The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Children-A Perfect Gift from Above

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.

Since I was 10 or 11 years old, I dreamed of perfect gifts from above-children.  I would daydream about how many I would be blessed with, what I would name them, whether I would have boys or girls.  I have always loved babies and children and I love mine to depths of which I could not have imagined.  The love for our children is an unexplainable feeling that does not change. 

The same is true about God's love for us.  As the scripture says in James 1:17, God does not change.  His love for us remains constant, the same as the love that we have for our children.  His love for us is a perfect gift from above.     

I stand in awe of the perfect gift of children.  It is breathtaking to take it all in.  I marvel at the fact that cells which can only be seen under a microscope can merge together and develop into a person.  I marvel at those precious beings and how within my children I can see my grandmother's eyes, my husband's teeth, my hair, and other physical traits.  I can hear similarities in the voices of my children of other family members.  Personality traits can be recognized as well.  From God's love for us, we are gifted these precious beings.    

I thank God for those good and perfect gifts, for I know they are from above.  Hug those babies an extra time or two today and marvel at the gift which you have been given!       

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Brewing bitterness

Luke 6:45  The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

Bitterness stored up in the heart will eventually overflow out of the mouth.  Bitterness is hard to keep secret.  It may be something that you try to keep inside and deal with privately, but somewhere and at some point, it will flow out of the mouth and become evident.  Bitterness boils when left unattended deep inside the heart.  It boils and brews and will reach the point of erupting like a hot, destructive volcano. 

Eruptions of bitterness from the mouth include words such as:  "I do not like....",  "let me tell you  what they did to me......", "I will never feel the same again....", "I will never forget how they treated me...."and so on.  More negative words and thoughts are spoken than positive when bitterness is brewing within the heart. 

When inward emotions, such as unresolved hurts, anger and bitterness manifest into outward actions, we are likely to wrong one another.  The wrongs take the form of slander, vengeance, and separating ourselves from fellowship with one another. This type of reaction contributes to a continuous cycle of bitterness.

We sin when we harbor bitterness.  We also sin when bitterness erupts from our mouths.  We separate ourselves from the thoughts and behaviors that God expects from us when our minds are clouded with negative, bitter emotions.   

If there is bitterness brewing deep inside, do not overlook it.  It may brew for long periods of time, but eventually it will erupt into words that are recognizable.  It is best to deal with it before it erupts and overflows from the mouth.    

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A load of towels and a sack of trash

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.  

Every day I wash a load of towels and take out a sack of trash (sometimes two sacks).  It has been a  necessary part of my daily housekeeping routine for all the years that we have been married.  As I took out the trash today, I thought about what would happen if I didn't do these two chores each day.  Trash would be piled up in the floor and on the counter.  Various smells would circulate throughout the house.  Wet, smelly towels would mildew.  Family members will protest when shower and bath times roll around.   These particular jobs are not very time consuming nor are they difficult to complete.  They are not the most fun chores, however, they are completely necessary.

Consider how much time we spend each day in thought.  We think about things that have happened in our lives.  We spend time thinking about the things that we want to happen in our lives.  We spend time worrying about the things that have occurred that caused us pain or hurt.  How much of that time is spent in troublesome thought?  Do you spend time in thinking and ruminating about particular situations that caused hurt or discord?

We would have a much better attitude about ourselves and our lives if we took the garbage out of our minds each day and washed clean the emotions that are non-productive and negative.   A bit of housekeeping each day in the mind will prevent garbage from piling up and will not allow any mildew to grow on our thoughts. 

Spend some time each day in reading, prayer and worship with God.  He will help you rid of the garbage that collects in your mind.  Focus on the things in life that are lovely, pure, and true.  When you make these a regular part of your "housekeeping" each day, your mind can focus on praising God rather than on negativity and damaged emotions.  

 

Monday, December 26, 2016

There is power in your choice to forgive

1 Corinthians 8:9     Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

Each of us possesses the power to forgive or not to forgive others.   We are given that freedom and free will to make those choices.   This is a huge responsibility as a Christian.  The decision to forgive and allow forgiveness and grace to cover all offenses can change the course of another person's life forever.  (Read that sentence again)    Our actions and reactions pertaining to forgiveness can change a person's life. 

Forgiveness may offer a positive change of direction in the life of another.  Positive change could be:
                        -leading someone to salvation
                        -offering strength in times of weakness
                        -healing and restoration of a relationship

A lack of forgiveness may in turn offer negative or destructive change of direction in the life of another.  Negative change could be:
                       -causing a person to stumble
                       -division of family
                       -destruction of relationships

Anger, hurt and disappointment tempt us and cause us to withhold forgiveness, mercy and compassion.  Our flesh wants to focus on vengeance and justice.    There is great power in our freedom and ability to forgive. That power should not become distorted nor misused due to self-righteous pride. 

We are commanded to forgive and told that we will be forgiven according to the forgiveness that we offer.   (Mark 11:8; Luke 6:37; Col 3:13).   If you are dealing with unforgiveness, I urge you to pray and may you realize the power that you hold in your freedom to forgive. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:11   Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:14   Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men......


Jesus was born in order to open the way for us to have peace with God.  He is also the door through which we have peace within ourselves.  Through His love, we have the opportunity to be at peace with others.  

This Christmas season, may your hearts spill over with the peace and joy that comes from knowing our savior.  May you enjoy that peace which passes all understanding.  May you find new peace where chaos might exist in your life.  May you offer peace where you are able to make a difference.

Merry Christmas to each of you and may the season be filled will love, laughter and a deep appreciation for the meaning of Christ's birth. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Friends

Proverbs 27:17    As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
Friends come in all shapes and sizes.  One size does NOT fit all.  
Friends should add to us, not take away from us.
God will send a variety of friends to meet a variety of our needs. 
As long as the hearts of friends match, all the other things do not need to match.

