Tag Archives: peace

The Voice Behind You

Adversity and affliction are good things. Yes, I’m serious. We all face adversity and affliction at certain points in our lives. While usually manageable, sometimes it seems they are about to overtake us and we become discouraged, frustrated, or angry. If you are in that situation, I offer here a different perspective for consideration.

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help. As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” ~ Isaiah 30:19-21

Have you ever considered the notion that adversity and affliction could be our teachers? Have you ever considered them as bread and water? When we are walking with God, adversity and affliction are all of these things.

Adversity and Affliction as Our Teachers

We all experience difficult times in life; times during which adversity and affliction seem to rule the day. As they are happening, life can be difficult. It can be painful. We may feel as if we are in a deep, dark cave with no escape in sight. All we want is to be out of the cave and back in the light. Once we are delivered from the cave we take a deep breath and move on. As I consider those times I realize in hindsight that they have molded and shaped me into the man I am today. I learned lessons from having gone through those difficulties. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, adversity and affliction were teaching me some very important life lessons.

God teaches us here that adversity and affliction are, in fact, teachers. He uses these difficult times for our ultimate good! Knowing that, and walking through life trusting the Lord, I now handle adversity and affliction completely differently than I did in the past. Instead of anger, I am eager. Instead of downcast, I am positive. Instead of experiencing stress, I experience peace. I trust God: I know I am being taught. I know the difficulties will end. And I know that, upon escaping the cave, I will look back and appreciate the lessons I have learned.

Adversity and Affliction as Bread and Water

This blew me away the first time I read this. Why does God refer to “the bread of adversity and the water of affliction?” Bread and water are the basic nutrients of life. Prisoners being punished used to be put on bread and water diets – no pleasure food, just the basic nutrients needed to keep them alive as they served their punishment. As Israel traveled through the desert after their release from Egypt, God provided manna and water to nourish them on their journey. Bread and water are important to nourishing and preserving life. Could it be that adversity and affliction are somehow important, too?

Just as I can look back on times of adversity and affliction in my life and realize I have learned lessons from having experienced them, I also realize in hindsight that I am a better person for having experienced these things. I have gained confidence. I have gained wisdom. I have gained compassion. My faith in God has been strengthened. I am a better man, and even more important, I am a better Christian. Indeed, I have been greatly nourished through the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, and I thank God for that nourishment.

The Voice Behind You

God’s promise given to us through the prophet Isaiah (30:21) in this passage is one of my favorites in Scripture:

“Whether you look to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it.’”

Read it again. And again. Do you hear the compassion? Do you hear the caring? Do you hear the Love? You see, when we walk with God we are never alone. He is always there, teaching us, nourishing us, guiding us, and loving us. Adversity and affliction will come. It’s OK. God has proven time and time again that He will use them for our ultimate good. God cares about your life and He cares about mine. He cares about what is happening to you and to me right this very moment. His path is perfect, and when we tune in to Him, He will show us the way out of that cave. At all times, but especially during times of adversity and affliction, we must listen for His voice. We must be in His Word. We must be in prayer. And we must listen.

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, thank you for your unfailing mercy, grace and love. Thank you for the lessons you have taught me thus far in my life, and thank you for being that voice behind me, showing me the way. Help me, Lord, to be in your Word and to walk with You through all my remaining days. Through Jesus I pray, AMEN.

My Life’s Foundation

This is what the Lord says: “He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and the stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – The Lord Almighty is His name: Only if these decrees vanish from My sight,” declares the Lord, “will Israel ever cease being a nation before Me.” ~ Jeremiah 31:35-36

As I observe the disfunction in Washington and the growing division within our nation, my concern for our country’s future continues to mount. My study of Jeremiah has offered reassurance, as I am reminded of God’s sovereignty; no matter what our government does or doesn’t do, God is ultimately in control.

