When the Dark Times Come

Try as we might to let the sun shine through us…..

Try as we might to remove every hindrance that that blocks His Light in our lives….

Dark times will come.

It’s not a matter of ‘if‘ but rather ‘when‘.

If you are living and breathing, a total eclipse of some kind will eventually come (or already has).

 People are born for trouble
    as readily as sparks fly up from a fire. Job 5:7

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Peter Scazzero in his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, describes these dark times as ‘journeying through the wall’, and St John of the Cross describes it as even ‘the dark night of the soul’. These walls and dark nights are seasons of difficult, painful experiences that may cause us to doubt our faith and question whether God is even able to do anything about it, or even if He cares.

These experiences may be through a health crisis, a family tragedy, a financial fallout, or a natural catastrophe. Any number of physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual situations may fling us into a downward spiral. The initial cause may be of our own doing through bad decisions or bad living. It could also be from someone else’s junk, and we get caught in the wake of their trouble.

Peter Scazzero describes it as, “our good feelings of God’s presence evaporate. We feel the door of heaven has been shut as we pray. Darkness, helplessness, weariness, a sense of failure or defeat, barrenness, emptiness, dryness descend upon us. The Christian disciplines that have served us up to this time ‘no longer work’. We can’t see what God is doing and we see little visible fruit in our lives.’ Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

I don’t believe God desires these dark times, but I believe He allows them to happen. I don’t believe for a second God wants us to experience pain and suffering. However, I do believe He will use any situation where Satan attempts to ‘sift us as wheat’ for the purifying of our faith and the maturing of our souls until we are refined into the image of Christ.

Last week, when we talked about the spiritual significance of the eclipse and how it can block the Light in our lives, a wonderful friend had this to say-

……..when you were talking about how we should not let things block our light, I thought about my dark time a few years ago.  My spiritual eclipse.  Looking back on it, I think now I know what it is like to be in the dark and I work and work and work to keep from letting that ever happen again.  Truthfully, that eclipse made me stronger spiritually.  I don’t know if I am closer to God, because I was already really close to him.  But it made me determined not to ever be put in the dark again.  I won’t let anything pass between me and God.  I feel ready. I thought about how the eclipse … the dark time…. tried to extinguish my faith but it was still burning bright enough behind it.  When you look at the eclipse, there is supposed to be a light circle where the sun is still peaking out around it.  That was my faith.  It was still there burning bright enough to help me find my way out.  No, the pat answers are not enough and, in fact, can be hurtful.  Being reminded that God is there with us in our troubles helps.  That even though it is dark, he is still there..always has been and always will be. ..Like with the eclipse, if I had focused too hard on it I could have gone blind to my faith.   We cannot focus on that…we cannot stare at and dwell on the darkness. That is what I tried to do for a bit….thank God that he was shining through it all.

Yes!! We cannot focus on the dark times, or it might blind us for good! We’ve got to keep focused despite how we feel, how bad the circumstance, how dark the total eclipse may seem that God is with us. God will never leave us. Although we might not feel it, God is carrying us.

Most people would never ask for those dark times. Most who’ve made it to the other side would agree the closeness with God that resulted from it is more precious than gold.

Are you going through a dark time? Are you experiencing your own total eclipse?

What can you do while experiencing the long, dark night?

There’s no formula or 5 steps. To be honest, I feel very limited in offering advice. Pat “Christian” answers often don’t help. It can even make things worse to say “God’s got this.” or “Just keep praying and believing.” Yes, those things are true, but they can fall so flat when someone is in such a dark season that their faith is so weak they can’t even pray.

I offer to meager suggestions;

Practice being in God’s presence…..however you can do that, do it. The feelings may not come quickly, but God is still working deep within us even though we may not feel it or see it. Get up to the Mountain!

Also, encourage others around. Yes, you are hurting and in deep pain. Even in your darkness, out of sheer faith or determined will, do something for someone else. Say a kind word, pay it forward at the drive-thru, whatever you can do, do something for someone else. This is God’s Economy. You will reap a harvest of joy when you sow in kindness.

