Archive for the ‘God’s Provision’ Category

Balancing Life

The last three months having been particularly difficult for me. I had some health challenges including surgery and a major ministry commitment which added a hundred hours to my schedule in three weeks.

My system was thrown out of balance. I felt anxious and struggled with depression. Pain and fatigue were evident as well. I was so tired that I chose to stay home and rest rather than go with my wife to visit her relatives.

During the week she was gone, I reread the book Anxiety and Stress by Archibald Hart. I realized I needed more balanced.  Life was more than producing and impressing. I needed to beef up my exercise, friendships, relaxation, and rest to have the power to overcome the challenges ahead.

But what else could I do to be more balanced?

I reflected on what happened to me thirty years ago in which the challenges had worn me down. Job pressures, moving, and mid-life issues had exhausted me physically and emotionally. Over a three-year period, I learned how to slow down and add to my physical and emotional resources. This included giving myself permission to rest as needed, Sabbath rest on Sundays, recreational activities, and intentional relaxation. I have continued to practice many of these habits for the past thirty years. For the most part, they have helped me to have the strength to meet the challenges.

Recalling this journey over thirty years ago gave me hope God and I could restore my strength again to confidently face the challenges ahead. I am convinced nothing less than an all-out commitment to greater balance will be sufficient. God doesn’t seem to be lowering my challenges to fit my resources. Instead, he is challenging me to raise my strength to match his increased challenges.

As God and I developed an approach to a more balanced life, I was able to use the approach from thirty years ago as a starting point. This time the balanced approach had nine categories of activities.

Balance was the key. The elements of my recovery plan included counseling, spiritual growth, recreation, relaxation, nurturing social relationships, medical, and exercise. Also, it’s important to give out to others for all get and no give is not healthy for our souls. I know it will work because it has in the past and God has led in developing this one. He has been helping me implement it with good results so far.

Each day I seek the Lord on what I need to put into my schedule to sow good seed to reap a harvest of emotional and physical strength. I try to do at least one thing in each category as God leads. For example, one day I chose to do activities that were recreational, counseling (through book reading), exercise, social, rest, personal (like journaling) and spiritual. What I do is a day-to-day thing as God leads. I also do other things too, like ministry and chores around the house.

So, let’s not be victims of our circumstances. God has promised us the ability to face and overcome future challenges. Paul says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NASB). This means facing with power whatever happens. Our job is to follow God and be responsive to leading the balanced life we need to be able to face the future with joy, peace, and love.

Read Full Post »

For the last two weeks, I have been describing a journey with God in pursuing a relationship with a lovely Christian lady named Adele. But what had looked like it was going somewhere, now looked pretty grim. She had told me a few days earlier that I was just a friend to her. And because she was a here-and-now person she also would not miss me while I went to school back east for the summer. I had left San Bernardino stunned by her disclosure.

By the time I arrived in Warrensburg, Missouri I was depressed. But I didn’t have much time to grieve my loss for I was facing “a summer of hell” as my academic advisor described it. Therefore, I put the relationship on the back burner figuring that this would give me a great opportunity to exit the relationship. But I had not given up all hope and sent her a platonic post card so that she had my address.

To my shocking surprise, a week later I received a 12- page letter describing how much she missed me. She described how she had cried for three days after I left. I remember muttering to God that maybe this relationship wasn’t over after all.

This began a correspondence throughout the long summer. I would write a cryptic post card every two or three days and she would write a letter every day.

God used that summer to build my confidence in her faithfulness and support. I needed her prayers because it truly was “a summer from hell” as I worked night and day to keep up with the homework and papers.

When I returned in August, I had a romance on my hands. We began to talk about the possibility of marriage. As I prayed and looked for evidences of God’s will, all signs pointed toward marriage. However, I wanted to get clear guidance from God from his Word. But it didn’t come.

Therefore, I waited, and waited, and waited. One day in November I got frustrated with God and the waiting. I told him how much I needed his confirmation that marrying Adele was his will. I also did some whining. As I did my weekly bible study later that day, this is what he said to me.

