THE PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

On the second Friday of each month in 2019 we are studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: PSALM 23. Join me as we bring fresh application of this beloved psalm to our lives.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.*

 

What the path looks like isn’t important.

Whatever our path looks like or where it leads we can always know that God has a purpose and a plan. We can be sure that today’s path is especially designed for our good, for our growth and for His glory.

God’s children walk a privileged path.

Some days it may not feel so privileged because we’re going through tough times. But in my life experience I can look back on the toughest seasons and see that my faith grew more during those struggles than through times of ease.

Look at your path from a higher viewpoint.

If we look at our life from a helicopter view to see God’s big picture we can see the path going through the dry desert, past the lake then over and around the mountains. As a new friend of mine recently wrote, we each have good days and growth days. The path of the good days may feel like we are walking along a beautiful sandy beach.  Whereas the growth days are like climbing a steep rocky hill. If we can look at God’s viewpoint maybe we can see the mountain winding roads as the learning curves that they are.

Giving God’s name glory.

How we express ourselves along our path will determine how those around us view God. If we walk our easy path with humility and thanksgiving we’re representing God properly. However, if we’re walking a rocky path unhappy and complaining we’re not giving God’s name a good reputation. We can’t speed up God’s timing but we can slow it down with a poor attitude. Let’s travel the path to our victorious destination expecting God’s goodness to shine brighter and brighter on us each day. As we do God will be glorified in our life and we will bring others along with us!

But the lovers of God walk on the highway of light,
and their way shines brighter and brighter
until they bring forth the perfect day. ~ Proverbs 4:18 (TPT)**

Enjoy this beautiful video as you contemplate The Waymaker’s path for you today.


*New King James Version.

**The Passion Translation.

ACCEPTING

In The Serenity Prayer column each month we’re studying this well-known prayer phrase by phrase and applying it to our life today. These columns will be published the first Friday of each month in 2019.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.

 

Hardships are simply a part of life. We can’t avoid them but many of us have found a way to numb ourselves through them. This pretty much defeats the learning purpose they can provide for us.

Some people don’t believe that God uses hardships.  All through the Bible God allowed trials to help people grow. Whatever the end result, God uses difficult situations for our good and for His glory.

Does this mean that God causes bad things to happen? No. Satan, who rules the kingdom of earth, is allowed to bring difficult situations in our life, but only after permission is given by God, the Father. The biblical story of Job is evidence of this. At the end of his life God blessed Job with 10 times more than what he lost.

Whatever the source of our hardship, it’s up to us to accept them. Accepting a hardship isn’t an easy task. The are many emotions involved when we’re struggling through a situation. If we look to Paul and see how he handled his “thorn in the flesh” we can be encouraged.

 “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations… At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (MSG)

God cares more about our character than our comfort. He wants us to be molded into the image of Jesus Christ, no matter what it takes. The more stubborn and willful we are, the more prideful and self-pitying we are, the longer it may take. How many times must we go around the same mountain?

Submission to the circumstances can bring about peace. Just like the earlier portion of The Serenity Prayer states, we must come to a place of accepting the things we cannot change. Not accepting them doesn’t change them, but it can and will change us into a miserable person to live with.

Peace is a promise of Christ. Let’s be determined not to let life trouble our hearts and turn us into miserable people. When we look to Jesus in times of struggle and heartache He will give us the peace that passes all understanding!

Center your heart with this lovely song by Hillsong Young and Free.

BOOK REVIEW :: Addiction and Grace by Gerald G. May, M.D.

 

ADDICTION AND GRACE: 

Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions

by
Gerald G. MaY, M.D.

 

Gerald G. May, M.D. (1940-2005) was a psychiatrist, spiritual counselor and Senior Fellow in Contemplative Theology and Psychology at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Bethesda, Maryland. He wrote many books and articles blending spirituality and psychology. (Excerpt taken from book cover.)

The Shalem Institute is grounded in Christian contemplative spirituality yet draws on the wisdom of many religious traditions. As a result Dr. May references various religious traditions in his writing.

This may be off-putting to some. However, I’ve found far more of his content valuable than not. I’m not a theologian, philosopher nor am I one to argue doctrine. My personal practice when reading different books is to take what I can use and leave the rest.

