Spiritual, Uncategorized

Firm Foundations

Dealing with Storms

It’s not about what you’ve been dealt in life, it’s how you deal with it…

Matthew 7:24-27New King James Version (NKJV)
Build on the Rock
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

The rain will come and the floods will rise.
Sometimes life hits us like a violent storm. Things happen to us out of our control: Divorce, Death, Loss of a friendship, Failure, Fear, Disappointing circumstances, Unexpected temptation

What does our foundation look like?
Maybe it’s starting to rot, or is in danger of being destroyed. Our foundation in this life must be firm and built properly. The builder of our foundation should be Christ and His Word. Scripture tells us to build our house upon the rock.

The Rock: The Rock is Jesus and having a personal relationship with Jesus as well as knowing God’s Word: build your life on the Word of God! The Word of God should bring about TRANSFORMATION in our lives that will strengthen our foundations to withstand the strongest of winds. The transforming Word of God is so powerful that it should dictate how we live our lives, wanting to serve Him even in the devastations that come our way in this life.

The problem comes when we don’t build our lives on the firm foundation or the Rock which is Jesus. Scripture tells us that our foundations are resting on nothing but sand when we don’t choose to follow Christ and His instruction. When we abandoned Christ and follow culture, it’s a perfect storm for disaster to strike. Our culture is nothing but shifting sands, a place where people are constantly trying to find peace and contentment but instead find emptiness. The sand will fail and we will be left without a foundation or a house.

Sometimes our temptation may be to make Jesus an “option” among many other options offered to us. He is not just an option: He is our Hope, our Anchor in life…. He is the bridge that safely leads us over the destructive waters of our messed up situations into eternal salvation. He provides PEACE in the storm, when the angry waves relentlessly beat against us, He is the strong foundation, always holding steady. Without shelter from the storms of this life. If we want safety and stability we must know God’s Word and be obedient to it.

We have a choice,
We can build the foundation of our house on the sand OR
We can build the foundation of our house on the ROCK: JESUS

HOW?
Read his Word – it’s not going to magically get in your brain…Read it, think about it, get to know the people of the Bible… imagine what it would have been like if you were there… journal your thoughts, prayers, etc…

Don’t just read it…

2. Do it! Once you gain the knowledge of God’s Word…. do your best to live it out… do your best to be obedient to His commandments… celebrate His Words… Worship Him with all your heart… Love others… Be the person who Jesus wants you to be…

When you fail…Return to HIM… Keep going…
God does not stand at a distance while His people suffer and struggle through the storm. His amazing grace surrounds us like a lifeboat bringing us safely to shore and into His arms.

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Breakfast on the Beach with Jesus

4 As morning was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; however, the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish [to eat along with your bread]?” They answered, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find some.” So they cast [the net], and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great catch of fish. 7 Then that disciple (John) whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer tunic (for he was stripped for work) and threw himself into the sea [and swam ashore]. 8 But the other disciples came in the small boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.
9 So when they got out on the beach, they saw a charcoal fire set up and fish on it cooking, and bread.   John 21:4-9

Try to envision what that must have looked like to Peter that morning…seeing Jesus. His friend and Messiah who he had just watched be crucified and suffer a horrible death. Now Peter sees Jesus on the beach through the misty crisp morning air next to an inviting crackling fire. I think Peter must have rubbed his eyes a couple of times, squinting through the fog and his own disbelief. Could that really be Jesus? But Jesus was there on that miraculous morning. Not only was Jesus patiently waiting for His disciples on the beach that morning, but he was making them breakfast. That blows my mind! Jesus was making them breakfast on the beach… just take that in for a minute. I can’t imagine eating breakfast, (which happens to be my favorite meal), on the beach with Jesus, (which also happens to be one of my favorite places to be). The Creator of the Universe was serving them and meeting them right where they were. Breakfast on the beach with Jesus is absolutely one of he most beautiful visuals of Jesus’ love for us from the scriptures in my opinion.

