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Oh how we love whining!

I don’t think any of us sets out to make a habit of whining. But it sure is easy to do, isn’t it? And it makes us feel better, temporarily.

We may love whining, but I’m pretty sure God doesn’t. Neither does anybody else who is subject to our droning.

Having ministered to women for nearly 30 years as a pastor’s wife, Bible teacher, and a conference speaker, I’ve heard my share of whining among women. I regrettably admit I’ve done my share of whining throughout those years, too. And I will venture to say that you and I love whining for these reasons:

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What stresses you out? Work? Finances? Your children? Tax time?

What about a project you are working on that doesn’t appear to be coming together? Or an over-packed schedule that has you striving for the impossible?

Maybe it’s even your ministry or service to God that has you stressed out!

Stress results when we worry that something won’t work out the way we are hoping. It is the opposite of faith – which is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

And God doesn’t want you to stress. Here’s why:

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Are you tired of the hateful language on television and social media lately? It isn’t coming just from unbelievers. It’s coming from those who follow Christ, too.

My friend, Dawn Marie Wilson, has a heart to see women live more godly lives. As my guest blogger today, she offers simple ways we can stand out amidst the hostility and be a more compassionate, yet effective,  communicator.

Dawn says: “I believe every one of us can become a more compassionate communicator.”

Here are Dawn’s 8 ways we can learn to express ourselves in a more compassionate manner:

1. We can learn to be SENSITIVE.
We must be sensitive to differences. God designed a beautiful “garden” of people. Some are “roses,” some are “daisies,” and some are awesome medicinal “weeds”! Is a rose better than a weed just because we think it’s so?
God is the Potter and we are His clay (Isaiah 64:8). Every person is beautiful and valuable—created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Instead of trying to ignore our differences, we can develop deeper appreciation for them. We can love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31).
Being sensitive doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything; we can learn to disagree agreeably. Sensitivity is simply the capacity to be aware of differences and the needs of others. That’s something we all can cultivate.
2. We can show RESPECT.

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If you are dreading Valentine’s Day you are not alone.

Every year I talk with women, read loads of emails, and even receive hand-written letters from women who are lonely in love, disappointed from unmet expectations, or simply tired of the loneliness they feel on a day designed to celebrate love.

Whether you’re single, married, divorced, or widowed, you may feel like a woman who walks alone. But there is One who knows your heart inside and out, and knows exactly how to fill it with joy when nothing else satisfies.

Scripture tells us Jesus our High Priest is one who can sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). Not only can He help us when we are being tempted because He was tempted too, but He can relate to our sorrows because He lived life on this earth, as well. And because He is God and knows us inside out (Psalm 139), I believe He also understands a broken heart, a lonely heart, and an empty heart.

So take heart. You have a God who can meet your emotional needs because He knows you intimately and invites you to pour out your heart before Him (Psalm 62:8).

Here is a “pour it out” prayer for the lonely on Valentine’s Day. Say it from your heart and share it with someone who needs to know she is loved.

Lord God, You are the Creator of love and the Author of romance. It was all Your idea in the first place. And therefore, You understand more than anyone else when I feel I am lacking in what others seem to have in abundance.

Thank You that You understand the deep desire of my heart for companionship, emotional fulfillment, and physical and emotional intimacy. You made me with a desire to be fully known and loved by another. Help me to see that You know me fully, and understand me more than any other. Comfort me with that assurance on the days when I wish I had someone physically – or emotionally – close to me.

Even though You, Lord, can at any time change my circumstances in order to fill the void in my heart, for some reason You have chosen not to. Help me to trust You with what You are withholding from me, perhaps so I will draw closer to You and rely on You more for what I need (Psalm 84:11). Help me to trust You during the times that your “no” is protecting me from what I don’t yet see. Help me to hold onto hope that You really do have my best in mind and Your wisdom is far above mine.

On this day that so many celebrate love, help me to celebrate Your love for me, with a deep knowledge that You love me more than any person on this earth ever will. Help me to find joy in that as I wait for Your best for me. Help me to see Your love for me in every flower that blooms, feel it in every warm ray of sunshine, hear it in every pure and right love song, and experience it in every good and perfect gift I receive (James 1:17).

Thank You that You have searched me and You know me (Psalm 139:1) and that nothing is hidden from You.

Lord, I love that You know all about me. And when You see desires of mine that are not fully in line with Yours, You do not toss me aside. You, instead, send friends my way to love me back to You. You send songs my way that remind me of where I need to be in my relationship with You. You send words my way that remind me that You are the One who opens Your hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145:16). Lord, take any longing that lies within me that is unhealthy and replace it with a stronger desire for You. And because You tell me to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16, NKJV) and tell You all that is on my heart, I will not try to hide anything from You. I want to experience intimacy with You the way an honest, transparent love relationship was meant to be experienced.

Thank You, Lord, that You see it all and You love me just the same.

“All my longings lie open before You, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you” (Psalm 38:9). You know what I long for and what disappoints me. Comfort me on those days when I feel disappointed and hurt by what this world has to offer. Help me to remember that You are the only Perfect Love and the One I must keep my eyes upon. Thank You for Your demonstration of sacrificial love for me and remind me that no one on earth could express that kind of love toward me. You truly are the One I must seek above any other.

May the prayer of the Psalmist be mine today:

“Satisfy  [me] in the morning with your unfailing love, that [I] may sing for joy and be glad all [my] days” (Psalm 90:14).

