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.

Defining the Worship of God.

Do you know what it means to Worship God? Does your behavior, life, exemplify your worship of God?

A while back, I blogged about.  The God We Should Worship. It brought up a discussion with a friend, who asked, “Do we know what worship even is?” Many worship leaders don’t even understand what the purpose is. A pastor told me that in his search for a worship leader they had hundreds of applicants who could not define the purpose of worship.

Praise and worship are more than singing, they bring the follower of Christ to a place of reflection on their life in Christ, His  blood stained sacrifice and His resurrection. Simply put, it points us to the cross of Jesus. It directs us heavenly into the throne room of God. Worship and praise focus us on the awesomeness of God, His Love for us and His redemption of mankind from their sins. It overwhelms us with the knowledge of God’s love for us. The worshiper elevates God’s greatness above their own-self, acknowledging the glory of the creator. Their worship points to Christ and the truth of His Word. Christ centered worship enters us into the presence of God with heartfelt gratitude for what He has done. It is full of thanksgiving and humbles us with a contrite spirit. Scripturally sound worship, penetrates our soul with the word of truth, shedding us of the strife of life.

Godly worship empowers us in our walk with Christ, transforming us through the holy spirit. It engages us to act with love to those around us and finally it provides trust in God’s sovereign will for our lives. It testifies to God’s greatness.

Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things,things planned long ago. (Isaiah 25:1)

Worship guides us: In the recognition that every good and perfect gift comes from God. Praise gives thanks for those gifts bestowed upon us by God.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.” (Psalm 16:2)

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)

Worship guides us:  In the recognition of our sin and of Christ’s perfect act of redemption on the cross. Praise gives thanks for the Fathers Grace and His plan of salvation.

When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.

Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works. (Psalm 73:21-28)

Worship leads us: To the knowledge of total surrender to God’s sovereign will and grace. Praise provides a heart of gratitude that all things work out for His will. Worship is about surrendering your will to God, letting him speak to you and allowing Him to alter your thoughts, emotions and mindset. Worship can move us into His presence changing our lives forever. Surrendered worship fills you with more love, compassion and grace for others. It waters the fruits of your spirit, transforming you into  a new creation, removing the guilt, shame and condemnation.

Then Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the Lord;
My horn is exalted in the Lord,
My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
“There is no one holy like the Lord,
Indeed, there is no one besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God. 
Boast no more so very proudly,
Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth;
For the Lord is a God of knowledge,
And with Him actions are weighed. (1Samuel 2:1-3)

 Worship shepherds us: it cultivates behavior that attests or testifies to the saving power and eternal hope that we have in Christ Jesus. Praise showers God for His enduring love that He has for us.

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:15-16)

Worship is not about you!
It is a sad commentary, but worship for some is about being entertained. Worship needs to draw us to a place of righteousness. It is directed towards God for all that He has done for us.

In the end, worship can never be a performance, something you’re pretending or putting on. It’s got to be an overflow of your heart….. Worship is about getting personal with God, drawing close to God.  –Matt Redman

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 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.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12: 29-31)

In the same way, that we should love God; we should also worship Him. With all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. True worship is bound in the Christ centered love that we give to Him, who first loved us, and the active love we show to others.

Consider Jesus. Know Jesus. Learn what kind of Person it is you say you trust and love and worship. Soak in the shadow of Jesus. Saturate your soul with the ways of Jesus. Watch Him. Listen to Him. Stand in awe of Him. Let Him overwhelm you with the way He is.  –John Piper

Worship and praise are not just to be done in a church building. Do them in your home, in the quiet places; where your soul can soar heavenward as sweet incense to God. Sincere, Godly, worship and praise are a proof of your faith.

