The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Friday, July 31, 2015

Betterness

Deuteronomy 31:6   "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you;  he will never leave you nor forsake you".


May the bitterness yield to BETTERNESS.

Each time that an event happens that tempts you with bitterness, may you choose to be better.  When old bitterness tries to bubble up within you, I pray it will be turned into something better.

"Better" comes from wisdom, strength, and courage.  Wisdom to recognize when bitterness is creeping in is a wonderful weapon.  Strength to resist the emotions that accompany bitterness is a necessary tool.  Courage to make changes that lead to BETTERNESS is important. 

Wisdom, strength and courage are gained from remaining close to God and studying his word.  It is up to us to APPLY these characteristics in order to reach a state of betterness .  Knowledge without application only makes us bitterly educated.

I pray for anyone that is dealing with bitterness.  May you yield to God for BETTERNESS.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Perfect love is full of grace, outlined in compassion and built upon sacrifice

1 John 4:18-21   There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.   We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, "I love God, yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command.  Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Let's get real here.  There are some people that are difficult to love.  There are some people that have a difficult time loving us.  I have experienced both sides.  A friend of mine once made this statement, "sometimes, you have to love them like you find them".  It seems like all we can do sometimes.  Honesty, that is all that we want to do sometimes.  God expects more from us.

Why does love, such a great emotion, come with so many difficulties?  First of all, if the giver and receiver are not on the same page with how they feel about love, then there will be trouble.  Love can produce fear and insecurity.  It is not designed that way, but when events happen in life that distort the true meaning of love, then negative emotions arise pertaining to love.  1 John 4:18 tells us that there is no fear in love.  There is no fear when the love is perfect.

What is perfect love?  Perfect love is the love that God has for us.  He showed us his love when he sent his son Jesus to the world.  Jesus modeled perfect love and then died so that we could fully understand love in its perfection. This love was full of grace, outlined in compassion and built upon sacrifice.

It is difficult for us as imperfect people to love one another in a perfect manner.  Mainly because we are not willing to make sacrifices.  Let us repeat that:  We are not willing to make sacrifices for one another.  We are not always willing to give the time and energy that perfect love for one another requires.  We find it difficult to continue to offer our brothers and sisters compassion and mercy.  We often do not want to try to understand someone on a deep and intimate level.  Our attitude is often that we have enough things of our own to do besides helping a friend to bear their burdens.

Love requires work.  Whether the love is a friendship, family relationship, marriage, or relationship with God, it requires time, attention, focus, and effort.  Love that is perfect, first and foremost requires a love for God.  Through that relationship, we can learn to love others.  Through that relationship, we also can gain strength and desire to want to love others.

I pray this today:  Lord, help me to love you with the perfection in which you offer all of us.  Through this love, show me how to love others, even when it is difficult.  Give me the strength, wisdom, and desire to understand how to love others, especially those that have a hard time loving me.  May your perfect love for us, help us to experience a perfect love with others, a love full of grace, outlined in compassion and built upon sacrifice.  AMEN

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Rest in His peace

John 14:27   "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

When the flesh wants to panic, there is PEACE available.  But, how do we find peace in the midst of chaos and turmoil?  How can we rest when our hearts are troubled?  How can peace exist along with fear and anxiety?

John 14:27 describes the peace that we can have when our worlds seem to be turned upside down.  It is not a peace that we can find from things in the world.  It is peace that only can be found in Jesus Christ. While people around us may act peaceably, no other person can offer the peace that allows our hearts to trust and rest.

The peace that God offers us is available anytime we need it.  It is that peace that passes all understanding.  It is the Holy Spirit reminding you "I can take care of this".   It is peace that comes when you immediately cry out to God when facing difficult situations.  It is a peace that is offered to all of us.  It is that security that tells us we do not need to be afraid, but we must trust and accept the peace. 

If you are willing to accept peace, God offers it.   Accepting it will free your life of stress, anxiety, fear and worry.  Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us that when we go to God with prayer and petition, he will give us that 'peace that passes all understanding'.

If you have turmoil, whether it be acute or chronic, I urge you to seek the peace that God has to offer.  Cry out to him to send it your way and then open your heart and accept it.  Allow your heart and mind to rest in His peace!  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Use your comfort from God to comfort others

Psalms 119:76   May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.

There are many heavy hearts in our community this morning as we mourn with a family that abruptly lost their young son to leukemia that rapidly attacked his body.  There seem to be no words that could offer comfort to this family.  So many questions.  So few answers.

