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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Living Out My Own Fictional Tale

May I confide in you?  Some days--more often than I would care to admit--I feel like my own personal version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  You remember the literary tale, right?  Dr. Jekyll was a brilliant scientist who was so distraught by the evil within himself that he created a potion that was intended to strip the evil from his body, leaving him good and clean and right.  Only, as is the case with most "magic potions," it didn't work.  Instead of cleaving the wickedness from himself, he essentially cleaved his personality in two, leaving one good, wholesome man and one evil monster of a man.  Each character fought for control of the single body, and the life of Dr. Jekyll became a life-long battle to remain dominate over Mr. Hyde.

Like Jekyll, I am often distraught over the horrible things buried deep within my heart.  Every now and then, my mask of godliness will slip, and I'll catch a glimpse of things so dark and horrible that I have to turn away.  I see billows of bitterness and resentment.  I hear whispers of pride and arrogance.  A lack of compassion.  Love missing in action.  And the thoughts, oh the thoughts that run rampant through my brain.  It's enough to send me seeking my own magic potion to rid myself of such unholiness.

I guess the truth is that we are all a bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  When Jesus saved us, he severed sin's hold over us and gave us power over it, which means that we no longer have to sin.  It is in our nature, but we are no longer slaves to it.  However, because it is in our nature, and we still live in bodies of flesh, that sin nature still lies just under the surface, waiting for an opportunity to assert itself and take control.  Mr. Hyde (or in our case, Mr. Flesh) represents all the worst parts of ourselves that we would rather just go away.  But until the return of Christ, when we can shed these earthly vessels, there's no escaping the presence of Mr. Flesh, but that's not to say that we can't escape his power.  And the key to that escape lies in Christ.

As I said, when we asked Jesus to save us, He severed sin's hold on us, but to be daily delivered from the power of sin, we have to make a choice--serve God or serve flesh.  The truth is, we can't do both because our flesh doesn't want the same thing that God wants.  Every day, hour after hour, we have to determine that we will not give in to our fleshly desires, thoughts or attitudes but instead, we will honor God in everything that we do.  Just like Jekyll, we're in for a life-long battle, but unlike the mad scientist, we don't have to face it alone.  God is our strength.  He is our help.  He will give us what we need to defend ourselves against--well, ourselves.  He will provide us with the power to say "yes" to the good and "no" to the bad.  It is He alone that can give us victory over Mr. Flesh.

What about you?  Do you feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?  Do you find yourself examining your spiritual walk and cringing because you feel you should be further along?  Do you sometimes frustrate yourself by the ungodly things you do?  If so, you're in good company, but take heart because there is hope.  While we cannot rid ourselves of this fleshly nature, we can control it by the power of God.  And He is offering us the power if we'll only accept it.  Don't try to face Mr. Flesh alone.  He's a formidable foe, and if we're not careful, he will take over.  Fortunately, though the flesh is strong, God is stronger.  Tell Him your troubles.  Seek His help.  And allow Him to help you fight off Mr. Flesh.  You'll be glad you did!

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. - Galatians 5:16-17

Monday, February 27, 2017

Let the Workout Begin

Due to the instability of the joints in my shoulders and upper back, I am supposed to perform daily exercises to strengthen the muscles around these joints. Notice I said, "I am supposed to." The truth is, I hate strength training. Give me a nice walk or even a strenuous hike, and I'm a happy camper, but hand me a pair of dumbbells, and my body groans. While I know the strength training is good for me and that it will eventually help with the instabilities, it's difficult to make myself do them for a couple of reasons.

First, it takes time out of my already busy schedule. There is writing to do, housework to perform, and an entire list of other things that need to be done on any given day. Who has time to stop and perform rigorous strength training exercises? Truth be told, it doesn't take that long to perform the required sets, but in my mind, those few minutes represent time that I could be doing something I actually want to do.

Second, I abstain from doing them regularly because it hurts. With the instability of my joints and the weakness of my muscles, even the most basic motions are painful to me. Most people wouldn't think twice about or have any trouble raising their arms up over their head ten times in a row, but for me, it's excruciating. Again, I realize that the old saying "no pain, no gain" is true and that eventually, the exercises will be less painful and will produce more stable joints. But I have to get through the painful process first, and that's not easy.

The Bible has a lot to say about this very topic. First Timothy 4:7-8 says, But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

Now, I could do what a lot of people do and use the first phrase of verse eight to justify a lack of exercise. After all, the Bible says that bodily exercise doesn't profit much, right? And, believe it or not, I have heard this excuse from those who are unwilling to perform any sort of physical exercise. But we must understand that this is not what the Bible is saying here. It is not, in any way, encouraging us to not take care of our bodies, and if we compare this verse with the rest of the Scriptures, we will know and understand that.

What Timothy is telling us is that spiritual exercise is more important than physical, though that's not to say that the physical is not important as well. These verses encourage us to exercise ourselves unto godliness, and just like physical exercise, this can be a painful and time-consuming experience. We don't become like Christ in an instant. It takes time, and it takes work. We have to surrender our lives completely to Christ, dying to our own desires day after day. We have to follow His commands and constantly fight to keep the old man down.

