LIGHT TROUBLES

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 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, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.*

 

Everyone has troubles in life. Some people expect when they turn their life over to God they will live free from problems. The opposite is actually true. Jesus told us not to be surprised when we encounter problems in this fallen world.

Thankfully God gave us many lessons in Scripture to help us work through our troubles. Here are a few verses that will help us unpack Paul’s teaching:

  1. 1. See troubles as tests to refine our character.

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and privies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed  to the whole world. ~ 1 Peter 1:6-7 **

We must accept that troubles are burning away our character flaws; purifying us to be more like Christ. We can be confident that God is directing our lives toward good and will always provide the strength we need to make it through.

  1. 2. See troubles as opportunities to grow and learn.

Brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. ~ James 1:2-4 **

We don’t want to fake happiness in the face of troubles, but rather we can have a positive outlook knowing the trouble we are enduring are producing good character qualities in our life.

3. See troubles as preparation for your glorious future.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. ~ Romans 8:18

God often uses troubles to test what we are able to withstand. He is testing to see what weight of glory are we prepared to live under. Too much glory, too many blessings on an unprepared life could crush it. But the glory resting on a prepared and fully sanctified life will establish it.

The Apostle Paul gives us great insight into the troubles we will encounter. He wants us to recognize God has a purpose for the troubles we’re going through. Let’s go forward and see our trying circumstances with a different prospective and with a better attitude. We can trust that God is refining our character, giving us opportunities to grow and preparing us for a glorious future with Him!

We hold tight to the promise of new life

Our hope in Jesus Christ will never fail or fall

These light and momentary trials

Are gaining us a prize that far outweighs them all.

~  from Light and Momentary by For All Seasons

Contemplate the momentary trials you’re undergoing. Click and listen to  Light and Momentary  by For All Seasons .

 

*New International Verson

** New Living Translation

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW

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. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me…*

 

During the time David wrote this psalm, a traveler going through the desert valley of Judah on foot would often risk their lives. The shadows cast by the mountains may be hiding unknown dangers: lurking bandits or wild animals. But the faithful could be assured that they need not fear because the Lord was near.

Each one of us walks through dark valleys in various seasons of our life. During these times of struggle it’s important that we not compare our valley walk with that of fellow believers. We each struggle in different ways and for different reasons. A dark valley experience for you may not be a dark valley experience for me and vice versa.

I may be going through the toughest season of my life while you seem to be floating along on cloud nine. If I’m not careful I could become resentful and bitter at you and/or God.  What I don’t know is that you may be having a family crisis that you can’t talk about. But all I see is you composed; not stressed or worried.

Others are watching us walk through our valleys.

What are they seeing?

Do they see someone who is bitter, angry and afraid?

Or do they see someone joy-filled and trusting God’s plan for good?

To be honest, this is difficult for me. I must remind myself almost daily to be patient, trust God and know that He loves me and hasn’t forgotten about me. I’m not in this valley alone. This valley has a lesson to build in my faith and character if I will just let it.

There are measures of God’s Presence that you can only experience in the valley. ~ Bill Johnson

The dictionary defines a shadow as a dark figure or an image cast on a surface of a body intercepting light. What’s intercepting the Light in your life today?

Maybe your valley seems dark because God’s Presence is so near protecting you under His wing.

If you are walking through a dark valley today take a few minutes to contemplate God’s Presence with this beautiful prophetic worship song by Nathaniel Coe III and Somer Jordan.


*New King James Version

TAKING AS CHRIST DID

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. Taking as Christ did this sinful world as it is…

 

Taking as Christ did. In this passage of The Serenity Prayer we are asked to take our world as Jesus Christ did. We’re to surrender to God’s will in and for our life. We are to accept the things we cannot change and see that our hardships can be the pathway to Peace if we will accept them with the right heart attitude.

Walk in courage. As we walk in courage, not fear or resentment, God will give us the needed wisdom to make right decisions and to carry the burdens we are to bear. One day at a time, maybe even one moment at a time, we may have to endure hurtful people and difficult situations.

Look to Christ. We can look to Christ Who Scripture says, never trusted himself to man because He knew their fallen state. He took His assignment and for the joy that was to come, endure even the worst death a person could die — crucifixion on a Roman cross.

