Overwhelming Trouble

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I have lived through periods of being overwhelmed. My details aren’t important. Insert your own circumstances into the story I am about to tell you.

One particularly difficult period went on for a few years. I would often talk to God about “this mess that is my life.” I could see no way forward. It was impossible to go back. The circumstances I found myself in were beyond my control and way beyond my ability. It wasn’t a matter of trying harder, it was a matter of being completely undone.

My life was like a train wreck. Twisted metal blocking any clear path.

Sitting crumpled on my living room floor I cried out to God. “This is too hard. I am too weak. I can’t go on.” It was as if He whispered…”Can you get through this hour? I will be with you this hour.” “Take my hand. Moment by moment we will get through this.”

I wanted no part of this train wreck. I wanted a smooth easy existence with blessings floating down to my outstretched hands. God wanted my outstretched hands to be reaching for Him not His blessings.

Severe trouble shifted my focus from things He provides to God Himself. When everything else lay in ruins, God was the only thing left. He was offering to take my hand as I stumbled through the train wreck. The train wreck took years to get through. I still encounter remnants of it. When I do I am reminded of how far God has brought me. From constant, hopeless despair to a moment by moment existence holding tightly to my Father’s hand.

What have I learned? My utter sinfulness. My need, not for new circumstances, but to be right with God. My hope could not be found within myself, but within God’s redemption.

Whatever your circumstances there is hope. Not in yourself, but in God.

We are eternal beings. We will live forever. This life isn’t all there is. You have a choice to make. Living moment by moment with God now and for eternity, or turning away from His outstretched hand to live a miserable existence in this life and the next.

“For God so loved the world, (that means you) that He gave His only Son, (Jesus died for your sins) That whoever (that includes you) believes in Him should not perish (separation from God for eternity) but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV – (notes by me.)

For further study:

It Costs too Much to be a Christian

My father worked in the agronomy department at NDSU in Fargo.  He often brought home international students that he had met there.  One of those couples was from Taiwan.  Over the months and years that followed they came often for meals and holidays.  My parents became their “American family”.  They were a delightful couple that treated my parents with great respect and love.  My parents made an effort to not only share their lives with them, but to introduce them to their God as well.  The young couple listened politely and respectfully, but did not seriously consider accepting this “new religion”.  That is until the husband, Lee, became sick with encephalitis.  His condition worsened and he was hospitalized.  When he didn’t improve Jan, his wife, called my dad and asked him to come.  When he arrived she begged him to pray that her husband would live and not die.  She promised that if he lived they would both become Christians.  She was desperate.  Here she was in a foreign country and her only family member was near death.

I don’t know all that was said, but I know my father prayed with them and for them.  Lee improved and turned a corner.  It was a long struggle, but he eventually was brought back to health.  They were both grateful and thankful, but a curious thing happened.  They didn’t become Christians.  They talked about it with my parents.  They struggled with the decision.  They knew what they had promised to do, but they just couldn’t commit.  Finally, they spoke honestly and openly about the situation.  Following is a paraphrase of their words.

“You don’t understand what it would cost us to become Christians.  We would have to go against our family.  Our family would disown us.  We would have to give up everything to become Christians.  It is easy for you to be a Christian.  It is part of your culture and way of life.”

Therein lies the problem of most American Christians.  The problem isn’t that it is too hard.  The problem is that it is too easy.  It is very easy in our culture to call yourself a Christian.  Unfortunately to call yourself a Christian is not the same thing as being one.  It isn’t a life changing decision.  It is the accepted decision.  It hasn’t cost us much, if anything, and our life goes on as it has before.  We are a Christian just as much as it is convenient.  Don’t get me wrong.  Salvation is always of grace.  It is all of God and none of us.  We don’t earn our way to heaven.  But a changed mindset and life should be the indications of an inward work that God has accomplished.  if we can’t be bothered to live our lives all out for God  has there really been a change?  Are we following Christ or our peer group and culture?

As far as I know Lee and Jan never became Christians.  They counted the cost and decided it cost too much.  As our society becomes less and less Christian friendly I wonder how many professed Christians will walk away from the faith.  How full will our churches continue to be when persecution comes?

What has it cost you to follow Christ?  How is your life different because of that decision?  Are you following out of convenience or conviction?

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,”  Philippians 3:7-9 (NASB)

(Originally posted May 8, 2014)

Feasting on Crumbs

I’ve been thinking about my friend, Sharon the last few weeks. We had been friends since college in North Dakota. We had cried together and laughed much.

She moved to West Virginia. I moved to Wisconsin.

