Dark Days

I have become more aware lately of Dark Days that we all tend to face…the reality is that we are either entering dark days, living in them, or coming out of them…but for the most part, we are all facing them or leaving them behind, but we all tend to have them.

These days can come in many forms, disappointment, despair, distress, doubt, depression…no matter the description, dark days can truly break us down and cause us to question a lot of things.  We feel that we are alone in our battle…maybe it didn’t go the way that we had quite hoped.  Just speaking Biblically there are many stories in scripture that we see similar stories.

Job, obviously had some dark days…he lost everything, but in the end he realized that God had always been working on his behalf. When the world came against him, Job trusted and praised God.

Peter didn’t plan to deny Christ, even when he was told he would, yet, when the time came, Peter denied Christ three times and found himself in some of the darkest of days.

Uncertainty, doubt, depression can overcome us and leave us feeling less than stellar on many days, and if we begin to rest in those days we find ourselves even deeper than we could have ever imagined.  I don’t think that Mary thought that her bringing a baby boy who was God’s own son into the world would happen in a stable, but yet it did; and the reality is, no matter our circumstances, light can still pierce the darkness.

That light…Jesus.  Jesus is the light that has already pierced the darkness for us, but we many times allow things to cast shadows and leave us in a false darkness, not realizing that He is right there with us.  Today, remove those shades, and allow the light of Christ to crash the darkness in your life. No matter how difficult the struggle that you face, God can and will work through the circumstances to bring you out of those dark days.

The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t always the train.

Advertisements

Distracted Living

Let’s face it…almost all of us have a cell phone.

Lately I have been noticing something more and more in my own life, and honestly, I have seen evidence of it around also…that is the increased usage of cell phones, more specifically, smart phones.  They’re all the rage…they’re in just about everyone’s hands from 10 to 90, and the reality of it is that it has our attention.

Many of us (myself included) feel lost without our phone attached to us in some way…we almost can’t function without our phone.  We spend more than 4 hours a day focused on that small screen looking up news, texting, calling, browsing social media, and more.  A recent study showed that the average American adult uses the cell phone 4-5 hours a day and sends and receives around 1,000 text messages daily…

Where this really started to hit home for me is that I have realized that my phone usage has begun to be such a part of my daily routine that even my prayer life has taken a hit because of this modern marvel.  This began to bother me, because Prayer should be something that we are focused continually on.  In fact, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul tells us that God’s will for us in Jesus is to, “Rejoice always, Pray continually, and be thankful in all circumstances.”

When we begin replacing these things, they begin to suffer…we begin to allow these things to take a back seat to posting that new Facebook status or Instagram post. No matter how many times we post something and say, “#Blessed” or “#Thankful”, it isn’t the same.  We must rejoice always and be in constant conversation with God…that is His will for us in Christ.

It also tells us to be thankful IN, not for, all circumstances…that means we may be going through a difficult time, but that isn’t time for us to take it to Facebook and let everyone know how awful our neighbor is or how bad we have it…it is a time to hit our knees and pray, being grateful and rejoicing that God has given us an opportunity to see Him work in our lives.

Let’s drop the distracted living, put down our phones, and turn to Christ.  If we want to see things improve in this world, we must take steps to remove the distractions that take our focus off of Him and allow Him to lead us….it’s hard to see where He is leading you with your head down in your phone.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life…no one comes to the Father except by me.” – Jesus (John 14:6)

Who do You Want ME to Be? Becoming a Prisoner for God…

Who do You want ME to be?  A question we should all ask God everyday…

“ 1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

— Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV)

Paul wrote these words from prison, so if anyone knew what being a prisoner was all about, Paul would definitely be the guy.  “As a prisoner for the Lord…” began Paul…what did he mean?  What does it mean to be a prisoner for the Lord?  What is Paul getting at when he begins this paragraph?

Lets look at it for a minute…Paul, a man who knew what it was to persecute the church, who had put people in prison for claiming the name of Christ; was now, himself, suffering the same fate as many he had put away…imprisoned for the carrying the name of Christ.  But as he accepted this, he wrote to the church at Ephesus, “then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” What is that call?

Paul had written before that the call on a Christian’s life was one of mimicking the life of Christ (Romans 8:28-30).

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

— Romans 8:28-30 (NIV)

By looking back to Psalm 139 where we see David claim to be fearfully and wonderfully made, and also note, ”You knit me together in my mother’s womb…”; we realize that God knew each one of us before the world knew us, therefore we are all part of the group of the known, we are ALL predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, and therefore called.  What is the likeness of Christ?

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”

— Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)

Jesus took the role of a servant…the same role we are called to, service.

Paul was explaining that we should all live a life worthy of the call, a life that would cause others to take notice of a difference…a life that is similar to that of Christ Jesus himself.  Paul then goes on to tell four ways that life can be achieved:  Humility, Gentleness, Patience and Bearing one another’s burdens.

Paul states that we should be humble, not proud…the life of a servant is one of humility.  To serve others, they must come first in our life…not second to us.  If we consider ourselves to be better than another, we will never serve them, because we don’t feel they are worthy of that…but Christ humbled himself to wash the apostles feet…shouldn’t we practice that same humility when it comes to others?  Shouldn’t we lower ourselves to the level where we can be most effective in touching someone’s life?  Humility is putting yourself last.

Along with this humility we are to have is Gentleness.  What Paul is stating is that we much approach each other with a gentle spirit…do not look for a fight, look to stop the war; don’t go into a conversation expecting confrontation…go in expecting reconciliation, expecting peace.  Be kind, practicing the golden rule – do unto others. Serve others, give without expecting in return, be kind, be gentle, be Jesus to the world.

Third, we are to be patient…which is one of the hardest things for a person to do, especially when they feel they have been wronged.  People have trouble with patience, because being patient means looking past faults…looking past disagreements…looking for the good in another, so that we don’t react in a way that is detrimental to our relationship with them…in a way that can ruin even the best of friendships.

And Last…bearing one another’s burdens.  When we band together as a group of Christians, no one can pull us down…no one can take the joy that comes in seeing someone we love come through a tough time in their life, only to enjoy the fruits of their sufferings.  Paul told the Ephesian Church that they needed to bear with each other, because no one can do it alone.

Paul then states that all four of these must be unified within the Christian so that the full work of the church can be completed.  You must find a way to take these four principles and apply them as a unified group to your life…it’s the only way a prisoner for the Lord can survive.

Not only do we need to unify these principles, but we also need to unify as a body of Christ…we are all called to the same purpose…we are all called to be Christ to the world.  Too many times these days the Church is only out for what they can do for themselves…the members are loyal, but their view of the church is the four walls they enter every Sunday morning…for us as Christians to change the world…we have to unify peacefully and work toward the same cause.

What are you doing today?  Are you loyal to the call on your life?  Are you willing to unify with the church as a whole in bringing the name of Christ to the world?  Or are you content sitting back and missing the blessings that will come your way when you choose to live in the way Paul did…in unity with his brothers and sisters in Christ.  Paul explains it in further detail over the next few verses…

4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

— Ephesians 4:4-6 (NIV)

Seven “one’s” to show us that it is all about becoming ONE in unity.  Become one with the Church today, become unified for the cause of Christ…become one prisoner who is devoted to joining with other prisoners to serve the ONE who thought we were worthy enough to die for us…ask God who He wants you to be.

Today

I came across a short writing from Wayne Eads that left me completely overwhelmed by the beauty of what God does for us.  It is a writing that helped me to understand even more so how he takes care of each of us.

“There are two days in every week about which we should not worry, two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.

One of these days is YESTERDAY with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back Yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed; we cannot erase a single word we said—Yesterday is gone……

“The other day we should not worry about is TOMORROW with its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise and poor performance. Tomorrow is also beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow’s sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds, but it will rise. Until it does, we have no stake in Tomorrow, for it is yet unborn….

“This leaves only one day—TODAY! Anybody can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities—YESTERDAY and TOMORROW—that we break down.

“It is not the experience of today that drives people mad; it is remorse or bitterness for something which happened Yesterday and the dread of what Tomorrow may bring.”

This left me thinking about how we get so wrapped up in what has happened in our lives, or in many cases, what we think will happen.  Matthew 6:34 tells us this way “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (ESV)”

Let’s focus on today and leave those other two days where they lie. We cannot change what has happened to us in the days that are gone, and we have no control over what will happen to us tomorrow.  I encourage each of us today to take today as it comes, do not let the past determine how your day will go; in the same way, do not let your anxiety over tomorrow keep you from experiencing the blessings that God has for you today.  Let today be today! Let today be a day of blessing and happiness.  Let today come and go, and in the morning, experience another TODAY!

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

The Oregon Trail

oregon-trail-musical-casting-gigs-acting-jobs.jpg.644x720_q100

I must say that the one game that I can remember playing as I grew up was the Oregon Trail. I can remember spending countless hours playing in an effort to make my way up the trail and hopefully reach the end.

One thing that I remember best is that you start with a full family, working your way up the trail trying to find ways to stay healthy and happy while attempting to make it to the end before tragedy struck and before the winter came.

