Gratitude is an Attitude of the Be-atitudes of Christ.

Gratitude and thankfulness are lost on today’s culture. Rarely do you hear “Thank you” or see gratefulness demonstrated. We live in a world cold of love and full of depression.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew‬ ‭5:3-5‬ ‭NASB‬ 

This is the time of year to be thankful, to have a heart of gratitude. Gratitude and thankfulness is the only way that we should live. But it’s not easy because we are often blinded by our circumstances that we fail to see what God has provided.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NASB‬‬

I have a friend in Kenya, who is always encouraging and positive. She smiles with the contentment of knowing that God supplies her needs. Everyday she lives with gratitude and thankfulness to Jesus, who saved her life. She is a single parent, who lost her job recently due to an economic downturn. As a child she lost both parents. She should have reasons to be upset and angry at God; instead she is grateful. She has only been a Christian for five years, but has more wisdom than most Americans. I have learned much from her.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NASB‬‬

For many who suffer from depression it can be a time of perilous pain. Depression can seem like an overwhelming giant. It often leaves a person with feelings of loneliness and insignificance, but God wants you to know, that you are not alone or insignificant. God loves you and He loves “David vs Goliath” scenarios. Just like He equipped David with a slingshot and rocks to beat his Goliath, so He has also equipped us with the attitudes of gratitude and thankfulness to fight the powerful giant that depression can be.

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:6-7‬ ‭NASB

I have been learning a lot about gratitude and thankfulness. These attitudes go a long way in subduing the thoughts and emotions of depression. This year has been a good year for me in dealing with depression, in spite of the fact it has been one of the most stressful and difficult years to endure. Finding joy came only when I learned to be thankful in the midst of trials and when I was grateful to God for helping me endure the hardships and stresses of living through the trials and difficulties that I faced.

I want everyone to understand, I could not have made it through this year without Jesus. I grew so much this year spiritually. My devotion times were amazing, my prayer times were the best they have ever been. Even my wife and I bonded closer spiritually.

Yes, I endured anxiety and worry, but I knew I was not alone; because of Jesus.

Yes, I endured financial hardships, fires, and stupid irritating things that would just go wrong; but Jesus was there.

It was such a brutal and difficult year to endure, but it was an awesome year to endure it with Jesus. I am so grateful for the lessons I learned on Gods faithfulness, love and grace.

The more I drew closer to God, the more Satan attacked. The more I grew in taking on the attitudes of Christ, the more Satan would attack me in my weaknesses. Jesus helped me to resist and to endure through the most difficult of times. He comforted me, like I have never felt before.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” 1 Peter‬ ‭4:12-13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Oh yes, I failed quite a bit this year, in being Christ like. The emotional roller coaster was unrelenting and difficult to bear. It was in those times I would humble myself and live in a repentant manner. It was amazing to see beyond my depression to know with such clarity that God was at work. I saw miracles take place at precisely when they were needed most. This year, through two major pay cuts, fires, medical issues with my kids, cars breaking down, increased bills, and other monumental issues; I saw Gods amazing hand at work. I learned to be grateful to Him, thankful as He helped us over every little hurdle. It was though these moments that joy overcame depression. Often my wife and I were in shock as God put on a spectacular performance of His grace, compassion, faithfulness and never ending love.

“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” 1 Chronicles‬ ‭16:34‬ ‭NASB‬‬

I am in awe that we made it through this year, so I have no other choice but to be grateful and thankful to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians‬ ‭3:15-16‬ ‭NASB‬‬

So I encourage you to be grateful, thankful and to give God the Glory for the great thing He has done in your life. Reflect on the goodness of God, pray with thanksgiving and gratitude in your hearts and you will see beyond your depression.

God Bless,

Stephan

Fatherhood: The Reflections of Wins & Losses.

Fatherhood is a reflection of wins and losses. It reflects the changes you made to become better or worse. How will God view the way you raised your kids.

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭127:3-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In the next few days, my family and I will be celebrating the birthday of my daughter, Rebecca. For my daughter, this is an exciting time. In a year, she will be going off to college, where she will be forging ahead on her big plans and even bigger dreams. For me, I will put on a brave smile, and hide the heartbreak of letting my baby girl go into such a violent and cruel world. With each passing day comes the constant questions tormenting my soul:

“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.”             ‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Is she ready? Have I done my best in preparing her? How do I keep her safe? Am I ready to let her go? Did I fail her as a father? Do I kill her college boyfriend before or after I meet him? (Ok, I’m kidding on the last one, it will definitely be the dog who “accidentally” eats him.)

