Category Archives: Parting Words from The WORD

Parting Words From The WORD…Your “Write” Role, Part 1

Jim Watkins headshotVonda here: Okay, friends, today kicks off four Parting Words Fridays that will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen here, or probably anywhere else for that matter! As many of you know, I just returned from teaching at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, where one of the highlights of my week was hearing author, speaker, and threat to society, James Watkins deliver his keynote, “Your ‘Write’ Role.” Another highlight was when he agreed to let me share the message with you over the next four Fridays!

So pull up a chair, put on your creative-thinking-and-real-life-application-hat, and hear Jim’s heart for Christian writers and speakers, Part 1.

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Your “Write” Role, Part 1
by James Watkins

 

Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 12, as I read from the New Living Amplified Paraphrased King James Watkins Version for Writers:

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If a writer should say, “Because I have not been published in Charisma, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the Body. If the whole body was writing for Guideposts, who would write for take-home papers?

But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many kinds of writers, but one body.

1. You have an important role in Christian writing

How many of you truly believe that you have an important role in Christian writing?

Writers’ conferences are the absolutely worst place for you to feel important! Here’s what happens. You visit the website or look at the brochure, and there they are: “important” writers who have written fifty New York Times best-selling books, won “major awards” and spoken to thousands around the world.

And there you are having not written fifty New York Times best-selling books, not having won “major awards” and not speaking to thousands around the world.

And to be perfectly honest, I look at the conference faculty bios and wonder What am I doing here giving a keynote address?!

Okay, I do have books with Zondervan, Tyndale, HarperCollins, but most of my books are with small houses. Yes, I’ve spoken around the world, but mostly in cement-block churches with tin roofs and circus tents (no editorial comments, please, about clowns). And, while four of my books have won national awards, but not one has been a best-seller.

“Hi I’m Jim. I’m critically acclaimed, but commercially ashamed.”

So, if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and underqualified, I feel your pain. But my most “painful” event was a book signing in Seattle sitting next to Frank This Present Darkness Peretti. Frank had a line as far back as Nebraska; I had one or two people at a time in line. He was frantically writing “Frank.” “Frank.” “Frank.” I was writing little essays: Jim Watkins cartoon headshot

Dear friend, thank you for stopping by. If you can just stand there for just a few minutes until someone else comes, I won’t look like a complete loser. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Oh, here comes another person.

3 John 2, Jim

So, you’re not alone if you’re sitting here at this writers’ conference feeling less than important. But here’s that verse from 1 Corinthians 12 again.

But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 1 Corinthians 12:18

In your Bible, circle that name “God.” Then underline that verb “arranged.” God has arranged the body of Christian writers. He has you right where he wants you to be right now!

I hope and pray you feel safe here this week. It is so easy to feel all alone as a writers among people who just don’t get you. Here, you’re with your fellow peculiar people.

And most important, you are with fellow parts of the Body of Christ.

When you speak at churches in India, “honored guests” are outfitted with a gigantic floral arrangement around your neck, so you look like a Kentucky Derby winner. Plus, you have to take off your shoes when you’re on the platform. So there I was, the only white man in the entire church, dressed like a winning thoroughbred, in my sock feet, and they started singing “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High” and suddenly—I felt right at home. I belonged!

I felt that same way in our two trips to Africa. I was with my brothers and sisters! Okay, I was white brother who can’t dance, but I was family!

But it is so easy to lose our sense of importance with three deadly C’s:

Comparison: Back to the conference website or printed brochure. Maybe you’re thinking I haven’t had 50 books published. I haven’t been interviewed on national TV. I haven’t spoken to a stadium filled with fans. So I must not be an “important” part in the body of Christian publishing.

So, we move on—and down . . .

Copying: I’m going to write like Max Lucado. I’m going to get on the national talk shows. I’m going to be a great Bible teacher like Beth Moore.

And when we all, inevitably, fail, we move to the third level:

Criticizing: We move from feeling inferior to them to feeling superior to them. I can write better than E. L. James. Okay, anyone can write something better than Shades of Grey. I’m a better, deeper speaker than so and so.

Communicate to Change LIves Jim Watkins coverI love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Galatians 5:4-5:

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life (Galatians 6:4-5 MSG).

Comparison is a killer of creativity! And worse, a killer of your unique design as a writer. (We’ll talk more individuality later.)

For now, you may want to write this down:

I am important not because of who I am,
but because of Whose I am.

