Seeking A Season of Spiritual Maturity

I recently learned that pilot whales are very social and their offspring stay in their mother’s pod for life. The young swim alongside old, knowledgeable whales and learn from them how to feed, mate, and migrate in open waters.

The species is so good at following that occasionally they follow a bad decision by one of the lead whales, and they’re all in for trouble. This is rare. Overall, the younger whales learn from the wisdom and experience of the older whales.

While it might be hard to relate to whales, how about Jesus leading His disciples. In The Team That Jesus Built, I describe how Jesus took fishermen, a tax collector, and eventually arrived at twelve ragtag men and told them to “Follow me.” They followed Jesus around, watched, asked questions, listened, and gleaned from Him, and slowly they matured in their faith and understanding of what it means to be a true follower of Christ.

When Paul was growing the New Testament churches, he challenged believers in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow me as I follow the example of Christ.” Like the disciples, Paul hadn’t lived an exemplary life, but he had turned his life around and had one incredible testimony! Still he never felt he had arrived. He was always fighting the good fight, running the race, and willing to share with others everything he learned in his seasons of spiritual growth. He begged people to follow his example, not because he was so great, but because he humbly was following and learning from Christ.

What Can We Learn From Whales, Paul, and the Disciples?

As Christians, we’re continually growing and maturing in our faith, or at least we should be . . . right? No one ever “achieves” or arrives at total spiritual maturity. We never know enough or all there is to learn about the Christian life. But do we sometimes live as if we do? Do we spend more time focusing on the world’s teachings than Jesus’s teaching? Like the 650 whales beached on New Zealand’s shoreline when they followed the wrong leader whale, our spiritual life can be beached too when we follow the wrong leader.

But we can get off the “spiritual beach” by seeking spiritual guidance. Maybe at a Bible study or retreat or deciding to have a consistent daily quiet time, we experience a newfound hunger to grow deeper in our walk with the Lord, but we’re not sure how. There are so many unanswered questions and portions of the Bible still confusing. We live in fear with the circumstances of the world, and yet we know our faith should sustain us, but it doesn’t seem enough right now.

Paul had the answer when he said in Titus 2:3-5 to have the women in a spiritually mature season teach and train the less spiritually mature. Some try to interpret those verses as strictly chronological age, but in mentoring we want to learn from someone spiritually older, not necessarily older in years. A great truth the Lord revealed when I was starting the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry.

Many mentoring ministries fail because they simply match older women with younger women without looking at their seasons of spiritual maturity. A woman might become a Christian at sixty-five and have worldly wisdom but not spiritual wisdom. Her mentor might be fifty but has walked with the Lord for many years.

We don’t know the ages of the disciples, but since Jesus was only thirty when He started His ministry, there’s a good chance they were older than Him. But they had so much to learn and only three years to spiritually mature. You and I are Christians today because Jesus mentored them to go into the world and teach what He had taught them.

Your Personal Spiritual Maturity Season

Sometimes I hear Christians say they feel spiritually dry. That saddens me because Jesus is ready and willing to give us living water from a well that never runs dry. If we drink from His well, we’ll keep growing in spiritual maturity (John 4:10-15). Many of you know this already and someone in your life needs to hear how you continue maturing in your relationship with the Lord.

I’m afraid there’s a growing epidemic among Christian women today to worry more about their own spiritual maturity than sharing what they know about Christ with a newer believer. I’m not referring to Bible study leaders, but the women sitting under their teaching in every church or Bible study group. Are they sharing what they’re learning with the many women around them who need help with their spiritual maturity?

It goes beyond just inviting them to the Bible study for the leader or facilitator to teach them; it means helping them live a godly mature life outside the groups in daily life. It means more than inviting them to church on Sunday; it means praying and studying with them during the week.

It means every believer a mentor!

In Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness, I share stories of mentors who have met spiritually younger women at Bible studies and church and offered to mentor them. I encourage spiritually mature women to think about the role models in their life who helped them come to faith and spiritual maturity. We all have them. Women we admire who took the time to disciple us and share some of their life with us. Hebrews 13:7 tell us to: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

“Imitate their faith.” Exactly what Paul told the church and Jesus told His disciples.

Mentoring is that simple. How someone reached you with her faith is probably the way you will be the most effective in pouring into someone else who is younger in her faith.

In Mentoring for All Seasons, there are points to consider of how God could use you as a mentor and how to select a mentor. Here are just a couple.

If you’ve been a believer for a while:

  • Who challenged you and helped you grow in your faith?
  • How did she model Jesus to you?
  • Who needs you to do that for them? Consider also someone who might be a long-time believer but is going through a season of doubt.
  • Who do you need to invite to follow you and help her mature in her faith?
  • How could God enhance your spiritual maturity by mentoring and pouring into someone else?

If you’re a newer believer and eager to learn and grow in your faith, or going through a spiritually dry time, God tells us two are better than one (Ecc. 4:9-10).

  • Who do you admire for her faith and the way she lives it out in daily life?
  • What about her faith would you like to emulate in your own life?
  • What’s stopping you from asking her to mentor you?

Often, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” James 4:2

Paul the great mentor of the New Testament reminds us that mentoring is always a two-way relationship and reward.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” [a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. Philippians 2:14-17

When we're in a Season of Growing in Our Spiritual maturity we need a mentor who is further along in her walk with the Lord.

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This blog is posting on the day of the “Great American Eclipse.” The town I live in will experience the total eclipse at 11:30 am MT. You can read my thoughts in last week’s post Use the Solar Path of Totality to Share the Path to Eternity. I’ll share more next week about what we experienced.

Why Do We Care What Everyone Thinks?

Everyone thinks this about you.”

They’re all talking about you.”

“You make everyone feel” __________________.

“Everyone thinks you should”_____________.

These types of phrases can be negative or positive.

We love it when the context is everyone thinks you’re wonderful! They’re all talking about how you make everyone feel so good and everyone thinks you should do more to let people know about the great things you’re doing!

But what about a negative context when everyone thinks you’re not wonderful. They’re all talking about you because you make everyone so uncomfortable and everyone thinks you should change your ways and keep to yourself!

When I was starting the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry, and then when other churches wanted to know how to start one and God chained me to the computer to write the Woman to Woman Mentoring resources, I heard both negative and positive comments. That was twenty years ago. If I had listened to the negative, there would be no Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry today; but likewise if I had let the positive puff me up instead of just encourage and motivate me, I don’t believe God would have blessed this ministry. Yet even as I sit here writing to you, I see a confirming email come in from a church telling me they started the ministry last year and they’re so thankful for the resources. To God be the glory. Only God starts an international life-changing ministry and keeps it going! We can’t do anything without Him, but with Him all things are possible.