Any father will confess, that fatherhood is a series of successes, failures, and guilt ridden contemplations. The joys come in between the guilt and the perceived failures. The insanity of being responsible for the life of your child is enough to drive anyone to the brink of a mental break down. Being the parent of nine kids, it would be a miracle if I didn’t suffer from depression! (How my wife makes this look easy is beyond any rational understanding.)

When you bring your baby home from the hospital, there is no owners manual, to help you navigate through the pitfalls of being a parent. A good father does not rely on his own instincts, but looks to his Heavenly Father for guidance. Many times I have cried out to God for help, in small things, like how to snap a baby into one of those sleepers. No one thought of a man when they designed that complicated piece of clothing.

I have also gone to Jesus in the big things. When frustration sets in, and you just don’t know how to calmly approach a situation with your kids. Thank God, that He answers prayer and provides wisdom.

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” ‭‭James‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Rebecca

When I first held her in my arms, I wept. It was a particular hard time in my life. Rebecca was a joyful distraction and a healing to my soul. God knew that I needed her. From the moment she was born, she was a great kid, rarely a problem. (There was the one time that she traumatized her classmates in kindergarten by announcing, “Santa does not exist! He is a fat old fraud.” The tears that flowed from that class, could have solved a water shortage.) She sought the truth and questioned the ridiculous. God gave her a built in owners manual on how to deal with us, which surprised us with a few uncomfortable conversations about life, politics and faith.

During the early days of her life, we all endured some hard times. I was clueless or in denial about my depression and it was making everyone miserable. She suffered through the loss of her uncle and grandfather; while dealing with grieving and emotional parents. During that time I was a typical, obnoxious, casual “Christian”. It was a religion that I abused and twisted to my benefit. It is in those early days of her life, that I have my biggest regrets. I was selfish, arrogant, and oblivious to the way I treated people. I was a religious Pharisee. (See my poem: The Hypocrite)

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In spite of that, Rebecca drew very close to God, she became a Christian at a young age. She developed a keen understanding of moral behavior; blooming with compassion, forgiveness and kindness. It was through her devout love of Jesus, that I began to change. I slowly began to move from being a fan of Jesus to a committed follower. I would see this amazing girl beam with Jesus, praying, reading her Bible and influencing her friends to be positive role models. This convicted me, and brought me to truly surrender my life to Jesus.

God does not judge you on your wrong doings, He judges you on the ones that you arrogantly refuse to repent over. Humility before God, opens the hearts of your children to a loving and forgiving God.

In her older years, I have been a much better father. I have let her see what a repentant life looks like. I’ve owned my mistakes, apologized for wrongdoing, and humbled my self before God. I have strengthened her value system, encouraged a closer relationship with Jesus, and taught her the beauty of God’s grace and goodness.

“Corrupt people walk a thorny, treacherous road; whoever values life will avoid it. Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” Proverbs‬ ‭22:5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As I release Rebecca into God’s hands, she will enter a world, knowing that she is loved and prayed for every day. She confidently knows that any mistakes I made as a parent; are mitigated by her relationship with Jesus Christ. She learned first hand from me to trust in the Lord Jesus and to lean on Him. Trusting in God will give her the peace of mind to know that Gods grace will be with her when she messes up, as long as she is humble and repentant. Living that way will also help me, as I lessen the mistakes I make with her brothers and sisters.

“God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”   1 Corinthians‬ ‭1:30-31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Thank you all for the wonderful emails I have received. Your likes, comments and emails are much appreciated. God Bless you all.

Stop Making Excuses for Your Behavior!

Why do we desire to point out the faults of others, before we clean up ourselves? Hypocrisy is epidemic! Its time for change. Its time to love others more than ourselves.

