Handling Stress with Prayer and Thankfulness

This Tuesday was a very stressful day for our family. Our special needs son David was having problems that appeared frightfully like what happened to him last summer during Hurricane Harvey.

First, on Sunday we noticed his tube feedings were leaving large residuals – undigested formula in his stomach – forcing us to either delay or totally skip feedings. This was also our first sign last August that David was getting sick.

Next, Monday afternoon we noticed some mild congestion, which could easily be cleared away with suctioning. But Tuesday morning this was no longer true. The congestion was much worse, it was causing David’s oxygen saturation levels to drop dangerously low, and while extensive suctioning by David’s nurses would get him clear for a short time, a few minutes later the congestion would be back.

This was beginning to look like a repeat of last summer, when David was so ill that we were in a major battle to save his life.

The world doesn’t give us any real, lasting solutions to the major stresses and strains of life, like those I have walked through this week. But God’s Word does. One of my favorite Scriptures on the subject:

“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 ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

These verses give us two keys to turning anxiety (and the fear often associated with it) into peace.

  1. Prayer and petition, presenting our requests to God. 
  2. Giving thanks to God in the midst of the difficult situation.

Notice, prayer isn’t presenting our DEMANDS to God. True prayer is an act of humbling ourselves before the Lord, recognizing our own weakness in the situation and inability to do anything to change it, and turning to God for help. He truly is bigger than even the biggest problem we might be facing.

My time of prayer included honestly sharing my fears with God but also reminding myself of the character of God, of His love and compassion, His power and strength to work in what we were facing for our good and His glory. No, my emotions didn’t immediately change, but I had an inner confidence that God was at work.

My time of thanksgiving – which actually wasn’t one time but several times throughout the day – was marked by focusing on how this situation was different from what we went through last August and how God was working to help us.

First, I thanked God that we were not in the middle of a major hurricane and cut off from medical help. That the two nurses most skilled in David’s medical care were on duty, helping us through this challenging day. That we had an army of prayer warriors supporting us in this battle, both locally and online.

And when we learned that David’s doctor wanted him to be taken to a certain hospital emergency room, one that the ambulance drivers would not be legally able to go to if his condition worsened during transport because it wasn’t the closest facility, I prayed for God to make a way for him to get where we had been told to take him and thanked Him when He did. These are just a few of the things I brought to God through prayer with thanksgiving in the midst of the day.

With access to God’s Word and prayer, we are not powerless when stressful situations touch our lives. We are not left to our own resources. The resources of the God of the universe are available to us. But we must be purposeful in taking hold of the resources He has provided. Honest, humble prayer and giving thanks to God in the midst of the fear and uncertainty are two keys the Lord has given us to open the door to perfect peace.

Today (Wednesday), I’m walking in God’s peace, even though yesterday’s trip to the ER confirmed our son David does have pneumonia. Today I’m giving thanks that we learned what was going on while the pneumonia was still relatively mild, that the ER doctor gave David one dose of IV antibiotics to begin treating the illness and prescribed oral antibiotics to continue treatment, and that he decided home treatment by the people who best know our son was the best option. The battle still isn’t over, but we are already seeing some improvement. And today God brought a couple familiar verses to mind, verses I have been holding onto, lifting up to God in prayer, and thanking Him for.

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm‬ ‭27:13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Are you currently facing a stressful circumstance? If so, try using these two keys of heartfelt, trusting prayer and giving thanks to God in the midst of the situation to open the door to PERFECT PEACE today. Even if your situation doesn’t immediately change, the gift of God’s peace will strengthen you to keep moving forward.

 

Advertisements

Entering the Trail to True Freedom

Today is a special day in the United States of America, the birthday of our nation and the day we focus on the liberty and freedom God has blessed us with as a nation. But there is an even more essential freedom than political freedom.

As I was reading today in Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, I was reminded that the key to true freedom is knowing Jesus Christ personally. As Beth says, “Christ is the only entrance to the freedom trail.”

John 8: 36 expresses the truth so clearly: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

One of the most beautiful elements of salvation is its simplicity. Christ has already done all the work on the cross. Your response includes four elements:

  1. Recognize that you are a sinner and that there is nothing you can do to save yourself.
  2. Acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and only He can save you.
  3. Believe that His death on the Cross paid the penalty for your sin, that He died on your behalf
  4. Surrender your life to Him and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord.

