It’s Time to Come Home to God

Jesus told two stories that tell everything we need to know about finding our way back to the Father.

jesus-finding-lost-sheepThe Lost Sheep. People complained that Jesus spent too much time with sinners. To help them understand why he told the story of the lost sheep.

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing and when you got home, call in your friends and neighbors, saying ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it – there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.” Luke 15:3-7

prodgal-sonThe Lost Son. A son demanded an early inheritance. This was like saying to the dad, “I wish you were dead.” He left home, partied, wasted all his money and fell into poverty. He was hungry, lonely and living in a pig pen. Finally, he came to his senses and headed back home.

“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: Father I’ve sinned against God. I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again. But the father wasn’t listening. He called to the servants – Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here – given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found! And they began to have a wonderful time.” Luke 15:20-24

Neither the lost sheep nor the rebellious son were reprimanded. No finger-wagging. No slaps on the side of the head. Fear that God will “get even” keeps many from returning to Him. We know we deserve punishment, therefore, we expect God to make us pay up.

He doesn’t.

If anyone should have made amendments, it was Paul. He persecuted and killed many of Jesus’ early followers. Instead, Jesus, who is by now resurrected and in Heaven, appears to Paul on the road while he is travelling to Damascus to wreak more havoc.

“Who are you?” Paul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

This was the beginning of a new life for Paul. Paul suffered numerous persecutions. In spite of them, he went on to lead many sinners to Christ. And to author several books in the New Testament. In his letter to the Christians at Rome, Paul wrote:

“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

God is not out to get the rebellious. He won’t make them pay for their sins.

Why not?

Because Jesus paid the price already and nothing of the debt remains. Nothing. This is the epitome of unconditional love.

When Jesus died on the cross, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting our sins against us.” (II Corinthians 5:9)


cover One Good Word 2Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, includingbook cover One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children. Visit her website at: writingfromtheheart.webs.com and her blogs Promises of Home and Listening to my Hair Grow.

 

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An Unlikely Missionary

woman-at-the-wellTravel circumstances put Jesus in the town of Sychar sitting by Jacob’s well. His feet ached after a long journey. He was thirsty but had no pail or cup to dip into the water. Soon, a woman came carrying a jug on her shoulder. She was surprised to find a Jewish man sitting by the well. And even more surprised when he asked if she would give him a drink.

“A Jew asking me, a Samaritan, for a drink? That’s odd,” she said.

Jesus answered, “If you had any idea who was asking you for a drink you would say, ‘Give me a drink of your living water.'”

The woman found herself spell-bound by the conversation that ensued. She challenged Jesus: “You think you’re greater than Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself?”

“The water I’ll give you will cause you to live forever.”

“I’d really like that,” she said.

“Go and get your husband and come back. I’ll give you both my eternal life.”

That was a problem. “I have no husband,” she said.

“I know,” Jesus said. “You’ve been married five times and now you’re living common-law.”

The woman left her jar and ran back to the town. She told everyone, “There’s a man at the well. He told me everything I’ve ever done. I think he’s the Messiah.”

On the word of this woman, a crowd gathered around Jesus. After listening to Him the people begged Jesus to stay in Sychar and tell them more about this living water that leads to eternal life. He did. For two days the people dropped all their obligations and listened to Jesus.

Many Samaritans believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.

Jesus looked at the crowd of thirsty-for-God Samaritans and said to his disciples:

Open your eyes and look at the fields. They are ripe for harvest.

Right now, right where we live, people are longing to hear about Jesus. Some of them won’t know they’re thirsty until they hear us say His Name.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:38

Unlikely people, like you and me, are called to the mission of bringing others to Jesus. There’s much to divert our attention from this but we must remain focussed on this great commission:

Go everywhere, helping all people to believe in Me, telling them my words and encouraging them to obey my words. Matthew 28:19,20


100_1374Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of many articles andcover One Good Word 2 several books, including, One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children.

 

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The Fingerprint of God

One of the ways God reveals himself to us is through His creation – everything we see around us in the natural world, including our own bodies.

“By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see – eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being.” Romans 1:20

 I believe that God’s message of love and hope for all humanity is revealed in every single thing He created. If we are not willfully blind and choose to look for it, we can see God’s “I love you” everywhere. Of course, we don’t have the capacity to study everything in nature but most of us can see clouds, watch the moon move through its phases, feel the warmth of the sun, eat the harvest the earth produces and listen to waves. We drink water pumped from hundreds of feet beneath the earth’s surface. We live in houses and print on paper made from trees grown from seeds that God himself planted in the soil He created long ago.

jerusalem roadSeeds – human seed, animal seed, seeds that produce food. Seeds contain life. Every seed on earth can trace its roots back to the beginning, back to creation, back to when God spoke the world and everything in it into being.

