Clinging to God

by Cynthia Simmons

I’ve always loved magnets. The fact that a piece of metal attracts and clings to certain objects fascinates me. I recently bought a magnetic nametag for my genealogy club. I played with the magnet, which seemed quite strong, and I admired my new purchase. What a clever way to protect your clothing from suffering holes or damage.

A couple weeks after my new gadget arrived, I dressed for an event but saved my new nametag for the final touch. While my jacket lay on the bed, I moved my nametag around, searching for the perfect location.  After I chose the perfect spot, I attached the magnet and slung on the blazer. That’s where I goofed. I heard a thump and looked down to see the magnet on the floor beside my foot. The nametag disappeared. Instead of leaving, I crawled around on the floor searching until I ran out of time.

While driving the car, I noted sharp pain in my arm when I flexed my elbow. Odd. I surmised I had sprained a muscle exercising and vowed to be more careful. However, once the meeting started, I felt a strange lump in my left sleeve and realized I had located my nametag. My narrow sleeve had trapped it, so the metal dug into my skin when I moved. Obviously, my magnet couldn’t hang on while I swung my blazer around my shoulders.

When storms rage through our lives, we need real stability. People will fail us just like that magnet that let go under pressure. Despite the romantic novels we love to read, even macho husbands can’t provide all we need. I love the description the Apostle Peter gave for Jesus, the cornerstone of the church. “…Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed” (I Peter 2:6 NAS).

The cornerstone holds the weight of the building and determines the positions of the walls. Peter pointed out Jesus’s qualifications to be the cornerstone. First, God chose Him, and He wouldn’t choose someone unworthy. In Colossians 1:15 NIV, the apostle Paul said Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” and created everything both seen and unseen. Furthermore, His power holds the world together. That’s real strength! In Revelation 1:8 NIV Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and Omega…who is, and was, and is to come.” In other words, He’s eternal, so He won’t die and leave us orphans. He loved us enough to put aside heaven’s glory and sacrifice His life for us. Second, He’s more precious than your most prized possession. After all, Jesus made gold, gemstones, flowers, and all the beauty we enjoy. Third, you can trust Jesus because He won’t disappoint you.

I had to learn how much stress my magnetic nametag could handle, but Jesus invited us to cast all our cares on Him. I love to read the Psalms where David penned his deepest frustrations and thoughts. The Lord can handle yours as well.

Trust him. You’ll be glad you did.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

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About the author: Former home school mother of five, Cynthia Simmons has a special spot in her heart for young moms and loves to encourage all women to pursue God. She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio, and writes inspirational fiction and non-fiction.  Find her at www.clsimmons.com.

Valuing Gold: A Novella of the Civil War: Uneasiness permeated Chattanooga where Mary Beth Roper grew up. Every conversation she overheard is heated, yet her banker-father was hesitant to reveal the facts. Will Tennessee secede and force them into a war? She was an adult and demanded he tell her the truth, yet she feared the heated politics she’d seen. Then she learned a rogue customer threatened their bank. Somehow, she must find a way to work with Peter Chandler, her father’s partner, even though she can’t bear to be near him. As she unraveled an impossible puzzle, she learned to value her faith.

Join the conversation: Which of the above qualities that describe Jesus do you love the most?

Pinion Nuts and the Bible

by Cynthia L Simmons

When I was ten, my family made a trip from our Tennessee home to California. On the way, we stopped to visit missionaries who were my parent’s friends. They ministered to the Navaho in New Mexico. Mom’s friend gave a glowing report about pinion nuts. She said they were her husband’s favorite.

A few days after we left, mom found pinion nuts in the grocery store and gleefully bought a bag. I will never forget her excitement as she opened the package and poured us each a handful. However, the joy stopped there. I had to bite down hard, and the flavor made me gag. Everyone else groaned too. I spoke up and commented the inside of the nut tasted a lot better than the outside, and Mom agreed. We were eating the hull and the nut. The stories mother heard gave no description, so, she did not know pinion nuts had to be shelled!

That story reminds me of the Bible. I grew up in the South and watched ministers wave the Bible in the air and say it came from God. However, when I tried to read, my immature mind didn’t grasp much. I had no idea how to study the word.

Look at what Paul said about that in 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB): “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.”

I needed to accurately handle the Bible. The literal meaning of accurately is to cut straight. You would not be happy if your hair stylist left one side of your hair longer than the other.

The words ‘be diligent’ commands us to work hard at studying Scripture so we will not be ashamed. Do not eat the nut with the hull! There are several ways you can decipher the Bible. First, study a passage in context. Notice the flow of thought and look for connections. If you rip a verse from its context, you can get a false message.

Second, understand the culture in which the Bible was written. In Bible times, people wore sandals and walked on dusty streets. Knowing that can help you understand certain passages in Christ’s life.