 

 

As I prepare to launch my new book Drama Free, I asked my friend, Shelley Hendrix to share what was on her heart when it comes to drama.

Shelley pointed to the Bible’s instructions in Romans 12:18:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

“This biblical mandate doesn’t ask of us the impossible,” Shelley said. “It doesn’t ask us to play God or try to be god to anyone. It doesn’t ask us to be perfect. It reveals the ability we have to make powerful choices in our lives that increase our own peace so that we, in turn, can make a greater impact for good in our generation.”

Shelley shared from her book Why Can’t We Just Get Along? these helpful tips for confronting difficult people so we don’t fall into the trap of bitterness or regret:

Whenever we’re riddled with guilt or bitterness or regret, we remain shackled in chains that have already been unlocked for us. But it has always been and will always be our choice to remain in those shackles or to cast them off and run in the freedom purchased us by the forgiveness of the God who forgave us long before we could have even begun to wonder how we could make things right with Him. He set things right. He initiated the forgiveness of all of our wrongs toward Him. And He is the One who makes us able to offer that kind of forgiveness to others, whether they realize they need it or not.

Whenever we see that a confrontation is necessary, it is vital that we take the time needed to examine our own hearts and motives first. The importance of this cannot be overstated, so please take the time to do this thoroughly by asking yourself and answering these questions:

1.      What is my motive in confronting this other person/group? If your answer reveals a desire for revenge, to put the other person in his/her place, or something of that flavor, please wait until your emotions have calmed down enough to handle the confrontation with respect for the other person.

2.      Am I ready to accept that the other person may not respond the way I would prefer? Take the time to release your expectations and desires to your heavenly Father. Going into the confrontation with an agenda can put both you and the other person on the defensive if/when things don’t go your way.

3.      Is this safe? Not to be melodramatic, but the truth is that some confrontations are unwise because the emotions involved can escalate in some situations putting one or both people at risk for harm—either verbally or physically. If it isn’t safe, don’t confront (or don’t go it alone). Common sense applies here.

4.      What do I hope to gain? If you recognize that the importance is that your voice be heard, and not that the other person respond the way you desire, then you are probably ready to confront.

Remember … “the truth may be painful, but it should never be hurtful” (James Eubanks). Check your motives, investigate your desires, evaluate your safety, and acknowledge your hopes before heading into a confrontation with another person or group. I believe these steps will help you get your thoughts together for a respectful confrontation with just about anyone. (Just about!)

Go in peace.

ShelleyHendrixShelley Hendrix is a wife, mother, Bible teacher, speaker, author,  television talk show host and the Founder of Church 4 Chicks. This blog post is an excerpt from her book, Why Can’t We Just Get Along? Six Effective Skills for Dealing with Difficult People, published by Harvest House Publishers. For more on this book, along with a sneak peek and online ordering options, visit: http://harvesthousepublishers.com/book/why-cant-we-just-get-along-2013/.

Do you struggle with confidence, significance, or feeling loved? Or do you know a woman who does?

God’s Word is full of life-giving, confidence-boosting verses. But you and I have to understand and apply them to truly be changed by them. Here are five passages that – if really believed – will change your life or the life of a woman you care about.

  1. Isaiah 54:5 – God is Your Spiritual Husband.

Show me a confident woman who follows Christ and I’ll show you a woman acquainted with Isaiah 54:5:

“For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer….

While that verse, in context, was spoken to the nation of Israel, it is applicable today to the church – those  of us who are trusting in Christ alone for our salvation. God’s illustration of the church as His bride is something that resonates with every woman’s heart. When you really believe this passage you will understand that your husband –or anyone else – can’t possibly meet all of your emotional needs and you’ll begin to look to God to be your spiritual husband. Only God can meet your primary emotional needs. And a woman who looks to God as her spiritual husband will see Him as her Protector, Comforter, and Fulfillment.

  1. Jeremiah 31:3 – You are Unconditionally Loved.

At the root of our insecurities and search for significance and purpose is the question “Am I loved?” To know you are unconditionally loved for who you are can truly change your life. Jeremiah 31:3 tells us:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Stack that truth up alongside Romans 8:38-39 and you’ll find there’s nothing you can do and nothing that will come your way that will ever separate you from God’s love for you in Christ Jesus. You are His. And you are incredibly loved.

  1. Hebrews 13:5 – You Are Never Truly Alone.

As a pastor’s wife, I discovered years ago that a woman can be in a room (or church) full of people and still feel very much alone. Yet scripture tells us we are never truly alone. God is always with you and me.

Hebrews 13:5 reminds us of God’s words spoken in Deuteronomy 31:6:

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”

Psalm 139:7-12 describes in detail the fact that there is nowhere you and I can go where God will not follow, no place we can hide where God cannot find us, no place we can wander where we will be outside of His presence. That is love that will never leave. And that kind of love changed my life. Will you let it change yours?

  1. Psalm 18:28-29You Can do Anything with God-Confidence.

Do you ever feel that it’s you against the world? That your schedule is overwhelming, your marriage is deteriorating, or your kids are out of control?

Psalm 18:28-29 says:

You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.
 With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall.”

If you lack energy or motivation to continue in your job, your marriage, or your Christian walk, God is the One who keeps your lamp burning. When you lack direction in how to move forward no matter what the issue, He is the One who illumines your path and turns your darkness or uncertainty into light.  Whether you’re up against a dream you don’t believe you can accomplish, a relationship you don’t think is repairable, or a child’s heart you think is impenetrable, God will help you advance against that troop of doubts and fears and leap over that wall of impossibility.

