Monday, June 19, 2017

"CAN THIS BE TRUE?!"

OH MY GOODNESS!  I have been impacted by something so transformational that I don't even know where to begin!  I don't know if I even have the capacity to relay to you all that God has shown me that has changed my life so significantly, but I will try...

Several weeks ago, I was reading an article by a woman who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of having tried to commit suicide.  Her story is one of remarkable recovery and change.  I was so curious about it, I did more research into studies about brain function.

The result of my search was that of Science colliding with God!  Not colliding in the sense that they clashed, but that Science CONFIRMED Scripture head-on for me, and my own brain began to explode with excitement over what I discovered!  It has changed how I look at Scripture forever!

My sweet second husband, Rick, suffered a brain tumor that took away the entire bottom half of his vision.   Doctors told him that the brain can re-learn everything except for vision. He had no choice but to learn to live with that disability.  My study of the brain confirmed that the brain, indeed, can be "re-wired!"

This is the sentence that captured my attention:  "What actually changes in the brain are the strengths of the connections of neurons that are engaged together, moment by moment, in time.  The more something is practiced, the more connections are changed and made to include all elements of the experience (sensory info, movement, cognitive patterns).  You can think of it like a "MASTER CONTROLLER" being formed for that particular behavior, which allows it to be performed with remarkable facility and reliability OVER TIME."

Immediately upon reading this, God showed me that this is why He tells us in His Word to MEDITATE upon His Word!  God, Himself, once we commit our lives to Him, becomes our "Master Controller!"  He has given us His Word (the Bible) to show us how best to live.  He created us and He says in Isaiah 43:4-5:  "You are precious to me.  You are honored, and I love you.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you."  His Word to us tells us that He sent Jesus so that we can "have a rich and satisfying life" (John 10:10).  God tells us to "renew our minds" through His Word...Scripture!  Romans 12:2 states, "Let God TRANSFORM you into a new person by changing the way you think."  This is EXACTLY what Science says must happen to make any change in our brains!  We must change the way we think! Science even now tells us that, "Your brain has a natural negativity bias which means it constantly looks for, learns from, and holds onto anything it considers a danger or loss with much more gusto than something neutral or pleasant.  Bad memories even get stored differently."

To change any habit, etc., we must change the "Default" our brain automatically goes to based on our already hard-wired habits!

Brain research shows that "Your brain actually wires itself and forms neuronal connections based on what you do over and over in your life.  Vegging out in front of the TV, having a sugar fix, sipping soda, fixing a cocktail to unwind after work, smoking cigarettes, biting your fingernails.  These activities literally become wired into your brain."  To "re-wire" our brain to change a habit, therefore, we must change what we do "over and over" in any given circumstance!  This is the answer to overcoming strongholds, or bad habits, in our lives.  This is the very definition of, "Get behind me Satan!"  (In Matthew 16:23, we even see Jesus saying to Peter, "Get away from me, Satan!  You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God's.")  We must do exactly what the Bible tells us to do:  Acknowledge the wrong way of thinking, quote Scripture, and do it God's way!  ...Over and over and over...and the neurons that "fire together" gradually begin to fire together in a new pattern...the pattern you desire for your life...rather than the other habit that became your "Default" through its repeated use!

Ephesians 4:23 says, "Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God."

In my research I found this quote:  "There's a traditional saying that the mind takes the shape it rests upon:  the modern update is that the brain takes the shape the mind rests upon.  For instance, if you regularly rest your mind upon worries, self criticism, and anger, then your brain will gradually take that shape--will develop neural structures and dynamics of anxiety, low sense of worth, and prickly reactivity to others.  On the other hand, if you regularly rest your mind upon, for example, noticing you're all right right now, seeing the good in yourself and letting go...then your brain will gradually take the shape of calm strength, self confidence, and inner peace."

I came away from hours of brain research sooooo excited about being a Christian!  God so very clearly showed me how brilliant He is, how dearly I am loved, how intricately He has made us, and He specifically wanted me to know that I know that I know that He is Sovereign.  He is in control.  And, He knows exactly how to make my life beautiful, peaceful, happy, contented, and, most importantly, He wanted me to see how what He has been trying to teach me my whole life is even just now being backed up by Science.  He showed me...once again...that He "is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:13)  Science always has and Science always will FOLLOW AFTERWARDS.  God already has all the answers for our life.  God allows science to confirm Himself, and I absolutely adore that!  Every time this happens, it thrills my soul!  God loves to confirm Himself powerful and loving!

I wish I could convey the great joy and happiness God has brought into my life via this "little article" I "just happened to read" and which "just happened to lead" to the research that has forever changed my life!  God tells us in Psalms 32:8:  "The LORD says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.  Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control...unfailing love surrounds those who trust the LORD."

I praise God today for His sweet guidance in my life.  I began several months ago to walk and memorize Scripture.  He has been showing me throughout my life that memorizing Scripture and praying it back to Him was the way to overcome sin in my life...to overcome fear through faith...to have faith in Him in all circumstances.

I overcame panic attacks in my life simply by trusting God with it.  I allowed Him to lead me to wellness.  I just knew if I was to be well, it would be through Christ.  I instinctively just knew this was a spiritual issue for me.  God first led me to the verse, Isaiah 26:3: "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!"  Then, I learned how to "fix" my thoughts on Him:  God led me to the verse, John 1:1:  "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

The Word is Jesus.  Scripture is God's Word to us.  So, I began to meditate on Isaiah 26:3 every time I would wake up in panic in the middle of the night.  I would quote it whenever I was hit with panic during the day.  Then, I learned that if I coughed, turned my head, and began to think about something else (distraction!), the panic attack subsided.  I did this every time a panic attack struck and, over time...doing the same thing over and over...after about three months, I quit being hit with panic attacks.

About a year later, I woke up in the night with the room "swirling," and I didn't understand what was going on.  The Lord showed me this was Satan "tempting" me with panic, just disguised with different symptoms than before.  So, I shouted out loud, "Go away, Satan!" and I began to say over and over the name, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus," because in Proverbs 18:10, the Bible says, "The name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe."  Pretty quickly, I was no longer attacked in this way.  James 4:6-7 says, "As the Scriptures say, God opposes the proud but favors the humble.  So humble yourselves before God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come close to God, and God will come close to you."  After just a couple of times of this happening to me and me immediately quoting Scripture, I have not been paralyzed by panic attacks for decades.

Later, the Lord showed me that the reason I was having panic attacks in the first place was my desperate attempt to "control" my life.  At the time they began, I was going through a very difficult stage of life and felt "out of control" in my life!  God revealed to me that I was not trusting Him to lead and guide me...not letting Him be the wise "master controller" of my life!  God showed me in Daniel 4:26, about King Nebuchadnezzar, "You will receive your kingdom back again when you have learned that heaven rules."  God. Rules.  Not.  Me!  I can trust His wisdom in the things He allows to happen in my life. Period.

Sooooo.....

God continues answering my prayer for healing from a stronghold I have been dealing with for ages! He has used Science to show me He knows best.  From the beginning, He has told me to memorize His Word.  He has the answer to every question in my life.  To every problem I have.  When my wonderful husband, Paul, and I purchased my engagement and wedding ring 45 years ago, the kind jeweler we purchased it from also sold us a beautiful little Bible with a Mother-of-Pearl cover on it and he said to us, "The answer to every problem you will ever have is right here in this Bible!"  And, do you know what?  Forty-five years later, I can look back and he was spot-on!  God has answered every single problem I have ever had through His Word and prayer!  And, God has, indeed, given me the abundant life He promises!  I cannot praise Him enough today!

I now have pages and pages of Scripture printed out to read over.  I am overcoming a stronghold of gluttony...overeating...eating more than is necessary and good for me. Folks, can I tell you, this is the most difficult thing I have ever had to deal with in my life!  It  has bamboozled me for decades.  Stopping it has defeated me for years.  It has been a spiritual defeat for me.

God has led me on a journey toward victory in this area of my life.  I would not for one second change how He has dealt with me.  Every step of the journey has been important...not only for healing of the addiction, but for the spiritual insights I've gained as a result of each step taken on the road to recovery!

God now has me walking my 30-minute "praise walk," reading beautiful verses that answer all the reasons "why" I overeat and they give me "God's mind" on each matter.  I am literally "re-wiring"..."renewing"...transforming...my mind to become like the mind of Christ!  I am literally changing my brain patterns (confirmed by "Science!") from its former "associations" and am forming new ones!  I am gaining new "defaults" to go to rather than to food!  For instance, I have listed every possible reason I can think of for "why" I go to food rather than to God for comfort:  pain of relationships, boredom, "everyone else is eating and I'm not hungry yet", loneliness, stress, anxiety, anger, worry, tiredness, frustration, overwhelmedness, fear, stupidity, feeling out of control, guilt, sadness, hate, depression, wanting to reward myself, hurt, insignificance, rejection, sense of God's displeasure, unhappiness, embarrassment, being "old and unimportant," feeling that "nothing matters," comfort, having no husband, disappointment, discouragement, confusion, bad memories, lack of self-control, temptation...I have listed every reason I can think of with God's help.

For each reason I overeat, I have googled and found beautiful verses to keep me from going to food.  I can now go to God through these verses and re-train my mind to think about relationships, frustration, discouragement, insignificance, comfort, etc., the way God wants me to think about them!    I love this one for when I am tempted, for instance, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind, and God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."  1 Corinthians 10:13.  I am re-training my brain to default to this verse...to look for his sweet way of escape...to say, "Go away, Satan!"

I know that I know that I know that it won't be long and these new ways of thinking will take over and these painful "associations" and eating will no longer go together; rather,  painful events in my life and these new, constructive and healthy associations of Scripture will begin to "fire together" in my mind.  Soon, just like the panic attacks of old, I will be free from overeating!  Praise God!

I have become amazingly happy.  I now go to bed happy and I wake up happy.  I find my mind ruminating upon God's Word of happiness, comfort, and peace!  I used to go to bed scared and worried and I woke up the same way.  My mind is beginning to rest upon God's Word and Truth.  I am waking up to songs of praise to God, my Savior, instead of negative, worrying, unhappy thoughts.

THIS!  Yes, THIS is why Jesus came.  He came to save us from ourselves and how we automatically tend toward our negative and protective nature because of sin in the world! He came that we might know how to renew - "re-wire" - our brains...our minds...and enjoy the abundant life He has promised to those of us who are His children through Jesus Christ!  It is IMPOSSIBLE without the renewing of our minds!

So, we can choose to use the "Science" of neuroplasticity to work our tails off, trying as hard as we can to "re-wire" our brains in man's best efforts, or we can choose to embrace the simplicity of God's way...meditating on His Word about all that pertains to our lives. Truly, the answer to any problem we have is found in God's Holy Word to us.

Today, it's so easy for us to simply google what God's Word has to say on __________. (Fill in the blank!)  Print out the verses that God stirs your heart with and read and pray them back to God every day and whenever temptation comes your way.  You can do this. Freedom is within reach!  God says it best in John 8:31-32:  "Jesus said to the people who believed in him, "You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.  AND YOU WILL  KNOW THE TRUTH, AND THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE."

Dear Ones, learn the truth about what GOD says about you and your life.  The hateful things others say about you, the bad things you say about yourself, and the harmful things that have happened to you...that is not the truth! What Satan says to you to deceive you with is not truth!  Get the truth engrained in the beautifully-made brain God has given you! Make new neuronal connections in your brain by memorizing Scriptures to go with whatever you are trying to change.  I also now tell myself over and over that "I don't eat in bed.  I don't eat when I watch TV.  I don't listen to the news (because I don't want my mind ruminating - resting on - fear).  I don't eat when I read a book.  I wait for my stomach to growl to eat.  I eat only about a fist-sized amount of anything I want (the size of a normal stomach) when I do eat."  And, as I do this over and over and over, each time I do it, my brain is computing it.

I am making new associations for myself.  I am stopping associating reading a book and other enjoyable and good things with food.  Food is for nourishment...not an entertainment, not a reward, not a comfort.  Food is a blessing to be thankful to God for in and of itself.  God says in 1 Timothy 4:3, "God created those foods to be eaten with thanks by faithful people who know the truth.  Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks.  For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer."

The articles I read on brain function said that with discipline, hard work, and over time, the neurons that fire together to make the "defaults" that our brain automatically goes to in any given situation, will absolutely change.  When I read that, it served to remind me how very, very lazy I have been in my Christian walk to memorize Scripture.  That if I had consistently done it like God exhorts us to do, I would already have been so much further in my mind becoming like the mind of Christ's!  I have at least been wise enough to recognize that for every problem I encounter, God has the answer and I'd better look up the Scriptures I need to memorize and pray!  And, God has been faithful always to be true to His Word and rescue me...but I am thinking that much precious time from "problem" to His answering me has been wasted simply because I HAVE been like the "senseless horse and mule" God talks about in Psalms 32:8!  I have bucked and balked and tried to control situations on my own and in my own way and God has very gently and sweetly tried to keep me on the pathway that is best for my life.  I praise Him for His patience with me!

I pray today that God will use this article to help someone reading it who has come to the end of their wits...someone who is ready and willing to change.  The answer is that we must find the way to change what our habitual default is.  And, the only way to do that is to do the thing in a new way, over and over and over.  Then, our brain will have re-learned how to respond in that particular situation.  The overarching solution is to give your situation to God...let Him show you the verses He wants you to know and to learn about Him.  Then, you can input this new thinking into your brain. And, every time you go to that rather than the old default, your brain is learning to change to it instead.  Take the time to do the googling of scriptures for your situation, to print it out or write it down and read it every day!  Practice over and over going to it when you are tempted.

You and I can do this hard work and discipline if we know it is going to make a difference. Science has proven it just takes changing what we do each time to create a lasting effect. Knowing that it is just a matter of time and hard work makes this totally doable!  We can absolutely do this!  I have already seen it change me in spectacular ways in a very short period of time.

With every new skill we learn, the brain records the good tries as well as the bad passes. The more good tries we are successful with, the more the brain adapts to having that response.  Praise God for how He has made us!  Praise God He is FOR us!  And, praise God for answered prayer!

"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!" (John 15:7)








Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Facelift

Psalm 96 says, "Sing a new song to the LORD!  Let the whole earth sing to the LORD!  Sing to the LORD; praise his name.  Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.  Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.  Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.  Great is the LORD!  He is most worthy of praise!"

…"Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.  Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.  Great is the LORD!  He is most worthy of praise!"

So…"publish" and "tell" is what God asks of us.  When he does something amazing and glorious…share it!

So, tell I must…God has been amazing me now for 54 years!
  
Recently, I have begun walking 30 minutes each day.  At first, I memorized Scripture as I walked.  Then, after our pastor preached a sermon on "Praise," I began spending that 30 minutes praising God for Who He is and for all He has done.  These 30 minutes of my day have become a refreshing to my soul and spirit.  Psalm 22:3 tells us that "God inhabits the praises of His people."  Our pastor said, "Praise is God’s address!" He went on further to tell us that if we would just begin to praise God, many of us would see miracles happen in our lives…and many would become well as a result of making a habit of praising God.

I immediately began noticing a change in my attitude…in my outlook on life.  If you listen to the news and to people talking about what’s going on in the world, it’s easy to become pessimistic, gloomy, and depressed.  After my first 30-minute "praise walk," it was very apparent how happy I had become.  As I walked and thanked God for all He has done for me…as I thanked Him for all the beautiful answers to prayer He has given me…and even as I was able to thank Him for prayers He answered with a "No," I became totally amazed at what an awesome God He is!
 
During my first walk, God showed me two particular prayers I had fervently asked Him to answer how I wanted Him to answer.  God very clearly showed me how much better it has been for all involved that He answered them, "No!"  It startled me how happy I was to have gotten a "no" from Him!  I began to look back and see many more "no’s" that I was thankful for from the past.  I praised God for His great wisdom.

Over 54 years with my Savior, I have filled numerous prayer journals with prayer requests and God’s answers to those prayers.  I will not go back over them all, but I want to recount just a few from the journal I began in January, 2017:

·        Two financial needs I asked God to provide for me.  ANSWER:  God supplied both needs by taking the needs completely away and providing in another way!

·        I asked God to guide me in another financial decision that was very difficult for me to make.  ANSWER:  Within the week, God took away two financial responsibilities I had, giving me a direct answer of what to do.

·       A ten-year-long prayer for a loved one.  ANSWER:  Out of the blue one day, the answer came dramatically and was answered in a way that gave me GREAT joy.

·         A decades-long prayer for a loved one to return to a life of loving and serving God.  ANSWER:  I received word one day that one of their children came to salvation when a neighbor invited them to church…which led to the renewal of this loved one’s commitment to Christ.  The entire family is now loving and serving God with great delight!

·         Prayer for a friend diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.  ANSWER:  Surgery revealed it to be not what the Dr. thought, but was easily treated and removed.

·       Prayer for a baby born with severe birth defects and not expected to live long.  ANSWER:  This child now prospers in every physical way!  This is a true miracle!

·         I prayed for 9 years for a good husband for a sweet family friend.  ANSWER:  She recently married, and when I got to the wedding, I discovered she was marrying the brother of a good friend of mine!
 
·       Two family members in dire health situations.  ANSWER:  God spared both lives!

·        A sweet friend’s mother had a life-threatening surgery.  ANSWER:  She came through the surgery beautifully!  At the last minute, doctors discovered a situation that would have killed her during the surgery, but God intervened before the surgery.

·       A friend was discovered to have a rare and life-threatening liver disease.  ANSWER:  Upon being sent to a specialist, our friend was told the other Dr. had amazingly discovered his disease in time so that it could be treated!

·       A 5-year-long prayer for a dear young friend a godly husband.  ANSWER:  She’s getting married in June!

·       A 2-year prayer for a loved one with a spot on his lung and a bad cough that needed to be treated, but he was worried about his wife getting her pacemaker put in and those bills paid for first.  ANSWER:  He recently went in for an x-ray and was told, “That spot is gone!  All we can figure is you must have inhaled something and coughed it out!”  And, his wife is doing great as well!  I can’t even begin to tell you how happy this has made me!

·       Continued prayers for our nation and the loss of religious freedoms.  ANSWER:  I was so happy to see the President the other day sign legislation reversing that trend in our country!

·         A 4-year prayer concerning ongoing bullying.  ANSWER:  God so kindly took me out of that situation, taught me huge insights into bullying and how to deal with a bullying person.  Praise God!  He has taken fear from me and restored the joy of my salvation!  God showed me how to forgive and even pity and pray for this person. 

·        I have been praying for my children and God’s provision for them.  ANSWER:  God has been so very gracious to give my children good jobs, where they are appreciated and thriving.  God continues to bless and honor their work.

In a word of encouragement for those of us who pray for God to work in the lives of our children and grandchildren, I was fascinated by a quote our pastor gave us last Sunday:  J. C. Ryle, a Bishop from Liverpool in the 1800's, said, "The children for whom many prayers have been offered, seldom finally perish."  I love that, don't you?

I have written several other posts about prayer, but tonight as I was reading in Psalms, I knew God intended for me to "do" what He tells us to do in Psalms 96:1-4…to proclaim the good news that he saves; to publish his glorious deeds; and to tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:31 to boast in the Lord…we are to give glory to God by proclaiming His goodness. 

How about you?  Will you begin boasting in the Lord…praising Him for His goodness to you?  Praising Him for Who He is and for all He has done?  By "Telling everyone about the amazing things he does"?

I will make you a promise:  You cannot continually praise God and be depressed.  You can’t praise God and not be changed…and that for the better!  If you need a “lift” today, just spend some time being thankful to God.  You will find yourself cultivating a relationship with your Savior that you will look forward to with all your heart!  I don’t enjoy walking, but I absolutely look forward to it now that I spend it praising God and having my spirits rejuvenated!  It’s like a daily “facelift!”  I love it!!!

"Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands."  Psalms 63:3-4

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"RESOLVE TO UN-RESOLVE"

Soooo...have you made any New Year's Resolutions this year?  I'm generally not a fan of them because, actually, I can't remember a single resolution I've made at the New Year that has stuck with me.  Good intentions, always, but the deeply-rooted patterns of my life have always prevailed.

This year feels different...mainly because my "resolution" this year comes at the tail end of a long, progressive series of battles in one particular area of my life which God has been working on.  And I do mean working on!  For years and years. 

Some time ago, God began whispering to me something quite counterintuitive about my problem.  He told me that, rather than focusing on the "problem," I needed to be focusing on "Him" instead.  He said that focusing on the problem all the time kept me "in" the problem, and that focusing on Him instead would take me "out" of the problem...would put it into the background as I brought Him to the forefront.  So, I began to explore what that would look like, and I tried to make changes.

I began to notice that when my heart drew near to God through prayer and reading my Bible, I did "do better." But, my "resolve" didn't last long and I seemingly, "inevitably," soon went back to my "old, familiar ways" and to the sin which so easily beset me.

One night not long ago, as I was mulling over "my problem" and what to do about it, the Lord whispered into my ear:  "What does the Bible say about "the fruits of the Spirit and self control?"  So, I turned the light on, got out of bed, and googled "fruits of the Spirit and self control."  Google sent me to Galatians 5.  If you are a Christian, as I am, God gives you a tremendous gift: Truth.  So, when I hear truth, I know it.  A comforting warmth engulfs my body and settles around me like a soft, cozy blanket on a cold winter's night.  God gave me these words of Truth from Galatians 5:  

"But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us."   

"What is important is faith expressing itself in love."

"You have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters.  But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature.  Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.  For the whole law can be summed up in this one command:  "Love your neighbor as yourself."

"So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.  Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves.  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.  And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires.  These two forces are constantly fighting each other so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.  But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses."

"When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear:  sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these."

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things!"

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in
every part of our lives."

This was all well and good...and I had read this passage many times, but I wasn't gaining the fruit of self-control I was seeking.  I consider myself a Christian truly trying to live a Christian life, but failing to obtain a fruit of the Spirit was frustrating me to no end!

So, immediately I googled, "How do I let the Holy Spirit guide my life?"

These were the phrases and words God led me to in my search:

"Don't accommodate your sin.  Get rid of it!  You can't "manage" sin!"  (This was written in the margin of my Bible as notes I took from my pastor's sermon one Sunday.)  

"Pray"
     
"Read God's Word"

"Obey"

I realized that just "wanting" a fruit of the Spirit wasn't enough.  So, the first thing I did was to begin a new Prayer Journal for 2017.  I labeled one column "Request" and across from it another was labeled "God's Answer."  I decided this year to make most of my requests quite specific so that when God answers I can definitely "see" if His answer is "Yes," "No," or "Wait for My Timing."  I have 40 Requests placed at Jesus' feet in my journal so far.  Request #7 is about my "problem."  I was very specific.  Over the course of time, God has shown me some specific steps I can take to gain self-control in this area of my life.  My request is for God to help me do the things He has shown me to do.  I have asked for Him to make me successful in it.  I am asking God to help me do the things I need to do so the Holy Spirit is free to work in me.  

The next thing I did was to begin a new plan for reading the Bible through in a year.  I'm praying and I'm seeking the Holy Spirit's guidance in my life through God's Word.  I am seeking to not just read, but to obey what I read.  I am placing "my problem" in the background, leaving it in my Prayer Journal and trusting God with it, and I am purposefully bringing God to the forefront of my life through the specific disciplines of prayer, meditation on His Word, and really trying to "obey" and put into action what I'm reading.  I have recently also moved from a position of just "sitting and soaking" in a Sunday School class and am out of my comfort zone, working as a volunteer in our Children's ministry.  I am trying to "express my faith in love" as Jesus teaches in Galatians 5.

Something very obvious has happened.  Soon after I finished my Prayer Journal, I was tempted.  This time, however, instead of just numbly giving in to the temptation with no thought, I heard very distinctly in my mind, "No."  Just, "No."  This happened 3 times in a row, and each time, my mind responded to the temptation with, "No."  You need to understand that this did not come from my own will and I knew it didn't each time it happened.  It was the Holy Spirit guiding me! Tears are streaming as I write this because it was such a breakthrough for me.  I was immediately aware that this was the Holy Spirit when it happened and I instantly filled with great joy and understanding.  I laughed, grinned, and looked up to God and told Him, "Thank you!"  "Thank you!"  "Thank you!"  "I get it!"  Leave the "problem" with you and place my focus on you!

Today I felt God nudge me to write about my experience, so again I googled "How do I let the Holy Spirit guide me?  The article (below) from gotquestions.org came up and is so good!  It repeats what God told me, as He so often does for me when He wants to teach or tell me something important.  I want to share it with you because it explains so perfectly how to overcome "problems" of sin in our lives, and it tells us how we are able to gain victory and let the Holy Spirit work in us in practical ways.

So....this year, I have hope.  A New Year, a new resolve.  I resolve to try as best I can to place God at the forefront...by focusing on Him instead of my problems.  As I do this, the Holy Spirit will be free to work and act in my life to fulfill God's plans for me.  I can trust Him!  My part is easy...focus on the One who loves me best.  I know the more I focus on Him, the more I love Him, and the more I love Him, the easier it is to focus on Him!  "The Problem" has distracted me from Him and taken away my focus on "The Answer!"

God's part is to do the heavy lifting!  Praise God!  God tells us in Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."

My sleep has become so sweet!  No longer do I "mull and ponder" my problem.  Now, I go to sleep after reading His Word to me and, when I do this, I sleep with a smile rather than a frown.  God's got my cares...they're written down and given over to Him in my Prayer Journal.  I can mull and ponder God's goodness to me and I can imagine what He looks like, what all He has stored up for me in Heaven, what adventures He has yet for us to go on together! Peace...sweet peace!

Precious Ones, my prayer for you in 2017 is that you will resolve to give your resolutions over to the only One who can fulfill them for you.  Resolve, instead, to love with all your heart the "Resolver" of all your problems!  I love you and pray God's richest blessings for you in the coming year!


(Here is the article I promised you taken from www.gotquestions.org:)

"Question: "How can I overcome sin in my Christian life?"

Answer: The Bible presents several different resources to aid us in our effort to overcome sin. In this lifetime, we will never be perfectly victorious over sin (1 John 1:8), but that should still be our goal. With God’s help, and by following the principles of His Word, we can progressively overcome sin and become more and more like Christ. 

The first resource the Bible mentions in our effort to overcome sin is the Holy Spirit. God has given us the Holy Spirit so we can be victorious in Christian living. God contrasts the deeds of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-25. In that passage we are called upon to walk in the Spirit. All believers already possess the Holy Spirit, but this passage tells us that we need to walk in the Spirit, yielding to His control. This means choosing to consistently follow the Holy Spirit's prompting in our lives rather than following the flesh.

The difference the Holy Spirit can make is demonstrated in the life of Peter, who, before being filled with the Holy Spirit, denied Jesus three times—and this after he had said he would follow Christ to the death. After being filled with the Spirit, he spoke openly and strongly to the Jews at Pentecost.

We walk in the Spirit as we try not to quench the Spirit’s promptings (as spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 5:19) and seek instead to be filled with the Spirit—that is, to be fully under the Spirit’s control (Ephesians 5:18–21). How is one filled with the Holy Spirit? If sin is what grieves the Spirit and hinders His filling, then obedience to God is how the filling of the Spirit is maintained. We should pray that we be filled with the Spirit, immerse ourselves in God’s Word (Colossians 3:16), and walk in obedience to God’s commands. This gives the Spirit freedom to work within our thoughts and actions.

The Word of God, the Bible, says that God has given us His Word to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It teaches us how to live and what to believe, it reveals to us when we have chosen wrong paths, it helps us get back on the right path, and it helps us to stay on that path. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is living and powerful, able to penetrate to our hearts to root out and overcome the deepest sins of heart and attitude. The psalmist talks about its life-changing power in-depth in Psalm 119. Joshua was told that the key to success in overcoming his enemies was not to forget this resource but instead to meditate on it day and night and obey it. This he did, even when what God commanded did not make sense militarily, and this was the key to his victory in his battles for the Promised Land.

The Bible is a resource that we too often treat lightly. We give token service to it by carrying our Bibles to church or reading a daily devotional or a chapter a day, but we fail to memorize it, meditate on it, or apply it to our lives; we fail to confess the sins it reveals or praise God for the gifts it reveals to us. When it comes to the Bible, we are often either anorexic or bulimic. We either take in just enough to keep us alive spiritually by eating from the Word (but never ingesting enough to be healthy, thriving Christians), or we come to feed often but never meditate on it long enough to get spiritual nutrition from it.

It is important, if you have not made a habit of daily studying and memorizing God's Word, that you begin to do so. Some find it helpful to start a journal. Make it a habit not to leave the Word until you have written down something you have gained from it. Some record prayers to God, asking Him to help them change in the areas that He has spoken to them about. The Bible is the tool the Spirit uses in our lives (Ephesians 6:17), an essential and major part of the armor that God gives us to fight our spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:12-18).

A third crucial resource in our battle against sin is prayer. Again, it is a resource that Christians often give lip service to but make poor use of. We have prayer meetings, times of prayer, etc., but we do not use prayer in the same way as the early church (Acts 3:14:316:413:1-3). Paul repeatedly mentions how he prayed for those he ministered to. God has given us wonderful promises concerning prayer (Matthew 7:7-11Luke 18:1-8John 6:23-271 John 5:14-15), and Paul includes prayer in his passage on preparing for spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:18).

How important is prayer to overcoming sin in our lives? We have Christ's words to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Peter's denial. As Jesus prays, Peter is sleeping. Jesus wakes him and says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41). We, like Peter, want to do what is right but are not finding the strength. We need to follow God's admonition to keep seeking, keep knocking, keep asking—and He will give us the strength that we need (Matthew 7:7). Prayer is not a magic formula. Prayer is simply acknowledging our own limitations and God's inexhaustible power and turning to Him for that strength to do what He wants us to do, not what we want to do (1 John 5:14-15).

A fourth resource in our war to conquer sin is the church, the fellowship of other believers. When Jesus sent His disciples out, He sent them out two-by-two (Mark 6:7). The missionaries in Acts did not go out one at a time, but in groups of two or more. The Bible commands us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together but to use that time for encouraging one another in love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). It tells us to confess our faults to one another (James 5:16). In the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, we are told that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). There is strength in numbers (Ecclesiastes 4:11-12).

Many Christians find that having an accountability partner can be a huge benefit in overcoming stubborn sins. Having another person who can talk with you, pray with you, encourage you, and even rebuke you is of great value. Temptation is common to us all (1 Corinthians 10:13). Having an accountability partner or an accountability group can give us the final dose of encouragement and motivation we need to overcome even the most stubborn of sins.

Sometimes, victory over sin comes quickly.  Other times, victory comes more slowly.  God has promised that as we make use of His resources, He will progressively bring about change in our lives.  We can persevere in our efforts to overcome sin because we know that He is faithful to His promises."



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Say, "What?"

"Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

So, I've always wondered:  "Which exactly is "His will" for me?  Being thankful or the circumstance?

Well...today, finally, I see the answer is..."Yes!"

"Yes" to being thankful.  And, "yes" to the fact that the circumstance is God's will for me!

I came to this answer today as I sat pondering a circumstance that I'm dealing with and have been dealing with for a while now.  It's a health issue that just hasn't gone away.  I've prayed about it a lot.  I've researched it a lot.  I've put into practice several suggestions for it.  I've spoken to my doctor about it - and was even given a clean bill of health - yet the symptoms persist to an even greater degree since seeing him last.  Perhaps I will go back to the doctor; I don't know for sure, but God is using the circumstance in a specific way that is causing me great joy.

Over the years, God has used King Asa in 2 Chronicles 16:12-14 to remind me that my health is more than just a physical issue:  "Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the LORD'S help but turned only to his physicians.  So he died in the forty-first year of his reign."

The "beloved doctor," Luke, traveled with Paul and was very helpful to him, so I highly regard the skill of doctors...and have been blessed many times over through the intervention of medicine and medical staff in my healthcare; however, I have experienced the blessing and miraculous healing God has brought to my life in other ways as well. Just as Jesus never healed two people the same way, God has never healed my body the same way twice.  I do know, though, that God always wants me to come to Him the same way:  His desire has always been for me to acknowledge His supremacy over my life. Then, He directs my path.

I have been searching the Scriptures for passages that might say something about what I'm going through. I have found several and have begun praying them over my situation.

After much seeking Scripture, praying, and soul-searching, the Lord led me to recognize an idol in my life.  I discovered a sin lurking...well camouflaged, but easily identified once my mind was in His Word.  First, God led me to Psalm 103:3:  "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of his benefits - who pardons all my sins, who heals all my diseases, who redeems my life from the pit, who crowns me with lovingkindness and compassion."

The Lord then spoke to me a word from Jesus' healing ministry:  The words, "Go and sin no more," and "Thy faith hath made thee well" were often spoken together when Jesus healed someone.  God very clearly pointed out a sin in my life.  It's something I have exalted over God.  An area of my life that has been taken over by a worldly philosophy, and He wants me to look to Him rather than where my focus has been.  This is a major shift for me and one that will take a lot of faith and trust...and communication with Him daily.  

The research I had done regarding my physical ailment led me to begin walking.  Seeking God through Scripture and prayer led me to recognize my need to begin memorizing Scripture in earnest.  The answers to my deepest need were found in the Scriptures God led me to, and my heart needed to ingest and meditate continually upon them.  God led me to do my walking while memorizing Scripture.  It is absolutely delightful!  It is thrilling to really digest these wonderful verses, praise God, and pray during my walk!  Had my circumstance not brought me to this point, I would never be walking and memorizing God's Word.  I am so very thankful that God brought me to this place!

Yesterday, I was overwhelmed with discouragement as I focused on my "problem."  Today, my focus has shifted from my circumstance to God as I recite Scriptures to myself about who He is, what He does for me, how He feels about me, and about the hope I have in Him...in all my circumstances.

I don't know yet how He is going to handle this situation in my life.  I do know He tells me to forget none of his benefits...that He pardons all my sins, He heals all my diseases, He redeems my life from the pit, and He crowns me with lovingkindness and compassion! That about covers my need!

I actually found myself thanking Him today during my walk for the circumstance I am dealing with.  I am thankful because it drew me close to Him and, because He led me to Scripture, He was able to reveal more of Himself to me.  Because He led me to memorize and really internalize these Scriptures, I sense His love for me all throughout the day.  He is reminding me not to forget all the benefits He bestows upon me because I am His.

So, what circumstance do you find yourself in today?   Is it a health problem?  A relationship problem?  Financial?  Emotional?  Fear?  Marriage?  Singleness?  Work? Family?  A stronghold you haven't been able to beat?  Are you feeling out of control? What exactly, then, is His will for you in it?

May I make a suggestion:  Go to the LORD in humility and acknowledge your inability...your weakness...God LOVES to show off for us!  He wants us to admit He is God and we are not.  He offers to carry our burdens for us.  His desire is always to draw us to Himself.  His desire is a personal relationship with you.  He created you, breathed the breath of life into your nostrils, loves you, and His desire is for you to love Him.  Always, always, God's desire is relationship with you!

Blaise Pascal said, "There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus."  David Jeremiah writes, "When people realize that nothing on earth will satisfy their longing they begin to identify their thirst.  That is when they are poised to come to Christ.  They realize that they are thirsty and He is the living water every human craves.  It is He who fills the empty place that all of us since Adam have been born with."

My prayer for you today is that no matter what your circumstance, you will seek God in it. It has been designed specifically for you.  It is the vehicle through which God is drawing you to Himself...either for the first time, to become His child; or, He is calling you who are already His child to come close to Him again.  He has something of Himself He wants to reveal to you.  Be thankful for the vehicle He has sent.  It is His will for you.  It is for your good and best happiness.  Trust Him with it and let Him lead you.  I pray you will be overtaken with joy when God shows you His will and purpose for blessing you with this circumstance.

REMEMBER to "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits - who pardons all my sins, who heals all my diseases, who redeems my life from the pit, who crowns me with lovingkindness and compassion."

I found it interesting as I searched out "compassion" and found it means "mercy and leniency."  "Lovingkindness" means "acts of kindness, motivated by love."  "Sins, (or iniquities)" are "immoral or grossly unfair behavior."  To "bless the Lord" means to "praise the LORD", literally, "to kneel in worship."  God is "glorified, elevated," when we "bless or praise and acknowledge Him" by giving Him praise, adoration, thanksgiving, and love. This is what we were created to do!

I didn't read Psalm 103, the 4th verse, (Psalm 103:4) until I was writing this.  It says, "He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle's!"  ...Yes!  Praise you, Oh God, for this lovingkindness...it's just what I needed to hear today.  I love it; thank you for this!

"Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."



Friday, May 6, 2016

Unabashedly Poliltical: Beware!

I want to remind Christians of the story of Jehoshaphat:

The Bible tells us in 2 Chronicles 17:3:  "The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the example of his father's early years and did not worship the images of Baal. He sought his father's God and obeyed his commands instead of following the evil practices of the kingdom of Israel.  So the LORD established Jehoshaphat's control over the kingdom of Judah...He was deeply committed to the ways of the LORD.  He removed the pagan shrines and Asherah poles from Judah.

In 2 Chronicles 20, Scripture tells us that Jehoshaphat (1) begged the LORD for guidance, (2) looked to God for help, (3) urged his people to believe in the LORD their God and that because of this, all the surrounding kingdoms heard that the LORD himself had fought against the enemies of Israel and the fear of God came over them.  So Jehoshaphat's kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.  (2 Chronicles 20:29-30)

Then, 2 Chronicles 20:35-37 stuns us:  "Some time later King Jehoshaphat of Judah made an alliance with King Ahaziah of Israel, who was very wicked.  Together they built a fleet of trading ships at the port of Ezion-geber.  Then Eliezer son of Dodavahu from Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat.  He said, "Because you have allied yourself with King Ahaziah, the LORD will destroy your work."  So the ships met with disaster and never put out to sea."

God clearly showed me that it is extremely important to whom we give our allegiance...with whom we ally ourselves.  Let us not be deceived, Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  "Making deals" politically is very serious.  And,  Christians allying themselves with wickedness in any form is dangerous business.  I see this happening around me right now in the Christian community as fear and anger has gripped our nation in a way I have never witnessed before.  God repeatedly tells His children, "Fear NOT!" Do not let fear drive your actions.  It can make you form alliances you would otherwise never make.

Sweet Child of God, I urge you to calm yourself...get back to your roots.  Remember to whom you owe your allegiance as a child of God.  Remember we are to be set apart and different.  We should not be choosing whom to vote for based on "at leasts" or "the lesser of two evils" when given two evil options.  We always have a "best" option:  Trust God! We should trust God and pour our hearts out to Him.  "Humanly speaking it is impossible.  But not with God.  Everything is possible with God." (Matthew 19:26)

Maintain your godly principles and trust God!  Small compromises are what the enemy has used to get us to where we are in our country today.  Do not let yourself compromise and make deals with the enemy of your soul.  "Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you.  Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left.  Then you will be successful in everything you do.  Study this Book of Instruction continually.  Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it.  Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.  This is my command - be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:7-9)

Let us ask ourselves, WWJD?  In the New Testament, did Jesus compromise with evil? Did he align himself with any political camp in order to perhaps get some of what he wanted done?  Rather, I see Jesus staying in constant communication with His Father and teaching faith in order to accomplish His Father's will.  Brothers and Sisters, in your heart of hearts, question yourself to the bone and see if, perhaps, you have been tempted to "side" with one camp or another in this political season because you are fearful.  Look to see if this is causing you to compromise your convictions.  If it is, remember Jehoshaphat. He started out well.  But compromise took him down.

Do you really want your work destroyed?  I have lived long enough now to be witness to the fact this is a principle.  Small compromises - or big ones - over time lead to a downward spiral of failure.  "Don't be misled - you cannot mock the justice of God.  You will always harvest what you plant." (Galatians 6:7)

Remember:  Humanly speaking, this might look impossible, but with God, everything is possible.  We must just remember to do it His way and let Him work.  In His way.  In His time.  Ours is not to jump into the fray like petrified rabid animals.  Ours is to trust in God...not in a political party and certainly not in a frail human.  "Don't put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.  When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them.  But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God." (Psalm 146:3-5)

Where have I placed my trust?  For a Christian, there is only one answer.  It does not matter if we are a pastor or if we are the newest Babe in Christ.  I, for one, have found that I have had to literally rip myself away from "belief in" and "trust in" the Republican party which I have stood with practically my entire life.  I had to come face to face with the fact that I have been putting my trust in a political party to make my life good and easy for me as a Christian.  This has been good for me.  God has meant this political cycle for good for me as His child.  He has reminded me Who is in charge.  My faith in Him has been renewed.

Fear has gone...joy has returned...

I pray this peace for those, my Brothers and Sisters in Christ who, like me, have seen what has taken place during these political primaries and have been horrified by those scenes.  Return to your roots...give your total allegiance once again to the One of whom Scripture says, "He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings."  (Daniel 2:21)

My faith has be be strong enough to believe that God can work...Even.  If.  I.  Don't.  Vote! Imagine the blasphemy!  I once believed my vote was the most important thing in the country!  Today, I am Second.  God is First!  Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven..."

...Today God has given me a refreshing season of freedom.  A season of laying myself down and lifting Him up.  A season of giving my patriotic burden to Him and letting Him carry it for me.

God has a plan.  God has a work He is doing.  I can trust Him with it.

Is God perhaps asking you to test your faith as well?

Regardless of circumstances, God would have each of us answer this very serious and important question:

Deep down, where truly do I have my faith placed?