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Posts tagged ‘trusting God’

Managing What Others Think of Me

Source:  Jan Johnson

Impression Management Versus Authenticity

 When I joined a group a few years ago and it was time for introductions, I stayed within the allowed three minutes and managed not to engage in my old game of “impression management.”  For me that means:  Say something that will make everyone laugh! or Say something so deep or authentic-sounding that people will be impressed!  It was difficult because I was used to doing my best to manage the impression of myself that other people walked away with.

Impression management is about using words, possessions and time allocation to convince others I am more or different than what I really am. It’s scary on several levels.  It means I want others’ approval so much that I can’t just be myself.  It isn’t OK to be who I am. It means that I can’t trust God to do whatever is appropriate concerning my reputation.  I must “help God out.” It creates bondage as we become enslaved to cramped schedules and others’ expectations. To be all things to all people means we have to squeeze in another appointment or errand. This seems like no big deal, except that we’re so rushed and distracted that our true authentic self of love and truth doesn’t have space to show up. Worry over our inability to do all this creates anxiety and fear.

Trying to manage what you think of me is a form of insincerity, even duplicity: what you see (impression) is not what you get when you know the real me. We are misleading people to think we are more clever, more witty or more spiritual than we are. Then we have to live up to that or risk disappointing them. At times, impression management is about trying too hard to be sincere because our simple speech is not enough. At its worst, it’s about exploiting opportunities and people so we can get what we want from them. Such a life is exhausting because we’re working against what is real and we’re not truly loving people (but only using them). It lacks the tranquility and authenticity of simplicity of life. In fact, that’s one way we can tell when we’re doing it:  I’m losing a sense of peace within. What am I up to?

So these days I’m finding that speaking simply (to “let  my ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and my ‘no’ be ‘no’,” Matt 5:37) without impression management is easier.  We build relationships more naturally because we can simply be and transparent without posturing. We are the same person in every situation. We always act in character, never working behind a mask. It’s easier to love others because we no longer try to manage them with convincing words to get them do what we want them to do.

People also find us easier to be around when we live in simplicity and authenticity of speech. They don’t have to guess what we’re really like or what we’re really thinking because we are refreshingly absent of pretense or affectation. The real me has the chance to connect with the real you. I want to keep moving forward to be content to be my unadorned self—the authentic self who does not need to impress anyone, but who also continues to experiment with trusting God more in all situations.

 

©Jan Johnson — The above is excerpted and adapted from chapter 4 of Abundant Simplicity

When Fear Seizes You

SOURCE:  Stacey Reaoch/Desiring God

This past fall my husband had the privilege of going to Turkey to speak at a conference for Christian workers. Although I was excited for his opportunity, I was also feeling somewhat hesitant with the terrorist activity in nearby Syria. Thanks to modern technology, we planned to FaceTime every day to keep in close touch with each other.

One day during that week, our appointed time to connect went by with no contact from my husband. Maybe he’s just running late, I reasoned. I looked for text messages . . . negative. I checked to make sure my ringer was turned up loud enough . . . affirmative. Maybe he’s deep in conversation with someone. . . . But as the minutes turned into hours, fear began to seize me. Unfortunately, I learned of terrorists near the Turkey border as I began watching world news reports.

As fear began to consume me, every worst possible situation played out in my head. Had terrorists overcome the conference and taken captives? What would I do? My mind went through multiple scenarios: explaining to our children what had happened, looking for a job to support our family, and wondering whether to sell the house. By the time my husband was finally able to call, I had already decided where to move and how much to sell the house for. Come to find out, he was just fine.

Fear Feeds Irrationality

“During our moments of fear and panic, God is whispering promises to us.”

When fear seizes you, all your ability to think rationally evaporates. Life becomes overwhelming, and the promises of God are thrown out the window. When Moses sent the spies into Canaan to gather information for the people of Israel, fear of the looming giants became much more visible than any of the blessings Canaan had to offer. Although they obediently gathered fruit from the land, their report focused on all the seemingly impossible obstacles they faced.

“We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there” (Numbers 13:27–28). As the spies exaggerated and gave the worst report possible, they compared themselves to grasshoppers and claimed the land would devour them (Numbers 13:32–33).

This fearful exaggeration infected the Israelites who succumbed to crying and grumbling against Moses and Aaron, and it even led them to claim they wish they’d died in the wilderness (Numbers 14:2–3)!

It seems Israel forgot God’s promise to give them the land of Canaan, despite the obstacles that looked so intimidating. “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel” (Numbers 13:2). If the Israelites had truly trusted God’s promise, even their enemies in Canaan shouldn’t have been a threat to them. God was going to give Israel the Promised Land, just as he’d said to Abraham hundreds of years before. And during our moments of fear and panic, God is whispering promises to us too.

Fighting Off Fear

When fear begins to creep in and all the “what-if” situations begin to consume your mind, here are seven things to remember:

1. God’s truth. Is what I’m thinking about really happening? Or is it just my imagination running wild? Paul reminds us to dwell on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).

“We can trust God has a hidden smile behind the dark cloud.”

2. God’s presence. We can be comforted remembering that we are not alone. God is with us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

3. God’s grace. God promises to provide us with his all-sufficient grace for every trial that comes our way. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” Jesus told Paul. And therefore, with Paul, we can “boast all the more gladly of [our] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon [us]” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

4. God’s sovereignty. God is in control over every situation in our lives. “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35).

5. God’s listening ear. Pour out your heart to God in prayer. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).

6. God’s trustworthiness. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3–4).

7. God’s big picture plan. No matter how awful this trial may seem, God promises to use everything together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). We may not see the good in our situation at the time, but we can trust God has a hidden smile behind the dark cloud.

So, when your child is diagnosed with cancer, or you just learned of a loved one in a car accident, or your husband comes home with news that he was let go from his job, prepare yourself for battle. Don’t let the Enemy use fear to seize you and take you captive. Fight him off with the promises of God’s word and his unchanging character.

Jesus Controls My Chaos

Editor’s Note:  Even as Jesus is able to set the boundaries of the Earth’s seas and control their fury, He is able to wisely and compassionately set limits on and control the chaos, destruction, and fury of life’s storms that affect each one of us.

Jesus Stills the Storm

SOURCE:  R.C. Sproul/Ligonier Ministries

“The men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” (v. 27).  – Matthew 8:23–27

Having explained the cost of discipleship to two would-be followers, Jesus and His disciples set out to cross the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 8:23). Little do the disciples know that this journey will give their teacher an opportunity to show forth His identity in a way they have not yet seen.

Because of its geographical location, violent squalls frequently occur on the open water of the Sea of Galilee, especially in the period between May and October. Seasoned fishermen like Peter, Andrew, James, and John (4:18–22) are certainly familiar with such storms, and so their fear, evident in Matthew 8:24–27, shows that the turbulence in which they find themselves is unusually fierce.

However, despite the storm’s ferocity, Jesus is able to sleep peacefully as the boat traverses the waves. This indicates His great trust in God and comfort in His faithful obedience because the Old Testament understands sound sleep to be a gift from God to His holy people (Lev. 26:6).

Christ’s ability to sleep in the storm is more remarkable when we consider that the boat in which His company is traveling is the customary fishing boat of His day, just big enough to accommodate the small group of men and a large catch of fish. The sailors are completely exposed to the elements. Jesus is not worried like the others even though He feels the storm’s effects no less than they do.

Yet Jesus’ command of the storm tells us about much more than His great faith.

In the biblical worldview, the sea and the storm are associated with chaos and destruction (Ps. 69:1–2). Only God can control the sea, and in fact, He sets its boundary and stills its fury (Job 38:8–11). That Jesus is able to silence the storm and still the waves indicates that He possesses an authority equal to the Creator’s (Matt. 8:26–27). The disciples marvel at this miracle because it is evidence that their beloved rabbi is more than just a teacher; He is in fact God Almighty.

John Chrysostom writes that “[Jesus’] sleeping showed he was a man. His calming of the seas declared him God” (Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, 28.1).

We put our lives in Jesus’ hands based on the evidence of His power. Today’s passage shows us that we can trust Him because He has authority over all nature and is worthy of our faith since He is the incarnate God over all creation. We follow the Creator of all things, not merely a good man. Take time today to review biblical teaching on the divinity of Christ (for example, John 1:1–18) so that you may be confident that your trust in Him will never be in vain.

Pressing Through the Pain

SOURCE:  Lysa Terkeurst

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. — James 4:8 NKJV

Does it ever feel like the heartbreak in your life is trying to break you?

I understand. I really, really do. I’ve been in that place where the pain of heartbreak hits with such sudden and sharp force that it feels like it cuts through skin and bone. It’s the kind of pain that leaves us wondering if we’ll ever be able to function like a normal person again.

But God has been tenderly reminding me that pain itself is not the enemy.

Pain is the indicator that brokenness exists.

Pain is the reminder that the real Enemy is trying to take us out and bring us down by keeping us stuck in broken places. Pain is the gift that motivates us to fight with brave tenacity and fierce determination, knowing there’s healing on the other side.

And in the in-between? In that desperate place where we aren’t quite on the other side of it all yet, and our heart still feels quite raw? Pain is the invitation for God to move in and replace our faltering strength with His. I’m not writing that to throw out spiritual platitudes that sound good; I write it from the depth of a heart that knows it’s the only way. We must invite God into our pain to help us survive the desperate in-between.

The only other choice is to run from the pain by using some method of numbing. But numbing the pain never goes to the source of the real issue to make us healthier. It only silences our screaming need for help.

We think we are freeing ourselves from the pain when, in reality, what numbs us imprisons us.

If we avoid the hurt, the hurt creates a void in us.

It slowly kills the potential for our hearts to fully feel, fully connect, fully love again. It even steals the best in our relationship with God.

Pain is the sensation that indicates a transformation is needed. There is a weakness where new strength needs to enter in. And we must choose to pursue long-term strength rather than temporary relief.