God sends friends to us for comfort in our times of distress (Job 2:11).

God offers us friends to deliver wise counsel (Proverbs 19:20).

God sends us friends for love and support (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

God will give us friends in order that we may show His love (John 15:12-15).  
Please join me in celebrating friends. God, being the greatest friend of all, has shown me in countless ways how many friends I do indeed have, in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds.   For that, I am grateful!!       

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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, December 19, 2016

Forgiveness is a willful attitude

Corrie Ten Boom said this about forgiveness:  “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”  
 

Corrie Ten Boom was a prisoner in a Natzi concentration camp for helping Jews to hide during World War II.  Her sister, Betsy, was executed at the concentration camp, while Corrie was released because of a clerical error.  She had been schedule to be executed the next day.  

Corrie Ten Boom is a wonderful example of how we as human beings can find it within ourselves to forgive.  She is a model of the fact that forgiveness is an attitude and decision and that forgiveness can occur, no matter how much anger or hurt is in a person's heart.  

Not only did Ten Boom willfully forgive the acts of evil that she witnessed in that camp, but she also came face-to-face with one of the men from that concentration camp in a church service some years later.   The mercy and forgiveness that she offered him was astounding.  She made it look easy, although if you have ever dealt with forgiving someone that caused deep hurts and wounds, you are aware of all the inner emotions and difficulty that may be present.   The bodily flesh wants to kick and scream and hold on to the hurt and anger.   

2 Corinthians 2:5-8 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.

An attitude of forgiveness comes from our love for God which should, in turn, contain a love for our fellow brothers and sisters.   Forgiveness is a mindset, a decision and a lifestyle that we must learn to live.   Forgiveness means that our love for God is more valuable than the wrongs that others have bestowed upon us and that relationships are important.

Forgiving another person does not mean that he/she will change.

Forgiving will not change what another has done to you.

Forgiveness is more about how your life can be changed.  This is a key life principle that contributes to our relationship with God, improves our peace and restores joy in our lives. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

"... and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men"

Luke 2:14    "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

Each year my children will ask me what I would like to have for Christmas.  As many years as I can remember, my answer has been "Peace on Earth".  In my heart the need desire for peace on earth is both narrow and widespread.  I wish for peace in the hearts of those near me that are lost or battling with hurts and unforgiveness.  I long for a world wide peace that would make our surroundings safe and more enjoyable.

The latter part of this scripture,"goodwill toward men" speaks to me as much as "peace on earth".  Do we possess goodwill toward men?  What does this feel like or look like?  Goodwill toward men has a variety of meanings.  God's goodwill toward men means that he sent the Messiah to offer peace to all of us on earth.  We can practice goodwill toward our fellow men by offering what God has called us to do for one another.

In the Christmas season, we think of "goodwill toward men" as being related to helping others.  It means that we are willing to help those in need, regardless of how they arrived at the point of needing.  Goodwill toward others means that we desire to see others succeed and that we assist them in carrying out God's plans on earth.  Goodwill toward men means that God's will is at the forefront without selfish motives. 

Do we practice good will?  When we know that a brother or sister is struggling, do we offer to help carry the burden?  Do we resist the urges to judge the situation and instead offer to lighten the load?  Do we pray for our brothers and sisters to have peace and for good things and blessings come their way?  Do we pray for their businesses to thrive and for their families to be healthy? 

Goodwill toward men is a condition of the heart.  If we experience the ultimate goodwill that God offers through Jesus Christ, then we may share a heart of goodwill with others.  If we abide with God in the midst of our goodwill toward others, he will be glorified and receive the honor.  This is my wish for this Christmas--goodwill toward men---all across our planet.                   

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Children's Christmas Plays

Luke 2:11    For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

One of my most favorite things of the Christmas season is the play presented by the children.  There is just something so special about such a play.  During the children's play this weekend at our church, I was flooded with memories of all the different presentations of the story of Jesus' birth that I have seen throughout the years.  Some plays have a modern presentation, some are musicals and some are very traditional with the acting out of the story. 

There are some memorable moments to most every children's Christmas play.  There is usually a wardrobe malfunction of some sort (wings or halos that fall off), a wedgie that needs attending to, a nose that needs picking, or a line that is forgotten and requires a prompt.  Many times there are bath robes and baby dolls involved.  Occasionally, there is a case of stage fright and a child runs to mom or dad, declaring an end to his/her acting career.  I call these the precious moments of the children's  Christmas play!

One thing that we can absolutely ALWAYS depend on during a children's Christmas play is an uninhibited, plain and simple presentation of the birth of Jesus.  Children singing from their hearts, huge smiles and sparkling eyes are always found at these plays.  They proudly wear their costumes and jump into their characters to spread the word of the savior.  They give it their all!! 

I want to be more like the children in the Christmas play. I want to be uninhibited about proclaiming the news of Jesus Christ.  I want to give it my all.  Let us all pray that more of us can be like the sweet children in Christmas plays everywhere-ready and willing to present a great message of the wonderful story! 



Monday, December 12, 2016

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.   

Friday, December 9, 2016

Words

Proverbs  18:21    The tongue has the power of life and death.

Have you ever thought about what causes us to enjoy some people more than others?   Even though we love many people in our lives there are just some people that we have a stronger desire with which to spend our time.  Think for a moment of some of your "favorite" people.   What about them influences the fact that they are favorites?

When I think of some of my favorite people throughout my lifetime, I think of words.   It is not that there were any spectacular words or fancy words, but just merely the fact that we shared words.  Kind words and words of encouragement develop those warm, fuzzy feelings.  Questions with words that displayed an interest in the happenings of my life have contributed to deep bonds with other people.  Words of love and fulfillment come to mind when I think of those most close to my heart.  Words that convey compassion, trust, and security develop everlasting relationships. 

