Friday, January 30, 2009
"I don't understand why this is happening to us! We are good Christians, we give to our church, we have tried to do things right, put our kids in Christian School or home schooled them to instill good values. We have worked in ministry for years and years and other people I know have done nothing and they aren't having these problems! They have enough money, they are not barely scraping by, losing jobs and all that. I know people who don't even believe in God and they have a better life than I do! Why can't I have a new car? Why am I wearing clothes from goodwill after all I do for God? Why should I suffer like this?"
My friend said something to me that really changed my whole perspective. She said something like,
"yeah, I remember when I was struggling with being covetous too."
I had NO idea that I was being covetous! I was only trying to understand what I was dealing with but I revealed something very important about my heart with my verbal tantrum. I had some really goofed up theology in those moments. I mistakenly believed that because I was in God's service that He somehow owed me something, and that because others have not served Him the way I have that they don't deserve to have anything either!
When a person is covetous, they have the belief that because they cannot have something on their own that they should be able to take what belongs to another. I would like to emphasize that I really was clueless that I had such an attitude!
It is hard to watch other people "have" when you "have not" that is for sure! But to turn it towards godly thinking, you must ask yourself, "What is God trying to teach me during this time?"
Have you made an idol of stuff? Did you spend the money you made on supporting a lifestyle that was more about stuff than people? Let me tell you, I have lived for a year now with most of my stuff in boxes waiting to move from here. It is amazing to see the stuff you can do without, and I probably didn't need in the first place!
I know there are people that had two income households to support a lifestyle that was one of excess and enjoyment. There is nothing wrong with benefiting from your labor of course but for too many women, working became a way to just get more stuff.
Do you have an attitude of entitlement? If you have thought thoughts like I did, it is most likely inescapable that you believe in your heart God owes you something for your faithfulness to Him. This was very frightening for me to realize, because I was completely unaware that I had persisted in those kind of thoughts for a long time.
God owes us nothing. He does not owe us jobs, or homes, or 401k's. Jesus did not have a home, and used a rock as a pillow (Luke 9:58).
God does not as much care about what your circumstances are, but how you are going through those circumstances. What is the attitude of your heart as you experience loss or potential loss? Are you ranting at God for all He owes you or should enable you to keep?
In the beginning I did not want to lose my house or to give it up. I wanted to hold onto it for the memories and all that we put into it over the years. My dreams and such about my family being here meant a lot to me, but over time I began to realize how foolish that was. An examination of your belief system is in order during this time too.
What things are really, really important to you?
What kind of a legacy do you want to leave?
If you had it to do all over again, what would you do differently?
Just some questions for you to think about and meditate on over the weekend. Take the time to write out your answers and see what God reveals about your heart.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
There are no human words that can calm the heart of the newly unemployed. People mean to help, they give kind words and wonderful platitudes. We are prayed for and upheld by our fellow Christians but honestly this is a very lonely place to be.
"...we are pretty much broke. All the savings is just about gone, the unemployment is not much, and between the two of us and our jobs and the UC we aren't going to make it - unless God intervenes. I have a loan payment that was due on the 1st, and I don't have enough money to make that. I am just about out of food, and it is a choice between food and bills right now- unless God intervenes.
We are out of pellets to heat the house as of right now, the last bag went into the hopper- unless God intervenes. One of the dogs should see the vet about a raw patch of skin under his neck, but when I can't provide for humans, how can I provide for pets? Unless God intervenes
We thought the furnace was dead this morning, it was 55 in the house and there was no electricity going to it or anything. Turned out that due to Lar's superior skills it was just a simple deal and the furnace wasn't dead - God intervened."
"Oh Lord, will we make it? I look around at this home of ours and I wonder if we will make it through this time. I just don't see how Lord. The need far outstrips the provision. I have no options left, no resources. Bills are due and I have not enough money to pay them. What do I do? You are faithful, You are Good. You are completely aware of all of this. Oh Lord, tell us what to do.
If I pay a bill there is no money for food. If I don't pay a bill the bill gets doubled. We need food. If I don't make this payment, I will have a late fee at the bank.
