Friday, January 25, 2013

When it rains in my soul.

When it Rains in my Soul

Psalm 42:5
"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? 
hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance."

Not every day is full of sunshine. Even when it is, there are days when inside our souls the rain falls without any sign of slowing.

I have experienced this myself, when the trials of life have overwhelmed me with loss, shame, or betrayal. The grief, the hurt, the sorrow all condense into anguish in the soul.

Some call it discouragement, others call it depression, while some want to label it self-pity. Whatever you want to call it, it is a reality that most people will face from time to time in their life. It can be caused by many things, or even triggered by memories of the past.

David was no stranger to this. I love how the Lord gives us examples in the scriptures of great men of God, who struggled with the human condition like the rest of us. We would do well to remember that when we go through those valleys, when our soul is cast down, that we are not alone, and we are not the first.

David tells himself, "hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance".

That's the answer, when it's time to pull out of the clouds, and get on with life, and back to the ones we love, that is the answer. When we lift our eyes from our pitiful condition, and focus once again on God, then hope can be restored.

Our hope is not in ourselves, or in others, it is in God alone. The act of praising God has with it the power to deliver your soul, and shine the light of hope once again.

Lord, help us when we hurt, and when the rain clouds gather in our soul, save us from the despair of those moments. We praise you God, for the love and hope that can only be found in you. Lift up our eyes, and our hearts, when hope is in short supply. - In Jesus name, amen.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Spiritual Resolutions

Here we are once again, at the beginning of the year. Some thought we would never get to 2013, nevertheless, here we go.

I thought I would take a little time to talk about resolutions. Some people don't make any resolutions at all, and that's understandable. It's easier not to break them and let yourself down when you don't make any. That's the old, "if you aim at nothing, you're sure to hit it every time" philosophy.

This is a natural time for people to set some goals, make some changes, and hope to better themselves in some way, shape, or form. Why not? But what changes? More exercise equipment is sold in January than any other month in the year. I suppose the same is true of gym memberships.

However, what about making some resolutions, and setting some goals that are spiritually focused?

Romans 12:2 "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

Carnally minded people focus on carnal things, spiritually minded people focus on spiritual things. That's stating the obvious. So what are you focused on?

Let me offer 10 ideas for some "Spiritual Resolutions" that you could make in 2013:

1. Get a plan for daily devotions, and stay faithful.
2. Start a personal Bible study for your own spiritual growth.
3. Commit to attending 3 church services weekly, unless providentially hindered.
4. Volunteer for a ministry at church - and be faithful for the entire year.
5. Give out 1000 Gospel tracts personally this year.
6. Make a prayer list, and a plan to use it daily.
7. Invite the blessings of God by tithing all year.
8. Read through the entire Bible this year, at least once.
9. Find someone who needs a ride to church, and commit to bringing them all year.
10. Adopt a loner at church, and make them your personal ministry for the year.

Dear Lord, help us to be spiritually minded people in a world that wants us to focus on self. Lead us this year as we endeavor to please you, as your children, that we would be faithful, loyal, and submitted to you. Help us not to coast along in neutral, but to put our lives into gear spiritually. In Jesus name we pray - amen.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Where is God in times like this?

Matthew 23:37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"
Where is God when tragedy strikes? If God is good, why would he "let" this happen? These are some of the questions I have heard this week, in the wake of the horrible shootings.

My heart breaks for the families that are suffering right now, and my thoughts and prayers go out to them. I can't imagine the hurt they are experiencing, but Jesus can.

Hebrews 4:15–16 "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." 

The sin of man has always broken the heart of God. He loves us all so dearly, and has gone to great lengths to deliver us from evil. Yet, evil continues, because men love darkness rather than light.

These tragic events are covered by the media, and leveraged for ratings. What about those who suffer at the hands of abuse every day, with no media to bring attention to their hurts, or expose the evil?

