The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Friday, October 30, 2015

Don't worry about the future

Today may find some of you worried and frightened about your future.  Whether your fears are related to relationships, your job or the world around us, remember these truths:

              -God loves each and every one of us.  (John 3:16)
              -God will provide all things that you need.  (Matthew 6:25-34)
              -He cares about all your worries, so talk to him about them.(1 Peter 5:7)
              -He has a plan for all things to be good for you.  (Jeremiah 29:11)
              -God has great things in store for you. (Job 8:7)
              -The future looks bright (Proverbs 23:18)
              -You can find joy and happiness in the good times and the scary times (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

When your burdens seem heavy, count your blessings and hold fast to all that God has done for you.  As God tells us in Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own".

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Forgiveness Without an Apology

Colossians 1:19-20  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Genuine forgiveness is not an act in a movie scene.  We might envision that forgiveness should transpire much like it does in a fictional movie with the offender coming in person to express remorse and the desire for reconciliation.  We seem to expect that forgiveness will be escorted straight into our hearts with ease. The reality of forgiveness is that it is often awkward, messy and sometimes a lengthy process.  The course of forgiveness and letting go does not always happen immediately.  It may occur in steps and stages, often accompanied by realizations of issues within ourselves that need to be addressed.

There will be times when someone that has caused hurt will have remorse and a genuine desire to seek you forgiveness.  Those instances are very special because they are opportunities for both hearts to demonstrate the love and grace of God.  A cold, hard fact is that there will also be times when you need to forgive but the offender is not sorry.  Maybe the one that caused the hurt is no longer alive-but the hurt is very much alive.  So, how do we forgive in a case where the offender never feels remorse or seeks to be forgiven?  How do we forgive someone who is no longer alive?

Forgiveness is in the eye of the beholder.  It is for the offended to experience.  We are never promised that forgiveness will happen with all parties involved.   We are promised that forgiveness is expected on our part (Matthew 6:14-15).  Forgiveness is an act of grace in the heart of an offended person.  It is an intimate transaction between the offended and God.  Forgiveness is not necessarily between the hurt and the one who committed the hurt.

In order to forgive a person that has hurt you deeply but is no longer in your life because of death or a choice to be absent, you must reach a level of acceptance about the event or situation.  The sequence of "Sort, Sieve, Learn and Leave" is helpful in reaching acceptance.  We must come to an acceptance with what has occurred yet not become comfortable with resentment and anger.  The real point of acceptance at which we must arrive is that God will deal with whatever offenses any person has committed. Vengeance is His (Romans 12:19).  We must also remember that we are accountable for all feelings and unforgiveness for which we hold in our hearts.

Forgiveness of someone that is not sorry or is no longer alive is an act that must be worked out between you and God.  Really, any act of forgiveness is between you and God.  He is the one with whom we are accountable.  He is THE one that expects us to have a clean heart that is filled with love and peace.  To forgive someone that is not sorry does not minimize the hurt that you feel.  Forgiving him/her will maximize your peace and move you toward healing.  Forgiveness will harmonize your relationship with God.  Forgiveness is not always accompanied by reconciliation but it will reconcile your heart to align with God's expectations. Our peace comes through reconciliation with heavenly things. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Rest Time

Mark 6:31   Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."

I was talking to a friend the other day about the demands of life.  It seems with each passing year, more is required of us to merely exist.  Rising costs of living without an increase in income puts a burden on everyone to make ends meet.  Raising children is demanding and requires time and attention (I would not trade this job for any other!)  Jobs are demanding and many people work two jobs to pay bills.  Add a couple of extracurricular activities for the children and more time is filled. 

Everyone is busy.  How on earth can every hour of every day become filled with something?  It seems at our house lately that if we do have a free block of time on our schedules, something will tear up and need repairs, therefore filling that time.  I can totally relate to the first part of Mark 6:31 about coming and going and not having time to eat.  In this passage, Jesus and the twelve apostles were on tour preaching and healing.  They were walking from village to village, meeting with people, having church and witnessing.  Their bodies and minds were tired.  People have always been busy.  It is relative.  It is not a new issue with our generation. 

