Tag Archive | Spiritual growth

Understanding Wisdom and Insight

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As I was doing some study on wisdom this morning, trying to understand the difference between wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and insight as they are used in the Bible, I came across an article that used the well known verses of James 1:2-5 in the J.B. Philips paraphrase to explain this. The title of this section of Scripture: “The Christian can even welcome trouble.”

“When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.

“And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God – who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty – and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.”

Though I knew these verses were together in Scripture, I’ve always separated James 1:2-4 from verses 5-8 in my mind. These words stood out to me in our current situation because it was so clearly tied together in this paraphrase. If “in the process” of all kinds of trials, you need wisdom concerning how to meet any particular problem, don’t lean on your own understanding. Ask God for the necessary wisdom.

This immediately prompted me to pray for wisdom, not just in general, but in a specific area that has come up as we seek to move forward into what God as for our future. And as soon as I finished that prayer, another area came to mind for prayer.

Wisdom from God is available for us in the numerous daily decisions we face. Do you tend to handle the small daily decisions in your own understanding? I know often I do. God wants us to go to Him for wisdom in the small and not just the major decisions that need to be made. As my husband and I walk through this painful season after the loss of our son, life is full of changes. God cares about the decisions we make in even the smallest hour-to-hour situations that arise. And that’s a new insight – sight into something giving new understanding – for me this morning into the true biblical meaning of wisdom.

Changing the Wilderness into Rivers of Living Water

In the life of a Christian, a “wilderness experience” often involves emotional or financial drought, even spiritual drought, but is not necessarily a sign that a believer is walking in sin. God may seem far away, but in truth He is present and actively at work. These tough seasons of the Christian life are times of testing from God, seasons that God allows to help us grow to a new level in our faith.

As I look back on the final months of 2018 for our family, I think they could easily be described as a “wilderness experience.” From late August through December, we experienced great loss, including cancelled homeowners insurance due to the deteriorated condition of our home, financial stress caused by debt, the loss of our thirty-four year old special-needs son David, and new health problems that are still not resolved. This has been a very difficult season, one that has left me feeling weak and weary.

Isaiah 43:19, a Scripture that speaks of God “doing a new thing” is routinely used as we begin a new year. Yet the familiar message includes a promise I am standing on as we begin 2019. As 2019 begins, I am ready for God to do a new thing in my life. I’m in need of relief and refreshment. God promises to make a way in the wilderness, even bring rivers in the desert. And while I don’t know what you have walked through in recent months, in my current circumstances that is GOOD NEWS!

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Now it’s your turn. Is there a promise from Scripture you are holding onto for 2019? If so, let’s encourage one another by sharing them in the comments. Let’s begin this new year by holding onto God’s promises, in the confidence that He will be faithful to His Word.

Walking By Faith into an Unknown Future

This Christmas, our family is preparing to enter a new phase of life. As a new year approaches, we are adjusting to no longer being caregivers for our special needs son David, who is spending this Christmas whole and in the presence of Jesus, and looking ahead to a much different year.

To prepare my heart for what lies ahead in 2019, I decided to end 2018 by doing a devotional study called Life Journey, aimed at those who are facing major changes in life, written by two of my favorite writers, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, authors of the Boundaries series of books.

Today’s devotion focused on the life of Joseph. If you aren’t familiar with the story of Joseph, Genesis 37 tells of his jealous brothers selling him in slavery, and the story picks up in Genesis 39, which begins with these words: “Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.” (‭Genesis‬ ‭39:1‬) From there things went downhill, as a series of difficult circumstances begin to change Joseph into the man God was calling him to be, second in charge over the land of Egypt and a key character in the preserving of God’s chosen people through a worldwide famine.

The following quote stood out to me from this devotional reading.

“Joseph’s fruitfulness, or success, came from putting his faith into action. He trusted God to do the divine part, then invested himself fully to do his human part.

Joseph didn’t try to manipulate the pieces of his life that were out of his control. He entrusted those to God. Note what Joseph didn’t do: try to escape slavery or prison; despair and forfeit his identity and integrity; resent and hate the ungrateful cupbearer; or develop a victim mentality. Knowing what circumstances were out of his control, Joseph handed them over to God and focused on his responsibilities.

