SINGING AND REMEMBERING

My mom loved country music. She used to listen to the radio and sing along with every song they played. I loved my mom so I loved what she loved when I was young. Some of my favorite memories are of us singing together. There were three songs in particular we would sing often. They were “Hello Walls” by Faron Young, “He’ll have to go” by Jim Reeves, and “Sad movies make me cry” by Sue Thompson. I knew every word of these three songs because my mom sang them often. She knew all the words because she was going through a time in her life beyond my understanding. As I think back on it now, my mom was singing these sad songs because she was sad.
These songs were an outlet for my mom to express how she was feeling about her marriage. It was failing and she couldn’t save it. I knew something was going on but I didn’t experience the pain she did. What did I experience? Actually, I thought we were having fun singing together. It felt like bonding to me. I believe it was that for my mom in a way. She was losing her husband and at the same time bonding with her daughter. These songs, though sad, were glue in our relationship at the time. Singing together brought relief for my mom and joy for me.
Today we can sing together in worship to the Lord and find relief and joy in our circumstances. In the family of God, we have many mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters who will sing with us in our time of need. Is singing really helpful when life is falling apart? “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 Luke reports that singing is helpful in times of need. Paul and Silas were in prison singing. It’s interesting how the Lord used their singing for the benefit of the other prisoners. Do you see that? They may not have felt the joy Paul and Silas did but they certainly felt some relief during their time of imprisonment. God uses singing.
More incredible than that, God sings.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
This verse was written to Israel and is calling for them to turn back to God. We can see God’s character displayed in this verse. He is present, mighty, rejoicing over those who seek him, loving, and singing very loud. He sings in celebration over those who turn to him. God finds a personal delight in singing over his children. This is truth that is hard to comprehend. It cannot only bring us great joy in knowing the depth of God’s love, but also relief in any suffering we may be experiencing. God uses singing, God sings, and God is praised by our singing.
We are called to praise God by singing for who he is and what he has done. “Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!…Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.” Psalm 98:1, 4
As we can see from this text, we don’t have to sing well in order to praise God. We are letting who God is and what he’s done carry us away in song. We need to be overcome by God. Can you imagine, if on the new earth, we sing with God? What a joyous song that will be! We’ll have only praise to bestow on him for eternity. That will be glory!
Until then, we have a life to live here on this sin-cursed earth, in our own sinful skin, and with many other sinners. What can singing do for us? It can bring us relief, joy, and a focus on the only one who deserves praise. I’m thankful for the memories I have of my mom. She brought me into her world by singing with me. However, she protected me from the suffering she was experiencing. Mom didn’t withhold her love from me at a time when she felt unloved. Instead, she made me feel very special. The truth is she reflected her Savior well at that time in her life. I’m forever grateful to God for memories of her. My greater joy is that she is now singing before her Savior and Lord! One day, we’ll sing together again!

AIMLESS…GIVE ME COFFEE

What does it mean to be aimless?  Well, it all starts with a target.  If you are shooting arrows, you AIM to hit the middle of the target or the bullseye.  The same is true if you are shooting a gun.  Aimless comes in when there’s no target.  There are days when I can’t seem to get a grip on what the target is or where it’s located.  I can walk around in circles and sigh as I seek to find a target worthy of my time and energy.  In general, I’m a person who plans and prepares for things in the future; but on aimless days I just look for coffee.  Coffee becomes the target of my aimless ramble.  But what good does that do me, you ask?  Believe me, I don’t really have an answer about the good it does, but it certainly gives me a boost in my rambling.  

What gives me the boost of energy to ramble aimlessly?  Let’s talk about the smell of coffee.  Even before you bring that relaxing and enjoyable cup of  coffee to your lips, your nose is already enjoying it.  Others enjoy it too as they smell it in your home or office.  The smell can cause your eyes to close and your whole body to relax.  Even though the smell is great, let’s not forget the taste.  Pumpkin spice is what tickles my taste buds in the Fall.  It’s just the right combination to bring pleasure to my mouth.  Then, there’s the smile.  Yes, coffee gives me the ability to smile as I’m aimless.  As I think of it, there’s a bullseye of smell and taste.  The coffee has hit that bullseye for me.  The problem?  After about 30 minutes, I’m aimless again.  You see, the coffee is only a temporary boost to the problem.  I need a permanent solution to being aimless.

