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Archive for the ‘Pondering Biblical Truth’ Category

I was certain I posted this on Saturday, July 7, but just discovered it in my drafts. You’ll discover the answer to the obstacles I faced in today’s post (July 9), “God Answers Prayer.”

Last night I lost ALL my files on my computer! Even if the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference was not just three weeks away, this would be a disaster. (If you’ve not yet registered, the price increases tomorrow.)

What happened? I’ve been having ongoing and intensifying problems since Lap Link  transferred files from my old laptop to the new laptop I purchased four months ago. A week before the Colorado Christian Writers Conference the stress landed me in the hospital for a day with symptoms of a heart attack. PTL I did NOT have a heart attack and our insurance covered all but $350 of the bill that was over $17,000.

Two days ago Quicken crashed. “Disk problem. Switch to back-up.” But a “Memorize address failure” would not allow me to restore the backup, and Quicken would not allow me to access the other 3 accounts that have not been recently backed up.

Why don’t I have a current back-up of everything? With 659 GB I don’t have space even on my external drive. I did purchase iDrive, but with the workload of directing two conferences I’ve not had time to set it up. I do have a huge amount of files in Dropbox, but I’m no longer able to access them.

Am I upset? Of course!

Discouraged? Oh yes!

Doubting my ability to fix this? Absolutely!

But am I doubting my God, asking Him why He’s allowing all these obstacles? NO!

Friends, we forget that Jesus never promised it would be easy to follow Him. The night before He went to the cross, He told His disciples, “Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. . . . I have told you these things so that you won’t be staggered [by all that lies ahead.]  For you will be excommunicated from the synagogues, and indeed the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing God a service” (John 15:20; 16:1-2 TLB).

And His words proved to be true.

The apostle Paul, in the process of trying to spread the Good News, encountered “suffering and hardship and trouble of every kind. We have been beaten, put in jail, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, stayed awake through sleepless nights of watching, and gone without food (2 Cor. 6:4-5 TLB).

He also said, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. . . .We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going” (2 Cor. 4:8-9 TLB).

I am absolutely convinced that God allows trials even when, and perhaps especially when, we’re seeking to do His work. Why? Paul said in Romans 5:3, “they are good for us.” Seriously? Yes! How else would our faith muscles grow?

Open Doors says, “215 million Christians experience high levels of persecution in the countries on the World Watch List. This represents 1 in 12 Christians worldwide.” For more sobering statistics see https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution.

You’d think persecution would cause Christians to deny their faith, but no. Persecution has strengthened their faith, and where the church is literally under fire, it is growing.

So, I’m not giving up. How about you? Will you allow God to use obstacles to grow you closer to Him? How can I pray for you?

P.S. I’ve got a 20-minute appointment at 1:40 today with the Geek Squad. I don’t think it’s a “20-minute” problem, but I’m praying they will amaze me with their expertise.

 

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So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here. These trials are only to test your faith, to see whether or not it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests gold and purifies it—and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold; so if your faith remains strong after being tried in the test tube of fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day of his return.
1 Peter 1:6-7 TLB

Thanks so much for your prayers and sharing with me the obstacles you’re facing. Father, we look to You for Your answers and thank You that You are able to work all things together for good.

The Geek Squad tech was amazing. The files had not been deleted. They had been moved to a different account. (I didn’t know I had more than one account.) He also did a temporary fix for Quicken, and my MS Office programs appear to be running MUCH better. He removed a program that he said was notorious for introducing Malware. I’m am so relieved and thankful.

Sheri Schofield, a friend who comes to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, faced a HUGE obstacle this year. She indie published her children’s picture book, The Prince and the Plan, but by mistake 2,000 copies were printed in black and white. She was given the option to purchase them for $4,180 (that she didn’t have) or they would be destroyed. Praise God He has provided and is using them in Ephesians 3:20 ways. With her permission, here is the email she recently sent me – proof that God is not limited by the size of our author platform and that He does answer prayer!

