Brokenness to Beauty

Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life


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A ‘Christmas’ song I never thought I’d hear-a reblogged post

Today I am reposting an article by Dr. Jim Denison, from his blog Denison Forum. The subtitle is “How we can respond to the secularity of the season.” This is such a pertinent topic, and the article so well written, I wanted to share it with you.

We need to be reminded that though we believers in Jesus want to proclaim that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” and would like to rip Christmas out of the hands of the secular world, that isn’t exactly the Spirit of Jesus, in any season. A lot more could be said about the history of the time we call Christmas; about what Scriptures teach us about how we are to live in relation to God and men, at all times of the year; and how we, ourselves, actually celebrate Christmas. But I won’t in this post.

I’ll simply say, Jesus said we are the light in the darkness of the world. We are to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves, while we take every opportunity to do good in this world, to those in the family of faith and those outside the family of faith.

I hope you’ll consider what Jim Denison has to say in his excellent article below.

A ‘Christmas Song’ I Thought I’d Never Hear: How we can respond to the secularity of the season

It was a strange weekend in the news.

Astronauts on the International Space Station made headlines after making pizza in space. Back on earth, the Pontiac Superdome survived implosion due to a wiring error. The first and only full supermoon of 2017 was last night. And college football fans are still debating the decision to include Alabama rather than Ohio State in this year’s tournament.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about an event over the weekend that drew no news coverage whatsoever. My wife and I were watching one of the plethora of Christmas specials on television when a musical group presented a rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The now-famous lyrics begin:

Imagine there is no heaven / It’s easy if you try / No hell below us / Above us only sky / Imagine all the people living for today.

I never imagined that I would hear “Imagine” performed as a Christmas song. But that’s how secular the holidays have become.

According to Gallup, 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, but only 51 percent describe the holiday as “strongly religious” for them. One in four American adults say December 25 is simply a cultural holiday, not a religious holy day. Only 49 percent of those who celebrate Christmas believe that the Virgin birth is historically accurate.

How should we respond to the escalating secularity of this season?

Using a pagan ship to witness to Caesar

Acts 28 tells the famous story of Paul’s voyage to Rome. As I was reading the narrative yesterday, I noticed this irony: the apostle was carried to Rome on “a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead” (v. 11). These “twin gods” were Castor and Pollux, the twin sons of Zeus. They were believed to be deities that protected sailors at sea.

Such idolatry was anathema to the Jewish people. Saul the Pharisee would likely have refused to sail on a vessel dedicated to pagan gods. But Paul the apostle knew that he had a higher purpose. God had called him to be “a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings” (Acts 9:15). Before his shipwreck at Malta, God said to him, “You must stand trial before Caesar” (Acts 27:24).

Now the Lord had provided a way for Paul to fulfill his call. And the apostle was willing to use the things of the world to accomplish the things of God.

This was Paul’s pattern throughout his ministry. In Athens, he used the pagan altar to “the unknown god” (Acts 17:23) to introduce the one true God. After he was rejected at the synagogue in Ephesus, he “withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus” (Acts 19:9).

Through this “secular” strategy, the apostle reached far more people than if he had limited his ministry to the “sacred” synagogue. As a result, “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (v. 10).

Lost people don’t know they are lost

How would Paul approach the secularization of Christmas in our day? I believe he would offer this reminder: most lost people don’t know they are lost. They may be as religious as the Romans who dedicated their ship to false gods. Or they may not be religious at all.

Either way, they are deceived: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Here we learn that most secular people who ignore Jesus at Christmas don’t know better. They don’t intend to insult our Lord or his followers. They celebrate the secular traditions of the season with no real knowledge of its spiritual significance.

I know because I was one of them.

Growing up, my family never attended religious services at Christmas or any other season of the year. We never gave a moment’s thought to Jesus’ birth at Christmas.

But that didn’t mean we intended to insult those who did. I wasn’t antagonistic to the gospel—I was oblivious to it. I heard the truth about Jesus only after two men knocked on my apartment door when I was fifteen years old and invited me to ride their bus to their church. Prior to that invitation, I was lost but didn’t know it.

