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Choices Matter!

The spring class of Prasso finished last night with a pot-luck dinner.  The food was delicious, as always, but the best part of the evening was hearing the testimonies of the ladies.  One of the ladies gave this appraisal of Prasso…”Prasso is a recipe for successful sanctification.”  Another said, “My perfectionistic nature drives me to be tempted to choose the temporary over the permanent…clean floors in my house over taking time to play with my children; to look them in the eye and listen to what they are wanting to tell me; and to use loving words instead of impatient words when correcting them.  Prasso has helped me to prioritize what is truly important.”

Hearing her say this brought to my mind a quote on a plaque that hung in my childhood home…”Only one life twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”  How is it with you, friend?  What are your priorities today?  Will what you have chosen count for eternity?  There will always be floors to clean, wash to do and meals to prepare but time lost loving, enjoying and training your children cannot be redeemed.  They are the only thing you will take to Heaven with you.  Start each day by asking God to help you make wise choices that will build your home and your family.

The Hydrangea And The Gardener

Because of the warmer than usual weather I decided to do some yard work.  I love hydrangeas and have several in my yard.   One in particular blooms beautifully in the spring but the blooms, because they get too much direct sun, turn brown shortly after they blossom.  This has happened three years in a row.  Now, if you enjoy gardening and growing flowers, you know you must do something to change this discouraging situation.

I have a place in my yard that gets morning sun but afternoon shade…so with my husband’s help we dug a very deep hole, put in compost and potting soil to make a perfect environment for the hydrangea.

We then proceeded to dig up the hydrangea.  The roots were deep and resisted our efforts but we pressed on.  Finally the hydrangea relented and out it came.  Success!  We placed it in the prepared hole and covered it with more potting soil.  It practically smiled at us!  Will I have blooms in the spring that don’t turn brown?  Time will tell.

I’m not an expert gardener, I just enjoy watching things grow.  Sometimes I make mistakes, like putting the hydrangea in direct sun, which resulted in wilted blossoms. But, it made me think today how thankful I am for the Master Gardener.  He planned the “garden of my life” before the world was made, before my parents ever thought about having me.  He knew the “soil” I needed to grow into the person He wanted me to be.   Sometimes he saw “weeds” that needed uprooting and I resisted His efforts but He didn’t give up.  He allowed some “storms” to blow against me to see if my spiritual roots were well grounded in Him.  Sometimes I made plans without asking Him and through circumstances of His choosing He would “prune” my plan and change my heart.  Jesus enjoys watching us “His flowers” grow.  Through 62 years He has kept His eye on me, guiding and sometimes “weeding” as necessary.

Friend, do you know the Master Gardener?  He wants you to know Him.  Only Jesus can make the “garden of your life” a thing of beauty.

Why Is Everyone So Happy? Part 3

All around us are signs that Christmas is almost here.  The malls are full and the restaurants busy with holiday shoppers.  During what, to most, is a joyful time there are those who do not share the same feelings…perhaps because of memories past, tight budgets, illness or broken family relationships.  I pray the Lord will use this blog and those that preceded it to be an encouragement and perhaps even to shed light on why you have no joy or pleasure during holiday times.

Our text is, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you Lord are with me.”  In the preceding blog I spoke of shadows that contribute to depression.  One of the shadows that often brings depression is ‘destructive thought patterns.’  II Corinthians 10:4-5 tells us we must ‘take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.’  Why is that?  Because you and I have a ‘tornado in our minds.’ Satan uses what we think about to control us and wrong thoughts act like a tornado. As wrong thoughts take root in our hearts they gather speed and power leading to ultimate destruction.

Scripture says “as a man thinketh…so is he.”  Every action is first a thought.  Automatic thinking is dangerous, especially if your thoughts are almost always negative or sinful or dark in nature.  Our minds must be trained by our will to purposefully think.  Purposeful thinking takes practice and it involves thinking on things that are true according to God’s Word and refusing to think on dark, defeating and hopeless thoughts.  II Corintians describes these defeating thoughts as strongholds (strongholds are habitual patterns of destructive thinking or habitual patterns of destructive behavior).  These strongholds of the mind can lead to depression or keep an individual in depression.

Examine your thinking!  Are your thoughts uplifting or are they defeating?  Do you see that learning to re-train your mind takes work and it is work that you must do.  Someone else cannot do it for you.  You must fight to regain control of your mind.  It is spiritual warfare.  Your weapon is God’s Word.

Another device that Satan uses to bring depression is the unwillingness to forgive.  Unforgiveness is a major cause of depression.  Holding onto grudges, past offenses, and hurts may seem justified but in reality they put you in bondage.  Forgiveness gives you freedom.  When you forgive it does not mean that the person is not guilty, or that you will not cry again, or that you will never think of the event again, or even that it will not still hurt.  Forgiveness is about obedience to God.

God’s Word says, “If you don’t forgive those who trespass (sin) against you, God will not forgive your trespasses (sins).  No offense is worth estrangement from God’s forgiveness. Unforgiveness that lies in your heart will eventually become bitterness and bitterness will become depression.  Through unforgiveness we give Satan access to our lives.  Through forgiveness we not only obey God but we take back ground that we gave to Satan through unforgiveness.

Jesus said this, “I have come so that you may have life and have it more abundantly.”  Take inventory of your thinking.  Pray and ask God to reveal to you thoughts that  have contributed to your depression.  Defeating thoughts do not come from God they come from Satan.  Would you right now ask God for His help?  Let me give you something that might be of help in learning to think differently.

You will need a notebook or journal to write in.  You will need a pen and Bible, that’s all.  In your notebook draw a line down the middle of the page.  At the top of the left side of the page write “MY TRUTH” and at the top of the right side of the page write, “REALITY CHECK-GOD’S TRUTH.”  Under the heading of “MY TRUTH” start listing every negative thought you presently believe to be truth.  They may not come to you all at once.  Keep going back until you can think of no others.

Set aside 30 minutes each day to spend time searching out truth from the Word of God.  Perhaps you wrote as one of your thoughts under “MY TRUTH,”  God isn’t here to help me.”  Hebrews 13:5b says, “I will never leave you nor will I forsake you.”  Under “GOD’S TRUTH” write out Hebrews 13: 5b.  Continue this exercise until you have refuted every negative thought with truth.  NOW, daily morning and evening read aloud God’s truth so that your mind and heart hears the truth.  You are re-training your mind to think truth.  Healing is always a process.  It will take time.  Healing is not about relief, it is “restoring your mind and heart so that you are able to be used by God.”  It is about God and His glory.

Friend, I promise you that if you will allow God and His Word to work in your life you will have a blessed Christmas and a blessed year.  He came to give you abundant life.  Will you do what it takes to experience life abundant?  Remember, you cannot change without God and He will only change you if you let Him.

Why Is Everyone So Happy? Part 2

Are the coming holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s times of joy or dread?  For many they are anything but joy, for many reasons, financial stress, family issues as well as negative memories from the past. Depression seeps in stealing from each day all happiness and life seems flat.

When we are in the valley of depression it seems like a permanent condition.  The Psalmist, David, said, “Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence.”  Psa. 94:17  Though often discouraged David knew the Lord was there and that truth carried him through the dark days.

In the valley of depression there are shadows.  The shadow may in truth be nothing more than a tree, or a bush or a reflection of yourself but shadows can be frightening.  “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.”  The valley of the shadow of death, though used often in funerals to comfort those who have lost a loved one has a greater meaning.  During life there are many struggles, losses and sorrows that feel like death and we cling to the promise that God is faithful to His Word and carry us through those times.  We didn’t experience death, only a shadow that felt like death.

I want to share some shadows in the valley of depression.

Shadow #1  All depression is sin.

 All depression is not sin.  Depression can result in sin if we allow it to but our emotions were created by God and are not sinful.  If we allow depression to cause us to react in ways that are disobedient to God or in ways that do not honor God glory then our depression has become sinful.  Depression, like any other struggle is a test. Deut. 8:2 says, “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart…”  Trials of any kind reveal our hearts.

Shadow #2 Depression can’t be God’s will

 I Thess. 3:3  “God has appointed who shall suffer.  Suffering comes not by chance, or by the will of man, but by the will and appointment of God.”  When you are in a trial of any kind your belief about God’s sovereignty will determine how you react to the trial.  Warren Wiersbe, a wonderful man of God said this, “A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.”  There are many testings throughout life.  They are meant to bring greater intimacy with God.

Shadow #3 Feelings…the deceiver

 When in depression your feelings may tell you to isolate, run, disappear, even die.  Feelings are not facts, they are just feelings.  Your feelings will not always tell you the truth but God will always speak truth. Distortion of reality is what depression is all about. When you live according to your feelings you are usually living contrary to the Word of God.

Listen to how one man described his feelings while in depression:

My concept of myself was so low, I felt I could sit on the edge of a sheet of paper and my feet would not touch the floor.  I was convinced I had failed in every aspect of my life:  as a son, husband, father, friend, and as a complete human being.  I developed an uncanny skill to discern something bad in everything.  As my depression deepened, so did the desire to withdraw.  I had no interest in doing anything.  Even the smallest task seemed like Mt. Everest—utterly insurmountable.  Even though I was surrounded by love I felt unloved and rejected.  I became saturated with self-pity and self-centeredness.  I was filled with anxiety, couldn’t sleep, felt agitated and because of my gloomy shades crying came easily both day and night.  I felt alienated from God.

 This man has lived free of depression for many years now.  Though he was a psychologist, he said his answers came only from God’s Word.  God’s Word is a living, breathing Book of Life.  The Psalmist proclaimed, My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. Psa. 73:26

There are other ‘shadows’ that Satan uses to do what he does best, to kill, steal and destroy your life and reduce it to a miserable existence.  In Blog #4, Part 3 I will share 2 other Shadows and conclude with practical helps that could make this holiday time the best you have ever had as you celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord.