God goes before you into your battles and, as the next verse in Psalm 18 says, “His way is perfect” (verse 30). Trust Him and rely on His Word. And you’ll have all the God-confidence you will ever need.

  1. James 1:5 – You Can Have Boatloads of Wisdom

There isn’t a woman, wife, or mom I know who doesn’t want and need wisdom in any number of areas. And we have a promise in James 1:5 that “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” There it is. If you want wisdom, all you have to do is ask for it, and the God who gives generously will grant it, without hesitation and without finding fault in you. That is reassuring. And it means you  never have to stress or lie awake at night wondering if you made the right decision or if God will bless it, if you first asked Him for the wisdom He promises to give.

So tell me. In light of what God’s Word offers, do you still struggle with confidence, significance or feeling loved?

About 16 months ago I posted a blog called  “5 Things God Will Never Say as You Hand Him Your Concerns.”

You were encouraged to find out that God’s response will never be:

1. You’ve got this yourself.
2. I 
really don’t want to hear about it.
3.
You don’t need Me.
4.
Sorry, it’s impossible.
5.
I don’t want to do anything for you

(Click on that link above and you can get the details on why you’ll never hear those responses.)

Now, here are 4 more things God will never say when we trust Him with our problems, rather than worry:

  • I’m sorry. When we tell others our concern, they can sympathize with us. They might even be a contributor to what concerns us, in which case they might apologize. But we have a God who makes no mistakes. All His ways are perfect  (Deut. 32:4). So He is a God who literally never has to say He’s sorry.
  • I had no idea. There is nothing You can tell God that will take Him by surprise. Nothing will shock Him or disappoint Him or change the way He feels about you. Read Psalm 139 – in its entirety — as a refresher course in how familiar God is with all of your ways. (“O Lord, You have searched me and known me.…Even before there is a word on my tongue…You know it all….”) Don’t ever think you’re telling God something in prayer that He doesn’t already know.
  • I’ll pray for you.  This is often a believer’s response when we share our struggles. And it’s great to have friends who will remember to actually pray for us, after telling us they will. The wonderful thing about telling God our concerns is that He is already at work in our circumstances (Romans 8:28-29). So, rather than saying “I”ll pray for you,” God’s response is “I’ve got you!”
  • I wish I could help. Most of the people we confide in really are helpless when it comes to eliminating, fixing, or solving our concern. They can offer comfort, support, and encouragement but that’s about it. God is the Only One who really can help. Listen to the song writer’s words in Psalm 121:

My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;

 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore (verses 2-3, 5-8).

The Lord really is our Helper. And if it appears He’s doing nothing about your concern, He is either waiting for the perfect time to come through for you or He is working something far better for you than you can imagine.

Can you trust Him with your concerns today?

For more on God’s tender heart toward you, see my devotional  God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, and read a sample page on my website.

Do you ever feel like God isn’t answering your prayers?

I heard from a reader recently who asked “How long am I supposed to pray if God continues to ignore me?”

It might feel like God is ignoring you when He doesn’t answer your prayers immediately or in the way you’re hoping. But Scripture offers us insights as to why God might appear to be silent.

One verse that I’ve found most helpful in my own life – when it comes to unanswered prayer – is Psalm 84:11, in which the Psalmist said “No good thing will [God] withhold from those who walk uprightly.” I find three principles (and loads of encouragement) in this verse for why God might not be answering my prayer or yours.

  1. God’s idea of a “good thing” might be different than yours. You might be praying for a husband, a job you’ve been hoping for, or to win the lottery. Why would God not give you any or all of the three? Because even though you might feel it’s good for you to be married, or to be working in a job you like, or to have more money, God’s opinion might differ. Just because something makes us happy doesn’t mean it’s good for us, eternally. And God has our eternal best in mind.

 In Matthew 7:11 Jesus said:

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”

We want our children to be happy, but not at the expense of their health, and therefore we don’t give them candy at every meal. We want them to hold down a good job, but we won’t do that job for them because learning responsibility and the consequences of a bad decision are more healthy and good for them in the long run. Trust that God, your Heavenly Father, knows what is best for you. And while you may be heartbroken at His “no,” He may very well be sparing you a bigger heartache down the road.

  1. God is waiting for you to be obedient. Scripture exhorts husbands to be considerate of their wives and treat them with respect so that their prayers aren’t hindered (1 Peter 3:7). And Psalm 84:11 says “no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Are you walking uprightly? Is your life not only obedient, but surrendered to Him? If not, God may be withholding or refusing to acknowledge your prayers to get you back into line with His will and purposes.
  1. It isn’t the right time. God has three answers. Yes, no, and wait. Because He can see what’s eternally best for us, and He can also see what’s coming down the road (and we can’t), trust His judgment. Don’t second guess Him. His timing is always better than yours. If you are walking uprightly and what you’re asking for is truly a good thing then, according to Psalm 84:11, God is not withholding after all. It just isn’t time.
  1. You aren’t asking in faith. How we pray is just as important as what we pray for. In  James 1:5-8 we are told:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

Furthermore, Hebrews 11:6 says,

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

So ask in faith and without hesitation or doubting. God may be waiting for you to truly believe He can do what you are asking for.

  1. God has something better for you than what you are asking for. This is my favorite reason for why God says “no” but we so often forget to consider it. Because He is good and knows what’s eternally best for us, and doesn’t want us to settle, God sometimes says no or closes a door because He has something better for us that we haven’t even thought to ask for. He is One who can do “immeasurably more” than all we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Trust His timing. Trust His “no.” And trust His idea of what is eternally best for you. He really is a good father.

