Tag Archives: lost

Joy Returns


Lamentations 4 and 5 are two of the saddest chapters in the Bible. Jeremiah was so descriptive of what life was like living under the control of their enemy. The people who were once wealthy were digging through the trash to find food. The kids were forced to do manual labor that was too hard for them. Anyone caught looking for food outside the city walls was killed. Confidence was replaced with desperation, and joy was replaced with a deep depression. 

People no longer gathered to talk. No one sang any songs. The population was dwindling down because people were dying of starvation. It was a very dark period in Israel’s history. Jeremiah knew they were living under the enemy’s control because they had turned their back on God. He cried out in repentance and asked God how long would they suffer. Then he remembered that suffering is temporary, but God is eternal.

You may be going through a dark time in your life right now as well. It may feel like God has abandoned you and that you are living under the enemy’s control. I know what it’s like to live through that. I know what it feels like to lose everything and wonder if you should still try to keep going. I can let you know that the suffering is only temporary. It does end and the sun comes out again. God has not abandoned you no matter how alone you feel.

I pray Jeremiah’s prayer in Lamentations 5:21 over you today. It says, “Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had!” (GNT) I’m living proof that God restores what the enemy stole, and that joy returns. When God restores you, He will rebuild everything better than it was. When He gives your joy back, it will be greater than before. What feels like forever is only a season. Restoration is coming. 

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Finding Forward

  
I’ve always heard that if you’re not going forward, you’re going backwards. Sometimes it’s all we can do to put one foot in front of the other. When your life has been flipped upside down, you become directionally challenged. What seems like the right direction may not be right. It’s tough to know which way forward is in those moments. You may feel like you’re drowning and you can’t stay still, so you move in the direction you hope is forward just so you can leave the place where you are.

I remember taking swimming lessons as a kid. They warned us that under water, you can lose your sense of direction. In those moments it’s easy to panic, and to start swimming thinking you’re moving closer to air, when in reality, you’re going further down. Going the wrong direction can cost you more than time. To help, they taught us a simple rule to help determine the right way to swim. Be still. When you quit fighting and are still, your body will naturally float to the top. Once you’re moving in that direction, swim with all your might.

The same thing is true for us spiritually. When were lost and confused as to which way is forward, be still. You’ve heard Psalm 46:10 as, “Be still and know that I am God,” but I like the Good News Translation even better. It says, “’Stop fighting,’ He says, ‘and know that I am God.’” When you’re under water and you’re drowning, it’s natural to fight, but God says, “Stop fighting. Be still.” When we do that, not only will we know He is God, but we will find the way forward. Quit panicking trying to get out of this phase and be still. When God sends you in the right direction, go forward with all your might.

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Security In Uncertainty

  
Too many times life throws sucker punches at us. We get kicked in the gut out of nowhere and our future all of a sudden becomes unclear. The things we once thought were secure get lost when the rug gets pulled out from under our feet. We can easily lose our way, or worse our faith, when these things happen. We can wonder what God is up to. We can beg Him to open our eyes to the new path He wants us to walk down in this unexpected season change.

In those times in my life, I find comfort and direction in reading His Word. I have to remind myself that God is my provider in times of need. He’s my peace in the middle of a storm. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the first and last so I can rest safely in the middle. He is the one who directs my path even when I can’t see the way forward. He is the one I run to in my time of need because He has always been faithful.

The following scriptures are some of my favorites to remind me that in my uncertainty, there is hope, there is a plan, and there is peace I can have.  

1. The LORD directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?
Proverbs 20:24 NLT

2. By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path. 

Psalm 119:105 MSG

3. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.

Psalms 40:2 NLT

4. I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.

Jeremiah 29:11 GNB

5. GOD keeps an eye on his friends, his ears pick up every moan and groan.Is anyone crying for help? GOD is listening, ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you’ll find GOD right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.

Psalm 34:15, 17-18 MSG

6. So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ (These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.

Matthew 6:31-34 GNB

7. Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Philippians 4:6-7 MSG

8. Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.

1 Peter 5:7 AMP

9. People may plan all kinds of things, but the Lord ‘s will is going to be done.

Proverbs 19:21 GNB

10. Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

What are some of your favorite scriptures during these times?

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Disoriented Faith

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On one of my very first days of living in Cairo, Egypt, the youth pastor took me and three others,who were interns as well, to lunch. After lunch, she took us outside and got in a taxi. As we started to get in with her, she handed us a piece of paper with her address on it. She said, “Y’all get another taxi and have them take you here.” With that, her taxi took off and we were left standing on the side of the road in a foreign country. At that moment, I realized I knew absolutely nothing in Arabic.

I couldn’t say, “yes” or “no” even. As we looked at license plates, I noticed that I couldn’t even recognize the numbers. How were we going to communicate with the taxi driver? After we got in the taxi, we told him the address. He asked if we spoke Arabic. We shook our heads no. We quickly figured out that he was not from this part of town. He drove around aimlessly and stopped for directions a few times. We began to get scared because we had no idea where we were, where we were going or how to get there if we could communicate. We were completely disoriented.

In the process, we saw most of the town where we would be living for the next year, we bonded with each other and laughed about it later, much later. It reminded me of what God does with us sometimes. He gives us instructions that don’t make sense, puts us in situations that we don’t understand and asks us to do the impossible with very little instructions. It can be disorienting and scary. It can be stressful for us as well because we can’t see where He’s leading. We have families to feed, people who depend on us and safety nets that we’ve built. Why does God move us out of those comfortable situations?

I heard the answer in our Bible study. The author said, “God will sometimes disorient us in order to re-orient us. We can become too dependent on the things we’ve built for our own security and that causes us to trust God less. Jesus constantly said and did things that disoriented His disciples. He took men who were used to being on the water and gave them land legs. He taught in people’s homes instead of always doing it in the synagogue. He referred to God as “Father” instead of Yahweh. He hung out with sinners instead of the righteous. He challenged their entire way of life so He could re-orient them into the life He wanted them to live.

What’s happening in your life right now that doesn’t make sense to you? Where has God moved you that is away from the comfort zone you built? God has not left you and isn’t allowing things to happen to you randomly. He is re-orienting your life to a deeper trust in Him. He is re-orienting your faith to give you a stronger trust in Him. He is redirecting your life to the path He wants you on so you can accomplish all He has for you. Trust that He sees the whole map of your life and knows when you need to be re-oriented. Feeling lost temporarily can bring a greater direction to your life. Trust what God is doing.

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Your Faith Is Your Responsibility

Right now my phone is blowing up with pictures from all over of the lines people are standing in for the iPhone. With every launch, there seems to be this anticipation that people get so that they can have or see the newest device. Apple has been masterful at marketing and creating demand for their products. They have learned how to create demand like no other company. It’s always intriguing to me to see this.

It would be awesome to see people lined up outside of churches each Sunday in anticipation of this week’s message. It would be incredible if there was a huge demand for people to spend time with God. How would church be different if there was that kind of anticipation? What if we ourselves had that kind of anticipation to hear what God had to say to us? How would it change our lives? I don’t mean this piece to be a Jesus Juke. I’m asking myself these questions too.

I’m not suggesting we adopt a marketing strategy like Apple to get people in the door. I’m suggesting each of us who are believers get excited about God. If it’s a struggle for us week in and week out to go to church, how can we expect others to want to go? If the Bible seems boring to us, how can we expect others to be excited about it? If the thought of spending an hour in prayer (spending time with God) a day seems like a chore, why would we think anyone else would want to do it?

We keep looking at a pastor or priest to motivate us to be who God called us to be. That’s not their job. They are to reinforce what you get from God on a daily basis. What would your life look like if you only ate one meal a week? How hard would it be to survive and to do your job? Why do we think our spirit can survive on one meal a week given by someone else at a place we struggle to go to? Excitement about our faith starts with each one of us. Spiritual growth is our responsibility.

We keep looking for the church to grow and win the lost, but forget that we individually are the church. It’s our responsibility to grow the church, share our faith and win the lost. We expect the pastor to motivate us from God’s Word and never crack open the scriptures during the week. Our faith has to become exciting to us first before it can be exciting to others. We have to daily remind ourselves where we were heading, how we were feeling and what we were saved from if we want others to find what we’ve found. We can’t sit idly by knowing we’re saved without being concerned about others who aren’t.

How would your spiritual life be different if you anticipated going to church each Sunday instead of anticipating when the service will be over? How many of your friends and co-workers can see your excitement about what you believe? If they can’t, what needs to happen to reignite that flame? What do you need to do to make your faith grow and to come alive? It’s not someone else’s responsibility to get you excited about God and to motivate you to serve Him. It’s yours. It’s a daily task and I think that’s part of what Jesus meant when He told us to take up our cross daily, not just on Sunday.

