I read a couple of blog posts this week that I enjoyed about answers to prayer, one about an answer of no and one about an answer of wait. For me an answer of no is a temporary disappointment that I get over to move on. Wait is an answer more difficult to deal with because then I wonder when.
I enjoyed reading both of the posts. They caused me to think about my responses to God’s answers of no and wait. Then I thought about something else. There are hundreds perhaps thousands of yes answers that I take for granted. I would like to encourage us to think about the every day yeses that we can too easily take for granted.
What got me to thinking about the every day yeses we take for granted was actually jesskidding’s post. When I read it, I thought about all of the yeses she gives her child every day as do all moms such as yes you can have a hug, yes I will tuck you in, yes we can read a book etc. Moms say yes so many times to their children, but kids can tend to focus on being told no.
Then I thought about all of the yeses God says to us at times without us even asking. Yes, I am always with you. Yes, you can be with me forever in heaven because of Jesus. Yes, you can have friends at church. Yes, you can have air to breathe. The yeses are endless when it comes to God, but we focus on the nos and the waits. I think we tend to take all of the wonderful yeses for granted.
Have you ever wondered how God feels about us taking him for granted? One time Jesus healed 10 people who has leprosy but only one returned after showing himself to the priest for confirmation to thank Jesus. The man was a Samaritan who Jews considered foreigners. Jesus’s response was in Luke 17:
“Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
A good way to not take the yeses for granted is to take time to thank God and appreciate him. In the morning, I like to start my day listening to worship music and praying. One thing I try to do is thank God for the classes I teach, the opportunities he gives me etc. I think taking time to do so in the mornings has helped me with the depression that accompanies the chronic illnesses I live with.
But there are way too many other things I forget or neglect to thank him for. This blog post of mine is an expression of me feeling convicted that I need to thank God for more of the wonderful ways he cares for me.
I don’t want to take the every day yeses for granted. God says yes to us every day in numerous ways.
Yesterday it was time, the moment my students were waiting for. It was time for them to have their first follow up test to measure progress with their English. They were all either a little or very nervous. It is such a big deal for them.
It is a big enough of a deal for them to come to class and step out of their comfort zone to study English as an adult trying to make a new life in a new country. They are busy moms taking care of their families. The reason they come to class is to help their children.
The test is an oral skills test, BEST Plus, that is administered one on one by a tester who comes with a laptop.
My awesome Wednesday volunteer Kathleen was in class with us. She had given us a small blow up globe to use in class, and yesterday we used it to for a fun activity while students were coming and going from the test. The students passed the globe to each other and had to say a country they wanted to visit and why.
I was glad Kathleen could be there to see three special moments for three students. She has volunteered in my class for five years, so she met the three students when they first started my class and has watched their progress. The three students, two from Mexico and one a Yazidi mom from Iraq, each passed the oral skills test.
One of the moms from Mexico has anxiety. When she went to take the test, I silently prayed for her asking God to help her to relax and remember.
The other mom from Mexico is shy. When she went to take the test, I silently prayed for her too to feel relaxed.
The Yazidi mom has struggled with health issues the past several months. When she went to take the test, I silently prayed for her.
When they came back with the tester, the tester whispered to let me know they passed. When they came back to class and the tester let me know they passed, I had the student come to the front, so I could announce they had passed the test. We clapped for them and I gave each of them a high five.
All of the students tested yesterday improved, so we will celebrate before spring break in a few weeks. Each of my students made progress and can tell their children they did well on the test.
Their children know mom is in the school going to English class. It takes come courage to step out and do something so different for them. Many of the moms never had the chance to go to high school in their countries. Their children can be proud of their moms.
Each morning I am thankful God has placed me with this group of special moms, so i can empower them with English. When we can celebrate their achievements, it motivates me even more to pray for them and their families.
Christmas season is upon us, so many people are rushing about with holiday preparations shopping, planning, and decorating. Thoughts of seeing family fill the minds of many people and for many those are happy ones of anticipation of seeing loved ones again.
For some the holidays represent a stark contrast to the holiday joy. Family problems can make holiday gatherings something to dread or avoid. Loneliness can set in and be magnified at this time.
Monday evening on the show The Voice, one of the contestants Kimberli Joye shared her struggle with depression and what helped her get out of the deep valley of depression. She sang a song that helped lift her out of the pit of depression, Oceans by Hillsong.
As she shared her story, I thought about the passage from Isaiah 61 about the promised Messiah who would come:
“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
The reason for Christmas is to celebrate to birth of Jesus the promised one Isaiah 61 speaks of. He came to set us free from depression, despair. He came to give us a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. He came to bring healing to the brokenhearted. He came to make us strong like oak trees.
Kimberli shared how praise music helped her out of the valley of depression. I know it has helped me with depression. Some other things that have helped in the past when Christmas comes are things that help me focus on Jesus and not on the holiday trappings such as:
Watch movies about the birth of Jesus not the sappy romanticized movies about the miracle of Christmas season.
Serve others to show the love of Jesus in practical ways. For me it is helping my refugee and immigrant friends.
If family is too problematic, serve someone else on Christmas Day such as at a local mission.
Listen to music that focuses on Christmas being the birth of our Savior.
Spend time with Jesus in prayer and tell him what you are experiencing. He already knows anyway.
AND- remember Jesus came to set us free. He has promised to always be with us even in the deep valleys.
Here is Kimberli singing Oceans on The Voice. Thank you for reading. God Bless.
Last night I visited some Mandean friends from Iran for a Friendsgiving dinner. The food was delicious as it always is when I visit my friends.
As much as I love the good food
the friendships are what make my visits so worth my time with them. There is laughter, friendship, shared stories, and more.
Which leads me to share about what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving.
First and most important, I am thankful for Jesus. I am thankful for his love that made him want to die for us and defeat death for us. He is the reason I am still alive in this world. He has blessed me with so many things.
I am thankful for my friends from many countries and the opportunities I have to share the love of Jesus with them. My life is enriched because of experiencing so many cultures.
I am thankful for my friends who helped me make it through a difficult summer in many ways.
I am thankful for my home church and their support in prayer, encouragement, and more.
I am thankful for my students and the classes I teach. They give me purpose. I hope to teach until the day the Lord takes me home to heaven.
I am thankful for the teachers and staff at the elementary school where I teach my morning class. Their dedication to make a difference in the lives of children living in adverse circumstances inspires me every day.
I also wish to thank my readers especially those who follow my blog, comment on and like my posts. I am thankful for the bloggers I follow who give me interesting posts to read.
I want to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. May your day be filled with family, friendship, and love. May you experience the love of Jesus in your life.
It happened again yesterday. It is the response I get every time. She laughed. But it was a good response of laughter. Her laughter is proof of God’s work in my life. Why did she laugh?
Yesterday morning I shared with my conversation group at church that when I was in high school everyone was afraid of me. I shared with them that the look on my face scared people because I was an angry teenager. She couldn’t believe it. She is a young gentle-hearted woman from Japan who comes to my Saturday morning group. She has only known the Matt I am now.
My young friend’s disbelief about the kind of person I used to be, is one I have seen many times when I share about my past.
That is a testimony to the wonderful life changing power of God working in my life. God can take a person and transform them into something no one would have thought possible.
When we come to Jesus, trust in him, it is the beginning of being transformed into a new person. 2nd Corinthians 5 says:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
But the new life is not just for us to go about our lives selfishly enjoying a better life. 2 Corinthians 5 also shows a purpose for the new life:
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”
God reconciles us to him and then gives us the opportunity to share the love of Jesus. When we come to Jesus, trust in him, God gives us a purpose in this life.
I am thankful that my young friend and other have laughed when I share with them about who I used to be. I hope to experience that many more times.
This may sound crazy, but I will never forget the time I was thankful for a tube of toothpaste. I was in the valley of depression and things weren’t going well at the time. Then one day I was cleaning, which is not easy when dealing with depression, and came upon a tube of toothpaste I had forgotten about. I had bought it a month before when it was on sale. The thought hit me that I would not need to go anywhere that day to buy toothpaste and I thanked God I would not need to go shopping. That moment began my path out of the valley of depression.
Isaiah wrote about what the promised Messiah, Jesus, would do for us. Among those things Jesus would do for us we find in Isaiah 61:
“and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
Jesus will give us a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Despair is not from God. Despair is loss of hope. If we feel there is no hope, that feeling is not from God. Jesus is our solid eternal hope.
When I thanked God for that tube of toothpaste that day, it clicked in my mind to try to thank God for things in my life no matter how small or silly they may seem to others. Step by step Jesus helped me climb out of that valley of depression.
This month we have one of our biggest holidays in America, Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, November 22nd. That is only two short weeks from today. So Thursdays in November I want to share things I am thankful for.
For me it starts with saying that I am thankful for Jesus. I don’t want to think about what my life would look like without Jesus. On the rare occasions that I see someone from my teen years and tell them that I teach ESL and am in part-time ministry, their response is to ask what happened to you.
Jesus is my Savior not only for eternal life, but also in this life. He literally saved my life from dying when I was sick in the 1990s. He gave my life meaning and purpose.He brought me out of the pit of depression. He brought people from all over the world into my life. I am so thankful for Jesus.
