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.

Imagination & Reason

Reason Inspired by Good imagination

C S Lewis (author of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, remember) stressed the connection between imagination and reason. Yet, our world has a hard time understanding this. And after studying on Lewis concept, I can better understand why.

Okay, here’s one person’s definition of Lewis’s concept:

Reason and imagination are woven together, using a rich concept of truth which emphasizes how we come to see things properly, and grasp their inner coherence. (in other words, how they stick together)

Reason and imagination are easily understood as separate concepts. But, it took awhile for me to understand how they were connected. Dr. Harry Poe, a professor at Union University, and an authority on C S Lewis’s writings offers this perspective;

“Evangelicals have a wary suspicion of imagination and the artistic expression that comes from it, probably because of St Paul’s warning about vain imagination to the Romans and the idolatry and false religion that proceeds from it.”

So, there is good imagination and bad imagination! It was good imagination coupled with the rich concepts of truth influenced by God’s word, reason, that inspired the writing of Narnia. On the other hand, it is bad imagination influenced by false reasoning that produces lies from which the enemy manipulates and deceives.

Allow me to illustrate.

Consider the impact that secular media has on how we view life. If we are not familiar enough with God’s truths or have rejected anything having to do with God, then we don’t have a proper filter to discern the difference between good and bad imagination. We won’t be able to recognize the lies hidden within the movie scripts and/or other sources of media we may be exposed to. We will slowly but surely be desensitized as to what is truth. As a result, our choices and decisions will be impacted by the vain imaginations and false reasoning temptingly portrayed in what we view, read, or listen to.

So while I am sure there is much more clarity to be had on this subject, here’s what I have gleaned so far. When we combine good imagination and reason (truths from God), then we will have the right source to influence how we come to view life. When we combine bad imagination and false reasoning, then we will be influenced to view life with a distorted view and our lives will be doomed.

When doubt threatens our peace…

And have mercy on those who doubt; Jude 1:22 ESV

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 ESV

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 ESV

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands Psalm 138:8 ESV

And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Psalm 50:15 ESV

For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 ESV

Doubt can wear away our resolve and threaten our peace. Especially, when the problem we have prayed over for years, remains seemingly unaffected by our prayers. It may take us awhile to allow the truths of the above verses to sink in and route out the thoughts of doubt. Nevertheless, it is what we must do, if we desire to send those doubtful thoughts packing. Thoughts of doubt resist thoughts of peace but then thoughts of peace resist thoughts of doubt!

Waiting on Hope?

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;” Psalm 130:5

Do you see the connection between this verse and this photo?

The dead leaves represent the concealment of hope.

After waiting through the winter, the daffodils thrust through all the dead leaves and shouts,

“Hope is alive!”

THEN

The psalmist advices us to wait on hope,

For hope will spring forth from God’s word.

God illustrates His truths, time and time again, through nature. A daffodil’s appearance following a cold winter fairly shouts the truth of hope. This visual of hope serves to remind us to wait and just like the daffodils, in God’s timing, hope will spring forth.

Let’s ponder our present troubles (winter). Like the dead leaves do they conceal the signs of hope? The psalmist counsels us to wait. And as we wait, or gaze upon a simple daffodil, we will be reminded of the hope we have in God’s word.

May my heart never grow tired. . .

As I grow older, I’m 73 at present, there are three particular verses of Scripture that have more of an impact on me now than ever before.

Isaiah 46:4

Isaiah 46:4, Even when you are old I will be the same. And even when your hair turns white, I will help you. I will take care of what I have made. I will carry you, and will save you.NLV

As the changes assault my body it sure lifts my spirits to know that my God changes not. The older I grow the more I will need help. And who greater to supply that than the One who made me. The help and care He showers on me never ceases.