PrinceandPlan_coverThe Lord has given me a team of people here in Montana to reach the Native Americans and the poor with my book The Prince And The Plan! When I was first debating what to do with the black & white misprints, the Lord gave me this verse: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release from darkness to the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1). Then He told me to give them to the Native Americans in Montana, where unemployment is 80%.

I’d been able to reach the Salish & Kootenai, the Crow, the Blackfeet, and the Assiniboine & Gros Ventra tribes, but hadn’t been able to reach the Chippewa Cree at Rocky Boy reservation nor the Sioux in the northern part of the state. I asked the Lord to provide a way to reach them. Rocky Boy is VERY closed. At a book signing at the local Christian bookstore, a pastor’s wife from Set Free Ministries came and bought 10 full-color copies for the families at their church. She asked if I had a way to give discounts for books in bulk for use among the Native Americans. I asked her which ones, she said “Rocky Boy and Havre”, which are the very ones I’d been praying about! Today she and her husband picked up 300 books for them. AND her husband committed to helping me reach more poor and Native children around the state! I’ve got a team now to help me! Praise God!

Twenty-one years ago, the Lord gave me a vision of a work He would do here in Helena that would flow to the rest of the state, then to the nation. I had no idea it had anything to do with me, but I now understand that it very well may! He said a river of life would spring up here.

Marlene, I’m NOT following the usual way of marketing this book. I’m doing only what the Lord tells me to do, for this is a ministry, not a career. I’m going through the doors the Lord opens, and trusting Him to provide the financing to get the gospel into the hands of children. I know — it is really different! But once before, the Lord told me to fight a battle for Him, and I did it HIS way — and I beat the U. S. military. So, having that example of how God leads behind me, I’m comfortable with doing this book His way, too. So far, God provided all the money needed to independently publish the book, to give away 2000 black & white copies, and has provided a team to help me get it into the hands of the poor, of which there are many here in Montana. I’m rejoicing!

[Click here for Sheri’s latest newsletter and contact info.]

 

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4th of July

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, I want to encourage you to not overlook the freedom that Jesus Christ offers us, that He purchased on the Cross.

Jesus on cross

 “And you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free”
from . . .

the consequences of sin – Isaiah 1:16-19; Romans 3:24; 1 John 1:9

the power of sin – Romans 7:15—8:2; 1 John 5:3-4

worry about financial problems – Psalm 34:8-9; Matthew 6:31-34; Philippians 4:19

limitations that negate – Isaiah 40:29-31; 2 Corinthians 19:8-10; Ephesians 3:16,20; Philippians 4:13

aloneness – Psalm 9:10; 54:4; 139:1-5; Revelation 3:20

discouragement – Psalm 9:10; 42:11; 138:3; Romans 10:11; Galatians 6:9; Hebrews 11:1

fear – Psalm 34:4; 91; 118:6-7; Isaiah 43:1-5

wondering why – Isaiah 30:20; Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; 4:8-11

wanting to give up – Psalm 27:14; 42:11; Habakkuk 2:3; John 15:5; Romans 8:35-37; 2 Corinthians 8:10-12; Colossians 1:29

feeling inadequate – Psalm 34:9; 81:10; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Philippians 4:13; 2 Timothy 1:6-8

feeling separated from God – Psalm 139:7; 145:18; Romans 8:38-39; James 4:8-10

weakness – Psalm 18:29,32; Isaiah 40:29-31; Habakkuk 3:19

feeling unloved – John 3:16; Ephesians 3:18-19

doubts – John 14:12-14; 16:24; 17:19

inner turmoil and confusion – Psalm 37:11; Isaiah 26:3-4; John 14:27; 16:33; Philippians 4:6-7

impatience – 2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 5:22-23; Hebrews 10:36