Have you come through a dark time and lived to tell about it?

God is with you.

~Amy

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Let Your Light Shine!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably participated in the Total Eclipse in some form or fashion. So, it’s totally cool that I already anticipated talking about “light” this week. Isn’t it neat how that “lined up” with the eclipse!!

Our lives can be compared to an eclipse. We’re supposed to let our lights shine. The light that has been put in us, by Jesus, needs to be shared with those around us. But sometimes something can block us from shining that light just like the moon passing between the earth and the sun.

Last week, we talked about all the different purposes of salt and how we can be useful like salt. Light, however, is subject to many variables. Sharing ideas from the same book, Finding the Way, Lori found some interesting facts about light. She says,

“Pure salt is good for its purpose. If salt becomes contaminated and cannot serve it purpose, it needs to be thrown out. Light is different in that, light’s effectiveness is subject to outside influences. However, if light is still weak, it still gives off light.”

Jesus is the light shining through us, and it will never go out. But, we can block that light or dim it or keep it from shining its brightest in us.Maybe it’s a sin you struggle with constantly. Maybe it’s hurt or pain from your past. Maybe it’s a toxic or negative person. Is it your job that you hate or your family that is so crazy? It could be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. It could be you or it could be others affecting you. It could be your circumstances or just plain ole’ mean people.  No matter what it is, it can block the light from shining through you.

Matthew 5:14-16 says 14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

We shouldn’t hide the light of Jesus or block it. By the way we live out our lives with good deeds, we are letting His light shine. Furthermore, we don’t shine His Light so that others can see us and think how awesome we are. We shine His Light by our good deeds so that everyone can see how awesome God is!

Do you mess up letting His Light shine through you? Yep, I do too.

My selfish attitude can flare up. My patience runs thin. I can snap at the kids or yell at the slow driver in front on me. I can be tired or hormonal. There are so many times when I dim His Light by my fleshly deeds.

There is hope!

Colossians 1:15-20 says Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
    He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,[e]
16 for through him God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
    and he holds all creation together.
18 Christ is also the head of the church,
    which is his body.
He is the beginning,
    supreme over all who rise from the dead.[f]
    So he is first in everything.
19 For God in all his fullness
    was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled
    everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
    by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God.  I find strength and power in the reassurance that Jesus holds all of creation together. Everything was created through him and for him. God reconciled everything to himself. Jesus is the Light.

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It’s not my job to be the Light. I’m just supposed to take what Christ has done in me and share the Light to others!!! What exciting news! Sure, I’ve got to be an active participant in allowing God to grow me and purify me, making sure those things that eclipse His Light are cleared away and removed. He is doing the work in me as I am shining His Light for him!

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!

Hide it under a bushel, NO! I”m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!!!!

~Amy

God Sees the Real Me!!

It’s time for a contest!!!

I really want to encourage you. I really want you to know that God loves you and sees you. I want to share information about other ministries and events. I really want to give you stuff that will make you want to be more passionate and devoted in your walk with Christ!

Soooooooo…………….

I want you to sign up for the WoW newsletter!

By signing up for the WoW newsletter, you’ll get info about once a month on local events, blog posts and videos and free resources like printables and ebooks only found in the newsletter! I promise I won’t blow up your inbox with tons a stuff (about once a month is all I can handle)!

So here’s how it will work:

1)Go to the “God sees the Real me” Facebook event here.

2) Each time you share the event with a friend, your name goes in the drawing.

3) Every person who signs up for the WoW newsletter gets their name in the drawing.

4) The contest will last from Aug 20-Sept 3 and I’ll draw a name on Labor day.

The winner will receive the beautiful plaque:

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Large wooden plaque, 11×14, hand painted

I’ll mail it or deliver it to the winner that week.

