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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Focusing on the good, not the bad

Lately, through various outlets such as my Bible reading, messages, and my recently finished Bible study, the Lord has been showing me something I need to work on in my life. It seems as if He were slowly revealing my eyes to this topic, and I wanted to share it with you here on my blog.

A lot of times we go through many trials and bumps in the road, mostly unexpected twists and turns in life. As a Christian, we know that we will suffer but we never seem to expect we will have to go through so many trials! It always hits me by surprise, and during those moments I am prone to be discouraged and upset over circumstances. While reading through Deuteronomy, I came across this passage in my reading,

And you murmured in your tents and said, 'Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.
(Deu 1:27 ESV)

I am pretty sure I laughed when I read that verse. How could the Israelites ever possibly even think that God hated them? He had promised to be there with them throughout their journey into the promised land!!!! Had they not noticed all the miracles He had performed for them? But the Israelites only saw the image of defeat in their minds because they felt the Amorites were too powerful for them to overtake. The Israelites weren’t looking at the big picture, rather they were only seeing the giant standing in front of them that they couldn’t defeat by themselves. They had forgotten the power of the Lord. And even though Moses assured the Israelites that God would fight for them and defeat the Amorites, they didn’t believe it! They were so focused on the bad, they didn’t know that good would ultimately come out of the situation. And yet again we see a similarity in the New Testament in this passage

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."
(Mar 8:31-33 ESV)

Jesus had specifically told his disciples the impending trials that would come upon Himself, but that in the end all would be well for them when He would rise from the dead. Apparently though, all the disciples could think about was the awful impending doom of Christ’s death. Somehow they never realized that Christ would rise from that death and not be bound to physical death. In another version it explains that once Christ told them this, they were filled with despair. They had missed the big picture!
Trials do and will come our way. A lot of times though, we focus on the horrible moment, the difficulties, instead of realizing that trials are to help produce endurance in us, and that they momentarily produce pain, but in the end the outcome is good whether we realize it now or later. Instead of focusing on the problem, we should take a look at the ultimate picture. The outcome in the end will produce sweet fruit, just as is told in Isaiah

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, "Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you." Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
(Isa 35:1-6 ESV)

Those who are weary, those who are going through tough times, notice that there are streams in the desert. There’s always a good side to a bad situation. Recently, I had been praying to the Lord about something I was going through. When I received my answer from the Lord, it was not the answer I had hoped for. It was the answer that caused me grief and distress. As I started to wallow in my sorrow, I suddenly realized that God had been so good to me in that moment. I realized He had given me a stream in the desert place. He had answered my prayer! Did you hear that? He answered it! Oh yes, it wasn’t the answer I wanted. I know that the ultimate answer to that prayer will produce more good for me than harm; I just cannot see it now, but I have to continuously train myself to realize that God’s plan is always better than my own! It was the answer that ultimately caused me grief, but He took the time to incline His ear to my prayer and listen, meaning that He cared and cares for me. I stopped right there to thank God just for answering my prayer. Sometimes we need to take a step back and look at the big picture and just say, “What good in this situation can I thank God for right now?” Sometimes though it is tough to do that, and I still seem to think like the Israelites, “The Lord hates me!” It sounds silly, but I think we’ve all been in that situation where it just seems like God keeps pounding us with unbearable trials. When we take a close look at the Word of God and read it, we can definitely see that just because we have trials in life, doesn’t mean God hates us. As I was finishing up my Bible study in Jeremiah, these passages really stuck out to me.