If Christians had responded to my secular Christmas observances by treating me as their enemy, they would have pushed me further from Jesus rather than drawing me closer to him. Instead, members of that church reached out to me with loving compassion. They understood my lack of spiritual knowledge and taught me what I needed to know.

I will quite literally be grateful to them forever.

How can we reach people who are where I was? One way is to use secular holidays to teach spiritual truth.

For instance, Martin Luther was the first to add lights to Christmas trees; he did so to point to Jesus as the “light of the world” (John 8:12). Holly wreaths with their sharp, pointed leaves were chosen to represent the crown of thorns Jesus wore on the cross; their small red berries symbolize his drops of blood. Evergreen wreaths likewise signify eternal life in him.

Nearly every Christmas tradition can be used to share timeless truth. If our Lord could use a ship dedicated to pagan gods to bring the gospel to Rome, he can use this secular season to bring Christ to our culture.

This is the promise, and the invitation, of God.

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How to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Say

“How to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Say” is a blog post by Sarah Forgrave (www.sarahforgrave.com), an introduction to her new book Prayers for Hope and Healing. I read Sarah’s article when she guest posted on Debbie W. Wilson’s Refreshing Faith website.

What caught my attention immediately was Sarah’s reference to her long-time approach to prayer; it was very much like what I’ve written about in my book Brokenness to Beauty, the ACTS in prayer which was so beneficial to me when I discovered it.

Here’s what I wrote in Brokenness to Beauty,  Chapter 11 “Prayer: Just Do It … But How?”:

“I distinctly remember when, as a college student, I cried out … in frustration to God. My ‘prayer life’ wasn’t working. I would make my prayer list and start my prayers by asking God this and that for so-and-so, and I meant it wholeheartedly. This would last for a day or two, but time after time my fervor would dwindle into mechanical words read from a list. I knew I had to pray with my heart, but I didn’t know how to maintain the transfer from my head to my heart. I sincerely yearned to communicate with God and effect change through prayer on behalf of others in need, yet I usually ended up feeling that I was falling short. I didn’t know what to do about it, so I did the only thing I did know to do: I asked God to help me.

A few years later I was introduced to a simple way of entering into God’s presence in prayer, one that’s easy to remember and rooted in the Scriptures. It changed the way I prayed and as a result, changed my life. It is called the ACTS of prayer.[i]

The acrostic stands for:

Adoration. Approach God in humility, reverence, and awe, and worship him for who he is. We learn about him as we read and study the Bible. He is holy, and we must approach him as such (Luke 11:2).

Confession. Sin acts as a wall between us and God, effectively blocking our prayers (Isaiah 59:2). We need to be sensitive to God’s Spirit on a daily basis as he speaks conviction to us, confessing and repenting of all known sin as soon as we are aware of it. That way, communication with God remains open (1 John 1:8–9).

Thanksgiving. The greatest acceptable sacrifice we can make to God (along with laying our lives at his feet as a living sacrifice, as Paul tells us to do in Romans 12:1) is the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise (Hebrews 13:15). Our prayers are to be seasoned with gratitude.

Supplication. This is the part we normally think of as prayer: asking God for something (Luke 11:9–10). Our requests must be couched in the reverence and worship due to God as we seek first his will in the matter, with our prayer purged of known sin through confession and repentance, wrapped in trust, and infused with thanksgiving.”

As I wrote, “It changed the way I prayed and as a result, changed my life.”  It became the pattern for most of my prayers. When I read Sarah’s article, it seemed she used a similar way of praying.

But I also wrote in Brokenness to Beauty, “There are, of course, times when all we can do is burst out, ‘Lord help me!'” There are times when we are so burdened and feel so deeply our need, we cry out like the psalmists did, in the agony of our heart. We still approach God in humility and reverence, but we burst into his presence in the agony of our situation.

I think this is what Sarah found as well when she experienced tremendous physical struggles coping with a chronic disease,  and she found prayer too was a struggle. Her method of approaching God felt insufficient in her time of need.

I understand fully, having lived with a chronic disease for over 50 years and having faced the trauma of breast cancer and treatment, and then the fractures of both my femurs, rods surgically implanted in them, and months of physical therapy. Life gets hard at times and what is familiar can seem inadequate for the present struggle.

That’s why I want to share Sarah’s blog post with you and introduce you to her book, Prayers for Hope and Healing. If you are struggling right now, or know someone who is, and prayer seems just as hard, the old familiar patterns inadequate, this article and Sarah’s book may be just what you need.

Prayers for Hope and Healing by Sarah Forgrave

From the back cover of Prayers for Hope and Healing:

Amid Pain and Weakness…There is HOPE

Serious or chronic medical issues bring a litany of painful and confusing feelings that only someone else who’s been in a similar situation could possibly understand. Sarah Forgrave has walked the difficult road you find yourself on. And she empathizes with the uncertain future you face.

No matter the road ahead, you don’t have to face it alone. Even in the depths of your worst emotional and physical pain, God is right there beside you, offering His comfort, love, and peace.

As you read these heartfelt prayers and devotions, let this book be your manual to help navigate the difficult set of emotions that come with health issues. Read it front to back or go directly to the devotion addressing how you feel at any given moment…when you need it the most.

Above all, know that you are never, ever alone.

Read Sarah’s blog post as she shares “How to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Say”:

For most of my life, I approached prayer like a checklist. It went something like this. Adore God. Confess my sins. Thank Him for His forgiveness. Ask Him for what I want.

This checklist helped fill the awkward silence, but when life got hard, so did prayer.

Suddenly my adoration wasn’t so quick to rise to the surface. Instead of confession and gratitude, I was mad at God for letting me hurt. There were plenty of things I wanted Him to do, but I frankly didn’t have much faith He would follow through on them.

Have you found yourself in the same place?

To continue to read how Sarah learned to connect with God during hard times, you can see the full article here: https://debbiewwilson.com/how-to-pray/

Bio:

Sarah Forgrave is an author and wellness coach who loves inspiring others toward their full potential. In addition to her book, Prayers for Hope and Healing (Harvest House, October 2017), her writing credits include contributions to The Gift of Friendship, Guideposts’ A Cup of Christmas Cheer, and the webzine Ungrind. When she’s not writing or teaching, she loves to shop at Trader Joe’s or spend time with her husband and two children in their Midwest home. Visit Sarah at www.sarahforgrave.com, or at the following sites:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahForgrave

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/SarahForgrave

Instagram: www.instagram.com/SarahForgrave_Author

Twitter: www.twitter.com/SarahForgrave

 

 

[i] The ACTS of Prayer are explained at

http://prayercentral.net/engage-me/ways-to-pray/pray-with-acts


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Be Careful How You Live

“Be Careful How You Live” was written by Ann Van Hine. I read this post on October 19, 2017 on the devotional blog “Laced with Grace” where Ann is a regular contributor. She also writes on her own website, “Random Ramblings: Thoughts from Everyday Life.” Ann and “Laced with Grace” graciously gave me permission to reblog her post so I could share it with you.

And I wanted to share Ann’s post with you because she says so well and concisely some of the things I too have written in blog posts, in my book Brokenness to Beauty,* and in the Brokenness to Beauty Bible Study (still a work in progress). I like her illustrations that bring home the message being considered.

When I read Ann’s opening quote below, taken from Schreve’s book, I thought of Solomon’s words, “Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10).  I always inwardly chuckle and shake my head when I hear people do exactly what the wisest man who ever lived said not to do.

Equally applicable, pertaining to our future is James 4:13–15, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city … .’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’” Do we really mean “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” when we pray? Are we really taking Jesus at his word to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, not all the other stuff of life?

And we do well to take heed to Paul’s admonition in Philippians 3:13, 14, quoted below, to leave our past behind us—all the bad and the good in our lives—and hotly pursue Jesus Christ and the purposes of God. Today.

