Tag Archives: Reflection

Able To

I find it is often the case that God’s timing simply amazes me. I can go through life ignoring this fact and counting everything to chance, or I can acknowledge that God has his hand on every minute detail of my life.  Many times, I simply miss the connection between God’s providence and my current situation.  I don’t see His hand in it and therefor I conclude that my life is just rolling along like a ball in a slot machine, bouncing with wild abandon.  I can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that God would bring me to the ups and downs that fill my life in order to show me my weakness and draw me to His will.  I think to myself that this sequence of events is just a coincidence – surely God could not have brought them about, or been in control through it all.  But then I look back and see how carefully He brought them together to help me understand that I need Him more than I know.

This truth became so evident for me over the past two months. On June 22 I received a phone call from a lady named Anna.  She explained to me that she was a counselor working with a company called Able To.  This company had contracted with my Medicare Advantage provider to bring their program, free of charge, to a select group of its members.  I had been randomly selected out of the thousands who are on this plan.  The program consisted of eight weeks working with both a counselor and a coach to help me look into myself and understand more about why I do the things I do and make the decisions I make.  These sessions would each be 45 minutes long, and the counseling session would always precede the coaching session.  I took very little time to determine I wanted to embark on this journey with them and we set up a schedule.  I would talk with Anna every Tuesday morning for the counseling session and Iesha every Thursday for the coaching session.  Anna did an assessment of my current situation and the results were positive, which I figured, but showed a level of anxiety that I was surprised at.  We would start the following week, June 29.

The first week was goal setting.  What goals did I have for this program, and for my life in general? Well, I am all for goal setting, so I set a bunch of them.  Lose 10 pounds during the eight-week program, walk 12,500 steps a day, read an hour a day, turn off all electronics an hour before bed, eat healthier meals, get 7 hours sleep a night, adjust my schedule to be more like my wife’s.  All good goals.  We also discussed things that trigger different moods in my life.  What caused me to get upset when I did?  Why did I get discouraged over certain things?  Was I feeling depressed or anxious over situations in my life?  I am a very positive person and could not get a sense of these particular emotions, but the discussion was interesting.  The coaching session reinforced these things but also led me through some breathing exercises that would help relax me if any anxious moments arose.  I cam out of those first two sessions knowing I was going to enjoy this program and headed out to reach my goals.

All went well for the first two weeks.  I was losing the weight (5 pounds in two weeks), I was walking over 15,000 steps a day, sleeping better, turning things off and generally rolling along.  But then July 12th came along.  I woke up that Tuesday with no drive, no vigor, which is so unlike me. I just didn’t want to do anything – I was tired.  I could not identify anything wrong as far as physical symptoms except just a slight fever, I talked to Anna about it, and my wife was very sympathetic.  Speaking of my wife, she learned that her workplace was moving 39 miles away in Mid-July, and she was not going to commute.  At this time, we were also in discussions at out church about closing the doors due to lack of attendance and finances.  There was a lot going on in our lives.  But this tiredness persisted Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, when I finally went to the doctor.  She found nothing wrong and I went home to face a weekend when I continued to feel the same.  The coaching session with Iesha contained more breathing and calming therapies.

Early Monday morning I woke up with pain in my chest that I just knew was pneumonia.  I told my wife I needed to go to the emergency room where they confirmed my suspicions and put me in the hospital.  I’ve had pneumonia 4 times before this so knew what it was when it came.  When I talked with Anna Tuesday morning, the realization came to me that I had been way to aggressive in my goals.  I told her I was the type that liked to impress others, and that pride was a big problem in my life.  I had stretched myself too thin in order to reach my goals and impress her with my enthusiasm.  Now I was feeling a little down and blue.  We discussed the moods and triggers that brought them on and I felt good about the discussion.  She thanked me for my candor.  I was out of the hospital the next day and told to take it easy.  There went my goals – out the window.