For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD of hosts, but the land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel.
(Jer 51:5 ESV)

And I will bring to an end in Moab, declares the LORD, him who offers sacrifice in the high place and makes offerings to his god. Therefore my heart moans for Moab like a flute, and my heart moans like a flute for the men of Kir-hareseth. Therefore the riches they gained have perished. "For every head is shaved and every beard cut off. On all the hands are gashes, and around the waist is sackcloth. On all the housetops of Moab and in the squares there is nothing but lamentation, for I have broken Moab like a vessel for which no one cares, declares the LORD.
(Jer 48:35-38 ESV)

The context of the first verse is after Israel and Judah have finished their punishment from God for serving other gods. God tells them that even though they did evil and though He punished them with another evil country, they would be avenged by their oppressors. He still loved them enough to bring ultimate justice in the end. The context of the second verse is about a nation who never served the Lord that is soon to be punished. Notice how the verse says that God mourns over their impending destruction? My first thought was, “Why would God mourn over someone who never knew or cared about Him? They deserved to be punished. They brought the punishment upon themselves and God is sad because He has to punish them?” Then I realized that it’s just like our God to show compassion to those who don’t even care for Him. If God so loves those who don’t care about Him, how much more the ones He has saved? He cares for His children greatly! Though He may allow tough times to come into our lives, He continually watches over us, knowing the ultimate end will produce good for us and to His glory! If God mourns over the sufferings of those who are not His own, how much more His children as well? That is comforting to know that He literally goes with us through those trials, experiencing the same sorrow as us. There are definitely streams in the desert place, just carefully look around you and you’ll find them.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Character That Outshines All Others

As I had stated in my last post, the Lord revealed some other things to me while I was there in counseling training. Since it is a totally different topic, I decided to devote a whole post about the character of a Godly man. So what in the world does that have to do with counseling training? A lot! Most people think that a pregnancy crisis center is for women alone, but we tend to forget the women who come in have a partner, whether it be their husband or boyfriend. Not only do the young women need to be ministered to but so do their partners. Most of the time the partners are young men who sit in the classes with their girlfriend or wife. I’m sure it can be quite awkward for them, especially since there is no program specifically designed for them- no men acting in as mentors to these fathers-to-be either. There is a dire need for men to step out and volunteer at pregnancy centers. The volunteer training this past weekend included training for the new volunteers of the new pregnancy center opening up in the city nearby. As I looked across the room and recognized our volunteers and scanned over the volunteers for the other center, my attention was directed towards the young men in the room. Yes, I did say YOUNG men. Not only were they in the room on a Saturday morning spending their time training to counsel, they were there the ENTIRE day for training, which lasted about 8 hours. This act of kindness stood out to me and struck me as one of the most important characteristics a young man should have, at least one of the tops ones. I couldn’t help but think this is so unlike the character of young men today, what has prompted this act of kindness? When we think of the word “volunteer” we always think that’s the woman’s job. Most of the time volunteers are women, especially at a crisis pregnancy center. So what made this more impressive was that these young men were wanting to help out in this vicinity of volunteer work. To me, it showed the true nature and character of their hearts. It was apparent they had a servant’s heart, one that was willing to give up a Saturday and even a part of their week every week to help out the center for pregnancy. So let me say this, I’m not easily impressed, but this impressed me. Their character, which most definitely mirrored a character of a servant of the Lord, was impressive and commendable- highly commendable. So why is this such a jaw-dropping impressive feat to me? Well for one, most young men are absorbed in their own pleasures and enjoyments. Even if a young man does volunteer, it’s doing what he wants to do, not anything outside of his comfort zone. Young men also tend to have a terrible problem with foolishness and being non-sensible. I have noticed that trend. Young men seem to think that they’ll impress girls with their lack of sensibility and dare devil feats, but really they’re just casting themselves in the worse light possible. A young woman wants a man that will lead with wisdom and make wise and unselfish choices. Doing dangerous feats is very unimpressive to me personally. When I hear about the foolish things young men do I think Wow that is so silly, something a child would be doing. When are they going to grow up? This is why an act of generosity goes a long way. We live in a culture where young men are trained to be children for as long as they want to be and act like children, when they should be developing Godly traits of a man in their teens. So take note young men. If you want to impress a girl, develop those Godly character traits of sensibility and compassion, for those are some of the most impressive and delightful character traits around!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Amazed with my God

