Faith and Pressure

Lately it seems like many people I know are struggling with many different pressures of life. Financial challenges, relationship issues, physical struggles seem to be attacking so many of God’s people. Life seems to be harder for so many people right now. The winds of adversity have been blowing hard. The temptation is to want to find a way of escape from their relentless blowing–at least that is my initial response!

What is your reaction when adverse things begin to take place? Why is this happening to ME or my family? Does fear raise its ugly head and try to take root in your heart? Life here on this earth, comes with adversity. It just does. If we keep being surprised by them, then maybe we need to grow in our understanding of life on this earth versus life that will be in heaven. Scripture tells us that in this world we will have tribulation, but be of good cheer because He has overcome them.

But how do we handle the pressures of adversity? First we must understand we do not face them alone. Our God is with us, working all things together for our good. When natural winds occur, they clean the air, help distribute seeds for new plantings, and they help birds complete their migration. Strong winds test the roots of trees, causing weak rooted trees to be blown over so younger trees can take their place.

Winds of adversity in our lives often reveal our stamina or lack thereof. When things get hard and we want to quit, we have to “dig deep” as they say, and choose to stay the course. Choosing to continue on God’s path when these winds are blowing contrary takes perseverance, trust and tenacity. There are some things in life that there is no choice but to push through. I remember in the middle of laboring my son, I just wanted to quit. Since my body reacts differently than most women, I did not have the “urge to push”, so I just quit. I was tired and I didn’t want to “do it anymore”. In the midst of the pain, I lost sight of the goal. The wonderful nurse whispered in my ear, “in just a few more pushes you will be able to hold your baby, and we will all go away!” I don’t remember which was more motivating, the idea of seeing my child or the fact I could get rid of the annoying people telling me what to do, but soon our dear son was born. In reality, I had no choice but to finish that race. Other times, we must choose to renew our commitment and walk on.

When the pressures of life begin to assail, we need people around us to remind us of our purpose and plans. I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit and God’s Word that brings us hope and encouraging stability, but sometimes I need people who have been there and done that, to come along side and remind me that I, too, will make it! Storms do not last forever. As I walked the difficult journey after Darryl’s stroke, trying to come to grips with my new normal, I would have to stop and remind myself not to worry about the tomorrows. Matthew 6:34 so don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. For you young parents, remember the current season your infant, baby, toddler, pre-schooler, elementary child, high schooler–is in will pass. The night feedings, the toddler tantrums and the angst of growing up, though difficult, are best done in the present–with an eye on the future. His grace is sufficient for our today issues. If you are facing storms in your marriage remember your vows and the reason you married in the first place. Take a deep breath and remind yourself of God’s love and that He is with you in every day circumstances. Seek His wisdom and His ways. Do not let your thoughts run rampant. Capture them quickly.

If things seem overwhelming and you need help, ask for it. Somethings are too heavy to bear alone. Humble yourself, if need be. Many times just talking about how you feel will bring perspective and understanding. This is why God has placed pastors, teachers and leaders in His body–if they can’t help, they can lead you to someone who can. Too many suffer in silence in their own island because they are embarrassed to reach out. Do not be one of those people, listening to the lies of the enemy telling you no one cares. It is not true. I am available! Reach out to me, if you need a listening ear. Many times I have shouted out my prayers to the Lord, or taken time to write my thoughts and prayers in a journal.. Simply taking the time to name your feelings (cares) and then cast them back to Him brings the relief and hope needed.

In the midst of so many facing adverse circumstances I have also been amazed at how many prayers God is answering as well. He is not far off, but a very present help in time of trouble. Do not be jealous, or disappointed if you see others getting their prayers answered, but be encouraged He is not a respecter of persons! Your time is coming.

Faith and The Challenges of Walking in Unity

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves unified in the Spirit binding yourselves together iwth peace. For there is one body and one Spirit. Ephesians 4: 1-4

Reading Paul’s beautiful moving words of exhortation makes me want to say–yes, yes these are very good things. However, as I begin to really take them a part, I realize that these are also very challenging words. Even as I typed those words, “a prisoner for serving the Lord”, I realized he earned the right to encourage us to walk this way because of all the things he had gone through. When I was a teenager my parents took us on a trip to Europe. My father took us to the sight of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. It was dark, cold and damp. Not a pleasant place at all. It was here he wrote this letter. So reading his reference to his imprisonment makes it real. The things he suffered for the Lord’s sake really does give him credibility and a platform to challenge us to stand taller in our walk with the Lord, and to “walk worthy of our calling”.

