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The Season of Caretaking…

Advancing to the season of caring for elderly parents has the potential to create a major shift in how we live and even view life. Suddenly, long anticipated plans must be reconsidered. Adjustments in the ebb and flow of daily routines must be rearranged. Physical accommodations of living space need to be appraised. Financial aspects of this arrangement require careful planning. It’s a load that at times can be overwhelming. Our enemy is ever present wielding his weapon of choice in taking advantage of the negatives of this shift to darken our outlook.

But though our focus might be tempted to see only what seems to be an ever lingering uphill climb, we can take measures that will foster a new balance. There are many helpful resources that we can draw upon to provide what is needed to care for our elderly parents. Yet, the main resource, the one true extinguisher of such darkness, is located in the Bible. It’s the map that will guide us in the choices we need to make and how to deal with the problems that arise. For instance:

When we reach the point where we don’t know where to turn, it’s the lamp that will light our way.

When the sacrifices arise that we willingly or unwillingly have to make, we need ‘how to’ advice on what that looks like.

When the logistics and the daily in’s and out’s of caretaking, begin to weigh us down we need a place to cast those burdens.

When we feel we just don’t have what it takes to handle this upheaval in our lives successfully, we need a place to turn to to regain our strength and footing.

And sometimes we just need to be reminded of who we are truly serving.

Yes, sometimes God calls us to a season of caretaking that requires a great deal of self-denial, And even in that there is a source of joy to be discovered.

Setting my mind on:

Pulling against each other.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8

In church circles the word flesh is tossed about nonchalantly due to our familiarity with its definition. But I bet it sounds pretty weird to those without a church background! Therefore, I will attempt to decode its meaning.

We all understand that we possess what is called a human nature. That is what separates us from the animals. It’s how we think, feel, and act.

When a person believes in Christ, the Holy Spirit of God takes up residence within that person which in essence make God her Boss. An unbeliever, on the other hand, is her own boss . Still, both the believer and unbeliever possess a human nature. We now call this our flesh. Simply put:

The flesh is the part of a believer that disagrees with the Spirit. The makeup of a believer is different from that of an unbeliever, in that an unbeliever does not have the Spirit of God indwelling them. In the case of an unbeliever, the flesh is in agreement with the spirit of that unbeliever.

This state of being reveals why fiery darts wield so much power. An unbeliever has no resource to determine truth other that their own experience, coupled with the world’s mind set of truth. Without the absolute truth of God’s word, for them truth is ever changing.

Yet, a believer has the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within. If a believer maintains a daily communication with God through prayer and the study of Scripture, then what they think, feel, and act is based on the never changing truths therein. A believer gets in trouble when they drift away from that two-fold communication. The less we know of God’s truths, the more vulnerable we become to fiery darts.

For you see, the flesh (in others word the human spirit) is always opposed to the Holy Spirit. But one leads to death (an eternity without God) , the other leads to life (on earth and in eternity with God)

Stop now and ask yourself this question,

“Have I set my mind on what my flesh desires?”

or

“Have I set my mind on what the Holy Spirit desires?”

STORMS! They have a purpose.

Storms are unavoidable. Why on earth do we try to avoid them. It’s a loosing battle.

Storms are no respecter of persons. No one can escape them. Since avoiding them is impossible, where do we find the source that will subdue the storm?

There is no better perspective to embrace concerning storms than what is prescribed in Scripture. Let’s take a look at Luke 8:22-25, only one of the many go to verses during life’s storms.

22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

This verse tells us that Jesus said, “Let us go to the other side of the lake.” Now Jesus, being who He was knew there was a storm coming. (Just like he knows about our storms) Storms on the Sea of Galilee come up rather quickly. But Jesus had lessons his disciples needed to learn. The storm was to be their tutor.

The disciples, though seasoned fishermen, panicked at the severity of the storm. Maybe because they saw that Jesus was asleep they assumed he was not paying attention. Well, of course, this was an assumption fueled by fear. Jesus was right there with them. He hadn’t gone anywhere.

The disciples woke Jesus and in response to their pleas, he rebuked the storm. The lesson? Well, they lacked faith and the storm exposed this. I imagine that whenever they experienced fear like that again, they arrested such fear by recalling that day when Jesus calmed the storm.

Let’s not be too hard on those disciples though. Aren’t we much like them when we encounter storms? The fiery darts of fear and even doubt are first at the scene it seems in our storms. So like the disciples we cry out to God.

If we are willing to cooperate with God when we are being buffeted by storms, he will expose the fiery darts that feed our fears and doubts. We will be empowered to extinguish those weapons of the enemy. In their place, depending on our cooperation, He will supply a stronger faith, less self-centeredness, or resolve to focus on the needs of others. He may call us to change our course. Maybe there are others who need a visual example of how they need to turn to God in their storm.