It is part of the sadness and anger, that evil men can wreak such havoc in the lives of innocent children, and many families are now agonizing over the loss. I pray that God will shelter them with his grace, and shed his love on them, and comfort them as only he can.

Is God to blame? Are the guns to blame? NO! - The gunman is to blame!

Ephesians 6:12 "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."  

Let us place the blame on the gunman, and on the forces of wickedness. The same dark spiritual forces that tried to win a victory by crucifying our Savior, have tried to win a victory by murdering innocence once again. But they shall not prevail!
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Dear Lord, in times like this, we are cursed with confusion. We don't know what to think, but we pray for those families. The moms and dads, the brothers and sisters, whose Christmas has been forever changed. I pray for the family of the gunman, how awful they must feel, please shelter them all with your love, grace and mercy, and help them through this holiday.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Past, Present and Future.

This year as my family and I set up our Christmas Tree, it seems special notice was being given to so many of our ornaments. "Papa, remember this one from when I was born?", "Oh, this is the one from when you were first married", "Papa, do you remember when I made this one?".

There were ornaments from my childhood, my wife's childhood, from grandparents, neighbors, friends at church, places we've been, and each of them had some special connection to us. Memories of loved ones that have passed on, cancer has visited, tragedies have come and gone, and the world seems to all be changing at a rapid tempo.

I got to thinking back on the early years of my marriage, our tree was sparse, and decorated lightly with mostly store bought stuff. We had only a few ornaments with any sentimental value. That was 23 years ago. Since then we have added 5 children to the picture.

Our oldest daughter married a fine young man this year, and their tree looks much like ours did when our family was first starting. It is classy, fresh, fashionable and new. That will all change in time.

Our Christmas Tree is old, worn out, and overly adorned without any sense of Feng Shui. Yet, it is warm and overflowing with love, and fond Christmas memories of the past.

This year, we add a little more, make some new memories, enjoy watching the children revel in it all with a sparkle in their eye, and try not to let the tree come crashing down under the significant weight.

All of this gives me great hope for the future. Each passing year comes with changes. But through it all, with God's help, we carry on.

There is no shortage of memorials in the Bible, set up for us to remember significant events, and to give God the glory. This Christmas, I give God all the glory - and thank him for the Greatest Gift of our Blessed Savior.

Dear Lord, you have been so good to me and my family, and I am reminded once again of your grace and kindness to us. As the many years have passed by so quickly, you have been so faithful. Help us to remain faithful to you in the years that come. Through the storms, through the tears, through the triumphs, and through the years, may we be found faithful in your sight. In Jesus name - amen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Avoiding the Christmas Clash - Getting along with extended family for the holidays.

Bridging the family gap during holiday get-togethers 
can be quite a balancing act at times.

"If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." 
- Romans 12:18 

"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, 
then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, 
full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." 
- James 3:17

avoiding the christmas clash

Christmas is a time when family and friends come together to celebrate for many different reasons. Some of them are excited about the "get together", and other's are dragged in reluctantly. Sometimes there are past grievances, offenses, and even abuses that come to the surface during a time when we are supposed to be enjoying each others company.

Holiday parties can bring the extended family together, but that also means political, religious, philosophical, and idealogical differences are brought together in that environment as well. So how are we to avoid what may seem like the unavoidable "Christmas Clash"?

Here are some thoughts on how to have a peaceful Christmas family get together.

Keep calm, and carry on:
  • If someone provokes you, keep calm and carry on.
  • If someone offends you, keep calm and carry on.
  • If someone irritates you, keep calm and carry on.
What to bring with you to the party:
  • The love of God - Jude 21.
  • The Holy Spirit - Galatians 5:22-23
  • A spiritual mind - Romans 8:6
  • The armor of God - Ephesians 6:12-18
Remember, your testimony for Jesus is on the line, and you would be wise to make the Lord look good to all who spend time with you this Christmas season.

