Posts Tagged ‘trials’

   

 “I am like an owl in the desert, like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.” (Psalms‬ ‭102‬:‭6‬ NLT)

In the deserts of the southwestern US and Mexico, Gila Woodpeckers use saguaros—giant, tree-like cacti that may reach 43 ft in height and 10 ft in circumference—for food and shelter. In addition to insects, they eat cactus fruits and berries. Equipped with a thick bill, the Gila Woodpecker plays an important role in maintaining the health of saguaros by removing insects and trimming damaged tissue, which heals the cacti. It thrives where the rest of its woodland cousins cannot. 

In this psalm, the writer is speaking of a desolate and distressed time of life. The imagery of a desert is meant to symbolize pain and loss in this life. And yet, we know that in such a destitute place, there is a thriving life. Where one may call the prickly cactus a horrible and useless plant, someone else calls it Home Sweet Home! The difference is simply perception. 

Does your life seem desolate? Allow God to help shape what you are feeling. You see through the lenses of self’s desires and disappointments, but God sees so much more! Your cactus can become your castle! You are loved today! 

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But I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…” (Philippians‬ ‭3‬:‭13‬ NLT)

When I was a Youth Pastor, my Pastor and mentor, Gary Elrod, kept all his sermons in yearly binders, called them his “recipe books” that he could draw from. In my office today, I have the same thing. But in that line up of binders, going back to 1998, is one small, red binder: 2002, the hardest year of my life.

Just because we walk the Christ Life path does not guarantee us a life free from pain, or even a sustained season of it. But our mindset must be on the God who not only brings us into the valleys, but also has plans for us on the other side of them! So we can do as Paul did, letting go of whatever things have held you back or haunted your mind, and then pressing on with a confident reassurance of a new season while being held in the mighty hand of God!

On my sermon shelf are plenty of binders that stretch past that little red one. I keep it as a reminder that, as the Bible says, “it came to pass…” Allow God to convict, correct, heal, and guide your new year. Resolve the old and make room for the new life ahead! You are loved!

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O God, my soul thirsts for you…in this parched and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalms‬ ‭63‬:‭1‬ NLT)

In August 2006, 31-year-old Janne Kouri was playing a game of beach volleyball with his friends on a California beach. A star football player on the verge of catching the eye of NFL scouts, it all changed as Janne dove into the waves, his head striking a sandbar, damaging his spinal cord and rendering him instantly paralyzed.

He would spend the next two months in ICU and almost lose his life twice, all while battling pneumonia. But even in this dark place, Janne and his loved ones believed for a full recovery and another chance at life. Five long years later, following countless hours in the constant practice of a training routine called loco-motor training, Janne walked again, and even got married!

Life leads us at various times through some pretty dark places. Those moments are custom crafted to help draw you closer to God. When you face those moments, draw near to the God of your survival! Let His presence reassure you that you are loved and will definitely make it!

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You formed me with your hands; you made me, yet now you completely destroy me. Remember that you made me from dust— will you turn me back to dust so soon?” (Job‬ ‭10‬:‭8-9‬ NLT)

It was one of those days. I hadn’t been sleeping good, wasn’t feeling well, money was tight, ran over my dog, and locked horns with a couple of ornery people. And all before 3pm! At that moment, I could completely identify with Job! Are you trying to kill me, Lord?!

With life, our ability to hang on must be greater than our desire to let go. While things may never be as good as we’d like for them to be, they’re also not as bad as we believe. Though we don’t care for it, the trying times are what make us a better and stronger person.

Louis Pasteur is best known for his discoveries of vaccination and pasteurization, which has saved millions of lives. Yet, to make all his discoveries, he had to endure many failures. He describes his perseverance this way: “Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.” Let God help you to live tenaciously! You are loved and will live!

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So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to God.” (1 Peter‬ ‭4‬:‭19‬ NLT)

As I was commuting down I-30 yesterday listening to the news on the radio, it was a veritable grocery list of human suffering: Ebola virus may be in Texas; ISIS terrorists still butchering people; bad winter coming; people still fighting in Ferguson, MO… It makes me want to grab a bag of chocolate donuts and lose myself in Netflix so I can forget about it! Who needs to suffer?!

The surprising answer is: You Do. Crises of faith serves to make us stronger, much more than warm fuzzy moments. In an article at christiancourier.com (read the whole article, The Value of Human Suffering), we see that one thing is certain: many who have passed through the crucible of suffering will acknowledge that they have found themselves infinitely better for the experience—bitter though it may have been. Robert Browning Hamilton memorialized it this way:

I walked a mile with Pleasure
She chatted all the way,
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne’er a word said she;
But oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me!

If you are finding yourself stewing away in Life’s crockpot, it will strike you as strange to think that suffering could please God. God does NOT desire for you to hurt, but to grow. Because we rarely grow the simple way, we force ourselves into tight spots. Stop griping and start growing! You’ve made it this far, He’ll see you through to a better end! You are loved!

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him.” (Matthew 5:3 NLT)

On a hot summer evening in September 2011, as commuters in San Diego, CA, were heading home in rush hour traffic, a failing power grid went out, leaving traffic snarled, gas pumps off, air conditioners down, and aggravation high. While not strangers to rolling blackouts, residents realized too late how unprepared they were for the unexpected outages that caused prolonged traffic problems and no communication ability.

Sometimes, especially when things are good, we don’t realize how poor we are spiritually and emotionally until bad times hit. While it may sound harsh, God will allow us to go through rough patches in order to bring our attention to our God-deficit and a life change. What’s worse, a temporary problem or eternal loss?

If you’re going through a rough time of life, allow it to draw you closer to God rather than deeper into despair. You have survived 100% of all your other problems, so you’ll get through this too! Never miss a moment to grow closer, regardless of what it took! You are loved!

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When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” (James 1:2 NLT)

When my wife and I went to see Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith, it was funny how I kept hoping for a happy ending. Even through episodes 1 & 2, I KNEW Anakin was going to go rogue and become Darth Vader and become evil, but I couldn’t help hoping for a happy ending! After all, don’t happy endings still exist?!

In God’s way of living, they do! But to have happy endings, there must be a conflict. The Bible is clear that when problems arise (and they will!), don’t view it as a problem, but as an opportunity for God to show His power through your determination, knowing that living it out according to His plan, it WILL work out wonderfully in the end. The pain of the moment is simply our chance to develop strength and purity.

As you get ready to come to church tomorrow, let anxieties of the moment slip away like darkness in the face of dawn. Rest assured that God developed your best life for you before you were even born (Jer. 29)! Your rainbow lies just on the other side of the storm! You are loved today!

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