Trust God to Lead You Out of Tough Circumstances

Trust God to Lead You Out of Tough Circumstances!

Some circumstances in your life – such as financial problems, marital difficulties or serious illness – might leave you feeling trapped. But no matter how hopeless your situation might seem, God can and will lead you out of it if you trust Him.

Remember that nothing is impossible for God. He even parted the waters of the Red Sea so the Israelites trapped between the sea and a crowd of hostile Egyptians could emerge victorious from tough circumstances.

Here are some principles to keep in mind when you feel trapped:

  • “Realize that God means for you to be where you are.” Either God led you into your current circumstances, or He allowed them to occur as the result of some choices you made. Remember that His goal is a good one – to build your faith. Also remember that He promises to always be right beside you, no matter what your circumstances.
  • “Be more concerned for God’s glory than for your relief.” When you’re overwhelmed, stop asking how you can get out of your situation. Instead, ask how God can be glorified in it. This will change your perspective so you can see the potential in the situation. Consider what you can do in the midst of your particular situation to bring glory to God, in ways such as thanking Him for ways He has answered your prayers in the past, and praising Him for His character. Understand that God’s plan for how He will deliver you from tough circumstances may be different from what you expect, but that He will do so in the best way.
  • “Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord.” Be aware that you will often have to contend with evil spiritual forces who would like to see you trapped forever, but that you can always overcome them by God’s power. Focus on God rather than worrying about evil. Choose to obey God in even the smallest decisions in your life, striving to be honest and faithful, rather than giving into deceitful temptations that will ultimately make things worse, not better.
  • “Pray!” Pray frequently and specifically about your circumstances, and expect God to answer your prayers.
  • “Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work.” Rather than wasting time and energy trying to solve a problem by yourself, be patient, and trust God to act in His timing. Know that He has a good reason for waiting whenever He chooses to do so.
  • “When unsure, just take the next logical step by faith.” Know that God often guides moment by moment, giving you just enough information to take only the next step forward. Then He often waits to see whether you will take that step before revealing more of what He wants you to do. So show God that you take His guidance seriously by acting on what you already know He wants you to do.
  • “Envision God’s enveloping presence.” Take comfort in the fact that God can transform your past, present, and future. He uses your past failures to help you grow, loves you in the present, and guides you wisely into the future. Visualize God with you right now, and remind yourself that He was with you yesterday and He’ll be with you tomorrow.
  • “Trust God to deliver in His own unique way.” Know that God will choose the best way to deliver you from your current circumstances. Expect Him to act powerfully, working as He often does through ordinary people and events, or even through a supernatural miracle.
  • “View your current crisis as a faith builder for the future.” Choose to believe that God will actually do what He has promised.  Ask God to use your current experiences to build a more mature faith in you, that will serve you well in the future.
  • “Don’t forget to praise Him.” Thank God for what He has already done for you, and demonstrate confidence that He will continue to act in love and wisdom.

Spring Clean Up in Amish Country

This past weekend I got outside for a run for the first time in many months. It was so nice to be outside in God’s creation running along a quiet country road.

I came across a group of Amish as I was running. An Amish man with about 10 children out picking up trash in the field and along the road. I’m sure they were part of the family that owns the farm, and clean up is a part of every Spring for them. They can’t use those fields if it’s full of trash.

It’s amazing to me how many people through bottles, cans and junk out their windows, and litter our neighborhoods, streets and roadways. I guess that’s part of living in this world,  if you’re a land owner part of what needs to happen is cleaning up your property, even if the mess was caused by someone else.

It’s like that in our spiritual and emotional lives as well. Sometimes people litter on us emotionally or spiritually. Maybe it’s saying something hurtful, or doing something abusive to us. Maybe it’s leading us away from our relationship with God, or getting distracted by other things. The reality is our lives are often quite messy, some of it we bring on ourselves, and some is thrown out the window by others, and it lands on us.

So how do we clean up and get rid of the litter? Well, let’s learn from this Amish family.

