“I Will Rise”

(Job 23: 13-14, The Message) “But he is singular and sovereign. Who can argue with him?  He does what he wants, when he wants to.  He’ll complete in detail what he’s decided about me, and whatever else he determines to do.”


I hear ya, Job. 

A few years back, this was where I seemed to be lingering.  I was going through a very tough period in my life.  I had lost one of my grandfathers to Alzheimer’s Disease, one of my grandmothers was placed in a nursing home due to the same condition, my other grandmother passed away after 3 years of suffering the aftereffects of a severe stroke, and my dad was also diagnosed with early onset, rapidly progressing Alzheimer’s…as well as another type of dementia.  This all took place in a matter of months.  My inner strength was already faltering due to miscarriages and negative reports from my doctor about the condition of my reproductive system, so when the bad news just continued to pour in, I pumped the brakes and literally said to God, “What in the world??”  I was in every kind of pain…physical, emotional, spiritual and mental.  I spent a lot of time crying…just spells of hard sobs that came from a deep place of anguish…and when the crying finally ceased, I fell numb.  One day I looked at my husband and I said, “I have stopped asking God for anything.  He just does what He wants, so why even ask anymore?”  I meant it too.  I hadn’t stopped believing, or praying even…I still spoke to God regularly.  In my hurt and sorrow I would sing, “Peace, peace, wonderful peace.  Coming down from the Father above.  Sweep over my spirit, forever I pray, in fathomless billows of love.”  I would tell God how much I hurt, and I wasn’t mad…just broken and defeated.  I was absolutely in a Job-like place. 

We are human, so we get into funks like that.  We want answers and resolutions.  We get very involved in the flesh and as a result our requests become centered around our own desires and ideas of what we think is best.  Our understanding is very limited and small in comparison to God’s omniscience, so it’s extremely difficult for us to see the master plan beyond what we are experiencing.  We are blind in many ways, and instead of trusting our guide, we instead try to feel our way around.  Then we get angry or upset when we bump into things and get hurt!  So what do we do then?  We just stand there in the safest spot we can find, still and useless…and pouty. 

Well I got tired of being the useless and pouty believer, just taking up space and fulfilling obligations.  I had to trust my guide, because standing still was making me crazy!  I thought I knew what was best and I was wrong…it was time to accept that.  In my human brain I thought things like, “How can Alzheimer’s be in God’s plan for someone’s life?”  Yet in my spirit, the Lord began to whisper His truths, the truths of His word, and it was brining me back to life.

8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.

    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so my ways are higher than your ways

    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. 

(Isaiah 55: 8-9, The Message)

The truth is, we do not always know what He is doing through these things that happen…you know, the things we just don’t understand.  However, as hard as it is at times to walk in faith, there is peace when we trust Him.  Romans 15: 13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  We are not promised understanding; we are entitled to nothing.  Our faith is a work in progress, but it begins with trust.  Without that, our faith is dead.  In these days, which are likely the last, we are being watched by the world.  Our actions, reactions, and all of the words we speak in faith are being observed.  Let us be ever mindful that what we say we believe is what we must live

(Hebrews 12: 1-4) 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when I hurt, help me to remember that You have suffered the greatest anguish.  Help me to trust You, always, so that I live a life of joy and peace…reflecting Your strength and love to the world.  Amen.

“Come to Me”

(Matthew 11: 28-30, The Message) “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

If you have come to the place where you are so tired that you’re saying it every day, and you’re dreading doing the things that you once loved to do, then you’ve gone too far for too long. 

When we think about strongholds in our lives, our minds typically go to the “big” things like anxiety, depression, or addiction (to name a few), but did you know that being overtired can also be a stronghold over you?  A stronghold is something that is part of your life that you cannot seem to bring under control.  Strongholds are lies told by Satan, with which we have come into agreement.  These things take hold of parts of (or even all of) our lives, and we have adopted them as our norm.  Becoming too tired is a direct result of overcommitting and lack of self control.  We have to learn, at some point, to use wisdom when we are asked to do things.  We have to ask ourselves, “Is this too much for me right now?  Can I fully embrace this commitment with a Godly spirit of excellence?  Am I saying yes to this because of my flesh or because of my spirit?”  The lie here (that becomes a stronghold in our lives) is that if we say no we are not being good friends, children, spouses, parents, employees, or even Christians. 