Ruth 4:15a

Ruth 4:15a, He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age.HCSB

What do I have to look forward to as I age? According to the verse in the book of Ruth, God’s plan is to renew my life. I have already discovered how God manages this for me through my children and my grandchildren. The blessings He has given me in additional ways sustain me continually. There are multiple evidence on a daily basis of God’s efforts to sustain me. IF I have the eyes to see them.

2 Corinthians 4:16

2 Corinthians 4:16, So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. ES

And this verse is my anchor. Yes, I can’t do what I use to do. And no matter how much I dislike it or complain about it, it will continue to wear out. Additionally, a negative complaining attitude will draw my focus away from the renewal process of God’s intent.

* * *

I read recently about a 101 year old Laotian man who for 80 years has been a follower of Christ. For many of those years he has served as pastor of a large congregation. But as his body weakens, he is no longer able to pastor. Instead, he occasionally opens services with prayer, and continues to visit and pray for those who are sick. Here is his perspective on growing old.

“My heart has just wanted to serve the Lord since I was 20 years old. Now I am tired physically, but my heart is not tired for the Lord’s work. Though my outward body is declining, I pray my inner self is renewed daily.”

May my heart never grow tired of serving my LORD!

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?”

Lies vs truth

God is Truth

I am the way, the truth, and the life… (John 14:6)

Satan is a liar

He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.John 8:44

How do you suppose that Satan can convince so many that he is not as the Bible has described him?

How do you suppose that the lines dividing truth from a lie have faded to the point of being indistinguishable?

How do you suppose doubts about the existence of God has resulted in attempts to remove any reference of Him in our nation?

How do you suppose that we can believe that Jesus is not the Messiah, the Son of God?

How do you suppose that we can live our lives in direct opposition to God’s word and be cheered on by society for those choices?

This is how:

The answer to every question is the same. Remove the influence of God and the truth of His Word, and Satan can deceive and manipulate without restraint. He has the power of the world’s falsehood reinforcing the lies with which he has deceived us. Believing that Satan doesn’t exist or that God doesn’t either for that matter, can be easily concluded if you reject God’s word, the Bible.

Think about it. What are we embracing as truth that formerly was considered a lie? What are we identifying as a lie that formerly was considered truth?

Society changes, but not God. In the not so distant past, certain lifestyles or choices were considered immoral. But not today! Has society or an individual who has thrown off what they labeled as religious restrictions been the better for it? Without the unchangeable truths of God, we will think we are seeking freedom when we are actually seeking license. Doing what we want without anyone telling us we are wrong.

If we don’t know what the Bible says about the choices we make, how are we going to be able to make choices that will gift us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control?

How will be able to recognize what is truth and what is a lie?

Faith Must Grow!

Teach me to believe that all degrees of mercy arise from several degrees of prayer, that when faith is begun it is imperfect and must grow,… quote from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

Is our faith growing?

I think the answers to the above questions can be revealed by the following comparison.

When a baby is born it’s expected that growth and development will follow. Let’s say the child starts off healthy and with a nourishing milk diet the expected growth and development ensues. Wonderful, we are off to an encouraging beginning. Yet soon the child needs to transition from milk to solid foods. If the transition isn’t made and the child remains on a milk diet, then healthy growth will be arrested.

That’s exactly the analogy that is made in the following Bible verses:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.Hebrews 5:12-14

Though, we have been born into God’s family, far too many of us are still on a spiritual milk diet.

Troubles happen and when they do, we find our milk diet insufficient to provide us with the strength and wisdom we need. So we default to whatever source is handy. At which point the enemy enters to begin his deception. As a result our ability to recognizes the enemy’s lies has been seriously compromised.

This is where seeds of deception take root. Our desire to spend time in prayer and God’s word slowly deteriorates. Not being familiar with God’s truth, we filter out thoughts, attitudes, and actions through false assumptions and human reasoning.

Daily spending time in God’s word and prayer is the same as eating a healthy diet for those who desire to be healthy spiritually. But our enemy has convinced us that isn’t required and we can get along just fine without that consistent discipline. Remaining in the milk stage of our growth for too long, we can easily be convinced of such lies (fiery darts, remember).

