Dispelling dark clouds!

For the Lord your God is the One who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. Deuteronomy 20:4

Somedays it seems I just can’t shake this dark cloud that seems to follow me every where I go. Keeping me in the shadows where the warmth and comfort of the Son is diminished. These times occur more often than not when I am alone. When I do not have the helpful and healing distraction of the presence of friends and/or family. Even during my quiet times while enjoying the rural scene and accompanying melodies of the birds from my front porch, the dark cloud can intrude. Casting its shadow over my time alone with God.

The words that clamor for dominance take the advantage as the cloud hovers. And when I take a look at 2020/21 and the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, along with chaos within our own nation, the suffering in Afghanistan, and my personal failings, I grow weak under the weight of it all. How does one find joy and peace in the midst of such a dark cloud of suffering?

Then yesterday during my quiet time the above verse caught my attention. And today, as I was listening to a podcast that very same verse was highlighted. I’ve been a Christian long enough to recognize when the LORD desires to get my attention. So I began focusing on that verse.

I came to realize the dark cloud was a tool of the enemy. Manipulating my thoughts by having me dwell on the realities of suffering all around me. In that verse, God reminded me that I wasn’t fighting this tool of the enemy on my own. God was fighting with me for me to give me victory over the fiery darts of the enemy (dwelling on the suffering). When I grasp the vision that God is in this battle with me, then His victory becomes my victory! The dark cloud is dispelled!

$/Loaves and Fishes

Loaves in Tabgha Church in Israel, Mosaic: four loaves and two fish,

Recently, my LORD gave me a prompting when I was praying about some personal financial matters. A big bill is coming due, and I do not have enough in my account to pay it. Though I resist the thought to dip into my meager savings, I really have no other recourse.

This choice was disturbing to me. For I would prefer to manage my money without having to depend on my dwindling savings. Yet as scanty as it is, I feel the reassurance of its existence is threatened when I have to use it. The fiery dart of fear edged closer. Attempting to catch me in its trap as it has so often done before. And fear typically brings with it its cohorts of anxiety, and doubting God’s provision, right!

Now that’s the backstory for the prompting I received this morning during my prayer time.

So often during my prayer time, God will remind me of truths that apply to the situations I bring to Him. This morning, He brought to me the story of the loaves and fishes.

When evening came, the disciples approached Him and said, “this place is a wilderness, and it is already late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

“They don’t need to go away,” Jesus told them. “You give them something to eat.”

“But we only have five loaves and two fish here,” they said to Him.

“Bring them here to Me,” He said.

Then He commanded the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them. He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. Everyone ate and was filled. Then they picked up 12 baskets full of leftover pieces! Now those who ate were about 5,000 men, besides women and children. Matthew 14:15-21 HCSB

It was as if God was having a conversation with me. He directed my thoughts to the 5 loaves and 2 fish. And pointed out to me where I fit in this biblical reference. Like the disciples, I felt my skimpy savings was insufficient. I felt this way, having ruled out God’s provision.

God reinforced my trust level with a couple of truths from His word:

Philippines 4:19, And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 

Philippines 4:6-7, 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.

(Allow me to interject this tidbit of interesting truth, “there were more than 5,000 people fed that day. Notice the wording “besides women and children!” There is no limit when it comes to what God can provide.)

In addition, thoughts of God’s provision and the peace that would guard my heart and mind was much preferable to the disturbing thoughts of fear, anxiety, and doubt my fleshly sin nature was promoting.

So, this is just an example of the effect of becoming familiar with what God has to say to us in His word, the Bible. By becoming familiar with His truths, in times of need, God will prompt us with what we have stored in our hearts. And my caution to us all, if God’s truths are not stored there, then our fleshly sin nature will get the upper hand. And instead of allowing a difficult situation to teach us more about how to trust God, Satan will use it to steal God’s work in our lives. We do have a choice, you know.

Old Nature/New Nature?

I am convinced that there has been a deliberate effort to downplay this foundational truth by none other than Satan himself. How has he accomplished this? It’s simple really! All he had to do was to design distractions that would prevent Christians from becoming students of the Bible. This in turn would directly affect our prayer life. How, we might ask? Everything, and I mean everything, we need to know to live life and communicate with God is laid out for us within the pages of the Bible.

