Friday, July 21, 2017

What a Tangled Web!

I walked through a spider web this morning. That, in and of itself, is not unusual. What is unusual is that I wasn't outside at the time. No, this spider web was in my house. And it was not a little web by any means. No, this web had its own zip code. It stretched from my curtains to my mantel and then down to my stereo.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I haven't won any "Housekeeper of the Year" awards. In fact, my housekeeping leaves A LOT to be desired (sorry, Mom). Nevertheless, I do frequently take the time to rid my house of spider webs. The problem is that we live in a very old house which means there are a lot of cracks and crevices for pesky little critters to enter in. And enter in they do. I can be completely rid of spider webs in the morning, but by afternoon, my house resembles the ancient crypts. It's unreal how quickly and elaborately these spiders can spin their webs.

You know who else is good at spinning webs? Satan. He can spin webs of discouragement, discontentment, and doubt better than any spider alive. The tricky part about these webs is that, like the web I walked through this morning, they often show up in unexpected places. Before we realize what's happening, we're tangled in a sticky web for which we were unprepared. 

For this reason, the Bible tells us to always be on guard. "Watch and pray," Jesus said. "Put on the whole armor of God." Over and over again, we are warned to expect the unexpected. When we do, we are less likely to become snared in one of Satan's webs.

As you get ready for the day today, be sure to grab your armor, your sword, and your shield. You may be facing fiery darts, but also be on guard for the unseen webs that may be in your path. They can often be as dangerous (and sometimes more) than the fiery darts. Beware!

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. - Ephesians 6:13

*Excerpt from Rise Up and Build Devotional:  52 Inspirational Thoughts for Dealing with Anxiety and Depression

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Pit of Voices

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. - Psalm 40:2

I believe all Christians can relate to this verse in one form or another.  How many times has God delivered us from danger?  How many times has He led us where we needed to go?  While there's loads of good meat in this one verse alone, I want to focus on the phrase "an horrible pit."

Have you ever felt like you were in a pit and no matter how hard you struggled, you just couldn't get out?  Maybe it was a pit of despair.  Or perhaps it was a pit of loneliness.  A pit of depression or a pit of fatigue.  I think we would all agree that those are horrible pits to find oneself in.  But the pit to which David is referring here is even worse.  In the Hebrew, the phrase "an horrible pit" is translated as "pit of voices."  Unfortunately, we can relate to that pit as well.

The world cries out to us, "Have it your way!"  Satan whispers in our ears, "Hath God said. . .?"  Even our own flesh calls out, "Life is hard.  I deserve a little happiness, don't I?"  And somewhere amid the cacophony is the still, small voice of the Savior saying, "Child, follow my lead."

We used to play a game with our church youth group that illustrated this pit of voices rather well.  Each team was made up of two players.  One player traversed an obstacle course while blindfolded, and the other gave the teammate directions.  The trick was that every other team was allowed to speak to the obstacle-facing contestant, and of course, they often chose to shout out incorrect directions meant to confuse, overwhelm and lead astray.  The only way the player could be successful was if he/she drowned out all other voices except that of his/her teammate.

Sometimes in life, I feel like I'm a contestant in this game without even realizing it.  Just like the player, friend and foe alike are filling my ears with advice, direction and suggestions.  It's up to me to filter out all other noise and to listen intently for that still, small voice.  Only then will I successfully finish the course.

*Excerpt from Rise Up and Build Devotional:  52 Inspirational Thoughts for Dealing with Anxiety and Depression

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fit for the Master's Use

In I Chronicles 21, King David sins against God and causes a plague to come upon the people of Israel. Repentant for his disobedience, David seeks to offer a sacrifice to God and plead for mercy. He goes to a man named Ornan and asks to buy a piece of his land on which he wants to offer the sacrifice to God. Ornan, being a good and gracious man, told David that he did not have to buy the land. Ornan would gladly give the land, the oxen for the sacrifice, the wood and whatever else David needed. But notice David’s response: And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is thine for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings without cost (vs. 24). 

David understood that a sacrifice that didn’t cost him anything wasn’t really a sacrifice at all. He understood the importance of going above and beyond for the Lord because God had certainly done that for him.

You’re probably wondering what that has to do with our health and/or anxiety and depression. Allow me to explain. We are living sacrifices unto God (Romans 12:1), but too often we shy away from anything that’s going to cost us something. The Bible tells us that the body is the temple of the Holy Ghost and that we should care for it, but we have a tendency to shrug off the conviction about our health because we know if we do what God is asking of us, it’s going to cost us something. It will mean having to give up bad habits, junk food and some of our favorite treats. And sadly, as much as we love God, we obviously love our comfort foods more because we refuse to give them up.

The result is that we are destroying our bodies, and with them, our mental and emotional capabilities. We are unwilling to acknowledge that “garbage in; garbage out” is just as applicable in our physical and emotional health as it is anywhere else. We mistreat our bodies and fool ourselves into thinking that the only consequence is a little extra pudge. We have deluded ourselves and justified our poor health habits, and it has to stop!

I hope you are reading this because you’ve reached the place of King David. I pray you’ve come to the point where you can say, “I know it’s going to cost me something, but it’s definitely worth it. I’m doing this for God, and I’m doing it for me!” If you’re ready to be a living sacrifice fit for the Master’s work, then let’s get started.

*Excerpt from Rise Up and Build Good Health:  Practical Insights To Heal Your Emotions by Healing Your Body

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Changing the World One Prayer at a Time

Once or twice a week, I enjoy browsing through Pinterest to find interesting ideas and profound quotations. Recently, one of those quotes struck a chord with me and has been convicting me ever since. It read, "If God answered all of your prayers, would the world look different or just your life?"

That makes you think, doesn't it? As I thought about that quote, I looked back over many of my previous prayers. Prayers for my health, my safety, my provision and my wants and needs. Me, me, me! Sure, I've prayed for the needs of others, but if I'm honest, I haven't spent nearly as much time praying for others as I have for myself. Yes, I have to admit, when it comes to prayers, I'm rather selfish. The sad part is, I didn't even realize it--or at least not the extent of it--until I came across that quote.

I don't know about you, but I want my prayers to move mountains, not just in my own life but in the lives of others as well. I would love to see my prayers change the world, not just my existence. I want to pray prayers that please the Father, lift up the fallen and represent the needs of others. Being a prayer warrior involves not only fighting for your own life, but fighting for the lives of others also. Praying on their behalf. Speaking to God when they can't find the words for themselves.

I encourage you today to examine your own prayer life. Is it self-centered, or do you spend as much time praying for others as you do for your own needs? If your prayers are selfish, what can you do to change that?

Brothers and sisters, let's do what we can do to become the prayer warriors we ought to be. Let's change the world one prayer at a time!

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. - James 5:16

Monday, July 17, 2017

Dealing With Foul-Weather Friends

I believe we are all familiar with the term fair-weather friends. These are the individuals that only seem to stick around when things are going well, but as soon as the waters grow rough, they're nowhere to be found. Today, however, I want to talk about foul-weather friends. These are the people who seem only to come around when they're in trouble and need something. You know the type, right? So does Jephthah.

In Judges 11, the Scripture tells us of an illegitimate son named Jephthah. Though born to a harlot, the Bible says Jephthah was a mighty man of valor, just like Gideon. However, his stepbrothers could not see past his illegitimacy, and when they were old enough, they cast him out of the house and told him to never return. They wanted nothing to do with him… until, that is, they were in trouble.

And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob: And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon. - Judges 11:5-6

Okay, a show of hands. How many of you have been in a situation similar to this? You were minding your own business, staying out of the way of those who wanted nothing to do with you when out of the blue, they come asking for a favor—typically, a big favor. I see those hands! Now, how many of you would be honest enough to admit that your first response to the request was the Biblical equivalent of "Not my circus, not my monkeys"? Okay, maybe you didn't say it out loud, but you wanted to, didn't you? So did Jephthah.

And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father's house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress? - Judges 11:7 

Yep, Jephthah could have easily used one of my favorite words—"Seriously?" He could not believe they had the audacity to ask a favor of him after the way they had treated him, yet they did, and after some negotiation, Jephthah accepted the request. My first thought upon reading this passage was that Jephthah must have been a better person than I am, but as I thought about it further, I realized that I probably would've done the same thing. Not because I'm good or kind or that full of the spirit, unfortunately. But rather because I hate to say "no" or to have others think poorly of me. No matter what they've done to me, when they ask, I come running.

I cannot know the motivation behind Jephthah's actions, but I know if I am only helping others out of fear of being disliked, left out or talked about, my actions are in the wrong. It's nice to fit in, and I believe we all want to fit in, but let me ask you this: if we constantly have to prove ourselves to others, are we fitting in or are we being used? The Bible teaches us to be good unto one another, but it does not advocate allowing others to treat us like dirt or to misuse us and our talents. God has given each of us a work to do, and many times, those foul-weather friends only distract us from our true calling.

Please understand, I am not saying we should not help others or we should never go out of our way to be a blessing. What I am saying is that we need to be careful not to let people take advantage of us as this leads to bitterness and resentment in our hearts. Foul-weather friends can be toxic to our health, attitudes and relationships. When it comes to their requests, I advise you to seek God's will before agreeing to help. Saying "no" may keep you out of the in-crowd, but many times, that is a blessing. Sometimes it's better just to say "no."

On the flip side, I would also like to urge you not to be a foul-weather friend. Don't make a habit of calling people only when you need something from them or only giving when you get something in return. Be a real friend, a faithful friend, a friend like Jesus.