Julie Van Gorp

Are You Unafraid to Ask the Important Questions?

I had run into a lovely lady several times in the hallways of our church whose radiant smile and sweet countenance exudes the love of Jesus. I remember thinking, “I’d love to get to know her better!’ During one of our very brief ‘hall visits’ we’d discovered that we had children who’d attended the same Christian university, so I knew we had that as well as attending the same church in common. We’d exchanged phone numbers and I reached out to her in early June to see about getting together outside of church. After a few days she responded that she’d love to grab lunch, but since she was going out of town she’d have to get back to me to schedule a date. I didn’t hear back from her after that, but over the summer we ran into each other a couple more times at church where we both assured one another we were determined to make a lunch date happen.

I reached out to her again at the end of September, and we finally put a date on the calendar, which happened to be the Friday after my daughter left to go back overseas. As I sat across from her beaming face at lunch, I was delighted to finally be with her and felt so comfortable in her presence. So comfortable that even though I barely knew her, I felt that I could—and even should— ask her questions about a subject that I knew was always on her mind: the suicide of her teenage son that had occurred within the past two years. Tears welled up in my eyes when she shared with me that it was his birthday— something she hadn’t even thought about when we’d booked our lunch date. How perfect is God’s timing! After talking about getting together for almost 4 months, we just ‘happened’ to arrange our meeting on her son’s birthday. I love getting to know people, and I believe my friend needed someone who would ask her questions about her life, her faith journey, and especially about her son. God gave me the privilege of being able to hear her pour out her heart about her son and  to be a ‘safe place’ for her to share special memories of him and her love for him—the person whom I knew she was always thinking about—and  of course especially so on his ‘special day’! I was so blessed to get to know this woman who had suffered something so unimaginably painful, yet was clinging to the Lord Whom she knew was her constant companion— her Helper, Strength, and Hope, Who alone was able to get her through even the darkest of days.

I praise God that I’d learned many years ago from a close friend of mine whose husband had been brutally murdered and who’d shared with me that the most painful thing for her— other than the actual loss of her husband’s presence— was that people would be afraid to mention his name to her, as if he hadn’t existed and hadn’t been central to her life…or as if by not mentioning his name, somehow she wouldn’t think about him. That friend had taught me how important it is to provide a safe environment for someone who’s lost a loved one to talk about their loss; that they want and need to talk about the person, who naturally is always going to be a part of their life and always in their thoughts. And if true for the loss of any loved one, how much greater even is the need for a person who has suffered the loss of a child—especially to suicide—to receive comfort and to know that they are loved and not alone in their grief. As another friend of mine who also had lost her teenage son to suicide wrote, “The loss of a child is one of the most excruciating pains the heart will ever bear….And suicide is not normal grief, it is a catastrophic loss.”

How often our fear of not wanting to potentially make someone else feel uncomfortable—and if we’re really honest with one another it’s more likely our fear of us being uncomfortable— leads us to remain silent rather than providing the gift of a hug, a listening ear, and even shedding tears alongside someone who is experiencing deep grief. You may never experience discomfort if you don’t ask the deep, most relevant questions that are on a person’s mind who is going through a tough time, but if you don’t ask, you likely won’t gain a meaningful connection that can be life changing for you, and for the other person. As a former teacher of mine always said, ‘no risk, no reward’. My reward for asking my friend to share her story and her pain was an indescribable gift— the friendship of a beautiful, faith-filled sister in Christ!

I can’t begin to comprehend the kind of loss she, her husband and their sons have gone through over the past couple of years. However, God in His infinite wisdom had given me a glimpse—and I emphasize, only a glimpse— of the pain that my new friend felt at the loss of her son, when earlier that same week I’d been reeling from the absence of my daughter who’d gone back overseas for the next two years. In the midst of battling my emotions over her absence, God had led me to consider what it would be like to lose her to death, so I had even greater empathy and a keener sense of my new friend’s loss than I otherwise might have had. Since in my sorrow over missing my daughter, God had given me a new revelation regarding what He had willingly endured for our sake in sending His beloved Son to earth to die in our place, I was able to share that revelation with my friend over lunch and it served as a blessing to her as well.(https://www.trueviewministries.org/blog/2019/10/4/revelations-of-joy-amidst-tears-of-sorrow) God orchestrated our lunch date on the heels of my daughter’s departure when I could even better appreciate her loss—He’s the God of perfect timing!

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That day God knit our hearts together over lunch as we shared how we had come to our faith in Jesus, how His life had transformed ours, and how we couldn’t imagine life without Him. Her heart most definitely still hurts as she continues to mourn the loss of her son, but her comfort and hope come from knowing the God Who heals broken hearts, no matter how shattered the pieces! 

