A Prayer for the Heavy-Hearted

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My Dear Heavenly Father,

    I come before you in great heaviness of soul. I feel the burden of my inadequacy, as well as the burden of my lack of faith. I feel the burden of an unknown future, as well as the burden of my past failures. I am walking by my feelings instead of entrusting myself to the facts of your Word. In other words, my life doesn’t fit in a nice little package.

  Father, I need you desperately. Please do not be silent towards me. Please answer my prayer. Please come and be near to me. Please open the truths of your Word unto me. May your light reveal the dark crevices of my life. May your peace overcome the anxiety that is in my heart. May your comfort overcome the disquietude of my soul. May your love permeate every area of my life. 

   Father, I need to gaze upon your beauty as David did in the midst of his tough times:  Help me to gaze upon the beauty of all that you are. Help me to gaze upon the beauty of all that you have done. Help me to gaze upon the beauty of your promises.

    Thank you for listening to me, as I pour out my heart before you. You have never left me nor forsaken me. Your love has never failed. Your mercies are new every morning. Your grace has been sufficient for all my needs. I love you, Lord. Thank you for allowing me to call you, My Father. Take my life and use it as you please.  Amen.

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Am I a Spiritual Demolition Expert?

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On October 24, 1998, there occurred a very sad event in the history of Detroit.  On this day, the J.L. Hudson’s department store demolished. This landmark of downtown Detroit was, at one time, the second largest department store building in the nation.

The Hudson’s building was prepared for demolition by experts who knew what they were doing. In a matter of seconds, the building came tumbling down. The demolition experts had done their work.

In the spiritual realm, there are also demolition experts. These people have a talent to harm other believers and churches. They may do their work with a spiritual veneer, like the Pharisees did in the time of Jesus.  They may have a goal of “doing what is good”. They may be sincere or “mean well”.  Whether intentional or not, these demolition experts cause broken lives and churches.

We may not think that we are a demolition expert, but there is a demolition expert in all of us.  We have all caused harm to an individual or to a church fellowship. What are some of the qualifications of being a spiritual demolition expert?

One of the first qualifications of a demolition expert is pride. Pride causes us to feel superior to others. Because we are better than others, we have every right to condemn them and put them in their place.  Pride means that we are never open to correction, but we are always open to correct others. It also causes us to love self instead of loving others. We see this in the life of Saul when he became jealous of the acclaim that David received.  Saul’s pride caused his death, the downfall of his family, harm to the Kingdom of Israel, and great grief to the life of David.

Another qualification of a spiritual demolition expert is an uncontrolled tongue.  This person’s tongue can destroy a person or a church in various ways. They can speak words of slander about others. They also can create divisions among people through gossip. Angry words have also destroyed people and churches. These people are experts at welding their tongue to bring harm to many with whom they come into contact. James warned us of the danger of the tongue when he wrote: “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” (James 3:6)

A third qualification of a spiritual demolition expert is the “Holy Spirit Syndrome”.  This individual feels like they have the answer for everybody’s situation. They know what others need to do and how they should do it. This doesn’t seem to bring harm to others. However, the person with this syndrome keeps others from developing their own personal walk with the Lord. Instead of looking to the Word of God or to the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction, many people look to the person who has become “their holy spirit”.

A fourth qualification of a spiritual demolition expert is a person who lives their lives to please themselves. This person hurts others because they don’t see the importance of their example. They may say: “I don’t care what other people think. It is my life.!” This person leads others down the path of sin, rebellion and destruction. They have forgotten what Paul said: “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

God has not called us to be demolition experts. He has called us to be builders. “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” (Ephesians 4:11) A builder shows care, concern and sacrifice in producing a building.  We need to have this same concern and love for individuals as well as for the Body of Christ.

Let’s take a quick look at a few qualifications of spiritual builders.

  • They have a love for the Lord and others.
  • They have a humble spirit.
  • They use their tongue to build up others.
  • They encourage others to develop their own walk with the Lord.
  • They are sensitive to the needs of others.

“Dear Lord, I know that I have hurt others in my life, and that I need to forsake the qualifications of a spiritual demolition expert.  Help me, to have a ministry of building up others through my love, words and actions. Thank you for the people you have used in my life to build me up spiritually. Truly, you have blessed me with many spiritual builders. Amen”

Making the Debates Personal

Photo by: The Washington Post

The first two debates are now history.  The debates have been helpful to hear the candidates and learn their positions.  They have also been helpful to see how the candidates interact with each other. Many people have written about the debates, but no one has asked the question:  “What can we learn about ourselves from the debates?”  Here are several questions that we can ask to help us make these debates personal.

