Cruelty-Free Conversation

Civil discourse is sorely lacking in society. Wikipedia defines civil discourse as engagement in discourse (conversation) intended to enhance understanding.” We are in an era where people no longer are concerned about truth or gaining understanding. Instead, we cloister around those who are “right”, meaning that they share our perspective, and we attack those who do not. We are self-absorbed and more concerned about “winning” than the well-being of our fellow man.  Concern for the greater good is overshadowed by self-absorption and vanity disguised as self-preservation. We are quick to attack others who disagree and slow to defend those who appear vulnerable.

This self-centered mindset can also wreak havoc with our prayer lives. Prayer is a conversation with God which requires a shift from self-centered to Christ-centered thinking. It is our natural, human inclination to focus solely on ourselves – what we want, think, and feel. It is radically irrational to defer every situation that concerns us to the will of God, our heavenly Father, in a timing which is divinely ordered instead of personally dictated.

Yet, the more we ask God to examine our hearts and renew our minds, the easier this transformation becomes. Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Through His Holy Spirit, the Lord speaks to us, blessing us with an assured sense of peace, self-control, patience, gentleness, and joy that cannot be swayed by news headlines or personal irritants. Galatians 5:22-23 says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

The enemy revels in chaos and confusion which breeds fear. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The enemy tries to distract us by allowing us to experience disheartening situations intended to steal our joy, make our faith falter, or diminish our peace. However, in those dark moments, we must remind ourselves that our hope does not lie in hollow promises of this world, but the eternal promises of an everlasting God. A God who will never leave nor forsake us. A God who is sovereign and the giver of every good gift. In addition to reminding ourselves of who God is, as we pray, we must also remember that we are created in God’s image and more than conquerors.

As we navigate this world, as Christians we need not be cruel. Instead of cruel comments that kill, ask God to grant wisdom so that we can speak the truth in love that leads to life.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

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, forever and ever! Amen.
-Ephesians 3:16-21

Coincidence or God Incidents?

Although we don’t always acknowledge it, God is constantly at work in our lives. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says “The eyes of the LORD run through the earth, to show himself strong for those who trust him.” God is sovereign and all-knowing. He understands our actions, motives, and implications. Psalm 139:2 says “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.” We tend to view situations based on immediate concerns where God views everything through the lens of eternity. We are often preoccupied with what provides immediate relief where God’s focus is what is ultimately best for our growth and maturity. Job 42:2 says “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

As God goes about His work, orchestrating situations according to His divine wisdom, we should try to pay attention to the myriad of ways He interacts with us. So often, we notice the unique way that issues are resolved – often better than we anticipate. However, we are also quick to label the smooth resolution as “luck” or “coincidence”. James 1:17 says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Whether it’s the mercy of not receiving as severe a penalty as we expect or the grace of receiving a blessing we didn’t anticipate, we need to acknowledge our heavenly Father at work in our lives and adopt an attitude of gratitude.

Gratitude should also extend and be an integral part of our prayer lives. Can you imagine being a parent, constantly providing for your child’s needs, being concerned about whatever troubles them, surprising them with unexpected treats and rewards, keeping them safe, watching over them constantly, even enlisting others to assist them, yet never receiving any acknowledgement or appreciation from the child whom you dearly love? It is the same way with our heavenly Father. In our prayer lives, we should begin simply by thanking God for all that He does for us. We can reflect and acknowledge the ways that God is actively working in our lives. We can ask God to open our heart and grant us godly wisdom regarding God Incidents: situations where the Lord changes circumstances to help us learn, grow, and ultimately to trust Him more vs. luck or coincidence where we displace such credit to generic entities. I encourage you to resolve in your heart to give God the glory for great things He has done.

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” -1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Lacking Nothing

I recently watched a music awards show long enough to see Janet Jackson receive an icon award. She acknowledged our Creator in her acceptance speech, proclaiming that “…everything we lack, God has in abundance.” I couldn’t agree more. So many times, we struggle while operating within our limited abilities and perspective. We are immersed in the logical and tangible, navigating in ways that make sense to us. We cling tightly to our fears, frustrations, and established patterns of failure instead of releasing them to our all-seeing, all-knowing, limitless heavenly Father.

We unknowingly invite a Spirit of Lack to cloud our perspective. We make decisions based on fear of not having enough love, money, time, energy, patience, cooperation, approval, etc. The scariest thing about the Spirit of Lack is that we can unknowingly invite it into our lives. A Spirit of Lack is very dangerous because it can serve as a gateway to usher in other evil spirits to further attack your mind and lead to feelings of hopelessness and defeat.  Sometimes, even once it’s identified, the thought of vanquishing that spirit seems impossible.