Peter had walked beside Jesus and been a part of His amazing and oftentimes controversial ministry on earth, he was part of the original 12 disciples. Peter was the boisterous and zealous disciple, he was a fighter — maybe best known for cutting off the ear of one of the soldiers that had come to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Peter witnessed miracle upon miracle at the hands of Jesus and was always bold in his service for Him. He accompanied Jesus as they fed the thousands of people with the loaves and fishes, he watched in amazement at the beautiful healing work of the Messiah and even offered his services (as silly as it sounded) to provide shelter for Jesus, Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration. Peter believed with everything that he had within him that Jesus was the Messiah and was constantly trying to prove his love for his Master.

BUT – Peter STILL denied Jesus three times after Jesus’ death.

Peter must have felt so confused and horribly ashamed at his actions against his Savior. He may have even doubted everything he had just been through, all the miracles and teachings at Jesus’ feet. Was it all for nothing? Im sure in Peter’s desperation and fear he acted in haste, denying his relationship with his beloved.

It seemed Peter was at a desperate place after all the events that had just unfolded and he didn’t know what to do after Jesus’ death. So feeling defeated, he just went back to the only thing he knew…fishing on the Sea of Galilee.

Who was God to Peter?

Peter knew Christ well. He had experienced a heavenly encounter on earth with God’s Son, they had served together and walked the dusty roads spreading the message of Christ to the Jews and the Gentiles. This was not a casual relationship, it was a firmly rooted friendship and Peter truly loved Jesus. But, yet Peter was able to deny Him.

Jesus, filled with grace, goes on to give Peter three opportunities to profess his love for Him. After doing so, Jesus gives Peter a purpose and commissions him for ministry on that magnificent morning together on the beach. Peter obediently responds to the call and serves God faithfully the rest of His life.

This account of Peter and Jesus and the reality of their relationship prompts me to examine my own thoughts on who Jesus is, my relationship with Him and how I can better serve Him.  Here are three questions to ask yourself if you are wanting to know Jesus more intimately…

What tangible ways can you get to better acquainted with God?

List some characteristics of God based on the text.

Who is God to you?

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The Prince of Peace

The word PEACE is often used in our vocabulary as the absence of conflict but in the context of scripture it means complete or whole, a state of completeness.  To make complete or to restore.  The Jewish people thought Jesus was born to bring them political restoration.  Jesus’ plan was much bigger, His purpose was to restore mankind to Him.

Unfortunately, I try to find peace in this troubled world in my own wisdom and strength. Instead of just trusting in the fullness of Christ, I want Him to fix my earthly problems, much like the Jewish people in their hopes that He would overthrow their government.  I’m so busy focusing on the here and now that I don’t see the bigger purpose, the eternal plan.

Last Christmas our family was clinging to the last few excruciating weeks of my dad’s life on earth.  Only then, almost a year ago, as we gathered each day in my parent’s bedroom around my dad’s hospital bed, did I finally learn what true peace was.   Even in our struggle and trauma that life can bring to us….Jesus is enough.  As we watched my dad slowly slip away day by day, there was nothing we could do.  In those moments, we only had Jesus, and that was all we needed.  Somehow in the sadness and desperation of our situation, Jesus gifted us with His powerful peace.  I don’t understand it, I struggle to articulate it but the restoration and wholeness of Christ brought miraculous peace into an otherwise devastating circumstance.  As terrible as those last couple of months were, I  am humbled and thankful for God teaching me the true meaning of peace and the shift from an earthly perspective, to a heavenly one.

The following two paragraphs are my mom’s words about our time as we, as a family, had the privilege and holy experience of watching God usher my dad into His presence and the peace that we felt in such an unexpected place…

Somewhere along the line of our journey with ALS, our bedroom became transformed into a hospital room.  All the equipment needed to care for Gary took over the room more than we liked but it was all part of the process.  Our master bedroom (turned in-home hospital room) became our place to live, read God’s Word, pray, sing,  greet friends, laugh, cry, worship and fall more in love with each other and Jesus.  We also learned to be more eternally minded rather than focused on earthly things.  Learning to cherish every moment given and doing the best to make the most of each minute of every day.  Our bedroom became a sacred place where we lived out those last precious months with Gary.  It was where we held hands and remember our lives together.  We shared our love for one another and our hopes and dreams for our children and grandchildren.  It was in that room that we said our goodbyes and shed many tears as God ushered Gary into His eternal presence.

