bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Faithful Healing

I have seen their ways, 
but I will heal them; 
I will guide them and 
restore comfort to 
Israel’s mourners.
Isaiah 57:18

In our lives we all have had instances of brokenness, despair and desolation. Those times when we feel we are on our last leg, at the end of the rope about to lose our grip and fall on our last gasping breath before we give up and begin to drown.

Where we go from that point and what we do next speaks volumes about your current state of faith.

Do we lash out and blame those around us and our circumstances for the state of our woundedness? Or do we reach down into our inner core and summon the power of God’s promise to deliver us to a better place?

What I have learned about myself from facing trials in the workplace is that my faith, when strong, protects me with an armor of perspective. When I am weak and not connected with my faith, I am vulnerable to believe false accusations and claims of harm and wrongdoing. I recognize it, I know the feeling and know the damage it can do if I accept and embrace the crushing doubt.

When we are hurt we can reach in or reach out to God

What my defense mechanism triggers is a quick accounting of the facts: what do I have control of and what do I not have control of? Next, I better get right with God and do it quick. I remind myself — I am not in control, He is. Then and only then can I respond and act. Any other process, for me, is futile and ineffective.

One of my favorite scripture verses I lean on in times of introspection and self-assessment is this one:

And which of you by worrying 
can add a single hour to his 
life’s span?
Luke 12:15

Uhhhh, guilty!

And if I am on my game and thinking clearly my first response is to slow everything down and pray. Asking for discernment, clarity, and focus surprisingly works like a gem. Once we slow our racing mind, cool our sweaty brow and take control of our breathing in an effort to focus on who is in controls then the problems diminish, and the solutions come into clearer perspective.

God is that lens of clarity we all need. We are many times our own problem. But as Jesus promises, we –as in me and Jesus together– are the solution. “Don’t be afraid; just believe”- Luke 8:50

He said to her, “Daughter, 
your faith has healed you. 
Go in peace and be freed 
from your suffering.”
Mark 5:34 

Time after time in scripture Jesus proved and made examples of the power of healing through faith in the Lord. Jesus was the conduit, but faith was the pathway to the healing and rebirth.

Then your light will break 
forth like the dawn, and your 
healing will quickly appear; 
then your righteousness will 
go before you, and the glory 
of the Lord will be your rear 
guard.
Isaiah 58:8

It’s a partnership of pulling together. It is not a miraculous anointment from heaven, a surprise cleansing. It takes suffering, acknowledgement, surrender and faith.

Together, bound by faith and confidence, we are everything and anything we want to be. Alone, divided and broken we are only a sum of the remaining pieces–weakened by trial and doubt.

We all can heal, but only if our belief in the Lord is strong and steadfast.

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Strength Through His Promises

Say to those with fearful hearts, 
“Be strong, and do not fear for 
your God is coming to destroy your 
enemies. He is coming to save you.”
Isaiah 35:4

Peace Through Strength

A simple three-word statement can mean so many different things to so many different people. I was in high school and then college when President Ronald Reagan served his two terms as President of the United States. During this same period of time my political ideals began to mature and form. I was squarely aligned with conservative political principles and beliefs. I was what was known as a “Reagan Youth.”

Peace through strength was a common plank in the foundation of conservative beliefs. The political and strategic approach in those days was to build up superior defenses, troop numbers and weapons capabilities that created a deterrent for any foreign enemy considering a challenge. This led to the arms race and the escalation of tensions between the two most powerful and wealthy super-powers of the day. Our strength was determined by holding a tight grip on the sure demise of the enemy.

Those were the days of the Cold War. The U.S., under Reagan’s strong conservative stance was clearly and ideologically opposed to the Red Communist Russia– the “evil empire”. Mikhail Gorbachev was the leader of the Soviet party and the target of Reagan’s famous words while standing at the Berlin Wall – “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” President Reagan, understanding the opportunity at hand, called into focus his years of theatrical training and vocation, captured the world’s attention and started what would begin the eventual decline and crumbling of the Russian empire and it’s stranglehold on the Eastern bloc. 

But the Lord is faithful; 
he will strengthen you and 
guard you from the evil one.
2 Thessalonians 3:3

While many of my political beliefs, alignments and passions are similar today as they were 35 years ago, my perspectives have changed. Peace through strength has a different meaning to me now.

Peace doesn’t hold the same overarching meaning of “World Peace” and lack of foreign wars. Peace has become more personal and internal. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom and includes the notions of completeness, wholeness, fulfillment, harmony and well-being. 

That type of peace is not of my making but is delivered from the strength of God’s powerful promises and proven acts of salvation.

My peace through strength today comes from the foundational strength I know from promises that have already been delivered in my life from Jesus. My peace occurs because I know that regardless of what happened yesterday, what occurred today and what unknowns will occur tomorrow I am forgiven, protected and preserved for all time. My grip is not focused on keeping others who oppose me away. My hands are both firmly attached to the vine who guides, leads and sustains me.

My strength and peace lie in him and no one else.

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Faith, Uncategorized

Anchored In Joy

And foreigners who bind themselves to 
the Lord to minister to him,to love the 
name of the Lord, and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without 
desecrating it and who hold fast to 
my covenant—these I will bring to my 
holy mountain and give them joy in my 
house of prayer.
Isaiah 56:6-7

These months of Coronavirus lockdowns and limitations have led to varying degrees of modified social gathering, decreased family contact and less human contact than any time in my 55 years on this earth.  Certainly, the psychiatrists and social scientists will write about this period of time for decades to come. The scientific themes and research will revolve around isolation, depression, anxiety and the overall physical decline of those who were compromised and the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.

There is no question that decreased physical contact and changes in routines and habits can throw all of us off our game. So many have lost their solid hold on the anchor lines of routine, comfort and familiarity. But did our dependence on other people for our happiness and joy make us vulnerable in ways we never expected? 

Happiness or Joy?

During the last nine months, I’m confident in saying we all have experienced the side effects of these pseudo government-imposed quarantines, confinements and solitude from limited human contact. Not many of us think it has been good for us and others, the social animals amongst us, think it has been the work of the devil himself.

Personally, I have learned some very valuable and lifelong lessons from this pandemic imposed by the changes to our day-to-day lives. Most importantly, my joy is not dependent on those around me and what they bring to the game. My joy comes from within and from above.

Praise the Lord! For he has heard 
my cry for mercy. The Lord is my 
strength and shield. I trust him 
with all my heart. He helps me, 
and my heart is filled with joy.
Psalm 28:6-7 

While happiness is temporary and fleeting, joy is deep, sustainable and long-lived if based in the promise of God’s plan for lives. Happiness is equivalent to a thread that can bind items together but has little strength under pressure and strain. Joy is a thick, tightly-woven and multistrand rope created to anchor and restrain heavy items like a ship or a barge.  When joy is fixed in our soul and anchored to Jesus’s love for us the anguish, the discomfort, and the turmoil we feel during a pandemic doesn’t knock us down to our knees. 

Joy is my equalizer that levels the panic and threat level and brings everything back into focus. I am not dependent on other people for my joy and my peace. My anchor rope is fixed to my Father who has promised strength, protection, salvation and joy.

Until now you have asked for 
nothing in My name; ask and 
you will receive, so that 
your joy may be made full.
John 16:24 
bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

A Rescue From Fear

Do Not Fear

Easier said than done, right? If you have never been fear stricken with a perilous drive through a blizzard or holding a sick child with a fever of 104 or coming to the end of a bad week at work convinced that it will surely end with your firing, then you have not stepped foot in the world.

If you have never been afraid, terrified and red-face flushed with flop sweat because your mind has created a horrible, painful and untimely demise for you. Then you are a liar.

For those brave souls who attempt to climb Mt. Everest, they follow a well established route which has a safety line for most of the ascent. The climbers clip in and follow that line in order to keep clear of dangerous ravines and precipices. Without being connected to this line they can soon find themselves alone on a snow covered abyss. And the fear most certainly would set in.

Our human minds quickly and efficiently calculate all of the potential outcomes for every tense and treacherous situation and quickly arrive at the worst-case scenario. “That’s it, I’m doomed, it’s all over! I’m broke, everybody hates me! I’ll probably be dead soon”–yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. We’ve all done it. But we don’t have to. There is a safety line, a fail-safe connection if we can stay connected- -Jesus.

When Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem, there was an immediate pronouncement, a declaration and a promise made to all of us who believe. It was an angel, an Angel of the Lord proclaiming to the lowly shepherds. Things were about to change.

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good 
tidings of great joy, which shall be to 
all people. For unto you is born this 
day in the city of David a Saviour, 
which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:10-11 

From that first day of Jesus’ birth, through the Old Testament, New Testament and continuing today and beyond, the promises of God were announced, proclaimed and delivered. The book of Isaiah is full of powerful safety lines of, “Do Not Fear.” Eight different times the author accounts the promises of God. My favorite is this passage:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am 
your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous 
right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

When I’m in one of those battles of runaway mind scenarios, creating a vicious downward cycle of worst-cases, that verse snaps me out of it and locks me back into the lifeline of hope and promise. 

Do Not Fear

I Am With You

I Am Your God

I Will Strengthen You

I Will Help You

I Will Uphold You

Done. I’m Good! Back on solid footing, clipped in to God’s safety line.

Let’s call it what it is. Fear is lack of faith. An absence of belief that God will come through for us. So we let go and attempt to create our own route up our mountains. Fear consumes, but Jesus revives and replenishes. And we need to grasp firmly a hold of that promise.

Fear can be that fence that you are told not to cross. It’s there for a reason, it’s a barrier, a boundary. Separation between protection and the unknown. Which can be good, right? Nothing wrong with a little healthy fear to keep you on your toes.  But when it consumes and sucks all of the life and oxygen out of it you, then it turns to evil really quick.

The answer to that careful balance is love. God’s love for us can be found in every situation. Good times, bad times, dark times and light-filled days of joy and peace. A safety harness that’s always there. All we need to do is clip in and buckle in place.

On the day of the birth of Jesus, the angel’s announcement, that proclamation to the sheepherders, was the promise we needed. The promise of salvation delivered to earth to keep the fear in check and prepare us for a life of abundance. Isn’t that much better than a life filled with our worst fears and imaginations?

There is no fear in love. 
But perfect love drives out fear, 
because fear has to with punishment. 
The one who fears is not made 
perfect in love.
1 John 4:18

Fear not. Grab hold of His safety line, because Jesus was born to bring salvation, peace and love to every one of us.

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Promised Hope In The Grind

Hope — what is hope really? It’s usually paired with “dreams” as in- — “Hopes and Dreams.” But, that combination phrase lessens and cheapens the real power and impact of hope defined in the Bible and promised by God. A dream is whimsical, theatrical and imaginary. Hope, from a Christian perspective, is rooted in a foundational promise from God. Hope is ambitious, assertive and seeped in God’s hope for his people. Nothing locks in the promise of hope for me better than an Old Testament verse like this one:

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31

Grinder. Amongst my friends, that’s a title earned by time in the pressure cooker of challenges and battles. A badge of honor accomplished and proudly worn from difficult and trying times in life, in business, and under fire. The Bible tells us that those times will come for all of us. We know and have been taught in scripture that extreme heat and pressure are the only things that can shape and sharpen iron.

I’ve got a friend who offers this charge to me when I’m in it deep: “The only way through it, is through it.” Short and sweet — put your head down, grind it out, do what needs to be done for as long as you need to, and you will come out the other side. No shortcuts, no substitutes, no opt outs, no procrastinating. Do what needs to be done, do the best you can, and take care of business. Make the pain and suffering work for your benefit to make a strong you for better days ahead.

That’s hope. If you do the work, grind it out, it will get better. It’s a process and a promise, but you gotta do the hard work. It won’t stay bad or hard forever. That’s God’s promise for all of us. Do the work, put in the time. Stay connected to the Lord and make the commitment to hold the line. Stay the course, stand firm in your convictions and commit. Remembering, most of all, that God works on His timeline not ours. The New Testament is full of hope delivered through Jesus’ teaching and promises lived out amongst his followers.

Who’s a better example of a grinder than the Apostle Paul? He is the New Testament Super Grinder. Once Saul became Paul and the scales fell away from his eyes, his life became a one-man testament to grinding it out for the Lord’s promise of salvation. Shipwrecked, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and tortured. There was no quit in Paul’s mission of spreading God’s promise. Some of the most empowering texts in the Bible come from the hands of Paul and the promises of God’s hope, power, salvation and renewal.

Paul inspires Timothy to stay strong of faith and strong in conviction in the battle for hearts and minds. Paul encourages and challenges Timothy to hold the line for God’s promises for his congregation. Paul is a mission-purposed driven machine. An example for all of us of a grinder for God.

Therefore, since we have been 
justified through faith, we have 
peace with God through our Lord 
Jesus Christ, through whom we have 
gained access by faith into this 
grace in which we now stand. And 
we boast in the hope of the glory 
of God.  Not only so, but we also 
glory in our sufferings, because 
we know that suffering produces 
perseverance; perseverance, 
character; and character, hope.
Romans 5:1-4

With hope comes the everyone’s desired outcome: peace. Isn’t that the goal of our aspirational yearning and grinding? 

A place of deserved rest: peace, comfort and love. And isn’t that end goal, that accomplishment, always much sweeter when we have earned it with hard work, perseverance, suffering and clenching on to the promise of God’s reward for our lives?