Monthly Archives: November 2014

God’s Faithfulness Results in Thanksgiving

Hello friends! It is two days before Thanksgiving, and I can imagine that you are making preparations for this special day that we set aside to offer God thanks for his many blessings. As you make your preparations and plans for the food and other activities, have you prepared your heart as well?

Why don’t you take some time now to prepare your heart by reading this devotional? To begin, open your Bibles to Psalm 57, or find it on your electronic device. Read through it from start to finish.

In this Psalm there is a very clear progression that shows how thankfulness is the result of recognizing God’s faithfulness.
#1) The longer you walk with God, the more you recognize His faithfulness – verses 1-3

David’s life could easily be a guide book on recognizing God’s faithfulness. Look at the heading under Psalm 57. It says, “A record of memorable thoughts of David when he fled from Saul in the cave.” This Psalm was written during the time when Saul was pursuing David in order to take his life. This was not the first time David found himself in danger. Scripture tells us that David killed both a bear and a lion when he was a young shepherd. Because God always rescued David, he recognized God’s faithfulness. In fact, listen to what David says when He was about to go up against the giant Goliath, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Sam 17:37

Because David had walked with God since he was young, he had occasion after occasion to see and experience God’s faithfulness. Because God had delivered him before, He was confident that He would see God’s faithfulness again, that’s why he says he will take refuge in God until the disaster has passed. Ps 57:1.

#2) The more you recognize God’s faithfulness, the quicker you are to trust Him – verses 4-6

In verses 4-6, David cries out to God and shares the truth of the situation he is experiencing. I think this is a good place to point out that when you trust God, that doesn’t mean you bury your head in the sand about what is happening in your life. Trusting God, means crying out to him about what is happening and being confident that He is over all of your circumstances. Look at what David says in verse 5. “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.” In verse 4 he says what is happening, but in the very next verse he is trusting that God will be exalted in His life, despite the current situation he finds himself in. That is some pretty quick trust. Trust was engrained into the very fabric of David’s life. In fact, he was so confident that look what he says in verse 6. He confidently anticipates deliverance, and that his enemies would fall into the pit they made for him. That’s pretty audacious trust, but it came from experiencing God’s faithfulness time after time in the past.

#3) The quicker you are to trust Him, the more at peace your heart is – verse 7a

Because he knew God was faithful, David was a quick truster. And trust always, always, always leads to peace. Look at the first part of verse 7. It says, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.” David’s heart is steadfast, (secure or at peace). David had no fear in the face of opposition, or attack. His heart was at peace, because he was quick to trust God. Peace is not the absence of storms, but a steady calm in the middle of them.

#4) The more at peace your heart is, the more your mouth will overflow with thanksgiving – verses 7b-11

When there is peace in your heart, the natural result is your mouth will overflow with thanksgiving. David’s steadfast heart turned into a song of praise from his lips. Read verses 7-9.

But, not only does God hear David’s thanksgiving, verse 9 says that the nations and the peoples will hear his song of praise. His thanksgiving flows to others which then begin the process in them as they recognize God’s faithfulness to David and start to believe that God will be faithful to them as well.

So, how can this apply to us today as we prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving? Let’s look at each point again and make some personal application.

#1) The longer you walk with God, the more you recognize His faithfulness.

The promise from Psalm 57:3b is that God sends us His love and His faithfulness. What a wonderful promise! Do you believe it? Are you recognizing God’s faithfulness? Are you confident of God’s love and faithfulness no matter what circumstances you find yourself in?

#2) The more you recognize God’s faithfulness, the quicker you are to trust Him.

How quickly do you trust God?

Measure your quickness to trust on a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being no trust and 10 being 100% trust.

What would it take for you to be an audacious truster, just like David was?

#3) The quicker you are to trust Him, the more at peace your heart is.

Listen to the following antonyms for peace. Count how many of these words that describe how you’ve felt lately: upset, worry, frustration, impatience, unrest, striving, fear, chaos.

