Sunday, June 30, 2013

Growing Grace

Job 4:8
My experience shows that those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same.
Have you ever been taken advantage of?  So much of our culture is about taking care of number one, that people will do whatever it takes to achieve success, even if that means leaving a little damage along the way.  It’s not uncommon for someone to advance themselves at the cost of others by saying things to make others look bad, just so they look better.  It can be hard to live in the midst of that without being changed by it. Some people are in our life but for a season, but they each have a reason. Friends that cause drama might be one of our challenges.  We need to cultivate our thoughts so that we can grow grace.
We have all heard the saying “You reap what you sow”.  In this verse, Eliphaz is reiterating what it says throughout the Bible that sin has consequences.  I’m sure most of us can say that we’ve had conversations that made us think “I talked too much, said too much.”, or we’ve been part of a group and a conversation starts that makes us think “ I really wish I weren’t here right now.”, because the words being spoken are creating thoughts that we don’t want to cultivate.  So, how can we be an ambassador for Christ when confronted with this type of drama?
·         Don’t speak quickly.  Just listen.  Sometimes people need to vent.  Maybe by just listening and then questioning why they feel that way, we could play an important role by helping them to see how this may be hurtful.  Be gracious in responses, not condemning.
·         With God’s help, we can go about our daily lives co-existing with people whose values are different than ours.  But, remember that ambassadors do not abandon their country of origin; instead they are representatives of their country.  So, when we encounter people who “plant trouble and cultivate evil”, we want to remain the people we are and be true to our values without being changed by those people.  Don’t fuel the fire. 
·         Stay true to yourself and to your relationship with Christ. Be a light that gives comfort and encouragement.
·         Point out the positive side of a situation and encourage people to focus on that part.
What if you’re the person who has been wronged? It hurts and it’s hard but I Peter 3:9 tells us Don’t repay evil for evil.  Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you.  Instead, pay them back with a blessing.  That is what God has called you to do.  We would love to hear from you!  Our goal is to build a community of encouragement.  Would you share an idea of how to pay someone back with a blessing instead of insult? Let’s help each other grow in grace by commenting below.
Passages to ponder this week:
·         Hosea 10:12- I said, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love.  Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and shower righteousness upon you.
·         Galatians 6:7- Don’t be misled- you cannot mock the justice of God.  You will always harvest what you plant.

Contributors: Karen Bromby, Monica Brown, Jamie Leary, Kim McClure, Marla McDonald and Shawna Nelson

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Before You React: Rest, Reflect and Revisit

Psalm 4:4  Don’t sin by letting anger control you.  Think about it overnight and remain silent.
When you are in a relationship, there are bound to be disagreements.  This is true in any relationship.  Disagreements occur between spouses, significant others, parent/child, siblings, friends, neighbors…the list could go on and on.  When disagreements occur, most people react negatively.   In the verse above, we are told not to be controlled by anger, but to think about it overnight and to remain silent. Silent? Really? The NIV says “Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” This plainly tells us not to react quickly when we are angry. It isn’t a sin to be angry, but we can’t let those feelings control how we react to a situation.  Words that are said in an argument can’t be taken back, and although they might be forgiven, they are rarely forgotten.
            When two people decide they are going to get married and share a life together, disagreements will occur because these are two DIFFERENT people. When these things pop up, our reaction is the key.  The smallest part of a ship, the rudder, guides the whole thing.  Our tongue is our rudder:  small, but powerful.   Read this personal story shared by our contributor, Kathy.
I am the type of person that likes to step away from disagreement, be alone for a bit, and then talk.  My husband of 36 years has never been like that.  He wants to resolve and move on.  Many times I have been guided by the Holy Spirit not to say something, and oops! It comes out.  Then it seems that a bigger argument ensues.  I should listen to the Holy Spirit the first time. 
What about disagreements with our children?  The same rules apply.  Instead of reacting quickly, taking a “time out” helps keep perspective and respect in the relationship.  Each child is different.  We can say the same thing to each of them and they will take it totally differently.  It’s hard to change the way we parent to accommodate each individual’s need to get our point across without hurting them, but it’s important to try.
So, what can we do:

Rest-   Rest is essential to functioning normally physically and emotionally.  If we ask, God will work in us while we sleep.  He is faithful.  You’ll never regret waiting on the Lord to change your perspective overnight.
Reflect Remember that if we try to do everything in love, it will work out. React less, reflect more.
Revisit After you have rested and reflected, revisit the issue by discussing it calmly.  Be careful not to brush it off the next morning.  It is very easy to wake up and brush the whole disagreement under the rug.  The more that happens, the easier it is to do.  After time, this can put a wedge in your relationship.  You need to be open and honest, while being respectful with any and all responses.
Passages to ponder:
Lamentations 3:22-23 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
Proverbs 15:28 The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.
James 1:19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters.  You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
           Father, I ask you to be with each person reading this, and to help them know that You are faithful and that Your mercies are new and fresh every morning. Work in us while we sleep to change our perspective into yours.  If there are people reading this that are having trouble resting due to stress or time constraints or whatever life is throwing at them, please grant them the rest that they need.  Help us all to think carefully before we speak, and to be have a spirit that is willing to listen and reflect before we do.  Amen
Contributors: Karen Bromby, Kathy Derda, Tammy Holtzapfel and Kim McClure





Sunday, June 16, 2013

Just Say No to Jealousy

Job 5:2  “Surely resentment kills the fool, and jealousy kills the simple.”
Do you have “that friend”?   You know, the friend that always posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram about her perfect husband, and her kids that make straight A’s, living in the perfect house where she prepares fabulous gourmet meals nightly.  You know…HER! The one that makes you feel a little jealous.  Newsflash! If the only thing about her life that you see is what is posted on social media, you are only seeing the part she wants you to see.   AND I’m just going to come right out and say it..regardless of that, you  should be happy that she has so much to be joyful about.  Success comes and goes for all of us throughout life, so let’s learn how to be happy for each other when successes come, because we need each other when they go.    I believe that Facebook and other forms of social media can be used for good.  It can actually be a place of encouragement, and positive experiences.  It’s your CHOICE on how you want to perceive things.  The writer of a post that you might find “braggy” may actually just want to share something positive with friends.  If that person’s intent is to give praise for achievements or blessings we should be supportive of them, especially if they acknowledge God’s role in it.
Jealousy destroys relationships and deters us from reaching our own potential.  Focusing on someone else’s successes while bemoaning how you don’t measure up,  means that you have lost focus on what God has done for you.  Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.  God has a specific plan for each of us, even for “that friend”.  We need to remember that what we see as “not measuring up” or “things not going our way” is often God closing a door to reveal something better for us.  When we are jealous of others, it’s like saying that we are unhappy with how God is handling things in our lives, and when we allow ourselves to feel this way it can lead to bad judgment.
What can we do to help fight these feelings? 
·         Recognize the triggers. We all know what gets to us.  Avoid situations where this tends to happen.
·         When jealousy starts to creep in, take that thought captive, admit it, confess it to God, and ask Him to make your thoughts obedient to His will. It's a daily battle in our minds and we need to fight it every day with God’s word
·         Think about life in the long run.  Don’t allow yourself to be consumed with worrying about “right now” because God works everything out for His good and in His own time.
·         Count your blessings.  If you focus on what you don’t have, you’ll never be satisfied.
·         Accept that things are never going to be perfect.  This isn’t Heaven, it’s a fallen world. Be thankful in whatever place He has put you in.( and bloom like a sunflower)
·         Celebrate others’ happiness.  Even if you have to force yourself to do it, congratulate them on their accomplishments. You might find that your heart will follow this lead and actually mean it.
Think that sounds impossible?  Here is a personal testimony shared with us. 
                God can help you overcome jealousy.  Two of my friends became “BFFs” and it made me feel like I was in middle school again.  The jealousy ate away at me, and I prayed so hard for God to take away those destructive feelings. Each time I saw them together (which was a lot), I had to pray, but He took those feelings away.  The first thing He had me do when those feelings would start creeping back in, was  ask myself “How can I bless them?”, “How can I show them God’s love?”.  I believe that by taking away my selfish thoughts and turning them back to God and others, He relieved me of the pain associated with their friendship.  That was years ago, and they still exclaim “my BFF!!” about each other, but God virtually extricated the jealousy,  and now I give thanks for their strong relationship. Only God could do that!
Two of our contributors mentioned books that they read that helped them change their perspective.  You might want to check them out.
Interrupted  by Jen Hatmaker
What’s So Amazing about Grace? By Philip Yancey.
Here are some verses to pray and ponder this week:
"For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."- Jeremiah 29:11
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world."- John 16:33
For jealousy and selfishness are not God's kind of wisdom.  Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.  For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.- James 3:15-16 
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful.  He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.  When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.- I Corinthians 10:13
It is a daily thing, bringing our lives before The Lord and wanting Him to shine through us so others know it is Him that gives us the peace and joy the world cannot bring, so let’s do it! Rock happiness and celebrate being you, because you are uniquely created to glorify and reflect God.
Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Monica Brown, Maria Kucharczuk, Jamie Leary, Kim McClure, Marla McDonald, and Kristy Tolley


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Problems and Predicaments can’t stand up to Prayer and Praise

Job 8:5-6 “But if you pray to God and seek the favor of the Almighty, and if you are pure and live with integrity, He will surely rise up and restore your happy home.
When problems come up in your home, or just in life, pray about them first.  Many of us go to our friends first for advice or comfort. Friends are important, and God wants us to have them, but He wants us to come to Him first.  Turning things over to God shows obedience to your faith, instead of obedience to your own desires. The Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years on what should have been an 11 day journey because they wouldn’t listen to God and trust Him.   Speak to God from your heart, totally open your heart to Him being fully aware that you are not worthy to ask Him anything, and ask to feel His presence.  Don’t be discouraged because you feel that you can’t live a pure life full of integrity.  Here’s the basic truth. We have the blood of Jesus Christ to make us clean.  Job  did not.
 Job was having a rough time.  He lost everything.  His children were killed, all of his money and all of his stuff was taken, his wife turned her back on him, and his health failed- all in a matter of days.  Job really had to trust God to make it through that time in his life.  The words in the verse above were stated by a friend of Job’s, named Bildad. After you’ve prayed about your problem, go to your friends.  When you’re choosing which friends to seek out for advice, go to friends that share your beliefs.  This helps avoid confusion and helps insure that God’s priorities will be in their advice to you.  Sometimes when friends are sought for counsel before bringing a problem to God, it ends up being a gripe session or a pity party.  Nothing is ever accomplished except for the temporary relief of feeling “Glad I got that off my chest”.
When we live in truth, God will lift the burden from our lives. It may not happen almost never does.  One reason might be because you’re trying to force things to happen quicker.  He doesn’t need our help.  Our worst judgment of our great God is not believing what He says. You can’t ask Him to do something for you, and not believe that He will.  Now, it is important to remember that His restoration rarely looks the same as we imagine it.  Don’t miss His answer because you are looking for something in particular in return.  Restoration in Christ is always better, but not always easily recognized. 
                What can I do while I am waiting….
·         Write things down when you face challenges.  When something on the positive side happens in the situation, write it down.  It will help remind you that you’re on the path to it getting better.
·         Volunteer to help others or educate yourself on issues that others are struggling with.  This may help you to see that your problem isn’t as awful as it seems.  If everyone put their problems in a pile, and then we had to run and grab some..I’d probably end up grabbing my own after seeing others. (especially if Job was participating).
·         When the pressure builds, burst out the blessings that God has promised in His word.   If you don’t, you might cave into that pressure.  Here are some blessings to burst out. Just do it! Say them out loud and believe them!
o   For I hold you by your right hand- I, The Lord your God.  And I say to you ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.’- Isaiah 41:13
o   In His kindness, God called you to share in His eternal  glory by means of Christ Jesus.  So, after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation.- I Peter 5:10
o   The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm- Exodus 14:14
o   This is my command- be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.- Joshua 1:9
Father, I ask you to bless the women that are reading this and help them to know that You are holding them by the hand and that you are here to help them.  Thank you that you will restore us, support us, strengthen us, and place us on a firm foundation after we have suffered a little while. While we are still going through our troubles, Lord, help us to remember that you are fighting for us, and that You want us to stay calm and seek Your face. Please give us the strength and courage we need as we wait for Your restoration.  Amen
Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Monica Brown, Kathy Derda,  Jamie Leary, Kim McClure and Kristy Tolley