Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Value of Friendship

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.  –Proverbs 18:24 (KJV)

Everyone needs connections in their lives, which is why we have friends.  God created us to be social beings and we benefit from having meaningful friendships.  There are a number of old sayings, one of which involves the way we make friends.  It says that in order to have a friend we must be a friend.  This saying is lifted right from God’s Word.  It is true if we want to have friends we must be a friend, or as the Bible says, show ourselves friendly.  Having friends in our lives presents challenges, does it not?  We must be willing to step out of our comfort zones, form new connections and new relationships, and risk being hurt.

C.S. Lewis said this about friendships; “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You, too? I thought I was the only one.’”  This indeed has been the beginning of many a friendship.  We meet someone who shares a similar struggle, a like fear, a common interest, or a perspective much like our own.  I often think of all the friendships I have enjoyed over the years.  A number of them have drifted away from me due to moving away, getting older, or simply being too involved with life and all its challenges.  We didn’t have a falling out; we were just too engrossed with the business of living to keep in touch.

However, there are a number who I continue to keep in my radar.  We may not talk every day, yet when we do talk on the phone or get together we simply pick up where we left off.  True friendships are made of such strong fabric that the passage of time or the miles between us vanish in the moment we reconnect.  The Word of God speaks of a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  This is the friend who loves us, cares for us, forgives us, is brutally honest, and will be there through all the trials of our lives.  This is no fair weather friend, for a true friend cares about who we are, not about what we have.  This is the friend the Bible is describing. 

Do not give up on the connections in your life or on making new ones.  I assure you that you are a valuable person to someone, and probably many others.  In fact, someone looks up to you, admires you, and is thankful for you.  Never forget the friend we have in the Lord who is always there for us, cares for us, and loves us regardless of our faults and failings.  You are special to God who loves you deeply.  Walk forward today in the knowledge God loves you.  Keep being a friend to those around you, for they value you more than you know.

God bless you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

God’s Proactive Word to us

I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.  –Psalm 142:1-3 (KJV)

One of the benefits of a devoted prayer time is we have the opportunity to voice our concerns to God and He is always willing to listen.  The psalmist spoke in terms of a complaint given to God, and I imagine you can relate to this.  Often during my prayer time I have found myself praying in a tone which sounds suspiciously like a complaint.  We would not want to devote all our prayers to complaining, but when we do the Lord is willing to hear us out.  This works well for us, because most people do not want to listen to our complaining. 

Anytime we find ourselves complaining to God, the word He gives will always be a proactive measure.  Even if God lets us know we are to continue waiting upon Him, this is in itself proactive.  We are doing something, even if waiting on the Lord.  All activity in our life does not cease because we are waiting on the Lord.  What does cease, or at least is supposed to, are our fears, worries, doubts, and sorrows.  God will empower us to go forward and be productively involved in our lives even as we wait upon Him for the fulfillment of His word.  The Lord will not tell us to do nothing.  He will not tell us to sit idly by while we could be involved in faithful service to Him.

Consider when Jesus ministered to people the word He gave was always proactive.  Jesus told them to “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of me (Matthew 4:19),”  “Arise and walk (Matthew 9:5),” “Go and do likewise (Luke 10:37),” “Go ye therefore and teach all nations (Matthew 28:19).”  I realize how the problems of life can become so overwhelming that we feel paralyzed with fear and doubt.  Our problems and the burdens we carry can seem insurmountable.  During those times it is acceptable to voice our complaint to God, for when we do so we can expect the strength God is willing to provide.  He will empower us to rise up from our sorrowful outlook and walk forward in bold, dynamic, and confident faith. 

No matter how great your problems are today, the Lord is willing and able to help you stand up and move forward.  This will be the power of His Spirit, which surpasses our strength for overcoming whatever we are facing.  Do not fret, do not worry, and cease from being afraid.  Jesus Christ is greater than any problem we will ever face.  Look to Him today.