Give that a second to sink in, because it just may be the most important thing you’ll hear all week. More important than “Write tight,” “Show, don’t tell” and “Avoid adverbs.” Even more important than “Develop your brand and platform.”

My very funny friend, Jeanette Levellie, who has written two hilarious books reminds us, “God has already defined you. You don’t need others to tell you who you are.”

And from the founder of the Christian Missionary Alliance, A. B. Simpson:

Many Christians are in the place that the Lord has appointed them, and yet the devil is harassing their lives with a sense that they are not quite pleasing the Lord. If they could just settle down in the place that God has assigned them and fill it faithfully and lovingly for Him, there would be more joy in their hearts and more power in their lives.

So, you have an important role in Christian writing. But the enemy is ruthless. If he can’t convince you you’re not important, then he will try to make you feel you’re more important than you are! Look at verses 15-18 (New Living Amplified Paraphrased King James Watkins Version for Writers):

A writer for Decision cannot say to a writer of a church newsletter, “I don’t need you!” And a best-selling author cannot say to the one who writes letters to the editor, “I don’t need you!”

On the contrary, those writers who don’t command six-figure advances are indispensable, and the writers who don’t appear on the cover of Today’s Christian Woman deserve equal honor as those who do. And the writers who are never interviewed on Christian talk shows are just as necessary as those in the spotlight.

Paul is incredibly honest in acknowledging that there is an earthly hierarchy in the church and in Christian publishing. So, we need to maintain that careful balance that, “I am incredibly important, but I’m not any more important than anyone else . . . despite what the world may say and, particularly, despite what Christian publishing says!”

Moving on to verses 24-26:

But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

If one part receives a rejection slip, every part suffers with it; if one part signs a contract with Tyndale House, every part rejoices with it (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)

Copyright © 2015 James N. WatkinsJim Watkins real headshot

Bio: Jim wears more hats than his Aunt Luella!
*Associate acquisitions editor for Wesleyan Publishing House
*Conference speaker throughout the U.S. and overseas
*Director of programming for St. Davids Writers’ Conference
*Editorial advisor for ACW Press

Vonda again: Thank you, Jim! Now friends, isn’t that a powerful application to us as Christian writers and speakers? Be sure to come back for our 1st Tuesday post next Tuesday and then return for more insight next Friday from Jim Watkins’ Your “Write” Role, Part 2.

Thanks for Tweeting…Sharing is sweet!

Hilarious–but real–writers’ take on 1 Cor 12 by @JamesWatkinsCom via @VondaSkelton #amwriting (Click to Tweet)

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Parting Words From The WORD…I Thank God for You

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

As I write this, I’m hard at work preparing for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference that begins Sunday. It’s my writing conference home, and I’m honored to be there again this year, teaching four classes, meeting with writers, and hopefully encouraging attendees to answer the call God has placed on their lives…even if the road isn’t easy.

So today I decided I’d repost a favorite Parting Words From The WORD from a few years ago. I hope it encourages you today.

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A friend texted me a few minutes ago and asked for the first scripture passage that came to my mind. It only took me a second to reply because I had just been thinking about this verse moments earlier as I was talking with another writer/speaker friend.

Now, as I sit down to write this week’s Parting Word From The WORD, I realize how much this verse applies to you as well, friends and readers of my blog.

About seven years ago (now nine years ago) I had an idea to start a writer’s blog, a gathering place for Christian writers to come, be encouraged, instructed, and helped. A place where I could be real and pass along my experiences and struggles as a writer. A place where readers could learn how to avoid the mistakes I made.

I wanted a place for writers to find writing opportunities, hear from other writers, and win good stuff. A place where writers could feel at home and fit in, where it’s completely normal to talk with imaginary characters one minute and plan how to kill people without getting caught the next.

But most of all, I wanted a place where the ultimate goal was to use our words to glorify God and lift up the name of Jesus. A place to shine His light in the middle of darkness.

And we did it. Together, we did it.

So today, my verse is all about you. Because without you, there’d be no reason to have the Christian Writer’s Den. Without you, we wouldn’t be working together to bring the lost to Jesus in this little corner of the internet.

The verse?

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you…
Philippians 1:3 (HCSB)

And I do. I really do.

Thank you.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…Oh, Be Careful

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Today’s post started out like most of my Parting Words posts. As usual, I came across a verse this week that God used to speak truth to me. I knew days ago that today we would talk about I Timothy 4:16.