As soon as you sign up for the WoW newsletter, you’ll get your first downloadable e-book “How to be More Interdenominational” and a few other goodies. Then, keep on the lookout for each month’s newsletter. *Don’t forget to check your spam folder in case the email ends up there.*

One more thing…..I REALLY hope you enjoy the stuff shared in the newsletter and you get some encouragement from it!!

Thanks for sharing and thanks for signing up!!!

~Amy

 

Don’t Forget Your Salt!

Summer break is over , and I’m back at work for my school job. This transition back to a structured day has both its good and bad points.

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Summer swimming 2016 photo credit Nancy Rutledge

A regular routine always gets me back on track with my personal study and quiet time. I’m usually more efficient and organized. I struggle, though, with early starts to the day (if only the world would start after 8am please) and having enough time and energy to get it all done- homework, laundry, cooking and cleaning. You know how it goes.

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Life never stops so just keep cheering!!!

What idea that has helped me more than any in getting back to a new school year is to realize the amazing opportunity I have to live out my faith with the children and women that surround me every day. In other words, I’ve been called to be the salt.

 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. Matt 5:13

Matthew 5:13 calls us to be the salt of the earth, so I’ve been thinking about the quality of my salt. In her book, Finding the Way, my friend, Lori Cline, discovered all the effective uses for salt. “If salt becomes contaminated and cannot serve its purpose, it needs to be thrown out.” She goes on to explain the uses for salt: a food additive, a biological necessity, as food storage, and as a purifier.

A Food Additive– Salt brings out the flavor of food. One time I made some muffins for the kids and forgot to add the salt. Needless to say, they weren’t interested in eating the muffins. They tasted too flat. As a Christian, I’m supposed to bring a good flavor to the environment around me with my attitude and character. My saltiness is supposed to make others want to “taste and see that the Lord is good”.

A Biological Necessity– Sodium is a nutrient for all living creatures. Too much or too little is not a good thing. Am I living my faith so that others realize they need Jesus? Can they see that they need more of Jesus?

Food Storage: Salt is a preservative. Its keep meat and fish from ruining and safe to eat. When I am in my day to day routine, do I act in such a way as to keep the situation from ruining? Do I preserve my environment to keep it safe and stable? Or, do I bring instability or decomposition? Do things break down? If the quality of my salt is good, my presence, actions, and attitude will help to bring keep things safe.

Purifier: When I think of salt as a purifier, I think of making things clean and helping to heal. How can I purify the environment around me? I might be tempted to think that purpose as a purifier is to make sure everybody knows what it is they are doing wrong. I should be correcting them to make them more pure. However, I love what Lori says,

“You can be that purifying salt by being humble, showing grace, mercy, and forgiveness. You can teach others to be thankful in all things, good and bad. Jesus purified this world by showing God’s qualities (Beatitudes).”

All of these ideas about salt really make me think about how I’m living out my faith in front of others. Does my presence bring an inviting flavor and cause others to thirst for Jesus? Do I make others realize how much they need Jesus? Do my attitudes and actions preserve stability and safety? How am I acting as a purifier? Am I showing God’s qualities?

earth globe
holding a glowing earth globe in his hands

In Matthew, it tells us that worthless salt needs to be thrown out. If we’ve lost our salt, we are not going to be much good at bringing Christ to the world around us. I sure do want to be salty enough to make others want more of Jesus.

Here’s a little Facebook video talking about all the uses of salt here!

Don’t forget your salt!

~Amy

 

Can you walk in someone else’s shoes?

Churches are like shoes. Everybody has a favorite pair that goes with just about everything, and they are broken in just right. You feel comfortable and confident in your favorite pair. If you are like me, finding and buying a new pair may take quite a long time because it’s so hard to find the right fit. Even then, a new pair can take a while to get comfortable.

Churches can be the same way. You attend the church that is comfortable for you- the music fits, the preaching fits, the style of worship fits you just right. For some of you, you’ve attended the same church all your life like a pair of shoes that never wear out. For others, you’ve tried on several different churches like buying a new pair of shoes with the changing seasons.

