Demo of Julie's Bible Reference Library

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Gospel Truth

Treasured friend,

A few months ago, our church (The Orchard Evangelical Free Church) hosted a Saturday morning seminar. Dad was doing well that day, so Mom and I were able to get away for the morning -- and we enjoyed the event together. One major chunk of the morning was dedicated to creating the "talking points" outline of our personal journeys of faith. The assignment was to go home and flesh out the outline into a brief story we could share when someone is open to hearing about how we came to trust Christ for ourselves.

We made it a mother/daughter project to complete our stories. And, once we shared them with each other, we realized that each of us was part of the other's faith story.

So often in the dailyness of caregiving responsibilities, it's tempting to lose sight of the bigger reality. We found this exercise to be one that helped us refocus on the main thing--the fact that we have come to know, individually, from years of experience that God loves us, Christ died for us and lives in heaven waiting for us, and the Holy Spirit of God is interceding for us every moment of our challenging journeys.

With that in mind, Mom gave me permission to share her story with you, alongside mine. We'll start with hers--since she's older (don't tell her I said that!).

Joy's Story

When I came to a real relationship with God –

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Romans 1:16 (ESV)

As a 7-year-old I came to Christ in a worship service; the children’s minister of the church where my father preached led me in a prayer of admitting my sins and asking Jesus to forgive me. But as I grew, I only had a "fear" of God -- of displeasing Him. I know I loved Him, but I showed it by making sure externally I did all the right things that my church said to do, and stayed away from all the wrong (worldly) things my church said a Christian shouldn’t do. Something was still missing from the vibrant relationship I somehow knew was available to me.

When I was a teen, our church held a revival series over several months. And as I attended night after night I felt somehow touched by Christ—closer to Him than I’d felt before. Having more of a desire to please Him than a fear of displeasing Him.

I continued to see evidence of God's hand over me throughout the years. When John and I married we were careful to live a godly life. He read the Bible to me each evening; over the course of the years, I can’t tell you how many times we went through the entire Bible together in that way. We shared our testimony of Jesus whenever we had the opportunity. But I always wished I had a more systematic and complete understanding of God’s Word.

Fast forward to when God blessed John and me with a child. I really got serious about spiritual things – read the Bible to Julie every morning in language she could understand. I got into the Word for myself now and I couldn't get enough of it. So I began attending three Bible studies each week, along with other Christian events where that hunger was being satisfied. Now my faith really began to grow. I began to realize the great privilege of prayer—of deep communication with the God Who loved me and gave His only Son for me. It began to be more about relationship with Him, getting to know everything I could about Him—rather than being motivated by fear. I started to see my daughter’s excitement about knowing Christ for herself—and we grew together. It amazed me how deepening relationship with Christ and His Word made a difference in my relationships with my husband and daughter, too.

During that time I became one of five women in a gospel singing group. We traveled the Midwest, singing and sharing our stories of faith in various churches and denominations, some of whom I know didn't understand why our faith was so important to us, and that Jesus meant everything to us. But once I found Christ for myself -- not my parents - not my husband - not my daughter -- BUT Jesus was for me, I couldn’t help but tell others what I’d found in Him. So, at many of our concerts I had the privilege of sharing this story of faith and of leading the audience in a prayer that could start each of them on their own personal journeys with the God of the Word.

More than a far-away God, Christ became my companion - Savior -Lord of my Life - I wouldn't have lived it any other way.


Jul's Story
Go Tell Jesus You're Sorry

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)

One command from my mother became the initiator of my one-on-one relationship with God and His Son Jesus. The command came on one of many days when I had sassed back at her. (Come to think of it, she must have given that same command often during my childhood) I wasn't a particularly naughty child, rather compliant, actually, but my mouth was just a little quicker than my mind--and I wasn't able to edit it all back. So I sassed. Again. And Mom got that look on her face: "Go to your room. And don't come out until you've told Jesus you're sorry."

Now, I must tell you I was a churched kid. I knew all the stories about Jesus and His taking little children in His arms to bless them. I knew He was God's Son born on Christmas who died on Easter to pay for the sins and shortcomings of people. Yes, I knew enough about Him to do what she was asking me to.

So, I stormed off to my room. The door hadn't even closed yet when my tender little heart broke--because I knew I was guilty. I'd sassed. No doubt about it. And sassing made God sad--just like lying or disobeying my parents or any number of "little" sins my little heart had committed.