uncertainty – Psalm 32:8; 37:34; 119:105; Proverbs 3:5-6; Habakkuk 2:3;
John 8:12; Galatians 5:16; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; James 1:5-8

feeling useless and untalented – Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Ephesians 4:7,11-12; 1 Peter 4:10-11

the power of the enemy – Ephesians 6:10-17; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Peter 5:8-10

sorrow – Psalm 43:5; Isaiah 25:8; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Revelation 7:17; 21:4

not knowing how to pray – Romans 8:26

being down on ourselves – John 17:19; Romans 5:1-2; Philippians 1:6; 3:12-14; Jude 25

feeling like our future is hopeless – Psalm 32:8; 73:22-24; Proverbs 23:18; Isaiah 55:8-9; Jeremiah 29:11-13

feeling overwhelmed by problems and burdens – Psalm 55:22; 68:19; 146:8; Matthew 11:29-30; Romans 5:3-5; 8:31-32; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 5:7

being intimidated by temptations – 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 2:18; 4:15-16

fear of failure – 1 Chronicles 28:20; Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 16:3

defeat – Psalm 118:14; 1 Corinthians 15:57-58; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:8-9

depression – Psalm 118:24; 139:6-12; Isaiah 46:4

hesitancy to give – Proverbs 3:9-10; 28:27; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 2:4; 1 Peter 5:2

rejection – John 6:37; Jeremiah 33:25

unfulfilled yearnings – Psalm 37:4; 107:9; 145:19; Ecclesiastes 5:7; Isaiah 44:3; Matthew 7:7; John 6:35; 7:37-39; 15:5; 16:24; Revelation 22:17

ignorance – Psalm 16:7; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Colossians 2:3; 3:16

fear of sharing our faith – Matthew 10:19-20; Luke 21:14-15; Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:8

never-ending frustrations, struggles, plodding – Joshua 22:5; Psalm 37:34; Romans 12:11; 2 Corinthians 6:4-10

being overwhelmed when our faith is weak – 2 Timothy 2:13

anything else that would put us in bondage – 1 Peter 5:7

Compiled by Marlene Bagnull

 

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oak tree pixabay tree-893273_640 (1)

Two immense maple trees in the front yard sheltered the house I lived in until I was fourteen years old. They were my special friends.

When my mother threatened to call the police to come and take me away because I was a “naughty little girl,” I’d run outside and lean against one of my trees. Its branches seemed to embrace me with a love that I never knew from either of my parents.

My father was constantly in and out of the hospital. He seldom talked to me. When he did, his words were like hammer blows to my already fragile self-esteem. The beatings from his large fists often sent me flying. Even more painful than the welts his hand left on my face, was the way Mother (she didn’t like me to call her Mom) never intervened. “It’s all your fault,” she’d say. “If you’d be good, this wouldn’t have to happen.”  But it kept happening, again and again.

When my father got a blood clot in his leg, I remember Mother’s warning: “You’d better be good!  If you’re not, if you get your father upset, the blood clot can go to his heart and kill him.”

For weeks I tried to be very good, but I was gripped by the fear that I wasn’t good enough. I often mounted my bicycle, hoping to ride to the far end of the world. Instead, I’d end up at the forest preserve nearby where I’d walk deep into the woods. I never worried about getting lost. The trees of the forest were also my friends. When I heard that girls had been raped and murdered not far from my woods, I was frightened. But Mother knew where I was going and never stopped me. Doesn’t she care if something happens to me? I wondered.

My father died of a heart attack when I was ten. “You can be glad you were a good girl the last few days, so you don’t have to feel guilty,” Mother said. But I knew I hadn’t been a good girl, and now it was too late. Perhaps she sensed my remorse.

“Give him a kiss and tell him you loved him,” she urged me as we stood before the open coffin.

I was terrified. “I can’t.”

“You can’t!  What’s the matter with you?”  Her eyes were accusing. “People will think you weren’t much of a daughter.”

“Mother, please. Please don’t make me,” I pleaded.

