Being Stuck In The Desert

(Letter to Helen)

I know you’re in despair. And that it appears you will always be in debt, always be unemployed and have never ending depression. This is a lie.

I am praying for you. The Lord uses this time to draw you to Him. You can yell at Him, cry at Him, talk to Him and ask Him all your hard questions.

You are in a war. It’s OK to be angry. It’s OK to be scared. But remember that your circumstances are not your reality. Jesus is bigger than your circumstances. And He can change them in a heartbeat.


Praising Him, Gratitude And Prayer Journals
Now is the time to exercise your faith muscle. Don’t forget to praise Him and show real gratitude each day. Take walks with Jesus, spend time with Him in the morning or whenever you have the most energy. Reflect back how He’s helped you in the past. For you know He has.

It will take effort and practice to remember such, especially when times are hard for you. If you start a daily prayer journal listing prayers and praises and how He came through in the past, you’ll be amazed at how much He’s been with you all the time, loving you all the time. This is how to fight when the devil gives you spiritual amnesia.

I know that when I’m down, my prayer journal reminds me He’s still with me.  My feelings of the moment are not reality. Jesus is.

Jesus The Good Parent
Jesus is working in you the same way as a good parent does with the child they love. How many times have you deliberately allowed your son David to go through uncomfortable times so he would grow? 

You could have rescued him. But you didn’t because you knew that he needed these experiences, even if they were unpleasant ones. David learning and David growing was far more important than David getting all his immediate wants and desires.

And often, his wants and desires were not always good ones. But as a good parent, you tried to give him some of those extra things too. Because you love him and know he needs hope and would otherwise despair and give up. 

But you had to balance it all with what was best for David. Not with what’s easiest or most comfortable for him. David’s long term well being was more important to you than his instant happiness.

And so God is the same with us. The Lord can get you a job in seconds.  Seconds Helen! When He doesn’t it’s because He’s got better things planned. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy or comfortable.

13 Months Of Debt Without A Job-My Own Time In The Desert
You know He got me my last job in three days. But before that, He held back for thirteen months!!!

During those 13 months I struggled with why God had abandoned me. Often I cried out in anguish. Often I was angry. Often I was in despair.
In my chest was always a deep hurt;  a tangible ache that never went away.

Several times a week, I would leave my car and yell, “EVERYONE SEEMS TO HAVE A JOB BUT ME LORD!  WHY WON’T YOU GIVE ME AN FN JOB!!!!!”  “I know you can. Why not me?”


During that time, the scariest thing I ever did, was for three days I walked away from Him. And suddenly I felt cold and dead. I came back, not because I loved Him, but because I saw it was killing me. I felt the numbness and the deadness because I had shut myself off from the Way, The Truth and the Life. Jesus took me back. But for a whole week afterwards, I felt absolutely dead inside.

Don’t do what I did Helen. If you’ve cut off talking with Him, or decided to stop asking Him for certain things because you don’t want to be disappointed, or stopped giving all you got to Him; repent and come back. He will embrace you.

Keep asking. But be ready to listen as well. And act on what He tells you to do, no matter how small or insignificant it seems to you.

Why The Lord Put Me In The Desert  For So Long

Years later I saw a lot why the Lord put me through these 13 months of agony. It was to give me compassion for others. It was to remind me that at all times, no matter how successful I am, the Lord is my deliverer.

Regardless what my fears are, or what my boss or friends say, I need to take my marching orders from Him and Him alone. The God who has my back and provides for me at all times, is more important to listen to than my own wants, my own fears or the demands of others.


The Lord gives and He takes. It took this ordeal to show me I need to listen to Him because He knows what He’s doing. Time and time again He shows me He’s for me, not against me. And He’s for you too Helen. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

And like a good parent, He knows what’s best for us. To be upfront, the faster I learn what He’s showing me, the faster I hope He’ll bring me out of the desert where He put me.

I now trust Him more than success. But without the hardship, I would be more fearful and more dependent on pleasing others than pleasing God. It is because of this desert experience that I can now handle success.

And you are in good company. For the Lord disciplines the ones He loves. The greatest leaders (Moses, King David and Jesus) all had their desert experiences. Literally and figuratively.

Polishing Us and Smoothing Us Out Like A Precious Gem Stone
Sometimes, the Lord  puts us in unpleasant places because like a gemstone being polished, we also need polish. A ruby in the rough is immensely valuable. But to be all that it can be, more has to be done to it. And the polish takes time. With people, we polish best under hardship and even pain.

In my case, there was no specific lesson I could force myself to learn. Nothing I could suddenly master and say “Hey Lord, I got this down pat so please move me on to success!” But I needed to be sanded and refined none the less. I could not will myself to be more compassionate. On my own, I could not change myself to depend more on God and less on people.

Jesus had to use the circumstances of my joblessness and other things to polish me and refine me. And though all this, I learned to have joy in Him, even though I was not getting much of what I wanted in life.

OK Graham, So Where Do I Go From Here?

Making Time With The Lord A Habit

Helen , You have real work to do.  But it’s not what you think! It’s not about willing yourself to be better. The real work is using this time to press into the Lord like you never have before.

Make a habit of seeking Him daily.  If you daily brush your teeth and daily take a shower and daily do other routines, make seeking the Lord a daily routine. Set out some time, even if it’s just 10 minutes day.

Daily, ask Him “Lord, what do I need to learn from this?” “How are you using this to work out your plan in me?” Is there some little step I should be doing differently in how I relate to you, relate to myself or relate to others?”

“And no matter how long it takes Lord, please show me how I can delight in You and love others in meaningful ways as you and I walk though this.”

Practicing Psalm 34:7 (Delighting In The Lord)
Scripture says  DELIGHT YOURSELF IN THE LORD AND HE WILL GIVE YOU THE DESIRES OF YOUR HEART.

Find out how to delight in him.  Look for tips and suggestions on this from the Internet. Pray with others in how you all can delight in the Lord. Treat it as seriously as you do your job hunt.

