The Crunch of Life Helps You Reach Out

Helping people in need can be a daunting task. Once you make yourself available and begin to help, everything changes. Gradually, people begin to gravitate towards you with their needs. This is what you set out to do, but you struggle with reality of the life you live.

How do you help others when you struggle so much with life? For me, I wonder how I continue to teach and write as I find my difficulties to be such a challenge.

How do I find the balance?

Where is the balance?

What balance?

If I could just get over the struggles and become free from such things, I think I can be more effective in helping others.

But will I be more effective? Can I help others better? Can I teach and write more effectively? These thoughts are often just a thought, and not reality.

These struggles make up our life. The “crunch” of life that we feel on a daily basis is as much a part of life as the simple, easy, and fulfilling things.

It’s the crunch that enables us to help others. It’s the crunch that feeds our words as we teach, write, and do all that we do to help. There is no other way but to live life and face it with all its difficulties.

The Bible is clear that God comforts us in our difficulties so we can help others. The apostle Paul said: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2Cor 1:3-4).

So keep reaching out to others with your feeble hands. God’s comfort will flow through you to others.

Your thoughts?

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STRUGGLING FOR A “NORMAL” LIFE?

Life seems to be a rat race running after those things that will make our life better, easier, simpler, and hopefully normal. That struggle puts us in more of an emotional dilemma than we can imagine.

As we consistently pray for the sick, we see there are so many struggling with stress and unresolved issues from the past. Most of these come from unmet expectations about life, and others struggle with unresolved issues from the past.

We have an ideal in our minds about how life ought to be. That ideal is determined by various factors such as media, friends, and family. Our striving for these ideals puts us right in the middle of a rat race where we don’t belong.

When God comes, there will be a day that redefines what we consider to be normal. What we know about the various effects of nature such as light and darkness, cold and heat, summer and winter, and all other factors will be redefined by God. It will be a unique day, and God will be king of all. (Zech 14:6-9)

So what about your unmet expectations of life? Unresolved issues and questions? Let’s reevaluate the value of these things in light of the future where God redefines everything. He will be king of all.

Your thoughts?

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Three steps to impact the environment of your home and heart

When we listen for God’s voice, we have the option of following him. But when we fill our hearing with lots of noise, our ears are too full to filter out the voice of God.
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For this to effectively take place in our lives, I believe there are three things that are important.

First, increase our exposure to God’s voice. Make reading and meditation of God’s word a regular practice for everyone in the home including the smallest children. If they do not read yet, read the Bible to them. When they are just learning to read, have them read the first verse of the chapter, and you read the rest of the chapter to them.

Fill your home with music that exalts God and his ways. Set the tone in the home with music and praise to our God. Be jealous for God and don’t allow other voices to have more importance.

Second, develop a mindset of obedience. Make it firm in your mind that you are a man of God, that you are a woman of God. Once that identity is firmly set in your mind, you will be more apt to have a mind of obedience. Sure we have our freedom and independence as human beings. But we choose to obey because God is our everything.

Third, be intentional about obedience. One step toward this is to begin a simple process of daily writing down something that impacted you during your daily reading of the Bible. Write down even a sentence that you feel God has spoken to you. In the midst of your struggles, it may be something related to what you are facing. Just the process of recording your interaction with the word of God will greatly impact your thinking. Write that down on a small card and keep it in your pocket so you can look at it throughout the day. Put in in your phone as a constant reminder.

Once you begin doing these things on a regular basis, God will begin to impact your thinking, your behavior, and your responses. The environment in your home will begin to shift focus.

The people of God at the time of Zechariah were struggling to build the temple of God. It was left unfinished for a long time. But God wanted them to listen to his voice. He said if they would listen for his voice, he will bring people to help them build. But the key was listening and obeying God’s voice.

Listen for the voice of the Lord. He will bring you help to move forward. (Zech 6:15)

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The Most Secret Desire of Jesus

It was too private to let anyone else know. His reputation would be completely shattered. His disciples would surely be confused and scattered. It would endanger his entire mission.

Throughout his entire life, this secret desire remained within him. It haunted him to no end. During those times when he spent entire nights in prayer alone with his Father, I am sure this desire came up as a topic of discussion. Probably a good part of the night was spent struggling over this one desire.

Then finally, several hours before his crucifixion, he went with his disciples to the garden of Gethsemane. He poured out his heart to his Father. When his heart became heavy, he took Peter, James, and John and went further away to pray. But as the evening progressed, he could stand the pain no longer. He had to open up the pain of his desire to his Father. So, he went further away from even these three to pray.

He cried out in agony…maybe not because of the torture that he was about to endure. The real agony was regarding this secret desire; the desire to disobey his Father. Doing anything against the Father’s will was completely out of the question. He knew that. He was fine with that. But still, deep within him, this desire remained.

But he never gave in to that desire. He held on and submitted himself to the will of the Father. That was his advantage above everything else. Although he could never share this with even his closest disciples, he felt free to share it with his Father.

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Totally Stripped

The things we hold dearly seem to grip our hearts more than we can imagine. Sometimes I wonder about the dilemma of the “Rich young man” before Jesus (Matthew 19:16-22). He really wanted to follow Jesus, but there was something that gripped his heart more than his desire to follow Him.

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Unfortunately this young man’s wealth had a grip on his heart. But isn’t this the case with many of us? If not money, it’s something else of importance. We want to follow without any limits, but there seems to be something that pulls us back.

Maybe the young man came to Jesus with a desire to help Jesus using his wealth. He probably felt a genuine desire to help with the expenses of Jesus and his disciples. Maybe he had political intentions in the coming kingdom that Jesus talked about. Maybe he recognized Jesus as the Messiah and truly wanted to be his follower.

When Jesus asked this man to sell all he had and give to the poor, he just couldn’t bring himself to do that. Jesus didn’t even ask him for a tithe of the proceeds. He was to simply get rid of everything. But those things had a firm grip on his heart.

What if the man obeyed and began selling off his possessions? As each item of value was sold off and the proceeds given to the poor, his heart would be torn. One by one, each transaction would tear up his insides. Everything he valued in life, and those things that gave him significance would be torn away.

His friends and family would probably desert him. They would either think he has gone crazy or is simply going through some weird phase in life. But clearly, he would lose friends, status, recognition, and those things that would be seen as valuable in society.

By the time the last item is sold, he would be stripped of everything in his heart. More than the material “stripping” that would happen; his heart would be stripped of the things that have a hold on his life. The problem was not his wealth. The problem was his heart that held on so tightly to the things of this life.

Then, when he comes to Jesus, he would come completely broken and empty. At that point, he would be able to receive all that Jesus has for him as a disciple. His heart would be open to the transforming work of the one he follows.

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Stomach Induced Following

People followed Jesus for many reasons. Some followed him to fill their stomachs, some followed for physical healing, and others wanted to gain some position in the coming kingdom that they thought was literal and earthly.

Jesus did not take the step to drive these people away from him. He allowed them to follow. But his teaching remained focused and uncompromising. Those who follow Jesus must deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow him. This type of focus in his teaching naturally drove away those with other agendas.

This was a clear affirmation of Jesus’ purpose to seek and to save the lost. He said he did not come for the righteous; he came that sinners would turn and repent. This purpose impacted every aspect of his ministry. He allowed those with improper motives to stay. Maybe they would be impacted by his ongoing teaching and the ministry.

When Jesus taught about the wheat and the tares, he made a clear statement that the tares should be allowed to remain. Uprooting the tares may damage the wheat and this risk was to be avoided. His instruction was to allow the tares to remain till the final day when God will separate the wheat and tares and burn the tares in the fire.

As we strive to be faithful in the work of the Lord, our focus should be like that of Jesus. Open your arms to those who are weak, hurting, sick, and in pain. Allow them access to you and to all the resources available to you. Bring them to Jesus, who will transform their life.

What do you think? Leave your response on the comments section of this blog post by clicking here.

 

 

 

Giving and Getting

From the early days of our children’s lives, we wanted to instill in them an attitude of giving.  Of course, it is never too early to begin these things.  We’ve always told them that when we give offerings in church we are giving to Jesus and that He is pleased with our offerings.

Once we were visiting a church where they kept a box on a table in the back for offerings.  After the service, we instructed the children to put the money into the box.  Then we lingered for a while chatting with several people.  When we left, my son looked at the table in the back with astonishment and said, “What happened to the box?  Somebody took the box.”  My daughter quickly responded; “that man took it.”  My son agreed and said, “Yes, he will take the money and throw it into the air, and Jesus will catch it from up there in heaven.”

What is our concept of money and giving?  Generally, Christians give such a small percentage, that the situation is alarming.  Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).  Could it be that God has “limited” his measure because of our giving habits?  We often point to many reasons for our financial woes. All the while, part of the fault may be with our own giving habits.

A “poverty mentality” has gripped many believers.  Their concept of money and wealth has been tainted by their own deeds (or the lack of it).  Proverbs says, “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor” (Pr. 22:9).  We cannot expect God’s blessings without a giving heart.  Too many have the misconception that they don’t have enough, so they won’t give, when their lack of giving could be one of the reasons for their financial burdens.

Christians will do well to adopt a simple, Biblical financial plan for their lives that begins with giving.  Take all the income you receive whether weekly or monthly, and give 10% as tithe to your local church where you attend every Sunday. Then take another 10% and put into a long-term savings that you will not touch.  That gives you 80% to live on.  Of course, the 80% should include whatever taxes you owe to the government, and sufficient gifts to the poor.  These principles are simple, yet Biblical.

Am I guaranteeing God’s blessings if you follow this plan? Not a guarantee from me, just Jesus’ words: “Give and it will be given to you….”