For the next year I had horrible nightmares. I begged Mother to let me sleep with her. Sometimes she gave in, but it didn’t help. I needed her to hold me and comfort me, but she always turned her back to me. I laid beside her wide awake, listening to her breathing and worrying every time its rhythm changed. Suppose she died too!

Mother remarried when I was fourteen. But life with my stepfather, Harry, was even worse. Why didn’t Mother tell him to leave me alone? But she didn’t, blaming me for the beatings and other abuse. I remember sitting under one of my trees all night, afraid to be alone on the streets and afraid to stay in the house.

On my wedding I had no regrets about moving a thousand miles away. When I became pregnant, I missed Mother. I was sure she’d come when my baby was born, but she didn’t.

A year later Mother was diagnosed with a mental illness, but I continued to be hurt by the things she did.

When my thirteen-year-old half-sister came to live with us because Harry was sexually abusing her, Mother was angry at me for taking her “baby” away from her. She continued to turn her back on me.

When Harry died, on the verge of another breakdown, Mother needed someone to take care of her. I tried to help, but much of what I did only made her angry. Finally, I convinced Mother to come east and enter a mental hospital. Tests revealed an illness similar to Alzheimer’s. Doctors urged me to put her in a personal care home. But I knew Mother could still function, with support, in an apartment. A geriatric counselor agreed and helped me to see what tasks could be done by others so I wouldn’t become consumed by Mother’s care.

Now the roles were reversed. I had to give Mother the things she failed to give me—attention, affection, love.

Mother, who signed my birthday card, “From Mabel,” complained about me to anyone who would listen. Unappreciative, mistrustful, she continued to reject me. Some days I wondered why I didn’t take the “easy” way out and put her in a home. Was I being a martyr? No, I concluded, I’m doing what I must do for my mother.

On Mother’s Day I didn’t want to be with her, but I couldn’t leave her alone in her apartment, so I took her out to dinner. Mother complained about her potatoes. They were too cold. Her chicken was too done. She didn’t like the salad dressing. Nothing pleased her!

I remembered how Mother’s psychiatrist had recommended that I think of her simply as an old woman who needed my help. “Don’t think of her as your mother; call her Mabel.” His words didn’t make me feel better.

Once I visited a friend whose mother has Alzheimer’s. I watched Jennifer comb her mother’s hair and give her a hug. Her mother smiled and kissed her cheek. Why can’t it be that way between me and my mother? I wondered.

“It hurts so much,” I told God one evening as I sat on my porch. I looked up at the tree in my backyard and wished I could draw comfort and strength from it as I did when I was a child. I remembered a fragment of a poem I memorized in school—something about only God being able to make a tree.

I thought of Jesus—how His hands and feet were nailed to a tree in order that my sins might be forgiven. He kept reaching for me when I kept rejecting Him, loving me when I was unlovable.

Suddenly I knew that because He first loved me, I could love Mother no matter how she treated me. “Love,” He reminded me “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (l Corinthians 13:7, RSV).

A gentle breeze stirred the beginnings of forgiveness within my spirit. “I want to forgive you, Mother,” I whispered. “I still love you.”


Eight and a half years ago the Lord moved us to a new home in Lansdale. At first sight of the seven oak trees that lined the sidewalk, I knew this was the home He had chosen for us. The fact that our three grandkids live in walking distance caused us to immediately put in a bid.

Today, five of our oak trees are battling bacterial leaf scorch. I’m heartsick for as you now understand, trees mean a lot to me. They are due for their second $1,600 treatment that will not cure them but will hopefully give them the strength to survive. One of the five trees is not leafing out as the others.

Don’t worry about anything;
instead, pray about everything;
tell God your needs,
and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.

Philippians 4:6 (TLB)

Will you join me in praying for my trees?

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Let’s be real. Have the pressures of life ever made you feel like running away?

