A new lesson - and a needed reminder.

Monday night I had the privilege of meeting a lovely sister in Christ for the first time, and the Lord used our interaction to encourage and challenge me in a specific way. It was fantastic! As with most of the lessons He has for me, I was not expecting it, making it all the sweeter because it caught me off guard and forced me to pay attention. I love those kinds of lessons!

This sister spent the weekend with one of my girls, planning to drive home Monday morning, but decided to stay an extra day. I received a text from Danielle in the afternoon declaring, "She is staying another day! I invited her to join us for COMMITTED tonight and she said yes! See you tonight!" It is always exciting to have a special guest for our night of fellowship, and the girls are quick to welcome her and drown her in kindness and acceptance. (It is one of my favorite things about them!) It is not easy to walk into a room full of strangers who are already long-time friends who share honestly, deeply, and with vulnerability about the struggles and joys of their hearts. I was not that brave when I was young, so I marvel at their willingness to step into such an intimate setting. After observing the way they are drawn in, encouraged, and appreciated by their peers in such an authentic manner, however, I am a touch envious and wish I had been able to do so!

Every month I send the group an assignment to complete on their own, and then we share the details when we come together. They recently requested we go back to the "personal" studies, as we have been studying books of the Bible for the past year. The biblical applications of God's Word are wonderful since Scripture lays our hearts bare before Him, but there is also something wonderful about doing specific studies that focus on our personal struggles and sin. This was our focus on Monday. Areas of sin we are trying to work out and replace with righteousness, using Scripture to rebuke and support our position. Such a rich time of fellowship this was! And it was during this time that this new sister opened my eyes to two important truths.

First, meeting together as sisters in Christ to study the Scriptures, share each other's joys and sorrows, and pray together before the throne of grace is a privilege that must not be taken for granted, or neglected.
Second, we must be intentional about following up with one another after coming together to share such depth of heart and mind.

Toward the end of our discussion, I looked at our new friend and asked if she wanted to share. She looked at me thoughtfully and said, "You know, I am being so blessed by listening to everyone else that I am happy to be still and take it all in right now." Her response surprised and delighted me, and, of course, I wanted to know more. She revealed that her current profession has her moving every few months which is exciting and challenging, but does not allow her to attend church every week and makes consistent fellowship, specifically depth of fellowship, quite difficult. Even her close, personal friends are not available since they are in different states, causing her to feel a bit isolated at times. How thankful I was that she decided to stay an extra night - and spent it with us! The Lord knew she needed that time of talking and confessing and praying with other believers, and He was faithful to provide it.

And it made me wonder - do I have the same appreciation, desire, and gratefulness for such times? Do I long for fellowship with the body of Christ, intentionally creating opportunities to spend time with my brothers and sisters? And when I am with them, do I sit back and soak in all of the blessings that surround me like my sister did that night? Lord, if I have taken the body for granted, forgive me, I pray and make me more aware of the need for them and beauty of them so I may find great delight in times of fellowship and leave with a grateful heart.

During our time of discussion, we all agreed that each of us needs accountability in a specific area and tossed some ideas around for how we could provide accountability for a group of six people. We go to church together and interact throughout the week, so there are a plethora of ways for us to accomplish this goal. There is no absolutely no reason we should fail each other in this way. But my heart ached a bit for my blonde sister who would be driving away from us the next morning, possibly never to be with us again. Who will encourage her? Who will pursue her? Who will know when she is filled with sorrow and needs a kind word? Who will rejoice with her? We may not be traveling with her from city to city, but there is no reason we cannot stir her up to love and good deeds from afar! A text here, an e-mail there, and a hand-written card waiting in her mailbox will do wonders for her soul. Especially if each one is written in response to a prompting from the Lord, arriving just when she needs it most.

