Tag Archives: loyalty

Staying True

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.
Philippians 4:1, NLT*

I was reading this verse, and praying for my family, that God would draw each one “truer” to Himself and keep us true to Him. Staying true to an invisible God is hard, if we let our personal time with Him slip. Life and busyness have a way of eroding that time, and without a vibrant, intimate connection with God, our loyalty drifts. We aren’t as faithful – or as faith-filled. We depend less on God and more on ourselves.

As I prayed, I saw something extra: “true” also means focused, fixed on – like our direction is “true” if we’re on the correct course.

This verse calls us to more than loyalty and faithfulness, to be true to God and not turn away or betray Him – although it clearly says that as well. It echoes a repeated theme of Scripture: to keep our eyes on God and keep pressing on to know Him better. He is our Sustainer and Shepherd in the journey, but He is also our goal – and our prize.

Focusing on Him prevents dwelling on the circumstances or on our differences. It gives unity to believers as well as personal balance, growth and faith.

God who is Lord of all, help us to seek You ahead of all else. Amid all the good You’ve given us, help us prize You most and desire You most. Help us to stay true to You. May our lives show others that You’re truly worthy of worship.

Here’s a medley of “Where You Belong” and “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” from the Newsboys’ upcoming album, Hallelujah for the Cross. I knew an older version from the 1990’s Newsboys. Love both. May this one bless you today.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Interview: Meet Imogen Browne

Imogen Browne is the main character in the novel Imogen’s Chance, by Paula Vince.

Paula Vince photo

Paula Vince, author of Imogen’s Chance

Janet: Welcome, Imogen. I’m looking forward to chatting with one of the voices in someone else’s head for a change. Please tell us the basics about yourself: age, employment, educational background, the usual “stuff” that helps us place one another in the world.

Imogen: I’m 24 years old. Until recently, I’ve lived at home in New York City with my family. My father is a paediatrician and both he and my mother are missionaries. My older brother, Scotty, is following in their footsteps. They’ve been very busy, helping to set up medical facilities in underprivileged areas of the world. One of their favourite spots has been way up in Australia’s Northern Territory. Don’t ask me what it was like though, because I didn’t go with them.

We’ve never had a typical family unit because there has been a steady stream of foster kids through our home ever since I’ve been old enough to remember. That’s been interesting. Not always good, because some of those kids have been pretty rough and mean to me. There’s never been a dull moment.

Since leaving school, I’ve done a bit of retail and secretarial work, as well as house cleaning. Nothing as noteworthy as the rest of my family, though. My parents and older brother are all very high achievers.

Janet: You live in Australia, right? Could you introduce us to your part of the country? What do you love about it? Anything you’d rather change?

Imogen: Australia isn’t my native home. I’ve just returned recently, to touch base with the Dorazio family, who I knew when I was younger. They live in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. It’s surely one of the world’s prettiest spots. Everybody should visit, if they possibly can. I find the climate pleasant, even in the winter, which the locals think is freezing cold. I can’t help laughing when they say that. If only they could experience a Northern Hemisphere winter.

There are all sorts of colourful birds and quaint wild animals here, such as koalas, kangaroos, bilbies and echidnas. You have to see them to believe them. There are clear, aquamarine skies, green trees all year round, vibrant, crystal-clear oceans – although I don’t like to think about the ocean. Especially after what happened during my last visit to Australia.

Janet: Sounds like there’s a painful story in that answer. I hope this visit goes better and you find a way to enjoy the ocean again. I’d love to visit Australia some day. If Paula gave you airline tickets anywhere in the world, where would you go? And why?

Imogen: I’d love to explore the rest of Australia, just to see the sights my parents and brother have seen. I’d go further north to see the deserts and tropics. And I’d explore each of the capital cities on the eastern coast. They only difference is, I would go for fun rather than to work. I feel a little guilty saying that. I was brought up to please and serve other people before thinking of myself. If my answer comes across as selfish or thoughtless, please forgive me.

Janet: It sounds like there’s been pain in your past, but you’re not going to let it define your future. Would you tell us about this chance you have to make a difference? And did it come to you, or did you have to pursue it?

Imogen: To be honest, I can’t help fearing I’m on a fool’s errand. My parents certainly think I am. Here’s the story. I thought I was going to die in hospital, but it turns out I had appendicitis. While I was in pain, I promised God that if only the agony would stop, I would return and try to make up to the Dorazio family for some things I did. Well, guess what? The pain stopped, so here I am.

The things I did were accidents, but the Dorazios suffered because of me, so I should try to make up for it. It seems the right thing to do. I’ve made my own opportunity. I bought the airline ticket and came to Australia, but now I’m feeling a bit deflated and very nervous.

Janet: It takes a lot of courage to do what you’re doing. Do you think this will work out? What – or who – might wreck it all?

Imogen: Well, I was really hoping Asher wouldn’t be around anymore. He’s the Dorazios’ youngest son. I heard he’d got a really good job. I was hoping he would have moved far away by now, because he’s the hardest one to face. No such luck, though. He’s still here, and he’s grown really good looking. I don’t know why I even mentioned that, because it has nothing to do with anything.