Joseph embraced the tasks he could do: He waited patiently on God for his vindication and reward (see Psalm 37:6–7); worked hard for his master, Potiphar; resisted Potiphar’s wife; managed the prison for the warden; interpreted dreams for his fellow prisoners; respected God’s warning of famine; stockpiled food and grain for the lean years; married and raised two sons.

Joseph couldn’t possibly have foreseen how God would orchestrate the pieces of a worldwide famine to reunite him with his family. He simply did what was in front of him at that moment and trusted God with the big picture of his life. And God made him fruitful (see Genesis 41:52).”

Good advice for how to walk into an unknown future!

Receiving God’s Truth When It’s Uncomfortable

Today I am grateful for…

Truth God speaks to me through His Word, even when it’s not the specific truth I’m wanting to hear. Receiving God’s truth – not my hand-picked, preferred truth, but what my loving heavenly Father wants to teach me through my circumstances – is a blessing even when it may cause some temporary discomfort.

Earlier this week, I was hurting emotionally. During the same week as our son David’s memorial service, I was diagnosed with an infestation of scabies, with over thirty-five itchy bites around my body, caused by microscopic “human itch mites” (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis). I was feeling overwhelmed by yet another problem to deal with on top of working through the grief of losing our beloved son David.

In the midst of agitated emotions, I asked God to speak to me through His Word. He spoke and I almost missed His message because it wasn’t what I was wanting to hear.

  • I wanted a comforting word. God wanted to teach me that He is in charge, He’s sovereign and I need to yield to His decisions.
  • I wanted relief. He wanted spiritual growth.
  • I wanted encouragement. He wanted me to accept responsibility for responding to my circumstances in a way that honors Him.

Father, thank You for speaking the truth to our hearts that is tailor-made for where we are currently walking. When Your truth is uncomfortable, please give us the grace to embrace it and grow.

So how do we walk in an attitude of gratitude when we don’t like what God is doing in our lives? When we wish our circumstances were different? When in our emotions we are anything but thankful?

This requires us to look for God’s truths that apply to what we are walking through. Then it calls for us to A. C. T. (All verses in ESV)

A. ACKNOWLEDGE God is God and I am not

“Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” (Isaiah 46:9-10

C. CONCEDE that His purposes in my situation are for my good.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans‬ ‭8:28-29‬)

T. THANK HIM for His character attributes that apply to my circumstances.

For the last five months, as our family has walked through one trial after another as God does a deep work in our lives, one attribute of God has been central in my understanding of what God is doing in my life: the Hebrew word “checed” (חֶסֶד), for which there is no one English word that fully explains it’s meaning. This one Hebrew word includes the ideas of God’s strength, graciousness, loyalty, steadfastness, mercy, love and devotion to His people. The NIV usually translates it “unfailing love,” NASB “lovingkindness,” ESV “steadfast love.” This single Hebrew word is one of God’s most central characteristics, used 240 times throughout the Old Testament.

“All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” (Psalms‬ ‭25:10)‬ ‭‬

Is God wanting to speak truths to you through His Word, possibly truths that aren’t really what you’re wanting to hear? Are you facing a situation that makes it difficult to give thanks to God? Embrace what the Lord is speaking to you. Then A.C.T. on what you are hearing.

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Don’t Waste Your Sorrows

It was very early Wednesday morning, after an almost sleepless night. As I sat in the hospital room with our special-needs son David, still in the recliner that I had attempted to sleep in and the light finally off after a night filled with medical tests, IV replacement, and excellent nursing care for David’s complex medical needs, I heard four clear words in my spirit. “Don’t waste your sorrows.”

This wasn’t an original thought, but actually the title of a book I read many years ago, Don’t Waste Your Sorrows, by Paul Bilheimer. I’m not even sure we still have a copy of this book, but even if we do I haven’t read it for at least fifteen years. Yet it holds a permanent place in my memory because of the clear message it presents.

Suffering is a part of life on this earth. It’s a major part of God’s plan to grow us up into a mature faith in Jesus Christ and prepare us to rule and reign with Him in His eternal kingdom. But how we handle suffering is more important than what we are actually going through. Our own attitude toward God in the midst of suffering determines whether our hardships develop Christ-like character or if instead the suffering we go through is wasted.

Whether you are among my readers who suffer with chronic illness or your trials are in a different form, suffering is not a stranger to most of us. Often, we face multiple trials in our lives at the same time that really stretch our endurance. I’m sure all of us acknowledge the truth that suffering is a fact of life. When it comes, we face a choice. We can revolt in anger or resign in apathy, both resulting in wasting our sorrows. Or we can choose instead to draw closer to God, seek His perspective of what we’re walking through, humble ourselves to learn the lessons He wants to teach us, and spiritually grow from the circumstances we never would have chosen.

One verse God has been using recently in my life, showing me how to walk through our current difficult circumstances in a way that pleases Him is 1 Peter 3:4.

“But let it (your adorning) be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a MEEK and QUIET spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” 1 Peter 3:4 KJV

Modern translations usually use the word gentle in place of meek because our culture wrongly equates meekness with weakness. One definition of true biblical meekness is “strength under God’s control.” Matthew 11:29 describes Jesus as “meek and lowly in heart” and He is our example of how to walk in meekness.

The Greek word translated meek when used in relationship to God means “that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.” A quiet spirit is one experiencing “tranquillity arising from within,” undisturbed and undisturbing. (Vine’s Expository Dictionary)

The Lord has been speaking to my heart that to not “waste my sorrows” in a variety of difficult circumstances our family is currently walking through, I need to grow in the areas of meekness toward God and work on developing a quiet spirit, undisturbed by anxiety and discontentment.

Are you currently facing some circumstances that you never would have chosen? If so, make the decision today not to waste your sorrows. Draw close to God, ask Him to help you see your circumstances from His perspective, and let Him lead you through the lessons He wants to teach you during this season of life.

Battling Anxiety by Prayer with Thanksgiving

“BE ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING , but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians ‭4:6‬ NASB

The above Bible verse has been one of my favorites for many years. I memorized it at least ten years ago. I’ve tried to live it out whenever circumstances came that caused anxiety, even studied Max Lucado’s book Anxious For Nothing last year and found help in overcoming some anxiety I was battling during that time.

Yet when I learned about three weeks ago that our home was no longer insurable due to extensive damage during the last two hurricanes that hit the Houston area – that to have continued insurance coverage on our home we had an estimated $40,000 of repairs (not covered by our insurance company) that we needed to find a way to cover – I still had a major battle with anxiety. Yes, I tried to cast my burdens on the Lord, but the anxiety remained. I prayed, but I still was waking up in the middle of the night feeling so anxious about this situation that I couldn’t get back to sleep.

Knowing I needed to find a way to deal with this before it started causing major problems with my health, I prayed and sensed the Lord speaking to my heart that I needed to reach out for help. We had already shared some of the details of what we are facing with the couple who lead our iConnect Bible Study class at church, so I made a call and explained the problem I was having to my friend Donna.

After listening patiently to my explanation of what had been happening, my friend gave me several practical suggestions to use to conquer my fears. First, she reminded me of the above Scripture. We discussed some of the specific fears that were keeping me awake at night. Donna asked me to make a list of those fears and others that came and then find Scriptures I could use in prayer to combat the nighttime fears. And she reminded me of the second action called for in Philippians 4:6, giving thanks to the Lord in the midst of our current circumstances. She also gave several other practical suggestions, which I’ve been putting into practice.

This was nearly two weeks ago, and nothing in our circumstances has changed. But my outlook on the circumstances has turned 180 degrees. Yes, I’m still having an occasional battle with anxiety keeping me from getting a full night of sleep some nights. But the combination of identifying my fears, reminding myself of what God’s Word says about the things I’m fearing, and looking for things to thank God for in the midst of this situation has made a big difference.

Dr. David Jeremiah, founder of Turning Point Radio and Television Ministries and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, said:

“No matter what our circumstance, we can find a reason to be thankful.”

I don’t believe Philippians 4:6 is telling us to give thanks FOR the problems we are walking through but rather IN the troubles that are causing anxiety. Frankly, I’m not thankful about the damage that happened to our home or the fact that neither the government disaster relief agency nor our insurance company did anything to help after hurricane Harvey last summer. I’m not thankful that our attempt to find a new insurance company that would actually do more than take our money ended up causing our insurance to be cancelled because my husband was honest about the current condition of the house. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to give thanks for in this situation.

I am thankful that the damage to our home last summer did not mean we had to move out, which would have been a huge problem with the medical needs of our son David. Many in the Houston area were not so fortunate. I’m grateful that God provided enough money to repair the leak in the roof so that future rainstorms did not result in even more damage. And I’m thankful for supportive friends who are helping us through this difficult time in a way that encourages us to honor God and His Word. And above all, I’m grateful that God has been with us as we walk through this difficult season, doing a work in both my husband’s life and my life.

