Posted in Faith

God’s Promises–Greater Than I Can Imagine

Imagine

Has the Lord ever spoken a promise to your heart? A word of direction and encouragement that kept you going? The Lord has spoken to my heart at key times in my life. It inspired me for the days ahead. Looking back I misunderstood everyone of those promises. I interpreted His promises with my limited perspective.

For example, as a young woman I sensed the Lord speak to my heart that Jonathan (my wonderful husband of 32 years) was the one He had chosen for me, and that through our relationship I would learn more about His love. I was thrilled, because experiencing God’s love and being married to a man who loved me were my deepest desires. Having grown up in a dysfunctional family with multiple divorces, I longed for loyalty, stability, and love.

Looking back I understand now that my marriage, while being a blessing to my life, has been a learning place for how to love with His love.

Several years ago, I went through a bit of an identity crisis. The last of my five kids was in high school. The other four kids had already graduated and moved away. I felt lost in our quiet house. My husband and I decided we could honor the Lord by being foster parents. We took the classes, filled out the application, and passed the background checks. However, our in-ground pool in the back yard was not fenced according to the code and in disrepair. We were denied on the basis of failing the home inspection. I was devastated by the decision. While crying out to the Lord, I sensed Him speak to my heart. “I have more children for you to love.” His peace settled over my soul, and I wondered what He meant.

Looking back I now can see more clearly. As the Executive Director of a pregnancy center, I have the privilege of leading an organization that helps women facing unplanned pregnancy to consider alternatives to abortion and choose life for their unborn babies. I am a part of loving God’s children—women and their babies in the womb—almost every day. Since then I have also been blessed with grandchildren, three of them. And two more on the way. My husband and I are involved in their lives and spend as much time with them as possible. Today there are lots of children for me to love!

I have held onto other promises from God’s Word, some for decades, others for a few months. Experience has taught me to wait and trust the Lord to fulfill His promises. It’s not my job to make things happen. My job is to be faithful in the things that are in front of me, and allow Him to provide in His time and in His wisdom. I don’t live for myself. I live for the Lord. “So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20b).

Looking back I see God’s promises are greater than I can imagine. It helps to remember that as I look ahead.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen (Romans 11:33-36).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, Your promises are amazing and true. I trust that You are at work in my life. Help me during times of struggle to keep my eyes on Your faithfulness. Because Your promises are greater than I can imagine, let me live by faith with great expectations. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Faith, Personal Development

One Way to Change Your Perspective

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Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. One of the downsides of being emotionally sensitive is that I am prone to depression and thinking negatively. I have come a long way since childhood. As a kid, there were times I felt intense hatred toward myself. I would beat myself verbally with harmful words, and even physically on occasion. When I became a Christ-follower, the Holy Spirit began to transform the way I thought about myself. As I learned what God’s Word said about me as His dearly loved child, I began to speak those truths as personal affirmations. Slowly my self-talk and self-treatment became more positive, reflecting the affirmations I began to believe.

Today, affirming what God says about me is an important part of changing my perspective and thriving in the midst of challenging circumstances. Like every person, I am more susceptible to destructive thoughts and emotions when I am tired or hormonal (the joys of womanhood) or haven’t taken time to care properly for myself. If I am not aware, I can easily spiral into a deep pit where hopelessness resides. There I imagine every part of life falling apart, with me left alone unable to pick up the pieces. As soon as I realize what’s going, I start using affirmations.

Affirmations centered on God’s Word are powerful, because they change my perspective.

When I feel like I am too weak to accomplish what the Lord has called me to do…

  • I affirm that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
  • I affirm that His grace is all I need, because His power works best in weakness. He is my strength when I am weak (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • I affirm that I depend on Christ’s mighty power that works within me (Colossians 1:29).

When I doubt that my life has meaning and purpose…

  • I affirm that God has a purpose for me and He is fulfilling it in me (Psalm 57:2).
  • I affirm that every day of my life matters. God’s thoughts about me are precious (Psalm 139:16-17).
  • I affirm that I am His masterpiece, created anew in Christ, so that I can do the good things he planned for me long ago (Ephesians 2:10).

When I feel unloved and alone…

  • I affirm that I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me (Romans 8:37).
  • I affirm that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord (Romans 8:38).
  • I affirm that God is my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

Affirmations can address any area of struggle. They are personalized statements in present time based on God’s Word, declared out loud. Affirmations are powerful, but they aren’t magic. It isn’t enough to mindlessly recite an affirmation over and over again. Affirmations must be believed and then acted upon. They certainly do not take the place of hard work. However, when believed they will change your perspective of yourself and your world, making healing and growth possible.

I encourage you to identify an area in your life where healing or growth is needed. Find Scripture that relates to that area. Make it personal and declare it when you find yourself thinking or feeling otherwise. Trust the Holy Spirit to transform the way you think and help you thrive.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2, NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the work of Your Spirit in my life. You see where I am, the places I get stuck, the places where I am broken. Help me to believe Your Word and declare Your Word as truth about me. Take the affirmations I make, and change the way I think. May I develop a positive perspective about myself and my situations, knowing there is always hope. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Posted in Character, Faith

Living in Opposite World

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When my kids were young, they used to play a game called Opposite World. The goal was to say the opposite of what they really meant. No meant yes; yes meant no. Good meant bad; bad meant good. Light meant dark; dark meant light. And so it would go. The one to last the longest in conversation without getting confused was the winner.

I quickly grew impatient with the game. It took too much mental energy to interpret what they really said. I’m certain I put an end to the game before my kids were ready.

As Christ-followers sometimes it feels like we live in Opposite World. We find ourselves surrounded by a worldview that differs from our own. It is easy to be swayed in thought and action by the culture of the day. Nevertheless, we are called to represent the Kingdom of God, which is opposite to the Kingdom of this World.

In the book of 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul reveals how we are to live in Opposite World. He offers the viewpoint that is counter culture to the prevailing thoughts of the time. By holding fast to God’s Word, we will thrive.

Opposite World says…What you see is what you get.

God’s Word says…There is more than what you see.

We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Our culture relies on natural senses and values scientific evidence. “Don’t believe it if you cannot see, feel, or prove it.” Hebrews 11:1 offers a different perspective. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

The things we see are temporary, but the unseen things are eternal. No matter what we face, no matter how terrible, it is slight and momentary in light of eternity. In the midst of struggling times, we can have the assurance that an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison is prepared for us. What is the worst thing you can imagine happening? Even if it lasted for the rest of your life, how long is that in comparison to forever and ever? Yes, life can be hard and painful at times. But what you see now is not what you get in the future.

Opposite World says…When difficult things happen, it is natural to get overwhelmed.

God’s Word says…When difficult things happen, pray and rejoice.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
Paul did not whine and gripe when facing trouble. He evidently did not receive the answer he wanted, but he had God’s promise that His grace would be there to carry him through. Even though the “thorn” was a hindrance or difficulty for Paul, God’s unmerited favor—His grace—was greater than the thorn.

Another rendering for “My grace is all you need” is “my grace is enough, more than enough, for you.” God does not give us His grace simply that we might endure our sufferings. People that do not have a relationship with Christ can certainly exhibit great endurance. God’s grace enables us to rise above our circumstances and feelings, and causes our problems to work for us in accomplishing good.

Suffering will not be a master that controls us, but a servant that works for us. We pray, rely on the Lord, and allow His strength to take residence in us.

Opposite World says…Admitting weakness is a liability.

God’s Word says…Admitting weakness is a strength.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:7-10).

In the Old Testament, jars of clay were common clay pots used by the priests to offer certain kinds of sacrifices. These containers were regarded as immediately dispensable. God has entrusted the valuable, glorious treasure of the Gospel to ordinary containers, that is, in weak, fragile human beings.

If I had a gorgeous diamond ring in a container, what kind would show it off better? A stunning ornately carved gold box would be breath-taking, but the contrast would not be nearly as great as if it were in a plain cardboard box. Our weakness can show off the beauty and glory of God.

In the same way, our lives are not judged by our own abilities or lack of abilities, our own talents or lack of talents, our own good looks or lack of good looks, our own successes or lack of successes. Instead our lives are all about decreasing, moving out of the way, so that God can increase in us and be clearly seen.

What about self-reliance, being the best that we can be, and not depending on anybody else? But think about this…How strong would you have to be, in order to be as strong as God? How intelligent or discerning? How organized and in control? The fact is, no matter how strong or smart or gifted we are, we cannot begin to compare ourselves with our all-present, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God. We simply are not in the same league.

God’s wisdom tells us that dependence on Him is the way to walk in power. God’s power becomes perfect, or is fulfilled or made complete, in our weakness.

Living in Opposite World can be confusing. As we follow God’s Word, His truth comes into focus. We will shine in dark places.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, show me some of the myths I have believed from Opposite World. Help me to live by the truth of Your Word. I invite You to take charge of my life. Be strong in my weakness. Use me to reflect Your glory in Your humility. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

How to Stop Worry In Its Track

My husband was late. Thirty minutes had passed since his typical arrival, and I hadn’t heard a word from him. His cell phone went straight to voice mail and he hadn’t responded to my texts. I tried to busy myself and not worry about him. My hands were active, but my mind was racing with possible tragic scenarios.

Perhaps he was in an accident.
Or maybe he had a heart attack and nobody was around.
Or he was involved with a younger woman.
Or he had been mugged and shot.

I settled on the health issue and dismissed the other situations. Before my husband walked through the door, I had imagined myself as a widow with no place to live and no place to go. When he arrived, he was greeted by an emotional wreck. I had allowed worry to run roughshod through my mind and it had taken control.

Worry—(noun) the act of tormenting oneself with or suffering from disturbing thoughts.

Worry starts out subtly and, if left unchecked, can grow into enormous proportions. There is nothing about worry that is positive. It is problem oriented, focuses on the negative, presumes worse case scenarios, and is without hope. The root of worry is a lack of trust in God and His goodness, or what He has promised in His Word.

Some people seem to think that worry simply can’t be helped. “It’s a normal part of life and everyone does it.” Contrary to the opinion of these habitual worriers, we can ward off worry. It does not have to rob us of peace and health. We can thrive, even as we face difficult situations.

The following are steps that I recommend to stop worry in its tracks.

Be aware of your worries. Before you can stop worry, you need to recognize when you are worrying. Some people wear a rubber band on their wrist and snap it every time they realize they are entertaining anxious thoughts. Some people make tally marks in a journal or electronic device. It may surprise you how often you worry. In addition, take note of the things you worry about. What are the areas that cause the greatest amount of worry?

Turn worries into prayers. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” As soon as you recognize that you are worrying, refocus your attention on the Lord.

Declare Scripture over your problems. God’s Word is powerful and transforms our thinking. Find promises that address your situation and speak them out loud when worry rears its ugly head. Choose to believe what the Lord says rather than entertaining worry.

Learn to relax. Prolonged worrying can have significant effect on health. It impairs the immune system and can cause symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, headaches, fatigue, rapid heart rate, muscle tension, inability to concentrate, and more. Practice deep breathing techniques and meditate on God’s Word to relieve tension. Find activities that help you unwind.

Don’t allow worry to steal from you. By retraining your thought patterns, you can turn your concerns over to the Lord before they grow into worry and anxiety.

In what areas of your life are you prone to worry? What steps can you take today to stop worry in its tracks and walk in God’s peace and calm assurance?

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me. Teach me to cast all my anxieties on You because You care for me. Help me to trust You in all things, to be still and know that You are God. In Jesus’ name.