What do you think?

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How to Pray Like Jesus

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, it was obvious that they saw something special in Jesus’ prayer life. Here are some things we can learn from Jesus’ prayer time at Gethsemane (Mark 14).

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1. Separate yourself from distractions (32-34)

Although it is important to pray with family, friends, and the entire church, its also important to find time alone with God. Just think of it as a meeting with just you and God. He desires to meet with you alone. Jesus’ disciples were important to Him, but he had to get away from everyone and be alone with His Father.

2. Open your heart to God (35-36)

Think of this time as an opportunity for a heart to heart conversation with God. Share with Him your deepest thoughts that you would share with no one else. Allow God access to every area of your heart. Jesus shared something with the Father that he could tell no one — not even his disciples. How could he tell them that he would like to back off from this entire plan? They left everything to follow Him. But since this was in his heart, he had to share it with his Father.

3. Such prayer will keep you free from temptation (37-38)

When you are fully open to God about your weaknesses, you allow God access to that area of weakness. Once you give access to God, He will begin His work in your particularly in those areas. Those weak areas are the ones that trap you in times of temptation. Jesus saw this prayer time as a strong defense against temptation. His temptation was to go against the Father’s will. But aren’t all temptations we face just like that?

4. After prayer, even if your situation does not change, you will change (39-42)

We surely want our problem situations to change. But God seems more interested in changing us. After that intense time of prayer with His Father, Jesus had to walk into his greatest time of trial and torture.

So go ahead and pray like Jesus. Take everything to the Father. Even your deepest desires — even those that go against His will. He will strengthen you and get you ready to face every challenge.

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A Man of Sorrows, Acquainted with Grief

We have seen the powerful, confident, miracle working Jesus through the Gospels. He is to be our example…but how? How can he understand our struggles? What does he know about the problems that we face? He had all the powers of Heaven available to him.

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Jesus experienced the same struggles as we do. But we fail to recognize those experiences in the Gospels. Here are some of His experiences:

  • Misunderstood – People misunderstood his entire life and mission. There was no one on earth who could understand the reality of his struggle. With whom could he share the struggle of being God and Man simultaneously?
  • Rejected – As he spoke of his Father, the people understood that as blasphemy because he was equating himself with God. So, here was a truth that could not be spoken. He spoke it anyway, but suffered lots of accusations for it.
  • Opposed – Because he was different in his approach to so many things, he was constantly opposed. He was called a drunkard, glutton, and a friend of sinners. The core of his mission on earth was for those who were broken, but that “core” caused so much opposition.
  • Inner Struggles – He struggled with his personal desires and his purpose of being on this earth. In the Garden of Gethsemane, we see a glimpse of his personal struggles. So, Jesus did have the desire to so his own will separate from the will of the Father. He did struggle with such desires, but gave himself up for the Father’s will.
  • Betrayed – His family and friends knew who he was and his passions, but they could not accept that reality. They simply mocked him.
  • Homeless – He said, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests. But the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58) That statement of Jesus was not just a neat saying, it was a reality. Possibly one of the reasons he roamed the countryside was that he had no home to call his own.
  • Accused of using Black Magic or Sorcery – The teachers of the Law said that Jesus expelled demons using the powers of the prince of demons.
  • Accused of being a revolutionary – Although Jesus clearly expressed that his Kingdom was not of this world, the people could not understand. They were so hopeful of the Roman power being overthrown that they could not grasp the heart of what Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God.

For those who struggle, hurt, and suffer, remember that Jesus was “A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3b)

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What Controls You?

*When things are forced on you, you feel like you are not in control. *When you’ve got your back to the wall, you feel like you’re not in control. *When you’re overloaded, and over-worked, you feel like you’re not in control. *When people take advantage of you, you feel like you’re not in control. Now, let’s face it. Others are not in control. You’re not in control. Fear is. It’s fear that controls your actions and your reactions to what goes on around you. Fear? It may be a fear of being controlled. Fear of losing control. Fear of giving up control. Fear of the unknown. For each person, the factors are different. Here is how you can handle the fear:

  1. Acknowledge fear. When you recognize that your reactions are the result of fear, be willing to acknowledge it. Identify fear as the reason for what you experience. We may find situations or other people to blame for our experiences, but that does not correctly help to resolve the issue at hand.
  1. Face fear. When you come to such a situation fueled by fear, you have two choices. The easiest and usual pattern is to run. Running from situations that cause fear to rise within you is surely a solution, but it is too short lived. What you really need to do is to face the fear head on. Move forward and do that very thing that is causing fear to rise up within you.
  1. Reject fear and replace it with boldness.  “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2Timothy 1:7). God’s Spirit will give us a regular supply of power, love, and self-control. You can begin to renew your mind by repeating Bible verses such as this one.

So when you recognize that what you face may be directly caused by fears within you. It’s time to take action and move forward. Give your response in the comments section of this blog post by clicking here.