The challenge of walking in unity means we acknowledge the fact that we and the rest of the body of Christ are called by God. As we move closer to our US Elections, it will be increasingly challenging to fight for this unity. But if we can keep Paul’s wise words in mind and in action, the whole body will benefit. Walk humbly and gentle. Humility is not always easy to implement–especially when you feel you are right; adding gentleness is another aspect that often gets left out of our interactions with others. These admonitions are equally helpful when interacting with family and friends as well. Practicing being patient and learning to make allowances for one another’s faults because of your love can be a daily struggle. Oh, how I want others to make allowance for my faults, to give me the grace and understanding that I need; but do I do the same for others? Growing up into the maturity of Christ is understanding people are not perfect, nor will they be until the Lord comes. It is often easy to criticize those we don’t know–because we don’t really love them. I want to address my results driven friends. Do not let your focus on the “results” cause you to excuse these admonitions from the Lord through Paul. In the long run, you will see much more beneficial and fruitful results if you walk in these truths.

As Paul goes on the Ephesians 4 we discover his passion for unity even more. I want to encourage us all to ask the Lord to help you to learn to walk humbly with your God, in new measures. To learn to appreciate those different than yourselves, is a growing sign of maturity. We, as believers, are on display. It is a privilege and an honor to represent Jesus Christ, isn’t it?

Faith and Monitoring Your Air Quality

Here in the west we have been acutely aware of air quality conditions.  As wildfires have broke out in California, Oregon and in my own state of Washington our air has been polluted.  At one point Seattle had the worst air quality in the whole world!  It has been encouraging to see our air quality index moving toward healthier air, but we are still unhealthy for people in sensitive groups.  Seeing the number improve is good for our moral and our bodies.

But what about our spiritual air?  Is your spiritual air polluted?  Is it cloudy with the haze of unbelief, distrust or disappointments?  Have you  been “fellowshipping” with doubters, those with critical spirits, or those walking in hostility?  Maybe you have found those in your own soul!  Galatians 5:19 declares: When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties and other sins like these. Wow, those are enough to pollute anyone’s air!  If we were to add bitterness and frustration to the mix, it would be hard to look up and see where, when and how God is working.

We need clean, clear air to breathe, both physically and spiritually.  I pray that the winds of the Holy Spirit would begin to blow hard and strong in and through each of our lives.  We need to breathe in the freshness of His Spirit.   In the natural, polluted air can cause temporary head aches, respiratory issues and an increase in anger and frustration.  Long term effects can be heart disease, lung cancer and can actually cause damage to people’s nerves, brain, kidneys, and other organs.  Way more damage than I knew.  But no matter how horrible physical air pollution, the long term effects of spiritual pollution are even worse.

Spiritual pollution leads to blindness.  It causes us to lose sight of the goodness of God, the hope we have in Him and even mistrust His leaders, our calling and our relationship with Him.  These can be deadly to our souls.  Viewing life distorted by spiritual pollution does not lead to life and godliness that He has provided for us.  Minimally we live beneath His best for us, gasping for air, living in a oxygen deprived state of exhaustion and irrational thinking.

So how do we blow out this polluted atmosphere?  We have been given several tools, not only to clear our air, but also keep it clear!  First, we must recognize that we need some clear air.  The blessing of the Holy Spirit is that He is constantly helping remind us that we need His Presence; however, if we ignore His nudgings, He is a gentleman and will not force Himself upon us.  But He is faithful to come again and again.   God’s Word is our first line of defense.  Taking time to pray before you read the Bible is so helpful.  “Father, lead and guide me in your truth” sets our hearts to be teachable and receptive to His Word. 

Another way to bring His wind is through praise and worship.  Entering into His presence brings His peace and clarity.

Communion is also so helpful.  To me, it is like God’s reset button.  It reminds me of why I need a Savior and that I have one.  Allow yourself to really meditate and receive His forgiveness and love. You can take communion any where, alone or with others. Simply grab a piece of bread, some juice and remember what He did for you.

Community–worshiping together with mature believers is so important.  When one is down, another is up.  Helping each other walk with His purpose is another key to helping keep our spiritual air cleaner.  Taking time to pray for each other strengthens both the person prayed for and the person praying.

