Joy in the Process

‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. ‘ Romans 15:13

Of all the ministry areas the Lord has led me to work in, I find myself enjoying leading Bible Study with the ladies of our church. It actually has not always been this way. When my husband and I first began in ministry together, He was the associate pastor at a local church. He had been serving  in churches for quite some time before we were married so he had his feet already wet and prepared more than I was for the challenges in the ministry. I had served in the church, but had not yet been in a position of leadership. I remember the first time I was approached to lead a women’s bible study. Two words come to my mind, “SHEER PANIC”! I would have to get up in front of other women and lead in a study of God’s Word. I felt so unworthy and then concerned. What if they asked me stuff I didn’t know the answer to? What if they thought my teaching style was weird? I went through every scenario. I prayed a lot. I prayed God would change His mind. Then I realized that God was calling me to do it. So I took a deep breath and jumped in feet first. God did a work in me. He taught me to rely on Him.

When I think of leading a bible study now, I look forward to it. I know I am doing what God has called me to do. It took a little while to find my groove, but the Lord showed me I just needed to be myself and trust him fully. A lot of prayer and preparation goes into it, but I have found joy in all God has taught me over the years. It’s hard to believe that it has been 24 years since that first Bible study. I give God the praise for all He has done in me and through me. Last night, Our ladies finished up the Book, “Why Do I Put So Much Pressure On Myself And Others” by Kathy Collard Miller. Though the Book is a lesson on how God helped our author through overcoming and learning to cope with perfectionism, we looked at a lot of Scripture to realize who we are and whose we are! I had the privilege to go through this book several years ago. This time the Lord taught me some more about how my life goal should not be about making sure everything is perfect, but to strive to pursue Christ with my whole heart. Someone with perfectionist tendencies often never sees the joy because they are more focused on the circumstances. I am thankful that God is willing to take us where we are and lead us to where He wants us to be. If we spend all our efforts focused on things we cannot control we will not have the energy to pursue Christ. We can find so much joy in the pursuit of Christ.

God can fill you will all joy and peace as Romans 15:13 says. The key is we have to be in a position to let Him. Let go of things, and grab Jesus with both hands. Don’t let Him go. Tell Jesus you can not take one more step without Him. To Trust and Rely on God should be our focus. When this happens, Joy will be the product, and Peace of God will be experienced as you never have felt before. We can find joy in the midst of trials. The bible says, “Perfect love casteth out fear.” (1 John 4:18) We can learn to hope in God alone. Do you want pure joy? My friend, you cannot find it outside of God. Pursue Christ and find joy in the process!

Blessings to you today!

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Heart Check Up

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. ‘ Matthew 15:8-9 

I have always been a cheerleader at heart. Yes, I did have the uniform to prove it from 1985-1988. Even after my cheer leading days were but a memory, I loved to cheer on the underdog. The one who always seemed to get the short end of the stick so to speak was the one I tried to lift up, encourage, and cheer on. In my quiet time today I was reading in Matthew 15. At the get go, in this chapter, the Pharisees were after Jesus and disciples again. They were criticizing the disciples for not holding to their traditions and doing things a different way. My inner cheer leader hollered, “Get ’em Jesus!” He did. Yet what He said gripped my heart. “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (v.8) 

Wait a minute! Am I guilty of this? Am I quick to honor God with my words when I know my heart is not honoring Him with my actions? Is my heart far from God? Do I say all the right things because people are watching, yet in my heart I know I am not where I need to be? I had some self evaluation time with my Savior. I won’t give you the results. That is between Him and Me. I will say it has set me to look after the things that I say.

I want to draw close to him with my whole heart not just my words. I want my motives as well as my lip service to be in line with God. The reason this issue is so important is because in the next verse it reveals why. A heart not right with God affects our worship of Him.(v.9) When we sing in church on Sunday, do the words we sing reflect what is in our heart. We may lift up His name with our mouth, but does it echo from our heart or merely lip service. Do we do more sinning in the song service than out in the world? Can I truly say with my heart “I trust and obey”, or “I surrender all”?

The second part of verse 9 states that instead of clinging to the truth of God’s Word we place in higher authority what men say. How we worship God can affect our view of God. I want to say that in my heart I hold what God says to be more important than what man may say. I want to show that my heart speaks and shows honor to God when I open my mouth. Pleasing God needs to come before pleasing man. My husband is fond of saying, “In my life, I serve an audience of One.” We do. We strive to serve God and honor Him alone. In our walk with the Lord, may we be careful that the words we say come from a heart that is drawing close to the Savior daily.

I am cheering for you, my friend. Let us together practice checking our heart before we speak!

 

To Much of a Good Thing…

This dog of mine seems to know how to push my buttons. Most of the time she is a good dog. She minds pretty well. She loves big. She tends toward hardheadedness. Thus, this morning is my beef with her. Annie, the dog, is my rescue dog. She came to our family and fit right in. As she is currently the only dog in our household, so she is very spoiled (my fault, I know). Not long after she came on board, she developed parvo which affected her digestive system. She came very close to dying, but with some quick vet meds and waiting it out she did recover. The illness did leave behind a very sensitive stomach. I have to be very careful that she doesn’t over eat because it will make her sick every time. Yesterday, she got into a new bag of dog food. It went everywhere while I made an effort to get most of the excess up it was more than she usually has access too. I even told her don’t overeat. This morning I woke up to the smell and sounds of a dog tossing her cookies. Yuk! We have hardwood floors in our home. However, her favorite place to do the aforementioned is on the end of the long rug in our hallway.  She forgets, She’s a dog, and She can’t help herself.

Unfortunately, I am like that at times too. My life will get out of balance when I let to many things capture my attention. The fact of the matter is these things are not bad things. They are good things to do. I find myself taking on more and more things, then I find I am stretched to thin and not effective at any of them. I am learning that I am not super woman. I really cannot do it all. We all may struggle with finding balance in our daily lives. Because in all fairness, most of us are more busy than we have ever been. Juggling family, work, church, and friendships can lead to a three-ring circus. I have learned when things begin to feel out of control, I go to Father God who is in control of it all. I take Him my unbalanced, crazy life and we work together on it. In the quietness of our time together, I find a peace and contentment that comes only spending time with Him alone. He knows me so well. He knows everything about me. He shows me what is best for me and what is not. The time spent in God’s presence is time well spent. It is something that I need everyday. Most days, I find a run to Him all through my day. It is in those days that I feel the most centered and the most balanced.

Some may say that having to much of a good thing is the only way, but I disagree. The only way to live it to have all that God wants me to have for that day. God is the one person you can never have to much of. It is indeed the best way to live.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

How’s My Love?

Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ ”  ~ Matthew 22:37

One of the things I have tried to practice in my home is to tell each member of my family how much I love them. I wanted my boys to know as they were growing up that in any situation whether good or bad they were loved by me. Of course, I loved doing things to show them that I loved them. I feel this is indeed very important, but equally important is to say the words, “I love you!” Every time they were leaving to go anywhere or even off with friends. I would tell them to “Be careful, and I love you”. This did get a bit tricky when they moved into that age when saying “I love you” around other people can be embarrassing for a fellow to hear from his mother. So, we used code 143. (I Love You). It was something we did not explain to anyone. It was just something we did. It kind of cracked me up when sometimes when they got older. I would tell them 143 and they would respond back with, “I love you too”. We said it so much that it got to the point when it didn’t matter anymore. Our saying “love you” grew beyond the code. It became our second nature.

In our relationship with God as in our human interaction, we tell others we love God, and we even show our love by our actions, but when was the last time you told God, “I love you!” Maybe this has never occurred to you and that’s okay. I was talking with someone not long ago and this was the case with her. She began telling God she loved him and it made a difference in how she viewed God. She stated that it encouraged her to hear someone praying telling God that they loved Him. Our verse today in Matthew encourages us to love God with all that is in us, our heart, our soul, and our mind. Leave nothing out. We must love completely and love big! God has done so much for us. God shows his love to us, but He also tells us He loves us. (John 3:16) God is the very essence of love. (1 John 4:8) With all that He has done to extend love to us should we not want to love Him back with all that is in us: Heart, Soul, Mind? With our whole heart, the essence of who we are, we serve and love God and others. With our soul, spiritually seeking to love God as He loves while following his commandments. With our mind, using the knowledge and wisdom God has bestowed upon us discerning when we need to go the extra mile in loving.

So I give it to you, my friend. How’s your love? Do you love God with all of your heart, soul and mind. I have to say for myself, I have come a long way, yet I have not arrived. It is something that I am striving for daily. I want to love God the way He wants me to. I do need to remember that this is an area God can help me with.  ‘And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, ‘ (Ephesians 3:19-20)  God wants us to know his love! He can do more than we ask or think. So together, Let’s ask!

 

When Compassion Meets Opportunity

And of some having compassion, making a difference.’ Jude 22

Well, we are headed back to the ball field. Tonight our little corner of southwest Georgia has begun our annual church softball league. I will say up front that as a former player of this sport, I love when the season comes around again. There is something electric when you get to the ball field. I loved playing softball in high school. I loved watching my boys play baseball growing up. Now, I get to watch them in the church softball league. I’m excited.

I do know that there are times when stuff that takes place at the ball field gets a “bad rep”. Parents going overboard, or kids having meltdowns etc., but in all fairness there is a lot of positives that can happen on our favorite diamond. One it teaches our younguns teamwork, and how to get along well with others. When they get out on the work force after school has ended, they are going to have to know how to get along with other people. It teaches to pursue excellence and doing your best. Also, great lessons to learn before thrust into the situation in your twenties. So for all intensive purposes, you can learn what to do when the pressure is on, and also what not to do.

It really warms my heart when I look back at the coaches my boys had at the ball field. They both had ones that worked with them and helped them, and above all showed them compassion when it was needed. They took the opportunity to show my boys the character it takes to achieve greatness. The boys often discuss the ball field antics now that they are older. The coaches that they remember are the ones that showed them how to strive for excellence, but also understood that character and compassion would be what they would benefit from the most.

So for all those sweet folks that will be out there on ball field across America. Remember, your kid might not be the next great one on the ball field, but if he is wouldn’t it be better for him to have character and compassion before he takes on the world of sports. We sure to need more of those!

“Captive” Thoughts

‘For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; ‘ II Corinthians 10:3-5

Think of a water filtration system at your house. What is its function? As the water passes through the filtering system all the impurities are stripped away. Anything that could be potentially harmful to you is taken out. You are left with water that is safe to consume and be beneficial to your body. Water is a wonderful for our bodies.

In the Christian life, our thought lives are where the most aggressive battles take place. We think then we act. Often it has to be said we act without thinking at times. But, more often than not, how we think affects what we do. Several years ago I came across the phrase “stinkin’ thinkin’ “. This phrase is what I call it when negative thoughts about myself invade my mind and heart. To often in my life I have fallen into the trap of valuing what the world negatively says about me or thoughts I have about myself rather than looking to God and His word for my value. Maybe you find yourself in a similar situation. Maybe someone put ideas in your head as a child. People who are hurting often lash out at those closest to them. In an effort to stop feeling bad about themselves they fling hurtful words at others putting them down. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Not sure who came up with this one, but I believe they were misinformed. Words can hurt deeply.

So how do we ditch the “stinkin’ thinkin’ “. We filter every word we play in our head through the filter of God’s Word. Read and find out what God has to say about you. Ephesians 5:25-26 says about the church, ‘Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,” God is speaking of the church here, but I believe the same principle can be applied to the mind. We cleanse our minds of negative thoughts by filtering every thought through the filter of the Word of God. In our Key verse, II Corinthians 10:3-5, all our negative thoughts should be brought into captivity. Practice going to the Word of God when “stinkin thinkin” invades your mind. Clean up your thoughts by washing them in the Word. Find out what God has to say about you. (Psalm 43:5; Proverbs 3:3-5). Pursue Christ and Learn to think thoughts that will honor and glorify Him.

  • Example Prayer to Pray—”Father God, I grab hold to this truth that you are for me! You value me! (Matthew 10:31) You said in your Word I am more valuable than the birds you created. When I get down on myself, I am going against what your Word says about me. So, I claim (Deuteronomy 31:8) that you are with me, and (Romans 8:32) that you are going to give me what I need in this very moment. Also, (v.33) that no one can lay a charge against me except You. This includes me! Help me take these negative thoughts I am thinking about myself and drown them in the truth of your Word. AMEN!
  • Pray with your Bible open praying the Scripture back to God

May the truths of God’s Word penetrate your heart and mind and think “Good Thoughts”.

 

“Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda”

I should have handled that in another way…

I sure would have handled that differently…

I could have done it so much better another way…

How often does the tape recorder of second guessing yourself play the same tune, different verse in your head? Me? Quite often I would have to say. For years, I have struggled on and off with the business of perfectionism. As a disclaimer, I will say upfront that I am aware that I am not perfect, painfully aware. Most of the time, with the Lord’s help, of course, I have learned the signs of perfectionism coming out in my life and dealt with it quickly with the help of His Word. Sometimes though I experience the tape recorder playing over and over in my head with all the “what if’s?” and “If Only’s…”

We, perfectionists, at one point or another, find ourselves falling in the trap of evaluating every minor issue in our lives thinking we could have done it better, if only… I find that when I find myself susceptible to this trap is when I being to turn my thoughts and feelings inward rather than focusing my thoughts upward on Christ. Proverbs 23:7 reads, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is…” It is in my mind and my heart where these battles are fought. We know that when we pull negative thoughts toward what we did or said it brings us to the place where we feel we are lacking and come up short of what we really wanted to do or say. Our negative thinking can be our undoing. So, when we feel these negative thoughts coming up, call it what it is “stinkin thinkin”! I heard this term several years ago, though I am not sure where, and it resonated with me.

I need to let go of the “stinkin thinkin” thoughts of I shoulda, woulda, or coulda done it differently. Sure hind sight is 100%. The Bible tells us in Philippians 2:2 that you “be likeminded”, and then in verse 5 of chapter 2 to, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” We need change our frame of mind and focus on how Christ thinks about us. Scripture reveals to us over and over how God feels about us. He loves us. (1 John 4:8; John 3:16). We are valuable to Him (Luke 12:6-7; Matthew 10:31). The list can go on and on. Once and for all we need to take Philippians 4:6-8 seriously. Do not fear and think on things that are true and right before God. Will we still struggle from time to time? Yes, the devil wants to see us beat ourselves up to the point that we cannot be effective for Christ. When the negative thoughts arise. Quickly squelch them with what God has to say about you.

We do not have to live by the shoula, woulda, coulda merry-go-round! We can overcome with the power of Christ and His Word. May you find your freedom from “stinkin thinkin” and rest in Christ alone.

Blessings to You!