Quick Strategy To Have a Less Stress-Filled Week

I have shared this strategy a lot.  When you are facing one of those stress-filled weeks try this:  

1.     Take index cards and write on each one what you are most concerned about this week.  (one concern per card)  

2.     Lay them face up on a table in front of you and share them with God.  He knows them better than you do, but do it anyway.  

3.     Pray something like this, “God, this is what I have before me this week and I can’t handle it all.  I’m asking you as my Father, who loves me more than I can imagine, to give me direction, success, wisdom, patience and understanding in every area of my life.  Lead me along the path you would have for me.  I’m trusting completely in you.  If this week is a success it will depend on you.  I love you Lord. In Jesus name, Amen”.  

4.     Do the best you know how to do, but leave the stress of the week in God’s hands. 

Please understand this is not a formula for success. I don’t believe those exist in any relationship and God is certainly not defined by my prayers.  This is, however, based on Hezekiah’s actions in response to receiving a letter that threatened his entire kingdom.  (2 Kings 19:14-19).  I have tried this numerous times and God always responds.

Sometimes that response has been to relieve me of all my stress.  Most of the time, however, this process has helped me refocus and feel a sense of calm among my circumstances knowing that my God is ultimately in control. 

Try this as you begin your week and see what happens.  

5 Ways To Help Determine if Your Plans are God’s Plans

I received an email from an Internet friend via my other ministry site (www.mustardseedministry.com) asking me how I determine if what I am doing is within the plans God has for me.  Here’s my quick reply to him for knowing you are within God’s plans for your life: 

1.     Does what you are doing (or planning to do) conflict with Scripture?

God’s will never will.

2.     Does what you are doing conflict with the counsel of others?  

God uses others to confirm His will.  (Don’t be confused though, because sometimes God calls us to go against the grain of life and walk by faith when everyone is saying we are crazy.  See Noah about that one.)

3.     Does what you are doing conflict with the spirit within you?  

God has sent His Holy Spirit as a helper.  He will guide us with an inner peace or a holy unrest.  

4.     Does what you are doing conflict with your life experience?  

God uses our experiences in life to teach us and mold us to His will.  Again, don’t be confused, because He usually stretches us out of our comfort zone also. 

5.     Does what you are doing conflict with your passion for life?  

God tends to work with the things that fuel our fire.  He loves when we are energized for the tasks He calls us to. 

Try those 5 together and see how they line up with your plans.  

If We Show Them Love…

Here are a couple of verses I have read many times, but today they made more sense than ever before.  At least how I’m interpreting them.    

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.  (Psalm 62:11-12)

I think what the Psalmist is saying is that God had shared His love with Him.  God had literally said, “I love you.”  He has to us also. Throughout the Bible we can see God telling His people and the world of His great love.  One famous verse, of course, tells us that “God so loved the world…. that He sent His son…”  (You probably know that verse!)  The Psalmist had heard others talk about God’s great love too!  It’s hard not to talk about such Amazing Grace! 

At the same time, the Psalmist had heard about God’s strength, yet God had never said to him, “I am strong!”.  God never bragged about His power.  I suppose He never had to.  When you can part the sea, raise the dead and put stars in the sky, you don’t have to convince people you have muscles. 

It also seems that Jesus lived His life that way as well. He was always telling of His love, but He never seemed to brag about His strength, but news of His love and strength spread quickly throughout the world at the time. 

I wonder if there is a lesson there for us as well, as leaders and as the church.  As we strive to be like Jesus, maybe we don’t need to brag about or even share with others how big, how powerful and wonderful we are.  Perhaps we just need to tell others how much we love them. News of that, and our majestic acts, will spread quickly without our help. 

Just a thought.  

(I realize the concept of a phrase or word being repeated in the Bible gives it double emphasis.  I love how a passage, though it has only one meaning, may have numerous applications.)  

The Dilemma of the Church

There is a passage of Scripture, which has been a favorite of mine for years.  It’s one I don’t understand completely, but it’s one that gives me great comfort at the same time.  It is also a dilemma the church has faced for many years. 

Here’s the passage:

In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:

       a righteous man perishing in his righteousness,

       and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.

Do not be over-righteous, neither be over-wise—why destroy yourself?

Do not be over-wicked, and do not be a fool—why die before your time?

(I love that is says, “Do not be over-righteous or over-wise”, because I can do that!) 

My church faces that battle.  So does yours if you honestly live according to the Bible.  The battle between legalism and grace is always difficult.  Are we to live holy and righteous lives? Absolutely.  Are we to be in the world and friends of sinners? If we want to be like Jesus we should.   Does God forgive us when we sin?  Thankfully.  Finding the delicate balance between those two extremes is difficult.

