Problem or Possibility?

Are you facing a “Problem,” or a “Possibility”?

How you see the situations you face in life will determine how you respond and where you go for advice.

Your response will reveal who and what you put your faith in.

What if you no longer saw your situation as a “problem,” but instead chose to see it as a “possibility”?

The definition of a “problem” is; a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome and needing to be dealt with and overcome.

The definition of a “possibility” is; a chance that something might exist, happen, or be true.

“Problems” are viewed as “bad.” They need immediate attention to be gotten rid of as quickly as possible. “Problems” are often reacted to out of emotion that comes from your own understanding, your past experiences, your fears…

“Problems” keep you striving to fix the “bad.”

“Problems” keep you looking for solutions.

“Possibilities” hold within them a chance that something good will come from the situation. Seeing your situation as a “possibility” enables you to look past the “bad” and choose to believe that this is something God is working together for your good. “Possibilities” bring hope into an unwanted situation.

Possibilities cause you to search after the good.  

Possibilities cause you to seek God for answers.

These verses are God’s answer to how we should view life situations…

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

God doesn’t want you to handle your own problems.

God wants you to look to Him for the good, the possibilities, in the situations you face.

God doesn’t see problems, only possibilities!

When I face a situation God tells me to “Rejoice in the Lord.” It’s hard to rejoice and freak out at the same time, but I’ve been known to, so maybe that is why He tells me to “Rejoice” twice! When I choose to fully rejoice in God a miracle happens in my heart, and in my thoughts! Rejoicing brings me into God’s presence and I realize He is at hand, that He is right there with me in the midst of whatever I am facing. I can trust that God sees and God knows, and because He is for me, He intends good to come to me from this. Rejoicing in God’s presence causes the “bad” to fade and allows me to see see the “good” my Good Father intends!

“My child, never forget the things I have taught you.
Store my commands in your heart. If you do this, you will live many years, and your life will be satisfying.” Proverbs 3:1-2

God tells me that His commands are to be stored in my heart so I will live a satisfying life. All of God’s words are meant for my good, they are life to me. So, when He tells me to, “Be anxious for nothing,”  I need to obey. Anxiety is sin. Anxiety is fear based, it is from the lies of Satan, and it has harmful consequences both physically and spiritually. Instead of being anxious, I am to pray about the situation, to ask Him for what I need, and to thank Him for how He intends to bring good from it. This means prayer, and asking with thanksgiving is to be my FIRST response. I’m not to freak out, take things into my own hands, and when everything I have tried or the advice of others doesn’t work… then decide to pray.

God loves me so much that He doesn’t want me to take care of my own “problems.” It is in those difficulties that God wants me to come to Him and talk to Him about it. He longs for me to bring everything that concerns me to Him, because He cares for me. He knows I can’t live life on my own, He never intended for me to. He created me for relationship and that relationship includes walking through life together. Rejoicing in Him, talking to Him, and thanking Him for whatever I’m going through shows I love and trust Him in return. It shows I know I can’t do anything on my own, but when I abide with Him, He will take care of me. He doesn’t put any restrictions on what I ask of Him. He just wants to spend time with me and He promises to work all the things I face together for the good.

God wants you to give Him your impossibilities, to see them as possibilities, so that He can make them realities!

And that is when the peace, that amazing, wonderful peace of God, comes and takes away my fear, my anxiety, and the “bad” of my problem. It is the peace of God that guards my heart and my mind and keeps me calm. It allows my heart to trust that God knows and understands exactly how I’m feeling and what I am going through. It quiets my mind from my own thoughts and worries so I can hear what God has to say. When I give God a chance to show me His perspective it changes the way I view my situation, and I begin to see the possibility of the good that is attached to it.

God takes my impossibilities and begins to exchange them with His possibilities!

God takes the heavy weight off my shoulders and carries it in His loving, capable hands. Once the heaviness is gone I’m free to receive His instructions with a heart that trusts God and a mind that is willing to do what He tells me to. I find that the unwanted situation is the very thing that God intends to make me better, it’s the very opportunity to bring good into the situation!