The Bible reminds us in 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5, “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”  Every lie that Satan tells is evident when we recognize that if it is contrary to the word of God, if it keeps us from knowing and serving God with full and complete joy, then it is a LIE!  We have to expose these lies for what they are, and cast them down, as we have been given all of the power and authority by Jesus Christ to do! 

Being continually beat down, tired, sluggish and stressed is NOT part of God’s will for your life…nor for any of our lives.  It is bondage.  It keeps us from Him, it keeps our family lives in disarray, it tears down our physical wellness, and it slows our minds…leaving us vulnerable to spiritual and mental attacks from the enemy. 

So what do we do about it?  Well first of all, say no…and say it a lot, at least for a while.  Slow down and breathe.  Take time to enjoy things and people again.  Mediate on the word of God and ask the Lord to reveal the things in your life that have led you into bondage and allowed this stronghold to be built.  Then tear that sucker down!  Replace it with the good things that God intends for our lives, and make the Lord your fortress and shield against these kinds of attacks on your spirit. 

Remember 2 Timothy 1:7… “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  We have power over the enemy when we recognize his wiles and reject his lies. 

Today and every day, begin anew, with a refreshed spirit and a new perspective on how you intend to lead your life from this point forward.  We have to be our best selves if we want to make any sort of difference in this world. 

St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Do few things but do them well.  Simple joys are holy.”  There is something quite sacred about taking the time to experience joy, and to be clear and focused enough to do few things with great excellence.  The result is a tremendous testimony and a positive witness to the grace and blessings that come from God our Father.  Do not let Satan lie to you any longer.  You do not have to be so tired. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I cast down the strongholds of stress and exhaustion in my life and I replace them with joy and rest.  Thank you for making me whole, for giving me peace, and for helping me have the wisdom to see the lies of the enemy and the boldness to say no to the things that will cause me to become burned out and exhausted.  I embrace your perfect will for my life.  Amen.

“Peace Be Still”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.  (Mark 4:39, NLT)

“Peace Be Still” (by The Belonging Co)

I don’t want to be afraid
Every time I face the waves
I don’t want to be afraid
I don’t want to be afraid
I don’t want to fear the storm
Just because I hear it roar
I don’t want to fear the storm
I don’t want to fear the storm

Peace be still
Say the word and I will
Set my feet upon the sea
Till I’m dancing in the deep
Oh, peace be still
You are here so it is well
Even when my eyes can’t see
I will trust the voice that speaks

I’m not gonna be afraid
‘Cause these waves are only waves
Oh, I’m not gonna be afraid
I’m not gonna be afraid
I’m not gonna fear the storm
You are greater than its roar
I’m not gonna fear the storm
Oh, I’m not gonna fear at all

Peace be still
Say the word and I will
Set my feet upon the sea
Till I’m dancing in the deep
Oh, peace be still
You are here so it is well
Even when my eyes can’t see
I will trust the voice that speaks

Peace, peace
Over me

Let faith rise up
Oh heart, believe
Let faith rise up in me

 

Are you feeling lost?  Are you facing a storm, and you just don’t have the strength to stand against the waves?  Are you hurting or worried or afraid?

I speak Peace today…over YOU…your heart, your mind, your circumstance, your worries, your hurts, your grief…all of it.  May the peace of God wash over every part of your life.  May it bolster you when you are weak.  May it soften and open your wounded, sequestered heart.  May it find you in your darkest hour and be a light when you are lost.  May it be a reminder of the greatness of our God, rebuilding your crumbled faith and giving you all of the strength you need to stand and say, “Peace be still!  You are here, so it is well!”

Let me tell you a little something about Jesus:  He’s bigger, He’s greater, He’s stronger, and He did not shed His blood in vain.  He came to Earth so that He could reach out to us in a very personal and experiential way.  He stepped out into the masses and got his hands dirty, reaching out to touch the lowliest of all, a direct response to His great love and compassion for humanity.  He was fully man so that He could have complete empathy for us, yet He was (and is…and forever will be) fully God so that He could be a direct line of supernatural power from God the Father to us.  He came to heal, restore, and break us free from the prison of sin…and through His death and resurrection it was all completed and accomplished.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. 

(Isaiah 53: 4-5, ESV)

So let your faith rise up from the ashes, and let your heart truly and fiercely believe that He has taken it ALL and is using every moment, every circumstance, everything that seems wrong, and everything that feels too big, to perfect His work in you.  In the midst of what feels like a storm, just trust Him, and speak His peace over your heart today.