Maybe non-stop problems have worn you to a frazzle. And the thing with problems is that they are groupies. Seriously, have you ever had to cope with just one problem at a time?

My writing mentor used to tell me that problems were great grist for my writing  mill. Right! Maybe if I’d get a break long enough to see the Lord in them so I could write about them and give hope to my readers; it certainly won’t help them or me to whine!

I confess this has been one of those weeks when I would have liked to run away. It’s hard enough to be on deadlines for both the Colorado and Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference when my laptop is working. But when I’m forced to spend hours on the phone with technicians who don’t speak clear English and who end up making things worse rather than better, running away is a tempting option. But . . .

He who believes need never run away again.
Isaiah 28:16 TLB

Father knows I do believe and that I desperately need him to help my unbelief.

Despite seemingly impossible obstacles, I am making progress on the July 26-28 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference.

Lest I get knocked off the Internet again, here’s the link for the 35 workshops I’ve packed into Friday and Saturday – http://philadelphia.writehisanswer.com/workshops2018. The page has not yet been proofread and is, therefore, not accessible from the menu. Trusting that somehow I’ll be able to open online registration May 1, I’m eager for you to see some of what we’re offering.

We also have an exciting line-up of 3 Learning Labs on Thursday afternoon along with early bird workshops, 7 continuing sessions, keynotes, panels, and an outstanding faculty of 38 agents, editors, and authors.

So . . . the bottom line is I’m NOT going to run away. Instead, will you commit along with me to:

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.
When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through.
That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
Hebrews 12:2-3 MSG

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Always be joyful.
Never stop praying.
Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT

Although the snow has finally melted, it still feels like winter here in Pennsylvania. The good thing is the ground (mud) in the backyard is frozen – at least in the morning. But it doesn’t take long for the mud to thaw and to end up on our labradoodle’s paws and from there onto our rugs.

I have 100 strawberry plants that arrived the day we got 6″ of snow. I need to get them planted but it’s still too cold and too wet and muddy.

Important papers in my office again are in the land of the missing. Seriously, how can the bills that I need to pay this morning, and that were on the top of my desk last night, have disappeared? I know they weren’t paid by a bill fairy.

Somehow my email address got hacked. I’ve received and deleted over 7,000 “thank you for subscribing” emails from around the world. Finally, after a  four day battle, I’m only getting a couple every hour. I’m grateful most of them ended up in my spam, but legit emails I need to answer also turn up in my spam folder. I hope I haven’t deleted anything important.

To add to all this and more, I’m in the conference crunch zone and need to finalize the faculty and program for the July 26-28 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference, redesign the brochure, and update the website. Meanwhile, countless details for the May 16-19 Colorado Christian Writers Conference need my attention – now!

And the ants are back . . .  Yep! Every  spring, even though it doesn’t feel like spring, they know it’s spring and they invade my office. At least they are tiny little black ants and not giant size. Still, it’s distracting to have an ant run across my computer screen. But what if those ants are a reminder to turn my attention to the Lord? What if I choose to

Give thanks to him and bless his name.
For the Lord is always good.
He is always loving and kind,
and his faithfulness goes on and on . . .
Psalm 100:4-5 TLB

 

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Don’t worry about anything;
instead, pray about everything;
tell God your needs, and don’t forget
to thank him for his answers.

Philippians 4:6 TLB

It’s been one of those all-too-familiar frustrating and unproductive days.  Maybe you can identify? Father, please increase my prayers and decrease my worries.

I had planned to get a number of invites out to prospective faculty for the July 26-28 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference and tackle the never-ending to-do list for the May 16-19 Colorado Christian Writers Conference. But Emmy . . .

Erin & Emmie 2
Our adorable Labradoodle puppy is now 8 months old, 47.3 pounds, and a much bigger handful than we ever anticipated. Her favorite game, when we catch her with something in her mouth that she shouldn’t have, is “Catch Me If You Can.”

