One of Those Days!

outrageous loveHave you ever had one of those days when you feel all alone? You don’t feel close to anyone. It’s like you’re the only person on the planet even though you’re surrounded by a multitude of people. These feelings usually continue down the path of doubt. You doubt your importance, your worth, or even if anyone loves you. You’re alone, hurting, and feel like there is no one who cares that you are alive.

Sometimes you might be led down the path of confusion. You are suffering in so many different ways that you can’t imagine life ever getting better. This usually leads to wondering if the trials are because of something you’ve done. Confusion leads to questions you already know the answer to: “Are things so difficult because I’ve made God angry?” “Is this punishment for not going to church, giving, serving, reading my Bible, or praying enough?” “Does God really love me?” It is not uncommon for those who have suffered for a long period of time to be confused. You are so tired, weary, and worn that nothing makes sense, so you begin to wonder “What have I done to bring this pain upon myself?”

I believe the paths of doubt and confusion are two trails Satan has cut off the beaten path of faith to cause us to question God’s love. Just like Eve in the garden, Satan is still asking questions to cause us to misinterpret God’s Word and forget His promises. He wants us to believe we’re all alone so we’ll try to solve our problems on our own. He wants us depending on self instead of the Savior.

If you’re having one of the those days and about to leave the path of faith, stop and remember the cross. There is no greater sign of love in all of creation than the cross of Christ. God’s outrageous love for you was proven at the cross. At the cross your sin-debt was paid in full. At the cross anything that could bring condemnation upon you was placed upon Jesus. At the cross we can see that our suffering in this life should make us long for eternal life in heaven all the more.

So, if you’re having one of those days, know that our trials, troubles, and tribulations are not a sign of God’s displeasure. They are a sign that we live in a sinfully fallen world that will eventually end. When this world comes to an end, those who are believers in Christ will be ushered into one eternally long peaceful day where we dwell in the presence and love of God!

Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth, for the first Heaven and the first earth had disappeared and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride dressed in beauty for her husband. Then I heard a great voice from the throne crying, “See! The home of God is with men, and he will live among them. They shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death shall be no more, and never again shall there be sorrow or crying or pain. For all those former things are past and gone.” Then he who is seated upon the throne said, “See, I am making all thing new!” (Revelation 21.1-5)

True Rest from Our Labors

A one day holiday every September is not enough to give us true rest from all of life’s labors. However, when we humbly approach Jesus in faith He gives us an abundantly restful peace throughout all our days.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11.28),

Helpful Hints for Dealing with Conflict

Throughout our lives we are going to have to deal with conflict. There are those who love conflict so they have someone to straighten out. Others are so uncomfortable with conflict that they seek peace at all cost—which is not really peace. Then there are those who will put off dealing with conflict as long as possible.  None of these approaches to conflict are healthy or Biblical.

Perry Noble gives some helpful advice on how to be deal with conflict in our lives.

Noble writes:

#1 – Email DOES NOT WORK!  (This would also apply to texting as well as any form of social media!)   

When conflict use to arise with me and someone in the office I used to walk to my desk, log on to my computer and fire off an abusive email, several problems with this…

  • It is the act of a coward, I would do this so that I would avoid a eye to eye conversation.
  • It removes the fact that I am actually dealing with another person…if I type an email I don’t have to look them in the eye and removing that obstacle allows me to say things to them through typing that I would NEVER say to them in person.
  • It often drags out the conflict way longer that it should be.
  • It can easily be misinterpreted, thus causing new conflicts.

#2 – Handle Conflict Quickly – The Bible is VERY clear in Ephesians 4:25-26 that we are not to allow the sun to go down while we are angry.  If we allow something to fester inside of us what usually comes out of that is NEVER pretty.

#3 – Always Assume The Best About The People You Work With – If you don’t get anything else in this article then PLEASE get this, LOVE ALWAYS ASSUMES THE BEST ABOUT SOMEONE…ALWAYS!  If you hate/can’t stand the people you work with then THE BEST thing to do is to begin to ask the Lord, “what is wrong with MY OWN heart?”

#4 – Remember that Email Does Not Work! 