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:16 (NIV)

But I didn’t realize exactly what the message would be.

As I read that verse, God impressed on my heart that as speakers and writers, we must be especially careful of how we live our lives and proclaim God’s Word. Others are watching, so we must watch our lives and doctrine closely, we must persevere, and in doing so, we save not only ourselves, but those who hear our words and watch our lives.

Wow. Just think, because of how we live and spread His truth, others can be saved. What an honor and a privilege we have!

As I meditated on the verse, the phrase, “Watch your life…” reminded me of the song we all learned as children, “Oh, Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” I decided to look it up and within minutes, I was taken back to my childhood and songs I haven’t heard in 50 years. I had a hard time leaving.

Here’s Oh, Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.

Click here to hear an old recording of one I had totally forgotten, Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam.

So what began as a look at 1 Timothy 4:16, ended up taking me back 50 years to the truths of God’s Word, learned as a little child, through the old songs.

So the message of this post is:

  • We must be careful of what we see, what we hear, what we say, where we go, and what we do
  • Jesus wants us all to be sunbeams for Him, shining His light into all the world
  • We must watch how we live our lives because others are watching…and listening

If we do, lives can be changed for eternity.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…Yea, I Can Do That

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

 

I might not be able to decorate a house, but I make a pretty good pot of homemade vegetable beef soup.

My skill at organization? Not so hot. But my ability to make people laugh? Yea, I can do that.

I can’t create a musical masterpiece…but I can write a story that could change a life.

I no longer dance or run races or snow ski. After all, I’m at the age that I’m afraid I’ll fall and break a hip! But I can still teach Sunday School and sing in the worship ensemble and lead a feeding ministry team.

What about you? Are you good at building dog houses? Organizing birthday parties? Teaching God’s Word?

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.
If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides,
so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.  I Peter 4:10-11

How are you using your gifts to help others today?

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…Are We Hiding Behind Our Baggage?

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

This past Thursday I ran across a passage in my daily study and knew immediately that I had to share it with you. I couldn’t wait. Then all you-know-what broke out and I spent the rest of my Thursday putting out fires before heading out to a long-planned appointment Thursday evening. So this post is late, but no matter when you read it, I’m confident it will speak to you…if you let it.

Let’s face it, as speakers and writers, we’re often a camaraderie of low self-esteemers. We compare our worst to others’ best. We see their years of experience and think we can never measure up. We see our failures and wonder why we should even try.

But regardless of how we feel, we must remember one thing: If God has a plan for our lives–and we know He does–don’t you think He also has a plan to see it through?

So what does this have to do with baggage?

As I read about the calling of King Saul in 1 Samuel 9 and 10, I saw myself in his reaction and responses. In 1 Samuel 9, we see that God very specifically spoke to Samuel when He said, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.” Clear as it could be, right?

But when Samuel told Saul that he and his family were the center of all Israel’s hopes, Saul wasn’t convinced. He responded with, “But I’m only from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of that tribe! Why are you talking like this to me?”

Sound familiar?

Yes, Saul’s response was almost exactly like Gideon’s in Judges 6 when the angel of the Lord said Gideon would save Israel from the Midianites: “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” And we know what Gideon eventually did with his 300 men!

But that’s not all. As Saul’s name was announced as king, he couldn’t be found anywhere.

So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?”
And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” 1 Samuel 10:22 (NIV)

Oh my goodness. “He has hidden himself among the baggage.”

His life had already been mapped out by God Almighty, and yet he was hiding in fear…among the baggage. He was hiding behind his past, his failures, his perceived lack of ability.

Hiding among the baggage of his life.

And, as we know from Scripture, his life didn’t end as Israel envisioned. But the key is, God used him and had a plan for his life from the very beginning.

What about me? What about you? Are we like Saul, hiding behind those things we wish we could change? Those things we want to keep private? Those things we feel prevent us from being who He has for us to be?

I’ve said it many times before, and I say it again here today: God doesn’t waste any scars. He doesn’t waste our hurts or our pain or our failures or our losses.

He doesn’t waste our baggage…and He certainly doesn’t want us to hide behind it. What will we do when God calls us for a specific job? It could be a life or death decision for someone.

Thanks for Tweeting! Sharing is sweet…

Hiding your baggage…or using it? Could be a life or death decision. #grace #change #purpose @VondaSkelton (Click to Tweet)

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…Are We Haters or Lovers?

