WE WILL REJOICE AND BE GLAD!

The holidays are drawing near. Many may wonder if they will be alone yet again this year. Friends and family may be far away or busy with their own plans, but no matter the circumstance, there is one who knows your loneliness. No one has to go through life all alone.

I love Psalm 118:14 (KJV). It says, “The LORD is my strength and song and is become my salvation.”

Who is this LORD? Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son. The psalmist is rejoicing in the One who can get us through any crisis. He is our strength! When we feel alone, our LORD is with us. We can be joyful because we have a constant companion!

How does this work? Jesus came as a baby, then was crucified on a cross, and rose again. His death was God’s way of dealing with sin in the world. Jesus paid the price God requires. Sin must be punished. Jesus took the punishment on behalf of all mankind. When He rose from the grave, He ascended into Heaven. Then the Holy Spirit came to reside in the hearts of all Believers. Consequently no one who has repented of their sin and called upon the name of Jesus for salvation from the punishment for sin is alone. The Holy Spirit comes to live in the heart of the Believer.

Therefore the LORD truly is with us, giving us strength to endure any situation. When life gets tough, I go to Psalm 118:24:  “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

The LORD already knows what a day will bring, whether sorrow, hardship, or joy. He knows and understands our trials and fears. He is aware of our disappointments. Yet, despite all we face, He never leaves or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).

We expect to suffer trials and troubles, because we live in a sin filled world where the sin nature present in each of us has predominance. We must constantly strive to obey our LORD.  With the help of the Holy Spirit and guidance from the God’s Word, the Bible, we can choose to live a life that is pleasing to God.

We can choose to embrace the life He gives us, rejoicing in each day. To enjoy the happiness we can find in each day, we must choose to rejoice and be glad despite our circumstances.  We may repeat that part “we will rejoice” with gritted teeth, but we can know with certainty that we are not alone in our anguish.

I will rejoice and be glad!

I choose to trust Him with each day of my life.

That trust in Him gives me peace because I know He is faithful to do what He promises. Without Him, I will fail and fall. With Him, I can overcome. I will rejoice with thanksgiving because He is faithful even when I am not.

This holiday season let us rejoice and give thanks!

*Let us give Him thanks for His many blessings!

*Let us praise Him with love and joy for His gift of redemption and forgiveness of sin.

*Let us give thanks for our hope for an eternity spent with Him.

*Let us thank Him for revealing Himself to us.

 

by Linda Hull

Do You Thank God For Your Blessings?

Do you thank God for your Blessings? It seems I spend more time in prayer asking God for things rather than thanking Him for what He’s done.  In my self -pity, I seem to compare myself with friends and people I admire. There’s always someone who is more talented, more popular and more organized. I should remember to be thankful.  For example, I am thankful God hasn’t answered all my prayers.

 Earlier, in my prayers, I had asked God to help me get on the basketball team.  Emma, a friend, lives down the street. She is great at sports.  A few weeks ago, I was embarrassed  in front of the rest of the team, when Emma, team captain, of the after-school basketball team, and the most popular girl in class said to me, “Alyssa, I don’t want to make you feel bad. But it takes a lot of running and dribbling, and co-ordination to make the team. Isn’t that right, Mary?” Emma nodded to her second-in command- standing beside her.

    “That’s right,” Mary said.  “You know Alyssa, you made a lot of mistakes this afternoon. And you missed all your basket shots.”

    “Maybe, you should try out for the volleyball team,” Emma said. “They don’t have to move around the court as much as we do. They stand more in place. I think volleyball would be a lot easier for you.”
    I nodded. I was so embarrassed, I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide.   After dinner that evening, my mom tried to tempt me with my favorite desert- chocolate pudding, and I didn’t even want any.

       I had asked God for His help to get on the basketball team, and I didn’t make it. I was sad. Could I look at the situation the way God expected me to do? Finally, I sighed, as I admitted to myself, it was true,  I wasn’t very coordinated. Once I almost fell down trying to dribble a pass ball from a team member.

     But now, I feel a lot better these days. I’m on the volleyball team, and I’m serving good shots over the net. I’m enjoying myself. I’m exercising and getting physically fit, and I think this is the plan God had for me, even though it is different from what I had wanted.