#5 – Stop Expecting People To Read Your Mind – Often times people have said something hurtful to me that they did not perceive as hurtful.  I would become angry with them and actually tell myself, “well, they should just know that hurt me!”  NEWS FLASH – THEY DON’T KNOW, and they won’t know unless I am man enough to look them in the eye (because email does not work), assume the best about them (which automatically assumes they didn’t mean to hurt me) and CALMLY walk them through why what they said wounded me.

#6 – Stop Waiting For Them To Approach You – If you know there is conflict and you know there is a problem to be solved but you are “waiting on the right time” or “waiting on them to come to me” then I would encourage you to read what Jesus said in Matthew 5:23-24.  Maturity is when a person is willing to seize responsibility instead of just waiting on something to happen.

#7 – Never, EVER Go Public When You Have Not Even Attempted To Talk In Private – Too often people take their conflicts online when they have never even attempted to handle them in a private matter (sort of goes against what JESUS actually said in Matthew 18:15 as the first step in dealing with conflict!)  People are way too quick these days to read/hear something that someone says and automatically fire off a tweet or blog post without ever attempting to have a conversation with the person that they assume “got it wrong,” causing them to feel like they need to be the savior of the world by jumping to conclusions and making accusations about things that they actually have zero knowledge of.

#8 – And finally, do not forget that Email does not work! 

I’m Going to be a Dad?

In my office, on the wall above my computer monitor, is a present my wife gave me for Father’s Day 2005. It is a picture frame with thirteen pictures of me and William. It starts with a picture of me holding him the day he was born and is followed by another picture taken on the same day each month. The final picture is, of course, me holding him on his first birthday. On my book shelves I have several other pictures of him—graduating preschool, his school photos from kindergarten, first, and second grade.  In just a few seconds, I can see all seven years of his life.

Sometimes I just can’t think or study anymore, so I take a break to rest my weary mind. It is during those breaks that I recall all the wonderful memories I have had with William over the last seven years. I think about how much he has grown physically, all that he has learned educationally, and how he is maturing spiritually. Without a doubt, I am a proud father. I love my son with every ounce of my being, and I make sure he is confident of that love. I want him to know my love for him doesn’t change when I am frustrated at his disobedience, when I am disciplining him for his actions, and most especially when we are separated from one another. I want him to understand that my love is unconditional, and nothing—I mean nothing—will ever separate him from my love, ever.

Most of us have seen too many children literally fighting for the affections of their parents. When they do not get it, they go elsewhere in search of love and acceptance, and it is guaranteed they will find it somewhere. It was this thought which woke me up from a deep sleep shortly before William was born. I sat straight up in the bed with one thought racing through my mind, “What if I’m not a good dad?” I found myself gripped with fear and anxiety. What did I know about being a parent? I was thirty-nine years old and should be getting ready to be a grandpa not a dad! Needless to say, I wasn’t able to clear my mind or go back to sleep, so I quietly knelt down beside the bed so as to not wake my wife, and I began to pray.

That night, I prayed for everything. I prayed for my son’s health, protection, salvation, his spiritual calling, and even his future wife. I remember asking God to give him a heart that burns with a passion to live a godly life, tell others about Jesus, and meet the needs of the hurting. And then I prayed something I had never said before, “Father, I guess I’m asking you to give me a son like Jesus. A son who loves you, obeys you, seeks to glorify you in all he does.” To be honest, the words came out before I thought them through, so I stopped praying to contemplate what I had just asked for.

Up to that point, praying had eased my fear and anxiety; however, that last line had rekindled the fire of anxiety and put one thought in my fearful mind, “If he is to grow up like Jesus, he needs a father like Jesus’ Father, and I’m not GOD!” With that dark storm cloud of fear hovering over me I cried out, “God, please help me be a good dad!” Immediately a thought rushed into my mind, “Give him Jesus!” Give him the unconditional love of Christ, teach the commands of Christ, show him the love, grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness of Christ, and most of all, live the life of Christ as an example for him.

That dark night of the soul has become a bright beacon on days when I just don’t feel like I’m getting the job done. It is a bright lighthouse shining in the darkness—lighting the way for me to avoid the dangerous rocks of doubt and depression. It is a memory that reminds me that my son doesn’t have to be perfect, nor does his father! Why? Because Jesus is perfect and He is in control of our lives!

The Way to a Peaceful Mind

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4.4-9 ESV).

The Needle Was this Big!

As a boy growing up I remember having to go to the health department to get my shots in order to start school. I do not have any idea what they were for, but I most definitely remember the atmosphere.

You would sign in and then sit in a waiting area for your name to be called. In the waiting area there were a lot of kids doing one of two things—begging mom in tears, “Don’t make me get a shot. I’ll be good. Don’t let them stick me mommy!” or they were, what I like to call, scream-crying. I would explain the last one to you, but I am certain just thinking about a child scream-crying will cause you to take two aspirin.

Here I am, a little kid and all, watching other kids being tortured with the thought of getting a shot or in hysterics from being viciously attacked with a giant needle. My anxiety level was rapidly climbing the charts, mostly because I was imagining a shot about the size of the Seattle Space Needle. As the minutes ticked away I began to fantasize of what was about to happen. I could imagine several nurses holding me down while the doctor put the ever-growing needle into my arm. The longer I had to wait with the many other kids crying hysterically only heightened my sense of dread.

Realizing there was no way I could go through with this, I began to plan out my speech to my mother. I had made a list of all the chores I could do if only we would leave right now. But before I could get the words out it happened—“Bobby Pittenger, could you please come back to see the doctor?”

What happened next was like a blur. There was only one doctor and his nurse with me. No one was there to help hold me down. The initial stick of the needle hurt a little, but within seconds the pain and the bleeding stopped. It seemed as if it had only taken five minutes, but that could not possibly be true, could it? I remember thinking, “Is that it?” All the anxiety, crying, screaming, begging, and pleading for a little stick in the arm? Clearly the anxiety of wondering what was going to happen was far greater than the actual event. And if the truth were told, the torture I expected to endure was all in my head. I guess an anxious heart can be very, very deceptive.

How often does an anxious heart deceive us in regard to life’s difficulties? Philippians 4.6-7 says, “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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Be anxious for nothing. Don’t let bills, health, work, money, or anything else cause anxiety in your life. God doesn’t give us a loop-hole for a little bit of anxiety? Nope, He says, “Don’t be anxious.”

Fortunately, God doesn’t leave us hanging with just a “Thou Shalt Not Command.” Notice His plan to avoid anxiety:

  1. Prayer—spend time talking with God each day.
  2. Supplication—seek Him, share your concerns.
  3. With thanksgiving—tell Him how thankful you are for His presence, provision, protection, and promises during you difficulties.
  4. Share your requests—be honest about your needs, wants, and wishes.

Obeying God’s plan for defeating anxiety guarantees “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Questions for Group Discussion

I. Paul promised the peace of God would guard our hearts and minds when we cast our cares upon Him.  There are times when we move our focus from God toward the problem. You may not be immediately overcome by anxiety, however, like quicksand, the more you struggle the faster you sink. With that in mind:

  1. What is something that has caused great anxiety in your life?
  2. Where did the anxiety take you (fear, worry, fretting, anger, blaming, doubt)?
  3. How would things have been different if you had kept your focus on God and allowed Him to guard your heart and mind?

II. God has said that all of creation is good (see Genesis 1-2). We know that He created these things for our enjoyment, which brings Him glory. So…

  1. What are some of the ways you find comfort during stressful or difficult times? (e.g. family time, food, company, TV, shopping, etc.)
  2. How do these point you toward God?
  3. How do you ensure that these things are from God and not just your efforts to mask the fear and anxiety?

III. After being unjustly beaten, Paul and Silas were able to demonstrate the peace that surpasses all understanding while imprisoned in Philippi. Jesus lived out this peace throughout His journey to the cross. So…

  1. How did He remain in peace even when the wrath of God was about to be poured out upon Him?
  2. Remembering that Jesus is a human just like you, how can you have peace even when the world seems to be crumbling down around you?

At Peace With God’s Pace

Graceway MediaThis morning I would like to introduce you to Steve Roll, founder of Restoration Ministries. Steve is a godly man who longs to see others enjoy the healthy spiritual life God has planned for them. He has committed his life to be a helping hand and word of encouragement to those who are hurting.

I believe his insightful post, “At Peace With God’s Pace,” will give you simple advice on how to enjoy the life you’ve been given. Personally, I want to go through life at a pace which allows me to enjoy living. I don’t want to live at a frenetic pace feeling like a contestant on “The Amazing Race” going to different places but never having time to enjoy them.  God’s pace will always allow us time to smell the roses.

I pray Steve’s post, “At Peace With God’s Pace,” will bring you hope of enjoying life and not just rushing through it!

“The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace because he trusts in Thee.” Isaiah 26:3
 “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Psalm 37:23

“Are we there yet?” Like kids on a vacation trip trapped in the backseat of the car—we are an impatient people. Rather than enjoy the journey, we clamor to arrive at our destination. And we want to be there NOW!

Everyone is in such a hurry today. You and I run here and there, and there and here, like chickens with our heads cut off.  We have been duped into thinking that the fast lane of the rat race is where it’s at. Who says we have to run the rat race? I guess the rats do! So many people labor and live at a breakneck, feverish pace in order to keep up with the Joneses. If I read my Bible right, Christians are to keep up with Jesus, not the Jones. 

When you study the life of Christ, you find that He paced Himself during His three year ministry. His steps were established (ordered, directed, laid out) by the Father. You never see Jesus stressed out. The Lord never put pressure on Himself to perform or be successful. In the midst of intense opposition and adversity, Jesus experienced the peace of God. Why? Because I believe He was at peace with God’s pace on the way to the cross and resurrection.  

Someone said hurry is often the long way around in life. Hurry, scurry, and worry keep many people frustrated. Many people lack inner peace in their lives because they don’t pace themselves. No wonder we have so many stressed out, burned out, freaked out people in our society. 

I have always been a high energy person. At times, high gear has been my Achilles heel. As a young boy, I remember watching my first long distance track race. The starter’s gun sounded, the runners took off.  I was so disappointed that the runners weren’t sprinting and running in highest gear. The race was 5,000 meters. The distance runners knew something I didn’t. 

They understood the principle of PACE. To complete the race, they had to pace themselves over the distance. They couldn’t possibly run the whole course full throttle. They would run out of gas before the finish line if they ran full blast.
As Christians, we are running a faith race (Hebrews 12:1-3). The Lord’s will is for us to finish our faith race victoriously (II Timothy 4:7-8). It’s to our benefit that we run our race at His pace. If we run ahead of God, we will burnout. If we run behind God, we rust out. But if we run with God, hand in hand with Him in the power of the Holy Spirit, we WIN OUT!

God is a god of peace and pace. He is never in a hurry, He never worries, and He is never late or ahead of schedule. He is perfectly on time, all the time. His secret: a planned, purposeful, peaceful, productive PACE. God’s universe and Kingdom is one of peace when His creatures live life at His pace. A restful, productive pace that energizes us is God’s way.  

Isaiah makes it crystal clear: Perfect peace is ours when we steadfastly focus on the Lord and trust Him to quicken the pace or slow it down. Note it is God’s perfect peace that the trusting person will receive. God’s perfect, complete, whole, fulfilling, satisfying peace is something we cannot produce ourselves.  Our Heavenly Father is the god of peace who gives peace to His children. 

I don’t know about you, but most of the time my problem with pace is not going too slow, but going too fast. Through the school of hard knocks, my hard head is learning that God loves me so much He will find a way to slow me down when necessary!
If we desire to be healthy, peaceful, and productive, we must come to terms with being at peace with God’s pace. If you are out of sync with God’s pace, fall on your face before Him. Confess your impatience. Repent of your dysfunctional desire to control outcomes and have things your way in your time. 

Slow down long enough to receive God’s peace. As you fix your mind on Him, His perfect peace will flood your heart. Trust Him to direct your steps and to show you the proper pace to run your race. 

You and I are off and running into God’s plan for us in 2012. Great opportunities lie ahead for us to glorify God. Peace with His pace will produce less stress and more success in our lives. So let’s commit ourselves to run our race at His pace this year.

“For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:15
“Great peace have those who love God’s law; nothing shall cause them to stumble.” Psalm 119:165

A Word For Your Week:  Christian winners run their race at God’s pace.