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

This week, I read another powerful blog post from my friend, Lori Roeleveld. The title grabbed me immediately: I’ve Been Marked as a Hater. I fully expected it would be another report of a Christian conservative friend being labeled a hater by Facebook, simply because of her stand on all things Christian. But that wasn’t the focus of the post.

Instead, it was a report of Lori’s own conversations with young people who are believing satan’s lie that if we stand up for right and truth, we must hate the sinner.

I have one thing to say about that: Jesus stood for truth, but sat with sinners.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

Jesus did not tell us to hate. He demonstrated love. Regardless of how we feel about sin, love must be the evidence of the truth…

…Even if the culture can’t grasp the concept and continues to spread a lie of hate.

Lori says, “Could it be our mission to recover love?” To snatch it away from the evil one? I hope you’ll read her post and meditate on her challenges. I can’t get them out of my head…or my heart.

I pray God’s blessings on the work of your hands and your heart.

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…’It’s Sunday,’ but Jesus is comin’

Empty tombGood Friday, dear friends. For the past week or so I’ve been seeking the Lord for a powerful message for today. And yesterday it magically appeared…in my Inbox! I realize I shouldn’t be surprised by anything God does, but when He answered my prayers through email, I must admit, I was a little giddy. I was even giddier when James Watkins, “author, speaker, threat to society” gave me permission to reprint it here. This post appeared at his awesome HopeAndHumor.org site and I’m honored that he’s allowing me to share it with you. I hope you’re as blessed as I was by it. Thank you, Jim.

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‘It’s Sunday,’ but Jesus is Comin’ by James Watkins

Author Tony Campolo’s most famous message declares, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’.” But what happens when it’s Sunday and we’re still facing death and despair?

Jesus has been unjustly charged and condemned to die. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’. The religious and political tyrants have stopped his rebellious message. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’. He has been brutally beaten, stripped, and nailed to a cross. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’. Christ is sealed in a tomb, his dead body guarded by Roman soldiers. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.

The message builds to a powerful conclusion when the pastor simply shouts, “It’s Friday!” and the congregation responds, “But Sunday’s comin’.”

But . . .

It’s Sunday in the United States and 4,000 unborn children will be aborted tomorrow. One out of four children will be sexually or physically abused. Five thousand teens will attempt suicide; thirteen will succeed. Sixteen young adults will be murdered. More than two thousand unmarried teens will get pregnant.

It’s Sunday in the United States and this weekend, five thousand parents will tell their children they’re divorcing. One out of every twenty adults will not have a job to go to tomorrow. More than 85,000 people will die. Out of that number, 17,000 will die of some kind of cancer.

It may be Easter Sunday, but throughout the world, people in the pews are still dealing with the effects of abuse and divorce, crime and violence, life-threatening diseases, unemployment or “under employment,” depression, and grief from a the loss of a loved one.

In fact, holidays have a way of compounding a sense of loss. Perhaps there will be one fewer person at Easter dinner because of a death or divorce. Maybe there is less on the table because of financial pressures.

“It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’” is not always comforting. But that’s only half of the story of Christ. The Bible’s book of Revelation chapter 19 provides the rest of the promise:

It’s Sunday, but Jesus is coming!

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

It’s Sunday. Environmentalists warn of “global warming,” acid rain, depletion of the ozone layer, and carcinogens in our food, but Jesus is coming!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . .

It’s Sunday. Political unrest and corruption affect virtually every country. Christians are oppressed, persecuted, and executed by ungodly governments, but Jesus is coming!

With justice he judges and makes war. . . . On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

It’s Sunday. Today, two billion people throughout the world will go to bed hungry. Millions throughout the world are suffering from abuse and illness. Many more millions are grieving the loss of loved ones, but Jesus is coming!

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

It’s Sunday. Unfortunately the actual celebration of Easter may distract us from the very Christ we honor by practicing for cantatas, buying new clothes, and preparing Sunday dinners, but Jesus is coming!

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be will be with them and be their God.

This certainly doesn’t mean we shut our eyes to the suffering around us. God commands us to do everything in our human power to relieve suffering and to work for justice for all.

But the good news of Easter goes beyond “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.”

It’s Sunday, but Jesus is coming!

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Copyright © 1995 James N. Watkins

Find lots of Easter week columns, cartoons and resources at Hope & Humor. And have a very meaningful Easter week!