How do we become less busy?  I am still trying to find a solution to that.  But I do know this:  It is extremely important to carve out rest time, "down time" as I like to call it.  Our brains and our bodies need time to rest, be quiet and have no demands upon us.   Those times of rest are wonderful times to commune with God.  Down time is a perfect opportunity to talk with God, feel his presence and hear what he has to say.  Whether you schedule a few hours each week or a couple of days away each month, rest time, beyond sleeping each night, is vital to our physical and spiritual health.  Tend to your rest.  Schedule it on your calendar.  Make it a priority!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Forgiveness is good for the heart-LITERALLY!

Psalms 32:3-5  When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.  Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.

Forgiveness is a complicated business.  As humans, we all need forgiveness throughout our lives.  We also are required to forgive others throughout our lives.  Needing forgiveness and needing to forgive will zap the energy out of us.  Anxiety and stress can come from both sides of the equation.

When we sin and need forgiveness, our conscience will not rest.  We may mull over the event and worry about the hurt we have caused.  When we have been sinned against, the hurt will not rest.  We may continuously replay the event and announce the degree of hurt to those around us.  In both instances, our bodies and minds undergo stress, anxiety and at times even physical symptoms.

Surprisingly, the Mayo Clinic recognizes the effects that forgiveness, or a lack thereof, can have on our physical health.  The following is listed as proven effects of forgiveness:   "Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:
        • Healthier relationships
        • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
        • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
        • Lower blood pressure
        • Fewer symptoms of depression
        • Stronger immune system
        • Improved heart health
        • Higher self-esteem"
When we say that forgiveness is a "heart thing" it can be taken in the literal sense as well.  Forgiveness leads to a healthier heart both spiritually and physically.  It is similar to exercise.  A healthy spiritual heart will provide us with healthier bodies and happier lives!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Love your enemies

Matthew 5:  43-46    "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?......."

God does not give us any reason not to love everyone.  We find the reasons.  We fill in the blanks with "I don't like him because _____________________" or "How can I love someone who did _____________ to me?" 

We have a tendency to love only those that can love us in return.  We are comfortable loving and being around those people that we trust and that we expect will do us no harm.  It is difficult to love people that have offended us.  One of the obstacles that is hard to get past is knowing that enemies have the desire to harm us or cause us grief.   It is much easier to avoid people that we know are difficult to love. 

We are not responsible for the treatment or lack of love that we may receive.  We ARE responsible for the love or lack of love that we give.  The ability to love our enemies comes from giving ourselves fully to God;trusting the Holy Spirit to show us how to love those that we may not "feel" a love towards.  In order to grow more Christlike, we must overcome any feelings of "unlove" and function in the capacity of God's love.  Is this always easy?  NO.  But it does get easier the more we practice and the more we pray to love others the way that God expects us to. 

I have worked for several years in a clothing ministry in which free clothing and food are given to those in need.  I remember that the very first day that I served in this ministry, a couple of people came for the clothing and food that had said some pretty nasty things about my family.  I immediately prayed desperately for God to allow me to open my heart to serve them without anger or ill will.   It was very awkward as I wrestled my fleshly emotions.  I wanted to leave and not participate in the service.  But God showed me that when we can love and serve others without expecting anything in return, there is growth in our closeness with him.  Through his grace and strength that comes only from Him, I was able to serve those people without erupting like a volcano. 

God wants us to show Agape love, a selfless sacrificial love; the kind of love that he has to offer.  It is a love that expects nothing in return.  It gets easier the more you practice loving those that cannot offer or perhaps will not offer love in return.   

I encourage you to pray for your enemies.  Pray that you can love them in spite of it all.  Pray that God will soften your heart so that you can get past your feelings and understand Agape love.  Praying for your enemies, the ones that you know have caused you harm, is a difficult prayer to pray.  It goes against what we as humans feel in the flesh.   The ability to arrive at a place where we genuinely pray for our enemies comes from the Holy Spirit.  It is a fleshy battle that does not feel good.  However, the rewards are great for loving as God expects us to love!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

How do you know when you have really forgiven someone?

Matthew 18:35   "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

In Matthew 18:15-35 Jesus tells us about what is expected of us regarding forgiveness of one another.  Forgiveness must be from the heart, not just from the lips.   In a recent Bible study class, someone asked the question, "How do you know when you have forgiven someone?"  Good question! 