We have been meeting together for five years, our COMMITTED group, but it was last Monday night that the Lord revealed our theme verse! And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24, 25

Lord, I pray You will make us faithful to this calling. We have walked through great seasons of rejoicing and deep valleys of sorrow, together, with Your mercy, grace, and kindness guiding us through each one. It is because of You that we are united, committed, and loyal to one another, and I praise You for such a gift! None of us knew what the future looked like when we met in my living room five years ago, but You knew! You draw each young woman here month after month, year after year, knowing exactly who she is and what she needs. And every time, You are here with us. Thank You, Lord. Increase our commitment, intensify our unity, and instill in us a desire to love one another more. This group is Yours, Father. Do with it what You will.


What I want!

Show me the condition of your Bible and I will show you the condition of your soul.
- A. W. Tozer

This is a powerful quote.
absolutely true.

I love my Bible, but I do not love it enough.
It is worn, underlined, and highlighted, but it is not falling apart.

What I want it to look like,
 is this ...

And there is only one way it will happen.

One way to wear down the cover.
One way to wrinkle the pages.
One way to make the pages slip out of the worn binding.

Daily use.

Constant touch.
A continual turning of the pages.
Repeated opening and closing of the book.
- day after day - 
- year after year - 
- decade after decade -

When I die, I want my Bible to be evidence that I loved God's Word.
I want it to be obvious that I held it, read it, studied it, and understood it.
Not just because it is falling apart, but because 
I obeyed it.

With my whole heart I seek You;
let me not wander from Your commandments!
I have stored up Your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against You.
Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes!
With my lips I declare all the rules of Your mouth.
In the way of Your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. 
Princes persecute me without cause,
but my heart stands in awe of Your words.
I rejoice at Your word like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love Your law.
Seven times a day I praise You for Your righteous rules.
Great peace have those who love Your law; nothing can make them stumble.
I hope for Your salvation, O Lord, and I do Your commandments.
My soul keeps Your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
I keep Your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before You. 
Psalm 119:10-16, 161-168


Dennis + Lebanon + Special Needs Celebration!

National Day in Lebanon was a success!

Dennis sent us a note asking us to pray that "the Lord would prepare the hearts of those attending the banquet," and that his words would be used to "bring God glory and encourage the people of Lebanon to continue their efforts to serve and minister to students with special needs."

After the event, he reported it was a wonderful evening with great responses from those in attendance. Praise the Lord! For it is He who moved the hearts of the Lebanese government to stand in the gap for children with special needs who deserve the same rights and privileges in education as everyone else. Lebanon is living out Scripture in a real and much-needed way.
Open your mouth for the mute, For the rights of all who are unfortunate and defenseless; Open your mouth, judge righteously, And administer justice for the afflicted and needy. Proverbs 31:8, 9
I asked Dennis to send his notes for his speech because I want to add my voice to the many who are already crying out on behalf of these students.
If one student, one parent, one teacher reads this and is encouraged to understand better, care more, or do more, then another child will be given HOPE through the kindness and grace of the one who seeks to understand what it is like to live in their world, and then, do something to make that world BETTER.

“They could not. I would not.” - Dr. Dennis Eastman

It is an honor for me to share this important and distinct day with all of you. To have been at the very first National Day and now see how it continues to gain momentum is truly exciting.

My remarks come to you by way of several perspectives:
My own as that of a parent and teacher
My students
My children

During my first year as a teacher, I had a student in my history class with a physical need. Though he could see large font, David was legally blind. His mother requested notes and lesson materials in advance so she could enlarge them on a copier. Believing this request to be inconvenient, I resolved I would not give the materials before the lesson.

A few years later I had Michael in my class. He had dyslexia. The learning center at the school asked that Michael be given extra time to complete tests. If the test was lengthy, the learning lab also requested I provide a copy of the test so Michael could complete it at lunch or after school. I considered this an unfair advantage other students did not have. I would not drop off a copy of the exam.

Ben could not sit still or stop talking. Every three minutes he would blurt out whatever came to mind in the middle of the lesson. His impulsiveness was becoming a distraction to me and to others. The learning center said he needed consistent routines and a predictable schedule. I was the teacher in this class. I would not be compelled to change my routines and schedule for his needs.