Do you believe that?

Do you know what it’s like to feel disappointed in God?

You’ve prayed. You’ve been faithful and obedient. You’ve sincerely wanted God’s best, not yours. And then “God’s best” turned out to be something that didn’t feel best for you after all.

You’re not alone in that disappointment. And God hasn’t forgotten about you.

For the past three years, my family has experienced its share of disappointments. My husband, a pastor who served faithfully for 20 years, stepped out of the senior pastorate for what we believed would be a one-year sabbatical, after which time he would transition into whatever God had for him next. And that one year turned into two, and then into three, and then, just as we were bracing ourselves for another disappointing year, a door cracked open. And that door actually stayed open long enough for him to walk through and experience life on the “other side of disappointment” once again.

And the words that keep coming to my mind and heart — as I reflect on the past three years of asking, waiting, complaining, repenting, and asking again — are never forgotten.

While you may feel disappointed this Christmas because of a lost love, a lost job, a lost opportunity, a hurtful betrayal, or a wayward child, you are not forgotten. Disappointed at life, perhaps, but never forgotten.

Here is a prayer I prayed in the disappointment. And I can pray it again now as I reflect on His perfect timing. I trust it will bring peace to your heart as you continue to ask and wait for your God to come through.

Lord, Jesus, I thank You for what You are doing in and around my life. Not because I feel good about it, but because Your Word commands me to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I truly want Your will in my life, but I want Your grace and Your wisdom to not only recognize it, but to accept it and be grateful for it, as well.

I know You are in control of all things. I know You are the giver of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). And yet for some reason You have chosen not to give me what I am asking for at this time. Your Word says You are “a sun [to light my way] and shield [to protect me from harm]” and that “no good thing” will You withhold from those whose walk is blameless (Psalm 84:11). Therefore, I choose to believe You are still good even when You withhold something from me and I don’t understand why. I choose to believe You are still loving, and You are still protecting me in the midst of what still feels disappointing.

Lord, at this time of the year when people are focused on giving, help me to remember that You have given me the greatest gift I could ever receive – salvation through my faith in Your Son, Jesus. And because of that great gift of Your Son, I also have peace, comfort, provision, and many blessings I might have missed because I was focused on the disappointments and the letdowns instead.

Thank You for all the days You have heard my cries, seen my tears, and worked behind the scenes in my life when I didn’t even realize it. Thank You for the many times you have walked before me or alongside me, “though your footprints were not seen” (Psalm 77:19).

Thank You for the air I breathe, for the ways I am healthy, for the fact that as disappointing as life has been, it could be far worse. Thank You for the people in my life who have reached out to me and been the arms of Jesus to embrace me, the hands of Jesus to serve me, and the mouth of Jesus to provide words of comfort. Thank You, that even on days when I received none of that, You were still there, speaking to me through your Word, through the circumstances in my life, and through Your quiet whispers on my heart.

As Christmas approaches, help me to love and serve others around me from a heart that loves You and trusts You no matter what has happened, and no matter what lies ahead. Thank You that my hope is not in my circumstances, nor in the odds, nor in “luck,” nor in others; my hope is in You (Psalm 62:5). “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). “For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth” (Psalm 71:5).

And Lord, in the midst of my disappointment, don’t let my heart grow bitter and don’t let me begin to doubt Your love and presence. In these difficult times, “May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you” (Psalm 25:21). May I be a light to others this Christmas season as I focus on Who You are, and may my heart of gratitude and faith in Your unseen promises please Your heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Let me know if you’ve prayed this prayer so I can pray for you, too. Merry Christmas, my friend, you are not forgotten.

In my last blog I asked you what you want more of. I told you I want more of Jesus and less of me. And I promised to meditate on what it means to want more of Him. As I contemplated getting to that place where we desire Him more than anything else, this is what I came up with:

1. Start Praising Him:
Do you realize God’s will is for us to be thankful in all things?
First Thessalonians 5:18 says: “Give thanks in all things for this is God’s Will for you in Christ Jesus.”

For me to be thankful in the bad times, as well as the good, means I have to constantly acknowledge that God is good, regardless of my circumstances. Wow! That does something to my devotional life with Christ. As I recount how good, all-knowing, and all-loving He is, it makes me love Him more. As we thank God for what He’s done and praise Him for who He is, we can’t help but love Him.

Constantly being aware that He has given us our very breath and health makes us remember He is Almighty God and we are not. You might be thinking He hasn’t given you much lately. But what do you really have that hasn’t been given to you? As we become grateful for everything we have it will move our hearts. And our hearts will be filled with a love for Him.

Can you start praising Him right now regardless of your circumstances?

2. Say Breath Prayers:
We often have to tell ourselves what to think…and condition ourselves to want the right things. I’ve found that as I start saying small “breath prayers” and literally breathing certain requests, they become a part of me. Try uttering breath prayers throughout the day, as if you are training and conditioning your heart how to feel.
These are my breath prayers of late:
* Give me a heart for You
* I want more of You, Jesus
* Lord, be my everything
* Jesus, I’m completely Yours
* I love You, Lord
* Capture my heart, Lord Jesus

Can you start verbalizing your heart’s desire so it becomes a part of you?

3. Surrender to Him What You Love the Most: There’s a reason Jesus said “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). Jesus knew that whatever we put first in our hearts will eventually become our god. And He demands and deserves to be first place. Yet how easy it is to love other, more tangible things more than Him.

