When Storm Clouds Gather

                      I love a good storm. I love watching the clouds roll in from a distance and seeing the lightning flashing, and waiting for the thunder to roll.  I love seeing them build as they move closer, higher and higher.  I love the pre-rain smell that fills the air when a thunderstorm gets near.  And then they are here, and the air is filled with rain and lightning and thunder – a magnificent display of God’s power.  It is one of the most awesome things in all of nature. 

When I look at clouds, I think about the storms that can come into our lives.  They come in all shapes and sizes and can affect us in so many different ways.  Sometimes, we can see the storm directly ahead of us, heading our way, but we cannot see a different road to take:

As we listen to the voice of God in these situations, He may tell us to stay on the straight road, and not turn to the right or to the left.  The Israelites were told this as they went through the desert (Num 20:7), or by Jesus in the New Testament (Matt 7:14).  There are times that God knows the battle is before you and He wants you to have faith in Him to see you through.  These times are precious because they really test our faith.  Our inclination is to avoid the storm at all costs.  It looks dangerous.  But if we listen to God’s voice and trust in His strength to get us through, the blessing that is one the other side is well worth it.

Then there are times that storm looms over us.  It is big, and ominous, and scary.  The clouds surrounding the storm hide its intensity, but you can see danger in their formation.  You do not know exactly what is going to happen, you just know this storm, this trial, is going to hit at any time:

You face it with courage and an unmoving faith in God, like a tree planted by the water (Psalm 1:3).  A tree relies on the water for its sustenance and strength.  It sends those roots down deep to gather the water and feed the rest of the tree.  When it is close to the water. It does not worry where that supply will come from, and it will not be moved from that spot.  We need to be like that tree, relying on God to give us the strength to go through the storm, not to avoid it.  The storm is right there, ready to burst, and we praise Him regardless, because we know by faith He will see is through.  He knows what the storm will bring, and He is more than able to help us get to the other side, where the blessings flow.

There are storms that make a lot of noise way off in the distance.  They look like a danger, and we start to worry long before they get near us.  And we hear the thunder rumble, and people tell us we are in for a battle when the storm gets here.  The storm, or trial, looks frightening, and could be devastating when it arrives:

We are told not to fear, or worry about tomorrow (Matt 6:34).  God holds all our tomorrows.  Only He knows what the next hour will bring.  The storm could dissipate and never reach you.  I have watched thunder storms stop on a dime and give out.   I have also seen them part and go around on all sides.  We never know.  So, when that storm is approaching, pray.  Ask God to stop the storm, or to move the storm, that is coming toward your life.  He stilled the waves and the wind (Mark 5:35-41), and He can calm your storm before it even gets to you.  Just ask.

Then there are the storms of life that affect your friends, your family, your neighbors, and, yes, your enemies.  They loom off in the distance and all you can see is the looming clouds.  You are not sure who they are affecting, or what the intensity is, but you know there is a storm over their lives, ether because they told you, or you see the signs of a storms:

This is a time to pray.  We are called to be intercessors (Ezek 22:30-31. Eph 6:18).  This is the highest calling I believe.  To be a prayer warrior for God is a blessing to so many people often those we do not know.  If we are listening to the Spirit, He will tell us people who need prayer throughout our day.  Do you ever have names pop in your head in the middle of the day?  This is the Holy Spirt prompting you to pray for them.  Never, ever doubt that.  How should you pray?  The bible tells us the Holy Spirit will give us the words as groanings that cannot be uttered (Rom 8:26).  Allow God to work through you, and just open yourself up to pray.  He will help you.

And on the other side of that storm is always a blessing.  When we go through trials of faith, we grow in our walk with the Lord.  We become stronger, ready to face bigger trials.  But we also are ready to help others face theirs.  We are more prepared to help someone else who is going through the same storm in their lives.  These storms are meant for our growth, not out harm.  But if we try to get through them on our own, they will probably cause harm.  Either that or we will not make it through, and give up.  If that happens, we will most likely have to face the same storm again.  It is so important we rely on God’s strength to help us through.  He will never fail us.  And we will see the blessing when the storm passes.