The world offers many solutions to being aimless.  If you look on the internet for organizational help, you’ll find many advertisements of those who would want to take your money to give you an aim for your life.  Remember, their aim is your money!  If you write the check or swipe the card, you’ve helped them meet their aim.  Money can disappear quickly just like my coffee.  So money can’t be our aim in life.  What is an aim in life that will never disappoint and will never end? 

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.”   2 Corinthians 5:9

What is Paul talking about here?  He’s telling us as followers of Christ our aim, every day and in every way, should be to please God.  This aim doesn’t disappoint or fade away.  This aim has eternal life attached to it.  The act of pleasing God is the bullseye on which is written, “well done good and faithful servant.”  Life is hard and sometimes feels like it’s totally aimless, but in those moments we still have a bullseye.  How can we please God when we feel aimless and have already had our coffee? 

  1.  We can pray for God’s direction in our lives and seek his wisdom.  Paul writes to the people in Colossae, “…we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  Colossians 1:9-10
  2. We can look for someone to love either by praying or contacting her.  Paul writes to the church at Philippi, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others.”       Philippians 2:3-4

When we are aimless, we have a tendency to think of ourselves.  We can focus on what we lack rather than on our gains.  The idea of stopping our rambling and replacing it with thoughts of God and others will give us an aim.   This aim is pleasing to God.  The truth is we are never aimless, there’s always a choice to choose the aim.

So in conclusion, enjoy your coffee but remember there’s a more important bullseye to hit.

ANOTHER BUMP IN THE ROAD!

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” Hebrews 12:1b

The life to which God has called us is a race he’s prepared for us.  When we think of a race we think of a winner receiving their prize.  As followers of Christ, our prize is eternity with him.  Eternity will be glorious!  We’ll realize how the race was well worth the effort.  Until then, this race of life can feel like a slow boat to China.  There are days when it’s hard to pick up our foot to take the next step.  Other days we may be running at a good pace when all of the sudden, we trip over a bump in the way.  There are many bumps we may encounter in our race of life.  Let’s look at a few of those bumps and see how to navigate them for God’s glory and our good.

  1. BUMPS OF MY OWN CREATION

It’s hard to believe that what has tripped us up could actually have been caused by us!  When we sin, we create a bump in our road.  This bump is not only the sin that diverts us from the way we should go, but contains the consequences of that sin.  This bump can make our lives stall as it prevents us from going forward.  “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” Psalm 51:3 This is David’s confession after the sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the arranging of the murder of her husband.  This caused a huge bump in David’s forward movement, preventing him from following God.  Even when he repented, he still suffered the consequences of his sin. (2 Samuel 12:1-23) Repentance was the way around the bump in his road.  It’s our way too.  When we repent, God forgives and helps us get back on track.

  1. BUMPS THROWN IN MY WAY

We live with others who are involved in our lives.  These people may be relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or church members.  All people are sinners.  There are times when we are sinned against.  When this happens it as if the person has thrown a large rock in front of us which prevents us from moving.  At times like this, it’s easy to lose our way and become angry or bitter.  However, God has given us an example in Joseph.  His brothers sinned against him by selling him to a caravan on their way to Egypt.  During his time in Egypt, he was a slave, wrongly accused, put in prison, and eventually Pharaoh’s right hand man. (Genesis 37, 39-43) This bump in the road took Joseph in a totally different direction from what he had planned for his life.  What we learn from this is that the bump thrown in front of us by someone’s sin against us doesn’t stop God from his purposes.  “As for you, you meant evil against me, but god meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20  This was Joseph’s testimony to his brothers.

  1. BUMPS OUT OF MY CONTROL

Our world has been cursed by sin.  “For the creation was subjected futility, no willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:20-21 When Adam sinned, the world was affected by sin.  As long as we live in this world, there will be things that come up which are out of our control.  Some examples of this kind of bump may be a cancer diagnosis, a job loss, or a prodigal child.  These things happen and they happen to us.  We need to not allow these bumps to set us off course.  Acceptance of these types of bumps are hard because we definitely want to be in control of every part of our lives.  However, we’re not and we have to give in to God’s control.  “…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 130:16b (NIV)  We can yield to God’s control because he has ordained the day, the problem, the time, the place, and the bump.  He knows; and our job is to trust him as we seek to go over, around, or walk through the bump he has allowed in our road.