Sometimes we can know more about our condition than we know about what God knows about our condition.  What God says about our condition is the report we need to believe.  Darryl Rodman, pg130 Heart Treasure

Oh how true this is.  Not only do we need to know what He knows about our condition, we need to know what He SAYS about our condition.  When those truths become bigger than our own natural thought then we have moved from hopeful faith, to true faith.  Where we walk even though we can’t see.  Where we expect even though we can’t see how or where things will come from… and we trust He will make a way where there seems to be no way.

Let’s get some clean air of oxygen flowing in our lungs, both naturally and supernaturally and watch what God wants to do in your life.

Faith and Forced Change

I’ve been discovering lately that although, I enjoy many “new” things, others come with a bit of apprehension.  I  wonder if the Israelites felt the same joy and anticipation entering into the Promised Land?  For forty years they had lived in the wilderness as nomads.  Following a pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night they experienced a type of security in the sameness of their life.  But then things began to change.  Joshua replaced Moses as their leader,.  God began to give them new instructions and the manna they were used to stopped appearing.  It was time to receive God’s promise of a land flowing with milk and honey.  But  first they had to cross the Jordan River.

Joshua gave them three days notice in which to prepare for the crossing.   These instructions included the need to purify themselves and how to follow the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant. The purification process caused them to put away anything “unclean” from their presence and set apart themselves for the Lord. It was a time of renewing the reality of why they had left Egypt and the actual  purpose of being God’s people.   These were all things they could do.  Even though they were headed to the new land,  none of the steps in themselves were difficult.  But change was coming.

I have often wondered how the priests felt when Joshua ordered them to “take a few steps into the river and stop there”.  What courage it must have taken for Joshua to declare that the water would stop upstream and become a wall so they could pass through on dry land.  Remember the Jordan river was overflowing its banks because it was harvest time, so it wasn’t a lazy or shallow river at this time.  But the priests did as Joshua commanded, the river did what Joshua said and the people passed over on dry ground!   It must have been amazing to experience this miracle.  Joshua and Caleb both had the memory of how God had opened the Red Sea for Moses, but I can imagine Joshua having to still his mind from going to “but that was Moses and he has his rod”, I but I am only me! (Well, those might have been my thoughts!)

God, through Joshua, led His people into new levels of  trusting  and faith through change.    The Israelite’s had gotten comfortable with the manna routine, but now they had to forage for their food.  They had to adjust to a new leader and his ways.  The  pillars of fire and cloud stopped directing their movements–which caused even more changes.  These were all good changes.  They were changes that brought them closer to inheriting this land God had promised them.

He is still leading us to new levels of faith and trusting Him, and many times it is through the tool of change.  Some change, if it is OUR choice, seems easier than choices outside of our control.  Covid 19 has brought much unwanted change to many people.  Lost jobs or businesses, death of loved ones or simply having to add masks and hand sanitizer to our shopping list means change.   For many depending on where you live: wildfires tornadoes, or hurricanes have forced change as well.  God knew crossing the Jordan would necessitate change for His people.  He understands all the things that bring change in and through us.  We must learn to lean on Him even more.  I believe good things are coming as we navigate these changes.  If you are in a season of forced change, please know the grace of God is with you.  You are not alone and He has a plan to bring you through this season with even more fruit.  If you know people who have been forced to change, please pray for them. Support them.  Love them.  Help them.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.  Isaiah 26: 3

Faith and Waiting

When I was a child waiting for Christmas was exciting and frustrating.  I wanted it to come now, but also learned the joy of anticipation.  Waiting for vacations, birth of a new baby or birthdays is a bit easier now, for I know that all I have to do is let the days go by and enjoy the wait! I think this type of waiting as the the “eager waiter”.  But there are others.

Then we have the frustrated waiter. This type of “waiter” is the pacer, the “I wonder what is taking so long type of waiter”.  I once literally spent thirty minutes in a drive thru lane.  I timed it!  I felt bad for the staff.  Not sure what was the problem, but I chose to be patient.  Not everyone was that understanding.  Fortunately I was not on a schedule.  Then we have the distracted waiter–one who fills up his mind and body with busyness to help him avoid the big issue at hand.  Sometimes these folks can get very productive during these waiting times.  This type of waiting is usually  more short term.

Another type of waiting is waiting for the “unknown” to happen.  Did I get the job?  Did I get the promotion I tested for months ago?  Have I been accepted to the college program I applied for?  What are the biopsy results?