Because the Lord can get you a job in an instant! He is your real savior. Not your job or your circumstances. Use this time to take charge in actively seeking Him and delighting in Him. He will honor you for it.

 Be Steadfast In Your Faith, Even When You Don’t Feel It

Whatever you do Helen. Press into Jesus. Don’t walk away. Much of your life, you’ve resorted to certain ways of coping that are destructive. The Lord Loves you. (1 Corinthians 15:58 and Hebrews 11:1)

He is not punishing you but refining you. And I know it hurts bad. However, stick close to Him and He will give you an amazing story to tell others.

A story not how you were left in the cold to die, but of how your amazing father is so creative, so powerful and so loving, that He and only He is the one to always depend on. Jesus is our rescuer and we can trust Him.

Lastly, show this email to a friend you trust and pray with her on this.

Graham

WOW: Wish I Knew This Sooner!

 

The Difference Between Intelligence and Genius

Intelligence: Being able to learn from your own mistakes
Genius:  Being able to learn from other people’s mistakes

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Stay Where I Can See You.
Ever want to thoroughly confuse your kids? Just tell them to “stay where I can see you.” This warning makes no sense to them. If you think about it, your 4 year old is three feet closer to the ground than you are. They have no idea what you can and cannot see. So next time you’re at the pool or beach, be to sure to tell them “STAY WHERE YOU CAN SEE ME.”

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Getting An Overtalker Off The Phone/Limiting The Time of The Call
So you like being friends but need them off the phone? When people won’t listen that you have to go, here’s how to break their momentum, seize control of the conversation, and then bring it to a happy close. And also how to guarantee your future conversations will be short and sweet!

Say to them Excuse me I have to put you on hold for a moment. Count to twenty. Rearrange your desk, stretch your arms, or walk down the hall. But when you return, be the first to talk. Immediately seize control of the conversation without taking a breath or asking if they’re on the line. Then either summarize what you plan to do and say good bye. Or you can say “Hi John. Look, now is a bad time. I have to go but we’ll talk later. Bye.

Only Return Their Calls When You Know They Will Have To Go Shortly. So you miss your friend but hate talking for hours? Then call ten minutes before their favorite TV show. Or within ten minutes of when they have to pick up the kids, eat dinner, do laundry, go to work, go to school, etc. Get to know their schedule. And screen their calls so you can return them at a time that works best for you. For More See Dealing With Overtalkers

Faith & Works-Are You Asleep At The Wheel?

Ever stay up to watch a late night movie on TV? But when you close your eyes for just a second, you find you missed the movie and are stuck watching the credits? We’ve all done this. We delude ourselves into thinking we’re awake when we’re really asleep.

Or take the near death experience which my brother and I had back in 2005. One day after a particularly unrestful Florida vacation, he was peacefully sleeping to a quiet humming sound, enjoying how relaxing it was.

As his brother, I didn’t much like the fact that he was feeling so blissfully at ease. I wasn’t feeling blissful. So naturally I began yelling at him.

As my brother describes it: There I was having a nice nap when Graham begins yelling at me. My eyes flew open and I’m not in my bed.  I’m driving my car! And I’m careening down I- 75 at almost 80 miles an hour!

That day was one we’ll always remember. The car almost flipped over, two other cars spun out of control into a ditch, and a tow truck got hit which then caused the traffic to back up for a mile. We all could of died. But miraculously no one was hurt. And it all happened because someone thought they were awake when they were really asleep.

Your Works Cannot Save You
Anyone who reads the Bible knows that works by themselves won’t save you. The pharisees had plenty of works. And yet Jesus says that the prostitutes and tax collectors were getting into heaven ahead of them! Many atheists also have plenty of good works. So do the Mormons, Buddhists and Iluminati.

So if works won’t cut it, why can’t I just have faith and leave it at that? Why do I need to forgive my brother, love my enemy and give $ or other things to people in need? Why should I confess my sins or seek to please God with my time, treasure and talents? After all, what works were done by the thief on the cross? Didn’t he get to heaven just by believing?

Faith Without Action Means You’re Asleep At The Wheel
Yes. The Bible makes it clear that you’re saved by your belief in Jesus, not by your works. And so the thief who was stuck on a cross had nothing to do but believe in Jesus and be saved.

But the real question is not what the thief believed. Jesus saw into the thief’s heart and knew he believed. And that was enough.

The real question is what you believe. Do you really believe Jesus is who He says He is? Or are you like my brother who deluded himself into thinking he was safe in bed when he was really careening dangerously off the highway? How can you tell what you truly believe?

Real Belief Expresses Itself in Action
So you believe flying is safe but you never set foot on a plane? Or maybe you’re bold enough to get on the plane, but you still don’t trust the pilot when he says to unbuckle your seat belt.

In both cases your belief is demonstrated by your actions. The reason you don’t trust the pilot is because you don’t really believe him. Sure you know there’s a pilot. And you may even know him by name.

But you don’t believe he is who he says he is. You keep your seat belt on because you have no faith in him or the plane. So regardless of what you say, you’re actions show your true beliefs.

If You Believe In Jesus, You Will Do What He Says
The same is true with Jesus. Jesus says I am the way, the truth and the life. He also says that if you love me you will keep my commandments. And that whoever believes in me will do the works that I am doing.

Jesus isn’t subtle about it. We are warned that hearing is not enough. We must put His words into practice. Otherwise we’re like the foolish man who built his house on sinking sand. Everything looked good for awhile. And then his house fell with a mighty crash.

So are you putting what you hear into practice? If not, what does this say about your true beliefs?

Either you don’t believe Jesus is who He says He is. Or you believe as the demons do and simply don’t care. The belief that saves is more than a bare acknowledgement that Jesus is God. The demons also believe in God. And shudder! But it doesn’t save them.

Even those who called out to Jesus and did miracles in His name were not all believers. Jesus Himself says to them: not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord  will enter the Kingdom of heaven. Those that don’t do the will of the Father in heaven will be told “I never knew you. Depart from me.

Our Actions Are Obvious Signs Of Our Faith
A light bulb doesn’t shine because someone painted it bright. It shines because of the fiery things going on inside it. The light you see is a result of the powerful heat from within.

