The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Monday, October 31, 2016

Don't worry that others may gloat

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 28, 2016

Pray for a spiritual uprising

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Don't worry about the future

Today may find some of you worried and frightened about your future.  Whether your fears are related to relationships, your job or the world around us, remember these truths:

              -God loves each and every one of us.  (John 3:16)
              -God will provide all things that you need.  (Matthew 6:25-34)
              -He cares about all your worries, so talk to him about them.(1 Peter 5:7)
              -He has a plan for all things to be good for you.  (Jeremiah 29:11)
              -God has great things in store for you. (Job 8:7)
              -The future looks bright (Proverbs 23:18)
              -You can find joy and happiness in the good times and the scary times (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

When your burdens seem heavy, count your blessings and hold fast to all that God has done for you.  As God tells us in Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own".

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Allow the Savior to stand between you and the storm

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Forgiveness without an apology

Colossians 1:19-20  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Genuine forgiveness is not an act in a movie scene.  We might envision that forgiveness should transpire much like it does in a fictional movie with the offender coming in person to express remorse and the desire for reconciliation.  We seem to expect that forgiveness will be escorted straight into our hearts with ease. The reality of forgiveness is that it is often awkward, messy and sometimes a lengthy process.  The course of forgiveness and letting go does not always happen immediately.  It may occur in steps and stages, often accompanied by realizations of issues within ourselves that need to be addressed.

There will be times when someone that has caused hurt will have remorse and a genuine desire to seek you forgiveness.  Those instances are very special because they are opportunities for both hearts to demonstrate the love and grace of God.  A cold, hard fact is that there will also be times when you need to forgive but the offender is not sorry.  Maybe the one that caused the hurt is no longer alive-but the hurt is very much alive.  So, how do we forgive in a case where the offender never feels remorse or seeks to be forgiven?  How do we forgive someone who is no longer alive?

Forgiveness is in the eye of the beholder.  It is for the offended to experience.  We are never promised that forgiveness will happen with all parties involved.   We are promised that forgiveness is expected on our part (Matthew 6:14-15).  Forgiveness is an act of grace in the heart of an offended person.  It is an intimate transaction between the offended and God.  Forgiveness is not necessarily between the hurt and the one who committed the hurt.

In order to forgive a person that has hurt you deeply but is no longer in your life because of death or a choice to be absent, you must reach a level of acceptance about the event or situation.  The sequence of "Sort, Sieve, Learn and Leave" is helpful in reaching acceptance.  We must come to an acceptance with what has occurred yet not become comfortable with resentment and anger.  The real point of acceptance at which we must arrive is that God will deal with whatever offenses any person has committed. Vengeance is His (Romans 12:19).  We must also remember that we are accountable for all feelings and unforgiveness for which we hold in our hearts.

Forgiveness of someone that is not sorry or is no longer alive is an act that must be worked out between you and God.  Really, any act of forgiveness is between you and God.  He is the one with whom we are accountable.  He is THE one that expects us to have a clean heart that is filled with love and peace.  To forgive someone that is not sorry does not minimize the hurt that you feel.  Forgiving him/her will maximize your peace and move you toward healing.  Forgiveness will harmonize your relationship with God.  Forgiveness is not always accompanied by reconciliation but it will reconcile your heart to align with God's expectations. Our peace comes through reconciliation with heavenly things. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

How do you know when you have really forgiven someone?

Matthew 18:35   "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

In Matthew 18:15-35 Jesus tells us about what is expected of us regarding forgiveness of one another.  Forgiveness must be from the heart, not just from the lips.   In a recent Bible study class, someone asked the question, "How do you know when you have forgiven someone?"  Good question! 

Forgiveness from the heart means that as  the offended, we must many times change our attitude about the offense.  We must overcome the fleshly reactions to the injury-the anger and other negative emotions must be subdued.  The bad memories of the situation must be erased from the mind.   Thoughts of vengeance must turn to prayers for God's justice and mercy. 

If the Holy Spirit is reminding you with that still small voice that the situation needs attention, then forgiveness has not occurred.  If bitterness and grudge-filled remembrances about the injury remain, forgiveness is not within the heart.  If you say that you have forgiven yet continue to replay and repeat the offense your heart is not free of the hurt.   If physical reactions such as adrenaline rushes and angry emotions flow through your body when you see the offender or any reminders of the offense, your heart has not forgiven.  I call this "heat behind the ears".  This is an adrenaline and physical response to the offense.  The adrenaline rush is a bodily response to anger or fear.  The "fight" or "flight" indicator. 

You have completely forgiven someone when you no longer feel that the offender owes you a repayment.  When you can pray for the offender, genuinely pray for their well being and not pray for vengeance, you have forgiven from the heart.  When you grieve with them and their losses and do not rejoice in their calamities, you have forgiven from the heart.

Forgiveness from the heart requires self-discipline, close communion with God a desire to advance in spiritual growth.  It is not easy and it does not always feel good to our flesh.  However, it is expected and necessary as Christians. 

If there is someone that you need to forgive, there is no better time than now to begin the process.  Look for the signs.  Listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  Review the checklist to make sure you have completely forgiven. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Forgiveness is good for the heart-LITERALLY!

Psalms 32:3-5  When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.  Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.

Forgiveness is a complicated business.  As humans, we all need forgiveness throughout our lives.  We also are required to forgive others throughout our lives.  Needing forgiveness and needing to forgive will zap the energy out of us.  Anxiety and stress can come from both sides of the equation.

When we sin and need forgiveness, our conscience will not rest.  We may mull over the event and worry about the hurt we have caused.  When we have been sinned against, the hurt will not rest.  We may continuously replay the event and announce the degree of hurt to those around us.  In both instances, our bodies and minds undergo stress, anxiety and at times even physical symptoms.

Surprisingly, the Mayo Clinic recognizes the effects that forgiveness, or a lack thereof, can have on our physical health.  The following is listed as proven effects of forgiveness:   "Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:
        • Healthier relationships
        • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
        • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
        • Lower blood pressure
        • Fewer symptoms of depression
        • Stronger immune system
        • Improved heart health
        • Higher self-esteem"
When we say that forgiveness is a "heart thing" it can be taken in the literal sense as well.  Forgiveness leads to a healthier heart both spiritually and physically.  It is similar to exercise.  A healthy spiritual heart will provide us with healthier bodies and happier lives!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Listen to the HURT instead of the words

Ephesians 4:29  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 

Have you ever had someone come to you in anger and "let you have it with both barrels" as the old saying goes?  Or perhaps you have unleashed your own anger at some point on someone.   I have been on both sides of this situation.   

Neither is fun. 
Neither is productive.
Neither is uplifting. 

Both wreak of hurt.  When a person lashes out verbally at another, the entire tone of all the words is HURT.   Underlying hurt, whether from the past or present, has the potential to produce volatile words.  Those words in anger only produce more hurt.   Bottled up, unhealed hurts, resentment and bitterness will lead to an explosion that erupts from the mouth.  Luke 6:45 tells us that "out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks".   When a heart is hurting, the mouth will call attention to it.

If ever a person lashes out at you verbally, instead of hearing their words, try to hear their HURTS.  Seek what is truly bothering them, which may not have anything to do with you at all.  If you are tempted in the future to verbally lash out at someone, or "unload on" as some call it, stop and think about what you are really trying to say.  Do you really want to say all the destructive words and critical adjectives or are you truly trying to let the other person know that you are hurting.  

I often ponder why it is difficult for us to share our hurts and vulnerabilities with others.   Why can't we simply say to another, "your words or actions have hurt me and I want to discuss that with you"?   Why must character assassination accompany hurt feelings or offenses?  

Emotions carry powerful punches.  When those emotions are not controlled and are contained inside the heart, eventually the mouth will spew out those feelings.  Misuse of strong, negative emotions can cause much damage.  Repair of the damage can take great lengths of time and effort because words are one of the elements that we remember most in our relationships.

The next time you receive a verbal blast of emotions from someone, try to listen to the hurt instead of the words.  The next time you are tempted to deliver a verbal blast to someone, take the initiative to address within yourself why you feel the need to lash out.  Listen to the hurt in what you are saying. Put a label on the hurt that causes such strong emotions to surface from within you.  Seek God's help to heal that hurt before it hurts anyone else.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fortify yourself

2 Corinthians 5:1  For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.    

This verse refers to the building of our relationship with God.  While we would not want to live in a tent for many reasons, the referral to a tent in this verse is really about our inner self.  Paul, the author of this passage, was a tent maker by trade.  He built tents for people to stay in as they traveled about.  He understood the temporary nature of a tent.  Perhaps in his mind, the occupation of tent making was somewhat of a parable to the building of God's kingdom.  The tents represented the perishable, brief time of life on earth.  Paul encouraged the people to fortify themselves for the eternal life that God promises in heaven.

The word fortify reminds us of a fort.  A fort is a building that is made to protect.  We think of  forts as existing in the days of early settlers when they feared attacks from the Indians.  The structures were built with strength and covered all angles of the settlers living areas.  In addition to protection from the fort, men were placed at various points to watch for potential attackers.  Forts were also used throughout the 19th century as a means for the military to guard key locations around our country.  I have had the pleasure of visiting a couple of these forts.  The forts are magnificent in their design and composition.  They were built of strong materials, usually brick or concrete.  Rooms and angles of the structure are strategically designed and placed to reduce any chances of the enemy getting in.

Do we fortify our minds with the same meditations and planning of which the forts throughout our history were built?  Do we desire to possess fortitude against the wiles of life and our adversary?  Do we completely understand the temporary nature of life on this earth?  I encourage you to read God's word, pray, spend time with Him and develop an intimate relationship with Him.  If you do not know God, then I encourage you to accept Him into your heart and start your relationship today.  This is the means by which we are able to fortify ourselves.

Supporting Scriptures:
Psalm 73:26
Isaiah 25:4
2 Samuel 22:33
John 3:16  *always a supporting scripture

Monday, October 17, 2016

Do not force closed doors open

Today's post is a rerun but one worth reviewing often in life.

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 over time 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 promise to God that we will walk through the open doors and walk away from the closed ones!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Loving in the midst of brokenness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Jacob's ladder is our ladder also

Genesis 28:10-13    Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran.  When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set.  Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.  He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.  There above it stood the Lord, and he said:  "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.  I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.

Each of us, at one time or another, has used a ladder.  Ladders help us to climb to a level to reach things that we cannot otherwise reach from standing on the ground.   Ladders allow us to go up and down.  We use ladders to paint the tops of walls, change light bulbs, clean out gutters, or to get on the roof.  We are often interested in climbing the proverbial career ladder to advance in a job. Climbing a ladder allows access to things that may otherwise be unreachable.

In Geneses 28:10-13, Jacob dreams of a stairway which has become known as "Jacob's ladder" over time.  Jacob had done many things wrong.  He had plotted with his mother to trick his father, Isaac, into giving him the family's blessing that Isaac had planned to give to Essau, Jacob's brother.  Instead of relying on God to bless him, Jacob relied on deception.  When Essau realized that his family blessing had been stolen by Jacob's deceptive scheme, Essau planned to kill his brother.  Jacob fled the area in order to escape his own murder.

When Jacob stopped to sleep for the night, he dreamed vividly.  His dream contained a stairway that led to heaven.  The stairway resembled a ladder with angels going up and coming down the rungs.  God stood at the top of the stairway.  Let us focus on what God said to Jacob at this point.  With all that Jacob had done wrong, we would expect that God would have chastised him and given him instructions on how to make things right.  God told Jacob that he was the father of all Jacob's forefathers and that the ground on which he was sleeping belonged to Jacob.  God told Jacob that he would bless him and give him all that he had promised.

God was at the top of this ladder offering Jacob love, mercy and protection even though Jacob had just committed a huge act of deception and robbery.  With all the mistakes that Jacob had made, God blessed him.  He blessed him!!!!

Points to take away from this passage are:
            -God is reachable.  He is at the top of the ladder from earth to heaven.  Even if we break off
              rungs and render our ladder severed, God is still reachable.
            -God does not dwell on our mistakes and flaws.  He focuses on our potential!
            -No matter what we do, God's promises are always available.
            -No matter what mistakes we have made, we are still able to receive mercy and grace.

Use the ladder to heaven. The same ladder that Jacob dreamed of is there for us to use to access God. Allow the angels to take petitions up the rungs.  Wait as the angels bring answers down the rungs.  God is at the top of the ladder!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

There is no need to react to the enemy. God will act in your behalf.

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

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

Satan wants to disrupt our peace and comfort and he will use anyone that will listen to his schemes in order to accomplish misery on our behalf.  The schemes will make us think that our world is upside down.  The actions of others may cause disruption of our peace.  We may be tempted to react in a manner that will only cause more chaos.

There is no need to react to the actions of enemies.  When God shows us His goodness through peace, we must reflect such to others.  By reacting to the actions of enemies, we fail to show God's goodness and grace.  If we provide an equal reaction to an evil action, we have only contributed to the evil.  

When turmoil, anxiety and disruption of peace are present in life, remember that we ALWAYS have the promise of comfort from God.  When people around us intentionally cause pain and discomfort, God is available to offer comfort.  When you hold on to God's comfort, and submit to the inner peace that he offers, the schemes of enemies will not seem as significant.  Through God's protection, our comfort can prevail and the enemy's plan will be thwarted. 

It is up to each of us to submit to that comfort and to enjoy inner peace.  Do not pay attention to an enemy's actions that are intended to cause you discomfort.  There is no need to react to the enemy.  God will act in your behalf.   Reacting to actions from enemies will disrupt your inner peace even more.

Allow Him to comfort you.  Whatever your situation, whomever is causing disruption in your life, allow that peace that can pass all understanding to permeate you.  Accept the calmness that God can provide.  Recognize His authority and permit Him to deal with your enemies.  Resist the temptation to react to the schemes of the enemy.  Not only will God comfort you, He will take care of all your enemies!!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Contentment has nothing to do with "stuff"

Luke 12:15  And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

Do you ever focus on things that you do not have?  Do you ever fall into the sin of comparison, measuring your car or home to what someone else has?  Perhaps you have secretly wished for material things that others seem to acquire so easily.  Covetousness is a common trap of the enemy.  Satan will, quite often, try to make us feel as if the things we own do not measure up to the people around us.  When he can convince us that we need more "stuff", he has successfully managed to distract us from delighting in the blessings that God has poured out on us.

Being happy in life has nothing to do with "stuff".  Material things are temporal in nature.   They will only last for a time-some will last more briefly than others.  When we become entangled in the thought that material things equal contentment, the days roll by on the calendar and the result is this: The things are gone and we are still searching for contentment.  Replacing things with more things does not improve happiness. 

Instead of spending time acquiring material things, we should spend time with God asking him what he wants for you to have.  1 Timothy 6:7 "For we brought nothing into the world, and can take nothing out of it".  God loved us when he brought us into this world, naked and with absolutely no material possessions.  He will love us as we go out of this world with no material possessions.  He wants us to find contentment in seeking righteousness while enduring this world with faith and love.

Contentment is NOT expecting God to give us everything we seek.  Contentment is being happy seeking the things that God plans to give us. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Remember the prisoners

Hebrews 13:3  Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Prisons around the world are mission fields for Christian workers.  Hours of dedicated service and Christian witnessing takes place in prisons each and every day.  I have great admiration for those servants that obediently tend to the spiritual needs of inmates whether they are in small county jails or on death row in large maximum security prisons.  Each prison missionary dedicates hours of preparation and much time dealing with regulations and restrictions of the prison system in order to visit inmates.  The need is great for these types of missionaries.

As I read through this passage in Hebrews, my mind was drawn to a different sort of prison.  The type of prison that came to my attention has no metal bars or security systems;  it has no guards, wardens, or cells of isolation.  I thought of those people around us that live in a prison inside their own minds.  Perhaps the prison has been built because of addiction, emotional wounds, physical abuse, illness, depression, or bitterness.  When people are prisoners of their own minds, they need missionaries to attend to their spiritual needs just as much as the people who are literally behind bars.  

In the first two verses of Hebrews chapter 13, we are told to, "keep on loving each other as brothers.  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it".  By reading Hebrews 13:1-3 together, we are shown the changeless face of Christ.  We can look at these verses and glean that we are expected to have compassion for those who are suffering or mistreated.

Verse 3 points out that we are to remember "as if you yourselves are suffering".  To do so requires empathy.  Empathy means that we are able to understand and feel what another person is going through from the other person's point of view.  Empathy is more than acknowledging that another person feels a certain way; it is "putting yourself in his/her shoes".

If we look around us, we will find people that are prisoners.  They may sit close to you in church or live next to you in your neighborhood.  Someone in your family may be living in an emotional or bitter prison.  Remember the prisoners.  Visit the prisoners.  Seek out what you can do to meet the needs of those prisoners around you.

Let us focus in prayer that God will reveal to us anyone in our vicinity that may be a prisoner of emotional wounds.  May we stand ready to be a missionary to attend to any needs.  May we seek to show empathy and comfort to those that may be suffering in our midst. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Daily grace

2 Peter 1:2  Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

God's saving grace comes to us because he sent his son for our eternal salvation when we, as sinners, could do nothing to save ourselves.  Grace is God's love to all of mankind.  Grace is extended to all of us, even though we have a sinful nature that warrants anything but loving behaviors in return. 

How do we define God's daily grace?  Are we able to recognize his grace in all areas of our lives and not just through salvation?   Do we appreciate that he is the giver of all things and that it is only through him that we are able to accomplish the things which we do?  What does daily grace, everyday, plain old grace look like?  How can we identify it?

God's grace is love in action.  Daily grace is love in action!! God's grace is real and acting in our lives every day. 

Grace is provision of our basic needs.  It is also the receipt of an increase in our successes from time to time; not because of our efforts, but because of God's love in action.

His grace is strength when we feel most weak.

Grace is a good report from the doctor or medical tests.  Grace is healing.

Grace is that phone call or visit from a friend or relative that you haven't seen in awhile.  Perhaps the call comes from someone with whom the relationship is strained.  This is God's love in action!

Grace is a smile that turns your own frown upside down for God can reveal his grace through others in our life. 

Grace is protection from our fears that threaten to overtake our sense of calmness.

Grace is the opportunity to set our feet on the floor each morning and greet another day of life.

God's love in action is that sweet hug from your child after being disciplined and realizing the importance of reproof.

God's love in action allows us to love-even the people that are challenging to love.

Grace is so many things, that the list can go on and on.  Understanding grace comes from knowing God as we are told in 2 Peter 1:2.  Knowing God allows us to understand the gracious sacrifice of His son for us so that we may enjoy the grace he offers. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Facing past hurts

Psalm 139:23-24   Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

We are all busy.  Life is busy.  Some of the busyness is necessary to take care of our homes and families.  Perhaps some of the busyness is in the name of evasion.   Let's think about that for a minute.

I seem to thrive in a busy environment.  Not that I need to be going somewhere all the time but I think I need to keep my mind busy with hobbies, reading, projects, work, etc.  I have often said that being busy keeps my mind off the bad stuff and the unpleasantness of some past events.   This works to a degree.  However, a while back when I read Psalm 139:23-24, the words of the verses pierced my heart with a different view.  There are times, however,  when God wants us to focus our minds on those unpleasant occurrences in order to lay them to rest and rid of bitterness.

When we possess emotions, attitudes and thoughts that are offensive to God, it is beneficial to allow him to show us what those are.  We can then in turn deal with emotions, thoughts and attitudes that contain vengeance, bitterness, anger and hurt.  Filling all our time with work, hobbies, or social activities does not afford us time to hear God and seek the things in our hearts that he would have us address.  Busyness in the name of evasion only perpetuates things of the past that need attention. 

In order to emotionally heal and grow in our relationship with God, it is necessary to face past hurts, emotions and thoughts brought about by those hurts, as well as any wrong motives.  We do not necessarily need to face or confront the people involved, but we do need to deal with the feelings.  Admit the emotions and allow God to replace them with righteous motives.   Facing the past and dealing with the emotions frees the heart to accept the love and good things that God has in store for us.  Bitter, negative emotions and attitudes crowd the mind leaving little room for positive, productive ones. 

Facing hurtful feelings and events is not always easy.  No one wants to recount unpleasant events.  However, by facing past feelings that have a negative effect on our present life, we are able to allow God to take the hurt and turn it into healing.  If there are things that have happened in your life that create barriers or produce bitterness of any flavor, I urge you to face them full speed.  Allow yourself to rid of those unpleasantries in order to heal.  Take it all to God.  He may place wise counsel in your life in order to help you sort through the bitterness.  Allow them to assist you in facing what hinders you and lay it all to rest.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Strive to understand God.

Proverbs 2:1-5  My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 

Instead of struggling to understand people, we should strive to understand God. 

I have spent a great amount of time in my life seeking to understand people.  I have a natural curiosity to arrive at an explanation of why people behave or think in certain ways.  I have a particular interest for insight into factors that influence the decisions of others.  What shapes their thoughts and actions?  What are their objectives?  What elements motivate behaviors?

Trying to understand people can be exhausting especially when thoughts and behaviors are inconsistent from the people we seek to comprehend.  The thoughts and actions of others can be unpredictable at times.  Feelings may change from day to day within people.  Animosity may arise between people where it was never present before.

Instead of exhausting so much time trying to understand the what, where, and why of the actions of other people, we should strive to have a deeper understanding of God.  God is always consistent.  He never changes.  He loved us yesterday, loves us today, and will love us tomorrow.  He has much wisdom for us to acquire.  His wisdom is a gift that is available for us, however, we must seek it.  Proverbs 2:4 tells us that we must, "search for it as for hidden treasure".  We must look in scripture to find His wisdom in his words.  We must pursue God through prayer in order to find wisdom. 

The next time you have difficulty understanding someone or why he/she acted in a certain way, spend your time seeking to understand God.  Search out His wisdom and how he expects you to perceive the situation.  Read and pray to gain a deeper understanding of God and His wisdom. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Mental Fortitude

Ephesians  6: 11  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
Fact of life:  adversity will present itself to all of us.  Period.  No exemptions.  Distress visits all of us.   Each and every one of us faces difficult situations or difficult people to deal with at some point in our lives. 

Adversity comes from the adversary--Satan.
Emotional fortitude offers us the strength of mind that enables us to face adversity and withstand difficult situations.   Mental toughness equips us with protection from Satan's antics.  How do we build emotional fortitude in offer to protect us from our adversary?
When our forefathers built actual forts to protect our country, each fort had similar specifications.  Those specs included:    a.)being built at a distance from the cities so their artillery could not bombard the city center, b.)forts were built in a shape that offered a panoramic view of potential routes of the enemy, c.) forts were surrounded by ditches, moats or high walls making it more difficult for the enemy to enter, d.)forts were constructed of strong materials and each fort had  "look out" points in order to recognize that the enemy was approaching.   Each fort had other details specific to the geographical location, but the aforementioned specs were common to all.   
We must built mental forts to protect our minds and emotions.  We must constantly look in a panoramic fashion for all avenues that the enemy may enter as well as recognize the enemy when he is trying to enter.  We must fortify our minds with the truths in God's word.  By doing so, we will be able to stand strong and maintain mental fortitude. 

Strength of mind is mental preparedness.  It is a vital part of facing adversity and getting through those difficult times that will come in our lives.  The armor and strength of mind that we need is found in God's word and with a close relationship with Him.