Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

Finding Contentment

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Have you ever wished for things to be different? That something or someone would change? The apostle Paul surely could have felt that way . . . being stuck in prison when he had been out travelling and evangelizing the known world.

Yet Paul said, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Philippians 4:11-12, NASB).

How does that happen?

Paul shows us in the verses that follow:

God helps us to be content

Immediately after he talks about being content, he says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NASB). A friend recently pointed this out to me: The idea of contentment is followed by a stated reliance on the empowerment of God to be content. God enables us to be content. We must ask Him to help us live in a state of contentment.

The world pulls at us constantly, trying to make us focus on our unmet hopes, our disappointments, our lack of one thing or another.  The Lord whispers, “Be content. Ask Me to help you to find satisfaction in life, and I will.”

Additional verses in Philippians 4 reveal how the Lord develops contentment in us.

God promises to meet all our needs

Verse 19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (NASB). Paul had experienced this truth, so he proclaimed it boldly: God takes care of His own. The riches of heaven are available to us through our relationship with Jesus. We are called to believe this truth and to open our hands to receive what God deems is best for us.

Our Father knows what’s best. In Psalm 139, He tells us He knows everything about us (verses 1-6), He is always with us (verses 7-12), He created and sustains us (verses 13-16), He thinks about us constantly (verses 17-18), He handles our enemies (verses 19-22), and He looks into the depths of our hearts and helps us to grow in Him (verses 23-24).

He promises to take care of us and to move in our lives to accomplish His purposes. He promises to love us forever, with His covenant, steadfast, and merciful love (Psalm 138:8).

God is able to keep every one of His promises, because He is God. He backs up His promises with who He is. Sometimes, He meets our needs in unexpected ways, but His ways are higher (better) than ours (what we imagine or think is best) (Isaiah 55:9).

God reminds us to keep our focus on Him

Paul says, “To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Philippians 4:20, NASB). Somewhere in his prison cell, sometime during his confinement, Paul learned that his greatest treasure was the Lord Himself. As he sought the Lord’s presence each day, as he meditated on His promises, as he recalled his history with Him, as he remembered who He was, Paul focused on the great wealth found in his relationship with Jesus. He was content, overjoyed, that he would possess that prize for all eternity.

When we look to the Lord, we cannot help but praise Him. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we find contentment.

Question: How has the Lord strengthened you to be content? Comment at the link below.

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Going Home

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There’s something about going home, returning to the place where you were born, where you are always welcome, where you belong. I just returned from a trip to my hometown, Louisville, Ohio, for a family gathering and a speaking engagement. It never ceases to amaze me how my heart begins to swell with happiness as I cross the border into the Buckeye State and begin seeing the rolling hills and red barns of my native state.

Home. It carries great significance for several reasons:

Home is the place where you are nurtured and shaped.

I grew up the second oldest of 8 children, all born in the span of 10 years. To say we are close carries a double meaning! As I visited with my parents and siblings throughout last week, I appreciated even more their unique personalities and gifts. The Bible tells us, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, NASB). I learned and grew with these wonderful individuals. Last week, we laughed together as we recounted many special memories. Throughout the week, I paused to reflect on how my many relatives had impacted my life and how grateful I was for each one of them.

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Me, my parents, siblings, and our families 3 years ago

at my daughter Katie’s wedding

I stayed with my mother the majority of the time I was in Ohio. Her gentle spirit, caring nature, quick wit, and personal strength continue to bless me beyond measure. One day, we talked about how I was such a shy, fearful child growing up and how she forced me to take a public speaking class in middle school, hoping it would help me. Well, it did. I went on to win the state championship twice and to place third in the United States in girls extemporaneous speaking, shocking lots of people  . . . myself included. “And look at what you’re doing now . . . you’re a public speaker!” my mom said. I smiled, realizing only the Lord could cause such a transformation.

This past Saturday, I spoke at First Friends Church in Alliance, Ohio, about “Finding Hope in the Midst of Life’s Challenges.” Several friends from high school came to hear me speak. It was wonderful to see them again 35 years after our graduation. My friendships in high school also helped shape who I am today.

I know not everybody comes from a positive home or school environment, but wherever we are planted, wherever our roots go down, we have the opportunity to grow there. I have a dear friend who grew up in an abusive home environment. She allowed that experience to shape her in that she resolved to create a warm, nurturing home environment once she had a family of her own, and she has done just that. Her daughter is growing up in a household where she knows she is loved, accepted, and valued, and she feels safe and secure there.

Home is the place where you nurture and shape others.

When I moved to North Carolina 27 years ago with my husband David and then 7-week-old daughter Katie, I took all those home experiences with me as I began to raise my own children. The Lord blessed us with three daughters and a son, and I hope they experience the same warm feelings as I do when they think of home. I know the Lord has orchestrated the circumstances of their lives so that they can help to nurture and shape other individuals as well, whether those individuals are family of the home, or family of the heart.

One of the best ways we can nurture and shape others is to tell them about Jesus. When Jesus healed the demoniac, the man wanted to go with Jesus and travel with Him. Jesus did not let him, “but He said to him, ‘Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you’” (Mark 5:19, NASB).