During this waiting time, I have employed the steps Philippians 4:6-7 instructs.  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.    It helps me capture the worse case scenario thoughts.  How about this season of Covid?  Are you waiting for the “all clear” for when life can resume–fully open and free?

I know I am.  I think I have been a patient waiter for most of this season.  However, there is another BIG event scripture tells us to look for, anticipate and long for.  That is the second coming of the Lord.  As a child I would look up at an amazing cloud display and wonder, is this the day?  Of course many days and years have passed and we are still waiting.  But as the days and difficulties are growing, so is my longing for His return.  It is our hope as believers, that no matter what our current situation is, Jesus is coming again.  I Corinthians 4:17 reminds us:  for our light and momentary affliction, which is but for a moment is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.  We have eternity to look forward to and we must not let Satan rob us of that amazing truth.  Life here on earth is fleeting.  So while we are waiting let’s do the work of the ministry that He has called us.  Let us be busy about our Father’s business and occupy till He comes.  Let’s be grateful sons and daughters who spread the light of His love and truth.  Maranatha.  Come Lord Jesus Come.  Let’s be active waiters!

Father, I thank you for your promised hope of your coming again. I thank you that in that promise you also come into our everyday situations and bring your help and hope.  I pray for my friends who need this hope re-kindled in their difficult times.  I trust your timing, my Lord. 

Faith and Birthday Thoughts

Yesterday was my 71st birthday. Just a date on a calendar to many. I don’t “feel” any different than I did the day before, but the fact is I have fully entered my 7th decade! My children and friends made it feel special and significant. Thanks to FB I received wishes from so many friends and as we all know, it adds value to our lives! I appreciate those who took the time to simply say “Happy Birthday” and even more to those who customized it a bit!

My children loved me well. Simply asking what I wanted to do–be with them and play games. It was made even more special with unexpected phone calls–some I didn’t get to answer because I was too busy “partying”. My heart is full today with God’s grace and His love. I think back on our birth–yes, ours because I am a triplet! Only God’s mercy, grace and plan could see that we three around three pounder babies, born in a small cabin without medical help would live to fulfill the plan He has for us. I know my mother, who labored virtually alone was a praying mom. I know God answered her prayers that we would live. There were no ultrasounds nor for her, any prenatal care, just an understanding that after five other children, she was with child. Apparently when she told my father, she thought she was pregnant, he said, no you are just getting fat. Not too supportive, eh? But instead of one, there were three.

But we lived, and grew into the women we are today. Each of us love Jesus, as I know she prayed. Each of us have walked through seasons of blessings and seasons of struggles. God has been faithful through it all. Maybe it is our mother’s prayers that have kept me moving on when I have wanted to quit. She struggled with mental illness, but still loved Jesus. My husband Darryl preached her memorial service from her worn Bible. Her life was difficult. She spent much time in mental hospitals and on medications. Many would look at her life and think it sad. I don’t think anyone would want to grow up and say, “I want to be like Bertha Swift”. But she left a legacy of eight children who love the Lord. She prayed and some how even though she wasn’t in our life actively as a mother (we three were adopted) I know she prayed from afar and God heard that prayer and answered. He is still answering those prayers.

I know several moms who wonder about their children and their legacy. Their children struggle with mental concerns as well. I want to encourage you to keep praying. Keep trusting and don’t give up. If you are a mom or dad who has lost contact with your children, please keep praying for them. That may be the only gift you can give them on their birthdays, your prayers. But keep giving those gifts. Remember Jacob lost contact with his son Joseph, thinking he was dead, but God brought them back together again. (I also wonder if his brothers prayed for him, during this time as well?) It took us over 25 years to physically meet our mother. In His time, He arranged it. I know she must have wondered about us.

All of us, reach out to those around you who may be mother less or father less. Their moms or dads may be praying you into the lives of their children. You may be someone’s answer to prayer, even if they have passed. Follow the Holy Spirit’s urging to love others. It is always worth it. Thank you Bertha Swift. Your prayers are still being answered.

Faith and Remembering Who You Are (With)

Today is a great day to remember that you are not alone. It is a day to remind yourself that He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). I don’t mean, oh yeah, I know. I mean that you Sometimes, even when we “know” this truth, we need to deliberately bring it to the forefront of our mind and remember WHO it is that is in you and with you. It is also a day of remembering He is Lord.

He is the God who created the universe, and He holds your world as well.

He is the God who listens to the bird song, and your heart cry as well.

He is the God who sees your struggles, and says I am your strength.

He is the God who from the beginning of time has a plan for the world, and that includes your life as well.

He is the God who spoke and the world was formed, He’s given you a voice to join His Words to bring change to your world.

He is the God who is always present, even when you feel alone.

He is God, even in the shadows of death or fear, you are not alone.

He is the God of all Hope, even when you feel hopeless.

He is the healer of broken hearts and broken dreams, He is your restorer.

He sent Jesus His Son to save His people from their sin, that includes you!

He is the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, let Him reign today in your life.

He is a Faithful God, and He is faithful to you.

Friends, 2 Chronicles 14 tells a story of Asa, king of Judah faced an army of Ethiopians. Asa had 300,000 thousand warriors–Zerah, the Ethiopian had 1,000,000, (yes 1 million) men fighting against Judah. Asa cried out to the Lord, O Lord, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O Lord for we trust in you alone. It is in your name that we have come against this vast horde. O Lord, you are our God, do not let mere men prevail against you! So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians in the presence of Asa and the army of Judah and the enemy fled. Asa could have simply surrendered, but he remembered the Lord His God and they were victorious. Later on in chapter 15 Azariah, a prophet, spoke to Asa and said, Listen, all you people of Judah and Benjamin! The Lord will stay with you as long as you stay with him! Whenever you seek him, you will find him. But if you abandon him, he will abandon you. Vs 5 goes on to say: During those dark times, it was not safe to travel. Problems troubled the people of every land. Nation fought against nation and city against city, for God was troubling them with every kind of problem. But as for you, be strong and courageous, for your work will be rewarded. When Asa heard this message from Azariah the prophet, he took courage and removed all the detestable idols from the land of Judah and Benjamin…

I think the troubles we are facing stem from God allowing us as nations to do our own sin thing. It is time to remember whose we are and allow Him to be Lord of our life, He will show us the way through with victory and strength. It is a time to remember Him and His ways. It is time to not only remember He is Lord, but allow Him to be yours.

Faith and Dealing with Anxiety

I think most people in this day and age would agree–these are stressful times. Maybe more stressful on our soul, body and spirits. This week I’ve encountered sad news, bad news and distressing encounters. How about you? I’ve also had some good news, happy news and answers to prayer! The Lord showed me that the negative news seems to cling much longer than the positive.

The first thing we have to do is accept the fact these kind of things do touch our soul. None of us are impervious to the effects of difficulties. As much as the “perfect” me can carry and deal with hard things–I had to admit I can’t, but He can. So what does that mean? It takes time and deliberate steps to process the negative news and give it over to the Lord. I Peter 5: 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares for you. The King James version uses the word cast. Either way there must be a transfer of sorts–from us to Him. Anxiety and cares in the Greek is mermna. From meiro-“to divide” and noos, “the mind”. Our anxieties and cares come into our lives and divide our thoughts and distract us from His thoughts and His ways. Merimna means to be anxious beforehand about daily life. We have a savior who is looking after those things. It is not our portion. When things come fast and furious at us, it is hard to take the time to do the transfer. But we must do so. An often missing step is to pray about the situation, but not do the transfer. I have had to slow down and prayerfully, give Him each and every care. As I really focus on Him–His ways and His words, my faith and trust grows so I can truly make the transfer. Then it is up to Him how He chooses to answer these prayers.

Psalm 139:23 Search me O God, and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Understand, He already knows every area of our thought life. I encourage you to read the entire Psalm. It is so encouraging and up lifting. God knows those areas of our heart that trouble us. Do not fear praying this prayer. It is often the first step to greater freedom in our walk with Him. He searches with grace and mercy, but also with truth, and that truth always bring freedom. Freedom from guilt, shame and the resulting anxiety from carrying such emotions saddles us with. When we take time to pray these “transfer” prayers, the Holy Spirit often points out areas where we need to grow in trust, or allow His finished work on the cross to be applied. Revelation 12:11 tells us we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

This week as I received the sad news, bad news and even disturbing news I made a conscious effort to focus on the positive news. At our Life Group I listened with intent at the God stories the ladies shared. I asked them to pray for some of my “stuff” and their caring prayers touched my heart. We need the two or three believing in agreement often times to help us know we are not alone.

As I took the time to transfer my cares to Him, joy came. Peace came. Hope came. It took time, but I was with Him and that was good!! I encourage you to do the same–make it a habit!

Faith and Developing Unity

Our last Blog focus dealt with the concerns that arise when healthy discussions turn into no-win debates which then can lead to difficult divisions in the body of Christ. As I prayerfully pondered the next step–I began to meditate on what can we do, rather than what we can’t. We each have a choice to choose to develop unity or foster division.

Over the years, raising three children and now helping impact ten grandchildren I have been confronted with sibling disputes of all kinds. As a young mom, I don’t think I always handled it as wisely as I could, but all three of my children are still alive with children of their own! In other words they made it to adulthood without killing each other–at least physically. As they moved into adulthood, they worked hard in reconciling some remaining misunderstandings and hurts. Sibling disputes come with the territory. The same in church. 1 Corinthians 3 Paul points out the various camps that had arisen in the church at Corinth. “I am a follower of Apollos”; “I am a follower of Paul” were two ways the church was dividing itself. Paul’s words clearly pointed out their immaturity in fostering jealousy and quarrels. He sought to change their perspectives. After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. (I Corinthians 3:5 He goes on to declare, For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building. I Corinthians 3: 9.

And so it is with us. We are God’s field. He is planting the types of seeds He wants to grow in and through our lives. It is His choice. Ephesians 4 lays out the differing parts of the body and how they are to function as one. We must grow up. This is a season where we must learn to lay aside our petty differences and begin to appreciate each of our teammates. We have to settle that in our hearts. Every believer we meet, no matter their stand on the end times, styles and timings of baptisms, the place of Mary in worship, or what day of the week we need to meet if they have received Jesus as their Savior is not only our fellow soldier in the warfare against Satan–but our brother and sister. We must learn to discern and honor the body of Christ.

I confess there are some denominations I simply do not understand why they focus on certain things over others that I think are important. I came to realize they are following the Lord and are being obedient to what they feel is important. Just like I don’t like certain foods, so I choose not to go to those type of restaurants without being critical of how they cook their food! Let’s celebrate the differences, or at least celebrate the fact, (hopefully) that you are not under their policies! I believe this Covid pandemic is asking us to grow up. Laying down our childish ways, and taking up our cross daily. As it grows darker, we need every light there is to shine brightly for His glory.

Jesus prayed that we would be one. Let’s join in that prayer. Let’s ask the Father to show us if there are any hindrances in our lives that we can need to change so we can help His prayer be answered. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t. We can always grow in the fruits of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such is no law. I think as we work on cultivating those fruits, we will definitely be moving toward unity. Remember their is power in unity.

Faith and Discussion, Debate and Division

So many differing opinions have arisen these past few months. Conversations quickly turn from discussions to debate and then if not checked into divisions–even among God’s family. I have even surprised myself with the struggle to explain my thoughts and how quickly I find myself on the defense. Masks or no masks, gathering or no gathering, was this a planned pandemic? Or did it unfortunately just happen? So many questions, so many thoughts–who can you trust? What can you trust? How do we, as believers, proceed?

First, I want to apologize for the times I have moved from healthy discussion into debate. When we first began the shelter in place phase, the Holy Spirit spoke quite clearly to me, stay home and stay safe–you are important to the body of Christ. I repeat this with humility, because I am just His servant attempting to follow Him. So I very carefully stayed away from going out. My family did my shopping, or I ordered on line and did not darken a store for two months. When the Lord spoke to me, I simply chose to obey. I felt an immense peace about His request. I respect the fact that others had different assignments from Him. Washington was on the front lines of this pandemic in the United States. We were learning how to be safe (and still are). I am grateful for technology that kept our church and Life Group connected. Everyone was grappling with the “new” normal, with a seeming common enemy–Covid-19.

But gradually people began to share differing points of view from what they heard. Friendly discussions crossed into the beginnings of debate with obvious defensive points being lobbed by both sides. FB became a hot mess with both sides being presented as absolute Truth. Was this a planned conspiracy from the beginning? Or was it the result of our sinful world which is full of sickness and disease just manifesting itself? Are we subtly being groomed like mindless sheep for future restrictions? All I know is we serve a Sovereign God who is reigning over our lives. I choose to be His sheep, seeking Him and His ways. I do know that as we pray in agreement for God’s will to be done, it will be. How sneaky of our enemy to try to get God’s body to divide over mask wearing?

As the Holy Spirit began to talk to me about my part in accelerating the debate issue, I repented and ask for wisdom (again!). Romans 14 is an amazing chapter for this day and age. Paul talks to the differing perspectives over two major issues facing the Roman church. Food choices and which day of the week to worship. These were not essentials of solid doctrine, but a matter of personal perspectives. Paul shares some amazing wisdom that I believe if we applied today, we would be farther ahead!

Romans 14:4, who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval. In other words, we must follow our own conscience. We must allow others to follow theirs without criticism or judgement.

Romans 14: 17, For the kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If we please God, and others will approve of you too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

This is a time for maturely approaching our perspectives. Proverbs 18:19 says an offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city, Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars. Let us work hard not to offend our friends with our stance, but listen with an open heart. Trusting their Master will lead and guide them as well as us into His truth. Let us listen first of all to our Master–and His wisdom.

My friends, healthy discussion is that, healthy. Listen with loving ears. Debate for debates sake is at best useless, but can lead to harmful division. We can agree to disagree or like medieval writer, Rupertus Mildenius: On the essentials, unity; on the non-essentials, freedom, in everything love. As churches choose to open or not, let us love those that choose to attend, and keep loving those who are not yet free to do so. Romans 12:12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying!

Faith and Groanings

There it goes again. Another bit of sad/bad difficult news that already is adding to my soul burden. I find myself letting out a big sigh and maybe even a groan or two as I process the information. How about you? A family member with relationship issues, bad diagnosis from the doctor, the struggle of discernment between truth and distortion in the news–all can lead to a sense of overwhelming burden and care. Reading Romans 8:26,27 this morning was so comforting and reassuring to remind us of how we have the Holy Spirit who not only understands our groanings and sighings, but comes along side us to help us in those moments.

Groan: a low, mournful sound uttered in pain or grief. Science tells us that the act of groaning actually is a primal way of releasing stress. It stimulates the part of your brain that helps assess whether you are safe or not. When people are in intense physical pain they often moan and groan–scientific studies have shown people tolerate pain longer if they are able to moan. It is interesting that there are several scriptures refer to the groanings and moans that women make in labor–often a coping mechanism to work through the intensity of childbirth, which means that sometimes we groan and moan while we are producing good fruit!

Sigh: to let out one’s breath audibly, as from sorrow, weariness, or relief Sighing also has a physical benefit. Many times when we hear difficult news we unconsciously hold our breath, and sighing is a way our body gets rid of any excess CO2 and the deep breath after helps us take in more oxygen. The good news is Isaiah 51:11 tells us that there will come a day when the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away! (ESV)

I think in our present season of Covid and violence, I find myself groaning and sighing much more often. I have heard many people (believers and unbelievers a like) responding to difficult news with “OH God”. Even people who don’t give Him a thought seem to without a thought, call on His Name! Thinking on how He helps us (remember He doesn’t replace our prayers, He helps us with them), I thought that initial response is to remind us that our God is present! He wants to help us turn to Him. To help us look up and out from those circumstances that would seek to crush us.

When I begin to move from the moans and groans to actual words in prayer, I find the Holy Spirit actually leading me from honest overwhelming words of to words of hope and solution finding. It is almost like He maps out a journey as I keep praying and leads me from the wilderness towards the promised land. Often my cloudy thinking begins to clear and I can begin to see where to take the next step. I know it is Him helping me navigate the dark difficult waters of confusion and even at times, despair.

I want to encourage you not to ignore your groanings. Not to pretend they aren’t there. But to acknowledge them to the Lord and actively bring Him into those dark areas. Our political/national situation often causes me to want to hide under the covers! But it is the Word of God and the Holy Spirit which leads me to pray for our leaders and nation. Asking the God of all Nations to bring His solutions to play. To protect the truth and to even show us how to vote! There are so many opinions flying around and I find myself simply asking the Lord to uncover the truth and lead me to it! The Holy Spirit helps encourage me to stand strong and face every groaning and moaning situation, and He desires to do the same for each of us.

Father, I ask that you alert us to our moanings, groanings and sighings. I ask that as we acknowledge the stressful season we live in that you teach us how to access your help even more. We release our faith for not only solutions to our personal needs, but also for the global situations our world is facing. We pray for wisdom during this election season. We pray that you will uncover the truth wherever it has been hidden, twisted or manipulated in any area of our lives. We thank you for helping us to continue to stand strong as a believers and not shy away from things that would produce more sighing and groanings, but we would trust you in the midst of them. In Jesus Name, amen