Positive or negative comments; let’s look objectively.

Receiving Negative Comments

 

No one can speak for everyone. More than likely there’s a group with a perception about you, which could actually only be two or three people.

We hear sweeping comments in the news today, and it’s easy to transfer similar all-inclusive conversation to our private lives. Especially, when someone wants to convey something negative. Everyone sounds more impressive, meaningful, and authoritative.

Words are easy to release, but impossible to retrieve!

Hurtful words and connotations are like an arrow to the heart. They penetrate our identity, our purpose, our character. As our curiosity fuels thoughts of who is “everyone,”  our anger and defenses go into high gear. We want to know why people are thinking or saying these things about us. We’re hurt. People are gossiping about us, which never comes to any good!

A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. Prov. 16:28

A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much. Prov. 20:19

Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. Prov. 26:22

Remember Paul is talking to the church at Corinth here:

For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 2 Cor. 12:20

It takes two to gossip—the gossiper and the listener—so beware of becoming an accomplice to sin by listening to gossip. Our role as Titus 2 women is “to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good train the younger women.” (Titus 2:3)

So consider the following when you hear an “everybody” negative comment about you. Believe me when I say, I haven’t always done this on the spot, and sometimes need to give myself time to pray and put everything into perspective.

  1. Rather than trying to defend yourself or lashing outSay a quick mind prayer, stay calm, and ask God for wisdom. Ask yourself before responding: Why do I care what these people think?
  2. Question: “Really, everyone thinks this?”
  3. Ask: Why are they telling you this? Steer the conversation away from everyone to one-on-one.

My point:

We worry too much about what other people think about us and not enough about what God thinks about us. He’s the only One we’re concerned about. Consider if there’s something you should search your heart about and act on and if not, let this go. If there is something, then take it to the Lord. And be watchful of not doing an “everyone” comment yourself.

Don’t replay the encounter or comments over in your head, so Satan gets a foothold in your mind. It’s best to forgive, pray, and carry on. Easier said than done? I offer many helps and tips in my Bible study Face-to-Face with Euodia and Syntyche: From Conflict to Community.

Receiving Positive Comments

But what if all those “everyone” statements are positive building us up and making us feel good about ourselves? Well there’s certainly nothing wrong with encouragement, but again, we have to remember a couple of truths:

No one knows what everyone is speaking and they can’t speak for them. Hopefully, there are many who agree with them, but “everyone” is still an encompassing sweeping generalization.

If we think that we’re just fine because everyone likes us, then we might miss some areas we do need to change and improve, because after all . . . everyone thinks we’re great.

And we know what that leads to—pride—taking credit ourselves, instead of praising God giving Him the glory and honor He deserves. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov. 16:18)

There will always be areas in our life we need to improve, change, sanctify, ask God for wisdom. We can be grateful for approval of how we’re living and serving the Lord, but I guarantee that if you’re living out loud for God, everyone is not going to like you. If everyone does, do an internal check and see if there are areas in your life you’ve compromised to be liked by everyone.

When Paul was accused by the Jewish high priest Ananias, some of the elders, and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against him before the governor, Felix for doing nothing more than sharing the Gospel, Paul told them in his defense: “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16). That should be the goal of every Christian, don’t you agree?

Sadie Robertson of the Duck Dynasty Family, who I’ve written about before, recently gave an amazing “sermon” to a college group and challenged those millennials who might be leaving their values and faith behind because they want to fit in: “Worry more about your relationship with Jesus than your reputation with people you don’t even know.” Here’s the link and I recommend you listen to it with your kids or college age youth groups. It’s excellent!

So I close with a modification of Sadie’s advice:
Worry more about your relationship with Jesus than your reputation with everyone!

Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. 2 Peter 2:12

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If you would like to know more about the Prayer and Launch Team for Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness releasing September 12, please contact me soon.

5 Ways to Have a God-Glorifying Small Group

Last week as I was shutting down my computer, I noticed a Facebook tag from my dear friend and fellow author/speaker, Pam Farrel. Pam leads a group called Seasoned Sisters, and you’ll be able to read all about how she started this mentoring group for women going through midlife in my new book Mentoring For All Seasons when it releases in September this year! Pam shares in it several stories about being mentored and being a mentor during transition seasons of her life.

Several months ago, Pam told me her Seasoned Sisters group wanted to read and discuss my latest book that Pam endorsed, Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten. They purchased the books, and then I got a message from her that more women wanted to join the group as the word got out how much they were enjoying my book. You know how this encouraged me and warmed my heart since my vision for Forsaken God? was for Christians to make a change for God in our culture by simply remembering how good God has been to them in their own lives. There are discussion questions after each chapter for group study, and the book isn’t just for women: it’s for all Christians!

So back to last week’s Facebook tag. Pam was meeting with her Seasons Sisters and they sent me a live video to say “Hi” and tell me what Forsaken God? has meant to them. Several comments: “Very timely! I don’t want to watch the news; I just want to read this book.” “Forsaken God? will put the headlines in perspective and give you God’s view.” Here’s the short video for you to watch yourself.

One woman said she had given the book to a waitress. I was blessed and encouraged. If you read last week’s blog post 10 Ways to Change Our Culture, you know my heart for motivating Christians to take a stand for God in their sphere of influence. I’m praying some of you thought there was at least one way you would apply to your life.

The Value of Small Groups / Bible Study Groups / Life Groups

Small groups or Bible study groups or life groups, whatever your church calls them, are the perfect place to mature in your faith and encourage each other to take your faith public, as we’re told to do in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

My husband and I met in a small group at Saddleback Church. He was the co-leader of a business group that included men, women, couples, and singles. It was my first experience in a small group, but Dave and I have been leading small groups and support groups (such as Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter) ever since. Sometimes we lead together, other times he might lead a men’s group and I’ll lead a women’s group. We’ve led groups at a mega church like Saddleback, and at the small church in the mountain community where we now live. Our favorite groups are couples groups.

Like every small group, some of our groups ran smoothly with everyone committed, and others had problems that we had to address for the good of the group. Here are five key areas where God taught us through trial and error how to have a small group that glorifies Him and enriches the spiritual life of all the group members.

  1. Create a safe place with confidentiality – Do members of your group feel like the group is a safe place where they can share openly without condemnation, criticism, or worrying that what they say will leave the group?

Prayer time can unintentionally become a gossip session. Members should feel confident that prayer requests or comments made during the meetings are not discussed outside of the group, without permission from all individuals involved.

