Jesus Died for YOU!

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Did you know that Jesus came down to the earth, willing to give his life, to rescue you? He loves you that much! It’s easy, especially around Easter, to think about Christ’s death as a “religious story” but the truth is Jesus died for you whether you call yourself a Christian or not. You have a choice to either accept or reject him. I once heard Loui Giglio say that “we all have a common end at the end, the face of the son of God.” Whether you have accepted that Christ Jesus died for you to rescue you from a life of sin or not, you will face Him in the end.

When you see Jesus what do you want that to be like? Do you want to suffer the regret of rejecting Him or experience the joy of accepting Him as your savior? Easter isn’t a Christian holiday. It’s a story of how Jesus Christ laid down His life and rose again to save you from the power of death. What choice will you make? Maybe you never knew you had one. The bottom line is we all make that choice. You will meet Jesus, either now or at the end. Choose now. What’s in it for you? A life of freedom. Freedom from pain, regret, sin. A life full of healing grace, redemption, and love. Jesus already died for you, it’s up to you to accept Him.

You will believe in Jesus at some point. It will either be now or when you stand before him at the end. I urge you to make it now so that you can experience, not just eternal life, but a life on earth that is full of the promises God has for you. I beg you not to wait until it’s too late.

If you have any questions about Jesus and what he’s done for you please don’t hesitate to ask me! When you seek God I promise you will surely find Him as He is always waiting to receive you as His child.

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When Life Isn’t Fair

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Maybe you are like me and you have caught yourself saying “this isn’t fair” about a situation. You find yourself looking at the situations of others and wondering why they aren’t dealing with the same unfair circumstances. We all know those people who seem to have everything go in their favor (Could it be that it just appears this way?) Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, we tend to focus on what doesn’t seem fair rather than what is beyond fair in our lives. Maybe if we could view those things which appear unfair in a different light we would see that they aren’t unfair at all. When we are able to do this we also tend to recognize all the huge blessings in our lives as well. If you allow the Bible to be your guide, which I strive for, this isn’t so hard to do. Difficult at times, but not impossible.

As I thought about this whole idea of “unfairness” I thought about all of the stories in the Bible. Stories of God working impossibly amazing miracles. I found that all of these stories involve two things: A willing follower and seemingly unfair circumstances. Honestly I couldn’t really think of anybody who this wasn’t true for. At least not anybody in whose life God was working in great and mighty ways. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, are unfair circumstances worth the work that God wants to do in our lives? If you are a willing follower of Christ (only you know if you are) you can pretty much expect this to happen. Not forever, but for a time.

1 Peter 1:6-7 (NKJV) tells us “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,”
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Your genuine faith is worth more than gold! To me that’s an amazing fact to dwell on. God wants to use trials in our lives to bless us with unwavering genuine faith, the kind of faith that can move mountains. This doesn’t sound too unfair to me. Knowing this helps me to rejoice when things seem unfair and believe that God is working.

Think about Joseph (Genesis 37-45), could his life have been anymore unfair? He was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, a servant of another man’s household, falsely accused, and imprisoned for years. The best part about the whole thing is that God was with him the entire time and the Bible says he prospered in all of those situations. If that’s possible for Joseph then don’t you think it’s possible for me and you? God had to test his faith and grow his character before he could be used in such an amazing way, to save the lives of countless people. Maybe this is the case for you? For me?

When my daughter was born with a heart condition I didn’t think that was very fair at all. She was tiny, wouldn’t grow, Unable to nurse, needed medication 3 times a day, had dr visits every week, was behind in all physical milestones, threw up every single day (a lot and often all over me!), and ended up having open heart surgery at 7 months old. My 2 month old weighed as much as her sister did at 7 months when she had surgery. None of this seemed fair but I can tell you that God truly did a work in me during this unfair time. He grew my faith and practically abolished my anxieties regarding health and illness. I look back and cannot believe the grace I received to get through all of that with a positive attitude and my faith intact. I am a different person today than I was before that happened. Think about unfair and tough times God brought you through. Are you the same person today that you were before? Maybe you say, well I’m worse. And that might be so, but choose now to face those trials differently than you might have before. Allow God to test and prove the genuineness of your faith and shape you into the person He created you to be. The person you need to be in order to live the life God has planned for you. Lean on Him through these “unfair” times and see how gracious and loving He truly is. I promise He won’t let you down!

Sometimes my husband and I talk about the ways that God has refined us through trials. We think about how we were versus how we are now. This encourages us to keep pushing through the “unfair” trials we are currently facing, reminding us that God is working. Always remember, God is more concerned with the genuineness of our faith than He is with “fairness”.

I’m not saying that at the end of your trial awaits riches and monetary wealth, what awaits us is far greater. A genuine faith that can move mountains and impact countless individuals for Christ. If this is what you want your life to represent keep moving through those trials and get ready for God to do great things in your life.

A final note, if the trials you face are consequences of sin in your life or an unwillingness to follow Christ and you want that to change, repent and allow God’s grace to transform you. It surely will!

My Weakness, His Endless Grace

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I’ve begun to wonder if fear is my “thorn in the flesh”, similar to whatever Paul was dealing with. For some reason I am so weak when it comes to fear. I seriously cannot even watch a slightly scary movie without being unable to sleep for at least a week. And please, whatever you do, do not even tell me a story about something bad happening to a child! I won’t leave the house for a month.. I hate having to be home alone over night when my husband travels! I am a grown woman! I know it sounds silly, but it is truly a serious struggle for me. It comes out in other ways too but I’m not going to share all of my embarrassing examples with you! I have to be on constant guard. Whenever I think I’ve beaten it, back it comes as scary and overpowering as ever. I’m left feeling discouraged and beaten down, wondering if I will ever truly conquer it. Well if this is indeed my thorn in the flesh I probably won’t. Even though I know that Gods grace is sufficient sometimes I just wish it would be gone for good.

When Paul asked God to remove his weakness God response was not what Paul was looking for. Here is what God said, “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) I can’t say that I have quite reached the place that Paul did, boasting in my weaknesses, but I would like to!

So how can I embrace God’s grace like Paul did and rejoice and boast in my weakness instead of desperately try, in my own strength, to eradicate it. Below are some things I’ve learned I have to do for this to be possible!

1. I have to accept it as something I will likely struggle with forever- Recognizing and accepting that I will always need to rely on Gods sufficient grace to overcome the fears and anxieties that grip me has been a freeing experience. Paul asked three times that God remove his “thorn” but God said no. Does this mean I have to live bound by my thorn? No. What it means is that I will forever need to tap into Gods grace, as Paul did, to battle it. Honestly I can go long periods of time where it seems as though I’ve won, and then out of nowhere, I begin to lose the battle. Thoughts start to creep in, feelings emerge, and discouragement starts to take hold. Maybe you can relate? Achieving acceptance helps me go straight to the throne of grace, rather than give into the thorn and allow it to gain control.
2. I have to offer grace to others- Listen, you probably think the fears I deal with are totally crazy! And you are right. I would probably think yours are crazy too. Don’t judge others because it doesn’t make sense to you, try to be understanding and offer encouragement. Allow God’s grace to flow through you to others, this may be exactly what they need in order to overcome! We want others to be sensitive regarding our fears and weaknesses but sometimes we don’t offer the same in return. I’m still working on this..
3. I have to face it, not hide from it- I used to just avoid fear at all costs. While sometimes this is okay and possible, other times it is straight up unhealthy. Rather than flee from it I had to learn how to face it with the strength of God and His grace. This is my only hope of experiencing His strength in my weakness. If you run from your weakness you will totally miss out on this blessing. Totally still working on this one too… but getting better!
4. I have to God FIRST, not last- Now that have I accepted that I will never truly eliminate my weakness of fear I am more prone to go straight to God whenever it starts to creep in. Where in the past I would try other things first, thinking I actually had a chance, now I know I need God immediately to stand a chance at all. This has brought me closer to the Lord and has enabled me to feel his love and care more deeply. I have found that His grace truly is sufficient for my weakness. If we don’t do this we will just go through life crippled by our weaknesses, unable to reach our full potential in Christ. The enemy knows our weaknesses and will work hard to use them against us. We have to rely on the only one who has already defeated him. Through Him we have true victory.

What is a weakness you just can’t seem to defeat? Ask God for His grace and strength to help you and you will not be disappointed!

Expecting what God Expects for your Marriage

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If you’re married you’ve probably been given this advice: “If you want to be satisfied in your marriage lower your expectations.” This advice is awful so don’t believe it. Couples who have high expectations and standards are the ones who experience satisfaction and have lasting marriages.

Expectation is defined as “a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen.” To put it plainly, what you expect is likely what will happen. If you expect greatness in your marriage you will fight for it. If you expect anything less you’ll accept it. This is a pretty big deal in my opinion. I don’t know about you, but I want my marriage to be great! Not just okay. Having high expectations, or better yet, expecting what God expects, is the way to achieve greatness in your marriage. Don’t be confused. High expectations are not the same thing as unrealistic expectations, in the same way that low expectations are not the same thing as realistic expectations.

God thinks pretty highly of marriage and so should we. It is beyond me how we as christians have been accepting of so much less than God desires for our marriages for so long. This truly needs to change if we are to reclaim what God has designed to be beautiful and satisfying. God tells us that men are to love their wives like Christ loved the church and died for her, and that women are to respect and honor their husbands as the great women of the Bible did before us. Not to mention, have you read Proverbs 31!?  Biblical expectations for husbands and wives are seriously high if you ask me! So why are we ready and willing to accept such low worldly expectations for our marriages?

Lets talk about some ways to go about setting high expectations and throwing out the low ones you’ve allowed yourself to adapt to in your marriage.

Determine what your expectations for your marriage are. You have to make the decision that you want what God wants for your marriage. Anything other than this will leave you unsatisfied and longing for more. This doesn’t just happen naturally because you’re a Christian. Next, you have to Define what this actually looks like. Simply saying you want a godly marriage isn’t enough, you have to know what a godly marriage should be. If you’re not sure pick up the Bible and start reading! Honestly that’s what I had to do. I didn’t have a perfect example of this growing up so I had to go to God’s Word and figure it out. Defining your expectations will get you nowhere if you don’t Discuss it with your spouse. Be honest about your hopes and fears. If you have never talked to your husband or wife about what you are expecting for your marriage now is a good time to start doing it. This will put  you on the offense. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Proverbs 27:12 says “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; The simple pass on and are punished.” Be on the lookout for those things that might threaten your marriage and guard against it.

If you do these things I promise you will notice when something’s off. When this happens, because you’ve set these standards and talked about them, your natural instinct will be to do something about it. This doesn’t mean that it wont be a challenge, it means that you will be willing and ready to fight hard and win the battle.

For any of this to really work you have got to let go of the low and negative expectations you’ve allowed yourself to have regarding your marriage. If you expect it, when it happens you likely wont do anything about it. You might think you can “just get over it” but this will not last forever, I promise you that. Not only that, but it will chip away at your marriage until you find yourself at the place you feared all along. In a marriage that is empty, together for the kids, and headed for destruction. In a society with a divorce rate of 50% it’s not enough to just assume this could never happen to you.

Below are four negative expectations that I believe can kill marriages and what God’s Word has to say about them:

-Are any couples really best friends? Its silly to expect this in my marriage. Genesis 2:24 says “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” In my opinion, being one with somebody translates to the deepest level of intimacy. This is knowing someone inside and out, and to me, this is what it means to be best friends. If you don’t feel this way about your spouse you might have this negative expectation in your marriage. I believe that a deep friendship is the key to everything in marriage.

It’s okay to check out other women and men and watch pornography, this is normal. If you expect this in your marriage you need to do something about it immediately! Nothing will kill your intimacy and friendship faster. God’s Word has a lot to say about this in fact. Matthew 5:28 says “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” God sees this as adultery, not a normal acceptable thing. I promise it will destroy your chances of having a godly marriage.

Couples don’t have sex much after kids are born. That’s just the way it is. This low expectation is a huge marriage killer. 1 Corinthians 7:5 says about sex in marriage ” Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” This verse applies before and after children. Listen, I have two children and I will tell you that you can and should expect to be intimate with your spouse after children. Don’t believe the lie that it’s normal for intimacy to dissolve after children, this is certainly not God’s opinion.

My husband or wife likely won’t meet my needs and that’s okay. Yes, it is true that God is the one who should ultimately be meeting your needs, but one way that He does this is through your spouse. In Genesis God said that it isn’t good for man to be alone so He made him a helper. As a wife you are your husband’s helper, you alone are capable of enabling your husband to be the man he needs to be. In the same way, as a husband you are called to care for your wife in the same way that Christ cares for the church. This is huge! Expecting that you will meet each other’s needs is critical to your marriage thriving. You have to talk to each other about what you need and work together to define what this looks like.

Having high standards and expectations won’t prevent trials or conflict in your marriage. What it will do is enable you to face and overcome them, coming out stronger and closer than ever before.  You don’t have to be exceptional to accomplish this, you just have to fight hard for what you want your marriage to be and rely on God and His Word to help you do it.

I can promise you one thing, you’re marriage doesn’t become what you fear overnight. It’s a slow progression that results from low expectations and standards. Thankfully you can change this by changing your expectations and expecting what God expects for your marriage, Greatness.

Serious Threats to my Faith

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I found myself struggling yesterday to keep my faith that God will come through for me. Does this ever happen to you? It left me feeling defeated and discouraged rather than victorious. I’m not sure why but I frequently forget about God’s faithfulness to me and focus on what doesn’t seem to be going right. Thankfully I recognized the error in my way and asked God to forgive me for allowing my faith in Him to slip. Sadly I’m sure this will happen again soon enough as it always does. Having faith in tough times is a continual process of ups and downs, and something I need to be mindful of.

Below are some things that can kill my faith so fast I don’t even realize its happening. (When I say faith, I’m not talking about my faith in Jesus Christ as my savior, I’m talking about my faith that God will get me through difficulty). Avoiding these things is critical to keeping my faith in God strong.

Focusing on the Negatives: When Peter walked on the water he looked at the crashing waves around him and started to sink. I can feel like I’m sinking sometimes despite the great things going on around me. Peter was walking on water and yet he was focused on the chaos around him instead of the miracle that was unfolding. I don’t know for sure if this was the case, but I wonder if Peter expected Jesus to calm the waters for him once he stepped out in faith. Maybe this is something I believe sometimes? I think that God will fix all the chaos around me in response to my faith. Just as this wasn’t the case for Peter its not the case for me or for you. In fact, we are told we will face various trials in order to test the genuineness of our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7), not that our step of faith will eliminate trials. When we focus on the negatives we are doubting and displaying a lack of faith. Recently I started a thankfulness journal. Every day, or at least it should be every day, I write down things that I am thankful for that day. This helps keep my mind in the right place. Just today God faithfully provided something I was in need of but all I focused on was what He didn’t seem to provide. I know He was saying the same thing to me that He said to Peter. O Ye of little faith, why did you doubt? My prayer is that I will learn to focus on Jesus and his faithfulness to me, rather than on what isn’t going right.

Thinking it’s all about me: When it’s all about me and my selfish desires I forget that the reward I should be seeking is heavenly. Hebrews talks about how the men of faith in the Bible looked to a greater heavenly reward. In fact, many of them never even saw the promises God had made fulfilled until they entered into heaven and stood before their savior. It can’t be all about me and all about Jesus at the same time. Last night I was struggling to have faith because things seemed to be going all wrong. I realized that my joy was tied to things going my way, rather than trusting that if my life’s goal is to bring God glory and further His kingdom instead of my own I can believe that everything is going exactly as it should be.

Expecting the worst: Does my faith run out when I don’t see the evidence? What’s it going to take to get it through my head that God created me and that He has good things planned for me. Again this only strengthens my faith if I believe those good things He has planned revolve around Him getting glory and others lives being impacted for Christ. If I’m stuck thinking that it’s all about me then I’ll probably miss it. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” God has good planned for me according to HIS purpose, not Jamie’s purpose. If my focus is on Jesus Christ and its not all about me then I will only expect good things and so will you!

Alcohol and the Church

wine_2656481bI have contemplated writing about this for a while but honestly didn’t feel like it. I decided to do it because, what the heck, why not? This seems to me to be a highly debatable and touchy subject when it comes to Christians of most denominations. I’ve thought and read about it a lot and hope that I can discuss it in a way that is honoring to the truth found in God’s Word. This isn’t a post condemning or condoning alcohol, I simply wanted to share my thoughts on what I think God’s Word says about the matter. If you disagree or feel like something I say is way off base please feel free to share as I value your input!

Lets start by looking at some verses that condemn drunkenness, not alcohol itself.

Ephesians 5:18: And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit

Isaiah 5:11: Woe to those who rise early in the morning, That they may follow intoxicating drink; Who continue until night, till wine inflames them!                                                   Definition of woe: things that cause sorrow or distress; troubles.

Romans 13:13: Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

These verses make it pretty clear that drunkenness is indeed sinful and leads to trouble. I certainly don’t disagree. So why is this such a hot topic among believers of Christ?

Some people have the opinion that alcohol of any amount should be avoided at all costs due to the risk it poses. This is fine unless it leads to judgmental thoughts towards others who don’t hold the same opinion, and vice versa. Overall, the Bible doesn’t state that followers of Christ should totally avoid alcohol.

Is there anywhere in the Bible that does say something like this? Well yes, pastors are called to a higher standard and are commanded not to drink. The Bible talks about this in 1 Timothy 3:1-7  Verse 3 specifically says “not given to wine.” Later on in this chapter in verse 8 it mentions that deacons should “not be given to much wine.” Notice the difference, pastors aren’t to be given to wine at all, and deacons aren’t to be given to much wine. God clearly calls deacons to use sound judgment and wisdom in drinking wine but not to avoid it altogether. In addition to these verses, in Proverbs 31 king Lamuel is encouraged by his mother to avoid wine and strong drink so that he may rule his people justly and with wisdom (Proverbs 31:1-9). If there was no risk in drinking alcohol God would not call those in places of leadership like pastors and kings to avoid it altogether.

These verses clearly indicate that drinking alcohol is to be approached with great caution and discernment. Another problem with the idea that alcohol should be avoided entirley is that this approach might not be taken regarding other issues. For example, the bible teaches us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10), yet does this mean we should avoid having money at all costs just in case? In fact, I would argue that while alcohol clearly poses more danger to someone physically, the love of money poses a greater threat to a person’s spiritual health. We cannot pick and choose with God’s Word based on our opinions.

So does this mean that as long as you aren’t getting drunk everything else goes? Not quite. It can’t be argued that alcohol is a potentially dangerous substance. After all, many people have been greatly impacted by the damaging affects of it. My grandfather was an alcoholic and died when he was in his fifties from liver damage. His family was impacted deeply by his alcoholism. This is the story for many others as well. Considering this and the warnings God offers in His Word it seems that drinking alcohol should be something that is done cautiously and with discernment.

It’s a pretty common thing these days to hear about Christian fellowship in which alcohol is involved. I’m not saying at all that this is sinful, but it could potentially be harmful. For example, Romans 14:21 says “ It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” We are accountable for how we impact those around us. Don’t assume that the people around you have the same views on drunkenness that you do. In fact, you don’t know if someone you are offering a drink to has had struggles with alcoholism or is heading in that direction. Again, I am not saying that the Bible teaches us not to drink with other believers, what I am saying is that based on what I have read I believe it teaches us to ensure that what we are doing is not going to cause another brother or sister in Christ to stumble. We need to take this very seriously.

One other point I thought I would mention is that alcoholism is not the same as drunkenness. A person can become a slave to alcohol without being a slave to drunkenness. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12 that “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” If for some reason you feel a deep need for alcohol and cannot say no to it there may be a problem. Maybe you have wanted to stop drinking for health or other reasons but can’t, or maybe you avoid gatherings where you know there will be no alcohol, as you need to have it to enjoy yourself. These could be signs that alcohol may have a grip on you and could end up becoming a struggle. This verse is true for anything in our lives, not just alcohol, but obviously that’s what we are talking about here.

I hope that if you are reading this blog you don’t walk away thinking that I am judging people who drink or who choose not to drink. I just felt a desire to write about what I feel that Bible teaches us as it relates to drinking. In my personal opinion because of the dangers of alcohol that the Bible does describe I do believe it is something that should be approached with much wisdom and discernment. Thanks for reading!

The Secret to Perfect Peace

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You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in YAH, the Lordis everlasting strength

I don’t know about you but when I hear the phrase “perfect peace” I get a tad skeptical. Is it really possible to have perfect peace? According to God’s Word it is. My other question is this, Can I really keep my mind fixed on the Lord? One definition of peace describes it as freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions. This was my favorite, as oppressive thoughts and emotions are almost always the culprits behind my lack of peace. Can you relate?

So what is the secret to possessing this perfect peace that God promises us? First of all I think we need to take a step back and gain some perspective on just how incredible this promise really is. Here is a personal story of a time when I found perfect and unexplainable peace despite the difficulty I faced.

My daughter was only 4 weeks old when we were told that she had a large hole in her heart that would likely require surgery. I was shocked and had no idea how in the world I would be able to handle the situation. six months of daily medications, weekly dr. apts., constant vomiting, and stress over the possibility of dehydration, the time had come for her open heart surgery. I can honestly tell you that during those six months and the next four days to come my husband and I had a peace that was so real and unexplainable. We didn’t doubt that God would keep her safe, regardless of the outcome of surgery.

Something I thought about while planning to write this blog really opened my eyes to the gravity of this verse. Living in America and being told that my child has a large hole in her heart is a lot different than living in a third world country and being told the same thing. Children are dying from this very same condition simply because they lack the medical care necessary for repairing it. This verse is just as true for these mothers as it is for me. Its not the potential outcome of a situation that determines the level of peace we can have, it is God’s mercy and goodness.

This verse is true for us when it comes to horribly tragic scenarios like the death of a loved one, and seemingly simple scenarios like a conflict with a friend. The secret to receiving this promise of peace comes through keeping our minds on Him. Below are three things that have helped me to keep my mind on God even when it seems impossible, resulting in experiencing His perfect peace.

Trusting God: Isaiah 26:3-4 points out that those who keep their minds on God do so because they trust in Him. If we don’t trust in God then we wont be able to keep our minds on Him, its as simple as that. The reason I was able to have peace while my daughter was in surgery, and even during the months leading up to it, was because I trusted in God’s love and goodness. I knew that no matter what might happen God would take care of me and would remain faithful. Honestly, there is no secret to trusting in God. In my opinion you either do or you don’t. Its all about your heart and whether or not you have made the choice to accept Jesus Christ as your savior, the choice to live for Him.

Loving God’s Law: Psalm 119:165 says “Great peace have those who love your law and nothing causes them to stumble.” We have to have a love for God’s law if we expect to be able to keep our minds on Him. Love is defined as an intense feeling of deep affection. I don’t know about you, but the people I can focus positively on are those that I love deeply and affectionately. If you aren’t deeply in love with God and longing to please Him it will be hard to keep your mind on Him. Jesus pointed to this very thing when He said in John 14:23 “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” To love God’s law is to obey Him. To obey Him is to trust Him.

Praying Diligently: As I mentioned earlier disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions are steelers of peace. We can keep our mind on God by submitting our requests regarding our worries, hurts, and pain to Him (Philippians 4:6-7). Believe me, I mess this one up a lot. I often find myself ruminating on negative thoughts before I decide to go to God in prayer, resulting in a lack of peace. When I choose to go to God with my fears and worries and surrender it to Him I am able to experience His peace. Prayer helps you to shift your focus from the worries that are stealing your peace to God.

The interesting thing is, if we don’t trust in God we wont love his law and we wont seek Him through prayer. We have to remember that we can only walk in the promises of God once we have made the choice to follow Him. For me personally, I have to start with trusting in God and believing in His goodness in order to love Him and His Word enough to keep my mind on Him and experience peace. Have you ever tried this? Are you struggling to find peace in tough times? I promise you that He is there and is waiting for you to place your trust in Him. Once you do there are endless promises of peace and goodness waiting for you.

What are some other things that have helped you focus on God and experience His perfect peace? I would love to hear your insights!

 

If Sin Doesn’t Bother us there’s a Problem

biblePsalm 119:136
Rivers of water run down my eyes because men do not keep your law.

I love David’s passion for God. His clear and, as he puts it, freewill offerings of his mouth to the Lord are awe inspiring. This verse really spoke to me. I should be devastated when I see others willfully sinning against God, choosing not to obey Him. Even more so other brothers and sisters in Christ. Earlier in this same chapter in verse 11 David says “your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” . This is the difference maker right here. If Gods Word isn’t hidden in our hearts and we aren’t passionately in love with Him and seeking to obey Him seeing others willfully sin probably won’t bother us.

Are you desperate to obey God? Does it break your heart to see people living against His Word? Other Christians even? Funny story, recently I was told that after my husband and I left a get together the rest of the group started acting differently than they had when we were there. First of all, I was devastated and sad by what I was told. Secondly I was okay with the fact that they felt they had to hide this behavior from us, knowing that would be bothered by it. We have to wake up and take an honest look at our lives and determine who we really want to please. David wanted to please God and he knew that in order to do so he had to make a serious commitment to living each day with Gods Word in his heart. He couldn’t afford to flip flop and neither can we.

What this means is that we can’t be okay with our own sin or the sin of those around us. We can’t hide from God. If people living against God’s Word doesn’t break our hearts it might be because it really doesn’t bother us. What choice will we make each day? Will we hide Gods Word in our hearts and strive with all our effort to not sin against Him? We won’t get it perfect, but if we make this our daily goal we will certainly be on the right track to living a life with a heart after God, according to His will with an abundance of joy.

5 Ways to Minimize the Negative Impact Conflict Can Have on your Marriage

imageIt wasn’t long into my marriage, probably about a week in, that I realized conflict starts right away. There is no waiting period for conflict when it comes to marriage. One thing that I have learned is that conflict is a normal and healthy part of every marriage. It isn’t simply having conflict that negatively impacts a marriage, it is the way in which conflict is dealt with that can negatively impact it. I have often heard people say, “oh we don’t ever have conflict.” As a counselor, and a human being for that matter, I just don’t buy that! In my personal opinion, if a couple tells me they don’t have conflict they are either lying or suppressing conflict for fear of damaging the marriage.

So what can be done to minimize the negative impact conflict can have on marriage? Here are a few things that I have learned since being marriage that have helped me to positively handle conflict and in turn strengthen my marriage and connection with my husband. Maybe they will help you out as well.

Be aware of your weaknesses: I feel like I can’t say enough about being self-aware. To me this is one of the most important things a person can do in life and will determine  not only the impact he or she has on others but also his or her ability to improve. So how does being aware of your weaknesses help you handle conflict in your marriage? If you know where you are lacking, whether it be with personality traits or your responsibilities, when your spouse makes a complaint you can more easily accept responsibility for it. Let me give an example. When my husband brings up the fact that I sometimes leave a small hurricane behind when I leave the house I can calmly take responsibility for this. Why can I do this? well because I know that I am easily flustered and don’t always manage my time wisely. My weakness is not being messy or careless, it is rather thinking I have more time than I do, realizing I don’t, not getting to all the things I needed to get to before I had to leave,  and then rushing out in a mad dash so that I wont be late, sometimes leaving a disaster behind. Because I know this about myself I can accept his complaint, apologize, and let him know I am aware and want to improve this area of weakness. If I lacked awareness I might get angry and accuse him of blaming me without reason. Of course, one key to this is actually working toward change. For tips on increasing self awareness you can check out my recent blog on the topic here.

Be aware of your partners weaknesses: Not only should you be aware of your own weaknesses, but of your partners as well. This helps you to show more compassion and less anger when confronting an issue. Don’t assume your partner should be just like you. Our differences are what make us better together than apart. If you know your husband or wife has a hard time showing emotion try to be more gentle with him or her when you expect an emotional reaction. Its not wrong to complain about an issue, what is wrong is complaining with anger and dislike. Try to remind yourself of all the things he or she does right before bringing up whats bugging you. This can minimize your anger and help you to get your frustration across in a more loving way.

Minimize your reactions: I have always struggled with reacting defensively when confronted with any kind of complaint. This was because I was totally freaked out by the thought of possibly not being good enough (something I discovered through self-awareness). Once I was able to recognize this I was able to learn how to minimize my reactions to conflict. If your spouse attacks you or criticizes you, instead of getting angry or attacking back, try saying something like this “You know what hunny, you’re right. I did drop the ball on that and I’m really sorry.” He or she may look at you like your crazy. This one takes a lot of practice and requires some serious self-control. try to be genuine. We can typically find some kind of truth in our partners complaint, something we are responsible for. Find it and admit it calmly. Over time this will change the way your partner brings things up to you. Typically we bring things up in a negative or critical way because we assume that our spouse will react negatively and deny responsibility. If we show our spouse the opposite, eventually he or she will start bringing up complaints in a more calm and loving way, expecting a calm and loving reaction.

Allow your partner to feel exactly what he or she says he or she is feeling: Stop, I repeat STOP telling your spouse he or she shouldn’t feel a certain way. I have been guilty of this many times. Over time this can cause your spouse to stop sharing his or her feelings with you altogether. Not only that, it tells your spouse that you simply do not care about what he or she is feeling. It doesn’t matter if you agree with it or not, a person’s feeling is a person’s feeling and it deserves to be cared about and explored. I have learned that when I stop making it about me, and start making it about my husband I am able to accept his feelings with love and compassion. If your husband tells you he feels rejected by you it might make you feel guilty and tempt you to defend yourself. An easy way of doing this is to tell him he shouldn’t feel rejected because you accept him. This is wrong and will only lead to more issues. If he feels rejected there is a reason for it and you should want to do what you can to fix it. Even if his feeling ends up being irrational it is still important to care. After all, how many of my feelings are irrational? A LOT! I still want my husband to care. Additionally, you may feel that you are accepting him but you might be doing something that tells him otherwise. denying his feeling takes away the chance to explore it and come up with a solution, showing him you love him and care in the process. This leads to acceptance and a deeper emotional connection.

Increase your positive interactions: Dr. John Gottman says that happy couples have a positive to negative interaction ratio of 5:1. Increasing positive interactions is a great way to improve the way you handle conflict. When do you feel the most frustrated with your spouse? I feel this way when my needs aren’t being met. When my husband is showing me affection, attention, encouragement, and love I tend to be less irritated by silly things. Additionally, I am more capable of handling big frustrations in a more loving way. When my husband feels supported, respected, and appreciated he is less likely to be bothered by my weknesses and responds more lovingly to conflict. Meeting needs comes through positive interactions. This might include going on a date, reminiscing about happy memories together, leaving a loving note, making love, eating dinner together, expressing appreciation, etc. If you focus on increasing positive interactions conflict will be much easier to deal with.

Will I Obey Even When I Don’t like God’s Answer?

bibleHave you ever begged God to show you what to do or where to go, desperate for a direct answer? I was so irritated the other day while reading Jeremiah 42. Check it out really quickly before continuing. There was a remnant of Israel that went to Jeremiah asking him to seek God for direction, promising that they would do whatever God wanted them to do. God responded telling the people not to go to Egypt, but instead to stay where they were and that He would bless them and protect them. Guess what happened next? They disobeyed God and decided to follow their own desire to go to Egypt! This made me really mad because I would give anything for such a direct response from God.

How could this remnant possibly hear from God so clearly and yet choose to disobey and do the opposite of what He told them to do? First of all, it seems to me that they weren’t really close to and connected to God. When they initially went to Jeremiah they referred to God as Jeremiah’s God, rather than their God (vs 2). If you aren’t close to God then what He wants you to do isn’t going to matter a whole lot.

Think of the people in your life who have the most influence over you. You care about what they think and say and long to please them. I would be fairly certain that these are people you feel most close to. In the same way, it is when I am close to God that I truly value His plans over my own and long to obey Him. The remnant was missing this connection with God. this is evident in later chapters when God calls them out for worshiping other gods aside from Him (Jeremiah 44:8).

The second thing to notice is that their hearts didn’t match their requests. Initially their request appeared genuine, at least it did to me. They ask God “show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do.” They weren’t making this request because they longed to do God’s will. They were looking for relief and an easy way out. When this is the reason behind your request there is a good chance you wont obey if God’s response doesn’t line up with your desires. They wanted instant comfort and pleasure. It seemed more realistic to them that they would get this in Egypt, where everything looked nice and pleasant, rather than staying put with the imminent threat of Babylon close by.

Our goal should never be to find relief from difficulty or to feel safe and secure. Our goal should be to please God and to be as close to Him as we possibly can be. Our level of true safety and security comes from our closeness to and connection with God through His son Jesus Christ, and should be totally unrelated to outside circumstances. This is what Paul meant when he said he learned to be content whatever circumstances (Philippians 4:10-13). A poor man without Christ is no less secure than a rich man without Christ.

Reading this caused me to look very closely at my own requests to ensure that my goal is to please God and to do His will, rather than to find relief and comfort. What I found is that I have to set aside any hoped for outcomes and be open to whatever God might have and desire for me and my family. Just recently my husband and I were led to make a decision that went against everything we had hoped for and desired. To be honest it wasn’t fun and it was certainly scary. Knowing that God is in control and close to us enabled us to face it and move forward toward something different, something unplanned for. The remnant was blinded by their hoped for answer from God, which was to tell them to flee to Egypt and find comfort and safety.

How can I avoid making the same mistakes that the remnant made? What I concluded is that I can hopefully avoid this by following three principals I learned from reading this chapter.

Principal 1: Make sure my goal is to be close to and to please God, not to find relief. Isaiah 55:7 tells us “Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LordAnd He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” Hebrews 10:22 says “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” I need to focus on drawing near to God and living a life that is pleasing to Him. 

Principal 2: Release any desired responses I feel I need to receive from God. I need to be open and willing to obey whatever God calls me to do, even if it is 100% different from what I wanted. Proverbs 20:24 tells me “A man’s steps are of the LordHow then can a man understand his own way?” If God’s Word tells me that I wont be able to understand my own way then why am I always expecting to have it all figured out? I need to be willing to give this up and allow God to truly guide me according to His will.  

Principal 3: Trust that He will deliver on His promises. God’s Word is full of promises for me and for you. The remnant gave into fear rather than believing God. Romans 8:28 tells us “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” If we know this and believe this then we can trust that no matter how scary or uncertain things look, if God has called us it will all work out. This doesn’t mean that we will be comfortable and will have endless worldly pleasure, what it means is that our lives will bring glory to God and will impact this world for Christ.