The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Friday, July 20, 2018

Is it Loud Between Your Ears?

Is it Loud Between Your Ears?

John 16:33  "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world".

John 14:1  "Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me".

A couple of weeks ago, I had a very discouraging day.  It was so discouraging in fact that I began to question myself and my abilities to accomplish some of the tasks at hand that day.  None of us are immune to these feelings.  Discouragement and self-doubt can quickly escalate and cause feelings of defeat.

Discouragement can become very loud between our ears.  Loss of confidence in a situation may lead to an implosion of negativity in the mind.  We may have thoughts of inadequacy and/or incompetence.  Self-esteem is lessened when discouragement is present.

Jesus tells us in John 14:1, "Do not let your hearts be troubled".  He commands that we do not wallow in discouragement.  The last part of that verse says, "Trust in God; trust also in me".  Instead of being focused on whatever situation caused the discouragement, Jesus tells us to focus on his promises.  He assures us that he is in charge and that we can trust in that.

Discouragement does not come from God to us.  Discouragement comes from Satan.  Discouragement may also transfer from person to person.  It includes a sense of failure and disappointment.  Discouraging times can open the door for fear and insecurities.

When we feel defeated, it is natural to seek comfort. We must not look to our own strength to overcome the blows of discouragement.  God wants to provide us with that comfort and reassurance that we are adequate and capable of accomplishing anything that he calls us to do.  He also will equip us with a toughness to prevent discouragement.

When defeat and fear get loud between your ears, remember this:  God wants us to be encouraged.  He has our best interests at heart.  He does not want us to be defeated or discouraged.  May we pay great attention to his command of "let not your heart be troubled".  

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Mountain Wild Flowers

Isaiah 41:13  For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

In the mountain ranges of Wyoming, beautiful wild flowers grow in the summer.  Hues of yellow, blue, purple, and white dot the grassy areas and provide a stunning panorama at the foot of each extension of the Rocky Mountains.  The blooms of the flowers are delicate to the eye however, each flower has an impressive ability to recover from the adversity of the mountain weather.

At one stop while driving through the Medicine Bow Mountains, I read a plaque that described the conditions which the mountain wild flowers survive.  The list of adverse weather conditions listed on the plaque include:  ferocious, nearly constant winds,  a desperately short three month growing season, low moisture and less oxygen, rocky soil, and five months or more of below freezing temperatures.

Considering that most flowers have a difficult time surviving after the temperatures drop to the point of frost, these mountain wild flowers are amazing.  The point of frost is described to occur when temperatures dip below 32 degrees.  Not only do the wild flowers survive a dip in the temperatures, but they also endure several months of temperatures that are well below freezing, not to mention a decreased amount of oxygen.   

As I marveled at the wild flowers on the mountain side, God spoke to me about endurance.  Even in seemingly unbearable conditions in our lives, God provides a way for us to survive.  He has a plan in place for us to continue to flourish and bloom amidst adverse conditions around us.  No matter how extreme the weather in our lives, he will help us to overcome.

When ferocious winds continue to blow in your life and it feels as if there is little oxygen to help you survive, allow God to take your right hand as he describes in Isaiah 41:13.  He will help you to survive and emerge like the mountain wild flowers with beauty and resilience.  He wants to help you endure!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Wanting to Trust

"Forgiveness does not come easily to us, especially when someone we have trusted betrays our trust. And yet if we do not learn to forgive, we will discover that we can never really rebuild trust." - Billy Graham

Trust issues are by-products of hurt and bitterness. The issues not only affect the relationship between us and the person that caused the hurt, but also between us and other relationships old and new. We begin to believe and wonder if everyone that we encounter will treat us the same way as the person(s) that hurt us. 

Trust issues are based upon how others have treated us in the past.  Trust should not be based upon how others might treat us in the future. The future must be based upon faith; a faith that God will never hurt us and also a faith that allows us to open our hearts to relationships that we risk missing. If we cannot rely upon GOD to help us trust, we will miss PRECIOUS relationships in life that he has appointed for us.

When faced with the need to forgive someone or a group of people, it is easy enough for us to read what the Bible says about forgiveness and to understand what is expected of us. However, it is not always easy for our hearts to "want" to forgive or to know how to forgive completely and what that means. The ability to forgive must be based upon our trust in God.  Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding". 

As Billy Graham says, we will have to learn to forgive. That begins with a desire "want" to forgive and God is willing to prepare our hearts for that and to teach us how.  He will guide and direct our thoughts and actions toward forgiveness if only we will trust in Him.

Monday, July 16, 2018

An Attitude of Eternity

Ecclesiastes 3:11    He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

If we have an attitude of eternity, then we can experience peace and contentment.

God planted eternity into our hearts.  The reason that people often find dissatisfaction from earthly accomplishments and material possessions is that they do not adjust their attitudes to focus on eternity.  God's intent is for us to fasten our minds on eternity.  He has given us a spiritual appetite that we often try to fulfill with earthly pursuits.  We will not experience the perfect sense of His creation until we exist under His perfect rule.  When our attitude wanders from eternity and focuses on the temporary (earthly) portions of this life, we can become discontent. 

I heard the following statement in a sermon, "a mistake that we make as Christians is that of thinking in permanent terms about our current circumstances".  This is so true.  It is easy at times to think that our work and efforts on this earth are doing no good for God's kingdom.  It is important to press forward, continue to work for the advancement of God's kingdom, and direct our efforts toward eternity.  The fruits of our labor are gifts from God.  Eternal fruits are much sweeter than earthly produce.   

Our problems and circumstances should not be a barrier to God's intended purpose for us.  Keeping a positive attitude about His promises of a wonderful eternity will allow us to experience satisfaction in all that we do.  Seeking to understand all that God has done since the beginning and all that He will do until the end, strengthens an effective attitude of eternity.  When your attitude tends to concentrate on the temporary nature of this world, give yourself an adjustment and focus instead on eternity.  After all, we are designed to do so!

Friday, July 13, 2018

A Forgiveness Checklist

Colossians 3: 8  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

Colossians 3:12-13  Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.

One of the most common questions that I receive when counseling people about forgiveness is, "how do I know if I have any lingering unforgiveness?"

The two passages above from Colossians can serve as a check list for lingering unforgiveness.  When you begin to search your own heart for the need to forgive, if any remnants of the emotions listed in verse 8 can be identified, then you likely have some amount of forgiveness to address.  The following questions will answer the checklist of what God commands of us when are offended and fall into an attitude of malevolence:  1.)When you think about the particular situation or person, do you experience any temptation to hold a grudge?, 2). Do any feelings of resentment or animosity surface when you see the person or think of the situation?, 3).   Do you secretly wish for ill-will to find its way into the life of the one that offended you?, 4).  Do you desire to tell others about the offense, presenting the offender as an evil doer?  If you are able to answer "yes" to any of these questions, then you have not completely forgiven the offender.

Verses 12 and 13 of Colossians offer a checklist of how we can live out forgiveness day-by-day.  By clothing ourselves in compassion, we can offer a strong sense of sorrow for the other person.  If someone wrongs you in way that is ungodly, unethical, illegal, or immoral, they are lacking an intimate relationship with God.  Therefore, that person needs your compassion and prayers.  Your prayer should be for them to become closer to God so that repentance and reconciliation of the heart may occur.

Next on the list is kindness.  Yes, I know firsthand that it is difficult to be kind to someone that caused deep hurt or harm to you.  It is difficult to even want to be in the presence of that offender.  Maybe you will not be in their presence and sometimes it is best that you do not continue to be in the presence of harmful behavior.  Kindness from you is an attitude of the heart.  Kindness is when you are rid of the thoughts of malice and can think about the person without wishing harm or vengeance.

Humility is perhaps the most important check point in forgiveness.  When we are able to release the need to feel like the most important person in the entire situation, then we are expressing humility.  God is the most important person in the equation of forgiveness.  His importance and His sovereignty must be considered paramount in any offense. If we reach the point of humility and surrender, then we have reached a point of releasing the offense.

If we can clothe ourselves with patience and gentleness, then we are able to bear the burdens which others may inflict upon us.  Patience to seek God's heart and His word on any situation will lead us into the path of forgiveness.  We must be patient with ourselves as we grow into the mature Christians that God wants us to be.

If you are wondering whether you hold unforgiveness or if someone near to you has suggested such, then study Colosssians chapter 3.  Utilize the check list as you ask God to show you any areas that may need to be addressed.  Free yourself of all the emotions that are on the list in order that you may experience the freedom that comes through forgiveness.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Learning to "Not be Offended"

2 Corinthians 12:10  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Any occurrence in our lives that we perceive as an offense, contains the potential of growing a root of bitterness.    Let us repeat that: Any occurrence in our lives that we perceive as an offense, contains the potential of growing a root of bitterness.

Sometimes we may think of bitterness as being caused by some horrible/heinous act.   Those acts are indeed recipes for bitterness.  However, much bitterness grows from acts and words that may be small in nature.   Even the tiniest of acts or words spoken in malice can form lifelong feelings and effects of bitterness.   Perception of offenses lies in the eyes of the beholder, therefore if words are spoken that hit tender spots within a person's feelings, the offense may pack a powerful punch.

The remedy for the prevention of bitterness is to learn how to "not become offended".   Offenses usually stem from feelings of inadequacies or low self-worth within us.   If we can learn to overlook and disregard malicious words or acts towards us, we can prevent bitterness from growing within us.   When hurtful things are said or done to us we often feel weak and vulnerable.  God offers the strength that we need to resist being offended.  If we can allow God to deal with the acts and thoughts of others, then we have more time and energy to deal with our own.

Learning to "not become offended" takes time.  It involves sorting through some of our own emotions and issues in order to be able to overlook the emotions and issues of others.  Self-evaluation of the reasons why we are easily offended will afford us growth in the areas of patience and forgiveness.   Learning this process will draw you closer to God and will open your heart to healing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Love and Acceptance are Louder than Words

Romans 12:15   Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

So many people in the world are hurting and dealing with emotional turmoil.  Discouragement, bitterness, depression, and deep wounds will cause people to feel isolated.  Someone dealing with emotional turmoil will think that no one understands what he/she is feeling.

Life will provide us the the experience of different hurts.  Each hurt will have various depths to our wounds.  We do have in common the feelings produced by the hurts. We understand the emotions that  accompany hurts and disappointments.  We share a need to know that we are not alone in feeling the way we do.  We have a desire to feel loved and accepted.

It is difficult to reach out at times to seek comfort from others.  We fear that our friends and family may analyze our situation or pass judgment on our thoughts or actions.  We fear that we might hear the "well you should have done....................." lecture.

When others come to us for comfort, we should remember that it takes courage for most to share their deep inner hurts and feelings.  It creates vulnerability.   It is important to love and understand others rather than analyze or give advice.   Weep along side those that value your friendship enough to pour their hearts out to you.  Love and acceptance speak louder than any words you might offer.