A “problem” handed over to God becomes a “possibility.” 

A “possibility” in God’s hands brings calm to your heart and to your mind.

A calm heart and mind trusts God to work your “bad,” together for “good.” 

No matter what you are facing today, choose to see it as a possibility, because God is a Good, Good, Father, and you are loved by Him!!

I’ve often thought that writing this blog is as much for me as it is for any one else…this morning when I woke up and looked at my phone, I found a “problem.” My mind began to consider all the “bad” of this situation and how I should respond. Then I remembered what I wrote yesterday, here on this blog. I decided that if I really believed what I wrote I needed to put it into practice. I worked my way through the verses in Philippians, applied them to my “problem,” and found that it worked! The “problem” hasn’t gone away, but I now see it as a “possibility” and I’m trusting God to take care of it and bring the good He intends from it.

Who’s Advice?

Where do you go for advice?

A family member?

A friend?

A doctor?

A book?

Google?

I guess it really depends on what kind advice you need. It’s natural to go to someone who is familiar with the situation that you need advice about.

I’m thankful for family, friends, counselors, doctors, and many others who have helped me through situations in my life. They have provided answers, ideas, and medical help that have truly made a difference in my life.

But, as I’ve been reading through Matthew 16, I am beginning to reconsider who I go to for advice.

From the Pharisees knowing how to interpret the weather signs, but not understanding what God was doing in their midst, to the disciples thinking they needed to be careful of the bread the Pharisees ate, not realizing it was about their false teachings, and Peter hearing the truth from God one moment, but then responding from his own feelings and emotions the next moment; it seems it comes natural to respond from our own understanding. To respond to situations from a human view point.

Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 16:22 that Peter’s response was not based on good advice.

Advice given from a human point of view will hinder the work of God.

How often have I given advice to others from my own understanding. How often have I spoken from a view point that wanted to protect others and wanted to help them, when I was actually hindering the work God wanted to do in their lives?

Jesus was telling His disciples that He needed to suffer, die, and be raised again. It wasn’t a good plan, but it was a necessary plan.

Jesus went on to teach them a lesson from the example He was going to experience Himself.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Matthew 16:24-26

Like Peter, we view life situations through our feelings and emotions. We look to others who feel the same way we do and ask for their advice. We go to those who have studied what we are going through and expect them to be able to give us answers. We look out for our own well-being and success by searching out all we can and applying it to our lives. With the internet there is so much we can figure out for ourselves. There is so much knowledge available to us.

But…

Is all that knowledge and advice helping us to handle life situations better?

Is the counsel we receive resolving relational issues?

Are we less stressed and healthier?

If anything, the more information, advice, and counsel the world has to offer only makes us more confused, adds more strain to relationships, and increases stress.

I believe there is a lesson tucked into these verses that Jesus told His disciples.

Jesus was demonstrating the importance of not trying to save your own life. 

Though Jesus was about to face something very difficult, He knew His heavenly Father loved Him very much and no matter what He faced He could trust His Father had a good plan and would take care of Him.

God’s view point was what mattered!

Trust in God’s view point enables you to give up your own way. 

Peter’s response is what many do today. When we see a difficult situation we try to save our lives. We try to escape all the things in our lives that we don’t like. We ask others for advice and answers to fix our problems.

But, what if trying to avoid situations, or looking for advice to fix our problems are “our own way” that Jesus tells us to give up? What if all our searching and running after answers is what Jesus calls, “hanging onto your own life”? What if we spend our lives trusting in the answers the world gives only to find we have lost our lives, and our souls?

Sometimes I think we forget who we are. We say we are Christians, but are we really living like Christ? 

Because we have been created in God’s image to be loved by Him we can trust that He understands the situations we face better than we ever could, and that He has the best advice available!

As God’s precious children, we have a relationship with the One who knows us perfectly, who never leaves us or forsakes us, and who promises to provide everything we need!

