The Stresses of Life…Best Handled with Faith

It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it. Lou Holtz

I planned for today’s post to be on stress…because we all have it. I see the effects of stress and its influence on health almost every day as I work with clients and patients.

This morning, I came across this article and a smile immediately lit my face! The minute I read it, I knew I needed to share it! I hope as you read it, it will reach down into your heart and help you understand that God loves us deeply and that the trials and stresses we experience in life are not punishments, they are opportunities for us to get to know our Creator a little better and grow our faith in him!

Olympic Gold Medalist Scott Hamilton: Trials are God’s Opportunities for Us

Scott Hamilton recently spoke at the RootsTech, the largest family history and genealogy conference in the world, sponsored in part by FamilySearch.

Scott Hamilton is arguably the most popular figure skater of all times, a best-selling author and Olympic gold medalist, so he must have glided right through life without a hard fall, right?

Not so. In those days when newspapers took personal ads that included a short description of yourself, he joked with a friend that his would look something like this if he were to be 100% honest: “Short, bald, half-neutered, chemoed, surgically-repaired, retired male figure skater of unknown ethnic origin seeks beautiful woman for long walks, laughter and an interest in my hobby of collecting life-threatening illnesses.”

“Believe it or not,” he said, “I got a taker.”

“I’ had my darkest years when I was at the top of my good fortune,” he admits, but he came to believe that trials are actually “God’s scheduled opportunities for us,” and he speaks of his life, which has been riddled with challenges, with humor and faith and a good will that is contagious.

Scott was adopted at six weeks of age by “an amazing family.” “You know that’s me,” he jokes, pointing to a newborn photo of himself. “Same hairline.”

His parents wanted a big family, but every time his mother was pregnant, she’d carry the baby to full-term and then have a still-born. “My mom was the center of my universe. She was the best woman I’ve ever known,” he said. “She was the driving force in my family.”

His sister looked at him when his parents brought him home and said, “He’s not very cute. Can you take him back and exchange him for another baby?”

“A lot of people thought I looked like my Mom,” Scott said, “and she would say, you always resemble the ones you love the most.”

“We’d celebrate that I was adopted every day,” Scott said. Later in life when children would tease him about being adopted, he’d say, “Yes, I was adopted. My parents chose me. Your parents got stuck with whatever came out.”

He had a beautiful family situation, he said, with frequent interactions with his grandparents. Yet, the variety of illnesses that would plague him through his life began as a child. He said, “I always joke that the counter that’s in your kitchen that the children run under all the time, and you know that one day they are going to bash their heads because they’ve grown taller, that never happened to me.” He was sick and small and as a man only grew to be 5’4’’.

“I was on this never-ending journey of hospitals,” he said. His parents even went back to his birth parents to see if they could solve the health mystery, but it was a mystery that never was solved. Finally the doctors said, “We have no idea what’s going on. We just think you need to go home and live a normal life,” he said. “My parents were just shattered and exhausted from this four-year adventure” going from hospital to hospital.”

During these many hospital visits, Scott’s Mom slept in the chair in the corner of the room and was under a great deal of stress. Finally, the doctor suggested to them that they needed a morning off and that the university offered classes at a new ice skating rink every Saturday morning. “Put him in those classes and he will be well supervised,” the doctor assured them.

When he got to the rink, he was excited to be with well kids, but was still wearing a nose tube because of the supplement that he wouldn’t drink. No one would have figured him for a future gold medalist.

“As I started to skate my health got better. They couldn’t figure out why,” said Scott. “There was never a chance that I would be anything but a skater. That was going to be my life.

“The problem with that was I wasn’t very good. I failed tests all the time, and I didn’t have any focus. There was this thing called compulsory figures that I just couldn’t stand doing. It was boring and I hated it, so of course I wasn’t very good at it. I plodded along, and plodded along. I would do ok in a competition and then fall and only did all right.

“If you are a female figure skater and you medal, you’re really good. If you are male figure skater and you don’t medal you probably should be doing something else,” Scott said. “I was doing just OK and my parents, who were both school teachers, were doing everything they could to keep me in skating.”

Scott finally got to the point that he needed to go to a place where they had great coaching. It was time to make the quantum leap to the national championships. At the competition, he said wryly, “I rose to the occasion. I fell five times in front of 17,000 people.