And sometimes, it is quite painful. The truth is that the harder we try to serve God, the harder Satan will fight against us. The road to godliness is not an easy one, and we're guaranteed many heartaches along the way. But just as with physical exercise, we must keep our eyes on the goal and the end result rather than the difficulty of the process itself.

Physically speaking, I look forward to the day I can go into my chiropractor's office and hear him declare that none of my joints are out of place. I long for the time that I can go for long stretches without feeling the sickening thud of a dislocating shoulder or collarbone. I dream of the days that the pain radiating up and down my arms is so minimal that I almost don't realize it's there.  Are these things possible? I believe they are if I am willing to do the daily exercises that will strengthen my muscles and protect my joints.

Likewise, a peaceful life of nearness with God is possible. True, we will never reach a sinless state while here on earth, but we can strive to get as close to God as we can. God will not limit how close we can get to him. But we must be willing to exercise that godliness to strengthen our faith and protect our hearts from the distractions of this world.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some exercises – both physical and spiritual – to perform. Let the workout begin!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Whistling a Different Tune

Go get your Bible. Really. I'll wait. Got it? Now, turn to Psalm 73 and read it. Do you see the pity party Asaph was having? Unfortunately, it sounds like one I've had myself (and more often than once). It goes something like this:

"God, why do the wicked get whatever they want. They continually disobey you, yet they have more money, nicer homes, and better cars than I could ever dream of having. They seem to have a perfect life, and it's just not fair. I try to serve you every day, but I'm still struggling just to make ends meet."

Sound familiar? Come on, admit it. You've thrown one of these parties yourself, haven't you? If we're honest, I think we've all had these thoughts at least once in our lifetime. But, what I really want to point out is the change of heart in verse 17. Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. At this point, Asaph's pity party turned into a praise party.

Asaph finally turned his eyes away from himself and others, and he placed his attention on God. What a difference it made! He spends the rest of the chapter praising God for what He has done and what He will do. He ends the chapter by saying, But it is good for me to draw near to God. Amen to that!

So, if you're in the midst of a glorious pity party, get your eyes off of yourself and your circumstances. Instead, look to God who is much greater than any situation you may be in. Call on His name. Give Him praise. Thank Him in advance for the blessings that He has yet to give you, and don't forget to give thanks for the many blessings you've already received. As Asaph said, it is good to draw near to God, and you can't do that and throw a pity party at the same time. It is true that life is not always fair, but it is also true that God is just. He will make all things right. After all, if we have Him, we truly have all that we need.

Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. - Psalm 73:25

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Is Prayer a Last Resort?

Have you ever heard someone say, "All I can do is pray," as if prayer were a last resort?  Not only have I heard it said, but I've been guilty of saying it myself.  In times of complete hopelessness and utter despair, I've found myself uttering the words, "I guess all I can do is pray."

There are two problems with this statement.  First, as I've already mentioned, it treats prayer as a last resort when it should, in fact, be our first response to life's trials.  When troubles come our way, our immediate reaction should be to ask for God's help and intercession in the matter.  Unfortunately, our gut reaction is typically to figure out how to handle the situation on our own, and then, when that fails (as it always will), we resort to prayer.

The second problem with the statement is that it treats prayer like the fat kid who gets picked last for the neighborhood ball game.  We act as if prayer has no power, like we're doing it simply because we know it's the right thing to do.  But if we pay attention to what the Bible has to say about prayer, we would realize that it is powerful.  It can change situations, alter lives and so much more.  Prayer is big.  It is strong.  It is a vital part of our existence, and I believe it's a slap in God's face when we treat prayer as a last resort.  After all, prayer is our means of communication with Him, so if prayer is weak or ineffective, that means God is weak and ineffective.

Are you facing challenges today?  Does life have you confused, frustrated or feeling hopeless?  If so, I urge you to pray.  Don't try to figure things out.  Don't try to make sense of the situation.  Don't seek the aid of people, pills or other worldly comforts.  Instead, as soon as the problems arise, run to Jesus.  Talk to Him.  Pour out your problem.  Then listen for His response and feel the sense of peace that pours over you as He assures you that He can handle anything you bring to Him.

Prayer is not a last resort, or at least, it shouldn't be.  If we really want to solve our problems and restore the peace in our lives, we need to pray, and we would do well to see prayer through the eyes of God instead of through our warped lens of inferiority.  Prayer can move mountains, heal the sick and comfort the brokenhearted but only if we don't limit its power.

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What's in Your Heart?

In Exodus 32, we read the familiar story where Aaron builds a golden calf for the people to worship.  It's a sad story in and of itself, but if you backtrack a little and take in the full context, it's quite pathetic. . . and unfortunately familiar.

In the previous chapters, Moses communed with God on Mount Sinai.  God was instituting a new covenant with the people, and He wanted to make sure the people were ready to make such a commitment.  Numerous times, God sent Moses down the mountain to give an update about what He expected.  It wasn't much--just love and loyalty.  He told them that if they obeyed Him, He would take care of them.  "Follow my lead, and all will be well with thee."  And, on at least three different occasions, the people's response was,  All the words which the Lord hath said will we do.

Sadly, what they said and what they did didn't match up, and if we read the first verse of chapter 32, we find out why.  And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

In this one verse, I see three reasons why the people were ready and willing to forsake their promise to God, and I'm afraid, they are the same reasons we often allow our loyalty to the Lord to slide as well.

1) They were tired of waiting. - Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days, and the people were tired of sitting at the base of the mountain waiting.  They were ready to move on.  They were eager to receive the land that God had promised them.  They were ready to act instead of wait.  Sound familiar?  Have you ever grown tired of waiting for God to work in the way you expected Him to work?  Weary of waiting for Him to answer a prayer?  Tired of waiting for all things to work together for good as He promised?  Yes, waiting is hard, but if we're not careful, we fall into the same trap the children of Israel did and take matters into our own hands instead of waiting on God's perfect timing.

2) Their faith was weak. - At this point, from what the Scripture indicates, the cloud by day and fire by night was absent from the people.  The smoke and cloud and fire were all present on the top of Mount Sinai, so while they could see it from afar, the visible presence of God wasn't in their midst.  Out of sight, out of mind.  They wanted some other new form of "god" that they could see and follow into the Promised Land.  How easily was the true God cast aside for some sorry substitute!  But again, we're guilty of the same.  We allow other things in life to get our eyes off of God, and in doing so, we tend to allow those things to guide our lives.  We begin to place our trust in what we can see instead of what we can't.

3) They were dealing with uncertainty. - From what I can gather from the Scripture, Moses had never been up on the mountain for that long of a stretch.  Instead, in the previous chapters, you see him constantly going back and forth between God and the people.  But, after forty days, the people became uncertain.  Where's Moses?  What if something has happened to him?  What should we do now?  So, in their uncertainty, they decided to act.  The problem is that they didn't have all the facts, hence the uncertainty, and acting on instinct when we don't have all the facts can be devastating.  We live in a world of uncertainty, and we must be careful not to try to control things that we have no control over.  It only leads to trouble!

When you consider the situation and all that took place, one thing becomes evident to me:  the children of Israel didn't really love God.  They accepted Him.  They obeyed Him when it suited them.  They waited on Him only with great whines and complaints.  So, when they said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do, what they meant was All that the Lord has said we will do as long as it's convenient and works out the way we want.  And as soon as things didn't look the way they wanted, they cut their losses and moved on to another "god."  That's not love!  That's using God for their own selfish gain, and if we're not wary, we'll do the same thing.

My challenge for you today is to examine your heart and determine what's lurking there.  Is it a true love and passion for God?  Is it a willingness to honor and obey God no matter how long it takes or how uncertain things may seem?  Or is it a love of convenience that's only willing to go along with God when it works out in our best interest (or what we think is our best interest)?  These are tough questions, but we need to discover the answers.

So, I ask you, what's in your heart?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. - Matthew 22:37

Monday, February 20, 2017

Finish Line or Starting Point?

In the book of John, Jesus used the phrase "born again" to explain salvation to Nicodemus.  These days, salvation is referred to as being born again and also as a new birth (based on II Corinthians 5:17).  Either of these terms is correct, but I'm afraid there seems to be some form of misunderstanding when it comes to salvation--many believers treat it as a destination rather than a starting point.  If salvation is a new birth, then it would stand to reason that our new life has just begun, right?  Then why is it that so many "Christians" are content with salvation and nothing more? Once they have their spiritual life insurance, they're satisfied to continue as if little has changed when, if they truly accepted Christ as their Savior, everything has changed.

It's a sad truth, but our churches are filled with people going through the motions.  We sing the songs without allowing the message to touch our hearts.  As the preacher preaches, we glance at our watches, all the while wondering what we're going to have for lunch.  And that's what's taking place within the church walls.  What about what's happening (or not happening) outside the walls?  Are we spending regular time with God?  Are we practicing compassion?  Are we reaching out to others?  Are we trying to reach the lost?  Are we seeking God day in and day out?  Or are we content to just be born again?  That's not to say that being saved isn't a wonderful thing because it is, but don't you think God wants more than just a bunch of spiritual babies tottering around?  I think we can all agree that He does.  In fact, the Bible says so: But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (II Peter 3:18)

How do we grow in grace?  We seek God.  We spend time with Him.  We hunger and thirst to know Him more, never satisfied with our current spiritual state.  As A.W. Tozer puts it in his book, The Pursuit of God, We have been snared in the coils of a false logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him.  Sure, a saved person "has" God, but with a true Christian, God "has" him.  That is what our churches need.  That is what our homes need.  That is what our country needs.  Forget the programs and the ceremonies.  We don't need the pomp and circumstance.  We need humble hearts united together in the search to know God more.  It all goes back to my earlier post, Medium, Not Rare.  We're settling for too little.  God has so much more in store for us, and we're missing out on it if we're not seeking Him daily with all our hearts.

O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. ― A.W. Tozer

Friday, February 17, 2017

You Can't Do It Naked by Kim M. Snyder -- A Book Review

About the Book: 

Do you struggle with depression or anxiety, have relationship difficulties, or are you consumed with negative thoughts of self-worth or fears?
Are you tired of fighting the same emotional battles over and over?
Do these struggles leave you feeling frustrated, exhausted, and defeated?

What if I told you there is a scheme designed to distract you from overcoming, and this deception keeps you from becoming empowered and having an abundant life?
The battle is spiritual; so are the weapons, and you can’t fight your enemy unprotected.

- Identify the real enemy and expose the schemes you are truly fighting
- Transform yourself into a powerful emotional warrior
- Teach you how to become fully clothed in the armor of God
- Teach you how to live in freedom and abundance
- Teach you what you are truly fighting

Exchange your emotional struggles for a life of freedom, empowerment and abundance!

About the Author:

After years of being a licensed professional counselor, Kim has discovered a powerful method of counseling to move clients quickly from struggle to abundance. Encouraged to write a book exposing the real enemy and root of people’s struggles, Kim hopes this book will help and encourage others to become clothed in victory and conquerors over their own emotional battles.

Kim received her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Walden University. Kim has a private practice called “The Power in Parenting,” where she helps individuals overcome emotional struggles to become empowered warriors, fully clothed in the Armor of God.

Kim is a wife, mother, and grandmother, collecting many life experiences along the way.
Kim is also an author and public speaker.

To learn more about Kim Snyder, MS, LPC, or her webinars, speaking schedule, or counseling, please visit her website at

My Review:

If you're looking for a book to increase your knowledge about spiritual warfare, look no further.  With its shocking title, You Can't Do It Naked, peaks the reader's interest from the very beginning and carries it through until the last page.  What I enjoyed most about the book was that Snyder went beyond simply naming and explaining the pieces of the armor of God.  She described the battle that we're in, the enemy we face and even the battleground on which we are fighting.  Reading through the book was like attending a spiritual boot camp.

I also enjoyed Snyder's B.E.A.R. acronym, which stands for Beliefs, Emotions, Actions, Results.  This gives the reader an easy-to-remember guideline for standing guard against the enemy.  If he can cause us to believe something that isn't true, our emotions will be adversely affected.  This then carries over into our actions and the results of those actions.  It's a process, and if we can remember that and be wary about what we believe, we will be able to stop the devil in his tracks.

Overall, I found this a very enjoyable and educational read, and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Do You See a Weed or a Wish?

Whether we enjoy life or simply endure it boils down to one thing:  perspective.  How we view our circumstances--both good and bad--determines how we act and react in our daily walk.  We have a tendency to focus on the bad.  We put a magnifying glass on how things are "supposed to be" according to our own warped view of how our lives should play out.  But, how many times do we stop to examine the things that did work out in our lives when, according to all the evidence, shouldn't have worked out at all?

For example, I have--on multiple occasions--tried to create a financial budget for our family.  According to all the "experts," creating a budget helps us to stay within the bounds of our financial state and even save money in the long run.  There's only one problem:  every time I budget, the numbers end up in the red.  EVERY TIME!!!!  Yep, when I enter in how much we make and how much we spend on essentials like tithe, groceries, gas, utilities, mortgage, etc., the math simply doesn't work.  Yet, "somehow" the bills get paid.  According to the budget, it shouldn't work; nevertheless, it does. . . time and time again.

What about that one in a million opportunity that seemed to fall in your lap?  By all odds, that shouldn't have happened, but it did.  What about the cancer that disappeared when the doctors had given up all hope?  What about the people who have walked again when the specialists stated that they were paralyzed for life?  What about the miracles we see every day?  Why isn't our magnifying glass focused on them instead of our troubles?  One word--perspective!

It's a lot like looking at a dandelion.  No doubt, in a just a few more weeks, we'll have about a million of them in our yard.  So when I look out across the property, what will I see--a million weeds or a million wishes?  You've wished upon a dandelion, right?  It's a lot like making a birthday wish instead of blowing out candles, you blow all the little white fluffy things (my scientific term) off the dandelion in a single breath.  If you place a child and an adult in a field of dandelions, you'll undoubtedly see two opposing reactions.  The adult will turn up his nose and possibly even sniffle a little if he has allergies.  The child, on the other hand, will pick a "flower" and blow.  Then do it again and again and again, each time accompanied by a chorus of giggles.  Who is enjoying the experience and who is enduring it?

The Bible says we are to have child-like faith, and I believe that, when it comes to our perspectives, we will do well to be more child-like.  See the good, not the bad.  Examine all the times that things worked out better than anticipated instead of the times they worked out worse.  Magnify the pleasant things in life, not the troubles.  Focus on the wish, not the weeds.

Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. - Psalm 119:18

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Fear and Love Don't Mix - A Repost

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. - I John 4:18

No fear in love?  Hmm, that's an interesting and rather convicting thought.  If perfect love casts out fear, and we're still worried or afraid, what does that say about us?  It says that either we're not loving God like we should or that we're not secure in His love for us or possibly both.

As I thought on that this morning, I had an epiphany.  My worry and fear are not indications of my lack of trust in God's character or His abilities.  I know God is good.  I know He is able to meet my every need.  I've seen Who He is and what He's capable of.  So, when I let fear get the best of me, it's not because I'm untrusting of God's character or ability.  It's because I'm not trusting in His love.  Think about it, if we believe that God truly loves us the way He does, we would know and understand that He would never do anything to hurt us.  We would appreciate that everything He does for us and everything He allows to happen to us is for our good and will benefit us in the long run.  Right?

But instead of trusting in His love and care, we wonder.  We wonder why He would love us.  We wonder what we've done to deserve such love.  And because we feel so lacking and undeserving, we begin to doubt that God could really love us THAT much.  And from there, we question everything that life brings.  Why is this happening?  Where is God during these hard times?  Doesn't He care what's happening here?  And of course, the classic, If God really loves me, why would He allow this to happen?

Did you catch that last one?  If God really loves me.  If God really cares.  Do you see the doubt?  Do you understand the confusion?  We're not secure in our circumstances because we're not secure in God's love.  If we were, according to the Bible passage above, we would have no worries or fears.  Instead, we would be trusting in the One we love to treat us as one that He loves.  Does that make sense?

For me, this is a breakthrough because it has opened my eyes to the area of my life that needs "fixing."  I need to work on my love--both the giving and receiving.  I need to spend more time with my Heavenly Father, for He is love.  And I need to get it through my head (and even more so through my heart) that God loves me.  Not because of who I am or what I've done but because of who He's making me to be.  He sees the finished project, and my past, present and future are all safe in His hands.  He loves me, and everything He does is proof of that love, even if it may not seem like it at the time.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Medium, Not Rare

I bet when you read that title, you pictured a nice, big steak sizzling on the grill or maybe a thick, juicy hamburger.  Are you hungry yet?  Well, sorry to ruin your drooling, but this post isn't about grilling or even food, for that matter.  It's about people.  To be more precise, Christians.  And if you really want to boil it down, it's about us.

The word "medium" denotes a middle ground.  It's not small or large; it's somewhere in between.  In the case of food, it's not well-done or rare; it's in between.  Ah, the land of in between.  Are you familiar with it?  The children of Israel were.

In the story of their deliverance out of Egypt, they declared--not once or twice, but multiple times--"Oh, that we were back in Egypt." Why, oh why would they want to return to a life of slavery? Honestly, it's because they were content with the middle ground.  True, things in Egypt weren't great, but they could be worse, right?  In the wilderness, they didn't have a clue what was going on.  At least in Egypt, they knew what to expect.  So, when faced with the choice of a life of slavery or a life of uncertainty, they opted for Egypt.

I'm sorry to tell you this, but we're guilty of doing the same.  We, too, can be lulled into the contentment of the middle ground.   Think about it for a moment.  Are there changes in your life that you know you need to make, but there's really not enough incentive for you to make them?

The job isn't the best, but it could be worse, so you stick it out.

Your health isn't where you know it could be, but it could be worse, so you continue down the road of unhealthy eating habits.

Your marriage isn't all it could be, but overall, things are working, so you don't do anything to rock the boat.

You feel the Lord calling you to take a step of faith, but the fear of falling keeps your feet firmly glued in place.

Do any of these sound familiar?  They do to me.  Somewhere along the way, Christians have adopted the philosophy of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  And while that sounds good in theory, it's Biblically incorrect.  John 10:10 tells us, The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Life more abundantly!  Not life that's not too bad but could be better.  Not a ho-hum existence.  Not an endure-it-but-don't-enjoy-it kind of life.  Christ came that we could have life more abundantly, but it will require some work and decisions on our part, and I think that's why we're content in our discontentment--because we're not willing to put in the time, effort and faith that's required to make a change.  After all, the perfect job is not likely to fall in our lap.  Ideal health won't simply come to us; we have to eat right and exercise.  Our marriages won't improve unless we spend time on improving them by setting aside time to be together with our spouse and communicate with one another.  And that step of faith?  Well, if God pushed us off that precipice of uncertainty, it wouldn't be a step of faith, now would it?

Now, before you throw something at me, let me say that putting time, effort and faith into these things won't make all our problems go away.  In fact, it may even open the door to new challenges.  That's just life, but the point is to move forward in faith and stop being content to sit in the middle.  No, we can't necessarily change the circumstances, but we can change our attitudes in the midst of those circumstances.  We can decide that we're tired of being slaves to convenience and knowing what to expect and we're ready to step out in faith and follow wherever God leads.

Yes, there are far too many Christians happy with the medium, and for that reason, being medium is not rare!  Be unique.  Live the abundant life that God has promised you, and don't look back.

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. - Revelation 3:16

Friday, February 10, 2017

Hakuna Matata

God has a sense of humor, and He uses some of the strangest things to get my attention.  As I was running errands yesterday morning, I flipped on the radio, but instead of music, the DJ was talking about Hakuna Matata, which means "no worries."  Odd topic, I know, but I listened in anyway, but with all the chaos of the day, the issue was soon forgotten.

Wednesday night at church, one of the men got up to sing, and it was the strangest thing.  He started singing one song, then stopped and said, "No, the Lord wants me to sing this other song."  So, he began again, this time singing, I Won't Have To Worry Anymore.  Immediately, the phrase "Hakuna Matata" came back to mind, and I began to giggle.  Little did I know that God wasn't finished yet.

Our pastor preached an excellent sermon on love, and as the service was dismissed, he began walking toward the back door to shake hands with everyone as they left.  As he walked, he jokingly sang out loud, "Can you feel the love tonight?"  That's one of the main songs from The Lion King, the same movie from which I know Hakuna Matata.  Coincidence?  Hardly!

Here's the thing.  Over the course of the past few days, I've found out that a dear friend has shingles, a woman who is like a grandmother to me is battling pancreatitis, a man who was like a grandfather to me when I was young passed away,  women whom I claim as two of many moms are battling cancer and the fear and discouragement that accompany it.  Seriously, it's like every day there's another wave of bad news, and the thought that the Lord lays on my heart over and over again is "no worries"?

If nothing else, this proves that God's ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts.  In the midst of all this sorrow, it would seem I have a lot to worry about.  I fear for these who are suffering.  I sorrow with them.  I worry about their families or those they've left behind.  No worries? Really?  Is that even possible?

Honestly, yes, it is, but let me tell you, it is NOT easy.  The only way we can be worry-free in this life is if we are fully surrendered to God.  That means we've given Him every thought, attitude and care.  It's not ours to deal with any longer, so worry is pointless.  What we don't seem to get is that whether we're surrendered to God or not, worry is still vain.  It doesn't solve anything.  It doesn't help the situation or the people involved, and it certainly doesn't make things better for us.  All it does is sap us of strength that we need to face the adversities of life.  In a sense, we create a lot of our own worry problems because we've robbed ourselves of the resources with which to handle the situation.  All because we wouldn't simply give it God.

I have no idea what you may be facing today.  Perhaps, like my situation, bad news seem to be piling up all around you.  You feel like giving in, and you're discouraged beyond belief.  May I share with you these two words:  Hakuna Matata.  Not that I'm saying that there aren't things to worry about but rather that you need not worry about them.  Give them to God.  Let them go.  Get them off your mind and heart and give yourself a break from the worry and grief.  It will destroy you if you're not careful.  Instead, meditate on these two words:  no worries, and then put that thought into practice.  I'm not saying it will be easy, but if we want to serve God and live life to the fullest as He intended for us to do, it is a necessity.

Hakuna Matata, my friends!  God's in control!

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


Thursday, February 9, 2017

When Trust Doesn't Come Easy -- A Repost

Writing a book is easy. A random thought or idea enters your mind. Before long, that single thought has blossomed into a series of thoughts. One day at a time, you commit to putting those thoughts onto paper (or computer). Voila! You've written a book. Yes, writing a book is easy.

Marketing a book? Now, that's a different story entirely. Shameless plugs. Advertisements. Postcards. Brochures. E-mails. Press releases. Reviews and testimonials. Speaking engagements. Media contacts. Begging and pleading for someone to please buy your book! No, marketing a book is anything but easy.

I find similar contrasts in my Christian life. When I asked Jesus to save me, it was easy. When I heard His voice calling and I realized what I needed, I had no problem turning my life over to Him. And because of His promises throughout the Bible, I know that there is nothing I can ever do to lose that precious gift of eternal life that He has given me. It's easy for me to trust in Jesus for my salvation.

However, trusting Him in this life for day-to-day needs is anything but easy. I don't know why it is that I think the same God who is capable of giving me eternal life is incapable of taking care of my life here on earth. Salvation? Sure, the Lord can handle that. Financial problems? Hmm, He may need my help on that one. It makes no sense, yet I find myself in that mindset day after day. My mouth may not utter the words, "Lord, I don't think you can handle this," but my actions say it quite loudly.

I'm am learning very quickly that marketing, while unpleasant and difficult, is necessary. If I want to get my books into the hands of the people, I have to find ways to let them know they are available. It's hard. It's frustrating. It's intimidating. But it's also important.

Along the same lines, everyday trust in Christ is a necessity for the Christian life. It's not easy. In fact, sometimes it's a lot of hard work, but it, too, is important. It's a vital part of our Christian growth, and without it, we're simply spinning our wheels. How can we tell others about the faithfulness of God if we're not acting like we believe it ourselves? No, the trust may not come easily, but it must come!

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. - Isaiah 12:2

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Is There Not a Cause?

In I Samuel 17, David went to the battleground to take food to his brothers as his father had asked him to do.  When David arrived on the scene, he couldn't believe the sight before him.  The Philistine giant mocked and cursed God while the Israelite army (including King Saul) cowered in their tents.  In defense of God's honor, David tried to stand up for what was right but was quickly ridiculed by his brother, who accused David of just trying to get in on the action.  David's response to his brother was, "Is there not a cause?"

David basically said, "Yes, I want in on the action, but not for the reasons you think.  It's not for fame or glory.  I'm not trying to make a name for myself.  But I'm standing up for what I believe in."  Was there a cause?  Was there a reason for David to stand up?  Absolutely.

Likewise, we all have a cause today.  We've been given a command to reach out and tell the lost about salvation.  We have directions to be witnesses in all the earth.  We've been called to evangelize and edify, and that calling is manifested in many ways.  Some preach.  Some teach.  Some write.  Some sing.  Some minister in prisons, hospitals and nursing homes.  No matter the method, the charge is the same:  bring souls to Christ and lift up the fallen.

One of the things that the Lord has really been stressing to me over the past several weeks is that I need to keep my focus on the cause and nothing else.  It's so easy for me to become obsessed over the cost, the sacrifice, the needs and so on that I completely lose sight of the cause.  I do what I'm supposed to do, but sometimes I forget why I'm doing it.  It's easy to become distracted, and we must beware of this, for it is one of Satan's methods to detour us from the work God has called us to do.  As we discussed in the previous post, we can become so busy walking in circles that we're not doing any good.

For the last while, I've been overly focused on the cost of this ministry.  Money continues to go out, but so little comes in (though that is changing, and for that, I am SO grateful).  I've been concentrating on the sacrifice to me, but especially to my poor husband who works so hard to provide for our family and the ministry too.  I've been obsessed over the overwhelming needs to write more books, send more cards, add more levels to the ministry to help more people.  And while I thought I was doing a good thing by focusing on the ministry, I wasn't concentrating on the right part of the ministry.  I was far too focused on the cost and not focused enough on the cause.

So, lately, I've been asking myself, "What is the cause?" or "What is the purpose of the ministry?"  In a word, my answer is "encouragement."  God has called me to encourage the lost that they're not too far gone to be saved, to give them hope in Jesus.  He has called me to lift up those who are discouraged and downcast with inspiration drawn from His Word.  He has chosen to use me to be a beacon of truth in a world where false teachers are telling people that if they want something bad enough, God will let them have it, and all they need to do to be in step with God's will is to trust their hearts.  Is there not a cause?  You bet there is!

Now, it's time for me to make sure that the cause is my primary focus, to seek first the kingdom of God.  When I do, I can trust that everything else will fall into place.  It may not happen today or even next week, but God knows what's best, and He knows what we need to further the gospel.  If we're about His business, focused on the cause, then, just like David, we cannot fail.  The giant will topple, and the victory will belong to God.  David was so focused on the cause of defending God's honor that he didn't seem a bit intimidated by the giant before him.  That's how we need to be.  Sure, the giants are big, but God is bigger.  And the cause?  Well, I think we'd all agree that it's pretty great. . .even when compared to Goliath.

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? - Romans 8:31

Monday, February 6, 2017

Are You Walking in Circles?

Do you ever feel like you're walking in circles? You're trying to live right, serve God and follow his will, but for the life of you, you can't seem to keep on track. Or maybe you think you are on track, only to find that you've veered way off course. I saw an excellent example of this the other day on MythBusters.

I don't know if you've ever watched the show, but the premise is that this group of scientists perform various test to prove or disprove a myriad of myths. On this particular episode, the myth was that it is impossible to travel in a straight line while blindfolded, so the scientists put it to the test. At first, they blindfolded themselves and tried walking in a straight line toward a predetermined point. The results were astounding. Not only could they not travel in a straight line, but they spent most of their time actually walking in circles.

Next, they tried swimming. With blindfolds in place, they set out across a narrow channel to see if they could reach the other side. Once again, before they had traveled far, each of them was veering off course, and eventually, they began traveling in circles once again.

Lastly, they tried driving while blindfolded. (Please do not try this at home. They are professionals and were performing this test in a safe location where they could not hurt anyone or themselves.) Each of the scientists had their doubts that they would veer off course when driving a car. After all, all you have to do is hold the steering wheel still, and the vehicle should track true. But that was not the case. While their travels weren't as haphazard as their other attempts, their course was anything but a straight line. Thus, the myth was confirmed. It is impossible to travel in a straight line while blindfolded.

When we walk by faith and not by sight, we are essentially blindfolded, and without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to travel straight and true. This is why Proverbs 3:5-6 is in the Bible: 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.

The Lord warns us not to lean on our understanding but to trust him to direct our paths. When the scientists were performing this test, they declared several times that they could feel themselves being pulled in a particular direction, but when they said they felt pulled to the left, they were actually veering to the right. But based on their understanding of what was happening, they instinctively corrected their course by pulling to the right because they felt they were veering to the left. This resulted in them getting further and further off course and eventually traveling in circles.

If we're not careful, we can do the same. Focused on our own understanding of the situation, we can make hasty judgments and end up getting further off course in our spiritual race. It may seem like we need to go left when, in actuality, we need to go right. It may feel like we need to wait, but God says it's time to move. It may seem like the time to speak, but it's actually the time to be quiet and listen. Our own understanding is fickle and is easily influenced by so many factors surrounding us, including our feelings. Our own thoughts cannot be trusted. That's what faith is all about. It's not about believing in what we see, hear or feel, but rather believing in God. Faith allows God to direct our paths, And faith is what we need to finish our race. Otherwise, we may find ourselves endlessly traveling in circles, always going but never getting anywhere. And that, my friend, makes for a very weary Christian!

Friday, February 3, 2017

In Tune With the Father

Last night, I was awakened by some humming noise coming from outside my window. At first, it was just a quiet hum, and I thought I could ignore it and go back to sleep. But the noise droned on, periodically changing in both pitch and tone, making it impossible for me to tune it out. I tried. Believe me, I tried, but it seemed that once I had tuned in to the humming, I couldn't tune it out.

Isn't it strange how that happens? I can be doing my devotions in the quiet of the morning and suddenly hear the ticking of the clock in the living room. Before I realize it, it has been joined by the ticking of the clock in the foyer. Now aware of those noises, I find it nearly impossible to tune them out, and the constant ticking drives me crazy!

It doesn't even have to be a noise. Have you ever looked at one of those pictures that is actually two pictures in one? Like it's supposed to be a duck and a rabbit. When I first look at it, all I can see is the rabbit, but when someone points out the shape of the duck, then that's all I can see. Or, when someone points out an annoying habit of someone, and then the next time I see that person, that habit stands out like an evergreen on a glacier.

Wouldn't it be great if we could become so in tune with God that we couldn't tune Him out? How awesome would it be to be so focused on His voice that it became the only one we could hear? I feel I had a little taste of that this morning.

As part of my OPTIMIZE YOUR DAY morning process, I ask the Lord to lay someone on my heart to whom I can send a card, text or email, just to let them know that I'm praying for them. Typically, I don't even have to pause and think about it because someone instantly comes to mind, but this morning, I was drawing a blank. Sure, there were people I could think of, but no one that actually registered as a heavy burden on my heart. Suddenly, a name came to mind, so I sent that person a text. She responded in short order, marveling at the fact that I had chosen today to contact her. She went on to explain that today was the anniversary of her father's death and was a difficult day for her every year. Also, she had a stressful day planned at work, and she was dreading the day. When she received my message, she immediately told her husband how wonderful God is and that He was looking after her and sending her encouragement today.

Is that a blessing or what? That's what this ministry is all about!  God was able to use me this morning to send a message to someone who needed it, not to make much of me, but to make much of Him. And it never would have happened if I hadn't been tuned in to His will and His voice. I wish I could tell you that I'm always so in tune with Him, but you know me well enough to know that that's not true. But I can say this: when I see God using me in such a way as He used me this morning, it makes me long that much more to be so in tune with Him all the time, and the only way that will happen is for me to spend more time with Him on a regular basis. To know His will, I need to understand His nature. To understand His nature, I need to know His heart. To know His heart, I need to commune with Him.

You know what else? If we stop and think about all the times that we are able to tune in to something--whether it be something that we want to tune in to or not--we'll realize that it typically happens when we're still. I heard the humming last night as I was lying in bed. I was still both in body and mind. The ticking clocks annoy me the most during my quiet time with God in the mornings. Again, when I am still. Could it be that to tune in to God more, we need to spend more time being still in His presence? I think we all know the answer.

He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. - Matthew 11:15

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Following in God's Footsteps

In the midst of my current fundraising efforts, a couple of verses have been floating around in my head.  The first is II Corinthians 9:6, which says, But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.  The other is the very next verse, which says, Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

I think these verses are pretty self-explanatory, and I know they've pricked my heart on more than one occasion.  But this morning, as I meditated on these two verses, I realized that they aren't just talking about money.  That's what we think of whenever the preacher talks about giving, especially since these verses are often used in conjunction with an offering.  Not that that's a bad thing because I believe they do speak of money, but not ONLY money.  How about time?  Talents?  Thanks?  Encouragement?

Seriously, when was the last time we gave of our time or talents out of the goodness of our hearts rather than begrudgingly or of necessity (i.e. "Somebody's got to do it!)?  When was the last time we spent time in thanks to God, not because we're supposed to but because it was in our heart?  When was the last time we poured out encouragement to others, knowing that we were dipping into a well that was quickly running dry because we, ourselves, were discouraged?

Let him give!  The Bible makes it clear that if we have something to give and don't give it, we're selfish and ungodly.  God is a giver (For God so loved the world that he gave. . .), and He expects His children to follow in His footsteps.  Not because we have to, but because we get to.  Not with a grumbling heart, but with a thankful one.  Cheerfully.  Unselfishly.  Willingly.  For it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

We all have gifts and talents that God has given us.  Let us use those talents for the Lord, giving of ourselves unselfishly, not looking for anything in return.

We all have time, though we're quick to say that we don't.  But I guarantee you we could all find a few minutes in our jam-packed days to reach out to someone else.  Send a card or a text.  Make a phone call.  Meet for coffee.  Give a hug.  Do something out of the goodness of your heart to help someone who may be hurting.

We can certainly all give thanks.  No matter how bad the day has been, there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for.  Salvation.  Heaven.  Grace.  Mercy.  Family.  Shelter.  I guarantee you once you start listing, you won't be able to stop.  God is good, and we need to take the time to tell Him so, but more than that, we ought to WANT to tell Him so.

Sadly, Christians can be some of the most selfish and ungrateful people, and it shouldn't be that way.  We're supposed to be reflecting Christ.  We're meant to be the example to the world, not the other way around.  The world should see us giving of ourselves day after day, and they should see a genuine willingness to give and joy that is associated with it.

So, I ask you, is that what they see?  If not, why not?