Country Gospel Music and Bible Teaching

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SPIRITUAL WARFARE: When Two Worlds Collide

Just three weeks ago today my Mom when home to be with the LORD!  It was a bittersweet experience as those of us who were with her at the time witnessed the most peaceful transition I have ever observed in my 37 plus years of pastoral ministry.

That night as I lay in bed talking with the LORD and thanking Him for his unchanging faithfulness, and praising Him for taking her to Heaven, a thought suddenly came into my head … “What if it isn’t true!”  Immediately I knew where that thought had come from and just as quickly I dismissed the thought as an invasion into my heart and mind by the enemy of my soul!  Satan, or one of his vast minions, had projected a doubt into my time of worship and praise!  I quoted from scripture, “LORD, I believe; help thou my unbelief!”

That quote is taken from Mark 9:24.  The setting is taken from an event associated with the Mount of Transfiguration.  Jesus and three of His disciples, (Peter, James and John) were descending that mountain when they witnessed the remaining nine disciples in a heated discussion with some local scribes (experts in the law).  Jesus approached the scribes and said, “What are you arguing with them about?”  I love the way that Jesus so often comes to the defense of His own!

Suddenly a worried father came up to Jesus and explained, “Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.” (Mark 9:17-18)

“And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.  And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.  Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”   (emphasis mine) (vv. 21 – 24)

I want to point out that the boy had been tormented by this demon from childhood.  Can the children of a believer suffer in anguish over demonic activity? Can demons cause children/young people to cut themselves and mutilate their bodies, even attempt to kill them?  Let the Scriptures answer that question as indicated here and in the life of that Godly man, Job!

This, dear friends, is what happens when two worlds collide … the world of faith and the world of doubt!  It can happen to any believer, often when least expected.  And the doubt is often projected by the Accuser of the Brethren (Satan).  Christian, that doubt does not represent your heart toward God … it didn’t come from you!  Rather it was strategically planted by the one who has a vested interest in the demise of your faith … the one who has declared war against you (Revelation 12:17).

One of my favorite songs, recorded on my latest CD, is God on the Mountain.  The second stanza says,

“You talk of faith, when you’re up on a mountain, but talk comes so easy when life’s at its best.  But it’s down in the valley of trials and temptations, that’s when you’re faith is really put to the test.”

I recently read President George W. Bush’s book, Decision Points.  In it he talks candidly about his faith and he addresses this issue of faith and doubt.

“Surrendering yourself to an Almighty is a challenge to the ego.  But I came to realize that struggles and doubts are natural parts of faith.  If you haven’t doubted, you probably haven’t thought very hard about what you believe.”

“LORD, I do believe.  Help my unbelief!” was the cry of that troubled father.  His honesty is refreshing, don’t you think!  It’s an awful feeling to be a parent and helplessly watch your child goes through any kind of sickness.  I don’t think there is any feeling as desperately passionate as a parent who cannot help their child.  I’ve been in that position and it tested my faith!

It is not God’s intention for us to have doubt and unbelief.   But when we do, it certainly is not His intention for us to stay there.  However, He can use it for His honor and glory and He can use it to strengthen our faith.

“But the God on the Mountain is still God in the Valley

When things go wrong, He’ll make them right.

And the God of the good times is still God in the bad times

The God of the Day is still God in the Night”

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: Wounded in Action

In my last article I talked about our adversary, the Devil and  how he walks around, like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  We also noted in Peter’s warning (1 Peter 5:8-9) that we are not alone in this conflict … all believers are under the attack of the evil one.  Is it any wonder there are so many wounded soldiers on the battlefield!  It is my concern that all to often our churches turn their backs on wounded warriors and leave them to die of their injuries!  Perhaps it is because we feel uncomfortable at the sight of blood (spiritually speaking) or perhaps we are of the opinion that God must be punishing the fallen fighter for some hidden sin known only to him.  It amazes me how critical some well meaning Christians can become at the sight of a fellow believer who has been hurt in the battle!  I’ve had some of those flaming arrows aimed at me when I was most in the need for comfort and consolation; a gentle hand and a tender word to enhance the healing process.

