Saturday, April 29, 2017

Prayer Equals Peace

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:33-34).

We all face a certain amount of stress in life.  Sources of stress can range from going through difficult experiences to the rather normal day-to-day pressures that we all face.  Stress can come from work, relationships, children, marriage, health, school, deadlines, and even traffic.  Opportunities to be stressed-out abound.  But God has provided for us a gift of His peace.  To rise above the stress and experience His peace, we need to pray.

It seems that we may tend to ignore prayer when we feel stressed, especially when the to-do list is a mile long.  But that is precisely when we need to draw near to God.  In fact, if you will take the time to regularly soak in prayer, I think you will find that your life will be permeated with an atmosphere of peace that is not dependent on your circumstances.

Change can often be a source of stress.  Recently, Leslie and I have been in a place where we’re feeling pressure to make some decisions regarding our future.  I’m about to graduate from law school.  I have to decide the state where I will take the bar exam and where I want to practice law.  We need to decide where we will live.  I don’t have a job lined up, so I’ve been looking for job opportunities.  And I’ve had the normal day-to-day stress of law school and finishing up my final semester.  Certainly graduating is an exciting time, but also a time of transition and change.  It’s an opportunity to feel stressed.

Success can also be a source of stress.  Jesus experienced success in his ministry, such that “the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities” (Luke 5:15).  The following Scripture says, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).  Rather than being stressed by the multitudes pressing against Him, Jesus prayed.  His identity was not in the multitudes.  His identity was in His relationship with the Father.  Whether he was being rejected by people or praised by people, Jesus had peace.

God’s purpose is that you have peace regardless of circumstances.  Whether you are experiencing times of accelerated success or are going through a difficult time, you can have peace when you are rooted in Christ.  When the storm around you rages, you can be at peace.  When the word fumes with anger and fear, you can have peace.  How is this possible?  It is possible because peace is not a place, peace is a person.  Jesus is peace.  If you will pray, you will have peace. 

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).  Recently, my father-in-law encouraged me, saying that the “place” is not important, what God desires is my heart.  Whether we stay in Virginia Beach, move back to Texas, or make our home in Washington D.C. (or some other place), is not as important as our heart for the Lord.  I’ve been stressing out, but when Leslie and I began to pray, we have felt God’s peace in a greater way. 

When we pray, we have peace.  I have determined that I am not going to worry about things, I am just going to pray and trust God.  He has everything under control.  He has the right job for me.  He has the right “place” for us.  I have determined to be fully surrendered to the Lord in every area of my life.  The most important thing in my life is to walk with the Lord, be obedient to Him, and love my wife as Christ loves the church.  I am certainly not perfect, but I am pressing forward to the high call of Christ Jesus.  When I sit back and think about it, my life has been an exciting adventure.  It hasn't been easy, at times stressful, but I am grateful.  I am grateful for the life God has given me.  And I am thankful that when I pray, I feel His peace.      

“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.”
Philippians 4:6-7

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Beautiful In His Time

"The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride."
Ecclesiastes 7:8

When we walk with Lord the end of our lives can be filled with richness, blessing and fulfillment.  God’s blessing can outweigh any heartache or pain we have experienced.  God is always faithful to His promises if we are willing to wait on His fulfillment.  Impatience often leads to pain, but if we are willing to wait on God, He makes “everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:10).

Sometimes we are unwilling to wait on God to make things beautiful.  We may look at our present circumstances and question whether things can ever really change.  We may give up on what could someday bring us great fulfillment.  For example, if your marriage is experiencing hard times, perhaps even a betrayal, you may think that life can never be good with your spouse.  Yet, if you choose to forgive and choose to love, God can bring beauty from the ashes.  He can restore the years the enemy has stolen.

I often think of Joseph and how hard it must have been on him to be betrayed by his family and sold as a slave.  He remained faithful in temptation, yet ended up in a dark, damp dungeon cell.  Perhaps he stared at that cell wall and wondered if his life could ever be good again.  Yet, despite his pain, He remained faithful to God.  He endured.  In the process, God prepared Him for the throne.  His day came.  He was able to say, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” and “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (Genesis 41:51). 

Isaiah 40:1-2 says,

“Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.”

God gave Joseph two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  I believe that number is symbolic.  As I see it, Joseph experienced two major betrayals in his life.  He was first betrayed by his family and sold into slavery.  And then, even though a man of integrity, he was betrayed by his master and condemned to the dungeon.  But God lavished on him a double blessing for all of his pain.  God will be a debtor to no person.  While Joseph was suffering, He was storing up interest in his account with God.  When His promise was fulfilled, He received a double portion of blessing, an outpouring of God! 

