LET PEACE RULE

I have been working on memorizing Colossians 3:12-17. Every morning during my devotions I have read and repeated these verses. The other day I was going over these verses for probably the 100th time and one word in verse 15 jumped out at me. That word was “let”. I am sure that the Lord spoke to me and reminded me that in order to have His peace we had to LET him work.

We can beg and plead with God to give us peace; but, when we insist on rerunning in our minds all the possibilities of things that could go wrong and all the things that have gone wrong in the past we will not have peace.  No where in scripture does God promise to zap us with peace just because we asked for it.  In fact Psalm 34:14 and I Peter 3:11 tell us that we are to “seek peace and pursue it.”  Doesn’t that sound like we are responsible for working toward peace of mind?

It is so easy to ask God to give us peace of mind then finish praying and go right back to worrying about all the little details that we can’t seem to control.  Lately I have been convicted through my reading that worry is a sin and just like any sin we must learn to confess it and ask the Lord to help us overcome this sin.  It is up to us to control where our thoughts go.  The Bible tells us that we are the sum total of what we concentrate on (Proverbs 23:7).  Our Heavenly Father even gives us a list of what we should allow our minds to dwell on in Philippians 4:8.  When we start to panic or worry we should ask ourselves, “Is this true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute?”.  These are the things that we should allow our minds to dwell on.  Whatever will bring praise and glory to God will result in the peace that He promises us in His word.

Let me encourage you to ask the Lord to help you to overcome the temptation of the devil to repeat all your worries throughout the day.  Instead make a list of all those things that are good and lovely in your life and start repeating them to yourself when you are tempted to worry over something that you can’t control anyway.  I want to “LET” God give me peace.  Do you?

A LIFE WORTH SHARING

The other day I was talking to someone, no I can’t remember who…senior moment 🙂 , about the advantages of experience. When I was young, just graduated from college and in my first decorating job I would get irritated that people were not impressed with my credentials because I looked too young to know anything. Then I became a youth pastor’s wife and again my advice to parents was not generally accepted because I did not have kids and could not possibly understand their situation. Now that I am officially a senior citizen and a grandparent I understand what a difference experience makes. 

I have often said that I am not impressed with a speaker that wants us to believe that they were born perfect and never had to learn anything.  If that is true, and we all know that it is not, then how can they possibly teach me?  After all, I know I was NOT  born perfect; therefore, I could not possibly attain to their level of perfection!  🙂 So why try?

II Corinthians 1:3-4 has repeatedly been used in my life to remind me that both my good and “bad” experiences are part of God’s plan.  Our creator knows that we need to have experience in many things so that we can be a comfort to others as we share with them how God helped us through similar situations.  But, we cannot help others if we have not emerged victorious from life’s trials.  It is no help to a hurting soul to simply tell them that you know how bad they are feeling.  It is good to empathize with their pain; but, the blessing comes when you can encourage them by sharing how God helped you and what you learned through your hard times. 

So what is the point in life’s trials and disappointments?  Sometimes it is simply God trying to turn us away from a sin that would ruin us or result in a life of pain and regrets.  But many times our loving Heavenly Father is simply giving us an opportunity to grow and learn so that someday we can help others who are experiencing similar difficulties.  When the difficulties and frustrations arise, let me encourage you to get into God’s Word and ask Him what He wants you to learn or how you can gain victory in this situation.  Learn to praise God because He loves you enough to allow you to grow through hard times and He has a plan that is for your good.  When you come out on the other side victorious, take the time to share it with others who are experiencing similar problems.  You will find that many times they will say to you “Thank you for sharing. I can tell that you understand because you have been there and you are not just repeating scripture with no understanding.”  That is what makes a life worth sharing.

Happy New Year

 

Another year has come and gone. For my husband and me 2015 was a wonderful year filled with amazing blessings. In fact I ended my Christmas letter like this, “God is good all the time; but, some years He seems to pour blessings from Heaven our way. This has been one of those years.”  I have no idea what my Heavenly Father has planned for me this year; but, I know that whether it is more blessings or heartache it will be for my good.

Last June we moved back to the south after being in Iowa for 32 years.  God taught me so many lessons during those years.  I believe one of the biggest was to be content no matter what the circumstances.  Often things did not work out the way I wanted them to.  I couldn’t see what God was doing.  Where was the blessing in this trial?!  At times God and I had some very distressing talks!  I explained to Him that we were serving Him and things were NOT supposed to work out this way! 🙂  After all, He promised to protect and bless us if we served Him faithfully.  Of course, my very patient Heavenly Father would remind me that I could not see the whole picture and I must trust Him. 

Now I can look back and see how each disappointment and each trial taught me something.  I know I would not appreciate all that God has blessed us with here in SC if it were not for the lessons He taught me in the past. 

God told the children of Israel to make markers as they went through the wilderness that they might remind their children of all that God did for them.  Even in wilderness experiences, God has promised to be there with us if we will be faithful and trust Him to give us strength and teach us one step at a time.  No matter what 2016 holds, we can emerge victorious if we will walk with God by daily reading His Word and communicating with Him through prayer.   

As we start a new year, let me encourage each of you to review the lessons and blessings of the past so that we will be prepared to deal with whatever God sends our way this year.  May our New Year’s resolution be that we will be faithful no matter what our Heavenly Father has planned for us.

 

CHOOSE THE HILL YOU WISH TO DIE ON

 

As a pastor’s wife I have done a lot of counseling over the years. One character trait that can cause a multitude of problems in homes, churches, friendships, and businesses is stubborness. The funny thing about stubbornness is that if you call it determination, persistence, or endurance it doesn’t sound so bad. I have found that it is all a matter of perspective. When someone doesn’t want to change and do something my way, then they are being stubborn. But if I stick to my guns and insist that that person go along with me then I am just persistent and right!

I have also found that sometimes I have a hard time determining when God is setting up roadblocks because He wants me to change directions.   Am I just being too stubborn to see it or am I being tested to see if I will throw up my hands and quit.

Many of my struggles throughout life have been caused because I was too stubborn to do it God’s way. I was convinced that I was right and God or whoever the Lord had placed as my authority at the time did not understand the situation. Therefore, I would figuratively stomp my foot and hang in there trying to do it my way until I couldn’t stand the conviction and would go ask for forgiveness. Does this sound like a 2 year old? Yes! Sad to say, just being over 21 does not always mean that we are mature.

So what does God have to say about stubbornness? In I Samuel 15:22-23a Samuel is confronting Saul about his disobedience to God’s directions. And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.   For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

This was a great verse to quote to my children when they were being stubborn and rebellious. But does it apply to adults also? Of course it does! In fact it’s hard to tell your children that they should submit and cooperate if they do not see you having that kind of spirit with the authorities in your life.

Stubbornness doesn’t just affect us personally. It can wreck marriages, split churches, cause us to lose a job and ruin friendships.

So how do we determine the difference between stubbornness and endurance?

1. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in 10 years or in the light of eternity?”. When you are in the middle of an argument or disagreement you should check your attitude. Why do you want to win this discussion? There are so many things that we can argue about that we won’t even remember in ten years. Unfortunately, in some cases, the results of that argument will still be evident. A good example of that is the family that one half is still not speaking to the other half but they don’t know why. When you ask them why they are mad at “Aunt Susie”, they don’t know why. In fact, they may not have even been a part of the original fight. How sad! All those years missed because two people were too stubborn and full of pride to give in and say, “I’m sorry.”

2.When in the midst of a battle, choose the hill you wish to die on. A few years ago a friend of mine used this saying to describe a decision that she made about not continuing an argument with her husband. Ladies, some battles just are not worth winning! When you have a difference of opinion at home, church or on the job, you must decide is this important enough that I am willing to fight to the death to win this argument.

There are battles you have to win.   It doesn’t matter who you alienate…you must win! There are times when winning is not worth the cost. Remember that a wise general understands that he must keep his eyes on the goal–winning the war.  He may lose a few battles in the process of getting to the hill that his troops will die, if necessary, to conquer and win.

So what “hills” should we be willing to die on? We cannot sin to please someone else. For instance, if our boss expects us to lie or cheat as part of our job then it is not stubbornness to tell him that you will not do that. If he doesn’t like it and won’t change, then it is time for you to look for a new job.

3. Submit to the authority over you. The concept of submission to authority is considered almost archaic today. But, like it or not, it is Biblical. God tells us over and over in His Word that we are to submit to authority. He promises to bless us if we obey and to punish us if we refuse to submit.

Now for some people submitting seems easy. For others of us, it is a constant struggle. I have never taken commands easily! My natural tendency is to argue and question every side of an issue assuming that I know the best way to do something. I even tend to have this attitude with God. Naturally, this plan has never worked well for me; but, I still sometimes have to try it just to see if something has changed!! 🙂 Guess what? Nothing has changed. God’s plan is still best and will work every time.

Even our Lord and Savior submitted himself unto the will of His Father when he prayed in the garden …O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. Matthew 26:39.  If Jesus could submit to God’s authority, we should also be willing to submit to our Heavenly Father.

Besides God’s authority, the Lord has put other people in places of authority over us and He expects us to obey them. Colossians 3:22 says Servants obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God. In today’s language that would mean employees obey your employer. You may think that there is a better way to do it. There is nothing wrong with suggesting a new method to your boss, but, if he or she says no, then it is your responsibility to obey.

God doesn’t say, “you may disobey if your boss is an idiot.” He simply tells us to obey. I have told my children that someday they may be in authority and they will want others to follow them. Right now it is up to them to follow their leaders. Good followers make good leaders.

We must remember that sometimes those in authority know more than we do about the situation or they have had “this” happen before. They may be making their decisions based on information that we do not have and do not need to know. All we need to do is quit being stubborn and give in to the authority over us.

We also need to remember that whoever that authority is, must answer to God someday for his or her actions. It is not up to us to make them do right, it is up to us to obey God by humbling ourselves, giving in, and submitting.

If you simply cannot do this because it is sin or you just can’t swallow their reasoning, then it is time to move on. Start praying and asking God to direct you.

In most of the cases that I have seen, this is not the problem. It is merely a matter of sinful pride and rebellion. The toddler mentality of “I want it my way”!

Let me insert one note here. When I say move on if you cannot submit, I am NOT suggesting that a wife leave her husband because she doesn’t like some of his plans or methods. God’s word is very clear that wives are to submit to their husband’s authority (Eph. 5:22). If the husband is asking the wife to sin she should refuse. But, in most of the situations that I have counseled, it was simply a matter of she wanted to do it her way. This is not a time for separation it is a time for prayer and maybe counseling.

A wise pastor’s wife once told me that she learned after years of marriage that she could accomplish much more change in her husband by nagging God about her husband’s problems then by nagging her husband. The end result was a peaceful and happy marriage. This plan of attack can work just as well with your children, on the job, or in a church situation.

4.  God calls us to be peacemakers. I am not suggesting that we work for world peace. What I am saying is that God tells us that our goal in any given situation should be a peaceful resolution. The Lord tells us in Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Notice that God knew that some people simply would not cooperate with others. He did not make us responsible for their sinful attitudes. The Lord simply told us to do everything within our power to bea peacemaker. That means that sometimes we must be the one to give in and let the other person have their way. We don’t have to agree with them, we just swallow our stubborn pride and let them do it the way they want to so that there can be a spirit of peace. Remember, not all hills are worth dying on!

I understand that there are times we just can’t stand to let someone else think that they are right. I remember one time when I was a teenager, my mother and I were having an argument about what I would wear to a church picnic. When Mama went outside, I called my father at the office and informed him of my problems. Daddy, in his mature wisdom, said calmly, “Marcia what difference does it make? Just wear what Mama tells you to.” I being a very wise 16 year old said, “That’s not the point! If I do that, she will think she won!”

Isn’t that the way we are as adults sometimes? It’s not that we have to do it our way as much as that we don’t want the other person to think they won! 🙂

What does God call that kind of attitude? The term is foolish pride. Proverbs 16:18 says Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. When we allow stubbornness and the desire to always win to rule our lives, we can be sure that disaster will follow. God will not bless that kind of attitude.

On the flip side, God tells us in Matthew chapter 5 that He will bless those that work at keeping the peace. I used the word “work” because sometimes it takes work and humility to keep the peace in families, churches, and in the work place. We may be the one that has to give in or apologize even when we don’t see that we did anything wrong.

5. We must remember what our goal is—to be a good testimony and effect people for eternity. That sometimes requires us to keep our mouth shut, back down, and even let the other person think they won. So what! God knows the whole story and He is in control.

Remember, God will not hold you responsible for the other person’s actions. He only holds you responsible for your reactions.

6. One last thought—How do we discern the difference between stubbornness and endurance? If this has not happened to you already, it will at some time in your life. All of us go through times when everything just seems to be hard. Nothing we do seems to go right. So you question. “Lord are you just testing me to see if I will quit or are you telling me that I need to change direction?” How do you find the answer?

First, get into the Word of God and ask the Lord to direct you. Look up and study verses pertaining to the situation in question.

Secondly, ask yourself is there any sin involved in what I am doing? Is the Lord trying to tell me that this is wrong? Sometimes the Lord is causing everything we do to fail because he is trying to get our attention to help us see that we need to change. Hebrews 12:6-11

Third, seek help in wise counselors. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 11:14 Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in a multitude of counselors there is safety. By this I do not mean that we go to our peers for advice. A wise counselor is someone that is mature in the Lord and maybe has been through a similar experience and been victorious.

Finally, if you determine that you are not sinning and the Lord is not directing you to move on, then you must accept that he is just testing you to help you grow. Read and study the book of Job and James chapter 1. Also remember that everything that we learn, and the Lord gives us victory in, we can use to help others (II Corinthians 1:4).

May each of us learn to serve the Lord with humility and the discernment to know which “hill” is worth dying on. May the Lord give us the grace to be peacemakers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self Discipline

This is a departure from my series entitled “Life’s Lessons”.  I was thinking last week that it is much harder to discipline myself then it was to discipline my children. There were many times when my kids were young that I was so tired I was tempted to ignore whatever infraction of the rules they had committed.  Most of the time I was able to overcome the laziness and take care of the problem knowing that inconsistent discipline leads to more problems in the future.  Sooo, you would think that I could make myself do the things I know I should.  After all, there is only one of me!  However, it is amazing how many excuses I can come up with to avoid whatever I don’t truly want to do. 🙂

It seems that I am in good company.  The apostle Paul had the same problem.  In many of the epistles that he wrote Paul talks about his struggle with the flesh and encourages Christians to walk in the spirit and keep our bodies in subjection (Rom. 7:18-19; 13:14; I Cor. 9:19-27; and Gal. 5:16).  It boils down to the fact that I must allow the Holy Spirit to set my priorities and work in my life so that I can produce good fruit that will draw others unto Him.

What does that mean in my life?  I must quit making excuses for not having time to exercise.  My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  If this temple crumbles because I did not do my part to eat well and exercise, I will not have the strength to help others and I may make it harder on my children as I age.  Not only do I need to exercise my body and care for it; but, I must also exercise my mind so that I am ready to witness and encourage others who need the Lord.

How do I do this?  By putting first things first.  Have devotions & study the Bible BEFORE I check my email & facebook.  Make sure I allow time to do my exercises even if I don’t read every post that my friends put on facebook. 🙂  I managed to live more than 50 years without all these wonderful posts so if I miss a few shared quotes or blogs it probably will not hurt me.  But, skipping my spiritual and physical exercise over time will weaken my body and mind.  I pray that the Lord will help me to overcome the excuses that the devil puts in my path.  I want to become a vessel fit for the master’s use.  Will you join me?

LIFE’S LESSONS

 

40th Anniversary cruise 002On June 1, 2014 my husband was asked to preach the 75th Anniversary sermon at Marshall Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC.  He was their first youth pastor from 1979 to 1983.  I had an opportunity to share my testimony of all that God had done for us and taught me in the last 31 years.  The next few posts will be what I shared that day in an expanded version.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has “an expected end”  for us.  Nothing surprises God!  When we left Marshall Baptist Church there were many tears.  I couldn’t even begin to imagine why God was calling us to the Midwest to build a Christian Camp on faith.  That is what Larry told me we were called to do. In the late summer of 1982 my husband sat at our kitchen table and shared with me the burden that he was struggling with.  He felt God was calling him to go to the Midwest and build a Christian Camp.  He had already been struggling with it and arguing with God that this would not work.  After all, we were not trained in camp ministries.  He paused in his narrative, looked at me and said, “You are white as a sheet.  You look scared to death.”

Oh I definitely was!  I told him that there were many reasons this scared me.  First he was talking about moving to Iowa.  He may not have noticed but that is above the Mason Dixon line and it snows more up there in winter then I wanted to see in a lifetime.  THIS FLORIDA GIRL DOES  NOT LIKE TO BE COLD. 🙂  My next objection was moving to a small Midwestern town where everyone watched you and knew your business or at least made something up.  I grew up in Longwood, FL a suburb of Orlando.  We had lived in Greenville, SC and Winston-Salem, NC.  I liked cities with all the shopping, museums, concerts, people.  I had been to his hometown which is like a Norman Rockwell painting.  It’s a lovely place to visit but I didn’t want to live there. 🙂  Then I pointed out that I did NOT  like camping.  My idea of roughing it was Holiday Inn with the windows open.  Yes, I went to camp with our teens because I loved them and was willing to put up with some inconvenience for a couple of weeks to see their lives changed.  But, for the rest of our lives to be a camp directors wife?  Not my idea of fun!  Because I am a woman, and have the right to change my mind, I even pointed out that I did NOT want to be a camp director’s wife.  I wanted to be a pastor’s wife.  The ironic point here is that before I met my husband I had emphatically told my mother that I had never dated a preacher boy and I was not going to marry a pastor!  Last, but not least, was the fact that Larry was talking about moving on faith that God would provide.  That was NO guaranteed income.  Now, I could trust the Lord to provide all kinds of appliances, furniture and luxuries and unheard of prices because I prayed.  The problem here was that he was suggesting we trust him to provide housing, utilities and food.  We’ll starve and freeze to death!

Do you see the problem with all my objections?  It was all about me, my comfort zone, and being willing to step out on faith.  We had been teaching our teens that you must be willing to do the Lord’s will and trust Him to provide even if it wasn’t what we wanted to do.  We were serving God in Winston-Salem.  Why couldn’t we stay there?  Because you can’t serve God in the wrong place and be blessed.

When Larry and I were married, I promised to go wherever the Lord called him to assist him in the ministry.  I was not going to break my vow to God and him; but, I told my husband that he would have to pray for me to get used to this idea.  This was not even close to my plan A for our lives.  In fact, it was dangerously close to plan Z. 🙂  So we told the church we would be leaving in January and started making arrangements to move to Iowa.  Yes, I said January.  What person in their right mind moves to Iowa in January?!  We did.  In the next installment I will tell you how God’s timing was perfect and His provision was just enough

JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS

Have you ever gotten mad at a driver that cut you off or pulled out in front of you almost causing a wreck?  Naturally, you assumed they were rude, impatient or just an idiot! 🙂   When you are shopping, does it irritate you that someone “cuts in line” or maybe you only have 2 items and someone is in the express lane with a whole cart full of groceries.

A few years ago the Lord started pointing out to me how many times I jump to a conclusion about someone’s motives or attitude before I have all the facts.  Most of the time I have not added to my sin by voicing my opinion to others.  Nevertheless, I allowed the uncharitable thoughts to run through my mind. Often those thoughts also ruined part of my day because I was angry at their perceived rude actions which in some way inconvenienced me.

The exercise of jumping to conclusions also is used frequently among Christians in the church.  How often have you assumed that someone just skipped church because they were lazy or were using God’s time for their own pleasure?  Have you ever been caught thinking or gossiping to someone else that one of your sisters in Christ obviously wastes her money on clothes, jewelry, furniture, etc. without getting all the facts?  Have you been offended because you heard part of a conversation and assumed the worst?

Matthew chapter 7 is often quoted by the world when they do not want us judging them for their unrighteous actions.  But our Savior was speaking to the religious people of the day who spent a lot of time judging the actions of others.  In verses 1 & 2 He tells us to Judge not, that ye be not  judged.  For with what judgement  ye  judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.  In our modern English we are being told that we should be careful because others will judge us harshly if we are judgmental of them.  As humans, lacking the omniscient power of God, we tend to jump to conclusions based on our experience.  This would seem logical except for the fact that each of us has a different past and we tend to act and react according to what we have been taught by the lessons of life.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to be critical of someone else’s actions yet so hard to see that we are doing the same thing or worse?  God has an interesting way of pointing this out to us in verses 3-5 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye.   Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.  Ouch!  Our creator is calling us a hypocrite just because we can see so clearly the problems in another person’s life.  Never mind the fact that we have a similar sin in our own life.

Most of us find it very easy to judge others while ignoring the sins in our life that we should be working on.  Why is that?  Because we are sinful human beings and it takes hard work to change ourselves and fix our own problems but it is so simple to tell someone else how they can improve their lives and get right with God.  The illustration that I mentioned previously of a driver cutting me off is so perfect because inevitably within 24 hours I have found myself doing something similar.  What was my excuse?  Usually it was because I was daydreaming and not paying attention to those around me—oops.  Always the Holy Spirit gently reminds me that I was not so charitable about the other driver’s motives.  Is my face red! 🙂  It never even occurred to me that the other person could have simply made a mistake instead of deliberately trying to cause a wreck.

Romans 14:1 – 15:2 is an excellent passage to give us guidance on judging others as well as making sure that others have no valid reason to judge us.  The apostle Paul knew that there were, and would always be differing opinions in the church.  He wanted those of us that claimed to be brothers and sisters in Christ to understand that some “convictions” were not worth fighting over and definitely should not be used to judge another’s salvation.  Paul starts out by reminding us that many Christians are merely babes in Christ; therefore they do not always make wise decisions.  Add to that the fact that even though we are Christians we all come from different backgrounds with different personalities and gifts.  Just as our Creator did not make us all the same, He also gave us liberty to come to our own conclusions on some things that are not spelled out clearly in scripture.

Paul starts out the chapter by saying Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.  For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak eateth herbs.  Let not him that eateth depise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth:  for God hath received him.  Who are you to judge another’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth.  Yea, he shall be holden up:  for God is able to make him stand.  Paul, by the inspiration of God, knew that even before Christians had the complete Word of God there would be multiple applications of scripture.

God gave us a free will and allows us time to grow and mature while developing our own convictions.  Our Savior wants us to be as patient with other Christians as we hope God and others are being with us.  The very first verse in Romans 14 commands us to receive immature Christians into our church. Accepting a babe in Christ into the church does not mean that we should be drawn into arguments over standards or preferences that are not clearly spelled out in Scripture.

We are reminded that some things are none of our business because we are not the master of other people.  As Christians we must remember that all of us will answer to God someday for our actions and reactions.  We only have to answer for what we do or omit doing here on earth.  God will not hold us accountable for that Christian sister that is inconsistent, wasteful, or dresses “incorrectly”.  What we will give an account for is our attitude toward others and how much we did to encourage them to grow and make wise choices.

The Lord tells us in verses 12-13 So then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.  Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s wayInstead of judging others we should be looking for ways to help weak Christians become stronger and improve their walk with God.  When you are tempted to think or say something unkind about another person, turn your thoughts toward your own actions.  Ask the Lord to show you how you can be a better example to encourage others to grow.

If you are concerned about inconsistent Christians then ask yourself, “am I so faithful in my church attendance and service to God that people know that I must be sick or out of town if they don’t see me at a church function.”  If the answer is “no” then maybe you should be checking your priorities.  It is hard to encourage others to be faithful in church when the “mature” Christians use excuses to skip services.

Maybe you think another girl or woman should dress more modestly or appropriately.  Check yourself in the mirror.  Are you setting a good example?  If so, that is great!  Then pray for her and look for opportunities to give her a compliment.  The Bible has plenty to say about how we should use pleasant and encouraging words.  Proverbs 16: 24 tells us Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.  In Proverbs 31:26  the Lord teaches us about the words of a virtuous woman:  She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.   Mary Kay Ash used to tell her consultants that the way to help others was to “praise to success”.  We can accomplish so much more if we will use our words to encourage instead of discourage.

Another note on the subject of how someone dresses.  They may have financial problems.  Could you offer to take them shopping or go through your closet and share some of your abundance.  We in America often have closets full of clothes that we have not worn for years yet we keep them because we just can’t make a decision about what we will never wear again and do not need.  If you think you might offend them by giving them your used clothing, ask the Lord for wisdom.  He promises to give us wisdom if we only will ask Him for it (James 1:5).  One way of doing this might be to let her feel like she is doing you a favor in helping you clean out your closet and thus sharing in the abundance that God has given you.

On the flip side there may be someone you know that you think has way too much money and wastes it selfishly.  I have heard women say catty remarks like “I wish I could afford an entire new outfit”.  Or “she must spend a fortune on her house.  Have you seen how nice it looks?”  Isn’t that judging?  I can remember when we were trying to get the camp started.  My husband and I would travel to different churches to tell them about the vision that God had given us for building a Christian camp.  We lived for 10 years on nothing but faith that God would provide for our needs.  Neither one of us worked a job with a steady income.  Yet I would hear remarks and see looks that made it clear that some women and even men thought we surely didn’t need money because we dressed well or had some nice things in our home.  Because of snide comments, whenever anyone gave me a compliment I would make sure that they knew how the Lord had provided for us.  So many things were given to us or we found amazing deals and had money just at the right time.  I could fill a book with the way that God provided for us during those ten years and we were never in debt!  What is sad is that so few Christians understood without me having to justify everything that we owned.

So the next time you are tempted to be jealous or make a critical remark about what someone else has or wears why not turn it to an opportunity to praise God.  After all, we are to “rejoice with them who do rejoice.”  If God has truly blessed them, thank Him for it.  If they have made unwise purchases, it is not your problem.  They have to answer to God.  Let our Heavenly Father be the judge.  He can take care of any wrongs much better then you can.

We should also be concentrating on being an example of a joyful Christian when we are out in public.  There is nothing sadder then a “Christian” who leaves a tract with a salesperson or waitress after they have treated them shamefully.  As women who claim to follow Christ our actions and reactions should be above reproach.  When we are driving somewhere we should be the thoughtful, polite driver that gives others space and lets someone go first.  Of course, that means that we have to leave home in plenty of time so that we don’t have to drive like our car has a jet engine in order to make it to our destination on time. 🙂

A Godly woman will be the person at the store that will offer to let the person with only 2 items go in front of her.  She will take the time to return her shopping cart to the stall instead of leaving it in the parking space.  In the restroom this woman will wipe up the counter when she is done. Our goal when in public is to leave the store, restaurant, restroom, etc. better then we found it.  Besides the facilities, we should be conscious of others and their need to be encouraged.  That means that we have to be brave and look for opportunities to encourage, say something positive, or give a compliment.  I love to find ways to make people smile when I am out shopping.  It is amazing how often a kind word and a smile can change someone’s countenance.  You never know the difference that you might make.

The conclusion of all this is found in Romans 15:1-2 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.  How do we do this?  By allowing God to work through us and teach us to love others as He loves them.  If we are truly trying to lift others up and unselfishly help them improve then we will not have time for judging their motives or actions.  When we give our thoughts over to the Lord and let his Holy Spirit fill us we will be more inclined to be merciful to others as we want them to be toward us.

Lastly, we will be willing to wait on the Lord to reveal the truth in a situation instead of spreading opinions and gossip.  We are always encouraged to take care of our bodies by getting regular exercise.  Jumping to conclusions should NOT be one of those exercises.

MY SCHEDULE OR GOD’S — WHO WINS?

THIS IS TAKEN FROM A NEWSLETTER THAT I PUBLISHED IN 2006.

Remember what I said a few months ago about wanting things to go my way?  I like to plan ahead—way ahead.  I love being able to look at the calendar and know what I am doing 6 months from now.  If I had my way, each day, week and month would be scheduled with very little deviation.  I would like to know that we will always eat our meals at the same time, go to bed at the same time and get up regularly.  Unfortunately, life does not work like that.  Even in households that have very set schedules there are sometimes wrenches thrown in the plans.  It is a constant struggle for me to remember that when my day does not go as planned it is no surprise to God.

I like to make lists and plan my day.  This is not a bad thing if I remember to ask God for His direction in my schedule for the day.  All too often I forget who is in charge and I make my plans and then “suggest” to God that He might like to bless those plans.  Even when the schedule is completely derailed I have found myself praying and asking the Lord to “fix” the problem so that I can get back on the track that MY train was scheduled to be on.  What is wrong with this scenario?  I want to be in charge with God’s blessing.  I have a tendency to believe that I know more about how my day, week, or month should go then God does.  Not only is this wrong, but I have given myself a lot of needless frustration and indigestion trying to do things my way and argue with the Lord.  The silly thing about all of this is that I have known since I was a child that God is all knowing, all powerful, and wants only the best for me!  So what is my problem?  Could it possibly be a sinful nature?  I hate to admit it; but, YES!

You see most of us are basically selfish creatures, full of pride and we tend to have tunnel vision when it comes to our lives.  We forget that God had a plan for our life before we were even born. So if the Lord has a grand plan for our life, wouldn’t it stand to reason that he also controls every minute of every day?

I think that most of us believe that God has a life plan for us but we tend to forget that there is a plan for each day.  So we go merrily on our way deciding what we will do each day and never consulting our Master about His wishes for the day.  Then, when things don’t go as planned, we become frustrated and sometimes angry at God for allowing situations and people to mess up our day.
So, how do we gain a righteous perspective of our daily interruptions and the major disasters in our lives?  By turning to God’s word and His instructions.  There are many reasons that the Lord chooses to bring problems, changes of schedule, or disasters in our lives.

First, God’s plan for our life is eternal.  My view is often short sighted because I cannot see the big picture.  When things are not going my way I become frustrated because I cannot see how God can possibly work this out for good.  Many years ago I came across an analogy of our life to a piece of needlework.  It said that God is working on the tapestry of our life.  Often we become frustrated because all we see is the ugly underside with the knots and broken threads.  But God sees the right side with the beautiful design that is forming and He knows what the finished product should look like.  We must learn to trust the Lord and not get is his way while He is weaving our life’s design.

 Psalm 37:23 & 24 tells us that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down:  for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.  Note that is these verses the psalmist says the “steps” are ordered not the life of a good man.  I believe God is trying to get us to realize that each step we take is planned.  Nothing is an accident with God.  It may seem to be unplanned from our point of view but our Lord and Savior knew about each situation and planned it for our good.

God also knew that we would like to make plans.  In Proverbs 16:9 He tells us that A man’s heart deviseth his way:  but the Lord directeth his steps.  It’s all right to make plans as long as we ask for God’s direction in those plans.  We must remember that God’s way is perfect (Ps. 18:30) our way is imperfect.  It only stands to reason that if God has a divine plan for our entire life there is a plan for each step along the way.

 Romans 11:33 says O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!  It is not up to us to understand why God changes our schedule or the path we are taking we only need to trust and follow.  The one who created us and designed our life can do just fine in orchestrating each day if we don’t get in the way.

 Second, God wants us to mature and learn to display the fruits of the spirit.  These are listed in Galatians 5:22,23.  Look it up and memorize this list if you haven’t already done so.  The Lord knows that we won’t develop joy, peace, longsuffering, & self-control if we never have any trials in our life.  Most of us don’t willingly ask God to give us patience because we know what builds patience!  So God, in his infinite wisdom, provides those learning experiences for us free of charge! J

Remember that beautiful tapestry of our life?  Part of the beauty comes from hard work, trials, & suffering.  Some of the metals and jewels that we humans admire like gold, silver, & diamonds are not beautiful when they are first mined.  It takes chipping away at the outside and polishing and firing them to truly bring out the shine and glory in these items.  That’s what God is doing when he applies the polisher of interruptions, irritations, and detours to our everyday schedule.  He is sanding off the rough edges and polishing us up so that we can better reflect His glory.

Some of the happiest, kindest, most beautiful people I know are not those that have had an easy life with everything seemingly dropping in their laps.  They are the ones that have worked hard, had major problems, and gained victory in the Lord.  Some of these people have attained what the world calls success.  Others in no way, shape, or form could be considered a success in the eyes of the average person.  But the common thread running through their lives is their obvious joy in the Lord and the ability to overcome obstacles and always see things from an eternal perspective.

In II Corinthians 4:17,18 Paul says For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen:  for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 

We must remember that God allows trials, irritations & interruptions to help and teach us not just to drive us crazy!  I will never forget one day when I was in high school.  It was a VERY bad day I went huffing in to chapel and plopped down in my assigned seat.  Randy, the young man who sat next to me, looked at me and asked “Bad day?”.  Was that ever a mistake!  You have to remember he was young and had not learned what most of our husbands now know—sometimes it is best not to ask.  Anyway, I proceeded to inform him of how bad my day had been.  He looked at me and asked me “Marcia, do you know Romans 8:28?”  Well, of course I did!  I quoted it to him word for word.

Randy quietly asked “does it really mean ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD ?”  Well, he didn’t have to preach me a 3-point sermon!  I got the point!  The problem is that even now, 37 years later, I have a hard time remembering the point.


Third, God sometimes allows problems in our lives so that we can glorify Him and in turn help others that are going through the same trials.   Part of our testimony to the world is letting them see how we react to the normal everyday irritations of life.  You see any unsaved person can be happy when all the bills are paid, the car is running, the children are obedient, and the sun is shining.  What they can’t understand is how we can have joy in spite of everything going wrong!  It is when we learn to rejoice in the Lord and overcome the daily difficulties that we glorify Him and show the world what it truly means to be a Christian.

 

I Peter 2: 19, 20 says For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.  For what glory is it, if when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?  But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

 

The Lord also helps us understand that when we get victory over problems we can use the knowledge we have gained to help others in the same situation.  II Corinthians 1:4 says Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

 

When we learn to gain victory over large trials and small irritations in our lives then we can help others that are going through the same type of problems.  It is much more effective to tell someone that you have been through the same problem and this is how God helped you than it is to just spout scripture and give empty platitudes.  We all feel that someone truly understands when they have gone through a similar trial and can give testimony of God’s help and faithfulness.

 

Let’s pray for each other that God will help us to grow in Him and become the joyful, FLEXIBLE Christians that He would have us to be.

 

WAITING ON THE LORD

One of the hardest things for me to do is wait.  I hate waiting in line, waiting for replys to my text messages, waiting for my husband when he is late getting home.  In short, I don’t like to wait! 🙂  

Yes, I have always had a hard time waiting for God to answer my prayers also.  You would think that after living 6 decades and experiencing many miracles that I would be able to remember that often God’s answers take time.  My omnipotent Heavenly Father has a plan for my life and His timing is always perfect.  Often I have looked back to discover that God was working some amazing things in my life while I waited for answers.  I have come to understand that often answers are delayed for 2 reasons: I need to learn some lessons or God is working in someone else’s life to use them as a vehicle to answer my prayer. 

In the Bible the book that tells the story of God’s servant, Job, records his struggles as God allows Satan to tempt & test him.  Job goes through a period of questioning God while listening to the opinions of his wife & friends.  Because he is a Godly man who has walked with the Lord for years he comes to the right conclusion in chapter 23 verse 10. “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

What can we learn from this verse?  God has a plan for our lives.  His plan does not always take us on the shortest, easiest route.  When we must go through periods of trials and waiting it is because our loving Heavenly Father is polishing us to make us more like Him. 

If our lives were always easy and everything went our way, we would be like a spoiled rotten toddler who is never disciplined and always gets his way.  I have known adults like that!  No one wants to be around them because they think the world revolves around them.  They are never truly happy because circumstances in a fallen world are not perfect.  Who wants to live like that?!

Learning to wait on God’s perfect plan boils down to a simple matter of trust.  God often puts us in a place where we cannot fix the problem because He delights in showing us his power through miracles that we could never imagine or execute on our own.  Isaiah 45:2-3 says ” I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight:  I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the teasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name am the God of Israel.”

Throughout God’s Word he promises great things if we will only wait on Him and allow him to do His perfect work in our lives and the lives of others around us.  Will you determine to trust Him with your life and your circumstances even if you have to wait for the perfect answer?

Prayer | Part 2

People today are going crazy and spending big money to go to classes and spas that will teach them how to meditate so that they can relieve the stress caused by their frantic paces and ungodly lifestyles.  God in his great wisdom gave us the answer for this problem years ago in His Holy Word.  Our Heavenly Father knew that we would need time to slow down and get answers for our  problems.  He even prescribed meditation; but it was not the kind that clears the mind!  It was meditating on God’s Word and learning to communicate with God through prayer.

              This lesson is part 2 on the subject of prayer.  I have heard many people say “I can’t pray because I don’t know how.”  Read the following lesson and then get to work praying so you can reap the blessings of peace and answered prayers.

 HOW TO PRAY        

In the last blog we discussed where we should pray and when we should pray.  This lesson will be devoted to what God says about how we should pray.  As I said in the previous lesson, prayer is simply talking to God like you would talk to your best friend.  So you may be wondering why there would be rules for praying. 

Do you remember when you were growing up?  As you made friends you learned that there was unspoken social rules for conversing and there was a right and a wrong way to try to persuade people to see your point of view.  When you wanted your parents to approve a plan there was a successful formula for approaching them and persuading them to agree with you.

Please don’t think for a minute that I am placing God on the same level as sinful human beings.  But the Bible does tell us that God is our Heavenly Father.  Jesus even commands us to pray to our Father in Heaven.  Therefore we can assume that approaching God in prayer would be similar to petitioning a good, loving, earthly father. So let us see what our Heavenly Father tells us about how to pray.

1.     We must be his child.  If one of your children ask you to buy them something expensive like a computer for Christmas and you were financially able to do that, you might consider it.  But, if your child’s best friend asked for a computer you would most likely tell them to go talk to their parents.   Why?  Do you not care about that child’s educational opportunities?  No, it is simply that you are not responsible for the training and rearing of other people’s kids.  You may help but it is not you that will get blamed if your neighbor’s child does not turn out well. 

God cares about the whole world.  But until we accept His gift of His only son Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and ask Him to come into our hearts we do not have the right to call Him Father.  John 1:12 tells us that when we receive Jesus in our hearts God adopts us into his family.  We then have a heavenly Father that wants to hear from us and delights in granting our requests when they are for our benefit.

2.  We must not have sin in our life.  When your child has been cheerfully obedient you desire to reward him or her for following the rules.  But when they are grumpy, sneaky and rebellious you have no desire to give them what they want in fact, you are more likely to take away something that they love to teach them a lesson.

The Psalmist, David, tells us in Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.  The prophet Isaiah reprimands the children of Israel in chapter 59 verse 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. 

We are all sinful and God knows this.  He simply wants us to keep a clean slate with Him by confessing our sins as soon as we are aware of them.  That way we can come to God with a clear conscience knowing that He will listen and respond.  Our heavenly Father has promised us in I John 1:9 that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

Once we learn to confess sins immediately it will become second nature to stay in a right relationship with the Lord.  Then when we feel a need to ask God to help us or someone else or we want to talk with him about a problem we won’t have to spend time first confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness.  How sweet it is to stay in a right relationship with your Heavenly Father.

3.  We must ask according to His will.  In the sample prayer that our Lord Jesus Christ taught his disciples it says, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10.  It is part of God’s command  that we pray seeking God’s will.  Even our Saviour prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, Not my will but thine be done.  If God’s Son set the example by submitting Himself to the will of His father, can we do less?

God gives us the opportunity to make our own choices.   He will not force us to do His will even though following the will of God is what will bring us the most happiness.  As finite human beings we cannot see the end results of our desires and requests.  Frequently I believe that we demand God answer our prayers our way with no room for our creator to give us the best answer.  Just as a parent might allow a child to get in trouble so they could see the results of their actions God will allow us to have what we have begged Him for even though He knows it is not best.

If we truly wish to be blessed we must learn to pray for what we want with the condition that it is in the will of God.  We tend to think that we can help God by making suggestions on how He could work out our problems.  Instead we should be simply bringing the problem to Him like a son would bring a broken toy to his father and in childlike faith say “Fix it, Daddy”.

We have two examples in the scriptures of great men of God who submitted to God’s will even though it was not what they requested.  In II Samuel chapter 12 we read the story of David’s sin being revealed by Nathan the prophet.  Nathan tells him because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.  The child became sick and for seven days David fasted and prayed for God to spare the child.  But God kept his promise and the child died.  When the king was told that the child was dead, he got up, washed himself, ate and went back to business.  David, a man after God’s own heart, knew that the Lord loved him and his child; therefore, he accepted God’s answer and went on to serve the Lord.

In the New Testament we  read in II Corinthians 12:7-10 how the apostle Paul asked God to remove his “thorn in the flesh”.  Paul says that he asked the Lord three times to remove this affliction from him

In verse 9 and 10 Paul shares with us God’s answer and his reaction.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:  for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore, I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:  for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Instead of demanding that God answer his prayers his way or else, Paul accepted God’s answer knowing that he would be a far more effective minister and testimony when he allowed God to work through him in spite of his infirmities. 

We must remember that God sees the whole picture, we only see a tiny part.  If we will learn to graciously accept the Lord’s answers to our prayers,  He will give us strength to deal with whatever He places in our lives.  God’s blessings for sweetly submitting to His will far outweigh any imagined happiness we would attain by having God give us what we think we want.

4.      We must ask in faith, believing He will answer.  James 1:5-6 says If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.  For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  Our Heavenly Father has given us all kinds of wonderful promises in His Word.  We know that God never lies and always keeps His promises.  So why do we have such a hard time believing that He will answer us with the solution that is in our best interests?

I don’t know about you, but part of my problem lies in the fact that I am a sinful human being.  I know that I do not always keep my promises and I fail God, myself, and others; therefore, I have a hard time believing that God will do what He says.  I also have a very short memory.  My God has performed miracles for me time and time again.  I always praise Him when He answers my prayer in a way that is so superior to what I could imagine.  Yet, the next trial appears and I panic!  I read about the Children of Israel and  think that they were so immature when they so quickly forgot God’s miracles for them…yet I am no better!

So, how do we learn to have the faith to believe that God will answer our prayers?  First we need to remember that when we waver and panic we are sinning.  That is what the devil wants so he plants seeds of doubt in our minds.  We must ask God for help and learn to say Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief (Mark 9:24).  Our creator already knows when we are frantic and having trouble believing that He will answer.  James tells us that our Heavenly Father will not rebuke us when we ask for help in our faith.  In fact, I believe God is pleased when we finally admit our weakness and ask for His help. 

Once we admit that our lack of faith is sin, then we must tell God what we need and act upon it.  For instance, it doesn’t take great faith to tell the Lord “if you give me $1,000, I will write a check to the church for $100”.  Faith in action is writing the check first then trusting God for the money.  I am not trying to encourage you to give away money foolishly.  What I am saying is that if God impresses on you the need to give a certain amount you must obey and then trust God to provide.

First, we confess our sin of doubting, Secondly we act upon our faith and third we must be prepared for the devil to fight us.  Satan does not want us to be a victorious Christian telling others how God answers our prayers and praising the Lord for the miracles that He does.  Therefore, he will constantly try to remind you of how hopeless your situation is and do his best to steal your joy so that your testimony will be null and void.

We need to memorize God’s promises so that when the sin of doubt pops into our mind we can quote scripture for our own encouragement as well as a shield against the devil.  You could start with the following verses:  Psalm 91:15, Luke 11:9, and Phillipians 4: 13,19.  Once you have these verses committed to memory, start a study of God’s promises to you in the scriptures.  You will be amazed at all the verses you will find to encourage yourself when Satan wants you to panic or become depressed.

5.     We should pray specifically.  Years ago while I was still in college a chapel speaker asked, “How can you know if God has answered your prayers if you do not pray specifically for exactly what you want?”   I thought about that and the answer was simple –you can’t!  If I prayed God bless the missionaries it only stands to reason that some of them would be blessed.  But if I asked the Lord to provide the $500 that a certain missionary needed to pay for shipping books to his field of service and God provided, that would be an exciting answer!

Over the years I have made this practice even more personal.  When I need a new appliance, piece of furniture or whatever, I tell the Lord what I want, what color I would like, and how much I can afford to spend then I go shopping.  The idea is that if God wants me to have that item, He will provide exactly what I want for the amount of money I can afford.  If I should not have it, I won’t find anything to fit my specifications and I know that God has a better plan.  I have been amazed over the years how God has provided.  This method has saved me a lot of time and hassle because I don’t feel any great need to stand in long lines at outrageous hours (like 4 AM) so I can be the first to get some great deal.  My philosophy has become “If God wants me to have it, it will still be there when I arrive.”

When a friend or a missionary requests prayer for something, I always try to find out names and details if possible.  That way I can help them pray specifically for the problem and we will both know when God has answered.

6.  We must never forget to praise God for all he has done and all he will do.   When we do something special for someone, we like to have them say “thank you” or “good job”.  Good parents always teach their children to say thank you when someone gives them a gift.  God is our Heavenly Father who is constantly giving us blessings and answers to prayers.  How often do we thank Him for everything that He does for us each day?

The Bible has an abundance of verses that tell us that when we ask God for something we should also thank Him.  Phillipians 4:6 says Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Colossians 3:17 gives a similar command And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.  We read in Colossians 4:2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.

Are you seeing a pattern here?  I believe that our creator knew that we would need to be reminded to be thankful otherwise we would become like whining, spoiled children.  When we focus on our blessings we learn to put our problems and wants into a Godly perspective.  That is why we are told in I Thessalonians 5:18  to give thanks in everything.  One of the best ways to obey this command from God is to sandwich your requests between praise and thanksgiving.

Let me challenge you to check your prayer life.  Is there more prayer requests then thanks?  Do you remember to thank the Lord when He answers your prayers?  Are you getting specific answers to your requests?  Is talking to your Heavenly Father as natural as talking to your best friend?  If the answer to any of these is “no” then you need to commit to working on your prayer life.  Caution:  Be prepared for blessings and spiritual growth.

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