Friday, July 30, 2010

A Snapshot of Real Spiritual Strength

Welcome P31 subscribers and blogger friends! Thanks so much for dropping by today.

The topic of todays P31 devotion, was finding strength, when we feel powerless. When we feel weak, and without the strength to make a difference in difficult situations in our lives.

The term "weakness" can actually be a confusing topic, because it can mean different things for different people, and it can present itself in many forms.

Weakness can be a lack of physical strength, from extreme fatigue and stress, or the sheer inability to do the everyday things that most of us take for granted.

Weakness can be a lack of emotional strength, such as the inability to control harmful emotions like fear, selfishness, depression, judging others, pride or maybe even a lack of confidence.

Weakness can be also be a lack of spiritual strength, where we feel distant from God, and void of any infusion of power from God to face our adversities.

Regardless of what type of weakness we may be experiencing, the results can be identical.

Maybe you are facing extreme tragedy and severe hardships today, hanging at the end of your rope - and you feel physically, emotionally and spiritually spent.

Maybe you have been fighting against a sin in your life, but you cant seem to break the stronghold that it has over you - and you feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually spent.

Maybe you have just been experiencing a lot of little discouragements lately, that altogether, make you feel a little blue. Everything seems to be going wrong, instead of right - and you feel physically, emotionally, spiritually spent.

Maybe nothing is specifically wrong today, but you just dont seem to have the same zeal and enthusiasm as you once did. You try to be strong in your faith, but you seem to have lost the passion you once had for the Lord - and as a result, you feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually spent.

It would be so awesome if we could ask God for strength, and immediately feel an electrical infusion of spirituality and become instantly empowered with new gusto and energy and unshakable faith to face the days ahead.

And this could certainly happen, if God chose to act in that way. However, most of the time, our strength is going to come from persistent communication with God, and from walking with Him through the easy stuff, and the hard stuff, just as I mentioned in todays P31 devotion.

The kind of strength we need - that spiritual infusion of power- comes from a daily devotion to the principles of God, so much so that we practice and live out those truths in our every day lives. It is this constant connection with God, that will enable us to feel close to Him, transformed through Him, and empowered because of Him.

So what does spiritual strength look like? I will venture to say that most of us, when we think of strength from an earthly perspective, may think of muscles, and envision body builders or buff athletes in superior shape. Or we may think of a powerful executive, or someone who never seems to cave under pressure.

But in Gods opinion, I feel pretty sure that He would not consider those to be accurate pictures of real strength at all.

I began to wonder, that if God had a camera, and could take pictures of people who were pillars of strength, what types of snapshots would He take? Hmmmmm.....

I can imagine Him seeing a mother on her knees every day, pouring out her heart to her and asking Him to protect and watch over her family- and taking her picture.

I can imagine that God might take a shot of a man in a blue power suit in a high rise office, standing up for ethics and integrity in the workplace even when there may negative consequences to his career - and taking his picture.

... a pastor in the pulpit, or on a street corner, encouraging anyone within earshot of Gods grace and love for them;

... a couple staring at the smoldering remnants of their home, and praying for God to provide for them in the coming days, while believing that He will do just that;

... a teenager deciding not to give in to peer pressure, by relying on the standards for righteous living that they have read about in Gods Word;

... a couple working hard on forgiving each other, just as Christs forgave them, as they work on the difficulties in their marriage.

... a man fighting his temptation to view pornography, by spending time in Gods Word and praying for God to help him focus his thoughts on things that would please God;

... a divorced woman surrendering her anger and bitterness towards her ex-husband, and discovering a peace and joy that she had not felt before;

... a man who loves his family, working his fingers to the bone, and trusting Gods will, even though the bad economy has caused worry and financial hardship.

These are merely a few ideas of "snapshots" that came to my mind, but the real pictures of spiritual strength that God could give would be infinite.

Ive always heard the saying that if God had a refrigerator, our pictures would be on it. He loves us, His children, that much.

And how wonderful to remember that God doesnt love us any less when we feel spent, tired, fatigued, and drained.

He doesnt love us any less when we feel weak and hopeless.

He doesnt love us any less when we do not seem to have any form of strength at all - physically, emotionally or spiritually - because then, He knows we are desperate for His intervention, and primed and ready for His strength to take over.

In 2 Samuel 22, David is singing a song of praise to the Lord, because He delivered him from his enemies. But I find it interesting that before the Lord came to his rescue, David asked to be rescued:

2 Samuel 22:7 In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.

Then we see in 2 Samuel 22:33, that David thanks God for Gods rescue:

2 Samuel 22:33 It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.

David faced more adversity than we would want to shake a stick at, but he remained strong in his faith, and in his God.

Sometimes we may feel like we are running a close second to David in the race for the worst adversity; and in our state of feeling of physically, emotionally and spiritually spent. Life can be tough, and it often makes us feel weak.

I cant help but wonder, if God really did have a camera, and really was creating a heavenly photo album of pictures of spiritual strength, would He take a snapshot of me? Would he take a snapshot of you?

Hmmmmm. This thought made me really do some deep reflection. But regardless of how weak we may feel, while we are here on earth, we can strive every day for spiritual strength every day - through prayer and devotion and commitment and passion for the Lord. And in His timing and through His will, we can become strong.