  1. Acknowledge that you have a mess to clean up – They saw the mess and decided to clean it up. This can be the hardest step because most of us want to bury the mess. The problem is, those buried things keep popping up in our lives. Sometimes it’s buried so deep we need some help uncovering it. Emotional and spiritual hurts that are buried can never heal properly unless they are picked up and thrown out. Pride is often the reason we don’t take this first step.
  2. Build a team – They knew it would go faster with more help. Life is hard, and it’s even harder when we do it alone. Find some people that care about you, and are willing to walk with you through whatever you need to clean up. This should be a small team and you need to be careful, because there are a lot of people that might mean well, but are not helpful. When adding to this team ask these questions. Does this person want what’s best for me? Does this person have a relationship with God that is growing? Will this person keep things confidential? Will this person lift me up or pull me down? Ask God to help you as you surround yourself with the right people.
  3. Get Started – They had to pick a day and just start cleaning.  At some point we have to start making some changes. We can get great counsel and have some great self-awareness, but if we never make any changes or try something new or different, nothing will change. Sometimes we need to just start picking up the trash and throwing it away. It’s in this process that a lot of the growth and healing will happen. It’s having that difficult conversation, asking for forgiveness, forgiving someone else, reading a book, seeing a counselor and doing the homework. If we just keep doing the same old thing, we just keep getting the same old result.
  4. Keep God in the center of it all – This is God’s creation, let’s keep it beautiful. Those first three steps are things we can do to start improving our lives, but this step is really the key to lasting life change. The spiritual side of our lives is the most important, and often the most neglected part of our lives. We try to fix all the junk and yet still feel empty and broken. When we plug into God He transforms, heals, buildings, shapes, restores and renews us. When we bring God into every part of our lives and fully surrender it all to Him it leads to freedom, fulfillment  and wholeness. When we trust God completely, He is faithful and brings the needed transformation in our lives. He is God and we are not.
  5. Once you’ve picked up the trash, choose to throw it away – Once they picked up all the trash it went to the dumpster.  We can actually get comfortable with our junk. Throwing something away can be hard, especially if we’ve been carrying it for years. That’s why having God involved helps so much. The more we trust God the less we rely the junk we’ve held onto, making it easier to pitch it in the trash and not pick it up again.
  6. Stick with it – I’m sure they have to do this once or twice a year. There will be more trash thrown at us, and we need to keep cleaning up every year. If our spiritual lives are thriving, most of the time there is less clean up to do. When we are healthy spiritually and emotionally we have better boundaries in our lives and are much more resilient when things go wrong or get hard.

It’s so helpful to remember that God is for us and He is in us. That combination is amazing, and it leads directly to less trash to pick up. So focus on God and build that level of trust and closeness to Him. Doing that will lead to breakthroughs in other areas of our lives.

If you are ready to start cleaning up, a good place to start is a growing, thriving local church. Find a place where you can connect with God, and other people. Step out of your comfort zone and take some risks to grow spiritually, that’s the best way to clean up the junk and change your life.

 

Love and Serve

When a natural disaster hits, peoples lives can change in an instant. Hurricanes, tornado’s, floods and winter storms are all fairly common, and it can seem like it’s not that big of deal ,unless your in the middle of it.

I’m part of an incredible organization called Eight Days of Hope,  that helps in these times of disaster, and brings hope into people’s lives when they are feeling hopeless. When you look into the eyes of a person that just lost everything it breaks your heart. Many are still in shock and are overwhelmed with the thought of what do I do now?

Eight Days of Hope started after Hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi and Louisiana. Since that first trip in 2005 they have done 16 major rebuilding events all over the country.

Eight Days of Hope has successfully restored or rebuilt 2,760 homes following natural disasters since 2005. Volunteers from all 50 states and ten countries have worked over 1,067,425 hours during the first fifteen rebuilding events alone. To date, Eight Days of Hope has completed over $44.8 million dollars of work – for free!

Eight Days of Hope comes in after much of the clean up has happened, and works with local churches, government agencies, and non-profits to help people in need. Many people don’t have insurance or enough insurance to rebuild, that is where 8DOH helps.

They also started an emergency response division that goes immediately after a disaster to clean up, and bring immediate hope to a community. This involves cutting up trees and removing debris and even gutting homes. The first trip was in Buffalo NY after a major snow storm. Volunteers went and shoveled snow and dug people out. The Rapid Response team has traveled to 19 different communities and has blessed 1,870 families within three days of the disaster! .