A couple of years after her third baby was born, she was diagnosed with cancer. We kept in contact over the phone and I would meet her in Zion, Illinois when she went there for treatments. She died much too soon after various surgeries and treatments. She left behind a husband and 3 boys. The youngest only 4.

One of the last times I talked to her on the phone she said, “thank you for the crumbs.”

She explained, “Every day I ask God for crumbs to get me through the day. He knows I can’t eat a big meal but need to survive on crumbs.” She related how every day she watches carefully for the crumbs God would provide. She looked forward to each one knowing they came from her Father’s hand.

I thought back to when I had visited her in the hospital. As we talked first one fellow patient, and then another would wander into her room. I watched as she greeted them with a smile and asked if they wanted to pray with her. Turns out this was a regular occurrence. This mild-mannered North Dakota farm girl was impacting dozens of people.

As I watched her live each day, knowing her time was short, I was amazed at the grace God gave her.

She was learning that the most valuable thing in her life was the moment by moment presence and provision of the God who loved her. He was walking with her through the darkness that was enveloping her. She was learning to let go of her children, her husband, her family and friends. She was drawn ever closer to her God.

So, today, we can look for crumbs…knowing that our God is carefully laying them out for us to find.

Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Ladies R & R & R…

Reconnect, rejoice, renew, refresh, revive, recharge

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Saturday, August 29, 2020

8:45 to Noon

Location to be somewhere in Sheboygan County (uncertainty due to the recent state mandates.)

Anxiety

Session I – 9:00-9:45

Defining Anxiety: Anxiety in Trial; Anxiety in Babylon

Kathy Wynveen

Session II – 10:00 – 10:40

Anxiety in the Beginning

Karen Pickering

Coffee/Tea break

Session III – 11:00 – 11:45

Tool Kit

Gail Sowin

Sessions include singing and interactive discussion around the Word of God. Bring your pens and Bibles. Friends and relations are welcome.

You are welcome to attend with or without a mask.

Questions – contact Karen Pickering or use the comment section below. We can communicate through e-mail or private messenger.

Registration deadline is August 22. There is no cost for the day.

Due to the unusual circumstances of 2020, Ladies R & R & R 2020 will not include lunch. Ladies wishing to extend the fellowship may bring a bag lunch.

We had originally planned this day for April, but had to postpone it due to Covid. We are determined to go ahead with this date. If you register we will keep you informed of the location. It will most likely be at a private residence. Please come and be encouraged.

“and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Meanness in the World

When I was in 1st grade a 3rd grade boy ran around the corner of the school building and punched me in the stomach as hard as he could. That was my introduction to meanness in the world. I had no idea who the boy was, had never seen him before and couldn’t have picked him out of a line-up if there had been one. I knew he was in 3rd grade because the girl I was with told me so. At that age I tended to believe what people told me. I walked, doubled over, to the school building and spent the rest of recess inside. I never told my parents and probably not my teacher. I can’t remember.

When I was in 3rd grade a fellow classmate grabbed me by my wrists. He spun me around as fast as he could and let me go. I went flying across the playground, my pride wounded more than my body. He also called me “fatty” on a regular basis. I’m not sure why. I was the smallest and skinniest kid in my class.

In 6th grade I put a change of clothes in my gym locker. It was a pair of bright green jeans and an orange sweatshirt I had gotten for my birthday. At the end of class they were gone. Someone had stolen them. A few days later a tough girl in my class was wearing them. When I mentioned to her that she was wearing my clothes she denied it and looked like she was going to punch me. I let it go. I avoided her as much as I could.

In 9th grade we spent a few weeks going to the bowling alley for gym class. There was a girl who regularly asked me for bowling money. She promised to pay me back. She never did. She was intimidating and popular. I kept my mouth shut and tried not to sit near her.

In 11th grade I had a history teacher who made fun of me in class. He knew I was a Christian and took it upon himself to mock me for that every chance he got. I quit studying and ended up with a D in his class for the year. He made sure to tell me he didn’t think I was college material. I should have told someone, instead I kept my head down and mouth shut. I proved him wrong by going to college two years later and getting As and Bs.

In 12th grade I had a gym teacher who gave me an “Unsatisfactory” grade on my report card. I was horrified. When one of my friends found me crying she insisted on going with me to see the teacher. She marched boldly into her office and demanded to know why I had been given a failing grade.  Her answer? “Karen laughs too much in class.” I didn’t know how to respond. I did laugh in class because I enjoyed it. I wasn’t being disrespectful. I thought I was being cheerful. My friend argued with her for a few minutes, but the teacher’s mind was made up. We both left feeling the world was unjust.