Spouses should not share stories about each other without receiving permission, whether or not their spouse is present. To keep the group accountable in this area, when a spouse starts to talk about his or her spouse, the leader can say something like, “That sounds like a hubby [or wife] story. Hubby [or wife], do you want us to hear this?” And if he or she says no, then nix the story.

  1. Don’t Try to Fix Each Other – Are members trying to solve each other’s problems or give unsolicited advice?

Members shouldn’t try to speak into each other’s life unless asked to do so. Often a member just wants to share a difficult situation and is solely looking for compassion, understanding, and prayer. The group should listen respectfully, and possibly offer constructive and empathetic comments from their own experience, as long as those thoughts are biblically sound, and above all, encouraging. No quick fixes or “you shoulds.”

Sometimes members with difficult issues can dominate the entire meeting and that might be appropriate if someone is in an immediate crisis. But if this becomes a pattern, the leader/facilitator gently suggests that the member might benefit from speaking with pastors at the church or offer to talk privately and pray with him or her after the group.

  1. Set Clear Expectations and Request Commitment – Is everyone committed and giving priority to meetings and communicating in advance when they aren’t going to attend? Do all members have clear expectations of what they’re going to receive from the study, and are they in concert with the group?

Will it be a social fellowship group vs. a Bible study group, or a combination of the two?

Commitment and making meetings a high priority is imperative. Members shouldn’t have an “I’ll-be-there-if-I-can” attitude. Your goal is to become a spiritual family growing and doing life together, respectful of each other’s time and efforts.

There’s nothing more discouraging as a leader than to prepare for the group and then start receiving the phone calls and emails, often at the last minute, that members aren’t coming. One way to share the commitment and ownership of the group is to pass the facilitating of the group among the members. So it’s not always a leader/members group, but a group with everyone having a part in facilitating the meetings.

Make sure you have a group covenant that clearly states the purpose of the group and allow everyone an opportunity to express his or her expectations. This is also a good place to reemphasize confidentiality and commitment expectations.

  1. Maintain Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit—Do you spend enough time in the Word and let the Holy Spirit lead or are you rushing through studies to reach a goal?

Regardless of the focus or purpose of the group, everyone must be reading from the Bible every meeting. Members need to spend time in God’s Word and in prayer during the meetings and during the week for spiritual growth to occur.

It’s important to end at the agreed expected time so people can plan, but don’t be overly concerned how much material is covered each meeting. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead and expose just the right discussion for growth in everyone’s life.

  1. Encourage Active Group Participation – Is everyone doing his or her outside study material between meetings and participating in the discussion? Do some people never talk and others do all the talking?

It’s important for the health and growth of the group that everyone comes prepared if there is homework or reading between meetings, and that each member has an opportunity to participate in discussion.

A good way to engage people who tend to be quiet is to ask them to read a Scripture, and if it applies to a study question, that’s an open door to read their answer. Or to prevent them from feeling pressured to respond first, after some initial group discussion on the question, the leader/facilitator can invite their input. These suggestions also are effective in preventing the group from relying on the same group members for answers and discussion.

Small groups are vital to the spiritual growth and maturity of a church congregation, whether the church is large or small. It’s easy to get lost in a large church and not feel accountable, but a small group makes a big church small. In a small church, like where we are right now, small groups expand the ministry and teaching during the week and can make a small church seem like a large extended family.

What other things have you found to be a problem and/or helpful in keeping your small group effective and maturing together in Christ?

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All my books have discussion questions for groups. I’ve also written a Face to Face Bible Study Series for women. There are seven in the series and each one is a perfect length for summer study. Or there’s a First Place 4 Heath Bible study God’s Best for Your Life.

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Should Christians Be Political?

I had little response to last week’s blog post, Love Your Body: Revive Sexual Purity so I don’t know if . . .

  • You didn’t read it?
  • It was too long?
  • You think purity is impossible today?
  • It was too sensitive a subject?
  • I tried to cover too much territory?

I don’t know unless I hear from you, but since none of you unsubscribed, I’ll carry on with another topic on my heart throughout the election and continues into the firestorm that has erupted since President Trump’s Inauguration.

Some say Christians shouldn’t . . .

(a) Express political views or participate in politics

(b) Speak out on politicized moral issues

Here is my discussion and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Christians Need to Run for Political Office and Get Involved in Politics

Prayer is the heartbeat of every Christian’s life. When we pray heaven hears our voices. James 4:2 tells us that we have not because we ask not. We pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven, but then God expects us to be His hands and feet on this earth doing His will. We come out of our prayer closets, clothed in the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18) and go into action representing God to a lost world. That might be figuratively turning over the money-changers booths like Jesus did in the temple, or calling out the “Pharisees,” or like Jesus, Paul, and the disciples confronting sinners and sharing the Gospel. Or like Paul, mentoring the churches when they fall back into old sinful ways or are easily misled by false teachers.

Stay close to God through prayer, seek His will, and then do His will.

The disciples didn’t stay in the Upper Room. They prayed and with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, went out into the world.

Churches and Christians have allowed the government to politicize moral issues in our country, complaining and lamenting, but doing little to stop the takeover. Christians have an obligation to seize any opportunity to reclaim those moral issues and rights for the good of our country and generations to come. I’m speaking specifically about issues like:

  • The legalization of abortion—58 million babies murdered since Roe vs Wade—moral not political
  • Our tax dollars funding barbaric abortions through Planned Parenthood—moral not political
  • Marriage redefined by unelected Federal Judges—moral not political
  • Teachers allowed to talk about Mohammad and Gandhi, but can’t mention Jesus—moral not political
  • A football coach fired because he kneels after a game and prays—moral not political
  • Schools required to allow men to go into girls bathrooms—moral not political
  • White House lit up in gay pride colors—moral not political
  • Removing God from the public square in a country founded on Judeo Christian principles—moral not political.
  • Requiring all Americans to endorse, legitimatize, and participate in LGBT practices—moral not political
  • Calling sin, sin is “hate speech” and intimidating pastors—moral not political.

I could go on. You get the idea. If we had elected another liberal progressive Democrat, and Christians continued to remain silent, we would have had little recourse but to lament even more loss of our religious moral freedoms, as Clinton clearly said Christians would have to change our faith and beliefs.

