Unity In Trials

Unity In Trials
Should it come as a surprise when we go through trials, especially prior to the Feast of Tabernacles?  Sometimes we may experience “heavier” trials, perhaps having the feeling of being alone, that there is nobody out there who can help or comfort us.  It’s quite normal to have that feeling at times but we need to understand that EVERYONE goes through trials and EVERYONE suffers in their own way.  We go through trials for the purpose of our individual course towards perfection.
These particular tests affect each and every one of us.  Not all trials are the same for each of us.   Our responses and reactions, our strength and our faith are always being tested.  Do we pray to God when we are facing difficulties, asking Him to give us strength through His Holy Spirit?  Or is it in the back of our minds, not valued as important enough?  Is prayer just something we do when we have the time for it, when it’s convenient, sometimes even forgetting to pray altogether?  Do NOT neglect the power of prayer for anything, because, as Paul says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
But we are human and we still think like humans, process thoughts by using our carnal minds, and at times give in to sin.   We can quickly change that way of thinking because we have something the people of this world don’t have who have not been called by God. We have the power of the Holy Spirit that we received during our baptism! God’s Holy Spirit helps us distinguish between right and wrong, which is why it is important to pray to God to grant us more of His Spirit when we are going through difficulties, and why it is so important to replenish it daily.
We shouldn’t be afraid when we go through trials, but it’s never a bad thing to ask ourselves why we may be going through certain trials.  Isaiah 41:10 tells us, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  And 2 Timothy 1:7 continues on saying, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
David understood this, and he also faced many difficult trials. He pleaded with God with fasting and prayer and knew that he had to change.  He was not too proud to admit that he sinned when he recognized it and bitterly repented. He was still punished, but God accepted his repentance and he was forgiven.  After all, he was a man after God’s own heart.  His heart was in the right place.  He loved God’s law and he received strength from God.  He didn’t have anything to fear since his absolute faith was in God (compare Psalms 27:1; 118:6).
Our trials may be different from other’s trials, but we all go through trials for we are ALL being tested.  And that is why we pray for and comfort one another, because we are never alone.  It’s a unified effort!
Just as our beliefs and what we preach is unified, we then are to speak the same thing, agree that there are no divisions, be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10).  We need to be of one mind (1 Peter 3:8).  Romans 12:16 adds that we need to be of the same mind toward one another and not be wise in our own opinion.  If we think that we can make it on our own, saying that we don’t need the church or the ministry, don’t need to keep God’s law and just do what we believe is correct in our own eyes, we will fail.  Where do we put our trust?  Proverbs 3:5-6 gives us the answer.
Yes, God will direct our paths, but God also provides help because we are not alone.  Who can understand the Bible without direction, explanation and guidance? God provides help for the purpose of teaching (compare Ephesians 4:11-13; Acts 20:28).  We are to be helped by the ministry because we have a work to do.  But we need to be of one mind.  How can two walk together unless they are agreed? (Amos 3:3).
To be truly unified we also must have humility (Philippians 2:1-8), we must have peace (Ephesians 4:3) and we must have love, which is the bond of perfection (Colossians 3:14).  Are we doing enough?
We ALL go through various trials.  Through unity of like mind, we receive strength and comfort from God and our brethren (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). We must allow God to help us when we go through difficult times. We must not take Him for granted nor His Church nor all the things that He has given us. Rather, we need to really think about what His purpose is for us.  Why are we here? What are we commissioned to do?  We ALL have a part—individually and as a whole.

 

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The Gift Of Perseverance

The Gift Of Perseverance 

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance.
Romans 5:3

In the 2012 Summer Olympics, a sprinter for Team USA, Manteo Mitchell, competed in the 4×400 meter relay. Halfway through his lap he heard a distinct “crack”—and felt the associated pain—in his leg. He continued running, finishing with a respectable time for someone running with a broken leg. Mitchell’s Olympics was over, but the team, with a substitute, won the silver medal because of his perseverance through pain.

In the midst of the race, Manteo Mitchell wasn’t about to abandon what he had trained for years to accomplish. And that is the nature of perseverance: “tribulation produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3). That’s why Paul makes such an unusual statement: “We also glory in tribulations.” Why glory in trouble? Because it’s the only way to learn to persevere. And why do we need to persevere? Because “perseverance [produces] character; and character [produces] hope” (Romans 5:4).

So, meditate on the connection between tribulation and hope. The link between the two is perseverance. If you want character and hope, learn to glory in tribulations!

The perseverance of the saints is only possible because of the perseverance of God.
J. Oswald Sanders

djs

Loneliness Kills

Loneliness Kills

If you’re not careful, loneliness might kill you.