As the prophet Jeremiah records these words of God, much of Israel is in exile as punishment for their unfaithfulness to God. God hates sin, but His love for His people never wavers. At this writing, Israel’s time for restoration is approaching and the exiles will soon return home. Israel’s sweet reconciliation with God is soon to be at hand.

It reminds me of the ultimate reconciliation. Sin effectively separates us from God and there is nothing we humans can to to change that. Separation from God yields a life filled with questions. “Why am I here? What’s the point? I’ve built wealth and accumulated things; why am I still not content? What is my destiny for eternity?” A life built on the things of this world is, indeed, an empty life. God is eternal and He created us to be eternal along with Him. Because God loves us so much, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the ultimate price for our sins. Through His redemptive sacrifice, we are reconciled to God. Through faith in Jesus, we know that we will live eternally with Him. Once we know that reality, the answers to the remaining questions become crystal clear as we see our lives the way God intended us to see them as our journey in this world becomes aligned with the will of our Creator.

We are free to follow our own wisdom if we choose. We can seek appeasement and self-worth; we can build wealth and accumulate things. We may even find some temporary relief in those things. God will allow that, but as we consider our eternal destiny – eternity in God’s presence versus eternity completely separated from Him – the ultimate choice must be made: Do we continue to seek after worldly things, or do we give ourselves and our lives to the One who made all things? Worldly things will fade, and if we cling to them we will someday find ourselves desperately trying to cling to nothing. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away” (Mark 13:33). That is the foundation on which I choose to build my life!

Feeling Insignificant?

This morning, as our pilot guided us into Chicago O’Hare International Airport on final approach, I looked out my window and saw two planes flying alongside us. My immediate thought was humbling: Look how small these jumbo jets appear in the sky. Now I know what it feels like to be a grain of sand on a vast expanse of beach. As big and important as I may sometimes think I am, I’m really just a speck in the vast realm of human existence.

Planes on approach into O'Hare 10.7.2013

Planes on approach into O’Hare 10.7.2013

As I considered this revelation, this passage of Scripture came to mind:

“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” ~ Matthew 10:30

Through this simple verse, God reminded me that, although I may be insignificant in the context of the world, I am not insignificant to the One who matters most. The reality of being loved by the Creator of all things, the One who saves me from my sins, is overwhelming. In that instant, God reframed my point of reference. He knows me more intimately than anyone, even myself. As we landed at O’Hare and approached our gate, I was reminded that God has joined me on this journey. He reframed my perspective on today. And for that I am so very thankful.

Calm in the Raging Storm

Have you ever wondered what true contentment feels like? How do we find the proverbial calm in the midst of the storm? Does such calm even exist?

Naples, FL Sunset - July 2012

Naples, FL Sunset – July 2012

Over the past week or so, I’ve been very agitated over events currently facing our country. In observing the behavior of our government officials, those whom we elected to office, my anger often supersedes the attitude and outlook that I, as a Christian, know I should have. My anger and frustration is fueled even more when I see how we Americans treat each other with disrespect, anger, and disdain that seems to draw, at times, dangerously close to downright hatred. I worry about the future of our country. I worry about the condition in which my generation is leaving our country for our children and grandchildren. Worry, worry, worry! Out of the genuine concern I feel for my country comes emotions and words that, at times, I wish had never manifested.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:38-39

Amidst my storm of worry, I open God’s Word. Therein resides the eternal calm in the midst of the temporal storm in which I find myself living day after day. Yes, our nation is in crisis; I truly believe that. But even in crisis, God reigns supreme. You see, my human frailty – the sinful nature that resides in each of us – causes me to say and do things that I know I shouldn’t do. Sin has that effect on each of us. When I say and do those things, not only do I help advance the problem at hand, I lose sight of the real prize that has already been won in my behalf through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. When I lose sight of the prize, I try to fight the storm on my own and I lose my way in the process. Thank God for His love, His mercy, and His Holy Word! Through His Word, I am reminded that, no matter what happens in government and no matter what the future holds for our country, I have eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus and nothing can take that away.