This game popped into my head this week as I thought of our lives as Christians in Today’s world.

We are all on a journey to reach a goal of happiness and health, while seeking to find purpose in our lives. As I begin to think about it, I realized the game was very similar to our lives in that as you play, you are always stronger as a family, not individually. There are always helps available along the way, but we are always left with choices to make that may or may not mean loss of supplies or even life.

I began to think about it more, and I realized that our lives begin as a journey, but our journey begins when we realize our need for Christ as a member of our traveling party. As you make your way up the trail there will be rivers to cross, enemies to face, and sickness to overcome, but with Christ traveling alongside us we have all we will need.

Christ will help us make it across the river, he will overcome our enemies, and we have no need to worry about illness because Christ offers the ultimate healing. We have all we need in Him, if we realize that all He needs from us is full commitment to the journey.

Like the game, there may be some in the group who will pass before the journey is over, but the hope and promise that we have is that for those who were traveling with the Lord, they have simply gone on ahead and will meet us when the Journey is over.

Trust the Lord today, seek him, and allow him to lead you along the trail today as you strive to make your way home to be with Him for eternity. Allow Jesus to travel the trail with you today and see what happens when you face trials along the way.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Faith that Heals

“For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.” – Matthew 9:21-22 (NKJV)

These two verses have been a focus of my studies lately, trying to get a grip on exactly what we can learn from this woman and her actions…and as the scene has played over and over in my mind, one realization I have come to is that two things happened here that can show us some great things about the God we serve.

First, the woman knew that if she could just get close enough to touch his garment she could find healing. She just wanted to find peace and comfort from 12 years of sickness, so she decided that she needed to be near Jesus.  She knew that just being in His presence would help…and we all feel that way, whether we know it or not.  How do I know this? Because we begin to pray when the going gets tough…whether we truly believe it will work or not, we give it a shot, right?

But that being said, the second thing that we see may show us why our prayers seem to go unanswered…Jesus answered her and told her to, “Be of good cheer…your faith has made you well.”  He didn’t say to her that he was glad she was able to touch him, he told her that her faith had made her well…HER FAITH is what brought her to his presence in the first place…and when there, she put action to it and realized that she could be healed if in his presence and by faith…she believed it would happen and it did.  She went away and was well from that point forward.

Do you have the faith that heals? Are you struggling through life in such a way that you may say a prayer, but may not believe in its power?

We must have the faith to approach his presence with a desire to simply touch his garment…to be healed by his power because we know he’s the great healer….We must seek his presence in our lives and know healing will come…because after all, it was her faith that made her well, and it will be your faith that will heal you in your time of trouble and need.

God has given us His Spirit and His Word to be that presence in our lives today, we must submit to His authority in our lives, seek the cleansing He offers, and allow Him to do what is needed.  He has given us the promise never to leave us nor forsake us, and he has given us each other for encouragement and support.  Approach Him with faith today!

Signs of the Times

I’ve spent a lot of time studying lately on scripture that leads us up to the return of Christ…and something interesting that I came across recently got my attention…

In Matthew 24 we see Jesus answer his disciples when they ask what the signs of the end of the age will be, and Jesus lays out a number of things…but I find a few things interesting here that I wanted to share this week.

Verses 4-14 show us a very vivid answer to the question of what we can expect to happen…but he opens the statement with two very key instructions: 1-Pay attention that you are not deceived and 2-Do not be troubled or alarmed.

Why would Jesus instruct his disciples to pay attention about the deceptions that may happen around them? Why would he tell them not to be alarmed? Because, deception will pull you away from where you are supposed to be…almost like smoke and mirrors of the enemy to keep your attention away from what is really going on around you.  When you are alarmed and surprised by the things happening around you, you have a tendency to find yourself trying to fix what is happening….but Jesus says, these things must happen.

This leads me past the “beginning of sorrows” into the meat of what Jesus is saying…the troubles we see and hear about have to happen before the end…but in verse 10 we can see exactly where we may be…I found this verse intriguing given the climate around us in the world today…

“There will be many who are offended, many will betray one another, and many will hate one another.”

We need to stop joining in the battle of the offended, stop being surprised by what is going on around us, and start loving as Christ loved, knowing that the world will turn to their own ways…but a couple verses later we see the promise for those in Christ.

“He who endures to the end, he is the one that will be saved.” – Matthew 24:13

Endure to the end, and stop being distracted and alarmed by what is happening around you today….Jesus told us it would happen and that we would see things happen, but encouraged us to endure to the end…Stay strong and love one another, do not be deceived and do not be troubled.