New Years Blessings

The year is winding down. For some it’s a time to relax after the rush and rustle of Christmas. For others it may be a time to look back. The holiday season can bring us a mixture of emotions from high expectations of Christmas present to painful memories of Christmas past.

And then comes the New Year. We fill it with parties or promises. It isn’t enough that we may have over-done Christmas, either by our spending or eating. Now we face a new year and often count off the failures of the past and replace them with promises of the future.

As you tuck away holiday decorations and pack up holiday music for another year, think on what the Creator of the universe has planned:

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths. I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.
Isaiah 42:16, NIV

Standing Firm

Make no mistake; Satan is crafty in his methods of attack, covertly targeting our weaknesses. For some it’s doubt, others it’s self-worth, and for many it’s a fragile faith. Satan would like us to focus on these things rather than our Creator’s love for us and purpose for our lives.

Doing battle in the spiritual realm is beyond our ability. Until we recognize that fact, we are vulnerable. However, God didn’t leave us defenseless. He not only provides us with spiritual strength and courage, but He also has given us spiritual armor.

Ephesians 6:10-17 describes the armor of God which believers are instructed to put on in order to "stand firm against the schemes of the devil." That’s a promise God has given us. Put on the armor and we will be able to stand firm against whatever tricks Satan has up his sleeve.

While the picture Paul painted of a soldier’s armor may not be easily understood, each piece has a spiritual purpose.

The Helmet of Salvation: Starting with our minds, the helmet protects us from Satan’s attempts to make us doubt God, Jesus, and our salvation. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 11:2, NIV.

The Breastplate of Righteousness: Our hearts are where our emotions, self worth, and trust reside – areas that Satan often attacks. The breastplate is God’s righteousness and it protects our heart, ensuring God’s approval. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7, NAS

Belt of Truth: Satan is a liar but is called the angel of light because his lies appear to be truths. God’s truth can defeat Satan’s lies. “… even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light,” 2 Corinthians 11:14, NAS

Shoes of Peace: Satan would like us to think that we aren’t capable of spreading the “good news” and tries to make us feel hopeless. These give us the motivation to continue to proclaim God’s truth and the true peace that is available only in Him. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful,” John 14:27, NAS

Shield of Faith: Too often, we become overwhelmed with our circumstances. This piece of armor gives us the ability to see beyond those circumstances, protects us from Satan’s attacks, and helps us know the ultimate victory is ours. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,” Hebrews 11:1, NIV

Sword of the Spirit: The sword is the Word of God and is the only weapon of offense in our list of armor. There will be times when we must take the offensive against Satan, especially when we face temptation. “As for God, His way is perfect! The word of the Lord is tested and tried; He is a shield to all those who take refuge and put their trust in Him,” Psalm 18:30, AMP

Putting on the armor isn’t something we just think about doing, it’s a choice we must make. As with physical armor, it only protects if it is worn.

Pray as you envision putting on each piece of God’s armor, claiming His promise.

Blessings, Francine

Assess the Threat

If we are to protect our witness and are actively seeking a witness protection plan, we must first assess the threat.

Before we begin to look at areas where the slippery slopes of temptation appear to be firm and true, we need to be aware of the enemy.

Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. 1 Peter 5:8, Amplified Bible

Our human reaction might be one of hopelessness and fear. How can we protect ourselves from Satan and his lies?

The first and most important way is with God’s truth – His word. If we don’t know God’s promises and His directions for how we are to live, we are vulnerable, exposed to attack. The old saying certainly applies here, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

You can be sure Satan knows God’s words and he is good at twisting them around so that he might lure us into the muck of sin. After all, if he twisted God’s word to tempt Jesus, you can bet he’ll try to do the same with us.

God knew we would struggle and His strongest gift to us was the death of His son on the cross. In Christ’s resurrection, Satan was defeated. End of story … well, at least for Satan. For us, it was the beginning.