After we have lived a hit and miss life for so long, we can’t see that there is a better way to live life. Because our growth has been stunted, we are unaware of our desperate condition. We aren’t even aware that a better life exists. A growing faith equals a better life.

Filters and fiery darts

What do filters have to do with fiery darts? Well, recently it has come to my attention that there is a distinct relationship between the use of filters regarding fiery darts. How we process the thoughts that are formed in our minds before they take the form of the spoken word relies on what we use to filter those words. Likewise, how we process those spoken words relies on what we use to filter those words as we ponder how to receive them.

How we use our words or how we receive words depends on the filters through which they pass. As it applies to this post, a filter is what we use to recognize fiery darts so that we can reject them and replace them with truth thoughts.

Allow me to illustrate

Negative teasing when passed through the filter, ‘I don’t really mean that, I’m just teasing,’ justifies the tearing down of another. However, when using the filter of Scripture we are instructed to make sure that what comes out of our mouths should build up our listener/s in that particular situation. Therefore, our words should benefit those who are listening.

Let no corrupting talk (some translations use course jesting) come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 ESV

Take another example.

I’m 73 years old and the other day a loved one said to me, “Janet, you are beginning to look your age.” Their filter allowed them to express the first thought that came to their mind in expressing their concern for the stress I was under. However, if they had been familiar with the following verse (filter) they would have reconsidered that initial thought. Seasoning it with graciousness. (“Did I look that bad!”)

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6 ESV

Ever heard of the word, hijacking

as it applies to conversations? Someone is talking and what they says sparks a memory. We can hardly wait for them to pause so we can interject our thought. Sometimes we don’t even wait for a pause, we just blurt it out. That’s hijacking a conversation. What’s happening here is we are not really listening to the other person. We are not thinking about what they are saying. Scripture has a very effective filter for this problem (that often we aren’t even aware we are guilty of it).

“With humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves…” Philippians 2:3

Additionally, James 1:9a, ‘be quick to hear, slow to speak…‘ exhorts us to focus on what the speaker is saying and give them our full attention.

The Scriptures are designed to filter our words, thoughts, and actions. Just the ammunition needed to extinguish fiery darts!

It’s Up to Us!

Many, especially for those of us who are Christians, are familiar with the following verse from 2 Chronicles 7:14

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

There are some particular points contained in this verse that should require our focus.

-It’s written to God’s people, the Church (all of us Christians). We, not the unsaved, are required to humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked way!

I think the key requirement here is to ‘seek God’s face.’

But what does that mean actually? It means we want to get to know God, understand Him better, and become accustomed to His voice. How do we get to know Him better? By spending time with Him in prayer and His word. In getting to know God, we will have a more honest view of ourselves. That’s humbling. Knowing God better through His word, allows the Holy Spirit the freedom to point out areas where we need to repent and seek His forgiveness.

Repenting is more than just feeling sorry for our sins. It must go further to be genuine repentance. This kind of repentance focuses on God and how our sins affect Him. Remember our sins drove Jesus to the cross. A genuinely repentant heart desires to please God. And when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins, we will do whatever we must to achieve God’s pleasure. Obviously turning from our sin.

On a personal level, our lives will be characterized by love, joy, peace as we get to know God better and understand His ways. Even as we experience trials and storms. This applies to the Church as a whole also.

But while we are familiar with verse 14, what about verse 13?

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people,

Does a plague among my people sound familiar? It’s one of those things God wants to heal our land of. And not only are we physically sick from the plague of COVID, we are spiritually sick as well. America, our land, needs to return to her Christian roots?

As individual Christians, we must grasp the truth that God isn’t waiting on the unsaved to humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and repent. No! It’s up to us to come to our senses and seek God’s forgiveness. Then the healing will come! On an individual basis and as the corporate Church.

Do we want our land to be healed?