Sunday, December 30, 2012

Prayer Letter - December 2012

As I look back over this past year, I can be nothing but thankful for all of God’s blessings, not only in my ministry, and the ministry of the Church here, but in my personal life: the birth of two new grandbabies, and the spiritual birth of three more. The joy of knowing now that 14 of my 36 grandchildren are saved should be reason enough to rejoice. And I do!

I’m going to count my blessings: The radio ministry, “Compassion Radio”, is reaching countless souls with the Gospel, broadcasting 24 hours a day. I could dedicate this entire prayer letter to counting the blessings of this ministry alone. Almost every week we have visitors attend our services, because of listening to the broadcasts.  Just yesterday, Tommy came into my office, and said, “Mom, I want you to come out and meet a couple who traveled two hours because they heard the broadcast. They just got saved!” A trucker who comes within range of the station during his runs, offering to drive someone to his house about 5 hours from here to talk to him and his wife so their marriage can be restored. If you have any part in this ministry, it’s only fair that you know the returns from your sacrifice. And if you don’t have a part already, I challenge you to invest your money and your prayers into something that will not return void.

The first of November it was my joy to travel to California to participate in a Ladies’ Conference at the Coast Hills Baptist Church. Pastor Bud Silva and Sandy are such gracious people, and made me feel like a queen. What a sweet time of fellowship we had, as they drove me the three hours back to Los Angeles the night before for an early flight the next morning. Thank you, Pastor and Mrs. Silva for the precious memories made. A special blessing: my daughter in law, Jolene, was also a speaker, so I spent some special family time with her and David, and my four grandchildren.

Thank you for your prayers and financial support for our 14th Annual Christmas Banquet this year. When my brother, Tommy Ashcraft, gave the invitation, two ladies were saved. One of them was at church the following Sunday morning with her teenage son, and last Sunday they were back with her husband.

I want my Christmas to be special this year, and keep the Lord Jesus as the focus of all the festivities. I want my shopping to take second place to my offerings to my church; as I prepare the dressing for the turkey, I want to sing Christmas carols with a joyful heart; when the feelings of depression threaten to remind me of eight years ago when God took my dear husband, I’ll remember our children he left behind for me to enjoy, and the 22 more grandbabies God has sent down in those 8 years. Although I’ll grieve over those who are not here, I’ll focus on those who surround me, and others far less blessed than I am, because they don’t know the Savior. May you, too have a Special Christmas, and a Blessed New Year!

Billie Sloan                                                                                                                          Nahum 1:7

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Foundations: Fickle or Firm? "

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock:” Matthew 7:25

I remember one time my husband decided to tear down a building he had built. He tore down everything…walls, beams, roof, doors…everything, except the foundation. I can take you to the place where I lived for several years, and we can walk on the foundation, because he couldn’t take that away. It’s still there. There have probably been high winds, and storms, earthquakes, heavy rains. But they haven’t harmed that foundation that my husband built so many years ago.

The passage in Matthew 7:25 comes from the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus preached while He was here on earth. He tells how that one day there are going to be people who think that because they have prophesied in His name, or because they cast out devils, and have performed miracles, this qualifies them to enter Heaven.

And then, as if He wanted to emphasize what He had said, He used this analogy: “Everyone who hears me, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain descended, the floods came, the winds blew, and beat upon that house. But it didn’t fall, because it was built upon a rock.

“But those who don’t hear what I say, and do not heed them, I will liken him to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand: and the rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

I love my house. When my husband went to Heaven, he didn’t leave me any money. But he did leave me our house that we had bought in the early 1980’s. It’s a refuge for me. Of all the material things he could have left me, I don’t think anything else could have brought me more joy. For a woman, her home is who she is. It’s there that she can develop her talents as homemaker, interior decorator, chef, entertainer, and all the other gifts God has given her. Happy is that woman who lives in her dream house, whether it is a mansion, or an old house like mine. Fall in love with your house, and ask God to help you to love it more than any other place on earth.

Do you have a dream house? Can you close your eyes and see your dream house? Maybe you’ve even drawn blueprints and plans for the house you will own someday, a house you have designed. Maybe you’ve hired an architect to professionally design your dream house. And to make you feel like your dream will someday be reality, you decide to invest some money to have professionally drawn plans. One day the architect explains to you that the first thing they are going to do is to dig a foundation. That will take time, money and a lot of hard work. But the only thing you see is that lovely home that you have dreamed of for years. The money you’ve saved, and all the sacrifices you’ve made have not been for something that no one will ever see. And guess what! You decide to dismiss the architect and make your own blueprints.

You’ve always dreamed of having a house at the beach, and since the architect insisted that you should start with a foundation, you soon discover how soft the sand is. This won’t require a lot of work, and it sure will be a lot cheaper.

I’m afraid there a lot of women who dream of having a lovely marriage, obedient children, and a happy home. The Divine Architect tells us how we can have all of that. In His Word He has drawn up the blueprint, how to have a happy marriage, children who honor their parents, and a home that is a little bit of Heaven on earth. Those who follow that plan, when the storms of life come and waves surround their house, (and by the way, they will come…sickness, financial setbacks) it will survive, and because it’s founded on the Rock, it won’t fall. It won’t end in divorce, in the desertion of children.

It may be that God will one day take your husband. For sure one day you are going to die. But if your home was built on the Rock, God will continue to bless it, even though you’re gone.

My desire is that when I’m gone to Heaven, my children, their spouses, and my grandchildren will continue to live their lives on the foundation designed by the Divine Architect, God Himself.

Jesus wasn’t talking of a literal house. Do you know what He was referring to? He was referring to lives. I believe we could apply this passage to marriages and homes without changing the meaning, because marriages and homes are made of lives, of people. There are marriages and homes today that are being destroyed because they weren’t founded on the Rock, and that Rock is Jesus Christ Himself.

Is your life founded on the Rock? Or have you built your life on the sand, on fickle foundations? What are these fickle foundations? Basically, the sand refers to human strength. If the Rock refers to God, the sand refers to humanism, human strength.

1. Money. (to have) A lot of people today make their decisions according to monetary gain. Mark 4:19 says, “And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”   I Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”  And verse 17 says, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;”  If you’re building the foundation of your house, your home, your life on money, it won’t hold up under the storms of life.

2. Education. (to know) I’m not against education. I have my teacher’s degree. Three of my daughters have their teacher’s degree. I taught our 8 children to read and write. Perhaps we should call this fickle foundation, careers, although neither am I against careers. My husband was a pediatrician. What’s more, there’s nothing wrong with having riches. The important thing is to use money, to use our career and our education to serve God, to honor Him. It’s when we allow those things to control our lives, when they become the foundation of all our decisions that they become fickle foundations. You should certainly educate your children, but make sure you know their teachers. What are they teaching your children? Do you know what’s in the books that the school uses to teach your children? We never sent our children to a public school. We taught all 8 of them at home. Be very careful, Mom, in the choice of the school where you send your children. Are their teachers’ lives founded on the Rock, on a firm foundation?

3. Power. The ladies in our church, my daughters and daughters in law every year work very hard on the preparations for our annual Ladies’ Christmas Banquet that takes place in November. This is for the purpose first of all, to honor the Lord, and to thank Him for sending His Son Jesus Christ to be born in a lowly stable. He was born to die for our sins. We can be nothing less than grateful for our Salvation, and for the sacrifice that He made for us. But the other motive of this event is to honor very special ladies who in some way contribute to the well-being of our town: the mayor’s wife, and the ladies who are part of his family; ladies who in years gone by have formed part of former mayors’ families; the head of the Red Cross; the president of businesswomen; a lady who has a radio and TV program especially for women; a congresswoman; the army general’s wife. We also extend that invitation to “first ladies,” as we call them, of neighboring towns, including the governor’s wife. Every month I meet with a group of ladies for our prayer breakfast for the purpose of praying for all these ladies. I don’t ever want to minimize the influence women have, not only in their homes, but also in their communities, in their state, and in their country. But what I’m talking about is the danger of putting value on people according to their position, their fame. Perhaps the lady who had the greatest influence on my life was my maternal grandmother. Did you know she was a poetess? I notice a lot of characteristics in myself that my grandmother had. I don’t have great talent, but I love writing poetry to my grandchildren on their birthdays. I believe that that small talent that God gave me was inherited from my grandmother. She taught me things about the Lord that I never heard in a message from a great preacher. She taught me to play a little pump organ that worked by moving the pedals up and down. Although I was very small, and my little legs were too short to reach the pedals, she would set me in her lap, and pump the pedals while I played. What an influence…what power she had on my life. However, she never became the first lady of a city or a nation. Even though some of her poetry was published, she never became famous; she never had a high position in government. But the influence of a woman named Rebecca still lives on in my life, and in the lives of my daughters. The Apostle Paul told Timothy,  his son in the faith, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” II Timothy 1:5. There’s nothing wrong with power or high positions in society, as long as they’re used to honor and glorify God. Do you think the mayor’s wife read her Bible before leaving her home this morning? Did she ask God to use everything she did to bring honor and glory to Him? How wonderful if she did. She’s using her position, her power to serve God. Her life, if she knows Jesus as her Savior, is founded on a firm foundation, on the Rock.

4. Emotions. (to feel) God made woman with emotions. He didn’t make us like robots. That’s why we cry at weddings, and at the birth of a baby. A lot of what we plan for our Christmas Banquets is to touch the emotions of the ladies present that night. Laughter and tears are very healthy expressions of our sentiments. A woman who doesn’t feel anything when she sees an abandoned orphan, who has been changed by the love of God, doesn’t know how wonderful the emotion of compassion feels. But I’m going to tell you something that may surprise you. You shouldn’t build your life upon emotions. If you decided to get married because of your emotions alone, your marriage probably didn’t last. We love to feel beautiful and happy. And when we don’t feel that way, we think something must be wrong. A lot of people attend church, and hear the Word of God, and if they’re not moved emotionally, they don’t accept it. Salvation isn’t a feeling. Salvation is a Person. The plan of Salvation is a fact. We are sinners; we deserve to go to hell; our works can’t save us; but Jesus Christ gave His life on the cross, He died in our place; He was buried; the third day He rose from the dead. When I was 8 years old I accepted Jesus as my Savior. Let me tell you something: I was very happy that night, I was very emotional when I realized that my sins were forgiven. I jumped up and down, and cried and laughed when it was time to go to bed that night. But that emotion and excitement didn’t last very long. Since that night things have happened to make me sad; at times I’ve been discouraged; I know what it feels like to be confused. But not one moment have I lost my Salvation, because my Salvation is founded upon the Rock.

What about you, my friend? Is your life founded on the Rock? The firm foundation upon which you should build your life is the Word of God. It’s there that we find in Deuteronomy 32:3 and 4: “…ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect:…” Jesus Christ is the Rock.