by Susan Sampson

“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”(Eph. 2:12-13).

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).

The song “All I Have Is Christ” also tells my story so well.

“I once was lost in darkest night, yet thought I knew the way. The sin that promised joy and life, had led me to the grave. I had no hope that you would own a rebel to your will. And if you had not loved me first, I would refuse you still. But as I ran my hell-bound race, indifferent to the cost, you looked upon my helpless state, and led me to the cross. And I beheld God’s love displayed, you suffered in my place. You bore the wrath reserved for me, now all I know is grace.”

These verses are my testimony. That must be why I’m always drawn to them. They are a reminder to me of who I once was and what Christ has done for me because of His love.

I was once dead. Recently the Lord graciously allowed me to remember some of who I was before Christ. I remember the darkness, the hopelessness, the loneliness and pain. I remember the ungodliness, the utter selfishness, the total depravity. I remember moments of wishing that my life would just end so the pain would stop. I had no hope and was without God.

But God! It wasn’t, “But I.” Jesus brought me near! I know I didn’t bring myself near. I was dead. I didn’t deliver myself. I was bound and gagged. A prisoner. I didn’t have the keys to my prison cell. I didn’t have a knife hiding in my back pocket to cut the ropes. I had only my sin. I looked pretty on the outside. Had cute clothes, some makeup, some smarts, some talents. Nothing that could have ever gotten me to heaven! All my righteous deeds were filthy rags.

Lazarus didn’t raise himself from the dead. The widow from Nain’s son didn’t (Luke 7). And Jairus’ daughter didn’t either (Luke 8). The blind didn’t restore their own sight. The deaf didn’t choose to hear. Those possessed with demons couldn’t get rid of them on their own.

Matthew records the healing of a man with a withered hand. “Then he [Jesus] said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other” (Mat. 12:13). The order of events is crucial. Imperative. Absolutely necessary! Jesus spoke before the man could act. That is the order in the entire Bible. It is all Christ. God alone has the power to create life.

I write this as I continue to wage war with my flesh, most especially right now my pride. My vile pride that as C.J. Mahaney describes, “contends for God’s glory.” Even as I write the weekly email, my flesh wants the glory. My flesh craves the praise of man. The formerly dead pauper girl wants everyone to think I’m so great. It’s sick. I know the meaning (and I’m sure not even the half of it) of Jeremiah 17 which describes our hearts as desperately sick!

My flesh also still tries to contend for God’s glory in wanting to think I contributed in some way to my salvation. I shared my story recently with my physical therapist. He told me I didn’t look like someone who used to smoke. Ah, yes, it feels so good to have someone think I’m good. I tried to explain how the Lord delivered me from that life. But he insisted it was my choice to turn from those “bad choices.” No–But God!

I can only humbly turn and thank the Lord for delivering me from the clutches of the dark lord. He delivered me. I can only cry out to Him in gratitude for the mercy He showed me, not treating me as my sins deserve, but “according to his great mercy he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:3-5).

I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I was dead. Jesus saved me. I didn’t save me. I didn’t raise myself from the dead. No one can or did. I give God all the glory for the amazing gift of my salvation. For if I did contribute in any way to my salvation, then grace would no longer be that amazing. It would be helpful maybe, but certainly not amazing. If I was able to reach out my withered hand first, then God would not be all powerful or sovereign.

It is my Beloved Redeemer who sought me out. Hosea who never gave up on the adulterous woman. Jesus, both the Author of my faith and the Perfecter of my faith. And He is the Sustainer of my faith. He alone is all powerful. Humans can’t resist Him. If we could then He would not truly be all powerful. If He’s not all powerful, then I can’t trust Him. But the truth of the Word tells us that God is God. He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. I can rest in Him. There is nothing that can separate me from His love. No one can snatch me out of His hand. I am safe and secure in Christ.

Thistlebend Quiet eMoment

by Laurie Aker

Focus Scripture: Luke 9:1-5 ESV

1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority
over all demons and to cure diseases,
2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.
3 And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey,
no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.
4 And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.

5 And wherever they do not receive you,
when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet
as a testimony against them.”

Jesus sent the twelve out to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

He told them,
“Take nothing for your journey.”

They were to depend solely upon Him.
His love.
His kindness.
His guidance.
And His provision,
whether directly or through others.

They were to proceed forward trusting Him
in everything and for everything.
Believing that God had gone before them,
that God would go behind them, above them, and beside them.
That God would go with them and
be their defense and their shield.

They were to depend upon Providence.
Merriam Webster’s definition of Providence is:
(1) “divine guidance or care,”
(2) “God conceived as the power sustaining
and guiding human destiny.”


