The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cupcake Crown

Today I have a cupcake crown for a precious 12 year old young lady.  She is on the middle school basketball team in her county.  A very dedicated young lady, hard working and diligent.  She had a choice to make yesterday (Sunday).  Her coach scheduled basketball practice for yesterday morning-the time when church is going on.  Practice was mandatory if the players wish to play in the game tonight.  Players were told that if they did not attend practice the result will be dressing out and sitting the bench.  This young lady chose to go to church instead of practice and to spend her Sunday with her family. Such maturity and wisdom!   I love the fact that she does not fear negative consequences in order to stand firm in her relationship with God.  She will be greatly rewarded in ways much larger than basketball for making such a grown up decision.  We should all use this example as a model for standing firm in our faith.  The crowd at the basketball game may not ever know about her decision and why she is sitting the bench.  God knows and will greatly bless her! 



Friday, September 26, 2014

The receiving end of bitterness

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 they say and do really have nothing to do with you-it is an internal battle
-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 does. 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.           

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

We should weep alongside

John 11:35.      Jesus wept.

This is the shortest verse in the Bible.  The meaning of this verse is anything but short. To understand the full meaning of this scripture, please read John 11:1-44.

Lazarus had become ill and died.  He was the brother of Martha and Mary of Bethany.  Mary had poured perfume on Jesus and wiped his feet when he visited their home.  Jesus loved Martha and Mary and he was troubled when he heard of their brother's passing.  

In this period of time, Jesus was traveling around with his disciples to different towns and villages teaching and performing miracles.  He had much work to do and many places to visit.  However, when he heard about Lazarus, he told his disciples that they were going back to Bethany.

There are so many points to gain from this story;  let us focus on "Jesus wept".  Mary and Martha were deeply saddened by their brother's death and they wanted Jesus to heal him and bring him back to life.  Jesus wept when he realized how troubled his friends Martha and Mary were.  He took the time to physically be near the sisters and grieve alongside them.

Jesus went out of his way to have time for them in their grief and mourning.  He had time to weep in their sorrow; time to express concern and show compassion.  He understood their emotions. 

Jesus understands our emotions and he cares about our grief and sorrow.  When we weep, He weeps along side us.   Each of us should care about the emotions of the people around us.  We should weep when a friend is discouraged or depressed.  We should weep when a family member has cancer or other illness.  We should weep when we see someone whose heart or bank account is broken.  We should weep for the lost in our world.   We should weep with deep compassion and emotion, not just a few tears flowing down our faces but a deep heartfelt sorrow for the troubles of others. 

I pray that each of us will feel the burdens of others, weep for their hurts, fears and frustrations.  I pray that our compassion for the burden of others will deepen and cause us to move on their behalf.  I pray that we can all find time and desire to be near someone who is grieving and weep alongside. 


Monday, September 22, 2014

Serve

Romans 12:10-11   Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.   Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Each of us has been given specific gifts and talents.   God calls each of us specifically to use those gifts and talents to serve him through serving others.   The gifts which we have been given should be utilized wholeheartedly.

Serve in love.

Serve in truth.

Serve with excitement and joy.

Serve in ways that will lessen the burden of others.

Serve in ways that will engage another to become a better person.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Moving Forward

Philippians 3:13-14    .....Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.


Have you ever noticed that toddlers spend a large amount of time walking forward and looking behind them. I'm not sure why, but it is something that I noticed with my children. I would always tell them to watch where they were going and not where they had been. 

The same can be said of all of us. Do we walk forward with our bodies yet constantly look at where we have been? Do we spend time looking into our pasts at regrets, disappointments, hurts and, oh yeah, those "coulda, woulda, shouldas"? 

It is time to walk forward and look forward. We will see our futures better if we look ahead and hold on to God's promise to prosper us and bring us hope. His promises do not fail us!  He has forgotten what was in our past and he is looking ahead to our future.      

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Love with intentional actions

1 John 3:18   Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

How many times do we intend to do good things?  The birthday card that we think of sending, the phone call that we could make, giving away clothing or shoes that we no longer need are all thoughts of good intention but also are things that are easily postponed or never carried out. 

Each day God will place opportunities before us to serve him and serve others in ways that he desires.  We may pass someone on the street with a cardboard sign indicating that he/she is hungry.   We may know of a family in financial need in order to make ends meet for the month.  We all surely know of older folks that are lonely and can be uplifted by a phone call or card in the mail.  

How often are we contenders and oppose those whispers of  opportunity to help others that God speaks in our ears?   I know that I am guilty of hearing messages of sending cards, visiting the sick, calling the lonely, yet procrastinating instead of surrendering to that still small voice that is calling me to do something for another person.

May we surrender to those opportunities in which we might serve others.  Intentions are never seen by other people.  They only see what we actually do.  Let us be intentional with actions that show love. May we be prayerful that God will help us to love more with our actions than with words.  Lord, help those whispers to resonate in our ears as loud explosions of opportunity to serve you and make a difference in the life of another.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fresh fish and stale hush puppies

Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

There is a small, family owned restaurant about half an hour from us where we have been eating for over 30 years.  It is not fancy at all.  The chairs and tables are old and somewhat worn.   The walls are paneled from the 1960s and lined with various photos and local art.  You will likely find a velvet Elvis picture on the back wall.  We go there for the catfish dinner.   The fish is out of this world.  Long tender fingers of flaky white catfish, homemade Cole slaw that is amazing, and fresh hot crinkle fries (my favorite).   Then there are the hush puppies-usually cold and so stale that you could break the glass in a window with one.  I cannot figure out for the life of me why everything else about the dinner is so good but the hush puppies are so not good.  Hush puppies are so easy and fast to make.  You would think in all the years that they have been open, they would have perfected their hush puppy. After all, the rest of the fish dinner is PERFECT!

As I was eating there recently, I thought about the fresh fish and stale hush puppies.   Our lives can seem like that at times.  Maybe our spiritual relationship can seem a bit stale sometimes or perhaps when difficult things pop up in our lives, we are tempted to allow ourselves to dwell on the stale hush puppy instead of all the fresh fish. 

God will take all those stale areas of the lives of those who love him and work them for good.  He will teach us lessons that work toward our long range good and move us forward as he molds us to fulfill his purpose within us.  Negative occurrences should not ruin our relationship with God.  One stale aspect of life should not spoil the excitement in working for God.  

We are called to God's purpose.  In fulfilling that purpose, there will times when we are tempted to focus on the difficulties.  Evil is prevalent in our world.  We are a fallen people.  God can turn any situation around for our good.  We claim the good that He has to offer us by loving and obeying Him. Trusting in God to use our lives for the "good" of His kingdom is the way in which store heavenly treasures.  

Just leave the stale puppies and dwell on the wonderful fish! 




Monday, September 15, 2014

Try to hear the HURT instead of the words

Ephesians 4:29  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 

Have you ever had someone come to you in anger and "let you have it with both barrels" as the old saying goes?  Or perhaps you have unleashed your own anger at some point on someone.   I have been on both sides of this situation.   

Neither is fun. 
Neither is productive.
Neither is uplifting. 

Both wreak of hurt.  When a person lashes out verbally at another, the entire tone of all the words is HURT.   Underlying hurt, whether from the past or present, has the potential to produce volatile words.  Those words in anger only produce more hurt.   Bottled up, unhealed hurts, resentment and bitterness will lead to an explosion that erupts from the mouth.  Luke 6:45 tells us that "out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks".   When a heart is hurting, the mouth will call attention to it.

If ever a person lashes out at you verbally, instead of hearing their words, try to hear their HURTS.  Seek what is truly bothering them, which may not have anything to do with you at all.  If you are tempted in the future to verbally lash out at someone, or "unload on" as some call it, stop and think about what you are really trying to say.  Do you really want to say all the destructive words and critical adjectives or are you truly trying to let the other person know that you are hurting.  

I often ponder why it is difficult for us to share our hurts and vulnerabilities with others.   Why can't we simply say to another, "your words or actions have hurt me and I want to discuss that with you".   If communication could by easier and more open, we could perhaps help one another heal instead of hurt. 

Emotions carry powerful punches.  When those emotions are not controlled and are contained inside the heart, eventually the mouth will spew out those feelings.  Misuse of strong, negative emotions can cause much damage.  Repair of the damage can take great lengths of time and effort because words are one of the elements that we remember most in our relationships. 

The next time you receive a verbal blast of emotions from someone, try to listen to the hurt.  Attempt to lovingly discuss the reason behind the attack.  Offer friendship and encouragement.  The next time you are tempted to deliver a verbal blast to someone, take the initiative to address within yourself why you feel the need to lash out.  Listen to the hurt in what you are saying. Put a label on the hurt that causes such strong emotions to surface.  Seek God's help to heal that hurt before it hurts anyone else.

  



Friday, September 12, 2014

You are of great value!

Hebrews 13:5      Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he
                            said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."


New cars, new home, latest fashions, exotic vacations, latest technological gadgets, impressive diamonds-all valuable, yet none of these indicate a person's self worth.   Quite often, the people that seem the happiest with their material possessions are miserable internally.  Measuring self worth by possessions will leave a person feeling unfulfilled.   Insecurities and a lack of self worth can lead to the love of money and many folks find feelings of empowerment by spending money.  The money serves as a substitute for the personal worth that is missing in their minds. 

Media such as television, magazines, store ads and displays advertise "things" in such a light to cause us to believe that our lives will be happier or easier.    The more things we have, the happier we will be.  Right?  Hardly.   Material things will all pass away.  Cars and technological items become outdated quickly. 

We must learn to be content with what we have.  Resenting what we don't have or feel like we are missing lessens our perception of self worth.  Your value in this life is measured by who you are in God.  Take inventory and list your personal value.  As a mother or father, your worth to your children is invaluable.  No amount of money nor "things" can ever serve as a substitute for you.  You are of value to your spouse.  You are of value at your job.  Most of all, you are of great value to God.   I leave you with this verse:  Proverbs 22:2  Rich and poor have this in common:  The Lord is the maker of them all.               

 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wisdom

Psalm 111:10  Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.  All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.

What does wisdom look like?  What does wisdom feel like?  What does wisdom act like?  The Bible tells us in Psalms 111:10 that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Fear in this sense does not mean to be afraid, but it means to respect.  A respect and deep appreciation for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This is where to start in becoming wise. 
    
Webster's Dictionary defines wisdom as an understanding of what is TRUE.   Understanding truth is understanding the Bible (God's word).  We understand God's word first by having a strong desire to obtain wisdom.  Secondly, we should pray, read scripture, and seek the counsel of Godly people. 
    
Worldly wisdom can be dangerous.  Being of great intelligence or possessing worldly knowledge does NOT equal wisdom. 

So what does wisdom look like?   Wisdom is a deep love and respect for God.   Wisdom is righteous living by obeying God's commandments.  Wisdom is calm.   Wisdom is finding the truth in situations before reacting and knowing when not to react at all.  Wisdom is embracing integrity.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Matthew 11:28  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

         Bitterness and unforgiveness can feel like a mountain is on top of you instead of you being on top of the mountain.   Some of you are probably stronger than I but it is hard for me to carry a mountain around everywhere I go, not to mention the fact that it is difficult to breathe when something is crushing my chest.  

      We do not have to find our way around those mountains in our lives, God will move them out of the way, however, we do have to ask and trust in Him.  If you have bitterness and unforgiveness, there is no time like the present to climb and stand on top of that mountain where the air is crisper and the view is magnificent.  You do not have to climb it alone; God will carry you and send folks to hold your hand during the ascent.  If you have ever climbed literal mountains or watched the expedition shows on television, you know that it is always wise to seek assistance from others and to have a life line in case you lose your footing or direction.  Start the expedition, there is no time like the present to begin enjoying “The Sweet Stuff ”!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Station yourselves on the ramparts

Habakkuk 2:1                I will stand at my watch
                                           and station myself on the ramparts;
                                      I will look to see what he will say to me,
                                           and what answer I am to give to this complaint.



Habakkuk was troubled by the evil going on around him.  He tried hard to understand why things occurred and what God planned to do about.  When he was worried or troubled, he took his concerns straight to God.  No whining around or beating it to death with his friends, he went straight to the one who has all the answers.   He went to his watchtower which in Habakkuk's time was to show an attitude of expectation.  He expected to hear from God.   Watchtowers were atop the ramparts which were built for fortification around a city or an area in order to stand guard and see who was coming toward them-mainly to identify any enemies.   Habakkuk put himself in the best position to focus on what God would tell him.

When God answered Habakkuk's complaint (Habakkuk 2:2-20) he told him that he was well aware of everything that was going on around him.  God promised that all the injustices and evils that were taking place would be taken care of in His time.  God told Habakkuk that no matter how slowly it seems to take for answer, that it will indeed come.  

Do not be mistaken into thinking that God is not aware of all the evils that still exist around us today.  He knows every bit of evil that takes place.  He knows everything that each of us is going through.   When our hearts are breaking, his heart is broken as well.   

It is up to us to seek a better understanding of God and his sovereignty instead of trying to understand all the injustices and evils around us.   Stand in your watchtower.  Station yourself on the ramparts and put yourself in position to hear all that God has to say.  Wait patiently as God reveals his answers to us.   Stand ready to seek an understanding of his sovereignty and magnificence.   You will hear many things as you listen from your watchtower.    

Monday, September 8, 2014

Why do we fight?

JAMES 4:1-3
     "What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don't get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."

      Have you ever just stopped to ponder why do people fight and quarrel?  Why do children fight over toys or who is going to be the leader?  Why do adults fight and quarrel over opinions, boundary lines, or sale items at the mall? Is it because one is right and the other is wrong?  Is it because there will never be another red sweater for the low price of $10.00? 
     The answer is indicated in this passage of scripture from James 4:1-3.  "...fights and quarrels come from the desires that battle within us."  Desires that reflect intentions of self fulfillment, pride; desires for attention, importance and recognition.  These desires lead to covetousness, hatred, and sometimes killing.  These types of  desires also indicate an absence in a person's heart--the absence of a relationship with God.
     When my children have fought over trivial things such as the last candy bar, a toy that has been in the closet for months or who gets to sit in a certain spot when riding, I stop them and ask them to examine the situation and their intentions.  Are you fighting because you think that there will never be another Reeces' Cup made?  Or because you think that the other person will break a toy and there is no replacement?  Does sitting in the front seat of the car equal a ranking among passengers? 
        Whatever the quarrel or fight, if it rises above how you feel about someone or causes you to mistreat another person, perhaps your motives should be examined.  What are your inner desires?  Do they line up with God's commands, especially regarding how we treat others!! Is a material object more valuable than a person?

Friday, September 5, 2014

God does not make junk!

Psalm 139:14: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 

This verse is full of words that should boost our self esteem and self worth.  We are wonderfully created. 

God does not make junk.

God thought about and covered all details when he made us.  Our body systems function together to sustain life.  Our minds and bodies are capable of great works for His glory.  As females, we can carry and deliver new life!  What a beautiful quality to be blessed with.

Then why do so many females have such negative self images.    Because we look to the world to define beauty and appeal.   Television, magazines, clothing stores and peers describe the "perfect" bodies.   Every form of media shows us bodies that are toned, groomed and exploited.   Medical procedures offer opportunities for removal or alteration of body parts that do not meet our standards of perfection and acceptance.   Our bodies are somewhat of an obsession.

Some ladies never reach their goal of perfection.  Some are so focused on their bodies that extreme measures are taken to produce a picture perfect body.    They never feel validated, accepted or loved.  The words in Psalm 139: 14 are enough because God's word is the truth!

If you are battling with a negative self image or lack of self worth, I encourage you to hold on to these words.  You will not see them on the cover of a magazine, nor in a television commercial with a super model, nor on the tag of a piece of clothing.  Look to yourself as a whole body, not just a stomach with a few extra pounds or eyes with a few wrinkles or a head with thinning hair.    Focus on your self by exploring the potential that the parts of your body have in regards to serving God.  Our hands can serve and care for others, our minds can pray and encourage others, our legs can form laps for holding children, our ears can listen when others are hurting. 

You are beautiful and valuable just the way you are. God designed you and He does not make junk! 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Do not partake of the sour lemons.

Philippians 4:4-9  Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
 
A while back, a friend of mine posted this on her Facebook page:  "Trying so hard today to make lemonade....."

I think we can all relate.   Some days life seems to throw us a sack full of lemons.   I have personally had periods of time when the lemon truck unloaded its full cargo at my front door!  I would have needed the sugar train to roll by in order to make lemonade in those times.  We will all have periods of time when it seems that nothing sweet is happening in our lives.    

We must not allow ourselves to be consumed by the sour lemons that may come our way some days.  We do not have to partake of sour lemons!  Philippians chapter four reminds us to "rejoice in the Lord always".  This does not mean that we will be pleased with all situations in life.  It does mean that we can find peace and joy in the Lord.  Rejoicing in the Lord means that we recognize that He is in control.   When we acknowledge, "the peace that passes all understanding", we are accepting the fact that God is in control of every detail that is happening around us.  He knows all about it.  He will do good things even in the midst of our hurt.
 
Even when sour lemons are hurled our way, we can all look around us and find sweet things about our lives.  We can trust that God will turn those lemons into lemonade.  

Today I challenge you to list 5 sweet things or occurrences that have happened to you, either today or in the past few days. We all have "Sweet Stuff" for which to be thankful.  

Mine are as follows:
              -God's omnipresence and the assurance that He will take care of all details
              -husband of 25 years and three children 
              -freedom to worship and serve in a ministry
              -my 95 year old grandmother  (my last surviving grandparent)
              -family and friends; church family

Your turn.  Feel free to post your list if you would like.  I enjoy hearing from you all!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Making decisions

Jeremiah 6:16    This is what the Lord says:  "Stop at the crossroads and look around.  Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it.  Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.  But you reply, 'No, that's not the road we want!'"

We all make decisions daily, many times without a great amount of thought or effort.  We decide what to wear, what to have for meals, chores and/or projects to tackle.   These decisions are not so difficult because they do not have a huge impact on our day or on the people in our lives.  But what about those "big deal" decisions in life such as relocating, selling a home, accepting a new job position or starting a new business.    These types of decisions have a major impact on our lives and the people around us. 

At times we have opportunities or offers in life that require us to make important decisions.    Decision making can produce uncertainties ("what ifs") and at times the path of the right decision may not be clear.   Opportunities are wonderful events in life and many can provide great blessings.  Opportunities also may present us with choices that are not necessarily God's intentions for us.  The world will offer opportunities for us to promote the secular agenda, leaving God's will in the shadows. 

I have found in my own life that when opportunities present themselves, the decision that I want to make and the decision that God wants me to make are sometimes on opposite ends of the spectrum.   When making major, life impacting decisions we should always seek God's will.  That can be accomplished by:
                 -approaching God with an attitude of humility, trust and obedience
                 -making a list of priorities pertaining to the decision i.e.,
                                       *is any part of the decision against the teachings of the Bible?
                                       *how will the decision affect your relationship with God?
                                       *how will the decision affect your service to God?
                                       *how will the decision affect those around you (family, friends, etc)?
                                       *does the decision offer an opportunity to promote God or self?

If you are facing a major, life changing decision I encourage you to consider the steps listed above.   Wait upon God instead of making decisions in haste.    Take the time to hear what he has to say about it. 


                



                               

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Forgiveness does not cure the offender. Forgiveness cures the offended.

Hebrews 12:15  See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Forgiveness does not cure the offender.  Forgiveness cures the offended. 

In dealing with the need to forgive another person, we may hold ourselves back due to a lack of understanding of who benefits most from forgiveness. Choosing to forgive and get rid of bitterness presents some feelings of vulnerability.  We may feel as if forgiveness is permissive.  We may think that forgiving someone will give the impression that it is acceptable to hurt us.

If we forgive, is it the same as saying that what someone did to hurt us is alright?   NO!
Forgiveness is not equivalent to tolerance or permission.  Granting forgiveness does not mean that we agree with the wrongdoing.  Forgiveness means that we agree to rearrange the emotional effects of a transgression.  Forgiveness is a measure which forfeits the grudge.   By forgiving, we prevent our hearts from feeling hurtful emotions and contempt. 

We cannot prevent someone from saying hurtful words or holding contempt in their hearts toward us.  We cannot prevent betrayal or rejection from others.  Forgiveness does not mean that these things will not happen more than once in our lives.   Forgiveness DOES mean that each of us can be cured of bitterness that will grow in the heart.  Forgiveness means that as the offended, we have made the choice to deal with the situation in a Christ-like manner. 


Forgiveness does not weaken, but instead, it strengthens.  It empowers us to heal, move forward and have a stronger relationship with God.  Forgiveness also serves as a witness to others.  Forgiveness may very well be the act that causes someone to see the love of Christ in you.   Forgiveness may offer another person a glimpse into the grace of God.