Tuesday, July 18, 2017

God Never Hurries: And It Benefits Us

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3

By Carol McClain: @carol_mcclain

Have you ever known God to be in a rush for anything?

I'm not asking facetiously. Scripturally, He waited four days to go heal Lazarus. He let a storm rise on the Sea of Galilee before waking up to calm it. He didn't run to heal Jairus's daughter. Abraham and Sarah waited. Hannah, too. Always, He took His time.

And always it was perfect.

We've heard of people who get their answers almost instantly. They marry quickly, have kids easily, find a job, a home, success.

But don't despair if it takes time.

God is never in a rush. God is always on time.

This is especially true for me--a woman who had to get it done yesterday.

Effects of Waiting in My Life

  1. I waited twenty years as a divorced woman before I met my husband. Neil would never have been free to marry me any sooner. I remember one time, God sent me off on a mission trip to Romania. I think He had one purpose--so I wouldn't make a play for a man, new to our church fellowship, who ended up falling in love with one of my closest friends. He wasn't meant for me. Neil was. And he is God's perfect gift for me.
  2. I waited many years before I got published. Now, in a new home, I've found a devoted audience who loves my work and encourages me continually. Will I make it as an author? Read my works, especially The Poison We Drink and you'll see that I should. However, if not, God's perfect timing will allow my work to fall in the right hands at the right time, and He will receive the glory. 
  3. The first house we bought in Tennessee, fell through on the day we signed the papers. It was a divine place on five secluded acres in Fentress County. If we moved there, we wouldn't have the wonderful church family and friends we have here. Our home in Jacksoboro has all we need and want--and we're able to minister to family and friends in a way we never would have in the first home we tried to buy.
  4. Our ministry will bring us joy. Once more, I'm teaching Sunday school. Seems since the day I'd gotten saved, this is where I always end up. It took two years and a "trick" by God to get me back into kids' church--but at the right time, I was available. The same with our guest house. We tried to rent it seasonally to friends. I considered renting it to a young couple who needed a home. Instead, we waited. Then two dear friends, our new 40-year-old children, found themselves homeless--with four animals no landlord would ever allow in her rental. And we had a place for them.
In my life, by waiting on God, I never lost a thing. I only gained.

Be patient. Wait.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Like It or Not, Some Sins Are Relative

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving ... 1 Tim. 4:4

By Carol McClain: @carol_mcclain

A friend of mine hated  rock music. In his youth, the lyrics led him to drug use and immorality. As a Christian, God convicted him. This form of music drove him to sin, and he could not listen to it any longer. Being a godly man, he obeyed.

The only problem this created, though, was the idea that if rock music was sinful to him, it was sinful to everyone. 

We belonged to a church that believed 1 Cor. 8:9--that our liberty could never be a stumbling block to the weak. Ergo, if my friend could not listen to rock music, none of us could. Furthermore, none of us should ever disagree with him.

This became a problem for me. If he didn't like music, I couldn't. enjoy it or admit I did. 

Things snowballed. Another person thought dancing a sin. Therefore, no one danced. However, dancing before the Lord was mandated. If you didn't, you were sinful...

On and on it went.

These good-intentioned self-denials were another form of legalism. The only thing God asked of me was to not blare my Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston music in his presence. I could talk about it, admit going to the concerts, etc.

I come from a long line of alcoholics. God convicted me early about drinking, and I don't. It doesn't mean my Christian friends can't drink. The Bible forbids drunkenness, but not the consumption of wine or beer or a Cosmo. I have no right to demand everyone adhere to my conviction.

The truth is, some sins are relative. (click to tweet)

Some--like drunkenness or immorality are absolute, yes.

But long ago, I learned sin is sin for only two reasons:

 If a particular addiction hurts you or others--we must abstain.

Are there things you abstain from because of personal reasons?

Monday, June 26, 2017

House Cleaning and Sin: How We Justify Our Self-Hatred

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:16

By Carol McClain: @carol_mcclain

We invited friends over to the house at the last minute. I looked over my home and knew I only had time for what I called "lies and deceptions." I had to clean, but a real cleaning wouldn't happen. The fake one would have to do.

I ran a dust rag over the furniture. Vacuumed fast. Shoved dirty pans in the oven. Closed the door to my study. I was set.

Of course, my house wasn't clean, but my image was.

If my friends opened the closed door, if they checked the oven or looked in a cabinet, they'd find how truly awful I was.

Sort of like sin in our lives.

We confess to God but hide our weakness from our peers. If they really knew our neurosis--like sitting up all night knowing the little lump on our calf was not from hitting the end table, but a ravenous cancer--they'd think us mentally deranged, lacking faith. Maybe we're hiding our disinterest in worship or of Bible study in fear they'd think we're not spiritual. Perhaps our bursts of anger would make them question our character.

Hiding sin from trusted peers enslaves us to our image. It justifies our self-hatred or depression or loathing of others as we project our sin onto them.

Repentance must be two-directional:

  1. We must confess to God, first and foremost. Implied in this is the fact we've acknowledged the sin to ourselves. 1 John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, He will forgive us. Therefore, we know we are clean. Still, guilt cloys. We need to get rid of its stench.
  2. We must confess to others. This doesn't mean we tell any old person even if that person is a devout believer. I made the mistake of confessing a boredom with my Bible reading to a Bible study group. Within days, I received a nasty letter from one member questioning my salvation. It did nothing for my self-esteem. However, we all have, or should work to have, a trusted friend or spouse or family member with whom we can confide. We should belong to a church with a loving pastor.
    1. They can give us insight to the reason for our guilt.
    2. Their continued love reassures us we're treasured just as we are.
    3. We discover our perfect compatriots are as sullied as us.

Confession is good for the soul. (click to tweet)

Repentance must be two-directional. (click to tweet)

Hiding sin justifies our self-hatred. (click to tweet)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Celebrate Your Weirdness: You are wonderful, no matter what you think

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Ps 139:14

By Carol McClain: @carol_mcclain

English: President Barack Obama writes at his ...
Great people  have what had been considered oddities.
President Obama was left-handed.
My brother Art is left-handed. Back when we were in grade school, left-handedness was considered a trait to be corrected. So many lefties were forced to convert to right-handed writing.

When that failed, they still faced tribulation.

My granddaughter, too, uses her left hand. Spirals in notebooks get in the way. Ink smudges over her hand--even when using a ball point pen. Scissors? Not designed for her.

So sad that we couldn't celebrate our diversity then, but we know now, lefties are a creative crew--right-brained, different-thinking. They have solutions no one else does. Gifts God created especially for them.

English: Illustration to The Holy Bile, Judges...
English: Illustration to The Holy Bile, Judges, chapter 3. Eglon assassinated by Ehud. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It reminds of Ehud, a hero from the Book of Judges. As a left-handed warrior, he had to design a special two-edged sword because standard ones wouldn't work for him. Unlike other fighters, he hid the shortened blade on his right side, not his left. When he approached the evil king, Eglon, the monarch kept his eye on Ehud's left side--where a sword should have been.

Because he had to design a special sword, because it was on the opposite hip that everyone else used, Ehud was able to assassinate the fat, wicked Moabite ruler.

Think of your own uniqueness--you're not weird. 

  1. Do you suffer from mental illness? God can use your focus and pain. For those with Asperger's or OCD, you have concentration that could make Bill Gates envious. Perhaps the mental stress of other issues disturb you. You can understand the pain other people face. You can nurture them. Mental illness is the same as chronic physical illness. You're not weird.
  2. Do you see odd shapes in trees and rocks when others see trees and rocks? I hike regularly. Pat is always pointing out boring rocks to me. "Look, a duck!" or "There's a rabbit holding a rifle." I'd look, and, sure enough, in the erosion of the stone, a duck face or gun-toting bunny would have formed. This imaginative mind makes a fanciful world out of the mundane.
  3. Does a physical illness plague you? A woman in our church must go on dialysis three times a week. Those long, tedious days are not spent glued to a TV. She spends hours in prayer.
  4. Are you single in a married world? God can use the time to build your creativity, your ministry to others or develop your talents. You can work to your full potential in ways married people can't.
If we're honest, all of us are weird.

The strength comes in acknowledging it and calling it for what it is: we are fearfully, wonderfully and uniquely made.

Each of us has our own strengths.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

6 Ways to Conquer Depression

All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Num. 14:2

By Carol McClain: @carol_mcclain

When it comes to conquering depression, many of my friends will laugh and say, "She's hardly the expert on conquering sorrow."


My life often resemble the lives of those recalcitrant Israelites newly freed from Egypt. "Oh that we could've eaten the leeks and melons of Egypt." "God, have you brought us here to die?"

I may not crave an onion, but I'll often look at what's gone wrong and throw my life into despair. However, I do NOT wish to be like the Israelite nation who, as a result of their attitude, were forced to wander around for forty years.

I think a week of melancholy is too much.

If depression is more than temporary. If you can't point to a situation that catapults you into despair, see a doctor. Medical issues like thyroid or cholesterol levels can be at the foundations. Good medications exist that help brain dysfunction.

For the normal episodes, try the following.

6 Ways to conquer depression:

  1. Get exercise. Running for me always boosts my mood. If that level of aerobic activity is not possible, try something else. I joke and say I'm the good Antaeus. He got his strength from the ground, so Hercules had to strangle him by holding him off the earth. Put my fingers in the soil, and the dirt on my psyche is cleansed.
  2. Get sociable. The last thing you want to do when depressed is to be with people. That's exactly what you should do. Find a friend; go for lunch. Head to the beach. Hit the meeting you're supposed to go to and linger afterwards for conversation.
  3. Eat properly. In my despondency, give me ice cream and coffee. Or rather, coffee ice cream with a cup of coffee. Bad move. Eating (or for me when depression totally slobber-knocks me, not eating) is one of the worst things you can do. Get lots of fruit and veggies and low fat protein. Change out the banana split for banana and low fat yogurt.
  4. Count your blessings. Situations truly can hurt. We lose jobs. Our spouses leave us. Disease or death hits. The Israelites had just been freed from slavery. They saw the hand of God drown the Egyptians, still they despaired. Sometimes, knowing how ungrateful we are temporarily exacerbates our sorrow. In the end, where we focus is where we go. Keep a journal, count the good in your life.
  5. Get involved mentally. Work for me always eliminated sorrow. How could I dwell in blackness when 100 adolescents awaited my brilliant teaching? If you don't have a good work situation, find a good book or a hobby or a ministry or solve Sudoku or crossword puzzles.
  6.  Seek God.  First and last (He is, after all, the Alpha and Omega),  seek God. Memorize scripture that speaks to your situation. Pray. Find a prayer partner (see #2 above). God promises, "I know the thoughts I have for you, thoughts of good and not evil, to bring you hope and an expected end." (This is a Carol variation of Jeremiah 29: 11--see #5 and 6. Even I can memorize).

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Daily Repentance: Three Signs We're Following Christ

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. ... Rom. 7:14-23

By Carol McClain: @carol_mcclain

May 31st marked my thirty-seventh year as a Christian. Prior to my conversion, a dear friend Colleen witnessed to me regularly. As the Holy Spirit drew on my spirit, I knew I needed to repent. I'd bow my head and search my conscience for something, anything, I did wrong.

At last, I remembered a moment when I got angry. "Forgive me, Lord," I'd pray. Then I'd blissfully live my life.

On Sunday, May 31, 1980, I knew the truth--knew I had to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Then I saw my wickedness. No longer did I have to struggle to find something I need to repent of. I'd ask for forgiveness. I'd work out my salvation according to what God showed me. Then I'd get to a point I knew I was living righteously.

It's at this pinnacle that God always intervenes, and shows me, once again, that I have sinned and need to change.

Daily Repentance Is Proof of Salvation

  1. God is gracious. He doesn't show us our sin until we can handle it.
  2. God doesn't give us more than we can handle. My brother gave up drinking the instant he got saved. Six months later, he realized he should quit smoking pot. We, as Christians, find the need to eliminate marijuana from our lives as obvious. My brother didn't. In repentance and obedience, he quit. The same holds true for us. God gives us one area at a time to improve. Even when we conquer it--say our pride or our anger or our envy--at a later date God will refine our character to further weed out the sin.
  3. Every day we improve. Like a growing child, we don't see our growth. However, when we look back on our lives, our progress will amaze us.
We don't get it perfectly when we "walk the aisle." But God continues to work in us for His good pleasure.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Marriage, Moving and Salvation--A Parable

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. Col. 1:13

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

For twenty years, I parented alone.

No man visited the church I dedicated myself to, and I wasn't going to search among the unsaved for love or a father-figure for my daughter.

In my fifties, I met Neil. We married. We switched churches. Finally, we moved from New York to Tennessee.

Here no one knows me as a single mother. No one is aware of the sins I committed in my Christian walk or the missteps and misbeliefs of my life.

Here I am a mature Christian with abundant gifts. Daily friends and ministers remind me of how blessed they are by my life.

My sins have been covered.

This is a parable of salvation:

  1. Before we accept Christ, we live in sin and shame. Any single person who attends an organization filled with married people, know they are unintentionally ostracized. There was no "sin" in my singleness, but we can look at it as a metaphor. I felt alone and inadequate. With no mate, I knew (erroneously) I was  undesirable. Daily I prayed for God to cover my "shame."
  2. We become the bride of Christ. With my vows to Neil, my singleness had been erased. Just as with my vows to Jesus, all my sin had vanished.
  3. Salvation moves us from one kingdom to another.  No one knows me without my "covering." Here I'm married, and for all intents, had been married all my life. So many people enumerate my great qualities. They're impressed that I've published three books. They believe I do wonders in my mentoring of recovering addicts. They think I'm a Bible scholar. My move, like salvation, has removed my "sins of the past" and transferred me into a "kingdom of  glory."

Of course marriage and moving don't mirror the glory of salvation. But God, when we accept him as Lord and Savior, moves us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Old things have passed away, all things have become new.

Think of the patriarchs. They all moved. Their marriages reflected the kingdom of God. Salvation doesn't care where you've been or what you've done. It creates a new creation.

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