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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.

read more

Do you ever get – or give – “biblical advice” that isn’t actually from the Bible?

My guess is that it happens more times than you realize because there are so many secular sayings that sound like they’re from the Bible when they, in fact, are not.

To help you be able to discern the real stuff from the imposter, here are three “verses” that are often quoted as if they’re from Scripture when in fact, they are actually contrary to the truth found in God’s Word:

read more

Got stress? It seems to be our constant companion in this life.

In fact, stress is trying to be a companion of mine as I write my next book, Drama Free. So, I asked my friend Sally Nance — who writes a wonderful blog called The Healthy Happy Woman —  to share some practical ways that you and I can stress less. I’m already trying a few of these as I struggle with deadline pressure and they are really helping.

So, as I get back to my book-writing deadline, here are some words from Sally that just might change YOUR life, too:

Stress has become a 21st century epidemic, and women are especially vulnerable to its effects, particularly when it comes to our day-to-day outlook on life.

Whether it’s the big stressors, like a health crisis, divorce, or a major move, or the little stressors, like traffic jams and full schedules, there is always something threatening to steal our joy and leave us frazzled, exhausted, and discouraged.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way!  We can experience joy and peace in the midst of a stressful world.  I have discovered 5 proactive ways to deal with stress, protect your joy, and live a happy life.read more

Want to drop a few pounds, find more energy, enjoy life,  and live a little longer? The secret is to keep moving.

The older we get the more sedentary we become. I even read a statistic that a woman gains an average of one pound a year after age 40. That’s been true for me…as much as I’ve tried to fight it. Now that I’m just over 50 years old, I realize how important it is for my mental, emotional, physical and even spiritual health to keep moving.

Using tips from my book, When You’re Running on Empty, I’ve put together some interesting facts and practical ways you can keep moving, keep healthy, and enjoy life even more.

Read about it here at MTL (More to Life) Magazine.

 

Every week for the past ten years, I’ve received at least one or two emails asking me for marriage or relationship advice.

And while there are thousands of books out there on the topic — and a thousand  more reasons why women struggle in their relationships — I’ve found that what has most helped my marriage of 28 years — and thousands of other marriages and relationships as well — is  best summarized in my book, When a Woman Inspires Her Husband

“The quickest way to run your marriage into the ground is to expect your husband to be God in your life — to fill your every need, to know what you’re thinking and feeling and be able to respond accordingly, to be your joy, to be your all-in-all. He is a man. He is not able to be all of that for you. He is human, and that means he has weaknesses and will let you down at times. Finally, he is a sinner (as all of us are), and that means he will disappoint you, anger you, and even hurt you more times than he or you would like. So don’t look to your husband to be God in your life, or to fulfill your every need. Instead, look to God as your spiritual husband (Isaiah 54:5-6).

“God’s Word frequently uses the marriage relationship to illustrate God as our husband. God desires to be a husband to us and have us respond, in return, as we would respond to a husband — to forsake all other gods and love only Him, to respect Him, to dwell intimately with Him, to look to Him for our provision, and so on. There is nothing that will free up your husband to love you more than taking your emotional expectations off of him and leaving them with God. Your husband can then love you in the best way he is able, without feeling he has an impossible task in front of him. (For an in-depth look at this subject, see my book, Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs.)”

Whether we are married or not, as we look to God first to fill our emotional tank, we will find we are more able and stable to deal with whatever comes our way. And that makes us more appealing women to be around.

It’s been said that a woman should be so deeply immersed in God that a man has to seek Him in order to find her.

Immerse yourself in Him this week. And watch the benefits of it in your relationships.

Before my daughter, Dana. started work at Disneyland  she had to take a class called “Traditions.” In this class, Disney employees (called “cast members”) learn the traditions and values upon which the Walt Disney Company was established so that they can continue in those traditions and provide parks guests with the ultimate magical experience. In the class, they heard stories of their founder, Walt Disney, that helped establish Disneyland as the happiest place on earth. And one of the stories Dana told me about struck me in a particular way.