But that didn’t happened. Evangelicals rose up and said enough is enough. We chose a candidate, who while imperfect and not the devout Christian candidate we were looking for, he heard us and promised to restore and protect our freedoms. And in his first two weeks in office, President Trump started doing exactly that:

  • Defunded Planned Parenthood in other countries
  • Nominated a Christian Conservative for Supreme Court Justice
  • Took action in Congress to repeal the Johnson Amendment to restore the right of pastors to preach the Bible. They were losing the religious freedom to call sin, sin.

Tony Perkins was on the mark when he said, “The United States would look much different today if it wasn’t for the pastors throughout American history who cried out for social justice. Since the birth of our nation, pastors and churches have been at the forefront of shaping public policy and debate. That is where they need to be today. What would America look like today had the Rev. Lyman Beecher [Harriet Beecher Stowe’s father], a leading abolitionist, or Dr. Martin Luther King been muzzled by the IRS. It would have been a much, much different country than what we see today.”

Now the naysayers are still saying President Trump is not a Christian, but only he and God know where he is spiritually. I refer you to my blog Why Aren’t All Christians Extending Grace and Forgiveness to Trump. He has surrounded himself with a Cabinet of many Christians, a born-again Vice President, and here is the point of this blog . . .

The oxymoron and dichotomy I hear is that …

We want a Christian president and Christian politicians in DC and local government, but we don’t want Christians talking about or participating in politics?

We don’t think Christians should campaign or try to get people to vote because that’s too political?

We want laws that are moral, ethical, and pursue God’s values, but Christians aren’t willing to run for office?

We pray Christians are elected who will uphold God’s ways, but we don’t think Christians should be political! Say what?

If we want Christians in government, we need to pray for men and women to answer the call to take on political roles, and then we need to get behind them with prayer, campaign support, energy, finances, our voices, whatever it takes to get them elected. Not criticize them as having a profession unworthy of a Christian, but encourage them because they want to make a difference in the jungle of politics. A light in the darkness.

Maybe God is calling you to run for office!

When Franklin Graham made his Pray for America tour and went to every Capitol in the nation, he encouraged Christians to run for public office because we need believers championing Christian values at every level of government. Ironically, as government keeps touting a separation of church and state, government is invading the church. President Trump understands the original intent of the Constitution, and he is giving us back our religious freedoms. We need to make sure we never lose them again!

Satan is Dividing Christians, Not President Trump

I’ve never been a “political person,” but I am a spiritual person, and I’ve watched over the last eight years how the progressive liberal agenda has steadily worked to take God out of America by invading our government, our schools, our universities, and sadly even some of our churches. When Obama ran for President the first time, he participated in a presidential candidate debate held at Saddleback Church where Pastor Rick Warren asked him and John McCain if they believed marriage was between a man and a woman. Obama said he did. In his second term, same-sex marriage was legalized and Obama lit up the White House in LGBT colors and was working hard at forcing every American to accept transgender men in women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, starting in our schools!

After writing Forsaken God? Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten, I knew this last election was a spiritual battle more than a political battle. Just look at the obstruction and chaos the liberal Democrats have created in the streets and in D.C. Listen to their language, read their signs, hear the bleeps during the protests and the confusion when asked if they even know what they’re protesting.

Watching the National Prayer Breakfast last week, I heard one of the speakers say he was sure there were secretly ordained pastors in the House and Senate: “saints in Caesar’s household.” I thought how sad they had to stay secret. Probably because they would be devoured by the lions.

I see headlines, even in some Christian magazines, that say President Trump is dividing Christians. That’s not possible. Only Satan can divide Christians whether it’s in a church, a marriage, a friendship…. Christians have the same unifier: Jesus Christ. The One and Only Lord is who we all pray to, talk to, put our faith in, have residing in our heart.

He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world.

President Trump said the five words that touched his heart the most on the campaign trail were, and still are, “I am praying for you.”

As a Christian, you should be praying like crazy for President Trump’s success because that’s America’s success. Pray for him to mature in his faith. He’s rough around the edges. He has a big job ahead of him, and as he said in his own words in a CBN interview I heard, “I need God and prayer now more than ever because my decisions are life and death.”

I encourage you to listen to the Annual Prayer Breakfast. It was a blessing to see Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate leading the event and praying together. They talked about a group of them—Republicans and Democrats—getting together for prayer every morning and at a weekly Bible study group. The Chiefs of Staff have a Bible study on Wednesday, and the 100 staffers meet on Fridays for Bible study. Barry Black, the Senate Chaplain who gave the Keynote, said Democrats and Republicans meet together, hold hands, and open and close those groups in prayer. They may go upstairs and oppose each other politically, but unite spiritually.

I would pray the world would see that same spiritual unity in us. Our hope isn’t built on whether we’re Democrat or Republican, black or white, whether you like President Trump or not . . . they should see that we place our faith and our hope in the Word of God, the Holy Bible, and Jesus Christ, Our Lord. We stand together as Christians One Nation Under God.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 NLT

Please also read a blog I wrote for Crosswalk.com You Can Disagree and Still be Friends

Have you heard Reba McEntire’s New Song? Here’s the video. You’ll enjoy it. Back To God

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8 Reasons to Make 2017 the Year of New Connections

christmas-accident

Happy New Year! I know I promised I would be back with my Monday Morning Blog this morning, but you know how we make our plans but the Lord directs our steps. Well I’m not sure He directed my steps on Christmas Day around 4:00 PM when I stood up to go charge my cell phone and play a game with the grandkids, and the next think I remember was the sound of my head hitting the edge of a wooden chest across the room. To hear the story from my shocked hubby and daughter, I stumbled and literally flew across the room and my head took the full brunt of the fall.

Well with a nice gash in my head, off to ER we went and came home with 5 staples in my head. I’m smiling in the picture above because they put about 10 shots of Novocaine in my head, which always effects my whole bod,y so I was literally feeling no pain until the middle of the night, as my daughter and hubby had to wake me up all night.

Anyway, it seems now I have a concussion and constant high pitched ringing in my ears, so later today I’m having a brain MRI just to be sure I didn’t do any major damage. I could use your prayers for that. But God is so good that I had in my files this wonderful guest blog from Shirley Brosius, who just happens to be talking about the Joy of Connecting and even mentions mentoring as a  New Year’s goal. Shirley and her mentees Kim and Janine tell their story in my book Mentoring for All Seasons: Women Sharing Life’s Experiences and God’s Faithfulness, releasing with Leafwood Press later this year. So enjoy this wonderful post from Shirley and I hope to be back with you next Monday.

The Joy of Connecting

By

By Shirley Brosius

Women who say they don’t need to connect with other Christian women don’t realize what they’re missing. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV)

I currently enjoy two mentoring relationships. I meet weekly to discuss Christian books with Kim and Janine, two women young enough to be my daughters.

