There’d Be Days Like This {Trish Jones}

 

Hope

“O soul, are you weary and troubled?

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light for a look at the Savior,

And life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

in the light of His glory and grace.”

(Helen H. Lemmel, 1922)

Weary. Troubled. Dark. Directionless. Trapped. Tired.

Just…tired. Ever felt that way? Perhaps you feel that way now.

The news is never light and uplifting, but in the past few weeks it has been unrelentingly oppressive and even horrifying. It seems like half the United States has been on fire and the other half under water. South of us. islands have been swept into utter darkness and devastation by record winds and waves. Flooding in South Asia has killed over 1,400 with tens of thousands more left to scratch for existence in muck and mire. Earthquakes, landslides and sinkholes in recent weeks have killed hundreds, including children, and cause us to step lightly on the earth beneath our feet, fearful lest it shift and swallow us whole.

Meanwhile, people are walking into schools, businesses and stores brandishing guns and knives with death and destruction as their purpose. A madman in North Korea seems intent on plunging the world into nuclear war. Multitudes are losing belongings, transportation, shelter and even their lives as they struggle through the wreckage caused by “natural” disasters, while multitudes more are attempting to determine their gender by their own choice rather than their genetic makeup.

Depressed yet?

It’s certainly easy to be. And yet, into this maelstrom of current events that seem to be ushering the world toward what Jesus referred to as “the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:8) prayers the Apostle Paul wrote for ancient believers in Rome stand true today – because the God to whom Paul prayed is faithful and immutable.

As we survey the state of the world in which we live – and struggle with very real fears and anxieties about what that world may hold in the near future for us and those whom we love, let us true believers – followers of “the Way” – be strengthened by the God Who has the whole world in His hands.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hopeMay the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Romans 15:4-6)

These are words rich and deep with meaning – and can be so very easy to skip over without really apprehending what they mean in our lives. But I invite you – as you read this and any other portion of Scripture – to always be asking the rather blunt question: “so what?” Or, “and what exactly does this have to do with my life?”

A quick side trip: don’t ever ask when reading the Bible, “what does this mean to me?” Now, follow me here because this is going to sound a bit harsh – but it makes no difference what any passage of Scripture “means” to you – or me. We are not free to privately interpret the Word of God (2 Peter 1:20). The truest question we can ask is “what does this mean, period?” In other words, “what did God mean when He said this?”

Look again at what the Holy Spirit is saying through Paul:

  • God-breathed Scripture (see 2 Timothy 3:16) was given for our instruction
  • Scripture provides both endurance (cheerful patience, continuance, constancy) and encouragement (comfort, consolation, solace)
  • Those qualities of the written Word result in hope (confident expectation, faith)

Why do the Scriptures provide for us such needed strengths and encouragements in the midst of dark, fearful and troubling times?

Because the God Who spoke those words through His servant Paul was speaking from His own character. Note in verse six that he is “the God of endurance and encouragement.” Not just any “little g god,” but the God. God is enduring, patient, constant. God is encouragement, comfort, consolation, solace.

And what’s the result of all this? What’s the “so what” that impacts our lives daily, hourly, as we walk – frequently stumbling – through difficult times? We do so together, in harmony with other believers. We are not lone ranger Christians, but part of a faith family, part of the Body of Christ – and in that harmony, we glorify God – which is our highest purpose and greatest good.

Ah, but that’s not all. The Holy Spirit continues through Paul:

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. .

(Romans 15:13)

What is God revealing about His very essence here? He is the God of hope. Hope is part of His being, one of His character traits. The original Koine Greek of this verse is even stronger. Read this verse from an academic Greek-to-English translation:

Now the God of the hope fill you with every joy and hope in the sphere

of believing, resulting in your super-abounding in the sphere of the hope

by the power of the Holy Spirit.

(Romans 15:13, Wuest)

Again: not just any “little g god,” but the God. And, not just any type of amorphous, fuzzy, wishful-thinking, “gee, I hope it happens” kind of hope – but the hope, the confident certainty of God Himself, accompanied by (it gets even better!) – joy!

Not necessarily “happiness” – our personal circumstances can sometimes result in deep emotions of sorrow, anxiety, even depression. But joy can be our constant state of being because it is God’s own joy; His calm delight, His gladness, His exceeding and eternal joy.