We remember words. We also remember the emotion attached to the words.  Damaging words that bring about negative emotions will cause us to have no desire to be in the presence of the people that spoke them.  On the other hand, encouraging and loving words will produce a desire to spend great amounts of time with the people that spoke them.   

Words have a huge impact on our minds and emotions.  Words can build up or tear down.  We can all call to mind words that we would like to take back because they tore down or caused damage.  We can likely remember times when words were spoken to us that we would like to give back to the mouth from which they departed.

There have been words that we should have said yet never did.  There have been words that we did say but never should have.

Each time that we talk with people, we have a choice in our words.   We choose whether we use words that are destructive or constructive.  When we choose our words, we release the opportunity for life or death.  May we always choose construction.  May we always have a desire to speak life into the ears of another.   



Thursday, December 8, 2016

Seasonal Discouragement

"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.  These are good reminders as we enter the Christmas season. 
                  -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 on the list as much as needed.



Wednesday, December 7, 2016

You are adequate and capable

2 Corinthians 1:21-22   Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 

If you have ever had one of those days when Satan works hard to remind you of all the things you are not, then you also know how draining and energy zapping such a time can be.  The devil wants to make us feel as if we are inadequate and incapable.  If we entertain these thoughts, our day can be ruined.  More importantly, if we entertain these thoughts, God's plan and purpose for us can be ruined.  That would make Satan very happy. 

When such notions enter our minds, we should quickly recognize who is at work with these ideas.  Satan's motives are to kill, steal and destroy and if he can do so by changing our thoughts about ourselves, he can thwart God's work within us. 

Do not entertain thought of what you are not.  Hold on to what you ARE.  

You are God's child; His perfect creation, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them", (Genesis 1:27).

You are loved, "for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life", (John 3:16).

You are redeemed, "in fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness", (Hebrews 9:22). 

You are an opportunity; a chance to spread the gospel, serve and love others, "let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up", (Galatians 6:9).

When Satan or anyone else that you encounter tries to discourage you with thoughts of inadequacy, remember that God says He will give us strength and the ability to accomplish all that He requires of us.  We are adequate and plenty capable in God's eyes. 
                 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Protection

Deuteronomy 31:3-6  The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the Lord said. And the Lord will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. The Lord will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. 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.’

I am the oldest child in my family.  My sister, who is two years my junior, has often joked about the middle child syndrome.  At times we will encounter memes that portray the oldest child as being bossy and overbearing (I will neither admit nor deny, LOL).  However, when I think of being the older sister, I think of protection- the mother hen syndrome.  My parents often tell people that until she was grown if we were out in public and I would speak for my sister and order her food in a restaurant.  I also carried her purse or the contents of it because she did not want to carry it herself--well, I still do that sometimes.  I never wanted her to be uncomfortable, scared, or worried.  Even though my parents did a great job taking care of us, I had the mindset to take care of her and protect her.  She has that promise from me until I take my last breath.  

In the above passage from Deuteronomy, God offers a promise of continued protection.  At this time, Moses is 120 years old and knows that the end of his time leading the Israelites is near.  He has been their leader for 40 plus years.  They had relied upon his guidance and protection.  With God's provision and protection, Moses took care of the Israelites.  If they had only listened with more faith, they would never have been uncomfortable, scared, or worried.  

There probably were times when the Israelites looked at Moses as being bossy.  Other times, they had little trust in God's guidance.  But, He always had their best interests at heart.  He helped them with their food (manna) when they needed to eat in the desert.  He "carried their purses" so to speak at different times during their wanderings.  He was their source of direction.

Are there times when we misconstrue God's protection?  Are there cases where we fail to see an occurrence in life as protection, but instead view it as dictatorial?  There have been instances in my life where in the moment I could not understand why the events occurred as they did.  However, as time progressed, I was able to recognize God's protection and provision in that particular situation.  I am grateful for that protection. 

May we all begin to appreciate the protection that God provides for each of us.  May we always view His guardianship with faith.  May we look forward to His promises and the protection that each one holds for us. 


Monday, December 5, 2016

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.  



       

                     

Friday, December 2, 2016

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!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Feast on the manna

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.


After God freed the Israelites from the slavery of Pharoah, they wandered in the desert, grumbling and groaning; complaining because they were hungry.  Obtaining food was different than when they had lived in Egypt.  Food in a desert is scarce and their gratitude for having been freed from bondage quickly turned to grumblings because they had to obtain food in a different way than before.

The "flakes like frost on the ground" were sent from heaven.  It was called it manna and it came down like rain from the sky.   Manna means "what is it?".  Manna is described in the dictionary as something that is needed and is received unexpectedly.  The Israelites did not know what the flakes were nor what to do with the manna.  Moses explained to them that God had sent it and that they were to gather the amount needed to sustain them for a day.  Each day, God sent new manna down to the Israelites to meet their needs.  They crushed it and made delicious, honey flavored pancakes to eat.  The manna was a gift each day that satisfied their needs.  

How many times do receive our "manna" each day amidst our own grumblings and ungrateful attitudes?  How often do we wish for other circumstances, i.e. more money, more possessions, bigger home, better car, different job?  How often do we miss "feasting on the manna" because we do not know what it is? 

God is wonderful provider.  Each day when we arise, their is new manna raining down from heaven.  I can think of many times over the years in which manna has appeared unexpectedly in my life in order to meet a need.  God understands our needs.  He will supply us with just what we need each day.   Feast on his manna, those gifts that we receive each day.  Seek to recognize the manna.  Give thanks for it!
 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Does your journey seem mediocre?

Ephesians 5:15-16 Be careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.