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I chat weekly about writing and spirituality with Michelle, a young mother who lives a few hours from my home.

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Here is how these women and I sharpen each other.

  1. We inspire one another. For instance, Kim set a New Year’s goal to control her thought life, and that inspired me to set a goal to not say anything this year that puts someone else in a bad light. Lofty goals, we know, but at least we’re trying.
  1. We pray for one another. If I’ve asked for prayer for something coming up during the week, I’m sure to get a text from Janine at that specific time, telling me she’s praying. I value her prayers.
  1. We accomplish more together than we could individually. When we decided we wanted not just to study together but to serve together, Kim, Janine and I dubbed ourselves Friends of the Heart and developed a website. We have now spoken to more than 10,000 women over the last ten years. Neither one of us could have developed such a ministry on her own.
  1. We know we’re not alone on the journey. We relate to each others challenges and walk each other through tough times holding hands.
  1. We rejoice with each other. I might feel like I’m bragging if I tell a friend that an article was accepted for publication, but Michelle and I know the struggles of writing, so we can genuinely rejoice together when one of our articles finds a home.
  1. We hold each other accountable. At times we set weekly goals and check on each other the following week: Did you make that call? Did you read your Bible today?
  1. We enjoy each other. With Kim and Janine, it’s fun to meet over a cup of tea or coffee, and in between meetings, we keep in touch by phone, e-mail or Facebook. Not a week goes by that we don’t laugh about something—often funny stories about Kim’s classroom antics or a corny joke that Janine can hardly share for laughing. I visited Michelle this past summer, and we plan to get together again this fall. She has become a special friend.
  1. We alert each other to life. I’m way ahead of them journeying down that road, and they watch me relate to adult children and keep in touch with grandchildren. Not that I’m a perfect model; sometimes I serve as a model of what not to do. And I learn about today’s world through their eyes.

Now I realize mentoring relationships may not appeal to everyone. But everyone can plug into some sort of group. I attend a Bible study at my church, and I’ve watched our group knit and share more deeply as the years go by. I also appreciate discussing spiritual direction in Sunday school classes.

If there’s no group that appeals to you, start one—a book discussion group, a young moms group, a teen moms group. You might ask someone to partner with you to pray. It’s always a blessing to hear someone else pray for your needs. Or like the women I’ve mentioned, ask an older woman to mentor you; if you’re an older woman, offer to support a young woman who might benefit from your expertise.

So get connected. You’ll be challenged and blessed. Don’t be afraid of deepening relationships within the body of Christ. After all, God made ministry a group project.

Read more about Friends of the Heart in Janet’s new book Mentoring for All Seasons: Women Sharing Life’s Experiences and God’s Faithfulness releasing later this year.

Please comment to let us know other ways you’ve made valuable connections with other Christian women.

If you received this blog by email, please comment here.

www.friendsoftheheart.us

Love Your Body—Give Yourself the Gift of Health

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

Love Your Body Monday comes this year right after Thanksgiving weekend when you’ve probably just finished off the pumpkin pie with whipped cream—maybe for breakfast—and you’re wondering if you can lose that extra five pounds before the Christmas parties start next week. My first party is actually this Friday, December 2, and then away we go for the next month!

Don’t become discouraged and beat yourself up. After all, you only get Mom’s dressing and Grandma’s apple pie once a year, but you can’t continue that trend all month—especially if you’re on a medical diet and you’ve been making great progress or you just started reaching a goal. Don’t throw caution to the wind just because it’s the holidays and you’ll start over again in the New Year . . . chances are you won’t.

Give Your Body the Gift of Health

When I was a Registered Dietitian working in hospitals, they didn’t close during the holidays because people still got sick, they still had heart attacks, or insulin reactions, or any number of illnesses. I remember having to work one year on Christmas Day. So it doesn’t make sense to think I’ll just take a break from what I know I should do for this month or this party or this big dinner…because your body doesn’t care that it’s Christmas or Christmas Eve or the office party. Your body is going to react just like it would in the middle of January or June! So think and eat like this:

I must treat my body right every day, and when I overindulge, I must get right back to my normal regime the next meal.

You have to have a plan. Pray about how to deal with the tempting food you’ll soon be encountering before you encounter it. Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment on what to eat, how much to eat, what to cook, how to cook it, and what to indulge in and what to avoid.

Sometimes I take a bite of something and it wasn’t as tasty as it looked, so I stop eating it. Or if it was good, I let that bite satisfy me. I peruse the selections and pick a couple that look the best . . . not one of everything!

Sometimes we plan to pace ourselves, then toss out the plan, and berate ourselves the next day when we get on the scales, or blood sugar or blood pressure is up—remember salty foods raise blood pressure.

Love Your Body—Beat of Treat High Blood Pressure

Love Your Body—Prevent or Reverse Type 2 Diabetes

Helpful tips and please share in the comments any you use:

  • Get on the scales daily so you know if your weight is fluctuating. If you wait until you notice weight gain in your clothes, you’ll have a tough time losing, and may just buy bigger clothes. If you’ve gained, avoid desserts, eat smaller portions, and eliminate bread, butter, and what I call “empty calories”—sugar, honey, jelly/jam, chips, junk food, soft drinks, alcohol.
  • Maintain your exercise regime. If you don’t have one, start! Even though the holidays can be crazy, give yourself the gift that keeps on giving. Exercise helps with stress, gets the endorphins pumping, helps your heart, and burns calories. In bad weather, join a gym, walk laps around a mall, or invest in exercise equipment (hint: ask for Christmas).
  • Take a green salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing to a potluck so you always have something healthy to eat. On buffet/potluck lines, take a small spoonful of foods you really like with one caution: Jell-O salads are high in sugar and fat. Don’t go back for seconds.
  • Have a small piece of the one dessert you like the most. Or take tiny bites of several. If one isn’t as good as it looks, don’t eat it!
  • Let your stomach guide you. When your belt or waistband tightens, STOP eating.
  • If you love bread, have a small piece, no butter. Skip store bought dinner rolls.
  • Eating out, draw a visual line down the middle of your plate. Eat half and ask for a to-go box for a tasty lunch tomorrow.
  • Drink water! Avoid punches, juices, soft drinks, and alcohol.
  • Enjoy stuffing or mashed potatoes without gravy. Avoid “sauces.”
  • Don’t add extra salt or butter.
  • Plan to start the New Year with a group of friends studying God’s plan for how to live a healthy life. I’ve written a study for First Place 4 Health that would make a great Christmas gift to get you started: God’s Best For Your Life. Gods Best for Your Life Cover

