Monday, January 4, 2021

Defeating Crankiness and Filling Your Life with Joy

Throughout my lifetime, I have reacted to criticism and disagreement in a cranky and negative way. It has become apparent to me that I tend to not look at constructive feedback as a gift that will help me be better at serving others. Instead, I get irritated and hurt, which is a sign that I bear pride in me. As we launch the New Year, our Heavenly Father is emphasizing to me that I need to defeat my crankiness, respond gratefully to otherswho offer me their insights, and live the rest of my life without pridefulness in my heart.


So often during our lifetime, I do believe that our Heavenly Father motivates people to share with us the feedback that He wants us to receive. Being receptive to considering the guidance that we are offered can be a pathway to the transformation of our sinful hearts and the effectiveness of our service to others. Like all of the other verses in the Bible, Psalm 131: 1 – 3 offers me an insightful message from our Heavenly Father, which tells me that a trust in God is the basis for our contentment in life. 


Psalm 131:1-3

My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore. 


Note who stills and quiets our soul. It is our responsibility. I have found that I successfully accomplish that task when I invite the Holy Spirit to govern my heart and my desires. After I pray, I tell myself to have no more anxiety in my heart, as it is a barrier between me and others on this planet and our Heavenly Father. I also remember the insights offered in Proverbs 15:1 that tell me when I am gracious others will be kind to me, and, if I am not, I will make them angry. 

Proverbs 15:1

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.


I know that I need to trust in my Heavenly Father and be content in the life that He has given me. I believe that Proverbs 29:23 confirms that my crankiness is born from my pridefulness and that my humility will bring me honor. 


Proverbs 29:23

A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.


Proverbs 29:22 confirms that having anger in our heart is a prelude to sinful responses. 


Proverbs 29:22

An angry man stirs up dissention, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.


Reading Colossians 3:5-10, I find my New Year Resolution. 


Colossians 3:5-10

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 


In this lifetime, I am now putting on a new self and match my conduct with my faith in Jesus Christ. Since I am a Christian, I should act like I am. No more crankiness in my lifetime, as I want my love and respect for others to draw them to our Heavenly Father, who I love and in whom I trust and have faith.When I respond lovingly and respectfully, others will tend to be receptive when I testify about my faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 


Thank you, Heavenly Father, for reminding me that my crankiness in this lifetime is emblematic of the pridefulness of my heart. When I behave in a loving and respectful way, others will be receptive to listening to my testimony of my faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and will be grateful to have me in their life. The alteration of my behavior is advanced by following my responsibility of leaning on the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in my life. I pray to you to help me behave respectfully when I receive constructive feedback from others by filling me with your Holy Spirit always. Amen! 


Monday, October 26, 2020

Guard Your Community

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19
I am sure I am not alone when it comes to being hurt in relationships. Even in, or especially in, those relationships that are dearest to us. They must be guarded and they take intentionality as we grow and develop. But sometimes words are said and taken the wrong way. Or actions are misinterupted. We allow little things to effect our relationship. We let our insecurities overwhelm us and they are allowed to fester and grow. Instead of just going to the person and talk it out we believe the lies we tell ourselves.
I know, because I have done it far too often. I have allowed small petty things to ruin, or almost ruin a relationship. I have taken a look from a friend and assumed she must be upset with me. An unreturned phone call or text as we are growing apart or even she's tired of me. So many lies. So many insecurities.
But you know what? God calls us to community, even when it's messy. I have learned that in order to guard my relationships I need to be honest even if my honesty is uncomfortable. Time after time I have gone to people and shared I my insecurities, the lies I had believed about our relationship. I have asked them if we are okay. To be honest this has not been easy. It's very difficult. What if everything I've felt is true? More often than not it's been my own crazy imgination.
In the process of doing this though I have learned some very valuable lessons. I have found that if I can remember these 3 things my relationships, and therefore my community, is unified. Also, these three things are good reminders when it comes to our relationship with know, those times we doubt how He feels about us.
We need to remember...
Who they have been in the past. Remind yourself of circumstances, and life decisions that have spoken of their character. Be reminded of their consistency in choices and the living out of life in Christ.
Their heart. Remember those times they've shared their heart with you. Go back and list all the things you know to be true about this person. Their love for God, for others, for you. How they have been there for you. Loved you. Invested in you.
Who our enemy is. Remember that we fight the same enemy and that enemy would do anything to stop the work that is being done in God’s kingdom. He loves nothing more than to create friction and undercurrents in order to divide the body of Christ. He doesn’t want God’s people getting along. He hates unity in the family of God and will do anything to stop it. Choose to rejoice that Christ’s love won and the enemy was defeated in this battle.
My dear sisters, we need to guard the unity among us. We need to fight for community. It's so easy to let things slide. To let our insecurities speak lies. God's desire for each of us is to love one another. To get along with one another, not just get in our own small communities but with all believers.
Perhaps you are far better at this than I am. Perhaps you don't need this reminder, but I know I do and I am pretty sure there are a lot that are like me. So can I ask you to join me in choosing to go to that person (or to God) immediately when you have doubts, no matter how small or petty you think your insecurities or doubts are? Can we value communty over looking foolish?
Let us all remember to guard our relationships with our brothers and sister in Christ. Let us remember that we all fight the same battle…the same enemy.
What about you? Are you willing to go to your friend, your brother or sister in Christ, your pastor, Bible study leader or church leadership and fight for community. Are you willing to humble yourself and die to pride so that the body of Christ will be guarded? Will you, at all cost, protect the community of Christ against an enemy that seeks to destroy?
Who do you need to talk to today?
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves ; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Phil 2:1-4

