The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A new year

James 1:17   Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Happy New Year to each and every one of you!  My, how the year has flown by!  The years seem to roll by like weeks.

I want to take this opportunity to reflect upon the past year of The Sweet Stuff Ministry.  It has been a year of spiritual growth and spiritual strengthening.  The year has been filled with many opportunities within this ministry, both through the online portion and the up-close-and-personal portion.  I have met many new people and God continues to reveal his expectations for the future of the ministry.  I am excited to enter a new year with broadened horizons.

I want to thank each and every one of you that supports The Sweet Stuff Ministry through your interactions, prayers and kind words.  A special THANK YOU to each of you that has donated clothing for the trailer.  I cannot begin to tell you how the clothing ministry blesses me continuously.  The trailer has made several stops this past year to distribute clothing.  When it is parked, it sits in our driveway and serves as a clothing closet for needs that are ongoing.  Several times per month, clothing is distributed to people in need.  Some folks have lost their homes to fire, some have fled abusive situations with only the clothing on their backs, others have lost jobs and need clothing for growing children.  Several boxes of clothing went to Mississippi yesterday, via a local pastor, to be given to the victims of a destructive tornado that hit there last week.

All the clothing distributions are made possible because each of you was obedient to God's call to donate items.  A loud THANK YOU! for your servant hood and obedience!  It is amazing on this side of the ministry to see how God works to fill the clothing trailer.  I have never solicited donations for clothing or money.  Yet, God sees to it that the trailer stays fully stocked.  He is perfect in his timing and gifts!  I sometimes receive phone calls to pick up bags of clothing, other times, boxes and bags arrive at my doorstep.  I stand in awe of how it all falls into place.  There have been times when I have had people request clothing in sizes that I do not have in stock.  In a matter of a couple of days, sometimes the same day, I will receive a call or message and guess what, the exact sizes that are needed will be in the donated items. If you have ever doubted that God takes care of little details, I can assure you that he does!

As we enter a new year, I covet your prayers for the ministry.  It is my prayer that everything that The Sweet Stuff Ministry offers will afford each of you a closer walk with God.  I pray for healing, particularly emotional healing, for any of you that may suffer from bitterness and the affects of discord in your life.  May each of you live out the words in Isaiah 40:31, "but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;  they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Much love to each of you! 


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

He is our refuge

Proverbs 30:5  Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Do you ever worry?  Do you ever lie awake at night going over in your mind, "could haves, should haves, would haves"?  Have you allowed your mind to own the details of situations over which you have little to no control?  How many of the things that you worried most about ever happened or if they did happen were as bad as you had imagined.

Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said this, "My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened".  Studies have proven that at least 85% of the things we worry about never happen.  The 15% that did happen turned out to be less difficult than expected.

Worry is linked to fear.  When we allow our minds to imagine all the "what ifs" of any given situation in our lives, we worry.  We entertain the exaggerations and misperceptions that Satan clouds into our thoughts.  We are afraid of all the possibilities that might become realities.  We fear that we will not be able to control the details or reactions of others.  We fear stepping out of our comfort zones of security and relying fully on God to manage ALL the situations that we encounter. 

I am guilty of worrying just as I have described.  Does it mean that I don't have faith and trust God?  No.  But it does mean that there are times when I need to strengthen my faith and redirect the focus of my thoughts to God's word and his promises.  When we become distracted by exaggerated thoughts and fears of how a situation may develop, we lose sight of how faithful God is.  

We must be careful when our minds begin to wander into worry.  If we believe that God is in complete control of our lives and well being, we must allow him to manage all the details, even the small ones.  Worrying wastes time and causes us to loose our focus on God and his purpose for us.

If you find yourself worrying and fretting over any situation, seek God's word and ask for his comfort.  He will give it to you.  He truly is our refuge.  His word and his promises are flawless.  Allow him to take charge and carry the burdens for you.  If you find yourself fixated on worrying, it is a good time to direct your focus on prayer and studying God's word.  It is there that you will find strength, reassurance and comfort.   




Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Emotional healing

John 5:8   Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

This verse was Jesus' command to a man that he had healed after 38 years of dealing with a condition that prevented him from walking.  This infirmity had become a way of life for the man.  He had lost hope of anyone helping him or of being healed. 

Jesus came by and in an instant told the man to get up.  Walk.  Move forward.  No looking back.

Many of us have infirmities, some of which are physical, many of which are emotional.  Emotional infirmities can cripple us from moving forward.  We may be physically walking but we are going nowhere.  Stuck in negative, non-productive emotions.  Negative emotions and bitterness have become a way of life for some. 

The new year is before us.  A time of new beginnings and resolutions.  There is no time like the present to decide on a resolution to be healed emotionally.   God will heal you and show you how to move forward.

The decision is yours.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A proper attitude

Luke 18:10-13  "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'  But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'"

Self-righteous pride is dangerous.  The attitude of the Pharisee in this parable was improper.  He was trying to justify himself before God by identifying that he was good.  He was publicly announcing his perceived righteousness.  He saw that others around him had done evil things and he thought that since he had not committed acts such as them that he was free of sin.  He listed the ways in which he was not like other people.

The tax collector had the attitude of humility.  He realized that he was a sinner.  He did not list all the ways in which he had or had not wronged, yet he knew that by our human nature, we need mercy each and every day.  The next verse, Luke 18:14 tells us how his humility is viewed, "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

No matter how many things we have done wrong, God offers mercy and forgiveness.  He does not want us to declare before him our goodness.  He wants us to seek his mercy with humility.  He wants our attitudes to be humble and not filled with self-righteous pride.  He expects admission of sin and submission of all areas of our lives unto him.  Each and every day, we all fall short of God's standards.  We may do good things, as God wants us to, but unless our hearts are filled with humility, those deeds are nothing more than fulfillment of self-righteous pride.

Today's prayer:  Lord, help me to realize any areas of self-righteous pride that may reside in my heart.  Please replace those areas with humility and the proper attitude for the advancement of your kingdom.  You promise that "the humble will be exalted" (Luke 18:14).  I pray for your mercy and that I can receive that humble exaltation.   In Jesus' name, AMEN.    

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:  15-16   When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."   So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

This is what Christmas is all about!  Have you found Jesus in the manger?  Have you met him at the cross?  If not, it is time to unwrap all the gifts that he has to offer you.  He offers the gift of salvation.  He has in store for us peace, joy, healing and eternal life.  What a wonderful Christmas gift!

In order to celebrate with family and friends, The Sweet Stuff will take a couple of days off.  May you and yours have a blessed Christmas as you celebrate the birth of our savior.   

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Follow him

Luke 5:27-28  After this Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth.  "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

This verse in Luke speaks loudly about obedience to Christ.  The last few words of verse 28, "left everything and followed him", express the obedient nature of those who desire to serve him.  When Jesus commanded Levi to follow as he led, the response was immediate.  Levi did not say that he needed to finish his work first or that he would have to wait until the time was right.  He directly obeyed Jesus' prompt to get up and go. Levi left everything.  He left his work; he did not worry about his business.

Are we so willing to follow Christ immediately?  When he bids us "go" are we excited to leave everything and follow him?  Do we worry about our work or business that needs to be attended to?  Do we postpone being obedient to tasks with which he calls us to do?  Is following Christ our first priority or do we plan to follow him when we have more time?

We are told Matthew 16:24 that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ.  There is a cost to discipleship.  Sometimes the cost is monetary, other times the cost will be friendships or other relationships.  However, the cost of refusing to follow Christ is much greater.  The risk of disobedience to God's principles involves eternity.  The worldly things we might gain do not mean anything compared to what is to be gained in eternally.   


Monday, December 21, 2015

The soda can smile

Philippians 2:3-4  Do nothing our of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Good Morning!  I missed you all last week while we were on vacation.  It was a wonderful trip and I returned feeling refreshed and newly inspired which leads into today's devotion. 