Well, perhaps it does. When we were little, he never used to be intimidating, but now he is. If he knew the extent of the damage I caused, I hate to think what he’d say and do. Let me put it this way. He’d have a right to be really angry with me.

Janet: And what happens if it all falls apart? If you can’t fix everything?

Imogen: I guess I’ll just have to fly back home to America with my tail between my legs. That is, if Asher leaves me standing, when he finds out what I’ve done. I know he has a temper.

Janet: Forgiveness sounds like it’s an important theme in your life right now, and maybe loyalty too. What do those words mean to you?

Imogen: The word ‘forgiveness’ actually makes me tear up a bit. It’s such a loaded word. I forgave somebody for something he did to me, but I don’t think I forgave him soon enough. If only I’d forgiven him on the spot, things might have been far different. I’d tell anybody to be quick to forgive. Having said that though, I can’t imagine Asher, or any of the others, being willing to forgive me, if they learn the full story. I wouldn’t expect them to. Perhaps it’s because I’ve let so much time lapse before deciding to do something, even though there’s not much I can do. If anybody could talk them into forgiving me, I’d be extremely grateful (and very surprised too).

As for loyalty, I guess Asher would be the one to ask about that. I don’t know what he’d tell you, though. He probably thinks that his big act of loyalty created a huge mess. I can’t talk to him about it, though, because then he’d find out the full story about me. It’s all so mixed up.

Janet: And what would you say to people keeping family secrets?

Imogen: I’d be the first to say that being open and honest is the best way to behave. It’s easier to treat an open wound than one which has been covered up and left to fester. As it is, I have to creep around the Dorazio family, keeping my mouth shut, because I’m just not sure what each individual knows about the whole mess.

Now I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ve said too much in this interview. I’d better keep quiet. I don’t want to hurt anybody by dredging it all up.

Janet: Is faith a part of your life?

Imogen: I really want it to be. I mean, I guess it is. I was brought up in a strong Christian household. My parents did their best to help us become fine, godly children. It’s just that it seems to have ‘taken’ for my brother, Scotty, while I’m not so sure about me.

I’m trying to be faithful, but I don’t really know what God’s leading looks like. I believe I’m keeping a promise to Him by coming here to Australia, but I wish there was some way I could know for sure that it’s not just my imagination.

Janet: Maybe you’ll find confirmation as you spend time with the Dorazios. When you were growing up, your parents probably told you the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan. The priests had to go and stand in the raging river before God stopped the water. It sounds to me like you’re standing in some pretty tumultuous waters right now, and I think God will honour that step of faith. Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Imogen: I’m clinging to Jeremiah 29:11, ‘I know the plans I have for you, to give you a future and a hope.’ I just wish I knew for certain whether coming back here might be part of His plan, and not just my own.

Janet: We all struggle with that one at times. What’s your favourite season? What’s that like in Australia?

Imogen: Summer has always been my favourite season, because it reminds me of long holidays, swimming and soaking up the sun. Here in Australia, it tends to get incredibly hot. Their heatwaves make the mercury soar for weeks. It’s a clear heat which blasts down on you, if you don’t wear a hat.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

Imogen: I like to relax with engrossing books, or take long walks. I also appreciate good talks with friends, although with the people around here, I’m not sure what I ought to say.

Janet: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Imogen: I’m really beginning to think it must be coming back here thinking I can make amends for what happened. It was a reckless decision without any forethought. But here I am, so I have to make the best of it.

Janet: I hope everything works out for you, Imogen. Thanks for visiting us today. 

===

Imogen’s Chance released April 1, 2014 from Even Before Publishing and is available worldwide through the Amazon online network in print and ebook formats.

Imogen's Chance, by Paula VinceShe has given herself a chance to fix her personal history. But will old mistakes bring up new emotions?

Imogen Browne longs to make up for past mistakes before she can move on. She quietly resolves to help the Dorazio family, whose lives she accidentally upset. Her biggest challenge is Asher, the one person who may never forgive her. And he is facing a crisis of his own. Imogen must tread very carefully, as trying to fix things may well make them shatter.

A sensitive story about misplaced loyalty, celebrating life and falling in love. Can family secrets concealed with the best intentions bear the light of day?

Come back on Monday to read my review of Imogen’s Chance.

When Faith Affects Our Lives

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
James 2:18, NLT*

James talks about loyalty to God—faith—and about how that looks in the Christian’s life. He gives practical examples (don’t practice favouritism, actually help your friend instead of just wishing him well) and I think that’s so we’ll realize our faith isn’t something we compartmentalize. It’s meant to affect everything we do, say and think.

The good deeds he’s asking for are to grow naturally out of applying faith in Jesus to our daily lives. There’s no eternal value in good work without a heart for God. People judge by appearances and actions, but God looks at the heart.

