Posts Tagged With: train your mind

The “What If” Game IS A Dangerous Game To Play

 

Saturday was a busy day. It was raining when we headed out to watch my oldest son compete in the conference Scholar Bowl tournament at a nearby school. In early afternoon, as his team finished and we left the school, it had begun to lightly snow. But we were on our way to another school so he could participate in a basketball tournament. As soon as this tournament was over, my husband left to take him to a third school where the high school varsity teams were playing (he keeps stats for the girls and boys team) while my younger son and I headed home.

By this time, it had been snowing for several hours. Snow was beginning to pile up. Road crews were out working but they just couldn’t keep up – it was coming too hard and too fast.

My son and I walked in our home and I fell on the couch, exhausted from the day but mainly from the drive home. It was stressful. My road had not been touched yet and I was slipping and sliding everywhere and my youngest son was in the backseat. What if I had slid off the road? He could have been hurt or even killed.

I’m so glad that my husband is such a good driver and is so careful that I don’t have to worry about him.

Then my phone rang.

It was my husband and he had slid off the road.

Another family that we knew stopped, picked our son up and took him onto the ball game.

But my husband was still stuck on the side of the road and needed help. I called a friend who lived nearby. He willingly and happily went to help my husband. Our friend was able to pull him out but within half a mile my husband slid off two more times. Finally, the friend just brought him home.

This evening we went to get our truck. It’s a small Ford Ranger without 4 wheel drive. Not much good in the snow. It took us nearly twenty minutes to get it out of the driveway he had left it in.

While driving back home, I couldn’t help but to notice the sides of the road. It was lined with steep drop-offs. Yet my husband and son slid onto level ground.

But what if they had slid off here instead?

What if the truck would have rolled?

What if it had crushed the cab with my husband and son inside?

What if… What if… What if…

Tonight as my son and husband went to sleep, I kept praying and thanking God for the protection that He had given to them. I thank Him for always taking care of my family when I cannot. And I just wanted to watch them sleep and hold them close, having been reminded of what a treasure they truly are.

But when it is my turn to go to sleep, my mind turned to the “What if…” game.

For me, personally, it is worse at night when I’m trying to go to sleep. That is when my mind really starts working and going crazy. I suppose during the day I can keep busy enough to not think about it. But at night, well, the night makes up for the day. That means more worry and less sleep. That results in a more tired and stressed mom/wife. Believe me, nobody in my house wants that!

You can probably relate. Maybe you haven’t been in this same exact situation, but you have probably been in some sort of a frightening situation. And you have been left wondering “What if…”

While I am certainly not proficient at this and still need lots of practice, I would like to make a suggestion on how to deal with the “What if…” game. Even though the weather was bad and my husband and son slid off the road, God still looked after my family. As much as I love them, God loves them more. Even as precious as they are to me, they are more precious to God. So instead of playing the “What if…” game, I am going to say to my mind, “No, I’m not going to allow you to go there. Instead I am going to thank the Lord that He did not allow that to happen. I am going to thank the Lord for His sovereignty, love, and grace. I am going to sing praises to the Lord.”

Playing the “What if…” game is a dangerous game to play. It totally discounts the Lord’s sovereign will. In the Lord’s sovereign will, He allowed our truck to slide off in a relatively safe place. He did not allow our truck to roll or the cab to be crushed. So why do we allow to let our minds dwell there? That is not honoring, glorifying, or praising the Lord – the very thing that we, as His children, are called to do.

Colossians 3:2 tells us “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Basically, that verse is telling us to think of things that are eternal and praise the Lord for them. It is telling us to trust God. It is telling us to think of Him in ALL things. Don’t worry so much about the “What if’s…” because those are not things that are eternal. He has already taken care of them.

We all have deep, dark places that our minds want to visit from time to time. If we allow them to dwell there, they can very easily lead us into a depression.

These are real fears. I’m not taking away from that. Yet, we cannot allow our minds to reside there. In fact, the Scriptures tell us not to. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “…Take every thought captive to obey Christ.” That verse is speaking of the importance of training our minds for Christ. And it sounds simple to do. But it is very difficult and challenging.

Consider this; we are all training our minds for something. So what will it be? Self-pity or admiration of the Lord? Praise and worship or fear and terror? Unbelief or praise? Fear and fright or trust of His faithfulness?

 

“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73:28)

 

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Why Evangelize?

 

I met *Jason the first time when I switched school in fifth grade. He was smart, funny, and very silly. He was the class clown. He could make anyone laugh. He was everyone’s friend.

But as we grew and advanced through grades, he seemed to find trouble more and more. And it wasn’t just in the classroom. Or with teachers or school officials. The first time he had a run-in with the law, we were in eighth grade (I think). He fought. He stole. He cheated.

The fun boy that we all knew and loved was gone. This mean kid had taken his place. And this “new” Jason seemed to only be getting worse.

And then he moved.

I did not see or hear from him until we were in our late 20s. Imagine how surprised I was to see him at a church’s VBS! I spoke with him for quite a while. He hadn’t graduated from high school but chose to get his GED. He met a nice girl. Got married. Became a police officer (that was the one that really shocked me!). Had three children. His wife left him and he continued to raise his children. Alone.

At this point, you could have sneezed and I would have fallen over!

And most of all, he was a wonderful dad. He played with his kids. He enjoyed his kids. He loved his kids. He worked very hard to support them.

We talked more and more. I was still so shocked that this was the same Jason that I had gone to school with. I was elated to see the changes he had made in his life. Before we left, he gave me his phone number and asked if I would please let him know the next time we had a class reunion (I was surprised he had any interest in coming).

Just a couple months later we did have a reunion. I called him and he did come. We were all thrilled to see the man and father that he had become.

And then life went on and things went back to normal and I never saw him again.

About six months later I was cleaning and found the scrap of paper he had written his phone number on. I certainly did not want my husband to think that I had any ulterior motive for keeping Jason’s number so I threw it away. I had done my job anyhow.

The very next day I received a phone call that he had unexpectedly passed away during the night.

I was stunned. Shocked. He was what, 28 years old? People are not supposed to die when they are 28 years old! I felt sick at my stomach. I thought about his sweet children.

But most of all, I thought about him. I wondered about him. Where was he? There was no doubt that a huge change had occurred in his life. Was that because Christ had entered? Maybe. After all, I did see him at a VBS. But I didn’t know for sure. Why didn’t I ask?

Why did I never call him?

Why did I never share the gospel with him?

How many months did I have his number? It was available to me and I did not seize the opportunity. I could have invited him and his children over for supper. I could have asked his family to meet mine at the park to play. I really do think he would have liked that.

But I didn’t.

And the sad truth is that I didn’t even think about it. Didn’t even cross my mind. Why? I don’t even know. Laziness, maybe. Selfishness, maybe. Out of my comfort zone, maybe. Or maybe just believing there will be another day.

I do understand the sovereignty of God. I realize that Jason’s ultimate fate was not/is not dependent upon how obedient I am in sharing the gospel. So I’m not saying that I have a huge amount of guilt. I just realize that I missed an opportunity and a blessing.

And that grieves me.

So what is my point? None of us is guaranteed another day.

With every breath, brag on Jesus.

Keep him foremost in your mind. This is not in our human nature to do, so pray that the Lord increase your love for Him and His word.

Don’t pass up an opportunity to love another person. To really love them. After all, we are all created in His image (Genesis 1:27).

Pray that God gives you opportunities to share the gospel. And then look for them so you recognize them when you see them.

Put away selfish desires and selfish motives.

Take time to commit Scripture to memory. You might not always have your Bible with you. Be prepared.

And most of all, cling to the cross.

Maybe you will be outside your comfort zone. But so what? Do you think that the Apostle Paul was ever outside of his? Probably. Yet, he is known as the greatest evangelist of all times.

All we can do is be obedient when the opportunity arises. The rest is up to God. I am so thankful for this. It is not up to how well I present the Scriptures, how good of a speaker I am, or anything else. If a work is done in someone’s heart, it is the Lord who did it. I am merely a tool in His hand. And if He is able to use something as broken and shattered as me, I am humbled and honored that He chose to use me.

I pray that I arise when the opportunity comes. No more Jasons.

 

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God have the growth.” –1 Corinthians 3:6

“…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” –James 4:14

 

*Name changed to protect privacy

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Prepare In The Off Season

 

My twelve year old son is a very good basketball player. He is diligent. He works hard. He practices daily. He has ten or twelve agility exercises that he does every day. Even away from home. He takes a four mile run every other day to keep his endurance up. He shoots fifty free-throws a day. To strengthen his abdominal muscles, he hula hoops with a five pound hoop for twenty minutes a day.  He practices dribbling. He practices boxing out. He practices shooting from various locations all over the court. He practices ball handling. And he does it diligently and faithfully every day.

And at the time I’m writing this, it’s mid-July. Games won’t start for three more months. Practices won’t start until football is over and football hasn’t begun yet. Not even the practices.

Yet I watch him push himself every day. I am not standing out there with a whistle and stop watch yelling at him to go quicker, do more. Neither is my husband or anyone else. We are watching from behind the window of our nice, cushy, air-conditioned home.

Why on earth would any twelve year old kid want to spend his summer or off season like this? I have questioned this myself. But the simple answer is that he preparing. He does this because he wants to be a better player. He’s not content with player that he was last season. He wants to improve.  And when the practices start, they will be easier. And when the games begin, he will be better.

He simply has a love for the game.

As I watch him, I am convicted of my own lack of discipline. It is very easy to find other things to do. The laundry needs folded, the baby needs a bath, the toilet needs cleaned, the floors need vacuumed, and supper needs prepared. All the while, my Bible lies in the same place it did two days ago.

If only I could be as disciplined as my son.

And shouldn’t I? He practices so hard because he wants to improve. He desires to be a stronger player. Because he loves basketball.

Yet I confess to love the Lord and at the same time have a hard time fitting Him into my day. Is it just me, or does something seem not quite right here? And I wonder if I’m the only one with this problem.

Right now, I feel that I am in the “off season” too. Times are relatively pleasant right now. But for how much longer? Unlike my son who knows when his games will begin, I don’t know when times will be challenging. But the trials are coming. Times will be rough. I need to be preparing now. In the off season. Because tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow things may be hard. Tomorrow a trial may begin.

So I must remind myself the necessity of training. Even when things are busy. Even when I’m on vacation. Even though the laundry might not get done today. I must also pray that the Lord increases my love for Him. That He increases my desire to have daily fellowship with Him.

And how does one prepare in the off season? The same way that one prepares during the season. Ask my son. He’ll tell you the only difference is that right now there is no coach yelling at him, he is practicing at home instead of the gym at school, and he is not with his team. Other than that things are the same. The same drills. The same techniques. The same desire. We must not let up in the off season.

What does that mean for you and me? That means that we must spend time in Scripture. Spend time in prayer. Spend time committing Scripture to memory. Spend time worshiping, praising, and exalting His holy name. Fasting may be necessary from time to time. Time spent preparing for the sermon on Sunday, Bible studies, family studies, or Sunday school will not be time wasted. Spend time with the Lord, just like we do when things are difficult.

I know that it can be hard to fit it in. Believe me, I know. Many people recommend waking up early before the kids wake to get this time in with the Lord. But I am not a morning person. My mind just doesn’t process things very well in the morning so that never worked for me.

My husband and I have worked out a system. When he gets off work, he usually wants to spend some time outside. He takes our boys with him and they work or play until I come out. This gives me the time alone that I need without feeling a time pressure. After I come out, he goes in. We have found this to be an especially sweet time and precious time with the Lord and our boys.

This is also a way to hold one another accountable. I confess that I am not as disciplined as my son. I do need someone to hold me accountable.

I do not know when times will be hard for me again. But they are coming. Like my son, I want to be prepared. He has reminded me that the best way to be prepared is to work in the off season. To push yourself. Ask God for discipline. Ask God for strength. Ask God to show us our weaknesses.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 1Corinthians 9:24-25

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Struggles In The Light Of The Cross

 

Seven years ago I went through a series of unpleasant health difficulties. They are too numerous to list here and since they involve the digestive system, they are probably not appropriate either.

I saw my doctor and she was very concerned. She referred me on to a specialist who told me, “You’re a perfectly lovely young lady. These things usually work themselves out.”

But they didn’t.

Week after week I was in pain. I could hardly stand without blacking out. The passing of food became so unpleasant I did not want to eat. And when I did, I knew I would have severe abdominal cramping for the next twelve hours.  But that was only if I was able to keep it down. Either way, when food left my body it was so violent that it ended with blood.

After about seven months of this, I visited my doctor again. And again, she referred me on to the specialist. This time, however, he thought he should run a couple of tests.

Two weeks later I received the news:  I have celiac disease.

At that time, celiac disease was unheard of, at least to me. We went to the internet and found out that it’s an intolerance to gluten. What is gluten? Another search revealed that it is wheat, barley, rye, and sometime oats. Plus, there are many, many names that it hides under.

A huge change began to take place in my life.

Not only did this involve the food I ate, but also anything that I touched (it can be absorbed through skin). In the beginning I did not imagine that I would have to change my toothpaste, lipstick, dish soap, or the envelopes we used.

I also had not considered the birthday parties and graduation receptions where I was not able to have a piece of cake. I could not even have a piece at my own baby shower.

I am not telling you this to whine and complain. Really, I feel that I have nothing to complain about. There are people who are so much worse off than me. I have a friend who cannot even touch pages of a magazine without a huge reaction. The same friend cannot be around fragrances without a stay in a hospital. This has caused leaving the home to be difficult.

Another friend has such terrible reactions to citrus that if an orange or lemon is even peeled in the same room, she and her daughter may very well get a sinus headache or pain. That’s pretty sensitive!

No, I have nothing to complain about.

And why would I?

If I eat gluten, even mistakenly, I know what the consequences will be. If my first friend goes shopping and smells laundry detergent, she knows what the repercussions will be. And the latter friend tries with all her might to distance herself and her daughter from citrus foods for fear of severe pain.

Is it a sacrifice? No, I don’t believe so. While it is true that we give up things that we want or desire, it is also true that we want to feel good. So we will gladly give up gluten. Or magazines. Or lemonade.

I will admit that I am still tempted from time to time. When I smell cinnamon rolls, I desperately want one. Pizza makes my mouth water. And a blueberry pie…  Oh, that is what dreams are made of!

A dear friend once told me, “Just think…  One day there will be a banquet. And you will be able to have ANYTHING that you want.”

That one statement has given me much encouragement over the years.

It has caused me to look forward. To think of and to remember a time is coming when these bodies will be glorified. The aches, pains, sensitivities, hurts, frustrations, sicknesses, discouragements, and even death, will all pass away.

Oh Christian, the time is coming!

And it will be so much better than either you or I could possibly imagine. I think of how excellent that blueberry pie is going to taste and know that it will be even better. My friend longs for a time when an orange will not be her enemy, but the juice may freely flow over her tongue.

Does this not sound good to you? Is this not exciting?

I, personally, am somewhat thankful that I have these momentary inflictions. While they are not pleasant, they do help to pry my hands off the grip of this world and lift them up in praise. They cause me to crave Christ more. To desire Him. To long for Him. To want Him with all that I am. To keep my eyes focused on the prize.

Pilgrim, I do not know what you are going through right now. But I know life can be rough. I know it can be discouraging at times. I know it can be lonely. I know there are disappointments, and things can be very unfair. But carry on.

Remember, Christ is your reward!

Don’t allow these momentary trials to take you eyes off the cross.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

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My Husband Is Not My Everything

It was fifteen years ago today that I married my husband. And after fifteen years, I can honestly say that he does not complete me. He is not my better half. Nor is he my soul mate. He is not my everything.

It is true that he is a part of me. How could you spend fifteen years living under the same roof with someone and they not be a part of you? Of course he is! But he is not the completion of me.

I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it is unwise and actually unfair to put someone on such a pedestal that you have made them into your everything.  It is good to love. In fact, Jesus commands us to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). But remember that His love is a pure, unselfish, sinless love. And how much did He love us? Enough to get beaten and tortured until He no longer looked human and then die a horrific death on the cross. And still, we are not His everything.

If we elevate someone to such a height that we believe they are our everything, we must question ourselves if we are making idols out of them. If there is anything that we put above God Himself, then we have created an idol. Be honest and take a look at your life. Where do you spend your time and your money? Because chances are, there you will find your heart also. I will admit that I struggle with not making idols out of my husband, my two sons, my family, friends, and even sometimes my cat. Times when I do this, I must repent. I also must ask forgiveness from them.

And I don’t want to be his everything either. I can only imagine how disappointed he would be if he held me up that high. I’m not perfect. Far from it! I want to be a source of his love and grace, not disappointment and frustration.

No one person can stand under the weight of being another person’s everything. That is a lot of pressure! No one should have to carry the weight of my love, glory, or reputation – my everything.

So, you may be wondering, if he does not complete me or is not my everything, then who is? I think you can tell it is not my children. So who? That is the place that belongs to God. As my Creator it is His job to complete me, not my husband’s. And even if the Lord should take my husband to his final home today, God will still complete me. He will still be sovereign. He is still ruling and in control. I can still trust and rest in that assurance. He has all the strength that I need. He will take care and provide for me.

Let’s take another look at the purest example we have, Christ. His eyes were always on God the Father, seeking to obey Him and live for Him in all things. This was shown clearly in the Garden of Gethsemane, as Christ contemplated the road that His Father had asked Him to walk in order to complete His earthlyministry as Savior of the world .“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

God gives us countless blessings in this life, and they are to be enjoyed and appreciated. But they are all avenues by which we see His total provision for us and give us cause to praise Him, not substitutes as the recipients of our deepest affections. I love my husband dearly. I consider him a gift from the Lord. I will strive to honor him, serve him, and care for our children, but not before Christ. And he doesn’t want me to. Neither do our children. True, they do want my time and to be a source of my affection. But to be my everything…  Well, they’re relieved I when I treasure Christ instead of them, freeing them from being the center of my world. So, so very thankful for our Creator, Christ, and His perfectly obedient life!

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Please Don’t Judge My Parenting, Part 2: The Sisterhood We Can Have In Christ

Generally speaking, women are not kind to one another. I know that sounds judgmental, but it is true. Women are mean. We are gossips. We are spiteful. We compete with one another. Anyone who has ever spoken to a woman about another woman knows this to be true. But what grieves me is when I see this type of behavior making its way into the church.

Often times we divide ourselves over petty differences, like parenting styles or lifestyle choices. It seems that we would rather throw a dirty look across a room rather than walk over to our sister in Christ and humbly share God’s wisdom with her. For some reason we like our divisions. We feel comfortable in them. And it makes us feel powerful if we are able to influence another woman’s choices.

Yet, we are called to bear with one another, love one another, and forgive one another just as God has forgiven us (Colossians 3:12-13). This is what it looks like to love one another with the distinct love that marks us as followers of Jesus (John 13:35).  Remember, that Jesus died to save our sisters too. When we treasure them, just as Christ does, it honors Him.

Our hearts have been knit together through the pouring of Christ’s blood (Colossians 2:2). We share a bond that can run much deeper than any denomination, ethnicities, shared interest, or political views.  We share a type of fellowship that is unique to us. What other group of sisters share a Father that sacrificed His Son for them? I believe that is a bond that makes all other differences fail in comparison.

Take a moment to think about Christian ideals and virtues. What woman doesn’t want to have more patience? Or to be more compassionate? The truth is that we need other women in our lives to teach us and remind us of the great depths of the love of Christ. Taking our spiritual life away from other Christian ladies is unhelpful and can even be spiritually damaging. When we would rather visit with our friends about worldly concerns and completely avoid the horizons of eternity, we are not doing them or ourselves any favors.

I am saying that we ought to seek advice from other women. I do feel that God has given them to us as a gift and we ought to utilize their wisdom. But if that is all we do, then we are missing out on some great blessings and wisdom. Our relationships can be so much more than that. We are knit together with the deepest level of community that is possible here on earth, thanks to Christ. We are all seeking to grow in Christ. We need to encourage, teach, love, and gently rebuke when necessary so we each may learn from one another.

We share in one God, being unified with the same heart, serving and loving one another, praying for each other’s needs, and together we are discipling our children to love Christ. All of us desire to be the best helpmates possible for our husbands. By God’s grace, we are able to put off the old self, which makes us want to be a know-it-all over other women, and move us towards holiness (Ephesians 4:20-24). This is when we put away our pride and speak truth to one another, because we are members of the same body. We don’t hold grudges against one another. That is Satan’s wrecking ball, loving to cause division. Instead, let us speak words to one another that are good for giving grace and the building up of the saints. Let’s be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving just as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:25-32).  And in all situations, grant grace!

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When I am weak…

 

A couple days ago someone called to ask if I’d mind to help volunteer with a community event. I said I’d be happy to. Today was the event and boy, oh boy was it hectic! There was something that I was confused about so I went into another room to ask someone for clarification.

I walked in and saw a super sweet lady that I’ve known for a few years and decided to ask her. My question was a simple yes or no question. But she looked at me, narrowed her eyes, and proceeded to tear me up one side and down the other. When she was done, I said, “Ok” and went back to my room as quickly as I could. I worked very hard to fight back tears that I could feel welling up in my eyes. I began to feel sick at my stomach.

It ruined my whole day.

The thing is that I’m not even sure what I did wrong. I have gone over and over this in my mind and I don’t know what I said that was offensive or could have been taken the wrong way. Maybe she was just having a bad day. But if she was, was that really my fault? Why did she feel the need to take it out on me? What did I do to her?

When I came home, I walked through the door and saw my computer sitting on my desk (the one I use to write these blog posts), a couple different Bibles laying next to it, my commentary, and several books that I use as resources. “What a joke!” I thought. “You, who write these ‘Christian’ blogs, and this is how weak you are. You should not be advising anyone about anything. Leave that to the strong Christians. Someone says one hateful thing to you and you crumple like a withered leaf.”

“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” I say to myself. (2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us that we must be diligent to train our minds to not allow them to go to those dark places).

I walked into my room, fell onto my knees, and cried out to my Daddy. Because sometimes that is what you need you do. I poured out my heart and soul to Him and cried a river. It took more than an hour. But that’s okay. I’ve never had God tell me that He has to go. I’ve never had Him tell me He needs to move on to something more important.

That’s because this is His job. And He loves it because He delights in me (2 Samuel 22:20).

And one of the most comforting things about God is that no matter how alone I feel, I am never really alone. My Daddy is still with me. No, He doesn’t physically put His arm around me or wipe my tears away, but He has given me something else – His Word.

When I take the time to open it up and read what it has to say, I am amazed at how encouraging it can be.

While certainly God has standards, that fact cannot be ignored, He is also incredibly kind, gentle, and way more forgiving than either you or I could possibly ever be. And in times when I feel like my heart just got stomped on, He is incredibly comforting.

He also brings verses to mind. Verses that I’ve had memorized for many years. (By the way, this is one of the reasons I strongly believe in the importance of Scripture memory). He brings back verses like:

 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.” –Deuteronomy 11:19-21

“And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” – Deuteronomy 30:6   (By the way, I am thankful that He gives us the promise that “God will…”.  It is not up to us!)

“…To love the Lord your God, and to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and to cling to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” –Joshua 22:5

“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like You, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before You with all their heart.” –1 Kings 8:23

“… I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me.” –Ezra 7:28

“… But You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” – Nehemiah 9:17

“But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.” –Psalms 69:13

“Give thanks to the God of gods, for His steadfast love endures forever.” –Psalms 136:2

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  –Philippians 4:8

And these are just a few. I could go on and on. But the point remains that He always supplies. When we need Him, He is there.  He has given us His Word, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit. They both are amazingly comforting.

When I finally leave my room, more than an hour after I entered, I somehow feel strengthened. And how? It certainly is not a strength I get from myself, but from the Lord. He gives me the courage and strength to call this woman. (Something we are commanded to do in Matthew 18:15-20. Not easy, but necessary.) With my hands trembling I dial her number but secretly hope she won’t answer. She does anyhow. And you know what? As soon as she hears my voice she begins apologizing. She explains about various events of the day and why her patience may have been so short. Still, she knows that is no excuse to treat another person that way. So what does she do? Repents and asks forgiveness from the Lord and me.

Wow, what a day! The Lord has reminded me that we are all human, “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He has also reminded me that “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:19). I don’t think I will ever stop marveling at the Lord. I don’t think I will ever stop being amazed at how “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose,” (Romans 8:28).

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Is Fasting Really Necessary?

When I was in college I lived at the Christian Campus House. One of my favorite times was the Wednesday night Bible studies that were held in the basement of the girls house. We had a time of singing praises, heard the Word spoken, and fellowship. Oh, this was a great time! This was also a time when some truths from Scripture were presented that I was seriously lacking in.  One of them being the discipline of fasting. I knew the Scriptures spoke of fasting but I hadn’t researched it much. Nor did I know anyone who fasted, ever. So I really thought it was one of those “out there” things that those “out there” people did.

But as I spent more and more time in the Scriptures studying this, the more and more I realized that I had been extremely undisciplined and had been completely ignorant on this subject. I have never found a place in Scripture that requires fasting but I do believe that Jesus makes it quite clear that it is expected of His followers. He says in Matthew 6:16 “And when you fast…”  He is not saying, “If you want to fast…” Oh no, He is assuming that you are either fasting or going to be fasting in the near future.

At different points, the Scriptures discuss feasting (usually a time of celebration) and fasting.  Both are appropriate at different times. In Scripture, fasting is usually closely connected with prayer. There are several examples of this in Scripture. When Nehemiah heard of the destruction of Jerusalem, he “sat down and wept and mourned for days, and continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Neh 1:4). Daniel pleaded for mercy from the Lord by, “seeking Him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes” (Dan 9:3).

You may be wondering why anyone would want to fast. After all, who would want to deprive themselves of a piece of chocolate cake? I understand the dilemma, but more than I love food, I love God. And fasting has several benefits that directly affect our relationship to God.

  1. Nothing reminds me of my humanly weakness like fasting. My hunger and physical weakness is shown to me during this time. All of that reminds me of my dependence of the Lord.
  2. Since I am not spending so much time eating, I have more time to spend in prayer with the Lord.
  3. It also reminds me that while sacrificing a few meals is not comfortable, our whole life should be a sacrifice to God.
  4. Fasting is a good discipline. As I deny myself of something which I normally desire, it also heightens my ability to not give in to sin. If I train myself to accept small sufferings, like willingly fasting, then I am much more able to accept other sufferings for His righteousness.
  5. Fasting also makes me much more aware of God’s presence as I focus less on the material things of this world, like food.
  6. Fasting also shows a seriousness, urgency, and necessity to our prayers.

So when should we fast? That’s a good question. I’m glad you asked! In general, I’ve found four times when fasting is definitely appropriate.

  1. In times of intensive intercession – We see an example of this from the girl who became a queen. When Esther heard of Haman’s plan to kill the Jews she told Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do” (Est 4:16).
  2. In times of repentance – “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12).
  3. In times of worship – Anna, the prophetess,  was very old and living at the temple “worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Luke 2:37).
  4. In times of seeking guidance – “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:23).

Is someone that you know of in danger or very ill? Then prayer and fasting may be in order. Do you feel that you need to repent of sins you have not yet brought to Heaven’s gates? Then by all means, pray and fast. A couple months ago my church voted a new elder into office. Should we have sought out guidance by prayer and fasting? Of course!

While fasting is not always easy, I do believe it is necessary discipline that needs to be practiced. I’m not sure why more churches do not discuss it regularly. But I am convinced that if more Christians were willing to fast, even for just one or two meals a week, they would be very surprised to see how much their relationship would grow with the Lord. We might also be surprised how much more spiritual power and influence would consume not only in our lives but in our churches as well.

 

For information on how to get started fasting visit:  http://www.cru.org/training-and-growth/devotional-life/personal-guide-to-fasting/

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Choose You Words Carefully

 

My niece and I went shopping today. I purchased a new pair of cute rubber boots. After all, what girl doesn’t need a pair of cute rubber boots in the spring? We sat down on a bench and I took out my new boots to look at them. “Oh, I just love them,” I said casually, almost without even thinking about it.

Later we stopped by to get some ice cream. She said, “Look, they have Brownie Batter Ice Cream. I love Brown Batter Ice Cream!” It was about this time that I realized what we were saying. Have we cheapened the word “love” to describe the way we feel about a pair of rubber boots or ice cream? Listen to the way people are talking. We use the word “love” so casually now that it’s nearly appalling.

So I have to question, how does the Bible use the word “love”?

John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone say down his life for his friend.” And Ephesians 5:25 tells us, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” What I understand from these verses if that if you love something or someone, you would give up your life for them. I like my new rubber boots but I would not die for them. My niece likes Brownie Batter Ice Cream very much but not enough to give up her own life.

So is it wrong to say you love something like rubber boots or ice cream? I don’t know that I’d go quite that far, but I do think we should use it with caution. We should not throw it around nearly as freely as we do. If I tell my husband that I love him and in the same breath I say I love the way a picture looks hanging on my wall, what am I really telling my husband? That I think as much of the picture on the wall as I do him? That would probably make him feel pretty bad. Of course I care more about my husband than a picture on the wall. So why on earth would I use the same word to describe the way I feel about them?

But what is worse is love is used to describe God. 1 John 4:8 tells us “…God is love”. This does not mean that God is only love because He certainly has numerous other attributes as well. But it means that God continually gives of Himself to others and seeks to benefit them. Likewise, my husband does love me. I see proof of that each day as he gives of himself to help me or to serve me. That is a true display of love and one that can only come from God.  It doesn’t mean that it is always easy or convenient, but he does it anyhow.

1 John 4:8 also means that God’s love is the ultimate love that any Christian can display. So if we say we love a pair of boots, or ice cream, or the way a picture looks, as Christians what are we saying to the world? That I am displaying God’s love towards my boots? No, I don’t want that. There is a lot of weight hung on the words we choose to use, especially as Believers.

I am currently working on being much more careful with the words I choose to use. I am going to try to use the words “like” or “enjoy” to describe objects. Especially those that are not worthy of my affection. I do like my boots and I do believe that I will enjoy them. But I do not love them so I’m going to work on not saying that anymore. I am going to reserve the word “love” for those that I truly love: my husband, sons, mother, father, sisters, brothers, friends, and most of all, God.

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The “What If…” Game

In 2010 my family had the privilege of attending the Olympic Winter Games that were held in Vancouver, British Columbia. Although I was seven months pregnant with our youngest son, it was still a wonderful time. I consider it a once-in-a-lifetime event. Many, many memories were made there that none of us will ever forget. I want to share one of them with you now.

My son, who was eight years old at the time, and I got to attend the Closing Ceremonies. My husband did not want to go and chose to stay behind at our bed and breakfast. The Closing Ceremonies were awesome and was the favorite event for both of us. But what happened afterwards was so awful, we can hardly think of the Closing Ceremonies without thinking of this…

BC Place, the arena where the event was being held, has a capacity of nearly sixty thousand people. All those people needed to leave the arena and all began to leave at once. It took more than an hour just to get from our seats to the doors. We needed to ride the Skytrain back to our bed and breakfast. But I knew everyone else would need to ride it too and it would be chaotic. So I decided my son and I might as well have supper and enjoy the atmosphere for a while before even trying to board the Skytrain.

We goofed around for an hour and a half before making our way to the Skytrain. Still, it was a mess trying to get on. However, because I was pregnant they considered me handicapped and we got to go to the front of the line. We were waiting on the platform, next to one another, with thousands people around us (and no, I’m not exaggerating). All were trying to push to get their chance to get to the front. I have never seen a mob like this before.

Finally, the train arrived. I could feel the pressure from the other people all around me. Fearing my son and I would be separated, I grabbed ahold of his hand as tightly as I possibly could. The doors opened and immediately the whole platform began pushing, everyone trying to crowd in. But in this, our hands got torn apart. I screamed his name. Nothing. I screamed his name again. Nothing. It was so loud he probably could not have heard me. The train began to pull away from the station. I was on the train, but where was he?

I looked out the window for him. But there were thousands of faces. There were too many for me to have time to pick him out. Where was he? My heart was beating like it had never beaten before. I began to hyperventilate. Again, I screamed his name as loud as I could. This time, I saw his arm sticking out of a crowd of people waving up and down to me. He could not see me either but heard my scream and wanted me to know he was okay. I grabbed ahold of his hand and pulled as hard as I could. And I pulled him out!

I have never been so frightened in my life, before or since. We held one another as tightly as we could all the way back. Both of us were crying. We were both terrified.  He hadn’t known where I was either. I did not let him out of my arms until we got back to our bed and breakfast. And even then, it was only to use the restroom. That night I slept beside him, holding him the whole time. I cried most of the night.

That night as he went to sleep, I kept praying and thanking God for the protection He gave my son. I thanked Him for always taking care of my son when I could not. And I just wanted to watch him sleep and hold him close, having been reminded of what a treasure he truly is.

But when it was my turn to go to sleep, my mind turned to the “What if…” game. What if he had not made it on to the train? He did not have a cell phone. What would he have done? How would I have ever found him in that mob? What if someone would have taken him? What if I never saw him again? What might they do to him? If given a line-up, would I recognize someone who had been there that night? What if the authorities were slow to act losing precious time? What if authorities would not help me because I was a foreigner? What if… What if… What if…

For me, personally, it is worse at night when I’m trying to go to sleep. That is when my mind really starts working and going crazy. I suppose during the day I can keep busy enough to not think about it. But at night, well, the night makes up for the day. That means more worry and less sleep. That results in a more tired and stressed mom/wife. Believe me, nobody in my house wants that!

If you are parent, you can probably relate. Maybe you haven’t been in this same exact situation, but you have probably been in some sort of a frightening situation. And you have been left wondering “What if…”

While I am certainly not proficient at this and still need lots of practice, I would like to make a suggestion on how to deal with the “What if…” game. Even though we got separated, God still looked after my son. As much as I love my son, God loves him more. Even as precious as he is to me, he is more precious to God. So instead of playing the “What if…” game, I am going to say to my mind, “No, I’m not going to allow you to go there. Instead I am going to thank the Lord that He did not allow that to happen. I am going to thank the Lord for His sovereignty, love, and grace. I am going to sing praises to the Lord.”

Playing the “What if…” game is a dangerous game to play. It totally discounts the Lord’s sovereign will. In the Lord’s sovereign will, He did not allow us to be separated more than a few moments. Nor did He allow my son to be kidnapped. So why do we allow to let our minds dwell there? That is not honoring, glorifying, or praising the Lord – the very thing that we, as His children, are called to do.

Colossians 3:2 tells us “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Basically, that verse is telling us to think of things that are eternal and praise the Lord for them. It is telling us to trust God. It is telling us to think of Him in ALL things. Don’t worry so much about the “What if’s…” because those are not things that are eternal. He has already taken care of them.

We all have deep, dark places that our minds want to visit from time to time. If we allow them to dwell there, they can very easily lead us into a depression.

These are real fears. I’m not taking away from that. Yet, we cannot allow our minds to reside there. In fact, the Scriptures tell us not to. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “…Take every thought captive to obey Christ.” That verse is speaking of the importance of training our minds for Christ. And it sounds simple to do. But it is very difficult and challenging.

Consider this; we are all training our minds for something. So what will it be? Self-pity or admiration of the Lord? Praise and worship or fear and terror? Unbelief or praise? Fear and fright or trust of His faithfulness?

 

“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73:28)

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