These waves are only waves.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for Your peace.  I am confident, strong, and full of faith because of Your peace.  Amen. 

Can’t We All Just Get Along? 

(Psalm 133) 1 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! 2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.


I look back on some of the most difficult times of my life and I am amazed to think of how much better bad situations were made by simply choosing to be in unity with my family.  Discord only serves to exacerbate the negativity that is already at hand, but when we instead become unified, with one mind, we are bound together…made stronger by love. 

God hasn’t promised us that life will be perfect.  In fact, quite the opposite.  We are guaranteed, because of sin, to encounter hardship and temptation.  How we opt to react is entirely up to us.  “Good and pleasant” doesn’t refer to the circumstance, it refers to our reaction TO circumstance!    When you’re in the midst of opposition, whatever it may be, it’s always “good and pleasant” to be able to come home to a family who speak lovingly to you and to one another.  It’s “good and pleasant” to have a church family that is unified…that will edify one another in truth and love…that is a safe place to come to when your home life is falling apart. 

You know, we serve a loving God, but there are certain things that He cannot abide.  I bet you would never dream something YOU do would be on that list…but let’s have a look anyway.

(Proverbs 6: 16-19) 16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him, 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

I don’t know about you, but if God hates it…I don’t want to be doing it!  A family is a delicate thing, and the church family is no different.  It is to be respected, each member treated with love and kindness.  This is where unity begins.  When you feel “good and pleasant” feelings toward your brothers and sisters, you are then able to come together as one, rather than a clique here and another clique there.  Setting all else aside, a body of believers can be a very powerful force in the lives of one another and more importantly in the world.  But…it takes unity…and unity requires love. 

We ought never allow Satan to send us on a detour through the desert by giving into our own pettiness and weakness of the flesh.  Instead, we have to bite back that untamed beast of a tongue, resist the temptation to have those whispered conversations in the church hallways and restrooms, and work together to create an atmosphere that is, yes you guessed it, “good and pleasant.”


Prayer:  Father in Heaven, I am humbled by the promises of Your word.  I know that through it, I am corrected, instructed, and made better.  Help me to never sow discord among Your people, but to always remember that unity is the lifeblood of Your church.  Amen.

“I Will Trust in You!”

(Psalm 105:39-41) 39 He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night. 40 They asked, and he brought them quail; he fed them well with the bread of heaven. 41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed like a river in the desert.


For the lonely, for the lost; when you struggle to believe; when you feel forgotten, discouraged and defeated; when your money’s run out and your hope is spent…

For the childless woman with a mother’s heart, for the widow, for the bereaved; when you wonder why; when sadness overwhelms your heart…

For the broken family, for the abused and neglected; when you’re numb and your faith is dead; when guilt and shame have crushed your spirit…

(Psalm 139: 1-5) 1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

…the Lord knows.

Sometimes you have to take a look in the rearview mirror, to gain some retrospective.  I’m sure if you were to ask the Israelites in the midst of their journey through the wilderness how they felt about life, they probably wouldn’t have had much positive feedback.  They were, in fact, dealing with crisis after crisis, misery upon misery (or so it seemed to them).  When their exodus began, they were exhilarated by their deliverance and the miracles they had seen take place in order to set them free.  They set out toward the promised land much like a child sets out on a foot race…full speed ahead.  However, we all know what eventually happens to that eager runner.  Thirst, exhaustion, discouragement and frustration all seem to set in at once.  That’s when he is faced with the choice to either dread the long road ahead and quit, or to look back on what he has conquered thus far and finish what he started. 

For the Israelites, there were MANY stops and starts as they navigated their way toward something that, at times, I’m sure was hard to believe or trust.  Looking forward, it had to be unsettling to see no end to the struggles.  Thousands of years later, here we are, children of God, dealing with the same issue.  Because we are human, because our vision is limited and we cannot see the entire scope of what God is doing in our lives, we have to depend on our faith to keep us moving.  Looking back on the trials, the Israelites were able to recount what the Lord had done to sustain them. 

A good friend once told me to record my prayers (both great and small) in a journal and to go back after a year or so and allow myself to be encouraged and amazed at just how many of them were answered.  It doesn’t happen, rarely ever, the way that we would have imagined or hoped for it to…the answer, I mean…because you know what?  Sometimes the answer is a no, or the dreaded, “we’ll see.”  In our impatience and petulance, instead of forging on in faith, trusting the Creator of the world, we let our human”ness” bring us to a halt. 