A longtime friend in ministry who lost his Dad on Thanksgiving day sent me this quote from Randy Alcorn:

“Tragically, many Christians store up most of their treasures on Earth. So every day that moves them closer to death moves them farther from their treasures. They end up backing into eternity, heading away from their treasures…Christ calls us to turn it around — to store up our treasures in Heaven. That way, every day we get closer to our deaths, we move toward our treasures.”

Oh how I want my greatest treasure to be Jesus…so I look forward to this life coming to a close, rather than dreading it.

Can you focus on just one of these steps today and see how it increases your love for God? It’s one small way of having more of Jesus and less of you.

What do you want more of?

Have you thought of that lately?

You and I live in a society where we are constantly feeling we need more of something. I’m not necessarily talking about materialism and greed, but more like the feeling of scarcity.

I know I find myself saying I need more time, more money, more energy, more sleep, more opportunities, more motivation, more discipline, and more willpower.

But really, the only thing I need more of is Jesus. Yet how often do I think or state aloud: “I need more of Jesus? And how often do I admit “I need less of me”?

In a society where we are constantly told to love yourself, love your body, and even “love your selfie,” who is telling us we need to love ourselves less and love Him more? Who is encouraging us to decrease so Christ can increase?

John the Baptist, at the height of His popularity, (today we would say “at the height of building his platform and securing his following) said “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Wow…there’s a strategy for success.

Jesus said whoever will be first will be last. And whoever seeks to save his life must first lose it. And “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,” (1 Peter 5:6).

I truly need more of Jesus and less of me. And this week I’m going to be praying about and focusing on how I can truly want more of Him and less of me. In next week’s blog I will tell you what I came up with. In the meantime, tell someone this week the one thing you need more of. As you recognize and verbalize your need, your heart may start to go after it.

Feeling discouraged? Tired? Physically or emotionally run down?

It happens — from life, lost love, disappointments, and an overloaded schedule.

And God understands those days. I believe that’s why He included some encouraging songs in the Bible that remind us we’re not the only ones who have felt down and complained to Him about it.

In Psalm 6, David was experiencing an emotional low. He apparently felt discouraged, defeated, and overwhelmed. Physically, he was wasting away. He’d been running from his enemies too long and he was exhausted. Spiritually, he was dismayed and thought God had forgotten him. Emotionally, he was depressed and feeling ready to give up. I’d say David was running on empty!

Listen to his cry for help:

“Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint;
O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in anguish.
How long, O LORD, how long?
I am worn out from groaning….” (Psalm 6:2-3, 6a)

Do you ever feel that way? I do. When I’m over-extended, and I’ve pushed myself beyond the limits and I’m feeling physically and emotionally rundown. When I’ve reached burnout.

David was originally focused on his feelings. But then he focused on the facts to bring him out of his depressed and run-down state. Look at what happened when he started to remember the facts about God:

“Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the LORD has heard my cry for mercy;
The LORD accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed;
They will turn back in sudden disgrace.” (verses 8-10)

What caused the dramatic shift in how David felt? He got his focus. It wasn’t about how he was feeling. It was about the God who was going to take care of him. When he remembered the facts about God, his feelings waned and he got the energy and confidence he needed to get through his situation.

This is what David discovered by focusing on the facts about God, rather than his feelings:
• He may have felt like he was forgotten, but the fact is that God knew his case.
• He may have felt that God wasn’t listening to Him, but the fact is that God in Heaven heard his cry.
• He may have felt that God had rejected him, but the fact is that God had accepted and acted upon his prayer.

What About You?

You, my friend, may feel rundown and defeated, like you can’t do one more thing but the fact is that you can do “everything through him who gives (you) strength” (Phil. 4:13).

You may feel you’re up against a no-win situation, but the fact is that “…with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26) and “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23).

You may feel like you’re at the end of your rope and you can’t do one thing more, but the fact is that “those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary (Isaiah 40:31).

By waiting on God (that doesn’t take a lot of energy, by the way), you’ll gain new strength to rise up, walk, and even run.

Switch your focus right now onto God…the One who hears your cry and helps you.

Do you ever feel guilty about pursuing a dream God has placed upon your heart?

I’ve heard women say things like “Who am I to have a dream?” or “Shouldn’t I be content with my life? Why does there have to be something more like a dream or a calling?”

I wouldn’t say it’s being selfish to pursue a calling that God has placed on your heart. I would say it’s being  obedient. If a calling is truly from God, to not pursue it is to not believe He will equip you to where He has called you.

Although God calls each of us to faith, obedience, and to share the Gospel with others and make disciples of new believers, I strongly believe God also has a specific calling for each of us, as well. And that calling – or dream – is as unique to us as our fingerprints. It’s woven onto the fabric of our hearts. And I believe God has dreamed of the day we would each discover that dream and calling He’s placed on our lives so we can live it out for His glory.

Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (NASB). The word “workmanship” in that verse (the New Living Translation uses the word “masterpiece”) comes from the Greek word, “poiema” where we get our English word “poem.” So, a more literal interpretation of the first part of that verse would be “We are God’s poem” – His unique expression of Who He is and the great things He can do. So, when you are living out the calling He has placed on your heart, you are showing the world Who He is and what He can do through you.

