The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Thursday, December 21, 2017

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. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Soda Can Smile

Philippians 2:3-4  Do nothing our of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

The following is a re-post from a couple of years ago.  The event happened while we were on vacation.  

While on the beach with my oldest daughter one morning during our vacation, we noticed an elderly gentleman close by our mats going through the garbage can.  He was collecting empty soda cans and water bottles.  He had a cart loaded with his belongings and the cans that he had recently collected.  We had just finished our sodas and I suggested to my daughter that she take our empty cans and give them to the fellow.  When she handed him the soda cans, an enormous smile came over his face.  His eyes sparkled as he beamed with gratitude.  He waved at both of us as he walked away toward his cart.  I could tell that his heart was touched.

When my daughter returned to our spot, she said this to me, "Did you see that fellow's face when I gave him the cans?"  I told her that I had indeed noticed his response.  She was deeply moved by his response and the impression that it left on her heart was as precious as the smile on his face. We then had a discussion about giving and how the blessings are experienced by the giver as much as the receiver.  I love it when I recognize hearts being moved!

I have pondered the smile on his weathered face.  A face that seemingly revealed hardship, loneliness and struggle.  I will forever remember that moment that his heart was touched by two empty soda cans.  You see, when we are given things and shown acts of kindness, it is not the "things" that mean so much to us.  What touches our hearts is that someone cared about our interests.  We are moved within our souls when we realize through the loving deeds of others, that others care for us.  We all want to be thought of as important and to feel loved. 

As we quickly enter the Christmas season, may our hearts always be in tune with the interests of others.  May we realize that everyone under the sun wants to be cared for and thought of by others.  May we never forget to consider the interests of others.  May we share those empty soda cans in life when they will touch the heart of another!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Peace in the Valley

Psalms 23:1-4  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.

Psalms 23 is such a well known Bible passage.  We typically think of it as a scripture to read when someone has passed away.  It is common to see the first four verses of Psalms 23 printed on funeral programs and read aloud during a funeral service.

Psalms 23 is as much about everyday life as it is about death.  Let us focus on verse 2, "He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul".  This verse can bring to mind many pleasantries.  If you have ever walked beside a river or stream in early spring,  you can recall the freshness that is in the air.  One of my favorite places to be growing up was at the river.  At the river bottom in early spring, I could never resist the urge to take my shoes off and feel the lush, new green grass between my toes.  The flowing water, chirping birds, warm spring sunshine and crisp air always offered a sense of renewal.  The body's energy levels rise in the spring and being in the green pastures beside those still waters of the river was a place in which I felt that I could stay forever.

In the green pastures that God provides for us, we can find peace.  By the quiet streams of life, we can exhale and find comfort from God our shepherd.  It is in those time frames of living that we can gather a renewed strength and rest in the salvation of our souls.  Each and every day in this fallen world, the shadows of death are all around us.  In our lost and dying surroundings, there is darkness and despair.  We walk through these shadows daily.  God's rod and staff offer us protection and guidance in order to survive the world in which we live.  He shows us the way into eternity where all valleys will be lush and peaceful forever more. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Positive Outlook

Philippians 4:8   Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.

If you do not have a positive outlook, you cannot expect a positive outcome.

There are so many things in the world around us that can foster a negative attitude.  The news seems to be a pit of negativity.  We will find people around us who seem to have lost hope and joy.  It can be a challenge to maintain a positive outlook within the world today.

Having a positive outlook does not mean that nothing negative will ever happen in your life.  A positive attitude means that in whatever does happen within the world around you, you can find God's truth.  He wants us to ponder those truths and appreciate the positive things that we do experience in life.  He wants us to find peace even through any negativity that we encounter.  He wants us to focus on the good things in which he fills our lives.

If we focus on negativity and discouraging things around us, we will only spread that same negativity through our words and actions.  Focus on a positive outlook, so that your outcomes will also be positive and encouraging. 
Philippians 4:8   Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.

If you do not have a positive outlook, you cannot expect a positive outcome.

There are so many things in the world around us that can foster a negative attitude.  The news seems to be a pit of negativity.  We will find people around us who seem to have lost hope and joy.  It can be a challenge to maintain a positive outlook within the world today.

Having a positive outlook does not mean that nothing negative will ever happen in your life.  A positive attitude means that in whatever does happen within the world around you, you can find God's truth.  He wants us to ponder those truths and appreciate the positive things that we do experience in life.  He wants us to find peace even through any negativity that we encounter.  He wants us to focus on the good things in which he fills our lives.

If we focus on negativity and discouraging things around us, we will only spread that same negativity through our words and actions.  We should set our focus on a positivity, so that our outcomes will also be positive and encouraging. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


2 Corinthians 7:10  For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation.  There's no regret for that kind of sorrow.  But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. 

We all have regrets.  "Coulda", "woulda", "shoulda", and "if I had only", are thoughts that we all have somewhere throughout our lives.  Dr. Charles Stanley said this about regret, "if you do not have regret, you have either not lived or you have not learned".  Either you have been sitting on your couch wrapped in bubble plastic or you have not realized how God expects us to treat our mistakes.

Satan wants to magnify regrets.  He wants to put them right in front of our faces and cause us to experience worldly sorrow.  God wants to put regret in its place.  The only sorrow he wants us to experience for our mistakes is that which will cause a realization of the wrongdoing which will lead to repentance.  God wants us to improve our behavior in order to grow spiritually.  He wants us to become wiser and closer to him.  He does not want us to wallow in regret.

Worldly sorrow results in ruminating, chewing the cud, wallowing, rehashing-you get the picture.  This type of sorrow and regret hinders spiritual growth.  If we constantly dwell on mistakes and regrets, we fill our minds with discouragement and negativity.  This will keep us from moving forward and growing spiritually.

If you find yourself drowning in regret, take a look at why you continue to ruminate.  Have you given it over to God?  Have you repented?  If you have done these things, then God tells us to stop dwelling on our mistakes (Isaiah 43:18).  He tells us that he forgets our mistakes (Hebrews 8:12).  Mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow.  Treat mistakes the way in which God expects-with repentance and growth not regret.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Offer to Help Others with Bitterness

1 Samuel 1:6-7  And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.  This went on year after year.  Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 

Hannah was bitter.  She was so bitter that it affected her physically to the point that she would not eat.  Hannah was bitter because God had closed her womb.  That was devastating in and of itself because in Hannah's day, barrenness was looked upon as failure.  Not only was she dealing with these feelings, but she was also bullied and ridiculed about her situation by a mean spirited person. 

There are many points to make about bitterness in this story.  First, bitterness takes root in people for MANY reasons.  Those reasons involve loss, injustices, hurts, and disappointments.  Hurts come in all sizes and flavors.  Secondly, bitterness can cause severe emotions and reactions within a person.  Thirdly, bitterness can last for long periods of time.  Lastly, bitterness within a person should bring about compassion from others, but sometimes others delight in seeing people tormented by bitterness.  The three sentences in this passage tell us so much.

I wish to focus on the part of this passage where Hannah was provoked and tormented.  We should never enjoy another person's suffering, no matter the reason.  We are called to lift others up, to bear their burdens and to help them overcome suffering.  Bitterness is a type of suffering.  Grief, worry, and other strong emotions can bring a person to a point where physical effects occur.  Torment only makes the emotions stronger.    

If you know someone suffering from bitterness, offer comfort.  Provide friendship, a listening ear, or a Bible study in order to help someone overcome bitterness.  It is easy to overlook bitterness as suffering but I can tell you from my own experiences, much internal suffering occurs.  Compassion, love and friendship offer much encouragement to a person struggling with bitterness. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Insecurity is a Feeling NOT a Fact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Daily Bread

Exodus 16:14-15     When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, "What is this?"  For they did not know what it was.

Daily bread.  That is what it was.  The Israelites did not even realize that the manna which God sent them fresh every morning was their daily bread.  The manna rained from heaven onto the grass.  The interesting thing was that it could not be stored.  It only lasted long enough for the Israelites to eat and then it spoiled.  But, each morning, there was fresh, new manna to sustain the hungry people. 

Daily bread.  The Israelites had a literal "daily bread" with a symbolic meaning.  While they grumbled and wondered what they would eat and how they would survive in the desert, God was showing them that he would provide everything that they needed, exactly when it was needed. 

Same goes for us.  Daily bread.  What we need, when we need it.  Everything we need for the moment, for the day.

Several scriptures in the Bible speak of daily bread.  In the Lord's prayer, Matthew chapter 6, asks the Lord to "give us this day our daily bread".   Proverbs 30:8, "give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread". 

Daily bread means more than just our "manna" for the day.  When I think of daily bread, I think of these things as well:
                  -peace that God offers in the midst of tumultuous storms in our lives=daily bread
                  -protection from all the evils in our world=daily bread
                  -phone call from a friend at a moment when you needed it=daily bread
                  -an unexpected act of kindness that beams with God's love=daily bread
Daily bread consists of those things that keep us filled up with God's love.  Daily bread sustains us when the world around us is chaotic.   Daily bread fills us until our cup runneth over. 

We should thank God each day for our daily bread, the literal slices as well as the figurative slices.  Daily bread is everything we need today. Tomorrow, new manna will be sent from above!

Tuesday, December 5, 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, December 4, 2017

A Season of Forgiveness

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

Forgiveness is multifaceted. 

Forgiveness is tough.

One of the toughest parts of forgiveness involves fear---the fear that comes with feeling vulnerable to being hurt again.  For as many times as we are hurt, we must forgive.   Non-negotiable. 

Worrying about subjecting ourselves to the possibilities of hurt is not fun.  It is also NOT forgiveness.  Forgiveness is letting go of the actions or words that caused hurt in the first place; the decision that we will not allow the actions or words to affect our inner beings and service to God.  Forgiveness pertains to things in the past, no matter how recent or distant.   

The fear of being hurt again is a trust issue.  It pertains to the future.  Fear is anticipation of something that might happen.  Fear is not of God, it is a tool of the devil.

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

Do not allow fear to prevent you from offering forgiveness.  Trust in God to protect you from hurts and decide to live in forgiveness.  

The Christmas season is a great time to offer forgiveness.  After all, Christ was born in order to die and offer forgiveness for us.   The Christmas season stirs our hearts to deal with forgiveness-I believe this is no coincidence!                    

Friday, December 1, 2017

Stay Encouraged During the Christmas Season

Luke 2:6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

"It's the most wonderful time of the year".   I love that song.  It paints such a picture of happy hearts and fun Christmas time activities.  Christmas is a special time.  However, for many it is a time that causes discouragement and disappointments to rear their ugly heads. 

The media portrays only the happy thoughts and events.  Pictures of the perfect decorations, an abundance of gifts, and flawless family gatherings.   This is purposed at selling merchandise or ideas.  In reality, many folks have families that are dysfunctional, broken or in distress, finances that are a mess, or emotional longings that go unfulfilled.   Discouragement threatens to set up housekeeping when our expectations are not met and we focus on the negative elements of the situations over which we have no control. 

Many of us, if we would be honest with ourselves, find that at the end of all the activities, we are left with an anticlimactic feeling.  Perhaps we compare the "perfect" movies and media to the imperfections of people in the real world.  We feel compelled to continue to participate in gatherings out of tradition, even if they produce stress.

How will you stay encouraged?   I have these inspirations to offer.  I plan to practice them myself this year!!
                  -God expects us to realize the meaning of Christmas  (Luke 2)
                  -God expects us to accept the meaning of Christmas  (John 3:16)
                  -All other expectations are worldly standards
                  -God does not expect us to attend a certain number of dinners or functions
                  -God does not expect us to spend an enormous amount of money on gifts
                  -If it produces stress or discouragement, it needs to be evaluated and perhaps eliminated
                  *Repeat the first 2 as much as needed.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Sort, Sieve, Learn, and Leave

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

In dealing with events in life that present challenges, we may begin to feel as if we may never move forward or get over what has happened.  While learning to process emotions and events in my own life, I developed a four-step method of working through situations in order to move forward.  I call it Sort, Sieve, Learn, and Leave.  This process works alongside prayer and reading scripture that God gives us to deal with all events in life.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Insecurity is a Lie from the Enemy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

You Are NOT Required to Entertain Chaos

1 Cor 14:33  For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.  

Phil 4:8-9 Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.

You are NOT required to entertain chaos!

You DO NOT have to entertain chaos!

I have written posts before about deciding for ourselves what we allow our minds to dwell on.  We have total control of our thoughts and emotions.  Is it always easy to control those?  No.  But we do always have control.  We can decide if we will think about all the negative things in the world around us or if we want to dwell on the positives.  Philippians 4:8-9 tells us in multiple ways that we should focus on the good things in life, keeping our minds free of chaos and confusion.

Disorderly and chaotic thoughts within one's mind are good indications that something beckons to be addressed.  For example, if our minds are often thinking about all the injustices and offenses we have in life, there are likely forgiveness issues that are lingering.  If a person often feels lonely or insecure, there are likely some rejection issues from a past occurrence that need attention.  These types of thoughts can consume the mind and cause much chaos.  They will leave a person void of peace and contentment.

God is a god of peace.  He desires peace for all of us.  He wants us to have peaceful thoughts and to dwell on the good things of life.  If today finds you with much chaos in your mind, it is time to unpack the baggage and put it away.  Remember that we have control of our thoughts, therefore, we can put those things that cause chaotic thinking away and refuse to dwell on them. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Stay Focused in the Face of Opposition

Nehemiah 2:19    But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us.  "What is this you are doing?"  they asked.  "Are you rebelling against the king?"

Nehemiah had a prestigious job with the king.  He was the cup bearer which meant that he served drinks at the royal table.  It doesn't sound like a high ranking job to us in this day, however, in Nehemiah's day that position was only given to trustworthy and loyal people.  In this time, there was a high incidence of plotting to kill kings and officials and the cup bearer was a protector of the king through testing of the drinks.  Sometimes the cup bearer was required to taste some of the drinks in order to check for poison before the king drank.  This was a job of courage and loyalty. 

During Nehemiah's important position, God began to call upon his heart to go to Jerusalem and lead the people in the rebuilding of the city walls.  The job in which God was asking him to do was not glamorous.  He would first need to motivate the people in the city and convince them to work along side him.  Remember, the wall had been destroyed many years before and no one had taken any initiative to repair it.  Nehemiah was required to convince them that they had civic responsibilities to their city.  He also dealt with a financial crisis regarding the city. 

Nehemiah was obedient to the job that God called him to do.  Obedience required him to give up his high ranking position, move to another town and work with people who were less than cooperative.  He was met with opposition, mockery, and ridicule. Some of the people made fun of him for leaving his job and viewed it as a negative move. 

Opposition is to be expected when God asks you to take on jobs or duties that fulfill His purpose.  When you accept a call to obedience, just go ahead and put on your armor, because you will need it.  Whether it is a squabble over how a program at church should be presented, a disagreement about a church dinner or carpet color, or opposition against a large project or an entire ministry,  Satan will find a way to oppose you.  Sometimes the opposition will come from close friends and family; other times it will come from beyond your circle.  Some people will even hope that you fail at your task or ministry. 

I can tell you without a doubt, that God will accomplish his purpose through you in spite of any opposition you may encounter.  Your role is OBEDIENCE.  God will police those who oppose you.  He will react to opposition on your behalf.

If God is stirring in your heart to begin a task or a full time job that serves him, your role is to:
                 -1. be obedient and accept the position
                 -2. stay focused on the task and mission
                 -3.  stay in tune with God and what he expects from you
                 -4.  keep working, no matter what anyone says or does.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

God Does Not Want Christian Chameleons

Psalms 27:1-4  The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?  When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.

Chameleons are interesting creatures.  They are a class of lizards that are able to change the color of their skin in order to blend in with the environment around them.  Chameleons are able to vary their skin color in 11 different hues and some can even alter the pattern of their skin to include spots and stripes.  The variance in skin colors is dependent upon the chameleons state of relaxation or excitement, affected by sensations of safety or danger.  The chameleon determines the need for changing colors by a situation called social signaling.  In other words, a chameleon may change colors depending upon the perceived intentions of other chameleons.  What they think their peers are planning to do to them can change their skin color and its patterns.

How many times are Christians much like chameleons?  How often have we seen Christians in our environment, or as leaders in our communities and country, change their colors and/or add spots in order to blend in with the environment around them?  Can you think of a time when a Christian allowed fear of peers or colleagues to prevent standing for God's word?  Has there been a time when you witnessed a Christian being a different person according to the crowd in which he/she is around?  Do Christians hold onto God's promises for protection of their businesses and families or are they afraid when the enemy lashes out and threatens to destroy?

Self-preservation is a dangerous mind set.  The Lord promises through salvation that we need not fear the attacks of the enemy.  He expects integrity.  He wants us to be in the same skin no matter where we are or who we are with.  He does not want us to camouflage our Christianity.

There may be times when you feel inhibited to display your Christianity.  There may be times when the world expects you to be divided in your actions and behaviors.  Stand strong with integrity.  Be the same in every environment, even when the enemy is up close and in your face.  God will protect you and bless you for your integrity.

Standing up for God's word is not always easy.  But, it IS always worth it!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thank God for Moments

Ephesians 5:19-20  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving is this week and it is a time when we reflect upon the things for which we are most thankful.  Often times we make our thankful lists with the big things in mind.  Those things are very important.

Today I want to focus on being thankful for moments.  Cesare Pavese said, "We do not remember days, we remember moments".  If you will take time to reflect things that have occurred throughout your life, you may not always remember the date or the day of the week, but you will remember a moment.  Details of that moment are likely vivid in your mind.

Let us be thankful for the moments that have contributed to the totality of time in our life span.  Thank God for the moment of your salvation.  Thank God for those moments of peace that he has bestowed upon you when your world was in turmoil.  Thank God for that moment that you spent with a family member or friend that turned out to be the last. Be thankful for heart warming moments, sometimes unexpected, spent with precious people.  Thank God for every moment in which he has provided you with protection.

The list could be long.  Take some time to reflect on the moments that you remember.  Thank God for them!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thought and Attitudes

2 Corinthians 10:3-5   For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretense that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 

In this passage, Paul is defending his authority because the people in Corinth were not taking his  advice seriously.  He was trying to teach the people what God expected of them and they could win their battles over sin with God's weapons and armor.  This particular passage is dealing with thoughts and attitudes that keep people from finding God and having a close, personal relationship with him.

Attitudes and thoughts can be sinful.  Bad attitudes and ungodly thoughts can become strongholds in our lives.  Bitterness is fertile ground for bad attitudes and ugly, ungodly thoughts.  Such dispositions can lead to a cold, hardened heart.  When I was in the depths of my bitterness, my attitude was BAD.  I cannot even candy coat it.  It was bad.  Many times my thoughts and words included, "I did not do anything to cause this.  He/she/they did ______________ and that is why I feel this way."  I justified my attitude.  I argued with God, placing the blame on others.  I used my own methods of thought to fluff up my pride and destroy my attitude.  When I finally realized and saw things as God showed me, all of it was a huge pill to swallow.  A HORSE pill going down sideways.  With no water.

A huge wall had been constructed in my mind.  A wall that had prevented me from seeing things as God intended.  The wall that Satan had built in my mind was a barrier to love, joy, fulfillment, and worship.  I could go through the motions, but my heart seemed empty and without affection.

Thoughts and attitudes have enormous power within us.  A single thought can change our entire attitude about ANYTHING.  Thoughts can change how we view others, how we feel about ourselves, and how we view our relationships.  A single thought can lead to changes within us that enter into damaging attitudes.  This path can be destructive to our relationship with God as well as our loved ones.

If this devotion finds you with an ungodly attitude, I urge you to allow God to crumble the barriers that keep self-righteous pride festering inside you.  I pray that you will allow God's weapons of prayer, faith, His word, hope, and love to fill your hearts and minds so that your relationships will be full of all that he has to offer.  Swallow that horse pill; it is good medicine.  Drink plenty of water to flush your system and allow God to heal you of your poor attitudes and ugly thoughts.  It is God's plan for each of us to enjoy Him and life to its fullest!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Jesus will Calm the Storms

Matthew 8:23-27 
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

When I was a child, we lived within walking distance of one set of my grandparents.  In fact, all of my dad's siblings lived fairly close by.   I have vivid memories of times when storms or tornadoes were a threat to our area and all of the clan would call one another and gather at my grandparent's home.  Even though most of the family had basements at their own homes, we would get into the car, go to my grandparents, and pile into their basement.  From a safety standpoint, we were in more danger being on the road traveling to my grandparent's home than if we had stayed and sought shelter in our own basement. 

As a child, this was a time to play and see all my cousins.  My grandmother had an old iron bed with a feather mattress in the basement and all the cousins would pile up on the bed.  There may or may not have been some jumping and horseplay involved.  I am not afraid of thunderstorms, so as an adult, I have often looked back upon these times and tried to understand the logic.  Some in my dad's family are afraid of storms, therefore being in the presence of family provided a sense of safety and security.  When we were together, they could feel a sense of calmness and peace.  

While it is good to feel a sense of calmness from those loved ones around us, we can look at the verses in Matthew 8:23-27 to find the ultimate sense of calmness that only Jesus can offer.  When the storms of life are tossing us to and fro, we can find peace and calmness in the presence of our Saviour.  When we fear that we may not survive life's tornadic activity, we can increase our faith by being close to Jesus.   When we follow him into the boat, we must work daily to increase our faith and trust that he can calm any amount of storm activity that is present in our lives.  

If the waves of life are tossing you about and it seems that you may fall overboard and out of the boat, look to the one who calmed the seas for the disciples.  He can and will put the storms of your life at peace.  You need not fear!  He will provide the security that you seek.


Monday, November 13, 2017

God's Yardstick

2 Corinthians 10:12  We do not dare to compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.  When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

This verse contains a lot of "selves" and comparing.  Have you ever compared yourselves to others?  We all have.  I find myself needing to reel "self" in fairly often and stop trying to measure up to others.  It is a difficult battle in the mind to compare ourselves to others and use their accomplishments and blessings as yardsticks for our own lives. 

Facebook and other social media is a breeding ground for comparisons.  Social media captures fleeting moments of happiness and accomplishments.   Status updates and photo posts do NOT represent what life is like all the time, yet we are tempted to believe that many have "perfect" lives and it leaves us feeling like we are holding the short end of the stick.   At times when I read posts that contain a list of things that one of my friends has completed since she started her day, (and it is now only 9 a.m.), I am left thinking that I am a lousy housekeeper.  When others have washed 12 loads of laundry, cleaned the entire house, and cooked two meals all in one morning, my thoughts turn to, "either she has several washers and dryers or I am not doing this right."

Comparing ourselves to others is not a new issue with people, however, I do think that it has escalated with so much social media available today.   When the activities of others is ever before us, comparison is an easy temptation.  We must stay focused on our own journey and not spend time trying to measure up to what others are doing. 

I tell you, and please hear this loudly and clearly:  God does not use the same yardstick that is used by people.  Don't worry about other people's accomplishments, job titles, material possessions, or their comings and goings.   Focus instead on what God expects you to accomplish.  Measure and compare your life with the life of Jesus Christ and strive to accomplish things that would please Him.   Perhaps God asked you to visit someone at the hospital one morning and your laundry remained piled up.  Maybe your babies needing holding an extra hour after breakfast or it is your day off and you feel a calling to spend it with a friend you haven't seen in while.   These are the things God measures.  How you submit to his callings and expectations are the markers on his yardstick.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Veterans-A Sacrificial Love

John 15:13  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his live for his friends.

Jesus Christ represents the perfect example of sacrificial love.  He lay down his life for us, his friends.  He never met the majority of the people for which he sacrificed his life.  His act of love was over 2000 years ago, yet the benefits of the crucifixion are available for all of us today.  We have the opportunity to accept him as our savior and reserve our place in heaven for eternity.  The freedoms that accompany salvation provide us with peace, joy, purpose and contentment.

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day.  As I think of all the men and women who have served in all the branches of our military, I think of sacrificial love.  Throughout America's history as a nation, conscription (better known as the "the draft") has been employed on three occasions.  Otherwise, all active military duty, both in peace time and in conflict (war) has been completely voluntary.  Let us ponder the word VOLUNTARY.  This means that somewhere around the age of 16-24, on average, men and women in our country make a conscious decision to willingly join a military service branch.  WILLINGLY!  The loyalty that these young people feel toward our nation is astounding.  Each of them will enter the military with full knowledge that they may lay down their lives in the midst of their service.  They do this for you and for me.  They join for friends whom they have never met and likely never will.  The offer sacrificial love so that we may enjoy a life of freedoms in America.

I love it when I see a military veteran with his/her baseball cap on that identifies the branch of service represented.  I enjoy meeting veterans and I make an effort to approach each one and thank them for service to our country.  In all the times that I have spoken with a veteran of the U.S. military, one thing that I have noticed is that I have never heard a complaint nor a regret for the the service that he/she offered our country.  That is truly a sacrificial heart!

I encourage you to seek out veterans and thank them for their service.  It doesn't have to be today, after all they did not only serve us one day per year so let us remember them all the days of the year!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Are You Spent?

Luke 15: 11-16  (I encourage you to read 11-32 for the full parable)   Jesus continued:  "There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.'  So he divided his property between them.  "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to his fields to feed pigs.  He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything."

This parable is packed with action and consequences.  Self-gratification and rebellion ring loudly in these verses.  The son wanted his share of the father's wealth now so that he could spend it on "wild living".   Wild living in that time period was likely a bit different than wild living today but the principle was the same.  The son was focused on himself and his own fleshly pleasures. He lived as he pleased and spent his money frivolously without regard to the future and the fact that he might need money once all that he had was spent.  The money that he was spending gave him instant gratification, however in another instant, it was all gone.  The consequences of his actions caused him to hit rock bottom financially and emotionally. 

As I look around our world today, many people are wandering about living as they please, spending aimlessly-seeking instant gratification.    Many do so to avoid commitments or responsibility.    Others do so trying to fulfill a void that no form of spending or material things will ever fill.  No amount of vacations, new clothing, vehicles, or jewelry will ever complete any person.  Only Jesus Christ can fill that void. 

Does this devotion find you spent?  Have you chased other things in life looking for contentment and  fulfillment?   Are you spiraling to the bottom emotionally and/or financially?  It is time to end the grief and stress.  Look to God.  Seek him and submit to him with all your heart.  Turn it all around before great sorrow or tragedy occurs.  He can change your heart!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

When You are Overwhelmed

Psalm 61:2  From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Some times our lives seem to be more demanding of us both physically and emotionally than other times.  These times can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed.  In those times of feeling overwhelmed, we may experience a decrease of enjoyment of everyday life.  

During these periods we can become so caught up in the busyness and emotional distractions that our relationship with God will suffer.  I have discovered about myself that within these periods of "overload"  I MUST spend more time with God in study, prayer, and submission.  First thing in the morning is a great time to focus on God and the peace that he extends.  By studying and spending time with God first thing every day, I recognize a decrease in the stress level of all the "stuff" that swirls in my mind.  It is like eating your dessert first and enjoying The Sweet Stuff.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and overloaded, I encourage you to spend time with God.  He understands it all.  He will give you peace and joy.  He can restore calmness and take away anxiety. The following verses are great to read when feeling overwhelmed:  Psalms 61:2, Isaiah 40:28-31, John 14:1, Psalms 28:7. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Pick Your Battles or Pick Apart Your Battles

Proverbs 14:29   "A patient person has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.
Matthew 5:9  "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Conflict interests me.  Let me clarify that I did not say I enjoy conflict, but that it interests me.  The reasons that people engage in conflict holds my attention.

In my studies of conflict and peacemaking, I have concluded that people who initiate or engage in conflict have much conflict within themselves.  In other words, a heart that is absent of peace, experiences conflict within its thoughts and emotions.  A person that experiences inner peace will have a desire to give rise to harmonious encounters with others.  

A person's inner conflict will manifest into words of chaos and discord.  Anger may erupt through destructive words and insults.  The Bible tells us, "for out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34).  If the mouth is routinely bursting forth negative, destructive words, then the heart must not be overflowing with peace and joy.  

To tie Proverbs 14:29 and Matthew 5:9 for a life application, we can simply say, "Pick Your Battles". If you frequently have battles, perhaps it is time to "Pick Apart Your Battles" by taking a look at what seems to cause the conflict you experience.  Are you easily wounded by words and actions of others when you feel they don't meet your expectations?  Do you quickly unleash your temper due to frustration within your emotions?  Do you often feel that you need to "give someone a piece of your mind"?  I found this anonymous quote, “Every time you give someone a piece of your mind, you make your head a little emptier”.

If there seems to be more conflict in your life than there is peace, it is time to unpack the root of the conflict.  If your heart is not filled with peace and the desire to live in harmony with those around you, it is time to seek it.  It is never easy taking a look into the mirror and evaluating the things we need to improve.  Self-improvement leads to spiritual growth which in turn is a great peace-making tool.

We are promised to be blessed if we are peacemakers.  Making peace begins within 'self'.  Make that peace today if you have the need. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

God is Always Good!

Psalms 136:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever.

As the Thanksgiving season approaches, it is a good time to take inventory of our gratefulness.  As we gather for festivities, we give thanks, most usually, for those things near at hand.  We should give thanks for all things in our lives, both near to and far from the present.  If you woke up this morning, you can give God thanks for protection, sustainment and a promise for the future.

Often times we want to thank God for all the "good" things in our lives.  We are grateful for the happy times, the job promotion, relationships that are pleasing, and our overall prosperity.  What we need to remember in our gratefulness is that God is good--ALWAYS.  His goodness, His grace, and His love never changes--NEVER!  Even when the world around us is bad, God is still good.  When things in our lives seem to be going in negative directions, God is still good and he is a god of love.

Be grateful for all the good in your live.  Be grateful for when things do not seem so good.  Those are the times that God gives you strength that you may not have had before.  In bad times, God will reveal himself to you in ways which you have never known.  Give thanks to him.  He is ALWAYS good and he is ALWAYS filled with love. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Emotional Decisions

Proverbs 2:6  For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

"Do not make permanent decisions based upon temporary emotions".  I found this written on a stick-it note.  I don't remember the source from which I copied it, however, I like what it says.  In fact, NO decision should ever me made based solely on emotions.  Feelings are often unreasonable and unreliable.  Strong feelings such as anger are truly temporary.  Many decisions have been made by numerous people in the midst of their anger.  When this happens, regret usually follows.

When emotions are strong they take over our thought processes.  Reasoning in the midst of such potent feelings will lead us to make unwise and unhealthy decisions.  Some of those decisions may retaliatory and have no sound basis while others are fueled by adrenaline without contemplating consequences.  When reasoning returns to our minds, we realize that decisions made in haste are permanent decisions and may not have been the best thing for us.   

Wisdom is not found in emotional decisions.  Permanent decisions based upon an emotional state can cause long lasting damage to the journey that God has planned for each of us.  Emotions are unreliable and many times short lived.  The decisions that we make are not always short lived.  They may have compounding effects on all aspects of our lives.  

Wisdom is found in the Lord.  Wisdom is acquired through concentrated and focused time with God. Some decisions in life will be made in short periods of time while others will require long periods of seeking God's advice.  Emotions must be put aside when making permanent decisions in order to allow wisdom to permeate the situation. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Serving in the Midst of Enemy Fire

Philippians 4:13    I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Serving in the Midst of Enemy Fire.

The Greek meaning of this verse in Philippians is 'I have strength for all things'.  It means to 'bear' rather than to 'do'.  This verse does not refer to the use of Christ's strength to accomplish whatever we want to do, but instead it means that whatever Christ asks of us to do, he will provide the strength for us to utilize.
In Ellicott's commentary, we find this description of Philippians 4:13, "it represents the ultimate and ideal consciousness of the Christian.  The first thing needful is to throw off self-sufficiency, to know our weaknesses and sin, and accept the salvation of God's free grace in Christ".  The apostle Paul arrived at the conclusion that he could do all that God was asking of him through the strength that Christ provides.  Through various trials, experiences, and changes in his life, Paul relied on that strength to complete his work and service to God.  He was able to endure trials, temptations, and persecution by surrendering his weaknesses to the strength of Christ.

When we honor God's will and set forth to complete the tasks which he has called upon us to do, Satan will try to prevent us from serving.  He will draw use tools of discouragement in an attempt to talk us out of our service.  The discouragement may present itself in the form of criticisms, strongholds, power struggles, and/or imagination.  Spiritual warfare may come against us in mild or severe form as we serve God.  It is this those times that we must rely entirely upon strength that found only in Christ.  We do not have enough strength within us to battle the enemy.  

When Satan attacks our efforts to serve God, we will be tempted to react.  We may be tempted to attack those that are being used by Satan to send discouragement our way.  We may even entertain the thoughts of quitting our efforts or ministry altogether.  The strength found in Christ will offer us a way to escape those temptations and remain focused on our service to God.  We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it".  

If today finds you under the attack of enemy fire, I urge you to surrender your thoughts of self-sufficiency.  Employ the strength that Christ offers.  Keep your eyes and heart focused on Christ and not on the discouragement that Satan hurls in your path.  The apostle Paul had confidence that God would require nothing of him which he would not be able to perform.  We need the same bold confidence!  Do not avoid the duty to serve that we as Christians all have because of fear of temptation.  Do not entertain the temptation to quit.  Stand strong in Christ and allow Him to deal with the enemy. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

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. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Feasting at the Table

Psalm 23:5  You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.   You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Years ago, one spring morning, a friend of ours emailed this scripture to my husband.  The morning followed a day of great disappointment in our lives.  I must admit that in the midst of my frustration and sadness about the situation, I did not explore the depths of Psalm 23:5 scripture on that day.

Many times since this period in our lives, I have revisited Psalm 23:5.  The 23rd Psalm is one that I have committed to memory since my childhood, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.   He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff they comfort me".  These first four verses are most often the ones committed to memory from Psalm 23.  But the remaining verses of this chapter have great meaning to us on an every day level and an eternal level.  

The fifth verse tells us of feasting at God's table.  We can look at this verse as one of provision and care.  It promises that even in when enemies are in full force against us, God will always care for us.  A more indepth look into this verse reveals to us that God's table includes our salvation.  Matthew Henry's Commentary says this, "Satan and wicked men are not able to destroy their comforts, while they are anointed with the Holy Spirit, and drink of the cup of salvation which is ever full".  As I dusted my britches off and moved forward after the period of great disappointment, I began to realize what God was telling me.  His word says that no matter what any other person may take from me in this life, no one, NOT one enemy can ever take my salvation from me.

Several years have passed since that event in our lives.  Psalm 23:5 has been a source of comfort repeatedly since that time.  We can use past experiences to lead us into a stronger trust in God with future experiences.  The table which God has prepared for each of us includes a feast of provisions, comfort, and peace within.  May you look to His table for comfort in the presence of enemies.  

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Holy Spirit

Galatians 5:16  This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Last night at our Lay-Led Revival Mr. Frank spoke about the Holy Spirit.  The message was centered around Galatians 5:16.  The following is a recap.

Early in the presentation, Mr. Frank asked, "how important is the Holy Spirit in your life as a believer?"  Think about this for a bit.  We recognize the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as Christians, but how much do we commune with the Holy Spirit?  He gave an analogy between the trinity and an airplane with three engines.  He said, "if you were about to board a plane with three engines but the pilot told you that only two of the engines were working, would you want to fly on that plane?"  He likened this to the trinity in that if we are without the Holy Spirit, we are operating with 2/3 of the power we could have in our life. 

There were so many strong points of truth delivered in this message that I will list them with bullet points.  Each one is a quote from Mr. Frank's directives about the Holy Spirit.

  •  A Christian is NOT a person that experiences no bad desires.  A Christian is a person who is at war with those desires and the Holy Spirit is fighting for you.
  • If the spirit and the flesh are not at battle within you, you must ask yourself if the flesh has won.  *This one is an eye opener!!!
  • The Holy Spirit is a down payment with a guaranteed inheritance (Ephesians 1:14)
  • We must set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2).  This is a choice that we must make daily
  • We must starve to death the desires of the flesh; do not feed them.
  • The main thing the Holy Spirit does in our lives is point us to Jesus
  • In order to walk with the Holy Spirit, we must be sensitive to the initial promptings.  It is important to be tuned in to everything he tells us.  
  • We must respond to the Holy Spirit immediately.  To do otherwise is rebellion.
  • The Holy Spirit will NEVER lead us into not doing the right thing.

Mr. Frank gave a visual example of what quenching the Holy Spirit might look like.  He had a clear water pitcher and placed a clean white piece of tissue paper inside it so that the pitcher was full.  This represented us being filled with the Holy Spirit.  He then gave examples of ways in which we might quench the spirit.  With each example he crumbled a piece of colored tissue paper and placed it in the pitcher on top of the white one.  After a few of the crumbled pieces, the white piece was but a small visible piece of paper in the bottom of the pitcher.  The spirit had been made less prominent inside the pitcher.

The message ended with a this statement, "Allowing the Holy Spirit to lead in everything we do, can change your life forever".  Amen!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Proper Kingdom Focus

Matthew 13:44-46  
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
We are in the midst of a Lay-Led Revival at our church.  It is something new for us and has been very exciting.  We have different leaders in our church scheduled each night to deliver the message.  Each day this week, I will recap the speaker's main points from the previous night.  They are too good not to share.

Our speaker last night, Mr. March, focused on the kingdom of heaven.  He made many points about the kingdom of heaven, one being that "a proper kingdom focus brings significant meaning to the things we do".  Matthew 6:33, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well".  

One statement that Mr. March made that continues to resonate in my mind this morning is, "don't be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good".  Let us unpack that a bit. The point that he was making with this statement is that often times people will square away their salvation and then exhale with an attitude of "I am taken care of".  This directs the focus on "self", being heavenly minded.  An earthly mindset, that goes along with salvation, is to offer deeds that will advance the kingdom of God.  The point is clear in the Bible and he said, "works-based righteousness has nothing to do with our salvation.  If your faith and belief is real, the works will pour out of you".

May our hearts be inclined toward the kingdom of God.  May we direct our earthly actions and deeds toward a "proper kingdom focus".  May we always be heavenly minded and remain of earthly benefit.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Share Your Testimony

Luke 8:38-39  ...but Jesus sent them away saying, "Return home and tell how much God has done for you."  So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

We are in the midst of revival at our church this week.  It is a bit different than the traditional revival.  This time our church is presenting a Lay-Led revival.  Each night this week, different leaders from within our congregation are presenting a message from God.

Last night, the message included the importance of sharing our story about God in our life.  Each person has a different story to tell of God's grace.  The same grace is extended to each and every one of us.  Our stories and how that grace has impacted us is unique to each individual. 

Our testimonies serve as evidence of God's actions on our behalf.  Testimonies serve as an important witness to what God has done for each of us.  Our stories are powerful tools with the potential of changing lives forever.  They offer support of the hope that God offers through His holy word.

Testimonies tell the story of the struggles that we face in life and how hope is restored in the midst of our trials.  Sometimes the struggles we face are because of decisions that we make.  Other times the trials and tribulations occur because of the actions of others.  In either instance, God wants to do so much for each of us.  He offers healing through salvation.  He will rescue us from any type of situation or condition in which we may find ourselves.  He gives peace in a world that is chaotic.

I have listened to various testimonies throughout the years.  I have heard face-to-face testimonies from murderers, adulterers, thieves, mob members, prostitutes, and addicts.  The details of their struggles have distinct flavors.  They each have an assortment of the extent of damage that their trials have caused in their spiritual journey.  Hope in Christ is the one element of each testimony that remains the same.  God's promise of hope is universal.  He will do the same for you, me, and any person on this earth regardless of the level of sin involvement.

It is important to share what God has done for us.  Testimonies offer others a glimpse into the human nature and God's sovereignty.  Sharing what God has done for us reinforces His word.  The next time you have an opportunity to share your testimony, DO so.  Sharing does not require that you speak at a large convention or in front of large group.  Sometimes the sharing occurs one-on-one.  In whatever way you share, do so with the mindset of reaching others on behalf of God.  One dear lady that has shared her testimony with me and many others said this, "God himself working in and through us will bring salvation, change, hope, and restoration to a lost and broken world!"  

Share your testimony.  You do not want to miss out on being a part of God's work in this world.  Feel free to share your testimony here on The Sweet Stuff Ministry page.  You never know how and when your story will be of hope and help to someone else! 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Difficult People

Matthew 5:43-45 "You have heard that it is said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?

At various times throughout our lives,  people will cross our paths that will tempt us to falter in our love and compassion for others because they are extremely difficult to get along with.  There are just some people that make it seemingly impossible to be around.  When we are in situations that require us to spend a great deal of our days in close proximity with these types of people, discouragement can easily set up housekeeping.  It is easy for our spirits to become dampened and if the door is opened wide enough, insecurities and despair can enter and lead into bitterness.

You have met some of the people that I am referring to. 

Abrasive.  Rough.

Self-centered.  Things are always someone else's fault.

Emotional bullies.  Instigators.  Confrontational.  

While being in these situations will cause torment on our emotions, we must keep things in perspective and remind ourselves of the truths and strengths that God offers.  I have found that this type of person is usually one or all of the following deep inside themselves:  emotionally wounded, insecure, lacking self-confidence, cowardly, rejected, in need of salvation, and/or looking for love and acceptance.  

It is human nature to want to stay away from these people, to seek peace or even think about retaliation.  

To be God centered requires us to show love, compassion, patience, prayer, and a genuine burden for the salvation of others.  Through consistency, kindness and seeking to understand what is deep beneath the surface, the relationship has the opportunity of  becoming smooth instead of rough. 

Easy?  No. 

Important?  Yes.

God's truths: he will protect you; he will always love you; anyone that hurts you will be accountable for every thought, emotion and action;  you, also, will be held accountable for every thought, emotion and action so pray and guard your reactions.  

Loving our enemies is not easy.  God can help us to love those that seem to be unlovable.  I encourage you to intentionally seek out someone that you know that fits the bill of being difficult to love.  Do something random that involves an expression of love.  Love is exactly what difficult people need.                               

Friday, October 20, 2017

There is Nothing New Under the Sun

Ecclesiastes 1:9-11  What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there anything of which one can say, “Look!  This is something new”?  It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.  There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.

When we read that “there is nothing new under the sun”, we likely think, well there are plenty of things in our lifetime that were not here 100 years ago. This is true when we think of inventions, improvements in material things, or medical advancements.  However, when we think of man’s heart, is there anything new within it?  

The book of Ecclesiastes reflects Solomon's experiences.  While Solomon was the wisest man on earth besides Jesus Christ, he sinned against what God had warned him.  Solomon gave into his appetite of the flesh as he entertained and married many foreign women (1 Kings 11:1-13).  God had told Solomon not to marry these women as they "will surely turn your hearts after their gods" (1 Kings 11:2).  

Solomon was allured by the offerings of the world.  His love for women and the desires of his flesh, led him to have a divided heart.  Solomon's sin not only impacted  himself, but also had a great effect on an entire generation.  

The passage that tells us "there is nothing new under the sun", can point us in several directions.  When I studied this passage a couple of days ago, I was inspired to view it from a sin perspective.  

Sin is as old as the creation of man.  In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve gave into the desires of the flesh.  Their actions had a great impact on every future generation that has been created on this earth.  We are still experiencing consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve.  Sin is "nothing new under the sun".  

We can look at the methods of sin throughout time.  Advances in technology allow sin to be carried out in new forms.  But if we look at the nature of sin, there is nothing new.  Sin is still and will always be a temptation by Satan to do wrong against Gods' divine law and principles.  Sin is heart condition.  

The 10 Commandments cover the types of sin about which God warns us.  As we read through the list, we can think of examples of how methods of sin may have changed in our lifetime, but the sin is not new.  The name and meaning of each sin is still the same as it was when God gave Moses the 10 Commandments to present to the people. 
As a generation, have we learned anything from the generations before us?  Are we able to look back at sins that were committed by the people before us and connect the consequences to the actions?  Matthew Henry's Commentary says, "men's hearts and their corruptions are the same now as in former times; their desires, pursuits, and complaints, still the same.   This should take us from expecting happiness in the creature, and quicken us to seek eternal blessings".