In our loneliness we say, “I’m forgotten.” 

In our financial distress we declare, “This is hopeless.”

In our loss we cry out, “I can’t go on!”

In our shame we whisper, “I’m worthless.” 

But the word of the Lord says this:  16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18)


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when I look back on my life I see Your hand in all things, the joy and pain alike, and because of Your faithfulness I will continue to trust in You.  Amen. 

“Fear Not”

(Psalm 147: 1-5, NLT) 

Praise the Lord!

 

How good to sing praises to our God!
    How delightful and how fitting!
The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem
    and bringing the exiles back to Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars
    and calls them all by name.
How great is our Lord! His power is absolute!
    His understanding is beyond comprehension!

 

I kept trying to write last night before bed, and I knew I wanted to use this passage, but I just couldn’t get any thoughts together, so I decided to get some sleep and revisit it all in the morning.  Then this morning I wake up to a newsfeed full of reports of yet another tragic, seemingly random, shooting of innocent people…this time on the streets of Las Vegas.  I don’t usually comment on current events, nor do I make it a habit of using the tragedies and horrors that are happening in our world right now as a writing prompt.  Normally I just keep my thoughts to myself and I pray.  I ask God for protection for my family, for peace in the midst of so much hatred and violence, and for His name to be glorified and magnified despite it all.

But today…

In the face of even more death and violence, I want to be of encouragement to you all…because we so quickly go into fear mode.  We begin to wonder, “Am I next?”  We rush out to get guns and permits to carry them (I’m talking to myself on that one), we worry about End Times, and we begin to see our brothers and sisters – our fellow Americans – as potential threats.  Essentially, we allow Satan to have a stronghold on our minds and hearts – we give him exactly what he wants…which is for us to be afraid.

So what I want to say this morning is:  remember who God is.  When we stare evil in the face, remember that our God – Creator, Redeemer, Healer, Deliverer, Soon and Coming King, Alpha, Omega, Lord of Everything – He is bringing back the exiles!  Sometimes it takes heartache and complete brokenness to catapult change and restoration…like a dilapidated, condemned building that has to be torn down completely before it can be rebuilt, or until something new can be constructed in its place.

Don’t ever forget, all of the hurting hearts will be healed, and all of the brokenness will be mended…because our God is making all things new!  It has been promised – a promise of victory!

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”  (Revelation 21: 3-5, NLT)

There is no denying that every day things are getting worse.  We may not know the minute or the hour that He is coming back for us, but we should have enough wisdom to realize that such a time is drawing very near…but we don’t have to worry or fret when things like this happen.  No!  Though we experience heartache, we can’t allow that to take us to a negative place.  Instead, we have to buckle down and prepare to work harder – reaching out, in love, to a world that truly is lost and dying.

 33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT)

So, as for me, I’m going to continue to say, “Praise the Lord!”  All of my days, I’m going to praise Him.  I’ll hand Him my sorrows, because I know He can (and will) turn them into great victories that bring joy unspeakable to my heart.  I’ll trust Him – no matter what – because I’d rather have hope than fear!

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I lift up the victims of all of the violence in our country and in our world today.  Specifically, I pray for those hurt and killed today in Las Vegas.  I ask that You send armies of Your people – people who are full of Your love – to reach out and encourage these families as they deal with the trauma and grief in the aftermath of this tragedy.  I pray that Your healing hand would be upon each of them today and in the weeks to come, and may it all be for Your glory and for Your Kingdom.  May we not fear.  May we not give up.  Rather, I pray that Your children are encouraged, strengthened, and upheld in Your hands.  Amen. 

“There Will Come a Day”

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”  And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.  (Revelation 21: 3-7, NLT)

Of every promise in the Bible, this is the one that I hold onto with the most desperation.  I can’t tell you the many times that I have had to close my eyes for just a moment to meditate on this very thing – to know, on the bad days…when I am hurting…when I am frustrated…when I am lowly and discouraged, that one day I have the promise of EVERYTHING being made new…restored…perfected…that one day my tears will forever be wiped away by the very hand that created me.  That’s something I can be comforted by no matter what happens.