“It was humiliating and devastating and I said, ‘I’m never going to do that again.’” He worked really hard that next year and only fell twice and came in next to the last. By the time he was getting to the junior level, he finally beat two guys. He came in seven out of nine.

It was then that his mother was diagnosed with cancer. “I knew that times were hard,” said Scott. “She had sacrificed everything for her children.” Under this new stress, his parents told him, “we’re broke.” You can keep skating one more year and make it great. When you graduate from high school, you can go on to the university for free, but they could afford no more skating.

That next year, Scott said, “weird things started happening. I decided to actually work.” He made it to the nationals and his Mom came, wearing a wig because the chemotherapy had taken all of her hair, and she had a sling on her left arm because she had a mastectomy. Still, she had a twinkle in her eye for pride for her son.

About a week before the national competition, Scott started landing his first triple spin, but on the night of the nationals, his coach said, “You are in a really good position to have your best finish ever. Don’t warm up the triple before you skate, because we don’t want to know if it is there or not.” Scott said, “I had this history of just wiping out all over the ice at nationals. The coach said, ‘If you feel like doing it, what have you got to lose? It’s your last competition. Do it.’”

Scott landed the first triple ever in competition and won the national title in what was to have been his last competition ever. However, his parents found sponsors for him so that he could continue.

The next year he was 18, sponsored, and in an apartment on his own. He went to the nationals and it was an “epic fail.” He fell hard on his first jump. He said, “I was undertrained. I was unprepared. I was lost. I was this clueless 18-year old kid. It was the worst thing ever, because that is the last time my mother would ever see me skate in competition. She lost her battle to cancer.

He had choices at that time. He could have dissolved into self-pity. Instead, “I decided I wanted to honor my mother in every single thing that I did. I took her on the ice with me every single day.” Scott worked hard and the very next year he went from being 9th in the country to being 11th in the world.

People stepped in to play the role of surrogate mothers and father for him, including his coach Don Laws who was with Scott training him every single day, not just in skating, but in confidence and integrity. “My preparation through him,” said Scott, “was to be ready for any circumstance under the harshest conditions. That ribbon around my neck at the Olympics was the gold medal he allowed me to win by his miraculous training.”

On March 17, 1997, Scott was diagnosed with cancer and then three years later on March 17, 2000, he met the woman who would become his wife—Tracy Hamilton. Every year they celebrate March 17 as the best/worst day. “I had been knocked down enough times and gotten up enough times to be able to recognize that the greatest gift I ever received was her.”

Having survived testicular cancer, Scott wasn’t sure if they could have a family, but then nine months and two days later, they gave birth to a son. He said, “As an adopted child, this was the first time I saw flesh of my own flesh, and I was staring directly into my own eyes and it was a feeling like no other. I’m a father. I’m starting my own family tree.”

As Scott and Tracy were raising this child, more health issues arose for him. This time it was a brain tumor on his pituitary gland. But they wanted another child desperately, so they got to work. They prayed and prayed hard. On the way home from a brain scan he got the text that indicated a baby was on its way. When he saw his second son’s flaming red hair, Scott said, “I must be Irish!” Ethnic origins cleared up.

Both boys were thriving and their lives were full and complete. Yet, as he was preparing for the 2010 Olympics, and an earthquake shattered Port au Prince, Haiti and shattered Tracy’s heart at the same time.

She just felt compelled to go help—and it was the beginning of what would be 27 trips to Haiti to help the people there. On one trip she met two children who would have little chance in life and, Scott said, “We could give them a great one. We knew that God was totally directing our steps and that we needed to do something, We prayed, and we prayed a lot.”

So for Scott, it came full circle. The boy who was adopted and loved his family grew up to be a man who adopted other children. “My goodness, all the mysteries of life,” he said.

He was given the incredible gift of a family and now he can pass that on. “Our past is the foundation for everything that comes of it. Without our past, our present has no meaning and our future is worthless.”

The key for this man who has fought several life-threatening diseases and continues to win is faith.

He said, “Cancer was a wonderful way for the Lord to set me back on the right path. All good things came out of cancer for me. I don’t dread it and I don’t regret it. It required faith on every level—the abundance, the blessing, the times where we get knocked down, where we get course corrected.

