When Our Thoughts are a Train Wreck

Have you given any thought to your thoughts this past week? In last week’s introductory post, New Year, New Mind, I asked you to spend this past week thinking about what you think about. Most often it is our thoughts that sabotage our efforts to make our lives better, whether it be eating better, exercising more, getting rid of clutter, making new habits or just being more thankful or joyful.

I don’t know about you, but my thoughts often look just like this train wreck.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Just how that train got where it got, from where it was coming from, is a mystery, but something definitely went wrong! That is just how our thoughts work. One minute we are fine. We are motivated, energized and raring to go conquer the world. The next moment we are a sobbing, angry, anxious train wreck. This week I would like to look at several areas of train wreck mentality.

Train Wreck #1 - Being Self Absorbed

We are all guilty of being self absorbed. Who hasn’t felt selfish, possessive, jealous or needy? Unfortunately, the train wreck of self absorption is reaching epidemic proportions. Let me break it down:

I’m too - These two little words lead to all sorts of inner focused thinking. I’m too fat. I’m too thin. i’m too tall. I’m too short. I’m too ugly. I’m too young. I’m too old. I’m too dumb. I’m too tired.

In addition to the I’m too problem, there is the parallel Not Enough dilemma.

Not Enough - Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. Not loving enough. Not slim enough. Not organized enough. Not talkative enough. Not brave enough. Not motivated enough….you get the picture. I’m sure, if you are reading this post, you have heard these words in your own head. I certainly have. I have gone over and over the same tracks as the train of self absorption chugs along.

Not a good enough wife.

Not a good enough mother.

Not a good enough grandma.

Not a good enough daughter.

Not a good enough Christian.

Not a good enough employee.

Not a good enough friend.

On and on it chugs along until suddenly it derails and there I am a self absorbed mess.

Have you really thought about how being self absorbed affects you? Not only does it cause physical issues, such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure and auto immune problems, it also causes a plethora of psychological and emotional problems, from anxiety disorder to narcissistic tendencies. Take a look at this interesting article from Psychology Today. While not the definitive authority on psychological disorders and treatments, I think the article makes a pertinent point.

But what’s most fascinating to me here is that I haven’t seen discussed by writers on the subject just how many psychological dysfunctions can be accurately understood as “maladies” of self-absorption. From a variety of phobic, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive impairments, to many depressive disturbances (including bipolar disorder), to various addictions, to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and to most of the personality disorders, self-absorption can be seen as playing a major (if not dominant) role. So any effective treatment of these dysfunctions needs to include significantly reducing these obsessively self-centered—and self-defeating—tendencies.
— Leon Seltzer, PhD., Psychology Today (online) - Posted August 24, 2016

You can see the whole article here.

Our self absorption tendencies may just lead us to a bitter end.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Train Wreck #2 - Demanding Our Rights

This one is a direct outcome of the first train wreck of being self absorbed. Let me say that people should have rights. Our country came into being and was founded on the idea that people should have a right to worship as they want. The men who authored The Declaration of Independence, felt that certain rights were so important, they were willing to go to war to ensure their solidity.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
— Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

However, the rights that Jefferson, Adams and others were referring too had to do with basic tenants of self-government, including freedom of religion, and the freedom to govern ourselves. When they were talking about government over themselves they weren’t talking about the rights that so many today are yelling about. They were talking about the right to work a job, own a home and yes, to even own a gun. The governing process had to do with community and country as a whole.

Today the rights battle continues as women seek equal pay for equal work, as well as equality on pricing of necessary products such as deodorant and razors. Did you realize that women usually pay more for these products? These desires are good. What becomes a problem is when the demand for rights is born out of a self absorbed mentality.

I want it and I want it now!! Watch this short video.

Isn’t this a perfect analogy of how thoroughly self indulgent we can be. Truly, aren’t we just a bunch of spoiled, rotten, children at times? Demanding our rights, and not taking into consideration the desires, needs and feelings of other people, is not what our forefathers meant when they brought the Declaration of Independence into fruition. A rights based mentality, must be balanced by an equally serious mentality of individual responsibility. An attitude of responsibility means that we cannot be self-absorbed.

Train Wreck #3 - Not Caring

This is probably the mentality that causes the most problems. When we are self absorbed at least we care enough about ourselves that we might still be willing to try to take care of ourselves. We might even be caring enough to care for other people. Demanding our rights means we still want something. We want something that is important enough to us to be willing to yell and fight for it. Unfortunately, when we get to the point where we no longer care, that is when trains derail and we crash.

Think about a time when you gave up, or you wanted to. How did you feel? How did that feeling change the way you were doing things? I have done the, counting calorie thing, many times over the course of my adult life. I have kept track, written things down, measured and tallied. No matter how many times I restarted, I always got to a certain point where I just didn’t care any more. I would lose a few pounds, feel better, fit into my clothes better and so on, but still, somehow or other, I would end back up at the same place.

I don’t care.

I can’t tell you for certain, why we often get to a point of not caring any more, but it does happen. I believe there are many reasons we get to this point in our lives. Fatigue, illness, relationship struggles, work problems, family crisis, national unrest, the list goes on. With our computers, televisions, smart phones and other instantaneous technology, we are constantly plugged in and on the spot. We see what is going on with everyone else and everyone else knows all our struggles as well.

We are finite, limited human beings and eventually all the input does its job of desensitizing us and bring us to that creaky bridge where our train begins to clackety clack across. Finally, the bridge drops out from beneath us and we plunge into the canyon of hopelessness and despair.

Who cares!

Why bother!

I give up!

When we get to this point, it is time to reevaluate how we got here.

Next week I’ll be sharing a video that I hope will make you laugh, but that makes a pertinent point that we can’t ignore and will hopefully give us hope to care again and start living a mentally healthy life.

Until then, have a great week and be careful, not to have a train wreck!

New Year, New Mind

I thought it would be beneficial to start 2019 with a series about our minds. Depending on how you feel right now, you might be thinking there won’t be much to talk about, because after the holidays there is not much going on in my tired brain. Ha, ha. However, as much as it feels that way, our minds are always busy, not only working around the clock to keep us going physically, but also working to keep us going mentally and emotionally.

Pixabay - mind

When I was young, I used to think emotions were a part of us, but just sort of came out of nowhere. When I finally was taught that the brain actually has an emotional center, called the amygdala, I realized that God did, indeed, create our brains to process emotions. It is fascinating that the amygdala, which is a tiny, pea-sized, part of the brain, plays such a huge part in our lives. It is also interesting to me that the hippocampus, which is the main center for processing memories, is right next to the amygdala. If you think about it, most of our memories center around emotions.

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Pixabay

The start of a new year is the perfect time to think about our physical health. Most of us begin new routines, hoping to take off the pounds we put on at the holidays and get into a diet and exercise regimen that will lead to improved health. We also try to begin new habits, like a weekly cleaning routine for our homes or getting rid of clutter. This might also be a good time to think about our mental and emotional health. How often do you start a routine, with enthusiasm and motivation, only to have it stall out in just a few weeks? I know for me, this is more about my thought patterns than it is my ability to get up earlier to exercise.

Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.
— Psalm 26:2 (ESV)

Have you ever had any of these thoughts cross your mind after a few weeks of trying to diet or take control of the clutter in your home:

I’ll just skip today. I’m too tired to exercise.

I’m stressed out, so I am going to eat this ice cream to feel better.

Life is too busy to go to the gym.

Why bother?

I can’t do this?

I won’t do this?

I have all of these thoughts, and more, on a fairly regular basis. The common factor in all of this is my mindset. If I am not sold out on doing something, I won’t do it. For that matter, even if I believe, and know, that it is something beneficial, I still won’t succeed, because my mind comes up with excuses or rationals for why I can’t or won’t. Our minds can sabotage our efforts before we even get started. My husband has a saying at this time of year, “My resolution is to not make any resolutions.” His reasoning is sound, he is a logic professor after all. Why make resolutions that are not going to be kept? Why set yourself up for failure and disappointment?

I believe that our minds are meant to know God and when they do, they delight in obeying His law. God’s law would include things that are beneficial for our well being, including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Unfortunately, because we walk in the flesh we walk through life carrying a battlefield in our minds. We struggle to do what is right and good and best, but often fall short. Paul, the Apostle, fully understood this conundrum.

22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
— Romans 7:22-24 (ESV)

Next week, I would like to delve into a few of the thought patterns that go on in our minds that easily thwart our efforts for self-improvement and can even be counter active and destructive. Until then, I’d like us to take this next week to think about what we think about. What are the regular thought patterns that go on in your head? What voices do you hear over and over? What sorts of thoughts set you up for failure? And finally, what do you think might be ways to turn those thoughts around?

I’d love to hear your feedback on the thought patterns you struggle with. Leave me your ideas in the comments.

Until then, have a great week!

Clean Up

My least favorite part of the holidays is what comes after the fact. After the gifts are all unwrapped there are bags of wrapping paper to get rid of. After the Christmas feast has been eaten, there are leftovers to put away and dishes to be washed. After everyone has gone home, there are the feelings of let down and melancholy to sweep under a rug, until a later time at which you can process them.

Pixabay

Pixabay

No one really likes the clean up aspects of life. Babies are adorable, but cleaning their stinky bottoms is not any mom’s favorite thing to do. Garbage collectors, probably don’t love their jobs, especially when the sun is hot and food waste is rotting in cans and dumpsters. Just ask any relief worker what they love most about helping victims of natural disasters. It probably involves the smiles and hugs they get for their help, not the digging through building rubble to find possible lost children or pets.

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Pixabay

As a child, any one of us probably remembers being told to clean our room. Oh my goodness. You might as well be asking a fish to fly or a bird to swim. We thought the task was impossible, but we grudgingly went about our business. Truth be told, I always loved it when my room was clean and even now, when all the laundry and dishes are done and the house is not a complete cluttered mess, I feel so much more at ease.

Pixabay

Pixabay

The funny thing about cleaning is that is has to be done. If no one ever took a bath or shower; if no one collected the garbage or tried to recycle; if mom’s didn’t take care of their little babies’ bottoms, the world would be a very messy, smelly place. It is in those types of conditions that illness, disease and parasites prevail and thrive. Who hasn’t seen a garbage can full of maggots in the hot summer time? Or how about a baby’s bottom when they have not been changed or cleaned and cared for….the poor little one. Their tender skin becomes red, inflamed and itchy.

What does all this talk of cleaning up have to do with the holidays, besides being a place where I can unload my burden as a woman who sometimes tries to do it all? Ha, ha.

It has to do with Jesus.

What?

Yeah, you heard me!

Jesus.

Pixabay - garden

Genesis 1 talks about a world that God created. A perfect world, where the need for garbage collectors and recycling was nonexistent. There was a balance and harmony between God, the created world, man and woman. There was no trash, and no trash talking. There was no disease, no rot and certainly no wrapping paper to burn or dishes to wash. Ahhhh. What a beautiful world. Ha, ha

How did we get to this messy, trash filled, smelly world we now call home?

Sin.

Adam and Eve, with the prodding of a sultry serpent decided that the perfect, trash-less world God had created wasn’t enough. They wanted to be more. More knowledgable, more beautiful, more in control and it led to the mess we have all been cleaning up after, ever since.

Let’s face it, the mess goes way beyond just the physical ramifications that came about in nature. The dog eat dog mentality suddenly became a reality and ever since then we are the custodians of a mess that has grown proportionally to the laundry monster that so often takes over my basement floor. It grows and grows. We clean it up. It grows and grows. We clean it up. The mess has taken over our earth, our bodies, our relationships and our souls.

How do we get out of this mess?

Back to the beginning.

The baby Jesus.

The whole point of Jesus birth was not so we could celebrate Christmas with pretty lights, trees and gifts. The point was clean up. Our relationship with our Creator became skewed. We no longer could walk with Him in the garden. No. Sin and our choice to do it became the deep gap between God and His creation. Jesus was the only one who could bridge that gap. It was His blood, shed on the cross that became the river that purified our world.

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Pixabay

So why then, do we still have so much clean up that needs to be done. Why all the ripple effects of poor choices, bad relationships and selfish living? Why, when Jesus died, didn’t things just go back to the way they were in the garden?

Because clean up is a choice.

Have you ever noticed how family members suddenly become preoccupied or have to leave when it is time to tackle that mountain of dishes? Does your husband hand you the baby when that aroma fills the air? Are you ever guilty of just throwing containers away because you don’t want to have to clean that moldy goo out of it and then have to wash it?

Jesus made everything right, but we have to recognize what He did and accept it. In other words we have to believe. We have to believe in who Jesus was and is and we have to believe in what He did and why it was done. We also have to choose to let Him clean up all of our messes. That can be painful.

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Pixabay

Standing at the sink as I was washing dishes on Christmas day I was already tired, but it was then I really noticed how my back hurt, my feet hurt and the exhaustion weighed on me like a led blanket. Cleaning up is never pleasant. Sometimes you have to get on your hands and knees and really scrub with all your might. That is what Jesus came to do in our lives.

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Pixabay

There are times He is scrubbing with all His might to remove those stubborn stains from our hearts. It hurts. Often it weighs heavily on us. We have chosen to be clean, but we never knew it was going to be so hard. But He does it, because it is His Father’s will and because He loves us. Jesus knew that it is only by cleaning the heart that changes will be obvious on the outside.

You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
— Matthew 23:26 (NASB)
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
— 2 Timothy 2:21 (NASB)

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a vessel for honorable use. I want to be useful to the master and ready for every good work. In order to do that, I have to let Jesus clean me up.

As we head into a new year, it might be a good time to look inward and ask Jesus to show you where some clean up needs to be done. Is it in your thought life, your attitudes, activities you are participating in, or maybe you aren’t crusted up with dirt, but you have allowed yourself to get dusty and you need Him to come in and polish you up.

Maybe you are reading this, but don’t share my faith. There are still things you might need to clean up in your life. Look at your eating habits, what you view or who you hang out with. Are these things making you a better, more useful person or have you become like that pile of dirty dishes, unusable and crusty?

Take some time to clean up today.

How to Keep Christ in Christmas

Last week I discussed Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind. You can read that post by clicking on the link. In that article I gave four areas to look at to take care of yourself during the busy holiday season. Those areas I referred to included, figuring out what you can let go of, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself and practicing gratitude. These things are applicable to all who experience stress during the Christmas season. This week I would like to specifically speak to those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

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Pixabay

For those of us who follow Christ, Christmas is equal in importance to the celebration of Easter. If Jesus had never been born, we wouldn’t have access to the Almighty God, who created us for His good pleasure. Christmas is the epitome of strength becoming weakness; that almighty power coming into acute focus as the baby born to Mary. He was fully God and became fully man. Imagine, a being who is so huge in our incomprehension, being made into a tiny, fertilized seed, growing for nine months in the womb and making the pressurized journey down the birth canal to explode into the light of a sin filled world. To me it is incomprehensible! Yet, I know it to be true. I also know that it was not just love for us, but love for His Father, that drove Jesus to choose obedience to that vulnerable birth and obedience to an even more vulnerable cross. It is this mentality that needs to drive us as we immerse ourselves in the festivities of the Christmas season.

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Pixabay

We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the busyness of this season. There’s shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning, wrapping and gathering, all good things, but so often as we focus on getting our to do list checked off, we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. I know I do. I can easily become overwhelmed with all of the things I need to get done and fret that I don’t have more time to do them. We also, all know that fretting does not lead to peace and isn’t peace, part of what makes this season so beautiful? At least it should. So, just how can we keep the true meaning part of our focus? Here are several ideas.

Keep Jesus Close - As you shop, wrap, bake and decorate meditate on Him. Remind yourself of His birth and remember that He is with you wherever you go. You might think it is silly, but I often imagine Jesus sitting next to me in the car or standing next to me as I wash dishes. Hey, He endowed all of us with an imagination, so I have no shame in using it. Envisioning Him as a person with me, helps me to focus on the fact that He really is there even though I cannot physically see Him. It helps me to remember why I love Christmas, because it is all about Him.

Listen to Music - There is nothing better, in my mind, to help me get in the true Christmas spirit, than listening to Christmas music. It doesn’t just have to be traditional carols like The First Noel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, or Oh Holy Night, but songs that really speak to the message of why we celebrate this season bring the truth back into focus. It is also good to listen to different versions of these Christ-focused carols. For instance my husband and I both agree that Josh Groban’s version of O Holy Night sings as if he was actually there, feeling the peace and beauty of the birth of Jesus. On the other hand, What Child is This, as portrayed by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige is the most amazing and powerful version of this song I have ever heard. The culmination of their voices is almost angelic as they usher us into the powerful glory of our Lord’s vulnerability.

Having music playing while you are in the car going to the mall, or to a party, or when you are wrapping presents or baking cookies can help to keep your mind in a state of peace and joy throughout the season, even if circumstances around you are difficult.

Watch Christmas Movies - I know a lot of people don’t like to watch the same movies over and over. My husband is one of them, but he tolerates my love for seeing these classic movies every year and occasionally watches them with me. There are fun movies like White Christmas and Jingle All the Way, but there are also movies with a message that transcends this particular holiday. Take for instance A Christmas Carol. A book originally written by Charles Dickens, it was first made into a movie in 1910. Hollywood has come a long way since then, but my two favorite versions are the 1984 version with George C. Scott and the 1992 version with the Muppets. I just finished watching the George C. Scott version the other day and these two scenes really stood out to me.

Obviously, Marely is miserable and it is his knowledge that everything he did in life was meaningless. “….mankind was my business….” Wow! If that doesn’t remind us to take a look at our priorities, I don’t know what will.

I love this scene of transformation. Scrooge was a changed man. Oh, that we would be so changed by the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ who dwells within us and gives us the ability to be new, each and every day!

Do Something to Serve - I know this seems a bit counter intuitive, when we are so busy, why do something that makes us even busier? The point is to love and worship Jesus by showing love to others. It might be something as simple as baking cookies for your co-workers or leaving a card for your mail carrier, thanking him/her for her hard work. It can be something more complex like visiting shut ins or serving at your local soup kitchen. Often these places are inundated at the holidays, because people are thinking about serving others. Why not schedule your service for February or March, when many of these people are forgotten?

Set Up Some Sort of Memorial - This might be your nativity. Letting your children be involved in getting the pieces out and setting them up helps them to remember Christmas is about Jesus. If you don’t have a nativity and don’t want to make that purchase, decorate a jar with Christmas colors. Every day have you and your family members write down on small slips of paper things they love about Christmas, the Christmas story or things they are thankful for, then on Christmas eve or Christmas morning go through your jar, reading these things out loud. You could then spend a few minutes in prayer, praising and thanking Jesus for all He has done for you.

However you celebrate Christmas and no matter how busy you are, I hope that you will take the time, even if only for a few moments to really think about what the reason for this season really is.

Have a great day!

How to Fight Giants

A couple of weeks ago I posted a fiction piece that I wrote about giants. (See that post here.) A week after that I shared with you a few of the giants that I regularly fight in my life. (See that post here.) This week I would like to focus on a few methods for fighting the giants in your life.

We all are battling giants. Most of these we live with, without even thinking about it. Fear, anxiety, depression and selfishness are just a few of the giants that many of us regularly battle. Perhaps you have let the giants take over. Maybe they have moved into your life, unpacked their bags and decided to stay a while. Are you even aware of the giants that are claiming ownership to your space: physical, emotional and spiritual? Often, the first step to fighting against a giant is to acknowledge the “elephant in the room”.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Name Your Giants

I think it is essential to know what you are fighting. Sometimes we might name one thing, but in reality it is something else. For instance, you might think that the giant you are battling is depression, but in reality it is fear. Scrutinizing your feelings and the circumstances behind them can help to identify what the real giant aka problem is. Here is a list of questions you can ask that might help to identify what giants are hanging out at your place.

  1. When do I usually notice this feeling/giant (name the feeling - is it fear, sadness, frustration, anger, self-loathing, etc.)?

  2. How often does this feeling happen? Is it only once in a while, every day, only in certain seasons, and so on. I struggle with discouragement, but it is much more prominent during the winter months when there is less sunshine. You can see a previous post I did here on Seasonal Affective Disorder.

  3. Are there certain triggers that bring this feeling on or make this giant appear? For example, I struggle with fear, as I pointed out in my previous post. Things out of the norm will often produce a feeling of fear in me. It can be something mundane like going to the dentist, or it can be something fun like planning a trip where I have to fly.

I believe being able to recognize what giant you are fighting will enable you to have victory more often.

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Pixabay

Study Your Giants

When dealing with any enemy or problem it is best to come at it with some sort of knowledge base. If you deal with anxiety read up on anxiety disorder. Don’t just read secular works, pick a few that are written from a Christian, Biblical perspective. Know what the root causes of anxiety are. Become more self aware, not to the point of becoming self absorbed, but to the point of understanding yourself and the people and circumstances around you, so that you know why you are feeling what you are feeling.

Until I finally read up on Seasonal Affective Disorder, I had no idea why I felt so overwhelmed and discouraged during the winter months. Obviously, we all get a little tired of the long winter with the cold, illness and unpredictable weather, but my fatigue was more so than usual and my desire to crawl into a warm hole with a fuzzy blanket was very real. Once I began to look into it, just reading a few online articles I realized that was, what affected me every winter. Knowing what it was and why it happened actually made me feel better. It also gave me access to resources to actually fight against this seasonal giant.

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Pixabay

Fight Your Giants

Before I get to far into this portion of the post I want to clarify that not everyone is capable of fighting their giants without help. Depression can be so extreme that a person can’t even get out of bed, let alone raise a sword and fight. I am not a professional counselor or a licensed, practicing psychiatrist. These ideas are merely coming from my own experiences. I trust that if you feel your giants are too big to battle on your own that you will seek help, both medically and/or psychologically.

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Pixabay

1 - Pray. In our lives as Christians there is nothing more powerful or effective in fighting our giants than prayer. Prayer puts us in contact with the Almighty God and it is from Him that we receive the power, wisdom and tools for fighting our giants.

The Lord has heard my supplication, The Lord receives my prayer.
— Psalm 6:9 (NASB)
May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high!
— Psalm 20:1 (NASB)
Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; Fight against those who fight against me.
— Psalm 35:1 (NASB)
Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me.
— Psalm 59:1 (NASB)

2 - Use scripture. God’s word is powerful. It is compared to a double edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) Since the Bible is compared to a weapon, it would seem to make sense that we can use it as one. That being said, what does wielding the scripture as a sword look like? That depends on what giants you are battling.

Let me use my own giant called Fear as an example. I have learned over the course of my life that in order to counteract thinking that does not line up with God’s will for us, I have to got to the Bible and find the scriptures that deal with those thoughts. In the case of fear, these are a few of the arrows, I have in my quiver.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
— I John 4:18 (NASB)
For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NET)

If God did not give me fear, then where is it coming from? You bet! From the same place the giants originate, Satan. We would have never known fear except that sin entered into the world. My ability to remember and recognize God’s word as truth, makes a big difference in how effective my weapons are going to be against the giants.

When I become afraid, I go back to the scripture. I quote it, I yell it, I stomp and I shout. My goal is to chase the giant out of my house. I tell him he is not welcome in my life and according to God’s word he has no hold over me. Whether your giant is fear or food, depression or discouragement, selfishness or sexual addictions, scripture is the weapon to ram through that beast’s beating heart!

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Pixabay

3 - Speak truth. In a world where truth has become a relative thing with no concrete foundation it may sound strange to say speak truth, when we are talking about battling giants. However, since as Christ followers we believe God’s word to be truth, then it makes sense to speak this truth and back it with scripture.

If you are being crushed by the giant called Worthless speak this truth,

“I am made in the image of God; Genesis 1.”

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Psalm 139.”

“I am loved with an everlasting love; Jeremiah 31.”

“I am chosen; I am royal; I am holy; I Peter 2:9.”

That is truth and that does not sound like a person who is worthless. That truth can help to chase those giants away.

I hope that reading this will give you hope. We all struggle with these giants that are constantly getting in the way of living a free life. I also hope these tips will give you some relief and some victory as you battle your giants.








The Making of Giant Stew

They were coming. The giants. I couldn’t see them, but I could feel their footsteps. Every step shook the earth. I could see the chain reaction of each large foot, even though I couldn’t actually see their physical forms. Trees shook, streams sputtered, even rocks seemed to shake in their places as the vibrations of those giant feet reached the ground all around me.

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Pixabay

I was terrified, running away from the sound, but knowing it was only a matter of time until they found me. They were hunting. The prey they longed for was me. They wanted to crush my bones and drink my blood. The thought, kept my feet moving, though my lungs were ready to collapse from the effort.

I stumbled to the ground, tripping on a branch that had fallen and become buried in the long grass. Breathing, panting, I got to my knees. What was I supposed to do? I had nothing left. I couldn’t run any more.

I heard His voice, “Head for the high ground!”

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Pixabay

I looked frantically around me. There were not many places to hide. A few trees dotted the landscape, but they would only become like broken down fence posts once the giants came through. I looked ahead of me. Off on the horizon, there appeared to be a small rise. It didn’t look like much, but It was a direction to go.

I stood up and felt myself collapse as pain shot up my leg. My ankle! I must have injured it when I tripped over the branch.

Thump! This time, I not only felt the vibration, I heard the sound of their feet hitting the ground. I had to get up. I had to move. The alternative was going to hurt a lot worse than my ankle.

I stood up, cringing and started to limp. Each step hurt, but eventually I knew It was this pain or death. I started to run.

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The small rise on the horizon didn’t look like much, but He had said to head for the high ground and it seemed to be the only hill around. I would like to say I ran without questioning, that I completely trusted His voice, and His wisdom, but I doubted. All the way there, the doubts in my mind were like the fire in my ankle, lapping at my confidence, trying to tear it down and make me falter.

But hadn’t He always proved himself faithful? Hadn’t He always been there in every difficulty and tragedy? Hadn’t He told me to be strong, to have courage, to not be afraid, because He would be with me.

I was Joshua, going places I had never been before, and I was afraid. Afraid of the giants that were after me, but more afraid that He wouldn’t come through for me.

I could hear them more loudly now. Their steps creating small quakes in the earth that threatened to throw me off balance. I reached the bottom of the small rise.

“What do I do now,” I shouted, my voice angry. “You lead me here. How is this supposed to end well?”

“Trust me.” His voice was just a whisper.

I stopped. Every fiber in my being wanted to lash out at Him. I was going to die. I was going to be giant stew, What was the point? Why had He brought me here?

I took a breath, remembering, when things were at their worst that was the time to breath and focus on His voice. I closed my eyes and breathed in. I could smell the earth, the trees, the grass, all around me and I could smell water.

“Take the high ground.”

I moved as quickly as I could up the grassy hill. There were only a few scrubby trees that would provide no place to hide. Going to the top of the hill would, in reality expose me further. I had made my choice. I was going to trust Him, no matter what the outcome.

At the top, I found a small brook, just barely as wide as my body. It was as clear as the sky was blue.

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The footsteps! Now I could smell their rank breath. They had to have seen me by now.

“Enter the flow.”

I looked at the stream, then I was in it. I laid back in its deep coolness, feeling it wrap around my tired, sweating body like a cocoon. My whole body was covered, except for my face.

“Enter the flow.” His voice was persistent.

Once again, I doubted. He wanted me to completely submerge? Once again, I was afraid. This was a place I had never been before. Is that really what He wanted me to do? What was going to happen to me if I did what He said? Would I die?

One thing was sure, if I didn’t do what He said, I most certainly would die and it wouldn’t be a pleasant death. To just lay back and enter the water…and enter His flow, I closed my eyes and went under.

When I was under, I began to count. How long could I hold my breath? Long enough for the giants to pass my little hill by? What if they decided to use the hill for a seat to rest.

But no! He was faithful. He always had been and He always would be. Even as I, once again, made the decision to trust, every part of my body exploded with fire. I thought perhaps one of the giants had stepped on me, but I soon realized this was not a crushing, weighted feeling, but a feeling of complete release and freedom.

“Go beyond belief, dear one. Go from belief and obedience to child-like trust!”

I had believed in Him, and He had always been there.

I had obeyed Him, and He always rewarded.

Child-like trust….

Even though I was submerged, I took a breath.

The fire entered my lungs and I was flung upward out of the stream. In my hand was a sword and on my body was armor that felt lighter than clothing. Through my body coursed a wind of fire that made strength move outward into every limb.

Now I was David and I was going to make my own giant stew.

(This was a work of fiction by Amy D. Christensen)

The song below is an oldie, but goodie. Petra has always been one of my favorites because their words are so sound. Enjoy!





Mulling It Over - Part 7

This is the final part in this series on 2 Timothy 2:20-26. If you are interested in the Parts 1 through 6, just click on each of the links. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6. Each week takes a look at one verse. Let’s dive in to this last verse in this chapter.

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26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:26 (NASB)

If you read last month’s post you know that the preceding verse emphasized gentleness as the cloak which correction should wear. Today’s verse is a continuation of that thought. If we are correcting with gentleness verse 26 can be the result. Let’s take this verse apart phrase by phrase.

…they may come to their senses…

First of all, let’s figure out who “they” are. “They” refers back to the previous verse and those that are being corrected or more specifically, “ those who are in opposition.” What were these people in opposition to? Remember, this book was written by Paul to Timothy, a young pastor of one of the early Christian churches. Timothy was dealing with many types of opposition, some of which was to his ability to lead a church because he was young. Paul reminds him in verse 24 to not quarrel with these people. Quarreling, most often, only brings about more problems.

People who are in opposition to us may be jealous, insecure, angry, impatient or any number of other attitudes. These do not necessarily have to be non-believers. Those who are in opposition to us could be people at church, people we work with or even people within our own families.

Now that we know who “they” are, what does it mean to say “may come to their senses?” Have you ever been a situation where volatile emotions begin to escalate quickly? If you have been on the receiving end of those volatile emotions you probably have observed that the ones becoming volatile are not always making sense. Often when our emotions become compromised, whether through overwhelming tragedy or circumstances beyond our control we lose our ability to think rationally. It is best, in these situations, to slow the situation down by being calm and responding with gentleness. When we respond in this way, we often allow people the time needed to regroup and come back to their senses.

This same idea is true with people who are adamantly opposed to Christianity. We will not win them by allowing our own emotions to become volatile and hateful. Those emotions will only give them a firmer foundation on which to base their own reasons to say no to Jesus. We want them to “come to their senses” with regard to the truth of the gospel and the best way to do that is through prayer and gentleness.

“…and escape from the snare of the devil…”

There are people who say there is no devil; that the reference is merely to a fiction made up by people who do not want to take responsibility for their actions. “The devil made me do it.” For those of us who are Christ followers, we do believe in a real enemy of Christ known by names such as Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan, and many others. This enemy is working in the spiritual realm to thwart the spread of the gospel and condemn the persons of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the world we live in.

The snare’s that Satan’s sets are many, but generally involve lies and deception. His purpose is to prevent people from knowing the truth, that Jesus came to give His life for us and desires a relationship with us. Snares may involve lies about our standing before God, our purpose and the purpose of humanity and creation. His lies include words like secularism, humanism, and rights. There are aspects to all of these which are good, but more often they are a ploy to set our eyes on ourselves and the stand we took at the beginning of time to “be as God.”

“…having been held captive by him to do his will.”

What could be more disturbing than to be ensnared by an enemy who is so charming and subtle that even with the chains on our wrists and ankles we bend to do his will? Friends this isn’t just for those who don’t follow Christ. As Christians how many of us are ensnared to things like food, pornography, sports, hobbies or even our own creeds? Satan can just as easily use a Christian who is bound by legalism, as one who is bound by freedom.

Any of us can be held captive by our enemy, even those of us who are walking with Christ. Our enemy wants to hold us captive and he wants to hold others captive as well. But…

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
— Galatians 5:1 (NASB)

Ready to Die

Dust and smoke rose into the air, creating a haze so thick the sun could barely penetrate. They had been fighting for days. Days that seemed to go on forever. They would push forward, but the enemy's forces always seemed able to push them back. She thought they were prepared for this battle. Her father, the King had thought they were ready, but now she wasn't so sure he had been right.

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The enemy soldiers were not like any other she had fought. They had battled against them previously, but something had happened in those months since that prince of darkness had taken her daughter. She wasn't sure what it was. Maybe it was because they were in his territory. Maybe it was due to the long journey their own army had to traverse to get here. Whatever, it was, she did not feel confident in their ability to win this battle. 

The thought made her cringe. How could she even be thinking these thoughts. She had never struggled with doubt before. She always had been confident in her Father's abilities as both a King and a commander. Now, however, doubts seem to plague her like some sort of blister on her foot and she had a lot of those. Her feet hurt. Her legs were stiff and her arms felt like lead. Fatigue filled her being from toes to fingertips.

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Now, her small battalion was surrounded. She was not even sure how it happened. They began the day's fighting in the clear, but now they were backed up against a canyon wall. They were hemmed in on every side. The only thing that kept them from being slaughtered was that they were on the high ground. Every time the enemy tired to attack, they sent a volley of arrows flying and the enemy retreated, but their arrows were running out. 

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"Your highness?" One of her men had come up behind her.

"Yes?"

"We only have enough arrows for one more attack...then..."

She knew the time had come. She had to make the choice to surrender or to go down fighting. She turned to face the soldier.

"I want you to bring the men together. I want to speak to them."

The soldier nodded, bowed and quickly left her.

She went to her knees. "Father, I know you cannot hear me, but wherever you are, I want you to know how much I love you and how much I look up to you. I know that I have been angry, frustrated and impatient in this mission to rescue my child, but you have never wavered and for that I am thankful. I know there is no way out of this. My child might be dead and soon that will be my fate as well, but I will never surrender to that vile, son of filth. I will go down fighting. Thank you for never giving up on me."

Tears, brimmed her eyes. She clenched her fists rising to her feet. Turning, she went to where the men were assembled. She was shocked at how very few of them were left. She stood before them, her head high.

"I would like to offer you hope. The hope that I give you is not hope for life, but hope to die with honor. Today, we are going to die, but you have a choice in how you do it. You can go out cowering, or you can go out, sword in hand, taking as many of those cursed vermin as possible before you fall. If you do that, I will be proud. If you do that, my father will be proud."

Her voice grew loud and her words were clear. "Today, let us die, for the sake of our King!"

She raised her sword and the men raised their's, voices matching hers; a chorus of rebellion they hoped the enemy would hear.  

It was not long before they saw the dust of their enemies' horses, filling the small valley below their sacrificial high ground. She instructed the men to form two lines. The first line was made up of the remaining archers. They went down on one knee, nocking their arrows as they did. The second line was made up of what was left of the battalion. She knew they had no chance, but they would die with honor, fighting for their King, her father. 

"Hold steady archers!" Her voice rang out even as the noise rose ushered in by the approaching chaos. "Hold until I give the order!"

Closer the dust came and along with it the sound of pounding hooves, a battalion of enemy riders bringing death.

Her heart beat rose and sweat mingled with the dirt and grime trickling down her neck. It felt itchy. Funny, she thought, the things one thinks about before one dies. 

Suddenly, the sky seemed to turn dark. She lifted her eyes up and saw shadows coursing through the sky over her head. She felt confused, but then those shadows became the solid forms of horses and their riders. Her heart sank. They were surrounded...

But wait! Those riders wore the King's colors!

Her men looked just as confused as she felt, but more and more shadows flew overhead, diving straight into the approaching storm. She heard a shout.

"Daughter!"

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A dusty figure on his steady mount appeared behind her. It was her father, the King.

He smiled at her, then held down his hand. Pulling her up onto his horse, he commanded others of his battalion to take up her remaining men. Once all the were mounted with other soldiers, the King raised his hand and his voice.

"This ends now!"

(This was a fictional work by Amy D. Christensen)

*     *     *     *     *      *

This fictional work is meant to remind you, when all seems lost, the King is behind you. When the dust storm of the approaching enemy brings you to the end of yourself, the King is above you. When you are severely outnumbered and you have very little left to fight with, the King is diving in ahead of you. He will be there for you, every day, every hour, every battle and especially when you finally lay down your weapons and face the last enemy of death. 

....I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:20 (NASB)

For the other parts in this fictional series, click on the links below. 

Part 1: Return to Battle

Part 2: A Father's Perspective

Part 3: Waiting

 

 

Mulling It Over - Part 5

It is that time of month again, where I take a look at a particular portion of scripture and ruminate on it by tearing it apart verse by verse. For those of you who following me regularly you know I have been wading through 2 Timothy 2:20-26. The books of 1st and 2nd Timothy were written by Paul to Timothy a young pastor of a growing group of believers in the early church age. The books were written to encourage Timothy in the face of disgruntled church members. Not only were there members who looked down on Timothy because he was young, but there were members who were living a less than moral life style.

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20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

You can see my musings on the first four verses by clicking on each of the links. Week 1 - Verse 20, Week 2 - Verse 21, Week 3 - Verse 22, Week 4 - Verse 23. Today I'll be discussing Verse 24.

24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
— 2 Timothy 2:24 (NASB)

Before we look at the traits of a bondservant we should take a moment to define what a bond-servant was in the New Testament time period. Note the following quotes from an online article regarding the role of a bondservant. 

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The term “bondservant” in the New Testament (bond-servant or slave in some translations) is a translation of the Greek word doulos. Unlike perceptions of modern slavery, bondservant or doulos is a relatively broad term with a wider range of usage. In the time of the New Testament a bondservant could refer at times to someone who voluntarily served others. In most cases, however, the term referred to a person in a permanent role of service. A bondservant was considered the property of a Roman citizen, holding no right to leave his place of service.
— from an online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth. org
In many New Testament books, the word bondservant was used in reference to a person’s commitment to Jesus. Most of Paul’s letters begin by referring to himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. James and Jude, half-brothers of Jesus, both refer to themselves as Christ’s bondservants. The apostle Peter called himself a “servant and apostle”
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org
The importance of these New Testament authors referring to themselves as bondservants should not be overlooked. Despite proclaiming a message of freedom from sin in Jesus Christ, these writers were dedicated to Jesus as their one master. Further, their service to the Lord was not one they could consider leaving. Just as a bondservant was more than an employee who could leave for another job, these Christians were servants who could never leave their master for another.
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org

If you are a committed Christ follower, then you could say you are His bondservant. It is something I struggle to be, in all honesty. I want to be committed 100% to my Savior and yes my Master...I am not afraid to use that word. We live in a world where the idea of calling someone Lord or Master is not pleasant and truth be told, there is no master that is worthy of our life's commitment other than Jesus. However, there is a disconnect between saying I want to be a bondservant and actually being one. Let's see what the qualities are of one who calls Jesus Master.

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1. Not quarrelsome.

Okay! I am disqualified already. How about you? As a wife, do you ever find yourself quarreling with your spouse? I think most of you know what the word quarrel means. It is not just a matter of disagreeing with someone. We often disagree with our bosses, other employees, our parents and people we are following on social media, but we don't necessarily quarrel with them. When we quarrel we are trying to make our point, not only heard but adhered to. 

Why do you supposed Paul brought up this particular characteristic with Timothy? I personally do not believe Timothy was a quarrelsome chap. In fact, I think it was because people in his congregation were opinionated troublemakers that Paul encouraged Timothy...don't even go there. It won't get you any where. Just like we looked at last month to refuse ignorant and foolish speculations, so too, we should not allow ourselves to become participants in quarreling. 

I find this is incredibly hard with our significant others. We often feel, that we have a right to spew at them, because, after all we are married and they have to take the good with the bad. I hate to tell you ladies, as the Lord's bondservants we are not to be quarrelsome, end of discussion!

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2. Kind to all.

Does that mean everyone? Yes. Does that mean that person at work that I absolutely can't stand? Yes. Does that mean that teller at the bank who is always grumpy and scowling? Yes. Does that mean that person I thought was a friend that talked about me behind my back? Yes. 

Kindness is one of the fruits of the spirit. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
— Galatians 5:22 (NASB)

What that means is we have the ability to be kind, all the time, to everyone. Once again, the fruit of the Spirit is His fruit. It grows in our lives as we become better and better at abiding in Christ. As His bondservant we must be kind to all. 

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3. Able to teach.

We could argue on this point that not everyone can be expected to teach, because not everyone has the gift of teaching. However, I would like to interject that we are all capable of teaching by example. You may not be gifted to stand in front of people and give a lecture like my husband is. You may not be good at leading a small group and explaining to others what a Bible passage means, but you can be an example of love and kindness to your children or your grand children. You might be able to teach a younger woman how to cook, take care of her first child or patch a hole in her husband's sock. The point is patience and willingness. We can all be teachers of this type by merely being willing to take the time to show others love and kindness. 

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4. Patient when wronged. 

This is right up there with not being quarrelsome in the hardness factor. We live in a society based on rights. If you hurt me, I have the right to seek retribution whether by payment or incarceration. I am not saying criminals should not be punished. However, there are times that we as the body of Christ are just as hard or harder on our own brothers and sisters when they have wronged us as the penal system is on a criminal. 

I am sure Timothy, as a young pastor had to endure a plethora of wrongs done against him by his own flock. Paul's advice to him is just as pertinent to us today. It is not easy to be hurt or wronged and then patient in the face of it. We want an instantaneous fix. We don't want to be mercy showers and wait for God to move in, not only the other person's life, but ours as well. God is on our side. He is just and merciful and we need to trust Him when faced with this sort of difficulty. It is never the case that only one person has been hurt. 

13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
— I Corinthians 13:13 (NASB)

If you feel a tad bit convicted after reading through these four characteristics of a bondservant of Christ, then know you are not alone. I am walking this journey with you. I am glad that He is long suffering and He keeps working on us, after all we call Him Master. 

Mulling It Over - Part 4

Some time has passed since I worked on this passage in 2 Timothy, but I have the time, so I wanted to get back at it. If you remember we were taking a look at 2 Timothy 2:20-26. You can see the first three parts by clicking on each of the links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Here is the passage again as a refresher. 

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20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

Today's verse is quite pertinent in our society where social media dominates our time. Whether you are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or some other form of social media there is no doubt that these communication avenues are powerful both in a positive and a negative way. 

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
— 2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB)

As you know, I like to tear the verse apart. 

But refuse...

I think most of you understand the meaning of the word refuse. Words such as decline, refuse, reject, and spurn, all refer to the act of turning away by not accepting, receiving or considering what is being offered. I like the idea of not even considering. How often do we think about accepting an offer?

How many of you get sales emails in your inbox? How many of those do you read? Of those, how many do you actually click on to look at? If you are like me, you often find yourself clicking over to a site to see what new merchandise they have, and what the current sales offer is. Of course, it doesn't end there. I'll often put a few items into my shopping cart before I finally exit the site. Other times, I actually buy the items I put in my cart. I didn't refuse the offer and actually it started with just a consideration of the offer.

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Now lets move on to what it is we are to refuse, or even consider. 

...foolish and ignorant speculations...

I may get into trouble here, but I believe that a high percent of what is posted on many of these social media platforms are foolish and ignorant speculations. It is one thing to talk about what you did today, share an outfit or post a recipe you want to share, but when these platforms become soap boxes for preaching, arguing or spreading hate, I believe we have moved into the arena of foolish and ignorant speculations. 

Let me say at this point, I am not against having discussions about hard topics on social media platforms, but I believe as Christians we have to be extremely careful what we say and how we come across. Topics can quickly escalate from stating the facts to spewing hateful, emotion based opinions. When I think of what our Founding Fathers meant by Freedom of Speech, I do not know that they were thinking of photos sharing body parts or using explicatives like conjunctions to string sentences together. 

Let's take just a moment to look at the words foolish and ignorant.

     foolish - Webster's online dictionary uses phrases like - showing lack of good sense, absurd or       ridiculous, and marked by a loss of composure. 

     ignorant - Webster's defines this word in this way - destitute of knowledge or education, lacking comprehension, unaware, and uninformed.

Do we really want to look foolish and ignorant when we are putting ourselves out there on social media or any other communication platform. Whether you are having a discussion with friends at the local eatery, posting opinions on Facebook or writing a blog, use discretion when choosing your words. Remember words convey a message, both spoken and written. As Christ followers, we want our message to be one of hope, truth and love. 

Finally, 

...knowing that they produce quarrels. 

Isn't it amazing that Paul, who had no knowledge of social media, knew exactly the kinds of exchanges that could take place when we start rambling off our opinions and feelings without using forethought and caution? Obviously, the tendency towards volatile emotions and conversations has been around since Adam and Eve left the garden. We, by the sin nature into which were born, are protectors of our right to be right, even if we are wrong. 

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Why do you think Paul included these words in his letter to Timothy, who was a young man pastoring one of the early Christian churches? I believe it had to do with Paul's God given understanding of the outcome of such behaviors on the church. Dissension, arguments and quarrels will divide and destroy a church. They will divide and destroy a marriage, a family and yes, even a nation.

Let this verse be our standard when speaking or writing, for His glory and the encouragement of others.

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
— Colossians 4:6 (NASB)

Living in the Valley

It has been a few weeks since I wrote a faith post. My husband and I went on a vacation to visit places and people in Wisconsin. It was an enjoyable trip, but I didn't have much time to write. While it is fun and important to get away, the reality is that we live in the ordinary moments of life much more often than in the extraordinary moments. Who doesn't want to live on the mountaintop, but most of us spend the majority of our time trudging through the valley bottom. 

Devil's Lake State Park

Let me say, the valley bottom is not the pristine, green grass, river filled valley. No, it is the valley that runs between two rugged, rocky cliffs and there is no water in sight for miles. Overhead the vultures are constantly circling, waiting for the valley dwellers to stumble and fall so they can begin to feed off their soon to be dead bodies. Not a pretty picture.

When you have no vision from God, no enthusiasm left in your life, and no one watching and encouraging you, it requires the grace of Almighty God to take the next step in your devotion to Him, in the reading and studying of His Word, in your family life, or in your duty to Him. It takes much more of the grace of God, and a much greater awareness of drawing upon Him, to take that next step, than it does to preach the gospel.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - March 6th

I love this thought from Oswald Chambers. He says it takes more grace and a more concentrated effort to draw on Him to take the next step in living the ordinary, mundane life, than to preach the gospel. What do you think? Do you agree? 

I have been finding life more and more challenging lately. My energy level is lower, I have physical issues that I never had to deal with before and I am continually reminded, not only of all the things I need to do, but also of all the things I have absolutely no control over. These factors all become part of life in the valley. Living here in the valley becomes a matter of trudging, not running, or skipping or even walking. Every once in a while, it becomes a crawl, a begging on hands and knees with the Master of this land to come and either let it end or bring about some sort of change. It was from this prostrate place that Oswald realized the thoughts he shared in the quote above. It truly does take the grace of the Almighty to take the next step.

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I know, without a doubt, that some of you are in this place. Just like me, you go to bed so exhausted, that you pray God will take you in your sleep, so that you don't have to get up in the morning. Some of you, don't sleep. He doesn't even give you that. But, you do get up in the morning and you start all over again...the walk, the stumble, the crawl. You feel like you could use time away, a retreat, but there is no retreat. You feel like you could use a good, long cry, but you know the tears won't change anything, besides you are too busy, too tired. You feel like you want to run away, to leave everyone and everything behind, just go somewhere and become someone different, but you know that is not the right thing to do and you are just too tired. Day after day, drudgery after drudgery. This is life in our valley.

BUT GOD!

No enthusiasm?

BUT GOD!

No one noticing?

BUT GOD!

No encouragement?

BUT GOD!

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;
— 2 Corinthians 6:4 (NIV)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
— Psalm 121 (NASB)
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
— Galatians 6:9 (NASB)

I know life can be overwhelming, but God is not overwhelmed by it. We've heard it before, but I need to hear it again. Peter walked on water, though the stormy waves raged all around, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. If you are down and out by life, look up. Jesus will always meet you exactly where you are at. 

Remember, we are all together in this valley. 

 

Divine Appointments

We live in a society of planners. Architects design and plan buildings. Engineers design and plan roads and parking lots. Fashion designers plan for the next season always thinking ahead to the next color palette or trend. Even those of us, who would not call ourselves true planners make dentist and doctor appointments, write up grocery lists and plan get togethers with friends. 

Pixabay - checklist

Jerry Jenkins, is the author of a myriad of books including the Left Behind Series and numerous biographies on people ranging from Hank Aaron, to Luis Pulau to Walter Payton. He even assisted Billy Graham with his autobiography, Just As I Am. Jerry also owns and runs The Jerry Jenkins Writer's Guild, of which I am in my second year of membership. I remember one of the first webinars I took from Jerry, where he talked about the difference between two types of writers; the panster and the outliner. Like Jerry himself and another big name author,  Stephen King, I am a panster.  I write my blog and my fiction by the seat of my pants. Where as an outliner has a plan or an outline they follow as they write. Neither one is better than the other, they are just different. There is also a hybrid of writers who combine the elements of both styles of writing. They come up with a loose outline, but fill in details by the seat of their pants. 

Pixabay - typewriter

When we talk about making plans versus living by the seat of our pants, we can see that there are good points and bad points to both ways of approaching life. Planners, usually, get more done, but they are often so rigid in their schedules that they have forgotten how to enjoy the moment. Those who live by the seat of their pants are usually more relaxed and easy going, but often have projects piling up, because they neglect to develop a plan on how to get them finished.

We as Christ followers can often be guilty of both, planning too much and not planning enough. When I was a young mom, trying to figure out marriage, family life and eventually home schooling, I was often impatient and frustrated because I looked at life as a list of things I had to accomplish. This mentality become more pronounced as I home schooled our daughters from kindergarten through high school. I became a list person, which is a planner, if you didn't know! I think it is amusing that I could be a panster as a writer but in every day life, I was a planner. I loved to get a new planner every year as I looked forward to a new year of home schooling. I still love planners, but I'm not quite as rigid in how I used them. 

Pixabay - planner

What does God say in His word about having plans? Let's take a look. 

Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.
— Proverbs 16:3 (NASB)
The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)
Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.
— Proverbs 19:21 (NASB)
The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.
— Proverbs 21:5 (NASB)

Obviously, God inspired King Solomon, the author of Proverbs to pen these many verses about planning. It is normal and it is good to have a plan, whether you are talking about retirement or about next week's meals, planning can be beneficial in saving us time, money and frustration. 

Unfortunately, many of us have made plans that didn't work out. We have been disappointed by failed relationships, ruined vacations and the chaos of life that constantly seems to want to get in the way of our well thought out plans. The beauty of being a panster, when it comes to real life is a drastic reduction in stress and pain brought about by waylaid plans. 

A mindset that has recently come about in my own life, is that of divine appointments.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
— Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

If I really believe that God is sovereign, and I really believe that He is good, then I must also believe that every bump in the road and every plan that doesn't come to fruition, He already knows about and has a purpose for. How often have you had a plan for your day off and the day draws to a close and you didn't accomplish anything that you had planned? I see those hands our there! In addition to that, how many of you got frustrated because what you had planned got sabotaged by life....a child stays home from school sick, your mother needed your help with the garden, your teenagers and your spouse call saying that won't be home to eat that delicious meal you slaved to prepare....this is the reality of life. The question then becomes, am I supposed to stop planning? Do I just let life fly and go with the flow, like some sort of 1960's flower child, content to sit in the sun and listen to the music?

Pixabay - hippie

Like so many things we talk about, I think the key here is, balance. I think it is important to have plans, but we also need to allow God to do that thing that He does best...orchestrate our lives. Recognize that those speed bumps that come into life are allowed by Him. Everything that comes your way, even the little annoyance and inconveniences, have passed through Him. This is even more pertinent when we are talking about divine appointments. These are those interruptions to our plans that revolve around people. 

Sunday, my Grandson came down with a nasty virus. I am the primary care person when he is out of school, as my daughter, a single mom, has to work a full time job. He comes to my house, when he is home from school. Sunday, I had plans for Monday. I was going to get ahead on my blog, do some writing and try to tackle the laundry. It wasn't going to happen. In fact, here it is Wednesday and the poor guy is still running a low grade temp, so once again, he is home from school. You know what? It's okay. Did my plans get ruined? Not ruined, just adjusted. When I look at life as a series of divine appointments, not only do I have an easier time adjusting to the bumps, but I also keep my focus on the author and finisher of my faith. 

Whether you are a planner or a panster, allowing God to direct your life, day in and day out, gives you the capacity to be less frustrated and more in tune with exactly what He wants you to do. Next time you have a plan and it gets interrupted, ask yourself, could this be one of His divine appointments, then let Him meet you right there. 

Walking with the Psalmist

Psalm 13 is a song of David, and a prayer for help in trouble. What I love about the psalms of David are the parallels to my own emotional ups and downs. Let's dive in.

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
— Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)
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Pixabay

Do you ever feel like David? Do you ever wonder where God is? Does it seem as though He has forgotten you or is hiding His face from you? Have you ever felt like you are the only person you can trust? Do you ever have days where all you can feel is sorrow, or maybe you feel nothing at all, simply numb? Have you felt as though a very real, but unseen enemy is out to get you? Or maybe your enemy is something or someone real, like cancer, a hard nosed boss or a bully. 

I have felt this way. The truth is, I think most of us have felt pretty much alone at some point or other in our lives. Sometimes, we carry burdens that we cannot share, which make us feel very alone and like the psalmist we cry out to God, "Where are you?"

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
— Psalm 13:3-4 (NASB)
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Pixabay

The psalmist asks God to consider his situation. David spent a good portion of his adult life running and hiding from his enemies. I'm pretty sure this song was born out of the frustration and exhaustion of not being able to live a normal life. 

You are probably familiar with the phrase, the new normal. Most often this phrase is used by someone who has encountered a major life change, either a job loss, loss of a loved one, physical limitation or other difficulty that makes life different than it used to be. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I can't do that anymore. Now life is made up of looking at food labels, cutting my food in half so I don't eat too much and cutting out things I used to enjoy like donuts and ice cream. This is the new normal. 

I do not see anything wrong with asking God to consider us. We are His creation. Consider these verses:

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!
— Luke 12:24 (NASB)
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Pixabay

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.
— Luke 12:27 (NASB)
Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

The one who has every hair on our heads numbered can most certainly be bothered to consider us, when we cry out to Him. 

I think the psalmist was also praying for wisdom, or maybe he was just asking God to help him stay awake and keep vigilant watch for his enemies, lest they overcome him and he sleep the sleep of death. Either way we can ask God for help, whether it be for wisdom, or for physical strength. 

1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
— Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him
— James 1:5 (NASB)

The last section of Psalm 13 is the upward swing.

5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
— Psalm 13:5-6
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Pixabay

There are four actions the psalmist does at the end of this song.

1. He remembers. He is speaking in the past tense, remembering other times the Lord has been faithful.

2. He trusts. He trusted in the Lord's lovingkindness in the past, and no doubt, will do so again. 

3. He rejoices. His heart rejoices in the Lord's salvation. We can derive from this statement, the psalmist has seen the Lord's salvation before. 

4. He sings. What a beautiful ending to a song that starts out at a rather low point. He can sing, because the Lord has dealt bountifully with him. 

What does this mean for you and I? First, I believe it is okay to ask God the tough questions. Where are you, God? How long will you keep quiet and not answer me? How long am I going to have to suffer? When will your deliverance come? God knows our frame. He also knows we don't see the whole picture, so I truly believe He understands and has compassion when we come to Him with our ceaseless questioning. Think about the many times your children or grandchildren come to you asking, why or when? Do you yell at them and tell them to be quiet? (Well, maybe once in a while, ha, ha). More often we answer with kindness and love. 

Secondly, I believe it is also alright to let God know we are at the end of ourselves. Consider and answer me, Lord, is a cry for help and reassurance, not a fist raised in defiance. God knows we hurt, sometimes in the deepest places of our being. There are people who suffer physically with pain we can't even imagine. There are people who hurt mentally or emotionally because of what others have done to them or to their family members. God knows our innermost hurts and struggles. 

Finally, I think the key is to follow the psalmist's example and not stay in that mindset of discouragement. Like him we need to choose to remember what God has done for us. We need to trust in the God whose lovingkindness is everlasting. We can rejoice in His salvation. Not only has He saved us from sin through His son Jesus Christ, but He has saved us from difficulties we cannot begin to imagine. Lastly, sing! Sing like no one is listening. Sing to bring the house down. If it is an age old hymn sing it with gusto. If it is singing along to your favorite Christian band, turn up the volume. 

Following David in his pattern of questioning, admitting and rejoicing we will be able to overcome. 

Battling on our Knees

We usually associate warfare with positions of action, like running, jumping, throwing, piercing, punching and thrusting. Whoever heard of doing battle on your knees? However, that is the position we, as Christ Ones, are to assume when we are fighting spiritually. I use the word, kneel, as a metaphorical position for that of humility before God in prayer. Obviously, we are not always able to kneel, even when our prayers are the most intense. I often pace around my house, when I am in intense prayer, because it keeps me focused. I also pray out loud. 

PIxabay

PIxabay

Why is our posture before God so important? Humility is defined as being free from pride or arrogance. What does God say about humility?

Thus says the Lord,
’Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that I may rest?
2 ‘For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,’ declares the Lord.
’But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.’
— Isaiah 66:1-2 (NASB)

God is God. There is no one who can out do Him. He is the Creator and we are His creation. How could we even come close to building a place that could house a being like God. Yet, He says that He will look..."To him who is humble and contrite of spirit..." 

Jesus said, 

Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
— Matthew 18:4 (NASB)

I'll come back to that verse in a minute. Read on.

Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’?
6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’
7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.
10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
— James 4:5-10 (NASB)

So what exactly does all of this have to do with intercessory prayer? Prayer is work. I sure most of you have experienced the feeling that you need to be praying more, but so often find yourself doing everything, but praying. I know I have. However, God's word tells us to, "pray without ceasing;" (I Thessalonians 5:17). Not all of the time we are to spend praying will be for intercessory prayer, but I believe a large percent of our prayers will be for others. We can all think of people at this moment who need our prayers. We all know someone who is sick, depressed, hurt, dying, suffering a broken marriage, a lost job or a wandering child. 

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Pixabay

In order to pray accurately, we need to know the mind of God with regards to the person we are praying for. We should, at least in theory, desire God's will for the person or people we are praying for, even if it is difficult or painful. God is the one who knows what is best and He is the best at orchestrating life to bring people closer to Him. It seems, however, that many people do not believe in the importance of intercessory prayer. 

And He saw that there was no man,
And was astonished that there was no one to intercede;
— Isaiah 59:16a (NASB)

Why would God be astonished that there was no one to intercede? Because it was obvious to Him that intercessory prayer was a given. It isn't an option. We are supposed to do it and we are supposed to do it on a regular basis. 

Humility, or becoming like a child, allows us to come before God with the right mindset as we intercede. If we are prideful and arrogant, we will be trying to exert our will into the situation, rather than coming into agreement with God on how to pray for those we are led to pray for. I don't like praying, "Lord, whatever it takes..." Yet, isn't that really the mindset we need to have when we come to God in prayer for others? What is our goal? Healing, making things better, hoping it will all go away and everyone will live happily ever after? No! Our goal is the mind of Christ. Our goal is that every person we pray for would turn to Him, knowing He is God and there is no other, (Isaiah 45:22).

Humility in prayer allows us to worship God as we are coming into His presence. Worship gives us the proper perspective, not only of who God is, but who we are before Him. That proper perspective will align our minds and our hearts with how God wants us to pray. 

Worship and intercession must go together; one is impossible without the other. Intercession means raising ourselves up to the point of getting the mind of Christ regarding the person for whom we are praying (see Philippians 2:5). Instead of worshiping God, we recite speeches to God about how prayer is supposed to work. Are we worshiping God or disputing Him when we say, “But God, I just don’t see how you are going to do this”? This is a sure sign that we are not worshiping. When we lose sight of God, we become hard and dogmatic. We throw our petitions at His throne and dictate to Him what we want Him to do. We don’t worship God, nor do we seek to conform our minds to the mind of Christ. And if we are hard toward God, we will become hard toward other people.

Are we worshiping God in a way that will raise us up to where we can take hold of Him, having such intimate contact with Him that we know His mind about the ones for whom we pray? Are we living in a holy relationship with God, or have we become hard and dogmatic?
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest (March 30)
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Pixabay

There are times I have felt absolutely powerless. I knew and still know that I have no control over the choices that other people make. I cannot make the lost turned to Jesus. I cannot heal a sick loved one. I cannot mend a relationship that has gone awry. But, I can battle on my knees. With a mindset of humility and worship, the Lord and I can move mountains. 

Mulling It Over - Part 10: Ephesians 6:18

Last month we learned about the sword of the spirit, which is the first of our offensive weapons in this passage on the armor of God. In this final post in my series on the armor of God I want to focus in on verse 18 and our second offensive weapon in our fight against the enemy.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
— Ephesians 6:18 (NASB)
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Pixabay

Besides our sword, which we now know is God's word, we have the offensive weapon of prayer. Let me take a few sentences to clarify the difference between defensive versus offensive. Defensive pieces are those which protect us from the onslaught of the enemy. Our armor, including the helmet and the shield are all pieces that we use to protect ourselves. Offensive pieces are those with which we can actually do damage to the enemy, through the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 

I think it is important to note that most of this passage in Ephesians 6:10-18 is spent describing the defensive pieces or the armor, which we are to put on. This suggests that our part as followers of Christ is to make sure we are battle ready and able to stand firm when the arrows fly. There are times when life is too overwhelming to actually fight back. Those are the times we have to let God, the almighty One, have His way and let Him fight for us. I firmly believe there are myriads of skirmishes going on all around us in the heavenly realms that we do not participate in. However, I also believe there are times that God calls us to pick up that sword and go to war. This leads us back to verse 18 and the offensive weapon of prayer. 

Let's look at what prayer does as an offensive weapon.

1. Puts us in contact with the commander. In what army are the soldiers not aware of who their commander is? From the generals at the top, to the sergeants in the enlisted ranks, soldiers are aware that there is a chain of command. They know who they report to and who reports to them. As Christians prayer puts us in direct contact with the highest head of all the armies at His command. Isn't that awesome? How much more time should we be spending in prayer, knowing that this is the way to get right to the top?

2. Places us under the headship of the Holy Spirit. When we really are seeking God and are trying to pray as He would want us to pray, we are placing ourselves under the movement and persuasion of the Holy Spirit. 

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
— John 14:26 (NASB)

Jesus tells us that the Helper will teach you all things. I think that includes teaching us how to pray. You might think that's a bit silly, but I'm not talking about saying a prayer before dinner or even reciting the Lord's prayer. I am referring to intense, battle worthy praying that gets us prostrate on the floor or pacing around the house with tears streaming down our faces and our hands raised in the air. This is Holy Spirit lead warring prayer. 

Please do not jump to the conclusion that I think this is the only time the Holy Spirit directs our prayer, because it is not. He leads us in prayers of worship, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of confession and prayers of humble petition as well. But there is something about warring prayer that makes praying in the Spirit seem even more real. 

3. Perseveres for the saints. Battle prayers are most often connected to others who need our added strength to help them get through a particularly difficult situation. Verse 18 encourages us to: "With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view (the idea that we are to be praying all prayers at all times in the Spirit) be on the alert (for the enemy, as well as for peeps who need our prayers) with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

Did you notice how many alls are in that verse. I bolded them so you could see them more clearly. Whoa! This idea of prayer is pretty important. I Thessalonians 5:17 says, "pray without ceasing." There isn't a command that is much more straight forward than that. Don't stop praying. 

Praying does not mean that life will suddenly be filled with sunshine and flowers. In fact, often times when we begin the intense prayer of warring praying, we may find the enemy's assaults also intensify. Don't give up. It is even more important when the battle is continuous and overwhelming. Someone needs you to pray, maybe even your own self. Remember you are fighting because the Commander has called you to. He knows who needs those prayers. 

Many of you, like me are older. Your children are grown and you may no longer be as involved as you once were in their lives. Don't stop praying for them. Now, more than ever, they need your prayers, because one thing is sure, our enemy is a roaring lion seeking to devour. He wants our sons and daughters, our spouses, our grandchildren, our friends, our churches and our nation. If you can't sleep at night, God wants you to pray. If you have a few moments alone, God wants you to pray. If you are sick, you can still pray. Driving in the car, pray. Taking a shower, pray.

When you have gotten to the end of yourself and think you can no longer pray, then let go and He will pray for you. Now how cool is that? He will pray for you, until you are able to stand, put on the armor and go to battle again. 

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
— Romans 8:26 (NASB)
and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
— Romans 8:27 (NASB)
who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
— Romans 8:34 (NASB)

You can see the rest of this series by clicking on the links below. 

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.

Our Great and Mighty Purpose

Do you ever struggle with your purpose? Do you ever feel as though the things you do are meaningless? Do you ever feel invisible? I do! I have struggled most of my life with feeling less than whole. I have too often been swayed by other's opinions of how I look, how I act or react and what my value is. Being a Christian does not eliminate the struggles, but it does put them in their proper perspective. 

You see, we are all sinners. We all fall short. 

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)

However, the blood of Christ made it possible that I can now have a relationship with God and with His Son. What does that mean for my purpose? It makes all the difference. 

A Christian worker has to learn how to be God’s man or woman of great worth and excellence in the midst of a multitude of meager and worthless things.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 25th
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Life is full of worthless and meager tasks. Cleaning toilets, doing laundry and mopping the kitchen floor all too often seem worthless. You know the cycle. Just when you get those dishes washed, another stack of bowls and spoons appear. Both our daughters are out of the house, so I am not quite sure how we use so many spoons. Ha, ha. Don't forget laundry. When the girls were growing up I made up a creature called the laundry monster and had a song that I sang when I saw him rearing his ugly head, Now that they are out of the house he is not as prominent, but those loads add up. And the cycle continues over and over and over. 

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Pixabay

If you have a job outside the home, it too can become seemingly worthless and meager. If you work retail like I do, the hours can be long, when the days are slow and the customers can be less than thankful when the days are busy. And the cycle continues over and over and over.

So how do we become those men and women of great worth and excellence as Oswald says? I think there are a few things we need to consider to realize our great and mighty purpose.

1. We are all human. There are very few of us who don't have to do dishes, laundry, take care of kids or aging family, meet the needs of a significant other or do some sort of work that wouldn't necessarily be considered fun. Obviously, there are wealthy people who can hire others to do many of those meager tasks, but they still have to bathe and groom themselves or at least wipe their own behinds when they go to the bathroom; a task that is not worth a lot, but we all do it or the world would be a pretty stinky place. 

2. We all start out ordinary. No one starts out as a movie star or the president of a company or a football player who gets paid millions whether he stands, sits or kneels. 

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Pixabay

All God’s people are ordinary people who have been made extraordinary by the purpose He has given them.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 25th

I love this thought, because not only does it put us all on the same playing field, but it also reminds me that God is in control. If you are a mom, God put you there. If you are a corporate VP, God put you there. If you are a missionary to a foreign country, God put you there. We must come to grips with this idea that God allows the good, the bad and the mundane. 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
— Roman's 8:28 (NASB)

3. God is always at work. God's purpose in our lives is to make us into the image of Christ. He desires that we draw closer and closer to Him. What better way to do that than to put us in circumstances that move us closer to being what He wants us to be. 

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Pixabay

It is not that you have gotten God, but that He has gotten you. God is at work bending, breaking, molding, and doing exactly as He chooses. And why is He doing it? He is doing it for only one purpose - that He may be able to say, ‘This is My man, and this is My woman.’”
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - 0ctober 25th

4. Our great and mighty purpose is to glorify Him. Paul knew this was the case when he was transformed from a hater and persecutor of Christians to being one of the greatest evangelists that ever lived. 

...I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
— I Corinthians 9:22-23 (NASB)

 

It doesn't matter where you are or what you do, your purpose is to glorify Him. How do we glorify God? We glorify Him when our actions, words and attitudes reflect the humility and love of Christ. 

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,
2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
— Philippians 2:1-11 (NASB)

Wash that load of a laundry with a song in your heart. Change that baby's diaper with thanksgiving. Deal with that cantankerous customer with kindness. Write, walk, work, love, play to the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

This is our great and mighty purpose. 

Mulling It Over - Part 9: Ephesians 6:17

Last time in this Mulling It Over series, I looked at the beginning of Ephesians 6:17. This week, I'd like to mull over the last part of that verse. 

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
— Ephesians 6:17 (NASB)

The helmet of salvation was the last of our defensive pieces of armor. All of the defensive pieces are articles that are worn on the body, or as in the shield of faith, are used to protect the body from assaults from the enemy. The sword of the Spirit, is the first weapon listed. 

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Pixabay

We might wonder why God gives us so many pieces of armor to protect ourselves and only two weapons with which to actually attack the enemy. Obviously God knows what is best and I hope to illuminate why this is the case.

First, I think we need to look at 2 Corinthians 10

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
— 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NASB)

These verses clearly state the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful. In other words, our weapons are divinely empowered. In essence God does the fighting for us. Our job is to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13) and resist in that evil day. Our job also involves destroying wrong thinking and taking all of our own thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. 

Next we need to look at what exactly this sword of the spirit is. We all know what a sword is. A long sharp weapon that was meant for slicing, chopping and stabbing. It was meant to inflict harm and even kill. There are numerous types of swords from the Roman Gladius, to the English Broadsword, to the modern foil used in competitive fencing. For the most part a sword was meant for close combat. While we occasionally see in a movie a sword being flung long distances and making its mark, the sword is meant to be used when the enemy is at arm's length.

Pixabay

Pixabay

I find it interesting that God directed Paul to write the sword of the Spirit, not the axe or the spear, both of which were often thrown from a distance. The axe, especially one used during the Viking era, was often used in close combat to chop, hack and bash, but a sword enabled the user to finalize his victim with a well placed point to the heart or a slicing slash along the throat. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

This sword we are given to use is meant to be taken up when we are in close combat with the enemy. This sword is of the Spirit and is the word of God. God's word is a powerful, offensive weapon for us to use when we are face to face with our enemy, the devil. 

What does this look like in real life. I know for me, when I am really struggling with some specific difficulty, using God's word is the best way to kill the wrong thinking that is so often associated with sin. For instance, more recently I have had anxiety. Nothing new right? We all deal with anxiety. However, anxiety left unresolved and allowed to run rampant will becoming a raging bull, one that we will not be able to control.

When faced with anxiety I have learned to use God's word to remind me of His truth. His word says this in regards to anxiety and fear:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
— Philippians 4:6 (NASB)
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

I love the 2 Timothy verse in the King James Version because it uses the word fear and it also uses the phrase sound mind. What is more chaotic and confused than the anxious mind? 

Here are a few more scriptures that have to do with fear.

So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
— Matthew 10:31 (NASB)
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
— Romans 8:15 (NASB)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
— Psalm 23:4 (NASB)

These are just a few of the verses in scripture that deal with fear. Perhaps your issue is not fear, but anger, or lust or pride. God's sword is capable of delivering fatal blows to all of our enemy's minions. Let me say, it may not happen immediately. When I was in college I was struggling against several different sins that kept coming back to haunt me, but as I matured in my walk with Christ and began to take His word seriously I just kept using it when the temptations returned. Over and over, I stabbed and jabbed, sometimes on my knees, sometimes laying flat on the floor and sometimes pacing with my fist in the air, but eventually that sword did its job. 

Often when we struggle against the same recurring lies of the enemy it might be our "thorn in the flesh" so to speak, but God's word is still faithful, no matter how many times the enemy returns to attack us. If you have His Spirit in you and you are able to yield the sword of His word, victory will come.

Don't forget when you put on your armor in the morning to grab that sword before you walk out the door. 

 

Deep Waters

Summer weather always makes me long for the beach, or at least somewhere near the water. What is it about water that fascinates us so? I know for me, some of it may be the lovely pictures I come across in magazines of quaint sea side cottages decorated with lovely reminders of the vast ocean just outside the door. Water has a therapeutic effect. I love to sit near it, watching the waves rolling in or listening to the rush of foam hitting the shore. 

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Water can also be frightening. It can cause catastrophic flooding and overwhelm the largest ocean going vessels. We all desire safe harbor, but sometimes God has something very different in mind. Once in a while He will cut the lines that tether us to the shore and set us on a sea that would scare the bravest and most seasoned sailor. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Oswald Chambers states it perfectly:

If you yourself do not cut the lines that tie you to the dock, God will have to use a storm to sever them and send you out to sea...If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the calm waters, just inside the harbor, full of joy, but always tied to the dock. You have to get out past the harbor and into the great depths of God, and begin to know things for yourself—-begin to have spiritual discernment.”
— My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

I love word pictures. This picture struck me right between the eyes. I love being in safe harbor. I love to feel at peace and know that life is running smoothly. I like organization, and like many women, I want to feel like I am in control, at least of some aspect of life. For me that is safe. What isn't safe is not knowing where your kids are at three or four in the morning, having pain or illness that can't be diagnosed, losing your job or getting old. These things are all reminders that we have very little in our control. 

I believe that we can become dependent and even prideful of our place in that peaceful harbor. We become fixated on the ropes that are tethering us to the dock believing that it is the ropes that keep our boat safe and secure. That is when the storms come and sever our ties, ripping the very ropes we took pride in and depended upon, from the dock and setting us adrift on an angry,  sea.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Why would God do that? Why would He take us from that safe place and send us out on a stormy ocean? Doesn't He care about us? Doesn't He know that we are afraid?

Of course He does, but He also knows that you will never grow if you are forever in the safe harbor. He knows every hair on your head, every cell in your body and He knows just exactly what you need. Our journey in this life is about our relationship with Him. It is about letting go of everything we hold dear and clinging to Christ alone. 

I know this is hard. I have experienced the storm and I have felt my strongest ropes (the things I thought were right) torn away from that peaceful dock. I have cowered, terrified, in the bottom of the boat wondering when that monster wave would finally take me under. But always at that darkest and most chaotic moment, I would lift my eyes just a bit over the edge of the boat and I would see Him coming to me on the waves. He would come, climb into my boat and we would ride those stormy seas like a surfer hanging ten! 

Oh yes, my stomach has roiled, just like the sea. My mind has crashed just like those tumultuous waves, but gradually the storm would move away, the waves would soften and the wind would calm. He would take my hand and say,

"Peace, dear lamb. Be still."

He alone can overcome our pride. He alone can ride the storm out with us. He alone can speak peace into our troubled hearts.

Dear ones, don't cling to tightly to those plans you have made, nor those ropes that tether you to the dock. He may be calling you out into deep waters.