I got to do that on Saturday night. I got to speak about the hope found in the Lord. I got to report to people at home what great things the Lord has done for me, and how He had mercy on me as I discovered my son had autism and I learned to thrive with Jesus in that place. That’s because . . .

Home is the place where you find Jesus.

All of our family and growing up experiences are meant to point us to the place where we truly belong, where we are nurtured, accepted, and loved . . . and that’s with Jesus. In the Christian faith, people talk about “going home” to be with Jesus when their earthly time is done. That’s Biblical. Our citizenship, our home, is in heaven when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior (Philippians 3:20, NASB). Jesus accepts us (Ephesians 1:6, KJV), nurtures us (Ephesians 5:29, 32, NASB), and loves us (John 15:9, NASB), and He is watching and waiting for the day when we will be home with Him forever (Luke 15:20; John 14:2-3, NASB).

Our true home is with Jesus.

Question: How has the Lord used your hometown experiences to help you and others know more about Him? Comment at the link below.

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Seeing God in Creation

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Europe to visit our former exchange student Silvana Milic. Wanting us to make the most of our visit, Silvana took us to see many different parts of her country as well as areas in Italy and Montenegro. One thing that impacted me during our travels was the beauty of the world God created. The Lord’s artistry dominated every landscape we encountered.

Too often, I hurry through life, focused on accomplishing the tasks of the day. Going on vacation makes me slow down. I have the opportunity to breathe in the beauty of nature around me. After my travels, I determined to notice and appreciate more the Lord’s handiwork in the world around me. I wanted to allow you to do the same, so I have included in today’s blog some of the scenery from my trip as well as scriptures to accompany it. May we declare as the psalmist does in Psalm 139:14, NASB: “Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.”

 

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Plitveca National Park, Croatia

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”  Romans 1:20

 

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Plitveca National Park, Croatia

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls.” Psalm 42:7

 

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Montenegro

“By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.”  Psalm 42:8

 

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Plitveca National Park, Croatia

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10

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Montenegro

“For, lo, He forms the mountains, and creates the wind, and declares unto man what is His thought, that makes the morning darkness, and treads upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is His name.” Amos 4:13

 

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Plitveca National Park, Croatia

“And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31

 

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Plitveca National Park, Croatia

“Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee.” Jeremiah 32:17

 

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Montenegro 

“He cuts out rivers among the rocks; and His eye sees every precious thing.” Job 28:10

 

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Plitveca National Park, Croatia

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:3-9

Question: How have you observed the Lord in nature? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

 

 

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Practicing Hospitality

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My mother Jane, me, Silvana and my mother-in-law Sally in Zagreb 

Have you ever been completely overwhelmed by how someone made you feel welcome and loved? I recently returned from a trip where those feelings ran strong.

June 13-31, I visited a former exchange student Silvana Milic, who stayed with me and my family in 1995. From the moment my mother, mother-in-law, and I met Silvana and her family at the airport in Zagreb, Croatia, we were enveloped in warm and welcoming hospitality.

We are told to “practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13, NIV), to make fondness for guests a part of our lifestyle. In that way, others can know that Jesus always welcomes and embraces them. Since the Milic family raises hospitality to an art form, I thought I might share some of my experiences with them, and what the Lord taught me in the process.

Expressing Affection

Silvana and her sister Zvijezdanka greeted me, my mother, and my mother-in-law with big hugs and kisses once we landed in Zagreb. They took care of packing our luggage in the car and making sure we were comfortably seated for the ride to Silvana’s apartment. They chatted the entire way, expressing how happy they were that we were going to visit with them for a while.

Once we arrived at Silvana’s place, we found her mother Veronika waiting for us at the door. She embraced me firmly and kissed me on my right cheek, left cheek, and right cheek again, smiling broadly and uttering “bok,” which is the Croatian word for “hello, welcome, we are glad you’re here.” I could tell that’s what it meant because of the brightness in her eyes and the way her mouth turned up in a pleasant smile every time she said it. Silvana’s mother does not speak English, but she speaks the language of love loudly and clearly.

Throughout the trip, Silvana and her family continued to show great affection toward me and my family. We knew we were loved, accepted, and welcome with them. Jesus does the same. He loves us always and constantly stands with open arms, ready to receive us. He tells us we are “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6, KJV) and that He loves us and wants us to abide in His love (John 15:9). He reveals the depth of his love for us in that He laid down his life for us (John 10:17-18; 15;13). It was His greatest expression of affection for us.

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Veronika, Sally, and my mom

Extending Fellowship

Whenever we were in town, Silvana and her family cooked for us and prepared delicious, beautiful meals. They spread tablecloths and brought out special family dishes for serving the food. Every meal included homemade soup, salad, main courses, and dessert with coffee. We lingered for a long time around the table, talking, laughing, and sharing our hearts. The Milics created an atmosphere where everyone could feel welcome and a part of the family. As we travelled around Croatia, I noticed an abundance of outdoor cafes where friends and family could enjoy the same type of pleasant fellowship.