God bless you.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How to Get Rid of an Enemy

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But
I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and
pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of
your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and
sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward
have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye
more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father
which is in heaven is perfect. –Matthew 5:43-48 (KJV)

When Jesus instructed His disciples to love their enemies and do good to those who hate them,
it was a radical teaching for the day. This is still a radical teaching. Our natural inclination is
to hate those who have wronged us and want possibly to exact revenge. Jesus’ words turn the
world’s way of thinking on its head. Not only are we commanded to love our enemies, but also
to do good to them. Why would Jesus teach this? For starters, we are called to be children of
our heavenly Father. We are not to be like the world, for we are called to be like Christ. His
ways are not the world’s ways – not by a long shot.

When we seek to apply this to our lives we meet with a radical and revolutionary way of dealing
with others. We are transformed from a way of thinking that seeks self and moved toward
sacrificial love which seeks to glorify Christ while simultaneously winning over our enemy.
There is no joy or peace for the Christian who harbors hatred and vengeance in his heart. Should
we entertain such thoughts, better known as holding a grudge, we are robbed of the peace of
Christ meant to be ours. On the other hand, when we overcome hatred with the love of Jesus we
experience the fullness of Christ functioning in us.

Part of this overcoming process involves letting go of any thoughts of revenge and replacing it
with prayer and yes, love for our enemies. If we were to go against what Christ has commanded
we will only make matters worse. C.S. Lewis in his book “Mere Christianity” explained this
principle as follows: "Do not waste your time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as
if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if
you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you
will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking
him less."

This is wonderfully practical advice for us as followers of Christ. I understand all too well how
difficult people can be and hard it is to love them, especially those who have hurt us. However,
when we put our faith into action and we practice what Jesus has commanded, we are liberated
from the chains of hatred.

Do you have an enemy you want to get rid of? Pray that he or she will somehow, through your
prayers and consistent Christ-like witness, become your friend.

God bless you today.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Liberating Power of Grace and Forgiveness

Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.  –Deuteronomy 5:16

My wife and I were talking during dinner the other night, and the conversation turned to the complexities of families.  This will sound familiar, because I wrote about families in my last blog.  I was reminded of three people I know personally who attend our church and have for many years.  These people are siblings and are very close.  When they were children their mother passed away.  Their father apparently decided he was unable to raise his children by himself.  He then sent them to live with various relatives who subsequently raised them in loving and nurturing homes.

This all took place many years ago in a time where social services and the court system simply did not always get involved in such situations.  Today, if someone tried to do this, social services would be involved as well as child protection services and the courts would decide where the children would live.  In today’s world this is for the best.  However, this was many years ago and in those days the legal system did not always get involved. 

As the years passed by the sibling grew older and kept in touch with one another.  Later, when they became adults, they remained close and stayed connected.  Now, here is the part of the story which further intrigues me.  At one point the siblings, now grown with families of their own, discovered their father, who had abandoned them as children, was dying and had no one to care for him.  Many people would have taken an attitude of, “I want nothing to do with him.  He abandoned us, so let him die alone.”  However, these people refused such an attitude and chose instead to practice grace.  They went to their father, and in a wonderful display of compassion and forgiveness, lovingly cared for him until he died.

Every time I think of this, I am amazed at the power of grace functioning in peoples’ lives.  Harboring grudges, refusing to forgive, and carrying hatred in our hearts burdens us and weighs us down.  Hatred and an unforgiving spirit will always hinder the joy and peace meant to be ours in Jesus Christ.  On the other hand, practicing the grace of God which Christ brings, releases us from the burden of hatred and empowers us to walk in the fullness of Christ.  The aforementioned people honored their father whether he deserved it or not, which is a living testimony of faith – the kind of faith Jesus taught us.  They also lived out a faith principle of practicing grace as opposed to being chained in hatred.

Cast off the burden of hatred and an unforgiving spirit, and with God’s help discover the joy of walking in the power of grace.