Some days we’ll encounter many bumps in the road and others just a few.  As we encounter them, we can repent, forgive, trust God, and yield to God’s control.  This isn’t easy either but we’re not left to wonder how.

“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

There’s our answer as we are stopped by a bump.  We are to look to Jesus.  He has run this race ahead of us and sat down next to God who is satisfied with him.  Jesus has completed the perfect race for us so that we can keep our eyes on him.  We need to keep in mind that no matter how hard this life’s race is, it’s easy in comparison to the life Jesus lived for us.  The prize is awaiting us. Eternity is coming!

 

ROOTED AND SECURE

Last week, I was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan doing a great deal of hiking and being reminded that the Lord is the perfect artist who creates beautiful scenery.  I had the privilege of eating lunch, sitting on a rock in the Porcupine Mountains, overlooking the Lake of the Clouds.  My almond butter sandwich tasted much better as I looked at my surroundings.  In the Lord’s artistry there are beautiful rocks, trees, lakes, rivers, creeks, and waterfalls.  What a joy to be able to walk the trails and enjoy his creation!  On occasion, there are unusual things that meet you on the trail.  The picture I’ve included in this blog is just that-an unusual thing.

As I looked at this, I began to think about what was being shown to me.  The life of a follower of Christ was being displayed right before my eyes.  Let me develop my thought process for you.  I hope that you will be encouraged.

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  Psalm 18:2

The rock in the picture represents the Lord.  It’s large and not easily moved.  We are too weak to push it over or pick it up.  It’s secure in where it stands.  The Lord provides security for all who will trust in him.  We know that he always has our best interest in mind and is sovereign over all of life’s circumstances.  All growth can take place with confidence in the one to whom we are connected.  The Lord, our rock, provides the protection we need on a day to day basis.  We can rejoice in the fact that our life is built on the rock.

We are not always reaching for the sun as we grow.  There are times when life gets hard.  The circumstances that hit us are hard to bear.  We may be facing a physical ailment, financial problems, death in the family, car problems, disobedient children, or aging parents.  All of these are hard circumstances but the rock on which our life is built is harder.  We need to hang on to the rock in order to make it through.  Notice how the tree on top of the rock has wrapped a root around the rock and buried itself in the ground.  This is how we should hang on to our Lord, the rock, when times are hard.  We must reach around him and he’ll provide the strength we need in the same way the soil provides more nourishment for the tree.

“…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ…”  Ephesians 3:17b-19a

We need the nourishment of the love of Christ.  When our roots are deep in that love, it gives us the strength to love others.  Love should flow naturally from each and every follower of Christ.  We also receive nourishment from the love of our fellow believers as they come along side us to care for us.  Without love, our growth will be stunted!  We need to hang onto the rock, rooted in the love of Christ and the church.

If we were to just look at this picture, we might think the tree doesn’t have much of a chance to survive; but God made a way for its survival.  God always makes a way for each one of us to survive in this world.  His goal for us is that we seek to please him each day, seeking to look more like Christ.  We can’t give up in the face of discouragement, pain, or sorrow.  Remember our roots run deep in the love of Christ!  When times are hard, hang onto the rock.  We know that he is immovable, unshakeable, and unstoppable!

Keep your eyes open to see the Lord’s artistry!  You never know how he will use it to reveal to you more about himself.

 

UNHELPFUL HELPERS – PART 4 Finger Pointing Frieda

Many of us are guilty of being a finger pointer when it comes to trials in someone else’s life.  We want be the bearer of the answers as to why the trial is happening.  As someone shares with us, we’re looking for sin patterns that have contributed to the trial.  Why? So we can point our finger and feel a bit superior to the one who is suffering.  This is a wrong pattern of thinking which assumes all trials are caused by sin.

Finger Pointing Frieda

Frieda has a nose for sin in others.  She’s always looking for those who don’t measure up to where she believes they should be.  This happens more when a person is in the midst of a trial and shares with her.  Frieda is certain that she would handle the trial differently.  She is also sure the trial is a result of sin in the person’s life. As she listens, she feels it is her job to point out the sin and call the person to repent.