God is the starting point of everything.

A one-time agnostic who came to believe in Christ, said, “I came to the conclusion that the universe did not make sense without God. I set out to search for Him and found that He was searching for me.”

The person who denies God is like a man who walks over to a table each day, takes a look at the food, and turns away in disdain. Eventually, that man will become hungry because his body was made for food. Likewise, the human soul is made for God, and can’t be complete without Him.

 We have a built-in need to come to terms with God. Often people experience a sense of “coming home” when they finally accept that God exists and that He has shown His love to the world, not only through His creation, but through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Making it Personal: Lord, the worries of this world keep me earth-bound. Help me to let my mind and soul take in the wonder of You and all that comes from You.

If you want to be awed, check out this video.

thttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ibc8sD5sgw

Rose McCormick Brandon’s book, One Good Word Makes all the Difference, can be purchased here.

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God Hears

Once upon a time in Israel, well before the time of Christ, a young woman named Hannah prayed for a child, in particular, a son.

Hannah had expected to become pregnant soon after marriage to Elkanah, a very devout man. She didn’t. Months passed. A year, two years. Her husband began to worry. Would people think he was the cause? That would prove embarrassing. Who would carry on the family business? The family name?

Hannah prayed night and day, “O Lord, take pity on me and send me a son. If you give me a son, I will dedicate him to you. His whole life will be spent in service to you.” (I Samuel 1)

Elkanah, like many men of his time, took a second wife. Enter . . . Penninah, a fruitful girl who magically produced six children. Elkanah’s life was complete – he had Hannah, the love of his life, and several children to carry on his name. Wife number two, though a good baby-producer, was cruel and malicious. She taunted Hannah and hissed insults at her when Husband wasn’t around.

Sorrow consumed Hannah. It woke her in the night and filled her eyes with tears during the day. Devout Elkanah took both his wives and his brood up to Shiloh once a year to praise God for his good fortune. A joyful time of thankfulness and eating. But not for Hannah.

Things came to a climax one day at Shiloh. Hannah was depressed and teary. Her husband said, “Why are you weeping? Am I not better than a dozen sons to you?” The answer, of course, was a big NO but Hannah could hardly tell him that. She ran from the feast and entered the temple to pray. There, she flung herself down and cried out a prayer of desperation. So full of angst was she that no words came out, only groans. (. . .the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26.)

Eli, the priest, saw Hannah. He could have rested his hand on her back in a gesture of kindness and empathy. That would’ve been nice. Instead, he rushed over, pointed an accusing finger at her and said, “You should be ashamed of yourself. Coming into God’s house drunk.”

Harassed by Wife Number Two, misunderstood by Husband and now accused of drunkenness by her priest. Hannah came undone. “I am not drunk,” she shouted, “I’m a woman with a sorrowful spirit.” Cheers for her for finding her voice and defending herself.

Whether Eli really meant the next words he spoke, or if he said them to every weeping parishioner, we don’t know. He said to Hannah, “May God grant you the desire of your heart.”

Immediately on hearing these words, the sadness Hannah had carried for years lifted. She rose and with a light heart returned home with her husband.

A few months later, Hannah gives birth to a son. She called him Samuel, meaning “God hears.”

If you are praying over a desperate situation, as Hannah was, God has a message for you: “I hear you.”

Jesus said:

“if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask then we also know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” (I John 5:15).

Samuel’s birth ended Hannah’s childless years. She produced four more children. Her prayer of desperation became a prayer of praise:

I’m bursting with God-news! I’m walking on air. I’m laughing at my rivals. I’m dancing my salvation (I Samuel 2:1 Msg).

God hears and answers desperate prayers.

Here’s a scriptural prayer of desperation: “Unto you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in you: let me not be ashamed, let not my enemies triumph over me.” Psalm 25:1,2

God hears your prayers. “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:12

P.S. The meeting between Eli and Hannah is magnificent for its irony. The self-righteous priest accuses a faultless woman of being drunk while his two sons, priests at the temple, are robbing the offerings, threatening the people and having sex with the women who work there. Eli knows this. He knows God isn’t pleased. But he doesn’t correct them. He reserves his corrections for innocents like Hannah. An even bigger irony is being played out. These two don’t know it yet but the reader knows that Hannah’s soon-to-arrive son, Samuel (God hears), will receive a message from God for Eli, a message of doom and retribution.