We also must come to a real-life understanding that Satan is authentic and not just some guy in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork. He isn’t more powerful than God is, but he does have power. He is God’s enemy and while he isn’t eternal, he leads an army of demons.

But sometimes, it isn’t an army that defeats us; it’s our own lack of knowledge. Satan doesn’t want us to know we have victory through our Savior. If he can blind us to this truth, then realizing the Holy Spirit dwells within believers is even harder to comprehend.

Listen to the words Jesus spoke to His disciples shortly before His crucifixion.

“These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But, the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name. He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you; not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
John 14:25-27

Witness Protection

Most people know what the Witness Protection Program is. Basically, a person who is instrumental in testifying in a legal matter and is a threat to the accused is made to disappear. Sometimes, it’s a person whose life is threatened in other ways. In simple terms, the individual is protected.

Sometimes I believe, as Christians, we need a Witness Protection Plan. At the very least, we need to think about it. Some of us may need to consider how we might develop such a program for ourselves.

We easily claim to be a believer. When it comes to exactly what we believe in, we might be a little more vague. Hopefully not. Hundreds of thousands proudly proclaim to be a Christian but again, their actual beliefs aren’t as obvious, especially in their behavior. And, hundreds of thousands more are not afraid to proclaim a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Too often, we forget that, along with those proclamations, come responsibilities. Many believe that joining a church and regular attendance is all we need. That's a wrong assumption. In fact, that's just a first step. Of course, it may satisfy how we want others to see us. And that in itself is just plain wrong thinking because it's not others we need to worry about. We can fool them most of the time. It's our Creator we should be seeking to please. And, by the way, there's no fooling Him.

Of course, our Heavenly Father wants us to worship, praise, learn, and enjoy fellowship with other believers. These are important. But God is more interested in what's going on inside us and why we do the things we do.

To be honest, maybe we need to consider these areas of our lives and ask ourselves if they fall under the witness protection plan. In other words, what witness do we give God, and others, in these areas?

Loyalty to the body of Christ. Can you be counted on to volunteer where and when needed?
Your body. Are you taking care of God’s Holy Temple where the Holy Spirit resides?
Your habits. This wide-ranging area can be viewed by just about anyone.
Your driving. Speeding and reckless driving aren’t just against the law.
Your mouth. Short tempered with a store clerk or fellow worker?
Your recreation. How many Sunday’s do you get away from it all?
Your time. While many faithfully tithe financially, they fail to give unselfishly of their time.
Your entertainment. What movies or television shows are you watching?
Your talents. God has gifted each of us with talents for His use.
Your quiet time. How faithful are you in seeking to know God through His word.
Your prayer life. Do you use prayer more like a life raft than an intimate way of communicating with the Creator of the Universe?

These are some of the ways in which we witness to others every single day. Is your witness true to God’s word and direction for other believers?

If not, maybe you need to think about a Witness Protection Plan to guard your most important asset – your soul.

Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?" Matthew 16:24, The Message

Blessings, Francine

What Does God Want, Anyway?

Everyone’s been there. In fact, we’ve all visited this place so many times it’s surprising we are still surprised. Some call it the end of our rope while others call it hitting bottom. Regardless of how it’s defined, it’s that place where we come to the end of ourselves. We’ve tried everything we know to bring peace and order in our lives. Instead, we become quite familiar with chaos.

How’d we get there? More importantly, why are we there? What does God want from us, anyway?

If we could learn to seek God’s plans for us before we get into chaotic living, we might see more clearly what He wants. Of course, many of us think we already know what He wants. Either it’s a life based on works rather than a relationship, or it’s a life we’ve spent trying to fit our desires into God’s desires. While there are times when those two things coincide to bring us to a higher place, it doesn’t come haphazardly.

Jesus gave us two commands that simply tell us to love God and love others. However, if we don’t have a healthy attitude about love, we need to look deeper into how we exhibit that love. After all, we can have a dysfunctional relationship with God just as easily as we can have dysfunctional relationships with others.