So how do we get this new strength? How do we stop ourselves from chasing what will numb us when the deepest parts of us scream for some relief? How do we stop the piercing pain of this minute, this hour?

We invite God’s closeness.

For me, this means praying. No matter how vast our pit, prayer is big enough to fill us with the realization of His presence like nothing else. Our key verse (James 4:8) reminds us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. When we invite Him close, He always accepts our invitation.

And on the days when my heart feels hurt and my words feel quite flat, I let Scripture guide my prayers — recording His Word in my journal, and then adding my own personal thoughts.

One of my favorites to turn to is Psalm 91. I would love to share this verse with you today, as an example for when you prayerfully invite God into your own pain.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. — Psalm 91:1

Prayer:

Lord, draw me close. Your Word promises when I draw close to You, You are there.

I want my drawing close to be a permanent dwelling place. At any moment when I feel weak and empty and alone, I pray that I won’t let those feelings drag me down into a pit of insecurity. But rather, I want those feelings to be triggers for me to immediately lift those burdensome feelings to You and trade them for the assurance of Your security.

I am not alone, because You are with me. I am not weak, because Your strength is infused in me. I am not empty, because I’m drinking daily from Your fullness. You are my dwelling place. And in You I have shelter from every stormy circumstance and harsh reality. I’m not pretending the hard things don’t exist, but I am rejoicing in the fact that Your covering protects me and prevents those hard things from affecting me like they used to.

You, the Most High, have the final say over me. You know me and love me intimately. And today I declare that I will trust You in the midst of my pain. You are my everyday dwelling place, my saving grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

And with that I close my prayer journal, feeling a lot less desperate and a lot more whole. I breathe the atmosphere of life His words bring. I picture Him standing at the door of my future, knocking. If I will let Him enter into the darkness of my hurt today, He will open wide the door to a much brighter tomorrow.

Dear Lord, in this moment I draw near to You and I invite Your closeness. Help me to experience Your presence today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Excerpted from Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst

GOD WILL STILL BE IN CHARGE (Tomorrow)

The Counseling Moment editor’s Note:  In the following article, author Max Lucado brings a solid and needed perspective concerning God’s perspective about and His sovereignty over the affairs of humankind — specifically the presidential election in November 2016.  At the same time, we can apply this understanding toward any aspect of life we face (or will face) that has any measure of uncertainty, confusion, and is troublesome to us.

SOURCE:  Max Lucado

Max Lucado: My Prediction for the Presidential Election

I have a prediction. I know exactly what November 9 will bring. Another day of God’s perfect sovereignty. He will still be in charge. His throne will still be occupied. He will still manage the affairs of the world. Never before has His providence depended on a king, president, or ruler. And it won’t on November 9, 2016. “The LORD can control a king’s mind as he controls a river; he can direct it as he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1 NCV).

On one occasion the Lord turned the heart of the King of Assyria so that he aided them in the construction of the Temple. On another occasion, he stirred the heart of Cyrus to release the Jews to return to Jerusalem.

Nebuchadnezzar was considered to be the mightiest king of his generation. But God humbled and put him in “detention” for seven years. “The kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations” (Psalms 22:28).

Understanding God’s sovereignty over the nations opens the door to peace. When we realize that God influences the hearts of all rulers, we can then choose to pray for them rather than fret about them. Rather than wring our hands we bend our knees, we select prayer over despair.

Jeremiah did this. He was the prophet to Israel during one of her darkest periods of rebellion. He was called “the weeping prophet” because he was one. He wept at the condition of the people and the depravity of their faith. He was so distraught that one of his books was entitled Lamentations. But then he considered the work of God. Note the intentionality of his words:

“This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:21-23)

Imitate Jeremiah. Lift up your eyes. Dare to believe that good things will happen. Dare to believe that God was speaking to us when he said: “In everything God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

Many years ago, I spent a week visiting the interior of Brazil with a long-time missionary pilot. He flew a circuit of remote towns in a small plane that threatened to come undone at the slightest gust of wind. Wilbur and Orville had a sturdier aircraft.

I could not get comfortable. I kept thinking that the plane was going to crash in some Brazilian jungle and I’d be gobbled up by piranhas or swallowed by an anaconda.

I kept shifting around, looking down, and gripping my seat. (As if that would help.) Finally, the pilot had had enough of my squirming. He looked at me and shouted over the airplane noise. “We won’t face anything I can’t handle. You might as well trust me to fly the plane.”

Is God saying the same to you? If so, make this your prayer:

Dear Lord,

You are perfect. You could not be better than you are.

You are self-created. You exist because you choose to exist.

You are self-sustaining. No one helps you. No one gives you strength.

You are self-governing. Who can question your deeds? Who dares advise you?

You are correct. In every way. In every choice. You regret no decision.

You have never failed. Never! You cannot fail! You are God! You will accomplish
your plan.

You are happy. Eternally joyful. Endlessly content.

You are the king, supreme ruler, absolute monarch, overlord, and rajah of all history.

An arch of your eyebrow and a million angels will pivot and salute. Every throne is a footstool to yours. Every crown is papier–mâché to yours. No limitations, hesitations, questions, second thoughts, or backward glances. You consult no clock. You keep no calendar. You report to no one. You are in charge.

And I trust you.

Forgiveness: You Don’t Have To Forget

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28NIV).

You’ve heard this phrase over and over: “Forgive and forget.”

There’s only one problem with it: You can’t do it. It’s impossible!

You really can’t forget a hurt in your life. In fact, you can’t even try to forget it. Because when you’re trying to forget, you are actually focusing on the very thing you want to forget.

Forgetting is not what God wants you to do. Instead, he wants you to trust him and see how he can bring good out of it. That’s more important than forgetting, because then you can thank God for the good that he brought out of it. You can’t thank God for things you forget.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

It doesn’t say that all things are good, because all things are not good. Cancer is not good. Disease is not good. Death is not good. Divorce is not good. War is not good. Rape and abuse are not good. There are a lot of things in life that are evil. Not everything that happens in this world is God’s will.

But God says he will work good out of the bad things in life if you will trust him. When you come to him and say, “God, I give you all the pieces of my life,” he will return peace for your pieces. He gives you peace in your heart that comes from knowing that even if you don’t understand the hurt in your life, you can still forgive, knowing that God will use that pain for good.

You don’t have to forget the wrong thing that someone did to you. You can’t do it even if you tried! God says you don’t have to forget it. You just have to forgive and then see how he will bring good out of it.

The LORD, The LORD — OR — The Problem, The Problem?

SOURCE:  Max Lucado/Family Life

Your Best Thoughts Are God-Thoughts

When troubles come our way, we can be stressed and upset, or we can trust God.

You’ll never have a problem-free life. Ever.

You’ll never drift off to sleep on the wings of this thought: My, today came and went with no problems in the world. This headline will never appear in the paper: “We have only good news to report.”

You might be elected as president of Russia. You might discover a way to e-mail pizza and become a billionaire. You might be called out of the stands to pinch-hit when your team is down to its final out of the World Series, hit a home run, and have your face appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Pigs might fly.

A kangaroo might swim.

Men might surrender the remote control.

Women might quit buying purses.

It’s not likely. But it’s possible.

But a problem-free, no hassle, blue-sky existence of smooth sailing?

Don’t hold your breath.

Problems happen. They happen to rich people, sexy people, educated people, and sophisticated people. They happen to retired people, single people, spiritual people, and secular people.

All people have problems.

But not all people see problems the same way. Some people are overcome by problems. Others overcome problems. Some people are left bitter. Others are left better. Some people face their challenges with fear. Others with faith.

Caleb did.

In the wilderness
His story from the Old Testament stands out because his faith did. Forty five years earlier when Moses sent the 12 spies into Canaan, Caleb was among them. He and Joshua believed the land could be taken. But since the other 10 spies disagreed, the children of Israel ended up in the wilderness.

God, however, took note of Caleb’s courage. The man’s convictions were so striking that God paid him a compliment that would make a saint blush. “My servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly” (Numbers 14:24 NIV).  How would you like to have those words on your resume? What type of spirit catches the eye of God? What qualifies as a “different spirit?

Answers begin to emerge during the distribution of the lands west of the Jordan.

Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal (Joshua 14:6). Every Hebrew tribe was represented. All the priests, soldiers, and people gathered near the tabernacle. Eleazar, the priest, had two urns, one containing the tribal names, the other with lists of land parcels. Yet before the people received their inheritance, a promise needed to be fulfilled.

I’m seeing a sturdy man with sinewy muscle. Caleb, gray headed and great hearted, steps forward. He has a spring in his step, a sparkle in his eye, and a promise to collect. “Joshua, remember what Moses told you and me at Kadesh Barnea?

Kadesh Barnea. The name stirred a 45-five-year-old memory in Joshua. It was from this camp that Moses heard two distinct reports.

All 12 men agreed on the value of the land. It flowed with milk and honey. All 12 agreed on the description of the people and the cities. Large and fortified. But only Joshua and Caleb believed the land could be overtaken.

Read carefully the words that Caleb spoke to Joshua at the end of the military campaign (Joshua 14:6-12). See if you can spot what was different about Caleb’s spirit.

Caleb … said to [Joshua]: “You know the word which the LORD said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the LORD my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ And now, behold the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me; and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.

What name appears and reappears in Caleb’s words? The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. The Lord. Nine references to the Lord! Who was on Caleb’s mind? Who was in Caleb’s heart? What caused him to have a different spirit? He centered his mind on the Lord.

What about you? What emphasis would a transcript of your thoughts reveal? The Lord? Or the problem, the problem, the problem, the problem? The economy, the economy? The jerk, the jerk?

Promised Land people do not deny the presence of problems. Canaan is fraught with giants and Jerichos. It does no good to pretend it is not. Servants like Caleb aren’t naïve, but they immerse their minds in God-thoughts.