We get so comfortable with the way we ‘do’ church, we might have a hard time understanding how someone else could possibly attend another kind of church. We are so familiar with our prefered style of worship that we can’t possibly see how any other kind of church could ever be useful to someone else. And, we may not say it out loud, but we think, “that kind of church is just not of God”.

Hear me out. I know we have our denominational beliefs for certain reasons. I, too, have strong theological convictions. I believe, just like you, that some doctrinal beliefs are simply unbiblical. However, some of our perceptions of other churches are unnecessarily negative because we have a limited view of why they worship the way they do.

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You take a sliver of knowledge about a church and let it shape your whole thinking. It could be from a movie or tv show or from hearing family members talk about other churches. Maybe you’ve actually been taught from your church leadership that the worship and beliefs of other churches are wrong. Catholics worship Mary. Pentecostals speak in tongues. Churches of Christ don’t use instruments. It may or may not be true, but your limited understanding is skewed because you often don’t get the full context and reasoning behind a belief or practice. A little bit of misunderstanding disqualifies them from any possible common ground as fellow believers.

No matter how you formed your perceptions, this lack of understanding causes you to step back from the people who worship that way. And when you step back, that creates a divide. It’s this division that separates us from unity.

Ok, maybe you’ve fully studied other churches’ theological and doctrinal beliefs, and you simply believe they are wrong. Still, if your study has led you to disassociate with other believers, then division still exists and the fullness of unity is not expressed.

I believe now more than ever we need to be unified in building God’s Kingdom as the Body of Christ. This doesn’t mean we stop worshipping at our preferred churches, but rather take intentional steps to get to know and understand people from other churches to gain an appreciation for their particular style and mission.

Uniformity does not equate to conformity. We don’t have to conform to each other’s point of view in order to be unified. In God’s beautiful Body, we can be uniquely shaped for our specific mission, and yet be solidly unified in our purpose of Kingdom building and love for each other.

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Women of the Way 2013

So if churches are like shoes, walk in someone else’s shoes for a change!

Seriously! This past Sunday I shared a Facebook Live video and challenged everyone to try this one thing this summer: go visit someone else’s church! You can check out that video here!

Also, I’ve made a special handout for some good ideas to interact with other believers. “How to be More Interdenominational” has lots of ways to make connections and get to know others from different kinds of churches. Check that out here.

When you have a conversation, you get to know the person. Then, you understand a little bit more of where they are coming from and why they do what they do. Their different ways don’t seem so mysterious, and you can appreciate their point of view. Understanding develops, division diminishes, and unity grows!!!

I know many of you already participate with other believers, and so many of you have a heart for the Body of Christ that I know I’m preaching to the choir! However, if any of those dividing thoughts have ever crossed your mind, won’t you consider trying on a different pair of shoes just to see what it’s like?

Try walking a mile….or just a Sunday….in someone else’s shoes!

~Amy

 

 

When I need to get up to the Mountain

On Facebook this week, I talked about “God’s Billable Hours” asking how much time do you spend with God?

Jesus was our Perfect example in every aspect of His Life to show us how to live, and I love that it’s no different in how Jesus shows us how to pray.

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Getting up to the mountain to pray

Over and over in Scripture, it says ‘he went up to the mountain’ or ‘he found a quiet place to pray’. He knew he needed quiet and solitude in God’s presence to sustain His connection with His Father.

We all know we need to spend time praying, but it’s hard getting away to a mountain.

I don’t have a mountain, but I am trying to get creative in finding ways to get alone with God. Here are some of my strategies……

Get up early- Now that the kids are sleeping later, I get up early when the house is quiet. I love to sleep late in the summers so this is a big one for me. It’s totally worth it though. I love the sunshine brightening up the house and the birds chirping.

Sit under a tree at sunset– When the sun is going down, the neighborhood gets quiet, and the stillness is calming and relaxing. I’ll grab a folding chair and sit outside during the dusk hour. The hurried, hectic feeling from trying to get everything done on my to-do list releases, and the day washes away.

Lazy summer days are the best!
colorful sunset at the sea shore

Hide in the bathroom– Yep. Keeping it real. Some of my best prayer times are in the bathroom. Be honest…..so is yours, right? Or maybe it’s the shower! I’ll also hide in the laundry room because it’s down in the basement. This spot isn’t my favorite because there’s nothing beautiful to look at like sunshine or pretty stars. Sometimes, though, the solitude is more important than the setting.

Lunch time study– During the school year when I am working, lunchtime is a great time to be by myself for study and prayer. I began this habit about 3 years ago, and it’s been wonderful. The regular, daily time during my lunch has helped me build an appetite for study and prayer, and I can tell how much I’ve miss it when it doesn’t happen.

Driving in the car– When going to pick up kids or run some errands, I try to make the conscious choice to not turn on the radio. Instead, having a Jesus talk gets me some alone time with Him.

Falling asleep at night– This one may seem a little odd, but it’s a habit I’ve learned to develop. At night when I’m trying to fall asleep, I think of all the good things that happened that day for which I’m thankful. I think about my favorite moments with each of my kids or the best moments of the day. I have my final talk with God for all the good stuff He’s given me. This little habit has become such a blessing.

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So there are my ways of getting ‘up to the mountain’ to be with God. I’m not perfect at it, and some days are better than others. There are times when I’m more consistent than others, but the key is to keep at it.

Many of you are probably out of the ‘kids at home’ season, so maybe you have totally different strategies than I do to make prayer time happen. I’d love to hear about them. Leave a comment here or on the WoW Facebook page!

What do you do to get up to the mountain to pray?

~Amy

 

 

I Pray I Never Forget the LONGING…

I can’t believe that I’ve been parenting for 12 years!!!

My oldest daughter is turning 12 this week. How can this be? It seems like just a short time ago when we brought her home from the hospital. But, the days turn into weeks and the weeks into years. It’s a season where the days are long and the years are short.

I never really understood what that meant until I was up to my elbows in diapers and sippy cups. I remember the days when my unspoken goal was to make it until my husband got home so there would be someone else here to help wrangle my herd.

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Even though my kiddos are now pretty independent, they still call out “Mama” one right after another. Literally, it’s like those birds in “Finding Nemo”…..mama…mama…mama…mama. Or, we can get in the van to go somewhere, and they all ask 15 questions one right after another, rapid-fire style. Homework can be pretty stressful too because they will ask for help all at the same time to which I respond (with gritted teeth), “I can only help ONE person at a time.” Stuff like this can really get to me and wear me down. You get it, right?

I never dreamed that all of this mothering would ever get on my nerves so much!

Before I had children, I couldn’t wait for the day that I could be a mother. For so many years, I felt so empty. Yes, I loved my husband and family, my job, my life. Yet, that desire to have children seemed so out of reach and often impossible.

The longing was so present and heavy.

It was this longing that drove me to my knees in prayer, study, and pursuit of God. I dug in deep. As the longing grew more intense, it drove me to the heart of God. First, perplexed in questions and demanding my way. But then, faith  strengthened through understanding my identity and His Ability. Finally, maturity refined as my resolve surrendered to His Will. It was after this surrender, “Lord, whatever you have planned for me is best.” was when my longing desire to be a mother was fulfilled!

It was the longing that kept me questioning and pursuing. It was the longing that kept me praying. It was the longing that kept me running after God until I wanted Him more than I wanted a child. If I hadn’t know the longing, I wouldn’t have discovered the amazing faithfulness of God and the perfect timing of answered prayer!

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How could I ever take for granted the 4 precious gifts given me after such a refining journey? Yet, I find myself there quite often.

Mother’s Day always brings me back to my longing. I reflect on the days before I was a Mother and think about the women who are missing the unborn children they’ve never held or the women who are experiencing their own longing. I may get distracted by the day to day grind, but the feeling of that longing is never too far away.

I pray I never forget the longing.

If you are going through a longing of your own….don’t give up. The journey may not be easy, but God will be faithful to bring you through the longing.

If you have experienced a longing of your own…don’t ever forget the purpose that longing fulfilled in you.

~Amy

God’s Economy

I love what Finnick Odair said in the Hunger Games, ” I haven’t dealt in anything as common as money in years.”

finnick

God doesn’t either.

I think of this quote when I think about the many ways God works in our lives.  Sure, God blesses us with money, jobs, material stuff….things we need and even things we want. I’m so thankful!!

But, God’s real currency? I believe God’s real currency is encouragement. God deals in building people up. God makes deposits and pays dividends in encouragement.

There have been so many times that I’ve wondered “Am I doing any good at this?”, “Is this making a difference?”, “Is this helping anybody?”

And sure enough at just the right time, I’d receive a note in the mail or an email or a text saying exactly what I needed to hear. I admit it feels good to be noticed or praised. I’ve had to work at not ‘needing’ it.

This kind of encouragement, though, doesn’t stroke the ego. Those notes and emails are affirmations to my questions. They are heavenly deposits into my soul. God pours into my heart love, hope, joy worth more than dollars and cents. These deposits are eternal. They keep me going.

 

Yes, it’s worth the time. Yes, this is making a difference. Yes, I can keep going.

On the flip side….giving out encouragement to others is also a joy.

I love being used in God’s economy to bless, love, and encourage others. Making deposits into the lives of family, friends, co-workers brings me as much joy as when I receive it from others.

What I have found is encouraging others cost me little in terms of time, energy, and expenses. All it really takes is to be intentional and to take notice.IMG_8930

“That color looks great on you!”

“How’s your grandma?” (remembering when she told me about her grandma last week)

“You are doing a great job!”

One of my favorite ways to encourage others is to leave cute, little notes of Scripture or quotes for folks to find. I LOVE the free downloads and other products by MaryDeanDraws. Her cards and color sheets are easy to print, color (if needed), and cut. Ready to go! I’ve used them with co-workers, ministry events and even with my kids and husband.

What can you do to be used in God’s economy?

It doesn’t take any special talent to write a note or give a hug. Sharing how something impacted you is such a small thing but can make a BIG difference to the one who gave of herself. Saying an encouraging word to the pastor’s wife, the nursery worker, the co-worker, the family member is so simple. To you, it may seem like dropping pennies…not a big deal. But to that person, it could feel like winning the Lottery!!!

One last thought……when the thought comes to mind to encourage someone, DON’T WAIT. Don’t put if off! Do it right then! If the opportunity passes, you might not get another chance. Trust me, I’ve let it pass and then felt awful when I missed my chance.

God’s intangibles are priceless. God’s economy is powerful and effective. God’s encouragement is worth more than silver and gold.

I’d love to hear how God’s economy has worked in your life. How are you being used to encourage others?

~Amy

 

 

 

What to do when you don’t feel His Love (Part 3)

I started this series quite a while back…read Remain in My Love and then part two Nothing Can Separate

Alright then..so what do I DO when I can’t feel His Love??

I’m so glad you asked!!

 

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[p] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 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 8:38-39

He loves you just that much!

Like I said in the other posts, feelings can be very powerful. Sometimes, your feelings can your body’s warning system that something is wrong, or your feelings trigger some unresolved issues. Left unchecked, your emotions can drag you down into a pit where it seems nothing will ever get better. That’s where your feelings can leaving you assuming God is no where around.

Here are a few ideas when you feel like you are separated from God’s love:

-Check your physical well-being: It may be simple but it’s true. Are you hungry? Thirsty? Exhausted? That time of the month? Our physical condition has a major impact on how we react to situations and how our feelings can flare up. I’ve had to learn this through the years to think about what’s going on with me physically when I’m feeling angry or irritable. Let’s just say I’ve had a few instances of me being hangry (hungry + angry) and it turning into “Look out! Mom has gone def-con 5!” Or I’d be annoyed at the entire world and would have to stop and think “What time of the month is it?”.