As we hugged and said our good-byes after a long lunch that brought us both needed nourishment to our souls, I thought:  this is what the Body of Christ is for—to comfort one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to encourage one another, to love one another, and to spur one another on to run with endurance the race set before us, keeping our eyes on the prize that awaits us, even—and especially— when the obstacles seem overwhelming and unbearable. My new friend’s life that radiates the love of Jesus and reflects His heart of love is such a blessing and encouragement to me and all who know her. Her deep faith has come at a great cost to her—it has most definitely been ‘refined in the fire’—but what she possesses is indeed far more precious than gold! She knows the comforting, sustaining, matchless love of Jesus like few others do. How grateful I am that the Lord drew our lives together in His perfect timing; that I overcame any fear of asking her questions regarding her son, the foremost thing on her mind; and for her faith ‘as pure as gold’ that encourages me to keep my eyes fixed upon Jesus, the Author and the Perfecter of my faith as well!

Have you ever quit pursuing someone out of fear of rejection? Have you considered what blessings you may be missing out on due to that fear? Have you ever been with someone who’ s suffered a great loss and you were afraid to ask them about it for fear of you or they being ‘uncomfortable’? I encourage you to consider the gift you can be to someone else by asking them to share their hurt and their heart, and by just providing a safe place for them to ‘pour out their heart’ while you attentively listen to them. I am certain if you do, you will both be blessed! 

Written by Julie Van Gorp

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The Joy of Receiving Love Touches from God...Is He Calling You to Give One?

As I mentioned in my blog from last week, I said ‘good-bye’ to my daughter a week ago Sunday who left to go back overseas for the next couple of years. On Monday the loss of her presence really hit me— like a giant wave that came crashing over me, and as soon as I’d try to stand up and get my bearings, another wave would come crashing down on me and I felt like I was being taken down by an undertow. I fought back tears off and on all that day as I busied myself with getting my daughter’s room back in order, and doing other household chores, all the while listening to praise music. Ultimately and thankfully, I fixed my eyes upon God Who graciously gave me sweet revelations of His magnificent love for me and a renewed appreciation for the sacrifices He’s made for my sake! (https://www.trueviewministries.org/blog/2019/10/4/revelations-of-joy-amidst-tears-of-sorrow

In the afternoon on that Monday, while I still was attempting to ‘hold my head above water’ to keep from drowning in sorrow, I went to my mailbox. Our mail hadn’t been delivered yet, but I saw an envelope with my name written on it and next to my name, a scribbled heart. I opened up the envelope and reached inside, pulling out a notecard that had on the front of it a beautiful picture of a mother seated with her young daughter leaning onto her lap. When I looked inside the card I saw that it was from my next door neighbor whom I dearly love! However, due to the fact that she has 7 children, home schools 4 of them who’re still under her roof, and is usually ‘living in her car’ schlepping her children to their numerous activities, we very rarely get the chance to see one another, much less stop and chat. She dearly loves my daughter who frequently babysat for her children in their younger years, and they’d visited a couple of times during the summer. She knew that my daughter was going to be leaving to go back overseas, but she wasn’t sure of the exact date of her departure. But God knew! And in His loving kindness He had prompted my sweet neighbor to take time out of her extremely busy schedule and to write to me before she did anything else that morning. I praised God— and later thanked her— that she was obedient to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. As I began reading her very loving and encouraging words that let me know she was praying for me and in which she shared about the impact that my life has had upon hers, and specifically upon her parenting, I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness He not only knew that was the very day- and even the very time during that day—that I most needed to receive her note, but He also knew the very words I most needed to hear!!! 

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When I called to thank her not only for the words she’d written, but also to let her know that her note had arrived the day immediately after my daughter’s departure when her words were most sorely needed, we both were in awe of God and how He moves in our lives, attending to every detail! He always does so in a way that demonstrates His lavish love for us! We were also reminded once again that in His infinite wisdom God chooses to use us, His beloved children, to  be ‘His hands and feet’—or as some would say, “Jesus with skin on”—so that other children of His will be blessed, encouraged in their faith, and receive a ‘love touch’ from their mutual Heavenly Father.  I was able to affirm to my friend that she had indeed heard the Holy Spirit speaking to her! She was blessed to know she’ heard from the Lord, and that He had chosen to use her to be a blessing in my life!

Then, several days later on a morning when I was acutely missing my daughter again, I received a text. It was from a friend and sister in Christ who’d been in a bible study and prayer group I’d led over 10 years ago. She is also someone I dearly love but see even more rarely than my neighbor because we live on opposite sides of our city. It’d been almost two years since I’d seen her, and then we’d only been able to speak briefly. This is what her text said:

“Hi my dear friend! I woke up in the middle of the night and was prompted to pray for you. So I prayed for you, your family, your ministry and your health…that you continue to go boldly forth with strength as you spread the gospel!”