Good water and battery acid
Imagine two cooking bowls. One contains fresh, clean water. The second contains battery acid. Take an apple and cut it in half. Place one half of the apple in the bowl of clean water. Place the other half in the bowl of battery acid. Leave each in its respective bowl for five minutes, and then pull out the two halves. Which one will you want to eat?

Your mind is the apple. God is good water. Problems are battery acid. If you marinate your mind in your problems, they will eventually corrode and corrupt your thoughts. But thoughts of God will preserve and refresh your attitudes. Caleb was different because he soaked his mind in God.

The psalmist showed us how to do this. He asked, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? (Psalm 42:5). He was sad and discouraged. The struggles of life threatened to pull him under and take another victim. But at just the right time, the writer made this decision: “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him … I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, and from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar (verses 5-6).

There is a resolve in those words. “I shall yet … I will remember You. The writer made a deliberate decision to treat his downcast soul with thoughts of God. Everywhere I go, I will remember you—from Jordan to Hermon to Mizar.

In your case the verse would read, “From the ICU to the cemetery, to the unemployment line, to the courtroom, I will remember you.

There is nothing easy about this. Troubles pounce on us like rain in a thunderstorm. Finding God amid the billows will demand every bit of discipline you can muster. But the result is worth the strain. Besides, do you really want to meditate on your misery? Will reciting your problems turn you into a better person? No. But changing your mind-set will.

Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed (John 14:27, AMP).  Instead, immerse your mind in God-thoughts.

When troubles come our way, we can be stressed and upset, or we can trust God. Caleb could have cursed God. He didn’t deserve the wilderness. He had to put his dreams on hold for four decades. Still he didn’t complain or grow sour. When the time came for him to inherit his property, he stepped forward with a God-drenched mind to receive it.

Set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things) (Col.  3:2 AMP). When giants are in the land, when doubts swarm your mind, turn your thoughts to God. Your best thoughts are God-thoughts.

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Taken from Glory Days by Max Lucado, copyright © 2015 by Max Lucado.

 

Two Traps to Avoid: “If Only” and “What If?”

SOURCE:   Susan Yates/Family Life

In each season of my life, I’ve found myself falling into two mental traps which are not helpful.

One is the “If only” syndrome, and the other is the “What if?” syndrome.

Here’s how “If only” might express itself:

  • “If only I had a husband.”
  • “If only I had more money.”
  • “If only my husband would act like…”
  • “If only my husband (or I) had a good job.”
  • “If only we had a different house.”
  • “If only my parents (or his) understood.”
  • “If only my child would sleep through the night.”
  • “If only I had a really close friend.”
  • “If only I didn’t come from such a wounded past.”
  • “If only I wasn’t stuck in this place.”
  • “If only I was free of this disease.”
  • “If only I knew how to handle my teen.”
  • “If only I didn’t have to do this.”
  • “If only I didn’t struggle with this.”

Can you identify?

You can probably add to this list yourself. Over the years I’ve realized that these thoughts merely lead me into a real case of self-pity. At the core of what I’m expressing is: “Life is about me and my happiness.” I have a bucket that needs to be filled.

But the reality is that even if the desire for one “If only” is met, I’ll just have another one to add to the list. Too often I get myself into this mindset without even realizing it. And it sinks me into a bad mood or a feeling of being depressed. The focus is on me, and I need to confess this selfishness and ask God to forgive me and to enable me to focus on Him and on others. And I need to ask Him to give me a grateful heart.

The other trap is “What if?”:

  • “What if I can’t get pregnant?”
  • “What if my husband leaves me?”
  • “What if I don’t get this raise?”
  • “What if I can’t complete this project?”
  • “What if we lose the election?”
  • “What if the medical tests bring bad news?”
  • “What if my child doesn’t make the team?”
  • “What if I fail?”

This mindset leads to fear. I am afraid of what will happen if the “What if” comes true. And this can be a paralyzing fear.

The “What if” syndrome is especially hard for those of us with an overactive imagination—we are often visionaries; we are creative. We tend to have this weakness, however: We can create the worst-case scenario in our imagination in three seconds flat! It can be terrifying.

What’s at the core of this attitude? I fail to believe that God is in control. My “What if” has become bigger than my God. I have temporarily forgotten that He is loving, He is kind, He is present, He is good, and He will never, ever forsake me.

I can give Him my “What if”—He can handle it. He will sustain me.

Underlying the “If only” and “What if” syndromes is an expectation that our lives should be completely satisfying. We may recognize that’s not realistic, but too often we live with that expectation in our thought life without even realizing it.

We need to remember that, in this life, our bucket will always have holes. Life will not be perfect until we get to heaven. Eternal life in heaven will be a perfect bucket with no holes completely filled with the love of Christ and satisfaction—no wants or fears, just sweet fellowship with Jesus and those who have gone before us.

Today, what is your “If only…”?  What is your “What if”?

Recognize the subtle danger of these thoughts, which produce self-pity and fear. Make a conscious decision to dump them someplace (down the garbage disposal, in the trash, or fireplace).

Begin to say His traits out loud: “You are my Father, You go before me. You prepare a way for me. You protect me. You bless me. You understand me. You forgive me. You know me better than I know myself and you love me totally, completely, perfectly. No matter what happens You are still in charge. You will never forsake me.”

This puts your focus on God, where it belongs.

“Trust God & Do the Next Thing”

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

The book Abandoned to God, the biography of Oswald Chambers (who wrote My Utmost for His Highest and many other books) is full of wisdom as well as being an interesting story.

One of Chambers’ favorite sayings was: “Trust God and do the next thing.” He lived this whether he was starting a new training college or serving as a WW1 military chaplain to soldiers facing the Egyptian desert (many of whom would be dead by the next week). I find myself saying that phrase a lot these days in moments such as these:

  • when I find myself thinking about something in the past that I wish I could change. It’s better to accept what cannot be changed and clear our mind of past debris. (Besides, when I linger in the past, I can easily distort what actually happened.)
  • when I start wondering what will happen in the future — will things turn out alright? Or to my advantage? When writing a book proposal, I had to work hard not to be consumed with: Will this proposal be accepted? Focusing on the possible payoff makes me self-centered and drains me of energy for engaging with full purposeful intentionality the task at hand.
  • (similarly) when I’m focusing on outcomes instead of processes. Caring for my family by doing the wash can be as pleasurable as just getting it done.
  • when I concern myself with what someone else is doing, saying or might do. That’s someone else’s side of the street, not mine. Instead, I shift to doing the next thing with rightness of heart, blessing others, and depending on God with everything I’ve got.
  • when distractions take over (buy this item, spend time doing this trivial thing). I can surrender them and become free to immerse myself in the next task.
  • when I start to shut down because the task or situation seems too overwhelming. “Doing the next thing” means focusing on the next bite-size portion of the task and tackle that one small thing.
  • when I’m making things too complicated (even though I know about abundant simplicity).
  • when I’m living in my head and missing out on the tangible beauty in front of me-the colors of the sunset.

“Trust God and do the next thing” helps me live in this present moment. Then I can easily shift to living out the Great Commandment (Luke 10:27). My husband says I repeat this paraphrase too often – that’s because I need it too often.

  • What does it look like to love God for the next 10 minutes?
  • What does it look like to love the person in front of me for the next 10 minutes?

Then I approach my current companion or task with energy, relying on God to help me perceive what is in front of my eyes, hear the words said to me, or notice the deeds done in front of me. And to be grateful for it all. “This is the moment which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118:24).

Healing: Jesus Knocks and Waits

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

Invite Him In

There is a famous passage of Scripture which many people have heard in the context of an invitation to know Christ as Savior. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…” (Rev 3:20).

He does not force himself upon us. He knocks, and waits for us to ask him in.

There is an initial step, the first step of this which we call salvation. We hear Christ knocking and we open our hearts to him as Savior. It is the first turning.

But the principle of this “knocking and waiting for permission to come in” remains true well into our Christian life.

You see, we all pretty much handle our brokenness in the same way – we mishandle it. It hurts too much to go there. So we shut the door to that room in our heart and we throw away the key – much like Lord Craven locks the Secret Garden upon the death of his wife, and buries the key.

But that does not bring healing. Not at all.

It might bring relief – for awhile. But never healing. Usually it orphans the little girl in that room, leaves her to fend for herself.

The best thing we can do is to let Jesus come in, open the door and invite him in to find us in those hurting places.

It might come as a surprise that Christ asks our permission to come in and heal, but he is kind, and the door is shut from the inside, and healing never comes against our will. In order to experience his healing we must also give him permission to come in to the places we have so long shut to anyone. Will you let me heal you?

He knocks through our loneliness.

He knocks through our sorrows.

He knocks through events that feel too close to what happened to us when we were young – a betrayal, a rejection, a word is spoken, a relationship is lost.

He knocks through many things, waiting for us to give him permission to enter in.

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Taken from:  (Captivating , 99-100)

Trusting God: It’s Difficult in Adversity

SOURCE:  Jerry Bridges

I sympathize with those who find it difficult to trust God in adversity.

I have been there often enough myself to know something of the distress, the despair, and the darkness that fills our souls when we wonder if God truly cares about our plight.

I have spent a good portion of my adult life encouraging people to pursue holiness, to obey God. Yet, I acknowledge it often seems more difficult to trust God than to obey Him. The moral will of God given to us in the Bible is rational and reasonable. The circumstances in which we must trust God often appear irrational and inexplicable.

The law of God is readily recognized to be good for us, even when we don’t want to obey it. The circumstances of our lives frequently appear to be dreadful and grim or perhaps even calamitous and tragic. Obeying God is worked out within well-defined boundaries of God’s revealed will. Trusting God is worked out in an arena that has no boundaries.

We do not know the extent, the duration, or the frequency of the painful, adverse circumstances in which we must frequently trust God. We are always coping with the unknown.

