Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Dear Lord, how can I thank You enough for giving us Your love letter to all people? Each time our eyes fall on Your pages, give us insight that only Your Holy Spirit can provide. Help us to be great in Your eyes, instead of seeking to be great in our own, and in the eyes of one another. Help us to lead, no matter what our roles in life. We know You are placing people in our path every day that seek our guidance or follow our example. Help us to seek You first, as we lead others. In the name of Jesus, amen.
We've have talked a lot in the past weeks about being intentional in our thoughts, about choosing to take our minds off thoughts that lead to unhappiness and dissatisfaction in our lives, and instead focus on the thoughts of God. Read Philippians 4-10 now and write it down. In fact, if you have not already begun one, start a prayer or bible verse journal to record the thoughts you have in this study, what you learn about yourself, and what verses or "aha" insights God gives you through our time together.
You will get exactly out of this time, what you intend to, and what you give to yourself in study and honest reflection.
"Finally brethren, whatever things are ______, whatever things are ______, whatever things are ______, whatever things are _________, whatever things are ___________, whatever things are of good __________, if there is any _________ and if there is anything ____________,- meditate on these things." NKJV
We can learn a lot from the letters Paul wrote to the new believers in the first 60 or so years after Christ's time on Earth.
Paul instructs us to think on things that lead to positive and helpful actions, instead of dwelling on thoughts that lead to despair, anger, sadness, depression, anxiety, rage, or confusion. We have a decision to make each time we entertain thoughts and that is, "Do I want to go there?"
Our thoughts are leading us to a destination and only we decide to get on that train, or not. John C. Maxwell says that our life today is a reflection of yesterday's thoughts.
Henry Ford said that whether we think we can, or we can't, we are right. Another way of saying that is "Be careful what you set your heart on, for surely you will get it." The problem is, after all the time and effort getting "it," do you still want it at the cost you paid?
What do you want?
Now consider this, do you want those _____'s, or do you think having them will give you something else, something deeper?
What do you really want?
What will you want at the end of your life as you look back? What will have really made the difference?
Read Proverbs 23:7 and write down what you learn.
As a person thinks in their _____ so are they. Your heart could be called the seat of your unconscious opinions, your intentions, your underlying motives.
Without the influence of the Holy Spirit, our hearts are innately selfish and self-centered. We get our heads turned by every pretty bauble, because we don't realize that we think the baubles will give us our true, underlying desires.
What do you think that is? The very basic craving we all have? Think on that, and it will change everything.
The problem with these "things" that seem so important to gain, is that as soon as we get them, the moment passes and we must set our sights on a new goal to reach that will give us the next "final" happiness. So, the struggle we all face is how to move from being momentarily happy with achievement, possessions, attainment, and success that lasts only for the day, or the hour, and move into recognizing our desire for something only God can give.
How many times have you said, "If only . . . " or "I can't wait till ...."
Imagine for a moment that death has come, and you stand face to face with Jesus. Imagine looking at his wounds, knowing full well that He paid that price for you, as if you are the only person on the planet, as if you are the only one He loves?
Read Revelations 4:9-11
The elders were in that position and yet they, given those crowns by God Himself, willingly cast them down at the feet of Jesus, recognizing His love, sacrifice, and greatness as so much more than their own.
What did these elders do to earn such glorious crowns in the first place? My Nelson study bible identifies these elders as leaders, ruling authorities. God honors and crowns those who lead, as long as they lead well.
That's what we are here to learn: the leadership qualities that God values.
I know we all seek to prosper, to do well in life, to live well and enjoy all that God has provided in this life. We all want to seek those things that give us earthly pleasure first, and secondarily turn our minds to God. After all, we live here and now and heaven is a long time away, we hope.
The irony of it is, is that here and now is the temporary place, and heaven our eternal dwelling, if we follow Jesus and accept Him as God's only Son, and the source of our salvation.
Read Matthew 6:25-34, and Luke 12:22-31 and pay close attention to the final verse. Don't miss out on the blessing of opening His Word and seeing it for your own eyes. God's Word is alive in a way you can't understand without opening the physical book and letting the words hit the back of your eyes and the center of your soul.
Let's pray on this and come back tomorrow for what comes next:
Father, I love You, I want You, and clearly, I need You! Whatever You want for me, I want it too. You are the only path to everyday-in the tips of my toes-no matter how crazy the rest of the world gets-happiness and I want it! Show me Your ways, and give me a heart to learn. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Photo by Paul Losevsky, courtesy of http://www.photoxpress.com/
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
If you've read John C. Maxwell you might know his book Think on These Things. I feel it's a natural progression to our StressLess study since in this book, John focuses on the fact that as we think, we are, or we become.
John C. Maxwell is not only a highly regarded Pastor, he is also one of the foremost experts on leadership. You might not think of yourself as a leader, but I bet you influence more people than you know.
May be you've wanted to step into a leadership role, or have been placed in one, but aren't sure how to lead well, effectively, or with a positive attitude. May be the only model of leadership you've known have been "little dictators" or those who aren't able to share power and end up doing everything themselves, and making everyone else pay for it.
No matter your situation, as a parent, an employee or supervisor, even as a volunteer, each of us will more easily and effectively influence others and improve our world by learning God's leadership style.
Jesus is our ultimate model of leadership: the servant-leader. He leads by example, and by moving our hearts to desire to follow him. John C. Maxwell will teach us to do the same, and help us to recognize that "our ability to achieve anything great for God begins in our hearts and minds."
Lord, as we begin this new chapter of our study, help us to be willing to serve others even as we grow as leaders. Help us to recognize what has limited our ability to serve and lead, and be now willing to succeed where in the past we have failed. Let us be weak, so You can make us strong, be humble, so You can make us great, in Your Will. In the name of Jesus, amen.
See you tomorrow,
Photo by Hunta, courtesy of www.photoxpress.com
Monday, November 22, 2010
Father, thank You for Your Word. As we prepare to share how to apply Your Word to our lives, open our minds and hearts to Your Holy Spirit. We invite You to be the true leader of our bible study time, to make us delight in Your Wisdom and Will. In the name of Jesus, amen.
That's right, we are nearing the completion of this topic of A Good Bible Study, but not the study itself. So, come back each day as we continue to study scripture and learn to apply God's wonderful wisdom to our lives, living with more joy, peace, and love, every day!
It's so powerful to activate our minds and our spirits, but we can't forget about our bodies. It's all connected and one without the others leaves us off-balance.
Getting active every day with something as simple as taking a walk, using light weights sitting in a chair, or even joining water aerobics at the local Y, helps to remove stress hormones like cortisol and adrenanline, and counteract the negative physical and emotional effects of stress. By the way, exercise can be even more effective at treating depression than medication!
It wasn't that many years ago that I suffered depression (and still have to be proactive during the dark winter months) to the point that I found it difficult to get out of bed during the day. I just felt so tired all the time that I didn't have the energy to do much more than care for my kids' daily needs.
If' you've read my book, Effortless Weightloss, you know that a big key to my recovery was getting up and moving for just 5 minutes every day. Now you know where that 5 minute concept began!
Read Isaiah 40:28-31 - don't skip this - read it!
Now, in the beginning, I didn't feel like getting up. Nope, didn't wanna do it. But, looking back I realize that I activated my mind and spirit through prayer and made a commitment to my own health. In the end, I made a choice to get up. And I made a deal with myself: 5 minutes and I was done.
That five minutes made a huge difference in how I felt. I really began to feel just a tiny bit more energetic, so it encouraged me to get up a little longer, and a little more often.
I started out just marching in place, then around my house, and when the weather permitted, outside to the yard. I didn't need any fancy equipment or a gym, just the resolve to help myself five minutes at a time. That's all you need, as well.
Read Philippians 4:13 and repeat it to yourself when you question your own resolve.
Physical movement builds up your immune system, your strength, your sense of competence, and your confidence. It makes you feel better, look better, and sleep better.
Read Romans 12:1
We can care for our bodies as a service to God. What a gift to our Creator to take good care of the body He has given us! Taking care of our bodies ensures we are fit and able to accomplish His purpose for our lives.
The biggest obstacle most of us face in taking good care of our bodies is our own feelings. We let feeling tired, fat, old, over-scheduled, or stressed affect the way we treat ourselves every day.
It's interesting: Our minds affect our feelings. Our bodies affect our feelings. Our spirit affects our feelings. As much time as we all spend thinking about our feelings we should be all over how to give ourselves the feelings we desire, you'd think.
We don't have to give in to feelings if we don't want to. In fact, we can change our feelings by submitting them to God, and asking Him to give us the strength, motivation, and desire to actively care for our bodies, just like any other area of our lives.
Read Ephesians 4:20-24
Put off the way you used to handle life; be renewed in the spirit of your mind; put on the new person God has made you!
We can take advantage of God's gifts - including a new attitude anytime we want it! You, me, all of us, we are never alone in our struggles and in our success.
Throughout this study we have shared 3 Keys to Stress Less. They are to Authenticate, Recuperate and Activate.
Authenticate: Be who you are in Christ, as intended by God and accomplished through the Holy Spirit.
Recuperate: Rest and recuperate both physically, mentally and spiritually, enjoying your God-given creative gifts and talents.
Activate: Actively use your spirit, mind, and body the glory of God.
And remember when you feel discouraged by others, by life, or begin to feel helpless and hopeless:
"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (New International Version)
Come back tomorrow and be encouraged in the Word of God!
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Friday, November 19, 2010
Dear Lord, I thank You for every good thing in my life. My heart is full of love and gratitude for Your constant intervention. I know You are working things for good, for every person reading this study. Every person who loves You has been called according to Your purpose and good things are in store, not matter what has happened in the past. Thank you. Give us clear heads and calm spirits as we share Your Word. In the name of Jesus, amen.
I want to expand a bit on what we shared yesterday. I gave you a quick goal-setting exercise just to show you that it doesn't have to be complicated. We are always thinking about what we want to happen, what we'd like to do and see in our futures. This is just a way of helping you get intentional about it, so there is no hoping things will go well, only knowing things will go well.
Yesterday I said if you put those goals away and do nothing else for a year, you will be surprised how many will have come true, or be in the process of completion. I'd like to show you how to accelerate that process. Are you game?
Place those goals you wrote somewhere that will catch your eye each day, and then read them all every time you see them. Your brains responds best to distributed practice, which means reading something in a relaxed state, in between other tasks. Doing it over and over creates more connections to the information, making it easier to recall (which is the evidence of learning.)
All this combines to make the goals become more and more real to your brain, which likes continuity, remember? Want to amp the success rate up even higher?
Re-write your goals to say "I am so grateful and thankful that XXXXX is happening," or whatever makes sense in terms of your goal. The important thing is saying the words grateful and thankful. Even more important is creating a true emotion of gratitude while you say it.
Really ham it up. Thank God for the events and choose to believe He is working things out to bless you. Be grateful for God's good gifts. Our brains really get excited over feelings of love and positivity. There is all kinds of research, including quantum physics, learning and behavioral psychology, you name it, on the fact that everything responds to positive attitudes.
Without going too deep, even atoms and molecules respond to prayer and expectations. And learning has been shown to dramatically increase in an atmosphere of acceptance love. Still a sceptic? Then try it for yourself. You are your own proof.
Read Philippians 4:6-8
You know what, people who are sick of the way things are, are the very ones who will actively create a different life. Until you are ready to change, things will remain the same. Some of this is new for you. That's ok, because if what you've been doing was working out, you wouldn't be here now.
The great thing about writing down where you want to end up in one month, one year, or even by retirement, is that you have a compass to compare to your options. When you are going to make a decision to spend money, or which people to spend time with, or what to do on a free afternoon, ask yourself first, "Is this going to bring me closer to my goals, or not?" Even if you choose to do something unproductive, at least you are making a conscious decision, not waking up the next day and scratching your head.
You'll be amazed how exciting your life can be when you write down a goal for yourself and then bring it to fruition - it's intoxicating! You will be proud of yourself, and you will inspire those who look up to you to do the same.
And don't get paralyzed by thinking you have to write it down the perfect way, or with the most exact meaning. Doing anything constructive is better than doing nothing at all. You can revise it tomorrow, for heavens' sake!
"Excellence can be attained if you care more than others think is wise,
risk more than others think is safe,
dream more than others think is practical,
and expect more than others think is possible."
Again, author unknown, but I'd love to know who said that.
Now, write down something and do it now. Pray about it. Ask God for wisdom. Then do it before you talk yourself out of it. Then go and enjoy the day because God loves you and wants the best for your life.
Read Matthew 6:31-34
Father, thank you for helping us to know what is important and what we should focus on. Help us to dream big and seek Your wisdom in doing so. Thank You for instilling in us the ability to act on our own behalf, and trust You for the rest. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Photo by Stasys Eidiejus, courtesy of http://www.photoxpress.com/
Photo by Stasys Eidiejus, courtesy of http://www.photoxpress.com/
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Dear Father, I'm so thankful for the changes You are making in our lives as a result of our dedication to seek You in Your Word. Each time we open the bible, each time we pray and ask You to develop our spirits, each time we spend time with others and support each other's desire to grow - You honor us with Your presence. Help us to open our hearts to You more today than yesterday. Help us to recognize the Truth. In Jesus' name, amen.
I'm so excited about today's lesson! We're are talking about your future today and boy, is it bright!
So often we get stuck in our past, and before we know it today has come and gone and we are living in our future without a clue as to how we got there and why it's not any better than we imagined.
Read Ephesians 5:15
God says there are lots of ways that we can throw away the time we've been given, but He wants us to be wise; plan our time so it's used for our benefit.
Read a few verses on. He implores us further to invite God to fill us with the Spirit, focusing on what we have to be thankful for, encouraging each other with Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
In other words, focus on the things of God and His Word, and He will give you joy in your heart. That's always the best place to start our day - filling ourselves up with His Spirit and choosing to be thankful. If you are praising God, you can't help but begin to feel lighter.
Honestly, Satan loves to keep you looking back, so he can make sure you never enjoy right now, or experience the fun of creating a future that brings you joy and contentment. But, you can define and walk right into your future in only five minutes a day.
I love the five minute concept because that's about my attention span sometimes. How about you?
We are busy people these days and I think if we don't feel we can accomplish something in five minutes, then we decide in advance that we don't have time for it.
Now, what I am showing you today is two activities. Both will seem simple, you might even have heard a version of this before and if so, it's even more evidence that this works. So, like so many things, just do it.
When you are stressing out and there is nothing productive you can do about the situation I want you to
- Say this out loud, "Father, you know what is bothering me and I believe You are working this out for my benefit. Thank You."
- Then, choose to put five minutes of energy on a goal, a value, or a priority.
So, may be you are one of those folks who think you don't have any goals. Impossible.
Read Matthew 6:21
It says pay attention to our _________, and that will tell us where our ______ is, or what we value.
What do you spend your real time on? List it all. Not what you think you should spend your time on, what you actually do spend your time on.
Now, again, what do you actually spend your money on? No one is reading this but you, so be honest with yourself if you want to get the most out of this.
What did you learn about yourself? Is your treasure, what you value right now, what you thought it would be, or what you hoped it would be?
If you are not valuing what you want to value, you can change it. This is a great tool to see if we are getting off course with who, what, and where we want to exchange our time and money!
You know, looking at what we are valuing with our time and money will give us a good idea of the future we are creating. Is it what you want? Because if we go on auto-pilot, we are going to get where we end up, and it might not be where we hoped we'd be at the end of the day.
Melanie Strick calls herself "The Entrepreneur's Success Coach," and she's identified five Top Values that most of us strive to satisfy in the course of our lives.
- God and Spirtual Growth
- Family Health and Happiness and Time
- Creative Output and Reward
- Rest and Relaxation including Travel
Write down on a piece of paper each of those values and next to each, write the first thought that comes to mind as a goal to achieve in that area. It might be as simple as "pray first thing each morning," or "do the activities in this study each day," for your God value.
For family it might be something like "spend 15 minutes a day alone with each of my children to listen to them." Money could be "set aside $20 a month in an envelope to save up for ____ at the end of the year."
It's up to you. It doesn't matter what you write, but write it and don't throw it away afterwards.
Just tuck it somewhere and don't look at it again for one year. Seriously.
Believe it or not, your subconsious is already making subtle changes in your thinking to make what you wrote a reality. Your brain loves congruency. It doesn't differentiate between "reality" and what you choose to be "real." If you say it happened, your brain actually wants to be congruent so it will begin to make your internal reality and your external reality the same.
That's why what you say about yourself and speak over your children is powerful and it does matter.
Want proof? Harvard did a study in which it asked the graduating class to write down goals. Ten years later they checked on the grads. Not one of the folks who refused to write down their goals achieved what they intended, but nearly all of the students who wrote down specific goals, did what they wrote!
Here's another statistic for you: Only 10% of people achieve their goals. Of those 10%, at least 90% of them wrote their goals down!
The written word is powerful. If you do nothing else, write down something you'd like to achieve - today!
When I was driving a semi over the road with my husband (about a decade ago) I wrote a "bucket list" of the way I wanted my life to be. I found it a year or so ago and was floored but what I saw. I had forgotten about this list almost from the day I wrote it. It listed:
- My husband would have his own trucking company
- We would live on a farm
- I would have horses
- We would be debt-free
- My older kids (who lived with their dad) would return home to live with me
- I would write a book
Let that sink in and I will continue this tomorrow. Until then, let's pray:
Lord, you have given us more power over our own destiny than we know, or would like to admit sometimes. Make us wise, Lord, in what we value and how we spend our time and money. Lead our hearts and give us a vision of Your plan for today and the future. Help us to take action, to take responsibility for our choices and to write down at least one goal today.
Let our greatest and most important goal be to believe in Jesus Christ and accept the gift of His forgiveness so we can stand before You in the end and hear You say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." In the name of Jesus, amen.
Photo by Lee O'Dell, courtesy of http://www.photoxpress.com/
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Dear Lord, thank you for this beautiful day You've created. I haven't even looked out the window yet but I know You have good things in store for me and my loved ones today.
I know Your character from reading Your letters to me: Your Word, the bible. Help me to trust You today, and believe You are working in whatever situations are going on with me. Help me to face my fears, and see they aren't the strongest thing in my life, You are! Help me to know what it is I can do, and to do it. Help me to focus on pleasing You today, knowing that You are focused on helping me. In the name of Jesus, amen.
So friend, tell me how did it go yesterday? You were going to do one thing, or do one activity, for five minutes to face your fear. If you took action, I know you felt better about it. Hopefully, it gave you a sense of the truth: that you can handle whatever is happening.
It doesn't mean you like what is happening. It doesn't mean you choose what has happened. It means you can handle it and you can do one thing to start resolving it right now. That one thing must start with prayer. Believe God hears you, and will lead you to know the first step to take.
Even one small thing is taking action. And remember, taking action diffuses anxiety and makes you feel competent.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
If your thoughts begin to get in the way, fearful thoughts, insecurity, thoughts of "what if," then go back to authenticity. Remind yourself of the truth of the matter, of who you are and what you are afraid of. Call out that fear and name it!
Don't just walk around repeating, "I'm afraid." You're still focusing on the fear. Admit what you are afraid of and start telling that fear some truth. Get authentic on it. Speaking the truth empowers you physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I pull out the big guns when I am getting wrapped up in fear. Read 2 Timothy 1:7
What did you learn? God has not given us a what? A _______ of _______.
Instead He has given us one of ________, _________, and a _______ mind.
Write that down and repeat that when fear is getting the best of you. Say it with force, not as a plea. Say it with conviction like you know it's true, because it is. Look, you might have to do this all day for a few days until it starts sinking in. The devil isn't going down without a fight. But we are assured that if we continue to resist the devil, he will flee.
Read James 4:7
What must you do before you start standing up to Satan and his bag of tricks? This is very important.
First, _____ yourself to God. What does that mean?
Right, it means humble yourself to God. Place yourself under His authority. This is the most powerful thing you can do. You are not only His child, you are operating under His authority when you tell fear to take a hike.
Think about that for a minute. You've got the authority of God backing you up on this.
God is telling you that you do not have to be bullied by fear and anxiety. He says to come under His wing and know that He has your back.
I'm not telling to deny your feelings of fear and anxiety, but I am telling you to recognize that no one died of a feeling. That's why we must take action, because we are afraid. Joyce Meyers says if you are afraid but something has to get done, then "do it afraid."
Dont' you know courage is not moving forward without fear, it's moving forward in spite of fear. So call it out. Name it.
Say "So, I'm afraid. So, what? I still have to get breakfast made, still have people to help. So, I'm angry . . . good. That anger is going to help me have confidence in making a decision today without worrying so much about what people think. Yup, I'm sad. That's right. And later I am going to treat myself to a hot bath because I need some t.l.c." Are you getting it?
James Hollingworth (AKA Ambrose Redmoon) a radical beatnik, known only for his eccentricity and for this one powerful quote, said "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the judgement that something else is more important than fear."
If you have suffered from fear and anxiety, I don't have to tell you that peace of mind gets real important when you don't have it, right?
Eleanor Roosevelt said,
"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really have to stop and look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes long. You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
Father, let us go forth boldly today, recognizing that fear is an emotion designed to stop us. But we are the children of the Most High King, and if we humble ourselves and put ourselves under Your authority, we can look fear in the eye and tell it we won't be held captive anymore. We will resist the devil and he will flee. We will do it afraid if we have to, but we will move forward.
We will tell ourselves the truth of who we are, and what we have already been through. We will shout out scriptures and remind ourselves and fear itself, that God has not given us a spirit of fear, so we can let it go. We can accept the Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind, because it's ours to take. Thank you Father, for your good gifts! In the name of Jesus, amen.
Photo by Damien Bouchard, courtesy of http://www.photoxpress.com/
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Dear Father, thank you for this day, and this time to spend in Your Word. Please remove from our minds any distractions, any fears and worries that might prevent us from giving ourselves this gift of Your Word. Thank You for ordering our day so that everything that needs to get done, will get done. Help us to be at peace, and to spread that peace like a wildfire to everyone we encounter today. In the name of Jesus, amen.
We talked the other day about the need to just say it out loud when we are afraid. It takes the power from fear. Sometimes we are too afraid even to admit we are afraid. We are fearful to give the emotion more power. But you know what, saying it actually depletes its power!
Read through some of the Psalms. So often David, the author, begins his songs with admitting he is afraid, even terrified at times. He calls it out to God and then recites what He knows about God. God is my fortress, my shield, my defender, and so on.
David was on the run for decades from the King, who sought to take David's life. David had real reason to fear, but he didn't sit in fear and do nothing.
Taking positive, appropriate action is always more powerful than remaining immobilized.
What you learn today again, will sound simple, but it will be one of the most important tools you will ever possess to reduce stress and eliminate the power of fear. Are you ready for it?
Move Toward Your Fear.
What?? That sounds contradictory and if you were afraid of a tiger stalking you in the jungle, I would agree with you. Most of what we are afraid of is not life or death, but even if it was, moving toward your fear, instead of avoiding it is amazingly powerful! Why?
Because taking action frees up your mind to problem solve. Even one small step will get you out of neutral and begin the force of motion, in your mind and in your spirit. You will instantly feel powerful instead of weak, competent instead of ineffectual.
A Fear Faced is a Fear Erased.
So much of what we are afraid of exists only in our minds. And even if what we are afraid of happens, we keep breathing, we keep moving forward, we get on the other side of it at some point and go on until the next problem comes up.
Do you know what puts it into perspective for me? I've told you this before: Any day I don't bury a child is a good day. Keeps it all lined up straight for me.
The fact of that is, I have buried a child, and guess what? As wrong as it seemed to me at the time, the sun still came up the next day. I got past even that. I didn't get past it in a day or a year, and in some ways I will never recover completely, but I lived. I survived.
God forbid it happens again, but it could. I can't go through life being afraid it might happen, because the truth is every one of my kids is going to leave this earth at some time. We all have a purpose and a design and on this side of heaven a lot of it doesn't make sense to my little human mind. That's why I'm glad God is bigger than me.
Read Psalm 56:3 and write what who it says we can trust when we are afraid?
So we can stay immobilized and apathetic by what might happen, or we can take action and know for certain what we can do today, and trust the rest to God.
I love this quote but don't know who said it first, so if you do, let me know:
"Change only happens when the pain of holding on is greater than the fear of letting go."
It's like when a small child is holding onto the monkey bars and below, a parent is standing with arms outstretched saying, "Let go, I've got you." The child won't let go unless he trusts the parent completely, or can't hold on anymore and has no choice but to act, and let go.
The longer we hold onto thinking about what we fear, the longer we spin our wheels, the longer we convince ourselves we can do nothing, the more power we feed the fear itself.
In his first inaugural address, in 1933, Winston Churchill said "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
So, what do I suggest? Go back to the five minute concept.
Do one small thing, be it only for five minutes, that will help you solve or understand your problem. Take five minutes and make a list, make a phone call, set a date. Set a timer and work for five minutes on the project you are most avoiding and dreading.
It seems simple and it is. And it works. You will be amazed at how competent, powerful, and effective you feel after just doing one small thing, anything, towards facing your fear down and taking action. It's amazing!
I want you to go do something right now. It might be as simple as taking five minutes to start gathering your supplies to clean the messiest room in the house, or taking five minutes to organize just one kitchen cupboard, or making one phone call to that attorney you've been dreading to make.
Get on the other side of what you are dreading and fearing today! Say the prayer below with me, and then go do it! I'm rooting for you.
Dear Heavenly Father, I want to thank You for giving us the answers when we are afraid. Thank you for supplying us with powerful words to wield at our spiritual enemies. Lead us to look up scriptures on fear when we need Your Power. Help us to take action instead of letting fear immobilize us. Give us courage to do just one thing, or for just five minutes, so we can be conquerors and not slaves to our emotions. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Photo by Bionic Media, courtesy of http://www.photoxpress.com/
Monday, November 15, 2010
Lord, thank you for friends. Work in our hearts so we are sensitive to the needs of our friends. Help us to respond to your urging to reach out and be available. Thank you also for Your Word. Change us daily. Touch our hearts through Your Scripture today and every day. Lead us to open our bibles and invite You to soften our hearts as only You can. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Did the title of this post catch your attention? I hope so. The reality is that we can change our stress level in just five minutes or less, if we take action. That's the third key to living with less stress, and more contentment: activate. It just means doing something instead of stressing.
5 minutes can mean the difference between anxiety and peace.
How do you start your day? Do you lay in bed and spend 5 minutes in prayer, thanking God for another day with those you love, or another day to move closer to your goals? Do you ask Him to make your path straight today; to make you a more compassionate and loving person; or to give you the motivation to do whatever needs to get done today?
That first 5 minutes is the most important time in your day. It sets the tone.
If you have children, I invite you to let them see you pray out loud. It doesn't have to be formal or even lengthy. Pray in the car on the way to school, "Lord, thank you for blessing my kids today and keeping them safe. Help them to learn quickly and easily, and to be a good friend. Amen."
Spend five minutes with Your Father, the King. After all you are His child.
That first five minutes of my day activates my enthusiasm and diffuses any anxiety before it has a chance to take hold. It's the time I receive insight for the day ahead and remind myself that I am not alone.
I think of it like warming up my car in the winter. That few minutes of preparation allows my vehicle to run smoother, and be warm and cozy by the time I put it to work. It gets me organized and my thoughts in-line so solutions come more quickly. And it reminds me that my Father, who made the heavens and the earth, who set the planets in motion, and told the sea how far it can go, can do much better than me in planning my day.
Hey, some solutions require more than I have to give, so I start out my day asking for more than I have.
More often than not, when I begin my day asking God to plan it and make time for everything that needs to get done, amazingly, everything does! It just seems like the hours expand and choices seem more clear.
Read Proverbs 10:27 right now. I'll wait.
The fear (respect, reverence) of the Lord ________ days. I like that. It means He gives you a long life, and an eternal life in the end, but I also like to think of it as prolonging each day so that what must get done, does get done.
If I listen, His Holy Spirit also gives me insights as to what really needs to get done, and what can just as well wait.
Hudson Taylor spent 51 years as a missionary in China. This is a part of the world, remember, in which a person can be imprisoned or killed for simply being a Christian. Pretty stressful, right?
Taylor was asked once why he began each day praying. He responded, "You don't have your concert first and tune your instruments later."
Lord, I ask that You put Yourself first in our thoughts every morning from now on. I ask that Your Holy Spirit bang on the door of our hearts until we let Him in, first thing. Don't let us get away with ignoring You. Help us to see spending time with You as the most important, most beneficial moments we have each day. Help us to seek You first, and trust You will add everything we need the rest of the day. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Photo by Aleksandr Shebanov, courtesy of http://www.photoxpress.com/
Friday, November 12, 2010
Father, thank you for this time. Please help us to honor You with our thoughts and actions today. Help us to be sensitive to Your encouragement, and Your leading. Please prepare our hearts to hear You, and take action. Let us be doers of the Word, and not just hearers. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Read James 1:22-27
Instead of just listening and agreeing with what you know is good to do, go and do it, the writer of James implores us. Too often we procrastinate and let opportunities slip by. At the end of our days, will we regret more what we did, or what we didn't do?
It's easy to intend to do things, isn't it? It's harder to take the first step, but once we do, the rest is downhill. Rick Warren, Pastor and author of the best-selling book "The Purpose-Driven Life" says there are 5 main circumstances, values, or emotions that drive most of our decisions. They are the core forces that shape our thoughts, feelings, and decisions.
He calls them guilt; resentment and anger; fear; materialism; and approval.
I'm going to focus on fear in this study, because it is the most common and debilitating problem facing people today. It's also one of Satan's favorite weapons, because we are all so susceptible to it.
Stress often leads to a feeling of fear: fear of the unknown, of the future, or what might or might not happen.
Did you know anxiety is the problem people most commonly seek treatment for in America, today? May be that's why God provided over 365 scriptres addressing fear - more than one for every day! Over and over He encourages us in His Word:
Don't be afraid, for I am with you.
Don't be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with My victorious right Hand.! Isaiah 41:10 NLT
I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord.
Thoughts of good and not of evil,
to give you a future and a hope.
Then you will call on Me
and go and pray to Me
and I will listen to you.
And you will seek Me and find me,
when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 NKJV
So, the first thing we have to do is call it out. Recognize it is fear that stops us from taking action.
Sometimes the most powerful thing we can do is name what it is we are afraid of. It takes the edge off just to say it out loud.
So, our first step in conquering fear so we can take action, is to name it and say it. It sounds simple, but like all simple things, it works.
Try it. "I'm afraid that if I ________, then _____________ will happen."
Or "I'm afraid that if I ______, then ______________ won't happen."
Now, take a breath. How do you feel? Did the sun stop shining? Did the earth stop turning? Did they take away your birthday?
Now, continue on.
And if what I am afraid of happens, or doesn't happen, what then?
Ok, and after that then what?
And after that, then what?
Keep going till you run out of fears. Are you still ok?
Now what is the likelihood of what you are afraid of happening? 99% of what we are afraid will happen, won't. But if it did - can you, in reality, recover?
It will also really help you to turn to the back of your bible, and look up a few verses on fear. Write them down and when you feel yourself getting caught up in anxiety, pull them out and say them out loud. Say them with power and choose to believe in them!
Shake your fist in the face of Satan, the father of fear, and use the Word of God as a weapon - it will never fail to fill you with the power of the Holy Spirit if you wield it with conviction.
Oh Father, thank You for Your Word! Thank You for giving us a weapon against fear and a shield against anxiety. Help us to use it every time we need it and use it quickly. You tell us to seek You and that we will find You when we search for You with all our hearts. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Photo by Andrzej Borowicz, couresy of http://www.photoxpress.com/
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Welcome back to A Good Bible Study: Stress Less. Let's pray:
Dear Heavenly Father, Abba, you know our hearts. You know the burdens each of us carries, the ways in which we have felt stress and pressure. Lord, show us in Your Word how to live the life of joy and compassion that you intend for us. Help us to remember to authenticate, recuperate, and now activate our bodies, minds and spirits to be powerful and intentional in our lives. Most of all, lead us to know how to love You, and please You, and then to go out there and do it! In the name of Jesus, amen.
The third key to living a life free from stress is Activate!
Think about it: You can spend time praying and meditating on your authentic self all day, and you can rest and let your creative juices perculate till they are spilling over, but what good is any of this unless you put it into action and do something with it?
Proverbs 23:7 says that as you think, so you will act.
Joyce Meyer, in her book Joy Redefined: Loving Others says, "But along with our beliefs, what's most important is how we treat other people we encounter along life's road. It's the truest test of what we believe."
The Word tells us that our fruit, our actions, are an indication of our inner thoughts and beliefs.
So, it's truly a continuum: change our thoughts and feelings through becoming an authentic being of God (the first key); and also keep refreshed by regularly recuperating and refilling our bodies, minds and spirits - both in the Word and physically retreating and resting (the second key); and finally, show the evidence of that internal change by taking action.
You know, I am a big fan of thinking positively. We can choose what to dwell on so why not choose to believe the best: the best of God, the best of others, and the best of ourselves and our future.
But, if we sit around all day believing the best is coming, but never go out to meet it and never bring our best to fruition, then let's be honest, we are just dreaming.
Now we can focus our action on a variety of things. We can choose what will drive our behavior. Some things will bring us more joy and satisfaction, and others will drive us right back to bitterness and despair.
Read Matthew 7:15-18. Jesus says if you want to know what's driving a person, look at their fruit, their actions, what comes of their efforts.
We've got to be very careful because being authentic, meaning being true to our intended purpose and nature (as intended by God) results in activating our gifts and talents to produce good fruit, fruit that blesses our lives, and the lives of others.
Using our gifts to serve God's purpose for us leads to pleasure, joy, satisfaction, and contentment. Using our gifts to serve selfishness (really the purpose of Satan) leads to anger, greed, bitterness and eventually the loss of everything we gained.
Read Galatians 5:19-25
List here the fruit of the flesh (selfishness):
_______ ____ ________
and the like and . . . those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
Now list the fruit of God's Spirit:
Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its (selfish) passions and desires. If we live (daily) in the Spirit, let us also walk (have our intentions and actions reflect) in the Spirit."
How do we know if we being authentic, and if we are recuperated and filled up with the Spirit? We need only look at our behavior, and the results of our actions.
Lord, I want to live in Your Spirit authentically. I want to be recuperated and refilled by Your Spirit every day. And I want my actions to reflect Your Spirit, instead of my selfish nature. I thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit, sent by Your Son, Jesus to comfort and guide us if we accept the gift of His sacrifice, His payment for our sins. I do, Lord. I know that nothing good is in me without You.
Thank you for paying the price for my selfish sinful thoughts and actions. I ask Your forgiveness now, and I am equally thankful for I know even as I ask, that You have already given it. I gratefully accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and open my heart to Your Holy Spirit to live within, and walk with me daily. When my fruit is good, let me dance with joy in knowing I am living out my purpose and using the wonderful gifts you've given me. When my fruit is rotten, I ask you to open my eyes immediately and break my heart with remorse so I can turn off that path, and run back to You! In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Friend, beloved, I hope you prayed along with me and meant every word. If not, then I ask you to simply pray for God to change your heart, so that you can. Love, Karen
Photo by Enter_design, courtesy of http://www.photoxpress.com/
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Do you ever feel that you don't make any difference in this world? Do you feel your contribution is too small to be significant? Do you struggle with wondering if it's worth it to even try?
I want to reinforce what I shared with you about your purpose to God. The entire world might scoff at your worth, but it doesn't change the fact that you were created with a purpose. You are here to be loved by God, and to love Him in return. Pretty simple, isn't it?
Read John 15:9-12
You were designed to enjoy the gifts and talents given to You in your DNA and in your spirit. But, like all gifts - your talent and inspiration, creative efforts, and material blessings are meant to be shared. God loves to see us revel in the joy of what makes us unique, what gives us energy, and brings us laughter and pleasure. You know what, He absolutely beams with pride when we begin to ask Him how we can use those gifts to improve the lives of others and point them to the Giver, Himself.
Read Philippians 2:4
"Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but _____ for the _____ of others."
And John 3:17
"But whoever has this ______'s _______ and sees his brother in ______, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the ______ of God abide in him?"
Let me tell you a story I heard a while back. If you know the original author, let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.
A man walked along the seaside and was amazed at the thousands of starfish that had been washed up on the beach after a storm. A little boy was dashing along the shoreline picking up the starfish and throwing them into the ocean, one at a time. The man laughed a little at the boy's naivete. "Son," the man said. "You are wasting your time. You can't make a difference. There's too many." The boy picked up one more starfish and put it into the water, then turned to the man and said, "Well, I made all the difference to that one."
This boy did not let the overwhelming magnitude of the situation keep him from doing what he could: saving one starfish at a time.
I think Helen Keller summed it up best:
I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something;
and because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do something that I can do.
The magnitude of your circumstances may feel overwhelming. You may wonder if you are significant in any way to the person you help.
Whatever you do may seem insignificant,
but it is very important that you do it.
I don't know who said that first, either, but if you do know, please tell me.
Read Hebrews 6:10
God does not forget when we bless others.
Lord, you created us with purpose and intention. Reveal to each of us this week how we can use our gifts to help someone else. Show us how our abilities or resources can point someone to Your Son, Jesus Christ and to eternal salvation. Let us make a difference to just one; then to many. Show us how significant we are, to You, and to Your plan. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Photo by Paul Moore, courtesy of www.photoxpress.com
Monday, November 8, 2010
Let's pray together:
Lord, thank you for children. Thank you for the children we were, and the children who we will bless and inspire. Give us hearts sensitive to the needs of children, Lord, and help us to worship you as would a small child! In the name of Jesus, amen.
Today is my son's birthday so I will keep this brief so I can honor his special day. I'd like to share with you God's thoughts on children, on this occasion.
Did you know God loves children? Let me tell you, He does.
From the time you were conceived:
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. —Psalm 139:16
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. —Psalm 127:3-5
And as they grow up:
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. —Proverbs 22:6
All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the peace of your children. —Isaiah 54:13
"Jesus love the little children" - remember that song? Jesus cares for children and pays attention to how we treat them.
"At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:10-14
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. —Matthew 18:1-6, 10-14
So, people may have failed you when you were a child, but God saw it all. He loved you then, and He loves you now.
Are there children in your life? They may have no one but you to show them God's love. They may have no one but you to tell them they are special and uniquely gifted.
A child needs to know that their past is not an indication of their future. So do a lot of us adults.
Jess Lair said, "Children are not things to be molded, but people to be unfolded."
Father, help us to cherish the gifts of the child within ourselves, and the child within our influence. Help us to show each child we encounter Your love. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Photo by Pavello Sevsy, courtesy of http://www.photoxpress.com/
Friday, November 5, 2010
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for each way You have made us each unique, individual, and gifted. We ask You to not only reveal our gifts to us in an unmistakable way, but to also place in our hearts a sure knowing of how we can be a blessing while enjoying those gifts. In the name of Jesus, amen.
You know, sometimes it's tempting to de-value something that does not bring in money. "I'd like to take up pottery again, but it's just a hobby."
Other times we de-value what brings us joy and energizes our spirits because someone else doesn't think it's important or necessary. I say if it makes you a better you it's valuable. Your gift, talent, or skill may not be anything spectacular to someone else because it wasn't made for them, it was made for you. The only person who has to be enthusiastic about it is you.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." He wasn't talking about the enthusiasm of everyone else, because most people don't get on board with your dream until you experience success. Then they are all about cheering you on, right?
If you don't have anyone else tooting your horn, it's even more important for you to blast that thing yourself. I don't mean go around bragging about your gifts. I mean looking yourself in the mirror and telling yourself things like, "God loves me. God is always working in my situations. I am an awesome creation of God! I am talented and excited about sharing my gifts to brighten someone's day. God is bringing me people who appreciate my gifts and they are on the way!"
I'd like to especially encourage those of you working in the helping industries. You might be in the health field, or working with the elderly, or may be in social services. There are a lot of jobs in which we see situations that break our hearts and we can't do much about it. Some of us work with people that don't know how to appreciate our help, and they might even resent it on some levels. When you are used to being hurt, you don't go around trusting everyone with their hand out to you.
Helping people who can't - or won't - help themselves can drain your enthusiasm over time. It's even more important in your situation to intentionally build in moments of joy, of passion, or being alive. So, what do you do alive?
Commit to it now. This week for at least 5 minutes I am going to
_______________________ just because I enjoy it and it makes me remember I am alive!
(Just in case, I will say it - if it is illegal, or hurts someone else in the process, it's not building your spirit no matter how exciting it feels and how you justify it.)
This is a good time to bring up one of the most powerful things you can do to energize your spirit, and it's something you can do no matter where you are, no matter who you are with, and no matter what circumstances you are in. If you want to re-fill your enthusiasm, to gain strength when you are empty, and to rejuvenate your spirit when you aren't able to do much of anything else, seek a Holy Spirit encounter with prayer.
God says in His Word that He gives us everything we need. Ask Him. Believe Him. We know we can ask and ask and ask, but if we don't expect an answer anyway, we won't even notice when it arrives. We can choose to remain unhappy even though we pray for joy. We can choose to remain in our circumstance no matter how many doors He opens.
It's like the man standing on his roof during a flood. Three times people row or motor by in boats and implore him to get on, but the man refused. "God will save me," he said. After the man died and stood before God, he asked the Almighty, "Where were you?" God said, "I sent you three boats. Why didn't you get on?"
Read Philippians 4:13
Read Isaiah 40:28-31 and 41:10
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Let's begin with prayer:
Father, today when it seems there are so many things pulling on our hearts, time, and attention, we ask you to give us a few peaceful moments to spend with You in Your Word, together. Jesus gave us Your Peace, not as the world gives it, but a deep and lasting peace in our spirits. Thank You for that. Please help us to rest in Your peace, Lord, when we start to think everything will fall apart if we don't do it right now. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Isn't this a wonderful part of the study? I love that you have spent the last few days becoming aware of how fabulous you really are in God's plan! Hot diggity!
You've got talent, kid, and God wants you to use it. Sing it with me: "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine (come on, no one is around, sing!) this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine . . . this little light of miiiinnnee, I'm gonna let it shine (now belt it!) let it shine, let it shine, let it shiiinnnnneee!"
What? Don't believe that God wants you to strut your stuff? Read these verses:
Dust off those paint brushes, polish your speaking skills, get out your gardening trowel, sit down with pen and paper, shine up your tap shoes, search out scholarships for that training course, get out your gifts and let your light shine.
Your creative gifts are those things that when you do them, you feel most like yourself, the most joyful and alive version of yourself.
So what do you do enthusiastically? What are you doing when you lose all track of time? May be you come away physically exhausted but intellectually charged and emotionally at peace afterwards? What did you do for fun in the 5th grade?
Get out that gift from the things-I-used-to-enjoy box!
"When Howard Thurman spoke, he filled the entire room with compassion, truth, keen intellect, and joy." He mentored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and helped found the first intercultural and interdenominational church in the US (Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples.) Thurman said "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it! Because what the world needs is people who have come alive!"
Now, there are those who are thinking, "Aren't we supposed to use our gifts to serve God?" We will get to that. But, be assured, God loves to see you enjoy the gifts He has given you! It brings Him joy to see you joyful and celebrating His goodness. All good things come from God and when we enjoy what He has given us, it is pleasing to Him that we acknowledge Him and celebrating His generosity.
Read Deuteronomy 14:22-26 (New International Version)
22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always.
24 But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish.
Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. 'Now at first, enjoy being filled up in your spirit. Let yourself have fun again doing what reminds you of what it is like to be alive and creative. Let others be blessed by the new found brightness in your eyes and spring in your step.
27 And do not neglect the Levites (meaning priests or pastors) living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. 28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands."
Are we as New Testament believers called to support the ministry and give to widows, orphans, and the truly poor, as we are able and with happiness that we can help someone else? Yes. I invite you to read 2 Corinthians 8 and other verses on your own in which Paul describes collecting offerings to help the people in various churches, and also to support the leaders in the churches (with basic necessities not rich homes and cars) so they can focus on ministry. But, that's another bible study.
In the meantime, God says enjoy your gifts, and bless others with them as well. So, go and enjoy being the un-duplicatable, remarkable, one of a kind, genuine YOU!
It was Howard Thurman who said, "We were all born originals. The tragedy is that most of us die copies."
Father, You are so good to us! Open our eyes to see You as You are, not what our religious minds have made of You. You are the source of fun, enjoyment, peace, and true joy! Give us a godly sense of fun so that our celebrations honor You. Help us to get over feeling like we are only worthy when we are working, sacrificing, giving, giving up, and giving in. Thank You for helping us to see ourselves as You do: valuable, creative, and life-filled! In the name of Jesus, amen.
Photo by Salvatore Vuono, courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Have you discovered your gift? May be more than one? Share your thoughts with me, I'd love to hear all about it. Let's get excited about ourselves!
For now, let's pray and invite the Holy Spirit to fill us with His Wisdom as we open the Word:
Hello Lord, thank you for this day. Sometimes we are thankful the day is over. Whatever is going on in our lives, please open our hearts to You and calm our spirits. We invite Your Holy Spirit to reveal the kind of wisdom and knowledge only You can give, today. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Yesterday we talked about our spiritual or Spirit-given gifts. Today we are going to talk about what God puts into our DNA, and shapes through our experiences into talents, passions, and callings. Sound exciting? It is - you are an incredible creation. It's time to recuperate our spirits by discovering our creative gifts!
We get dry in our spirits. We get worn down and out. But God created us with passion and joy and some of us only know that we are longing for something, longing to be something or to do something, but we don't know what it is.
Sometimes we think we need a new relationship. Sometimes we think we need a new town. We just get restless because we know we are more than this. We are made for more than this.
You know what? You are right!
We are going to rekindle something placed in you, that was for you. It might be something you used to enjoy but let go when others didn't "get it." It might be something you are not "supposed" to be good at because no one else in your family approves. It might be something you have always admired in others but didn't think your ability was worth improving. Are you starting to get a tingle in your spine that what I am saying is true?
Like me, you are an individual. No matter if you have become a parent, a care-giver, a spouse, a volunteer, an employee, a business-owner, a missionary, a doctor, a servant, unemployed, homeless, friendless, or just empty.
You came into this world with certain dreams and desires instilled in your spirit and it's time to wake them up!
Before we go any further, I want you to spend some time thinking about what you loved to do, or spent time doing when you were about 10 years old. About the 5th grade. How did you play? What made you feel good, or talented, or right?
What did you do because it was fun, or natural, or people complimented you on, or just seemed like the thing to do?
I realized a few years ago that I was lost in my roles of wife and mother. I didn't feel lost, I mean the essence of me was lost somewhere in the layers of who I was to everyone I loved and served.
Everything else seemed secondary and frivolous. But I was shrinking in my spirit. I was giving to everyone but me. I was encouraging my children to dream and discover themselves and celebrate their talents and yet, I denied them a daily example.
You know what I figured out? That no matter what role I have (because things change in life) I am still a woman, a unique individual, with my own interests and talents and dreams. I didn't have to exchange the essence of who I am in order to be a good wife, mother, teacher, volunteer, etc. In fact, I was giving less than I could have because I wasn't accessing my real strength, my passionate spirit!
I started thinking about what I would do as a kid, just because. Can you guess what I came up with? I wrote. I drew and painted. I directed skits for my friends to put on. I rode my horse and played with my dogs and cats. When everyone was asleep on Saturday night, I snuck into the living room and watched Saturday Night Live on low because it was about the only thing I had in my life to make me laugh.
I didn't do any of that stuff anymore. Till now.
I started doing the things that make me feel like me again and it has opened up a new world and a new career for me. I am passionate about my life, all of it, not just the parts that serve other people and so are "worthy."
By recuperating my spirit through using my creative gifts, I am giving my children a more balanced and happy mother, I am setting a great example for them to model, I am a more relaxed and spontaneous wife, and I have more energy to give to the projects I choose to be involved with.
Sure some things had to go so I could become creative, but that's life. We make choices. People get over them.
You know what else? People who have something they are excited about - passionate people - achieve their goals, attract like minded people, experience more joy and feelings of satisfaction . . and feel less stressed.
Luke 8:16 ESV “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light."
Psalm 150:1-6 ESV - "Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!"
Proverbs 15:13 NIV - "A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit."
James 1:17 NKJV - "Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."
Lord, thank you for all the gifts You have given us. Rekindle in us the spark of Your Creative Spirit! Let us get excited about the person You made in each of us. Open the doors for us to praise You with our talents. Let us sing, dance, and get loud about it! In Jesus' name, amen.
Photo by Mat Hayward, courtesy of http://www.photoxpress.com/
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
We are discovering how to recuperate our spirits and today, recognize our gifts. We can't enjoy our lives, or help anyone else enjoy theirs, unless we are running on a full tank of Holy Spirit joy ourselves.
Read Romans 5:5 and write below what God pours into our hearts:
Did you know you are gifted? It's true. May be you weren't in the "gifted program" in school, and may be no one ever patted you on the head and told you so, but I'm telling you now - and here is how I know. Read 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11
Spiritual gifts are given to each of us by God, in order to strengthen us and encourage us in our faith, as well as enable us to help one another.
What are all the spiritual gifts God gives believers through His Holy Spirit (by the way, we've all been given at least one)? Write them below. I've taken the notes from my Nelson NKJV Study Bible to explain further what these gifts are.
Now, the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each of us for the profit (benefit) of all. We are given the Holy Spirit as believers and can manifest or show evidence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives, or be used by Him to help others.
And, prepare to be shocked (some of us): we are all given a spiritual prayer language by the Holy Spirit as well. We are instructed to pray often using this tongue as it is direct communication between our spirit and God, and the neat thing about it is, it keeps our minds out of our spirit's business.
I don't know about you, but I can start getting off on tangents when I pray, and I love that I can't understand or interfere with what my spirit prays in tongues. Sure it sounds strange at first, but I obey God and do it, because I know He knows my heart, and He makes it right, even if I do it wrong at first - so have courage, get off by yourself, and let yourself praise Him in the tongue only He understands!
If this is new to you, stop right now and read 1 Corinthians 14:1-25!
- The Word of ______________ through the Spirit - practical application of knowledge.
- The Word of ______________ through the same Spirit - ability to teach knowledge or doctrine (beliefs)
- ______________ by the same Spirit - the capacity to believe in God for extraordinary deeds.
- Gifts of ___________ by the same Spirit - ability to heal in Jesus' name
- The Working of ___________ - ability to perform miracles and wonders as did Moses and the prophets
- ____________________ - ability to tell a new revelation from God or give a divine explanation of a previous revelation. Paul says that although we all speak in tongues to pray to God for our own needs, he wishes that we would all desire to have and use the gift of prophesy even more, because praying in tongues only helps ourselves, but prophecy (and also the public interpration of tongues) helps everyone else. This is going to be exciting or challenging for some of us but pray, and read the scripture and ask God to help you understand His Word.
- Discerning of ____________ - being able to recognize the work of God versus demonic spirits in the church
- Different kinds of __________ - probably to preach or speak in different human languages miraculously
- Interpretation of ___________ - ability to understand and translate spiritual tongues spoken in gathering of believers so all can benefit
- This gift is not listed in the same verse, but in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 he finishes with saying the greatest gift of all is the ability to love. If we have Christ, we have the ability to love because He is love.
"But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." NKJV
We are also gifted with talents, interests and desires which we will cover in more detail tomorrow. For now, I invite you to pray about these gifts, and ask God to reveal which gifts you have been given to use for His glory.
Don't worry, we've all got at least one. Think about instances in which you seemed to suddenly know something that you didn't know before. May be you can quickly grasp a Scripture and explain it to others. Perhaps you are able to be faithful in any difficulty when others struggle over the slightest disappointment.
Have you ever prayed with someone, or touched them in prayer, and they were healed? Do you have a sense when someone is preaching whether it rings true to His Word, or seems more of a manipulation of Scripture to serve the speaker? Think about what comes easily to you, but not to others.
If you still can't see your gift (s), ask someone who not only knows you, but also is intimate with the Word of God and loves Him. Ask God to reveal your gift(s) and choose to believe that He will.
Let's pray for discernment of our gifts, now:
Lord, what a joy to know that You created each of us with not only a purpose, to be Your child and to be loved by You, but also a divine purpose. We are gifted and special and useful! Open each eye Lord over the course of this day and the coming week to our gifts and how we can be of good use to Your kingdom, Your children. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Photo by Salvatore Vuono, courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
Monday, November 1, 2010
Lord, here we are again, meeting up to get immersed in Your Word and in Your love! Thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit, so we can always receive Wisdom and discern the Truth. Help each of us to be changed by today's message. Let us come to you quicker when we need love, truth, understanding, insight, or comfort. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, amen.
Yesterday we focused on thinking of ourselves less. I don't know about you, but I tend to ruminate on my past. I don't worry all that much about the future, I know God's got that, but my past - well, there's my challenge.
My best defense is to immediately tell myself, "Stop it." Or "So what?" Meaning so what if that's what I did, that was then and if I had it to do over again I would - so move on. The fact is we can't change what anyone did to us, and we can't change what we've done to anyone else. If you are repentant (which means to go in a new direction), forgive yourself and move on.
Satan loves to trip us up with our pasts, doesn't he?
And he loves to use other people to beat us over the head with it. The truth is no one knows our history, or why we've made the choices we made at the time. All we can do at this point is make amends and move forward. If we are sincere, and someone isn't ready to receive our apology or accept the changes we've made, then we've got to move and let God change their hearts.
Read 1 John 1:9
Staying stuck is like continuing to live in the past instead of accepting "life happens, then you grow." I'm not talking about making excuses, I'm talking about accepting who we are and what we've come out of, and allowing ourselves the freedom to be forgiven and enjoy what we've got today.
Read Isaiah 43:25-26 then flip back to 1:18.
God says He forgives and then forgets in a way that is not re-memorable in heaven. So, forgive, make amends if needed, and live new choices. It's easy to say you've changed and people may not believe it until they see it. That's fine because if you are sincere, they will see it and it won't matter so much to you if they do or not.
Sometimes we are the ones who won't let someone else have a new beginning. Sometimes we only see the effects of someone else's past in the way they treat us today. People are in pain all over the world. We see how they are, but we don't see what made them that way.
It's like that t.v show where the people come out after the audience has been given a run-down of what terrible thing they supposedly did, and the audience just boos them as they walk on-stage. So, what's the first thing out of that guest's mouth everytime?
"You don't know me. You don't know me!"
And you know what? We don't. We don't know why someone makes the choices they do, or what pain is underneath that hard exterior. It's difficult to be kind to someone like that . . . but it doesn't have to be.
I'm going to share something with you that made a big difference to me when I managed a shoe store in Sacramento California, and I had to deal with all sorts of people. Some of them had lifestyles that honestly made me feel uncomfortable.
However, some of these same individuals came back to my store over and over to buy shoes. One particular man told me why. He said I didn't make him feel weird or uncomfortable in my store. He felt accepted and important.
From my standpoint, I wasn't there to judge. I was there to sell shoes. But, looking back I can see that one reason I was able to put aside my own judgements and have compassion on some people that would normally lead me to feel awkward myself, was because of something I learned reading about the life of Mary Kay Ash (of Mary Kay Cosmetics.)
In her biography Ms. Ash said something I have tried to remember ever since. "Treat every person you meet like they have a sign around their neck that says, 'Make me feel important."
Can we do that? Can we set aside what we think about someone's clothing, piercings, tattoos, parenting, way of talking, where they grew up or where they live, religion, politics, etc., and just spend a minute making them feel important?
Because they may not be important to you, but they are important to the Maker of Heaven and Earth. God put you in their path just to make them feel His love on earth.
Do you want to feel important? Just go make someone else feel like a million bucks. Your whole day will get better, trust me. Some of you know me personally, and you know I love to compliment people and I love to tell them why I think they are great.
And Mary Kay Ash is a big reason why, and my Father's opinion is the other reason why.
Do I get something out of it? You bet. I feel great knowing I lifted up a friend, or a stranger for that matter. I feel wonderful, blessed, loved by my Father, and important to that person's life.
Read Matthew 5:14-16. You are a light to someone else, and to God.
Read Matthew 23:11-12. Every time you humble yourself to help someone, lift someone, you become greater in the eyes of God.
Read Mark 9: 35 and 10:44-45
Read John 13:12-17.
Jesus always goes first. He never asks us for more than He already gave.
Father, we thank you so much for giving us Your Son. Thank You for knowing what we need before we know it ourselves. Thank You for going first in everything. Give us servant's hearts, Lord. Help us be great in Your eyes, instead of in our own. In Jesus' name, amen.
Photo by Andrey Kiselev, courtesy of http://www.photoxpress.com/