This young fellow was full of life.  He enjoyed people and everything that he was involved in.  My children were in the local 4H horse club with him and we all shared many laughs over the years of riding horses and learning new things about them. He was a vibrant young man with a magnetic personality.

We all are at a loss for understanding.  We wonder what we can do for the family.  There are no quick fixes of comfort in this type of situation.   It is important to visit the family and let them know that they are cared for and loved.  However, long term peace and comfort must come from God.  Family, friends and neighbors will be a part of that comfort as well.  In the days and months to come, God will work through different people and situations to show this family love and comfort. 


2 Corinthians 1:3-4  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we have received from God."    These verses show us that God will use people to comfort others.  The experiences that God gives each of us can be used to offer comfort to others.

Pray daily for all those that are hurting.  If God beckons you to offer any bit of comfort or compassion to anyone that is hurting, be obedient.  Do not allow the opportunity to offer comfort or peace to another pass you by.  Praise God for his comfort in your life and ask him how you may use that to comfort others. 

 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Rejection NEVER comes from God

2 Corinthians 4:8-9  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.

Rejection occurs in many sizes and shapes.  Rejection brings about many emotions, questions, and much insecurity.  Rejection in a nut shell means we are discarded as invaluable or unsatisfactory.  Rejection says:  "I do not want you",  "I do not like you", "you are useless to me".    Rejection is crushing and very difficult to understand.  

What exactly happens with rejection? 
               -Someone changes the way they feel about you.
               -Someone does you wrong-most often because of self seeking attitudes and behaviors
               -Someone cares more about themselves that others
               -Sometimes rejection is a cold shoulder, other times it involves intentional acts that clearly
                 demonstrate the thoughts and feelings of one person toward the other.

The main question that I have always had about rejection is "WHY"?  Why does a parent reject a child?  Why do siblings reject one another?  Why does a spouse one day decide there is no love for the other?  Why do people in the workplace work to destroy a position of a fellow co-worker?  Why do people decide they will not like and respect others? 

The common denominator in each of the instances mentioned is "self".  Self-seeking, self-serving, selfish feelings are the base of rejection.  Promoting "self"  demotes others.  When "self" is in the forefront, others are in the back.  Left behind.  Left out. Abandoned.  Rejected. 

Rejection may come from all sides of our lives:  work, family, social activities, sports, etc.  Rejection will NEVER come from God.   No matter the destruction that other people may cause in our lives because of rejection, we are never destroyed in God's eyes.  He will never reject, nor forsake us. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

After Jacob's dream

Genesis 28:16-22  When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it."  He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place!  This is none other than house of God; this is the gate of heaven."  Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it.  He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.  Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with  me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."

Yesterday's devotion discussed the fact that in Jacob's dream, God promised him that he would bless him even though Jacob had done some things that were really wrong.  Today, let us look at verses 16-22 at what happened after the dream.  Jacob's dream was very powerful.   The scripture says that when he awoke, he was afraid (v. 17).  It seems that his fear was more of an inner conviction.  Perhaps an "ah ha" moment that helped him to realize God's sovereignty.  Jacob surely realized that he had not been worshiping God in an acceptable manner.  In his vow to God (v. 20-22), Jacob demonstrates how he plans to worship God from that moment on.

Life is much easier and sweeter when we surrender to God.  Life is more fulfilled when we worship and serve God with all our hearts.  We should not look at Jacob's story and think that it doesn't matter what we do, God will bless us anyway.  We should look at this story and realize that God does offer mercy, protection and blessings.   He also expects a repentant heart and for us to worship him. 

If your worship does not seem up to par, take time to find out why.  Is repentance needed?  Are you running from God?  Look at Jacob's "ah ha" moment and realize that God offers all that you need in every situation.  He offers protection, guidance, love and mercy.  Plan to worship God in all that is going on in your life.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Jacob's ladder is our ladder also

Genesis 28:10-13    Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran.  When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set.  Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.  He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.  There above it stood the Lord, and he said:  "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.  I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.

Each of us, at one time or another, has used a ladder.  Ladders help us to climb to a level to reach things that we cannot otherwise reach from standing on the ground.   Ladders allow us to go up and down.  We use ladders to paint the tops of walls, change light bulbs, clean out gutters, or to get on the roof.  We are often interested in climbing the proverbial career ladder to advance in a job. Climbing a ladder allows access to things that may otherwise be unreachable.

In Geneses 28:10-13, Jacob dreams of a stairway which has become known as "Jacob's ladder" over time.  Jacob had done many things wrong.  He had plotted with his mother to trick his father, Isaac, into giving him the family's blessing that Isaac had planned to give to Essau, Jacob's brother.  Instead of relying on God to bless him, Jacob relied on deception.  When Essau realized that his family blessing had been stolen by Jacob's deceptive scheme, Essau planned to kill his brother.  Jacob fled the area in order to escape his own murder.

When Jacob stopped to sleep for the night, he dreamed vividly.  His dream contained a stairway that led to heaven.  The stairway resembled a ladder with angels going up and coming down the rungs.  God stood at the top of the stairway.  Let us focus on what God said to Jacob at this point.  With all that Jacob had done wrong, we would expect that God would have chastised him and given him instructions on how to make things right.  God told Jacob that he was the father of all Jacob's forefathers and that the ground on which he was sleeping belonged to Jacob.  God told Jacob that he would bless him and give him all that he had promised.

God was at the top of this ladder offering Jacob love, mercy and protection even though Jacob had just committed a huge act of deception and robbery.  With all the mistakes that Jacob had made, God blessed him.  He blessed him!!!!

Points to take away from this passage are:
            -God is reachable.  He is at the top of the ladder from earth to heaven.  Even if we break off
              rungs and render our ladder severed, God is still reachable.
            -God does not dwell on our mistakes and flaws.  He focuses on our potential!
            -No matter what we do, God's promises are always available.
            -No matter what mistakes we have made, we are still able to receive mercy and grace.

Use the ladder to heaven. The same ladder that Jacob dreamed of is there for us to use to access God. Allow the angels to take petitions up the rungs.  Wait as the angels bring answers down the rungs.  God is at the top of the ladder!!
         



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Psalm 23

Psalm 23: 2  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters, he restores my soul.


We cannot blaze the trail through our lives seeking our own way while dragging God behind us and expecting him to go along with our plans. 

We cannot walk with God unless we allow Him to lead.  He wants to lead.

If your pastures do not seem green and your waters are tumultuous, get behind God and allow him to lead you.  Allow him to show you where He wants you to go.  In doing so, you will experience the still waters of contentment, peace, joy and The Sweet Stuff that he has for you.  


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"Self" is at the base of rejection

Psalms 41:9   Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. 

I am sure as many of you read this verse, you can call to mind a time when you were rejected by a close friend, a family member or perhaps a spouse.  Rejection hurts.  Not only does it hurt immediately, but it also causes long term hurts and issues that effect other relationships in our lives. 

Rejection and betrayal are difficult to understand and equally as difficult to overcome.   When we are rejected, a part of us dies.  We mourn.  We grieve.  We wonder why we are not good enough.  We ask ourselves, "What is wrong with me?" or "What did I do wrong?"

What dies within us is mostly the death of our expectations of that relationship.  Our hope and trust in that person dies.  We lose the expectation of being loved and cared for and treated accordingly.  We expect a spouse to honor the vows of "for better or worse" and "till death do us part".  We expect friends to be real and true.  We expect jobs to be fair and people to treat us with respect and concern. 

We experience feelings of rejection because the actions of others do NOT meet our expectations.  This leaves us feeling of little value.  We feel unimportant and unloved.  Rejection occurs because the actions of people do not meet God's expectations of how to treat others.  He will never approve of rejection. 

Rejection is most difficult when it comes from a family member or close friend.  If you have ever heard the words, "I don't love you anymore", then you know all the emotions and thoughts that follow.   When a person betrays you or decides they have changed the way they feel about you, that relationship is severed.  If the relationship is a close one, perhaps a marriage or a friendship of many years, the rejection will cause a physical "ripping of the flesh" experience.   Physical symptoms will accompany this type of severance. 

How does someone suddenly change his/her mind about loving or even liking someone?  How does a person wake up one day and no longer wish to be a part of someone else, especially when the relationship has existed for many years?  

The root of the matter when a person rejects another is "SELF".   When a person wrongs another, there are selfish motives and attitudes at heart.  There is an absence of God's will anytime rejection intentionally occurs.   When we seek God with all our hearts, it should never be within us to reject another. 

In the midst of the pain and grief that rejection brings, remember that God loves you and will never reject you.  Also focus on your value as he sees it, not as humans assign it.  The actions and rejections of others do NOT determine your value as God's child. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Same things are in the dark as in the day

John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, "I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life."

I remember when my children were small, they were afraid of the dark. If we were all in the family room and they needed to go into another room alone, they would say, "Will you come with me Mama? It is dark in there." I had this phrase that I would say to them, "The same things are in the dark as in the day." We talked about how nothing extra was in the rooms at night that had not been there in the day. I often heard them repeating that phrase as a reminder or a pep talk to muster up the courage to go into the dark room.

The real reason for fear of the dark is that we cannot see as well in the dark. There are "unknowns" in the dark. As humans, we fear that which we cannot see. Really, we face darkness every day. Dark times enter our lives and the fear of uncertainty can paralyze us.

We have the choice of living in the darkness with fear and worry or we can walk in the light by following Jesus. His light leads the way through all the darkness that we may face. He is in the dark times of our lives just as he is when the sun shines upon us.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Do you have rocks in your pocket?

John 8:7   ....."All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone."

Please read John 8:1-11 in its entirety.  This passage of scripture has several lessons packed within it.  Messages about judging and condemning others, compassion and unconditional love immediately  come to mind when we read this passage. 

I want to use this passage to consider friendships.  Friendships are important gifts from God.  We begin friendships early in life with school, sports and other activities.  Lifelong friendships are precious blessings!  When we have lifelong friendships (emphasis on the long), we will encounter many situations and events with our friends.  There will be happy times, sad times, times of disappointment and down right tough times.  There will be times when our friends make decisions that we do not agree with.  There will be times when our friends suffer great loss and disappointment within their lives.   Sometimes friends will make poor choices and seemingly lose their way.  

Are we able to be a genuine friend no matter what happens?   Are we able to love or do we just use words of love while we are really judging?   Do we develop a self righteous attitude and abandon the friendship? Is it easier to no longer participate in the friendship?  Do the sufferings and failures of our friends require more effort on our parts than we are willing to invest?   Do we throw that first stone instead of considering the sin in our lives?

Too often people walk away from friendships by throwing the first stone.  Some folks seem to keep rocks in their pockets waiting for an opportunity to hurl one at someone.  Judging the actions and thoughts of others is a common reason that friendships fail.  We have all known friends, or so called friends, that throw the first stone when there seems to be nothing in the relationship to benefit them.  Sadly, at times people savor the failures and losses of others and when a friend suffers a loss such as a job, title or position, others view them as a loser instead offering compassion and love during the loss. 

Being a genuine friend requires love, compassion and forgiveness.   Just as Jesus told the crowd in John 8:1-11, we should consider our own lives before we condemn others.   Leave the stones on the ground where they belong.  Love your friends, no matter what they are going through, no matter how bad their lives seem to be and even when you do not agree with their decisions.  Present yourself as an example of love and compassion.  Teach them the righteous ways of God and what he expects from each of us.  Love them through their losses.  Grow together in the friendship.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Friendship

Proverbs 20:6  Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?

Yesterday in church, we sang "What a Friend We Have in Jesus".   Many times throughout my life I can remember singing this song.  It is one of my favorites.  Yesterday it spoke to me in a more special way.  The other night my husband and I had a conversation about what makes up a friendship. Not about casual friends or acquaintances but about deep, godly, long lasting friendships. 

These types of friendships come from each party having a solid relationship with God.  The relationships include committment, unconditional love, a desire to help one another, and enjoyment of each others' company.  Friendship means that you will never change your mind about loving the other person.   In true friendship, neither party will ever doing anything to cause the other person's mind to change.  Friends should never wish any harm to one another.  The song, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus"  shows us what kind of friendship he offers us.  It also can show us what we can offer each other in friendship.  As the song points out, friends should bear one another's grief, sorrows and pain.  Friends should offer peace and comfort during all the hard times in life.

We all have expectations of each other in any type of relationship.  We expect our friends to be interested in us.  We expect loyalty, confidence, protection and trust.  We must also be willing to give all those same characteristics to our friends.  We must be the type of friend that Jesus is. 




Friday, July 10, 2015

Self-righteous pride

Ecclesiastes 7:8  The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.

Self-righteous pride is basically the largest obstacle to forgiveness.  Pride doesn't want to  let go of hurts and disagreements.

Pride wants to always be right.

Pride wants to be smarter or better.

Pride wants to be more righteous. 

It is difficult to admit to one's own pride.  It is equally as difficult to set it aside.   Holding on to pride causes us to miss the sweetness of God's grace, both from him and between us and others.

Setting aside pride, experiencing forgiveness and fore bearing all things in love puts an end to all matters of conflict and exposes us to sweet grace.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Let God fight for you

Exodus 14:14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.