“I’m sure that’s terrible but it wouldn’t have happened if you had just trusted God.”

“God has allowed this in your life to get your attention because of your sin.”

“What do you expect to happen when you continue to _____________?”

“I can see this is your fault for not following God as you should.”

The person who has Frieda as a comforter is not being comforted.  Can you see how these types of statements point the finger back at the sufferer? All the discomfort felt is the fault of the sufferer.  Is that the way we are to respond?  The answer is no, because Jesus, when confronted with an adulterous woman by the scribes and Pharisees, answered their charges by reminding them of their own sins.

“…Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…” John 8:7b

 

Humble Harriet

Harriet understands sin.  She knows that sin has consequences, but she also knows that suffering is not always the result of the person’s sin.  Harriet will listen carefully to the one who is suffering in the trial and sort out how to help the person find hope and comfort.  There is no hope for someone who keeps getting a finger pointed at them.  She is humble enough to remember that she is a sinner saved by the blood of Jesus.  Harriet doesn’t feel the finger of God pointing to her in her sin but knows Jesus stands in her place.  This is so hopeful and she wants to share this hope with others.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.”  Lamentations 3:21-24

What is most important for helping a person going through a trial is to bring them to the point of having hope in God.  Harriet hears the whole story and can see that there is sin, but knows that this is not the time to address the sin.  It is the time to give hope in the Lord who loves with a steadfast love.  She spends time talking about God and his character rather than finger pointing at sin.  As the person hears and begins to get some hope and perspective, there will come a time to address the areas of sin in her life.  Harriet knows it will take time and is willing to spend the time listening and encouraging so that hope is evident in the person’s life.  After that the Holy Spirit may have already revealed the sin in the person’s life which needs to addressed and if not, Harriet can bring it up with grace.

 “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13

 

What about us?

As followers of Christ, we have the opportunity to come along side our brothers and sisters to help in their time of need.  We must do so humbly, with great expectation in what the Lord can accomplish in their lives and ours.  There are so many times we fail to help because, quite frankly, we get in the way.  Our pride and arrogance wants to be the savior in the situation, but we have to remember there is only ONE SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST.  We are called to point others to him for their hope and help.  Are we willing to let go of what we think we know in order to direct others to what they need to know?  May God give us the grace to see ourselves as we really are, totally dependent on him.  Then and only then will we be the helpers God desires us to be.

“I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

 

UNHELPFUL HELPERS – PART 3 Spiritualizing Samantha

When we go through trials, we want to find the right kind of help.  As followers of Christ, we want to have help from someone who is a mature believer.  This is a good thing because we should seek help from someone who can point us to the scriptures.  The problem is, even a mature believer can be unhelpful by using the scriptures too trivially or taking them out of context.  We must be careful with the scriptures in order to be helpful to others.

Spiritualizing Samantha

Samantha loves to help people.  She feels she knows the scriptures well enough to be able to come along side another and give hope.  As she listens to the one who needs help, her mind is racing.  She is thinking of a verse or something about God that she can impart to the one needing help.  Samantha wants to appear as if she has all the answers to the problems of the world, or at least look impressive to her friend.  The thing is, she really thinks she is helping.  After all, isn’t the Bible the place to go for help?  Some of the things Samantha may say are actually true but not actually helpful.

“God works all things out for good.”

“Rejoice in the Lord always!”

“God is Sovereign.”

“God is faithful.”

Every one of the statements above are true but when someone is hurting greatly, they are not always helpful.  It becomes very flippant in a difficult situation for someone to say, “Oh well, God is sovereign.”  That is not helpful to the one who is hurting.  These truths can certainly be used but there has to be more.  To make these statements and then smile as if everything is going to be okay doesn’t make things okay.

Humble Harriet

Harriet know these truths about God and she know scriptures to back them up.  However, this is not where Harriet begins.  She starts with entering into the upset the trial has caused her friend.  She remembers how Jesus entered into the grief of the people over Lazarus’ death.  Jesus wept even though he knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.  He entered into the pain and suffering of Mary, Martha, and the others who were walking with him on the way to the tomb.  We can’t be any help until we enter into the suffering.

Harriet reaches for her friend’s hand and holds it as she listens to the pain she is going through.  She may just hold her friend and pray for her.  Harriet is building a bridge of trust with her friend which will lead to being able to share the truths of God with her.  There will be more acceptance of these truths because the suffering one knows she is loved.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

It is easier to rejoice with someone than to weep with them, but we are called to do both.  If we humble ourselves to enter into the suffering, then our minds are not consumed with trying to have the right answers.  Instead, we will find ourselves loving our friend well.

In conclusion, we are to study the scriptures to build up our knowledge of God, not for the purpose of being puffed up about what we know.  The more we know about God, the more we’ll realize how compassionate and gentle he is.  The truth is we should imitate him in ALL of our life which would include the help we give to others.  Don’t use the word of God trivially or flippantly! Use it for the good and comfort of others!

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  Ephesians 5:1-2

 

 

 

UNHELPFUL HELPERS – PART 2 SYMPATHIZING SALLY

Trials in our lives are opportunities for us to be helped by others.  Then when others go through trials, it is our opportunity to help them.  But how do we do that in a way that is beneficial for the sufferer?  Sometimes what we think is help is really no help at all.  Our help can end up being hurtful, dismissive, or accusatory.  This is because of our tendency to be focused on ourselves more than others. We saw this with Fixer Felicia who was more concerned about her part in fixing the problem than really bringing comfort.  Now let’s look at another whose help is not really help at all.

Sympathizing Sally

Sally loves to be in the know about people who are in the midst of trials.  She wants to hear the stories so she can share them at prayer meeting.  Sally’s goal is not really to help, but to gain knowledge.  When she has this knowledge she makes her own conclusions about what the person should have done to prevent the trial.  The words she gives to the one suffering are not very meaningful and certainly not helpful.

“I’m so sorry for you.  Thank you for sharing.”

“Thank you for sharing.  I love you but I’ve got to go.”

“Awwww you poor thing.”

Sally gives no words of comfort or help.  In fact, she doesn’t even stay long enough to show if she cares or not.  The only time she’ll remember what is going on in this person’s life will be at the next prayer meeting.  Do we take the time to comfort?  Do we respond with truth and help from the Word?  Do we spread the person’s trial at prayer meeting so that others will think we are in the know?  Is being in the know more important to us than really helping our friend?

Humble Harriet

Harriet listens to a person’s problems with compassion.  Compassion is a word that means sympathy with a desire to help.  We should sympathize but, that sympathy should drive us to help.  Harriet will be very in tune with her friend by keeping eye contact, holding her hand, and seeking to pray as she listens.  She wants to be able to share with her friend in order to give her hope.  It’s not about Harriet being able to share at a prayer meeting but about sharing hope to the person in need.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”  Romans 5:1-2

Harriet is humble and relies on the grace of God in her efforts to give hope to her friend.  There is hope in knowing who God is.  She wants to give her friend hope by telling her about the grace God has for her in this circumstance.  Harriet shares how followers of Christ are standing in God’s grace which helps in the situation.

There is a confidentiality Harriet displays when it comes to her friend’s situation.  She doesn’t desire to spread the word about what she knows but rather desires to only speak of it with her friend and in prayer to God.  Harriet knows that she doesn’t always handle things the right way and wouldn’t want others to know.  This knowledge keeps her from spreading things about others.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  Matthew 9:36

Jesus is our example of compassion.  His heart was compassionate even to those who were not his followers.  The compassion he had marked his entire ministry here on this earth.  As followers of Christ, we are to seek to be like him.  Let’s take the time to go beyond sympathy to compassion.  Then we will have a desire to help the one hurting.

UNHELPFUL HELPERS – PART 1

Trials are a part of life all of us.  We will struggle in this life because of sin.  When Adam and Eve sinned, it changed everything for the future of mankind.  Their choice has led to sickness, rejection, sorrow, sin, and death for each of us.  As followers of Christ, we look to each other for help and comfort as we face trials in this world.  We need to know how to respond in a way that’s pleasing to the Lord, promotes the gospel, and brings comfort to those who are in need.  In this blog we will begin to explore the unhelpful helpers along with the helpful alternative.

FIXER FELICIA

Felicia loves to be a part of someone’s suffering because she knows she can fix it.  As she listens to someone in need, she is calculating how she can solve the problem.  She sees herself as wise which reveals the pride she has in her own opinions.  Felicia may interrupt the speaker in order to get her thoughts out in the open.  She will use the following phrases.