Without this fire, the light bulb is dark and dead. And so when we see a dim bulb, we know automatically there’s no fire in it. The outside reflects what’s on the inside.

And so it is with our faith and our works! The greater our belief the brighter we shine. Our actions don’t make us good. But they are a natural outgrowth of our faith. The good works are a manifestation of the light that’s already in us.

Now not everyone is going to have the same degree of good works. It may take time and maturing in your faith. But more and more you should naturally be stepping out in the joy and love of the Lord. And that will at some point always involve concrete action.

So what does it mean when we say we believe, but the light never shows? It could be there’s fruit, only it’s very tiny fruit. Or it could mean there’s no light at all. No real belief He is who He says He is.

Perhaps we only think we believe. And like the airline passenger, we don’t unhook our seat belts because there’s no faith in the pilot.

Our Actions Complete Our Faith
Faith and action work together. And Jesus just loves it when we go forward on the truth of what we believe. For example, Jesus told the ten lepers to show themselves to the priests. He could have healed them on the spot. But instead the healing occurred only after they went forth in obedience. Likewise Naaman was healed only after he did as directed and washed in the Jordan river.

Biblical faith almost always requires action, but action also affects one’s faith. When you take action steps on what you believe, suddenly you believe it more! So faith encourages action. And action increases your faith!

When you take action on what you believe, it becomes much harder to fool yourself. For every day you’re putting your faith to the test.

So How Do I Go Forward In Faith And Action?
Don’t be asleep at the wheel. Seek Jesus for guidance. And then take a step in faith. It can be a laughably small one to everyone else. But take it.

At some point this step has to be an action step. And even if it’s a baby step, the Lord will honor it. As you take it, keep asking Jesus for more courage, more creativity and more faith. And always keep checking back with Him. Your faith and your action mean nothing unless it’s based on a personal relationship with Jesus.

See also How To Creatively Step Out In Faith (Google Search) and
20 Great Ways To Put Your Faith In Action.

 

 

 

The Joy of Creative Giving

Imagine you’re at the pet store and you come across a colossally huge bird cage. As you draw closer, you see a small canary inside, huddled way in the back. To your surprise, the cage door is wide open. Yet the bird stays pressed against the wires as if it has nowhere to go.

Sadly, this is how many of us are with our giving! The door is wide open. We can do anything! We can go anywhere. But instead, we stay trapped in a cage of our own making. And with the whole world to roam, we hide in the back of our cage, slowly dying as we do the same old same old. So no wonder we feel dull and dead when it comes to giving!

But if you could talk to the bird, you might say “Look, there’s a whole world in front of you! You don’t need to stay miserably pressed against a cage!” Flex your wings and fly. Or at least walk around the cage. There’s plenty of room in there!

My Story On Giving
Back when I was a young believer, I gave dutifully to the church every week. And I got bored of it real quick. Of course, I felt guilty about being bored as if there was something wrong with me. But I had no clue what to do about it.

So for years I continued to dole out money in the same old way. I kept thinking the only way to give was to the church, and for Christianese activities, and with money and money alone. It was a thought that went unvoiced and unchallenged for way too long.

To me, giving was a habit devoid of joy. It was something I did routinely, pretty much in the same way you might wash your car, vacuum your room or brush your teeth.

Deep down I wondered why I couldn’t give with love, joy and excitement. After all, God delights in a cheerful giver. And the joy of the Lord is our strength. The Bible also says it is better to give than to receive.

I knew without a doubt God didn’t want me to be passive about it. Giving wasn’t supposed to be a chore. I was supposed to enjoy it!

So I prayed for help. I asked Jesus for joy and creativity in my giving. I asked for ways to give differently. And the Lord was so amazing in His answer. Since then, I delight in giving. And I can’t wait until the end of the week, where I can give again. And sometimes, I don’t wait at all!

I still give to my church. But not all four weeks. Instead, I devote three of these weeks to giving creatively. And I seek the Lord on how to spread joy and draw people to Him through gifts of my money, my time, my talents and my things.

Becoming An Active Listener (Look Behind What’s Being Said)
If you want to give creatively, start looking for the needs around you. Listen to the conversations of your friends, your neighbors, and your colleagues. And ask Jesus to help you spot the need behind the conversation. And also ask how you can meet it.

These needs become obvious once you start listening for them. A mom who’s often late to work may need free car repairs. A colleague complaining about medical bills, may need a few hundred in cash slipped in her desk along with a note. Pregnant women usually have back aches-Perhaps they could use a vibrating pillow chair or a gift certificate for a massage. People who just bought a car, may need a restraining net or a gift certificate for a car wash.

At one point my lady landlord was having trouble getting up on time for work. So I found a studded foot roller at the dollar store which she can rub against her feet to help her wake up faster. I knew this worked for me, so I went to town and spent the whole dollar!

There was also a time at work where I saw a woman in an arm sling. When I learned she had repetitive stress injuries from clicking the mouse, I was able to show her how she could click using just her keyboard. I then got her a trackball so she could roll the cursor around and keep her hands from curling into an unwanted position.

Yes it’s that simple. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. But it should be unique. Your giving should show you care, and in a way that matches your personality. It should also point them to the creative God who just loves to give.

Give Unexpectedly
Everyone expects a gift on their birthday or on secretary’s day. So be sure to do most of your giving when it’s NOT expected. Your goal is to create a lasting impression. You want to show the person that you care in a unique way. Don’t let your giving be hijacked by Hallmark or some commercial holiday. Give so they will remember it. And remember you.

For non Christians they should get a powerful glimpse of the loving living God who’s inside you.

$ Gifts With A Note
People remember the WOW factor. And that’s why I love giving wads of cash. I could write a check, but a check can’t compete with the elated feeling you get from raw greenbacks.

My favorite past time is making a stocking full of useless goodies for a family with kids and lots of money problems. And then giving it to my church to give to them anonymously.