Strength is available for each one of us. All we have to do is ask, and we will receive. When we seek His rescue, like David did, God first provides the strength to persevere, then He provides the rescue. When we are rescued, our strength resumes.

If you need strength today, and Gods power to continue on, then give Davids method a try. Pray earnestly for God to intervene, let Him know how you feel and what you need. Seek His rescue. And expect to be strengthened.

We can be made strong in our weaknesses, through the strength of Christ within us.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Exodus 15:2 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The One Burden We Are Not Supposed To Lay Down

My pastor is doing a new series that is based on the book of Malachi. I have found it so interesting, because Malachi is a book which I have never spent much time reading. But the truths and principles that we have been introduced to so far are wonderful.

Last week, the pastor was focusing on the nature of God, and he focused on Malachi 1:1-5. Now the sermon was extremely enlightening and he shared great wisdom from all the verses, but I got hung up on the very first verse.

Malachi 1:1 An oracle. The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.

That verse doesnt really seem that interesting, does it? But in actuality, it is says more than you would think.

The definition of "oracle" is this:
-a person who delivers authoritative, wise, or highly regarded and influential pronouncements.
-a divine communication or revelation.
-any person or thing serving as an agency of divine communication.
-any utterance made or received as authoritative, extremely wise, or infallible.

The word 'oracle' is used to preface this story in Malachi, and tells us that we need to get ready to hear the Lord saying something of great importance, through Malachi. He is preparing our hearts to listen for His divine communication, with infallible wisdom and authority. He wants us to pay acute attention, and understand that He has a sober and serious message to share.

This simple word, "oracle", is a a description of an important and vital part of Gods nature - communication.

You see, God wants to speak to us and give us guidance and direction, and in order to do that, He gives us His Word, His Spirit, and other people to speak through. So if we are not taking His Word seriously, and not carrying the weight of the importance of Christ in our lives, then we are not valuing this ability to communicate with God.

Most of us would view the word "burden" as a difficulty or troubling situation. But the word "burden" really just means a heavy load - and if Gods Word is not a heavy load, I dont know what is!

Scripture needs to be the main thing in our life - so that we can carry it in our hearts, share it with people who need to hear it, and embrace an eagerness for it. It is something we should take VERY SERIOUSLY, as if it were a physical burden or heavy load that we were carrying on our shoulders.

For many years, I did not take His Word seriously. In fact, I mainly opened my Bible on Sunday mornings. But God finally got hold of my heart a few years ago, and I began to take His Word more seriously.

I began to see it is as a lifeline, not just a good book.

I began to realize the power that was found in those pages, and in each verse that dripped from the Lords lips, instead of thinking it was just a boring read.

I began to realize that being nourished on Sunday mornings by knowledge of scripture was simply not sufficient, and that I was severely malnourished in my spirit.

God desires that we view His word with a sense of weightiness, as my pastor worded, and that when we hear it, we will be overcome with a weightiness to live it out. We should feel a compelling obligation to carry His words in our heart, and to share the burden of the Word of the Lord with others.

The closer we have His Word in our hearts, the more we hear from Him. The more we hear from Him, the closer we feel in our relationship. The closer we feel, the more joy and peace we will be able to have as we face the obstacles present in our lives every day. The burden is actually a blessing in disguise.

Its not about going around spouting off scripture all the time or memorizing a bunch of verses - its about having that loving burden so present in our hearts, that we simply cant hide the light of Christ that is within us.

Matthew 11:29-30 says "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

When we consider the message of Christ as a burden, it is crucial to remember that we understand that it is not meant to be a troublesome burden, but more a burden of desire. A desire to carry His Word in our hearts that is so strong, that we cannot shake it, we cannot put it down, we cannot put it off. A burden of desire that finally makes us sit up and take notice, that Gods Word is serious stuff.

For the past seven months, I have been doing the daily chronological Bible study. I have been thrilled, excited and amazed at how enjoyable and refreshing it is to spend time reading Gods Word. I cant even begin to write about how much I have learned. And my only regret, is that I waited so long to take His Word this seriously.

I walked away from hearing that sermon last week, with a newfound and renewed perspective on how important Gods Word should be in our life, and a refreshed eagerness to continue digging deep into Gods Word each day.

The burden of God is one that is light, but heavy in importance.

One that does not break us down, but builds us up.

And one that helps us gain strength and endurance, the more we carry it around.

The burden of Christ is one that we should never lay down, because it is an incredible and undeserved privilege that we are granted the opportunity to carry.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

What Was God Thinking When He Called Me To Serve?

I was reading some chapters in Isaiah and came across a handful of verses that spoke volumes to me. I wondered why I had not really noticed them before, but being that the She Speaks Conference is this week, I think God was just giving me a little extra fuel for the week. So I wanted to share it with you!

Six hundred women from all over the country, and typically a few other countries as well, will be traveling to Concord, NC, this week to attend She Speaks (and 200 sweet women are on the waiting list in the hopes of coming next year!)

Based on my own experience of the first time I attended the conference six years ago, I can imagine that every one of those women is beginning to feel overwhelmed with excitement, anticipation and wonder - but also, feeling burdened with insecurities, doubts and fears.