In college I had a speech teacher who gave me an A on every speech I gave in his class. Our last speech was to be a persuasive speech. He spent two class periods emphasizing it needed to be something we were passionate about. After thinking long and hard I settled on persuading my classmates of the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. I spent hours preparing. Writing and rewriting. I was sticking to the historical facts. My turn came to speak. When I finished my teacher stood up quickly and laid into me in front of the whole class.

“I had no business speaking on such a controversial subject”, he said. “It was not appropriate.”

I had evidently hit a nerve. Seems he only allowed persuasive speech that agreed with his point of view. He gave me a C. I kept my head down and my mouth shut.

It would be unfair of me to think that all third grade boys are bullies. It would be unfortunate of me to believe that every junior high girl is a thief. It would be unreasonable of me to assume anyone who teaches history, gym or speech is out to get me.

The truth is there are bullies in the world and sometimes that bully is me. Each of us must do better. If we love God we will love those made in His image.

Even those who punch us in the stomach.

For Further Study:

II Chronicles 7:14 and if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray,, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Psalm 86:5  For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive. And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Thee.

I John 4:19-21 We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar, for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:21-35; Galatians 3:28

 

 

Unexpected Path (Wilderness Journey #7)

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Photo by alleksana on Pexels.com

Israel was free. Pharaoh had sent them away. (Exodus 12:31)

God went with them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night until they reached a spot near the Red Sea. There they set up camp.

Pharaoh, regretting that he had lost all his slave labor, decided to bring them back. His chariots caught up to Israel where they were camped by the sea.

Israel panicked. First they cried out to God, and then quickly complained to Moses for taking them out of Egypt. “We would rather have been slaves forever than to die in the wilderness.” (my paraphrase)

Moses responded with…”Do not fear, stand by and see the salvation of the LORD…The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Next God tells the people to move forward. God tells Moses that a dry path will open through the Red Sea when he lifts up his staff.

While they move forward God moves behind them with his pillar of cloud along with his angel. They were a barrier, a protection from the Egyptian army.

All night the wind blew a dry path with walls of water on each side. Israel moved through to the other shore.

In the early morning Pharaoh follows this strange new path, but he doesn’t have the success the Israelites had. God causes confusion, their chariot wheels swerve and they drive with difficulty. Too late they realize God is fighting for Israel and at daybreak God “overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.”

An unexpected path led to Israel’s deliverance. It is not a path they could have imagined, or contrived. It was all of God. The incident shows God’s loving care for His people. Even in the midst of their complaining he took care of them.

What kind of trouble are you facing today? Are you in a difficult situation without any obvious means of escape? I know a God who does His best work in impossible circumstances. Believe that He is there with you. Turn to Him for help. He loves you like no other.

For further study: 

Exodus 14; Jeremiah 31:3; Psalm 9:9

 

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

“Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me.”  John 14:1

Those are familiar words to all of us. Jesus was talking to his disciples. In a few short hours he would be arrested.

The current situation was alarming. Most of them had no idea how alarming it was.  They must have sensed Jesus was on edge, but even though he had tried to tell them of the trouble that was coming they couldn’t comprehend it.

He tried shifting their gaze from earthly trouble to heavenly peace. (John 14:2-3) It is a good place to rest our eyes. These days of sickness, unrest and trouble have been taking it’s toll on our children, our families, our countries, and our world. I can’t remember another time like this in my life. There have been wars, and local trouble, but this trouble is world wide.

What kind of power could make this such a world wide event? I can think of only one. Satan, himself. He is determined to destroy men and turn them against each other and more importantly against God.

We are reminded in Ephesians 6:12

“for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” 

My granddaughter, Arianna asked me the other day why God didn’t come and make the new heaven and the new earth now. (II Peter 3:13) Why was He waiting?

I paused, because I long for that too.  My answer was simple.

God is very patient. He is waiting for those that might yet decide to come to Him.

II Peter 3:8-9 “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 

Are you one of those He is waiting for? Have you turned to Him in repentance and accepted His forgiveness?

We each have a great need. Our sin has separated us from a holy God. Because He loves us He has made a way for us to come back to Him. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. Paid for our sin. He rose three days later and conquered death.  He asks us to repent and believe.

Repentance involves a change of direction.  Turning away from selfish and worldly pursuits and a turning to God.

There is trouble now.

I don’t know if it will be temporary or if this is the beginning of the end.

Wouldn’t now be a good time to make things right with God?

Ezekiel 18:32 puts it simply. “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, declares the Lord, so repent and live.”

 

 For further study:

I Peter 5:8

“Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:28b

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation.” II Corinthians 6:2

Repentance and Forgiveness

America is hurting.

We all have family and friends in many of the cities that are in crisis.