And finally, in a world inundated with distractions (read media, social and otherwise), we must learn to “Be here now,” as Randy used to teach our summer staff at Mustard Seeds and Mountains. Live in the Today God has given us.

Enough commentary. Here is Ann’s post, “Be Careful How You Live.” Leave a comment on her site or mine to let us know how God encouraged you through this little article.

In Jeff Schreve’s book Real Encouragement for Real Life, he states:

“I have found that a good number of people live in the past. They live longing for the good ole days – or mourning past failures, wishing they could go back and do it over again…God wants us to learn from the past and let go of the past. While some live in the past, others life in the future…Living in the future also robs you of the precious present because tomorrow may never come. All we have to live in is today. Certainly, we are to plan for tomorrow, but we are to live in today and make the most of each day.”

As we discussed these ideas in Sunday School this past Sunday someone commented that living in the past is like driving while constantly looking in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, I had a story about that. A few years ago, my mother was so worried about the person driving behind her that she failed to navigate the off ramp on to her street. She took down a highway sign, a light post and stopped just feet from a tree all within yards of her home. Thankfully she wasn’t injured but the car was totaled. Rearview mirrors are useful but we need to drive looking through the windshield.

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13 – 14.

I think another hazard for us today is we can be somewhere but not “be” present because of technology. I can be with you but be texting someone else or googling something. Technology is great but being present, being in the now is hard. N.O.W. = No Other Worries or Work. Giving my full attention to those who I am with at this moment for me that would be making the most of every opportunity. And isn’t that what Jesus did. He was always fully present with whomever he was with. I saw a church sign once that said, “Jesus never hurried.”  That is another great thing to strive for.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16

DailyVerses.net

 

About Ann:

I am a mom of grown daughters, widow of a FDNY firefighter, retired small business owner, volunteer docent, children’s ministries worker, friend, avid reader, published writer, event speaker and breast cancer survivor.  In 2015 I got a new title – Mom-mom. On long car rides, I like to drink coffee, eat sour patch kids and listen to podcasts – West Wing Weekly and the Moth are my favorites.

According to the Clifton StrengthsFinder, my strengths are achiever, connectedness, input, learner and intellection. In other words, I like “to do lists”, believe everything is connected, I’m inquisitive, love to learn and like to think.

vanhineann@gmail.com

*Purchase Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life on Amazon.

 


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Goliaths and Greater Things

In my last post I pointed out that David was faithful in his everyday, ordinary life as a shepherd, guiding and guarding the sheep, and sometimes fighting lions and bears at great personal risk. It was there, in his everyday life, that he grew strong wielding the weapons of his trade—the staff and sling and stones—and he grew strong in faith in God. He knew God and could confidently say, “the LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear …”

We too live ordinary, everyday lives. We too face our lions and bears, those trials and difficulties that come into our lives, perhaps threatening our livelihood, our health, our families or even our very lives. These are the enemies that come to defeat us, enemies that threaten to destroy us.

Prayer

Are we being faithful to fight them with the weapons given us—prayer and praise and the Word of God? Are we becoming adept in their use and growing in strength, growing in our trust in God? Can we say as David did, “the LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear …”?

 

Praise

It is only in our ordinary, everyday lives, faithfully facing the enemies that would destroy us—our lions and bears—that we learn to fight, becoming skilled and strong to defeat the enemy.

Word of God

Ordinary life is where we learn to know and trust the LORD, bringing him glory as we fight our personal enemies.

This, too, is where we learn to recognize another kind of enemy: Goliath.

Goliath wasn’t David’s personal enemy and he isn’t ours, though most of us have heard the story in those terms.

Considering the biblical text (I Samuel 17), Goliath is a different sort of enemy. Goliath comes against and defies the armies of the living God; he defies the LORD of Hosts, the Lord Almighty.

Goliath is anything that is contrary to the person and purposes of God and he must be fought with weapons, not of this world, but weapons that have “divine power to demolish strongholds … and everything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God …” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). What are these weapons?