Shortly after Disneyland Park opened, Walt was walking through the park and observing the happiness he had created when he noticed a little boy, sitting on a bench in Fantasyland, crying.  Walt sat down next to the boy and asked “Why are you crying? You’re in the Happiest Place on Earth! What could possibly make you cry?” The little boy wiped his eyes and he said “My brother got to sit on the white horse on the carousel.”

Walt reached into his pocket and pulled out a ticket and handed it to the boy and said “You come back tomorrow and I guarantee that you will be able to ride the white horse.”

That night, after the park closed, Walt ordered that every horse on King Arthur’s Carousel  be painted white so that no child would ever cry again for not being able to ride the white horse. To this day, every horse on what is now known as Sleeping Beauty’s Carousel is white, so every child who rides on the carousel will feel special.

Carousel

Jesus said in Matthew 7:11: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”Walt Disney was just a man, and he had limited resources when he opened that park. And if he’d go to that extreme to please a little boy who isn’t even his own, how much more will our Heavenly Father (who owns the cattle and the white horses on a thousand hills!) make the effort to please the hearts of His own children?

Our God’s resources are so much more than Walt Disney’s were when he opened his park.  And our God wants to bless, but in a way that’s eternal, not just temporal. And in addition to wanting to bless, He knows what’s best for you and for me.

Can you trust that God knows your life’s story and He can still work it out even if right now, you aren’t sitting on a white horse? Can you trust that He doesn’t need to repaint…He already has your story written and perfected?  And will you trust that He knows exactly how to get you to the happily ever after!

In Psalm 84:11: we are told “The Lord God is a sun and a shield. The Lord gives grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” If you are asking God for something “good” and He’s not granting — it either isn’t truly good for you — or it isn’t time.

Trust Him. He specializes in the happily ever afters. And He always knows what is the very best for His children.

Is Our Culture Forsaking God?

Sadly, the answer to that question is “Yes.” That’s what my friend, Janet Thompson, says. She is the author of the newly-released book,  Forsaken God? Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten.

Janet says we, too, can forsake God without realizing it by forgetting the good things He has done for us.

I asked Janet to share her insights on my blog this week. Here is what she had to say:

Today’s culture is quickly forsaking and forgetting the goodness and power of our Great God. The Bible describes the potential destruction through all generations to people who forget God. The dangers are paramount.

If we don’t remember what God has already done, we won’t believe what He is capable of doing in the future. Memory builds faith.

We read the Old Testament and lament at how forgetful the Israelites were of God’s goodness. Every time He did something good for them, they started grumbling that they needed something else. And are we any different today?

The Israelites repeatedly rejected God, even though He:

  • freed them from bondage and slavery by miraculously parting the Red Sea for them to pass through on dry ground,
  • provided manna from heaven,
  • guided them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night,
  • never let their shoes wear out even after walking for 40 years,
  • and He offered them a land flowing with milk and honey.

God was only as good as the next miracle or provision. A forsaken God.

Yet they were warned:

“But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. Deuteronomy 4:9 NLT

We wonder at how the Israelites could be so blind and ungrateful. Why couldn’t they trust that a God who provided and protected them in the past, would do the same in the present and future? But their memories were short. As often as Moses and God tried to help them remember, still they forgot. And at great sacrifice. The original generation freed from Egypt never got to see the Promised Land because they doubted God’s goodness. Even Moses wasn’t able to enjoy its beauty because at a crucial moment, he took matters into his own hands and forgot that God was in control.

We would never forsake God! But wait . . . don’t we forget too? God has done amazing things in our lives, but when the next crisis arises, we panic that He might not show up for us this time. Or when prayers are answered, we might take credit ourselves or offer praise to someone else instead of giving God the glory and recognition He deserves.