Third, allow the text to speak. God did not waste words. Notice repeated words, patterns of words, plural nouns and singular nouns. Examine each thought for God’s message.

Fourth, compare Scripture with Scripture. For instance, the Bible tells women to teach other women, yet the Bible also says a wife should win her husband without a word. We must prayerfully compare such passages to discern God’s message.

Fifth, expect figures of speech and literary devices. When David said he “flooded his bed with tears,” the passage means he cried a lot.

Finally, know the type of literature you are reading. The Bible has poetry, history, essay, prophecy, and letters. Do not treat the poetry like an essay or the history like poetry.

These guidelines will help you dig the meat out of the Word like we learned to pull the nut out of the shell. God will bless the time you spend in His Word. He’s promised that it will accomplishes in us what He desires!

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

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About the author: Former home school mother of five, Cynthia Simmons has a special spot in her heart for young moms and loves to encourage all women to pursue God. She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio, and writes inspirational fiction and non-fiction.  Find her at www.clsimmons.com.

Valuing Gold: A Novella of the Civil War: Uneasiness permeated Chattanooga where Mary Beth Roper grew up. Every conversation she overheard is heated, yet her banker-father was hesitant to reveal the facts. Will Tennessee secede and force them into a war? She was an adult and demanded he tell her the truth, yet she feared the heated politics she’d seen. Then she learned a rogue customer threatened their bank. Somehow, she must find a way to work with Peter Chandler, her father’s partner, even though she can’t bear to be near him. As she unraveled an impossible puzzle, she learned to value her faith.

Join the conversation: What do you do to get the most out of a passage of Scripture?

Bells of Silver

by Cynthia Simmons

Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31 NASB

While wrapping Christmas presents several years ago, I fiddled with my seasonal jewelry. My earrings were silver bells on a loop that hooked into my earlobe, and the tiny bells gave a soft ding when I shook them. I had fun moving my head or sliding them around in my ear so I could hear the pleasant tinkle. But I glanced at my watch, and realized I needed to go to bed. I cleaned up the paper, ribbon, and bows.

But when I looked in my bathroom mirror, I saw I’d lost one tiny bell from my right ear. I remembered I’d been sliding the earring in and out. Obviously, I made it fall. I felt horrible but reminded myself I’d purchased the earrings at a reasonable cost, even though they were silver. Before I searched, I prayed to find the bell, but I wasn’t convinced I’d ever see it again.

Once outside the bedroom, I walked up and down all the places where I’d been wrapping. Nothing. My oldest son came along and offered to help. He dropped the remaining earring to see how far it would fall and peeked in all the corners of the room where I had worked. We both gave up, and I went to bed trying to talk myself out of sadness.

My husband roused for a moment as I got into bed, and I gave him my news. He offered consolation, but he dropped off again. I prayed over and over to dull my sadness until I fell asleep.

The next morning, after my husband left, I spotted the earring right in front of my door. I assumed my husband found the tiny bell while dressing and dropped it there for me. Delighted, I called to thank him, but he had no idea what I was talking about. I reminded him of the entire story, but apparently, he hadn’t heard what I’d said the night before.

I concluded my oldest son found it, and I thanked him the moment he came downstairs to the kitchen. He looked puzzled and said he didn’t do anything. I recalled how carefully we searched, and I knew the earring didn’t sit in the middle of the floor the night before. Both of us would have seen it.

The probabilities kept rolling around in my thoughts. I realized this wasn’t an earth-shattering matter when I prayed, and I assumed the Lord might help me locate the earring. It sure seemed miraculous, but the cute earring didn’t seem worth a miracle.

But a familiar verse kept coming to mind: “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (ESV). We all have about ten thousand hairs, and this verse says he keeps track of how many fall each day! He knew I cared about the earrings, and maybe he wanted me to realize the small things I care about matter to him, too. As I celebrated Christmas that year, I felt the love of God in a new way. Praise the Lord.

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About the author: Former home school mother of five, Cynthia has a special spot in her heart for young moms and loves to encourage all women to pursue God. She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio, and writes inspirational fiction and non-fiction.  Find her at www.clsimmons.com.

Valuing Gold: A Novella of the Civil War: Uneasiness permeated Chattanooga where Mary Beth Roper grew up. Every conversation she overheard is heated, yet her banker-father was hesitant to reveal the facts. Will Tennessee secede and force them into a war? She was an adult and demanded he tell her the truth, yet she feared the heated politics she’d seen. Then she learned a rogue customer threatened their bank. Somehow, she must find a way to work with Peter Chandler, her father’s partner, even though she can’t bear to be near him. As she unraveled an impossible puzzle, she learned to value her faith.

Join the conversation: Has God ever worked a small thing out for you in a miraculous way?