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~ Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts

Depression: Climbing Out

SOURCE:  Living Free/Donald G. Miles, Ed.D

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Romans 12:2 NLT

 

Climbing out of depression is a process, and it requires perseverance.

We must persist in believing God’s truth instead of listening to our feelings.

We may have thoughts like “I’m such a failure. I never do anything right. What’s the use?” Instead of focusing on these negative feelings, we need to intentionally refocus on truths from the Bible: “I am special to God. God made me for a purpose. God loves me. He will never leave me. With God, there is always hope. I can do all things through Christ.”

Although change takes time, as we persistently choose to believe God’s truths instead of our feelings, those truths will become a part of us. Our thinking about ourselves will begin to change. Our relationship with God will grow stronger. And we will find it easier to build healthy relationships.

God gives us help for fighting depression: the truths of the Bible … the Holy Spirit to remind us of those truths … and the people of God to encourage us. We must persistently open our hearts and minds to all these wellsprings of help.

Don’t give up. You can climb out of depression. As you persist in trusting God, he will show you the way, step by step. And he will give you strength for the climb.

With Christ, all things are possible. (Philippians 4:13)

Father, it took me a long time to sink into this level of depression, and I know climbing out of it will take time as well. Help me not to give up. Help me to focus on the truths of your Word. Please transform me into a new person by changing the way I think. In Jesus’ name…

 

Handling Your Personal “Jericho”

Source:  Taken from an article by Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Rae Lee

“For I hold you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.'” (Isaiah 41:13 NLT)

It takes tremendous courage to persevere in the face of overwhelming problems.  And faith in God is the only thing that makes that kind of courage possible.

Joshua, a godly hero in the Old Testament, persevered by holding on, standing firm, keeping his course, and being patient. His persistence was based on his faith in God’s promises.

The city of Jericho blocked the entrance to the Promised Land for the children of Israel. This land belonged to God’s chosen people. He had promised it was theirs. However, there was an obstacle: the daunting fortified city of Jericho.

Joshua turned to God for guidance. What did God tell him to do? March around Jericho for seven days, then shout and blow horns! This may have seemed strange to Joshua, but it was God’s plan. God’s wisdom versus human wisdom.

Joshua chose God’s plan . . . and the Israelites won the victory.

Every Christian has to deal with a personal Jericho from time to time. Sometimes these obstacles seem impossible to overcome from a human perspective. But with God . . . all things are possible.

Are you facing an obstacle? It could be anything. Debt. Health. Relationship. A habit or addiction. The list of possibilities is endless, but the answer is always the same: Jesus.

[The above] scripture, God says not to be afraid. He is here to help you.

Turn to God. Turn to his Word. Place your faith in him. He will give you the strength to persist. As you trust in him and him alone, be persistent as you wait for the walls of your Jericho to fall. In his way. In his time.

Father, I feel overwhelmed by this problem in my life. Thank you for reminding me that you are with me. Help me stop focusing on the problem and turn my focus to Jesus. To your Word. Help me overcome fear by trusting you. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …


Godly Heroes: A Small Group Study of Hebrews 11 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min. 

Whatever HE says, do it!

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors [AACC]

Doing What He Says

“Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“If you know that God loves you, you should never question a directive from Him. It will always be right and best. When He gives you a directive, you are not just to observe it, discuss it, or debate it. You are to obey it.” -Henry Blackaby

Jesus and His disciples had been invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee where His mother was also a guest. The story in John chapter 2 begins with the dilemma of “when the wine ran out” (vs.3 ESV)

The servants came to Mary, Jesus’ mother, probably a bit panicked. To run out of wine at a wedding feast would be a horrible embarrassment to the head of the house, and the blame would rest solely on the shoulders of the ones in charge of planning and preparation.

What’s interesting is Mary’s instructions to these servants – “Whatever He (Jesus) says to you, do it.” (vs. 5 NAS) The implication was that no matter what Jesus said – even if they didn’t understand it – even if they couldn’t see the outcome – they were to do it anyway!

There is no record to this point that Jesus had ever done a miracle. His mother simply knew her son’s character. She trusted Him. She knew Who He was, and that His very nature mandated that whatever He said to do, it would be good and right.

This year, as you work through your “New Year’s Resolution” list – to lose weight…spend more time with family…get organized…spend less…save more (all good things by the way), put something “life-changing” at the top of that list.

In this “new year,” resolve that whatever He (Jesus) says to you, you will do it!

Do what He says in your personal life – in your family.

Do what He says in the places where you work.

Too often, the thought that echoes through the corridors of our minds is, “How can I know what Jesus wants me to do? If I knew – I would do it!”

You can know. God has given us three wonderful gifts in this “following Christ” journey:

His Word.

The Psalmist declares that “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105 ESV) The Bible will clearly guide you as you “resolve” to do all that Jesus asks. Even Jesus, when faced with temptation, responded with “It is written…”

Spend some time in the gospels – in the “red letters” – the very words of Jesus. Soak in everything He spoke about grace…about forgiveness…about facing challenges…about a relationship with God the Father.

As those words take root in your heart and soul, resolve to follow His guidance, and whatever He says to you, do it.

Holy Spirit.

Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit – our Helper – and promised that “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26 ESV) In chapter 16 Jesus added “He (Holy Spirit) will guide you into all the truth” (vs. 13) Listen and hear what Jesus says to do through the whispers of His Spirit.

Other Believers.

The great Apostle Paul reminded the Philippians “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things…” (Philippians 4:9 ESV) Again in 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul admonishes, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (ESV)

You are who you spend time with.

Each one of us needs spiritual leaders and “coaches” in our lives from whom we hear and see and learn and receive guidance in doing what Jesus says. Resolve to get more Godly people speaking into your life this year.

In this New Year, make a resolution to soak in His Word…meditate and listen to His Holy Spirit…commune and fellowship with other Christians.

And whatever Jesus says to you – do it!!

It will turn your New Year – and your life – around.

Impossibilities…

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as an impossible situation.” -Chuck Swindoll

“I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” -Hudson Taylor

“Triumphant prayer is almost impossible where there is neglect of the study of the Word of God.” -R. A. Torrey

The impossible…

Have you ever found yourself in a circumstance or situation that seemed impossible? Even for God? Those times where nothing made sense, and even trusting God and His Word was difficult.

Mary faced the impossible – in a double dose. Gabriel came to her and proclaimed,“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” (Luke 1:31 ESV)

No doubt she thought “no way”. Mary had never known a man. Mary asked the angel,“How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34 ESV)

Gabriel responded, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.”

No doubt she was familiar with the prophecies, but still – the baby would be the promised Messiah? The Holy Son of God?

“Come on…”

What’s interesting is that in several places, the Bible tells us that Mary “pondered” the words she had heard in her heart.

As a young Jewish girl, she would have certainly been very familiar with Hebrew scripture and the stories of “impossibilities”;

  • Abraham believing God when he was called to go out to a place of promise…not knowing where he was going.
  • Sarah conceiving in her old age knowing the God who promised was faithful.
  • Moses and the parting of the Red Sea.
  • Joshua watching the walls of Jericho come tumbling down.
  • Rahab, a prostitute, entering into the lineage of the Messiah.
  • Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel. The stories must have flooded her mind and heart.
  • And of course the prophets foretelling that the Son of God would be born of a virgin.

As she pondered the recorded past of God’s power and presence, her heart must have come alive with what the angel Gabriel declared, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37 ESV)

Her response reflects the heart attitude imperative for God to work the impossible. She said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 ESV)

What’s impossible in your life today?

  • Impossible that God can heal your body when the doctors give no hope?
  • Impossible that God can restore a broken marriage devastated with infidelity?
  • Impossible that God can bring the prodigal child back home?
  • Impossible that you will ever see your hearts desires realized?

God takes great pleasure in turning your “impossibilities” into “possibilities”.

Ponder what God has done in the past. “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me…” (Isaiah 46:9 NASB) Reflect on the stories recorded in the Bible. Remember the good things God has done for you. For your family. For your friends.

What God has done before – He will do again.

Watch God turn the impossible into the possible. It may take a miracle. That’s ok – He specializes in those.

And He will turn your life around.

Developing Childlike Trust (in God)

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Do You Have Childlike Trust?

God created us to trust easily, so we would trust Him, just as children trust their parents.

HE knows trust and faith are two essential components of our walk with Him. But Satan takes advantage of our desire to trust and he has devised a system to lead us away from God.

When Satan gets in our head, he magnifies both the natural feelings of inadequacy that we have as parents as well as the guilt that comes when we really do let our kids down, whether intentionally or unintentionally. When kids experience hurts like these, they become jaded and cautious about trusting others. As the letdowns and disappointments accumulate through the years, trusting anything other than ourselves becomes hard for us, even under normal circumstances.

This mistrust breeds loneliness, isolation, and a feeling that no one truly understands me and my path. I begin to feel that no one else is on my team. Self-reliance becomes my main coping strategy. Self-reliance is the opposite of what God wants in His relationship with us. But the Holy Spirit within us can be our resident tutor, helping us untwist every past hurt so we can start to trust again. I’m talking about real, 100% unconditional trust and wide-eyed belief.

Like a small child, we can fully trust all God’s promises, every instruction, and fall into His open arms.

Today, when no one else seems to understand you, simply draw closer to Your Lord and God. Rejoice in Him, the One who understands you and loves you perfectly. Trust His promises and instruction for living life. Apply His principles to an area of trouble today and continue to apply them regularly to that area. Give the principles a chance to affect your life and don’t judge the results prematurely. After all, you’ve given your plan a lot of time to implode. Now give His plan equal time to succeed. Whether you trust yourself or put your trust in God is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I come to You for understanding because You know me far better than I know myself. You comprehend me in all my complexity. No detail of my life is hidden from You. Help me to understand my hurts more, to forgive those who hurt me, and to trust You and Your promises. Give me the trust of a child when it comes to all that has to do with You. I pray in the name of the rock of my trust, Christ Jesus;  – AMEN!

The Truth
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:1,2

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5,6

 

God’s Complete Control. Period.

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll

God’s Complete Control

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble. 
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; 
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. . . .
The LORD of hosts is with us; 
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. . . .
“Cease striving and know that I am God.”
—Psalm 46:1–3, 7, 10

Quiet our hearts, dear Father, and in so doing, remind us that You are sovereign—not almost sovereign but altogether sovereign. Nothing occurs in our lives that has not been masterfully planned and put together by You, our eternal God.

Help us to enter into the truth of Psalm 46:10 personally and consistently. May that result in being still, enabling us to discover that You are God. As we cast our cares upon You, knowing You care for us, release our stress.

We entrust our concerns to You today . . . large and small, new and nagging.

We long to experience peace-filled living by stepping off this treadmill called pressurized living. We pray that Your mighty presence would take the place of the stress, the demands, the struggles, the mess we’ve created.

We ask that You would give us Your shalom—Your peace—like we’ve never known it before. We deliberately choose to trust You and to rest in You.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

See also Psalm 34:4; Proverbs 16:3; Jeremiah 17:7; Philippians 4:19.

Nothing occurs in our lives that has not been masterfully planned by our God.

Knowing “God” NOT “Why”

SOURCE:  Charles R. Swindoll

Honoring God’s Sovereignty

“His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'”
Daniel 4:34–35

Sovereign God, all of us would be quick to say that we do need to be relieved of our anxieties—they are too many and too frequent. And because we want to call our own shots, we need to be leveled and removed from the realm of pride.

Help us stop feeling as though we need an explanation of why, as life unfolds around us.

Show us again, Lord, that You are God and there is no other—that our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. You are at work in our lives, in the lives of our neighbors, in the lives of those who live across the street, across the country, and across the seas. You are at work. No one else is in charge, and You do all things well. You change the times and the seasons. You also change us.

Make Your Word as relevant as tomorrow morning’s news on the Internet, as significant as what we would read in the daily paper. And bring us back to the recognition of Your sovereignty, Father: we answer to You because You are our all in all.

Today we worship Your Son as Lord, and we worship Your name as the one and only true God through whom, thankfully, we have a salvation that is eternal and secure. We rest in these truths as Your children.

We also remember those who have never met Your Son as Savior.

Give them unrest, uneasiness, even sleepless nights until they find their peace and rest in knowing You . . . not in understanding their circumstances. May they believe in You through faith in Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

[See also Genesis 50:20Job 40:1–5Psalm 115:3; Romans 8:28; 9:20–21.]

Fixing Problems or Trusting God

SOURCE:  Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee/Living Free

“Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 AMP

Life-controlling problems are things that master our lives … things like addictions, destructive behaviors and even certain types of relationships.

Is someone you care about struggling with a life-controlling problem? Do you want to help? That’s wonderful … but it’s vital for you to realize what you can—and can’t—do.

In order to help your loved one, you must examine yourself to see if you are experiencing the “Messiah Complex” … and rid yourself of it if you are. The Messiah Complex describes the situation when we want to see a person receive help so much that we take on the role of God. Our goal should be to trust God versus please God by fixing the problem; otherwise, we may find ourselves driven by guilt and hopelessly resigned to making things happen on our own.

God doesn’t want us to take on God-sized problems. He wants us to trust him. We simply need to take a deep breath and realize that he is God.

Are you in a frenzy of confusion? You want to help but nothing you try seems to work? Feeling frustrated, and maybe even a little frantic? Take time out to “Be still and know that I am God.”

He is power … he is all-knowing … he is love … he is able.

Lord, I get in such a frenzy sometimes trying to fix everything myself. And it just doesn’t work. Help me to remember to be still … to be calm … and to know, really know, that you are God. In Jesus’ name …

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

What Does a Fear of Failure Produce?

SOURCE: Taken from a booklet by June Hunt

Fear of failure manifests itself in various ways in different personalities.

Perhaps you recognize one or more of these characteristics in yourself or in someone you care about.

Paralysis—failing to take any action or make any decisions for fear of being wrong

Purposelessness—moving from one job or profession to another with no real sense of commitment or direction for fear of making a wrong decision

Perfectionism—doing only those things that can be done flawlessly, those that carry little or no risk of failure, for fear of criticism

Pride—refusing to engage in certain activities for fear of being less than the best and feeling inferior to someone else

Paranoia—distrusting the motives of those who ask you to do things for fear of being exposed as being less than adequate

Procrastination—putting off tackling an assignment or performing a task for fear of doing it poorly

When you know the depth and breadth of the love the Father has for you, your fear will dissipate and its power over you will be broken. Failure and success will take on a whole new meaning, and you will no longer be ruled by the fear of negative results. When you act in faith, you can leave the results to God, who never fails.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
(1 John 4:18)

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Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Success through Failure: From Stumbling Stones to Stepping Stones (9). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

Only Jesus Can Change A Heart — I Can’t

SOURCE:  Living Free

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV

If your child … or someone else you care about … is struggling with a life-controlling problem, the goal should be to place that person in God’s hands and allow Him to work with your loved one on His time frame. As much as we might want to, we cannot manipulate or demand that a person change—only Jesus can change a heart.

As helpers, we can do these three things to help struggling people:

  • Direct them to focus on Jesus.
  • Model honesty for them.
  • Hold them responsible for their own choices.

[The above] scripture makes it clear that we can plant seed … we can water the seed … but only God can give the increase. It is good to know that although we can create an environment for change by doing those things God has called us to do, it is ultimately He who makes the change in our loved one’s life.

Father, my loved one is struggling with a life-controlling problem. Teach me how to create an environment for change … and help me trust you for your will in my loved one’s life. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from . . .

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

A True FRIEND Even In Death

SOURCE:  J. C. Ryle/Tolle Lege

“The Friend of sinners”

“We should notice how tenderly Christ speaks of the death of believers. He announces the fact of Lazarus being dead in language of singular beauty and gentleness: ‘Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.’ Every true Christian has a Friend in heaven, of almighty power and boundless love.

He is thought of, cared for, provided for, defended by God’s eternal Son. He has an unfailing Protector, who never slumbers or sleeps, and watches continually over his interests.

The world may despise him, but he has no cause to be ashamed. Father and mother even may cast him out, but Christ having once taken him up will never let him go. He is the ‘friend of Christ’ even after he is dead!

The friendships of this world are often fair-weather friendships, and fail us like summer-dried fountains, when our need is the sorest; but the friendship of the Son of God is stronger than death, and goes beyond the grave. The Friend of sinners is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

The death of true Christians is ‘sleep,’ and not annihilation. It is a solemn and miraculous change, no doubt, but not a change to be regarded with alarm. They have nothing to fear for their souls in the change, for their sins are washed away in Christ’s blood.

The sharpest sting of death is the sense of unpardoned sin. Christians have nothing to fear for their bodies in the change; they will rise again by and by, refreshed and renewed, after the image of the Lord. The grave itself is a conquered enemy. It must render back its tenants safe and sound, the very moment that Christ calls for them at the last day.

Let us remember these things when those whom we love fall asleep in Christ, or when we ourselves receive our notice to quit this world. Let us call to mind, in such an hour, that our great Friend takes thought for our bodies as well as for our souls, and that He will not allow one hair of our heads to perish.

Let us never forget that the grave is the place where the Lord Himself lay, and that as He rose again triumphant from that cold bed, so also shall all His people.

To a mere worldly man death must needs be a terrible thing; but he that has Christian faith may boldly say, as he lays down life, ‘I will lay me down in peace, and take my rest: for it is Thou, Lord, that makest me dwell in safety.'”

[–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1869/2012), 21. Ryle is commenting on John 11:7-16.]

Lord, Loosen My Addiction — Tightly Grip Me

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Untie from Your Addiction — Be Tied Together to God  

According to the latest statistics, compulsive addictions torment tens of millions of people in the USA. Taking into account caffeine addiction and overeating, 40-50% of the U.S. struggles with compulsive behaviors that are harmful.

An addict’s primary relationship is with a drug or a behavior, not with himself or any other person. That drug or behavior is the path to the supposed relief they deeply desire. To a large degree, our society denies the addiction problem. Many of you might even scoff at the numbers. The walking wounded are usually on their own to get help for themselves or their loved ones as treatment centers and state hospitals close, program funds diminish, and insurance reimbursements for treatment decrease.

Physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological disabilities brought on by addictions are rampant. Addictions are the number one killer in the U.S. High blood pressure, heart disease, lung cancer, headaches, sleep problems, liver disease, impaired immunity, infections, irritability, anxiety, depression, impulsivity, poor frustration tolerance, loneliness, poor motivation, disconnected from God, lack of purpose, no passion, and no peace are all common consequences of various addictions (and this was just the start of the list!)

Regardless of the type of addiction, an addictive lifestyle causes a person to be only a shadow of what God intended.

There. That’s the bad news. Now here’s the good news.

Have you ever noticed what a bad rap the word ”religion” receives? It’s no longer regarded as the original word suggests. The Latin root of the word is “ligio,” meaning to tie or bind together. An example is a woman having her tubes tied, or a tubal ligation. To “re-ligio” means that something that was once tied became untied, and it is now re-tied or bound together again. There is no better example than the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were in perfect union with God. Then they disobeyed God, causing the original tie of perfect fellowship with God to become untied. God’s plan of salvation, through Christ’s sacrifice once and for all, re-tied us back together into relationship with God for eternity, by His grace alone. He does all the work. We just need to accept His payment for our debt.

Addiction is synonymous with idolatry.

When we strongly desire something as much as or more than we desire God, we have given ourselves to a false god, a weak imitation. We become untied from God because of our addiction. Where we invest our time, money, and energy becomes our god. Then, like the object we worship, we become a cheap imitation of what we were really meant to be. I am always amazed when I consider the things I used to pursue, and sometimes continue to pursue, to soothe my discomfort instead of going to God first. Sadly, I have endured dire spiritual consequences for the sake of momentary thrills or escapes.

