Unraveled: Making it When My World Seems to be Falling Apart

We are living in perilous times when our country seems to be unraveling at the seams. But sometimes it hits closer to home. Our personal lives are a mess and we feel powerless to control them. Be encouraged as we study Jonah, Daniel, and Esther to see that even when life gets tough God IS still in control.  Bring a friend and join us next Wednesday at 10 at First Baptist. Click the image below to sign up now!

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Our Times are in His Hands

Below is a video from my class, Imperfect People, a study that will be shown on Sunday evenings this fall beginning September 13.  You can sign up for that class by clicking here or going to fbccov.org.

Scripture Reading: Proverbs 31

Let’s Hear A BIG Shout Out for School Teachers!

I’d like to give a BIG shout out to school teachers! What greater profession could anyone have than to be the one who impacts a child’s life for nine months out of the year?

Although it’s a rewarding profession, it’s often a thankless job requiring countless hours of preparation. When I taught fourth grade I used to jokingly refer to my check as my “tip” when the school secretary brought it to me each month.  Although I dared not do the calculations, I suspected that if I had counted my hours of preparation at home plus the time spent in the classroom, I’d be paying the school system instead of being compensated by it.

Today I want to salute four teachers that made an indelible imprint on my life.  They gave me so much more than skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic.  They loved, encouraged, mentored, and affirmed me as a person of worth.

You see I was a needy little girl. I came from a very troubled family.  My mother became a single mom with three teenagers and me, a nine month old toddler, after my alcoholic daddy lost touch with reality requiring long term care in a state psychiatric hospital.  Consequently, my mother had to work long, hard hours in a garment factory to support us.

I went to school every day longing for someone to love and affirm me.  I wasn’t the pretty little girl with nice clothes and fancy bows in her hair.  No, I often went to school without a bath and my face was rarely washed.  Never were my  teeth brushed because I didn’t own a toothbrush.  My clothes often were missing a button or two, and my shoes sometimes had holes in them.  I desperately needed a teacher who could look beyond my exterior and see me as a needy little girl who had hopes and dreams like every other student.

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Byrd, was just that person.  She was kind and happy. She loved us as a class and made me feel as special as everyone else .  I still have a warm place in my heart for her.  In fact, I think about her fondly every summer as I thumb through my file looking for her handwritten fresh peach pie recipe that she gave me when I was a newlywed.

When I went to high school, God placed three other teachers in my life who had a powerful impact on me.  They were young and straight out of college.  Two of them were Burney and Elizabeth Sullivan.  Mr. Sullivan was a coach and didn’t actually teach me, but he still had a positive influence on my life.  Mrs. Sullivan taught me history.  While I’ve forgotten much of the history, I’ll never forget how special both she and Coach Sullivan made me feel.  They loved me unconditionally—even when I showed up in their driveway way too many times.

The third high school teacher that had a powerful impact on my life was Mrs. Sanders. She was an amazing teacher who could take students who didn’t have a good math foundation and help them actually enjoy Algebra and Geometry.  Although rather shy, she was in her element in math class and most affirming one on one. Mrs. Sanders also was our sponsor the year I was editor of our school yearbook. We shared lots of quality time together, and I cherish every minute.

picture 2 8-19-15Several years ago I was invited to be the motivational speaker at the teachers’ workshop in four St. Tammany Parish schools.  As best I could, I tried to affirm the teachers and stress how important their job was.  I told them that who I am today is largely because of those teachers who poured into my life, especially the four teachers I mentioned above.  I urged the St. Tammany teachers to come to work every day fully convinced that their jobs were significant—that some little girl like me was counting on them to make a powerful difference in her life.

After I finished speaking at the fourth teacher’s workshop, I felt a compelling need to try to get in touch with my high school teachers—Mrs. Byrd had already gone to be with the Lord many years before. So I called Mrs. Sullivan and told her how much I had looked up to her and Coach, how much I loved them, and how much they had meant to me. I shared that I had just spoken to four groups of teachers telling them what a powerful impact she and Coach Sullivan had had on my life. She was overwhelmed that I would take the time to call her.

I told Mrs. Sullivan that after I got off the phone I was going to call Mrs. Sanders. After a few seconds of silence, she said, “Mrs. Sanders passed away a couple of years ago.” A blanket of deep sadness fell over me knowing that I was a few years too late with my “thank you.”

And shortly after our phone conversation, Mrs. Sullivan died of cancer. I’m SO THANKFUL I followed the leadership of the Holy Spirit and made that call before it was too late.

