Another Chapter Begins…

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…Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “ God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind. (Isaiah 40:27-31 MSG).

I just reread my New Year’s blog from 2014. How depressing!! But let’s be honest, I had a right to be a little depressed. It had been a rotten 2013 and the start of 2014 had not been much better. As I reflect over all of 2014, it’s a combination of praises and prayers. What I have found, however, is that I don’t cheer the fact that a difficult year has passed. In fact, each new year is a bit sad to me because it means that another year has rapidly gone by. Those seconds tend to speed up. It’s a wonder that I can even catch my breath.

So, what was my 2014 like? Some of said it’s like a well-written tragedy. I don’t know about that but it was definitely full of heartache and excitement. It started out with me sitting in the hospital. I think it was day 15 when the “ball dropped.” My husband had been very sick and there were moments when we didn’t know if he would pull through. The following week, I lost my job. I can tell you that at that moment, I broke. I felt like God must have lost track of me somewhere along the way because I was drowning and it didn’t seem that He would ever throw a life-preserver. The next several months would prove challenging, to say the least. Paying bills required a bit of creativity and we spent more than a few sleepless nights worrying about our next meal.

In the spring, I was honored to serve as Lay Director of the Purchase Area Walk to Emmaus. If you don’t know what that is, shoot me a message. It’s a huge privilege to serve God in such a compacity. While in that role, I was humbled by the hearts of all of the folks I served with. Unfortunately, satan was pretty aggressive, trying constantly to shake my foundation throughout that time period. Verbal attacks, cold shoulders, hurt feelings. They all did abound. In the end, God’s shield provided me with the armor I needed to survive.

During this same time, I started a private counseling practice. I was invited to share office space with two Christian women whom I respect. What a difference an atmosphere makes! While the process of building clients has been an extremely slow one, the benefits of where I am located and who I am located with outweighs any of the negative. I strongly believe that God opened that door and has made it possible to be there each and every month since.

By the summer of 2014, I felt like things were looking up. My husband had just been granted reinstatement of his medical license. I thought for certain that it was only a matter of a few weeks and he would practicing medicine again. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out like that. After more “no” responses than I count, his depression set in. This placed an urgency on me to “make things happen.” Who was I kidding? The more I tried to control the situation, the more desperate I felt our situation had become. Finally, one evening, I surrendered myself. I knew I could no more control the outcome than Allen could. I looked at myself and asked God to light a path because I was completely lost. I had been spinning for more time than I care to admit and it was time to stop. The next day, I received my answer.

In July 2014, I would be asked to serve as minister of two local churches. This would mean an official step from laity to clergy. I knew God had designed my life so that this very moment could happen. Saying “yes” was much more difficult than I thought it would be. But ultimately, I did say “yes”. The rapid changes that took place in my life have left me breathless at times. There was no easing into the role. These two churches were without a minister. Their previous leader had already begun his new appointment in another district so I couldn’t “pick his brain” as I would have liked. Instead, I jumped in and prayed God wouldn’t let me sink.

During that same time, I began an internship at a local hospital as chaplain in their CPE program. Let me just say right off the bat that this is something I never want to do again but believe that every minister should have to do at least once. Let me explain. Hospital visits are more than just a quick visit where you talk about the weather, offer a quick prayer and get the heck out of dodge before your next text message comes through. If any minister who hasn’t been through a unit of CPE says he or she knows how to make hospital visits, I’d be leary. Anyone can go in an offer a quick prayer just to check it off the list. But a true pastoral care visit means listening without checking your watch. It means loving without worrying what germs you might get. It means putting yourself in the middle of the visit so that you have self-awareness in your situation. I hated every minute of this internship because it was hard on me emotionally, spiritually and mentally. But I thank God that He opened that door so that I can better serve Him in those moments when people need pastoral care rather than a fly by visit. This prepared me for some very difficult moments that would I face in the next few weeks.

Barely two months into my new ministry, my world would be utterly changed and, quite honestly, my heart would forever be broken. My best friend would tragically lose her life in a motorcycle accident. She was only 39 years old. God would see to it that I served as the minister of her funeral. From that moment on, I have only blogged once – to tell the story of her good-bye. I lost my voice when she passed and I have not asked God to give it back. Writing this has been more difficult than I thought but I know it needed to be written.

Since that day in the fall of 2014, I have struggled with some things internally. I have felt, at times, very distant from the One I serve. That distance is only because I placed it there. I don’t blame God for her loss. In fact, I praise God for granting me a life with her in it. I am just not where I once was in my walk. The beauty of that is that God never leaves us regardless if we choose to go it alone for a while. He never stops loving us. He never stops fighting for us. He never stops lighting our path to find our way back home to Him. It’s always a choice on our part to not have a close relationship with God.

My family and I moved to Ballard County in November. For anyone who really knows me, you probably are finding it rather funny to think of me living in the middle of farm lands. Trust me, it’s been a culture shock. From no cell service to wildlife in the front yard, I have to rethink my way of living. But I know that God has provided this home in this place for a very specific reason. We are still getting settled in our new place. It’s never a good idea to move in the middle of the holidays. Just too hectic! But once we finally get everything unboxed and placed where it should be, it will be nice to relax in the solitude of home.

Just as I started this year, I am ending this year sitting in the hospital. This time, I am there because my mom is recovering from surgery. She’s having a tough time of it. The past six weeks have been difficult on her body and spirit. So, just as I asked during this time last year, I’ll ask it this year – please pray for healing. I am very blessed to have experienced all that I have in the past year…. and in my life. I have been given a storyline and asked to author the text of my life. I could choose to write a story of tragedy. I could choose to write a story of fiction. But I don’t like those genres. I believe that nonfiction can be quite exciting and full of hope. As I look forward to the year 2015 I anticipate chapters of laughter and tears. I believe there will be mysteries and how-to’s. And I believe that through it all, God will light each step toward my next chapter. I began this with a quote from Isaiah. I love how it says, “Don’t you know anything? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.” Yes! God does last. He is the perseverance when we run out of strength. He is the breath when we fill breathless. He is the light in a world full of darkness. Because of that, I don’t have to worry about figuring out what my next chapter is. I don’t have to fear walking around in the darkness of this life because God continues to shine a light – His Light – so I can see into those dark corners of uncerntainty. Would I like to know what’s next? Maybe. But that’s not how it works. He gives us just enough light to see our next step…to write our next sentence…

It’s 2015. God, I’m ready to start the next chapter…

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Lukewarm is NOT okay!

