The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Is it easier to forgive when an apology is offered?

Ephesians 4:32   Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.

Is it easier to forgive someone who repents and is remorseful of the wrong they have done against us?   Allow that to soak in.  It seems easier to forgive someone that comes to you with repentance and is genuinely sorry for the offense.   But, should it be easier to forgive in this manner?  If we have an attitude of forgiveness, it should be easy for us to forgive in any circumstance.  

God expects us to forgive with or without repentance and apologies.  However, our pride and stubbornness will sometimes hold out for the remorse from the other person.  The emotional side of us wants and emotional forgiveness-to see that a lesson was learned on the part of offender.  We want to see that they realize the hurt that was brought upon us.  We feel like a bit of justice was served if there is genuine remorse.

Forgiveness is not about emotions and feelings.  We cannot entertain the expectation that our offenders will ever show remorse or repentance.  There are so many situations where this never happens.  Perhaps the offender passes away before amends are made, maybe the offender is not a Christian and never acknowledges God's convictions about doing wrong to others.  Some people simply feel that they do no wrong and refuse to be accountable for their wrongs.  

We cannot wait and delay taking care of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is in the heart of the beholder.  It is beneficial to the offended more so than the offender.   Forgiveness is to be worked out between you (the offended) and God.  Forgiveness is necessary for your heart to be more like God's.  It is to free your mind of the attitudes of injustice, anger, vengeance and bitterness. 

If you have unforgiveness in your heart that beckons to be addressed, yet you are waiting for an apology or repentance from the offender, let go of that expectation.  You may wait forever and it may never happen.   Take care of the unforgiveness ASAP.  To hold unforgiveness in your heart is a sin on your part.  Forgiveness is between you and God anyway. 
  

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Filling in the Blanks

Isaiah 11:3      He will delight in obeying the Lord.  He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay.

Years ago at a bridal shower for one of my college friends, we played a game of fill in the blank.  It was designed to show how well we knew the bride by asking various questions that were not the most obvious things you might know about someone.  I still remember the laughs we had as the answers were read and how the bride would tell us if we were right or in most of the cases, we were not even close with the answers.

This game was all in fun but how many times do we fill in the blanks with how we think we know people?   Are we quick to make judgments based on appearances, hearsay or false evidence.  I think that we can all bring to mind a time when we made a "fill in the blank" judgment about someone and then after we really began to know the person, we realized that our initial assumption was far from the true person.   Perhaps you can call to mind a time when such assumptions were made about you.  Some we can chuckle about while others may have caused hurt.  

We do not like it when people make judgments about us based upon appearance, assumptions, or hearsay.  Many times such judgments arise because of jealousy or insecurity.  It is frustrating when others do not take the time to learn who we really are.  Are we quick to judge others using the same standards with which we find hurtful?  How often do we make assumptions without taking the time to get to know a person?  

Only God can perfectly judge us and he does not use appearance or hearsay.  No "fill in the blanks" with him.  While we expect others not to judge us unfairly, we should also ask that He govern our hearts in order to be fair with our treatment of others.  If we are tempted to fill in the blanks, may we take the time to get to know a person and their situation.  May we always look beyond the initial appearance of each individual and pay attention to what is deep inside the heart.                                     

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rise above challenging circumstances

Hebrews 10:35-36  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 

The message for today: 

Do not conform to your circumstances.  Rise above the challenging situations that life presents. 

I am so thankful that Jesus did not conform to his circumstances while he was here on earth.  I am thankful that he faced each challenge with courage and the mind set that he was going to carry out God's will no matter what he encountered.   He was mocked, cursed, rejected, and pretty much homeless, yet he did not dwell on those details.  He did not sit in the sand,  have a huge pity party and invite all his friends.  He did not become paralyzed by the actions and treatments of others.   He remained focused on his purpose, moving forward with all that he was to accomplish. 

Was it all easy for him?  I doubt it.  I am sure there were times that he stood in disbelief of how people thought and behaved.  I imagine that his heart was broken several times as he witnessed the actions of people around him.  I am sure that discouragement tried to creep into his mind at various points during his ministry.

Jesus' confidence never faltered.  In challenging situations, Jesus did not react with with defeat or discouragement.  He had complete confidence in his Father.  His confidence and faith that God's perfect will in his life would be fulfilled, allowed Jesus to pursue his earthly ministry with assurance. 

When we face difficult situations in life, we are tempted to react with an attitude of defeat.  We are often tempted to define ourselves by the circumstances which we experience.  While we may suffer defeat at some points in life, we are not defeated!  If we can learn to view defeat and difficulties as challenges in which we are eager to rise above, we can grow and abound in our relationship with God.  Perseverance without dwelling on any negative details strengthens faith.  Confidence in God's purpose for each of us will allow us to pursue our earthly ministry work with the same assurance that Jesus embodied. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The desire to help others must never be replaced by the self-gratification of power

1 Kings 11:11   So the Lord said to Solomon, "Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates".

When the desire to help others is replaced by the self-gratification of power, kingdoms are torn down.  The love of power and splendor separates people from God.  God does not favor the actions of those who are self-serving.

Solomon was appointed as king when his father, David, was near death.  Solomon was a wise king.  He was granted wisdom and authority by God to be used for ruling the kingdom of Israel.  As king, Solomon became wealthy and famous.  His advice and wisdom were sought by people.  He was approached as a counselor of sorts as people desired the wisdom that God had bestowed in his heart.  He was often paid for his counsel and he accumulated many assets as a result.

As Solomon absorbed the fame and power that he had acquired, his heart became more interested in  self-gratification.  He enjoyed many women and began to worship idols.  The women, who were from many different countries, introduced him to their idols and other gods.  God had warned Solomon when he became king that he needed to guard his heart against going astray.  He had been specifically warned about marrying women from foreign countries, "because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods" (1 Kings 11:2).  The self-gratification of his power led Solomon to follow after things other than what God had intended for him.

Solomon's attitude and rebellion caused his kingdom to be taken away.  God was angry with Solomon, "so the Lord said to Solomon, 'Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates'" (1 Kings 11:11).

No matter the task that God has placed before us, we must not allow any authority or attention to become an idol.  When God grants us wisdom or appoints us to preside over a calling, we must use that appointment for His glory, not for self-gratification.  If we become like Solomon, then we lose the desire to help others and to glorify God.  We must guard our hearts against the idols of recognition  and prosperity.  We must remain eager to help others and never lose the desire to advance God's kingdom.    

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Fresh fish and stale hush puppies

Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

There is a small, family owned restaurant about half an hour from us where we have been eating for over 30 years.  It is not fancy at all.  The chairs and tables are old and somewhat worn.   The walls are paneled from the 1960s and lined with various photos and local art.  You will likely find a velvet Elvis picture on the back wall.  We go there for the catfish dinner.   The fish is out of this world.  Long tender fingers of flaky white catfish, homemade Cole slaw that is amazing, and fresh hot crinkle fries (my favorite).   Then there are the hush puppies-usually cold and so stale that you could break the glass in a window with one.  I cannot figure out for the life of me why everything else about the dinner is so good but the hush puppies are so not good.  Hush puppies are so easy and fast to make.  You would think in all the years that they have been open, they would have perfected their hush puppy. After all, the rest of the fish dinner is PERFECT!

As I was eating there recently, I thought about the fresh fish and stale hush puppies.   Our lives can seem like that at times.  Maybe our spiritual relationship can seem a bit stale sometimes or perhaps when difficult things pop up in our lives, we are tempted to allow ourselves to dwell on the stale hush puppy instead of all the fresh fish. 

God will take all those stale areas of the lives of those who love him and work them for good.  He will teach us lessons that work toward our long range good and move us forward as he molds us to fulfill his purpose within us.  Negative occurrences should not ruin our relationship with God.  One stale aspect of life should not spoil the excitement in working for God. 

We are called to God's purpose.  In fulfilling that purpose, there will times when we are tempted to focus on the difficulties.  Evil is prevalent in our world.  We are a fallen people.  God can turn any situation around for our good.  We claim the good that He has to offer us by loving and obeying Him. Trusting in God to use our lives for the "good" of His kingdom is the way in which store heavenly treasures.  

Just leave the stale puppies and dwell on the wonderful fish! 




Tuesday, June 21, 2016

God sees our potential

Philippians 3:13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this on thing:  Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling me. 

We have all done things in life that we regret.  Satan tries to cause us to dwell on our mistakes.  He wants us to ruminate our failures.  He tries to fill our minds with regret.  If we allow our minds to  be consumed with mistakes and regret, we become distracted Christians.  If we wallow in the past, we cannot effectively proceed into the future.  By looking backwards, we lose our focus on the goal before us.

In this passage of Philippians, Paul is saying that he has not reached perfection, but that he presses forward to reach the perfection that Jesus Christ has to offer (Philippians 3:12).  Paul wanted to know Christ.  He wanted to experience the resurrection power that Christ has to offer.  Paul desired to be all that Christ had in mind for him.  Paul had many regrets from his former life.  He realized that dwelling on his regrets and mistakes was not conducive to becoming closer to Christ.  

Mistakes are isolated moments in time, not permanent reflections of who you are.  Learn from mistakes and allow the lesson to add to your wisdom.  Do not allow your mistakes or memories of past mistakes to overpower the whole person that you are.

God does not focus on our mistakes.  He does not repetitively look at our past.  God sees the potential in each and every one of us. God knew that we would make mistakes.  He made provisions for us (John 3:16).  Once you call upon His name for forgiveness, you do not have to think about or worry about those mistakes any more.  God's intention is to mold us to fulfill his purpose which is to for us to be more like Christ every day.   

If you spend time ruminating about things for which you regret, STOP!  Lay aside harmful thinking that includes mistakes and failures.  Refuse to live in the imbalance of what you have been versus what you can be.  Begin to live in the stability of the potential that God sees in you.  You can grow in the knowledge and wisdom of God.  He offers a fuller and more meaningful life because of our hope in Christ.   

Monday, June 20, 2016

Instead of justice, focus on purpose

Psalms 3:7-8       7-Arise, O Lord!   Deliver me, O my God!  Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.   8-From the Lord comes deliverance.  May your blessing be on your people.


In verse 7 David is calling out to God for justice against the people that were persecuting him.  He wanted equal treatment.  He wanted justice.  When we have been beaten down, insulted, persecuted, we want justice from God.  When we feel as if enemies are surrounding us with intentional acts of maltreatment, we may dream of vengeance.  We might think that our enemies should receive equal treatment. 

In verse 8, David reveals humility and patience for God's timing.   He realized that victory over his enemies comes from God's perfect justice and judgment.  He can see that revenge is not the answer.  He leaves the matter in God's hands.    

In times of persecution from our enemies, it is easy to fall into a state of focusing on their punishment, especially how we think the punishment should be carried out.  Our minds may become filled with vivid details of how we think revenge would be best served.  When we are hurting, we often wish hurt upon those who caused our pain.  Vengeance is not ours to distribute and focusing on punishment is non-productive.   

Instead of focusing on punishment for our enemies, we should focus on our purpose.  What does God want us to learn from our enemies?  How might we gain strength from situations in which we are mistreated?  What is His purpose for us from day to day?   These are questions to ponder while humbly leaving our enemies in the hands of our victor.  

Friday, June 17, 2016

Temptation

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 you a way out so that you can stand up under it. 

A few years ago, I was teaching a prerequisite course for college students who are interested in becoming Allied Health professionals.  For some students, the course is the first one that is taken toward a degree in the medical profession.  One particular evening I was giving a scheduled quiz.  I discovered a student in the back of the room cheating on the quiz.  My heart sank upon this discovery because she was one of the top students in the class.  I could not understand why she felt the need to cheat.

When she handed me her quiz, I confronted her about cheating.  I told her that I had seen her drop a piece of paper (the cheat sheet) into her purse.  She denied the action.  One wrongdoing had led to another-lying.  About half an hour later the student came to me and confessed that she had cheated and she handed me the cheat sheet which she had dropped in her purse.  She asked me what was going to happen to her.  What happened to her is another topic for a later devotion.  Today, let us talk about why she felt the need to cheat.

She told me that she worked full time in order to pay her car insurance and other expenses that her parents required her to manage.  She had forgotten about the quiz until she came to class.  She prepared the cheat sheet in order to maintain her grade in the class as she desperately wanted to succeed in a medical career.  It was a temptation that led her to make a decision in haste in order to preserve the work that she had completed thus far in the course.  In that split second she did not foresee the negative consequences of her decision.  She only focused on what she thought would help her out of a situation.  In turn, her actions caused a situation that was worse than the one that she was trying to fix.

This is very typical of temptation.  Satan does not present the consequences and potential damage to us when he tempts us.  He convinces us that the actions will help us or make us feel better.  What we lose in these types of situations far outweighs any gain.  This student lost a great deal besides a good grade on the quiz.  Her character was called into question.  Her credibility as an honor student was threatened.  She was disappointed in herself which caused her to lose confidence in her abilities. 

In a split second, Satan can tempt any one of us with offers that seem so wonderful.  No one is exempt.   Temptation happens to everyone.  Offers of self-accomplishment, improvement, personal gain, and fulfillment are part of the devil's Modus Operandi.  He offers lies and deception of actions that seem appealing to us.  We must take the time to pray for strength, guidance and the foresight of consequences of any such temptations.  God offers a way out of any temptation.  He is the way out.  He advises us to run from all temptation.  Run from the devil and run toward God.  Study God's word in order to be aware of consequences of acting on temptation.  God will show you the people and situation that pose trouble in your life.  He will direct you toward doing what is right when you run to Him.   

Life is challenging minute by minute.  With a close relationship with God, studying his word and making a commitment to do what is right, He will guide us in all situations.  If you are being tempted remember these quick facts:  1). run from anything that you know is wrong, 2). Run to God for guidance and protection, 3). learn to recognize the temptations presented to you.    

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bitterness: The receiving end.

Romans 15: 1-3  We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.  Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.  For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written:  "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me."

There may be times in life when someone treats you in ways that are difficult to understand.   The treatment may include disrespect with unkind words, manipulation, rejection or  attitudes of indifference.    Some acts may be outright malicious with the intent of causing harm.  This kind of treatment sends mixed signals to us.   A person may say "I love you" or "you are important to me" but not show it with actions.  When this happens, you are on the receiving end of bitterness that is present in that person's life.  Deep hurts in the past will lead a person to lash out at others, especially when it is perceived that another has what he/she is missing in life. 

You may never be able to explain or understand why these things happen.  However, I have come to realize that when people act in ways as stated above, one or more of the following will apply:
      -the person has unresolved hurts that need to be healed
      -the person is in need of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ
      -the things that are said and done really have nothing to do with you. He/she is battling issues internally. 
      -compassion and unconditional love may be something the person has never known

I do not intend to imply that any of these behaviors are acceptable.  What I do want to emphasize is that when you are on the receiving end of these behaviors:
                1.  you must remain strong in knowing that you are not the cause of another person's
                      actions
                2.  you must NOT allow bitterness to grow within you from their actions and words
                3.  being on the receiving end says more about the other person than it does about you as a
                     recipient
                4.  it is your responsibility not to entertain thoughts of vengeance or similar actions

Prayer and patience will go a long way in coming to accept that everyone will not love you as God loves you.  It would be a wonderful world if that could be the case.   When you are placed in these situations, pray that God will reveal to you what he expects from you in response to the actions/words of others.   Seek strength in dealing with the failings of other people.          

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

In the belly of a whale

Jonah 1:3  But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.  He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port.  After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. 

There have been several times in my life that I averted obeying what God was asking me to.  It seemed as if I waited until I was "in the belly of a whale" in order to submit to obedience, even when I knew exactly what God was asking me to do.  One particular time in my life reminds me a great deal of the first few verses of Jonah.  By changing some of the details, it tells my story exactly.

I spent 3 years in the belly of a whale.  Each morning long before daylight I boarded my ship, which happened to be a 1991 Lincoln Continental (yes, it was the size of a ship) and I sailed for one hour to a town north of home.  Jonah 1:4 Then the Lord send a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.  Each morning the turbulent winds rocked my boat.  I knew what God was calling me to do.  I wanted so much to obey what he was asking of met but I had an argument about why I should not/could not do this.  God was calling me home-not in the eternal sense but he was calling me to "the house" as we say in the country.  Our first daughter was born in 1995 and I knew while I was on maternity leave that God had called me to stay at home and be a full time wife and mother.

I ran.  I sailed.  I argued. 

My argument listed the following as reasons why I should continue to go to work:
   -This is my dream career.  I worked long and hard and waited for over one year for the opportunity to have this position.
   -I love what I do and I love my co-workers.
   -Can I afford to be unemployed?  What will I be required to sacrifice?
   -Everyone I know works.  Who stays home anymore?  Will I have any friends?
   -I carry all the insurance for the family.
   -I am vested in the retirement system.  I don't want to lose that.
   -If I leave my long awaited career, I may never have the opportunity for this position again.

This argument with God went in full force for over two years and then I became pregnant with baby number two.   The turbulent winds flipped me out of my boat.  Jonah 1:11 & 17  The sea was getting rougher and rougher.   But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.   I was in the big fish.  The digestive juices inside there were eroding me.  The lack of oxygen made it difficult to breathe.  It was dark and lonely in there.  

By the third year, much like Jonah, I cried out to God and said, "I am ready to obey.  I am sea sick and weary from riding on the turbulent waves."  (Jonah 2:1-6)  So, I resigned and started my journey as a full time wife and mother.    Fear, lack of faith, worry, doubt, and lack of obedience kept me in the belly of that great fish for three years.  Far too long! 

Allow me to catch you up, eighteen years later.   God has sustained us with everything we have needed.  There were sacrifices, but I have not kept a list because God sustained us.  I have made soooooo many new friends-many of which answered the same call to obedience to become full time wives and mothers.  I did not grieve the loss of my career.   As a matter of fact, a few years ago, I was offered the opportunity to go back to the same job and work part time with the same "favorite" co-workers as before.  God saved that for me.   Perfect timing.  Perfect schedule.  God takes care of us.  

Most of all I have such a long list of blessings that came from obeying what God asked of me, that my heart overflows.  Time together, experiences and memories that only come around once in life time fill my mind.  When we moved the first born to college,  all I could think of the entire trip was, "Thank you Lord for rocking my boat and calling me home!"   My cup runneth over!  As we prepare to send the second born to college this fall, I am reminded that my cup continues to runneth over.  God knows best-ALWAYS!

Is God calling you to something from which you are running?  Do you get on a boat and sail in another direction in order to flee his calling?  Maybe He is calling you for things much different than my story.  He has a different purpose for each of us.  Perhaps it is the same calling and you have sweet babies at home that He with which he wants you to be a full time mother.

Whatever the call, whatever the task, do not wait until you are in the deep waters or in the belly of whale to answer.  He will continue to rock your boat until He gets your attention.  There is a reason and purpose for his call and He knows the importance of that purpose even when we cannot see the end result.  OBEY and allow his purpose to unfold within your life.                                                             


  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Stand in the face of your Goliath

1 Samuel 17:32  David said to Saul, "Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him."

David was a small, young boy full of determination and a desire to serve God.  He volunteered to fight a Philistine giant over 9 feet tall with nothing but a slingshot and some rocks while the giant stood before him with a large sword capable of decapitating him.  As I think of this, I visualize David likely being waist-high to Goliath.  The giant must have looked like a sky scraper to such a little boy. 

1 Samuel 17:38   Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic.  He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head.  

David was dressed in armor for the battle.  Man-made protection with shields and helmets and a sword was available to him to take to the fight.   However, David said he could not function in the armor because he was not used to it.  So he took it all off.  He went to the battle line dressed in his shepherd's clothing with only a slingshot and a hand full of smooth stones that he picked up in a stream.  Smooth is a key word describing the stones; they were not sharp nor were they large such as you would think necessary to kill someone. 

1 Samuel 17:48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.  David was filled with courage and was not intimidated by the giant. 

As Goliath ran toward David in battle mode, David ran toward the Goliath.
No fear.   No second guessing.  Full of faith.  Totally confident.  Bring it on!

David's sling and rocks were ORDINARY.  What was extraordinary was David's mind when he threw the stone.  David's mind was filled with trust in God and faith that God would provide him with the strength to slay the giant Philistine.   With one small stone, the first one that he hurled at Goliath, he killed him.   One little rock to the forehead pronated the over 9 feet tall giant.  Flat on his face,  "deader than a doornail".   (1 Samuel 17:49)

What are the Goliaths in your life?  What gigantic obstacles do you face each day when your feet hit the floor?

Fear?  Addiction?  Financial trouble?  Depression?  Bitterness?   

Stand in the face of your Goliath!!!!  Do not run.  Do not hide behind man-made shields and masks.  Sling your rocks with faith and trust in God.  He will provide you with the strength to slay ALL the  giants in your life.  Run to the battle line.  Take God with you.  He will provide the armor and weapons that you need.                                           

Monday, June 13, 2016

Forgiveness is a willfull 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, June 10, 2016

Dissatisfaction

Philippians 4:4-9  Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
 
A while back, a friend of mine posted this on her Facebook page:  "Trying so hard today to make lemonade....."

I think we can all relate.   Some days life seems to throw us a sack full of lemons.   I have personally had periods of time when the lemon truck unloaded its full cargo at my front door!  I would have needed the sugar train to roll by in order to make lemonade in those times.  We will all have periods of time when it seems that nothing sweet is happening in our lives.    

We must not allow ourselves to be consumed by the sour lemons that may come our way some days.  We do not have to partake of sour lemons!  Philippians chapter four reminds us to "rejoice in the Lord always".  This does not mean that we will be pleased with all situations in life.  It does mean that we can find peace and joy in the Lord.  Rejoicing in the Lord means that we recognize that He is in control.   When we acknowledge, "the peace that passes all understanding", we are accepting the fact that God is in control of every detail that is happening around us.  He knows all about it.  He will do good things even in the midst of our hurt.
 
Even when sour lemons are hurled our way, we can all look around us and find sweet things about our lives.  We can trust that God will turn those lemons into lemonade.  

Today I challenge you to list 5 sweet things or occurrences that have happened to you, either today or in the past few days. We all have "Sweet Stuff" for which to be thankful.  

Mine are as follows:
              -God's omnipresence and the assurance that He will take care of all details
              -family  
              -freedom to worship and serve in a ministry
              -my 94 year old grandmother  (my last surviving grandparent)
              -family and friends

Your turn.  Feel free to post your list if you would like.  I enjoy hearing from you all!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The fear of forgiveness

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

Forgiveness is multifaceted. 

Forgiveness is tough.

One of the toughest parts of forgiveness involves fear---the fear that comes with feeling vulnerable to being hurt again.  Fear of being hurt again is likely to be a consideration when the same person has hurt us more than one time.  Fear also accompanies the "I have had enough feeling".

For as many times as we have been trespassed against, hurt, and offended, we must forgive.  Non-negotiable.  

Worrying about subjecting ourselves to the possibilities of hurt is not fun.  It is also NOT forgiveness.  Forgiveness is letting go of the actions or words that caused hurt in the first place.  Forgiveness is the decision to refuse to allow the actions or words of another person to affect our inner beings.  What others do and say should never change one's spirituality and relationship with God.

Fear should not be considered with forgiveness.  Forgiveness pertains to things in the past, no matter how recent or distant.  The fear of being hurt again is a trust issue.  It pertains to the future.  Forgiveness deals with something that has already happened.  Fear is anticipation of something that might happen.  Fear is not of God, it is a tool of the devil.

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

Do not allow fear to prevent you from offering forgiveness.  Trust in God to protect you from hurts and decide to live in forgiveness.  Refuse to live in fear.  Fear can rob us of experiencing good things.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Self-Worth

Genesis 1:27  So God created human beings in his own image.  In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 

In the first book of the Bible, we are shown the value that we have in God's eyes.    From the beginning of creation, God valued us so much that he created us in is image, both men and women.  

We are all born with the same worth to God.  From the beginning we are all valued the same.  In the end we will still all have the same value in God's eyes.   As we go through life here on earth, experiences and situations add to or take away from our perception of our self-worth as well as our view on the worth of others. God's view of our value never changes.

It seems easy to allow others to affect how important we feel.   The relationships and the communication within those relationships have a strong impact on our perceptions of our self -worth.  Negative words cause hurt feelings. Actions that tear down character can cause us to doubt our worth or wonder if we have any value.  Trials and tribulations may leave us feeling insecure and  unimportant.  

When we allow others to have an impact on our self-worth, our relationship with God is diminished. Our relationships with others in our lives will be impacted if our self-worth is low.  Job performance will be affected as well as the goals that we pursue.  How we perceive our self-worth affects everything in which we are involved.  Feeling unimportant can change the course of the rest of a person's life. 

We must remain strong and grounded in the worth that God has for us.  When we allow the words and/or actions of others to have a bearing on our esteem, we forget who holds the yardstick.  God is the keeper of the measurements!  He is the one, the only one, who declares the value of a person's worth.  Guard your self-worth.  Do not look at the value of your worth according to the people on this earth.  Look to God to assign worth to your life and the purpose He has for you.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A lifestyle of forgiveness

1 John 3:7 Dear children, don't let anyone deceive you about this:  When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous.  


Forgiveness is a decision that is made from a desire to be righteous.  God expects our decisions to forgive to be genuine.  He wants us to forgive in order to seek the righteousness that He has described.  He does not want us to forgive with a self-seeking attitude or with feelings of dutiful obligation.  He wants forgiveness to reflect an attitude that is like the heart of Christ.  Forgiveness must become a lifestyle of grace and mercy that we willingly offer to those that offend us.  

What does a lifestyle of forgiveness look like on a daily basis?  Forgiveness is a taming and training of the flesh and emotions.  But foremost, a lifestyle of forgiveness is a result of seeking a deeper understanding of the forgiveness that Christ offers each of us. 

A lifestyle of forgiveness involves developing a mindset that allows us to deal with offenses from the framework of grace.  Application of grace and mercy requires some training of the flesh and emotions.  How do we train ourselves to forgive?

                 Taming the flesh to walk in forgiveness includes:
                     
                     -seeking to love the person(s) as Christ loves us

                     -not allowing negative emotions to enter your mind when thoughts of the events and
                      person(s) come to mind
                     -no longer looking at the person(s) as the "hurt"
                     -giving up the thoughts/urges for vengeance
                     -no more hitting the "rewind" button and replaying the events
                     -letting go of the desire to speak negatively or destructively about the person/event
                   

Forgiving and letting go are sometimes difficult to do.  Both are necessary in order to heal from hurts and to grow in our relationship with God.  When we decide to apply grace and train our minds to stop entertaining the bitterness and negative emotions, we are able to move toward what God expects of us--a lifestyle of forgiveness.        


Monday, June 6, 2016

The Mask of Forgiveness

Jeremiah 17:10  "I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."

An excerpt from my presentation, the Mask of Forgiveness, for Heartscry Women's Conference, June 11, 2016:

"The mask of forgiveness is like a movie prop.  The screens, facades, boards, and decorations look good to the eye, but there is no sturdy foundation.  Movie props are in place for our eyes to believe that a scene is real.  Props are constructed for temporary uses.  They look good for a short time; however a mild wind will blow the entire prop over because it lacks strength and stability".

A mask of forgiveness says to the world, "I have forgiven".  Our faces and body language can be such that we portray forgiveness.  The heart is the keeper of real forgiveness.  People may hide what they really harbor inside their hearts but God cannot be deceived.  He is completely aware of any amount of unforgiveness that my dwell in the hearts of each and every one of us.  We may fool other people.  We do not fool God.

Does the forgiveness you have offered others consist of stability within the heart?  Have you forgiven and let it go or do you wear a mask of forgiveness.  When you are alone in your own thoughts, do they reflect the same attitude that you portray to others?  Is the scene real or does it consist of decorated emotions that have not sturdy foundation?

God searches our hearts and He knows ALL the contents.  He knows if the foundation of forgiveness is sturdy or if a mild wind may blow it over.  I encourage you to ask God to reveal the true foundation of any forgiveness that you have offered.  Ask Him to remove any masks that you may wear pertaining to complete forgiveness of others.  Allow Him to strengthen your emotional foundation.  





Friday, June 3, 2016

Symbiosis

1 Timothy 18-19  Command then to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Symbiosis is a word that is used in Biology classes quite often.  It is defined as a relationship between two organisms for which there is an advantage for both parties involved. 

In the ocean, there are many kinds of fish that have symbiotic relationships.  Two that I find quite interesting are the cleaner wrasse and the Sweetlips fish.  The cleaner wrasse is a very small fish, about the size of a minnow that we catch in streams. Stunning in color, this fish often has a blue streak down its side.  The Sweetlips fish, named for its big fleshy lips, is a colorful stunning fish.  It is many times larger than a wrasse and as a matter of fact could have the wrasse for a snack.  In the order of the food chain, based on the size of each fish, they really should not be friends, but instead the Sweetlips should prey on the wrasse.

Their relationship, however, is very unique.  The Sweetlips will open its mouth and the wrasse goes into the mouth to clean away the build up that gets on the teeth of the Sweetlips.  Yes, there are dental hygienists in the ocean!   Think about this scenario for a moment.  The larger fish holds its mouth open while the smaller fish scrapes away the goop on its teeth.  The wrasse needs the goop on the teeth to survive-that is the diet of a wrasse.  One chomp of the Sweetlips mouth and the wrasse could be lunch.  These fish perform these actions intentionally.  A symbiotic relationship.  Mutually beneficial.

Considering the relationship of these fish, I wonder why as humans our relationships aren't this simple.  Why are so many human relationships so complicated?  Why do we not experience such symbiosis as demonstrated by these simple fish?

Often times human relationships are nonequivalent.  The benefits lean to one side of the relationship more than the other.  Pride and arrogance sometimes keep humans from experiencing truly symbiotic relationships.  Feelings such as envy will foster relationships that are imbalanced or mismatched. 

Symbiotic friendships are treasures here on this earth!  If friends are willing to serve one another in love then there is beauty in the relationship.  If friends are willing to stay in your life even when there is goop to clean and get rid of, a relationship of true symbiosis exists.  

Life is truly about loving and serving one another.  How wonderful it would be if people could recognize the mutual benefits that relationships have to offer.  We each have strengths that we bring into relationships.  How great it is when those strengths contribute to the needs of others!  What a rewarding experience it is when friends are willing to share all the good and bad things that come along without fear of one person harming the other. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Stay calm!

Exodus 14:14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.

Just stay calm! Sounds easy enough, but how in the world can we stay calm when things around us seem to be in such turmoil?  What can we do when the enemy is camped at our doorstep?  
We feel so powerless and weary and often times despair will set in and cause us to feel trapped. Perhaps we feel trapped by depression, rejection, disappointments, fear. The despair may come from a job situation, conflict within a relationship, health or finances. 

We have all been faced with these situations- events and circumstances with the potential to trap our hearts into negativity, anger or bitterness.  Maybe you have a present situation in your life that brings about these emotions and you are feeling trapped. Let us read this scripture from back to front, “Just stay calm. The Lord himself will fight for you.” He WILL fight for you and He is the mighty warrior, but first you have to allow Him to be your warrior. Staying calm, although seemingly impossible at times, will allow you to submit all your troubles to God. 
   
Submission is letting go.  Let go of the need to emotionally wrestle the situation.  Let go of the need to do something.  Let go and let God fight it for you.