But make no mistake about it … you will be wounded in this Epic battle to which we have been called.  Of course, the level of conflict you engage may alter the intensity of the wounds you receive but that’s no reason to hold back.  You have a weapon (The Sword of the Lord) and you have a shield (The Shield of Faith).  You are equipped with everything you need to engage the enemy in hand to hand combat (Ephesians 6:10-20).   And the protective gear provided for you is all for defense of the front of the body.  No provision is made for a retreat.  As  soldiers of the Cross we are expected to be on the offense.  “Upon this rock I will build my church;” said Jesus, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  (Matthew 16:18)   The implication by the Captain of our Salvation  is that the Gates of Hell will not be able to withstand the attacks of God’s people powered by His Spirit.

But unfortunately, not everyone who wears the uniform of Christ wants to take their place in the battle!  There is a place in line assigned to you and if you choose not to fight … if you are AWOL from your allocated point of duty, there is no one allotted to take your place!  And what do you suppose that does for the person standing next to your empty spot?

William Gurnall, in his classic writings The Christian in Full Armor, enlarges upon this great truth.

Persisting to the end will be the burr under your saddle – the thorn in your flesh – when the road ahead seems endless and your soul begs an early discharge.  It weighs down every other difficulty of your calling.  We have known many who have joined the army of Christ and like being a soldier for a battle or two, but have soon had enough and ended up deserting.  They impulsively enlist for Christian duties … and are just as easily persuaded to lay it down.  Like the new moon, they shine a little in the first part of the evening, but go down before the night is over.

“Be strong and courageous,” the Lord said to Joshua,“the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”   G. K. Chesterton aptly said,

” Courage is almost a contradiction in terms.  It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.  “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes.  It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers.  It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book.  The paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage.  A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice.  He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it.  A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying.  He must not merely cling to life, for then he would be a coward, and will not escape.  He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape.  He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.”

I love the words of  William Wallace when he rode in with face painted blue and challenged the men who would do battle with the forces of Edward the Longshanks at the Battle of Sterling;  “All men die, few men ever really live.”

Or consider the words of  Henry V at Agincourt as he was about to lead his men into battle,

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother …

And gentlemen in England, now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here;

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us.

You will receive wounds!  There’s no way around it!  We are in a war with the forces of evil and the battles are real!  Take pride in the wounds you have taken in the Cause of Christ.  Wear them with honor for you have earned them.  King Henry V encouraged his men,

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,

And rouse him at the name of Crispian …

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,

And say, “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.”

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember with advantages

What feats he did that day, then shall our names …

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.

Our Lord Jesus made a comment that has caused a great deal of controversy.  Imagine that, Jesus saying something to stir up a storm!   I have asked  many people what they thought he meant by this statement and the response is usually one of perplexity.  “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.”   Matthew 11:12

John Bunyan, in his classic work Pilgrim’s Progress, visualizes this perfectly.

Then the interpreter took [Christian] and led him up toward the door of the palace, and behold, at the door stood a great company of men, as desirous to go in, but [dared] not.  There also sat a man at a little distance from the door, at the tableside, with a book and his inkhorn before him, to take the names of them that should enter therein; he saw also that in the doorway stood many men in armor to keep it, being resolved to do the men that would enter what hurt and mischief they could.  Now was Christian somewhat in amaze.  At last, when every man [fell] back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a man of very stout countenance come up to the man that sat there  to write, saying, “Set down my name, sir,” the which when he had done, he saw the man draw his sword, and put a helmet upon his head, and rush toward the door upon the armed men, who laid upon him with deadly force; but the man, not at all discouraged, fell to cutting and hacking most fiercely.  So after he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the palace.

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: Your Adversary the Devil

Why is it that the stories, books, movies that interest us most, the ones that intrigue and captivate our hearts and imaginations, always have a villain?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a good story that didn’t have a bad guy?  But the truth is, the reason these stories fascinate us is because your story has a villain!  He is identified in Scripture first as Lucifer and after his rebellion from God he appears in the Garden of Eden in the form of a serpent.  He is commonly referred to in the present day as Satan, or the Devil or simply as the Enemy!

Earlier this week I wrote about Simon Peter, the disciple whom Jesus warned was about to be sifted like wheat by Satan.  Peter learned a thing or two when he emerged from that harrowing affliction and he warns us in his first epistle,

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:  Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.  1 Peter 5:8-9

So, just what is Peter presuming about the life of the average Christian?  Verse 8 says that we have an adversary (an enemy or opponent) who is walking around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour!  I once heard a beloved pastor teach on this passage many years ago.  He said, “He goes around like a roaring lion, but he’s nothing but a declawed, defanged pussycat!”  I rejoiced in that imagery at the moment but I was still a bit wet behind the ears as a Christian.  Life, personal experience with the adversary, and an intense study of spiritual warfare have led me to understand that Satan is still a very powerful opponent!  When referring to the present power of Satan, renowned spiritual warfare authority Dr. Ed Murphy says, “already, but not yet.”  Yes, Satan was defeated at the Cross!  But the effect of that defeat has not yet been applied.  There is coming a day when the Enemy will be put in his place … and his place is Hell!  But he’s not there yet!  And his power has not yet been taken away from him.  He is not, contrary to popular belief, a declawed, defanged pussycat.  The Apostle Paul encourages us in Romans 16:20,

And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

So, when Paul wrote that it was several decades after the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and Satan had not yet been bruised.  And notice that Paul’s prophecy says that God will bruise Satan “under your feet” …  Christian friend, you will be involved in the demise of your enemy!  Can anybody say SPIRITUAL WARFARE!!!

And verse 9 indicates that you are not alone in this conflict!  Notice that Peter says, “knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”  No, you’re not alone!  Every believer in Jesus Christ will suffer affliction from our adversary, the Devil.  Remember Revelation 12:17 which I quoted in my last blog,

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

If you have the testimony of Jesus Christ, if you are a believer and a follower of the LORD of Hosts, then you have an enemy who is committed to destroy you!  Jesus speaks of this in John 10:10 in that beautiful passage about the Good Shepherd.  We’re all familiar with His statement in that verse,

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

But did you know that is only the second half of the verse.  John 10:10a says,
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy …

There it is!  The thief (the Enemy, Satan) comes for one reason and one reason only!  He comes “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy!”  Okay, so let’s look at the whole verse in it’s context …

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

So, yes!  There is a promise of abundant life for the believer and that promise is made by the Son of God, Himself!  But, beloved, do not confuse the promise of the abundant life with the “nice little life” you have been searching for!  You won’t find what you’re looking for!  It’s not out there!  The abundant life, however, is yours for the taking upon the promise of Jesus Christ!  But never, never, never lose sight of the warning Jesus gives in the first half of the verse, immediately preceding the promise.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy …

So, there it is!  The abundant life is ours … but it comes at a price!  Salvation is free to anyone who receives it (although it cost Jesus His all) however, the abundant life must be fought for!  We must, of necessity, put on the whole Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) and take our place in the battle!

And the battle will be fierce at times!  If you haven’t already, you will receive painful wounds in this spiritual skirmish!  Sometimes those wounds will knock you out of the fight for a period of time but remember, Jesus describes the purpose for His coming thus;

“… he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised”  Luke 4:18

“To set at liberty them that are bruised.”  Does that describe you?  Have you been wounded in combat?  Take heart, Jesus is our Medic and He will gently, compassionately bind up your wounds and when you have received your strength again (and you will) He will put you back into the heat of the conflict so that;

… the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.   Romans 16:20

In the next blog post I will write more about the wounds taken in battle.  Until then, keep your eyes upon “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: Beware of the Dragon

I’ve been posting about Spiritual Warfare and I realize that there are some, perhaps many, who think this is all just a bunch of “Hocus-Pocus” while others bewail, “It’s too spooky, too scary.  I don’t want to think about it.”  In the movie Lord of the Rings; The Two Towers, Aragorn and Gandolph are confronting the King of Rohan about the impending danger to his kingdom.  They warn him that the enemy is coming; that they are going through communities murdering, raping, pilfering, stealing and burning those villages to the ground.  They cautioned him that his only chance was to take his warriors out into the field and confront the peril head on before that enemies attack his kingdom.

The King of Rohan responded, “I will not risk open warfare!”  Whereupon Aragorn answered, “Open warfare is upon you whether you would risk it or not!”  I love that line!  I got so excited when I saw that scene that I played it over and over again shouting, “That’s it!  That’s it!”  You see, there are so many Christians who have buried their heads in the sand not wanting to risk open warfare, as if ignoring it could make it go away.  Open warfare is upon you, dear brother or sister, whether you would risk it or not.”

The twelfth chapter of Revelation gives us some insight into this phenomenon.  Let’s take a look at a few of those verses:

1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

Now the word “wonder” can also be interpreted as “sign.”  It is an unual occurance transcending the course of nature … something supernatural.  The “woman clothed with the sun” refers to the nation of Israel.  The twelve stars in her crown are the twelve tribes of Israel and the child who is about to be delivered is the Messiah, the LORD Jesus Christ.  This should help to set the stage for further information revealed in this passage.

3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. 5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

The dragon is none other than Satan, the rebellious foe of God and the enemy of our souls.  How do we know that the dragon is Satan?  Verse nine identifies him beyond doubt:

7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Indeed, the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself.  If at first you don’t understand something, keep reading!  The Bible will explain itself.  Now we see that Micheal, the Archangel, highest and most powerful of all created beings in God’s Army since the fall of Lucifer (the Devil or Satan) is doing battle with the dragon and his (fallen) angels and Satan and his seditious followers were cast out of heaven.

10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

“The accuser of the brethren” is yet another of the many names attributed to our enemy, Satan.  According to this text he stands before the throne of God accusing us night and day.  Oh, so that’s it!  Now it begins to make sense.  How many times have accusations been hurled at me from “who knows where” and I find myself believing, yes even embracing those accusations.  “You’re such an idiot!  You’re an imposter!  You don’t really love God!  God couldn’t really love you!  Not after what you’ve done.”  Need I say more?  Oh, I could add a whole page or a chapter on the thoughts that run through my head, all the while wondering where that could have come from!  It’s the accuser of the bretheren … it didn’t come from you!  The only solution is to “Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  James 4:7

Now let’s fast forward to the last verse in Revelation 12:

17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Did you catch that, dear friend?  The dragon (Satan) lost that battle and was furious!  Now he has declared war upon those who “have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”  And you thought that becoming a Christian would assure you of a “nice little life.”  Nothing could be further from the truth!  You enlisted into a world at war … a conflict that has been going on since before the foundation of the world!  You are caught up into it and no amount of ignoring it will make it better.  If you have claimed the name of Jesus Christ you have an enemy who hates you with a passion and has declared war upon you simply because you belong to Christ!

“Open warfare is upon you whether you would risk it or not!”

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: Silence of the Lamb

Yesterday I spoke about Jesus’ warning to Simon Peter that he was about to be sifted like wheat; that the enemy (Satan) had demanded to have his way with him.  With that warning Peter was assured that Jesus had prayed for him and that his faith would carry him through this ordeal and once he had been changed (as we all are when we endure a crisis) he was to strengthen his fellow believers.

31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.   Luke 22:31-32

I have shared my “story” countless times as I have traveled the country singing and preaching wherever the LORD leads me.  But this will be the first time I have put it in print and, thus, the first time many of you will  have heard it.  I have been a Christian since 1956 when, as a six year old boy, I gave my heart to Christ and asked him to be my personal Savior.  Since that time I have been walking with God and growing in my faith.  I attended Bible College and prepared for ministry and have served as a pastor since 1975.  Our family has had many ups and downs and have always found God to be faithful and true.  While in Bible College my wife Linda had a miscarriage and almost hemorrhaged to death in the process.  Those were some difficult times financially and emotionally but God brought us through it.

After Bible College I had started a church in Deerfield, NH and during the first year of that fledgling church Linda became pregnant again.  Our little family was thrilled that we would be expanding.  But our fourth child, Jonathan David Witham did not live.  We were devastated to say the least.  But again, God strengthened us and we endured.  Needless to say this journey has not been an easy one but with the heartaches there have also been innumerable blessings.  God is a Good God … all the time!

During the first decade of this century I pastored a small church in Cambridge, New York, where Linda and I still reside.  It was during this time that I experienced one of the greatest crisis of my life.  Our daughter Bethany and son-in-law Brian were expecting a child.  They had already blessed us with two beautiful granddaughters, Rachel and Bailey, and had experience the loss of a son, Dominick.  But this child was born a healthy baby boy, Kain Gregory.  After he had been home for a few days, Kain began to show signs of distress and Bethany took him to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, VT.  He was immediately shipped to Albany Medical Center in Albany, NY to the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

We already had two children and one grandchild in Heaven and were not willing to give up another grandson.  The professional staff at NICU labored for more than three weeks when the Doctors told Bethany there was nothing more that could be done.  I had been fasting and praying for Kain and assured Bethany that when all others had given up there was still hope.  I believed in a God a miracles and I trusted that He would hear and answer my prayer.  I even boldly threatened God that if He did not heal my grandson I would never preach again!  Isn’t it amazing how we can argue with God and even try to bargain with Him when we are desperate?  I am so thankful, however, that our God is a loving, caring, forgiving God who does not hold such foolishness against us.  I continued to fast and pray!  I felt that as a minister of the gospel I could offer something that the medical profession could not … and I wanted, like any father, to come through for my daughter and her husband.

The night before Kain died I stood in the NICU with my wife Linda, daughter Bethany and son-in-law Brian as we quietly stared at Kain’s little body lying in a crib with feeding tubes, suction tubes, IVs and other life support maintaining this precious, innocent little soul.  No one spoke but I cried out to the LORD silently, “LORD Jesus, where are you?  We need you!”  (Even as I type these words I still well up with tears)  It was at that moment that I began a journey into the darkest part of my soul.  For the first time in my life I experienced absolute silence from God!  I felt abandoned!  I kept waiting for a response from Him, some assurance that everything was going to be okay … but nothing; nothing but silence.  How could this be?  The God of creation, the LORD of my life, my personal Savior and Shepherd, the Lamb of God … silent!  The silence of the Lamb!

I didn’t know what to make of it but it scared me!  Later that night as I lay in bed in our 28 foot camper next to our burned out farmhouse (yes, we had suffered a fire just a few weeks earlier) I continued to cry out to God.  Again, silently, for I did not want to wake Linda nor did I want her to know how I was struggling.  I said many things to Him that night which I later came to regret, but again He is faithful and true, forgiving and restoring those who love Him.  As the sleepless night went on and my desperation increased I finally began to analyze my hopeless situation.  I said either God hears me and He doesn’t care (and I didn’t believe that), or He hears me but is helpless to do anything about it (and I couldn’t believe that), or He doesn’t hear me because He isn’t really there!  And a little voice spoke into my heart, “That’s right!  He isn’t really there!”

Now who do you suppose could have whispered those words in the dark hour?  Remember Jesus’ words to Simon Peter, “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat”.  And the sifting began …

In the weeks to come I struggled like never before.   Not only had I lost another grandson but I had lost me faith, I had lost my God!  I didn’t know what to do!  I didn’t know what to believe!  I didn’t know if I could still believe in the One Who had been my Guide, my Shepherd since I was six years old.  I couldn’t stand behind the pulpit and preach but rather I would sit on a stool in the center isle of the church with open Bible and share, “This is what I believe God is saying to me this week through his Word.”  I am so thankful that while other churches would have retorted, “Throw the bum out!” those dear folks at Whiteside Church continued to love me, show compassion and pray for me until the Spirit of God slowly and gently encouraged and strengthened me.  Among other things, God used the words of a song to minister to me in a special way.  David Patillo, one of my favorite gospel songwriters had sent me his new CD and I was listening to “Let the Living Waters Flow” while driving in my pick up truck.  When I got to the second stanza it was like the balm of Gilead.  I began to weep as I listened to the words:

“There was a time in my valley when it seemed that no one cared

I looked up to search the sky and see if God was still there

He heard my cry and saw the thirsting down inside my soul

And it wasn’t long until a dried up stream began to flow

I later made arrangements with David Patillo to record that song myself since it had ministered to me in such a special way.  It is included on my “Country Gospel” CD and remains one of my favorites today.

There is so much more I could say about this sifting of my soul but time and space will not allow.  I would like to say however that during this whole affliction when I wanted nothing but to turn away from God and never look back that I was haunted by the memory of so many folks I had counseled over the years.  People who had in bitterness walked away from God and found that they had walked a dead end road.  There is no hope on that road; only bitterness, emptiness and heartache can be found there.  It was another way the Spirit of God was watching over me and protecting me.  I don’t know why God allowed me to be sifted like wheat.  I don’t know why the Lamb was silent and I sensed total abandonment.  But I do know that He prayed for me that my faith would not fail and having been changed … I am to tell my story to help strengthen my brothers and sisters.

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