While on the beach with my oldest daughter one morning during our vacation, we noticed an elderly gentleman close by our mats going through the garbage can.  He was collecting empty soda cans and water bottles.  He had a cart loaded with his belongings and the cans that he had recently collected.  We had just finished our sodas and I suggested to my daughter that she take our empty cans and give them to the fellow.  When she handed him the soda cans, an enormous smile came over his face.  His eyes sparkled as he beamed with gratitude.  He waved at both of us as he walked away toward his cart.  I could tell that his heart was touched.

When my daughter returned to our spot, she said this to me, "Did you see that fellow's face when I gave him the cans?"  I told her that I had indeed noticed his response.  She was deeply moved by his response and the impression that it left on her heart was as precious as the smile on his face. We then had a discussion about giving and how the blessings are experienced by the giver as much as the receiver.  I love it when I recognize hearts being moved!

I have pondered the smile on his weathered face.  A face that seemingly revealed hardship, loneliness and struggle.  I will forever remember that moment that his heart was touched by two empty soda cans.  You see, when we are given things and shown acts of kindness, it is not the "things" that mean so much to us.  What touches our hearts is that someone cared about our interests.  We are moved within our souls when we realize through the loving deeds of others, that we are cared for.  We all want to be thought of as important and to feel loved. 

As we quickly enter the Christmas season, may our hearts always be in tune with the interests of others.  May we realize that everyone under the sun wants to be cared for and thought of by others.  May we never forget to consider the interests of others.  May we share those empty soda cans in life when they will touch the heart of another!


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Regrets

2 Corinthians 7:10  For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation.  There's no regret for that kind of sorrow.  But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. 

We all have regrets.  Coulda, woulda, shoulda, and if I had only are thoughts that we all have somewhere throughout our lives.  Dr. Charles Stanley said this about regret:  "If you do not have regret, you have either not lived or you have not learned".  Either you have been sitting on your couch wrapped in bubble plastic or you have not realized how God expects us to treat our mistakes.

Satan wants to magnify regrets.  He wants to put them right in front of our faces and cause us to experience worldly sorrow.  God wants to put regret in its place.  He wants us to experience sorrow for mistakes that will only cause a realization of the mistake which will lead to repentance.  God wants us to improve our behavior in order to grow spiritually.  He wants us to become wiser and closer to him.  He does not want us to wallow in regret.

Worldly sorrow results in ruminating, chewing the cud, wallowing, rehashing-you get the picture.  This type of sorrow and regret hinders spiritual growth.  If we constantly dwell on mistakes and regrets, we fill our minds with discouragement and negativity.  This will keep us from moving forward and growing spiritually.

If you find yourself drowning in regret, take a look at why you continue to ruminate.  Have you given it over to God?  Have you repented?  If you have done these things, then God tells us to stop dwelling on our mistakes (Isaiah 43:18).  He tells us that he forgets our mistakes (Hebrews 8:12).  Mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow.  Treat mistakes the way in which God expects-with repentance and growth.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

PEACE ON EARTH

Numbers 6: 22-26  The Lord said to Moses, "Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites.  Say to them:  "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace."

PEACE ON EARTH!

We hear this phrase in Christmas plays.  We read it on numerous Christmas cards.  We see it in commercials and hear it in Christmas carols.

I pray for it.  I ask for it every year for Christmas.  Will we ever witness it?  Will it ever happen?  How do we begin to experience PEACE ON EARTH?

Peace on earth starts in the heart.  In my heart.  In your heart.  Before it can exist worldwide, peace must begin in the hearts of individuals.

Make peace with any turmoil that dwells in your heart.  Make peace with events that have caused you to be bitter.  Resolve feelings of vengeance and malice.  Reconcile any relationships in which there is contempt.  Replace negative feelings with positive emotions. 

Establish peace within yourself.  Seek complete peace so that God will shine his face upon you.  When we make peace within our own hearts, PEACE ON EARTH may then begin to take place.    

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Season of forgiveness

Matthew 18:21-22  Then Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me?  Seven times?"  "No, not seven times," Jesus replied, "but seventy times seven!"

Forgiveness is multifaceted. 

Forgiveness is tough.

