The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Friday, June 23, 2017

Positions and Possessions

James 4:1-2   What is causing the quarrels and fights among you?  Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you?   You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it.  You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. 

I remember a time several years ago when my youngest two children were fighting over a Butterfinger candy bar.  A bite sized one at that.  Butterfingers are my son's favorite candy bar.  There was one of the bite sized bars in the candy jar and little sister had gotten it out for herself.  He claimed it was his because they are his favorites, she claimed it as hers because she took it from the jar first.  Verbal cruelties ensued along with a list of reasons that ranked the position of each sibling.   Neither was hungry so I know they were not fighting for the basic survival need of food.

They asked me which one should have the candy bar.  Since I don't like chocolate, or I would have eaten it myself, I took the bite sized bar and put it into the trash can.  Yes, jaws dropped to the floor in disbelief.  The second round of moaning began.   "How can you do that?" "It was mine!" "I need that candy bar" were among the wails coming from both of them. 

Was all of this over a bite sized candy bar?  No, all of this was really over  the position of  most importance.  It was a battle of clout.   A battle to see which sibling could outrank the other.  A fight because one sibling had something that the other wanted.  We see this in our world every day.  Politics, positions withing the workplace, and siblings within families are arenas for fighting over rankings of position as well as possessions.  We see it several times in the Bible:  Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, and Joseph and his brothers.   Jealousy and rivalry can lead people to wage war against one another. 

Life is filled with opportunities to place more value on possessions and positions rather than our relationships.  When possessions and rank are of more importance than people, rejection occurs. Jealousy and anger may take root.  Bitterness can grow filling the heart with contempt.  With these things in place, sin is in the mix.

The candy company makes millions of Butterfingers each and every day and we can get them at the store anytime.  God only makes one of each of us.  Neither a bite sized candy bar nor being the president of a large corporation are nearly as important as each human being and relationships with one another.  Positions nor possessions will ever equal the importance of loving one another.  If possessions cause us to wage war against another person, a heart check is in order.  If we feel that we should be ranked above others in importance, we need to evaluate our intentions.  May we never allow evil desires to replace love for others. 

          

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The desire to help others should never be replaced by the self-gratification of power.

1 Kings 11:11   So the Lord said to Solomon, "Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates".

When the desire to help others is replaced by the self-gratification of power, kingdoms are torn down.  The love of power and splendor separates people from God.  God does not favor the actions of those who are self-serving.

Solomon was appointed as king when his father, David, was near death.  Solomon was a wise king.  He was granted wisdom and authority by God to be used for ruling the kingdom of Israel.  As king, Solomon became wealthy and famous.  His advice and wisdom were sought by people.  He was approached as a counselor of sorts as people desired the wisdom that God had bestowed in his heart.  He was often paid for his counsel and he accumulated many assets as a result.

As Solomon absorbed the fame and power that he had acquired, his heart became more interested in  self-gratification.  He enjoyed many women and began to worship idols.  The women, who were from many different countries, introduced him to their idols and other gods.  God had warned Solomon when he became king that he needed to guard his heart against going astray.  He had been specifically warned about marrying women from foreign countries, "because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods" (1 Kings 11:2).  The self-gratification of his power led Solomon to follow after things other than what God had intended for him.

Solomon's attitude and rebellion caused his kingdom to be taken away.  God was angry with Solomon, "so the Lord said to Solomon, 'Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates'" (1 Kings 11:11).

No matter the task that God has placed before us, we must not allow any authority or attention to become an idol.  When God grants us wisdom or appoints us to preside over a calling, we must use that appointment for His glory, not for self-gratification.  If we become like Solomon, then we lose the desire to help others and to glorify God.  We must guard our hearts against the idols of recognition  and prosperity.  We must remain eager to help others and never lose the desire to advance God's kingdom.    

