Saturday, September 10, 2011

God: Our Burden-Bearer

"Do not be anxious in anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." - Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

This is the first verse the Lord lead me to memorize when I began to study His Word. I never thought of myself as much of a "worrier". I wasn't one of those moms that rushed her kids to the doctor if they sneezed, had a runny nose or a slight fever. I treated them at home. I didn't worry about the things that were being reported on the news. I always figured God was in control and there was nothing I could do about it anyway. Even though I wasn't what I considered a "worrier" to be, I was still anxious about certain things. And, as I was out of the Lord's will at the time, they would weigh me down, become burdens and eat away at me. I would become angry at the least little thing, taking it out on whoever was closest - usually my husband and children. The only time I ever prayed and turned it over to God  was when I couldn't find a solution on my own first.

Basically, I was telling God that I didn't need Him, I didn't trust Him or His promises. Very arrogant of me! But, you know what? He never turned His back on me. He never gave up on me. As I began to find my way back to Him, He pointed out to me my lack of faith in Him through this verse. And I began to trust Him. I began to turn my worries over to Him first. I began relying less on my own abilities and more on my Lord's. He lead me to two other passages: Romans 12:12 - "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus". He opened my heart to the peace and joy that can take the place of my worry and fear. He opened my eyes to the many blessings I have to be thankful for. I am able make the most of each day because I choose to live this verse. I believe I am a much calmer, happier, loving woman because of that choice.

If you find yourself burdened by worry, anxiety, fear or sorrow, why don't you do as God asks and present them to Him? Wrap them up, tie them with a bow and give them to God. Leave them in His more than capable hands and go about your day with peace in your heart and much lighter steps. As Corrie ten Boom observed, "We are not called to be burden-bearers, but cross-bearers and light-bearers. We must cast our burdens on the Lord.".

"The more you trust Jesus and keep your eyes focused on Him, the more life you'll have. Trusting God brings life. Believing brings rest. So stop trying to figure everything out, and let God be God in your life." - Joyce Meyer

Heavenly Father, I want to thank You for being my burden-bearer. Thank You, Lord, that I don't have to live my days weighed down by my worries and fears. I trust You to take care of me and meet my needs. I trust in Your will for my life. Continue to lead me to passages in Your Word that show me how to become a stronger Christian. May I be a cross-bearer and light-bearer for you today. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Words Can Hurt

"The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgement." - Proverbs 10:21 (NIV)

My youngest son got into a fight a few weeks ago because someone called his best friend's fiance a couple of names not worth repeating. They were celebrating her 21st birthday, alcohol was involved and instead of ignoring the person who was doing the name calling, knowing he was just trying to start a fight, the best friend insisted on an apology. More words went back and forth and then fists started flying. My son jumped in because he felt it wasn't a fair fight and ended up with two broken ribs. A few days later, after a trip to the ER because he was in a lot of pain, he and I had a conversation. Basically, my position was that the name calling, the words, weren't worth starting a fight over. I fell back on that old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.". And I believe, in this case, that saying to be correct.

However, that's not always true. Words CAN hurt. Maybe not physically, but certainly emotionally. And, sometimes, that can be worse than physical abuse. Physically, the bruises will go away and the broken bones will heal. Emotionally, those wounds can stay open and bleeding the rest of our lives.

I was never physically abused when I was a kid. Oh sure, I got spanked when I got out of line, but I don't consider that abuse because it wasn't overboard. But, there was emotional abuse. I don't believe my parents did it on purpose. I just don't think they realized the power of their words. I remember being called a moron when the house wasn't cleaned just so or something wasn't done to their expectations. I was a chubby kid so I had several "fat" nicknames that were used instead of my given name. There are a lot of times when I don't remember what was said but I certainly remember how it was said - loudly, sarcastically, angrily. Fortunately, as an adult, God enabled me to let it go, to forgive and move on. I had enough other people in my life that encouraged me and lifted me up and made me feel loved.

Which brings me to my next point: words can also heal. There are so many people that are scared, hurting, discouraged, tired. One word of kindness, of encouragement, may be all they need to keep on going, to take the next step, to find the strength to move forward, to renew their hope. It may be all they need to turn their life around. Think of how you feel when someone encourages you, lifts you up, makes you laugh when you least feel like laughing. It can make all the difference in the world, can't it?

That is what God is telling us here in Proverbs. Watch what we say and how we say it. I'll be the first to admit my words, and how I say them, aren't always kind, encouraging, wise or uplifting, especially when I'm angry or irritated. God is working in me about that. James 1:19 is one of my memory verses and reminds me that I "should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." In other words, think before I speak. If I claim to be a child of God, which I do, then He intends for me to lift others up, not tear them down. No matter how I'm feeling at the time!! When I remember that words CAN hurt, when I'm careful of what I say, when I follow God's Word and speak with kindness, wisdom and truth, not only may I be lifting someone up but I am also showing them Christ and His love for them. And that's the best emotional healing there is!!

"A good word costs as little as a bad one, and is worth more." - Benjamin Whichcote

Dear God, make me aware of my words, not only what I say but also how I say them. I want to be a source of encouragement to others, Lord, not the source that tears them down. Help me to remember that, as a Christian, my words are to be a reflection of Your love and bring honor to You. I pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Resisting Distractions

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." - James 3:17 (NIV)

Yesterday, God lead me to Proverbs 3:7 which instructed me not to consider myself wise in my own eyes when it comes to choices I have to make. The verse He lead me to today shows me why I should use God's wisdom instead of my own.

Just because I'm saved and am seeking to have a closer relationship with God does not exempt me from having problems in my life. Quite the contrary. I find that as I spend more time in contact with God, whether through prayer, Bible study or in service to Him, Satan and the world work even harder to fill my life with distractions. It's up to me to decide whether to allow my attention to focus on them or to resist them. Do I use my wisdom or God's wisdom to handle these situations? If I relied on my own wisdom - well, the distractions would take up all of my time. I would constantly be worrying, trying to figure out how to "fix" things, wondering why my life was such a mess, feeling sorry for myself, angry at everyone and everything because I can't come up with a solution. How do I know this? Because that's exactly what happens when I say "yes" to my own wisdom and "no" to God's! Satan is happy when I'm unhappy and relying on myself. I picture him dancing a devilish little jig whenever I choose to handle things on my own; an evil smile on his face, legs pumping up and down, arms in the air, horns bobbing up and down - just having a good ole time!! Is that what I want? NO WAY! I would love to have a picture of Satan doing his jig to hang on my desk so that every time I feel the need to make a choice without consulting God first, it would remind me that I don't want to give Satan a reason to do his ugly dance!!

When I look at this verse from James, I think to myself, "Why wouldn't I want the "wisdom that comes from heaven" over my own?" It's so much better. It leads to peace, it's gentle and impartial, it's full of mercy, it's without hypocrisy, it produces good fruit and best of all, it's pure. Yet, when presented with the choice of relying on myself or relying on God, there are still many times I make the wrong choice. But God, in His infinite wisdom, doesn't reject me or turn His back on me. When I've finally had enough of my own wisdom and make the choice to lean on His wisdom, He receives me with open arms and takes over. I'm able to resist the distractions that are placed in my way daily and focus my eyes back to where they need to be...on God and His plan for my life.

"Peace comes in situations completely surrendered to the sovereign authority of Christ." - Beth Moore

Dear Lord, fill me with Your wisdom today and lead me away from my own. Teach me to say "no" to the distractions that Satan puts in my path. I surrender my life over to Your control and ask for Your peace to live within me. Make Your choices my choices today. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Benefits & Consequences

"Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil." - Proverbs 3:7 (NIV)

I've made decisions that have turned out really well - marrying Dennis, for one! I've also made decisions that have turned out not so well - such as spending money instead of saving it. But, until I took several leadership/personal growth seminars, I never thought of every decision I make as having both benefits and consequences. If I choose to sleep longer in the morning, the benefit is I feel more rested but the consequence is that I have to rush to get everything done that day. If I choose to eat out instead of cooking at home, the benefit is that I don't have dishes to wash and a kitchen to clean but the consequence is that I spent money that could have gone into savings or towards paying bills and getting out of debt. I have the same benefits and consequences when choosing whether or not to include God in my life and in my decisions. The benefits are amazing: inner peace, joy, abundance, courage, strength, wisdom...just to name a few. The consequences are overwhelming: anxiety, fear, anger, suffering, chaos...the list can go on.

So, you would think my choice would be easy, right? Why wouldn't I choose to lean on God and his wisdom when the benefits are so wonderful and the consequences so disastrous? Because I allow Satan to fool me into believing what this verse tells me not to be: wise in my own eyes. What a joke!! My wisdom is so limited. I could read every book, I could take every class in college, I could travel, I could spend time learning from the smartest people on this planet and my wisdom would still be so far short of God's as to be laughable. He knows all, He sees all. I can't say the same.

As soon as I open my eyes in the morning, the first choice I make is whether or not to live the day according to God's commandments. Am I going to start my day in prayer and Bible study? The benefits - calm, peace and joy. The consequences - anxiety, anger and restlessness. I make so many decisions during the day - big and small - and God wants to be a part of every one of them. I know that when I seek His wisdom for my choices, I will make the correct decision, every time. When I rely on my own wisdom - well, let's just say it's not always pretty and leave it at that!

Are you seeking God's wisdom in your life? Or are you relying on your own? What are the benefits and consequences you are experiencing because of the decisions you make? God is available 24/7 for us to turn to and lean on for guidance. He will never steer us wrong. That's one benefit I look forward to!!

"God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him." - Anonymous

Dear Heavenly Father, Your wisdom is limitless while mine is so limited. Help me to choose wisely today. May I bask in the benefits of Your guidance and not in the consequences of my foolishness. Lead me today, and every day, in the footsteps of Your Son. It's in His name I pray, Amen.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Celebrate Today!

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" - Philippians 4:4 (NIV)

I love to celebrate! Birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, graduations, weddings, holidays!! The balloons, the presents, the food, the laughter, the smiles!!! Good times! Good fun!

Do you know that we're supposed to celebrate every day? Really!! That's what this verse tells us to do: "Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS." Notice it didn't say only when there's no trouble in our life, or when we're not in pain, or when we feel like it. It says ALWAYS! If we waited to celebrate on the days when everything is perfect...we'd never celebrate or be happy. There is never a perfect day in this world. But God is perfect; His Son is perfect. He gives us plenty of reasons to celebrate every single day if we just open our eyes: a beautiful sunrise or sunset, a child's laughter, a phone call or email from a friend, a smile from a stranger, a hug, a great sale at the mall, an encouraging many things. Even in sorrow and grieving we can find reasons to celebrate. I've noticed more and more that those left behind after a loved one dies want to celebrate the life of the one who is gone, not mourn their death. What a way to remember that loved one!!

It's the small things that we should celebrate every day. The little moments that God gives us. Every moment we're alive is a gift from God. And the greatest gift He has given to us is His Son. If you need something big to celebrate today, well, I'd say that should fit the bill! Jesus deserves to be celebrated every day! He deserves our praise and our gratitude. He is bigger than our troubles; He is bigger than our pain; He is bigger than our sorrow; He is bigger than our fears. Praise God for that!!

Today is a gift to you from our Heavenly Father. Celebrate it!! And, as you do, share that joy with others around you. Put a smile on your face, be kind and encouraging, be generous with your praise. Let them see the joy and peace that knowing Jesus brings to you. Who knows the difference you may make in someone else's life just by celebrating your own!!

"The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate." - Oprah Winfrey

Amazing God, I celebrate my life today. I celebrate Your Son and the gift of salvation He made available to me. Open my eyes to the wonders you surround me with each day. May I share the celebration of Your gifts with others through kindness, encouragement and praise. All honor and glory belong to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Words vs. Actions

"But just as He who called you is Holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, 'Be holy, because I am Holy'." - 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV)

We've all heard that old saying, "Actions speak louder than words". When you think about what they mean, nothing could be more true. We can say one thing but by our actions show our true self. We can apologize for something but, if we turn around and do the same thing again, we weren't really sorry.  We can promise to do something for someone but, if that something never gets done, it shows what our true intentions are. The same goes for how we live our lives as Christians.

When I proclaim to others that I am a Christian, that I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and have been saved by God's grace, then my actions better match my words. That is one of the responsibilities that God requires of me. I know so many people who say, "Christians are hypocrites. They tell you how you should live but they're out there doing the same thing as everyone else.". The truth is, they're right. It's easy to be holy when we're in church, at a church function or around other Christians. But, the minute we're out in the world, we act like the rest of the world does, while condemning the world for how it acts. That is hypocritical, no matter how you look at it. And then, we want to complain because life is so hard, God isn't blessing us, He isn't answering our prayers. Well, why should He?

Jesus is the example I want to base my actions on. I want to love like He does...He laid down His life for me. I want to see others as He sees them - not in judgement or criticism but as souls that are lost. I want to trust as He does - completely and totally in God our Father. I want my actions to prove my beliefs. I know I'm human, I'm a sinner. I know I'm going to do things that don't honor God, however, I would pray that I don't do them intentionally. I want to behave myself as a Godly woman and be a powerful example of Jesus' love and God's grace. I intend to be more watchful of what I do, where I go, how I act and what I say. I intend that my actions be consistent with my beliefs and reflect God's truth and love. I know by doing so that I will be pleasing God and He will bless me in ways I cannot fully understand. How do I know that? Well, God's Word tells me so and His actions always speak louder than His Word!!

"You can't compromise and conquer sin at the same time." - Anonymous

Dear Lord, I believe in You. I proclaim You as my Lord and Savior. I pray that I bring honor to You, not in just what I say, but also in how I act. May others be drawn to You through my words and actions.  May I never compromise my beliefs just to fit in. Lead me to base my actions on the example Jesus' set for me and reflect Your truth and love. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

He Is The Lord, My God

"When you pass through waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." - Isaiah 43:2-3a (NIV)

Comforting words in these verses!! God loves me and always knows my needs. He knew I woke up this morning with Satan filling me with anxieties and fears. And He knew the exact passage to give me this morning to calm those anxieties and fears and set Satan running away. I had never heard of or read these verses in Isaiah before. Thank you, Lord, for seeing my need and answering it through Your Word!!

God is near us at all times. He walks with us through all adversity. You may be going through some type of trouble today. Give it to God. He's waiting. Allow Him to comfort you. Psalm 32:7 reminds us that He is our "hiding place", He will "protect" us "from trouble" and "surround" us "with songs of deliverance". And in Psalm 147:3, He gives us these comforting words: "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.".

In my journaling this morning, I listed all the things He is to me that helps me get through my times of adversity. He is my Protector, my Healer, my Deliverance, my Strength, my Comfort, my Rock, my Hiding Place, my Foundation, my Light, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Lord, my God. All these things and so much more! When I remember how much He loves me and all that He is to me and all that He has done for me and let Him take over in my life, nothing is as bad as it seems. When I call on Him, He is there. In His time (not mine) and according to His plan (again, not mine), He will deliver me from my troubles. Until then, He will give me His strength to face them. He has promised me this and I am standing on His promises!!

I pray you will remember that God loves you deeply. Ask Him to take on your troubles, your cares, your pain, your anxiety, your fears...whatever is bothering you today...and to fill you instead with His peace, His hope, His joy and His comfort. Ask Him to give you the strength to endure. It will be the best thing you do for yourself all day. Guaranteed!!

"You and I need to learn to interpret our circumstances by His love, not interpret His love by our circumstances!" - Anne Graham Lotz

My Lord and my God, thank You for loving me and for leading me exactly where I need to go to find protection from adversity - Your Word! I pray today and ask You to take my fears and anxieties and cast them away from me. In their place, may I be filled with Your peace, hope and joy as I wait on Your plan for my life. You are my strength and deliverer and I praise and worship You as my Lord and my God. May all I do today bring honor and glory to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.