Friday, September 6, 2019

Dealing with Change - Part 1 - Finding Direction

Mid July I retired from a California state prison, where I served as chaplain.  The five years I spent there were transformational for me. Learning to work with inmates was quite different from pastoring a local church.  I poured my heart into it, and loved the contribution I was privileged to make, both for inmates and the institution as a whole.

Two weeks later we had moved out of our house, two more weeks we worked on preparing our fifth wheel, and finally we were more or less ready to hit the road!  So the big adventure finally started, August 17, 2019! (For those who do not know, our plan is to travel North America in our fifth wheel, initially for 12-18 months).

Our mobile home - a 5th wheel!
Our mobile home - a 5th wheel!

This has been quite a transition for both Dianne and myself.  It was like running at 60 mph and then coming to an abrupt stop!  Suddenly, a lot of the structure of life was removed. We miss our ministry at the prison, the busyness of life, we miss having a stationary house with room to put things (!), and the backyard we loved.  We miss the routines we had become settled into, our friends living close by, and the familiarity of our little town, Susanville CA. This does not mean we regret our decision to follow this road, we are excited about our future.  The point is, there has been a lot of change.

But we are not alone.  I think all of us experience change in life.  There are the normal changes that happen, like finishing school, leaving home, getting married, going to college, and so many other things.  Some changes are voluntary, some are involuntary. We may choose to find a better job, with improved prospects or a higher salary. Or we may be downsized, and found ourselves searching for a new position out of necessity.

Change is awkward, and can be difficult to negotiate.  In this series, we are going to look at some keys to dealing with change.  The first and most important key is from where we seek direction.

Key 1:  Find direction

Proverbs tells us: "Without vision the people perish" (1).  We seem to have an inner need for wanting to know where we are going.  But did you know that the word translated vision in this verse, actually has to do with prophetic revelation from God, rather than traditional vision-casting and goal-setting?  We need God to define the direction of our life, not just us making our own plans. Another verse that speaks to this tells us "The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord" (2).  Also, "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths" (3).

So how can we make this practical?  

The initial thing to remember is that wherever we are in our walk with God, when we turn to him, he listens and responds.  

Maybe we have not yet experienced the excitement of seeing God's direct involvement in our activities, and don’t really expect God to listen to us. In these verses God invites us to turn to him, acknowledge him in the things we do, recognize him as who he is, and that we ask him to direct our paths.  

What will this look like?  Whereas before we may have not been all that interested in God, we may now feel a new interest in knowing him better.  We may look back on our life and decide we want our future to be different, more purposeful, honorable, straight. Acknowledging God as being bigger than us, and able to change the direction of our lives, is a starting point.  

On the other hand, maybe we have known God for a while, but are at a loss for which direction to choose, when we face a crossroads.  We want our life direction to be in sync with God's purposes. The starting point in finding out what God's plan is for our life, is to ask him to direct our path.

I used to wonder, how do I know if I am going the direction God has planned for me, or if I am doing things according to my own human wisdom.  A pastor friend gave me some good advice regarding this. If I ask God to direct my paths, then I can trust him that he will do so. So I make decisions as to the direction I need to go, on the basis of trusting that God is directing me.  I also consider what biblical principles are involved, and live a life that is obedient to God. Then I can trust and believe that the Lord is guiding me. There are more things to consider, which we will examine in this short series of posts, but the starting point is to acknowledge God and seek his direction.

The next post is going to be about Making a Plan!  Watch this space!  

On the journey with you,

Pastors Gerry and Dianne ><>

P.S.  If you recognize you need to turn the direction of your life over to God, why don't you pray this simple prayer.  Pray with sincerity and the Lord will listen and respond:

"Dear Father in heaven, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die on the cross in my place, so that my sins can be forgiven.  I ask you to cleanse me, and wash away my sins.  I surrender my life to you, asking you to direct my steps.  Please send your Holy Spirit to empower me to live the life you have called me to.  I pray this in the name of Jesus.  Amen".

1.  Proverbs 29:18  
2.  Psalm 37:23   3.  Proverbs 3:6

Friday, March 29, 2019

Someone close passed away ...