There is much to praise Addiction and Grace for. Especially being written in the late 1980’s, I believe many of May’s ideas and psychological thoughts on addiction were ahead of his time and may still be.

Addiction and Grace isn’t a quick read. Each sentence, paragraph and chapter will provide you with much to contemplate and ruminate on. You will find an in-depth study of the psychological layers of addiction, as well as how they effect our mind, body and spirit. Dr. May shares personal struggles and stories of several people he counseled with different types of addictions.

For me, having read this book twice, the best take-away was and continues to be in the last paragraph of the book:

“The specific struggles we undergo with our addictions are reflections of a blessed pain. To be deprived of a simple object of attachment is to taste the deep, holy deprivation of our souls. To struggle to transcend any idol is to touch the sacred hunger God has given us.” ~ Gerald G. May, M.D.

Blaise Pascal wrote about the God-shaped vacuum that we all have. This deep longing in our souls can never be satiated by anything created in this world. Dr. May is teaching us that we aren’t supposed to re-direct that longing to anything. He suggests we not only make friends with the empty place, but come to fall in love with it. Scripture teaches it is possible to be comfortable with and live with the pain. The Apostle Paul learned and accepted that God’s grace is sufficient!

I highly recommend Addiction and Grace by Gerald G. May, M.D.  I hope you’ll consider reading this power packed book to deepen your walk with God as you continue to press through your own personal pain and struggles.

Contemplate your emptiness. Sit in the empty place. Bring your emptiness to God. Let God’s Holy Spirit and grace fill that empty place. Because no matter what we try to put there, the emptiness will never be fully satisfied by anything in this world. God’s grace truly is the only thing that can satisfy our souls!

RADICAL SELF-HONESTY

In observance of my Benedictine Monastic practices, on the last Friday of each month in 2019 we’re walking Saint Benedict’s 12 Steps of Humility. With each step we come closer to our spiritual transformation and the perfect love of God.

The fifth step of humility is that we do not conceal from our spiritual advisor any sinful thoughts entering our hearts, or any wrongs committed in secret, but rather confess them humbly. ~ The Rule of Benedict

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. ~ James 5:16

 

We are not designed to carry our heavy emotional burdens alone. Whether it’s concerning past mistakes or current struggles; we need to share our burdens with another person.

God put us in a community of like minded people who can help us. Our challenge is to be radically honest with ourselves and recognize when we need to reach out to a trusted friend or counselor.

Sometimes we shy from confessing our problems to others.  We think that if we open up to another person and they see the “real me” that they won’t like us any more. If we have carefully chosen a trusted friend, counselor or minister we can be sure they will use godly love and wisdom to help us.

Often answers and even healing comes as we are sharing. I’ve found on more than one occasion that as I was sharing my problem with someone the needed answer quickened to my spirit and after the session ended I felt physically lightened of that burden.

Saint Benedict knew the path to humility requires pure honesty. Humility calls us to truthfully bring to light whatever is hidden deep in our heart. These may be things that we’re even in denial to ourselves about. This is where a Christian counselor or minister can help. They can talk, pray and work us through these challenging areas to bring about the needed healing and restoration.

If you are struggling with any serious burdens or emotional wounds don’t hesitate to reach out to your local church or Christian counseling center.

Take a few moments to contemplate issues you may need to work through with a trusted friend or counselor as you listen to this beautiful song by Francesca Battistelli.

WAISTING AWAY

The third Friday of each month in 2019 we’re studying my favorite life verses: 2 Corinthians 4:15-18. This section of Scripture has proven a solid source of faith for me through many challenges over the past fifteen years. As we work our way through this passage of verses you’ll see it build on the previous phrases all the way to the end.

All this is for your benefit so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away…

Times of trial and tribulation can wear us down mentally, physically and spiritually. Some days we feel like we are completely wasting away. During these weary days of struggle we need to lean in even more to the Lord.

Read His Word.

Worship Him in song.

Be refreshed by His Spirit…

BE RESTORED

On the second Friday of each month in 2019 we are studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: PSALM 23. Join me as we bring fresh application of this beloved psalm to our lives.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pasture, he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul…

Jesus the Great Shepherd restores our weary souls.

He wants us to know that, because He cares for our every need, we can rest our worried minds and be content with what we have today and trust Him for what we will need for tomorrow.

