August 21, 2016

Blessed Sunday

It is a good Sunday here in Phoenix. Today appears to be a sunny and warm day. It is a bit sticky outside, but that is due in part to some monsoon rain that fell late last evening. Still, the sun is out, and there are no clouds in the sky. In all, I think the day is shaping up quite nicely.

I am home this morning, taking care of some business needs at OCU (this is the end of my contract, so I am following up with students, etc. to make sure everyone finishes strong), and resting before I tackle my growing to-do list for the week. My prayer is to be finished with all my grading for my course tomorrow (Lord, willing) so I can focus on ACU and Regent. Yes, ACU week 2 begins tomorrow, and my first course for Regent starts tomorrow. Of course, there is a technical hitch already -- my class in Blackboard is not showing up fully loaded -- so my students are all panicked over it. I am sure it is just a slight delay due to the class being opened just on Friday. I am not worried, but I know my undergraduates are concerned about it (I would be too if my GPA counted on it for graduation, etc.).

God has me well covered, though, and today is a blessed day. I am stressed a bit, but not for any particular reason. I had weird and unpleasant dreams again last night, and I found myself clenching my fists while I was asleep. Needless to say, my arms and my wrists are very sore, almost as if I have been wrestling or fighting against a heavy weight. This constant dreaming has taken its toll on me. I am not sleeping well, and the night terrors are causing me to wake up feeling unrefreshed. The blessing, if there is one, is that I am not tired. I mean, not sleepy-tired. I feel as though I have slept, just not peacefully.

Today is a good day, it is a blessed day, and I am choosing to focus on the goodness of God rather than the ills and aches of my physical state. He is good to me. He loves me. His mercy endures forever. I cry out with the Psalmist and say that His goodness, His love, and His mercy endures forever (Selah!)

Getting My Ducks in a Row

I am a type-A personality. Yes, I am type-A, which simply means that I do not "go with the flow" very well. I tend to stress over inconsistencies, worry about details, and fret when I cannot control what I feel I should control. As such, my head tends to run amok often, and I spiral down in a funk whenever I allow my need to be "master and governor" rise up. I have learned over the course of the last few years that when I accept my lot, submit and yield to the circumstances, my peace returns to me. Yes, when I accept my role as "servant" and not as "master," I then find the strength, the will, and the determination to let things go, to pick up what I must, and to carry on.

Today is a good example of what I mean. I woke up feeling battered and bruised. I had an unpleasant dream, an annoying dream, and in it, I found myself being attacked by a young woman I didn't recognize. This young woman was in my home, and she was harassing me very early in the morning. In this dream, I was sleeping when this young woman came into my room and handed me the telephone. She said there was a call for me. When I listened to the call, all I heard were two people talking, like an infomercial type of sales presentation. I hung up the phone. Then, I heard this woman picking up the phone again and calling an 800-number, like one of those call-in numbers from QVC. I jumped out of bed as I heard this woman barge into my parents room and hand my Mom the phone, telling her the same thing. I grabbed the phone from my Mom, who at her age and with her dementia, struggles to know when not to answer the phone. I screamed at this young woman to leave my parents bedroom and she did. I then woke up. This dream made no sense to me at all, but clearly it was a dream designed for one purpose -- to harass me, wake me up, disturb me.

In all, I would say that I have had these types of dreams for now on three-four weeks. The scenarios in them are all different, but the goal is the same. I am being attacked, harassed, and badgered without cause. I prayed over this dream this morning, and I stood my ground against my enemy. I realized right away what was going on so I took up the whole armor of God and stood my ground. The good news is that my enemy took flight, just as the WORD says. Still, the point was made. I lost good sleep, and I was disturbed by the dream itself.

Why is this so? Why is this happening to me now? Now, I mean, of all times?

Well, part of me believes that my enemy is seeking to harass me now because I am finally at the end of my research, and that end brings my graduation. I have always known that my PhD was for ministry, not for education or a job. Although, I use my education in part to help get me a job (as in credentials for teaching), my degree was not specifically purposed for that end. It was a side benefit for me. The real goal for my PhD is to engage in communication study whereby I help the church, God's people, learn to effectively communicate their faith. This my calling, my mandate. This is the work the Lord intends for me to do. All along, I have known that for some reason this work required a PhD. Now, one can certainly be an effective minister without an advanced degree. However, for a reason known only to the Lord, it was a necessity for me to study and to advance to this level of study. Now that I am in this place, so close to finishing, my enemy is seeking to strongly discourage me, to dissuade me from pursuing this path. He knows that while he cannot keep me from graduating, he can make my last couple months uncomfortable, hectic, chaotic, and generally, difficult for me.

The weird thing in all of this is that while my sleep is disturbed, I am not without peace or stressed over this fact. In truth, I have just the same amount of energy as if I slept well. This says to me that my Lord is seeing to my needs and despite these repeated attacks, I am overcoming them through the blood of the Lamb, the strength of the Lord, and the faithfulness of my God, my Savior and my King. Yes, He is standing with me, and as such, He is my strong tower, my refuge and my rock.

As I reflect on all of this today, I realize that my experience is normal, per se. The enemy is powerless over the believer in Christ Jesus. He attempts to harass, to cause pain and suffering, but in truth, he is only able to do this so long as we allow him to do it. We have the victory in Christ Jesus! Our sins were taken on Him at Calvary, and as such, our identity is entwined with His. Thus, we say that we are crucified with Him, are dead, are buried, but now resurrected with Him to walk in newness of life. Therefore, we are set free. John 8:36 (NLT) says, "So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free."

My life is bound up in His now, and that means that I am completely, wholly, and securely devoted to Him. I follow Him, I listen and heed His word to me, and I obey His commands. Yes, there are times when I sin (John 1 tells us so), but my sins are forgiven. I cannot sin willingly and not be convicted by the Holy Spirit, but when I do sin, I know that my God has forgiven me. He is good. He is so very good to me. Selah!

Moving On in Grace

Today's message at Scottsdale Bible Church was on serving. It was a good message, and was the last part in a series of three messages on what it means to be the church. Our pastor is beginning a long series coming up on evangelism, and that means reaching the lost in our community of Scottsdale, Arizona. I love my church! I love everything about my church. I struggle some Sundays to make it over to campus, but I have found the online streaming of the services to be such a blessing to me. Yes, it doesn't take the place of actual physical attendance, but on those days when I am slammed due to work and school, online church has worked for me. God extends me His grace. He covers me even when I do not do the things I should do, and in turn, He asks me to extend grace to those around me, those in my family and friendship circles, and those I meet out in the world (at school or in my community). My life is to be about His grace, and as such, I am to give out His grace freely, just as He as given me grace to cover the multitude and magnitude of my sins.

As I sit here today and engage in worship, praise and adoration of Him, I am reminded of my place, my position, and my privilege. Yes, I am possessed by my Savior, and as a result, I am fully immersed in His presence, and it is with His permission that I share in His possessions as a joint heir. What a blessed position to be in! Give Him praise, honor His Holy Name, and worship Him for He is Holy!

I thank God today for the blessings He has brought to me. I thank Him today for His gift of mercy and of grace, and for the privilege to serve Him and His people. May my life be a drink offering as Paul said so that I can be used in a way that brings honor and glory to His name. I ask this now in the matchless, merciful, and most majestic name of Jesus, my Lord and my Savior, amen!

Note: I am in awe of His power today. I am in awe of His goodness, and as such, I rest in the security of His marvelous will. I know He has me well covered this good, good day, and I know that He is RISEN AND EXALTED. He is my King, and I am His servant. I love the Lord, and today, I give Him all my time, my energy, my hopes, and my dreams so that His will comes to pass in every area of my life. He is good, so very good. He is good all the time. Selah!

Psalm 67 (NASB)
God be gracious to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us— Selah.
That Your way may be known on the earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy;
For You will judge the peoples with uprightness
And guide the nations on the earth. Selah.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
The earth has yielded its produce;
God, our God, blesses us.
God blesses us,
That all the ends of the earth may fear Him.

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