Wow!  How amazing is it that my ‘Abba Father’ would prompt a sister in Christ I hadn’t seen in years to pray for me, for my family, and for my ministry! And again, right when I desperately needed her prayers! And, how blessed I was to know that she was willing to pray for me even in the middle of the night! How good is our God! How blessed I am to have faithful sisters in Christ who obeyed the Holy Spirit’s prompting! How thankful I am for the ‘family of God’ whom He uses as an instrument of His grace, mercy and love, and who in turn receive the joy of being a blessing to others in their—and His—family!

Have you received ‘love touches’ from God through a sister or brother in Christ at just the right time? Have you realized that it was the Lord using them to give you a ‘’love touch’ that was actually from Him? Did you thank the Lord, as well as the other person who was obedient to the Holy Spirit’s prompting?

Is the Lord prompting you now to reach out to someone via a phone call, text, email, or a card? I strongly encourage you to be obedient —whether now or in the future if He so leads— and make it your priority to obey the prompting of the Spirit! Doing so will be such an encouragement to the other person, and I know it will build your faith as you likely will hear from them something to this effect: “How did you know what I was going through, and that I really needed to hear a word of encouragement and love from someone today?!” You will be blessed knowing that you have been used as an instrument of God’s grace, and God will receive the glory He is due for being our All-Knowing, Ever Loving Heavenly Father Who is always at work on our behalf!

Written by Julie

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God Speaks on Anxiety

What are you anxious about? anx·ious -full of mental distress or uneasiness because of fear of danger or misfortune; greatly worried; solicitous.

We cannot have both fear and peace at the same time.  Faith and fear cannot coexist.  You either trust God in this area of your life or you don’t.

1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Do you know the love God has for you?  Do you believe Him for all things?  Do you love God with all your heart, soul and mind?

This is what God says about anxiety.  Meditate on these verses.

Jeremiah 17:8 - He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

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Please note that God is saying below “do not be anxious”…this is a command; not a suggestion.

Matthew 6:25 [ Do Not Be Anxious ] “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Matthew 6:31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 10:19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.

Mark 13:11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Luke 12:11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say,

Luke 12:22 [ Do Not Be Anxious ] And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.

Finally,

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Do not be anxious about anything…

Matthew 6:27

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

There is nothing that God wants us to be anxious about.

What should we do when we begin to worry?

1 Peter 5:7

casting all your anxieties on Him, because he cares for you.

Pray, cast your anxieties on Him, and meditate on His Word & character.  You can trust the man who died for you!

Written by Julie Van Gorp

Are you curious to know how much fear, worry and anxiety is impacting your life? Take our free quiz to learn how fearful, worried and anxious you really are?

What's More Important: Your Works or Your Words?

“Preach the Gospel at all times.  When necessary, use words.” 

The above quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi is one that many of us embrace as well as repeat to others. It does underscore our need as Christians to be ‘doers of the Word’ whose actions should always demonstrate our love for God and commitment to live in accordance with His will. But all too often we also like the quote because it gives us a justification for not speaking out and sharing the gospel with words, words that well may offend others. But words are necessary to pierce hearts with the truth, set people free from lies, and have the power to lead to salvation. None of us wants to offend anyone. But the truth is that the gospel IS an offense, and we have been commanded by Jesus to proclaim—or preach— the gospel with words, not just glorify Him by our actions as revealed when Jesus told His disciples to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Matthew 5:16; Matthew 16:15) In fact, when we make the focus on our actions rather than upon the finished work of Jesus on the cross, it easily becomes a man rather than God centered gospel. Our actions—no matter how ‘good’— will always be insufficient because there is only One Person Who has ever lived a perfect life and Whose life revealed the truth of Who God is. 

The ‘truth that sets people free’ is the gospel that exalts Jesus and what He did on our behalf, and the Word says that when He is lifted up—not our actions—that men will be drawn to Him, the Source of salvation (John 12:32). Jesus’ actions most definitely testified to the truth of Who God is, but very importantly, He also spoke the truth and said He came to earth for the purpose of testifying to the truth (John 18:37). He is the ‘Living Word made flesh’, and His words were an even greater offense than His actions (John 1:1,14; Matthew 15:11-12; John 6:59-61) It was His claim to be the Son of God, and the only way to be reconciled to God the Father, that most offended people and led them to crucify Him (John 10:30-33; John 14:6). That truth offended the people in the days when He walked as a man on earth, and His faithful followers should be aware that when they share that same truth they too will offend others. However, it is only by speaking the truth of Who Jesus is and what He came to earth to do that others will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus and put their faith in what He did to set them free from the penalty and power of their sin.

