Feelings

I have been blessed beyond measure in my 23 short years of life. I have a wonderful family, a nice home, a college education, more food than I can eat available to me at the slightest feeling of hunger, and let’s not forget, three sweet dogs that are always happy to see me. These are just the beginning of it. If I were to name them all I’d be here all day and you would get disinterested, so I opted to leave it at those.

When I think about all my many blessings, I sometimes wonder how it is possible for me to feel anything but happy. I feel like I am being selfish and senseless when I let myself feel anything but happy. I compare my small problems to the much bigger problems that others face, and while this may put my problems into perspective, it doesn’t change whatever I may be feeling.

There are times when I am surrounded by people who love me but I still feel lonely. Times when everything is going my way, yet I still feel sad. Times when I have succeeded, yet I still feel as if I have failed. Times when expectations have been met, but I am still disappointed. All of these feelings can make me feel guilty, like I don’t have the right to feel a certain way. My self-talk becomes more and more negative as I tell myself how selfish I am for feeling that way. I push back the feelings, thinking that they can’t possibly belong to someone who has what others only dream of having.

I couldn’t rest with this guilt hovering over me, so I started to question and seek a solution. I’ve heard “count your blessings” so many times and would become frustrated when counting my blessings didn’t make the feelings completely go away. Sure, I was thankful for all I have but the feelings still emerged. I did not understand.

I discovered that I was doing it all wrong. I was focusing on all I’ve been given instead of the One who has given it all. As I was counting my blessings, I was leaving out the most important words: given from God because He loves me. It’s not having a family, a home, food, etc. that bring me joy. It’s having a family that loves me with the love from God and a home and food provided for me because of God’s great love for me that give me joy. After each blessing I name, I add “given from God because He loves me” and those feelings begin to fade as God’s love consumes me.

I also learned that this type of guilt I sometimes feel is false guilt. Somewhere along the way I forgot that I was human. I forgot that blessings don’t make me immune to feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, sadness, loneliness, anger and all other human feelings. No one earns the right to feel a certain way. Circumstances, rather big or small, lead to feelings because of our human nature, and feeling something is not a sin.

However, sin can emerge from feelings when we let feelings consume us. This reminds me of an equation I learned in a book titled Above the Line by Urban Meyer. The equation is E + R = O. An E (event) plus a R (response) equals an O (outcome). The only part of that equation we can control is the response. Feelings precede responses,and out-of-control feelings lead to wrong responses, which in turn leads to bad outcomes. So, the key is understanding and controlling our feelings. That doesn’t mean pushing your feelings away (that can be as damaging as acting on them). Rather, it means seeking God’s guidance and wisdom to resolve undesirable feelings and respond correctly.

We were created to feel. Don’t suppress your feelings, but don’t react on your feelings either. Stop, think, and pray. Let God uncover the source of your feelings and lead you to release them in a healthy, Godly way.

 

Advertisements

Peace Beyond Understanding

As I was sitting in church one morning I heard the preacher say, “peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of Jesus Christ in the midst of conflict”. I don’t remember much else of the sermon; however, this phrase stuck with me. As I continued to think about this statement, I found it to be more and more true.

We often see people going through terrible circumstances and wonder how they have peace through them. A husband left to raise young children after losing his wife in a car crash which only he survived- how does he find peace? A young couple over their heads in debt- how do they find peace? Parents losing a child too young- how do they find peace? A family that goes to bed hungry every night- how do they find peace?

Many more circumstances try to steal our peace throughout our lives, but they only succeed when we let them. Peace is having complete trust in God. Peace is resting assured in God’s promises. Contrary to secular belief, peace is not a problem-free life. Rather, it is a life lived with confidence in Christ Jesus our Lord. People can find peace in terrible circumstances only when they know that God has them in His Mighty Hand. Only when they trust in their hearts that He is in control can they have this incomprehensible peace.

Next time a problem arises that tries to take your peace remember that peace is the presence of Jesus in the midst of conflict. He will meet you right where you are if you seek Him. The pain may not subside but peace beyond your understanding will come. The Holy Spirit will fill you with comfort and peace. Trust in God. He is always in control.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:7

Keep Dreaming

There are two types of people in the world: realists and dreamers. Realists look at the world and see it for how it is. Dreamers look at the world and see it for how it could be or how they want it to be. One type of person is not better than the other; both have their pros and cons. Ideally, we would all have the perfect blend of a realist and a dreamer but unfortunately we don’t. Lucky for us, God knows the necessity for both types of people in the world and made us all different so that we could balance each other out.

I’m a dreamer. I always have been and I always will be. Therefore, I’m familiar with the pros and cons of being a dreamer. Dreamers have a positive outlook. As I said, they choose to see the world as it could be not as it is currently. They watch the news and hold on to that one story that brings hope. They have high expectations. They still believe that one person can make a difference.

On the con side, they are easily disappointed, or at least this dreamer is. Like I said, dreamers often have high expectations for themselves and others. They anticipate these expectations to be met. When they are not met and reality sets in, dreamers lose some of what they hold on to so tightly- hope. Unfortunately, with high expectations  (or any expectations at all) sometimes comes disappointment. Why? Because people are flawed. No one is perfect. We’re going to fail. We’re going to fall short. We’re going to let each other and ourselves down. Disappointment is just a part of this life, and whether it’s big or small it still causes pain.

So what’s a dreamer to do? Stop having expectations to avoid disappointment? Stop believing there is still hope? Stop dreaming? No. God makes dreamers for a reason. Disappointment is unavoidable. It is something we have to learn to deal with. We are not to let it tear us down and distract us from our goals. Dreamers can afford to take a lesson from the realists and understand that evil does exist. Dreamers need to look at the world and recognize that it is sinful and imperfect, but they must not stop believing that one person can make a difference. After all, one person already did- His name is Jesus. And Jesus has already told us, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Are you a dreamer? Do you believe that you can make a difference? Is disappointment plaguing you and causing you to lose hope in that belief? If so, from one dreamer to another, don’t let it. Chances are you’ve already made a difference in a life, and that life is making a difference in other lives, causing a rippling effect. And remember, the disappointment caused by situations or people not meeting your expectations is likely just what God intended. So keep dreaming. One day the world will be all as it should be.

Not a Lost Cause

Is there someone you know today that you wish you could change? You wish that you could alter their thinking,make them kinder, or stronger, or wiser. You’ve tried every which way possible and all attempts have failed. You see so much potential, but you are told it’s a lost cause and change isn’t possible. All hope is lost and you have given up. Have you been there? Are you there now?

There is hope because with God all things are possible, even change in the most stubborn of people. Look with me in Jeremiah 32:17.What does it say? NOTHING is too difficult for God. He made the heavens and the earth; He spoke them into being. You and I can not bring about change in others on our own, but Our God surely can. All we need to do is come before Him with a clean heart and ask Him to intervene on the behalf of others. Change may or may not happen over night, so we are to pray continually.

There is someone you know who is in need of change today. You may not even know what to pray, but God gave us His Word for guidance in these times. Join me today in following the example  Paul gave us of how to pray for others in Colossians 1:9-14 and insert the person’s or persons’ names where you see parentheses (the brackets are used to denote paraphrasing). “For this reason also, since the day [I] heard of it, [I] have not ceased to pray for (    ) and to ask that (   ) may be filled with the knowledge of [Your] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that (    ) will walk in a manner worthy of [You], to please [You] in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of [You]; strengthened with all power, according to [Your] glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the [You], who qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For [You] rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of [Your] beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Prayer brings about change. Seek God and trust Him to work in the lives of those you love for their good. Remember nothing is too difficult for God.

The Great I Am

Isn’t it amazing how you can read a verse or verses in scripture time and time again, and one day those same verses take on a whole new meaning? This is why we call scripture the Living Word. It is potent. It is pertinent. And it is always true.

I had heard and read several times the words in Exodus 3:14, “God said to Moses,’I AM WHO I AM'”. Nothing really struck me those times, nor did I really understand what God meant. But as scripture has a way of doing, the words jumped out at me when I heard them another time and I finally understood the meaning.

Moses had made up his mind to obey God and go to His people in Egypt. However, he was concerned that when he said the God of their fathers had sent him the Israelites would not know who this God was. So, he asked God what he was to tell them. God instructed Moses to tell them, “I AM has sent me to you”. I found it strange that God used that name to refer to himself instead of the names we often hear like your Heavenly Father, the Holy One, Almighty God, Sovereign King, Lord of All, etc. This is when God opened my eyes to understand what this name “I AM” truly means.

The name “I AM” encompasses all that God is. Every name that we call God is enveloped by the name “I AM”. I AM the Savior. I AM the Healer. I AM the Lord of All. I AM the Holy One. I AM Almighty God. I AM the Maker, the Creator of All. I AM the Sovereign King, Eternal King, King of Kings. I AM the Redeemer.

Whatever we need God is. When you are hurting and lonely God says, “I AM the Comforter”. When you are weak God says, “I AM your strength”. When you are afraid of the future God says “I AM the Sovereign King; I AM in control”. When you feel defeated God says, “I AM the Great Encourager”. When you are broken and can’t seem to pick the pieces God says, “I AM the Healer”. There is nothing He cannot provide. He is truly the Great I AM.

 

 

Tomorrow

I can remember when I was younger thinking it was taking centuries for me to get old enough to drive. Then, it seemed like it took forever to get to senior year. Once I was there, the years flew by at 100 mph. I graduated high school and then college the next day it felt like. And life hasn’t slowed down since. If anything time seems to be going by faster and faster.

The past couple of days I’ve been thinking about time and it fleeting away. We all know that we aren’t promised tomorrow. God gives and God takes away. He may give us today but take us tomorrow. Only He knows when our time will come. We know this, yet we often don’t think about it in our daily decisions and dealings with others. We hold grudges and say things to each other intending to cause pain. We make decisions that separate us from family and friends. We harbor hate and resentment. We think, “I’ll change my ways when I get older” or “I’ll give my life to God when I get older”.  But what if you never get the chance to get older? What if a family member or friend dies and you never get to restore that relationship that was severed over something that now seems so senseless? What if that once in a lifetime opportunity passes you by because you waited until tomorrow? What if tomorrow never comes?

We love to procrastinate and take the present time we have for granted. I’m as as guilty as the next person. But again I’ll remind you that we aren’t promised tomorrow. So why live today with hate, unwilling to forgive and restore broken relationships? Why live today without Christ as your Savior and the ruler of your heart? Why live today without giving your life completely to the Lord, surrendering everything?

Each day is a gift given from above. So today, love each other. Think before you say or do something hurtful that you will regret. Make that step towards forgiveness and let go of the hate in your heart. Don’t wait on someone else to make a move towards you, but you make that first move towards restoration. Surrender all to God and let Him be in control of your life. Accept Him as your Savior and trust in Him as you wait to enter His Kingdom. After all, tomorrow may be too late.

Let’s Talk Numbers

In our society we put a lot of emphasis on numbers. Social security numbers are used to identify us. House numbers are used to locate our houses. Phone numbers are used to contact each other.

We use numbers to track things such as time and purchases. We use numbers to grade athletic and academic performance. And of course, numbers are the essence of money and finances. We place importance on numerical things like whether we have a 6 figure salary or 5 figure salary, how much is in our bank accounts, and how much what we have and do not have costs.

Numbers are great. I don’t know where we would be without the number system. I am not trying to criticize our society for the focus we put on numbers. Rather, I am challenging us today to put emphasis on the right numbers.

So let’s talk numbers. Seven, the number of days it took for God to create the heavens and the earth and all that dwells within them. Forty, the number of days and nights the Israelites wandered in the desert before entering the Promised Land. Twelve, the number of disciples that obeyed the call to follow Jesus. Seventy times seven, the number of times we are to forgive each other (although Jesus was really just using this large number to symbolize every time). Three, the number that makes up the Trinity- Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. One, one birth that brought hope to the whole world. One, one death that tore the veil and made a way for everyone to come before the Father. One, one resurrection that promises eternal life to those who claim Christ as their Savior. One, one King to reign forever.

And lastly two, the number of choices we have here on earth- accept Christ as our Lord and Savior and dwell forever with Him or reject Christ in our hearts and burn in eternal fire. Christ will come again to take those that belong to Him. Choose today to let Him into your heart. Choose today to focus on no other number but number 1, Jesus Christ our one and only Savior, Lord, and King.

Who Inspires You?

Not too long ago I was asked in an interview, “Who inspires you?”. My immediate answer was my dad. I was surprised that I didn’t even have to think about this answer. It just kind of shot out of me the minute I was given the opportunity to reply. And now as I take the time to think about my answer it still remains the same, with the addition of my mom, my grandparents, my siblings, Granny Rogers (my great grandmother whom this blog was inspired by), and above all my Lord Jesus Christ.

I don’t know what kind of response my interviewer expected, maybe a well-known war hero or a highly achieved businessman like Bill Gates. Though their stories of sacrifice and success are inspiring, I find more inspiration from the little things that I get the privilege to witness everyday. Little things like waking up long before it’s light out to cook breakfast for a group of volunteers or to attend a Bible study. Things like giving up time and wants to serve and give to others. Things like knowing just the right moment when someone needs a hug or to hear I love you. Things like remembering to say thank you and appreciate others. Things like handing down prayer journals, Bibles, and devotional books so that others can share in your Christian journey.

Let me just stop and talk about that last “little thing” I just mentioned. Granny Rogers died when I was just a baby, but I still got the privilege of knowing her. How you ask? Through the Bibles and prayers and devotions she left behind. In these beaten up, torn books browned with age I discover Granny’s struggles, blessings, and faith in Jesus Christ. I learn from her journey as she walks with me through mine. It is such a great blessing and I bet she had no clue of the impact it would continue to make in her offspring.

That being said, I encourage you to start keeping journals. Write your struggles and successes, prayer request, revelations from God, and all the rest in the margins of your Bible. Underline your favorite verses. Write out your thoughts on the margins of your devotional books and record heartfelt, honest prayers in a journal. Most importantly save them for yourself to reflect back on as well as for future generations. The more torn and ragged they are the better- that means they have been used. Trust me, it is the greatest gift you can give someone you love.

I was blessed beyond measure with family that inspires me to be better than I was yesterday and to glorify the Lord in service to others. I understand that not everyone’s family life is ideal. There are a lot of broken families out there and inspiration is the last thing some may find in family. However, inspiration can always be found in Our Lord who forgives when forgiveness is undeserved, who loves the unlovable, who rescues the abandoned, who reaches out to the forsaken, who restores the broken, who overcomes the enemy, who died for the unrighteous.

Who inspires you? What inspires you? It’s okay if it’s a sports star or famous figure. It’s okay if it is not a family member. But if the Lord Jesus is not on your list, some things need to change for your benefit. Ask the Lord to show you some inspiration from Him today and He will be faithful to do just that!

 

Subtle Reminders

You know how you can hear a song or a phrase or a verse of scripture several times but it has no effect at the moment; then, one day those words ring in your head over and over. Well, that is exactly what happened to me on this wonderful Friday morning.

I heard a song on K-love on my way to work. A song I’ve heard millions of times before, but a song I just sang without thinking about the words. Again, this morning I sang the familiar words. However, this time it was different as I kept repeating the words to the tune stuck in my head, “this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long”.

Time and time again I’m amazed at the subtle yet very effective ways God changes my thoughts and attitude. In the simplest manner He can turn my heart to praise. I wouldn’t say I was in a bad mood this morning but I was tired and lethargic and not terribly excited about beginning my day. But the Lord changed all that by the subconscious repetition of the words of a song in my head. I mean you can’t help but to feel joyous and revived when you sing words like that.

It took several times repeating those words before I stopped and said to myself, “Hmm, praising my Savior  all the day long, what reason do I have not to do that?”. I have endless reasons to praise my Savior, starting with the reason He was given that name. He died for me and for you in order that we would have eternal life with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:10). If nothing else, we can praise Him all day long for that heroic action.