We never intentionally forsake God, but if we’re honest, we do unintentionally forget him. So let’s agree that forgetfulness will stop with our generation. We live in a world today that is quickly trying to eliminate God from the public square and even in the private domain. Christians need to help a lost world remember God and that starts with remembering Him ourselves.

In my new book Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten, there are suggestions for ways to remember all that God has done in your life and, then share that memory in your sphere of influence. One effective way is to share our testimony. As a Christian speaker, I give parts of my testimony every time I speak. “Feed my sheep” is my testimony of a time when God clearly spoke those words to me. When I said an obedient “OK,” He went on to reveal that the sheep were women and feeding was mentoring.

That was 20 years ago, and today God has taken Woman to Woman Mentoring around the world as women enjoy the blessings of being in Titus 2 mentoring relationships. I still stand in awe as I write that story, and every time I tell it from the stage. I will never forget how God used me to start a worldwide ministry, and I give Him all the glory for the blessing it has been to so many.

But you don’t have to be a speaker to share your story. Someone today needs to hear how Jesus changed your life. A hurting world needs the Christian world to tell them the source of our joy and hope. Mentoring is a great place to share our testimony to encourage others to know the Jesus of the Bible.

There are over 50 ways described in Forsaken God? to help remember God. Here are just a few:

  • Taking pictures
  • Journaling
  • Reading our Bibles
  • Receiving Communion
  • Making a thankful list
  • Joining a small group
  • Sharing with children

What are some ways that help you remember God’s goodness?

(You can order Janet’s book at Amazon, Christianbook.com, and signed at her website.)

Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and an award-winning author of 18 books including Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer and Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter. She is also the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. Visit Janet at: womantowomanmentoring.com.   www.facebook.com/Janetthompson.authorspeaker,   http://www.linkedin.com/in/womantowomanmentoring/ www.pinterest.com/thompsonjanet  and https://twitter.com/AHWministries

I think it’s natural for us to feel alone as women.

You and I have burdens we carry — emotionally and spiritually. And God will often draw us out to a lonely place so we can get to know Him in a deeper way and hand those burdens to Him. I’ve learned through the years that our alone times can be doorways to discovering a deeper intimacy with God. When we feel alone, we can sense His presence in a way that perhaps we couldn’t before.

In my second week of focusing on God’s gifts, I can’t help but think how blessed we are because of God’s presence.

God is bent on relationship. And that’s why He offers us His presence so that we are never truly alone.

I love how the Psalmists wrote about God’s presence,  especially when they felt alone.

One of my favorite songs in Scripture is Psalm 27, written by David who sang:

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple (verse 4).

David was saying the one thing he wanted the most was God’s presence.

Do you realize that David wrote this Psalm at a time when the presence of God was not accessible to anyone as it is to us today through the power of the Holy Spirit?

David longed to “dwell in God’s presence” which could only happen if he lived in the temple, because that’s where God’s presence dwelt. But David could not live in the temple because he was not a priest. And even if he were, the presence of God dwelt in the Holy of Holies, that inner chamber where only the High Priest could enter once a year, and after a lengthy ritualistic cleansing process so that he wouldn’t be struck dead by the holiness of God.

Under the Old Covenant, the Holy Spirit only visited certain people at a certain time for a certain purpose. God’s spirit came upon the prophets of the Old Testament and they were able to demonstrate the power of God and perform miracles. God’s anointing spirit came upon Samson and he experienced tremendous strength. The Holy Spirit came upon David and he was able to kill a bear and a lion with his hands. The Holy Spirit came upon Elijah and he was able to call down rain and  fire from heaven. But other than those temporary moments of the Holy Spirit’s presence, the people under the Old Covenant were pretty much separated from God by their sin.

But when Christ died on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, He removed that separation and there was instant access between God and those who come to Him by faith on the merit of what Jesus did for them.

Today we have a Savior who has made it possible for us to be in the presence of God – always. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit, when we come to God through faith in Jesus, and that means God’s presence is always with us.

We can experience today what David only longed for.

Can you, like David, say “there is one thing I need…”?

Oh, that you and I would realize there really IS only ONE thing we need…and it’s to be in God’s presence. And we can be.

This morning I found myself focusing on what I don’t have.

I hate it when I do that.

I have been given so much. Yet it is in my human (sinful) nature to focus on what I don’t have, rather than to count my blessings.

Do you ever do that? Start thinking about an opportunity that hasn’t come your way, places you haven’t visited because you don’t have the money, a certain measure of success you haven’t yet attained, or a relationship or position in life you don’t yet have?  And in the process you forget all that you do have?

Jesus said:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

You and I do have life to the full when we focus on what God has given us – gifts in the spiritual realm that can help us through the physical realm

So, for the next several weeks, I want to focus on God’s incredible gifts that God has given to you and me through His Son, Christ Jesus. Gifts you and I can tend to take advantage of, or forget altogether. But gifts, nonetheless, that will help us experience life to the full.

Today, let’s remember God’ s incredible gift of His power.

Scripture says “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control,” (2 Timothy 1:7).  That means we have His Spirit to help us be bold when we would otherwise be timid, to help us  love unconditionally when we otherwise could not, and to help us exert self-control.

And on days you and I feel especially weak, Second Corinthians 12:9 tells us that Christ’s power  “is made perfect in weakness.”

Do you know why you and I tend to worry and stress? We forget God’s power. Do you know why we give up when we could otherwise succeed? We forget that He is capable. Do you know why we shrink back when we could be moving forward?  We forget that He can do all things.

Why else would we start in with our “what ifs?”

What if I can’t get this done?

What if this bill is not something I can pay?

What if we can’t move beyond this? 

Approach this day remembering you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13). Tackle any project that comes your way knowing God is able to do through you what is beyond you. And remember all that you do have today because you have His power. It is there for the asking.

Are you a worrier or a warrior?
A worrier is one who tries to fight her own battles of fear, insecurity, and doubt.
A warrior lets God fight those battles through her.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies (like the person who is making your life miserable), but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (like the unseen thoughts, fears and frustrations that cloud your judgment, persuade you to worry, and tempt you to stress out).

Here’s how you can tell if you’re a worrier or a warrior:

A worrier says: “I’m so nervous about this situation. I’ve never done anything like this before.
A warrior says: “God has gone before me into this situation so I have nothing to fear.”

A worrier says: “There’s no hope.”
A warrior says:”My hope is in the Lord…”

A worrier says: “What if something bad happens?”
A warrior says: “God causes all things — even the bad things — to work for good to those who love Him” (Romans 8:28).

A worrier says: “I’m not strong enough. Surely I will fail.”
A warrior says: “The Lord is my strength” (Psalm 28:7) and “If God is for me, who can be against me?” (Romans 8:31).

Did you notice the difference? The worrier is looking at the world through her physical eyes. She sees (or doesn’t see) and she fears.

The warrior is looking in the WORD and has God’s  response for every situation she encounters. She sees with her spiritual eyes…from God’s perspective…the perspective of a victor, an over comer, a conqueror (Romans 8:37).

Romans 12:2 tells us “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may]prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

To be conformed to this world is to worry like every other person in the world.

To be transformed by the renewing of your mind is to think differently  — as a warrior princes should think, as a warrior who knows where her strength is, where the power is, and to Whom she belongs.

So which one are you? A worrier or a warrior?

If you’re the former, here’s the best news of all:  A worrier can turn into a warrior at any time. Your transformation is just a prayer away:

“God, grant me, according to the riches of Your glory, to be strengthened with power through Your Spirit inwardly so that I can be a woman of faith, not fear….a warrior,  not a worrier” (Ephesians 3:16-17).

Will you join me in the ranks as a warrior?

For more on being a warrior, not a worrier, see my newest book, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom.

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