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” Romans‬ ‭15:5-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It was my dad’s first Sunday as senior pastor of a church in Los Angeles. I was a young five year old boy full of energy. In those days they had a time in the middle of the service called, “The Children’s Moment.” It was a time that the pastor would share something inspirational to the children right before they went to Children’s church. On this particular Sunday all the children gathered in the first three rows of the church so my dad could address them, along with a few volunteer high school girls to help keep the kids calm. Sitting behind me was another five year old boy named Chris, who thought it was a great idea to whisper to the high school girl next to me, “Fat Cathy, Fat Cathy.” I was confounded by these remarks, for Cathy was quite beautiful and definitely not fat. After a third insult, I decided to defend her honor. In front of the whole congregation, I turned around and punched Chris square in the nose. You can only imagine, as horrified gasps echoed through the church followed by glances of disapproval towards the new pastor, my dad. Needless to say it was not a good first impression, on a new church.

“So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I was not the easiest kid to deal with. By the time I was five, I had already earned a degree and was an expert in pushing my dad’s buttons. On the way home, my mother was hysterical in her outrage at my behavior, but my dad was eerily silent. When we arrived home, my dad pulled me aside and explained to me the difference between situational ethics and absolute morality. No matter how hard I tried to justify my behavior, my dad would calmly point out why I was wrong. I was waiting for my dad’s calmness to erupt into frustrated anger, but it never happened. Years later I finally understood the lessons from that day; bad behavior is never justified by the immoral behavior of others. Today we live in a society that blames others for their behavior, but ignores and justifies their own destructive and out of control behavior. We see this in politics,  in America both political parties are guilty of name calling, lying, corruption and abusive bullying. Both point fingers at the other, while justifying their own corrupt and unethical actions. In the end both are wrong. My dad wisely pointed out to me that hitting someone is never right, Christians show love and forgiveness. The 16 year old girl did not need me to defend her honor, she was wise enough to ignore the insane ramblings of an immature five year old kid. My actions brought grief to my father, the church, and to Jesus.

“In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:5-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Just like the excuses of a five year old, who did not see the big picture of his behavior, so are our excuses to God as we justify our sins to Him. We are ignorant, but still accountable for our actions. We blame everyone but ourselves. Some lie to themselves, by denying the existence of God, in order to avoid accountability. This too, is a foolish excuse.

“Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The person who comes to the cross and chooses to follow Jesus, for them, it is no easy task. It is not easy for anyone to face the humiliation of their own wrongdoing.

Isn’t it time that we stop making excuses for bad behavior?

All the excuses do not matter to a just God. In fact nothing we do, can earn His grace or forgiveness. Jesus paid the debt for our selfishness and immorality. What God wants is for us to humble ourselves, examine our own hearts and live in a repentant relationship with Him. Let God shine a light through you to change the world. Let His love drench others around you, so that all they will see is Jesus. Nobody was better at promoting harmony, love and peace in a chaotic and hate filled world, than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blacks, whites, Republicans, Democrats, rich and poor all respect him for what he accomplished peacefully. He believed in civility, love and forgiveness. Ponder this quote.

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”–Martin Luther King Jr

Dr. King believed in the power of love to change the hearts and minds of people. He preached the Gospel to anyone willing to listen. Love is the answer! Holding yourself accountable to God for your own actions is the answer. Forgiveness and compassion is the answer. Violence and uncivil behavior will lead to the death of innocent people. Everyone needs to change the rhetoric and the violence; or we will be at war with one another. We must to return to moral, compassionate, behavior! There needs to be a desire to read the Bible and pray, be encouraging and stop promoting negativity. We should learn to love disagreeable people, to find common ground and to be compassionate. Don’t be selfish, stop the name calling and be a light in the darkness.

“The Lord approves of those who are good, but he condemns those who plan wickedness. Wickedness never brings stability, but the godly have deep roots.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭12:2-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Let us bring stability back to a world gone mad. Let us shine the light of God’s love into a dark world. Our behavior, is the proof of our faith in Christ Jesus.

Jesus, The Personal Savior.

Intimacy is important in relationships & in our prayer life. Do you know Jesus? Is your Christianity defined by the tattoo inked on your body? God wants more. He wants to engage us in a deeper relationship.

Have you ever been asked the question, “Are you a Christian?” This is a common question; that is asked to determine religious affiliation. Many Americans casually call themselves Christians, as if they are fans of the religion. The question that should be asked is, “Do you know Jesus?” or “Are you a follower of Christ?”.

“Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:29-31‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

As we look at the beginning of this story we are reminded that there was an intimacy in the relationship between the disciples and Jesus. The disciples knew Jesus, followed Jesus and spent time with Jesus. They had just finished visiting the synagogue and were heading to the home of Simon Peter and Andrew, where they planned to fellowship and eat. Here is where the story begins to develop into an intimate portrait of what having a relationship with Jesus can be like.

According to Luke, a doctor, Simon’s Mother in law was with high fever. (Luke 4:38) In those days a fever was deadly. There was no Tylenol or Advil to help with the reduction of fever. In fact the rituals of the time were quite barbaric in dealing with a high fever. She needed a miracle.

What separates the fans of Christianity from the followers of Jesus Christ, is spiritual intimacy. We should know our Savior beyond “Just Faith”. There are two lessons on intimacy that we can learn from this passage of scripture.

1. The disciples knew Jesus well enough to know that He would hear their petition and that He would respond to their needs.

Do you know Jesus like this?

2. We need to go immediately to Jesus with everything.

Most people go to God only when they need something. The scripture tells us that the disciples immediately went to Jesus and told him about Simon’s mother in law. Notice that they did not go to others and ask them to talk to Jesus, they went to Jesus directly. I am not saying that you shouldn’t ask others to pray for you. What I am saying is that you need to go to Jesus first and immediately. The relationship with Christ is a personal one. One that is not hung on a banner or wrapped around a cross on your neck. It is a daily communication between you and your savior. It is one of intimacy. The Disciples knew Jesus, because they spent time with Him and listened to His teachings. This is why we must spend time in Gods word, the Bible. Everything we need is in the love letter that God has given us. Read His love letter!

Another example of prayer is from Daniel:

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Daniel 6:10

and Ephesians:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18

When communication is constant and direct it leaves little room for wondering if that person is real, and what they want. The same is with Jesus. Relationships that fail usually do so because of a lack of communication. When we purposely draw near to God, He draws near to us. A transformation comes when we move from faith to believing and from believing to knowing. When we know God, we will be filled with understanding and peace. We will know His will because we are constantly dwelling in His presence. Do not be afraid to go to God with your pain, your grief, your sins and your needs. Let God know your suffering. King David did this better than anyone, The Psalmist often shocks me, in how he confronts God. It is reverent but very direct; yet David with all of his sins and crimes was called a man after God’s own heart.

Once we go to God in prayer we learn from Mark that Jesus is there to comfort us. Notice in verse 31, it says that Jesus took her hand. The taking of the hand is a sign of comfort. When we go to Jesus immediately with our daily concerns and needs, He comforts us through the Holy Spirit and guides us. Jesus gives us the ability to endure any situation.

When my daughter Hannah was younger, she loved to sit in the front seat of my car and hold my hand. I once asked her, why she did this and she told me it was because it made her feel safe and good. When you pray, ask Jesus to take your hand and walk you through your prayer life.

Jesus is always with us. The Holy Spirit is our comforter. God is the Father that we need. So reach out to Him and pray. A prayer life is a #proofofyourfaith.

The Hypocrite

What lies do we tell ourselves? Are we judging others, mocking them, do we see our own failures and hate what we have become?

In life, we love to point the finger at others. We love to judge others, but maybe we need to look at ourselves. Jesus spoke against hypocrites, He said:

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:3-5‬ ‭

We live in a world full of hypocrites, myself included. God loves us and will forgive us if we seek forgiveness and turn away from judging, name calling and hypocrisy. We must learn to love one another, as Christ loves us.

Hear is another of my poems to go along with these two:
I Need to Know the Cost
Old Weary Me

The Hypocrite

By

Stephan Caraway

Oh what a hypocrite that I be,

To live in the sin that pleasures me.

It’s not on the outside that you see,

It’s the hypocrite inside of me.

I go to church and sing the songs,

Knowing that I don’t belong.

You might catch a tear in my eye,

But it’s sin where I choose to lie.

Oh what a hypocrite that I be,

To live in the sin that pleasures me.

Maybe I should, maybe I would,

To live a life that might look good.

Narrow and hard is the way;

But pleasure is the road I stray.

One night I had a frightening dream,

That I stood before our God Supreme.

Oh the hypocrite that I be, in my heart God could see.