Bio: Jim wears more hats than his Aunt Luella! He’s:

 

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Parting Words From The WORD…Grace to Come Back Home, Part 3

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at grace, particularly the concept of finding the grace to come back home. These conversations began after my pastor, Larry Scott, led a sermon series on this very subject. As I’ve mentioned before, the outline points are taken from his sermon, but I’m adding some details and insights I feel the Lord has given me to share. I pray this has been an encouragement for all of us. Click to find The Grace to Come Back Home, Part 1 and The Grace to Come Back Home, Part 2.

Here’s Part 3 of Grace to Come Back Home: There is No Condemnation for Those Who Belong to Christ

Let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard to come back home to the Father. Disappointment, confusion, and/or despair are often reasons for the separation, but they don’t have to continue to keep us separated from Him.

We must remember there can be consequences for leaving God behind: We lose fellowship with the Father and the Body, we lose rewards and joy. Those losses are clear and evident, but do we realize we can cause others to lose as well? When we fall away, we lose our effectiveness as His children, possibly becoming a stumbling block in their own walk with God.

But regardless of how far we fall away, we can be confident in the fact that God’s door will always be open. As Pastor Larry said, God will never reject His children when they come back to Him. Here are some of the reasons. (There are many verses to support these points. I only include a very few.)

1.  Grace is unconditional.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail. Lamentations 3:22 (NIV)

2.  Salvation is not based on performance.

…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…. Titus 3:5 (NIV)

3.  Jesus already took the punishment for our sin. Punishment is retribution for the past; discipline is training for the future.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NIV)

4.  Jesus understands our weakness. He’s not waiting to zap us.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)

 

5.  He doesn’t hold on to grudges. This truth is beautifully demonstrated in Peter’s life. After Peter had so blatantly denied Jesus three times, Jesus’ response to Peter after His resurrection was one of love and forgiveness.

After His resurrection, Jesus reinstated and encouraged Peter in John 21:15-19 by asking him three times, “Peter, do you love me?” In each incidence, Peter replied that yes, he loved Jesus. Jesus’ three responses were: “Feed my lambs.” “Take care of my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.” In other words, Jesus was giving Peter the encouragement he needed to step out in faith again. And as the book of Acts clearly shows us, Peter–the same one who denied Jesus three times–boldly goes forth to preach powerful messages of conviction, forgiveness, and grace through the blood of Jesus Christ.

We started this series with Peter and we end it with him. Peter is you, and he is me. Although he loved the Lord, Peter, a disciple and one of the most intimate of Christ’s friends, not only fell out of fellowship with Jesus, but turned his back on him as well. But praise God, even when Peter was out of fellowship, his relationship with Christ wasn’t over.

And neither is ours. Broken fellowship does not mean broken relationship with Him. His grace never ends.

There have been times in my life when I’ve fallen far from God, but praise Him, I can never fall so far that I can’t find my way to come back home.

All we have to do is turn around, and He’ll be there. Arms outstretched, ready to receive me back into fellowship with Him.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…Grace to Come Back Home, Part 2

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Last week I shared the first part of Grace to Come Back Home, based on a series of sermons my pastor, Larry Scott, has been bringing to our church body. If you missed it, I hope you’ll check out that post first, titled 4 Causes for Falling Away From God. This week we’re looking at the symptoms associated with becoming separated from God.

5 Symptoms of Falling Away From God

Today we’ll take the next step by evaluating our own lives for the symptoms of falling away. Please note that much of the outline is taken from my pastor’s sermon, but most of today’s commentary is taken from my own experiences of life in evangelical churches.

1.  We stop giving. We take the tithe hostage, using it as leverage to try to get our way. We act as if it’s our money, when in truth, it’s all His. 

2.  We stop spiritual disciplines. Have we stopped seeking His face in prayer and studying His Word? Are we avoiding His answers and turning a deaf hear to His voice? If we can avoid Him on an ongoing basis, we are treading on dangerous ground.

3.  We find fault, we complain about everything, and become dissatisfied with the people, places, and things of God. Let’s face it, it’s much easier to point to others as the reasons for our problems than it is to take responsibility for ourselves. A Christian who is on a continuous fault-finding, disgruntling mission is very likely a person who is falling away from God.

4.  We disconnect. We stop spending time together as part of the church body; we resign from roles and ministries; we avoid Sunday School, choir practice, and ministry opportunities.

5.  We leave. We leave the fellowship. We leave the church. We may even be at risk for leaving Christianity. Yes, sometimes God really does take us in a new direction, at a new church. That’s not what we’re talking about here. In the case of falling away from God, leaving the church can actually mean we’re leaving God. Perhaps we left Him behind long ago.

