When Prayer Becomes Authentic.

Do you speak to God with the clarity of speaking with a friend. Authentic prayer is empowered by the knowledge of scripture and guided by the understanding and wisdom of a loving Father.

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. “Give us this day our daily bread.”

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew‬ ‭6:7-13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

My earliest memories of my parents faith is their prayer life. Prayer was always at the top of their list of things to do. They would pray about everything and anything. It was such a normal activity, that even the family dog would act as if she were praying. She would sprawl close to my mom, with paws crossed during her prayer times.

My siblings and I were raised  on the numerous stories of answered prayer. These life changing accounts filled our minds with the belief that God answers prayer. It was not until I turned 12 that I saw with my own eyes the first of many miracles; my mother completely healed of the crippling disease, Myasthenia gravis. This forever doomed me to the knowledge that Christianity was real, Jesus was real and God answered prayers of righteous people. I could never deny that God was real, so I was left with no excuses. Although I rebelled often as a youth and young adult, I could not ignore where my selfish behavior was leading me. Sin can seem fun. It can also lead to destruction. We still have the free will to choose our path. I know that the tearful prayers of my parents worked.

Thank God, I finally straitened out.  Thankfully it was His goodness that allowed me to see sin as He does and bring me to repentance through Jesus Christ my Lord.

Now that I am older and wiser I return to those memories of my parents prayer life and the lessons I learned. Prayer should always be the first thing you do when facing a crisis or before making a decision. I wrote about this in a previous post: The Crazy Chaos of a Busy Life… It also needs to be persistent and enduring, which you can read in: Enduring and Persistent Communication…

Lately I have been asked, “How can my life change, so that I am really walking with Jesus?” “Why do I keep struggling with my faith?” These questions reflect a need in the church body to understand authentic prayer and Biblical based meditation on The scripture. Real changes come when people read the Bible consistently, meditate on what it says and add its understanding to their prayer life.

Isn’t it interesting that the Christian who prays every day, reads the Bible every day, memorizes scripture and shares his faith; never shows or expresses any doubts about his salvation. The knowledge of knowing the Father has given that Christian an assurance of salvation in Christ alone.

Do you want an authentic relationship with God?

So lets take a look at the example Jesus gave us on how to pray with authenticity.

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them;”

It is not the amount of words we use or the vocabulary, but the genuine heartfelt utterances that we speak to God. These are the words that matter to our Father. We do not pray mantras but sincerity from our heart and soul. We speak the languages of brokenness, honor, humility and we speak them with tears, thankfulness and praise.

“for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him”

We are to pray with the anticipation of knowing that God is paying attention to our lives, He knows every detail. We pray with the expectation that His will, will be done; because we know that He loves us. He is our Father, who is in Heaven.

“Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.

We surrender to His will, and offer thanksgiving and service to our Father’s Kingdom. We honor Him as our King, supreme in all authority, wisdom, knowledge and power. His understanding surpassing any situation we will face. We recognize that we are not alone, we belong to the Kingdom of God and are supported by the righteous right hand of God which is Jesus Christ our Lord.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

God wants us to express our needs, concerns and fears. He want open and honest communication from us. He is never busy, always ready to listen. We remind him of the promises of Jesus.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

We seek forgiveness for ourselves and for the grace to forgive and love others. Granted to us through the blood of Jesus.

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

We ask for deliverance from temptation and endurance to overcome the trials and tribulations of living in a sinful world. We pray for healing and for strength.

“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

We finish our prayer with praise, worship, and thankfulness, because God always wins. He is faithful and true, His love reigns supremely.

May your prayers be authentic and transforming. May people see Christ revealed in your life. May the proof of your faith be the Christ in you, the Hope of Glory.

God Bless,

Stephan

When God Grows Love…

The moment we respond in anger or hurt, we have dismissed love from our life. True love looks beyond the disagreement and builds a bridge that demonstrates the Christ with you.

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:28-33)

Two years ago I had the privilege of preaching through the Gospel of Mark in tandem with the senior pastor at the church where I was volunteering. It was a great experience for me. I was always a huge believer in expository preaching; but to actually explain the text verse by verse, was one of the most transforming experiences of my life.  My walk with Christ radically changed during this period. You may find this humorous, but most of the sermons I preached, affected me. It seemed that every sermon preached was at myself. I began to wonder if the passages assigned to me were done out of an intentional purpose. Did the senior pastor see something in my life that needed to be changed? I found out later that it was all the work of the Holy Spirit and the pastor was oblivious to what was happening to me. One of the passages that was life changing for me was Mark 12:28-33.

It has been over three years and that sermon still stirs within me. It convicts, encourages and transforms. This passage teaches us how to love. It gives us understanding of how to accept the love of God and where true love comes from. This may take a few posts to explain, so I plan on keeping each post easy to read. (Yes I am A.D.D. and feel your pain.) The subject of love is important for a number of reasons. Our society has forgotten how to really love one another and how to love God. It has forgotten that God loves us and what that love truly looks like.

Jesus breaks this passage down in two ways, surrendering to God and loving God. In this passage we learn that Jesus is making an absolute statement, that the greatest commandment is to live in total love and to live a completely surrendered life to God.

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”

For many, Christianity is a list of rules that no one one can live up to. Most people view us as hypocrites. They despise our hypocrisy because they view our moral code as changing in order to meet our own selfishness. This is not supposed to be the case. Some people try to live by a moral code. But even the best moral code fails when there is no love. The scribe was seeking righteousness through moral living. God wants us to seek righteousness through surrendered living.

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. (Mark 8:34)

So what does this mean?

Simply put, Jesus is asking us to deny selfishness in any form or behavior, lay your life down for others and follow His example of unconditional love. Think about how contradictory that is to what the world is telling us through social media and Television. Is it loving to be on your phone texting, when you are with someone else? Of course not! We have become so self absorbed as a society that we cannot even see when others are hurting. Self love is being promoted in the absence of genuine compassionate love for others. This is denying otherness. Jesus is calling us to deny oneness, selfishness, pridefulness and our egos. Our world has become so self centered, that anyone who breathes, must conform to the collective mindset or be destroyed. Selflessness allows others to foster opinions different from our selves; yet embrace those individuals with unconditional love. Jesus demonstrated that love to us, by dying for us even though our sins were contradictory to the nature of God.

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:8-10‬ ‭NASB)

Recently, after an online Bible study, a young man asked the question, “Am I really saved?” After spending some time asking questions, it became clear that he was living with guilt and shame over his personal struggles with sin. The more we love God with our total being; heart, mind, soul and strength, the more God’s love, grace and forgiveness strengthens our resolve to follow Him in righteousness. We don’t have to worry about if we are saved, if we live in committed love towards God. We do not need to worry about our salvation, if others see the light and love of Christ in us. If our mind is dedicated to His word, and our soul to worshiping God, then our strength is in Jesus. When our heart belongs to Him, then our love will be pure and faultless. This is not earning salvation. This is living in the works of our faith out of gratitude for what Jesus did on the cross. Our salvation was earned by Jesus, as a free gift for us, but we must have the free will to receive it. The choice we make either brings us life or it leads to death.

“There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief. The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied with his.” Proverbs‬ ‭14:12-14‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In the last eight years, the life I desire is to be a disciple of Jesus. I desire to be known by my love and not my anger, selfishness or tone. It is in my love for others that I demonstrate the reality of a fulfilled relationship with Jesus. My love is the proof of my faith.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ‭‭John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Enduring Suffering, Grieving In Tragedy.

Grief, depression and sadness are natural human responses to tragedy, trauma and suffering. We can not endure this on our own, God provides hope.

“Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.” John‬ ‭11:32-35‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

It is never easy to lose a loved one, but for Mary this past December; she lost a daughter in a car accident and a husband to a heart attack. Her twenty year love affair with her husband, gone in a second. Her only child, cruelly ripped from her life. How do you even begin to console someone in this situation? The grief is overwhelming, nothing you say will comfort the pain. Mary was a good Christian woman, why should she suffer?

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Psalms‬ ‭34:18-19‬ ‭NASB‬‬

My Aunt and Uncle, are two of the most compassionate individuals I’ve ever known. They have always demonstrated what it means to have a servant’s heart. Whomever  needed help they were there. Their help always came with joy, love and without condemnation. A few years ago my uncle was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Lately their lives have been devastated with sleepless nights, injuries and despair. My once strong Aunt, has become frail from the stress they face as a couple. Why would God allow this? Doesn’t God look out for Christians?

“Incline Your ear, O LORD, and answer me; For I am afflicted and needy. Preserve my soul, for I am a godly man; O You my God, save Your servant who trusts in You. Be gracious to me, O Lord, For to You I cry all day long. Make glad the soul of Your servant, For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; And give heed to the voice of my supplications! In the day of my trouble I shall call upon You, For You will answer me.” Psalms‬ ‭86:1-7‬ ‭NASB‬‬

One of the greatest lies told, is that if you become a Christian your life becomes easier and you will be happy. Trust me this is a lie.

Christians suffer. In some countries we are raped, tortured, burned alive and killed. The positivity preaching is a destructive lie. It deludes people into a false hope. Jesus said this, “”If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” John‬ ‭15:18-19‬ ‭NASB‬‬

What happens to the new Christian when their life is thrown into tragic turmoil and they realize that being a Christian is hard and difficult? The happiness sermons and positivity preaching become cancer to a hurting soul. This is why the truth of God’s word is better than false teachings. God’s word deals with the truth! Peter warned Christians, “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;” 1 Peter‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NASB‬‬

So is God playing games with us? Why does this happen?

Most people blame God. They become bitter and even denounce their faith. The problem is that we forget about our real enemy. We blame God for what Satan does. Satan hates us. Let’s get real for a moment, we all know there is evil in the world. We see cruelty, greed, hate and horrific acts done on our tv every day. So evil exists. So why do we blame God for what Satan is doing? Shouldn’t our anger be directed at him? Peter  warns us again,

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” 1 Peter‬ ‭5:8-9‬ ‭NASB‬‬

God’s word comforts us in knowing that other Christians are enduring the same trials. We are not alone, as Christians, we recognize that we are part of the body of Christ. We have each other and we have Jesus. This is why it is important for Christians to go to church, to share their burdens, to pray together and to pray for each other. United in Christ we can endure and stand against the schemings of Satan.

“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter‬ ‭5:10-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Christians suffer; but God is our shield. He provides us with endurance and strength to cope through the grief, depression and the loss. Christ suffered on the cross and that becomes more meaningful, when we understand that we are sharing in His sufferings. Christ endured and persevered in His suffering for us, so that we can persevere and endure under trials of our own. We become mature as Christians complete in our faith, knowing that Christ is our shield, strength and salvation.

“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness, To deliver their soul from death And to keep them alive in famine.” Psalms‬ ‭33:18-19‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The attitude in which we suffer is what separates us from a world without hope. We know that this life is short in comparison to the eternal life, promised by God. This is not our kingdom, but our King is coming, we then must be prepared. God always comes through in the end.

“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.” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Don’t give up! Pray, read the Bible and pray some more. Be vigilant, be strong and love deeply. Encourage one another in love. Our time is short. Jesus is coming back!

God Bless,
Stephan

A special announcement: Next week’s blog will be special. I will have the privilege of interviewing Carl Teichrib the author of Game of Gods. Here is a link to his book and his site: gameofgods.ca 

Maintaining Your New Year Before It Breaks Down.

Wise people set goals for themselves in the New Year, areas they want to improve or even change. Some people sabotage their goals before they even begin. How will you maintain your growth? Setting positive habits builds a foundation of repeatable success.

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭3:13-14‬ ‭NASB‬‬

A new year is upon us. The old year is past. This is the time to put away bad habits and start better ones. A dear friend, Jim Hogan, once challenged the sales team that worked for him, “Don’t be afraid to form good habits, everyone has habits, the best of us work from the good habits we already formed. Good habits create repeatable success.” — Crevier Sales Meeting 2008

Jim has always lived by example, he taught me the important value of doing things right from the beginning and repeating your good habits until they become one with everything you do. The highest compliment to Jim’s success is the fierce loyalty that his sales people had for him. Past employees often speak of his integrity, his character and the way he changed their lives for the better.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NASB‬‬

For the Christian, one who is committed to following Jesus, good habits are critical to your relationship with God and to your spiritual growth. In the passage above, Paul tells us that we can change our behavior through the renewing of our minds and that we can also know the will of God. So then how do we do this?

Like any good relationship, we need to spend time and make it a date. Yes, take the time to have a daily date with God. Read His love letter and talk to Him.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans‬ ‭10:17‬ ‭NASB‬‬

David, the psalmist understood how to change his ways and to draw closer to God. He knew that it would require his whole heart. It requires a 100% commitment to daily listening, studying and communication with God.

“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” Psalms‬ ‭119:9-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Recently, I was asked, “What methodology do I incorporate when studying the Bible? What habits have I put in place?” So here is my list of things that I do to have an impacting experience with God.

1.) Get a Bible you want to read. Each year I get a new Bible and I switch translations from the NASB to the NKJV. My wife and kids like the NLT. The important thing is to read God’s word.

2.) Get a quality Bible. Take some pride in picking out your Bible. I prefer goat skin leather and a binding that is called smyth sewn. The binding is critical, a smyth sewn binding will last and hold up over time. (Smyth Sewn Bindings) The paper should be at a 28 gsm or greater. The best Bibles made are by Schuyler, R.L. Allan, and Cambridge. (Evangelical Bibles) This year my wife bought me my first Schuyler Bible. It is such a beautiful masterpiece of craftsmanship.

3.) Develop a system to take notes in your Bible. Don’t just write notes, write with a purpose. One day someone else will read my Bible, I wonder how will my notes inspire their relationship with Jesus. I have developed a color code system over the years that works for me. Below is an example of it.

4.) Pray before you start and after. I always ask God to give me understanding and wisdom in comprehending His word.

5.) Get a book that corresponds to what you are reading. Get some perspective. Share what you learned with a friend.

6.) Get cozy. Find a quiet place, with a comfortable chair. Make this a place that you want to go to.

7.) Make the time you spend with God, consistent. Set a time to read your Bible. Keep your date with Him

8.) Keep a journal of your growth. Write down what you learned. Look back at it and see how you have changed.

God views us as exceptional. He loves us and created us each in a unique way. The one consistent trait, is that anyone can change. God gave us free will, the ability to end mistakes and to create better attitudes and behaviors. The only way this can happen is with God’s help and through having a relationship with Him. This year choose to make your new year exceptional; by maintaining a deeper relationship with God through prayer and the reading of His word.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”‭‭”Romans‬ ‭1:16-17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

God Bless and have a Happy New Year.

Stephan

Year End Review Pt. 2

Why do the nations rage. and the people plot a vain thing? Psalm 2:1 Our world is in deep need of a savior. The answer came 2000 years ago. His Name is Jesus. Very soon He will return, are you ready?

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?” II Peter‬ ‭3:10-12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The world we live in is a scary place. For many Christians, who read their Bibles, there is a nervous excitement. So many biblical prophecies are coming true in such a rapid manner. We know that the return of Christ is eminent. Some choose to bury their heads in the sand, other irrationally deny the current events as coincidental hysteria; but for those who have been watching and waiting, we know the truth. Jesus Christ is returning. So I thought it would be cool to list some of the world events that are lining up with Bible prophecy.

War is coming! Ezekiel 38-39 (Please read)

The nations mentioned in this passage, seem unrecognizable, but most Bible scholars and historians do have a common consensus as to who they are. These nations mentioned will invade Israel. It will be a massive, horrific and bloody war.

So to avoid debate, I am going to list them as most experts generally agree. I myself am not in total agreement, but in this case, let’s keep it simple and go with consensus.

Prediction validation: So right now, Russia, Turkey and Iran are occupying Syria which is on the border of Israel. This fulfills the big three nations as predicted by Ezekiel. This last week Sudan president met with leaders in occupied Syria. Below is a link to the article.

https://www.syrianews.cc/sudan-president-visit-damascus/

https://twitter.com/withinsyriablog/status/1074393390777815040?s=21

Is Sudan fulfilling Biblical prophecy by joining the coalition? It would seem that way.

Libya is the one that always seemed strange to me. This country is very poor, so how could it raise the funds to prepare a military, buy weapons, and mobilize for war with Israel? Well that answer became clear this week by reports from multiple news agencies. Libya is funding it war machine through the selling of black slaves. This is a barbarous act, reminiscent to the slave trade that Libya conducted before the American Civil War. Some black Americans are becoming outraged over this news, but the media in America is strangely silent. Only conservative groups are speaking out. As Christians we cannot remain silent.

Black Slaves for Sale in Libya.

Arab Muslims Selling Black Africans as slaves.

The world is becoming ugly, we need Jesus more than ever. The war with Israel, mentioned in Ezekiel 38-39 is inevitable, but God will be the victor. God has a master plan. For those who trust God, there is hope and life, even through trials, wars and famines. For those who deny Christ with their actions and behaviors there is death.

2000 years ago, Jesus was born in Bethlehem to erase the debt of sin. His death and resurrection provides humanity hope in a world gone mad. Jesus fulfilled 300 prophecies regarding His birth, life and resurrection. The good news is that He promised to return. Jesus gave many signs of His return. As we celebrate the birth of Christ, shouldn’t we look at the events around us as a sign to turn back towards God and await the return of the King?

“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”Luke‬ ‭21:25-28‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

If you don’t know Jesus as your personal savior, I encourage you not to wait any longer. Please email me with any questions.

Here are five sites I recommend to help you grasp world events in the light of Bible prophecy. Just click the link.

Jason A This is one of my favorites. I recommend you go back a few months and view a few of his videos. They are not long, quite short, but very impactful.

Prophecy Watchers Weekly interviews

Behold Israel This is like getting insider information into the mindset of the Israeli Military.

The Watchmen Another great site mixing news reports with scripture.

Himitsustudy This is a friend of mine who is very thorough and deeply insightful.

“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.’ “Behold, all those who were incensed against you Shall be ashamed and disgraced; They shall be as nothing, And those who strive with you shall perish.” Isaiah‬ ‭41:10-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

God Bless,

Stephan

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