I have a confession to make…and it’s probably one the hardest confessions I have ever had to own up to. 

I am a lukewarm Christian.

Up until about an hour ago I was pretty sure that my faith was strong. There’s always a need to grow and mature in the faith but I felt pretty solid about where I was. Then I had lunch…

Have you ever just known that something pretty amazing was about to happen? I’ve had the feeling a couple of times. I had it today, as well. My husband had been invited to lunch by a longtime friend and they invited me to join them after I finished my morning appointments. On my way to the restaurant I found myself getting excited. I just sort of knew that it was going to be an amazing hour. Understand that I did not really know this man very well at all. We are “friends” on social media because of the relationship between he and my husband but that’s it. Still…I knew it was going to be a good lunch.

If you think about most lunch “dates” with friends, the time is spent talking about children, work, funny situations, etc. Not this one! We talked about Jesus Christ. And it wasn’t like any conversation I have ever had before about Christ. It was as if Jesus himself was sitting with us and telling us stories about His life. Scripture was quoted but not like we usually quote scripture. It was quoted like we do when we are relaying a conversation. It was real. It was direct. It was in-your-face. 

Too often we refrain from showing too much passion for Jesus. I don’t know why but we do. I’ve written about that before, actually. But not this man. Nope. Not only did he not refrain, he invited others to be prayed for. Our server was so humbled when he asked her what she would like for us to pray for in her life that she had a difficult time speaking at first. Then the smile that took over her face brought tears to my eyes. I can’t help but wonder if that was the first time that little girl has had a prayer said specifically for her. 

He leads a church in Georgia. It sounds like a piece of heaven. People of all walks of life coming together for the entire purpose of serving God while serving others. The more I listened to him talk the more I realized that I am a lukewarm Christian. Yes, I believe in Jesus Christ with my whole body, mind, and spirit. And yes, I share the Good News each week to my people. But what am I really doing? Am I feeding the orphans and widows? Am I going up to perfect strangers and asking them what is on their hearts that needs praying for? Am I sharing the Gospel in all walks of life? NO! I’m not. I am doing exactly what I said I didn’t want to do – I’m going through the motions. When I accepted the appointment to the two churches, I had such great ideas. But then my fears took over. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointment. Fear of the unknown. Those fears have held me back from doing what God expects me to do. I have been called to make disciples for Jesus Christ and I am failing….because I’m a lukewarm Christian. 

For the past hour I have replayed today’s events in my mind over and over. I realize that I have an opportunity to change, not lives, but souls. The Lord ha73cce639efcec0bc3942281a0ebdeb0as entrusted to me His words and His grace. He expects me to make each person I meet feel loved by Jesus Christ and ministers to others. Honestly, I don’t know what is next in this journey but I am certain that the lamp posts on my feet will illuminate my next step (Psalm 119:105). I’m not going to lie and say that I’m not scared. I am. Because each time God opens my eyes, my world gets crazy rocked. I refuse to be lukewarm any longer. 

Lord, please forgive my complacency in my life toward you. You trusted me with your Word and I have failed you. I ask you now to give me strength, wisdom and, most importantly, courage to fulfill the calling you placed upon my life. Amen.

… but I need it!

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I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)

“I wish I were thinner.”
“I want a new car.”
“I need a vacation.”

We’ve all done it. We’ve wished, wanted and desired things or situations that we were certain would make our lives better. Most likely, that wouldn’t happen but our struggle with being unhappy clouded the sound judgement that we were drowning in a sea of discontentment. Goodness, I’ve been there for sure! Wanting more. Thinking I needed more. I even tried to bargain with God to get more. But in the end, even when I ended up with what I thought I wanted, I was still supremely discontent and unhappy.

Why?

Because I was seeking something to fill the void that could only be filled with God.

You might be reading this and thinking to yourself, “yeah, sure, that sounds great and all but you don’t know what it’s like to really be in need.” Actually, I do. I’ve been there. I’m there NOW! I’m not talking about the kind of need that says you have to cut back to one new outfit a week. I’m talking about the kind of need that says, “if we aren’t careful, in a couple of months we will have a hard time getting food to eat.” That’s some serious need!

The fact is, any one of us could probably argue that those needs, and even some wants, could lead us to happiness. Unfortunately, that argument will always be lost because things don’t make people happy. We have to find happiness within us in spite of whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

So, where to find our happiness?

It took me a while to figure this one out. For so long, I stayed in this perpetual funk. One lousy situation after another seemed to confirm that happiness was entirely out of my reach. There were definitely days that getting out of bed was not my first choice. Instead, I would come up with about 10 reasons why I should just bury my head under my blankets and skip the day altogether. Unfortunately, if I did that, I would have missed out on blessings that God was giving me. When I stopped focusing so much on what I wanted, and focused on what God wanted to do in and through me, something amazing happened. I was content. And happy.

In fact, happiness is an external indication of internal contentment.

Talk about a slap in the face! I had been wishing, wanting and coveting things that were supposed to bring happiness for so long and it always seemed to be out of reach. And yet, happiness was there all the time; I just chose to not accept it. It took me a bit to fully embrace that, primarily because I didn’t want to accept that I was the cause of all my pain and misery. No one likes to face that reality. Sure, I could easily blame others but the bottom line is that I allowed situations to define my emotions. I allowed others to infect my heart and I did it willingly, it seemed.

Once I realized that God had already given me all I needed, I learned how to embrace life exactly as it was. Don’t get me wrong, I have cried many a tear. I have tossed and turned more nights then I can count. And I have gone through several containers of concealer trying to cover up those dark circles but I’m not unhappy anymore. I am relatively content. There is still a sliver of concern about the immediate future. But I can admit it and acknowledge that the worry I am experiencing is my human weakness. I don’t like it and I pray to God to take it away. You see, God wants me to place all my worries in His hands so that my internal contentment will shine through as external happiness. He has great plans for me and if I spend too much time on my own lists of things I want, wish for and desire, I will miss out on His perfect plan for my life. I don’t know about you but I think it’s pretty exciting that God would take the time plan out my life. Guess what? He did the same thing for you!

