Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

God’s Perfect Design

Our family dog Grace

Our family loves dogs. Between all of us, we have 4 distinctly different canines in our family. We got to enjoy all of them this past Christmas season as our children came to visit. David and I own a very mellow, 8-year-old golden retriever named Grace.  Extremely gentle and sweet, she also stays close and remains acutely sensitive to everyone’s mood. She’ll nestle her head in your lap as you watch a movie, or she’ll bound around the kitchen when you walk into the house and express your excitement in seeing her. Our daughter Katie, son-in-law Curt, and grandson Landon own a boxer-shepherd mix named Lexie. Their dog is extremely loyal and devoted, following her family wherever they go, and expressing concern whenever her “little boy” seems upset. Our daughter Sarah and her husband Ben each brought a dog into their new marriage. Sarah’s Henry, a Vizsla hound, possesses boundless energy and excitement. My husband once played fetch with Henry for 8 hours straight during a Saturday get-together. Then there’s Ace, a pitbull mix. He is such a protector, patrolling the yard, and making certain everyone remains safe. All four dogs are extremely affectionate and love their family.

As I observed these precious pooches and their unique personalities over the holidays, I thought about how God shapes and crafts each of us with specific personality traits . . . and how we should embrace, celebrate, and move forward in how He made us.

Lexie watching over Landon during a recent car trip

God made us specifically and individually

Ephesians 2:10 says we are the Lord’s workmanship, the word poiema in the Greek. It means a product, a fabric, a work, of the works of God as Creator, or as one of my pastors likes to say, God’s masterpiece. In other words, the Creator of the universe fashioned and shaped each of us, including our personality traits, like a fine tapestry that is woven together from many different threads and results in a one-of-a-kind, beautiful work of art. The God of the universe created you, and He knows what He is doing. No one else on this entire planet is exactly like you. God authored your life, and He looked at you and said His creation was “very good” (Genesis 1:31, NASB).

Just as Lexie is loyal and Grace is sensitive to others, and just as Ace protects and Henry spreads joy, each of us possesses valuable personality traits wired into us by God. Many of us waste a great deal of time wanting to be different than how God designed us. I know I have done that. I’m sure it grieves the heart of God because He put a great deal of love, design, purpose, and power into who He made each of us to be. He tells us we are, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14, NASB).

Ace and Henry

God made us with a divine purpose in mind

The Lord wants to use the way He made each of us to achieve His own special purposes. The remainder of Ephesians 2:10, NASB, says we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” In other words, the Lord wants to use what He designed into us for His kingdom purposes . . . to draw others to Himself.

I can see the Lord’s fierce protection in Ace, His compassion in Grace, His faithfulness in Lexie, and His joy in Henry.  On a much grander scale, the Lord wants others to see aspects of His Son Jesus in our lives:  “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, NASB). That word glory is doxa in the original Greek form, and it means to manifest [display], give an estimation of; hence [resulting in] praise, honor, and glory. God designed you and placed you in this world not only so that you would know Him but also so that your unique personality and personal traits could be used to reflect the character, nature, and ways of His Son to people who desperately need Him. What a beautiful calling and purpose!

My husband is a lot more like Henry and Ace. He is a fierce protector of others who are vulnerable. He can lead a group forward in safety like a pitbull on patrol. He also possesses an energetic, strong personality and a great sense of humor, so he can engage well with others in different social settings. I relate more to Lexie and Grace. I’m more of an introvert. I hang back and observe others and settle in next to someone who might need a little encouragement or support. I key into other people’s feelings very easily and can relate to their strong emotions. Both David and I relate differently to others because of how God made us, and I’m certain the Lord made us this way to help different people in different ways . . . or maybe the same people in different ways.

God doesn’t make junk

Psalm 139:14, NASB, adds, “Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.”  Isaiah 64:8, NASB, says, “But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.” Our Lord knows what He is doing. He is the Master Designer. We don’t need to question His work or the purpose of His designs in each of us  (Isaiah 29:16; 45:9).

We can choose to accept and celebrate how God made us—those traits He placed in us that mirror His own. At the same time, we can go to Him about our struggles and character flaws too, and we can allow Him to reshape and mold us into a clearer image of His Son Jesus. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB).

Our family dogs don’t try to be anything other than who they are. Their unique personalities shine every time we get together. They constantly remind me of our Masterful Creator. As we stand on the cusp of a new year, may each of us move forward as the individuals God designed us to be, and may His unique designs bring others closer to His Son.

Question: How has the Lord used the personal traits of others to teach you more about Jesus? Comment at the link below.

 

Ephesians 2:10; Genesis 1:31; Psalm 139:14; Colossians 1:27; Isaiah 64:8; 29:16; 45:9; 2 Corinthians 3:18

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Helping Others in the Race

Sarah and David before their swim

My husband David and daughter Sarah completed an Ironman competition last weekend in Panama City Beach, Florida. The full-day event involved swimming 2.4 miles in the ocean, biking 112 miles, and running a marathon (26.2 miles). Sarah started doing the Ironman competition with her dad 4 years ago, and David has been participating in the Ironman for 7 years. This year’s event especially touched my heart because of the way I saw David and Sarah interacting as father and daughter. It reminded me of how we need to look out for one another in the body of Christ and to be intentional about helping one another as followers of Jesus.

