Ever wonder what God might have to say to YOU today? Here are things to ponder, and things to receive into your heart. If you have a question, put it in the comments. I respond as much as I can.

A note for all my readers: I've been experimenting with YouTube videos for Bible teaching, and now I'm working my way through the New Testament. I encourage you to subscribe to my YouTube channel for better coverage. I'm still writing, of course, and my written posts appear here.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Blessed Sleep...

One of the things I have had the most trouble with is sleeping.  I'm naturally a light sleeper, and unfamiliar sounds wake me.
I've had even greater problems with loss of sleep during periods of intense stress and trouble.  I remember falling asleep at 2 AM and waking at 4 or 4:30, unable to sleep any longer, dragging myself to work, and repeating the process the following night, and then again the next night, and so on.  Sometimes, as I said, it's stress that produces the sleep loss.  Other times, it's fear of the future. Other times, it's an unsolvable problem, one that worries me so that I can't get my rest.

However, I realized just a short time ago that I don't need to miss my rest, and that God actually has a plan to help me sleep.  It's found in Psalm 3 :

Psalm 3: A psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
1 LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me.
2 Many there be who say of my soul, "There is no help for him in God."
3 But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; my glory, and the lifter up of my head.
4 I cried to the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy mountain.
5 I laid myself down and slept; I awoke; for the LORD sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, who have set themselves against me round about.
7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for you have smitten all my enemies on their cheek bones; you have broken the teeth of the ungodly.
8 Salvation belongs to the LORD: your blessing is upon your people.

It seems like David had a lot of the same troubles I did.  He couldn't sleep.  He was under intense pressure (more than I have ever been, that's for sure--your own son chasing him with an army, planning to kill him); even his friends were saying, "You're done for, David! God is not going to help you any more!"

But God answered him, and helped him rest and feel refreshed.  How?  David prayed, remembered that God was his shield and strength, and God strengthened him.  Pretty simple, but often disregarded.
It does work.  I know.  I have fallen asleep many times recently praying, asking God for strength and help, and it arrives with the calming effects of sleep.
There are other strategies, of course: exercise, eating right, not eating too late, not watching television too late (or sometimes, at all), but what seems to have the most effect is that evening call to God for His help--and as He comes to strengthen and comfort, rest arrives with Him, so that when the morning comes, I awake refreshed.
It's really too bad that I took so long to learn this, but I'm passing it on to you so that you can try it as well.  It works.
Remember, though, that this is founded on relationship.  It's hard to communicate with God unless you have established a relationship with Him.  So if this makes little sense to you, it could be that you need to go back to the first step, and that's establishing a relationship with Him as your Father and Lord, and then start with the prayers for His help.
I can't say that He won't help you before you do this because He is good to all, but as your Father, He comes to you personally and meets you wherever you are, and cares for you.  If your own human father was not so good, the image of a father isn't going to ring true, and so think of Him then as "The Friend who stays closer than a brother."  He is truly the best.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Still Thankful?

Really, you should be.  As I recently indicated, "thankfulness" doesn't really work when we are in the midst of a Psalm 22 moment ("Why have You forsaken me?"), but most other times, lack of gratefulness comes from a failing we all have--we just don't look at what God is doing for us right now, and we don't include the right things.  We focus on all the things that hurt, all the things that bother us, all the negative things. Why? Because they are the things that impact our thinking the most.  They are the things that "poke at us."
Sunlight is hard to focus on. Fresh air doesn't hit us like losing our job, or not being able to afford food.
The common things of life--they are the things that are always there, but which we don't appreciate when they show up, since they are so common.
Here's a couple things to think about:
1. If sleep comes, that is a HUGE gift: (Psalm 3:5) I laid down and slept; I awakened; for the LORD sustained me. Sometimes the worst curse is the inability to rest, because you are terrified about the future, and that, in turn leads to terrible depression.  Let Him give your heart rest. Things will work out, in the end.
2. You actually CAN trust God for your "stuff": Matt. 6:33: Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things (all the stuff you need) shall be added unto you."
3. God is worthy of your trust.  Many times when we lose the ability to give thanks, the root of that is our failure of faith.  It's understandable, but not at all useful to you. Trusting God costs you nothing, and gets you everything.  Just believe in Him, no matter what your circumstances are, and even if you know the present and immediate future are bleak, because (see #4): The final future is truly wonderful.
4. Your future is bright, believe it or not: (Ps. 16:11) You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
God has good plans for you.  Maybe later, maybe now.  They will come to pass.
He says, "I know the plans I have for you. Plans of welfare, and not of calamity, to give you a future and a hope."
May God bless you in this Christmas season.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

How to be thankful

This is a tough task, and nobody can do it all the time.  I know that there are many ministers who say things like, "be thankful for everything."  I just heard one say this morning that we ought to be thankful for everything, all the time, no matter what. This doesn't correspond with the reality that all of us experience. There are, after all, things that threaten to tear our insides out, so that we feel like we are losing not only our strength, but our very souls.  Must we deny our basic feelings?  I doubt it.
However, it does bring up a real issue:
How do we move from being broken over the afflictions we face (sickness, job loss, loss of relationship, false accusations, gossip, rejection, persecution, and so on) to being grateful for the blessings we DO have, and believing that God is still on our side?
Well, there are a couple things that we can glean from the Scriptures:
1.  Sometimes pain just doesn't go away, whether it's physical or emotional.  Death is in store for all of us.  It's for real, and we can't escape it. Sickness is the same.  Permanent poverty is the same way.  It can break you. For that reason, the future has to be our focus when we face this type of thing. John says to us, in the book of Revelation, that God will wipe away all tears from our eyes--there are sorrows we cannot get over in this life--but God will replace them with joy
(Revelation 21:4): And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 
The tears come from the past, and we are promised that the future shall be as different as day is from night. We live in the midnight hour, but morning is coming.
It's as the Psalmist says, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning"--especially the morning of our eternal future.
And for this we can be thankful.  Sometimes the present is pretty awful, but the future is ours, and it is wonderful.

2. Sometimes we can gain a thankful heart by simply praying. It's amazing how it works.  James says, "Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray."  There is good reason for this, because the Psalms detail what happens when we pray, and keep praying.  For example, in Psalm 3, David recounts how he's being chased by his son Absalom, who has taken over David's kingdom in a coup.  He's running. He has no security.  His son will kill him if he finds him. David prays.  God answers, but first he comforts David, and encourages his heart.  David knows God has heard him (this is a common experience among those who pray--we sense God has heard, and our fear changes to faith).  Many times, we know God has already sent the answer, and we are moved to thanks because we anticipate what He's going to do.

3. We can also gain a thankful heart by thinking of the things we have, not the things we've lost or the things that are denied to us.  How much did you lose?  Everything?  NEVER.  If you are a believer, you cannot lose it all.  You will still have the Lord after you lose all your "stuff;" that's not to say you should be grateful for such a loss--but it's always better to look on life with a heart that counts the blessings you have, rather than the things you lost, or were denied.

4. And of course, when God does do things for us (doesn't He always?), we  be must learn to be thankful.  Jesus once healed 10 lepers.  Lepers!! Talk about huge. Leprosy was terrible! ONE of them returned to give thanks. ONE!! Jesus was actually surprised, and He said, "Where are the nine?"  Be the one, not one of the nine.