Why His Strength is Our Victory

Thank you Kelly Balarie for today’s message…

Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. ~~ Psalm 127:1 NIV

There are two ways champion athletes act. Consider the game of football. The guy who runs the winning touchdown either kneels on the ground, pounds his fists against his chest, and yells, “I’m Da’ Man!” or he runs to the 10-yard line, points up to God, and says, “All due credit goes to You, Jesus.”

May we do all things to the glory of God.

A girl can hope, right? Sometimes I misplace due-glory. It’s not that I don’t want to thank, praise or give credit to God. I do. It is just that I get busy, distracted, and focused on all that I need to do. All the people who need me. All the happenings around me.

Are you at all like me?

Consider, when you (work, help others, do a job, want something, are after a dream), do you:

1. Work really hard, yet feel disappointed that you don’t get what you want? (Yes/No)
2. Put your best effort in, yet feel reliant on the outcome? (Yes/No)
3. Get upset when people don’t acknowledge what you’ve done? (Yes/No)
4. Become worried that other people will look better than you? (Yes/No)
5. Wonder if you’ll be put to shame if you don’t perform well? (Yes/No)
6. Hope that people see you and notice all that you are doing? (Yes/No)
7. Work yourself to the point of being extremely tired? (Yes/No)
8. Say yes to everyone even though you know you should say no? (Yes/No)
9. Expect people to give you the things “due to you”? (Yes/No)
10. Become resentful towards the “many” people who demand things of you? (Yes/No)

If you answered yes to a few of the above questions, this is a good sign you’re working by your own strength. Strength that leads to discouragement, disappointment and a depleted spirit.

Our strength = Our defeat.

His strength = Our victory.

Where do you need to move out of the way, so that you can find a new, restful and restorative way — Jesus’ way?

Relying on God’s victory doesn’t mean we do nothing. Here are some things we can do, while trusting God as we wait on Him. We can:

1. Pray
2. Lean on His promises
3. Wait to understand what He wants us to do.
4. Move out and love others
5. Rest
6. Pray and give thanks.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

When a Dream Dies

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message.

I sat on my porch with my Bible in my lap and a hot mug of steamy coffee in my hand. Early morning is my favorite time of day. Just me, Jesus, and a smattering of birds.

I closed my Bible and looked out across the backyard. My eyes landed on a rounded mound of fur nestled in the grass under the willow tree.

I got up and moved in for a closer look. My heart sank as I discovered what appeared to be a curled-up baby fawn lying lifeless in the grass. Probably the same fawn my neighbor had seen nursing from its mom the day before. My heart broke. I understand the circle of life, but still. A baby fawn lay dead in my yard. Most likely the target of the coyote I’d seen roaming around.

I couldn’t get close enough to see the wound. Sometimes that is the way of things.

I did get close enough to see the sunlight passing through the velum-like ears, the intricate spots on its back, and the Bambi-like eyelashes resting on a perfectly shaped snout. I would have to wait until Steve got home to take care of the situation. I didn’t have the nerve.

All morning long my mind returned to the lifeless form lying in the sun. Hours passed. At noon I looked out of the window and the still fawn remained unmoved. Untouched. Undisturbed. I couldn’t stand it. I had to know what had happened to it. So I mustered up my courage and made my way to the fawn. Three feet away. Stop. No signs of an attack. I inched closer.
Finally, I knelt down by the beautifully crafted creature, admiring God’s handiwork. But I couldn’t see what had killed it.

“What happened to you, little deer?” I whispered.

Suddenly, the fawn’s head popped up! Startled eyes stared at mine…wide-eyed. Me like a deer caught in the headlights. The fawn simply caught. I fell back on my haunches! And time stood still for a moment as we stared at each other in disbelief!

Finally, the fawn sprang to its feet, wobbled a bit, and scampered off like a drunken sailor. I sat in the grass and laughed, and laughed, and laughed. So the fawn wasn’t dead after all. It had simply found a bit of grass and fallen asleep…until almost noon.

After my heart stopped pounding in my chest, God spoke to my heart, Sometimes things are dead, and sometimes they just need to be woken up.

I pondered those words for the rest of the day. I called a friend who was struggling in her marriage—in a very bad way. The sort of way that leaves you wondering if it will survive. I told her the story.

Sometimes things are dead, and sometimes they just need to be woken up.

Sometimes a marriage is dead, and sometimes it just needs to be woken up.

Sometimes a friendship is dead, and sometimes it just needs to be woken up.

Sometimes a dream is dead, and sometimes it just needs to be woken up.

I think of how God told the prophet Ezekiel to speak to the valley of dry bones. “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37:4-6 (NIV)

I imagine Ezekiel felt pretty silly talking to those dry bones. And honestly sometimes I feel pretty silly obeying God and speaking life into the dry bones of some of my situations.

So here’s my word for you and me today.

For my friend struggling in her marriage…

For my friend who cries for her adult son who walked away from God…

For my friend who longs to cuddle up with a good husband rather than a good book…

Don’t assume the dream is dead. Sometimes it just needs to be woken up. Don’t give up too soon.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Stepping Out in Faith

Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message.

Have you ever wanted to “freeze” a moment and make it last a lifetime? I have. I have also lived through certain moments that I wish I could change or even delete and pretend they never happened. But change is a natural part of life. We can embrace it, or we can fight it.

My husband often says that the only people who really like change are wet babies. However, I have discovered that some people thrive and live for change to the point that they are “change junkies” and have little stability. Others dig in their heels and refuse to change a thing and ultimately become prisoners of old habits – both good and bad. When it comes to change, we have a decision to make. Change is a sign of growth and life and is sometimes needed simply to survive.

God may be asking you to step out in faith and make a change in your life. He has already been where He is asking you to go and prepared every step of the way for you. You don’t have to be afraid of the unknown. It is unknown only to you.

God is well aware of where you are and of every step He is asking you to take. He may be asking you to get rid of old memories, eliminate destructive habits, or forsake lifeless traditions. He is waiting for you to take one step.

Faith in God does not come all at once. Faith is a step-by-step process that begins with one small step and increases as we go. An Old Testament story found in Joshua 3 illustrates this truth.

The Israelites are camped on the bank of the Jordan River. Forty years earlier, they had escaped from Egypt and have been wandering around in the wilderness ever since. All of their needs have been met by God. They have seen miracle after miracle and now they can see Canaan, the Promised Land. However, there is a problem.

A huge river stands between the Israelites and the Promised Land, and there is no way around it. God told His people that He would make a dry path through the river, but the priests had never seen that happen. In fact, they hadn’t even been born when the Red Sea was parted and there were no reruns of the Ten Commandments at the local Wilderness Theatre. The Israelites had spent their entire adult lives in the wilderness and finally, they could see a way out. Oh, and one more problem — the priests couldn’t swim. This was probably the first river they had even been close to in their lives. I can imagine their fear and questions. God was asking them to step out in faith as never before.

I don’t imagine the Israelites had a great deal of faith in God at that moment, but they had just enough faith to take that first step. And that was enough.

During harvest the Jordan overflows its banks. When the priests carrying the Ark came to the edge of the river and stepped into the water, the water upstream stopped flowing. It stood up in a heap. So the people crossed over.

Notice that God did nothing until those toes touched the water. That first step was all God needed to see. Many times, we won’t take the first step of change because we’re afraid we won’t be able to make the whole journey.

Don’t wait until you believe it all.
Don’t wait until you can see it all.
Don’t wait until you understand it all.

Trust God and step out in faith. He will meet you there.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Talking Back to Yourself

Thank you to Lisa Morrone for today’s message…

Last week, while selecting some avocados in the produce aisle, I heard a loud gasp which caused my attention to be diverted to a woman who had just started an avalanche of sorts over by the oranges. As she restacked the fruit I distinctly heard her mutter, “Stupid girl! How could you be so clumsy?” In that moment I imagined her as a five year old child being berated by her mother, in the same tone, for the same offense.

From an early age, I remember learning that spoken words have power, both to hurt and to heal. My mom taught me to use the words that came out of my mouth with care, particularly when they were directed towards others. What I did not understand then was that the way we talk to ourselves can have just as much power to transform our minds—in both good and bad ways.

In the first testament, the Bible contains an historical timeline of accounts surrounding King David, beginning in his childhood and culminating with his death. David, like you and I, encountered some great highs and some equally low lows. In today’s Scripture, we find David battling with what I believe to be borderline depression. He was tired of being chased by his enemies, tired of being misunderstood, and likely tired of waiting for God’s promises to come to fruition. Can you relate?

Buried in the words of Psalm 42 is a valuable lesson on self-speak that we would do well to put into practice. David knows he’s feeling particularly low. So he wisely acknowledges and labels his feelings. But then David uses the power of his own words to construct a ladder which he uses to climb his downcast spirit out of the pit of despair he’s found himself in.

Here are the four rungs David put in place:

HOPE: He looks his despair squarely between the eyes and directs himself to “Put your hope in God.”

PRAISE: Next David invokes a new (contrary) attitude by saying, “for I will yet praise him.”

AUTHORITY: He reminds himself who his Lord is by identifying Him as, “my Savior and my God.”

RECOLLECTION: Lastly, David takes a decisive walk down memory lane when he declares, “therefore I will remember you”—which I am sure brought him back to thoughts of himself as a boy killing a lion and then the giant, Goliath, and having escaped from the tip of Saul’s spear a time, or three.

Do you feel in a state of despair today? Have you been passively listening to (and agreeing with) all the negative self-talk that comes along with it? Do not lose heart—USE YOUR WORDS! It’s time you quit listening to yourself, and start talking back to yourself instead. Speak out transformative words of hope and praise. Remind yourself aloud who your Lord is and recount the many times He has redeemed your circumstances, been true to His promises, and shown His kindness towards you.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

That Little Sneaky Path to a Bad Place

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message…

One Sunday my pastor had to do some housekeepin’ fussin’ at our congregation before he started his sermon. It was a “visitors, close your ears” moment as Jimmy interrupted the service for an important message from our neighbors.

See, right beside our church property is a city park. On Sundays, when our parking lot is full, we tend to use the city park lot for our overflow parking. The only problem is that the folks going to the city park don’t like the fact that those daggum CHURCH people are taking their parking spaces.

It is not nice of us. Really. I’m sorry. I’ve done it, too.

And while our sweet pastor calmly asked the congregation, once again, to STOP PARKING IN THE CITY PARK PARKING LOT (he didn’t yell, but I bet he wanted to) folks still do it. As soon as Jimmy finished his announcement and began his sermon, God had a sermon just for me. He wasn’t finished with me and the forbidden parking lot issue. That’s what happens when you make a path or keep a path open, He seemed to say, “You’re going to walk down it eventually.”

See, while we have been warned, scolded, and pleaded with not to park next door, there is this nice little path through the bushes from the city park’s parking lot to our church’s parking lot. The bushes are trimmed on both sides, cobblestones are succinctly placed, and a nice little bit of concrete forms a gently curving sidewalk. Someone keeps the bushes clipped and the grass maintained. The breezeway almost beckons us (me) to break the rules.

Now let’s go down a different path. Let’s call the path sin. Let’s say that you have decided that once and for all you are not going to park yourself in the parking lot of a particular sin.

  • You’re not going to stop by Dunkin’ Donuts and eat a dozen chocolate-covereds in one sitting. You’re not even driving by.
  • You are not going to sleep with that boyfriend…ever again!
  • You’re not going to date that guy you know is bad for you…ever again.
  • You’re not going to look at that particular website.
  • You’re not going to flirt with the married guy in the next cubicle.
  • You’re not going to gossip about other people.
  • You are not going to drink because you know you have an alcohol problem.
  • You are not going to indulge in online shopping because you’re in debt.
  • You’re not going to _______________.

There are hundreds of vices you could put in that sentence. But then there’s a nicely groomed little path that you’ve kept open…just in case. You wouldn’t call it “just in case.” You wouldn’t say it out loud.

  • The guy’s name is still in your contacts list on your smartphone.
  • You still think about what that guy in the next cubicle would like when you get dressed for work in the morning.
  • You still pull up that website when you think God isn’t looking.
  • You still pull up a chair when someone begins to gossip.
  • You still take the route home from work that goes right by the Dunkin Donut store.
  • You keep a bottle in the cabinet…just for company.

The paths beckon you. And as long as you keep the breezeways open, you’ll probably breeze right through them…eventually.

The answer? Remove the path. Put up a gateless fence.

  • Remove the contact.
  • Change your job.
  • Get rid of your computer.
  • Get an accountability partner.
  • Take a different route home from work.
  • Remove the bottle.
  • Unsubscribe.

Make the path impassable, implausible, and impossible to take, and put up a gateless fence instead.

Jesus said, “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” (Matthew 5:29 NKJV). That is pretty dramatic. I’m not telling you to pluck out your eye, and I’m not sure that’s what Jesus was saying either. But He was telling us to remove the cause of the temptation.

Remove the path. Put up a fence.

So here’s my question: Do you need to put up a fence where you now have a path?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!