John could tell a story that was descriptive and engaging. However, when given a one-page writing assignment, the same story took him two hours and many tears to write. He asked for another way to complete his work. I considered his request unreasonable and labeled him as lazy, unmotivated, and defiant. I would not accept an alternative assignment.

The common denominator in each of these cases was that the students had a need which prevented their learning, and I made excuses that prevented their SUCCESS in learning.

They could not learn in the manner I was teaching.
I would not accommodate their learning needs.

It was my attitude that had the disability. I offered no assistance but gave labels and judgments.
It was me who was placing burdens on the backs of struggling students without lifting a hand to help.

They had no choice.
I made my choice.

Only after I had children of my own would I realize that by refusing to accommodate for the learning needs of my students, I was committing a form of discrimination and communicating to them that their needs were not worthy of my effort, and not as important as my convenience.

Some learning needs are physically invisible and emotionally private, but the effects of those needs are often quite public in nearly every arena of a child’s life. I have learned this first hand. My wife and I have been blessed with six children who have wonderful strengths and abilities. However, five of those six children have mild to moderate learning needs that affect their lives in a very real way nearly every day.

I have learned through many thoughtful and emotionally painful conversations with my children that students with learning needs do not desire our sympathy, but our empathy.
Sympathy offers a condolence or a message of, “I feel sorry for you.”
However, empathy leads to action.
Empathy does not judge how the person bears the burden, but asks, "How can I help with your burden?"
Empathy does not ask, “How smart are you?” but urges “How are you smart?” and comes alongside to aid in that discovery.

My son Caleb, who has dyslexia, has been an incredible example of empathy in the lives of children with physical and learning needs. To raise a few dollars for missions one summer, our children ran Camp Eastman. Parents dropped off their children and our kids played games and did activities with the campers. On one occasion, a wonderful boy who has a degenerative disease that has impaired his eyesight was one of our campers. Upon his arrival, Caleb ran down the driveway to meet Kyle. He then took him by the hand and began advertising the great things in store for him that afternoon. “Kyle, we have toys, cars, trains, we can build puzzles, and we are going to play games. If you need anything let me know because I will be right here to help you.” And then, during the relay races, he put Kyle on his back and ran with him so he could feel like he was part of the games.

The acts of kindness, compassion, and empathy, demonstrated by my son did more to help a child with a need in one afternoon than I had done in half my career as a classroom teacher. As this scene unfolded before me, I confess, I was convicted. His example greatly inspired me and has done much to help change my perspective and my practice of advocacy for students with needs of all kinds. Beginning with my children.

While learning invites a change in perspective, it also invites a change in practice. There are an estimated 1,172,038 school-aged children in Lebanon. If just 5% of the school-aged population had some form of learning need, that 5% would represent over 58,000 students.

When a country, and specifically, the universities, are committed to educating teachers to serve all students, including those with differences, teachers become ambassadors for change and opportunity in the life of a child. And when that effort is replicated across the country, those 58,000 children with learning needs experience learning in a whole new light. All of this begins - with a change in attitude.

I asked two of my sons, Micah and Caleb, both of whom have dyslexia, “If you could tell the people of Lebanon one thing they need to know about students with learning needs, what would it be?” Here is what they said:

Micah (age 18): “I would want them to know that I do want to learn. Actually, I really want to learn, but it doesn’t look the way it does for everyone else. I may not able to articulate it like my peers through papers and tests, but I can verbally tell them what I am taking in and understanding. Though there is very rarely an opportunity to do so verbally. The bottom line is, I really do want to learn and so do many other kids. We just need to find a different way to do it.”

Caleb (age 14): “I would enjoy school and give better effort if I could actually do the work. But since some things seem absolutely impossible, like math and writing, I don’t even know where to start. And it seems like I always fail, which is why I would rather do things I enjoy and things that come easy. It is not because I am lazy, but because everything in school is so very hard.”

An awareness of student learning needs offers a solid start toward change. However, a change of mind without a change of practice only ensures good intentions.