That’s the “so what” of Paul’s prayer here and his declaration of another part of God’s attributes. What difference does it make to us, as believers? How rich do you want to be? What difference does it make in our frequently difficult lives to be filled, by the power of the Holy Spirit, with all joy and peace (now there’s a precious commodity!) and confidence (hope) – not only in our present circumstances, no matter what they may be, but in our future?

Paul closes out this section of his letter to the church at Rome with a blessing and benediction, that is equally applicable to us today:

May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

(Romans 15:33)

It will sound familiar by now: He is the God of the peace – and He is with all of His children – at all times, in all circumstances.

As the winds howled and the rains blew sideways. As roofs ripped and trees twisted and power flickered and died. As branches blew through unprotected windows and children cried in terror, while family pets shivered under beds. As our neighbors watched furniture float down rivers that used to be streets and interior walls buckle into mush from bacteria-laden floodwaters. As family and friends in the Keys and islands further south step out after horrific storms pass to find scenes of complete destruction. As they sit in stunned disbelief and wonder how they are to exist another day, let alone a lifetime. As the earth heaves and buckles and buildings collapse and children die in the rubble.

Peace? Peace? God with us? Really? Hope? Joy? Have you hurled those questions at the now-clear sky and wondered if there really was anyone or anything listening – who cared? Have your children or your neighbors come to you in anger fueled by deep grief and asked you those questions because they know you go to church occasionally?

Can you answer? Do you know why you believe what you say you believe? Have you come to grips with the “so what?” of these declarations of Paul?

Look again at these traits in these five verses:

  • Endurance (patience)
  • Encouragement (comfort, consolation)
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Hope
  • Holy Spirit power

As new creatures in Jesus Christ, regenerated, repentant children of Almighty God, these are ours to learn, grasp, believe, lean on and live out – regardless of our circumstances – because they are attributes of our Father Who bestows them on us through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit and through His inerrant, inspired holy Word. Be encouraged. Be joyful. Be hopeful. Be at peace. Our God reigns. Hallelujah!

What in the Word: Introducing Sheila

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We are really excited to get a start on these on going series, and this is the final introduction of our new contributors.  Sheila Thomas will be joining Trish Jones on our scriptural study series: What in the Word!  Take a moment to get to know Sheila a little better.

Let me begin by saying in my most southern voice, “Hey, Y’all!” Those of you who know me, know that I speak very southern. Even my kids make fun of me. Haha! But that’s okay.

I have been on a journey in life of trying to break free from people “please-itis”. Trust me, it’s a curse! Worrying all the time about what somebody’s thinking of me is 100% bondage. But due to my personality, on top of the fact that I was raised in a pastor’s home, I got a very good dose of that disease! But I digress. Let me formally introduce myself first.

When I was invited to be on the team for the Women’s Ministry Council, I felt very honored. For many years I have loved working with women, so this just felt right. As one of my responsibilities, I have been given the honor of writing monthly for our website. My heart leaped inside about this because another one of my passions is writing. But first let me tell you a little about myself.

I was born in South Carolina while my parents were attending Bible College.  Upon their graduation, they moved to Alabama, where they had been born and raised, for my daddy to pastor a church.  When I was 11 years old, once again we moved. This time to Hobe Sound, Florida for my parents to join the faculty at Hobe Sound Bible College, with my daddy later becoming the pastor of Hobe Sound Bible Church as well. 

After graduating from High School, I went on to earn a BA in Music, majoring in piano, with a minor in voice.  I have spent my adult life as a voice and piano instructor. I also spent many years as church pianist, soloist, choir and praise band director, as well as Director of Women’s Ministry and a mentor with MOPS and the public elementary school.  I have also been the guest speaker and soloist at women’s retreats. Having been a licensed realtor in the state of Florida, I also spent several years in real estate.

I have been married to my husband, Orlan, for 45 years, (Yes, I got married as a baby!) and we have three grown children and ten grandchildren. We homeschooled our children for 12 years. That was such a joy and honor. My family is my utmost fulfillment and pleasure. I LOVED being “Mommy” and adding the title, “Nana”, was over the top fabulous!

Some of my passionate topics to speak on are worship, mothering, friendships among women, personal development/growth, and the journey of deliverance from the bondage of legalism. I look forward to chatting with you here on these and other topics as well.

Lest you think my life sounds perfect, let me assure you that it has NOT been that way at all. I have had my share (and sometimes I felt like I had more than my share) of hard times in life. God has brought me through some very difficult times. Some things I’ve lived to tell about are the early death of my sweet and precious daddy, heart break over close family members and close friends, struggling with chronic health issues, extreme financial difficulties, etc. But God has grown sweeter and sweeter as I have learned to trust His love for me. Learning that He is indeed a good and loving Father as changed my whole life.

