May 2, 2016

Tears of Regret

Several years ago, I attended a grief support group to observe and gather information to take back and share with the leadership in the counseling ministry at the church I attended at that time. I was able to observe programs at several churches, and was amazed at the support and encouragement such groups offered each person attending these meetings.

A Life of Anger and Bitterness
At one particular session, I met an elderly man who had lost his wife in the last year, and wept bitterly over the loneliness he now experienced. As he wiped away a flow of tears he could not stop, he shared that his wife was the one who had friends, and now that she was gone, no one was there for him. He told us the reason was because he had been a bitter, angry man for many, many years and he admitted that now, he was sorry for holding on to offenses from the past and never letting go. He spent most of his adult life angry at God and angry at people that had hurt him, and now all he was left with were tears of regret.

Dealing with Pain
Sometimes, our response to a deep and painful hurt is anger towards God. Because of that anger, we can’t find a way to deal with what happened in order to heal and move forward in our lives. Anger is normal, but staying angry becomes unhealthy and keeps us from healing. Holding on to anger leads to bitterness, depression, and more anger. Ephesians 4 (NIV) says in verses 26 and 27, “In your anger do not sin; do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” There are multiple warnings in the book of Proverbs regarding anger and explaining its many dangers. Proverbs 18:19 (NIV) declares “an offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.”

Moving Beyond the Pain
The natural human reaction often leads us to angrily shake our fist at God for allowing painful events that occur in our lives. Taking God’s hand and walking with Him through the valley of pain is the path to His healing work in our heart. Holding on to the Lord is how we overcome, work through, and move beyond the pain - and find our healing and experience wholeness again.
Moving from the place of shaking your fist at God to taking His Hand is how we demonstrate to our Lord that we are surrendering our lives and our circumstances into His loving care, and trusting Him fully that He will take us past the pain and to a new place of hope, peace, and joy.

Letting Go…to Heal
Letting go opens the door for God to do His healing work. The enemy wants us to think this is just too hard and painful for us to do. Yet, God’s Word strongly teaches us we are to forgive our offender seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22). For us, the hard part is arriving at the decision to make the choice to let it go, but in letting go, we will reap the sweet fruit of peace and freedom. It takes a step of faith that requires trusting God, and when we do, He gives us the strength to let go. And when we obey this principle taught in His Word, He will make it possible for us to do what has seemed too hard to do…until now.

Those of us sitting around the table offered the elderly man hope, because it is never too late to take that step and let go of the anger, bitterness, and offenses a heart has been holding - even for decades. His countenance changed and we knew God was softening his heart. The fresh tears he wiped away were now tears of hope.

April 28, 2016

This I Pray

Dear Heavenly Father, this I pray,
Please help me focus in days ahead on what You’re working out in me.
Help me dismiss all distractions and place me at your feet.
Cause me to be still and learn more of you. 
Open my eyes to see all You want to show me.
Open my ears to hear all You want to speak to my heart. 
Open my heart to know and love You more, 
And to know more this love You have for me.
Draw me close to You and pour Your Spirit fresh, anew on me.
Draw me near to You, Father, this day I pray.

I have recently heard more than one person say that they don’t pray much for themselves. They pray for others but not themselves. I guess that makes me selfish because I regularly pray for myself.

This does not mean that I am constantly asking God for things. It does mean I am constantly asking Him to work in me and through me and for me and in spite of me. It means I am praying for wisdom and discernment, guidance and direction, and to change me and make me more like Him.

I have prayed to be a good wife, a good mom, to be a good witness to those around me. I have prayed to always have a teachable heart. The list goes on. I cannot fathom not praying for myself.

My encouragement to you today would be to look at your prayer list and if your name isn’t already there, write it down. You can pray for others, most definitely, but also remember to pray for yourself.

Psalm 25:4-5
Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.

April 25, 2016

Outward Appearance

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

In a culture that thrives on how we look and what our status is, how can we be grounded in the truth of what God considers important and of value? There is a perfect example in the story of God choosing David to be king of Israel. In this lesson we find out what God is looking for when it comes to the depth of character He desires.

When the prophet Samuel was sent to anoint a king to replace Saul, and Jesse parades his sons before him and God refused one that Samuel thought he would choose, God makes a very important statement about outward appearance versus what is in our heart. Samuel took one look at Eliab and said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” God quickly corrected his error in assumption. A few verses later, it is clear God has chosen David and he is anointed to be the next king in Israel.
In the next chapter we are given a close up look at David’s heart when he declares the battle is the Lord’s! Without hesitation he goes to fight Goliath. We see his strong faith and confidence in the Lord, and we see his deep courage in living out his faith when he takes on the giant with a slingshot and five stones.
When I read in the Bible that God is more interested in our inner beauty than our outer beauty, this encourages me. If my value was only placed on my outward appearance, this world wouldn’t attribute great worth to my life. When I speak of outward appearance, I am not merely referring to physical appearance, but also the outward things we do to make it appear that we are of great value. We place much of our own worth on the material possessions we accumulate and the credentials and status we acquire. 
I’d rather be rich in faith than rich in the things of this world. I’d rather acquire the riches found in sitting at the Lord’s feet, than the riches that accumulate a big bank account. When God looks at my heart, I want Him to see what He saw in David, a steadfast devotion and confidence in Him, and courage to fight the battles of life knowing the battle belongs to the Lord.

1 Samuel 17:45-47  Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands.”