The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"But the greatest of these is LOVE"

1 Corinthians 13:13  And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the the greatest of these is love. 

This verse is included in the writings of Paul to a morally corrupt Corinth.  In Corinth, the people had devalued the meaning of love.  Love between the people had become distorted.  There was division, idol worship, and sexual immorality.  Spirituality was absent among the people as they sought to fulfill the desires of the flesh.  Our modern day society still has the same issues with the meaning of love as did the people of Corinth 2000 years ago.

Our family had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Ravi Zacharius speak last year while he was in our area.  He made these statements in the presentation, "love is the most supreme ethic in the world.  All love hangs on Agape-God's love". 

In order for us to understand love, we must seek to understand God.  The Bible tells us, "Whoever does not know love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:8).  Agape love is NOT romantic, friendly love.  Agape love is sacrificial.  It is love in action.  Agape love is loving others the way in which God loves us.  Agape love never asks, "What is in it for me?"

Love is the greatest attribute that we can offer one another.  1 John 3:11 says, "This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another".  "From the beginning", we have been commanded to love.  Love has always been around. Pure, unadulterated love from the heart will last forever.  Unconditional love is a truth that will exist in eternity.  God will love us unconditionally forever and He expects us to love one another in the same manner.  

We must love people for who they are, not for what we think they ought to be.  It is easy to love those the match exactly how we think they should look, act and proceed in life.  Some people are difficult to love.  They are the ones that need it most.  The seemingly unlovable people are the ones that will benefit from our love the most.  

Love people as you find them.  Love them where you find them.  Love them just as they are. When the meaning of love has lost its way in the world around us, let us be the definition that God would write next to LOVE in the dictionary.  Let us put love into action by living in ways that reflect sacrifice.  May our actions reveal to others that love is much more than a feeling in the flesh.  May we expand our understanding of Agape love that comes to us from God.  May we take that understanding and teach it to those around us. 

Love is perhaps the greatest virtue of all human qualities.  Loving one another is perhaps the greatest tie that binds us in unity.  However, if we are not united in love with God first and foremost, we cannot find ourselves in unity with others.  Love and unity are directly proportional.  When love increases, unity also increases.  If love decreases, then unity decreases as well. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Do we offer forgiveness from the intellect or the heart?

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

The word of focus in today's scripture is "heart".

Think of times that you have heard or maybe said the words, "stop fighting and forgive each other".  I remember telling these words to my children.  I have had them declare their forgiveness of each other with words.  I recall a time when the forgiveness seemed force fed and what I heard from the child's mouth did not reflect any change of heart.  The forgiveness seemed like more of a statement of compliance to avoid trouble with Mama.  There are likely times as adults that we offer forgiveness as lip service and there is no involvement of the heart.  

Forgiveness must come from our hearts.  Intellectual forgiveness only reflects that we are aware that forgiveness is a Christian duty.  We learn of the expectations for forgiveness from scripture study.  We hear about forgiveness from the preacher on Sundays.  We are taught about forgiveness in Sunday school.  Knowing about forgiveness does not equal a desire in our hearts to forgive.

Forgiveness as a spoken word indicates that we know right from wrong.  If forgiveness is only a matter of words coming across the lips, then we have not shown an involvement with the heart.  When we have a genuine desire to live in righteousness as God expects, then our hearts can seek out forgiveness.  God is the only one who can prime our hearts for forgiveness.  He is the only one that can show us how to forgive from the depths of the heart.   

Forgiveness does start with the knowledge and understanding of its necessity.  Forgiveness must  progress into a change of heart toward a person and the situation.  The emotional transformation includes a releasing of negative, destructive emotions and replacing those feelings with love.  Within that transformation, forgiveness will enhance ones character by adding strength and closeness to God.  
Difficult situations, that involve deep emotional wounds, require deep levels of forgiveness.  A quick, "I forgive you" does not always release the hold of unforgiveness.  Raw, ugly emotions must be brought to the surface and dealt with.  A deep level of understanding of God's forgiveness of us is the beginning of this process.  By coming to the realization in our own heart of the level of forgiveness that God offers, we can then can experience the depths of His love.  Humility and submission to his love and forgiveness is the only avenue which will lead each of us into the process of forgiving others from our hearts. 


Friday, February 24, 2017

Forever Hold Your Peace!

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



Today's meditation is about how we can forever hold our peace.  There are a couple of angles to consider regarding this.  The first angle is holding our peace when someone else tries to mess in it.  If you have ever had anyone mess in your peace, you know that it is frustrating, disappointing, and can cause turmoil within you.  For me, "messing in my peace" involves trouble in my day or life caused intentionally by others.  Words that are destructive and actions that menace my mood, or mission for the day, are things that mess in my peace.  Basically anything that presents negativity in our lives will mess in our peace. 

In order to maintain peace during turmoil, we must remain focused on our purpose and mission for each day.  We must remember that God offers peace in the midst of any storm.  The most important factor in maintaining peace is to remember that we have control over our reaction to the actions of others, therefore, along with God's guidance, we can control the peace that we have inside of us.  We have no choice in the choices of others nor the actions that they commit.  We do have choices in our reactions.

The other angle of holding your peace has to do with your own disrupted peace.  Do you hold your peace or do you share your lack of peace with others?  If you have a lack of peace within you on any given day or every day, do you project that toward others?  In dealing with bitterness, the lack of peace that dwells in a heart from day to day will find its way out of the heart by way of the mouth and acting out toward others.  It is kind of like the old saying, "misery loves company".  The interesting thing is that most people do not realize that their words and actions stem from a bitterness that is deep within the heart.

Maintaining daily inner peace is important.  Satan wants to take that peace from you each day.  If he can take it from you, then he can talk you into working for him, even if it is in little ways.  By disrupting the peace of others, Satan then has a crack in the door of their peace and so the cycle continues.  These actions are spiritual warfare.  They often begin as small battles and manipulations. 

Forever hold your peace whether it involves holding your tongue or refusing to participate in actions that will disrupt the peace of another.  If your peace is being threatened, hold on to that peace even in the storms and turmoil.  Peace can be a struggle but the Bible offers guidance concerning the importance of peace.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Holding on is Exhausting!

Proverbs 4:25  Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your glaze directly before you.  "

C.S. Lewis said this about letting go, "Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars.  You have to let go at some point in order to move forward."

Bitterness grows when we do not allow our minds to let go of the things that have hurt us.  One of the most common elements of being unable to forgive is the "holding on".  This is the grudge portion.  The forever remembering, replaying, and revisiting the occurrence keeps it alive and current in our minds.  Holding on to the "drama" and all the details of the event prevents us from moving forward. 

Holding on is exhausting! 

Holding on can consume one's mind and lead to dwelling only on the negative things in our lives.  Many people that have talked with me about bitterness and letting go will ask, "How do I let go?  How can I get this off my mind?"

Ways to let go:
      - Pray for God to change your mind about it; trust in His sovereignty.
      -Stop entertaining the thoughts of "why did this happen to me?"
      -Do not confuse feelings with facts; let go of feelings, put the facts into perspective.
      -Focus on the positives in your life.  Make a list of them each day if necessary.     
      -Remember that what ever happened, whatever has made you bitter, is not all there is to your life!
      -Remind yourself that what someone else did to you does not define who you are. 

It is important to let go of hurts and heartaches.  As long as we continue to touch the wound, it will not progress toward healing.  Holding on will only aid in keeping a gaping wound wide open.  Practice letting go and moving forward into what God has in store for you. 
    

Wednesday, February 22, 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 getting along with them is extremely difficult.  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.  If the door is opened wide enough, then insecurities and despair can enter and lead into bitterness.

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

Abrasive.  Rough.

Self-centered.  Unwilling to be accountable.

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 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 their salvation.  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, therefore, 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 most.                                

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When you are weary.....

Isaiah 40:31  "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint"

If a situation in your life has you feeling as if you have been depleted of all your strength, then perhaps you have been relying too much on your own strength.  When you are exhausted from trying to accomplish things on your own or make changes in your life, it is time to put your trust and hope in God.

It is in the times of weariness in life that God wants us to allow him to give us the strength that we need.  When we wrestle with our troubles and frustrations we will often begin to feel the pressures of our weaknesses.  When we are at our weakest, we will be tempted to give up on what God wants us to accomplish.  God does not want us to wrestle with the things in this life.  He wants us to soar like an eagle with the strength and endurance that only He can offer.  

He has a purpose in mind for each of us to accomplish according to His will.  Is it always easy to accomplish His purpose?  No, not on our own.  It is possible to accomplish any task when we place all our trust in God.  He is trustworthy.  He is capable.  He can and will move the mountains that appear before us.  He will give us endurance to complete all that He asks us to do.  He will turn any weaknesses into strengths.  

If you are feeling weak and the pressures of those weaknesses have convinced you that you are not capable of finishing your race, then place all your hope in God.  Confess your weaknesses to Him.  Ask for His strength.  Allow Him to carry you across the finish line.  



Monday, February 20, 2017

Gestures of Encouragement

1 Thessalonians 5:11  "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just in fact as you are doing".

The dictionary defines encourage:  (v.) to inspire with courage, spirit or confidence.  Encourage is an action word; a verb.  It requires us to act in ways which will build up others.  

God continues to show me the link between encouragement and love. Love and encouragement are directly proportional.  When one increases, the other increases with it.  If one decreases, so does the other.  Love builds us up.  Love helps us to remain encouraged. When we love others, we want to encourage them and fill them with confidence. 

President Theodore Roosevelt said this, "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care".  I have seen this to be true on many levels.  Caring and loving, also actions words, are directly related to encouragement.  Of course, we all seek encouragement during those periods in our lives when we feel extra discouraged or when we are going through rough times.  But honestly, we want to feel encouraged and loved all the time. 

Encouragement comes through love and support.  When we value things that others hold dear, we are showing encouragement.  For example when we attend sporting events, recitals and science fairs with our children, there is an unspoken display of encouragement.  We love them enough to value what is important to them. 

Calling family members and friends regularly, especially the older members that  live alone, is a huge source of encouragement.  We often minimize the effects of loneliness in elder people. They can easily become discouraged and begin to feel as if no one loves them.  Taking 10 minutes to call and talk to someone may completely turn the day around in a positive way.

Encouraging others is a type of service.  Offering encouragement to people is an easy task when our hearts are filled with love for others.  Deep in the hearts of people there is a desire to know that others care about them.  Encouragement does not have to include "doing" something because most of the time we cannot fix the source of discouragement.  Instead, encouragement can fill a person's  heart with love which in turn may lead to a heart that turns to God for all its needs. 

Random compliments, texts or messages filled with love and kind words are encouragement in action.  Phone calls and visits relay encouragement to a person. Seek a way each day to encourage someone.  Send a random card, note, e-mail, or text that will be uplifting.  Take a few minutes and make a phone call of encouragement.  Small gestures of encouragement produce large results in the life of someone that is discouraged. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Pay it Forward

2 Corinthians 1:3-4    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

God is not the author of conflict and crisis in our lives.  However, when trouble and problems do arise, he will use these occurrences to develop trust and dependence upon him.  He is a teacher in the midst of conflict and crisis. 

When we allow ourselves to learn sovereign lessons, we emerge with growth as a Christian.  We move onward and upward.  We develop godly character.  We have the opportunity to emerge as a leader; a leader that can then teach others through comfort, compassion and encouragement. 

God expects us to teach one another about Him and the things He has done for us.  He expects us to comfort one another by using the same measure of comfort and compassion that He has shown us.  Take some time to reflect upon the comfort that God has afforded you in times of trial.  Look for ways to pay it forward to others that may be in a crisis or conflict.  Practice teaching what you have learned about God so that His greatness and glory may be spread into all the world.  Be a leader within your own circle of friends and family; a leader that shows others what God has taught you. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Set Aside Self-Righteous Pride

Ecclesiastes 7:8  The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.

Self righteous pride is basically the largest obstacle to forgiveness.  Pride doesn't want to  let go of hurts and disagreements.

Pride wants to always be right.

Pride wants to be smarter or better.

Pride wants to be more righteous. 

It is difficult to admit to one's own pride.  It is equally as difficult to set it aside.   Holding on to pride causes us to miss the sweetness of God's grace, both from Him and between us and others. Setting aside pride, experiencing forgiveness, and fore bearing all things in love puts an end to all matters of conflict and exposes us to sweet grace.              

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Patience to Overlook Offenses

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Rebellious attitudes

Hebrews 13:17  Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.  They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.  Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.


I have a saying that I use to teach our children to think and make decisions independently.  I tell them, "do not give in to the mob mentality".  It is easy to want to participate in activities because everyone else is doing it.  There is pressure to wear what others are wearing, to buy what our friends purchase, or vacation in the same spots as our neighbors.  After all, American businesses rely upon a herd mentality to market and sell products.

This type of thought process can be dangerous and lead to a sinful mindset.  Satan will use a mob mentality approach to foster rebellious attitudes within the minds of people.  We all have a rebellious nature dating back to the Garden of Eden when Eve rebelled against God's rules.  He said, "do not" and she said, "I will" (Genesis chapter 3).

The Israelites had rebellious attitudes toward obeying God.  They wandered around for 40 years in order to arrive at a journey that should have only taken them several months.  Their defiant attitude against Moses, their earthly leader, caused them grief, discomfort, and death in some instances.  Their rebellion led to disbelief.  They had little faith in that which  God was leading them.  Their rebellious attitude was sinful and it did not go unnoticed by God.  

God does not want us to make decisions based upon what everyone else is doing.  He does not want use the thoughts and attitudes of others in order to act upon obedience to Him.  He does not want us to think in terms of, "I did this because everyone else was doing it", "he/she made me do it", or "I really wanted to do this because my friend did". Therefore, we must think independently of others.  If we can make decisions based upon God's principles and His will in our lives, then we can avoid the mindset of following suit of everyone around us.  Perhaps if the Israelites could have thought independently of one another, obedience would have trumped rebellion.    

God has a plan in place for His leaders and followers.  His expectation is that we be in obedience of His principles and commands.  He does not desire for us to foster rebellious attitudes toward His plans or the leaders in which He appoints. 

Whether you are a godly leader or a godly follower, may you always be found in God's will.  May His principles govern your decisions.  May your attitude be one of obedience and not rebellion. 

Monday, February 13, 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 feel 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. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Peace Offerings

Psalm  29:10-11 The Lord sits enthroned as King forever.  The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.


I recall hearing a phone conversation between my husband and our oldest daughter.   She was worried about a friend of hers who was having a really bad day.   The friend was upset and her peace was disturbed.  My daughter wanted to know what she could do for her friend.   What my husband told her has remained in the forefront of my mind and has prompted me to evaluate myself as a peacemaker.    He told her to offer her friend peace.  He said, "let her find peace in you."    Let me repeat:  "Let her find peace in you."

I began to ponder this and I asked myself if I offer people the opportunity to find peace in me.  What does this mean?   It means that we will offer comfort to those that are hurting.  To offer peace is to offer someone to confide in us and to bear their burdens and deepest feelings without fear of exploitation.   Others may find peace from us when they see us at peace with both God and the situation at hand. 

The Bible tells us that we are to love one another and bear one another's burdens.  Peace is a blessing.  Peace is available to each and every one of us.  At times our peace will be interrupted or disturbed and we will need to take a moment and find our bearings.   We can always seek peace from God.  It is also comforting to have people that offer us peace and comfort. 

Share the peace that is within you.  Lend an ear of sympathy.  Hug someone that is hurting.  Offer your friends a safe harbor of confidence and rest from their worries; "Let them find peace in you."

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Commitment

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

"You cannot make a commitment to uncommitted people and expect to receive a commitment from them" John C. Maxwell.  

Relationships are tough.  A great deal of give and take exists in a any relationship.  Friendships, marriages, work relationships and family relationships require us to give much of ourselves.

True love is an action verb, not merely an emotion.  Words that are spoken can relay our feelings of love to one another, however it is through our actions toward others that a commitment to love is displayed.  It is through serving and giving of ourselves that we put love into action.  Consistently doing for others reflects a commitment to a loving relationship.

Relationships require commitment from all involved.  Uncommitted parties within relationships do not put love into action.   Commitment involves risk.  The risk of rejection may cause people to love reluctantly.  Commitment, whether within marriage, friendship or vocation requires us to be vulnerable.  It can be tempting to withhold a total commitment in order to feel safe and secure.  Real commitment has nothing to do with feelings.  John C. Maxwell said this, "true commitment is not an emotion; it's a character quality that enables us to reach our goals".


Take time to ponder your relationships.  Think about your marriage, your friends, your work and family.  Are you fully committed to true love?  Even when there is a risk of your emotions, are you willing to risk and experience true love and commitment?  Do you enjoy giving and serving others with true love?  Is your love put into action?

May we always love in truth and in action.  If each of us gives love in its truest sense, then our commitments will be strong on both sides of the relationship.  May we forever be committed to loving with actions. 

Wednesday, February 8, 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!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Trials Can Lead to Healing

Trials Can Lead to Healing

Isaiah 41:13   For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. 

“Anger and bitterness are two noticeable signs of being focused on self and not trusting God’s sovereignty in your life. When you believe that God causes all things to work together for good to those who belong to Him and love Him, you can respond to trials with joy instead of anger or bitterness.” ~ John C. Boger

The largest trial in my life thus far left me with a great deal of anger and bitterness.   Within those emotions, I was constantly asking, "Why did this happen?"  I felt as though since I loved God, was making sacrifices for him, and serving him that he would never have allowed such events to cause me such distress.  

Let us unpack that paragraph.  Why did God allow it to happen?   He did not cause it to happen, nor did he approve of the damaging details.  Humans have free will and they are not afraid to use it!  After it happened, He allowed me the opportunity to turn to him for strength and healing.

Next is the issue of my "feelings".  I was focused on what I felt I was doing right instead of things that God wanted me to improve upon.  Instead of drawing near to him and gaining strength, I began to question him. I had many things to learn!  Until we are ready to commit as students, God will not allow us to move forward in the situation.   The main point within that lesson was that serving at church and "doing" things for God is not the complete relationship that God expects us to have.  I needed  a bit of surgery on my heart to understand that I could not serve away the anger and bitterness.  My service to God did not take away what I was feeling.  However, his love for me did lead to healing.  I was so focused on my feelings and circumstances that I lost sight of God's sovereignty.   I was saying that I trusted him with my mouth and serving him with my hands, but my heart did not reflect that trust. 

Ridding of anger and bitterness requires a sincere desire to be rid of it.  When I reached the point of being so tired of those feelings, only then could I be healed.  I have not experienced a trial of such magnitude since, but believing that God will bring all things together for my good allows me to view trials and struggles in a more positive light.  I am better equipped to deal with any trial that may come my way in the future. 

We must believe that God does not bring about bad things in our lives.  He only wants the best for us.  However, he can bring us out of the bad things in our lives when the free will of others causes us pain and suffering.  He will use those times as opportunities to allow us to grow in our relationship with him and strengthen our inner constitution.  We truly can come out of trials better and stronger than ever before when we completely turn to God for healing and strength. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Self-Worth: Leah and Rachel

Self-Worth

Genesis 29:16-18  Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.  Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful.  Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, "I'll work for you for seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel."

Jacob worked for seven years in order to marry Rachel.  When the time came for him to take her as a wife, Laban (Rachel's father) gave Leah to Jacob, unbeknownst to him, "but when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob" (Genesis 29:23).  It must have been really dark in the tents of those days!

In order to unpack this situation in regards to self-worth, let us begin with Leah.  We are told that she had "weak eyes" and that Rachel was beautiful.  So, we visualize that Leah was not recognized as having an outward beauty like that of her sister's.  I am sure Leah's self-image was already diminished as she compared herself to her sister.  Her father tricked Jacob into being with Leah, because the custom was that the oldest daughter should marry first.  Leah must have felt even more unworthy knowing that Jacob loved Rachel, the younger daughter, because of her outward beauty.  Jacob protested to Laban when he discovered that he had been tricked into fulfilling the custom instead of receiving in marriage the daughter for which he had worked.  Laban told Jacob, "finish the daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work" (v. 27).

Leah knew that Jacob loved Rachel more than he loved her and that her marriage was to satisfy tradition.  Since both were now married to Jacob and Leah knew of his lesser affections for her, rivalry became a part of the situation.  Leah continued attempts to win the affections of Jacob.  Genesis 29:31-32, "When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.  Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son.  She named him Reuben, for she said, 'It is because the Lord has seen my misery.  Surely my husband will love me now.'"  She seemed to constantly try to prove her value with her husband. She was earnestly seeking self-worth through the feelings of her husband.

Leah wanted desperately for Jacob to love her.  She thought that her value would increase since she bore a son and Rachel had not.  Leah had two more sons and each time she hoped that Jacob would love and value her.  She thought that the more sons she bore him, the more Jacob would love her.  Once again Leah conceived and gave birth to a son.  But this time was different.  After the birth of the fourth son, Leah said, "This time I will praise the Lord" (v. 35).

The focus on this passage as it regards to self-worth is that when we place our efforts into pleasing people in order to substantiate our perceived value, we will many times be disappointed.  The value that each of us carries, is measured by God. Not one of us is more valuable than any other person on the face of this earth.  Self-worth is a judgment of how we view ourselves as a person  along with the attitude that we have about self.  It is a subjective measurement.  Too often our self-worth is based on feelings that are at times unreasonable and subjective to the words or actions of others.

God measures the value of each of us with objectivity.  He holds no prejudice against any of us.  We are made in God's very image (Genesis 1:27).  This is the beginning of  how valuable we are to Him.  We are so valuable to God that he sent his son to die for us (Romans 5:8). May we always strive to find our value through God's eyes. 


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Look the Struggle in the Eye

Romans 5:3-5    More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

The struggles that each of us face do not often cause us to feel like rejoicing.  In fact the struggles of life most of the time cause us to feel at our lowest.  When we are facing difficulties and trials we are often tempted to focus on the "struggle" portion.  It is easy to become burdened with the negativity of the situation and loaded with worry about how we will make it through the hard times.   Illnesses may cause us to think we will never be well again.  Financial struggles may lead us to think that we will never be in a secure place.  Relationship struggles may cause us to feel as if we will never have peace among people. 

Look beyond the "struggle" in difficult situations.  Look at the struggles as endurance training for the marathon of life.   Look ahead and focus on the character development that suffering offers us.   Look the struggle in the eye and find the love that God has to offer you no matter how small or large the situation.  Allow God to pour his love into your heart and let him wrestle the "struggle" for you.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Let us be real

1 John 4:7-8  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

We seek realness in others.  Others seek realness in us.  When we say we want "real" friends or a real relationship, what does that mean?  It means that we want "real" love from others.  The same steadfast, unconditional realness that God offers us.  People seek to be loved by others with the same love, mercy, and grace by which God loves us.

We have the opportunity to offer this "realness" to others in an tangible way while on this earth.  When we recognize the real, steadfast love that flows freely from God, we then have a model for how to love others.  1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 is a reference point for that love.  In this passage we are told that love is patient, kind, selfless, protective, and humble.  Love is also not a scoreboard that keeps records of rights and wrongs.  1 Corinthians 13 shows us the manner in which God loves us.  If we can absorb the way in which He loves us, then we can express the same depth of love to others around us. 

Let us be "real" to others.  May our walk match our talk.  May love not only be lip service, but may it be a service that comes directly from a heart that loves God.  May we all get to know God well enough to love others as He expects.