Forgiveness from the heart means that as  the offended, we must many times change our attitude about the offense.  We must overcome the fleshly reactions to the injury-the anger and other negative emotions must be subdued.  The bad memories of the situation must be erased from the mind.   Thoughts of vengeance must turn to prayers for God's justice and mercy. 

If the Holy Spirit is reminding you with that still small voice that the situation needs attention, then forgiveness has not occurred.  If bitterness and grudge-filled remembrances about the injury remain, forgiveness is not within the heart.  If you say that you have forgiven yet continue to replay and repeat the offense your heart is not free of the hurt.   If physical reactions such as adrenaline rushes and angry emotions flow through your body when you see the offender or any reminders of the offense, your heart has not forgiven.  I call this "heat behind the ears".  This is an adrenaline and physical response to the offense.  The adrenaline rush is a bodily response to anger or fear.  The "fight" or "flight" indicator. 

You have completely forgiven someone when you no longer feel that the offender owes you a repayment.  When you can pray for the offender, genuinely pray for their well being and not pray for vengeance, you have forgiven from the heart.  When you grieve with them and their losses and do not rejoice in their calamities, you have forgiven from the heart.

Forgiveness from the heart requires self-discipline, close communion with God a desire to advance in spiritual growth.  It is not easy and it does not always feel good to our flesh.  However, it is expected and necessary as Christians. 

If there is someone that you need to forgive, there is no better time than now to begin the process.  Look for the signs.  Listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  Review the checklist to make sure you have completely forgiven. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

We must love in the midst of brokenness

Colossians 3:13-14 "...Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

As we look around us, we can see many broken families.  The divorce rate is said to be around 50% in the United States.  Divorce causes much brokenness and heartache.  However, divorce is not the only type of broken family.  This post will focus on broken relationships of other kinds.

Conflict between siblings can also break the family structure.  Addictions cause brokenness and stress in families.  Bitterness that goes unresolved will also cause fractures within relationships that might otherwise be whole.  There are times that the degree of brokenness and damage is not evident at first but comes into light at a time when much repair is needed.  We can be oblivious to damaged relationships when we are engulfed in the busyness of life and neglect to attend to the state of our family and friends.

During conflict, it is often tempting to fall out of love toward the person with which there is contention.  Our fleshly emotions want to disengage feelings of love when we do not get along with others.  After all, people that are in love are supposed to get along. Right?  Not necessarily.  It is correct that true love (as described in 1 Corinthians 13) should rejoice and not be self-seeking.  Conflict, to some extent, is inevitable when humans interact with one another.  The escalation of conflict depends upon the individuals involved.  Each family member or friend that you have in your life will not be on the same level of understanding of the biblical meaning of love.  Some may have a deeper relationship with God while others may have a lesser relationship with God than you have.  We can love someone without getting along 100% of the time.  We are capable of loving others in the midst of conflict and hurt.  It takes strength, forgiveness, and grace to love those that we may not even like.  God can and will supply those qualities so that we may love right there in tumultuous relationships. 

I recently read a statement that Billy Graham made.  He was talking about the difficult years he and his wife had with their son, Franklin.  Franklin had some years of rebellion and as his father said, "He was into everything you can think of".  While Mr. Graham did not approve of his son's lifestyle, he maintained a loving relationship with him.  The relationship was difficult, however Billy Graham said this, "You need to keep their love at any cost.  Because when they come through it, they'll still have the love there". When his son, Franklin, returned to the Lord and his lifestyle changed for the better, his relationship with his parents was still strong because the love had remained there-unconditionally.

God's grace and mercy will allow us to love unconditionally.  In those moments when we are tempted to be so angry with another, yet our heart bleeds because of the conflict that is present-there is grace.  When we are willing to forgive offenses because we know deep down in our hearts that the other person is wounded as well-there we find grace and mercy.  When we are able to love our broken families in spite of dissension-there we find, grace, mercy and the love that binds in unity.  When we can offer love to someone that does not love us, we have arrived at what God describes in 1 Corinthians 13.

It is important to find love in the midst of brokenness.  In fact, it is commanded.   By keeping love alive when a relationship seems dead, we keep hope alive.  When the wounds begin to heal, there will be strength in the relationship in order for the brokenness to become whole. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Forgive "whatever grievances"

Luke 11:4   Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. 