Prayer and praise and the Word of God. The same weapons we use in our everyday lives. Powerful weapons that we only become skilled at using by fighting our lions and bears, the trials that come to us in our ordinary, everyday lives.

The power of these weapons is spiritual, not of our flesh or the world, not originating with us but with God’s Spirit who lives in us.

Unlike David, who refused to wear the armor given him by King Saul because it didn’t fit and David hadn’t tried it to become skilled in its use, we do have full armor given us by God. It fits us; it is powerful and effective when we become used to using it in our everyday lives. Paul outlined this armor in Ephesians 6:10-18 (TLB):

10 “Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.

13 So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up.

14 But to do this, you will need the strong belt of truth and the breastplate of God’s approval15 Wear shoes that are able to speed you on as you preach the Good News of peace with God. 16 In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. 17 And you will need the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God.

18 Pray all the time. Ask God for anything in line with the Holy Spirit’s wishes. Plead with him, reminding him of your needs, and keep praying earnestly for all Christians everywhere.” (Emphases added.)

When Jesus was on earth he fought many Goliaths. When he was about to leave earth and return to his Father in heaven he said to his disciples, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. … And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. … For he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:12-17, emphasis added).

Jesus obviously expected that we too would fight, not only lions and bears, but Goliaths. All over the world. Else what did he mean by saying, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)? (Notice the triple “and.” We as God’s people are to be witnesses  in Jerusalem, and …, and …, and ….)

Or this, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20)?

The Spirit was given for specific purposes. He gives us strength to combat our bears and lions in our ordinary lives. And he empowers us to bear witness to who Jesus is, what he has done, and teach others what he taught. Fighting Goliaths. The Spirit fighting for us for God’s glory.

The questions we must ask ourselves are:

  1. Do I recognize Goliath when I see him? He defies the armies of the living God. He mocks God to his face.
  2. When I do see him, do I have the spirit of David that says, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
  3. And do I have the chuztpah to reply to the naysayers as David did, drawing on his experience of trusting God and finding him faithful to deliver, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine (1 Samuel 17:34-37, emphasis added).”
  4. Do I have the jealousy for God’s Name that makes me willing to put “skin” in the game, my skin, for his Name and glory?

The greater works we are to do, that Jesus expects us to do, are waiting to be done. They are there waiting for us to step forward, as David did, in the Name of the Lord Almighty, that the Father may be glorified in the Son—through us.

“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, … and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands’”(1 Samuel 17:45-47 NIV, emphasis added).

Let us get stronger every day wielding the weapons of our warfare—prayer and praise and the Word of God—fighting our everyday lions and bears so that we may be strong in the Spirit and fit to recognize and fight Goliath—doing those greater things—for the sake of his Name, for the glory of the Father.

Let us fear God more than men.

How have you fared with your lions and bears? Are you growing stronger and more confident in the Lord through your trials? Have you discerned the Goliath, who defies the living God, that you should be challenging him for the sake of God’s Name? How is it going?

Send me your questions and comments about this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Scriptures from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Living Bible (TLB) The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scriptures copied from https://www.biblegateway.com

Photo credits:

Photo of woman praying at a conference, Centerpoint Church, 2017

Photo of man (Praise) by Oleander IMG_5787

Photo of Bible by pt1wzi-by-jclk8888-img_7190_p.jpg

Adapted and reposted from original blog post of November 3, 2015.


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GOD IN THE SHADOWS

A few weeks ago I read a prayer letter from a friend who serves with a major mission agency and knew I wanted to share her thoughts with you. I asked and received her okay to do so, with slight changes to conceal my friends’ and their mission’s identity since they work in sensitive areas of the world. Her topic is of universal interest and application. I trust her words of wisdom and insight will encourage and challenge you as much as they did me. My thanks to my friend for allowing me to re-post her letter below.

I get anxious. When I anticipate giving a talk or carrying out a big responsibility, when I am in transition between job roles, when I am concerned for a friend in need … my mind wrestles with possibilities and ‘what if’s. I can easily tire my husband by emoting about these anxieties, even when he understands that I am an external processor. It doesn’t do any good to just suppress this, or pretend that I don’t feel these things—anxiety likes to make its home in my mind.

As I look at the Psalms, I notice that King David also got anxious. He had plenty of reasons to: with huge responsibilities, enemies chasing him down, trying to kill him, undermining him, taunting him—and with his own doubts and fears chiming in as well.

Re-examining the Psalms gives me hope, as I notice the recurrent theme of David turning his heart to God in the midst of his anxiety.

David asks God: “Where are You in these shadows around me? Show me the truth about these persuasive negative thoughts. Un-divide my heart (which is pulled in many directions by fear, discouragement, anxiety) so I may trust more fully in Your love and power.” David allows God to re-frame situations; to re-interpret what is going on when things look dire. David uses his anxiety as a signal that it is time to seek God and listen to His voice.

I’ve discovered freedom and transformation recently as I confront anxious feelings, and ask God to show me what they are made out of. He helps me name specific thoughts that are triggering the anxiety. Then I ask God to expose the lies and speak truth to my heart. No darkness stays dark when I give God permission to show where He is. Then I set my will to agree with Him about what is true in that situation.

For example, recently I was in a foreign country on a missionary coaching visit to our teams there, unexpectedly needing to carry out the coaching on my own. This is because my husband had not been allowed to board the plane due to his passport photo being damaged by an encounter with the washing machine.

My stress level was high due to this last-minute change in plans: Anticipating all the taxi journeys I’d need to negotiate with minimal knowledge of the local language and my unreliable internal compass, needing capacity to listen with discernment to each missionary family’s current situation … basically needing to function as my husband might have without his gifts! These thoughts hounded me: “I’m all alone in this, I can’t be him!” Emotions triggered by these thoughts wore me out before I could even begin the week.

In quiet moments, I journaled and asked God to name the thoughts, and then to speak His truth to them. Deep in my heart He spoke calmly and clearly (things any observer might think are obvious!). After naming the thoughts, He reminded me of His Presence being with me to give me rest, of all the friends who would help if I just asked (thus, “alone” was not a true description at all), and that of course He had brought me there to minister to people through who I am (so, I didn’t need to be my husband).

Although every taxi journey that week did involve being lost for half the time (inexperienced drivers, obscure addresses, as well as drivers taking advantage), I eventually reached my destinations and had rich times with each team member. I facilitated a large group meeting … in my style.

Although I found it necessary to confront anxieties frequently, joy and love met me each day.

In recent years several dreams have reinforced this lesson: how differently one situation can be interpreted depending on the emotions-and-thoughts lens through which it is viewed.

In one dream I was driving passengers down a country road, in a hurry to be somewhere. Anxiety was all around us; the heat and stillness was ominous.  It seemed that enemies were nearby or some natural disaster had just occurred. Up ahead a car had pulled off the road, with people bending over it. My anxiety increased – they, like us, seemed also to be fleeing, or they possibly might hurt us. In fear we took the next right turn, moving on.

But what was the threat? I awoke with intense anxiety, unable to pinpoint why.

So, I closed my eyes to revisit the dream, asking God to shine His light and show His truth. The sequence of events replayed with all the same details. Only this time I recognized that it was a summer afternoon, sunny with no wind. We were just driving through the countryside to take a walk somewhere beautiful.

The other car was just others also out to enjoy the countryside. Everything was surrounded by calmness and the freedom of a day off.

The only difference between the two dreams was the lens through which I viewed things: whether I was sensing threat and danger, or assuming that all was peaceful.  The truth is I can look for God and let Him reveal where He is, even in situations that are fraught with imminent danger (as the Psalmist could).  God’s Presence is ready to greet me (and you!) in every dark corner, transforming every shadow into a place of insight (“Here I am,” He says).  Every twinge of anxiety can lead to growth in trust.

King David said, ‘Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

John said, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

Shadows will always be present in and around us. So let’s look for Him in the shadows. Allow Jesus to spread His light to people though you today.