Listen to the following synonyms for peace. Count how many of these words that describe how you’ve felt lately: calm, unruffled, patience, rest, unity, order, peace of mind, quietness

Let’s compare each one. Which do you have more of, antonyms or synonyms? Since peace is always a result of trust, what does your number say about your level of trust?

Believe it or not, peace is possible in the middle of chaos. Colossians 3:15 says, “May the peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace and be thankful.” Rule means to act as umpire. How many know that in all sports, the umpire has the final say. Christ’s peace acts as umpire in every situation you encounter. Ask God to help you let His peace rule in your life. Then when any other feeling or emotion come your way, tell it that it must bend the knee to the peace of Christ!

#4) The more at peace your heart is, the more your mouth will overflow with thanksgiving.

A mouth of thanksgiving is the natural result of a peaceful heart. But what do you do when your heart does not feel peaceful? Fake it until it is. I have a go-to song that I sing when I am feeling anything but peaceful or trusting or grateful – “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. It may take me singing it 10 times, but it always works to change my heart and get my focus back on God’s faithfulness. What is your go-to song or Bible verse that you can use to change your perspective?

I love the way this Psalm ends. Look at verses 10-11 again. God’s love and faithfulness never end. You can never run out of it. That is something to be grateful for NO. MATTER. WHAT!!

Let’s pray.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your love and faithfulness. Help me to recognize your faithfulness in every situation of my life. May your faithfulness lead me to trust you quickly and completely, because this brings peace to my heart. In areas where I feel anything but peace, may I choose peace and may I let it rule in my heart. As I do, thanksgiving will flow from my mouth. May my heart be prepared to praise you and give you thanks today and every day. In Jesus’ Name and for His sake, amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Your Friend in Ministry,

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Preparing for the Holidays, Part 4

Welcome back to our series about preparing for the holidays. In the first three posts, we talked about practical ways to prepare by making a plan and then working to accomplish it. As we continue this series, I would like to share some thoughts about preparing our hearts, which is the most important preparation of all!

A heart that is prepared for the holidays, is a heart that is experiencing peace. Yet, peace is rarely the first word that comes to mind when we think of this time of year, is it? Stress is probably a better word. I surveyed a group of women and asked them what caused them stress during the holidays. Here were some of their answers:

Competitive gift-giving

Feeling overwhelmed trying to do it all

Expectations not being met because they are unrealistic

Dealing with difficult family members

Financial pressures

Can you relate? So can I. Is peace even possible in the face of stress? You better believe it is, that’s exactly why Jesus came!

Look at Luke 2:13-14, from the Message:  At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

Did you know that the natural bi-product of pleasing God is peace? Remember peace is not necessarily the absence of trouble, but the assurance of God’s presence, comfort and provision no matter what we are walking through.

Since peace comes when you please God, the way to experience His peace is to please Him in every area of your life (especially the areas that cause you stress).

Let’s look at how to please God in the four most common stressors: finances, schedules, relationships and expectations.

#1) Pleasing God with Your Finances

  • Be content with the finances you have. The secret to being content is not having a certain amount of money, it’s being thankful & grateful for whatever amount you have.
  • Keep God first, don’t rob God to get a gift for someone else. We please God when we keep Him first and when we keep Him first, He will provide for us.
  • Be listening for His voice and be obedient to it. Often times God provides for and blesses others through you and me. If He tells you to bless someone financially, be generously obedient and do it.

#2) Pleasing God with Your Schedule

  • Give Him time in your schedule daily, weekly and then one special time during the season.
  • Daily – Despite your schedule, can you give Jesus some of our time each day? When you wake up can you commit the day to Him and meditate on His truth?
  • Weekly – Your week will go much better when you start it out right by worshipping with your brothers and sisters in Christ. For those in ministry, anticipate and fully engage in the services yourself. Show up with the expectation that God is going to speak and minister to you, even as you minister to others.
  • Once during the Christmas season – can you set aside an extended quiet time with just you and Jesus, 30 minutes on a Saturday morning, or a quiet evening when you are by yourself (if that ever happens)… In this time try any of the following: listen to some traditional Christmas carols and meditate on the words and what they really mean; light a candle and slowly read the story of His birth from Luke 2; or get a cup of tea or coffee and journal about the difference Jesus has made in your life.

#3) Pleasing God with Your Relationships (especially the challenging ones!)

  • Psalm 19:14 is the answer for pleasing God in your relationships. “Lord, may the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing in your eyes. You are my Rock and my Redeemer.”
  • To please God in all our relationships, let’s make sure that the words we speak about people and even more difficult, the thoughts we think about people are pleasing in the Lord’s eyes.
  • If your words and thoughts aren’t pleasing, don’t speak them.  If you’re thinking it, ask the LORD to change your thoughts, trying finding something positive to think about that person instead.
  • God loves all of us and when we think or say bad things about people, we are insulting His creation. The very people He came to save.

#4) Pleasing God with Your Expectations

  • We as women are notorious for having unrealistic expectations. We want the picture-perfect holiday where everything turns out exactly the way we envisioned – our meals are delicious, our dollar stretches further than it should, there’s no fussing or fighting in our families, everyone is happy, happy, happy!
  • What would happen if you changed your expectations? Now, I’m not talking about being a Debbie-downer, I’m just talking about being realistic. There is no way things are going to be picture-perfect. So, why get worked up when things are less than perfect?
  • What if you changed your expectations a bit??  Expect a few arguments. Expect to have some disappointments. Expect to gain a few pounds. Expect a few things to go wrong. Because then when they do, you are not surprised, you can handle it, process it and move on.
    • When you get disappointed, look to the Lord because He will never disappoint you – Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5
    • When you have down days,  ask Jesus to be your Prince of PeaceFor to us a child is born, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
    • When you argue with loved ones, forgive them and move on –  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32
    • When you gain 5 pounds, thank the Lord for His provision and all the wonderfully good tasting food He has given you and know that He loves you no matter what the scale says – God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 1 Timothy 6:17
  • When things don’t go right, realize that imperfection is part of life, try to laugh at it and move on. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Give yourself and others grace this year!

Wow, this was a lot longer than what I had planned! As we wrap it up, do any of these stressors resonate with you? Remember, the result of pleasing God is peace. I encourage you to make a concerted effort to please God in the area of your greatest stress (using the suggestions listed above) and see what happens this year. You have my guarantee that God sees every effort you make to please Him and He rewards those efforts with His peace.

In my next blog post I am going to share another practical suggestion to prepare your heart. “The Candle of Peace” is something I have used the past two years and I can’t wait to share it with you. Until then, God’s peace to you!

Your Friend in Ministry,

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Preparing for the Holidays, Part 3

Thanks for joining me in part three of Preparing for the Holidays. In part one I set the premise of why we want to prepare for the holidays and we prayed a prayer of commitment for the upcoming season. In part two, we got organized and today in part three, I want to share a couple thoughts of how to practically tackle the to-do lists that come as a result of getting organized.

#1 – Give Yourself a Deadline. Choose a date that you would like to have the majority of your holiday preparations completed. For some that may be the day before Christmas, 12/24. For others it may be the week before Christmas, 12/17. For some of us planners, even the thought of waiting until the day or week before Christmas puts us over the edge. We prefer to be prepared weeks in advance, don’t we?

This would be a good place to note that there will be seasons, due to life’s circumstances, where you cannot be as prepared in advance as you would like. Accept it and roll with it. As you live the many years of your life, you will have years where life is hard and you simply cannot do the things you normally do. Please give yourself grace during these seasons. In fact, if you are in one of those seasons right now, I encourage you to stop reading this and instead go read Psalm 33 and meditate on God’s love and faithfulness to you.