However, according to Luke 1:37  For nothing will be impossible with God.” We do not have to tolerate feelings of shortage or defeat. Lack does not have to be a permanent fixture in our lives. Although He can, I’m not saying that God will immediately remove our challenges. However, if we ask, He will help us apply a different lens so that we view our lives through a filter of abundance instead of lack. Instead of fixating on what we don’t have, He will show us what we do have – the innumerable blessings that we take for granted. We can move forward with a keen awareness of those blessings, a renewed understanding of how very precious we are to God. Isaiah 43:19 says Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.” No matter how dire the situation, God is always with us. Hebrews 13:5 says “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”” Furthermore, our God is one of restoration. I’m a living witness that God is not only capable of replenishing what we previously lost but He often replaces it with something far better. Years ago, I lost everything on the ground floor of my home in a flood. During that crisis, the Lord taught me valuable lessons that deepened my trust His provision, favor, and restoration. God can use a loss to increase of faith. When we place our trust in Him, we can live a life of freedom and abundance because we can trust Him to handle the challenge of each day as well as all of our tomorrows.

“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.” -James 1:2-4

 

 

A Piece of Peace

The world seems filled with turmoil. Newscasts are filled with stories of injustice, destruction, violence, and despair. There is an increasingly predatory slant to our society where the people are desperate to protect and defend what’s theirs. Our souls grow weary as we long to escape to a stress-free zone.

Internally, these troubles take a toll on our spiritual and emotional health. We feel frustrated, aggravated, and conflicted about so many issues, wondering about a safe haven. Even the places where we used to find solace are under threat. Shootings occur in places we never dreamed – including schools, movie theatres, and churches. Struggles threaten our relationships and sense of well being. We long for peace and wonder whether there is any remaining place where peace can be found.

As the saying goes, prayer makes a difference. Prayer doesn’t make us physically invincible, it makes us spiritually unstoppable. Romans 8:37 says “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” There are no limits – physical, emotional, financial, spiritual, creative, psychological, mental, relational – in the Lord. Prayer connects us to God through the power of His Holy Spirit. We cannot create peace, but we can invite peace into our lives through the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” We can offer ourselves as instruments and vessels of God’s peace in this world filled with all manner of conflict, chaos, and confusion. God brings peace to our hearts. When we have a portion of God’s peace, it filters the world around us. Job 11:18-19 says “You will be secure because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favor.” We have the option to carry peace in our hearts along with God’s many other extended benefits – hope, joy, faith, and courage. These gifts are absolutely free for the asking and have the potential to infect and affect every aspect of our lives. Psalm 29:11 says “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.” As we seek God and receive peace for ourselves, we gain the wisdom to better engage with the world around us. Peace does not have to make logical sense because it is a spiritual gift. Our loving Father who sees all, knows all, and transcends time can bless us with peace, even in the midst of the most turbulent circumstances.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
-Philippians 4:6-7

 

You’ve Met Your Match!

We live in a polarized society that thrives on separation and exclusion. Elaborate and aggressive cross-channel marketing plans send the perpetual message that we are never quite good enough – that we need to constantly improve our exterior to attain the worldly definition of success. Titus 2:11-12 says For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;”

This sense of inferiority can spill over into our spiritual lives. We may feel that so many regrets and mistakes have pervaded our lives that we are not good enough for God either. We have a warped sense of identity that can weigh us down and hinder our growth. Our prayer lives fade away and our relationship with our heavenly Father grows distant.

How do we return? How do we recover from these feelings of unworthiness? The longer we go without having conversations with our Creator, the more natural it seems. Yet, connecting with our Creator through prayer is one of the most natural things we can do. 1 Chronicles 16:11 says Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.”

We return by studying God’s word. Knowing God’s promises means that we can pray and hold Him accountable to what He says. God is never far from us. He is always eager to meet us. Romans 8:38 reminds us that nothing separates us from God’s love: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”  He also meets us where we are. In scripture, Jesus was not stationary. He did not stay in one place and extend invitations for those in need to stop by and see him. He went out and met people where they were, in whatever state they were in. From healing lepers to the man at the pool of Bethesda to the woman at the well to healing the blind, Jesus continued to extend his message of salvation, love, mercy, and grace to everyone, regardless of their past or present state. He does the same thing today. Salvation, deliverance, peace, wisdom, restoration, healing, and everything else we need is readily available. Whatever need we have, the Lord is able to meet us where we are and provide His very best to us. James 1:17 says “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.”