If I tried to list all the reasons I have to praise the Lord all throughout this day, I would run out of space. We all have reasons to praise God whether our life is in shambles or we are on cloud nine. Let God use subtle reminders to redirect your heart towards praise. Think of reasons to offer praise, write them down, and join me in praising our Savior, not just right now, but all the day long.

“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

What Do You Think About?

“And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8.
This verse is challenging in our society today, as we are bombarded by news of criminal actions, death, and more. It’s hard to think positively in the midst of the world’s problems sometimes; however, it is necessary. The mind is Satan’s favorite thing to manipulate because he knows that it is where destruction begins. If he can alter our thinking, he has a much better chance at altering our actions.
When thoughts of the world’s issues constantly circulate our minds we open the door for hopelessness, disparity, and negativity, all of which do not reflect a life saved by God’s grace. On the contrary, when we focus our thoughts on positive things we close the door to Satan’s attacks. God knows how effective Satan’s attacks on the mind can be when we are not focused on Him. For this reason He gave us instruction on how to direct our thinking.
First, on what is true. God’s Word is the undeniable truth. We must filter everything we hear through God’s Word. You may hear from others that you are worthless, tempting you to think this of yourself as well. However, that is not the truth rather it is a direct contradiction to the Word of God. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”. God crafted each one of us with great care for a specific purpose. No one is worthless in the Kingdom of God.
Second, on what is honorable. Several actions bring honor to God. Several actions bring dishonor to God. Purposely choose to think on those things that bring honor to God. For example, say you read about a mass murder and about the completed construction of a new church building on the same day. Which of those actions brings honor to the Lord? Which of those actions promotes positive thinking? Clearly, the establishment of a new church would bring honor to the Lord and promote positive thinking.
Third, on what is right. Not what is right in our own eyes, but what is right in God’s eyes. “For there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death,” says Proverbs 16:25. Thus, we cannot go by our judgment of right and wrong, but rather seek God’s guidance. He gives us commandments to guide us to right living as well as a conscious to tell us when we have done wrong. When our thoughts dwell on things that are not right, we will know. It is then our responsibility to think on what is right, such as loving others and forgiveness.
Fourth, on what is pure. Pure in the biblical sense often means without sin or corruption. In the dictionary you will find definitions saying something similar to “not mixed with anything else”, “containing nothing that does not belong”, and “clean”. Our thoughts should not be polluted with negativity and thoughts that do not fit the Christian lifestyle. They should be clean. They should be pure. Impure thoughts will cross your mind because we are by nature impure sinners. However, once Jesus enters our lives He on the inside of us is pure and He can replace our unclean thoughts with pure thoughts. All we have to do is ask.
Fifth, on what is lovely. So what is lovely? God’s beautiful creation is lovely. The sound of birds singing in the morning is lovely. The site of children kneeling by their bedside to pray. The changes that come with each new season, from summer blooms to the colors of fall to the winter snow. Just look around you. It’s impossible not to find something lovely to dwell on. The choice is yours if you do or not.
Sixth, on what is admirable. The news usually broadcast stories of disaster, but there is also often a heroic story that can be found among the mess. For example, not too long ago a young American risked his life to save people he did not even know and who were not his countrymen either on a train to France. That is definitely an admirable action worthy of recognition. However, though there are several people in this world that we can admire, there is none more worthy of our admiration than God our Father. Choose to focus on those stories and people who follow the ways of our God. Choose to focus on the admirable action of Jesus Christ who died a horrific death for us while we were still His enemies.
Lastly, on things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Things like a friend who was diagnosed with a terminal illness and miraculously healed by our God. Like an orphan child being accepted into a new loving home. Like a man who was let go at work finding a new job after months of searching. Like a lost soul accepting God’s salvation and grace. The list can go on for eternity. There are so many excellent things our Lord does in this world, and He deserves unending praise.
Let your thoughts be filled with truth, honor, righteousness, purity, love, admiration, excellence, and praise today. Leave no room for negativity to creep in. Ask God to be in control of your thoughts and be amazed at what He shows you.