I can’t help but wonder…what will that feel like?  It is truly unimaginable!  We live amongst so much heartache and hatred.  We face it every day of our lives.  It’s in everything that we watch and listen to, and it’s on the faces of strangers that we encounter, and even in the eyes of our loved ones.   Because of the rapid progression of sin in our world, hostility, distrust and heavyheartedness have become commonplace for us all.  We are used to it, so a life lived without that is not something that I think any of us could ever envision.  However, even though I can’t fathom it, I desire it.  Life without worry, pain, uncertainty, and depression – without hatred, vengefulness, mockery, and prejudice – without death, destruction, destitution, and despair – I don’t know this life…but I want to live it.  I am not worthy of this sort of freedom, but because of God’s love for me, for us, it is a gift that He stands holding out to us.  We simply have to reach out to Him and accept it.

It’s like a gift card.  It may not seem like much at the moment – just a seemingly small thing – but it holds so much promise!  I can tuck it away, and sometimes just knowing that it’s there is enough to make me smile.  When I am having a bad day, I know that I have the promise of something good, something that is completely free to me.  Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Chick-fil-A, they are all great and something nice to look forward to, but SALVATION, PEACE, ETERNAL JOY… now those are promises that I can live for each day!

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for the promise of a day when we all will forever be reunited with You.  Though things here get worse what seems like every day, there is nothing I can’t endure when I know that I have the fully redeemable gift of freedom in You that never expires.  Until that day, I will hold onto that assurance, and I will give this life the best of me while I am here.  May it be all for Your glory.  Amen.

Who Needs Sleep Anyway?

(Psalm 77: 2-9, ESV)  2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. 3 When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah 4 You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 5 I consider the days of old, the years long ago. 6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search: 7 “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? 8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah

I have struggled with insomnia all of my life, it seems.  I remember as far back as four years old just lying awake, staring at the ceiling, heart racing, mind reeling.  I would think of all the things that were bothering me, or things that happened throughout the day, and even as a small child I would wonder what I could have done differently.  Over the years, that has never changed.  My sleepless nights have often been due to anxious thoughts and feelings.  The subject matter has evolved as I have matured, but the cause of my lost sleep has always been the same thing…anxiety. 

Anxiety is defined, in short, as excessive uneasiness, nervousness, and/or worry.  Sometimes it’s temporary, caused by one single event or problem, but other times our anxiety is a recurring condition.  When worries take over our hearts and minds, things start to happen with our bodies as well.  Stress and worry affects our digestive and cardiovascular systems, it disrupts sleep, it can affect our hormones, causing reproductive issues, and it can lower the entire immune system leaving our bodies vulnerable to a myriad of illnesses and ailments. 

Beyond all of that, the emotional and spiritual affects of anxiety can be crippling.  Not only does it hold us prisoner to our thoughts and emotions, but it also erodes our personal relationships with friends and family.  It even interferes with our connection to God.  We begin to feel far away from Him, imagining that somehow He has found Himself willing to leave us…and that’s just crazy thinking! 

So how do we combat this epidemic of the mind?  We have to take charge of our thinking…align our thoughts with scripture…with what we know to be true.

(Psalm 77: 10-12, ESV) 10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” 11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. 12 I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.  

God has proven Himself, and sometimes, because we are human and doubtful by nature, we have to remind ourselves just who our Creator is and remember all of His marvelous works.  When we truly put Him first, worshipping and honoring Him with our lives, we take the focus away from all of the things that keep us up at night, and we are able to reclaim our peace.

Philippians 4: 4-7 (The Message) says, “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!  Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I recognize anxiety for what it is.  I take charge of my thoughts and feelings, and rather than fret over things that are out of my control, I choose to celebrate YOU and all of the wonderful things that You have done.  Thank You for rest.  Thank You for peace.  I claim them both in faith.  Amen.

But…what if?

(Psalm 56: 8-11) 8 You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? 9 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. 10 In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, 11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?


FEAR


When I was in the second grade, I checked out a book from the school library called Scary Stories to tell in the Dark.  I knew it was a bad idea but I did it anyway.  I had seen it at the book fair and was not allowed to purchase it, so I thought I would just sneak and check it out.  My curious nature got best of me.  That night, I curled up in my bed with a flashlight and the book and I read the entire thing.  As you can probably guess, I couldn’t get to sleep.  I had entertained fear and now every noise and every movement, to me, was a ghost or demon.  I was too afraid to move, paralyzed by my own imagination, and eventually I had to call out to my dad to come and “help” me.  We both lost sleep that night, and I got into a lot of trouble! 