When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he spoke about being content in our lives. I can relate so intimately to this scripture because I have lived it. I am living it. My reality is not what I had planned for my life. I can assure you that! I am an educated, disciplined woman and yet my family’s everyday struggles can be overwhelming at times. My husband and I laugh just so we won’t cry. But spending the energy to push against our reality is fruitless. All that does is cause more pain, heartache and hopelessness. When that happens, Satan wins.

What if we learned to embrace our reality?

I know for me it was like I could breathe for the first time. It isn’t easy to let go of this false sense of security we call control. But truly accepting my reality allowed me to hear God’s voice in the midst of the chaos. I had been drowning Him out because I was so certain I knew what was best. But when we learn to be content in our present, God will indeed give us strength for our future.

I am pretty certain that my turbulence is not over with just yet. And I bet a few more tears fall. But I am able to place a genuine smile on my face and allow my external happiness to shine because my internal contentment is firmly in place. I still get disappointments and fears. Being without a job is a scary place to be. But God continues to provide for me and my family as long as I continue to give Him all the glory, even through gritted teeth. I may not like the lot I’m in but I love the One who is by my side.

It’s A Long Story…

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Holy God, I know YOU are the God hope. Yet, in this moment I do not feel filled with the joy and peace YOU offer to me. In this moment hope is distant in my heart. Right now, Holy God, I cry out and acknowledge that I need YOU. I need YOUR hope in my heart and I need YOUR filling. Please help me to do my part to trust YOU. Help me to trust YOU to give me the hope and the joy and the peace that your Holy Spirit brings. Increase my faith so that I can trust YOU fully with all the question marks in my life. FIll me by the power of YOUR Holy Spirit now. I don’t want to just survive or just get by… I want to overflow! YOUR Holy Spirit is the only one who has the power to pour the peace and joy YOU offer into my weary soul. I trust YOU today with all the circumstances of my life. Thank you that I can come to YOU, my God of Hope! Thank you that YOU offer peace to my heart. It is YOUR gift to me and I desperately need it.

Life is filled with so many distractions and disappointments that often rob me of that peace. Your word says that YOU will keep my heart in peace as I trust in YOU for strength and discernment and wisdom in every area of my life. Active, conscious trusting keeps my thoughts focused on YOU. Thank you that YOUR peace will be the result! Holy God, please help me today to focus on YOU in all the details of my life, inviting YOU into each circumstance, conversation and activity. Grow my trust in YOU. Keep me today in YOUR perfect peace for I have very little of my own. In YOU I place my trust today! Amen.

That prayer was written by a dear friend of mine, Deb Webb. She wrote it several months ago and I have it hanging on my wall. I haven’t read it in awhile but today it caught my eye. As I read it, I realized that I was breathing every single word of that prayer. My shoulders dropped and my eyes filled up – I had allowed life to rob me of God’s joy and peace. How in the world had this happened?

If you haven’t been following my posts on Facebook, allow me to fill you in. 2013 was a pretty rotten year. 2012 wasn’t great either but 2013 was one for the record books. My husband lost his medical license for an undetermined amount of time. This led to him closing his practice. I took a job at a mental health facility that turned out to be less then ideal but another business wooed me away. Unfortunately, my salary as a counselor could not sustain us in our former lifestyle. We ended up losing our home, our two cars, other possessions and downsized to a historic rental home. Luckily the owners of the home are friends of ours so they made the transition much smoother then it could have been. My husband was not able to find a full-time job because no one would hire a doctor – over qualified was the common response. Things became tighter and tighter. In December, he became very sick. It started as the flu then into pneumonia. Finally he was admitted to the hospital where he almost died and ended up spending 17 days – 15 in the ICU! When you end up friending your nurses on Facebook, you know you have been there too long. (As a side note – the Lourdes Hospital ICU nurses and other staff are priceless). After finally getting well enough to come home (on oxygen), I find out that I’m losing my job…. in two days! That is definitely the cliff note version but you get the point. It was a rotten year. This year has not started much better. All of this leads me back to that prayer. I have lost the joy and peace that God has given me. I think it’s time that I find it.

Today, I began packing up my office. I realized that I really hate boxes. I used to love boxes because that meant that I was moving. Moving represented new opportunities. New surroundings. Excitement. But now all that is gone. Now, boxes represent another chapter that has closed. I don’t want to close anymore chapters in my life. Not right now. I want to continue in my story with a dull, boring storyline about nothing at all. But instead, I’m packing yet again. Only this time I have no idea where I’m moving to. Yes, I hate boxes. Now, if I were wearing the mask that I used to wear, I would be saying something about God opening an even better door and not looking back..blah blah blah. But I took that mask off two years ago and will not put it back on. I’m sad. Period.

So many people over the past month in particular have reached out to me regarding my posts on Facebook. I have had people I do not even know contact me to offer me words of prayer and love. They have prayed for my husband and his health. They have prayed for his career to be returned to him. They have prayed for strength for all of us. I’m quite certain that those prayers are what carry us both through each and every day. We have a son who is beyond amazing. As many changes as that child has experienced, he never complains or acts out. He just shows compassion and love. He’s kind of amazing, like I said. For him, I am determined to show little sadness. But in the stillness of the night, as I sit here listening to the rhythm of my husband’s breathing, I allow myself to feel all the emotions that are lurking inside. I feel every question mark in my life and the lack of answers can be suffocating. So now I turn to this prayer. I turn to the words that so accurately address all that I am feeling. I realize that if I’m feeling it, God is too. I tell my clients that tears are God’s salve. I really do believe that. So I allow them to fall and hopefully pour some peace into my weary soul. I know that God has not caused any of the heartache we have felt. He doesn’t hurt us or punish us. But He does allow us to experience pain so that we will fully acknowledge the He alone can heal that pain. Honestly, I have no idea what tomorrow is going to bring. I know it will be difficult as I say good-bye to folks I genuinely love and adore. But I will hold up my head as I close that chapter and wait anxiously for the next adventure in this crazy story called “My Life.”

…Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “ God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind. (Isaiah 40:27-31 MSG).

The Story of Job – not for the faint of heart!

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Job by Kulhanek

The book of Job is the story of a devout man who lived thousands of years ago. But tragedy hovers over this righteous man. Join me in this story – it’s quite a wild ride. Since I am a thespian at heart, I want to set up this drama like a play. 

 In the opening scene, we are given notice that things are not going well with job. He is about to lose everything — children, property and wealth, good name and even his health. This is the Bible so why will Job suffer such tragedies? Because God is about to challenge the devil with Job’s obedience and faith. God and Satan have decided to play a little poker, so to speak. Job is the wildcard.

Scene I invites us behind the curtain to the universe-ruling throne of God. In this drama, angelic beings are delivering reports on their activities. Satan is among them. The Evil One has been roaming the earth, surveying his domain (Job 1:6-71 John 5:19Revelation 12:9).

Job’s troubles begin after God presents him to Satan as a shining example of virtue. “Have you considered my servant Job?” God asks Satan. “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). {I like to think that Job had to have a few small flaws. I mean he was human, right? But I believe his heart was 100% dedicated to God and that is what God referred to when He said that Job was blameless and upright.}

God will soon allow Satan to afflict Job. Wait! What? He just said that Job was blameless and upright. If that is true, why was God going to allow Satan to afflict him? God is not punishing Job for sin. Job suffers because he is among the best, not because he is the worst. He suffers because God believes his heart to be true. That kind of stinks, actually. Seems like there would be a reward for such a pure heart. …oh wait… there is a reward, isn’t there?!! But I digress…

Satan rejects God’s view of Job’s good character. He implies that Job has a selfish motive, a cynical reason for obeying and trusting God (verses 9-22). “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan asks. Satan insinuates that Job is simply out for what he can get from God. Job is only a fair-weather friend, Satan insists. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?” Satan argues. “You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.”

Satan sneers at the good example. Job doesn’t love you, Satan implies. Take away Job’s many blessings and you’ll find that he’s no friend of yours. Satan tries to make a bet with God. “Stretch out your hand and strike everything he has,” Satan dares God, “and he will surely curse you to your face.”

Really? Does Job love God only for selfish reasons? Do we? “Well — let’s see,” is God’s reply. He tells Satan, “Everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

With God’s permission, Satan grabs a handful of dirty tricks from his bag of suffering. He flings them at Job, and the world caves in on this innocent man. Job’s herds and property are either carried off by raiders or destroyed by natural disasters.

But Satan is proven wrong. After these terrible tragedies strike Job, he tears his robe and shaves his head. He falls to the ground in praise, saying, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” The author of the book of Job is careful to point out, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Ouch! How often have we “charged God with wrongdoing?” I can think of several occasions where I wanted to know just why God was doing this or that.

Time elapses. One day, another angelic report takes place in heaven. God reaffirms to Satan his contention that Job truly loves God and his ways (Job 2:1-7). Satan again scoffs at Job’s faith in God. “A man will give all he has for his own life,” jibes Satan. “But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

God again expresses confidence in Job. “Well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

The devil immediately strikes poor Job with horrible sores over his entire body. The fall of the house of Job is complete. It appears he has become — without his knowledge or permission — the guinea pig in one of history’s greatest tests.

Job is now on trial. He must answer a vital question. How will he, who had faithfully trusted God for help and protection, react to suffering that seems senseless and unjust? Will righteous Job reject God, or maintain his faith?

So far, Satan has lost every round. He has been proven wrong about Job’s faithful relationship with God. But can Job endure? Will he continue to trust in God as the seemingly endless suffering rolls on, with only pain and death in sight? Will Job persevere even though God seems to have forsaken him? That is the issue at stake.

Job can be seen as a metaphor of the suffering believer. How Job reacts to God’s test says something about how we should react to trials. The book challenges us to consider our faith. Would we continue to trust God, to love God with all our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37-38) — even while suffering for reasons we don’t understand?

Act 2 of this great drama takes place on an ash heap in the land of Uz, here on earth. Job is suffering pain and anxiety. He is emotionally alone, tormented, confused, angry. His three friends who came to comfort him are instead emotionally and verbally persecuting him. {Isn’t that just the way it is? Right in the middle of the crisis, our “friends” jump on the persecution bandwagon?}

The human actors in the drama do not know that God is deeply involved in Job’s life at this precise moment. They have no understanding of what God is trying to accomplish nor why Job is suffering so terribly. Nor do they grasp that a cosmic issue is at stake.

Job himself does not understand why this evil is happening to someone who has faith in God. Why has a good God allowed such terrible things to happen to a decent, God-fearing human being? Job, in short, is asking, “Why me, Lord?”

On the ash heap, the issues are very human, confused and not completely understood. The principal human characters all have incomplete and distorted knowledge. They make partial or even incorrect judgments about God’s activities. Or they misapply general observations to Job’s specific situation. Note to us humans – Butt Out!! We aren’t always privy to the “whys and whats” of others lives. Don’t assume we are!!

The introduction has given us a sneak preview of the heavenly perspective on Job. We know God is much pleased with and concerned about him. No matter that God has temporarily suspended Job’s protected condition. There is a reason. Job is not a victim of time and chance, but a part of God’s orchestrated purpose. Job has no inkling he is the star actor in a God-directed morality play on earth. As far as Job knows, God has disappeared from his life.

Job desperately tries to solve the mystery behind his suffering. He struggles on his own, looking for clues. None appear. Job prays expectantly. God will surely intervene in his life — heal him of his disease, explain to him what in the world is going on. But nothing happens. The horribly painful disease reduces Job’s strength. He grows weaker and weaker. He becomes more confused.

Job’s language sometimes borders on the irrational and incoherent. At times he appears almost delirious. Opposing attitudes clash in his speeches. Job appeals to God to act before it is too late. At times he even challenges God. Please help me, he cries. Come to me quickly. “I will soon lie down in the dust,” Job cries out, “you will search for me, but I will be no more” (Job 7:21).

Through his agony Job becomes increasingly confused, perplexed, discouraged, without hope. In his worst nightmare, Job sees death coming around the corner of his life, ready to run him down. Job knows he is finished — through. He sees himself doomed to die a broken, lonely, hated and despised person. Job’s hopelessness is painted throughout the book. In one place he moans, “My spirit is broken, my days are cut short, the grave awaits me” (Job 17:1).

Even though Job has done nothing wrong and pleads desperately for help, God still chooses to stay hidden. “I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer,” Job wails (Job 30:20). {This is when that burning bush moment would have been helpful. I would love to see a burning bush or heavenly host every now and then. Just saying…} Job’s tragic circumstances challenge and contradict everything he has always believed about God as a rewarder of the good. Life has gone crazy for Job, and he has been locked up in the padded cell of his own mind.

Job can only assume God is persecuting him, hiding from him. He lashes out at God in pain and anguish. “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target?” Job complains (Job 7:20). I have to confess that I have asked that question. Isn’t that just like us selfish humans? To assume that God would “target” us for harm when things are going right?

We should not mistake Job’s terrible discouragement, his lashing out at God, for disbelief. God’s existence is not in question. Job knows that somewhere in the universe God must be alive. “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him,” Job cries out in despairing belief (Job 13:15). Still trusting in God as his Advocate, Job insists, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25).

Meanwhile, Job’s friends are shocked at his outbursts. Surely, the comforters think, the fire of God is about to burn up this man. They are afraid to admit that no cause-and-effect reason exists for Job’s painful trial. That would imply they live in a senseless world. How could God be just and strike Job unjustly?

Their answer? Job obviously must have sinned terribly against God. Yes, that’s it — Job’s sins are the cause of his suffering. God is off the hook. The “friends” put forth the old “if you are suffering you must be sinning” answer to suffering. It is blame-the-victim time. Although at first they came to console Job, they end up attacking him as a hideous sinner.

Eliphaz accuses: “Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless?” (Job 22:5). He and the other two friends completely misread Job’s spiritual condition and God’s purpose. They, too, try to find the perpetrator of the crime — the cause of Job’s terrible suffering. But they accuse the wrong person — innocent Job. Again, let me say “butt out!” I hate it when people use bits and pieces of the Bible to condemn others but forget to look closely in the mirror. Your sin of judging and accusing is just as bad as any sin someone else commits. There is no sin meter. A sin is a sin. Period. Quit pointing fingers. {rant over}

Part of what the friends say about the relationship of sin and cursing, virtue and reward is true. Sin does have consequences — we do reap what we sow (Psalm 1; Galatians 6:7). But Job’s friends misapply their remarks in Job’s case. They take a general principle and nail it to a specific person — Job — and the specific trial he is undergoing. They will soon be shocked to discover how wrong they are (Job 42:7-8). Sometimes people suffer from the sins of others. {insert gasp here}

On the ash heap, all the drama’s actors, Job especially, have been asking questions of God and imputing motives to him. Job has already prosecuted God. The friends have been, let us say, mistaken witnesses against Job.

Throughout the dialogues between Job and his friends, Job especially had claimed vast knowledge of the way things work — or should work — in this world. Job said of a hoped-for encounter with God, “I have prepared my case, I know I will be vindicated” (Job 13:18).

In Act 3, God storms into Job’s presence. Now, it’s my turn, he says. I will cross-examine you. Out of the raging storm, God begins to challenge Job’s claim to understanding: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2). Who is ignorantly accusing me of doing wrong?

From the whirlwind, God demands of Job, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?” (Job 40:2). God tells Job he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he questions God’s fairness. He isn’t going to answer any of Job’s “Why?” questions. God has come to cross-examine. “I will question you, and you shall answer me,” he tells Job twice (Job 38:3;40:7).

How does God answer Job? He sidesteps every question Job had. Instead, God gives Job a wilderness appreciation tour, recounting the majesties of nature from hail to horses (Job 38:2239:19). Is this relevant? Indeed, it is.

God’s point to Job, Philip Yancey wrote in Disappointment With God, is this: “Until you know a little more about running the physical universe, Job, don’t tell me how to run the moral universe.” {this might be my favorite statement EVER!}

Aaagh! How stupid I was, thinks Job. He smacks his brow and puts his hand to his mouth. Job finally understands the error of his hasty conclusion (Job 40:4). He grasps that his position is built on ignorance. He realizes God is quite capable of running the universe correctly.

Job now knows that whatever has happened to him — in some way he can’t fully understand — will work out for his benefit, for everyone’s benefit (see Romans 8:28). Job can say to God, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Job is now convinced of God’s infinite wisdom in dealing with him as he sees fit. Job now knows there is a purpose for his suffering — God’s purpose. That is quite enough for him. The mighty voice of God thundering out of the whirlwind puts everything into perspective for Job. It says: God is alive; God is here; God cares; God is capable.

Job has been given an answer, not the one he expected, but one much more important. It does not matter that he was not given a chance to present his own case. When God appears, Job’s questions melt away precisely because God has now revealed himself.

Surprisingly, God does not condemn Job for railing against him and accusing him. God only corrects Job’s misconception about his ability to rule the creation. God does reprimand Job because Job condemned him for injustice. Out of the storm, God batters Job with these questions: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” (Job 40:8). But God does not accuse Job of sin. God neither calls him self-righteous nor a blasphemer.

Does this mean that we might also dare express our frustration, our anger — even call God to account in our ignorance and confusion — without being condemned by God? Shocking though it may be — yes, we can. In Yancey’s words: “One bold message in the Book of Job is that you can say anything to God. Throw at him your grief, your anger, your doubt, your bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment — he can absorb them all.” God is much bigger than we are.

Job also recognizes how big and how great God is. After hearing God’s argument, Job says, “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). But repent of what? Of some specific sin? Not quite. Job explains, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (verse 3).