In speaking with a young adult college student the other day, she seemed a bit down-and-out because at this time in her life she doesn't have time for a vast amount of hobbies.  She was reminiscing about her days in high school when many competitions and accomplishments seem to happen often and in short amounts of time.  Now she is in the midst of college studies where the focal point of her activities has shifted to her studies, with little time for hobbies and personal interests. She said that she feels mediocre.  I am sure that this is a common feeling among college students as they make the transition from high school activities into responsibilities of college and life preparation for fulfilling what God has called them to do.  There are likely times when students feel like they will never arrive at their destination.  Training, learning, and preparing for life's purpose can feel mediocre. 

In order to arrive at the full potential of one's purpose in life, the journey of preparation must be traveled.  This conversation reminded me of the times when our family would take vacations that required a long drive.  I remember the common question that came from our children, "Are we there yet?"  In our vehicle, it usually came just about the time we crossed the county line, less than 30 minutes into the journey.   

In order to reach our destination, we must first travel the road in that direction.  Some roads are easy with straight pavement and clear views.  Other roads are filled with sharp turns and steep hills.  If hills and curves are on the road to our destination, we must navigate each one in order to arrive.  In the midst of our journey, we should make the most of every opportunity in order to fulfill God's purpose in our lives.  We may be tempted to question whether our journey is enjoyable.

We should not compare ourselves or our lives to the lives of others.  Our journey is unique.  We also should not compare our present journey to a past season in our life.  Doing so indicates that we do not believe that God has us exactly where he needs us to be at this given time in life.  When we are committed to following God and traveling the journey that he has planned for us, we must trust that each curve in the road is as important as the straight, scenic by-ways.  It is all according to His purpose!

Each opportunity that is before us in the journey should be seized as a chance to advance the kingdom of God.  To make the most of every opportunity that God places before us adds to our wisdom and character.  It is not ours to decide if part of the journey seems to be mediocre.  God is in charge of assigning the adjectives. 

My prayer for each of you that may be feeling mediocre in your journey with God is this:  I pray that you will enjoy the scenery all along the way.  I pray that you will keep your eyes on the road as you navigate the hills and curves throughout the journey.  I pray that you will not focus on the question, "are we there yet?" but instead you will concentrate on what you have to offer and what you can receive all along the trip.  I know that God does not view your journey as mediocre.  He looks at each and every curve and straight stretch as wonderful opportunities to fulfill his purpose. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Temper Tantrums

Proverbs 14:17     A quick tempered man does foolish things, and a crafty man is hated.

Proverbs 14:29    A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.

Temper tantrums are common in children between ages 1-4.  Psychologists say that temper tantrums are a normal response when something blocks a child from gaining independence.  In plain "mama" terms, a temper tantrum occurs when a child does not get his/her way. 

I remember the temper tantrum stage several years ago when our children were smaller. We had three children within seven years and so the stages of development repeated in a short span of time.  One of our children in particular is a strong willed, determined child, born with an independent nature.  The temper tantrum stage tried my patience with this one.  I remember one day in particular when I felt as though  my theory of overlooking temper tantrums seemed to be ineffective in ridding of the behavior.  Around supper time when the children began to express their hunger and readiness to eat, I did something profound.  With all three children standing in the kitchen, I got down on the floor, flailed about, and had myself a temper tantrum, protesting that I did not want to fix supper.  As I continued to demonstrate how I viewed their throw-down-on-the-floor tantrums, I remember glancing up and seeing my children with their eyes and mouths wide open as if they wondered what on earth was coming next.  Psychology books may never suggest this technique but not one of our children ever had a temper tantrum again!  Awareness can be a wonderful thing at all ages!

Children have temper tantrums because of frustration.  They lack the wisdom to reason and think a situation through, therefore the raw emotions surface instead of logical behavior.  Do we ever have temper tantrums when we are upset with God?   Do our raw emotions surface in the form of anger, bitterness or discouragement?  Do we stop going to church or studying God's word each day with attitudes of protest?   Do we flail about in self-pity, lacking control over our emotions?  Do we make hasty decisions in the midst of a tantrum?

God does not want to see our temper tantrums.  He does not acknowledge those types of behaviors nor does he bless us when we act out of raw emotion. When we are faced with situations that tempt us to react out of anger, God wants us to seek Him.  The godly reaction comes from prayer, reading the Bible, and logically making decisions that do not reflect that we merely wanted our way. 

We all will experience emotional growth spurts in life.  Studying God's word, spending time in prayer, and gaining wisdom to grow spiritually will equip us to deal with our frustrations in ways other than temper tantrums.  Emotional intelligence can be acquired through a deep understanding of how God desires for us to react.

When we are tempted to react with self-pity and raw emotions, we need to evaluate the reaction.  We should seek wisdom in order to respond to frustrating situations.  We should seek a response that is not fueled by intense emotions.  We should instead pursue a reaction that is filled with godly behaviors and attitudes.

Monday, November 28, 2016

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.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving

Colossians 3:15  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful. 

Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you!

May you set aside the worries, burdens, and sorrows and enjoy peace and comfort from Christ and those loved ones around you. In spite of any dysfunctions and chaos that may be present in your life, may you relish in the blessings.  Take one moment and one hour at a time with the approach of a grateful heart.  Decide today that you will have peace and joy!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

When you are overwhelmed

Psalm 61:2  From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Some times our lives seem to be more demanding of us both physically and emotionally, more so than other times.  These times can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed.  In those times of feeling overwhelmed, we may experience a decrease of enjoyment of everyday life.  

In these times we can become so caught up in the busyness and emotional distractions that our relationship with God will suffer.  I have discovered about myself that within these periods of "overload"  I MUST spend more time with God in study, prayer and submission.  First thing in the morning is a great time to focus on God and the peace that he extends.  By studying and spending time with God first thing every day, I recognize a decrease in the stress level of all the "stuff" that swirls in my mind.  It is like eating your dessert first and enjoying The Sweet Stuff.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and overloaded, I encourage you to spend time with God.  He understands it all.  He will give you peace and joy.  He can restore calmness and take away anxiety. The following verses are great to read when feeling overwhelmed:  Psalms 61:2, Isaiah 40:28-31, John 14:1, Psalms 28:7. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Stay focused in the face of opposition

Nehemiah 2:19    But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us.  "What is this you are doing?"  they asked.  "Are you rebelling against the king?"

