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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It's About God, Not Clothing!

We are studying about resisting worry and fear by looking at Jesus' sharing in Matthew 6. He addresses what we gals are really concerned about: clothes! Jesus really does cover all the bases, doesn't He? Let’s see what He has in mind. 

“And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’“ (verses 28-31)

I believe Jesus’ list is a representation of all our needs. He isn’t limiting His remarks only to clothes (or food in the previous verses of Matthew), but is saying, “If God will provide these needs, then He’ll provide every need.” 

That’s why I also love 1 Chronicles 29:11-12. “Thine, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thine is the dominion, O LORD, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone.” (NASB)

Concerned about your finances? God is sovereign over that.  Tweet That! Concerned about getting the promotion you need? God is sovereign over that. Concerned about getting the admiration you need? God is sovereign over that. Concerned about strength to do what God has called you to do? God is sovereign over that too.

And guess what? The best part is that Jesus wants you to feel important, valued, and worthwhile! Not just wants; He longs, yearns, even craves for you to know the significance He places upon you. Because you are His cherished creation, He’s going to meet all your needs. 

Dana Finch discovered that recently. She has spoken for many years in the secular business arena and then felt God guiding her into speaking for the Christian community. She didn’t know how to make it happen, but she had been preparing for God’s provision by setting up her Web site, logo and brochure. 

She told me, “God confirmed His sovereign touch upon it all last Monday when I was teaching a business workshop, and a friend I know from a neighboring town attended. We went to lunch and I shared what the Lord has been doing. She began to smile, so I asked her what she was smiling about. 

“She answered, ‘Dana, I heard you speak last year and immediately began praying for you because I knew you should be teaching Christian women. I want you to be our speaker for our church women’s retreat next Fall.’

“WOW! God reminded me that it was in His sovereign timing and leading that He will give me opportunities. It was a humbling reminder that I don’t need to worry.”

Does God want you to have that job you’re seeking? Then He’ll sovereignly give you favor with the boss. Does God want you to have new furniture? Then He can supply a good price. Does God want you to be on that committee? Then He will provide the invitation. Whatever He wants for you, He will sovereignly provide for you. Tweet That!

But that doesn’t mean that we never take action. His sovereignty doesn’t represent a fatalistic kind of perspective that takes away any involvement and decision-making on our part. We are expected to cooperate with God as we follow His leading in each of the situations outlined above. 

The important thing isn't whether or not we have a big or small part in what God brings into our lives. What I want to emphasize here is that all of our worrying does not contribute anything positive to our lives. We can trust God to bring things to pass as we respond to His leading in every circumstance of life.

(photo courtesy of digitalart and Stuart Miles from www.freedigitalphotos.net)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Worry Doesn't Do Any Good

As we work our way through Matthew 6 about worry, let's be reminded that worry doesn't do any good! (tweet that!)

Anxiety, worry, fretting, or any of its variations don’t do a single bit of good! The whiteout of a snowstorm clouds our spiritual vision, keeping us from believing God is in charge and can do anything He wants. That’s why Jesus continues by saying, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span?” (verse 27)

As someone has said, “God answers prayers, not worry.” You will have more success adding to your life’s span with prayer than you will with worry. Worry doesn’t reach the Sovereign God of the universe. But He is all ears on His throne when prayers reach Him. 

Since commentators say that adding “a single cubit to his life’s span” (v. 27) refers to both the length of life and our physical stature, this verse is for all of us who don’t like the shape we’re in, or the nose we have, or the color of hair, or…whatever. All of us have something in our physical appearance that bothers us. (Tweet that!)

But Psalm 139:13-15 assures us, “For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.” (NASB)

God’s sovereignty extends to every area of your life. You were created exactly the way He wanted you to be for His purposes. Over the years I’ve struggled to trust God’s sovereignty because of what I judged to be a big nose. (Tweet that!) And in my childhood I hated that I was tall. But now those things are insignificant (and no longer sources of worry) because I know my true value and importance are not dependent upon those physical features.

