Recipe for Relief

While living in Romania, I would find joy in the morning by sitting on the porch reading God’s Word and watching Gabriel herd his sheep, and goats, down the lane. I would think about Jesus, our gentle Shepherd, and it would bring me peace. We can find ourselves at times in emotional and spiritual struggle and I hope this article brings relief to your mind during these times.

The Recipe

Read God’s Word often and ask the Holy Spirit to help you trust the Father and understand what He has written. Put on the armor of God and pray as the scriptures instructs us. Resist temptation and keep your heart clean.

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:45)

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… (Ephesians 6:18)

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

Walk humbly before God and thank Him for opening your eyes to see Him. Our real enemy is Satan, the deceiver, those who oppose God are still blind. Pray that their eyes may be opened to Truth from God.

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (2Corinthians 4:3-4)

Trust your Heavenly Father, He is at work in ways much higher than we know. He is in control and has authority over this world and He will bring justice in His time. Acknowledge His will above your own and pray as Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:9-15.

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:52-54).

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

Fast (Isaiah 58) and pray, financially support, and speak on behalf of those who are truly oppressed. Extend yourself to those in legitimate need: children of poverty, refugees fleeing war, orphans, children in foster-care, widows without means of support (no family), preborn babies and their parents who are considering aborting them, and the families of those unjustly imprisoned for their faith.

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Isaiah 1:17.

Understand that God is allowing each heart to be revealed. God, our creator and sustainer, is warning us all (our entire world) to reflect and consider if we will submit to Him or not (individuals and governments). He is a loving Father and gave everything to extend mercy to us, but at some point, because He is also a just Creator, His righteous judgement will come. But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:5)

Remember: For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (I Peter 3:12)

 Photo Credit: flickr.com/Turatti

Fear Not! or should I?

sparrowFear is something we gain or lose, depending on our ability to trust God and His power to redeem our circumstances.

It was about twenty-one years ago a pastor-leader, who I have learned much from, took a group of men to Armenia to meet with some pastors and their wives from Iran. They met secretly in this neighboring country to avoid the dangers that this meeting would pose to the Iranian Christians. In this meeting, a man who had been arrested by the authorities in the late ’90s told his story of overcoming fear.

The young pastor was imprisoned and the Iranian guards were getting ready to execute him for continuing to share the gospel in his homeland, after being warned not to. Before execution, the custom is to shave the head of the “criminal”. This had occurred and he knew that soon he would be taken from his cell and put to death. While pondering this and thinking of his family he became very distraught, wondering why God would let this happen. Then the Holy Spirit reminded Him that he was being counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake and that he should rejoice instead. When the scripture in Matthew 5:10-12 came alive to him, he began to rejoice and sing and dance in his cell. The guards, surprised and troubled over his actions, called their supervisor. They ended up releasing him because they were so troubled over the fact that he was rejoicing that he would be put to death for Christ’s name and for His glory – they would not allow it!

To Fear or Not…

When Jesus gathered His twelve disciples, He gave them instructions, as recorded in Matthew 10. He told them not to be afraid because our Father cares for His own. Jesus uses the example of a sparrow falling to the ground, He told them of God’s awareness of this and that we should not fear because our value to Him is much more important than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! 28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[j] 29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin[k]? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. 32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”

Jesus indicates that His followers are precious to our Father. These disciples needed to understand that they belong to Him, they’ve been adopted and have become His children. This relationship is reciprocal, it involves fidelity on both sides; God the Father toward us and us, His disciples, to Him. Jesus reassured these believers that they who possessed this relationship need not fear.

Many live in fear but fear the wrong things.

What about you?

Are you able to see God as your Father who dearly loves you? If not, Find someone who you know honors God and humbly begin a discussion with them. Many are going about living as though there will never be a day of reckoning. Do you wait for something tragic to happen before you consider you’re relationship to God? Has this pandemic caused you to think more earnestly about your life, your mortality? It should, but don’t stop there.

