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Posts tagged ‘problems’

A Prayer for Relinquishing Ownership of Our Battles to God

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

 The Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s. (1 Sam. 17:47) This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chron. 20:15)

Dear heavenly Father, I’m so thankful to begin this day relinquishing ownership of my battles to you. Your Word is so timely and encouraging. Though you call us into spiritual warfare and give us the appropriate armor to wear (Eph. 6:10-18), it’s you we must trust in as our “shield and buckler” (Ps. 91:4), high tower and safe refuge, mighty Warrior and faithful Deliverer.

I’ll fight, not a disengaged pacifist but as a fully engaged worshiper—”beholding the salvation of the Lord.” I’m never more than a little David facing a formidable Goliath; but with you, that is enough. Whether it’s a mere skirmish or an all-out assault, the battle belongs to you, Father. Fear and discouragement aren’t the order of the day; faith and peace are.

When dark plans and wicked ways threaten; when it seems like evil men and their destructive plots will triumph, let me hear your laughter in heaven, Father. Let me see your already-installed King, the Lord Jesus—for all things are subject to him, all things. Show me the occupied throne of heaven, and it will shut up my fears (Ps. 2; Rev. 4).

When I’m under attack by the seducer, accuser, and condemner of the brethren, once again let me see Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. Jesus, alone, is my wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30-31). My boast is in Christ plus nothing, not in anything in me.

When I get pulled into petty fights and relational turmoil, with friends, “brethren, and others, center me quickly by the power of grace, and bring me back to faith expressing itself in love (Gal. 5:6)—the only thing that matters.

When I’m in the presence of systemic evil and extreme brokenness, keep me sane, calm and wise. When my divided heart wages war inside of me, come to me in the storm, Father, and bring your peace that passes all understanding and transcends every difficulty. So very Amen I pray with confidence, in Jesus’ triumphant and tender name.

“Out of the Wreck I Rise” Everytime!

SOURCE:  Oswald Chambers

Out of the Wreck I Rise

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?Romans 8:35

God does not keep His child immune from trouble; He promises, “I will be with him in trouble . . .” (Psalm 91:15).

It doesn’t matter how real or intense the adversities may be; nothing can ever separate him from his relationship to God. “In all these things we are more than conquerors . . .” (Romans 8:37).

Paul was not referring here to imaginary things, but to things that are dangerously real. And he said we are “super-victors” in the midst of them, not because of our own ingenuity, nor because of our courage, but because none of them affects our essential relationship with God in Jesus Christ. I feel sorry for the Christian who doesn’t have something in the circumstances of his life that he wishes were not there.

“Shall tribulation . . . ?” Tribulation is never a grand, highly welcomed event; but whatever it may be— whether exhausting, irritating, or simply causing some weakness— it is not able to “separate us from the love of Christ.” Never allow tribulations or the “cares of this world” to separate you from remembering that God loves you (Matthew 13:22).

“Shall . . . distress . . . ?” Can God’s love continue to hold fast, even when everyone and everything around us seems to be saying that His love is a lie, and that there is no such thing as justice?

“Shall . . . famine . . . ?” Can we not only believe in the love of God but also be “more than conquerors,” even while we are being starved?

Either Jesus Christ is a deceiver, having deceived even Paul, or else some extraordinary thing happens to someone who holds on to the love of God when the odds are totally against him. Logic is silenced in the face of each of these things which come against him.

Only one thing can account for it— the love of God in Christ Jesus. “Out of the wreck I rise” every time.

Is Anything Too Hard For ME!?!

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministries

“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”Jeremiah 32:27 NIV

Thoughts for Today
When we are facing difficult times, sometimes we begin to feel as though our situation is hopeless. If friends and family try to encourage us, we might respond with, “But you don’t understand.”

Our loved ones might or might not understand, but the Lord always understands. He always cares. And he assures us that nothing is too hard for him.

Consider this … 
What challenges are you facing? An illness? A rebellious child? Marriage problems? Financial challenges? Whatever it is, remember that God is bigger.

As you turn your problem over to God, remember that his answer might not be what you are expecting. And his timing might seem ever so slow. But he will be with you throughout the process. And his plan … and his time … are always the best plan and the best time. No matter how things appear right now, he will work all things together for good. He loves you … and nothing is too hard for him.

Prayer
Father, thank you for your promise that nothing is too hard for you. Thank you for your faithfulness … your understanding … your love … your grace. Thank you for the plan you have for me. In Jesus’ name …

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Stepping into Freedom: A Christ-Centered Twelve-Step Program by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

What Controls Your Attitude?

SOURCE:  Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Do you ever have one of those weeks? You know, where life seems to always be one step ahead of you. You can never catch your breath and feel like you are constantly choking. No break in sight. Just when it seems like life can’t get any worse … it does.

I recently had one of those weeks. My wife and I weren’t connecting and tension was in the air. Discussions about the upcoming holidays were pending. The kids’ attitudes were affected by household chores and difficulties at school and with peers. At work there was one curve-ball after another. Accounts weren’t paid on time, some contractors gave us some bad news, others weren’t producing, friends were really struggling, plans for a mission trip were not going smoothly. Then, with so much work to catch up on, a storm blew in and we lost power for 48 hours.

In the past, these kinds of weeks would have caused so much distress, prompting poor decisions that would have led to even worse circumstances and consequences. This vicious cycle would spiral so quickly and last longer because of the poor way I handled a set of circumstances.

My life took a dramatic turn when I learned that no matter what you do, you will never stop life’s bad turns.  We are all going to be tested, to be sifted, purified, and refined.

Traffic jams will cause you to miss that important appointment. You’ll lose a job or promotion. Someone will be rude or hurtful, or cheat on you. Regardless of the situation, remember, God is the one who allows all things to happen. We don’t know why, but He does, and He has a plan.

You can live happily each day despite life’s ups and downs, but it can only be done through daily dependence on Jesus Christ and trust in God’s sovereignty and plan. The Apostle Paul tells us that he learned the secret of being content in every situation: that he could do everything through Him that gives me strength.

Today, remember it’s not what happens to you that counts. How you choose to react to each situation reflects your attitude, your heart, and is the fruit of your life.

It just comes down to who’s in control of your attitude. When you feel uncomfortable today, stop and assess your reaction to the day’s events. What kind of lenses are you using, your me-centered ones, or your God-centered ones? Your decision, choose well.

 Prayer

Dear Father God, I invite You to be in me and at work with me. Help me grow, Father, so that I may have the same attitude and mind as Jesus Christ. I know peace doesn’t come from the outside, but comes only from You inside me. Help me look inward for peace and not wait for my circumstances to settle down for me to be at peace. I do not want to be ruled by the circumstances around me … I want to be ruled and guided by Your Holy Spirit. I pray in the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus – AMEN!

The Truth

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Philippians 2:5

 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 everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13

Facing the Pain Inside

Why do things go so wrong when you try so hard to do what’s right?

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Larry Crabb as adapted from Inside Out

I am convinced that most of us wrestle regularly with problems no one else ever knows about. For most of us, things simply are not at all as they seem to be.

The fact is, a lot of things are going on inside me that I have no intention of sharing publicly. The same is true for most of us. One of the most common things I hear from people who have come for counseling is, “I know I have questions and struggles and hurts going on inside me, but I’m scared to death to face them.” We simply don’t know how to handle it all, and we have no real confidence that other people could handle it either.

Most of us try to forget the whole inside mess and just get on with the Christian life, which becomes an ongoing struggle to look good on the outside and to deny what is really going on inside. But I wonder how much pain and disappointment—how much real agony of soul—is going on beneath the surface that has not been resolved or taken away, but only covered over behind perfect church attendance or Bible memorization or doing all sorts of good things for your church.

For the thousands of people like me who so often wonder why things go so wrong when they try so hard to do right, the Lord has a radical message, a message that needs to be clearly stated and heard.

SEEING THE PATTERNS

First of all, God is not a cosmetic specialist. He has no desire simply to get people in our churches looking the way they are supposed to look. His desire is to get down to the core of my being where I wrestle with anger, where I fight sexual urges that shouldn’t be there, where I feel distant from others, where there’s depression I hide from everyone else—to get down to the real issues of life, and accomplish change from the inside out.

Some years ago my wife and I were shopping for a new home. We finally found one that had everything we wanted, though the price was a little higher than the limit we had agreed upon. “Honey,” I said to her, “what do you think?”

“Larry,” she said, “this house is perfect. We’ve talked about it and prayed about it. This is the home I think we ought to have.”

After asking more questions—”Are you crazy about it?” “Are you sure it has everything you want?”—I finally said, “Honey, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. Since you love the home so much, we’re going to buy it.”

“Larry,” she responded, “do you know what you just did? You have just taken the responsibility for the decision off your shoulders and put it onto mine, so if it ever turns out to be a bad one you’ll be able to blame me.” (Married to a psychologist, she’s able to think this way.)

She was right. I’m not big on decision-making. As a counselor I can handle suicidal crises and people with bizarre sexual problems, but I can’t handle making decisions in my own family. “All right,” I said, “I’ll take my share of the responsibility. Let me think this through and I’ll decide.”

I called an elder in the church. “I want to talk with you about a major decision I’m making,” I said, and we talked at length. “Larry,” he said, “if you want to buy the house, go ahead and buy it. From my perspective I see no spiritual issues here that need to be addressed.”

“Fine,” I said. Then I called a financial consultant who assured me the monthly payments were within our reach. “Go ahead and buy it,” he said. I thanked him and said, “Let me think about it.”

Then I called my father. “Dad, I’ve got a decision to make and I need your help.” I told him all the issues—the money factors, details about the house— and asked what he thought I should do.

“Larry, I know exactly what you should do,” he said.

Music to my ears. “What?”

“Make a decision.”

So I did. Finally.

On another occasion I had a few free hours to spend on a Friday afternoon. Two options occurred to me: going to the YMCA to work out, or playing tennis with my kids in the schoolyard behind our house. I decided to go to the “Y.”

I got in my car to make the three-mile trip. After about a mile I said to myself, I think I’d rather play tennis with my kids. I turned the car around, got halfway home, and thought, No, I think I’ll go work out. I turned the car around again. Within sight of the “Y,” I decided I really did prefer to play tennis with my kids. I pulled into the parking lot and right back out. But on the way home again I reached the same point of indecision.

I pulled the car off to the side of the road and threw up my hands. What is going on inside of me? Why on earth can’t I decide? Why is it so hard as an adult male—a man who professes his willingness to lead his family as a husband and father—to make decisions when he’s supposed to? Why is there such a pattern of weakness in my life in this area?

Indecision may not be as big a trouble for you as it is for me, but as I’ve described it, what kind of struggles in your own life come to mind? Do you see any patterns that disturb you? Maybe it’s time to take a hard look—an inside look.

You may be feeling uncomfortable at the thought of such a close-up, beneath the-surface examination of your life. “Just like a typical psychologist,” you might be saying, “trying to make a big deal out of every little thing in life.” Taking such a deep look inside is seldom a pleasant endeavor (at least for me). But Jesus says taking an inside look is what He wants us to do.

DIRTY CUPS

In Matthew 23, Jesus encountered the kind of people who seem to specialize in doing everything right and making sure you notice it. You know the type: the person who looks at you with a condescending warmth when you admit a problem. The person who never gives a hint that he has struggles too.

To such externally religious people, so respected in their community because of their careful attention to do everything they were supposed to—Jesus had hard words:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. —Mt. 23:25–26

No message is clearer from these words than this: Our Lord is not terribly impressed with people who look good on the outside, but haven’t dealt with their lives on the inside. Jesus encourages you and me to search below the surface—to see something deep in our lives that needs attention, something not very pretty.

Change—real change, the kind Jesus wants to make in my life and yours— involves far more than trying harder to do all we should. It requires what is so difficult for most of us in this fast-paced world: a hard look at our insides. And that takes courage.