Oh God I just don't know what to do. Help me. I have been just getting enough for a mean at a time as I have the funds, but now that is going to be over too. This is so humbling. I have tried to keep my focus on You. I have been trusting You. I knew it was going to be bad, and it was going to get worse. I think we are almost there. We are almost at bottom. I have now got zeero money for taxes which are due on the 31st. I have it to pay that loan payment that i have to pay today. My life insurance will expire on the 19th. I now need a huge pile of money for just this months bills. I don't have any of it. I am so sad. Just so very very sad. This is not how I wanted life to be. I want to scream it is not my fault!! I want (job name) to see what they did to us. i just want to cry. I am sitting in a silent scream pretending all is normal. Inside I am screaming and crying. Inside a tomb of fear and misery. what next?"
I would encourage you to return to the Word, despite how much you may not want to. So many times I reminded myself that God is aware or these circumstances. I reminded myself by looking in His Word and finding verses and passages that spoke to His omniscience.
I also reminded myself that God has a plan. Jeremiah 29:11 tells an unfaithful Israel that in spite of their sin that God has a plan. If God so loved them even in the midst of their sinful ways, that He reassured them of their future, what will He do for His Beloved?
The most difficult aspect for me was (and still is) to accept that God is in charge. Reading and re-reading those verses that remind me of who He is, and who I am were (and are) so important. I tend to want to tell God how to order the universe and when things don't go according to my schedule or my plan I get angry and frustrated.
You will see God increase your faith during these days...He WILL show Himself to be faithful and worthy of your trust and faith. Continue to cry out to him as the good God He is and believe He will provide your true needs.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
We have been through some very tough times over the past decade and I thought I might post about how to survive and glorify God even in the midst of job loss and financial devastation.
Several years ago, my husband followed some godly advice and took a break from his profession to do something entirely different. It paid substantially more money than what he was earning and it appeared irresponsible to do otherwise. His profession requires a 1month notice if you quit and by the time he got to the new job all the high paying positions were filled and he was given a job that paid about 9.00 per hour doing something he was not suited for at all. I had also left my job in the meantime for other reasons so suddenly we were a family of 5 with a mortgage, bills, and he made 9.00 per hour.
We also tried self-employment, starting a small freight transportation business. Things were going well and we just purchased a new and larger vehicle to enable us to make larger deliveries when 2 planes slammed into the World Trade Center and everything screeched to a halt- including our business. There was a slow and painful end to that.
I also had a small business with a friend and our one and only client was through our efforts as his contracted employee, revealed to be a thief. That was the end of that!
Another incidence; my husband accepted a position at a well established company and put in his 1 month notice at his job. When he arrived at his new job he worked for one week before being laid off. Turned out he and a few others were hired just to please the regulators who were coming in to inspect things. They could not pay the people, and they knew it when they hired them!
And finally, he had the best job to that date and was let go the day before Thanksgiving because he was more interested in ethics and treating the clients properly than the people who owned the clinic. He was told that he "was not a good fit." All this happened in a span of about 7 years.
Wow. Even recounting all those events makes me shake inside! I did not always understand what was happening in these circumstances and it seemed that each thing was worse than the one before. There were times I thought that I would not survive those times, and when I look back on them I don't know how we did it. We always had food, always paid our bills, were never in danger of losing our house or anything.
Over the next few days, I am going to share with you some of my thoughts from my journal archives and how I dealt with these tough circumstances. My hope and prayer is that these will minister to those of you in the depths of some dark times.
Monday, January 26, 2009
His points were very valid I am afraid...I find prayer to be an exhausting exercise and too often my prayers amount to little more than a list of stuff I want from God. How sad for me and all those like me! This is not something that "happens" to us, it is something we do as a result of 1) our sinful hearts that focus more on self than God and others, and 2) the cultural influences we accept and begin to live out.
How often I have simply come to God asking Him for this or that, and left out all that is important to Him!
I have an excellent book entitled, All the Prayers of the Bible (Herbert Lockyear)and within its covers are fantastic examples of prayer that honors and edifies God and also brings out the true needs of the believer. They are the prayers of all the OT saints and also the NT saints like Paul, Peter, John and the prayers of Jesus too. If you are looking for some help and direction on how to pray as the heroes of our faith prayed I suggest you check it out.
Paul's prayers include things like asking God that the saints would know Him, desire Him, understand His will, and all this for the purpose of walking through this life in a manner that pleases Him! Ha, more accurately, the NASB says so that we may live lives worthy of Him...Nothing like the way we usually pray...
