Steve Schappell-My Blog

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Your room is ready


"In my Father's house are many mansions, if were not so, I would have told you.  I got to prepare a place for you.  And if I go a prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, you may be also."
John 14: 2-3

One of the pillars of the American Dream is home ownership.  The pride of being able to own you piece of America.  Have your white picket fence....2 kids, 2 cars...etc.  You get the picture.  Home ownership is a dream for many, a reality for others, and for some...what once was.

Mortgage rates have hit another record low, while foreclosures continue to climb.  In this fragile economy, too many are finding out they cannot afford their home, or changes in their lives have forced choices that in some cases mean a home is lost.

Not all hope is lost and it is not all doom and gloom.  However, times like these make us realize that this is not our home.  The cool thing is that when we receive Jesus into our loves, God opens up another room and a permanent home awaits us.

In the New Spirit Filled Bible that I read, Jesus says in Verse 2 "In my Father's house are many Mansions..."  The study notes for this verse read: Mansions literally means "dwelling places."  A better translation is "rooms," conveying the idea that there is ample space in Heaven for all who come to Jesus as Savior.

How about that.  Mansions...a room for you...prepared and waiting so when Jesus returns and receives us for Himself, where we are, He will be also.  Whether a room, a house, or dwelling place, it does not matter.  There is Vacancy for all believers.

Hmmm...no mortgage payment because Jesus already made payment in full.  No electric bill, water bill, sewer bill, heating bill, cable bill, phone bill....No bills EVER again.  Living in the presence of God and Jesus and all other believers for ALL Eternity.  Now that is a room that I want and a place I look forward to going to.

The Vacancy sign is out and Heaven will never run out of rooms.  God can always add on.  Like the sign says in this blog, "Yes Vacancy."  Now that's something to be excited about.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Opposite Directions


“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
Acts 3:19

As some of you may know, I have been involved in an “interstate” relationship.  My girlfriend and I live 4 ½ hours apart on almost opposite ends of Pennsylvania.

For the past 9 months, we have gone back and forth first by car and now by bus on alternating weekends.  We normally see each other 2x a month, and sometimes more.  The hardest part of the weekend is always when we leave.  You see, when we are together, things flow smoothly.  No matter what we do—together, or with her kids, or mine—we have a wonderful time. 

It feels natural spending time together, moving in the same direction.  We enjoy working together on common goals and mutual interests.

All the more reason that when it’s time for one of us to leave and get on the bus, we get sad.  We tell each other we are in each other’s heart and look forward to the next time we see each other again.  We know that this is a “season” we are in and God is taking care of everything.

But the real reason it hurts is that we are going in opposite directions.  Putting that distance between us when we desire to be together and moving in the same direction.

That’s how it is with God and his children.  We are all his children and were designed to move in the same direction with our Lord and Creator.  Then sin came into the world and it became fractured and torn.  Only Jesus, through his death on the cross and resurrection, brought a way back to God.  And one day when He returns again, we will have restoration and come full circle as was intended in the beginning.

When we turn away from God and try to go on our own, we move in an opposite direction from his will.  We put that distance between Him when he desires a relationship with him, and moving in the same direction.

When we wait upon the Lord, listen for his voice, and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, He makes our crooked paths straight.  He gives us peace and healing.  Opens doors no man can open.  It is not easy, but when we work on walking together with God in the same direction and in his time, we receive time of refreshing.

It does not matter who you are, or what you have done.  God is waiting with open arms and a Love so deep and wide, we cannot comprehend it.  So, turn to God, receive complete forgiveness of your sins, and enjoy the refreshing that only comes from God’s presence in your life.       

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

State of Contentment (Not always easy...)

"Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content."
Philippians 4:11

I have a booklet by Norman Vincent Peale called "Thought Conditioners."  This features 40 powerful spiritual phrases that can change the quality of  your life.  The above passage is one of these 40.

In it, he says that our present situation may not be to our liking.  Perhaps we are dissatisfied and discouraged.  He says to put the matter into God's hands and if he wants you elsewhere, he will lead you there, if you are open to his leading.  On the other hand, God may want you where you are.  In that case, he will help you adjust to the situation.  He will make you content, even grateful for present opportunities.  This way you can learn to do the best you can, with what you have, where you are now. 

My life radically changed since I lost my job last August.  While I did not see it at the time, it has been for my benefit and many blessings have arrived as a result.  Let's look at this in my life from what Dr. Peale talked about in the previous paragraph.

When I was let go, it certainly was not to my liking.  Losing that identity was very hard.  Along with it, came the loss of work, salary, benefits, and recognition.  I had to apply for unemployment and stay holed up at home to work full-time to find full-time work.  I was dissatisfied and discouraged to say the least.  It was during this time that God brought me to my knees, crying out to him for relief.  He got me to where he needed me to be.  On my knees, crying out and telling him I could not do this without his help.  It was only when I put the matter into God's hands, did I begin to gain some understanding.

I prayed that I would find work closer to home, with regular hours, no evenings and no weekends.  I also told God the salary range I wanted to be in.  I prayed and God answered....in his way.  Thanks to a talk with a neighbor and an ad in the Merchandiser, I applied to a local company looking for an office manager/Customer Service.  God answered with my current job.  It is closer to home (2.5 miles), has regular hours (8:30 to 5:00), no nights and no weekends.  The salary: 1/2 of what I was earning in my last job.

God did lead me elsewhere, and I have learned to adjust.  What I earn pays my bills, so I did not fall behind.  It is tight and a struggle at times, but I am learning to be content.  I am able to help out more with my kids, able to see their games.  God showed me that he knew this was coming and used my last job to set me up for this.  I was able to purchase my house and put 20% down.  I was able to pay my car off (after losing my job), and in a place where I am maintaining what I have.  My kids and ex wife have adjusted to this and understand.  I am looking for other positions, but am growing where I am now.

So perhaps God wants me where I am and he is helping me to adjust to the situation.  See, losing my job and gaining this new one, opened up my weekends.  If not for what happened, I may have not met my girlfriend, who I have been crazy in love with for almost 9 months now.  God brought an amazing blessing into my life with Shari (that's her name), and I am grateful daily for her love and friendship.

It also showed me that I was not ready to be a leader as I thought.  In my last position, I managed 6 others at a Credit Union branch.  Brought in from the outside, I had not only to learn the banking world, but a new corporate culture, while managing the personalities of 6 unique people.  It was a lot to juggle and through my recent experience, have come to realize and admit that I was not ready to be a manager.  I was watching Joyce Meyer recently and she mentioned something that stopped me in my tracks.  Basically she said that to be in a leadership position you have to have to learn be under authority.  To understand what it is like so that of God brings you into a position of authority, you will know how to act and treat others.  And that is what is happening right now in my present position.  It is exciting to see that God is preparing me for something greater down the road.

Finally, God is teaching me to be the best that I can be (dad, boyfriend, friend, etc), with what I have (my present situation...home, salary, car, etc), and where I am (my job and in life)  I have more growing to do each day, but I see progress and God is good.
 
I am learning to be content, more so that I ever have been.  It is a struggle, but one I want to overcome so that God can work through me for my personal growth and to help others.  My prayer for you is that you will also learn to be content with who you are, where you are, and what is in your life right now.  Know that it is a season, one that God will move you out of into the next season of life.  No matter what happens, he will never leave nor forsake you.



  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Encouraging Prayer

"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may he healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
James 5:16

It is a good thing to pray for and encourage one another.  Encouraging one another up in the faith strengthens the body of Christ, and building another up is always better than tearing someone down.

I did not intend this blog as a way to ask for anything from anyone.  However,  I am asking for your prayers as God is preparing me for a new opportunity.

I really want to make a difference in life.  I thought that was at work (I have to be in a career that makes a difference...) I felt it had to be something big.  Since I lost my job last August, God is showing me that I can make a difference at work, in all the small ways.  From the way I act and speak, for example.  I am also being shown that when I wait on the Lord, he will direct my path and move me to where he wants me to go.

I am currently in a Men's Group that meets at church every other week.  It is called "Men's Fraternity," and is a 3-year course on Manhood.  We are on a quest for authentic manhood.  This is designed to answer some questions that are universal to men.  I am in the beginning phases of this; however, God is showing me a lot about myself and opening up other avenues in my life.

One of those areas is what I am asking for prayer in.  Our church is starting the "Celebrate Recovery" program this summer.  This was started at Saddleback Church (Pastor Rick Warren's Church) by John Baker.  Celebrate Recovery is a recovery program based on eight principles from the Beatitudes.  While similar in some aspects to the 12-step program like AA, this is world's apart in execution, using Biblical principles to guide every aspect of the program.

When I read in our bulletin about this a few months ago, my heart leaped, and at the time I was not sure why.  My girlfriend has been involved in her church with this program and was excited to hear this was coming to our church.  I felt a tug at my heart about this and prayed about it. 

Then, a few weeks ago I saw in the bulletin 2 men were needed to be facilitators in this program.  God laid on my heart during the service and afterwards I went up to one of the organizers and volunteered my services.  Now, I am going thorough a leaders guide and reading workbooks and materials that my girlfriend has to become familiar with this, and eager to start our planning meetings.

I thought, "wait a minute God, what do I know about this?  I am not trained in this area, yet I have a strong desire to help in any way I can."  Then God took me back to my college days and it started to make sense.

You see, it started during college, and while I never understood why, I was grateful for it.  Other students, some I was friends with and others that I did not know, would share with me.  Some of what they shared was very personal, and in some cases, I was the first one they told.  One person said I seemed like someone they could trust, and another said they felt comfortable with me to share.  In all cases, I promised that I would not share their secrets with anyone else.  This continued here and there after college, and stopped after I got married and had kids.  Now, all these years later, I am feeling led to a place where I feel I can make a difference.  That is what I am praying about.  That God would use me for whatever purpose he has.

I did not see it at the time, but now understand that when these people shared their pain, loss, hurts and secrets with me, they experienced a relief and had some new found freedom.  They were able to let go of that part of their past and move forward.  Now here I was, with all their secrets in my head and feeling a bit burdened.  Once I realized that my next step was to lay those burdens down at the feet of Christ, did I experience that same freedom and release they experienced.

I don't remember everything that people told me over the years, but that may not be a bad thing.  They released them to me and I gave them to God.  Jesus died for all of us and he asks that we cast our cares on him for his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

I am praying that I might be able to help others in Celebrate Recovery, and be built up in Christ in the process.  If you feel so led, I am asking for prayers that God will use me in this program to help others experience freedom in Christ; a freedom we are all looking for. 


  My girlfriend is involved in this and

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Friends...

Read Mark 2: 1-12
"...And they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men." (verse 3) "When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic,"Son, your sins are forgiven you." (verse 5)

This was the Chapter and verses at my church today for the sermon.  I have heard and read this story many times before.  You may remember the context.  Jesus was in Capernaum for several days and a crowd was gathered in and around the house where he was staying.  Four men brought a paralytic and because of the crowd they uncovered the roof of the house and let down the paralytic. (I wonder how the homeowner felt with his roof being removed...)  Jesus healed the man and told him to arise, take up his mat and walk.  There were some who questioned this as they said "who can forgive sins but God alone."  In the end, the crowds were amazed and glorified God saying "We have never seen anything like this."

Now, I believe the Bible is a "living" book.  That is, there is always something new to learn, or some perspective you did not see before.  That was the case today.  When I read this before, I have looked at it from the perspective of the Paralytic or from Jesus and the miracle he performed.

Today, we saw it from the perspective of the four men.  These four friends (and maybe 5 since they were carrying a paralytic) came upon this scene and had a choice.  They could have turned to their friend and told him that the crowd is too big and that they made an attempt.  You could imagine the paralytic saying "that's OK, you tried."  However, they pressed on, went up on the roof, removed a section and lowered in their friend.

Verse 5 is where it hit me.  "When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven you."   Not his faith, but theirs.  These four men believed that Jesus had the answer.  That Jesus could heal their friend.  And because they did not give up, their friend was healed.  This act also gave us an example for Jesus to let us know that He had the power to forgive sins.

I think that these men believed they had a friend in Jesus.  That the knew he had an answer for their friend and they took action.  Our sermon today ended with this thought that I need to meditate on.  I hope it make you think about it too: "What kind of friend am I to Jesus?"

Until next time, God Bless.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Oh the humanity...

"Jesus wept."
John 11:35

Here it is, the shortest verse in the Bible; yet we can learn a lot from these 2 words.  For it shows Jesus as a friend, a man, and someone who can relate to us on every level.

You may know the context.  Jesus was preaching in Bethany when word reach him that his friend Lazarus was sick.  When Jesus heard this, he said "This sickness is not unto death, but for the Glory of God that the Son of God might be glorified through it."  John 11:4.

Instead of leaving, he stayed for 2 more days where he was, and when he arrived Lazarus was already dead and in a tomb.  Mary said if only he had arrived sooner, Lazarus would not have died.  Jesus used this to announce that he is the resurrection and the life.  Now at the tomb, Jesus saw Mary weeping and the Jews who came with her, Jesus groaned in the spirit and was troubled.  And then "Jesus wept."

A real human emotion.  Crying for this man that he loved.  Weeping openly and then using this as an opportunity to glorify God.

From these 2 words, we see that:

-Jesus had a personal relationship with Lazarus.  A personal friendship that included care and love for another.

-It is natural and right for Christians to sympathize with others in their afflictions and hurts.  Romans 12:15; "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep."

-Sorrow at the death of friends is not improper. It is right to weep.   It is OK to ask the God of compassion to heal our sorrow and hurt. 

-We see the humanity of Jesus.  We see a Lord who understands what we are going through.  Understands, because he himself has experienced it too.

There is nothing in our life that we have or will experience; No emotion that we exhibit; and no situation that we encounter that Jesus has not gone through or understood.  He can relate to us on every level because he experienced it also.  The more we seek a personal relationship with Jesus, the more we begin to be like him, to act like him, and understand him.

And that is a relationship I hope we all can have.



Friday, May 4, 2012

...Can you spare some change

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new."
2 Corinthians 5:17

Well, I resisted to the last possible minute.  I told you that I wanted to avoid the Facebook "Timeline."  I did not understand it.  I was resistant to change.  I thought that if I waited, it would go away and then last week, my page changed and it was a preview.  I could take a tour or update now, but it made it clear.  On May 4th, I would be changed over to Timeline.

Up to that point, I made a choice to resist.  Instead of embracing change, I chose to run from it.  To avoid it and hope it would go away.  I had some friends tell me the Timeline was not so bad once they got used to it, and they were right.  I decided that I had better learn to embrace the change since it was inevitable.  To do that I had to understand it.  So, I took the tour and checked my settings, made some tweaks and went live.

Now this is just a silly example about change.  Because in our lives, there are more important changes going on.  But it does illustrate an example.  How about you...do you like change?  When faced with change, do you run from it or do you embrace it?  Do you learn about the changes or let fear in with its negative thoughts.  Or would you rather do nothing. 

There is a line from the song "Freewill" by the rock group Rush.  "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." 

For most of us, change is not always easy.  We are creatures of habit.  We get to a comfortable place in our lives, our jobs, at home.  Then when change comes, we either accept or reject it.  I think that if we were to open up to change, to see the positive side, it would be much easier.  Change can be good.  We are pushed out of our comfort zone.  We learn new things.  We are open to new possibilities.  

The verse in 2 Corinthians may be familiar to some of you.  Paul was talking about the changes that come from the inside out when we accept Christ as our Savior.  And recently when reading this, God showed me that I have been undergoing change every day since I accepted him into my life.  I am new, I am different.  

For years, I resisted the change.  I tried to do it my own way.  I never fully gave myself over to God to let him change me.  I had to learn that this is a lifelong process.  I had to learn that I am a new creation and not to be ashamed of who I am in Christ.  I made a choice to embrace change, and God is taking me in new and exciting directions.  I am experiencing a freedom in Christ that I have not had in a long time.  I have a long way to go.  No one except Jesus is perfect.  

If  you are a Christian, embrace change and let God be God.  He has great things in store for you.  If you are not yet in Christ, consider making a change that will alter your life forever.




 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sleeping Soundly...

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds though Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6-7

How well do you sleep at night?  Are you a worrier--looking back at missed opportunities from the day or concerned about things tomorrow.?  When you wake up in the morning, are you filled with angst?  If you are, then I encourage you to read this chapter in Philippians, and continue on to verse 8 and 9.  

Personally this has not been easy for me.  God's grace though deliberate, daily practice, and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, have kept me in that peace.  Through my experiences over the past 9 months, God has removed worry and replaced it his peace.  By causing me to be in a position where I was on my knees, crying out that I could not do this without him, was the start of that transformation.  I have been a Christian since 11th grade, but until recently, never fully understand some of what this peace meant.  

Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery, Today is a gift--that's why they call it the Present.  Be anxious for nothing.  Understand that God will take care of you.  He owns everything and all  that you have is his.  Once you begin to see the blessings that are all around you (your life, health, friends, family and much more) you begin to change your attitude and worry slips away.   Bring everything to God in prayer and make your requests known.  He will answer you...but in his time and in his way.  His ways are always better than ours.

And the peace of God will guard your heart and mind through Christ.  Trust in Christ and stepping out in faith, believing his promises, is a start.  My life is not peaceful all the time, and we all have to work at it daily; however, we can have that peace.  A peace that understands that God will take care of me and my family, my kids and others.  He provides for me.  I need to learn to be content with what I have right now and see the blessings all around me.  I want to fall asleep thanking God for what he has done in my life and then wake up the same way.  Try it and see how you feel.  

I know this, I sleep more soundly now than I have in months.  Peace is my pillow and God is my blanket.  He holds me in his arms and I know everything is going to be alright.  My prayer is that you find this Peace, and if you have it, that you share it with others.  It is too good to keep it to yourself. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Live Forever

And the Lord said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years."
Genesis 6:3

It's amazing to think that in the time before the flood, during the age of the Patriarchs, the average lifespan was about 900 years.  After the flood, the average age leveled off to around 110.  In fact, there were several reductions in a Man's human lifespan.  Reduction #1 was after Adam sinned.  The average lifespan was around 900 years.  Reduction #2 was after the flood, when God reduced lifespan to around 120 years.   Reduction #3 was after Moses.  Psalm 90:10.  We read that the average lifespan has been reduced down to between 70 and 80 years. 

Consider this: If Genesis 6:3 did not exist in the Bible, it is still evident that man's lifespan was shortened from:  being infinite, to about 900 years, to about 120 years, to about 70 to 80 years.  We were meant to live forever.

I don't know about you, but when I was young, the world seemed so new wide open.  And to me, my parents seemed old.  Now today, I am 46 and I am that "old" parent according to my kids sometimes.  My how time flies.
 
I talked with a good friend last night and she said that life is like a blip when compared to eternity.  What we go through here is nothing compared to a forever without problems, disease or death.
 
People are trying to live forever.  Science is working to expand our lifespans.  Some would pay any amount to live longer.  Others are still looking for the fountain of youth, so they never grow old.  All these things and guess what?  All you need is Jesus in your life and you will live forever.  Not in this life, but in eternity with him.
   
 
 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Trials...

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that that testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." 
James 1: 2-4

My daughter just completed her 2nd weeknight of soccer tryouts.  Every year at this time, the club she plays in has tryouts to make the soccer team for the next year.  For one night over two weeks, her age group is evaluated by outside coaches on various skills in the hopes of being placed on a travel team.  Then a few weeks later, we find out of she makes it.  

As the manager for her travel team, I hope all the girls make it that have been playing together for several years, and as her father, I personally hope it goes well for her.  In my observations, it is usually the parents who are more concerned about the whole process.

I admire my daughter, who treats the tryouts as just another practice.  If she is confident in her abilities and does her best, she has nothing to worry about, regardless of the outcome.  To my daughter, it's all in how you view the situation.

And so it is with us when we face trials of all kinds.  How do we react?  How do we prepare to weather the storms of life, both big and small?  When we are growing, trials will come and our faith will be tested.  Over time, this builds patience, and patience builds character.

If you are going through a trial right now, know that it's temporary and God is using it to build you up and prepare you for greater things.


Monday, April 30, 2012

Broken Down

2 Corinthians 4:8
"We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-"

I was waiting in line for the bus that would take me back home from visiting my girlfriend over the weekend.  Moving forward after it arrived, I was stopped short with others only to see those that had boarded coming off the bus and their bags unloaded.

The Bus had broken down, we learned, and another, older bus was on its way.  When it arrived, the passengers in front of me were able to board first.  When I got on board, there was an open seat right by the door and I took it, only to learn that the seat was broken.  It would not stay completely upright; however, the bus was full and this was my seat.  Once underway, I plugged in my phone to charge it, only to learn that the outlet was broken.  When we arrived at our rest stop, I needed to use the Men's room.  The stall I chose had a broken latch and would shut properly.

I thought to myself, "Broken bus, broken seat, broken outlet, broken door..."

After I boarded the bus, ate my dinner and started to read, God spoke to me.  He wanted me to experience a bit of brokenness to see how I adjusted.
     I told him it was not so bad.  The seat reclined to take a nap.  I only used my phone to call my girlfriend and I would charge it in the car on the way home.  And the bus broke down in the station, not on the turnpike, where we might of been stranded.  I told him that I shared with the guy next to me that there is a devotional in here somewhere.
     Then God had me think about all I have been though the last 9 months and letting me know it is all temporary.  This is a season, a quiet time and a time for building character.  That I need to press into him and move forward in faith.     


2 Corinthians 4: 17-18
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.  While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." 

If you feel broken; that things are out of control; that you are weighed down by life and not sure where to turn; God understands.  He will not let us go.  He is at work in your life refining you and working in your life.  He has a plan for you and wants you to shine.  The next time you feel broken down, ask God to pick you up.  He is always there for you.