    There are times, I’m sure you will agree, we’ve spoken a cross word to a friend or a loved one, or a time when our younger brother or sister tried our patience.  I remember while enjoying my own good health, I forgot to visit my friend Debbie, when she was sick.  I know she would have been glad to see me.

      When I enter into self-pity, I try to think of all my blessings.  My first blessing is my physical and mental good health.  A second blessing is my Christian home and family. I remember my personal possessions and all the wonderful things I have– my room, my TV, my computer, and my cell phone.

    When I think of all the abundance I enjoy compared to the rest of the world’s population.  I know God has blessed me by letting me live here, when I remember there are millions living in poverty in many countries in the world today.

    God didn’t promise to grant me all my wishes, but He did say He’d meet my needs.  It’s time to trust God and know that He has our best welfare at heart, and He knows our future. I should be more grateful.

     It’s time to count my blessings and thank God for His goodness to me. I should say, “‘Thank You, God, for all You’ve done for me, and for all You’re going to do'”

    I think I’ll begin right now!

written by Evelyn Horan

Pencil Skirt Pride

Pride always seems to get in the way of pleasing God. I know because it happened to me.

When I started a new job, I wanted acceptance and respect as a true professional. A shopping trip was the first step! I really needed some new outfits meant to impress.

That navy blue suit was a perfect fit! I was bursting with pride when I wore it! It had an adorable little jacket and a pencil skirt that fell below the knee. A white blouse and black shoes completed my professional outfit.

I received several compliments from the older ladies in the office, who were just a little tired of the more casual attire worn by some girls. I was quite pleased I measured up to their high standards! The other girls didn’t say anything, but that was okay.

Right off, my boss gave me an important task to do that day. I was to go over to one of the government buildings to pick up some paperwork. No problem!

I found a parking place and started walking to the building. That’s when I discovered I could only take very tiny steps instead of my usual longer stride. I hated to admit it to myself but that skirt just didn’t have any give to it at all.  It was a bit of a hike and my time was slipping away. It was impossible to hurry.

When I finally made it to the building, my next obstacle loomed before me. To my horror there were about fifteen steps to the building’s main door. How does one get up steps if you can hardly bend your knees?  

I stood there, hoping  no one noticed I was deliberating about how to get up the steps. Obviously, my beautiful outfit was more suited for church, not office work. I had no choice but to swallow my pride and hike my skirt up a bit so I could go up those awful steps.

I am reminded of the verse in Proverbs 16:18 (KJV):  “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Another verse that comes to mind is found in 1 John 2:16: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

Later, I had to admit to myself and God that my goal in wearing my gorgeous suit was to draw attention to myself. I wanted to show up the other girls in the office. There was an attitude in my heart that set myself up as better because I had a much desired position in the office. It wasn’t about looking good, but about setting myself apart in arrogance.

God doesn’t mind us dressing up for an important event. He doesn’t mind when we excel and do well. He expects us to do our level best in every situation, not purposely fail.

To do our best, we need to turn to Him in prayer asking for His direction and guidance. Our focus is to be on how we can please Him, not ourselves. Instead of seeking our own acclaim, let us take pride in what our Lord does! He alone deserves the praise and glory! Our joy comes from knowing that we are pleasing to Him.

A thoughtful reminder from the Apostle Peter:

“…be clothed with humility:  for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the might hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:  Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:5b-7

Every time I begin to feel prideful, I am reminded of my humiliating experience in a pencil skirt. I remember to trust God to help me to be the person He wants me to be.

Written by Linda Hull

Does God Care About Our Daily Needs?

How do I know God is a part of my daily life?  Every time I begin to think God is too busy in His Heaven to remember my needs and wishes that might seem trivial, I try looking for Him in my routine activities.

I remember one busy morning I had to shop in a short time. I needed an indoor basket plant for my friend, Helen who was recovering from a short illness, and I had other shopping to do.  Knowing that florists expect a “good price” for the sort of dish garden I wanted, I thought of a large discount store outside my neighborhood.

But I don’t enjoy visiting this store because it’s always crowded.  Still, I felt an inner urge to shop for groceries items there.  Just as I expected, when I arrived, the store was filled with shoppers.