Pride Part 1

This is a repost of the first part of a series I did on Pride two years ago. If you would like to read the rest of the series, please click on my teaching sight above and you will see the Pride Series in the menu. The reason I wrote this study was to help people see the hidden pride in their lives and work on bringing it under control.

 In my experience, if your immediate reaction to that statement is that yours is under control, it probably is not. I have been there before, and hope to never again have unrecognized pride in my life. This is a first installment to give you some background. 

One of the most fascinating things about pride is that it hides itself from the individual who is afflicted by it. I bet all of us have seen people who are full of pride and wonder why they don’t take care of that attitude. Don’t they know it is unattractive and a big turn-off? Well, no they don’t. In fact, they don’t even see it. Let me take a moment to share my story with you. 

I was a worship leader, Sunday school teacher, youth minister and fill-in preacher at my church. I also filled in at other churches occasionally. I was looked upon by those around me as having it all together and one that loved the Lord. And I did love the Lord, and I loved ministry. My wife, on the other hand, saw the pride in my life and kept telling me it was there, but I would not listen. In fact, I kept explaining to her that I was a humble servant of God. 

But the real truth lay in the fact that when I was alone, I was living a depraved lifestyle. I will not go into details, but I was not living as a Christian, but as a heathen. The things I was doing were expressly condemned in God’s word, and I knew the Bible. I knew they were wrong. But I thought God would overlook those things. In fact, whenever I had a close call to someone discovering my sinful ways, I always thanked God for “warning” me ahead of time so I could clean things up. 

Well, as we all know, what is kept secret will eventually come out, and mine did. And it cost me big time. In my pride, I violated a major policy in my workplace, one that I had written, and I got caught. I was immediately terminated after 20 years of working for the company. My pastor, who had known about my sin from a previous exposure and had worked hard with me to get deliverance before I started up again, told me I was not welcome in his church any longer unless I got help. And I did get help.

I went to Pure Life Ministries in Kentucky for Eight months. Eight months of hard work, bunk beds, dorm style living and intense bible study. Eight months of counseling which showed me the pride that was so rampant in my life. Eight months of squashing it down and bringing humility to the forefront. Heck, I was so prideful, I was even proud of my pride! When I look back on who I was it sickens me.

When I got home, I spent two years doing no ministry at all. Just sat in the pew and took things in. I learned to listen to my wife, who can spot my pride in a heartbeat. She has been a Godsend in keeping me on the right path. I am a much more reserved, quiet person than I was before. And I like that. 

In this first installment on pride, I will end with this warning. If you are a Christian, and you are doing something that is blatantly sinful, and thinking God will overlook it, that is pride at its worst. God will not overlook disobedience, which is the core of sin. The problem is that if you are reading this and if you are doing what I suggested, you most likely will say that you are not a prideful person.

You will ignore the warning, because your pride will tell you it does not apply.You’re special to God. You don’t have to be perfect. A little sin will keep you humble. That’s why God allows you to keep it.
 
My friend, all of that is hogwash! And if you are telling yourself this is not for you, then you need to seriously ask God to search your heart and try you as if you’re life depended on it, because it does. God hates pride! And He will not allow it into heaven so you better get rid of it now. I will be back with more on pride in the coming days, because without a spirit of humility, a true spirit of reconciliation is impossible. In the next post, we will examine what pride is. I always thought I knew, but found out it takes on forms I was completely unaware of.
 
I hope you’ll come back.
Pete Gardner

His Mercy is There

I struggle some days to see
The mercy of God for me
I know He is there
I know that He cares
I just don’t know why He loves me

I know He sees all my faults
He sees the worst parts of me
But He quickly forgives
Then He helps me to live
In the mercy He pours out to me

His mercy is always there
His mercy is always there
No matter where I go
His mercy is there
I cannot escape His love
He showers me from above
When I look at myself
His mercy is there

I have to open my eyes
To see all the love He provides
It’s more than enough
To fill up my cup
He has an enormous supply

Now I can plainly see
That His mercy is meant for me
I raise up my hands
I thank God for His plans
He always does the best for me

His mercy is always there
His mercy is always there
No matter where I go
His mercy is there
I cannot escape His love
He showers me from above
When I look at myself
His mercy is there