Faith and Distress

Is it just me, or does it seem like more and more friends, family and acquaintances are dealing with much more serious struggles? Sickness, disease, financial woes, relational or occupational set backs seem to be increasing for so many. Some of these difficulties are self-induced, but others are brought on by our living in a sinful world. My care and concern can cause me to become distressed on their behalf (as if my own challenges were not enough!) I admit sometimes I want to go back into my turtle shell and hide from these serious things.

But, that is not what the Holy Spirit wants us to do. He wants us to run to the challenge and engage in the battle. When we feel chaos around us is attempting to overtake us, we must remember God has given the voice to speak peace to the storms.

We must remember that even the “self-induced” struggles–brought on by sinful choices can be used by the Lord for good as repentance takes place. My daily Bible reading brought me to Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church this week. Part of Paul’s first letter to these brothers and sisters dealt with divisions, sexual sin, pride and how to deal with legal disputes. He used very clear exhortation of how they (we) should be living.

By 2 Corinthians 7:10 he shares the wonderful fruit of his words. He spoke into the chaos that was trying to reign in that church and here is his response.  Distress that drives us to God does that.  It turns us around.  It gets us back in the way of salvation.  We never regret that kind of pain.  Bu those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.

And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God?  You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible.  Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart.  And that is what I was hoping for in the first place when I wrote the letter.  My primary concern was not for the one who did the wrong or even the one wronged, but for you–that you would realize and act upon the deep, deep ties between us before God.  That’s what happened–and we felt just great.

Speaking the truth in love can be stressful and cause us distress. My question to each of us:  do you speak the truth in love to yourself?  How do you react to God’s voice of conviction or re-direction?  Do you beat yourself up? Or do you walk in His grace, forgiveness and mercy.  We are called to be merciful.  That means to ourselves as well.  Let us practice mercy on ourselves.  Changing where needed, of course, but as we respond to His love, we will be modeling to others that Love and Care He has for them.

Father help us walk in your peace.  Help us to speak peace in the midst of our own chaos and find your direction and blessing.  Thank you for the gift of your forgiveness and mercy, help us share it with others. In Jesus Name, amen

 

Faith and Foundations

I had a revelation this morning.  I actually have a Bible verse that has rooted deep in my spirit as an overriding guideline in my life.  Two of my foundation scriptures are Job 13:15 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him and John 6:68 Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  These two scriptures have held me steady through my darkest days and nights.  They have carried me when I struggled to find direction and hope.  I lean on these words because I know they are true.  There is no other Savior and even when I feel frustrated with my life, I know I must find my answer within Him–in his ways and in his word.

But my revelation this morning is that I Timothy 4:12.  Don`t let anyone think less of you because you are young.  Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity is actually the go to verse in how I live my life.  I reference it all the time–but until this morning I had not really focused on how strongly it affects my day-to-day actions.

I know I am not young anymore (yes, it is an understatement) but I remember reading it when I was young–even in my teens and I thought if I can walk in the wisdom of this verse I will go along way in becoming the kind of believer God and I want me to be!  Have I achieved it? Not by a long shot, but the simple phrase “be an example to the believers”  comes to my mind almost every day.  It is like having a filter over my life in a good way.

Be an example in what I say is a tough one.  Swearing was never allowed or modeled in my childhood home, and I tried to speak words of life to my children however at times my own words to myself were/are not always the words of a believer.  Self doubt, self-criticism and insecurities are areas that I have struggled with–this scripture helps remind me that I need to be an example of the believer in my own self talk!  It is one of my heart goals to speak life-giving words to those around me an area I am still working on.

Be an example in the way I live is easier to read than to practice.  However it is an area where by faith we can do it.  If we think living the Christian life is too hard then we are trying to do it without his help, and that is impossible.  What a blessing it is to ask his for his wisdom, strength and insight in how he wants us to live our lives.

Be an example in your love can be challenging many times.  My natural love falls short and then I struggle to love those I deem “difficult to love”.  Usually my pride or a critical spirit roars their ugly head and the Holy Spirit gently reminds me of my need for the cross in my own salvation and I grow a bit deeper in my ability to love others.  Living in the light of God’s love greatly assists me in these struggles.

Be an example in your faith is something I have learned to accept is a process.  By his grace I actually can see where I have grown in this area.  I also am stirred to believe him for more.  As the Word of God works in my spirit (faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God) I know I will grow in my example in this area as well.

Being an example in purity outwardly I do not find too difficult, it is the need for renewing my mind and employing Philippians 4:6 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, and right, and pure,and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  I confess to you I am working on this!  Negative thoughts abound at times, but some how by the grace of the Holy Spirit he brings me back into alignment and most often it is because of  I Timothy 4:12. I am so grateful for God`s presence in my life and how he shows me how to grow in each of these areas.

How about you?  Have you discovered any life verses or foundation truths that you stand on in trials or troubles?  Or do you have any scriptures that guard, guide and lead you through your Christian life?   I would love to hear them!  Because each of our relationships with our Heavenly Father is distinct and unique what strengthens you in your walk may be different from me, but we can always learn from each other.

Faith and Encouragement from Past Brothers and Sisters

What a blessing 1 Thessalonians is!  I would encourage you to take the time to read through this relatively short book.  It doesn’t necessarily contain a lot of theology, but it sure contains much encouragement.  Paul, Silas and Timothy wrote this book together.  The church at Thessalonica was the second major church founded on the European continent, and was an amazing mix of Jewish and Gentile converts.

Paul and his missionary team made several outreach trip by the leading of the Holy Spirit and they did not just birth new churches, but they became involved in the lives of their converts.  1 Thessalonians 1:2 gives us an insight into how much they loved and cared for this body of believers. We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly.  Wouldn’t you love to receive a letter with those kind words?  Impart Ministries is a mobile ministry and for years Darryl and I traveled like circuit rider preachers of old from church to church.  We fell in love with each church by the grace of the Holy Spirit. It was  tiring traveling, but we were always refreshed by being together with each special church.  I find myself with an aching heart to go and visit each and every church that are still very much in my soul.  So I have somewhat of an understanding of Paul’s heart in this matter.

There were some special attributes that the authors complimented this church family.  As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians 1:3 )  These folks were faithful.  They loved one another and they kept their hope alive even as verse 6 declares in spite of severe suffering it brought you.  These people counted the cost and kept on going even when it caused them suffering and hardship.  I am writing this blog to encourage us to keep on going.  Keep on walking in spite of the struggles you may be facing.  Keep on walking through the “why bother” thoughts, the “I am too tired”, “nobody else is doing this” lies.  These are lies my dear friends.  We keep on walking and running our race because of our dear Savior Jesus Christ.  We do not want his suffering to be in vain.  We want it to count for something.  Because of Paul and his teams investment in this church, they became encouragers to others.  As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece–throughout both Macedonia an Achaia. (1:7)   You probably will not know the influence you have on others till you get to heaven.  Can you imagine the encouragement they were to Paul because they stood in the face of adversity.  And then, dear brothers and sisters, you suffered persecution from your own countrymen. (2:14)  

Paul and the team moved on to other areas of ministry but they did not forget their love, care and responsibility to this church.  They tried to go back several times to visit them. Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us. (2:17-18)  Finally they sent Timothy to visit them.  We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through.  But you know that we are destined for such troubles. (3:2-3).
We all need strengthening, encouraging and reminding that trouble is part of this world.  I think as humans we try to avoid all trouble and are sometimes surprised when it comes.  But Jesus said that in this life we will have trouble, but I want to know that each trouble we face we do not face them alone and it will always be worth it.  Dear friends, I have heard of people walking away from their faith in this season, it grieves me deeply.  I wonder why, what happened?  Verse 4: even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come–and they did as you well know.  That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong.  I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.

We have a tempter that comes to each of us.  He is no respecter of persons, places or pursuits.  Young or old in the faith he seeks whomever he can devour.  Please be alert and on watch for his activity in your soul or spirit.  The body of Christ needs you to stand strong in this day.  Let us take hope and courage from our brothers and sisters in Thessalonica and be steadfast in His ways.  Paul and his team were fighting opposition where they were and it encouraged there hearts when Timothy returned with his good report of their standing.  God wants to use us to encourage others.  We can do it!

Faith and Challenges: When it gets Real

For the past ten months I have been focusing on what it would look like if we truly walked in faith in our everyday life circumstances. God has been taking me deeper in this area than ever before.  Scripture says Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  So how do we apply faith when dealing with situations that have an unknown or perhaps could lead to unwelcome outcomes?

Due to privacy issues, I won’t reveal the persons name, at their request.  This week I accompanied someone close to me to the hospital to have a diagnostic CT scan to try to find the source of their discomfort.  The physician assistant requested the scan, expecting to find some diverticulitis.  However, after the scan was over we were requested to return immediately to medical clinic.  As we rode back to the clinic I prayed that whatever was revealed it was under the Name of Jesus.  It did not reign over it.

As we waited in the waiting room peace still prevailed I could tell my dear one was not feeling well.  They ushered us back and informed us there was a mass in the abdomen–looking like the pancreas, spleen and abdomen were involved.  Later testing revealed it is a 10 cm tumor.  I mentioned, God has a plan.  The PA asked if the patient prayed and when the answer was affirmative, she asked if she could pray for us!  As we held hands and she prayed we felt the presence of God and still we walked in His peace.

Obviously this is a lot to process and absorbed.  As we drove to their house and shared the news with their spouse you can imagine shock and disbelief along with many hugs and reassurances took place.  I left them and went home to do some phone calling and processing myself.

