The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Love in the Midst of Brokenness

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

BETTERNESS

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


May the bitterness yield to BETTERNESS.

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

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

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

I pray for anyone that is dealing with bitterness.  May you yield to God for BETTERNESS.  May you gain wisdom, strength, and courage to rid of the stronghold that bitterness has over you. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Temptation

Proverbs 5: 1-5  My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.  For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother that oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.  her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.

Temptation is all around us.  A great number of temptations will present themselves as sweet options; choices that will be beneficial to us or make us better.  It is difficult at times to initially discern some temptations that may appear to be sweet.  Those temptations that drip honey should be red flags in the beginning. 

In order to understand temptation and to be on guard against those things that drip honey and use sweet talk, we must be prepared for temptation.  We can never think that as long as we are Christians and go to church that we will never be tempted.  Temptations will present themselves in many forms.   Temptations will not always be in the form of addictions, criminal activity and sexual immorality.  Some temptations will be small and seemingly insignificant, while others are blatantly dangerous and destructive.  Temptation may be in the form of changing your attitude toward righteous living.  It may come in the form of anger and bitterness, grudges and hatred.  You may be tempted to stop participating in church activities.  

Christians are not exempt from temptation.  In fact, Satan is in hot pursuit of all Christians. He will tempt each and every one.  He will drip honey.  He will offer smooth talk.  He will make things look great even when they are not.

Temptations involve lies from Satan.  Resisting temptation engages God's truths.  Application of His principles and reminders of His promises will provide us with protection against temptation.  

Prepare for temptation by studying God's word in order to gain wisdom.  The pursuit of godly wisdom is like exercising in order to stay in shape.  The pursuit must never be abandoned.  It is good to develop a list of personal principles in order to prepare for temptations.  Developing personal principles give us an opportunity to think about our reactions to temptation.  Think of it in terms of writing a customized Owner's Manual for yourself.  In it include answers to question that begin as, "What would I do if..................?"  Look up scripture in the Bible that gives instruction about life's situations. Equip your mind with wisdom.  Armor yourself with God's word and His promises.  

 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Is the Grass Really Greener?

Ecclesiastes 4:6  Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.

I love spring!  I make efforts to spend a great amount of time outside in the spring. There is always a sense of renewal watching the trees bloom and the grass turn green.  As the grass begins to grow and is rich in nutrients, our horses are eager to graze and play in the fields.  I pay particular attention to one of our horses as he goes to great lengths to enjoy the spring grass.  He will stretch his neck through the fence and graze on the grass that is out of his reach.  He will move his body around in order to reach farther into the green grass in our yard which joins the pasture. 

The old saying, "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence" immediately comes to mind.  As he continually shifts his posture and stretches his neck to reach the grass, I cannot help but chuckle.  At times he seems uncomfortable as he extends his neck farther and farther toward the grass.  He does not realize that the grass he is straining to eat in the yard is exactly the same grass that he eats in the pasture.  Same flavor, same green color, same type of grass.  Yet he wants what he cannot reach.  He is willing to get into an uncomfortable position in order to eat what he fancies as something different and better.  If he will eat the grass in the pasture, his belly will be just as full without all the overextending and extra efforts of reaching through the fence.

Does this describe any of us?  Are we curious about greener pastures?  Do we posture ourselves in a way that causes discomfort in order to reach for the things that we think are better or more flavorful?  How many times do we work extra hours in order to gain more materially?  How many times do we chase material things in order to satisfy the thoughts that having those things will make us happier or better? 

There is much to be reaped from contentment with what we have.  1 Timothy 6:6-8 speaks of contentment as does Hebrews 13:5.  God does not expect us to overextend ourselves in order to gain money or material things.  He does expect us to work but he does not expect us to always reach for more.  He expects us to be satisfied with the blessings he has given us. 

We should look at our surroundings and recognize the ways in which we can be content.  When we look at other things that we think will make us more content, we must remember that the grass may look greener and better across the fence, but after all, it is still grass.  Even though it appears greener, it still has the possibility of growing weeds in the midst of it.  Chasing after more than we have can often cause turmoil and disappointment in our lives.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The "good" in Good Friday

1 Peter 2:24  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds we are healed.

Today is Good Friday.  In the scripture that describes this day leading up to Easter, the descriptions hardly portray any good things happening to Jesus.  He was treated horribly, beaten, mocked, tortured emotionally and physically and was made to carry his own cross up the hill of Golgotha.

But, Jesus did not mind.  Absorb this!  He did all these things willingly.  He realized his role in fulfilling his purpose on this earth and he willingly endured a tortuous treatment.  Not for himself.  For all of us.

The "good" in Good Friday is for us.  Jesus died so that we may have goodness and an eternal life in heaven.  Everything about what Jesus did for us is GOOD.

The history of Good Friday contains several possible derivatives of the name.  Sources say that Good Friday may have evolved from what was originally God's Friday.  Others say that the Friday of Jesus's death was a "goodbye" for the world; goodbye to Jesus's life on earth.  Yet another source says that it derived from Holy Friday or Great Friday.  

Good Friday is a day of mourning and many churches throughout the world will keep their bells silent from this day until Easter morning.  The sorrow of Good Friday is a godly sorrow.
2 Corinthians 7:10 reminds us, "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death".  There is goodness in Good Friday because Jesus died so that we might live-eternally! 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Accept God's wisdom without doubt

James 1: 4-6   Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Being under pressure is not fun.  It is stressful, scary and can lead to feelings of doubt.  We develop character when under pressure.  We do NOT develop character alone, but with the wisdom which God offers.

We all face situations in which we must make difficult decisions.  The worldviews of the people around us can complicate decision making even more.  When difficult circumstances arise we need wisdom, godly wisdom, to make decisions.  God does not leave us alone in our decision making.  He is generous to show us wisdom and how to deal with all situations.

When we seek God's wisdom, we then must rely on his wisdom.  In other words, when we ask for his guidance and knowledge, we must have confidence in his plan for us.  If we seek his guidance and then retain his answers with the option to disobey, we have given his word no more value than any other human being's advice.

Part of seeking wisdom from God is learning how to apply what he says to us in every day life.  For example, if you have prayed for a decision regarding a difficult matter, when he shows you the answer and guides you toward his plan, do not second guess.  It is not wise to pick and choose which pieces of God's advice in which to adhere.  We must apply ALL his wisdom throughout our journey in fulfilling his purpose.

He tells us in James 1:6 that we must believe in His wisdom and not doubt.  If we are not planning to believe in God's wisdom, we may as well not seek it.  Accept His advice with confidence, even when the answer may be contrary to what you wanted to hear. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Jesus deserves all of our affinity

Matthew 26:14-16  Then one of the Twelve-the one called Judas Iscariot-went to the chief priests and asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?"  So they counted out for him thirty silver coins.  From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

How much was the Savior worth?  The amount of money was relative to how money is viewed.  Thirty shekels would not have been much money to the wealthy in this time period.  It would have been a great amount of money to the poor.  Either way, human life is worth more than any amount of money.

Jesus had predicted that one of his 12 disciples would betray him before his death.  Each of them declared that betrayal of Jesus would never happen.  When time drew near, the emotions of Jesus and the disciples were elevated.  Instead of acting in a dependable, loyal manor, the disciples responded emotionally.  Some disciples gave way to their fatigue and slept even though Jesus had asked them to keep watch over the garden as he prayed (Matthew 26:40-44).  Judas reacted by allowing his relationship with Jesus to be assigned a value compared to money.  H reacted emotionally to the offer of being paid to help in the arrest of Jesus. Was it about the money or was it more about the feeling of power that he had for playing a part?  As Jesus was arrested, the disciples left him (Matthew 26:56).  So much for loyal friends!

The point to grasp in the actions of these verses is that Jesus was going to be arrested and crucified anyway as fulfillment of the prophecy and his purpose on earth (Matthew 26:56).  It must have been heartbreaking for Jesus to watch as his disciples, his closest friends and co-workers, abandoned him, physically and emotionally.  He spent a great deal of time traveling with these men.  He explained all the details of what they could expect leading up to his death.  They still pursued their own fleshy feelings and resigned their loyalties to him.

The actions of the disciples showed little faith with cowardly allegiance.  Jesus deserved all of their affinity.  They allowed fear and confusion of the events to overpower their trust in Jesus. They were afraid to stand up for the Savior.   


We can find examples of the same types of betrayal of Jesus today.  Instances of disloyalty where people choose not to take a stand for Jesus.  Companies often choose profits over biblical principles.  Relationships suffer because of faithless alliances with the Savior.

Prayer for today:  Lord, show me the position of my loyalties.  Bring forth any weakness that I might have in my allegiance to you.  Strengthen my relationship so that I will always acknowledge the value of you as the Savior.  Help me to stand strong and defend your principles in all matters.  You deserve all of my affinity!  AMEN.







Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Work to elevate and glorify God

Colossians  3:23-24      Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 

We so often work to try to please people.  We want our boss to be happy with us and we want our spouse and family to be happy with us.  We seek approval from the people that we dwell among here on earth.  After all, our societal system offers rewards from people that like us and are happy with what we do.  If our performance at work is outstanding, we receive high marks on an evaluation or a raise on the paycheck.  If you work in a job where tipping is allowed, you will receive more tips when the customers perceive that your service is outstanding.  Society wants us to think that the more we do and the better we are at what we do, the more important we are. 

Do not chase people.  You can never do enough, say enough or be enough to please most people.   If you have ever been in a situation where you did the greatest amount of work for a project or during a shift at your job, yet someone else received the praise and credit for it, you know how frustrating it is to attempt to please people.  If we step back and look at what pleases most people, it usually involves the "what is in it for me?" question.  A great number of people are pleased when self elevation occurs.  

Stop trying to please everyone and come to the realization that you truly only have an audience of one---God.  Your rewards come from serving and loving the Lord.  Work, serve, help others and press forward, doing so in order to serve God.  Our work here on earth should be regarded as a form of worship.  Our jobs are a part of our discipleship with Christ. 

Work as if Jesus himself is your supervisor.  Love the Lord as you work and serve.  Strive to please Him in all that you do.  If the attitude of work can be one of service and contributing to the lives of others instead of only pleasing the boss, the whole picture of what God expects from us in our work will be more apparent.   Work to elevate and glorify God.  Your rewards will be many.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Saved by faith

Luke 23:   39-43   One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, "So you're the Messiah, are you?   Prove it by saving yourself-and us too, while you're at it!"  But the other criminal protested, "don't you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?  We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn't done anything wrong."  Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."  And Jesus replied,  "I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise."

At the time of Jesus' crucifixion, many followers had gone into hiding as they were somewhat confused about what was happening.  They had hoped that Jesus would rescue Israel and their hopes for the Kingdom were shattered.  The thought it was all over for them. 

The criminal hanging beside Jesus saw the coming glory and, on his death bed, had faith and believed in Jesus.   Near his death, the criminal turned to Jesus and asked for forgiveness.  A salvation experience up close and personal!    This proves to us that our faith alone is what redeems us, not our works.  This criminal had no time to perform any works of service, he was to die in a few minutes.  

It is never too late to turn to God!!!!  The important part is that you DO ask Christ for forgiveness. Turn to him, look upon his face with faith and belief.   That is what the cross means.  He died for you just as much as he died for the criminal hanging beside him.  He died for everyone, the people that lived THEN and the people that live NOW.  

Just as important as the crucifixion is the resurrection.  I encourage you to spend time this week in the Bible studying both.   To understand the sacrifice and love offering at the cross is an intense and humbling study.    He is risen!!!!   Matthew chapter 28.

Friday, March 18, 2016

God's protection

Psalms 121:1-8  I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my sleep come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip-he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord watches over you-the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor will the moon by night.  The Lord will keep you from all harm-he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

These verses pour out God's protection.  He is omnipotent and he watches over us.  He has all the power that we need to survive and succeed in each day.  We should never trust any power other than God himself.

When we think of God's protection in our lives, most often we think of him keeping us safe from harm and evil.  That is am important example of protection.  Let us direct our attention to other areas in which God protects us.

God's protection also includes keeping the events in our lives on course for the purpose that he has appointed us.  His guardianship encompasses protecting our thoughts in order to keep us on track for the journey.  Focus and concentration on tasks are types of protection that God furnishes.  Encouragement is a type of protection for without it, we would yield to disappointments and would likely never complete what God has planned for us.

God protects our abilities.  When we feel powerless and incapable of accomplishing tasks, He fills us with capabilities. Think of times when you have declared that you "cannot" do something or that you want to quit.  How many of those times did God see you through the completion?


God supplies and protects our resources. He offers support in all our endeavors.  He knows when you need extra comfort or confidence.  He gives reassurance in times of insecurity.  God knows when to supply you with affirmation.    

Spend time expressing your gratitude for all God's protection for he watches over ALL of your life!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Baggage

Philippians 3:13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing:  Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.

How many of you have ever over packed for a trip?   The more you pack, the more bags and luggage you must move from the car to the airport, hotel or cruise ship, etc.  Bags on wheels, bags on top of bags and bags over your shoulders.  By the time you get to the destination, you are exhausted from dealing with baggage. 

Many of us are exhausted on a daily basis with moving baggage around and we are not even going on vacation.  When we drag around personal baggage, we become extremely tired emotionally.  Just like the excessive baggage that we take on vacation, most of which we never wear, we do not need the emotional baggage that we pack around.  It is useless; as a matter of fact it can be harmful.

What exactly is "baggage" that we carry in our minds?  It comes in many forms, some of which are:
-guilt
-insecurity
-fear
-rejection
-unresolved anger
-bitterness
-lack of salvation

Some pieces of baggage stem from things we have done, words we have said or thoughts we have had.  Other types of baggage arise from ways in which someone else has treated us or words that have been spoken to us.   Whatever the type, baggage is "DRAGGAGE".  It wears us down and gets in the way of joy and peace.  Carrying heavy baggage can feel like a ball and chain around our legs.

God expects us to unpack the excessive baggage.  He wants us to rid of the guilt, fear, insecurities and bitterness.  How do we unpack?  First, if you are not saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, seek that relationship with him.   If you are saved and are carrying baggage, ask God to bring the issues before you and to help you deal with each of them.  Many times we tend to deny that we have issues, therefore, we never address improvements.  Deal with each issue, put it into its place and declare that you are not going to lug the baggage around any longer.   Confide in a loving friend that you trust.  It helps a great deal to talk things through and friends often offer a different perspective on situations.   Continue to pray that God will unpack your useless baggage.  

Emotional boundaries offer protection from unnecessary items in your mind's suitcase.  Emotional boundaries offer self control of "draggage".  Emotional fortitude can be found in God's truths.  Use His word to repeat the truths and promises that he offers.  Remove from your mind the feelings that the world imposes upon you.

God's truths are simple and pure.  They are all we need to carry around in our emotional luggage.  Pack your bags with those truths and unpack all the untruths that you do not need.  Carry only those thoughts in your mind which are beneficial.  The load will be lighter when we rid of all the unnecessary baggage.     

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Keep swimming

Exodus 9:16  But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. 

Have you ever felt as if you are a goldfish in an ocean full of sharks?  Do you ever wonder if you will fulfill the purpose which God has set apart for you?  It can be tough at times to feel as if you are making headway toward accomplishing what God has called you to do.  Stumbling blocks along the way may cause you to doubt if you are working toward God's intended purpose in your life. 