Often we tend to get caught up in religion rather than being caught up in a relationship with our Creator.

God showed His endless love, patience and mercy to the Israelites. As they came out of their 40 years of wandering in the desert, God once again provided them guidance. In Deuteronomy 10:12-13, Moses gave them a short course on what God wanted of them.

So now Israel, what do you think God expects from you? Just this: Live in his presence in holy reverence, follow the road he sets out for you, love him, serve God, your God, with everything you have in you, obey the commandments and regulations of God that I'm commanding you today—live a good life. Deuteronomy 10:12-13, The Message

Too often, we complicate the simplicity of these words. The Jews did it when they added their rules, regulations, and requirements. We have a tendency to do the same. If we seek to know God’s heart and His desires for us, we can begin knowing our Creator with these five steps:


God wants us to live a good life rather than one filled with frustration and disappointment. When we begin a loving and active relationship with Him, we’ll discover exactly what He wants from us. And the good news is that He is always faithful.

Blessings, Francine

Love from Tragedy

People around the country and around the world were shocked by the massacre at Virginia Tech on Monday. It was almost too enormous to grasp. As the largest mass murder in the United States, it will remain a marker of sorts for the depths of evil.

How could it happen? Well, the answer is that we live in a fallen world and there are evil people who are determined to have their way. How can we make our schools safe for our children? The truth is, we can’t.

My heart grieves with the parents and friends of those slain. I can’t imagine the terror those young adults and teachers felt in the last seconds of their lives. I truly am not minimizing the horror of the massacre – for that is what it was. It was horrible and should never have happened. But it did.

Man’s persecution, torture, and execution of man is a common thread throughout history. And while we Americans find comfort in knowing we live in one of the most civilized countries in the world, that doesn’t exclude us from pain and suffering. Maybe the question should be why shouldn’t it happen here?

Bad things happen to good people. No amount of gun laws – or any other laws for that matter – will provide us 100 percent protection. They never have and they never will.

However, that doesn’t leave us without hope. And it doesn’t minimize our responsibility to reach out to those who are hurting with that message of hope.

Whether or not we know those left grieving from this tragedy doesn’t mean we offer condolences from afar. What it should mean is that we re-double our efforts to share Christ with everyone. Whether it’s our next-door neighbor or a stranger, our hearts must be burdened with the need to reach the lost.

Only by loving others can we begin to show them the Truth found in faith and the hope found in God.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV

Blessings, Francine

Obedience is an Action Verb

Obedience is the spiritual response to listening to God’s direction for our lives.

Many listen for our Creator’s directions but often our emotions divert us on a detour that leads to a dead end. We are so easily caught up in feelings. And those feelings camouflage what God wants us to do.

Our human nature is fragile. We are whipped about by the storm of emotions. We recognize that we aren’t to respond in a situation where we are hurt and wounded. However, there are those who believe that’s the end of it. We stand within the storm of conflict and pat ourselves on the back because we haven’t retaliated or fallen to the gale force winds of conflict. No, we can peacefully stand as the thunder of disappointment or heartache echoes in our ears. We close our eyes as lightening streaks of anger shoot above us. The howling wind may buffet us but we proudly stand firm. We won’t budge.

Instead, we look at ourselves as sacrificing for the sake of Christ.

On the other hand, our thoughts can take us to the worlds of what if. In our mind, we think of all the ways we could respond, letting our anger or pain pour forth like the deluge of a torrential storm. We martial our verbal defense and allow ourselves to wallow in our own self-righteousness of never voicing the words we’ve been conjuring up. We never realize that there is something else at work in the circumstances.

But that’s the problem. In many instances, we may find satisfaction in not responding and turning the other cheek. After all, that’s what Jesus told us to do. Unfortunately, we are missing the rest of His guidance of how we respond to one who hurts us.

Obviously, we need to learn how not to react to the raging emotions that fly through the air like the wicked witch of the west. Yet, we stop there and think we’ve pleased God.