Prayer is an important key to getting past our anxious thoughts. But remember when Philippians 4:6 gives us counsel on how to overcome anxiety it adds something to prayer. Thanksgiving.

My husband and I have prayed about our situation, reminding God that without His help there is nothing we can do to turn this around. We are doing the things He has shown us to do. And we are thanking Him daily for His blessings in the midst of the hardship.

Are you currently battling anxiety over some circumstances beyond your control? If so, I want to remind you that they are NOT beyond God’s control. He loves you with an everlasting, steadfast love and He has a track record from Creation till now of faithfulness. So instead of giving in to anxious thoughts, pray. Tell Him what you need. Praise Him for who He is. Thank Him for how He has come through for you in impossible situations in the past. And even look for something you can thank Him for in your current stressful circumstances.

The situation may not change overnight – but I suspect YOU will begin to change. And according to Romans 8:28-29, that’s one way God uses everything we face for our good and His glory, as we are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Add giving thanks to your prayers and see what happens.

 

Boundaries and the Christ-Controlled Life

I woke up at 6am today, with the pulse-oximeter alarm going off in our special needs son David’s room. He has drops in his oxygen level and changes in heart rate that require monitoring using an oximeter, and when his numbers go outside the pre-set boundaries an alarm sounds. It doesn’t mean he is in grave danger, but it is an indication he needs to be checked and possibly some treatment done. This morning he simply needed some oral suctioning – he was sound asleep with his mouth open and saliva was blocking his airway.

After taking care of this routine care of our son, something I’m well acquainted with during the hours when he doesn’t have nursing care, I sensed God speaking to my spirit. “Setting boundaries is necessary for David’s physical health and for your spiritual health.”

I have heard of the concept of establishing boundaries in Christian circles for many years, but during the last year it has become a daily part of my life through Taste For Truth, a Christian weight loss program I’ve been following. This program does not recommend a specific diet to follow, that is between you and God. Instead, it has two main emphases, renewing your mind to replace the lies you are believing with the truth of God’s Word, and prayerfully setting boundaries concerning eating and exercise. Through these two principles, an area of my life that has been a lifelong struggle is coming under God’s control.

But boundaries are needed in more than just eating. Any area that needs to come under God’s control in our lives requires these same two steps of renewing our mind and setting boundaries. This applies to our thoughts, words, actions, relationships, how we use our time and how we spend our money. Without renewing our minds to know what God says in His Word about each of these areas and then setting boundaries we will follow, change won’t consistently happen. These two principles are our part in being conformed to the image of Christ.

Boundaries alone do not result in change, but when we renew our minds according to the Word of God and yield our lives to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who lives within every person who has acknowledged Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, transformation will come. It may not be overnight, but if we do our part in the transformation process it will result in change.

So what exactly are boundaries, and how do we set them? A boundary is something that indicates a border or a limit. With property, it may be marked by a fence that indicates the end of one piece of property and the beginning of another. Biblically speaking, boundaries are related to self-control. For example, as I set my boundaries in Taste For Truth, they limited how many calories I would eat per day and how many days per week I would exercise. With managing money, a budget sets boundaries concerning how we will spend our income. Relationship boundaries might include separating yourself from people who pull you down or ridicule your faith.

So how do we go about setting and keeping within wise boundaries? First, seek God’s will by praying about the area where you recognize a need to set boundaries. See what God has to say about the issue in His Word. Consider the consequences of failing to set boundaries in this area, and make a decision. Trust God to lead you and empower you to change this area of your life. For me concerning weight loss, having an accountability partner was also helpful, someone I could contact for encouragement when I was struggling.

Boundaries have been a part of life on earth since shortly after creation. The first boundary given to man mentioned in Scripture is in the second chapter of Genesis. “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’ ” (Genesis‬ ‭2:16-17‬ ‭NIV). ‬‬Living within this boundary would have brought Adam and Eve and their descendants blessing, but unfortunately they chose instead to overstep the one boundary God had given and as a result sin entered this world. Boundaries are an effective way to limit destructive behaviors and take personal responsibility for our lives. They are a key to overcoming besetting sins and learning to walk in freedom from bondage. Are there some boundaries God is calling you to set?