Crisis

by Cynthia Simmons @CynthiaLSimmons

…Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. Job 13:15 NIV

The change came suddenly. One Saturday morning, my husband, Ray, and I sat on the couch chatting. In a second, an odd expression crossed his face, and I wondered what upset him. I watched in horror as his limbs jerked and twitched. Plus, he didn’t respond when I called his name. Seizure. Seconds passed as I argued with my inner RN, refusing to believe what I saw. My husband was healthy–except he’d had a temperature and headache. Our doctor diagnosed the flu, which didn’t cause convulsions.

Ray’s body teetered, and he came close to sliding off the sofa. I pried myself away to summon my oldest son for help. The two of us eased my husband onto the carpet. Once I had Ray on his side surrounded by pillows, I reached my doctor who said to call an ambulance. Soon flashing lights and sirens filled the air, and neither of those brought calm. I longed for the EMTs to rush my husband to the hospital and unearth the problem. Instead, the techs pelted me with questions over and over. Gradually, Ray woke up both angry and uncooperative, not normal behavior for my sweet husband. His condition worried me.

Once in the emergency room, doctors diagnosed encephalitis, an infection of the brain. The specialist who managed his case found the exact virus right away and prescribed the appropriate drug. She said we were fortunate to find the cause so quickly. However, I kept watching Ray’s level of consciousness and his confusion, and I knew his condition was serious. At one point, I cried after the stress of the day, but the night nurse fussed at me. She said my tears could delay his recovery, so I sucked in my feelings and acted braver than I felt.

The next day, a neurologist dropped in and fired questions at my husband. Ray couldn’t wake up enough to understand and gave garbled replies. After listening to my husband’s failed communication, the doctor took me out in the hall and divulged grim news.  Apparently, my husband never had the flu, which meant the infection had more time to damage his brain. This doctor predicted months of physical therapy to reteach him motor and language skills. His prognosis overwhelmed me. Later, I discovered the other doctors held back their predictions to avoid oppressing me.

Looking back, I’m so grateful I had read Edith Schaeffer’s work. She had written about her husband’s ministry and final illness in her book, Tapestry. She stressed we would all experience hardships in life and our response to pain mattered, since the spirit world would observe us.

Consider Job. Satan believed he would turn against God if he lost his family, so God allowed testing. Can you imagine all the angels watching? I’m sure demons stayed nearby too. Job mourned by shaving his head and tearing his clothes after losing his children. However, job responded with: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21 NKJV). When Satan then took his health, Job still didn’t blame God. He was determined to trust God no matter what: “…Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15 NIV).

Job’s story, along with insight into the spiritual realm, gave me incredible strength as I cared for my husband in those dark days. Since I had just started writing, I suspected this was battle raging in the unseen world to keep me from being effective. I struggled with exhaustion, worry, and fear as my husband inched toward a new normal, but I never accused God of hurting me. I was determined to walk through it all knowing the Lord walked with me. He would use it all in time for His glory.

When life suddenly changes, remember Job. Stay close to God while you grieve.

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Crisis – encouragement when life is hard from @CynthiaLSimmons on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Cynthia-Simmons-5About the author: Former home school mother of five, Cynthia has a special spot in her heart for young moms and loves to encourage all women to pursue God. She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio, and writes inspirational fiction and non-fiction.  Find her at www.clsimmons.com.

Join the conversation: Have you had a crisis in your life that challenged your faith in God?

Falsely Accused

by Cynthia L. Simmons @CynthiaLSimmons

I didn’t want the pastor to see my face while he preached, so I positioned myself behind someone to block his view. But even without seeing his face, I still felt betrayed. I’d always believed God ordained preachers and guided the things they said. In this situation, the pastor failed.

Every Sunday, while taking sermon notes in the church bulletin, I’d usually write across the top of the page, “It’s the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

In that terrible moment, I looked at those words to remind myself of my motives in service and knew they were the truth. I wanted to please God, yet the minister was not only publicly condemning my actions but my thoughts and motives as well.

In that church, my husband and I taught Sunday school with all our hearts, and on occasion, my husband filled the pulpit. God was using us to touch hearts. Apparently, that threatened the minister. Perhaps if we took out the trash and changed diapers in the nursery, he might not think we were after his job? He accused us of arrogance and said we thought awful things about him while he preached, like he could read our minds.

The first time I heard those accusations, I cried all night.

Was he in the right to be judging us? After all, Luke 6:37 says “Judge not, that you not be judged.” However, at times God does tell us to judge. Paul’s first letter to the believers at Corinth was written in part to address sin that was going unchallenged in that church. A man committed adultery with his father’s wife, and the church ignored it. In arrogance, rather than mourning the sin, they refused to address it.

Paul unequivocally identified the man’s behavior as sin and told the church to do the same. He was to be put out of fellowship until a time when he humbled himself before God. If someone violates Scripture, you can call it sin because God already did. Paul knew it would have been damaging to both the man, his mistress, and the entire church body to allow him to continue. By doing so, they were actually enabling it.