Unfortunately, we’ve bought into the lie Satan would have us believe. Even if we recognize the truth of the circumstances, we fall short of the goal. First, the emotions prevent us from realizing there is more to the situation than just enduring. Certainly, it takes spiritual maturity to do that. But, if we are to grow spiritually, we must look beyond what we feel – beyond the hurt or pain. To be devoted to Christ means we must endeavor to take that next step.

Do we ever consider what it is that God might be trying to illustrate to us? Do we ever think about the fact that the Creator of the universe has control over everything that happens in our lives?

If we refuse to see God’s hand in whatever painful circumstance we are experiencing, then we might as well respond in our human nature. This is the truth we must see. If we just endure – you know, grit your teeth and stick it out – then we aren’t moving in obedience.

Different circumstances certainly require different actions. Yes, there may be times when we do nothing in our human behavior. Someone wounds us; we refuse to respond in the natural way by striking back. Nevertheless, without trying to see what God wants to show us, we aren’t actively seeking God’s perspective.

And that’s what it’s all about. God doesn’t usually change our circumstances. What He does change is our perspective, but if we aren’t willing to respond in that way, then we aren’t being obedient.

"To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously." Luke 6:27-30, The Message

Blessings, Francine

Consequences of drifting

It is easy to say we listen but, as noted in the previous post, listening implies action. Either we follow the direction God is leading us or we don’t. In other words, we are anchored in God’s word or we are drifting away.

Moses summed it up a little differently but with significant meaning.

“I’ve brought you today to the crossroads of Blessing and Curse. The Blessing: if you listen obediently to the commandments of God, your God, which I command you today. The Curse: if you don’t pay attention to the commandments of God, your God, but leave the road that I command you today, following other gods of which you know nothing.” Deuteronomy 11:26-28, The Message.

Look closely at his words. The blessing is listening obediently. Being able to discern God’s guidance to us doesn’t come naturaly to most. Those of us who have learned what it means to be obedient quickly grasp that the listening is the blessing because, if we truly belong to God, obedience leads to something amazing. If we are living as our Creator intended, it means we are filled with a supernatural peace, regardless of circumstances.

The curse is that when we don’t pay attention to God’s commandments we will leave God’s presence and thus follow other gods. The scariest part of this curse is the remainder of the verse, “gods of which you know nothing.” There are many instances of God’s people doing just this. As they left God’s presence, they drifted from the Truth.

They subsequently were enticed into believing in other gods and always suffered the consequences. Sure, many of these gods promised prosperity and protection, but when it came down to it – when there was a showdown of power between God and these deities – they not only didn’t win, many times, they didn’t even show up.

We sometimes scoff at the stories in the Bible attesting to other forces in this world. However, we place ourselves in danger when, like listening to God’s direction and will in our lives, we don’t accept all truths found in the Bible. If Moses, one of God’s spokesmen, talked about other gods, then you had better believe there are other gods.

The truth is we no longer recognize them. Many worship at the altar of money or power and, as we drift from God’s road, we find ourselves trapped in a belief that money or power is the answer to everything. Yet, the more we have, it seems the more we want. It’s never enough. We also sacrifice at this same altar. Instead of investing in our spiritual life, we ignore God. That’s usually the first step quickly followed by the sacrifice of our family, friends, and relationships. The same can be said for our seemingly insatiable hunger for power, success, and acceptance. We become willing to do anything in order to worship these gods.

If you’ve drifted from the road, what modern-day gods are you following?

Blessings, Francine

Are you listening?

Do you listen or do you hear?

Some would wonder what the difference is. In our life, it can be the disparity between peace and turmoil, and in our spiritual walk, it can mean the difference between submission and disobedience.
On face value, the definitions appear similar in that we all hear; in other words, we perceive things by our ears. Hearing implies the ability to recognize sound. Everyone, with the exception of the “hearing impaired,” hears – the doorbell, laughter, and conversations.