Nehemiah had a prestigious job with the king.  He was the cup bearer which meant that he served drinks at the royal table.  It doesn't sound like a high ranking job to us in this day, however, in Nehemiah's day that position was only given to trustworthy and loyal people.  In this time, there was a high incidence of plotting to kill kings and officials and the cup bearer was a protector of the king through testing of the drinks.  Sometimes the cup bearer was required to taste some of the drinks in order to check for poison before the king drank.  This was a job of courage and loyalty. 

During Nehemiah's important position, God began to call upon his heart to go to Jerusalem and lead the people in the rebuilding of the city walls.  The job in which God was asking him to do was not glamorous.  He would first need to motivate the people in the city and convince them to work along side him.  Remember, the wall had been destroyed many years before and no one had taken any initiative to repair it.  Nehemiah was required to convince them that they had civic responsibilities to their city.  He also dealt with a financial crisis regarding the city. 

Nehemiah was obedient to the job that God called him to do.  Obedience required him to give up his high ranking position, move to another town and work with people who were less than cooperative.  He was met with opposition, mockery and ridicule. Some of the people made fun of him for leaving his job and viewed it as a negative move. 

Opposition is to be expected when God asks you to take on jobs or duties that fulfill his purpose.  When you accept a call to obedience, just go ahead and put on your armor, because you will need it.  Whether it is a squabble over how Bible School should be presented, a disagreement about a church dinner or carpet color, or opposition against a large project or an entire ministry,  Satan will find a way to oppose you.  Sometimes the opposition will come from close friends and family; other times it will come from beyond your circle.  Some people will even hope that you fail at your task or ministry. 

I can tell you without a doubt, that God will accomplish his purpose through you in spite of any opposition you may encounter.  Your role is OBEDIENCE.  God will police those who oppose you.  He will react to opposition on your behalf.

If God is stirring in your heart to begin a task or a full time job that serves him, your role is to:
                 -1. be obedient and accept the position
                 -2. stay focused on the task and mission
                 -3.  stay in tune with God and what he expects from you
                 -4.  keep working, no matter what anyone says or does.














Monday, November 21, 2016

Thank God for moments

Ephesians 5:19-20  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving is this week and it is a time when we reflect upon the things for which we are most thankful.  Often times we make our thankful lists with the big things in mind.  Those things are very important. 

Today I want to focus on being thankful for moments.  Cesare Pavese said, "We do not remember days, we remember moments".  If you will take time to reflect things that have occurred throughout your life, you may not always remember the date or the day of the week, but you will remember a moment.  Details of that moment are likely vivid in your mind.

Let us be thankful for the moments that have contributed to the totality of time in our life span.  Thank God for the moment of your salvation.  Thank God for those moments of peace that he has blessed upon you when your world was in turmoil.  Thank God for that moment that you spent with a family member that turned out to be the last. Be thankful for heart warming moments, sometimes unexpected, spent with precious people.  Thank God for every moment in which he has provided you with protection. 

The list could be long.  Take some time to reflect on the moments that you remember.  Thank God for them!

Friday, November 18, 2016

God promises comfort and peace

Psalm 86:17 Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.


We serve a God of comfort and peace. His offer of both is always available.

When turmoil, anxiety and disruption of  peace are present in your life, remember that we ALWAYS have the promise of comfort from God.

It is up to each of us to submit to that comfort and to enjoy inner peace.

Allow Him to comfort you-whatever your situation.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thoughts and attitudes

2 Corinthians 10:3-5   For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretense that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 

In this passage, Paul is defending his authority because the people in Corinth were not taking his  advice seriously.  He was trying to teach the people what God expected of them and they could win their battles over sin with God's weapons and armor.  This particular passage is dealing with thoughts and attitudes that keep people from finding God and having a close, personal relationship with him.

Attitudes and thoughts can be sinful.  Bad attitudes and ungodly thoughts can become strongholds in our lives.  Bitterness is fertile ground for bad attitudes and ugly, ungodly thoughts.  Such dispositions can lead to a cold, hardened heart.  When I was in the depths of my bitterness, my attitude was BAD.  I cannot even candy coat it.  It was bad.  Many times my thoughts and words included, "I did not do anything to cause this.  He/she/they did ______________ and that is why I feel this way."  I justified my attitude.  I argued with God, placing the blame on others.  I used my own methods of thought to fluff up my pride and destroy my attitude.  When I finally realized and saw things as God showed me, all of it was a huge pill to swallow.  A HORSE pill going down sideways.  With no water.

A huge wall had been constructed in my mind.  A wall that had prevented me from seeing things as God intended.  The wall that Satan had built in my mind was a barrier to love, joy, fulfillment and worship.  I could go through the motions, but my heart seemed empty and without affection.

Thoughts and attitudes have enormous power within us.  A single thought can change our entire attitude about ANYTHING.  Thoughts can change how we view others, how we feel about ourselves and how we view our relationships.  A single thought can lead to changes within us that enter into damaging attitudes which are destructive to our relationship with God as well as our loved ones.

If this devotion finds you with an ungodly attitude, I urge you to allow God to crumble the barriers that keep self-righteous pride festering inside you.  I pray that you will allow God's weapons of prayer, faith, His word, hope, and love to fill your hearts and minds so that your relationships will be full of all that he has to offer.  Swallow that horse pill; it is good medicine.  Drink plenty of water to flush your system and allow God to heal you of your poor attitudes and ugly thoughts.  You deserve to enjoy God and life to its fullest!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

God is always with you.