God bless you today.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Perfect Family?

And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.  –Genesis 4:6-8 (KJV)

Last night at mid-week prayer service I said something that made the congregation smile.  I asked the question, “Does anyone here have a perfect family?”  I imagine everyone was pretty much thinking a similar thought; no, none of us have a perfect family because there has never been one.  All of us have family problems and even the most functional and happy families experience difficulties and crises from time to time.  My three sons are 19, 21, and 26, so we no longer have the issues involved with raising small children.  However, these ages present completely new and ever developing challenges.  I recall thinking to myself when our boys were younger, “No one has the problems in their families that I have.”

During those moments of exasperation, it was as though God would sort of thump me on the head and say, “You’re kidding, right?  I assure you, Dan, countless families have problems just like yours and some have even harder issues they are facing.” I would then place the situation in proper perspective and thank God for our sons and pray for God’s blessings in their lives.  The Lord would then usually take me back to the very first family He created.  By the fourth chapter of Genesis, Adam and Eve, the first couple, had disobeyed God, blamed someone else for it, been kicked out of paradise, had two sons, one of which murdered the other in a jealous rage.  Not a great start for the first family. 

If the first family God created had serious problems, yours then, is not unique or immune from the trials families often face.  I have no idea what sort of difficulties your family may be experiencing right now, yet I know the Lord is faithful and will be there to guide you through them.  Maybe you sometimes feel the same way about your family as I do about my favorite pro football team the Cincinnati Bengals.  They make lots of mistakes, lose more games than they win, and they certainly cause me a terrible amount of stress in the process.  I have considered how I might be better off with a new team.  I would like one that was better organized and knew how to win games.  However, this is my team, and come what may, I have decided to stick with them.

Keep trusting God, keep praying for your family (your team), and do not give up on them.  God can work wonderful miracles in those blessed and troublesome people we call our families.  Pray and believe God today for blessings in your family.

God bless you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Power for Going Forward

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.  –Acts 1:8 (KJV)

I was reading an online blog recently by a pastor who was going through some intense personal struggles.  He made the statement that he was exhausted physically, spiritually, and emotionally and he feared he could not get up for one more push.  Those words resonated with me because I have an understanding of how this feels.  Perhaps you do as well.  Many of us, whether we are church leaders or laypersons, often struggle with these issues of feeling overwhelmed with life and all its pressures.  The late pastor Dr. Adrian Rogers once said in a sermon on handling stress that there are three areas which create stress for us.  They are adversity, opportunity, and necessity. 

Dr. Rogers stated adversity is unexpected problems which come our way.  Opportunity is the pursuits we would like to do if and when we have occasion to pursue them.  Necessity is what we have to do each day, such as work our jobs, take care of our children, and keep our homes clean and livable.  Any or all of these have the potential to create stress in our lives.  Stress, if not properly dealt with, can drain us and leave us exhausted.  Once stress gets hold of us we too begin to wonder if we are able to get up for one more push.

This is why prayer, the Word of God, and fellowship with other believers are so vital to our spiritual health.  Following this is our physical health which also must be addressed.  A healthy diet and regular exercise are God-honoring pursuits which will help us with the load of stress we all carry.  With God’s help we can rise up for another push forward, and this Holy Spirit lead push is not a onetime event, but rather becomes a daily process of walking with Christ.  Do not surrender to despair and the overwhelming feelings of dread that may be coming into your life.  The Lord knows and understands how you feel. 

After the resurrection, Jesus told the disciples they would receive power.  The power to which Jesus referred is Holy Spirit power for sharing the gospel with a lost and hurting world.  The same power that helps us to share the gospel with others also empowers us to rise up and go forward even in the midst of the daily stresses of life.  As followers of Christ we are called to walk forward in faith regardless of whatever difficult circumstances we are facing.