You may look at your present circumstances and wonder if you can ever be blessed.  You may wonder if things can ever be good again.  I’m here to tell you if you will persist in the Lord, He will bring you into a place of abundant blessing.  He will make everything in your life beautiful in its time.  As the words of the Tobymac song say, "I know your heart been broke again.  I know your prayers ain't been answered yet.  I know you're feeling like you got nothing left.  Well, lift your head, it ain't over yet, ain't over yet, so Move, keep walkin'.  Soldier keep movin' on."  My friend, keep walking!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

An Elevated Perspective

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 
-II Corinthians 3:18

The state tree of Michigan, my home state, is the white pine.  Though not the tallest tree in the world, it is a tall tree.  If I were hiking through the forest and needed an elevated perspective, certainly the top of a tall white pine would provide that, if I could get there.  Likewise, when we walk through life’s trials, sometimes we need an elevated perspective.  We need to be able to rise above the difficulties we see around us, and get a higher view.  We need to see what God sees.

We may pray for problems to go away or for circumstances to change, but God may have a greater purpose than simply fixing the problem.  When circumstances test our faith, we may question God’s faithfulness.  We may get frustrated or angry with the process.  We may get bogged down with discouragement.  Often we see things from our limited perspective.  But God has an elevated perspective to offer us, if we will humble ourselves and seek Him.  In Him we can obtain “the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16).

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.”  What is God’s purpose?  Certainly God’s purpose is to save people.  Jesus said, “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).  But once we have come to Christ, God’s purpose is to make us like Jesus.  He wants to transform our lives, from glory to glory, healing us, restoring us, and perfecting us into His likeness.

Romans 8:29 says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…”  God often uses life’s trials to form within us the nature and character of Christ.  When Christ emerges from our pain, God is glorified.  In our trials, what we need to do is draw near to Christ in faith.  Rather than becoming bitter, we need to allow Him to change us from the inside.  The temptation is often to allow bitterness and disappointment to settle in our hearts.  But when we begin to allow Christ be formed in us, the work of transformation has begun and victory is near.  

God changes us from glory to glory.  It’s a process, a continual, ongoing process.  We are ever in the process of becoming more and more like Jesus.  I think God is less concerned with how far we’ve come, and more concerned that we are making progress.  We are growing, little by little every day.  Sometimes we are ourselves unaware of our own growth.  You may in fact be growing much more than you realize.  But right now, because you're in the midst of the difficulty, you just can't see it.  You may feel like a failure, but God is watching you, and He is saying, "I'm so proud of you."

If you know you're not where you should be, that's okay.  Maybe right now is a good time to stop and take inventory.  Are you becoming more loving or more bitter?  Are you becoming more cynical or more hopeful?  Take a look at your heart.  Once you have taken stock of where you're at, give yourself some grace.  We “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).  If necessary, re-commit yourself today to seeking the Lord and getting in His Word.  Allow Him to provide you with the perspective you need.  He will lead us into greater dimensions of His Spirit, greater depths of healing, greater levels of intimacy with Him, and to greater heights of victory.  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Before

Before the world was created, God loved you.  Before you were born, you existed in the mind of God.  And before you ever sinned, God had already made provision for your redemption. 

In the beginning, before we were created, God provided a wonderful place for us.  It was a perfect paradise, free from sin, evil, disease, pain, heartache, and death.  But God, before we sinned, knowing that we would sin, provided a way for our redemption.

Jesus is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).  We have been redeemed with “the precious blood of Christ… a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Peter 1:19).  Jesus, the Lamb, was “foreordained before the foundation of the world” (I Peter 1:20).  Indeed, it is a mystery, but a glorious mystery.  All we have to do is believe!

Broadly speaking, there are three things that we struggle with in life:  1) sin - our own and the sins of others; 2) the attack of the enemy; and 3) the cares of this life.  All of these affect us in any number of negative ways.  Yet, before we encountered any of these, God provided a way of redemption.  He is able to redeem every sin, every attack and every burden. 

You may be experiencing pain in life because of your own sins.  The good news is that Jesus wants to redeem every mistake that you have made.  You may be experiencing struggles because of the way others have treated you.  The good news is that before you were ever mistreated, God provided for your healing.  Psalm 107:20 says, “He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”  Through His Word, God has provided a pathway for your healing.  With persistent faith, you can overcome!