FEELING THE PAIN

It’s so much easier to just live life on the surface, particularly when our situation is relatively pleasant. For when we look inside, what we see is usually painful. We were built to live in a nonfallen world, yet we’re living in a fallen world as fallen beings: I’ve sinned, you’ve sinned, there are problems all over the place—and I’m disappointed that I’m not experiencing what my thirsty heart craves in full measure now. The more I’m aware of what I long for, the more I realize the disappointment I feel in my soul.

For example, real change—the only kind Jesus will settle for—requires a courageous look at the quality of our relationships. Christianity is a religion about relationships, and God, in His ultimate existence, is a relational being. He designed us to live in relationships, and the measure of whether I can change to become what He wants me to be is whether I am living in relationships in the way I should.

But in my own relationships there are painful failures that, frankly, I don’t have the courage to face on my own. Maybe you have them too. All my relationships in some measure disappoint me, just as I disappoint everyone who has a relationship with me. Yet most of us constantly place pressure on other people to never disappoint us—to always understand our struggles, to always respect our efforts, to always support us, to always come through.

Deep in our souls, down at the core, we desperately long for this understanding from others. Not having it is painful. Our insides scream with the pain of loneliness and rejection and failure. It hurts so much that we try to relieve the hurt through our own efforts—often by withdrawing from others so that they won’t have the opportunity to disappoint us further. In every relationship we try to keep from looking and feeling bad, from being embarrassed, from reliving old disappointments—in short, we strive to avoid pain.

But feeling that pain is a first step, driving us to a new level of dependence on Christ. The only way to admit there is no real satisfaction apart from Christ is to first feel the disappointment in every other relationship. Once we admit our hurt—and admit that nothing and no one on earth really satisfies our longing—we can begin to fully depend on Christ to satisfy us.

DISCOVERING THE MORE

There’s more to what it means to know Christ than the most spiritual person around you knows anything about—there’s more! But we’re not going to discover the more until we acknowledge our thirst.

In Jn. 7:37 we read about an appearance Jesus made in Jerusalem on the final day of the Jewish harvest festival. He stood in their midst as an uninvited preacher and cried out, “If you’re thirsty, come to Me; and from your innermost being, I’ll cause rivers of living water to swell up!”

If you’re thirsty, He said, then come. The condition for the invitation is an awareness of thirst.

You and I are thirsty people. We long for a deep satisfaction, the kind that makes our insides very alive, that makes us rich people. We thirst. Deep in our souls, down at the core, we desperately want something—and want it legitimately—that we don’t have and really can’t have until Heaven—to be respected, to be deeply involved with someone who truly accepts us.

Jesus does something about this deep thirst. But it’s our responsibility—and our opportunity—to trust Him to produce the kind of change that way down we really want for ourselves.

To trust Him includes having the courage to face your sadness, knowing that one day the Lord will make everything right. For now, let the full impact of what it means to live in a fallen world really get to you. Let yourself be torn up. To be a strong, stable Christian does not mean you neither hurt nor weep. Face the fact that you long for a better world and for what you do not have and cannot have now. Groan over it . . . because it’s the route to joy, and to real inside change.

Trusting God also means trusting His forgiveness—which is the basis for change. When I come to the point of realizing I’m a sinner and that Jesus died for my sins, at that point He forgives me of my sin and He says, “Larry, I have given you life. Don’t try to go out and find it; rather accept it. Don’t try to preserve it; trust Me to take care of it.” Accepting God’s forgiveness allows the change process to begin.

Finally, trusting God means obeying Him by giving up that style of relating to people that really has our own comfort and protection in view. It means trusting God with our deepest longings and moving toward people in love—even though it’s risky and uncomfortable. Jesus leaves us in a disappointing world with the commandment to get more involved with people who are guaranteed to disappoint us further. The Christian life requires taking risks.