Follow Jesus’ example. As Christians we are to follow in Jesus’s footsteps, being willing to sacrifice our lives for Him. Our sacrifice may not mean physical torture or death like millions experience every day around the world. But every time we sacrifice our selfish desires, accepting the path put before us, we can know that God sees our heart and efforts and will honor them with His grace to make it through.

Surrender. When Jesus accepted His assignment and came to earth in human form, He demonstrated the ultimate act of surrender and love. He surrendered His authority and power for a time so that He could live as we do. He wanted to experience the temptations, pain and suffering that humanity does. It is here His sacrifice takes on its full meaning of hope. When Jesus took our suffering He cleared our pathway to a direct relationship for us to have with the Father through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ surrendering and taking the world as it is allows us to surrender and receive God’s amazing grace and love.

Prayerfully listen to this powerful worship song by Hillsong. Contemplate taking on the heart attitude of Christ, surrendering all selfish desires… lay them at His feet and He will draw you near.

CONTENTMENT

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 sixth step of humility is that we are content with the lowest and most menial treatment. ~ The Rule of Benedict.

“I know what it is to be poor or to have plenty, and I have lived under all kinds of conditions. I know what it means to be full or to be hungry, to have too much or too little. Christ gives me the strength to face anything.” ~ Philippians 4:12-13

Benedict isn’t approving poor treatment. 

Like much of the Gospel things are backwards in God’s Kingdom compared to what the world would teach. At first glance Saint Benedict seems to be asking us to put ourselves below others in a negative way. It’s true we’re supposed to let others go before us out of respect but not with a self-deprecating manner or attitude. In humility we let go of the part of ourselves that we think is so important; we put others first and become willing to do menial tasks. Then we are able to let God honor us not look for it from people.

Accept life circumstances as they come.

Saint Benedict asks us to follow Christ and what the Apostle Paul teaches us in the Scripture quoted above. We can’t think we are above anyone or any situation in life. We must find peace in the struggle, with God and with ourselves. As we trust God to strengthen us, we can face whatever circumstance comes our way.

Outward situations can’t dictate our happiness.

A humble heart is fixed on God so much that the changing external circumstances of life don’t affect our mood. Our realities don’t dominate our state of mind or spirit. We submit our desires to God’s will in our life for today knowing He has good planned to come from it all.

Humility steps lightly in peace.

“Humility steps lightly, not intent on having the now be more… Humility enables us to see that the present holds riches for us that we have not seen before because our eyes were focused beyond the present moment.” ~ Joan Chittister.

Humility finds contentment in God’s love.

God doesn’t want us to strive for the things of this world. Neither does He want us to strive for His love. We don’t have to do anything for it. God has freely given us His love. He wants us to freely receive what He has already given us. All we have to do is come to God and let Him have all of our heart.

Find contentment. Stop striving. Receive His love today!

Soak in the contentment of God’s love as you listen to this incredibly beautiful worship song by Rita Springer.

RENEWED DAY BY DAY

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 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, inwardly we are being renewed day by day…

 

The faith walk isn’t for the faint of heart. When we look back over our life we will see the days that matured our faith were the ones that were the most difficult. The trials and challenges we undergo are building our faith and character. Even things we’re waiting on are growing us into more Christ-like people.

Spiritual growth is not without pain and suffering. As our scripture states above, we may feel like we are wasting away outwardly, physically. But inwardly, spiritually, we are being renewed each day, maybe even each moment depending on what we are going through. I know I’ve been through situations that just making it through the hour, much less the entire day, was stretching my faith to its limits!

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13 (MSG)

God doesn’t put more on us than we can bear. He isn’t going to allow us to go through something that He hasn’t already prepared us for. That means this situation, this season of life, may be new to me but God knew it was coming. In this process He’s peeling off a layer of deadness, as it were. God is taking the old me that I know, the old life I’m comfortable with, the old habits that I cling to and making them new. He’s making me new, making life new, making today new!

We are still alive because
the Lord’s faithful love never ends.
Every morning He shows it in new ways!
You are so very true and loyal! ~ Lamentations 3:22-23 (ERV)

Enjoy Danny Gokey’s recent release. See today is a New Day!

 

 

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…