As a member of God’s family we have access to our heavenly Father who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above, and beyond what we could ever think or imagine!

Why would we rely only on people whose understanding is limited to their experiences and by their human point of view when we have access to One who says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)

Why would we spend hours on the internet to find answers and neglect the answers we can find in the truth of God’s word?

Corrie Ten Boom, in her book, The Hiding Place, wrote of the way her father handled fixing a watch he didn’t know how to fix. He would pray and ask God to show him how to fix it and then he went to bed, and during his sleep God would show him in a dream how to fix the watch!

This is the same God we serve!

Do we give God a chance to give us advice?

Do we trust that He knows what is best for us and choose to listen to His voice only?

Are we patient enough to wait for Him to answer us?

Do we like to spend time alone with Him and are we willing to receive His answer even if it isn’t what we want or expect?

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus cried out three times begging His Father to find another way. He didn’t get the answer He wanted. Jesus could have called ten thousand angels to save His life, but He chose to submit to His Father’s will and for the joy set before Him He endured the cross.

Like God’s response to Jesus’ plea in the Garden, it seems God rarely takes us out of a situation. He rarely gives us instructions of how to make the situation go away. But, instead, He often shows us the attitude of our hearts that needs to be realigned to His will and as we die to our selves, we find He gives us the grace and the strength to endure the difficult situation and come through it better than we were before.

Jesus calls you to follow Him…

Jesus wants you to trust His advice…

because there is nothing worth more than saving your soul!

Who’s View Point?

I’ve had a change of perspective towards blue jays. I used to see them as “bad.” When they came to my feeder they took over. They scared the smaller birds and the seed they sent falling to the ground seemed like such a waste. But, this past winter I have noticed something I’ve never realized before. Yes, they still do scare the smaller birds, but the “wasted” seed they send falling to the ground is actually “good!” There are many birds that don’t eat from the feeder. They prefer to eat seed on the ground. So, the “bad” blue jays are actually doing a “good” thing!

Two weeks ago I wrote about some verses in Matthew 16 when Jesus warned His disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, their false teachings. Using the analogy of yeast Jesus warned them that…

a false teaching, no matter how small, can permeate your entire life. 

Jesus’ warning implied it was more dangerous to “eat” false teachings than to have forgotten to bring bread along to eat.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were from a long line of religious leaders who over the years had added many man-made laws to God’s original ten. While God had added some more to His first ten, the religious leaders put fences around the fences. These laws came from their own point of view, not from the heart of God.

In Matthew 16 right after Jesus’ warning about the yeast of the Pharisees, there is an example of how differently man’s view point is compared to God’s.

Jesus asked the disciples who they think He is and Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus affirmed his answer and said, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.”

But just a few minutes later when Jesus told them that He was going to suffer and die Peter once again spoke up and said, “Heaven forbid, Lord, This will never happen to you!” This time Jesus rebuked him and said,  “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Peter, a follower of Jesus, who had spent about three years listening to truth, and who had just spoken the truth of who Jesus was, now said something that was false. He said something that came from a human point of view.

Human point of view equals false teaching; and that, Jesus says, comes from Satan.

This human point of view was what Jesus was warning His disciples to stay away from.

This human view point was what the religious leaders had made many of their laws and teachings from.

This human view point brought out the righteous anger in Jesus. There were many time Jesus rebuked the religious leaders; calling them blind guides, hypocrites, and whitewashed tombs – clean on the out side but filled with dead man’s bones.

This human view point was why Jesus rebuked Peter, calling it Satan and telling that viewpoint, that trap, to get behind Him.

These conversations between Jesus and Peter illustrate the warning Jesus just gave to His disciples, and to us as well.

When you believe in God, listen to His voice of truth. and align your view points according to His truth you will be blessed. You will have everything you need. You won’t need to worry about your physical needs because God promises to provide.

But, if you allow your view point to come from your own understanding; from your feelings and emotions, then your thoughts, words, and actions will be from Satan, and they will trap you and hinder the work of God.

When Peter heard all that Jesus was going to go through I believe his emotions welled up and he couldn’t bear to hear all the “bad” things that were going to happen to Him. As a good friend he felt he needed to stop all the “bad” and he would do all he could to keep Jesus safe.

Recently God asked me to ponder my view of “bad.” I have realized my view point is often swayed by how I feel and my feelings and emotions call things “bad,” but I’m wondering if Jesus is shaking His head and saying the same thing to me that He said to Peter.

What Jesus was describing to His disciples was obviously very “bad.” No body would consider suffering and death “good.” Yet, Jesus called Peter’s view point “bad,” and said that there was another way to see it from, the view point of God.

Today, we see their conversation from this side of the suffering and death. We realize the “good” of it all. We understand that Peter’s point of view was “bad”, for if Jesus hadn’t suffered and been crucified we would have no hope.

But, for Peter, at the time I’m sure it was difficult to accept something that looked so “bad” could actually be “good.” To be reprimanded probably offended Peter.

“What do You mean? Jesus, You Just called me blessed!”

“I’m not Satan, and why do I need to get behind You?”

“Don’t You care that I’m just looking out for You?” 

It’s the contrast of these two statements from Peter that shows the distinct difference of view points.

And it’s the contrast of Jesus’ responses that shows the importance of having a view point that comes from God.

When I see a “bad” situation based on my human view point it stirs up fear. That fear is what stirs my emotions and feelings to control and manipulate to keep the “bad” from happening. I become trapped in the “bad,” not realizing I don’t need to stay trapped.

I can choose to put the view point of my flesh behind me and look to God to see it from His.

When I choose to look to God for His view point I will hear the truth. It isn’t often the point of view I want to hear because it goes against my feelings and emotions, but if I choose to obey I find His grace to help me and I find the freedom and blessing that comes from obedience.

Maybe there really aren’t “good” and “bad” things, just “things” that God works together for the good!

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

 

 

Life is like a puzzle

I love doing puzzles! What is it about a box full of little cut up pieces of cardboard that creates in me an excitement and a challenge to bring order to the chaos? What is it about puzzle pieces laying on a table that call out to me to put them together? I can spend hours looking for the right pieces and enjoy seeing the picture come together! Very satisfying!

As a puzzler, I find I rarely choose my own puzzles. They seem to be something often given to me as a gift.

As you can see my family knows what I like. They have chosen many puzzles with a similar theme. I love the pictures on these boxes and have enjoyed putting them together. But everyone who has put a puzzle together from the beginning to the end knows some of the challenges involved. And perhaps it is the overcoming of these challenges that brings so much satisfaction.

I have received puzzles that I have never done because I  decided just by looking at the picture on the box lid that I wouldn’t enjoy doing it. An experienced puzzler will be able to see from the picture the ratio of exciting colorful pieces to the boring, mundane pieces. I enjoy puzzles with lots of colors, and lots of details that keep me searching for the different pieces. Those scenic pictures with much sky, tress, water… and their boxes filled with blue, gray, brown, green pieces that all look alike just don’t seem worth my time and effort. How often have I wanted to give up on a puzzle once I ran out of the interesting pieces?

Along with the challenge of boring pieces there are also pieces that are cut the same, or so much so that I put them in the wrong place. Their shape and color are so close that I don’t even realize it. But obviously there is only one correct place for each piece. And if I make a mistake it will catch up with me. I can leave a piece in the wrong place for a long time. But, I won’t be able to fit any other piece until I realize my mistake and remove the wrong one!

And that’s why the box lid of the puzzle is always laying right beside a puzzle in progress. All puzzlers know the importance of having the box lid close by. The picture on the lid gives guidance; it shows the complete picture, the colors, and the details that help to fit the pieces properly.

And so, how do I see life as a puzzle?