Often the stocking is a furry red Christmas ornament brimming with a bunch of rubber balls and silly toys. So the parents would extract the toys in front of all their kids, and bravely try not to be bitter about the fact that these gifts are totally useless to them. Toys won’t pay the rent they owe.

But at the bottom of the stocking is a small bulging sack which they won’t see until they’ve removed all the toys. And inside that little bulging sack is a little note of how much Jesus loves them.

And clipped with the little note in the little bulging sack is an iddy bitty bunch of Benjamin Franklins so they can pay their rent after all.

Yes. Jesus cares about the details. And that includes both toys for the kids and money for the adults. And like their kids, He wants the adults to have the same child like faith that the Lord is taking care of them. The Lord is meeting their needs.

Sometimes the gift takes the form of a box of stuffed animals with cute throw pillows and bouncy balls. But at the bottom is always an encouraging note and the cash. At other times it’s a bunch of loose change covering a nest of $20 bills.

How Can I Give Money Gifts When I Don’t Make Much?
First, ask the Lord for creative ways to free up money for giving. It may mean putting your pennies in a bottle and all your other spare change in an opaque shoe box with a slit to dump the change in.

The goal here is to keep adding to the shoe box without looking at how much is in there. After several months, you may find you have hundreds of dollars ready to give away.

Or it may be you save money from giving up a week’s worth of diet soda. Or from packing a lunch rather than buying it at work. You could also have a yard sale or find ways to buy cheaper food and save the difference. See also Creative Ways to Make More Money.

Get Other People Involved in the Conspiracy (Non Cash Gifts)
Some gifts are to be given one on one or even anonymously. For example: I gave vibrating pillows to two pregnant attorneys and knew that it would make them uncomfortable unless it was done anonymously. At other times, the person needs to know I care, so I give directly.

But however you give, the fact is that the Lord delights in a cheerful giver. And He blesses those who give freely. So why not get as many people blessed as possible? I have found that most people like to give. Especially if you can tailor it to their strengths and what they delight in.

Examples:
Get the kids involved in rolling up loose change.
Get the secretary to wrap gifts, or to get the boss out of the room or to deliver the gift to their desk.
Have colleagues and friends help with baking cookies.

Coordinate with others who don’t even know they like to give. For example: take the the lady boss that won’t stop gossiping about the new associate’s lousy taste in clothes: Buy a $200 gift certificate at her favorite clothing store. And then have her and the associate shop together for clothes to wear in the office!

Suddenly the gossiper is part of the solution. And by getting the gossiper to participate, now there’s a bond between her and the new associate she had previously badmouthed! With creative giving, everybody wins.

The Bottom Line About Giving
Make it fun. Get others involved. And pray for wisdom, creativity and guidance. The possibilities are endless.

I have found that giving creatively has made me more loving, more faithful, more excited and more humble. And with more of a child like wonder than ever before.

So allow me to share this joy with you. The examples above are just a drop in the bucket. And the Lord may have you give in ways you’ve never dreamed of! Just ask seek and knock and He will answer. He will do this for you if you ask Him! Because our God just loves to give!

 

 

 

 

Delusions Of Adequacy

Too many people suffer from delusions of adequacy. The sad part is they don’t even know it! Are you one of them? Here are two ways to find out!

Test #1 That You Have Delusions of Adequacy
Do you feel too guilty to enjoy God’s presence after you’ve already confessed your wrong to him? In other words, do you believe that your other sins weren’t so bad, but this new one is just too much for God to handle?

If so, you vastly underestimate the love and grace of our God who forgives sin. You also vastly downplay how bad your prior sins were. God is not just loving. God is holy. God is King.

Your Righteousness is Filthy Rags
Imagine that you are ordered to appear before the King of England. To prepare for the meeting you don your finest clothes, get a fancy haircut and do whatever you can to look good before His royal majesty.

But just before you arrive at the palace gates, you stumble into a pile of pig slop! Suddenly you’re filthy. And you’re rightfully ashamed of it. You know you are in no condition to stand before the King. But it’s too late. The King has arrived and he sees you.

Now is your chance to make a good impression. So while covered in slop, you tell him “Look O king, it’s not as bad as you think. Just look at my clean fingernails!” At that moment, you fall to the ground in a dizzy spell and even your fingernails are in the slop.

Will the King care either way about your nails? The king sees you in slop. How will your white fingernails change anything?

But what if I change the facts a bit. You’re still covered in slop. But suddenly the king learns something astounding. In the palace court, his advisors inform him that in spite of your filthy appearance, you are the king’s only son!

At that point, the king ignores the slop, ignores the clean fingernails and grabs you in a big hug. You are his heir. You are his chosen. Your dirt is no longer an issue. For you are the son of the King!

Yes, when you sin, it’s bad. And when you sin big it’s worse. But even at your best, you are covered in pig slop. You cannot become clean by your own efforts. The only way to become clean is to be a child of the King.

And when the King accepts you, it’s not because of how good you are. You’re accepted because of how Good He is! So don’t get hung up on your sins. If you think your current sin is so great, just remember that your father embraced you when you were covered in pig slop. Every other sin you commit is a trifle. Confess it. Ask for His forgiveness, and then enjoy Him for the loving God He is!

Test #2 That You Have Delusions of Adequacy
Or perhaps you think you’re a pretty good person. And so you don’t make the time for Jesus except on Sundays or when there’s a crisis. Either way, it’s a delusion that somehow you’re adequate enough to exist without full dependence on Him.

You are not adequate. You never were adequate and you never will be. Without Jesus you are worthy of judgment. He is your life preserver. He is your oxygen. And who is so together that they only need to breathe on Sunday?

Are You Holy Enough Without Jesus’ Help? Do You Come To Him For Only The Big Things?
Imagine that just as you’re about to drink a mug of beer, a stranger adds to it a teaspoon of spit. Still want the beer? But what if I argued that you’re being overly picky? Overly judgemental. After all, the beer is still 99% pure!

You might say to me “Look, I have standards! Beer that’s 99% good is not good enough. The spit makes it totally unacceptable

But a holy powerful God has standards too. And if you, a flawed mortal won’t accept beer with a little spit in it, why would our holy God who made the universe, have lower standards than you?