Do we offer forgiveness unconditionally?   

When we think about conditional vs. unconditional, the first thought that we have is usually about love.  We know that God expects us to love unconditionally.   But what about forgiveness?  Do we offer forgiveness unconditionally or do we assign conditions to what or whom we might forgive.  God expects us to forgive unconditionally.  Period.

I was talking with a fellow a couple of years ago about forgiveness.  He had forgiven a parent for infidelity and the hurt that it had caused the entire family.  However, he holds a bitter grudge against one of his siblings for an argument in which angry words were spoken.   I asked this fellow how he could forgive one situation, that to me seemed much more hurtful and difficult than the other, yet carry a grudge against the one that seemed less hurtful.    He only offered this statement:  "It is easy to forgive someone when your paycheck depends on it" (the parent in the situation is also his employer).  I have often thought about this situation.  How is it that we assign priorities to forgiveness?   Is it truly easier to forgive when there is "something in it for me" such as something tangible?   Does an immediate need or desire that we have make forgiveness easier in our minds?  If so, then forgiveness is conditional.  Can we sincerely have forgiveness in our hearts when we pick and choose where we offer mercy?

When Jesus was praying one day his disciples asked him to teach them to pray.   He told them to pray in what we know as the Lord's prayer which includes Luke 11:4.  We are to pray for strength and wisdom to forgive EVERYONE who sins against us.  We are not to treat it as a cafeteria plan where we pick and choose who and what we forgive.  We are to forgive everyone.  Repeat- everyone.  We are promised in scripture that we will be forgiven according to how we offer forgiveness (Matthew 6:14).  We want to be forgiven of everything we have done, not just a few of the worst things.   Ephesians 3:13 says, "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another."

Key words to keep in mind regarding forgiveness:  "EVERYONE" and "whatever grievances".   If there are situations and people with which you are withholding forgiveness, remember these key words and pray like Jesus commanded so that all can be forgiven.  Just as God expects us to love unconditionally, he also expects us to forgive in the same manner.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Listen to 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.  If a person lashes out verbally at another, then 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"?   Why must character assassination accompany hurt feelings or offenses?  

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 instead of the words.  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 from within you.  Seek God's help to heal that hurt before it hurts anyone else.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Broken hearts and breaking hearts

Psalms   73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Each and every one of us is vulnerable to a broken heart and capable of breaking the hearts of others.  We all are subject to the uncertainties of life.  Hurts and disappointments will happen because we are all imperfect as human beings.  Our flesh and our hearts may fail and often do just that.

Most of us have suffered a broken heart at some point in our lives.   Broken hearts come from disappointments when our dreams are shattered.   The grief of losing a loved one will cause our hearts to literally ache within our chests.   Our emotions will be broken when people fail to keep their promises.  Brokenness comes through betrayal. 

By the same token, we are all capable of breaking the hearts of others with our words and actions. Chances are that if you are causing a broken heart in someone else, it results from brokenness within you.  Brokenness can be cyclical.  By allowing your own broken state to lash out and hurt others, you have acted in vengeance. 

Broken hearts can lead to broken attitudes that turn into bitterness, broken relationships, distrust or loss of excitement about life.   A broken heart can feel as if the world is coming to an end and that things will never be the same.    

A broken heart does not have to be  permanent.  God can fill up your broken heart in ways that you can only imagine.  Look to him for strength and allow him to mend your brokenness and restore your heart.  If you have a broken heart or have caused a broken heart, confess that to God, and pray for him to show you how find restoration.  It is time to stop the vengeance and the cycle of hurt. He does not want us to be broken and he does not want us to cause others to be broken.  He wants us to be whole.                                                                       

Wednesday, October 14, 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 ruminate, hold on and not move forward. 

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.                                      

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Do NOT be afraid to go against the herd

Exodus 23:2   Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.

I grew up in the country where having cattle was a large part of my life.  My dad is a livestock trader and so many loads of cattle arrived and departed from our farm.  Before cattle are loaded onto the truck to be taken to the market, they must first be rounded up and corralled in some fashion.  At our place, the corral was around the side of the barn so that the cattle could be herded into the loading chute and onto the truck.  