1. What is the most important thing in my life? 

The debates, thus far, have focused a lot upon our economy.  The candidates in their own way are saying that money is the most element for being a happy, contented citizen. Is this correct? God says:  “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

When money becomes the main focus in our life, it keeps us from focusing upon God.  Jesus understood this when He said:  “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
The Lord desires our focus to be upon Him, anything else can quickly become an idol in our life.

2. Do I have a fear of man or a fear of God? 

The candidates use the debates to state their positions to please a certain group of people.  The candidates develop a fear of man because they are looking for votes.  We can often be controlled by the fear of man as well.  The Bible says: “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25) The fear of man keeps us from pleasing God.  It keeps us from serving God fully.

True freedom is found when we have a fear of God instead of a fear of man.  When we fear God, He is the one that we need to please. “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:7) Unlike the politicians, the opinion of others should not enslave our thoughts and actions.  We find true freedom in submission to Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

3. Do I build people up or do I tear them down?

The debates have illustrated the great art of tearing down another person to build up one self.  We find this to be great entertainment.  We cheer for “our side” to win.  Is it Biblical to tear down another person?  Is this pleasing to God?  Do we have the habit of running over people?  There are many examples in the Bible of people who made it their goal to tear people down.  Ahab hated Elijah.  Saul was out to get David.  Satan wanted to destroy Jesus’ ministry.

Unlike the candidates, we are to seek to build up others.  The word “discourage” has the idea of taking the heart out of a person.  Encouragement means “to put the heart into a person” Barnabas was a biblical character who encouraged others.  He encouraged the early church by his example. He encouraged Paul by befriending him.  He encouraged the church at Antioch by his teaching.  He encouraged John Mark by helping to restore him after his failure.  Love means to encourage others.  We don’t see a lot of love in the debates, but do we see this love and encouragement in our own lives?

4. Am I self-centered or God-centered?

By listening to the debates, you would think that Americans are the most self-centered people in the world.  Our politicians keep trying to pander to what each of us wants.  They appeal to our selfish nature.  I haven’t heard President Kennedy’s quote: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

It is easy for a Christian to develop this attitude of self-centeredness in this culture: however Christ has called his disciples to a life of self-denial.  “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).  Our lives are to be centered upon Christ.  Our goal is not to follow our desires, but His will. 

5. Am I more concerned about my physical well-being or my spiritual well-being?

One of the greatest issues of the debates and this campaign is the health care crisis in this nation.  Yes, we do have crisis in America concerning our health care. The physical health of Americans in general is quite poor.  However, the greatest crisis is not the physical well-being of Americans, but our spiritual well-being.

How healthy am I spiritually is a question, that we often neglect.  God is very concerned about our spiritual health.  He has given us His Word as food that will nourish our soul.  Here are some questions to help us evaluate our spiritual health:

  • Do I truly desire to walk with God daily?
  • Do I read the Bible with an open heart and mind?
  • Am I quick to obey the commands of Christ?
  • Do I quickly confess my sins to God?
  • Do I love God with all of my heart?
  • Do I love others as God loves me?

There are two more debates in this election cycle.  However, let’s not just look at President   Obama and Governor Romney in these debates, but also we need to think about our own lives and our relationship with God

“Dear Lord, I am thankful that I live in a nation in which I can worship you freely.  I also thank you for the great salvation that I have in your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to view this life from your perspective.  Help me to center my life upon you because it is easy to take my focus from you.  While you are working in my life, please guide the leaders of our nation to make wise decisions. Amen”

Moving Beyond Fear to Courage

Sleepy Hollow State Park, MIchigan- By Mark J. Booth

When fear takes its grip upon our lives, it affects our view of circumstances, of others and of the future.  Fear causes us to doubt the love of God, the presence of God, the provision of God, and even the protection of God.  Fear keeps us from doing what God has called us to do.  How can we move beyond our fears and approach life with courage?

Courage is the willingness to move forward with our lives in spite of the obstacles and dangers that we face.  The nation of Israel, including King Saul, was paralyzed by fear on account of Goliath.  His size was overwhelming.  However, David had moved beyond his fear to courage.  David didn’t see the power of Goliath. He saw the power of His God. His courage has inspired us to face life’s situations with the understanding that God is greater than anything that is happening in our life.

How Can I Move Beyond Fear to Courage?