For those of you still with me . . . Because we have an extra busy December (with the usual family and church responsibilities, plus two weddings one the first weekend and one the third weekend of December), I have chosen Thursday, 12/4, to be my deadline. It is my goal to get as much done as I can by this date. Once you’ve given yourself a deadline:

#2 – Make a to-do list (either mental or written out on paper).   

#3 – Go through your to-do list and Eliminate, Delegate or Alternate. Because these words may be foreign to some of your vocabularies, say each of them out loud: “Eliminate, Delegate or Alternate”.

Eliminate means to remove or get rid of something, especially if it is not necessary. What is unnecessary on your list? Ask yourself the following questions to help you eliminate the unnecessary: Why are you doing all that you’re doing? Does is have meaning or value? If not, why are you doing it? For the past few years, I have chosen to eliminate at least one thing from my Christmas to do list – one year it was personal Christmas cards, one year it was Christmas lights on the outside of the house, one year it was a holiday gathering I usually host. This is a wonderfully freeing discipline and I encourage you to try it this year. What is one thing you could eliminate from your Christmas to do list? Cross it off your to-do list so you can hold yourself accountable. I dare you, in fact, I double dog dare you to try it. It may feel weird at first abut I bet you’ll like it.

Delegate. Another way we can simplify our schedules is by delegating. As much as you’d like to think differently, there is no rule that says things will only be done right if you do them. Can you let someone else do a bit of the Christmas shopping? Can you let those who are joining you for special meals bring some of the food? Can you let your kids help decorate? If you insist on doing everything yourself, what you are also insisting upon is a whole lot of stress that you don’t need to have. Now, I know that for some of us delegating is hard because it doesn’t get done the exact way we would do it. But there comes a point where you have to let go and get help if you are going to maintain a joyful spirit during the holidays. Nobody wants to be around a grumpy woman who is overwhelmed and stressed because she won’t let anyone help her.

Alternate. The final way you can keep balance in your to-do list and schedule is to alternate. Take turns doing things every other year. Would it work for you to send a Christmas card every other year? Could you have a Christmas party this year, but not next year? Is there another family member you can take turns with hosting Christmas dinner? Eliminating, Delegating and Alternating are wonderful words that I encourage you to incorporate into your life as you prepare for the holidays.

#4 – Do one thing per day. After you have eliminated, delegated or alternated, with your end date in mind, make a commitment to do just one thing each day to complete your to-do list. I have been keeping track of the things I do each day as an example (this is just for home & doesn’t include church). You’ll notice that there are days where I get a lot done and other days where I get little or even nothing done. That’s OK. The main idea is to regularly and actively work on getting things done. Put on some of your favorite Christmas music and get working! Some of my favorite Christmas music is shown in the picture below: Pandora 11/1 – Began listening to Christmas Music/Graham Pralines baked & put in freezer

11/3 – Sugar Cookies baked & put in freezer

11/4 – Invites for AJ’s 16th b-day

11/5 – Shopped for AJ’s gift and Dad/Annie’s gift

11/6 – Made invites for party

11/7 – AJ’s b-day dinner purchased/Christmas shopping

11/8 – transferred $/reviewed finances

11/9 – Addressed invites for party

11/10 – Purchased baking supplies/wrote AJ’s b-day letter

11/11 – Kids shopped for Mark & Kate

11/12 – Brownies baked & put in freezer

11/13 – Made Peanut Blossoms & Raspberry Ribbons & put in freezer

11/14 – Reviewed finances

11/15 – Looked for Stash Christmas Tea – no luck 🙁

Wow! Looking back, I can see that when you do a little each day, you get a lot accomplished in a couple weeks! (And you can probably tell that Christmas cookies are a BIG DEAL to my family!)

I hope these tips help you simplify and tackle your holiday preparations. For the next couple of blog posts, I will talk about preparing your heart for the holidays, which is the most important preparation of all!

Your Friend in Ministry, Signature