If you do not know Christ personally, there is no better time to make that decision than today. If you already know Christ, is your relationship distant, close and personal, or somewhere in the middle? Knowing Christ begins with an initial decision, but growing in our knowledge of Him is an on-going process. My prayer for this day our nation turns it’s focus on freedom is that each of you will experience the freedom that comes from personally knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and growing daily in your knowledge of Him.

Peace Within the Body of Christ

God’s Word, the Holy Bible, is our guidebook for how to walk in peace in each area of our lives. Last week, the focus of my blog post was on peace in our relationship with God. If you missed that post, here is the link.

https://readywriterbr.wordpress.com/2018/06/16/peace-with-god-the-peace-of-god/

This week, I’m shifting attention to peace in our relationships with others in the body of Christ. God’s will for His people is to walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians‬ ‭4:2-3‬ ‭ESV)‬‬ In practical terms, how do we do this?

For Christians, how to act in a specific situation is often black and white. Option 1 is obedience to a command of God’s Word, option 2 is disobedience and living according to our fleshly desires. But there are also many areas of our daily lives where right and wrong are not so clearly spelled out. These are areas where we need to seek understanding from the Lord concerning what He wants us to do, where with the guidance of the Holy Spirit we form our own personal convictions.

Once we have formed our own personal convictions and are seeking to live according to them, we need to understand how these relate to our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. If God has shown us something is right for us, does that mean it is right for every Christian? Not necessarily. This week’s verses for the Perfect Peace study begin with Romans 14, which deals with areas of personal conviction, things which the Bible does not say in themselves are right or wrong.

How to live by my personal convictions yet not insist that others adopt the same convictions was one of the first lessons I remember God teaching me as a new believer. Some things God clearly says are right or wrong (sin), but in many areas the choices we make are between us and the Lord. We are not to force our personal convictions on others.

As God was teaching me this lesson, I was invited out to dinner with some dear family friends who were Christians but belonged to a church that tends to be rather legalistic in areas like abstaining from certain foods and gathering for worship on a specific day of the week, both areas mentioned in this chapter. I was asking God how I should handle this invitation. He lead me to Romans 14 and told me to accept the invitation, order only the type of foods they would be comfortable with me eating, and avoid the trap of trying to change their personal convictions.

I love this chapter in The Message – it makes this lesson so clear and easy to apply. Here is the Message paraphrase of Romans 14:1 which gives a good summary of the message Paul was trying to get across, and I’m including the link to the entire chapter below for anyone interested in reading more.

“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.”

‭https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+14&version=MSG

Where God does not say one choice is right and another is definitely wrong, He gives us some guidelines in His Word to help us make decisions. Here are a few mentioned in Romans 14.

  1. We are to welcome other genuine believers in Christ with open arms.
  2. We are to seek peace and walk in love toward all of our true brothers and sisters in Christ.
  3. The forming of personal convictions is between each individual believer and the Holy Spirit that lives in the believer’s heart. I am not to attempt to do the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of my brother or sister in Christ.
  4. Once God has shown us what is right for us in these areas, we are to be fully convinced in our mind. God will hold us accountable for our own choices and behavior.
  5. Quarreling over personal convictions does not maintain peace among believers, so this is to be avoided.
  6. Judging others in areas where right and wrong is not spelled out in the Bible is not our responsibility.
  7. We are to avoid actions that would be stumbling blocks to others who are seeking to follow Jesus Christ.

Walking in love with others in the body of Christ, especially with those who don’t see things the way we do, can be a challenge. But with the truths taught in Romans 14 we have some clear guidelines in how to promote harmony and peace with our  brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s begin using these to begin bridging some relationship gaps so we will be a clearer representation of what it truly means to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

img_6471

Peace with God & the Peace of God

During this second full week of our Perfect Peace Bible Reading Plan, two verses stood out to me (all verses from ESV).

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah‬ ‭26:3‬ ‭

Jesus Christ is the one described by the prophet Isaiah as the Prince of Peace.

We live in a world filled with war and violence. Peace is sought but often fleeting in both world politics and human hearts. So how is Jesus the Prince of Peace?

The Hebrew word shalom, translated peace in this verse and many other verses in the Old Testament, goes beyond our normal understanding of peace. It speaks of a complete peace, a feeling of contentment, completeness, wholeness, well being and harmony. The calm and tranquility that are characteristic of this kind of peace can be between individuals, groups, or nations.