Why Is Everyone So Happy?

Are you looking forward to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years?  Does this seem like a strange question?  The majority of individuals do enjoy the celebration atmosphere of these special days.  However, statistics tell us that about 10% of our population dread the coming holidays.  A woman said to me, “Everyone is running around so happy and I wonder why I feel so sad.”  For many the holidays are a time “to just get through and be done with!”  I wonder if this is what you might be feeling!?

Holiday depression is not uncommon.  Holidays for some were never happy times…they were filled with fighting between parents, alcohol induced abuse, arguments over money, intense loneliness, loss of a parent or childhood abuse.  Many love the family get togethers that the holidays bring but for others who have no family with which to share, it is a dreaded time of year.

Depression has been described as a heavy blackness, a feeling of emptiness, numbness and excessive fatigue.  It has been compared to being buried alive.  Charles Spurgeon who himself suffered from depression described it this way, “Depression is a leak through which the soul’s force wastes itself drop by drop.”  Edward Welch in his book on Depression said, “The flatness of life feels like it is killing you.”

For some, depression is a life-long battle, for others it comes in seasons that may last weeks or months.  The Psalmist, David, wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me.” (Psa. 23)  Friend, depression most certainly is a valley.  It is a dark valley and in that valley are shadows.  Have you ever been walking around at night and been frightened by a shadow?  The shadow may in truth be nothing more than a tree, or a bush or a reflection of yourself but your imagination goes wild and you become frightened.

Shadows can lie to you or me but they feel real.  The shadow of depression can also lie to you.  It can make you believe things that are not true like…”God doesn’t care how I feel” or “I must not be saved because Christians aren’t suppose to get depressed” or “my family would be better off if I weren’t here.”  These feelings seem true during times of depression but they are, in fact, lies.  Satan, the father of lies, desires to steal, kill and destroy.  He will use whatever means he can to accomplish this end.  He attacks at the point of your present weakness with the intent of stealing your joy, killing all ability to think truth and destroying all hope.

Several years ago I became very ill and, as a result, spent 10 days in the hospital and several weeks at home recuperating.  One day, while still in the hospital, I picked up a Daily Bread that my husband had put on the bedside table.  I opened it and my eyes fell on these words from the hymn Under His Wings.

Under His wings, O what precious enjoyment

There will I hide til life’s trials are through.

Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me

Resting in Jesus, I’m safe evermore.

I laid there and cried.  I repeated the words, “No evil can harm me,”  over and over again.  Emotionally and physically I was very weak but the truth of that song encouraged me day after day.  David encouraged himself the same way when he said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, THOU ART WITH ME!”  Note that David said, “through the valley of death.”  Isa. 43:2 reiterates this truth,

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.

When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned.”

Friend, God is with you.  You are not alone.  David wrote in Psa. 3:3, “Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.”  God, your Daddy Father, is inviting you to crawl up in His lap and lay your head on His shoulder.  He will never leave you and He will never forsake you.  He will walk through this valley with you.

A Lesson From Africa!

My husband, Buzz, and I were privileged to go to Ghana, West Africa recently with a group from Child Evangelism Fellowship.  CEF is in 182 nations of the world working to evangelize unchurched children.  While in Ghana we visited several villages where Good News Clubs meet weekly.  What a wonderful sight to see 100-200 children packed into a room to hear about Jesus.  At one village a funeral was going on outside the open air building where the children were seated.  Amazingly they seemed oblivious to the noise of the music and the crowd.  They sang from their hearts, quoted their Bible verses and listened intently to the Bible lesson. Looking around the village we saw tiny shacks held together by pieces of corrugated tin and boards, no electricity, running water or toilets.   Despite the amenities that we take for granted the children were all clean, scrubbed and happy.  Older children were holding smaller, younger children and you could tell this was a normal occurrence. We could not help but take notice that none of the children posed a discipline problem. Good News Club day was a special day and all eyes were on the teacher who was sharing the “Hidden Treasure of wisdom and knowledge”… Jesus!

We met Pastor and Mrs. Kang, the Director of CEF in Tema, Ghana.  The Kang’s, who are Korean, came to Ghana as missionaries 30 years ago.  They lived in one room when they first came and now by God’s blessing have established a teaching institute and God provided funds for a building for the purpose of training CEF workers.  The Kang’s are only able to return home to Korea every three years to visit their children and grandchildren because of the expense of travel.  When we arrived they had just returned from a visit in Korea.  Pastor Kang said that while there his heart really wanted to stay in Korea and just retire. God woke him up in the middle of the night and clearly told him that he was to go back to Africa for the remainder of his life.  Life in Africa is worlds apart from life in Seoul, S. Korea but the choice is clear when God speaks!

Wherever you are today serve God!  Don’t let your life slip by serving only your wants and desires.  Life is truly short and one day we will all stand before God and it may be soon.