Today, God stands ready and willing to forgive and restore those who have been carried away by addictions. If you have an overt addiction, let Him in and trust His ways, not yours.  Becoming untied causes us to disintegrate. But receiving God’s gift of healing allows us to re-integrate, and be restored to what God intended in the first place! If you don’t have an overt addiction, examine what you go to when you are uncomfortable. If it is God’s word and prayer, awesome. If it is anything else, then you have an addiction and need to wrestle with that. Start to look at why you turn to those other items before God. Don’t be embarrassed, just be honest. Your journey closer to God and the Mind of Christ is your decision, so choose well!

Father God, You are our source and our strength, and a very present help in time of trouble. Deliver us out of the claws of addictions and addictive behaviors. We need Your supernatural strength to overcome the self-destructive effects of mood-altering chemicals and mind injuring behaviors. Heal and restore us in body, mind, and spirit to what You intended us to be. We ask this in the powerful, comforting, and re-tying name of Jesus;  – AMEN!

The Truth
“Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

2 Corinthians 7:1

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of a sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”

Galatians 5:16-17

Seven Better Questions You Can Ask in the Midst of Adversity

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Michael Hyatt

I have several friends who are going through enormous uncertainty right now. Some are out of work. A few others are on the precipice of divorce. Still others have been diagnosed with cancer—one who is pregnant. In these situations, most of us ask, “Why is this happening to me?”

Years ago, two months after I became the publisher of one of our book divisions, we lost a major author to a competing company. This had a significant negative impact on our bottom line. At first, I was angry. Then I became discouraged. Finally, I realized I was asking the wrong question.

Instead of asking “Why did this happen?” I started asking, “How can this make us better?” Immediately, I sensed a shift in my spirit. It began energizing me. In retrospect, losing the author was one of the best things that could have happened to my division. We grew from the experience in ways that would have never happened otherwise.

I learned a valuable lesson: the answers we get are often determined by the questions we ask. If we ask bad questions, we will get bad answers. If we ask better questions—empowering questions—we will get better answers.

READ MORE…..

 

Worry brings about a lot (except a solution).

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Living Free

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

Worry.

Probably one of the most common traps we fall into. And one of the most useless and damaging. Worry has never solved a problem. But it has caused stress, ulcers, depression, despair, fear, anxiety, and much more.

[S]cripture tells us to replace worry with prayer. Instead of worrying, we are to tell God our needs, remember all he has done for us in the past, and thank him for his faithfulness. As we remember that faithfulness, our faith will grow to trust him now. Then we can experience peace so great that it is beyond our understanding!

And as we live in Christ Jesus and walk in obedience to him, God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds. Instead of worrying, we will be enveloped in his peace.

Are you worried about something? Finances … your job … a failing relationship … a rebellious child … health problems. The list of things we can worry about seems endless, but the answer is always the same.

Talk to God about the problem. Remember his faithfulness in the past. Spend time thinking about all he has done for you. Make a list! Then thank him … and determine to trust him in your current situation. Circumstances may have changed – but he hasn’t.

Father, I have been so worried about this situation. I see no solution… no way out. But I realize that I don’t have to see the answer. I need to trust you to work this out in your way and in your time. Thank you for your faithfulness and all you have done for me in the past. Help me to trust you now and to experience your peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Knowing God My Father: Applying the Names of God to My Personal Life
 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Forgiveness: At Holiday Events or Special Family Gatherings

SOURCE:  Anna McCarthy/American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

Heartache During the Holidays: A Look at Biblical Forgiveness

Many can say that they have “forgiven” a past offense with a family member or friend, yet once confronted with that person at a holiday event or family gathering, all of their past hurt begins to quickly make its way to the surface. And, instantly, it’s as though they are re-living the hurt all over again.

So, what does real biblical forgiveness look like?

Does it mean we are “fine” so long as we don’t have to see the one who hurt us?

Although, in some cases, distance may be needed in order to fully heal, I have seen time and time again where even the smallest of grievances can cripple someone from remaining healthy while in the presence of someone who has hurt them. Deep-rooted bitterness and a lack of ability to function around certain people this time of year may be a sign of unforgiveness.

I’ve come to the conclusion, having personally experienced abuse, that biblical forgiveness is part of God’s perfect plan for healing, even when restoration of the relationship is not possible. God, in his gracious wisdom, biblically designed the format to wholeness, no matter how deep the wound. God never planned for us to only function in certain places or specific situations. He desires our freedom—freedom to be exactly who he made us to be no matter where we are and no matter what has happened to us.

So often, especially within churches, our desire to please God and please others leads us to dismiss any pain or heartache we are experiencing. We must validate and give the heartache we experienced a place of importance. This simple first step quickly exposes any disconnection we are experiencing with God. Because, if we truly believe that God is for us and that he came to heal the broken hearted and bind their wounds, then we would not be ashamed to admit we are wounded. We do not need to hide our brokenness from God in order to please him.

This quickly reveals how much (or how little) we trust God.

Biblical forgiveness cannot begin until trust in who God is, has been restored. In any area where forgiveness is needed, somewhere in the midst of that event, trust was broken. As humans, we quickly engage protective measures to ensure that disappointment and pain does not happen again. This is where, almost simultaneously, distrust in God takes place as well.

Once trust in God’s full desire to heal has been restored, the door can open to trust him with forgiveness. Choosing to fully put God’s Word into practice in forgiveness requires a tremendous amount of faith. Webster’s defines forgiveness as: to cease to feel resentment against, on account of wrong committed. To give up resentment or claim to requital on account of (an offense or wrong).

God states in his word that his plan is to heal and restore us (Isaiah 61:1-3Jeremiah 30:17). In this plan, he includes forgiveness. We must trust him enough to relinquish our rights to what has been wrongly done, in order to walk out his divine healing.

I’ve often been asked the question, “I prayed and told the Lord that I had forgiven them. But, I don’t feel any different. Now what?” Often times, we overlook the portions of Scripture that follow the decision to forgive.

The choice to forgive is one of many steps on the road to biblical healing. The step following the decision to forgive is one that again, requires a tremendous amount of trust in God. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).

These verses defy our nature.

You will not find in anyone who has been hurt a natural desire to want to love that person, which is exactly why we need Jesus. This kind of love doesn’t just happen overnight and it doesn’t just magically appear. This love comes from obedience to a God who you recognize that you desperately need and who you begin to fully trust.

On our own, it’s impossible to love this way. But God didn’t provide commands in Scripture to frustrate us; he gave them out of his mercy to protect and heal us. This supernatural love comes from a choice to obey and trust. And, this kind of love exposes God’s divine healing on a platform louder than any other. But, most importantly, this part of biblical forgiveness ultimately grants freedom; freedom to be exactly who God made you to be, no matter who you are with over the holidays.

Note: This [article] is not intended to encourage those who are being abused to remain in that situation. Safety is of upmost importanceIf you are struggling with forgiveness, seek help from a pastor or Christian counselor.

 

Revenge Is Too Draining

SOURCE:  Dr. Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

I’ve always been a sensitive person, and that was especially true during my childhood. God placed me in a home where negativity and judgment were common. The frequent emotional manipulation strained my brain. I would get so angry. Much of my energy … physical, emotional, and psychological … was wasted on dealing with these situations. I would fight back in various ways, try to understand why and where all these situations came from, attempt to avoid them, and persist in a “why me” attitude. All of these sucked so much life out of me. Enjoying childhood was actually a difficult task.

Many of us have people in our lives who have hurt us or who want to hurt us. It can range from a few hurtful words or subtle manipulation… to lies, cruelty, and vindictiveness … all the way to physical or sexual abuse. The obvious questions we ask ourselves are “Why me?” “What can I do to make them stop?,” and “Why would someone do that?”

Dealing with such people extracts huge amounts of energy as we try to defend ourselves, recover from the attack, or plot and engage in possible counter attacks and retaliation … efforts to “get even.”

Much of my healing began when I realized a few facts and principles:

1. Don’t take it personally, because it is not about me. It’s their problem and issue.

2. God is sovereign over all, and He is allowing this for a grand purpose, so put on His lenses.

3. Remember, the real enemy is Satan, not the people attacking you. They are just getting used by Satan, as you are at times. Pray for them to know God’s love and healing for their life.

4. Be on guard … put on the armor for the real battle.

You see, I don’t need to retaliate.

Getting even or revenge is just an idol that takes my gaze and heart away from God. I probably need to set some healthy limits and boundaries with the offenders. But the bitterness and revenge efforts are wasted time and energy. God will take care of them as He determines because He knows all.

Today, if you harbor some unresolved forgiveness, let God deal with and determine the consequences for your enemies.

We do have a stewardship role and a responsibility to address our enemies (in our heart or in an actual interaction if it is safe). But we often go overboard in our minds. God promises to help the persecuted and bring judgment on those who treat others with cruelty. So focus your energy on what is going on in your heart and mind regarding your enemy. If you know someone who is being mistreated, slandered or attacked by others, send them this devotional. Spread the Word of God to give hope and peace to those in need. Wasting your energy on revenge or channeling it to compassion is your decision, so choose well.

Dear God, I come to You in need. I have people in my life who are hurting me, trying to harm me. My anger rages at the injustice of this. My natural human reaction is to take revenge … to get even. I know this is wrong and against Your Word. I release my enemies into Your care. I pray as David did to “make my enemies be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away.” Help me, Lord, to remember that it is not the opinion of others that I must focus on. Give me strength in the battle against the evil one who wants to use this persecution to pull me away from You, to distort my lenses, and sidetrack me with stinky thinking. Help me see myself through Your eyes. I pray in the name of the one who teaches me to love my enemies, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to my soul, ”I am your salvation.” May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away; may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them.  Psalm 35:1-6

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  Matthew 5:44

Turning the Bad into Good

SOURCE:  Living Free

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 NLT

Once we come to Christ in faith, we begin to walk with God on a daily basis. It is vital that we learn to trust him in every area of our lives—day in and day out.