“Have I brought you this far in your relationship and not have marriage in mind? What kind of a God do you think I am? Now, show your faith in Me and propose to her” (Isaiah 66:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Was I elated! I finally got the go ahead to propose.

I was coached to take her to a special place to ask her to marry me. I chose a nice restaurant in Palm Springs. I was hoping she would say yes that night, but feared that she would need to pray about it. And she did.

It was awkward! She said she wanted to say yes but said she needed to follow my example of seeking God’s guidance through the Bible. I prayed that God would not keep us waiting too long. I feared it would be six weeks or more. How awkward that would be!

However, God was gracious and the next morning she called and said that he told her through her Bible reading that marrying me was a wise decision. That day we announced it to our world. We were married five months later. We now have two grown children and three grandchildren.

This journey with God has continued for 39 years. I consider her God’s greatest gift to me next to Jesus. I have had to continue leaning hard on Jesus for the capacity to nurture, cherish and understand her as God commands us husbands to do. It has been a journey with many struggles, but many more blessings.

For the last two weeks, I have been describing a journey with God in pursuing a relationship with a lovely Christian lady named Adele. But what had looked like it was going somewhere, now looked pretty grim. She had told me a few days earlier that I was just a friend to her. And because she was a here-and-now person she also would not miss me while I went to school back east for the summer. I had left San Bernardino stunned by her disclosure.

By the time I arrived in Warrensburg, Missouri I was depressed. But I didn’t have much time to grieve my loss for I was facing “a summer of hell” as my academic advisor described it. Therefore, I put the relationship on the back burner figuring that this would give me a great opportunity to exit the relationship. But I had not given up all hope and sent her a platonic post card so that she had my address.

To my shocking surprise, a week later I received a 12- page letter describing how much she missed me. She described how she had cried for three days after I left. I remember muttering to God that maybe this relationship wasn’t over after all.

This began a correspondence throughout the long summer. I would write a cryptic post card every two or three days and she would write a letter every day.

God used that summer to build my confidence in her faithfulness and support. I needed her prayers because it truly was “a summer from hell” as I worked night and day to keep up with the homework and papers.

When I returned in August, I had a romance on my hands. We began to talk about the possibility of marriage. As I prayed and looked for evidences of God’s will, all signs pointed toward marriage. However, I wanted to get clear guidance from God from his Word. But it didn’t come.

Therefore, I waited, and waited, and waited. One day in November I got frustrated with God and the waiting. I told him how much I needed his confirmation that marrying Adele was his will. I also did some whining. As I did my weekly bible study later that day, this is what he said to me.

“Have I brought you this far in your relationship and not have marriage in mind? What kind of a God do you think I am? Now, show your faith in Me and propose to her” (Isaiah 66:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Was I elated! I finally got the go ahead to propose.

I was coached to take her to a special place to ask her to marry me. I chose a nice restaurant in Palm Springs. I was hoping she would say yes that night, but feared that she would need to pray about it. And she did.

It was awkward! She said she wanted to say yes but said she needed to follow my example of seeking God’s guidance through the Bible. I prayed that God would not keep us waiting too long. I feared it would be six weeks or more. How awkward that would be!

However, God was gracious and the next morning she called and said that he told her through her Bible reading that marrying me was a wise decision. That day we announced it to our world. We were married five months later. We now have two grown children and three grandchildren.

This journey with God has continued for 39 years. I consider her God’s greatest gift to me next to Jesus. I have had to continue leaning hard on Jesus for the capacity to nurture, cherish and understand her as God commands us husbands to do. It has been a journey with many struggles, but many more blessings.

I think God gave me this experience as a model of how he wants to partner with me in facing the many other journeys of life. Journeys such as raising kids, making a living, and maintaining emotional health. May this experience help us all remember that God wants to live life with us. It will go so much better if we let him (John 10:10; John 15:5).