I was talking to my brother-in-law who lives in the Minneapolis area. He wisely said that our country needs two things.

Repentance and Forgiveness

We all have a part to play in both.

We have sinned against each other, but more importantly, against a Holy God. We exclude Him from our lives and then are angry with Him when there is trouble.

Some of our politicians tell us God has no place. Seems to me we are reaping the result of that choice.

When men choose to turn their backs on God, He tends to leave them to their own devices. We are seeing that played out in our cities across the nation. It breaks my heart.

We would rather point fingers than deal with our own guilt.

We want to pin our neighbor to the wall, but are unwilling to admit to our own sick heart.

We want others to forgive us, but we are unwilling to forgive them. We don’t bother asking God for forgiveness, because we think He is irrelevant.

He is expected to act on our behalf, but we refuse to turn our face to Him in humility and repentance. Like a two year old demanding his way. (I have two grandsons that are two…I know of what I speak.)

Jeremiah 5:3b sums it up well.  “…But they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent.”

Acts 3:19 pleads with us.  “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” 

The other half of the problem is forgiveness. If we have truly repented and turned our face to God then we need to forgive. This is not an easy task.

In Matthew 18:21-22 Peter asks Jesus… “Lord how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

I think Peter was proud of how often he had forgiven the unnamed offender. Jesus response puts him in his place.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'”

That would be 420 times! Unheard of!!

That doesn’t mean we are free to take revenge when the number reaches 421. (Yes, I am guilty of counting up in my head the number of offenses.) The spirit here is to forgive like God forgives. There are warnings about not offering the same forgiveness we have been given.

“But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 11:25

To forgive is impossible. We don’t have the ability to forgive without God, but as we repent and turn our hearts to Him, the impossible becomes possible.

And so I pray that our country would repent and forgive. For it is the only way we will find healing.

For further study: Matthew 18:23-35; Psalm 32:5; Romans 10:9-11

 

 

 

 

 

And then the Sun Came Out

It had been raining for days. The rivers were rising. The farm fields had turned to ponds. Gardens were bedraggled and swamped.

Our rain gauge overflowed the 8″ mark at the top.

And then the sun came out…

 

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The tulips had survived the constant battering.

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The flowering trees suddenly had blooms.

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…and the trees that looked sad and lonely yesterday were dancing with joy today.

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It is all a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Even in the darkest times He is at work. Days of pelting rain had not destroyed His handiwork.

We are living through some dark times, but there will be a new day.

God is not absent. He is certainly not silent. We often can’t hear because we have grown deaf. He has promised to be with us. He has also promised that He is getting a place ready for us.

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”            John 14:1-3

And such a place it will be.

“Then He showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him;”  Revelation 22:1-3

So take heart. God is still watching. God will right the wrongs. It may seem dark, but a new day is coming.

“and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

 

If you are uncertain about your eternal future there is a free Bible study link below. Please e-mail me or leave a message if you have any quetions.

For further study: redeemed-2014-august

 

 

 

 

Free at Last – (Wilderness Journey #6)

 

They were finally free. They were no longer slaves, but freedom is never free. It had come at a cost.

God had wrenched them out of Pharaoh’s grasp. The years of abuse and bondage by an evil power were finally over. Pharaoh had been warned, but he chose not to listen. He paid with the life of his son.

God had warned that the first born of every household would die. The death angel would not take into account their social status or birthright. Ruler or slave, death would come.
There was one thing that would save them. They were to take the blood of a lamb and apply it to the door of their homes. (Exodus 12:22-23) This was a sign for the death angel to pass over them. Those that believed what Moses told them applied the blood. At midnight all the firstborn from houses where the blood had not been applied were killed.

Blood is what saved the Israelites. The blood of a lamb applied to each of their doors .

It wasn’t the last time blood would be used to save a people. God was pointing forward to another lamb that would save , not just Israel, but would purchase the freedom of the whole world.

It wasn’t enough for Him to die. The blood needs to be applied. Not for the world as a whole, but one by one, each individual.

God’s son died on Passover. The day yearly set aside since the time of Moses to remember their deliverance from Egypt. That deliverance was a shadow of a greater deliverance. A deliverance from sin and bondage.

When the blood is applied a journey begins. The road will be difficult. It will involve learning to trust this God who gave His only Son to purchase our redemption…but He promises that someday we will reach the promised land and the journey will be worth it.

Listen – Believe – Apply – Live

It is that simple.

Truly, truly I say to you. he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgement, but has passed out of death into life.” John 5:24 (NASB)

“Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” I Peter 1:18-19

For further study: Exodus 11&12; II Corinthians 4:25