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Rise Above Challenging Circumstances

Hebrews 10:35-36  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 

The message for today: 

Do not conform to your circumstances.  Rise above the challenging situations that life presents. 

I am so thankful that Jesus did not conform to his circumstances while he was here on earth.  I am thankful that he faced each challenge with courage and the mind set that he was going to carry out God's will no matter what he encountered.   He was mocked, cursed, rejected, and pretty much homeless, yet he did not dwell on those details.  He did not sit in the sand,  have a huge pity party and invite all his friends.  He did not become paralyzed by the actions and treatments of others.   He remained focused on his purpose, moving forward with all that he was to accomplish. 

Was it all easy for him?  I doubt it.  I am sure there were times that he stood in disbelief of how people thought and behaved.  I imagine that his heart was broken several times as he witnessed the actions of people around him.  I am sure that discouragement tried to creep into his mind at various points during his ministry.

Jesus' confidence never faltered.  In challenging situations, Jesus did not react with with defeat or discouragement.  He had complete confidence in his Father.  His confidence and faith that God's perfect will in his life would be fulfilled, allowed Jesus to pursue his earthly ministry with assurance. 

When we face difficult situations in life, we are tempted to react with an attitude of defeat.  We are often tempted to define ourselves by the circumstances which we experience.  While we may suffer defeat at some points in life, we are not defeated!  If we can learn to view defeat and difficulties as challenges in which we are eager to rise above, we can grow and abound in our relationship with God.  Perseverance without dwelling on any negative details strengthens faith.  Confidence in God's purpose for each of us will allow us to pursue our earthly ministry work with the same assurance that Jesus embodied. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

God Sees Our Potential

Philippians 3:13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this on thing:  Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling me. 

We have all done things in life that we regret.  Satan tries to cause us to dwell on our mistakes.  He wants us to ruminate our failures.  He tries to fill our minds with regret.  If we allow our minds to  be consumed with mistakes and regret, we become distracted Christians.  If we wallow in the past, we cannot effectively proceed into the future.  By looking backwards, we lose our focus on the goal before us.

In this passage of Philippians, Paul is saying that he has not reached perfection, but that he presses forward to reach the perfection that Jesus Christ has to offer (Philippians 3:12).  Paul wanted to know Christ.  He wanted to experience the resurrection power that Christ has to offer.  Paul desired to be all that Christ had in mind for him.  Paul had many regrets from his former life.  He realized that dwelling on his regrets and mistakes was not conducive to becoming closer to Christ.  

Mistakes are isolated moments in time, not permanent reflections of who you are.  Learn from mistakes and allow the lesson to add to your wisdom.  Do not allow your mistakes or memories of past mistakes to overpower the whole person that you are.

God does not focus on our mistakes.  He does not repetitively look at our past.  God sees the potential in each and every one of us. God knew that we would make mistakes.  He made provisions for us (John 3:16).  Once you call upon His name for forgiveness, you do not have to think about or worry about those mistakes any more.  God's intention is to mold us to fulfill his purpose which is to for us to be more like Christ every day.   

If you spend time ruminating about things for which you regret, STOP!  Lay aside harmful thinking that includes mistakes and failures.  Refuse to live in the imbalance of what you have been versus what you can be.  Begin to live in the stability of the potential that God sees in you.  You can grow in the knowledge and wisdom of God.  He offers a fuller and more meaningful life because of our hope in Christ.   

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Instead of justice, focus on purpose.

Psalms 3:7-8       7-Arise, O Lord!   Deliver me, O my God!  Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.   8-From the Lord comes deliverance.  May your blessing be on your people.


In verse 7 David is calling out to God for justice against the people that were persecuting him.  He wanted equal treatment.  He wanted justice.  When we have been beaten down, insulted, persecuted, we want justice from God.  When we feel as if enemies are surrounding us with intentional acts of maltreatment, we may dream of vengeance.  We might think that our enemies should receive equal treatment. 

In verse 8, David reveals humility and patience for God's timing.   He realized that victory over his enemies comes from God's perfect justice and judgment.  He can see that revenge is not the answer.  He leaves the matter in God's hands.    

In times of persecution from our enemies, it is easy to fall into a state of focusing on their punishment, especially how we think the punishment should be carried out.  Our minds may become filled with vivid details of how we think revenge would be best served.  When we are hurting, we often wish hurt upon those who caused our pain.  Vengeance is not ours to distribute and focusing on punishment is non-productive.   

Instead of focusing on punishment for our enemies, we should focus on our purpose.  What does God want us to learn from our enemies?  How might we gain strength from situations in which we are mistreated?  What is His purpose for us from day to day?   These are questions to ponder while humbly leaving our enemies in the hands of our victor.  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bitterness: The Receiving End

Romans 15: 1-3  We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.  Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.  For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written:  "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me."

There may be times in life when someone treats you in ways that are difficult to understand.   The treatment may include disrespect with unkind words, manipulation, rejection or  attitudes of indifference.    Some acts may be outright malicious with the intent of causing harm.  This kind of treatment sends mixed signals to us.   A person may say "I love you" or "you are important to me" but not show it with actions.  When this happens, you are on the receiving end of bitterness that is present in that person's life.  Deep hurts in the past will lead a person to lash out at others, especially when it is perceived that another has what he/she is missing in life. 

You may never be able to explain or understand why these things happen.  However, I have come to realize that when people act in ways as stated above, one or more of the following will apply:
      -the person has unresolved hurts that need to be healed
      -the person is in need of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ
      -the things that are said and done really have nothing to do with you. He/she is battling issues internally. 
      -compassion and unconditional love may be something the person has never known

I do not intend to imply that any of these behaviors are acceptable.  What I do want to emphasize is that when you are on the receiving end of these behaviors:
                1.  you must remain strong in knowing that you are not the cause of another person's
                      actions
                2.  you must NOT allow bitterness to grow within you from their actions and words
                3.  being on the receiving end says more about the other person than it does about you as a
                     recipient
                4.  it is your responsibility not to entertain thoughts of vengeance or similar actions

Prayer and patience will go a long way in coming to accept that everyone will not love you as God loves you.  It would be a wonderful world if that could be the case.   When you are placed in these situations, pray that God will reveal to you what he expects from you in response to the actions/words of others.   Seek strength in dealing with the failings of other people.          

Friday, June 9, 2017

Self-Worth

Genesis 1:27  So God created human beings in his own image.  In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 

In the first book of the Bible, we are shown the value that we have in God's eyes.    From the beginning of creation, God valued us so much that he created us in is image, both men and women.  

We are all born with the same worth to God.  From the beginning we are all valued the same.  In the end we will still all have the same value in God's eyes.   As we go through life here on earth, experiences and situations add to or take away from our perception of our self-worth as well as our view on the worth of others. God's view of our value never changes.

It seems easy to allow others to affect how important we feel.   The relationships and the communication within those relationships have a strong impact on our perceptions of our self -worth.  Negative words cause hurt feelings. Actions that tear down character can cause us to doubt our worth or wonder if we have any value.  Trials and tribulations may leave us feeling insecure and  unimportant.  

When we allow others to have an impact on our self-worth, our relationship with God is diminished. Our relationships with others in our lives will be impacted if our self-worth is low.  Job performance will be affected as well as the goals that we pursue.  How we perceive our self-worth affects everything in which we are involved.  Feeling unimportant can change the course of the rest of a person's life. 

We must remain strong and grounded in the worth that God has for us.  When we allow the words and/or actions of others to have a bearing on our esteem, we forget who holds the yardstick.  God is the keeper of the measurements!  He is the one, the only one, who declares the value of a person's worth.  Guard your self-worth.  Do not look at the value of your worth according to the people on this earth.  Look to God to assign worth to your life and the purpose He has for you.