During the past two weeks, two people very dear to me passed away.  I grieve with their close family, particularly.  It is so painful when a person we love, with whom we have spent countless hours, is suddenly gone out of our life.  The hurt and loneliness is intense.

Though I was not direct family, it hit me more deeply than I expected.  First of all, Dianne's cousin died, suddenly.  I had not had a lot of contact with her and her husband, but the moments we did connect were special.  When he and I met and talked at the funeral last Thursday, the closeness was right back there again.  I grieve and pray with him as he navigates this journey.  Friday evening and Saturday I was rather depressed myself, a natural part of grieving, questioning a lot of things.

Then, a few days later I heard that my former employer had passed away on Sunday, after his second open heart surgery.  It shocked me to my core.  I was not aware of his medical condition.  I had not spoken to him in some time. And yet, it hit me hard. He had been more to me than a boss.  I had always seen him as a brother, both of us being pastors. After I heard of his passing, the words of David after Jonathan his friend had been killed, echoed round and round my head.  "How are the mighty fallen ... I grieve over you, my brother" [1].

During the last couple of days, the new reality has been settling in.  Life is different without these people there.  I am so sorry for those dear ones who are missing Darla and Rick.  I pray for your comfort.

Navigating this week personally, leads me to share with you some Bible scriptures about this subject - what happens when a loved one dies?

First of all, the Bible teaches us that we as human beings consist of spirit, soul and body [2]. The Bible describes our physical body as a tent, a temporary dwelling in which we live [3].  Another way of looking at this is that we are spirit, temporarily housed in a physical body.  When we die, this spirit goes to be with God who gave it [4]. 

The book of Revelation gives us a tiny insight into what our spirit will be like in heaven.  Our spirit will be in God's presence, able to communicate, is given a white robe to wear, will sing praise to God, is waiting for the resurrection [5].

When Jesus returns to this earth [6], the dead in Christ will be raised first, with a new glorious spiritual body [7], we who are alive will be changed, and together we will meet Jesus as he descends to this earth [8].  This is when we will be reunited with our loved ones.

There will be no more tears, pain and hurt.  The old things will have passed away [9].

Our loved ones have not departed for ever, rather we will be reunited with them and then spend eternity together, serving our Lord and King who loved us with such an amazing grace!

I pray that these words will bring you comfort as they do me, as we navigate our personal journeys of grief.

1.  2 Samuel 1:17-27
2.  1 Thessalonians 5:23
3.  2 Corinthians 5:1-4
4.  Ecclesiastes 12:7
5.  Revelation 6:9-117.  Revelation 7:9-17
6.  Zechariah 14:3-4, Acts 1:9-11
7.  1 Corinthians 15:51-53, 40-44
8.  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
9.  Revelation 21:1-5, 22:1-5

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Getting to Know God

Good morning!  I want to share about something that has been on my heart for a while.  Actually, for a very long time.

When I was a 12-year-old whippersnapper, I read through the story of Abraham as described in Genesis.  I was captivated by the fact that not only did Abraham talk to God, but God actually spoke back to him!  This communication was so clear that Abram (his birthname) was prepared to leave his urban house in Ur (with hot and cold water and indoor plumbing), to go live in a tent on a one-way trek through the desert.  Without asking for confirmations (like Gideon), or dillydallying along the way.  He just did it!

God's communication must have been crystal clear.

This birthed in my heart a hunger to have this same kind of communication with God.  For a long time, this was swept under the rug, I was not in an environment where you did this.  Age 45, however, there was a huge change in my spiritual walk.  God broke through with truth, and a lot of the cobwebs were swept aside.  I learned that there were actually a lot of people who heard from God.  I started to read books about the subject, and learned to quieten myself down and be open and listening actively for God's communication.

This then started a search for God, wanting to know Him deeper and deeper.  Believe me, there have been many ups and downs along this journey, I do not consider myself particularly special, with the exception that I have a unique set of fingerprints!  However the Holy Spirit continued to carry me on, along this quest to know God. I am still on this quest.  I pray that maybe you will be inspired by my experiences, and have an amazing testimony of your own, getting to know our heavenly Father in a whole new way!

Have a blessed day!