Tuesday at Ten  {I will never forget….} 

When God Reversed an Impossible Situation!

Time was running short. Our son David would soon be twenty-one years old, usually a cause for rejoicing as a child becomes an adult and often moves out on their own. But for David, this wasn’t necessarily a good thing. David had been diagnosed with massive infantile spasms as an newborn, resulting in severe brain damage. And his condition had deteriorated to the point where he was now totally dependent upon others to meet all of his needs. He had a long list of medical diagnoses, and was tube fed and bed bound. Prior to his twenty-first birthday, David had received services through the Texas Medicaid children’s health program (CCP), and through it he received 112 hours per week of private duty nursing care in our home. But in Texas, Medicaid recipients lose their eligibility for CCP services when they turn twenty-one. His other Medicaid program, Home and Community Services (HCS), had a cost ceiling that would only allow him to receive four and a half hours of nursing services a day. The Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), the regulatory agency over David’s Medicaid programs, decided that the HCS program was no longer a safe placement for David. In essence, the only options they were giving us were to take care of David’s extensive needs (both medical and financial needs) on our own, or put him in a state school.

After talking with David’s neurologist and pulmonologist, and also visiting the state school closest to Houston, we knew this wasn’t an acceptable choice. David’s doctors said that he probably wouldn’t survive six months with the level of care he would receive at the state school, and even the nurses at the state school said they would not be able to meet his needs. Because of my own disabilities, there was no way I could meet David’s needs on my own, and my husband was at work during the daytime hours. So we began sharing our situation with our church and asking for prayer. We were facing an impossible situation, and we desperately needed God to intervene. The cry of my heart was, “God, please make a way for us to continue caring for David in our home.”

Frankly, my faith was at a weak place at the time. I felt overwhelmed, but to the best of my ability tried to hold onto hope that God would move on our behalf. I started sending out prayer updates to friends. And I contacted the Houston office of Advocacy, Inc., now called Disability Rights Texas, the federally mandated legal protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Texas. Because of the precedent-setting nature of David’s case, the two head attorneys from the Austin office decided to take over the case. They advised us to appeal the decision made by DADS, and a “Fair Hearing” was scheduled. Our attorneys told us that they didn’t expect a positive result from this hearing, but it was a necessary first step before they could take our case to the Houston Division of the United State District Court.  DADS did agree to continue David’s HCS placement and cover four to five hours of nursing per day as our attorneys prepared to take this to court. His twenty-first birthday was on July 10, 2005, and for about ten months we had some nursing care during the daytime hours, with me taking over when the nurses left and my husband relieving me when he got home from work.

The next step was to ask the federal court for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction, which was approved and reinstated David’s private duty nursing services to the level they had been prior to his twenty-first birthday. This was filed on May 4, 2006, and approved almost immediately.

A final legal settlement was reached on July 14, 2006 that permanently reinstated the Medicaid-funded services David had received as a child. God had come through for us, turning the heart of the king – in this case, the federal judge – to fulfil His purposes (Proverbs 21:1). In the process, our faith had grown. And God was also able to use David’s case to help other families facing similar situations in our state.

In an article concerning our case in the Houston Chronicle, one of our attorneys was quoted as saying, “The fact they did make a decision in our favor does give some more hope of others having a victory, but it looks like it would need to be decided on a case-by-case basis at this time.”  He went on to say, “If we can’t fix it administratively or legislatively, it would appear that a judge is going to have to decide the issue.” Since that time, our attorneys have been working to bring changes both in DADS rules and through the state legislature, but the last time I spoke with them they were still representing other parents facing the same situation we had on a case-by-case basis.

David is now thirty years old, and we know that this battle was worth the pain involved. We saw that God really could make a way where there didn’t seem to be a way, and our faith grew. Each year, his services have been approved, according to the court settlement. With his continued nursing care, David has been medically stable. Below is a recent photo of David.                                

   

Chosen By God For His Purpose

As I was doing my daily Bible reading this morning, reading Joshua 15-18, today’s portion of Scripture in the through the Bible plan I’m using this year, I was asking God what He wanted to show me from this rather boring portion of Scripture. It was easy to see the original meaning of these chapters. Joshua had led the Israelites in taking the land he had promised to them, and they now had rest from war. It was time to settle down in their land, and Joshua was giving clear directions concerning where each tribe was to settle, which cities and villages they were to occupy, and the boundaries for each specific tribe.  But where I was lost was in making personal application of this passage. How did these chapters apply to my life?

As I was asking the Lord what He wanted to show me through these chapters, the word “chosen” came to mind. Israel was clearly chosen by God for His purposes.  Deuteronomy 14:2 says of Israel, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” Yet Scripture makes it clear that believers in Christ are also chosen by God.

