Showing items for 'Spiritual Growth'

Shifting Focus

Posted by Zach Baum on

After the holidays, I’m finding our home is filled with stuff. There are piles of new things and the boxes they came in. On top of that, we also have a little baby girl arriving soon. There's so much to get and so much to do! This leads to my wife and I planning how we will get rid of the...

Live Love

Posted by Alane Pearce on

As the new year approaches, it’s customary to reflect on your life and look to the future, setting goals about how you want to live the next year. I don’t know about you, but each year setting goals only gets me so far. I have great ideas about what I want to accomplish, but in...

Showing items filed under “Spiritual Growth”

Tempted Again

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It was happening again. I am never quite sure what is the triggering factor. It may be lack of sleep, a stressful situation or boredom. Whatever it is, it is real and can be life shattering. It is a call from the depths of my soul whispering that something isn’t quite right.

What is calling is a desire, a temptation, for just a small step. A step that my mind says will not hurt anyone. The lie grows. I am convinced. I will stop later. There will be no negative consequences. The temptation becomes more appealing. I peer into the abyss. I step off the edge. I regret what I have done, greatly and deeply.

This is not a new phenomenon for me. I have lived on the rollercoaster of sin - repentance - forgiveness for my entire life. It has nearly destroyed me. The pattern became so prevalent, so unstoppable, it lead to constant anxiety and a dread of life. My rock bottom was when I realized I had to tell someone about that temptation, about the sins. If I did though, it meant I had to face the fears of shame, possible scorn and rejections. More so, it meant I would have to find an avenue of change.

As frightful and painful as the step toward redemption was, the consequences were far more damaging and far reaching than I realized at the time. Until I looked back, I didn’t see the trail of failings I was leaving behind. I couldn’t look back until I was able to stop being solely focused on the present.

I find comfort in knowing that many of God’s “greats” have been caught in the same rollercoaster of sin - repentance - forgiveness. One of those “greats” being King David.

David was anointed as King of Israel when he was teenager but it would be 25 years of preparation before he would finally rule all of Israel. These years were filled with many challenges yet David relentlessly pursued God, even when he failed. Even as King he fell into sin and he fell hard.

One infamous story is found in 2 Samual 11. It is likely one of the most widely known stories of David and sin. Mention to just about anyone the names David and Bathsheba and instantaneously their mind goes to adultery and murder. But that’s only the 30,000 foot view. David’s temptation began long before he strolled onto that roof top and allowed his eyes to gaze upon the beautiful woman next door.

Have you ever thought about how many wives and concubines David already had? We may not know exactly but we know it was many. David had a lust for woman that was the first “small thing” that had drawn him into this precarious situation.

We read in Genesis that God created a partner for man. This was a woman. As time went on, polygamy however became a commonly accepted practice of the day. We also read in Deuteronomy 17:17 that the standards for a king were different. A king was not to take many wives for himself. Why not? We are told because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. In other words they will be a distraction.

Distractions often become a vice we use to fill our soul. Only God can truly fill our soul. With many woman in David’s life, temptation now had a foothold and literally the story went downhill from there. You  can find all the messy details in 2 Samuel 11:1-27.

What happened to David is not dissimilar to what happens to us. Just a small opening, a crack in the “everyone’s doing it” door that soon leads to another larger door. From there a bigger door, until we’ve gone through an opening the size of a barn door.

When this happens, there is hope, redemption and an opportunity to change. That was the case with David. This is the case for me. It can be for you too.

Today I have found that those big balls of messiness I had once travelled down unchecked no longer have the same appeal. I am able to recognize early on when the lies begin, who the source is and who I should turn too.

We know David was one of God’s greatest kings and a man after God’s own heart. These are great and wonderful qualities. This is not what makes him my “great” in the linage of Jesus. 

I love the story of David because I can relate so fully to his failures and sins. It is his redemption and forgiveness that strengthens my heart and brings me to a place where I know I too can be forgiven.

God loved David relentlessly. David knew this and was drawn into temptation anyway. When he finally and fully acknowledged what he had done, he held himself accountable for his action and asked for and received forgiveness. I am like David.

Even with forgiveness there were consequences for David and there were for me too. But even so God stayed with David through it all. He has been with me every day, every minute. He will do the same for you.

Are you hearing the call of temptation or have you already responded to it and desperately want to get out of the stronghold? God is waiting and willing to forgive and bring change to your life.

Go to God.

Acknowledge your sin.

Be forgiven.

Stay with God.

Like he was for King David, God is there for you. Never forget that it was through David, one of God’s “greats” that Jesus was born into this world even though David was a sinner - just like you and just like me.

