Losing the Forest for the Tree?…

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” Psalm 31:24

What do you do when all of your strength seems to fail you?
What do you do when it seems to be sucked from your body through trying or exhausting tasks?   Have you been discouraged recently or perhaps even right now?
problems
Perhaps it is time to take a step back from your troubles and those things that sap your energies.

The other day I was looking for my keys and I couldn’t find them.
I had searched high and low, even looking underneath the cushions on the couch.
I was getting frustrated and anxious, because I had to be somewhere and my vehicle key is rather important.  So finally I sit down, trying not to allow the momentary panic of potentially missing a meeting bother me.  I took a couple of deep breaths and then thought about where I had last seen or placed my keys.  Finally, after stepping back from the problem at hand, I was able to see the solution, and I recalled where they were…sure enough I found my keys.

worryIn the midst of the frustration and worry, I had to take a step back.  I had gotten so close to the problem that I couldn’t see the broader perspective or possible solutions.   I think we’re all like that – we stand too closely to the problem, when problems arise.  We try to micromanage situations and problem-solve and trouble-shoot and sometimes we are successful, but other times we become overwhelmed by the insurmountable tasks ahead of us.  So we put our heads down, we plod on through trying to take on the world and address all of our problems and stressors, all the while we are so close to the problem(s) that we have lost the forest for the bark of one tree.  be still

God has come to me many times when I get like this to remind me to “Be still and know that I am God…” (Ps. 46:10) It is only when I pause and take a step back do I finally understand this.  God longs to lead us out of the forest of our worries.  He desires for us to seek the long-term perspective: that we are Kingdom people called by Him, and we are called Sons and Daughters!  Although these current problems and sufferings might still continue, isn’t it helpful to know that these are all temporary?  Yes, we will probably continue to feel suffering, pain, sadness (all of the above), but this will not last, it never does.  Stepping back from the tree, we will have a broader perspective and a longer range vision on our future as Kingdom people.

Be encouraged today, joy comes in the morning!  Put your whole trust in the Lord, he will give you strength and endurance for the problems at hand, also know that this is all temporary!

Something more to ponder today!

Day 15 – When The Going Gets Tough…

“We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way;…” 2 Corinthians 6:3-4

Have you heard the phrase “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”?  There are no promises of easy living and smooth sailing in the Christian experience.  Jesus doesn’t say “follow me and everything will come up roses!” No, this decision to Live for Christ is one of the hardest life decisions one ever makes!  It is a promise to live for Him no matter what comes our way.  Through the good and bad times.  In so doing, our witness becomes more than just  The words we choose to say to those around us.  Instead our first witness is seen before we ever open our mouths.  Our actions speak louder than words!  

So let me ask you, what kind of witness are your actions displaying for those around you?  

I must confess that there have been times when I know that my actions have been a stumbling block to others.  I’m not proud of that, but it has happened, and will likely happen again.  Have you had similar experiences too?  I would venture a guess and say yes you have.

In all seasons…in all days of this coming week…in our shopping, leisure, work, hobbies, family and public interactions – may our witness be seen and then heard!  May we never become a stumbling block to those around us!  We are living for so much more than just our lives now!  What we say in what we do actually matters.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for this day and the blessings that this day has offered.  Help me tomorrow to be your witness in all that I do and say!  Guide me so that my words and my actions are pleasing to you, and are a sweet aroma for others!  Help me in those spaces where my witness is not evident.  Strengthen me for the difficult moments of my day!  I want to serve you with more than just my words, but with my life as well.  Show me what that looks like today!  In your name I pray these things.  -Amen!

Day 13 – What Good Can Come From There?

“…Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.   Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there?’ Nathaniel asked.  “Come and see,” said Philip.  (John 1:45-46)

Have you ever felt as if you weren’t good enough to be a disciple of Christ?
Perhaps you have uttered similar words about yourself.  Things like “Lord, surely you could pick someone better…someone more equipped…someone more eloquent…someone smarter than me.”  I know many who struggle with their own self-worth.  I also know of others who feel very insecure about their own gifts and abilities.

