Donna...just found your blog...I absolutely love it! And I love your singing! I'm at work right now and it was just exactly what I needed to hear to help me make it through tonight! Thanks for your ministry here! - Robert

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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Test

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Luke 12:34 niv

Recently I finished a college course, and needed to make arrangements for my final exam. I reserved a room at the local library. I took the test in that small, windowless place.

In Genesis 22:3 Abraham set out for a “place in the distance.” This was to be a place to test Abraham’s faith. God told Abraham He wanted his son, Isaac, as an offering – a total sacrifice, fully offered up. For Isaac, this truly could have been a ‘final exam.’

In that same place, God spared Isaac, and provided the sacrifice. The Lord knew Abraham truly feared God and obeyed in spite of the cost. God promised to bless Abraham with descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. His descendants would take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through his offspring all nations on earth would be blessed. Why? Because Abraham passed the test!

In the New Testament, Jesus gave a test to an eager, young man who asked, “What good thing must I do to have eternal life?" The man claimed to have kept the entire Law. In an effort to show the condition of the young ruler’s heart, Jesus told him to sell his possessions, and then come and follow Him.

The man loved his possessions more than the desire to follow Jesus. That young man failed his test. He may have been wealthy, but he was spiritually bankrupt, and poor of faith. There is no good thing we can do to have eternal life, except to believe on Jesus Christ as Savior.

Abraham son, Isaac, didn’t die as a sacrifice, but God did give His Son as our sacrifice. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 niv

What’s hindering you from following Jesus Christ? If God were to test your faith and love for Him, would you pass or fail?

Prayer: Lord, I pray nothing comes between You and me. I love You with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. Thank you for eternal life. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Are You Being Bullied?

We are human, but we don't wage war with human plans and methods. We use God's mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil's strongholds. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 nlt

I got almost all the way through school without ever being bullied. Not being the confrontational type, I maintained a low profile when trouble brewed. That changed during my junior year of high school.

As I foraged around in my locker for a book, I saw two girls standing a few feet away. They whispered something to each other, and then one walked over.

“Donna, I thought you ought to know. Someone’s threatened to beat you up.”

“Me? Who in the world would want to do that?”

“Do you know who Brenda Greene* is?”

The name sounded familiar. “Isn’t she the girl who likes Danny*?” I still couldn’t figure out what this had to do with me.

“Uh-huh, that’s her. She thinks you want to steal Danny from her.”

All I could do was shake my head. Where would she get that idea?

I turned around to go to class, and as if on cue, here came Brenda with two of her friends. She gave me a withering look. My pulse quickened when she passed less than a foot away. She towered over me.

For the next week, threatening messages promising future harm made their way to me. For someone as timid as me, this uncharted territory caused me great distress. I took great pains to ignore Danny even though I considered him only a friend. A couple of times, I saw his look of confusion when I rushed by as he called out my name. Didn’t he know his attention might cause me a few lumps to the head?

The other thing I couldn’t fathom was why this Brenda Greene, tall, beautiful, and slender, with short blonde hair and blue eyes, considered me a threat. I’d noticed the eyes when they shot shards of ice my way.

Most of the time, I kept friends with me. Finding safety in numbers seemed the wise thing to do until this thing blew over.

I made a quick trip between classes to the girls’ restroom. When I exited the stall, I came face to face, or should I say, face to chin, with Brenda. She shot me one of her now familiar, yet still fear-inducing looks. I glanced around. We were alone.

I walked stiff-legged over to the sink. I pulled my one hundred, ten-pound frame to my full height, and stared straight ahead.

Brenda stood to my side, never moving a muscle as I washed my hands.

Once I escaped to the hallway, all I could think was, “Thank God!” and then I thought, She’s not so brave without her ‘gang’ around her.

About that time, Brenda swept by. She looked over her shoulder to smirk at me, but the icy glare had dissipated. Maybe she respected me a little. After all, I didn’t dissolve into tears or beg for mercy.

A bully’s main weapon is the ability to instill fear of consequences, real or imagined. I’d never been in a fight before, so I couldn’t imagine the outcome being favorable for me.

Who is the biggest bully in your life? If you are a Christian, the answer is Satan. In 1 Peter 5:8, the word of God cautions us. “Be on your guard and stay awake. Your enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion, sneaking around to find someone to attack.” (cev)

Satan tries to bully Christians into cowering in fear. He wants us to think he can bring devastation into our lives. Even God’s people, who know the voice of God, can often be found cowering in fear at the intimidating roar of Satan.

But there is another Lion. He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the only begotten Son of God. With one last statement, as He hung on the cross, He overcame every roar from Satan. “It is finished.”

At that moment all of the power of the adversary was broken, and the power of sin forever crushed and placed under His feet. We have no reason to dissolve into tears or beg for mercy. Victory over Satan begins when we understand that victory has already been won through Jesus Christ!