The reason the church has set standards for years is to help us live lives that more closely represent Christ.  The problem is that most of the time we struggle to keep our own rules. 

But here is the part that pulls it all together, but also leaves me wondering exactly how to do it:

It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.  (Ecclesiastes 7:15-18) 

I suspect I will spend the rest of my life trying to live that verse.  

How To Recover from Failure

In my personal ministry, sadly, I experience people more at their moments of failure than in their moments of success.  As an optimist, I plan for success.  I believe God desires success for His people. As a realist, I see failure all around me.  I believe God allows failure and uses it to draw us closer to Him and to teach us valuable insights into our characters and into the character of God Himself.   Failure has been a part of my life (a big part) and it is prevalent in the lives of the most of the successful people I know.  Therefore, we must learn how to recover from failure.   

 

Here are a few things to remember after and during your moments of failure.   

 

·         Take time to rest after your failure, but do not sit still for long.  Idleness often leads to temptations and worry. (I almost used another cliché’ involving idleness and the devil, but decided not to.)  Do something, even if it is volunteer work. 

·         Know that not everyone is talking about you, even if it may feel that everyone is. 

·         If people are talking about you, it will not last long until the new “failure of the month” comes along.

·         Take some time to re-evaluate what led to your failure.  Accept fault where appropriate and do not be too proud to say you made a mistake.

·         Learn from your mistakes and build safeguards in your life to keep from repeating the same ones.   

·         Keep your mind and body healthy.  Read, exercise, pray, and think.  It is important to stay fresh for your next opportunity. 

·         Begin to dream new dreams and set new goals.  (These goals can be the same goals you had before you failed if you are willing to take a risk on them again.) 

·         Make a decision in your heart to rise from your failure.  Prove to those who thought you could not (or at least you thought that is what they were saying) that you can succeed.  More than that prove it to you! 

·         Allow failure to make you stronger and better. 

What Language Are You Speaking?

Some people speak a language they share with the group of people who have a similar lifestyle, occupation or interest.  They use code words, anacronyms and phrases that only those within the group understand. Living in a military town, for example, I often hear a phrase like “he’s with the 82nd Airborne Division”, which to us civilians means????  Being married to an accountant wife means that having a tax conversation with her involves me knowing certain form numbers such as “W4 and W2”.   We tend to indoctrinate ourselves with the language and culture of the people we hang around, work with, and from whom we learn. 

 

Here is a short, random list of examples of people who speak a separate language. Feel free to add your own.

 

Accountants

Military

Physicians

Teachers

Christians

Pastors

Sports fans

Musicians

Techies

Cooks

 

Here is the reason this issue matters to us. It is perfectly okay and perhaps even necessary to have the language within a defined group of people.  It expedites the process and builds commonality and loyalty, but if we are not careful, we will alienate people outside our “group” who do not understand our language.  If we want to help people understand who Christ is and what He means to us, then we have to realize that not everyone understands what it means to be “growing in the Lord”. 

What phrases can you think of that Christians (or other groups) use that would be hard to understand outside the “group”? 

A Dog’s Christmas!

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. Romans 8:19 NIV

Most of us have a nativity set sitting around for Christmas. If your nativity set is like most I’ve seen, you no doubt have a few animals sitting around it. There may be a cow or two, a sheep, even a camel if it is a fancy set! Of course, Joseph and Mary placed Jesus in a manger, which is a feeding troth for animals, so there certainly would have been an animal or two close to the scene.  I wonder if the nativity scene were to take place in modern day America if there may be a puppy dog nearby.  (My yorkie dog would have loved the baby Jesus!)

It shouldn’t surprise us that animals may have witnessed the birth of the Christ child. Jesus was the Creator. He was with God from the very beginning, planning each intricate part of Creation. All creation, with the exception of man, naturally glorifies the Creator by unconditional obedience. A cow does as a cow is supposed to do. A camel is a camel is a camel. You don’t have to train a bird to tweet, it does as it was created to do.

The creation waits in eager expectation for God’s Son to be revealed! This was the Creator! This was their Master, the Inventor of life!

I once read a story about a mother who found her nativity scene continually disrupted.  She would enter the room to find all the pieces in one big pile. She would straighten it, only to find it messed up a few hours later. One day she witnessed her daughter piling the pieces together. When questioned, the little girl replied, “Mommy, it’s Christmas! Everyone wants to be real close to Jesus!”