Yes, I’m the first to admit that many of these things can be evidence of a problem at a specific church, rather than evidence of falling away from God. But the difference is in the heart, it’s the motivation. I’ve had friends in churches who have truly felt led to leave the local church for whatever reason, and they’ve gone on to grow in the Lord and work hard for the Kingdom.

But let’s face it, sometimes we’re deceived by the evil one. He leads us to blame the church, the pastor, the leadership, the programs, and everything else related to the church, when in truth, he’s enticing us to run from God.

And then there are other times when these complaints are simply our excuses, providing culturally-acceptable rationale to withhold our money, stop our study, complain, disconnect from the body, and leave the church…when in reality, our motivations, and perhaps our secret sins, are compelling us to leave God behind.

Do you find yourself struggling in one or more of these areas? If I’m honest, I have to admit that sometimes it’s easy to fall into them, completely unaware that Satan is the one holding the reins.

Living the Christian life means we must continually evaluate our hearts and examine our relationships with the Lord. After all, the first step to receiving His grace is knowing who and where we are. The second is reaching out and taking hold of the grace to come back home.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…Grace to Come Back Home Part 1

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

I think I’ve already mentioned that my pastor, Larry Scott, is leading us in a study of grace. And although I’ve been studying God’s Word for many years, it’s been an eye-opening experience for me. I’ve been reminded how easily we can become deceived.

Week after week Pastor Larry has taught messages that prick my heart, prompting a weekly self-evaluation. I didn’t like what I saw. Over the next few Fridays I’m going to share a few of those points. Then I ask you to look at your own life and heart, and see if He reveals something unexpected to you.

God’s Amazing Grace—Grace to Come Back Home, Part 1 (Based on Pastor Larry Scott’s messages)

4 Causes of Falling Away From God, from Peter’s experience

1.  Overconfidence in our spiritual lives. As Jesus shared with His disciples that they would betray Him, Peter proclaimed even if all betrayed Him, he would not, even if it meant Peter’s death. (Mark 14:27-31)

Overconfidence in our own ability to resist sin is a set-up for falling hard. The very thing that we feel strong about could be the very thing Satan will use to tear us down and ruin our testimony.

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NLT)

2.  Spiritual laziness. Jesus asked Peter, James, and John to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, stating that His soul was “…overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Jesus left them, went deeper into the garden, and cried out to the Father for the cup to pass from Him. Luke 22:44 says He prayed so desperately that He sweat drops of blood. Then, as you know, Jesus returned to find them asleep more than once. (Mark 14:32-42)

Jesus cried out on our behalf and sacrificed His life for our sin, and yet, we’re often too lazy to study His Word, fellowship with the Body in worship, and gather for Sunday School. We’re essentially pruning away His desires and grafting in our own.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)

3.  Fear of Disapproval. After Jesus was arrested, Peter—the one who said he would die for Him—followed at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. Later, he even denies knowing Jesus…just as Jesus had proclaimed hours earlier. (Mark 14:54a and 66-72)

We say we will die for Jesus, and yet, we often are quiet and won’t stand up to be counted for Him before His enemies and/or our peers.

Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:26 (NIV)

4.  We want a convenient faith. Peter not only followed the crowd at a distance into the courtyard of the high priest, but once there, he sat with the Roman guards, warming himself by the fire. Yes, Peter may have been cold, but isn’t that a small inconvenience for one who said he would die for Jesus? (Mark 14:54b)

How often to we turn from the proddings or even the commands of Jesus, simply because it isn’t convenient? We’re too tired, too self-centered, too important to reach out to others in ministry. It’s just too inconvenient to do what He’s commanded us to do: To love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

So, where do you find yourself when you compare yourself to Peter and consider grace? As I said, I didn’t like what I found. I–like Peter–can think too highly of myself, confident in my ability to resist sin. I’m often lazy and weak in the face of disapproval, submitting to a faith of convenience. My prayer today is that each of us will be truly committed to whatever God calls us to…regardless of the cost. After all, it cost Jesus His very life.

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Please pray for my cousins, Bobby and Zach

I have two very seriously ill cousins who need your prayers. Bobby has an unbelievably large brain tumor and will be starting chemo and radiation next week. Another cousin, Zach, is only in his 30′s and has an aggressive form of early onset Parkinson’s Disease. We need two miracles in our family. Thank you for your prayers.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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