The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Friday, September 30, 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 in 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.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Forgiveness does not cure the offender. Forgiveness heals the offended.

Hebrews 12:15  See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Forgiveness does not cure the offender.  Forgiveness cures the offended.

In dealing with the need to forgive another person, we may hold ourselves back due to a lack of understanding of who benefits most from forgiveness. Choosing to forgive and get rid of bitterness presents some feelings of vulnerability.  We may feel as if forgiveness is permissive.  We may think that forgiving someone will give the impression that it is acceptable to hurt us.

If we forgive, is it the same as saying that what someone did to hurt us is alright?   NO!
Forgiveness is not equivalent to tolerance or permission.  Granting forgiveness does not mean that we agree with the wrongdoing.  Forgiveness means that we agree to rearrange the emotional effects of a transgression.  Forgiveness is a measure which forfeits the grudge.   By forgiving, we prevent our hearts from feeling hurtful emotions and contempt. 

We cannot prevent someone from saying hurtful words or holding contempt in their hearts toward us.  We cannot prevent betrayal or rejection from others.  Forgiveness does not mean that these things will not happen more than once in our lives.   Forgiveness DOES mean that each of us can be cured of bitterness that will grow in the heart.  Forgiveness means that as the offended, we have made the choice to deal with the situation in a Christ-like manner. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Exclamation points

Matthew 10:30   "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered."

 God knows how many hairs are on your head as well as the head of every other person in the whole wide world. 

Allow that to soak in for a moment. 

God also knows every detail about you and your life. 

Every one. 

Good, bad, ugly or sad. 

He knows every period, comma and question mark.   Allow God to turn all the question marks into exclamation points.  Allow him to take away all the fear, doubt and worry.   Give all the destructive thoughts and bitterness over to him.

If you are struggling with letting go of negative feelings, disappointments, self doubt, bitterness or any other feeling that hinders the exclamation points in your life, it is time to LET GO.  Give it all to God!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

He is our refuge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 26, 2016

He declares your worth!

Luke 12:6-7   Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are numbered.  Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Our worth is NOT determined by the actions or reactions of others.  Let's repeat that.   Our worth is NOT determined by the actions or reactions of others.

Our worth is determined by God, our creator.

When we are assailed by the enemy, people in our surroundings may be used to attack our self-worth.  If Satan can cause us to feel as if we are of little or no value, then he may thwart our service to God.  We may begin to question the value of our self-worth if defamation of our character occurs.  Words and actions of others around us may cause us to feel as if we are of little-to-no value.

If we allow the words and actions of others to decrease our feelings of worth, then we discount God's magnificence in all that he has planned for us.  We cannot allow ourselves to be defeated by false statements, perceptions, or how others feel about us.  We must remained focused on the value that God has placed on each and every one of us.  He assigns the same value to each of us.  Rich, poor, healthy, or ill, God says we are ALL valuable. 

No matter what another person says or does, our value from God's perspective does not change.  Even when we question our value as a result of the opinions of others, God has not forgotten how valuable we are to him.  If you find yourself feeling as if you are not important or of great value, turn to God for his measurements.  He holds the yardstick.  He knows your heart.  He declares your worth!

Friday, September 23, 2016

We cannot see where we need to go if we are constantly looking at where we have been.

Luke 9:62   But Jesus told him, "Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God."

When we accept Jesus as our lord and savior and make a commitment to follow him, he expects a full commitment.  In looking at Luke 9:62 that commitment includes looking forward and not behind us.  If you plow, whether with a mule or tractor, you cannot see where you need to go if you are constantly looking back at where you have been. 

We need to come to place of "making peace with the past".   This doesn't mean that we will forget everything bad or uncomfortable about the past, for in doing so, we would also forget the good.  We can choose not to remember in a way that affects our commitment and work for the Lord.

Some thoughts and points to help make peace with the past:

-Whether you were on the giving or receiving end of wrong, it is over.   No going back.
- You should keep no record of wrongs. You should keep no record of rights.  Life is not a contest.
-Feel whatever you need to feel: anger, sadness, or sorrow and be finished with those feelings for each particular situation.  Refuse to feel negative and hurtful emotions.
-You have total control over your mind, therefore, find a place to put the hurt and let it hurt you NO more.
-Grieve it, bury it and sow flowers on it. 
-Life will still move forward, even if in small steps.  Move forward with it in a positive way.
-If you have accepted Jesus as you lord and savior, you are NOT that person from the past anymore.  You have been made a new creature.  Don't let the devil tell you otherwise.

There is a saying that I remember from a church sign years ago:  "When the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Compassion for enemies

Proverbs 24:17   Do not gloat when your enemy falls;  when he stumbles, do not let your heart

King David had an enemy-Saul.  He was a lifelong enemy.  Saul had tried every way imaginable to have David killed.  Saul was jealous of David's accomplishments and victories in his life.  Saul was envious of David's position and ranking; he did not accept what God had called David to do  (see the book of 1 Samuel).

Imagine knowing that another person desires to have you killed, either figuratively or literally.  How disheartening it must be to have someone that wishes only bad things will happen to you.  I figure that David was forever more looking over his shoulder and watching for what Saul would try next.  To constantly be on guard for your life would be exhausting. 

We may have people in our lives with the same sentiments that Saul had for David.  Hopefully we will not have someone trying to kill us, however, there may be someone that desires to cause us grief.  When others wish for or try to cause calamity to come to our lives, we may be left with feelings that there is an enemy close by.  Jealousy is a strong and desperate emotion.  It can lead to a desire for others to stumble and fall. The same type of jealousy that Saul felt for David may be real in the lives of some of you. 

We are commanded to avoid rejoicing when our enemies fall.  We should not be happy when someone suffers a loss or disappointment in life. When our enemies fall, especially those enemies that have caused much strife in our lives, it is tempting for us to feel as if they got what they deserved.  It is easy to enjoy those feelings that they have been served justice for hurtful things they have done. 

We should be full of compassion when others fall. Our hearts should be saddened when others suffer.  Not always easy, but always necessary.  David did not gloat when he heard that Saul had died.  He was saddened and full of compassion.  Bear in mind that this was a man that had actively tried to kill David for many years.   From our perspective it might seem that he should have been relieved that his enemy could no longer try to kill him.  Yet, he found no joy in his death. It seems that it would have been easy for David to say that Saul had gotten what he deserved, however, he "mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathon" (2 Samuel 1:12).  David left the judgments to God, as we should do also.

It should be our desire to have heart felt compassion, even for our enemies.  The Bible tells us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44).  As we pray for our enemies, we should also pray for our own hearts-that we may not rejoice in the sufferings of our enemies. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Man's rejection may be God's protection

Psalm 18:30    God's way is perfect.  All the Lord's promises prove true.  He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.

Rejection hurts.  Period.  I cannot think of anyone who will say that rejection is a pleasant experience.  As soon as Satan realizes that we have been rejected, here he comes with the attack on our self-worth and esteem.   He kicks us while we are down with repeated insults and character assassination.    Rejection is not fun.

Feeling as if no one loves us or wants us is one of the most insecure emotions that we can experience.  We feel flawed and wonder why we are such a bad person.  If rejection happens to us more than once, we really begin to feel as if we have a problem.   Sometimes rejection can lead us to act in desperation or change to meet someone else's expectations of us in order to feel accepted. 

It is difficult in the midst of the hurt caused by rejection to see beyond the event and Satan's lies.  However, as I think back about times in my life that I have suffered rejection, I can now smile and thank God today for each and every time.  I can now see that the situations that hurt so badly were actually filled with God's protection.

God will protect us from people that he thinks we do not need to be around.  He will protect us from jobs and situations that might later cause harm or more hurt.  When we seek God's will, we must believe that he will put us in the midst of people and situations that are best for us, but not always who and what we think is best. 

If you are experiencing rejection of any kind, remember that God's way is never flawed.   Begin to view the situation from his perspective and believe that man's rejection may be God's PROTECTION.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

May we love with intentional actions

1 John 3:18   Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

How many times do we intend to do good things?  The birthday card that we think of sending, the phone call that we could make, giving away clothing or shoes that we no longer need are all thoughts of good intention but also are things that are easily postponed or never carried out. 

Each day God will place opportunities before us to serve him and serve others in ways that he desires.  We may pass someone on the street with a cardboard sign indicating that he/she is hungry.   We may know of a family in financial need in order to make ends meet for the month.  We all surely know of older folks that are lonely and can be uplifted by a phone call or card in the mail.  

How often are we contenders and oppose those whispers of  opportunity to help others that God speaks in our ears?   I know that I am guilty of hearing messages of sending cards, visiting the sick, calling the lonely, yet procrastinating instead of surrendering to that still small voice that is calling me to do something for another person.

May we surrender to those opportunities in which we might serve others.  Intentions are never seen by people that are in need.  They only see what we actually do.  Let us be intentional with actions that show love.  May we be prayerful that God will help us to love more with our actions than with words.  Lord, help those whispers to resonate in our ears as loud explosions of opportunity to serve you and make a difference in the life of another.  Amen.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Do not reject the love and comfort that God sends.

2 Corinthians 4:9   ....persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Rejection creates fertile soil for seeds of bitterness to grow.  However, those seeds do not grow into plants that offer astounding beauty nor ones that are aromatic.  The seeds of rejection are the vilest weeds with large painful thorns. 

Rejection causes feelings and thoughts of unimportance.  It causes people to feel of little value and unloved.  Sometimes we get to the point of not liking ourselves because of rejection.  Rejection in our past or present will affect how we behave in future relationships.  

Many people do not recognize the effects that rejection has had on their lives until they reach adulthood or years after an occurrence.  The effects of rejection are often denied, all the while realizing that specific topics and/or events stir negative and fearful emotions.  Negative emotions that will destroy inner peace and joy result from bitterness caused by rejection.

Rejection brings about distance between people.  It causes chaos, turmoil and discord.   Satan's ultimate goal is to create enough bitterness between people that each will eventually become bitter toward God.  There is a great example of this in Job chapter 1 when his wife turned against him and asked him to "curse God and die".  The bitterness that Job's wife felt toward God had caused so much pain and discord that she wanted Job to reject God.  

Rejecting others because of our own feelings of rejection is not the answer to the chaos and pain.  When dealing with rejection, we must separate ourselves from the behaviors and thoughts of others and discard any self defeating thoughts of being unimportant or unlovable. The sooner that the negative feelings caused by rejection are dealt with and gotten rid of (Eph. 4:31), the better our relationship with God and others will be.   The emotions that follow rejection in our lives, prevent us from enjoying all the blessings that God has for us.

Having been rejected in the past does not mean that we will to suffer rejection in the future.  When we have suffered rejection, Satan will tempt us with believing that we will be rejected from everyone that we encounter in the future.  He wants us to fear relationships based upon a feeling from the past.  This creates a barrier to love and joy with people in our lives that do not plan to reject us.  In other words, we miss out on what God has in store for us if we believe that all people will hurt us through rejection. 

The most important relationship we have is with our Heavenly Father.   Even if people that are important to you in this life, or people that are you family reject you, you are still real and you are important to God! Remember that you are loved by God, you are important to him and he will never reject you.  

Prayer for today:  Lord, I pray that for every person that deals with rejection and the long term effects of the emotions that accompany rejection.  I pray that each and every person will feel the love that you have to offer.  I pray that each person dealing with rejection will not reject those on this earth that you have sent to provide them with love and comfort.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Functional Bitterness

Ephesians 4:31  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form
of malice.

I have used this verse in other posts and focused on different words found in the verse.  Today I will focus on the word "all".  God wants us to rid of ALL bitterness, rage and anger.  Each and every bit of those emotions must go.  If ALL bitterness is not rid of, even the smallest bit can cause resentment and barriers between you and the people in your life.

You might be inclined to think that if you are not paralyzed by bitterness that your life is in good shape.  Not necessarily.  There can be a level of what I call functional bitterness.  The bitterness is there, it causes barriers within relationships, but the relationship is still functional.  You are able to be in the presence of the person which you have bitterness toward, however, there are inhibitions with the level of closeness and enjoyment that you can experience with this person.  Functional bitterness is a mask that conceals what is truly in the heart.   

With functional bitterness, you are able to operate and perform your regular every day duties.  The bitterness is not constantly on your mind, however, there may be periods of intense reminders or thoughts about the situation that caused the bitterness.  The people around you may not notice the bitterness within you, however, you still feel the effects.  Functional bitterness allows you to get through the days but you do not experience the joy and delight that could be yours if ALL the bitterness is gone.

If you allow your heart to be clear of ALL bitterness, you can then realize the wholeness which God intends for us.  When you experience the wholeness of heart and the delight that the freedom from the bondage of bitterness and anger can bring, it is then that you will become acutely aware of what you have been missing.  The desire to have wholeness and delight will outweigh the desire to wallow in the bitterness when you realize how wonderful the freedom can be.

It is my prayer for any of you that are suffering from any type of bitterness, rage or anger that you will allow God to examine those emotions and help you rid of them.  For those of you that may have functional bitterness, I pray that you will allow the mask of denial to be removed and that God will take any and ALL of those feelings away.  I pray for each of you to experience the wholeness that God has to offer.  In Jesus name, Amen!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Insecurity is a lie from the enemy

Ephesians 6:10-11  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.

Psalms 30:6   When I felt secure, I said, "I will never be shaken."

Insecurity afflicts many people.  Insecurity, unattended to, causes mental stress, and may cause bodily pain and stress.  Insecurity is a confidence shaker.  It allows us to feel as if we are unimportant, alone, and of no value. 

Insecurity is a product of self-doubt, lack of confidence, and/or lack of assurance.  Insecurity is a personal prison in which a person never feels "good enough" for others.  The lack of self-confidence may prevent a person from fulfilling his/her purpose in life. 

Insecurity may be caused by the actions of others.  Personal insecurity may result from character assassination, emotional abuse, bullying, or rejection.  Insecurity within one person in a relationship will affect both sides of that relationship.  Short and simple: ungodly behavior from another person can cause insecurity within us. 

Insecurity has many flavors.  It produces fear, vulnerability, anxiety, and trust issues.  Often, insecurities will create barriers that keep a person from experiencing life and love to the fullest extent.  Those barriers prevent knowing the love and joy that God has for each of us in life. 

Insecurity may produce words and behaviors that are destructive to others.  Such actions are not founded in God's principles.  They result from fear and chaos that Satan instills in our thoughts.

Know this:  Insecurity is a lie from the enemy!!!  The securities that we seek in the world are false.  Security that we strive for in job success, prosperity, or material things will never break the barriers of internal insecurity. While another person may contribute to helping one feel secure, the only real security that we have is found in Jesus Christ. 

John 10:10  "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

God wants us to feel secure!   He wants us to be confident in our relationships and every day life.  He expects us to enjoy the love from our families.  He wants us to be happy and stress free. 

If you are dealing with insecurities, face them.  Head on.  Get in the face of all of them.  Stand up and say, "it is time to get rid of all doubt and lack of assurance".  Declare the truth that no one person on earth determines your value as a creation of God.

 It is time to find your security.    It is time to stop listening to the lies of the enemy.  Ground yourself in the truths that only God can supply.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thank you, Lord, for the things you have taken away!

Psalm 100:4    Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

Several years ago in a women's Bible study group, one of the ladies present prayed this in her prayer, "Thank you, Lord for all the things you have given us and thank you for all the things you have taken away".  I hold dearly to that last part of that sentence.

Each and everyday, may we be mindful and forever grateful of all the things God has given us.  He offers us salvation for an eternal life.  He provides for us with a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothing to wear.  He blesses us with children to fill our quiver.  He blesses us with opportunities throughout life.  He gives peace, health, and happiness.

But, what about the things he takes away?  We must be grateful for the things he takes from us.  For in these instances, he reveals his sovereignty.  First and foremost, he takes away our sins.  Much gratitude should be expressed for this on a daily basis!

He takes away pain when our hearts are most broken.

He takes away fear and replaces it with promise.  

He takes away opposition when we work to accomplish his purpose.

He takes away the storms, just in time to allow the sun to shine through.

He takes away sorrow and restores our joy.

He may take away earthly things.  It is likely we did not need them anyway.  He uses these instances to teach us reliance on him.

As we look at the things that he takes away, we can recognize much gain.  So, the next time you pray with thanksgiving for all the things that God has given you, also remember to acknowledge all the things he has taken away. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Making Decisions

Jeremiah 6:16    This is what the Lord says:  "Stop at the crossroads and look around.  Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it.  Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.  But you reply, 'No, that's not the road we want!'"

We all make decisions daily, many times without a great amount of thought or effort.  We decide what to wear, what to have for meals, chores and/or projects to tackle.   These decisions are not so difficult because they do not have a huge impact on our day or on the people in our lives.  But what about those "big deal" decisions in life such as relocating, selling a home, accepting a new job position or starting a new business.    These types of decisions have a major impact on our lives and the people around us. 

At times we have opportunities or offers in life that require us to make important decisions.    Decision making can produce uncertainties ("what ifs") and at times the path of the right decision may not be clear.   Opportunities are wonderful events in life and many can provide great blessings.  Opportunities also may present us with choices that are not necessarily God's intentions for us.  The world will offer opportunities for us to promote the secular agenda, leaving God's will in the shadows. 

I have found in my own life that when opportunities present themselves, the decision that I want to make and the decision that God wants me to make are sometimes on opposite ends of the spectrum.   When making major, life impacting decisions we should always seek God's will.  That can be accomplished by:
                 -approaching God with an attitude of humility, trust and obedience
                 -making a list of priorities pertaining to the decision i.e.,
                                       *is any part of the decision against the teachings of the Bible?
                                       *how will the decision affect your relationship with God?
                                       *how will the decision affect your service to God?
                                       *how will the decision affect those around you (family, friends, etc)?
                                       *does the decision offer an opportunity to promote God or self?

If you are facing a major, life changing decision I encourage you to consider the steps listed above.   Wait upon God instead of making decisions in haste.    Take the time to hear what he has to say about it. 



Monday, September 12, 2016

Do not partake of sour lemons

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
              -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!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Good times and bad times

Ecclesiastes 7:14   When times are good, be happy;  but when times are bad, consider:  God has made the one as well as the other.

As humans, we have a tendency to be very happy during the good times in life.  Sometimes we even credit ourselves for prosperity in the good times.  But then when the bad times come, and we will all have bad times, we sometimes want to question why we are being punished or forgotten.   Life is a blend of good times and bad times.  

During the bad times, a great opportunity exists to take a personal inventory.   Are we distant from God causing time to seem worse than they actually are?  That inventory should include questions such as:
                   -Am I behaving in a way that is contrary to God's standards?
                   -Are there behaviors that I need to change or improve upon to line up with God's commandments?
                   -Is there a lesson for me to learn in this situation?
                   -Do I need to draw nearer to God and have a closer relationship with him?

God expects us to live a life full of trust in him, not relying upon human wisdom and power.   Through the bad times, we should recognize that God is still in control and we should thank him for the opportunity to experience situations that teach us more about him.   We are to seek the good that he offers from each bad situation and thank him for the lessons.  He can bring good things out of ALL our struggles.  The key is to allow him to guide us and show us the way out of the bad times. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Love and wisdom will help us to persevere

Proverbs 2:12-15  Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.

As much as we know someone and as much as we love someone, we CANNOT control what he/she may do.  We have no power over their thoughts nor their actions.  Each person is granted free will, free range and free choice in thought and deed.

Our love for others will not keep them from wrongdoing.  Love that we feel in our hearts for others is non-transferable.  We are not able to make someone feel the same for us as we do for them.

There will be people that hurt us.  There will be times when others do wrong against us.  There will be times when the wrongdoing and hurt is caused by those who we hold dear to our hearts.

While our love will not prevent others from hurting us, what our love will do is help us to persevere.  It will carry us through the hurt.  Our love for God will help us to see the straight paths on which to walk.  Our love for others will allow us to forgive the wrongdoing and love them anyway.  The wisdom and understanding of God's love for us will grant us the desire and strength to continue to love others even when they rejoice in wicked ways. 

The wisdom which God pours out in the Bible will show us how to move past the evil plots of Satan. A dedication to God's word will saturate our hearts with the wisdom that he desires for us.  Steadfastness in seeking God through prayer and study will equip us to recognize evil plots, even when they may appear to be of a good nature. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Allow God to pursue the enemy

1 Samuel 30:6-8   David was in a difficult position because the troops talked about stoning him, for they were all very bitter over the loss of their sons and daughters.  But David found strength in the Lord his God.   David said to Abiathar the priest, son of Ahimelich, "Bring me the ephod."  So Abiathar brought it to him, and David asked the Lord:  "Should I pursue these raiders?  Will I overtake them?"

David was no stranger to having been pursued by enemies.  Many times during his life, David dealt with advances from the enemy with efforts to kill him.  Goliath intended to kill David in order to defy Israel.  Saul tried to kill David several times because God had anointed him as king and Saul was bitter about having been replaced.  David fought in battles which could have ended his life at the hands of the enemy.

The verse of focus for today is in 1 Samuel 30:8, "and David asked the Lord: 'Should I pursue these raiders?  Will I overtake them?'"  What stands out about David in all the pursuits of his life by an enemy is that he had learned to seek God.  He asked God for guidance, instruction, and protection.  He did not listen to the pressures of men to follow emotional reactions. Each time that his enemy was in hot pursuit, David took time to seek the Lord.  The ephod mentioned in verse  7 was an article of clothing much like an apron that David put on when he wanted to be in the presence of God.  This was David's gesture of reverence and respect for hearing what God had to say to him. 

David had God's agenda in mind as a leader.  He was not focused on his own agenda or what was necessarily the easiest plan of attack.  He realized that his actions and decisions affected more people than just himself.  He allowed God to pursue the enemy before he implemented any action.  In doing so, David found protection and victory as a leader in God's kingdom.

When we are attacked by the enemy, we should use David's example of leadership as a reaction to the ambush.  We should seek God and allow him to pursue the enemy before we form an approach.  God will guide us with wisdom where we are likely to proceed based upon emotions or vengeance.  If we place God's agenda at the center of all our actions, we too can experience a lasting victory in His kingdom.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Job 42:12

Job 42:12    The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first.

I recently studied the book of Job seeking to understand his strength and perseverance.  When we think we have it rough, a good look at Job's life will put ours into perspective. 

Job's experiences opened his eyes to the indescribable holiness of God.  God used Job's sufferings to refine his character.   To make him a better person.  We often hear that when we suffer trials and temptations that we should seek to find what God is teaching us.  Job is a great example of this.  

In all the sufferings and losses that Job experienced, he was still able to worship God and acknowledge his sovereignty.  Many times Job was tormented by others and encouraged to turn away from God.  He was humiliated, rejected, knocked down and beaten while he was down. 

The central theme of Job is that through God's grace, we shall trust and serve him merely because of his sovereignty and not in return for earthly benefits.  God's sovereignty means that he is not required to give a reason for all that he does, however, we are required to trust in all that he does.  

Trusting in God's grace and sovereignty in the midst of suffering is not always easy.  We can see the benefits however in the last chapters of Job where his life was fulfilled and blessed way beyond all that Job had lost.  If you feel that you have lost many things in your life, hold fast to God's promises.  He intends to bless you when you trust and accept his sovereignty.             

Monday, September 5, 2016

Sort, Sieve, Learn, and Leave

Isaiah 43:18-19    Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. 

When sorting through unexpected events or disappointments in life, the following four steps have proven beneficial to me.

               1.  Sort
               2.  Sieve
               3.  Learn
               4.  Leave

SORT: Sort through the details of the event.  Disregard any non-truths, ungodly actions or behaviors
         and things with which you have no control.  Take responsibility for your part-good or bad.

SIEVE:  Hold onto only the details that may be beneficial to your spiritual growth.  Allow all other
               details and occurrences to sift through your mind.

LEARN:  Learn what lessons God is teaching you in each situation.  No matter the situation, there is
             always some bit of learning that can occur.  You may learn about yourself, others or God, but
             the opportunity to learn is there.

LEAVE:  Leave ALL negativity, destructive thoughts, and vengeful intentions.  Just leave them out
             of your mind.  When we allow those things to enter our minds, we open the door for poor
             decisions, dangerous reactions and bitterness to enter the scene.  Leave the past in the past.
             The past consists of things that happened yesterday, years ago, or one minute ago. 

Sort, Sieve, Learn and Leave.  Four steps to moving forward and letting go. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Brewing bitterness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A bitter root can be transformed to produce sweet fruits

"That which is bitter to endure, may be sweet to remember."  ---Thomas Fuller, 17th & 18th century

"Sorrow remembered sweetens present joy." ----Robert Pollock, early 19th century

"Only stay quiet while my mind remembers the beauty of fire from the beauty of embers."
                              --John Mansfield, early 20th century

The human mind has been dealing with overcoming bitterness since the beginning of time.  I found the above quotes that span the past four centuries relating to bitterness.  Each quote tells us that we can enjoy sweet things in life even when we have experienced bitterness.  

Bitterness is a stronghold of the mind.  It leads to many negative emotions and actions.  However, a bitter root can be transformed to yield sweet fruits.  Overcoming bitterness, and growing both spiritually and emotionally can lead to sweeter things in life.  Once bitterness has been overcome, we are able to appreciate the joys of the current situations in life.

When we ask God to help us rid of bitterness and its hindrance to His purpose for our life, we can begin to grow spiritually.  It is sweet to remember the bitterness of the past and be able to recognize growth and improvement.  Putting bitterness in its place equips us to deal with tough occurrences that will crop up in the future. 

I encourage each of you that may be dealing with bitterness to strive for sweet memories of the bitter situation.  This does not mean that you will not remember the events of the situation.  It simply means that you can remember the bitterness and thank God for removing it and allowing you to produce sweet fruits.  Ask God to remove all bitterness and replace it with sweetness.  It is amazing how much it will increase your joy!!