Too many of us, as Christians, have unknowingly succumbed to this distraction of the enemy. Therefore, we have an uninformed perspective concerning our old nature vs our new nature. Please allow me to share a personal example to illustrate this.

July 18 was my birthday! If you are curious, I turned 73. The day started off rather nicely. My husband gave me a lovely tea mug, which included a cup strainer and lid. After steeping some heather tea, I carried my new tea mug to my front porch to enjoy a few quiet moments sipping on my tea, and listening to the gentle rhythm of a summer rain.

Too soon the rain ceased, and my husband left for the day to make a hospital visit. After waving goodbye, I opened the front door. Only to be assaulted by the aftermath of the recent three week stay of two of my children and their families. Someone had to start cleaning up that mess, even if it was her birthday!!!

The thoughts born by my bonny porch moment slowly began to deteriorate. Supplanted by, “No one should have to spend their birthday alone. And cleaning up this gigantic mess left by others is no way to celebrate!”

Even though I know better, I was permitting my old nature to rule my thoughts and shape my perspective. My old nature is aggravatingly self-centered. Always promoting my will over God’s will. As the day wore on my self-centered old nature grew sadder and sadder. In spite of all my efforts to redirect my thoughts, my perspective stubbornly remained the same.

The next day dawned finding me entrenched in negativity. Somehow I sensed relief would come only if I thoroughly disconnected from my negative focus. Picking up a historical fiction book I had been reading, I lost myself in the cares and challenges faced by its characters. By the time I concluded the book, the transformation of my perspective had been accomplished.

Once again my new nature set me on a healing course. The clarity I received was this, “I had been allowing my self-centered old nature to speak louder than my Christ-centered new nature.”

That illumination empowered me to shut down the voice bent on my destruction and listen to the voice intent my restoration.

It’s the ongoing battle between the old nature (our flesh) and the new nature (our spirit.) And here’s the secret. Before we became a Christian we were ruled by a nature set in rebellion against God. On becoming a Christian we received the nature of Christ. From that point on the growth process begins. We learn how to deal with the ups and downs of an earthly life from God’s word, the Bible. The new nature is fed and empowered by what we learn there. Without the nurturing of of God’s truths, our spirit will grow weak and the old nature will gain strength.

With or Without?

Without the Holy Spirit we don’t have a check on our attitudes, actions, choices. What influences our lives is determined by the predominate philosophy of our culture, and that is always changing. Without the Holy Spirit we won’t be able to understand and/or apply the truths of Scripture. We won’t even be interested in God and His Word. Therefore, we will be ignorant of the manipulation and deception of the enemy. Finally, the main thing we will be without is the promise of Heaven.

Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

With the Holy Spirit we have a check on our attitudes, actions, and choices. What will influence our lives is determined by the never changing truths of God’s word, the Bible. We will have a desire to dig into God’s word so we will grow spiritually strong and be equipped to handle the trials of life. We will learn from God’s word about the enemy and how to resist his manipulation and deception. Finally, with the Holy Spirit we will be assured of the promise of Heaven. 

Where are we headed?

Jesus will return for His church before His 2nd coming. The Rapture, as it is called, is when Jesus will miraculously take to heaven all those who have come to know Jesus as their Savior. This is an event that could happen at any time. Will we be ready?

Or if our departure from this world takes place before Jesus comes for His church, what will be our destination?

In the meantime, what are we to do while we wait?

In the physical world we know that by exercising our muscles to do hard things, we grow stronger. It’s the same in the spiritual world. Life in this world is fraught with problems, things that are hard to deal with. And for those who have been through tough times, because of what we’ve learned from God’s word, we will endure.

It is having to depend upon God and what He teaches us in His word, that keeps us from being overwhelmed by the troubles of this world. It is in God’s word where our enemy, Satan, is exposed. It’s where we learn how to wage war against him.