“I don’t make any decisions without faith, without praying on it. I don’t give a talk without praying first for permission and support. There’s not a thing I get into, like the Olympics where I am on TV an hour a day where I don’t feel like the wherewithal to pull that off without prayer,” Scott said.

“The answers are all there if we are open to it. I’ve really learned that the Lord has directed my steps and he’s been there every step of the way. There’s never been a time in my life when he hasn’t been there. I recognize that in everything that I do. Try to be light. Try to be salt. Try to share the good news and hopefully when people are in their deepest suffering, they will understand the only way out.”

Today’s article was written by Scot and Maurine Proctor and is shared from the following website: https://ldsmag.com/olympic-gold-medalist-scott-hamilton-trials-are-gods-opportunities-for-us/

 

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Using Faith to Overcome Adversity

Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into light Helen Keller

A Personal Story of Overcoming Adversity

Adversity challenges all of us. It seems to pinpoint our weaknesses and swallow our dignity until all we are left with are two choices: to cry out to God deeper than ever before or throw in the towel.

Nearly ten years ago, adversity struck our family in a moment when we least expected it. My normal routine flipped upside down when I received a call from my husband as he was on a ministry trip. He calmly yet firmly told me the doctors received the results from his biopsy. He had cancer. My husband, a dad, a Pastor, an evangelist, a man of God, my best friend, had cancer. Not just any cancer, but metastasized melanoma. The kind of cancer that has no cure and spreads rapidly in the bloodstream. In that moment, I was faced with those two choices. I chose to do what I had done for years and trust in God that His position has and will always be higher than any adversities we face in life.

My husband battled six years of horrific clinical trials and treatments until there was nothing left for the doctors to do. We stayed steadfast when there was no hope in the future. We prayed. When others told me to have a drink or take medication to calm the nerves, I chose to cling to Holy Spirit and listened to His voice for direction.

My husband passed away on March 9, 2014. Seven months later, I received the news that our only son had passed away from an overdose in his apartment. Can you imagine my agony as a wife and mother? The pain I experienced after losing the love of my life AND my son? I literally could not stop crying, I used my tears to cry out to God and asked Him to take my tears of loss and turn them into tears for the lost. I wanted to see His plan in all this and He was so faithful to let me know He wasn’t out to hurt me, but wanted to use what I had been through to touch others.

I literally could not stop crying, I used my tears to cry out to God…

As I was reading the Word, a story in 2 Kings, chapter 4 became alive to me. It’s the story about a widow and what was left in her house after her husband died. She began to tell Elisha that she had nothing left since her husband was gone, but what she didn’t realize was there was something in the house. There was oil. I came to a point in my grief when I cried out to the Lord and said, “I have nothing left!” But He quickly reminded me that I was full of oil of the Holy Spirit. God gave me two beautiful daughters and two son-in-laws full of oil of the Holy Spirit. He left me with the ministry that Steve and I began together years ago. He left me with people who loved us. I had oil in my home and that’s what would help me overcome these tragic, life-altering events.

So, how do we overcome adversity? Just as David said in Psalm 77:11, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” I remind myself of where He brought me from, how He saved me and set me free from a life of sin. He took a girl who was born from a rape, never knew my biological father, don’t remember my mom’s first husband, then she was a single mom with three children on welfare and food stamps. Life had dealt her hand that she didn’t know how to play. She married again, an alcoholic, a very abusive man verbally and physically. I let hate & bitterness fill me which lead me to start drinking & smoking at age 12, which continued to escalate until I was 18 and in jail for selling drugs.

Going to church Easter and Christmas didn’t give me much of a foundation. I didn’t think anyone could understand the Bible and change. My mentality was that you had to be born into a Christian home to be able to have a good life, so I thought my lot in life was a life of sin. But then something happened, my mom got saved watching a Billy Graham crusade on TV. She started reading the Bible, praying for God to do SOMETHING in her family. An Assemblies of God pastor came to our house and invited us to church. My mom wanted to go but my stepdad wouldn’t let her. This pastor wouldn’t give up, he came back every Saturday for two years, even when my stepdad threatened to call the police on him and I told him we weren’t interested. He kept telling me that Jesus loved me and had a plan for my life. I didn’t believe him, I told him and God I wasn’t worth it and they might as well give up on me. It took two years of his persistence for God to wear me down to a place where I would say, “Okay God, I am sorry. Have your way in my life, forgive me, cleanse me, make me new.” And He did!

I went into a program called Teen Challenge where they taught us the Word of God and to memorized it. to pray and have a love relationship with Jesus. For the first time in my life I thought there was hope and that if God could change me, He could change anyone. My heart’s desire was to let God use me to reach others.

I met Steve in Bible School. He had been touched, changed by God and wanted to share Jesus’ life changing power with others as well. I loved serving Jesus alongside Steve for 35 years. Now he is with his first love and I am still serving my first love.

I am still serving my first love.

How do we overcome adversity? Cling to the Word of God, holdfast to His voice, and never allow the enemy to diminish your purpose in Christ. I will never allow fear or grief to water-down God’s plan and purpose for my life. The enemy lies to us telling us we aren’t worth it or life isn’t worth it, but when we decide (And I believe it is a decision) to believe in God, His Son, Holy Spirit and let our thoughts be taken over by the Word of God, we can overcome any adversity that comes our way.

Today’s story was written by Jeri Hill and is shared from the following website: https://godtv.com/overcoming-adversity/

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Trusting in the Lord

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God Corrie Ten BoomPeople going through tough times often wonder, Why is God letting me go through this? Is there a point?That was me in seventh grade. At the time, I thought it was the worst year of my life. Anybody who knows me has heard me say that. But now I know better.

Without that year, I would not be who I am today.

I am a missionary kid (or MK). I have lived in the Czech Republic, the second most atheistic nation in the world, since I was 4-years-old. I’m naturally shy so it’s tough for me to make friends. But to make matters worse, I was growing up in a foreign country, where I didn’t fully know the language and where every kid I met thought Christianity was the dumbest thing on the planet. Let’s just say I felt like there was no hope for a close friend.

And then it all got worse. We moved to California for a year before returning to the Czech Republic. I had no idea what living in America was like, and now I had to attend seventh grade there. Sure, I’d been to America once during our missionary service. But it was for four months. Now, I was going to go to school there. I had no idea what Abercrombie was, who Rihanna was, or even how to relate to American kids.

I knew from the very first day at school that things were very different from the Czech schools. People talked differently, dressed differently, acted differently, and even thought differently. I did not fit in, and I didn’t know how to fix that. I was doomed to be the class outcast, the weirdo of seventh grade. And I was. The many insults that I received hurt deeply.

I had been taught all my life about God and Christianity. But before my seventh grade year, God was kinda just there—not really doing anything. He was like wallpaper. But now, I was broken. I was spiritually hungry and thirsty. I thought that if God couldn’t help me, no one could. One day, I opened my Bible and Psalm 31 stared back at me: “For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O Lord. … In the shelter of your presence you hide [those who fear you]; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues. … You heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help” (NIV).

I knew it was no coincidence my Bible fell open to this psalm. I devoured the passage and literally felt a hunger for more. Through his Word, God showed me that I was not alone, and that I just had to trust in him to make the best of it. When I gave him my whole heart, my life opened up. He gave me joy for each new day. He helped me find a few friends around the school and taught me how to let him be my Best Friend. He gave me many opportunities to live out the instruction to turn the other cheek. Life was still very hard. I still cried myself to sleep a lot. Some of what the kids at school said still wounded me badly. But, still, things were different.

I knew that God had a plan, that he had a reason for all the pain and strife I was going through. I didn’t know what he was planning, but who am I to argue with the God of the Universe? I couldn’t see it then, but as I look back now, God has revealed how he used me that year. For instance, there were several students in my class who came from a different country or whom nobody liked. I realize that, with my experience with living in a different culture and being the social outcast, I was the ideal person to reach out and relate to them.

I noticed lessons of that year when we moved back to Czech. I began eighth grade in yet another new school and I had to make new friends all over again. In America, I’d learned how to stand up for myself, how to make a good yet truthful impression, how to laugh at my mistakes, and how to overcome most of my shyness.

Needless to say, I had a very enjoyable eighth grade year. Since then, too, my life has been much more rewarding. With less shyness, I have been able to act in my school’s plays and participate in more group activities. God has blessed me with close friends who encourage and strengthen me. He has shown me how to be a better friend.

Most importantly, he used that year to draw me closer to him. I could have never imagined this relationship with him two years ago. God surely used the bad for good. James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3, NIV).

