Beautiful Blessings

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We often hear people say, “I am blessed.” Often, this is expressed in reference to prosperity, health, children, or peace. Indeed, our “blessings” come in diverse and unexpected shapes.

In the book of Numbers, Aaron and the priests were instructed to bless the people in this way:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

~ Numbers 6.24-26, ESV

Paul echoes this blessing as he opens his letters to various churches and individuals:

  • Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 3)
  • Grace and Peace to You” (1 Thessalonians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2
  • Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (1 Timothy 1:2 & 2 Timothy 1:2)

Peter uses this as well:

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” (1 Peter 1:2)

And, John the apostle does also:

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.” (2 John 1:3)

What greater blessings can we have from the Lord than grace and peace?

The Blessing of Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

~ Ephesians 2.8-10, ESV

Grace is one of the greatest blessings we receive from the Lord.

We work for the Lord because we loved Him, and yet our works do not save us because our sin stands to condemn us in spite of our work. Under the Law of Moses, constant sacrifices had to be offered for every sin or impurity. Under the Law of Christ, He died one time for all time. When we come into contact with His blood through baptism, it continues to wash away our sins as we continue in repentance and transformation.

Grace does not give us license to do as we please. The scripture in Ephesians clearly says, we are created in Christ Jesus for good works… to walk in them. As Paul points out:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

~ Romans 6.1-4, ESV

Grace inevitably leads to an inner peace transcending our circumstance.

The Blessing of Peace

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

~ Philippians 4.6-7, ESV

Circumstances toss us around like waves in the ocean, but within the shelter of God’s hand rests unshakeable peace. If you are being pounded by distress or simply overwhelmed with the demands of the day, lay it out before the Lord. Place your calendar or to-do list on the table and request His help to see you through.

Request His help, do the next thing, and trust Him with the rest.

You are loved by the Lord. May you find joy in these beautiful blessings that are not dependent on the vicissitudes of life, but on the constancy of our unchanging God.

 

What a Marine Taught Me About Jesus

About a month ago, I was asked to be one of the contributors for Kirk Cameron’s new website, The Courage. I am deeply honored to be working with his team to spread hope and strength to larger audience of Christians! Please take some time today to sign up for email updates and follow the site on Facebook and Twitter. They have some amazing articles from a broad range of talented contributors. In addition to working with The Courage, I’ll still be posting regularly here at Elihu’s Corner to encourage you on your walk with the Lord and help you draw closer to Him.

My first article went live today, and I wanted to share it with all of you, my very dear readers, who have been such an encouragement to me over the past two years since I started blogging.

May you be encouraged today to live, as Jesus lived, saying, “My life for yours.”


What a Marine Taught Me About Jesus

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A few days ago, I found myself sitting in a quiet waiting room with my kids. While they were playing with the toy set in the room, my eyes fell upon a small picture of a Marine. The young man sat in his dress uniform, his face giving just a hint of a steely smile. His knees and lower legs were exposed, revealing two prosthetic legs. Beneath his picture, the caption read, “Regrets? No, Mr. President, none that I can think of.”

This Marine had two well-functioning limbs taken from his body in the course of fighting in the war. Can you imagine living without the legs you were born with? Instead of sulking in bitterness or succumbing to depression, he expresses no regrets in such a loss.

People like that Marine—military personnel, law enforcement officers, first responders—run toward the danger everyone else is trying to escape. They risk death or injury to help those who cannot help themselves….

(Read the rest of this article here at The Courage)

When I Don’t Feel Like Trying Anymore

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Photo from cnn.com

I was one of the millions of people blown away by Mandy Harvey’s inspiring performance on America’s Got Talent. Mandy, 29, explained to the judges that she had been singing since the age of four, but due to a connective tissue disorder, she lost her hearing at age 18. As an amateur musician and avid music lover myself, I well-comprehended the devastation stemming from the loss of this irreplaceable sense. Mandy told the judges, “After I lost my hearing, I gave up, but I want to do more with my life than just give up.”

After sharing her story, Mandy opened her mouth and sang (watch the full video by clicking this link). Her clear, pitch-perfect voice, soared through the hall, to jaw-dropping astonishment.

She sang. I cried. 