 

Read Full Post »

A Journey with God

As I described in my last posting, I had begun a journey with God in pursuing a relationship with an attractive young lady named Adele. I didn’t know where the journey would lead, but God had told me that it would lead to marriage. But I didn’t believe it. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to get married at the time.

The Journey Continues

The next step on this journey was to plan a first date. I wanted to make it a creative experience. I prayed and finally decided on inviting her to what I thought was a college play. I invited the friend from work (who had tried to get me to date Adele) and his wife to join us.

The play turned out to be a disaster! The whole play was a musical sung off-key from start to finish. It was so bad, that it was good because it provided my friend fodder for wise cracks at my expense. In addition, I experienced Adele’s compassion as she tried to defend my choice of a date.

I sensed that God wanted to developed our relationship very slowly. He also wanted me to stay focused on doing right by her. He didn’t want me to focus on impressing her to avoid being rejected. He assured me that he would protect me from this hurt.

Our next date was about two months later. I decided to take her ice skating. Since I wasn’t trying to impress her, I didn’t give it much thought that I didn’t ice skate very well. Surprisingly, she was impressed that I would take her to do something that I wasn’t good at. I even revealed to her a few other weaknesses that night.

By the end of the third or fourth date, my relationship with Adele was more than a friendship to me. As a result, I started feeling insecure. I wanted some kind of commitment from her that would assure me that I wouldn’t be rejected. I thought about going steady, but God used a friend to convince me that that was a terrible idea and would kill the relationship. I decided to turn to God for the strength to continue developing feelings for her without assurances that she felt the same way.

I began to increase the frequency of our dates to try to bring some closure to the relationship before I headed back east for the summer to finish a Master’s degree that I had started while I was in the Air Force. However, the harder I tried, the more obstacles got in the way of moving the relationship forward. I finally gave up and accepted the fact I would need to head east without closure.

The Relationship Moves to A New Level

As I was saying good-bye to her for the summer, she told me that because she was a here-and-now person, she didn’t think she would miss me while I was gone (like I had been telling her that I would miss her). I immediately looked God in the eyes and said in my mind, “Look at the mess you’ve got me into. She has no feelings for me even though I have strong feelings for her. This relationship was your idea, not mine. I can’t make her like me. Only you can do that. I can’t go on with this relationship until you do something. I will put this relationship on hold until she is in a similar place as I am.

I then accepted the fruit and cookie basket that she had prepared for me, and drove off broken-hearted.

Little did I know that God took only five minutes to answer that prayer. When she realized that I was actually gone for two and one-half months she began to cry. And she cried and cried nearly continuously for the next two days. She realized that she did have feelings for me and would miss me after all. I believe today that God answered my prayer by both changing her heart and in helping her realize how she actually felt.

I was not to know for two more weeks her change of feelings for me. Meanwhile, I grew increasingly pessimistic about the relationship as I headed east and by the time I had arrived in Missouri, I had concluded that the relationship was probably over.

Next week I will share how God continued to lead on this challenging journey. Little did I know that the relationship was moving beyond a friendship towards a romance.

 

Read Full Post »

I was frustrated. It was hopeless. The harder I tried the worse things got. Why couldn’t I be like other guys and find the right girl and get married? It’s not that I hadn’t tried. I had dated about 150 different girls in the prior six years. But the relationships never worked out. Many ended after the first date.

Waiting on God

So, when I was challenged to give up the search to focus on developing my new relationship with God, I was relieved. I needed a break. I had felt pressure for many years to get married because nearly all my friends had. But I had grown to question if I had what was required to be happily married.

Therefore, it was easy for me to give the project to God to bring along the right one when I was ready. I was confident that God could do a better job than I had at finding the right one. The original plan was to take a two-year break from dating, although I knew it could be longer. And it was.

Four years later, I still was going nowhere in meeting, courting, and marrying the right one. Had God forgotten about our agreement? I was past thirty now. During this time my focus had become getting to know God better and getting ahead in the ministry organization that I was a part of. However, I still wanted to get married some day if the right one came along.