Jesus the Great Shepherd nourishes our weary souls.

He lovingly guides us to the lush green pastures where we will be nourished. He lead us to the calming still waters that will refresh our thirst for peace.

Jesus the Great Shepherd knows us better that we know ourselves.

God knows when His children are down. Because He created us, He knows exactly what will restore us and when we will need it.  But often when we’re weary God is the last person we turn to for help.

Jesus the Great Shepherd is waiting for us to look to Him for our help.

We often turn to our friends or family in times of need. We may turn to media or substances to distract our weary heart. What we need is to sit in a quiet moment with the Lord and just be.

He is here. Your restoration is waiting. Call on Him. Be with HIm…

ONE MOMENT AT A TIME

In The Serenity Prayer column each month we’re studying this well-known prayer phrase by phrase and applying it to our life today. These columns will be published the first Friday of each month in 2019.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time…

The Third Act of life

Having reached my 60’s I’ve lived more of life than I have left to live. So the brevity of life is a serious issue. I’m much more aware of the amount of time that I’ve wasted over the years and I don’t want to lose any opportuinities to do what God wants me to do.

These are evil times, so make every minute count. ~ Ephesians 5:16

In the verse quoted above the Apostle Paul warns us that our world is an evil place and can easily distract us from what is most important. No one is going to monitor our time for us. It is up to us to guard how we spend the precious moments we’ve been given every day.

The Social Media Time Suck

The era of radio and television were seen as such a waste of time for the adults who had grown up without any media at all. Television was and still is a huge time waster for many. However, there was never a bigger amount of time being wasted than what we’re experience in this Social Media driven culture of today! I’ve caught myself preparing a Social Media post for my ministry accounts and found I’ve lost almost an hour of my morning!  What’s the solution?

Be Intentional with Your Time

Guarding my time and slowing my pace of living starts at the beginning of each day. Rising most days between 3-4am gives me a good 4 hours to prepare my heart, mind and body.  This allows me time for yoga/meditation/prayer time, devotional/Bible reading, walking the dogs, and a healthy breakfast before time to walk to the bus for work or whatever I need to do that day.

Choose Your Energy Source Carefully

I believe in having strong boundaries on my inputs. Refusing to watch of listen to mainstream media/news sources not only protects my time for better uses but keeps my mind in a healthier state. During my bus commute time I try to make good use of that time by listening to a sermon podcast or some inspirational music to get me energized for my day.

Time Marches On

It’s been said that time waits for no one. And as I stated last month, the older we get, the faster time goes by. Our years are made of months, weeks, days, hours and moments. By turning that order around, being more aware of the time we have and making sure we use each increment of time wisely, we will be less likely to look up and have regrets later in life.

This moment is all we have. Let’s try to use it how God wants us to.

Still your heart and mind. Listen for God’s voice. Contemplate just this moment as you listen to a beautiful worship song by Lifepoint Music.

 

QUIETLY EMBRACE PATIENCE

In observance of my Benedictine Monastic practices, on the last Friday of each month in 2019 we’re walking Saint Benedict’s 12 Steps of Humility. With each step we come closer to our spiritual transformation and the perfect love of God.

The fourth step of humility is that in obedience, under difficult, unfavorable or even unjust condition, our hearts quietly embrace suffering and endure it without weakening or seeking escape. ~ The Rule of Benedict

Be brave of heart and rely on God. ~ Psalm 27:14

Obedience often brings pain.

Last month in Humility Step Three we learned about obedience. Saint Benedict wants us to submit to our authority figures for the love of God imitating Christ who became obedient even to death. In other words, there are times our obedience may bring difficult or painful circumstances, that may be hard but yet they are in our best interest.

Be faithful to the end and you will experience life and deliverance. ~ Matthew 10:22 (TPT)

Living a pain-free life.

Benedict links obedience with patience. Something not taught much today. When facing difficult situations most of us don’t embrace the suffering quietly  or without weakening. The minute there is any sort of stress we’re seeking an escape. Our escapes come in many forms: food, sex, drugs, alcohol, work, social media, shopping, gambling… Anything that can take our mind off our troubles can serve as an escape.

Persevere to the end.