I found strength in numbers when I felt bullied by Brenda. Find strength by surrounding yourself with other Christians. Go to church. Pray with others. Get into a good Bible study.

Back when Brenda bullied me, I called Danny. “What’s with your girlfriend and all the threats?”

“Well, first of all, she’s not my girlfriend,” Danny said. “And I didn’t know about the threats until today. You really don’t know why she can’t stand you?”

“If I did, would I be calling you? Tell me!”

Danny hesitated – unusual since he was never at a loss for words. He cleared his throat, and then said, “She’s figured out you’re the one I want to be my girlfriend.”

I’d never thought of Danny ‘that way.’ I sat with the phone cradled under my chin, and pondered this new revelation. Shouldn’t I have figured this out? I liked Danny a lot, and didn’t want to ruin our friendship.

“Danny, you know I like you…”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Danny sighed into the phone. “Don’t even finish that.”

“Friends then?”

“I guess. I gotta go.”

Danny must have talked to Brenda, because the messages quit coming, and the intimidation ceased. That week was one of the longest of my life.

Wondering what happened to Danny? He and my ‘tormenter’ ended up getting married!

Prayer: Lord, I praise You! Because You are victorious over sin and death, I have hope. Thank you for the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

By Donna J. Shepherd

*Names changed.

Monday, August 23, 2004

I Stand in Awe

Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes order in the heights of heaven. – Job 25:2 niv

Recently I attended the Face-to-Face Conference hosted by New Life Ministries. I listened to godly, uplifting teaching, and wisdom given through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The chairman and one of the hosts of New Life Live daily radio program, Stephen Arterburn, spoke on coming face to face with Jesus using the life of Zacchaeus as his inspiration. As an aspiring writer, I sat in awe. Mr. Arterburn is the author of the Every Man’s series of books, which have sold over a million copies, as well as over 40 additional best selling books. I would have loved to talk to him, but his time was limited.

When we broke for the lunch break, I decided to take a shortcut through a side door to my car. Who was coming my way but Stephen? I reached out to shake his hand, and he graciously slowed his step, and I came face to face to with this best selling author I so admire.

Later as I sat listening to him speak, I thought that, as honored as I was to shake his hand, the moment pales in comparison to the time when I will come face to face with Jesus. Oh, the joy of reaching out to touch his nail-scarred hands! And I won’t sit in awe. I’ll stand in awe of the love and sacrifice He made for me. Time won’t be limited either. I’ll have all of eternity to worship my Lord.

Do you stand in awe* when you contemplate the love of God? “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man's behalf!” (Psalm 66:5 niv)

And perhaps, when I get to heaven, I’ll have a conversation or two with Mr. Arterburn, too.

Prayer: O, Lord, my God in Heaven, I so adore and stand in awe in Your presence. May I never exalt anyone above You. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

*To listen to an audio clip of the song "I Stand In Awe," click here.

Monday, August 16, 2004

A Whim Before the Wedding


Donna Posted by Hello

Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is s nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. Selah. - Psalm 39:4-5 NIV

With my wedding less than two weeks away, I decided to do something different with my hair. A beauty shop had moved into town, and I’d heard rave reviews of one particular beautician, Carla. I cut a picture out of a magazine of my ideal style, and made my appointment.

When I arrived, I showed Carla my clipping. “Oh, no problem. That will look very pretty on you.”

She spun me around in the chair with my face away from the mirror, whipped out a cape, and wrapped it around my shoulders with a flourish. For the next twenty minutes, we made small talk about my upcoming wedding and current events, with the snip, snip of the scissors keeping an erratic beat.

“All done!” Carla spun me around in the chair and I stared into the mirror.

My hair, once flowing in long layers around my shoulders, now barely came past my chin, which began to quiver.

“You don’t like it?” Carla’s eyes grew wide as she saw my obvious distress.

“It’s fine. I’m sure it’s fine.” I needed to get out of there before I dissolved into a sobbing mess. I paid her, even adding a tip, ran to my car, and bawled all the way home.

I cried on the phone to my fiancĂ©, “My hair is gone. There no time for it to grow back.” In my eyes, I looked nothing like the girl in the picture I’d shown Carla. Once my hair was cut off, it lay in piles on the floor. There would be no putting it back.

Have you ever thought about time like that? Hair grows back, but time, once wasted, is gone. I couldn’t pick the hair up off the floor and add it back, and we cannot re-live yesterday or add days to our lives. Each day is a precious gift from God. Let’s aim to make the most out of every single one.

Once I got over the shock, I decided to make the most of my new look. Regret would only be a waste of time. Two weeks later, I managed to get my hair to look somewhat presentable, and you know what? My veil covered up most of it anyway.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for the very breath you give me. I pray I will be faithful with the use of my time each day. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Treats and Trials


Angel Posted by Hello

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” – I Peter 1:6-7 NIV

When I go down into my basement to exercise, I take my puppy, Angel, so she can get her workout, too. For the last few weeks, I’ve hidden treats in nooks and crannies. The purpose is two-fold. It keeps her busy while I walk, and keeps me entertained watching her.