Spending time with God in His word and in prayer, teaches us how to live life and develop endurance for the trials that come our way. It teaches us the perspective we should have about things like the pandemic and the political turmoil our country finds herself in. It helps us make sense out of the personal and family problems we endure and lights our way to move forward, without destroying the relationships around us. Satan would use those same trials to alienate us from friends and family. God’s plan is to work it out for our good and then some.

Why would we go to any other source when God’s ways bring peace, strength, restoration, joy and, yes. even long-lasting happiness.

From Jesus’s teachings we learn this earth is not our permanent home, heaven is. Earth is where we make preparation to get there. There is a question that must not be left unanswered. Where will we go when we leave this earth?

Love in its purest form!

4Love is patient, love is kind.

Love does not envy,

is not boastful, is not conceited,

does not act improperly,

is not selfish, is not provoked,

and does not keep a record of wrongs.

Love finds no joy in unrighteousness

but rejoices in the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things,

hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Paul’s purpose in writing the above verses was to illustrate what true love looked like. It would do us all well to study this chapter and in particular verses 4-7, in order to possess a clear picture of true love. And if we desire to have a visual of something on earth that comes the closest in comparison, we need look no further than a Mother’s love.

Consider a Mother’s love as it compares to the above description. Does it express the heart of this biblical description? Anytime, pleasing self take priority above the object of our love, we are not loving with a pure love.

But thanks for the unchangeable word of God, we will always have sources to go to when our vision of true love becomes blurred. That clear source of a Mother whose love for their children reflects the love God has for them as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 will always reflect love in its purest form here on earth.

The Salvation of Deep Roots

This is an old Cottonwood tree precariously perched on the bank of a creek near our house. While its roots are somewhat exposed on the creek side, it must have deep roots on the opposite side accounting for its tenacity. Otherwise, it would be going the way of many of its friends.

As I stood there on the bank opposite of this massive tree, a thought came to me. Though the creek’s water was seemingly insignificant compared to the giant perched on its bank, it contained a deceptive power to fell that tree. Lying within the deep ravine cut by that stubborn little creek were the Cottonwood’s friends. Friends who had been overcome by the deceptive and manipulative motion of water cutting away at the soil around them. Eventually, the day came when their roots had nothing solid to cling to. That small unrelenting rush of water held by the creek had claimed another victim.

There are forces at work in our lives today that take on the character of the deceptive water’s of that creek. We hardly notice the destruction they cause until after the damage is done. For some this realization comes too late. For others only the mightier hand of God can prevail against it.

It’s time we wake up! Take notice of those who have fallen. Seek God’s wisdom that exposes their folly. Call upon our Creator to sink the roots of our faith so deep that the forces seeking to destroy us will have to turn in another direction. Setting an example for those who would take notice of God’s power that prevents the waters from overwhelming us!

GOD’S REASSURING VOICE

Recently God walked me through a time of crises. A coup, in the country where my son and his family lived, had created a threatening environment for them. When the coup started it was uncertain as to whether they were going to leave or ride it out. The day I talked to my son, I could hear the uncertainty in his voice. As his mom, I found this very unsettling. But when the demonstrations began and the gun shots could be heard all around, my son’s advisors urged him to leave as soon as possible. Because they were to fly out on a commercial flight they had to first be tested for covid. Only if their tests were negative, would they be allowed to board the plane. But after this decision was made and he called to tell us of their plan, hearing the determination in his voice settled my mind. Now they had a plan, now they could move forward. They finally were able to board a plane and arrived several hours later, with basic necessities packed, to a safer place.

Worry and fear stood hand in hand poised and ready to defeat me. Therefore, I had a choice to make. I was either going to call upon what I knew to be true about God and His ways or I was going to suffer defeat.

Over time God had been preparing and equipping me for such a time as this. Struggle by struggle over the years, God has been training me to distinguish between His voice, the voice of my sinful nature, and the manipulation and deception of the enemy.

You wouldn’t believe, then maybe you would, how many times the temptation to fear and worry reached out to take control of my thoughts. Yet because of what I had earlier learned, God reminded me that He had not given me the spirit of fear but of power, love, and a strong mind. He whispered to my mind that I was not to worry about anything but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, I was to make my requests made known to Him. Then the peace that passes all understanding would guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. These truths formed the prayer request I sent out to family and friends.