How is it that we (I) have strayed so far from His ideals and wandered into our (my) own pasture? How, in spite of all the reading and studying and praying I have done over the years can it be true that I am still such a...failure when it comes to knowing and understanding Him? My heart cries out to know Him, and to live my life in a way that glorifies Him and yet I am still so very far away remembering to pray for all He says in His Word?
Don't misunderstand, this is not self-beat up. If it is anything it is a further understanding of His grace and mercy. He loves us so deeply and He wants us to love one another and to pray for one another to have the things that are important to HIM! The Lord does want us to come to Him with the cares and burdens of this life, and of course to bring our needs to His throne; however maybe you will also realize upon reflection that like me you have drifted into pagazined prayer.
I would ask you to think about this today, and see if your prayers are in line with those of Paul in Colossians 1:9-15, and Romans 1:9-10, and Ephesians 1:15-16. Make a commitment today to examine those passages and see how well your prayer life matches that of Paul!
Friday, January 23, 2009
I recently got an up close dose of these truths when I was thrust into a situation where I was dealing closely with several unbelievers. I realized how very alien I am in comparison to the unsaved world's philosophies.
I listened to those around me supporting and espousing things that are in complete opposition to the Word of God and I had some difficult choices to make- would I be silent and disagree internally or would I say what I believe and risk upsetting them?
This is a decision many of you make every day at work and school as you interact with unbelievers. The temptation to stuff your opinion looms large in those moments, doesn't it? Who wants to be ridiculed or made fun of? It seems we are nearly in a temporary no-win situation as we don't want to be fighting all the time and arguing about our faith with those who do not agree or believe. Yet, I find it equally disturbing to have the name of Christ trampled and what I believe constantly slammed as foolishness.
It is the fear of man that causes us to want the approval of our friends, family, and co-workers. Fear of Man is also knows as co-dependency in the psychological circles and is the term used when our desire to be well thought of means more to us than our desire to glorify God. Many, many of us suffer from Fear of Man issues in more areas than I can outline here.
Lots of Bible people struggled with this problem and you might be surprised to know a few of their names are Abraham, Elijah, and Peter. Each of them was more concerned about what other people would think of them than what God would think about their actions.
When the opinion of man means more than the opinion of God or obedience to His Word we have placed something else in the position of Lordship in our hearts and lives.
We don't want to respond that way, but what do we do in such circumstances? As always we must look to the Bible for direction and wisdom in how to respond.
Fix your eyes on Jesus... Heb 12:2
During those times of doubt, rejection and ridicule the only response can be a Christ-like response. Fixing your eyes on Him will help you more than any fleshly response you can come up with. Taking that vertical view will turn the sorrow of rejection by man into the joy of understanding we have been chosen by God. The vertical view will refocus rejection into amazement that we are accepted in the beloved despite our sinful condition and that we have been embraced by a loving and holy God. Such a vertical view ought to elicit joy without boundaries!
Can I promise you that the pain will stop? Of course not! Feeling the pain is a part of our identification with Christ and it reminds us that we belong to Him. During those days of dealing with ridicule all I could do was to remind myself over and over to answer curses with blessings, and to show them Christ in spite of the sinful desires of my flesh. Each swear word hurt, each caustic response wounded my tender heart, but I had to see those people with the eyes of Christ.
They are lost and hard of heart, how could I expect them to act any differently! I was once the same way and God took pity on me and saved my soul. We have no way of knowing how many representations of Christ a person has to see (and God uses) to soften the heart of an unbeliever that God has chosen to eventually become one of His own. We have no way of knowing today how our witness for Christ will be used in the future in their lives.
Take the pain friends, keep that vertical view in sight!
Thursday, January 22, 2009
But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. Romans 5:15 (NKJV)
It is a testimony to our sinful condition without Christ that it is so very glorifying to Him to be our Savior. This is difficult to explain…we are sooo bad, and sooo hopeless, that redeeming us only makes God look better!
Do you remember the passage that says, (Romans 5:7) “For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die?” The verse preceding that says, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
He died to save the Ungodly, not the self-righteous or the religious, nor the deserving. He did not save you or me because we are so great, or because He needs us. We are not given grace because we are special or worthy. Grace is given to us because it glorifies God to do so.
What a marvelous thing it is that God chooses to bring Himself glory by saving our sorry selves! He demonstrates grace to us because He is holy and cannot tolerate our sinfulness. Make no mistake, we are sinful!