However, trying to discern motives and thoughts is a lot trickier. Paul didn’t accuse the man of a motive (like saying he committed adultery in order to disgrace his father)—he knew only God can know the heart. In fact, in chapter four of the same book, Paul had warned the Corinthians: “…do not go on passing judgement before the time and wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts…” (1 Corinthians 4:5 NASB). That last phrase makes a big difference. Only God knows our thoughts and motives and can judge whether they are evil or good

We decided to respond to the accusations by humbling ourselves before the Lord. We confessed everything we could think of that might have caused offense, including any secret pride. A passage in Hebrews brought us great comfort, “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NASB). For whatever we may have contributed to the situation, we placed our confidence in the mercy and grace of God.

Why could we be so confident? Because of what the verse proceeding Hebrews 4:16 said. “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NASB). There is nothing we can go through that Jesus has not experienced Himself. He was falsely accused and convicted of a sin He never committed: insurrection of the Roman Empire. It was all a big lie, styled to give the Romans a reason to crucify Him. What was the religious leaders’ motive? “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:48 NASB). Pride led to false accusation. Jesus has been there.

In our greatest heartaches, He has already traveled down that road. He can sympathize with us like no other. We can trust Him to deal justly with false accusation in the end. He will always stand for truth.

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Falsely Accused – encouragement from @CynthiaLSimmons on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Cynthia-Simmons-5About the author: Former home school mother of five, Cynthia has a special spot in her heart for young moms and loves to encourage all women to pursue God. She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio, and writes inspirational fiction and non-fiction.  Find her at www.clsimmons.com.

Join the conversation: How do you deal with an injustice when it happens to you?

Renovations vs Good Foundations

by Cynthia L. Simmons @CynthiaLSimons

We’ve learned (the hard way) that renovating a home often unearths hidden problems, creating stress and a need for extra cash. Let me explain. Our living room opens into a formal dining area, which made it a perfect spot for us to host a tea party every Tuesday evening for young people. If one table didn’t hold enough people, we could add more tables end to end all the way into our living room. But the opening between the two rooms wasn’t wide enough to allow people to pass through while others were seated. So, my husband and I decided to remove a portion of the wall on each side to give more room. Sounds easy, right? We hired a contractor and expected a quick fix.

However, we received a nasty surprise. Phil, the man in charge, measured several times, and then measured the garage which sat underneath the two rooms. He told us the wall we needed to alter was load bearing. When he examined the basement, he discovered the original building contractor had incorrectly placed the metal poles beneath the wall– a full foot off from where they belonged. As a result, the floor of the dining room and living room now sagged, all on their eventual way into the garage below.

Can you imagine? We often entertained fifteen to twenty people in that room! My husband and I envisioned our visitors grabbing the walls or curtains for dear life as the floor collapsed under them.

Phil had unearthed a serious flaw in the contractor’s work. But it was impossible to see without a careful examination. Doubtless, the floor installer made the floors level at installation and assumed they would remain that way.

This story reminds me of how sin can cause damage, even when it may not be blatantly obvious to others. We work hard at appearances and can fool people on what lies beneath the visible. But God, who sees straight into our hearts, does not miss a thing. In Galatians, Paul warns, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7 NIV). Even when no one has noticed, sin still has natural consequences.

Living with a hidden sin cannot end well. Sin acts like a cancer. It causes strife, anger, and jealousy. Its presence can eat away at the very foundation of relationships and beyond, destroying marriages, friendships, churches, and even nations.

Worst of all, hidden sin is something Satan can use to his advantage. As long as it festers beneath the surface, a sin can maintain its grip on us. Paul warns that we must avoid giving the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27). Satan loves a secret.

I’m sure the original contractor for our home never dreamed that fudging a little on the position of basement beams would become such a serious matter. However, time and wear caused increasing damage because the foundation had been compromised.

I’m thankful we found the problem with our floor so we could fix it. We purchased a heavy beam to go under the dining room floor, and in addition to that, Phil’s crew installed another vertical support pole.

In the spiritual realm, we must turn to God for repairs. He created life, and when he forgives, he restores. Don’t let that secret sin keep you in bondage. Jesus Christ can set you free. And you will be building on the firm foundation of truth and God’s grace.

The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. Psalm 145:18 NIV

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Am I renovating or building a strong biblical foundation? thoughts from @CynthiaLSimmons on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Cynthia-Simmons-5About the author: Former home school mother of five, Cynthia has a special spot in her heart for young moms and loves to encourage all women to pursue God. She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio, and writes inspirational fiction and non-fiction.  Find her at www.clsimmons.com.

Join the conversation: How have you found freedom from the sin that plagues you?