  • -Pray for safety in getting to the airport (Prov. 29:25)
  • -Pray for freedom from fear so their actions and attitudes proceed from a sound mine. (2 Tim 1:7)
  • -Pray for wisdom for my son and daughter in law as they parent through this ordeal (1 Corinthians 16:13)
  • -Pray no weapon formed against them will prosper. Isaiah 54:17 
  • -Pray for complete trust in the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6

That’s just a sampling of the weapons with which God supplied me as I rejected the thoughts of fear and worry. The choice I had to make was to either believe God or be victimized by the enemy. While I didn’t know the details of God’s plan, I did know that because I was praying (as well as thousands of prayer warriors from all over the world) God was working on it.

I am no super saint, but through years of training on how to connect God’s word to the struggles I faced, His familiar voice was loud and clear as He guided me through this recent crises. There was no fear. There was no worry. Just a sober calmness as I listened to God’s reassuring voice.

Life? Peace? Truth?

     

     There was a day when it was relatively easy to be a Christian. But that’s not true any longer. And I believe that is a good thing. When it is easy to be a Christian, you don’t need to count the cost. Why? Because claiming we are Christian cost us very little. We grow apathetic. Much of the attacks on our Christian way of life happen without our even noticing. By the time we do notice, the job to reclaim our way of life seems overwhelming.

     It’s apparent with the pandemic, the governmental opposition to our judo-christian values, the loss of respect our country has experienced on the world’s stage that something is terribly wrong. Christianity is condemned at every turn. False assumptions and human reasoning about anything Christian, rules the day. Peace is in short supply. Life grows less valuable by the day and truth become unrecognizable. 

     Yet, I’m pretty sure that when things get bad enough, people will begin realizing that they have mislabeled right and wrong! When they get their fill of violence, anger, deception, and manipulation, they will begin an earnest search for life, peace, and truth. And since they have exhausted a search for such within their own current philosophies, they will turn to find life, peace, and truth right where they left it, at the foot of the Cross. 

                                                                     

Man walking to a cross and kneeling before it.

 

Moving forward though trials persist

   

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Trials and Temptations

     2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] 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.

    Once we grasp the truth that God has a plan for our lives, (and that hopefully happens early on) we begin to move forward in that plan. As we exercise our faith muscles, our faith increases in strength. The more mature our faith grows, the wiser we become.  The expectation is that we would move forward consistently as our faith develops. 

     Our new nature, given to us at our spiritual birth, desires to please God. Yet, we will always struggle with our old nature always wanting its way.  Trials come and trials go, but with every one our character is improved upon. 

     But what about those trials that refuse to ‘go away’? They perhaps contain the strongest of life lessons.  You know, those every day trials that prevent us from living life victoriously. 

     Trials of this nature usually involve learning how to get along with others.  Nothing we say or do brings improvement in them or the relationship. Instead of growing wiser and resolving the situation, despair sets in. Satan manipulates and deceives our flesh, our old nature. Lying to us about what is wrong and setting our focus on ourselves. 

     We are primed to become distracted by human reasoning and false assumptions. Without realizing it, we have become influenced by Satan to do his will.   We get mired down in these kinds of trials with every lie cast upon us by the enemy. We take on the attitude that nothing is going to change and spiritual growth and/or pleasing God fades into the mist. Blindness rules on both sides of the equation.

     Perhaps accepting things the way they are in these situations may be the best way to move forward through them. By moving on we leave it up to God to make changes in His timing and will. Forgiving and accepting permits us to throw off the shackles of judgement and condemnation. The liberty to breathe free is ours to claim by the power of God’s word. This sort of example, is a lifeline for those  searching for comfort in their own stubborn trials .

     So, when trials persist without bringing the desired solution, there is still a way to move forward. Moving forward is possible but it takes a mindset that requires a high level of trust in God. A trust that even though the desired solution has not been realized, our confidence that God is in control and is working out His plan remains steadfast.

 Remember: God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are higher than ours.

He ALWAYS knows what is best.