We never have to worry nor feel defeated because, through faith in God, we’ve met our match!

 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. – Jude 24-25

Plan “Be”

I was anticipating a fun-filled weekend when suddenly it happened – an unexpected knee injury sidelined me for three days. Disgusted, I reshuffled priorities, bowed out of commitments, canceled appointments, and prayed for healing even as I practiced the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method in hopes of accelerating my recovery.

Just when I thought I couldn’t feel any worse, I received a disturbing phone call where I learned that a friend of a friend had taken her own life. I was jolted out of my self-pity party and plunged into a different type of despair.

I think many of us have had moments where life felt so burdensome that escaping temporary troubles with a permanent solution seemed like a feasible option. We considered giving up and surrendering to defeat. Our highest hopes, best-laid plans, or greatest expectations went into a sudden downward spiral, wrecking our hearts, troubling our minds, and shattering our dreams in the process. In other words, our Plan A was ruined.

Fortunately for us, Plan A is not the only one that exists. In His sovereign wisdom and everlasting love, the Lord allows our self-designed plans to fail so that we can grow and He can be glorified. Let’s face it: Our Plan As seem grand to us, but may be limited compared to God’s plans.  Also, if our Plan As always succeeded, then we would glorify and praise ourselves instead of the Lord. Only God can step in and take us far beyond our subconscious, self-imposed limitations. When situations don’t initially work out in our favor, rather than falling into a pattern of distancing ourselves from God, we must operate according to the Holy Spirit. It may feel counterintuitive to our human nature, but we must seek God as never before. Only by spending time and aligning with Him can we prepare for the next phase of our journey. Our eternal Father invites us to consider His alternative Plan “Be”, one that is ultimately more beneficial than anything we could imagine. When you are frustrated by your Plan A, pray and ask God to reveal His Plan “Be” which reminds you to [BEs capitalized for emphasis]:

“He says, “BE still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” -Psalm 46:10

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will BE given to you as well.” -Matthew 6:33

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to BE still.” – Exodus 14:14

“But as for you, BE strong and do not give up, for your work will BE rewarded.”
-2 Chronicles 15:7

“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

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not BE dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

“BE on your guard; stand firm in the faith; BE courageous; BE strong.” -1 Corinthians 16:13

When your Plan A fails, rejoice because God’s Plan “Be” is springing into action!

IMPORTANT: If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, know that I am praying for you! Please click here to connect with local crisis resources for your country.

Now Worries vs. No Worries

Matthew 6:34 says “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Each day that we live is actually three in one. First, there is the day that we expect considering our obligations and commitments. Second, there is the day we actually have with its unexpected delights or difficulties. Finally (if we choose to acknowledge it), there is the day where we see God constantly at work in every circumstance.

The day that we anticipate can be easy, difficult, or somewhere in between. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” There are joyful days that can seem to take eons to arrive and pass in the blink of an eye. There are also difficult days that speed toward us like a train, threatening to run us completely over. 

We can waste time being worried about situations that can profoundly affect us, yet are outside of our control. Worry is packaged in many shapes and sizes. If it goes unchecked, the worry that begins as a mental weight can breed anxiety and stress that takes a physical toll on us. The more concerned we are about a situation, the more difficult it is to admit our lack of control. The truth is that we are in a constant battle between our spirit and flesh. In our flesh, we want to be in control and “make things happen”. In our spirit, we are admitting our reliance on God, seeking His strength so that we can weather the storm. Fear is a tool that the enemy uses to undermine and sabotage our faith. Ultimately, the enemy hopes to discourage us enough to abandon our relationship with God altogether.

As Believers, we must pray and spiritually confess our fears, admit our worries, and release our anxiety to God. If we are busy harboring our worries, feeding our fears, then our faith cannot grow. God never promised that our lives would be smooth and easy. In fact, John 16:33 says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

We must remind ourselves of the promises of God as revealed in many scriptures including:

  • Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
  • Psalm 94:19 “When my anxious inner thoughts become overwhelming, your comfort encourages me.”
  • 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
  • Isaiah 46:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
  • 1 John 4:18 “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.

The book “God’s Psychiatry” was first published in 1953. In it, the author Charles Allen, prescribes the 23rd Psalm. Just as we might take a medical prescription multiple times a day, he offered the 23rd Psalm morning, noon, and night for spiritual healing. It made a significant difference in the outlook of those who followed this practice. When you suddenly find yourself in the midst of trouble, find scriptures that minister to you, bringing peace and joy to your heart. Our triune God can turn “now worries” into “no worries”.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”