In these days of post election in the U.S., days of turmoil everywhere, being thankful can help thwart the spirit of despair. Please join me in expressing thankfulness to God. What are you thankful for?
It seems that the years have gone by so quickly yet it was in the distant past that I looked like this:
I am the guy in the red tank top not the rhino sleeping. 🙂
Fast forward to today and I am an old guy with a beard.
Sometimes I wonder what I would tell my 20 year old self if I could go back and talk to myself. Perhaps I would tell myself that I found out I have an aptitude for languages, so dive in earlier. Maybe I would tell myself not to worry about situations that will be in my future. One message I know I would want to share is that Jesus certainly will be with me all along the way such as:
Jesus giving me the opportunity to share him with my stoic alcoholic father and that my father would come to Jesus one year before he would die.
Jesus would sustain me through a four year health crisis.
Jesus would lead me to a ministry of reaching out to people from all over the world.
Jesus would take me from being the perennial screw up to be someone others look to for help.
Jesus would meet me in my valley of depression and lead me out.
So many other ways that Jesus has been there for me, helped me, changed my life, so the list could go on and on.
As I look back over my life, I can see how true it is that Jesus has all power, is gentle and humble of heart, cares for us more deeply than any other person, and has come to give us life abundantly.
Dear reader whatever situation you are in, Jesus is there. Look to him and ask. The turn around may be over time or happen quickly. Either way trust him. He is more than able.
It is Sunday morning here where I live, so I am preparing to go to worship at my my church. God has blessed me with the opportunity to worship in churches in Brazil, France, Mexico and Romania- both a Romanian church and a Turkish church, He has blessed me to experience worship in Karen, Spanish, Vietnamese, Ukrainian, Zomi, and Arabic here in my home city. So on Sunday mornings it is very real to me that as I worship at my home church, I am joining people all over the world to enter the presence of the Lord.
As I go to worship this morning, I will be mindful of Psalm 30:
“I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.”
Yes, Jesus has lifted me out of the depths of abuse as a child, sickness as an adult, and depression. No, my life is not perfect. The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was to turn on the heating pad I have on the back of my neck, I have bills to pay, but my life is full of meaning as I help refugees and immigrants. He has blessed me with another day in this life to show his love.
When I go to worship, I will thank Jesus for lifting me out of the depths of depression. It did not happen overnight, but he did lift me out in his perfect timing over some weeks this past summer.
When I go to worship, I will thank Jesus for sparing me from going down to the pit of despair due to abuse. Jesus came into my life and brought healing and freedom to be able to show his love to those who suffer.
The list could go on and on as it could for you my dear reader. Whatever circumstance we are in, we have hope because of Jesus. Our hope is eternal. Let’s seek the Lord for him to clothe us as Isaiah 61 says:
“and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair”
There are things I hear that I do not respond to. If my students ask to go home early, I simply smile and say nice try. If I hear loud music in a car close to me, I turn up my worship music in my car to drown it out.
There are things I hear that I do respond to. When I hear a siren go by, I pray for the Lord to be with the responder and the person/people they are going to help. When my students ask a question because they do not understand something about English, I explain it for them.
Good parents seem to know when to respond. If a young child falls and cries for help, the parent picks them up and comforts the child. If a child is sick, the parent will do whatever they can to help the child. If a child is in danger, the parent will do anything to protect the child.
Have you experienced those moments when God hears you? When God responds to you?
This summer in my life has been one long moment of God responding to me. When I was sick in June and could barely do anything, which is part of living with autoimmune, he did not answer my prayer of please just take me home to heaven Lord I am done with this life. God heard what was really behind that prayer. He saw what was behind it and responded to the real need. Living with autoimmune means living with lifelong chronic problems and it can bring a person down mentally and emotionally.
God responded through one of my pastors in late June when he met with me. I had offered to resign my ministry because of the pit I was in. My pastor responded with, “No, this is medical. You will not resign.”
God responded by bringing people into my life who need help. He knows how I am wired. When I meet refugees who need help, it gets my attention.
God responded through acts of kindness by others such as people bringing me food, taking me out for coffee, and a big surprise earlier this month of my former group of young people from Vietnam that I had mentored and taught contributing to give me enough money to cover my bills for August.
As I think about how God responded, I think about Psalm 116:
“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”
God turns his ear to us. He hears us. He responds to the real need. He knows us and our situation better than we do.
Dear reader whatever you are going through, ask God for help. Don’t worry about having the right words, Don’t worry about making a mistake in prayer. God understands what is behind the prayer. God knows the real need. Romans 8 we see:
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
While we pray, the Holy Spirit translates. God searches our hearts. He knows what we really need even if we cannot express it.
God knew what I really needed this summer. He brought me through it. I give him all of the credit, glory, thanks etc.