We have been commanded to preach the word because faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:14-17 ESV (boldness added)

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Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul penned much of the New Testament and wrote not only the passage above from Romans, he also wrote the passage below in 1 Corinthians where he highlights that the focus is not to be on us as human vessels, but upon Who Jesus is and what He has done:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ESV (boldness added)


What is the power of God? God lets us know that it is His Word!  (Hebrews 4:12; Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:15-16; 1 Peter 1:23; John 17:17; Isaiah 55:11; Isaiah 40:8) Specifically, the word of the gospel which has the power to save!

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 ESV

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV

Paul exhorts us to know the Word and to speak the Word. He also warns us that the truth will not always be well-received, but we are to share it anyway, and to be willing to endure suffering as we do the work of an evangelist.

…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:2-5 ESV

It takes effort to be prepared ‘in and out of season’ to share the truth of God’s Word, and all too often we are lazy Christians. If we have a greater ‘fear of man’ than we do a reverent awe and fear of God, we won’t ‘preach, reprove, rebuke, exhort, admonish and teach’ others, because the ‘truth that sets the captives free’ is also foolishness and an offense to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18;23). 

I was talking with someone the other day who ‘after push came to shove’ reluctantly said he believed Jesus died for his sin. But he quickly followed up that statement by saying that he would never try to ‘convert’ anyone else because he had no right to tell someone else that their belief was wrong. He revealed in that statement that he clearly doesn’t believe that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’; that ‘the wages of sin is death’; and that all will experience the wrath of God unless ‘they confess with their mouths and believe in their hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead’. (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-10) My question to him and to anyone else who doesn’t want to share the gospel with others is this: If you truly believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection delivered you from a death sentence, how can you remain silent? If you committed a felony and were condemned to die and your brother stepped in and took your place on the electric chair and died the death you deserved to die, wouldn’t you tell others about that kind of love? Or, if you were in a burning building and knew there was only one way to safety, would you remain silent for fear of offending others in the burning building with the truth that there was only one way out if they wanted to be saved? 

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An unwillingness to share the gospel is an indication of one of two things: 1)You don’t believe the truth of the Word of God that you are a sinner under the penalty of death and can only be saved by faith in Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection or 2) You love yourself more than you love God, and more than you love others. If you really loved God, you’d be willing to ‘lay down your life’ and risk offending others in order to obey His command to share the gospel so that those He loves would hear the truth that has the power to save them.  And, if you love others as God has loved you, you will be willing to accept the risk of offending them in this life so that they can know Jesus, the One and Only Way to have abundant life on earth and eternal life in heaven.

It’s important for us to know that our works can never save anyone; only the finished work of Jesus on the cross can! People you know desperately need to hear from you what Jesus’ death and resurrection has purchased for them. Your ‘good works’ can point the way to Jesus because if your life has been transformed people are going to pay attention and want to hear why you love in a world full of hate, why you forgive those who do the unforgivable to you, why you live in every way counter to our sinful culture. Your good works are designed to glorify God and to draw people to want to listen to the gospel you preach (Matthew 5:16), but it is only in hearing the words of the gospel that people will be set free from their sin and accept Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord. Let us never be ashamed of the gospel which alone has the power to save!

For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:26 ESV

Lord, release me from all fear of man and the deception that my ‘good works’ have the power to save anyone! Increase my love for You and for others and give me a vision of eternity so that by the power of the Holy Spirit I will boldly proclaim the gospel, which alone has the power to save! May I never be ashamed of You Who willingly laid down your life for me! In Jesus’ Name. Amen. 

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Your Freedom is Costly: Treasure It, Share It!

I enjoy gathering with family and friends for food, fellowship and fireworks on the 4th of July holiday, and I imagine you do too. As I participate in the festivities, I’m reminded that our founding fathers and their families paid a tremendous price in order for us to enjoy the freedoms we have in this great nation— like the freedom of religion and speech— that are in jeopardy today and that we all too often take for granted. Although they had security as far as the world measures it, each of the signers of the declaration valued liberty more than their belongings, even their lives. They pledged the following to one another:

“For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Many people are unaware of the sacrifices they did in fact make. The British captured five of the signers during the war, including Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, and Arthur Middleton, and George Walton was wounded as well as captured. Richard Stockton was captured and never recovered from his incarceration by British Loyalists and he died in 1781. John Adams received a letter from Thomas McKean who wrote that he was "hunted like a fox by the enemy - compelled to remove my family five times in a few months." The British captured two of Abraham Clark’s sons during the war.

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The homes and property of eleven signers were destroyed. Francis Lewis's home was demolished and his wife was taken prisoner. John Hart's farm and mills were destroyed when the British invaded New Jersey, and he died while fleeing capture. Carter Braxton and Nelson lent large sums of their personal fortunes to support the war effort, and they were never repaid. They were willing to sacrifice so much because they knew the liberties they were fighting for were their ‘unalienable rights’, given to them by their Creator God.

