Followers

Friday, June 5, 2020

Lessons in Trusting God in Difficult Times

For more than seven years, I experienced deep concerns for one of my family members. I had agonized, prayed for, and stood in the gap for him. I have always believed, and still, do, that God has a good plan for my loved one's life.

About five years ago, things got better. It was evident that God was moving in his life and the challenging behaviors were changing. Months later, however, things suddenly took a downward turn and one incident seemed to cancel out the gains that were made.

Through this journey with my family member, there were lessons I learned that I would like to share this article. My prayer is that the insights I share will help you on your journey.

I learned two important lessons. The first is the critical need to extend love and compassion towards the person who is struggling. While this might sound easy, I must confess I sometimes found this extremely hard to do. Instead of a spirit of compassion, I sometimes reacted in anger and even resentment.

The second lesson was recognizing the need to separate the person from the influences that were trying to destroy his life. These same forces were also constantly trying to influence my behavior and attitude towards my loved one in a negative way.

I continue to learn that I need to manifest the love of God to the person who so desperately needs it. The Bible declares, "love is patient, love is kind... it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs" (1 Corinthians 13: 4-5, NIV).

I learned to speak words of affirmations and encouragement in my loved one's life. I declared God's divine intention and destiny for the person instead of focusing on the negative behaviors. This broke the power of the enemy over his life.

How Do We Know We Are Trusting God?

In difficult situations as I experience with my loved one, how did I know I was trusting God? I must confess that there were times I was consumed with doubt and got caught in the cycle of blame and negative emotions that set me up to reap a harvest of negativity (Luke 6:38) and led to more suffering and pain.

But I have always found my way back through the grace and unconditional love of my Father. As I submitted to him, he empowered me to bounce back and stand in my authority as a believer. I was able to resist the evil that was at work seeking to destroy my loved one and my family (James 4:7, Luke 10:19).

The Scriptures encourages us to "trust in the Lord with all your heart ..." (Proverbs 3: 5a). Dr Creflo Dollar defines trust as the total reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, and surety of God.  In the YouTube video below Pastor Dollar explains that our trust in God is reflected in our thanksgiving and gratitude.

For the Christian believers, trust is based on the completed work of Jesus, his gift of salvation, through grace. We receive his gift of answered prayers by faith and not based on our own self-effort. (Read Ephesians 2:8-9).



What the Bible Says About Trusting in God

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song, I praise him (Psalm 28:7. NIV)

 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NLT).

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, NLT).

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Proverbs 4: 6-7, NLT).

Let’s Pray

Father God, we thank you for your infinite care and love for us. We put on our total trust in you, Lord because we know our lives are in good hands.   Help us Lord not tp lean on our understand and self-effort but to look to you for all we need. In Jesus’ Name. Amen


Thursday, June 4, 2020

Thoughts on the Search for Happiness

What is Happiness?

As a counselor, I help people on their journey of change to finding more satisfying lives. I can still hear the plaintive cry in one of my client's voice saying, "I just want to be happy."
People in all walks of life are searching for happiness. But there are two questions we might like to ask ourselves as Christian believers.
  1. What is genuine happiness?
  2. Can we find happiness in the places we are looking for it?
In searching for answers to these questions, this post looks at happiness from the viewpoints of research findings and biblical teaching. Studies show that the happiest people are those who seek meaning in their lives. Furthermore, the Bible sees happiness as a deep sense of God's peace emanating from the inside.

A Look at Happiness Research

Studies indicate three predictors of individual well-being that involve:
  • Pleasure which is daily experiences of maintaining positive emotions and minimizing negative emotions.
  • Engagement which is being actively involved in life that is engrossing and absorbing.
  • Meaning that allows one to transcends oneself through promoting positive social relationships, or connecting to a higher power or purpose (Seligman, 2002).
Based on these predictors, research conducted by Schueller & Seligman (2010) suggests that “engaging and meaningful activities may have a stronger influence on well-being than pursuing pleasure."
Studies also show that people are generally happier when they create goals that go beyond themselves. People get more pleasure from giving than receiving. This is congruent with the biblical teaching that stresses that, "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35, NKJV).
One study, “Being good by doing good: Daily eudaimonic activity and wellbeing” conducted by Stegar, Kasdan & Oshi (2007), showed that eudaimonic behaviors were strongly related to well-being than hedonistic behaviors.
Eudaimonic happiness is based on the premise that people feel happy if they experience life purpose, challenges and growth. According to the researchers, “Overall, our results suggest that “doing good” may be an important avenue by which people create meaningful and satisfying lives”

A Look at the Biblical Teaching on Happiness

Let us now look at happiness from the point of view of seven verses in the Bible.
  • Galatians 5: 22-23 - “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (NLT),
  • Luke 11: 28 - Jesus replied, "But even more blessed [happy] are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice" (NLT).
  • Psalm 144: 15 - “Happy is that people, that is in such a state: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD. ” (NLT)
  • James 1:2 - “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy " (NLT).
  • John 10:10 - “ The thief comes only to steal, slaughter, and destroy. I've come that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (NLT).
  • Nehemiah 8:10 - “ Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!" (NLT).

Let's Pray

Father God, we thank you that you are the source of true happiness and Jesus came that we can have life and have it to the fullest. Today, Lord, we receive and walk in your joy that is our strength. Amen.

References

Schueller, S. M. & Seligman, E. P (2010). Pursuit on pleasure, engagement, and meaning: Relationships to subjective and objectives measures of well-being. Journal of Positive Psychology, 5 (4) 253-263.
Stegar, F. S., Kasdan. T. B., & Oishi, S. (2007). Being good by doing good: Daily eudaimonic activity and wellbeing. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 22-42.
Project Happiness (n.d.) Science of Happiness. Retrieved November 23, 2015, http://www.projecthappiness.org/the-science-of-happiness/

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Discipline of Your Thoughtlife

Our Thought life
Our lives reflect our dominant thought patterns. For example, some psychologists point out that our self-talk (what we tell ourselves in our minds) could affect our feelings and behaviour. Even more, God's Word instructs us to renew our minds, as only then can we understand his perfect will and then walk in them.
We discipline our thought-life by renewing our minds with the Word of God. This doesn't mean a superficial reading of the Scriptures. It is spending time reading and meditating on God's Word, and being open to the Holy Spirit as he sheds the light to need on the specific passage.
God is faithful, and as we consistently discipline ourselves to meditate on his Word, our minds are renewed daily. We must continually think about things that are fruitful (Philippians 4:8). Then our thinking will reflect what God's Word says about us and our situations, which leads to changes in our emotions and behaviour to reflect a self-discipline lifestyle that brings glory to God.


A Look at the Bible Says About Thoughts

"For as he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7", (NKJ).

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God' (Romans 12: 2, NKJ).

"We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5. NLT).

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things" (Philippians 4:8. NIV)

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29: 11, NKJV).

"Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth" (Colossians 3:2. NLT).


 Let's Pray

"Heavenly Father, thank you that my mind can be renewed through Word. Give me the grace to focus on your Word more than the things that are vying for my attention, so that my thinking might reflect your heart. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen."

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Excelling in the Lord's Service

Focus Verse: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough in the service of the Lord], knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose].(1 Corinthians 15:58, AMP.).
Pastor John MacArthur points out that the direction of our lives must come into submission to the purpose of God. As his children, God wants us to make a difference in our sphere of influence. Indeed, we are salt and light on the earth, and as such our positive influence must be felt.
We can only excel in the service of the Lord when we understand our call, and our hearts are steadfastly set to achieve what God calls us to do. But we must never depend on our abilities to achieve these goals, but must be totally dependence on the help that God so freely gives to us.
We must take our place in the body of Christ for each of us has a specific calling to service. We must find our calling, and move boldly in our purpose in the strength of the Lord. Then we will discover that it is a place of blessing; this is where we are blessed and we bless others.
Prayer: "Heavenly Father, I thank you that you called and empowered me for service in your kingdom. Help me to stand steadfastly in your love so that the fragrance will spread to the people I serve, as I serve you. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.”

Monday, May 22, 2017

Running Your Race Faithfully


Like good athletes, we have our eyes set on the prize, but this can't be achieved by sitting idly by. While the athletes preparing for the Olympics, spend a great deal of time on physical training, Christian's focus is on spiritual disciplines.

Through spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible studies, our spiritual muscles develop. Evermore, these disciplines lay the foundations for character-building when we face adverse situations in our lives.
We must be steadfast in our commitment to run the race faithfully. But it is the Holy Spirit, our Helper and Comforter, who gives us the courage and endurance we need to face any situation and run the race faithfully. We can never do it on our own strength we must allow the Holy Spirit to work through us to get the job done. Bible teacher, Derek Prince advises, "grace begins where human ability ends."  As we come to the end of own strength and abilities, we can truly open ourselves to receive the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to get the job done.

Focus Verses: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever" (1 Corinthians 9: 24-25).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank you that I can depend on you totally for the help I need to run life's race faithfully. You have started the work in me, and you will be faithful to complete it. As I trust you, I receive your empowerment to complete the race you set before me. In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.

Image courtesy of graur  razvan ionut at PreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How to Harness Your Emotions

When we allow our emotions to rule us, we are likely to respond negatively in the face of challenges in our lives. For example, we might find that we react with angry words to someone who hurts us. While our feelings are a part who we are, when we react to situations in negative ways, this could lead to results that are not only hinder our spiritual growth but also cloud our witness as Christians.
On another level, we might find that there are important things that we need to do, but we put off because we don't feel like doing them. So in the end, we miss God's best for lives, and we are not able to be the blessing we ought to be in the life of others. 

Emotions that are not harnessed could be like a horse running out of control with the rider. In the YouTube video below. Pastor Creflo Dollar encourages us to take charge of our emotions and points out that this begins with changing the way we think.

We cannot allow our feelings to rule us, instead, we need the Holy Spirit to help us to overcome negative feelings about others and our situations by pouring the love of God in our hearts (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit will empower us to make wise decisions instead of unwise choices that are dictated by our feelings.
Focus Verse: "Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
[Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed, and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]" (John 14: 27, AMP)
Prayer: "Heavenly Father, thank you that I don't have to get agitated and perturbed by any situation for your Holy Spirit empowers me with a sound mind to act wisely. Help me to depend on him more and more for the help I need in all circumstances. In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen."

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Make the Most of Your Opportunities Today

God's Word encourages us to live purposely so that we can seize the opportunities that come our way daily. It is only as we live disciplined lives that are dependent on the Holy Spirit, will we be able to make the most of our time in a world where there is so much evil.
James W. Moore in his book, Seizing the Moments: Making the most of Life's Opportunities, explains that we all have a sense that we need to seize special moments. However, because of fear and insecurity, many times we allow these opportunities to slip by. He points out that we sometimes squander our opportunities like the servant with the one talent (Luke 19:11-27).

He speaks of the "tragedy of unseized opportunities." As I reflect on the thought, I am conscious of how I allow opportunities to pass me by many times through procrastination or feelings of inadequacy. We miss these opportunities because of feelings of inadequacy; for example, we might think that we don't have the right word to say, we don't have the qualifications, or it might simply be a lack of self-discipline.

Pastor Joel Osteen asks, "Are you living it to the full, with purpose, passion, pursuing your dreams?: On another level, making the most of your opportunities could mean phoning to encourage someone who is experiencing challenging circumstances or to say, "I love you" to a family member. The call is to make the most of our opportunities!

Focus Verses: "Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15-16, AMP.)
Let us Pray: "Heavenly Father, I thank you for the grace to grasp every opportunity in my life. Help me to understand that you equipped for each task, and you will get the glory. In Jesus" Name I pray. Amen."