It’s Christmas! Don’t be surprised that the animals were present at Jesus birth! And keep them close in your nativity! Creation is praising its Creator!

And don’t be surprised if you see a smile on a animal or two on Christmas day!

Why Christmas?

But your iniquities have separated you from your God, your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. Isaiah 59:2 NIV

Why do we need Christmas? Have you ever thought about that question? Probably not! If the truth be known, you, like me, are just so busy “doing” Christmas, and enjoying it to, that you haven’t stopped to consider the reason for the celebration.

Now, I am not talking about the “reason for the season”. You have no doubt seen and heard that. People have been wearing pins with that on it for two weeks and you know that it is to celebrate the birth of a Savior, but why did He need to be born?

Here’s why: (and, please, don’t miss this point this Christmas season) We need Christmas because with out it we are going to Hell! Now you’re thinking, “what does Hell have to do with Christmas?”.

Without Christmas, without the baby in a manger, the virgin birth, the shepherds in the field at night, the presents wrapped, the bills to be paid, the parties to attend, the expanded waistline….okay…you get the idea….without all the neat things that make Christmas what Christmas is, we would be eternally lost. See, all of us are lost, without hope, because we all have sin in our life. We are born into sin and can do nothing to rid ourselves of the sin habit.

God is Holy, as you know, and so He cannot tolerate any sin. None! He will not hear us through our sin and so, if we remain in our sin, we remain forever separated from God.

But then there is Christmas, Praise God! Jesus did come on that dark night some 2000 years ago! He came so that through Him we can be saved, completely forgiven of our sins, and enter the presence of a Holy God!

There is a Christmas! We need Christmas! Thank God for Christmas today!

A New Christmas Image

I love to study the images of Christmas. This year a new image came to me; one I had not considered before, which really is the combination of two images I have studied many times.

 

Image One:

 

Luke 2:7 says, “and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” 

 

There was no room for them in the Bethlehem hotel.  This fact often reminds me that sometimes my life is too “crowded” for Christ.  I have great intentions for my relationship with Him, but often I choose my “pleasures” over time with Him.  Sad to admit, but if I am honest, and you were to look at my schedule many days, it could be said of me that I have “no room” for Christ. 

 

Image Two:

 

Luke 2:8-9 says, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” 

 

The shepherds remind me that God first appeared with the news of His Son to those who society considered outcasts.  I have read that the courts refused shepherds testimonies in a court of law because they considered them untrustworthy. Shepherds appeared at the bottom of the social status, but they made themselves available to the Christ child.  It reminds me that although I have needed more grace than most pastors His grace is fully available even to me! 

 

Image Three:

 

I have never combined the above two images.  Think about this for a moment.  The fact that the inn had no room may have been necessary in order for the shepherds to receive the announcement.  Imagine if there had been room in the inn.  The shepherds would not have been able to visit the Christ child.  They would have had to find a place to take a bath, change clothes, and probably change their occupation if they had a hope of seeing Him. As shepherds, they would have been welcome in a barn, but not in the Bethlehem “Hyatt”.   

 

It is a great reminder to me this Christmas that God comes to those who do not deserve His presence or His love.  Immanuel presents Himself in places the “good people” never go!  He loves people the world has rejected and He makes Himself available without regard to our background, our reputation, the gossip about us, or even our smelliness. 

 

This year I am more thankful than ever that there was “no room for them in the inn.”

Poor Little Baby Jesus

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV

Heaven: Streets of Gold! Angels Rejoicing! No Tears! Perfect Harmony! Bright Morning Star! Love Abounds! Mansions of Glory! No Pain! Everlasting Joy! Heavenly Father! Peace! Comfort! Victory! Sweet Fragrance! Warmth!

Bethlehem: cold. dark. crying. no blanket. no room. animal smells. struggles of life. heartaches. temptation. work. strife. bitterness. envy. prejudice. hatred. murder. anger. lust. sin.

Jesus gave up the wealth of Heaven and all its benefits to come to a world that had basically rejected its Creator, so that you and I, though lost in our sin, separated from Him because of our poverty of iniquities, can experience the richness of Eternity with Him in Heaven. Jesus gave up everything. He literally became sin so that we could receive forgiveness from the sin we cast upon His back.

You will no doubt see a nativity scene this Christmas. Go over to it, paying careful attention to the Christ child. Try to picture that baby some 2000 years ago lying in that cold, dark manger, realizing what Heaven had lost for Bethlehem to gain a Savior.

He became poor so that we could become rich. Your inheritance is waiting. Jesus paid it all! The reading of the will happen soon. Are you in it?