I know that feeling she sang about—the feeling that you are giving it your best and your best is never enough; the feeling that no matter how hard you try, you keep on getting knocked down.

Continue reading

Tired of all the Negative in Your Newsfeed?

This morning I was doing some Facebook catch-up and one of my friends had posted this picture:

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The picture immediately reminded me of God’s Love and the awesome gift of prayer He as given us. It was a ray of sunshine into the dark of my early morning.

Intrigued by the beautiful rendering of the bible verse, I clicked over to the connected Facebook page and scanned through some of the content. Aside from a devotional or two most of what I spotted were simple designs of Bible verses. How cool is that?

My personal newsfeed gets cluttered with plenty of negative information. I don’t need to hide under a rock and pretend the world is all sunshine and daisies, but I do need to be intentional about balance. Continue reading

Coming Catastrophes

despairI’ve heard it three times this past week:  “A major market crash is coming soon to a 2017 near you!!!”

OF course, there are multiple suggestions as to how to avoid said calamity:

“Be an entrepreneur”

“Invest in business”

“Buy gold and silver”

“Shore up your food supply”

“If you’re going to buy a house, buy now before rates rise.”

And, of course, all these suggestions assume you have a certain amount of capital to begin with. They all point you towards how to be self-sufficient. They point everywhere but God. 

Are these poor suggestions? No, but they require time. If a crash is imminent, you may not have time for the benefit of these efforts to be realized.

As someone who loves to read History (but is by no means an expert), I’ve come to the conclusion that disasters—natural and/or economic—do not play favorites. Certainly, the poor tend to suffer more than the rich during economic crises, but the rich are not unscathed. In fact, sometimes their devastation is far greater because they have further to fall than the rest of us. During natural disasters, the rich will die under a colapsing bridge or rising flood the same way a poor person will.

You really can’t take it with you, and you really aren’t an all-powerful, self-determining, demigod. 

It’s easy to hear apocalyptic predictions and panic—easier than falling off a log! It’s much harder to remember to lay your fears at the foot of God’s throne and go about your tasks with diligence.

Is a crash really coming?! What do I do!

For your first question—I haven’t the foggiest. I’m not God or an economic expert.

On the second question, I have a simple three-step process:

#1: Lay your fears before God.

Give thanks for all the times He has made provision for you and humbly ask Him to continue. Tell Him about “the impossibilities” and ask Him to grant you wisdom.

#2: Do The Next Right Thing

Be the best steward you can be today, in this moment, for you may not have tomorrow. Take care of your family, love your neighbor, and serve God. Do what is before you today and let go of your fear for tomorrow. To worry is to steal joy from today over what might not happen tomorrow.

#3: Take time to Remember

Do a quick search on “trust” in your Bible app and locate verses about God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. Read them, pray them, and write them.

Once you’ve done that make a list of at least 3 times God has provided for you or answered your prayers. Have this list with you when you repeat step 1.

Do all three things and then repeat!

Prepare yourself for the evil day by giving yourself to God this day.

Is a crash is truly coming? I can’t honestly say. A nuclear bomb or a terrorist strike or a thoughtless driver could strike me tomorrow and I would have no way to prevent it. Don’t waste today’s energy fretting about tomorrow’s troubles. Leave your unpredictable future in the hands of our faithful God.

What are Your Study Habits?

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When I was a green seventeen-year old beginning my first year of college, I went through an orientation week affectionately called “WOW week” (aka Week of Welcome). In one of our mandatory sessions, the Dean of the College of Sciences asked us the following:

How many hours did you study in high school?

Do you know how to take notes?

Do you know the importance of rest?

Having graduated second in my high school class, I had little concern about my study habits because I knew they were sound. I am not a genius so I had to spend hours (about 30 hours/week) studying, taking detailed notes, recopying my notes as a study method, and prioritizing my projects. I continued these habits in college and managed to graduate cum laude. Persistence really does pay off.

A few years after college, this question was posed to me:

“Do we devote as much time to studying the Bible as we did studying for our chosen professions?” Continue reading

Do these words describe you?

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Today, as I was preparing to listen to my daily reading in the YouVersion app, this verse popped up as the “verse of the day.” YouVersion has graphic designers that make these verse images and every so often I post them to Facebook or Twitter. This particular verse jumped out at me today, and I particularly love the emphasis this designer gave to the three words, “joyful, patient, and faithful.”

Now, in the context, this verse is part of a list of “things to be” from Paul the Apostle in the book of Romans. As I looked at this verse this morning, I thought, “Am I joyful, patient, and faithful?” Continue reading

“What It’s Like Explaining Depression Meds to Many Christians” by To Save a Life

img_2605Hello dear readers!

I am in the middle of working on some upcoming blog posts for this week,  but I saw a great post today that ties in beautifully to the past several posts regarding invisible illnesses. I’m including one of the graphics, but you’ll have to click the link to see the rest:

 

http://tosavealife.com/mental-health/depression/what-its-like-explaining-depression-meds-to-many-christians/

May the peace of God dwell with you today and always.

Depression: The Big Conundrum

This is part 3 of the series “Invisible Illnesses.” To read the previous post, click here.

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The heavy beat of drums and the wail of electric guitars blared through small white earbuds. Her cold, trembling fingers pressed them deeper into her ears, attempting to drown the screaming and thumping echoing down the hallway. Another uncontrollable tantrum. A tantrum over… what, exactly? She couldn’t put her finger on the triggering moment.

Continue reading

The Number One Myth Surrounding PTSD

This is the second post in the series Invisible Illnesses. To read the first post, click here.

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Humans are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are complex beings, an intricate tapestry of mind, body, and soul. Advances in research continually enhance our understanding of the mind-body connection, yet scientists and laymen alike continue to minimize the power of this perplexing organ.

As Christians, we believe in the unseen. We have confidence in the power of God to heal. We know the war of the mind rages daily. The bitter irony, then, is how we treat those with “unseen” mental injuries as though they are weak-minded sinners:

“If you just had more faith, you could be healed.”

“You need to pray more. That will fix your depression.”

“That guy simply needs to stop making excuses for his PTSD.”

As if it’s so simple…

If I were to say, “That cancer patient is downright lazy. He needs to get on his knees, start praying and have more faith in God’s power to heal,” what would happen? Death threats. Accusations of insanity. Disdain. Derision.

Why?

God, in His infinite wisdom, does not always give us healing. It might be our time to go home and be with the Lord. It could be our “thorn in the flesh” training us to patiently endure. Yes, faith can move mountains yes, prayer is powerful; but God’s will is the final word. Sometimes the answer is “no,” or “not yet.”

The world we live in is plagued by diseases of all kinds. We conquer one outbreak only to be assaulted by another. Tuberculosis used to be the great killer, now it’s cancer. People feared Polio, now it’s autism. We strive endlessly to circumvent disease, but the world has been the realm of hardship since the first sin.

Mental illnesses are invisible diseases, often created by physical stimuli, but we (particularly Christians) treat them as though they are self-inflicted wounds, controlled by our will alone. We completely ignore the physiochemical side of the issue.

It is far too complex be treated so lightly.

The #1 Myth of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

During the tumultuous election, I numbed to the cringe-worthy statements from the-candidates-whom-nobody-wanted. Then, out of the blue, Mr. Trump said something in total ignorance—and I was no longer numb:

“When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it but a lot of people can’t handle it. They see horror stories, they see events you couldn’t see in a movie, nobody would believe it …”

Donald Trump, October 3, 2016 (emphasis mine)

Open mouth, insert foot.

Mr. Trump merely stated what most people already believe—PTSD only happens to the weak.

That would be Myth #1.

PTSD results from traumatic stress, hence the name. Furthermore, nobody has been able to crack the code of the human brain to determine why one person gets one set of symptoms and another person does not. One thing the experts all agree on is this: PTSD is NOT the result of weakness.

The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) states: “PTSD can happen to anyone. It is not a sign of weakness. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will develop PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control.”

The VA estimates that eleven to twenty percent of veterans from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD. They also estimated the number of Vietnam Veterans with PTSD is only slightly higher—about fifteen percent. I’m a little skeptical of their numbers because most people—men in particular—are reluctant to admit there is a problem due to the social stigma surrounding PTSD. Furthermore, the needs of veterans returning home from Vietnam were ignored (read: treated like garbage) and so it is likely that number is also inaccurate.