The next morning God led me to Philippians 4:6-7.  I just knew this was His strategy for those of us who are family and friends could apply to this situation.  I want to pass it on to you.  It is applicable to any situation actually.  It is not a new revelation, but it was so clear to me that as I have employed its strategy peace prevails and faith keeps us on the path.

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.

Step 1.  Don’t worry about anything.  Wow, this can be a tough one.  I realize I need to capture those stray fear thoughts, those what if thoughts, but what about this type of thoughts. Our first challenge was not to go “OH NO” the pancreas is involved, and the survival rate of pancreatic cancer is not good.  I had to take my mind off those statistics and put them on the God who reigns over everything.  We had no sure diagnosis at that time.  So I chose to not let my mind go to the worse case scenario.  It took a bit of effort not to, but as I reminded myself we don’t know the specific situation as yet, so don’t go there.  Two days later and with God’s amazing scheduling, there is a clearer understanding of what organs are involved.  However, we still do not have the pathology report, so I choose to do the next step.

Step 2.  Pray about everything.  Instead of worrying, pray.  Capture those rogue fear thoughts with prayer.  Talk to Him about your fears and concerns.  I was reminded again of the blessing of having the Holy Spirit as my prayer partner!  He loves those involved.  After Starla, the PA’s prayer I added one of my own.  God, get every good thing you can out of this because you know this is hard.  Use it for your good.  In Jesus Name, amen.

Step 3.  Tell God what you need.  Scripture exhorts us not to borrow trouble from tomorrow, but to live each day with trust in Him.  So every day, I ask Him for the grace for the day and for His direction specifically needed for this situation.  Clear diagnosis, wisdom for which hospital, doctors, pain and nausea control,  good communication and rest are some of the prayers we have prayed.  Peace for family members who are struggling with fear is a big one.  Taking one bite at  time this elephant will be walked out.  (Mixed metaphor I know!)

Step 4.  Thank him for ll he has done.  We have already seen his hand in this situation.  We thanked him for sunny days and His love for us.  Cultivating thankfulness during stressful times is a tool to maintaining  faith and grace in the situation.  It is a great reminder of who we are placing our faith in and what he can and will do.  He has not and will leave us in our trials by ourselves, but he comes into the midst with his presence.

Step 5.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds everything we can understand.    We cannot try to figure out everything right now. The “why’s” are a big detractor during stressful challenges.  This is not the time to try to figure everything out.  Walk in the peace he gives and rest in that.  Cast the other concerns on him and watch his hand move.

Step 6: His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  We need to let  his peace guard our hearts and our minds, otherwise they will be assaulted with tormenting fears and all the worse case scenarios that most will never happen.  Those thoughts rob us of the gift of our todays.  I believe we are going to continue to see God’s hand moving and I trust this child of God will enjoy long days on this earth.  However, there are times when our natural best case scenario doesn’t happen and perhaps our loved ones are taken home.  God is still in control and still moving His good purpose and will.  Just as in everything else, do not let the enemy of your soul steal the gift of the present with those you love.

These steps are not new to me.  However, when the Lord showed me them clearly as his strategy I knew I needed to share them.  Please pray for us as we walk this faith journey.  Sometimes it feels like we have been pushed into an alternate reality.  I am so thankful for our loving gracious God that helps us in times of trouble.  God bless you today as you face your challenges–big or small he does care for us in them all.

Faith and Dealing with the “Blahs”

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Have you ever experienced a time in your walk with the Lord a season where you felt disengaged, separate or just like you were drifting?  As it can happen with human relationships, it can also happen with our relationship with the Lord.  The marriage relationship which began with such passion can drift into boring routines.  Children, who were so anticipated, become responsibilities that demand our attention, strength and energy.  And our relationship with Jesus can also deteriorate into a “hi-bye” kind of rut.

It is humbling to admit that I have experienced these sort of blahs in every one of my relationships.  But, I am here to encourage and remind us that there is a way out of these doldrums.  The amazing thing is that our God understands these tendencies.  He is so aware of our weaknesses.  In fact, he promises us that his power works best in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT)  I confess that lately I have found myself struggling through a season of “blahs”.  So when I felt the Lord wanting me to share this topic, I was less than thrilled!  However, it is always freeing to admit our humanity and move into his grace and mercy.
How did I get here–into this season of “blahs”?  I have kept up my devotional time (check), prayer-yes.  So what is the deal? My life had been super busy, and then it shifted.  I realized that during my busy time I did not take the time to really focus on what I was reading and really to whom I was praying.  So coming out of such a time of busyness, I think I have been running on spiritual fumes.  I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit and his grace to stir up the longing to re-connect in a more life-giving manner.  But I also realized that I could continue on with this surface relationship and end up getting de-railed in my walk with him.  We are warned about the distractions of life, how they can call us away from our first love.  The enemy of our soul works through such things to dull our hearts toward the things of God and His Kingdom and cause us to settle for less.  Not only does this affect our relationship with our Savior, it affects our usefulness for his kingdom.

God can use these times to stir us and motivate us to grow in new ways.  Our enemy can use this time to lead us away from our gifts and callings.  It is up to us, as sons and daughters, to determine to follow him.  I am not trying to scare us into fear that we can lose our way easily.  It is not like that, but I am trying to warn us (like Paul warned those around him) there are carefully disguised traps set around us that can catch us if we are not careful.  We were given spiritual armor for a reason, let us all remember to use it!

Steps to Deal with the Blahs

The Lord Supper

Scriptures encourage us to take communion as a reminder of what Christ did for us. This is a time to remind ourselves of the price he paid and just how much he loves us.

Fellowship

We are encouraged to not forsake the gathering of ourselves together with our brothers and sisters.  The strength and focus we gain from our spiritual family is crucial.  Never underestimate how much we need each other.  Taking time to share our burdens with the others lighten our load.

Worship

I sometimes use my online Bible app,  You Version, to do my devotionals.  Lately I have been using the reading feature to read the Psalms.  Psalm 95 and 96 encourage us to sing to the Lord.  I decided to not only read the words, but actually try singing to the Lord instead of singing about the Lord brought new thoughts and life to my soul.

The Word

Slowing down and focusing on what I am reading, asking the Holy Spirit for revelation as well as instruction really does feed my soul.  Taking the time to journal these thoughts reinforce what I read.

Testimony

Sharing God stories with others helps us overcome as the Word promises.Stirs my heart up to have more to share!

Prayer

Being encouraged by the Word, sharing the God stories of others build faith to ask for Godly intervention in the problems of life for myself and others.  But first, when I find myself fighting the blahs, I need to confess that to the Lord.  I ask him to reveal any where I might have fallen into the enemies traps or had my heart drawn away from him.  Then repent from any of those things he shows me.

These are just a few of the things that God has revealed to me concerning the blahs.

Faith and Legacy

This past week-end I had the blessing and privilege of spending time with my first-born daughter and her family.  We enjoy being together, in fact it was hard to say good-bye.  I enjoyed being around their three children and making memories.  As I listened to their parents impart wisdom, instruction and encouragement it occurred to me that legacy is not always that which takes place after a memorial service.  Legacy is something that comes line upon line, experience upon experience, day after day as in this case, parenting happens with intention.

We are all leaving a legacy of sorts.  The normal definition of legacy is an amount of money or property left to someone in a will.  What I am talking about comes from the second definition : something received from an ancestor or predecessor.  Those we influence, we are in fact, leaving a legacy.

As I watched my daughter take time  to calm, encourage, and instruct her daughter I realized she is helping influence not only her, but also those Abby comes into contact with in the future.  I saw myself in her approach, and also saw ways she took my approach and has improved upon it!  It was wonderful to watch her apply her education and learning into her children’s lives. These parents live with a desire to leave a legacy of being role models in the faith to their children.

Reading through I Chronicles 28 we discover King David gathering the leaders and officials of Israel together to speak wisdom and insight into their lives. Then he gets personal with his son, the new king, Solomon.  And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind.  for the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought.  If you seek him, you will find him.  But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.  so take this seriously.  The Lord has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary.  Be strong, and do th work. 

I can hear King David’s heart.  His words of advice and wisdom encouraging Solomon to learn to know the God of his ancestors intimately resonates in my own heart.  I true want to get to know this amazing God of creation, salvation and purpose more intimately than I have ever known him before.  I must come to him in faith, with faith trusting that Matthew 11:28,  Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.  Learning to walk with him, with his yoke and his rest for my soul is really the legacy I long to impart unto others in my sphere of influence.  As I watch my son-in-law and daughter impart faith and hope into their children I see Darryl’s and my legacy already at work.  This is a wonderful gift.  Those of you whose children have not yet embraced your faith, do not grow weary in well-doing.  Pray for them, love them, be gracious unto them and trust our God for His love to touch their hearts and lives.  I know it is not easy.

Solomon had a clear job direction.  Build the Temple.  Maybe our focus is not as tangible, but we can always always go about doing good because charity never fails.  Father, help us be mindful of the legacy we always building and leaving.  Help it to glorify you and your Kingdom.  In Jesus Name, amen.

Faith and mistakes

Some days life is just another day. Nothing outwardly spectacular happens when you pray.  You go about life’s necessities and the day goes on.  This was my yesterday.  My sister came over briefly to get some rest while her husband was at therapy for his knee replacement.  I was glad to offer her a couch to take a very needed nap.  I was showing her my crochet project when I noticed, even though it was almost finished, I had messed up. I am glad she came because I might have “finished” it and not even noticed. Continue reading “Faith and mistakes”