Cooking Healthy for the Holidays

I used to spend a day or two in the kitchen making cookies and candy. Then I realized I was the one eating most of it! Now, I pick a favorite one or two and make recipes healthier:

  1. No shortening! Substitute coconut oil or butter.
  2. No “vegetable” oil, use coconut oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, or applesauce.
  3. Half the amount of sugar. You can substitute Stevia for the other half or use all Stevia.
  4. Use 2% milk, almond or coconut milk.
  5. Substitute whole-wheat flour for some of the white flour.
  6. I don’t use white flour, but use NAMASTE gluten-free Organic Perfect Flour Blend that I get at COSTCO, which can be used cup for cup for white flour with no other changes required.
  7. Put one stick unsalted butter and 1/2 cup olive oil in a blender or Cuisinart and use lightly as a spread on toast, rolls, veggies, potatoes as a soft “butter” spread.
  8. When making cookies with the grandkids, send the goodies home!

Keep the True Focus of Christmas

Remember Christmas parties aren’t about food! They’re about fellowship as you thank God for all His blessings and the greatest gift of all: His Son Jesus Christ.

I appreciate your desire to live the best life you can for the Lord and to love His gifts to you of Jesus Christ and your precious body.

Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NLT

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Love Your Body—Why Are We So Angry?

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

As if we didn’t have enough diseases to try to avoid, the current election has created a new one—Political Anxiety Disorder or Election Stress Disorder—hospitalizing many people across the nation. They’re so upset about the outcome of the election affecting their lives, that they’re having panic attacks and all the physical symptoms of anxiety:

  • Pounding heart, sweating.
  • Headaches, stomach upset, or dizziness.
  • Frequent urination or diarrhea.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Muscle tension, tremors, and twitches.
  • Fatigue or insomnia.

“Anxiety weighs down the heart.” —Proverbs 12:25a

“So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body.”—Ecclesiastes 11:10a

Anxiety Can Lead to Anger

If you receive my monthly About His Work Ministries email newsletter,* the opening article this month was “When Things Are Out of Control.” I received more comments on that article then I have from any article I’ve written all year. When things happen that we don’t like or don’t want to experience, but can’t change, it makes us anxious and we can become angry. Anger is a legitimate feeling and reaction, but what we do with that anger can damage our health, our body, and our relationships.

Unbridled anger results in bitterness, hardening of the heart, and often an offensive attitude that expresses itself in vile words and/or aggressive behavior. While there may be a quick release of angry emotion, if the root cause of the anger continues it eats away at mind, body, and soul, and others become victims of the residual fallout.

As the election progresses, I’ve had the most angry, vulgar, mean, vicious lashing out comments I’ve ever experienced on my blog posts and Facebook posts. It’s alarming that people live with such angry, bitter thoughts in their minds and hearts and use hurtful, X-rated words in their daily lives. I’m sure when the election is over, they’ll find something else to be angry about and their health, both physical and mental, will suffer.

Today it’s almost impossible to have a debate without it turning into a disagreement.

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”–Psalm 37:8

Where is the Anger Originating?

“Don’t sin by letting anger control you.”—Ephesians 4:26 NLT

“People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.”—Proverbs 14:29 NLT

Do you know the media outlets design the news to raise your blood pressure, anxiety level, and anger meter? They purposely create headlines to generate a negative response. The media wants you to engage angrily with either the person or situation their reporting on—they want you mad. Occasionally, they’ll throw in a feel good story, but usually it’s SENSATIONAL “BREAKING NEWS” not substantiated or factual . . . just hearsay, opinions, or “maybes” . . . and you walk away worried . . . angry.

As surely as a north wind brings rain, so a gossiping tongue causes anger!”—Proverbs 25:23 NLT

I write articles for an online Christian magazine, and they’ve discovered that the more negative the title, the more people read the article. Christians are being conditioned right along with everyone else.

Physical Signs of Anger

What does anger do to you physically? Some symptoms are . . .

  • clenching your jaws or grinding your teeth.
  • headache/migraines.
  • stomach ache.
  • increased and rapid heart rate.
  • sweating, especially your palms.
  • feeling hot in the neck/face.
  • shaking or trembling.
  • dizziness.
  • stress which can cause anxiety.
  • increased blood pressure leading to heart disease.
  • eating disorders.

You could pick from the above list, or add to it how you feel when you’re angry or someone around you is angry. Next time, take note of how your body reacts. Or better yet, learn to control your anger and remove yourself from an angry environment or situation.

What Can We Do About Anger to Help Our Bodies?

  1. Our anger may stem from feeling out of control. We don’t think we can make a difference or change our circumstances, but we can. When you’re doing something about a situation and you feel a sense of hope and purpose . . . your anger subsides. I’m going to refer you to a post I wrote for Crosswalk for how to make a difference one person at a time: You Don’t Have to Get Elected or Make Movies to Change Culture.
  2. In my Bible study Face-to-Face with Euodia and Syntyche: From Conflict to Community, I discuss the damage anger can do to our bodies if we don’t learn how to deal with it:EuodiaSyntycheCover72dpi1-200x300

Anger is an emotion felt in the moment that requires quick resolution. Many horrific acts occur and hateful words hurl in a “fit of anger.” You cannot retrieve actions or words.

            Uncontrolled raging anger makes us, and everyone around us, miserable. Pastor Doug Fields, likes to describe anger in terms of “outies” and “inies.” An “outie” is someone who spews out anger and doesn’t hold anything back. You know exactly how mad outies are and they want you to know. Often outies are over their anger once they have their “verbal vomit,” as Pastor Doug calls it, and they’re ready to move on. The problem with outies is the potential for people to be hurt, and even maimed, during the verbal, and maybe even, physical outburst.

            Inies on the other hand are the ones that profess they aren’t mad. “Everything’s fine.” they say, maintaining a thin smile while stewing and brewing inside. They may stuff down their anger for a long time while it burns, churns, and turns to bitterness. Inies find quiet, sly, unexpected ways to express their anger, or some never let go—the anger eats away at them physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the rest of their lives. Other inies only can hold their anger inside so long until the pressure builds into a sudden and violent explosion—the fallout being lethal to themselves and anyone in the vicinity.

            So how do you have healthy anger? Here’s the “ABCD” steps to take:

Acknowledge—that you’re angry.

Breathe—take a time out and step away from the source of anger.

Call on God—He knows what you should do regarding the source of your anger—ask Him.