Today’s post was written by Jessica Dagen. Jessica is currently attending high school in the Czech Republic. Today’s article was shared from the following website: https://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/truelifestories/ithappenedtome/bestandworstyear.html?start=2

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The D’s of Depression – Delve Into the Depths of Your Soul Part 4

The one thing you have that nobody else has is You. Your voice, your mind,  your story, your vision   Neil Gaiman

We have spent the last few days talking about getting to know yourself. Now, there is an additional step in that process…accepting who you are!

Have you thought of yourself as an author but determined that, because you can’t spell worth a darn, there is no way you can write a sentence let alone a book?

Maybe you are an artist at heart and you have swept that yearning into the deep recesses of your desires because your mom and dad told you that you could never make it in the world as an artist.

I don’t know your talents, strengths and abilities but the Lord does.

Now that you have identified what is important to you and gotten to know yourself better, it is time to ask for the Lord’s assistance with the whole process. The Lord knows you better than you know yourself. Even more important, no one wants you to succeed and have abundance in your life like the Lord does.

Today, I am sharing a portion of a lengthy but very good article. I hope you will take the time to read it! Getting to know yourself is work but it is oh so worth it!

How Does God Guide Us? Introduction

As a pastor, some of the most common questions I’ve received have do to with divine guidance. What is God’s will for my life? Is God leading me to take this new job? Does God want me to marry this person? Could God be pointing me in a new direction for my life?

Of course the question of how God guides us isn’t just a pastoral matter for me. Ever since I first put my faith in Jesus Christ over 40 years ago, I’ve been more or less eager to do what God wants me to do . . . if I only knew what he wanted! As hard as obedience can be at times, I’ve found that discerning God’s will can be even harder.

I think back to the summer of my sixteenth year. My parents really wanted me to go to Malibu Club, a Young Life camp in Canada. I didn’t want to go, partly because I didn’t know anybody and felt pretty shy, and partly because I just wanted to hang out at home with nothing to do. But my parents were persistent, reminding me of the exceptional beauty of Malibu, which stands guard over a salt-water inlet on the Canadian coast a few hours north of Vancouver. As a lover of natural beauty, especially mountains, I must admit I was tempted. But still I didn’t want to go.

Finally I decided to see if I could determine God’s will for whether I should go to camp or not. After praying for a while, I didn’t have any divine revelations. So I decided to do the only sensible thing. I told the Lord that I would go to camp if he wanted me to go, and that I would let the Bible give me his answer. Picking up my Bible and closing my eyes, I let the Scripture fall open, and then put my finger on a passage. “God,” I prayed, “if this passage tells me to go to camp, I’ll do it. Otherwise, I’m staying home.” I opened my eyes, looked down, and read:

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas.
By your strength you established the mountains;
you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples.
Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
(Psalm 65:5-8)

As I read about the farthest seas and the mountains, and about “earth’s farthest bounds,” I felt sure I had received God’s answer. So I went to camp, and, to this day, my experience at Malibu remains as one of the highlights of my life.

Though I can’t prove it, I still believe that God used my silly little divination game to get me to Malibu. In his grace, he went along with my immature discernment scheme. But I do not believe that the “close-your-eyes-and-flip-to-a-Bible-passage” approach to spiritual guidance is God’s recommended approach. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever used this mode of discernment ever again, for good reason.

Yet this still leaves us with the question: How does God guide us? Today, I’m beginning a blog series in which I will propose several answers to this question. Indeed, I believe that God guides us in a variety of ways, besides the “flip-to-a-Bible-passage” method.

If you’re new to my blog, I should briefly explain my assumptions as I begin this series. I am a Christian who finds a theological home in the Reformed/evangelical tradition, though I’ve learned much from other Christian traditions as well. I believe, above all, that God has given us the Bible as our supreme guide in matters theological and practical. Thus I might be tempted to answer the “How does God guide us” question with a simple “Through the Bible.” But this answer is too simple, since the Bible itself reveals a large number of ways through which God guides his people. So, as this series unfolds, you’ll find that I turn to Scripture again and again for direction.