Thousands of people have been impacted by 8DOH. The thing that is most important to know about 8DOH is that they focus on bringing the love of Jesus Christ to the people they serve. There is an emphasis on praying with homeowners and taking the time to listen to their stories and show them love and respect. Many people have come to a relationship with Christ or renewed their commitment to Christ as a result of people loving and serving them.

The people that volunteer with 8DOH are from all over the country and from all kinds of churches. That is the beauty of 8DOH, it’s Christians from all over the country coming together to be the church to people that desperately need some hope.

That is why Eight Days of Hope exists, to show the love of Jesus Christ to people that are feeling hopeless and helpless. To love and to Serve.

You can be a part of 8DOH by volunteering to go on a trip or by making a donation to support the ministry or one of the full-time missionaries.

Watch the year-end summary video to learn more about what 8DOH does.

 

A Wise Woman

I’ve grown up with wise spiritual women in my life. Both of my grandmothers were faithful believers and prayed faithfully for their family. My mother Susie is also a strong wise woman that faithfully prays, serves and leads in her church. She prays for me and my two brothers and our families every day.

My wife Vikki is such an inspiration with the way she faithfully serves others. I see her serving our neighbors, our friends, in our church at multiple campuses, and of course serving me. She is dependable, reliable and gets things done.

I also had a strong woman that came into my life and helped me in ministry.  Wilma learned quickly, grew spiritually and became a leader and wise woman to many people.  She helped build a large team of mentors at our church, that’s still going strong today.  Many of the women she poured into are now leading ministries and other people.

During my five plus years at NewPointe Millersburg, while I was Campus Pastor, I had several women that consistently prayed for me, encouraged me and listened to me.  Linda, Elaine and Beth have been such a blessing to me and many others.  There are many other women that I’ve served with, worked with and been around that are wise spiritual leaders.  I’m so grateful for how God has placed these women into my life at just the right times.

The Bible is filled with many amazing women that we read about, like Mary,Sarah, Ruth, Esther & Abigail.  But I want to share a story about an unnamed wise woman that saved a city.  We don’t know her name but she was an amazing woman.

The story is found in 2 Samuel 20.  Let me set up the story for you.  This is during the time of King David.  Davids own son Absalom, had rebelled against him and they go to battle and his son is killed in battle.  David is devastated and mourning the loss of his son.  Another man sees an opportunity to rebel against the King.  His name is Sheba, and he stirs up a group of people that want to over throw King David.  King David finds out about this plan and he send his military leader Joab after Sheba, they chase him and his followers to a city called Abel.  We pick up the story in verse 15:

Joab and his troops came and surrounded Abel, so that no one could go in or come out. They made a dirt ramp up to the town wall and then started to use a battering ram to knock the wall down.

A wise woman shouted from the top of the wall, “Listen to me! Listen to me! I have to talk to Joab! Tell him to come here!” 17 When he came, the woman said, “Are you Joab?”

“Yes, I am,” he answered.

She said, “Please, listen to what I have to say.”

“All right,” he said. “I’ll listen.”

18 She said, “Long ago people used to say, ‘If you want good advice, go to the town of Abel to get it.’ The answers they got here were all that was needed to settle any problem. 19 We are Israelites, and we want peace! You can trust us. Why are you trying to destroy a town that’s like a mother in Israel? Why do you want to wipe out the Lord’s people?”

20 Joab answered, “No, no! I’m not trying to wipe you out or destroy your town! 21 That’s not it at all. There’s a man in your town from the hill country of Ephraim. His name is Sheba, and he is the leader of a rebellion against King David. Turn him over to me, and we will leave your town alone.”

The woman told Joab, “We will throw his head over the wall.”

22 She went to the people of the town and talked them into doing it. They cut off Sheba’s head and threw it to Joab.

Joab blew a signal on his trumpet, and the soldiers returned to their homes. Joab went back to David in Jerusalem.”

Here are my takeaways from this amazing story:

  • God uses wise women leaders to bring peace and solve problems.  It can be very helpful to have a woman’s perspective when trying to solve problems and make peace.
  • This wise woman was more concerned about the people around her than herself.  Wise women are selfless and have a heart for the people they serve. They willingly sacrifice of themselves and put themselves in danger in order to help those around them.
    • I have seen countless women loving, leading and serving their families , friends, extended family and still running businesses, households and church ministries.
  • This women had influence and was able to lead the entire community to make a hard decision.  Wise women can mobilize people to get things done, and make a difference.
  • She was decisive and moved quickly once she knew what had to be done.  A wise women does not procrastinate, she has too many things to get done.
  • This wise women did what she said she would do.  She was confident and knew what steps were needed to solve the problem.  She was a woman of solid character.
  • She was direct and to the point.  She went straight to the leader found out what the problem was and then put a plan together and made it happen quickly.  I love that!

So to all the women, this is a message of encouragement to be bold and lead.  Seek God with all your heart, get healthy spiritually & emotionally and see how God will use you to make a difference.  Lead right where you are, in your family, your workplace, your community, your city and your church.

To all the men, appreciate the gifts God has given to the women around you.  If you don’t have some strong, wise women in your life ask God to bring them around you.  They will make your family, ministry, organization and community a better place.  If you have wise women in your life be sure to thank them and appreciate them.

Lead On!

5 Principles For Dealing With Change

Things around us are always changing.  Think about your job and the number of changes that have happened in the last 3 months.  How about the stores that you like to shop at or the restaurants that you enjoy eating at.  Even the roads that we drive on are changing.  I’ve hit a few huge potholes lately!  In all these areas, things are either changing for the better or the worse.  Things are either deteriorating or being improved.

One area that is in constant change is the people around us and relationships we have.  People are constantly changing, lets face it we are emotional beings and so there are lots of ups and downs for all of us.  People are complicated and difficult, and yet we need people and relationships in our lives in order to thrive.

So when it comes to all this change around us how do you not get totally stressed out and just give up.

I’d like to give you five simple principles that can help you navigate the changes going on in your life or to help create positive changes in your life.

  1. Control the Controllable – Most of things around us, and all of the people around us are out of our control.  If we do try to control the things or people around us we add additional stress to everyone’s lives.  This principle brings the focus back to us and what we need to do, and what we can control.  We can control what we say; what we do; what we focus on; who we listen to; what we study; what we learn; what boundaries we set; what we spend and where we spend it.  We control what and when we eat, how much sleep we get and the amount of exercise we get.  The choices and decisions we make are within our control.  What other people say or do is out of our control, but we are in control of how we respond.
  2. Monitor the Conversations in Your Head – We talk to ourselves more than anyone else.  Those conversations are what I like to call narratives or stories that get replayed over and over again.  Our internal conversations come from past experiences, things we have learned or picked up along the the way.  For many people those conversations or stories are not as positive as they should be.  Those conversations with ourselves lead to decisions, choices, words spoken and outward behavior whether good or bad.  So start being more aware of what you are telling yourself.  Start to question if it’s really true, maybe you are believing a lie or deceiving yourself.  Maybe you need to start a new story.
  3. Ask Questions & Ask for Help – If you don’t understand something or someone it’s always a good practice to ask questions with the intent of wanting to understand.  What goes right along with this is to listen well.  When you ask good questions and then listen intently you can avoid a lot of misunderstandings and mistakes.  A great practice is to repeat back to the person what you heard them say.  Ask clarifying questions if you need to.  Fear keeps us from asking questions or asking for help.  When you are struggling in any area of life it is wise to ask for help.  There are other people that have gone through what you are going through or have helped others with similar things.  So ask honest, sincere questions to help you fully understand what the other person is saying or asking you to do.  Also ask for help if you don’t know how to do something or you are stuck in an area of your life.
  4. Keep Growing – The books you read and the people you meet will determine the kind of life you will have.  The people that are constantly growing, learning and interacting with other people have the most influence in this world.  Put a plan together of what books you want to read and the people you want to meet or reconnect with.  Make sure you are growing intellectually, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually.
  5. Make Your Faith a Priority – The one thing that I believes helps us the most when it comes to handling change is faith.  The Christian faith has been what has guided me for most of my life.  Learning from Jesus Christ has been the biggest help in making good decisions, handling stress and change, and dealing with all the relationships in my life.  Make growing in your faith a high priority and many of these other things will fall into place.

Doing these five things will bring your stress level down, improve your work and relationships and bring more contentment and joy to your life.  Life will never be perfect, but it can be better.