Recently, it seems my storms have come in waves. I find that I am tempted to center my thoughts on myself. I overly focus on how hard things are. I mourn over the things I’ve lost out on. It’s not natural for me to place my focus on God. So I need to cry out to God just as those disciples did and ask for help. God in His faithfulness will supply me with what I need to overcome the fiery darts attacking me. My situation may not ease up any, but my perspective fashioned by God’s truths will calm my storm.

Storms aren’t random oversights of God. They have a purpose. God’s desire is to reveal that purpose so our lives will be characterized by His peace.

$/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.

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.

Weathering the storms…

    peter-sinking

 

     The years 2020 & 2021 have completely upended our lives! We have been challenged to seek solutions to problems that are unprecedented.  Our days are interspersed with highs and lows. Nothing seems constant. And just when we think we can breathe easy, pow!  Suddenly, we are knocked off our feet again!!!!

     Trying to live life under these circumstances with any measure of victory is humanly impossible. As Christians many are looking to us (whether they or we realize it or not) watching for any clue as to how to stay afloat as the storms rage.

     We know to cry out to the LORD but I wonder how long do we wait around to hear His voice? If He doesn’t remove the problem, bring the healing we ask for, or miraculously intervene to make everything better, we throw up our hands in despair. 

     I’m learning that when it gets this rough, there are choices we can make that will rebuff the enemy and strengthen our witness. First of all, we need to examine our expectations. Do we really think that being a child of God’s means we will know nothing but blessings? Suffering will be minimal and problems will be easily resolved? Do you know any Christian whose life can be described as such? I sure don’t!

   The fiery darts’ intent is cause us to feel abandoned by God, feel overwhelmed by our problems, or wander around aimlessly when we fail to understand why God allows us to suffer.  By focusing on negative thoughts such as these, the truths of James 1:2-4 are hidden from our view. We are of little help to ourselves or to others. 

     If God removed every problem, healed every sickness, or never allowed us to suffer what would that accomplish? Satan doesn’t want us to consider that question. For he knows that solutions are never realized unless there is a problem  to resolve. It is in the exertion of muscles that increases strength.  A diamond becomes a precious jewel due to intense and lengthy pressure. Satan doesn’t want us exercising our faith muscles. We might get too strong for him, if we do!

Here’s the point:

     Like Peter, we will sink when we allow the storms of our days to overtake us. Cooperating with God as He protects and strengthens our witness through the storms will be a lifeline to others to weather their present tempest. 

The Bigger Picture of the Coronavirus

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     I had previously posted this live Facebook video on my Fiery Darts Facebook page. In light of the crisis we are contending with worldwide, I felt impressed of God to share this live video here on my Fiery Darts blog.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;…Hosea 4:6 ESV

     By learning of the bigger picture within which our personal struggle with the coronavirus is placed, we will gain the knowledge that we lack. Knowledge that will prevent our destruction.

 

Please click on the link below:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F244767155569711%2Fvideos%2F2674402739338120%2F&show_text=0&width=560

 

 

Are You Listening, LORD?

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19 However, God has listened;
He has paid attention to the sound of my prayer.
20 May God be praised!
He has not turned away my prayer
or turned His faithful love from me

Psalm 66:19-20  (HCSB)

     I write another blog about being the mom of a missionary. It’s hard for mom’s like us to think of our children and grandchildren off in another country (or state) having to contend with this pandemic. The full force of attacks by the enemy to undermine our faith in times like these is all too real. I know first hand what that feels like. Therefore, taking what God has taught me through the years about fiery darts, I’m passing it on to my dear moms whose children and grandchildren are ‘somewhere out there’ in need of prayer! 

    Our missionary children are scattered all over the world. Prior to this pandemic, our problems and their problems were uniquely tied to location. However, now we find ourselves facing the common threat of the coronavirus. A worldwide threat that is redefining life as we know it. Should our missionary children come home, or shelter in place right where they are? Oh, it’s a complicated scenario and every family’s response can only be determined by the details of their particular situation. No one plan works for everyone. We are concerned about them and they are concerned about us!

What are we to do?

     My fiery darts blog exposes the foremost weapon Satan uses against us in times like this which is referenced in Ephesians 6:16,

 “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” NKJV

     Here is how it applies to our present dilemma.

     Fear spawned by this Coronavirus threat is a very present reality.   Unchecked fear breeds panic, panic breeds irrational thinking, irrational thinking breeds wrong choices. It goes on and on.

     How we contend with our fears and all its relatives are the fiery darts of Eph. 6:16.  Satan’s intent in this pandemic is to steal, kill, and destroy anything God infuses us with to carry us through this crisis. 

     God, on the other hand, intends to take the fear and use it to direct us to Himself. In that response, we will be helped and God will be glorified. By responding according to God’s plan as we counsel and pray over our children, we will be instruments of God’s will in how to tackle this crisis. 