Spirit Guide Silliness

Spiritual guidance is a marketable commodity these days. If you’re willing to fork over a few bucks–sometimes, a few hundred–you can receive personal guidance from people who claim to have a special channel to “the spirit world.” Many of these gurus hock their supernatural wares at expensive conferences and workshops. Others have turned to the Internet. Yes, you can visit websites where, for a fee, you will receive personalized guidance that purportedly comes from some immaterial being. This “spirit guide” may be an angel, or a departed loved one, or a person who lived thousands of years ago. (I’m not going to put up any links because I don’t want to encourage use of such websites. But if you’re curious, you can find them easily through Google.)

Your spirit guide could even be the spirit of a plastic doll! Some years ago, Barbara Bell, an architectural illustrator from northern California (where else?), operated the world’s only Barbie channeling service. For only $3.00, Bell summoned up the spirit of Barbie to solve the problems of those seeking her advice. “I appreciate and understand Barbie,” Bell explains. “She has been forced to be shallow all these years, but underneath she’s a profound person.” And to think I never realized there was anything underneath her slick plastic exterior! (Little known fact: Barbie’s last name is “Roberts,” according to Barbie’s creator, Ruth Handler. So Barbie must be one of my distant cousins.)

All of this talk about spiritual guidance from angels, dead people, and even dolls ought to give us pause as we consider the topic of spiritual guidance. Just because somebody claims to be guided by some supernatural being, even if this being is God, we ought not instantly to believe the claim. Spirit guide silliness should make us careful, even if we’re Christians who believe that God actually can and does offer supernatural guidance.

Sadly, however, some Christians have been caught in the current of spiritual silliness, claiming to be led by the Holy Spirit into all sorts of nonsense. I know a man who once claimed that God told him to have an adulterous affair with the wife of one of his best friends. He truly believed this, as did his friend’s wife. For some reason, they just didn’t think the “Thou shalt not commit adultery” part of Scripture applied to them. They ended up acting on their convictions, breaking up a marriage and messing up many lives in the process.

Attributing one’s peculiar behavior to God is nothing new. It’s been going on for centuries. Over thirty years ago, for example, I found myself in Mrs. Poole’s Sunday school class. She was a fine teacher, well-prepared, biblically-literate, and interesting even to a sixth-grade boy. Mrs. Poole’s Bible lessons were almost always succinct and compelling. Almost always, I say, because every now and then Mrs. Poole would claim that the Holy Spirit led her to depart from her notes and launch into the stratosphere of more direct revelation. As she spoke under the impetus of the Spirit, I was struck by how hard she was to follow and, frankly, how boring. If I took Mrs. Poole at her word, then I could only conclude that she was a much better a teacher than the Holy Spirit! Whereas she was succinct, the Spirit was long-winded. Whereas Mrs. Poole had a way of speaking right to the hearts of sixth-graders, the Holy Spirit could hardly keep our attention. Even then I suspected what I now believe to be the truth: Mrs. Poole was confused about the Spirit’s guidance. Her ramblings may have contained grains of genuine inspiration, but they issued more from her exuberant imagination than from the Spirit of God. Though I can’t claim to be the final authority on such matters, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Spirit actually inspired Mrs. Poole’s careful preparation of lessons more than her spontaneous sermons.

These days religious people are claiming divine inspiration for all sorts of behaviors that are, not only nonsensical, but downright horrible. The most obvious case is that of Muslim extremists who kill innocent victims in the name of Allah, something that is contrary to the beliefs of most of the Islamic world. Christian extremism of this sort rears its ugly head every now and then, especially in some conflict-ridden sections of Africa. These examples have led some critics to conclude that all spiritual guidance is nonsense, and even that the idea of God is both wrongheaded and dangerous.

I don’t agree with these conclusions. But I do take seriously the tendency for people, even well-intentioned ones, to misconstrue God’s direction. It’s especially tempting for all of us to project our own desires onto God, reading them back as confirmation of what we ourselves want. We believe God is speaking to us through our experience, when it may just be that our experience is drowning out God’s authentic voice. So, we must approach the subject of divine guidance with due caution. At the same time, we must not shrink back from one of the most precious aspects of the Christian life: divine guidance through the Holy Spirit.

Divine Guidance Through Circumstances

Yesterday, I showed how Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit guides the people of God. As I continue my series on divine guidance, I’m beginning with this post to address specific ways we are guided by the Spirit of God. Today I begin by noting how the Spirit guides through circumstances.

Consider, for example, the following story.