It was strange after Gary was gone how quickly our bedroom was transformed back to it’s original purpose.  The hectic daily routine of nurses visits, aids giving showers, medications being administered, tube feedings prepared, and visitors ceased and it was as if my life stopped along with it.  Now our home is quiet and feels so very empty.  No more hectic daily “care routines” or the sounds of the struggle for life.  Only stillness and loneliness fill the void.  Life will never be the same again in that sacred room.  Neither will the battle for life there be forgotten.  Yet in that room I still meet with God and cry and rejoice over life and it’s challenges.  God has given us a promise of hope.  He tells us we will be together again for all eternity.  So you see, our trials here on earth are but a vapor…  Here one moment and gone the next.  Our promise is for “eternal life” with our God and King.  It’s like Gary said when he was given his diagnosis…”We are all terminal”.

orange star bokeh light
Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace”

(Isaiah 9:6).

As Christmas approaches, let God in His eternal completeness bring you miraculous peace.

Jesus is enough.

 

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Prayer and Repentance

2 Chronicles 7:14 English Standard Version (ESV) 
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.If my people would humble themselves and pray.

Sometimes God speaks to us in ways that are undeniable. Not in a spooky audible way, but through Scripture and by interrupting our daily “flow” by putting something on our hearts and mind during our usual routine or in times of prayer and intercession. Lately I feel like every scripture I read, every book I pick up, and every podcast I listen to leads me to desire a more simplistic and holy lifestyle or prayer and repentance.

If I’m honest with myself, I’m a mess constantly trying to solve my problems and difficult circumstances of life on my own, leaving me tired and insecure. I scheme and worry, I desire my own comfort over care for others and living the lifestyle Jesus calls us to in His Word. I’m thinking of my self most of time and neglect to focus on what matters most and what matters eternally.

I do desire a closer walk with God, but oftentimes I don’t desire it enough to actually put the work into it. As I read scripture and spend more time with God, I’m reminded that it’s really a simple solution. More time spent in PRAYER and STUDYING GOD’S WORD. I think we all know this, it’s no big surprise or mind blowing lightbulb moment.

If it’s so simple, why don’t we do it?

We heard a well known pastor and author speak last night and his message was a call for prayer and repentance. Not for unbelievers or people trapped in a terrible life of sin. This was a call for God’s people to pray and repent… church leaders, pastors and those that have put their faith in Christ and have been serving Him for years.

I think for those of us that have put our trust in God and have been serving Him for a long time, I think we get complacent in our faith. It’s easy to fall into the snares of this world and place all of our energy and time into things that don’t matter one bit or have eternal value. There are so many activities (even church activities), and distractions that are constantly coming at us from every direction. If we’re not careful, those things become our god and what’s even worse is that we don’t even realize it.

It’s hard to pray and read the Bible because sometimes God’s instruction through his Word can be hard to process and even more difficult to do!

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Matthew 10:38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Philippians 2:1-30 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 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 interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, …
1 Corinthians 15:31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!

God calls us to die to sin and that’s just not always popular or fun, actually it’s probably never popular or fun. But it is essential to live the life that Christ has called us to live if we put our trust in Him.

Here are a few notes from last night’s speaker that are so valuable and timely as we try and live out our faith each day:

  • If we want to live as Christ, we must die to sin
  • Recognize the fact that we are prone to sin, but to hate that. We have to run from sin and not toy with it.
  • Our western church culture does not have a hatred for sin. We show up for church week after week just going through the motions.
  • We need a prayerful desperation for God
  • Prayer is death to self, lack of prayer is pride, thinking we can do it ourselves.