Hollywood Beach, outside of Ocean Pub 101, Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

Hollywood Beach, outside of Ocean Pub 101, Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

Through Christ, I am equipped to respond appropriately when crisis rears its ugly head. Rather than stir the pot and contribute to the problem, I am equipped to rise above the fray and offer a voice of calm reason in the midst of the raging storm. The sinful nature that resides within me, and in all of us, will sometimes cause me to stumble. The Holy Spirit will convict me of those times, compel me to confess them, and help me to repent so I can get back to the work that God has called me to do.

The love of God, manifested in Christ Jesus our Lord, is the calm in the midst of the storm. If you don’t know Him, contact me or reach out to a Christian friend – we’ll be glad to introduce you. If you do know Him and find yourself overwhelmed by the storms of this life, go into God’s Word and be reminded of your salvation; stop trying to fight the storm on your own! Then join me as I renew my commitment to being a positive influence, with my foundation in God’s Word, on my nation and all with whom I come into contact.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, As I review some of my posts and communiqués over the past several days I realize that I have not honored You as I know I should. In doing so, I am part of the problem. Forgive me of this and all of my sins and guide me to true repentance. In so doing, help me to be an effective witness for You, that through my words and actions, others would see You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Those Beautiful Ancient Paths ~ Jeremiah 6:1-30

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ ~ Jeremiah 6:16

As I read the book of Jeremiah, I have come to understand his reluctance to follow God’s calling and share His message. God is angry and His wrath is expressed very powerfully. The common theme of Israel’s sin is their turning away from God and seeking their own path. They have rejected God’s sovereignty and placed themselves in His rightful place. Rather than follow God’s ways, they have embraced the false teachings of foreign gods. Yes, God is angry, and rightfully so.

Today history is repeating itself; we haven’t learned. In our modern times we seek human wisdom. I have a friend who grew up with me in the same church. Now a self-declared non-believer, he recently posted on Facebook, “Science and knowledge will save us. Nothing else.” What a succinct and sad testimony about our society today! Human wisdom tells us that the things of God are foolish, and that we who seek to truly follow Him are ignorant and close-minded. But we who seek to walk with God in faith know better.

Path

Path (Photo credit: greeneydmantis)

God, in His perfect wisdom, gave us a very clear roadmap to living a Godly life. It is presented in the Ten Commandments. While humanity tells us they’re outdated, God tells us through Jeremiah to seek the ancient paths and walk in them. My heart breaks when I hear former believers and even those in the modern church reject the ways of God and instead follow the crooked path of human wisdom. God, in his sovereignty, knows what is best for His children.

Notice His promise: “…you will find rest for your souls.” There is a beautiful peace that comes with following the Lord. It’s a peace that enables us to face life’s difficulties knowing that God is in control and His will is good and perfect. Several years ago, I was facing difficulties at work and knew I was about to lose my job. I wasn’t worried even though I felt I should be. A non-believing coworker came into my office and shut the door. “How is it that you are so calm as all this is going on? Aren’t you concerned?” I told him that I believed God had everything under control; I could lose my job but God would ultimately take care of me and my family. With God’s peace, His rest for our souls, we approach life with a sense of peace and calm that only God can give.

When one truly comes to faith in Christ, our perspective and our focus change. We no longer seek the wisdom of this world; we seek God and His wisdom first and foremost. As for me, I am resolved to stand firmly for Christ, no matter what society thinks and no matter what consequences may befall me. Of course, I am incapable of this on my own; I can only do that which God enables me and empowers me to do through the Holy Spirit. I will stumble and I will fall, but I will do my best to surrender to Him and strive to be a person who deals honestly and seeks the truth.

Ponder this: What nuggets of human wisdom have I elevated to God’s rightful place?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for revealing Your wisdom through Your Word. As I seek to follow You, show me the ancient paths, help me to walk in them, and give me the courage and trust to share Your wisdom with those around me. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

%d bloggers like this: