“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16:16 NIV
“Say only what helps each word a gift” is my heart’s desire (Ephesians 4:29 MSG). Others may use words as weapons, but I have vowed to use mine as gifts to uplift and encourage, because as my pastor has often said, “We live in a hurting world.”
And I want to be part of the solution.
But I sometimes forget that the words I speak to myself about me can be weapons, too. If I tear myself down with my own words, who can build me up? What is the spirit behind this destructive self-talk? The devil. He’s “a roaring lion…seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8 KJV). Satan rejoices when we accept negative labels about ourselves. He laughs in delight when we cut ourselves down.
But in God’s eyes we are “unblameable and unreprovable” because He sees us through the blood of Christ (Colossians 1:22 KJV). He loves and cherishes us, and He has good plans for all of His children. There are no second-class citizens in God’s kingdom.
The next time you’re faced with what appears to be an insurmountable problem or a never-ending, debilitating condition guard your mind against Satan’s favorite lie—this is your lot in life; this is what God wants for you. Choose to remember the truth—God has provided a delightful inheritance for you, one that will give you joy beyond anything you could imagine.
What you tell yourself about you matters. When you say what God says about you, the Holy Spirit will fill your heart to overflowing, and your words will be empowering gifts to yourself and to others, too.
Lord Jesus, give us the wisdom to discern the spirit behind the words we say to ourselves and to others. Thank You that You have provided a wonderful inheritance for each of Your children. Amen.
GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS
“…the LORD will hear when I call unto Him.” Psalm 4:3b
How often have you longed for a more effective prayer life? The first truth to keep in mind is that God hears your prayers and mine. We must continually guard against Satan’s lie, “God isn’t listening to you because….” Whether you feel convicted over something you did or something you failed to do, begin by addressing that obstacle. Talk it over with God, seek and accept His forgiveness, for then you can move unburdened through your day, confident that Christ’s blood has met you at the place of your greatness need. What you need most at any moment is the certainty that you can come to God whatever your condition. Everything—every event, every circumstance, every problem, every feeling, every thought, every word, and every action—can do one of two things. Everything will cause you to draw closer to God or to retreat farther away from Him. Every struggle and disappointment will either increase or decrease your faith, depending on the course of action you are resolved to take.
Success in any endeavor depends upon a maintaining a proactive mindset. Romans 12:2 provides the prescription: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Just as your body needs food every day to function effectively, so your spirit needs the food of God’s Word. The more familiar you become with God’s Word, the more easily you will be able to bring “every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 2:5). For example, if you view God as a harsh God who says “no” to most of your prayers, you need to examine that feeling in the light of what the Bible says about the nature of God. Nothing in His Word supports this thinking. In fact, quite the opposite is true, “For all the promises of God in Him [Christ Jesus] are yea, and in Him are Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (II Corinthians 1:19-21).
Dear Lord, please help us to diligently examine our thoughts and feelings by searching the scriptures so that we see clearly what is true about us and about those we hold dear to our hearts. Only as we spend time looking into Your Word daily can we reflect to a hurting world the truth about Your abundant grace and mercy. Only then can we become effective instruments in Your hands as we see yea and amen to Your Word. Amen!
GUARD YOUR SPIRITUAL GROUND
“And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence …” I John 2:28a-c. KJV
God has reminded me many times that if I am too busy to pray, I am too busy—period. He does tolerate my “if onlys” and my “buts,” for He is patient and gentle. In my imagination, I see Him shake His head and whisper, “My daughter, you will learn … eventually … that though I’ve made you strong-willed, you can do nothing without Me.”
My schedule for the last seven years has left me spiritually malnourished. Working four jobs and going to college full-time, coupled with honoring my responsibilities as a mother and grandmother has meant I scarcely have time to eat proper food for my body or for my soul. I have known for a long time that I have been running on empty. What I did not know is that I had been robbed!
I recently applied for a position as the high school teacher in a small Christian school. On the one hand, the job seemed perfect for me. I had taught for 15 years using the same curriculum. And I believe God has called me to teach high school students, rather than college students. My love for teens, particularly at-risk teens, creates a rapport based on mutual regard and respect. Surely, He wants me to shine His love in the darkest place, a suburban public school, similar to the one I’ve been subbing in for the last year and a half.
My foremost desire—that God would lead me to choose the right place to teach—caused a crisis of faith. When the principal called to offer me the job, initially, I had no confidence that I would make the right decision. Fear and doubt paralyzed my mind and my heart. When I called a dear friend for prayer, she asked—among many other things—for the right teacher for the students. That sparked my faith. Surely, God would take care of them.
But what about me?
Satan had robbed me of the promise of I Corinthians 2:9: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” At that moment, I knew what God had been patiently waiting for me to discover. I can only have resilient confidence when I am abiding with Christ, daily reading His Word, and praying in quiet expectation for His perfect answer.
Lord Jesus, change me, change my life, so that my time with You is consistent, sufficient, and precious. Forgive me for letting Satan rob me of spiritual ground You have already revealed belongs to me. Help me to abide in Your Word so that Your Word abides in me. Amen.
Luke 15:31 “And he said unto him [the older brother in the story of the Prodigal son], Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.”
When I moved into my father’s house after his death thirteen years ago, a beautiful purple Rose of Sharon was growing by the back door. A lover of flowers since childhood, I immediately fell in love with this humble bush and its long-lasting blossoms. Years passed and I began to take the presence of these pleasing flowers for granted. Then a windstorm swept through my yard and broke my beloved Rose of Sharon off just inches from the ground.
Saddened at this loss, I hoped my bush would rally the following year, but it didn’t. So I marched myself into a local greenhouse and bought a replacement. I planted it in what I believed would be a safer place. Indeed, a few feet from the garage seemed more
sheltered from storms. But the rabbits discovered and ate my new Rose of Sharon
down to the ground. The following year my bush tried to rally, only to be consumed once more by hungry rabbits.
So many years have passed that I no longer remember what I did in response. Did I buy another bush and plant it near the house among the masses of perennials, hoping that the rabbits wouldn’t discover it? Maybe I simply accepted that this particular pleasure was a thing passed—just a memory of what once gave me joy but was now lost to me.
But this spring I “found” a Rose of Sharon bush growing among the perennials alongside my house. I promptly retrieved not one but two tomato cages and placed them around this bush in the hopes of discouraging enterprising and voracious rabbits. Then I forgot about the plant in the daily hustle and bustle of activities and responsibilities.
But God had not forgotten. One sunny summer morning, as I sat on my front porch swing enjoying my personal time with the Lord, I looked beyond the porch and spotted one pink Rose of Sharon blossoming in my neglected garden. I was overcome with wonder at God’s love for me. Even though I had nearly given up on experiencing the joy of this pleasure, God had a plan to restore what I had lost and forgotten. Through a simple unexpected gift He reminded me that He cares about everything that pertains to me.
Dear Lord, help me to take time to let You love me. You know that like Martha I get cumbered about with so much work that I don’t take time to sit at your feet. Then I don’t see Your loving hand in my day the way You intended I should. Open my heart and mind to all the ways that You demonstrate Your love for me every single day. Amen.
THE POWER OF OUR WORDS
“Say only what helps, each word a gift.” Ephesians 4:29 MSG
Ever since I was a teen and noticed that some people possessed the ability to say the very thing that would hurt the other person the most, I decided I would not use my words as weapons. Sometimes we may be tempted to try to gain an advantage in a conflict by bringing up something from the past or striking at the other person’s vulnerabilities. But I believe that God wants us to live our lives so that every word we speak to others is a gift that strengthens, encourages, and empowers them to be the best they can be.
If words are gifts, then they should never be used as weapons to hurt someone. I am teaching my grandchildren to ask God to help them use kind words. Kind words promote peace, and I want peacemaking to be an integral part of their characters and of my own as well.
Please put kind words in my heart and mouth–words of faith, hope, and peace. Amen.
PURPOSE AND DIRECTION
“…they did not [earnestly] wait for His plans
regarding them” (Psalm 106:13b AMP).
How often in my life have I been tempted to rush ahead of the LORD! A wise man once said that if you don’t know what to do, it is best to do nothing. I have tried to wait, resting in the knowledge that God has promised to lead me “forth by the right way” (Psalm 107:7a). On my front porch swing in the early morning with Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, my Bible, and a prayer journal, I have sought a quiet place. I have poured through inspirational books written by godly men and women who have struggled as we all do to find the paths God has designed for us.
And yet I have often been sidetracked by focusing on my own failures and weaknesses. I have neglected to embrace the fundamental truth that unless I am committed to seeing myself as God sees me, I will not be walking in a straight line toward becoming the person He has created me to be. I will be wandering in circles in the desert like the Hebrew children who tripped up repeatedly, so much so that God would have destroyed them had it not been for Moses’ intervention on their behalf. Thank goodness for Jesus who has intervened on my behalf, for I have often chosen the wrong path.
Six years ago, after teaching in Christian schools for over 15 years, I found myself not only without a job but also without a vocation. Throughout that summer and into the fall, I grieved the loss of my identity as a teacher and of my place in the Body of Christ. I was 46 at the time and had envisioned myself as a white-haired lady, teaching children and teens until the day I retired, at 70 or 75 maybe. But decline in enrollment and rising costs led to the closing of our small Christian school.
Floundering in what I perceived was a career crisis, I was faced with a choice.
Continue in education or embark on another path. Because I had 15+ years of experience teaching, but lacked a coveted teacher’s certificate, I chose to pursue another love and became a Veterinary Technician. Four years later, I faced yet another career crisis. As a licensed Vet Tech with just under a year’s experience, I became convinced that God’s plan for me had not changed. After much wrestling in prayer, I returned to college again, this time for my English 7-12 certification. Rather than lament the detour I had taken, I decided to welcome God’s work in me as everyday He molds me into the person He has always known I would become.
“What we read in Scripture is, ‘Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own” (Romans 4:3, MSG). For decades, I exhausted myself trying to work my way into the abundant life Jesus promised me. Today I am resting in the knowledge that God will fulfill every plan He has ordained for me. I cannot fail, for success is certain if only I do one thing: yield to the loving hands of my heavenly Father who performs “all things for me” (Psalm 57:2, KJV).
STAND IN AWE
“Stand in awe of God’s Yes.” Psalm 128:3 MSG
I have a problem, one common to us all. I frequently believe whatever lie Satan is telling me about God. For example, I have often believed that God’s answers to my prayers would usually be No. No, your ex-husband isn’t coming back. No, your father won’t recover from Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome. No, your mother won’t survive brain cancer. No, you aren’t going to keep your job, no matter how hard you tried to please your boss.
Then I’ve bought the second lie. God’s answer is no because I haven’t done everything I should have. It’s my fault. If I’d had more faith, if I’d believed and expected correctly … The list goes on and on.
The third lie effectively pounds the nails into the coffin. It’s better not to ask God for anything you care about too much because the more you care, the more likely the answer is to be NO!
So how do I “Stand in awe of God’s Yes” when I’m afraid His answer will be no? I choose to renew my mind every day by reading and listening to God’s Word. Then I make a commitment to evaluate my thoughts based on His promises. I say about me and my situation what God says. I go on my way rejoicing because I know that I know that I know… God’s Word trumps all Satan’s lies. Every time.
THE EFFECTS OF UNCERTAIN WORDS
“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the
battle?” I Corinthians 14:8 KJV
This morning while I was in the barn feeding my German shepherds, my sweet Tigger, the dog in the last kennel, barked at me the way he does every morning. He barked, I knew, to say, Please feed me. I had never forgotten to feed him, yet he still barked his message—a certain sound that I recognized from his other bark patterns.
At that moment, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me, “If the trumpet give an uncertain sound…,” and I immediately asked myself, how often during the course of a day do I give an uncertain sound? How often do the words that come out of my mouth fail to call the hearers to battle to serve the Lord and fight against Satan? The answer is simple but carries the weight of soul-changing conviction. Every time I speak a word that is not faith-filled, every time I say anything that disagrees with what God’s Word declares is true, I give an uncertain, confusing sound, and those who hear me and know I am a Christian are justifiably confused by my statement.
When my words reflect an attitude or a perspective that disagrees with the Words of my God and King, those who do not know Him cannot distinguish my words from the
commonplace reaction of “everyone” else. If I say what everyone else says, then those who hear me can only conclude that I believe what everyone else thinks. At its best, these hearers, who may be seeking the One who is the Answer, may conclude that I believe there is a God, but that He does not involve Himself actively in the affairs of human beings. At its worst, these hearers, who may be on the verge of rejecting Him, may mistakenly think I believe as they may—that we are all ultimately alone in this world with no one to help or comfort us.
When I chose, “Say only what helps, each word a gift,” as the tagline for my website, I
intended my printed words to be always faith-building, and yet my spoken words fall far short of this goal. “Lord, put Your hand over my mouth,” has often been my prayer. But often is clearly insufficient. I must guard my words daily, for they reflect to all who hear me what I think and believe.
If I do not willingly subject myself to the perspective of God, then why should the unbeliever who hears my uncertain and contradictory sound?
Lord, may the words that sound forth from my mouth draw others ever closer to You. May the message of my words be a clear, “God loves you. He can do all you need Him to do for you, because He is all you need.”
“Souls who follow their hearts thrive.” (Proverbs 13:19a, MSG)
“The Fear-of-God builds up confidence.” (Proverbs 14:26a, MSG)
At first glance these two verses seem to be unconnected. What exactly is confidence? Webster’s New World Dictionary and Thesaurus defines confidence as “trust; reliance;
assurance; [and] belief in one’s own abilities.” I once lost a job because, according to my employer, I lacked confidence. In short, I acted in a manner that indicated I questioned my own ability to do what was required of me. Although “the Fear-of-God builds up confidence,” my fear of displeasing my employer eroded my confidence. So you may ask, what went wrong? Was the fault with my employer or with me?
The more I believed that my boss didn’t believe in me, the less I believed in myself. I was nervous much of the time, and consequently I performed poorly. Sometimes, I made mistakes. Other times, I simply gave up and let someone else take over. I began to see myself through my boss’s eyes, and I did not like what I saw. Because of this vicious circle, success was the exception rather than the rule.
How is confidence developed? Confidence is not merely an attitude. Confidence grows
as we experience not only repeated successes but also the acknowledgement of those successes by others. Fearing God enables us to make moral choices that line up with God’s plan for our lives. Deep in our hearts we feel a sense of rightness, a harmony. We feel God’s pleasure. This gives us the confidence to stretch and become more of who He intended us to be. We were created to fear God—to hold Him in reverence, and doing so establishes a peace in the depth of our spirits that manifests as a confidence that cannot be shaken.
I was let go because I lost my confidence, in spite of all my efforts to build up my confidence. The fault was with my employer because he failed to praise me when I did things that pleased him and because he demeaned me when I asked questions with a sincere desire to learn to do my job better. The fault was mine because I was trying to do a job that I wanted to do, but was not born to do. I was guilty of not following my heart, not because I deliberately chose to do something I was not suited for, but because I simply did not know myself well enough.
Confidence cannot exist without integrity. If I am true to myself, I possess a confidence that cannot be overthrown by temporary setback or failure. If I fail to follow my heart, I am dishonest with myself. My confidence then becomes a costume I wear to prevent others from discovering that I am not who I am pretending to be. And while pretending to be someone I am not, I miss the joy of being the person God made me to be.
So who exactly am I? First and foremost, I am a child of God, created for His purpose and His pleasure. Discovering what He has placed inside of me is not so simple. But “skilled living gets its start in the Fear-of-God, insight into life from knowing a Holy God.” (Proverbs 9:10 MSG). God’s character demands that He be faithful to Himself, and He wants me to be faithful to myself, too. Thankfully, when I fail to follow my heart, He leads me gently back to the path He’s designed for me and welcomes me with His love that heals my broken places. He embraces me like the Prodigal daughter I am and shows me more of who He has wanted me to be all along.
Dear Lord, please help me to remember that You placed good qualities in me, that You have good plans for me, and that whenever I get off-track, You are more than able to help me get back on-track. Help me see myself as You see me. May my confidence be rooted in Your love for me. Amen.