So I look forward to sharing some more moments with you here. Until then, have a blessed day. Breathe. Take one moment at a time. Live IN THAT MOMENT! Don’t miss ANYTHING in life. Get out of your comfort zone. Open your eyes and see the beauty. There is much to enjoy!

Love and Blessings,

Sheila Thomas

Pieces and Parts by Trish Jones

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As someone who will be a regular contributor to this column, I felt it would be helpful if I introduced myself.

And then I ran into a real problem: which part of me do I introduce?

Which part of you? What does that mean? How many “parts” do you have?

Honest question. Honest answer? Many. Just like you. Some are easier than others to reveal.

Great-grandmother. (Yep. Trust me, I’m old enough to be one.) Business Administrator at my church. Women’s ministry leader. Prayer ministry leader. Serious Bible student and teacher. Board member of Care Net Pregnancy Services . Member of the leadership team of Women’s Ministry Council. Avid reader. Writer. Former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor. Theologically Reformed. Some call me a miracle after God pulled me back from near death a couple of years ago. Some (who may not know me as well as they think they do) label me as “wise; discerning; outgoing; compassionate.”

So. Are you perhaps just a tad impressed? Hmmph. Don’t be. Here are some other labels that have defined me: preacher’s daughter who spent a lot of years telling God to go away and leave me alone; that I’d do things my way, thank you very much. Didn’t much like him, or at the very least, didn’t understand how he worked in human lives.

And I certainly didn’t like his people. Hurtful hypocrites, every one of them. Some of them even chased me out of a church when a pastor felt it was necessary to share my confessed, sinful past (key word: “past”) with his wife, who felt it beneficial to pass along a “prayer request” to her best friends, who found it juicy enough to pass it along to other acquaintances – well, you can guess how that turned out.

A more difficult label: sexually promiscuous – before, during and after marriage. Hurting, lonely, rejected, looking for love in all the wrong places and all the wrong ways. My great ambition when I was young was to be a wife and mother, and I had always wanted four children. I miscarried one; aborted two; gave birth to one. Four babies – four fathers.

Consummate actress (in other words, “hypocrite”) and liar, controller and manipulator. Loner. Lots of acquaintances; no close friends. Glutton. Critical and mean-spirited. Two-pack-a-day smoker for over 30 years. (I’ve been known to teach a home study with a Bible in one hand and a cigarette in the other.)

What’s the point of all that self-revelation? So I can more effectively introduce the real me. Trish Jones: redeemed, justified, beloved and reconciled by and to a Holy God. In union with his Son and my King, the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s a mouthful – of Grace. As the Apostle Paul hammers home in his letters to the scattered churches of his day, I am in Christ – and he is in me. Extraordinary grace – and truth.

I am passionate about Jesus and making him known; deeply concerned about the lack of Biblical literacy in our western churches and individual lives; and painfully aware of the hurts, fears and questions that so many of us women hide behind our smiling faces on a Sunday morning.

Thus the reason behind my rather blunt self-introduction: I’m a real person, just like you. I have a broken, sinful past – just like you. I battle besetting sins; I struggle with the ongoing tension between God’s amazing grace and God’s requirement for holy living; I have personal concerns about finances and health; I have painful and fractured family relationships; and I have an absolutely guaranteed and glorious future that gets closer every day.

So. In coming columns, as you (hopefully) read my writings about (at least part of) what God is teaching me through his Word, you will know you are sharing the thoughts of a real person. Not a woman perched on some ivory tower somewhere, but a woman down in the trenches of this daily, difficult, nitty-gritty life, right alongside you. I’ve probably been in those trenches longer than most of you, so perhaps our Lord can use me to both encourage and exhort you in your own hand-to-hand combat with the world, the flesh, and the devil (Ephesians 2:2,3).

That’s my prayer – and my purpose. Discipleship. Coming along beside other women to lend a listening ear, an understanding heart, and a helping hand through walking in the Spirit and the Word – together.

The next time we are together in this column (if I haven’t totally scared you off) we will be looking at Colossians 1:27-29 – a few declarations of the Apostle Paul that lay out the purpose, ways and means of discipleship. I hope you’ll join me. In the meantime – Abide.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to contact me at TRISH JONES