Be encouraged today and claim the power Jesus freely gives.  Like the pastor I read about, you too may feel you are unable to get up for one more push.  The Lord knows how you feel, and He will strengthen you today to keep going. 

God bless you today.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Distraction of a Judgmental Attitude

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.  –Matthew 7:1-5 (KJV)

Anytime a high profile pastor experiences what we would call a fall from grace it tends to be big news.  Sadly, a watching world seems to be waiting for the next church leader to admit to some secret sinful behavior.  Several years ago a well-known pastor in another state stepped down after allegations emerged of his secret immoral behavior.  He first denied it, then admitted it, and then resigned his church in disgrace.  I quietly observed all of this and found myself struggling with a troubling question; why did God choose to so bless a ministry whose leader was living what amounted to a double life?

I confess this stuck in my mind, or as some might say, it stuck in my craw – whatever a craw is.  My thoughts on the situation often ran like this; “Lord, this man was doing unthinkable things, and yet he was preaching to thousands every Sunday.  Here I am living straight as an arrow.  I have always been absolutely faithful to my wife, and I am doing well to have 80 - 100 people show up on Sunday.  This isn’t fair!”  I have had to seek God’s forgiveness for my judgmental attitude.  The disgrace this pastor has endured, as well as his wife and family, has to have been extremely painful. 

I share all of this to illustrate how easily we can allow the behavior and actions of others to distract us from what God has called us to do.  God will work His will according to His plan and good purposes.  As followers of Christ, we are the vessels in jars of clay about which the Bible speaks in II Corinthians 4:7.  We can easily become so wrapped up in the faults and failings of others that we begin to overlook our own.  Why God chose to so bless a ministry whose leader was caught in a scandal is proof of the power of God to work through the most flawed human vessels.  The Word of God was again proven true where it promises that our sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23). 

As Jesus’ followers we are facing a crisis of disillusionment among believers who have left the faith and unbelievers who want nothing to do with us.  It is imperative we show a lost world that there are still followers of Christ who are living lives of sincerity and integrity.  Do not be distracted by the failings of others.  Rather than pointing fingers in judgment, we are better off seeking God in humility, lest we fall into sin ourselves.  Let us do as the Scripture teaches and “Look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  Keep your eyes on Christ today, and you will overcome and walk forward in victory.

God bless you today.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Praise God and Live

Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. 10 But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.  –Job 2:9, 10 (KJV)

Often when I am not having a good day or I feel myself becoming discouraged, I go back and read passages in the book of Job.  I have many times compared what I might be facing at the time with the catastrophes Job was going through, and my problems are not worthy of comparison.  Here was a man who had been faithful to God in every aspect of his life, and yet God allowed Job to go through unimaginable trials.  He lost his possessions, most of his family and then his health failed him as he was covered from head to foot with painful sores.  Ironically, the one survivor of this calamity, Job’s wife, had no words of encouragement for her husband.  Her advice was that he “Curse God and die.” 

My, that had to be difficult for Job to hear.  His wife had lost her faith and become extremely bitter in the process.  Job reminded her she was speaking foolishly.  He also stated a powerful faith principle; our faithfulness to God is not to be dictated by our circumstances.  Good or bad, we are called to remain faithful to God at all times.  Such is the basis of faith and commitment to God.

This faith principle is difficult, especially when we feel we have somehow been slighted by God.  At one point Job become so exasperated that he wondered why he, a faithful servant of God, was suffering, while God seemed to smile on the schemes of the wicked (“Is it good unto thee that thou shouldest oppress, that thou shouldest despise the work of thine hands, and shine upon the counsel of the wicked?” -Job 10:3) The problem with such thinking is it easily leads to bitterness, and we are all susceptible to it when problems come our way.  Job was becoming bitter, and before he could continue in faithfulness to God he had to carefully examine his own attitudes.

