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Monday, March 28, 2016

Help!

Treasured friend,

Mom and I were going to visit a friend who’d been placed on hospice. As I got physically ready, I realized I needed to be spiritually ready to offer a word of hope, of encouragement. I know this sweet friend has a firm assurance on where she’ll spend eternity. Yet, there is sadness about leaving loved ones, about leaving this world.

After my makeup and hair were done, I sat at my desk and turned to the Psalms. Where else? I flipped backward through the book. 

150, 149, 148, 147, 146: all beautiful songs of joyful praise. Not quite right.

143, maybe. Begging God to answer our prayers and deliver us. But, it’s talking about reviving. That’s not likely for this sister in Christ. 

139. Nope. She’s certainly not running from Him—more like stumbling toward Him. 

Keep looking, Julie. 136, 135, 134, more praise songs. Not resonating today.

I skipped down a few. 125, 124, 123 too much about wicked scoffers. That’s not where we want our thoughts to rest. 

122. So sad—the reminder she’s no longer able to go into the house of the Lord. Definitely not.

Then my eyes lit on 121:

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night.
The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul.
The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever. (NASB)

That’s the one!

Hours later, as I held her hand and read Psalm 121, her lips moved and her tears flowed in joyful recognition. I noticed Mom and our other companions tearing. After all, this passage holds as much value to us—as we face the land of the living. Look to the Lord—expect help from Him. (This reminds me of Jesus’ description of the Holy Spirit as Parakletos, which can translate as “the Helper.”)

He cares. He keeps. He guards and protects our going out, like He has protected our coming in. He’s able to keep each of us now and forever. In this world and the next. He’s faithful in life, and He’s faithful as we pass from death to life (Philippians 1:20-21). That’s the help that bolstered my friend—and each of us—in the hospice room. I pray, my treasured friend, that it bolsters your faith today, as well.

Blessings and prayers, 

Julie 

© 2016, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Entrusted

Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.
(1 Thessalonians 2:4)

When we’re not a monolithic club to be courted and manipulated by those seeking not our God but only our vote (in other words, anytime other than a presidential election year), few outside the faith give much credence to Christians. In fact, truth be told, in greater society it’s rather an embarrassment to be a Christian. Add the label evangelical or the term born again, and most of our contemporaries consider us out of step at best and intolerant at worst.

I can’t count the times I’ve been on a plane or train en route to a speaking engagement when my seatmate has struck up a conversation.

“Where are you heading?”
“I’m the speaker at a conference in Dallas (or San Diego or Denver or whatever venue).”
“Oh, I hate public speaking. What do you talk about?”
“I’m also an author, and I’m talking from one of my books.”
“People tell me I should write a book. I’ll do it some day! Yes I will. By the way, what do you write about?”

Now is the moment I feared would come. What do I say?

Everything I write centers around Jesus Christ and how He is not only relevant but absolutely essential to life on this planet and safe passage into heaven. As Paul would tell the Thessalonian Christians, that’s the message with which we believers in Christ are entrusted. Notice another key phrase in the opening Scripture verse. “Approved by God.” God has vetted us and equipped us to represent the message. We have received His stamp of approval to carry the life-changing message.

When you put it that way … There really is no way to explain what I do and leave Christ out of the discussion. (Actually, whether we work in secular or religious occupations, there’s no way to explain who we are and leave Christ out of the discussion.)

But then there’s that rule about avoiding politics and religion in polite society. And there’s the real possibility that the word Christian will shut down the connection we were building and slam the door on warm conversation for the remainder of the journey.

So, will I mumble with my head down hoping my companion will just drop the issue? Will I appear to be ashamed of the gospel that brings me life and could bring it to my companion, too? Or will I take my chances and speak clearly, “not as pleasing men, but God”?

I know what the apostle Paul’s answer would be. In fact, the way the good news of Jesus reached those Thessalonians was a testament to how bold Paul was to speak the gospel without apology. The greater population of Thessalonica was so hostile to the message that the group of believers there had to sneak Paul and his preaching companion Silas out of the city under the cover of night. (For that harrowing story, Acts 17 is a must-read!)

And yet, later Paul was able to write to the church in that city and to say with the utmost truthfulness that he spoke “the message” with “full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5) among them.

The challenge for us is to speak with full conviction and then to live out the truth in a winsome way among our contemporaries. There, too, Paul and Silas had no reason to be ashamed. In fact, he mentioned to the believers that they knew “what kind of men we proved to be among you.” Then he commended them for following his example by becoming imitators of the Lord. He knew this because from them the gospel was going out and touching the surrounding culture (1: 8).

See, it’s really not about us. It’s about the message sounding across the world. The message that’s entrusted to us. The message we’re approved by God to carry. He entrusted it to many generations before us. And in each generation, there were those who were unashamed to claim the name of Christ, even to the point of facing death or torture.

The opportunity may come to us in a checkout line or a commuter seat, on a park bench or at a sporting venue, in a hospital elevator or at the graveside of a friend. The choice will stand before us—if not today, then certainly tomorrow. In that moment of decision, will I—will you—be unashamed to speak the Truth with full conviction—not as pleasing men, but God?

Blessings and prayers, 

Julie 

 © 2016, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Friday, January 22, 2016

Snow Day!

