Essentials To Spiritual Problem-Solving In a Material World . . . .

I couldn’t help but smile yesterday when I read this note. Written after a previous Session with the Client I was about to see, I wrote:

“Focused on:
1. “Being still’ before God–rather than running from Him, and
2. “Switching gears”– determining to talk less to self and more to God.”

I smiled because I was struck by the irony of “being still”* before God, while at the same time being called to, “switch gears””– which implies action!

“Be still and know . . . .” Psalm 46:10

So which is it? When it comes to problem-solving spiritually, actually BOTH–so long as Christ is in the mix!

The challenge of “being still” before God as we “switch gears” spiritually,
(replacing old sin patterns

with new, Christ-honoring responses) are BOTH essential to resolving problems spiritually.

The first essential piece, the call to “be still” , comes from Psalm 46.  It speaks powerfully of the seasons in life that can seem to be filled with chaos as it reminds us, that even in the chaos, God rules supreme: 

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts His voice, the earth melts . . . .
He says,“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:1-6 & 10

To “be still” is to take our focus off ourselves and look to God for the strength and direction we need. When talking with my son about God’s call to stillness, I appreciated this additional insight Luke shared with me:

“Stillness is a command for hope . . .
a reminder of who is God and who is not.”  

I like that . . . I like that a lot!  “Stillness . . . a command for hope . . . a reminder . . . .”  (Ka-pow Luke, you hit a home run with that one!)

When it comes to the second essential piece--switching gears–there are numerous portions of Scripture to draw from. One of my favorites is in Colossians 3, because it provides helpful insight into the process. I like how the Apostle Paul depicts the movement needed on our part to switch gears spiritually:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:
sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed . . . .
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these:
anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
Do not lie to each other,
since you have taken off your old self with its practices and
have put on the new self,
which is being renewed in knowledge
in the image of its Creator.”
Colossians 3:5-10

BOTH “being still” and “switching gears” require thoughtful intentionality and are motivated by our individual commitment to honor God as Sovereign over all–no matter what our circumstance.

But there is a third essential piece to working out problems that brings it all together. We gain insight into this is in Philippians 4:6 where Paul instructs servants of Christ:

“Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

The key to problem-solving spiritually in a material world requires a steadfast refusal to allow worry or fear rule us.  To do this requires prayer AND thanksgiving to God. (I emphasize AND because giving thanks to God actually helps to mitigate fear as we find our resting place in Him.) Prayer AND thanksgiving offered to God in humble faith, are what move us forward in humble reliance on Him.

And what will be the reward in all of this?  As we choose to trust God in a chaotic world and our thinking is transformed by Christ’s Presence in our lives, fear will no longer rule us.  Consider the promise Paul wrote immediately after his admonition to pray in every situation:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

May His Peace be yours, as you prayerfully give thanks each day for His Sovereign Goodness.

All to His Glory!

*To “keep God in the mix”  is to intentionally keep Him as our primary motivation.

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Prayer + “The Ripple Effect” = An Ocean Of God’s Love

I have to admit that I find myself cringing whenever I hear someone say, “Well, I guess all we can do is pray.”  I cringe, not because I am judging that person–God knows I have thought and said the same thing many times in the past.  No, I cringe because I have learned, in my thirty-plus years of walking with Christ and after twenty years of Counseling, that prayer must be our first priority and should never be left as a last resort.  When we are more about “doing”–and therefore make prayer secondary–we miss out on participating in the mysterious and wondrous workings of God.  The simple wisdom and counsel of Isaiah 55:6 says it all,

Seek the LORD while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.

Seek the Lord NOW through prayer; call upon Him NOW!  When we seek God with prayers large and small, we become part of what I like to refer to as “the ripple effect.”  Ordinarily, the term “ripple effect” refers to when a stone is thrown into a still pond . . . after the ‘plunk’ comes the myriad of ripples that move across the otherwise still water.  Merriam-Webster.com defines it this way,

The Ripple Effect

Ripple effect: “a spreading, pervasive, and usually unintentional effect or influence.” 

In Christian circles, the term is used to describe when God works in an individual’s life . . . and how the resulting “ripples” from that action impacts the lives of many othersHowever, when God works in response to our prayers, there is nothing “unintentional” or random when it comes to the “ripple effect.”  One of the blessings of serving a God who is both Sovereign and Good, is in knowing that He is as much at work in the smallest ripple, as He is in the larger things.

Even though it has been thirty-four years, I still remember how profoundly impacted I was by the “ripple effect” when, at twenty-five weeks gestation, I was hospitalized due to complications with my pregnancy.  Back then, we were attending a wonderful church where we had met Christ a few years before.  Each Sunday my husband gave an update so people knew our specific prayer needs.  During the weeks prior to our sons birth, an interesting pattern emerged.  When things were looking bad, the fervency of people’s prayers never failed to carry us through.   However, when we did better and people eased up on praying, we seemed to go downhill.  When our pastor visited me in the hospital, he commented on how God was using our situation to teach our congregation about the importance of being steadfast in prayer.

As the days passed and Luke was born nine weeks premature, it continued to boggle my mind when I thought about God using our three-pound little boy (such a tiny little “pebble”) to ripple blessing to several hundred people who were faithful to pray.  Luke’s birth opened the door to a world of machines and buzzers, bright lights and busy doctors and nurses tending tiny babies in the hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  Since our home was over an hour away, I was encouraged to stay in the hospital as long as they had a bed available. The nurses were especially kind and helpful, but that first week was rough.  All week, Luke’s nurses expressed concerns about his blood gas levels.  He had already received one blood transfusion of what they referred to as packed cells; yet by day seven, he was paler and seemed to be losing ground.

Realizing that I was becoming overwhelmed, my husband took me home for a few hours that evening.  I will never forget the night sky that greeted me when I went out to our backyard to pray.  I can only describe it as “expansive” as the darkness surrounded me and a myriad of stars shone down.  I prayed . . . confessing my fear of losing Luke.  I reflected on what my pastor said about God using Luke to encourage steadfastness in prayer in our church.  I was comforted as I recognized that, if God chose to take Luke back, his short life had accomplished what God intended.  With that realization, I surrendered Luke back to God.  As I did, a peace settled over me that freed me to trust Him no matter what happened.

When I returned to the hospital, Luke was asleep in his isolette and had a lovely rosy glow–the doctors had agreed to a second transfusion.  From that point he became a “grower” and several weeks later we were able to take him home at four pounds, two ounces.

The “ripple effect” of the prayers of so many and our learning to pray has continued to bless our family to this very day.  James 1:2-5 became a special lifeline during that time that has carried us though many a trial since:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

As I write this, our family is being carried by the prayers of countless people as Luke undergoes chemotherapy.  This time though, the ripples of the past have combined with the countless prayers being offered for Luke, his wife Shannon and our family resulting in a whole ocean of God’s love.

Wherever you are . . . whatever you may be facing . . . my prayer is that your faith in Christ will deepen and buoy you in the ocean of His love and tender mercies.  He is so very worthy of our trust!

All to His Glory!