As Jesus went around and ministered to the needy, He demonstrated He had the authority to bring peace. One vivid example comes to mind. As Jesus and His disciples were in a boat, a storm arose. The disciples became fearful, even awakening Jesus from sleep and accusing Him of not caring if they perished, but with His words Jesus stilled the storm. “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark‬ ‭4:39‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Yet Luke 12:51 tells us Jesus did not come to give peace on earth. The peace He primarily came to give was an inner peace in the lives of individuals like you and me. A peace that we can experience regardless of what is going on around us.

As He said in John 16:33, He came“… that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

This deeper, more foundational peace for those who believe in Jesus Christ is twofold:

  1. Jesus came to make a way for us to have peace with God, the spiritual harmony brought about in each individual’s life when they believe in Jesus as the substitutionary sacrifice for their sin.
  2. Jesus also came to give those who put their trust in Him access to the peace of God, His own peace, poured out on us when we ask.

We have peace with God if at some point in our life we accepted Christ’s sacrifice as our own. We received forgiveness for our sin and our relationship with God, once broken by sin, was restored. This is described in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace with God is a constant in the life of a believer in Christ Jesus. It is an eternal peace.

In contrast, the peace of God is something we must take hold of by faith on an ongoing basis. It can be disturbed any time we turn out focus on our circumstances and off of the God who is ultimately in control of our circumstances. This peace is one of the fruits of the spirit which God desires to manifest in our lives. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23) It is the inner sense of rest we experience when instead of giving place to fear and anxiety, we come to God and ask His help. “Do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7)‬ ‭

 

img_6430So how do we take hold of and continue in this peace of God that allows us to walk undisturbed within regardless of the storms howling around us. There are four keys that come to mind.

  • Recognize the peace of God is one of the fruits of the Spirit, not something we can manufacture in our own strength,
  • Remember the way God has given us to take hold of His peace, by humbly bringing our requests to Him by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.
  • Remain in the place of perfect peace by steadfastly keeping our focus on the character and promises of our God.
  • Finally, if in our human weakness we allow our focus to shift back on our troubling circumstances, repent and once again turn our eyes on God, committing our circumstances afresh into His capable hands.

 

 

Perfect Peace Is Found In Jesus

Last Friday I started this month’s topical Bible reading study by Rachel Wojo, entitled Perfect Peace: Planting My Eyes on Jesus. Today, I want to share a few insights I’ve gained from the Scriptures through this week’s study.

Life is full of of peace-stealers, of people and circumstances which in the natural definitely do not lead to peace. Today’s reading in Psalm 120 is an example.

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree! Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” Psalm‬ ‭120:1-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

So what do we do when we find ourselves around people who by their lifestyle show a hatred for peace? Or when we face stressful circumstances that take away our peace? There’s only one answer, and it’s given in verse 1 of this Psalm: turn to the Lord in our distress, and cry out to Him. He cares about what we are going through, and He will answer us.

Walking in peace – especially in circumstances or relationships that do not promote peace – requires a purposeful decision. Much of the battle for peace is waged in our minds, so we need to learn to take our thoughts captive in obedience to the Word of God. Lies need to be replaced with truth.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:4-5‬ ‭

Next, walking in peace requires power beyond our own. God has not left us to our own resources in this decision to walk in peace. Jesus is our source of peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭

There is only one requirement to receive this peace Jesus offers us, and that is us being IN CHRIST. That simply means we have accepted His sacrifice on the cross as payment in full for our own sin. Because of faith in Jesus’ death on the cross, we are forgiven and brought into a right relationship with God. And the peace that comes from our standing in Christ can sustain us and give us hope and joy, even during times of turmoil or suffering.

I also learned this week, that MEEKNESS and PEACE go hand-in-hand. Psalm 37:11 says,

“But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”

The biblical concept of meekness is often misunderstood in our culture. Meekness is not weakness. It is not resignation to circumstances we are powerless to change. Biblical meekness is an active and deliberate acceptance of whatever circumstances God has permitted to touch our lives, whether they be desirable or undesirable, based on the understanding that God is in control and He will work everything in our lives for our good and His glory.