First of all, like most of my puzzles, my life has been given to me as a gift. Created in God’s image I had the free will to choose His gift of eternal life through faith in His Son, Jesus. By placing my faith in Jesus, I have received a uniquely designed box lid, a picture of my life, that God has created and designed for me. And within the box are the pieces that will form my life; all the exciting, the boring, and the difficult pieces that are intended to come together into the beautiful picture God created.

The only rule in doing a puzzle is to put each piece exactly where it belongs. So, while there is freedom as to which pieces are placed when, there is a strict rule about where. The pieces must be put in just the right place or the entire puzzle will be affected and it won’t look the same as the picture on the lid. It’s interesting that in the freedom I have my usual strategy is to complete the edge first. I look for all the straight edged pieces to complete the boarder. The chaos of a box full of pieces causes me to want to bring some order, some control. Hum, how often I respond the same when my life is in chaos, but I have found that life doesn’t often fit into a nice straight rectangle.

After completing the boarder I’m drawn to the colorful parts of the puzzle. The bright colored pieces and those with unique detail catch my eye. They are easy to spot, are fun to find, and come together quickly. I’m actually somewhat disappointed when I finish them. This too is like my life. I really enjoy the good, fun, and interesting seasons, but like the puzzle they pass too quickly, and when they come to an end I miss them and regret that they are over, never to be experienced in the same way again.

That is when, with almost every puzzle, comes the boring, mundane, but necessary pieces. These pieces are all the same color. They are hard to distinguish from each other. They require a closer look. They slow down my progress. Yet, they have purpose in the big picture. They hold the colorful parts together, and set them off so they are easily seen. So, too, those boring, mundane seasons have their purpose in the big picture of life. The same old thing, day after day; the same job that doesn’t bring fulfillment, the same broken relationship that never improves, those same problems that never get resolved… these boring and seemingly never changing pieces give opportunity to become the very pieces that require me to focus on them more intently. I need to look at them closely, and study them in order to know just where to place them. They are the pieces that cause me to look closer at the box lid, to see God’s perspective of my life. How would He have me to respond to these “same old things?” “God, what changes should I make to find fulfillment in my job?”  “God, show me how to bring reconciliation to the broken relationship.” “God, show me the sin in my heart that is keeping these problems working in my life.”

And once in awhile there are those pieces that are so similar that I put them in the wrong places. The piece looks right, for awhile it seems right, but eventually it becomes evident it’s not right. And so my life has had its share of misplaced pieces. I have been deceived and have believed lies about myself that put a wrong piece into my thinking which left me stuck in shame for years, striving and comparing myself to others. I put in the wrong piece of jealousy and became stuck with a judgmental and critical spirit. I put in pieces of bitterness, grumbling, and complaining and was stuck with pain in my elbow and knee. But, once enough time had gone by and I couldn’t find any other pieces to fit next, I finally took a closer look and realized my mistake. It is as easy as taking out the wrong piece and putting in the right piece that gets me unstuck. And that is what I’ve found true in life. When I realized I was stuck in shame, jealousy, judging, and bitterness it was only a matter of confessing my sin, receiving God’s forgiveness through the blood of Jesus, and replacing it with the truth of what God’s word says! Then I became unstuck! Then I could continue on with the puzzle of my life.

You have been uniquely created by the Master Puzzle Maker and He has given you a gift, a puzzle box filled with pieces; colorful, exciting, boring, mundane, similar and unique, all intended for the two of you to put the pieces together into the beautiful picture He has created of you!

Don’t leave your life in the box believing it is too boring or too difficult; thinking it’s not the picture you would choose.

Don’t look at the box lids of others, wishing you had theirs because they look more interesting and exciting than yours.

And don’t try to do your puzzle on your own, without looking at the correct box lid for guidance.

Pick up your puzzle box, filled with all the pieces of chaos and invite God to come and guide you as you fit all the pieces together to form the beautiful picture He created for you to become!

 

 

 

It’s Not about the Bread!