Our God is perfect. And He requires perfection. Any sin you do is too much. Even at your best, you sin many times a day. You are never 99% pure. Which means every day you are impure. Every day you fail to meet the standard. Every day you become angry or faithless or impatient or loveless.

Your only hope is through His son Jesus. Without Him you can never meet the standard. Jesus himself says Apart from me you can do nothing. So if you’re never good enough, but for Jesus, why aren’t you spending more time with Him? Could it be that deep in your heart, you think you are good enough? Could it be you suffer from gross delusions of adequacy?

Do We Have Spiritual Amnesia? Do We Think Facts Are The Truth?

Helen,

I write because I know you’re struggling with finances and raising a child with special needs. That in some ways you feel your life is bleak and will never get better. And on the surface, you’re right. You’re a single mom, you’re trapped in a low wage town and your son has lots of behavioral problems.

But there’s so much more to your circumstances than meets the eye. And believe it or not, the facts before you are not the truth. Truth is never just about facts. To get to the truth, you also need the proper perspective to filter the facts. When your perspective is a lie, you will always see life through brown colored glasses.

This is why two people can have the same things happen to them and one will be happy while the other is devastated. Why rock stars with wealth and fame still commit suicide. And poor people who are virtually unknown can still have a zest for life. The truth is not about your circumstances. Life is more than what happens to us.

Long Term Blessings Come Through Tough Circumstances
The Lord has blessed me these days financially. Previously he blessed me with lots of what seemed like horrific circumstances, (unemployment, 6 figure debt, illness to near death in 2008…).

I say “blessed” not because I thought these were fun times. They certainly weren’t. But like the Apostle Paul, I learned through these trials to praise Jesus in all circumstances. These hardships taught me that Jesus was my true provider. Jesus was my protector. I had to learn the hard way that it wasn’t my job, it wasn’t my friends and it wasn’t my boss. Only Jesus.

And when I got that message, it was then that He changed my circumstances. As a result, I have more gratitude, more peace and more love for others (though I always ask Him to keep helping me with the love part). He has given me more of His perspective. And it has changed how I see my circumstances.

What is Truth?
We recite a lot of details and think it’s the truth. But truth is never about a set of facts. Truth is beyond a set of circumstances. Truth is a PERSON. Jesus Says I AM THE WAY THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.

Every situation you have, every feeling you have, every thought you have, it all needs to be filtered through the TRUTH of who Jesus is. This means getting to know Him and His promises for you. It also means seeing who Jesus is from the Bible, and remembering all the times He’s come through in your life and the lives of others.

If you see facts without these surrounding circumstances, you’re taking things out of context. Pure facts are never the truth.

Facts Without True Perspective Are Lies
Imagine your son David explaining the truth about his life with “just the facts.” But instead of filtering events based on being cared for by a doting mother who protects him, David begins with a bunch of details.

TODAY I FELT VERY DEPRESSED. I HAD TO MAKE MY BED AND GO TO SCHOOL IN THE RAIN WHEN I WASN’T FEELING WELL. AT SCHOOL PEOPLE PICKED ON ME. MY TEACHERS WERE NASTY TO ME. I’LL NEVER BE GOOD AT MATH. AFTER SCHOOL I WENT HOME AND WAS SO HUNGRY. LIFE SUCKS AND I WANT TO DIE…

When David describes his life, it’s not the truth. Even if all the details were accurate. David is seeing life through brown colored glasses. It’s as if he had amnesia and was born yesterday. As if he couldn’t remember there were other good days to compare to.

Lie # 1: The Facts Say Things Will Never Change
In David’s mind he will always be depressed always have no hope and always have no adventure. Life is a deep dark tunnel with no light. No changes for the better. No future.

But how true is this? For example: What about all the times David did well in math? Or the times it was sunny and he had fun with his school friends? And if David thinks about it, he may even remember that rain doesn’t last forever. Soon it will be sunny again!

Facts that are strewn together in a lie are not the truth. And the lie he’s telling himself is that things will never change.

Lie #2: The Facts Say I Am Alone & Unprotected
But true perspective goes way beyond remembering that life can be good again. David also forgot who it is who loves him. Who it is that feeds him. Who it is that protects him. That you as his loving mother would never forsake him!

In his amnesia, David forgot that you zealously are there for him. You were there for him in the past, and you will be there for him in the future.

If need be, you’d get him tutors to pass math. You’d arrange play days where he can have fun with his friends. Or switch schools if necessary. And if he thought about it. while he’s been hungry often, it’s you, his mom, who always makes sure he’s never hungry for long.

So with the facts, David never got the truth. The truth is that when life hits him, he’s still protected. Even if his current circumstances never change, he has a loving mom who will keep him from harm.

Facts Must Be Grounded in Personal Relationships
Therefore “TRUE” FACTS WITHOUT BEING GROUNDED IN THE PERSON OF YOU AS HIS PROTECTOR, ARE SIMPLY A LIE.

And so it is when we filter the facts through a life where we don’t believe in Gods’ promises for us. Where we ignore God’s relationship with us. Or when we don’t see Him as the creative, loving protector who delights in changing our world!

 How We Can Avoid Spiritual Amnesia
Looking at facts without context is something we do all the time. We constantly accept the lie that things will never change. And most important, we accept the lie that we’re unprotected.  When we do this without remembering our God, we too have amnesia. We too lose sight of the truth.

Practical Steps To Remember The Truth
To do anything right requires practice. So cultivate the skill of gratitude. You taught David to say thank you for the good things in life. Now do likewise with our God! Actively remember the good things, so you have perspective when times get tough.

Use this time to give generously. And creatively. Giving helps you get out of your rut. Suddenly you’ll have a joy and perspective where your own problems become smaller. And your joy will get bigger!

Pray with others and even more important, praise Him with others. Give thanks to Him together and alone. Remember daily the thing he’s done for you. Reflect these things back to Him in your daily quiet time.

And don’t forget to make this time with the Lord a habit. To prepare for the world, you bathe and brush your teeth daily. So spend time with the Lord daily. Just like you might with a trusted friend.

Jesus not only loves you. He likes you. Learn to like Him back. Read from your Bible what Jesus said and did. And how He loved His disciples and even His enemies. And don’t forget to marvel at His power, His goodness and His miracles. Then in your quiet time, talk to Him about what you’ve read! Ask Him for more love, more peace and more joy. He just loves to give to those who ask!

Feeling Guilty Over Past Sins We’ve Confessed To

Why False Guilt Hurts God and Keeps You From Getting Close To Him

 Ron,

 I’ve been thinking about past sins and why we have a desire to punish ourselves for them. Sometimes the punishment takes the form of physically trying to hurt ourselves. Or by doing some kind of body numbing penance. But more often we punish ourselves by never letting go of our guilt.

Many religions talk about how to rid oneself of guilt. All the numerous things a person has to do. But I believe this is all about control. And a false belief that our God is not the grace filled loving creator He says He is.

We dwell on our sins because deep down we refuse to believe they have been paid for. We believe that to make sense of our world and be truly forgiven, we must work off our sins by exacting punishment on ourselves. However, this is a lie. It’s not what the Bible says.

Only God Has The Power to Judge Sins
The fact is that only the KING has the authority to judge sins. Even on ourselves!  Indeed,  Paul in 1 Corinthians 4v3-4: (NIV) says:

“I care very little if I am judged by you or any human court; indeed I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”

Paul understood that the Lord and only the Lord is fit to judge. And that includes even when it comes to judging himself. There is nothing in the Bible that says we have a right to judge ourselves while the Lord has the right to judge others.

The Lord judges everyone. It is not up to us to meet out punishment on ourselves. Even if we think we deserve it! Punishment is the Lord’s.

Self Punishment Is A Form of Pride: It Is Rebellion
So if the Lord is to judge us, any attempt to take away His authority is SIN. It’s like kicking Him off His holy throne and telling the King of the Universe “DON’T BOTHER ME. I KNOW WHAT’S BEST FOR MYSELF!

No matter how noble self punishment sounds, it’s really a form of godlessness. It’s nothing but selfish pride. A rejection of God’s authority over your life. A rejection of His authority to forgive and give rest to the one He loves.

Think of it in Earthly terms. Would you tell a child’s father, “I’m sorry but you shouldn’t love your kid anymore?” And watch how they react when you insist “Oh by the way, you should punish him more!”

In most cases, they would rightfully tell you to butt out of it. It’s not your place to tell a father how to love his children. And so it is with Jesus. When you believe in Him, God is your father. And you need to step back and let Him do the judging. Even about yourself!

So if the Lord and only the Lord is to judge us, then what does the Lord say about sinners? And more importantly, what does He say about being forgiven?

What The Lord Says About Being Forgiven
For the answer I don’t look to Martin Luther, nor to my pastor nor to my friends. I go back to the Bible which is God’s Holy Word.

In Hebrews 4:16 the Bible commands us not to be timid. Instead like a son before a loving parent we are to trust Him and “Come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

 The Bible also gives us the promise that:

“If we confess our wrongs, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”1 John 1:9

Think about the two criminals on the cross next to Jesus. One cursed Jesus, but the other one admitted he, himself was rightfully condemned for his crime. And it was this law breaker that asked Jesus to be saved. So what did Jesus do for the one who confessed and boldly came before Him?

Did He say “too bad, I will not help you because you asked to be saved at the very last second and simply because you’re afraid of  judgment?” Of course not!  Nor did He require this man to do anything to earn his salvation. Instead, Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.Luke 23:39-43

THAT’S THE GOD WE SERVE!  A God who forgives us when we really believe in Him.

 Now there’s plenty of good reasons to live a Christ filled life, both for the here and now and also for the hereafter. But once you believe in Him and let Him into your heart, it’s no longer an issue of salvation.

You never have to do penance before God for past sins you’ve confessed to. And that brings me to James 5:16, which is my favorite verse on confessing and praying. By following this verse in particular, the Lord freed me from being trapped in the bondage of pornography. And IT WAS ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL TO FINALLY BE FREE.

 James 5:16 commands us to 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. It also says:

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

This verse is very fitting for both of us Ron. It tells us to have the courage to confess to other believers and pray for them, which is exactly what we did on Friday night!

By doing this, we take a risk that we will be rejected by those we confess to. But the Lord wants us to see exactly the opposite! That by confessing and praying for one another, we will instead be shown amazing love and mercy. A grace that defies our comprehension!

And if mere sin filled people can have such grace, mercy  and forgiveness for one another,  HOW MUCH MORE FORGIVENESS WILL BE SHOWN TO YOU BY THE ONE WHO IS PERFECT AND BLAMELESS. ABOVE EVERYONE ELSE. OUR ALL LOVING, ALL POWERFUL AND EVER SO HOLY CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE. THE GOD WHO WANTED US TO WIN IN THIS LIFE AND IN THE NEXT.

With Him living in us, we are free. Yes we sin. But then we confess it to Him and we move on with love, power and purpose.

We don’t dwell on the sins we confessed because doing so does not help us love Him more. Nor does it help us love other people more. And loving God and loving people are the two greatest commandments. Do this and you have fulfilled the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:36-40

In fact, when has your guilt for past sins ever gotten you to love God more or love people more? It doesn’t. It never has. And it can’t. It’s a false form of godliness that has no power. Instead it makes us want to run away from God and hide from people. I know it did for me.

When Is Guilt Good And When Is It Bad?
For the believer, guilt has only one God given purpose. It’s to drive us to repent. And to seek our Lord Jesus for love, healing and forgiveness. When we confess and abide in Him, we throw away our guilt. And He gives us the fruit of the spirit after doing so, which is  love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

Think about the peace you felt just after confessing to me. We were never meant to carry our sins inside but to confess them to God and others and then move on!

So for those who know Jesus and have confessed, there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

So if the King of the Universe, who came to Earth as a man, died and was resurrected, if this King says we are free, then we must accept Him at His word. When King Jesus sets you free, you are free indeed.