If we allow ourselves to become bitter we lose our effectiveness for serving Christ and shining His light to a lost world.  Unfortunately, I have known followers of Christ who lost their zeal for Christ and their joy for living.  The cause was surrender to bitterness.  We must be careful of allowing bitterness to creep into our lives.  Let us also be about encouraging others to remain faithful regardless of their circumstances.  You may be going through hard times and you cannot help notice there are many ungodly people in the world who appear to be healthy and prosperous.  Do not allow this to distract you.  We have no control over other people.  However, God has given us power to be personally faithful to Him.  There is one person in the world responsible for your faith and your happiness.  You.

Try taking an opposite approach to what Job’s wife said.  Praise God and live.  Praise God no matter what and live the abundant life in Christ.  The Lord has promised to be with us.  Praise Him and live.

God bless you today.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What’s in a Name?

13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? 14 And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.  –Exodus 3:13, 14 (KJV)

Several years ago there was an elderly lady in our church who has since passed away.  I recall visiting in her home one day when she introduced me to a stray cat she had taken in a couple of weeks earlier.  This was a large male, sort of a garden variety cat, with a most mean disposition.  I have always thought myself to have a way with cats and dogs and even standoffish ones will eventually warm up to me, but not this one.  He would have nothing to do with me and actually hissed at me and tried to scratch men when I attempted to pet him.  His new owner laughed and said, “Don’t worry, Brother Dan.  He doesn’t like anyone except me.”  This was true, for she was the only person the cat would allow to handle him.  I asked what name she had given her new pet.  “Oh, I just call him ‘Cat.’” she replied.

Every time I think of this story it makes me smile.  I wanted her to give the cat a name, for even the lowliest of pets deserves a name, yet she apparently thought Cat was as good a name as any.  Consider how all of us have been endowed with a name, yet even our one name can take on different forms.  For example, to the federal government I am Daniel, although they actually know me by my Social Security Number.  To my church and friends I am Dan, Pastor Dan, Preacher Dan, or Brother Dan.  To some family members I am known as Danny.  All different names, yet each one is a reference to the same person.

According to God’s Word, the Lord has names He has given with which we can refer to Him.  We utter the sacred names of God in worship, prayer, praise, and adoration.  In the Old Testament He is God, Yahweh, God Almighty, the Most High, and the Great I Am.  In the New Testament He is Jesus Christ, Immanuel, the Son of God, the Son of Man, Savior, Redeemer, the Great Physician, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.  After the resurrection of Christ came the Day of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit of God came to dwell in and among mankind for all time.  He is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, and Counselor.  They are all one, manifestations and revelations of the same God – the three are One.

Consider also that you have a name, and God knows who you are.  You are by no means a face in the crowd, for the Lord knows you and desires to know you even better on a personal basis.  You are indeed a unique individual of immeasurable worth and potential to God.  Do not despair during the hard times and do not give up, for the Lord has a wonderful plan for your life.  Follow Him in faith, keep looking up.  Be of good cheer and be encouraged.

God bless you today.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It’s Not About Us

And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.  –I Kings 19:10 (KJV)

When I think about the prophet Elijah and the struggles he faced, I cannot help but recall a conversation I had many years ago with a pastor friend who lives in another state.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear from him, but as we talked I realized he was under terrible duress.  He spoke of the pressures of ministry, the feelings of inadequacy pastors so often experience, and the never ending task of trying to minister to the congregation’s needs.  At one point he broke down and was unable to continue.  I could only listen as my friend was wracked with uncontrolled sobbing.  Eventually, he regained control of his emotions and was able to go on.  I listened, tried to offer encouragement, and promised to pray for him.  I am glad to report my friend recovered from this episode of discouragement and was able to continue in the ministry.

As Elijah the prophet laid there in his cave of despair, he cried out to God and reported all the problems he was facing.  Like my friend, Elijah felt he was at the end of his rope.  He had sought to be faithful, he had given his all, he had been totally committed, yet he felt persecuted and unable to continue.  Most of us have experienced similar bouts of discouragement and feelings of despair.  The pressures of life and the ongoing challenges it presents can at times build up to the point we begin to feel hopeless.  We too might end up languishing for a time in our own personal cave of despair.

God communicated to Elijah a gentle truth that it was not about him, but rather it was all about him being faithful to God.  Another friend recently described to me how during a prayer time one morning she was pouring out her heart to God and was stuck by a burning question.  “Lord,” she said, “can’t it be about me just once?”  For followers of Jesus Christ the answer will always be the same.  No, it is not about us; it is about Christ working in and through us as we face the trials and pressures of life.  God’s call stands.  Go and stand on the mountain.  This was God’s call to Elijah, and once he took another step forward in faith he was empowered to go on. 

Our daily challenge involves realizing that serving Christ and doing His will in the world is never about us.  Rather, the emphasis must be on Christ and what He can do in and through us.  God has a wonderful habit of using frail and flawed people to accomplish His will.  Here we are with all our mistakes, hang-ups, and problems, and yet the Lord can and will do great and powerful works in our lives.  Life in Christ is not about survival, but about living and walking forward in victorious faith. 

Are you in a cave of despair today?  God is calling you to come out and stand on the mountain of His grace and power.  You will overcome through faith in Christ.

God bless you today.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Struggle Against Depression and Anxiety

And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?...11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord… –I Kings 19:8, 9, 11 (KJV)

Depression and anxiety are conditions which can rob us of our peace and joy in Christ.  I know from personal experience the challenges of overcoming depression and the difficulty associated with this condition.  Countless people struggle in silence with these illnesses in the hope that the situation will somehow improve.  I am discovering more and more how depression and anxiety are common among church leaders as well as the general population.  If you are struggling with these issues yourself take heart, for you are not alone.  The Lord is with you and will help you to rise up and go forward.  Do not delay in getting treatment.  Medication, counseling, and therapy are viable means of overcoming the insidious consequences of depression and anxiety.  Also, add to this prayer, daily time in God’s Word, and firm faith in God.

Remember many of the saints of the Bible also battled depression and anxiety issues.  These giants of the faith struggled just like us with the challenges of day-to-day life in difficult times.  One such person was Elijah of the Old Testament.  Following a great victory over the false prophets of Baal, Elijah heard the wicked queen Jezebel had vowed to kill him.  He then fled into the wilderness and at one point lay down and begged God to take his life.  A short time later, Elijah hid in cave and lapsed into a period of dark despair and fretfulness.  Does this sound familiar?  Perhaps you have hidden in a similar cave of despair and wondered if there was any hope.

God came to Elijah with a gentle call to come out of the cave and stand on the mountain.  Once he did this, Elijah experienced the gentle whisper of God’s presence.  He was then empowered to continue living life and serving the Lord.  The same can happen to us.  Let me share with you three truths about recovery from depression and anxiety.  Recovery requires the following:

  • Time.  No one was ever delivered from depression overnight.  It’s going to take time to overcome these issues.
  • Commitment.  Realize that overcoming depression is a process involving many years.  Develop a plan for overcoming and stick with it.  Delve anew into a routine of prayer, daily time in God’s Word, and worship.  Also, develop a healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise. 
  •  Determination.  You will suffer setbacks and this is normal.  Do not give up on living life to the fullest, for it is within your grasp – with God’s help.

Jesus calls us to the abundant life in Him.  Take hold of Christ, for He will not let us go or ever let us down.

God bless you today.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Overcoming Discouragement by the Grace of God

8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. 9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. –Joshua 1:8-10 (KJV)

The grace of God in Jesus Christ brings peace and calm even in the most difficult storms of life. Rather than cowering in fear we are empowered to walk forward in confident faith. Often the trials we face appear to be insurmountable to the point of causing us to consider giving up. We look at what lies before us and wonder how in the world we will overcome these challenges. The people of Israel faced a similar situation when they began their conquest of the Promised Land. After 40 long years of wandering in the wilderness, the time had come to do what God had been leading them to all along. Joshua, their leader, stood before them with the challenge to not be afraid or dismayed, because the Lord would go with them every step of the way.