Isn’t that how it is with us, even as adults?  We allow fear to inhabit our thoughts and it takes up residence there until we eventually have to call out to “dad” (Father God) to come to the rescue.  How often do you greet and entertain your fears?  The truth of the matter is, no matter your age, fear can rule your thoughts and greatly affect your choices when you give place to it.  And that fear, it’s like a stray cat…feed it, and it will stick around until it becomes your pet. 

A wise old Jedi named Yoda once said (yep, I’m using Star Wars reference), “Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”  Maybe you’re afraid of people…people who are a different race, who are foreign, who practice a different religion, people who have been in jail, people who have threatened you, or even people that you just don’t know.  But are we not called to love?  1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 

Fear=Anger=Hate=Suffering 

Maybe you’re afraid of every “what if” and “worst case scenario” that pops into your mind.  Whatever your big fear may be, that thing that festers in your thoughts every single day, you have authority in Christ to banish that thought like the stray cat that it is.  “For though we walk in flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”  (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) 

It all comes down to choice.  You can choose to focus on fear and allow it to grow and thrive, or you can follow the advice that Paul gives us in Philippians 4:8 when he says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 


PRAYER:  Heavenly Father, Thank you for the wisdom of your word and the ability to understand it and apply it to the real situations in my life.  I’m so grateful that in YOU I have power over fear today and every day. Amen

A “Cool” Spirit

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise, when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Proverbs 17:27-28)

For many of us, learning when to keep our mouths shut can seem like an impossible task. I cannot even begin to count the number of times that my mouth has gotten me in trouble. When it comes to a subject that we are passionate about, or in the midst of a heated discussion, we are all prone to saying things that in hindsight would have been better left unsaid. We learn, through trial-and-error, when we have gone beyond the bounds of what is acceptable.

Several months ago, I had a discussion with my son about this very subject. He got in the habit of expressing his displeasure whenever he was asked to do something that he didn’t want to do. It was getting him in trouble at home, but it also began to spill over at school, and I received a very disheartening email from one of his teachers. He knew better than to be disrespectful to an adult, but he was having trouble balancing his growing independence and opinions with how to express them in appropriate ways.

I tried to help him understand that he is entitled to his opinions, but that he is not always entitled to express them, especially when doing so undermined someone in authority over him, whether that was a parent, a coach, a teacher, etc. He was getting increasingly frustrated and having trouble understanding why his words and actions were seen as disrespectful when, as he had recently been learning in Social Studies, Americans have the first amendment to protect our rights to free speech. I’m not sure why, but this argument was so funny to me that I started laughing, and then seeing the ridiculousness of his argument, he started laughing and what had been a tense situation quickly resolved itself.

Learning these kinds of boundaries is a very difficult thing to do, and some people are better at picking up on it than others because they can easily read when they are pushing someone too far and reign it in a little. Others are simply very disciplined and are able to keep their tongues in check, even when they are very upset. And other people just bottle everything up, instead of lashing out and saying something they might later regret. But I think the secret to controlling our tongues, is what’s found in the second half of verse 27…We have to cultivate a “cool” spirit.

When we begin to walk in the Spirit, scripture teaches us that many “fruits” begin to grow and manifest in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When you allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate these characteristics within you, you will have a much easier time remaining calm, collected and level-headed. There’s simply no room in this list for angry outbursts, sarcastic comments, or cutting remarks. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are able to overcome our naturally defensive, offended responses and are able to respond with love and grace even to those who attack us.

Controlling my tongue is something that I will probably have to work on for the rest of my life. I’ll say things that I wish I hadn’t. I’ll not say things that I’ll wish I did. I will intentionally and unintentionally hurt people that I love and respect very much. I will respond angrily to others when I should respond with compassion. It’s just part of being a sinful man. But I will do my best to allow the Holy Spirit to create a “cool” spirit within me that will allow my words (and also my silence!) to be a source of truth, healing, and wisdom in the world.

Just play it cool, friends!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me to guard my tongue. Cultivate a “cool” spirit within me so I can respond with wisdom and compassion rather than frustration or anger. I pray that my words would not incite drama, but would be a healing balm in difficult times. I desire to be a peacemaker and show your love to everyone I interact with. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.