We Hurt God When We Refuse His Kindness
It’s settled. The Scriptures are clear that we’re not condemned. Our God truly forgives us in spite of our past sins.

 So how do you think our God feels when we refuse to believe Him? When contrary to His Word we reject Him in His goodness, because we know what’s right for ourselves? How does He feel when we refuse to accept His mercy and grace in our lives?

A Real Life Example Of How God Must Feel When We Reject His Free Gifts
Yesterday you paid for my drinks and for that I am grateful. But imagine another scenario. Suppose you had asked to pay for my drinks but instead I refused because I felt too unworthy of the gift. Suppose instead  I had said Ron, you don’t know what a worthless scumbag I am. I have done drugs, seen hookers and done many cruel things to people. I am unworthy and I absolutely refuse your kindness.

 As a friend you’d probably tell me you’d be happy to pay for my drinks. That you don’t care what I’ve done because you accept me as I am. You like me. You revel in my company. And personally it makes you happy doing good things for me.

But what if you were powerless to convince me of this? If no matter what you said or did, I continued to reject your overtures? Wouldn’t you feel sad for me? And not just that, wouldn’t it grieve you that you and I could not be close? After all, with a barrier like that how could we be!

 There’d be no trust between us for I could never take you at your word. And without this trust, there could be no deep connection between us. For your attempts to bridge this gap would always be discounted. You would be forever rejected by my unbelief that you are who you say you are. Someone who truly cares for me. This is how the Lord feels when we reject Him.

Our God Gives Us Examples Of How To Relate To Him
Jesus does not leave us in the dark on how to relate to Him. He gives us parents and friends as Earthly examples. He is our “Father” in Heaven. And when He was with the disciples He called them His “friends“.

And so like a father with a son or a man with his friends, the Lord wants us to have a loving relationship with Him. A relationship that involves intimacy, grace and forgiveness. This is what I have with Him. And I want you to have this with Him too.

And you can have this with Him at a Protestant church or at a Catholic church or at any God filled Church. But it’s not the church that gives it to you. It’s your personal relationship with Him. Just ask, seek and knock, and it will be given to you. Matt 7:7-11 That’s what I did and it was given to me.

Does God Like Us?

(A Letter To Ron)

I’ve been thinking about whether Jesus likes us or not?  We know the Bible says Jesus loves us.  But sometimes that’s hard to understand.  After all, God is holy.  God is all powerful.  God is eternal.  His ways are not our ways… So maybe His love is something totally beyond our understanding.  And in some ways it certainly is.

Love: A Word Overused And Abused
Also, how many times have we heard a church acquaintance tell us “I love you brutha!” I cannot tell you how much I cringe at this!  You love me? Really? You don’t even know me!

Sadly, the word Love is way over used.  We say it to each other reflexively.  We grow numb to it.  And our eyes glaze over. It’s said so much that it loses its meaning.

So when we hear that Jesus loves us, we’re left none the wiser on how to relate to Him.  Or for that matter how He relates to us.

Like Is Hard To Mistake/We Know It In An Instant
But “like” is different.  I can love people and not like them.  Yet when I like them, it means I actually enjoy their company.  Like is practical and down to earth.  There’s no guessing if I like someone.  For when I like someone I look forward to being around them!  (That’s how I feel when I see you Ron.  I’m glad to be with you.)

So if Jesus likes us (enjoys our company and looks forward to being around us), then shouldn’t we should feel the same way about Him too?

But is this true?  Can the God of the universe like us? The test is not about what I think.  But about what the Bible says.  If God actually likes us then it should change our day to day life with Him.  For if He likes us, it means He wants to spend time with us.  And if we like Him, we will want to spend time with Him.  No, not out of obligation.  But out of affection.

Does The Bible Say God Likes Us?
I checked the Bible and it never says specifically that Jesus likes us.  The word “like” doesn’t appear at all.  But the word friend does!  We don’t always like our family even when we love them. But friends are another matter.

Scripture Says God Is Our Friend So He Must Like Us Too!
We like our friends.  So below I’ve included lots of Bible verses on friends. This is the ESV translation, but check other translations to be sure.  If there’s no mention of Jesus as a friend, I owe you $100!

The two big verses are  “God was Abraham’s friend.” And to His Disciples, Jesus said “I no longer call you servants but friends.”

The great thing about the Lord is that He’s a good father.  And like every good father, He uses terms his children can understand.

Virtually everyone has friends. So you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to figure it all out. Even a little child has friends.  And to enter the kingdom of heaven, we need to be like a child. (Mark 10:15)

Simple Definition of “Friend”

A person who you like and enjoy being with (Merriam Webster)
A friend is also ” one attached to another by affection or esteem

see other Bible Verses Where Jesus Is A Friend (ESV translation)

We Are Friends When We Know God And What He Is Doing

John 15:15
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

(Jesus laid His life down for His friends and that’s Us!)

We Are Friends When We Do Truly Believe Him And Do What He Commands

John 15:14
You are my friends if you do what I command you.

James 2:23
And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

Friends Meet Needs In A Practical Way
Friends spend time with each other, comfort each other and eat with each other.  Friends meet the needs of one another.  Jesus does this for us.  For He really is a friend.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

How Can Jesus Be A Friend When He’s God?

While Jesus is holy and totally perfect without us, He still enjoys our friendship. He came as a man so we could relate to God in ways otherwise not possible for us. And it’s not a distant relationship like some had in the Old testament. Though even then, King David danced and rejoiced before the Lord. (2 Sam.6)

Jesus came to earth and chose disciples.  And so by example, He could show us how He thinks of us. Jesus was not remote and aloof to the disciples. They were certainly his friends.

My favorite example is John, who even leaned back against Jesus while eating.  (John 13:23)  Why did he do this?  John knew Jesus was the king of the universe. He saw Jesus cast out demons; he was there when Jesus healed the sick and calmed the waves in the storm.

On the mountain, John witnessed Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus.  And God saying THIS IS MY SON WITH WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.  LISTEN TO HIM. (Matt: 17:3-4)

Yet John dared to take such liberties with the God of the universe!  Without a doubt John knew Jesus was holy and not to be trifled with.  But John knew something else too.  John knew that Jesus had affection for him. And it was clear he had affection for Jesus. Real emotions, real intimacy.  From a real God.

John had seen Jesus love people in practical ways.  John had been with Jesus in the ordinary day to day times. The times when He wasn’t doing miracles. The times when He was simply being a friend. The times when they were eating together, drinking together and praying together.

And He knew Jesus was tender and loving in real down to earth ways.  So he could trust Jesus and relate to Him as a friend. And that meant he could lay back on Jesus’s chest and take comfort. To delight in simply eating with Him. In being with him doing ordinary things throughout the day.  Friends enjoy each other in the little things.

So like St. John we can spend time with Jesus and delight in Him. We can praise him and ask him what what brings joy to His heart.  We can say “Lord, can you give me a hug please? I need it.”  Or simply  “Hi Jesus, I love that you made me so I can run. Thank you!” Or “You know there are somethings I actually like about being this tall, Thank you!”

Jesus is Our Friend Even When We’re Seriously Flawed

The Lord is so much bigger than us.  He is big enough to be our friend. Jesus enjoys being around us in spite of our flaws.  Did He not know Peter would betray Him? Three times mind you!  And Peter saw all the miracles. Peter knew who he was betraying even though he was one of the first to say Jesus was the Messiah!

But did it stop Jesus from hanging around Peter?  Did Jesus throw Peter out of His inner circle? No He didn’t.  And don’t for a moment think your sins are worse than Peter’s. (That would be pride at its worst)

Jesus will not forsake you. He sticks closer to you than a brother. See Proverbs 18:24

Some Ways to Actively Be Jesus’ Friend.
Friends delight in brightening each other’s lives. Think of the people you’ve been friends with. You got to know them.  And you got to see the simple things that brightened their day.  The God who ate with John and Peter wants us to embrace that we’re also His friend.  Friends enjoy each other in the little things.

Here Are Ways I’ve Talked To Jesus As A Friend.

“I want to make you smile.  I want to know your heart and what brings You joy. Is there something little I can do?  Sing you a song?  Give a coworker a funny gift?  Take a walk with you and praise what you have done in my life and others?  Enjoy nature, which you created …” 

For how to cultivate your friendship with God, see the steps below which were taken from http://www.davidwaltersministry.com/does-god-like-me

Habits To Strengthen A Friendship With Jesus

1. Talk to Him often and tell Him how wonderful He is. Reflect back on how He has blessed you and those you love. Your praise is just as important as your prayers. Friends appreciate each other and delight in the friendship this way.

2. Tell Him how happy you are with the way He has made you and how
blessed you are to be His friend.

3. Don’t try to change your situation, He brought about your situation to change you.

4. In everything give thanks” (1 Thes.5:18).

5. Agree with God and stop arguing with Him.
  

Things To Grow By

Below are Life Concepts To Help With Every Day Living

Hurt People Hurt People
Imagine your colleague begins yelling at you for no good reason. Normally, you’d chew him out in an instant. But when you turn around you find he’s in awheelchair with a spear through his head! Are you still furious with him? Or are you concerned that he’s in obvious pain?

In real life, the hurt people look normal. Their pain and anguish are often invisible. But they could be crippled with self hatred, in agony over a failed marriage, or wracked with the pain of never being able to please an unloving dad. It might be they have an invisible spear sticking through their head. Do we really know enough to judge them? Perhaps not. So think twice before you kick their wheelchair.

Being Blessed Is An Excuse to Love Others More, Not less.
We were never meant to hoard our blessings. The more love, the more mercy and the more grace we receive, the more we should be willing to share these blessings with other people. To those who are given much, much is required.

But sometimes we feel like we’ve arrived. Over the years we’re more secure, more stable and have more money in the bank. And so we grow numb and indifferent to the needs of others. We take care of our own. We don’t turn an attentive ear to the people outside our little circle. But remember, God doesn’t have to bless you. Your job, your relationships and your health, are all in His hands. So hedge your bets! Ask God to enlarge your heart so you can spread his blessings! Ask Him what to do with your time, your money and your talents!

Spice Up Your Giving: Become An Active Listener
Ever get bored giving the same amount of money in the same old way? Then spice it up with variety. Our God loves to create. Take a look at tropical fish and you know He delights in color, size and diversity! So be creative like He is. Listen to the conversations around you. Look behind them for a need. And ask Jesus how to give creatively so you can meet the needs He’s called you to respond to. And have fun at it!

The needs are all around you. A mom who’s often late to work may need free car repairs. A colleague complaining about medical bills, may need a few hundred in cash slipped in her desk along with a note. Pregnant women usually have back aches-Perhaps they could use a vibrating pillow chair or a gift certificate for a massage. The possibilities are endless. And the Lord loves a cheerful giver.

What It Means To Love Others
Love is a Steadfast Devotion to the Other Person’s Well Being. When you take care of a child or a spouse, you may think you’re loving them. But sometimes it’s just you loving yourself in disguise.

Healthy love means adjusting to the person you’re loving. It means being careful to uplift them and not to crush them. Even when their own weaknesses seem to get in the way of what we know they surely need. The other person’s well being may differ from your plans for them. Do you respect their strengths and weaknesses? Do you try to encourage them in the context of who they are, not who you want them to be?  If not, it may be that the well being your looking after, is really your own.

 

Love Defined

Practical Questions To Ask Yourself To Make Sure You’re Loving

  1. Is this something the other person needs to hear?
  2. Is this something they need to hear from me?
  3. If I could take my own anger and hurt out of the picture, what would be the best way for them to hear what the problem is?
  4. Given my/their limitations, are there things I should not say because it

     would overwhelm them, or needlessly hurt them?

  5. Given my/their limitations, what’s the best method to communicate with them (Phone? Email? Face to Face?)

  6.  How can I meet them where they’re currently at and show them love in a way they can understand? (Even if it’s not how I am accustomed to showing love?) For more see info on the 5 Love Languages.