Saturday, October 8, 2011

I Want It Now!

"Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." - Romans 12:11 (NIV)

This is the second time in a week that the Lord has given me this verse in my devotional, but for a different reason. Last time was to remind me to reorder my priorities, making sure God was first in my life. This time it's to make sure that I understand that there are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going to or to anything worth doing. That's what I love about the Bible. It truly is God's Living Word. The same verse can have so many meanings and can lead me in so many different directions. Just depends on what I'm needing at the time.

We live in a world that wants everything NOW! No one wants to wait. Our cars are made to go faster and faster, we microwave our food to make it cook quickly, we try to fast track our way to a better job, we get grumpy if we have to wait in line for anything, get rich quick schemes abound. NOW...NOW...NOW!! Yet, the best things in life...a happy marriage, strong faith, a healthy body, well-behaved children, a great job...all take time and work. There is no shortcut to any of these things. Hunter S. Thompson said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right." When there is something we really, truly want to do or attain, we'll work hard and long at getting it done. We don't lose our excitement and enthusiasm for it. We think about it all the time. We wonder what comes next, what's the next step we need to take. We do what this verse says without even realizing it!

There's a catchphrase that gets repeated in our family every now and then. "I want to eat, and I want to eat NOW!" I started that phrase but not intentionally. We were going out to eat dinner with our best friends on a Friday night. Living in a big city, there are always long wait times at restaurants on Friday and Saturday nights. At the time, I was working several different jobs - medical billing, bookkeeping, taxes - and I didn't take the time to eat properly. That day wasn't an exception. I had barely eaten anything all day. Didn't have or take the time. So, needless to say, I was starving. For some reason, I can't remember why, we were in separate vehicles. We had gone to three or four different restaurants only to be told there were waits of anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. We finally pulled into an empty parking lot and were talking about where we should go. By this time I was very, very hungry and crabby and my response was that I didn't care where we went as long as we didn't have to wait because....and then the catchphrase. I tell you this story to point out that, because of the choices I had made earlier in the day, I now wanted a shortcut. I had lost my excitement about spending time with friends. I hadn't put in the work needed earlier in the day (taking the time to eat) to enjoy the evening. 

I catch myself doing that with God's plan for my life. I want to know my full purpose. I want God to reveal to me where this path I'm walking is going to lead me. I don't want to wait. I get tired and I want to quit. I want a shortcut. I want it NOW! But He wants me to put time and effort into Him! Into serving Him, loving Him, learning more about Him. And then sharing Him with others. We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7 NIV) and sowing takes hard work. No shortcuts!! When we reap, though, we get to see the richness and abundance of God's blessings. I can wait for that!

"You can't climb the ladder of life with your hands in your pockets." - Barbara Johnson

Awesome God, keep me excited for You and the work You have set before me. Help me to sow Your seeds everywhere I go. Let me be diligent in my work for You and patiently wait to reap the rewards You have for me. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Discovering My Spiritual Gifts

"Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts." - 1 Corinthians 14:1a (NIV)

I've always had a hard time figuring out what I'm gifted at. I know what I can do and like to do, but I never thought of those things as gifts from God. I always felt like I was bragging if I said I was good at something. But, God wants us to desire spiritual gifts. He wants us to know what those gifts are so we can use them to serve Him and grow closer to Him.

As I've mentioned in past blogs, my church is using a system by Monvee ( to help us become better disciples and show us our strengths and our weaknesses, how we learn best and what we do that makes us feel closer to God. I learn best by reading and writing, and worship - music, Bible study and sermons - make me feel closer to God. My strengths are leadership, being practical and detail-oriented, logical, dependable and structured. My weaknesses are anger, frustration, judging, displeasure, perfectionism and being right. But, underneath all of that are other spiritual gifts. I have the gifts of faith, mercy, giving, helping, service, hospitality and administration. Are you asking yourself, "And just how does she know that?" I'll tell you how.

A few months ago, I attended a meeting at church looking to see if there were other areas in the church I could serve. We were given a questionnaire to fill out about what our passions, talents, skills and spiritual gifts are. I really, really dislike these type of questionnaires because I have to truly think about my answers and take a good hard look at myself. Everyone else seemed to know these things about themselves since they were writing away. Or so I thought. Once we were finished with the questionnaires and discussion began, I realized I wasn't the only one who had trouble with these four things. So we were given some website assessments to take. I want to share those websites with you.

The first one is free and it helps to identify your spiritual gifts. The website is The assessment takes between 20-45 minutes to finish. I liked this assessment because it gives your score as soon as you finish the assessment and it gives you the definition of your gifts. I'm probably going to take it again because things have changed in my life and some of the answers I gave don't apply anymore. The other assessment helps to identify your talents. The website is There is a $27 fee to take this assessment but you can do a free preview to see what the assessment looks like and what it can do before you have to decide to buy. I haven't take this one yet but it looks like something I will do in the future.

Knowing our gifts, passions and talents can help us to decide where we can serve God best. The first step to that, though, is obeying Him. He gave us our talents in the expectation that we would use them to honor Him in our lives. If we are truly intent on serving God, furthering the mission He gave us to share Jesus with others, and not becoming "stagnant" Christians, we should know the gifts He has given us. Discovering my spiritual gifts was eye-opening and revealed that I am serving exactly where I'm supposed to be right now. Not to say that there won't be somewhere else God wants me to serve or something else He wants me to be doing, but, for now, I know I'm right where He expects me to be.

"If you want to discover your spiritual gifts, start obeying God. As you serve Him, you will find that He has given you gifts that are necessary to follow through in obedience." - Anne Graham Lotz

Heavenly Father, I want to thank You for the gifts and talents You've bestowed on me. I haven't always used them to please You but I want to do so now. Help me to step into my gifts with a willing heart, humbly and obedient to You. May all honor and glory be Yours as I use these gifts. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Own Worst Critic?

"But godliness with contentment is great gain." - 1 Timothy 6:6 (NIV)

What do I see when I look into the mirror? I see wrinkles that weren't there yesterday, pimples I didn't have as a teenager, hair thinning on top and growing in places it doesn't belong, double chins, flabby arms, fatty stomach and thighs...lots of flaws. What does God see when He looks at me? Someone He created in His own image (Genesis 1:27), beautiful, flawless. Someone who He loves so much He sacrificed His Son for (John 3:16).

I am my own worst critic as I believe most of us are. I also think women are more self-critical than men are. According to the TV and magazines, we're all supposed to be thin, with long, luxurious, thick, shiny hair, straight, brilliantly white teeth, a smooth, blemish-free complexion and perky breasts (YES, I said breasts!!). I'm not thin but my hair is getting there. My teeth are straight but they're not brilliantly white. My complexion is smooth and somewhat blemish-free as long as I have make-up on. And my breasts haven't been perky since......well, I don't think they've ever been! But, you know what? GOD LOVES ME! JESUS LOVES ME! Just the way I am. GOD LOVES YOU! JESUS LOVES YOU! Just the way you are. Hard to believe, isn't it. I am so full of flaws and faults. Yet, God loves me - faults, flaws, blemishes, scars, sins and all. He sees me as I am, forgives me, loves me, accepts me. He expects me to do the same for myself.

The Bible tells me in several places to love others as I love myself (Matthew 22:39 NIV; John 13:34 NIV; 1 Peter 1:22 NIV...just to name a few). But, if I don't love myself, how can I love other people the way God instructs me to? Acceptance of the  looks and body God gave me, improving my self-image and increasing my self-esteem, are critical for me to move forward in my walk with Him. Accepting myself does not mean being conceited or thinking, "I'm all that!". Oh, no, no, no, no!! It's loving myself where I'm at, accepting the things about myself I cannot change and asking God to help me change the things He wants me to change. It's not being critical of what I see in the mirror. It's being content with what God has given me, as this verse in 1 Timothy tells me to be. When I am able to do that, I can love others where they're at. Gloria Gaither observed, "Being loved by Him whose opinion matters most gives us the security to risk loving, too -- even loving ourselves." The first step for me to stop being my own worst critic is to accept that my Lord loves me just as I am. It's time to stop complaining and criticizing myself, my looks and my weight. It's time to change my thinking, love myself and be content. In that, there is "great gain". Amen!!

"Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving." - Dale Carnegie

Dear Lord, keep me mindful that I am specially created by You, in Your image. Teach me to accept and forgive my shortcomings as You accept and forgive me. Remind me that You love me so much that You sent Your Son so that I could be saved and spend eternity in Heaven with You. Thank You for accepting me just as I am. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Two Truths, Two Roads, Two Things

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power." - 1 Corinthians 4:20 (NIV)

Over the past several weeks, the Holy Spirit has been speaking loudly and urgently to me about being a responsible believer. About not just knowing God's Word or hearing it, but living it. I've studied my Bible more in the last year than all my prior years put together and my eyes are opening to the fact that I'm a hypocrite! A big, fat, think she knows-it-all, judgemental, critical, hateful, spiteful, sinful HYPOCRITE!! Ouch!!!

First, I have to say "Thank You" to God for pointing this out and for the people and means He has used to open my eyes. The messages at church the last three weeks have been aimed directly at my heart. I spent most of last Sunday's service in tears. And there have been a couple of devotionals in my email that have hit home for me, as well.

Three Sunday's ago, the Senior Pastor taught a message out of Hebrews about wells...yes, wells. He said there are two truths about them: "If you don't dig deep enough, you won't hit water" and " If all you do is dig, you'll never enjoy the water". In other words, if I'm doing (service) without knowing (Bible Study), then I'm just scratching the surface - not hitting water. If I'm knowing without doing, then I'm showing off - not enjoying the water. Being a responsible believer is both knowing AND doing. The Pastor gave a quote by Tom Fuller: "To sum up, then - let the Law of God, planted in your heart, express itself through your attitudes, your actions, your service, your worship and your character. Hebrews in a nutshell."  

Two Sunday's ago, the Senior Pastor's son taught a message out of Matthew about the two roads to holiness (constant transformation). The first road, which is the road the Old Testament gives us, is distancing myself from anything or anyone unclean, unholy or disgusting. In other words, sacrifice over mercy. The second road, which is the road Jesus walked, is to have mercy and love toward anything or anyone unclean, unholy or disgusting. Mercy over sacrifice. Jesus wasn't afraid to touch people before He healed them. He wasn't afraid or embarrassed to hang out with the "tax collectors" and "sinners"...the "unclean" according to the Pharisees. Being a responsible believer is having love and mercy for ALL people - Christians, non-Christians, homeless, unemployed, unlovable, friends, enemies...everyone!

Then this past Sunday, the message was about being disciples of Christ. The Pastor spoke about the mission Jesus gave us. In Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV), Jesus tells us what that mission is: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.". I am called to surrender two things: my life and my influence. As a Christian, I am a POSSESSION of Christ's. My life is not my own. I am called to share my faith, to lever my influence, to share Jesus with those who don't know Him. Why? Because: THERE'S MORE TO LIFE THAN ME! THERE'S MORE TO LIFE THAN ME! THERE'S MORE TO LIFE THAN ME! The thing that brought me to tears was a video made by the comedian Penn Jillette, who is a professed atheist. Someone had the guts to present him with a New Testament Bible and he had this to say about it: "I don't respect people that don't proselytize (witness/attempt to convert someone). How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?" That last sentence went straight to and through my heart. It's bringing a lump to my throat as I write this! I haven't been professing my faith, surrendering my life and my influence to Jesus. Oh sure, most of my friends know I go to church, I serve in the nursery, go to small group, study the Bible. They know my "religion" but they don't know my testimony, they don't know my relationship with Jesus. I haven't shared the good news of Jesus with them. How much do I have to hate them? How much of a hypocrite am I? Being a responsible believer is sharing the love of Jesus and His sacrifice with those who don't know Him as their Savior.

I desire to weave my beliefs into my life. I don't want to be someone who knows what to do, can see the need for others to do it but can't or won't implement the changes in my own life. It's what I've done in the past and why I call myself a hypocrite. I am asking God to meld the two truths together in me, to send my feet down the second road and to teach me to give to Jesus the two things that I find it the hardest to surrender to Him. And, I'm asking for accountability from those of you who know me the best. May you see me knowing AND doing, showing mercy over sacrifice and speaking to others about Jesus and His death on the cross to give us salvation from our sins. Please...hold me accountable to become a responsible believer.

"Man, in the image of God, has a purpose - to be in relationship to God, who is there. Man forgets his purpose and thus he forgets who he is and what life means." - Francis Schaeffer

Heavenly Father, there's more to life than me. Remind me of that each and every day. Help me to not just speak and write about a righteous life but to live it. Let my actions be consistent with my beliefs. I need You to lead me, strengthen me and fill me with the desire to share the good news of Your Son. Teach me, O Lord, to be a responsible believer. I ask this in Jesus' precious name, Amen.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Youth is a State of Mind

"The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old." - Proverbs 20:29 (NIV)

I'll be 50 years old in November. 50!! I can't believe it!! I know some of you will be saying, "You're still a kid" while others will be saying, "Wow...that's old!". Honestly, I still feel like I'm in my 30's. I remember when I was a teenager....50 was OLD!! Huh....30 and 40 was old!! But, as I reached each milestone, it didn't seem so bad. Turning 30 didn't bother me and neither did turning 40. Coming up on 50, though, I'm doing a lot of praying. My life is over halfway finished (unless I live to be older than 100, which my maternal grandmother did so it's possible!). I'm no longer as young as I used to be, my waist is thicker, and, yes, my hair is turning gray (which I fight against every few weeks). I'm having a problem embracing this upcoming birthday.

Society glorifies youth. We are bombarded constantly with wrinkle cream and botox commercials. We look in the mirror and freak out over our laugh lines and eye creases. We color our hair (guilty!!). Americans spent over $10 billion (YES...BILLION!!) on cosmetic surgery and other procedures in 2010 (Jack Cafferty, CNN)...and that's during a recession! And that amount doesn't include gym memberships, weight loss purchases or the costs of going to the beauty salon or barbershop. We are a society obsessed with looking young and hanging onto our youth.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with wanting to be healthy, keeping ourselves fit and strong, and looking good. I am saying we (I) should embrace the stage of life we're (I'm) in. Here in Proverbs, having gray hair is "splendor"! There's a saying - "With age comes wisdom" - and Job 32:7 (NIV) says the following: "Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom." As we get older, we get wiser, or at least we should. In Titus 2:2 (NIV), Paul wrote and said that older men should be "temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled and sound in faith, in love and in endurance." And in the next verse, that older women are "to be reverent in the way they live" and "teach what is good." No where in these verses does it say we're supposed to look as good or feel as good as we did in our youth!! I'd rather be wiser, more self-controlled, respected and have greater faith in my Lord, than to have a smoother face, smaller waist, or less aches and pains. Still have to pray about the gray hair, though!!

It's time for me to embrace 50. Hosea Ballou observed, "Forty is the old age of youth, fifty is the youth of old age." I LOVE IT! I'm as young as I'm ever going to be again. I'm stronger in my faith than I've ever been at any other time of my life. I'm proud to be a Christian. I'm less fearful. I'm more grateful for my family and friends. I'm less judgemental and more accepting. I'm wiser for the mistakes I've made. I'm as young as I feel!! I think Barbara Johnson stated it well: "Youth is not a time of life but a state of mind. It boldly takes risks, seeks adventure, hopes for the best, and displays courage. You are as young as your faith is strong." I come!!!

"A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams." - John Barrymore

Dear Lord, thank You for the years You've given to me. Teach me to embrace this stage in my life. May I become stronger in my faith, closer in my walk with You. May I enjoy the benefits this age brings. Teach me to be more concerned with my spiritual, mental and physical health than with the outer shell. Remind me that beauty is only skin deep but a relationship with You goes much, much deeper and that is where my focus should be. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Roller Coaster of Negative Emotions

"See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright -- but the righteous will live by his faith." - Habakkuk 2:4 (NIV)

God tells me that I am to live by faith. Yet, the big question is this: do I live by my faith or by my feelings? I wish I could say I live more by faith than by feelings but I'd be lying. Don't get me wrong! It's okay to have feelings. I'm not supposed to be unfeeling or hard-hearted. But, when my emotions rule over my faith, there's a problem. When they separate me from the spiritual blessings God has for me, there's a problem. Especially when they are negative emotions.

What are negative emotions? Well, let's see, there's: anger, fear, anxiety, hatred, bitterness, pride, greed, jealousy, envy, guilt, shame, doubt, suspicion, rage, arrogance, annoyance. self-pity, loneliness, boredom, depression, dissatisfaction, inadequacy, violence, judgement, inferiority, hopelessness, uncontrolled desire, irritation, resentment, discouragement, rejection, disbelief, insecurity, cynicism.....just to name a few! Satan loves to sneak these emotions into our lives when we're least expecting them. We can be having a wonderful day, then...whoosh...right down into the pit of negative emotions we go. Maybe someone cut us off on the freeway...ANGER! Maybe someone said something and our feelings got hurt...SELF-PITY! Maybe we didn't get the job we worked so hard for...REJECTION! Maybe a friend got a brand new car while yours is falling apart...ENVY! Maybe we saw someone in the mall and couldn't believe they would go out in public dressed like that...JUDGEMENT! Maybe we compare our marriage to another couple's and find ours lacking...DISSATISFACTION! Whatever it is, it doesn't take much to get us on that roller coaster, does it? And the enemy, the devil, will do his best to keep us there.

God, on the other hand, gave me something that can keep me on an even keel, if I let it. Faith in Him!! God, our Heavenly Father, never has and never will change. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13 NIV). He is, always has been and always will be, there for me. He'll keep me off the roller coaster, which is fine by me! Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you just how much I don't like roller coasters. If I do get on one, it's with my eyes closed, hanging on as tight as I can, face screwed up and screaming at the top of my lungs the whole way!! NOT a pretty picture, though a lot of people do get a laugh from it. Satan gets a BIG belly laugh when I get on that roller coaster of negative emotions. Do I really want to give him that satisfaction? NO WAY!

 I prefer the positive emotions that God brings to me: abundance, hope, joy, peace, acceptance, confidence, courage, humbleness, inspiration, kindness, love, patience, satisfaction, worth, wisdom, tranquility, honor, forgiveness, enthusiasm, excitement, compassion, empathy, balance....too many to name. All of these are waiting for me, just by choosing to get off the roller coaster of negative emotions and live by faith.  "The righteous will live by faith" (Romans 1:17 NIV; Galatians 3:11 NIV).  "We live by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV). "My righteous one will live by faith." (Hebrews 10:38 NIV). Let's get off the roller coaster and live by faith. It's a surefire way to ruin Satan's day!!

"Emotions we have not poured out in the safe hands of God can turn into feelings of hopelessness and depression. God is safe." - Beth Moore

Heavenly Father, I want to get off the roller coaster, Lord. I want to live by faith. I want to distrust and reign in any negative feelings that invade my thoughts and heart. When I feel Satan trying to worm his way into my life through negative emotions, may I loudly hear Your voice telling me to turn them over to You. I know You will never change but my emotions will. Thank You for being the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Source of Strength that Never Fails

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." - Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

I cried through most of the church service this morning. God was working in me through the words of our Senior Pastor. I was being challenged to step out of my comfort zone and into something that I've always been fearful of: speaking to my non-Christian family and friends about my faith and about their need to accept Jesus as their Savior before it's too late.

It was easier when I was younger to turn my back on this truth. I wasn't going to church on a regular basis. I was in the world. I still had plenty of time to get my life back on track and talk to my family and friends about this. Then I got older and some of my friends passed on. It got harder to talk about it, because I knew I'd look and sound like a hypocrite. Who am I to tell someone else they need Jesus when I wasn't willing to admit that I needed Him? And the fear...the fear of being hated, made fun of, losing friends. I didn't have the strength or the courage to say anything to anybody about my Lord.

I still don't. But, there is a source of strength I can draw on. There is someone whose courage is more powerful than anything I could ever conjure up on my own. The Almighty, the great I Am --- God!! He is all-powerful; He is all-knowing; He is all-loving. Whatever I am lacking in terms of strength and courage, He more than makes up for. He removes the fear I have of confessing that His Son lives in me. The more I walk down the narrow path, the more courage and strength He gives me.

I'm choosing to willingly step out of my comfort zone today. I'm choosing to face my fear. I'm going to proudly hold my head up and let others know that I am a Child of God. He has promised that He will give me all the courage I'll ever need. I can face rejection; I can face hatred; I can face anger....God is the source of the only strength I can count on. He will never fail me. Thank You, Lord!

"We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot." -- Eleanor Roosevelt 
Heavenly Father, You're all the strength I'll ever need. Whenever I'm fearful, for any reason, let me seek Your strength. Take me out of my comfort zone, Lord, so that I will lean on Your might and not my own. With You by my side, I don't need to fear Satan or rejection, hatred or anger.  May I be filled with the desire and the courage to speak to others about Your Son and the blood He shed for our sins. May I be a courageous disciple for You. In Jesus' name, Amen.