Look for them

The first part of the Ironman competition involves swimming 2.4 miles in the ocean. The triathletes swim out into the ocean, following a long line of buoys that create a path similar to a giant upside down U. They come out of the ocean and then go back into it to swim the same path once again. After his first swim circuit, David came up to me and Sarah’s husband Ben, and asked, “Where’s Sarah? Have you seen her yet?” He smiled when we told him she had just re-entered the ocean seconds before him. He was looking for her. When he completed his swim and came out of the ocean the second time, he asked about Sarah again. He grinned once more when we told him she had already finished her swim. He was continuing to look for her.

We’ve got to watch out for one another in life. Those of us with more experience in the race need to be looking after those with less experience. We need to be watching for those “athletes” who might need a little help along the way. Paul had his Timothy in the Bible. He called Timothy, “my true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2, NASB). Paul looked out for Timothy and encouraged him in his walk with the Lord. Paul said he desired that Timothy would experience the true “grace, mercy and peace [that is] from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Timothy 1:2, NASB). We can all pray that the Holy Spirit would open our eyes to the younger ones we can come alongside. We can always be looking for them.

When we do that, we are looking through the eyes of Jesus. He looked at us and saw our need for a Savior, and He showed up alongside us to help. He, being God, took on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  “For the joy set before Him, [He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, NASB). He looked ahead and saw us—those who would be saved by His sacrifice—and that was the “joy set before Him” as He “endured the cross.” When we look for others we can point to Him, we are joining Him in what is near and dear to His heart.

David and Sarah biking together

Love them

Before the Ironman began, David told me he wanted to do the bike and run portions with Sarah. He wanted to experience the event alongside his daughter. Deep down, I knew David was expressing his great love for Sarah in that decision. He was going to be blessed by the experience, but it also required sacrifice on his part. He was not going to be able to complete the Ironman at his regular biking and running pace. He would have to change his pace to stay with Sarah. He’s tall, with long legs. Sarah is shorter. Any cyclist or runner will tell you that you have to find your own pace and stick with it. David was going to have to make some adjustments that might affect his body physically as well as the timing of his race results. He knew going through the race with his daughter was worth it.

That’s sacrificial love. In the New Testament, the word for love, Christ-like love, is agape. It means an unconditional, unrelenting love, a determined goodwill that seeks another’s best interests. That’s how David chose to love his daughter, and that’s how Jesus chose to love us. Philippians 2:4-8, NASB, says, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  In other words, Jesus thought of us and did what was in our best interests, going to the cross for our sakes. He emptied Himself, literally laid aside His privileges as God, and loved us to the end (John 13:1). Jesus said this in John 15:13, NASB: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

Each of us can ask the Lord to show us people we can love in His name. It will probably require sacrifice on our part, but when we do, we are obeying Jesus’ commandment: “that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, NASB).

David and Sarah running the marathon

Encourage them

Since David decided to bike and run alongside Sarah, he was able to encourage her the entire time. He was able to draw from his many years of triathlon experience to advise her along the way. He reminded her when she needed to eat or drink in order to have enough nutrition. He kept track of their pace and made recommendations for when they should speed up or slow down. He kept the finish line in mind the entire time and kept them focused on the reward. Sarah received his advice and benefitted from it. When Ben and I met them halfway through the marathon, we both commented on how good they looked—healthy and strong, because they were running together.

We are instructed to “encourage one another and build up one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NASB). In fact, we are commanded to “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’” (Hebrews 3:13, NASB). The Lord knows we need encouragement, and He gives us the blessing of being able to encourage one another in Him.

Jesus Himself encourages us as we run the race of life too. He says, “‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:20, NASB). He stays with us all the way to the finish line, telling us we can do all things through Him because He strengthens us and meets all our needs (Philippians 4:13, 19). He guides, protects, and defends us (John 10:11, 14-17), and He sees us through to the finish line and our eternal reward (John 14:1-3, Revelation 22:12).

David and Sarah crossing the finish line

When David and Sarah crossed the finish line of their Ironman competition, I cheered with all my heart. I was so proud of both of them, and I was extremely grateful to witness what can happen when we decide to look for, love, and encourage one another in this race called life. Jesus goes with us as we race, and we’re truly blessed when we get to experience Him in one another.

Sarah and David with their 2017 Ironman medals

 

Question:         Who has looked for, loved, and encouraged you in your race of life? Comment at the link below.

 

1 Timothy 1:2; John 1:14; Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 2:4-8; John 13:1, 34-35; 15:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13; Matthew 28:20; Philippians 4:13, 19; John 10:11, 14-17; 14:1-3; Revelation 22:12

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What I Learned from Some Autistic Young Adults

Patrick speaking at the panel discussion

My son Patrick recently was asked to serve on a panel that discussed the experiences and advice of young adults with autism. The three young men and one young woman spoke to a room full of parents and caregivers at the monthly meeting of the Rowan County Chapter of the Autism Society of North Carolina. The panelists amazed me with their wisdom and demeanor. Yes, they shared valuable insights into the world of autism, but they also taught some important truths in the way they interacted with one another. Those interchanges impacted me the most. Here’s what I learned from them:

Be honest

One panelist introduced himself as “Gray . . . not Greg, not Gary. My name is Gray. Please do not call me by another name.”

Those of us watching the discussion chuckled at his comment, acknowledging the honesty and literalness you usually find in autistic individuals.

Unfortunately, one of the panelists made the mistake of calling Gray “Greg” about halfway through the program.

“I told you not to call me that,” Gray blurted out.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Lewis said. “I’m terrible with names.”

He smiled at Gray.

“Me too,” Patrick said. “I’ve always struggled with that.”

That was it. Issue resolved. Everyone said how they felt, and they moved on.

There’s something refreshing about honesty. Everyone knows how they stand. The issues are out in the open.

Recently, I’ve been watching an issue involving some misunderstandings. Everyone is dancing around the subject, instead of addressing things head on. It’s a mess.

We are told in God’s Word, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15, NASB).

We are also instructed, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37, NKJV).

Honesty goes a long way toward clearing up issues. The truth comes out on the table for everyone to see, deal with, and hopefully resolve.

“People seem to like my honesty and literalness,” Patrick said during the panel discussion.

He has always been quick to try to resolve issues, and once they’re resolved, he moves on. Gray did the same. Once he communicated how he felt and everyone acknowledged it, he forgot about it.

The Lord calls us to work out issues in honest, honoring ways . . . whether we are upset, or someone is upset with us.

He says, “‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother’” (Matthew 16:15, NKJV). He also says, “‘If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering’” (Matthew 5:23-34, NASB). Sometimes, the best way we can honor the Lord is to show love and respect to others.

I saw a great deal of honesty and sincerity among the autistic panelists. There was no pretense, no attempt to impress. They were simply themselves, and it was beautiful.

Be kind

Lewis, a young man on the panel, broke out into spontaneous applause several times when he thought a panelist mentioned something significant. By the end of the event, he was getting the audience members to do the same.

Hebrews 3:13, NASB, says, “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today.’” Encouragement certainly flowed freely among the panelists that evening.

Rachel, a spirited young woman on the panel, floated around the room after the discussion and told each panelist what a great job they did. She asked for their emails so she could invite them to IGNITE, a social group for young adults with autism.

These young people understood and accepted one another. They championed one another’s success. There was no competition, no spitefulness, just a genuine respect and desire to see the others succeed.

Jesus said, “‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another’” (John 13:34-35, NKJV).

The word love in this verse is agapao. It means unconditional, unrelenting love; a determined goodwill that seeks another’s best interests.

I saw that kind of love in the panelists toward one another. Love and respect with no strings attached. They gave freely to one another and expected nothing in return.

Be welcoming

Prior to that Tuesday evening, the panelists had not met one another. Yet, they welcomed one another with grace and kindness. One panelists flapped his fingers. Another paused and got stuck in communicating her thoughts. It didn’t matter. Each member of the panel was greeted warmly and accepted by the others.

In a society that often builds fences and categorizes people into groups, the young adults on this panel communicated worth and a warm welcome to one another. They did the same with the adults who attended the meeting and wanted to talk with them afterwards.

They reminded me of how Jesus would welcome anyone who came to Him . . . people like the woman at the well (John 4), the Pharisee Nicodemus (John 3), and the tax collector Zaccheus (Luke 19). In fact, He says, “‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’” (Matthew 11:28-29, NASB).

I experienced a great deal of gentleness and humility in the autism panelists. They nodded gently when panelists shared their challenges, and they laughed deeply when they confided amusing stories. They smiled when panelists offered advice or talked about personal accomplishments. They were available to welcome and help others. I could tell they did not view the evening as something about them . . . they were focusing more on being available to the other people there.

I saw them living out Philippians 2:3-4, NASB:  “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

I suppose the panel discussion impacted me so much because I saw the traits of Jesus in those young men and that young woman: honesty, kindness, and a welcoming heart. I’m asking the Lord to develop more of those qualities in me. I saw how greatly He can use those qualities through a profound gathering of young autistic adults.

Question: What has the Lord taught you about Himself through observing others? Comment at the link below.

 

Ephesians 4:15; Matthew 5:37; 16:15; 5:23-24; Hebrews 3:13; John 13:34-35; 4; 3; Luke 19; Matthew 11:28-29; Philippians 2:3-4

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They’re Married! The Lord is Faithful

My daughter Sarah married Ben DeCelle, the love of her life, on September 16. We recently were given a “sneak preview” of their wedding photos by Irresistible Portraits (irresistibleportraits.com). (All the photos in this post were taken by Karen Goforth at Irresistible Portraits.) As I looked at those images, tears welled up in my eyes. Every photo reminded me of the Lord’s faithfulness in bringing these two together and giving them a future full of hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

Sarah and Ben have a beautiful love story, and it reminds me ultimately of the great love Jesus has for each of us. Here are some truths I have witnessed in their relationship:

The Lord wants to bless us with His absolute best

I remember getting a phone call from Sarah one Saturday when she was a junior in college: “Mom, I have been reading my Bible and praying, and the Lord keeps telling me to break up with my boyfriend [not Ben—someone else]. What should I do?”

“If God is telling you to break up with him, then you need to break up with him,” I said.

We talked about it quite a while. It would not be easy. Sarah had invested years in that relationship. She was comfortable in it. But in the end, she broke up with that young man. Two months later, she met Ben. They fit and complement one another so well. They each found “the one” God chose for them.

Sarah set that other young man free to find “the one” for him. He married her, and they have a beautiful little girl together.

God knows and wants the absolute best for us. Because He is all-wise, all-loving, and all-powerful, He knows what that absolute best is, and He can make it happen—if we trust Him and cooperate with His plans. That means trusting and obeying Him, even when He challenges us to step out and do uncomfortable things.

