Wednesday, November 26, 2008

'Tis the Season to Be STRESSED OUT!

I love this time of year. I really do. The fall colors are beautiful. The cool air is refreshing. The holidays are full of joy and time spent with family. I love having the opportunity to celebrate the birth of Christ and a season to remember how much I have to be thankful for.

What I don't like about this time of year is how busy I become. Between Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas plays, programs, and presents, plus the various other obligations that come up this time of year, I find myself overwhelmed and not very much in the "holiday spirit." As of right now, I don't have all my food for Thanksgiving, I've only bought one Christmas present, and my December calendar is SCARY!

Could it be, like so many other things in our lives, we've complicated the joy right out of the holidays? If I'm not mistaken, the Christmas carol says, "Joy to the World" not "Stress to the World." We have to be very careful not to get so caught up in the holidays that we forget what they're truly about. They are supposed to be a time of remembrance, a time of praise, a time of thanksgiving, and a time of celebration. Let's be sure to keep this in mind as we jump from one Christmas cantata to another. It's important that we not lose our focus (which is really easy to do when we're under so much stress).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Teaching Is the Best Way to Learn

Yesterday for Sunday School, I taught an object lesson that I found in Everyday Object Lessons for Youth Groups by Helen Musick and Duffy Robbins. The lesson was short and very basic, but it made a very strong point and made me examine my own life to see where I stood. Here's the lesson in a nutshell:

What Kind of Shoe Are You?
I began the lesson by presenting several different types of shoes to the girls. Then I asked, "If you were a shoe, which one would you want to be, and why?" The girls thought for several minutes, then gave their answers. Then, I revealed what each shoe represented as follows:

Dress shoes: I have a nice, shiny faith on the outside--but I only bring it out on Sundays and special occasions.

Bedroom slippers: I've made a commitment to Christ, but I've been pretty lazy in terms of trying to serve Him.

Work boots: It's been hard work lately, but I'm actually following through on my responsibilities.

Running shoes: I feel like God's helping me finish the race.

Worn out shoes: I've come a long way, but I need some serious "heeling."

Holey shoes: I don't worry much about a relationship with God or the state of my "sole."

We then read some Scriptures about how we should walk with the Lord, and I closed the lesson by asking these two questions:
Which of the shoes best represents your own walk with Christ right now?
Which of the shoes do you think most represents our youth group?

I must admit that, as the teacher, I was convicted by the lesson. As I studied for the lesson, I found myself praying and asking God to forgive me for sometimes being the wrong kind of shoe. I asked him to help me to keep a faithful walk with Him.

It just goes to show you that if you really want to learn something, teach it to someone else. You'll be amazed how much more you get from the lesson. With that in mind, what kind of shoe are you?

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Micah 6:8

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Resting With My Master

I think my dog is ADHD. Mitch is a 75 lb. Shepherd mix, and I'm beginning to think he's mixed with the Energizer bunny. There is just no end to his energy. When he runs through the house, he breaks the sound barrier. He jumps. He dances. He even sings (I didn't say it was pretty). But of all the things Mitch loves to do, three things are his favorite.

First, he loves to eat. It doesn't matter what kind of food or treat it is, the boy can chow down! I think he should have been named Hoover.

Second, he loves to go for a walk. We have to be very careful not to say the word unless we're ready to walk out the door with him because he goes CRAZY. He'll howl and growl until you put the leash on and take him out. He loves to walk, run, and even hike. He's very active and agile, so he really enjoys getting to go off and explore.

Third, he loves to stretch out between Jason's legs and sleep with his head in Jason's lap. Often, at the end of the day, we'll lie in bed and watch re-runs of The Amazing Race. Mitch loves this time because he knows during this time, he gets a lot of his daddy's attention. He rests in Jason's lap while Jason pets him. It doesn't take long for him to fall asleep. It's really sweet.

The other night, we were just getting settled into bed when we noticed a large nose and a pair of eyes at the end of the bed. We acknowledged Mitch and told him he could come up. He jumped on the bed and with an enthusiasm I'd rarely seen walked right up to "his spot" and plopped down, closing his eyes in complete contentment.

The scene made me wonder if I'm that enthusiastic when I rest with my Master. Am I too busy to be content simply resting in His warm embrace? Do I come to him with joy and excitement, eager to spend time with Him? Do I go to Him often enough that I have my own "spot"?

It's something worth thinking about. The more I think about it, the more I realize that Mitch and I have a lot in common. I love to eat! I love to walk and hike (although I don't care much for running). And, I too, love to rest in the lap of my Master. I only pray that I can do it with as much enthusiasm as Mitch does.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We All Need Encouragement

A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it! (Proverbs 15:23) Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)

I think we all know at least one person who could use an encouraging word today. Right? That being said, when was the last time we sought to encourage someone? Did we call that shut-in to brighten their day? Did we call that sick to friend to wish them well? Did we call that family member in need to remind them that they are in our prayers? Did we send the card or e-mail? Convicting, isn't it?

You see, life is hard and busy. We are so often preoccupied with just getting through each day that we often forget that someone may be struggling more than we are. When we help that person by encouraging them, not only are they blessed, but we are too, and we find our own way is not as difficult as it seemed before. There is great joy in lifting someone up, so I encourage you today to contact someone, whether it be by phone, mail, e-mail, or even text message. Get in touch with at least one person today and let them know that you're thinking about them and praying for them. (Of course, if you say you're praying for them, make sure you do!)

Try to make this part of your daily routine. Each day, pray for the Lord to put someone that needs encouragement on your heart. Then, reach out to them and remind them that someone cares. Sometimes, being reminded that they're not alone makes all the difference in the world!

Monday, November 17, 2008

All Things Are Possible

We had a guest speaker at our church last night, and he brought a wonderful lesson on how all things are possible with God. He went through the Gospels and pointed out the number of times God had said in one way or another that all things were possible through Him and by Him. Check it out:

Matthew 19:26 - But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

Mark 9:23 - Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Mark 10:27 - And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

Mark 14:36a - And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee.

Luke 18:27 - And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

Once again, we see God repeating Himself, and I don't believe God wastes words. I think He repeats Himself because we need that repetition. We need to be reminded that all things are possible. No matter how dark the valley we are facing, nothing is impossible with God. What a great promise!!!!




Saturday, November 15, 2008

I'm So Confused

I've been researching the fitness industry for content to use on a new fitness program review website. All I can say is that there are as many fitness theories as there are stars in the sky. I'm serious! Low fat. Low carb. No meat. Only meat. Moderate exercise. Intense exercise. Workout daily. Workout two to three times each week. Not only that, but each one claims that their program is the best, and some of them even contradict themselves if you read enough of the material. It's been frustrating, to say the least.

All of that being said, I'm so glad that when I sit down to read my Bible each day that it doesn't contradict itself. I'm so thankful that the Word of God is true and that it is constant. It doesn't change from day to day depending on new theories or statistics. It's not watered down to be more appealing to the masses. From day to day, it stands. Am I saying that I completely understand everything in the Bible? Of course not! I don't think anyone does except for the Author. But, when I open my Bible, I'm not bombarded by errors and inconsistencies. I'm not overwhelmed by contradictions. The Bible says what it means and it means what it says. Case closed!

When reading the various health and fitness manuals, I've learned to not put much stock in any of the information. After all, it may change on the next page. When reading my Bible, I'm reminded to take in every word, for each one is important, and the message is unchanging!

Heaven an earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
Luke 21:33

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Something to Think About

My pastor read this in church last night, and I must admit, it was very convicting. Read on . . . if you dare!

I wonder what would happen if we treated our Bibles like we treat our cell phones?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?
What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?
What if we flipped through it several times a day?
What if we used it to receive messages from the text?
What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it?
What if we gave it to kids as gifts?
What if we used it as we traveled?
What if we used it in case of an emergency?
This is something to make you go "Hmm...where is my Bible?"
Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we don't ever have to
worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill! And, there are no dropped calls!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How Complicated is Prayer?

Have you ever noticed how many books about prayer are out there? There are books on how to pray, when to pray, where to pray, and on and on. Now, as a writer, I love books, and I love to read. That being said, I'll admit that at this very moment, I have several prayer books on my bookshelf. There are many that I've read and really enjoyed. There are others that I've purchased but haven't yet had the opportunity to read. In my mind, books on any topic are great. I love books!

However, do you ever get the feeling that we sometimes over-complicate things? For example, in one book, the author comments that every successful Christian has done their praying first thing in the morning. Another author will comment that it's best to end your day with a conversation with the Lord. One book says that prayer should be friendly and conversational. Another says it should be holy and reverent. Many books use the Lord's prayer as a guide and then give an outline of what to say and when in your prayer to say it. It's no wonder so many of our prayer lives suffer!

God is not the author of confusion. Prayer is not supposed to be complicated. If you're concerned about when to pray, the Bible is clear on that. I Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Pray without ceasing." So when's the best time to pray? Anytime. All the time. As far as how to approach prayer, I've found the most comfort when I just come to Him in my current state. In other words, sometimes I need my Heavenly Father to wrap me in His arms and give me advice or direction. Sometimes, I need my Heavenly Husband to whisper words of love to me and to accept those endearments in return. Sometimes, I just need a Friend to listen to the burdens that are weighing heavy on my heart. Then, there are times that I need Mighty God to remind me of how great He is and what He can accomplish. I approach my prayer time differently depending on my need or state of mind.

That concept may or may not work for you, and that's fine. My point is that we don't want to make prayer time so complex that it's more of a drudgery than a joy. We should enjoy our conversations with the Lord instead of making them a glorified wish list or a step-by-step outline. If you're unsure how to simplify your prayer life, ask the Lord for guidance, then LISTEN for His response. Remember, it takes two people to have a conversation.

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

Monday, November 10, 2008

Small Word; Big Meaning

I think every Christian (and probably several non-believers) can quote from memory Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. We've read it. We've studied it. We've heard sermons and Sunday School lessons on it. Why? Because they are two very important verses. The passage is an excellent reminder to us to trust God even when we don't understand what He's doing.

Often, this passage is given as encouragement in a time of great trial or suffering. However, today, I'd like to look at it from a different angle. If you will look at verse six, you'll see a tiny little word that has a huge meaning. Look carefully. It's easy to miss. In all thy ways acknowledge him. Did you see it? That little word "all" is very important.

You see, this passage is not just for times of trouble. It's for all times. We should constantly be trusting the Lord and seeking His guidance. It's easy to stop and seek God's will in times of confusion or tribulation, but in this passage, God is reminding us to always acknowledge Him, to always seek His advice.

Even more to the point, we're not just talking about big things like whether or not we should move to a new location or take a certain job. God says that even in the usual, mundane activities of every day life, we should seek His face, acknowledge His presence, and ask for His guidance. So, whether we spend our day cleaning bathrooms, raising children, working a job outside the home, etc., we should trust in God and acknowledge His presence in our lives.

It's easy to pray in the morning and ask God for help and guidance, then to go off and do our own thing, heedless to the voice of God. I know I've done it several times. Unsure of how to get everything done, I seek God's help. I ask Him to give me strength and to guide me from one task to the next. However, as soon as I say "Amen," I jump up and go about my day, struggling to make it through and wondering why God isn't helping me. Could it be that it's because I'm not acknowledging Him?

So, as you go about your tasks today, no matter how tedious or mundane they may seem, remember to place them in God's hands. Trust in Him, and acknowledge Him. It will make even the most difficult or boring of tasks seem pleasant because you'll realize you're doing it for Him. And that, makes all the difference in the world!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Annual Amnesia

Isn't it funny how much we forget things from one year to the next? I've been riding around for the past couple of weeks in complete awe of the beauty of autumn (maybe that should be spelled "awe"tumn). The colors are so vast and vibrant. The shades of red astound me, and that yellow-orange takes my breath away. I don't even know the names of many of the shades that are visible this time of year. Often, all I can say is "Ooh!" and "Aah!"

The amazing thing is that autumn is beautiful every year. Each year, we have the opportunity to study colors that only God could have thought of. We enjoy the crisp weather. We are fascinated by the colors. We can't wait to take that trip into the mountains. But, come winter, all the joy of autumn is forgotten. How sad!

The Christian life can often be the same way. When we are on the mountain tops, everything is beautiful. Life is good! We have our health. We have money in the bank. The road seems smooth. But, as soon as hard times come, we instantly drop into despair and experience spiritual amnesia. We completely forget about the good times we've just had or the past troubles that God has seen us through. During these times, it seems like all we can do is focus on the problem at hand. We focus on the dark, cold winter.

Yes, winter can be tough, but it's necessary. Winter is a time of rest. It is a time for the plants and many of the animals to be renewed. Without winter, things just wouldn't work right. (Plus, we'd have no Christmas!)

Just as winter is necessary, hard times are also needed. It is during these times that we grow in our Christianity. It is during these times that we learn to trust God a little more. It is during these times that we realize how much God loves us. Painful? Sometimes. Necessary? Always.

My advice? First of all, if you haven't taken the time to enjoy the beauty outside your window, stop everything and go do it right now. I'm serious! Go take a deep breath of that nice air. Study the different shades around you and see if you can think of a name for each of them. (If you think of one for that shade that looks like red, orange, and yellow all blended together, let me know.) Above all, praise the God who loves us enough to surround us with such an awesome view.

Second, remember. Remember the good times and the bad. Remember that you will face hardships, but that beauty is waiting on the other side. Remember that God is faithful, and that He knows what you're going through. Remember that winter is only one season, and it too shall pass.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with my husband. We're going up to the mountains to do a little sight-seeing. After all, it's a beautiful day, and I don't want to waste it.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Votes Are In

Well, the votes are in, and it's official--God is still on the throne! Yep, you heard me right. Now, before you say things you shouldn't, allow me to explain. I'm not saying that God wanted the election to turn out the way it did. But, He did allow it. Did He not?

Despite our fear, God has things completely under control. He is not sitting in Heaven, wringing His hands, and thinking 'Oh no! What's going to happen now?' Instead, He is nodding His head and thinking, 'Yep. Things are turning out just the way I knew they would.' He knew this was going to happen, and He allowed it. Why?

Could it be that these are signs of the times being fulfilled? Could it be that Jesus is getting ready to come back for His bride very soon? Could it be that the rapture is just around the corner?

If so, what are we doing about it? Instead of sitting around and complaining about the state of our nation or the election results, we need to get busy. There's a lot of people out there who are lost and on their way to hell. We need to tell them about Jesus before it's too late. We have a work to do while there's still time, so let's get busy! After all, time is short. The Bible says that we don't know the hour or the day of Christ's return, but the signs are saying His return is imminent. Let's not waste this opportunity! Let's shout from the housetops, "Jesus saves!" We have the chance to make a difference. We may not be able to change things here on earth, but our witness can make a HUGE difference in Heaven.

Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few.
Matthew 9:37

Monday, November 3, 2008

Idol Worship

The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths. They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them. Psalm 135:15-18

Often we think of idol worship as a thing of the past or something that is only observed in far-away countries. However, if you look up the definition of "idol," you'll find "an object of extreme devotion." Anything come to mind? How about television, internet, cell phones, shopping, eating, etc.?

In today's world, it is so easy to get sidetracked from our priorities. There are so many things screaming for our attention that they drown out the voice of God calling us to come and worship Him. Instead, we spend our time checking e-mail and working on our "My Space" pages. When that's done, we plop down in front of the television because we feel the need to relax. As long as we're just sitting there, we might as well have something to eat, too. Do you notice the trend?

When do we pull ourselves away from the many "objects of extreme devotion," and take the time to truly spend some time with God (who should be THE object of extreme devotion)? I'll be the first to admit that I've had my devotion time in such a hurry and with such a half-hearted effort that I had to remind myself later that I had actually done my devotions. What's the point in that? If that's all we're gaining from our time with the Lord, why do we go through the motions at all? Habit? Guilt? Obligation?

Now, before you through out your television set or sling a baseball bat through your computer, let me say that I'm not against any of these things. The things, in and of themselves, are not the problem. The problem occurs when we allow these things to take priority over God in our lives. The problem is when we allow these things to become our idols. We must be careful! Let's keep our priorities straight and keep our worship and devotion where it belongs. After all, God alone is worthy of our praise!

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Exodus 20:3