Some people do not realize that there will be a day of judgment when we will ALL stand before God and give an account for our lives. Conversely, there are those who have once known the gospel and are now living in rebellion to God’s will; they will suffer much loss. They are the ones Peter warned about (2 Peter 2:20-22) who once knew God but turned away to fulfill their own lusts, living according to their own desires. “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:20-22 (ESV)

Human pride and arrogance defy God’s rightful place in our lives. This attitude of indifference toward our Creator is dangerous and damning. Rather than reckoning with our lost condition as humans, some take the attitude that James describes in chapter 4:13-15: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’”

An illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depicts the 2019 Novel CoronavirusOur current pandemic…

Living through this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 coronavirus should cause us to pause and consider our lives. How are you doing with yourself? Are you at peace and content being alone or contained with your family? What are you truly living for? If everything ended today, would you carry regret when standing before God and having everything in your life made known? Or would you be ready and thankful for the years you were given? What is the substance of your life?

Perhaps you are stuck in a place you never thought you would be. When you look at your life you wonder, “How did this happen to me?” Your gradual slide into the muck began with some offense, a loss, a divorce, a sinful relationship, an addiction; these situations can leave us feeling displaced, removed from a sweet-spot we once enjoyed. Then along comes a confining situation that exposes us to ourselves: a quarantine of sorts. Remember the young pastor with his head shaved and the gallows prepared? Or think of Sampson, tied to the pillars of the temple, disgraced and being made fun of (Judges 16:28-30). Had God forgotten them? God has a way of bringing hope to any situation. His perspective causes us to see differently. He has the power to turn things around for His glory if we will allow Him to.

DSC06758I spent nine months in Romania going through my own pregnancy of sorts, the process of adopting our four children. At times it was very uncomfortable, I suffered physically, and it felt very restricting — I was contained in a foreign land. I thought the main purpose of this experience was adopting our four children, yet God used that time to create in me a new level of faith and understanding of His faithfulness.

I hope this containment time will cause you to reflect upon your situation, and where you are in life. Let us consider where we stand with God. Think about: What is most important in my life? Whom or from what do I draw comfort? Am I obeying His call upon my life or denying Him by living for my own desires.

He’s giving us time to reflect during the coronavirus and giving us the grace to receive His gift. Will you spot Him during this time and receive what He offers? If you do, humble yourself and initiate change by making things right with those you’ve wronged. This is the first evidence of a sincere turning away from self, to God. Your act of building a relationship (as much as depends upon you) with someone you’ve avoided will open the door for God to pour blessings into your life. Then you can confidently say, I will not fear because I belong to God.

Photo Credit: Pixabay, CDC

Painful Pasts

autumn-2857032__480If you have lived through a very painful past then you are able to understand how exhausting and emotionally dark it can be to recount these experiences… you feel the pain and turmoil all over again — as though you have purposely gone back for more. Who would want to do that to themselves? That is why many never come to healing because they fear the process – but you do not have to.

I recently had a taste of this experience upon my visit home to Wisconsin. After several days into my visit, I scheduled a day to go and visit several friends from the past. I had not previously taken the opportunity to tell some of the details of my recent journey and felt free to share more of my story during this visit. All went well with these friends and I enjoyed my time, but that night in my sleep a floodgate of pain poured into my soul. Upon waking, I felt like I had lost the victorious ground I’d gained – like I had traveled back to a very broken place in my climb; what happened? This experience caused me to think about why this occurred.

When we re-enter the large room of our painful past and relive it, that doesn’t mean wewoman-837156__340[1] are still there. It may feel that way momentarily, but what we do with these feelings will determine how we think. We can choose to restructure our minds and return to the place of peace God has given or continue ruminating upon the feelings that have resurfaced.