Defuse—release your anger to God.*

*Excerpt from Face-to-Face with Euodia and Syntyche: From Conflict to Community

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”—1 Peter 5:7

stay-calm

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How To Stand Against Cultural Opposition & Disunity In The Church By Erica Wiggenhorn

 An Unexplainable Life book cover

Erica Wiggenhorn, author of An Unexplainable Life: Recovering the Wonders and Devotion of the Early Church, is our guest blogger and Erica and I both have a heart for the church today to learn from the church of the past to impact our current culture. In Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten, I trace the mishaps of the Israelites and how we can learn from their mistakes and forgetfulness of God’s goodness. Erica traces the biblical conflict that started right from the beginning of the church and offers solutions of how to confront inevitable conflict in the current church that is sadly influencing our culture away from God and the church. I’ve also written about resolving conflict biblically in Face-to-Face with Euodia and Syntyche: From Conflict to Community.

Enjoy and pray about Erica’s post below.

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One of the very first things I noticed about the early Christian church is that trouble started right away. The church was barely a week old before issues arose.

This shouldn’t be a surprise since the Christian church is made up of people—flawed, imperfect human beings. Yet we are somehow shocked today when issues occur within the church. We shake our heads in disbelief when believers disagree with one another, or are outraged when others come against the church because we don’t condone their lifestyle or support their beliefs.

The church should expect opposition within its walls and without. By living in a false mentality that the Christian church will perpetually function in peace and unity, we are deceived into not dealing with it. We think something is wrong. But what if we opened up the pages of Scripture, realized that there have always been issues, and therefore actively prepared for them? What if we intentionally wrestle and pray through difficulties before they even arise?

Disagreement and opposition are nothing more than the enemy’s plans to thwart the church. Here are just a handful of accusations that came against the early Christian church within weeks of its inception:

  • Prejudice
  • Favoritism
  • Insurrection
  • Governmental and social unrest
  • Hypocrisy
  • Deceit

How many of these do we see today? Nothing has changed, friends. But what if we changed, went back to the beginning, and prayed specific, powerful prayers like the early believers did?

How Should We Respond? What Should We Do?

“You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one’ … Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” (Acts 4:25-26, 29)

Look at what God did as a result of this prayer: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31)

God gave them a visible demonstration that His power was mightier than Rome’s greatest emperor! The early Christians didn’t cower in the corner wringing their hands because they faced opposition. They confronted it head-on by addressing the One powerful enough to help them overcome it! They prayed to God. The early Christians in the book of Acts realized that regardless of what they faced, God was on their side and the church was going to continue.

God has warned us that we need to prepare for disagreement and opposition. We need to prayerfully decide how we are going to respond to difficult issues. We need to study the Word of God so we are aware of our enemy’s schemes.

We need to realize that trouble is often our greatest indicator that our enemy is threatened and God is at work. And as we study, pray, and come together with other believers wrestling through issues and injustices, the Holy Spirit will move with power—wall shaking power—and give us everything we need to continue to spread the news of Jesus! Two thousand years later, the gospel is still spreading!

Next time you feel overwhelmed by cultural opposition—pray. Next time you’re discouraged by disunity within your church—pray. Even before either one happens—pray, because it’s going to happen. Make sure you’re ready.

For more information about her latest Bible study, An Unexplainable Life: Recovering the Wonder and Devotion of the Early Church, and Erica’s Every Life Ministry click here.

Now It’s Your Turn

What is your general response when disunity occurs within your church?

How do you specifically pray for your church’s protection against cultural opposition?

What is one key way to prepare ourselves for opposition within our church or from without?

You can comment below or if you received this blog by email comment here.

Book cover photo

6 Things NOT to Say When Someone is Hurting (And What to Say Instead)

6 Things NOT to Say When Someone Is Hurting

My friend, fellow author and a The MOM Initiative mentor mom, Lindsey Bell, has a new book, Unbeaten, that I wanted to share with you this week. In today’s blog post, Lindsey shares about something I write about also in both Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer (The-Top-Thirteen-Things-to-Do-or-Say to Someone with Breast Cancer) and Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? (The Top Fifteen Things Not to Say or Do to Someone Experiencing Infertility). It’s hard to know what to say, or not say, to someone who is in deep emotional or physical pain and so often we say something that hurts rather than helps. We’ve all been there: had something hurtful said to us, or said the wrong thing to someone else.

6 Things NOT to Say When Someone is Hurting (And What to Say Instead)

By Lindsey Bell

One of the most important aspects of mentoring is ministering to someone who is going through a hard time.

Unfortunately, there is often confusion as to what is best to say when someone is hurting.

We want to encourage people, not make their pain worse, but we don’t always know what to say.

After each of my four consecutive miscarriages, and during the years of waiting, testing, and grieving, people tried to say things to me that would comfort my broken heart. They meant well, just as most people do when they attempt to comfort someone who is hurting.

Unfortunately, many of their well-intention words did more harm than good.

Here are a few things you should never say to someone who is hurting (and a few ideas of things you can say instead).

  1. You just need to trust God (or God’s timing or God’s plan, etc.).

While this might be true, it’s not a helpful thing to hear right after a loss or while the pain is still fresh.

Instead, say, “I’m so sorry.”

And that’s it. You don’t have to offer answers to someone going through a hard time.

  1. There’s a reason for everything.

Really? Are you sure?

I guess this might be true. There probably is a reason for everything, but maybe that reason is simply that life stinks sometimes. Maybe that reason is that bad things happen.

Maybe there isn’t some theological, deep reason that God allowed this trial into their life. It’s possible, of course, there is a deeper reason. Maybe God is planning to use this situation in some really huge way.

But isn’t it also possible that this bad thing happened simply because it happened…not because it was a part of some huge plan?

Instead, say, “This stinks.”

  1. At least you have….

At least you have another child…. At least you had X number of years with him. At least you have …

I think the reason people say this is because they want the person who is hurting to focus on his or her blessings.

And though it’s certainly helpful to count your blessings, there’s also a time and place for grief. People need to grieve, and pointing out the positives in their situation does not help them grieve.

Having one child does not make the loss of another any easier to swallow. (It might serve as a distraction, but it doesn’t negate the loss of the other child).

A loss is a loss, so it’s better not to minimize that loss by bringing up the positives in the situation.

Instead say, “Can I pray for you right now?”

And then actually do it. Right then. Right there.

  1. Next time will be different (or God is going to fix this or something similar).

I can’t count the number of times people told me this. After our first miscarriage, they told me our next pregnancy would be different. It wasn’t. After our second miscarriage, they said it again. It wasn’t.