One of the reasons we can feel guilty or selfish about pursuing a dream is because we can confuse God’s calling on our life with our own personal desires and ambitions. While the pursuit of  our ambitions can result in the neglect of our loved ones and compromise of our values and convictions, the pursuit of God’s calling on our lives will never require disobedience or compromise. Nor will God’s calling require you to “go out on your own” and act independently of Him. God always calls us to a greater dependence on Him so that we realize we can do nothing  apart from Him  (John 15:5).

So how can you be sure a calling is from God in order to pursue it guilt-free?

  1. Your calling is something that glorifies God, not you. Most of us have ambitions or goals of what we’d like to accomplish, but is the motivation for self glorification or that God be exalted? I talk with many people who dream of publishing a book for the notoriety, the “extra income” (both of which rarely result from publishing a book, by the way), and even “a sense of accomplishment.” But a calling from God is always beyond ourselves. It’s not motivated in our own ambitions or what we want to accomplish, personally. It’s about the One who is whispering to us what is important to Him. And it’s about responding to the One who has given us certain abilities and is waiting to bless us and others through our surrender of those abilities for His renown, not ours. The “fruit” and end result of God’s calling on our lives is that He is glorified, even if we suffer.
  1. Your calling is something God controls, not you. I’ve also heard from many people who are frustrated with their inability to “achieve the dream” or “pursue the calling.” But where God guides, He provides. He often calls us to something that is beyond us so that we have to depend on Him in order to accomplish it. If you are striving to achieve your dream at what seems like all costs, then perhaps it is your dream you are chasing and not God’s dream for you. When God calls you to something, He leads and you follow. Let Him open the doors rather than trying to push through them, yourself.
  2. Your calling isn’t always the fun thing, but it’s the right thing. When we follow Christ, we aren’t promised continual blue skies and unlimited happiness. To the contrary, Jesus said following Him involves denying ourselves and picking up our cross. That means we will suffer at times. You and I offer refer to our “passion” when we talk about a calling. And yet the true definition of passion is “a willingness to suffer.” It means we will experience situations that cause us to depend on Him all the more. But there is a deep joy that comes from the peace and satisfaction of knowing we are in God’s will.
  3. Your calling is something you must do in order to experience peace. I know many men who are pastors today but never sought that position. They never said from the time they were young “I want to grow up and be a pastor.”  In fact, like Jonah, many of them initially ran from the assignment until, like Isaiah, they were finally able to say “Here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:8).  When God is the One calling you to a task there is no choice of a “yes” or “no” on your part. There is only the question “when” – when will you surrender and when will He determine that you are ready for the assignment?  I often tell others God’s calling on your life is something you must do whether you are paid to do it or not. You must do it if you are to experience peace. You must do it in order to be obedient.

If God called us to live safe, manageable lives, then we wouldn’t really need Him, apart from saving our souls and letting us sit it out until we are called home to heaven. Yet God wants to do through you what is beyond you. He wants to receive glory from how you live your life from day to day, exhibiting the life of Christ through your mortal body.

Listen for His call, obey His voice, ask Him how you can glorify Him, and then step out in faith. A great adventure of living out His call on your life awaits. Pursue that calling – guilt-free.

Confused about what your specific calling or dream might be? Put the puzzle pieces together through the exercises in my book, When a Woman Discovers Her Dream.

Are you someone who is constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop? Do you find it’s easier to expect the worst than the best? Do you find yourself fearful that God won’t really come through for you?

As women, our fears range from living out our lives alone, to not being able to have children, to losing our jobs or homes or someone close to us. Often,  our fears are rooted in a misunderstanding of who God really is. Depending on your upbringing, you may see God as the One who seeks to pay you  back for mistakes you’ve made in the past. Or, maybe you see Him as One who will think good and hard before coming to your aid when you find you are in need. But God isn’t an angry god with a vengeance to get back at you. He’s the God who loves you and wants your love and trust in return.

Hebrews 11:6 says: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (NIV, emphasis added).

God wants your faith — not your fear — that He really can come through for you. But in order to have faith in Him, you must know who He is and be convinced He’s trustworthy. So let me give you two steps that will help you get to know — and love — this God you no longer need to fear.

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There’s a reason you and I struggle with forgiveness.

But I don’t think it’s because of how deeply we’ve been wounded by another.

Having ministered to women for nearly three decades, I have come to believe that the main reason we often don’t forgive those who offend us is because we have several misconceptions about what forgiveness really means.

Do any of these conditions (or excuses) sound like yours?

  • I’m still dealing with the consequences of how that person hurt me, so I’m not about to forgive that person.  
  • Why should I forgive a person who has never apologized?
  • I’ll forgive him when he proves that he has changed.
  • I never got resolution from this before he died so now I will have to live with his offense — and the inability to forgive him — forever.
  • I refuse to let that person back into my life so forgiveness is not an option.
  • I’ve lost track of that person through the years, so I can’t initiate forgiveness.
  • What that person did to me wasn’t right so I can’t bring myself to let him/her off the hook.

Forgiveness is quite difficult, and in some ways impossible, if we believe we must first receive an apology from the person who offended us. Likewise, we will have difficulty forgiving another person if we are expecting that person to show remorse or evidence of having changed. We can also tend to believe that if we forgive someone, we are giving them a license to hurt us again. I think mostly, though, we withhold our forgiveness because we don’t feel another person has earned it.

In my book, When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, I address the healing power of releasing  yourself through forgiveness. We remain in chains of emotional bondage to those we refuse to forgive. By withholding forgiveness we are saying “You will never be able to make this right.” But what we are ultimately saying is:  “I will always hold onto this pain.” That is where you don’t want to be…stuck in a place of pain. When you’re stuck like that you end up living with the burden of bitterness. Instead, you can live freely by freely forgiving. When God forgave us of the debt of our sin, He expected us to then forgive others of their debts toward us (Ephesians 4:32).