I’m going to ask you to act on this post—I’m issuing a call to action. Spend a moment thinking about the teacher or teachers who have made an indelible imprint on your life. Now, either pick up the phone, search for an email or Facebook address, or write a thank you note to her/him before it’s too late. Your expression of gratitude will mean more than you could ever imagine. It will warm their hearts to know that all the years they spent in preparation and in the classroom were not forgotten nor wasted.

If you are a teacher reading my blog, let me say a big THANK YOU! I salute and honor you! Please pass this post along to other teachers who might need a little affirmation.

I especially want to thank those who teach Jake, Chase, Reagan, and Luke, my precious grandchildren—Mr. Englert, Mrs. Ford, Mr. Galloway, Mr. Jernigan, Mr. Agresta, Coach Moore, Mrs. Sigl, Coach Chetta, Mrs. Galeas, Mrs. Warren, Mrs. Eden, Ms. Regina and Ms. Keri.  Please know that as I pray for the grandchildren on Wednesday and Thursday, I’ll be lifting you up to our Father as well.

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Heavenly Father, what an important and rewarding job You have given teachers! But it certainly isn’t an easy one, especially in today’s culture. Would You bless teachers today? Would you empower them and strengthen them? And when they get tired and discouraged (and I know they will because I’ve been there), would You help them to refrain from measuring the significance of their job by the amount they are paid?  Instead let them focus on the countless boys and girls they are privileged to influence.  Help teachers always remember that who they are as individuals has as much of an impact on their students as the subjects they teach. And please, Lord, help them remember that every day they enter their classroom they are doing one of the most significant jobs anyone has ever been called to do. Thank you for all those teachers who poured into my life. I’ve been so blessed, and I’m forever grateful. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Scripture Reading: Proverbs 22:6

7 Surefire Ways to Deal with Spiritual Warfare—Final Strategy

​But what if you have followed the strategy to a T so far—what if you have–

  • Expected battles.
  • Haven’t given in to despair.
  • Acknowledged the enemy but haven’t ascribed to him more power than he possesses.
  • Focused on the Lord’s faithfulness in the past.
  • Properly armed yourself with prayer and God’s Word.
  • Focused on reality not perception—

but you still feel like you are losing the battle? Still have financial issues. Still don’t have a baby. Still are in the throes of grief over the loss of a loved one. Still struggling with depression and/or low self-esteem. Still have an unfaithful spouse. Still have an addiction or a relationship that has a grip on you. Still have not seen the miraculous healing of a spouse or child.  What do you do?  You keep working the strategy.

  • You surrender your battle to the LORD and say, “It’s not my battle.  It’s Yours, LORD.”

In 2 Chronicles 20 a mighty army was staging an invasion on Judah. The king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, was mortified, so he prayed, “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (v. 12).

Then a Levite spoke on behalf of the LORD.  “This is what the LORD says to you.  ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s…..You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you’” (vv. 15, 17).8-12-15 PICTURE 1

As the troops of Judah left for battle, Jehoshaphat commanded his men to sing praises to the LORD. Amazingly, when they arrived on the battlefield, they discovered the LORD had already slain the enemy and won the battle. You see, the battle was His battle.

For the past four weeks as I’ve posted a strategy to deal with spiritual warfare, you may have been thinking—“I really don’t feel like I am under attack. Life is pretty good for me right now.” Well, just let me say—I’m so glad. Be thankful.  But trust me, it would be good for you to file these 7 Surefire Ways to Deal With Spiritual Warfare away for future reference because sooner or later you will need them.

If you do feel like you are under attack I can certainly empathize with you. I understand. I really do. However, make sure you don’t choose to assume the stance of a defenseless victim. (I’m typing this for me to remember). You are not! You do have resources to combat Satan’s warfare.

8-12-15 PICTURE 2But the seventh strategy may be where you have to camp out right now. You may have to surrender the battle to the Lord and say, “I can’t do this, Lord. It’s Your battle. Please fight for me.”

Be encouraged by David’s words as he, a shepherd boy, went out to face the Philistine Giant, Goliath, in an impossible situation–humanly speaking.

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

(Adapted from It Hurts but I’m Okay)

Most Gracious Heavenly Father, what a mighty God You are!  You are great and You are good.  Just as You went before and behind the Children of Israel in the wilderness, You do the same for me.  The psalmist said it well, “You hem me in –behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me” (Psalm 139:5).  Thank You for reassuring me through the prophet Isaiah that when I experience spiritual warfare “No weapon formed against [me] us shall prosper” (54:17a).“I love you, O LORD, my strength.  [You are]my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge.  [You are] my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:1.)  I praise You, Father. In Your Name, Amen.