There are many women who are probably wondering why in the world they ever signed up for such a conference, and why did they ever think that God could use them in a special way.

There are women who are so stressed about what they are going to wear for their speaker presentations or publisher appointments, that they can hardly sleep at night, and every bodily flaw they have seems to be magnified in the mirror.

Some women may even be considering backing out at the last minute, as a result of the enemy filling their head with so many lies of discouragement and unworthiness.

And I dare say, that every one is experiencing a dose of spiritual warfare, which is causing so many hurdles to jump, that the spiritiual gusto for some to actually go to the conference may have waned.

Trust me - I know - been there, done that - on all of the above.

Thus the reason these verses spoke to my heart on this particular week. My memory was taken back to a place and time where I recalled my own fears and countless questions for why God was calling me to change direction in my life. And these fears creep into our hearts whether we are attending She Speaks, or whether we are just feeling called to step out in faith in big or small ways. Change is scary.

So today, lets focus on why we should keep pushing forward, when every rational thought that we have seems to be telling us to halt, back it on up, and stay in the safe zone.

Isaiah 45:3 says, "And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord,the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name."

Wow - God knows my name. He knows your name. In fact, He knows everyones name! It just felt good to be reminded that God knows my name. I am not just a face in the crowd to Him, but a person He knows, by name.

And He not only knows our name - He loves us, by name. Isaiah 46:4b says ".... I made you, and I will care for you."

But the main verses I want you to tuck into your mind today are from Isaiah 45:4-6:

“And why have I called you for this work? Why did I call you by name when you did not know me? It is for the sake of Jacob my servant,Israel my chosen one. I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle,though you don’t even know me,so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the Lord, and there is no other."

Why does God call us to do something for His kingdom? Why does He call us to make sacrifices, to put aside our own agendas, to push through feelings of insecurities, to make changes in our lives? Why?

He called us, because we are His chosen ones. We are His Israel.

He called us, because after all, He equipped us for battle and wants us to use that gift for His glory. By virtue of loving us and knowing our names, He equips us to fight that battle for righteousness, in an world where intentional righteousness seems to be a thing of the past.

He called us, so that all the world from east to west would know that He is the only One true God. So that we could spread the Word that there is no other God but Him.

That is why He called us. Not because we have anything to offer that is better than someone else. Not because we are talented, gifted, attractive, skilled, experienced, educated, fashionable, etc.; and certainly not because He thought we were capable.

He calls us so that we will make Him known, through His strength and power, and nothing of our own doing. It is as simple as that - but oh, how we try to make that calling on our hearts so complicated at times.

We often wonder why God would call us to a task or a ministry or change in direction or decisions in life, that we feel completely inadequate for and maybe, that we might even disagree with. These types of thoughts are why the next verses hold such important truths.

Isaiah 45:9-10 “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying,‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim,‘How clumsy can you be?’ How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father,‘Why was I born?’ or if it said to its mother,‘Why did you make me this way?’”

I chuckled when I read those verses, because those hypothetical questions seem ridiculous. A pot would never question its potter, or criticize how it was formed. A baby could not question its reason for existence, or wonder how it was formed.

In the same way, how laughable to wonder if maybe God made a mistake by calling us to serve Him in a certain way. How silly to consider the possibility that just maybe, God did not realize our feelings of doubt, our low self esteem, our past sin or experiences, or our inability to serve in ways that feel just a tad too transparent, or uncomfortable?

How ridiculous that we question God about His plans for us, or that we question whether or not He really calls us to serve Him in ways that will stretch our faith.

How ridiculous for us to wonder that if God put a dream or idea in our heart, that He would not equip us to carry it out in our life? But we all do it!

I have had those thoughts in the past, more than once I might add. I fully believe in Gods sovereignty, but I have at times wondered if God might have overlooked some of my flaws, when He called me into ministry, and thought to myself, "what was HE thinking?!

He was thinking, that we are the clay, He is the potter.

We are the child, He is the Father.

And when He calls us to take a leap of faith, to make His name known above all other names, He expects us to accept that He has spoken. In fact, Isaiah 45:13 says this in the last sentence in that verse, "I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”

Now who can argue with that?!

Friends, whatever God is calling you to do, I want to encourage you to keep pushing forward, and dont let those invisible enemies keep you spiritually or physically paralyzed. God doesnt expect perfection or performance, just prayer and perseverance.

I love this little acronym, which says P.U.S.H. -

So push past doubts, pray through insecurities, and watch God work - through you. And remember - God doesnt call those who are qualified, He qualifies those whom He calls.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ideas, Burdens and Blessings

For the past couple days, I have spent many, many hours doing something that really needed to be done - but that I did not want to do.......... painting my garage!

It started out as just an idea, then became a burden requiring much endurance, and then became a blessing.

We have lived in our house for almost 13 years, and between three kids, all their friends, bikes, beach chairs, basketballs, footballs, tools, ladders, cords, and everything in between that gets thrown into a garage - plus lots of holes in the walls from all that stuff getting tossed about - my garage, was a disaster.

So I went to Home Depot and loaded up on paint and supplies, and set out about my task early on Monday morning. The real question is why I decided to tackle this project in the middle of July, when it is 95 degrees outside, and probably a few degrees hotter in a two car garage. But that is a question for another day.

I have found that whenever I paint, the prepping part of painting is worse than the painting itself. Trying to get the garage emptied out enough to do anything in there, was the first hurdle, then our driveway looked like we were having a huge yard sale.

Then I patched up some damaged areas in the wall with a sheetrock patch kit, spackled all the holes, then sanded them down when they were dry. Next came the accurate application of the painters tape all over the floors, ceilings, window sills, window panes, etc, which could make even the calmest person begin to have a mild anxiety attack.

Then, finally, we (me and my children, who had been involuntarily drafted for this project) began to paint. At first, it seemed fun! Seeing the soft suede colored paint covering up all the dirty old white paint on the walls, was cool.

But after about seven hours of this "fun", I wanted to be done. I was tired of painting. I justed wanted to snap my fingers like a genie and have it all be done.

But the job was far from done.

So the next morning I got up early, and began again, ready to tackle the garage with new gusto. I worked all day to finish the painting and trim work, with the exception of a few distrations with the kids, then around 9pm, I sighed a big sigh of relief, thinking that I was finally finished.... until I looked up, and noticed that I had only painted 1/3 of the huge beam that stretched across the ceiling! My heart sunk - I did not want to go on! I did not want to get back on that ladder! I wanted to take a shower!

But I pulled up my boot straps, and the ten foot ladder, and got back to work, and shortly after 10pm, the work was done. The floor was swept, and everything was organized. I felt so proud of my efforts! I could see the final outcome, and it was well worth the effort. Now I could enter my garage in the days and months to come, without trying to walk through it with my eyes close so I didnt see the mess!

As I was thinking about the project, and how good it felt to have it all finished - I began to think about how the things that God calls us to do in life, can seem the same way as tackling a big home project, and how these projects or repairs always seem to get bigger and harder once you get started.

Gods call on our lives can be just like my garage painting - an idea, a burden, and a blessing.

When we feel God calling us to do something, even if we procrastinate for a while about it, hopefully we will eventually say "YES! YES LORD! USE ME!". Thats the idea part. God plants ideas and desires in our hearts, but it is up to us to say yes.

But in the same way that the garage painting idea seemed good at first then became a burden - Gods call on our lives can feel the same way at times. You see, its easy to say yes to something, but its much more difficult to actually act upon that desire. Ideas and dreams are worthless, until we allow ourselves to act upon them.

We have to take the desire from the idea stage, to the reality stage - making it become a reality in our life, not just a dream in our heart. All the while, trusting in Jeremiah 29:11 that God has a future and a hope for us, plans to prosper us and not harm us. We could have all kinds of dreams about things we might like to do, but none of them matter, until we are willing to step out of our comfort zone, and do a little shopping - not at Home Depot - but in the Bible, to search for His Words that will encourage us and equip us to get to work.

But once we say yes, that call, may begin to feel a little like a burden. We have to do a lot prep work, to get us ready for service. We have to allow God to fill in the holes and repair the scars that our life has left on our hearts.

Lets be honest, serving Christ is not always fun and games. Sometimes it can be extremely stressful and emotionally draining. It causes us to make sacrifices, and become more transparent.

Serving Christ is always rewarding, but at the same time, can make us feel tired and wonder if we are ever going to meet our goal. We can get frustrated or feel unworthy or incapable, and each time we think we are making progress or doing what God has called us to do, we stumble in our faith walk, make mistakes in our lives, and may feel ill-equipped to fulfill the goal that we are striving for.

We may feel like we are in over our heads - burdened - and wonder why we ever even started such a project in our life.

But then - we begin to see the fruits of our efforts. We begin to see God helping us overcome hurdles as we make Him a priority in our life, and as we trust Him to guide us in our actions and decisions.

We begin to have more comfort and maybe feel a little more comfortable, even though we are out of our normal comfort zone.

We begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and realize that just maybe we can be successful in this project we have taken on - the project of living life out loud for Jesus, despite the blood, sweat and tears that we may have to put it. We may realize, that God is making our ideas and dreams come true.

We begin to feel blessed - and accept the realization that God really did know what was best for us, and now He is blessing us through our obedience!

Ideas become reality. Reality becomes a temporary burden. The burden becomes a blessing.

Its a process that we all have to go through, whether it is about painting a garage, or painting a life that portrays Jesus working in and through us. And one day, we can step back and breathe a sigh of relief, as we take in all that God has done.

But keep in mind - that just when we think we are finished, God is really just getting started.

- below are a few picturs of our garage painting escsapades -

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Monday, July 19, 2010

We Are Never Really Alone

My two wonderful teenage daughters just came home on Friday night from a week long trip with our church youth group. They were attending the Student Life Conference in Daytona, Florida, and look forward to it every year. After all, who wouldnt enjoy spending a week listening to the famous Louis Giglio speak and the awesome Chris Tomlin sing, and hanging out in the afternoons on the beautiful white Florida beaches! Sounds like heaven to me. :)

Our fabulous youth director sent daily email updates to all the parents, letting us know how things were going and what they were doing, but most importantly how the kids were being impacted. I loved hearing what God was doing in many of their hearts, but one thing in particular that he said really struck a chord with me.

In one email, he said that many of the kids had commented about how it was such a great, but unusual, feeling to see so many kids worshipping God, because they often feel as if they are the only teens who are Christians.

But at this conference - where there were 6200 kids from all over the country, worshipping, praising, singing and praying,all with great enthusiasm - it opened their eyes to see that even though they may feel like the only teen in the world trying to be a Christian, in actuality, they are not alone at all.

Just last week I was reading about Elijah in 1 Kings 19. In this part of Kings, we find Elijah hiding in the cave, having fled in fear from Jezebel who had threatened his life. But God took care of him there, with angels looking after him, and insuring that he had plenty of food and water. Then when the time was right, the Lord spoke to Elijah, asking him why he was hiding in a cave.

1 Kings 19: verses 10 and 14, we hear Elijah say: "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."

In Elijahs mind, he was the only believer left. He felt alone. Very alone. Not only physically alone as he sat in a cold, dark cave, afraid for his life - but alone in his faith, because he could not seem to find anyone else who loved the Lord like he did. But in actuality, that was not the case at all.

I can relate to those feelings, because there have been times in my life when I felt just Elijah was feeling in that cave, and just like those teens feel sometimes when they are in their social settings - alone in my faith.

One example is when I worked full time, before deciding to stay at home with my children and move into ministry. For quite a while during my employment, I felt very alone in my faith at times.

My boss did not share my faith, and it became evident over time that our differences in beliefs caused friction in our relationship. I was privy to information about things happening within the firm that I did not feel was right. I watched executives use their authority to implement decisions or actions that were unethical, or just downright mean. I saw employees treating each other dishonestly. And eventually I began to wonder if ethics and integrity were just a thing of the past.

These issues were not exclusive to this particular company, since the corporate world is often known for its less-than-moral tactics in every industry. And there were a lot of good things that I gained from working there, including a few wonderful Christian friends, but I still had to deal with a lot of yucky stuff, and in my heart, I felt alone and challenged in my efforts to not only live, but work, by my Christian values.

After God had made it completely clear to me that I was to leave that position, I put in my resignation. Once word got out about my leaving, many people whom I had worked with for years, stopped by my office to chat, openly expressing their encouragement for the new path of ministry that I was embarking upon. Dozens of people shared their faith with me, and some even confided their secret desires to take a leap of faith in different areas of their own life.

Their words and encouragement made me feel uplifted and affirmed in my decision to leave, which was a decision I had greatly struggled with, but I also remember feeling disappointed, because all those years when I felt alone in my faith - there had actually been many Christians around. Apparently most people were hesitant or afraid to really let their faith shine through, for fear of judgement, ridicule, or being left behind in the corporate game of getting ahead at all costs.

Christian teens today face those same challenges. They want to do what is right, but they feel alone. It appears that nobody else is sharing their beliefs or living by Godly virtues, so they are afraid to stand up for their faith, for fear of being judged, ridiculed or becoming an outcast.

And in all honestly, as women, and as moms, we can even find ourselves in this same situation. We dont want to be overbearing with our children, however we do want to put in the time and effort it takes to stick to our beliefs when it comes to what we allow them to do, watch, say, hang out with, etc.

Even when it seems that every other mom in the world is letting their kids do whatever they want, we still feel convicted to stick to our desires to be a Godly parent - which usually results in the earning of the prestigious title of "strictest mom in the world" (or so I have been told).

Sometimes adult peer pressure, or the feeling of being alone in our beliefs, can be just as difficult as when we were adolescents.

Elijah - teens - career women - stay at home moms - Christians ...... so often, we feel alone.... very alone... in our faith.... but the truth is, we are never really alone at all - we are just not seeing Gods army in full force.

In 1 Kings 19:18, the Lord tells Elijah to go back to the Desert of Damascas, and then He reassures him that is not alone after all, by saying "Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."

Elijah thought he was alone in his faith - but in reality there were 7000 people who had not been involved in pagan worship and still loved the Lord! He just didnt know it. I can only imagine Elijahs shock when he heard that number.

Christianity Today stated in 2005 that there were 2 billion Christians worldwide.

Two billion brothers and sisters in Christ is a phenomenal number, and I feel confident it has increased over the past five years. So the next time you are feeling alone in your Christian beliefs, and wondering if there is anyone else who believes that the Lord should be at the center of all that we do, then think about that number!

Sadly, in todays society, Christianity seems to be the one religion that gets the most resistance, the least tolerance, and the highest ridicule. Unfortunately many leaders of our country, and even random citizens at times, work their fingers to the bone in efforts to kick Christianity to the back burner, or even remove it completely from all aspects of businesses, society and culture. As a result, it can make us Christians feel a bit like Elijah did - afraid, helpless, hopeless, discouraged, frustrated, confused, dismayed, ostracized and maybe even very, very alone.

But in reality, Gods kingdom is still huge and powerful, full of countless believers who love Him and cherish Him, and we are one of those many soldiers, carrying the swords of truth in our hearts and lives.

Gods army is still strong, and our God is alive. We just have to all band together and let our little lights shine - big and bright for all to see. We have to stop being afraid to speak up for what is right and protect our right to live for Christ. We have to stop bowing down every time someone says that our God offends them, and stand up and fight the good fight of faith.

We can gain strength to do that by remembering that the battle has already been won -and God holds the victory title - and that no matter what we see with our human eyes, we are never as alone in the fight as we think.

We Are Never Really AloneSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, July 16, 2010

Delayed Blessings

Have you ever wondered if God cared about your dreams, or if He really hears your prayers?

I have to admit, I have. I know that God wouldnt put a dream in our hearts that He doesnt plan on helping us carry out, and I also know that scripture is filled with truths about how God listens to those who love Him.

But what about when we can keep trying, and trying, month after month, year after year, to meet a certain goal or see a dream become a reality, but we still never see those dreams come to fruition?

What about when we pray for something, or someone, so earnestly that we actually get tired of praying about the same things, and still, despite our perseverance to beg God to intervene, we neglect to see God answering those deep heartfelt desires?

I came across this verse recently in my Bible study:

Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (NIV)

The NLT version states that verse this way: "For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right."

Hold on a minute now. Does that imply that God is not making my dream come true or answering my prayers for certain things, because I am not doing something right, or living right? I will be honest - I felt a little unnerved when I read that verse. I began to let my mind wander to all the ways that I have let God down in my life. Probably every day for that matter. Maybe I just wasnt a good enough Christian for God to really desire to answer my prayers.

But then I remembered the verse in Romans 3:10, that says "As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;" So no matter how hard I try, I will never live the perfect life, and God doesnt expect me to either . Whew - what a relief!

But then I began to think about how God tells us to ask and we shall receive. So if I am asking, and asking, and asking... and asking.. why am I not receiving? I want my prayers to be more like Burger King - so I can have it my way! :) And how about now please!

So I cant help but ponder about that promise. How do we process and believe that truth, when it seems that we are not receiving what we have asked for, even when we asked in good faith and for good reason? And for a long time?

My mind kept wandering, and I was getting distracted, so I refocused my thoughts, and just continued in the daily reading. Then, I came across this verse below:

Psalm 105:19 Until the time came to fulfill his dreams,the Lord tested Joseph’s character.

After re-reading that verse, God spoke something to my heart. It was a fresh reminder of a truth that I had not forgotten, but that I sometimes overlook when I am feeling frustrated or impatient about not seeing a prayer request answered in a timely manner.

I was curious about what Psalm 105:19 really meant, so I decided to do a little research online and read some commentaries about it. I soon came to understand that this verse is not really so much about building Josephs character, as it is about waiting for Gods timing as His plan plays out in our lives.

The story of Joseph is one of my favorite bible stories. I even watched an old movie about his life one time, and always keep those visuals in my head when I read about him. It really brought his story to life in my heart.

Joseph endured so much pain and hardship and heartbreak, but in the end, dreams - that he didnt even know he desired - came true. It was his patience, faith and perseverance that allowed God to work in His life, and eventually, resulted in dreams coming true. Not because Joseph asked, but because God desired that He receive blessings that had been delayed in his life. When it was time, God came through with flying colors - imagine!

Joseph had to endure divine discipline, undeserved situations, and get some experience and wisdom under his belt, before God could fulfill dreams in Josephs life. And when Joseph was ready, those delayed blessings were granted, in abundance.

Although I may not always like it, I do trust in Gods timing and believe that He knows best. But I sometimes need to remind myself that God must not be answering a prayer the way I would like, or in my desired timing, because He sees the bigger picture. In fact, He sees the whole picture.

He knows the future, so I have to trust that He knows when I will be ready to handle that answered prayer - even if I am tired of waiting.

Just maybe, He knows if I am asking for something that is not His best for my life,or is not in His ultimate plan, so in His wisdom, He may choose not to ever give me that blessing at all.

Going forward, I will continue to pray for the things that I desire, to ask for God to pour life into my dreams, and to answer prayers that I lift up to Him - but I hope to have a new perspective about them.

I hope that when I think about my unanswered prayers, I can see them not as prayers that have gone unanswered, causing me to doubt Gods love for me or wonder if He is listening, but simply as in blessings that are being delayed, for reasons that only God knows, but because He loves me.

Whether my prayers are for dreams to come true, difficult situations to be resolved, relationships to flourish, people to be healed, or anything else that is heavy on my heart or that I desire - I want to be someone that can trust in Gods timing, rather than doubt whether or not He is listening.

He IS listening. He DOES care. And He WILL act when the time is right.

You know, I have always heard and believed that good things come to those who wait - so what better thing to wait for, with great anticipation, than delayed blessings.

Delayed BlessingsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Life That Says Thank You

Over the past couple weeks, I have been reading various Psalms in my Chronological Bible.

It has been so eye opening about how all of these passages are intertwined, and although they say so many different things, they all lead to one main truth.

The truth that God loves us more than we can imagine, and in return, He longs for us to live with a mindset of thanksgiving.

So this week I am trying to focus on how much God really loves me and how His promises ring true in my life.

A focus on being acutely aware of what is at the core of Gods promises that I should be thankful for, instead of merely thanking Him for the tangible things that I can see with my human eyes.

A focus on even being able to thank Him for things that I wish He had not allowed in my life, or storms that I have had to endure.

So as I have considered over the past few weeks how overwhelmingly thankful I am for all God has done for me, in me, and through me, over the all the years in my life, a simple prayer of saying "thanks God" just seemed pathetically insufficient.

I found myself wondering how I could ever really show my Father my heartfelt thankfulness. How can I not only FEEL thankful, but truly BE thankful.... and not just be thankful, but ACT thankful.

I discovered that God has provided a plethora of creative ways that we can SHOW Him, not just tell Him, of our thankfulness.

Consider this - if you do something nice for a friend, and they say "thanks", we appreciate their words. But if they take time to send a special Hallmark card expressing their heartfelt gratitude, we have a stronger understanding of how thankful they really were. In the same way, I believe that God desires us to go out of our way to show Him our thankfulness, not just use words to tell Him about it.

The Psalmist poses the question we are all thinking in Psalm 116:12 when he said "How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me?. So lets take a quick look at some ways how we can do just that.

Psalms 111:2 says that everyone who loves Him should ponder on Him daily.

Psalms 116 gives us many ways to be thankful, such as:

vs 9 - walk in the Lords presence while we are here on earth
vs 13 - lift up the cup of salvation, ask God to fill it up daily with grace
vs 14 - keep my promises to the Lord, in private, and in public
vs 17 - offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call on the name of the Lord
vs 18 - fulfill my vows to the Lord, in private, and in public

Psalms 119 is my favorite Psalm. It is loaded to the brim with instructions on how to be truly thankful. We can show our thankfulness to God:

vs 7 - by living as we should
vs 11 - by hiding His Word in our hearts
vs 15 - by studying His commands, and reflection on Him
vs 18 - by recognizing that His ways are wonderful
vs 30 - by choosing to be faithful
vs 34 - by putting His laws into practice in our hearts
vs 35 - by finding happiness in following His commands
vs 36 - by being eager to follow His commands and laws
vs 37 - by living a life that is focused on His Word
vs 55 - by reflecting on Him at night
vs 56 - by spending my life obeying His commandments
vs 61 - by being firmly anchored to His instructions
vs 66 - by praying for good judgement and knowledge
vs 71 - by delighting in Him and His instructions
vs 81-88 - by putting our hope in Him
vs 97 - by thinking about Gods instructions all day, and loving them

Then in Psalms 118:17, we read that if we desire to thank God for who He is, we will live to tell what He has done for us. (this is also reiterated in Psalm 107:2)

Psalm 118:24 tells us to rejoice and be glad in each and every day.

Whew. I could keep going, but I will stop there! There are so many suggestions for how we can truly FEEL/BE/ACT/SHOW thankfulness to God, but despite that, there are many days when I completely forget to be thankful.

Days when I grumble and mumble over things I dont like, or needs and desires that are not being met. Days when I wonder why God is not making all of my dreams come true (check back later this week to talk about that subject). Days when I am just frustrated or frazzled, and focus on the bad, instead of the good.

Looking at such a comprehensive list of how God calls us to be thankful can be a bit intimidating, and possibly discouraging. It leads us to wonder how could we possibly live up to those expectations?

So it is crucial to remember that God knows our limitations. He created our mortality. He lovingly understands that we cannot possibly have perfect, grateful hearts, and focused minds, every second of every day. And as I reviewed the exhaustive list of ways to be thankful, one phrase kept coming to mind - absolute devotion.

Absolute means free from imperfection; complete; pure; positive; not limited in any way.

Devotion means profound dedication; consecration; an earnest attachment to a cause or person.

God calls us to be thankful simply by being absolutely devoted to Him. Committed. Sold out. Living out loud. For Him.

In doing so, we show our deep gratitude by the way we live - not by following a detailed list of to-dos. We show it through our pure, positive, unlimited desire to earnestly be attached to Him, and live out that commitment every day.

God is concerned about our desire for absolute devotion, not our ability to carry it out perfectly.

Colossians 3:16 sums it all up for us:
"Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts."

Christ in our hearts.... His Word in our minds.... His truth playing out in our lives .... equals a life sprinkled with thankfulness in all that we do.

Being thankful is not merely a conscious choice of words. but a committed choice of how we live.

Funny how that only saying rings true here, that actions really do speak louder than words.

A Life That Says Thank YouSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, July 9, 2010

Did I Really Forgive?

Colossians 3:12-13 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

"She hurt my feelings. I have forgiven her, but I still cant get past it."

I heard those words spoken recently by someone I know. Strangely enough, the person who did the 'hurting' does not even know what she did, but nonetheless, rumors or a lack of accurate communication caused someone to feel hurt, and the relationship was damaged.

This got me to thinking - is forgiveness really forgiveness, if we cant get past the situation? Have we really forgiven, if we are still harboring bitter or resentful feelings towards that person? The Bible is clear that this is not the way Christ defines forgiveness, and it actually is not the way that the dictionary defines it either.

Forgiveness in the dictionary is stated to be: "to grant pardon to (a person); to cease to feel resentment against; to cancel an indebtedness or liability of."

Even in the secular definition, forgiveness describes not only pardoning an offense, but to no longer feel resentment for it anymore. To no longer focus on what happened, allowing it to play out in our minds over and over again, each time feeling worse and bigger, causing fragile feelings to bubble up again and again, creating a chasm of hurt and discouragement in our hearts.

So if we consider the way we are supposed to forgive as Christians, shouldnt that definition apply to us in an even deeper way?

I have been hurt before. Not just a little bit, but a lot. I have had people betray my trust, trample on my feelings, and treat me in rude or hateful ways. And I am the first to admit that it was hard to forgive them. In fact, I had to come to terms with my anger about the situation, and deal with my emotions, before I could even begin to process how God would want me to handle those situations. But I soon realized that holding on to the resentment that I had for people who hurt me, was only hurting me, not them.

I always remember the saying that says unforgiveness is like ingesting a toxic poison into your body, and then expecting someone else to die. We may think that holding onto resentment for that person is justified, but in Gods eyes, it means we have not really forgiven. And in reality, we are only hurting ourselves.

Matthew 18:21-22 from The Message Bible says this:
21At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?" 22Jesus replied, "Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven."

What He meant by that statement, was simply that our forgiveness is to have no limits, and that we have to forgive with our heart, not just our words. When we have truly forgiven someone, we no longer hold onto anger or resentment or bitter feelings about someone. We no longer feel animosity towards them, which allows us to cast the past behind us, cancel their debt, and wipe the slate clean. Just as Christ did for us - even though it was not deserved or earned, and sometimes, not even appreciated.

And in Matthew 6:14-15, we read: “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." Now that my friend, is a terrifying thought if you ask me.

Forgiveness is a gift, from God to us, but a gift that is meant to shared.

I have experienced first hand the power of forgiveness in my life. Not only by forgiving others for their mistakes, but forgiving myself for my own mistakes. And many years ago, I discovered the freedom that could be found in Christ, by finally grasping what forgiveness really meant. I had to choose to believe that Gods grace was meant for me, and it has helped me to understand why God calls us to extend that same grace to others. The type of grace that is greater than seventy times seven, and more.

As I mentioned, I have been hurt. I have been mad and bitter. I have harbored unforgiveness and found it hard to forgive. I have held back forgiveness because I felt the person did not deserve it. But the more I pleaded for God to not only help me forgive, but also forget, the more I felt Him empowering me to do just that.

Nothing characterizes us more than our ability forgive - and nothing can damage our hearts, and our relationships, and our faith walk, like unforgiveness.

Forgiveness makes us a new creation. It frees our heart to focus on the good things, not the bad. It allows us to put the past where it belongs, and move forward in our faith. Forgiveness is not something that comes naturally for us mortals - it is something holy and unselfish - which is why we so desperately need a Savior.

We can do all things through Him, and that includes forgiving someone who has hurt us. That forgiveness does not mean that the person didnt do wrong, and will not have to answer for their own actions one day, but it means that we can be free from being held hostage by anger and hurt - a freedom that once found, is priceless.

Did I Really Forgive?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stress Relief You Can Count On

Fatigued. Frazzled. Frustrated.

Overcommitted. Overloaded. Overwhelmed.

Unfortunately, those words above describe the way that most of us women feel on any given day, sometimes every day! And sometimes, we allow stress to take its toll on us, and dont even realize what is happening.

We write off health problems, we ignore physical signs that our body is trying to give us, we become grumpy and irritated, or keep going 100 miles per hour without slowing down - until one day, everything seems to come crashing down.

Stress had become an epidemic in our society. Sometimes it is avoidable, but then other times, the situations of life bring unavoidable stress along with them.

But regardless of whether or not we have control over the situations that cause us stress, we DO have control over whether or not we let those situations take us down. We DO have control about where we are searching for stress relief, and to remember to look for it from the One who does have control.

Stress not only takes a huge toll on us physically and emotionally, but it can have a negative impact on our spiritual well being as well.

How easy it is to get consumed in difficult situations, or simply the busyness of every day life, and forget to make Christ a priority. As a result, we often look for stress relief in all the wrong places, like spas, salons, relaxation techniques, vacations, sleep, private time, and sometimes even drugs and alcohol. But all those things are temporary, and only God has the relief that we really need.

Exodus 33:14 says "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." There you have it - rest and relaxation right at our fingertips - in the Bible.

Is your life going crazy? Are things so busy, that you feel like you have dont have time to rest anymore? Does life seem out of control? Have you been trying to serve God faithfully, or remain committed to your walk with Him, but find yourself feeling burnt out and unappreciated? Are you feeling burnt-out in ministry? Is your faith taking a back seat, while problems are in the forefront? Are you aware of the toll that stress has possibly had on you?

If you answered yes to any (or all!) of these questions, then mark your calendar to join me for a FREE conference call to discuss stress, burnout and where to find true rest and real stress relief. If you have any questions, feel free to email me or comment on the blog, and I will respond as soon as possible.

Live promo now at

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You can listen online OR call in and listen at 4pm EST at 646-727-2510 (no passcode required).

Session will be available for download on your MP3 or iPod immediately
after the show. This is a free call - so dont miss it!

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