Here are some misconceptions we have about forgiveness that often make it difficult for us to forgive someone:

  1. We think forgiveness is excusing a person or letting them off the hook. To forgive someone who has hurt you doesn’t mean you’re letting that person off the hook. It doesn’t mean you’re excusing that person for their offenses. It doesn’t even mean you’re completely over what they’ve done to you. It simply means you are letting yourself off of their emotional hook. When we admit that our offense was real, it hurt, and it’s inexcusable but so is our offense to God, we can forgive another person just as God has forgiven us.
  2.  We think we can forgive only when the offense no longer hurts. The fact is, you may never stop hurting from something someone did to you. But, I truly believe you will begin to heal emotionally when you release another person from the expectation that they will ever be able to reverse that hurt or make things right again.
  3. We think we must wait for an apology.  If you are waiting for your offender to show remorse and apologize for the offense, that apology might never come. Even if it did, your offender will never be able to undo the hurt he or she caused you. If an apology by the offender were necessary in order for you to forgive, then you would never be able to forgive someone who has died and never come clean with you. We are commanded to forgive an offender regardless of that person’s remorse or efforts to gain our forgiveness. Think of forgiveness as a gift that you give to someone because of how God has unreservedly forgiven you.  In fact, think of your forgiveness toward your offender as a gift to God, not necessarily the other person.
  4. We think we must meet face-to-face or resume the relationship. To forgive someone does not mean you are saying “We can be friends again” or “Let’s meet and see if we can restore the relationship.” It also doesn’t mean you are giving someone permission to hurt you again. In fact, you don’t even have to agree to meet with someone in order to forgive them. Forgiveness happens in your heart when you release another person from the expectation that they will ever be able to make right the hurt they caused you and when you stop identifying that person by their offense. You can still have boundaries for your protection and that is wise. But forgiveness does not have to happen in the context of a face-to-face encounter or even a verbal exchange. In the case that your offender is deceased, you can still truly forgive that person in your heart (in a conversation between you and God), even if you never had the chance to tell them.
  5. We’re afraid we won’t be able to forget the offense. Sometimes when we choose to forgive, we find we don’t forget the offense and then we believe we failed at forgiveness. When God said in Isaiah 43:25 that He would remember our sins no more, it didn’t mean He was commanding us to do the same when we forgive others. To forgive and forget is something only God is capable of. We have memories and, perhaps for our protection, we tend to remember hurtful things. When the offense comes to mind, remind yourself  “I have released that person from their obligation toward me” and move on, mentally and emotionally. To remember doesn’t necessarily mean you are holding a grudge. It could just mean that your memory kicks in, at times, to warn you of danger or to protect you from further heartache or offenses. The important thing is that you don’t let the offense — or the offender — continue to keep you on their emotional hook.

Just as I have seen the bitterness in people’s eyes when they refuse to forgive, I’ve also seen the freedom come when a person opens their heart to God’s healing process by saying “Just as You have forgiven me of my offenses toward You, I release this person who has offended me into Your hands and trust You will take care of the situation.”

Can you make that first move to forgive your offender – and release yourself? You won’t be letting the other person off the hook. You will, instead be releasing yourself to live freely by freely forgiving.

Have you found yourself wondering if God was ever going to answer your prayer?

My friend, Author and Speaker Donna Jones, shares from her book — Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God what happened when she and her family didn’t give up on a prayer request.

Donna writes…

Just over a year ago our family saw the answer to a prayer that took 40 years to answer. In case you skimmed right over that last sentence, let me repeat the time frame again—40 years. Not 40 minutes. Not 40 days. Not even 40 months.

40 years.

40 years ago my brother-in-law became the first Christian in his family. After several years and a few awkward conversations, my husband followed his brother’s footsteps and became a believer, too. Together they began to pray for their mom and step-dad.

When JP and I married, I joined in praying. Once our kids became old enough to question why Grandma and Grandpa didn’t believe in God, they prayed, too.

There were seasons of intense prayer and seasons of scattered prayer.

Was it discouraging at times?  You bet.

Did my husband and his brother ever give up hope?  They sure did, especially when they were told, “Please don’t talk to us about God anymore.”

Respectfully, they stopped talking about God, but they never stopped praying. Or loving. Or visiting, or calling, or caring.

For 40 years.

About this time last year, my mother-in-law shocked us by announcing she was considering going to church “just to see.” We held our breath and continued to pray. She went and liked it. Several women invited her to lunch. These women were warm, thoughtful, even downright normal, and my mother-in-law liked them immediately. They invited her to join their home Bible study. She went “just to see.” She liked that, too.

Then, seemingly out of the blue, she called my husband and asked, “How do I become a Christian, exactly? I’ve been waiting for someone at church to tell me, but they never do.”

Why did it take 40 years of prayer before my mother-in-law made a spiritual commitment?  Honestly, I have no idea. Sometimes we just don’t know why God works the way He does.

What I do know is this: we’re glad we didn’t stop praying, even if it took years to see the answer.

Maybe you’ve prayed for something—or someone— near and dear to your heart too, but have yet to see God answer. Perhaps you’re tempted to give up. You might even be toying with thoughts about how God doesn’t hear your prayers or care about your concerns. It’s easy to give up when we don’t see immediate results. And if people around us seem to have their prayers answered almost instantaneously? Well, it’s like adding salt to the wound.

Unanswered prayer can make us feel invisible.

If we begin to believe we’re invisible to God we’ll likely throw up our hands in despair and ask, “Why bother?”

The enemy would like nothing more than to sideline you and your prayers by tempting you to believe God doesn’t see you or hear you, and therefore, doesn’t care for you.

But God does see. He does hear. You are not invisible. The cries of your heart do not go unnoticed. The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him (1 Chronicles 16:9).

The fact that you are reading these words right now is proof.  It’s God’s way of bending low to say “I see. I know.”

May I tenderly whisper something the devil doesn’t want you to hear? Keep on praying and don’t stop. Don’t let the enemy win.

Personally, I find great comfort in Jesus’ words,

Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

It’s easy to think of prayer as a one-stop deal. But Jesus so clearly indicates that prayer is an ongoing pursuit. Prayer is pressing in and pressing on, even when the pressure’s up.

If you’ve been tempted to stop praying, don’t. If you’ve been tempted to stop caring, don’t do that either. When you are tempted to give up, look up. And pray.

Even if it takes 40 years to see the answer.

 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time

we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (2 Thessalonians 3:13).

For your chance to win a free copy of Donna’s book, leave a comment below about what you are waiting on God for, and share this post on your social media page. (U.S. residents only for book giveaway, please.)

DonnaJonesDonna Jones is the author of Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God, Raising Kids with Good Manners, and Taming Your Family Zoo. A national and international speaker, Donna has spoken from coast to coast and on four continents helping women find and follow God in real, everyday life. Her favorite role is wife to her pastor/hubby, JP, and mom to their three wildly funny, young adult kids who frequently sit on her kitchen counter just to chat. For more encouragement and free resources connect with Donna at www.donnajones.org.

 

 

There are a few situations in my life right now that could really stress me out. My husband is waiting to hear about three different job opportunities, and to be honest, he needs at least two of  the three!

Now, I can pull out my hair, and lose sleep at night, and keep calculating what we’ll do if he doesn’t get any of those jobs. Or, I can realize it is ludicrous for me to worry that God isn’t aware, or doesn’t care, or won’t provide for us in time.

I choose to not be ludicrous. So I thought of five good reasons not to worry about that or anything we tend to worry about. Those five good reasons come down to five things you and I will never hear God say as we hand Him our worries and concerns.

So here they are. You never have to fear any of these responses when you trust God with what is on your heart:

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I thought it was time to put together a list of the 10 best (and most challenging) books I’ve read in the past 10 years.

These books have convicted my heart, challenged my theology, helped me grow, opened up my eyes to new insights, and helped me love Jesus more. When we love Jesus more we can be a better wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, employee, neighbor, and so on.

Wow, it was hard to confine this list to just 10 (and I omitted some great titles I’ve read more than 10 years ago), but these are the books I need to re-read now and then because their principles are timeless. And this list is in no particular order…I’d rate them all No. 1:

  1. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller (There are golden nuggets in this book that I think about daily and I can’t forget his description of how cynicism in this world affects us.)
  2. Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ by John MacArthur (You will never again confuse the word “servant” — which is a profession — with “slave” — which is a purchased possession. We are God’s slaves.)
  3. Say Goodbye to Regret: Living Beyond the Would-Haves, Could-Haves, and Should-Haves by Robert Jeffress
  4. Grace Gone Wild: Getting a Grip on God’s Amazing Gift by Robert Jeffress
  5. The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg
  6. The Apocalypse Code: Find Out What the Bible Really Says About the End Times and Why It Matters Today by Hank Hanegraaff
  7. The Last Days According to Jesus: When Did Jesus Say He Would Return? By R.C. Sproul (If you think we’re living in the “last days” that the Bible refers to, I challenge you to read this one!)
  8. Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed: Experiencing God in Extraordinary Ways by Lysa TerKeurst
  9. When People are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man by  Edward T. Welch (Ok, I read it 15 years ago, but just revisited it this week as I was finishing up my book, Drama Free — which releases in March. We are drama when we fear people more than we fear God!)
  10. Suburbianity: What Have We Done to the Gospel? Can We Find Our Way Back to Biblical Christianity? by Byron Forrest Yawn.

Which books have been life-changers for you? Please let me know in the comment section below. I’m sure I — and my readers– can glean from your list, too. Keep reading books and keep growing!

Slavery is not something of the past.

It still happens in this country and even in our local communities.

This week I asked my friend, Peggy Sue Wells, to share on my blog what is on her heart. And she is concerned with what is on God’s heart — the injustice of young girls who are being sold into slavery and human trafficking. As you read her shocking and heartbreaking story, be asking yourself what YOU can do to stomp out slavery in your corner of the world.

And keep in mind these words from our God who hates injustice:

Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it? (Proverbs 24:11-12).

PeggySue writes:

“Twelve-year-old Carrie was a smart girl taking classes for gifted and talented students. One day as she walked home from middle school, a man in a fancy car drove up beside her and told her she was pretty. Though she didn’t tell her parents about him, every day for six months he met her after school and they talked. He bought her small gifts and made her feel special. After six months she finally agreed to get into his car.

When the door shut, Carrie’s life changed forever. Her boyfriend drove her far from home and took away her identity. For the next five years, he prostituted Carrie to more than 100 men each month. Taken from state to state, there was no place for her to run, and she was without hope for rescue. Though Carrie was a United States citizen, in the land of liberty she was no longer free. This all-American pre-teen was a slave.

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