I shared in my comments at the rehearsal dinner that Ben is the young man I have been praying about for 26 years, and the Lord truly answered those prayers exceedingly and abundantly beyond anything I could have asked or imagined (Ephesians 3:20). I know he will love, respect, protect, and provide what Sarah needs, and I know she will do the same for him.

Mr. and Mrs. Ben DeCelle

The union of a man and woman is meant to reflect Christ’s love for us

Husbands are called to love, nourish, and cherish their wives, like Christ loves the church, even sacrificially. Wives are called to respect and honor their husbands like the church respects and honors Christ (Ephesians 5:25-33). In other places in scripture, husbands are told to honor their wives (1 Peter 3:7), and wives are told to love their husbands (Titus 2:4). It’s all about love and respect, seeing value in one another and recognizing the beautiful picture the Lord paints in marriage.

I shared this scripture at the rehearsal dinner: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NASB). Of course, two of those strands in the cord are husband and wife, and the third strand that holds everything together is the Lord. He loves married couples, and He works to bring them and keep them together.

The Lord tells us we are created for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). In Colossians 1:27, we are told that Christ in us is the hope of glory. In the New Testament the word glory is doxa, and it means glory, as very apparent, to manifest, or give an estimation of; hence [resulting in ] praise, honor, and glory [for the Lord]. In other words, the Lord put some of His qualities in each of us, and He wants them to be seen, that others might be drawn to Him.

When I look at Sarah and Ben, I think of the scripture that says the Lord is both strong and loving (Psalm 59:16). I see the Lord blending these qualities in Sarah and Ben’s marriage.

My husband David shared in his wedding toast that “When you are around Ben, you just get the sense that everything is going to be okay.” He talked about the time Sarah and Ben went skydiving and Ben told him that he was nervous until he saw Sarah’s parachute open. “That resonated with me,” David said. “I know he’s going to look after and take care of Sarah.”

I also shared at the rehearsal dinner how Sarah was sick once, and I was trying to take care of her. Ben said to me, “It’s okay. I’ve got her.” I know he does. I know he will stand by her and lend his strength to care for her.

I also see Sarah fulfilling the “loving” component. She has a deeply caring heart that loves fiercely. I shared at the rehearsal dinner how she found a hummingbird in our garage once. Its legs were all tangled up in some sort of string or webbing. It was very weak from not feeding for a while. Sarah freed its legs, mixed up some hummingbird food, put a drop on her smallest finger, and fed that tiny bird for an hour and a half until it was strong enough to fly.

David shared in his toast how Sarah sent a letter and devotion book to a young mom who lost her baby. We were told at church how that mom kept the book and letter on the nightstand next to her bed for months.

I know Sarah will devotedly love Ben. I also know the love and strength they bring to their marriage will bless others too.

This is just the beginning

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NASB).

The Lord did something beautiful when he brought Sarah and Ben together as husband and wife. I know He will continue to work in and through their marriage to bless one another and to show the world how wonderful He is! He was faithful to bring them together, and He will be faithful to walk with them as husband and wife. I can’t wait to watch the rest of their story!

Question: How has the Lord been faithful in your life? Comment at the link below.

 

Jeremiah 29:11; Ephesians 3:20; Ephesians 5:25-33; 1 Peter 3:7; Titus 2:4; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Isaiah 43:7; Colossians 1:27; Psalm 59:16; Philippians 1:6

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God Gives Us One Another

Some of my family at the lake: Front row–my sister Jennifer and my mom; Middle row–my sister Brenda and I; Back row–my sister Renee, sister-in-law Tonda, cousins Mary Ann and Helen, and Aunt Kathy

I looked around at the many different faces surrounding me, and I whispered a quiet prayer of thanks. “Lord, I love each one of them so much. Thank you for making them a part of my life.”

The many faces belonged to my relatives—strong, loving, wise, gentle, witty, and  compassionate souls I had known for most of my life. We all had gathered at my sister’s lake house for a weekend of fun and fellowship. My mom, sisters, sisters-in-law, aunt, and cousins were in attendance, and we had already laughed and shared our hearts a great deal.

Family. Whether it’s the one we grew up in or the church members we love, family remains a great gift from God. My weekend at the lake in Ohio reminded me that family is a place where we can:

Be Changed

Proverbs 27:17, NASB, says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” In other words, we are shaped by the people around us. We learn from and respond to both the good and bad qualities of other people. We aspire to be the like the good people we know, and hopefully, we desire to be different from the difficult ones.

The Spirit of God aims to develop the qualities of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” in us (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB). Often, He allows us to experience those qualities in others so we will be motivated to become like them. My mother is one of the most kind, compassionate, and loving people I know. I’ve always said I want to be like her when I grow up! My sister Brenda and I joked once that it would be impossible to be as great as Mom, but it’s a good goal to set for ourselves.

Here’s something I have learned:  If I want to be a kinder person, I need to hang around someone who is kind. If I want to be wiser, I need to spend time with someone who is wise. I pray a lot to know the Lord better and love Him more. He gave me my friend Phyllis for a season (before she went home to be with Him) because she knew and loved Him with her whole heart.

I have prayed to be more hospitable, and the Lord has allowed me to spend time with my sister Jennifer, who always knows how to make people feel welcome and comfortable. Once when I stayed at her house, she presented me with two bed pillows and asked if I preferred the flat or fluffy one! She created several gluten-free foods for me when I visited her recently because I am gluten-intolerant. How kind and thoughtful. I want to be like her too when I grow up!

I’ve learned about patience and gentleness from my sister Renee, courage and facing life with a sense of humor from my sister Danielle, and hard work and perseverance from my sister Brenda. (This is not an all-inclusive list.)

Just like our family of origin, God’s family is called to “encourage one another and build up one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NASB. That’s what we are supposed to do for one another. That’s why we are told to keep spending time with each other (Hebrews 10:25) so that we can “consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24, AMP).

We also are changed when other Christians share God’s Word with us. We are transformed as our minds become renewed and renovated with the truth (Romans 12:2). We come to know the truth of God’s Word, and the truth sets us free (John 8:32).

Be the Change

Just as we are changed by God’s people around us, we can allow the Lord to use us to impact others for His kingdom. My grandma told me a story once about her son, my Uncle Pat. She said he was hanging out with “a young hooligan” in town during high school. One of her friends took her aside and asked her if she was worried that her son would start becoming like the young man who was always getting in trouble.

My grandma told me she replied to the friend, “I’m not worried one bit. My son is not going to be changed by him. He is going to be changed by my son.” My grandma looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said, “That’s exactly what happened!”

Jesus says He wants us to be good influencers in this world. He tells us we are salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Salt is full of flavor and acts as a preservative, stopping the spread of decay. Light dispels the darkness and points the way out of it. If we listen to and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, He can use us to point others to Jesus, who says, “’I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me’” (John 14:6, NASB). As we allow the Holy Spirit to develop His fruit in our lives, Jesus can be seen more clearly in us, and hopefully, more people will be drawn to Him.

Since we know and love the God of the Word, we can dedicate ourselves to learning and applying the Word of our God.  Over time, we can become living epistles, known and read by all (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). As my pastor once said, “Your life might be the only Bible someone ever reads.” Of course, the Holy Spirit can also lead us to speak God’s Word in love to others, and that can impact their lives as well (Ephesians 4:15). God’s Word is alive, powerful, life-changing, and full of the Spirit (Hebrews 4:12; John 6:63). When we fill our hearts and minds with it, then God’s Word can flow out of us to be the change in a world that needs it.

Look for Jesus

All the wonderful qualities we experience in others are a reflection of the beautiful and profound qualities found in Jesus. They give us a glimpse of Him. The word Christian means “little Christ”. The Bible says here’s the mystery: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, NASB).

The word glory in the New Testament means to manifest, give an estimation of; hence [resulting in] praise, honor, glory. In other words, the Lord wants Jesus to be seen in us so others can come to know Him too. He wants us to look for His Son in others too so we can experience more of Him every day, so we can be encouraged and continue to grow.

It’s an ongoing process. Second Corinthians 3:18 (HCSB) says it this way, “We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

That’s why the Lord tells us He can use everything in our lives to make us more like His Son Jesus (Romans 8:28-29), especially the people around us. God gives us one another for this reason. May we continue to bless and be blessed by the presence of Jesus in our lives.

Question: How have you experienced Jesus through the lives of others? Comment at the link below.

 

Proverbs 27:17; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:24-25; Romans 12:2; John 8:32; Matthew 5:13-16; John 14:6; 2 Corinthians 3:2-3; Ephesians 4:15; Hebrews 4:12; John 6:63; Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:28-29

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The Woman on the Plane

“I think they double-booked our seats.”

I looked across the aisle at the petite, curly-haired woman, who appeared to be about my age. She was talking with a young couple, who were occupying two seats together on the airplane. After studying their tickets, everyone realized the young woman from the couple was supposed to be seated next to me.

“Why would they give us seats that are across the aisle from one another?” she asked the young man who was with her.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“Well, I don’t mind sitting in your seat,” said the older woman, “if it’s okay with everyone else. Is it okay with you?” she asked, directing her focus to me.

“Sure. That’s fine,” I said.

She settled into the aisle seat next to mine.

“My name’s Dawn,” she said. “Are you going to Canton on business or for pleasure?”

“My name’s Susan,” I said. “This is definitely a pleasure trip,” I added. “I am meeting my mother, sisters, sisters-in-law, aunt, and two cousins for a long weekend at my sister’s lake house. I am really looking forward to having some time with family.”

“Me too,” she added. “I’m going to my nephew’s wedding.”

We talked about our families and where we lived for a while, and somewhere within our conversations, we discovered we both loved Jesus. After that, our talk took a decided turn toward joy. We shared how we came to know Him. We talked about our trials and how He made Himself known in them. We talked about the Lord’s faithfulness and our gratitude for His presence in our lives. We expressed our desire for others to know His wonderful love for them. We were jump-up-and-down happy to praise God together.

Then it hit me: There it is—another kindness from the Lord. I remembered that just last week, I was telling the Lord how much I missed my friend Phyllis. She went home to be with Him suddenly and unexpectedly a few months ago. Phyllis and I used to have lots of these jump-up-and-down, praise-the-Lord moments together. Now, at 30,000 feet, I was having another one of those experiences with a newfound friend.

“Thank you, Lord,” I silently prayed.

Dawn and I talked and talked until the plane landed in Canton, Ohio. The flight seemed to only last a few minutes. I was overwhelmed by the Lord’s kindness. He taught me some valuable lessons through the woman on the plane:

God’s blessings are all around us.

I know the Lord brought Dawn and me together. He decided to bless us just because He can. He blessed mankind when He first created them (Genesis 1:28), and He still desires to bless His own (Psalm 3:8; Matthew 23:37). We can ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the Lord’s activity around us, to give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart tendered to His voice (Matthew 13:13).

Halfway through our conversation, Dawn said to me, “It wasn’t a mistake that I got to sit next to you. That was God’s plan all along.” She saw the blessing, what God had done. She heard the blessing, in the encouraging words we spoke to one another, and she felt the blessing in her heart.

At a women’s conference years ago, the speaker shared that the Hebrew word for happy is asher or esher, which means a psychological awareness of the movement of God. Seeing God at work around us truly can make us happy. I know I experienced that on my American Airlines flight.

God wants to use us to bless others.

I told Dawn, “The Lord says to ‘encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called Today,’ (Hebrews 3:13, NASB), and that’s what He is leading us to do for one another. It can be a hard world out there, and we need this as God’s people.”

Dawn agreed.

Jesus Himself said, “‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35, NASB). When the Lord uses us to bless someone else, we discover a profound and often unexpected joy. I remember one year on Valentine’s Day when my daughter Katie was discouraged because she didn’t have a boyfriend. I challenged her to find someone she could bless on Valentine’s Day, instead of focusing on her plight. She and several friends offered to prepare dinner and babysit for a young couple in our church. They all received a blessing from the experience, and Katie announced after it was over, “This has been the best Valentine’s Day ever!”

Whether we are in a happy or sad place, we can always ask the Lord, “Please show me someone I can bless today in Your name.” When we do, we take the focus off ourselves (getting) and focus instead on giving. In the end, both parties get blessed. The Lord promises His people in Genesis 12:2 that they will be a blessing. He empowers us through His Holy Spirit to be so. We just have to allow the Spirit to lead and operate through us.

I once heard it explained about the Dead Sea this way: It is dead, and there is no life in it because it has an inlet (always receiving) and no outlet (never giving). People can be that way too. If we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), and He is a Giver, then we should be too (1 John 4:7-12). He gave the greatest gift of all—His only begotten Son Jesus—to save us from having to pay the penalty for our own sins (John 3:16).

It’s all for God’s glory.

After the plane landed and Dawn was getting ready to disembark, I prayed over her the prayer I would always speak over Phyllis before she left our bi-weekly prayer and praise sessions: “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26, NASB).

I told her, “The Lord named you Dawn for a reason. Matthew 5:16 (NASB) says, ‘Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.’ Keep shining for Him.”

“Oh, I wish my life were like that,” Dawn said. “Sometimes, I wonder if I’m making any difference for Him.”

“Oh, you do!” I said. “You did exactly that for me today. I see Him in you, and I am praising Him that He allowed our paths to cross.”

Dawn smiled.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8, NIV).

The Lord grants us unending blessings and makes us glad with the joy of His presence; His unfailing love keeps us going (Psalm 21:6-7, NIV). That’s what I encountered through the woman on the plane. She revealed more of the Lord’s kindness to me. The Lord used her to show me some of His glory.

That’s the greatest blessing of all—to know Him better and love Him more as we experience Him in the world around us. He can always take us to new heights—whether we are at 30,000 feet or have our feet firmly planted on the ground. Look for Him today, beloved. He is all around you and wants you to see, hear, and feel His great love for you . . . and then share it with others.

Question: How have you experienced the Lord’s blessings in your life? Comment at the link below.

 

Genesis 1:28; Psalm 3:8; Matthew 23:37; 13:13; Hebrews 3:13; Acts 20:35; Genesis 12:2; 1:26; 1 John 4:7-12; John 3:16; Numbers 6:24-26; Matthew 5:16; Psalm 34:8; 21:6-7

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We Need Each Other

I glanced down at the “Table Topics” card. “What are you thankful for?,” it said. I looked around the room at the receptive faces of the young women in front of me. “I’m thankful for you,” I said.

The high school and college-aged girls had taken time out of their busy lives to attend a Bible Study I was teaching. All around me, I saw hearts eager to learn God’s Word.  I knew the Lord was going to bless them because His Word is alive, and it transforms people (John 6:63, Hebrews 4:12, Romans 12:2).

I also looked around the room and saw the faces of two moms, who loved these young women deeply and wanted God’s best for them. They had contacted me about teaching the study in memory of my dear friend and prayer partner Phyllis Keels, who went to be with the Lord recently. Her passing was sudden and unexpected, but her legacy was deep and strong. She had a passion for teaching God’s Word, and she knew its value to those of all ages.

My heart swelled with the reality of how much we need each other in God’s family. “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25, NLT). Something wonderful happens when God’s people get together. Our collective lives weave together and produce a beautiful tapestry of God’s grace and faithfulness.

We need each other’s age.

Titus 2:3-4, HCSB, instructs the older women “to teach what is good, so they may encourage the young women.” Since they have had more life experiences, the older women have wisdom to impart to younger women. My friend Phyllis explained it once this way: “The current of the world is so strong, and it is very difficult for young people to swim against it. We have to come alongside them and help them to swim. It’s like the bigger salmon coming alongside the smaller salmon and helping them to swim upstream. Phyllis lived out this concept. She came alongside and mentored several young women with her wisdom, including my daughters.

Look around you. No matter what your age is, most likely, there is someone younger than you in your circle of influence. Ask the Lord whom you could mentor, advise, and encourage according to His Word. What has the Lord taught you through His Word and your life experiences? These are treasures you can share (Psalm 119:72; Job 23:12).

Also, in the same way that you have people around you who are younger than you, there are individuals in your life who are older than you. Ask the Lord who might be a good mentor for you. Ask Him to provide someone who knows and loves Him, who is farther down the road of life, and who can bless you with their wisdom and experience.

We need each other’s experience.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NASB).

God comforts us in our trials so we can comfort others. About 6 years ago, my friend Phyllis lost her only daughter in a tragic automobile accident. Julie was 28 years old when she died. The loss of her beloved daughter tore a great hole in Phyllis’ heart, and the only way she did not bleed out in grief was by allowing the Lord to comfort and carry her day by day. Over time, I watched as the Lord brought other grieving parents into Phyllis’ life. She lovingly comforted them because “the God of all comfort” continued to comfort her and gave her His Word to share with those who mourn.

I have parented an autistic son for 24 years and counting. The Lord has loved, taught, and empowered me to do that. He comforts me and my son in the struggles of living with autism. A few years ago, He led us to write a book about His faithfulness, entitled, “Optimism for Autism.” He continues to bring others who are impacted by autism into our path, and He allows us to offer them hope and comfort in His name.

Our testimonies about the Lord’s goodness and wisdom become valid when we have already walked through, or are walking through, something someone else is experiencing. In church, we encounter an entire “family” of people with diverse experiences and wisdom. We can help one another as we walk similar paths.

We need each other’s compassion and encouragement.

My friend Phyllis and her sister Suzanne passed within two months of one another. Their poor family was left in the wake of great loss and grief. In the midst of it all, I watched as our church family surrounded them with love and kindness. Countless meals arrived for nearly 3 months, many individuals came to the home and provided respite care for the family, cards came in the mail, people called on the phone, individuals came to the house to visit and help, and lots of folks prayed.

I was overwhelmed as I watched the love of Christ in action. Romans 12:15, NASB, says to “weep with those who weep,” and that’s what our church members are doing with this dear family.

“Jesus wept” at a family’s loss of a loved one (John 11:35, NASB). He felt compassion for others as He walked this earth (Matthew 15:32; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 6:34). If Jesus is in us, then His compassion should be seen in our lives. “Christ in you, [is] the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, NASB). That word for glory is doxa, and it means to manifest, give an estimation of, and hence result in praise, honor, and glory. In other words, because Jesus is in us, His compassion can be seen through us, and when others experience it, then they praise Him.

We need each other’s compassion and encouragement. Those qualities help us to keep going on this rocky road of life. In fact, we are instructed to “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’” (Hebrews 3:13, NASB).

I see this beautiful process taking place within Phyllis’ family. I see it evolving in our community Bible Study for young women. I see it all around me in Christ’s body, the church. It is a sacred practice instituted and led by the “Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20, NASB).

May we “walk in love” as He did (Ephesians 5:2, NASB), and may we continually appreciate the gift of one another.

Question: Who has been the “other” in your life, who has encouraged you in the Lord? Comment at the link below, so we can celebrate them with you.

 

John 6:63; Hebrews 4:12; Romans 12:2; Hebrews 10:25; Titus 2:3-4; Psalm 119:72; Job 23:12; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Romans 12:15; John 11:35; Matthew 15:32; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 6:34; Colossians 1:27; Hebrews 3:13; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2

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God’s Man for the Job

house house2

Sarah with Toney . . . and the key to her house

Have you ever had an encounter with someone, and they reminded you of the Lord’s goodness and involvement in your life? Our family met such a man recently when my daughter Sarah bought her first house.

Since she graduated college about 3 years ago, Sarah has been living at home, saving money for a down payment on her first house. Recently, the day arrived when she felt ready to spread her wings and fly. We prayed for the Lord to send a good realtor to guide her on the journey.

I contacted my dad’s wife Kathie, who is a realtor based in northeast Ohio, and asked her if she could check her resources and possibly recommend a realtor in our area of North Carolina. The Lord used that connection to lead us to Toney Black, a realtor in Concord, NC, with Allen Tate Realtors. We soon discovered he was God’s man for the job.

I call Toney God’s man because he conducted himself throughout the process according to the Colossians 3:23-24, NASB, standard: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

Toney honorably and professionally led Sarah through the journey of finding a home. In fact, by his words and actions, he reflected many of the characteristics of his Savior:

Faithful and Steadfast

Once Sarah decided on her dream home, we were on our way to view it, when Toney called and said he had discovered someone else already had made a verbal offer on the house, and the owners had accepted it. The news was unnerving, but once we got to the house, Toney prayed with us that God’s will would be done. When he called the owner’s realtor, we all discovered that the intended purchasers had added some stipulations to their offer that the owners didn’t like, and the house was back on the market! Toney celebrated with us and guided Sarah through the process of making an offer.

Toney helped Sarah through the “due diligence” period of inspections. He stood beside her when the appraisal came in too low for the agreed-upon price. He negotiated other options for the purchase and helped her settle on bankers and lawyers, home insurance and mortgage insurance. He would call Sarah every couple days, and she would find out about all kinds of work he was doing behind the scenes on her behalf. He never left her or forsook her—just like the Lord never leaves or forsakes us and always helps us (Hebrews 13:5-6). In the end, Sarah got the house!