So the hurt doesn’t end. But trusting Christ with our pain and obeying Him by loving others leads to a deep sense of wholeness, a deep sense of intactness. There is life in Christ, and we begin to experience the reality of that life when we do what He says, when we give up our futile efforts at self-protection and allow Him to change us from the inside out.

The Wonders of Reality Discipline

SOURCE:  an article by Shana Schutte/Focus on the Family

This clever discipline method is less exhausting and more successful than ranting, raving, blaming, pleading, begging or threatening.

I once read a newspaper headline that made me chuckle: “Red Lipstick Empowers Women.” The caption, coupled with a photo of Marilyn Monroe wearing a white flowing dress and painted crimson lips, made me think that perhaps I’d found the answer to the discipline problems with my elementary students.That’s been my problem all along  I’ve been wearing champagne pink!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if changing lipstick was all it took to become more effective and empowered in handling discipline problems with children?

While child psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman is an out-of-the-box parenting problem solver who might buy into the lipstick method if it worked, Dr. Leman instead teaches parents about the effective “Reality Discipline.” This clever method of getting little “ankle biters” to obey is less exhausting and more successful than ranting, raving, blaming, pleading, begging or threatening.

It’s all about responsibility

The first thing to remember about Reality Discipline is that you want your children to learn to think for themselves and learn to become more responsible through guidance and action-oriented techniques. In an article from First Things First, Dr. Leman says, “Action-oriented discipline is based on the reality that there are times when you have to pull the rug out and let the little buzzards tumble. I mean disciplining your children in such a way that he/she accepts responsibility and learns accountability for his actions.” Here’s an example.

When my brother was in high school, my mother implemented Reality Discipline without realizing it. My little brother, Gannon, could sleep through a tornado (or a hurricane or tsunami) and my mother was tired of waking him up every morning and saying, “You’d better hurry, or you’re going to miss the bus.” Finally, Mom thought, I’m not waking him up anymore. He can be late. Just as she suspected, Gannon did miss the bus and was forced to walk the mile to school. Much to my mother’s delight, he was never late again. She didn’t have to beg, plead, give him ultimatums or nag Gannon one more time. Instead, she let reality do the discipline.

A little bit of ice cream can do the trick

One afternoon, I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Leman explain on the radio how reality discipline teaches responsibility. He told an engaging story about a mother whose preschool son was driving her bananas because every day when she stopped to pick him up from preschool, he ran from her on the playground. She felt like a fool for being outrun by a preschooler while teachers and parents looked on. Desperate, she asked Dr. Leman for advice.

Dr. Leman suggested that if her son ran from her next time, she should ask another adult on the playground if they would be kind enough to keep an eye on her son for a few minutes. Then she should drive away, go to the nearest ice cream shop, purchase a cone for herself and drive back to the school to pick up her son. Then, when her little guy got in the car and asked, “Where’s my ice cream?” he told the woman she should cheerfully say, “Well you could have had some ice cream, but you ran away; so I had to go get some alone.”

One point for mom; zero for Junior. That’s Reality Discipline. No ranting. No raving. No warnings. Just cool, collected action with some quick, clever thinking to make your point loud and clear.

Sounds great, right? Here are some basic principles of Reality Discipline to help you get (and keep) the upper hand with your kids.

Don’t focus on creating a happy child

In his book Have a New Kid by Friday, Dr. Leman says that the goal of parenting is not to create happy kids; rather, it’s to create responsible kids. This means Junior will probably be pretty unhappy that he didn’t get an ice cream cone; he may even throw a fit, and rant and rave — but he will become more responsible and respectful. Don’t back down, but do stay cool as a cucumber. Remind yourself that it’s a battle of the wits and the wills, and you will win.

Understand your child’s reality

According to Dr Leman, if you want to use Reality Discipline effectively, you need to know what’s important to your child — what really moves him in his reality. Your child may value money, sports, a daily cookie break, staying up late or spending time with friends. Parents who know how to use Reality Discipline make creative connections between bad behavior and discipline through action rather than through warnings, nagging or threats.

For example, suppose you ask your ten-year-old daughter (who loves saving money) to take out the trash. She ignores you, and thirty minutes later the trash is still sitting by the back door. With a little creativity, you decide to implement some Reality Discipline. Instead of reminding your daughter about the trash, you enlist her younger sister to take it out . Then you take some money out of your ten-year-old daughter’s allowance and give it to her sister for a job well done. Can you imagine the peace and satisfaction that could come from being such a quick-witted parent?

Note: If you want to use Reality Discipline, you have to listen to your child. Then you’ll know what will move him to responsibility. The more you understand what’s important to him, the more ammunition you’ll have in your arsenal to “train up” your child in the way he should go.

Make sure that Reality Discipline is grounded in love

In Have a New Kid by Friday, Dr. Leman writes, “Show me a mean teacher, and I’ll show you a good one.” If you find that you are a permissive parent who is afraid of “pulling the rug out from under your child” as Dr. Leman suggests, remember that Reality Discipline is not unkind. Instead, when it’s motivated by love to help your child mature into a responsible adult, it’s a very good gift.

Quotes on Suffering and Comfort

SOURCE: Dr. Robert Kellemen/God’s Healing for Life’s Losses: How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

“When tragedy strikes, we enter a crisis of faith. We either move toward God or away from God.”

“There is no human experience which cannot be put on the anvil of a lively relationship with God and man, and battered into a meaningful shape.”

“Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. It enables you to take it, to face it, to work through it, and eventually convert it.”

“God’s Word empowers us not to evade suffering, but to face suffering face-to-face with God.”

“In suffering, God is not getting back at you; He is getting you back to Himself.”

“Shared sorrow is endurable sorrow.”

“No grieving; no healing. Know grieving; know healing.”

“We live in a fallen world and it often falls on us.”

“The world is a mess and it messes with our minds.”

“Spiritual friendship with God results in 20/20 spiritual vision from God.”

“To deny or diminish suffering is to arrogantly refuse to be humbled. It is to reject dependence upon God.”

“Crying out to God empties us so there is more room in us for God.”

“Faith does not demand the removal of suffering; faith desires endurance in suffering.”

“Faith understands that what can’t be cured, can be endured.”

“Comfort experiences the presence of God in the presence of suffering—a presence that empowers me to survive scars and plants the seed of hope that I will yet thrive.”

“In this life, your scar may not go away, but neither will His. He understands. He cares. He’s there.”

“Spiritual emergencies can produce spiritual emergence.”

“Faith looks back to the past recalling God’s mighty works. Hope looks ahead remembering God’s coming reward.”

“In Christ, loss is never final. Christ’s resurrection is the first-fruit of every resurrection.”

“When we wait on God, we cling to God’s rope of hope, even when we can’t see it.”

“Hope waits. Hope is the refusal to demand heaven now.”

“Waiting is refusing to take over while refusing to give up. Waiting refuses self-rescue.”

“In Christ, we move from victims to victors.”

“God is a ‘time God.’ He does not come before time. He does not come after time. He comes at just the right time.”

“Faith is entrusting myself to God’s larger purposes, good plans, and eternal perspective.”

“Faith is seeing life with spiritual eyes instead of eyeballs only.”

“Through faith, I look at suffering, not with rose colored glasses, but with faith eyes, with Cross-eyes, with 20/20 spiritual vision.”

“Instead of our perspective shrinking, suffering is the exact time when we must listen most closely, when we must lean over to hear the whisper of God.”

“True, God shouts to us in our pain, but His answers, as with Elijah, often come to us in whispered still small voices amid the thunders of the world.”

“God’s eternal, heavenly story doesn’t obliterate my earthly, painful story; it gives it meaning.”

“Grace math teaches us that present suffering plus God’s character equals future glory. The equation we use is the Divine perspective.”

“Worship is wanting God more than wanting relief.”

“Worship is finding God even when you don’t find answers.”

“Worship is walking with God in the dark and having Him as the light of your soul.”

“Every problem is an opportunity to know God better, and our primary battle is to know God well.”

“Problems can either shove us far from God or drag us kicking and screaming closer to Him.”

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