Shirley Shibley learned that this principle applied to the growth of her children. She wrote to me, “When my children were infants I walked with fear at my side. Were they developing as they should? Was I a proper mother? I worried about the soon-to-come ‘terrible twos.’ When I weathered that age, I worried that my toddlers would not be adequately prepared for school. When they were school-age, I was afraid they would get into trouble or fail a grade. And adolescence? I’d seen some children’s personalities change abruptly from sweet to ugly at that age, and I lay awake worrying every time I saw the slightest indication my children were rebelling. 

“Then I finally realized that I had wonderful children and God had been caring for them all along! They grew because of difficult times and mistakes. Worry robbed me of simply enjoying my children at each stage. Now as grown adults, my children are still learning to trust God more and more each day. That is what their mother—me!—is finally learning to do, also.”

Are you learning that too? If you struggle with anxiety about wanting to “add a single cubit” to yourself or that of anyone else, make a choice to say, “God, I am going to trust your sovereignty. You could have made me any way you wanted, and you desired this for me. I choose to trust you and thank you” (and if you need to, you can add,) “even though I’m not completely sure…” By making that decision, even with some reservations, you may be able to cross that worry off your list!

(photo courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn from www.freedigitalphotos.net)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Quotable Quotes: God Understands!

God Understands

Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
--Isaiah 49:13 (NIV)

"Stormy weather is what man needs from time to time to remind him he’s not really in charge of anything."
-- Bill Vaughan

Friday, July 17, 2015

You Are Important to God

We're looking at Matthew 6 in dealing with worry, and it'll give you confidence to know that even though God wants life to be about Him, Jesus goes on to stress how important each of us is to Him. He says, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (verse 26)

When we consider the fact that God isn’t wringing His hands in worry, we wonder why we worry at all. (Tweet that!) Jerry Bridges in his book The Practice of Godliness, writes, “So why do we
worry? Because we do not believe. We are not really convinced that the same Jesus who can keep a sparrow in the air knows where our lost luggage is, or how we are going to pay that auto repair bill, or how we can get to our destination on time. Or if we believe that He can deliver us through our difficulties, we doubt if He will. We let Satan sow seeds of doubt in our minds about His love and care of us.” (pg 158)

God loves us so much that He doesn’t want to add low self-esteem to our worry. Jesus assures us that we are very important, even more important than the birds He graciously provides for. He shows His sovereign care by making sure each of His creatures gets all they need. Yes, there is horrible famine, genocide, and poverty in this world, and terrible things happen even to believers, but I’ve heard of stories from imprisoned believers in third world countries of God providing for all their true needs. They could rejoice in His supernatural care—even without the luxury and “things” that we Americans think we can’t live without. 

On the basis of verses like Psalm 37:25 (“I have been young, and now I am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Or his descendants begging bread”) and Philippians 4:19 (“And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus”), we know that those who believe and trust in Him will be taken care of!

Mary Whitson Langley, a freelance writer, gave me an interesting perspective of this. She wrote me, “My husband used to call me a worrywart. I worried about everything. I often gave God my cares, but I would take them back by constantly nagging God with my worries. I knew that if one truly believed God’s promises, there would be no need for the nagging or worrying, but it was hard to do. 

“Then my husband died a few years ago. Being a twin, I had never been alone, even before I was born. I worried constantly, especially at night. I was lonely and afraid. Then one day I noticed one of those little surveillance cameras you see everywhere. My fears turned to real faith in my Heavenly Father. I realized God sovereignly watches over me like a camera. Luke 12:6-7 tells us, ‘Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.’ (KJV) It is a comfort to know we are always under the surveillance of God’s watchful eye.”

God does watch over us and wants to provide for all of our needs. Of course, for us humans, the problem is that little word, need. Philippians 4:19 assures us, “And my God shall supply all your wants according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Kathy’s version).

You see, God is telling us…

What? You’re saying that verse isn’t correct?

But that’s the way I want it to read. God will supply all my wants

Oh, all right, you’re correct. That verse doesn’t read that way; it actually says, “God shall supply all your needs…” Big difference, isn’t it? I would prefer that He gave me all my wants, but that’s not what is really necessary. Yet God is so generous that He often provides my needs and my wants. Because He’s in total charge of the universe, He can do that easily, with no great effort. 

By the way, maybe that’s why we have a hard time trusting God for our needs or wants. We’re afraid it’s too much effort for Him. We think He’s lost in the snowstorm just like we would be. But let’s be assured that whether He’s providing for the birds of the air or for our needs, both are equally easy for Him. It’s as simple as calling it into existence, like He did the whole universe. No big deal! He’s that big of a God.