Keep in mind the following as we pray for our children, wherever they are.

1. Recognize the fear (fiery dart)

2. Reject the fear

3. Replace the fear with God’s Truth thoughts

     As I pray over my children and their families in this crisis, one of the first Truth thoughts God gave me was 2 Timothy 1:7. Every time fear approaches, I call forth this Truth.

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind

     God’s word ASSURES us that He is watching over us and our precious ones. We can wholeheartedly trust that God is definitely paying attention to our prayers. Likewise, may we receive and become the instruments of peace of Philippines 4:6-7:

     Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

(Especially, when the fiery dart of doubt begins its assault)

 

Fear Reveals Our Focus

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     My first night in Israel, I woke up around 1:30 am (Israel time) and wasn’t able to go back to sleep. Thoughts were popping into my mind, demanding I pay attention to them. (I had to be considerate of my friend who shared the room with me and not turn on any lights). Finally, there was nothing to do but grab my phone, go to my Word app, and begin recording those thoughts. The following are the words that forced themselves upon my mind that night. At the time, I thought they were a personal word for me. Up to a point they were. But after I returned home following my pilgrimage to Israel right smack in the middle of the Coronavirus fallout, I feel those words were also meant for such a time as this.

     Two themes encased my thoughts that early morning–Perspective and Fear.  Our perspective is determined by our focus. But before we choose our focus (and it is a choice, by the way) there is a viewpoint to be considered.

     First,

we need to view our lives within the context of God’s plan for them. He has given us assignments that are fashioned by that plan. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Second,

we need to be aware that Satan also has a plan:

To steal, kill, and destroy God’s plan for us. (from John 10:10a)

     Unfortunately, our human nature is too often susceptible to the manipulation and deception of our enemy, Satan. When we succumb to his temptations, we limit ourselves from fulfilling God’s plans for our lives. How does this happen?

    Satan’s premiere plan is to keep us ignorant of God’s plan. So how does Satan pull this off?

     By distracting us from spending time with God in prayer and His word. Make no mistake about it, that is the foundation stone on which Satan’s destructive tactics are built.

     Now, let’s bring this all down to the trial we are facing at present–the Coronavirus.

     Do we think for one minute that those thoughts of fear and despair come from anyone other than Satan? Of course not! But we are being tempted to take on a perspective of fear, are we not? Then how can we avoid or resist such temptation?

Consider the following:

     A fearful thought will come to our mind. That thought, if allowed to take root, will produce more fear and put us in panic mode. We will begin to behave irrationally. Thoughts of self-preservation at all costs will be entertained.

    YET, if we will but recognize that thought as a fiery dart from the enemy, there is a plan to nullify its effect. Here’s how it works:

Recognize that thought of fear as a fiery dart

Reject it outright. Don’t allow its deadly poison to take root

then Replace it with Truth thoughts.

     This is critical. We can’t just reject fear and expect to be done with it. But when it returns it needs to find no room to plant itself. This is where Truth thoughts come into play. The Truth thought found in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”, will quench such a thought. Just as it says in Ephesians 6:16, “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”

Therefore, the plan we focus upon will determine our perspective in facing the Coronavirus pandemic.

     

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What is accomplished by concealing the importance of discipleship in our churches? 

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Some subtle alterations take place when churches fail to grasp the balance that needs to be maintained concerning conversion and discipleship. Consider these:

    Churches over-focus on evangelism while the role of discipleship fades away into confusion. Evangelism must be followed by discipleship if the church is to be filled with Christians who are growing and maturing in their faith.

Satan doesn’t shutter in fear when we become believers in Christ. It’s our being discipled that sends shivers up his spine!

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     New converts are often left to fend for themselves as they face the world and encounter life’s challenges. Without the counsel of a discipler, we fail to learn that God’s plan is to take what Satan means for bad and turn it into good. Romans 8:28

     Consider what often happens to new adult converts. Too often they are given responsibilities within the church by virtue of their physical age, not spiritual maturity. In the physical world, no one would expect an infant to teach a class of adults! No wonder many face burn out and/or disillusionment. They need to be a learner; not a teacher. Many leave the church because they were put in just such a position. 

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     Without discipleship, our churches are likely to be filled with immature Christians. These baby Christians, simply put, are suffering from failure to thrive. Due to their immaturity, they are easily deceived and manipulated by Satan. They haven’t been taught how to recognize the truth from a lie. Which is why fiery darts can be so deadly in these cases.

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Fiery darts of Confusion dull our understanding of these terms

Conversion births us into God’s kingdom. Discipleship means to allow God to form our lives, our real, everyday, actual practices, choices, and beliefs – to look more and more like Christ.

Conversion and Discipleship are the two parts of the whole. Conversion is all about the birth and Discipleship is all about growth after the birth.

Disciples making disciples go out into the world impacting for Christ the systems we create and participate in. (and that makes for a better world for all.)