It wasn’t that Job had to overcome a specific sin, but rather that he had to grow in understanding. Job had been too hasty in concluding God was unjust or unable to rule in the right way.

Job now had a deeper, clearer perception of his Creator. But this new awareness was only a by-product of the real purpose of Job’s suffering — the testing of his faith and love. In this case, God needed to know something about Job, and Job needed to know something about himself and about God.

The book of Job teaches us that suffering may occur for reasons that we don’t understand unless or until God reveals them to us (see John 9:1-7, for example). Trials may come because God needs to know something about a faithful servant (Genesis 22:1-12). Job’s suffering had such an intent — to prove whether he would love God in spite of everything.

This message of Job has deep implications for our relationship with God. Trials and suffering provide spiritual enrichment and build a relationship between us and God (2 Corinthians 12:7-10Hebrews 12:4-12James 1:2-41 Peter 4:12-19). Think of trials and sufferings in your life. Did you not reach out to friends and family for support and love? What if we reached out to God like we do others? What if pursued Him during those times? How might our suffering have been eased a bit knowing that God Almighty was walking with us?

Job also tells us no ironclad relationship exists between suffering and sin. Just because Christians suffer trials or tragedies does not mean God is punishing them for some sin. This is probably the biggest misconception for non-Christians and some Christians. There is a thought that if Christ loves us then we should be happy and healthy all of the time. But God never promises us that life will be without trials. It’s how we react to those trials that matters.

The book of Job is about much more than suffering or God’s justice. Job affirmed that God was still God — no matter what — and always worthy of our love, reverence and worship. That was the test on Job, and he passed it. He vindicated both himself and God by remaining faithful. Job proved it is possible for humans to love God unconditionally.

(Parts of this blog were written by Paul Kroll in 1992)

Are You Listening?

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Why is it always in the middle of the night?

You know what I’m talking about. You are sound asleep, rest finally consuming you after a long day. And then you hear it.

Beep. Beep.

At first you aren’t sure why you are waking up. Was it a dream? Maybe a car outside. But it’s silent so you settle back down in your pillow. And just as you close your eyes…

Beep. Beep.

Yep, there it is. 3:30AM and the batteries in the smoke detector are getting low. Why does it always happen in the middle of the night? Those batteries could just as easily go dead in the middle of the day. But no – they wait until the house is silent. It’s like they know that this is the time when they are most likely to be heard the loudest.

Sort of like God.

I know God speaks all of the time. He is all around me every minute of every day. But how often do I actually hear Him? Confession time – not very often because I’m simply not listening. I don’t take the time as often as I should to just be still and listen for His voice. I pray everyday but there are times, even in my prayer moments, that my mind wonders to the list of things to be accomplished and I end up tuning Him out. Do you ever do that?

As I look back over the last year of my life, how many times have I missed God’s voice because of all the chaos that I allow to consume me? How often has He used others to speak to me and I have simply tuned them out thinking I know better? It’s enough to make me cry. I don’t want to miss out on Him anymore.

I think, like that smoke detector, alerting me in the most silent part of the night that it needs attention, God does that too. He requires of us to be still. At least eight times, God commands for us to be still.

Exodus 14:14
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Nehemiah 8:11
The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve.”

Job 6:24
Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong.

Psalm 23:1-3
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 37:7
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Psalm 46:10
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

Zechariah 2:13
Be still before the LORD, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.

Mark 4:39
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

Think about that – He wants us to take the time to be still and listen to Him. When we are constantly on the move, constantly surrounded in noise, how can we possibly hear Him? We can’t. Like that smoke detector, I would not have heard it if it had been in the middle of the day and the TV was on. It took that quietness of the night, when everyone was at rest, for my attention to be directed to it.

After changing the battery, and settling back into bed, I couldn’t help but think about God and how He works. Only God would use a common household item to get my attention to focus on Him. As we enter into this Holy season, the hustle and bustle can be overwhelming. Our calendars are jammed with parties and shopping and “holiday cheer.” But are we really experiencing the meaning of Christmas? Are we taking the time to focus on Jesus Christ? This should be a time of peace and tranquility but instead we tend to shut God out more then ever during this time of year. We no longer hear Him because we don’t take the time to listen. Peace is there for each us because of the grace of God but peace must start within our own souls. And it can only be found when we take the moments that God has given us to focus on Him and Him alone. Instead of saying “I’m too busy,” we need to say “I’m never too busy to spend time with you, God.” He will calm the winds and the waves in your life if you will only be still.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the alert sounds in my life that let me know that you want to be heard if only I will be still long enough to listen. Forgive me to thinking I’m too busy to slow down. Help me to slow down and seek your voice in everything I do. Amen.

Lopsided Pictures

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Romans 5:3-5 And that’s not all. We are full of joy even when we suffer. We know that our suffering gives us the strength to go on. The strength to go on produces character. Character produces hope. And hope will never let us down. God has poured his love into our hearts. He did it through the Holy Spirit, whom he has given to us.

“Either God sent it or He allowed it.”

I had just finished telling a friend about a monumental meltdown that I had the previous weekend. I was attempting to hang a picture on the wall of our “new to us” house that we were renting. It wasn’t working out so well. It was lopsided, which appeared to be a mocking reminder of how my life felt. Lopsided and chaotic. So, when I told my friend about it and how upset I was at the circumstances that led me to be hanging this print in a house that wasn’t mine, she responded with “either God sent it or He allowed it.” REALLY?!!

I found myself contemplating this phrase. In some ways, it made total sense. God is all-knowing and has the power to do what He pleases. But I just couldn’t buy into it. I mean, the God I have a relationship with is one of Love and Grace. Would that God actually send pain my way? Or was it the result of free will which caused bad decisions to be made? Slowly, peace replaced anguish. Acceptance replaced anger. Submission replaced unbelief. Could God be allowing these circumstances to change something within me? Was God granting permission to experience suffering for a specific reason?

Malachi 3:3 —

He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver.
He will purify the Levites
and refine them like gold and silver.
They will belong to the Lord,
presenting a righteous offering.

Can’t you just picture the silversmith purifying the silver? God is like the silversmith in our lives, refining us; He’s who burns away the dross, which is something that is unnecessary or trivial.

I cannot count the number of times I have asked why the suffering is occurring in my life. Why is the suffering occurring in some of my friends’ lives. These trials can feel like a punishment. Major roadblocks seem like they’re meant to make us miserable, just sucking the joy out of our lives. But as I read Malachi and many different translations, I can see that maybe I have been misunderstanding the meaning behind these trials. Maybe, just maybe, the pain actually serves a good purpose. And maybe God is using the pain to transform us with each anguish we persevere through. He is removing the “dross” from us. Each time we survive a major ordeal we grow stronger, wiser, more prepared for the next challenge. We are conquerors and overcomers with God’s help.

Ordeals, hardships, distresses are permitted by God for our perfection. But I do not believe that God causes pain. I do not believe that He brings this pain into our lives. Permitting pain to occur is much different then causing it. With free-will comes free suffering. He allows us to suffer through our choices so that we will be ultimately rely fully on Him. He wants us to see that when we seek our own guidance instead of His, the results are often painful and hard. But when we seek Him, we find comfort and peace. So the pain is allowed so that we might live in the peace.

Even knowing this knowledge about God and His love does not ease the immediate suffering. Tears still fall. Anxiety still rises. Fear still takes hold. But now I can feel the peace that I know is coming. You see, sometimes the best way for God to perfect us is through our tears, angst and suffering. However, if I am to fully believe God is permitting my pain, then I have to trust He has a purpose. I have had so many other people tell me that God “must have great things planned for me.” I hope so. I want to be a shinning example of His mercy and grace. I honestly have no idea what God has in store for me. I feel called to speak publicly about God’s grace. I think that if I keep all of this to myself then I am not glorifying God for all that He has done in my life. I know He isn’t the cause of my pain. I know that He isn’t the reason I feel angst and frustration. So I have to show that to others who might NOT know that.

The ultimate truth is this – nothing compares to having complete faith that the Lord is in control. When everything in my life seems be unstable, God is the rock that is unmovable. He won’t allow us to walk through any trial without having a greater purpose behind it. And He will hold your hand as you walk through it, letting you know He is right there with you.

Sometimes, a lopsided picture can be a reflection of our lives – chaotic, out of place. But sometimes a lopsided picture just needs to be straightened up.

Heavenly Father, sometimes life just seems overwhelming and the chaos becomes my focus instead of the peace. Thank you for your love and grace that is always constant. Help me to focus on your plan instead of my problem. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

This Means War!

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“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word.” – Ephesians 6:17 (CEB)

I was alone but felt that I was surrounded. It was almost suffocating. I kept looking all around me, certain that evil was about show its face. But there was no one there. Fear and panic engulfed me. What was that verse again from the Bible? The one about armor? I couldn’t remember it.

As could only happen in a dream, I found myself transported from the room I was in to a church. And there it was – the Bible. My Bible. I threw myself toward it but kept getting pulled further from it. I wanted to scream but no sounds would come.

I awoke with a panicked heart. Looking around in the darkness of my bedroom, I realized that I was safe. But what did my dream mean? I had never experienced anything like that before. Usually, if I remembered my dreams at all, they were silly and vibrant. But this one was so real. So full of fear and confusion. I was physically exhausted from the battle I had just experienced in my dream. “Pray” was all I kept hearing as I sat quietly in my bed, listening to the rhythmic sounds of my sleeping husband’s breath. For the next 30 minutes, I stared at the cross next to my bed and spoke to Jesus. Tears flowed as I poured out my fears, failures and lost dreams.

The next day, I thought a lot about that dream. I realized that what I experienced that night was no ordinary dream. It was much deeper. It was spiritual warfare and I was fighting without my armor.

Matthew 4:15 says:

Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

How could I have allowed this to happen? I was invested in God’s Word. I tried to live it to the best of my ability. And yet, I allowed Satan to infiltrate. The past two years have been marked by one harsh blow after another. I had tried to keep a positive outlook on life but deep down inside I was a big ole’ mess! I was fighting these unseen forces and it was physically, mentally, and spiritually wearing me down.

As I prayed about what to do, God led me to some truths. I had been carrying around some anger, resentments and fears that needed to be dealt with. Otherwise, I was just inviting Satan in my life where he would take the Word of God and root it right out. Satan realized that negative emotions which stemmed from being hurt by someone I loved, concerns about finances, as well as frustration and hopelessness regarding circumstances in my life, had all built a barrier between God and me. The truth is, I’d grown weary of praying because if felt selfish and forced. My feelings overshadowed my faith and I’d been relying on my own advice for handling adversities, rather than seeking God’s wisdom. As a result, I’d given Satan the very thing he was looking for – a foothold in my heart. So much time focused on me and my “woes” had inadvertently smothered out God’s Word and His truths which could set me free.

The fact is, even though I felt utterly alone, I really had no one to blame but ME! God never left me or abandoned me. He didn’t ignore my prayers. He still caught every tear I ever cried. I just chose to wallow instead of wrapping myself in His Word. Deep down I still knew that only He held the power to make me feel whole again.

So why did it take a dream to get me to wake up?

I believe God used the stillness of my rest to wrestle with me with He did with Jacob. I believe He wanted me to physically understand that spiritual warfare is not just something that happened in Biblical times. It happens everyday. We must be ready at all times, just like a soldier. And I had let my guard down, which enabled the enemy to get in. I believe that this dream showed me what weapons I need to fight this daily battle. When I couldn’t reach the Bible in my dream, I felt hopeless. His Word is the sword to fight Satan and the stronghold he tries to make. Only God’s Word can defeat him.

But I also realized that I need to spend more time with God so that I can retrieve His Word from the depths of my soul, not just on a page. The more time I spend on my relationship with the Lord, the better I will know Him. It’s like any friendship really. If you want a close relationship, you take the time to get to know that person. If I am spending time with the Lord, Satan won’t be invited in! It’s actually quite simple.