 

 

 

 


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Why It’s Not About “Accepting Christ” (Repost)

Last week I clicked on the link to read Susanne Maynes’ latest blog posting (you can read it on her blog here). Susanne is one of my blogging friends whose articles are thoughtfully written and rich with truth. I respect Susanne’s writing so much I asked her a few months ago if she would read and write a review of my book, Brokenness to Beauty, which she kindly did. You can read it on Amazon reviews (click here to read her review).

After I read one of Susanne’s postings, I often leave a comment, letting her know how much I appreciated what she wrote, how it encouraged me in some way. It’s sort of like a verbal “high five,” digitally sent hundreds of miles from my computer to to hers.

This time I read Susanne’s blog post and not only thanked her for saying so well what I believe and have tried to live, but told her I wanted to repost her blog post. She enthusiastically gave her assent. Thanks, Susanne!

Below is what Susanne had to say about a very important issue for us today:

Why It’s Not About “Accepting Christ”

Have you ever read through the whole Bible chronologically just to get a feel for the over-arching story of God? If so, you may have noticed the same phrase which stood out to me this time around.

cross-from Susanne Maynes' blog 800x532

In my read-through for 2016, I was struck by the  New Testament theme of  “Obey the gospel.”

Nowhere did I read,  “Accept Jesus as your Savior.”  Nowhere did I see an invitation to “ask Jesus into your heart.” No, the call of the gospel is to die to the old, selfish way of life and rise to an entirely new life in Christ.

How do we do this? By means of obedience.

Please hear me out before your “legalism” trigger goes off.

It bothers me — nay, troubles me deeply — that the Church has reacted against rule-keeping to the point where we no longer talk about obeying the commands of Jesus.

Jesus said:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” — John 14:15

Real faith is more than just accepting an offer for forgiveness. That’s the starting point, but it’s our obedience to Christ that demonstrates a changed life.

However, we’ve allowed pop psychology to worm its way into our thinking. We’ve bought the notion that Christianity is a self-improvement plan, the ultimate 12-step program, a way to feel better about ourselves and to fulfill our potential.

So we advertise a gospel that is really only half the story.

We talk about a Savior who has mercy on us and died so our sins could be forgiven. This is wonderful news — but there’s another dimension to it!

Jesus doesn’t just forgive us. He empowers us to live a different life. A holy life. A life that spreads the fragrance of his beautiful name in the earth.

God’s goal for us is not to make us comfortable and happy, but rather to transform us into the image of Christ (see Romans 12:2 and Corinthians 3:18).

Going back to my New Testament reading, I’ve placed our theme in italics here:

  • Romans 10:16 refers to the importance of preaching the gospel, and says, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel…”
  • 2 Thes. 1:8 refers to the second coming of Christ and God’s judgment on “…those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
  • I Peter 4:17  refers to God’s judgment beginning with believers, and “…if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

That’s just a smattering of references to this idea, but do you sense the seriousness of the apostles on this topic? They’re telling us that some people will not obey the gospel — and that’s bad.

Did you catch the wording? It’s not that some will not “accept” the gospel. It’s that they won’t obey it.

One comedian describes how, as a boy, he would whine endlessly about a toy he wanted until his mom relented — whereupon all his pleading and grousing quickly turned into a flippant, “Thanks, Babe!” as he ran out to play.

Too often, we demonstrate a “Thanks, Babe!” attitude towards the Lord Jesus. Problem is,  we can be guilty of inviting unbelievers into a flippant, shallow faith — a faith that fails to produce change.

Paul writes this to the believers in Corinth so they will follow up on their promise to send a generous gift to another church:

“…others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ… —2 Corinthians 9:13

Wow! I want obedience to accompany my confession of faith. I don’t want to be a “Thanks, Babe” kind of believer.

You?

Visit Susanne’s blog at Susanne Maynes: Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion. Check out her website. She has good things to say, and write.

Leave me a comment; go to Susanne’s website and leave her a constructive comment about this post. Share it with others. This is a message we need to hear.