Psalms 139:8-10  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.


God is sovereign.  He is ever present, all knowing, all powerful and ever loving.

He loves us when we are in the depths of destruction and despair.   He cares for us when we feel as if we are under the deepest part of the ocean without an oxygen tank.  He is aware of all the evil schemes that are plotted against us.  He knows when things look and feel hopeless to us and when we feel helpless.

God always, ALWAYS, has a way to protect us and provide for us.  ALWAYS. Period.  Those provisions may not look exactly like what we expect, however, he can and will provide.  Through our perception of things in life, we often will have tunnel vision.  God does not have tunnel vision, he has panoramic vision with x-ray sensors that can see around and through every situation that we may ever find ourselves in.  He can see backwards, forwards, high and low, deep and wide.

If you feel that God is overlooking you and your situation, remember he is there with you wherever you are and whatever you are going through.  He will provide and protect.  Keep loving him and building a deep relationship with him.  You will be amazed of all his capabilities. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Make yourself vulnerable to God's plans

James 4:7-8   So humble yourselves before God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come close to God and God will come close to you.

It is possible to spend years in bitterness and misery.  Some people spend a lifetime in misery, living with bitterness, anger and malice in their hearts.  It is Satan's desire for us to be miserable and to distance ourselves from God.  If we have drifted into a state of bitterness and misery, how can we establish a closeness with God?  The first step is to humble ourselves before God (James 4:7).  To humble ourselves means to surrender and submit.  We must surrender all our ungodly thoughts and attitudes and yield to God's authority.  This step can be difficult. 

Why is it so difficult to surrender and submit to God?  Pride and control are part of the issue.  We want to feel as if we are in control of our lives; we are really not.  Surrendering all our thoughts and attitudes to God may present a feeling of vulnerability.  We fear that we will be hurt again.  However, by holding on to bitterness, we are vulnerable to Satan and that is far more risky than being vulnerable to the goodness of God. 

There is a part of us that holds on to bitterness because we are holding on to the desire for vengeance.   If we can hold on to bitterness or keep the grudge kindled against our offender, we feel more in control.  Tough to admit.  Tougher to let go.  We may even think that if we hold these thoughts and feelings inside of us that no one will notice.  They do notice.  The loved ones in our lives are grieved by those types of attitudes. 

If you are harboring bitterness and anger, all the while thinking that it is your own battle, please realize that everyone around you is affected by that battle.  I ask that you ponder these things:  1. God is in control.  2.  When we try to control, we go against God's will in our lives.  3.  We cannot change things that have happened to us   4.  We can change how we feel about the things that have happened.  

Humble yourself.  Surrender.  Make yourself vulnerable to God's plans.  Life will be much sweeter this way!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Do some scenarios require more compassion from us than others?

Luke 10:36-37  "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"  The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."  Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

The verse for today refers to the parable of the good Samaritan.  A man going from Jerusalem to Jericho had been robbed, beaten and left for dead.  Several people passed by the man without stopping to help.  The Samaritan stopped to help him.  This is used as an example because Samaritans and Jews did not associate with one another.  The passersby did not show compassion toward the man in need. 


Ponder this scenario:  A six year girl old in your community or on your street has been diagnosed with cancer.  The disease has ravaged her body.  Doctors say that it has likely been growing inside her for three years.  Extensive surgery and lengthy treatments will be necessary in order to treat her condition.  Her family is devastated, afraid, and very discouraged.  How does this make you feel?  How eager are you to help her family?  How quickly will you place her in your prayers and/or on the prayer list at your church?

Ponder this scenario:  An adult that is an acquaintance of yours has been recently imprisoned for wrongdoing in the workplace.  There are addictive behaviors involved which led to criminal acts.  The addictions have ravaged the person's soul for years.  Extensive treatment and lengthy court proceedings will be required to sort through the issues.  The family is devastated, afraid, and very discouraged.   How does this make you feel?  How eager are you to help the family?  How quickly will you place such a person in your prayers and/or on the prayer list at your church?

Does one of these scenarios bring forth more compassion from your heart than the other?  As human beings, we have a natural tendency to feel more compassion for innocent children than adults that have made poor decisions.  But, shouldn't our reactions and feelings be identical in both these situations?  Should we not be as equally devastated when an adult makes choices that cause destruction and hurt within his/her family or community as we are when a heartbreaking diagnosis is received?

Both scenarios should spark within us a urgent desire to pray.  We are often willing to spend much time in prayer for physical illnesses and afflictions.  We must be willing to spend as much time in prayer for strongholds of addiction or other forms of sin that may be present in the people around us.  Our hearts should break for the hurt that a person's family and friends may be experiencing as a result of poor decisions.   

If we entertain thoughts such as: "he/she deserves whatever punishment is given" or "I knew he/she was up to no good", then we miss the mark on compassion.  If any of us has ever relished the thought of a brother or sister failing or getting into trouble, then each of us has failed at "loving thy neighbor as thyself".   It is important to remember that no matter the extent of sin, crime, or wrongdoing, each and every person on this earth is a creation of God.  Each one is worthy of God's love, mercy, and grace. 

Our hearts should burn within for people around us that fall head long into sin.  Like the traveling Jew mentioned in Luke 10:30-36, we have all been robbed and wounded by Satan at some point in our lives.  Just as Jesus offers us infinite compassion and mercy, we should be filled with compassion for those that have fallen prey to the schemes of Satan.  We must be in prayer for the souls of those who are lost.

If our hearts do not immediately feel a call to action when we hear news of a neighbor stumbling, then we fail to understand the love of God.  If our first thought when we hear of the failures of another is to "spread the word" instead of immediately beginning to pray for the person, then we fail to understand how God expects us to love one another.