 

7 Surefire Ways to Deal with Spiritual Warfare–Part Three

For the last two Wednesdays I have been posting ways to deal with spiritual warfare based on 2 Kings 6:8-17. Click here to read Part 1 and here to read Part 2. So far, we have looked at four parts of the strategy:

  • Expect battles. We WILL have them.
  • Refuse to allow panic to turn into despair. When Satan tempts us with despair, he is trying to immobilize us.  He wants us to give up. Though seemingly our only alternative, we must not!
  • We would be foolish not to acknowledge the enemy, but more foolish to ascribe to him more power than he possesses. HE IS NOT EQUAL TO GOD!
  • It’s when we focus on the Lord’s faithfulness in the past that we are reminded of His promise to be faithful today and tomorrow. That’s where we receive strength to stay in the battle and keep fighting. (Click here for the first two parts of the strategy).

Since battles are inevitable, it’s important for us to remember the fifth part of the strategy—properly arm ourselves for combat. No soldier in his right mind would dare go to war without his weapons. Neither should we when it comes to spiritual warfare.

The two most effective weapons we can always have at our disposal are prayer and Scripture. Prayer was the only option Elisha had, but it was the best thing he could do.  Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his [my servant’s] eyes so he may see” (v. 17a).  His prayer was simple—not eloquent, not long, but powerful none the less.

IMG_5110Prayer is not complicated.  It is merely having a conversation with God—sincere and from the heart.  I once heard a new believer praying. When she came to the end of her prayer she didn’t know how to stop so she just kept on praying. Finally, in exasperation she threw up her hands and said, “That’s it!”  She didn’t remember the “in Jesus’ Name, Amen” part, but it didn’t matter.  Her prayer was heartfelt and addressed to God.  That’s what mattered.

In Ephesians 6:10-17 Paul told us to “put on the full armor of God so that [we] can take our stand against the devil’s schemes.”  He included “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God” because quoting Scripture is one of the best defenses we have when we are in a heated battle. That’s exactly what Jesus did when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).

​The psalmist reminded us that God’s Word firmly imprinted in our minds is like a lamp lighting our way (Psalm 119:105, 11).  Why is that important?  Because a written copy of God’s Word is not always accessible.  However, the verses we have hidden in our hearts—committed to memory–will be with us wherever we go and in every situation.

I have many favorite passages in my arsenal.  Let me share a few that keep me going.  “When I am afraid I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3).  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purposes” (Romans 8:28).  What’s in your arsenal?

​The sixth part of the strategy, though important, is difficult to do.  If we are going to stay in the battle and not surrender to the enemy, we have to focus on reality not perceptionThis is huge!

When Elisha’s servant first saw the enemy troops surrounding the city, what he observed was not reality.  Granted, the enemy forces were real, but the servant’s take on the situation was misguided. His perception caused him to assume they were going to be captured. It was only when Elisha asked the LORD to open his servant’s eyes that he saw the invisible reality. There was another army much greater and mightier than the Arameans.  Elisha’s servant looked and “saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire (emissaries of the LORD) all around Elisha” (v. 17b).  Amazingly, the unseen was the real reality.

I wonder how many times we have allowed our circumstances to blind us to the supernatural work of God—that He was with us in full force in the heat of the battle with “horses and chariots of fire.”

Are you ready for combat?  Do you have your spiritual armor on? Have you prayed and asked the Lord to be with you today? Are you armed with your spiritual sword—the Word of God that you have memorized—so you counter Satan’s attacks?

Beware of judging situations you encounter today by what you perceive. Rest assured that if you are in a battle, you are not alone. You just might be surrounded with horses and chariots of fire.

Adapted from It Hurts but I’m Okay by Martha Bailey.

Dear Lord, I know I will face battles today. Help me to be armed and ready. I’ll be talking to You through out the day asking for assurance and guidance. Please bring to mind Your Word that will help me counter Satan’s vicious attacks. And when I perceive reality to be the only thing I can see, remind me that You and Your mighty warriors are fighting on my behalf. Thank You, Lord. In Your Name, Amen.

Scripture Reading: 2 Kings 6:8-17; Psalm 56:3; Psalm 46:1; Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:13; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 610-17: