The Bend in the Road

God has a purpose for.png
Sometimes we come to life’s crossroads and view what we think is the end, 
But God has a much wider vision, and He knows it’s only a bend.
The road will go on and get smoother, and after we’ve stopped for a rest, 
The path that lies hidden beyond us is often the part that is best.
So rest and relax and grow stronger; let go and let God share your load, 
And have faith in a brighter tomorrow; you’ve just come to a bend in the road.
— Helen Steiner Rice

A bend in the road.  Scary thought, isn't it?  I mean the road has been rough enough, but now there's a bend too?  A bend that we can't see beyond.  A bend that could be hiding any number of possibilities from our view.  A bend that could change everything, and let's face it--change frightens us.  

I'm reminded of a roller coaster.  I love the crazy things.  Big hills?  Bring it on.  Twisty turns?  That's the way I like it.  Corkscrew loops?  Oh, yeah!  Pitch black?  Um, now wait a minute.  Yes, you've discovered my weakness--I'm scared of the dark.  Well, not really, but a roller coaster that I would enjoy in the light has the tendency to bring me to the brink of terror in the dark.  I don't mind the hills, the corkscrews, the twists and the turns. . .as long as I know they're coming.  In the darkness, I can't see, so I don't know what to expect.  And somehow, that uneasiness of the unknown turns my adrenalin rush into genuine fear.

The unknown has a way of doing that, doesn't it?  That's why those bends in the road cause such anxiety.  But could it be that we're missing something?  Could it be that we're so worked up about the unknown and the path that is hidden from view that we're missing one of the biggest results of a bend in the road?  We know that God has a purpose for everything.  He doesn't place bends in the road for no reason, and I think one of those reasons is to make us slow down.

Think about it, when we're driving and we come up to a bend in the road, what do we do?  We hit the brakes, right?  Most of us (and I say "most" because I've seen some drivers that might not qualify for this statement) wouldn't dream of hitting that bend at our current speed.  That speed is meant for straightaways, not for curves.  So, out of good sense and a desire to stay safe, we slow down and take the bend at a reduced speed.

Perhaps that is all God is trying to do with our current bends in the road.  He wants us to slow down.  He desires for us to be still.  He longs for us to take some time to just be.  It is during those times that we can feel His closeness and hear His voice.  How many times have we missed it because there's too much to do, because we were simply speeding through life?

I know there's a lot to do.  Trust me, I understand.  But may I remind you that "Be still and know that I am God" is not a request or suggestion?  It's a command.  How many of us are heeding it?

Are you facing a bend in the road?  Is that sense of uneasiness getting out of control?  Take it easy.  God is working all things for your good, so whatever is waiting around the bend is a good thing.  In the meantime, slow down and enjoy the ride.  After all, the Driver has it under control

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
— Psalm 46:10

Embracing the Past

One of my favorite songs of all times is God’s Been Good, but there’s one phrase in the chorus that always gives me pause. The line goes, “Though I’ve had my share of hard times, I wouldn’t change them if I could.” That’s quite a bold statement and one I’m not sure I’m able to declare honestly. When I think back on my past mistakes, I long to go back and set things right, to erase the hurt caused by those mistakes. 

I’m reminded of The Flash, a show I’m watching on Netflix. Normally, I’m not much of a comic book or superhero fan, but something about this show intrigues me. Without giving too much of the plot away, I will provide you with an overview. Barry Allen is a young man who has experienced much heartache in his life and now has the opportunity to show the world he has not let his past define him or make him into something evil. Instead, he spends his days fighting crime and helping others who feel lost and alone.

One day, however, after facing another tragic loss, Barry decides he’s tired of being the victim and takes matters into his own hands by going back in time and preventing some of his life’s greatest heartaches. For a while, Barry is happy with the changes in the new timeline he has created, but soon he realizes those changes came at a high cost. He thought that undoing the wrongs that had been done to him would fix his life, but he never imagined what he would lose in the process. After trying to repair the timeline, a wise mentor reminds Barry they aren't God and teaches him that every decision and every change becomes a part of a new world, and things can never be the same.