Then I prayed, “Dear God, please help me find a gift for Helen.”

Inside the store, with shopping list in hand, I came upon a temporary table of assorted,  dish garden plants. I couldn’t believe it!  They were exactly the kind I wanted, but much more beautiful than I’d even imagined.

“I must have one of those basket plants,” I told myself.  I knew Helen would enjoy the plants.  Cautiously,  I read the sign and then looked again.  It was true, these large, healthy dish gardens were moderately priced.

“Thank you, God,” I whispered.

Then further down, on the right, there was  a display table of children’s books.  As I browsed through them,  I found a beautiful picture book showing the life of Jesus.  It too was moderately priced. The book would be the perfect gift for my young granddaughter Alyssa, whose birthday was in a few days.

“Thank you, God, for sending me here,” I murmured happily, reaching for the picture book.   Through my prayers, God had helped me find the things I needed today.

At home, relaxing after shopping, I thought about my morning.  And I had to remind myself once again–when I take the time to look for Him, it’s easy to find God doing wonderfully, unexpected things in my ordinary life.  I just have to stay alert and recognize them.

When I do, I find the reassurance that these little “special favors” are God’s way of showing me that I am not alone to meet the challenges in my life.  They reveal that God is here with me, helping me, and smoothing out my way in my day to day needs.

Isn’t it wonderful how God makes His presence known to us in ordinary ways all the time!  What a joy to know God is here in our lives, helping us, and blessing us every day with His faithful love.

Written by Evelyn Horan

Healthy on the outside, a mess on the inside

I was a fat kid.  I was teased relentlessly for it, and in sixth grade, I discovered this great thing called exercise, and I lost over twenty pounds.  It felt like a miracle!

The thing was, though, I was skinny fat.  I hated vegetables.  I didn’t eat much fruit.  And I loved carbs almost as much as I loved fast food.  I discovered that I could eat what I wanted to, if I just did enough aerobic exercise.  And so I did that, for a really long time.  It didn’t matter that I felt yucky as in always, always tired, and that I got headaches constantly.  All that seemed to matter to me was that I appeared healthy on the outside.

Even as I was destroying myself on the inside.

It caught up to me.  Autoimmune diseases are knocking on my door.  I’m not that dummy who says, “Huh, how did that happen?”  I’ve had a conscience about this for years.  For the last decade at least (told you I’ve been doing this for a while), I’ve been feeling guilty.  I felt like an addict:  after every cheeseburger and French fries from McDonald’s that I consumed, I’d tell myself it was for the last time.  Next time I was hungry, I’d eat a carrot.  Except I didn’t.

Joint pain, fatigue, and abnormal blood tests made me change my life around.  I eat healthy now.  Not that I didn’t throw a million tantrums in the grocery store when I realized EVERYTHING I ate before had tons of sugar, gluten, or chemicals in it.  The first three months were the hardest, but I’d allow myself one cheat day a week, and I discovered after eating clean, I no longer liked the processed junk.  I no longer understand why I liked it to begin with.  And I feel amazing.  I feel young, even if the date on my license tells me that I’m not.

My eating habits have reflected my spiritual life more times than I’d like to admit.  I’d nurse that anger, focus on the negatives rather than the positives, focus on myself rather than consider anyone else’s needs, and overall let myself slip into habits that I knew weren’t necessarily practices I was proud of.  But I still went to church.  I still read my Bible.  I still prayed (if praying, “Please let this crazy annoying driver in front of me turn left while I turn right” counts).

Semi healthy on the outside.

While decaying on the inside.

If doing the wrong thing makes us feel so horrible, and doing the right thing makes us feel so amazing, why do we keep chasing the wrong choices?  For me, it was about habit.  And comfort.  Familiarity makes me feel safe.  And, to be brutally honest, because I am, you know, incredibly lazy.  So much so that it sometimes frightens me.

Creating my own illnesses scared me straight.  I realized I was poisoning myself by being so lazy that I wouldn’t look up new recipes or buy unfamiliar produce or try something new.  And each time I go out of my comfort zone and smile at a stranger and ask them about their day or do something selfless, I understand that my spiritual life is the same type of thing.  While I may know what nourishes my body, it does no good until it is what I choose to consume.  And while I may know the difference between wrong and right, it doesn’t do any good until I choose to engage in the better choices.

I don’t want to be fake.  I want to be as real as I can be from my soul outward, and I want to shine a light that makes other lives better.  Religious practices mean nothing if you aren’t communicating with the Savior and putting yourself out there as His vessel.  What is right isn’t always easy.  But it is always worth it.

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does.  James 1:25 (NIV)

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Believe In What You Do: Tying Faith And Career Together

There are times when it feels like your beliefs can rub up against the world outside in a way that often isn’t immediately a fit. A lot of young Christians find that when it comes to career. However, the truth is that your faith and your work can have a much deeper relationship than many expect. The conventional wisdom of the modern workplace and the wisdom of your faith aren’t incompatible. Here, we’ll look at ways that you can resolve those seeming mismatches and find a career that fulfills and works with your spiritual relationship.

Be true to the values

One of the easiest ways to reconcile your beliefs with your career is to focus on a job that speaks to the very core of your faith. There are few things more Christian than healing the sick, for instance, so finding a career in healthcare can be just the kind of mentally and spiritually nourishing work that helps both aspects of your life co-exist. Or you might consider the careers that follow the path of addressing the inequalities of the world, such as working in foreign aid or in taking paid positions for nonprofits that are at the forefront of battling many of the issues facing modern society.

Spreading the word

Sometimes, the best way to reconcile faith and career is the most direct path. Not every religious person should immediately think about taking a religious job. However, if your faith is not only your moral compass and your guiding path but is a true passion for you, then it only makes sense to follow a career in that position. There are a lot of directions you can take in it, too. A Master of Divinity degree, or a MDiv, can lead to a career path in the church, for certain. But it can also provide a bedrock for a more scholarly approach to religion, including teaching religious studies that can deepen your understanding and relationship with your faith.

Being a believer in the workplace

If you choose a career path outside the church, as you may very well want to, it’s important to realize that there might be some challenges when your faith comes face-to-face with the workplace. If you’ve been raised in a religious family and in a tight faith-based community, then it might feel natural for you for your beliefs to be a natural part of life and conversation and never far from your mind. However, it can cause some challenges in the workplace. It isn’t sacrificing your ideals or compromising your spiritual self to realize that advice based on the scriptures might not play too well in a professional environment. Rather, keeping your faith personal can be tremendously helpful. Prayer is often a great tool for fighting workplace stress and taking the Christian view on showing compassion to wrongdoing can help you contribute to a better workplace, even if you’re extolling the virtues of your belief directly.

Keeping your ties

The more major problem that many young professional Christians have is keeping themselves tied to their faith while in the working environment. For one, if you really want to succeed in your career, as your faith supports, then it can take a lot of time. Making time for God, and touching base with your spiritual self is important. Prayer and seeking the advice of your pastor or reverend can help you reconcile your faith and some of the difficult workplace related choices. For instance, many face issues when it comes to aspects of self-promotion and pride in the workplace that might be helped out with some advice or introspective prayer if you just take the time for it.

Be true to you

Most important of all, you should realize that God doesn’t intend for you to make your relationship with him the only thing in your life. It should always be there, but you are also on the Earth to do good here and to engage here fully and with confidence. If you have a passion, then figure out what it is and how you can make a career with it. So long as you keep your relationship with your faith and keep to the example set by it, there should be no conflict that stops you from working in the field you truly want to.

It can feel like treading a thin line when the modern working culture seems to prioritize ruthless competition and sometimes selfish behavior, but there are a lot of different work environments and career paths where you can find your fit. Hopefully, the tips above help you find them.

 

Saving Smiles One Bracelet at a Time

One in 700 children are born with a cleft palate, a common birth defect that happens when parts of the lip and mouth do not completely fuse together. If not treated, it can cause serious lifelong problems, such as difficulty breathing, dental issues, and speech impairments. Fortunately, it can be corrected with a surgery…unfortunately, not many families can afford that, especially in third world countries where medical treatment is not easy to come by. That’s where Nandini and Sanjana come in. These two fifteen-year-old girls are co-owners of Side by Side Smiles, a charity dedicated to raising money and awareness so that babies born with cleft palates can get the treatment they need so that they can live full, normal, and happy lives. I’m so thankful I had the chance to interview them and find out more about this important cause.

 

R: Tell us about Side by Side Smiles. How does it work?

S: Side by Side Smiles is a charity started by us in January of this year. We sell five-dollar charm bracelets that we make by hand to raise money and awareness for children who cannot afford cleft lip palate surgeries. Currently, we make and sell our charm bracelets and accept donations to raise money.

 

R: What inspired you to create this charity?

S: Nandini was born with a cleft lip, but luckily had access to the care and resources she needed. Nandini was fortunate enough to grow up with a normal childhood. Earlier this year, she realized that not all children with clefts are lucky enough to get the opportunities she did. So Nandini decided she wanted to help make a difference. When she asked her lifelong best friend Sanjana if she wanted to be involved, Sanjana was ecstatic. Together, they decided to start Side by Side Smiles.

 

R: What do you hope to accomplish In the future? What have you already accomplished?

S: We would like to raise at least $5,000 by the end of this year. As a long term goal, we would love to raise $100,000. So far, we have sold over 600 bracelets and raised over $4,300.

 

R: How can people donate and/or raise awareness?

S: People can donate by visiting our website, sidebysidesmiles.org. There is a link that will lead you to our Etsy page, where you can purchase a bracelet. However, if bracelets are not your thing, you can donate to our fundraiser, which is also linked on our website. The best way we gain awareness, however, is through word of mouth. If people find out about us, we encourage them to tell their family, friends, and people around them.

 

R: Is there anything else you would like to add?

S: We are really thankful for the opportunities and experiences we’ve received since starting this charity and we encourage everyone to realize that, big or small, all efforts for positive change matter.

You can make a difference! Be sure to check out their website (and their beautiful bracelets) and go like their Facebook page. Share it with your friends and do your part to raise awareness for their cause. Every bracelet bought and every donation made brings a child one step closer to a surgery that will change their life.

 

DOUBTING MOTHER TERESA

Most people in our society follow the beautiful people, those who seem to have it all together, almost perfect, unscathed by the bumps and bruises of life. But, all my heroes walk with a limp. They limp because their faith was forged in the fires of pain, suffering, and doubt. I don’t get carried away by the latest fad book, the trendy, tweet-sized philosophy, or the bumper sticker theological treatise. I just don’t have time for that anymore.

When men and women have suffered greatly, I will eagerly listen to them. Pain cuts through the chaos and clutter of modern life. Even before I had personally experienced deep pain in my life, I always seemed to gravitate toward people who had endured pain and hardship and somehow came out on the other side not just alive but stronger. We all must choose who we follow and who we learn from.

One of the greatest women of faith in the past century was Mother Teresa. She lived, breathed, and touched death for decades. She poured out her blood, sweat, and tears to comfort the sick and dying in the streets of Calcutta. Her job was brutal and depressing. But somehow she found joy in it.

She was confident that God had called her to this horrendous place. I never dreamed that a devoted follower, like Mother Teresa, could battle enormous doubts. I thought that if you stepped out and did something radical for the faith, then all of your doubts would evaporate.

I don’t know why I held on to this false belief, but I did. I didn’t need to look far to prove that theory wrong. I should have re-examined so many biblical examples of people who did something radical but still had doubts. John the Baptist was radical. He doubted. Thomas was radical. He doubted. David was radical. He doubted. And so did Mother Teresa.

We identify Mother Teresa as an iconic figure of piety, self-sacrifice, and faith. Most of us didn’t know that throughout her life she felt plagued by the darkness of doubt. She wrote: “I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.” And in another personal letter, she struggled with accepting the love of Jesus: “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.”

People of faith have been divided over the discovery of Mother Teresa’s doubt. Chris Armstrong reported that “the Christian world drew a collective breath of shock when, in 2007, we discovered through a posthumously published book that Mother Teresa of Calcutta had undergone a severe, intense dark night that persisted through almost her entire ministry.” When her doubts were publicized around the world, most in the media mocked her, revealing their gross misunderstanding of the nature of faith, doubt, and certainty. They tried to use her doubts against her faith, calling her a hypocrite.

In great contrast, I rejoiced at the revelation and felt a sense of relief. “If it is okay for Mother Teresa to have doubts about God, perhaps it is okay for me.” She was one of the most admired women in the world. She gave her life to serve the poor and dying in one of the biggest slums on the planet. Mother Teresa’s doubt helped me, and I believe her doubt can serve as a remedy for those of us who have questions and doubts because the problem for many of us is this—we doubt alone. This loneliness makes us feel that if we do not have certainty about God or our faith in God, then we are on the verge of losing faith altogether. At best, we feel like second-class Christians.

The fact is, doubt is the normal Christian life for many known and unknown saints. You may have grown up in a Christian home that assumed a biblical worldview. Sometimes it is hard to transition to a world (like college!) where most people don’t share the same faith. One of the greatest challenges you may face will be in the academic world that doesn’t share your Christian Worldview. Questions and doubts keep our faith honest and our prayers real. Doubt gives us some humility, in other words, we need to accept the truth that no one, and I mean no one, can have absolute certainty this side of heaven. Yes, Mother Teresa doubted. She is one of a long line of doubters. It should give us courage to admit our own doubts to ourselves, to others, and especially to God.

Doubting is not unique to a person or a time period. It is the nature of being a finite human living in a complex world filled with pain, disappointment, and questions about existence that will never be answered on this side of life. Doubting is biblical, historical, and normal for many Christians who are trying to follow God with their lives. It takes courage to face uncertainty and to live with doubts that may never completely go away.

Over the years, people came from all over the world to seek the wisdom of Mother Teresa. One of those seekers was a philosopher and professor named John Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh traveled thousands of miles to Calcutta to meet with this revered spiritual leader in hope of receiving some guidance. On his first morning there, Mother Teresa asked Kavanaugh why he journeyed such a long distance to visit her in the “house of the dying.”

Kavanaugh replied, “I want you to pray for me.”

She asked, “How can I pray for you?”

He said, “Pray that I have clarity.”

Mother Teresa responded, “That I will not do.”  Her response stunned Kavanaugh, so he asked her why she would not pray for him to have clarity.

She smiled and said “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.”

I like this simple story. Clarity, like certainty, can become an idol. Kavanaugh, like most of us, wanted certainty that his next steps were the right ones … the steps God wanted him to take. Mother Teresa knew such certainty was not available, so she chose to tell him that he must let go of that desire.

When she told him that clarity (certainty) was the last thing he was holding on to and must let go of, Kavanaugh responded, “You always seem to have clarity.” Teresa laughed and said “I have never had clarity. What I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

That’s not a bad prayer, for people like myself, who seem to be obsessed by this endless quest for certainty. Because in faith, there is room for doubt.

 

Written By Ben Young

Ben Young, DM is a writer and teaching pastor at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. He is also an adjunct professor at Houston Theological Seminary, and the author of seven books, including Devotions for Dating Couples and Room for Doubt: How Uncertainty Can Deepen Your Faith.   www.benyoung.org

Love: It Can’t Coexist with Hate

You only love Jesus as much as you love the person you like the least.  Or, how about this:  your love for Jesus equals the amount of love you have for the person you hate the most.

Harsh, right?

You’re shaking your head and saying, no way, I love Jesus way more than that.

I’ve thought the same.  In fact, I’ve been in denial for several years.  I’ve looked at other people (Christians, mind you) who were burning with anger and hatred and thought, “Wow, they must not love Jesus very much.” But all the while, I’ve not put much thought into what this meant in my own life.

The fact that the difficult equation has surfaced many times throughout the years tells me that it’s something I need to work on.

The fact that I felt compelled to write about it tells me I’m not the only one.

Think about this.  Jesus tells us to love one another.  People who aren’t Christians like to call us out on this one, too; they like to point out our hypocrisy.  And it’s rampant for a reason…loving someone you don’t like is really, really hard to do.

It’s so hard to do, in fact, that it’s easier to walk away from people we don’t like and stop dealing with them altogether rather than find some common ground or forgiveness or, gulp, here it is again, love.  We harden our hearts and dismiss people like they are broken or out of date cell phones that can be replaced by shiny, unfamiliar, newer versions.  I know because I’ve done it.  Repeatedly.

Until I decided that I’m done, I’m not walking away.  I’m going to deal with it.  By giving it to God.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but here is the thing…GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY.  I got so fed up with the fury churning at the inside that I’ve simply prayed, “God, please, fill up that space, that gap, where I am so shamefully lacking, and help me love this person.”  I had to mean it.  I had to empty myself of the anger by no longer giving it my attention, and I let God do what He does.  And here’s the thing…He did.

I have stood across from people I have absolutely nothing in common with other than the fact that we both have noses on our faces; our political, spiritual, moral codes, our likes and dislikes so polar opposite it’s difficult to see them as people, and I have loved them for reasons I cannot explain.  I have recognized them as souls that God made with a purpose, and I have felt nothing but compassion.  I have faced people who have hurt me deeply and personally, and I have prayed the same prayer, and all my hurt feelings have shriveled in God’s pool of forgiveness.

Loving others, the ones that are most difficult to love, the ones that are the most distant, have brought to me more peace than anything else I have experienced in my life.  I wish there was something that I could so eloquently say that would convince you this is true, but I don’t have those words.  I can only pray that you want it enough in your own life that you try it.

And, while this may be another article of its own, I think it’s important enough to add: this goes for yourself.  If the one person you can’t stand to be around, the one person you wish you could change or punish or perfect is the girl staring back at you in the mirror, you have to love her, too.  You can’t love Jesus and hate yourself.  

Anger and hate and contempt cannot coexist within a soul that claims to love Jesus.  They are too big of burdens to bear, and they will squeeze out all the goodness that Christ wants to bring out in our lives.  Fortunately, the opposite is true.  His light is brighter than the darkness of contempt, and He will quench it if we allow Him to.  The question is, which one will you choose?

 

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Let God Be Your Giant Slayer

Life’s problems and challenges, I call “giants”, seem insurmountable and impossible to resolve. The Bible story of a young David taking on the giant, Goliath, and winning gives me a lot of hope! Consequently, we know we can win our battles too when we let God be our Giant Slayer!

Young David, the youngest of his father’s eight sons, was a keeper of his father’s sheep. David’s job was to shepherd the sheep, keeping them safe, warm, and well fed. Now sheep are not particularly smart so they must be led to fresh grass and water. They need protection from predators. David’s job was challenging!

Funny thing, as he learned the challenges of being a shepherd, he didn’t know that God was preparing him to shepherd a kingdom. Life changed for David when Samuel, a prophet of the Lord, came to David’s father Jesse looking for the one who replace King Saul as king. No one expected David to be selected, especially David.

God had specific qualifications he was looking for in the future leader of the Israelites.  God is looking for one who is His, one with heart who loves God more than life, and loves others as God loves. God is looking for someone teachable and willing to obey His commands. Samuel 16:7 tells what God requires:

“But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”

Our battles are the LORD’S. He knows we are weak and dependent upon Him. He will fight for us, just as He enabled David as he fought for the Hebrews.

David wasn’t afraid of anything as long as He kept a right relationship with God. David knew God would provide the direction and instruction he needed. Saul doubted he could fight Goliath and win, but David told him how God had prepared him:

“Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear:  and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.  And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD Be with thee.” 1 Samuel 17:36-37

We too have our challenges ahead of us, but we can be assured that God has it all worked out if we will follow Him. He will lead and guide us each step of the way. Like David, He will prepare us, even when we don’t realize it!

What are your giants?

Bitterness? Bitterness keeps us from staying focused on Him. It is the result of us seeking our will and being angry when we don’t accomplish our plan. Feelings of being let down by God when we don’t get our way, leads to resentment and separation from our LORD. Bitterness is a giant that must be conquered.

Addictions? Addictions weaken us. Depending on something or someone other than our LORD leads to disappointment. When we can’t handle life’s challenges and consequences from wrong decisions, we often turn to artificial means to cope. Addictions are giants that must be overcome.

What is the giant that seems insurmountable in your life? Tell the LORD. Seek His help.  The LORD overcomes all giants, if we let Him.

Written By Linda Hull