Setting Things Right

The knot in my stomach started a number of days ago.

It came because God was convicting me, and I was busy trying to ignore His gentle confrontation of a sin in my life.

Most people wouldn’t even call it sin.

Joining a health club?

God reminded me of a firm instruction He had given me years ago: “Stop spending money on trying to lose weight.”

The day I joined the health club in June, I remembered the Lord’s instruction but made excuses along the way to justify my actions:

-That was then; this is now.

-It’s not that much money a month, and besides my insurance payment at work is lower than before, so the money can come from what I’m saving there.

-I see people from my church here, so joining must be fine.

-I’m going to wear Christian t-shirts every time I come here and be a witness.

-If I’m exercising more, I’ll lose weight, and I can serve God better.

As I reviewed my excuses, I thought of King Saul  in 1 Samuel 15 when He ignored God’s instruction of “Now go and strike Amalek and completely destroy everything that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (Verse 3)

He told God that the reason he kept some of the livestock back (He also spared King Agag) is that he was going to use the sheep and oxen to sacrifice to the Lord at Gilgal (see verse 21) . The bottom line is that he said that his disobedience (he didn’t call it that) was going to honor God.

I realized that was my spin as well.

My circumstance may not have been as dire as King Saul’s, and the consequences not as serious, but I’ve learned any kind of disobedience has consequences and hurts my relationship with the Lord.

My disobedience became clear in the midst of my looking at my “fast spending” and God calling me to a spending fast. (See last week’s blog).

I knew then that I was throwing money away as I had the other times I had joined health clubs. This time I had convinced myself that things would be different. This “special” lower cost health club was going to be the cure to my bad eating habits and weight issues.

Since I had joined the health club, I had gained weight. It dawned on me that it was because God couldn’t bless disobedience. I knew I couldn’t eat right without His help, and I had forfeited his help because of my prideful, “I know better” attitude.

The day my straying from God’s plan for me and healthy living was made clear, I was tempted to wait a while before quitting, even though I had lost interest in going there. (just like all the other times). I felt embarrassed to have made the same mistake again and to have to admit it to someone.

As I drove to the health club, these three words came to mind, “Tell the truth.”

When I arrived, the young man at the desk was the same one who had signed me up in June. I remembered that he said he liked my T-shirt which said, “Jesus is the anchor of my soul.” If I remember correctly, he had confirmed that he was a Christian.

“What is the reason for quitting?” he asked.

I wanted to tell a partial truth like, “I was wrong in joining.”

But inside I felt an urgency to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

“Years ago, God told me to stop wasting money on trying to lose weight,” I said. “And I disobeyed him.”

He gave a quizzical look at first, and then communicated, “I understand.”

I found myself praying silently that if he was justifying disobedience anywhere in his life, he would deal with it.

Then he handed me a piece of paper to sign which also had a blank after the word “reason.”

“You can just write, ‘it wasn’t right for me,’” he said.

I did write that, and then as I let go of fear of the man or woman after him who would read the paper and label me “one of those Christian nut jobs,” I put down the whole truth I had just spoken out loud.

I lost weight as I walked out of the health club that day—the increasing weight that seemed to be pressing on my soul because of my pride and insisting on my own way.

I thank God for opening my eyes to the habit I thought I had conquered– elaborate excuse-making–and for giving me the courage to resolve the issue, so I could save money and have one less thing between Him and me.

God is so good, He knows me so well, and He’s always right. In this season of giving thanks, I’m thanking God for all three.

Song selection: Trust and Obey sung by Big Daddy Weave

This classic hymn was written by John H. Sammis and Daniel B. Towner in 1887.

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Fast Spending/Spending Fast

I admit it. I have the weakness of wasting money.

Often I try to deny or minimize this problem.

The truth is I tend to spend money to lift my spirits.

One hundred dollar dresses, Coach hand bags, and expensive make-up hold no appeal for me. It’s little item after little item I buy that gets me in trouble.

Recently when my husband and I were looking over our credit card bills, he reminded me of my weakness, and I admitted I was back to doing it again.

Now I felt ready to stop.

Some of my “small” purchases that I turn to again and again are junk jewelry, knick-knacks for the house, Christian wall plaques, inexpensive books, scented candles. And the list goes on. Most items are $20 or less. I buy clothes I don’t need excusing it because I’m buying them at thrift or consignment shops or on a “great sale.” But all these add up.

The other category of my “little” purchases are food items: meals out, extras at the grocery store, some special, magical over-priced item at the health food store (or several), pumpkin lattes, bakery treats.

When I’m at work I reward myself with cafeteria meals, sweets from the gift shop, or a salty snack from the vending machine.

As I’ve been looking at what I spend money on, I see that little of it is what I need. These are impulse purchases to try to make myself feel better when I’m feeling resentful, rejected, or remorseful. Sometimes I’m feeling tired or bored and am buying as a pick-me-up.

Lately I’ve been on a spending fast. I tried to see how many days I could go without making these petty purchases–without spending any money at all. As I did this, I could track my feelings when I felt like buying something. When I realized what I was about to spend money on was about easing my emotional turmoil, I just said “no.”

In 30 days, I went ten days in a row with no spending and had 18 days where I spent zero dollars. Several of the days the spending was on giving money to others (ie money to my granddaughter for work she did for me at the house.)

Before this, I’d say I spent some money most days whether on the computer, at a store or restaurant, or in the work place. On recent days I thought carefully about what I was about to buy instead of just making a purchase because I “felt” like it. I avoided using my credit card and the excuse of “I’m adding up airline points.”

Just as I can binge with eating, I saw that binge-buying was something which easily traps me–even though the purchases aren’t large. It hasn’t been about what I’m buying as much as it’s about why I’m buying.

What I discovered is that there is sin involved with my “little” problem because instead of turning to the Lord to lift my spirits or comfort me, I was turning to the things of this world.

It’s freeing to be able to say “no” to these impulse purchases. I have money in my wallet and more money in my bank account than in months past. My pay check amount is larger (I’m not swiping my work badge in the cafeteria or gift shop anymore.) Our credit card bills are down. Now I’ll be able to give more to Christian ministries.

I plan on continuing this fast for a while and then returning to it whenever I find myself getting caught up in emotional buying. As I’ve been turning to the Prince of Peace instead of petty purchases to deal with depression or anxiety, I feel closer to the Lord.

The verses that came to mind as I thought about this issue today is Psalm 73:25-26: “Whom have I in heaven [but You]? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the rock and strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (AMP)

I know God is pleased each time I choose Him and His love as my treasure and my source above worldly trinkets.

Song selection: “Nothing Better” by John Guera. What a great, peppy song which really lifts my spirits, and it’s free on Youtube.

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The Best Is Yet To Come

The best is yet to come.

Lately when I pray, those words often come to mind. I’m believing they are from the Lord.

On the hard days when I’m discouraged, He proclaims those words to my aching heart, and my spirit lifts.

Recently while in Tennessee with my husband, we visited a church with relatives. The pastor there reported that God had said similar words to him. This is how he expressed what the Lord told him: “You walk with me, and your greatest days are ahead of you.”

He then had us look at Psalm 92: 12-15. He read it from the New King James Version, but I like the extra words that the Amplified version adds, so that’s what I put down in my journal. It’s interesting as a writer that I’m often instructed to not use too many adjectives, but in verse 12, the adjectives are powerful.

“The [uncompromisingly] righteous shall flourish like the palm tree [be long-lived, stately, upright, useful, and fruitful]; they shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon [majestic, stable, durable, and incorruptible]

Planted in the house of the Lord, they shall flourish in the courts of our God.

[Growing in grace] they shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap [of spiritual vitality] and [rich in the] verdure [of trust, love, and contentment].

[They are living memorials] to show that the Lord is upright and faithful to His promises; He is my Rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”

In regard to verse 12, the pastor said that the righteous person is someone who is devout and one who is all in. Yes, that’s what I want to continue to be—devout and all in. Some days I slip back from that, but then God draws me closer to Himself again.

These four verses have spoken to me in the past—especially as I have had on certain days a dread of growing older and have wondered if my best days are behind me.

The words from these verses spoke to me once again. What beautiful promises God gave me to hold onto, especially those in verse 14:

I’m going to continue to grow in grace.

I’m going to continue to bring forth fruit even in old age.

I will continue to be full of sap-spiritual vitality.

I’m going to continue to be rich in the verdure of trust, love, and content.

Verdure is not a word that I’ve used. I had to look it up: “the greenness of growing vegetation; a condition of health and vigor.”

I’m celebrating that God is promising I’m going to stay green in my spirit even as my hair turns gray and my skin gives way to old age brown spots and wrinkles.

What an honor to be referred to as a living memorial to show that God is upright and faithful to His promises.

My life is certainly proof of that. May I continue to proclaim to the world the faithfulness of my God.

And hold to the promise that “The best is yet to come.”

“The Best Is Yet to Come” by Donald Lawrence

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That Was Then, This Is Now

Some days I feel sad about the gap between how I am and how I long to be.

At first I wrote who I am and who I long to be. The truth is that who I am–a child of the King–does not change.

What bothers me is that sometimes I don’t respond in a godly way to life’s hurts and heartaches.

I respond in the old way–like a wounded child who barely knows God.

The enemy wants me to focus on this negative aspect of my spiritual growth–the fact that I haven’t yet fully arrived.

What God has been encouraging me to do is focus on how far He’s brought me on this journey.

Yes, I may have an ungodly response at times, but these days I know it. I confess, and I don’t resort to blaming others and shaming myself. I make sure (as my Bible study teacher has taught)that I’m not wrong long.

If I’m honest, I can see the enormous difference between how I acted before salvation and after–despite my inevitable slip-ups.

One area that comes to mind is in regard to anger. I can feel bad that I still sin when it comes to anger. But in the past if someone lashed out at me in anger, I blasted back and then gave excuses for why that was the only way to deal with the situation. I had temper tantrums regularly. I was easily angered, and I felt I had no control over my behavior.

Once I knew Jesus, He began to transform me when it came to handling my anger. It didn’t happen overnight, but change has come.

When I think of how I handled anger before being saved (in 1977), I’m amazed how far the Lord has brought me. I used to write “how far I’ve come.” But the truth is He has brought me to this place of knowing how to express anger without sinning and admitting it when I mess up.

Not long ago, I heard the song, “That Was Then, This Is Now,” by Josh Wilson for the first time. The message he sings about brings such joy to my heart every time I hear it. I confess sometimes I take for granted the gift of salvation and the God-directed transformation process that follows. This song reminds me to celebrate what God has done and is doing for me and in me.

No, I’m not perfect. I still mess up. But God forgives, and I’ve learned how to move on. He repeatedly shows me the better way–His way, if I’m willing to listen and present to Him a teachable heart.

Today I’m celebrating that once I was lost, but I’ve been found. I am a changed person. The best thing of all is that I have an intimate relationship with the God of the universe, who loves me with His unfailing love.

When someone makes a judgment that I’m not acting “good enough,” to be a Christian, I can say the phrase I’ve seen often in reference to this issue: “God isn’t finished with me yet.”

And I can rejoice over this promise in God’s Word: “…He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return]” (Philippians 1:6 AMP)

God is so good.

Father, I praise You for the gift of salvation and for the ongoing transformation that’s taking place in my soul. Help me to focus on how far You’ve brought me, and help me to maintain a grateful, joyful heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

If you’ve never received the precious gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, click this link.

“That Was Then, This Is Now” by Josh Wilson

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Restored Joy

This past Saturday while attending the Seminole Sound Spectacular, I took a train of thought that brought me to a place of overwhelming sorrow and then tears.

This had to do with sadness over an individual rejecting what I had to say and another loved one’s ongoing rejection of God when once she had seemed to have such a deep love for and devotion to the Lord.

She sent a text which was connected to her rejection of God, and without realizing it I once again entertained Satan’s lie of, “she’ll never come back.”

Later I discovered that the other lies he was trying to get me to believe again were, “It’s all your fault,” and “God doesn’t love you—or her.”

This emotional meltdown was happening with people all around. As the tears flowed, I cried out to God.

I wanted to go home and forget about the remaining marching bands, but I knew that was just a move toward self-pity. My daughter had been there earlier with me watching the bands, but she had to leave. Now I was alone, and that’s when negative thoughts and sadness took over.

Instead of vacating the scene, I dried my eyes and walked toward the crowded stands to find a place to sit.

I sat at the far end of the stands–the only place where seats were available–but I still had a good view of the football field.

The lady I sat next to smiled at me. Her face seemed full of joy. Surprisingly, just that smile and sense of joyfulness lifted my spirits.

I asked, and she told me that her child played in the band at Northside Christian School. So she’s a Christian, I thought.

I said little to her as we watched the spectacular marching bands that presented their shows. These were in the 5A Divison, the larger bands, which means they have 81 or more
higher wind instruments. We proclaimed “wow” and clapped in unison when these bands played, and especially for the Tarpon Springs Marching Band. Amazing. Often laughter came from her mouth. Then I laughed too.

The longer I sat next to this lady, the more joy I felt welling in my soul. The lies of the enemy no longer tormented me. My confidence in the Lord returned. Yes, the music was exhilarating, and the marching impressive. But it was more than that.

After a while I asked if she would save my seat since I spotted my granddaughter a ways off. We had lost track of each other, and her cell phone battery had died. Later I realized she didn’t have my cell phone number memorized, so she couldn’t call me on someone else’s phone.

I connected with my granddaughter, and we came back to where I had been sitting. Once again I sat next to this joyful lady, and I squeezed Destiny in next to me.

During the awards, it was announced that Northside Christian Marching Band won first place in their division. I clapped joyfully and was excited for joyful lady and her
child—even though my only connection with the school was her and that I had been a substitute teacher there years ago.

As I reflected on what happened—my going from feeling full of sorrow as I walked down the length of the bleachers to being filled with joy after sitting down—I knew it had something to do with that lady. She was sweet and joyful, and it rubbed off on me. And somehow that joyfulness chased the enemy and his ability to torment me away.

What I learned from this is to try to maintain a joyful attitude myself, so I can keep the enemy at bay and to lift the spirits of those I walk by, stand or sit next to in any given moment of the day. Also, I can choose to seek out joyful people instead of being around negative people or alone with my negative thoughts when I’m feeling down. If I can’t find a person, the Lord Himself is joyful and I can be restored to joy in His presence.(See Psalm 16:11)

That lady didn’t know what I was going through. She had no idea that sadness had swept over me because of some harsh disappointments in my life. But the Lord used her to help me. She lifted my spirits, and she doesn’t even know it.

I don’t know her name, but I’m thankful for her. And I’m praying that the Lord will cause me to be more like her—someone who is so full of joy that it’s contagious.

Lord, thank You for what You did for me this past Saturday. Thank You for keeping this promise from Your Word “ …For I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13 NASB). Help me to be so joyful that my joy splashes onto others. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

I’m Trading My Sorrow by Darrell Evans

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What Story Am I Telling?

Lately corrections have come from a friend and from the Lord about what words come out of my mouth.

One day when I was speaking of negative things going on in family members’ lives, a friend encouraged me to stop the negative talk, ie verbalizing my fears and worries. Instead she urged me to speak out words connected to God’s faithfulness and my faith in Him.

Instead of saying, “I’m afraid my loved one is being drawn further and further from the Lord,” she urged me to say “I’m believing she will embrace her destiny—that God will make sure that happens.”

Not long ago in prayer time, the Lord encouraged me to focus and talk about prayers that have been answered and express out loud thanks for those rather than speaking of prayers which have not yet been answered and getting trapped in moaning and mourning out loud about those.

Two songs I’ve heard in recent weeks seem firmly connected to letting go of these negative words that slip out of my mouth.

Both songs have to do with telling our stories.

As a writer, I often send out words that speak of God’s faithfulness and my confidence in Him. I’ve had numerous articles published on that theme. These are what I have called “my stories to bring Him glory.”

Yet when I’m in conversation, I too often get caught up in the opposite–telling “sad stories.” These are tales of the bad things that are happening and my grief over the fact that it seems God isn’t doing anything.

It took these two recent reprimands to realize that these “stories I tell” in normal conversation cast doubt on the faithfulness of God. They can lead people away from the Lord rather than toward Him. They hurt my own intimacy with the Lord. At times my tales of woe are fueled by comparing, self-pity, and doubt. I’m praying and believing that God will continue to deliver me from slipping into these destructive mindsets.

My new goal is to tell my story—the story of God’s faithfulness–not just in written form but daily in my interactions with everyday people who cross my path.

Yes, bad things have happened. Yes, traumas, trials, and tragedies have sometimes taken my breath away. But the truth is that through it all God has been faithful. He may not have intervened in ways I demanded or as quickly as I have desired, but He has intervened with His love, His peace, His hope, His strength, and His joy in the midst of sorrow.

He has answered so many prayers immeasurably more than all I have asked or imagined. (See Ephesians 3:20 NIV)

The Word of God warns me not to be naïve about the devices and schemes of the enemy. (See 2 Corinthians 2:11)

I’m realizing that getting me to focus on the negative is Satan’s plan. When he gets me to do that, he has succeeded.

The Word also says that he comes to steal, kill, and destroy. (See John 10:10) He desires to steal my joy, kill my passion for the Lord, and destroy my confidence in a loving, caring God. For moments at a time in my life, he is successful at this. With others he succeeds for years or even decades.

The good news is that God is merciful. He does not hold my
negative words against me but urges me on to a better

He celebrates when I speak openly of His trustworthiness.

I’m looking forward to a new day tomorrow where I can tell the story of my life—the story of God’s faithfulness.

Lord God, please help me to tell the true and uplifting story of Your never-ending love for me and for each one of us.

Here are the links to the two songs about the stories of our lives.

“My Story” by Big Daddy Weave

“Storyteller” by Morgan Harper Nichols (with Jamie Grace)

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To Please God

I confess that too often—even after decades of being a Christian—I get trapped into acting as if my number one goal in life is to please myself.

What do I want to do? What do I need? What would bring me pleasure at this moment? are questions that seem buried deep within that I respond to.

I want to be like Paul who wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:9… “it is our [constant] ambition to be pleasing to Him.” (AMP)

Other times I’ve been caught in the trap of trying to please others.

This verse comes to mind. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10.)

Both of these pursuits—pleasing myself and pleasing others–can bring a distance between me and God. I’m realizing right at this moment that it’s my creating a distance between me and God that can cause slipping into this pleasing of myself and pleasing of others. These two pursuits also hurt my relationship with the people I love the most.

A superior goal which brings great benefits is this one: to please God.

My flesh—the part of me that is convinced I don’t need God and can do things on my own– fights against this.

Not long ago a pastor from my church said the following in a sermon when He was talking about what some think true freedom is: “free to fulfill my pleasures vs free to fulfill God’s pleasure.”

Another thing he said which is connected is: “True freedom is not doing as you please.”

That’s what many in the world teach. Hugh Hefner has preached that message in regard to sexuality for decades.

My Bible study leader teaches a class on how to recognize God’s voice. Not long ago she suggested that there is a way to find out if we are on the pursuit of pleasing the Father in various areas of our lives. We ask Him about it.

Instead of doing the thing that first comes to our minds, we ask questions. Lord, what do You have to say about this? We could also ask, Lord, how can I please You in this area? When people are pushing hard to get us to do what they want, let us pause and whisper to the Lord, “What do You say?”

If I’m not asking God questions or seeking Him in prayer while making decisions and charting the course of my life, I can be pretty certain I’m not seeking to please Him. I cannot say, “I want to do what pleases God,” and then neglect to spend time with Him seeking His will and way.

But I do get caught in that at times. Usually I realize it when certain areas in my life become messy, and I discover it’s not a test from God or a trial to endure. Instead I discover I got to that point because I didn’t seek God but just rushed ahead guided by people pushing me in a certain direction or being drawn by my own selfish desires.

As I look to the Word, I see that there is a distinct way to please God.

Hebrews 11:6 states: “But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him.”

Faith pleases God. When I believe in Him and believe the promises He’s given me and seek Him wholeheartedly and do what He says, He is pleased. He is pleased even if I just seek to do what He wants and fail at it. The good news is that He will reward me for seeking and obeying Him.

Jesus is my example of someone who sought only to please the Father. John 5:30 comes to mind when I think of His perfectly attaining the goal of “to please God.”

“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (NIV)

Other translations have instead of the last phrase, this statement “I do not seek My own will, but only the will of Him who sent Me.” (AMP)

Seeking to please God is to seek to do His will and not my own. More and more, I want to succeed in that. And mercifully, He will help me giving me His peace, His power, and a sure sense of His presence. The key is to spend time with Him in the Word, in prayer and in worship.

Lord, help us today to not seek to please ourselves or other people, but to please You. Help us to be like Jesus in that pursuit. Let us thank God that He equips us “with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrew 13:21 NIV)

Song: “To Be Pleasing You” by The Maranatha Singers

Suggestion: Sing along with this song.

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