Petty jealousies, criticisms, acts of favoritism in the workplace, deeds of unfairness and evil plots by others, can leave a person feeling insignificant and cause one to doubt his/her purpose.  Be aware that these are plots of Satan to deter you from God's purpose for your life.  God does not place doubt and fear in your mind.  He does not want you to stumble from the path to fulfilling his purpose. 

God says to you:
                 -Do not be discouraged  1 Peter 5:6-7
                 -They will not win with their evil schemes      Psalms 21:11
                 -When people seek things or accomplishments with the wrong motives, success does not
                   come     James 4:1-3
                 -your purpose and God's plan for you will be fulfilled regardless of what ANY person on
                  this earth may try to do to you   Prov 19:21

I say to you:
                 -Work diligently as God guides you to
                 -Worship often and acknowledge God's power in your life
                 -be humble with your intentions
                 -refuse to be a part of the pettiness of others
                 -your life and goals are between you and God, not you and your co-workers or friends
                 -daily tell yourself that you refuse to allow any schemes or criticisms to move you off track
                  of your purpose
                 -as Dory said in Finding Nemo,   "keep swimming, keep swimming, keep swimming"
                 -in God's eyes you are beautiful, majestic whale with grace and power that He provides for
                   you
                -"rinse and repeat" all the above as often as necessary


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Forgiveness

John chapters 18, 19, 20 and 21   The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

We can never understand the process and importance of forgiving others until we comprehend what Christ did in order that we may be forgiven. 

I encourage you to study the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It will guide you into an understanding of what forgiveness is really about.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Allow the Savior to stand between you and the storm

Matthew 14: 27  
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 

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. 

When He says, "don't be afraid", we can believe that He will walk on water for us.  He can and will stand between us and all the storms in life.  

Friday, March 11, 2016

Heavenly answers

Proverbs 8:17    I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. 

Asking earthly questions will only give you earthly solutions.

In order for God to move heaven and earth for you, heavenly answers must be sought. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Jealousy

James 3:16   For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

Feelings of jealousy go back to Cain and Abel, the first siblings in the Bible (Genesis 4).  The jealousy that sparked between them was a popularity contest.  Abel found favor with God, Cain did not.  Cain did not want the material things that Abel had, he wanted the same recognition from God.  His jealousy led to anger that in turn led to the murder of his brother.

Jealousy is a volatile emotion.  It is a sin that is inspired by the devil.  Jealousy disrupts inner peace. 

At the root of jealousy if fear.  The fear of losing attention, affection, or favor with people that are important to us.

Jealousy may begin as feelings of resentment toward someone because of their successes or material possessions.  Jealousy may escalate and lead to envy which becomes a covetous mindset. If left unbridled, jealousy and envy will lead to destruction, "a heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones" (Proverbs 14:30).  Envy creeps into the soul because of internal feelings of inferiority.  A lack of contentment contributes to envy.  Selfish desires and a hunger to succeed will be driven by envy.

Envy causes us to strive for the things that others have or the things that others are doing.  "Keeping up with the Joneses" is fed by jealousy.  Those feelings can be subtle and may be kept inside but the desire to have the same things that others have still boils down to a root of jealousy.

Most of us have likely had feelings of jealousy, after all Satan tries his tricks on everyone.  He likes to insert thoughts of covetousness when we are discontent.  He especially likes to move in when we spend time focusing on the imperfections that we perceive to exist in our lives.  The pangs of jealousy are usually dealt with in our minds before they turn into acts of envy.  However, if envy takes root, dangerous emotions and actions may follow.   

Jealousy can be a dangerous emotion.  It is a feeling that we do not readily like to admit.  We want to appear strong and as if we have it all together.  Jealousy is a weakness like any other temptation. 