Many face fear when thinking of their past, and so leaving it alone is the solution they choose; yet God has a better way. In my view, if you are not holding tightly to God’s healing hand and being guided by the power His Word offers, it is a fearful and dangerous proposition to regurgitate the past. Hope and healing that proceed from your Creator’s heart is the safest arena from which to process the painful experiences you’ve lived through.

Truthfully acknowledging that we have suffered is honest and right to do. Bringing into the light all that is darkness (or sin) is needful (I John 1:7). Forgiving our offender is necessary (Matt 6:14-15) and is a process that we want to pursue; a good counselor/mentor can help with that. Allow God to set things straight (Romans 12:19). Healing from the wounds is God’s will and if you desire that, it can happen — that’s is God’s specialty.

I’m thankful our hearts and minds can be powerfully renewed and rebuilt through the Holy Spirit’s work in us. Sharing our testimony about what God has done for us is good. When Jesus Christ suffered and died for sin, He offered the possibility for us to gain freedom from our past. This includes sin we have committed as well as those committed against us. Jesus suffered the awful price and penalty for our sin on the cross 2000+ years ago, we are now left to respond to this great gift He offers. How we appropriate His sacrifice for sin will determine our freedom and healing, or not.

If you are struggling concerning the pain of your past, through poor decisions made and/or violations committed against you, I hope this helps you in your climb to freedom. God’s plan is to recover and deliver you from destruction. Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy us, but Jesus said He came to give us abundant life! (John 10:10).

There is hope for you! No matter what your journey has been, remember God can redeem it and give you great purpose in your future because of it.

This is part 1 of a 2 part message. We will look at the steps to recovery and deliverance from the pain in the next message.

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Continue to Part 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aloneness

woman-sitting-1232880__340[2]For some of us, moving from a busy family life with daily activity and interaction to one of aloneness creates a feeling of sadness and fear at times. We ask ourselves, “Will these feelings of loneliness I struggle with ever go away? Could this possibly get worse?” These are thoughts that someone goes through when adjusting to the new normal of being alone. I go through seasons of struggle with these thoughts more often than I’d like to. All it takes is a glance at a family leaving church together… walking by a restaurant alone… seeing a golden retriever playing with someone at the dog park down the road. Instances like these remind me of how alone I am. We realize we were made for community and when that is lost we suffer.

I recall a person I knew some years ago stating that divorce is the worse thing that can ever happen to someone. The grief, separation, loss of family, thoughts of what could have… should have been, come to haunt the mind. I understand now what they were saying. I certainly could picture it, but living through it myself makes me realize that aloneness is a battle.

So how do we fight these feelings that can seem so overwhelming at times? It’s true we have comfort in knowing God is with us, but sometimes we need a friend to offer support and care.

I find that God speaks to me often in these lonely hours and reminds me that Heaven is my true home and until I get there, I must recognize that this will be a part of life for me now. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:14-18 ESV

person-1269057__480Remembering this battle is spiritual in nature, helps me understand that when I am struggling with aloneness I need to take action steps to connect with someone. Acting instead of reacting is needful. Rather than ruminating over what brought me to this place in life, I need to focus upon the goodness of God in the midst of my circumstance (Romans 8:28). Blaming another person for our position in life will only turn our hearts inward toward bitterness and more pain. Moments of loneliness are normal and they can be used by God to help us reflect upon His eternal greatness and what He has planned for those who love Him.

I find it helpful to consider Jesus’ life on earth for 33 years. He knew the glory of heaven and relationship with the Father. During His time as the son of man, He suffered in our place, taking our sin; He understood separation and loneliness, along with anguish that we will never experience. When we consider Jesus in this way, we can find Him to be a friend, a brother, who understands. Through this identification, we come to see Him in a new way, a comforting way that reminds us He is here.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

Aspire to Inspire: Grand-Parenting Tips

Gr N and PatrickGrandchildren are the crown of the aged and the glory of children is their fathers. Prov. 17:6 (ESV). Life is Beautiful is one of my favorite movies. The setting is WWII Europe, this story is based upon a true account of a father’s protection of his son while incarcerated in one of Hitler’s death camps. It demonstrates a parent’s creative wisdom used to protect his child from harm. I admire the fortitude and inspiration of this father.