One of the toughest parts of forgiveness involves fear---the fear that comes with feeling vulnerable to being hurt again.  For as many times as we are hurt, we must forgive.   Non-negotiable. 

Worrying about subjecting ourselves to the possibilities of hurt is not fun.  It is also NOT forgiveness.  Forgiveness is letting go of the actions or words that caused hurt in the first place; the decision that we will not allow the actions or words to affect our inner beings and service to God.  Forgiveness pertains to things in the past, no matter how recent or distant.   

The fear of being hurt again is a trust issue.  It pertains to the future.  Fear is anticipation of something that might happen.  Fear is not of God, it is a tool of the devil.

We are required to forgive over and over and over.  Think of it from God's perspective, He forgives us over and over and over.  The offer is always good.  

Do not allow fear to prevent you from offering forgiveness.  Trust in God to protect you from hurts and decide to live in forgiveness.  

The Christmas season is a great time to offer forgiveness.  After all, Christ was born in order to die and offer forgiveness for us.   The Christmas season stirs our hearts to deal with forgiveness-I believe this is no coincidence!                    

Monday, December 7, 2015

Daily Bread

Exodus 16:14-15     When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, "What is this?"  For they did not know what it was.

Daily bread.  That is what it was.  The Israelites did not even realize that the manna which God sent them fresh every morning was their daily bread.  The manna rained from heaven onto the grass.  The interesting thing was that it could not be stored.  It only lasted long enough for the Israelites to eat and then it spoiled.  But, each morning, there was fresh, new manna to sustain the hungry people. 

Daily bread.  The Israelites had a literal "daily bread" with a symbolic meaning.  While they grumbled and wondered what they would eat and how they would survive in the desert, God was showing them that he would provide everything that they needed, exactly when it was needed. 

Same goes for us.  Daily bread.  What we need, when we need it.  Everything we need for the moment, for the day.

Several scriptures in the Bible speak of daily bread.  In the Lord's prayer, Matthew chapter 6, asks the Lord to "give us this day our daily bread".   Proverbs 30:8, "give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread". 

Daily bread means more than just our "manna" for the day.  When I think of daily bread, I think of these things as well:
                  -peace that God offers in the midst of tumultuous storms in our lives=daily bread
                  -protection from all the evils in our world=daily bread
                  -phone call from a friend at a moment when you needed it=daily bread
                  -an unexpected act of kindness that beams with God's love=daily bread
                 
Daily bread consists of those things that keep us filled up with God's love.  Daily bread sustains us when the world around us is chaotic.   Daily bread fills us until our cup runneth over. 

We should thank God each day for our daily bread, the literal slices as well as the figurative slices.  Daily bread is everything we need today. Tomorrow, new manna will be sent from above!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Anger

Ephesians 4:26-28  "In your anger do not sin"  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.  

"I have every right to be angry!"  "If that person did to you what he/she did to me, you would be angry too."  How many times have you heard someone say these things?  Maybe you have said them yourself trying to justify your feelings of anger and thoughts of vengeance. 

Anger is not an entitlement.  It is a by-product of hurtfulness.  Anger is one of the strongest emotions that the human heart ever feels and is a feeling that can lead to destructive words and actions.   The Bible does not tell us that we cannot feel anger, but it does tell us that we are to handle it properly.  We are expected to control our anger in spite of our hurts.  

Released thoughtlessly, anger can destroy relationships.  If left bottled up inside, anger can cause bitterness and resentment and destroy us from inside.  If anger is allowed to "fester" inside us, we give the devil opportunities to cause disruption and division.  As I read somewhere, ANGER is one letter away from DANGER!  

Anger belongs to the beholder.  No one else causes you to be angry.  The emotion of anger is one over which you have complete control.  Anger is not an entitlement because of another person's transgressions against you.    Yes, transgressions do hurt and they are going to happen but anger is not the response that God expects from us.   James 1:20 tells us, "for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires".