If our faith is growing, it will cause visible changes in our lives. We’ll learn to rely more on God in our daily thoughts, responsibilities and experiences. That’s one reason a daily quiet time with God is so vital.

Remember James’ words on accepting the word of God planted in our hearts? Prayer, listening, reading the Bible are key ingredients in a growing faith.

In our culture of busyness, over-calendaring and of being always “on call” to texts, emails etc, the danger is that there’s no time for God. We’re busy, distracted, and it’s easy to take God for granted. But if we don’t read His word, don’t spend time getting to know Him, how will we know what’s true? How will we know how to live or have the confidence that He can—and wants to—help us? We’ll be the unstable people James warns us about in his first chapter.

God who created us, who knows our hearts, help us be intentional in taking time with You. Give us hearts that long to know You better and to please You. Give us wisdom in how to use our time so we can do what You’ve given us to do and yet grow in relationship with You and with those You’ve given us. Give us faith, and work that faith out in our lives in good works—not for You but because of You.

Casting Crowns‘ song, “Lifesong,” makes a good prayer.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Enemies of God?

You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.
James 4:4, NLT*

James uses strong language here to make us see the seriousness of divided loyalty.

We live in the world, but as Christians we’re to live by God’s wisdom and not by following the world’s way.

“World” has two meanings here. We live in the physical world and are called to bring God’s love to our fellow inhabitants, but we’re also called to demonstrate a way of life that doesn’t match the natural, unredeemed human mindset.

It’s not about being against the world. It’s about being for God, choosing to stay close to Him, guarding our relationship with Him above all else.

It’s about faithfulness. Loyalty. Loving this God who loves us so much more.

The more we resist the desires and thought patterns that would damage our intimacy with God, the more we can grow in the abundant life He wants to give us.

We want it all—want it both ways—and we fool ourselves that it’s okay. But it’s stunting our spiritual lives, making us poor examples of what God offers, and it’s making us much less than God designed us to be.

And it’s offensive to Him.

Holy God, You love us but You require our full allegiance. Please forgive our disloyalty and help us to live for You. Take Your rightful place in our hearts, exalted and adored, and help us conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the hope and salvation You’ve so freely given us. 

Our song this week is Vicky Beeching‘s “Undivided Heart.” May it be our prayer.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Loyalty to God

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
James 1:27, NLT*

The more I read of James, the more I see his overall message is to accept God’s word and to let it change us from the inside out. It’s about loyalty to God and living life His way.

That unlocks a new level of understanding for me in this week’s verse. The most obvious meaning of “refusing to let the world corrupt you” is to not buy into, approve, or indulge in the many things society flaunts that God’s Word tells us to avoid.

In the choice between human ways and God’s, wisdom always follows God. After all, we humans can get ourselves into a heap of trouble.

But I think the implication here, the deeper level, is one of allegiance: of loyalty.

We may abstain from harmful behaviour and thoughts, but if we allow society and those around us to hold a greater influence over our thoughts, decisions or actions, we’re giving “the world” an authority in our lives that rightfully belongs to God.

We need to be considerate of others’ feelings, and God often speaks through the people in our lives whether they know Him or not, but our loyalty belongs to God.

He’s the one we need to go to first, because of His authority, His wisdom, and His genuine care for us.

God who is our Good Shepherd, forgive us for so often living a divided loyalty that makes us unstable in all we do. Help us focus on You in love and in worship. Work Your Word and Your way in and through us, so that we become more like Your Son. Grow us into loyal citizens of Your Kingdom.

A good song to keep our focus straight is Robin Mark‘s “Jesus, All for Jesus.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Is Your Loyalty Divided?

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you … But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty … should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
James 1:5-8, NLT* (emphasis mine)

Reading these verses in other translations, I always thought “do not waver” meant “don’t doubt” and it always left me a bit uncertain. Despite our best efforts, doubt can flicker in our prayers.

God knows that. Remember the father with the demon-possessed son? “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, NLT*)

The KJV uses “wavering” but the NIV actually says “you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave…” Both call the person “double minded.”

But this translation makes the real issue clear. Are we asking God for wisdom, leading, direction, but still holding onto worldly wisdom as a backup? No wonder it doesn’t work. If our loyalty is divided between God and the world, we’re sunk. (Click to tweet.)

That’s not to say God doesn’t want us to use our common sense, any more than He doesn’t want us to avail ourselves of doctors or other resources. But He does want us to look first to Him, to His power and His ways, and to go “all in” with what He says even if it’s counter-intuitive from a natural human perspective.

Remember His instruction for the Israelites to march around the walls of Jericho? God’s way works, because He works.

The context in today’s verses is wisdom, but I think the loyalty—which worldview we espouse and obey, where we look for our strength and encouragement—underpins everything we do.

In this light, I can understand “double-minded” to be like the man serving two masters. Of course it won’t succeed. We need to trust. And to commit.

Holy and all-powerful God, help us to fully embrace You as our source of all help and resources. Grow our faith so we can trust and obey You—fully and completely.

This week’s song is a hymn I love: “Be Thou My Vision.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.