One thing that stands out about herding cattle is that there is always that one cow that will go in the opposite way of the herd.  For the people trying to herd the cattle into the corral, to have one that wants to stray is very frustrating since cows are herd animals and the next thing to happen is that all the rest will want to follow and the efforts to get them loaded must start from the beginning.  That cow was referred to as the one of the herd with the least sense.  (My sister will recollect the words spoken about the intelligence of cows.  LOL).  But let us think about that.  If you ponder this for a moment, the cow that goes in the opposite direction of the rest of the herd is trying to escape and run free.  It is not an animal's nature to be penned up in fences and stalls.  It is the nature of animals to do as they were designed-to run free and roam.  Perhaps that cow that goes in the opposite direction is actually the smartest one! 

People have tendencies to follow crowds.  It is a herd mentality.  If the crowd is going in a righteous direction, then there is no problem.  However, if the crowd is not traveling toward the cross of Christ, there will be danger of falling into sinful practices.  If you sense that you are following along in a crowd that is not traveling in righteous directions, turn around.  Do NOT be afraid the be the one who walks away and travels opposite of the herd.  You may be just the one to lead others in a new direction.  Your leadership may bring someone closer to the cross. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

May we serve God by serving others

Galations 5:13   "You my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love."

God expects each of us to serve.  He expects us to serve him first and foremost.  He expects us to serve one another.  By serving one another, we not only meet the needs of others, but we also are showing our thanks to God  (2 Cor. 9:12-13). 

We each have the freedom to choose what we do with our time.  It is easy to become idle with our free time.  Serving others is a rewarding way to spend any of our time.  God has much work for us to do.   Many people serve in mission work by going to another country.  That is a wonderful work of service.  It allows God's word and his reflection to reach many people that may have never heard of him.

There are many opportunities to serve God and others right where you are.  He does not call upon everyone to travel to other countries to serve his people.  There are many people in our own communities that are oppressed and need God.  There are people in our own counties/communities that are in need of basic necessities of life. 

It is my prayer that each of us will desire to choose to serve one another.  May our hearts be burdened with the needs of others.  May God lead us in serving him by serving others in love.  

Friday, October 9, 2015

Quotes from D.L. Moody

Today I leave you to ponder some quotes from the late, great D.L. Moody.  He was a spiritual leader in the 1800s whose legacy is venerated today.  He loved God with all his heart.  He sought God.  He submitted to God.  He served God.  He was dedicated to winning souls to God's kingdom.

"Let us ask ourselves the question:  Is love the motive power that urges us to go out and work for God?  ...Without it a great deal of work will go for naught.  The work will be swept away like chaff without it.  Christ looks down and examines our hearts and actions, and although our deeds may be great in the eyes of the world, they may not be in His eyes."

"If we desire to be successful in our ministry efforts, then it's not what we do that pleases God and draws men to us.  Rather, it's why we do it.  Is our service done out of love?  That's what really counts."

"...nothing but love can find out the mysterious avenues which lead to the heart."

"Do all the good you can,
 To all the people you can,
 By all the means you can,
 In all the places you can,
 As long as ever you can."

"Let it be God's glory and not our own that we seek, ad when we get to that point, how speedily the Lord will bless us for good.  Then will the measure of our blessing be full."

"There is nothing in heaven, earth, or hell too hard for our God, and it is a good thing for us to start out with this thought that God is able to do above all that we dare think or ask."

Thursday, October 8, 2015

There is much to see in the dark

Joshua 1:9  "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I recently heard a beautiful song for the first time.  The song talks about the dark places in our lives-the dark valleys that we all experience.  The line of the song that caught my attention was this:  "It is in the darkest places that I see most clearly". 

Dark places in our lives come in the form of finances, broken relationships, and illness.  Those dark places can cause us to feel as if we are walking in the pitch black night with no flashlight.  We stumble, afraid of completely falling.  We are afraid of what is lurking around us.  Fear and despair lurk in those dark places.  The darkness can be very scary. 

When we go out in the dark to drive or walk we plan to have lights with us.  We try to pay more attention and focus on what we need to see.  The same is true when our lives seem to be in dark places.  We need light and to focus with more attention.  In those dark places, God is there.  He is there when your finances are in a mess.  He is there when your relationships seem to be on a downhill spiral.  He is there with you every minute of any sickness or horrible disease that may take you into the darkness.  He knows your fears.  He feels your despair. 

Wherever you go, even in the darkness, God is with you.  He will comfort you and guide you.  In those dark places, seek what God wants to show you about himself and about yourself.  There is so much to see in the dark.  Let him shine his light for you to see more clearly.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Daily grace.

2 Peter 1:2  Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

God's saving grace comes to us because he sent his son for our eternal salvation when we, as sinners, could do nothing to save ourselves.  Grace is God's love to all of mankind.  Grace is extended to all of us, even though we have a sinful nature that warrants anything but loving behaviors in return. 

How do we define God's daily grace?  Are we able to recognize his grace in all areas of our lives and not just through salvation?   Do we appreciate that he is the giver of all things and that it is only through him that we are able to accomplish the things which we do?  What does daily grace, everyday, plain old grace look like?  How can we identify it?

God's grace is love in action.  Daily grace is love in action!! God's grace is real and acting in our lives every day. 

Grace is provision of our basic needs.  It is also the receipt of an increase in our successes from time to time; not because of our efforts, but because of God's love in action.

His grace is strength when we feel most weak.

Grace is a good report from the doctor or medical tests.  Grace is healing.

Grace is that phone call or visit from a friend or relative that you haven't seen in awhile.  Perhaps the call comes from someone with whom the relationship is strained.  This is God's love in action!

Grace is a smile that turns your own frown upside down for God can reveal his grace through others in our life. 

Grace is protection from our fears that threaten to overtake our sense of calmness.

Grace is the opportunity to set our feet on the floor each morning and greet another day of life.

God's love in action is that sweet hug from your child after being disciplined and realizing the importance of reproof.

God's love in action allows us to love-even the people that are challenging to love.

Grace is so many things, that the list can go on and on.  Understanding grace comes from knowing God as we are told in 2 Peter 1:2.  Knowing God allows us to understand the gracious sacrifice of His son for us so that we may enjoy the grace he offers. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The "C" word

Romans 8:38-39   For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The "C" word.  Cancer.  A dreadful, frightening word that we never want to hear our doctor utter.  Conditions that devastate the mind and body.  A word that has affected my family on both sides.  Cancer is no respecter of persons.  It invades the young, old and anyone in between.  It descends upon athletes, businessmen, farmers, teachers, and any other profession.  It does not seem to matter who nor how healthy a person may be.  It is always a possibility.

Cancer can separate people from their jobs.  It disrupts the comfort zone and turns the world upside down.  It affects the quality of life.  It causes insecurity and uncertainty.  Often, cancer permanently separates people from their families as they succumb to the horrible disease. 

As we strive to raise the awareness of cancer and treatments, may we also raise the awareness of God's presence and love for us.   I have been reminded of God's love and comfort in this matter a few times in my life.  I have been in the waiting room while family members have undergone surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.  I have waited to speak with surgeons to hear whether the surgery was successful.  I have watched family members undergo chemotherapy.  I have seen the long term effects of cancer.  I have seen death because of cancer.  God's comfort and security is the only thing that will provide peace in these situations.

As much as this disease causes earthly separations, it will never cause separation from our loving God.  His love endures through it all!  His comfort, in the fearful times of dealing with cancer, shows his love and faithfulness to us. Thank you, Lord for your love and comfort!   Thank you, that even though we may experience earthly pain and separations, we are never separated from your love. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Our Anniversary

Genesis 2:22-24   Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.  The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman' for she was taken out of man."  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.

As of today, I have been married half my life.  I have been married as many years as I was single.  Happy Anniversary to the other half of this union!!!

To give you a bit of my family roots, let us go back a couple of generations.  My paternal grandparents were married 54 years when my grandfather passed away.  My  maternal grandparents were married 75 years when that grandfather passed away.  My parents will be married 50 years in a few months. My husbands parents were married around 48 years when his father passed away.  That is a combined total of 227 years of marriage.  WOW!

