Unexpected Rough Air

As in life, when traveling the skyways, we always hope for a smooth journey. We prepare as best we can, present our credentials, complete the security screening and board the aircraft. After receiving clearance from the tower, we take off and are glad to be on our way. But sometimes it seems that the moment we reach a comfortable cruising altitude, we run into turbulence – various forms of conflict or confusion that causes unsteady movement. Any number of life situations can take us by surprise and result in us experiencing unexpected rough air. When you find yourself thrown for a loop by life experiences, it may help to remind yourself that:

  1. You are not alone – in the chaos that occurs with life’s turbulence, the enemy tries to isolate us. It is far more difficult to manage turbulent times in life without the wise counsel of godly friends who want to see you soar like an eagle. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” God can supply your every need – either by strengthening you to withstand the turbulent conditions or changing the air around your circumstances. Philippians 4:19 says “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
  2. You have a built-in seat belt – when you are cooperative in wearing the necessary restraint, you can prevent many of the injuries that would otherwise accompany a turbulent situation. People feel lifted during turbulence when, in fact, the opposite is true. In turbulence, the plane drops. Wearing the seat belt keeps you from accidentally suffering a concussion. In life, when you use built-in restraint provided by God’s Holy Spirit, it protects you from further injury. Philippians 4:7 says “And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
  3. Your oxygen is still flowing, even if the mask doesn’t inflate – although it may not always look or feel like it, God is constantly at work in our lives. Exodus 15:13 says “You will lead the people You have redeemed with Your faithful love; You will guide [them] to Your holy dwelling with Your strength.” We get nervous when we don’t see immediate evidence, but we need only trust that God is working things out for our good. Romans 8:28 says that “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Thanks be to God, no matter how much turbulence we experience in life, through Jesus Christ we can look forward to a smooth landing.

Discover your Superpower

While traveling recently, I was amused by one photographer’s T-shirt which read: I can freeze time. What’s your superpower?

Wikipedia defines superpower as “a state with a dominant position, which is characterized by its extensive ability to exert influence or project power on a global scale.” Superpower assumes that we first have natural power. We may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but we can extend grace to someone who needs it. There are lots of ways that we can be physically helpful and emotionally brave in blessing others. Galatians 6:10 says “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” We may not have a cool outfit or all sorts of gadgets, but we carry the power to lend a hand, express concern, comfort those who are grieving, support people in crisis, donate to a worthy cause, make a meal for someone recovering from an injury or illness, be present with someone who is lonely, or encourage someone who feels discouraged.

None of the above acts reflect our natural inclination. We are born broken and self-centered. Psalm 51:5 says “Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me. ” Yet, through the power of love, these generous acts are possible. The power of love comes from God. 1 John 4:8 says “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Yet beyond showing love and what we can do in the physical realm – there are superpowers. Ways that we can traverse time and space to battle evil, loss, and destruction – to affect positive change. It is the supernatural power of prayer. It is only through a relationship with Jesus Christ that our God-given superpowers are activated. Prayer is the conduit that can bring hope to the hopeless, faith to the fearful, healing to the sick, wisdom to the confused, confidence to the uncertain, salvation to the lost, deliverance to the imprisoned, provision to the needful, courage to the timid, and protection to the vulnerable. We can not only pray for people but we can pray for situations, organizations, and entities that burden our heart.  2 Corinthians 10:3-5 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” The best part is, we are not operating in isolation, but we have the ultimate dynamic duo – The Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ – interceding for us. Romans 8:26-27 says In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” and Romans 8:33-34 says Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

As they used to say in one popular superhero cartoon “By the power of our forces combined…” we do not have to fret or be anxious about anything. When some villainous situation bothers or worries us, we need only pray about it. Phillippians 4:6-8 reminds us that we are to Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

There are no limits or boundaries to the supernatural power of prayer because it is activated in the spiritual realm, then manifest in the physical realm. Ephesians 3:20-21 says “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” As we mature in our relationship with the Lord and move toward sanctification, we enjoy a lifestyle of living for the Lord rather than ourselves. We can trade-in our weary, bitter and brittle heart for a renewed, hopeful, and loving heart that only God can provide. Romans 12:2 says “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

This renewed heart and mind that allows us to step far beyond our natural comfort zone to exercise our superpowers to address needs in the world around us.