What I am about to state in this paragraph is purely my opinion, based on my eye-witness observation and reading: PTSD—particularly when manifested in military veterans, law enforcement, and first responders—is a sign of deep courage, conscience, and compassion. We were designed to desire justice and mercy simultaneously. It is not in our nature to find joy in death and destruction. If one sees rampant devastation and remains unmoved, something is seriously wrong.

We watch movies and TV shows of people going through trauma. After each life-threatening situation, they move on with life as though unfazed. Consciously or subconsciously, we consider these characters tough. In real life, we would think they were sick and twisted at best. One cannot be confronted with such high, unremitting levels of violence and remain unaffected, unless there is some underlying sociopathy. We civilians cringe at the sick humor of doctors, nurses, soldiers, and cops thinking them to be callous. They are not unhinged— humor is their coping mechanism. They are deeply affected by what they see day after day, month after month, year after year.

People with PTSD are not weak, and Christians in particular need to grasp this truth.

Some Facts About PTSD

According to the DSM-5, the following is the Stressor Criterion:

The person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, as follows: (one required)

  1. Direct exposure.
  2. Witnessing, in person.
  3. Indirectly, by learning that a close relative or close friend was exposed to trauma. If the event involved actual or threatened death, it must have been violent or accidental.
  4. Repeated or extreme indirect exposure to aversive details of the event(s), usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, collecting body parts; professionals repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse). This does not include indirect non-professional exposure through electronic media, television, movies, or pictures.

Symptoms of PTSD:

  1. Irritable or aggressive behavior
  2. Self-destructive or reckless behavior
  3. Hypervigilance
  4. Exaggerated startle response
  5. Problems in concentration
  6. Sleep disturbance
  7. Recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive memories.
  8. Traumatic nightmares.
  9. Dissociative reactions (e.g., flashbacks) which may occur on a continuum from brief episodes to complete loss of consciousness.
  10. Intense or prolonged distress after exposure to traumatic reminders.
  11. Marked physiologic reactivity after exposure to trauma-related stimuli.

Getting Treatment

 

The biggest obstacle to recovering or coping with PTSD is failure to get treatment.

What do we do if we have a bacterial infection? We usually go to the doctor and get an antibiotic. If we get in a car accident with severe injuries, we don’t stand around bleeding. We go to the hospital and get help! PTSD needs proper treatment just like any other bo`dily trauma. 

What is proper treatment?

I am not a doctor, so I would first advise you to find a medical professional with specific experience in counseling trauma victims. A marriage and family therapist is not usually an expert in this area. Be specific in your search. You wouldn’t see a gastroenterologist for an eye problem. Don’t see the wrong kind of therapist for this either.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an emerging form of therapy making waves in the mental health industry. There is, of course, disagreement about it’s effectiveness, but I’ve heard from both professionals and patients of it’s amazing results.

Other forms of treatment include (but are not limited to): Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, medication, family counseling (for the family affected by PTSD), and psychodynamic psychotherapy. Click the link to read more in-depth.

If you are a war veteran suffering from PTSD, I highly recommend getting in touch with Headstrong, a non-profit organization created by Veterans committed to helping fellow veterans recover from PTSD by getting them connected with EMDR therapists. I connected with them last year to inquire about help for my best friend, but since his PTSD wasn’t connected with his military time, they couldn’t help. However, the person I spoke to—a vet who had personally gone through this therapy and recovered—went out of his way to get me the names of clinics using EMDR therapy that he had personally vetted.

Don’t leave God out

We pray for healing of our illnesses, we pray for help with our struggles, and we ought to pray for recovery from mental illness with the same conviction. If you have a family member suffering from PTSD, you also need prayer and support. Give your pain over to the Lord—He is a safe harbor in the storm. Like any illness, we pray for healing, good treatment, and wisdom for the doctor. We pray for God to do His work and we also do what is within our power to do.


If you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, take heart. There is hope for you to lead a happy and full life. Do not succumb to societal pressure to ignore the problem. Get the treatment you need and lean on God for support.