What does it really mean when Scripture says we are chosen? 1 Peter 2:9 clearly says we are a chosen people, and it also gives a general purpose for which we are chosen: to declare the praises of the One who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light. This is one common purpose for which all Christians are chosen. Jesus Himself said: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” (‭John‬ ‭15‬:‭16‬ NIV). Chosen to bear fruit, which includes the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and the fruit of new believers. Another general calling is to prayer: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (‭1 Timothy‬ ‭2‬:‭1-2‬ NIV). Finally, Ephesians 1:3-4 says “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight (‭NIV). These are all callings common to all believers in Christ.

But does God also choose us for specific work, for His specific purpose in our lives? Paul clearly believed this. In Galatians  1:15-16, he spoke of God’s specific calling on his life. “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being” (‭NIV). Ephesians 2:10 confirms that God does have specific callings for us: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (‭‬NIV). Our task is to seek God for that specific calling, for understanding of the “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

In my own life, I believe God has called me to support my husband in his calling to produce Christ-honoring videos, television, and movies. This includes helping him with editing and record keeping and doing the bookkeeping for his business. I also believe God has called me to write. As I walk in the light of what I already know to be God’s will for my life, starting with the general callings for all Christians and then with the specific callings I know, God reveals the next steps. As a pastor friend of mine says,”When we walk in the light God has given, we receive more light.” Until we are obeying God in the things we know He is calling us to do, there is no need for Him to show us more details. But when we step out in obedience, He is faithful to bring more light.

My exhortation to those who read this blog is to walk in the light God has given in Scripture concerning His will. Then seek God for His specific calling in your life. Form a daily habit of doing this, and the path will become clear that you are to walk.

 

Standing Firm In Persecution

The news this week has been filled with reports of increased persecution of Christians in Syria. The latest report I read said that at least 220 Christians had been taken by ISIS this week, and if the reports of the past few months are any indication, unless God intervenes these believers will probably be beheaded for their faith.

This has caused me to ask myself a very important question: Am I strong enough in my faith to stand firm if such persecution comes to our nation? It’s a question that demands an answer from me – and from all true believers in Christ in the United States, as our nation changes before our eyes. Being a Christian is no longer “politically correct” in our nation founded on Christian principles. We are not yet facing the kind of persecution that ISIS is pouring out, but opportunities to compromise our faith are already becoming pervalent in our land.

In 2012, in a article in The Christian Post about Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani who had been charged with apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims, simply because he had protested the mandatory teaching of Islam at his children’s school,  Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of  American Center For Law and Justice (ACLJ) was quoted as saying, “The human response any time we are in peril, is to save our human lives, rather than to think about our spiritual life.” [Nadarkhani] was given opportunities in the Iranian court to walk free from jail and renounce his faith, yet he didn’t do so. Sekulow said, “That’s the example we hope to follow.” While Pastor Nadarkhani was later acquitted, many who have faced similar situations have remained faithful to death.

While we hope that our faith will remain strong and unwavering if the time comes that American Christians face the level of persecution currently being endured by Syrian Christians, in reality we know that it will be very difficult. During this time when Christian persecution is just beginning in the United States, we need to examine ourselves and see if we are prepared to stand firm in our faith or if we will be so focused on our lives on earth that we will choose to compromise our faith. The cry of my heart is to ask God what changes I need to make so that I will be willing to lay down this life on earth so that I will be counted faithful to live with the One Who laid down His life for me.

 

Being Quick to Listen and Slow to Speak

One of the verses from this week’s Proverbs 31 On-line Bible Study, Keep It Shut, was James 1:19, which says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” (‭NIV). I’ve heard it said that God knew what He was doing when He gave us two ears and one mouth – we need to learn to listen twice as much as we talk. Not sure God really had that in mind when He created Adam and Eve, but the principle still works. We need to learn to listen more than we speak. And we need to learn to listen well so we can really understand what is being said, not simply because we are waiting for a gap so we can jump in with our two-cents worth.

Last Sunday, during our iConnect Sunday School class, I caught myself trying to jump in so I could add my “wisdom” to the discussion that was going on, instead of actually listening to what was being said. So as I’ve studied the chapters in Karen Ehman’s book this week, one of the things on my mind has been learning how to become the kind of listener that I really want to be. What attitudes and ideas might help me in being a better listener?

The first key that comes to mind in becoming a better listener is realizing the world doesn’t revolve around me. Sure, I know this as a Christian, but if it doesn’t affect my mouth it is just head knowledge and not heart knowledge. If Jesus cares enough about the people around us, in this case about the people in my class, to die for them, don’t I at least care enough to listen to what they have to say? That’s not a big sacrifice. People are important to Jesus, and He wants them to be important to us.