Share with me your thoughts,

God Bless,

Stephan

Enduring and Persistent Communication…

“No one can believe how powerful prayer is and what it can effect, except those who have learned it by experience. Whenever I have prayed earnestly, I have been heard and have obtained more than I prayed for. God sometimes delays, but He always comes.”
― Martin Luther

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Recently I wrote about what to do in the midst of The Crazy Chaos of a Busy Life… Prayer is the most important tool we have. Most people fail to use it effectively, if they use it at all. The following passage explains a few of the attributes effective prayer should have.The follower of Christ should not wait for difficult times to pray, We should pray in preparation for them.

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,  saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, Give me legal protection from my opponent.’  For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.”And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said;  now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)

Prayer is effective communication with a responsive God who has the desire to have a relationship with you. E.M. Bounds once said, “The [prayer] closet…is the battlefield of the Church; its citadel; the scene of heroic and unearthly conflicts.” The fact is that many Christians take prayer for granted. Why are we failing to pray? A pastor once told me, that the most difficult event to get people to come out to was a prayer meeting. He mentioned that he would be lucky if 10 people showed up out of his thousand member church. We wonder why there is so much evil in the world, yet we fail to pray. In this technology era of texting and twittering there is very little deep emotional conversation that takes place. In the same way that it affects the natural world it is also affecting the spiritual world. Recently, articles ranging from CNN to The Huffington Post discuss the dangers of losing face-to-face communication. ( Too Much Texting Could be Harming Your Relationship ) This lack of communication is also affecting the way people are praying to God. Are your prayers becoming like a twitter post to God? Are your prayers enduring and full of conviction or are they soulless babble? 

Let see what Jesus wants us to learn about prayer.

Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,(Romans 12:12)

God wants us to have enduring prayer times. Luke basically gives the parable away by telling us what it is about. We are to pray at all times and not to lose heart. Pretty simple idea, so why do we have such a hard time with it. Texting allows us to cut out the chit-chat, it keeps our interactions brief and to the point. We have even reduced whole sentences to a simple emoji. Because of the influence of social media and technology we are failing in our interpersonal communication. In this same way, we have reduced our prayers to simple sound bites. God wants enduring prayers. A person who is devoted to prayer, perseveres through difficult situations and rejoices in the hope that God provides.

We need to devote our selves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)

He wants us to have deep conversations with him, prayers that take time. God wants to hear our problems, sorrows, our brokenness, our praise and gratitude. This takes time. God wants our time. The problem with society is that if we don’t have a result from our communication we move on. Our impatience and our need for results drives us away from God. God is not going to solve your problems with a Twitter response and an emoji. He wants to transform your life and behavior into something beautiful. What excuses do you use to not pray? Is your prayer effective? Are you enduring in your prayer time? God wants you to be persistent in prayer. Is your love for God evident by the way you pursue Him? A person with a committed prayer life has direction and purpose. That person is led by God to level ground.

In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.(Psalm 18:6)

God wants heartfelt prayers. God wants us to pray from our heart. God wants us to reveal our deepest pain to Him. The widow was crying out for justice. She was praying with conviction. Do you pray this way? Abraham Lincoln said this,“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.
Because God loves us, He wants to hear our concerns, our problems, our needs and our joys. God is love. He knows what is happening, but He is relational. It is when we communicate our thoughts to God that He reveals a better path for us. He opens our heart to his will. It is through this time of heartfelt prayer, that love grows inside of us. God is the source of this love, it is His perfect gift to you. Do your prayers flow with love?

By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:8)

Enduring prayers of conviction breeds faithfulness to God. Jesus reveals the character of God in this parable. Persistent prayer reveals justice for the oppressed who follow Him. God is faithful to those who are faithful. The word Elect is used to describe those who follow after God.

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16b).

This is not our righteousness but the righteousness of Jesus Christ that abides in us. It is not a matter of just believing in God, but it is the constant state of mind to be chasing after God. I would often ask myself, “How can I expect to have an enduring and persistent prayer life if I fail to have an enduring and persistent relationship with Christ?” For most of my life my prayers were short and brief. I just wanted to get to the point. I always wondered why my relationship with God was so weak. I now realize that I had it backwards. My Prayer time was what grew my relationship with God. I needed to humble myself before God and confess my wrongs to Him. Prayer is communication. Can any relationship grow without enduring and persistent communication? Just ask any marriage counselor and they will tell you that without good communication your marriage will fail. The same is with your relationship with God. To have an effective relationship with God you need to pray and your prayers need to be persistent and enduring.

The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.(Psalm 145:18)

Does your prayer time carry your faith in difficult times?  Jesus ends the parable with a question. He is referring to His second coming. When He returns, Jesus asks, “Will he find faith on the Earth?” Is your faith evident by your prayer life? Do people refer to you as a prayer warrior? America needs revival. The Church needs revival. The only way for revival to come is through enduring and persistent, heartfelt communication with God. This is what prayer needs to be. It is time for the Church to pray. It is time for the followers of Jesus to be driven to their knees in prayer. We need to bring our brokenness, our tears, our confessions to the cross of Jesus with enduring prayers. Oh men and women of God I plead with you; pray, pray and pray some more.

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer (1 Peter 4:7)

Holy week

“The truth is that we need reminders. We need to make the gospel, the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, as personal as possible. We need to remember. We need to set aside the business of our everyday lives, and allow ourselves to walk through the events of Holy Week.”–Rebecca Prewett

Before my evangelical friends wonder if I have become Catholic, I would like them to remember that Jesus told us to remember what he did. I know the writer of this post personally and can attest to her deep devotion to Christ as her personal Savior. She emotionally reminds us to not casually dismiss what Christ did. We gratefully talk about how Christ rose from the dead. We appreciate the Miracle of His Resurrection, but do we realize what a miracle it was for Christ to suffer the way He did. Think about it. Look at the love Jesus showed in his suffering. The greater miracle was the compassion, the love, the consideration, the gentleness and the self-control that Jesus demonstrated in the midst of His incredible suffering. Could you do this? Every Christian needs to be aware and deeply ponder this incredible non-human act, during this very Holy Week.

The Crazy Chaos of a Busy Life…

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.” C.S. Lewis

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So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise but wise, making the best use of your time because the times are evil.Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.(Ephesians 5:15-17)

This  past month has been an absolutely crazy and busy one for me. When I made the commitment to start blogging, I set a schedule up so that I could stick to a time frame in which to write. The plan was working out great for about two months. Then life happened. Oh yes, I do have some great excuses. February was one of the most stressful months, that I can remember. The fact is, when life becomes chaotic we do have to prioritize. For the follower of Jesus, our time with Him should always come first. How will we know what to prioritize unless we go to God and ask Him? Do you pray more than you stress over situations? We need to know what the will of God is in every situation.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

The true Christian puts Jesus first in everything he does. One should not even think about taking a step with out seeking the council of God. Reading your Bible and beginning your day in prayer, must be the first thing you do. I recently spoke to a friend that made a panicked filled decision. She told me that she prayed over it, but was never comfortable with her descision. She regretted her choice because she knew it was not what God wanted. That decision was now costing her thousands of dollars. We need to wait on God and be patient. We need to trust in God’s timing. Do you trust God? Are you willing to wait on his answer? What if it took a year or two for God to answer you, could you wait? Could you wait twenty years?

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Before each decision, place it into the hands of God. Do not deceive yourself into thinking that your problem or task is to small to take to God. Do not be afraid, fear is the mind blower. (For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.–2 Timothy1:7) When chaos comes and life gets hectic, you should feel the calming Spirit of God Guiding you peacefully through the storm. The Christian should always be prepared with prayer, scripture and a heart of thanksgiving. Here are three things that I am learning to do when faced with overwhelming circumstances.

  1. Stop, breathe and give thanks to God. He is in control. Thank him for the lessons you will learn. Slow your mind down and put your trust in God. Thank Him at every step. The darker the moment, the more God is there. Look for God’s blessings and thank Him for them. Do not be afraid!
  2. Pray! Pray before you make a decision. Pray about the situation, ask for God’s will. Pray persistently. Jesus encouraged persistent prayers.
  3. Seek Godly wisdom. Go to scripture first, then talk to someone who demonstrates the characteristics of a Godly Christian. Do not seek the council of a non Christian. (How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. –Palms1:1a)

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)

 

 

 

 

When God is your Rock

God will never, never, never let us down if we have faith and put our trust in Him. He will always look after us. So we must cleave to Jesus. Our whole life must simply be woven into Jesus.
–Mother Teresa

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

Is your soul weary? Are you facing troubles that you do not have the answers for? David had a clear grasp on what to do. He allowed his soul to rest in God. When the war clouds gather over your life and the storms you face seem overwhelming, stop and be still in the presence of God. Even Jesus took the time to rest in the presence of God. So what does this mean and how do we get this calm respite in our turbulent lives? In my own life I have been pushed to the edge of my trust in God’s righteous plan. In the darkest moments of loss and pain, God has overwhelmed me with His love, peace and hope. Here are some of the ways we can learn to rest in God. They will provide a foundation and prepare you for the attacks that will come. Remember, God loves you. He is our Rock!

 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:16-17)

A restful soul knows where their help comes from. Self reliance and rugged individualism are idealistic themes running through our American society, but they should not be the ideals of a Christian. We need to realize that everything good comes from God. The Psalmist understood that all of his help comes from God. Many a person says they rely on God but few are willing to surrender all of their will to him. Sure, we believe in God’s salvation for our sin. Do we really trust God for everything else in our life? We need to keep our eyes on Jesus all the time. The moment we are distracted, that is when we become panicked and stressed. Is your prayer life filled with panic stricken prayers of desperation, or are your prayers in preparation for those difficult trials?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

A restful soul has a heart of thanksgiving towards God. Is it really possible to find joy in painful situations? The book of Philippians in the Bible, is often referred to as the book of joy. It has so many thoughts of peace and Joy and contentment. What most readers never realize is the circumstance in which the writer, Paul, found himself. Paul was in prison, not for some bad criminal behavior, but for following Jesus and for spreading the gospel. He was standing trial for his faith and knew that his death was imminent. It was in the midst of all of his difficulties that Paul wrote Philippians. Paul never complained or grumbled about his circumstances; in fact he writes this letter with such thanksgiving and rejoicing that it floods the reader with the incredible hope that we can have in Jesus. Reflect on these words from Paul. See how his soul rests in God.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.(Philippians 4:4-7)

A restful soul meditates on God’s Word. Everybody and their pastor tells you to “Read the Bible”.  I want to suggest something deeper than just reading your Bible. Let Scripture reveal Scripture. Do not try to manipulate the word of God. The Scripture will prove itself out. The Psalmist wrote, “I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways.” Throughout the Scriptures there is this theme to meditate on the Word of God. This is a prayerful reading of God’s word. As you read each passage, ask God to reveal His understanding to you. This leads to an interactive meditation between you and God. The Holy Spirit will guide you to a greater understanding of God’s plan for you. God will transform you, granting you a stable peace with the endurance to pass any trial.

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:2-3)

The Follower of Jesus has a relationship with God. He denies himself. It is in this selfless relationship that we allow Christ to reign at the center of everything we do. Our prayer time and Bible reading need to open us up to what God has planned for us. The Christian should be grateful for everything that God provides. When we live in the will of God, we will not be shaken by scary events. It is in these moments that we take up our cross and cry,”Here I am Lord, I am ready”! Paul was ready to face his death. His every thought was focused on the will of God. This is why he was so joyful and content.

Is God your Rock or are you looking at the storm? Keep your eyes on Jesus. Get rid of your distractions and be a tree planted in the living waters of God’s love for you. May God bless you as you devote yourself to Him. Live with thanksgiving in your heart and rejoice at the trials you may face. I leave you with these words of Paul to reflect upon.

 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)