The lies that I lived so burdened me.

The God I mocked began to scold,

To hell I would go, for the sins I sow.

Just as the flames began to heat;

Awaken I did, my death to beat.

Oh the hypocrite that I be,

No longer a desire found in me.

I fell to the ground on bended knee

That Jesus would set me free.

My heart He did change inside of me,

No longer the hypocrite for God to see.

Oh the hypocrite I used to be,

Washed in the blood that set me free!

© 2018 Stephan Caraway. All Rights Reserved

Thank you for visiting this blog. I am grateful to all those who provide comments and feedback. Once again I am not a poet; with that said, I was inspired to write this poem. Please provide feed back, I will respond to your comments. Thank you for visiting proofofyourfaith.com

Letting God Interfere with your Depression and Faith.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭

In the past few months, Southern California has been hit with the news of tragic suicides of several local pastors. Some were well known while others from small churches were not. The pain that their deaths left is unimaginable. As someone who suffers from depression, I had to ask, was I next?  Could my depression bring me to the point of taking my own life? There are times when depression has paralyzed me. It is in those times that I have clung to scripture and Jesus to help me. I have done some serious soul searching and praying. There are steps that you can take to aid in your battle with depression. The first step is to recognize your depression. I outlined this in a previous blog: Depression and The Christian Faith. The next step is to prioritize your life and eliminate the distractions. I wrote about this in my second post: Depression and the Christian Faith (Pt. 2).

My family and my amazing wife have really supported me with my depression battle. They have reminded me to take my medication, focus on the pleasant moments, and helped me to change my routine when drowning in depression. The biggest area of support that they have provided is to ensure that I have significant amount of time to spend with Jesus. It is during my devotions that I became friends with David. He has quickly become one of my best friends. David understands me, he also suffered from depression. Yes I am talking about David the Psalmist. His Psalms clearly outlines the personality of one who battles depression. David clearly understands depression. He also gives us a spiritual method in which we can battle depression.

The first battle: Be honest.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:1-3‬ ‭NASB
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?””

David is honest with God, he tells God that he wants to die, that he has done nothing but cry. His tears asked the question, “Where is God?” David loved God which is evident by his many psalms. He admits that in his darkest hour, he questioned if God was near.

In the midst of despair, we often question God. This does not anger God. It actually causes God to react to your prayers and pain. God wants us to communicate with Him. He desires intimacy. Admitting that you may harm yourself is not a weakness, it is a sign of strength. Tell someone how you are feeling. God puts people in our lives to help us in our struggles. Do not bottle things up! Expose them to the light

The second battle: Remember your Joy.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:4‬ ‭NASB
“These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.”

‭‭David reminds himself of the days when he had joy in his heart, when he was thankful and loved God with his whole soul. It is important to keep reminders of what brings you joy. Is it your children? Is it love of family? You need to know what brings you real joy, it needs to be something of substance and long lasting. When you figure this out, start being thankful for them. It is impossible to be thankful and depressed at the same moment. I keep a list and read them to God daily and thank Him. Ironically my list has grown quite large.

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The third battle: Seek God’s help in righting your wrongs.

Psalms‬ ‭42:5‬ ‭NASB
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.”

David questions what has caused this disturbance in his soul. Is there unforgiveness that is eating you up? Do you feel shame for something that was not even your fault. Are you carrying guilt around as a baggage that weighs you down. Talk to someone, seek help. David thanked God for the help of His presence. His hope in God was restored because he knew God was there. David praised God for bringing him full circle to a place of restoration. We need to learn forgiveness. Each of us makes mistakes in life. Nothing is ever to big that God cannot forgive. He loves us. Allow Gods love to shine on you.

The forth battle: Allow God’s love to surpass your depression.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:7-8‬ ‭NASB‬‬
“Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. The LORD will command His loving kindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.”

Depression often comes in waves. David reminds us that as deep as our depression gets; God gets deeper. God calls out the deepest sorrows in our life. David encourages us, that with every wave and cycle that we experience, God’s love will be more powerful. Our Father in heaven commands His love to be poured over us in the daytime and He gives us a song for the night. David prayed to God for help and he trusted God with his life.

Do you pray? How often? Have you surrendered your life to Jesus? Give God your burdens. Let his love pour over you.

