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But the Lord

Faith is always listed as a protective factor that can help someone at risk of suicide. We all experience dark days that require reminders of hope. The Bible offers many valuable quotes and verses on strength. It also encourages us to be strong in our faith and our daily walk with God.

September is suicide prevention month. Take time to review a few Bible verses that can help you or someone you know during the tough times of life. They are a great reminder that we are not alone.

Tell everyone who is discouraged, be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue.  Isaiah 35:4

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalm 23

Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  2 Corinthians 5:17

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Psalm 119:28

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Ephesians 6:10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Psalm 46:1

But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Psalm 22:19

For he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with testing he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Psalm 28:7-8

The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. Psalm 118:14

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.  Isaiah 12:2

Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.  Isaiah 33:2

For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.  Colossians 2:6-7

Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.  1 Corinthians 16:13-14

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:29-31

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.  Habakkuk 3:19

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.  Ephesians 3:16

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 1:6

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 15:57

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hallelujah-in-hand

Christmas is a few days away, but many may not feel like celebrating this year.  When a family member has died and Christmas is just around the corner, singing and rejoicing can easily feel out of place.

It is natural to feel a deep and prolonged sense of sadness when a loved one has died.  It is also easy for Christmastime to be an emotional roller coaster due to the many memories a family had with their loved one.  If a person is experiencing sadness, crying frequently, or feeling uncomfortable around others, attending a Christmas service may not seem like the right answer.

I encourage you to make time and space for God even in your sorrow.  If it is listening to a favorite Christmas hymn, lighting an advent candle, reading Scripture, or offering prayer share time with God this Christmas. This time can be in a public setting with other believers or privately at home.  Even a cold and broken hallelujah is an offering of love and devotion that God will hear.

In time, your song will change. The healing heart of God is there to strengthen and guide you through the difficulties of today.  Make time to connect with our Heavenly Father.  The peace of God is always there to restore, heal, and provide.

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blank page

Everyone talks about a different kind of list this time of year.  And it has nothing to do with being naughty or nice.  Our New Year resolutions for 2016 are taking shape on apps and lists across the globe.

Most resolutions focus on going to the gym and eating less.  The need for personal improvement can be physical, and it can be spiritual as well.  As you consider items for your list, here are five items that can strengthen your faith in 2016.

Schedule prayer time.  Find the right time of day where you can devote some effort to this.  Prayer is central to our faith. It is deliberate communication with our Heavenly Father. It is an act of worship. It is a spiritual discipline. It allows us to adore, petition, praise, and confess. On several occasions Scripture shows us examples when Jesus made time and space to pray. Follow in the example of Christ and find time to pray.

Meditate on the Bible.  You can read the text, receive a daily email, or listen to it on your smart phone.  Once you have a mode that is meaningful to you, make it a routine.  Spending time with God’s Word is vital to any Christian. It encourages and educates us. It provides direction when we feel lost. It reminds us that God is near.

Take a break. God gave the Sabbath for two reasons.  First, it is a day dedicated to honor and worship Him. Second, it is a day for us to rest.  Prevent burnout by setting aside work for one day out of the week.  Activities and events are always quick to crowd the Sabbath for other purposes. Resolve to use your God-given day differently in 2016.

Talk to your parents on a regular basis.  Set aside time for your family.  It can be on the phone, a video chat, or just stopping by the homestead.  Show them love and respect.  Show them that you care.  Continue to connect with them.  It will serve as a reminder of God’s love.

Try a new act of worship. This may sound radical, but too often we stay in a rut.  We stay with what we already know.  Try something new and different.  Feed your creative side and let it honor God.  Write a poem. Paint a picture. Learn to play an instrument. Create a new song or chorus for church. Volunteer your time at a local charity.  Find a new way to glorify God with a talent you haven’t used before.

As we prepare for 2016, make faith a part of your New Year resolutions.  Make a plan to strengthen your faith today and for the new year.

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snow tulips

Most of America has snow on the ground.  People are inside, trying to stay warm. Recently, I looked out my window at home to see a dozen tulips poking through a snow drift.  I marveled at the strength and power that made those plants grow in such harsh and demanding conditions.  I didn’t want to go outside because of the freezing cold, but the tulips pushed through the layers of dirt, soil, leaves, and now several inches of snow.

We forget it, but people are like those snow covered tulips.  Folks can push through tremendous difficulty and hardship.  We often grow during the most difficult times in life when there is an inner strength guiding us forward.

Scripture provides a picture of this in 2 Corinthians chapter 4.  Paul writes to the church and says, “do not lose heart.”  There is an inner strength in you that the world will not understand.  While it may be confused with personal strength, it is a “treasure in jars of clay.”  This extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.  It gives the ability to endure, maintain, and move forward even when life gives us the worst conditions possible.

Paul also shares how resilient believers can be because of God strengthening us in times of sorrow. In verse 8 he shares that God provides so well that “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed . . . .”  The Lord who helped Israel endure the desert sands will also strengthen you during the challenges of today.

God provides a covering that shelters us during the storms of life.  He also allows His Holy Spirit to guide us and strengthen us when we only see darkness.  The inner strength protects us and allows us to move upward, beyond the dirt and soil of difficulty.

Don’t lose heart.  Remember what God can do with snow covered tulips.  He renews their inner strength day by day, allowing momentary afflictions to prepare them for a greater reward and a new season of life.

 

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Costly Christianity

cost

The brutal slaying of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS this weekend serves as a grim start to the season of Lent.  While Lent is often celebrated as a time of sacrifice and inflection, today it seems more of a reminder that there is a price for our faith.

As our hearts are heavy and our prayers go out to the families of these 21 brothers in Christ, let us also focus on discipleship.  Let the Church hear this message again and again. There is a cost to discipleship.  There is a figure for service to the Savior.  There is a price when one decides to follow Jesus.

These tenets are not new.  Jesus teaches His disciples that they will be ridiculed, reviled, and rejected.  There is a hard road for us to travel as we grow stronger in faith.  Matthew 10:22 shares, “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”

Those are not easy words to hear, but they allow us to focus on what is truly important and to keep our perspective.  While there is a great price to pay in service, one will also find value in the salvation of Christ.  There is something greater than all my hardships and struggles.  There is something bigger than all my troubles.  The value of Jesus.

The point becomes clear in Matthew 10:32, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.”

As hardships, struggles, and difficulties come your way remember the examples we see in Scripture; hold on to your confession, stand fast in the truth, and endure to the end.  The value of Jesus will soon be clear.

 

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ash tree

A Kansas summer can feel horrible.  It often has searing heat, strong wind, and humidity that makes us all crave air conditioning or an ice-cold lemonade.  Our conditions are harsh and demanding every year.  These challenging elements try us and yet there are old trees standing in every community.

The heat, wind, and drought like conditions allow certain trees to develop a strong root system.  One where they dig down into fertile soil and become an anchor when storms, tornadoes, and gales unleash their worst across Kansas.  The trials, torment, and tough times produce strong trees that can survive truly horrible conditions.

People are the same way.  No one desires a season of pain, anguish, or torment in life, but it often finds us.  This tough season of life is often seen in the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a serious illness, financial difficulty, a broken relationship, terrorist attacks, war, and other traumatic events.  These are all examples of very challenging life experiences that hurt when they happen, but can produce stronger roots.

James writes to the Jerusalem church in verses 2-4 sharing:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

While it does not feel good when it happens, trials can ultimately yield endurance and strength to our faith and our life. When life seems dark and difficult, be like David and pray to God for strength.  When you are scared, reach for your Bible and take comfort knowing that God will not forsake you.  When you grieve, know that Christ also wept with hurt and loss as He consoled a community of mourners. Endure.  Stay strong.  Keep your faith.  Maintain your trust in the Lord and you will find a new season of life through Christ.

Science and psychology has finally caught up with this lesson from James.  Study after study now document resilience and post traumatic growth for people who have weathered trauma and a hard season of life.

While trauma can impair people in many ways, it turns out that there is routinely a higher percentage of people who demonstrate the ability to bounce back and learn from a hard season of life.  And yes, they are often people of faith who rely on their religion, faith, or spiritual practice for healing and recovery.  Today, faith is often embraced as a central and beneficial means of coping with tragedy.

Consider how trees survive in England.  The climate is wet, damp, and dreary. Spend a week there and you will pray to see the sun.  The soil is often moist because of the frequent rain showers.  This climate prevents trees from establishing deep roots in the soil.  The root system instead stays near the topsoil, hardly ever going deep into the ground.  A strong wind storm will often topple multiple trees in England provoking a community clean up in villages across the country.  Trees that have not been tested with hardship do not produce deep roots.  They are instead the first to fall when the storms of life come their way.

While summer conditions feel bad now they make deep roots, bring hope for tomorrow, and deliver a new season of life.

 

 

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world-trade-center-9-11-cross

Precious Lord, we seek you out on a day remembered for tragedy, heartache, and loss.  We are a grieving people who lost loved ones and friends.  We are a hurting people who were wounded, injured, battered, and bruised.  Across our land and in our faces, we still carry the horrible scars of that September day.

We are a nation who has lost sons and daughters, husbands and wives, neighbors and friends.  The pursuit of freedom has come with a price at home and abroad. There is pain and suffering from our time of conflict and war.

Redeem us Lord.  We cry out for your presence.  We cry out for your tender mercy. Comfort our grief.  Heal our brokenness.  Restore us anew.  Grant us your perfect peace through Jesus Christ, the Risen Savior.  Amen.

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