The program continued as I slowed myself down and did what the doctor said.  A few sessions on meditation were very helpful.  One particular one was a joy to me.  It was called guided meditation. The aim was to take my mind to a place where I had learned to relax and enjoy life.  This was simple for me.  I knew immediately where that place was.  It’ the Old Stone Church in West Boylston, Mass. (Look it up online).  To me, this is about the most beautiful place in the world, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I see it.  This was my calm place – a place I could take myself to anytime and be at peace.

On July 24th, out church closed its doors.  We had been going to this church for 25 years and had many friends there who lived up to an hour and a half away.  This not only hurt us emotionally, but financially, as I had been preaching every Sunday since the first of the year.  We did not know where we would go after this, but decided we would take some time to decide and enjoy the campground, where we are the hosts.  This also hurt us emotionally as. we were not asked to become the pastors of the church, but instead they chose to give up trying.  Having the counselor and coach in place right now was very helpful as I had someone to talk to about all these things.

On August 9th I woke up with a nasty cough, fever and runny nose.  On top of that my breathing was very shallow and it was hard to catch my breath.  I made an appointment with my doctor and when I got to her office, she immediately sent me to the ER.  My blood pressure and heart rate were both high.  I had never experienced symptoms like this before.  It was pretty clear I would be admitted to the hospital. and I was. I had what is called a COPD flare-up.  Several years ago, I was told I had marginal COPD, but I had never had any kind of issue with it.  This was nasty and took 4 days in the hopital to get regulated.  At the same time, my mom went into the hospital with a twisted bowel. At 96, she decided to have the surgery to fix that problem, but she now had a much lower quality of life and would have to go to a nursing home.  Talking to Iesha that Thursday morning from my hospital bed was soothing as I talked out what I was feeling.

Friday brought release from the hospital and my entire family to my house.  All three daughters, 6 grandchildren and a boyfriend came to spend the weekend.  It was a joyous time although I had to wear a mask most of the weekend and could not do a lot of activity.  We only get together about once a year, and I was so glad I got out of the hospital in time to enjoy it.  They left on Sunday, except for my oldest daughter, who stayed until Tuesday morning.  We always liked to walk and talk, but I was limited to ½ and ½ mile stretches.  But we sure enjoyed having them all and got a great family picture.

Tuesday morning when I talked to Anna, I finally realized how amazing it was that their counseling came along at this time.  Our spiritual life had been attacked with the closing of our church.   Our finances had been attacked as we lost $800 a week in income between my wife and I.  My physical life had been attacked with two stints in the hospital and new restrictions on activity.  Emotional tolls had been taken as well.  These emotional tolls were exacerbated by my mom passing away on August 22nd.  Although her passing was expected in a way, it still put a hole in my heart.  I would soon learn that she had left some inheritance that would help us greatly in our financial position.

God has a way of bringing things into our lives when we most need them.  This Able To program was one of those things.  All the events that happened during that time I had the program available is just incredible.  Tow hospital stays, loss of a substantial amount of income, church closing, mom passing all in an eight week stretch.  These were two of the most difficult months of my life, ranking right up there with my cancer treatments.  In fact, they were in many ways harder than going through cancer.  But God, in all His wisdom, brought Anna and Iesha into my life when I needed them the most. He knew what was coming – He always does!  In the final assessment of the program, it turned out my anxiety level was down from where it had been in the beginning.  Imagine that!  With all that had happened, I was less anxious about life.  God surely had His hand on me!

I love the writings of Fenelon. If you have never read His work, I highly recommend it.  In one of His books, “The Seeking Heart”, He makes a statement that we all should take heed to.  He says “See only God”.  In these simple words, He shows us what is the best way to have victory and joy at every turn in life.  When we see God working in everything that comes into our lives, we will always feel victorious.  It reminds me of my favorite passage of scripture.  Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and he shall direct your path.”  In all your ways, in everything that comes along, know that God is there and He is bringing you closer to Himself.  Acknowledge this at all times and you will find yourself in His arms even in the hardest of times.

If you’d like to learn more about Able To, visit their web site at www.ableto.com.  If you’d like to know more about God, well, you know where to look.