Mark and I are part of a teen / young adult community Bible study that meets each week. While going through the book of Matthew this year I have been reminded to reset my perspectives from the world’s ways to God’s ways.

The Gospels are good plumb lines for life!

Jesus came to show us God the Father through His teachings, by the stories He told, and through the miracles He performed. Jesus taught both to the mind and to the heart so that we wouldn’t just know about God, but so that we would know God.

God has given us free will and we have the freedom to know about God or to know God.

Jesus came to teach us the difference.

We have the choice to allow our faith to go from our minds to our hearts.

When we believe with our minds we will try to follow God’s commands in our own power, we are limited by our own understanding, we have a work-based faith that keeps us focused on our own efforts to please God.

The religious leaders always challenged Jesus’ teachings because He didn’t do the works they did. But Jesus didn’t come to do away with the Law, He came to fulfill it.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were examples of those who  believed in God and obeyed the Law, but their hearts were far from Him.

The Old Testament shows God’s love and blessing for His people. It shows that He is for His people and is able to supernaturally care for them and protect them from their enemies. But, it also shows we can’t live an obedient life on our own. No matter how many rules we obey, we can’t measure up to God’s standards. We needed a Savior!

Now, in the New Testament, we have the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus. Jesus spent three years reprogramming the disciples, teaching them it isn’t about the letter of the Law, but about the condition of the heart.

We don’t obey God to earn His love.

We are loved by God and therefore we obey.

I’m thankful that the disciples were so much like me! Jesus used the every day situations they faced together as teaching opportunities for His disciples and then had them written down so we can learn from them as well.

Matthew 16:5-12

“Later, after they crossed to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any bread. “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 

Jesus heard His disciples’ concern about having no bread to eat and chose to use this as a teaching opportunity. When they heard Jesus’ warning about yeast they thought there was something wrong with the bread of the Pharisees. They became upset that they wouldn’t have anything to eat and began to blame each other for not packing lunches.

This causes me to consider how I respond to the teachings of Jesus in light of the situations I face. How do I interpret Jesus’ teachings? How do I apply them to my life?

Jesus didn’t give a list of do’s and don’ts. He used the physical things of this world to teach spiritual lessons.

When Jesus heard their response, their arguing about not having bread to eat, He said, You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread?

What was it about their response that showed their faith was little?

Lack brought fear.

Fear brought arguing.

Arguing limits faith.

Then Jesus said something that I’m sure He says to me so often, “Don’t you understand even yet?”

Jesus specifically chose those twelve men to be with Him 24/7 so He could teach them all they needed to know so that when He completed His work here on earth and went back to heaven they would be able to carry out the Gospel to all the world.

Jesus wanted them to get it!

Jesus wants us to get it!

He took this moment to review several lessons He had recently taught them…

“Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up?”

Jesus reminded them that they need not worry about their physical bread. He reminded them that they didn’t need to be afraid of not having anything to eat. He had already told them in the Sermon on the Mount that they weren’t to worry about their food, that as He feeds the birds, He will feed them. He showed them at the feeding of the crowds, He is able to take the little they have and produce more than enough.

Jesus was teaching them that faith in Him is meant to eliminate all fear of lack, and bring complete trust for all their needs.

Jesus was teaching them to look past the obvious, and look at the deeper meaning. 

Jesus was teaching them that their hearts are more important than their bodies.

“Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread.”

What is it about our thinking that is keeping us from understanding Jesus?

Jesus wants us to think like Him.

Jesus wants us to have faith to see things from His perspective.

“So again I say, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’” 

Jesus is so patient with us. How many times has He needed to tell us again? He understands we are prone to see things from an earthly perspective, but He wants us to get it. God wants us to fully understand what He is saying to us, not just to know it in our minds, but to understand it with our hearts so that we live in His truth. He is relentless to remove all fear and doubt so that they don’t keep us distracted with the things we become consumed over or argue about. He wants to develop our faith so that we are willing to hear and understand the deeper meaning that will truly help sustain us, even more than our daily bread!

Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

This time they got it!