How often do we seek to provide for
and to protect ourselves?
How often do we worry?

Each morning when we awaken,
we are called to follow our Lord and Shepherd,
trusting in His leading and providing.

How often do we doubt?
We probably don’t doubt His love and His care
as much as we doubt our ability to hear His voice or
follow His guidance.
But without realizing it, we are saying virtually the same thing.
We are saying that as God He isn’t able to watch over,
care and provide for, and guide.
The sheep are utterly and completely dependent upon
the shepherd to redirect them if they get off course.
It is not up to the sheep to know the way.
It is up to the shepherd.

We are to be His sheep.
We are to follow Him and not our own ways.

Psalm 95:6-7
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! 
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.  

Psalm 100:3
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.


Chose one truth from today and apply it to your heart.
Take it with you throughout the day.


Lord, please help us remember that you are our Shepherd
and that you will guide us as we seek to follow you.

We are your sheep.
We belong to you and no one else.
We are yours.

Help us take nothing upon ourselves.
Help us to depend solely upon you for everything.

In His hands for His glory,


by Angie Thomas

Jesus lovingly revealed to me today during a recent Who Am I in Christ lecture that I need to have a DTR with him.1 Yep, we need to have a “Defining the Relationship” talk.  It is sort of ironic because if you were to ask me, I would say that I have been in a very “deep” relationship with Him now for 15 years or more. What more would need to be defined in our relationship?  I love him, He loves me, signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours, Lord.

But as Laurie was sharing about what would it look like if we were really to believe His love for us, I had an “aha” moment. I often push Christ’s love away and minimize it because I am not willing to respond to it.  His love is so deep, so passionate, so lavish if I were to truly believe it and receive it, it demands a response and perhaps not the response I would like to offer.  A radical love demands a radical response, and honestly, at times I am not sure I am ready for this type of relationship with Him.  Lavish love seems so, umm… extreme.  I am not sure I am ready to “extremely” love Jesus.  I mean my mouth might say that I am, but what do my actions show?

What if he asked me to let go of the Nursing Certification I worked so hard for? What if he asked me to work with Him in helping to heal people spiritually and never allowed me to go back into nursing and physically healing people? These are questions I have been wrestling with lately.  It would be pretty extreme, especially since I am still paying on school loans from my Nursing Certification. But is Jesus worth it?  What if he asked me to share the gospel with my neighbor who I have known now for 10 years and every conversation I have had with her about Jesus and God has been vague and unclear.  What if?

What would be the extreme love response He might be asking of you? Perhaps He is asking you to leave a relationship with a guy who is not a believer.  Perhaps He is asking you to sacrifice sleep for time with Him, even though you know you are a person who needs 7-8 hours of sleep?  What if he wanted you to sacrificially extend grace and forgive a family member who is difficult to love? What if He was asking you to take a step of faith in your job situation?

All of this talk of radical love sort of reminded me of an awkward talk I once had with a guy who I was dating (before I was married:) who really liked me and I really didn’t reciprocate the feelings.  We had a DTR and he went on and on about how much he loved me and thought I was amazing, blah, blah, blah.  As I sat listening to it, I honestly felt repulsed.  I didn’t have mutual feelings for him, so I sort of felt like barfing instead of reveling in his words.  It made me squirm.

I think in a way I have had a similar response to Jesus.  The “He loves me passionately, sacrificially, completely” rhetoric sort of makes me squirm, because if I am honest I don’t know if I reciprocate that radical love towards Him. Sometimes, I think I would rather have a business contract with God rather than a covenant signed in blood.  That way I could agree to all the terms and conditions up front. The “sign your life away” deal Jesus says defines His disciples is a little unnerving. But, this teaching is repeated in all the Gospels: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it(Matt 16:23-25; cf. Mark 8:34-38; Luke 14:25-35; John 12:20-26).

This might seem discouraging, but really it is a reason to celebrate.  Without the grace and love Jesus pours out to us, we could never love Him in this radical way. But John tells us, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). He is the initiator and perfecter of our love and faith! This is reason to do the Happy Dance, girls!  It’s not about us or our performance.  We are completely incapable of loving him in this radical, sacrificial way. But as we confess and cry out to Him in our weaknesses, He is able to transform us.

I am so thankful for my recent DTR with Jesus.  It has helped me to again cry out for a completely surrendered life and love for Him.  What about you?  Don’t be afraid.  His perfect love casts out fear (cf. 1 John 4:18). Be honest with Him and He will do an amazing work in your heart, enabling you by His grace and Spirit to love Him in the same radical way He has loved you.

1In the lecture, Laurie asked the ladies to have a DTR with the Lord.