You may be under attack from the enemy.  The good news, God has already provided victory for you.  Before the enemy attacked you, God provided a way for you to walk victorious.  By taking up the weapons of His Word, prayer, worship, faith and the authority God has given you, you can and will claim victory.   

You may be struggling right now with the cares of life.  Those cares want to suck you in and overwhelm you with worry and fear.  Yet, before the stress of life ever happened, God provided a way for you to walk in peace.  Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."  All you have to do is believe!       

Often our problem is simply that we don't take the time to turn to God in our struggles.  We try to tackle life on our own.  But if we will each stop and spend some time with God, in His presence, and engage in the battle by faith, we can have all that God has provided for us.  

God loves you.  His love covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8).  No matter how much you have sinned and no matter how overwhelmed or embattled you feel, God has already provided a way for you to be free, at peace, and victorious.  Believe!         

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How Faith Works

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1

I hope this short devotion will help you live your faith in a practical way.  I think that faith is perhaps the most important thing we can understand in our walk with the Lord.  Hebrews 11:6 says that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  To come to God, we know that we need faith.  But how does faith work?  I’d like to offer you a simple approach to faith that I think is workable in your everyday life.

To illustrate, let’s look at the first few verses of the Bible: 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”  (Genesis 1:1-3)

When God looked at the earth, it was formless, void and dark.  But God had a plan for earth.  He saw what earth would be.  He saw a beautiful place, full of plants, trees, flowers, animals, good food, and wonderful people.  “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3) 

Likewise, when God looks at us, He sees our purpose.  He sees our potential.  Even when we were lost and broken and in sin, God saw what we could be in Christ. 

Faith sees.  How does faith see?  Faith sees by spending time with God.  When we spend time in His presence, we receive His Word, and His word brings forth fruit in our lives.  When God spoke, “Let there be light, there was light.”  In order to walk in faith, we have to spend time in His presence and then speak what He has spoken.  To see God’s purpose fulfilled we have to speak it.  Romans 10:8-10 says,

“‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”   

The next step of faith is obedience.  When we spend time with God and in His Word, we have to walk out in obedience what He is speaking to us.  Finally, faith requires persistence.  Hebrews 6:11-12 says,

“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (emphasis mine).    

In creation, the Father willed, the Son (the Word) spoke, and the Spirit acted.  Likewise, in our lives, as we spend time with the Father, declare His word, and put it into action, we can see great changes.  Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)  The changes we may be seeking in our lives probably won’t happen overnight.  We need to abide in His Word and persist in it.      

If you are struggling with a problem in your life, or long to see a promise God has given you fulfilled, I encourage you to put these steps into practice.  Get back in God’s presence.  Then, begin to meditate and speak His Word over your life.  Persist in consistently speaking His Word.  If He gives you a specific instruction, obey Him.  It’s easy to spend our time worrying, complaining, venting frustration over the difficulties of life.  But rather than looking at the mountains in our lives, let’s get our eyes on the mountain-mover.  That's how faith works!

“Have faith in God.  For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.”

Mark 11:22-23

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Jesus Brings Joy to My Soul

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Romans 13:11-12

Things don't always work out the way we plan or the way we hope.  Sometimes life can be hard.  I know many who've been through much worse than us.  But we each have our own pain and carry our own burdens.  

This year we went through a miscarriage, a new experience for me and certainly for Leslie.  On top of that, I've had asthma problems that I've never really had before.  I went to the urgent care earlier this year because I thought I was having heart problems.  It turns out it was asthma.  We also both got the flu, which is unusual for me.  For the past month, I've had a bronchitis cough and wake up at night coughing.  It's annoying.  

And, on top of all of that, law school, which can be grueling and extremely demanding, but also very rewarding.  The Apostle Paul wrote, after describing much that he had been through, said, "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches."  (II Cor. 11:28).  I would re-write the Scripture to say, "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of law school."  Although I try to keep a good but flexible schedule, it is hard to stay on top of everything.  This week, despite my intense planning for my 3rd and final year of school, something was wrong with my schedule and I had to make a change.  I worked so hard to get things right, only to find out I did something wrong.  That's life... no matter how hard we try to do right sometimes, we still make mistakes.    

Anyways, I'm not writing this to draw attention to myself.  I know some who are going through difficult things in their lives, probably more difficult than what I've experienced this year.  Nevertheless, God is working.  I believe the Lord is calling us to set all of this aside, fix our eyes on Him, and, in the words of a Casting Crowns song, "Just be held."  If we will take the time to truly seek Him, we can find all that we need in the arms of our Father.