A song by Big Daddy Weave has a great verse. It says, “Then You look at this prisoner and say to me son, stop fighting a fight that’s already been won.” This battle that I experienced in my dream was of my own doing. God is not going to forsake me to fight these fights on my own. He has already won them. He did it by conquering the cross. I don’t have to fight this fight anymore. I have experienced victory through Jesus Christ. All I need to do is reach out to Him and invite Him to fight it for me.

Ephesians 6:13-18 (MSG) says

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”

Heavenly Father, I don’t want to fight this battle alone. Forgive me for ever thinking that I have to do it alone. Thank you for your Sword so that I never will go into battle alone again. Amen.

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The Joneses Are Overrated

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For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. — Philippians 4:11-13 (HCSB)

It’s official. “The Joneses” are overrated.

Yes, I’m referring to those Joneses. The ones we all are trying to keep up with. Totally overrated. I should know. I’ve been trying to keep up with them for years. Once I achieved it, it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

These past few months have not been easy financially for me and my family. We were certain when all of this hardship began that it would be very temporary. Three or four months. But now, nearly seven months later, there does not appear to be an end in sight. Essentially, we are destitute. Hand to mouth. Etc. Etc. At first it was late bills. Then it was selling a few personal items. Now, the house, cars, jewelry … all of it is gone. Yes, it is painful.

This morning at church, the sermon was about suffering. Oh boy was I going to relate to this one! I had a story about suffering. I was losing all that I owned. I was ostracized by former friends. Yes. This sermon was definitely for me. Pen in hand, I was ready to take notes and then wallow some more in why my life was so bad. Then God’s Word spoke to me.

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. –Matthew 27:27-31

Yep. God quickly reminded me that I didn’t know suffering at all. How could I possibly feel sorry for myself and the circumstances I find myself in when I read those verses? So what if I don’t have the home of my dreams. So what if I am no longer accepted in some social circles. I am alive and free because my God loved me enough to allow His Son to suffer for my sins. And boy was I sinning today. I was feeling jealousy, anger, resentment, bitterness… And Jesus suffered because He knew I would sin just like that. That’s some powerful stuff.

When I think of the emotional pain that I am living with, I have definitely wondered when God would step in and make it stop. But in the message today, I heard a wonderful statement. “God is not the author of my pain.” Wait. What? You mean it’s choices I have made that have impacted my situation? So what does it all mean then? What’s the point?

The point is that God is not the author of the pain but He will definitely use it for good. I can now have compassion for others walking through some dark valleys. I can offer them love and acceptance. I can show them God’s grace through my actions. That’s the point. God isn’t going to cause us pain but He will show us how to use it. Matthew 25:31-46 drives home this very point.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Getting back to the Joneses…

I’m fairly certain there will be times when the Joneses will invade my thoughts again. We are told over and over that to be loved and accepted we must look a certain way, live in a certain home and wear a certain label. But I believe God is showing me exactly how He wants me to be used in His ministry. He doesn’t want me to be like the Joneses. These comparisons destroy our contentment. When we see others owning, enjoying, or experiencing what we do not have, but wish we did, it can make us doubt our self-worth. In a letter to the believers in Philippi, the Apostle Paul wrote Philippians 4:11-13. “For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” I’m definitely not where the Apostle Paul was. Not even close. But at least God has deliberately shown me how He expects me to live my life – content in whatever circumstances I am.

God has already prepared a place of contentment for us when we can’t pay the bills. We find that place when we take our eyes off of our situation and fix them solely upon God.

A blog that I read about comparisons said the following:
” When we cease making comparisons and instead willingly embrace our current lot in life, welcoming all that God will teach us through it, we will finally unearth the secret Paul knew. True contentment is not merely having what you want, it is wanting nothing more than what you already have.”

Heavenly Father, forgive me for not embracing my current situation and seeing it as an opportunity instead of a sacrifice. Show me how to be your hands and feet to others walking through pain so that I might be of use to you. Thank you, Lord, for never wasting a hurt. Amen.

Got Peace?

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Lysa TerKeurst, a well-known Christian author and speaker, posted the following on Facebook:

“Will this choice I’m about to make add to my peace or steal it away? ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts’… (Colossians 3:15)”

Hmmmm….

That question was a startling wake-up call for me one morning recently. How often have I allowed my peace to be stolen by choices that I have made? Shamefully, I confess that it has been all too often. But why? Why do we intentionally steal our own peace? Yes, I used the word ‘intentional’. If you look at the question Mrs. TerKeurst posed, it is a choice that we are making and that means an intentional action.

As I take a few moments to really reflect on where I am currently in my life, I realized that some of the choices I have made over the past few years definitely stole peace from my life. Whether it be a shopping spree or verbal argument, I have made choices that left me feeling uneasy and chaotic in the pit of my stomach. Not a good feeling to have. If you are like me at all then you find yourself replaying conversations or situations that you have had which didn’t go so well. You might think of new things to say or different actions. Whatever it is, the peace that could be there is gone, replaced with chaos that occupies entirely too much of your time. I was talking to my husband the other day, telling him about my frustrations with some former co-workers that I had run into. I was going over the litany of reasons why I was irritated. His response was, “stop giving them so much space in your head.” Well, at the time, my irritation switched from them to my husband. But the fact was, he was absolutely right. I was making a choice to dwell on them, which stole my peace.

Too often we forget that we really can only control two things in this life – our actions and our reactions. That’s it! I hate the idea that there are people who don’t like me or choices I have made but it is what it is. I can’t control them. But I can control how I respond and act toward others. I can also control if I have peace in my life or not through my choices.

How many times have I been like Job and said the same things as he does in Job 3:26? “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” I don’t want to be like that anymore? I have chosen so many times to allow my situations and circumstances to define my moods. No more. Instead, I choose to rely on Jesus and his promise.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. —Romans 5:1

I chose to open my heart to God and accept the love of Jesus Christ. So why would I ever make a choice that invites turmoil in my life? And yet, we do it all of the time! My challenge to you is to make an intentional choice daily to invite peace into your life. And if chaos and turmoil creep in, seek God’s guidance in returning you to that place of peace once again.

Heavenly Father, I am so thankful for you and the promise of peace you have given me through your Son. Help me to always make choices of peace rather then offer invitations to chaos. Amen