David was a great king. He had his lows and his highs. He referred often to God, as his rock. David often spoke of God’s loving kindness. He saw God as a father, a good shepherd and a friend.

But more important…

God called David, “A man after His own heart.”

In our weaknesses God sees our strengths. Isn’t it time that you see yourself the way God does? God’s love for us is greater than our faith.

Please leave a comment and if this post helped you, hit the like button below.
God Bless you,

Stephan

‭‭‬‬

The God We Should Worship

What separates Islam from Christianity is the core belief that Jesus is God and that salvation can only come through Him.

How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust,
And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.                 –Psalm 40:4

There has been much discussion about whether Muslims worship the same God as Christians. The most peculiar part of the discussion has been the lack of scripture used by those in support of the claim that Muslims do in deed worship the same God. Most have even failed to support the very basic tenants of Christianity. These prideful, well-meaning individuals have lapsed into falsehood. So let us begin with the very core of Christian doctrine, Jesus. For the Christian everything  begins and ends with Jesus. Jesus said this in the the Gospel of John, You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40) 

Jesus was stating that eternal  life comes through him. He later claimed in John 10 that He and God are one. (John 10:30) Muslims do not believe this, they believe that Jesus was a prophet and therefore could not grant the forgiveness of sins. It is this unbelief in the incarnate Christ that separates Muslims from Christians. Jesus argued against this unbelief when he said, “He who rejects me rejects the One who sent me.”(Luke 10:16) This means that if you reject that Jesus is God then you are rejecting God and his love for you and you are rejecting the purpose of why Jesus came.

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

The Muslim rejects Christ as the Savior of the world and is repulsed by what the cross represents. They do not even believe that Jesus died on the cross. (Surah 4:157-158 Qur’an) They “worship” a God made in their own image, this is what God refers to as an idol. Muslims deny the Holy Trinity of  God and they deny the Deity of Jesus. The scripture says,

And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. (Luke 12:8-9)

The follower of Christ is drawn to the cross of Jesus with tear filled repentance and worships God for what he has done. (John 3:16) We recognize that it is nothing we could do but it is all about what Jesus did on the cross. This is why Paul said in 1Corinthians that we are to preach Christ crucified. In the end it is all about love, the love God has for us and the love Christ showed for us on the cross. It is about a love that we can’t repay, it is a love that binds the broken hearted and saves the lost. It is the love for what Jesus did on the cross that causes us to surrender to God and with a deep gratitude we worship Him, as our God. It is this love that heals our soul. Let me leave you with these words from the mouth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world…

Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 
Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 
and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 
and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:44-47
Read vs 52 and ask yourself, who did they worship?)

The Lake Elsinore Fire, Fear and Faith

The Lake Elsinore Fire, Fear and Faith. The fire is raging. Fear and anxiety are growing, but God is in control. With thankful hearts, we pray.

The fires have been raging for 3 days here in Lake Elsinore. Dark smoke and ash are everywhere. Sore throats and massive headaches are a constant. We were told a little while ago, that voluntary evacuations were underway. The stress of fire and evacuation are difficult to endure, emotions are high. After all, who really wants to lose a home. Fear, dread, and anxiety are common among us and our neighbors. Many have started evacuating. This fire is not easy for anyone, especially for a family of Eleven. As planes above dropped fire repellent, I kissed my wife and said, “It is time for you to go”. With tears in our eyes, I hugged my wife and nine children good bye. I gave a few words of wisdom and encouragement, before giving each one a kiss. I reminded everyone how much I loved them. With smoke all around,  I gave a tearful wave and then saw our ash covered, family, van drive away. They mean the world to me. The breaths are weak when they are not around. I promised them I would leave the moment it was mandatory. Our dog, Sasha, stayed as my sole companion to help me watch and pray. In these moments of fear and anxiety I find peace.

Isaiah 41:10 New King James Version (NKJV) “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Lake Elsinore Evacuation

A year and a half ago, I managed to convince my beautiful wife that we could possibly own a home. It started out as a prayer; asking God to provide for us a home, then it moved to faith. It was a dream and a hope. The wife and kids needed a safe place to live. I also wanted a home that was free of criticism for my oldest son, Jeremiah. Jeremiah has White Matter Syndrome. He likes to scream for no apparent reason and to put holes in the wall, as a way of expressing frustration. He lacks the necessary communication skills and understanding that most of us have. He has a difficult life, filled with love and support. Most Landlords are not to tolerant of their property getting torn up. We live in an era of harsh, judgmental attitudes, so renting was difficult. It was my hope to free my wife and kids from the stress of perfection, a refuge where they could be at ease and call their own. A home where a kid could mess up and it was ok, because it was ours.