Last night, in my dream, there was a song.  It went something like this:  "Jesus…Jesus… Jesus brings joy to my soul.  My rest is complete, when I sit at your feet, Jesus brings joy to my soul."  Despite everything going on, I keep hearing and feeling the call of God to lay everything aside and seek Him.  Sometimes that is hard to do when I'm under a school deadline.  I wake up in the morning knowing I need to make certain progress, and what gets cut out from life?  Time with Jesus.  Time with him, however, is much more important than all of this stuff of earth.  

I've posted a few pictures below from our camping trip earlier this year.  One of my favorite past times is swimming in waterfalls.  I love to immerse myself in the water.  It is so incredibly refreshing.  That's what time with Him is like.  When we get in His presence, He fills us with peace, with joy, with rest.  That's what I need to do right now, so I'm going to end this blog and do just that.  Good night, and God Bless!  May you be filled with His joy and peace!







Friday, August 5, 2016

Faith and Prayer: Thoughts from Our Experience at the Billy Graham Library

Recently Leslie and I visited the Billy Graham Library in North Carolina.  I was impressed by the simplicity of Billy Graham’s life and ministry.  I believe Billy Graham to be a man of genuine humility and purity.  He said, “My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which I believe, comes through knowing Christ.”  Everything he has done seems to be centered around that simple goal.  As we moved through the library, two things struck me:  Faith and Prayer. 

At least 2-3 times in the library, as I recall, Billy expressed his simple faith in God’s Word.  He said, “I have had the privilege of preaching the Gospel on every continent of the world.  And I have found that when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is presented, with authority, quoting from the very Word of God – He takes that message and drives it supernaturally into the human heart.” 

Often I don’t understand a lot that is going on in my life, with my family and friends, or with the world around me.  And God is not obliged to explain everything to me.  But I have found that when I put my faith in God’s Word, even when I don’t understand it, it makes a real difference.  When I take His Word at face value and apply it to my life by study, meditation and declaring it over my life, it is effective. 

It seems to me that there are some of us who go through life as victims, and some as victors.  Often, I am guilty of playing the victim.  A victim mentality can be shown in an attitude of ungratefulness, anger, and resentment towards those around us.  A victor, however, has a grateful attitude despite setbacks and difficulties.  A victor does not deny problems or reality, but presses on with strong faith in God. 

Joyce Meyer, an excellent Bible teacher, stated that her father raped her at least 200 times (see here).  I can’t imagine the shame and emotional pain she endured.  Over the last year or so, my wife has been enjoying the ministry of Beth Moore.  Beth Moore was also a victim of sexual abuse (see here).  One thing I notice about these women is they don’t have a victim attitude, but the attitude of a victor.  They don’t have an attitude of ungratefulness and resentment, but an attitude of faith.  I’m sure their journey towards healing and victory was not easy, but I’m certain it involved faith. 

We all have pain to some degree or another.  The world is full of pain.  And God cares about your pain.  He has a pathway for healing for each of us, if we will embrace it.  “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3).  That pathway involves faith in God’s Word.  His word “is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Ps. 119:105).  Hebrews 12:12-13 says, "Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.  'Make level paths for your feet,' so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed."  It’s easy to complain; it takes courage and humility to express faith in God’s Word.  To lay a road for healing, we must humbly accept God’s word planted in us, which can save us (see James 1:21). 

Billy Graham said, “There are three elements to Crusade preparation:  Pray, pray, pray.”  And he said, “The secret is not me…The whole secret of the success of our meetings is spiritual - it’s God answering prayer.  I cannot take credit for any of it.”  It’s no surprise that the secret to success is prayer.  It was Jesus’ secret as well.  Luke 5:15-16 says of Jesus, “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.  But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

I don’t know about you, but when I’m not praying, I can feel it.  I’m more irritable (just ask my wife) and overall struggle with life more.  But when I pray, I feel God’s presence, His peace, and His love working in me and through me. 

The world is in desperate need of God’s love.  But how can we show that love without God’s love flowing through us?  Jesus said, “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” (John 15:5).  Prayer is an act of humility, recognizing that we cannot do life on our own.  Billy Graham said, “People do not come to hear what I have to say.  They want to know what God has to say.”  That’s what it is all about, not seeking our own will, but seeking to do the will of our Father in heaven (see John 5:19).    

I hope this article has been a blessing, challenge and encouragement to you.  God loves you very much.  With Christ, all things are possible.  And all things are possible when we pray and move in faith.    


Prayer Equals Peace

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow...