The Secret To Contentment

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 NKJV)
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I take comfort in knowing I can do anything the Lord empowers me to do. I believe in miracles. I believe in the power of prayer and of faith. 

Philippians 4:13 popped up as the ‘Verse of the Day’ recently on YouVersion. Because I am an advocate on reading scripture in context I have started reading the chapters as well as the verses. As I read Philippians 4 it occured to me, Paul wrote this verse in the context of contentment. He wasn’t quoting a formula for victory, he was declaring that he was able to endure both hardship and victory because he knew the secret to contentment was knowing God would sustain him in every circumstance.

I must admit, there are times I question God when I see things that don’t make sense. Certain things rob my contentment, if I allow them to. When I see children suffer or people die prematurely; when prayers don’t get answered the way I would like, it’s hard to be content.

And yet, I know that God is good! I may not understand the why, but I believe God’s promise that, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NKJV) Ultimately it comes down to this, do I trust Him? 

The secret to contentment is knowing that God will sustain you through the trials and the triumphs of life. It is knowing he will give you the strength you need, when you need it. He will not leave us to face our battles alone. He is always with us.  Contentment is birthed in trust. It is resting in the knowledge that God is for you, not against you. 

PRAY: Lord, help me to follow Paul’s example in learning to be content in spite of my circumstances. Forgive me for the times I have complained and allowed circumstances to rob my faith allowing doubts of Your goodness to prevail. Help me Lord to be content in all things, knowing you will sustain me and give me strength. 

Something New

God’s creative genius didn’t end with creation.

IMG_1472What do you want God to birth in your life this year? Whatever it may be, He is up for the challenge.

Need mercy? His mercies are “new every morning”. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Are you broken, or bitter? God promises to replace your stony heart with a heart of flesh. To give you a new heart and a new spirit. (Ezekiel 36:26) It’s easy for life’s challenges to harden our hearts, if we allow them to. Sometimes being healed is as simple as letting go. Trust that God has something better for you.

Need a fresh start? Just as God’s mercy is new every morning, each day brings the chance for a new beginning. When you surrender your life to the Lord, you become “a new creature,” old things pass away, all things become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) That doesn’t mean you are never going to blow it. But when you do, God’s not waiting to punish you. His desire is to restore you. Run to the Father, confess your sin and allow Him to cleanse and make you whole.

I could go on and on but the point is this: whatever your “something new” is … He is able. God is a good father.  (Luke 11:9-13)

Each year, many churches participate in a 21 day fast. I challenge you to begin now to search your heart and define what “new thing” you want to see God do in your life this year. Don’t just wait and see what happens. Pursue it! As I was just writing this paragraph the Lord gave me a visual of someone waist deep in swamp water, pushing their way through reeds and weeds that were blocking their path. He calls you today, as He did in Matthew 7:7 … 

ASK, and it shall be given you; SEEK and ye shall find; KNOCK and it shall be opened unto you:

Once you have defined your new ask God what He would have you fast for 21 days as you ASK, SEEK and KNOCK your way through 2018.

Join me January 11th. ~ 31st. in prayer and fasting for God to move in our lives and in our nation this new year! 

PRAY: Father, thank You that each day brings a new beginning. As I begin this New Year help me to refine my focus and visualize what I need birthed in my life. Give me a clear cut path to pursue You and Your will for my life in 2018. 

 

 

 

Attractive Conversation

IMG_1465Have you ever walked past someone having a toxic conversation and immediately felt a change in your own attitude? Words have a powerful impact on our spirit, even when they aren’t directed at us.

As followers of Christ we need to recognize the impact we have on others with our words as well as our actions. The power of life and death are in the tongue. ( Proverbs 18:21)

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:6 NKJV)

The Bible talks extensively about speech. What an amazing communication tool God has given us. And yet, James chapter 3 talks about the difficulty of “taming the tongue.” How often do we use our words to bless God while cursing those He created? Cursing in this sense isn’t about profanity. It’s about using words that damage someone’s heart or break their spirit.

I encourage you today to make a conscious effort to “guard” your tongue. Use your words to speak life over people, rather than death. Pay attention to your conversations. Are they toxic or are they gracious and attractive? Even words of correction can be gracious.

Three important points on correction:

  1. Admonish in private. Never embarrass someone by confronting them in public. If you have tried to work something out (with another Christian) in private to no avail the Bible gives a plan of action to move forward in Matthew 18:15-17. 
  2. Differentiate between behaviors and character. Don’t attack the person. Address the behavior. Avoid demeaning statements like: “You always …” or “You are …”
  3. Last but not least, sandwich correction between positive affirmations. Start and end on a positive note. I’m not referring to vain flattery here. What positive attributes can you genuinely acknowledge regarding this individual?

Pay attention to your everyday conversations. If you constantly catch yourself being negative or complaining get alone with God and begin to ask Him to reveal your heart. What are you feeding your spirit? How much time are you spending in front of the television and what kind of shows are you watching? What kind of music are you listening to? What type of people are you hanging out with? Transformation happens from the inside out, but our spiritual health is impacted by what we “feed” our spirit just as our physical health is often determined by what we feed our body.

PRAY: Lord, thank You for the gift of speech. Help me to guard my tongue and use it to praise You and to bless others. Forgive me for the times I have allowed my words to be used for evil. Help me to focus on the blessings in my life instead of complaining. Help me to lift others up instead of tearing them down. Change my perspective by giving me the mind of Christ. AMEN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Blues?

IMG_1460Christmas is supposed to be a time of great joy!  Unfortunately, for a lot of people it is a sad reminder that someone they love is no longer with them, or they can’t afford to lavish their loved ones with expensive gifts, or maybe they have no friends or family to celebrate with. Add to this the many who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the list continues to grow.  

If you are among those who are naturally “joyful” count your blessings! When you see someone suffering from Holiday blues don’t try to ‘cheer’ them up. Instead, simply offer them the gift of compassion and understanding. Validate their feelings. Believe it or not, in doing so you will bring them joy.

It took a relative of mine pointing out my tendency to withdraw and become depressed around the holidays to help me recognize that I have seasonal affective disorder. Recognizing it was the first step toward dealing with it. Hopefully my journey will help those of you who may be suffering in silence. 

As a Christian it’s easy to feel conflicted about depression. After all, I have SO much to be thankful for! But, I am a Melancholy. No doubt about it. So, how do I combat this overwhelming desire to dig a hole and hide from God and humanity when my emotions betray me?  

Rest: When I am tired my emotions plummet. The holidays are busy and it’s easy to overdo. I have to make a conscious effort to take extra care of my body when I begin to feel emotionally drained.

Resist: When the “blues” stop by for a visit it’s tempting to withdraw. I have to resist the urge to isolate myself. There is a balance between rest and the temptation to hibernate for the winter! Thankfully, I have a dog. That forces me to get outside for some fresh air. There is something uplifting about enjoying God’s creation in nature. The point is, even if you don’t have a dog, get outside. Take a walk. Go visit a friend. Do something … anything other than crawling back into bed.

Reflect: Do you keep a prayer/praise journal? If not, I highly recommend it! It’s easy to focus on the negative when we are down. Having a praise journal will enable you to go back and reflect on the good things God has done in your life. Gratitude is very therapeutic. Life is tough. It’s okay to feel what you feel. It’s not okay to allow your feelings to consume your life and keep you from living.  Reflection helps me keep things in perspective. 

Refresh: I honesty don’t know how people who don’t have God in their life make it. I’ve heard people say religion is a crutch, but I prefer to think of it as a ROCK! When all other ground is “sinking sand” He is my stability.

IMG_1459Psalm 16:11 says, “In Your presence is fullness of joy.” Isaiah 61:3 talks about God’s gifts for consolation … He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.  

When I am lacking joy, the most refreshing thing I can do is get into the presence of God! How do we do that? We enter His gates with thanksgiving. We come into His courts with praise. (Psalm 100:4)

I LOVE to worship. Anytime I want to be in God’s presence, I simply turn on my favorite worship music, close my eyes, picture the throne room of Heaven and sing to The Lord. I can imagine the angels of Heaven bowing before Him crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” There is no sorrow in Heaven!

PRAY: Father, Thank You for loving me, “just as I am.” As we enter this season of celebrating Your birth, help me to focus on the true source of my joy … Your presence. I echo the choir of Heaven and cry out: Holy, Holy, Holy are You Lord! Help me to recognize the warning signs of depression and to combat them by spending time in Your loving embrace. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Broken?

IMG_1455“The LORD is near to the heartbroken And He saves those who are crushed in spirit (contrite in heart, truly sorry for their sin).” PSALM‬ ‭34:18‬ ‭AMP‬

Imagine your own child committing treason against you and trying to steal your Kingdom. This was the situation King David found himself in as he wrote this verse.

Like the rest of us, David was human. He often wrote from the depth of despair. I have always admired David’s honesty with God. It reminds me that I can be honest with Him too. No need for games. After all, He knows my heart. My thoughts are not hidden from Him.

In the midst of his heartache David chose to praise God, rather than blame Him for his circumstances. He began this Psalm by saying, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” David lived with an attitude of gratitude. He was able to praise God in spite of his pain because he knew, unlike his son, God had not abandoned him.

Nor has He abandoned you. I pray, you will find peace and encouragement today knowing that God is close. He has not left or forgotten you. He sees your pain and He longs to clothe you with compassion and comfort. He understands your anger and confusion. It’s okay to be honest with Him.

The worse thing we can do when we are broken is to isolate ourselves. We need each other. If there is no one you can reach out to, reach out to me!  

PRAY: Father, like David, I choose to bless You at all times. Your praise will continually be in my mouth! Thank You for the promise of Your presence. I know You are with me and I am never alone. Lord, I am broken. Please comfort me and clothe me with compassion. I may not understand my circumstances but I know You love me and Your love will sustain me. Help me to trust You as I walk through this valley. Anoint my spirit with Your oil of gladness. Heal my brokenness Lord. 

 

 

 

The Battle is The Lord’s

The LORD will fight for you while you [only need to] keep silent and remain calm.”. EXODUS‬ ‭14:14‬ ‭AMP‬‬

IMG_1454The children of Israel stood trapped … the Red Sea before them, the army of Egypt behind them. There was NOTHING they could do to save themselves! They needed a GOD sized miracle, and they got one. As soon as they stepped out in faith and their feet touched the water, the sea divided and “made a way when there was no way.”

As I read Exodus 14:14 this morning I was reminded of a recent situation where someone was literally spewing their anger toward God at me. Their friend had just lost a two month old baby and of course they were devastated and in shock at the seeming injustice of it all. As the young man continued to accuse God I felt the Lord tell me to be still. “I do not need you to defend me. Do not respond.”

You may not see the connection, but it felt as if I was being verbally attacked as a representative of God. It was not my battle to fight. Had I disobeyed the Lord, I could have done more harm than good.

When we feel helpless, we can be confident in the Lord. We can trust that He will fight FOR us. When we have done all that we can do, our battle becomes the Lord’s. As the Israelites had to step forward toward the sea, we are often called to fight in the war room of prayer.

PRAY:
Father, I thank you that “no weapon formed against me shall prosper.” As my Father, I can trust you to protect and provide for me. Nothing is impossible for You. Help me to recognize when I need to fight and when I need to simply be still and see the salvation of the Lord. When it feels like I am defeated remind me that I am not alone and that You will fight for me.

Shielded Through Suffering

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans‬ ‭8:31‬ ‭NKJV‬‬ 
IMG_1452This is one of those verses that can be very confusing when you read it “out of context.” At first glance it sounds as if this is a guarantee against defeat. 

Jesus said the world would hate us, because it hated Him. I have seen more animosity toward Christianity in the last ten years than my entire lifetime. While this may be a new concern in America, Christians around the world have suffered persecution for centuries. 

When we read this verse in context we find that this chapter speaks to the glory in suffering. We aren’t promised to be shielded from suffering, but rather through suffering. In comparison to the reward of eternity with the Lord our suffering seems trivial. In fact, suffering strengthens and purifies us. Psalms describes it as being refined by fire. 

We see in Roman 8 that NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ, and even in death we are more than conquerors.

My take on this verse is this: If God be for me who cares who is against me! My life is His. I live for an audience of ONE. God alone is my judge, and Jesus is interceding FOR me.

PRAYER:
Lord, I am so thankful that nothing can separate me from Your love. I am thankful for the promise of Your continual presence. Knowing You will never leave me or forsake me gives me the courage to face this life. Thank You Lord for suffering in my place. You left the comfort of Heaven to purchase my redemption.

When life gets tough, remind me it’s temporary. Help me to be spiritually minded, which brings life and peace. Help me to have an attitude like Paul who considered suffering as unworthy to be compared to the glory that awaits us.

Jesus, thank You that You are interceding on my behalf before God. I know You will work all things together for my good. Thank You for making me a conqueror!