The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Thursday, April 27, 2017

An Attitude of Eternity

Ecclesiastes 3:11    He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

If we have an attitude of eternity, then we can experience peace and contentment. 

God planted eternity into our hearts.  The reason that people often find dissatisfaction from earthly accomplishments and material possessions is that they do not adjust their attitudes to focus on eternity.  God's intent is for us to fasten our minds on eternity.  He has given us a spiritual appetite that we often try to fulfill with earthly pursuits.  We will not experience the perfect sense of His creation until we exist under His perfect rule.  When our attitude wanders from eternity and focuses on the temporary (earthly) portions of this life, we can become discontent. 

I heard the following statement in a sermon, "a mistake that we make as Christians is that of thinking in permanent terms about our current circumstances".  This is so true.  It is easy at times to think that our work and efforts on this earth are doing no good for God's kingdom.  It is important to press forward, continue to work for the advancement of God's kingdom, and direct our efforts toward eternity.  The fruits of our labor are gifts from God.  Eternal fruits are much sweeter than earthly produce.   

Our problems and circumstances should not be a barrier to God's intended purpose for us.  Keeping a positive attitude about His promises of a wonderful eternity will allow us to experience satisfaction in all that we do.  Seeking to understand all that God has done since the beginning and all that He will do until the end, strengthens an effective attitude of eternity.  When your attitude tends to concentrate on the temporary nature of this world, give yourself an adjustment and focus instead on eternity.  After all, we are designed to do so!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

4 Quarters or 100 Pennies?

Proverbs 20:6  Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?

In reading an article the other day, I came across this question which I have pondered:  "Does our desire for attention outweigh our desire to be loved?"

Social media comes to mind.  A place where attention is plentiful, both positive and negative.  "Likes", friend requests, shares and comments are available at the click of a button.  These options have the ability to put photos, news flashes, announcements, rants/raves, gossip, and drama in the spot light of attention.  The attention in social media may be negative or it can be very positive.  Social media can be a place to share love such as staying in contact with far-a-way family but many times it seems to be a place for attention.

Do we have a desire for attention?  By nature, we all want to be liked by people and have many friends.  However, few friends in our lives will have unfailing love for us.  Will the amount of friends on a social media list or the amount of "likes" on a picture or post fulfill our desire to be loved?  Not in the long run.

I want to share with you a conversation that I remember our children having at the supper table one night.  It spoke to my heart.  I love it when we can see the hearts of our children mature and minister to one another! 

Our oldest daughter was talking about groups of friends in college.  She was talking about the things in Proverbs 20:6.  She has experienced some claims of friendship only to find that the love was failing.  We can all relate to such instances.  Our son, three years her junior, tells her this, "It is much better in life to have three or four faithful, true friends than have large numbers of friends who are not true to you.  That is what I have in my life and I am very satisfied".  Where did this young fellow gain such wisdom?  Then our youngest offered this, "Would you rather have four quarters or 100 pennies in your pocket?"  She continued, "think about it carefully.  The four quarters are much easier to carry around in your pocket".  Their conversation was short and to the point.   I gleaned wisdom from what they had to say.

We desire to be loved.  Sure it is nice to have many acquaintances and to get to know hundreds of people.  But the most satisfying of all relationships are those with unfailing love.  The ones that love us, warts and all, provide us with the sense of steadfast, boundless, consistent love.  Friends and family that value us as God's creation, who will love us through all of life's storms, offer the most fulfilling attention that we can receive on this earth.  I agree with my youngest daughter, I would rather carry four quarters in my pocket than 100 pennies.  After all, both add up to be the same amount of money!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New, Crisp, Green Leaves

Isaiah 43:  18-19   "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland".

Green is my favorite color.  I love all shades of green.  Green is crisp, clean and easy on the eyes.  The color reminds me of new growth and fresh beginnings. 

The other day, I took a break and got into the hammock.  The position of the hammock was so that my view was of the woods behind our house.  The only colors that I saw were the greens of the tall trees pressed against a beautiful blue sky.  I watched the leaves move about in the breeze.  I absorbed all the shades of green that the new, crisp leaves had to offer.  I thought about the process of leaves and how a tree does not keep the same leaves, but instead grows new ones each year.  I can't remember the leaves from last year, except the fact that they were there and they were green. The leaves from last year are no longer useful.  Those leaves served their purpose, dried up, and fell off the tree.

As I soaked it all in, this thought came to mind:  "We do not think about the leaves that were on the tree last year.  We enjoy the leaves that are on the tree this year."   Isaiah 43:18-19 reminds us to do just that.  We are told to forget the former things and notice the new things. 

We are so often tempted to dwell in the past, especially if the past contains things that were unpleasant, disappointing, or hurtful.  Like the trees that shed the dried brown leaves, we must also shed those things from the past.  We should focus on the new things that God is doing in our lives.  Opportunities  that do not turn out the way that we had hoped can become "new" occasions for us.  God will provide the way.  He will help us to grow new leaves with crisp beginnings.   He can make all our leaves new and green.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Do Not be Afraid to be Different

Matthew 5:16   In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds
                         and praise your Father in heaven.



In order to make a difference, we must be willing to be different.   Let us repeat that.

IN ORDER TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE, WE MUST BE WILLING TO BE DIFFERENT.

God calls each of us to a specific purpose.  He equips us with specific gifts to be used by the Holy Spirit indwelling within us.  We are not all equipped in the same manner. 

A natural human tendency is to want to be like everyone else.  We want to fit in and be accepted.  However, God designs us to be different and we must be willing to express those differences.  If we hide our light by going along with the crowd and trying to blend in to be accepted,  we hide our light from others.  God expects us to shine the light that he has given each of us. 

Being different is not a bad thing.  Being different allows us to make a difference while we are here on earth.  Sharing our different gifts and purposes lets our light shine in truth and in service.  Making a difference allows others to see God and offers them the chance to praise God for his magnificence.

If God is calling you to make a difference, do not be afraid to be different.  Embrace the purpose that he has assigned you.  Seek the differences that you may make in this world.

Go out and make a difference! 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Compassion for our Enemies

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

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; In the book of 1st Samuel, it is revealed that he did not accept what God had called David to do.

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 a reality for some.   

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. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Get up off the mat of paralysis and follow Christ!

Luke 5:24  .....He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home".  
 
Get up off the mat of paralysis and follow Christ!

The story of the healed paralytic is a literal as well as a metaphoric example in the Bible of Christ's healing powers.  The man on the mat was physically paralyzed.  His friends wanted to take him to Jesus because they had heard of his healing powers.  Crowds of people were going to Jesus as he traveled from town to town to hear of his teachings and to seek healing of their illnesses or afflictions.  Jesus desired to heal them of their ailments but he had a greater desire to heal their souls.  His purpose, as he traveled about, was to teach sinners about repentance and the condition of sin in their lives. 

The friends of the paralytic carried him on the mat to see Jesus.  There was such a crowd that they could not make their way to where Jesus was standing.  The devised a plan to place the man before Jesus, "when they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus" (Luke 5:19).  They felt an urgent need and desire to see the Healer. 

The friends went to great lengths in order to help the man on the mat be in the presence of Jesus.  Jesus told the man, "friend, your sins are forgiven" (Luke 5:20).  Immediately Jesus was thought to be blaspheming God.  He was trying to teach the people about repentance.  However, they thought only God could offer the forgiveness of sins.  They did not understand who Jesus was and his purpose on earth.  So, Jesus gave them physical proof of his power.  He healed the paralytic and the man walked off the mat.

What are your mats of affliction?

Are you paralyzed by bitterness?

Are you disabled by unforgiveness?

Do you lack of faith?

Is there a level of unbelief in your heart?

Do you suffer from physical ailments?

We do not need tangible proof in order to believe in the power of Christ!  If we are able to go before him in faith and belief that he has the power to heal our bodies and our souls, then we may get up off our mats and walk with confidence.  The men with the paralytic were confident that the Master had the power and the will to heal and make their friend whole.  We should run to Christ with the same manner of urgency and faithfulness. 








Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Life is not perfect but God's plan for you is!

Psalms 42:11  Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Disappointments should be fleeting emotions, not permanent feelings.  Unfulfilled moments in life may leave our hearts heavy.  Our emotions will be deflated to a level of frustration when we expect events to produce us with certain feelings of enrichment.

Expectations and disappointments are directly proportional.  If we decrease our expectations of people in our lives, we will also see a decrease in our disappointments.  When we can look instead to what we can expect from God, we will never be disappointed.   

Holidays, birthdays,vacations, and other special occasions may heighten our expectations.  We may dream of an over-the-top celebration where every moment is perfect.  We might plan for weeks so that all the details will be comparable to something we have seen on Pinterest, television, or other media.  Often, we expect the day or event to flood us with euphoria.

The problem is that life here on earth is not perfect.  Humans are flawed.  Our lives contain situations that that have left us with disappointments, some small and others large.  Life will not always be picture perfect.  It will not have fairy tale endings as books and movies do.       

Heightened expectations can lead to deepened disappointments.  This is especially true when we fall into comparing our lives to the seemingly perfect lives of others.  As I have said before in other posts, when we expect every second of our lives to manifest like the pictures of others that we see on social media, we kid ourselves.  A single photo of an occasion does not begin to reveal all the details of the lives represented.  What we see in the pictures represents a single, joyful, memorialized moment.  Yes, we should celebrate each and every one of those precious moments; however, we must NOT begin to believe that the lives of those in the photos are filled with never ending bliss.

Enjoy every blissful moment with which God blesses you.  They are your moments, filled with special details about the people in your life.  Do not fall for believing that the lives of others are perfect while your life contains flaws.  Do not begin to compare the realities of your life with photos that present only a portion of the actualities of the lives of others.

Life will not always be over-the-top with perfect days.  There will be times when holidays make us sad.  There will be times when bad memories flood our days and crowd out joy.  There will be days when disappointment fills our minds with discouragement.

If you find yourself in a period of discouragement because life does not seem to be perfect, find a piece of paper and begin to list the joys and times of fulfillment that you have experienced.  Declare the truths in your life that God has provided and continues to promise.  Settle into the fact that life is not perfect and neither are people but God has a perfect plan for you in mind.  Put your hope in Him!



Monday, April 17, 2017

The Stockdale Paradox

2 Timothy 4:7-8  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Vice Admiral Jim Stockdale was the highest ranking Naval officer at the time of his capture by the enemies during the Vietnam War.  When his aircraft was hit by enemy fire, he ejected from the plane and parachuted into a village where he was captured.  For the next seven and one-half years he was a prisoner of war.  During those years, he was tortured physically and emotionally.  His arms were twisted until they were dislocated from the sockets and he was severely beaten.  Because he was a high ranking military official, his torture was more severe than the other POWs.  In the midst of it all, he served as an encourager to the other prisoners instilling in them mental fortitude by reminding them of their naval code of honor.  

Stockdale endured.  He persevered.  He stated after his release that he would not trade the experience because it was a defining event in his life.

I am captivated by his statement regarding the lesson he wants others to glean from such an experience, "you must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end-which you can never afford to lose-with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be".

Read that again and process what he is saying.

Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great refers to this principle as the Stockdale Paradox.  In his situation of torture and possible death at the hands of his enemy, Stockdale remained confident that he would endure.  It seems contradictory that a person can have such hope in the midst of such agonizing persecution.

The duality of his statement exemplifies the type of faith that we must possess.  Most of us will never have the experiences that he endured and I thank God for that.  However, in this world of brutal realities, we do need to develop the same attitude of faith and perseverance.  Each day, we face enemy territory where the spiritual battles are real.  The facts around us can cause us to feel as if our efforts to work for God are insignificant.

We must hold firmly to the belief that we will prevail in the end by holding on to our faith and trust in God.  We have a commitment to continue to work for God even when things around seem bleak and without hope.  Even when our current reality is filled with pain, sorrow, or uncertainty, we must stand firm and carry on.  

Friday, April 14, 2017

The "good" in Good Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Mask of 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, and 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!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

UP

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


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

GET UP out of that bed,

STAND UP to the devil,

LOOK UP to what God has in store for you,

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

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Brewing Bitterness

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

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

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

When inward emotions, such as unresolved hurts, anger, and bitterness manifest into outward actions, we are likely to wrong one another.  The wrongs take the form of slander, vengeance, and separating ourselves from fellowship with one another.  The old saying, "hurting people, hurt people" is likely to become a truth when bitterness takes root within us.  

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

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Labels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, April 7, 2017

God Does Not Make Junk

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

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

God does not make junk.

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

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

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


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

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

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Peacemaker or Peace-taker?

Matthew 5:9  Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.

Peacemaker or Peace-taker?

As Christians, We are called to get along with other people.  Romans 12:18 tells us, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone".   Living at peace with everyone begins with our own personal relationship with God.  The first and greatest commandment is, "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37).  Obedience of this commandment produces peace within the heart of an individual.  When we obey the first commandment, the second order from God follows, "and the second is like it:  'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matthew 22:39).  I believe that these two commands are the foundation for living at peace with other people. 

We all desire peace.  Peace in our relationships produces happiness, contentment, and security.  A lack of peace within us, generates insecurities and discontentment.  These feelings are breeding grounds for becoming a "peace-taker".  If we lack inner peace, then we are likely to be disruptive of the peace within those people around us.  We may be unaware that we are disrupting the peace around us, but negative feelings do not produce positive behaviors. 

Ken Sande, author of The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, said, "in many cases, however, conflict is fueled by good desires that we have elevated to sinful demands, such as a longing to be loved in a certain way, a craving for peace and quiet, a demand to see a certain project succeed, or an insistence that everyone worship in a certain way."  In James 4:1, we are told that fights and quarrels originate from the "desires that battle within us".  In other words, the temptation to disrupt everyday peace is a battle between our own ears.

Peacemakers are concerned with relationships.  They are interested in loving others.  In doing so, peacemakers pick their battles, so to speak.  They have wisdom overlook offenses and differences that cause unnecessary disturbances of peace, "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). 

Peacemaking involves the receiving and giving of grace.  We receive God's grace daily.  As a peacemaker, we are to offer grace to others.   The apostle Paul began his letters with "grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:2).  Pastor Rick Ezell points out, "reading his letters, you never find the order reversed to “peace and grace.” Grace always comes before peace. We have to experience the grace of God before we can experience the peace of God".

As we ponder being a peacemaker, let us consider our attitude toward our relationships with others.   Are we concerned with loving others as God loves us?  Are we willing to apply heavenly wisdom in order to overlook offenses in order to be a peacemaker?  Do we battle a loving relationship with others because of our own selfish desires?

Peacemaker's prayer:  Lord, help me to seek peace with others through the grace which you offer.  Give me wisdom to overlook differences that will prevent me from loving others the way in which you desire.  Strengthen my attitude so that I may be a Peacemaker and not a peace-taker.  Amen.










Wednesday, April 5, 2017

From Bitterness to Blessings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Activated Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank God for taking care of all things! 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Keep Your Eyes and Feet Pointed Forward

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

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


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

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

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

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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Queen Anne's Lace

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

God Wants to Heal and Restore

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

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

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

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

He promises!

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

God Understands Our Plans and Dreams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Love in the Midst of Brokenness

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, March 27, 2017

Is the Grass Really Greener?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Temptation

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Accept God's Wisdom Without Doubt

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Jesus Deserves ALL of Our Affinity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Peace and Security

Psalms 122:6-7   Pray for the peace of Jersualem:  May those who love you feel secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.

In my studies of peace and security, I have searched to describe what these things look like in everyday life.   I have arrived at this description:  Security results when the actions and reactions of others do nothing to shake our confidence, comfort, and self-worth.  This type of security can only result in trust and love for God-the source of true peace and security. 

Insecurity comes into our lives when our peace is deeply disrupted.  It is a feeling that results from actions and reactions of those around us.  Insecurity produces fear as a result of a disruption of our peace.  Insecurity affects our confidence and self-worth.  No one desires to feel insecure.  Insecurity will wreak havoc in a person's mind and life.  The fears and anxieties produced by insecurity will eventually affect one's everyday living.  

Insecurity can cause a lack of self-confidence within a person.  It may also lead a person to feel vulnerable and open to danger or threat.  The causes of insecurity are many.  The manifestations of insecurity are numerous.

The first step to peace and security is salvation.  Even after salvation, peace can and will be disrupted, not from God, but from others in this world.  Real security can only come from God, for He possesses ALL the characteristics of peace and security.  Before we can find peace and security with other people, we must first find it with God.  He will never do anything that will shake our confidence or self-worth.  His desire is for us to be secure and comfortable in everything that we do. Even when actions and reactions of others may try to disturb our peace and security, God's actions and reactions never will.  He offers us peace within our walls and security within all our towers!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Neat Little Boxes

Isaiah 55:8-9  "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts". 

When our oldest daughter was five years old, we enrolled her in violin lessons.  Playing the violin came easy for her.  She remained in lessons until she graduated high school and played in a college orchestra all four of her high school years.  When our son turned five, we had the same plans for him.  So, we enrolled him in violin lessons with the same teacher.  Surely his musical experiences would be like hers.  Their lessons were on the same day which made things easier for our schedule.  Music lessons were wrapped up in a neat little box at our house.

A few years into the lessons, practices, and yearly recitals, our son announces that he wants to quit violin lessons.   Since he was performing quite well, we could not understand why there was a problem.  There were times that he would become frustrated with reading the music as his teacher required.  Our son told us that he did not see songs and music from a sheet of paper.  He could hear them in his mind and then play them on the violin.  He is a musician that plays by ear.  This method did not blend with the teaching style of the instructor.  As time progressed, our son's frustration level increased.  He was ready to release his musical talent in his own way but he was restricted by the "neat little box". 

Long story shortened, he asked to quit violin lessons.  He wanted to play guitar.  There was some bargaining, expectations declared, deal making, etc.  In order to bridle the emergence of a potential rock and roll star from our address, my husband required that our son play at least 50% of praise and worship music during his practices.  He complied and his musical gift has brought him much enjoyment and has been a blessing to us. 

Yesterday, as I listened to our son playing in the praise and worship band at church, I thought of "neat little boxes" and Isaiah 55:8-9.  We like for our lives to be wrapped up in neat little boxes.  We want everything to be organized.  We live in a box, work in a box, store things in boxes, and put gifts in boxes.  Many times we only want to think inside the boxes.  I am thankful that God urged us to think outside the musical box several years ago with our son.  

When we follow God's ways and His will, we will be required to think outside the box.  At times that will look scary.  God may ask us to move from our house box.  He may ask us to quit a job that has our career wrapped up in the "neat little box".  He may change and rearrange the organized box that we call life. 

Learn to think outside the boxes.  Open your mind to the ways in which God has planned for you.  His way is higher than any way we can ever imagine.  His plans are flawless and in perfect timing!




Friday, March 17, 2017

Encourage Others to Believe in Themselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Patience to Overlook Offenses

Proverbs 19:11    A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

".....to overlook an offense."   Sometimes this is easier said than done.  When offenses are complex and involve hurts and losses that are life altering, it is difficult to immediately overlook what has been done.  Some offenses can be overlooked right away, forgotten about, and never brought up again.  Other offenses require time to sort, heal, and forgive.  Complex offenses are breeding grounds for bitterness, anger, and resentment.

Dealing with bitterness can provide a great opportunity to develop patience and wisdom.  Both patience and wisdom are key aspects in dealing with offenses and moving forward.  Gaining wisdom from God about how to handle our emotions equips us with knowledge about how we should react. 

Reacting to offenses with anger and bitterness is unhealthy for our relationship with God as well as our relationships with others.  Bitterness invades the mind and body much like a cancer that has metastasized to all areas of the body.  When we allow offenses to breed bitterness and resentment, even people around us that were not involved in the offense will begin to suffer. 

A real turning point in dealing with my bitterness was the moment that I realized how it was affecting my children and husband.  None of them had in any way been a part of the original offense, yet each of them was suffering from my bitterness.  That was heart wrenching for me.  How I wish that I had possessed more wisdom in the beginning and could have avoided the bitterness altogether. 

If you are dealing with bitterness in your life, it is my prayer that you may realize the effects it has on your life and those around you.  There is much peace when you rid of bitterness in your life.  I pray that you will take the steps to grow in wisdom which will in turn give you patience to understand the overall picture of life.  Overlooking offenses involves forgiveness which is healing for the offended much more than for the offender. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

We Do Not Have to Fear Crashing into the Valley

Luke 3:5   Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.  The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.

This verse is a perfect fit for an adventure that we had a couple of years ago. We took our children for a weekend trip (adventure) to Atlanta, a 350 mile trip from home.  It was an adventure because there were things "added" to our venture.  We left around supper time on Friday and had decided to take the route that involved less interstate highway driving.  My husband likes to call it the scenic route, however in the dark we didn't see much scenery.  I drove first and about halfway into the trip we stopped to eat and rest a bit.  With everyone back in the vehicle, we planned to go straight to the hotel without any more stops.  It was now dark.  The old saying "it was raining cats and dogs", was an understatement.  Fog had rolled in and along with the rain.  Visibility was diminished.  A few miles down the road I missed a turn.  There was a place in the highway to make a U-turn a few feet ahead.  When I pushed the brake pedal, it went all the way to the floor and I was barely able to stop the vehicle.  The brakes were not completely out but stopping required some distance and preparation.

We stopped at gas station so my husband and son could investigate the problem. They decided that adding some brake fluid should fix the issue.  Brake fluid added and my husband now behind the wheel, we hit the road again. As panic began to creep into me, I realized that we still had over 150 miles left to travel.  More nerve racking was the fact that we still had the mountains near Chatanooga, Tennessee to tackle.  As I thought about going over the steep mountains with the possibility of our brakes completely failing at any moment, I couldn't help but panic inside.  Fear threatened me.  All the "what ifs" began swirling in my mind.  I wanted to turn around and go home, but then I thought, "we will not have brakes in that direction either". 

My husband is a "silent stressor".  He does not voice his worry and fear.  I, on the other hand, have no problems expressing my worry and concern.  I gripped the door handle, sighed heavy breaths, squirmed in my seat among other gestures just shy of all out screaming as we went over the mountains and down the steep hills. 

In the midst of my panic, I heard God whisper to me, "There is never any guarantee, even when the brakes are in working order, that you will be able to stop while going down the mountain and into the valley.  I will take care of you so that you arrive safely into the valley and are able to ascend back onto the mountain top".  This is so true about the mountains and valleys that we experience in our lives.  God is stronger than any brake system in any vehicle.  He is able to pad the trips that we take into the valleys.  He is able to calm the fear of rolling down the mountains and crashing into a valley.  Man-made brakes are not without fault or failure.  God is the only trustworthy source of protection for us when life seems to careen down the steepest mountains and it looks as if we will crash into the valley. 

We fear the unknowns.  We fear crashing into the valleys when the brakes might go out.  We panic at the thought of careening down the hills and dealing with the stresses in the valley.

Going down the mountains with little-to-no brakes is a great opportunity to put faith and trust into action.  Trust that God will apply the brakes to the dangers and fears that the valleys present.  Racing into the valley allows growth and reasoning when we submit to God's will.

To finish the story, the next day my husband spend several hours in a repair shop with the vehicle.  The brake line had rusted out, allowing the fluid to escape and there was no pressure in the lines for the brakes.  Repairs were made and we were able to enjoy the rest of our trip.  On the way home, a front wheel bearing went out of the vehicle but I was not afraid because after all, we had been over the mountains with no brakes, what is a little wheel bearing?   Perhaps it is time to retire our 13 year old SUV??????

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Emerge a Victor

Deuteronomy 20:4     "For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory".
 

Some crises in life will cause us to feel like a victim.  Betrayal and hurt by people that we care for can cause us to feel victimized.  Being the target of mistreatment and wrongdoing does not offer us feelings of victory, but instead causes feelings of defeat. 

God does not intend for us to remain in crisis mode.  When we experience a crisis, he expects us to learn, grow, and move forward instead of feeling defeated. He intends for us to emerge a VICTOR, not to remain a victim.  He will assist in our battles with the enemy that cause us to feel defeated in life. 

If life finds you in crisis mode today, allow God to carry you into victory.  He will fight the enemy.  He will protect you in all the battles of life, small and large.  He will declare you a victor.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Only God's Shield Will Take Away Stress

Psalms 5:12  For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Remember the commercial years ago with the quote, "Calgon take me away"?  The quote became a catch phrase that many people still use today when things are stressful or frustrating.   I sometimes feel that I need a dump truck load of Calgon delivered to my address.  I am certain that I am not alone in feeling this way. 

I remember a time a while back when my stress level compounded within a matter of a few days.  The microwave oven quit working.  We can't complain too much, after all it was 13 years old.  Immediately after installing and plugging in the new microwave, I put a load of clothes in the washer and in the middle of the cycle, the washer dies (it wasn't nearly as old as the microwave).  A few days later, I was waiting for my daughter at soccer practice.  When she was finished, the vehicle would not start.  Did I mention that at the same time, three out of five of us were sick and I had two major research projects due?  Ready for that dump truck load of Calgon ASAP!

My list of happenings is by no means the most stress I have ever endured.  While these occurrences were irritating, the were not life altering.  I use this example to show that there are periods of time in life when negative things seem to be around every corner.  The stresses will distract us from the positive elements of life. Life's stresses happen to each and everyone of us.  Stress can cause us to focus only on what is going wrong.

Sickness, disease, loss of a job, death of a loved one, and other uncertainties cause great amounts of stress.  These are the life altering occurrences.  No amount of Calgon will sooth the feelings that we experience with these levels of stress.  Only God's shield can offer us protection and relief from major stress.

I understand the feelings and worries that accompany stress. Your flesh wants to understand why so many frustrating things happen, especially when you are trying to live a godly life. One thing to remember when you are in these situations is that God is working on you to fulfill his purpose in and through you. After we become saved, God begins to mold us and guide us into His perfect purpose. Is this always easy? No. There is pruning that takes place, lessons we must learn, and changes that will occur. During this process, it is important to seek God’s heart. Ask Him in fervent prayer what He is trying to teach you or what changes he may want you to make. Sometimes it is our attitude that He is trying to reshape.
 
When we ask “why” God allows things to happen, His response is one of a sovereign nature-because He knows best and so that His work shall be displayed in our lives. He is also interested in faith building and spiritual growth within us. Our flesh wants answers but God expects us to trust in His holiness and sovereignty. To do so requires much perseverance, prayer and time in the Bible.
We cannot expect a perfect world when all the people do not live under God’s perfect rule. We must continue to seek righteous living and know that our needs will be met-sometimes in ways that we cannot see until it happens. I have some verses that God showed me in for stressful situations. 
1 Timothy 6:11; Isaiah 32:17; Psalms 1:6; Psalms 5:12. Please study the verses, pray, and never give up your faith and service. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Junk Must Go!

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

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

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

The junk must go.  Empty out all the junk that is in your heart so that you may seek God with all your heart, free and clear of any negative emotions.  Get rid of ALL junk so that you can experience ALL the blessings that God has in store for you. 

Search and seek God.  Find Him.

If you have turned from him, return to Him.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Allow the Savior to Stand Between You and the Storm

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trust Him

Psalms 22:10  From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.

God has loved us even before we were born.  He designed us with love and He designed us to trust Him.  As babies, we are helpless and cannot live on our own.  He allows us to be cared for and to thrive.  God reveals His trustworthiness early in our lives.  We take all that for granted.

As adults, we are equally as helpless, even though we want the think that we are very much in charge.  We cannot control the world around us.  We cannot control what others around us do.  We must put our trust in God to provide for us.  We must trust in Him in order to thrive and survive. 

He has loved us since he created us. 

He will continue to love us long after our time on this earth is finished. 

Put ALL your trust in Him. 

He designed it to be such. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Removing Heart Blockages

Ezekiel  36:26  "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh". 

If any one of us began having severe chest pain we would RUN immediately to the doctor or nearest Emergency Room.  We would want to fix the problem and would be willing to do whatever the doctor recommended.  We would go to the pharmacy and pick up any medicines prescribed.  We would willingly endure any test and procedures suggested.  If we had blockages, we would agree to surgical procedures in order to remove them.  We consider physical problems of the heart to be serious and we want them rectified because heart disease, left untreated, will wear a heart out. 

What about spiritual heart blockages?  Think on that for a moment. 

Are we as eager to remove the problems in our heart that cause barriers between God and ourselves?  Do we immediately tend to the anger, bitterness, and lack of forgiveness that may be dwelling in our heart?  Are we willing to allow God to perform open heart surgery in order to renew us and put a new spirit within us? 

We are usually reluctant to face heart problems of the spiritual nature.  It is difficult to face our flaws.  It is very uncomfortable to confess bad feelings and disclose our imperfect inner thoughts. It takes courage and strength to examine all the aspects of the heart and make any necessary changes.  Self-righteous pride is a barrier.  Sometimes we even become comfortable with negativity and hold on to it instead of allowing a positive renewal. 

Are you experiencing spiritual chest pains?  Does your heart ache because of bitterness, resentment, or anger?  Is there unforgiveness blocking the spiritual blood flow from your heart?  Does jealousy or discontent cause you to feel negative emotions?  If so, allow God to renew you.  He can change your heart and cure your heart aches.  He will help you deal with bitterness and anger.  He can lead you to forgiveness of those that have caused you to feel these things.