-Check what’s playing on your mental play-list: Do you get a mental soundtrack playing in your head of all the negative things about you? “You’re fat. You’re worthless. You’ll never be good enough. You messed up again.”  That’s the enemy taking your tried and true weaknesses and throwing them in your face. If you’re not careful, then you agree with him. “Yep, God could never love me, I’ve messed up again.”

-Bring your feelings before God: God created us to feel emotions. Left unchecked and unsupervised, those emotions can wreak havoc like a bunch of Gremlins fed after midnight!! HA! Remember that movie!! On the other hand, emotions carefully processed and kept in the proper order can be an amazing tool to bring revelation, maturity, and healing into your life as a Christ-follower. Bring your feelings before God. Talk with Him honestly about what you are feeling and why. Ask for wisdom and revelation. When experiences from your past,or hurts, or fears come to mind, ask God for healing or forgiveness as needed to resolve the situation. Ask for strength and the ability to extend love and forgiveness to the ones who caused pain. No, this isn’t easy. It’s a process that may take a while. That’s ok. Journaling, coloring, exercising…these activities can help you through the process.

Combat your feelings with the Truth: Here’s where Scripture is really important when you feel like God doesn’t love you. That’s why the Romans 8 passage is so amazing. No matter the circumstance around you or the evil oppressing you making you feel angry, sad, worthless, or fearful. None of it has the power to separate you from His Love! No matter how you feel, His Love for you doesn’t change. Feelings may change. Circumstances may change. But His Love doesn’t change! It takes an act of the will to say, “Even though I’m feeling ______, God’s Word says nothing can separate me from His Love”.  Pray the verses. Memorize the verses. Ask God to help you believe the verses. This practice will take discipline, but it’s worth it.

-It’s OK to get some help: Many of us didn’t develop the emotional skills needed to combat life’s hardship. Many more have experienced such trauma, we carry significant emotional damage. Sometimes, we need more help that just prayer and journaling. We need a trained professional to help unpack the pain and teach the skills we lack to process and mature. If you need a counselor or psychologist, there is no shame in it. It’s a very brave thing to pursue. If nothing else, a trusted, wise friend is a must!!!

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More than anything else, I pray you grasp that His Love for you is as high as the heavens. Nothing in all of creation can tear you apart from His Great Love. Nothing can transform you like His Love. If you are struggling with accepting it, believing it, or living it, I pray you’ll experience a revelation of His Love.

~Amy

 

The Use of Free Will in the Easter Story…. a guest post by Kathleen Cline

 

Freewill is hard to grasp, because many would like to blame life and eternity on God’s choices not our own. As you look at Judas and his choices there has to be some part of you that says, “Why?” Today, we have to trust by faith that the stories we read in the Bible are accurate and true. Although we can hear and feel the Holy Spirit, Judas was literally walking and talking with Jesus, the Son of God. He was watching all the miracles first hand.  For some bizarre reason Judas chose evil over God. The oddest thing to me is that Judas chose to feel remorse but not repent.

Judas: the hard-hearted apostate

Judas chose to follow Jesus: Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: 4 Judas Iscariot the one who betrayed Him. Matthew 10: 1-2a and 4

Judas chose to steal from Jesus: Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people? Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. John 12: 3-6

Judas chose to plot against Jesus: The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people. And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. They were glad and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began seeking a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the crowd. Luke 22: 2-6

Judas chose to betray Jesus: While He was still speaking, behold Judas one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. Matthew 26: 47-49

Judas chose to feel remorse but not repentance: Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” and he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed and he went away and hanged himself. Matthew 27: 3-5

Before you get your self stirred up about Judas’ declaration with the chief priest, let me put it in terms you will understand. It would be like all of us robbing a bank. Afterwards, while you are watching the news, you realized, “Man I can spend the rest of my life in jail.” So, you come back to the ones that did the crime with you and confess how wrong you were. If Judas wanted to repent, he could have gone out in the crowd or to the court and confessed his crime. Like many in this world, Judas chose to do enough to make himself feel better about the situation without actually taking responsibility for his crime. The suicide was not repentance but one more act of “me.”