Consistent and broad interventions are required to make a real impact for providing support on behalf of all students. This undertaking is a worthy task to be considered by all. Education in this country, above all things, should be about equipping the next generation of the citizens of Lebanon. Education is about nation-building.

When all students are equipped with a quality education and taught to think deeply about solving problems, they will be more prepared to accept greater challenges and bear more significant responsibilities in the future. Including the responsibilities of contributing to their families, their workplace, and ultimately the nation.

Your willingness to set aside a day to come together as a country and celebrate students with learning differences provides a message of possibility, opportunity, and hope in the life of a child and for their parents as well.

Congratulations to you and your valued partners for your continued commitment toward taking active steps to come alongside students with needs as you seek to strengthen your amazing country one child at a time.

Thank you.


It's a choice.

Though directed at a group of pastors by a godly man who gave everything he had to the study of Scripture so he could faithfully feed his own sheep, this quote is a fitting challenge for each of us. Especially as it applies to the priority of reading Scripture and praying.

"We have plenty of time for all our work did we husband our time and hoard it up aright," he told them. "We cannot look seriously in one another's faces and say it is want of time.
It is want of intention.
It is want of determination.
It is want of method.
It is want of motive.
It is want of conscience.
It is want of heart.
It is want of anything and everything but time." - Alexander Whyte

An excellent and convicting quote, because the truth is, how we spend our time - is a choice.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5:15-17

O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before You.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Psalm 39:4, 5


Let's ask better questions!

"Young man, you had better get to work for the Lord!" - D. L. Moody

Moody directed this statement to Reuben Archer Torrey when he was a student at Yale Divinity School in 1878, and the young man took it to heart. So much so that he caught the same passion for soul-winning that possessed Moody, later becoming the superintendent of the (current day) Moody Bible Institute and one of the founders of Biola University, as well as a respected author and passionate evangelist.

Fast forward 140 years.
In our culture, we focus heavily on college and career. "Where are you going to college?"
Athleticism and musicianship. "How many points do you average per game?"
Physical appearance and academic success. "How many scholarships did you receive?"
Even in the church.

But what would happen if we changed our focus to one that reflects Moody's heart? How much more encouraging would we be, how much more fruitful, if we asked young men and women questions that could alter the course of their futures - because the questions alter the direction of their focus?
"What are you doing for the Lord?"
"How are you using your gifts to serve the church and reach the lost?"
"How do you plan to serve the Lord while you are in college?"
"How will you use your profession to benefit the church and increase the Kingdom?"
"What kind of ministry do you want to engage in with your spouse once you are married?"

Nothing in Scripture instructs us to serve the Lord or the church when we are old.
No verse declares, "Live for yourself when you are young, and then when you are old, get to Kingdom work."
As soon as we are saved - we are to serve. Whether eight or ninety-eight, our spiritual gifts, our strengths, and our skills are to be used for the Lord. The who/what/when/where/how may change, but we best be about our Father's business!

Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart.
For consider what great things He has done for you. I Samuel 12:24
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Colossians 3:23-24
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace...
I Peter 4:10
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:11

"Young man, you had better get to work for the Lord!"

One sentence. One simple yet stimulating sentence that forever changed the course of a young man's life. R. A. Torrey intended to be a lawyer, caught up in worldly living while at school until the Lord grabbed a hold of his heart and created within it a passion for Himself, and for the lost. And lives were changed. For eternity.

Warren Wiersbe boasts of Torrey, "He stood like a giant at the time when winds of doctrine were blowing against the church and causing people to stumble and fall. In Reuben Archer Torrey, God proved once again that education and evangelism, depth and soul-winning, need not destroy one another. If a man submits to the Word and is filled with the Spirit, he can have an enlightened mind and a burning heart - and he can reach people for Christ." AMEN!

Torrey himself exclaimed, "I would rather win souls than be the greatest king or emperor on earth; I would rather win souls than be the greatest general that ever commanded an army... My one ambition in life is to win as many as possible. Oh, it is the only thing worth doing, to save souls; and men and women, we can all do it."

May we, like Moody, inspire the young men and women of this generation to do great things for God because we ask questions that will challenge their thinking and push their thoughts toward Christ. For, as Henry Varley said, "The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him."


Learning Needs and Special Needs are GIFTS!

It has been one month since I returned from my vacation. Many wonderful memories fill my mind from those exciting eleven days, but there is one thought that continues to bounce back and forth in my brain. I was 2,000+ miles away from home. Alone.

The trip was everything I wanted, but even more, What I Needed. Each time that truth fluttered through my mind I felt like the Lord was saying, "I know you appreciate how far I have brought you and your children, daughter, but I want you to look back - and REMEMBER. Not just the big picture, but the details." And He was right. Just as He convicts me to remember the details of losing our son to maintain fresh empathy and compassion for other women grieving over their babies, I must do the same with the details of raising children with dyslexia and ADD/ADHD. Parents of kids with learning/special needs often feel isolated and rejected, because the truth is, like anything else, unless we live it, we don't understand it. And sadly, we often make judgments based on our ignorance.
Spurgeon said it well: We should feel more for the prisoner if we knew more about the prison. 

As a mother, I studied the prison of dyslexia and learning needs immediately after discovering our children were living in it. What I didn't know how to do at the time, however, was bridge the gap between knowledge - and understanding. I read and researched and attend conferences to gain the knowledge needed to help my children. And I found it. I can spout off the characteristics of dyslexia and ADD without effort. But, who cares? We can find information anywhere. What parents need, what the children need - is empathy.

When I am looking into the eyes of a woman who is drowning in the seemingly endless assault of the crashing waves of special needs, she doesn't want to hear the science, the statistics, or the scholastic pieces of why her kids struggle. She wants the personal. She wants to hear me say, "I understand." She wants to hear my story because as she listens to the very real truth about my daily life, the ugly, as well as the beautiful, light shines into the darkness of her prison cell and she sees, maybe for the first time, that she is not alone.

So, what is my story? What would I say to a mother who has just discovered her child is dyslexic? What would I say to the woman in tears because no one understands her hyperactive child and constantly judges her? What would I say to the father whose son hates school, cries over lessons, and has been pushed into depression because he cannot succeed like other students and feels like he is worthless? Exactly what other men and women told me. The truth.

My children ...
do not talk - they yell
do not walk - they run
do not play - they wrestle
do not look - they touch
do not use items - they destroy them
do not sit still - they rock, roll, and twist
do not discuss - they argue
do not play games - they compete
do not focus - they dream
do not ask - they obsess
do not lie still and sleep - they roll around, talk, play, sing, and have conversations with themselves

-My children often don't respond to commands because they are hyperfocused on their current activity and cannot hear me. And it feels like they are ignoring me.
-When my children do hear me, they don't listen (even when they asked a question) because their minds are distracted by their next thought, a cricket chirping, or the memory of the delicious brownie they had for dessert last night. And they appear rude.
-I cannot give my children a list of commands because, by the time they complete the first item, all the other items on the list have been forgotten. It seems like they are disobeying.
-My children cannot see messes or plan ahead. They do not think about mildew collecting on towels shoved in a closet after a shower or Lego creations being kicked apart because they were left in the middle of the hallway because they live in the moment, totally focused on "now." But they seem lazy.
-When I make a change - any change - without informing my children, it causes tremendous stress and often, a meltdown that makes heads turn. And they appear inflexible.
-It takes my children three times longer than their peers to complete an assignment and almost always results in frustration and fatigue. While they did their best, they are labeled lazy and unmotivated because the scores do not reflect the effort.

At this point, I am met with enlarged eyes, head nods, and outcries of, "Yes! Exactly!"
(The same way I responded when others graciously pulled back the curtain on their family and home lives when I had just walked into the world of learning needs, desperately craving someone who understood my completely overwhelmed heart and mind.) It is a wonderful moment because it means she feels connected, no longer alone. It also means it is time to offer HOPE.

While all of the things listed above can be incredibly frustrating for the parent, they are even more frustrating for the child. And usually, not malicious. Most children do not wake up planning to break something, defy authority, or annoy people with their inability to read social cues. They just DO. Their minds work differently. Not wrong. Just different. And these differences are a GIFT! Because these kids cannot think/do/learn/behave like everyone else, they must find new ways to think/do/learn/behave. And inventors, scientists, architects, and entrepreneurs are born!
The destroyer may become an engineer.
The arguer may become a lawyer.
The dreamer may become an author.
The obsessive may become a modern-day Amy Carmichael who is fired up by injustice and completely undaunted when told, "You can't do that," while pushing her way into brothels to rescue children.

As parents, our job is to teach our children how to exist in a world that will not take time to understand their prison, or care. They must learn to manage their impulses, both verbal and physical. They must learn to see others, not just themselves, for life is not about them. We must teach them to desire and pursue character traits that are attractive, not repellants. We must teach them compassion and grace for others since they themselves require much of both. And without a doubt, we must help them discover their natural gifts and strengths so they can channel all of their energy and effort into things that will bring them success. Not only for themselves -but for the glory of God.

I could fill many more pages with examples of difficult days, out-of-control moments (both mine and theirs), tear-filled struggles, hard conversations, mistakes, and moments of complete brokenness. And I probably should fill those pages, because behind every example is an amazing, compassionate, grace-filled, sovereign God who chose this for our children, for me and Dennis, and for our family. He could have designed their minds and bodies and strengths a hundred other ways, but He made them just as they are, with purpose. For His glory, and their good. And I am thankful.

The road of dyslexia and ADD/ADHD has been a long one for our family. Learning needs and special 
needs are not isolated to a classroom or a school - but to LIFE. The Lord has been faithful to remind us how far we have come, but there is still more road to travel, and one day, our children will no longer be walking behind us, following where we lead. They will be grown adults, personally and wholly accountable for their thoughts, choices, and actions. Dennis and I will be seen cheering and encouraging them as we run on the sidelines until we breathe our final breath, but no matter how often our children look to us for help, we will point them to the One who created them, loves them, and died for them, and cry, "Follow HIM!" And then, passionately pray that our children will recognize the sovereign hand of God in their lives and say on their own accord, "Thank You, Lord! I praise You for I AM fearfully and wonderfully made. Just as I am."


Reputation is the result of CHARACTER.

“If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.” 
- Dwight L. Moody

This is an excellent quote on its own merit, but after reading the biography of Moody's life, knowing how often and harshly he was criticized by people, especially believers, this statement is quite profound. He was not impervious to the sting of slander, as he had a heart that felt deeply like any human, yet he did not buckle under the onslaught of arrows aimed at his back. He was a living example of Proverbs 26:2. Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.
People may not have liked his manner or his methods, but he was not living for the praises of men. Moody had one goal: To save sinners from the grip of hell. Always, with tears.
And he did so faithfully, day after day until the Lord called him HOME.

“If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.” 
An excellent perspective that begs the question - How do we take care of our character?
As always, there is only one place to find the answer. Scripture.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, 
if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
II Peter 1:5-7

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15

I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

If we are faithful to obey these commands, we can build solid characters of godliness, and thereby possess reputations respected by others, and more importantly, reputations that please God. 
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, ... Philippians 1:27

Notice, the verse calls us to lives worthy of the Gospel, not lives worthy of self, or the approval of man. As Moody's life shows, no matter how faithfully and passionately we pursue God, everyone will not like us, approve of us, or want us. We cannot control what others think of us or how they perceive our words and actions. The only thing we can control is how often we meet the Lord in prayer and the study of His Word, and let Him take care of the details.

Criticism can cut you, shake you, and knock you off balance, 
but no criticism ever gets the final word over your life.
God gets the final word in Christ. 
- John Piper


He sees and knows ALL.

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account!" Hebrews 4:13

Ever since you rose from your bed this morning - there has been an eye watching you! Wherever you have been and whatever you have been doing - that eye has seen you. It has gone with you to your work. It has seen you with your companions. It has been on you when you were alone.

It has seen not merely all that you have done, but why you did it. Your thoughts, your feelings, your motives, which even your nearest friend has not fully known - have all been open to that eye of which I speak. For it is an all-seeing eye - the eye of God!

"His eyes are on the ways of men, He sees their every step!" Job 34:21

"He knows the secrets of the heart!" Psalm 44:21

"You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence!" Psalm 90:8

Have you thought of Him whose eye has been upon you today?
Have you given so much as one thought to Him since the day began?

You have need to pray, great need - for you are dependent upon God for everything. You are entirely in His hand!

If you went to your work this morning strong and well - it was only because God made you so and kept you so.

If you have had enough to eat today, if you are clothed comfortably and have a home to live in - it is only because God supplies your needs. You would have nothing - if God did not supply you. You live - only because He gives you life. He could take all your comforts from you - if it pleased Him. He could lay you on a bed of sickness this very day - He could in a moment, strike you dead!

Have you even spoken to Him today? Have you prayed to Him today?

"I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!" Luke 12:5

(Francis Bourdillon, "The Odd Five Minutes" 1873)


Don't run away! Get strong - and STAND FIRM.

While looking through past sermon notes, I came across this gem!

I remember this season of life. I had walked into church barely in control of my emotions. The Lord had me in a place of needing to depend solely on Him, and I was trying to be obedient. I was searching the Scriptures and praying continually, but also looking for someone to help make it all clear - so I could find peace. There is such a fine balance of completely relying on the Lord while obeying Scriptures that prompt us to seek wise counsel from godly men and women. God uses His Word, the church, and His people to speak to us ... and we must be alert and ready to listen when He does!
So, imagine my surprise when our pastor revealed the sermon topic: 
Tempted to run - Strengthened to stand.

It was one of those Sundays when I felt like I was the only person in the sanctuary. Each word penetrated my heart and every verse seared my mind. I could not take notes fast enough. I thought, "Really, Lord? Could it be this easy? Are You going to answer all of my questions in one sermon, and quiet my heart too? Thank You!"

Of course, I did not walk out of the church with a magical new life, free from sorrows and trials, but I did leave with a new resolve: I am not going to run, I am going to get stronger! 
The right kind of strength, a godly strength, so I am able to stand firm in times of conflict and trial.

Below are the notes and thoughts from the sermon that impacted me greatly. Every word spoken by my beloved pastor echoed what my heart and mind were screaming that Sunday.
Trust the Lord!
Seek Him!
Rely on His strength!
Do not lean on your own understanding!
Just - TRUST.
Give ear to my prayer, O God, and do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
Attend to me, and hear me; I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily.

My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.
So I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.
Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness.
I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest." Psalm 55

➤ David wants to run because it is easier than facing hard times.
He is in agony, trying circumstances, an emotional wreck, dealing with difficult people, criticism, attacks - and he has lost focus. 
"I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily. My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.  I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest." (vv. 4-5)

➤ Running is not an option
A temporary escape/retreat is okay for a time to refocus, refresh and rest.
And then we must REENGAGE with life!
As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me.
Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.
He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me,
For there were many against me. (vv. 16-18)

➤ Prayer is the correct response in trying times - lifting our thoughts back toward God so they are not focused on our circumstances.

There.is.no.panic.in.heaven.  God is not surprised by trials.  We can trust Him to do His work.

Do not be anxious - PRAY! 
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6,7

When no one else is listening,
when no one is defending you,
you have the Lord!

➤ David was in constant prayer - three times a day DEDICATED to prayer!  A discipline of prayer.
Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you;

He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. (v. 22)

➤ Believe in God's sufficiency.
He SHALL sustain you. 
(sustain = strengthen and uphold)

Notice  God does not promise to REMOVE our burdens - but to carry them for us.
He replaces our weakness with His strength.
Lord, You know I am a recovered runner. But there are times I feel like David did, and wish I could run again. Make me stronger, Lord. Show me the benefit, the beauty, and the joy of standing firm, secure, and strengthened - in YOU. Though I often need help attaining it, it is - what I want.