 


rose at chapters 2Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of many articles and cover One Good Word 2several books, including Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children and One Good Word Makes all the Difference.

 

 

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The Art of Listening

It happened, in the providence of God, that I, as a teenager,

The little church in my home town (photo provided by Bev Friesen - original painting by her sister Mosse)

The little church in my home town (photo provided by Bev Friesen – from an original painting by her sister Mosse)

became a disciple of Jesus in a shabby little church in a northern paper town. This congregation, for the most part, wasn’t loud and irritating; it consisted of parishioners who treasured quietness. But, it was connected to a loud and sometimes in-your-face denomination, a denomination I’ve stayed with. Even though, in my view, it lacks listening grace.

In Mark Twain’s humorous tale, Roughing It, the main character travels across country by stage-coach and meets a female passenger unacquainted with listening grace. Lamenting his misfortune, he says, “The fountains of her great deep were opened up, and she rained the nine parts of speech, forty days and forty nights, metaphorically speaking, and buried us under a desolating deluge of trivial gossip.”

Sometimes I get that drowning sensation in church. Yes, I love to worship God. Yes, I enjoy music. But is there no place for listening? For quietness?

Sometimes the commotion of church annoys. Endless singing and talking with barely a breath taken, except to storm heaven with loud prayers . . . Oh for a quiet corner in an ancient sanctuary where silence is treasured! To attach myself to mute monks for one day of blessed quiet.

I realize that 75% of any given congregation is made up of extroverts. I’m guessing it’s much higher in my denomination. As an introvert, I’m a bit out of my element. Being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m a hermit in waiting; it simply means that I don’t get my energy from crowds, especially noisy crowds.

Perhaps I’m a Quaker at heart. Or, could it be, that Canada’s proximity to a nation that boasts the loudest, most crass form of evangelicalism has tainted our churches? I’m pondering that.

Listening isn’t mentioned in scripture’s lists of spiritual or practical gifts. If it was, my denomination would surely practice it. However . . . Jesus taught the spare use of words. “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 6:7 NIV)

In Waiting on God, Andrew Murray admits it may be difficult to learn quietness but he says “the little season will bring a peace and a rest that give blessing not only in prayer but all the day.”

Holy moments occur more often in stillness.

God speaks. That’s His modus operandi. He begins in Genesis with “Let there be light!” From there, His voice punctuates one section of scripture after another until the last chapter where Jesus says, “I am coming soon.” The Old Testament records the Father speaking to prophets, kings, priests, farmers, mothers, fathers and children. The New Testament shows Jesus speaking to the rich, the poor, the pompous, the political, the religious, the desperate, the sick and the dead.

He speaks to everyone – but only those who listen benefit.

Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) Because God speaks to people, the relationship award goes not to marathon talkers who pile up words while praying, speaking, berating, sharing . . .  but to listeners who treasure what He says.

O God, make me a listener. And help me to endure the seemingly endless and noisy diatribe that passes for Christian communication.


rose at chapters 2Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of many articles and cover One Good Word 2several books, including Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children and One Good Word Makes all the Difference.

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The Baby Stage of Wonder

download 016One sunny June morning, I placed my helmeted two year-old son, Peter, on the child’s seat of my bike and we took off from the driveway for an hour joy ride.

As we cycled through the neighbourhood, a warm breeze tickled through my long hair. Peter hummed with contentment in rhythm to the wheels. He pointed a chubby finger one direction, then the other – “Doggie . . . birdie. . . sky.” My heart leapt with gladness at the sound of his happy voice.

On our blessed excursion, I thought how wonderful it would be to let the surprise of the first view of our surroundings fill us with same wonder my baby was experiencing.

Soon, I felt the weight of Peter’s head on my back. He’d fallen asleep. At home, I removed him from the seat and gingerly carried him upstairs to his crib for a nice long nap. As I fluffed him into his baby scented blankets, I felt a nudge from the Lord –

“When you look around at the world I’ve created, always let your heart be filled with the wonder and excitement of a child.”

We grow out of many things in life but we should never grow out of that baby stage of wonder. Open the windows of your home and let the scent of Spring thrill you again.