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Are You Ready to Be Offered?

2 Timothy 4:6-8

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Have you ever had someone ask you this question? “If today was your last day on earth, what would you do differently?”  It’s an intriguing question and I would bet that every one of you have heard it at least once, if not multiple times.  I wonder how you answered that and would love to have you put that answer in the comments once you’re done reading today’s post.

Now you may be asking “How would Pete answer that question?” and you would be right to do so.  I think this is a question that should always be on our minds, because we do not know if this will be our last day on earth.  It could be your final minutes right now.  It could be mine.  I often think that if I knew that, I would be running through the streets telling everyone about the saving power of Jesus Christ.  That they need to repent and accept His sacrifice for their sins.  That they need to read their bibles and come to know how to live as brothers and sisters in Christ.  This is what Paul was doing, after all.  And Paul knew His time was at hand.  He knew he was going to die at the hand of the Romans soon.  He knew his ministry would be over.

But would it be?  Would his ministry end at the hand of the Romans?  No, it would not.  Because he had built something that would last way past his lifetime.  He left teachers and pastors, like Timothy and Titus, in place to continue his ministry.  He wrote letters that are still used today to shape doctrine and help us see what Christ did and why.  This is a lasting legacy that still lives today.  I really think Paul knew that his letters would reach way past the churches he was sending them to.  I think he knew that his life was meant to bring glory to God for generations yet to come.   After all, he does say that he fought a good fight, finished his course and ran his race.  The fight he fought was against the false religions of the heathen and the false teaching of those who would pervert the gospel.  The course he ran was through Corinth and Ephesus and Galatian and many more towns.  His race was against the evil of the day which would eventually take his life.

His legacy is called the church, and it is just as alive today as it was in his day.  It may seem like it is waning.  It may seem like the church is turning away from the true teachings of Paul, Peter, John, and the others.  There is a watered down, counterfeit church out there that is succumbing to the ways of the world and giving in to false teachers, running to them with their itching ears.  They have lost sight of the true meaning of Paul’s words and decided to follow mans’ words instead.  They believe that man’s words are just as important as God’s words and slowly but surely, they are led into heresy.  The farther they go down that road, the farther away from God they get.  Soon, the church and the world will look the same.

But the true church is not moving away from God, but moving toward Him.  They are moving forward in spiritual power and authority.  They are storming the gates of hell as prayer warriors and spiritual leaders.  This is where we must keep the faith.  This is where we must fight the good fight.  God needs each and every one of us to take the same attitude Paul takes in verse 6.  We may not know this is our last party, but we should act that way.  We should give everything we’ve got to do what God has asked each one of us to do.  Do you know what God has asked of you?  Is it cleaning the church, or being an usher, or playing the piano, or writing a blog, or so many other things God can use you for?  Whatever it is, do it with all you have because you will only get one shot.  I know there are a lot of things I can work harder at and devote more time to.  I now God has a bigger plan for my life and that I must walk the path to fulfilling those things.  I Know that even at 69 years old, God isn’t even close to being done with me yet!  I have not fought as good a fight as I could have, I have not been as faithful as I am capable of and I have not finished my course.  My plan is to listen for the voice of God and go where He leads me.  What is your plan?

Paul then talks about the crown of righteousness.  He says this is laid up for those who love His appearing.  I have asked myself in the past how this relates to the previous 2 verses, and it just struck me.  If we love His appearing, we will do all we can to prepare others for when that event happens!  We will be sharing the Gospel with all who we meet.  We will sing His praise at every chance we get. We will share our testimony over and over again, telling people about the goodness of our God.  We will defend the Gospel, and our God, against those who do not believe and would try to say God is not good.  Personally, if I want this crown.  I need to work harder, write more, practice more, study more.  I need to simply put myself more deeply into His hands so that He can do His work in me.  It is my decision, after all.

Now I have to ask again: How would you answer that question? What would you do different if you knew this was your last day, or last week on this earth?  I can’t wait to get your comments.  May God give you strength to fight, endurance to run, and glory at the finish line.

