Friday, July 22, 2016

Overwhelmed by Prayer Burdens

If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm the kind of person that has a hard time letting go.  Letting go of my expectations.  Letting go of my worries.  Letting go of my problems.  I don't know what it is, but I constantly struggle with the aspect of letting go.  (Elsa made it seem so easy in the movie, Frozen.)  I guess that's why I can become overwhelmed with prayer requests.

Over the past week, I've received the news that my grandmother is clinging to life with a weak and weary grasp.  I found out that a dear lady who is like a mother to me is in the hospital because of a terrible reaction to her new cancer treatments.  A teacher and mentor from college just discovered that his body is filled with cancer, and the doctors say it doesn't look good.  A family whose children I taught in kindergarten broke the news that their pre-teen son was to have his leg amputated.

I wish I could tell you that the list stops there, but it doesn't.  That's only those I know personally.  That doesn't count the requests made at church or made known to me through my ministry.  Broken families.  Broken hearts.  Broken bodies and broken spirits.  It's enough to make me cry out, "What in the world are you doing, God?  Why are so many of your children hurting?"

Before I go any further, let me say this:  if you have a request or need prayer, please don't hesitate to contact me.  I consider it part of my ministry and call to help encourage God's children.  I don't want you to hold back because of what I'm saying here because I assure you that's not the point.  And for those of you who have shared your requests with me, thank you for trusting me with your pain.  I am happy to carry your burdens to the Lord.

Here's where I have a hiccup in my prayer life, and I wanted to address this topic this morning because perhaps you have the same issue.  I carry the burdens to the Lord.  One by one, I lay them in great detail at His feet.  I pray for healing, grace, intercession--whatever the need may be.  I pray that God will have His will and way in each and every situation.  So far, so good, but here's where I mess up.  Remember what I said at the beginning of this post--I can't seem to let go.  So, when I leave the throne, I carry all those burdens back with me and bear them all day, every day.  No wonder I feel overwhelmed!  We were never intended to carry such burdens.  The Bible makes that abundantly clear.

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. - I Peter 5:7 

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. - Psalm 55:22

Please understand, letting go doesn't mean that we dump our problems at Jesus' feet then merrily skip away like we haven't a care in the world.  I don't know that that's even possible.  We still have to deal with reality.  We still feel the heartache and sorrow of the situations surrounding us.  The difference is that when we leave our problems at His feet, we'll also feel peace in knowing that everything is in His hands.  He's in control.  He knows all about the issues, and He is capable of doing what needs to be done.  That is a peace we cannot experience when we're trying to "deal with" the issues ourselves.  Sure, we took them to God, but then we took them back which signifies that we didn't really trust Him to take care of it.  Whether we meant to imply that or not, the fact is that it's a slap in God's face when we pull our burdens away from Him.  Not only are we insinuating that He can't handle them, but we're also acting as if God doesn't care enough to deal with it like it needs to be dealt with.  Ouch!

Brothers and sisters, we live in a dark world, and according to Scriptures, it's only going to get darker.  It's easy to become overwhelmed by the many burdens surrounding us on a daily basis, but we don't have to be weighed down by the cares of the world.  We need only take them to Jesus and allow Him to have control of each and every situation.  That doesn't mean we put it out of our minds or hearts but rather that we take it out of our grasp.  It doesn't belong there.  Give it up.  Lay it down.  Let it go!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

What You Eat Determines What You Think

Several weeks ago, I started The Daniel Plan.  I was fed up!  Sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Weary of fad diets that left me feeling worse than I had before I started.  Despondent of ever finding an answer to my failing health at such a young age.  That being the case, when I first saw the Daniel Plan, I thought, Yeah, sure.  It's just another gimmick to get my money. (Told you I was fed up!)  But God kept bringing it to my attention and there was an underlying prompting to find out what it was all about.

I did, and after much prayer, study and preparation, I began the most wonderful health plan I've ever experienced.  Please understand, this is not a commercial or promotion for this plan.  I'm only telling you this to get to the point of today's devotion, but I can say this:  Since starting the plan, I've lost several pounds from my body and inches from my waist.  On top of that, my blood pressure has reduced drastically.  I've also had energy like I haven't felt in many, many years.  So, if you're looking to lose weight or simply feel better, I do urge you to look into the Daniel Plan.

Based on everything I had read about the plan, I expected to see results in my body, and I did.  I also expected to see results in my ability to focus and concentrate, and I did.  Here's what I never expected, though.  Once I had cleared the "garbage" out of my system and begun filling my body with healthy, nutrient-dense food, my thinking changed.  Not just my focus, clarity, and concentration, mind you, but what I thought about.  Negative thoughts were replaced with positive ones.  Feelings of depression and sadness were replaced with joy and hope.  Even when bad things happened, my overall response was drastically different than it had been before.  I didn't fly off the handle or feel like drowning myself in chocolate.  Instead, I calmly examined the situation, determined what I could do, and gave the rest to God.  It has been downright amazing!

Perhaps I'm not telling you anything new today, but I had to share my discovery.  For so long I have battled with my negative thoughts and emotions.  And though I've fed myself daily with spiritual food, it seemed like I didn't make any progress in this area.  It was only when I changed my physical food that I noticed a drastic change in my way of thinking.  Each day has now become an exciting journey rather than just another day to endure.  And it all began with what I put in my mouth!

I am not a physician, and I am not trying to talk you into anything.  However, I did want to share with you the glorious transformation that has taken place in my life.  Why?  Because maybe you feel the same way I did.  Tired.  Sick.  Weak.  Frustrated.  Negative.  If so, don't you owe it to yourself and those around you to seek help?  It doesn't have to be the Daniel Plan, but there are many healthy-eating plans out there today.  I can't testify to how they work or what they require, but if it is focused around healthy, wholesome, unprocessed food, you can't go wrong.  You can change your thought process by simply changing your diet, and in the end, your entire life will feel transformed.

Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. - Acts 14:17

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What About My Miracle?

And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. - Judges 6:13

When the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and reassures him that the Lord is with him, Gideon has a few questions and complaints.  And while I would love to delve into each of them in great detail, I want to focus mainly on his question:  and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of?

In other words, "I've heard all about miracles, but I haven't seen one yet.  Why not?  If you could do them for my ancestors, why won't you do them for me?"

In Gideon's defense, I can relate to a degree.  But first off, I think it is important that we not overlook the miracles that occur every day in our lives.  When we think of miracles, our minds envision Red Sea crossings and feeding thousands with a meager lunch, but not all miracles are as "flashy" as that.  Nevertheless, they are miracles just the same.  Life is a miracle.  The fact that we can function all day long without having to remind ourselves to breathe or pump blood or move our limbs attests to the fact that we experience miraculous intervention every single day.  But we don't think about that as a miracle.  It's just part of life, right?

So when those around us are receiving "flashy" miracles, we feel slighted.  Like when the neighbor builds his dream house, and you are forced to watch from your home with the leaky roof, broken furnace and cracked windows.  Or when that friend gets the job you were perfect for.  Or how about when that colleague finds her stride and quickly goes from a nobody to the most sought after worker in her field?  The list could go on.  A church member receives a generous financial gift.  A family member goes on the vacation of a lifetime.  A fellow author sells over 1,000 books in a single hour (or maybe this one is just me).  Anyway, you get the point.  You sit in your average home with your average job, never able to take time off or enjoy a vacation, and meanwhile, everyone around you seems to be catching a break or receiving a miracle.  And while a part of you is happy for them, another part is grumbling, much like Gideon, "Hey, where's my miracle?"

You know what's sorrowful though?  Not the fact that we covet a miracle, but rather that when the miracle finally arrives, we can't believe it.  We're shocked!  We can't seem to process what just happened.

Unfortunately, I experienced this last Friday.  We had a critical meeting to resolve a problem that has been looming over us for years now.  I was nervous.  I was worried.  I was fearful of getting my hopes up even though we had been assured earlier in the week that there was a chance of "escape."  When the time arrived, I couldn't decide how to feel, but one thing I was certain of is that if things went well, I would feel fabulous.  I would be relieved.  I would be praising God.  I wouldn't be able to contain my smile.  Yet, when the verdict was reached and delivered, and we found out that things were going to turn out FAR better than we had even imagined possible, I sat in stunned silence.  To this day, I'm still struggling to accept that we received a huge miracle from God.  It just doesn't seem possible.  My mind is going, "Did this really happen?  Could it happen?  Is this just a trick that's going to come back to bite me later?  Is it okay to get my hopes up now?"

It's crazy.  I complain about not getting a miracle.  I pray for a miracle.  Then, when one arrives, I'm shocked into silence.  Hmm, maybe that's why I don't see too many "flashy" miracles in my own life.  Because I don't appreciate them when they come, and I'm not trusting that God will come through for me.

Two things I can learn from Gideon are these:  (1) I'm not the only one who takes miracles for granted, and (2) God can still use those who are short-sighted and forgetful.  Even though Gideon doubted God to the point that he accused Him of forsaking them, God used Gideon to accomplish great things.

May I remind you that miracles are all around us?  Big. Small.  Flashy.  Reserved.  But powerful, no matter what else they may be.  Let's not take that for granted.  Instead, let us be grateful for all the miracles that happen in our lives and the lives of others.  And for Pete's sake (whoever Pete is), if we ask God for something, let us not be surprised when He gives it to us!

Monday, July 18, 2016

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Over the past couple of weeks, I've come to a conclusion:  it is much easier to witness to the lost man on the street than the religious man who thinks he's saved.  How do I know the religious man isn't saved?  I don't.  No one can know except that person and God, but on two separate occasions over the past couple of weeks, I've heard salvation testimonies that made me wonder what, exactly, these people believed in for salvation.

The first story was from a Catholic man who was explaining to me about his conversion to Christianity, but to be honest, I didn't have a clue what he was talking about.  He spoke of meeting God through meditation and later meeting Jesus even though he had always known about and believed in Him.  Huh?  No one has always known and accepted Jesus.  It is a choice, and after talking with this gentleman, I'm not sure he understood that.

The second was a story of religious ritual, and from the time of the ritual, supposedly, this woman was indwelt with the Spirit of God.  That was it!  That was the entire salvation testimony I received from her, so my question again is, what, exactly, is the woman trusting in to save her?  The ritual?  The religion?  Those who performed the ritual?

Please understand, I cannot judge the heart, and it may very well be that these two individuals are saved and on their way to heaven.  All I can say is that their testimonies certainly didn't convince me of that.  This has bothered me for days now, and I wondered how many other people out there are walking around with the belief that they're saved when they don't understand what it means to be saved.  So, the Lord burdened my heart to write this post today, and I urge you, even if you know the Lord as your personal Savior, to please read it so that you can be sure you're trusting in the right thing to save you.

We are all sinners and therefore are not worthy to enter into Heaven.  Heaven is a holy place, and sin is not allowed.  But God loved us so much and wanted us to be with Him for eternity, so He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins.  He paid the price and, with His blood, purchased our ticket to Heaven.  However, we must accept that payment, admitting that we can't get to Heaven on our own and that we need Jesus as our Savior.  Salvation is just that.  It is believing that Jesus died for our sins and rose again the third day so that we could be with Him forever in Heaven.  In that belief, we accept His payment for our sins and invite Him to be the Lord of our lives.  In other words, we surrender our lives to Him since He bought and paid for them with His blood.  That's it!  There is no ritual or religious mumbo jumbo.  Salvation is a conscious decision to accept Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins.  And once this is done, it's done.  It cannot be undone.  You're saved forever!

I have written several other posts on salvation, and if you are not confident that you're believing in Jesus for your salvation, I plead with you to read through the following posts.  If you still have questions, please contact me.  I would be happy to help you understand.  The main thing to keep in mind is that salvation is not about religion; it's about a relationship with Christ.

1 - Glimpsing Grace;  2 - Focusing on Faith;  3 - Not of Works;  4 - What About Baptism?
5 - Who Can Be Saved?;  6 - Will I Still Sin After I'm Saved?;  7 - Can I Lose My Salvation?;
8 - Now What?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. - John 3:16

Friday, July 15, 2016

Right on Schedule

My brain hurts!  A few weeks ago I enrolled in a writing class that I'm praying will help take my books to a new level as far as quality, quantity, and also audience reach.  It's been an interesting class, and I've learned a good bit so far (of course, I do love to learn), but overall, most of what we've covered so far I already knew, at least to a degree.

Last week, however, we arrived in new territory, and suddenly, I found myself completely overwhelmed with new information.  I watched the videos, read the reports, and tried to implement the steps one at a time, but soon I realized I had a problem.  I needed to set up a timeline for my next book launch (which is happening on August 9th), which meant I needed to know ahead of time what I was expected to do and when I was expected to do it.  So I printed off my calendars and started making notes.  "This has to be done two weeks before the launch."  "That needs to go there, the day before the launch."  "Oops, this was supposed to be done already.  I guess I'd better get on that."  See what I mean?  Craziness!

I like schedules.  I love routine.  Ya'll know this by now.  What I don't like is trying to create a schedule or routine when I don't have a clue what I'm doing!  Still, I keep telling myself that it will be worth it.  With my schedule in place, the days leading up to my launch should be less stressful and hectic.  With a plan in mind (and on paper), things should run more smoothly.  And the best part is that the next time I'm planning a launch, I'll at least have a clue what I'm doing, and the process won't seem so foreign.  Each time, it should become easier to do.  (Notice I used the word "should" a lot in that paragraph.  Yes, that was on purpose.)

Schedules and timetables can be a great asset.  Take it from the Lord, He knows.  You may be saying, "What?  When does the Bible talk about the Lord having a schedule?"  All the time, actually.  Think about how many times Jesus said, "It is not yet time" or "the time has come."  From before the world began, God had a plan, and He had every step figured in and figured out.  He knew when man would sin.  He pinpointed the time He would need to send the great flood to wipe our most of humanity and start over.  He understood that the children of Israel would wander in the wilderness for forty years because of unbelief.  None of these things took Him by surprise.

And I imagine His cosmic calendar bore a foreboding dark "X" on the day that He would send His only begotten Son to be born of a woman and an equally foreboding "X" on the day that He would turn His back on His Son as He hung on that old, rugged cross.  Can you imagine having to create that schedule or having to stare at those black "X's," knowing that the time was rapidly approaching? Amazing!

The best news is that God still has some things on His schedule, one of which is the Lord's return to take His children home.  I'm ready for that day.  How about you?

Now, if you'll excuse, my schedule for the day is full, and I need to get started!

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: - Ecclesiastes 3:1