I know these are heavy concepts but God has set us up as Christians with all the tools we need to succeed in this life. Yes, we will fail and sin, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23. But for us, the good news is that Christ took on our sin and died for us, He’s already won the battle, we just have to stay focused on him. We have an eternal paradise with Him to look forward to. It’s a daily discipline to pray and stay in God’s Word, but it is so essential for our spiritual health and to stay focused, not wasting the time God has blessed us with here on this earth.

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Facing the Holidays Without A Loved One

Always keep open communications with God during seasons of suffering.

I don’t know if it’s because I am an introvert but I fight the urge to just want to completely shut down when I feel overwhelmed with grief and the challenges we face during difficult seasons. Feelings of just wanting to withdraw from my family and friends during those times can take over my thoughts, in many ways it’s a feeling of not wanting to be a burden on them, sometimes it’s just as simple as not knowing how to express my feelings. In those times I find myself even shutting God out as if my burdens are too insignificant and I shouldn’t bother the Creator of the universe with my silly issues.

I don’t like that place of sadness and life interrupted by pain. As the holidays are quickly approaching, I find myself feeling like I need to grab onto something firm and steady myself for the waves of sadness that come rolling in when I think of my dad not being here this Thanksgiving and Christmas, this is the first holiday season without him. When I think of my mom facing this season without her husband and love of her life, it just seems unbearable.

A few lessons I’ve learned over the past couple of years as we endured suffering and loss is that it’s important to maintain open and honest communication with God. As bad as you may feel and as painful as your situation may be, don’t be afraid to trust God with your circumstances and emotions as you experience tough times. Be open and honest with those closest to you, communication is so important.

Go to scripture! God speaks to us through His Word. As I explored scripture and read over familiar passages I was struck at how much more meaningful the words in the Bible are when I’m going through trials. From the very first book in the Old Testament to the very last book in the New Testament, the Bible is full of people facing hardship and unbearable circumstances. I found comfort in reading through the Psalms and could relate to many of King David’s prayers and heartfelt laments to God. I see Paul suffer persecution time after time but never wavering and always encouraging the New Testament Churches, oftentimes from prison! The love Jesus showed as he was beaten, mocked, hung on a cross and died a gruesome death because of His love for me is so unfathomable that it’s hard to even come up with the appropriate words of gratitude. When you take the time to study scripture it’s evident time and time again that God understands and knows suffering and pain. I find comfort in knowing that.

Another important component when in seasons of suffering is to find community with others. Friends that you trust with your emotions, those you can talk openly with. People that will walk alongside you and lift you up in prayer when you find yourself in dark and lonely places. Likewise, it is important that you be someone who is not afraid to lift others up when they need encouragement and support. There’s nothing more precious and Biblical than Christian community, helping one another through life’s challenges.

Lastly, just embrace your circumstances no matter how difficult they become. Let God mold you and teach you during those hard times. As crazy as it sounds, I always feel the closest to God when I’m in such a desperate place that there is nothing left of my strength. I know if I turn everything I have over to Him, He will meet my needs in His perfect way. Don’t stop loving and serving others, but continue to let God work through you giving you strength to do so. The most powerful witness of God’s love is even when you are experiencing suffering you still have a desire to be obedient and be used by God to help others on their spiritual journey. God works powerfully in and through our pain. What a beautiful picture of a pure and complete love that only comes from above. I am weak but in my weakness I am strong through Christ’s strength! There are so many people in similar circumstances during the holidays, trying to manage grief and holiday cheer all at the same time. Don’t be scared to embrace your pain and sadness and let God, His Scripture and your Christian Community comfort you. In doing so, you will find peace and grace and you will be able to comfort others in their moments of deepest need.

I know My dad is happy and pain free in heaven. I know that we will be sad without him here but we will make new memories as a family, always keeping my dad’s memory alive and close to our hearts. As those waves of sadness come I know I have to hold on to Christ to steady me, He’s the only sure and safe foundation in the hazardous rip currents of our lives.

Psalm 62

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
My hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
He is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:5-8 NIV