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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