With those numbers, one would think that much marriage wisdom would be genetically passed along to generations that follow.  However, that is not the way marriage works.  Wisdom can be taught and advice can be sought but marriage is unique to the man and woman involved.  Let us be real here.  As much as we want our marriages to be "fairy tales", they are not pure bliss all the time.    Disagreements, rough times, tragedies, trials, and tribulations will affect every marriage.  Two imperfect people join together and expect to build a perfect relationship.  Marriage is perhaps the most difficult type of relationship on earth.  

Marriage is hard work.  Marriage is service to one another.  As my grandmother told me when I got married, "Marriage is a lot of give and take.  Be ready to give way more than you take!".   Marriage requires much grace, mercy and compassion.  Only God can equip a marriage with enough of these qualities to produce endurance.

I want to praise God and thank him for my marriage!  I thank him for his perfect grace even when life has not seemed perfect. I thank him for the growth and life lessons that have come from the imperfections. I am forever grateful for the three children with which he blessed our union. I thank him for his protection when Satan rears his ugly head.  I thank him for those "fairy tale" moments-after all, each marriage has some of those!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Don't allow fear to keep you from using the gifts that God has given you

Isaiah 41:10
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Recently as we were driving home from soccer practice, my youngest daughter was talking about what she wants to be when she grows up. She said, "Mom, when I grow up I want to be a surgeon. But, BUT, can someone else talk to the family when the surgery is over? I don't want to have to talk to people about the bad stuff." I started thinking about why she thought talking to the family involved bad stuff. Then I remember that when my dad had emergency surgery, there were some complications and unexpected findings. She was sitting with me in the waiting room when the surgeon came to talk with us. She could feel the unpleasantness of receiving unexpected news.

As I think about all that is involved in becoming a surgeon, my mind wants to focus on the years of studying, residency, long hours in the operating room, and tedious work in order to repair the human body. In my career, I have seen doctors tell families of bad news but I never considered if they had worried about that prior to entering medical school. Even though becoming a surgeon is a few years away for my daughter, she should not allow that one fear to keep her from her calling in life.

Isaiah 41:10 comes to mind. God will give us strength when we are troubled or frightened. For all our worries and fears, he is ever present and willing to strengthen us. We all have fears and weaknesses. We should never allow those to interfere with what God is calling us to. No matter how large or small the task, he will uphold us and provide us with what we need. We need only to seek him and trust in that promise.

I wonder how many of us never use a gift that God has given us because we are afraid of one specific detail of using that gift? Is God asking you to fulfill a calling? Has he given you a gift that you are afraid of putting to use? Seek him to strengthen you and to lead you in applying the gifts and talents he has given you. He will equip you with all that you need in order to apply that gift to the advancement of His kingdom.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Fortify yourself

2 Corinthians 5:1  For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.    

This verse refers to the building of our relationship with God.  While we would not want to live in a tent for many reasons, the referral to a tent in this verse is really about our inner self.  Paul, the author of this passage, was a tent maker by trade.  He built tents for people to stay in as they traveled about.  He understood the temporary nature of a tent.  Perhaps in his mind, the occupation of tent making was somewhat of a parable to the building of God's kingdom.  The tents represented the perishable, brief time of life on earth.  Paul encouraged the people to fortify themselves for the eternal life that God promises in heaven.

The word fortify reminds us of a fort.  A fort is a building that is made to protect.  We think of  forts as existing in the days of early settlers when they feared attacks from the Indians.  The structures were built with strength and covered all angles of the settlers living areas.  In addition to protection from the fort, men were placed at various points to watch for potential attackers.  Forts were also used throughout the 19th century as a means for the military to guard key locations around our country.  I have had the pleasure of visiting a couple of these forts.  The forts are magnificent in their design and composition.  They were built of strong materials, usually brick or concrete.  Rooms and angles of the structure are strategically designed and placed to reduce any chances of the enemy getting in.

Do we fortify our minds with the same meditations and planning of which the forts throughout our history were built?  Do we desire to possess fortitude against the wiles of life and our adversary?  Do we completely understand the temporary nature of life on this earth?  I encourage you to read God's word, pray, spend time with Him, and develop an intimate relationship with Him.  If you do not know God, then I encourage you to accept Him into your heart and start your relationship today.  This is the means by which we are able to fortify ourselves.

Supporting Scriptures:
Psalm 73:26
Isaiah 25:4
2 Samuel 22:33
John 3:16  *always a supporting scripture