In Ephesians, Paul instructs us to deal with our anger promptly and properly.  Are you angry with someone right now?    Examine the situation, take a look into your own heart and seek ways to resolve the anger.  Do not allow the strong emotion of anger to cause you to give way to the devil's schemes.  Feel the anger.  Deal with the anger.  Put the anger in its place.  



       

                     

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Self-Control

2 Peter 1:5-7  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

Once upon a time a frog and a scorpion sat next to each other on the river bank.  The scorpion wanted to get across the river but could not swim.  He asked the frog to take him across the river on his back since he was a good swimmer.  The frog said to the scorpion, "why would I do that?  You and I both know that you will sting me and neither of us will make it across the river."  The scorpion laughed and said to the frog, "my friend, I will not sting you, for if I do, I will not make it across the river either."   This made sense to the frog and so he trusted in the scorpion and allowed him on his back to carry him across the river.  About half way across the river, the frog felt a mighty sting in his back.  As his legs began to fail from the poison of the sting, he asked the scorpion, "why did you sting me when you promised that you would not do that?"  The scorpion simply stated, "It is my nature". 

We are all born into this world with a sinful nature.  Satan is always around to tempt us to do wrong and to treat others in ungodly manners.   Having faith is more than believing facts, it must result in action and a growth in Christian character.  Moral excellence, knowledge, perseverance, doing God's will and loving others is faith in action.  

The story about the frog and scorpion is an example of a lack of self control on the scorpion's part.  He did not treat the frog with brotherly love.  He did not keep his promise to the frog and in doing so, set himself up to die as well.   God expects from us temperance in both our thoughts and actions.  He expects us to love one another and to be good to one another.  Seeking his will and understanding the principles that he expects us to uphold are not optional, they are part of the Christian life.  They require hard work and constant attentiveness.  God gives us the strength and power to keep these virtues as well as the responsibility to learn and grow.                                                     

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A positive outlook

Philippians 4:8   Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.

If you do not have a positive outlook, you cannot expect a positive outcome. 

There are so many things in the world around us that can foster a negative attitude.  The news seems to be a pit of negativity.  We will find people around us who seem to have lost hope and joy.  It can be a challenge to maintain a positive outlook within the world today. 

Having a positive outlook does not mean that nothing negative will ever happen in your life.  A positive attitude means that in whatever does happen within the world around you, you can find God's truth.  He wants us to ponder those truths and appreciate the positive things that we do experience in life.  He wants us to find peace even through any negativity that we encounter.  He wants us to focus on the good things in which he fills our lives.

If we focus on negativity and discouraging things around us, we will only spread that same negativity through our words and actions.  Focus on a positive outlook, so that your outcomes will also be positive and encouraging. 


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Stay encouraged through the holidays

"It's the most wonderful time of the year".   I love that song.  It paints such a picture of happy hearts and fun Christmas time activities.  Christmas is a special time.  However, for many it is a time that causes discouragement and disappointments to rear their ugly heads. 

The media portrays only the happy thoughts and events.  Pictures of the perfect decorations, an abundance of gifts, and flawless family gatherings.   This is purposed at selling merchandise or ideas.  In reality, many folks have families that are dysfunctional, broken or in distress, finances that are a mess, or emotional longings that go unfulfilled.   Discouragement threatens to set up housekeeping when our expectations are not met and we focus on the negative elements of the situations over which we have no control. 

Many of us, if we would be honest with ourselves, find that at the end of all the activities, we are left with an anticlimactic feeling.  Perhaps we compare the "perfect" movies and media to the imperfections of people in the real world.  We feel compelled to continue to participate in gatherings out of tradition, even if they produce stress.

How will you stay encouraged?   I have these inspirations to offer.  I plan to practice them myself this year!!
                  -God expects us to realize the meaning of Christmas  (Luke 2)
                  -God expects us to accept the meaning of Christmas  (John 3:16)
                  -All other expectations are worldly standards
                  -God does not expect us to attend a certain number of dinners or functions
                  -God does not expect us to spend an enormous amount of money on gifts
                  -If it produces stress or discouragement, it needs to be evaluated and perhaps eliminated
                  *Repeat the first 2 as much as needed.