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Determined to Grow in Faith and Trust

So often, I have witnessed the extraordinary faith of the members of my church communities, including all of you at Cornerstone Church. When my personal faith in the Lord was not as strong as it currently is, I was confused by why I did not experience the same peace that others enjoy. As I have matured in my Christianity, I have grown in my understanding that faith in our Heavenly Father is a determined choice that we must make and then launch strides to grow closer to Him. As we dedicate ourselves to reading God’s Word, worshiping Him, and praying to Him, our faith and trust are cultivated as our understanding, knowledge, and love for Him grow.

I do see how God used the pain in my life to grow my faith in Him. More than two decades ago, I was brokenhearted when I learned that the judge in my son’s child custody case had decided to award physical custody to my soon-to-be ex-husband because, unlike me, he had family nearby to help him in raising Zach. I also believe that God allowed this to happen because the unforgiveness in my heart would have made me a cranky and controlling parent with custody. 

 After a year of enduring this pain, I spent an evening considering whether I should find a new job, sell my home, move near my soon-to-be-ex-husband, and seek to collaborate with him in raising our son. I made two lists on my computer. The column listing all the reasons to stay was lengthy and the column listing the reasons to leave had only one word—my son’s first name. As I reviewed my lists, I knew instantly that my greatest desire was my precious son. All those things that had become essential to me—my work, home, friends, and independence—were not as critically important to me as being my son’s mother.

At that moment, I did what I had never done before. I got on my knees and prayed, and I made the decision to trust that God would create a pathway to my son. I prayed, “God I have no idea how to find a new job and sell this house. But I know that you do not want me here. So, I ask you to work a miracle and make it happen.” 

 Two months later, God worked His miracle. I got a call from the supervisor of my company’s Government Affairs office. Their analyst was leaving, and he asked me to consider applying for the job. Many talented individuals applied for this job, but I was offered it. After praying for the right words, I approached my son’s father with a humble heart, told him about my new job, and begged to be able to join with him in raising our son. In response, he replied, “That’s all I ever wanted.” Throughout Zach’s youth, we were effective in collaborating in raising our son in two faithful Christian homes. 

 The insights that the Apostle John shared in 1 John 5:14 in his pastoral letter to several Gentile congregations and to believers everywhere demonstrates that our growth in our faithful maturity will evolve our thinking and grow our trust in Him.

 "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And, if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him." 

 The emphasis here is on God’s will, not our will. When we communicate with God, we do not demand what we want. Rather, we discuss with Him what He wants for us. If we align our prayers to His will, He will listen. We can be certain that if He listens, He will give us a definite answer. We should pray with confidence in Him and trust in His tender mercy for us. 

 Although I am certain that we must make the choice to take the strides to grow in our faith, Ephesians 2:8 - 9 confirms that we should credit our faith to God’s grace.  

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." 

 I encourage you to strive to know God. Afterall, He is your Heavenly Father. As you grow in your knowledge of Him, you also will grow in faith and trust in Him. 

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you and worship you, and pray that you grow my faith and trust in You. I am determined to cultivate my knowledge of You by being in Your Word. Please help me to hear Your voice and to retain and be obedient to Your guidance. Amen!

Monday, August 17, 2020

Believing a Subtle Lie

Several months ago I heard a sermon reminding me of my position in Christ. As I sat there listening I began to realize that somewhere along the line I had slowly forgotten the truth. It was a subtle change. A slight twisting of the truth. But it had so permeated my mind that it began to affect my thinking and the way I lived out my life. Our enemy, Satan, is good at that isn’t he? Just a slight change here or there, a subtle lie. He has been doing it since he deceived Eve in the Garden. Why? Because it works. Satan knows that God’s children typically can’t be fooled by an outright lie so he often uses a slight twist of the truth.

I could write a whole blog on the above paragraph, and perhaps one day I will. But today I want to write a bit about the subtle lie God brought to my attention because I believe it’s one that many struggle with.

The lie? “I need to bury the old me”. Now many of you will read that and say, “but it's true.” The lie is subtle, hardly even noticeable.

So let’s talk about what the truth is, I think then the lie will become clear. Once we become followers of Christ and accept Him as The Son of God who died for our sins we become a new person. The old passes away and new things have come. We are new creatures. When we come to Christ we place our old sin nature at the foot of the cross and replace it with the perfect nature of Christ. (2 Cor 5:17-21) Our old self is dead. We have been buried with Christ. We (our flesh) no longer live. (Gal 3:20) Christ now lives in you. He has taken up residence in this flesh of ours through the Holy spirit. (John 14:16-17; Gal 2:20; Eph 3:17) Positionally I am in Christ. The old me is gone, she was buried with Christ never to rise again. (Col 3:3; Eph 1:3-14) To be in Christ means God no longer sees my sins, He sees the righteousness of His own Son, Jesus Christ. (Romans 6:1-7; Eph 2:13)

That is the truth, but, we still live in these bodies of flesh, don’t we? It’s a constant struggle. A battle between our flesh, sin and what the Spirit calls us to do.

We Sometimes fail to live in the truth we know. In that failure, we often feel like we have to start all over again. We can feel condemned.The emotion called Shame often rises up in us when we fail and the enemy uses shame to beat us down and make us doubt whether we were ever really dead, buried and brought to newness of life. But we do not need to bury ourselves again. No, rather, we pick ourselves up and walk in the new life that Christ purchased for us. We choose to live with a whole new mindset of daily putting on and taking off. We choose to put on the new life and take off the old life. We choose to walk in accordance to what the Spirit tells us and not what our flash desires.

 Oh, the enemy wants to send our minds back to the grave. He wants us to stay buried, to continue to live as if we are not alive! And it’s a battle of continued renewal. We can not do it on our own but, in Christ, we do have the power to shout “the old me is dead and buried, I am forgiven. I am new IN Christ!” 

 God wants us to renew our mind with the truth of His word. He wants us to live out our position that He purchased for us. Why not go back a look up and meditate on some of the verses I referenced including Ephesians 4:22-24. When we know the truth it’s easier to stop those subtle (and not so subtle) lies that our flesh, our enemy and our world shouts to us on a daily basis.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Our Heavenly Father Renews Our Strength

Throughout my chaotic career, I have felt overwhelmed. I never did like the word mediocre, and I never wanted it to be said about me. There have been many occasions on which I have gotten only one hour of sleep in order to complete my professional assignments. Currently, although I work many weekends and some evenings, I still cut my sleep short now and then to get my work done. I have had opportunities during this chaotic career to serve our Heavenly Father. I find it emblematic of Satan’s tendency to use the pain in our life as a barrier to us serving our Heavenly Father that heavy workload has forced me to give up writing feature stories for my church newsletters at both Hershey Evangelical Free Church and Cornerstone. When I made the transition to my current job, the stress of the position at one point motivated me to consider giving up my service to our Heavenly Father. Fortunately, when I asked my supervisor if I should give up my volunteer efforts to get my work done, she responded, “No!”

I considered her response a sign that I needed to wake up and see God’s glory.

Currently in my lifetime, I am determined not only to work hard for my employer but also to serve our Heavenly Father in as many ways as I am able. Now, because my focus is on Him, our Heavenly Father is renewing my strength, helping me to find joy in my lifetime, and motivating me, despite the stress, never to give up my time in His Word, on my knees praying to Him, or serving Cornerstone. God’s Word has taught me that I need to renew my strength and find pleasure in the chaos of my career by being joyful and placing my hope in Him.

The following verses confirm that our weary soul is renewed when we hope in the Lord.

Isaiah 40: 29-31
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Psalm 103: 2-5 
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

When I spend time praising Him during my prayers and hearing Him by spending time in His Word, God does remind me that He is sovereign, and He does renew me. My focus on Him and my confidence in Him turns my tendency of getting stressed out to being joyful and confident that He will help me get it all done.

I find it interesting how David’s thoughts evolve in Psalm 13. He starts out suggesting that God has forgotten him and focusing on his pain in verses 1 and 2. Then in verses 5 and 6, after praying that God gives light to his eyes, he focuses on the fact that he trusts in God’s unfailing love and notes that his heart rejoices in God’s salvation.

Psalm 13: 5-6 
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.

To that I say, “Amen!” God has also transitioning my thoughts from being stressed in my life and constantly posing the question, “Why?” to being grateful that He has chosen to transform me. Thank you, God! So glad that my focus is now on you and that you have inspired me to trust in your unfailing love and to rejoice in your salvation even during the chaos of my life.

Dear Lord, thank you for changing my tendency to be in pain and to be a roadblock for your renewal of me. When I focus on you throughout my day, my days become joyful, even when there is chaos present. Thank you for renewing me! Amen

Monday, July 20, 2020

Praise Him Anyway!

Keeping a good attitude has been a struggle lately. More often than not I'm feeling dissatisfied, frustrated and even downright angry at my circumstances. Life isn't fair!

I've been reading through the Psalms in the morning before I head to work. Sometimes the laments validate my bad mood, but they always end in praise even when my thoughts don't. David often reminds us to sing and shout for joy! But what about if I'm not feeling it? What about when I'm in the middle of hard and terrible things?

David set an example - he faced a lot of serious challenges. Friends turning against him. Temptations stronger than his resistance. Rebellious children. Death of a son. Strained relationships. Whatever it was he faced he acknowledged the difficulty, and simultaneously, he praised God's character: mighty and powerful, all-knowing, tender, just, loving and kind, righteous, and infinitely faithful.

It's what I'm called to do too, if I am to be a woman after God's own heart. His character does not depend on my ever changing circumstances, and in fact His praise will sound louder to the world around me when it's in the midst of hard times. He is always good, no matter what.

I encourage you to praise Him anyway on your difficult days. Read the Psalms. Think about God's never changing characteristics. Turn that praise music up! There's nothing better to lift your mood.

"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast on the Lord; The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together!" Psalm 34:1

Sunday, June 28, 2020

A Demonstration of God’s Love

In Ephesians 4:11 -16, Paul shared some wonderful insights about how our service to and love for others will create an opportunity to testify about our faith in Jesus Christ. He urged us to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. The following verses share his reflections on how Jesus dedicates us to serving our Heavenly Father in various ways and how we build the body of Christ in love.

Ephesians 4:11 – 16
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves; and blow here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

So many of us have talents that allow us to school others in faith and draw them to our Heavenly Father. As is emphasized by Paul, our love for others becomes an instrument for drawing them to Him. During our lives, there are so many ways to testify about our faith in God and demonstrate what a wonderful Heavenly Father we enjoy. As a disciple for our Heavenly Father, we can use our love for others to draw them to Him.

Recently, the Lord demonstrated to me that when I love others, even those I don’t minister to, it creates an opportunity for me testify about my faith in Him and how He sets an aspirational standard for our lives. We all inherit health gifts from the parents we love. My genetic gifts of osteoporosis and pre-diabetes have motivated me to do a worship walk every morning. As I stroll about 2.5 miles through my neighborhood listening to Christian tunes, I often see crappy trash lying throughout my neighborhood. For some reason, I felt called to start picking it up.

As I started this ritual, I picked up a few things here and there and then tossed them in the dumpsters in my townhouse community. When the pandemic began, I stopped because I didn’t feel that it was safe. Just a few days after this decision, I experienced a puncture of one of my tires as I drove over something trashy. I consider the $117 that I had to spend on a new tire a calling by God to demonstrate my love for others by protecting them from experiencing the same tragedy.

After my friend Terry gave me some plastic gloves to protect my health, I began once again to pick up trash, but in a very determined way. In recent months, more and more individuals have praised me for my efforts. In those moments of praise, I share with them how our Heavenly Father laid on my heart that I need to demonstrate my love for my wonderful neighbors by protecting their vehicles and preserving the beauty of our community.

More and more often, I am getting praised, and more and more I verbally turn that praise to our Heavenly Father who motivated me to serve them and to confirm that I love them.

Jesus proclaimed that our love for our Lord and for others is the greatest commandment of our lives.

Mark 12:29 – 31
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”    

This new methodology in my life of loving my neighbors allows me to celebrate our Heavenly Father in my community and invite others to see our Heavenly Father as the loving, protecting God who He is.