After praying for the Lord to give me the words to say for my next blog post, I realized what He wanted me to talk about this morning as I went through my counselor training for the center for pregnancy. I have such a conglomeration of different things the Lord revealed to me as I sat there listening to the speakers, that I have no clue what to title this or how to gather all these thoughts. I am first and foremost so thrilled that God has answered my prayer and given me what HE wants me to write about as just yesterday I had been thinking about writing about whatever, just so I could hurry up and write a blog post. I get impatient most times, but this time I stopped myself and said, “No, this blog is about what GOD wants me to write about- not what I want to write about.” So I decided to pray God would give me the words to say, and today I was blessed with an answered prayer. Sometimes it just makes me want to quote that famous poem to God,

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

As God answered my prayer, and I realized what I would write about, I felt Him revealing so many things to me this morning. As some of you know, I have been battling my fear to counsel the young women at my local crisis pregnancy center. I enjoy volunteering there, and I’ve been a counselor-in-training for about a month, but I feel so inadequate! For starters, I am quite young, and I have no experience with counseling young women in a crisis situation. I know that I want to help, but I don’t know how to. As the director of my center, also longtime friend, got up and started speaking, she started off with these verses-

And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?" It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, "Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind . . .
(1Ki 3:7-12 ESV)

I felt exactly like that verse, O Lord, I am but a child! I need your strength for I have no clue how to minister to these women or what to say! And when I heard my director speak those words, I knew God meant it for me. I felt very reassured like my God was telling me He had placed me here, you can read about that blog post from last year, and He would give me the words to say at the right time just as He had done for Solomon, so He would do for me. I know God has placed me here; He will fulfill my calling. Then God brought this other verse to mind

When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
(Mat 10:19-20 ESV)

If the Holy Spirit so graciously imparts to us the words to say during times such as those, how much more as ministers of God’s love? I was relieved to realize that although I don’t have the words to say that will minister to these young women, God does, and out of His goodness He will place the right words at the right time. I also took great comfort in knowing that despite my inadequacy God is willing and wanting to use me- He sees me differently than I see myself. It’s amazing that despite our inadequacies and our weaknesses, He chooses to use us just like He used David. He can see the potential in our lives that we cannot see within our own selves! No, that does not mean I’ll be the best counselor ever or that I’ll even be good when I start out. It means that God will be with me along the way- He knows I have the ability to do the task set before me.

The next thing I was struck by were the videos about the choices several young women had made. I saw the hurt and grief in the words and faces of the women who had chosen to abort their babies. I realized why we had received Kleenex at the beginning of the session, I wanted to cry with them. No longer did I feel the need to say, “How could you do that to your child?” Rather, I wanted to hold them and tell them that God forgives them, and with Him they can get through it. And then once again, I was utterly amazed by God’s calling to me in this vicinity. It was there that I said, once again, “God you knew I was meant for this when I didn’t even have a desire for these young women!” I was in awe again of my God. Just when I think that I wish I would’ve volunteered to minister to another group people, it’s then God shows me that He knows what I need the most. I love this volunteer work, and I wouldn’t trade it in for the world. If you remember from a previous post awhile back I explained my struggle to enjoy working at the pregnancy crisis center to now finding true joy and delight in ministering to the young women. Sometimes though my heart longs for something different, and each time it does, God shows me differently. Once again my God knew what was best for me, and I’m so glad that though I initially had NO heart for these women, I obeyed His calling,and He gave me the desire in the end. Isn’t it a funny thing how God can change our hearts? How he knows what is best for us and furthermore that our desires in the end will coincide with His? Sitting there made me realize what I love doing best- helping others. I hope to work in other volunteer vicinities with young women, but for now God has called me just to this place, and I’m so happy that God sent me to this place! This was only a fraction of what God showed me this morning, but it’s such a long post I’ll save the rest for later. So be sure to watch out for my next blog post in the next few days!