We can trust him because we are assured that as we love God and commit our lives to him, he works everything—the good and the bad—together for good. We can trust him because he has demonstrated his great unconditional love for us.

We can commit our wayward child to him because we know he loves that child even more than we do.

We can commit our finances to him because we know that he will work all things for good as we follow him and trust him for wisdom.

We can trust our loved one’s health to him because of his mercy and love.

We can trust God to work his plan in our ministry—and his plan is perfect.

Is there an area of your life that you are clinging to—and worrying about—instead of trusting God?

God cares about everything that concerns you. Keep your eyes on him, love him and trust him. He will go before you … He will guide you … He will strengthen you … And he will work all things for good.

Lord, I have been worrying about this situation and trying to fix it myself. My way hasn’t worked. I commit this situation to you and trust you for the answer. No matter how things look now, I trust you to work all things together for good. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

 Insight Group: Discover the Path to Christian Character by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Placing My Decision In The Hands Of God

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

Where the Battle Is Won

Matthew 26:36-56

If you want to experience victory in the conflicts you face, consider how Jesus fought and won His battles.

The pivotal battle of His life was fought even before He arrived at the cross. Praying at Gethsemane, He wrestled with the knowledge that He would bear the terrible weight of sin and endure spiritual separation from the Father.

In His special place of prayer, Jesus got alone on His face before the Father and cried out. And when He left that garden, He walked out a victor over Satan, whose sway over mankind was about to be broken on the cross. Jesus would still drink the cup of suffering and separation, but He knew that in the end, He would triumph (Heb. 12:2). That’s why He could face His opponents with courage and authority. When Jesus went to confront the arresting party, He was in full control of the situation, so much so that the Pharisees and soldiers “drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6). He allowed them to arrest Him, determined to do His Father’s perfect will.

If you’re in the habit of regularly spending time alone with God, you will come to know His heart and mind. Then, when you encounter major decisions with lifelong consequences, you’ll be able to discern the guidance He offers through His Spirit.

When you fully surrender, you place the consequences of your decision into the hands of an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God who holds the past, present, and future. Even when you face staggering trials, you can do so with courage and power that will glorify God and shame the Enemy.

[Copyright 2012 In Touch Ministries, Inc.]

Is God Good?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

There was a time in my life when I didn’t believe God was good.

Like Jeremiah, in Lamentations 3, I accused him of being deceptive, capricious and unloving. I thought he was going to give me one of the deepest desires of my heart, and then suddenly it was snatched away. My heart fell into a deep pit, and it took a long time to climb back out.

How about you? Have you ever doubted the goodness of God?

We sing it, we say it, we know it, but truth be told, much of the time we don’t really believe it.

Most of us would acknowledge that we struggle trusting in God’s goodness during times of suffering. But it’s equally important to grasp that many times we don’t trust and obey God simply because we think we know better and want to be in charge of our own lives. Eve doubted God’s goodness even in the midst of paradise.

Things in life are not always what they initially appear to be. What looks good to us often turns out to be bad, and what feels bad to us can turn out to be good. As a child, I loved eating candy. It definitely tasted much better than meat or vegetables or even french fries and fruit. I ate so much candy my teeth decayed.

Going to the dentist felt bad, so I never wanted to go nor would I have chosen to. Thankfully my father saw beyond my foolishness and made me eat healthier and get my teeth fixed. It was good. Now that I’m grown up, I can see that, but at the time, I didn’t understand. I just thought my father was being mean.

In the same way, many times we can look back over the worst of times and see that they were also some of the best times of God’s goodness toward us. We see his provisions or experience his presence in deeper ways. From the vantage of history, we see that what we thought was bad, God used for good. In the Old Testament, Joseph was able to keep his peace and hope alive in the mist of circumstantial hardship because he knew that God’s purposes were always good (Genesis 50:20).

King David trusted in the goodness of God so completely that when God gave him a choice of what consequence he wanted for his sin, David told God to pick whatever he deemed best (2 Samuel 24:10-14).

Jesus knows this world is full of temptations, trials and hardships. Throughout the four Gospels, Jesus repeatedly tells people that he is telling them the truth, that God knows best what we need. Yet what they heard from Jesus was so different than their own way of thinking and believing that for many, it wasn’t easy to recognize it as truth even when they wanted to.

The father whose son was demon possessed begged Jesus, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24 NLT). Belief and unbelief isn’t either/or, it’s both/and. We believe and we doubt. But the more we believe, the more we can trust. Richard Rohr says, “The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s anxiety.”

What did Jesus tell those who asked what they must do to do the work of God? He said the work of God is to believe (John 6:28-29). Once we believe, trust follows.

To help you get started, slowly meditate on this verse, word by word: “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for you help” (Psalm 86:4,5 NLT).

In closing, take a few moments to ask yourself and answer the following questions:

How have you struggled believing God’s goodness?

Where do you not believe him?

How does your unbelief cause anxiety, guilt, or other happiness-robbers in your life?

How would you live differently if you believed with all of your heart that God is good?

Dear Lord, help my friends believe you in good times and in hard times. Help them trust that you are always good even when they don’t understand or it feels bad. Give them eyes to see that you are full of love and eager to forgive all their sins, all the time. Amen.

 

Going Through Spiritual Confusion

SOURCE: Oswald Chambers

 Jesus answered and said, ’You do not know what you ask’ —Matthew 20:22

There are times in your spiritual life when there is confusion, and the way out of it is not simply to say that you should not be confused. It is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of God taking you through a way that you temporarily do not understand. And it is only by going through the spiritual confusion that you will come to the understanding of what God wants for you.

The Shrouding of His Friendship (see Luke 11:5-8).  Jesus gave the illustration here of a man who appears not to care for his friend. He was saying, in effect, that is how the heavenly Father will appear to you at times. You will think that He is an unkind friend, but remember?He is not. The time will come when everything will be explained. There seems to be a cloud on the friendship of the heart, and often even love itself has to wait in pain and tears for the blessing of fuller fellowship and oneness. When God appears to be completely shrouded, will you hang on with confidence in Him?

The Shadow on His Fatherhood (see Luke 11:11-13).  Jesus said that there are times when your Father will appear as if He were an unnatural father as if He were callous and indifferent— but remember, He is not. “Everyone who asks receives . . .” (Luke 11:10). If all you see is a shadow on the face of the Father right now, hang on to the fact that He will ultimately give you clear understanding and will fully justify Himself in everything that He has allowed into your life.

The Strangeness of His Faithfulness (see Luke 18:1-8).  “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Will He find the kind of faith that counts on Him in spite of the confusion? Stand firm in faith, believing that what Jesus said is true, although in the meantime you do not understand what God is doing. He has bigger issues at stake than the particular things you are asking of Him right now.

 

 

 

Faithfulness is not dependent upon an escape hatch

SOURCE:  D.A. Carson/Gospel Coalition/For the Love of God

Reference:  1 Kings 21; 1 Thessalonians 4; Daniel 3; Psalm 107

THE IMAGE NEBUCHADNEZZAR SET UP (DAN. 3) was doubtless designed to unify the empire. That is why he ordained that all “peoples, nations and men of every language … must fall down and worship the image of gold” (Dan. 3:4–5).

Living as he did in a pluralistic culture where people could with impunity add gods to their personal pantheon, Nebuchadnezzar saw no reason but rebellion or intransigent insubordination for anyone to refuse to worship the image. The threat of the furnace, from his perspective, guaranteed conformity, and the potential political gain was incalculable.

Furnaces in Babylon were primarily for the firing of bricks (cf. Gen. 11:3), widely used because suitable building stone was so scarce. Some large brick kilns have been dug up outside the ruins of ancient Babylon. Certainly Nebuchadnezzar would have had no scruples about burning people to death (Jer. 29:22).

The striking exchange in this chapter is between Nebuchadnezzar and the three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, after their first refusal to bow before the image (Dan. 3:13–18). The emperor’s final taunt almost dares any god to come forward: “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (Dan. 3:15).

Of course, as a pagan, he lived in a world of powerful but definitely finite gods, and in some instances, he certainly felt that he was their equal or even their superior. From the perspective of biblical theism, this is monstrous arrogance.

But it is the answer of the three men that deserves memorizing and pondering:  “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Dan. 3:16–18).

Observe:

(a) Their basic courtesy and respect are undiminished, however bold their words.

(b) They are completely unwilling to apologize for their stance. The wise believer never apologizes for God or for any of his attributes.

(c) They do not doubt God’s ability to save them, and they say so: God is not hostage to other gods, or to human beings, emperors or otherwise.

(d) But whether or not God will save them they cannot know—and the point is immaterial to their resolve.

Faithfulness is not dependent upon an escape hatch.

They choose faithfulness because it is the right thing to do, even if it costs them their lives.

The courage we need in this anti-Christian age is courteous and steadfast. It never apologizes for God. It joyfully believes that God can do anything, but it is prepared to suffer rather than compromise hearty obedience.

Warding Off Worry

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Stacey Padrick

Learn to trust God when anxiety strikes.

“If you ever get caught in an avalanche, dig up!” Mom instructed me whenever I went skiing with my friends.

If I was packing my beach bag for a trip to the ocean, she would remind me, “If you get caught in a riptide, swim parallel to the shore!”

And when I went hiking, it was always, “If you see a mountain lion, wave your arms up and down so you look bigger than you are!”

Whether it was winter, spring, summer, or fall, whether my destination was the mall or the mountains, Mom—with her caring heart—worried about the worst possible thing that could happen to me.

In my family, worry was often an automatic response to whatever we faced—whether it was a new noise in the car engine or what we would serve our guests for dinner. Thus, I had always excused my own tendency to worry as hereditary. What could I do about my genes?

Nature, Nurture, or Sin?

