Family Life, March 2017

Peace in Your Storms

Peace in Your Storms

by Susan Brown

“Be anxious for nothing…” Really? When tangible trauma rocks our world or the subtle suspicion that we’ve missed our purpose steals our peace, what then? Those who have thought deeply and dealt daily with these issues, two pastors and a licensed professional counselor, look at the promise and practice of peace.

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Stacey and Jay Coleman

Journey pastors Jay and Stacey Coleman were returning from their son’s wedding in Arkansas when they heard the news: Flood waters were rising in Baton Rouge. After two uncertain days in Natchitoches, they returned to Greenwell Springs to find – chaos. Journey Church welcomed the community with a message: We’re with you, we’re suffering too. But in the middle of the muddy mess, we can have peace and even joy. The parking lot was packed.

“We personally flooded – our house and the church. We were trying to minister to a bunch of people in the community; everything was just chaotic,” Pastor Jay Coleman said.

We talk about peace all the time and we’re kind of flippant with it, actually,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my moments. But you discover that the peace and joy the Lord brings really is a strength to you: to hold you up, to help you make decisions in the hard days, to be able to stand up and put one foot in front of the other and move forward. So, for me, personally, it just comes down to knowing who you are in Christ.

So, how do we have peace, when circumstances and emotions seem out of control? Coleman said first, “focus on relationship, not rules. So many believers seem to be running around like chickens with their heads cut off,” Coleman said. A focus on Christianity as a set of obligations isn’t peaceful or fun. It’s exhausting. The game-changer for Coleman was discovering what it meant to have a relationship with God: “I really began to embrace that God loved me and wanted to walk with me and know me, that through the Holy Spirit he dwelt inside of me,” he said. “It means really discovering your DNA, your identity, your purpose, the plan that you have here on earth.”

Sherry Kadair
Sherry Kadair

“We need to understand who God is and who we are as belonging to him,” said Licensed Professional Counselor Sherry Kadair of the Baton Rouge Christian Counseling Center.

“We’re beloved, not abandoned by God. We are forgiven. Walk in full forgiveness. That includes forgiveness for not living up to expectations in ourselves. Sometimes we think God is secretly mad,” she said.

“We are created for purpose. There is a greater sense of purpose in community,” Kadair said. “Although I am living through the flood, I also have something I can give to the community. We need to see beyond our own pain.”

Kadair said lack of peace frequently comes when we are functioning in the place where we have the least control: changing circumstances, relational stress or past wounds such as growing up with chaos or abuse. “So often it flows back to the Serenity Prayer: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.’”

In general terms, Kadair recommends:

1487434470_christian-cross-religion-blue-roundBe honest.  Jesus ministered to the man who said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). “Understand there is hope and transformation rather than read scripture and admonish ourselves. Invite God into where we are.”

1487434470_christian-cross-religion-blue-roundStop judging yourself.  For example, “If I was really a good mother, it would look like this,” rather than the current reality. “I want God to be known so well that I know I can safely run to him,” Kadair said.

1487434470_christian-cross-religion-blue-roundBreathe deeply.  “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). “Slow, deep breathing triggers a physical change that gets us out of fight or flight,” Kadair said. “Look around to remind ourselves we’re not in the flooded house or in the boat.”

1487434470_christian-cross-religion-blue-roundPractice peace.  Slow down, relax. “Write down what you want to accomplish and prayerfully revisit it later,” Kadair advised. “Come up with a strategy.”

1487434470_christian-cross-religion-blue-roundUnpackage memories and process them.  There may be depression and re-living of hard situations. Those who experienced flooding may be back in the house but still not okay. There is trauma. Some may have flashes of water coming up again or other memories. Kadair said some may benefit from professional help such as EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing.

1487434470_christian-cross-religion-blue-roundBe patient.  It makes sense this will happen for a while. Accept it will take some time to recover emotionally as well as physically.

1487434470_christian-cross-religion-blue-roundMeditate on scripture.  “Use a short snippet of scripture,” Kadair said. “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27). Worship rather than be caught in the storm. Focus on Christ, like Peter, who was able to walk on water as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, rather than the surrounding  turbulence (Matthew 14:22-32).

“It’s important to take time to put on some worship music, even in my car when I’m by myself,” said Journey Worship Pastor Stacy Coleman. “I use that time to enter into prayer as well, especially when it’s been extremely stressful.”

“Constantly surround yourself with others you can trust, so you can express how you’re feeling. And be honest with the Lord about your feelings,” she said. “Don’t try to keep those things inside of you and deal with them on your own,” Jay Coleman said. “Choose to be with people who will encourage you. Let them be honest with you.”

Talk it out, but don’t get stuck in a cycle of never-ending negative thought, Jay Coleman advised. Keep moving forward in your thoughts and actions. “There are times when you say, ‘I don’t feel like doing this.’ Well you can’t go on feelings. Every day you get up, and put one foot in front of the other,” he said.

“Another thing that robs our peace is when there’s sin in our life,” Jay Coleman said. “We want to pretend that God only loves to bless us, but if we’re knowingly walking in sin we’re not going to have peace in our life.”

“I’ve talked to people throughout the year who say God laid something on their heart to do whether it was ministry or a specific calling, and they sidestep and go the other way. They begin to struggle with that. Is there a second chance? Well, absolutely,” Jay Coleman said. “Wherever the Lord puts you, whatever he puts in front of you, do it with everything you’ve got.”

That includes reaching out to others who are not experiencing peace. “If we really are the body of Christ, when the Holy Spirit leads us, we need to step out. You’re not going to know all the right things to say,” Jay Coleman said. “Don’t try to solve all their problems. Measure your speech very carefully.”

Or, don’t speak at all. “One of my neighbors, a big old burly guy like me, came walking down the driveway at my house. He had flooded, too, and we just embraced and stood there and cried,” Jay Coleman said. “That, in itself, meant the world. James 1:19 tells us: ‘Be quick to listen, slow to speak.’ We’re not called to be the lone ranger. Accept and give practical assistance.”

“Then, sometimes we need to step outside our circle and seek help,” the Rev. Coleman said. “Just acknowledge that there may be a need for professional counseling. And, sit down with your doctor and see if there are some health things going on.”

“Peace is a foundation in the midst of what’s coming up,” Kadair explained. “Remember God is not surprised by what surprised you. In the midst of the unknown there is a known God and we can rest in him. God does promise to use everything for our good and his glory.”


Susan Brown began her career in radio news. she was news director for WJBO/WFMF radio and a journalism instructor at LSU. She holds Master’s Degrees from LSU and New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary, and served as a chaplain at Louisiana Correctional institute for Women.
Lifestyle, March 2017

Finding P.E.A.C.E. in Marriage

Finding P.E.A.C.E. in Marriage

by TaShawnda and Alton Jamison

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Many years ago, I remember asking an older gentleman who had been married for more than 30 years … what is the secret to a great marriage? I thought he was going to say something like romance or exotic vacations. Instead, he said two words — hard work. At the time, I was engaged and you can’t tell “love birds” anything. I said to myself, “Oh, we may have an occasional argument, but we will be happy nearly all the time.”

Life has a funny way of giving us a strong dose of reality. As they say, when the honeymoon phase is over, we truly wake up and smell the roses. In college, we had disagreements like any couple, but we didn’t have arguments until after we got married in July 2003. We quickly learned that in spite of all the counseling, workshops and books we have read, we still have to work at maintaining peace in our marriage. Being good people or coming from a good family doesn’t guarantee peace. Being a Christian doesn’t guarantee peace. A large bank account doesn’t guarantee you and your spouse will be on one accord. Peace, my friend, is a lifelong task that you have to work at on a daily basis.

In Amos 3:3, the prophet asked a simple yet profound question: Can two walk together, except they are agreed? When you are married, agreement is the centerpiece of establishing and maintaining peace. If you and your spouse cannot find common ground and learn how to compromise, you will be ice skating uphill in your marriage. You can’t always find peace in the latest book, fad or Facebook post. Often, you and your spouse will have to look to one another and God and find peace. Below are some critical tools you need to establish P.E.A.C.E. in your marriage:

Prayer
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) Prayer is the lifeline of a godly marriage. It is the glue that holds couples together. It is the foundation of the house. It’s the wheels on the car. Prayer is the crucible to true lasting change and peace within your marriage. Learning how to not only pray but to pray unbiased prayers so God can move on behalf of your marriage. Don’t say, “God please help my dumb husband to act right.” Say, “God help me to love my spouse unconditionally.” When couples come together in prayer, God is in the midst and He will move mountains on your behalf when you come into agreement.

Expectation
“The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: But the expectation of the wicked shall perish.” (Proverbs 10:28) The second ingredient for peace in your marriage is having a positive expectation that your marriage will be successful. We can’t tell you the number of couples that we have counseled and helped over the years who have had such a negative outlook about everything in their marriage. Even on our darkest days, we always had the hope that God could bring us out — even if that meant going to counseling. We never lost the expectation that God has a hope and a future for our marriage.

Attitude
“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath.” (Ephesians 4:26) Attitude is definitely everything when it comes to maintaining peace in your marriage. We’ve heard a thousand times that it’s not what you say, but how you say it. We can say one little thing with an attitude and start World War III. Do you need to check your attitude? Are you causing added stress to your marriage because of your tone and body language? Maybe it’s time for an attitude adjustment.

Communication
“The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.” (Psalm 37:30) If you are always speaking doom and gloom about your marriage, then you will have what you say. Number one, you have to speak life into your marriage. Secondly, you have to speak life into one another. Instead of attacking, try to build up instead of tearing down.

Encouragement
“Cast all your care on him for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Often, peace in marriage is disturbed because of issues such as finances, kids, or jobs. But instead of allowing the cares of the world to pull you apart, use this scripture as a reminder that God cares for you and your marriage. Learn how, as a couple, to cast all of your cares on him.


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Alton and TaShawnda Jamison are the founders of The Empowerment Zone, a ministry designed to empower people for everyday life through products, events, and messages. In addition, they are the pastors of The Empowerment Zone in Baton Rouge, a church plant that is launching in April 2017. The Jamisons have been sharing the gospel together for over 17 years. They met in college on the campus of Old Dominion University and started teaching Bible Study together. The rest, as they say, is history. God has gifted them in the areas of families and finances, and they have been blessed to be able to share their message around the country. They recently completed their first book together — Purpose, Passion & Prosperity: 3 Keys to a Godly Marriage. They are also the parents of two beautiful children. For more information, visit empowerlives.net.

March 2017, Pastor's Perspective

Pastor’s PERSPECTIVE

Sitting Down on the Inside:

The Gift of Peace

by Carter Featherston

Imagine that you are an old Testament saint. You live under the Law of Moses, and you feel the burden of keeping your behavior up to standards.  When it is required, you come to the priest with your sacrifice, and if you are poor, then you come with the most meager of offerings.  You hang your head as you approach the priest, the mediator who represents an Almighty and Holy God.   The priest takes your offering and places it on the altar.  You are feeling unworthy, unholy and unacceptable  to  this  God  Who  seems  distant  and,  well,  disinterested.  As  your sacrifice burns on the altar, and the smell from the fire rises up to the face of God, here’s what happens next.

The  priest  turns  to  you. You  look  up  and  see  his  face,  and  you  think    .  .  .  is that his face . . . shining like that?  With a gentle smile he says,

“The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.” (Num 6:24)

When the children of Israel brought a sacrifice, this is what Yahweh told the priests  to say. Amazing grace! With this blessing Yahweh let the worshipers know that He loved and accepted them (the essence of blessing); that He was watching over them; that His face was beaming with delight over them; that His grace was granted to them;  and  that  the  worshiper  should  no  longer  feel  dejected  or  discouraged,  but receive the peace of God.

What a blessing indeed!

Notice that the ultimate point of this blessing is peace ; that the worshiper would  return home with peace, God’s peace.  God wanted His people to know that He was not a God of anger and wrath, but He was a God who granted peace. Apparently this has been the desire of our Father God from the beginning, that we His people would have His peace from being in His presence.

Peace is the ability to “sit down on the inside.” It is a gift from God received in His  presence (Psalm 4:6b-8; Psalm 85:8; Isa 9:6; Isa 26:12). In the Old Testament the word for this peace is shalom.  This blessed word did not mean merely “the lack of war,” but more richly it meant peace from the absence of any disturbance to a person’s  well-being.  Shalom  included material and financial  prosperity, physical health and
safety. It was spoken as the gracious ingredient in a person’s contentedness, in good relationships, for good sleep and even as a blessing for good travel. Shalom was the fullness of all the ways that God blessed you and protected you in life.

In the New Testament our peace with God is established through redemption (Eph 1:7) and affirmed in our reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18). We have peace with God through the cross of  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ  (Rom  5:1). Even further, the whole process of our sanctification and maturity serves to deepen our participation in the peace of Christ (Heb 13:20f; 2 Cor 13:11).  Indeed, Christ Himself is our peace (Eph 2:14-18); and our peace with Him brings about a new relationship with one another (Gal 6:15-16).

Yet, we live in a world today where peace is so hard to hold on to. Our busy lives, our pursuit of other idols, and our worry —-about finances, our children, our grandchildren and our elderly parents— all keep us occupied with every thought except peace.

On the retreats I lead we have wonderful Christians come to us. Many have been believers for a long time, serving in their  churches, but  there is often an absence of peace in their eyes.  The enemy has terrorized them with shame from old wounds and old sins. He tortures them with lies about their identity, and stirs up inside of them the resignation that God is really disappointed in them.

Where is our peace? In Isaiah 53 and 54 we find amazing words about a covenant of peace. In fact, most every mention of peace in the New Testament is based on what God establishes in these two chapters in Isaiah. Written 700 years before Christ these two passages reveal the gospel power of Calvary, and the peace that is available to us. Here are three applications for peace from Isaiah.

1487478424_009_036_dove_peace_world_olive_paxOur Peace includes the hope of Emotional Healing.  In Isaiah 53:4 we are told that Christ bore first, not our sin, but our sorrow and grief. He took on our pain and suffering. These are the painful emotions of our wounds, some of which came from the sins of others who hurt us. When Christ came to gather up their sins, He took notice also of our sorrow and suffering caused by their sins, and He gathered up our pain and grief. Similar sorrows have come from misunderstandings, careless words that shamed us, break-ups and betrayals, even from natural disasters and when life didn’t go the way we dreamed.  The Gospel of Peace has healing and comfort. Bring your sorrow and grief into His presence in prayer. Acknowledge your pain. Sit still, wait, and let His compassion enter your sorrow and grief (54:10c, d).

1487478424_009_036_dove_peace_world_olive_paxOur  Peace  includes the Healing of Shame.  Isaiah 53:4-5 describes the brutal cross of Christ where “it is finished!” Done. God is through punishing anyone for our sins. The completeness of our forgiveness is the clear testimony of the New Testament (Eph 1:7;  Heb 10:12; I Jn  2:2). However, on a regular basis as a counselor and retreat leader, I meet people who cannot receive forgiveness for something terrible in their past, a sin so great (in their eyes) that a place in their soul feels unworthy of His love. Instead of peace, there is shame and condemnation. But in transformational healing prayer (Eph 1:18), the Holy Spirit can open the eyes of your heart to “see” His hope, that this very sin has been forgiven and forgotten (Heb 10:17). The healing of shame is only Spirit-taught.