Dear Lord, I pray that you would help us all to be gracious and kind as we spend time with extended family and friends this Christmas. Set a guard on our mouths, and protect our hearts from the temptation of pride. Show us the love that you have for those that we love, but may seem somewhat unlovable at times. Thank you for the greatest gift of all, your dear son, and may we honor him with our behavior this Christmas season. - in Jesus name, amen.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I'm dreaming of a TIGHT Christmas...

Christmas can be a real struggle for families on a tight budget - but it can still be GREAT!
10 ideas to make your "Tight Christmas" a GREAT Christmas.

As I think back on the memories of my childhood holidays, Christmas was always one of my favorites. Now, I didn't grow up in a religious home, it was secular for the most part. However, we did have a small manger scene on display over the mantle each year that drew my attention.

My parents were working class people, hard working, and industrious. I guess I never realized as a child how tight things were financially in our home. It wasn't until I grew older, with a family of my own, that I understood how hard Christmas must have been on my parents, raising three boys.

I remember with fondness baking cookies, making fudge, and drinking cocoa in the kitchen with my mom. I remember helping dad put up lights on the house, and wishing for some snow. It was a big deal to put up the tree, and dig out all the ornaments, hunting for my favorites that I looked forward to seeing    each year.

Now, as I reflect on how great Christmas was, it was not the presents (although that was always exciting), so what was it?

Here are a few thoughts to consider as you turn your "Tight Christmas" into a GREAT Christmas.
  1. Focus on the Lord Jesus, "Jesus" means: The Lord Saves.
  2. Go all out with decorations inside and out - and involve the kids.
  3. Don't hide Santa, Rudolf, and Frosty - just explain they are stories, not reality - but still alot of fun!
  4. Bake, bake, bake - frosting, frosting, frosting.
  5. Have nightly Bible time in Luke 2 - let the kids ask questions.
  6. Make a Yule Log - and burn it on Christmas Eve.
  7. Make special traditions, both meaningful and fun, and repeat them annually. (I get Life Saver Books each year for all of the kids)
  8. Go on a Christmas Light tour - bring cocoa
  9. Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas morning, before you open gifts.
  10. Pray and thank the Lord together after you open gifts.
Lord, I pray you will bless all who read this, and warm them with your love, as we celebrate the birth of your dear son, our Savior and King. Help us all to welcome the joy of Christmas, and guard the "Reason for the Season".

Friday, November 30, 2012

Feeling Empty?

You are not alone, even though you might feel that way. You are loved, valued, and needed, and discouragement visits everyone sooner or later.

1 Samuel 30:6 "And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God."

This may come as a surprise to you, but you are not a super hero. In fact, while we are amazingly resilient, rugged, and durable, we are also frail and breakable.

If you are feeling empty, discouraged, or depressed, it's ok. It's part of the human condition. Perhaps you have been emotionally hurt, suffered a significant loss, failed at something, or are just feeling blue in general. It is normal and valid for you to battle some discouragement in those circumstances.

However, it's important to realize that you can't stay that way. Take some time to get through it, people understand, but don't set up house in that country.

David, and many others in the Bible, went through tough and discouraging times. They experienced their own frailty, and emotional limits. But I find hope in the fact that David encouraged himself in the Lord. Here are some ideas to help you out of the funk:

1. Realize you are human, you have limits.
2. Take some time, cry if you have to, get it all out.
3. Forgive others, forgive yourself, and ask the Lord to forgive you.
4. Get plenty of rest, take some "secret" naps, go to bed early.
5. Call an old trustworthy friend, talk about it.
6. Read in the Psalms, comfort your soul with the Word of God.
7. Remember, God is with you, just like he was with David.
8. Load up on vitamins, drink herbal tea, have some hearty soup.
9. Do something kind and unexpected for someone else, to encourage them.
10. Get back in church.

I hope these ideas will help you when you're feeling blue, and that when you are feeling empty, you will remember that it's time to fill your tank. If you are a child of God, then climb up on the Father's knee, and let him give you the joy of the Lord once again. Don't let the world steal your joy!