Saturday, October 1, 2011

No Grumpy Christians Allowed!!

"Finally, brothers, good-bye. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you." - 2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)

"Be joyful always" (1 Thessalonians 5:16 NIV). "Be joyful in hope" (Romans 12:12 NIV). "Rejoice and be glad" (Matthew 5:12 NIV). "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4 NIV). Again, and again, and again God tells me to be joyful, cheerful, rejoicing. He tells me to give thanks no matter what is going on in my life (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV, Colossian 3:15 NIV, Psalm 100:4 NIV). Really?! No matter what is happening, I'm supposed to be joyful?! That's what Paul is saying when he wrote this to the church at Corinth. And it still applies today.

What Paul isn't saying is that I should always walk around with a great big, cheesy smile on my face. There are going to be times and circumstances that are going to rock my world. I am going to cry, grieve, be angry. As a believer, however, the joy of the Lord should still be inside me at all times. In Him I can find hope. By aiming for perfection, which is only found in Jesus, and knowing that God is with me no matter what my circumstances are, I can still find joy, the silver lining, in all things. I can be at peace with death, money troubles, heartache, pain, illness....with God's help. Psalm 31:24 NIV says this: "Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord." He will see me through anything I have to face.

When I think of a grumpy Christian, I think of the comic strip 'Maxine". The sour face, sarcastic comments, her "woe is me...nothing ever goes right in my life" attitude. How absurd and sad is it to live like that? It's definitely not the way God desires me to live. And it's surely not the way to be a testimony for Him. I don't know about you, but when I come across a grumpy person, I want to turn tail and run in the other direction, as far away as possible. Being around someone like that can ruin a perfectly good day. They tend to bring you down to their level and you leave their presence feeling drained and exhausted. At least I do. I don't want people to leave my presence feeling that way. I want them to know that I trust my God to take care of me. I want them to see me facing my life with the courage and peace that can only come from faith in my amazing Savior.

I'm taking a good, long, hard look at myself today. Am I a grumpy Christian? Do I complain and whine about my life and troubles? Do I allow circumstances to rob me of the Lord's joy? Do I walk around with a "woe is me" attitude? Do I always think, "Why me, Lord?" when something unforeseen happens? Do I think there is anything in this world too big for God to handle? If I can answer any of these questions with a "yes", then there's some changing that needs to be done in my heart, my thoughts and my attitude. Because the Bible tells me, though the wording is a little different - No Grumpy Christians Allowed!!

"We may run, walk, stumble, drive, or fly, but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey, or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way." - Gloria Gaither

Amazing Lord, may I never be a grumpy, whiny Christian. Open my eyes and heart to the joy and peace that You bring into my life. May circumstances not rob me of my trust and faith in You. Fill me with Your courage and strength each day, to enjoy the good and face the bad that I encounter, knowing You are in charge and there is nothing You can't handle for me. Teach me what is means to be "joyful in hope". In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Reordering My Priorities

"Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." - Romans 12:11-12 (NIV)

Life gets out of hand sometimes. There are days when there are just not enough hours to get everything done that needs to be done. Or, to rephrase that, what I think needs to be done. Usually, those are the days that I'm exhausted by early afternoon and I've lost my desire to get anything else done that day. I've lost the zeal that Paul is talking about in this verse.

I think God is trying to tell me something today. I get the Proverbs 31 Ministries daily devotion in my email each morning. Today's devotion was titled, "Why Am I In Such A Hurry?". It was about slowing down and letting God take care of the details. About allowing Him to plan my day. The author, Lynn Cowell, gave this suggestion: take a piece of paper and make three columns. Label the first column "Things No One Else Can Do"; the second column, "Things I Do, But Could Delegate"; and the third column, "Things I Choose To Do". Then place the things that fill my life into the appropriate column and use this paper as my prayer list, asking God which of these things He wants me to keep on the list, which ones He wants me to delegate to others and which ones He wants me to give up completely. I think I'm going to follow this suggestion, especially because the holidays are coming up and then, right after that, tax season. And I can get very, very busy during these months and still feel like nothing gets done. Funny thing happens, though, when I give my day to God first thing in the morning: the important stuff gets taken care of! My day gets prioritized properly. I can get my blog posted, clean the house, do some work for my clients, meet with friends, get groceries shopped for, make dinner and even deal with anything unexpected happening. The non-important stuff tends to fall to the wayside and I don't miss it!! Amazing!!

Today was one of those days that I didn't turn over to God and I can tell. Oh, I prayed as soon as I woke up this morning. But I had overslept and it was one of those prayers that didn't cover all the bases it should have for the day. So, here I am at 9:20 PM, writing my blog. Not that it wasn't a good day - I met a wonderful friend, her daughter and granddaughter for coffee, spent some time with my youngest son, started taxes for a new client, had dinner with my husband, stopped by my mom's to write a letter to an insurance company for her - but I feel as if I left God out of my priorities today. There were other things that I really needed to get done today, things that would have gone in the "Things No One Else Can Do" column if I had one. And they were left undone. Had I prioritized my day with God at the helm, I truly believe those things would have gotten done.

Will I forget or neglect to reorder my priorities around God in the future? You can count on it. But, because my God is so awesome, He'll give me another chance, and another, and another. He'll keep reminding me, through verses such as the one above, to get back on track, find the enthusiasm and fervor and give my days to Him and the priorities He sets for my life.

“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.” Ezra Taft Benson
Dear Lord, help me to reorder my priorities each day to be in line with Your will for me. I don't ever want to be too busy for you. Show me what is important each day and teach me to let the unimportant stuff go. May my zeal and spiritual fervor for You never be lacking. I want to be joyful and full of hope, patient during times of trouble and continually in contact with You during the day. May You always be first in my priorities. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

His Hand Over My Mouth

"He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin." - Proverbs 13:3 (NIV)

There are times when I regret what comes out of my mouth. Sometimes immediately, sometimes later when I actually think about what I said. Hard as I try, I don't always think before I speak. Speaking without thinking is cute in small children; it comes with the territory of being a child. Their "filters" aren't in place yet. It's not cute in an older child, teenager or adult. Then it can be hurtful and cause a lot of harm, not just to the person it was said to but also to the person who said it. Case in point: when I was in Junior High, a friend (?) of mine dared me to call another girl a bad name on the bus. Out loud. At the top of my voice. So....I took that dare! (I don't know why; brains don't function in Junior High...just ask any person who teaches that age group!!) I didn't know whether or not it was true. What I do know is that it was hurtful to her. And, because she beat me up after we got off the bus, it was very painful for me!! (I admit...I deserved it!). I did learn my lesson, though, and never did that again. But, I shouldn't have said it to begin with. I regret it to this day, and not just because I got beat up!

God wants us to filter our words through Him. He expects us to think before we speak. James 1:19 (NIV) says, "My dear brothers, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." Good advice. I know when I'm angry, I don't stop to think of the impact my words have. I just want to get them out and make my point. I don't care if they cause pain, at least not at that point in time. If they tear down the person I'm mad at, so be it. But that's not what God intends. In Ephesians 4:9 (NIV), He tells me this: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." So, even when I'm angry, God expects me to stop and think about what I'm going to say before I say it. Are the words I want to say going to be encouraging or are they going to be hurtful? Can I say what I want to say in a way that is kind and not hateful? Do I need to keep this to myself? I've seen plaques that say: Lord, keep Your arm around my shoulder and Your hand over my mouth. I need to ask the Lord to do this for me on a daily basis!!

I attempt to speak to others the way I want to be spoken to. I want to be kind and encouraging. My words can have a powerful impact on others, just as their words can have a powerful impact on me. It's all in what I say and how I say it. I'm asking God to put His hand over my mouth whenever I feel the need to say something that isn't pleasing to Him. Then I can be a reflection of the love He has for all of us.

“If someone were to pay you 10 cents for every kind word you ever spoke and collect from you 5 cents for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?” - Unknown source

Dear Lord, please guard my tongue today. Make my words pleasing to You. I want to honor You today, Lord, by carefully and lovingly choosing the words I speak. Please place Your loving hand over my mouth when I feel the need to say something hurtful or unkind. Let me be a source of encouragement to every man, woman and child I come into contact with. May I think before I speak and not speak in anger. I ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Healthy Respect

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." - James 1:17 (NIV)

God has gifted each and every one of us with different talents, each uniquely our own. When I say uniquely, I mean that although you and I may have the same type of talent, we don't use it the same way. I realized recently that one of the gifts God has given to me is being able to write. However, my writing style is different from someone else who has been given the same gift. They may choose to write a book, become a journalist or, like me, start a blog. They may choose to ignore their talent and not use it at all. If that is their choice, then I don't believe they're showing a healthy respect for the gifts God has bestowed on them.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Aretha Franklin sang about it. One of the lines in the song says, "Find out what it means to me." That's what each of us needs to do. What does respect mean to me? The defintion of respect is admiration, high opinion, value, reverence, regard. The opposite of respect is disrespect, disregard and contempt. Do I value the gifts and talents God has bestowed on me? I know there are plenty of times when I don't respect my talents. As a matter of fact, I sell myself short quite often. I don't step into leadership, even though it's one of the gifts God has given to me, because I don't want to be seen as overbearing or bossy. I hesitated on starting this blog because I didn't want to be seen as "blowing my own horn". I don't want to be thought of as prideful. Yet, when I don't step into the opportunities my talents provide, I am regretful. I think to myself, "What if?" and "Why didn't I?" And, I now realize, I am disrespecting and showing contempt for God's gifts and cheating myself. Pearl Bailey once observed, "The first and worst of all frauds is to cheat one's self. All sin is easy after that." The first step to a healthy respect of my talents is to have self-respect. "Self-respect is not about what we do, but who we are. It's about loving ourselves for ourselves - just because we are." ( If I don't respect myself, how can I respect my talents?! The second step is to have self-confidence. That doesn't mean having a big head, being proud of myself and boasting about my greatness to others. God forbid!! It means not being afraid to step into an opportunity that can use my talents, and then using that opportunity to bring honor and glory to God. That's the reason He gave me these gifts!!

No one can force us to use our talents, to seize opportunities, to respect ourselves, to have self-confidence, to step into our gifts. That choice is completely left up to us. If we choose to have a healthy respect for our talents and use them to honor our Father, we live up to our potential. We live a fulfilled life. If we don't have a healthy respect for ourselves, who will?

"Don't rely on someone else for your happiness and self-worth. Only you can be responsible for that. If you can't love and respect yourself - no one else will be able to make that happen. Accept who you are - completely; the good and the bad - and make changes as YOU see fit - not because someone else wants you to be different." - Stacey Charter

Dear Heavenly Father, You have bestowed talents and gifts on me to be used for Your honor and glory. May I have the self-respect, self-confidence, courage and perseverance to use these talents. Remind me at all times that my talents are gifts from You and are not of my own doing. Let me be humble, obedient and faithful to You in all things and give You all the praise. I pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Cornerstone of My Life

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." - Matthew 16:24-25 (NIV)

There's a lot going on in these two verses. If I want to serve Jesus, I have to deny myself - my wants, my needs, my desires - and follow Him. He has to become the cornerstone of my life. I have to lose my life to find life. What in the world does that mean?

Hannah Whitall Smith observed, "The crucial question for each of us is this: What do you think of Jesus, and do you yet have a personal acquaintance with Him?" Let's break this down into two parts - the first part is what we think of Jesus. Some of us may think of Him as a Great Man, someone who was smart and revered in His time. Some of us may think of Him as the Son of God, beloved, sinless, perfect. Some of us may think of Him as a Friend, someone we can turn to in times of trouble. Some of us may think of Him as our Savior, coming to earth and dying for our sins. Some of us may think of Him as our Lord, the ruler of our lives. When I think of Jesus, I think of Him as all of these.  The second part of the question - do you yet have a personal acquaintance with Him - is, to me, the most important part. Most people with tell you they believe in God - the devil believes in God (!) - but hesitate when it comes to believing in Jesus. To me, having a personal acquaintance with Jesus means having come to the knowledge that I am a sinner and am on my way to Hell. It doesn't matter if I'm a good person or do good works. It doesn't matter if I was baptized. It doesn't matter if I've confessed my sins to another human being. It doesn't matter if I've never stolen from anyone, murdered, committed adultery, abused a child or any number of things that the world judges as bad. I am heading to an eternity in Hell. Romans 3:23 (NIV) tells us, "For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." I admit, I'm a sinner. BUT, because of Jesus' love for me, I am a sinner saved by His grace. I am no longer heading to an eternity of suffering but an eternity spent in the Presence of Jesus. How do I know this? Romans 10:9-10 (NIV) says this: "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." So, my answer to the crucial question is this: I think of Jesus as God's Beloved Son, born of a virgin, sent to suffer, die and rise again so that I might be saved from the wrath of Hell. Yes, I have a personal acquaintance with Him because I have accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. I have confessed my sins to Him and He is living in my heart. I have been saved from Hell and Heaven is the prize that awaits me. But it doesn't end there.

Getting back to this passage in Matthew, now that I've accepted Jesus into my heart, there's work to be done. Jesus wants to be first in my life. He wants me to serve Him. As I said earlier, He wants me to deny myself first, then take up my cross - my troubles - and follow Him. Obedience to His Word, submission to His will, losing my life by placing my wants, desires and needs last, leads to finding life in Him - being filled with His love and compassion for other sinners, doing what He asks, going where He leads. I desire that others see He is not just some passing fancy for me, but is the foundation on which I stand and on which I live my life. Not an easy thing to do and I fail at it more often than not. However, when I fall, Jesus is right there to pick me back up, dust me off and point me in the right direction. The cornerstone of my life.

"The first step in a person's salvation is knowledge of their sin." - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You, Lord, for the gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ. It is because of Your great love for all sinners that He came to be a Living Sacrifice for our sins. I thank You for my salvation and I ask that You fill me with the desire to share Your gift, Jesus, with everyone I meet. May He become the cornerstone of other's lives because of His light shining through my words and actions. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Walking in Intregity

"The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out." - Proverbs 10:9 (NIV)

What exactly does it mean to have integrity? According to the dictionary, it's: an adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. Okay, I understand that. Then I have to ask myself: do I walk in integrity? Is my moral character sound? Am I always honest? The truth I'd like to think otherwise, but I know the truth.

We've all heard the phrase, "Honesty is the best policy." It may be the best policy but it can also be difficult and painful. That's why we find it so easy to lie, to be dishonest. It's easier, causes less pain. It removes responsibility for our actions. We lie to ourselves and others and think we can lie to God. But, as this verse points out, we "will be found out." We lie to ourselves about any number of things - having that donut won't make any difference; no one will know if I cheat on my homework; I've earned my paycheck and can spend it anyway I want - and think we've gotten away with it....until we step on a scale and we've gained a few pounds or we fail the test that was based on the homework we cheated on or we don't have any money left to pay our bills. Uh oh....found out. We lie to others - pretend to like them when we don't; pretend to care about their problems; make promises we don't intend to keep - then we're found out because we told someone else our true feelings about a mutual friend and they couldn't wait to gossip or we turned our backs when we could have helped or the promise made was never fulfilled. We lie to God....or attempt to. God is All-Knowing, All-Seeing. He knows everyone of our lies. From little white ones to great big fat ones. They're all the same to Him....wrong. The 9th commandment says, "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16 NIV) In other words: Do not lie! Be honest!

You may be thinking, people lie all the time and get away with it. They're never found out. Maybe in this life. But on Judgement Day, ALL lies will come to light. God will judge each and every one of us and the things we thought were hidden will be made known to all. None of us will be immune, none of us will come out unscathed. However, for those of us who claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior, there is a silver lining, a promise from God. If we repent and ask for forgiveness, He will forgive us our lies and He will FORGET them!! One caveat - we have to be truly sorry and make every effort to be honest. We can't just say, "God, forgive me for (fill in the blank)" and then go right out and do it again. That's not being truly sorry and God knows it. He knows our hearts. He knows our moral character.

I admit that I don't often enough walk in integrity. However, I can, with God's help, walk in it more often. On my own, it's easy to walk the crooked path. But I don't want to walk that path. No matter how hard and painful it may be, walking in integrity brings the greatest rewards. I pray God will remind me of that daily.

"I'll tell you a big secret, my friend: Don't wait for the Last Judgment. It happens every day." - Albert Camus, The Fall, 1956
Dear Heavenly Father, lead me to walk in integrity today. When I am tempted to bend the truth or break it, remind me of Your commandments. May I live according to Your will and take responsibility for my words and actions when I don't. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.