Guarding Relationships

 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8 (NLT)

I had a conversation today that was long overdue. As we talked, this scripture came to mind.

Relationships have always been precious. Family, friends, acquaintances, church family, whoever is in your life and is a part of your life, these people are precious. They may be people who you talk with and share intimate details with, or they can be casual conversation type people, either make you who you are.

The enemy of our souls does roam around, looking to destroy and devour relationships. The love of family, the harmony of friendship, these things are in satan’s sight-line. If a family can be destroyed, he is at the ready.

I am not giving glory to him. He deserves no glory at all. But as homes are protected from wild animals, wild individuals, we need to protect and be aware of the damage that can be done in relationships. We must guard relationships.

This week I, once more, had to deal with someone from long ago. There were accusations made and things dredged up from thirty years ago. I allowed myself to become angry and let them know of my anger, but fortunately, I did not unleash my anger. I simply said, I am angry right now.

Everyone can get angry. It is what you do when you are angry that counts. Praise God, I was able to distance myself a bit. But, the the words I read and the accusations hurled in my direction affected me. I am better, but, confess there is still hurt about them. Questions have become my conversation with our Lord. Am I what I was accused of? Am I full of attitude? Am I completely wrong?

I have struggled with this old relationship for years. Every few years it resurrects and I hope that this time it will be different. So far, it is like an old 33 album with a scratch on it. It stops at a point and just repeats and repeats, not moving forward.

It is times like these that make me realize how precious our true relationships are, like the conversation I had today. The devil would like to divide, distance and destroy families and friends. We cannot allow that to happen. Relationships are a gift from God. The people He places in our lives are there to support and encourage us, not bring us down.

It is our blessed calling to love one another, just as Christ loves us. We are called to care for our family and friends. We are called to encourage and lift up our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

I am thankful for this past week, filled with a dichotomy. The remains of a one time friendship built on a weak foundation, and the true friendship, that has withstood the test of time. Guard those precious relationships in your life. We need one another for support, guidance and love.

“Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep rustlers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” John 10:6-10 (MSG)

Provision

“What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31 (NLT)

There is a part of me that has always worried about finances or lack thereof. I am much better now, but I confess in the shadowy recesses of my brain is a darkness lurking and maliciously whispering to me, but, what if…

It is these thoughts that come to parade through my brain in the middle of the night. It is fear. Fear comes in many shapes and ways in people’s lives. Each of us have a fear.

I have battled fear my whole life. It has been an unwelcome companion. I recognize him now. He has been evicted, but like an unwelcome visitor he will try to sneak in. Sometimes he tries to barge in.

It was suggested once to quote scripture against attacks like this. At first that was difficult, but now it has become a way of life.

Fear? “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

Needs? “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (NLT)

Loneliness, Abandonment? “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b (NLT)

In 1994 Dale was medically retired from the Navy. We had two weeks to prepare for this new stage of our life. We were not set for this. It was a shock to us. We had been comfortable in what we were doing. We had wanted to stay in the Navy for thirty years. We had made our plans. God had other plans. I wrote in my journal asking for provision. I wrote the following, ” But, most of all, let our focus remain on You, what You want to accomplish and work out in us. For if we get ahead of You or insist on our way, or will, then we will have missed everything. For to move, to live outside Your perfect will is to be without a true life. I only want Your will to be done, and Your peace to reside in our hearts and home.” I continued writing, but you get the gist of what was in my heart.

That season was the beginning of a lesson on trust. Did I learn it right away? I would love to say yes, but, as I have written before, I want to be open and honest. Trust grows through many circumstances, some can be good, but, in my case, trust is like playing hide and seek in the fog at night while in a forest. I learned it in fits and starts.

Through the past twenty eight years I have learned that our God provides. He provides security when illness strikes. He provides comfort when dear ones move on to heaven. He provides food when the pantry is empty. He provides friends when you feel desolate and alone. He provides family when you need a conversation with sisters. He provides. Always. Every time.

I need not fear, worry, or become distraught, for He is there. Yes, I do often have to remind myself of this. Each reminder, though, strengthens my faith to believe that He does provide.

You Want Me to Do What?

“Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14b (NKJV)

When I taught English in Japan, I wondered how different the Japanese students would be from American students. I knew how I was in class, but I thought the Japanese students would be more serious, taking everything soberly. What I discovered was kids are kids no matter where you are. I spent many a night in the classroom laughing at the antics of my young pupils. They whispered and passed notes and giggled just like I did so long ago.

It was then that I realized that people are pretty much the same everywhere. So, once I had that revelation, I began to read my Bible differently. What we read in scripture reflects the lives of real people. I love studying the women in the Bible. I also believe they were women like I am. A woman with doubts, tears, and fears.

Esther has traveled with me and been the subject of my thoughts since 2019. I am currently re-reading the book of Esther. I find her fascinating.

She was raised by her uncle. She was devoted to him and was obedient to his wishes. She was placed in court, pampered, given beauty treatments and ultimately selected to become queen. That, in itself is a girl’s dream come true. You leave your life and become a queen. How many of us girls dreamed such a dream in our youth?

But, I wonder if she didn’t question in her heart the decision to go to court in the first place. She most likely thought, “You want me to do what?” At least that is what I would have reasoned.

Esther was a Jew. It turns out that one of the king’s advisors wanted to destroy the Jewish race. Her uncle wanted Esther to intercede. She came up with excuses, how she couldn’t just go into the court and talk with the king, or how the king hadn’t called for her in a month. Don’t we all make excuses when we are asked to do something out of the ordinary? Excuses can flow rapidly when we don’t want to do something.

Her uncle answered back, “And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews.  For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14 (NKJV)

A dose of reality hit her with these words. How many of us when hit like that are stunned? Hearing that maybe we are here for such a time as this is hard. I tend to think that the Lord has someone much more capable than me. I like sitting in my little corner living life as usual.

Today, while walking, the Lord spoke to me about this verse. I felt like I was supposed to write, but the first thing to pop in my mind was, You want me to do what? Then it was followed by, what if I disappoint You?

Obedience is never a disappointment to our Lord. After the excuses, Esther asked her uncle to gather together people to fast and pray for her for three days. After the excuses, the fear, the panic, she centered herself once more and accepted what was asked of her. The king accepted her presence in court, saved her people from destruction, honored her uncle and loved Esther.

Hard decisions may come to each of us. We can have the excuses. We can have our fears. We can (and usually do) panic. I will always yell, You want me to do What? But, with each task, the provision will also be there. It may not be easy. But, then again, it may.

We are on this earth at this time. We each have a purpose, a destiny, an assignment. For such a time as this.

In the book Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis Aslan tells Lucy, “You doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are.” I often have to remind myself to not doubt my value, to be myself. As I mentioned earlier, Esther was like women are today. She had the same emotions. She most likely, when asked to help she doubted her value. Today, we learn from her. Her representation of respect, obedience, submission, and example is what we can strive for, (and yes, that was an acronym for Rose).

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16 (NLT) For such a time as this, age, gender, amount of faith does not disqualify us from having an adventure with our Lord.

Shield of Faith

“Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:13-17 (NLT)

I love the 6th chapter of Ephesians, especially about the whole armor of God. For years I have dressed myself in this armor before getting out of bed. I know without that armor on me the day will be a long one.

For the most part I remember how I dressed in the morning. I feel confident in the Lord. I confess though, I recently feel like my feet are covered, my body is covered, but my sword is dragging behind me marking lines in the ground behind me. In my other hand the shield is flopping in rhythm as I trod along my day.

With each step the armor clanks against the ground and my shoes, almost tripping me. My head hangs down, not in total defeat, but lacking the energy to look ahead.

We all get this way from time to time. We get weary. The strength in our arms is depleted. The sword seems much too large to hold on. We look like a child playing dress up in an adult’s armor. Everything sags, droops and drops.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” Psalm 43:5 (NKJV)

David felt like that. He probably remembered being dressed in armor to slay Goliath. He removed all the armor, tossed the sword aside and took smooth rocks and his sling. He conquered the giant. Yet, in his life, he was discouraged and distressed. He spoke to his soul, and turned his eyes heavenward.

Years ago I was encouraged by a fellow blogger. He encouraged me to say aloud, “The joy of the Lord is my strength, I have the joy of the Lord.” When we remind ourselves of Whose we are, our head begins to lift. We start to remember that the sword and the shield is custom made for us. It becomes easier to carry that Word in our hearts and our faith is renewed.

“But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
    you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.” Psalm 3:3 (NLT)

Papa

He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Mark 14:35-36 (NLT)

According to Strong’s Concordance, the term Abba means, “Father, customary title used of God in prayer. Abba, approximating a personal name, framed by the lips of infants betokens unreasoning trust. Father expresses an intelligent apprehension of the relationship by the child. The two together express the love and intelligent confidence of the child.” The New Strong’s Concordance.

The above verse shows Jesus’ relationship with His Father. He addresses Him with a child-like expression and an adult expression. We see His trust in His Father as He is about to go to the cross for us. In my opinion, this is a prayer for strength and compassion and trust in what is about to happen.

How often are we in a position where we want to pray like this? We know God is in control, that He loves us and yet do we approach Him in a child-like way? Do we have a child-like trust in Him? Knowing, from experience in times of looming appointments or situations I tend to allow dread to fill me instead of trust. In those times I have to put myself into a quiet place alone to truly remember that I trust in God to do what is appointed for me.

There is a man in our church who is an example to me when he prays. His prayers begin with ‘Papa’. A simple address for a mighty God. The first time I heard him pray I was stunned at such a familiar greeting. As he continued I realized that this man knows God. He spends time with Him and is accustomed talking with Him. There is no straight laced formality. He comes to our God and is honest with Him.

It is an incentive for me to get to the place in prayer where I can imagine myself crawling up into our Father’s lap, leaning in and listen to His heartbeat. When I was a child I remember being at an aunt’s house with my parents. The adults were sitting around the table talking and I climbed into my mother’s lap and sat curled up, listening to her heartbeat while she talked with the others at the table. It was a comforting moment in my memory. I have had those times in prayer also. Those are the times where I can truly say, Abba, Father, Papa, I trust you.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 (NLT)