The Wait is Over

About this time, I was approached by the local leadership of the organization to consider marriage. I thought that this idea was reasonable, but I wasn’t that excited about it. I was more excited about becoming a leader in their organization.

Nevertheless, I began reading books the leaders suggested that would help me gain God’s perspective on courtship and marriage. I found out that God’s perspective on romance and marriage was night and day different from the way I had approached it in the past. I learned that marriage was more a giving thing, not a taking one. I also learned that a wife was not going to take all my problems away. I still needed God.

As I read and discussed these books, I came to realize that God’s ways seemed to make a lot of sense. As a result, I became eager to try some of these ideas out on a real girl.

But I continued to wait for God’s go ahead and to read the suggested books and began to add a number of my own choosing. I would then discuss what I was learning with my mentor to help me to change my thinking, feelings, and actions.

The Journey Begins

Finally, I sensed that I was ready to start dating again after a break of 4 and 1/2 years. But I had a problem. I didn’t know anyone. Despite this, I was able to generate a list of three girls that I knew well enough to ask out on a date.

One girl on the list was Adele, who a friend at work had been trying to get me to date for nearly a year. I was ambivalent about her thinking that she was “stuck up” and not particularly attractive. However, I did agree to an elaborate scheme for me to drive her home from a Halloween party that we both would be at so that I could get to know her better.

The night of the party, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw her. She was beautiful! And then I heard a voice in my head say, “This is the one I have saved for you.” I immediately put the thought out of my mind and proceeded to participate in the Halloween party. However, I stayed focused on where she was and what she was doing that night. As I drove her home I asked if she would be interested in going on a date sometime. Her response was not enthusiastic, but she did say yes.

That night began a long journey with God in which he led and I followed in developing the relationship he wanted me to have with Adele. I didn’t know where the relationship would go. I felt like Abraham when God told him to go but wouldn’t tell him where it would end (Genesis 12:1).

As I look back, God had told me where the relationship was going, but I was too scared to believe it. Adele was the one that he had picked for my wife. Now, it was my job to follow him and trust him to enable me to make it happen.

Next week we will continue to describe this journey with God in facing my fears and insecurities and the other challenges in possessing the land that God had given me (Deuteronomy 1:8).

 

Read Full Post »

Last week we discussed how rich we are but often live like it’s not true. Why does this happen? Probably the biggest reason is that we are ignorant about the great things that God has done for us. As a result, we continue to live in poverty.

We also discussed that God has to be the one who enables us to realize how rich we are and to live rich. However, God requires us to cooperate with him in order for him to reveal and make practical the riches he has given us.

Impressive high ceiling living room with antique furniture, columns and balcony

Why We Are Rich

We are rich because, in God’s eyes we are always

  • Deeply loved
  • Totally accepted
  • Precious

God also

  • Showers us with mercy and favor
  • Gives insight into his thinking
  • Gives us life forever with him

Living in these riches means that

  • We don’t have to please everybody because God totally accepts us.
  • It’s okay to be us because we are precious to God just the way we are.
  • We’re important and don’t need to perform well to be important.
  • The future is bright because our loving Father controls it.
  • We can know God intimately because he longs to reveal himself to us.
  • We look forward to heaven with great anticipation.

Cooperating with God

God is the one who enables us to understand and to live richly. However, we cooperate by asking God for understanding and wisdom (Ephesians 1:16-19).

Another way we cooperate is by knowing the Bible. The Bible tells us how rich we are and how we can live in this reality. It teaches, reproves, corrects, and trains us (2 Timothy 3:16). Following it helps us to avoid trying to become rich through our own efforts, which is unnecessary and futile.

We also cooperate by identifying false beliefs about how poor we are and learn to embrace the truth of our riches. We do this by relying on the Holy Spirit to teach and empower our efforts (Ephesians 4:22-24).