“If you would just…” 

 “Listen, you need to…”  

 “This has happened to me before and I…”

“I don’t understand how you got this far.  Why didn’t you…”

“You need to be more like me and …”

Do you recognize any of these statements?  Are you a fixer?  It is so easy to think that we have all the right answers to problems.  We feel good about ourselves and consider the sharing of our opinion to be helpful.  But is it?  As a fixer, we fall into the trap of thinking there’s only one solution to a problem.  Of course, it’s our solution.  A fixer has a way of making the person going through suffering feel like she is inferior because she didn’t think of the same solutions.  The bottom line is the fixer is unhelpful because she is more concerned about her solutions than the person struggling.

“When pride come, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2

HUMBLE HARRIET

Harriet is a helper who actually is helpful to those who are suffering.  Harriet listens well.  She focuses on the words that are being shared with her in compassion.  Her heart is filled with compassion which is the driving force for her help.  She wants to not only hear the words but seek to understand the emotions behind the words.  It is her goal to understand the pain her friend is feeling and to respond in love.

The most important thing Harriet knows is that it isn’t her job to fix her friend’s situation.  It is her job to walk alongside her and give comfort.  Harriet knows that God is the great physician who is the only one who can fix anything.  She prays and seeks his wisdom in order to walk well with her friend in need.  Harriet remembers when God has taken her through a hard time and how his love and care was a comfort for her.  This is what she shares with her friend, not how Harriet has answers, but how God walks with her in the difficulty.

Harriet knows that she’s not perfect.  She realizes that she has problems too and needs God’s answers just as much as her friend.  This keeps her from thinking more highly of herself than she ought.  In knowing this, she wants what’s best for her friend but doesn’t need to receive any credit for her help.

“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.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

We need to be humble helpful helpers.  Are there areas of pride you need to work on in order to be humble before God and your friends?  Humility comes with wisdom, not ours but God’s.  Let’s seek to be helpful helpers by offering the comfort God has given us to others in need.

 

 

WOMEN IN STEP – PART SIX

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience…” Galatians 5:22a

 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”  Galatians 5:25

I was looking through my blogs and noticed that I didn’t complete this series on “Women in Step”.  This could be because I’m forgetful which is true but more likely it’s because of what the next step is…PATIENCE!  This is the word we all shy away from because it’s so hard to practice.  We live in a microwave-internet society which loves the fast forward button on the remote.  This should not, however, affect our walk as followers of Christ.  Let’s tackle this step of patience by looking at the definition, what God’s patience looks like, and the call for us to be patient with all men.

Patience is in the top 1% of lookup and is the 233rd most popular word on the Merriam-Webster website.  This tells us that the whole world is concerned with this attribute of patience.  Here is the definition of patience. “Bearing pain or trials calmly or without complaint, steadfast despite opposition or difficulty and not hasty”.  The definition gives us a tall order to fill in life as we walk by the Spirit.  Our tendencies are not to wait for anything, but rather to act in our own arrogance, moving forward, trying to control, or pushing others to follow our prideful spirit.  These steps don’t end well in the best of situations.  Most of the time, we will face the consequences of our lack of patience along the way.  God’s patience is displayed for us in the scriptures and we need to learn from him.

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18

God is patient with grace.  In this chapter of Isaiah, Judah has forsaken the Lord and yet God is still gracious to his people.  He waits.  He judges perfectly at the perfect time and with the perfect discipline.  God never rushes to get it done but waits for the best time to extend grace.  He is patient with grace for us as well.  He is God and he never changes so it will be the perfect time when he grants us grace, justice, mercy and discipline.  He is patient to do this to get our attention firmly on him.  It would be great if we would take his lead and be patient regardless of the circumstances.  The scriptures teach us to whom we are to be patient.

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14

Can you believe we are to be patient with all men?  That’s what Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica.  This is a huge command to follow.  We are to have patience regardless of the characteristics displayed by others such as idleness, faintheartedness, and weakness.  Our patience doesn’t depend on the other person but should flow out of our hearts toward them.  This requires the work of the Spirit in our lives.  We certainly can’t do this on our own.  The fruit of the Spirit is patience.  We need to let go of our selfishness and allow the Spirit to display the fruit in us.  The big question, is so why don’t we practice patience?

Let’s take a look at the microwave-internet society in which we live.  The result of this society is “I want what I want when I want it”.  Our wants drive us so much of the time, and wants are not patient.  They are demanding.  It’s this attitude which prevents us from moving forward in patience.  Notice the words “moving forward”. Patience doesn’t mean stillness.  There are times to be still as you wait, but more often than not, you can keep moving as you’re following God in patience.  The answers may not be in front of your face but you can trust God anyway.  Is this hard?  Yes.  Should we pray for patience?  This is a question we need to answer.  There are those who claim that praying for patience is bad because God will give us a trial or hardship in order to teach us patience.  The truth is, as followers of Christ, we have the fruit of patience available to us.  The Holy Spirit indwells us and patience is part of the fruit.  We need to display it even when it’s hard to do.  Praying for God to help us allow the Spirit to put patience on display is a great prayer.

Let’s practice patience!  Let’s walk by the Spirit!  Let’s imitate God!

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”  Ephesians 5:1

 

HOW MUCH? HOW LONG?

We wake up every morning knowing we have to meet the day with eyes wide open.  The day can be fully planned in the way we would like it to proceed.   However, with just one phone call, one e-mail, one encounter, or one situation the plan can fall apart quickly.  When this happens it leaves us stunned, out of breath, confused, angry, or in an emotional heap.  It’s hard to face a different day than what we had planned.  It’s hard to face the happenings we didn’t plan to face.  In reality, life is hard and sometimes it just keeps getting harder.  What do we do when we don’t see an end to the hardness of our days?

One thing we want to do is fix it and make our life easier.  We’ll go to great lengths to bring about peace.  The problem is, we can’t always fix the problem.  We are not God!  That is not an easy thing to swallow when we buy into things like, “God helps those who help themselves.”  What a lie!  There is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor; otherwise it wouldn’t be called favor.  Sometimes we can fix a piece or a part of our lives only to see another area fall apart.  The truth is, there is only one God and He has our back.  He knows where we are and what is going on in our lives.  As His children, we know that He is with us all the time.  What a comfort that is, as we realize we are not the fixers of life.

If we can’t fix it, then we, at least, just want the trouble to stop.  Sometimes we feel like the clown who keeps getting hit with the pie in the face.  More and more life situations land on us, leaving us messy and unsure of what to do.

“I am weary with my moaning every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.  My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.”  Psalm 6:6-7

If you have been in a position where there seems to be one pie after another hitting you in the face, then you can relate with David in the quote above.  There are times when we don’t have any answers and all we can do is grieve the situation.  We can present it to the Lord who comforts us in our grief. How many pies are too many for us to handle?  One is too many on our own.  We can’t handle life apart from God.  He can handle it all; so, we cry out to Him and trust Him to handle it for us.  The trouble may not stop but we can know that in it God is walking with us.

If we can’t stop it, then perhaps we can just know the ending date of this turmoil.  It would be nice to know when life will return to a “normal” setting.  David struggled with the same thing. “My soul also is greatly troubled.  But you, O Lord—how long?” Psalm 6:3  It’s okay to ask the Lord how long this situation will be around, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll find out.  Even though we don’t know how long, we must live each day with our eyes on God.  There will be struggles but we can have peace in the struggle as we realize who God is and that He is up to something.  God always wants what’s best for us and that is our conformity to Jesus.  Sometimes that is done through gentleness and sometimes there is more pressure applied in our lives.  God meets us where we are with pie on our faces and a faraway look in our eyes that says, “I’m trying to figure this thing out.”  We have to remember that we don’t always have the answers nor will we always receive the answers to our problems.  It is the time to trust the only one who can wipe away our tears for all time.

What do we do?  Where do we go?  How can we handle one more difficulty?  Jesus took time to speak to His disciples before He was arrested to prepare them for what was ahead.  “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33  There’s the hope.  Do you see it? Jesus has overcome the world through His death and resurrection.  If we know Jesus, then this world is not our home.  We have a better one coming with no more trouble.

How much?  How long?  We may have no answers for those questions, but we need to keep our eyes open and face the day with all it holds.  When we look, we will see God walking with us and working through the situation.  He will bring us hope and comfort because that’s what He does!