The Sweet Stuff Ministry

Thursday, April 27, 2017

An Attitude of Eternity

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

4 Quarters or 100 Pennies?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New, Crisp, Green Leaves

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Do Not be Afraid to be Different

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Go out and make a difference! 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Compassion for our Enemies

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

King David had an enemy-Saul.  He was a lifelong enemy.  Saul had tried every way imaginable to have David killed.  Saul was jealous of David's accomplishments and victories in his life.  Saul was envious of David's position and ranking; In the book of 1st Samuel, it is revealed that he did not accept what God had called David to do.

Imagine knowing that another person desires to have you killed, either figuratively or literally.  How disheartening it must be to have someone that wishes only bad things will happen to you.  I figure that David was forever more looking over his shoulder and watching for what Saul would try next.  To constantly be on guard for your life would be exhausting. 

We may have people in our lives with the same sentiments that Saul had for David.  Hopefully we will not have someone trying to kill us, however, there may be someone that desires to cause us grief.  When others wish for or try to cause calamity to come to our lives, we may be left with feelings that there is an enemy close by.  Jealousy is a strong and desperate emotion.  It can lead to a desire for others to stumble and fall. The same type of jealousy that Saul felt for David may be a reality for some.   

We are commanded to avoid rejoicing when our enemies fall.  We should not be happy when someone suffers a loss or disappointment in life. When our enemies fall, especially those enemies that have caused much strife in our lives, it is tempting for us to feel as if they got what they deserved.  It is easy to enjoy those feelings that they have been served justice for hurtful things they have done. 

We should be full of compassion when others fall. Our hearts should be saddened when others suffer.  Not always easy, but always necessary.  David did not gloat when he heard that Saul had died.  He was saddened and full of compassion.  Bear in mind that this was a man that had actively tried to kill David for many years.   From our perspective it might seem that he should have been relieved that his enemy could no longer try to kill him.  Yet, he found no joy in his death. It seems that it would have been easy for David to say that Saul had gotten what he deserved, however, he "mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathon" (2 Samuel 1:12).  David left the judgments to God, as we should do also.

It should be our desire to have heart felt compassion, even for our enemies.  The Bible tells us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44).  As we pray for our enemies, we should also pray for our own hearts-that we may not rejoice in the sufferings of our enemies. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Get up off the mat of paralysis and follow Christ!

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

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

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

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

What are your mats of affliction?

Are you paralyzed by bitterness?

Are you disabled by unforgiveness?

Do you lack of faith?

Is there a level of unbelief in your heart?

Do you suffer from physical ailments?

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








Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Monday, April 17, 2017

The Stockdale Paradox

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

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

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

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

Read that again and process what he is saying.

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

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

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

The "good" in Good Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Mask of Functional Bitterness

Ephesians 4:31  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form
of malice.


I have used this verse in other posts and focused on different words found in the verse.  Today I will focus on the word "all".  God wants us to rid of ALL bitterness, rage and anger.  Each and every bit of those emotions must go.  If ALL bitterness is not rid of, even the smallest bit can cause resentment and barriers between you and the people in your life.

You might be inclined to think that if you are not paralyzed by bitterness that your life is in good shape.  Not necessarily.  There can be a level of what I call functional bitterness.  The bitterness is there, and causes barriers within relationships, but the relationship is still functional.  You are able to be in the presence of the person which you have bitterness toward, however, there are inhibitions with the level of closeness and enjoyment that you can experience with this person.  Functional bitterness is a mask that conceals what is truly in the heart.   

With functional bitterness, you are able to operate and perform your regular every day duties.  The bitterness is not constantly on your mind, however, there may be periods of intense reminders or thoughts about the situation that caused the bitterness.  The people around you may not notice the bitterness within you, however, you still feel the effects.  Functional bitterness allows you to get through the days but you do not experience the joy and delight that could be yours if ALL the bitterness is gone.

If you allow your heart to be clear of ALL bitterness, you can then realize the wholeness which God intends for us.  When you experience the wholeness of heart and the delight that the freedom from the bondage of bitterness and anger can bring, it is then that you will become acutely aware of what you have been missing.  The desire to have wholeness and delight will outweigh the desire to wallow in the bitterness when you realize how wonderful the freedom can be.

It is my prayer for any of you that are suffering from any type of bitterness, rage, or anger that you will allow God to examine those emotions and help you rid of them.  For those of you that may have functional bitterness, I pray that you will allow the mask of denial to be removed and that God will take any and ALL of those feelings away.  I pray for each of you to experience the wholeness that God has to offer.  In Jesus name, Amen!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

UP

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


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

GET UP out of that bed,

STAND UP to the devil,

LOOK UP to what God has in store for you,

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

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Brewing Bitterness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Labels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, April 7, 2017

God Does Not Make Junk

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

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

God does not make junk.

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

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

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


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

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

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Peacemaker or Peace-taker?

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

Peacemaker or Peace-taker?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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










Wednesday, April 5, 2017

From Bitterness to Blessings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Activated Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank God for taking care of all things! 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Keep Your Eyes and Feet Pointed Forward

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

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


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

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

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

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