The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Friday, March 31, 2017

Queen Anne's Lace

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

God Wants to Heal and Restore

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

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

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

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

He promises!

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

God Understands Our Plans and Dreams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Love in the Midst of Brokenness

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, March 27, 2017

Is the Grass Really Greener?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Temptation

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Accept God's Wisdom Without Doubt

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Jesus Deserves ALL of Our Affinity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Peace and Security

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

Neat Little Boxes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Friday, March 17, 2017

Encourage Others to Believe in Themselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Patience to Overlook Offenses

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

We Do Not Have to Fear Crashing into the Valley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Emerge a Victor

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 13, 2017

Only God's Shield Will Take Away Stress

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Junk Must Go!

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

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

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

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

Search and seek God.  Find Him.

If you have turned from him, return to Him.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Allow the Savior to Stand Between You and the Storm

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trust Him

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

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

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

He has loved us since he created us. 

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

Put ALL your trust in Him. 

He designed it to be such. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Removing Heart Blockages

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 3, 2017

Jealousy

James 3:16   For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

Feelings of jealousy go back to Cain and Abel, the first siblings in the Bible (Genesis 4).  The jealousy that sparked between them was a popularity contest.  Abel found favor with God, Cain did not.  Cain did not want the material things that Abel had, he wanted the same recognition from God.  His jealousy led to anger that in turn led to the murder of his brother.

Jealousy is a volatile emotion.  It is a sin that is inspired by the devil.  Jealousy disrupts inner peace. 

At the root of jealousy if fear.  The fear of losing attention, affection, or favor with people that are important to us.

Jealousy may begin as feelings of resentment toward someone because of their successes or material possessions.  Jealousy may escalate and lead to envy which becomes a covetous mindset. If left unbridled, jealousy and envy will lead to destruction, "a heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones" (Proverbs 14:30).  Envy creeps into the soul because of internal feelings of inferiority.  A lack of contentment contributes to envy.  Selfish desires and a hunger to succeed will be driven by envy.

Envy causes us to strive for the things that others have or the things that others are doing.  "Keeping up with the Joneses" is fed by jealousy.  Those feelings can be subtle and may be kept inside but the desire to have the same things that others have still boils down to a root of jealousy.

Most of us have likely had feelings of jealousy, after all Satan tries his tricks on everyone.  He likes to insert thoughts of covetousness when we are discontent.  He especially likes to move in when we spend time focusing on the imperfections that we perceive to exist in our lives.  The pangs of jealousy are usually dealt with in our minds before they turn into acts of envy.  However, if envy takes root, dangerous emotions and actions may follow.   

Jealousy can be a dangerous emotion.  It is a feeling that we do not readily like to admit.  We want to appear strong and as if we have it all together.  Jealousy is a weakness like any other temptation. 

If you find yourself experiencing feelings of envy or jealousy, pray that God will show you the importance that He places upon you.  Pray for obedience and fulfillment in what He has purposed for your life.   I don't know what each of you feels or where this devotion will find you, but I do know that jealousy is a favorite tool of Satan and he likes to intensify situations with it.   If you are dealing with jealousy, seek from God what is missing in your heart.  Allow him to fill the empty places and inadequate thoughts that you may experience.  We are each of great value to Him and we have our own gifts, talents and purposes.   Instead of being envious of His plan for others, focus on what His plan is for you.   Let God show you all that you are to Him. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

God sees us all the same!

James 2:10  For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 

To God, all our sins look the same.

There are no degrees of sin.  Sin is sin and God views it all the same.  He sees our sins as violations of the way in which he expects us to act.  We tend to classify sin in earthly terms.  We view sin through eyes that align with the laws of our land.  Our minds want to think that a person in prison for life for killing multiple people has committed a deeper degree of sin than a person who has never broken an earthly law.  The areas in which we fail God are found within the feelings and thoughts that we hold in our hearts.  While there are different ways in which sin is acted out (murder, adultery, stealing, etc), God views the sin from the inside out.  He considers our commitment to His principles.  In other words, we can harbor sin in our hearts and be just as guilty in God's eyes as a convicted criminal.  In God's eyes, all types of sin are equally as unacceptable.

From God, all forgiveness looks the same.

This is worth rejoicing!  No matter how many sins, no matter the actions that were carried out due to the sin, no matter the condition of our heart,God offers the same unconditional forgiveness to each and every one of us.  Heaven will contain murderers, adulterers, thieves, and liars right along side the little elderly ladies that only committed the sin of gossip at the beauty shop!   We will all be there together because God views us all the same!

He sees us the same when we sin.  He sees us the same when we repent. His mercies are for everyone. 

I thank God for his nondiscriminatory love!   I am thankful that He loves us enough to call a spade a spade.  I am extremely grateful that He loves all of us enough to wipe the slate clean when we confess and turn from our ways.

To God all sin looks the same.  From God, all forgiveness looks the same! 



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Wholeness of God

Isaiah 40:29   He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

We cannot begin to heal our emotional wounds until we acknowledge our brokenness.  When we realize our weakness and attest to God's wholeness, then may we be healed.

Even the strongest people we know have emotional wounds.  Even the tough guys have weaknesses.  There are times when we all grow tired of wrestling with hurts and feeling weak.

God is the source of strength.  He is a fortified tower (Prov. 18:10).

God is the source of peace (John 16:33).

God is a solid foundation (Psalms 16:8).

God is a safe haven and protector (Psalm 119:114-115).


Acknowledge God's strength.  Seek to understand his wholeness.  Confess your weakness.  Allow him to increase your power and give you strength for in doing so, you open your heart to healing.