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Your Soul Purpose

I heard the story of a rich man who was very ill. He was intent on taking His wealth to Heaven with him when he died. He cried out to Peter and begged him if he could bring his wealth to Heaven. Peter finally relented, but told him he could only bring what he could fit in a suitcase. The man bought the biggest suitcase he could find and converted his wealth to gold. As the time came near to his death, he loaded the suitcase with his gold.

When he died, he took the suitcase with him to the Pearly Gates. An angel saw him with the suitcase and stopped him. He was told he couldn’t bring anything to Heaven. He replied that he had spoken to Peter about it and assured the angel it was all right. The angel was curious what he could possibly have that was so valuable that he needed to bring it to Heaven. He asked the man if he could see what was in the case. When the man opened the suitcase, the puzzled angel asked, “Why did you need to bring these street paving stones to Heaven? We have plenty.”

We often put our value on things that are of no value to God. We forget that we are not of this world and allow our minds to be transformed into the thinking of this world. The world says, “Make as much money as you can as fast as you can.” Why? You can’t take it with you. It has no eternal value. The money you make here will be left behind for someone else to spend.

I’m not against making money. I’m against that being the sole purpose of our lives. Jesus said, “I must be about my Father’s business.” What was the Father’s business? Making sure that none would perish. Jesus spent His entire ministry helping the poor, the sick and the oppressed. He was concerned about the souls of men rather than getting wealthy. Winning the lost should be our soul purpose not accumulating wealth.

In Philippians 3:8, Paul says, “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (NLT).” Everything else. Not some things. Everything else is worthless compared to knowing Christ. This kind of thinking doesn’t make sense in the eyes of the world. In fact, I Corinthians 1:18 says, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” It is opposite of their thinking.

We need to be about the Father’s business and increase the knowledge of Him in others. In truth, a soul lasts forever, not your bank account. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” What do you treasure? Do you look at the lives and souls of others as a treasure worth investing in or do you look at the stock market and accumulating wealth as worth investing in? Do your actions show that? I’ll leave you with Romans 12:2 from the Message to think about.

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. (Romans 12:2a MSG)

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Liaisons for the Lost

If you knew someone famous and your friends knew it, would you give in to their pleas for you to introduce them? Most of us probably wouldn’t. We don’t want to jeopardize our friendship with the famous person in order to satisfy our friend’s desire. I wonder how many of us fail to introduce our friends to Jesus. We won’t introduce them for the opposite reason though. We don’t want to jeopardize our friendship with them instead of being concerned with our relationship with Jesus.

In Mark chapter two, four friends take another friend to see Jesus. When they arrive, the place where Jesus is speaking is full. There are so many people that they are spilling out into the street and these four guys can’t even get near the door. They are desperate for their friend who is paralyzed to see Jesus. They take him up to the roof of the place where Jesus was speaking and then start digging until they’ve created a hole big enough to lower their friend through.

When Jesus sees the faith of the friends, He speaks to the man who was lowered down and forgives his sins. Jesus was more concerned about healing him spiritually than he was physically. I don’t even know if is friends were thinking he needed a spiritual healing. I’m sure they were just looking for a physical healing. A physical healing is pointless without a spiritual healing first though. A physical healing is temporary, but a spiritual healing is eternal.

A friend of mine spoke to me yesterday about being a liaison for Jesus. When he mentioned it, I though of this story. These men were liaisons and made sure their friend was placed In front of Jesus. They didn’t care what else was going on, what Jesus was doing or whose house they were tearing the roof off of. They just knew that their friend needed help and Jesus was the one who could heal.

Each of us have people in our lives that need to be taken to Jesus for healing whether it’s physical, spiritual or both. What are we doing about it? Are we just mentioning our friend in passing? Do we get to the door, see it’s full and go back home? Or do we find a way to get on a roof, dig through all the layers of things that separate us from Jesus and make a way to get in front of Him? It was always those people who got more than they hoped for.

The woman with the issue of blood couldn’t get to Jesus. She wasn’t big enough or strong enough to push through the crowd to get to Him. Instead she got on her hands and knees and crawled through the dirt and muck so that she could at least touch the hem of His garment. Where’s that kind of tenacity in our prayer lives today? Where’s that kind of determination to see people healed and forgiven? I know I need to have more of it. I think when we get that kind of fire in us, we’ll start to make the difference we were called to make.

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