A fourth way we cooperate is to cultivate the habit of responding to the truth that we hear and study. Responding is what makes spiritual giants. Letting truth go by without acting upon it is what hardens our hearts (James 1:22). It makes us live like paupers instead of royalty.

May we be encouraged to discover how rich we are and to live in this reality. Let’s rest in the riches of having been given everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3, paraphrased).

Read Full Post »

This week I have been asked by my church to teach on Ephesians 1. The basic message from the chapter is that God has made us believers rich. Our response is to give him thanks and ask him to help us realize how rich we are.

One of these riches for me has been a new identity.

Instead of being someone who is not very important unless he is achieving or impressing, I now rest more in being important all the time.

Instead of being someone who doesn’t feel loved unless certain people approve of me, I now rest more in being loved even when rejected.

Instead of being someone who feels unacceptable when I fail to meet my standards, I now rest in being acceptable even when I fail miserably.

But is having a new identity the only thing that makes us rich?

Why We Are Rich

We are rich because we are God’s kids, Thus we are greatly loved, protected, accepted and respected, just like children in a loving family.

We have been given everything we need to live a full and productive life (2 Peter 1:3).

We can live in an intimate relationship with him now and will live forever with him in heaven, painless, joyous, and meaningful lives (Revelations 21:4).

God has made us rich. But many of us don’t possess this reality in our experience. God challenges us like he did Israel to possess the reality that we are rich.

God said to Israel and says to us,

“See, I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Deuteronomy 1:8).

Like Israel, we must fight to possess what God has given to us as a gift.

Tropical villa

Living Like a Rich Person

The first step in living like a rich person is to realize that it’s God’s job to make it real for us. As Israel needed God fighting for them to possess the Promised Land, we need God fighting for us to escape living like a pauper.

God says to us through Moses, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt (Deuteronomy 1:29-30).

But to live the reality of being rich will involve a great fight by us too.

However, God leads the way as Paul indicates when he prays, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18).

Therefore, God fights for us as we cooperate with him to possess the reality of being rich.

Next week, we will discuss how we can cooperate with God in living like the rich people we are.

Read Full Post »

I have observed this past week several examples of the stupidity of running away from our problems. I have observed how our political leaders ran from their problems of balancing budgets and created our astronomical debt.

I also reflected on how some church leaders ran from their problems of holding one of their own responsible over several years, which led to the church becoming unhealthy.

And I have also observed in my own life how I have run from the pain of learning how to market a book, which will probably lead to the failure of future books I write.

Why We Do It

So, why do we to run from our problems?

The short answer is to avoid pain.

We also think that just because we don’t suffer right away, we will not suffer. But God promised that we would reap what we sow (Galatians 6:8). The consequences of our running away often don’t fully overtake us until years later.

We also tend to find ways around our problems that seem to get us a less painful resolution than facing the problem. This week I realized that running away from facing some fears I have will only result in experiencing them in body pains. I decided it wasn’t worth it and am now facing my fears.

Another reason we run away is that we are prone to being fooled. Why else would otherwise intelligent people fall down and worship a block of wood? (Isaiah 44:19). They were running away from their need to worship God.

We also want to hang onto the perks of running from our problems. We fail to rely on the truth that, “Better is the poor who walks in his integrity, than he is crooked though he be rich” (Proverbs 28:6). We run away from losing our perks.

Why Not Do It

So, why not run away from our problems?

Because running away doesn’t work in the long run. “God will bring every act to judgment, everything that is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Eventually, we will suffer the consequences of running away.

Also, running from our problems is not taking responsible action. God promises us that with his help we can successfully act responsiblibly in every situation. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). We don’t have to run away.

Another reason we should not run away is that often our problems grow worse. The debt, the unhealthiness of a community, and the pain in the long run often grows worse when we run away from facing them today.

May we all ask God to “teach us to number our days that we may present to him a heart of wisdom “ (Psalm 90:12) that faces our problems with his help and not runs away from them.

May we not be shortsighted and do what is comfortable today and fail to see the long-term consequences of running away.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »