The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Monday, March 27, 2017

Is the Grass Really Greener?

Ecclesiastes 4:6  Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.

I love spring!  I make efforts to spend a great amount of time outside in the spring. There is always a sense of renewal watching the trees bloom and the grass turn green.  As the grass begins to grow and is rich in nutrients, our horses are eager to graze and play in the fields.  I pay particular attention to one of our horses as he goes to great lengths to enjoy the spring grass.  He will stretch his neck through the fence and graze on the grass that is out of his reach.  He will move his body around in order to reach farther into the green grass in our yard which joins the pasture. 

The old saying, "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence" immediately comes to mind.  As he continually shifts his posture and stretches his neck to reach the grass, I cannot help but chuckle.  At times he seems uncomfortable as he extends his neck farther and farther toward the grass.  He does not realize that the grass he is straining to eat in the yard is exactly the same grass that he eats in the pasture.  Same flavor, same green color, same type of grass.  Yet he wants what he cannot reach.  He is willing to get into an uncomfortable position in order to eat what he fancies as something different and better.  If he will eat the grass in the pasture, his belly will be just as full without all the overextending and extra efforts of reaching through the fence.

Does this describe any of us?  Are we curious about greener pastures?  Do we posture ourselves in a way that causes discomfort in order to reach for the things that we think are better or more flavorful?  How many times do we work extra hours in order to gain more materially?  How many times do we chase material things in order to satisfy the thoughts that having those things will make us happier or better? 

There is much to be reaped from contentment with what we have.  1 Timothy 6:6-8 speaks of contentment as does Hebrews 13:5.  God does not expect us to overextend ourselves in order to gain money or material things.  He does expect us to work but he does not expect us to always reach for more.  He expects us to be satisfied with the blessings he has given us. 

We should look at our surroundings and recognize the ways in which we can be content.  When we look at other things that we think will make us more content, we must remember that the grass may look greener and better across the fence, but after all, it is still grass.  Even though it appears greener, it still has the possibility of growing weeds in the midst of it.  Chasing after more than we have can often cause turmoil and disappointment in our lives.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Temptation

Proverbs 5: 1-5  My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.  For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother that oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.  her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.

Temptation is all around us.  A great number of temptations will present themselves as sweet options; choices that will be beneficial to us or make us better.  It is difficult at times to initially discern some temptations that may appear to be sweet.  Those temptations that drip honey should be red flags in the beginning. 

In order to understand temptation and to be on guard against those things that drip honey and use sweet talk, we must be prepared for temptation.  We can never think that as long as we are Christians and go to church that we will never be tempted.  Temptations will present themselves in many forms.   Temptations will not always be in the form of addictions, criminal activity and sexual immorality.  Some temptations will be small and seemingly insignificant, while others are blatantly dangerous and destructive.  Temptation may be in the form of changing your attitude toward righteous living.  It may come in the form of anger and bitterness, grudges and hatred.  You may be tempted to stop participating in church activities.  

Christians are not exempt from temptation.  In fact, Satan is in hot pursuit of all Christians. He will tempt each and every one.  He will drip honey.  He will offer smooth talk.  He will make things look great even when they are not.

Temptations involve lies from Satan.  Resisting temptation engages God's truths.  Application of His principles and reminders of His promises will provide us with protection against temptation.  

Prepare for temptation by studying God's word in order to gain wisdom.  The pursuit of godly wisdom is like exercising in order to stay in shape.  The pursuit must never be abandoned.  It is good to develop a list of personal principles in order to prepare for temptations.  Developing personal principles give us an opportunity to think about our reactions to temptation.  Think of it in terms of writing a customized Owner's Manual for yourself.  In it include answers to question that begin as, "What would I do if..................?"  Look up scripture in the Bible that gives instruction about life's situations. Equip your mind with wisdom.  Armor yourself with God's word and His promises.  

 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Accept God's Wisdom Without Doubt

James 1: 4-6   Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Being under pressure is not fun.  It is stressful, scary and can lead to feelings of doubt.  We develop character when under pressure.  We do NOT develop character alone, but with the wisdom which God offers.

We all face situations in which we must make difficult decisions.  The worldviews of the people around us can complicate decision making even more.  When difficult circumstances arise we need wisdom, godly wisdom, to make decisions.  God does not leave us alone in our decision making.  He is generous to show us wisdom and how to deal with all situations.

When we seek God's wisdom, we then must rely on his wisdom.  In other words, when we ask for his guidance and knowledge, we must have confidence in his plan for us.  If we seek his guidance and then retain his answers with the option to disobey, we have given his word no more value than any other human being's advice.

Part of seeking wisdom from God is learning how to apply what he says to us in every day life.  For example, if you have prayed for a decision regarding a difficult matter, when he shows you the answer and guides you toward his plan, do not second guess.  It is not wise to pick and choose which pieces of God's advice in which to adhere.  We must apply ALL his wisdom throughout our journey in fulfilling his purpose.

He tells us in James 1:6 that we must believe in His wisdom and not doubt.  If we are not planning to believe in God's wisdom, we may as well not seek it.  Accept His advice with confidence, even when the answer may be contrary to what you wanted to hear. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Jesus Deserves ALL of Our Affinity

Matthew 26:14-16  Then one of the Twelve-the one called Judas Iscariot-went to the chief priests and asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?"  So they counted out for him thirty silver coins.  From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

How much was the Savior worth?  The amount of money was relative to how money is viewed.  Thirty shekels would not have been much money to the wealthy in this time period.  It would have been a great amount of money to the poor.  Either way, human life is worth more than any amount of money.

Jesus had predicted that one of his 12 disciples would betray him before his death.  Each of them declared that betrayal of Jesus would never happen.  When time drew near, the emotions of Jesus and the disciples were elevated.  Instead of acting in a dependable, loyal manor, the disciples responded emotionally.  Some disciples gave way to their fatigue and slept even though Jesus had asked them to keep watch over the garden as he prayed (Matthew 26:40-44).  Judas reacted by allowing his relationship with Jesus to be assigned a value compared to money.  H reacted emotionally to the offer of being paid to help in the arrest of Jesus. Was it about the money or was it more about the feeling of power that he had for playing a part?  As Jesus was arrested, the disciples left him (Matthew 26:56).  So much for loyal friends!

The point to grasp in the actions of these verses is that Jesus was going to be arrested and crucified anyway as fulfillment of the prophecy and his purpose on earth (Matthew 26:56).  It must have been heartbreaking for Jesus to watch as his disciples, his closest friends and co-workers, abandoned him, physically and emotionally.  He spent a great deal of time traveling with these men.  He explained all the details of what they could expect leading up to his death.  They still pursued their own fleshy feelings and resigned their loyalties to him.

The actions of the disciples showed little faith with cowardly allegiance.  Jesus deserved all of their affinity.  They allowed fear and confusion of the events to overpower their trust in Jesus. They were afraid to stand up for the Savior.   

We can find examples of the same types of betrayal of Jesus today.  Instances of disloyalty where people choose not to take a stand for Jesus.  Companies often choose profits over biblical principles.  Relationships suffer because of faithless alliances with the Savior.

Prayer for today:  Lord, show me the position of my loyalties.  Bring forth any weakness that I might have in my allegiance to you.  Strengthen my relationship so that I will always acknowledge the value of you as the Savior.  Help me to stand strong and defend your principles in all matters.  You deserve all of my affinity!  AMEN.







Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Peace and Security

Psalms 122:6-7   Pray for the peace of Jersualem:  May those who love you feel secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.

In my studies of peace and security, I have searched to describe what these things look like in everyday life.   I have arrived at this description:  Security results when the actions and reactions of others do nothing to shake our confidence, comfort, and self-worth.  This type of security can only result in trust and love for God-the source of true peace and security. 

Insecurity comes into our lives when our peace is deeply disrupted.  It is a feeling that results from actions and reactions of those around us.  Insecurity produces fear as a result of a disruption of our peace.  Insecurity affects our confidence and self-worth.  No one desires to feel insecure.  Insecurity will wreak havoc in a person's mind and life.  The fears and anxieties produced by insecurity will eventually affect one's everyday living.  

Insecurity can cause a lack of self-confidence within a person.  It may also lead a person to feel vulnerable and open to danger or threat.  The causes of insecurity are many.  The manifestations of insecurity are numerous.

The first step to peace and security is salvation.  Even after salvation, peace can and will be disrupted, not from God, but from others in this world.  Real security can only come from God, for He possesses ALL the characteristics of peace and security.  Before we can find peace and security with other people, we must first find it with God.  He will never do anything that will shake our confidence or self-worth.  His desire is for us to be secure and comfortable in everything that we do. Even when actions and reactions of others may try to disturb our peace and security, God's actions and reactions never will.  He offers us peace within our walls and security within all our towers!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Neat Little Boxes

Isaiah 55:8-9  "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts". 

When our oldest daughter was five years old, we enrolled her in violin lessons.  Playing the violin came easy for her.  She remained in lessons until she graduated high school and played in a college orchestra all four of her high school years.  When our son turned five, we had the same plans for him.  So, we enrolled him in violin lessons with the same teacher.  Surely his musical experiences would be like hers.  Their lessons were on the same day which made things easier for our schedule.  Music lessons were wrapped up in a neat little box at our house.

A few years into the lessons, practices, and yearly recitals, our son announces that he wants to quit violin lessons.   Since he was performing quite well, we could not understand why there was a problem.  There were times that he would become frustrated with reading the music as his teacher required.  Our son told us that he did not see songs and music from a sheet of paper.  He could hear them in his mind and then play them on the violin.  He is a musician that plays by ear.  This method did not blend with the teaching style of the instructor.  As time progressed, our son's frustration level increased.  He was ready to release his musical talent in his own way but he was restricted by the "neat little box". 

Long story shortened, he asked to quit violin lessons.  He wanted to play guitar.  There was some bargaining, expectations declared, deal making, etc.  In order to bridle the emergence of a potential rock and roll star from our address, my husband required that our son play at least 50% of praise and worship music during his practices.  He complied and his musical gift has brought him much enjoyment and has been a blessing to us. 

Yesterday, as I listened to our son playing in the praise and worship band at church, I thought of "neat little boxes" and Isaiah 55:8-9.  We like for our lives to be wrapped up in neat little boxes.  We want everything to be organized.  We live in a box, work in a box, store things in boxes, and put gifts in boxes.  Many times we only want to think inside the boxes.  I am thankful that God urged us to think outside the musical box several years ago with our son.  

When we follow God's ways and His will, we will be required to think outside the box.  At times that will look scary.  God may ask us to move from our house box.  He may ask us to quit a job that has our career wrapped up in the "neat little box".  He may change and rearrange the organized box that we call life. 

Learn to think outside the boxes.  Open your mind to the ways in which God has planned for you.  His way is higher than any way we can ever imagine.  His plans are flawless and in perfect timing!




Friday, March 17, 2017

Encourage Others to Believe in Themselves

John 8: 6-11  But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.   Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?"  "No one, sir,"  she said.  "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared.  "Go now and leave your life of sin."

Everyone needs someone who believes in him/her.   Having someone who believes in us can make the difference between a life remaining as it is or a life that will move toward its potential.

Over the years of teaching college courses, I often encountered students that struggle with the material.  Radiologic Science is difficult material.  Courses include radiation physics, radiation biology, imaging techniques, and imaging equipment.   With increased study efforts and practice, along with the support of professors, most students overcome the struggles and come to a full understanding of the material.

In getting to know students throughout the years, God revealed to me that very often, the greatest area in which some students struggle is not so much the difficulty of the material.  Many students struggle with believing in themselves which becomes a barrier for comprehending the materials.  So many times, students are more than capable of completing the courses; however, life's circumstances and events may leave them without the belief that they can accomplish their goals.  Satan will run through this open door and compound the discouragement.  

The same must be true in all realms of life.  I would venture to guess that many people in all situations of work, school, family, etc. need encouragement in order to believe in themselves.  In the Scripture above, a woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus.  This verse is about many things, such as the avoidance of being judgmental, forgiveness, and the treatment of others.  When I read the verse today, I saw a savior who believes in us!  Jesus showed the woman that he believed in her; that she could change her life for the better.  He stood up for her in the crowd and proved that he is a great encourager.  He knows that all of us can rise above our circumstances, whatever they may be, and overcome the struggles that are present in our lives. 

The woman in the story was encouraged.  This surely made a difference in her life.  I have seen the same encouragement make a difference in the lives of students.  I have witnessed first hand how people can rise above their circumstances and move toward their potential.

Encouragement falls under our command to love one another.  By encouraging, we love.  When we reinforce a person's potential, we cheer them on and promote love. If you are aware of someone who struggles to believe in themselves or their potential, please become a cheerleader for them.  Offer encouragement and the unconditional love that Jesus offered the woman in the passage of John 8.