I get where Barry was coming from. Sometimes, I think of how awesome it would be to go back in time and erase my past mistakes and the heartaches I’ve experienced. But if I did that, things would never be the same. I wouldn’t be me. While some things may be better, others could be worse. There’s no telling what would be affected by righting my wrongs or undoing past hardships. And honestly, I’m not willing to risk it, even if it were possible. I’d hate to wake up in a life where I had my health but not my husband or where I was a famous, best-selling author but had rejected Christ. 

The fact is, this life is mine—both the good and the bad. And instead of trying to erase my past, I need to embrace it because it has molded me into who I am today—a person with a sincere desire to serve God and to trust Him for my every need. I wouldn’t be who I am today had it not been for the things of my past. Yes, some events were painful, but, as the song says, “Through it all, God’s been good.”

Today, perhaps you are plagued by the sins of your past or burdened by tragedies faced in your earlier life. No matter how horrible those things were, please don’t try to erase them. Embrace them instead. Notice I said embrace them not dwell on them.  There is a difference. Dwelling on them leads to self-pity and discouragement whereas embracing them leads to growth and acceptance of who you are and how you arrived at your current state.  

So embrace those past experiences. Count them as lessons learned and steppingstones to get you to where you are today. As a former pastor once said, “God can take a crooked stick and draw a straight line.” Likewise, God can take a painful and shameful past and use it to shape you into something beautiful. Won’t you allow him to show you how?

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
— Jeremiah 29:11

The Highway to Healing

join us to see him offsaturday • may 20, 2018 • 2_00 pmgreat buffet restaurant792 pine ave., west harbour squarelong beach, ca.png
Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
— John 5:2,5-6

Wilt thou be made whole? In other words, do you want to be healed? What a strange question! I can’t think of anyone in their right mind who would answer “no” to such an inquiry. It makes me wonder why Jesus asked such a thing. How about you?

I can’t know Jesus’ motives, but based on other Scripture, I can guess about this odd query. I believe Jesus asked so this man would have to be honest with himself, to admit he could not be healed on his own. Jesus wanted him to admit his inability to help himself. Why? So God would get the glory. Plus, the first step on the highway to healing is to admit there’s a problem.

We live in a day and age where the means of dealing with our many issues are simply to distract us from the problem. We bury ourselves in work, immerse ourselves in social media, or hide away in the make-believe world of television. We keep ourselves busy every moment of every day, never taking the time to reflect on our spiritual needs or faults. When our avoidance of the issues is questioned, we state, “I’ll deal with it later. There’s just so much to do right now.” But we know that as soon as we acknowledge the issue, we must deal with it, and that can be a long, ugly process.  

So, why open that can of worms, right? Because healing will never occur until we acknowledge that we need it. That first step on the highway of healing is the most difficult of them all. It requires us to step out of that pretty little picture of our lives we’ve displayed for all to see and admit we don’t have it all together. It means opening ourselves up to God and others and proclaiming, “I’m not alright. I need help!”

Today, I give each of you the opportunity to do just that, and so you don’t feel as if I’m prying into your lives, I’ll go first. Fair enough?

I am currently struggling with idols in my life. No, I haven’t carved any statues of wood or gold, but I have been using food and energy drinks as my comfort and refuge. When anxiety and depression threaten, I run to the refrigerator instead of to the Lord even though I know the food will offer no real comfort. I am embarrassed to admit this failing because I’ve written an entire series of books on dealing with anxiety and depression, and I can tell you, without a doubt, that the methods outlined in those books work. So, why am I struggling? Because I stopped trying. I grew tired and weary, let down my guard, and returned to my old ways of coping. And now, I’m trying to fight my way back out of this dark, lonely pit into which I’ve led myself. I would appreciate your prayers as I return to the Rise Up and Build method and process my anxiety and depression properly instead of allowing food to become my god of comfort.

Now, it’s your turn. Are you willing to take that first step on the highway to healing? Would you like us to help you pray about a current struggle you’re facing? Whatever it is, this is a safe place, and I invite you to be honest and open about your current spiritual battle and leave a comment below. Sometimes, just getting the burden out there is helpful, so please, don’t bear your burden alone any longer. I want to pray for you, and I know others feel the same. Take that first step of healing and don’t look back!