With that crushing sadness, I crunched up in a little ball on the floor, in the two-foot space between my bed and dresser. And I said, "Jesus, I'm sorry. I know I was wrong. I didn't mean to do it, but I did. Please forgive me. I want to be in Your family--so please make me like You--and in case I do it again in the future--I probably will!--I don't want it to keep me from heaven."

That tender-hearted moment was the kernel that started my life-long journey toward knowing Jesus as my forgiver and the One I've asked to be in charge of my life.

Five or six years later, when I was a totally mature 8 years old, I wanted to be sure I had it all lined up just right, so I walked down the aisle of a church in Florida when a preacher offered an invitation for anyone who wanted to be God's child. I knew I wanted that--so when he prayed, I agreed along with him. God, I'm a sinner (remember that sassing?). God I could never be good enough on my own to meet your perfect standard. But Jesus was perfect. And He loved me enough to lay down His perfect life as payment for my sin. I ask You to apply His payment to my account. And make me Your child. Take over my life and lead me."

Those may not have been the exact words, but they were the gist of it. When I went to college and my faith was tested by friends and even professors, I was still absolutely convinced that God exists and Jesus made this way for me to heaven--where I can know I'll be with Him one day.

In all the years between then and now (never mind how many there have been) I have done my best to learn to know Him better. He has called me to a full-time ministry of writing and speaking His truth to audiences I get to see face to face (in person, on TV, and listening by radio/internet) and readers in countless countries around the world—most of whom I may never meet. Through my books and articles, I get to share the good news of the gospel to those who don’t yet know my Jesus. And I get to encourage (even challenge) those who do know Him to deepen their relationships with Him through studying His Word in fresh ways.

But, ministry calling aside, He's been my friend, my confidante, my forgiver, and my life-planner (Lord) all these years. I knew way back then that He could be trusted with my little heart. So, now as a long-time believer, I can say along with the apostle Paul, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12; NASB).


Mom and I hope our sharing these stories with you accomplished two goals:

1) If you have been considering Christ's claims, we pray that our stories will show you the path to your own personal relationship with God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

2) If you have your own story of faith, we pray that you'll take the time to write it down, so you can both see how God has proven Himself faithful to you and then go tell others that amazing news.

Oh, and if either (or both) of those apply to you, drop us a line and let us know. We'll keep it to ourselves if you like. Or, even better, we'd love it if you'd post it here to encourage others to do the same.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron, Joy Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Friday, October 14, 2011

Joy Comes to the CCU

A joyful heart is good medicine. Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)


And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me.” Genesis 21:6 (ESV)

Treasured friend,

I just shared with my friend Rhonda, whose dad is recovering from bypass surgery, a memory from my own dad's bypass.

You need to find the funny even in the really bad times, or you'll go nuts. With that in mind ...

Dad was in CCU after his bypasses with tubes coming out of everywhere and his hands restrained; we were appalled at how he looked. Fortunately there are no mirrors in CCU, so he didn't know how bad it was.

He couldn't talk, of course, because of the ventilator and feeding tubes. He was clearly feeling miserable in every square inch of his shrinking frame.
Someone--the night nurse, I think--taught him how to communicate by spelling out words in the air--rather Helen Keller-like. One of the first times he was awake when we got our 5 minutes per hour to spend with him (that's the limit for visits in CCU), he kept spelling out S-K-R-A-C-H in the air with his finger; then he'd grab for my hand. When I reached to hold his hand, he'd push it away a little and weakly scratch the back of it.

It took a while. But we finally figured he thought he had been scratched. Feeling like the mom of a toddler, I tried to sooth him. 'It's okay, Dad. I know a scratch hurts, but it'll go away.' With all his grave wounds, a 'skrach' didn't seem like a big deal. You had to love the spelling, though -- those drugs in surgery certainly do a number on the thinking centers. (To think this was the man who taught me to spell!)

He couldn't be stopped, though. The air spelling continued--with great flourish on the K. And each time, he grew more insistent and more frustrated.

Finally, the nurse who had taught him this rudamentary communication interpreted for us: he wanted us to scratch his head -- he had an itch.

Even in the bleakest moments, a ray of hope often comes in the form of a good chuckle. May the Lord bring one of those into your life today! Even years later, this story still ripples a round of laughter through our little circle.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Waiting Game

But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength. Isaiah 40:31 (MSG)

Treasured friend, 

Patience may be a virtue, but it’s not one of mine. Yet the Bible's wisdom literature (Psalms and Ecclesiastes, in particular) have a lot to say about this virtue of waiting—especially of waiting patiently for the Lord to intervene on our behalf.

It could be in the big stuff—or the daily stuff. We know enough of our God to know He is aware and He stands waiting, too. He waits beside us and in us, ready to act on our behalf.

Today, I’m thinking about patience, because this moment while I write three of my caregiving friends are waiting for the big stuff. They sit numbly expecting news of the outcome of their parents’ heart tests and surgeries. One is physically sitting in her office at work, at her desk, looking like all is normal—except it isn’t, because her heart is in another state, anxiously awaiting word from family members who are nearby as her father's life is in the heart-surgeon’s hands. The others are, like Mom and I have been so many times over so many years, sitting stiffly in the plastic chairs of the hospital waiting room, sipping burned coffee from Styrofoam cups without even noticing the acrid flavor, blankly flipping frizzled magazine pages, and stealing furtive glances toward OR doors that sport the menacing warning: No Admittance Beyond This Point. Waiting room attendants know not to make eye contact with waitees—because this is a time of introspection, of fear, of coming face to face with the unknown. There’s nothing any other person, however trained or empathetic, can really do for the waitees in those moments. Nothing except pray, which is what I'm doing for each of these friends today.

There are no guarantees. Actually, there is one guarantee—if the rapture doesn’t come in the mean time, all of us will face this moment—both with our loved ones and for ourselves—and the outcome won’t be what our humanness wants to hear.

In our waiting room times with Dad, we’ve been so relieved to see a smiling surgeon emerge with a smug look of his having cheated eternity on Dad’s behalf—at least for now. But, I can remember once while we were waiting for Dad, some church friends were sitting beside us—and their news from the surgeon wasn’t nearly so good.

I suppose that’s what makes the wait so long—and the dependence on our God so great. I love the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases the familiar Scripture above: wait upon God … get fresh strength. It’s so vibrant. And so direct. Strength to face whatever. Strength from the hand and nature of a loving God. Just knowing God knows and cares and supports and loves us through these times is immeasurably strengthening. And His strength, like the living water of life He offers at our salvation, is limitless—fresh—sweet.

In case you have a waiting room in your future—or in your day, today—I’d like to share a list of Scriptures that mean something to me in those hours. I gleaned this particular list from a book called “Treasury” that comes with my WORDsearch Bible Software library. (Every verse in the ESV translation has similar lists of other times its key topics appear throughout both Testaments.) It’s a treasure I’ve discovered only recently—and hope it brings you comfort, joy—and yes, especially strength—today:


Isa 8:17 — I will wait for the LORD… and I will hope in him.

Isa 25:9 — It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Isa 30:18 — Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.

Ps 25:3 — Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame

Ps 25:5 — Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

Ps 25:21 — May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.

Ps 27:14 — Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

Ps 40:1 — I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

Ps 123:2 — Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.

La 3:25 — The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

La 3:26 — It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Ro 8:25 — But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

1Th 1:10 — and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.


Take a few moments, if you would, to meditate on each of those truths, one by one. Several have become especially meaningful to me as I've done that. Here's what jumped out at me: None who wait for the Lord will be ashamed … the Lord inclines to and answers our cries … our God will have mercy on us … the Lord is good to the soul who seeks Him … we may not see it, but we can hope in patience—and assurance.

And the best of all, the one that gives real strength to every believer in the waiting room …the reminder of that last verse from 1 Thessalonians: this isn’t all there is. We wait, more than anything, for the Son of God, once dead and now alive forever more, to deliver us once and for all and carry us into His eternal kingdom—more alive than we’ve ever been, and in perfect health from that moment throughout eternity.

So, my waiting friends, I pray for you today, that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ would grant you peace and grace in your anxious times—and renewed assurance that this life, in its entirety, is only a dim and slim moment in light of a glorious eternity.

I pray for you and your loved ones the assurance of salvation that comes from placing your faith in Jesus Christ's sacrifice of His own life on Calvary--to pay for all of our sins: yours, theirs and mine. If you have trusted in His death and resurrection on your behalf, you will indeed find fresh strength in your waiting room--because the Lord of Heaven and Earth calls you His very own child and promises to be with you always.

Take courage, my friend. Take courage!

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com