Praising God in the Midst of the Storm

When people hear of a positive medical report, a frequent phrase a Christian will say is something like, “Praise God!”

Someone gets a promotion? “Praise God!”

Restoration of a marriage? “Praise God!”

But what about when your world is “seemingly” crashing in around you? That “Praise God!” business can have the tendency to get thrown out the window.

When someone gets cancer, I normally do not hear “Praise God!”

When someone loses their job, I normally do not hear “Praise God!”

When someone is sitting in emotional pain, I normally do not hear “Praise God!”

We have been going through the Book of Psalms at church for the past month or so. A lot of David’s cries to God are not when everything is going great.

Psalm 102:1-2 says, Hear my prayer, O Lordlet my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!

When I read these verses, I hear a deep cry from David’s heart for answers. It almost even sounds demanding to me. But even in the midst of pain and suffering, David remembers that praise moves God regardless of circumstances.

Here was an example of that cry to God I experienced in the past week,

I have been working for the first time in several months for about the past month and was scheduled to receive my first paycheck.

I was so excited!  Then payday came around and I got word that the company messed up my paycheck and may be another two weeks before I get paid. So that would be 5 plus weeks without getting a check!

Can you imagine my initial anger? I was furious! I let God have it! And in the midst of it God comforted me.

And I felt the Holy Spirit say, “Let’s find the golden nugget of wisdom in this situation.”

Quickly, I responded “Well I am tired of living paycheck to paycheck! No more of this!”

It was that red hot anger and cry to God that I needed to experience to say “Enough of this way of living!” And I offered God a sacrifice of praise in the midst of the situation.

And the next day I went into work holding no resentment against the company and actually blessing the company.

There is something about worshipping God in the midst of the storm that I cannot fully describe. I can cast all my worries on Him and focus on Him while it seems like everything is falling apart. (1 Peter 5:7)

And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) is priceless to me and grows each time I offer that sacrifice of praise regardless of circumstances.

Challenge: Next time something goes wrong, I challenge you to praise God anyways. Shift your focus to Him. Your circumstance may not change, but your perspective will.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, I pray that you teach every reader to offer that sacrifice of praise regardless of circumstances. Remind them that your goodness is not dependent on when only “good” things happen. That your goodness is when we our on the mountain with You or in the valley. I praise you God! And I ask this all in Jesus name. Amen.

 

 

 

Declaring Truth Over Your Life

Other than the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I like to think the most “historic” event is Kent State’s (my alma mater) 2012 football team!

A team that went 40 years without reaching any bowl game and then came with a 2OT loss of reaching the Orange Bowl (one of the top 4 bowl games in the country)

But it didn’t start that way. Back in late 2010, Kent State hired Ohio State assistant Darrell Hazell to change team with a culture of losing.

The 2011 campaign began like most campaigns and they held a 1-6 record coming into the bye week.

I sensed something was different though. Loss after loss, during the post game press conferences Coach Hazell would say, “This is good football team”.

I thought he was crazy after losing a 9-3 game, but I sensed a tide was turning!

Finally the bye week came, they made a small tweak on the offensive line and put their 2 future NFL offensive linemen next to each other. And it made all the difference in the world. The once inept offense began scoring points. They would go on to win 4 of their last 5 games to finish 5-7. There was a lot of momentum for a team mired in its losing ways.

The 2012 season went on to be a season for the ages. They began the season 11-1 before losing in double OT in their conference championship game and losing their bowl game and finished 11-3.

As great as the 2012 season was, I recognize the work for that season was planted in 2011. They spoke of being a good football team before it actually happened.

As I reflect over my own life, I see so many characteristics myself and the 2011 KSU football team.

I reached a point earlier this year when I was shooting a basketball outside and I felt Holy Spirit say, “Marc, remember the 2011 and 2012 Kent State football teams?”

Me: “Yea.”

Holy Spirit: “How did that start?”

Me: “By declaring they were a good football team?”

Holy Spirit: “Correct. How about you start speaking that over yourself?”

Wow! Talk about a revelation.

So I took that basketball, shot it and said, “I declare I am God’s masterpiece.” (Ephesians 2:10) Airball! I didn’t care much. I trusted I was on to something. Day in and day out, I began speaking truth over my life whether I felt it or not.

In June, I felt like I had reached my own “bye week”. and made some tweaks. I felt like I was in the middle of another sub par year of where I wanted to be in life. It felt like a 2-4 season up until this point.

I had been in the Word, praying in the Spirit and worshipping, but I began developing a daily routine.

Little by little, the tide began changing in my own life. I am beginning to have victory in consistency, hearing from God, being obedient to the Spirit’s promptings, work, finances, answered prayers and serving

What happened?

Well like the 2011 Kent State football team the pieces were there, they just had to be rearranged and I had to let God rearrange my life.

My encouragement to you today is this, whether you feel it or not, start declaring God’s truth over your life. Start speaking to your identity in Christ or claim a promise from God. Praise God in the midst of a storm. Get in a habit of doing it.

Prayer:

Father, I praise and thank you how you speak to us each in a personal way. In Jesus name, I ask you speak to every reader in a personal way so they can experience what it is like to be victorious in Jesus. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Relationships

Today at church service, the teaching pastor, asked us what makes us feel the most vulnerable in life. Instantly, relationships came to my mind. Just typing this I feel my heart shake.

I do believe God is bringing me into having healthy relationships in my life and that is exciting and can be terrifying at the same time because relationships and I haven’t really been best friends for the 28 years I have lived.

Relationships have hurt me greatly in the past, and learning to trust God, self and others is a process. Let me say that again, learning to trust God, self and others is a process!

In a playful way I like to ask God,

Me: “Hey buddy, can we skip over this relationship business with other people? I like you more!”

God: “Sorry buddy, you need relationships with other people to help you grow and for you to help them grow.”

Deep down, I understand that.

The issue with the mentality of not needing other people leads to a life of isolation. There are times for us to be alone with God, but there are times we need another. Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

So where to begin?

Part of the answer is taking baby steps, building friendships and learning to guard our hearts Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.(Proverbs 4:23)

A baby step can be finding a safe community setting to cultivate healthy relationships. Maybe that is going to a function outside of the Sunday service for someone.

Building a friendship means taking the time to get to know someone before to see if the person is someone you want to build a relationship with.

And guarding our heart is recognizing what is going on in our own hearts and not shutting down what we are feeling. Communication is key to guarding your heart. How can I share my heart with someone, if I am not willing to share what is going on the inside? Make sure to find safe, trustworthy people when sharing your heart.

More on relationships later.

Prayer: Father, I praise you for what you are doing in each and everyone of our lives. In Jesus name, I ask for healthy relationships for all of us to help us grow into the strong men and women of God that you designed us to be. Amen.

P.S. Learning to trust God, self and others is a process!

 

 

 

Not Getting Ahead of God

Recently, I felt there were many changes to make in my life. This is true, but seemed so overwhelming. I didn’t know where to begin. I felt the Lord impressed on me to focus 3 things, (Serving at church, Taking medicine and working).

A huge sigh of relief. He wasn’t asking me to do it all at once!

There have been times in the past where I would make many changes at once that I would start off with the best intentions, but fall miserably.

I have noticed so much more peace in my life as I partner with God in doing what He wants and not more. That’s wisdom!“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)

It reminds me of my old running days. I recall a marathon I was running with a 3:10 pace group. We were all having fun and encouraging one another. Around mile 18, I felt like I was doing fantastic. So I ran ahead of the group. A few miles later, I slowed to a walk. Shortly after, I watched the 3:10 pace group whiz by me.  I still finished the race, but stumbled to the finish line about 12 minutes slower.

How often has this been the case in my relationship with God? A lot.

Me: “I am feeling pretty good, let me run ahead of Your timing on things.

God: “There’s grace for that, but it isn’t my best.”

In the past, would I run ahead and fall miserably. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25) 

I sense I am entering a season of relying on grace still, but an emphasis on truth. What would God do in this situation?

For example, I was sitting surfing the web when I saw the dishwasher was done at my parents house. Here is the dialogue that ensued:

Me: “I’ll do it later”

God: “It’s best to do it now.”

Me: “Give me ten minutes”

Holy Spirit/Dr. Charles Stanley sermon: “Partial obedience is still disobedience!”

Laughing and stomping, I got up and just did it! Thanks Dr. Stanley!

As I laid in bed that evening, I felt God molding my heart to be obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Truly amazing! Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. (Jeremiah 18:6)

So my question for you today is, “What is God asking you to do that you are putting off?”

Suffering is not always from the enemy, but also not doing what God is asking us to do.

My encouragement is to take a step of obedience, stay in His Word, and do not procrastinate. It will help to walk in step with God.

Prayer: Father, Thank you for the Grace you continue to give in our lives. I pray that as we make changes in our lives to be more like Jesus, that the Holy Spirit encourages us along the way. In Jesus name. Amen.