate us from our confidence in His love for us.  Secondly, we have got to stay in the Word of God, and get the Word of God in us and those under our influence.  Truth implanted firmly in our minds and hearts is the only way we will stand strong in the midst of deception.  Third, we must keep our eyes on the prize.  Our focus is Jesus and our prize is eternal life with Him.  Nothing that could be done to us in this life, is worse than missing out on that.  

Well, friends, that is what has been on my mind and heart.  That is why my blog has been quiet the past couple of days.  My heart's desire is that each one of us will be faithful, that we will all endure, strong and victorious, to the end.  And please, please, let's all agree to pray for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ, for all of the suffering, hurting ones in our hurting world.

still following,
*to be clear, I absolutely believe that God is our Healer and Provider.  I believe that He meets all of our needs and blesses us abundantly, even supplying many of our wants.  What I don't believe is that He promises we will all be rich, live trouble free lives, and never experience suffering.  His own words were, "in this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33


   





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58 comments:

  1. If I could have found these words, I would have written them myself. Every one of them.

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    1. I'm posting this link on facebook & twitter. These words are hard but important. Necessary and true.

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    2. Rebecca, this was not easy to write or post. Your encouragement and sharing of it means a lot to me.

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  2. The world is a mess adn ny heart also has been heavy for those on the mountain especially. One of the church leaders was on TV a few weeks ago saying (very rough gap filled paraphrase) this. if they come they come. He is God. I have much mor to write / say on this knowing we are not a people wihtout hope. I agree the life style blogs are a modern way to connect and share. I am thankful you shared this today.

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    1. Linda, thank you for taking time to read my post. Your comment was an encouragement.

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  3. Feeling the same feelings Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, because they are so very important. We have been working our way through Revelation this year and I have been teaching a study on 1 Thessalonians this summer so that part made me laugh! :) But my heart had been dwelling on suffering and overcoming before all of this broke in the news and I couldn't agree more- we MUST be immersing ourselves in the truth of God's Word. And not just in the parts that we like or taking them out of context (I wish that Jer. 29:11 was always understood in context!).
    Very thankful for you. Wrestling by your side, sweet sister!

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    1. Yes and amen to all that you wrote in your comment. Linking arms and hearts with you, friend.

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  4. Thank you, my dear one. I would like to read this to my small group on Sunday. May I have your permission to do so? I will lovingly use your name and blog. My pastor has been warning and praying this very passage and we all need to hold hands, circle this and pray.

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    1. You can share this with my blessing.

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  5. Thank you, Elizabeth--a very timely word--my sons and their families are all going to be here this weekend and I have really had this message on my heart to share with them.

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  6. WOW, Elizabeth. This was a real eye opener post. (I have a big lump in my chest right now.) "Our focus is Jesus and our prize is eternal life with Him. Nothing that could be done to us in this life, is worse than missing out on that". Such a powerful sentence. Thanks you for your wise words. I have a lot to think about now.....starting with reading Matthew 24.

    Love you,
    Debbi

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    1. Love you, Debbi. You bless me so much.

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  7. Thank you for saying out loud what's been on my heart too!

    Deanna

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    1. Deanna, and thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

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  8. I popped over from Rebecca's blog. Powerful, powerful words you write. They are words most of us have felt, but have been unable to articulate. Even so, Amen.

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    1. Tamara, thank you for coming by from Rebecca's blog and for taking the time to encourage me with your comment.

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  9. Excellent thoughts, Elizabeth. These events are a reminder that this world is not our home. In America, we live very comfortable lives, free of persecution. But the Holy Spirit had harsh words for the lukewarm church and we need to remember those and keep ourselves constantly sharpened and close to Him and His word. Thanks for sharing this.

    Alison

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    1. Alison, as another ministry wife, your comments are encouraging to me. There are many, many faithful leaders who are trying to equip their people for whatever may come and to encourage them to keep their love for God hot, and I'm confident that is the case with you and your husband!

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  10. I can totally agree with the words from your heart, Pastor Elizabeth, especially not wanting my heart to grow cold, offended, or even become one who denies Christ or a false prophet! Many times I try to pray for the current affairs but find my words fall short. Thank God for the Holy Spirit who knows how to pray when we don't! I keep sensing an uneasiness even though God is personally opening doors, providing for our lives. I just pray that more people will also sense and discern the promptings of the Holy Spirit and pray, pray, pray! Love you!

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  11. Morning Elizabeth,
    You are so right about us staying in the word and fortifying ourselves with it
    daily and more..............as we do see so much evil going on around us, some times it is hard to see how the Lord can tarry..........but I am sure it is only out
    of his love for the lost that He does.
    We must be careful tho, not to be so overcome by it all, that we become fearful and lose heart.........I think of something Jay Vernon McGee and elder
    saint, pastor and author said when someone asked him about being marytred for Christ, and it always brings me hope. He said when I think about being
    martyred for Christ it sends a chill up my spine........but He said I think the Lord wants us to be more concerned about living for Him, than for dying for
    Him, because if he calls us to do that HE alone will give us the grace to do
    that, and I choose to believe that, because look at Joan of Arc who went
    to her death singing, and Stephen who in the bible, looked into heaven and
    was stoned to death.
    I do so agree with you tho that the truth has been watered down.......but just
    remember God is still on his throne, and He knows all these things..........

    Our job is to love HIM, Trust Him, serve HIM and Pray to HIM, and we have to leave the rest in HIS capable hands.................cause he tells us over and over to FEAR NOT!! Sometimes I think we might need to limit the amount of news we feed our sou,l because it can distress us so much or cause us to become fearful.and if that seems cruel............think about years back when so much infothat is seen constantly in front of us today, no one knew about at all............
    and it is only in recent years that we have had this constant barrage of social
    media. We know people are being persecuted, but do we really need to know every detail of it............I think not..........we are told to Guard our hearts....
    and I think We need to do that sometimes...........
    Our country and the world needs lots and lots of prayer that is for sure.......
    You have a great heart, thanks for sharing,
    Blessings, Nellie

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    1. Nellie, I actually don't hardly ever watch or read the news, but the current events have been hard to ignore. I am definitely not in despair, but my heart so longs for the church to wake up and be prepared for the time to come. I long to see the glorious church rise up in victory!

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  12. Thank you for these words; I am receiving them as truth and joining you, as you know, in prayer. Having grown up being taught the signs of end times, it's impossible to read about what's happening in our world and not wonder what's next. And I agree with you: I feel strong until I consider what I would (or wouldn't) do and say if someone snatched up one of my babies. Terrifying. I've been quoting from Matthew 24 for days in reference to the mamas in the mountains: "And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!" (v.19). Thankful for you, Sister.

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    1. I'm thankful for you too, dear Brandee. I can't wait to meet you face to face!

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  13. This is beautiful and full of wisdom...thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Jill! I sure appreciate your encouragement.

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  14. Elizabeth, I'm feeling and contemplating the exact same things and trying to find the words to express them as well as you have here. Thank you for sharing with tenderness and transparency into your heart and His.

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    1. Caryn, this was a hard post to write. It kept me up late rereading and editing and wanting to be sure I was writing what I felt was on God's heart. Thanks for your words of encouragement.

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    1. Love to you, Beth. Thanks for taking the time to read my post.

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  16. I agree with Nellie. I know the world has always had evil in it but now because of the media and social networking this evil is shown everywhere we look. The media will dwell on something bad until the next something bad occurs. And it goes on and on and on. It can really be depressing

    Debbi

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    1. And the media all too often fuels the fire of the situation by how they report it, like they want to create more bad new to report on!

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  17. Thank you for pouring our your heart today. I've read this post several times, with tears, sorrow and also joy, knowing the hope we have in Christ. I just read it to my husband, as well. You spoke to my heart today. Praying..... ~Cindy

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    1. Cindy, your comment blessed and encouraged me.

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  18. Hi Elizabeth! I think it's important to reflect on what's going on in the world and try to figure out how to assimilate all that negative, and decide how to be a positive in your own world. It's best to be quiet at those times, so good for you!

    My husband says we know so much more because of media, and I'm sure that's true. But there's a certain amount of responsibility that comes with all that knowledge. I do have to wrestle with it too.

    Best of blessings on your time of quiet.
    Ceil

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    1. Ceil, to turn the news into prayer points is the only way I know how to respond. And to be faithful here in my own little place in the world as well.

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  19. Thank you for sharing your heart! You have voiced what I have been feeling!

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    1. I think many are feeling this tug from the Spirit.

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  20. Yes, that is what is happening here as well. Taking ministry 'on the ground' seriously. Fortifying them with truth and telling my own heart to count it all joy whenever I suffer and when persecution comes, that I'd again, thank God that He considers me worthy to suffer for the gospel...and my children and grandchildren. That they would be full of the Holy Spirit, and steadfast in devotion.