God in His goodness, agreed. After a hard search and a miracle loan approval; we moved into our new home in beautiful, Lake Elsinore. Our family loves it hear. The home is not perfect and it needs some work, but it is a place of love, joy and laughter. Lake Elsinore is a wonderful community. We have fantastic neighbors; who put up with our large family. They have shown us such kindness and grace. The church we found is so loving and welcoming. It has been a blessing to live here.

We don’t want to lose our home; but we will trust God. God has given us much, with thankful hearts, we will pray. We will pray for safety, our homes and the firefighters, who are putting their lives on the line for us. God bless those hard working fire fighters. Give them strength and endurance. May the good Lord bring us back to our homes, safe and sound.

Proverbs 3:5-6 New King James Version (NKJV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Christian Behavior in a Muslim World

For the follower of Christ, violence in never an option no matter the justification.

 

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.(1Peter 4:12-14)

When millions of Christians are suffering at the hands of Muslims one has to wonder how the follower of Jesus is to behave and react to this horrific persecution and genocide. For the follower of Christ, violence in never an option no matter the justification. Vengeance belongs to God so let us leave it with Him. How then, do we put aside our anger and indignation? How do we continue the ministry of the Gospel of  Christ with love and compassion to a world that hates this message of hope? I, like many of you, have been struggling  with anger and frustration over the atrocities that some Muslims are perpetuating against Christians throughout the world. I have had to pray often to God that He would deliver me from the anger I have  felt towards the Muslim community. This has been difficult and conflicting for me, I have cried before God and pleaded for Justice. (Ok, sometimes I have even demanded it.) I have struggled in the endeavor to deny my sinful nature and trust God with His greater plan. So I thought it would be a good time to share what God has been teaching me.

First Christ reminded me to, “Love your Enemies”.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This is much easier to say than to do. Paul wrote in Romans, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14) For the follower of Christ we are not only to love those who want to inflict harm on us, but we must also bless and pray for them. Notice that Paul says not to curse. This love can only come from knowing Christ as your savior, because it comes from Him. Jesus not only fulfilled this on the cross, He demonstrated it. Jesus showed love to the thief on the cross by granting him salvation even after he mocked the Lord. Jesus prayed for those crucifying him and even offered the blessing of forgiveness. Christ showed His compassion when he prayed for them.

But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”(Luke 12:34a)

It is impossible show the love of Christ and demonstrate compassion when you hate. They cannot coexist. The disciple John fully understood this when he wrote: “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”(1John4:8)

Second, God reminded me to Pray

The Scriptures are full of examples of what to pray for. The fact is that we are to pray about everything and we are to pray without ceasing. When it comes to persecution here are the prayers I am learning.

1)Pray for those who are committing genocide.  Plead for God’s mercy and grace.                2)Pray for the endurance and peace of those being persecuted.                                      3)Pray that God overwhelms you with His enduring love and compassion for the Muslim community.

Third, God showed me that we are not to be in solidarity with the world.

You cannot serve to masters, or ideologies. Either you stand with Jesus, the cross, the Bible and the beleaguered Church; or you stand with the world.

I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of Your hand: for you have filled me with indignation.(Jeremiah 15:17)

The world is constantly trying to marginalize the message that Christianity brings. Some people have a big tent theory to their faith. They do not want to ruffle the feathers of other religions, they want to appease the world by sacrificing the message. In the process of diluting the Gospel they lose their very soul to religious conformity. Paul addressed this several times in the New Testament.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)   (Belial is a Hebrew word used in Jewish texts for the devil.)                                                                                                      

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:17)          

 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)

We should not mix the idea of religious solidarity with love. They are separate.  Jesus showed love and compassion, but His message often offended those around Him. He even informed His followers not to lose their salt. Our love needs to be bold and unconditional; but our support should always be with the followers of Jesus and the Gospel. We need to stand and Intercede with them. We should speak out against violence and do all that we can to help and minister to the needs of the oppressed and persecuted. We need to stand firm in our faith, not compromising. Love and compassion do not equate to compromising the message of the Bible or our commitment to Jesus. We are the salt of the earth!