Let this Spring be as marvellous as your first.

tulipsWhen you see the trees in bud, really look at them and consider the marvel of new growth. When flowers bloom again, snip off one tiny bloom and study its complicated construction.

We bring joy to the heart of the Father when we appreciate the work of His hands.

Today, Father, we say with the angels: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things and by your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)


book coverRose McCormick Brandon is the author of One Good Word Makes all thecover One Good Word 2 Difference and Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children. Visit her website at http://writingfromtheheart.webs.com

 

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The Gift of Encouragement

Discouragement often knocks on the door of the lonely, sick and elderly. For decades Hope interceded for her family, church and community. Through her strong witness many came to Christ. Now Hope sits alone in her living room lamenting that her life is unfruitful. Poor health and several falls prevent her from attending church. Few from the congregation call. “I don’t know why the Lord doesn’t take me home. I’m no good to Him any more,” she says.

Encouraging the Hopes of the world is a significant part of our work for God. The first gift we can offer them is an empathetic ear. They often need to unload their negative feelings. Sometimes the simple act of expressing their thoughts lightens their darkness. Being a kind non-judgmental listener is an offering believers can give one another. In her prime, Hope prayed for, called and visited many. “Now I’m alone and everyone has forgotten me,” she says. An exaggeration, but she may realize that later.

Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.(Gal. 6:2)

After listening, raise the focus upwards by reminding the person of their royal position – “God has raised them up with Christ and seated them with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6

Tell of His unconditional affection and the promise of His continual presence. Read scripture and pray together. Allow a spiritual bond to develop.  This restores the person’s sense of belonging to the body of Christ. Paul expressed this in Romans 1:11, 12 –

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.

Even God’s heroes become discouraged. Elijah, a miracle man, was so miserable he wanted to die. An angel came, cooked him a nourishing meal and told him to lie down and rest. What kindness the angel showed the depressed prophet.

The angel’s actions demonstrate the practical side of being an encourager. Simple acts of kindness sooth despairing souls and remind them they’re loved. It’s only human to grow old, tired, hungry and lonely.

James wrote of Elijah, “He was a man just like us.” Christians often don’t allow for human weakness. We consider the high points of our faith journey and believe we should always live on those mountain tops. Some may even believe that becoming disheartened, discouraged or depressed is a sin.  An encourager dispels that myth.

Prayer: Make me a blessing to someone today, Lord. Fill my mouth with words of encouragement.


book coverRose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including, cover One Good Word 2Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children and One Good Word Makes all the Difference. Visit her blogs, Listening to my Hair Grow and Promises of Home. Her books are available at http://writingfromtheheart.webs.com

 

 

 

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Humility and Pride: Two Responses to the Cross

crossHumility acknowledges the sufferings of Jesus and accepts that He suffered for us. Pride glosses over His sufferings and refuses to think about them.

Humility acknowledges that only the cross erases sin. Pride says, “There are many ways to holiness. I’m not so bad, no worse than anyone else.”

Humility confesses sin. Pride says, “I’m as good as the next person.”

Humility embraces the cross. Pride turns its head in embarrassment.

Humility throws its arms around Jesus and thanks Him for salvation. Pride ignores Him.

Humility kisses His feet. Pride slaps His face.

Humility weeps. Pride smirks.

Humility is undone by the sadness of the crucifixion. Pride says, “What’s all the fuss?”

Humility walks to the foot of His cross. Pride walks on by.

Humility calls Him friend. Pride pretends not to know Him.

Humility comes to the cross alone. Pride runs off with the crowd.

Humility admits to being a sinner. Pride says, “Nobody’s going to point the finger at me and call me a sinner.”

Humility admits to needing Him. Pride calls Him a crutch.

Humility breaths, “Thank you Jesus.” Pride is silent.

The cross causes us to remember where we came from and to consider where we’d be without Jesus.


book coverRose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children. To purchase books, visit her website at: writingfromtheheart.webs.com and read her blogs Promises of Home and Listening to my Hair Grow.

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The Problem of Guilt

Sometimes we disappoint – bad behavior, unkind attitudes, unintentional missteps or outright Guilt_Fingersin – we slip up and our actions give others cause to say, “Huh. She’s not much of a Christian!”

We’ve all been there.

Some are gifted with the ability to shake off all high crimes and misdemeanors. “So what! No one’s perfect,” they say.