The important thing to remember is that when you say “yes” to God, He will provide the means.  Moses had a speech problem, and was very self-conscious about speaking in front of people, let alone the Pharaoh of Egypt…so God provided him help.  (Exodus 4:10)
When faithfulness to God is evident, and we say yes – Jehovah Jireh (My provider) will provide what we need.

Nathaniel’s words “Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there?” were not directed at himself, but rather at Philip’s proclamation of finding Messiah there in that town.  Jesus entered Nathaniel’s life and told him things no one knew, which lead Nathaniel to boldly declare, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”  That is an amazing declaration at a first visit with Jesus!

Christ wants to do something amazing in your life today!
He longs to equip you beyond what you see in yourself!  No matter where you come from, no matter your background or list of insecurities, He wants to make you his disciple!
The question “what good can come from there?” can be answered by a face to face encounter with our Savior.  Will you talk to Him today?

Prayer: Lord I confess my own insecurities to you today.  I am not equipped for the things you want me to do.  Help me to see You for who You are!  Also remind me that no demographic or community is unimportant to you- and that like diamonds in the rough, you can will raise up godly people and provide the means to have your glory seen.  Speak to my heart today.  Encourage me and allow me to your humble servant.  In your name I pray these things.  -Amen.

Day 2 – Residing In The Goodness…

Focus Verse: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28 (NIV)
The grace of God resides within us.  His presence provides what we need in the good times as well as the bad.  

Our focus verse for today has less to do with some sort of magic “goodness”and more to do with where we choose to place ourselves daily.  What I mean by that is this: are we firmly planted in our faith in the almighty?  Or, like shifting sands, do you waver and even falter when stressful/difficult things occur?  

The emphasis within this verse is “…of those who love Him…” Whatever you may face today, wherever your path might take you, how deep does your love for God go?  To what depths will you journey…will you go even beyond your comfort zone to serve our Father in heaven?  

The goodness God offers might not manifest itself in earthly riches and worldly fame, but rather in our daily provisions and spiritual blessings.  He gives us what we need, not necessarily what we want.  He loves us and know exactly the means by which to provide and to protect us.  The very real question is: do we trust Him?  Might I confess that I still struggle with this trust.  I still attempt to “handle” it all on my own…and I usually fail gloriously when I do.  

Might I suggest that we tackle this trust issue moment by moment instead of with vast brush strokes and promises?!  …and in so doing, may we plant ourselves firmly in the goodness of God, and remain there!

Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to reside within your goodness.  Show me how that can take place within my doubting moments. Help me to surrender to you even when the going gets tough.  I long to be yours and yours alone!  Thank you for this glorious day that you have given me and the blessings that I often take for granted.  Reside with me throughout my day and all that might frustrate my plans.  May Your will be done in my life today.

-Amen. 

An Overwhelming Victory?

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:37-39

No matter what the world throws at us, we can discover true victory in Christ Jesus, because this temporary realm in which we now live will one day pass away and the eternal will be everlasting!  This means that despite Satan’s best efforts, and the sufferings of the flesh, if we can overcome – He can not touch our souls, for that belongs to God!

Do you feel discouraged today?  
Are you, or have you experienced physical or emotional defeat?  Sometimes we face these battles in life, and the Christian experience was never guaranteed to be easy (in fact just the opposite).  Yet through all of this, we have promises like the passage listed above.  We will NOT be separated from God…He will never separate us from His love!  We will have overwhelming victory because of Christ!  pain

So no matter what you are going through today…
No matter what kinds of persecution or sufferings you may face…
Regardless of ridicule, scorn, malice, hate, violence, jealousy and rage – we can experience this overwhelming victory TODAY!!!

We do not have to wait until we see eternity and we are with the Lord, no – His presence, His love, His encouragement is available to us NOW!  Begin to see that despite the battle waging here within the world and upon our flesh, God already stands beside us with the victory over life and death!  Know that regardless of the physical outcome – we will overcome and have this overwhelming victory!  This is why we must share this fantastic news to all the world.  This is why God’s grace must be evident in our living.  This is why we must make His ministry Our ministry everyday, because God wants all people, from all walks of life to experience this overwhelming victory!

focusIn Focus
Perhaps, if we cannot see this overwhelming victory today it is because we are focusing on the wrong kinds of things.  Yes, life is often unfair.  Yes, the world is often unjust and evil seems to permeate and seep into every facet of life.  We see these, we know this to be true, and we cry foul and lament all of these atrocities and injustices – and rightly we should.  But, despite this fallen world and all of its sins, we need to refocus our vision.  We must begin to change our perspective (which doesn’t mean we simply accept that this world is beyond saving).  Our perspective begins to change when we ask God to give us His vision for the people we meet.  What I mean is, we must ask Him to allow us to see those around us the way God sees them.

Secondly, our perspective must change in the way we view the temporal.  Yes we livefocus2 through it, but there must be a way for us to live this overwhelming victory in the here and now…and we do that by understanding it.   In our understanding of what this life is all about – Whose we are and embracing the eternal here and now, we flip the script on what “living”is all about!  When we change our perspective, we change the narrative of our souls.  What I mean by that is – we no longer simply live for ourselves, we begin to live for Christ.  Many times this is a gradual denial of self as we surrender to the will of God.  It begins with the little things of life.  Soon, as we allow these little spiritual victories to occur, we will be more inclined to seek out the larger “denial of self” moments.

Is anyone there yet?  
victory2Some of may be.
I know that I am on this road…although I am not as far along as I would like to be…but again, this is gradual.  Admittedly, I still get sucked into life’s many troubles.  It is like a swift moving current at times which sweeps out my feet from right under me.  I recognize that I too must still change more of my perspective in order to experience this daily dose of overwhelming victory in my life.

How about you? 
Do you feel defeated right now?
Are you struggling to see any measure of victory at the moment?
Ask God to help you flip this script.
Ask Him to provide you with an added measure of His strength.
Also, ask Him to grant you His vision for those you encounter…I guarantee your perspective will change, and with it overwhelming victory!

Something more to ponder today!

 

3 Promises For Troubled Times

We all encounter trouble in our lives. Difficulties.  Stress and sometimes heartache.  Some have simply chalked this up to “life“…”well, life isn’t fair” they sometimes say.  The fact that we  know life has trouble and difficult days also carries with it a heavy, unseen burden.  We sometimes look around the corner at the next thing, almost anticipating trouble because things are going too smoothly; or that was just “too easy”…

Life is not always fair.  
The disciples of Jesus understood this better than anyone.
They followed Jesus, who would be tortured and executed like a criminal.
After His resurrection and ascension, they continued to follow Jesus, and to do His will on this earth – that led to their imprisonments, tortures and executions.  Life certainly had its troubles for the disciples.

3 Promises For Troubled Times 

presence1) The Presence Of God:
No matter where we are in life, whether we are currently in a chapter of distress or a chapter of peace, we do have an assurance of the constant presence of God with us.  We truly are never alone when He is near.   God’s Holy presence is with us, and the only times we are alone is when we are not spiritually connected to Him, not the other way round.  He longs for constant fellowship with us.  His promise to Joshua long ago is the same promise to us today:   The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.  “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)


2) The Protection Of God: protection
“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3
Yes, we will face pains and hurts of life in all shapes and sizes, this we will not avoid.
But rest assured, we are not without protection from the arrows of the evil one.  God’s presence with us means that we are protected by Him as well!  Now, as I say this, we read many stories of Christians who are martyred for their faith around the world…does this mean that God’s protection wasn’t with them?  Of course not!  I believe God does protect us from the father of lies so that we are not tempted or lost to God’s will.  We can choose to fall away, but when we walk with Him, the evil one has no claim on us.  Remember too that though evil can befall humanity through acts of violence, the worst it can do is claim our lives which are temporary shells containing an everlasting soul.  The evil one is held back  by the protection of God upon His people, who are called Sons and Daughters – children of God.

power3) The Power Of God
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” (Isaiah 40:29)
Obviously this verse was written for a specific audience in mind, but it makes it no less true and relevant to us today.  When we are weak – He is strong!  God’s power is readily available to us when we humble ourselves and stop attempting life in our own strength.  God will lift up the fallen.  He will strength the weary…and if you and I are one of those today – we can take comfort in knowing that God’s power is here for us.

You may feel beaten up by life.  You may feel like giving up, but know that He is presence is here, He will protect you,  and His power is here to sustain you!!

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” ThereforeI will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me.

He will lift you up, call out to Him, persevere through your trial, and know that you are loved and called son or daughter of the Most High!

I know a fount, 545

1.
Say, are you weary? Are you heavy laden?
Burdened with sorrow, weighted down with care?
Are you in bondage? Do you want deliverance?
Come, then, with me, there is refuge from despair.

Chorus

I know a fount where sins are washed away,
I know a place where night is turned to day;
Burdens are lifted, blind eyes made to see;
There’s a wonder-working power in the blood of Calvary.

2.
Are you still doubting power to keep from sinning,
Power that can change the heart and make it new?
Are you still longing for a full salvation?
You may receive it and live a life that’s true.

3.
Fettered and bound by chains of self-indulgence,
Missing the blessings God on man bestows,
Seeking for joy but only sorrow finding?
Come to the waters where grace and mercy flow.

4.
Wondrous Deliverer! Sin-forgiving Saviour!
Cleanser of hearts! Unfailing friend and guide!
No one has ever trusted unavailing,
No one has claimed of his love and been denied.

——————————————–
Something more to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

PonderCast – “Letting Go”

Do Not Worry (Matthew 6:25-34)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Click Here to listen to today’s PonderCast: “Letting GO” 

Something more to Ponder today!
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Thanks for tuning in, and check back tomorrow for more content to ponder!

Persevere and Endure!

By your endurance you will gain your lives (souls).” Luke 21:19

This is a foreboding passage.
PJesus basically tells His disciples that bad days are coming, and yet if they persevere, they will win or gain their souls.  It is without question that most of the disciples endured hardship, persecution and even execution.  Life was extremely hard for these Christ-followers, yet they persevered not just for themselves, but for their Rabbi – for their Messiah.  The purpose that they had been given was beyond just their solitary lives – it was a purpose that brought hope into all of the corners of the known world.

From this first century context, we too can glean some meaning from these words of Jesus.  Life doesn’t always contain full promises and ONLY happy days…life is sometimes hard.  Sickness happens, unemployment occurs, cut backs, mounting bills, relationship issues, broken promises, loss of loved ones and friendships you thought would be long lasting.  Life. Is. Hard. Sometimes.

painIt is certainly a sharp contrast from the lives of those first followers of Christ, but there are still many very real struggles in this life.  I don’t want to list all of them today, but I do wish to convey that you are not alone.  We all endure these hardships, these difficult days, these dark days.  Sometimes giving up seems like the easiest thing to do – don’t.  Sometimes throwing in the towel on our faith seems like the logical thing to do when anger and frustration consumes us – don’t.

Faith
Faith often takes us to places that we generally do not wish to be.
We long for the warm sun in our faces and the soft sand beneath our feet, but instead we stand in the bitterness of winter’s blasts numbing our faces and our hearts.  Even then we’re to endure?  Even here in the dark days?  -Yes.  We fight on.  We recognize that our witness of Christ in us matters to our small corner of this world.  We wage a war against these spiritual forces in our world that long to tighten, not loosen, the bonds of sin and death upon all of humanity.

thyDespite the season or circumstances you might find yourself in today – Faith wins.
We step out and onward knowing that God’s Holy presence is with us.  We continue this calling of love.  We say “Your will be done in my life – not mine.”  Only in full submission does any of this make sense.  Only in full submission to God do we become strong again and can access strength that is supernatural and beyond us.  Only here are we able to persevere and endure.  Only here will we gain the constant presence of the Holy Spirit, not that He isn’t always present, but rather, we have become finely tuned into His frequency in this world and in our lives.

So How About it?
Are you struggling today?  Do you know someone who is going through a dark time?
How can this hope and light of Christ alleviate and penetrate that darkness?   Are you submitted fully to Him?  endure

Regardless of what has transpired in your life, today is what matters – how you live this moment makes a difference.  We can choose to curse God for our circumstances or we can praise Him despite the difficulties that we face.

Something more to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, Are You Missing Out?

It is that time of year again – Thanksgiving meals to host, Red Kettles to send out, toys to collect and pick up, volunteers to appreciate and direct…the list goes on. toys.jpg

If you go to The Salvation Army and/or are employed  by The Salvation Army, (Officer/Employee/otherwise) you know just how hectic this time of year can become.   There are moments when there isn’t enough hours in the day to get what needs to be done completed.   We can become harried, worn out and sometimes short-fused.

kettleSometimes we tend to dread this season of Christmas because we are so very busy.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful thing that we do for people in our communities, but it does come at a cost.  We can become jaded by what we do so much so that we lose sight of why we do it in the first place.  Sometimes we lose out on precious opportunities because our noses are firmly planted to “the grind”.

Don’t Miss Out!
Here are a few things that I have learned thus far whilst being an Officer, and before that, an Officer’s kid at this time of year:

1.  Look up from time to time. eyes.jpg
Don’t become so focused on stats and figures and logistics that people get lost in the shuffle.  Look up, look into people’s eyes, take a precious moment (not the porcelain figurine) away from the busyness and look up at those around you.

2.  Take a minute break – unplug for a short time.
timeout.jpgIt sounds preposterous to “take a break” during our busiest season, but step outside.  Go get a cup of coffee.  Do something for ten or fifteen minutes (even an hour if you can afford to) that gets you away from the noise and responsibilities.  This is sometimes called “self-care”.  It’s maintenance for the mind, soul, body.  Breathe.

3.  Listen.  ears.jpg
Again, it sounds funny to say this when we have some many people wanting a moment of our time, but learn to listen…to the right things at the right moment.  The Lord DOES place people on our path that edify and encourage us (sometimes those we least suspect), and He also puts certain people on our path that we can help share His hope with.   Put down the planner, put down the pen, take your eyes off of the Christmas data entry on the computer…and just listen.

We have a distinct opportunity to reach new believers during this time of year.  Sure, there are those few who are “Seasonal Christians” who only come at Christmas and Easter, but there are also some deeply impactful moments that one can have with people who are desperately searching for something meaningful in their lives.  We know that Christ is the answer – and we (if we are listening) can spur on those deeply spiritual moments.

4.  Intentional Worship
Not only should we anticipate the business of this season, we should also anticipate God’s Holy Presences in our worship.  Worship isn’t exclusively what we do on Sunday mornings either.  Worship can take place while we drive bell ringers out to their sites – and the conversations that we engage in while in that van.  That van can become a sacred space, as sacred as any penitent form or altar.
worship.jpg
Let’s face it, we’re all familiar with certain “catch-phrases” or cliches  associated with the Christmas season.  There’s one particular cliche’ spoken often around this time of year, and it goes like this “Wise men still seek Him” – I’m not one to use these tired phrases, but we DO need to be intentional in our worship of the Most High.  There needs to be personal preparation before we come before Him.  We ought to check our motives, attitudes, grudges, conflicts at the door and navigate the deep, personal waters of our hearts.  We must set aside these sacred spaces within our hearts in order to ensure we aren’t people with divided hearts.  We do not want to miss experiencing His presence because we are too busy or too consumed with STUFF.

Questions to Ponder:
ponderAre You Missing Out?
Are you so busy that you actually dread Christmas?
Are Sunday services and other worship opportunities merely a afterthought?
How can you make this Christmas season count?
-There’s nothing specifically special about one specific day, but more people are open to Christ during this time of year.

What would happen if we listened more intently?

Don’t miss out on experiencing His Holy Presence or the opportunity to make a lasting impact on someone’s life because you find yourself too busy at this time of year.  Be intentional, be aware and be His Ambassador of grace and peace.

Something more to ponder today!
God Bless You!

 

 

Disclaimer: 
The views and opinions expressed on Pastorsponderings.org do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Salvation Army and are the sole property of Scott Strissel.  Thanks for reading!  

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