 

Pray or Praise

James 5:13 KJV

13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

 

James present two different pictures in one verse, one of affliction and one of being merry.  In both cases, he also tells us how to respond to the condition we are in.  To me, both of the reactions he mentions would be natural reactions.  I am an inquisitive kind of guy after all!  So let’s break it down and try to figure out why James finds it necessary to bring out these two points in the midst of so many seemingly more important subjects.  I know – it look like simple truths, but I think there is more here than meets the eye.

First is any afflicted.  This is an intriguing word that from the Greek means experiencing painful hardship, or a malicious disposition or suffering evil.  This is very different from just being sick, a subject that will be dealt with in the coming verses.  James is talking about someone who is being influenced in a negative way by forces out of his control.  I am not talking about demonic influences necessarily, although this type of affliction would be included in James’ point here.   He is talking about hardships that come on us and seem to contradict our faith and make us doubt God can bring us out.

I believe James is discussing things like depression, severe anxiety, an overwhelming sadness, or even extreme bitterness (which we just discussed).  These are afflictions of the mind and spirit, not sicknesses that affect the body, although letting these things linger will affect our body eventually.  It is imperative as Christians that we learn how to overcome these types of affliction before they get the best of us. James gives us a key to that escape – pray!

I realize that people in these situations typically find it very hard to pray.  They feel like their prayers are ineffective and that God is not listening to them.  They feel distant in their spirit and have lost hope that God want to help them.  Often they give up on God for a while and try to figure things out on their own.  Often, we will pray for them, thinking we can help them with our prayers, and we can.  But the remedy that James gives is that the afflicted person pray. Why?

I believe the afflicted must pray for two reasons.  The first is that they must pray for themselves.  God respects our cry for help when we are in distress.  Just look at the Psalms! They are full of cries for help in the midst of affliction and distress.  The psalmist was continually under siege by their enemy, and this is the same word for affliction that James uses here.  As you read through these episodes in the psalms, you will notice that the writer always reverts back to praise, knowing that God will not only hear but answer his  prayers.  The afflicted can always depend on that truth and as they pray God will make it clear to them that He will answer.

The second reason is to pray for others.  Intercessory prayer is our highest calling as Christians.  Bringing the needs of others before the throne of God lets God know that we have compassion and mercy in our hearts.  This is pleasing to God.  But the real reason is that intercessory prayer takes our focus off from ourselves and put our own troubles at a distance.  It helps us rise above those problems and lifts us to a different level  If we continue in these prayers, our affliction can lift completely.

I am not trying to imply this is easy.  James makes a simple statement that is very difficult to comply with, but it is very possible as well.  When we can learn to turn our hearts to prayer in the midst of any affliction, we will be able to overcome the affliction sooner.  It helps us to understand these things and put them into practice if we ever find ourselves in these circumstances.

Now to the singing!  Are we prone to praise?  Do we lift up our voices and worship when things are going right?  This word merry means to be of good cheer.  It is basically the opposite of being afflicted.  It denotes a time of rejoicing in our spirit.  Something has gone right for us and we are feeling good about life.  We should be singing psalms.

Do you take time to praise the Lord when things go right?  Do you acknowledge that He is behind the good things that take place in your life (James 1:17), no matter how small or trivial they may seem?  Does He receive the praise that is due Him?  I am amazed at the number of Christians who believe in coincidence, or that God did not play a part in some blessing they received.  I am amazed at how many forget to give God thanks when the are spared trouble.

Did that car skid through the intersection just after you got through it?  Did that branch fall from the tree just a couple feet away?  Did you get a check in the mail just in time to make that payment?  Did a bunch of co-workers get sick and you did not?  Have there been some homes broken into and yours was spared?  These are not coincidences, and you were not lucky.  Luck has no place in God’s kingdom.  These are the blessings of God, and we should be merry and sing psalms!

The truth is that God has His hand in everything that happens in our lives.  My favorite author, Fenelon for short, says “See only God”.  What he means by that is that we should see God in everything, involved in everything. wanting our best in everything.  The biblical basis for this is Proverbs 6-a where it says “In all thy ways acknowledge Him”.  All means all!  God is always there.  And we should always acknowledge His interaction in our lives by singing praise when we are merry, when things go right!  So let your praise ring out!

Patience revisited

James 5:7 KJV

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

I live in Iowa. For those of you who don’t know Iowa is a huge farming state. Our farmers produce more corn and soybeans than any other state in the country. We are the third largest farm economy in the country. We are proud of our farmers and our state would not survive if something happened to the farm economy.

I have grown to admire farmers very much. Some people think they only work to plant and harvest but when those two things aren’t going on they are always busy working on machinery to make sure it’s ready for the next phase. But nothing is more impressive then the fact that they have the patience to wait for a crop.

In the fall, after harvest, many actually start preparations for the next spring.  They till the soil and put fertilizer on so it sets in during the fall and winter, before the frost sets in.  a lot of farmers are now using manure from chicken and hog farms (we are also #1 in both of those categories). In the spring, once the frost is out and the ground temperatures are above 50, they put tens of thousands of dollars into the ground that is prepared ahead of time. Of course, all is dependent on the spring rains.  It often gets to wet at times and delays planting.

There’s also money for herbicides and pesticides for some of them. All of this money is usually borrowed from the bank in hopes that there will be a harvest. As the season goes on there’s nothing more thrilling to me in the spring then you start to see those little buds start to pop out of the ground. You drive down the road and for miles and miles and miles all you see is straight rows of these little green things popping out of the ground. Watching them grow is nothing short of a miracle.

And they just have to trust God and be patient until the harvest is ready.  They need timely rains, about an inch a week.  No strong winds are needed, or it can knock over the corn crops.  Hail and tornadoes can stay away!  Temperatures have to stay warm enough – corn loves hot and humid!. But the farmer waits and trusts God will bring what is necessary, and in the fall he is rewarded most of the time with a crop that will pay the bills.

James says that we need to be patient like that farmer. We’ve talked extensively about patience before.  It is an attribute that is highly admired by God in my opinion. When we can sit back and not worry about when we are going to be healed or when that financial blessing is going to come or when that enemy is going to walk away, and we can simply trust God to do it at the right time, the peace and the joy of the Lord will be there for us just waiting. We will never have to wonder if God is going to come through because we’ll know he will. We will never have to wonder if we are walking in God’s plan because we will know that we are despite the things that come our way. My job is to just keep moving forward and go through the circumstances that come into my life while trusting the Lord and having the patience to wait it out until God is ready to relieve me.

I read a Blog several days ago that talked about the fact that this person had never prayed for patience because she had always been told that praying for patience will bring trials. She said she already had enough trials in their life and didn’t want to bring on more. I couldn’t help but think how desperately this person needed to pray for patience and yet they were afraid because they weren’t sure how it would come out. This kind of fear has no place in the kingdom of God. Praying for patience so we can endure the trials that come our way is one of the basic prayers of our lives. Didn’t the Psalmist say “Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me”. Isn’t that essentially claiming patience to walk through that Valley?

If you gave not been with us through this whole journey in James, please go back to the second post from James 1:2   This post may help you understand why trials are so necessary in our lives, and how we should approach them.  Then go to the next two posts in James 1:3 and James 1:4  These two will help you understand why patience is so important to our Christian life. And patience only comes trough trials.

Patience is also a fruit of the spirit. The way I see fruit of this kind is it the more we give it out the more we receive. The more we give patience to somebody else the more we will have for ourselves. It’s something that we can’t keep inside of us. If I want patience for my own life I need to make sure that I am being patient with those around me. If I can’t be patient with those around me why should God bless me with more patience.

If you find yourself in a place where you are impatient with other people you’ll probably have a tough time being patient with God. This is a good time to pray for patience. Do not fear more trials because if you’re in this situation you probably have plenty already. God will help you through every single time if you’re praying to gain strength to go through a battle. He is the deliverer and the protector and He says if we ask He will give.  One of the biggest blessings He wants us to have is patience.   Ask for it, desire it, seek after it with all your heart.

