How to Beat Worry God’s Way

 

AF2ABBCE-6840-4DE6-AD64-B696A2797459If you are anything like me you’ve found yourself anxious and worried about your life circumstances at times. Maybe you ask some of these questions I find myself asking. Am I making the right decision? Will things work out? Is God going to get me through these difficult times? How can I face this individual or uncomfortable situation? These kinds of questions can plague you and bring on some intense anxiety if you allow them to. As Christians we don’t have to be controlled by worry and anxiety. In fact, God’s Word commands us not to be! Philippians 4:6 says “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” So why is it so hard at times to trust and not allow worry a place of control? It’s easy to read a verse, putting it into action is a different story.

First of all you have to Accept worry for what it is: A lack of trust in God. Coming to this realization years ago helped me tremendously! I didn’t like to admit it, but recognizing that my anxious worrying was proof that I wasn’t trusting God made a world of difference for me. Bottom line I wanted to be a ruled by my faith and trust in God, but when I allowed worry to have a hold on me I wasn’t doing that. This convicted me and changed the way I looked at my anxiety. When I saw it for what it really was I was much more capable of dealing with it the way God tells me to. In my heart I trust God fully, my thoughts and actions need to back that up.

A good place to start when anxiety sets in is to write down or simply verbalize the specifics on what is worrying you. Sometimes I can feel anxious and not really know why. maybe I pray  “God help me not feel anxious anymore” but this never really works. I am basically asking God to do all the work rather than doing my part as well. He tells me to submit my requests to him, only then can I expect His beautiful peace to take the place of my anxiety. So how does this look in action? When I realize I’m anxious I stop and think about what is worrying me. I verbalize it and then I tell God I’m sorry for not trusting Him. Once I’ve done that I can ask Him to help me with whatever it is I’m dealing with specifically. If it’s something I have no control over I make the choice to let go and trust God. If I can do something about it I make a plan and ask God for the courage to act on that plan. It’s incredible how God’s peace truly does come over me when I respond to anxiety the way He wants me to. As I courageously face my worries one at a time my anxiety eventually disappears.

You have to start speaking God’s truth to your worry. There is a battle going on for your mind. When we give into worry our faith and peace crumble. What does God’s Word say about your situation? The Bible tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” We can only do this by meditating on Gods Word, obeying it, and spending time in His presence. When Gods Word is in your heart it will start impacting your life in an incredible and active way. My go to verse these days when worry starts to come in is Psalm 138:8 “The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” God has my back, and He wants to have yours too. 

I can tend to have a lot of worry when it comes to dealing with people. It could be something simple like asking a boss for a day off or sharing a concern with a close friend or family member. This anxiety can have a huge hold on me.  I am able to overcome this with God’s truth found in Proverbs 29:25 that says “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in The Lord shall be safe.” I speak this truth when worry sets in time and time again. Depending on how tightly I am holding onto my worry it might take a lot of effort and time for my anxiety to subside, but I have found when I am continually speaking God’s truth it always does.

Figure out what you’re most afraid of: In my experience, and in helping others with anxiety, I have found that a deeper fear is always involved. People tend to avoid thinking about their greatest fears which makes it difficult to address them. Ask yourself this question. What is my biggest fear related to this current worry? As I mentioned, I worry whenever I have to confront someone regarding an issue or uncomfortable topic. What is my biggest fear? Not the confrontation itself, rather the potential rejection of those I’m confronting. Because I am aware of this I have been able to address it. I’ve recognized that my value doesn’t depend on being accepted by everyone or on whether or not people reject me. I have learned that I can find true acceptance from God and trust Him to take care of me when I need to confront someone on an uncomfortable issue. Dealing with this fear has enabled me to successfully overcome this worry on many occasions.. although still a work in progress!

Figure out what you are most afraid of and make a list of what you would do if it came true. What if that person does reject you? What if you do lose your job? What if? whenever I do this with my fears I realize that with God’s help I can deal with whatever may come. Suddenly the fear doesn’t seem so unbearable.

Hormones and biology don’t excuse you from obeying Philippians 4:6. I understand this all to well. For one week every month my hormones are all out of whack causing me all kinds of issues, including physiological symptoms of anxiety. I’m on edge, irritable, quick tempered, easily upset. It is very easy during this time for me to fall victim to worry and fear. I used to think this gave me a pass but I’ve come to realize over the years that God’s Word still applies with forces that seem to be out of my control. Now that I’ve accepted that truth I simply prepare for these times. I realize that with the Holy Spirit I can work toward regaining control when it seems a lot harder to do. In the past I would slip and it would spiral. Now I slip, and because I’m ready for it, I catch myself and apply the Biblical principles I’ve learned.

God tells us His strength is made perfect in weakness, and as a believer I know this pertains to all circumstances. This doesn’t exclude people with physical or psychological struggles. His truth is blanket truth. What Satan wants you to believe is that your problem is unique and God’s truth doesn’t apply to you. If he can get you to believe this you won’t start using the resources God has given you to fight back and overcome this monster called worry (and others like it). You see, God’s tools are dependent on Him, not on the capability of the individual using them. All that is required to use them is a choice to receive and follow Jesus Christ. Once you’ve done that the Holy Spirit and His power is available to you. This includes the supernatural ability to overcome worry and the grip it has on your life. 

Sometimes anxiety can be so debilitating that it’s hard to overcome on your own. If that’s you I urge you to seek out a professional counselor who can help support you through the battle. 

 

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You’ve come to Jesus, so why haven’t you found rest?

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If you received Jesus as savior and aren’t sure why all your pain, weaknesses, and burdens haven’t disappeared overnight it could be that you’ve been misled. Maybe you’re wondering why your life isn’t automatically easier, why you don’t have all the answers to life’s toughest questions. Maybe someone told you that all you had to do was get saved and your life would change. This is true, but it doesn’t happen in the way we might think. During His ministry Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). I don’t know about you, but this verse offers me so much encouragement and hope. Jesus offered to take our painful, often unbearable, burdens and give us rest. Maybe rest is something you have been desperate for for so long and you’re wondering why it hasn’t come.

If Jesus offers this why hasn’t it happened yet? Re-read the verse again and you will notice that Jesus is offering something but He is also asking us to do something as well. He asks us to come and says take my yoke and learn from me. Maybe you’ve come but you have yet to learn from Jesus. Could this be why you are still suffering as you were before? Learning from Jesus is an incredible process that will completely transform you from the inside out, but it takes time. Yes, when you responded to John 1:12 and became a child of God your life forever changed. You went from being an orphan to being adopted into the kingdom of God and God’s spirit is living in you (Romans 8:11). You probably instantly felt a lesser desire to continue in sin, a desire for repentance and forgiveness, a longing to be closer to God, but this is where the journey starts, not where it ends. This journey begins with making a choice to accept Jesus as savior and is followed by acting on Jesus’ command to learn from Him. Jesus is telling us that we have to learn a new way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. He is asking you, and me, with the power of His spirit living in us, the same spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead (how incredible!), to learn a new way.

Consider the story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10. I just love this story because it speaks to me on so many personal levels. Go read it before continuing on. Jesus came one day to visit and Martha was busy and distracted serving, stressed to no end. she was angry! Where was her sister Mary? She was sitting at the feet of Jesus learning from Him. Mary knew that this was the most important thing she could ever do. When Martha complained to Jesus his response was simply amazing. He said to her “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Have you chosen as Mary did? To lay your troubles and worries down and sit at Jesus’ feet to hear and learn His Word? Martha clung to her troubles and often times this is just what we do. This is why people sometimes wonder why Jesus isn’t “working”. Mary knew hearing and learning from Jesus was the only hope she had. Jesus basically told Martha that she chose her troubles over the better option. Do I do this? Do you? When we choose not to learn a new way from Jesus we are choosing to remain in bondage. In 2 Corinthians 12 we learn that rather than eliminating our weaknesses, God offers us grace and strength to overcome them. 

So how do you learn from Jesus? You have to start reading His Word, the Bible, and living by what it says. You have to throw out anything that doesn’t line up. You will never learn a new way if you don’t, and nothing will ever change. To be honest, I don’t know how I would get through a day without the Bible. I don’t even want to think about what my life would be without it! The Bible is the Jesus followers guidebook to abundant life, not just another religious chore. Make a list of all those things that are troubling you, then learn a scripture that can help you with it. I promise as you learn from Jesus rest will come. It sounds simple because it is!

I’ve mentioned it before in another blog, but I have always struggled with fear, especially at night. This burden has weighed on me heavy so many times. When I finally chose to search Gods Word and learn and memorize every verse on fear, rest and peace finally came! Looking back I can’t believe how much of a struggle it had been for me. I’m still extremely susceptible and prone to letting fear take hold but I have learned a new way to face it. I turn immediately to Jesus and his truth to overcome and it works every time. I write those verses down, say them aloud, and pray them over and over until the fear is gone. If I hadn’t learned how would I have known? This is just one single example, there are countless others, of how learning from Jesus has lightened my load and given me rest. Not to mention, when you choose to follow someone how in the world could you do it without learning their way? If studying the Bible isn’t part of your life as a Christian it’s imperative that you change that.

what burdens are weighing you down and how can learning from Jesus change that?

Maybe…

Your burden says I’m afraid.. Jesus says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Your burden says I’m anxious.. Jesus says “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-8

your burden says I’ll never be enough.. Jesus says “You are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Colossians 2:10

your burden says my pain will never go away.. Jesus says “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

your burden says I need more stuff to be happy.. Jesus says “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

your burden says I can’t do what God is asking me to do.. Jesus says, “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

your burden says I can’t overcome my temptations.. Jesus says “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

your burden says I am unlovable.. Jesus says “neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39

your burden says I have no purpose.. Jesus says “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

God’s strength is waiting to be made perfect in your weakness. He is waiting for you to come to Him, learn from Him, and trade your heavy burden for his light and easy load. This is a daily journey filled with ups and downs, but it is also filled with hope. Something you didn’t have before you accepted Jesus. Don’t forget, the Holy Spirit of God is dwelling in you and will teach you all things. Start going to church to add to your learning and develop friendships with other Jesus followers. Messages my pastor has preached have helped me learn and grow so much and God has used godly mentors in my life to teach me as well. This is so important! Just be sure to never allow church to take the place of the Bible in your life. Studying and learning on your own is critical. Read as often as you can, write down verses in a journal and keep it close to read through whenever you can. This is something I have always done and it has helped me learn and remember so much. You will begin to notice your mindset changing as you hide scripture in your heart. You will start responding to life’s troubles differently when you allow scripture and your deepened love for Jesus to guide you, rather than your old worldview. The load will begin to lighten and you will find the rest you’ve been seeking.

You Don’t Have to be Talented Enough to do God’s Will, all you Need is a Believing and Obedient Heart

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There are so many stories in the Bible about weak and incapable people doing incredible things for God. Reading these accounts encourages me and reminds me that no matter my weaknesses and failures God can still use me to do His work. Consider Gideon, He was the lowest in his entire family and God used him to take down an army with only 300 men (Judges 6-7). Gideon completely doubted himself. So how was he able to accomplish all that God asked? Gideon obeyed and the Lord filled his gaps. It had nothing to do with his special gifts or talents. I urge you to read the story, it’s a truly incredible show of God’s power! All we have to do is obey and the Lord will be with us to give us victory. Obviously this only applies if God is actually calling you to something… not to our own selfish ambitions or desires.

If you need even more encouragement just read about king David. God described him as “a man after His own heart, who would do all His will” (Acts 13:22). God wasn’t concerned with outward appearance and physical strength, He was focused on David’s heart. “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). What a relief! God is concrerned about our hearts, not our talents and physical capabilities. You can have all the talent in the world but if you don’t have a heart for God it is truly wasted. The Bible tells us that David was only a youth when he killed the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17:33). This is incredible to me! There is no excuse that excuses us from doing God’s will.

Start obeying Gods commands that are clearly laid out in His Word and you will quickly see that He will be with you and will enable you. Start loving more, giving more, serving more, all those things you don’t think you can do. Obey and watch God show himself faithful. After all, Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). As Jesus followers we have been called to daily follow, and in order to do this we have to know what Jesus desires from us. We have to read the Bible as if our life depended on it. Because it does! This is the only way to know God’s will and do it.

Maybe you feel discouraged because you don’t feel very capable of doing God’s will. Maybe you see all these people around you doing so much for God and you truly believe they have something you don’t. Some special talent that you don’t seem to possess. You wonder if you are truly capable of doing anything good for God. What I’ve learned about Satan over the years is that he can’t see into the future, but what he can see is a tender and loving heart toward God, the kind of heart that, if freed up from fear and doubt, will do the will of God. He will do whatever he can to keep that person believing lies that he isn’t capable. I have always struggled with insecurities about many different things. I questioned my ability to be a wife, a mother, a friend, a counselor, basically everything God has called me to. What I have found is that If your heart is for The Lord and your desire is for His will He will meet you where you are at and will enable you to accomplish all He has planned for you.

please, I beg you to stop believing Satan’s lies that you have nothing to offer. Jesus gave His life for you because you are valuable to Him. If you accept that free gift He will enter your life and transform you from the inside out. Nothing in this world can even come close to the beauty that comes through being reconciled to your creator and spending the rest of your life doing His Will and not your own.

Will you Give it up for God?

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I’m sure you’ve all heard the story of the rich young ruler? (Matthew 16: 19-23). He comes to Jesus and asks him what he needs to do to be complete. Jesus tells him to sell all he has and give to the poor so he may have treasure in heaven. We all flinch when we read this, fearful of the chance that we may be asked to do the same. How about when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Issac? (Genesis 22: 1-19). The son he waited years and years to have, the son his wife doubted was even a real possibility. Can you imagine? Thankfully God provided another way in this specific situation.

In the last five years life has been quite challenging for me and my husband as God has asked us to give up a lot to follow His plan for our lives. Things we thought we really needed and wanted and placed way too much trust in. Despite the struggle, these have been the best years of our lives and will only get better from here! God has stretched us, challenged us, walked us through many trials, and has been transforming us into the people He created us to be. It’s been incredible!! Although we have had to suffer in a lot of ways, (and have failed in a lot of ways) we have experienced more peace and joy and have seen more spiritual fruit than we ever could have imagined.

To be honest I expected things to go a lot differently and a lot more smoothly than they have. But guess what? I would do it all over again despite the struggles. With each small step of faith I’ve been shown that God is faithful, He always comes through. One of my favorite lines from a Sunday morning service that I heard years ago from my pastor is this: “God doesn’t know you believe Him until you give up your Issac.” God didn’t know Abraham trusted Him because he said he did. It was because Abraham did exactly what God asked him to do, even though it was the hardest thing he could have ever been asked to do. Are you willing to do this? Am I? Jesus asked the rich young ruler to give up his wealth because that was his “Isaac”. The thing he held onto so tightly and placed his trust in. Abraham went from believing God would make him father of the nations to believing this responsibility fell on Issac. His trust was misplaced. He depended on Issac for this promise to be fulfilled instead of on God. Maybe you believe that what you can’t give up is truly what you need, rather than God’s best for you.

What are you holding onto so tightly that it’s hindering your relationship with God? Maybe you really struggle to believe that His way is better than your way. Maybe it’s legalism, materialism, alcoholism, pornography, an affair, control, fear, pain, harmful relationships, a career. Whatever it might be that you’re holding onto I promise you it doesn’t hold a candle to the possibilities you have with a deep and intimate relationship with God. No matter how good or promising it might feel, those things will always end up betraying you. He has outrageously incredible things planned for your life if you will take Him up on the offer. The freedom you experience when you surrender these things to God and make the choice to do things His way is remarkable.

God didn’t ask the young ruler to give up his wealth and Abraham to give up Issac for fun or to play games with them, there was a purpose behind this. He knew these things were getting in the way of Gods ultimate plan. What’s getting in the way of His plan for you?

I challenge you to sit down with God today and ask Him to show you what your holding onto too tightly and putting your faith in. I pray that as you do this God will reveal Himself to you and transform your heart so that you can live out the life He has for you. A life that reflects Jesus Christ and impacts the world.

Maybe Having Faith in God Isn’t What you Think it is…

IMG_0209I’ve been surprised many times by people thinking that faith means not knowing but believing anyway. They seem to think that my belief in Jesus goes something like this:

I believe in Jesus but I’m not totally sure it’s true, I have to just have faith. but I sure hope I’m right and get to go to heaven.

Maybe I’m to blame for this impression people have of faith and following Jesus. Do we make the mistake of not sharing all that God has done in our lives? Leading people to believe it’s a life of hoping rather than fully knowing with confidence? The definition of faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. My faith is much much more than simply hoping I’m right. You see when I made the choice to follow and accept Jesus Christ I became a child of God. In a literal sense. God has revealed himself and moved in my life in such incredible and amazing ways I could write all day long telling you about it. It would blow your mind. It starts with choosing to believe but this isn’t the end of the journey. This is where the journey starts. After this point God makes you his own. After this point you know God on a deeper level, as your father. There is no more questioning whether or not He is real and whether or not the Bible is truth. (By the way, the Bible is a historical document, not just stories. Don’t believe me? Look it up!) A person who has never made this choice will never be able to comprehend this fact. But maybe, just maybe if I were more vocal about all that God has done and is doing in my life I would clear up some of the misconceptions people have regarding my faith in Jesus Christ.
I’m not a Christian because I don’t want to go to hell. I choose to be a Christian because I am so beautifully loved by God. Not just because the Bible tells me I am but because He shows me daily and I feel it. Every single time I pray, read my bible, worship God, I walk away full. Full of strength, joy, peace, courage, love, excitement. Does what you believe offer you that? If you aren’t fully confident in what you believe I would question it. God has done beyond more for me than I could ever say. He has loved me, protected me, guided me, rescued me, and healed me. He wants to do the same for you. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Him. It wouldn’t be worth living, not even for a moment. You can say I’m extreme but it’s true. This is what I want you to know about my faith in Jesus. It’s not a religion that simply guarantees me eternal life, it is my life. Every. Single. Day. And it is a beautiful and full life to say the least.

You see the amazing thing about choosing to follow God is that He is constant. Things in life are always changing. God never changes. My happiness and Joy isn’t dependent on things in my life always going right, it’s dependent on my choice to seek God and spend time close to Him in His presence. If you haven’t made this choice then this is foolishness to you and I can’t expect you to think otherwise. All I’m saying is don’t think I’m just like you apart from having a contingency plan. My life with God is beyond more than that. you could have the same thing if you would take a chance and choose to believe. This will transform your life forever and fill you like you never could have dreamed. Don’t waste your life on the temporal or choose to live with less than God planned for you. Don’t think you know what it means to follow Jesus based on what the media tells you or based on the hypocrites who claim it to get into heaven and nothing more.

Don’t think I’m a stupid person who simply wants something to believe so I can feel better about life. This honestly makes me want to laugh. I believe what I do because God has filled my life beyond comprehension and has transformed every single aspect of it. What gives you fulfillment in life? Is it constant and unchanging? It surely is for me and I wish more than anything that everyone could experience what I do on a daily basis. The ability to trust in a God who is present and faithful, who can always be trusted in.

I have total confidence and belief in God and the fact that Jesus died for me and rescued me from sin. I also have total confidence and belief in the Bible to be accurate and truth (which can be backed up as reliable and valid in the same way that other historical documents are, if you would take the time to look into it). If you can say that you feel this way about what you believe great! If not, then I ask you to take a chance on God. Take a chance to find out for yourself rather than listen to what others tell you about Jesus. When CS Lewis was an atheist and struggling with his beliefs he did this very thing. It changed his life forever. This is the case for countless other people who struggled to place confidence in their beliefs and decided to find out the truth about God. As I said before, if you choose to go on this journey you will not be disappointed. I pray that you make that choice.

Thanks for reading!

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!

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

peaceIsaiah 26: 3-4

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!