In Acts, 16 the Apostle Paul and his colleague Silas were in Philippi, where they shared the good news of Jesus with a man and his family (Acts 16:16-34). The whole household believed the message and all members were immediately baptized. How did Paul and Silas get to the home of this man and his family? Not through inner spiritual guidance, that’s for sure. Not through dreams or angelic visions. Not through biblical interpretation. Rather, they got there through circumstances, rather odd circumstances at that. The man was a jailer who had been assigned to guard two prisoners, Paul and Silas.

The two missionaries got in trouble with the authorities when they cast an evil spirit out of a girl who had been used to make money for her opportunistic masters. Her spiritual freedom took away their source of income, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and accused them before the civic leaders of Philippi: “They are teaching the people to do things that are against Roman customs.” The officials had the Christians beaten and thrown into prison, where they met the jailer, who had no idea what was about to happen to him and his family.

Around midnight, when the two prisoners should have been licking their wounds and bemoaning their fate, Paul and Silas were praying and praising God. All of a sudden, a great earthquake shook the prison, knocking the chains off the prisoners. The poor jailer, supposing that his prisoners had escaped, was about to fall on his sword when Paul shouted: “Don’t do it! We are all here!” In shock, the jailer fell instead at the feet of the missionaries. He then took them to his home, where they proceeded to convert him and his entire family.

Given the whole tenor of Acts of the Apostles, we are surely meant to believe that the visit of Paul and Silas to the jailer’s home was no mere coincidence. Though not identified explicitly in this passage, the Holy Spirit was directing the action of Acts 16, just as the Spirit oversaw the mission of Christ throughout Acts. The Spirit got Paul and Silas into the jailer’s home by manipulating circumstances, some of which were obviously miraculous, others of which appeared on the surface to be both ordinary and distressing.

The Bible is full of stories in which God’s guidance comes, not by word or vision, but through circumstances. Such stories also fill most Christian communities where people seek God’s direction. We often don’t realize the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit until we look back in retrospect. But, later on, we see how God wove events together to accomplish his will in our lives.

Of course, the skeptic would deny that God was involved with such things. “Mere coincidence!” would be the claim. But sometimes the coincidences are so astounding that I find it very, very hard to believe anything other than that some Supreme Being is guiding events. In my next post in this series, I share one of my own experiences in which I’m convinced God was guiding me.

An Experience of God’s Guidance Through Circumstances

In my last post I explained that God guides us, in part, through circumstances. In this post I want to tell a story from my own life in which I experienced this sort of guidance.

When I was a sophomore in college, I wanted to share my Christian faith with others. But, as an introverted person, I wasn’t likely to walk up to a stranger or even a friend and get into a conversation about God. So I decided to pray and ask God to help me.

One brisk Saturday evening in October, I decided to go down to Harvard Square–which was always bustling with people–and see if I could share my faith with somebody. The Square was filled with students from all over the Boston area and it seemed a likely place for God to drop a seeker into my lap. I prayed earnestly for God to guide me to someone with whom I could talk openly about Christianity. “Lord,” I prayed, “you know I’m pretty shy about this. So it would be great if you’d work a little miracle here and find me somebody with whom I could talk about you. And if you could make it obvious, that would be really helpful.” With this prayer in my heart, I set off for the Square.

I wandered around for a while, wondering where “my person” was. “Lord,” I kept on praying, “please bring me somebody who wants to learn about you.” Still nothing happened. After a half hour or so, I began to feel both discouraged and silly. It almost seemed as if God was having a good laugh at my expense.

Just then, two young women approached me. “We’re going to a party at Dunster House,” they explained, “but we don’t know how to get there. Could you help us?”

“Sure,” I said. “Glad to.” Meanwhile I thought to myself, “This is great. Not only has God brought these people into my life so I can talk to them about my faith, but they happen to be two attractive women. God, you’ve outdone yourself this time!” Dunster House was about a ten minute’s walk from Harvard Square, so I figured this would be plenty of time to engage these women in a conversation about God.

On the walk down to Dunster, I kept bringing up subjects that I felt sure would lead to a productive dialogue about Christian faith. “I’m majoring in philosophy,” I said, “Are you interested in philosophy?” They weren’t. “Sometimes I wonder why we’re here on this earth? Do you every think about this?” They didn’t. Basically, all they wanted to do that night was to party at Dunster House, not to reflect on the meaning of life with their overly-eager guide. For ten minutes I tried everything I could think of to get these women to talk about God. Nothing doing. Of the thousands of students in Cambridge that night, it seemed as if they were the least interested in God.