Parenting is one of the most important tasks in life, asking for God’s guidance and wisdom daily is crucial. Additionally, for extended family members — aunts, uncles, grandparents, and siblings, there is much for us to consider as we interact within a family structure. In the next message–Stay in Your Lane (part 2) I’ll explain why.

We do well to understand the “of age” stages children go through. As I see it now,family-1784371__480 parenting contains three stages generally: Control, Motivation, and Inspiration. If the goal throughout each stage is to glorify God by obeying His teachings, we will succeed even with our failures along the way. Parenting is used by God to gain humility in our lives and a bountiful path for our children’s feet.  Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalms 119:105 (ESV)

In the beginning…

father-1808749__480CONTROL is the beginning stage. When we look at NASA sending John Glenn to the moon, we realize that without a Control Center, success would not have been achieved. They needed calculated thinking from the brightest math, technology, and engineering minds to reach their goal; parenting involves Control Center principles as well. So let’s view it in this sense for the purpose of this writing. During these early years, parents are the critical thinkers, responsible for godly algorithms that produce success rather than sending their child into a trajectory of poor choices, confusion, and the resulting consequences. Children need controlled guidance in gaining contentment and security in their family. A loving family where the parents give vision, provide stability and take responsibility for decisions is a good foundation to build upon.

Next…

learn-3069053__480The MOTIVATION stage involves encouragement in the right direction, choices and decision making, requiring good management skills by the parents. This still involves some pulling upward toward a goal and some pushing into the correct lane. Rewarding good behavior is involved, as well as consequences for disobedience. Positive motivation is best. When we assume this position we focus upon the good things we see that can be further developed, rather than what is lacking.

The final stage is the most rewarding; both for us as parents and for God as our Heavenly Father. At this next stage, God is able to pour His creative passion into us as His children.

INSPIRATION is when you take your hands off, knowing you’ve done your job and the rest lay with your child’s individual choices. Our job is to pray, live an inspiring life ourselves, and entrust them to our good Heavenly Father. The level of investment parents give in the formative years, will influence the level of inspiration our children will be able to receive from us and live out for themselves.

Thankfully, it’s not all on us. Our Heavenly Father who created them, designed their personality, and gave them to us for a season – He has them! Like a tender plant, we were given guardianship for a season of watering and even if you have not always watered well, He can still cause growth and life. Why? Because His purpose and desire for each of our children are beyond our capacity to understand. He will work with them, and in the end, they alone will decide to pursue Him, or not. Ultimately, the decisions they make will determine their outcome. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live... Deuteronomy 30:19 (ESV)

MOTIVATION differs from INSPIRATION.
Enjoy your life with God and BE an inspiration to others. The INSPIRATION stage comes when your children have come of age and you can now rejoice in the fact that you’ve done your part; let God their Father have full CONTROL.

In the movie, Life is Beautiful, the son lost his father in the death-camp but he gained a legacy. He would always remember a father who inspired him to dream that they were building a tank and that they could win the prize.

Think about how you can inspire those around you toward godly living. We are not doomed to a death-camp, yet there is danger to navigate. Our world of addictive social media alone requires major guidance and skill. Use godly inspiration to teach the next generation how to live, love and reach the goal of serving others. Teach them how to be content with thankfulness, yet creative with what they’ve recieved. Your example of this will go a long way.

Also, we need to self-examine and recognize any manipulating behavior in our lives, and repent of anything thing God reveals so that we can be effective in using teaching moments to build godly character. Aspire to inspire!

Coming next: Stay in Your Own Lane... a note to family members.

Photo Credit: Demary File, Pixabay