1487478424_009_036_dove_peace_world_olive_paxOur Peace means God is No Longer Mad at Us. What follows Isaiah 53? That’s right, Isaiah 54. After Isaiah penned the prophecy of Isaiah 53, where all of our sins would be borne away and we would be justified (53:12), Isaiah did not stop writing.  He continued with “Shout for joy!” (54:1; other versions say, “Sing, Shout aloud”) Why? Why shout and sing for joy?  Because of 53, because our sins have been carried away.  Now, feast your eyes on Isa 54:9-10. God says that the death of Christ in 53 is like the old days of Noah, when after the flood He swore that He would never flood the earth again.  Likewise, after Christ carries our sins away, God says He will never be angry with us, nor will He rebuke us. Period. Read it and live in peace.  The God of peace has sworn it! (Isa 54:9).

God has made a covenant of peace (Isa 54:10) that will not come falling down. It will not be canceled.  It has been established as an eternal covenant, because of Yahweh’s great compassion for us (Isa 54:10). His face is shining on you now. Lift up your eyes, and receive His peace.


ThoughtfulPortraitCarter Featherston, Th.M. Carter is a published writer, a pastoral-counselor and a former pastor. He is the director of Restore one, a ministry helping people make changes at the level of identity. The flagship ministry is a retreat for spiritual discovery and transformation called Pure Heart Weekend. To read more from him or to register for his retreats you can follow Carter at his blog: www.carterfeatherston.com.

 

Faith Life, March 2017

The Cracked Door

The Cracked Door

by Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis

There’s an old rusty cob-webbed door at the bottom of the staircase in the dark and gloomy basement at the old cathedral. Most people are too afraid to walk through it because they’ve heard myths and legends about it. It’s been locked for years, but today, the door is cracked with a bright light glaring from it. You’re intrigued by it, but don’t want to disturb anything, especially your soul. But God has made you curious enough to open the cracked door and to walk through it. See, a cracked door is God’s metaphorical way of petitioning your heart to walk into your dreams. The beginning of the dream is glorious. It is everything that you’ve prayed about. But the middle of the dream becomes hell. But God says to cast all of your cares onto HIM. For He is awaiting your surrender and your release of the worldly things unto him such as fear, worry, addictions and pain, so He can jump into action. He has instructed you to lay it all at his feet but you’re still holding on to it.

There’s a quote that I read once: “No one is going to be wholly satisfied even with good economic conditions until he finds his inner communion with God.”  But you may be asking yourself, “how does one do that?” The Cambridge English dictionary defines the word “meditation” as the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed.

Spiritual meditation allows the Holy Spirit to be at your side guiding and illuminating your heart and mind as you examine scripture and your inner man. It is your “gut feeling” or your intuition. There are times when the right answer is in the front of you but you allow doubt/fear of the unknown to talk you out of it. Or you may put some ridiculous saying on it that you’ve heard in church over the years to keep you from doing the very thing that God has placed in your heart. If we allow ourselves to get in sync with God we would be finding ourselves in a spiritual peace, an inner peace, an inner glow, all of which comes to us with the realization of the God within us. Adversity comes to see just what you’re made of. What kind of faith do you have? You’ve prayed for the dream and now it is here, and you’ve come too far to turn back. So you just meditate on His word until peace comes, meditate on His word until the storm passes, meditate on His word until your adversities become bees and butterflies in the big blue sky flying high and miles away. And yes, you can have that much peace if you desire it. God grants us what we ask for. Make a declaration of peace today. But don’t become so afraid of hell that you miss heaven.


TonyaHeadshotNewTonya Woodridge-Jarvis, affectionately known as “The Refresher,” is an American author, empowerment speaker and a life catalyst. she launched The Refresher Course to educate and empower others to dramatically shift the quality and direction of their lives by using spiritual principles as well as the Life Catalyst curriculum.