A second key to being a good listener is to never assume you know what the other person is saying. This is most important with the people we know best, our immediate family. When my husband starts to say something, I need to be very cautious not to surmise I know what he’s going to say and either start thinking about something else instead of listening or interrupt him to give my opinion on the matter. This can especially be a problem with our children, who may not have matured to the point where they are good communicators. It’s so easy to react to something we think a child is saying, only to learn later that’s not what they were saying at all. Sometimes it’s wise, when they stop talking, to restate what you think they were saying in your own words, or to ask questions to clarify what they were saying, to make sure you really did understand what was being said. This will help us avoid overreacting or taking immediate action that we may later regret.

Finally, we need to understand that words aren’t the only form of communication. Watch for non-verbal forms of communication, such as facial expressions, eye contact (or lack of it), tone of voice, gestures, and posture. Try to be aware of their feelings about the subject at hand. All of these are important in really understanding what a person is saying.

In conclusion, good communication is the foundation of any successful relationship. Being a good listener is a part of this, and listening requires humility, patience, and love. Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” (NIV). Learn to listen to what the person is saying, then if appropriate draw out the speaker by asking careful but genuine questions, while being careful not to try to pry out details that the speaker isn’t ready to share. Recognize that being a good listener helps us too – it prepares us to speak well when it’s our turn.

Pure Words Begin With a Pure Heart

They’ve made me feel like a prisoner
They’ve made me feel set free
They’ve made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a king

They’ve lifted my heart
To places I’d never been
And they’ve dragged me down
Back to where I began

Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

These lyrics from the song “Words” by Hawk Nelson express perfectly the message on my heart today. I’m doing an online Bible Study with Proverbs 31 Ministries, using the book Keep It Shut, by Karen Ehman. What a needed message for today! Whether we are speaking aloud or using social media, our words are powerful. They can change lives, for better or for worse. If our words have this much power, we need to be careful before we speak. We need to bring our words under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 12:34b-37 speaks of the heart being the source of our words. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (NIV). So one major key to bringing our words under God’s control is making sure that our hearts are pure. But just how do we do that? A good place to start is with prayer, asking God to give us a pure heart. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (‭Psalm‬ ‭51‬:‭10‬ NIV).

A second key to having a pure heart is to immerse ourselves in God’s Word. That starts with making a daily time of Bible reading a habit, so that our minds and hearts are continually exposed to the truth. God’s Word purifies our hearts as we combine it with faith. Hebrews 4:2 speaks of some who had the good news proclaimed to them, but the message they heard was of no value to them. Why? Because they did not receive it in faith. So read and study the Word, unite it with faith, and then one more thing is needed. We must become doers of the Word. James 1:21-25 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (‭NIV)

And third, we must guard our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (‭NIV). Think of your heart as a gated city, and of your eyes and ears as the gates. What we allow in through the eye-gate and the ear-gate is extremely important in bringing our minds, hearts, and words under God’s control. Are you watching movies or television shows that do not honor God? Are you reading books that don’t line up with the precepts of God’s Word? Are you listening to gossip? All of these will corrupt your heart. Choose carefully what you allow through the eye-gate and ear-gate. Eventually, what you allow into your heart will come out through your words.

Lord, my desire is that my words be filled with life and truth, that they point those who are listening to You. Create in me a pure heart, Lord. Help me to immerse my mind and heart in Your Word daily, to receive it in faith, and to be a doer of Your Word. And help me to guard my heart by choosing carefully what I allow in the eye-gate and ear-gate. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Our Intercessor

I’m doing a Bible reading plan this year that takes me through the Bible chronologically, and today’s reading was in Job. Job is definitely not my favorite book to read, with all it’s negative circumstances. Yet today, God used this book to remind me of an important truth.

In Job 16, Job had just been complaining about his “comforters” – who were anything but! He needed comfort, not condemnation, at this difficult place where he was walking. Then in verses 19-21, Job’s tone changes. He says,
“Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour our tears to God; on behalf
of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.”

Job understood a truth that God wants us to remember. We are not alone. No matter what circumstances we face, we have an intercessor in heaven, at the right hand of God, we is our advocate on high. The New Testament makes it clear that this intercessor and advocate is Jesus Christ. He not only paid the price for our sin on the Cross; today, He pleads our case at the right hand of our heavenly Father. Romans 8:34 makes it clear that Jesus does not condemn us. Instead, He “is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” In fact, according to Hebrews 7:25, “He always lives to intercede for them (for those who come to God).”

I don’t know about you, but this is a truth that really encourages me. I’m facing some difficult circumstances right now, walking in constant pain physically and also facing other areas where my husband and I need God’s intervention. I’m comforted by the knowledge that I’m not alone. I’ve shared my needs with friends, and I know they are interceding for me. I believe God the Father knows what I’m going through, and He cares. But the truth that Jesus Christ is right now interceding for me is a special blessing, even beyond all these others. How can His intercession be anything but perfect!