When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7)

4th, The Body of Christ needs to be Active.

In the 1980’s Steve Camp wrote a song called, “What would the Devil Say About Your Life?” It begs the question every Christian should ask of themselves. Would satan see you as an ally or an enemy? Is he threatened by your relationship with God? For most people their is no action behind their faith. They hardly participate in the ministry of Christ. The life of a follower of Christ is meant to be active and full of struggles. The more trials, the more we experience the reality of God in our lives. We need to be active in prayer and in our knowledge of the Bible. We need to be active in our ministry to the poor and  to the oppressed. We need to be active in love and sharing the good news of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. We need to be active in sharing our faith and encouraging one another. We need to be active in promoting a unified body of Christ. How can we learn to love our enemies if we fail to love one another?

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.  But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:23-25)

I encourage you to be bold in your faith. Let Jesus shine through to everyone. Let His love fill your life. May you grow  in Him as you travel the hard road ahead. Be the salt, long lasting in flavor. Your behavior towards others is a #proofofyourfaith

Surrounding Yourself With Encouragement During Trials

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

1 Peter 4:12-13New King James Version (NKJV)

12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

Suffering for God’s Glory

Last week I talked about some of the difficulties that my family was endured.      (Ramblings of Death, Illness and a Baby) It seemed that problems were coming at us faster than we could handle them. It was not just the big ones, (See the link.) but all the small ones that added to our stress and anxiety. The little things are the ones that just put you over the edge. The air conditioner failing, garbage disposal breaking and the dog deciding that the BBQ would make a great chew toy. It is in these moments that one wonders, “God where are you?” It is in these moments that you need encouragement. During trials it is critical to know your Bible and trust what it says. God uses His word to encourage us. Encouragement in trials is key to relieving the stress you are under.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17New International Version (NIV)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Surround Yourself with Hope

The world has become so negative. We are surrounded by destructive words, behavior and images that demean our self worth and break us mentally and spiritually. This is why we must combat the enemy who wishes to destroy us. There are 5 ways that we can build our lives with a foundation of hope and encouragement.

PRAY: If you do not regularly communicate with God, you are making a big mistake in your life. God is our Heavenly Father, He loves us and wants to hear from us. He is an awesome and perfect Dad. These two verses say it best. 

 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1 John 5:14)

He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, And shall not despise their prayer.      (Psalm 102:17)

READ YOUR BIBLE: The Bible is God’s love letter to you, it is filled with hope and encouragement. How will you know God if you don’t read it? God has a plan for your life. Reading the Bible gives you clarity and peace.  Memorize verses so that you will remember them in the middle of a desperate moment.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)

GO TO CHURCH: God created us to be relational, Church is a place where we are called to encourage one another, but also a place to be encouraged. Christians are called to care for one another. In the passage below, we are called to assemble together.

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

ENCOURAGING PEOPLE: We need to surround our selves with people who encourage us in our walk with God and in life. Look for people who use encouraging words that build you up and show you grace. Become one of these people, by building others up you will establish hope in your life through difficult times.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

POSITIVE SOCIAL MEDIA: Social media can either depress you or it can be a reminder of spiritual growth. If you look at my social media, I use it to encourage others with a daily reminder of God’s Goodness. I also surround myself with other like minded individuals. In the past month, so many people have inspired and encouraged my wife and I to keep enduring through these difficult moments. We have felt the prayers of thousands and have seen them answered.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

Give Praise to God

Josiah

Although the last month was difficult I had so much to be thankful for. God brought a music album that encouraged me. It is from a friend of mine, Aaron Michael, so check it out. (https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/promises/1337486248)
We had a church that prayed for us, and family who supported us. I also had a special friend (Jill) from Instagram; who every day would send encouraging messages and prayers into our lives. I must also give praise to God, who is amazing. God healed my dad, so he and my mother were able to celebrate their 63 wedding anniversary. On that very same day, my son Josiah was born. He was born healthy and my wife is in amazing health and good spirits.

To the follower of Jesus, encouragement is a #proofofyourfaith.