The reality is that freedom is never free.  There is always a cost. We who have enjoyed the freedoms for which our founding fathers sacrificed much need to be prepared to pay the cost to maintain those freedoms. We must be willing to exercise our freedom of religion and speech in our ‘politically correct’ culture that seeks to silence us who represent the Voice of God that calls people to turn away from sexual immorality, the killing of the unborn, violence, corruption and other evils that have become normative in today’s America, and to turn to God Who alone is the Source of all true freedom.

As much as I am grateful—and I truly am-- for the sacrifices of our founding fathers who were willing to give up their property, their safety and security, and even their lives to establish our nation, I am far more grateful to Jesus Who was willing to lay down His life to secure the greatest treasure I will ever have--freedom from the power and penalty of sin. And that was the costliest purchase ever made. My freedom—and yours—could only be bought with the price of Jesus’ blood. Our Heavenly Father had to be willing to sacrifice the life of His blameless, Beloved Son Jesus in order to redeem my life and yours. If you ever wonder how valuable you are, remember the great price that God was willing to pay for you and your freedom! You are treasured by Him! He was willing to exchange a perfect life for your sinful one in order that you could be set free from your sin.

So as you celebrate the our nation’s independence this year, I hope you will thank God for our founding fathers who valued liberty more than security so that you can have the liberties you enjoy in our country today.  I especially hope you will take the time to thank Jesus for being willing to give up all of the glories of heaven to come to earth to give His life in exchange for yours, so that you can be free from the power of sin in your life and able to spend eternity in paradise with God. Let us walk and rejoice in the freedom that Jesus has purchased for us! And let us use our freedom of speech to boldly and lovingly share with others in our nation that true and everlasting freedom can be their’s too— if they will put their trust in Jesus!

Please join with me in praying that our nation will once again seek after God and His counsel, return to Him, and in every way receive Him as Lord, knowing that God is Sovereign over all nations, the Source of a nation’s strength and blessings, and alone worthy of all honor, glory and praise!

The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

The LORD looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

Psalm 33:10-22 ESV

Written by Julie Van Gorp

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Thanks, Dad--and Mom--for all that you did NOT do for me!

When my precious—as well as precocious— grandson was only two years old he would delight us all at prayer time by exclaiming, ‘Thank you, God, for opportunities!” As I was reflecting upon Father’s Day, I thought of all of the opportunities and blessings I have had in life because of the excellent parenting I received from my now 94 year old father and 92 year old mother.  My parents gave me many things—far too many to enumerate, but first and foremost, the gift of being raised with the knowledge of the truth of God, hearing HIs Word, and learning about His unconditional love for me, as well as their own love for me. They modeled integrity and a strong work ethic as my dad worked honestly, diligently and faithfully to provide me and my siblings with a home, food, clothing, and all of the other ‘basics’ of life, plus extras like summer vacations. In addition, they provided us the privilege of attending a wonderful Christian day school where I had the joy of being taught by wonderful teachers and interacting with great friends, one of whom is still my dearest ‘bosom friend’(as Anne of Green Gables would say). They also paid for me to go to college where I obtained an excellent education and also met my husband, who has been my greatest earthly gift, and together we have raised a family that blesses me beyond words.

I recognize that I’ve been granted many opportunities and blessings because of what my parents did for me. However, the Lord recently brought to my mind the many opportunities and blessings my parents gave to me because of the many things they did NOT do for me! I readily admit that as a child, and even into my early adult years, I don’t remember ever being grateful for the things my parents didn’t do for me. Now I can see the blessings they gave to me by not doing things for me, and most of those things would fall under the category of ‘discipline’—because they were ‘discipling’ me to follow in the path they had taken and they knew would be best for me, because it lined up with God’s Word. What they did for me makes me think of the verse below from Hebrews 12:11:

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I wonder, have you ever thought of the blessings you have because of what was NOT given to you?  Perhaps you’ll identify with several or all that I list below. Or, perhaps you need to think about what blessings you may be denying your children because you are acquiescing to their demands or doing things for them instead of requiring or allowing them to do things for themselves? In our culture where so many parents are focusing their lives upon meeting their child’s every whim, wish and command— which has resulted in self-indulged, self-centered, entertainment-saturated, lazy, ‘helpless' children who are experiencing record levels of anxiety, depression, and suicide—I am so very grateful that my parents made it clear that although I was loved by God and loved by them, the world— as well as their lives— didn’t revolve around pleasing me, but rather my life was to revolve around pleasing God, and pleasing those whom He in His wisdom had placed in authority over me.

Although I know this is not an exhaustive list, I want to thank you, Dad and Mom, for the following things you did NOT do for me:

Thank youfor not giving into my temper tantrums when I was  a young child. You taught me to submit to authority, that you knew better than I what was best for me, and that life isn’t about me having things ‘my way’. Exodus 20:12; Matthew 19:19; Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:13-25; 5:5; Isaiah 43:7; Hebrews 13:17

Thank youfor not giving into my pleas that I shouldn’t have to do chores that I was fully capable of doing, even when I was in elementary school— like making my bed, cleaning the bathroom, setting and clearing the table, washing and drying the dishes, dusting and vacuuming. You taught me that I was a necessary member of the family who had an important role to play in helping our household to run efficiently and effectively. It also taught me that we must be entrusted with responsibilities if we are ever to become a ‘responsible person’. Interestingly, while writing this blog, an article from Town and Country Magazine popped up on my Facebook newsfeed that said that research proves that kids who do chores are more successful in life than those who aren’t assigned chores; the research just proves what is revealed in God’s Word!. Thanks,Mom and Dad, for insisting that I do chores because by doing so you helped me to become a more successful adult! Genesis 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12; Proverbs 12:24; 13:4; 14:23;1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Thank youfor not allowing me to ‘get away with’ a subpar job on the chores that I was assigned to do. By teaching me that ‘whatever is worth doing is worth doing well’ I learned to do my best at whatever task I was assigned, whether at home, in the workplace, or in the community. Colossians 3:23-24;1 Corinthians 10:31

Thank youfor not speaking ‘for me’ when adults asked me questions. You taught me that I ‘had a voice of my own’ and that you trusted my ability to speak for myself. I learned to respect but didn’t feel intimidated by ‘my elders’ and I developed the confidence to engage in conversations with others. 1 Timothy 4:12

Thank youfor never saying things to me that would lead me to think that I was stupid or incapable of completing a task. You taught me that I had unique gifts that you encouraged me to use for God’s glory, with the assurance that whatever God led me to do, I could do through Him. Proverbs 15:1,4; Ephesians 4:2; Romans 12:6; Philippians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3;13;10:24;

Thank youfor not tolerating me saying that ‘I was bored’; for not allowing me to sit in front of a television all day; for not allowing me to talk on the phone to my friends without time limits and parental oversight. You taught me to be resourceful and productive. I learned that my life was not about fulfilling  my selfish desires, but rather to be lived for a higher, greater purpose. Isaiah 43:7; Galatians 6:7-9; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 9:6

Thank youfor not allowing me to mope around, grumble or complain. You taught me that ‘attitude is everything’ and that when I started to feel sorry for myself that I should focus my thoughts upon all of my blessings rather than upon what I didn’t have that I thought I ‘deserved’. Habakkuk 3:18; Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Thank youfor not doing my daily homework or long-term projects, or ever ‘bailing me out’ of a situation when I procrastinated on an assignment. You taught me that I was capable of learning new things and able to do work on my own. I also learned that no one else was going to get the credit—or blame—for what was my responsibility to do. You enabled me to become resourceful and to develop skills I might not otherwise have developed—like time management and goal setting.And, by not doing for me what I could do, I gained a healthy self-confidence and experienced the satisfaction and joy of accomplishing tasks, something I relish today. 1 Timothy 5:8; Galatians 6: 5-15

Thank youfor not being laissez faire or afraid to discipline me when I deserved it. You taught me that true love means meting out discipline to show that there are consequences for the choices we make. I learned the importance of obeying your word, and more importantly, the importance of obeying the Word of God. Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6; Ephesians 6:1-4; John 14:15; 2 John 1:6 

Thank you…for not giving into my pleas as a teenager to go to movies, hang out with people, and attend events that you deemed inappropriate. You taught me that life isn’t all about me and my getting my ‘wants’ met and that I must submit to God and those whom He placed in authority over me. You also taught me that the ideas we allow into our minds and the people with whom we associate can be either positive or detrimental to our character, and character counts. Proverbs 9:6; 13:20; 23:7;1 Corinthians 15:33

Thank you…for not buying me the toys, stuffed animals, or other fleeting pleasures I begged you to get for me as I was growing up. And thank you for not buying me a car—which a lot of my peers got— when I turned 16 or when I went off to college. You taught me to be a good steward of the money God entrusts us with; the importance of living within our means; that we should not make purchases in order ‘to keep up with the ‘Jones’s’; and that ‘things’—which lose their initial appeal or value over time— will never buy a person happiness. You also taught me that there is a ‘time for everything’; you would occasionally say ‘yes’ to something special that I really wanted, and when you did, it was very meaningful and not something I took for granted. And thanks for the older, used car you gave me my senior year in college, which was when I needed one for my internship and also when I was more mature and better able to handle that responsibility. Psalm 24;1;Exodus 20:17; Ecclesiastes 3:1; Proverbs 22;7; 25:29; Romans 13:8; Philippians 4:11-12; Matthew 25:21

Thank you…for never putting pressure upon me to achieve high grades so that I could get into the ‘right’ school, and for never putting pressure upon me to attend a particular college, or trying to manipulate my admission into a particular school. The Hollywood elite who recently made headlines for trying to buy their children’s admission into various upper echelon universities revealed not only their dishonesty, but also their belief that their children’s value—or perhaps their own— was tied to the institution of higher learning that their child attended. I am so grateful that my parents taught me that my value wasn’t based upon my grade point, my achievements in school, the college I attended or the career I chose, but instead was based upon my being a child of God, created in His image. Psalm 139:14; Matthew 6:26; 10:29-31;

Thank you…for not putting pressure upon me to pursue a particular career choice. You taught me to pursue the passion that the Lord had put on my heart, rather than fulfilling your dream of what I should do or encouraging me to base my career choice upon a salary attached to a particular career.I learned that you trusted me with such an important life choice, that it was up to me to take responsibility for the direction I would take in my life, and that I was capable of listening to God to determine the direction I should take. Psalm 25:8; Isaiah 30:21; Matthew 7:7; Psalm 37:4

Most of allthank you for not making me the center of your life. Thank you for never making me feel that your happiness and joy was dependent upon my performance, my ‘success’ or my happiness. Thank you for demonstrating by your actions as well as your words that I am very important to and greatly loved by you, but that your life was- as it still is— centered upon God. Your modeling of a life focused upon God and living for His glory has led me to make God the center of my life too, which is the reason that I have peace, joy and a fulfilled life. Matthew 22:37; Philippians 4:6-7; Proverbs 3

Happy Father’s Day to my dad and to all dads. I am especially thankful for the greatest ‘Dad’ of all, our Heavenly Father, who did NOT give us what we deserved— death, hell and damnation— but has given to all of us who believe forgiveness from our sin, power over sin, abundant life here on earth, and the sure promise of life with Him for all eternity! That is indeed something for all of us who are His children to celebrate!

Written by Julie Van Gorp

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Got Regret? What to Do If You'd Like a 'Do-Over'

Another hour ticked away on the clock as I lay awake tossing and turning, going over and over again in my mind the purchase my husband and I had made earlier that day that was not able to be returned. We were stuck with our choice, like it or not.. I felt tormented by thoughts that we had made a foolish decision, one that we would regret. Had we been led by FOMO—the fear of ‘missing out’— on a good deal?  I knew that our choice was not ‘sinful’ per se, and that most people wouldn’t understand what I was feeling; however, I felt the weight of regret that we hadn’t truly sought the Lord’s counsel before making the decision. I was keenly aware that I always felt peace after making a decision where I knew that we’d been led by the Lord, which was in sharp contrast to the unrest I was feeling for having ‘jumped the gun’ before hearing a clear word from God. I knew the conviction I felt was good because it was a sign of the Holy Spirit at work in my life, and necessary to cause me to recognize where we ‘missed the mark’ so we would go back to God in repentance. However, I was also overwhelmed by a feeling that was far more than conviction; I was battling against Satan—the Accuser of the Brethren—who was working overtime to heap condemnation upon me, drown me in guilt, and create a breach in my relationship with God, my Heavenly Father.

As I considered the decision we had made—a decision that people make every day without giving a second thought to consulting God, it occurred to me that before becoming a Christian, I too had never bothered to seek the Lord’s guidance and wisdom on everyday— or even major— life decisions. Other decisions I had made throughout my life flashed before my mind, and I realized how often I could’ve avoided regret and heartache had I only sought the Lord and His counsel, rather than relying upon my own wisdom! As a committed believer for over 25 years who knows the joy of walking with the Lord and relying upon Him and His counsel, I was grief-stricken that I had fallen prey once again to my presumptuous sin of pride, for it was pride that was at the root of our not consulting the Lord. As I lay there tossing and turning that night, I pictured Jesus dying for every one of my sins, including my sin of doing things ‘my way’ rather than looking to and following Him Who is ‘The Way’. Oh, what a merciful Savior we have whose blood shed on the cross covers our sins of commission, but also our sins of omission— like operating in our own wisdom and understanding rather than seeking the Lord’s wisdom and counsel before making decisions!

So, what about you? Have you ever made a decision that you later regretted? A time when you sorely wished you could have a ‘do-over’? Maybe you bought what you thought was your ‘dream home’, but it turned out to be a money pit instead. Or perhaps you moved from a small town to a big city hoping for ‘great adventure’, but once the newness of the big city wore off you regretted leaving your family and friends. Or maybe you took a job you really didn’t want because you felt desperate for the income, but once on-the-job, you felt stuck there when the job market changed. Or, maybe you bought a used car and it turned out to be a lemon. Or,  perhaps you bought a non-returnable, expensive dress while on vacation but you never lost the weight you’d hoped to so it  remained unworn in your closet. Or, far more importantly, maybe you raised your children based upon the world’s wisdom or in your own understanding rather than according to God’s instructions as found in the Bible, and you now so regret that you have ‘reaped what you have sown’. Whatever the decision you made that you later regretted, you may look back now and think, as I did: What if I had consulted the Lord and not relied upon my own understanding before making that decision? Perhaps you would’ve made the same decision, perhaps not. However, if you’d first consulted the Word of God and obeyed His leading, you would have had the peace of knowing that God, Who is All Knowing and All Wise, had led you to make the decision, and you would have been able to rest in that knowledge and assurance, even if the results were not what you might have desired. His ways are ALWAYS the right and best ways, even when we can’t understand them from our limited perspective!

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So, what should you do once you realize that you relied upon your own wisdom rather than upon God’s and you made a decision you now regret:

1) Turn to God and ask Him to forgive you for not consulting Him, for trusting in your own wisdom rather than seeking and putting your faith in His wisdom. I encourage you to picture yourself going to God as your Heavenly Father and pour your heart out to Him. I know that when I pictured doing that during the night when I was ‘tossing and turning over my decision, I sensed the Holy Spirit say to me, “You know that your earthly father would forgive you for not consulting him, so how much more will your Heavenly Father forgive you?”(Matthew 7:11) Peace flooded my soul as I sensed His lavish grace extended to me!

2) Receive and live in the reality of the forgiveness that the Lord purchased for you on the cross, and do not allow Satan to torment you with guilt for your decision once you’ve acknowledged your sorrow to the Lord. When Satan comes in ‘like a flood’ to heap condemnation upon you, remind him that you are a blood-bought child of God who is fully forgiven, and that NOTHING can separate you from the love of your heavenly Father!

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death….

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:1-2,38-39 ESV

Also, remind Satan that God is able to make something beautiful even from your poor choices—like using them to remind you of how desperately You need God’s wisdom, and to remind you that God loves you so much that He sent Jesus to pay the price for your every bad decision even before it was ever made! The purchase that I had regretted making so much that night has now become a daily reminder to me of God’s Father’s heart for me and His unwavering grace in my life!

3) Be prepared and willing to face the consequences of a decision you made based upon your wisdom rather than God’s. Yes, you are forgiven by God and your sin is removed ‘as far as the east is from the west’ (Psalm 103:12), but that does not necessarily mean that you won’t endure some painful consequences for acting in your own understanding rather than seeking God’s. In fact, the consequences we face can be the very instrument of God’s grace in our life that He uses to humble us and cause us to become more reliant upon His always trustworthy counsel. Make sure to inquire of the Lord and obey His leading as you go through whatever consequences you may have to face for the decision you made. For example, I know a couple who purchased what they thought was the best home in their area for the price they could afford—they leaned on their own understanding— but after the purchase they encountered major issues that could be very costly. Besides pouring their heart out to the Lord and asking for His forgiveness for not seeking His wisdom prior to their purchase, they need to invite God into their current situation, seek His counsel, and rely upon His wisdom as they respond to the consequences of the house choice they made. 

4) Determine in the future to seek the Lord’s counsel before making decisions, and ask God to convict you every time you act as if your life  and your resources are ‘yours’, rather than His. Remind yourself that you have been created by God for His purpose and His glory, bought with the blood of Jesus so ‘your life’  really belongs to Him, and it is only by His power that you ‘live and move and have your being’. (Isaiah 43:7; 1 Corinthians 6:20;Acts 17:28) Invite God to come into and take over every area of your life so that you are always trusting in Him rather than in yourself and your limited understanding.

5) Praise God that His grace abounds and that He is rich in mercy! Praise Him that every sin, every poor choice you have ever made or will ever make was laid at the cross and covered by the blood of Jesus and you bear your sin no more! And praise Him that He can work ALL things together for your good—even the poor choices you have made based upon your human understanding, and even the poor decisions you may make in the future (Romans 8:28) In fact, our poor decisions showcase our desperate need for God’s wisdom! If we desire to be wise and want what’s best for us, we will learn from our poor choices that we need to fully trust in and rely upon God at all times and for all of our decisions, for He will lead us in paths of righteousness for our good, and for His name’s sake! (Psalm 23:3)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. 

It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV

Lord, forgive me for the many times I have failed to consult you before making a decision. Forgive me for my pride that assumes that I don’t need You, or that I know more or better than You, and my rebellion that sometimes wants things ‘my way’ rather than Your way. I acknowledge that You are All Knowing, All Wise, Lavish in Your Love, and that Your ways are always so much higher than mine! I need You, Lord, oh, how I need You, every hour I need You! Help me to trust You at all times and for all things. I praise You for Your unconditional love, and that You are able to make all things beautiful and something that declares Your glory, even the ‘ashes’ of my poor choices!  Amen.

Written by Julie Van Gorp

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