This doesn’t cover the verses I read this week, but these are the points that stood out to me during my daily study times. If you are doing this study with us, feel free to share what God most strongly impressed upon your heart in the comments. And choose during this weekend and upcoming week to stand against the peace-stealers you are currently facing, renew your mind daily in God’s Word which is truth, and walk in biblical meekness. As David said in Psalm 29:11, may the Lord give you strength and may He bless you with peace regardless of what you are currently walking through.

Peace in the Storm

Laurie Shoquist Miller, blogger at God-Living with Chronic Illness, founder and leader of the Facebook encouragement and support group God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness, and a dear friend, shared this post on our group’s Facebook page, where we are doing Rachel Wojo’s June study Perfect Peace: Planting My Eyes on Jesus. With her permission, I am blessed to share it with my readers.

A while back, on a particularly stormy day, I was supposed to take a plane ride for a destination which I can’t even remember today. I do, however, distinctly remember how black and thick with condensation the clouds were, and how scared I was to think of flying through a storm like this one.

I’m not really a fan of flying, but I can get the job done with a little dramamine. But when you add in thick, black clouds, lightning, and heavy turbulence, I need something far stronger than dramamine to get through it.

I’ll never forget this particular airplane ride because as we took off there was nothing we could do to avoid this storm. The plane just kept going up, up, up, right into the dark, thick clouds that soon surrounded us. The pilot continued to go up, up, up through the sporadic lightning and rain that came down in torrents upon us. I knew we were in for a bad time as the plane shifted in mid-air with the powerful turbulence.

To my amazement, within what seemed like only a few minutes, we were bursting right through those dark, heavy clouds into the airspace above them, and all I could see was sunshine floating on clouds which looked like a bed of cotton balls below us that seemed to continue on forever. The darkness, lightning, and torrential rain were gone, almost as if they had never existed.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: Even though we might be in the thick of a storm where all seems lost and fear reigns in our hearts, God lives above those storms in our lives. God looks down upon the storms, and HE REIGNS over them. Even though they seem huge, and we’re not sure how or when they will end or what damage they will do, we must always remember that the God who loves us dearly also reigns supremely over the storms in our lives.

God will give us strength and peace to get through the darkest and most difficult of times as we REMEMBER that He still reigns over the storms. To access this strength and peace, we must FIX OUR EYES ON THE TRUTHS that He is Lord of the flood, and that it is actually His glory that thunders over the mighty waters. We must REMEMBER that God’s power and strength are bigger than the biggest storm we are experiencing and that He will carry us through.

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters;

the God of glory thunders,

the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful;

the voice of the Lord is majestic….

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;

the Lord is enthroned as King forever.

The Lord gives strength to his people;

the Lord blesses his people with peace.”

(Psalm 29:3-4, 10-11 NIV)

During the very next storm, when your child (or grandchild) is crying out in fear at the thick rain and powerful lightning, remind her that the booming sound which follows the lightning is actually the glory of God thundering majestically over the storm (see Psalm 29: 3-4). Read the above verses to her and reassure her that she does not need to be afraid because God is powerful over the storm. Have her draw a picture of the storm, and while she draws, help her memorize these verses so that these truths will help her next time, too. During future storms, make it a game to see who can be the first to correctly quote these verses.

Let this song remind you of these truths during the storms of life:

Return to Me and I Will Return to You

As soon as I saw this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt was RETURN, the current Proverbs 31 Ministries First 5 study on the book of Zechariah came to mind. The theme of this book is found in the first chapter, “Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

As I’ve studied this book, I’ve seen the call to RETURN more clearly. It is a call to three things. And in this verse, it is also a promise.

  • RETURN is a call to REPENTANCE. Repentance is a recognition I am on the wrong path and a decision to turn around and head in a different direction. It begins with a change of heart and is lived out with a change in how I live.
  • RETURN is a call to REVIVAL. Revival is a spiritual reawakening from a state of stagnation in the life of a believer. It is a continuing process.
  • RETURN is a call to REST. Rest is ceasing from our labor entering into the rest and peace of God. Jesus Christ invites us to enter rest as we take His yoke upon us and allow Him to help us carry the burdens of life.
  • Finally, RETURN is a PROMISE. Zechariah 1:3 makes it clear that RETURNING is a action that brings a response from the Lord. When we RETURN to Him, He has promised to RETURN to us.

Today, is anything causing spiritual stagnation in your life? If so, it’s time to RETURN in repentance. With repentance comes revival and rest, and we become recipients of God’s promise to reciprocate and RETURN to us.