This morning, it was a AAA battery! I don’t have a clue where she found it or  left it. I just know it wasn’t in her mouth when we finally caught her, and it wasn’t anywhere to be found in the house. And I searched, everywhere, down on my hands and knees and tummy.

Convinced that Emmy must have swallowed the battery, I did a quick Internet “what to do if” search and then a quicker call to the vet who said to bring her right over.

Three x-rays later revealed no battery inside Emmy.  Now what, besides paying the $270 bill? Since she found it once, certainly she’d find it again. And this time she might not be as lucky.

We put Emmy in quarantine in my office and continued the search with no success. Finally, around dinnertime I fluffed the blankets on our bed – again. I was tempted to crawl in and pull the covers over my head when . . .  You guessed it! There was the battery. There were some tooth marks, but thank the Lord no leaking battery acid.

We’ve raised three children, three Golden Retrievers, and babysat three grandchildren. None have been as much of a challenge as this Doodle puppy.

I prayed and did lots of research before we got her. Now I can’t help but wonder, and worry, that she’s more than two seniors in their 70s can handle. But surely Father is not surprised, and surely He can use this strong-willed, difficult puppy to teach me some new tricks. I do love her. So, thank You, Father, that Emmy didn’t swallow the battery and need surgery. And thank You for yet another lesson in trusting You.
______________
If you’ve had a puppy (or have one now), what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and overcome?

 

 

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Empty tomb

Darkness Shattered

They had believed he was the Messiah.
Leaving everything behind,
they followed him.
The Kingdom of God
had seemed so real, so near.
He healed the sick,
fed the hungry,
calmed the storm at sea –
and in their hearts.
His words had given them life
and hope and purpose.
But now he was dead.
How could they have been
so mistaken, so misled?

Hiding in the room
where he had broken the bread
and passed the cup,
hopelessness and despair
closed in around them.
They laughed –
a cold, hard, bitter laugh –
when Mary said she had seen him.
People didn’t come back to life
after dying on a cross.

Suddenly the darkness shattered
at the sound of the familiar voice.
“Peace be with you.”
Jesus stood before them
not dead – but alive!
Light filled the room
and the darkness in their hearts.

Everything he had taught them was true.
He was and is and shall be
alive – forevermore!
Christ is risen.
He is risen, indeed!

Marlene Bagnull

 

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Only Love

crucifixion-clipart-RTAG4M8TL

Only Love

Despised and rejected.
Forsaken – it seemed,
even by His Father
who turned His face away –
Jesus writhed in agony,
His hands and His feet
nailed to a tree.

“They’re not worth it,”
Satan must have taunted.
“Come down from the cross.
Give them what they deserve.
Death – now
and for eternity!”

All of heaven’s armies
stood on alert – ready
to obey the Son’s command.
Would Jesus choose
to save Himself – or men?
Would He endure to the end?

Only love kept Jesus on the cross
knowing only His blood
could set men free.
“It is finished!” He shouted.
Sin and death no longer reign.
Christ has won the victory!

Marlene Bagnull

 

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EPSON MFP image

Abide in Me.
Be grafted into Me,
for on the Cross
I allowed My body to be broken
in order that I might receive you,
in order that I might draw you into Me.
I have exposed to you My inner self,
and I have opened a way for you
to become one with Me.

Place your life into Mine.
I will surround you with My love.
I will cover you with My protection
that you may stand steady
despite the gales of life.
I will nourish you
with My unlimited resources.
I will quench your thirst
with My life-giving water.

As you allow Me to shape and prune your life
through your obedience to My teachings,
I will help you to grow
and become so much a part of Me
that your life will produce
the fruit of Christlikeness –
the fruit of love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
and self-control.

grapes pexels-photo-760281
And through this fruit
that I will produce in your life,
others will see Me in you;
and they, too,
will be led to become grafted into Me.

Based on John 15:1-8; Galatians 5:22-23
Marlene Bagnull

 

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