My friend and fellow speaker Pam Farrel (co-author of the book Men are like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti) told me the following story of how God sovereignly provided the care she needed. 

She had been traveling with back-to-back speaking engagements and was exhausted. She looked forward to getting to her destination early so that she could take a nap. But when she arrived at the Denver airport, she was disappointed to learn her connecting flight had been cancelled. She would have to endure five hours in the airport—instead of relaxing in a hotel room. She worried about not being rested for her next speaking engagement, and cried out to God, “This sure isn’t taking care of me! I’m exhausted. Show me what to do, because I’m so tired I can barely think.”

As she walked and prayed she spotted an empty gate with a difference—this one had a door to the outside, which was propped open, letting in fresh air! She felt the Holy Spirit whisper, “There!” Pam created her own lounge chair with her suitcase under her legs and her purse under her head. She began reading, but she was distracted when some birds hopped into the terminal and began to feed on crumbs. Again God’s Spirit whispered, “Pam, remember how I take care of the birds? You’re more valuable than they are!” Pam remembered Matthew 6:26 and heard God continue, “I will take care of you!

Within a few moments she drifted off to a sweet slumber—in the airport! When she awoke an hour later she felt completely rested and refreshed, ready to handle whatever else God allowed on her trip.

God is in control. He can do anything He wants! He can provide sweet slumber in an airport or in a high-priced hotel. And we don’t have to get upset worrying about whether or not or how He’s going to do it. Joyce Meyer writes, “In verse 26, Jesus commands us to look at the birds of the air. Have you ever seen a bird in a tree having a nervous breakdown? Just as God feeds the birds and animals and even clothes the grass and flowers of the field, so He will feed and clothe those of us who put our faith and trust in Him.” (pg 121, Be Anxious for Nothing)

(photos courtesy of ambro and stockimages from www.freedigitalphotos.net)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Life Should Be About God--Not Worry!

I'm sure we'd all say that life should be about God, but sometimes worry gets in the way. We become consumed with our own needs or concerns. So let's see how Matthew 6:25 can speak to us.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?” (verse 25) 

We get confused sometimes and worry about the unimportant. Jesus says that our needs aren’t the most significant thing! Worry can obscure our vision, making us unable to see God’s important role in our lives. It’s our relationship—our life—with Him that is significant, not our clothing or food. Jesus is not saying we shouldn’t take responsibility for our lives or that we should be careless about the future. But He doesn’t want us to be worried, anxious, or distracted by the very needs that God has every intention of meeting. 

Notice the emphasis in that verse upon my own needs. He addresses those who are selfishly thinking only about themselves: “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” and “What are we going to wear?” Worry does that to us! It creates insecurity in God’s ability to provide, and then we focus on ourselves. It creates an argumentative spirit within us that says, “What about me? It’s all about me!”

That was our daughter Darcy’s attitude when she was a teenager, arguing with us about our decisions. A strong-willed girl, she could out-debate anyone. We kept telling her, “Please grow up and be an attorney. You’ll be able to take care of us in our old age!” But in the meantime, however, I was frantic as I tried to convince her I was the mother and she was not!

One day I heard of a wonderful retort for Darcy’s persistent questioning. From then on I became a “broken record.” If Darcy was merely arguing for the sake of argument rather than looking for truth, I calmly said, “Regardless of your argument, do what I said.” I kept saying that even though she continued to argue. In time she realized that her questioning wasn’t working and she replied, “Don’t say, ‘regardless!’” Then I said, “Nevertheless, do what I said!”

I wonder if that is God’s response to us when we ask, “What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?”

He’s saying, “Regardless, I will provide for you! I’m God! You’re not! Let me sovereignly take care of you!” 

You may not have a sense that you are arguing with God, but that may be what you are doing when you ask, “Are you going to take care of me, God?”

(photo courtesy of tiramisustudio from www.freedigitalphotos.net)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Your Behavior Reveals Your Heart

In our book Never Ever Be the Same, Larry and I talk about a concept we call, "The Railroad Tracks Syndrome." We see this occurring both in ourselves and in the people we give soul care/counseling to. 

For instance, I say I trust God (one of the RR track rails) but my behavior proves I don't (the other RR track rail). 

I might say, "I trust God's sovereignty but I'm worried about the choices a family member is making."

Another example is, I say, "I know God loves me and wants what's best for me, but what He's allowing in my life right now isn't acceptable." 

In those two examples and in many others, we think we have a monorail in our thinking and behavior (that they are congruent and mesh), but it's not true. Our behavior reveals the lies our heart is committed to. (Tweet that!)

God worked on one of my Railroad Track Syndromes last week. I attended a book convention and had met another author there named Heather. When I was waiting in the hotel lobby for the shuttle to take me to the airport, I saw Heather sitting near by. My first reaction was, "Oh, I won't go over and talk with her because she wouldn't want to talk with me anyway."

I flashed back to an incident when I was in 9th grade. Christine was one of the popular girls in our school and didn't really pay any attention to me. I tended to idolize anyone considered popular and never would have approached her because I felt inferior. But one day, lo and behold, we started talking. I think she asked me about an assignment in one of the classes we shared. 

As I began giving her the information, I thought, I can't believe she's listening to me. This is amazing! Am I actually going to become popular because of this?

I was so flabbergasted that she was talking with me, that I became very nervous and began talking and talking and talking about anything I could think of. (Tweet that!)  I felt compelled to try to keep her attention because it felt like the longer I had her attention the more the possibility that we would become friends. Then I could enjoy the popular group.

But then to my horror, her face began to look bored, her eyes widened, and she opened her mouth as if in shock. She said, "Ok," and turned her back on me and walked away. I knew she would most likely quickly tell someone about my faux pas. 

In mid-sentence, I stopped talking and berated myself, "See? No one is really interested in anything you have to say."

I walked away devastated, knowing that my worth and value had just been trampled. Plus what I suspicioned was true: No one really wants to hear what I have to say.

Of course, I know now that that was a lie. But at the time, it seemed as true as the sky above me. And once I believed the lie, my Vow became, "I must protect my image at all costs."

That contributed, along with many other experiences and lies, to my self-protective sinful strategy: "Don't ever talk to anyone unless you know they won't reject you."

You may wonder why I would call it "sinful." Isn't that just a wise idea to protect myself?

The reason it's sinful is because I'm saying God isn't trustworthy and doesn't love me. How?:

  • I'm not allowing God's view of me as His Princess to define me. I'm looking to the opinions of others to declare my worth and value. (Ephesians 1).
  • I'm pre-determining what I'll do regardless of how God leads me. (Philippians 4:13).
  • I'm protecting myself from hurt when He might want to use something hurtful for my good. (James 1:2-4).
  • I'm saying I will control what happens to me because God can't be trusted with what's best for me. (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  • I'm assuming that I could read Christine's mind when only God knows her motives. I don't know her heart. (Proverbs 20:5).
Because God has been challenging me to repent of my distrust of Him and to have a changed heart about those lies (2 Corinthians 10:5), I saw Satan's accusation in that moment of seeing my friend.

And guess what? I went over to her and we had the most wonderful chat. She said how much she appreciated it and even wrote about it on her blog. Her name is Heather Riggleman. Check out her posts, you'll be blessed by them.

Plus, because I risked and trusted God, she met an editor friend of mine. He happened to walk by and stopped to chat. I could introduce her and they exchanged cards. God knows how He might want to use that connection that wouldn't have happened if I had disobeyed God.

And the important thing is, even if Heather had reacted the way Christine did, that doesn't define me or say whether the idea of going to chat with her was God's will. Regardless of what happened, my value is "in Christ" and the outcome doesn't determine whether I heard correctly. 

Can you recognize a "Railroad Tracks Syndrome" in your life? 
Or is there anything in my post that is confusing or that you don't understand? 
Or how does it "hit" you? 

I'd love to hear from you. 

(And yes, if you want to learn more about these ideas, they are explained in our book, Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today.)

(Photos courtesy of tiverylucky and David Castillo Dominici, found at www.freedigitalphotos.com).

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Quotable Quotes: Disciplining Children

Disciplining Children

"All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." 
--Hebrews 12:11 (NASB) 
Photo by Mark Miller

"The time to start correcting the children is before they start correcting you."-- Homer Phillips