We’ve had a snow day here in our neck of the woods. You’d think that would be rather good, in a way--a time to catch up on lots of stuff you’ve been too busy chasing around in the outside world to finish. (Come to think of it, I did get a bit of office work in.) But I didn’t get nearly as much done as I’d have expected. Although Mom and I did singlehandedly (okay, with the help of one shovel between us, and one mop handle) attempt to move 500 cubic feet of the white stuff over the side of our deck. We got about two thirds of the way in before quitting in exhaustion. (She shoved her way into the action with more energy and strength than it would have taken for me to resist her participation!)
In days like these, we find within our energy stores an extra deposit from God—a strengthening for the task that feels supernatural in origin. We certainly felt that yesterday—that is, until we ran up against our physical wall of exhaustion. But, that’s the physical and clearly temporary brand of strengthening.
I reread a prayer this morning, from the quill of the apostle Paul, that speaks of a different kind of strengthening—a more permanent one—one that doesn’t leave us drained at the end of the experience and collapsing in exhaustion, but instead energizes us for a new kind of future so fabulous that we can’t even begin to imagine it. Here it is, found in the closing of his second letter to the Thessalonian Christians—a letter my pastor has been preaching through since the first of the year.
May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal encouragement and good hope by grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good work and word (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 HCSB).
I pray this Scripture with many of my new students as they enter their writing studies (in part because of the word word that makes up a key part of the prayer). But today, I felt very much like the Lord Himself whispered this prayer into my heart—as if the Holy Spirit and the Son of God, who intercede for me always, were praying it for me. 
To encourage my heart. 
To strengthen me. 
To prepare me for the good work (ergon) He has in store for me. 
To open me to the good Word and to the good words (logos) He has for me to speak or to write. 
Look where this strength and encouragement finds its source: in Jesus Christ and God our Father. And it’s based in the love of God for us. It’s the source of our hope. And, as I mentioned in the lead-in, it’s eternal, perpetual, everlasting, forever, since the world began and after the world ends.
So, I pray this Scripture into your day today—may our Lord, through His love and His Mighty Spirit, show His love for you by giving you an encouragement that will last. So that you may have His hope to sustain you—the hope based in the solid foundation of His promises to you. And may this love and this hope from Him bolster in your heart a firmly planted, growing resolve to keep on with your hard tasks. May it give energy to your tired body—and vibrant life to your tired soul. And may you, now rejuvenated in His strength, do with energy and enthusiasm the work of His calling on your life. May you not only do His will, but speak His words, today and every day.
Oh, and if you're caught in a snow day (as most of our part of the country continues to be), be careful moving that white stuff. It looks fluffy and sweet--like cotton candy--but boy-oh-boy can it leave your muscles aching!
Blessings to you, my friend,
Julie

© 2010, 2016 Julie-Allyson Ieron. Used by permission.

Julie-Allyson Ieron has the creative mind of a writer, the heart of a caregiver, the tenacity of a journalist, the others-centeredness of a businesswoman. She has published 35 books. Her newest are The GOD Interviews: Questions You Would Ask; Answers God Gives and: Gentle Hugs for Grieving Hearts
More of Julie-Allyson Ieron:www.joymediaservices.com/


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Word for the new year ... from Our Compassionate Lord

Dear friends,

In our archives, we found this post from a number of years ago -- it's more relevant today than it was when we first entered it in our blog. Hope you enjoy this re-read of a new year's blessing:

Word from My Compassionate Lord -   

My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken.
Leading into each new year, I seek from the Lord a verse of promise, encouragement, even challenge. I reread and review that verse, along with its related passage, throughout the coming year--and it provides a growth point for my relationship with Christ. One year, the passage was John 17--my study of which eventually became my book and Bible study: Praying Like Jesus. Other years, the word has been to return to my first love (last year's) or to simply stand firm when all is falling apart around me. It's a tradition I've kept since college--and one I am continuing this year.
Also, for many years, I've kept a Bible open in various locations (something I learned from reading that Billy Graham does it!) throughout my home and office. Each time I pass the open Bible, I read a verse or a passage. It’s getting harder now that I’ve reached the age where I need reading glasses to do this—but I keep a dollar-store pair on each open book, so I have no excuse to pass by without reading. I have one open Bible that I read when I'm brushing my teeth, for example. Another on the printer beside my computer. Another on the makeup table in my bedroom.
It was that third one whose pages got blown around when I was vacuuming one day recently. So, when I looked down at it the following evening, it was open to a passage I hadn't read in a long time ... Isaiah 54.
The entire passage blew me away, as it related to some of the unique pains and sadnesses on my heart. Then I got to verse 10, and realized it was the answer to my prayer for a new year’s annual verse. I share it with you from the HCSB, because it's so vibrant and personal in that translation:
“Though the mountains move and the hills shake, My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” says your compassionate LORD (Isaiah 54:10).
So much richness is there. So much promise. I love the adjective He chooses to describe Himself: compassionate! A word from my compassionate Lord is one I cannot ignore. One that comforts me in a way none other could.
And that promise is so vital in our topsy-turvy days. Though this world may quake and shake and all its foundations crumble, my peace with God through Jesus Christ and my position as beloved in His eyes are secure. Absolutely incredible. Only the Almighty could make that promise and keep it. And He does, and He will.
I challenge you some time in this first week of a new year to read this passage for yourself, perhaps even the whole chapter, and see whether our Lord has a word for you from its riches.
A blessed, safe, joyful, and God-filled new year to you and your loved ones!

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

 © 2012, 2015, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com