1. Remember the presence of God.  God is with us as we travel through this life. His presence brings courage because we know that we are not alone.  If we are passing through the shadow of death. we are not alone.  If we are facing some great trial, we are not alone.  If we are facing an unknown future, we are not alone.  “Fear thou not; for I am with thee:be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

2. Enjoy the love of God.  God’s love was clearly demonstrated upon the cross of Christ.  The fear of death was removed when Jesus died upon the cross for our sins.  His death and resurrection conquered death.  If his love has removed our greatest fear, it can also take away all other fears.  A baby in the arms of its loving mother has no fear.  Likewise, we are in the arms of our loving God.  Why should we be ruled by fear? “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) 

3. Develop a fear of God.  The fear of God has been defined as: “Realizing that God is watching and weighing every one of my thoughts, words, actions and attitudes.”  The fear of God places God in His rightful place in our lives.  When our walk with God is right, we can live our life with courage instead of fear. “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence:and his children shall have a place of refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26)

4. Walk by faith, not by sight.  When walk by faith in our loving, all-wise, and all-powerful God, we can face life with courage.  Fear cannot exist together with faith.  Fear flourishes when we see life from our perspective, instead of trusting our Great God.  When faith rules in our heart, we will have the courage to conquer any mountain that is before us.  “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Christ).” (Ephesians 3:12)

5. Study and memorize the Word of God.  Fear often is the result of ignorance.  When we study the Word of God, we see God working in the lives of people such as Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David and Daniel.  These people faced fearful situations; yet they faced them with courage because they knew their God. “But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” (Daniel 11:32)  When we study the Word, we get to know God better.  The more we know Him, the more we will be able to trust Him.  Our fear will turn into courage, not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

6. Become familiar with the “fear nots” in the Bible. God knows our heart.  He knows that we are prone to fear.  We are prone to walk by sight and not by faith.  He encourages us with many of His “fear nots” in the Bible.  Here are just a few.

  • Fear not in your life’s journey. “And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee,” Genesis 26:24
  • Fear not concerning your daily needs. “And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.” (1 Kings 17:13-14)
  • Fear not when in danger. “And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”  (2 Kings 6:16)
  • Fear not in times of weakness. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee;” (Isaiah 41:10)
  • Fear not in times of trials. “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee,I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee;and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned;” (Isaiah 43:1-2)
  • Fear not in times of failure.  Here is what God said after the Israelites’ failure at Ai. “And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed:” (Joshua 8:1)  God did bring the victory after their previous failure.  
  • Fear not in times of sickness or nearing death. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

“Dear Lord, thank you for assuring me that you are with me throughout this life and for all eternity.  Thank you that you give me the courage to move forward in my life in spite of the obstacles that are before me.  Please, give me the courage to live each day for you. ”

Author’s Note: This is the second article in the series called “Moving Beyond!”

Gentleness: Smoothing out the Bumps in the Road of Life

I have enjoyed riding a bicycle since I was a child.  There are three things that can make a bike ride an unpleasant experience:  Careless drivers, dogs,
and bumpy roads.

Eaton County (where I live) has many unpaved roads that are quite bumpy. These roads may have some attractive scenery, but they also can make a bike ride an unpleasant experience.  Likewise, in the road of life, people that we know face bumpy roads.  These roads can bring discouragement, heartache, pain, danger  and failure.

How sensitive are we to people who are traveling a bumpy road?  How can we smooth out the bumps in the lives of others?  A gentle spirit can smooth out the bumpy roads in the lives of others.  The Apostle Paul says:  “Let your moderation (gentleness) be made known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:5) One Person defined gentleness as: “Showing personal care and concern in meeting the needs of others.”  Do we interact with people in gentleness or in harshness?

I am glad that Jesus deals with me in gentleness when I face some bumpy roads in my life.   However, how often do I make the effort to deal with others in a spirit of gentleness?  Here are some of the ways that we experience Christ’s gentleness in the bumpy roads of our life.

1. He forgives me when I sin against Him.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”  (1 John 1:9) Do I forgive others willingly when they sin against me?
2. He never leaves me when life gets rough. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5) Do I stick by others when the going gets tough in their lives?
3. He gives me strength to carry on. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  (Philippians 4:13) Do I help others carry their burdens or do I add to their burdens?  “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
4. His Word encourages me to move forward. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 15:58)  Do I encourage others with my words?  Some of these words can be: “You can do it.”  “I am praying for you.”  “I thank the Lord for you.”
5. His Love is unconditional. Christ’s love is always there because his love is not based upon my behavior, but upon His character. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35)  Do I continue to show love to others even when it would seem easy to turn away from them?

There are many people who are facing a bumpy ride in this life.  Are we willing to go the extra mile and show gentleness towards them?  This will be a great way to smooth out their bumpy ride.  Our gentleness can be considered the shock absorber of life.

Some thought questions about gentleness
(From “Character Clues Bookshelf
Game“)
1. Do those you correct walk away motivated or discouraged?
2. Do people avoid you when they know they have disappointed you?
3. Do you take the time to build a friendship along with correction?
4. Do those who work with you feel that you are committed to them or to getting the job done?