Then there are those who let minor infractions lead them to depths of gloom. They never let themselves off the hook. Wallowing in guilt is their modus operandi. They deem themselves hopeless. Long after others have forgotten their misdeeds they continue to mentally flog themselves.

Isn’t it good to feel guilt?

Only if it leads to asking forgiveness. Only if there’s an end to it. Guilt that festers eventually damages us and our relationship to God.

Jesus died for all sin. Even the most vile of sins. When a guilty person sincerely asks forgiveness, they are forgiven – forever. The guilt from sin is meant to disappear at the point of forgiveness. But, sometimes it hangs around to torment.

Christians don’t have to live in daily torment.

Peter betrayed Christ. Three times he denied knowing Him. He could have ended up like Judas. He didn’t because he was filled with remorse and asked for forgiveness. He went on to become a pillar of the early church. He preached the gospel to thousands and wrote two books that ended up in the Bible. Peter had reason for guilt but if he had lived in a state of guilt, his accomplishments would have been few.

Whole segments of the Christian church use guilt to motivate believers. They tell us we don’t give enguiltough, do enough, look good enough, act good enough . . . the list is endless. It’s right to preach against sin. It’s right to feel guilty for unforgiven sin. But it’s not right for the forgiven to live in a state of guilt.

In the greatest chapter of the Bible, Paul began with these words: “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) Isn’t that liberating? No condemnation.

John wrote: “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) This cleansing includes the wiping away of all guilt.

To those of tender conscious, those so easily made to feel guilty, the Lord says:  As high as heaven is over the earth,  so strong is my love to those who fear me. Psalm 103:11

Lay down guilt and walk in the freedom of Christ.

***

book coverRose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children. To purchase books, visit her website at: writingfromtheheart.webs.com and read her blogs Promises of Home and Listening to my Hair Grow.

 

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Developing Tough Faith

For some reason, not a biblical reason, North American Christians tend to believe that if we do all the right things – give money to the church, get involved in Christian service, read our Bibles and pray faithfully – then, nothing negative will enter our divinely protected domes.

The belief that all negativity comes from Satan is fiction.

In a very difficult time in my life, I drove myself to distraction with self-examining questions like – Is Satan trying to destroy my faith? Have I sinned? Did I do something that angered God? The answer to all these questions is “Yes.” Satan is trying to destroy my faith. I have sinned. And sin angers God.

I eventually got around to the most important question – has this trial come to me from God? And the answer to that was also “Yes.”

He sees the weakness, the frailty of our faith, its instability. He knows, if we are to survive as Christians, if we are to know Him well, we must develop tough faith. We grow strong in the trenches not on the dance floor.

Tough faith loves God when it can’t make a list of how He blessed me today. Tough faith believes in spite of unanswered prayer. Tough faith trusts when the evidence is stacked against it.

God brings trials of all descriptions – financial, health, employment, stress, family problems and an assortment of other difficulties, including a sense that He has disowned us and seems far away. (I once wrote a piece, When God Forgets Your Name. That’s how I felt at the time.) Sometimes hardships pile one on the other. Shakespeare observed  that when sorrows come, they come not in singles, but in battalions.

A friend in great distress once said, “I’ve concluded that if it took this disaster for me to know the Lord in a deeper way, then I have no regrets. In a way, I don’t even care if the situation improves.” Treasures hide in darkness. Some marvellous insights about who God is can only be learned in the low places.

I have no desire for dark times. They’re not on my prayer list. And I often feel white-knuckled when distresses come. But, one thing I’ve learned – if a trial comes from God, it is meant to strengthen me and it will have an end.

Are troubles banging on your front door? Don’t be afraid. It could be God toughening your faith. The author of Hebrews addresses the issue of God’s discipline:

My son, do not make light of the discipline of the Lord,
And do not lose heart and give up when you are corrected by Him; For the Lord disciplines and corrects those whom He loves,
And He punishes every son whom He receives and welcomes [to His heart].” You must submit to [correction for the purpose of] discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” Hebrews 12:5-7

Soldiers prepare for battle through rigorous training. Athletes learn to ignore the voice of defeat and not to give in to the body’s aches and pains. In the same way, we must not give up when trials come. God is simply forcing us off the bench and into the battle.

Take with me your share of hardship [passing through the difficulties which you are called to endure], like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:3


 

book coverRose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children. To purchase books, visit her website at: writingfromtheheart.webs.com and read her blogs Promises of Home and Listening to my Hair Grow.

 

 

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