1 Peter 4:10-11 says Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

What’s Your Sign?

Typically, inquiring about someone’s zodiac sign is an instant conversation starter. In the 70s, “What’s your sign, baby?” was a common pickup line. Astrology aside, we must realize that we are all messengers. Our worldview is evident in our words, actions, body language, and interactions. The question is, what are we saying? If you held up a sign that was your persistent message to the world, what would your sign say?

Some of us bear STOP signs because we are so deeply preoccupied with hurt, pain, shame, or regret that we’ve emotionally closed ourselves off. Others of us wear PROCEED WITH CAUTION signs because of friendships that only last as long as you’re in 100% agreement. Still, others are so fixated on money that our sign is the dollar symbol. There is a myriad of signs that people display daily for reasons that are completely legitimate to them, including UNAVAILABLE, OUT OF ORDER, BEWARE, and DEAD END.

Thanks be to God, when we YIELD and give our hearts to Him, He offers signs of:

WELCOME – “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:10-11

SAFETY ZONE – Those who go to God Most High for safety will be protected by the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “You are my place of safety and protection. You are my God and I trust you.” – Psalm 91:1-2

LODGING – “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” -Matthew 11:28

VICTORY – “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:57

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Romans 8:35-38

The Bible is full of declarations about God’s signs which are gifts that only He can provide. James 1:17 tells us that “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” God generously gives us those gifts, allowing us to extend love, grace, and mercy to all of the negative sign people, including ourselves. We are all UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Romans 3:10 reminds us “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;.  Yet, those positive signs transform us into Light-bearers bringing messages of joy, hope, peace, and love to those who feel weary, rejected, anxious, or defeated. If you feel that you’re carrying a negative sign, I encourage you to invite God to minister to you so that you can swap it out for a positive one. If you’re already carrying a positive one, I encourage you to praise God as you lift that sign high in your heart. Let it manifest in all that you do so that everyone you encounter will see The Maker of your sign.

 

 

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.

Escaping the Self-righteous Danger Zone

We would like to think that we say and do the right things in every situation. Even when we don’t, we typically feel that our behavior is justified. But think about it – if we were blameless, we wouldn’t need Jesus to redeem us.

We tend to classify sins according to our personal view instead of God’s standard. Sin is more than committing actions that we classify as mean or wicked. Sin ranges from unbelief to operating outside of God’s will to committing offenses. Even in our sin, we tend to magnify the offenses we don’t commit and minimize the ones that we do. Romans 3:23 reminds us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

It is very difficult for some people to acknowledge that they are anything less than completely perfect in every way. However, that perspective dishonors God because the self-righteous are more concerned about glorifying themselves rather than glorifying our heavenly Father. Furthermore, self-righteousness dangerously gives non-believers the false impression that believers are somehow more worthy of God’s love than they are. God is our Creator and loves all of His children. 1 John 4:7 says “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” God is no respecter of persons. Romans 2:11 says  For there is no respect of persons with God.” We are saved by grace, not by our acts. Ephesians 2:8-9 saysFor it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” By contrast, those who are self-righteous are blind to their own faults, their own shortcomings, their own need for God’s cleansing and forgiveness. Self-righteousness is rooted in pride and accelerated by selfishness. The Lord sees our heart and knows the source of our prayer requests – are we praying out of sincere love and concern or praying with self-centered motives? 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Cultivating a rich prayer life means confessing our sins and asking God to forgive us. Sins are a deviation from God’s standard which means only God can forgive us for our sins. We must come clean before our heavenly Father and confess our sins to God. It is humbling and liberating to admit that we have fallen short of God’s standard and to seek His forgiveness. However, we cannot ask God to help us address wrongs that we refuse to admit. Confession renews our relationship with God. Confession opens the door to God’s intervention in areas where we struggle. 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession cleanses our heart and renews our spirit, aligning us with God so that we pray according to God’s will instead of our own.