The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Friday, June 23, 2017

Positions and Possessions

James 4:1-2   What is causing the quarrels and fights among you?  Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you?   You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it.  You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. 

I remember a time several years ago when my youngest two children were fighting over a Butterfinger candy bar.  A bite sized one at that.  Butterfingers are my son's favorite candy bar.  There was one of the bite sized bars in the candy jar and little sister had gotten it out for herself.  He claimed it was his because they are his favorites, she claimed it as hers because she took it from the jar first.  Verbal cruelties ensued along with a list of reasons that ranked the position of each sibling.   Neither was hungry so I know they were not fighting for the basic survival need of food.

They asked me which one should have the candy bar.  Since I don't like chocolate, or I would have eaten it myself, I took the bite sized bar and put it into the trash can.  Yes, jaws dropped to the floor in disbelief.  The second round of moaning began.   "How can you do that?" "It was mine!" "I need that candy bar" were among the wails coming from both of them. 

Was all of this over a bite sized candy bar?  No, all of this was really over  the position of  most importance.  It was a battle of clout.   A battle to see which sibling could outrank the other.  A fight because one sibling had something that the other wanted.  We see this in our world every day.  Politics, positions withing the workplace, and siblings within families are arenas for fighting over rankings of position as well as possessions.  We see it several times in the Bible:  Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, and Joseph and his brothers.   Jealousy and rivalry can lead people to wage war against one another. 

Life is filled with opportunities to place more value on possessions and positions rather than our relationships.  When possessions and rank are of more importance than people, rejection occurs. Jealousy and anger may take root.  Bitterness can grow filling the heart with contempt.  With these things in place, sin is in the mix.

The candy company makes millions of Butterfingers each and every day and we can get them at the store anytime.  God only makes one of each of us.  Neither a bite sized candy bar nor being the president of a large corporation are nearly as important as each human being and relationships with one another.  Positions nor possessions will ever equal the importance of loving one another.  If possessions cause us to wage war against another person, a heart check is in order.  If we feel that we should be ranked above others in importance, we need to evaluate our intentions.  May we never allow evil desires to replace love for others. 

          

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Rise Above Challenging Circumstances

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

The message for today: 

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

God Sees Our Potential

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Instead of justice, focus on purpose.

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


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bitterness: The Receiving End

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 9, 2017

Self-Worth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Dissatisfaction

1 Timothy 6:6   But godliness with contentment is great gain.

Disappointments in life can lead to dissatisfaction.  Perhaps you are disappointed about your circumstances, acts others have committed against you or perhaps you are dissatisfied with poor decisions that you have made in the past.  Dissatisfaction should NOT give way to feelings of unworthiness.   Trust that the work which God is performing in you and your life is exactly what he has planned. 

I can recall a situation in my family's life a few years ago that left us feeling disappointed and dissatisfied.  I felt confused as to the direction in which God was leading us.  Because of the dissatisfaction and the fact that I thought our situation should have been going in a different direction, I began to have feelings of low self-esteem and of little worth.   I can tell you from my own experience that if you are telling yourself that you are of little worth, then you begin to be clouded with only those thoughts.   My mind was cluttered because I allowed worldly measures to influence my feelings of worthiness and importance.  When we can have a positive attitude about ourselves and maintain a positive self-worth, we can keep our minds open for self-improvement and to hear what God is asking us to do. 

We must learn to be content in "whose" we are, not who we are.   We are all God's creations.    We are all valuable and should use any feelings of dissatisfaction to improve ourselves and seek God's direction.     

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Make Changes in Your Future!!

Isaiah 59:2   But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face
                    from you, so that he will not hear.

Forgiveness changes nothing from the past.  Not one detail is taken away from an occurrence that happened in your life by offering forgiveness to an offender.  What has happened cannot be rewound or erased. 

Forgiveness changes EVERYTHING about the future.  It will change your relationship with God.  It will change you as an individual.  Grace and mercy will affect your blessings and your Christian journey.

When we refuse to forgive and offer grace to one another, we harbor sin.  We hold onto grudges.  Bitterness festers like a cancer.  We easily fall into ruminating about the occurrence and capturing all the details involved.

The facts related to the offense will always remain.  Like history books from the beginning of time, the facts cannot be rewritten.  No changes can be made to events that have already occurred.

As long as we have the sin of bitterness active in our lives, we will not receive the full blessings that God has in store for us.  He expects us to deal with the bitterness and mature spiritually before he will advance us in the blessings department.  I have seen this firsthand in my life.  

If you are harboring bitterness of any kind, now is the time to begin to deal with it.  In doing so, you will change many things about your future-in a great and mighty way.  As we are told in Isaiah 59:2, our iniquities separate us from a close, mature relationship with God.  There is no better time than the present to make changes in your future!!








Monday, June 5, 2017

Symbiosis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Stay focused in the face of oppposition

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 also a job of courage. 

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 Bible School should be presented, a disagreement about a church dinner or carpet color, or opposition against a large project or 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.  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.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

Matthew 5:9  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Sons of God. 

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

These two verses come to mind as I think about our military people, both currently serving and veterans that have served in the past.  I stand in awe of the courage that our military personnel put forth in order that I may live in freedom.  I am so grateful for their willingness to serve our country and defend our freedoms.  I have compassion for the families of those who have sent their young sons into service and war, some to never return.

We take so many of our freedoms in this country for granted.   We tend to forget that founding of our country and the establishment of our constitution involved men and women who were willing to lay down their lives in order that we may live in freedom today.  We lose sight of the fact that our military today, hundreds of years past the founding of our nation, continues to protect the establishment. 

Our military personnel are peacemakers.  While war is not peaceful, our military fights for us to have a peaceful day-to-day life.  We can go to and from our daily activities because our brave soldiers are defending our peace.

Today, as we celebrate Memorial Day, may we have a grateful heart for our military personnel, both past and present.  Let us pray for those who have served, for the families of those who have lost a loved one, and for the active members of our military.  May we take a moment and thank a veteran or write a note to an active military member.  


Friday, May 26, 2017

We can depend on God's heart!

Jeremiah 17:5-8  This is what the Lord says:  "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord.  He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes.  He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.  But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

This passage contrasts those who trust in the strength of man versus trusting in the Lord.  In times of trouble, those who trust in human beings will find themselves spiritually weak.  Their strength will have little reserve from which to draw.  In the time of this passage, the people of Judah were trusting in false idols instead of God.  They were fruitless people.  

If we place our trust in the hearts of men, then we will find that we will often be disappointed.  We can depend on God's heart. Those that rely on God in times of crisis will find that strength is plentiful.  There will be strength to endure and a reserve of strength for helping others.  Reliance upon God gives us the same promise of survival that the tree in Jeremiah 17:8 shows.  When we put our trust in God, we are well rooted and our lives will be fruitful. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Spiritual Perception

Spiritual Perception

Matthew 16:15-17  "But what about you?"  he asked.  "Who do you say I am?"  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God".


I enjoy sharing my childhood memories and experiences with our children.  I remember a particular time when we were talking about televisions.  I described to them my memories of the various television sets that we had while I was growing up.  I recalled the time when our first color tv set arrived.  I was around 13 years old.  It was a huge floor model with decorative cabinetry.  One was required to physically get up from the sofa in order to adjust the volume or change the channel.  One of the children asked what type of tv we had before the color model.  When I told them the other tvs were black and white models, their eyes were wide with disbelief.  The youngest child, about seven at the time asked this, "Mama, in your childhood was the world in black and white or could you see in color?"  I imagine that in her mind she thought my vision or perception changed to color instead of the tv set offering a different view of the shows.  I always chuckle at how our children think we grew up in the pioneer era!

We can relate this example to spiritual perception.  In Matthew 16:15-17,  Peter confesses who Christ is.  In this particular time period, many of the people were confused about the Messiah.  The did not readily grasp who Jesus was and what he had come to earth to do.  There was much confusion and denial about his purpose and his existence. 

When it comes to Jesus Christ, do we only see in black and white?  Are our eyes only fixed on certain facts or details about who he is and what he can do for us?  Do we absorb all the colorful details of who Christ is?  Do we perceive him as having a limited amount of power in our lives? 

First and foremost, Christ is our redeemer, offering salvation and life of eternity in heaven.  He is also much more on a daily basis.  He is a comforter in times of discomfort (John 14:16).  He is a teacher offering us instruction for everything we encounter in life (John 14:26).  He is a counselor (Hebrews 4:16).  He is our friend (John 15:13).

If you are only seeing in "black and white" in the sense of missing spiritual perception, then it is time to upgrade to the "in color" model.  If you perceive that Christ is limited in who he is and what he has to offer, then it is past time that you explore the power of his existence in your life.  Confess who he is and believe that he can take care of all matters in your life!  Check your perception in order that you will see all the details of the power and glory of knowing Christ. 





Wednesday, May 24, 2017

We must step out of the frame in order to see the whole picture.

Proverbs 19:21  Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.

We must step out of the frame in order to see the whole picture.

Remember in elementary school the yearly class photo?   I remember every year "picture day"  when we would go to the school library to have our pictures made.  We would try hard to keep our clothes clean, food off our faces at lunch, and we would brush our hair multiple times to have it just right.   Our classes usually consisted of three rows of students.  The front row sat on the floor, middle row sat in chairs and the back row stood.  I was always in the back row due to my height.  The teacher stood beside the back row.  Same photo line up every year, grades 1-7.  Oh, the sweet memories!

When standing in the back row of the line up, I could see the person to the left and right of me and directly in front.  I could not see the students on the far ends nor could I see the ones sitting on the floor.  So when we received our class picture, it was always fun to spend time absorbing all the details of how everyone else looked during the picture.  Were they smiling or making faces?  Did anyone have messy hair, food on their faces, or eyes closed?    We could see happiness in faces and sadness in some.   All these details could not have been observed while in the back row during the making of the photo.  Seeing these details required us to step out of the frame of the picture and look at the whole scene. 

When we are in situations in life, often we must step out of the frame in order to see the whole picture.  When at times we cannot understand why our plans are not going as we would have them, we need to absorb all the details of the picture.   We easily fall into only being aware of what is going on to the left and right of us, only absorbing the details in our immediate vicinity.  God can see the whole picture-every tiny detail.  He has a plan for each of us and that plan involves His purpose and His will. 

Often times we can see clearly to the left and right of us, however, we have difficulty seeing ahead of us into the future.  This is where we must have faith and trust that God will produce a perfect picture of all the details for us.  We must rely on him place every detail exactly as it should be. 

If you are trying to understand why a situation has not worked out as you had intended, ask God to show you the whole picture.  If you are frustrated or disappointed because the plan has seemingly failed, ask God to give you wisdom to understand His purpose or to show you what His will is for you.  Don't be afraid to step out of the frame in order to see the whole picture.  When we can see the picture in the way that God looks at it, we can readily accept when things  do not go as we had planned.  I have found that most of the time, we will come to see the big picture in each situation as we progress toward God's purpose for us. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

We cannot go east and west simultaneously!

Psalms 103:12    as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.


We must model the same forgiveness that God has offered us in our dealings with one another.  If we are forever remembering the wrongs committed against us, we must wonder if we have truly forgiven.  If we continuously remind others that they have caused us hurt or angst, we must ask ourselves if we have really let go.  When we feel the need to hold on to the thoughts of wrongs that have been committed against us, we still have some forgiving to attend to.

When God forgives our sin, he removes it from our record forever.  Psalms 103:12 is symbolic of how far He has removed our sin from us.  God is telling us in this verse that east and west will never meet up.  When you think about the east and the west, think of it this way: we cannot travel toward the east and west at same time.  We can never go in an eastward direction and a westward direction simultaneously.  If we are in the east and are going eastward, it is necessary to turn around and change directions in order to travel westward.  Therefore, the east is far, far away from the west in terms of direction.       

The same is true about forgiveness.  We cannot forgive while turning around and moving toward unforgiveness.   We can truly only move in one direction or the other.  We either advance toward forgiveness or remain traveling in the direction of unforgiveness.  God does not forgive and at the same time review our record of wrongs.  Likewise, our actions and attitudes must reflect forgiveness in its entirety.  We are expected to view forgiveness in the same fashion as we receive it.

He has removed our transgressions.  The slate has been wiped clean.  The record of wrongdoings has been expunged.  May we offer the same clemency to others who may trespass against us. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Are you being kissed by an enemy?

Proverbs 27:6    Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.

Life's hurts and trials can sometimes leave us frazzled and struggling to find which end is up.  We may become so involved with the situation and emotions that we cannot reason the truths nor sort enemy activity from friendly activity.  We may experience kisses from an enemy without recognizing what has taken place.

No one wants to be wounded by a friend.   No friend wants to inflict a wound on a friend.  However, when a true friend has your best interest at heart, there may be times when unpleasant advice may be necessary.   A friend's advice is a valuable opportunity, especially if we are struggling with the right path to take.  

When seeking people to give you advice, it is necessary to seek out people that have your best interests at heart.   An enemy may whisper what you want to hear or tickle your ears with justifications of how a situation is acceptable.  A true friend is not afraid to help you understand the reasons that a decision or situation may not be acceptable in God's eyes.  Even when a friend's advice may be painful or not what you want to hear, it is valuable.

We are to come together, encourage, lift one another up and also teach one another to be accountable to God.   Offering advice is more than simply telling someone what you think should be done.  Giving advice should be a teachable moment that uses the Bible as a reference to all the "could have, would have, should have" statements.   Giving advice and receiving advice should not be taken lightly.   If the advice does not line up with the Bible, we may cause a person to stumble and there are clear warnings in the Bible about that (1 Cor. 8:9 and Mark 9:42).  

Are you being kissed by an enemy?  An enemy does not always present itself in obvious form.  Many seemingly friendly people are used by the one enemy, Satan, to accomplish his work.   When you seek and receive advice, check with the Bible to see if it lines up with God's word.   Advice from friends should be an extension of what the Bible tells us to do in every situation.



Thursday, May 11, 2017

"Plans to give you hope"

Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I have relied on this verse many times in my life as a reminder of God's promises.  It also offers comfort when the future seems to have many uncertainties.  Yesterday, I was inspired to look at this verse from another angle.  God opened an opportunity for me to take The Sweet Stuff clothing trailer into an impoverished area nearly three hours from my home.  I had prayed for such an opportunity for a long time.  Many people in this area are impoverished due to the circumstances around them.  There is no industry close by, very few job opportunities, and the nearest mid-sized town is 30 miles away.  Numerous folks living here are second and third generation members of poverty stricken families partly because of the geographical location.  

Too often, society wants to look upon poverty stricken people as being there because they are lazy or have attitudes of entitlement.  This may be the case for some people, however, yesterday I saw a different side to the story.  As I distributed clothing and talked with the local folks, I realized that many people have lost hope.  They have lost hope in their situations, they have lost hope in humanity, perhaps they have even lost hope in themselves.  

Their stories saddened me.  Families living in one room buildings without utilities.  Other families had lost children because they simply couldn't afford to care for them.  Some situations were not necessarily news to me but as I listened to their hearts, I heard cries of the need for hope.  They need someone to care about them.  They crave someone that loves them enough to offer them a future.  

My prayer focus for today is simply this:  May we look for ways to share the hope that God offers to the people around us that have lost hope.  May we proclaim that God will protect them and give them a future.  May we teach each and every person that we encounter how a relationship with God will help them regain the hope which has been lost.  

Thank you Lord, for sending me into new territory.  I am grateful to have the opportunity to see glimpses into the big picture of your desire for us to be disciples.  Show me what I can do to offer hope to those around me.  

There is much mission work to be completed very close to our own addresses!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Is your job a career or a fulfillment?

Ecclesiastes 3:11-12   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.  I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon talks a great deal about working and accumulating things on earth.  He comes to the realization that neither working solely for money nor material possessions will provide lasting happiness.   The old saying "you can't take it with you" is precisely what Solomon came to realize about working to earn and accomplish.   He had the realization that when he was gone from earth, all his material things would stay behind and that some of the people that would gain his possessions would not appreciate all the time and efforts that he had put into gaining them.  Perhaps Solomon's greatest realization was that our work should be with an eternal focus.

Our work on earth should be satisfying but not in the sense of satisfaction from material things.  Our pleasure from working should be found in enjoying our gifts from God, serving Him, and serving others.   A job or career should not only be about fulfilling our own personal goals but should also be centered around the purpose that God has for us in that career.  In verse 11, Solomon says "yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end".  We are only a part of God's eternal plan.  We have a purpose and job to do while we live here on earth.  We should strive to fulfill the eternal thirsts that God has set in our hearts by realizing that we can never be completely satisfied with pursuits of earthly pleasures and accumulations.  We can be happy with when we trust God to fulfill us through our work on earth. 

If you are unhappy with your work, pray for an attitude of eternity to burn within you.  Seek the happiness that comes from serving others which in turn serves the purpose that God has set for you.  Seek fulfillment in knowing that your part of God's eternal plan matters! 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Broken Hearted

Job  30:15    Terrors overwhelm me; my dignity is driven away as by the wind, my safety vanishes like a cloud.

Job was a man that suffered immense tragedies in his life.   Along with his extreme loss of his family,  possessions, health and his position, he was also mocked by the younger people.   They even mocked the way he suffered.  Talk about a lack of compassion. 

Verse 15 conveys such deep emotion and raw honesty.  Job cries out about his fear and anxiety.  He was insecure and worried.  He even felt like he had lost his honor, that his name was no longer respected. 

Job's situation typically brings to mind a man of great patience, endurance and steadfast faith in God.  I am certain that he felt broken in ways that seemed unbearable at times.  I would like to focus on his broken heart.  Think of a time in your life when you have suffered.  Maybe it was the loss of a marriage, job/finances, family member or close friend, friendship, health, pet, or home.  Maybe you have suffered broken dreams.  Whatever the loss, think of how your heart felt; the fear that terrorized your mind, the worries and anxieties that kept you awake at night.  Can you recall the despair that left your heart feeling empty and beyond repair?  Now, multiply that times 10 and perhaps that will come close to how Job suffered. 

With the thought of the brokenness, I also want to focus on compassion (on our part).  When we hear of the suffering of others, do our hearts break or do we acknowledge that the situation is bad yet move on with our busy lives?   When we listen to someone describe their brokenness and suffering do we merely hear the words or do we hear the emotions, fear, and distress? 

Let us make it our personal prayer to be more compassionate for situations no matter what the source of the suffering.   May our hearts feel the brokenness along with our our friends and family members.  I pray that we will have a burden for the brokenness of others and that we will not forget what it is like to hurt and worry.  Hurt and brokenness are in the eye of the beholder and we should not discount any one's suffering.  When we pray in earnest for others, God will hear our intercessions.                                               

Prayer focus for today:  Lord, I ask you to pierce our hearts with a deeper level of compassion.  May we not only hear the hurts of those around us, but also be concerned with the hurts of others.  We cannot always fix the brokenness of others but, God, we know you can! 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Dealing With Broken Emotions

Psalms 147:3  He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.

Jeremiah 31:25  I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.

Hearts can be broken in many ways.  A heart is broken when intense emotional stress occurs.  The stress can be from a single hurtful event or cumulative events over a long period of time.  In essence, a broken heart means broken emotions.  A broken heart has the potential to cause problems in various areas of life for many years following a hurtful event.  A broken heart has great potential for causing bitterness and all its by-products.

Psalms 147:3 is a praise for what God can do for a broken heart.  He can and will heal a broken heart and bind up the wounds that keep us from enjoying life and moving forward.  He does not want a heart to be broken.   He wants our hearts to be full of love and good things.

If you are experiencing anger, sadness and bitterness, you may want to examine your heart to see if these effects are from brokenness and unresolved emotions.  The event may have occurred many years ago, however the brokenness can still effect yourself and others in your life.  Healing the brokenness may include unpacking each and every occurrence, feeling, and thought.   Go ahead and unpack it!  Bitterness and lingering anger are useless, fruitless pieces of emotional baggage.  They take up space in our daily lives that could otherwise be occupied with productive, positive feelings.

Dealing with emotions, especially those that carry hurtful memories, may not be a pleasant experience.  It is vital that we deal with them anyway.   Release those pent up feelings, face them, grieve them, and allow God to bind them up forever.   Experience the catharsis that will lead to a peaceful heart and a freeing of the mind!  God can replace your sorrow with joy.  

Friday, May 5, 2017

Perfect love is filled with grace, outlined in compassion, and built upon sacrifice.

1 John 4:18-21   There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.   We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, "I love God, yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command.  Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Let's get real here.  There are some people that are difficult to love.  There are some people that have a difficult time loving us.  I have experienced both sides.  A friend of mine once made this statement, "sometimes, you have to love them like you find them".  That seems to be all we can do sometimes.  Honesty, that is all that we want to do sometimes.  God expects more from us.

Why does love, such a great emotion, come with so many difficulties?  First of all, if the giver and receiver are not on the same page with their perception of love, then there will be trouble.  Love can produce fear and insecurity.  It is not designed that way, but when events happen in life that distort the true meaning of love, then negative emotions arise pertaining to love.  1 John 4:18 tells us that there is no fear in love.  There is no fear when the love is perfect.

What is perfect love?  Perfect love is the love that God has for us.  He showed us his love when he sent his son Jesus to the world.  Jesus modeled perfect love and then died so that we could fully understand love in its perfection. This love was full of grace, outlined in compassion and built upon sacrifice.

It is difficult for us as imperfect people to love one another in a perfect manner.  Mainly because we are not willing to make sacrifices.  Let us repeat that:  We are not willing to make sacrifices for one another.  We are not always willing to give the time and energy that perfect love for one another requires.  We find it difficult to continue to offer our brothers and sisters compassion and mercy.  We often do not want to try to understand someone on a deep and intimate level.  Our attitude is often that we have enough things of our own to do besides helping a friend to bear their burdens.

Love requires work.  Whether the love is a friendship, family relationship, marriage, or our relationship with God, it requires time, attention, focus, and effort.  Love that is perfect, first and foremost, requires a love for God.  Through that relationship, we can learn to love others.  We also can gain strength and a desire to love others when we accept a loving relationship from God.

I pray this today:  Lord, help me to love you with the same perfection in which you offer all of us.  Through this love, show me how to love others, even when it is difficult.  Give me the strength, wisdom, and desire to understand how to love others.  If I present myself in a way that is hard for others to love me, then grant me the insight to be more lovable.  May your perfect love for us help us to experience a perfect love with others.  May that love be filled with grace, outlined in compassion, and built upon sacrifice.  AMEN

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Unresolved Anger

James 1:19-20    My dear brothers, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 

What is anger?    Why do we experience anger?    Anger is a strong emotion within usually follows an injustice or being "wronged".   The physiological response in the body produces an increase in adrenaline which leaves us with the instinctual "fight or flight" option as a response.  This occurrence is what causes the heart to race and the warm rush throughout the body.  Many times it also leads to a reaction with the tongue before engaging the brain.   

Is anger wrong?  No.  But how we deal with feelings of anger can lead to wrongdoings.  Anger must not manifest into retaliation, lashing out, or sin.  Anger becomes sin when we attack the wrongdoer instead of addressing the situation/problem.  Anger must not be allowed to linger.  Lingering anger prolongs forgiveness and allows roots of bitterness to grow.  Physical problems may arise from unresolved anger. 

At times it is necessary to experience anger in order to let go and reach a place of forgiveness.  Notice I said EXPERIENCE it.  That means within yourself and it does NOT mean that we use the anger in unacceptable ways.  It is important to deal with anger in a way that does no harm to others.  No one else should be on the receiving end of our dealing with emotions. 

Why do some people become angry over situations that would not slightly upset others?  Anger is related to our internal disposition.  Attitudes about forgiveness and unconditional love for others are factors that affect how we perceive injustices in our lives.   When unresolved anger exists, the slightest offenses will produce the strong emotion partly because the person is reminded of all the offenses that led to the unresolved issues.   Super sensitivities and being easily angered are indications of deep unresolved issues that may not have anything to do with the current offense.

An angry disposition is a hindrance to righteousness.  It is like an internal volcano awaiting eruption. Unresolved anger also disrupts inner peace.   

If you are easily angered, I encourage you to pray for God to reveal to you why you respond in this manner.  Seek the unresolved issues or any forgiveness that may need attention so that you can improve your disposition and be free of this destructive emotion.  If someone close to you is easily angered, pray for him/her as well.  Realize that there must be issues that need to be resolved and that he/she need your prayers.  It is time to seek peace.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"My Time or Your Time"?

1 John 5:14-15  This is the confidence we have in approaching God:  that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him.

We live a few miles from the Central and Eastern time zone line.  The line is crossed halfway between our town and the towns adjacent to us in two directions.  Historically, the towns adjacent to us have been where many people from our county travel for work.  Our time zone is one hour behind the other two towns.  Common vernacular in this area includes phrases such as "fast time or slow time", meaning the time in our town for the hour faster time.  Another common phrase is "my time or your time" which is asked when making plans or appointments with folks in the other time zones.  It has always been a part of the language here.  Visitors or people that move to the area may find it confusing as they adjust to the lingo and living near a time zone line.

Today's devotion will focus on "my time or your time".  When we schedule appointments or make plans, it is often the case that we wish to make those arrangements on "my time".  In other words, we want to suit our own schedules by making plans that are convenient for ourselves.  The same can be said for prayer life.  Let us be honest, so many times when we pray for answers or solutions to situations in life, we want the resolution in "my time".  I know that this is true for me.  There are even times that we may pray, "God, let your will be done", however, in our minds, we are thinking that we want his will to be done, but please let it be on "my time".

Yesterday a specific prayer was answered for me.  Now, let us remember, that all prayers have an answer but that is another post.  This certain prayer in my life has been prayed since February 10, 2016.  The answer came one year, two months, and 21 days from the time I began the specifics of this prayer.  Over the course of that year, I tried to do my part to help God answer that prayer in "my time".   I approached doors that I thought would be great openings for opportunities for the prayer to be answered.  Anyone else ever stood in front of doors and twisted the knob thinking that it should take care of that for which you have prayed?  Not only were most of those doors before me closed, many of them were dead-bolted, padlocked, and secured with a log chain.

Then when I least expected, at time when I actually have been focused on several other prayer subjects, the door opened and the prayer was answered in God's time.  Not only did it open, it was like an overhead garage door.  It raised itself up and created a large entryway in answer to my prayer with details that I could never have imagined being behind the door.

God does not live near a time zone.  He has one realm of time-His.  While the answer to my prayer seemed like an eternity in coming to me, God saw it as perfect timing.  He doesn't want us to ask, "my time or your time?"  He does not want us to focus on when we feel the time is right for details in life to fall into place.  He simply wants us to trust.  He loves to hear us pray and ask for things, "in his time".  Waiting is difficult especially when we feel an urgency to see things happen in life.  I can tell that many times in my life, God has shown me that the importance of waiting for things in His time is the best time for all the details to fall into place.   


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Exclamation Points!!!

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

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

Allow that to soak in for a moment. 

God also knows every detail about you and your life. 

Every one. 

Good, bad, ugly, or sad. 

He is completely aware of the suffering that each and every one of us experiences.   He understands the troubles with which we wrestle.  He hears our cries.  He is all knowing of our fears and insecurities.  

He knows every period, comma, and question mark.  In this world, we have many thoughts that end with question marks.  We wonder why things happen.  We question why people choose to participate in hurtful acts and behaviors.  We find it hard to understand the evil that exists around us.  

Allow God to turn all the question marks of life into exclamation points.  Allow Him to take away all the fear, doubt, and worry that will lead into insecurities.  Give all the negative thoughts and uncertainties over to Him.

If you are struggling with letting go of negative feelings, disappointments, self doubt, bitterness, or any other feeling that hinders the exclamation points in your life, it is time to LET GO.  We are powerless to the things of this world that cause us have so many questions.  Surrender your helplessness and give all the question marks to God. 

He is sovereign! 

He is omnipresent!

He is omniscient!

He is omnipotent!

He can provide each and every one of us with exclamation points to place at the end of our thoughts and concerns!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Forgive and Let it Go

Matthew 6:15  "But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Forgiveness is a decision. 

A decision to let go of anger, bitterness, and resentment.

A decision to let go of one's pride.

It is a decision to live with inner peace no matter the turmoil around you.

To totally forgive means to understand God and his sovereignty.

If you harbor unforgiveness, it is because you have not decided to let go. 

Forgiveness does not take away what was done but it does take away the desire for us to do something in return.

Make that decision. Forgive and let it all go.   Lay down the pride, anger and bitterness.   It is worth the peace!

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.