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I had a friend that was dying from a terminal illness. Unfortunately, death was eluding her and she was suffering for years. She came to me to confess that she wanted to commit suicide. Being a converted Protestant from Catholic, she wanted to find a verse that allowed her to commit this act. As she searched the Bible looking for her answer, she fell upon the story of Judas. Here was her proclamation: “If Judas would have waited just three more days, he would have found complete forgiveness.” That conclusion helped her to continue to wait on God to bless her with death.

Jesus the Savior of the world

Jesus chose Judas to follow Him: As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve and yet on of you is a devil?” Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot for he one of the twelve was going to betray Him. John 6: 66-71

Jesus chose to stay on task: Therefore Jesus said, (to Judas) “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” John 12:7-8

Jesus chose to wash Judas’ feet: Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.” John 13: 5-11

Jesus chose to be betrayed: Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbit!” and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, “Friend do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. Matthew 26: 49-50

Jesus chose to forgive: But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them: for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23: 34

 I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. John 10:11

As we continue to look at the death of Jesus, we can see the choices made by the thieves on the cross.  This is the best view of someone that wants Jesus to forgive versus someone that just wants Jesus to remove him from his circumstances.

38 Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” 40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23: 38-43

You can see the first thief did not claim Jesus as God or ask to be forgiven in any form. Instead you see him question Jesus’ status and demanding to be saved out of his circumstances. The same hard-heart that put him on the cross was going to take him to his eternal death. The second thief immediately defended Jesus as God. After his declaration, he then confessed his guilt and claimed his sentence as just. His hard-heart became humbled and out of his humility he requested Jesus to remember him.

Pride keeps people in a hard-hearted state meaning they are incapable of being moved by any emotion other than selfish interest. Pride makes some people defend Judas as attempting to repent by giving back the coins. Pride makes some people accuse God of being cruel and unloving for not allowing multiple ways to get to heaven. Pride keeps one from understanding that choices are given to all but with those choices comes consequences.

19 People are judged by this fact: I am the Light from God that has come into the world. But men did not want light. They wanted darkness because they were doing evil things. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light. He will not come to the light because it will show all the evil things he has done. 21 But he who follows the true way comes to the light. Then the light will show that the things he has done were done through God.” John 3:19-21 International Children’s Bible (ICB)

Lazy summer days are the best!
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Four people made choices in this Easter lesson. Two chose evil and two chose God. Look hard at the verses in John 3 and understand why these people choose the way they did. Look hard at your choices and understand why you are making the choices you are making.

  1. Judas chose to use Jesus till that choice held no more value. Even when Judas felt a little guilt, he did the bare minimum to attempt to make him self-feel good. Then when that did not work, Judas chose a selfish end.
  2. The first thief remained unremorseful till the bitter end. Even when he saw his fellow thief receive forgiveness from Jesus, he did not relinquish from his hard-hearted path.
  3. Jesus chose to have Judas as one of His followers knowing full well Judas’ heart desires. Every opportunity was given to Judas to follow another path. Even when Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was in full motion; Jesus chose to wash Judas’ feet and allowed him to continue with the twelve till the end. Jesus chose to forgive.
  4. The second thief chose a humble approach to Jesus. The thief did not request that Jesus save him from the cross but instead, acknowledged that he deserved his ending because he was guilty. What he did request from Jesus was that Jesus would remember him when Jesus came into His kingdom.

As you look at all those choices made during this world-changing event, you now have to make some choices for yourself. You can fill your thoughts with things you can do or you can just choose God. My recommendation would be to start with a humble heart.

~Kathleen

Kathleen has a brand new book “Finding the Way: Proclaiming Jesus as Truth”. Check out the promo here!