By your steadfastness and patient endurance you shall win the true life of your souls. ~ Luke 21:19 (TPT)

Scripture tells us there will be challenges and struggles. But Jesus encourages us no matter what we’re experiencing, if we will endure, if we are faithful to the end, we will experience deliverance in this lifetime and certainly in the next.

Quietly embrace patience in your life situation as you enjoy this beautiful song by Kari Jobe.

DON’T LOSE HEART

The third Friday of each month in 2019 we are studying my favorite life verses: 2 Corinthians 4:15-18. This section of Scripture has proven a solid source of faith for me through many challenges over the past fifteen years. As we work our way through this passage of verses you’ll see it build on the previous phrases all the way to the end.

All this is for your benefit so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart.

 

Stretched Faith.

Sometimes life gets tough as we press into the destiny that God has called us to. Our faith gets stretched to limits we’ve never experienced. We may find ourselves questioning God’s plan and purpose. We may even begin to doubt that God is with us because He seems so distant.

Count trials as joy.

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. ~ James 1:2-3

Scripture encourages us to count our trials as joy before us as we follow in Christ steps of suffering. And we can count on God’s joy to strengthen us for our journey. Math is Jesus’ Kingdom is unlike that of the world:

When the world counts troubles:  BAD + BAD = WORSE.

In Jesus’s Kingdom:  BAD + BAD = JOY

 

The author of Hebrews calls us to keep our eyes on Jesus and to follow His example.  As He endured the cross, He focused on the joy of the coming Kingdom rather than the suffering He was experiencing. So too, can we. As we keep our eyes on Christ and the joy before us in His Kingdom we will be less likely to lose heart during our trials and struggles.

We look away from the natural realm and we fasten our gaze onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God! ~ Hebrews 12:2 

Prayer guards our heart.

In Luke 18:1 Jesus tells we are always to pray and not lose heart. Meaning that prayer encourages steadfastness in our spirit and guards our soul against disheartedness while we are waiting on God to answer us.

Trust The King

There will always be opportunities to lose heart and be disappointed. People will let us down. We will even let ourselves down. But with Jesus the King of our heart we can’t lose! No matter how things look today we can trust that God will never let us down!

Contemplate on Jesus being the King of Your Heart today as you watch/listen to this beautiful Bethel Worship song.

All Scripture quoted in this article are from  The Passion Translation (TPT).

The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.
Used by permission. All rights reserved. thePassionTranslation.com

STILL WATERS

On the second Friday of each month in 2019 we are studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: PSALM 23. Join me as we bring fresh application of this beloved psalm to our lives.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pasture, he leads me beside still waters…

We weren’t created to live in state of frenzy… stressing to make it to the next paycheck so we can pay off the debt we accumulated buying things we never use… Hustling to make it to the next rung on the corporate ladder so we can feel better about ourselves.

Life seems to be focused on what we don’t have today. Many of us are stretching ourselves to the breaking point just to get the next best newer things.

When God created Adam and Eve He gave them a peaceful home. They were privileged to live in a Garden created just for them where they walked with God in the cool of the morning. Because The Garden of Eden was the perfect home, I imagine it must have had a beautiful lake where Adam and Eve could sit by the still waters and enjoy the evening sunset with God at their side.

For me one of my most relaxing things is to sit beside water. Whether it’s the ocean, a lake, a river or stream it makes no difference. Water soothes my soul. It brings peace to my spirit and resets my mind after a hard week.

Sheep require still waters before they will drink. Sheep are nervous around moving water and they won’t drink. Because they fear flowing water they’re unable to be refreshed unless the water is still.

We need to find stillness to be refreshed. This is a good lesson for us. It might not happen every day, but we can make a point to regularly find a place of stillness to spend alone time with ourselves and God.

Let technology help if you can’t get to a natural source of water. There are apps and Internet videos galore that can give you a sense of being near water. I listen to an app during my lunch break at work most days. It helps me to rest, reset and prepare for the afternoon.

Seek time with the Living Water. In Scripture Jesus is called the Living Water. So as we’re able to spend time reading God’s Word our soul and spirit will be refreshed.

“All you thirsty ones, come to me! Come to me and drink! Believe in me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says!” ~ John 7:37-38

Contemplate the Still Waters that God provides to refresh your soul today as you watch/listen to this lovely video by Stephanie Bayne.