Everyone feels lonely at predictable times, like when a special friend or relative dies. But doctors are quick to point out that it’s the continuing, persistent kind of loneliness that carries very real health risks.

In a 2010 AARP survey, 35 percent of all responders reported feeling lonely. Of those, nearly half said their loneliness had persisted for at least six years. That’s a lot of time for a harmful condition to unleash its dangerous effects.

Here are just a few of the consequences of persistent loneliness:

Studies suggest that loneliness is more dangerous than packing on some extra pounds. Yet Americans spend billions of dollars on diet products and often make little effort to address their loneliness.

  • Loneliness increases the risk of premature death by 14 percent.
  • Loneliness affects not only our current mental health—think depression. One recent study also suggests it increases the risk for dementia later.
  • Loneliness often brings fragmented sleep, the choppy kind that seriously affects health.
  • Loneliness can increase inflammation throughout the body, which carries its own risks. That inflammation can also exacerbate existing conditions like arthritis and heart disease.

Mother Teresa—the impoverished nun who spent her life helping the poor—described loneliness as the “most terrible poverty.”

Time with friends

The July 2014 issue of the Mayo Clinic’s Health Letter suggested strategies for combating loneliness, including these ideas for nurturing friendships:

  • Reach out: An unexpected phone call or email, even just to say hello, is a meaningful gesture.
  • Be positive: Think of friendship as an emotional bank account. Make deposits of kindness and approval, keeping in mind that criticism and negativity draw down the account. Nonstop complaining also puts a strain on a friendship.
  • Listen up: Ask what’s going on in your friends’ lives. Let people know you’re paying close attention through eye contact, body language and reaffirming comments. When friends share details of hard times they are experiencing, be empathetic.
  • Extend and accept invitations: Invite a friend to join you for coffee or lunch. When you’re invited to a social gathering, say yes. Contact someone who recently invited you to an activity and return the favor.
  • Respect boundaries: Don’t overtax the friendship with your own needs. Remember that friendships require both give and take.

Need more friends? That same Mayo Clinic article offers these ideas for finding new friends:

  • Attend community events: Get together with a group of people working toward a goal that you believe in, such as an election or the cleanup of a natural area. Find a group with similar interests in an activity, such as reading, sports, crafting or gardening.
  • Volunteer: Offer your time or talents at a hospital, place of worship, museum, community center, charitable group or other organization. You can form strong connections when you work with people who have mutual interests.
  • Take up a new interest: Take a college or community education course to meet people who have similar interests. Join a class at a local gym, senior center or community fitness facility.
  • Join a faith community: Take advantage of special activities and get-to-know-you events for new members.
  • Take a walk: Put on some good shoes and keep your eyes open. Chat with neighbors who also are out and about, or head to a popular park and strike up conversations there.
  • Think beyond two legs: Whether it has four legs or even wings, a pet can provide many of the same companion benefits as human friendships can.

I’d add to that list “Activate old interests.” I’ve made new and interesting friends, thanks to signing up for weekly hospice visits to the  sick and shut-ins.

Every list I see about maintaining wellness invariably includes a recommendation for staying socially engaged. It’s good for body, mind, and spirit. Communicating via email and cellphone is nice—and certainly convenient. Still, there will never be anything like the real thing: spending time—together, face to face—with other people.

(DJS)

Dealing with Temper Tantrums!

Teen Temper Tantrums: 3 Steps to Stop the Screaming

You thought “The Terrible Twos” were bad. Now you’re dealing with “The Terrible Thirteens,” and it’s just as bad, if not worse.When you ask your child to help around the house, inquire about school or say no to something they want to do, your teen explodes. When she was two, she cried, kicked and screamed on the floor. At 13, she’s yelling, slamming doors, storming out of the house and screaming, “You can’t control me!”

Why Don’t Tantrums Go Away?

To understand the “why” behind teenage temper tantrums, it’s important to recognize two of the normal aspects of adolescence: self-centeredness and entitlement. Teens have a strong desire to advocate for themselves because at this age, their world revolves around them and their needs. They also feel entitled to get those needs met. When needing to make a decision, many teens think they don’t need to consult their parents. They want maximum freedom: no parental input and minimal parental supervision. This is a normal part of adolescence.

Then add in the stressors that cause teens to worry daily: the status of their peer relationships and the impact of peer pressure. Research shows that one of the biggest stressors in adolescent life is the quality of peer relationships. The ways in which teens respond to the status of their peer relationships, and to peer pressure, often greatly affect how they regulate their moods.When those relationships are going well, teens are easier to get along with. When they’re going badly, kids get stirred up, doors get slammed, and you get called foul names.

Related: Does your child’s anger make you feel exhausted and out of control?

When teens are being disrespectful and screaming, parents often don’t think about these other stressors. You have to ask yourself, what is this fight or tantrum really about? Is it really about the fact that he doesn’t want to clean his room, or is there some other stressor triggering this behavior?

How to Stop Tantrums: Positive and Negative Influence

If you look at a tantrum in progress, you’ll likely see a teen who looks out of control and who believes you’re so unreasonable you’ll never give him any control over his own life. In reality, you’d probably give him more control if you felt you could trust him to make good decisions.

You can give your teen more control by using these three steps. But before you take the first step, realize that the solution to teen tantrums does not happen when one is in progress. It happens when things are calm and no one is confrontational.

1: Teach your teen the difference between positive and negative influence.

When trust exists in your relationship with your teen, she has plenty of positive influence with you. You have confidence in her; therefore, you’re more confident about pulling back on supervision. Your teenager may not realize how much influence she has with you, and how she erodes it by doing things that destroy trust.

Related: Explosive anger in kids and teens.

For example: You tell your 14-year-old daughter that she can’t go to a party on Friday night because you don’t know if any adults will be present, and you suspect kids will be drinking. If your daughter screams, “You’re an idiot” and locks herself in her room, it does more than make you angry; it erodes trust and her ability to influence you in a positive way because she’s reacting with disproportionate emotion.

When teens are able to accept “no” for an answer and not make a federal case out of it, it builds trust and positive influence with parents. You can role play what that looks like with your teen. Let’s go back to the party scenario. After the blow-up has blown over, you can show her a better way to respond that gives her influence. For example: “Mom, I’m really angry and disappointed that you’re not letting me do this. But I want you to know that even though I’m angry, I’m going to follow the rules. I hope at some point you’ll reconsider.”

When kids manage emotion gracefully and honestly like this, it has huge positive influence with parents. Also, as you teach the difference between positive and negative influence—and manage your own emotions in a calm and reasonable way—you’re modelling the behavior you want to see in your teen.

2: Look for what’s legitimate in what your child wants and coach them on their strategy for getting it.

Often when your teen is acting out, beneath the outburst is something legitimate that he wants. But the way he’s going about it is completely inappropriate.

Related: 4 Things not to do when your young child has a tantrum.

When I work with teens who act out excessively, I ask them questions like this. You can try them with your teenager, again during a calm time:

What is it that you really want? Is it more power to make your own decisions? More freedom?
How are you trying to have influence to get what you want? How well is it working for you?
In most cases, the teen will admit it’s not working very well for him. From there, you can shift the discussion into coaching mode by saying:

I noticed you said that you’ve used the same strategy with me several times, but it isn’t working the way you hoped. I’d be happy to suggest some different strategies that would work really well with me. Are you interested in hearing what I have to say?

You’re simply asking his opinion with genuine curiosity, not ganging up on him. Here’s another way to begin the coaching discussion.

Do you have any ideas on what would work? I have some ideas. Do you want to hear them?

Talking to your teen in this way about his negative influence on you helps him to see the strategy behind behavior. His strategy for influencing you isn’t working. It’s an opportunity to coach him on how to have positive influence to get what he legitimately wants.

3: Reward trust-building behavior.

We catch kids making mistakes all the time. Show your teen what he’s doing—specifically—that builds trust with you. Here’s an example: If your son responds maturely to being told he can’t stay over at a friend’s house, notice the specific actions that worked and reward them with positive praise. It could sound like this:

Even though I know you’re disappointed that you couldn’t stay over because there was no supervision, I appreciate that you showed your disappointment in a respectful way, and you came home on time. That shows maturity and respect.

Here are some other examples of how teens can influence parents in a positive way and earn trust at the same time:

Voluntarily sharing information about their day-to-day activities
Working to their academic potential
Consistently abiding by house rules
Accepting responsibility for their mistakes
Meeting expectations for behavior in the family and community
When your teen talks to you about the details of her day (without you having to pry it out of her), tell her how that influences you. When you see her being compliant with your rules (even if it’s twice), notice it. Noticing the behavior you want to promote helps to build trust.

How to Get Tantrum-Prone Teens to Talk

If your teenager always seems to be having an outburst, you might wonder how on earth you can talk to them at a “calm time.” Try this: Just talk to your kids about non-controversial subjects. It creates a flow of open communication in your home. When communication is generally more open, you may find it gets less heated around controversial topics.

Related: Learn how to stay calm with your child, no matter what.

Although it may be hard to imagine in the heat of an argument, there is a silver lining to teen tantrums. But you have to look at it in the context of normal adolescent development. Your teen is a work in progress, rather than a finished product. To be successful as an adult, she will have to be able to identify and advocate for her own needs and persist in the face of adversity. Realize that when your teen is pushing (albeit inappropriately), she is practicing behaviors that, when refined, are very useful life skills to have as an adult.

(DJS)

Divine Favor/Protection

Psalm 91:4 (WEB)

He will cover you with his feathers. Under his wings you will take refuge.
His faithfulness is your shield and rampart.

Promise: I will cover you with My feathers and protect you with My wings.

Psalm 91 is one of my favorite psalms that speaks of Almighty God’s protection and covering. I love the imagery of this verse in particular. Just imagine for a minute what the psalmist is portraying in this verse… The Most High God covers us with His feathers and protects us with His wings.

When I think about this promise, I imagine God as a majestic eagle and we are His little chickadees who live in the shelter and safety of His magnificient wings. Nothing can harm us there. We are completely safe and secure.

Another picture that comes to my mind when I think of this verse is that of a little child who seeks refuge under their dad’s raincoat in the midst of a storm, hanging tightly onto his leg, completely sheltered from the storm.

Both pictures bring me a sense of peace and safety and security knowing that God is my refuge and my safe place. This promise does not only paint a nice picture for us, but it declares a spiritual reality that we can live in all the days of our lives.

The truth is that we are safe and secure under the protection of our heavenly Dad’s wings… no matter how scary it is outside of His care! May the reality of this promise become more and more real to each and every one of us!

(D.J.Saker)

Peace In The Storm

Peace in the Storm

And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. — Genesis 7:7

The Torah portion for this week is Noach, from the name of the main character, Noah. It is from Genesis 6:9 –11:32, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:1–55:5.

A number of years ago, an art gallery ran a contest to see who could create the best painting that portrayed the idea of peace. There were many worthy submissions. There was a magnificent painting of a sun setting over the tranquil waters of a pristine beach. Another depicted lush pastures with rolling green hills and a placid lake. Still another entry showed fresh snow in the mountains with a small log cabin glowing with the light of a warm fire within.

Yet, none of these peaceful scenes won the prize. Instead a most unlikely contender was awarded first place. It was a painting of a storm with lightning flashing and winds blowing through the trees of a rocky cliff. But if you looked a bit closer, you could see why it was the winner. In the cleft of the rocks was a mother eagle with her wings spread out over her six sleeping chicks. It was the picture of peace.

Friends, peace isn’t the absence of storms in our lives. There will always be storms that come and go. Peace is the ability to remain tranquil through the storms, taking shelter under the wings of our God like the baby eagles in the painting.

I think another good depiction of this idea would be a painting of Noah in the ark floating above the waters of the flood. All around Noah, the waters were raging; death and destruction were taking place all around him. Yet Noah and his family found refuge in the ark. The name Noah means “comfort” and “rest.” Noah was able to stay at rest during the storm.

This is a great illustration of how we need to be during the storms in our own lives. Great tumult may be going on around us. The economy might be in the dumps, war on the horizon, trouble at work, a bad medical report. Yet, whatever the situation, we can find rest in our ark protected by God, floating above it all.

The Hebrew word for “ark” is tevah, which also can mean “word.” Using this definition, we can say that Noah found rest in the “word,” and we can find rest in God’s Word. When the storm is raging around us, we can take refuge in the words of our God. God says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). He declares, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10). “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:4). Through God, we can have peace even in the storm.

Shalom, peace,…..(D.J.Saker)

Keep Building In Faith

Keep Building In Faith!

James 5:7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

If you ever have the chance to visit Jerusalem, one place you must see is Solomon’s quarries – also known as Zedekiah’s cave.It’s a gigantic underground quarry beneath the old city of Jerusalem, an amazing archaeological site which offers a glimpse of the handiwork of the builders of the first temple of King Solomon. Can you imagine, as the Temple was under construction, what the craftsmen and the builders must have been thinking about this glorious house they were building? Carpenters from Lebanon gathering cedar timbers, laborers moving building materials from Joppa, stonemasons cutting and honing stones – their imaginations must have been filled with expectation and wonder as the awesome heavenly plans given to King David materialized under their meticulous construction. Each of them had a part and a glimpse of its glory as he worked, waiting, anticipating… the final manifestation of the glory of the completed Temple!

Each of us is also a builder, but our building is a living Temple, and we are also living stones of this Temple of the living God. In our daily labors, we can catch a glimpse of the glory as we watch His image forming in ourselves and in those around us– but we can hardly begin to imagine the full splendor of His completed Bridal Temple!I’m sure there were times when the workers of Solomon’s Temple felt weary after a long hard day of work – but those memories had to be completely erased when they finally beheld the Temple in its glory! So if you’re feeling weary and tired – just remember, you are building something magnificent, and the sacrifices of your labor today, will be returned a hundredfold by the generosity and joy of your Heavenly Bridegroom!

Peace,

(D.J.Saker)