Security Source

A few minutes of any newscast is enough to threaten our sense of security. With disturbingly increased frequency, regular people are losing their lives in ordinary places through surprising and devastating events.  Children and adults alike are being regarded as disposable as all manner of harm occurs against the innocent and vulnerable. The motives vary, but the result is the same: horrific events can throw us into a tailspin, making us feel helpless, fearful,  and angry that such suffering and evil even exists. We may question God, demanding to know where he when such horrific events happen. 1 Peter 3:12 says “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.””

On a personal level, we often experience pain, loss, disappointment, traumas, and hurts that will never make the local news. Some challenges are private and unknown even to those who are close to us. Others are humiliating where our pain is on public display. Those same woeful feelings cut even deeper when our lives are directly affected, yet the line of questioning may remain the same.

Whether the issue is a personal or global tragedy, we find ourselves struggling to regain a sense of security. If we try to serve as our own source of security and strength, life events help us to realize that we do not have nearly the level of power and control that we think. John 16:33 says These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Our sense of security is based in our identity. If we profess to be an entity exclusively unto ourselves with no other connections, then we are limited and only experience security in temporary and fallible ways. However, if our identity is anchored in a relationship with Jesus Christ, then we learn to trust God’s sovereignty far beyond every immediate issue or circumstance. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” As distressing as life can be, we can rest assured that even if “the worst” happens and our lives end earlier than we anticipate, we will transform to a different state of existence where we can see our Father’s face. We don’t have to live a daily existence fearing death, danger, nor failure. We need not be reckless, but we don’t need to be fearful either. This is because our sense of security relies on the unlimited and everlasting power of God rather than our limited and temporary financial, emotional, and intellectual assets. The beginning of 2 Corinthians 12:9 says “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”” Stressful, burdensome situations force us to recognize and admit our limitations while simultaneously providing opportunities for us to invite God into the midst of the situation where He can show and prove himself strong in concrete and specific ways. Proverbs 14:26 says Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.” 

In order to feel certain in an uncertain world, you must carefully consider your security source.  Remember Psalm 31:24 which says Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.”

Seeing Beyond Circumstances

There is an appointed time for every thing. Ecclesiastes 3:1 begins by stating that “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Oftentimes, we think of seasons only in terms of positive times of health, peace, and prosperity. In truth, seasons can be positive or negative, but are often an ongoing combination of both. Difficult or unexpected challenges demand our energy, attention, and resources, making it difficult to focus on anything else. If we examine carefully enough, we can still identity blessings even in the midst of the most disheartening circumstances.

When facing challenging seasons, it is important to think of your difficult situation as temporary yet rich. Even when the challenge translates to continuing your life in a different way, such as major health crisis or the loss of a loved one, the event may be permanent or have longstanding repercussions, but your perspective and attitude about the ordeal can gradually change. Challenging seasons are temporary because they are designed to strengthen and mature us, to provide an opportunity to strengthen our faith. Every aspect of our identity intensifies when we we are crisis.

The Lord allows us to endure challenging seasons so that we can experience Him at work and He can be glorified through our lives. In the midst of challenges, many people around you are watching to see whether your previous declarations of faith withstand your current situation. Will you still declare God’s goodness or do you lash out, and distance yourself, as if you are punishing The One who holds all power in His hands? James 1:2-4 reminds us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Building our faith involves cultivating a vision that allows us to see beyond our current challenges. Hebrews 11:1-2 tells us  “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” It is easy to praise and glorify God based on what we see, but how often do we declare God’s goodness based on what we do not yet see, feel, hear, touch, or experience? We must speak life over ourselves in every situation. Speaking life helps us to fully internalize the truths that God is working everything together for our good, that we are His masterpiece and the apple of His eye, that the Lord loves us from everlasting to everlasting and will never leave nor forsake us. Speaking life and shifting our focus from our circumstances to our Creator makes it easier to see beyond whatever challenge we currently face. Our heavenly Father is the giver of every good and perfect gift. Those gifts go beyond surface appearances to address our deepest and most intimate needs for hope, love, joy, healing, deliverance and peace. If you feel uncertain of God’s love and intentions towards you, ask Him to open the eyes of your heart so that you can fully receive His love and every blessing He has designated to lift and carry you through your challenging season. 

 

Moving Forward

I observed an important lesson as I walked into church one brisk fall morning. A lady and her young daughter were walking into church ahead of me. The little girl was crying and screaming. She didn’t want to wear her hood, despite the chilly wind. She cried as she walked. The mother encouraged her daughter telling her things like it wasn’t much further, she was doing well, and that they were just around the corner. When the mother said “Look! I see the door!”, the little girl stopped crying altogether as they entered the building.

I admire both the little girl and her mother. The mother encouraged the child and stayed next to her, holding her hand the entire time. The little girl wailed and cried but never stopped walking.

In our journey of faith, we must learn to walk with the Lord, just as the daughter walked with her mother. Just as the little girl trudged forward through the freezing wind, even as distressing winds blow, we too must be determined to move forward. Despite our pain, despite feeling distracted, uncomfortable or unhappy, we must continue to hold the hand of and look to the one who can see far beyond our current place. Proverbs 3:5-6 says Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Life presents its share of surprises, but nothing takes God by surprise. Psalm 139:16 says Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Through every difficulty, we must continue to trust God. It is our heavenly Father, the giver of every good and perfect gift, who equips us to move forward. Deuteronomy 31:8 reminds us that The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

The next time you feel that you cannot go another step, think of that little girl. If you don’t feel you have enough faith, strength, or courage to move forward, pray and ask God to provide what you need.

What are you wearing?

Our clothing decisions are the hallmark of many special occasions. On a global scale, fashion is nearly a trillion dollar industry. Clothing is a daily decision of personal expression. Our self worth is often reflected in the way that we dress. In addition, societal norms also influence how we choose to clothe and adorn ourselves.

Although it is important to consider our outer garments and how we represent ourselves as we navigate the world around us, we must guard against becoming overly fixated on our outward clothing. Matthew 6:25 says “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”

Our spiritual attire is far more important. We must prayerfully consider which characteristics fashion us above any physical garment we might wear. When we attempt to navigate the world without wearing the spiritual armor that the Lord issued to us when we joined His victorious army, we are naked and vulnerable, no matter how impressive we look on the outside. When challenges confront us – what are we wearing? Do we wrap ourselves in anxiety and depression like a shawl? Are we short-sited, wearing rebellion or rebellion like a jacket, daring anyone to approach us? Do we accessorize our biases with gossip and envy? Are we taking every step with guilt, regret and shame as our primary footwear? Stop right now and take that ugly stuff off. If you can’t bear to part with some of those familiar garments – ask God to help you shed them.

The world is rough. In part, John 16:33 tells us “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Just a few minutes of any daily newscast provides an extensive list of reasons why we must spiritually suit up and prepare for each day wearing our full armor. Details about the entire ensemble are available in Ephesians 6:12-17: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

As familiar as they are, the Lord wants us to trade in our old rags for the beautiful outfits He has custom made just for us. Isaiah 61:3 says “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”

Holding Pattern

While an aircraft awaits clearance to land, it typically flies in an oval-shaped flight path over the destination airport. That flight path is known as a holding pattern. Sometimes we find our lives in a holding pattern – a place where God allows us to see our goal or destination but doesn’t provide immediate clearance to arrive. Life’s holding patterns can be frustrating and discouraging. Here are a few considerations to help you fly into your God-given destiny with confidence. Holding patterns:

  1. get our attention – When we are not bombarded with concerns that we normally experience on the ground, we can hear from God more clearly. Proverbs 2:1-5 says “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
  2. are designed to build you up, not break you down – Holding patterns boost your strength, patience, and endurance. Romans 5:3-5 says Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
  3. allow time for removal of dangerous obstacles – the Lord is preparing your destination, divinely arranging and rearranging obstacles that would otherwise hinder or compromise your successful landing. Isaiah 57:14 says “and it will be said: “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”
  4. keep you focused on your destination – the longer your holding pattern, the greater your desire to land safely and arrive at your intended destination. Philippians 3:12-14 says Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

  5. require clearance from The Control Tower – Admitting our inability to land independently is both an admission of our weakness and a confession of God’s strength. John 15:4-5 says “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
  6. give you greater appreciation for your “arrival” – overcoming adversity and cultivating a closer relationship with God during your hold makes your landing far sweeter. In the midst of a holding pattern, God can expose talents and gifts that you didn’t even realize you had. Genesis 50:20 says “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
  7. bless you in new and exciting ways – landing victoriously after enduring a difficult holding pattern allows you to experience new dimensions of God’s provision, protection, grace, mercy, and favor. James 1:12 says Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” 

Behaving Boldly

Society often equates being “a good Christian” with being a doormat for the world to tread upon. Our Heavenly Father is full of grace, wisdom, mercy, love, and truth.  As Christians, we strive to embody those same characteristics. Unfortunately, a skewed worldly view means that as Christians, we are often expected to tiptoe through our existence, never offending or disagreeing with anyone despite the fact that others offend us daily. This passive perception of Christianity is wildly inaccurate. The same way that we are called to exhibit love, mercy, and grace, we are also called to holy boldness. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Holy boldness does not mean behaving with arrogant self-righteousness. We are not called to deputize ourselves as some sort of spiritual police, judging and discounting others, while placing ourselves on a pedestal. We are called to serve. Holy boldness is having the courage of conviction to stand for the Lord Jesus Christ in the face of opposition. Consider these scenarios:

  • When someone tells an offensive joke, do you laugh outwardly and cringe inwardly?
  • When you see someone being mistreated, do you look the other way?
  • When you see a glaring need, do you think about ways you can help or instead think about reasons why you cannot possibly lend a hand?

Love is the key component for holy boldness. We cannot operate in holy boldness apart from God’s Holy Spirit. God is love. 1 John 4:8 says “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Holy boldness inherently means operating with faith and courage in obedience to God. We are God’s hands and feet on this earth. God allows us to encounter situations which call us to holy boldness. These are situations where we recognize that we respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that …the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.” Usually, these acts of kindness, concern, conscientiousness, truth, and assistance may be far outside of our comfort zone. Holy boldness doesn’t mean being rude, it means responding with loving conviction. These situations are designed for our spiritual growth and maturity.

Responding with holy boldness is a double blessing. First, it blesses the hearer or recipient because it can plant a seed where people examine their motives, actions, and responses. Second, it blesses the speaker or giver because of they are responding in obedience to God. Ephesians 3:12 says In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” The end of Galatians 5:6 says “…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” We can navigate our lives with confidence, seeking our next God-given assignment, knowing that the Lord is the source of our hope, courage, faith, strength, and love. It is our relationship with God that allows us to operate with loving obedience and holy boldness. 2 Corinthians 3:12 says “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.”

 

 

 

Provoked to Prayer

As we go about our daily routines, we often observe troublesome situations: the homeless man begging at a busy intersection, a young mother yelling at her child, a senseless news story that breaks our heart.

Beyond observations, there are situations that we directly encounter: a tense conversation with a loved one, a stressful event at work, or unexpected news from the doctor.

All too often, we cluck our tongues, shake our heads and give in to feelings to irritation, frustration, or worry. These feelings and reactions are perfectly natural. However, I invite you to also consider the spiritual aspect of these everyday occurrences.

Have you ever asked yourself why certain situations resonate so deeply with you?

It is my belief that such situations are intended to prompt us to pray. That sinking feeling and burden that we feel in our heart is actually a prayer assignment notification. God is connecting with His very same Holy Spirit which abides in you to solicit your prayers. This is not just a nice idea, but a sacred responsibility. In fact, scripture specifically states that it is a sin against the Lord to fail to pray for someone. When we deny prayer, we are essentially denying the power of God to bring about resolution.

“23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.”
– 1 Samuel 12:23-24 (NIV)

The next time you feel that vexation in your spirit – pray! Ask God to move in the situation of that individual as well as everyone else who who could fall into that same category or be associated with that category. For example, seeing the homeless man may prompt you to pray for him, but also for:

  • the entire homeless population
  • those who provide services to the homeless
  • those in positions of authority to influence policies that benefit the homeless

Your resulting prayer will bring you a sense of peace because you’ve been obedient and fulfilled your spiritual assignment. Prayer is one of the simplest, yet most powerful spiritual disciplines that you can develop. It requires no special tools nor qualifications, yet it has the power to bring about miraculous changes for God’s glory.

My hope with this blog is that you will be encouraged to cultivate a rich prayer life that strengthens, empowers, and blesses you.

So the next time you feel troubled, irritated or aggravated, I hope that you remember this post and are provoked to prayer!