Dismayed refers to those dark feelings of doubt and uncertainty which can creep into our thoughts in the face of a new challenge. “Am I really up for this?” We wonder. “What if it doesn’t go right?” All the while we are allowing ourselves to be overcome by doubt and fear. As followers of Christ, we are called to walk by faith and not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). Faith is walking forward in the power of the Holy Spirit even when all outward circumstances appear to be against us. Failure to do this means surrendering to discouragement. The grace of God in Jesus Christ compels us to keep going rather than quit. Not only are we empowered to move forward, like the Israelites in their taking of the Promised Land, we are also able to do so with blessed peace and calm.

I recall hearing a song many years ago about a man standing on the sidewalk in New York City and feeling the rumbling of the subway underneath his feet. The song then compared his thoughts as tumbling around in his mind like the rumbling of the subway. We can all relate to such feelings. The grace of God, functioning in us, brings peace and calm in the midst of any such troubling thoughts. We are then able to overcome discouragement before it takes hold and pulls us down.

What sort of challenges are you facing right now? Are you worried and fearful of how you will overcome these challenges? Do not forget the divine resources we have through Jesus Christ. We have been given salvation, forgiveness of sin, and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. We have been granted the wonderful grace of God. Remember the grace we have received and claim the peace which results from having Jesus as our Savior, friend, and guide.

Do not be afraid, for the Lord is with us. The mountain you are facing can be moved aside by God’s power. Be at peace, be calm, and let the Lord guide your steps.

God bless you today.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Faith is Stronger than Discouragement

12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.  13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.  14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,  18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.  –Ephesians 3:12-19 (KJV)

Misery loves company.  I have heard this saying my entire life and I believe it to be true.  When we are down, sorrowful, unhappy, or miserable we crave the sympathy of others.  This is normal and we all need contact with other people in times of need.  As I have said before, the body of Christ, which is the church, is there to provide this needed support.  The problem comes when we seek, either consciously or unconsciously, to draw others away from the peace of Christ we are meant to possess.  Thus we find the true meaning in the saying about misery loving company.  The implication is we purposely try to drag others down to our level of sorrow.

If we are not careful we can be pulled down emotionally and spiritually by the misery of others, and the world is filled miserable people.  Their misery is demonstrated by an overall cynical outlook on life.  Such persons are hypercritical, judgmental, mean-spirited, and convinced they are justified in these positions.  Such attitudes contradict what the Word of God teaches about the joy, love, grace, and peace followers of Christ are to live out in our daily lives.  Just when you begin to think your life is heading in a good direction, or maybe you are having a good day, someone might be there to remind you how far off the mark you actually are.  This is where we can become discouraged.

Paul the Apostle took an opposite approach.  He shared his trials with the believers, yet he did not wish for them to become discouraged.  He desired instead they be encouraged because of the grace of God functioning in his life.  Paul’s desire was that they “faint not” at his tribulations, which he hoped would actually build them up and encourage them.  He did not want his troubles to discourage others, but rather to encourage them as a testimony of the power of Christ.  Here we see a wonderful faith principle at work.  Our problems, trials, heartaches, and difficulties can encourage those around us.  We accomplish this by letting the light of Christ shine from us even as our personal storms are raging.  From such vibrant and growing faith we become as the Bible says, “rooted and grounded in love.”  Furthermore, we go deeper into the knowledge of God and the wonders of His grace.

My friends, stand firm, walk forward, and be encouraged today, for the Lord is with us.  If we are walking by faith our trials will not defeat us and our testimony of God’s grace will embolden others to greater faith.  Do you have to deal with discouraging people today?  Try smiling and reminding them that Jesus Christ is greater than any problem we will ever face.

God bless you today.