God redeemed David.

He redeemed me.

He can redeem you too.

 

 

 

Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

Slowdowns on the Road of Life: U-Turns, Side Roads, and Traffic Circles

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Sometimes in life our courses are shifted in directions we did not anticipate. We plan and plan and plan, but no matter how mapped out our route may be, we undoubtedly hit a few bumps along the way, and oftentimes get set off the course entirely. I call these unplanned moments in life “U-Turns”, “Side Roads”, and “Traffic Circles”. It may seem like we’re lost in these moments, but I’d like to suggest a different perspective.

If you take the first letter of each of those words you get UTSRTC. That likely makes no sense to you right now, but I’ll explain how it can be looked at from a different perspective a little bit later to find a hidden meaning. But before we get there, let’s break down each of these moments, and explain what it looks like in our lives.

U-Turns

Sometimes on the road of life, it feels like we start going backwards, or at least like we’re going back to somewhere we’ve already been. Sometimes it feels like we've got a point that we just can't get past, and no matter how hard we try, we keep getting stuck there. Sometimes we’re on our way at full speed, and then life throws a wrench in our plans, bringing us to a screeching halt, seemingly making us lose all of the progress we’ve just made. Other times it’s like a point that we reach over and over, but something (or maybe someone) keeps pulling us back. Or, maybe it’s a decision that we keep coming to, and we struggle to make the choice that moves us past where we keep stopping. Whatever it is, it can be difficult to figure out how to get past these points in our lives.

I call these moments “U-turns”.

Side Roads

When we’re out on our way to a particular destination, sometimes we find ourselves making what feel like “wrong turns”, and it may feel like we’re driving off the beaten path, so to speak. Many times in life it seems as if, even if we’re still moving towards our end destination, we’re either not quite sure where we are, or we’re worried because it feels like our arrival time keeps getting pushed back. Things just seem to not be going according to plans, and we get irritated because the paths we mapped out are not where we currently are. We plan and plan and plan, but it always seems like we hit detours, often times sending us off into the unknown and uncontrollable. These “detours” can be really frustrating, especially when it feels like we’re now headed in the totally wrong direction.

I call these moments “side roads”.

Traffic Circles

With the U-Turns and Side Roads, even though they can be confusing, and we might feel lost, at least we still feel like we’re still moving. However, there are other times in life where we just feel like we’re stuck in an endless loop, never really knowing when we’re going to get out and get going, and sometimes so dizzy from the circling that it feels like we could get sent in a million different directions. Sometimes we've been going around so long, it seems like we'll never get out and get back on track. And even if we did, we've lost sight of which way to go. Maybe these times have been caused by something out of our control, while other times our inability to choose a path has us running in circles trying to figure out which way to go. Another thing that tends to happen in these moments is that we spend so much of our time looking out, trying to figure out which exit to take, that we take our eyes off what's “inside”. We’re so busy looking out, that we never stop and look in.

I call these moments “traffic circles”.

Lost? Or Just Redirected?

Now that we’ve defined these three moments in life when our plans change, we have to decide how we’re going to view them, and then what we’re going to do about it when it happens. For a large majority of people, we like control. We like the feeling that we’re in charge, and when we can’t control something, we typically have one of two responses: fight or flight.

So, when these situations come up, how do you normally respond? Do you spend all your time and effort focused on fighting back, or “road-raging” so to speak? Do you find that when you get stuck, you start blaming other people, situations, and sometimes even God? This is an easy tendency for us. When we lose control, we try to shift the blame away from ourselves. The problem is, we’ve been behind the wheel the whole time, and we’re the only ones to blame. We have no reason to get upset about where we end up based on the choices we’ve made. Granted, things don’t always go as we planned, but we’ve still had to react to our circumstances, and ultimately we make our own decisions. If we’ve been in the driver’s seat, then only we are to blame. Not only can these responses make our situations worse, but often this leads us to hurt those around us. We blame them, or let out our frustration on them, and our “passengers” – those going along life with us, who were never in control of the wheel – they take the brunt of our frustration merely because of proximity.

Other times as a result of uncomfortable situations we try to flee. We don’t know where we are, so we panic and make rash decisions. We make hasty choices in an effort to just get out and go anywhere but where we currently are. The problem is, this usually leads us to get even more lost. It also usually causes us to ignore those around us, which can be just as hurtful as getting angry with them. Usually those closest to us are just trying to help guide us along, and we either ignore them completely because we are so worried about where we’re going, or we don’t take their advice and make our own irrational decisions. And as we get more lost, we get more and more stressed out, sometimes to the point of losing total control and ending up in a wreck on the side of the road, or so lost we feel hopeless of ever getting back on track. 

Choosing Your Path

So, what choice are you going to make the next time you find yourself in one of these kinds of situations? Are you going to panic and flee? Are you going to get angry and blame others? Or, are you going to try a third option?

This third option I’m talking about brings us back to the letters in the beginning: UTSRTC. I told you there was a hidden meaning there. Have you figured it out yet?

If you rearrange the letters, one possible combination ends up being TRUST C, or as I see it, TRUST Christ. If you can learn to not react as you normally would and instead trust Him, then things will turn out a lot better for you. All you have to do is give Jesus the wheel (aka, the control)!

If you’ve ever been a passenger along for a ride, when you’re not the one looking at the map or worried about directions, then for the most part, no matter which way you go, you generally trust that it’s right. It can be the when we trust Jesus. While it may seem scary to give the wheel up, once you relax and realize that he will take you exactly where he wants you to go, then you’ll realize that there’s nothing at all to worry about. However, there’s still some effort on our part, and it’s not as simple as just giving up and letting whatever happens, happen, saying that it is “God’s will”. We still have to hold the wheel. But, like a GPS, if we ask him to, Jesus will be with us every step of the way guiding us to our destinations in life. We still have to step on the gas, and we still have to turn the wheel, but when we are guided by his direction, then we know that every move is taking us exactly along the path that God has planned out for us. We may not always understand where we are going or why, but if we trust, then we know we are always headed in the right direction. 

Letting Go

For many of us, control is everything. I know that in my own life, this is completely true. I’ve had to trust God that he knows where I’m supposed to go, and what I’m supposed to do. Giving up control of the wheel hasn’t been easy, and oftentimes I take it back and think that I have a better way. But I have learned that there’s a certain peace in not having all the answers. There’s a relative calmness in knowing that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be, even though the unknown is always all around me. It’s hard to listen, especially when the world is buzzing and telling me where it thinks I should go. But if I quiet myself and listen, the still, small voice of Jesus is there, guiding me ever onward towards the destinations that he has placed in my path. I don’t have to know where all the stops are, I just have to know that Jesus is moving me onward on my journey, stopping where he wants me to stop, driving past where he wants me to drive past, and meeting people along the way I never would have ever planned to on my own.

If you trust Jesus and let him guide you, your life will happen exactly as it should, and you will be ever more attentive to the beautiful destinations of a perfectly planned journey.

So let go of the control, open your eyes, and breathe in every moment. I promise, it will be worth it!

 

 

 

 

Depression Today...But Hope For Tomorrow

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Depression. Do you have it? I do.

It’s spreading like a virus in our society. It is no respecter of person, or position, title, gender, income, or opinion. It takes hold of a person and darkens their eyes so they can’t see anything but despair. Sometimes it’s circumstantial, and other times it’s biological.

And I haven’t escaped its grip.

It has been a really tough season in my life. And there’s a real possibility that I’ve been dealing with depression for longer than I previously knew. Then with the holidays just passing, life hasn’t been any easier.

For me, depression steals away happiness and joy, replacing it with hopelessness. It’s dark and scary. Others like myself, live with “walking” depression which means that I carry a heavy mental and emotional burden that triggers here and there while I’m at work, driving home, doing homework, and spending time with friends.

Then it strikes. It’s like swimming with weights on your ankles and treading water where you feel like you’re on the edge of drowning, struggling to breathe and survive let alone swim. It doesn’t take much of that to bring me down and make me feel isolated, even if I’m not.

Most of all, it’s exhausting.

When you follow Jesus, depression gets even trickier. It messes with what you thought you have always known, and it makes you doubt what God is able to do. 

Here’s what I mean:

  • I know that God has a plan for my prosperity (Jeremiah 29:11), but it’s not going to look the way you’d expect.
  • I know that God gave us the ultimate gift, but people in my life are going to be selfish and inconsiderate.
  • I know God loves me, but these broken relationships aren’t healing.
  • I know God won’t let me fall, but that doesn’t protect me from facing some really hard challenges.

Do you see the trend? God gives us so much, and yet depression can rob you of everything good in your life. I don’t have the perfect outlook on everything, but reframing the situation is starting to give me a new mentality. It might help you too, if we can embrace it.

  • God has a plan for our prosperity, and today, we are one day closer.
  • God gave us the ultimate gift, and today, our gift from God included waking up with breath in my lungs.
  • God loves us, and the friends around us right now have been chosen specifically for our benefit.
  • God won’t let us fall, and He is with us always, even today.

Personally, I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” solution to depression. Just like there is also no fixed way to serve the Lord. Paul in the Bible talks about different gifts and using them to the glory of the Lord. I’m learning that being a “good” Christian doesn’t necessarily mean that I am working in a church building. Likewise, people living with depression have different levels of depression that shows up in different ways. Fighting the depression also looks different for different people. 

The one idea that God has been pouring into my heart is this idea of “today”.

It’s not too hard to look at my life and circumstances to think the worst and instantly become depressed. Then I remember that the situation looks the way it does only today. And what happens tomorrow? Today, I’m depressed. It’s hard to get out of bed. It’s hard to work on projects, schoolwork, chores, and finishing tasks. But tomorrow is a new day, and there is a hope that something will change. If nothing else, I am certainly closer to seeing something change. 

This hope for a better day is strengthened by Bible. Romans 5:5 says, “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

That’s what realizing this idea of today means to me. It means that I can hang on for tomorrow. I can go on living to see something happen that can change circumstances because God has given us the Holy Spirit. 

Depression today? Yeah. Hope for tomorrow? Even more so.

Confessions of a (Recovering) Control Freak

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My husband is retiring from the military after 32 years of active duty service. This is a big step for both of us. He hasn’t had to apply for a job since he was in high school. And since we’ve been married, he has always known what he was going to do and when he would get promotions. We haven’t really had to worry about our future. Until now.

As for me, I’m a “recovering” control freak, which is a weird trait for a military spouse. But when things get stressful or uncertain, I default to, “If I can control all the things about this, then everything will be okay.”  So, in this journey of my husband transitioning out of the military and into his next position as he continues his career, I have been trying to control freak it. Every day I was trying to gain control of the unknown by asking him if he took this step, or called that person. And I could tell I was stressing him out.

I finally decided that I needed to talk with God about it. I remember the day well. “Lord,” I said, “he is just not doing the things he said he wanted to do. He is stressed out and this is new territory for us. But God…what if he doesn’t get a job after he retires?”

Immediately I felt the Spirit say, “Do you think I can’t take care of you?”

I don’t always get immediate answers from God when I pray. Sometimes I don’t get answers at all. But I have found that when I am earnestly seeking him, or if my thinking needs to be straightened out, sometimes I will feel an answer from him like I did that day.

When I felt that answer, I took a sharp breath in. Yes! I thought. That’s right! God will take care of us now, just like he has taken care of us for all these years.

At that moment, my worry and angst disappeared. I no longer had to ask every day if my husband was taking care of things. Instead, I prayed each day, lifting my husband up in prayer. And instead of pointing out what my husband was or was not doing, I was able to talk about what God was teaching me; that he is still in control and has a good plan for us. We started agreeing that we just needed to look for what God was doing and follow his lead.

We still don’t know what my husband will be doing after his retirement. But we do know that God has been showing us some potential paths. We know that he has a specific plan for us. And we know that God will reveal that plan to us as we follow his lead, pray, and stay in relationship with him.

Now I am constantly reminded to live the truth of Isaiah 30:21, Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  I don’t have to know the path forward because I’m listening to the one who is showing me where to walk. He knows the way forward, and I trust him to show me.

Shifting Focus

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After the holidays, I’m finding our home is filled with stuff. There are piles of new things and the boxes they came in. On top of that, we also have a little baby girl arriving soon. There's so much to get and so much to do! This leads to my wife and I planning how we will get rid of the mess, how to organize the chaos, and find some peace again.

My mind doesn't feel all that different from how my home looks. I find myself in a season of transition and cannot help but think about how things will be changing soon and although we try to plan for it, there will always be something to get, or to clean up, or…who knows. These thoughts turn into worries that are all bouncing around in my head like an old computer screen saver. 

In the same way we are trying to tame the mess in the house, I’m learning I need the wisdom to discern how to address my concerns and worries. I need to decide which ones I need to learn to live with, with the understanding that our Father is taking care of them.

I find encouragement in the close of 1 Peter where he wrote to the early persecuted church, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

I find peace in this not because I can make everything right (there's always a new mess or a worry popping up), but through the knowledge that everything has been made right in Jesus Christ. I find peace in knowing that even if I do not know the path that I should be taking, God does. And Jesus has showed me who I should strive to be in every area of my life.

If you are like me at the start of 2019, trying to take the first steps towards finding peace after a hectic holiday season, I suggest a shift in focus from what we could do to what has already been done.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. - 1 Peter 5:8-11

Posted by Zach Baum with

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