If we can love one another unconditionally, then we will feel compassion for the burdens of others.  Galatians 6:2 tells us, "carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ".  Compassion is connected to love.  The greater our love for God, the easier it is for us to have compassion for one another.   

Friday, November 11, 2016

Worship in prayer

Charles Stanley said, "If problems are all that keep us on our knees, then we have missed the main point of our relationship with Him".

Prayer is often thought of to be a time of going to God with our problems.  While he does want to hear all our troubles, he always wants to hear us worship.  Prayer is great opportunity to worship God.  We can do so with the following: 

                  -gratitude:  Colossians 3:17,  "and whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in
                                                                 the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father
                                                                 through him".

                  -honor:  Psalm 29:2,  "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in
                                                    the splendor of his holiness".

                  -praise:  Hebrews 13:15,  "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a
                                                          sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name".
  
                  -recognize God for his sovereignty:  Ephesians 3:20, "Now to him who is able to do
                                                         immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his
                                                         power that is at work within us".

                  -proclaim his name:  Psalm 8, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all
                                                         the earth!"

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Grace

Ephesians 4:7
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.

Grace is a simple yet complicated concept.  God offers us grace out of love.  An unconditional love with a never ending supply and easy access to his graces.


To know grace is to know love.  God offers his grace because as his creations, we are more important to him than anything we have done wrong.

We should offer grace to others. That grace can begin with forgiveness because forgiving clears the way for love.  Grace brings about a strengthening of the heart.  Through salvation, we are granted access to the strength that God offers.  That strength will fortify us and protect us from misusing grace.  We receive grace from God and we are therefore expected to offer loving grace to others. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Scorpion and the Frog

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.  Righteous living, perseverance, doing God's will, and loving others is faith in action.  These virtues demonstrate self-control.  Through adherence to God's commands, we are able to exercise self-control and resist acting in response to a sinful nature. 

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.                                                     

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

God is ALWAYS good!

Psalms 136:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever.

As the Thanksgiving season approaches, it is a good time to take inventory of our gratefulness.  As we gather for festivities, we give thanks, most usually, for those things near at hand.  We should give thanks for all things in our lives, both near to and far from the present.  If you woke up this morning, you can give God thanks for protection, sustainment and a promise for the future.

Often times we want to thank God for all the "good" things in our lives.  We are grateful for the happy times, the job promotion, relationships that are pleasing and our overall prosperity.  What we need to remember in our gratefulness is that God is good--ALWAYS.  His goodness, his grace and his love never change--NEVER!  Even when the world around us is bad, God is still good.  When things in our lives seem to be going in negative directions, God is still good and he is a god of love.

Be grateful for all the good in your live.  Be grateful for when things do not seem so good.  Those are the times that God gives you strength that you may not have had before.  In bad times, God will reveal himself to you in ways which you have never known.  Give thanks to him.  He is ALWAYS good and he is ALWAYS filled with love. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Serving in the Midst of Enemy Fire

Philippians 4:13    I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 

Serving in the Midst of Enemy Fire.

The Greek meaning of this verse in Philippians is 'I have strength for all things'.  It means to 'bear' rather than to 'do'.  This verse does not refer to the use of Christ's strength to accomplish whatever we want to do, but instead it means that whatever Christ asks of us to do, he will provide the strength for us to utilize.  
In Ellicott's commentary, we find this description of Philippians 4:13, "it represents the ultimate and ideal consciousness of the Christian.  The first thing needful is to throw off self-sufficiency, to know our weaknesses and sin, and accept the salvation of God's free grace in Christ".  The apostle Paul arrived at the conclusion that he could do all that God was asking of him through the strength that Christ provides.  Through various trials, experiences, and changes in his life, Paul relied on that strength to complete his work and service to God.  He was able to endure trials, temptations, and persecution by surrendering his weaknesses to the strength of Christ.

When we honor God's will and set forth to complete the tasks which he has called upon us to do, Satan will try to prevent us from serving.  He will draw use tools of discouragement in an attempt to talk us out of our service.  The discouragement may present itself in the form of criticisms, strongholds, power struggles, and/or imagination.  Spiritual warfare may come against us in mild or severe form as we serve God.  It is this those times that we must rely entirely upon strength that found only in Christ.  We do not have enough strength within us to battle the enemy.  

When Satan attacks our efforts to serve God, we will be tempted to react.  We may be tempted to attack those that are being used by Satan to send discouragement our way.  We may even entertain the thoughts of quitting our efforts or ministry altogether.  The strength found in Christ will offer us a way to escape those temptations and remain focused on our service to God.  We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it".  

If today finds you under the attack of enemy fire, I urge you to surrender your thoughts of self-sufficiency.  Employ the strength that Christ offers.  Keep your eyes and heart focused on Christ and not on the discouragement that Satan hurls in your path.  The apostle Paul had confidence that God would require nothing of him which he would not be able to perform.  We need the same bold confidence!  Do not avoid the duty to serve that we as Christians all have because of fear of temptation.  Do not entertain the temptation to quit.  Stand strong in Christ and allow Him to deal with the enemy. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Deep hurts require deep repair

James 3:17   But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Deep hurts require deep repair.

Deep hurts will take us to a place where we would pretty much try anything in order to get rid of the pain.  Trying to forget and move forward often leave us to quickly try to put the event out of our mind.  Friends may offer advice and various things to try in order to move forward.  Friends might suggest that you take a trip, go to the spa, or purchase something that you "deserve".  Alcohol, drugs and addiction may result from an effort to get rid of emotional pain. While these ventures may boost  feelings of self-worth or take your mind off the hurt for a while, these attempts at removing the hurt will only mask it.  They are Band-aid solutions.  I can tell you with certainty that no amount of trips to the spa, manicures, new articles of clothing nor steak dinners will help you to truly let go of a deep hurt.  Alcohol and drugs not only mask the pain, but they also cause others problems that will require attention in order to overcome.  We can destroy all artifacts that remind us of the events such as pictures and mementos.  We can continuously busy ourselves in order to occupy our minds and we can buy things or go places that will boost our self-worth.  However, if we do not repair our hearts spiritually, the Band-aids will soon fall off and no longer cover the wound. 