Our ungodliness is the reason we need grace unto salvation. We are completely and totally unworthy of what we have received. It is in seeing our unworthiness that we can begin to have a glimpse of just exactly why we are to demonstrate grace to those who have hurt us so deeply. They don’t deserve our grace anymore than we deserve God’s grace so it is in giving to the undeserving what we have benefited from that we are most like Christ.
If you have a painful relationship and display grace to someone who is undeserving of it, please understand that it may not make one bit of difference in how you are treated by them or even what the response is from that person. That is totally not the point! The result will be you’re experiencing true freedom. In spite of the rotten way you may continue to be treated you will see God working in your own life.
This will demand that you get the focus off of you and how you feel and onto what God is doing in your heart and life as you step out in faith and obedience to the call of Christ.
Remember: the goal is not to end the suffering but to glorify God as you are suffering.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
He is socially very, very liberal and in favor of everything the Bible is against. The only common areas are regarding helping the poor and needy, but even in that his solution is the government not the church or the Lord.
The idolatry of this man is simply frightening. We have watched our country be swept away into a frenzy of worship the likes of which I have never seen for a politician. He and the media have set him up as some kind of god, portrayed him as "savior" to our nation and promoted him as the answer to all of life's problems. Some of my fellow citizens have been recorded on tape as saying he is the one who will give them all that they need.
Oh my friends, only Jesus Christ has that power and that ability. How can a government that is led by sinful men who want nothing more than to edit God Almighty out of our national fabric lead a country and her people down righteous paths?
The concern for America is high among many believers... much of what we hold dear is going to be threatened by this administration. The time for repentance is now, the time to call upon God is now. The time to turn from our wicked ways as a nation is now. The time for humility before a holy God is now. Perhaps God will spare us from the judgment that appears to be upon us. That would be a mighty demonstration of grace, wouldn't it?
2 Chronicles 7:14~ If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I am taking a break today from posting a blog as it is the day we lay my mom's remains to rest in the cold Wisconsin soil.
So many of you have wished me well, send cards and notes and most of all prayed for me that I would be remiss not to thank you.
I am going along through all this by the grace of God alone. I have complete confidence that my wonderful mom is with the Lord as I write this and has been for one week already! Her eternity began last Tuesday and she has begun the wonderful journey of knowing Him fully and completely. I do rejoice in that fact and it has made all the difference in how I have approached these past few days of the funeral service and memorials and such.
I was privileged to read 1 Thess 4 at the service yesterday. It has been what has gotten me through this past week and I pray to God that it will minister to your heart and soul as well.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Monday, January 19, 2009
As long as we are looking at grace, shall we take a blog “day” and examine some of the particulars?
For instance, where did grace come from? The Bible says.
And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:16-17 (NKJV)
…. being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Romans 3:24 (NKJV)
Christ is the one who justified us all. He is the giver of all grace.
If you intend to counsel, or disciple, you must be sure the person you meet with understands or you must teach them that grace comes through Jesus Christ. This immediately clues them in to the fact that there is a relationship that is necessary with Him. It helps the unsaved person see that without Christ there is no grace available to him and that without it he is as hopeless and as lost as he may feel.
Because grace originates with Christ, it flows freely to the saved individual through the Holy Spirit. This helps her to see that because grace does not originate with us, but with Him and has been freely given to us by Him, she has no right to withhold it from others. This is a most difficult truth to impart to the angry and vengeful counselee.
I have seen some people come in to my office looking for a way to hurt someone who has hurt them. The last thing on their minds is giving grace. I must be prepared to show the counselee why they have to be gracious if they want to bring God glory.
The very nature of grace (God’s unmerited gift) flies in the face of any theology that says God saved me because I am worthy. In preparation for my mom’s funeral service this past week I was working on music selections for the DVD we planned to show. I was going through a list of hymns that I thought would be suitable, and I mentioned Amazing Grace as a possibility to someone who was sitting in the room with me. I was shocked speechless as she said, “I hate that song!” I thought to myself, how can anyone hate the song Amazing Grace?! A little later I asked her about it and her reason for hating the song has everything to do with her refusal to consider herself a “wretch.” Her personal theology is all about how good of a person she is and about the bargain God gets when He gets her!
With that kind of an attitude, what need is there for grace at all? If I am not a wretch, then why did Christ die? If I am not a wretch, then why such an agonizing death? It is the arrogant fool who says in his or her own heart they have no need of grace!