The truth is, we don’t know what the future holds, so it’s better not to pretend that we do.

Instead, say, “I’m going to the grocery store. What can I pick up for you?” Or, “I’m running by Sonic. What kind of drink would you like?”  

People mean well when they say, “Let me know if I can do anything.” But most likely, people won’t take them up on their offer. Instead of offering general assistance, offer to do something specific.

  1. I know how you feel.

No, no, you don’t. Even if you have gone through something very similar, it’s not exactly the same because you are not the same person.

No two pains are exactly the same.

Instead, say, “There are no words.”

Because really, there aren’t. There are no words that will instantly fix their situation.

  1. God won’t ever give us more than we can handle.

This statement bothers me for two reasons.

First, is makes it sound like God is the one handing out the painful situations. God allows death, but I don’t think he “gives” it to us.

Secondly, I’ve never seen this idea in Scripture anywhere. In fact, I’ve seen many examples of the opposite.

I’ve seen God allowing really hard things into peoples’ lives so they will learn to trust in Him.

Instead, say NOTHING. Just be there.

What other things would you add to this list?

If you received this post by email, leave a comment here.

This post is part of Lindsey’s blog tour to celebrate her new Bible study and devotional, Unbeaten: How Biblical Heroes Rose Above Their Pain (and you can too).

To celebrate her book, she’s giving away a HUGE bundle of books! Leave a comment on this post to be entered to win. You can get more entries by commenting on other blogs in the tour as well. Get a full list of participating blogs here: www.lindseymbell.com/unbeaten-is-here-win-this-huge-bundle-of-books.

Unbeaten Cover

About Unbeaten:

Why does life have to be so hard? If you’ve ever asked this question, you’re not alone. Difficult times often leave Christians searching the Bible for answers to some of life’s most difficult questions.

Questions like:

Does God hear me when I pray?

Why isn’t He doing anything?

Does He even care?

In Unbeaten: How Biblical Heroes Rose Above Their Pain (and you can too), Lindsey Bell walks with readers through the stories of men and women in the Bible who went through difficult situations. In this 10-week Bible study and devotional, she addresses many of these questions and helps readers learn how they too can be unbeaten.

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About Lindsey Bell:

Lindsey Bell is the author of the Bible study and devotional, Unbeaten, and of the parenting devotional, Searching for Sanity. She’s a stay-at-home mother of two silly boys, a minister’s wife, an avid reader, and a lover of all things chocolate. Lindsey writes weekly at www.lindseymbell.com about faith, family, and learning to love the life she’s been given.

Rest On Labor Day and Pray for Those Who Can’t Take the Day Off

I’ve always looked at Memorial Day and Labor Day as the bookends of summer. Both are now three day weekend holidays that also commemorate the end of one school year and the beginning of the next—although today’s schools don’t stick as closely to that schedule anymore.

You probably have memories of Labor Day picnics, family reunions, and barbecues commemorating the official end of summer; but beyond that, few stop to think about why we even have the day off. What is Labor Day anyway?

History of Labor Day

In 1894, Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a federal holiday after a failed attempt to break up a railroad strike. Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers.

Traditionally, all stores closed on Labor Day so workers could celebrate the holiday. Today, most stores are having Labor Day sales and their workforce is hard at work on a day dedicated to resting from work. Many people work on Labor Day without realizing: Hey, I’m a worker that has contributed to my company and I should have a day of rest!

It's Labor Day take the day offPray for Those Who Can’t Take the Day Off

Not every worker can take the day off and rest today. Those employed in the service industries often find holidays their busiest time: firemen, hospital employees, policemen, restaurant workers, gas stations, and now we can’t seem to go a day without a grocery store open. Seems like we could stock up on Saturday.

My father was a California Highway Patrolman and he took his turn at working every holiday. Labor Day is notoriously a heavy traffic day as travelers return from the three-day weekend. If you’re on the road today, drive carefully, courteously, and obey the speed limits. Pray for every policeman you see on the road. They have a family keeping a plate of ribs or a hamburger warm for the end of their shift.

Work or Rest?

The Crosswalk.com article, Labor Day: Your Need for Both Work and Rest by Nick Batzig, caught my attention. It started out …

“As we come to celebrate another Labor Day, it may be beneficial for us to step back for a moment and consider what Scripture has to say about the rhythm of work and rest—i.e. the cyclical configuration by which all the events of our lives occur.”

The article discussed God’s original plan for work and how that all changed when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and why God wants us to have times of rest and refreshment. Batzig listed several changes over the years that have resulted in work being motivated by prestige, self-esteem, peer pressure, fear, anxiety, and lack of purpose outside of work, rather than providing for our family. The following point resonated with what I see happening in families today:

“Whereas traditional societies said that you got your meaning in life through your family, and through basically fulfilling a fairly prescribed social role—either as a mother or father, or a brother or sister, or husband or wife, or a son or a daughter…You just needed to find a way to make a living because family was what everything was about. But we’re the first culture in history that says, ‘You define yourself by defining what you want to be and by attaining it—and then you have significance.’ There’s never been more psychological and social and emotional pressure on work to be either fulfilling or at least lucrative. There’s never been a culture like that.”

How Can We Change Culture?

I’ll admit that I’m a recovering workaholic. The only way I’m able to balance work and rest is to prioritize the things that are the most important to me—serving God and my family. My ministry is About His Work Ministries, so I’m fortunate to serve God through my work of writing and speaking. I also make sure to schedule times of rest with my hubby, and we often plan those times into speaking event travels and trips to see our grandkids. We also serve in ministry together as Dave assists me with About His Work Ministries, travels with me when I speak, and we co-lead a couples Bible study. But when I’m spending time with my family—my husband, children, and grandchildren—I set aside “work,” even ministry work, and focus on family.

That doesn’t leave much time in my schedule for “extra” activities, and so I’ve had to learn to say no to some good things. Before I say “yes,” and find myself with no time to rest and refresh, I’m trying to remember to do two things:

1. Pray and ask God if it’s something He wants me to do. Does it have Kingdom value?

2. Assess if I have the time and energy to add this activity to my calendar, and if so, what should it replace?

If I sense God telling me to go for it, I know I must remove something from my calendar or I’ll become unbalanced trying to get all the work done and rest will suffer. If you want to study more about what the Bible has to say about living a balanced life, you might enjoy my Bible study, Face to Face With Priscilla and Aquila: Balancing Life and Ministry.

What do you do to find times of rest and refreshment in a world that values work over rest?

 “Come to Me, all of you who work and have heavy loads. I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28 (NLV)

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