Kind, Protective, and Wise

Throughout the home buying process, Toney watched out for Sarah’s interests. He protected her well-being as a future home owner. He offered wise advice, based on many years of experience in the industry. He encouraged her when she felt discouraged or uncertain. Sarah came to view him as a trusted friend, and she valued what he told her. Many times, I would hear her laughing on the phone with him as he used humor to explain different issues to her or to offer her advice.

The scriptures talk of God’s lovingkindness, wisdom, and protection toward us (Exodus 34:6; Romans 11:33; Psalm 18:2, 30). We are blessed when He allows us to see His qualities in His people, whom he places in our lives.

Focused and Purposeful

We are told, “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NASB). Toney conducted himself with that Bible verse in mind. He prayed several times during Sarah’s search for a house that the Lord would lead her and open doors for her. He prayed that those who would pass over the threshold of her home would be blessed as they experienced the Lord’s presence there.

Toney also works as a minister. His main ambition is to honor the Lord in how he conducts himself. It’s obvious in everything he says and does. He understands the Lord has a purpose in everything that happens, and Toney wants to cooperate with the Lord’s plans because he knows God’s will is good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2).

Our family felt extremely blessed to have an encounter with God’s man for the job of helping Sarah find her first home. She is busy this week moving into her first house, but she—and the rest of us—will remember the man that God sent to get the job done . . . and to remind us of who He is. May we all be God’s men and women wherever He would send us!

Question: Who has been God’s man or woman to you at an important time in your life? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

Susan Jane King

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You’ve Got a Friend!

best_friends_forever_by_toxicdisaster_x[1]

Recently, I took refreshments to our Thursday morning Ladies Bible Study group, an activity that usually produces a lot of stress for me. I don’t have the gift of hospitality, so all that planning, preparing, and serving would usually wear me out. But not this time!

That’s because I decided to jump in and help a friend when she was bringing refreshments. We planned, prepared, and served together, and we experienced a lot of joy in doing it as a team. It was my first experience joining someone else instead of going it alone, and it made all the difference.

Life can be like that. We forge ahead on our own, when all the time we have a Friend who wants to walk the road with us. Actually, He is always there. He just wants us to recognize that truth and enjoy the journey with Him. His name is Jesus, and He is this kind of Friend:

He knows us

We are told He is the Friend who is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He knows us better than our own family. He sees all the way into our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7), and He is intimately acquainted with all our ways (Psalm 139:3). In other words, He understands us as no one else can.

He takes care of our every need

Whatever we need, Jesus can provide, and He gives us what is best for us. He is able to take care of us because He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). When we trust Him and ask Him for help, He moves in His own special way to respond. Of course, He took care of our greatest need in dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. We are told: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, NASB). That’s exactly what He did.

He advocates for us

Since He rose from the dead, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, where He is interceding for us (Romans 8:34). “We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1, NASB). That means, He is working on our behalf even now. He is for us, and nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:31, 38-39).

He stands with us

Jesus tells us He is with us always (Matthew 28:20). He protects, guides, and guards us. He speaks to us and helps us. He says, “I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). We are never alone, and we get to enjoy the fellowship of His presence with us.

We are meant to enjoy life as we go through it with Jesus. Seeking and recognizing His presence in our daily activities makes the journey so much sweeter. Just like the disciples who travelled with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, we can say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road!” (Luke 24:32, NASB).

Question: How have you experienced Jesus’ friendship in your life? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

Susan Jane King

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Standing on the Rock

Sam

Doctors amputated Sam’s leg two weeks ago. One of my heroes of the faith, Sam has been the subject of my blog before. See http://susanjaneking.com/abundant-life/when-things-go-from-bad-to-worse/

My husband David and I went to visit Sam at the rehabilitation center this week. Sam is the one with the enormous smile in the middle of the photo. That smile remained on his face throughout our visit. The joy of the Lord continues to be Sam’s strength (Nehemiah 8:10). That’s because Jesus is Sam’s Rock.

“He has been with me the whole time,” Sam said, referring to his medical issues. “He has led me, helped me, and taken care of me. I am so thankful that He never leaves me.”

Sam shared story after story of how the Lord helped him decide to have the amputation, strengthened him during the rehabilitation, and made him aware of His presence all along the way.

1 Samuel 2:2, NASB, says, “There is no one holy like the Lord; indeed, there is no one besides You, nor is there any rock like our God.”

Sam would agree.

Rocks offer strength and support

We are told if we come to Jesus, listen to Him, and do what He says, we will be “like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built” (Luke 6:48, NASB).

The Lord is a rock of strength, a stronghold to save us (Psalm 33:12). He holds us up when He is the foundation of our lives.

Rocks provide protection

The Lord told Moses, “and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by” (Exodus 33:22, NASB).

The Lord keeps us safe. He is, “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge” (2 Samuel 22:3, NASB).

Jesus is our Rock!

“’Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel” (Exodus 17:6, NASB).

God the Father was painting a picture of Jesus in that rock experience. The Israelites in the desert “all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4, NASB).

Jesus, our Rock, had his body broken on the cross, and living water became available to all who would drink it (John 7:38; Revelation 22:17).

Sam has found his strength, protection, and life in Jesus. That’s why he has such a big smile. He’s standing on the Rock.

Sam played his guitar for us before we left. He sang a song about the good life he was enjoying. He smiled the entire time.

“I just keep telling people about Jesus,” Sam said. “They need to know about Him.”

With Sam’s wonderful attitude, I’m sure they will!

Question: How has Jesus been your Rock? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

Susan Jane King

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