Dreading Valentine’s Day?

valentines dayValentine’s Day is coming up, and many look forward to this day each year. But for others, Valentine’s Day is a tough day. You may be single and feeling lonely, or you may be divorced or widowed and feeling the sting of being alone. Or you may be married, but feeling unloved in your marriage. As an older single, I have to admit that I don’t always look forward to Valentine’s Day, but my perspective makes a big difference.

Instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I want to focus on what God has given me. I may not be married, and I won’t receive roses and a nice dinner or a marriage proposal on Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t make me any less loved and cherished.

I am thankful, first and foremost, that God loves me dearly and promises to take care of me. He will never turn a cold shoulder to me. He will never abandon me and turn His affection to someone else, leaving me behind. He loves me unconditionally. I don’t have to worry about losing His love, even on my worst days. He will meet every need I have – not every want, but every need. He takes me by the hand and guides me step by step through life, protecting me from those things that are not His best for me.

I’m also thankful for those precious friends God has placed in my life – friends who love me and have my back, friends I know I can call on anytime I’m in need, friends I can cry and laugh with. I am loved. And I don’t want to forget that by focusing on my singleness instead of what He’s given me.

I plan to have a special “date with the Lord” this Valentine’s Day, and I can’t wait. God’s words in Zephaniah 3:17 are a great reminder of how much He loves and cherishes me: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”

If you’re dreading this Valentine’s Day, let these words from Zephaniah encourage you. You are loved.

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The Deception of Pride

meOk, I’m going to go ahead and say it – I struggle with pride. And I’m not proud of it! But to be honest, I think we all struggle with pride in some form. Pride can be deceptive, so we may not even be aware of it.

Here are some ways pride deceives us:

1. Pride deceives us into believing we’re self-sufficient.

When things are going great in life, we can develop the attitude of, I don’t need God’s help right now. I’ve got things under control. I can handle this on my own.

Warning signs:

  • Less time spent with God: When I’m feeling self-sufficient, I don’t feel a need to turn to God for help.
  • A lack of thankfulness: When things are going great, I can forget that He is the Giver of all good things and wrongly think I’m the source of these blessings. As a result, I stop giving thanks to Him.

2. Pride deceives us into believing we’re in control.

We like to think we’re in control of our circumstances, and we like being in control, but God often has to remind us that He is the One ultimately in control.

Warning sign: Trusting myself more than I trust God

How do you handle a situation that is not going as you had hoped or planned? Do you try to fix it yourself, or do you look to God and trust His sovereign hand in it?

3. Pride deceives us into believing we’re better than others.

We’re often deceived into believing we’re more gifted or more talented than someone else, we dress better, we have a nicer house, a better husband, more money, or we’ve done something to bring on our good fortune.

Warning sign: Looking down on others and building ourselves up in comparison, seeing ourselves as better than others

4. Pride deceives us into believing we are the source of our blessings (not God).

We sometimes forget that God is the source of our blessings, and we attribute things as coming from ourselves instead. We may believe that we’re where we are because of what we’ve done, not because of God’s hand in it.

Warning sign: When my words revolve around Me, Me, Me. Look at what I’ve done. Look at who I am.

Do we thank God for all we have and what we’ve been able to do, or do we pat ourselves on the back? Do we want the glory and adoration of others, or do we sincerely want to give God the glory?

Charles Spurgeon gave some great advice on how to fend off pride before it hits us. “Wash your face every morning in a bath of praise.” When we praise God, it takes our attention off ourselves and puts it where it needs to be, on Him. Pride can deceive us, but praise can protect us from the deception of pride.

What warning signs would you add to recognizing the deception of pride?

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Using Your Spiritual Gifts

Every year a state of panic sets in among church staff and ministry leaders as they are tasked with recruiting people to fill positions in ministry for the next year. Many volunteer to serve, but there are times we can’t find anyone to serve in an area of need. Or the person serving isn’t the right fit for the position.

God wants us to serve, but He doesn’t want us to be miserable and burned out. He wants us to find joy in serving, not to serve out of obligation and become negative and bitter as a result.

So, what holds people back from serving in the church? Some possible reasons are:

  • They want to, but they don’t know where to serve.
  • They’ve served in an area for a long time and they’re burned out.
  • They’ve served in an area that was not a good fit for them, and they don’t want to put themselves through that again.

Those are valid reasons. Before we can find joy in our service, we need to determine how God has gifted us and where those spiritual gifts are the best fit.

Here are some suggestions to help you discover and develop your spiritual gifts.

  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • Try different things to see if they’re a good fit – short term. Evaluate your effectiveness.
  • Ask those who know you well what they think your spiritual gifts are.
  • Take a spiritual gift assessment. Churchgrowth.org offers a good one. However, assessments alone are not the best method. Use all of these suggestions to guide you in determining where you are gifted.
  • Know your overall SHAPE.

When you’re serving in an area that uses your spiritual gifts, you’ll find yourself energized. When you’re serving in an area that doesn’t, you’ll find yourself restless and increasingly drained.

Peter gives great insight concerning our service in 1 Peter 4:10 – “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What has helped you find your area of giftedness?

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Are You “Belly Up” With God?

2015-07-05 17.59.26Last week I woke up and saw something that brought a smile to my face. My sweet kitten Hannah was lying next to me on the bed belly up. I’ve heard that when a cat exposes her belly, it means she trusts you and has no fear. It has taken a while for Hannah to get there, so this was a sweet moment.

Then I thought about how that parallels my relationship with God. He wants me to trust Him and not be fearful of what He might do to me or allow to happen. He wants me to rest in His love and His care – He wants me “belly up.”

A friend was sharing with me today how hard it is for her to “let it go” and rest in the sovereignty of God. We want control of our situation and we want to do everything we can to make sure things work out the way we want them to. When we want to be in control, we are saying we don’t trust God’s control over the situation. But God wants us to open our fist and “let it go.” He wants us to rest in His sovereignty. He wants us “belly up,” a position that demonstrates trust and security in His hand.

That’s easier said than done. Surrendering to His sovereign control and trusting His hand in everything takes faith, and sometimes my faith is small. But I want to get to that place where I am as comfortable in God’s hands as my kitten Hannah is with me.

Is there something you’re hanging onto that you’re fearful of surrendering to His control? Do you believe God loves you and wants what’s best for you? Are you “tight-fisted” or “belly up”?

I pray we would come to that place of being “belly up” with God.

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Living in Uncertain Times

Breaking NewsIt’s gotten to where we never know what breaking news is going to come across the radio or TV on a given day. A few weeks ago, we watched the unfolding situation with the shootings in San Bernardino, California. It’s not unusual to hear of a shooting at a mall or theater or school. Terrorism is a daily threat, not just in other countries, but right here at home. The week of Christmas, Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas, received a bomb threat warning them not to hold Christmas Eve services. They didn’t let the threat stop them from gathering that night.

When I hear about these things, my first thought is, Lord, please come quickly. Our world seems to get worse by the day, and in all appearances, it seems like evil is winning. But we know it’s not. We know the end of the story.

We have just started studying the Book of Daniel in our women’s Bible study, using Sue Edward’s study Daniel: Discovering the Courage to Stand for Your Faith. It’s a perfect time to study this book. Daniel reminds us how the story will end and gives us principles to live by as we become “exiles” in our homeland as the world becomes more hostile toward Christianity.

So how do we stand firm in our faith in these coming days, months, and years before the Lord returns? Three things stand out to me from Daniel’s life that I need to apply in my own life.

  1. Never lose sight of pleasing God.
  2. Never lose sight of God’s sovereignty.
  3. Never lose sight of the ending. God wins!

Beth Moore, in her Bible study on Daniel, wrote this about Daniel and his three Hebrew friends: “They became culturally relevant without becoming spiritually irrelevant.”

That challenges me – being culturally relevant without becoming spiritually irrelevant. How do we do that? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What does that look like to you?

We don’t know what the year 2016 holds for us – but God does. That’s all we need to know. Happy New Year!

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Starting the New Year With Rest

2015-06-12 14.46.26If I could be anything other than a human, I’d love to be a cat. I live with two cats, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that cats have mastered the art of rest. My cats leisurely walk over to eat from their bowls. When they’re satisfied, they find a comfortable spot where they can lie down to rest. They may play for a while, but then return to a cozy spot to rest a little more.

Hannah and Hobson don’t worry about food, shelter, or what fur they’re going to wear the next day — they just rest because they’re secure in my care and love for them. When they sit beside me purring, I know they’re at rest, regardless of what’s going on around them. My cats have mastered rest. I, on the other hand, have not.

Is it even possible to find rest when life seems to get busier every day and the demands keep piling up? How can we find rest when we are overwhelmed with difficult circumstances out of our control that drain us emotionally, mentally, and physically?

As I talk with people, I hear a recurring theme: “I’m worn out. I need rest.” It seems we’re all running on empty and in danger of burning out. Surely, that’s not God’s plan for our lives.

So I began to search God’s Word to see what God says about rest. As a result, I wrote a Bible study on rest for the women at my church. Rest is for our good. We need it, but why aren’t we able to embrace this gift?

The Gift of RestPerhaps, as you begin this new year, you are in need of rest. Why not take some time to see what God says about rest and why it’s important? The Bible study, The Gift of Rest, is available at Crosslink Publishing. (It’s temporarily out of stock on Amazon, but hopefully will be available soon.)

As you begin this new year, come away to a quiet place. Be still before the One who gives rest. Slow down, listen, and enjoy life the way He intended. Embrace the gift of rest.

 

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Losing a Loved One at Christmas

Family picture Christmas 2014 revisedThis week marks the one-year anniversary of my mom’s Homegoing last Christmas. The year has flown by, and it doesn’t seem like a year has already passed. I miss my mom, but I rejoice that she is HOME where she longed to be. She is pain-free and experiencing things in heaven that we can only imagine on this earth. Mom left a legacy of three generations, and we were able to spend Christmas together last year right after mom’s memorial service. It was a sweet time together as we reflected on her life. She will celebrate Christmas this year in the presence of her Savior.

 

As Wanda Bencke penned in this poem,

I see the countless Christmas trees, Around the world below.
With tiny lights, like heaven’s stars, Reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so spectacular, Please wipe away that tear.
For I’m spending Christmas, With Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs, That people hold so dear.
But the sounds of music can’t compare, With the Christmas choir up here.
For I have no words to tell you, The joy their voices bring.
For it is beyond description, To hear the angels sing.

I can’t tell you of the splendor, Or the peace here in this place.
Can you just imagine Christmas, With our Savior, face to face?
I’ll ask Him to light your spirit, As I tell Him of your love.
So then pray one for another, As you lift your eyes above.

Please let your hearts be joyful, And let your spirit sing.
For I’m spending Christmas in Heaven, And I’m walking with the King.

We read this poem and closed mom’s memorial service with this song, It’s a Different Kind of Christmas This Year, by Mark Schultz.

If you have recently lost a loved one, and this is your first Christmas without them, I pray this song will encourage you as it did us. Merry Christmas!

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Hope Is Alive

Hope Is AliveThis past Tuesday night, Ellie Holcomb led us in a night of worship at our annual Women’s Ministry Christmas Dinner. Our theme was based on the title of one of the Christmas songs she wrote, Hope is Alive.

As we enter this Christmas season, I realize there are many who are hurting – those who have lost loved ones in the past year, those who are separated from friends and family because of work or other reasons, those who are going through a difficult time with health issues, those who have lost hope in their specific situation. But Hope is Alive because God stepped into this world over 2000 years ago as a baby born in a manger in Bethlehem. He came for one purpose – to die on a cross for our sins and give us hope.

Last Christmas was hard for me as we buried my mom on December 23. But, I could rejoice because I knew she was spending Christmas in the presence of the One who came to give her hope. Because mom had a personal relationship with Jesus, she is now singing with the angels around His throne.

Hope is Alive because Jesus came. May we not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.

I want to share with you this video of Ellie Holcomb singing Hope is Alive. I pray it encourages you as it does me.

 

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The Gift of Rest

The Gift of RestAs I talk with people, I hear a recurring theme: “I’m worn out. I need rest. Life is spinning madly out of control!” It seems we’re all running on empty and in danger of burning out. But, surely, that’s not God’s plan for our lives.

Is it even possible to find rest when life seems to get busier every day and the demands just keep piling up? How can we find rest when we are overwhelmed with difficult circumstances out of our control that drain us emotionally, mentally, and physically?

We are in need of rest, but it seems to escape us. A few years ago, I began to search the Scriptures to see what God says about rest. God’s mandate for His people to rest is found throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Rest is for our good. We need it, but why aren’t we able to embrace this gift of rest?

As I was studying the Scriptures to find God’s perspective on rest, I was experiencing a season of no rest in my own life. For several years I was the primary caregiver for my elderly mother who was living in a nursing home here in Memphis. It was undoubtedly one of the hardest seasons of life I’ve gone through. I was depleted emotionally and physically, and rest wasn’t part of my life.

Perhaps you’re in a season of no rest today, brought on by a situation that’s out of your control, and you know that reordering priorities or saying no isn’t going to bring rest. How do you and I find rest in these seasons of life? Is it even possible?

We may not be able to experience the physical rest we desire, but we can still find rest in those times of no rest – soul rest. We find that soul rest by spending time in His Word and in His presence.

I wrote this Bible study on rest for myself and our Women’s Ministry Bible study. CrossLink Publishers has now published it and made it available for others.

If you’re worn out and in need of rest, this Bible study is for you. As you come to understand God’s desire and purpose for rest, I pray you will embrace this gift and find joy, not guilt, in rest.

(The Gift of Rest is now available on Amazon and Crosslink Publishing.)

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Giving Thanks

giving thanksAs we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, here are some things I am thankful for – not just at Thanksgiving, but throughout the year.

T – Time on this earth. I’m thankful for every day God gives me here.

H – Heaven is my eternal home. When my time on this earth is done, I will go HOME.

AAcceptance. Acceptance by God in spite of things I’ve regrettably done

N – New friends God has brought into my life this year

K – Kindness – the kindness of others and of God

S – Simplicity. The simple things in life that I often overlook

G – God’s gifts from above

I – Investment – The people who have invested in me spiritually

V – Victory over sin through the blood of Christ

I – Intercession. For those who faithfully intercede for me

N – Nobility. I’m thankful that I’m a daughter of the Most High King.

G – Grace. Without God’s grace, I’d have no hope.

As Psalm 92:1 tells us, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.”

What are you thankful for today?

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