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Sally, me, and my mom enjoying a wonderful meal made by the Milics

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Silvana, Zvijezdanka, and Veronika preparing a meal for us

Jesus extended fellowship to those he met. He told Zaccheus to come down from the tree because He was going to dine with him that evening. He invited each of His disciples to fellowship with the words, “Come, follow Me.” He broke bread with the multitudes, and He gathered the children up into His lap. He still extends fellowship today, saying, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NASB). One day, those who are His will gather with Him at a sweet banquet table in heaven, where the fellowship will never end (Revelation 19:9).

Welcoming Interruptions

Silvana works as vice president of finance at a mutual funds company. She serves on the board of directors for the corporation. She also teaches accounting at a college in Zagreb, and she is working on her PhD in economics. She is a busy young woman, to say the least. Yet, she did not hesitate to allow her schedule and life style to be interrupted for 19 days by visitors. In fact, she encouraged our visit and planned many opportunities for us to see and experience her country as well as parts of Italy. She gave up her bed for me and my mother and slept on the pullout couch with my mother-in-law. She included me and my family in her life and her family’s life for two and a half weeks.

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Zvijezdanka, Veronika, and Silvana Milic

Jesus welcomes all who would come to Him. He spoke with Nicodemus at night. He stopped to heal the lepers and blind. He let the little children climb all over Him. He spoke with the woman at the well. He had plans. He had responsibilities. But He saw every change in His schedule as a divine appointment, where others could know Him better and love Him more. I certainly came to know Jesus better and to love Him more through my time with the Milic family. Through them, I got to experience even more the affection, fellowship, and embrace of Jesus.

Question:  With whom can you practice hospitality? Would you allow the Lord to help you in doing so? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website:  susanjaneking.com

 

 

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Chasing Off The Thief

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My mother whirled around and shouted, “Did you just put your hand in my purse?” The woman behind her jumped off the subway train just as the doors were closing.

“Hold your purse in front of you. Pickpockets are bad here,” said Silvana, a friend who accompanied me, my mother, and my mother-in-law on a trip to Rome last week.

The incident frightened us, but fortunately, the pickpocket did not get anything from my mom’s purse. We boarded another subway train later and watched a man chase off another young woman who tried to lift his wallet.

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Me, my mother Jane, and mother-in-law Sally in Rome

On a spiritual level, we all have an enemy who comes to steal (John 10:10). He wants to rob us of our joy, peace, and hope in Jesus. Our job is to chase him off.

How? The answer is found in Joshua 1:9 (NIV):

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Chase Away Fear

The Bible tells us 365 times (once for every day of the year) not to be afraid. It must be pretty important for the Lord to say it that many times. Our enemy tries to steal the abundant life we have in Jesus, and he often tries to do so through fear. He knows if we let fear operate in our lives, we will be distracted from all we have with Jesus. Fear comes at us to try to steal from us. We decide if we let it in to do its destructive work. We need to chase it away like my mother chased away the pickpocket.

Refuse Discouragement

One of Dr. Charles Stanley’s life principles is that disappointment is inevitable, but discouragement is a choice. The devil tries to plant the seeds of discouragement, but we decide if we will let them take root. Allowing ourselves to be discouraged robs us of precious possessions—the joy, peace, and hope Jesus gives us.

Feeling the initial pangs of fear or discouragement can serve as signals to watch out, much in the same way as the tug on my mother’s purse captured her attention. When we feel tempted to give in to fear or discouragement, that’s the time to spring into action. That’s the moment to embrace faith and take courage.

Joshua 1:9 says don’t be afraid, and don’t be discouraged. It says do be strong, and do be courageous. It refers to opposite reactions to life’s circumstances: fear and faith, discouragement and courage. We can’t always control what happens to us in life, but we can control how we react to it. Our reactions determine whether we keep our treasures or allow them to be stolen from us.

Embrace Faith

“Be strong” in Joshua 1:9 literally means to “seize” or hold on to. It speaks of faith and believing God. In fact, “believe” in the New Testament (the verb form of faith) means to “cling to.” When fear snatches at us, we are called to chase it off and to embrace faith instead. We must hold on to God. We are told we have joy and peace in believing Him (Romans 15:13). We can remind ourselves of who He is, what He says, and how He keeps His promises. Our faith grows stronger as we exercise it.

Take Courage

Jesus says in John 16:33, NIV, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Psalm 27:14, NASB, says “let your hear take courage.” We receive courage from the Lord. We should not let the enemy take it from us. We maintain a courageous spirit by praising and thanking the Lord and reciting who we are in Him.

The Holy Spirit helps us fight off the enemy by reminding us to chase away fear and refuse discouragement and instead embrace faith and take courage. When we do that, we get to:

Celebrate The Lord’s Presence, Power, and Provision

“For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go,” says Joshua 1:9. Along with His presence come power and provision for every need. Since He is with us, we do not need to be afraid or discouraged. We can celebrate Him instead.

The Lord allows the enemy to come at us so we can learn to stand in faith and courage, so we can have experience in recognizing and chasing away the thief. So we can grow.

Let’s turn the tables on the thief and steal from him instead. Let’s steal the victory from him and give to the Lord!

Question:  What practices have helped you in chasing off the thief? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

 

 

 

 

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