    My favorite post in all this week's muck and mire. God bless you sister!

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    1. Yes, Kathy, we must not get distracted from our assignment, we must fortify ourselves with Truth, we must feast on God's love, and we must trust that His grace and courage will fill us when we need it.

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  21. Powerful words, powerful thoughts, powerful message! Much of what you shared has been ever present in my mind lately. I keep telling myself & others that I am going to stand for Christ know matter what. Seeing what is going on in Iraq convinces me even more that I need to remain steadfast in that conviction. Like you, my heart breaks for the parents, families being persecuted in Iraq. No words for their pain & suffering, just many many prayers. Prayers being lifted up for our Nation and for the World. Thank you for once again delivering the words we need to have put on our hearts. God bless you for being willing to speak truth into our lives!

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    1. Krista, I'm joining with you in agreement as we pray for our nation and our world. Things have certainly gotten so crazy and sin-twisted. My heart hurts over it, and I'm sure Jesus' does too.

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  22. Powerful words, Elizabeth. And I'm with you, feeling many of the same things that you are. I often pray that God will give me the strength to stand - especially if it ever means making a difficult choice. The world is breaking, and people are being crushed. May we all pray for the brokenhearted - and may we be faithful to spread the good news of a God who brings hope to all of us who need Him so desperately.

    GOD BLESS.

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    1. I'm amen-ing every word of your comment, Sharon!

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  23. Thank you Elizabeth for sharing this today. A much needed word and an encouragement for all.

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    1. Thank you, Sherry. It wasn't one of those "fun" posts to write.

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  24. Elizabeth, I step from Sharon blog to yours and so glad I did. I have been in the same position as you wrote about. It had been almost four weeks since I posted...so much going on in the world, family and friends lives, news that sickens my heart. Finally God begin to pour words into my soul again. I never write about food, crafts, pictures, etc, love to read what others say on those subject and its for the very same reason you wrote your post. All that is going on has challenged my heart to stand up and be that courageous wise hearted woman God has called me to be. So, sister in the Lord, wise sister, I am standing with you.

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    1. Betty, thank you for linking arms with me here.

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  25. Elizabeth ~ you are such a strong and beautiful witness to the love and faithfulness of our Lord and Savior. Thank you for sharing the concern for us in this post. I always leave here feeling stronger, wiser, and more in touch with my heart and my God. Bless you.

    xoxo laurie

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    1. You are a blessing and an encouragement to me, Laurie. Thank you. This wasn't an easy post to write.

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  26. Amen...thanks so much for sharing, these were words I needed to hear.

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    1. I appreciate your encouragement, Janette!

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  27. Thank you for this; wise words, friend.

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  28. Quiet is good. Thank you for these words and reminders, Elizabeth.

    And honestly, I can't say what I'd do if faced with the possibility that my child/grandchild/relative/friend or even I were threatened with torture/death. My fear is that I'd deny and hope I'd be granted the grace given Peter. But I pray for the grace to stand firm.

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    1. Corrie ten Boom said when she was little, her Papa gave her a ticket to ride the train when it was time to get on, and that God doesn't give us the grace to face something until it's time for us to face it. If the day comes when we have to choose suffering rather than to deny Christ, I'm trusting He'll give me the courage and grace to do it.

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  29. Elizabeth, thank you, It is so good to find a place where truth is spoken. Thank you sister, so much for your unwavering love of God. I was just thinking this morning how unprepared I really was for what hit our community here as the Ferguson thing went ablaze. How I had been warned about such times and to be ready. And while I believe that the true teaching of our church was the root of my preparation. I had not been watching as diligently as I should and I was caught of guard - caught up in the frenzy and holding tight the anchor of my hope as I was tossed about by the gale force of the relentless battle. The spiritual battle that has been raging on our streets day and night. Who is ready for that? Surely it is only thing to prepare for a mission trip, but when the mission blows up right in front of your face - are you ready for that? I confess I was not fully prepared. But God had provided all that I needed. It was a struggle - flesh with spirit - spirit with spirit - flesh with flesh - and it is still fleshing out. As the Spirit is still moving in this town. And then there is the suffering of those like the one ones in Iraq, Syria, Africa, Krimea, so many places in this world, that make even the greatest suffering here feel small and insignificant. But God cares about it all and he calls us to stand watch, to be on guard, to arm ourselves with truth for such a time as this. Thank you for encouraging us to be ready. God bless.

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