Though I had always accepted my anxiety as a natural part of my makeup, God’s Word challenged me to see that worry has no place in the lives of His children. “Do not be anxious about anything” (Phil. 4:6). “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). “Do not fret” (Psalm 37:8). “Do not worry” (Matthew 6:25, 31, 34).

I began to see that God does not merely suggest we should not worry; He commands it. But are we as vigilant about not worrying as we are about other things He commands us not to do, such as stealing, getting drunk, or committing adultery? Though I wanted to justify worry as an issue of temperament, Scripture is clear that it’s an issue of obedience. Failure to obey His explicit commands is sin.

Calling worry a sin may sound harsh, but it actually brings great freedom. I no longer see my anxiety as a hereditary trait I cannot control. Rather, I see it as a sin I can choose to resist. Because sin does not have mastery over me (Romans 6:14), I can be set free from slavery to worry.

No Smoke without a Fire

Because my mind so easily gravitates toward worry, I’m not always aware when it begins to take over. A tense back and racing thoughts clearly indicate anxiety, but other signs are more subtle. A lack of joy and lightheartedness, impatience with myself and others, taking myself too seriously, forgetting to thank God for His blessings, difficulty praising Him—all of these signs point to the presence of smoldering coals of worry in my heart. Like a smoke detector warning of impending danger, they alert me to the asphyxiating smoke of worry.

Rather than trying to extinguish the individual fires of worry that encircle us, we must identify the source of the flame. Anxiety is most often sparked by unbelief or doubt in God’s character. When we worry, we’ve unthinkingly questioned His wisdom (that He knows what is best), His love and goodness (that He cares for us and wants what is best), and His sovereignty (that He is able to do what is best).

Worry reveals not only our distrustful thoughts about God but also an unrealistic view of ourselves: that we are ultimately in control; that we are responsible for other people’s happiness (our spouse, children, parents, boss, friends); that we can determine better than God what we or others need.

One morning as I fretted about an important decision in my life, I took a walk to clear my head and talk with God. Across a park lawn, I saw a beautiful golden retriever frolicking alongside his loving master. Oh, I mused, to be as carefree as that dog, to play and run freely, knowing that your master will provide for all your needs.

Even as I thought this, my words convicted me. I sensed God’s gentle voice respond to my heart. “Oh, My precious child, do you not know that I am your faithful Master? Don’t you believe that I care for you more than any earthly master could ever care for his dog? That you, too, can run free of worry? I am thegood Master. Trust in Me.”

Then I recalled a cowering stray dog a friend of mine had found. Even after she adopted it, the dog trembled each time someone reached to pet it. My friend believes the dog was probably abused by its former owner. Likewise, when I allow my heart to tremble in anxiety, what am I telling others about my Master? Most likely I’m communicating that He is uncaring and unfaithful.

Not only is God my Master, but He’s my heavenly Father as well. How much more than a good master does a loving father care for his precious children?

Matthew records Jesus saying:

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

—Matthew 7:9–11

Just as a child’s carefree spirit is a testimony of caring parents, so a joyful, trusting attitude testifies to our loving Father.

Extinguishing Anxiety

God wants us to experience release from the grip of worry. He longs for us to rest in His wonderful care for us (Matthew 11:28–30). Here are some ways to douse the fire of worry and stoke the flame of trust.

Take stock of your thought life. Our feelings are often the fruit of the thoughts we sow. If you’re anxious, review what you’ve been thinking about. What thoughts have you been listening to? What have you believed about your circumstances and God’s ability to meet your needs?

When I was unexpectedly diagnosed with an illness, a wave of worries flooded my mind. What about all the plans I had? How could I ever support myself with these health limitations? What about my dreams for my future? My anxiety revealed my belief that this illness had somehow slipped by God’s watchful eye.

But the Father’s still, small voice addressed my fears, reminding me of His perspective: “Yes, this illness does change your plans, but not Mine. It in no way changes My will for you.” Though my health had changed, God’s sovereignty over my life had not.

Focus on the truth. After we’ve identified any distorted beliefs, we must respond to them by looking intently at the truth of Scripture. We’re engaged in a battle against a very crafty spiritual enemy who continually attempts to saturate our minds with doubts about the Father’s character. Satan knows worry distracts us from what God has for us, so he drives us to work things out our way and steals our joy in the Father. We must use the armor of God—especially the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit (Ephes. 6:13–17)—to cut through the web of lies that can entangle our souls.

James wrote, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Repent of surrendering to worry, submit your mind to God, and resist any spirit of anxiety. Ask God to protect you from worry, to guard your heart and mind with His peace (Phil. 4:7). In faith, claim this promise Paul gave his youthful protégé Timothy: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7).

I have also found it helpful to “act in the opposite spirit” when anxiety threatens to overwhelm me. For example, if worry drives me to hurry, then I purposely slow down. If worry tempts me to complain, then I intentionally thank God for what He is doing.

When I was looking for an apartment in the tight San Francisco housing market, I gave in to complaining and fretting after weeks of viewing undersized, overpriced units. Recognizing my doubt, I started thanking God for the place He was preparing for me in His perfect timing. I now write from a wonderful home He handpicked for me.

Practice Scripture meditation. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). Keeping our mind steadfastly fixed upon God is critical when we’re tempted to worry. Meditate upon the passages of Scripture that describe God’s character: His loving-kindness, power, faithfulness, goodness. Meditate also upon verses about peace and rest.

Picture yourself putting your worries in a little gift box (or a big box, in my case!), tying it with a bow, and presenting it to God at the foot of the cross, an offering of faith to Him. Let these words of Jesus settle into your soul: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

No matter how unceasingly worries may assail you, choose to listen to His Spirit of peace and not to a spirit of anxiety. Think of worry as a ringing phone—and don’t answer it. Allowing peace to rule instead of fear is a daily, sometimes hourly, choice we must make.

Dwell on what you know. Most worries revolve around dwelling on what we don’t know: “How will I have enough money to pay for car repairs? What will I do if I’m laid off? How will I find an affordable house in such a tight market?” Instead of fixating on anxiety-producing unknowns, we can use the same energy to focus on what we do know: “God will meet all [my] needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). “God is . . .[my] ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me” (Psalm 138:8). “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted [including all that I deem precious] to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

After the man I dated for four years ended our relationship, my mind whirled with fears of the unknown. I had to stop and remind myself what I knew about God.

Though I do not know if we will ever be reunited, though I do not know if I will ever be married, I do know that God is good. I do know that He is faithful. He knows the desires of my heart, and I know His plans are to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

Cast your cares on God. David wrote, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22). Recently, when I faced a problem that tempted me to worry, an image flashed into my mind. I pictured myself sitting on one side of a perfectly balanced seesaw. As a load of worry came my way, I could receive it, allowing it to pin me to the ground. Or I could cast it on God, who sits on the other end of the seesaw. As I chose the latter, God took upon Himself the weight of my worry, and I was lifted up.

As I rest in my Father’s tender love for me, I can more readily cast my cares upon Him. If He is gracious and compassionate toward His children, if He knows when even a sparrow falls (Matthew 10:29), if His thoughts of me are as numerous as the grains of sand (Psalm 139:17–18), surely He cares for my concerns even more than I do! When I reflect upon how perfectly He loves me, His perfect love casts out my fears (1 John 4:18).

God wants us to live free of worry. He liberates us from worry as we entrust control to Him, consider His character, and choose to cast our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7).

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way” (2 Thes. 3:16).

Suffering Consequences = Coming To Senses

Source:  Living Free Ministry

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.'” Luke 15:17-18 NIV

Thoughts for Today
Robert and Gayle, Christian leaders in their church, were dismayed to realize that their son Eric had fallen in with the wrong crowd and had developed a drinking problem. After visiting a Christian counselor, they told Eric that they loved him very much but that he would be expected to live by house rules, obeying curfew and not drinking alcohol in their home.

Eric decided he would rather leave home. Devastated, Robert and Gayle pondered their decision, but chose to follow the example of the prodigal son’s father and let him go. They trusted God to bring Eric back and prayed for his safety.

Several months later, Eric returned home, desiring to change and ready for help. Suffering the consequences of his behavior had brought him to a point of repentance.

Consider this … 
Although they loved him very much, Robert and Gayle had not enabled Eric. They had not lowered the standards of their home, nor had they tried to rescue Eric after he made the decision to leave home. As difficult as this was, they recognized it was the best way to help him.

Are you ready to show this kind of tough love? Every situation is different, but God will give you the wisdom to know what you should do. And he will give you the strength and courage you need.

Prayer
Father, my loved one is walking in disobedience. Show me how I can help. If this means letting go and allowing the natural consequences to take place, give me the strength to allow this to happen–all the while trusting you to work in his life. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

What is Trust — Really?

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 67

A Picture of Trust

Therefore we do not lose heart.” 2 Cor. 4:16

Trusting God proved to be the pattern in Paul’s life. Even when the Lord did not immediately relieve his sufferings, Paul continued to view everything that happened to him as God’s sovereign will (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

This doesn’t mean that Paul never had doubts or that he never asked God to relieve his suffering (2 Cor. 12:7-8). But when the Lord’s response did not match Paul’s request, he was willing to believe that God had something better in mind (vv. 9-10).

Food for Thought

Think of the last time the Lord’s response did not match your request.

What does trusting God look like?  [It]doesn’t mean wearing a painted on smile when troubles come and practicing the art of denial when doubts arise. Those verses in 2 Cor. 12 show the apostle Paul “pleading” for God to take the thorn in his flesh away.

So, then what does trusting God look like?  “But when the Lord’s response did not match Paul’s request, he was” — what’s that next word? That’s right –“willing.”

Trusting looks like a willingness to believe in God’s goodness toward us in the middle of pleadings and tears and sufferings and doubts and questions.

Trusting is choosing to believe that God desires the best for us, his children.

That’s not always easy, but as Paul would attest, it’s always worth it!

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