When we got to Dunster House, I walked them to the door. They thanked me and left quickly, no doubt glad to be away from that stranger who kept asking invasive questions. I felt like a complete idiot. “Okay, God,” I prayed, “I get the point. You’ve probably had a good chuckle over my silliness. Well, that’s enough. I’m going home. This was a stupid idea.” I left the entrance to Dunster House and headed back to my dorm.

Just then I passed a student I recognized as being a friend of a friend, somebody I had met briefly during my freshman year. He said “Hi” so I returned the greeting as we went off in opposite directions. All of a sudden he stopped, turned around, and called to me, “Hey, are you Mark Roberts?”

“Yes,” I said, surprised that he remembered my name.

“Well, I’m Matt. I’m a friend of your roommate Bob.”

“Oh, yeah. Hello, Matt,” I said.

“I’ve been wanting to talk to you,” Matt said.

“Me?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes, you!” Matt asserted.

“Why me?”

“Because I hear you’re a Christian. I need to talk to you about God.”

That’s the line, exactly as it happened. I need to talk to you about God. It couldn’t get much clearer than that, could it?

And so began a conversation that lasted well into the night. That conversation turned into a weekly Bible study, as Matt and I studied the Gospels to find out about Jesus. When we finished, Matt wasn’t ready to give his life to Christ. But he was closer than he had been on that strange night when we met on the sidewalk outside of Dunster House. End of story.

Now I suppose a skeptic could always say that my meeting with Matt was just an accident. But it seems to me much more likely that God used the rather strange circumstances of that evening to guide me–and to guide Matt –so that God’s work would be done in our lives. I could tell a dozen more stories like this, hundreds if I drew from the experiences of people I have known during my years as a pastor. There is no doubt in my mind that the guidance of the Holy Spirit often comes through the circumstances of our lives.

But there is a downside to this kind of guidance. How can we be sure that our interpretation of our circumstances is correct? Suppose I had been so convinced that God wanted me to share my faith with the two young women on their way to the party that I managed to worm my way into the festivities, spending the whole night beating my head against the rock of their disinterest, and thereby missing that providential meeting with Matt. Spiritual guidance through circumstances is great, but it’s usually ambiguous. What will help us sort out the circumstances of our lives so as to discern God’s guidance with confidence?

Tomorrow I will share more of this post.

Today’s article is shared from the following website:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/how-does-god-guide-us/

 

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Prayer….It Does the Spirit Good!

A lot  of Kneeling will keep you in  Good  Standing

THE POWER OF PRAYER

Upon arrival in the city, I observed two men fighting, one of whom had been seriously injured. I treated him for his injuries and at the same time talked to him about the Lord Jesus Christ. I then traveled two days, camping overnight, and arrived home without incident. Two weeks later I repeated my journey. Upon arriving in the city, I was approached by the young man I had treated.

He told me that he had known I carried money and medicines. He said, “Some friends and I followed you into the jungle, knowing you would camp overnight. We planned to kill you and take your money and drugs. But, just as we were about to move into your camp, we saw that you were surrounded by 26 armed guards.”

At this I laughed and said that I was certainly all alone out in that jungle campsite. The young man pressed the point, however, and said “No sir, I was not the only person to see the guards. My five friends also saw them and we all counted them. It was because of those guards that we were afraid and left you alone.”

At this point in the sermon, one of the men in the congregation jumped to his feet and interrupted the missionary and asked if he could tell him the exact day that this happened. The missionary told the congregation the date, and the man who interrupted told him this story:

“On the night of your incident in Africa, it was morning here and I was preparing to go play golf. I was about to putt when I felt the urge to pray for you. In fact, the urging of the Lord was so strong, I called men in this church to meet with me here in the sanctuary to pray for you. Would all of those men who met with me on that day stand up?”

The men who had met together to pray that day stood up. The missionary wasn’t concerned with who they were – he was too busy counting how many men he saw. There were 26.

This story is an incredible example of how the Spirit of the Lord moves in mysterious ways. If you ever hear such prodding, go along with it.

Today’s inspiring story shared from the following websiteL: http://www.motivateus.com/stories/prayer.htm

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