The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Friday, April 29, 2016

Today's prayer focus

Psalm 144:1-2   Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.  He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in  whom I take refuge, who subdues people under me.


Today's prayer focus:

Lord, may we be WARRIORS and not worriers. 

As Dr. Charles Stanley so often says, "May we fight our battles on our knees". 

Keep anxiety, fear and discouragement from wreaking havoc in our minds.

Strengthen us in our times of struggle.

Help us to allow the injustices in this world increase our faith in YOU.

Show us how to embrace your love and take refuge in your fortress. 

Place the people in our paths that you want us to serve. 

In Jesus precious name, we ask all things.

AMEN

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Insecurity is a FEELING, not a fact.

Deuteronomy 33:12       And of Benjamin he (Moses) said, "The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders."

Insecurity is often an accompaniment of bitterness.  Insecurity is especially present when bitterness stems from some form rejection.  After all, rejection implies to us that we are not good enough or loved by others.

Insecurity causes us to feel inferior and have little confidence in our value.  It makes us doubt that others love us.  Insecurity produces chronic feelings of self-doubt.  

Insecurity generates fear.  The fears of insecurity look like this:
                        -Who will reject me next?
                        -I am worthless and nobody likes me.
                        -I will isolate myself from activities and relationships so that I will not be rejected.
                        -Everyone intends to hurt me.
                       
Insecurity is an inhibitor in a person's life.  It limits happy, fulfilling relationships.  Insecurity restricts a person's accomplishments.  It prevents wholehearted service and the relationship that a person can offer God.  Insecurity may also cause people to lash out at others in a mode of self-protection.

No one wants to admit insecurity.   It adds vulnerability and fear to an already sensitive esteem.  Self-doubt and uncertainty are not topics of conversation that most people readily initiate.  

If today finds you dealing with insecurity and fear, look to God to find security in your heart.   Trust Him to secure your surroundings by blessing your relationships and endeavors.   Remember that insecurity and fear are FEELINGS, not  facts.  Search for the truths that God has placed in your life. Open your heart to the blessings that he has provided you.  Cherish the people which He has placed in your life to help you fell secure. 

He intends for each of us to feel loved and secure.  He wants us to enjoy relationships and find comfort and security day to day.  May His love and comfort dwell in the mind of each of you so that you never experience insecurity. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Release the bitterness into a memory

Proverbs 14:10     Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.

Each of us knows or has known our own bitterness, however great or small.  The circumstances that cause bitterness within people vary and the mechanisms of injury that cause the hurts may be different.  However, the consequences and by-products of bitterness are UNIVERSAL.  The same type of destructive  root will begin to grow in the heart, no matter the cause of the bitterness.    

I have not sustained the same trials and tragedies that many of you have endured.  I do not know the levels of betrayal, the depth of the injustices, the magnitude of your sorrow, nor the acts that have occurred in each of your lives.

I am familiar with the thoughts and questions that have gone through your minds.  I have endured the feelings that consume you at times and some that have haunted you for long enough.

I know how Satan can trample all over your inner self.  He can even cause you to dislike others as well as yourself.

I remember the anger, fear and frustration that accompanies bitterness.

Above all else, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God stands ready to heal you and take away all the negative emotions and consequences that bitterness presents.  He stands ready to restore your feelings.  He desires for you to have a new attitude.  Allow him to reconcile your heart.  Release the bitterness and set it aside as a memory.  

I have in my mind the memories of experiencing the accompaniments of bitterness.  I am so thankful that the bitterness is only a memory!!  I now have in my presence the joy and peace that God offers in place of the bitterness.  The same joy and peace is available for you as well. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Parenting

Proverbs 1:8-9  Listen my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching.  They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. 

I remember the time that each of our children, around age 9 or 10, declared that he/she was leaving home.  Each time it followed a battle of the wills, where their will did not win.  It is funny how it seems that every child makes this announcement at some point.  Because they were in a hurry, I helped each one of them pack.  While they gathered the essential favorite toy or stuffed animal, I packed things like a spatula for cooking their favorite grilled cheeses, bathroom essentials--you get the picture.  As I kissed each child goodbye and he/she walked out the front door, I stood at the window to watch.  Funny, in those moments, I vividly remembered the day I did the same to my mother; I was also 10.  I walked about half-way to my grandmother's house, at the snack that I had packed, then turned around and went home.  The farthest that any of my three children traveled in the declaration of independence was to the third tree in our driveway.  This is a distance of about 200 yards from our front door.  The remainder of the long driveway presented uncertainty and loneliness.  Then there was the realization of being on your own is tough and so each of them returned. 

I cannot say that those instances were the last battles of the wills.  Plenty have followed, especially in the teen years.  The quest for independence becomes intense during adolescence. 

Parenting is tough.  It requires fortitude, a mental toughness, with a framework of grace.  The redemptive love that Christ offers us is the same type of love that parenting requires.  In the tough times, no matter how upset, disappointed or confused you are about the situation, the children must know, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are loved.  They must also know that as a parent, you are their teacher, leader, disciplinarian and protector.  I believe this is especially true in the teen years.  While they would never admit it to us, children inwardly desire for us to guide them. 

Teens do not possess the judgment required to make decisions within their best interest.  Their desires and decisions are based on fleshly emotions and peer pressure.  Even though a teenager will not always agree with your decisions or reasoning, there is deep need within them for us be the protectors.  They look to us as parents to make tough decisions for them.  

Many times children will not agree with the rules and choices of the parents.  They want to tell us that we are bad parents or that we do not want them to have any fun.  When a child or teen tells you that you are the worst mom in the world and in the emotion of that moment you are tempted to believe it and give in, DO NOT rearrange your rules and principles.  Parenting is not effective when it is based upon emotions and the desire for the children to be happy with all the rules and decisions.  Retreat to a quiet place, get on your knees and give it to God-brokenness and all.  Pray for strength and His guidance in all aspects of parenting.  

Parenting does matter.  At some point teens will come to realize the importance of the time that you held firmly to the "no" or the principle that you are teaching them.  During the rough spots of adolescence, remember that the teen years are only a brief part of the make up of their lives.  Remind them of that as often as necessary.  Also remind them that when it is all said and done, you, as parents, love them and love is the reason for which we discipline. 


Monday, April 25, 2016

UP

Psalms 23:1  Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens.  


When you have a day or days that you are at your lowest and the whole world is in your face,

GET UP out of that bed,

STAND UP to the devil,

LOOK UP to what God has in store for you,

SPEAK UP for what you know to be true and real!

If we continue to look up toward heaven for all that ails us, we will be granted the courage to endure negative pressures from the world.  His omniscience will provide encouragement, strength, and discernment.  The key is to continue to look to heaven for all the answers.  Stand up against things that are wrong in this world.  Speak up for God's truth at any given opportunity.  In all things, we must keep our eyes upon the Lord!

Friday, April 22, 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 he/she did to me......", "I will never feel the same again....", "I will never forget how he 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.  The old saying, "hurting people, hurt people" is likely to become a truth when bitterness takes root within us.  

We wrong God when we harbor bitterness and when it overflows from our mouths.  We separate ourselves from the thoughts and behaviors that He expects from us.  If we have bitterness and unforgiveness that needs attention, we are unable to love others as God loves us. 

If there is bitterness brewing deep inside, do not overlook it.  It is best to deal with it before it erupts and overflows from the mouth.   

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Same things are in the dark as in the day"

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

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

The real reason for fear of the dark is that we cannot see as well in the dark.  We think that there are "unknowns" in the dark.  As humans, we fear that which we cannot see.  In reality, we face darkness every day.  Uncertainties of tomorrow or farther into the future can bring about paralyzing fear and insecurity.  Worries about the outcomes of various situations can induce apprehension that distracts us from living in peace.

Fear of the dark, both literally and figuratively, is about faith.  Letting go of our fears is a matter of placing trust in Jesus Christ to light the way through our lives.  He will first and foremost provide us with an eternal light through salvation.  He will also light up the darkness so that we can have peace and security in every situation in life.   

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Labels

1 Corinthians 2:11  For who among men know the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him?

I love to sew! I have probably said this before, I would rather sew than eat!  I love to sew clothing, crafts, purses, and home d├ęcor.  The last step for me when I make something is to put a label in my creation.  The label bears the name of my sewing business. That is all that the label contains.  The label does not tell you that I put hours of planning and work into the item.  It does not tell of the mistakes that I made and corrected along the way.  The label does not reveal neither broken sewing machine needles nor pin pricks to my fingers.  It also does not tell the customer how much love and joy I put into creating each item that I produce.   The label on the finished product is there to identify the item as being my creation.  The customer's mind is open to fill in the details of how the item came to be.

As human beings, we label.  We label others as smart, poor, wealthy, nice, mean, etc. We label hastily and often times unnecessarily.  We label according to how people appear on the surface, instead of how they are deep in the heart. 

How many times do we mislabel?  Have we often missed out on knowing the inner details of someone because we do not read past the "label"?  How many times do we miss out on being blessed by someone because we are not willing to learn more about them? 

I recently learned something about a friend of mine that I had never known.  I had labeled her, in a good way, before I knew her story.  I had labeled her as a person whose life had been sugar coated with much happiness.  I had included in that label much success on her part that was likely due to a lifelong deep relationship with God.  When I learned the details of her younger life, I was made keenly aware of the fact that labels do not tell us everything about an item (in this case a person).  She had been through many things that had molded her into the Christian woman that she is today.  In her lifetime she has experienced deep rejection, poverty, and verbal abuse.  Her life has not been sugar coated, however God has provided her with opportunities to succeed through him.  It has not always been an easy road. 

Just as I put much time and effort into creating a garment, God puts much time and effort into creating each of us.  There are many pin pricks and mistakes along the way.  There are difficulties and disappointments.  There are years of molding and shaping.  However, He can take all those things and create a beautiful person!

My prayer today is that we will grow in Christ so that we will not be quick to label others.  May we learn about people beyond the label which we may be tempted to place upon them, allowing God to show us the beauty of each of His creations in depths beneath the faces that we look upon. 


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

God does not make junk!

Psalms 139:14: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 

This verse is full of words that should boost our self-esteem and self-worth.  We are wonderfully created. 

God does not make junk.

God thought about and covered all details when he made us.  Our body systems function together to sustain life.  Our minds and bodies are capable of great works for His glory.  As females, we can carry and deliver new life!  What a beautiful quality God has given us.

Then why do so many females have such negative self-images.    Because we look to the world to define beauty and appeal.   Television, magazines, clothing stores, and peers describe the "perfect" bodies.   Every form of media shows us bodies that are toned, groomed, and exploited.   Medical procedures offer opportunities for removal or alteration of body parts that do not meet our standards of perfection and acceptance.   Our bodies are somewhat of an obsession.

Some are so focused on their bodies that extreme measures are taken to produce a picture perfect body.  Surgeries may be performed in order to achieve a desired look.  Weight loss is such a focus in our society that women are willing to spend copious amounts of money with hopes of looking like a magazine cover girl.   Wrinkle prevention and anti-aging creams have become a multi-billion dollar industry globally.  Women look to prevent, change, and rearrange natural occurrences of the body.     


Most ladies never reach their goal of perfection. They never feel pretty enough, thin enough, or like they look young enough.  They never feel validated, accepted, or loved. The words in Psalm 139:14 ARE enough because God's word is the truth!

If you are battling with a negative self-image or lack of self-worth, I encourage you to hold on to the words of Psalms 139:14.  You will not see them on the cover of a magazine, nor in a television commercial with a super model, nor on the tag of a piece of clothing.  Look to yourself as a whole body.  You are much more than a stomach with a few extra pounds, eyes with a few wrinkles, or a head with thinning hair.    Focus on your self by exploring the potential that the parts of your body have in regards to serving God.  Our hands can serve and care for others.  Our minds can pray and encourage others.  Our legs can form laps for holding children.  Our ears can listen when others are hurting. 

You are beautiful and valuable just the way you are. God designed you and He does not make junk! 

Monday, April 18, 2016

From Bitterness to Blessings

Ruth 1:20  "Don't call me Naomi,"  she told them.  "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.  I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.  Why call me Naomi?  The Lord has afflicted me;  the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me."

The book of Ruth is a great example of how the effects of bitterness have the potential to alter the course of one's future.  I encourage you to read the entire book in order to absorb how the future could have been different if Naomi had allowed her bitterness to control her love for God. 

Naomi was bitter because in a short period of time she lost her husband and two sons.  Her entire family was gone.  In verse 20 we get a picture of the bitterness that she felt inside.  She felt empty.  She felt as though God had caused her great heartache and loss.  By reading the entire book of Ruth, we see how Naomi's actions and persistence indicate that even though she was going through grief and bitterness, she never stopped loving God.  Her feelings did not disable her from God's will. 

The fact that she loved God in the first place is a great testimony.  At this time in history, most of the people did not love God, instead they did whatever they thought was best.  Naomi held love in her heart for God and carried out the traditions of the time in order to fulfill his will.

Another of the many lessons in the book of Ruth is loyalty.  Ruth was Naomi's daughter-in-law.  When Ruth's husband died, she promised to stay with Naomi.  Naomi tried to get Ruth to go back to her family but Ruth vowed to stay with Naomi until their lives were over.  In Naomi's time of bitterness, Ruth was a source of strength and love.  Ruth learned to love God from Naomi.  Their relationship was remarkable. 

In those days, there wasn't anything much worse than being widowed.  Widows were usually poverty stricken and were often ignored.  Naomi's focus became to help Ruth find another husband.  By tradition, widowed women married a brother of their dead husbands.  Since Ruth's husband had no living siblings, she and Naomi moved to Bethlehem seeking relatives.  A man named Boaz was a relative of Naomi and she coached Ruth in how to get Boaz's attention.   Ruth and Boaz married and had a son named Obed.  This birth began the family line of Jesus, the Messiah. 

The book of Ruth may be to some a mere story of Ruth's love for Naomi.  While this is truly a part of the story, there is so much more to glean from it.  While Naomi and Ruth suffered great tragedy, their love for God remained strong.  In their sorrow and bitterness, God brought great blessings.  Instead of wallowing in the bitterness, Naomi took actions to see that God's will was carried out.  In verse 20 Naomi was honest with God about how she felt.  She had lost everything and was in deep sorrow.  Her bitterness was such that she changed her name to Mara, which means bitter. 

God understands our honest, raw emotions.  He hears the cries of our heart.  When we continue to love him and when we work through the bitterness, He can and will replace that bitterness with blessings.


Friday, April 15, 2016

Curves

James 1:12 "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."

I bought a new pair of pants recently and as I removed all the tags, there was a tag hanging from the belt loop that contained this quote from Mae West, "Curve: the loveliest distance between two points". I chuckled at the statement as we do not usually agree that all our "curves" are lovely. 
As I pondered the tag, I thought of the "curves" of life, those unexpected sharp turns, steep curves that are difficult to maneuver. When we drive, a curve causes us to pay attention to the road and if the curve is steep, it requires us to slow down.  We should enter sharp curves by driving with both hands on the wheel.  If we fail to negotiate the curve in a car, we will lose control and likely wreck the car.  
Such is true with curves of life.  Curves can come in the form of job loss, death of a loved one, betrayal of a friend, health problems, turmoil at work or church-the list can be lengthy.  We must approach the curves of life with attention and focus.  In those times, God wants us to slow down, pay attention to Him and concentrate on his promises and principles.  If we lose control of our faith in him while maneuvering the curves of life, we compromise our commitment to him.  Slow down in the curves.  Pay attention to His word.  Listen for His instruction.  He will make the road ahead easier to maneuver so that we do not lose control in the curves.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Keep your eyes and feet pointed forward

Isaiah  43:18  Forget the former things, do not dwell in the past.
 

Anatomy review:  We have two eyes in the anterior portion of our bodies.
                               Our heads will not turn completely around to the backside.
                               We do not have rear view mirrors.
                               While it is possible to take steps backwards, our feet point forward for easier movement in that direction.


Our bodies are designed perfectly!   God designed us to look forward, literally.  Our eyes point ahead of us.  In order to see behind us, we must turn our whole body around.  We cannot look at what is behind us and what is in front of us at the same time.  God wants us to view the events and decisions in our lives in the same manner--looking forward.  He does not want us to dwell on things of the past, particularly the negative and hurtful things, bad decisions and sin. He intends for us to look and move forward, distinctively toward His kingdom. 

Continuously looking into the past is unproductive and extremely tiring.  Allow God to help you forget the past so that you can look forward.  Keep your feet pointed ahead and take your steps in that direction.  No walking backwards.  No looking back.

Isaiah 43:25  "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

God does not look back upon our sins and past mistakes.  In this verse, "for my own sake" tells us that God forgives us purely from the love that he has for us. He remembers them no more so that we may be new creations as we move forward to the advancement of his kingdom. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Are there rocks in your pocket?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Activated Memories

Revelation 21:4  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. 

Do you ever have one of those days when a negative emotion or memory just pops up out of the blue?   The day is seemingly going great, and then-THUD here comes the remembrance of a hurtful event or situation. Maybe the memory was prompted by something someone said, something you read, or a date on the calendar that signifies a painful memory.  I had one of those moments recently.  A memory was activated by what someone said.  Although it was not with the intent to cause any pain,  my mind flooded with some painful memories and questions for which I still do not have the answers. 

Those instances may knock you backwards and threaten to knock you down.  If you have already dealt with forgiveness and letting go, then remind yourself that you have done so and remember to:  SORT, SIEVE, LEARN AND LEAVE.  

-Sort out the truths and facts vs. feelings. Feel the emotions and refuse to linger on them.  
-Sieve all the negatives, hold on to the positives.  Let go of the things over which you have no control.
-Learn what God wants you to learn about yourself and about him.
-Leave the bitterness and bad memories behind. 

If the memory/emotion lingers in your mind and you have not dealt with forgiveness and letting go, now is the time to do so. 

We cannot totally erase memories or avoid things that trigger the memories.  We can choose to avoid entertaining the side effects of those memories deep inside us.  In the not so distant past, the same memory trigger would have sent me into a negative tailspin that would have lasted for days.  The internal commotion of asking why, how, and what were they thinking would have been the focus of my day.   This time, I just said God I know you are still aware of this hurt and that I have given it to you. 

Thank God for taking care of all things! 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Do not force closed doors to open

1 Chronicles 29:13  David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, "Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.  Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.  Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.  Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.  In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.  Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name".

A dear friend of mine vowed this to God:  "I promised the Lord I would walk through any door He opens and would not try to force open any door he closes".  Read that again.   Such a profound promise with a heart to follow the will of God!  This promise is loaded with obedience and a desire to serve God.  I have witnessed first hand her commitment to this vow.

We are not always accepting of those closed doors.  Often times we want to break the lock and pry the door open because we think that the path we need to follow is on the other side of that particular door knob.  Our flesh may want something so badly that we push and tug at that door knob trying to get it to open. I have been guilty of this myself.

I have learned that closed doors do not mean that God has said "no".  An unopened door does not necessarily indicate that our mission is being thwarted.  It may feel like it at the time, however, a closed door means that God wants you to go into another area where he has plans for fulfilling His purpose.  He has the map.  He will easily open the doors which he wants us to enter. It may not happen as quickly as we wish; God may have us waiting for his perfect timing. 

We are comfortable with the familiar places and routines in which we live.  God expects us to trust and be comfortable going into new territories.  He also expects us to leave closed doors closed.  No pushing, picking the locks, nor banging on the door to get in.

Watch for the open doors.  Walk through with faith and courage.
Accept the closed doors with the same faith and courage.

May we all make the same promise to God!

Friday, April 8, 2016

God understands our plans and dreams

Psalm 147:5   Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.

It is easy for us to plan our lives and dreams.  We look ahead at how we want the details to fall into place.  We can see clearly what will work best for us.  We expect the details to be pleasing and the transitions to be smooth.  We desire for the road to be easy and the yolk to be light.

When we wish for details and plans to happen a certain way, we are disappointed when they do not work out as such.  Details such as not being chosen for a job that we really want, not being accepted into the college of our choice, not performing on exams or at work as we would like, are things that may cause disappointment or feelings of inadequacy.  We may begin to wonder why our life path seems so clear to us, however it is not working out as clearly as we can see.

God has a plan for each of our lives.  For each and every one of us, He can see from the beginning to the end.  He has the power to cause all the details to fall into place, according to His will.  According to His will.  Not according to our plans.  There will be times when his will does not align with our dreams.  His plan for us may contain different details than what we have mapped out. 

God is mighty and powerful!  Just as the Bible tells us.   When we pray for our dreams and plans, we want the answer to be "yes".  However, our prayer should really be that God's will be done and that our lives fall into place according to His plans.  Understanding God's sovereignty is the key to understanding when his answer to our prayer is "no" or "not right now". 

In the midst of disappointment it is difficult to comprehend how anything better can come along.  When we want our plans to work out so badly, it is hard to move past disappointment.  When our minds are clouded with disappointment, we cannot see what better things God has in store for us.  Our pride opens up the opportunity for bitterness to grow because we feel as if we have failed.  Through various situations in my life, some with great disappointments, there have been times when I did not understand why God said "no" to my prayers.  As life progresses and all the details fall into place, I can look back and see that God's plan was best and that his way of presenting the details was necessary.

If you are dealing with a disappointment relating to your plans and dreams, do not view this as failure. Perhaps you didn't get a job you really wanted or one of the other examples listed above, or maybe you are disappointed by other plans that did not work out as you expected.  Do not entertain thoughts and feelings of inadequacy.  Do not allow the disappointment to keep you from seeing what God has in store for your life.  If you wait patiently, you will most likely at a later time see why God chose the details as he did.  God will work out all the details of your life in ways that you may not have ever considered.  There is no limit to how he can organize all the specifics so that we will be equipped to fulfill his plans for us. 


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Maintaining peace

James 4:7-8 Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.


Maintaining daily peace requires submission of yourself and all the turmoil in your life to God. On a daily basis we must humble ourselves before God and let him handle the turmoil.  Refusing to allow our minds to entertain negative thoughts helps to maintain our daily peace.  Prayer and trust in God is the key to cultivating a peaceful, joy filled life.   

There are many opportunities throughout each day for a disruption of our inner peace. The moment that we are awake each day, Satan likes to begin to "mess in our peace".  It may begin with reminders of difficulties in our lives.  He may use other people to say things or treat us in ways that disturb our peace and joy.  Satan desires to draw us away from the peace that we can experience when we draw near to God and trust in him.  

Verse 7 tells us to resist the devil. What does this look like in our quest for daily inner peace? It looks like this:

1. When you get up and negative thoughts or memories come into your mind, refuse to dwell on these (no wallowing; no ruminating). Immediately begin to list at least 3 positive thoughts or memories, otherwise the devil has a good start at ruining your day.

2. No reading negative things on social media--there is a delete button for your convenience. Turn that television off or better yet, disconnect it. Most things on TV are sad, negative or contain fear inducing material.

3. Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people. If you feel that you do not know any of these folks, pray and God will send some your way.

4. This is last, however it is MOST important. PRAY, PRAY AND PRAY. Prayer is how you give it all to God and how peace is found.

Your thoughts and actions contribute to the level of peace within yourself.  Put all discouraging thoughts aside.  Be encouraged by the peace that God has in store for you. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Queen Anne's Lace

Matthew 15:13-14   He replied, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.  Leave them; they are blind guides.  If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."

When I read this verse, Queen Anne's Lace came to mind.  Queen Anne's Lace is a delicate plant that is appealing to the eyes.  The name is elegant and dainty.  The white bloom of the plant resembles lace and the story goes that the red center of the blooms represents a blood droplet when the queen pricked her finger while making lace.

A beautiful plant with such delicacy, yet it is a WEED.  In fact, the USDA has declared it a noxious weed, a threat to livestock and crops.  The plant's function is to attract insects particularly wasps.  However, in pastures if this plant is ingested by livestock, it may be detrimental to their health. 

This takes us to relationships, friendships, and co-workers.  Sometimes groups of friends and co-workers may have Queen Anne's Lace growing in their pastures.  Think about this for second.  Have you ever been in a group of people, social friends, or a group at work where there is a person that is seemingly beautiful and beneficial only to discover that an attraction to that person may be detrimental?  Have you noticed that some people seem to attract wasps that add to the sting of the leader's behavior?  You see, by nature, we are drawn to things of beauty and stamina.  Like an insect attracted to a plant, we want to see what such people have to offer us. 

We must be careful of weeds that are noxious.  Outward beauty and strong personalities are not always indicators of inward beauty and acceptable behaviors.  We must be careful to avoid being like Jesus described in Matthew 15:13-14.  We must protect ourselves from blindly following others that do not follow the principles of scripture.  If we find ourselves following people that do not uphold biblical principles, we risk falling into the pit of destruction with them.

It is imperative that we guard our personal principles.  Situations will always arise to test our standards and ethics.  We must stand firm in what we know to be true and avoid following others that seem to lack good spiritual eyesight.   It is good practice to learn the difference between beneficial plants and dangerous weeds.  Biblical wisdom will aid in that discernment.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Encourage others to believe in themselves

John 8: 6-11  But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.   Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?"  "No one, sir,"  she said.  "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared.  "Go now and leave your life of sin."

Everyone needs someone who believes in him/her.   Having someone who believes in us can make the difference between a life remaining as it is or a life that will move toward the potential that God has planned for each of us.  

Over the years of teaching college courses, I often encountered students that struggle with the material.  Radiologic Science is difficult material.  Courses include radiation physics, radiation biology, imaging techniques and imaging equipment.   With increased study efforts and practice, along with the support of professors, most students overcome the struggles and come to a full understanding of the material.

In getting to know students throughout the years, God revealed to me that very often, the greatest area in which some students struggle is not so much the difficulty of the material.  Many students struggle with believing in themselves which becomes a barrier for comprehending the materials.  So many times, students are more than capable of completing the courses; however, life's circumstances and events may leave them without the belief that they can accomplish their goals.  Satan will run through this open door and compound the discouragement.  

The same must be true in all realms of life.  I would venture to guess that many people in all situations of work, school, family, etc. need encouragement in order to believe in themselves.  In the Scripture above, a woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus.  This verse is about many things, such as being judgmental, forgiveness and the treatment of others.  When I read the verse today, I saw a savior who believes in us!  Jesus showed the woman that he believed in her; that she could change her life for the better.  He helped her to see that she had worth and was important.  He stood up for her in the crowd and proved that he is a great encourager.  He knows that all of us can rise above our circumstances, whatever they may be, and overcome the struggles that are present in our lives. 

The woman in the story was encouraged.  This surely made a difference in her life.  I have seen the same encouragement make a difference in the lives of students.  I have witnessed first hand how people can rise above their circumstances and move toward their potential.

Encouragement falls under our command to love one another.  By encouraging, we love.  When we reinforce a person's potential, we cheer them on and promote love. If you are aware of someone who struggles to believe in themselves or their potential, please become a cheerleader for them.  Offer encouragement and the unconditional love that Jesus offered the woman in the passage of John 8.     

Monday, April 4, 2016

God wants to heal and restore

Jeremiah 30:12-13   "This is what the Lord says: 'Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing.  There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you.

Jeremiah 30:17   But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord.' "

If you only read these two verses it might appear that God is contradicting himself.  These verses must be studied in context with the entire book of Jeremiah.  God is not referring to a physical wound or ailment in these verses.  Even though the language that refers to the "wound" is somewhat medical in nature, God is talking about sin.  Sin is a terminal illness.  No doctor can cure it.  No other person on earth can remove it from us.  Only God, through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus, can remove our sin.

Looking at Jeremiah 30:17, God's promise of healing and restoration is clear.  He will heal our wounds.

He promises!

God is ready and willing to cure the disease of sin.  He is accessible any place and any time that we are ready to be healed.  The key is that we must be willing to allow Him to heal and restore us.  He is eager to see us turn from sin and destruction.  His desire is that we live a life that is renewed and that all the "old" things about us will be replaced so that we be reconciled to him (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

God will rehabilitate people from addictions.  He will rescue those that are abused and neglected.  He will replace attitudes that reflect ungodly thoughts.  He will repair broken relationships.  Whatever the wound, however severe the injury, God can heal it and restore you.

If you are in need of restoration, allow God to do His mighty work of healing within you.  The effort required of you is mainly between your ears.  It is a mental effort that involves recognizing God's sovereignty and submitting to His authority.  When you are willing to put forth the effort, He will resolve your issues and apply healing.  

Friday, April 1, 2016

The law of the harvest

Galatians 6:7-8  Do not be deceived:  God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  

The Bible promises us that we will reap what we sow.  The harvest will be good if we sow seeds that God expects us to sow.   The harvest will not be so desirable if we sow seeds with fleshly motives that are self-serving.  Galatians 6:7-10 tells us that when we act out of the flesh, we will suffer consequences.

The law of the harvest is that if we sow watermelon seeds, we cannot plan on harvesting pumpkins; we will grow watermelons.  If we sow criticism, gossip, and slander, we cannot expect to harvest compassion, friendship, and honor.  We cannot sow trouble all around us and reap peace. We cannot sow seeds of greed and look for generosity to be heaped upon us.

Just as we can distinguish fruits and vegetables growing on their vines, our vines will produce the fruits according to our plantings.  In Luke 6:38, we are told that we will receive measures according to the measures in which we give.  If we relentlessly sow in the flesh, we will only reap in the flesh.  In order to harvest fruits of the spirit, we must plant seeds that please the spirit.  Peace, patience, joy, and kindness can be planted and will yield a bountiful harvest.