Deep hurts require deep repair.

The repair of deep hurts may not occur immediately.  The deeper the injury, the more extensive the repair work.   The repair may be a process that takes enough time to allow for a dissecting of all the elements involved in the wound.   

Being able to put hurts, forgiveness and healing into perspective come ONLY when we seek wisdom from God and hear his advice.  The only healing that will be permanent in nature is a heavenly healing that only God can offer.  In Psalms 147:3, we are reminded, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."  Only God can completely bind a wound that causes us grief and pain.  The deep repair that is needed when our hearts have deep hurts is available from Him.   His love and compassion is the greatest medicine that our hurting hearts might receive.   

If you have a need for emotional healing, seek the wisdom and advice from God that he offers so freely.  It is a healing that is sincere and genuine.  A permanent healing that will restore your peace. God wants each and every one of us to be free of pain and grief.  He wants us to be whole and full of joy.  Seek that pure, heavenly wisdom! 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

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."

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Isaiah 41:10

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

For those days when you simply want to pull the covers over your head, stay in bed and hide from the world, remember this:
                              God has a plan and a purpose for you each day.
                              He can bless you in the midst of a mess.
                              He will guide you through any rough patches in your life.
                              He does not want you to feel lonely or discouraged.
                              Even when your ideas and plans fail, he will work it all out for the good.

So, my friends, get up out of the bed of discouragement, dust off your britches and know that God is in complete control of whatever hurdles you feel are in your path.  Pay no mind to the enemy's schemes that attempt to steal your joy.  Do not give Satan any foothold in thwarting your work for God. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Don't worry that others may gloat

Psalms 13:3-6  Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.  Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall.  But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.

All of us have problems and things in our lives that are not as we would like for them to be.  We all have times of tribulation when we feel that hope may be lost.  In those times, we may feel as if we are failing.  We can become discouraged thinking that our enemies will rejoice in our sufferings.  In this passage of Psalms, David shows concern for what his enemies will say if he fails.  He recognizes that his adversaries may take delight in seeing him fall.

When we fail at earthly things, one common reaction is to worry that others will gloat.  It is likely that there will be some people around us that will delight in thinking that we have been defeated or persecuted.  We are told in the book of James that we can expect trials and tribulations here on earth.  We should never find satisfaction in the downfall of another.

An important point to remember is this: The things that our enemies may say and do are only temporary.  There is no permanent damage that can be done by anything that someone else feels toward us regarding our eternity.  Worry not what your enemy may think of the trials in your life.  If they gloat, pray for them.  Just as David said in verse 5, "rejoice in your salvation"!  Look not to the earthly reactions of others, but seek the love and comfort of God. He never delights in our sufferings or failures.  He always offers love and compassion. 


Friday, October 28, 2016

Pray for a spiritual uprising

Hosea 4:1-2  Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land; "There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.  There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

The Israelites had periods of lawless behavior.  Their religious leaders were not leading them toward God.  They were extremely disobedient of the laws that God had given them.  There was spiritual and moral decline within the nation.  In this passage, the Israelites were quick to condemn Hosea's wife for adultery, all the while overlooking their own unfaithfulness to God.  

There was much bloodshed within the kings and rulers at this time.  There was no respect for authority.  Self-promotion and self-preservation was the main motive.   Murder was taken casually and there was no regard for the value of life.  They were quick to blame others for their sinfulness.  Repentance was absent.

This description is regarding events from nearly 3000 years ago.  Sounds like the description could have been taken from our news headlines today.  Bloodshed, lack of respect for authority, no regard for the value of life, lack of accountability, moral decline and self-preservation are tones found in countless news stories all over our world today.  Cold blooded murder stories can be found daily in the news.  Repeated acts of criminal behavior and disregard for God's laws abound in our society today.  Political ads and speeches reveal attitudes of self-promotion.

We need a spiritual awakening to sweep the hearts and minds of our world!  Please join me in prayer for a filling of God's love in the hearts of all people.  Let us pray without abandon for the lost that they may fall in love with God and the goodness that he can bring.  May we never turn our backs on the evil acts in our world, that we might offer boldness in standing for Christ against the evil.  Let us pray with all our hearts for the leaders of our nation.  May we seek each day ways in which we can contribute to a spiritual rise in our communities, our country and our world.  AMEN.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

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 26, 2016

Allow the Savior to stand between you and the storm

Matthew 14: 22-33   In this passage of scripture, the disciples were in a boat crossing  the Sea of Galilee.   When the turbulent winds began to rock the boat, fear overcame all the disciples.  Jesus walked on the sea toward the boat and calmed the wind and the water in order for the disciples to be safe.  

Storms will come throughout our lives.  When turbulent winds rock our boats, we become afraid of being in the deep waters and drowning.  The storms in our lives may come in the form of unexpected illness or disease, an accident, financial distress, loss of a loved one, betrayal of a friendship, or even disappointments.  Storms in our lives are marked by large waves that toss our faith to and fro.  During the storms we may feel as if we are about to fall overboard without a life jacket.  Storms may cause us to falter in our belief that God can handle any tornado or hurricane that blows our way. 

However small or large the storms in our lives, no matter how forceful the winds may blow and rock our boats, we must allow the Savior to stand between us and the storm.  We must stop trying to row our own boats and allow Jesus to calm the waves and take control of our lives.  It is important for us to not only allow Jesus to calm the storms, but it is also important for us to worship him in the midst of the storm and recognize his sovereignty in each and every situation that we face. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

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.