If you find yourself experiencing feelings of envy or jealousy, pray that God will show you the importance that He places upon you.  Pray for obedience and fulfillment in what He has purposed for your life.   I don't know what each of you feels or where this devotion will find you, but I do know that jealousy is a favorite tool of Satan and he likes to intensify situations with it.   If you are dealing with jealousy, seek from God what is missing in your heart.  Allow him to fill the empty places and inadequate thoughts that you may experience.  We are each of great value to Him and we have our own gifts, talents and purposes.   Instead of being envious of His plan for others, focus on what His plan is for you.   Let God show you all that you are to Him. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Temptation

Proverbs 5: 1-5  My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.  For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother that oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.  her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.

Temptation is all around us.  A great number of temptations will present themselves as sweet options; choices that will be beneficial to us or make us better.  It is difficult at times to initially discern some temptations that may appear to be sweet.  Those temptations that drip honey should be red flags in the beginning. 

In order to understand temptation and to be on guard against those things that drip honey and use sweet talk, we must be prepared for temptation.  We can never think that as long as we are Christians and go to church that we will never be tempted.  Temptations will present themselves in many forms.   Temptations will not always be in the form of addictions, criminal activity, and sexual immorality.  Some temptations will be small and seemingly insignificant, while others are blatantly dangerous and destructive.  Temptation may be in the form of changing your attitude toward righteous living.  It may come in the form of anger and bitterness, grudges and hatred.

Christians are not exempt from temptation.  In fact, Satan is in hot pursuit of all Christians. He will tempt each and every one.  He will drip honey.  He will offer smooth talk.  He will make things look great even when they are not. 

Prepare for temptation by studying God's word in order to gain wisdom.  The pursuit of godly wisdom is like exercising in order to stay in shape.  The pursuit must never be abandoned.  It is good to develop a list of personal principles in order to prepare for temptations.  Developing personal principles give us an opportunity to think about our reactions to temptation.  What would you do if..................?  

 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The junk must go

Jeremiah 29:13 "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."

When we search for God with all our heart, we must rid our hearts of all things that stand between us and God.  We cannot search for God with every inch of our heart while holding on to hurts, vengeful thoughts, anger, and bitterness.  Dragging those things along side us will not offer God ALL of our heart.

When we hang on to hurts that have not been squared away or forgiven, we have junk in our hearts.  That junk looks like insecurities, bitterness, lack of confidence, and lack of desire to move forward in life.  The junk that fills part or all of the heart stands in the way of offering God ALL of your heart. 

The junk must go.  It is a good time for spring cleaning the clutter from our hearts.  Empty out all the junk that is in your heart so that you may seek God with all your heart, free and clear of any negative emotions.   

Search and seek God.  Find Him.

If you have turned from him, return to him.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The wholeness of God

Isaiah 40:29   He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

We cannot begin to heal our emotional wounds until we acknowledge our brokenness.  When we realize our weakness and attest to God's wholeness, then may we be healed.

Even the strongest people we know have emotional wounds.  Even the tough guys have weaknesses.  There are times when we all grow tired of wrestling with hurts and feeling weak.

God is the source of strength.  He is a fortified tower (Prov. 18:10).

God is the source of peace (John 16:33).

God is a solid foundation (Psalms 16:8).

God is a safe haven and protector (Psalm 119:114-115).


Acknowledge God's strength.  Seek to understand his wholeness.  Confess your weakness.  Allow him to increase your power and give you strength for in doing so, you open your heart to healing.     


Friday, March 4, 2016

Clean up the wastelands

Isaiah 40:3   Listen! It's the voice of someone shouting, "Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord!  Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!"

Isaiah foretold the coming of Christ.  God told Isaiah to comfort the people and to encourage them to have patience as they endured their trials and troubles.  Isaiah was telling the people to prepare to see God work in their lives. 

We often present obstacles that hinder God's movement in our lives.  Pride, stubborn attitudes, and seeking our own will are examples of these obstacles.  Our nation has created wastelands where God is no longer welcome.  Many people in the world live in "self-captivity" because of disobedience to God's principles.   

God desires to work in our lives.  He wants to free us from any bondage that may have a stronghold over us.  Trials and sufferings do not have to hold us captive.  God can clean up all the wastelands and plant seeds of comfort and security. 

Prayer:  Lord, shout loudly and clearly to us about any wastelands that we have created in our lives or in the world around us.  Create a desire within us to clear the wilderness for your presence.   Comfort us and show us how to release to you anything that does not produce fertile soil in our lives.  Remove the obstacles within our own hearts that hinder us from allowing you to govern all our intents and actions.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Work is a blessing

Genesis 2: 15    And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

Our work is a blessing that God has bestowed upon us.  It is not something that we should view as a curse.  We should not have an attitude that our work requires us to toil in misery.   Yet, I encounter many people that seem miserable with their work or careers.  I have explored the question of why so many people are unhappy working.   Do people really dislike the jobs that they do or is it that they dislike their coworkers?   Do people really want to play all the time instead of work?   Do people expect others to do all the work and that they should show up and receive a paycheck?

Our attitudes toward work and the specific work that each of us performs is a choice that either makes our work enjoyable or causes us to feel cursed by our jobs.  Is our attitude one of serving God through our work even if we do not have a job in the ministry?   We should have an attitude of thanksgiving for the work that God has designed us to do.  We should be grateful for the opportunity to acquire skills and knowledge.  Each and every job that exists is important in order for our world to have balance.

Are you unhappy with your work?   Do you dread going to work each day?  If so, it is time to find the source of your unhappiness.  Work should be rewarding and enjoyable!! 

I created the following list to explore if you are unhappy with your work:
    - Is God at the center of your life?
    -Do you view your work as a means to glorify God?
    -Are you merely working for self and status or to fulfill your purpose?
    -Do you seek advancements in your work at the expense of others?
    -Is your work only about the money?
    -Do you view your work as a way to improve the life of someone else?
    -Are you truly unhappy with the tasks of your job or are you more unhappy with yourself?

Work attitude is a reflection of our overall attitude about life.   Unhappiness with self and a distant relationship with God will lead to unhappiness in the workplace.   I encourage you to seek happiness and contentment in your work.  If you do not feel that you are fulfilling your purpose, seek what God wants you to do.   Work should be a blessing, not a curse.                              

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Love lasts forever

1 Corinthians 13:13  And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the the greatest of these is love. 

This verse is included in the writings of Paul to a morally corrupt Corinth.  In Corinth, the people had devalued the meaning of love.  Love between the people had become distorted.  There was division, idol worship, and sexual immorality.  Spirituality was absent among the people as they sought to fulfill the desires of the flesh.  Our modern day society still has the same issues with the meaning of love as did the people of Corinth 2000 years ago.

Our family had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Ravi Zacharius speak last year while he was in our area.  He made these statements in the presentation, "love is the most supreme ethic in the world.  All love hangs on Agape-God's love". 

In order for us to understand love, we must seek to understand God.  The Bible tells us, "Whoever does not know love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:8).  Agape love is NOT romantic, friendly love.  Agape love is sacrificial.  It is love in action.  Agape love is loving others the way in which God loves us.  Agape love never asks, "What is in it for me?"

Love is the greatest attribute that we can offer one another.  Pure, unadulterated love from the heart will last forever.  Unconditional love is a truth that will exist in eternity.  God will love us unconditionally forever and He expects us to love one another in the same manner.  

We must love people for who they are, not for what we think they ought to be.  It is easy to love those the match exactly how we think they should look, act and proceed in life.  Some people are difficult to love.  They are the ones that need it most.  The seemingly unlovable people are the ones that will benefit from our love the most.  

Love people as you find them.  Love them where you find them.  Love them just as they are. When the meaning of love has lost its way in the world around us, let us be the definition that God would write next to LOVE in the dictionary.  Let us put love into action by living in ways that reflect sacrifice.  May our actions reveal to others that love is much more than a feeling in the flesh.  May we expand our understanding of Agape love that comes to us from God.  May we take that understanding and teach it to those around us.