Listening, on the other hand, implies an effort made on our part to hear. In other words, to pay attention and heed, thus implying action. We listen to our children, our boss, and our spouse. When pursuing an education, a career, or a relationship, the difference between hearing and listening can result in failure or success.

Think about what you hear every day. In the world around us, sound is everywhere from the blaring of loud music to the shuffle of someone following close behind. Constant clatter pours forth from television and radio. These things can play in the background of our lives and we occasionally listen when the sound becomes offensive, frightening, or inviting.

Many noises blend into our surroundings, to the point we no longer notice them – the hum of the refrigerator, the low rumble of the heater kicking on, or the constant flow of vehicles outside our home or business.

All have become familiar.

But, what about God. Do we just hear Him or do we listen.

Many struggle in their walk of faith, desperately wanting to hear a word from the Father. That may be the crux of their problem. Are we being complacent in the midst of how God talks to us or are we eagerly listening?

God speaks to each of us in a kaleidoscope of ways – through His creation, music, His word, and through our pastors and teachers. The question is, are we just hearing or are we listening.

"Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil, Ecclesiastes 5:1, NASB

Blessings, Francine


God has recently impressed upon me both the call He’s laid on my life and the importance of my commitment to that call.

I’m a writer who writes by the leading of God. I consider it a ministry. The same holds true for my photography. I’m blessed in that He’s given me the desires of my heart. It was a long struggle between the Lord and me. For years, I was caught up in the world’s definition of success and satisfaction. God used physical circumstances to get my attention and, true to His word, brought me to a higher place. Psalm 18:19, New Living Translation, says: He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.

I’ve come to realize that only in consistent obedience to His call can I truly grow spiritually. This plays out in my two blogs, Words from the Heart and The Storyteller, as well as other avenues He’s opened to me.

This past year has been a challenge. The move from Heidelberg, Germany back to my home in Arizona took more time and effort than I ever imagined. Now it’s time to get back to work.

I believe that obedience is the most important thing we can do in our relationship with the Creator, second only to entering into an intimate relationship with Him.

If you do not know the Lover of your soul, I encourage you to meet Him.

“For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:8, New Living Translation

You could begin with the previous post (January 1, 2007) and information in the Special Note below. It’s not important where you begin, just that you take that first step.

In obedience to my Father, I will be posting here on a weekly basis. If my words touch your heart, I pray you’ll visit again soon.

Blessings, Francine

SPECIAL NOTE: I pray that each commentary I write here will bless you, but please understand that some are built on previous entries. I’ve tried to build a Biblical basis from which my thoughts are developed. It’s important that you understand my words aren’t the end of the story, so to speak. I would encourage you to check out previous entries if you have questions concerning what I’ve written. In addition, I’ve included links to several web sites that can provide much more detailed guidance than I’m able to do here. Check out “Running Empty” or “Power to Change” (see list of links to the right). For more in-depth study, you can visit “Now Try God” or “New Christian Life” as additional resources. The bottom line – don’t accept what I say as gospel. That’s what the Bible is for. An excellent on-line resource is BibleGateway.com .

Another good site is Crossmap, and not just because my inspirational messages can now be found there. This organization, which has been running since 2000, serves the Christian community as a web portal. There are great columns by talented nationally known writers and pastors, a wide variety of other Christian sites, news, and commentaries.

As always, I welcome your comments or you can contact me at tenderheartaz@yahoo.com

Open or Closed?

Are you open or closed to God?

If we aren’t open to Him and how He wants to guide our lives then we are closed.

It’s our choice. We can be receptive to all God has for us or we can reject what He has to offer.

It’s like opening a door or closing one. It takes an action on our part.

So many people believe God just sits on His throne and watches His creations run around like ants. While He never sleeps and His eye is even on the tiniest of sparrows, He also knows exactly what is going on with His creation. We are His beloved.

But He never forces Himself or His plans on us. You see, in His infinite love, He gave us free choice. I mean, after all, love isn’t love if it’s forced.

Will you open the door?

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. Romans 5:1, The Message
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