 

Don’t Sin – Just Do It!

—James 4:16-17 KJV

16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.

17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

I don’t know about you but I hear it quite often. “We are going to Disneyland next week on vacation!”  “I have a huge appointment for a job interview tomorrow!”  “In Jesus name I am not going to be sick tomorrow – I’m going to be well and healed!” These words are all based on whether we have tomorrow or not. As my last post said, we cannot count on tomorrow. So all these statements are what James is calling evil. They are boasts on what we are claiming for a day we do not even have for sure yet. It is hard for me to understand why James calls these evil, but here is how I see what James is saying.

We have the attitude that if we make plans, God has to honor them.  My prayers need to be tempered with God’ grace, as do my utterances about my future plans.  I have learned through reading several different authors that the best way to pray is to ask God to give me strength to make it through any sickness that He’s allowed in my life. I should ask God to give me wisdom as I face the appointment that I have tomorrow. AI should ask God for traveling mercy for any place I am planning to go tomorrow. I can never assume that any of these things will actually happen. Because I don’t know if God’s going to give me tomorrow.
I believe James call evil because it is assuming God is going to do something. There are many people who assume that if they ask something of God it is theirs. The name it claim it crowd think that they can ask anything and it will be done for them. After all, Jesus did say if you ask anything in my name I will do it. But I’ve come to understand that asking in His name means asking according to His will and His word.  His will is not always known to us. There are some who would say that the Bible certainly tells us His will and I would agree. And the Bible says that we were healed by Jesus on the cross – I  agree with that also. But there is nothing that says God has to do it today or tomorrow. There’s nothing that gives a timetable of when God has to act. So when we assume that we can tell God what to do just because we pray, that is what James calls evil. Because it is suppossing that we have some kind of authority over God. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Then James says something that can knock us all back. He says that if we know that we should do something good and we don’t do it, that we sin. Most of us think that it takes an action to sin. We have to commit adultery. steal,  lie, gossip, murder or someone else against God’s moral law. That is what we consider sin.  We see sin as  an action that is actually carried out against ourselves or against God or against our fellow human beings. But James takes it a step further.
When we see someone or something that we can do for someone else that would help them in some way and we don’t do it James calls that sin. I believe what he says is true. I believe that God places things in front of us on a regular basis for us to accomplish. Then He whispers in our ear what He wants to us to accomplish. And the fact that it was brought to our attention tells me that we heard that whisper. When we don’t do it it is simple disobedience. And disobedience is sin. If we don’t know about the situation and we don’t do it then we are not held responsible.
It is like the watchman on the wall in Ezekiel 33.   Ezekiel tells us that if somebody knows that trouble is coming and they warn the people, then any blood shed will not be on the watchman’s hand. But if they do not warn the people then the blood will be on their hands. Once again they have been made aware of a situation and they have done what they can to help people understand how the situation is going to affect them. They were obedient to what God asked them to do.
So how do I know if God is asking me to do something? It really is very simple. If it has been brought to my attention that someone is in need of either a physical blessing, or just someone to sit with them and talk, or maybe even a correction that needs to be given to them, and we do not do it then we have missed an opportunity to bless them and that is sin to us. God brings things to our attention on a regular basis. He does this to see if we’re listening and obeying. He gives us opportunity day in and day out to be a blessing to others. Let’s not miss those opportunities.
This verse is not here to place any condemnation on anybody. It is here to make us aware of God’s expectation in our lives. I’m glad James brings this up because it ties in so well with his teaching on the necessity of works in our lives. If it was only grace that saved us this verse would be irrelevant. Works are what shows people our faith and those works need to be done as we further our salvation experience. Remember – we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling? This is how we do that. By taking every opportunity to bless those around us.
Get out there and do all the good you can today because you don’t know if you have tomorrow. As one of my favorite author says “Don’t insult today by looking for a better tomorrow.”
Be blessed