I hid a treat on top of a table just out of paw’s reach. Angel pondered the situation and finally decided to jump up to retrieve it. The glossy finish set her legs to scrambling. She gobbled up the treat, and scampered down.

The next day, I wanted to test Angel by setting another treat on the table. When she spotted it and realized she’d have to jump on the table again, she walked over to my treadmill, sat down next to it, and began to bark as if to say, “Go get that for me.”

As I stared into her brown eyes, they seemed to beg me to make her life easier. How many times have I prayed to God, “Lord, can’t you just do that for me?”

Many times God tests us. We develop patience and character when we go through trials He allows us to experience. We learn we can trust God to bring us through. How would we mature as Christians and grow in our faith if the Lord handed us everything we requested or answered every prayer immediately?

”Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4 NIV

Ask God to show you the joy in trials, knowing you will be more mature if you persevere and prove your faith to be genuine.

After a few minutes of barking protest, I took a break and got the treat for Angel. Her test didn’t last long, did it?

Prayer: Lord, I thank You because I know You will bring me through every trial. Help me to consider them pure joy, because I know You are with me every step of the way. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Final Exam

I'm so blessed to report I came in first this week in the Writing Challenge on Faithwriters. I've had so much fun participating. Here's the link if you'd like to read my winning entry!

Final Exam

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Running the Race

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. – Hebrews 12:1

I’ve seen several of the Olympic athletes on Christian programs proclaiming their love for God and faith in Jesus Christ. I’m so proud of them, and appreciate their hard work and sacrifice.

Eric Liddell, a missionary to China, ran in the 1924 Olympics. He is quoted as saying,
“I know that God has made me for a purpose; to be a missionary in China. But he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure."
To feel God’s pleasure! What a thought! God made each of us for a purpose. When Eric left China to run in the Olympics, he stepped (or ran) in the will of God. The Lord used his ability to witness to thousands. And did you know the movie “Chariots of Fire” is about Eric? So in that way, he continues to witness to this day.

I desire that the Lord would find pleasure in my life, don’t you? The second verse in Hebrews 12 says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. In the coming weeks, athletes will have their eyes on the prize – an Olympic medal. In our Christian walk, we strive for the prize of the high calling of Jesus Christ. We won’t be awarded medals that soon pass away, but an eternal home in heaven.

You might feel as if you can’t be a witness because you don’t preach or teach. In the body of Christ, all the parts are important. Every Sunday, a gentleman in our church cleans a glass, fills it with ice-cold water, and places it under the pulpit for our pastor. Very few people know he does this, but he is faithful. It is his ministry.

Ask the Lord what He would have you do. Perhaps you wait tables or work on cars and have a difficult time imagining how this could be God’s place for you, but God uses us if we are willing. Ask the Lord to open up opportunities for you to be a witness for Him. When you honor God in all you do, He will honor your obedience with a life that counts for eternity.

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for opportunities to be a witness. I pray for endurance to run the race set before me. Thank you for the assurance that when this race is run, I will find rest in Heaven. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Back to School Already?

Got kids? Visit Saplings Magazine to read a back to school poem by Donna in the August Issue called "School Lunch."

Saplings Magazine

You're welcome to leave comments about the poem here. Thanks!

Friday, August 06, 2004

Rescued

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 (NIV)

As a little girl, I had nightmares, vivid dreams so disturbing I can remember them to this day. On more than one occasion, I’d climb out of bed and sleepwalk and talk trying my best to rid myself of the images playing in my head.

My mother would hear me bumping and stumbling around in my room and she’d come to my rescue. Usually when she turned on the light, I’d wake up. But a couple of times, I didn’t believe she really stood there. I didn’t recognize her. Only her persistent voice saying, “Donna, it’s me. I’m right here” awakened me and gave me comfort.

Are you stumbling around in life? Do you need to be rescued? Sometimes events cause us to feel as if our life is a bad dream. It’s during those times you may feel as if God isn’t really there.

In Matthew 14, we read how the disciples got into a boat without Jesus who went up on a mountainside to pray. After night fell, Jesus walked on the water out to the boat. Isn’t that amazing? The disciples didn’t recognize Him.

Then Jesus said, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Vs. 27 NIV)

Just like my mom’s presence alleviated my fear and calmed me, Jesus’ presence brought peace and comfort to the anxious disciples

Paul told the believers in Philippi, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

How do you ‘present a request to God’? You cry out to Him. I’m thankful that when I cry out in the midst of the storms of life, God comforts me. Is your life in turmoil? Cry out to God. He brings a peace that transcends all understanding to His children.

Prayer: Lord, I praise You for the promise that when I called upon Your name, You saved me. Thank You for peace and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.
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