Just stay calm! Sounds easy enough, but how in the world can we stay calm when things around us seem to be in such turmoil?  What can we do when the enemy is camped at our doorstep?  
We feel so powerless and weary and often times despair will set in and cause us to feel trapped. Perhaps we feel trapped by depression, rejection, disappointments, fear. The despair may come from a job situation, conflict within a relationship, health or finances. 

We have all been faced with these situations- events and circumstances with the potential to trap our hearts into negativity, anger, or bitterness.  Maybe you have a present situation in your life that brings about these emotions and you are feeling trapped. Let us read this scripture from back to front, “Just stay calm. The Lord himself will fight for you.” He WILL fight for you and He is the mighty warrior, but first you have to allow Him to be your warrior. Staying calm, although seemingly impossible at times, will allow you to submit all your troubles to God. 
   
Submission is letting go.  Let go of the need to emotionally wrestle the situation.  Let go of the need to do something.  Let go and let God fight it for you.                          

Monday, July 6, 2015

Long suffering

Galatians 5:22-23--But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Long suffering is patience. Patience is defined in Webster's dictionary as the capability of bearing affliction with calmness; able to tolerate delay; understanding. We must have patience in all aspects of our world around us.   Patience is required when we deal with people, situations, God and ourselves.

Is patience always easy? NO! Even some of the most patient people in small everyday situations are tested when trials seem to have no clear end or resolution. One might be patient enough with children, traffic or small frustrations, but when that long suffering is put to a test, how well does it hold?  How do we endure the trials of our patience such as praying for a family member that is unsaved, enduring a chronic illness, loss of a loved one, or dealing with a job lay off and financial uncertainties?

Christian character comes from the Holy Spirit.  There is no amount of self-effort that will build a Christian character.  Drawing nearer to God develops the character trait of long suffering.  We should become totally dependent upon him and his timing, trusting that he has the plan best suited for us.

If we seek solid a Christian character within ourselves and desire to possess the fruits of the spirit as mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23, then the situations in life that require long suffering will be easier to bear.  Events and situations that we describe as "trying our patience" are opportunities to strengthen Christian character.  So, the next time your patience is put to the test, seek what God is showing you.  Look to strengthen your Christian character.  Draw near to Him.  Thank him for the experience! 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Freedom

Galatians 5:13   For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

As we celebrate freedom today, let us be ever mindful of the greatest freedom of all.  Jesus Christ offers us freedom from our sins and the opportunity to be eternally free.  May we always use the offer to love others and serve Christ by serving others.   Let us forever remember what the flesh of Christ suffered in order for us to experience freedom.  May we never use that freedom to satisfy our own flesh. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Unresolved anger

James 1:19-20    My dear brothers, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 

What is anger?    Why do we experience anger?    Anger is a strong emotion within usually follows an injustice or being "wronged".   The physiological response in the body produces an increase in adrenaline which leaves us with the instinctual "fight or flight" option as a response.  This occurrence is what causes the heart to race and the warm rush throughout the body.  Many times it also leads to a reaction with the tongue before engaging the brain.   

Is anger wrong?  No.  But how we deal with feelings of anger can lead to wrongdoings.  Anger must not manifest into retaliation, lashing out or sin.  Anger becomes sin when we attack the wrongdoer instead of addressing the situation/problem.  Anger must not be allowed to linger.  Lingering anger prolongs forgiveness and allows roots of bitterness to grow.  Physical problems may arise from unresolved anger. 

At times it is necessary to experience anger in order to let go and reach a place of forgiveness.  Notice I said EXPERIENCE it.  That means within yourself and it does NOT mean that we use the anger in unacceptable ways.  We must deal with anger in a way that no one else recognizes that we are angry.  No one else should be on the receiving end of our dealings.

Why do some people become angry over situations that would not slightly upset others?  Anger is related to our internal disposition.  Attitudes about forgiveness and unconditional love for others are factors that affect how we perceive injustices in our lives.   When unresolved anger exists, the slightest offenses will produce the strong emotion partly because the person is reminded of all the offenses that led to the unresolved issues.   Super sensitivities and an easily angered person are indications of deep unresolved issues that may not have anything to do with the current offense.

If you are easily angered, I encourage you to pray for God to reveal to you why you respond in this manner.  Seek the unresolved issues or unforgiveness that may exist so that you can improve your disposition and be free of this destructive emotion.  If someone close to you is easily angered, pray for him/her as well.  Realize that there must be issues that need to be resolved and that he/she need your prayers.